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Last fall my sweet husband asked me to marry him again…on one knee at the end of church in front of the whole congregation. I didn’t realize then that he intended for us to have a celebration and renew our wedding vows, but this (pictured below) is exactly what he had in mind when he picked out my new ring and made me blush greatly that Sunday.

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We were young and I was pregnant with our first child when we married that beautiful morning on May 7th, 1988. Freddo and I had both been raised in church, but sadly we thought nothing of rebelling against God at that time.

I used to be so ashamed of our sin, but through the years, I have learned that God wastes nothing, and can use even our bad choices and their consequences, to change us into who He desires us to be. I have also learned that most people in life are not looking for others that have done life perfectly, but instead for friends that are transparent enough to be honest about their own sin. Not so they can excuse their sin, but so that they can see that God is faithful to forgive when we ask and love us anyway. God has given me the courage to be real with others, to take off the mask and live life in a transparent way that is encouraging to others and hopefully helps point them to Christ.

Freddo and I knew nothing about marriage or parenting when we embarked on this journey back in 1988, but God (I love that phrase “But God”)…He knew all and has taught us so much and has allowed us to share our story with so many others. God didn’t approve of our sin, but He turned our messed up lives into a story He could use to bring glory to Himself. The choices we both made even in the years before we met each other, muddied the water of marriage for us even more, but God has helped us move beyond all of that and live our lives now in ways that glorify Him despite our sinful past. One thing we agreed on at the very beginning of our plans to marry was this, “No matter what would come into our lives, we would never discuss divorce”. I know we didn’t realize then how life would test that deep level of commitment, but God has been ever so faithful to help us stand strong against Satan, who is out to destroy families.

That was then…wedding photo

This is now…

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We have had really great times in our marriage. There have also been times when we were just trying to stay afloat, even times when we wondered if we were even going to make it. It seems that no matter which season of life we found ourselves, in the back of our mind was buried that conversation we had in Freddo’s truck in the driveway of his parent’s house late one night… that no matter what happened, divorce would never be an option.

I say this so that everyone reading this blog about our 25th anniversary would understand that these years have not all been rosy. We have had times that we have taken each other for granted and even neglected one another. I would have to say that those times were the most dangerous for us, and they are the most dangerous times for any marriage. We have been listening to Andy Stanley’s series on marriage, and he said that in this day and age it’s never been easier to “fall in love” and never been harder to “stay in love”. So please let this post serve as a reminder to all of you to do the hard work of staying in love, we have found it to be worth it all.

For our marriage to stand the test of time both Freddo and I have had to give more than we’ve taken, forgive, forgive, forgive and forgive again, love God more than each other, and both of us have had to be willing to fight for our marriage. We have had to take time to study each other, pray, pray, pray and trust God at all times, especially during the darkest of seasons. We have done so much wrong, but God (there’s that phrase again) has been so faithful, and only by his grace have we made it to this point.

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This spring when Freddo told me that he desired for us to have an actual ceremony where we could renew our vows to each other, I really struggled…what about the money this would cost, what if people thought we were just showing off or they thought this was a dumb thing to do, what if no one comes, my list of worries went on. The more we talked and prayed, the more I came to realize, as Freddo already had, that staying married for 25 years these days is a HUGE deal, and it is something to be celebrated no matter what anyone else might think or what might go wrong. So we forged ahead and really enjoyed planning this celebration. In hind sight, after talking with people that attended and helped in some way, I was quite encouraged at the different ways God used our “silly little ceremony” to serve as an encouragement to others…in ways we had never even expected.

Freddo chose the date and scheduled the church before he even told me of his plans.

Interestingly he did not have any idea that May 4th was the day that my grandparents were married. Recently my aunt gave me a necklace that my grandfather had made for my grandma that had May 4th, 1939 engraved on it. In their honor I incorporated that necklace in my bouquet.

So we began to make plans to have a simple (cost effective and not too labor intensive) and romantic event so our friends and family could attend to celebrate with us. We did some research about how to do a vow renewal vs. a wedding. There was not much to be found on this topic, so I wanted to share our experience so perhaps others might be able to learn from what we did that worked well and what we wish we had done differently for their own celebration.

I had some great friends and family help pull this off. I wish I had a picture like this of each one of them with me!

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I am so blessed with such thoughtful friends, many that were there that day, and many that couldn’t be there! But here are some shots of some of them helping get things ready. We had so much fun decorating Friday night…we even tried out one of the plain cheesecakes….yum!

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20130503_201727Robin, Blane’s girlfriend, and her friend Elizabeth were a great help when we were decorating on Friday night.

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We used mason jars, mosaic beads, water, candles, pictures of us (that I had made to hang on our wall last year, click here for directions), scrapbook paper, our Blessings Unlimited plates, bottles and blue mason jars that my dad had collected many years ago, white tablecloths our church had, burlap, ribbon and pedestal cake stands. IMG_5175  IMG_5172 - Copy

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We displayed our wedding album and an album I had made for Freddo a few years ago, that was filled with the things about him that I love.

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My mom made my dress, which turned out beautifully, I might say! And one of the things I knew early on was that I wanted to wear a pair of shoes from Toms’ Wedding collection. Yes, I even had Erika take a shot of my happy feet!

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Robin really caught me off guard when she came up the stairs and saw me in my dress for the first time. Her excitement was such a joy to my heart.IMG_5217

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My friend, Erika let me wear her diamond tennis bracelet that her husband had purchased for her. It was such a sweet gesture and was a beautiful finish to my outfit.IMG_5222

Freddo contacted Gary Thomas, who married us 25 years ago. Gratefully he was more than willing to do our ceremony.

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It was great to see him again and listen to him challenge us and others in our marriages…even if he made a bad joke about God taking the rib out of Adam to make the first loud speaker. Here you can see my initial reaction to the joke, and then we actually really laughed. He always has been this ornery, so glad to see that some things never change.

