Monday, December 28, 2009

A Very Merry Christmas!

Well, I have to say that we (Josh and I) really dropped the ball this year. We bought hundreds of lights to decorate the exterior of our house - they are all still in the box! Even though we celebrated Christmas THREE TIMES by the time we opened presents with all of our different family, we probably only have 3 pics of Kyndra this Christmas. This year Christmas seemed to come and go more quickly than ever before. It is probably due to the fact that I feel like I am ready to pop (only about a month till my due date!!) I would rather sleep than bake, and the thought of all the holiday crafting and decorating just didn't really appeal too much to me this year. We did manage to get a tree up, but half of the lights went out and we never got around to fixing them. Our house is the farthest thing from a winter wonderland that your could imagine.

And yet....

We had a WONDERFUL time with my whole family together this year. It has been so long since we have been able to all get together for a holiday, so this was a very memorable Christmas.

We had a ton of fun watching Kyndra play with the styrofoam peanuts just as much as she played with the elmo doll that Aunt Bev and Uncle Les sent.

We had a great visit with Josh's family. Uncle Jonny bribed Kyndra with Barbie tents and Oreos the whole time, and I am sure that he is her favorite person now.

We had a safe drive home from Schererville, IN, in the midst of a blizzard.... even though the 4 hr. trip took over 7 hours!!!

This year, I felt like I really didn't prepare for the holiday like I should have. However, maybe my lack of Christmas fever allowed us to slow down and really remember the whole reason that we celebrate this holiday in the first place. Being pregnant, I find myself thinking about Mary a lot this year. That poor girl had to travel so far while being great with child... makes my 7 hour trip in my parents' AMAZING Kia seem kinda trivial. She didn't get to deliver her child in a birthing suite, but instead, a dirty animal dwelling. She didn't even have a cute outfit to put on her sweet little child. She had to wrap him in rags just to keep him warm. As amazing as it was that Mary was willing to go through all of this, it is even more amazing that Jesus was willing to humble himself in this way. He knew exactly what he was getting into when he left Heaven to be born in the manger. So maybe my neighbors didn't get a Christmas card... but at least we took time to reflect on the whole reason that we send our cards at all.

Thank you, Jesus, for being born!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ahhhh, Birthday Week!!!

We have a tradition in the Graham household: BIRTHDAY WEEK!!! Instead of only celebrating on your birthday, we celebrate the WHOLE WEEK LONG! Each day, we eat the birthday person's favorite meals, go to his favorite places, and do his favorite things. Since my bday is the 17th, I am now enjoying my birthday week. Today I decided that I was going to have a nice, relaxing day and only do things that sounded fun. Housework can wait a day! I started out by grocery shopping. I know that some people dread grocery shopping, but I really look forward to it each week. Croissants were on clearance... it really IS birthday week! I then went to the gym and worked out, which I do enjoy if I am in the right mood. My energy is non-existent if I don't work out, and I wanted to have energy to enjoy my day. After coming home, I put Kyndra down for a nap, ate a yummy lunch, and took a quick nap myself. The best part of the day was that I didn't change out of my jammies when my nap was over. If it were possible, I would live in jammies... they are just sooooo comfy! Kyndra woke up, and we gave ourselves makeovers. (See the pics below!) I made myself a deluxe cup of joe (decafe with pumpkin spice creamer, and even cool whip on top!) Now Kyndra and I are going to start working on dinner. Cooking is one of my favorite things in the world to do.

What a WONDERFUL day!

.... and yes... I am still in my jammies!!!

"I want pretty eyes!"







As I was doing my make-up this morning, Kyndra told me that she wanted "pretty eyes". I usually do everything I can to keep her out of my make-up, but today I felt adventurous! Quickly I set Kynny on the bathroom counter and gave her free reign of my make-up bag. I was laughing the whole time.... this girl LOVES make-up.



A Video to Amuse You

Here is some random video of my crazy daughter. She was being particularly silly this night. She seemed to tone it down as soon as the camera was rolling, but I still thought Gigi might want to see it.

video

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What is your Motto this Holiday Season?


At our Christmas Tea, my amazing preacher's wife, Robin Ogle, said something that really caught my attention. She said that she always picks a Bible verse for the holiday season. As I mulled this over in my mind, I thought of several verses that could be my motto for this year. Finally, I decided that a statement my preacher made in a sermon recently would be my theme. He said,


"Everything you get is so that you can give."


