The Life Not My Own

Friday, July 29, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Today I got my poor, neglected, lifeless hair revived with a haircut.  This is the first in several months, and my poor hair just doesn't do too well without one.  It was getting long and stringy, and I was beginning to hate it.

Enter my hairdresser, Susan, whom I LOVE by the way!  She's the only one I've ever gone to since moving to this little town, and I can honestly say she's the best I've ever had.  She does awesome haircuts, knows what looks great on you, and wants to cut your hair exactly how you want her to.  No bush-wacking here!  As usual, she did an awesome job.  My hair feels way better, and I don't have to be embarrassed about it anymore.

However, this is not the only reason that I love getting my haircut.  In case you haven't noticed, I don't exactly live in the most classy, highbrow town in the world.  Redneck central is a better description.  However, when I go to Sue's hair salon, I go downtown (one whole block of buildings...wahoo!), go into the salon, and enter another world.  They have it decorated just like a salon would be in Paris...everything is black, white, and red, and thoroughly girly.  The pedicure chairs are arm chairs with zebra seats, and white tulle floats on the ceiling.  It is pure awesomeness.  The best part is that for just a little while I can relax and pretend I'm somewhere else, all while getting my hair done.  This is definitely one of my simple pleasures in life...and all for $25.  What a great way to end a week!    

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Finding Joy in Monday

My mother-in-law calls Monday her re-entry day.  Monday’s can be hard and depressing sometimes…simply because it seems so long until Friday.  Yet, does it have to be that way?

Mission: Monday

Theme: Joy


-New beginnings

-Following the Lord each step

Meals: Healthy and Refreshing

House Chores:

-Organize coupons/meals

-Grocery shopping



-Bills at SCI (my part-time office job)

-Post blog entries

Mind Enrichment: Spend time with God getting ready for the week


-Good, inspiring work out

-Sugarless Mondays (not really sugarless…just no special sugary treats or over-sugary foods)

Computer: Check email and Facebook (20 minutes max!)


My day started off pretty good.  I had intended to get up at 6, but didn’t sleep well the night before (naps during the day really throw me off), so I really didn’t get up until closer to 7.  I wasn’t supposed to do laundry today, but I never got it done last week.  I’m not usually such a slacker, but I still don’t have a dryer hooked up, so doing the laundry is a bit more time consuming and has to be done on sunny days.  So, I got a load in the washing machine ASAP.

After making tea for myself, coffee and breakfast my DH, and checking on the animals, I kissed my DH goodbye, and took the dog for our walk/work-out.  I’ve found a great road just a bit up from our house that goes down to a creek, and is very steep for a great work-out on the way back up.  I got home, put the first load of clothes on the line, watered the garden (by hand…my hose is about 5 feet short), and then hopped in the shower.  Needless to say, it wasn’t very early when I got all this done.  I then organized my shopping list and coupons, as well as got a list together of what errands I needed to do, and headed out the door to the Ironworks. 

Twenty minutes on Facebook and email actually went pretty good…and my mind didn’t hurt from the numbing effects afterward. :)

I worked at SCI, posted a blog entry, and did some necessary work, then came up for lunch with my DH.  I put some more laundry on the line, and then some sun tea out to steep, and was off again to more work and then on to the grocery store.  Then it was home again to put away groceries, drink some sun tea, fold and put away the laundry, put more laundry on the line (yeah, I was really behind), and tidy up the house a bit. 

Andy wasn’t going to be home for dinner, so I made something totally fresh and original that he probably wouldn’t like.  I started with some olive oil in a skillet, added red onions and heirloom tomatoes (both from the farmer’s market), as well as delicious red bell peppers.  Then I added some ground turkey for good measure.  I had some mustard seeds from some pickles I had made earlier, and added those as well.  Then I whipped up some quinoa, and mixed it in with my mixture.  I’m not sure what to call it, but it sure was good!

Finally it was off to my DH’s softball game, which I brought sun tea too, so I wouldn’t be tempted to get a soda.

All-in-all, it was a very productive and JOYFUL day.  It really didn’t feel like the normal, depressing Monday.  The only thing I wish I had done was spend time with God sooner (I didn’t get to it until after supper).  What does your Monday look like?

Next up, Showing Love on Tuesday.       

Redeeming the Time

My lately has been completely unstructured, and yet totally wonderful.  In some ways I feel so busy, working at a million different things and remodeling the house, and in others I feel like I’m just waiting for school (and thus substitute teaching) to start. 

