Sunday, January 15, 2017

Taking Advantage of a Cozy Day In

The weathermen were wrong again, but I am not fussing about it.  Church was canceled because of the ice storm, so we decided to make it an official day of rest.  When I looked at my phone this morning and saw that our church canceled service, I turned my snooze off and closed my eyes for an extended sleep!  I was in a dark room snuggled in my heated bed.  It didn't take long to fall back asleep.  I woke to an amazing smell of cinnamon and vanilla.  Matt had made gluten free oatmeal bake.  He had let me sleep until eleven, and invited me to join the family for brunch.
After brunch I lounged around the house in my PJs, caught up on some household projects, and even took a nap.  Oh I needed it and it felt good. So I have no guilt in mid-day napping, even after sleeping in till eleven.
The quiet day ended with highlights of family game time as the Chiefs kicked off their last game, (bummed about their loss.) But super thankful for the time with family.
Day Fifteen  of Gratitude Challenge.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Thankful for Compassion

Have you ever wanted your children to see the world from a different perspective?  I struggle as a mom in the United States to grow gratitude and compassion in my children.  They are both amazing girls, with big hearts for God, but they won the lottery of birth nations. I thank God that our country doesn't suffer the injustices that are common in other parts of the world. Knowing these conditions exist sometimes isn't enough to cultivate compassion, but it can be a seed. Our experiences fuel the cultivation of compassion, but I don't want my children to experience what children endure in other places.

I remember traveling to South Africa when I was in college, and our tour van drove past a shantytown. I couldn't contain the emotional response of seeing humanity devalued. The sight is etched in my mind, and I can remember the warm tears that ran down my face as it was pressed against the cool window.  In that moment poverty became real, and my perspective changed. It was more than the ugly hand-me-down shoes from my brother, I received as a child, or the struggle I was facing in working two jobs to get through college.  Gratitude had a new meaning and my heart ached to make a difference. I was thankful that my struggles were different. I felt empowered that I might be able to make a change in this world, because I had opportunity.  There didn't seem to be much opportunity in the shantytown we drove past; it seemed as if its chain linked fence bordered it from the hope of opportunity.
It was while I was in South Africa that God gave me the desire to be an adoptive mom.  Here I am fifteen years later and I am in the process of becoming a foster/adopt mom.  Even in our country there is unfairness.  It isn't fair that children are caught in a cycle of destruction, or that their parents don't know how to break it.  Compassion compels me to help heal the wounds caused by the destruction, by doing what is right.
Without the impression South Africa left in my heart, I am not sure that I would look at the world from the perspective that fairness isn't to be striven for but that justice is. If we strive for fairness then it calls for a sacrifice of everything leaving everyone with empty hands, because if we have then it would not be fair to those who don't. Fairness is a form of oppression that conforms to the world's view of entitlement. It deems ideas like, if I don't have then you shouldn't either.  Fairness is saying it is okay to rob the rich to pay the poor, but stealing is never right.  Justice, on the other hand is a freeing, it puts value on each life. The sacrifice that justice requires is one that says, we have, so we give, because it is right. Compassion compels us to give, the unfair fades because it fills the need. Life isn't fair, but compassion bridges the gap between the unfair and justice.  Justice never requires an act of wrong, but is the an overflow of giving. It is on that journey through compassion that grows our character, and breaths hope to the places bound by the unfair.
I want my kids to know that deep love for humanity. The kind of compassion that keeps them focused on the eternal value of life and not the material distractions in it.  Finding ways to make it real for them, well that isn't easy. Today we attended an event put on by Compassion International, an organization know for breathing hope by filling needs. the event was a simulation of three true stories of children from all over the world.  We listened to their stories, about the struggles each child faced, and of the hope they found in Jesus.  I am not sure how deep my girls took what they saw to heart, but I know it impacted them by our discussion afterwards.  This experience was only a glimpse into the injustices in our world, but I know that compassion grows from our experiences. 

The simulations illustrated the living conditions of children in other countries.