At Christmas time, we get so much. It is so much fun to try to figure out how to give with each get that comes our way. I am not suggesting that you should give away every gift you receive... that would be insulting to the person who gave it to you! I am saying that we should try to use everything God allows into our lives to enrich somebody's life.


Here is an example. I was given a Starbucks gift card. (my FAVORITE, by the way!) Normally, I would hang onto that little card and look forward to whatever coffee drink I decide to get. Trying to implement my holiday theme, I decided that I am going to use the card to take a teen girl who is going through a hard time out for coffee. It is much more fun to share a cup of chai with someone else anyway!


This Christmas, why not make a game of it? How many things can you use for others? It really makes the holidays fun and keeps you unstressed. Best of all, it keeps your heart from becoming greedy. I don't know about you, but I tend to really have to fight greediness this time of year. It is human nature to want everything. By always trying to figure out a way to give to somebody, you are fighting selfishness.


"It is more blessed to give than to receive."


Acts 20:35b

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Update on our Baby

I had a sonogram today and found out that my baby that is due on Feb. 3 is breach. Nothing to worry about yet, but it explains why her kicks feel so different from Kyndra's! We have chosen the name Kayla Joy. Kyndra and Kayla will share a room, and I have decorated it in Monkeys. I will post pics of the nursery when it is finished. My WONDERFUL dad is helping me put in new closet doors, so when the closet is done I will give ya a peek of their room.

Spoiled Rotten!

Just wanted to thank all of the SWEET people of Calvary Baptist Church. My husband and I were overwhelmed with the kind Christmas gift you gave to us on Sunday. It is such and honor to serve God with you. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity!
Also, another thanks to the ladies of Calvary Baptist Church. The gifts you gave me at the Christmas tea were amazing! I already have a hair appointment, a candle burning, and Monical's pizza in my tummy! You all are really the BEST!!!

A few new pictures for ya!







Cheap and Yummy Jambalaya

Need a new meal idea? Here is one I tried yesterday. It got good reviews. My favorite part? It was REALLY cheap to make! Enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 onions
2 bell peppers (I made mine without b/c nobody in our family likes bell peppers!)
garlic (to taste)
your favorite seasonings (I used a chipotle spice, cumin, garlic salt, and pepper. You can use what your family likes. Cajum seasoning is great with this too.)
1 or 2 packages of smoked sausages
3 cups of beef or chicken broth
2 cans of diced tomatoes
3 cups white rice

In a LARGE stockpot, melt a few Tbs. of butter. chop the onions, pepper, and garlic. Cook about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Cook 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Sooo Pretty




Kyndra is "all girl". She always asks for a barrette in her hair if I don't put one in. She sits on the counter while I put my make-up on and plays with all of my brushes. "I want eyes" means she wants eye shadow.... I always thought that we would have the make-up battle around 12 years old... not two!


One day the house was quiet.... too quiet! I immediately knew something was wrong. I found the bathroom door closed, which could only mean that Kyndra was into something that she wasn't supposed to be into. As I opened the door, I heard, "Mommy, I pretty. Pretty eyes!" I guess the pictures explain it all!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Almost 6 months!


We have not had home internet service since May, so it has been a long time since I have posted. My daddy cannot live without DSL. Since he and mom are staying with us for a while, I get to benefit from his wireless internet..... YAY!
It has been so much fun to have my parents here... finally! We are making up for lost time! My favorite things we have been doing lately are just eating dinner together and playing their new wii.

Mmmm... just poured myself a cup of coffee. Got an EARLY birthday present - a coffee pot that grinds the whole beans fresh for each pot of coffee. Tastes like Starbucks!!! What a great mini-vacation!

I can't believe how much Kyndra has changed since the last pictures I posted! She grows everyday. I will have to post some new ones! It is so much fun to watch her learn all about life. Today we were walking outside and she saw her shadow. "Mommy!" she said. "I see Kyndra!!"


I am busily working to get the girls' bedroom decorated and ready for Kayla's arrival. Only 90 days till my due date! Feeling really good, except for the Braxton-Hicks I have been getting. Can't wait to hold that little sweetie in few months!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some Pics to Share




I wanted to email these to my family, but for some reason I could not get them to attach. So, I thought I would share them with EVERYONE!


