Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting rid of fifty things

I've been trying to make my breakfast nook into a space for my Bright Blessings supplies, and finally decided it was time to get serious. Here's the before:

I lost count of how many things I threw away, but it had to be more than fifty. It's not complete just yet, but here are the results so far:

I've learned that I need to just give things a good throwing away as I go, rather than letting them pile up, and that my mother was right when she said it was easier to just keep it clean all along.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I love this picture of Rhys. He's sound asleep, stretched out on my chest, not a care in the world. He has nothing but confidence that mama and daddy will meet his needs and take care of him.

A couple of weeks ago, I got this from Internet Cafe Devotions. It reads:

As he walked across the stage to sit down the picture painted a thousand words in my mind. Scott McEntyre, a blind contestant on American Idol, had to be guided through every step. He had no choice. It was his life.

What if we were like Scott?

What if we were that dependent?

Would life look different?

If you could not see one step in front of you, would you wait on someone to guide you or would you feel your way on your own?

Jesus waited for His every step from the One who saw the big picture. He knew He was not to lean on His own understanding.

It's a lost art in this day and age. We are taught to figure things out, get it right, take care of ourselves. Self-reliance is affirmed in the world around us. Do we really have any clue what it means to be totally dependent on anyone?

My daughter is getting married. The truth is we don't have enough money to cover all the expenses. We know God will provide. We've already seen Him cover things in unexpected ways. She's happy to have what He has for her, but sometimes we both feel the pressure to figure it all out.

She came to talk about the wedding cake. It's easy for her to bring the costs to her dad and I, after all we look like the ones who are supposed to have answers. I could feel the tension mounting inside me to come up with a way to cover the expense, when Jesus spoke to me.

"Jewel, tell her to come to me with each detail of this wedding, first." "Tell her I have a cake picked out for her, one I will provide for." "Tell her to ask me to let her fall in love with the one I've chosen for her." "Tell her to give it to me to cover." "She's looking to you and David." "You are not her resource, I am." "Teach her to depend on Me." "Oh and by the way, you need to remember too."

Jesus knows the path of trust. He was not self-reliant. He didn't have to come up with the answers. He knew God had the answers to life around Him. He knew the Father had His needs figured out and would cover them. He didn't fret or struggle to make it all happen. He waited to be covered. He spoke what the Father told Him to speak. He went where the Father told Him to go. He said what the Father told Him to say. Dependence was a way of life for Him.

Why do I not think life should be the same for me?

He speaks to me again. "Do not lean on your own understanding, Jewel." "In all your ways acknowledge Me. "Look to Me in all things, big and small. I will direct your path. I never meant for you to lean on yourself. I made you lean on Me." "I've got your covered."

He knows the path. He knows the answers. He has it all cared for. Whose understanding will I lean on? Mine or His? One will carry the burden, the other will relieve it.

It's pretty simple to understand, yet hard to live. Jesus asks me to live what He lived. Rely on the Father alone. Don't look to myself. Don't try to figure things out.

In those moments of blindness my need for dependence is great. I cannot see. I have no choice. I must be led. Need invites dependence. Dependence leads to life.

He's familiar with all my ways. Every detail is cared for by the One who ordained my life. It's was the path of Jesus. It's the path He wants for me. Self-reliance will kill me, while dependence will bring me life. Jesus knew this. He chose the path of life. It is there I will find Him. It's where He walked. It's where He now waits to walk with me.

Laying aside my world's entanglements I choose to stand in my blindness and wait. I know He is there. I feel His touch. I hear His voice. Rest permeates my body as I lean into Him knowing; He's been waiting for me. He's got me covered.

What about you? Is your immediate response to turn to Him or to try to figure it out? Is dependence more familiar to you or self-reliance?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge (look to) Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3: 5 & 6

This really spoke to me. Really trusting, really being dependent on God, is something that doesn't come easily for me. It seemed to be a lot easier when I was younger - not sure what happened along the way, but that childlike faith is hard for me to come by. I'm much more of the self-reliance school of thought. When there's a problem, I tend to think, "What can *I* do to fix this?" I struggle to find a balance between trusting God to lead me, to provide for me, to help me, and doing what I can to fix a situation. I don't think God expects us to sit idly by just expecting that a solution will fall into our hands, but I do need to be reminded often that He can and does work in unexpected ways. I want to lay my worries before God, confident that He has a plan for me and that He will work things out in His time and according to that plan, just like Rhys is able to fall asleep on my chest, knowing that next time he needs food, it will be there, and knowing he is loved. Some days (more days than not) it takes a conscious effort on my part to let go of the worries and fears I insist on carrying around for myself and insist on repeatedly trying to take back from God, but on those days I do really let go and trust, what a blessing that is.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - May 18-24

It's time for another menu plan!