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In keeping with some traditions of our wedding, we exchanged rings. In the Bible silver symbolizes the price of redemption. Since we are so grateful for God’s redemption in our lives and regarding our marriage, Freddo and I selected silver rings with this significance in mind.

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We had some great friends take pictures of our day. They captured so many great shots, including a video of us saying our vows we had written to each other. What a wonderful treasure to us now.IMG_5300

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After much searching and some prayer we decided on two songs. Our friends sang a song that we had at our wedding, “Household of Faith”.  Sweetly, they sang this song to each other at their own wedding.

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A special man in our life sang “I Will Be Here”.  In this day and age, Freddo and I chose the second song, because of our commitment to weather any storm that may come.

Freddo talked about the passing of my dad during that song…one of the worst storms we have endured so far, thusly the tears here. Both songs were a blessing to us and to those that attended.IMG_5337

For the reception opted out of wedding cake, and chose cheesecakes instead. This was a very cost effective way to feed everyone. My friend, Dena Cox, made 7 different types of cheesecakes: pumpkin, oreo, chocolate chip, chocolate malt, pistachio, orange/pineapple, and plain. She made these in one evening…one very long evening. They turned out great. The Oreo cookie was the most popular, but there were compliments on every flavor we had. I’m glad she suggested we make cheese cakes when we were talking through what type of dessert to have.

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Another friend, Chris Nelson made her own recipe of Raspberry Lemonade with frozen blackberries floating. It was delicious!

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My mom and mother-in-law provided some finger foods, we had cucumber sandwiches, Mexican roll ups, cheese, deer sausage and cackers, cucumbers and dip. And these hands made it all beautiful on the serving tables. IMG_0003

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In the hardest season of our marriage Freddo and I wrote notes to each other every day and continued in the years following. Gratefully we kept them. These notes journaled a bit of our journey and testified of how God brought us through, loving each other in a deeper way. For this reason it was important to use them at our reception. My friends worked really hard to find a good way to incorporate them into the decorations.

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It was such a fun day, seeing people that were there at our wedding in 1988 and friends that we have made since then. Frankly, it was so hard to limit the number of people we invited, but we just had to. There were so many more that we would have loved to invite.anniversary pics 112

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anniversary pics 115There were some things we wish we hadn’t forgotten or done differently, so in an effort to help others that might desire to plan something, I list them below:

Sadly we didn’t even think about a guest book, but my mom took the time to write everyone down that she remembered.

Additionally it would have been better to make sure we had certain photos taken, but we just didn’t think about this ahead of time.

It would have been great if I had checked to see if the candles we bought would work AFTER they were lit. Honestly, everything happened so fast, it really didn’t matter, but the candles only stayed lit for about 5-10 minutes before water seeped over the edge and went out.

Although my great friends did amazing stepping in and making this work, I should have asked them ahead of time to plan the lunch for those of us that were there before the ceremony instead of attempting to do it.

In addition, it would have been great if we had more time to take pictures of us before the ceremony, we just didn’t plan this very well. However, we still ended up with some wonderful shots!

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Freddo and I had talked about taking some time to share with everyone at the reception some memories from our wedding day and introduce the maid of honor and best man and some lessons we have learned in our years together, but the time so quickly slipped past and there were so many people we wanted to visit with that we missed this opportunity. We did get a picture of our Best Man and Maid of Honor.

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Even though we have these minor regrets, the day turned out beautifully and we had a great time!

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Well, it sure has been a while since I have written anything to “publish” on my blog. The last several months have been pretty dry for me spiritually. I have been struggling quite a bit with depression, anxiety and confusion regarding several things in life. To most people my depression would be confusing, because my life, from all outward appearances, is amazing!!  Freddo and I have a healthy marriage that has almost lasted 25 years, we have two healthy adult sons that are functioning well in life on their own, I have many caring friends and family, I have started some new “jobs” and am bringing in money to contribute to our family for the first time in quite a while, Freddo and I have been able to take some fun trips lately, (more on those in another post), and we have learned to laugh a lot, on and on the list goes…

But somewhere in all that, God and I had just lost touch. In all honesty that trouble has nothing to do with God and everything to do with me. I, like Peter out on the water, took my eyes off of Christ and began to sink into the deep waters of despair.

I became preoccupied with myself. I began to wonder who I really was now that I am no longer home schooling our boys,  helping my mom take care of my dad, and so many of my friends no longer attend our church (imagine that, church is not a social event for me anymore…what a concept), and a host of other things. It is hard to look back and see all the ways my life has changed in the last few years. Oh, and I have been frustrated because yet again, I had gained that same 25 pounds that comes and goes like a bad penny in my life. I have struggled all my life with feeling like I, Sheila, wasn’t good enough for anyone to love, especially God and my husband.

One thing I believe God would have me learn in this season is the Sheila that He created and loves has NOTHING to do with how I look, what size I am, what clothes I wear, what my house looks like, etc. Now this thought process is totally different from EVERYTHING the world tells me. So you can imagine the struggle that has been going on within my heart.

Also in this season a dear friend of mine passed away, which caused me to evaluate how I treated my friends…did I really treat them as though I loved them with my actions or was it just in my words.  It has been a time of deep reflection.

I say all of this to kind of give you glimpse of SOME of the things that I have allowed to run wild in my mind.

At times on this journey, God has given me a clear view of how He has never once left me alone. A day or two of reflecting on His faithfulness would really strengthen me, but I quickly fell back into being preoccupied with myself and all the ways I had failed or how life hadn’t turned out like I thought it should.

Over the last 3 to 4 weeks, God has been really ministering to me. He has really been drawing me close and I have realized that the first and foremost solution to move from depression to joy-filled living is found in reading His Word regularly. But as you may know, daily intake of God’s Word requires discipline and denying ourselves. Quite honestly, denying myself is not something I am very good at doing.

