A Common Life Lived with Uncommon Joy

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Hello Monday – the burned out version

For the past two weeks I’ve been telling all of you how busy I have been.  Busy is not the normal speed in our house and this weekend, it all caught up to me.  My brain and my body just up and quit – I was completely exhausted.  I spent Saturday night on the couch watching movies, took two naps on Sunday and then had an early bedtime last night.  I finally feel like my body isn’t crying “Uncle!” but still feel the need to slow down so I cleared our schedule for the next few days so we can all rest and rejuvenate before our little trip out of town for the weekend.   I’m being purposeful about making this week as quiet and low-key as possible because the next few weeks are full of big family activities and I wanted to be rested and ready to enjoy them along with everyone else.  The older I get, the more I’ve learned how to listen to my body and then treat it accordingly.  Let’s say hello, shall we?

Hello Monday…

Hello wedding bells…

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This month we will be going to two very special weddings.  The first will be this weekend in Georgia.  My ring bearer from my wedding is getting married, y’all! If that doesn’t make you feel old, nothing will! All of the kids are in the wedding – Amber and Georgia are two of the three flower girls, Gracie is the guest book attendant (or wedding receptionist, as she calls it) and Ross is an usher.   My hubby is actually off this weekend and we will get to sit through a wedding together, which is a rare treat.  I’m looking forward to getting away to a beautiful  little cabin by the water, spending time with family, seeing my boy all grown up and wearing suspenders, and celebrating the joining of two very special people.  Two weeks later, we get to do it all again for my cousin and his bride.  I love weddings!

Hello treadmill…

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My eating has gradually gotten back on track, thanks to teaching Made to Crave.  With eating better comes a desire to move more and make healthy choices in other areas of my life.  So I’m rearranging the living room and setting up the treadmill again (where it is now, you can’t see the TV because of a reflection from the window).  I also have a goal to work toward.  I’m walking the 5k Color Run with my friend and her family in two weeks.  I really wanted to do the Color Run last year but they sold out before I could sign up and then I blew out my knee and couldn’t even walk it anyway.  It feels good to be moving again and working towards something.  It’s been really hard to get back on track since my knee surgery, especially with exercise.

Hello computer school…

Gracie has made a lot of progress in math this year, but I know she’d be doing so much better if I could spend more time teaching her one-on-one.  Enter Teaching Textbooks, the awesome computer math program Ross has been using and loving since the beginning of the school year.  This weekend I was able to get a used copy for Gracie’s level and she’s already completed three lessons today.  This is the first year my kids have used the computer on a regular basis for school.  I really like how it frees me up to teach other things and spend more time with the Littles on their work.  Do you use technology for school? What’s your favorite educational computer resource?

What are you saying hello to this week?

 

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Hello Monday…the almost Tuesday version

The past week has been such a blur that at times, I’ve felt like life was running me over.  Between homeschooling, helping Gracie wrap up her big Operation Christmas Child project and working a temporary part-time job the past two weekends, it feels like I haven’t been home for days other than to sleep and shower.  As a result, it almost slipped my mind to write a Hello Monday post for today! Thankfully things should be settling down this week so we can get back into our normal groove.  Let’s say hello, shall we?

Hello Monday….

Hello fur babies…

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We brought home our Russian Blue kittens on Wednesday.  Lula Belle and Elvis have totally stolen our hearts and taken over the house.  Michael and I are both highly allergic to cats so our kids have not been around cats enough to really know about their personalities and their silly mannerisms.  As I’m typing this, Lula Belle is sitting on my hand by the computer mouse and occasionally gets up to walk across the keyboard.  They are so much fun!  They really add joy to the house.  (By the way, Russian Blues are very hypoallergenic for allergic cat lovers.  If you have allergies, I highly recommend you look into them.)

Hello to 100 shoe boxes and counting…

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On Sunday, Gracie helped to lead an Operation Christmas Child packing party in Children’s Ministry at church.  After counting boxes at the end of the party, she had an updated total of 114 shoe box gifts, surpassing her goal of 100 boxes.  There are still six weeks to go until National Collection Week and she plans to keep packing boxes right up to the final week.  And then she’ll start packing boxes for next year!!

