Monday, April 30, 2007

Tag...You're It!

I was 'tagged' a few days back by my friend, Mary H. {hi Mary!} and am just now getting around to playing the game. It's the one where you are supposed to reveal 7 random facts about yourself...which I always find funny...because I could probably easily list 100 or more. I'm that weird. =)
Here are 7, just to get started.
1. I have a credit card at age 34, that I have had since age 16.
2. I used to tear off my "Far Side Desktop Calendar" pages each day and ended up wallpapering two of my bedroom walls when I was in high school. I still love the Far Side.
3. I love Calvin and Hobbes too.
4. I made my favorite "Baked Caramel French Toast" not long ago...and didn't blog about it even though it made everyone's morning. Ava said with each bite, "Mmmmm, Mommy...this is 'BElicious'. It was so cute. Reminded me of the scene in the movie 'What About Bob' where Bob is eating dinner with the fam, and says, " this corn 'hand-shucked'?" Funny movie.
5. I still can't believe that I wanted to go shopping instead of wait in line for 3 hours to ride out to the Pearl Harbor Memorial when I was on my honeymonn in Hawaii. I was SOOO naive back then. I'm still sometimes surprised that Chip asked ME to marry HIM! {Love you, Chip! More than you know sometimes.}
6. My favorite Bible verses are 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." Just helps me keep things in perspective...and I take great comfort that my pain and heartache in life has purpose- makes things in life more bearable for me.
7. I sometimes blog about cupcakes when I have something 'heavier weighing on my heart and mind'. But I still love cupcakes.
And now...if you want to play along, leave a comment and list 7 random facts about YOU! I'd love to read about some of the crazy things that make you-you. =) And I'll pick a couple people from the list on get a cupcake card from me. Have fun playing "tag"!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Polka dots, the color orange, coconut and cupcakes...

Simply happy about a color, a pattern, a recipe and one of my favorite foods. Coconut. As Teagan so affectionately termed it..."CocoDot". =)
I found this picture and recipe for Carrot Cake Cupcakes at Martha Stewart's website. I haven't made them myself (still haven't gotten around to the S'mores cupcakes yet either!), but I have big dreams. =) If you know me in the least, you know that I am a big fan of carrot cake. Really good carrot cake. With coconut and walnuts. My mom made my carrot cake wedding cake...and I think she has the best recipe ever. I have it somewhere. But I plan to give this recipe a try too. Just to compare. =)
Serving: Makes 12
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup shredded coconut, plus more for garnish
8 ounces cream cheese, (room temperature)
3/4 cup confectioners? sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cupcakes: In a bowl, combine sugar, vegetable oil, orange juice, vanilla extract, and eggs.
Stir in baking powder, baking soda, allspice, and salt. Add flour; mix. Stir in carrots, walnuts, and coconut.
Oil a standard muffin tin or line with paper cups; distribute batter evenly.
Bake until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 minutes. Let cool before frosting. Garnish with toasted shredded coconut.
Make the icing: In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Taking a step back...

Hi and thanks for all the well-wishes via comments and email. Seems a lot of us were in the same boat the past couple of days...not feeling so hot (actually I was either *hot* or *freezing*...and relied on Rapid Release Extra Strength Tylenol for fever/aches just to be able to function as I still had to drop off and pick up kids...and make meals) and a number of you wanted to crawl into bed and wait for the funk to pass.
I think I am on the mend, and even had enough energy to grab a few groceries...and I rode the cart all the way to my van in the parking lot. That's a good sign that I'm almost back to my full-blown Nitty.Gritty. self. =) Oh yeah. I grabbed a Starbucks on the way home with that $5 dollars corporate added to my gift card. Things are looking brighter already, and it's not even noon here. =)
I used to get so bummed out when I got sick- and I'm still not thrilled when it happens- but it reminds me of how much I appreciate my health and the fact that I have it so easy compared to so many others who have ongoing struggles in life. I know of a family who is facing the impending death of their young son to cancer- as I type this. He has only hours or maybe a few days to live. Imagine what they would give to simply be able to pop some Tylenol and things would be much brighter. Pray for the Gallachers if think of them, and appreciate the fact that life is bright in contrast to their hurt at this time.
Another family is hurting every single day as they awake to the reality that their little 3 year old princess died accidentally a couple of months ago. This family is walking through pain and heartache- that I am all too familiar with- and I know they think life will never be bright again. I hurt for them and the fact that death has touched their family in such a tragic and sudden way, that they wake to disbelief every morning...their sweet Ava is gone...and they are left wondering why.
I think of others who wake to addiction- their main thought and focus is getting that next hit- sometimes sacrificing relationships and jobs and missing out on real Joy and happiness in life...simply because they are controlled by something bigger than they. How my heart hurts for these indivduals who can't 'break free' and live the life they were created to live.
I think of families and men and women who are in far away places, serving our country and sacrificing so much...for what many people don't believe is in the best interest of all of us involved. How their hearts must be torn. Each day they give- more than most of us will ever be asked to give- without question, and they do so willing and proudly. Yet, I know that they must yearn to be home and living the comforts we enjoy because of their service, alongside their family and at their jobs- simply living and enjoying their routine life. I pray for them and all they have been asked to give and to do. While not everyone agrees with the ways and the whys, we can still pray for those who give so selflessly at such a time as this.
So, even though I was running on a little less energy, it was a great reminder to me that I have so much to be thankful for, and to never take the little things in my life for granted. Like my health and being able to open my freezer and whip up some mint shakes for my kids, in the comforts of our home. Which by the way, I have to 'hand-mix' my shakes because our blender broke awhile back, and we haven't replaced it yet. I figure it's a little extra work...but my arm muscles can always use that...and it makes me grateful that I actually HAVE arm muscles that can mix a shake and make some kids happy. {Toss some hard-packed icecream into a bowl, add some milk or cream, and stir or smash with a masher utensil until well blended. Add malt powder for an extra bit of flavor. Top with whipped cream, a chocolate curl or chips or sprinkles or drizzle some Hershey's on top...and Voila! You're kids or friends think you're a culinary icecream expert!}
Lastly, in regards to the title...'Taking a step back'....I scrapped a layout using the pictures of me and my youngest brother, Jeff, which I can't post, because it was submitted for publication. But in doing this layout, it too, has reminded me, how life really takes us all by surprise sometimes...and that reaffirms to me, that Someone bigger than me is in control. Always. Jeff came into our lives at just five days old, when his birth mother 'chose' to place him with our family. My parents weren't considering adoption or adding more children to our family (there were already four of us, ages 2-8), but fate and destiny had other plans for Jeff. I'm sure his birth mother questioned and cried and struggled with her decision to give him up...and yet, she was ultimately struggling with a 'Force' bigger than she probably knew. I have to believe that although life hurts, and doesn't always make sense, that there is a faith we can trust in- no matter what our future holds.
I know it sounds 'sick', but running a fever and having ahces and chills, was a good reminder to me, and I hope for you too, that life is full of ups and downs and even straightaways at times, but when we have assurance of our future, we can rest and take comfort that there is a brighter day coming. Sometimes I can hardly wait! But in the meantime, I'm gonna ride the grocery carts, make shakes with my kids, pray for others who hurt, and thank God for all He's given me.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

One of those days.

