Sunday, October 16, 2011

School has begun...

...and I love it! As most of you know, I started teaching 3rd grade in August. It was definitely a God-appointed position for me and I know that only God could have orchestrated such an amazing series of events to lead me to that job. I'm so grateful for the team of teachers I work with and many of my colleagues and definitely my boss who has supported me and taken care of me since I moved back to the area. They say your first year of teaching is hard...and I'm starting to fully understand what they meant. I thought having so much experience under my belt would help me but there is sooo much more. The experience I have has been vital to my survival and my avoidance of tears each night. Sometimes its so overwhelming because I have such a great responsibility and it feels daunting when some of your kids are facing much larger emotional giants at home. Students anywhere come in with a variety of giants from home but when you are responsible for 19 of these little lives, it can be saddening. The over-compassionate side of me can't let go of the thought of what they are dealing with at home and how difficult it must be. Every day, I want to do sooo much more than I'm doing but I just can't emotionally or physically do it. That's just the beginning...then there is all the paperwork I must keep track of for me and the kids and all the things I need to do to prepare things for the kids...aaahhhh! There is definitely a reason that teacher's get breaks and have summers off! I'm finally feeling like I'm getting a rhythm and first quarter is almost over.

I would appreciate prayers for continued stamina and wisdom to work smarter...not harder.

Thank God for an amazing job that is where He has me!!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11...10 years later

None of us will ever forget where we were or what we were doing when we heard about The World Trade Centers and the other events on 9/11.

Our school had late arrival that day and I actually had been sleeping when the towers were hit. I didn't know anything had happened until I arrived at the bus stop and my neighbor seemed very contemplative but was usually a bubbly person. I asked her what was wrong out of genuine concern and she said planes hit the World Trade Center. In my ignorance, I had no idea what it was. That changed very quickly. I was a sophomore in high school and knew that sometimes my stepmom traveled to NYC and worked for the FBI and NHMEC so I didn't know where she was and her family lived there too. I knew they were living in DC at the time so I was more concerned about the Pentagon site and wondering if it affected other buildings in the area. Throughout the day, the new televisions in our hallways were continually playing images of the plane crash site, the planes hitting the buildings and my heart sank. I remember nothing other than shock throughout the day and I learned the most important lesson that no education could ever teach me, what was really important in life: faith, family, and friends.

I visited the site a couple years later on my mission trip to NYC. I still could not comprehend the gravity of visiting there and feel as though I want to go back now that I'm older...and hopefully wiser.

I pray that as today marks a decade since our world changed forever, we would not only remember and pray for those directly affected by this tragedy but that we would ask ourselves: how did this change me and what is really important in my life?

9/11: We'll always remember, never forget and continually pray.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Miracle of Life

Started a month and a half ago:

Right now, I am watching a 5 day old baby. Recently, I have really been thinking about the unknown nature of our lives and how much time we have on this earth. It started with a comment/sermon that I recently heard. The comment that really made an impression on me was my pastor did not want to stand at God's throne saying, "but I thought I had so much more time." the rewality is we do not know exactly how much time we really do have. We need to make the most of our time as best we can.

This summer I have been not the best steward of my time and I now have a ton of regret about how I have spent a good portion of my summer. It hit me yesterday as I realized I spent a good portion of the afternoon clearing out my email inbox and not enjoying the best weather we've had in weeks.


Needless to say, I am always amazed at God's creation and the miracle of newborn life!!!!!!!!

Since I wrote the first part, I have really been a lot better about using my time a little more wisely...not that I've had a lot of "free time" to manage but when I do, I've been better. It's a work in progress and I do not want to leave this Earth tomorrow and say, "wait...I didn't get to finish..." Life is meant to be lived to it's fullest. God has a purpose for each and every one of us. Are you living God's purpose for your life? Each new life has a purpose too!

Living and Loving Intentionally

As you listen to the thoughts in your head, are you listening to fear or listening for God's still, small voice? Oftentimes we find ourselves thinking we are hearing God but oftentimes Satan disguises his voice in our fears. We believe the fear comes from within and we use any number of justifications to say it's all a fear because of _____________ (you fill in the blank). Our lives are often so busy we forget to listen for God's voice and assume we can hear it among the busyness and loud nature of our everyday lives. Unfortunately we forget about listening even when the person is right in front of us much less hearing God's voice and we can't even see Him. It requires intentionality. Relationships require intentionality. LOVE requires intentionality. We hear that quality over quantity is the best thing. Why then do we sell ourselves, our friends, our lives short when we don't take the time to dig deep and share ourselves with others and really grasp when others' share the depths of their hearts too? There are many reasons. First, we don't listen because we are far too distracted by the multitude of media and things going on around us. Just last night, while spending time with some of my favorite people, I found myself distracted and texting another good friend that was hundreds of miles away. Too worried about the emotions I was feeling adn talking them through with this friend...I almost missed some opportunities to talk to people I love and one of them, I don't get to talk to often.

Over the years, it always struck me how people would form and keep long-lasting relationships. I felt like even though I tried to keep in contact with people, they wouldn't return the gesture. In the last couple of years, I've found myself lonely and struggling at times because I felt like even the people I loved and the friends around me were so far away. Trying to figure out why these relationships were working and I wasn't developing new ones was beyond my thoughts. I wanted to have those deep last relationships that would traverse thick and thin. Even relationships with family members. Why did I always feel a strain when I know the other person didn't feel it? I felt it because I knew I wasn't upholding my end of the bargain. I was letting them do all the work. I was wrapped up in my own little world and rarely came out to see that there were others around me. In the last year, I had a friend who, even though he moved TOO far away, would call, text, email, FB chat me and always thought of me. Why would he do that? Why would he even care? I'd only known him 8 months before he left. His wife was the one I knew growing up. It's because he cared, it's because we were friends, it's because he realized the importance of loving his friends and being intentional and how it would keep our friendship alive. So, I started thinking, what would my relationships be like if I started doing that. In our media filled world, what if I took the time to call a friend on my way home from work? What if I called my sister, just to talk? What if I actually remembered to call my dad so he wouldn't worry that I'd dropped off the face of the planet? (You know how dads are...) What if I reached out to a new friend at church because I saw they were lonely? What if I invited someone to hang out with my friends and I? So that's what I did. I've found myself, despite fear of inquiring minds thinking things aren't as they are or fear of rejection. This was after much prayer and time spent with the Lord dealing with relationship issues. I'm excited to see where God takes me now. I know that He's preparing me for great things even in the darkest of moments. Are you living intentionally...loving intentionally lives?

The other thing I've always struggled with is my consistency in my daily devotions. Well, you guessed it, intentionality is required. Throughout this process, it's caused me to learn self-discipline and self-control. I think I've always had it but it's pushing me farther, it's causing me to want to be in the Word. God keeps allowing my circumstances to be such that I have no other choice but to draw near to Him. The reason I learned to love and life intentionally is because God intentionally loved my friend and he, in turn, loved the people in his life intentionally and I was fortunate to be one of those people. God taught me what it meant to live and love intentionally through one of His own children. I'm grateful everyday for this friend and the way he's walked life with me and even when I seemed like a knuckle-head, he stuck in it...he loved intentionally.