So many of you have been encouraged me by letting me know that you have missed the words I wrote each day last year on Facebook and the encouragement you received from my blog posts. When I decided to pull back from life a while back, I didn’t realize that I would possibly be affecting others…as I mentioned I have been pretty preoccupied with myself. I thank all of you for your encouragement!

Recently I read an email from (in)courage that asked what song is it that God has used to encourage you lately. And this brought to my mind a few songs that have really helped and encouraged me lately. So I decided to write about this also and ask you to share the song that God has used in your life.

One of them is “Need You Now” by Plum. (While whole song is great, the lyrics that really stuck out to me I “highlighted” with bold type.)

“Need You Now (How Many Times)”

Well, everybody’s got a story to tell
And everybody’s got a wound to be healed
I want to believe there’s beauty here
‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on
I can’t let go, I can’t move on
I want to believe there’s meaning here

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

Standing on a road I didn’t plan
Wondering how I got to where I am
I’m trying to hear that still small voice
I’m trying to hear above the noise

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

Though I walk,
Though I walk through the shadows
And I, I am so afraid
Please stay, please stay right beside me
With every single step I take

How many times have you heard me cry out?
And how many times have you given me strength?

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

I need you now
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.
I need you now
I need you now “

I realized this past year that it is easier to lean on God when times are hard and life weighs heavy, because in those moments I am totally aware that on my own I cannot make it without God’s strength and help.

And yet when life is good, and most things seem to be going my way, somehow I become delusional and think that I have this all under control. How I laugh as I write this, because truthfully I know I don’t have even one bit of control, but when life hums along, it is easy to deceive myself into thinking that I do.

The song “Need You Now” reminds me that I do better when I am in desperate need of God, even depending on Him so deeply as for my next breath.

A few weeks ago we went to a Casting Crowns Acoustic Concert. It was a great time of worship and renewal for me.20130321_192725 I have never taken notes at a concert before, but I did this night. God really ministered to me through several songs, but the one that stood out the most was “Already There”. I tried to choose the line or two that really spoke to me, but it was just too hard, so I listed all the lyrics. You can read them and/or click on the song to hear it for yourself.

Already There by Casting Crowns  (While whole song is great, the lyrics that really stuck out to me I “highlighted” with bold type.)

From where I’m standing
Lord, it’s so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You’re leading me

I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are going to play out
In a world I can’t control

When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory

‘Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there

From where You’re standing
Lord, You see a grand design
That You imagined
When You breathed me into life

And all the chaos
Comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece

Of Your picture perfect plan

When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory

One day I’ll stand before You
And look back on the life I’ve lived
I can’t wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit

One day I’ll stand before You
And look back on the life I’ve lived
‘Cause You’re already there
You’re already there

When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
‘Cause You’re already there
You’re already there

Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there”

You see, I have control issues, which is why I have such a hard time trusting God in all things.

Honestly, saying I have ‘control issues” is a nice way of saying “I’m so prideful that I think I know better than anyone how this should work out…including God”.   Of course I don’t use my words to say this, I would never say that out loud, but recently God has shown me over and over that my actions scream this when I try to control a situation, or fix things so they play out as I think they should.

It has been a very painful process, which, as I look back over my life, has been going on for an extremely, extremely long time! There are many things I have done and said that I wish I could change, but the reality is…I can’t.

So one thing I am working on these days is to take life one day at a time, often one moment at a time, and learn along the process that God alone is trustworthy and I am not. As this song so greatly states “all the chaos, comes together in His Hands, like a masterpiece, of His picture perfect plan”, but from my perspective I don’t know and and I can’t see how it is going to work out, but God, He’s got this!!  The words of this song bring me such a peace, as it reminds me that God is already where I am headed and I truly have NOTHING to fear!

So for this season, these are two songs point me back to Him EVERY TIME I hear them. They are ministering to my pain and sinfulness, right where I am. All that has happened in these last few months of my life have pointed me back to the words that I chose to be my goal for the year and have written in different ways throughout our home “Trust Him Alone”. Funny how God works, isn’t it?!

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So what is your story? What song is God using to help you along in your journey? I would love you to share in the comments, so myself and others can learn from what God is doing in your life, because I know He is up to something! I would be so grateful and encouraged if you’d please take the time to share!

Airplane trails can be seen all across the morning and evening sky, the sun brightly marking their paths.

I ask Freddo why I have never seen so many at one time before, as I have this past year.

When I look to count them, there are 12, 13, 14 and counting. There is this childlike grin on my face and anticipation growing within me as I count them all. I tell Freddo, “Truly, I have never seen this many in the sky at one time before this past year.”

He gently says, “That’s because you are slowing down to see. You know, taking time to count the gifts”.

There it is, a reminder of what Ann Voskamp testifies of, “counting gifts slows down time”.

Even my sweet husband notices that counting gifts slows me down, proving what Ann has told so many in her “One Thousand Gifts” book…that “counting gifts slows down time”, which brings about joy.

For years I have sought this slippery word, joy, never before had I been able to grasp how to have the “joy of the Lord”.

Then I read about it in Ann Vokamps’s book. Slowly, as I soak up the book and begin to count my own list of gifts, simple, everyday things, this joy that has always been such a mystery to me, begins to show itself. Joy, not happiness.

Joy, a state of mind, that comes even when life is hard, and yet it stays despite the sadness of the days, such as were my days last year when Dad was slowly dying and Blane’s high school years were slowly draining away.

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Despite anything I tried, the days of those two lives that I desired very much to hold tight, continued to fade from my sight.HPIM1798

Any Daddy’s girl and mother of that last child at home would have felt the same, I believe…that sadness that comes when seasons are over. Gone. Never to return.