That's what today is for me...been feeling a little bit achy and tired and worn out all day long. It's cold (high is 48 degrees here), wet and just doesn't feel much like spring. Fortunately, although we had to be up early around here for Brock to get to school and Wyndham to make it to a doctor appointment, I was able to pull the covers back up while Bella climbed into the bed next to me and watched Noggin. I dozed a bit...and then hit the Extra Strength Tylenol. I don't do that often, which is a good thing.
It's just one of those days, where I'm happy to pull out the paints and watch the girls do art, throw in and wash only two loads of laundry, play around with some of my scrap goodies, and read 'Treasury of Curious George' while the spaghetti pie bakes up for dinner.
That's what's happening in my neck of the woods. Feel free to tell me what's happening in yours. When I'm feeling better, I just might randomly draw a 'comment' and send you a "I'm feeling better card." =)
Here's to sunshine and energy levels...which really, can't be all that far away!
Here is the link to my recipe for Spaghetti Pie. Enjoy! I actually perked up for a few minutes at dinner...and made Mint Meltaway hand-mixed shakes with a squirt of whipped cream on top. I know the weight-loss people and psychology experts would scorn me for using 'food' to feel better. But I'd argue, "it works!". =) Whipped cream makes almost any situation better. {wink}

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Strawberries and scrapping...

These pictures represent a snippet of my day. I thought I'd share a picture of one of the healthy snacks we ate, since I'm always sharing cupcakes and thoughts on Cheetos and such.
Tonight we had breakfast for dinner. It's been a weekly occurrence around here lately. But probably one of the healthiest meals that I can prepare that my kids actual eat! So, that's what I make...whole grain cinnamon swirl French toast, with low-fat sausage links or some other protein (once in awhile they will even eat veggie-meat...Chip's been doing that), with a side of fruit (tonight it was these red, juicy 99 cent berries) or sauteed apples, and milk.
I also baked zucchini bread I'm feeling a little better about the Cheetos that we all downed yesterday. =)
Berries and Scrap In STyle TV. I'm doing some things that you will have to wait and see on May 15th when the website goes live. I can tell you that you will enjoy all of our headshots...among other things on this site. It's fun for me already...and we're still getting to know each other on the design team and as well as the 'brains' behind this place, and working out the kinks in the website itself...and it still is a blast!
I can't tell you much more than that, but whether or not you are a scrapper, you are going to want to check this place out in a few weeks.
By the way, I just want to say thanks to so many 'newcomers' for emails and comments the past couple of weeks. Ali Edwards linked my blog on hers, and some of you are still getting caught up on my posts from the past year or so. Thanks for your kind words. I've emailed a lot of you back...then I found some more emails in my bulk mail today (most of them had links or if that's you, I may still be getting around to sending you a short note back), and I just wanted you to know I've read your notes and appreciated all your kind words. In addition, one of my 'Anonymous' commenters and I have share emails, and the apologies and forgiveness have been shared between us. I am so happy about that and the way that healing comes about when one person seeks forgiveness and another person extends it.
That is what the world needs in addition to healthy diets...healthy hearts and minds! It feels so good to have a 'clean slate'. =) I would encourage any of you reading, who is still holding onto anything against someone, to pray and ask for strength to forgive...and then actually do it. It isn't about giving up your anger or hurt. I still hurt everyday because Teagan was killed by a woman who shows no remorse. But my forgiveness toward her has given me the freedom to live my life without holding onto bitterness- which wouldn't hurt the woman who killed Teagan- but instead it would have destroyed MY heart.
I, truly, can't say enough about how forgiving allows your heart to heal and gives you a new take on life. Having an unforgiving spirit holds you back and keeps you from experiencing the fullness of joy you could have if you can only surrender that hurt. It'd not easy. I used to have to get up every morning and literally say the words, "I forgive, because Christ forgives me"...and then I had to live as though that were true. After awhile, it actually became my reality. My anger turned to sorrow and compassion, and I realized, that my words weren't just words, but I was living the truth of those words each day.
It's been a process, and a journey, but one that has changed my life for the better in ways I never could have dreamed. Simply by saying, then believing, and then living my life in that truth. Forgiveness heals your soul.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Beyond "Dukes of Hazard" and Cheetos...