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We were able to go today and tour the Charlotte distribution center.  Gracie isn’t old enough yet to volunteer in the warehouse so it was a real privilege to be able to go behind the scenes and see what happens to the shoe box after she drops it off until it reaches its destination in the child’s hands.  We heard so many stories of God providing just what a child had prayed for or needed in very specific ways.  It was so encouraging!!

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Gracie’s favorite part was seeing the sorting stations.  This is where each box is examined to be sure there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t be (liquids or breakables or war related toys) before it’s sealed and packed into a shipping carton with other shoe boxes to be sent around the world.

Hello football…

I am not a football fan.  I pick the team I want to win based on random things like the colors of the uniform or what state they are from, not their standings or which division they are in (you should know when I say that that I’m just parroting what I’ve heard my husband say and actually have no idea what standings and divisions there are in football).  That being said, my husband is a football fan with a big TV and a few of our kids have been converted into the madness that is football mania, so my TV has been high-jacked for every Sunday from now until the Super Bowl.  Gracie has asked for a football helmet and jersey for Christmas and a pair of torn up jeans she can play football in outside with her friends.  Speaking of Christmas…

Hello holiday shopping…

Go ahead and hate me for thinking about Christmas already, but in my house, if I want to enjoy it at all, I have to start preparing now.  I’m picking up little stocking stuffers for the kids here and there when I’m out running errands.  I’ve bought two gifts.  I’d love to have all the little things bought by the time Michael gets his Christmas bonus so I can just go purchase the large gifts (or even better, order online from home!) and get on with the best part of Christmas – making magic for my kids, baking up a storm and serving the community.  I don’t want Christmas to be about gifts and shopping, so my thought is that if I do it now, then I can make it about more important things like family and serving and celebrating Jesus’ birth.  Have you started Christmas shopping yet?

Hello costumes…

Before Christmas gets here though, we have Halloween and Thanksgiving to celebrate.  I’ve got some great Thanksgiving things planned for the month of November that I can’t wait to share with y’all.  But first there’s Halloween.  We have very specific ideas about this holiday in our family.  I love coming up with great costumes for our kids, discussing ideas and hunting for just the right items to make it come to life.  I love our neighborhood parade just before trick or treating starts and sitting at the end of our driveway, greeting all the kids, passing out candy and enjoying their costumes.  I don’t really care for skeletons and vampires and the gory/scary aspects of the holiday so we omit them completely from our celebration.  The kids aren’t allowed to have scary costumes, but they also aren’t allowed to simply pick one from the store.  We make our own costumes and try to come up with really original ideas.  Last year, Georgia was a bag of jelly beans, Amber was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Gracie was Audrey Hepburn, and Ross (my literal child) was a ceiling fan, complete with pom poms and a shirt that said Go Ceiling!  I can’t wait to see what they come up with this year.  What will your kids be this year?

Thanks for stopping by.  Don’t forget to share what you’re saying hello to this week!

Hello Monday…the fantastic fall version

Wow what a crazy week! It was full of new beginnings with our year’s first American Heritage Girls meeting and starting Made to Crave and also God’s provision in sending me some temporary part time work.  By the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, we all crashed on the couch to watch the Narnia trilogy and recover from the week.  Sunday was a much needed day of rest and we took full advantage of it.  And now Monday is here again, so let’s say hello!

Hello Monday…

Hello to fall…

Yesterday marked the first day of fall, ushering in leaves in brilliant colors, cooler weather, boots and sweaters, quilts, and all things pumpkin and apple.  I love fall.

Hello apple picking…

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I willingly buy pumpkin in a can at the grocery store but there’s something about going to pick your own apples, bringing them home and baking them into something wonderful.  Last year was the first time I’d ever gone apple picking and now I can’t imagine doing fall without a trip to the apple orchard.  Later this morning, we are going to a nearby farm with some friends and their littles to pick our first batch of apples.  We will return to Apple Hill Orchard next month – gotta wait on my favorite varieties to be ready for picking!