PADS: Putting myself in their "shoes"

Today I had the opportunity to support PADS of DuPage County. They hosted their annual PADS 5K in downtown Wheaton. It's one I've done every year since I started running again in 2009 thanks to the Schuberts and Antho. (For that story, read here or ask me...that's probably easier.) Earlier this week, I biked 5 miles or so with my brother and got up the next morning to walk/run 10 miles (really had only planned to do 3 but we were just enjoying the day). That is a lot of mileage so I took it easy this week and didn't really train because I knew I had the race this morning. I had many moments of pain throughout the week but it seem to pretty much subside and I was able to do my normal daily activities. This morning, when I woke up, my leg was killing me. All week, it had been feeling good in the morning because it had a chance to rest and repair itself overnight. I, being as strong-willed and stubborn as I can be sometimes, decided that 1) I'd already paid for it and 2)..most of all...I felt like I needed to push through it. These people have pain, physical and emotional, 365 days a year 24/7. They don't have a support system like I've been blessed with and they usually don't have access to good health care to help repair an injury they may sustain on the streets or wherever they are living. Needless to say, my pride...yep...I have it too...said you have to finish this or you are just giving up and giving in. As I began the race, I knew it would feel like the longest 5K I'd ever run...just 100 yards in, I was ready to quit. I kept going. I pushed through and 'ran' the first 2 miles, including the gigantic hill over the tracks in downtown locals know what I'm talking about. As soon as I passed the 2 mile marker and was at 27 minutes or so, I started feeling a lot of pain so I gave in and walked...more like limped...the guys on the bikes even stopped to make sure I was ok..."Did I really look that bad?" I thought to myself. Surely I was limping...who cares?!?! Clearly they were concerned. my last 1.2 miles was spent walking, running and toughing it out. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I did not want to walk one more step. I pushed through to get some food...since I was starving...and some water.

I'm going in Monday to get it looked at and we'll see what they say. Could be bad news. Today, I've barely been able to walk and stairs just about kill me...glad Monday is not tomorrow or I'd be taking a day off from work I'm pretty sure. I'm praying for a speedy recovery but today I learned a lesson...there's always someone who has worse circumstances...and this was for them. Well worth it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

This weekend was a great weekend and not just because it was a 3-day weekend, although that helped it's rating. Friday night, I knew that if I didn't dig in, I would be sitting here tonight...right about now, going...I don't wanna grade all those papers tonight so I just sat down with my fun pens, my water, a little HGTV in the background and got to work. I was able to grade all but one stack of large packets...tomorrow night's project. I need to record the scores but that's easy. That started my weekend off great! [You are probably thinking..."She's nuts...who wants to grade on Friday night?"] If I had been in your place, I might have said the same but feeling so productive and knowing it freed me up mentally and physically for the weekend was indescribable made it the best thing to do. I love my job and since grading is my least favorite part...I just gotta do it.

On Saturday, I was able to just sleep in and have a lazy day. I got to talk on the phone with a friend for about an hour and then went with a bunch of friends from my "old church" to see Lincoln Brewster lead worship at Willow Creek. It was a really fun night and I love getting to worship with thousands of people...just makes the hairs stand up on my arms! God does amazing things...ALL THE TIME! You just have to look for it. I had a friend comment on one of my FB posts and said, "Danielle, you just find joy in the little things, don't you?" Yes, I do. It's what life is made of. If we expect God to only do big things, we are going to be sorely disappointly because He works in the little things...and in the big things.

Sunday was a great time of leading worship with and for my FCCC peeps. After church I got to eat lunch on the go, in the car, with my one of my best friends...Katie and her two girls...sometimes easier to talk that way. Much needed girl time for sure! I used the afternoon to take a little snooze with the cool breeze blowing in the window. My brother, Austin, and I then met up and were able to take a long bike ride around Herrick Lake. I was able to shoot this amazing picture there with my new phone!

Then I went to my family's house and ate dinner then topped my day off with my sister sleeping over!

Today, I dragged my sister out of bed 8:30am...which for me is now "late" and her it's still "early". I knew once I got her going, we'd be fine. We set out to Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve for a short walk/run. Well, that's where the short part ended. We decided to head out on the trail and once we got going, we'd gone so far, we decided to finish the 9.6 mile loop...which including our little detours took us to the 10 mile mark. We didn't run the whole thing but we sure did some serious walking/running. It was a great time where we both had our MP3 players and were enjoying the scenery. Next time, we probably won't do the whole trail but we know how it goes so we know what to expect and where to turn around! Then we grabbed Qdoba...last day for double points and came home. We were pooped to say the least. So this afternoon, I finally gave into another wonderful nap in the breeze. After I got up, my friend had posted that she had peaches and wanted some things to make with them...I had already had a craving for peach cobbler earlier in the week so I went ahead and found a recipe using ingredients I had on hand and made it...turned out quite just have to ask my mom and my grandma...although my mom and I had eaten almost 1/2 the pan by the time grandma got any! :)

It was a great weekend to de-stress and get moving...the fall-like weather certainly helped a ton too! :)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eve of my 2nd week

Tonight, as I officially joined the ranks of the Sunday-night-teachers'-preparation crowd, I couldn't help but be thankful. I had a momentary thought of, "Oh the days as an aide..." but then I remembered my lack of excitement for work (some days) and the dread of the non-teaching position and was past that really quickly. I also remembered that I'm getting paid (better than my long term sub job days) to do this and God found the absolutely, positively best niche for me where I'm at. I LOVE my team, I enjoy the rest of the staff, my boss is awesome and my kids are unique and special and I love them each for a different reason. This is such a different environment than I was in before. It's amazing how fewer "procedures" are required of the staff here. They, I mean WE, can actually focus on our jobs, not a whole bunch of other 'stuff'...ya'll know what I'm talking about!
Reflections on my first week (you're getting bullets or this would be 100 pages):
-I'm starting to become a morning person...sorta...don't get too excited Antho ;)
-I love the room decorating...when I have more time.
-I don't have to be so OCD about things...especially when in a time crunch like being hired less than 5 days before school starts.
-Creativity can wait until I have a couple weeks under my belt.
-I am overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you have to learn when moving to a new district from another...I guess I forgot from my internship days.
-My kids are diverse...and so unique.
-On Wednesday, I got my first, "Miss Krieg is the best teacher!" comment.
-I'm glad school starts at 9:15am so I don't have to get up dreadfully early!
-I don't mind the drive...although I think I can only do it a year---max!
-There's so much to learn and remember.
-I've learned all the kids' names....slowly learning all the staffs' names.
-I've had so many staff members welcome me and provide encouragement and assistance in my mad-scramble.
-I'll get in a routine, I'll give my best this year and re-evaluate come next year...hoping I don't have to wait the summer to find out if I have a job in the fall...what will I do with my extra emotional energy over the!!!!!
-GOD HAS ME IN THE BEST PLACE and I'm excited to see if this is my teaching home for many years to come!!!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The New Teaching Journey Begins

Well, I officially signed my first teaching contract today! I'm going to be teaching 3rd grade and my students start Tuesday which is why this will be the shortest post I've ever written. I'll post pictures and more later! :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

HUG a friend, L-O-V-E a friend

Did you know that humans need at least 10 human touches a day? Do you ever feel like you could just use a hug? Do you have that one person that gives the best hugs ever? Or two, maybe three?

Over the past week or so, I've been craving a hug. It's not that I've not had any because I've certainly had my fair share of hugs that have melted my heart. It's just that sometimes we have a friend (and if you have more than one..lucky you!) that give us hugs that melt away anything going on and we just want to rest in that person's arms. I have a friend that I get to see very rarely but gives some of the best hugs I've ever had in my life--my nieces are trying to give this person a run for their money I must say. I've been craving that hug for some time now and can't wait until I get the next one!

I have had some great hugs from students this weekend and those are always very special. My nieces BOTH squeezed the heck outta my neck this weekend and it just sent a chill down my back because they give all their love! What would the world look like if everyone loved with everything they have?