I'm not sure that I can make sense of the title of this post, but I will do my best to express my thoughts. Again...this is mostly for me, as I sit and question and process and wonder and just push the thoughts and beliefs I hold about life- so, really, it only needs to make sense to me. If you happen to be able to glean something from all this, well than I consider that bonus...and that you are really smart to understand what I am trying to put into words. My own hubby struggles with what I am trying to say much of the time...and he lives with me! =)
Chip would probably say, "here you go, saying the same stuff again", but sometimes I have to tell myself those same things over and over just so that I 'get them' and believe them to be tried and true. Basically, as a result of a series of things, the Virginia Tech shootings, several emails with questions that relate to my life and how I have handled tragedy, a personal situation with a struggling family member, and friend, as well as speaking on Sunday and re-watching video of ourselves on Oprah talking about forgiveness and what that means in life...and then today, I enjoyed the final session and study with my Tuesday morning Mom's group, where we talked about Heaven.
All these things have been going on in my head for a long time, off and on, but more in depth over the past few days. One of the things that I couldn't get out of my head for some reason one afternoon, were the words of the (original) Dukes of Hazard theme song. You know, "Just two good ol' boys, never meaning no harm. It's all they ever saw, been in trouble with the law since the day they were born. Making their way, the only way they know how..." Those words made me think of how so many of us are living our lives each day. We don't intentionally look for trouble, or set out with the belief that life is going to have us 'jumping over small bodies of water' or off-roading it through bumps and thickets or running like mad because we happened to be in the right place at the wrong time.
Take marriage for example. A young, engaged couple more often than not, are charting their future and imagining this dream life together, with happiness and wonderment as they begin their 'new life together'. Most of them don't really stop and imagine what life would be like if the worse part of the 'for better or worse' actually became reality. Ask almost any young couple, and they would probably say that 'their love can endure anything that comes their way" or that "as long as we have each other, that's all that matters'.
Or take the single person. A young woman for example. She probably believes that there is such a thing as "Mr. Right". She's got a picture in her mind that life is gonna be grand as soon as he comes into the picture. Or the couple that is hoping beyond hopes, and thinking that the one thing that would make life perfect, is the longing in their hearts to have a child, and raise a family. Some can't figure out why it's not happening the way they hoped and 'planned' for it to happen, and instead, they are living a 'nightmare'- one of pain and hurt and unfulfilled longings in their heart. They look at their friends who have what they want, and this burning desire now begins to create tension in their marriage, friendships, and their whole outlook on life.
For whatever reason, often at no fault of our own, life rarely (if ever, as far as I'm concerned) pans out the way we want or expect it to.
What we're left with is a world of people living the Dukes of Hazard theme song in life. People are just "trying to get by", or left hurt that the world has let them down. Some are overwhelmed with worry and fear or anger and bitterness. Each day brings the reality of the injustice of their situation, rather than the opportunity for dreams to be fulfilled.
Right about now, things start to look and sound really depressing and bleak. Kind of how the Bo and Luke Duke felt just as the General Lee was 'frozen' in mid-air with Roscoe and Boss Hog hot on their tail, as the announcer paused for a television break. Things weren't looking as though life was going in their favor.
Another way of putting it is an example that came to my mind as I just ate lunch with my girls. We were having sandwiches, bananas, Cheetos and milk. My girls all wanted to eat the Cheetos first. As a mom, I have a hard time finding balance at meals with toddlers, because they always want the 'junk food' first. I try to give them mostly healthy options, but I'll admit we do eat plenty of refines sugars on any given day. It made me think of how I am like that in life- even as a grown up. The things I want to fill my life with are often "easy, comfortable, fun, entertaining, indulgent, and good"...for a moment or two. Anything of real value, or substance, often demands my time, energy, peak performance, will-power, my body, mind and strength. Somedays, I would just like to put my feet up and let life happen. I'd love to eat bon-bons and let the world pass me by- with no thought to trouble or the cares that I have each day. Like a real-life day at the beach in my own home.
But it just doesn't happen like that. Yet, this is where it gets tricky, in a sense, because I don't ever want to come across as boasting about my life, but I have learned in all things, in every circumstance, that I can be content. I can live without fear, or guilt or worry, or even that life is going to be 'fair'. I have been on a journey, and I continue to seek do live life to the best of my ability, even if I fail big time, or get hurt along the way.
I think I have said this before, but one of the driving 'forces' in my life has been the realization and absolute certainty in my mind, that this life is not the end. I truly believe there is a future, an eternity, beyond what we can see. That belief has led to a great peace in my life, and it's what makes me pick up and keep going even when the whole world seems to 'be against me'. One of my favorite quotes, by a quadraplegic woman named Joni Eareckson Tada, is this, "True contentment means asking less of this life, because more is coming in the next".
Life, so many times, is like the bag of Cheetos my girls and I sat munching at lunchtime. It looked yummy (Wyndham loves the color orange!), and tastes good and crunches and is very satisfying, for the first handful or two. But I know that Cheetos offer very little, if any nutritional value, and I know that they won't fill my girls up for very long, or give them long-term energy. I know that too many Cheetos makes them want their 'healthy food' even less, and that if left to their own devices, they would eat too many and actually make themselves sick!
In my own life, this has been true. For many years, I was 'living the easy life', and although I still knew that I loved God and I knew if I died that I would go to Heaven, I was still loading up on too many "Cheetos" in life and I felt like I was trying to do everything right, but in the end, no matter what 'goal' I reached, there was a longing and emptiness inside of me.
I know I have a long way to go yet, but I have, in the past couple of years, seen that with each passing day, this world holds less and less of me. I don't need 'stuff' to fill my life. I don't need things to turn out perfectly as I plan them, but instead, I recognize that the only thing that truly matters is eternity.
All the times I have cried tears for not being the 'right weight', or having enough money to buy this or that, or to go here or there. All the times I sat moping because my dreams were going to be dashed as the reality of my pregnancy set in the first time around. All the times I got frustrated wondering how we would pay bills and still have money left for the things I wanted for pleasure and fun...because everyone else does this or that. All the times I wished I could just snap my fingers and fix the problems of my this very day they have not all gone away. I still have pain, struggles, heartache, unfulfilled dreams, and even have to watch that I don't overdo it on Cheetos, but I can truly say that life has no hold on me.
If I could package the peace I feel on any given day, I'd want to give them out to everyone I meet...and that is why I blog and share my story and seek God with all my heart. It makes no sense really, that I- who doesn't have it all- and never will have the money and fortune and success and 'good life' that some people are blessed to have, live as though I already do have it all. It's simply because I recognize that this world, no matter how beautiful and perfect and awesome something or someone may be, will not begin to compare to who God is and always will be in my life. He's my everything. And when I remind myself of that truth, day after day, that is when I live a life of freedom, contentment, Joy, and peace. This world is a really amazing and beautiful place sometimes, but when it's all said and done, it really holds nothing for me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

How does this happen?

These look delicious. I found them here, after clicking links from one blog to another. Have I mentioned how much I love the internet and especially with wireless connection?! I look forward to making and eating these cupcakes at somepoint in my life. What's not to love in these little beauties? =)
We had a relaxing, spring-like weekend at my house. Enjoyed the sunshine, eating out on our deck for the first time this year, in addition, Chip and I had been asked to speak in a local church, and it seemed to go really well. It was neat to talk to some of the congregation afterwards, and to hear how they were touched by different aspects of the way God has worked in our lives the past several years. It is amazing to me too, how Teagan's life still impacts people even though she's not physically here with us. And likely, her life is touching more people in her death, than she might have ever touched in her lifetime. I don't know for sure, but it does bring a bit more healing to our lives each time we share our story.
These cupcakes and our testimony of God in our life makes me pause and wonder, "How did this happen?" Not in the sense that I'm questioning how tragedy happened, but the thing that happens when you stare at yourself in the mirror for a minute too long and suddenly the reflection you see doesn't seem like you at all. Does that ever happen to you?! That's what I'm talking about- it's the feeling and thoughts that rush through you when you 'step back' on occasion and look at your life from a different perspective.
I've been doing that a bit...realizing how different my life is than the one I dreamed for myself when I was 5. And 12. And 17. And 22. Those dreams that I held and the way I though things were going to be are so far from the way things really are. Yet I love my life and am overwhelmed with the guilt that I am living a really great, a really undeserved life much of the time.
I never want to live such an 'easy life' that I don't need God in it every single day. And I never want to get to the point in my life where I forget to thank Him for all that I have. I am blessed, in spite of hardship, and sometimes I am realizing, that I am blessed because of hardship. It's a crazy concept...that I can be thankful for the trials that have come my way. Had I not lived it and experienced it, I wouldn't believe it. But it's a reality in my life, that I recognize as something that can only come from God.
So, today, I am thankful and grateful, that my life has twists and turns and sometimes goes absolutely contrary to the way I would choose for it to go. But, there are gifts and blessings each step of the way.
I never thought I'd be happy to bake chicken and make cupcakes for my family, and give baths and do laundry, and not go to work from 9 to 5 earning a nice salary and hang out in an office with educated, interesting coworkers. Seems my 'dreams' have changed. I can only imagine how the dreams I have at this time will look different in the next 5 years. I hope that they still include yummy cupcakes from time to time. =)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

My favorite quote this week...