Love,


Jessica

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The wisdom of a Mother

This was my second Mother’s Day that I have been able to enjoy as a mommy. It has quickly become one of my favorite days of the year…. A whole day devoted to spoiling MOMS! Being a mom is so much more than I ever expected it to be… more work, more responsibility, and more rewarding. Every day I find myself thinking, “It is so fun to have a new level of friendship with my mom.” There are ways that I could not relate to her until I had a child myself. I also find myself constantly thanking God for a mom who had a wonderful way of teaching me everything I needed to know before I was grown, such as keeping house, grocery shopping, gardening, being frugal… the list goes on and on. I find myself looking forward to teaching Kyndra everything my mom taught me. As a Mother’s Day tribute (a few days late) I thought I would take a minute and share some important traits my mom exemplifies.

My mother is one of the hardest workers I have ever met. She recognizes the value of rest and relaxation, but they always come after the labor. As a child, I remember her spending HOURS keeping our two acres looking beautiful. Now that I have a yard of my own, I am realizing what a feat that was! She reminds me so much of the woman in Proverbs 31 whose “candle goeth not out by night”… I don’t think my mom’s candle EVER goes out!

My mom is a great teacher. I believe that God gave her the talent of being an incredible educator. She has no formal training in this profession, and yet she can teach better than some folks I have met who have a Master’s degree in teaching! She is creative and witty, a marvelous combination. I can remember mom using this talent to teach me the value of money. She would give us all of the coupons from the Sunday paper and tell us that the amount of money she saved with the coupons would go to us. You have never seen two kids try harder to convince their mom that she needed an obscure item like denture cleaner—we had coupons! Now that I am grown, I am thankful for her creativity. I get some great deals with coupons!

My mother has a heart for others. She is always looking for a way to brighten the day of a person going through a hard time. Nearly every time I have been shopping with her there is something in the cart for somebody else. She writes cards, sends emails, and even sent HUGE care packages while I was in college. She wanted to make sure that my roomies had good food too!

I think that the greatest lesson my mom taught me was how to choose my priorities. When my sister and I were small, she quit her well-paying job to stay home with us. As young children, we had no idea what a sacrifice that was for her. It meant that she rarely got “new” things, and Goodwill became her favorite department store. My mother is a smart, capable woman. I am sure that at times she felt like the career of being a homemaker was a step down from what she could have been doing. She never made us feel like we were keeping her from greater things; instead, she made us feel like we were the most important “things” in her life. Trying to juggle all of your responsibilities can be daunting and difficult. I had the most wonderful example to teach me how to establish my priorities. As a matter of fact, the title of my blog is really a testimony of my mom’s teaching: Faith, Family, and Friends… in that order.

Thanks, mom, for the millions of lessons I didn’t have time to write about. I love you!

AND NOW…. The Mother-in-Law!
I want to take just a moment and mention what an incredible mother-in-law I have….

Karen Graham has taught me more through her perseverance than anyone else on earth. When her husband was taken from her, her whole family suffered. The children lost their father, the church lost their pastor, but she lost her husband. The children grew up and got married, and the church got a new pastor. Karen still has to daily deal with the absence of a husband. She is real and transparent. It is difficult. And yet, even through her difficulty, she continues to love God. She finds humor in everything and makes everyone laugh with her quick jokes. Even when the rug was pulled out from underneath her, she found the strength to raise three AMAZING children. (Of course, her oldest is my favorite!) Through her life, I have learned to walk with God now and have a good, strong relationship with Him so that I can make it through whatever trials I might face.

Thanks, Mama G, for the greatest gift you could give a person—your son, Joshua. You did such a great job raising a man!

Love,
Jessica

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"She Said Yes"


"...no adolescent, however rebellious, is doomed by fate. With warmth, self-sacrifice, and honesty-- with the love that ultimately comes from God-- every child can be guided and saved."

excerpt from the book She Said Yes.


I have been sick for the last two days, so I haven't really done a whole lot. With all of the resting and doing nothing, I have had the opportunity to read the book She Said Yes. This is the story of Cassie Bernall, the girl who was killed at Columbine High School because she said that she was a Christian. What surprised me about Cassie's story was that her testimony was NOTHING like I had expected. I assumed that this girl, who had been martyred for her faith, had a sparkling past and a clean record. Right from the beginning of the book, I came to find out that Cassie had a very troubled history. When Cassie was 15 years old, her mom came across some letters in her room that a friend had written. They were horrific letters that talked about killing Cassie's parents, drugs, alcohol, and the occult. The parents quickly realized that there was a whole other side of their daughter that they had never seen. Of course, Cassie's parents were scared, heartbroken, and not sure what to do. In order to try to save Cassie from the path that she was following, her parents moved, cut off all relations with friends from her "old life", and forced Cassie to go to a private Christian school. Cassie hated her new school and hated her parents for making her go there. She was hard, hateful, and not the least bit interested in the things of God. In fact, she had even tried to give her soul to the Devil at one point. She cut herself regularly. Suicide was a common threat. She was the teen girl that you would be afraid of if you saw her around town.