Go hug a never know, it may mean the world to them but seem to insignificant to you!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Looking Back on La Paz

This morning I awoke and found that students from GEBC serving in La Paz had updated the blog and pictures had been posted. As I read the students words, I couldn't help but remember my time as I entered a world unknown to me last summer as I, along with many others, led a group of students into the unknown of La Paz and have a yearning in my heart that makes me wish I was there with them...even if it's hotter than it is here right now. My adventure last year was like none I'd ever experienced. You can read about it here. (It's long...) Something welled up inside of me as I browsed the pictures, saw my sister, many students that went with me last year, places I knew, and some of the amazing fellow leaders that I worked with. My heart loved La Paz differently than it's loved other places. I look back on the different mission trips I've experienced both as a student and a leader...each one was so unique and even when I was in the same place more than once, it certainly wasn't the same. There will probably never be a time when I know exactly why La Paz was so different but some of the reasons are irrefutable:
  • It was my first time leading a trip outside the US.
  • It was only my second time leading a trip but I wasn't the main leader in charge, see here for a taste of that experience.
  • My sister and I were there together although I was not in her room and I worked most closely with other girls.
  • God taught me a lot about patience with one of my best friends and how to love him despite my utter frustration with him at times.
  • God began a restoration of that same friendship and allowed us to have some very special moments that I'll never forget and always cherish in my heart.
  • Although I had very little, some might say practically no(ne), Spanish speaking skills, I was able to grow more in one week than I had in my one semester in college (a whole other story you can ask about later).
  • God changed my heart and I'm confident that God has a plan far greater than any I could ever imagine for myself.
As I impatiently await the arrival of my sister and the other students to come home, I have to remember that God has them there for a reason. Just as he had me not help lead this trip for a reason, and I think I'm starting to see why.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

All Things Fitness in Chicago

In my last blog post, I ranted and raved about the amazing opportunities for fitness in DC. Although I still really think that trail has a leg up on Chicago, and it's -land, I have to recant and give Chicago the credit it deserves. I've been more observant and tuned into fitness opportunities as I've driven and visited so many different places in Chicago and the 'burbs since my trip. [Side note: I drove into downtown Chicago on my own for the first time last week. I normally take the train or graciously let someone else drive.] While taking a day trip for my sister's birthday last week, I realized there is plenty to do along the lakefront of Lake is just a matter of how much I'm willing to pay to do so. To go jet-skiing for 30 minutes, it's $75...not in my budget...that's basically half my gas allowance each month. The beaches are great as long as you get there early to avoid the masses and you also won't have to walk miles away either. I have yet to bike or run along Lake Shore Drive...but it's in the plans for the near future. My brother and I have gone out to Geneva twice in the last year to ride bikes along the Fox River. I found out this time, that is goes much further than I realized and that you can rent paddle boats too.

So although I love DC, Chicago and the 'burbs have some neat things to do if you just look for them. I've compiled a list of just some of the wonderful things you can do fitness-wise in the area:

1. Bike/Walk/Run along the Fox River
2. Rent jet skis and other water equipment along the lakefront
3. Enjoy the splendor of the Western Trail or the Prairie Path
4. Bike/Walk/Run along Lake Shore Drive
5. Swim in Lake Michigan

Go find your fitness area...and if you find some neat places...let me know.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The 2nd Fittest City in America

I recently came across an article talking about America's fittest cities. This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting #2 on the list....Washington D.C. Fortunately this is where my dad and stepmom have chosen to "retire" and they have "officially" moved for the last time...we'll see how long that lasts...yes Dad...I know you will be reading this! ;) Anyways, I have determined that it truly is an inspiring place to be even though I don't think I'll be moving there anytime soon, if ever. Along the Potomac River near George Washington Parkway, from basically downtown DC to Mount Vernon and possibly beyond, there is a fitness path. For those of you in the Western Suburbs, this is no prairie path or western trail. It is paved with strength training stops along the way and there are always, and I mean ALWAYS, people at every level running, walking, biking, etc...down this trail. There are drink stops and you can pretty much see the river along a majority of the path. Just driving past it a good number of times was inspiring much less seeing the fact that the people on the trail ranged from fit to, well, unfit. There are plenty of places to walk...all through downtown DC would be plenty. If you've visited, you know what I mean. Then you have the trail and you have the water sports along the river and nearby. Now I know that we have Navy Pier here in Chicago but that requires a much more significant drive than does this wonderful trail. It is literally across the street from thousands of homes over its 14+ mile length.

One time I visited, my dad and I paddled around between the Washington Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. Here is a picture from that event circa 2008 or so:

This time we went canoeing...we don't have a picture because let's just say that three people in a canoe is far too least when they are all adults. We did do plenty of other things like walking around downtown, eating out at restaurants...since the kitchen in their newly renovated home is not in complete working order quite yet. One of our frequent stops was breakfast at Breugger's Bagels...

They used to have some here in the western suburbs but I am not sure many exist with the proliferation of Einstein's and Panera as well as the few remaining Great American Bagels.

Anyways, gettting away always provides a fresh and new perspective on life and this trip could not have come at a better time as I had really been struggling through some things since my job ended earlier this month. I can't believe that July is almost here and I will certainly be better at posting in the coming weeks and months.

Hope you are able to get away and get a new and fresh perspective and can come back and be absolutely inspired to do what you need to do and want to do.

Happy End of June and "official" beginning to summer (a few days late)!

Friday, June 17, 2011

One week into Summer and I'm LOVING it already!

Summer may seem like it's the same each year but for me it's filled with uncertainty, sometimes pain and loneliness and sometimes it's entirely too busy that I seem to miss the "enjoyment of the season" altogether. This year is different. Fortunately, I've been blessed by the long term position that I took in March and therefore do not have to work full time this summer to pay the bills. In fact, if I stay on budget each month, I technically don't have to work at all. However, I want to do some special things and they require just a little money so I'm still doing some work here and there, I'm fortunate to not feel the stress I've felt for as many summers as I have before.

It's only been one week of summer break and I've been in heaven. Last Friday was my last day, then I planned, shopped and crafted until my sister's graduation party on Sunday. After that, my summer truly began (even though it was fun...I felt like I was still on a spinning wheel). Monday and Tuesday mornings, I leisurely awoke and made my way to the deck where I soaked up the sun, did a little planning, read some magazines and drank iced tea! Now I could certainly get used to that... I also took on a last minute long weekend "sitting job"...the kids are going into 7th grade and one will be a freshman...let's just say its really fun to do extended times when they are older than toddlers! My sister has jumped in to tag team with me since I've had some other things planned. Today I hit up the beach with my two dear friends Jaimie and Katie and the three little peanuts between them, Maddie, Haley, and Brooke! We had quite the adventure and look forward to many summer adventures together! We ventured to downtown Chicago in the van...all 6 girls and made our way to North Ave. Beach. Let's just say, I'm so glad I'm not in high school anymore! :) Tonight I am participating in an adult sleepover (girls only of course) and I am really excited!

I'll share more soon and hopefully get pictures from Katie to post of our day at the beach!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Break is here!

In case you have not seen me lately, I'm officially on summer break and free to relax and enjoy!

The past 3 months have been a whirlwind and I feel like I had to let most things fall by the wayside to keep afloat at work. Over the coming months, I'm looking foward to getting things in order around the house, posting some under utilized things around the house on Craigslist, having a garage sale, using Rosetta Stone to work on my Espagnol and building up my photography skills and business.

If you are around or come into town...let me know! I'd love to see you and hang out! :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Missing the blog world...indeed I am!

Well, my last post was just days before I took a new job and my life went from 180 to 360...0 to 60 doesn't work in my case! LOL! Anyways, I unexpectedly took over a maternity leave in my building. Fortunate for me and the lovely lady is that I was her long term sub two years ago for baby #1. This made the transition...if we had one...easier for both of us. I knew her style, I knew her classroom, I just didn't know her kids. Well, that changed very quickly. Within a week, I had two parent conferences and a host of other meetings! I also found out that same week that my friend (and worship leader at FCCC) was leaving and then at the end of the week that my principal (boss and friend) would be leaving my building at the end of the school year. Needless to say I had a very rough Friday (right before Spring Break--my saving grace in all of this) because I was (A) exhausted beyond belief (B) started the day with a very DIFFICULT/ROUGH parent conference (C) found out about my principal after school and the topping on the cake (D) Fridays are my long day with very few breaks already (we even had a staff meeting during lunch).

