The Life Not My Own

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Being Thankful

This past week as been wonderfully crazy.  We didn't really do anything that hectic...we were just busy with life. And if you haven't noticed, I didn't even get to counting one thousand gifts yesterday!

Thanksgiving was wonderful, and the weekend was great for catching up with family, watching a chick flick late at night with my SIL, and, yes, even some Black Friday shopping (Blu-ray player=$49...score!)

And now, I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things.  I promise I will soon. :)  How as your Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Those Winter Blues

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As I’ve mentioned before, I come from a place where blue skies outnumber grey ones 100 to 1.  It rains and snows, but five minutes later the sun is out.  And aren’t those skies the bluest!  Even in the winter, there wasn’t a place that could beat Arizona for blue skies.  I loved it.

And then God moved me to a place where the winter is always grey, and rarely blue. 

Last winter was good at first…at least I could feel all cozy and Christmas-y!  But then Christmas passed, and the grey days continued.  And pretty soon, I found myself struggling with depression.  It was awful.

The winter blues are normal for anyone who experiences a grey winter.  The long, cold days without sun can just get to your very soul!  But there are things you can do to beat those winter blues.  This winter, I’m building up my defenses against seasonal depression.  Here’s what I’m doing, and I encourage you to try them too:

1.) Get your vitamin D.  One of the biggest reasons people get the winter blues is a lack of vitamin D, which you get from the sun.  This winter, get all the sun you can get.  Don’t waste those rare sunny days!  Get out there and get some sun.  Trust me…you will feel so much better.  You might also consider taking a vitamin D supplement.  Whatever the case, make sure you’re getting enough.  Vitamin D improves your mood, and is also very important to your health.  It even combats cancer!  So don’t skimp on the sun.  Make it a priority.

2.) Exercise.  Don’t let the short, dreary days of winter hinder your exercise routines.  If anything, exercise more.  Exercise will get your blood flowing and keep your body healthy.  The “high” you experience after a set of cardio will also combat against feeling sad.  Exercise is a mood booster!  I would recommend exercising outside, where you get the double-benefit of getting in some vitamin D.  Yay for killing two birds with one stone!

3.) Eat Right.  Just like exercise, the holidays can be a real downer for eating healthy.  Now, I don’t expect you to pass on all those delightful holiday goodies.  But when you do partake, do so in moderation.  Be sure that the majority of the time you are eating fresh, healthy, whole foods.  There’s no mood downer like an overage of carbs and sugar. 

4.) Focus on the things you like about winter.  Here in Arkansas, spring, summer, and fall are pretty much wonderful to me.  Winter?  Not so much.  There’s something about the grey days without any green that just gets to me.  But guess what?  There are things I like about winter.  What about getting to snuggle by the fire with a warm cup of tea?  Or how about all the warm, comfort-food that you can make?  There’s even something beautiful about the barren, rolling hills.  Learn to delight in the things you love about winter, instead of focusing on the bad.  This winter, I’m even making a list of winter projects I want to do, like sewing, crocheting, or baking.  When you have something to look forward to about winter, the doldrums are less likely to creep in.

5.) Focus on others, and not yourself.  Sometimes sadness and depression can be very hard to shake.  If you feel this way, then a good dose of helping others just might do the trick.  When you’re busy helping others through their problems and needs, then you won’t have time to focus on your own sadness.  Volunteer at church or for a community organization.  Sometimes when I’m feeling a little down, rocking a sweet baby to sleep is just the trick.  Don’t have any more time on your plate?  Look for little ways to serve others.  Bake a busy mother a meal or take a plate of cookies to the older gentleman down the street.  Shift your eyes off of your own problems, and shift them to Jesus…ask Him how He can use you to help others.

6.) Take your concerns to God.  Ultimately, there is only One who can help you get out of the pit of depression.  When you’re feeling down or blue, take your troubles to God.  He longs to hold you in His arms and be the balm to your heart.  Read through the Psalms, spend time in prayer, or set aside some time to just sit at His feet and worship.  He really can get you through…and He’s the only one who can!

