Thursday, February 26, 2015

Six Years

Thank you Lord for the bright sunlight streaming through my windows this morning. Those heavenly rays remind me of God's goodness today. Six years ago this day was covered in darkness, darkness that I carry with me each year. I want this year to be different.

Don't you just love this amazing picture taken by James' sister?


I spent yesterday afternoon journalling my feelings about this day and I gave myself a pep-talk about not sitting around in sorrow for what I've lost. My heart didn't listen to my head and this morning I woke up with tears. As I glanced at the clock I saw I still had 6 minutes before I needed to get out of bed. Six - February 26th - Six Years ago. I decided to spend those six minutes in prayer. I prayed for James' parents, his brother and sister, his nephews. I prayed for the families for the two passengers who were also killed six years ago. Those families have been on my mind this year. I pray for the pain they are feeling today and I also pray that the Lord will help them to heal and find forgiveness in all of this. It's a hard situation - oh hell it just completely and totally sucks - there it is. It sucks to lose someone you love. Okay, okay I can not sit here and go through what I've already poured out in my journal. I won't do it - I WILL NOT be sad today. I will rejoice in the time I had and the memories that were made, yet I really can't talk about them today either without tears - I know that will get better eventually.

Let's talk about what I can talk about (without tears).

Yesterday, I finished Raw Faith by Kasey Van Norman and I feel like God was working on my feelings about this tragedy as I finished this book.

This verse that she touches on reminded me a lot of what I went through after James' passing.

You know that when your faith is tested, 
your endurance has a chance to grow. 
So let it grow, for when your endurance
is fully developed, 
you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:3-4

If there is any event in my life that tested my faith it was the tragedy that occurred six years ago. I spent so much time in the "Whys" and "How Comes." I couldn't not grasp how God could let this happen. 

Here are also a few quotes that spoke to me yesterday from Kasey's book

When painful circumstances come our way, we're not just called to roll over and play dead in passive acceptance. We're to use the trials to grow our faith and to make it stronger...

...we can see suffering as a season that breeds prayer, compassion for others, a deeper sense of self-reflection, and the kind of humility that knocks out all traces of arrogance and self-reliance. 

The pain doesn't go away, but now our trials have purpose. Our faith is no longer determined by our actions; instead, our actions are motivated by our faith. Life is defined not by "I have to" but instead "I get to" 

Those may not make perfect sense to you and actually I am not sure exactly what I was thinking when I marked them, but they are great things to remember. 

Six years ago I pledged that James' death would not be in vain, that I would make sure that I spread his story, thus the reasoning for a tattoo that stretches down half of my right leg. That message looks different today then what I had envisioned. The message that I want to give you today is this:

You've been given one amazing life and God added to that the amazing Grace that we receive through his son Jesus Christ. One life, it could last 105 years, it could be gone tomorrow - what will you do with your one life? Who will you touch? 

And I believe I say this every year, but now is the time to tell the people you love how much you love them. Tell them today because we are not promised tomorrow. 

To read more on James' death, here is the post I wrote a year after his passing: http://danaraeb.blogspot.com/2010/02/year-later.html

Saturday, February 21, 2015

40 Bags in 40 Days: The Little Girls' Room

We are three days into giving up excess and things aren't going too bad. The first day (Ash Wednesday) I may have over done it and found my self stressed beyond belief with the amout and shape of our toys. So far my house has filled 10 bags in three days. That's pretty good right?

This morning I finished the girls' room. I was able to get one bag of trash, one bag of stuff, a bunch of clothes (not pictured), old shoes, that lamp that I really hate parting with and blanket out of the room for good.


Let's look at some before and afters. Mind you their room was a wreck when I started.

Looking in Before

Looking in After
eeh a bit blurry, but you can see the difference

Bekah's area before


Bekah's area after


Man, my camera really prefers natural light!

The dresser before

The dresser after

I still need to fix that pull. I am happy to report their drawers now look like this where before we had completely run out of space.