Cassie convinced her parents to allow her to go on a teen retreat with her church. She didn't want to go for the preaching, but because her friend was going. The parents finally gave in, and let Cassie go on the two-day trip. It was on that trip that Cassie Bernall got saved. The Holy Spirit finally was able to soften her heart, and she surrendered to Him. Later, she begged her parents to allow her to go to public school in order to be a witness. They reluctantly allowed her to go. It was at this public school, Columbine High School, that she stood for Christ and was murdered.

Tomorrow is our big day in the teen department at church. We have been working and praying for weeks in preparation. Meals have been skipped in fasting, tears have been shed in prayers, money has been spent in materials. I can't help but wonder if another "Cassie" will be in our midst tomorrow. Perhaps a hardened, depressed, angry girl will show up with her friends tomorrow. She might intimidate some people... not me. Maybe a Gothic guy will come with black eyeliner, black nail polish, and a spiky dog-collar necklace. I won't write him off. Usually the kids that cause the most problems are the ones who are hurting the most.

The book I read about Cassie today reminded me that if the Holy Spirit is present, great things -- amazing things-- can happen. I am praying and expecting great, AMAZING things tomorrow. Who knows what teenager's life will be forever changed! This book reminded me teens today face obstacles that seem insurmountable. They need our prayers, our love, our understanding. I am determined to pray like I never have before, because this is the only way we can help teens today. No promotion given away at church is going to win over one of these desperate kids... only love and the Holy Spirit.

I am sure that the people who volunteered to work at the youth retreat saw little hope in Cassie before she was saved. Her own youth director said, "We'll give it our best, but this girl's going to be a hard one. She's gone, unreachable. There is no way that she'll ever recover from what she's doing." Cassie's tarnished past inspired me to never give up on a difficult teen. In my eyes, there is no person that is "unreachable."

I am so excited to see what God has in store for us tomorrow! I can't wait to see the lives that are changed and the souls that are saved!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Let the Recipes Begin!!!



Ok guys! Here is one of the recipes I have used with OAMC (once a month cooking). Got it from a book called Frozen Assets by Deborah Taylor-Hough.

Meatloaf and meatballs!!!

With this recipe you will have 2 meatloaves, 1 meal of salisbury steak, and three different meaball meals!
*Preheat oven to 350
24 oz. tomato sauce
3 c. dry bread crumbs
7 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. green pepper
tsp. of Italian seasoning
8 lbs. ground beef
Mix everything but meat together. Add meat. Then.....

Make your meatloaves. bake for 30 minutes. Cool before freezing. I also added a few slices of bacon on top of the meatloaves before I baked them. SOOOOO yummy!

Make your meatballs. I used parchment paper on my cookie sheets so that I would have less clean up! Bake for 30 minutes. Put the entire cookie sheet in the freezer once it has cooled. This is to freeze the meatballs individually. Once frozen, you can put them all in a ziplock bag until you are ready to use them!

You can also use this meat mixture to make salisbury steak patties. Just fry them on both sides for a few minutes and then cool. once cool, freeze in a ziplock bag.

How to use this new cooking method:
Our favorite meal so far has been the meatball subs. Put a big can or jar of spaghetti sauce in a saucepan. Add enough meatballs to feed your family. Heat until the meatballs are hot. (You could put the sauce and meatballs in a crockpot in the morning. When you come home from work, dinner is ready!) Spoon the sauce and meatballs on hoagie rolls. Top with cheese. SOOOOO yummy!

You can buy (or make) sweet and sour sauce. Heat up the meatballs in the sauce. Spoon over rice. Voila! Dinner is served.

Since our family is still pretty small, I froze our meatloaves in halves. This is a perfect portion for us.

I have not tried this meal yet, but it is on the list for this month: Salisbury steaks. Re-heat the patties that you made earlier in the month. Top with hot, cream-of-mushroom soup. You can serve this over rice if you want.

So far, none of these meals have tasted like leftovers! I have been pleasantly suprised. Check out the book from the library and give it a try. Sure makes dinner a lot easier!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Just call me Martha!

Do you ever have a "Martha Moment"?