Hello baking…

I’m a baker year round, but something about fall sends me into a baking frenzy.  Add in all the ideas on Pinterest and the upcoming holidays and I could just live in my kitchen y’all.  Just come back and get me after Christmas!

Hello healing…

There’s nothing more humbling that sharing your own personal journey and the things God has taught you along the way, and then seeing that minister to other women in their own journeys.  Made to Crave is underway and for the next six weeks, I’m entering into these women’s lives and speaking truth and healing over them.  Such an awesome privilege and also a weighty responsibility.  Already I feel like what I have to give will not be nearly enough, but thankfully that’s exactly the way God means it to be.  I’m so glad it doesn’t depend on my own strength and knowledge! His grace is enough!

Hello shoeboxes…

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This week we are preparing for Gracie’s last big push to complete her goal of packing 100 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Gracie and Michael will both be speaking to the Mission Possible kids in church on Sunday about how kids can be involved in missions.  Gracie is really nervous about talking in front of all the kids, so could you say a little prayer for her?  We will be going through her boxes this week, making sure each box is packed to the gills and seeing how close she is to her goal.  After they talk to the kids, Gracie and Michael will be helping the kids pack shoeboxes of their own for Operation Christmas Child.  Next week, Gracie will visit the processing center and get a tour.  I have to admit, I’m gonna miss seeing the wall of shoeboxes that have been there to greet me when I walk in the front door for the last two months.  Maybe we will just have to start collecting for next year.

What are you saying hello to this week?

Hello Monday…the Copycat Version

I’ve gotten to know a friend through her fantastic shop, Happy Little Lovelies.  I’ve watched her grow from selling on Etsy to advertising and promoting on Instagram and Pinterest to beginning a blog about her shop and her family.  She makes jewelry that just makes you want to smile, lovely little things – hence the name!

One thing I look forward to every Monday morning is her weekly “Hello Monday” posts on her blog, in which she recaps the week and says hello to what’s coming up in her life.  It’s a great way to get to know the lady behind the jewelry and it really helps me put my week into perspective and think about what I can say hello to.  You can check out her latest “Hello Monday” post here.  I love these posts so much, I’ve asked her if I could start to do them on my own blog and she graciously agreed.

So let’s say Hello, shall we?

Hello to new ventures…

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I’m starting my own little online shop through Instagram called Thicketty Creek.  This little shop is part of a community of mommy shops, all designed to sell great baby and children’s clothes (and sometimes even a little something for Mama) at great prices.  I’ve combined my love of sharing pictures and my love of shopping thrift stores with my love for baby clothes – because really, who doesn’t like shopping for baby clothes?! – into a great little way to supplement our income.

Hello to an upgraded routine…

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I’ve struggled this year to find our rhythm in homeschooling.  Usually by this time in the school year, we are well into a groove.  This year has proven to be a bit more challenging.  I’m thinking going from two students to four has a little something to do with it (ya think?).  I finally realized there’s no rule that says you have to do every subject every day, so I’ve broken up the girls’ work into two segments to do every other day.  We will do math and reading for all three girls and an elective (art for Amber, typing for Gracie) on Mondays and Wednesdays and Prairie Primer with all three girls on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Thursdays are a different kind of school day, which brings us to…

Hello to a new kind of grace on Thursdays…

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Thursday I will begin teaching Made to Crave at a women’s Bible study hosted by my church.  For the past seven years, I’ve been attending a vibrant women’s ministry at another church (Morning Grace) and now God is calling me to leave it in order to help my own church’s women’s ministry grow.  I’m excited about teaching for the first time and going through Made to Crave for the fourth time.  God always gives me something to challenge and grow me when I read it.  Stay tuned to the blog for more on the class.  I will be sharing my thoughts each week from the lesson here on Life Lived Loud. Ross will be in a study hall room during the Bible studies. Gracie is helping in childcare for the first time.  Amber and Georgia will be in childcare.  We will have just long enough to go home for lunch and then head right back to the church for Gracie and Amber to attend worship dance class.  I will be glad to regain my hour long respite at the coffee shop during their class each week.

What are you saying hello to this week?