That's about all I have time for now but I thought I'd post so you didn't think I'd disappeared into oblivion! :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where are the 'dents' in your life?

(Let me start by saying that even admitting this happened in public is difficult because as many of you know, I pride--see below-- myself on being a good driver.)

A couple weeks ago, I was having lunch with a friend and was leaving the restaurant. Well, this parking lot has these measly 'posts' that I don't really think serve a particular purpose other than being in the way. Anyways, I was backing out trying not to hit the car that was next to me, since they parked too close, and as I turned my head to look back, I heard the most awful sound...ccrrruuunnnccchhhh. OH NO! I was looking back at this point and could not see a thing...that is because this fine little pole, had found itself hiding behind the one corner I could not see between where the side window ended and the back windshield began. Needless to say I have a nice indent on the rear bumper on the passenger side. I went a couple days later to get some estimates since it happened after all the places had closed on a Saturday afternoon. At any other point in my life thus far, I think I would have just melted in shame and balled my eyes out to the point that I was dehydrated but because of all the work God's been doing in my life, I chose to look at the positive side: no one was hurt, no other cars or people were involved, and it really won't matter once I finally am able to get it fixed.

Furthermore, I found myself really examining my pride. I realized that there are quite a few things that I take pride in...ones that don't affect others but rather my own self-confidence and self-concept. Actually, this extends to most things in my life. Those things that I do that are a reflection of myself such as driving, how I decorate and keep my room/office/spaces, my musical/photography/teaching skills, and just about everything else, are the things I put my 'pride' in because I lack self-confidence. This pride is also an extension of the high expectation (my half Type A personality appears here) I have for myself. I don't want to be thought of as a careless driver because I certainly am not, I don't want people to think that I'm not as musical as I portray, I don't want people to know that I'm scared, lonely, and would much rather become a hermit at times. All of these things go against what God wants for me. Satan is trying to attack through these because he knows how much I'm pleasing God with my life...or at least how I'm intentionally desiring and trying to please God with my life and choices.

DE-RAIL with me for a minute: As I write, this song is playing on the radio:

It's What Love Really Means by JJ Heller

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done
Or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
the love that you never knew...

These lyrics hang in the air as I am trying to write this because I know that God will love me no matter what I do or who I am as long as I'm in relationship with Him and striving to be closer to Him each day.

BACK ON TRACK: Last weekend, I attended a retreat that was truly life-changing. The theme for the weekend was grace...something I often struggle with. I always thought I understood the concept of grace in my head but believing it in my heart was something I now realize I never did. Growing up, I always tried (and still do) to be a people pleaser so when I would make mistakes, I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders and would always get REALLY down on  myself and certainly never extend grace to myself. I felt like I let my parents, or those that were affected, down and couldn't understand why they would still love me and show me grace. I NEVER knew and still struggle with accepting grace in my life...the same with LOVE and FORGIVENESS. Therefore, why would I believe that God could put aside my sin and truly love me when I've let Him down so badly with my sin? This weekend, I felt like I started to understand and accept all of this. One of the most profound things I realized is that I often let the sin in my life paralyze me from allowing God's love and grace penetrate my heart and the remnants of unforgiveness in my life stem from not being able to forgive myself first and extend grace to myself. If I can give these to myself, how can I extend them to others freely?

I think that I already extend grace and love and forgiveness to people at a level beyond my own capacity but truly as evidence of God's work in my life. For example, I have a friend that struggles with his own past sin and felt I couldn't possible love, extend grace to and forgive him despite his sin. But for me, I was able to put all of that aside and love him for who he was with all of his dents and I think it was the first time I've been able to do that without holding on to the little pieces of hurt in our relationship...I was able to truly LOVE him. I could identify with him because our self-concepts were similar, before this weekend of life-change that I was able to experience. He felt that his past sin would keep him from having the good things that God was giving to him and that he wasn't good enough for what God was blessing him with. Unfortunately, I think that we all allow our sin to keep us from experiencing the blessings that God has planned for us.

This song played on my way home from the retreat and I couldn't ask for a better prayer as I left this weekend:

I see each of these things as 'dents' in our lives. Things that keep us from becoming the 'vehicle' God created us to be. We beat ourselves up for each of these dents and until we do the work required...getting estimates and truly letting go and allowing God to "fix" our dents, we won't be able to be the person God created us to be. Where are the 'dents' in your life? Where do you need to give up control?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cooking from the Pantry: Day #3

Totally a cereal and leftovers kinda day but figured I should still post.

Breakfast: Life cereal while driving...
Lunch: leftovers from last night (l-p chicken, rice, and peas)
Dinner: Life cereal for a "snack" then leftover l-p chicken and peas....

So boring I didn't even take a picture! LOL!

Just wait...tomorrow I will be not in charge of my own dinner so we'll see what I eat then!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cooking from the Pantry: Day #2

Here's the breakdown of day #2:

Breakfast: a banana
Lunch: 1 piece leftover pizza, leftover potatoes from Day #1, a banana, and a protein bar
Dinner: I made lemon-pepper chicken, peas and had left over rice and rolls from Day #1

Here's what I did:

1. Put chicken tenders in glass baking dish, poured on lemon juice to taste (had to borrow some from grandma but normally I have it on hand...not sure what happened to mine), and sprinkled with pepper to taste. Covered dish with foil.

2. Baked chicken in oven at 350* for 30 minutes.

3. About 5 minutes before chicken finished, I took a bag of frozen peas and followed directions on bag.

4. Reheated rolls (in microwave but will definitely do the toaster over next time) and leftover rice mix.

**Luckily for me, when the pot holder slipped--while I was checking the chicken--down to the bottom of the stove and almost started a fire, I was able to get it and not burn myself OR start the house on fire...every good cook has some mishap, right??**

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cooking from the Pantry: Introduction and Day #1

So, there is a statistic that if you get creative and use a lot of the ingredients that are hiding in your pantry, you could save 25% on your groceries for that month or however long depending on the amount of food stashed away. Obviously you may have to replace certain things like milk or eggs but other than that, you should be good to go.

I've done this one time before but now I've got more interesting staples other than pasta, tomato sauce, frozen chicken, veggies, and a few other regular shelf-space takers!

I just decided tonight to do this so my earlier meals today were a little more simple.
Breakfast: Life cereal
Lunch: leftover pasta in tomato sauce
Dinner: I decided to make something a little more least I don't normally cook for myself like this. It included baked buffalo chicken strips, potatoes, some chicken-flavored rice/vermecelli, and crescent rolls.

So this is what I did:

1. Marinaded chicken tenders in buffalo sauce (the longer you marinate, the more flavorful they are) in baking dish (8x8 or 9x13). Covered dish with aluminum foil.

2. Cooked chicken at 350* for about 25 minutes.

3. Washed and cut up potatoes, put on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkled with italian seasoning and put in oven at *375 for about 20-25 minutes...could have been a little less and still yummy. (I used both our normal oven and our toaster oven so I could cook simultaneously.)

4. I had the rice leftover but I would start cooking it about 15 min before everything else was done.

5. I put the crescent rolls in the oven just after the chicken was done since it finished a little before the potatoes.

5. I put a serving on my plate and sprinkled parmesan cheese on the potatoes and shredded cheese on the chicken tenders.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Discovering I'm a "Turtle"...Are you a "turtle" too?

The turtle/tortoise is known for its hard shell that allows the turtle to retreat upon the threat of any type of danger. These creatures are slow and steady but always "win the race". The one in the photo is somewhat special to me. This was 'aquired' through a pool struggle in La Paz, Mexico with my students last summer (2010). Needless to say, I was going to use it to play a prank on the guys with my girls as they did to us with it but it just never happened...but I'm HAPPY about that because it brings back many awesome memories.