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Even then, in the tear-filled days of those fading seasons, counting gifts brought joy into my life.

By God’s grace I had learned a way to stay fully awake in the moments and have joy even though I was sad. Great is my gratefulness for finding that direct link to constant joy, Eucharisteo: thanking God in all things, bringing about grace, gratitude and joy. The journey has been hard, but I am so glad that God’s plans allowed me to walk this path, despite the pain.

And just today I was reminded that this slowing down, finding gifts, it really isn’t even about the gifts, but about the God that gives the gifts. The entire purpose of this totaling of gifts with daily persistence is to point me back to Christ with each gift I list.One thousand gift shelf

Something I am learning is a life totally focused on and fully trusting in Him is always right on target! And who wouldn’t want that?

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{Joy Dare} for Week #5 of 2013

1-21 a gift in sky, water, and memory:

#121 sky: two bald eagles taking in the scenery from two trees on our gravel road, so cool!

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#122 water: warm shower

#123 memory: recalling the times that we went to see the eagles with friends of ours, how small our boys were then…

#124 Hardwood floor warm from the woodstove’s fire

#125 My friend’s bathrobe, soft and cozy around me as I read my devotion

#126 Fan, noise I don’t like, forcing the warm air throughout our home

#127 Sunrise colors, hues cast all across the sky

 

1-22 a gift wrinkled, smoothed and unfolded:

#128 wrinkled: my face, showing that I have lived, laughed and loved

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#129 smoothed: floors, removing all the wood and dirt

#130 unfolded: God’s continued blessings in my life

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1-23 3 gifts found in Christ:

#131 acceptance

#132 wisdom

#133 gentleness

#134 bowl of Cheerios with a banana in it

 

1-24 3 gifts blue:

#135 brad nailer my hubby used to build a crate from scratch from materials we had in the shop (won’t be long until he will be able to make our crate coffee table, yippee)

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#136 finding Red’s bed, it was out in the shop (we had forgotten it was out there)

#137 plastic tote that holds wood for the stove

#138 14 quarts of homemade V8 juice canned today

#139 hearing a sermon yesterday telling us all that we need to ask God for wisdom when we lack it, something I needed to pray for two times today, so grateful God gave me that reminder last night at church!

 

1-25 a grace borrowed, found, and inherited:

#140 borrowed: canning colander

#141 found: a Hannah Whitall Smith book in Mom’s closet

#142 inherited: wooden bowl that my dad made when he was in school

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#143 cabin themed buttons to hot glue to a lamp shade

#144 opportunities to show love to others that don’t feel they deserve it

 

1-26 a gift before dawn, at noon and after dark:

#145 before dawn: sleep

#146 at noon: salsa made and jars in a hot water bath

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#147-150 after dark: crispy and thin homemade pizza, ice cream sandwich dessert, laughing with friends and planning a trip out west

#151 cozy home with warm lighting, #iloveourhome

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1-27 3 gifts in the kitchen:

#152 “new to us” microwave that some friends gave us

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#153 indoor/outdoor thermometer

#154 wooden silverware holder

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Several years ago we purchased a wonderful picture for a couple’s wedding shower. As soon as I saw this picture, I longed to have it to hang in our bedroom. My mom surprised me for Christmas that year with the picture. From that moment until this past weekend, I had this idea in my mind that I just couldn’t figure out how to do economically and yet in a way that I really liked.

I researched using canvas, spray painting frames, using metal and wood. I looked all over the internet and pinterest. Finally, I decided to use the different ideas I saw and come up with my own ‘plan’.

Here is a picture of what the final product looks like:

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I first chose several pictures, then opted to print them in sepia. We purchased a pine board that was 1×8 inches. We could have purchased a 1×6, but I just didn’t know what size I needed until we got it home and looked it over. This board  cost about $5. My husband, Freddo, cut the boards 4×6 for me. I sanded each piece. I desired to that the edges a bit rounded and smooth, so I used his Ryobi hand sander to do this. He cut as many pieces as one board would allow. It sure didn’t take very long to sand each one.  In this picture the board on the left has not been sanded, the one on the right, obviously has. 20130119_124806

I wiped each board down to get the sawdust off, then took them inside to paint them. I was looking for a deep wine color, but I only had brown, black, white and a cherry color acrlic paints. I know nothing about mixing colors, but by God’s grace, I created exactly the color I was looking for.

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I didn’t paint the whole board, only did the sides and a part of the front that would show once I trimmed the pictures and put them on the board.

Using modge podge and a sponge brush, I covered the top of the board with a layer so that I could attach the picture. By the time I got the last picture attached to its board the first one was dry enough to put the first layer of top coat over the sides and top to preserve the picture. After the first layer dried, I did do another layer of modge podge to make it a bit shinier.

Next we cut ribbons and used a staple gun to attach them to each board so we could hang them.

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There were so many pictures that it was a bit overwhelming when we went to hang them all. In hind sight, I would like to move the “Always Kiss Me Goodnight” picture down and place the pictures around the pictures. It would also have helped if we took more pictures vertically.

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But all in all, it was fun talking to each other about the stories behind each picture before we turned the light of last night and kissed each other good night…always.

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My week of {Joy Dare} gifts from God:

1-14 3 startling graces of God:

#85 a small job to bring in some money

#86 my thoughtful husband writing me a note and making us dinner

#87 the tape roller that went flying out of my hand unintentionally right at Freddo’s head, but missing…and the loud laughter that broke out immediately between the two of us

#88 kind encouragement from a friend

#89 time with him…priceless

1-15 a gift worn, given away and shared:

#90 worn: “College of Ozarks Mom: sweatshirt

#91 given away: chocolate peanut butter banana shake

#92 shared: prayer request

#93 hugs that ease stress

#94 finally finishing the count of my gifts found that helped me find joy and live in the moments of 2012 despite the good and bad that came…a total count of 3610 Gifts. 3610 Blessings. 3610 Joy. 3610 offerings of Grace.