As always, I love to hear from you.

Broke and Blessed

The past two months have been even more challenging than usual for our family, financially speaking. And, I’m just guessing here, but I bet we aren’t the only ones. Slower business at my husband’s job combined with high gas and grocery prices has us tightening our belts more than ever before. Most weeks we are just plain broke.

In the midst of these last two months, God has drastically changed the way I view our finances and His provision for us. I’ve come to see His care for us in a whole new way. So what has He taught me?

1. There’s a massive difference in my stewardship when the account balance is high versus when it is low.  When the account has a “cushion” in it, as my husband refers to any small surplus, I don’t question every purchase I make and I tend to be much more impulsive in buying coffee at Starbucks or raiding the local Goodwill.  I’m still not spending loads of cash, but I’m definitely not seriously considering everything I buy with the same scrutiny I would when there’s only $25 in the bank until the next payday.  God has been teaching me that my stewardship of what He’s given us shouldn’t be based on a number in the account.  It needs to be the same stewardship regardless of how much He’s given me to steward at the moment.  (Can you see the light bulb going off over my head?)

2. I’m still learning the difference between “needs” and “wants”.  I really thought I had this area down pat.  Needs are things like food and clothes and shelter and wants are things like satellite tv and trips to Disney World, right? But how much food do we really need? How many outfits are necessary to live? How large is my shelter? Michael recently went on a mission trip to Rancho 3M in Mexico.  After he got home, he told me stories of seeing how the children there are fed.  God has graciously provided everything the ranch needs to care for these children but sometimes what we see as needs are wants wrapped up to look like needs.  The kids at this ranch get three meals a day but the meals are extremely basic and meager – a spoonful of oatmeal in the bottom of a bowl of milk served with a corn tortilla for breakfast, a bowl of rice and beans with another tortilla for lunch.  A breakfast like that at my house would send me running to Harris Teeter because we “need more groceries” but God is sustaining and growing these children through His provision and it is enough.  It’s challenging to begin to stop myself and analyze my perceived needs to determine how much want is wrapped around it.

3. My level of giving doesn’t need to be determined by my bank account balance.  I’ve always loved the saying “You can’t out give God”.  At a time when our finances are tighter than they’ve ever been, I also realized we are giving more than we’ve ever given before.  Now I’m not saying we’re broke because we gave it all away! But God has challenged us to give in such a way that when the giving is done and the needs are met, there is nothing left but dependence on God.  That’s a difficult place to live, let me tell you! I wish I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee and tell you all the stories of ways God has gone out of His way to bless us – friends calling to tell us they have extra meat in their freezer they want to give us, a free box of books that shows up just as my inventory of books I sell on Amazon is getting low, hand me downs for my girls, an unexpected check in the mail.  And in return, He’s given us the opportunity to bless others in similar ways.  It’s all His anyway to distribute as He sees fit, I just need to be willing to let go of what He’s given us when He wants to bless someone else with it.

4. There’s always a way to make or save money.  We recently went through our bills and analyzed what we were paying out for everything.  With just a couple phone calls, we were able to cut our car insurance and satellite bill down to half what we were paying before.  By making a few changes to how we plan meals and buy groceries, we were able to save a little money on our grocery budget.  I got creative with making lunches for Michael to take to work so he didn’t have to pay to eat out.  I also used my talents and love of baking to make banana bread and pound cakes to sell to pay start up fees for the activities the kids are involved in this school year.  I sold several used books and dvds on Amazon.  Michael took some used auto parts that had been stuck in his trunk and sold the cores to a recycling center.  I came up with some really interesting combinations for dinner to avoid going to the store for more groceries.  When we weren’t sure what to do, we prayed and then waited for inspiration.

Overall, the past two months have taught me that God is faithful and His provision is perfect.  His faithfulness and provision aren’t dependent on my circumstances.  They are the unchangeable qualities of His character and they remain, even when I doubt and fear.

Let’s talk! How are you faring in these uncertain economic times? What is God teaching you about money and provision? Any great money saving ideas or income producing opportunities you can share with us? I’d love to hear from you!

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