The living conditions were in stark contrast to their warm rooms at home, and they listened about the struggles that are common in other countries, like having to work at the age of seven and still not have enough money for a pair of shoes. Not one of the children in the true stories asked for an ipad, a cell phone or any form technology, their desires were for basic needs and for safety. They only spoke of the gratitude they had for books without ripped pages, and the people that showed them compassion.

The experience was a huge eye opener when we heard of a young girl named Olive, that would have to hide in the jungle a night from the soldiers who would raid villages kidnapping children.  My Adi sat in the tall grasses, not understanding why this Olive's couldn't be like our Olive's story. Even when the Olive from the experience was moved to the city, life didn't deal her a fair hand. She was still shown compassion, and that gave her hope to over come the unfair.  The compassion from a stranger that showed her she was valued and encouraged find something to be thankful for, and to lean on faith in a just God.

We were able to listen and experience three true stories, and a the end of each we were able to see the real person tell how the act of compassion helped them achieve more than they ever hoped. But the most inspiring part of their story is the contagious over flow of compassion they show in their lives today.

I am not sure what God has planned for my girls but I know that as a parent, if I sheltered them from the unfair of life, I would be doing them an injustice. Creating a totally fair world for our children doesn't help them grow compassion in their character. They will never know compassion if they have never needed it. Nor, will they ever feel empowered to make a change unless they are given the opportunity to fill a need.

Opportunities to show compassion are all around us.  Compassion come in many forms. Sometimes it requires little of us like a smile given as you meet eyes of a stranger passing. Other times it calls for far more effort, like missionaries that put their live in danger to spread the Gospel. Our family is taking on the challenge of showing compassion to local families, by becoming a foster family. Someday, I hope to adopt, and show compassion to a son through the giving of unconditional love.  It will always look different based on what God calls your heart to respond to.  If you are looking for a way to show compassion in a very practical way, you might consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Who knows, your act of compassion, might grow into something much more contagious.

Day Thirteen of Gratitude Challenge.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

$5 Make Over

So I am huge Target clerence shopper and I often walk past the cosmetic isles looking for nail polish and glance past the hair dyes.  But today I was feeling brave, okay only semi brave, because the dye is only semi-permanent.  Needless to say, I was ready for a new look, especially since I had so many compliments on my ombre.  Uhh, it was only because I hadn't had my hair done since May. Then seven months later bad roots look cool.
Today I chose a different cool. $4.88 later   I feel like I have a rockstar look, at least for the next twenty-eight washes.

So thankful for the little things, like a $5 Makeover.

 Day Twelve of Gratitude Challenge.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Unpackaged Gratitude

I love receiving mail, real mail not the junk mail.  I really love getting packages.  This holiday season I did more online shopping than ever before.  Looking back I should have signed up for Amazon Prime, but that's another post sometime down the road.
I am a store shopper, but recently with the convergence of getting what I want delivered to my door with a click of the button has intrigued me.  I know I am a little late in the game to be an Amazon junkie, but I am impressed.  This must be the way women felt when they first came out with QVC and HSN.  But I think Amazon is so much better, because I don't have to listen to someone sell the product I can just search for what I want and click; it's on it was to me.
I know the packages are on there way. A tracking number is provided so I can stalk the parcels every move.  When it arrives, I feel get all giddy to open it.  It's the best, except when you open the package and what you thought you ordered isn't what you receive. Uhhhh!
This happened to me this week. I had ordered some "get healthy" equipment and that came with an excursive book.  When I opened the package the book was delivered but no equipment.  I was frustrated, but I called Amazon and they totally smoothed the issue out.
First they issued me a credit so that I could order the product directly through them, I should get it in the next day or two (still not a Primer yet.) Then contacted the seller and arranged a refund on the previous order.  Besides the inconvenience of waiting a couple more days for the new product the process was relatively painless.
So today I am thankful for Amazon!