1-16 3 witnessed blessings:

#95 lunch with Freddo’s dad

#96 3 different paychecks coming in one day

#97 spending about 3 hours visiting with a young lady that is a blessing, so full of desire to be a great wife, great way to spend an afternoon!!

1-17 a gift bringing laughter, prayer and quiet:

#98 bringing laughter: a video of some guy that obviously had too much to drink and some silly tv reporter recorded the interview anyway

#99 bringing prayer: the President of the United States issuing Executive Orders yesterday in regards to guns, reflecting today on the meaning of it all,

#100 bringing quiet: cooking one of Dad’s best meals (Beef Stroganoff) at my parent’s home this morning while Mom was getting ready for an appointment

#101 getting grocery list almost complete

1-18 3 gifts from God’s Word:

#102 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:1, 4 ESV

#103 “…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Ephesians 5:20 NASB

#104  “…This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:29 NASB

#105 groceries purchased

#106 Freddo getting glasses so he can clearly all the time

#107 a friend’s husband getting two job offers, God showing them which to choose, despite any confusion that came as it all played out

1-19 3 gifts that might never had been:

#108 having 18 friends at our home this evening, food and laughs galore, had God not helped me to be grateful for our home, no matter how small it is.

#109 pictures of Freddo and I hanging the wall in our bedroom, had I not been willing to begin a project I was completely unsure of.

#110 a great friendship with a sweet friend, had neither of us been unwilling to open ourselves up despite our past pain.

#111 a husband that helps and helps, just to make me smile

1-20  3 gifts only seen up close:

#112 that not everyone’s life is as perfect as it appears from afar

#113 the joy that comes to a heart when a small child snuggles up and falls asleep in your arms

#114 raw beauty when a group of people open up a bit, reveal hurts and become real with each other, taking off our masks within a community of believers, truly beautiful because this is where true healing is found

#115 wonderful lunch with friends

#116 realizing that I am a selfish person that desires to please people instead of God to change my heart

#117 hearing a sermon on overcoming anxiety, painfully convicting, especially when the pastor said, “You must recognize that anxiety is a faith battle”. I knew this, but it was eye widening when I heard him say it.

#118 that my husband is a police officer, a great one, and that I don’t have anything to fear when something strange lurks, I have confidence that he will do all he can to protect me.

#119 “love is always ready to endure whatever comes” quote from “Walk to Remember”.

#120 Discontentment begins with my unwillingness to be thankful to God for whatever He chooses to give. (A gift I learned this week)

Well, here is a glimpse of last week and how God blessed my life. I should have written a blog post today, but I rested instead.

I have been working on Ann Voskamp’s DVD “One Thousand Gifts” study that I am going to teach soon. I have read the book, but this study has deepened my search from joy and awakened me yet again to God’s Hand in my life, pushing me to count them and in turn deepening my trust in the only One that we really can count on.

I would love to hear how God has blessed your life this week? Are you looking for ways He blesses. Post in my comments a few of  your gifts so I can be encouraged by God’s Hand in your days!

1-7  3 graces from people you love:

#40 a sweet tear-filled conversation with a wise man that I called to wish a happy birthday, so cool that he was 6 months older than my own father. I love the wisdom that he willing shares with me. I am always the one blessed when I take the moments to visit with him.

#41 Freddo letting me buy three books for my Kindle

#42 Freddo helping me get the Christmas stuff down and put away

#43 timer

#44 water to drink

#45 energy and motivation…even if they came later today than I would have liked, by God’s grace I accomplished quite a bit today!

1-8 dusky light, surprising reflection, lovely shadow

#45 dusky light: seeing the sunset coloring the clouds as they float past my dining room window

#46 surprising reflection: the sun shining off a lake beautiful bright this morning as I was driving to town.

#47 lovely shadow: seeing God’s shadow in my husband as he loves me unconditionally and continuously offers me grace

#48 last piece of spinach casserole

#49 finding out that Mom has a lump that is suspicious, trusting God with whatever may come. Living with an open hand to God is always that best way, but often the most painful.

#50  roast, potatoes and carrots at Momma’s house

#51 getting to use my $200 in free money to buy some Blessings Unlimited products

#52 gorgeous sunset coloring wonderfully clouds all across the sky, not just in the west

1-9  a gift held, passed by and sat with:

#53 held: my nephew as we cuddled together in the chair to read a book

#54 passed by: stones that were given to a family that lost a wife and a mother back at Thanksgiving. Beautiful reminders in their garage of other’s love for this family and of my friend’s desire to have a memorial garden before she died.

#55 sat with: Freddo’s dad as we shared a meal together, and as we watched a show or two together

1-10  a gift sweet, sour and just right:

#56 sweet: finding my dad’s Lionel train in the top of a closet, oh the sweet memories that ensued as I pulled each car, the caboose, the engine, the controller and the railroad sign

#57 sour: sorting through memories and things of Dad’s, making us miss him even more, but it was good to get some reorganization done

#58 just right: time spent with my mom today, much needed moments of laughter and reflection, bonding at its best

#59 Freddo’s Fridays coming on Thursday’s

#60 seeing our boys (young men, actually) growing up and taking on the world, praying for them as they live their lives

#61 motivation bringing about much needed changes

#62 a yummy recipe remembered from my growing up days that my mom used to make for us

1-11 3 yellow gifts of fresh mercy:

#63 grated bowl of Felz Naptha to put in the laundry soap later today

#64 squash

#65 tape measure that belonged to my friend that recently passed away

#66 getting my hours in

#67 having just the right amount, God always takes care

#68 unexpected Fed Ex truck in the driveway

#69 fun new things from Blessings Unlimited that arrived a few days before I expected, Yahoo!!!