Yesterday, I guess I glanced at the turtle or just thought about it for some reason and I thought about how it can be a similie for people (or at least myself) sometimes. We have a hard shell. We're tough and independent. We're small. We're aware of threats and dangers around us. We EASILY retreat when there is danger or threats to who we are. We don't open up easily. We are often afraid of opening up to those around us because we don't know if we will be good enough. We don't know if they'll accept us. We don't know if we're willing to open our hearts to get hurt by letting others inside of us. However, its when we do open ourselves up to others that we become more confident, we are less afraid of what others will think. I think it's important to remember that our confidence should be in Christ and His work in our lives. He's the one that made our hearts to be shared and made our lives to be shared with one another! He's redeemed us, we're not perfect, we never will be and as much as we try to put on a 'shell' for others to see as our true beauty, there's so much more underneath it and that's where the true beauty lies in each of us. There is a song called Behind The Scenes by Francesca Battistelli that talks about this. The chorus says:
Things aren't always as they seem
You're only seeing part of me
There's more than you could ever know
Behind the scenes
I'm incomplete and I'm undone
But I suppose like everyone
There's so much more that's going on
Behind the scenes 
I think that is true at some level for each of us. We all have things that people can't imagine would be true about us. Just recently, I had someone I am developing a friendship with say they never would imagine that I, of all people, would struggle with depression. She struggles with depression and as I was sharing about what God was doing in my life, I shared that I struggled with it. She said she never would've imagined me saying that. It proved to me right there that we all have things that people don't know about us. Even those people that know us to the depths of our core, or at least we think they do, often don't know some things. I think that it takes a while for us to want to 'come out of our shell' and share our hearts and lives with people. Have you ever had those people that you meet and you feel like you've known forever and you could spend hours upon hours upon hours talking to? Do you feel like these are the people that God uses to help you 'come out of your shell'? I DO! I have been fortunate to have a few of those people in my life. One of those people I met about 2.5 years ago. We met through mutual friends and have been great friends ever since. I remember we started emailing back and forth almost daily (he lived in MN at the time) about our lives and what was happening then or some of the things we'd been through in our lives. Then we would talk on the phone often and we talked with tremendous ease and just enjoyed getting to know each other. The more I learned to trust him, the more I shared. He never judged, he never thought I was a 'crazy person'...okay, well, maybe he did but he didn't make me feel ashamed about those things that made me 'crazy'. He taught me to open my heart again after the previous few years where I had been hurt VERY badly by those who said they were my friends or even those who said they loved me and had put up lots of walls. He taught me that even though there was a chance he would hurt me at some point in time, he cared about me and loved me as a friend despite what I considered to be my immaturity, etc... He gave me a glimpse of God's love...although its something I didn't realize until long after our friendship developed and strengthened. To this day, he continues to support me, encourage me, be my 'cheerleader', be my shoulder to lean on or cry on, my friend that is there NO MATTER what happens! This friend has taught me a lot about what it means to love and to be loved. He has allowed me to open up and share with the world who I am because he cared enough to love me and support me when I felt unlovable and invisible. He believed in me...and still does. Rarely was, or is there, a conversation where he doesn't remind me that I'm important and that I can do whatever I want. He's excited for me when I tell him about new endeavors or what I want to do some day. It doesn't matter to him that I have issues...if we're honest...we ALL do. It doesn't matter to him if I break down in tears over the smallest thing. It doesn't matter to him if I look like a bum. He is there regardless. I'm so grateful to have him in my life each day.

There is another person I have only known for about 1.5 years but he is such a driving force in pushing me towards God. He's always pointing our conversation back to God and how my relationship with God is impacted by whatever we are talking about. He pulls things out of me that very few people do. He pushes me. He CHALLENGES me. I've not had many friends like him. He really shares the truth with love when he sees things going on in my life that I may not recognize or understand because I'm not on the outside. He shares his struggles and excitement with me. His example has really helped me to learn what 'coming out of my shell' looks like. I would say that he has challenged me so much and that my recent growth is largely, if not mostly, due to his proding and encouragement. He cares no matter what.

The other two people I have that are 'those people' that cause me to 'come out of my shell' are my two accountability partners. Although we formed this group in the fall of 2010 out of a desire to have community and wanting to be challenged to grow in our faith and our quiet times with the Lord. These women have been there through some mountains and very deep valleys in the past 7 months or so. They have challenged me to grow as a person, they have been there when I'm feeling completely out of my mind, they have been there when I'm just sobbing my eyes out and they've also been there to encourage me as I've stepped out in faith to start the photography endeavor. These women have helped me learn what it means to be a friend, a sister, a wife and a mother...through their wonderful examples. The three of us are at different stages in life but we are connected through our common bond of Christ and the wonderful friendship we've developed because of God bringing us together.

I always need to remember that I'm beautiful and that no matter what any one else thinks...God created me to be beautiful in His sight and that will never change. Mercy Me has a wonderful song that reminds me of this very important characteristic of Christ. It's You're Beautiful.

Please remember that you are beautiful and that God made you to be who you are, He put you where you are and He's growing you each just have to be open and willing to allow him to do the work in your heart. I love you!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine's Day Crafts and Ideas

Valentine's Day is just around the corner...literally and you may not want to spend a whole lot on this 'holiday', see my post here and you'll know how I feel about this 'holiday'. Sometimes, though, you may want to do just a little something are some ideas that cost very little but mean the world to those who recieve them.

1. Make a card: All you need is some red, white or pink paper and a fun pen or marker. (The Dollar Store has many craft supplies...super cheap! Otherwise, hit up another local craft store or big-box store like WalMart.) Obviously, you can embellish this to your heart's desire but what is important is that you took the time to make it and what you write inside that REALLY matters most. Oftentimes, we don't say what we want to say to the ones we love and, in many cases, its too late when you finally 'get around' to it. This is your time to do it whether you do it throughout the year or not. Don't wait...we're not guaranteed tomorrow and sometimes God takes people from us (whether its a move, death or something else) before we 'get around' to showing we care.

2. If you don't think you can make a card but don't want to spend a lot, go to the Dollar Store...they have a whole section and cards are only $0.50 each or you can go to Hallmark, the grocery, Walgreens/CVS, WalMart or wherever you would like but I personally like the Dollar Store because they have decent cards, with decent messages and you can add more if you'd like.

3. Make a "Top Ten Reasons I Love You" list. Type it up or write in fun handwriting/lettering and put in a frame. The Dollar Store has frames so take your pick of what size you'd like (4x6 or 5x7 for a desk; 8x10 for hanging up somewhere or putting on a ledge/mantle) and so do many other stores.

4. Make a puzzle. Take a piece of cardboard or cardstock and write a special message on it. Then decorate. When finished, cut out the shapes with an Xacto knife in funky shapes...maybe even try your hand at some hearts in there somewhere.

5. Go do something you both enjoy together. Maybe you just want to go to the gym and go for a good run or if you are in a MUCH warmer climate than Chicago during V-Day, go for a run on beach, ride bikes or just lay on the beach! :)

For those who want to kick it up a knotch:

6. Get a cheap basket (Dollar Store/elsewhere) and fill it with some of their favorite things. For example, if I were getting a basket, I'd love some Reese's, some apple cider, a Valentine's mug, a good book/magazine, a coupon for: a pizza & movie night at home/a walk at sunset, a massage from the giver of the basket or other little things. It can be as cheap and small as you want or as extravagant as you want to make it. Make it yourself and put thought into it and you will be good to go no matter what size it is.

7. Plan a "surprise night". You will make an invitation for your special someone and invite them to a "special night". [Be sure to clue them in when it comes to the attire required.] Perhaps you want to plan a night in with their favorite pizza or meal (You can tell I love pizza!). You could set the table with a table cloth, candles, your 'finest' dishes (even if you just want to go with paper ones), a flower, music, and a card or note filled with a message about your love/desire to care for them followed by a movie and popcorn. --OR-- You can take them out to a special restaurant and order a special dessert or have dessert back at your house and something else special waiting.

