The Life Not My Own

Monday, January 30, 2012

One Thousand Gifts: Little Lives

I got to sub several times last week, in a variety of classrooms.  It’s always refreshing and renewing to get to pour into these young lives.  So many of these students have less-than-ideal home lives, many go without, and others live with their grandparents or relatives.  Some of them might not know what it’s like for someone to genuinely care about them.  How I want to just take these kids home with me!  But all I get are a few short hours from time-to-time…a few short hours that could make a world of difference.

As my belly starts to swell and I’m reminded more-and-more of the life growing inside of me, I think about these kids.  I think about how I will raise my own children…and I think about how different the lives of many children are from what I would wish upon them.

And then I think of my sweet little nieces and the gift that they are.  Jennifer finally got to come home on Saturday, so that means the girls are reunited once again.  They are so tiny and so precious…and already God has a plan for their life.

It’s at these times that I learn to remember that God is in control of each life, no matter how small.  He created each one of these children unique and special, just like He is forming the child in my womb.  And even when they may think nobody loves them…He does.  He has them in His hands, and that’s the best place to be.

Marie (left) and Jennifer (right) at home on Saturday

211. For the gift of hugs and sweet words from precious little children.
212. Nieces that are both finally home.
213. A swelling abdomen that is growing more each day…a sign of the baby within me.
214. A much-needed date night with my man after missing out for a couple of months.
215. Bright sunny days, even in January.
216. Working on our house and making it a home.
217. Homemade peanut butter granola bars (I’m trying to eat healthy even as my appetite grows.)
218. Planning out our garden and dreaming of what will be.
219. Thinking up fun things to do for Valentine’s Day.
220. The promise of Spring right around the corner.


Friday, January 27, 2012

The Unwelcome Visitors

I've had them visit before.  But it's been awhile, we trapped a bunch, got a cat, and I forgot about them.  But they came back.  Yes, I'm talking about our mice friends.  Those furry little critters that I hate so much have become my unwelcome house guests again.  The only thing is...they're not in the kitchen.

It all started a couple of weeks ago with a bag of candy on my husband's side table.  It had been there for quite a few months, and he'd munch on it every once in awhile.  But for the most part, it sat there undisturbed.  That is, until the fateful night when I heard something rustling around in it.  I woke up my sleeping hubby and he promptly closed the bag up, put it in a trash bag, and threw it in the back of his truck...mouse and all.

Then a week passed.  A week without anymore visitors.  We thought maybe this one mouse had just been a fluke...boldly getting past our little mouser.  Unfortunately, he wasn't alone.

It was 3 am about a week ago when I woke up to the light on and my husband walking around outside our room.  When I asked him what was up, he told me, much to my chagrin, that there was a mouse in the bathtub.  Again.  He got a trap out of the closet, baited it with peanut butter, and then set it in the bathtub.

Rustle, rustle...rustle.  But no snap.  For a long time.  Fed up with the annoying mouse, my dear husband asked me if I could find the cat.

So, I went outside in the freezing cold in my pajamas and called for Elsa.  She came quickly, looking bewildered...especially when I took her inside.  She's not allowed inside normally, so this was odd.

Andy put her in the bathtub.  She promptly jumped out and hid under the bed.  Scared silly, she ran to the complete other end of the house, where I finally caught up with her, and started meowing the loudest, saddest cry I'd ever heard.

So neither the trap nor the cat worked.  Plan C.  Andy takes his air soft gun and shoots the offending mouse, who promptly dies.  Who would've thought?

Since then, we've had a few visitors in the closet, although Andy's trapped them all.  I've found a few mouse droppings, but, again, all in the master bedroom.  So far, not a sign of a visitor in the kitchen.  For this, I am incredibly thankful.  As before, I can see how God is using these creatures to mold me and shape me.  I don't gag every time I have to clean up droppings, and I'm not afraid of going to the bathroom in the dark.

No, I don't think I'll ever be able to dispose of the deceased enemy myself, although I'll set a trap quite willingly.  And I'll still probably scream every time I see a black shape moving along the wall.  But I'm getting better.  Slowly, I'm learning to let go of my irrational fear of a tiny creature who's only searching for a little food and warmth.

I suppose I should be thankful for the mice.  After all, their presence is changing me and mellowing me out.  I'm learning to "freak out" less, as my husband describes my outbursts.  Yes, God, thank you for the mice.  Now, can you please keep them out of my kitchen forevermore? :)   


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chicken Fried Steak

Okay, I thought it was high time I share another recipe from my files.  This one happens to be one of my husband’s favorites, although not necessarily very healthy.  I’m working on that.  Until then, it’s eaten in moderation in our house…and with generous servings of vegetables and salad. :) I promise you, though, this easier-than-you-think recipe is sure to fill your hubby up and make him all smiles.  I usually make this meal for Andy after a particularly stressful day at work…it always does wonders.