I cannot remember where exactly I heard this, or who said it. I could retrace my steps to find out, I'm sure. I could write a lengthy post about it. But right now I just want to remember it...
"Ordinary does not mean insignificant".

Friday, April 20, 2007

Happiness vs. Joy~

I thought I'd touch once again on the topic of happiness here at Nitty.Gritty. It seems to have come up over and over in different aspects of my life all week long. I find that interesting sometimes, when you almost see a 'theme' emerge in your life- for whatever reason. I will admit, it's been really great to have such a week. Not that I've done anything or really gone anywhere "spectacular", but I have felt happiness in a real way- mostly in the little things. If you're a "regular" here, you know what I mean in that. =)
Today it was a whole host of things sprinkled in with the not so wonderful things thay I sometimes find myself doing. I had to get myself out of bed after about 5 hours of sleep- which if you have a puppy or a newborn in your house, sounds like a really incredible thing! But for me it meant, Visine first thing, and then having to hustle four kids awake, make them breakfast AND coach them to eat said breakfast, getting them dressed...but not just into some old clothes. No. Today was 'spring picture day' I actually had to care about their hair- which meant taking time to comb it and/or wet it down and get Brock to take his shower, and then style hair. I rushed about to get all 8 shoes and 3 backpacks ready, and we were only a couple of minutes tardy.
I never did get to make my coffee...and I had been out too late to prep it and set the auto timer, so I was running on no caffeine. =)
Once I was up and running, I figured I might as well go get some essentials. I'm the kind of person who doesn't really care to shop for the 'disposables' from week to week so sometimes I just put it off. To the point of "almost pathetic" at times.
You could probably have turned it into a 'reality tv game' in my kitchen for a few days this week. Contestants would have been challenged to open the refridgerator and cupboards and actually find something appetizing to make. What do you do with a grapefruit, 2 gallons of milk (one whole, one 1%), a couple of tubs of pretend this is butter, a few eggs (fresh...not leftover colored ones from Easter- just so you don't start gagging here), a half a tub of sour cream, some cheese slices, assorted dressings, condiments and thai peanut sauce, OJ, and Reddi Wip? Oh yeah. I would love to see what Bobby Flay or Giada could do with that! =)
(We had French Toast with strawberries and whipped cream , and sausage links two nights ago...breakfast for dinner. That was our "best meal this week", according to my kids. I happen to love that as much as they do. Chip worked late all week.)
Basically we were down to the last package of toilet paper, minimal diapers, no "Ranch for dipping", and Tide was on sale. So I took the opportunity this morning to hit our local Target and hopefully bought up everything I need for the next two weeks.
After a quick stop at the grocery store, I had everything on my list (at least until we run out of milk, bread and eggs again), including frosted cupcakes- my 'impulse purchase'. What can I say? I couldn't pass up "Buy 1, Get 1 Free" on frosted cupcakes. I left one pack at Wyndham's therapy when I dropped her off for her sessions...and put some smiles on a few faces. I went home and had a little lunch and then a mini-Barbie Tupperware cupcake party with Ava and Bell. They loved it! It cost me a whole $3.29. I still have a few cupcakes left over too. =)
I was feeling tired for most the morning, but found after stocking up and getting free cupcakes, I wasn't noticing it quite so much. I capitalized on this 'burst of energy', and even "rode the cart" along with Ava in both the Target and Meijer parking lots.
Her spontaneous laughter made up for the coffee I had missed- and then some! She started chanting, "Go Mommy, go mommy, go mommy, go!" as the cart rolled toward the car. It just made me laugh. The two guys sitting in their cars watching me must have assumed I'd had a Triple Venti something at that point. Their faces almost made me laugh as much as Ava's chanting. =) I think it hit me then. Happiness to me is about the things that are available to me at any given moment in time- but I have to actually act or respond to those opportunities.
Does that make sense? It doesn't take money (or doesn't have to take money all the time), there's no flashing neon sign that says, "Happiness here.", and I think it's different for almost everyone. We're all unique and have different likes and dislikes and sense of humor and ways of looking at things. What I mean by that is, not everyone would get a thrill out of pushing the shopping cart quickly, and then hopping on it for a short ride through the parking lot. But I do. =)
It's up to each of us to seize those opportunities if we want to experience moments of happiness from time to time. Or days if you go on a Disney vacation..."the happiest place on earth". =)
For me, it showed up again today when I got my mail from the mailbox at the end of my drive. Two of the cards pictured here were in my mail today {Thanks, made Brock & me happy!}. How can I not blog about Starbuck's after getting this little gem of a postcard.
"THANK YOU". On the flipside is a note about the giftcard I have to which they just added $5 bucks- just to say thanks. I mean c' does this huge corporate giant know that I am cynical to nearly every marketing ploy and scheme out there?! They just happen to send me a card (I love mail!) with a picture of a double-shot of espresso on it, telling me that my cute little card that I had just used up, now has an extra 5 dollars on it? They must be reading my blog to know that. =) I mean don't get me wrong. I'm the first to say that lattes are overpriced and that they're a 'luxury item' and that I don't deserve such goodness in my life...but when it showed up unexpectedly (along with a check from one of my CK layouts) I couldn't help but be happy.
Today, I spent some time with my kids outside in the sunshine and fresh air- playing "Ring around the Rosie" and other fun stuff, and tickling Ava while getting her dressed. I kissed my hubby and we shared "I love you's". I ate chips and homemade guacamole (yum!), and sang along with the radio blaring and even though I've still got bathtime and bedtime and I could use a few more drops of Visine right about now; I have to admit, my life looked happy.
Now I have to add, that as I am typing out this blog, Ava has dumped out all her Polly Pockets, her Little Pet Shops and a Discovery Toys foam/shape puzzle in addition to spreading out about 22 dvds- to decide which one she wanted to play first. To top it off, she said she wanted to go potty by herself (we're still working on potty anytime she wants to "go by herself", I support that big girl decision 100%). This time though, it back-fired. She wasn't trying to go potty like a big girl, but instead was balling up wads of toilet paper and dropping them into the toilet. By the time I got "suspicious enough" {Moms- you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about gets quiet a little too long!}, she had played long enough that I couldn't just flush and move on. I had to go in there and do some cleaning up.
That was just now. In the middle of blogging about happiness in my life. And do you know what? I'm still happy, because I realize that I'm lucky to have a little girl who is curious and who is trying to learn new things, and who stood back and said, "sorry" at precisely the right instance.
I jotted down a few notes while listening to the radio a couple of days ago. I don't even know who said it or why, and I am paraphrasing this off the top of my head, but the speaker was talking about happiness versus joy. It went something like this:
Happiness is the sailboat in life. It glides along and takes in the view and it's a beautiful thing. But, it can easily be thrown off-course, and tossed about. It is affected by the winds and the waves, and should the rains come, well, it isn't quite so easy to maneuver.
Joy is the submarine in life. It also glides along the water, but rather than riding the waves and be affected by the winds, it is submerged in it and stays on course. There may not be quite the scenery, but there is a comfort knowing nothing can thwart it's journey- from departure to arrival. It matter not if the rain comes or if the sun does or doesn't shine upon the sub. It's mission remains unchanged.
I just thought that was such a great example for how we should look at happiness and joy. I love happiness in my life. It is a wonderful thing. I wish more people could find happiness, or do a self-inventory and come up with little things they can do to experience it more often in life. Joy, I am finding, is something that takes effort. I believe it really is a matter of choice. I believe, as I wrote earlier this week, that real joy, the unshakeable, indescribable kind, comes only from God. For me it has been and will continue to be an ongoing process, and it consumes more and more of my heart and life, as I look less and less to this world to fill the longings and desires of my heart, and instead seek God and ask Him to give me joy in every aspect of my life.
I don't think happiness and joy are absolutely exclusive of each other. But if I could have only one in my life- I'd choose Joy.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Happiness on the heels of tragedy...