#70 so many things made right today

1-12 a gift above, below and beside:

#71 above: ceiling fans that distribute heat from the woodstove

#72 below: Chinese Checker game that is stored below the couch, Freddo and I playing it, reminding me of times I played with Dad

#73 beside: Freddo being by my side helping today with whatever I needed

#74 cup of hot cocoa shared with my man tonight

#75 a few windows cleaned

#76 moments in the evening to number my gifts from last year, eagerly awaiting having a total count of my gifts from 2012

#77 encouragement only a friend can bring

#78 going to bed with every detail in our home absolutely in order, what a marvelous feeling

1-13 3 things about yourself you are grateful for:

#79 inability to stay mad very long

#80 that I am redeemed by the blood of my Savior

#81 resourcefulness

#82 a full day at home with nothing to do but rest and enjoy time with my husband

#83 waking from a nap to a delicious Rueben sandwich and fries Freddo made for us

#84 son working through tough things, knowing that despite what comes, he will get through it with God’s help

The last few days I have spent so much time thinking about my dad and how my heart misses him so deeply.

The Christmas season wasn’t as hard as I anticipated it being, since it was our “first” since he died. I was kind of breathing easy since it had come and gone and all seemed to be okay.

This past Saturday Freddo and I were in the kitchen cooking, when I rattled off one of the things that Dad and I used to sayto each other. I would say, “Hey, Poncho” and he’d say, “Hey, Cisco”, then we’d both say, “Hey, Hey, Hey”. It was just one of those things that we have always done. Dad had a lot of sayings.

Even at the end of his days on this earth, I could see his eyes react when I would say both of our parts (cause Dad lost his ability to talk toward the end).

Well, on Saturday, I just rattled that saying off and not one thought of my dad entered my mind until Freddo said, “I bet your dad is laughing at you about now, since you are still saying that”.

My heart was devistated that I said it and didn’t think of him…

Well, I pushed that out of my mind for the remainder of the evening and all seemed fine (avoidance is a tactic I often use)…until we turned off the lights to go to sleep. All of a sudden my mind went directly to the fact that I had “forgotten” my dad, and the tears began to fall. Memories of him at the nursing home flooded my mind like a still shot motion picture, full color, words and all, and for the first time since he died I entered the “guilt” part of the grief process.

When we put him in the nursing home I knew it was God’s plan. Even though I didn’t like it one bit, I never questioned it…until Saturday night. I even entertained thoughts of how awful I was for encouraging my mom to put him into the home. I thought in those brief moments that he very well might still be alive if I hadn’t intervened. I cried the most Saturday night that I have cried at one time since Dad died.

Grief is like that, you are going along fine, then BAM!!! It stops you in your tracks, and plows you right over. My mom calls these times “ambushes”.

Freddo reassured me that it was all a part of God’s plan, reminding me of all that I already knew to be true. But it didn’t change the guilt that flooded my heart in those few hours Saturday night. In my selfishness all I could think of was that I wanted him back…

I decided to go back through some notes that I wrote on Facebook when Dad was sick this morning. And it sure was an encouragement to my heart. I am going to copy and paste one or two of them here, so that you can see a small glimpse of what our family’s journey with Lewy Body Dementia looked like.

This entry was dated August 16th, 2011:

When we decided to have a facebook account a few years ago, we said that we want to use it for God’s glory. So I would like to share with you a bit about our lives. Some background: My (Sheila’s) Dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia a few years ago, and up till now my Mom has cared for him at home.  It is with heavy hearts that we applied for him to live at the Veteran’s Home in Mexico a year ago (2010), because his care is getting too much for my mom to handle.  We asked God to take his placement at the home out of our hands and to work it out in the way that He sees fit.  The time has come for him to be admitted, cause his name is very near the top of the waiting list, like within the month, which is much earlier than we had planned. We have cried and struggled much with this decision, even asking God to change the course that we are to be on. So that basically brings you up to speed on where we are.  So please read the following about how God is continuing to work things out in His way.

When I woke yesterday morning I had no idea the day that God had planned for me.  I read my Bible and prayed.  As I prayed I asked God to help me to accept it in my heart what seemed to be His plan for us to move Dad into the Veteran’s Home, so that I wouldn’t become angry when that time came sometime later this month. 

I desperately needed God’s perspective, because so far my perspective was leaving me wanting. God showed me a bit of His vision yesterday morning that I will share with you now.

God allowed me to see that, yes, Dad is going into a nursing home, but that is not the proper perspective.  Dad really is just moving to the mission field, outside of all of our comfort zones.  And we (the rest of the family) get the privilege of visiting that mission field anytime we want to and will be able to share the love of Christ with those that are there. 

Many of you have known my Dad and know that it was his dream to retire and to become even more active on the mission field in Haiti.  When his health began to decline after his early medical retirement, that dream seemed to die, and a part of my Dad seemed to go along with it.  For when he talked about Haiti, it brought out a passion in him.  He loved serving the people there.

So you can imagine the peace that began to overwhelm my heart when I allowed God to remove sadness of “putting him into an institution”, taking him away from his comfortable home that he loves, and to see it as this incredible opportunity for him to move into this place that God had prepared for him to serve the Lord.  Dad still loves to talk about the things of God on his good days.  Not everything he has to say always make sense to the average ear, but when you listen knowing his heart, you hear the message of hope that God has given him and you are able to see Christ in him.  Well, at that point yesterday morning, I briefly thought about it, said thanks God, and moved on.  I had no idea that in a few short hours I was going to be allowed to share that vision with my Dad through tear filled eyes.