What’s you’ll need:

Cube Steak-I buy large packages of this when they’re on sale and freeze individually what I don’t use.  They come in steaks, but if you don’t want that much meat or you want to cut costs, you can always cut them in half.  You can also tenderize your own meat or use cheaper cuts.  Cube steak just happens to work well and it’s not too expensive for us (the steaks are relatively thin).

Oil-Of course there are the classics for Southern frying, like peanut oil.  You can use just about anything though, from canola oil to coconut oil.  I’m working on an oven fried recipe, so stay tuned!



Flour-I actually use just fresh ground, whole grain wheat and it works great!  You can use plain old white flour though.

Salt & Pepper

Any seasonings you may want to add-Chicken Fried Steak really doesn’t need too much, but I like to add paprika, cayenne pepper, or Creole seasoning from time-to-time.

What To Do:

1.) Heat up some oil in a large frying pan (I use my cast iron pan).  You really don’t need that much oil…just enough to make a thin, even layer on the bottom of the pan.  It’s ready when you throw a pinch of flour in and it sizzles.

2.) Set out two plates or shallow bowls. Mix the eggs (I just use one for two steaks) and a dash of milk in one, and the flour (about 2/3 c. for 2 steaks), salt & pepper, and seasonings (just add to taste…there’s no magic here) in the other.  For the record, my mind blanked and I did not whole wheat flour in these pictures.  I recommend it, though, because it gives an extra crunchiness!

3.) One at a time, dip the steaks in the egg mixture then coat in the flour mixture.  Repeat and set aside.

4.) When the oil is ready (see step 1), carefully put your steaks in the pan.  Don’t crowd them too much…do one at a time if you have to.


5.) Let the steaks cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until the edges are brown.  Using a fork or a spatula, flip them over.

6.) Let them cook a few more minutes, until both sides are adequately brown and there are no red juices coming out.  Set aside and keep warm.

7.) Drain most of the fat out into a oven-safe bowl or cup.  You really only need a tablespoon or less leftover.

8.) Turn the stove to low. Add a dash of flour (again I use whole wheat…and this time I really did!) and whisk together with the fat.  You need just enough flour to make a thick consistency with the fat.  Whisk until the mixture is a creamy brown color. 

9.) Now add milk and whisk in.  I never measure this either.  It will thicken and cook down a little, so add more than you think you’ll need. 

10.) Cook, whisking constantly, until the gravy is thick and creamy.  From this point on I got distracted and forgot to take pictures…oops!  You’ll know the gravy is done when it looks, well, like gravy!

11.) Now it’s time to eat!  Pour the gravy over the steaks and mashed potatoes (if you’ve made some).  I usually serve this meal with the potatoes, whole wheat rolls, a generous salad, and some kind of vegetable.
All of these you can make in advance and heat up when it’s time to eat, so you don’t have to worry about juggling too much.  I wish I had a picture of the final product to show you!  I can tell you that Andy was very pleased (and I think Baby Baker was too :) ).

Now watch your very happy hubby fill his tummy. :)   


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wet Toes

It’s 5:30 on Friday night.  Andy is later getting home than he usually is, trying to wrap up everything for the weekend. 

He ate a very late lunch at a work meeting, so I’m not starting dinner yet.  There’s no telling when he’ll be hungry.  Instead, I sit at my kitchen table, sipping a cup of hot chocolate and gazing out the window.  Gazing at the mist.

It’s been foggy all day.  When I woke up this morning, I looked out our bathroom window to the field beyond and watched a cloud of mystery descend from the mountain.  We never had days like this in Arizona.  No rain, no snow…just cold.  And everything is wet.  It’s the kind of day that could seep to your bones, making your eyes droop and body sag.  Winter in Arkansas.

Three times today I went out in our yard, training our dog with the new wireless fence.  Part of me wanted to just stay inside, but I knew the training was crucial.  So I pulled on my hat, my scarf, and my gloves, and trudged out to get Sam.  Since moving to Arkansas, I’ve acquired thick rain boots.  They would have been perfect for a day like this.  But, not wanting to take any extra time, I left on my brown cloth ones that I wore to work and ventured out.  I found myself involuntarily looking down, letting the grey day direct my emotions.  But something caused me to stop.  The toes of my boots were wet.