I’m a huge proponent for not wasting time.  It’s my pet peeve when someone is obviously on Facebook too much, for instance.  And yet, I often find myself on there way too much. :)  I want so badly to fill my days with useful things…things that matter in the kingdom of God.  And yet, sometimes it’s easy to get off course.  So, last Friday I sat down and tried something new.  I made a weekly plan for my days, incorporating such aspects as chores, work duties, exercise, and food into one theme.  I also set down some restrictions for myself regarding certain time wasters.  hehe!  Knowing how unstructured my life is, and how much more so it will be once I start subbing, I made a plan that is flexible and doable for every day…no matter what happens. 

Now, I tend to be a bit obsessive about schedules.  I absolutely love to-do lists, and planning my days down to the minute.  Lately, however, God’s really been teaching me that I need to be flexible and spontaneous…to focus on the things that He gives me to do each day, and not on what I have planned each day.  So, can I be spontaneous in my days and still redeem the time God has given me?  We shall see!

I’ve decided to give you a peek once a week into these “daily plans” I have concocted.  And so I present, Monday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our Love Story, Part III: Better Than A Dream

Here, finally, is the conclusion to our love story.  The read the beginning of the story, click here.

The next month or so after the outreach, Andy and I wrote private emails back and forth, all the while making plans for my family to come out and meet his family at the beginning of December.  I was nervous about what they would be like…what they would think of me.  I had no idea if they would only wear skirts or have long hair.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

The trip was short and sweet.  Andy and I were so nervous around each other…it makes me laugh now.  And yet, it was so important to get our families together…to see how each person interacted with the other.  As we drove away from their farm, I was a swirl of emotions.  I knew what my heart desired, but could that really be what God wanted this time around? 

About a week later, Andy called my dad and asked him if he could get to know me better…pursue a more purposeful relationship.  My dad said ‘yes’. :)

The next couple months were hard but sweet.  We wrestled through some tough issues, and came to a head over the definition of our relationship and what exactly a “courtship” meant.  And yet, through all those tough times, we grew closer together and learned more about each other.  Andy visited my family at the beginning of January, and then he asked me if I could come out and visit his family the weekend of Valentine’s Day.  I was thrilled.

Then came the ice storm that knocked out power to his parent’s farm for almost three weeks.  Several days before I was supposed to come out, they still had not gotten power.  On Wednesday he emailed me and said that if they didn’t have power back that night, they would have to postpone my trip.  I was so disappointed, I cried.  I checked my emails over and over.  And then I got one.  Guess what?  The power came back on that very night…I got to go!

Valentine’s Day was Saturday, and Andy and I went with his parents to this cute little Italian restaurant called Mary Maestri’s.  I felt so special…so blessed, to finally have someone sitting next to me.  And for that someone to be Andy Baker was beyond what I could have ever hoped for. 

The next morning, Andy and I rode by ourselves on the way to church, with his family following close behind.  During that ride he asked me to officially enter a courtship with him.  I knew he had talked to my dad again earlier that morning, so I was expecting it, but I still felt so delighted and elated.  Later I found out that he had a signal worked out with his parents.  One flash of the brake lights meant “yes”, two meant “no”. :)

Andy and I earnestly began seeking the Lord’s will for us.  We became more and more sure that God was leading us toward marriage.  One of the big “ifs” was when.  I was only in my sophomore year of college, and even if I graduated a semester early and did my student teaching out in Arkansas, we would still have to wait over a year before I would be able to move to Arkansas and we could get married.  Yet, the wait seemed worth it. 

There were so many things I loved about Andy.  His personality, his character, his devotion to God…all these things won over my heart.  And love?  Yes, that too.  I was beginning to realize that, without a doubt, I was falling in love with him.  I couldn’t imagine doing anything else but spending the rest of my life with this man. 

The weekend of April 4th rolled around.  My grandparents were visiting from California.  Friday, April 3rd, we were all talking about Andy.  My grandma said to me, “I hope we get to meet him someday soon!”  Meanwhile, I couldn’t get a hold of Andy, which was odd.  On Fridays he always drove the four hours from Mountain View up to Siloam Springs, and we usually talked most of his drive.  Eventually he called me and said he was “just on the road”. 

The next morning we had made plans to go out to Mormon Lake, which is near my parent’s home in Flagstaff, eat lunch at the lodge there, and take pictures.  The night before it had snowed slightly, and everything had a beautiful dusting. 

We were sitting by the fireplace in the lodge, when the event coordinator there came up and told me that they had just brought the horse and wagon up from Phoenix for the summer (we had talked to her before about it).  She knew I loved horses, and wanted to know if I would help them test it out.

“Alone?” I asked, as everyone watched me get in.  Something was certainly fishy.  This was too weird.

I got in the carriage and we pulled up just around the corner.  The driver mentioned something about checking something and we stopped for a minute.  And then it happened.  Out of the store came Andy, my Andy, the man I loved, with a huge bouquet of red roses.