Monday, May 18 - Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls, Redstone Restaurant Famous Cornbread with Maple Butter (the plan changed last week and this didn't get made, so we're doing it this week!)
Tuesday, May 19 - Breakfast for dinner!
Wednesday, May 20 - Easy Crock Pot Pork Chops, calabacitas
Thursday, May 21 - Chicken cashew stir-fry
Friday, May 22 - Fajitas
Saturday, May 23 - Something from the freezer
Sunday, May 24 - Dinner out (by this point, I figure I'll be ready for a break!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

One month old today

Rhys is one month old today.

I can't believe it's been a month already since he was born. Already he's grown and changed so much. Brian said that in true Terry Pratchett fashion, Rhys said his first word tonight - "ook". LOL He'll be working on actual words before we know it, and starting school, and asking to borrow the car keys. I'm trying to cherish the baby days, even the ones that may be a bit difficult to cherish (like the ones where he's awake for several hours at a time, screaming his little head off because he's so tired, but unwilling to give it up and sleep - those are days where I'm just thankful the long wakeful stretches aren't in the middle of the night). He won't be little forever.

Happy one month, little man. I love you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Belated thoughts on Mother's Day

I meant to post on Sunday, but you know how time gets away from you with a new baby in the house!

We went to church on Sunday, and I was pleasantly surprised to receive these:

I was the newest mom there, the one who'd given birth most recently. Once they announced the category, I didn't figure anyone who'd given birth less than three weeks previously would be at church that day. LOL I'm hoping to plant them in the front yard and keep them as a permanent reminder.

Of course, it being Mother's Day and all, I was thinking of my mom:

That's the two of us on the day I married Julian's dad, December 31, 1994. She passed away unexpectedly on January 10, 1995, at the age of 64, and not a day goes by that I don't think of her. The pain isn't sharp like it was fourteen years ago, and I don't cry every time something reminds me of her, but so many times I've wished she were here to see her grandsons, to give me advice (which I would gleefully have rejected out of hand when I was younger, and now I'd love the chance to tell her, "yes, Mama, you were right"!), to fuss at me because my house isn't presentable enough and then to help me straighten it up.

And of course I had to consider my own motherly blessings:

I'm not sure what I've done to deserve two wonderful boys (and they are wonderful, even when homework is a challenge and bedtime isn't as early as I'd like and there are piles of laundry to do and lots of diapers to be changed and general chaos in the house), but I'm very thankful for them both.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - May 11-17

It's Menu Plan Monday again! I've tweaked the menu just a bit since my last post about menu planning. I've got to get back into the habit of doing this. It makes grocery shopping so much easier and evenings so much less hectic. So here's our menu for the upcoming week.

Monday, May 11 - Tuscan Chicken with White Beans (from Super Suppers)
Tuesday, May 12 - Spaghetti Squash and Chicken Bake
Wednesday, May 13 - Red beans and rice with sausage
Thursday, May 14 - Beef enchiladas with sour cream sauce
Friday, May 15 - Breakfast for dinner - pancakes or waffles (depending on our mood), bacon, scrambled eggs
Saturday, May 16 - Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls, Redstone Restaurant Famous Cornbread with Maple Butter
Sunday, May 17 - Cashew Chicken Curry

Saturday, May 09, 2009

5 Joys of Parenting

Christy tagged me with this, and I've only just now found it! Right now we've got a small boy who spent a good chunk of the afternoon asleep in the car seat as we ran errands, and now he won't stay awake if we hold him but won't sleep in his crib or anywhere else, so it's a good time for me to remind myself of some things I love about parenting.

1. Spontaneous expressions of affection. Julian is six now, and I know the day will come when he thinks he's too cool for Mama to hug and kiss him, and when he'd rather swallow nails than tell me he loves me, especially if he thinks anyone might overhear. So when he tells me out of the blue, "Mama, I love you!", that just makes my whole day. And he's not too big yet to give me kisses - I took lunch to him at school yesterday, and he gave me a goodbye kiss in front of all his friends. Those spontaneous expressions of affection, given simply because that's how he feels, make up for all the sleepless nights and homework struggles and frustrations that also come with the parenting territory.