Day Eleven of Gratitude Challenge.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Little Spot of Tea

It can be a long night when your baby (ever your seven year old baby) isn't feeling well.  As a mom all I want to do is make her feel better, but that dry cough just won't let her get a solid rest.
In her room there Is a warm glow from the lamp on her nightstand and a calm trickle from her oil diffuser.  The night is peaceful, with the exception of a bark that interrupts the quiet.  
A cup of warm camomile tea, with honey and lemon, only come second to the comfort of her wanting her mommy at her bedside.  What a privilege it is to be her mom. Tonight, even though my rest may be limited, I am thankful for the time I get to watch over my baby.

Day Ten of Gratitude Challenge.

Monday, January 9, 2017

She's Singing Again

Copyright: <a href=''>highwaystarz / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

When Olive was a four we had enrolled her in a dance class.  Ms. Grace, her dance teacher, ran a tight ship.  I have never seen a row of such behaved four years olds be so attentive.  Olive is a diehard rule keeper, so I was surprised when she started singing during the ballet segment of her class.  Ms. Grace cracked the door between the studio and parent waiting room to let me know she would need to speak to me after class.  My heart and mind raced like I had been called to the principal's office.  At the end of class I walked in to meet with Ms. Grace, braced myself for the worst, and was released to hear her compliment Olive's talent.  She recommended that we get her voice lessons and that we encourage her musically.

We thought voice lessons at such a young age was kind of extreme, but after careful consideration we hired a voice teacher.  Our reasoning was that the voice lessons would help prepare her for future piano lessons, by training her ear.  She was a natural, but her lessons were cut short when we moved to Wisconsin.  There she entered public school where she was able to take advantage of music class.

Olive is extremely talented in all things music, but rarely get's to exercise it since we have been homeschooling (I am musically challenged).  The local community has a children's choir and she went to a rehearsal today and had a great time.  She couldn't wait to tell her dad that she would be singing about Spider Man; he thought it was super cool too.

Today I am thankful for a new activity that my Olive can explore her musical talents.

Day Nine of Gratitude Challenge.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Thankful for Much ❤️

Have you ever had one of those mornings in church when you were overwhelmed by God's love during worship? Today was one of those days.  It has been a long week and my heart has been heavy about a situation that I have no control over.  I feel as if I have found myself at sea in a great storm.  Most of the week I have been riding the waves, keeping my eyes on the one steady light in my life.  I am good at publicly holding it together, though my emotions and my thoughts have been rolling over me like great waves.  This week my prayer has been for God to exchange my thoughts for His, after all His are higher than mine.  It may seem silly, but I have literally had to pray, "Lord, take my thoughts captive, and help me trust you."

I am thankful that God is so gentle in bringing my focus back to Him.  I began to think about how I need to spend more time on my knees about this matter, but I also began to miss my ladies Bible study in WI. With them, I could be vulnerable, and this week I was getting weary of holding it together.  I could lay out the broken pieces of my heart and they would be the hands and comfort of Jesus.  They wouldn't try to fix the situation; they would be that friend that would sit across the table with a cup of coffee and say, "That sucks."  They would know that I didn't need to be reminded that God's in control, or that all things work for the good for those who love Him. They would just be there, and be the friend God called them to be.  They would pray with me, pray for me, and let God do the fixing.

Copyright: <a href=''>dedivan1923 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

So many times we see a friend that is hurting or going through something unimaginable, and we often want to say or do something to fix it.  Honestly in our human capacity we don't have a strong enough glue to put together a broken heart.  There is nothing we can do to take away the hurt or injustice in this world; only God can take the brokenness, put it back together, and sculpt it into a more beautiful, stronger masterpiece.

Our bones grow stronger with the combination of stress and impact.  When we run, there are tiny breaks in our bones from the impact of the exercise.  The impact does a couple of things: it creates interstices, but also stimulates the body to grow new bone over them, making it stronger.  It sounds painful and it sometimes can be. When too much stress in placed on the bone, it can break, but when properly allowed to heal, a completely broken bone can become stronger than it was before.