“What are you doing here?”  I said. 

He smiled and got in, “I’ve come to see you!”

We rode around for awhile, and then the driver drove us up into the woods.  He stopped and asked us if we wanted to get out and walk around, so we did.  Andy led me up into the woods and told me a million sweet things.  And then he pulled out a box, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him.

All I remember saying was, “A million times, yes!”  I know, I know…that line is totally from Pride and Prejudice, and, no, I hadn’t intended to be so cheesy when proposed to.  It just came out of my mouth!

Andy slipped the ring on my finger and we rode back to the lodge where everyone was waiting for us.  Turns out, a wonderful engagement luncheon had been planned upstairs,  all without me knowing!  My youngest sister Tori, the only one who didn’t know what was going on, cried.   

Thirteen months later, on May 22nd, 2010, I married him.  We’ve had our tough times and our fights, as any married couple does, but each day I am more and more amazed at the wonderful man the Lord has blessed me with.  Looking back, everything that seemed so cloudy now seems so clear.  I see God’s amazing hand weaving a tale that I could never have dreamed of…a tale beyond my wildest dreams.  And to think…I thought there never would have ever been anyone better. :)    

Monday, July 25, 2011

Making ‘Cents’ of It: An Intro to Couponing

I am not an extreme couponer…far from it.  As I’ve mentioned before, to be an extreme couponer you have to eat mostly processed food, live in an urban area, and have an exorbitant amount of free time.  In addition, I think there are other expenses you can cut without having to cheat stores and manufacturers out of money.  They have to make money too! 

However, I have done a lot of research on couponing…and I typically use at least a few coupons every time I go grocery shopping.  I may save only a few dollars, but a few dollars adds up.

If you want to coupon, even a little bit, the first thing you need to do is get some coupons.  The most well-known way to get coupons is through the Sunday papers.  If newspapers aren’t in your budget, however, and you’re not an extreme couponer, then the cost of the newspapers may not be worth the coupons you receive.  Typically, I buy a Sunday paper about once a month.  In our paper, the first Sunday of the month is usually the best because it contains the P&G brand coupons, so all of the coupons I use for makeup and toiletries are typically in there.  However, you never know what coupons they will have in there and if they’re worth anything for you.  I subscribe to a free service that gives me a preview of what coupons will be in the Sunday paper.  Before buying a paper, I review the coupons, see what one’s I would use, and then determine if it’s worth it to get a paper or two.

I also get coupons through, fliers in the mail, and through the websites of some of my favorite brands (for instance, I subscribe to the Stonyfield organic yogurt email newsletter because I get great coupons for their yogurts).  Just keep an eye out when you’re online or looking through magazines…you’ll never know what you might find!

The next thing you want to do is clip your coupons.  Extreme couponers clip every single coupon they can find, even if they never use the specific product.  That’s because sometimes they can find great deals where they can get these items for free or even get paid to buy them.  However, I rarely find these deals in my area, so I only clip the coupons I will actually use.  This means I don’t clip coupons for certain processed foods that I would never buy.  I refuse to buy, or be tempted to buy, an item that I don’t want to use.

Once you’ve clipped your coupons, you will want to find an organization system that works best for you.  I’ve tried envelopes and spreadsheets, but recently I bought a small expanding file folder for a few dollars and it’s really helped a lot with my coupon organization.  I label each pocket, and organize them according to the different areas of the store.  For instance, one pocket is for “Eggs, Milk, & Dairy” and another is for “Toiletries”.  Additionally, I organize these pockets in the order that I go through the store.  This works great for me, because I can go through the store in an organized fashion and easily find the coupons I’m looking for.  Just experiment and find what works best for you!

Now that you’ve clipped and organized your coupons, it’s time to go through the weekly store sales, which are called circulars.  I get our circulars through the local paper we subscribe to (that, unfortunately, doesn’t have coupons).  If you don’t get the paper, you can easily find the circulars online.  Additionally, most stores have them when you come in, but since I plan ahead I don’t pick them up there.

Before going through the circulars, I go through all of my coupons to review what I have.  Then I go through the circulars, looking for items that I have coupons for.  If I find something that matches one of my coupons, I then analyze it to see if it’s worth buying.  You’ll want to be familiar with your store’s coupon policy before you do this.  For instance, the Harps in our town doubles coupons up to 50 cents.  So, if something’s on sale and you have a small coupon, you usually can get a good deal on it.  I once bought barbeque sauce for 10 cents doing this!  However, unless it’s a really great deal like that, I usually write down the price it will be at that particular store, and then, price shop at Walmart first to see which has the better deal.  Sometimes Walmart is better, even though they don’t double. 