2. Watching them learn. Rhys isn't doing a whole lot yet other than eat, sleep, and poop, but Julian learns and changes all the time. When he was a baby, it was so much fun watching him discover that hey, these wiggly things are attached to ME, and look, I can make them move! When he was learning to move around, he didn't crawl first, he scooted on his butt. It was such a joy seeing him figure out that now he didn't need mama to get him from one place to the other. And it thrills me when he realizes, hey, I can do something new by MYSELF!, be it learning how to snap snaps and button buttons or moving up a level in reading or learning to add two-column numbers or taking pictures with the digital camera. OK, I'll admit the trend toward independence also makes me a little misty around the edges, because it means he's growing up and getting closer to the day where he doesn't *need* mama's help anymore, but still. It's a good thing, and he's so excited with himself when he accomplishes something new, how can that not make me happy? I'm so blessed now to have another opportunity to watch a sweet boy learn and grow, too, and I look forward to seeing Rhys reach milestones as he gets bigger.

3. Reading! I'm an avid reader, have been since I was very young. One thing I really wanted to pass on to my kids was my love of the written word. Julian isn't quite as fond of reading as I was - I was never without a book in my hand, and he'd just as soon play video games as anything else. But he does like to read, and we always read stories at bedtime. We read his books, and I'm also introducing him to some of my childhood favorites, like The Phantom Tollbooth (and some more recent favorites, like the Harry Potter books). He's started asking to read stories to Rhys, and I'm hopeful that they'll both grow up to appreciate books, if not quite as much as I do, at least enough to where they'll always enjoy the chance to read a good book from time to time.

4. The chance to play. As an alleged grown-up, I find it far too easy to get caught up in the whirl of "things that need my attention" - the laundry, the dishwashing, the bills to be paid, the car maintenance that has to get done, what have you. There are times Julian wants to play, and he won't take no for an answer. He's not concerned about all that grown-up nonsense, he just wants me to spend time with him. So we'll play Lego Batman on the Wii, or go outside and hit a baseball, or play space rangers and shoot imaginary bad guys, or squirt each other with water guns. And for just a little while, I can reconnect with the part of me that still remembers what playtime is like and wishes there was more of it in daily life.

5. Childlike faith. I grew up in the Baptist church, and became a Christian at the age of eight. Now that I'm older, it often seems that childlike faith was a lot easier to have when I was, well, a child. It was easy to say when I was a child, "God will take care of me" and deep-down believe it. Julian brings that back to me. He doesn't question it at all that God isn't visible to our eyes - it's just how things are for him that we see God with our hearts, and that He's always there, and that He hears us when we pray. It reminds me to take time to nurture my own spiritual life, to refresh my heart and my faith, and to remember that yes, God does hear us when we pray, even if His answers may not be the ones we want to hear or given according to our timeframe.

I'm going to tag Celeste, Melissa, Bethany, and Jenn. Y'all have fun with it!

Getting back on the menu planning train

I know it's not Menu Plan Monday yet, but I need to get back in the swing of things. So I'm jotting down my menu plan for the next couple of weeks as I plan my grocery shopping trip for today. I'm going to start with Monday, as we'll probably just wing it with leftovers this weekend and play clean out the fridge. (Please note: the planned meals may sometimes be replaced with dishes from Super Suppers, for those days when I just don't feel like putting any effort into cooking!) And yes, we will be adding veggies and sides, but I'll just be making those up as we go.

Monday, May 11 - Spaghetti Squash and Chicken Bake
Tuesday, May 12 - Tuna, Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
Wednesday, May 13 - Red beans and rice with sausage
Thursday, May 14 - Beef enchiladas with sour cream sauce
Friday, May 15 - Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls, Redstone Restaurant Famous Cornbread with Maple Butter
Saturday, May 16 - Homemade pizzas
Sunday, May 17 - Cashew Chicken Curry

Monday, May 18 - Beef Mushroom Stroganoff
Tuesday, May 19 - Breakfast for dinner!
Wednesday, May 20 - Easy Crock Pot Pork Chops
Thursday, May 21 - Chicken cashew stir-fry
Friday, May 22 - Fajitas
Saturday, May 23 - Something from the freezer
Sunday, May 24 - Dinner out (by this point, I figure I'll be ready for a break!)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Just feeling overwhelmed

Not so much with newborn stuff, per se. Rhys is doing quite well for being less than a month old. My only real gripe is that he tends to have a longish stretch of being awake (and fussy) late in the day, at the same time I'm usually trying to get Julian settled. Julian has a hard time settling and sleeping if Rhys is crying, and in the late evening, Rhys usually is crying. I'm feeling especially anxious this evening, as Brian went back to choir practice and this is my first time to handle bedtime for both boys by myself. I'm worried that no one will be in bed and I'll be ready to drink heavily by the time Brian gets home.