During worship, today,  I felt like all the songs were God's voice saying, "I know right where you are and I got this.  I know the stress you are feeling and it's okay to be broken with me."  The release was freeing and though the pain of the situation is still there.  I held my hands up in surrender and I was reminded in my heart of His promises.  I could trust him to do the fighting for what is right, and the lesions in my heart would allow for Him to lay a layer of His stronger, more compassionate heart over mine.

God's comfort is real, but just incase I needed some earthly encouragement He put me on a friend's heart.  On my way home from church I received a text from one of my favorite gals back in WI, letting me know I was on her mind.  She dosn't know how my week has been, but her text was a huge hug sent from miles away, it read, ""Thinking of you! Much ❤️"

Day Eight of Gratitude Challenge.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Juggle

Sometime balancing life can be like a juggle and there isn't a lot of time for fun.  So when you find the time to learn to juggle with your kids it is a moment to be thankful for!
I was not very good at all.  Matt of course schooled us all.

Day Seven of Gratitude Challenge.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Something Worth More Than Silver To Be Thankful For.

It has almost been a week since I started the challenge to find something unique to be thankful for each day this year. I can say that having an intentional agenda to find something and document it has been fun. I find that I look for it in the everyday and it has shown up in the most interesting places. Today, while shopping at Costco the unique treasure to be thankful for found me.

Costco is place that our family spends a lot of time in. They are opening one just minutes from my home and I can't wait. I have found the best deals there and it has become a staple place for us to shop on a strict grocery budget. Costco has become familiar to our whole family and exploring new products, and food samples make routine shopping a little more fun. We had goofed around in the store, tasted samples and loaded our cart. After check out we sat down in the foodcourt and opened up a a $4.99 rotisserie chicken (another thing to be thankful, because Costco has the best ones.)

While we were seated we watched as a woman prepared pizza's for the Friday evening rush. We were approached by a man who asked if he could give our girls a gift. I wish I had gotten the man's name or a photo of him with the girls, but I was just in awe of the simplicity of his request and the intentionality of his gift. He was dressed in a patch covered vest, a veterans hat, and he wore a gentle smile, framed by his silvery beard. We gave him the nod of approval and he said "Here this is older than you are," as he placed a Eisenhower dollar in each of our girls hands. Wonder filled the girls' eyes as they looked at the coins dated from 1976. Then he turned to my husband, Matt, who was wearing a Harley Davidson Shirt and asked, "What do you ride?" Matt responded that we didn't own a bike, but he did work for Harley Davidson. (Matt wants a bike and hopefully will be able to get one sooner than later.) The conversation continued when Matt in turn asked what he rode "A 2008, 1200 Custom." He replied. We only caught a couple more details about his son riding a 2003 Night Train, and then he was gone. His act of kindness was brief but deeply genuine, and a little bit magical. In my mind I keep thinking that he was almost Santa like, but Kansas City is quite a long way from the North Pole.
In my heart I know that he wasn't Santa, but his heart to give and his badge of service spoke volumes of how a little kindness goes a long way. His service to our country was more than enough to be thankful for. However it is the memory of a man who without prompting, or any desire for recognition entered our lives and touched our hearts with two silver dollars.
Today, day 6 of the challenge I am thankful for this man who showed kindness, gentleness, and grace to our family.

Day Six of Gratitude Challenge.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I Read, She Reads Truth, and I am Thankful for It

The holidays are always filled with family and this year I was excited to learn about some trendy things the young people (ok people my age too, because 35 isn't old) are enjoying!  Like nifty makeup sponges and crazy amazing mascara, but the trend I am most thankful for is the introduction of She Reads Truth.  It is an app that you can download which has all kinds of Bible reading plans, lock screen graphics and more.

I have other Bible apps, but this one is visually stimulating as well as spiritually inspiring.  You can choose reading plans based on your interest and also interact with other women reading the same plan.  It's pretty, full of Truth, and social; it's perfect for me!  For me this is the Bible reading app jackpot.