Most of the clothes were piled up in the closet, here is the before

and after



Before


After

Urgh, again my camera!


So one room completely done.


My happy helper on our start day! 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Getting Rid of Excess- 40 Bags in 40 Days

I grew up in a denomination where we didn’t focus too much on lent. At least I don’t think we did. I use the term “grew up” loosely since I attended church with my Meme sometimes, but not all the time. The first Ash Wednesday service I attended was after Matt and I married. He attended when we first started dating and I thought it was very much a Catholic thing since the only people I knew who attend an Ash Wednesday service were Catholic. 

Also, the only people I knew who gave things up for lent and took it super seriously were Catholics, too. I guess I am not sure if I had met a Lutheran before Matt. Hmmm…I’ll have to think on that. 

In the past five year I really haven’t participated in the “giving something up for lent” practice. I am not sure if what I am doing this year will even fall into the parameters of giving something up for lent, but I have been so convicted about the excess my family has. We have been blessed with an excess of just about everything. It was apparent until we quickly filled our current home which is double the size of our last home. How did that happen in little under a year? 

We have too many toy, too many clothes, too many books, too many dishes, too many shoes and just too much junk. We even have an overload of those sample size shampoos. We need help, we need a serious intervention. 

I hate to say “I blame”, but I feel I need to share my reason for feeling like I need to hold onto things. Ready? My Granny lived through the depression. Yep, I am pulling out the Granny card because really all my issues I can blame on my two grandmothers. I kid (some). My Granny did live through the depression and she also lost her husband at a young age which left her to support her son (my father) and herself. My Granny held onto everything. Trust me - I still have some of the things she held on to for year. Some of it has been very valuable to me while completely my genealogy while some of it I find and am just like “really, do you even know this person that you had to hold onto an obit for twenty years?” She may have and who am I to judge I still have New Kids on the Block stuff from when I was 12. This pattern does follow from generation to generation just ask my parents. It’s a hard pattern to break too. 

While I “blame” Granny for have six sets of dishes I equally “blame” the documentaries and YouTube posts on Tiny Houses that I have been a bit obsess with the past few weeks. I to hear how very little people are actually able to live with and live happier than they did before strikes an inner nerve just slightly. I believe I joked with Matt last weekend and said I would live in a little house if I could fit all my dishes in too. The dishes and the vintage pyrex. The vintage pyrex and my sewing room. My sewing room and all my great aunts tea cups because I may need those for a future tea party. You see why I am in this mess? 

I don’t believe that I will be able to scale my family down to one pot and seven outfits each, but I can say that my family will be giving up excess for Lent.  To help us do this I’ve started the 40 Bags in 40 days challenge because you know it’s easier to do thing when you’ve been challenged, right? You can read more at www.whitehouseblackshutters.com



Also, to be accountable I will post updates along the way and need to plan for a big garage sale. So, if your local please come buy my stuff, but please hide it from me if I’m ever at your house or I may cry about actually give up my snowman dishes. Meh, but I haven’t used them in years like almost 8. 

For the rest of this week I am focusing on the one area in our house that drives my batty - the play room! My littles have hit a whole new level of excess. 


What did you give up for lent? 

P.S. As I was cleaning out the littles clothes (look for post to come) I remembered a funny story about holding onto things. I worked in a funeral home from the age of 19 to 21 and during that time I planned my entire funeral all the way down to the yellow rose casket spray. Little morbid I know, but trust me take the weight off your family members and think about those things today that and get a pre-need funeral arrangement (if they still have them) because funeral are a racket so start paying for it today! 

Anyway, I had this pink three piece skirt suite with little white roses on the top. It was very Julia Roberts in Steele Magnolia ("get her pink suite with the roses on the lapel") and that was what I declared I would be buried in. It's funny to think about now. I guess I thought I'd either die young or I'd always keep my high school weight - HA! Anyway when I was 31 (over ten years later) my parents sold their house in North Texas and my mother called to ask if I wanted my funeral suit because she had held onto it that entire time. I think my response was "Dang I wish I could fit one thigh into that skirt." Moral of the story is...I hold onto things way longer than I should and my mother is my accomplice. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Five Years Ago

A few weeks ago I shared with you how much I love my new app TimeHop, but sometimes it makes me cringe. I was an over sharer five years ago and I wish I could go back and remove my hands for the keyboard. 