Whatever you choose to do, show ALL those you love that you care! Think ahead...even if it is just the day before and remember...little things can sometimes mean the world so nothing is too little! :)

More on DOING LIFE NOW...don't wait...

I got this in an email from my dad. It speaks to what many of us struggle with but rarely do anything about. I am actually in the midst of doing some "SIMPLIFYING" in my life's amazing how much more relaxed I feel.

Too many people put off something that brings them joy just because they haven't thought about it, don't have it on their schedule, didn't know it was coming or are too rigid to depart from their routine.

I got to thinking one day about all those people on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night in an effort to cut back. From then on, I've tried to be a little more flexible.

How many women out there will eat at home because their husband didn't suggest going out to dinner until after something had been thawed? Does the word 'refrigeration' mean nothing to you?

How often have your kids dropped in to talk and sat in silence while you watched ' Jeopardy ' on television?

I cannot count the times I called my sister and said , 'How about going to lunch in a half hour?' She would gas up and stammer, 'I can't. I have clothes on the line. My hair is dirty. I wish I had known yesterday, I had a late breakfast, It looks like rain' And my personal favorite: 'It's Monday.' She died a few years ago. We never did have lunch together.

Because Americans cram so much into their lives, we tend to schedule our headaches.. We live on a sparse diet of promises we make to ourselves when all the conditions are perfect!

We'll go back and visit the grandparents when we get Steve toilet-trained. We'll entertain when we replace the living-room carpet. We'll go on a second honeymoon when we get two more kids out of college.

Life has a way of accelerating as we get older. The days get shorter, and the list of promises to ourselves gets longer. One morning, we awaken, and all we have to show for our lives is a litany of 'I'm going to,' 'I plan on,' and 'Someday, when things are settled down a bit.'

When anyone calls my 'seize the moment' friend, she is open to adventure and available for trips. She keeps an open mind on new ideas. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious. You talk with her for five minutes, and you're ready to trade your bad feet for a pair of Rollerblades and skip an elevator for a bungee cord.

My lips have not touched ice cream in 10 years. I love ice cream. It's just that I might as well apply it directly to my stomach with a spatula and eliminate the digestive process. The other day, I stopped the car and bought a triple-decker. If my car had hit an iceberg on the way home, I would have died happy.

Now....go on and have a nice day. Do something you WANT to...not something on your SHOULD DO list.. If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?

Have you ever watched kids playing on a merry go round or listened to the rain lapping on the ground? Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight or gazed at the sun into the fading night? Do you run through each day on the fly? When you ask 'How are you?' Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through your head? Ever told your child, 'We'll do it tomorrow.' And in your haste, not see his sorrow? Ever lost touch? Let a good friendship die? Just call to say 'Hi'?

When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift....Thrown away.... Life is not a race. Take it slower. Hear the music before the song is over.

‘Life may not be the party we hoped for... but while we are here we might as well dance!’ Yeah!!!!!!!!

Before today ends, do something you will remember and if you were to die to tonight, you'd be happy you did can be reading a book or magazine for 30 min., taking a hot shower, or calling someone to just say "hi" and "I love you".

And remember, this is the ONLY you that God gave you so honor Him and treat it well!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Being a Good Steward with EVERYTHING!

***WARNING: long and challenging post...get comfy and read on!***

I think so often, we forget that even in our hardest times, we are truly blessed. We have a roof over our head, we have food, more than one meal a day, we have clothes to wear, friends and family who love us--even when it feels like they don't sometimes, and GOD on OUR side! Although I often see people, myself included, taking everything for granted and not using their resources wisely--whether it's finances, time or talents to help others, share God with others and even at the most basic level, improve our own lives so we can better share the love and gospel of Jesus.

[I was thinking about posting on this topic for a while but was encouraged even more after watching an encounter with the man at the gym who dropped $20 to workout for the day at 4pm in the afternoon while staying at a hotel with a workout facility and a pool just across the street.-Another version of my thought process at the end of the finances section. Be sure to read for a GOOD laugh!]


Finances/money is a sore subject for many people. When it comes to finances, we are always wanting more money than what we have. We say, "if only I had a little more money...I could send it to that missionary or I could support that student's endeavors". The reality is that many of us make enough money to cover our needs and oftentimes, our wants. Over the past month (and for the rest of the year), I have created a budget using a worksheet that I found here. I also listed out renewals and expenses (with approx. $$$ amounts) by month such as professional organizations, warranties, automobile routine expenses (oil changes, etc...), license/license plate renewals, dentist, etc...There are many more templates that may fit your life better than the one I use (find them here). I only used credit and debit cards (would not suggest if you don't keep a check on it every couple of days) for purchases so I could see where my money was going and if I spent any cash--it was from gift money. I put all of my paycheck $$$ in my checking account and balanced my checkbook a couple times throughout the month. Any money made babysitting or housesitting/dogsitting was cashed and put in a separate envelope. The envelope is currently full of my 'extra' cash. I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do with it yet although I have some ideas, I know that I want to use it to further the Kingdom and impact the lives of others. I also plan to use some of it throughout the year to plan for the future... One thing I've also learned is that even as careful as I tend to be with my finances, I can still do everything I need and want to do without spending my extra income. Another thing this helps to do is curve impulse buying. As I am contemplating a "FUN" purchase, I ask myself if it is worth breaking my budget and if it's something that I feel is worth spending my HARD-EARNED cash on.  
A couple things to help ensure success (or at least baby steps to it) on this financial journey:
~Write down every $1 spent (even that $ for vending machines or gifts)--I used my planner/calendar. I also noted any 'extra' money I earned.
~Keep ALL receipts in ONE place. I have a little rectangular bin (used normally for small plants) that I bought at the $ store. It sits on my desk yet is stylish.
~Be aware of how much you've used of your gas, food, entertainment/hobbie budgets...those are the three that will kill any budget.
~On the first day of the next month, enter all income and money spent into the worksheet.
~For your birthday month and December, budget a reasonable amount for your own "birthday and Christmas gifts". My birthday and Christmas happen to be in the same month so I use all the 'extra cash' I earn in the last half of November and in December (often less than other months) and use it to spend time with friends, buy myself little 'gifts' or for whatever came about that I wanted to spend it on. (I still have a good majority of it and am deciding between a few options of what to do with it.)
~Budget in fun money: I knew that every Sunday I would be having Qdoba since I didn't want to cook after a long morning at church (I counted it as part of my grocery budget) and some money for crafts, etc...
~Use coupons and LOOK at the sales ads (mainly for groceries but also for many other stores such as Michael's and Jo-Ann's for my crafty friends and teachers you can get discounts at LOTS of places so always ask if there is a teacher discount)'d be amazed at what 15 minutes of coupon clipping, looking at ads and making a list can do BEFORE you go to the store and how much you save AT the store! When possible, buy the cheapest brand...sometimes they are better than the "NAME BRANDS".
For Christmas of 2010, I used a binder and ALL cash system. For any presents or for supplies to make presents (since I like to be crafty like that), I only used cash. I listed out WHO I needed to buy for, HOW MUCH I expected to spend, and any IDEAS I had on presents for each of those people and their approximate costs. [Also, in my family, sometimes we pick out a gift for ourselves or or pick up a gift for someone else that someone else is paying for and so I take note of that money spent and set a date for that money to be repaid.] I house sat for a family for a week and cashed the check, put all the cash in an envelope and used only that money for Christmas presents. It was $400--You could do the same or save a certain $ amount each money as a part of your budget or find some other way to save up. Now, I know that may seem like a lot for some of you and very little for others. So many times I was tempted to get this "cool" thing for someone but then I thought about my budget and what that person meant to me. It was wise for me to make something for that person that would show I cared but not break the bank. I work with a lot of people and I wanted to show them I cared so for each of them, I bought a $1 mug at WalMart, used remnant fabrics squares to sew a coaster (about $1), and threw in a packet of hot chocolate or apple cider for each person (10-25 cents each), and then used paper lunch bags stamped with snowflakes as my wrapping with a little ribbon and a handmade tag to wrap it (about $1 with all the supplies needed). So for about $3.25 each, I was able to show many people that I cared without breaking the bank. I ended up with lots of supplies/tools for future projects so it will be even more economical in the long run. In the end, I only spent $350 of my cash, I still wanted to use the remaining $50 to bless someone. I immediately thought of a couple ideas and just the right timing. February is actually going to be when I will bless this person with the extra $50. I didn't feel the timing was right at the start of the new year but now I know it's right. This binder and process of using cash helps avoid the stress of paying all those bills in January into February and perhaps throughout the WHOLE following year! Talk about a NEW YEAR feeling!
I know that this is not an automatic process for some, it will make others break habits that were formed long ago, and it will take time to learn and improve. I know that this month I blew my grocery budget but I bought many staples in large quantities that will carry me through February and March so I won't spend as much during those months and actually come in under budget. Find some friends, that are trustworthy to keep you accountable and to help you along the way. DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP if you mess up...that is the quickest way to sabotage this new 'habit'.