My day five gratitude Challenge is for the She Reads App.

If you want to join me I am reading the Psalms of Gratitude.

Day Five of Gratitude Challenge.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Snowy Nights

Maybe it is the way the sky lights up or the crisp smell, I am not sure what it is that makes me love snowy nights.  Tonight as the snow falls down I think about the friends that I have back in Wisconsin and the days that we would drink coffee in front of a wood burning fire place.

I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to make life long friendships all over the country.

Day Four of Gratitude Challenge.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

When Things Slow Down: Day Three of the Gratitude Challenge

Today I am thankful for finding time to be still.  I have the tendency to think that I can do more than a normal day will allow.  I tend to over schedule and usually push myself to the limits, or try to fix problems that I wasn't meant to fix.  So when today, when some of my plans that didn't work out I was able to find time to just be still.

It is in the still that we can meet the One who's plans never go wrong.  When we sit down and remove the distractions of life and focus on the Creator of it; then we are able to find joy in the worst of situations.

It is in those bad situations that life flies by at a cut throat pace and wants to drag you a long with it.  No one can run a marathon without pacing themselves, but there is an enemy that lies to us.  When we are distracted because we are trying to push ourselves at an unnatural pace we miss the simple joys that linger in being still.

In the still you can reflect, step back and see a greater picture.  What we can see with our limited perspective, doesn't scratch the surface of God's understanding.  When you slow down you see the little details that you would have missed otherwise.  It is then when you realize you can trust that the crummy situation isn't too big for the Mighty God you serve.

Day Three of Gratitude Challenge.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Day Two Of Gratitude: Family Fun Falling

When family fun turns into sleepy little ones sleeping on the floor of the living room.
I don't know what it is about carrying your baby to her bed because she just couldn't stay up for all the fun.  Maybe it is the memories that you make up until that point or the thought that one day she'll be too big to carry up the stairs, but for now I am thankful for night's when little one's fall asleep in the midst of family fun!

Day Two of Gratitude Challenge.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Resolutions Busted on Day One

Happy New Year! It's a fresh start and now we can work on all those areas in our life that we have neglected and procrastinated until this day January first. Except it is January first at 11;30 PM and I realize I have been putting off the obvious so long that I forgot to make a New Year's Resolution.

Every year I always set these outstanding goals for myself; they are all noble causes but the total Amber Make Over tends to crash and burn just a few weeks later. I occasionally make it to mid summer and I have to admit there have been some successful years like 2005.  That year my husband and I made a resolution to avoid all fried foods. We made it just over a year but I fell off the wagon when french fries were one of the few foods I could stomach during pregnancy. We also have obtained set goals like running (or jogging) a half marathon together which we completed in June of 2015.

Now keep in mind I would love to loose weight, reduce debt, become saintly, but for now I am going to challenge myself AND you to find 365 different things to be thankful for. That's only one a day, we can do this. SO here's the rules find time to document somewhere one unique thing everyday of the next year that you are thankful for.

The best part of this is that we don't have to feel bad about where we are now, deprive ourselves of things we enjoy or go on some crazy detox that labels chocolate public enemy number one. Just have a thankful heart and be willing to change things as your perspective changes. Refuse to focus on the negative and let the positive overflow into other areas of life. For example: I am a stress eater, and gratitude has a profound affect in reducing stress... Better stress management, less emotional face-stuffing...Let's see where this adventure leads.

Now there is nothing wrong with traditional resolutions, hats off to you and I would love to support you in anyway I can (go a head comment below and tell me your resolution.) Or let me know if you are joining me on this gratitude challenge!

Day one: I am thankful for extra caffeinated coffee, It helped keep me alert on a four hour, late night drive from Nebraska to home after the hustle and bustle of holiday celebrations.

Don't forget to follow my blog to see how I am doing.  Just in case you feel like really being awesome comment often, because words of affirmation are welcomed!!

Day One of Gratitude Challenge.