Also, look for both manufacturer coupons (put out by whoever makes the product) and in-store coupons (put out by the store).  Typically you can use both for the same product, making your savings really great.

Once you’ve made your list of the best deals in the stores, go through your coupons again and see what you might want to buy or price shop for.  I put these coupons in the very front of each pocket section.  That way I can look at the price in-store, and determine if I want to buy that item or not.

Then I add all the other things I will need for the week that I don’t have a coupon for.  Typically, I menu plan for the week based on what I already have, what’s on sale, and what I’m buying with coupons.  Therefore, the rest of the stuff is just supplementary.    

Finally, it’s time to hit the stores.  Make your game plan and stick to it!  My favorite time to shop is in the morning during the week when it’s not crowded and I have plenty of time to look and price shop.  Really, though, with my coupons organized and my list ready (I star the items I have coupons for), grocery shopping is pretty quick.

Also, don’t forget to look for coupons other than for groceries and toiletries.  Coupons for restaurants, fast food, and home improvement stores really add up! 

Finally, I’ll leave you with my grocery shop for today and what coupons saved me.  I went to Walmart, where I usually grocery shop. 

My list looked as follows:

-Canned biscuits




-Sargento * (Harps if Walmart more than 1.75 each) <I made a note of this to see which store was cheaper

-Pillsbury Red, White, & Blue Frosting * < These were on sale since July 4th was over, AND I had a coupon!

-Mrs. Dash

-Canned Mushrooms

-Frozen Meatballs

-Green onion

-Red Bell Peppers (99 c each @ Wilsons) <This was for price matching purposes…more on that later.

-Green Bell Peppers (59 c each @ Wilsons) <Ditto

-Peaches (79 c/lb @ Wilsons) <Ditto…but they were out of peaches.

-Blackberries? ($13/gallon @ Wilsons) <Ditto, but didn’t buy any.




-Smart Ckn thighs or drumsticks <Still haven’t made it to the store for these, but they’re on sale the rest of the week.


So, there’s my grocery list.  I ended up also buying hot dogs and Fiber one bars (I had coupons for both), as well as a few other things I decided to get once there.  With coupons I saved $3.05…not much, but combine it with what was on sale and I did quite well. 

Next up for “Making ‘Cents’ of It”, I show you how price matching can make your day.  Stay tuned!

Friday, July 22, 2011


What does it mean to feel full?  Really and truly?  So often, our lives can be "full" of so many things, but never truly full.  Sometimes there are days when I wonder what God's will for me He's using me in His plan.  Sometimes I feel my life is far too simple.  Yet, it is in those times that I turn to God, and He fills me up.  He shows me His presence in even the smallest things, and I realize that it really doesn't matter if He's using me.  My life, after all, is not mine.  It's His.  The only way He can use me, is by letting go of all of me and letting Him be all that I am.  It is then that I find that I am full...full with all of Him.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Newest Addition…

Meet Al. 

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Al, as in Al Capone.  Yes, that’s right…our cute little kitten has a gangster name.  DH’s idea.  I think it’s supposed to inspire him to be a mouse annihilator or something.

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His sole purpose in coming to live with us was to be a mouser, but his hilarious antics and melt-your-heart cuteness have endeared him to us.

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He’s already showing promise in his profession, though…

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That’s a toy mouse, by the way.  No actual animals were harmed in this training session!

He’s also an avid adventurer, climbing our trees like nobody’s business.

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As well as our tires…

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Sam the beagle is still trying to figure out what this strange this we brought home is.  At first she thought it was a chew toy, but after a few swats and hisses she decided it was an evil demon.

You never know…they might end up liking each other! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coming Soon

Later this week, a Making 'Cents' of It post introducing you to couponing...the un-extreme kind.

Also, be looking for Part III of our love story!

Our Love Story, Part II: Stirrings of the Heart

To read part I, click here.

HSA.  It was a social networking website for homeschool alumni (kind of self-explanatory, right?).  I had first heard about it the previous December, when we got a Christmas card from some old friends of ours, the Pletts.  We immediately saw that one of the boys, Andrew, had gotten married, and we soon learned that he and his new wife had met through a website called  I remember looking at the site at that time and laughing it off for the most part.  I wasn’t a member of Facebook or MySpace at the time, and social networking sites were hardly interesting to me.  Besides, it seemed like, given the circumstances of my finding out about it, I would only be joining to “find a guy”.  At the time, there were other guys on my radar, and I was hardly “desperate” enough to join a site like that.  So, I forgot about it. 

That is, until that July day when the Lord suddenly put a burning desire on my heart to join HSA.  When I say “burning desire”, I really mean it.  My family was on vacation at the time without computer access, and I literally could hardly wait to get home and join.  In the back of my mind, I was merely wanting to meet some new, like-minded people.  I was disappointed and frustrated, and I just needed something new and different.  But still, all those things don’t explain fully that burning desire.  All I can say is that it was obviously from the Lord.