6.) Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help.  If your depression is something that you just can’t seem to shake, is very severe, or lasts longer than winter, then I would encourage you to seek help.  Being sad all the time isn’t something God intended us to live with.  Sometimes He puts people in our lives to help us along the path.  Whether it be through medications, herbs, or counseling, help can be found for our sadness.  Just know, you don’t have to go it alone!  Sometimes the best medicine on an Eeyore day is just talking through it with someone.  Whatever the case, don’t hesitate to ask for help from others!

Will you join me this winter in combating the winter doldrums?  That’s a pit I just don’t want to enter again.       

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

This Thanksgiving...

If you haven't already picked up on it, my family lives far, far away from Andy and I.  As it, driving would take over 22 hours.  Andy's family, on the other hand, lives 15 minutes from us.  So, as you can imagine, being with both families on certain holidays is impossible.  We can't do the "one house Thursday, the other Friday" thing for Thanksgiving.

While Andy and I were still engaged, we decided how holidays were going to work for us.  We'd spend Thanksgiving with one family, Christmas with the other, and then trade off every other year.  This helps alleviate any arguments about holidays, as well as lightens the budget because we only have to travel for one holiday.

This year, we're holding down the fort for Thanksgiving and going over to Andy's grandma's house (she lives 20 minutes from us).  We've never spent it there before.  I do know that there will be millions of aunts and uncles and cousins running around.  But other than that, it's anyone's guess.

I just got asked to bring plastic forks and napkins for 50-60 people.  I've never eaten Thanksgiving dinner with plastic forks.  But, I guess when you have that many people, you run out of china plates. :)

Although it'll be different from Thanksgiving's past, I know I'll still enjoy it.  Thanksgiving may just be my favorite holiday (yes, more than Christmas), mostly because it's all about family.  And family doesn't mean that you have to eat with Great-Grandma's silver or on the pretty china.  

Andy and I are our own family now, and with that we have an extended family as numerous and spread-out as can be.  Melding everyone's traditions and ideas is what it's all about.

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful to not only have my family out in Arizona, California, North Dakota, and Maryland, but also my new family here in Arkansas, consisting of one very welcoming grandma, 5 uncles, 6 aunts, 19 cousins (not including Andy's brothers and sisters), and numerous spouses, second cousins, in-laws, and cousin's kids.  Have I mentioned that Andy's related to pretty much everyone in our county?

This Thanksgiving, I may not be with my mom and sister's cooking up a flurry in the kitchen.  We may not watch the Macy's parade together, eat Mom's yummy sweet potato casserole, or make a cornucopia out of breadsticks.  But I'll still be with family.  And for that I am thankful.

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving this year?    

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Even Amidst Stress…10 More Things

As I said yesterday, the past week has been crazy.  All the stress of deadlines has really brought to light the differences between my husband and myself.  I’m not a procrastinator.  In college, when a big assignment would be looming in the distance, I’d start freaking out, hoping I could get it done.  I would rarely finished early…I just wasn’t that diligent.  But, I will say, I can count the times I stayed up late working on an assignment on one hand.  And I never “crammed” or pulled an all-nighter.  That would have just sent me over the edge of the stress chasm.

Then there’s my husband.  He’s not a procrastinator.  Yet, he has no problem doing something up until the last minute.  It doesn’t even worry him.  Somehow, he just knows he’ll get it done.  Stress is nowhere to be seen.

And so, you can imagine how one-sided the stress has been this week.  And then, the stress of one person (me!) weighs down the other (him!).  But I guess we balance each other out.  If we both freaked out, we’d be a puddle of stress on the floor.  And if neither of us freaked out, we probably would be up until 5 a.m. the night before.  I’m so thankful for a man that is different from me.  I think one of me’s enough.

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And so, I’m thankful for you, Babe, because:

1.) You bring spontaneity into my life.  Without you, I’d never know what it feels like to just get up and go somewhere on the spur-of-the-moment.   

2.) You like my cooking.  Especially my chili.  Which really makes me happy because I know you’ve had a lot of chili in your life, and you still like mine the best.

3.) You’re so good with kids.  I know without-a-doubt (and have since one of the first times I ever met you, at the outreach in Michigan) that you’re going to be a wonderful dad someday. 

4.) You don’t like baked potatoes.  Our kids will be the freaks who don’t know what a baked potato is.

5.) You like to snuggle.  Yes, I had to throw that one in there.  I always used to hear that guys don’t like to cuddle…but my manly-man does and I’m so glad!