(My sassy and slightly judgemental side--yes, I have one--comes out in this version of the man at the gym. OOPS!)
Last week as I was renewing my membership at the gym, a man walked in and asked how much it would be for a one day pass to workout. He was staying at the hotel across the I was pretty sure had a workout facility and after looking it up does..a nice one to boot!!!! So the girl at the desk proceeded to tell him it would be $20 for today was already almost 4pm. He said, "Ok, I'll probably come twice anyways." In my mind I'm thinking, "WHOA! Hold the phone here man! You are about to spend $20 to work out when you are staying in a hotel where there is a workout facility (at no extra charge to you) and pool? are coming twice in the next 8 hours????" Furthermore, "You are going to pay $10 to workout each time? Shoot...take the stairs to your hotel room after you use the free weights and cardio equipment in the hotel and maybe swim a few laps while you are at it!" I just couldn't get past the fact that he was dropping $20 like that...and I'm pretty sure the girl at the desk was just as surprised as I was by the way she told him it would expire at midnight!

Time: “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself” ~Andy Warhol

Using our time wisely is a chronic problem for most people. We say, "I didn't have enough time" or "I don't have enough time" or "When do you want me to that TOO?" To be successful in time management and effective use of time it takes LOTS of planning, effort and discipline. I am,, by nature, a planner and am fairly organized but I STILL have trouble using my time wisely...common intruders on my time management: Facebook, email, blogging--lol, SLEEP, stress, other people's "emergencies", emotional turmoil, YouTube, looking for things that I forgot to put back in their home, trying to multi-task when I shouldn't, sorting through things I don't really need, catching up from poor time usage and so much more...

Some tips to help become a succesful time manager and user:
~Spend time with God in whatever way fits your lifestyle and schedule. (I'm guessing if you take any of these tips, you will find more available time for this.)
~Create daily/weekly/monthly routines for personal health and rejuvenation as well as responsbilities around the house (a couple things or a room each day plus a 15 min. 'sweep' before bed)
~Set a time or a couple of times to pay bills and make important phone calls.
~Make lists for long- and short-term projects. (I'm and AVID list maker...because otherwise I forget everything!)
~Pick up the kitchen and bathroom before bed.
~For larger projects, choose a day or chunk of time in which to accomplish them (or specific chunks to do along the way) and the date by which you would like to accomplish them. You may also have to complete certain things before the larger project can be completed so be sure those are done ahead of your final large project. Use a reasonable timeline or you will sabotage yourself!
~If you live with others, work as a TEAM for larger, more menacing projects and DELEGATE tasks for those everyday things that others can assist you with and watch your TO-DO list shrink! :)
~If you live alone, invite friends/family over, CRANK the tunes and tackle all your projects together (don't forget to laugh). Then at the end of the day or chunk of time, order pizza and and watch a movie together! [**Be sure to offer the same favor to those same friends...otherwise you will be 'using' them! This is VITAL!]
~Find someone to keep you accountable and ask how you are doing with the routines and the goals for completing both small and large projects.
~Don't play catch up unless its completely what you can NOW! Sometimes we put things off that end up causing us extra stress when if we did it when we thought of it, we wouldn't have to worry. I learned this the hard way!
~SIMPLIFY your life...this will be a whole other post but basically take stock of where your time is going and if it isn't necessary while you try to get life together, get rid of it and only add it back in, IF and WHEN you feel like you have time or can do it without compromising what other things God has for you!
~Reward yourself when you complete tasks that require extra effort...just don't spend lots of your $$$ or eat a gallon of ice cream because then you'll have more problems on your hands! ;)

The effects of poor time management and usage often affect not only you but those around you. For example, if you promise your kids in January that you will create them a kids' only space in the basement where they can hang out with their friends by the end of the school year (late May/early June) and the next January rolls around and there is no space, your children will soon lose faith that you will actually do it. [Disclaimer: If financial or other emergencies occur, you need to explain that to them and ask for an 'extension'...kinda like kids want to do with teachers when they fail to complete that big research paper they have known about ALL semester!!! :)]If chores or responsibilities are not delegated or clearly assigned, it can cause hard feelings between those living under the same roof or even within the family. If you are having issues regarding the clarity of assigned responsibilities, have a talk...don't let it fester or things just get WORSE!

If you live with someone with a very different about of available "free work time" than yourself, such as a stay-at-home mom, the disabled, or the elderly, find ways to divide responsibilities amongst each member of the home but be respectful of their time too if you are seeking assistance. Don't assume they have the time but rather ask if they have time to help you with this or that. The dividing of responsibilities may allow them to have more time to help you. Finally, if you wish to delegate tasks to others under the same roof, give them tasks where they feel successful and not ones where you have a VERY SPECIFIC way you would like it done...this just causes more pain! This will probably eventually be its own post but for now, you get what I'm trying to say.

You will find more time to spend: glorifying God, growing in your knowledge of Him, serving in the church and pointing others towards Him when you learn to manage and use your time more wisely!

“Time is the cruelest teacher; first she gives the test, then teaches the lesson.” ~Unknown

We need to use our talents to glorify God and his Kingdom! He didn't give them to use or allow us to learn them to gratify ourselves or to gain fame, He wants them to be used to further His Kingdom and change the lives of others. It's also a way we can show others a glimpse of God's love through ourselves. We need to approach anything we do with our talents as a way to glorify God and give Him thanks and praise before we even begin. There is a couple who runs a photography business who attend my church and as I was learning and tagging along on a shoot with them, the wife told me that one of the most important things they do as they head to a shoot is to pray over their equipment, the people that are photographing and the whole shoot as well as thank God for the opportunity to capture the lives of the people they shoot. So many things can go wrong and they leave all of that in God's can fail, kids can be squirly, adults can be anxious and controlling and a whole host of other things.

You don't have to be a photographer, a musician or artist, you can be an encourager, a host, a friend or family member, a servant, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and many other things that don't require any specific "skill set". No need to go learn something new..unless you want to and God leads you there! :)

Give God the glory for your talents and use them to glorify Him and point others towards Christ and the Cross and the fruits of your servant-like heart will be fruitfully multiplied!

Let's use our resources wisely for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom here on earth one step and one day at a time!
To God be the Glory forever and ever. Amen!

Make it new...AND...make the most of it!