I have not watched any television coverage of the news coming out of the tragedy at Virginia Tech earlier this week, but just in reading a few of the articles posted online, have much to think about and say to this topic. It is horrible. It makes no sense, and what is sometimes the hardest thing about this type of reality, is that there are more questions than answers when it's all said and done.
I've been there. I was touched by the face of evil in my life, causing me great pain and death even. I had no 'control' over it when it came; I had no warning that it was coming; I had no way to protect myself from its 'mission'; I had no reason to believe that evil lurked around the very corner of my life as I sat and ate Sunday brunch with my family. It was the most 'ordinary' of moments in my life. I wasn't "seeking adventure", or "asking for trouble". I hadn't 'enlisted' for anything dangerous; I hadn't any reason to believe that my life could be touched by horror.
Yet it happened.
Just as the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre were 'touched'. Just as others were touched by the DC sniper, just as those individuals we watched who met their fate on the morning of September 11, 2001.
It used to be that we 'saw evil' in more expected places. We had names for these places and people behind them... most people could choose to 'stay away from the bad parts of town', and in so doing, avoid the evil that lurked there. It used to be a choice to 'entertain danger'. People, especially youth, would seek adventure and put them selves at risk of harm and toy with death. What seems to be happening in greater frequency, here in our very own nation, built on freedom and opportunity, is that we are coming face to face with the reality that nobody is really ever protected from death and evil, not even as we go about our so-called everday activities.
Who could have predicted one morning not so long ago, that several young girls would meet their fate in a humble Amish schoolhouse. Or that those at the 'pinnacle of the ladder of success' in their offices on the top floors of the Trade Centers wouldn't stand a chance at surviving it's grip.
Some happened to be out shopping and enjoying the more leaisure side of life one afternoon at a Utah mall, and suddenly there it was- evil and danger and death- without warning or cause.
It is these types of 'random evil and death' that I have contemplated for hours on end in my life; the very evil and senseless violence that claimed my daughter and forever changed the way I see the world.
That is where this post comes from- from the very depths of the questions that my heart has asked and vented about and screamed and shed buckets of tears over. They are not easy questions to ask- the why's and the how come's, and didn't anybody see 'something' so as to avoid this pain and horror. I've asked the hard questions- the ones where you look at yourself wondering where you went wrong to be touched by such evil and randomness; questions of what could I have done differently, and how can I make certain this never happens again. There are intense emotions involved when asking such questions, and out of those feelings I searched for someone to 'blame' for such evil; I needed someone or somewhere to direct my anger and grief and hurt. My pain wanted to point a finger at the "source" or root of evil. Even as authorities retrace steps and try to come up with some sort of 'answers' as to what led to and was behind the rage and randomness of the Virginia Tech massacre, so it was with me in my life. I was reeling with questions and pain.
Herein lies both the "good news and bad news". In my own experience I found that there really weren't any easy answers. Even though in my own situation the cause of my tragedy and Teagan's death had a face and name, there were still questions that had no answer. It was maddening to me at times; I couldn't come to a point where I could say this is why the reality of my life is the way it is or that what happened occured for this reason. Or as a result of this. Or that. For some people these are some of the same questions and pain they feel- only as a result of cancer, or unexplained sudden death from anything- from heart attacks to car accidents. The questions come no matter the source of pain.
What I found was that the more I asked the hard questions, the less the sense it made to me. The more the authorities discovered about the one who brought me such pain, the more questions I had. It seemed to me to make less and less sense, rather than offering solace and relief. I found that the unanswerables started to consume my thoughts and time and in so doing, caused more pain and is what started driving a wedge between Chip and me. It is why I would fall apart simply going to the grocery store to pick up a few items- my world didn't make sense...and was bleak as I watched others going about their 'normal lives'. My looked like theirs, but had been tainted by death and evil.
In the segment we taped with Oprah Winfrey, when asked about if I wanted to know why this happened in my life, I answered, "When you ask why too much, it brings you down....there are no answers sometimes".
That's the "bad news". The reality is that sometimes we simply have no answers. It is at this point that often times people start to blame God for what has happened. Others can't understand "why bad stuff happens to good people"...which for me to give you my thoughts on that topic would probably require that I write a short book. It is this very point that many of the victims' family members are finding themselves as they awake to the nightmare of the reality of their lives- many are asking themselves, "now what?" and "where do I go in life from here?" and "why me?".
This is where the "good news" comes in. It is where I had to turn from asking questions and seeking answers, to surrendering myself to the reality of what happened. It meant I had to seek a higher purpose and desire to live in light of heartache, and to accept the fact that there are reasons to the why's and what if's and how comes...I just may never grasp them.
It is where my faith begins and ends- the very definition of faith...when life doesn't make sense, I choose to believe. I do not know why evil and unexpected death happened in my life. I do not understand it. I do not like the way it caught me offguard and in the midst of living a quiet, unassuming life. I do not like that I had no choice in the matter- or that it came at me with such force that nothing mattered to me seemed utterly meaningless.
Faith doesn't ask that we like the things that happen to us. Faith doens't mean I can't feel angry or question why. It doesn't mean life will look be perfect. Faith only requires that I believe. I found that with faith, all things really are possible! Even happiness and joy in life, that at one point in time held only pain and sorrow. My faith has been stregthened in my pain and weakness, as I have had to lean on God and in Him alone find comfort and peace. In God's Word, I am promised comfort in times of grief; I am offered Hope for the future; I simply have to trust that God IS true to His word. He is showing me that I do not need to fear the random evil and pain that touches all of us in this world- we all face certain death. We need not live in fear- no matter how or when it may cross our paths. We can live with the assurance that God's promises are true; that His ways "are higher than ours" and that "He will make all things new". Therein lies the reality that we can all live with happiness and with peace. God is most certainly in control. We may not understand His ways, or His timing...but that is just the way things are in life. It is not ours to know. How silly to think that we could or even should be able to make sense of things of this world...we are not God.
I think of a recent illustration I heard on this very subject. If you are a parent this is more easily understood, as it is a picture of God as our Father- all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful. As in our own lives, sometimes 'bad things' happen to our children. Sometimes they just happen (think about getting the flu, or falling off of a bike and getting hurt); we do not cause them. Sometimes we bring them on our children "for their own good"- think of immunizations or "making kids eat their vegetables". They may not like that we cause "suffering", but from our perspective, we are doing certain things or allowing certain things for their very good- out of our deep love for them.
So, even though we could tell them they are getting shots to prevent disease and sickness and undue pain in their lives, children can't understand and process that. Even though they fall off their bikes, we allow them to do so, in order that they might grow and learn and experience the thrill of riding a bike without harm later on. Although we didn't 'sign them up for the flu, or bring it upon them', it happens from time to time simply because there is good and evil in this world. It has been that way from the beginning of time. So it is with us and faith. We can choose to believe that God is who He claims to be. We will never fully know the mind of God, and it is not ours to know. BUT, we can trust Him to be faithful and true.
That is what I have done in my life. I hope that people who are wacthing such events as all the random tragedies in just the past few months in and around our own nation, don't point fingers at God, or fall away from their faith as a result of evil. But instead, use it as an opportunity to cling to God, to seek His face, to grow their faith, and to find that there is so much more to life than simply going about our day to day routine. There is Hope for eternity, and life is our journey toward that end.