Almost immediately I began meeting new and exciting people, both of the male and female persuasion.  There was such a wide variety of members, and yet they all had the commonality of being homeschooled.  It was neat, and I was excited.  And then my mom saw that there was a “reunion” coming up in just a few short weeks.  She thought I should go…I thought she was crazy.  Going to Colorado with two friends had been hard enough, and I was supposed to go alone to Kentucky where I didn’t know anyone?  Was she crazy?!  Somehow between talking to the Pletts and learning that Laura was going, I signed up.  I was so incredibly nervous.  I used to have this tendency of throwing up when I was really anxious about something, and I’m pretty sure I threw up that morning before my dad drove me to the airport.  When I arrived at the Louisville airport, however, I immediately met the neatest group of girls and suddenly all my worries were put at ease.  I loved it!  I met so many amazing people and had such a fun time…and everyone was so friendly.

There had been a few people I had talked to online that I was looking for in person.  Boy, is that a weird experience!  Everyone is undoubtedly is either taller or shorter than you expect, and their voice is never what you think it will be.  Very quickly, I met most of the people I had talked to or seen around online.  Except for one.  Just a few short days before, a young man who went by “Andrew Cartwright” had written on my wall welcoming me to HSA.  I had looked at his profile, noticed that he was 20 and had somewhat of a cowboy persona.  I had always liked cowboys, and was immediately intrigued.  And then I noticed his relationship status said “committed”.  Hmm, I thought…lucky girl.  I knew he was going to the reunion, however, and was still curious to meet him.

Yet, nowhere did I see this mysterious “Andrew Cartwright”.  For some reason, I thought he was short and kind of round.  Don’t ask me why, I just did.  I saw no one who matched this description decked out in cowboy attire. 

Then came the ECD, or English Country Dance.  I was so excited about this.  The first dance I was asked, much to my delight.  Then came the second dance, and across the room I caught a glimpse of a very tall, thin young man scouring the room.  He caught my eye, and I held my breathe hoping that he would come my way…and he did.

I don’t remember exactly how he asked me, but I did remember that somehow he knew my name.  I was flabbergasted.  I had never seen this guy before…or had I?  I asked him what his name was and he said something to the affect of “My name is Andrew Baker (I go by Andrew Cartwright on HSA).  I wrote on your wall a few days ago.”  I was shocked.  He was not at all what I was expecting.  He was dressed like a cowboy, but somehow, someway, I hadn’t recognized him.  And he had the most beautiful bright blue eyes…

I must have seemed so nervous during that one brief dance.  I was still recovering from my shock.  It ended as swiftly as it begun, with hardly a word spoken.

My mom and I had a bit of a joke about “roses”.  It’s actually from some very well-known shows on tv that are, in essence, dating shows.  I don’t endorse these…it was just a joke my mom and I had.  On the shows, whoever the girl or guy is impressed with and wants to get to know better, they give a rose to.  While at the reunion,  there was hardly any cell phone reception.  The best we could do were texts.  The day after the ECD, my mom texted me and said “Rose?”.  I was confused for a minute and wrote back “Who’s Rose?”.  And then I realized what she was talking about.  I wrote back, “CD”  which stood for “Cowboy Dude”…our little nickname for a certain cowboy on HSA. 

I never talked to him once the rest of the reunion, but there was something about this quiet, stoic man that intrigued me.  I watched him from a distance.  I looked carefully for this girl he was committed to, and I began to wonder, hopefully, if this girl had broken off with him and he hadn’t changed his status yet.  I remember thinking he was so quiet and somber.  I thought, “If he’s really so serious and grouchy, then I wouldn’t like him anyway.”  And yet, I couldn’t shake the thought of this mysterious young man.

I went back to Arizona without speaking one more word to “CD”, although I still held hope in my heart.  The day I received a friend request from him was a happy day.  And then almost a month went by.

One day I logged onto HSA and saw that it was “CD”’s birthday.  I told my mom and she told me I should write on his wall.  Finally I got the courage and did…and he wrote me back.  We wrote back and forth almost daily on each other’s walls for several months.  The more I learned about this young man, albeit public and nothing too deep, the more I liked.  Like I said…there was just something there.  Yet, I wondered if he felt the same way.  He certainly wrote other girls too…I was not the only one.  But I let myself hope and laid it all at God’s feet.  Meanwhile I poured myself into my new leadership role at Intervarsity. 