6.) You like to dress up for church.  I’m always proud to have such a handsome man by my side!

7.) You don’t have an addictive personality.  Video games or anything else will never be a problem with you.

8.) You love to travel as much as I do.  I don’t know what I’d do with a man who didn’t value traveling as much as I do.

9.) You balance me out spending-wise.  Sometimes I can be a real Scrooge!

10.) You always look for sweet ways to show me you love me.  I love coming in to find a bubble bath waiting or one of my chores done for me!

What do you love about your husband?  What are you thankful for?  Join up over at Newlywed’s Bliss!

Monday, November 21, 2011

One Thousand Gifts: Stress

Stress.  The bane of my existence.  The thing that makes my skin break out, my immune system go down the tubes, and my life become quite hectic.

This past week has been that way.  We're approaching a deadline (tomorrow!) for an escrow on our house, when certain work needs to be done.  It's been chaotic trying to get everything done.  But we're almost there!  And, despite how stressful it has been, this past week has been greatly rewarding as well.

Through all the stress and, in fact, because, of the stress, there are things to be thankful for.  Extra time with my husband working on the house.  Making the great decision to squeeze in some time to spend with friends and make little boys smile.  Yes, despite how much I hate it, I'm thankful for stress this week.

Somehow, it puts everything into perspective...and makes me trust my Jesus that much more. 

141. Nights and spent hanging out with friends and enjoying life together.
142. A Friday night "date" to get fast food in our paint-splattered clothes in the midst of working on our house.
143. Celebrating one year of life with a sweet little baby.
144. Becoming the "tickle monster" for two precious little boys...and knowing I'll never be able to live that down.
145. Honest conversations and encouragement with girlfriends.
146. Working on the house with my husband and seeing things finally "come together".
147. A husband who knows so much about house repairs and fixes.
148. A husband who thinks I'm beautiful even with that "stress" pimple on my chin.
149. Fog in the field behind our house.
150. Looking forward to possibly my favorite holiday...all coming on Thursday!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 Things I Love About You


I grew up observing marriages.  Some couples seemed incredibly happy and other seemed very unhappy.  Almost always, their happiness was not related to the challenges in their life, but how they faced them.  Without fail, the couples that were unhappy did not seem happy when they were together.  These same couples were critical of their spouses and, quite frankly, not very nice to them.

At a very young age, I decided that when I got married, I wouldn’t be like that.  I was determined to prove that marriages don’t have to be unhappy struggles.  Yes, there are hard times, but they should be something to work through together…not something to fight each other about. 

With that in mind, I’m delighted to get to participate in Newlywed’s Bliss’ 10 Things I Love About You link-up.  How often do we get to brag on our spouses about the wonderful things they do, and the amazing people they are?  After all, it’s all about focusing on the good instead of the bad!

So go over, check it out, and link up.  It's gonna be great!

For my Andy:

1.) I love how you work incredibly hard outside of the home to provide for us, so I don’t have to.  I know that, no matter what, you will always provide for the needs of our family!

2.) I love that you’re so dedicated to getting your degree.  I’m so proud of all the hard work you put in!

3.) I love that you’re such an amazing handy-man.  You can build and fix anything, and if you don’t know how to do it, you learn how.  It’s so fun to get to show off all the amazing things you do in our home.

4.) I love the fact that you are an artist.  It makes you see the world differently than most, and you’re not afraid to be creative. 

5.) I love that you have such a heart for serving in the church.  Whether it be in the college Sunday school class, the media booth, or the nursery, you always put your whole heart into it.

6.) I love that you’re so giving with your money.  You certainly balance me out!

7.) I love that you’re so mature, and that you know when to be serious.  People trust you with things that they would normally on entrust to older men.  What an incredible honor!

8.) In the same token, I love that you’re also so fun loving and spontaneous.  I remember not too long after we were married, I was standing at the door being grouchy while you got ready to leave.  It happened to be pouring, and you just grabbed me and pulled me out under the gutter and kissed me.  At first I was so mad.  Quickly, however, my anger turned to laughter and a smile…all thanks to you!