Instantly I was transported to a different time and place.  Can it really be four years ago now?  Can it be that long ago that my friend and I went to England in the dead of winter, traipsing all over the countryside in our cloth boots?  My toes had been wet then too.

But somehow, back then, it didn’t matter.  It was thrilling to experience the newness of grey days and mist, of walking in the rain.  The locals thought we were crazy roaming around in it…without any “wellies” even.  But we loved it.  It was so new, so different.

And with my wet toes came a turning point in my life.  A time when, sitting beneath a giant tree in sheep field, I decided to stop trying to live my life by my strength and instead let Christ live in me.  I decided to let me die and He live.  My life has never been the same.

In one instance, everything was brought into perspective.  The meaning of my day-to-day doings, even the trivial task of training little Sam in the fog, meant everything.  They meant letting Him live in me, giving up all that I am, was, and ever hope to be for the sake of His will, His path, and His leading.  Nothing He sets before us is trivial in His eyes.  It’s all a part of His plan to bring glory to His name.  Each little task, even cooking dinner or training a dog, when done at His leading, becomes a puzzle piece to His grand design.  Oh, how much I miss out on each day.  How I needed that reminder!

And to think, it was all because of some wet toes.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

One Thousand Gifts: A New Week

For some reason, every Monday is exciting to me.  It’s a chance to start everything afresh…a chance to start from scratch.  It’s so refreshing to have the opportunity to not waste as much time and be more productive, to live each day for Christ. 

So often, at the end of the week, I find myself wishing I could go back in time.  I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time on Facebook or watching t.v.  I wish I had gotten that chore done I needed to do, or wish I had done a better job with meal planning.  But there’s no going back, only pressing forward.

And that’s why, when Monday rolls around, I’m thankful to be able to start it all over.  I’m hopeful that the end of this week won’t find me regretting the way I spent my time so much.  And yet, I’m learning how meaningless so many things on my “to-do” list are.  I’m learning to take each day as it comes, asking God what He wants me to do in it. 

When you start a week knowing that the last one was chock full of God’s path for you, the new week becomes all the more appealing.

201. Hot chocolate on misty days.
202. Making a meal that makes me say “Mmm”. (That would be homemade stir fry. :) )
203. Omelettes made by my man before I head off to work.
204. Enjoying being young and spontaneous with my best friend.
205. The peace that comes with knowing that God is watching over us.
206. Sweet hugs from kindergartners.
207. A mice-free kitchen…even when we’ve had mice in other parts of the house!
208. A man who takes care of the mice for me at 3 in the morning.
209. A weekend to relax and rejuvenate with my sweet husband.
210. For another week to let God live in me.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Baby Bump!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m fairly tall and have always been thin.  Those genes just run in our family!  When people started finding out I was pregnant, many made the comment that I’d probably have a very small “baby bump” and not show for awhile.

Looking down at my thin abdomen, I doubted that.  Where was the baby supposed to go, after all?
My mom, who is built much the same way I am, had a “bump” right before 12 weeks.  It was noticeable enough that one of her coworkers, who didn’t yet know she was pregnant, asked someone if she was.  I guess when you’re thin, a little pot belly is obviously not due to food. 

Well, here I am, 11 weeks along, and I definitely have a baby bump.  It’s not enough that anyone else would probably notice (except my husband and family who know me well), but it’s definitely there.  I just didn’t have a pooch that big before…especially not one that was hard and I couldn’t “suck in”. 

Here’s a pic from right around 6-7 weeks along to give you perspective.  Sorry it’s not very good…this was before the camera my sweet husband gave me for Christmas.  It also was a not very good self portrait. hehe!


And today…11 weeks.

I fully intended to be faithful about taking pictures every week, but it seemed kind of silly when I had nothing to show yet.  Plus, the more I thought about it, it’s a little bit overkill.  As baby grows, however, I’ll be sure to update you on my growing belly!


Monday, January 16, 2012

One Thousand Gifts: Peace in Winter


The time of year I have struggled with most since moving to Arkansas has always been Winter.  I guess it’s because I’ve always connected my emotions so closely with the changing seasons, with the sky and the green tree.  When I go outside, I am revived.  Not because I feel a connection with “Mother Earth”, but because I never feel closer to God than in His glorious creation. 

It’s so easy to see Him in Spring, Summer, and Fall, when all is green or colorful.  New life comes, lives, then starts to rest.  And there’s so much to look forward to.  Each new bud, each magical firefly, and each falling leave are wonders to me.  And then there’s all that comes with them.  Spring, when being outside once again becomes fun, and when we celebrate Easter together.  Then comes Summer, days at the creek, no school, and Fourth of July.  And then in comes Fall with all it’s wonder, bringing with it apple cider, pumpkin pies, and Thanksgiving, and with it the expectation of the Christmas season.