CLick this link for one of my current favorite songs, which says what I cannot put into words here. . ."You Never Let Go" by Matt Redman.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Happiness in a can.

One of the purest forms of happiness I have found exists in a can of whipped cream. You know the kind. Our local Meijer (that's for you Susan!) had the generic version of it on sale last week for 99 cents a can. Everytime I buy Reddi- wip I am reminded of the times I was lucky enough to squirt it into my little Teagan's mouth, most often before she had even started on breakfast, much to her delight. I loved 'breaking the rules' with her and giving her a taste of goodness before she had eaten a nutritous meal, or simply for no reason at all. Just because I was learning as a first-time Mom that her happiness made me happy! I had doubts through my whole pregnancy with her, that I would be a good Mom or have anything worthwhile to pass on to my baby. I doubted that I would do everything right...that was one of my biggest fears...that I would 'mess up my kids' and they would blame me for my poor parenting skills later on in their 'messed up lives'.
What I learned with Teagan, and what I am still learning through life and many times through interactions with my kids, is that I rarely do things right, and that I do 'mess up' a lot of the time. But more importantly, I am learning that kids are very forgiving, and that my mistakes and imperfections are really opportunities for ME to grow and learn and to become a better person.
Thank goodness I have had five kids now...I have needed to do a lot of growing in my life! =) While I am no where near perfection and still fear that I am making all the wrong choices at times, I have lightened up on myself and really, sometimes I am even sort of liking the kind of Mom I have become. Not that I think I am perfect and great (or fame-addicted {wink!}) in any way...but just that I have matured and experienced enough 'small successes' to see that I just might be okay if I stay headed in the Right Direction.
('Right Direction' is capitalized, as I am referring to God being the source of my direction here.)

A couple of days ago, in one of my moments of being a 'good mom', I asked Chip to snap a picture of me and the kids as we played a simple, yet memorable game. They had actually all eaten a fairly balanced dinner this night, although Bella was ready to run from the table without first stopping by the kitchen to get her face and hands wiped clean. When I told her and the others to "line up", she first held back. However, as soon as one caught glimpse of the can of whipped cream I was holding, there was a quick change of heart (and noise level as well as lots of jumping up and down in my kitchen!). As soon as I told them the one that stands most quiet and calm gets to be 'first', they had a little incentive to actually listen to my directions.
They lined up and basically the game consists of me squirting the whipped cream into one mouth after another as they go from front to back and then work their turn back to the front spot. The fun and happiness in that moment is really priceless. For less than a buck, we entertained ourselves for a couple of minutes, we shared time being happy and seeing each other happy, and for an instant, the world was without care.
I know that the world isn't always so simple and easy and carefree. But when it happens, it is truly a beautiful thing. And maybe, just maybe, my kids will remember some of these moments of unencummbered happiness, and they will know that even though I messed up as their Mom, my intentions were always pure.

ETA: I just came back home from picking Brock up from school. I have to load up three girls to go pick up one boy, and they don't always enjoy this quick trip to school and back. Had you been at my house, you would have seen my less-than-stellar moment of motherhood, as I allowed my girls to ride to school wearing their swimming suits. (Our weather today is overcast and around 50 degrees.) If a cop had stopped me for any reason, there likely would have been looks and maybe questions. But that's exactly what I am hoping to take away from this 'reminder lesson' today.
We have choices and opportunities and sometimes we do it right the first time and things go perfectly as planned. Other times we have to settle for less, or simply let go of the expectations we've placed on ourselves and/or others. As in the case of my girls riding to school in their swimsuits. It didn't hurt anyone. It actually saved me some yelling and hassle that would have ensued had I demanded a change of clothing.
I can't stress enough, the fact is, we are all on a journey in, learning, experiencing, growing, becoming, interpreting, reflecting, creating, pursuing, seeking, and a host of other things. The way I am doing that probably looks nothing like the way you are doing that. Even as I think of my own sisters...we were raised with the same rules and with similar expectations and opportunities, yet our lives are very different. Probably neither of them dragged their kids anywhere in swimming suits today. And I'm sure I win at being the biggest 'pack rat' and clutter-creator if you were to stop by our homes and see the mess of toys and things strewn across the floors.
Yet, we love one another and I consider them terrific moms and I'll bet they want the same thing for their kids as I do for mine- the best. Okay. Now I'm not sure where I was really headed when I came back to ammend this post. But I think what I was really trying to say is that happiness is real. It exists when we look for it, just as beauty is there for the taking, and that sometimes our own 'judgements' or inadequacies can hinder us from claiming what really is out there for our simple pleasure.
I hope we all "lighten up" at times to witness and experience beauty and happiness. In the process, we might just find another piece of ourself.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Seeing beauty...