9.) Your grandmother once told me that “still water runs deep” with you.  I love that about you.  You have such a depth of soul.  Although you may seem quiet and reserved on the outside, I know that you are really pondering something deep and long.  That’s just the way you are!

10.) I love that you are so devoted to God, and that you trust His plan no matter what.  Thank you for being such a great spiritual leader through your commitment to Christ!

Stay tuned for more next week!

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The Trouble with Girls

It’s amazing how much two tiny babies can change your life.  But two precious babies have certainly changed mine. 

The past few days we were busy with a last-minute flight up to Minneapolis to see my newborn nieces, who are in the NICU there.  We flew up on Thursday, met up with my parents and one of my sisters, and spent all Friday with my sister who’s the new mama, my brother-in-law, his parents.  And of course, two little girls named Jennifer Faith and Marie Natalia. 

People keep telling me “oh, you’ll love being an aunt” or “being an aunt is so great”. I keep wondering how they can know.  They couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to be an aunt to my nieces.  They couldn’t possibly know the joy that those little girls bring to my life, and the love I have for them.  Quite simply, they aren’t an aunt to Jenny and Marie.

While visiting with the most beautiful girls on the planet, my sister Hilary (also a new aunt) and I were talking about this whole being an aunt thing.  We both decided that it was going to cost us a lot of money. :)

My Aunt Jill used to spoil us rotten.  One time we she took us to the mall, handed us each $100 bill, and then told us that we couldn’t get a ride home until we had spent every last penny.  Back then, we thought she was crazy.  Now, $100 seems like nothing for each of our little blessings.

This past weekend was such a joyful time.  A time to wonder in new birth, and the miraculous pull a newborn has on your heart.  A time to rejoice with my sister the new mama, and her new and growing family.  A time to be touched by the new father tenderly talking to his little girls, and to the new grandparents sitting side-by-side, rocking their new grandbabies with tears in their eyes.  A time to rejoice in new life, adoption, and healing. 

Love is the cord that binds.  Love.  Yes, God is Love.  And He binds us together in Him, in love and restoration.

The trouble with girls is they steal your heart.  And what I wouldn’t do for those sweet girls!  And all because of Him. 

Yes, I feel He has blessed me greatly, in ways you can never understand...because I am an aunt to Jenny and Marie.

The new daddy holding Marie at four days old

The new mommy and little Jennifer

Precious Marie Natalia at 1 week old

Aunt Hilary meeting her new niece

And me…almost afraid to touch her.

And even tinier Jennifer Faith.  She was only 12 inches long when she was born!
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With Aunt Hilary

And me.
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The new grandpa with the new mama.  Adoption is just as strong a tie as blood.
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I have so much more to share, but I’m still waiting on pictures from other family members.


One Thousand Gifts: They Will Change Your World

This week my list has been completely taken over by two little girls, who have rocked my world.  And I don’t mind one bit. 

A week after my nieces were born by emergency c-section at just 30 weeks, Andy and I were able to fly up to see them, along with my parents and one of my other sisters.  We were so blessed to get to go.  Blessed to have flights that were open, and blessed that the girls are at a NICU in Minneapolis, which is much easier to get to than remote North Dakota where my sister and her husband live.

Being an aunt is a wonderful thing.

131. Getting meet me my brand new nieces.
132. Holding their little hands and stroking their soft heads.
133. Getting to see my sister as a new mommy.
134. Seeing her husband completely enraptured by his new little girls.
135. Watching my parents hold their new grandbabies with tears in their eyes.
136. Seeing my other sister crying and telling her little nieces over-and-over how much she loves them.
137. Watching my Andy becoming “Uncle Andy”, and looking at his new nieces with such tendernessl.
138. Feeling an incredible feeling of love wash over me, and feeling like an aunt for the first time.
139. Two little girls who are tiny but doing good, without any complications.
140. Knowing that my life will never be the same.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bare Trees and Seasons


Another typical day.  Another day of working hard, each moment consumed by some “important” task.  But on this day, I take a moment to look up around me.  I am startled to realize that some of the trees are already bare.

Suddenly I realize that Fall is slipping away all too quickly.  In the midst of my busyness, I’ve forgotten to savor each magical moment…each enchanting leaf.  I’ve yet to make a pumpkin pie.  I’ve yet to savor a hot cup of cider.  I missed the way the maple tree turned from green to yellow to red.  And I forgot to watch the leaves falling softly to the ground.