Dad had an appointment with a doctor yesterday; we were hoping that she would be able to convey his need for that level of care for him, since until this point he would not accept that information from us.  Well, when the doctor brought it up he became angry and she backed off and said, “Well, if it is not what you want, then perhaps you and your family should reconsider and wait to place you there when you are ready.” 

I thought then, “Okay, Lord, this is not going as I planned”. 

So we left the office and I took Dad down the hall, I stopped and got on the floor beside his wheelchair and asked him what he thought, to which he replied in a very stern and a fearful tone, “I don’t want to go there, I am afraid to be without my family. I don’t want to live with people that I don’t know.  That scares me.”

I shot a quick prayer to God and asked for wisdom.

I said with tears flowing, “Dad your disease is getting worse and it will continue to decline. What I am about to tell you is hard and I really need you to try to understand…You are going to have to go into the Veteran’s Home when they call, and they are going to be calling soon.” He began to cry, “I don’t want that”.

And I told him through my tears, “I don’t either, I have asked God to do something so that I didn’t have to place you there, but God said I was going to have to.”

Then I began to share the vision that God had given me that morning about the mission field and how he loved to tell people about Christ, and how the people at the home need him to be there to learn about Jesus.  It might be the only way that some of them ever get to hear about God.  I told him that God was going to use all of us and missionaries have rough roads that they don’t really like, but they willingly walk them, cause it is necessary for God’s kingdom to be furthered.

Next I used the new phrase that Dad loves, “We are going to have to ‘adapt and overcome’.”

(Mind you, I haven’t really had a normal conversation with my Dad in MONTHS, cause he doesn’t really live in reality much.)  But yesterday all day from that point on my Dad, the old Dad, that I know and love was there.

He, Mom and I talked and cried for a long time sitting outside at a picnic table at Culver’s.  It was the most exhausting, beautiful, painful, God-filled hours I have ever had in my whole life.  

Through those long, long moments Mom and I were able to reassure Dad of the many things that concerned him about moving there.  We told him we will be able to come any time of the night or day, it’s only 20 minutes.  He can call us anytime he wants.  

He asked if they would celebrate his birthday.  We assured him that they and we would do that.

I have never seen pain on my Dad’s face like there was yesterday.  It was so tough, but God was so faithful!!  

I can’t even begin to tell you how He met me right where I was and gave me every word I spoke.  Bob has a saying that he learned a few years ago, “God gives you exactly what you need, just when you need it.”  He reminds me of this often. And that phrase was true yesterday.  

I have been anxious many a day as we have looked forwardly to the day, wondering whether we would have to place Dad in someone else’s care, it wore on my mind and I couldn’t figure it out.  I knew I wasn’t to worry, I knew that I needed to trust God.  I was worried about how we would convey this to Dad and how he would handle it. Yesterday after it was all done and I was thinking over it all I thought of the following analogy from Corrie Ten Boom.

“When Corrie as a child asked her father, Opa, to tell her about sex, he made her try to pick up his heavy suitcase on the train. When she couldn’t do it, he said that the same was true in life: there are some things too heavy for us to know until we are old enough to bear the burden. The heavy suitcase is a metaphor for the burdens of life…….”.

God, as my Father, knew that the answers to the questions that I sought were too heavy for me at the time; and yet, yesterday, before I knew that I had need of that answer, God supplied my every need.  He showed up with exactly what I needed, just when I needed it!  

We are so blessed to serve a loving God that is so faithful.  I also know that God doesn’t allow things into our lives by accident; He wants us to use them to give Him glory and to encourage others.

I’m not sure what questions you are seeking of God, but I pray that this will encourage you to wait patiently on Him to answer you in His timing and to continually seek Him while you wait, because He alone knows when you need to have the strength to lift the suitcase. Please remember that above all you can trust Him with EVERYTHING!

These pictures were taken between Thursday, August 18 and Sunday, August 21, 2011. All of our family stayed those days at my folks, spending every last moment we could together before Dad was moved into the home on Monday.

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We spent some time singing praise songs to encourage our hearts.

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These two pictures were taken on Sunday just after we told Dad that he would be going to the home the next day. He handled it so well. We all cried. He just hugged and hugged on mom and they cried together.

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Freddo and Dad played Connect Four, which was Dad’s favorite game. It was always a hoot to play with him. So often he would accuse my mom of cheating when they played together, which made it even funnier.

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While Mom was working to get Dad’s clothes ready, Dad and I made homemade pizzas. Below he is chopping the olives for me. He sure enjoyed cooking.

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This entry was dated August 21st, 2011, the day before we took Dad to live at the nursing home:

“I read something from a caregiver’s devotional this morning. I think it really fit my thoughts and prayers as I think about and feel anxious about tomorrow. I have been wondering how God is going to work out all that concerns me.  “I have learned that even though the world is a tangle of paths and highways, avenues and streets, my Father knows them all, so we needn’t fear finding our way. My family is on a journey together, and whether or not we’re skittish about seating arrangements, we’re confident we’re heading toward a pre-determined destination. My earthly father has relinquished the driver’s seat, but he is confident, as we are, that our heavenly Father knows each turn on the horizon and the secret shortcuts. Our perspective is eternal- we have a view from above.”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm to, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13″

I find it interesting that God allowed me to write these notes about Dad entering the nursing home with so much detail of how He had worked in all of it to bring us to the point of placing Dad in the home. Only God could have orchestrated all of that, including me documenting in the fall 2011, the very thing I would need at the start of 2013 to reassure me of His plans and free me from the guilt phase of my grieving process.

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I love you, Daddy…with all my heart!! We all miss you like crazy!

Last weekend Freddo and I had the best roasted chicken.

My Aunt Julie made it for us during our visit to their home. She used a vertical roaster, to cook the chicken. We were both amazed at the moistness of the chicken, even the white meat. We were excited to buy ones just like hers when we got home.

Imagine my disappointment when we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and they only carried “The Beer Can Chicken Roaster”.