I have been having so much fun sending and reading messages between myself and the others who make up the design team for the soon to be released Scrap In Style TV website. This group of women hails from all over the US and even Canada and the Netherlands. When our minds and creativity and purpose of bringing out the best in others comes together in the launch of this new site, I think we are all in for a real treat. I'll keep you all posted as May 15th draws closer.
I say all that because I have gotten to know some of these amazingly, talented women a bit through their blogs, and through this one, was pointed to one of the most engaging articles I have read in a long while.
You will want to go to this link- an article from the Washington Post, which as I stated, is engaging in topic, but also I thought was so telling of us as people- especially who we are and what drives us in our culture.
It's what I have been wrestling ever since the death of Teagan; the challenge to change my pace of living, and the realization that life is made up of so many choices coming at us each day- that many of us often sacrifice the true beauty of life and living to things that seem to be a "matter of life and death". We run red lights to save time; we sacrifice our health and energy by eating fast food-thinking it is saving us time, when in fact it isn't necessarily even doing that; we fill our lives with television and music and arguing with our spouses about finances and work schedules and whose night it is to go out. We go to bed late and wake up early, hurrying to get everything done on our "to do lists" for that day...only to go to bed late and wake the next morning to the same jobs and argue about more scheduling conflicts and finances and late fees.
Something seems amiss to me...and that came to light in my life, in such a way that I couldn't argue with it, when Teagan died. I still struggle with balancing things in my life, and cooking healthy meals, and finding ways to mix joy and fun into the list of things that have to be done. Like paying taxes. =) Yet I make much more of a conscious effort to look beyond the daily grind, or to simply step back sometimes, slow my life down, and soak up the gifts that God has placed in my life.
As I read through this article, Pearls Before Breakfast, it resonated (no pun intended after you read the article) with me and I just knew I had to post the link here. You will want to read it the whole way through, even though it is a bit lengthy. In the end, it just might make you look {or listen} twice for the beauty around you in your own life. Often times it is there if you are simply willing to stop and take it all in. Many times it even presents itself to you at no cost, other than the fact that you have to be aware and willing to put the seemingly pressing things in your life on hold.
God designed us and created us to enjoy our world. We have created chaos and hustle which causes us to miss what God intended for us all along. This article made me realize that it may be happening to us more than we think.
Lest you think that you have all the time in the world for beauty and such, let us not forget and let us pray for the victims of our nation's most recent random tragedy, the deaths of several people on the campus of Virginia Tech. My prayers and sympathies to all the families touched by this horror. Life is precious, and I that message is one that, in my opionion, cannot be repeated enough.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pre-Ava Days

We just got our 'old computer' up and running again, and so I am having fun looking back through my files and pictures from 2002-2005. It's amazing how quickly the days go by during this phase of my life, and also how quickly my memory fades.
I always took lots of pictures of my kids, and I still do, thinking that one day they would be happy to be able to see so much of their childhood in photos. What I didn't realize at the time was how much I would appreciate having these pictures. Even though not that many years has gone by since these pictures were taken, I am still glad to be able to look back, smile, remember, and see just how fast these years ARE flying by.
Looking back at these pictures reminded me that I had long hair and contacts at one time. How could I have ever forgotten that?! But you can see, we've always loved milkshakes and whipped cream. =) Somethings will never change.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The real "Secret"

I have spent time in thought, reflection, prayer, and reading and rereading several comments and emails regarding the recent 'scrap page controversy' here on my blog.
First of all, let me say that I appreciate all of the feedback, and it is good to 'hear and read' that so many people take an interest into what is said here, or what image is portrayed. I have to admit, that I never intended my blog to be anything but mere fun and games for me- a way to share pictures of kids with my family and friends who like to 'see' how we are doing, and then as I got more involved in scrapbooking and the ever-growing community that exists there, I have used this blog as a place to capture my memories, my thoughts, and play with my own creativity and learning that is still going on in my life everyday.
So, whether it is a new recipe of Rachael Ray's Raspberry Tart that captured the attention of my tastebuds, or the sticky smile of one of my kids, or a skunk that Chip ran over or the ongoing dates that cycle through the calendar and bring memories and reflections of Teagan and all we have lived through...I have been clear from the beginning. I blog about anything, but I try to keep it real.
"Real" to me, meaning, I am who I am. I share my real thoughts, concerns, my quirks, my perspective, and try to just be me. The good, the bad and everything in between. As a communication major, I understand that much is lost in the message when there is no facial expression, no tone to be heard, and often, limited context to the words that are written on a blog. So part of that comes into play- especially in this 'blog environment' where we bloggers have limited knowledge on any given day, who might stop by and read our posts. I understand that my perspective is not going to be the same as everyone else's...which is precisely why it is a 'narrow view' here. I can only blog about my own experiences; the things that happen to me, or how I respond to them, or my thoughts on events that occur...that is my basis for 'material'.
One of the themes that has grown and come from my experience, is the way I approach life and how I live as a result of tragedy that struck my family and killed Teagan. My faith is the only thing that has given me Hope, Comfort, Strength and Joy in my life since that day in July 2001. For me, anything and everything I do is only because God has given me the ability to do so. Each breath I take comes not from my will or based on any merit I have earned, but simply because God gives me breath. If you had been at the scene at the time when the car drove into the restaurant where my family and others were dining, you would probably be amazed that only two were killed, and that the rest of the surviving injuries have healed as well as they have. I was struck from behind, by a car driving 55-70 mph into the wall just behind my chair...I was flipped into the air and thrown several feet, among flying glass and debris, my legs and body hit a counter and ledge , and yet I was able to jump to my feet seconds after falling to the ground, where I stepped over a few paces, and gathered Teagan off the ground. I carried her out of the building and laid her down, when I saw that she was not breathing, and had a large gash in the back of her head.
It was at that moment, when I knew she would not survive, and the only way I would be able to was to turn to my Faith. For some reason, I survived that incident. People die in lesser crashes and in 'freak accidents' all the time. I understand that I could have easily died that day, along with many others.
Part of that has been the basis for how I view my life since then. It has made me aware that none of us knows when we may face death, and that we need to be ready at anytime. I am certain of my faith and live with an assurance and hope of Heaven for all eternity. It gives me great comfort and I have total peace about death. I do not fear death...but yet, I seek to live life, as God continues to give me breath.
I am blogging and sharing my life here, now five and a half years after my brush with death. I write as one who has experienced great pain, and hurt and sorrow and grief, and who continues to 'bear burdens' and has ongoing challenges (physically, mentally and emotionally) as a result of that moment in time.
In the early weeks and months after this happened, had I kept a blog, you would have seen a 'darker' version of who I am today. As I said, I had faith and knowledge that God would meet my needs and somehow 'rebuild' my life, but it was a constant struggle and it consumed much of my energy and the way I looked at life was very different.
I write that, because I think that for some of the people who stumble onto my blog or just follow comments here and read bits and pieces of my posts, that part of the message that I wish to share gets lost in all the 'fun and games' that I originally kept this blog for in the beginning. Someone who doesn't read the link to the article giving more background, or someone who comes here and just looks at the pictures, sees only a 'glimpse' of who I am, and where I've come from, and how much I have had to rely on God to get to this point.
I make no claims to have Joy and happiness in life because of anything that I have done. I have done nothing to deserve goodness and blessing in my life...and yet I have it- full and in abundance. It blows my mind sometimes...that my messed up, broken, hurt and pain have been replaced with peace and comfort and blessing.
THAT is what I was writing of in the recent Tootsie Roll scrap page that caused a stir. I recognize that people all over the world suffer all sorts of horrific things. I understand I am not alone in that or unique to pain and grief and that life is unfair. It happens to everyone, I believe, to varying degrees. I also know, from the doctors and neuropsychologists and other 'experts' whom we have spent time with and been cared for by, that our personal trauma often results in some ongoing (sometimes throughout a person's entire lifetime) issues and scars that need specific care and attention.
THAT is what makes me want to share my story and be 'bold' about expressing my joy...because some of the books in my collection and the prognosis' we were given were grim and depressing. Chip and I have relied on our faith in God, our friends have been amazing wherever we have lived since Teagan's death, and our families have stood by us and that is who I give credit to for the way I 'look' in my life at this time. I write about the 'flavor' that my ordinary life has in light of all that...and that I've had to look hard to find beauty and goodness and love after tragedy, but that it is there for the taking, is truly amazing!
This is part of what I wrote on the scrap page, "I've lived some of life's toughest challenges. I've endured hardships...but at the Center, I have found PURE JOY!" It is to me, the miracle and blessing that only comes from God- no matter who is facing the hardship, no matter what shape or form that hardship comes, and no matter what the outcome...that God can pick up the pieces of our messed up, broken lives, and turn them into something beautiful-worth living again.
Without God, I was nothing before this happened, and I would be nothing without Him since it has happened. That's what struck me in my thoughts, and what my 'message' (for those who want to know what I am trying to say at times) is for anyone who reads Nitty.Gritty.
Christ is my PURE JOY. I talk about how I have to 'create my own joy' at times, but that too, I believe, only comes from God. I do not believe that Joy in life exists outside of God. We can experience happiness, deep peace, comfort, bliss, all sorts of fun or good emotions, but only in seeking God can we ever find meaningful and everlasting true Joy.
I doubted that I would ever feel any joy in life again, after Teagan died and our lives and hearts were torn to pieces. So I started to pray for God to give me joy and the ability to see beauty in life again. That is what you see on Nitty.Gritty. some five years, and hundreds of prayers and tears and going humbly to the feet of God, later.
Any goodness or fun or smile you see in my life or on my face or however I present it on this blog, is not about me...but only about Him. There is nothing in my life good- apart from God. My hope is that God will use the miracle He has given me (that is the ability to have happiness and contentment and peace and so forth, in spite of Teagan's death), and show others that they can have this same Joy that I know and love and thrive on in life. If God can bring goodness out of the depths of tragedy, than surely He can do it in the life of anyone. It's not just me. In fact, most of the time I wonder why God would even give me any blessing at all? I deserve nothing.
I have only believed in God, and asked for His mercy and Joy. He heard my cries, and I am now living a life that I wouldn't trade for anything.
If that somehow comes across as boastful, or proud, or too 'Jody-focused', then I apologize and I hope that God will show you that it is simply what God looks like when He chooses to display Himself in this broken, messed up world. I consider myself nothing...and God is my everything. Nitty.Gritty. is just the way I 'display' God in one small aspect of my life. My hope is that each one of us will continue to be nothing on our own, but to be "amazing because of Christ".