Then one day I found out about an HSA outreach that was happening at the end of October in Michigan.  I wanted to go, and was in the process of finding more out about it when I found out that “CD” was one of the organizers and leaders.  I didn’t want to go just to meet him again, but it certainly did sweeten the pot.  I was equally surprised when, in response to my posting that I would need someone to pick me up at the airport, he quickly offered to pick me up, since he was picking up two other people as well at the Indianapolis airport.  I threw up again as my dad drove me to the airport.

The next several days was a wonderful time of service and fellowship.  I didn’t get much sleep, nor did I eat much (my stomach was all in knots), but I was so happy and joyful.  I met many new people and forged a lot of great friendships.  “CD”, who, as it turned out, went by Andy, didn’t speak to me too much, but I watched him.  I learned that he wasn’t somber and serious.  Quiet and thoughtful maybe, but not what I thought he would be.  I remember sitting in the living room one of the first nights we were there, playing with our hosts’ precious children.  The youngest, a little girl, supposedly did not like men.  And yet, she took a strange liking to Andy.  She kept wanting to sit on his lap.  I watched him with the little girl, rocking her, his white socked feet pushing back-and-forth against the floor.  I remember thinking how good he was with these kids…what a great father he would be.  And inwardly I mourned…mourned because I didn’t think that these desires, these stirrings within my heart could ever be. 

I’m quite sure that I wasn’t the only girl with eyes for Andy, and I kept wondering what on earth would make him pick me over any other girl.  There were sparks of hope.  Times he looked at me, or sat by me.  Times he talked with me.  But mostly I watched from a distance.  I watched how he worked.  I watched how he interacted with others.  I watched how he was so careful to guard the girls.  And each moment of watching only made my heart ache more-and-more. 

My father picked me up early in the morning, just as Andy was leaving to drive home too.  Andy went to breakfast with us…I hardly ate anything.  And then, later that day, as I drove home to Flagstaff alone my phone rang.  I was coming through a rather steep and winding mountain pass, and didn’t want to answer the phone.  I did venture a peek at the caller id though, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw who it was…Andy Baker. 

The first chance I got I pulled over and picked up the voicemail.  He said he wanted to thank me for coming and that he was checking in with everyone, making sure they were getting home safely.  I nervously called him back and told him I was fine and thank you for everything.  And then he said that he wanted our families to get together sometime soon.  I hung up praising Jesus.          

Click here to read the finale, part III!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Our Love Story, Part I: In My Dreams…

The following is Part I of our love story (from my point-of-view).  I hope to have Andy write his version soon!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve dreamed of the day when I would wear a beautiful white dress and marry my knight in shining armor.  I dreamed of a home of our own, the smell of little babies, and growing old together.  I didn’t know who or when or how, but I knew that that’s what I wanted.  It’s what my parents had taught us girls to hope for, and what our deepest souls already knew to dream of.  Sometimes, though, it’s hard to wait.

As my sisters and I grew, “boys” became more and more of a conversation piece.  We talked about the qualities we looked for in a man, we talked about what kind of wedding dress we wanted, and we talked about what boys were cute.  (Come on…what young girl doesn’t?)  And so we grew and pined after our future husbands, observing different young men in our lives, and all the while staying mostly out of the dating scene.  Those years were sometimes lonely.  We saw friends of ours with boyfriends, and we craved that too.  We dreamed of the day when we too would get a bouquet of roses, be taken out to dinner, and have someone special to talk about and do things with.  I believe that desire is inherent in every woman, and that God placed it there for a reason.  How we handle that desire is what controls our fate.  For my sisters and I, our choice was different from a lot of other girls.  We didn’t just want to date around and give our hearts to any boy…but only those that were worthy and only in God’s proper timing.

After finishing high school, I started school at the local state university that was literally minutes from my parent’s house.  This was something we prayed about, and I really felt like the Lord was leading me to get my degree in Elementary Education.  I joined an on-campus Christian group called Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, although I was not actively involved that first year.  I think I was too timid and afraid to take the risk of going somewhere where I didn’t know anyone.  My friends and I would go to large group and then leave…all the while making excuses why we couldn’t be part of a small group Bible study or go to other events.  Looking back, I was hopelessly scared.
And then came Capernwray.  The Christmas break of my freshman year, I was invited to go to England with my new but dear friend Caris.  Her brother was at a Bible school at Capernwray Hall, and we would be going to visit him, attend a New Year’s “Holiday” there, and do a little sight seeing.  Looking back, our parents might have been a bit crazy. :)  I was eighteen and she was sixteen, and here we were tramping around England all by ourselves.  Yet, I see how good it was for me.  In many ways, I was forced to become the adult that I was afraid to be. 