Seriously? We are good Southern Baptist people…we don’t drink!! What choice did I have? There were two chickens thawed and ready to be baked at home, so we chose to buy them. They were only $5.99 each, I didn’t think that was too bad!

After arriving at home I began researching the kind of vertical roaster we had just purchased. So the next day Freddo headed to the store to get two cans of…soda. From what I read I did not need to soak the chicken in brine water since I would be putting water in the cans, the water would infusive the chickens from the inside.

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I rinsed them, patted them dry, then sprinkled the inside of the bird with lemon pepper.  I separated the skin from the breast and stuffed minced garlic in there. With the cans about half full of water, I placed the birds over the rack with the legs down, as shown in the picture.

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The chicken cooked at 350 degrees for 1 & ½ hour. When the timer when off, I sat the chickens on the stovetop and set the timer for 20 minutes. One important detail I’ve learned recently is that after cooking meat, it is important to let the meat rest when it first comes out of the oven to help the meat maintain moisture.

Since I was cooking two chickens, I should have cooked it for another 30 minutes or so. They were done, but I would have liked them to be cooked a bit more.

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Another thing I would have done was put more spices, salt and pepper on the chicken. It just didn’t have the wonderful flavor I was looking forward to. One thing I read about was to put Rosemary, Thyme and Lemon juice in the water that I put in the cans.

I must say that they were very moist, that part was not at all disappointing. I am so grateful that my aunt shared several cooking tips with me. We had such a fun time with them; it was so relaxing. God has given them the gift of hospitality.

On Saturday and Sunday of that weekend, we visited with some friends of ours that also live in Springfield.

We had a blast playing games and visiting. We laughed a lot. They may no longer be our friends after I post these pictures. It was so fun playing Head Bandz that I had to post these silly pictures. After the kids went to bed, the adults played Wits and Wagers. It is also a fun game.

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It was so fun and comforting being with my sweet friend, Traci that I hated leaving on Sunday. We were blessed to be able to worship with them at their church.

 

me and my sweet friend!

Traci, Sheila and Selah

It is such a wonderful thing to have family and friends that we don’t talk with regularly, but can spend a weekend with and it seems as though we have not been apart.

Freddo and I are so grateful for how God has blessed us.

I decided this year to try to post my Joy Dares once a week. Below you will find my list of gifts that God has blessed me with in the first week of 2013.

Joy Dare 2013

1-1  3 gifts heard:

#1 Mom telling me about doors God is opening for her

#2 Blane telling me his grades for his first semester of college (A, B-, B, C, C)

#3 my aunt calling to give me a recipe and the encouraging conversation that followed

 

#4 Freddo reminding me of his love

#5 college son’s voice in our house just before bed, he’s home again!

#6 fire crackling hot in the woodstove on a cold night

#7 a friend of Freddo’s helping us out with a situation that was totally the fault of one we love. God allowing him to take full responsibility with consequences to follow, but not anything that will harm his LE career.

1-2  a gift outside, inside and on a plate:

#8  outside: fire in the fire pit at Stephen’s Lake we warmed ourselves by while others were sledding

#9 inside: ebooks on my tablet, being able to do my Bible study on it each morning

#10 on a plate: pretzel snaps and peanut butter snack, makes me smile cause it reminds me of how Mom used to make these little sandwiches for Dad all the time

1-3  3 graces observed:

#11 our younger son deactivating his FB account to help himself be more accountable with his time

#12 Mom taking time to encourage a sweet family whose husband has suffered a stroke, it is wonderful to see her ministering to them

#13 Freddo watching the new Bible study DVD with me. Remarking that he would like to read the “One Thousand Gifts” book himself. Love this!

 

#14 blane’s help getting house clean

#15 the peace and easy breathing that comes when our home is clean

#16 daily planner that is going to help so much

#17 friends reaching out

#18 seeing a friend finding joy amidst a difficulty in her life

 

1-4  a gift old, new and blue:

#19 old: the love between Freddo and I, it is 25 years old, and yet it seems new. We both still get butterflies at times when we catch the sight of each other.

#20 new: low sugar, high fiber ice cream bars dipped in chocolate made with probiotics

#21 blue: my new One Thousand Gifts journal from a Christian bookstore in town. The front says “Joy for Today”, it seems very fitting.

 

#22 snow glittering shiny in the head lights this morning before dawn

#23 finding shampoo and gel for a friend’s son

#24 spending some time today with my man

#25 Rueben casserole, quick and easy fix for dinner and it’s delicious

#26 conversation with a new wife, so eager to be a blessing to her husband

#27 not having to spend much money on groceries this pay period

 

1-5 a gift you are reading, making, seeing:

#28 reading: “The ‘Do What You Can’ Plan” by Holley Gerth,  “Anoymous” by Alicia Britt Chole

#29 making: vertical roasted chicken

#30 seeing: snowflakes falling softly to the earth with no ill affects

 

#31 taking a shower this morning, getting clean pajamas on, fixing my hair and getting to stay home all day to play

#32 Freddo getting the berry pomegranate crystal light made

 

1-6 one gift in your bag, your fridge, your heart:

#33 bag: lip gloss

#34 fridge: cookies to make for church

#35 heart: renewed and vibrant love for my Lord that was once slipping from my grasp

#36 singing “Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
                           I’m running to Your arms
                           The riches of Your love
                           Will always be enough
                           Nothing compares to Your embrace
                           Light of the world forever reign”    with my arms high and heart abandoned this morning in worship

#37 having hands that are able to serve God

#38 upfront discussion with a friend that brought relief and tears

#39 being able to set a bit of money back

#40 planned Sunday School social at our house Saturday night, looking forward to having our home full of friends and laughter

#41 having a husband and two boys that love deeply and strong, and are able to shed tears when their hearts are hurting