I feel in a panic.  “Wait!” I want to shout, “Come back!”

But they can’t come back, all those times I’ve missed…all the opportunities I wasted to delight in glorious Autumn.

Like a soldier marching on, time does not stop or waver.  It does not hear my mournful cries.  It just keeps pressing on.  On to another season, and another time.

And as I watch Fall march away, I realize something very sad: that in the midst of tackling my to-dos and tasks, I completely missed a season that I can never again get back. 

And so, with eyes wide open, I step into a new season, a new time—this time determined to not let those precious moments slip away…those simple, little gifts. 

Lord, may I never be so busy with life and living that I forget to stop and delight in the gifts of the season I am in.  May I not let these seasons of life slip away like Fall…never to get back again.   

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

This Little Baker Went to Market

The High Point Furniture Market.  For those in the home furnishings business, it’s like drawing lots…telling you what the next few months look like for you.

My husband is the Product Development Manager at Stone County Ironworks, a very unique company that makes hand-forged iron furniture and accessories.  Yes, they employ big, burly blacksmiths, and, yes, they really do have forges.  And their livelihood depends on the ever-changing and unpredictable economy.

Twice a year, my husband and several other SCI employees make the pilgrimage out to High Point.  Good or bad, they know that their success there will determine their future.  This fall, I got to go too.

I’ve been to furniture shows before.  Having the husband I do, I’ve learned more about the furniture business that I ever would have in a lifetime.  I know all about wholesale pricing, and rep commissions, and bed dimensions. 

But still, the High Point show is like a whole other world.  High-dressed women tramp around in skinny stilettos, and men wear only the finest in suits.  Coffee is a necessity, and most attendees are a bit tipsy by early afternoon.  You never know what to expect.  All you can do is put on your best high-brow face and try to get people in.   

Yes, it’s a whole new world, but a fun one.  I’d never want to live in an environment like that, but twice a year it’s not that bad.  It’s kind of fun getting asked if your boots are Armani (hah!) and shaking hands with Dale Earnhardt’s son. 

All in a day’s work at High Point.     

Sunday, November 6, 2011

One Thousand Gifts: Precious Miracles

This week has been so busy, I haven't even had time to catch my breathe.  I'm still trying to catch up on everything from the High Point show (which I have yet to blog about).  Add to that a surprise visit from one of my sisters, my birthday on Saturday, and my two neices being born Friday via emergency c-section, and I'm about to pull my hair out. 

It's been good though.

Hopefully this week things will slow down...and I'll finally be able to catch my breath.

121. Two precious nieces that are tiny, but safe and healthy!
122. A sister who is now a proud mama.
123. Seeing God's mighty hand through everything.
124. A family of believers who have encircled these precious babies in prayer.
125. Getting to spend a weekend with my sweet sister.

126. Hayrides and bonfires with friends.
127. More rooms getting closer to being finished.
128. The crisp smell of fall.
129. Rain making our home seem so cozy.
130. Another year to delight in God's blessings.


Announcing to the World!

I have a special announcement to make...I am now the aunt to two precious little nieces!!!

On Friday, my sister (who was then at 30 weeks) went in for an ultrasound.  She had been in earlier in the week and the doctor had been concerned about the smaller of her twins.  It looked like she wasn't gaining weight, and that the cords were twisted.

At the ultrasound on Friday the doctor decided that they needed to get the babies out right away, and rushed Natasha back to have an emergency c-section.  At 7:15 on Friday night, Jennifer Faith and Marie Natalia were born.  Marie weighed in at just 2 pounds, 4 ounces, and Jennifer weighed in at 1 pound, 8 ounces.  Thankfully, they are both doing goodwithout any major complications. 

The babies were flown to Minneapolis at about midnight that night, where they were sent to a better NICU.  The new mama is doing great, and is already out of the hospital.  She can't wait to be able to get to Minneapolis where her babies are!

I don't have any good pictures yet, but hopefully I'll have some good ones to post soon.  I can say that both babies have lots of black hair...just like their daddy. :)

Thank you to everyone for all of your continued prayers and support.  It's been such a blessing to our whole family, and we are praising God that these precious babies are here without any major complications!