I’m not sure what I expected at Capernwray, but it certainly wasn’t what I experienced.  I see now that I was looking for a way out of the scary world of college.  Like a princess waiting for her prince to “save” her, I was looking for something to save me from loneliness, fear, and oblivion.  What I found was strength…strength found only through Jesus Christ.

Everything about Caperwray revolved around one thought…giving your life to God that He might be able to use it.  Forfeiting your life so that it is no longer you living, but Christ in you.  During my time there, I realized that God was putting me at NAU for a reason, and that I needed to stop running away from it.  I needed to stop searching so earnestly after marriage and children, thinking that those things, although honorable and worthy, would save me from everything, and start letting Him live through me. 

The next few months were difficult.  I was in the process of laying down my dreams and desires at the feet of the only One who can be entrusted with them, and learning to be bold in Him.  However, by the end of that semester I was slated to lead an Intervarsity girl’s small group the following year with my friend, as well as drive 700 miles to Colorado with a bunch of college kids I didn’t know to Intervarsity’s Chapter Camp.  My two friend’s and I really didn’t know anybody when we went, but at the end of that week we came home part of a family of believers.  It was such a neat experience, and truly a maturing one for me.

It is here that I note that there were a lot of guys at Chapter Camp.  Never before had I seen so many grown-up guys…before they had always been merely boys.  I don’t deny that a part of me hoped that one of them might be “the one”.  There was even a guy from another state that I did keep in touch with for a little while, but it was very quickly apparent (even before we left camp) that that relationship was going nowhere.  It just wasn’t right.  And then there was another one, someone from our group.  Without going into details, there was never anything “official” but there very well could have been.  Never before had I experienced that kind of attention from anyone, let alone from such a great godly guy.  Yet, in my heart-of-hearts, I knew that it just wasn’t right. 

I wanted it to be right.  I so desired to finally have “someone”, and such a great guy to boot.  But as I prayed about it, I felt like God was clearly telling me “no”.  I didn’t realize until then how hard it was to tell someone you really like and respect that you can never be more than friends.  You feel like your heart is ripping out right along with them.

My heart really was ripping out of my chest, but it was being safely put in the Lord’s keeping.  He had to be the Author of my love story, and I couldn’t write it for Him.  I don’t deny, though, that it was hard.  I kept wondering if there would ever be anyone else…if there ever could be anyone better.  I feared that in laying this guy down, I risked the chance of never meeting anyone (despite my grandmother’s telling me that ‘men are like buses…there’s always another one coming’. lol!)  Yet, I knew that I had to trust God.  I knew that His plans for me were far better than my own. 

It was then that the Lord put something very specific on my heart.  It was a strange desire, and a thoroughly new one.  And, truthfully, came out of the blue.  Yet I see now how God was weaving our love story without me even knowing it. 

That “thing” he put on my heart was HSA.

Click here to read part II. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Tale of a Girl and Some Mice

It all began one quiet March evening, just after getting back from a weeklong family trip for spring break.  I had just drifted off into peaceful slumber when WHOOSH, SCRAMBLE, WISH, SHOO…it sounded like a party was going on in the laundry room, which was immediately next to my bedroom.  Something was in the plastic-lined trash can, and since the dog and cat were still at the kennel, I knew it must be some nasty little intruder.

Until this time, mice had been such a faraway tale.  Unlike here in rural Arkansas, in Arizona it was not common to have mice invade your house.  Scorpions and spiders, yes, but mice?  To me, mice were this strange creature that killed people merely by pooping.  All I knew about them was that, as kids, we weren’t allowed to go into the play shed until a parent had checked, because there might be mouse poop in there that would kill you just by being in its presence.  Scary, I know.  But I had never seen a mouse in our house or shed, let alone a mouse poop, so I was safe, or so I thought…

Something inside me told me that whatever was having a party in that laundry room, it probably crawled on four legs and had a icky looking tail.  And it probably had the deadly poop!  I quickly thought about what to do.  Every other family member lived upstairs.  I tried calling for help, but everyone was too zonked from the trip to hear me.  I thought about getting out of bed and running upstairs, but I was afraid I might step on one of the creatures in the dark.  Or worse…what if they come after me?!  So, I did what any self-respecting teenage girl would do; I picked up my cell phone and called my mother’s cell phone number.  Needless to say, she was not too happy about the rude intrusion to her sleep.  To make matters worse, when my dad went in, there was no sign of mice anywhere, so we went back to bed.

The next morning they discovered that I was not making up the party in the laundry room from the night before…there in the, all over the laundry room, were the dreaded mouse poops! 

So, from the first, the mice were my enemy.  It didn’t really help that dad tried to show me how the eyes of a trapped mouse bug out, or that my mom was deathly afraid of them.  One time I was awakened at 6:00 in the morning with a dreadful scream and “Tres…TRES!  There’s a MOUSE!” in a voice I have never before heard my mother use.  Needless to say, I hated them.  But beware when you hate something…God often uses that very think to help you grow.