But then the leaves fall and Christmas passes.  Suddenly I start to notice that the trees are all bare, and that the ground is brown, not like the evergreens where I come from.  The skies here are grey and colorless, and a purple haze hovers above everything.  In Flagstaff, the skies were always bright blue and clear, even in winter.  And then there’s the cold, wet days…the chill sinking to your bones…without much snow to brighten them.  In Flagstaff it was even colder, but not the wet cold we experience here.  And there was almost always snow…lots of it. 

And suddenly I feel my emotions becoming flat, like the grey sky.  What beauty is there to rejoice in at such a time?

My sister wrote this post the other day, about where God was leading her next.  In it, she talked about the seasons.  But she didn’t describe winter as dull and flat.  She described it as a peaceful time…a time for rest and reflection.  A time to let life slow down a bit.

Reading her blog, I was struck by the beauty I miss in winter.  Yes, there is that mysterious purple haze hovering above the Ozarks, a beauty I’ve always seen, but there’s also so much more!  Why can’t I delight in the peace of this time?  Why can’t I embrace the quiet and the solitude that this season brings.  Winter is about so much more than waiting for Spring.  It’s about renewal, rest, and silence.  Just like the trees outside, my soul needs a rest toAnd that’s where Winter comes in.

191. Peaceful winter days to read, pray, and reflect.
192. Letting life slow down just a tad.
193. Cardinals that still bring their beautiful red to my bird feeder…even in winter.
194. Unexpected sunny days that remind me of where I come from.
195. The blessing of seeing our precious baby on the ultrasound.
196. Learning to trust God with the actions and hearts of others.
197. A husband who is also a good man.
198. Game night with other couples
199. A weekend spent with family.
200. Starting to notice the beginnings of a baby bump. :)

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Our Christmas Adventure

liAs I mentioned before, we spent our Christmas this past year in Arizona and California visiting my family.  And, as promised, I have pictures to show you!  So, without further ado…

We flew out to Arizona the day before Christmas Eve.  It’s always a little bittersweet going back to see my family.  I lived in Flagstaff for so long, it really was the only home I had ever known before moving to Arkansas.  It’s strange to go back to the same town, same street, same house, same family, same cozy smell that was my life day in and day out for the better part of twelve years.  It seems like everything should have just gone on as it always has.  But that’s not the way life works.

There are new buildings and new neighbors.  Businesses have changed hands and families have moved away.  Even my parents house changes (thanks to my parent’s updating a lot).  And everything, though so familiar, is not the same as it always was.  One of my sisters, now married and living far away with her husband and two daughters in North Dakota, was not there.  It’s not us four sisters talking about boys, quarreling and making up, or being silly together anymore.  And somehow, though every thing in Flagstaff is so dear to my heart and I love going back, it’s not home anymore.  That term is reserved for our snug house nestled in the hills of Arkansas. 
It reminds me of Little Women, a story we always related to growing up as four girls.  Beth laments the fact that someday everyone will grow up and move away, with lives of their own.  Little Amy says, “We all will grow up someday…we might as well know what we want.”  Yes, we all grow up.
But anyways, I digress.  When we arrived in Flagstaff, my mom, grandma, and two of my sisters were awaiting us with a warm supper and gifts galore.  It’s still strange not all being together for Christmas.
While opening presents, we had the wonderful opportunity of sharing with my parents the news about our little “bun in the oven”.  I wrote them all letters (a family tradition), and snuck into each of them a little hint about a baby.  Thinking that my very brainy parents would get it right away, I made the hints pretty subtle.  Well, they didn’t get it right away…but they did eventually.  Thankfully, we caught the whole charade on video! (Which I will share later).

The next morning we loaded up and headed out to southern California.  Andy had not made this somewhat boring drive before, but thankfully the long wait in a car full of too many girls was worth it.  Sunny California was just that…sunny and warm, and with the smog at a minimum.  We made it to my grandparents home about mid-afternoon.

Being with my grandparents (after much too long of a time apart), and especially being in their home, brought with it a flood of memories.  Everything was the same as it always had been.  I could almost have pulled out the office supplies, doctor toys, and instruments, and have thought that no time had passed at all.  I was still a child, with nary a care in the world.  It’s wonderful to be able to feel that way, with so many fond memories. 


That night we ate dinner at , long a favorite of my family.  Yes, we did eat Mexican food for dinner.  Can you tell where we’re from?