Friday, April 13, 2007

This has nothing to do with me...

...except that I have a fondness for Heidi Swapp. This is her cousin, Kristy Glass, who somehow managed to get all the beauty and talent that has escaped me in this lifetime, and she is in the midst of trying to 'win' a contest to be the host of a show called "Real Saavy Moms". Now that's a show I could actually see myself watching!
Anway, she needs lots and lots of votes to win this fun opportunity. So, while I do not know her, I would love to have her fair skin and beauty, and most of all her good fortune of being in the same family as Heidi Swapp. =)
For the simple joy of getting in on 'her game', I am posting a link which you can follow and then vote for Kristy, as well as find out more about the contest she's in and the show she hopes to be hosting in the near future. You can vote each day, until April 20th.
Now I will get back to thinking about what I really want to say. =)


Some of you know me (in person), and therefore know that I am rarely short on words. It's true. I almost always have something to say. My 'word challenge' in life is making my words match what's in my heart. This post is just a personal reminder...and a chance to gather those thoughts before I write again at length. =)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Speaking of scrapbooking...

Check out 'Patterns of Ink'...This is a thought-provoking look at scrapbooking. If you are, or even if you're not a scrapbooker, this one is worth your time, either way. Incidentally, the blogpost is written and pages shared by a non-scrapbooker, who, I'm sure if he were to scrapbook, would create pages with stories you would want to share with others-and preserve for a very long time.

One of you emailed this to me...

...because we all need a little comic relief in life sometimes! {Plus now I've had 'two men' on my blog in one day. There. Hope that makes you smile, Mr.K. } =)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My first scrap "dare".

This is what I came up with in response to taking on my first dare from this scrap challenge blog. The challenge was posed by the incredible, everyday moment kind of photographer capturer, Tara Whitney. She invited scrappers to do a page based on a t-shirt slogan.
I jumped at the chance to not only scrap the saying on the t-shirt, but also a picture of me wearing the shirt. This is what I am comfortable wearing when I am most "me"...but wouldn't dare wear it to my husband's golf club or if I were to go out for dinner where there are linen napkins on the table. But at home, it's perfect.
The slogan, "Keep on lickin' " makes me think of how it's so important to hang in there when the going gets tough in life at times. I've certainly had my share of that in my life. That's one of the reasons I love this shirt and wanted to scrap my thoughts about it's truth. I think I've finally 'mastered' the idea that when life gets hard it doesn't mean that I've messed up necessarily, or that I should take a different direction, but that I should keep plugging away and taking things one little step at a time. So with a tootsie have to work at it and it takes time to reach the tootsie roll chocolate center. Except with 'Mr. Owl'...he got to the niddle in three bites. But generally speaking, more often than not, the 'good stuff' in life takes time, energy and effort. Sometimes I've not even been sure that there was something 'inside that was worth going after'...but it turns out life has proven me wrong. In a good way. =)
SO, that's my profound layout in response to the "scrap a t-shirt slogan" dare. I set my Heidi Swapp stuff to the side for this one, and instead used papers from the Basic Grey "Blush" kit I was anxious to put to use. I just love the colors and patterns in this line. They're so 'Nitty.Gritty', no?! You can click on the pictures to enlarge them- for those of you who may not be able to read the journaling on this.
Before I go, I just have to add these two thoughts...
Chip said to me as I was finishing this page up, "You need to start scrapping other stuff. You're gonna typecast yourself". SO, I guess that's my next dare. Scrap something besides having to do with me and tootsie pops!
Also, as much as I dislike advertising, I have to admit it works sometimes, because as I was typing this post, I had the Tootsie Pop song in my head the whole time. Here it is...I bet I've got most of the words right, and I haven't heard the song in years. Crazy how that happens!
Tootsie Pop song from the tv ad-
"The world looks awfully good to me, 'cuz Tootsie Roll is all I see.
Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a Tootsie Roll to me!
{Tootsie Roll I love you; you're so chocolately sweet.??}
Tootsie Roll (something) I'm in love with you...
Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a Tootsie Roll to me!"
Feel free to leave me comments helping me out with the words I messed up on with that jingle. I guess it has been awhile!