Little did I know that a few years later I would be walking into the new little house that Andy had chosen to rent for our home after we got married, and find the dreaded mouse poops on the counter and in some of the cabinets.  I rather ungraciously scolded Andy for leaving trash on the counter (like the mice can’t get in a trash can just as easily).  Andy was upset that I’d made such a big deal about it, and I scolded myself for already failing to always show him respect…and we weren’t even married yet!  What can I say?  Mice bring out the worst in me!

Once we were married, we had more mouse invaders.  We plugged up every hole we could find with steel wool, trapped as many of them as dared enter, and did everything possible to get rid of them.  They became a rare visitor into our home…except for a few times when we were on vacation and they had some parties on the counters and in my drawers.

Then one day we bought a dear little home of our own, which had been uninhabited for quite awhile…at least by humans.  The very first night we moved in, we were getting ready for bed when I saw a shadowy figure running along the wall toward my bed.  EEEK!  The next day I found the mouse poops all over my makeshift “pantry” in the kitchen, and even found two stuck in my beautiful big bathtub with jets.  DISGUSTING!  Finally, my dear husband, who said we would never EVER have a cat, has given in and let me get a little kitten.  Hopefully that will help some.

So what is the moral to this terrible story about a girl and some mice?  God will often use the thing you most hate to make you stronger.  I am no longer completely afraid of the mouse poops…I know how to clean them up.  I have learned to set my own traps with peanut butter.  I even will check the traps for Andy, and let him know if he needs to take a mouse out.  Yes, I still scream if I see one, and, no, I have yet to take care of a trapped one myself.  However, I’m getting better.  I am learning that God has a reason for everything in your life…even nasty mouse intruders and their deadly poops!  Sometimes it’s the little things in life that really matter.   

Monday, July 11, 2011

Later this week

Since Andy and I have been married over a year...and we're approaching the 3rd anniversary of when we met, I thought it fitting that I should finally share with you our love story.  So, stay tuned for that later this week! 

Making ‘Cents’ of It: The Season for Canning and Freezing

One of the money saving tips I’ve been learning this summer is buying fruits in bulk locally in season.  Check local ads, search the internet, or ask around for farms that grow certain fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, or peaches.  Usually you can get a great deal by buying directly from these farms in gallon size amounts.  If you want to save even more money, consider picking the fruits yourself.  Although it may not seem worth it, anything that saves a few dollars is definitely worth it to me.  In early June I got up early and went to a local blueberry farm, picked for about an hour, and got a gallon of blueberries.  I made a blueberry cobbler, ate some, and froze the rest.  It’s truly the only affordable way to make berry deserts or can berry jams or jellies. 

If you’re lucky like me, you might be able to find places where you can pick wild berries for free.  For instance, my mother-in-law’s family has a lot of land and history in the areas around where we live.  We were able to go out on Andy’s great-grandparent’s old farm and pick wild raspberries for free.  It took awhile, and we had to wear rubber boots as it was kind of primitive, but it was so worth it and such a unique experience.

Later in the summer we’d like to go to a farm that grows peaches and pick some (can you say peach cobbler?), and eventually I’d like to plant some different berry bushes and vines.  Until then, I’m getting a lot of good fruits that I can can or freeze for later use.  So check out your local farms! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Snakes in the Bathroom

I'm afraid to go to the bathroom.  Is that weird?  It wouldn't be if you knew why.

Last night my husband found a snake skin hanging from the rock next to the toilet in our master bathroom.  He insisted it hadn't been there earlier, and I'm pretty sure he's right...we would have noticed it.  Of course, that can only mean one thing: there's a snake living in our master bedroom, and apparently the crack between the rock work and the ceiling is big enough for a snake to go through.  Now we know why we haven't had any more mice.

Now, I don't mind snakes as much as mice, especially this one.  For one, Andy says it's not poisonous.  Additionally, it's killing the hated mice.  So, in a sense, I don't really mind it living in my attic or walls as long as it's getting rid of the little buggers.  I don't really like the thought of it being in my bathroom, though.  I'm afraid I'll be stuck on the commode with a snake coming down my wall.  Either that or I'll find it in my closet.  Or maybe in the shower.  Either way, it's just not my idea of a desired house guest.

So, what do we do about our uninvited guest?  I've never been in this predicament before.  After all, it's not every day you find a snake skin just hanging there on the wall in your bathroom.  On the other hand, we do live in a rural place where seeing a snake is about as common as seeing a raccoon.  Have you ever had a snake on the loose in your house before?