For instance these posts:




The first one is good. It helps me to preserve a memory of a weekend that I will get into more later, but the second one…was that even necessary? “I had a date tonight, but decided to cancel” really? Was I trying to prove something to someone? Urgh, I am so dramatic. 

Valentine’s weekend was a HUGE turning point I needed. I spent a lot of time with God and pretty much decided that if it were His plan for me to remain a single mother then I was going to do that and do it GREAT! I strongly believe that I had to get right with myself that weekend. If hadn’t of had that weekend then I would have never had this date:



And we all know what wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have that date.



I wrote about my online dating experiences here: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Then about the eHarmony meeting here: At First Sight

Then the first date here: My Last First Date

Along with those I have written countless posts about this bond, this God made and meant to happen relationship. 


So get ready, here is an overload of pictures for you! 





















Yep, they are all a bit out of order, but you get the jest - It's been an AWESOME five years! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Day Weekend

Valentine's Day isn't a huge event at our house, but since I have a daughter who loves every holiday I tried to make it a bigger deal by decorating early and crafting.

Unfortunately, Shelby was not with us this weekend. She was in San Antonio with her youth group, but I sent her heart full of candy with her.

I hate to say that I really don't have a ton of pictures from this week, but here is what I do have.

We decided what a great day to take the littles to the zoo. After breakfast at a local breakfast house (which was yummy) we headed out. It was such a beautiful day in Houston. So much so that it seemed like everyone in Houston decided to go to the zoo as well.


We had lunch at the zoo, saw all of the animals (including the flamingos).


Then we headed home. We had one small snafu.


My super husband fixed it really quickly and then we headed home. Matt's parents watched the girls while we had a night out.


Our special night out included browsing some car lots. I was really hoping we find an amazing deal on a new minivan, but that didn't happen. Shirley (that's what Shelby and I named our van last year) is going to have to hang in there for while longer. We wrapped up our great day by purchasing a new tire and having dinner.

On Sunday, our church had a big party to mark the end of The Story (the book). That's where this happened.


Thank you to my friend Andy for capturing this pictures as I video taped her first bull ride.


She had a bunch of cheering for her. The girls had a blast in the bounce houses I barely got Morgan out of them. It was such a great afternoon with my church family. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Favorites

I am linking up with Momfessionals again this week to share with you my favorite things.



On Tuesday all my girls were at home and sick (it's been a runny nose and coughing week in our house). I used some of my quiet resting time to watch the documentary TINY on Netflix.  Have you heard about tiny houses? We are talking 100 sq feet and smaller here people not the 1,000 square feet that I used to own that I though was super tiny. It's a great film about Christopher Smith and his adventure of building his own tiny house.


I loved this movie! As I sat in my 2,600 square foot home it made me really think about things. Of course I want a tiny house now, but just for myself - you know a little get away. I would love to say that I could see my family of five in one, but I really can't - I wish I could - maybe someday.

I am happy to report that my Be the Light mission is sinking in with at least one of my children (you can read the original post by clicking here). On Thursday when we dropped Shelby off at school I said "Have a good day my love" and then I hear from the backseat "Be the Light Shelby!" Success! I know at least Bekah is catching on.


This week I've been reading Raw Faith by Kasey Van Norman. This is my favorite piece that I read from this week:

"Our past pains are never fully forgotten, but God does desire us to have healthy scar tissue-to get to a place where we can talk about the wound and touch it without feeling the searing pain associated with it. God wants the wounds of our past to heal so we can live faithfully in our present. "

You really need to read this book or maybe even grab a group together a start a bible study with this book. She even has free studies available on her website: http://kaseyvannorman.org/named-by-god-bible-study/




This past week I also read this amazing article from MOPS:
http://www.mops.org/blog/uniquely-knit

This week I added this event to my wish-list of things to attend. Maybe not this year, but I hope to save my money and attend next year!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Give Up or Fight?