My wonderful grandparents…




Then it was time to hit the hay because the next day, Christmas Day, was DISNEYLAND!  Have I mentioned this was a very unconventional Christmas?  We did read the Christmas story, by the way, and everything was all about celebrating the gift of our family.  It was so nice!

My dear husband had never been so fortunate as to go to the “Happiest Place on Earth”.  He had no worries, though…my family had enough excitement for him.  Maybe we overwhelmed him? ;)

I had to sit out on a few of my favorite rides, because of the little one growing inside of me.  Let me tell you though, I didn’t mind a bit.  It was so worth it thinking about the reason why I couldn’t go on the rides.


This next picture comes with a story.  We decided to go on the classic Jungle Cruise, whose lines are particularly narrow and cramped .  Well, there was this couple behind us that smelled absolutely terrible.  I don’t know if it was some kind of strange perfume, but it was awful…and incredibly pervasive.  Everyone around us was holding their nose too.  Unfortunately, this same couple got on the same boat as us.  It was terrible.  And so, this picture…


Trying to not have bad faces from the smell…




Everything was still decorated for Christmas…it was beautiful.


As you’ll notice, Andy shaved his beard off the next morning.  Hence the bearded/beardless pictures.  (We had two-day passes to Disneyland and California Adventure.)



Did I mention that the weather was absolutely wonderful?  Sunny and a high of 70.  Yes ma’am!  Just thinking about that on this particularly blustery Arkansas day makes me warm inside!




Everyone else had the same idea as us, I guess…there were over 70,000 people there on Christmas Day!



We spent a full day in Arizona, just hanging around (and seeing Mission Impossible 4!).  And then it was back to Arkansas, one of my sisters in tow.  Overall, it was such a wonderful Christmas.  I only wish Natasha, Andrew, and the girls could have been there too!  I’m dreaming of the day when all the “cousins” will be together. 

For now, I have a cute Mickey Mouse and Lady & the Tramp sitting on our guestroom bed…waiting for the arrival of baby.  After all, it was there first Disneyland trip! :)

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Miracle of Life

Driving to our first appointment with our ob/gyn Tuesday, I felt very nervous.  I was so worried that something was going to be wrong…that I wouldn’t really be pregnant.

That all changed when they took us back into the room.  They turned on the ultrasound machine and the sight of our little baby immediately came on the screen.  One healthy little baby.

We saw and heard the heartbeat (166 bpm).  We watched as the precious babe within me kicked his/her arms around and moved about…showing the life that already coursed through him. And suddenly my fear was gone.  Not only was there a baby within me, healthy and farther along than we had thought, but we knew without a doubt that this baby was in the care of our loving Savior.

As I went about running errands and getting things done later that day, I wondered if those around me realized that a little life grew deep within my womb.  I wondered if they knew that the tiny babe within me was being molded and shaped as we spoke.  I wondered if they knew that it was kicking his/her arms and legs around.  I wondered if they knew of the miracle.

We are so thankful for this precious life, and so excited to see what’s too come.


Monday, January 9, 2012

One Thousand Gifts: A New Year?

Seriously, where has the time gone?

I should have known that I wouldn't have time for blogging and keeping up the house during the Christmas season.  I just thought I would.  But obviously I didn't.

After being gone for the better part of two weeks, first spending Christmas in Arizona and California, and then  taking our college group to Passion 2012 in Atlanta, I can definitely say it's glad to be home.  Now comes the "re-entry", as my MIL calls it, into life.

And yet, I don't want to go back to the same-old, same-old.  After all that's happened, I want to be different...changed.

Lord, may you lead us as we get back to life.  Show us what we need to cut out and what we need to add.  And most of all, let us not be the same.

181. Getting to be home in our own cozy bed...for the first time in awhile.
182. The lasting memories of spending Christmas with my family.
183. The beginnings of healing.
184. Learning that being like Jesus is not being religious.
185. Spending four wonderful days getting fed...and leaving changed.
186. Getting to have my sister here for a visit...knowing that the next may be awhile away.
187. A baby sister who turned eighteen on Saturday.  Can this be true?
188. Knowing that there is a miraculous life within me.
189. Not caring about the "inconveniences" that pregnancy brings, but instead being happy to take them on for the sake of my growing babe.
190. Having a husband who I can follow, no matter what...and who doesn't want to live the same old way either.

And lest you ask for pictures and updates on baby, more is coming...soon.  I have so much to share with you about our time out west and back east!  So stay tuned! Baby Baker is nine weeks along now and my first doctors appointment is tomorrow, so I expect you'll be hearing more in the next few days.

God bless in this upcoming week, and as you enter this new year.