I also find myself worrying about finances. We've been tithing faithfully for several months now, and I know God promises to meet our needs if we are faithful to Him. And thus far, no needs have gone unmet. Sometimes they're met at the last minute and with a whole lot of pinching and scraping and scrambling, but they've been met. Now we're adding all the expenses of a new baby to the household - diapers, formula, daycare once my maternity leave is over. We're always cutting it fine just before payday, and I find myself wondering where the money will come from. I'm not sure what else we can cut from our budget, and I guess I'll have to get better with using coupons and finding ways to economize on things we need. I'm trying to keep the faith here, but it scares me. I feel like I've been chasing my tail financially ever since I married Julian's dad, because once we got married, things just went downhill, and I'm still trying to dig my way out from that. But I know God had a plan when He blessed us with Rhys, and I can't believe He'd give Rhys to us and not provide a way for us to make ends meet. It just makes me nervous not knowing what that way may be, and it makes me more nervous given that Brian and I both have full-time employment already, and I know not to expect any raises or bonuses at my job. It also seems like any financial news is always negative, like the fact that Brian will owe $500 and change for his new CPAP machine. Sure, we can pay it out over time, but it's one more thing to add to the list of People We Owe Money To, and it feels like that list just never seems to get any shorter, you know? Just once, I wish financial news would be good, like "you've won enough in the lotto to pay off your house note". I'm not greedy, we don't have to win the Mega Millions jackpot - I'd be thrilled if we did win just enough to pay off the house note.

And then there's the whole job situation. I like my job well enough most days. I like my manager, he's a good guy. I like my co-workers. Hate my commute, hate the fact that it takes me away from home for pretty much twelve hours out of every day, but it is what it is. I just don't think I'm truly suited for corporate America, and it kills me to have to tell Julian (and knowing that one day I'll be telling Rhys), "I'm sorry, sweetie, Mama can't come to such-and-such at school because I have to work." And while I do like my job well enough, it's just that - a job. I'm fairly competent at it, but I'm not passionate about it. I can't fathom having a job I'm passionate about. I can't even think of anything that I'm passionate about that would ever come close to making me any money. I guess I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and not having much success. I'd make a change if I could think of something to change to. But I've likely been out of the legal arena long enough to disqualify myself from most legal jobs, and honestly, there are a lot of jobs in the legal arena that I wouldn't want anyway. I'd love something closer to home, but the options just aren't here - not that I know of, anyway. I'd really love to find something that would allow me to work from home, but I can't think of anything that 1) would replace my current salary, and 2) wouldn't require me to invest time and money (both of which are currently in short supply) in further education/certification/something to get started on a different path. I find myself wondering what I was thinking when I made the choices I did when I was younger, how might things be different had I chosen differently, and sometimes (like right now) it just makes me want to cry.

Then there's my own personal wallow in the pity pit. I've mentioned Bright Blessings before - it's my little sideline/expensive hobby, on hold for now until I feel like I can maybe make a decent showing of it. I've still got my Etsy shop, but haven't sold anything recently. I'm on a couple of boards that deal with, among other things, bath and beauty-type stuff, and I see people starting their Etsy shops all the time and selling things like gangbusters. I find myself wondering something similar to what Melinda wondered here - is my fairly significant lack of success God's way of trying to tell me I'm spinning my wheels trying to ever make anything of Bright Blessings, either on my own site or on Etsy? I see others succeeding where I have not, or at least making a reasonably good showing of their businesses, and I find myself thinking that I must be doing something wrong. I like making candles and scrubs and what have you, and when people have ordered in the past, they seemed to like what they got. Bright Blessings has just never taken off, really. So that's rolling around in my head, too.

I'll have to post later and share some happy things, since I've been such a Debbie Downer here. I just needed to get it all off my chest.