Borrowed from:
Over the past month or so as I've reflected on the notion of New Years' Resolutions and then read articles on how--by now--most of those have been broken, it really struck me and made me wonder why we only do this with a new YEAR. What about each new HOUR, DAY, WEEK or MONTH? Why do they not have the same power to affect change and desire to start new in our lives? I know that making each hour new may be more than we can handle right off the bat but why can't we start with a new MONTH and then eventually take it to a new HOUR? Or maybe its the opposite for you, maybe starting with the HOUR is best then slowly moving towards each MONTH? It all depends on where you are in life and how you feel...challenge yourself starting NOW! :)
In January, I was in a place where I just didn't feel the normal "newness" of the new year. I always love that feeling of a new, blank calendar and a new year to get things done but didn't feel that this year. It felt like 2010 was dragging itself and I into 2011. God was working in me and I knew that there was not going to be my normal, and much anticipated, "NEW YEAR feeling". That's when this whole idea of making each hour, day, week, month a NEW one. On January 12th, I felt like I was starting the something 'new'. God used a friend to bring me to my knees at the throne of God and strip away everything else until the only thing I had left was God! I knew that this was just the beginning of something new with God. It was a time for me to focus on God, delve deeper into my relationship with God, RELY SOLELY on God and seek HIS perfect plan for my life because I felt completely lost and empty. That's when I knew that God was asking me to do something for HIM, not for myself or this friend. Then on January 15th, God used ANOTHER friend to reinforce this. I was sharing how I was feeling inside with this friend and he spoke the hard truth with more love than most people can. It was all his opinion but I know that God was speaking through him that day and the couple conversations that followed as I figured out what all of this meant in my life.

For me January was a month where I've already have made a lot of mistakes and had to fall in repentance before God. And although I wish I had not made certain mistakes, there are things that are working in my life because I have God on my side and he is changing me 'from the inside out'--this song is sooo true. The other thing I always have to remind myself is that I AM A SINNER! God is not expecting me to be perfect. When I do sin and do make mistakes, He wants me to LEARN from them and that is certainly what I've done this month. It's been a culmination of many months where I've "tried" to learn from my mistakes...I guess God knew I needed a little more help TRULY learning these things. He used 2 ordinary (very special to me) people to help change my life and point me towards Himself.

That's why I really liked the idea of taking one word and focusing on what that word means and how God uses it in your life. Pray and think about what that word might be. For me the word is "wait"...waiting on God, learning to wait patiently in all things, learning to wait on others... There are so many things I'm waiting for and I know that in His perfect timing, I will get the desires of my heart and if I don't, God has a greater plan that I could ever have for myself. I'm excited to see what God does in 2011...I have a feeling it's going to be one of the most life-changing years EVER! :)

In my opinion, one of the most poignant Psalms is 118:24..."This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Let's rejoice in this NEW HOUR, DAY, WEEK or MONTH! Make it new! Share it with others so they can encourage you in your journey!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Learning to wait...

The other day, I heard on KLUV (then a friend mentioned it on FB too), they were talking about praying/thinking about a word that describes your coming year. It could be something you want to learn, something you want to be, or some other word that describes where you are in life.

I knew after praying with a dear friend the other day that mine was definitely 'wait'. I thought about 'here' based on a blog post this same friend posted on her wall and who prayed with me on Sunday. I knew as soon as she said it, that it was not a word that was going to go far from me this year nor would it be a theme that lasted only for the week.

Our society has taught us that we can have just about everything when we want it. We have fast food restaurants, we have drive-thru pharmacies, and we have express shipping. We can go to the local courthouse and get married or elope at some exotic spot without thought of dealing with all the details of planning a wedding.

Its when we are in difficult situations that we are least likely to want to wait. We don't like the pain, we don't like the unknown, nor do we like the unsettled feeling we have. I don't think Paul wanted to wait in jail nor do I think he wanted to be there. My guess is that the word "wait" was not something he wanted to hear. He wanted to be out there preaching the Good News alongside others. He wanted to help change lives for Christ.

Right now I'm waiting for a lot. I'm waiting for a classroom of children to teach. I'm waiting for my future husband. I'm waiting until I can have my own place. I'm waiting to be financially independent from my loved ones. I'm waiting to travel. I'm waiting for many other things too. Do I enjoy waiting when I feel these are the desires that God has placed in my heart? Certainly not. Is it easy to feel "chained" by my waiting? Nope. But I do have hope from God's word: "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." -Psalm 27:14 and "I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope." -Psalm 130:5

What are you waiting for? Do you believe that God will carry out His plan for your good? Are you willing to wait for God's perfect plan and timing in your life? Are you doing what God has for you RIGHT NOW?

Are you willing to wait?

December 2010

December was definitely a busy month for me. It was not as busy as I thought but I still found plenty of things to do with my time. In early December, I had my 3 photo shoots which were all learning experiences. It was fantastic to learn and get to actually take pictures of my friends!

Then the next weekend, I had my 26th birthday. I spent some time just relaxing and then on my birthday, my two good friends Jaimie and Katie took me out to dinner at Olive Garden. We were supposed to go to the one close to their houses but as Jaimie arrived to put in our name, it was surrounded by fire trucks and the power was out! So we thought about what we could do and because I had my heart set on Olive Garden, we trucked all the way back to the one in DG near my house. It was a wonderful evening of just talking and enjoying serious girl time. As if the OG being surrounded by fire trucks and not having power wasn't crazy enough, on our way home, the roads were covered in ICE! It was a very slick and tricky ride home to say the least. I'm so grateful for these two women and the impact they've made on my life.

The next week was filled with making Christmas gifts, thinking about Christmas gifts and keeping up with all the Christmas going-ons at work. Needless to say the week was a little crazy. We had our staff work party on the last day and it was lots of fun.

Finally, I had the last two weeks off of work. I did a lot of sleeping and just relaxing as I tried to recover from the craziness that is the 3-week sprint from Thanksgiving to Christmas break at work. I spent a lot of time with my college girls, high school girls and my good friends. On Christmas Eve, I ate dinner at my parents with my grandma and then my siblings and I went out to sled and slide on the ice near their house. We left the house at about 11pm and had so much fun. It was light outside from the lights bouncing off the snow. I will try to post some pictures soon. (Honestly, at the moment, I'm too lazy to get up and get the camera for the SD card.) It was a memorable night that I will never forget!

I spent Christmas at my parents. I slept over Christmas Eve, then Christmas night. I loved spending time in my pj's on Christmas. In the past, I had always gone over to my aunt's house to spend a little Christmas with my aunt and cousin (and all the other family that used to come together). It was the year to switch everything up now that life has changed. I loved spending time with the siblings even though we had a few moments where we got at each other because we were all sooo tired from staying up so late! Both nights, I was up til at least 1am!

During the last week of my break, I spent a lot of time with friends and relaxing once again. I loved sleeping in and just doing things to catch up on life.

All in all, break was truly an escape. I spent a lot of time thinking about life and spending time EXPERIENCING life as it came to me.

Hope you all had a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Shoots for Christmas Cards

In early December, I had 3 photo shoots for close friends that wanted family Christmas card pictures. For 2 of them, I had the families at my home and I set up shop here. I don't know why I didn't take a picture of the set up but I moved the couch in our living room, and hung a thick black piece of material I had laying around up as a backdrop. I had some books, strings of beads, and blankets to use for the shoots. I had two little girls (my "nieces") over first. I seitched back and forth between the girls as mom changed their outfits and as they needed breaks in between shots. I came up with some really cute pictures of the girls which I will soon post here. I realized just how much of a workout a shoot can be. I was standing above the girls, laying down on the ground and just about everywhere in between. Then I had my friend Jaimie, her husband and sweet little girl, Brooke, here. I took pictures of the whole family, each of them with Brooke and some just of Brooke. They also turned out well especially the ones we ventured outdoors to get in the VERY first snow of the season...they were so neat! You will also see some of their pics up here very soon. Both of these shoots were back to back and I even got a couple shots of all 3 girls together. It was a very fun but also exhausting day to say the least. Then later in the week, I took pictures of a family I've known for a long time. They were fun to work with and I did it at their house which taught me a lot too!

I know that I have a lot to learn yet and am so grateful for my friends that have helped me to get to where I am today. You can check out Robb's work here and the Maas' here.  I definitely learned a lot and am excited to get some more shoots set up for the coming months! :)