Right now I am at a cross roads. Don’t worry, it’s not about anything major. I feel like I’ve been shown pieces of what I should do with my life. I believe that I am meant to help empower women and show them the true power for grace that we’ve been given through Jesus Christ. 

Through the past year I’ve seen a one particular outlet to be a part of my ministry, but for the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking “well, that probably won’t happen here.” I am probably not making sense to you at all and I apologize for that, but it’s perfectly clear to me - just hang with me a moment. 

This morning the urge came back to me again. It was a “I can do this! I can make this happen. I have jump all the hurdles and push through all the obstacles and make this work.” Then I stop. I stop because something inside asks “who am I doing this for? Do I want this group for the benefit of other women or more for my own pleasure. Can I have it both ways?” Can I? Can I do something or start something because it really benefits me and because it will also benefit others? I believe so. The question really is, is this a vanity thing or a God thing? Yikes. How did that questions just come out of my mouth? Do I want to start a new area of ministry because I want to lead something, be a part of something, show what I can achieve or because God is calling me to do so? 

Still Yikes. That is such a hard question. So, how do I know God is talking to me?

As I sat in front of my computer this morning starting and deleting emails to our Family Life Minister I thought, “Is God talking to me? Is it Him who is telling me to push so hard for this or am I being swayed by Satan?” I sat with my head in my hands knowing I had read this before. Which book? Which bible study? As I dug through our library of books (the benefit of not getting rid of books) I found it!

In her bible study, What Happen When Women Say Yes to God, Lisa Terkeurst gives us five key questions to help us determine if we are hearing God or Ourselves. 

Does What I am hearing line up with Scripture?
Is it consistent with God’s character?
Is it being confirmed through messages I am hearing at church or studying in my quiet times?
Is it beyond me?
Would it please God?


So Does what I am hearing line up with Scripture

Well, in Matthew 28:19-20 (The Great Commission) Jesus calls us to make disciples and to teach them to obey everything he has commanded us. Also in First Corinthians 12 we are told that we are all interconnected as the body of Christ. We are meant to be together in community.  So the answer is yes to this question. 

Is it consistent with God’s character? 

Terkeurst says, “When you feel God speaking to you, ask yourself: Is what I am hearing consistent with God’s love, joy, peace, etc?” She is say that God’s character is represented in the Fruit of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Now, that’s something to think about. I believe that it is, but at the same time I am questioning my vanity in the situation. I am pushing too hard to achieve things and not waiting for God’s timing? 

Let’s move to question three: Is it being confirmed through messages I am hearing at church or studying in my quiet times? 

Our church is very much looking at missional living. Missional Living - It’;s not a new term, but it was new to me. You see to me missional brings me to Missions and Mission trips then I am thinking Kenya or when my husband went to Russia in high school. My understanding (and I say my understanding meaning that I could be off, I suggest you ask someone else for their opinion as well) is that Missional Living really centers around the Great Commission that I mentioned earlier (Matthew 28:19-20). I also found this explanation: a Christian term that in essence describes a missionary lifestyle. Being missional includes embracing the posture, the thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to reach others with the message of the gospel. 


So, the answer to number three in my case is, yes, as well. 

Is it beyond me? No, it is in my scope of knowledge and pretty much right up my alley. 

Would it please God? Yes, but only if it were for the correct reason. The follow-up question would be, Is it something I should take on? Is my plate already full with what God wants me to handle? Would added this push something that was more important to him off my plate? I am piling more on then what He intends for me? 

So, my friends, the answer to this conundrum for me is prayer. Prayer, Prayer and more Prayer. For I believe that if I give it to him (which I believe I am kind of am now by getting it all out) he will show where where to go - what path to take. 

Give Up or Fight? Not sure, I am waiting for God’s response.