Anybody who is doing anything for God will go through times where life is UNBELIEVABLY busy! Sometimes I feel like my whole life is unbelievably busy! Yesterday I woke up tired. I mean bone tired. As I drove to church, I was telling the Lord how tired I was. As I went to Sunday school, I reminded Him that I was exhausted. I wanted to be sure He knew that I was tired because I was serving Him. Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of the story of Mary and Martha. I mulled the story over in my head and came to a few conclusions. Allow me to share them with you.

Luke 10:40

"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me."

The word cumbered in this verse means distracted. Martha was busy trying to get everything in order because Jesus was coming to her house. There was nothing wrong with Martha wanting to provide a good experience for her Saviour. The problem was that the she was distracted. Instead of realizing that Jesus, King of Kings, was there to fellowship, Martha was focusing on other things.

What distractions keep you from spending time with the Lord? At the end of the day, does your Lord know that He is important to you? Don't allow distractions to ruin your walk with Him.

"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

What was the "one thing" that was needful? It was Spending time with Jesus. Mary stopped everything and sat at Jesus' feet. This is a reminder that everyday we need to have a time where the ONLY thing we do is worship God. Sometimes I think that this is not the only moral of the story. If Martha had been fellowshipping with Jesus while she served, would the story have ended differently? I believe it would have had a VERY different ending. Perhaps the moral of the story is to fellowship while you serve. The Bible does say, "Pray without ceasing." We know that we are to talk to God all day. That means that while you are cooking for your family, you should be spending time with God. While you work a bus route, write your husband love notes, drive to work, take a shower, and do everything else, you are to walk with God.

What makes it obvious that you are serving without walking with God? Let's look at this story some more....

"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me."

Do you feel like you are working all alone and nobody is helping you? When you decide that you are doing more than everyone else and it isn't fair, just change your name to Martha. I have been guilty of this so many times. When I am working really hard, I start to wonder why everyone else isn't working as hard as I am. Humble yourself so that God doesn't have to. Realize that you are not better than everyone else just because you are serving God. If you use your time of service to spend time with Him, you won't care who is or isn't working.

I had a "Martha Moment" this week and had to change my mindset. Have you been guilty of behaving like Martha too? Let's agree to not allow our minds and hearts to be distracted from our one purpose.... fellowshipping with Jesus.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

When You Wonder if God Can Provide.....

My life truly is a testament of God's grace and blessings. In the last month, I have seen the Lord bless us time and time again. Let me share a few.....

We moved into our house. The house that GOD gave us. The story is so long, I will have to save it for another post. But just let me assure you, this home is a miracle from God in countless ways! What a joy to know that God cares so much about the Graham family!

Josh wanted a riding mower, now that we have a HUGE yard. He passed one for sale in somebody's yard and called to inquire. He didnt really have any extra money, but he called anyway. The guy was asking $300 dollars. Without any hassel he said he would take $200. (Which was a great deal, considering the shape it was in!) Josh still wasn't sure where we would get the money, so he asked for a few days to think it over. The guy called Josh back a day later and got his voicemail. On my husband's voicemail Josh says, "You have reached Josh Graham, youth pastor at Calvary Baptist Church." When Josh called him back, the man said that he had noticed that Josh was a youth pastor. The man was also Christian. He had gotten saved as a child and then went away from the Lord. Just recently he had rededicated his life to Christ. He wanted to know if we could affor $150. He would allow us to make payments. He would deliver it that day. Now we could definitely afford it! When the man came to drop it off, Josh wasnt home yet. I went out to thank him and to make a payment. He wouldnt take any money yet... he wanted to make sure that Josh liked it before we payed anything. Some people would view this as a good deal. I see it as so much more. The Lord knew that Josh is busy in the ministry and has little time to push a mower through a big yard. Before He even created the universe, God had already figured out how to get my husband the lawnmower he needed. It makes me feel so foolish for EVER wondering if God is going to take care of us. Not only does the Lord provide us with the things we need, like shelter and food, but He also orchestrates events to provide our wants. After the guy delivered our lawnmower, I fell on my knees. I thanked God for His goodness, and promised to always give Him the glory for the good things that come into my life. What a mighty God we serve!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Meals in Minutes!


We got home from Pastor's School Saturday at 2:00 P.M. As soon as we got home, I grabbed my shopping list and headed for the grocery store. I had used the 4 hr. road trip to plan out 4 weeks worth of meals, using the "Once a Month Cooking" method. It only cost me $89.00 to buy all of the food for 30 dinners. I was pretty excited about that! Once I got home and unloaded my carload of groceries, I started to cook my meals. 4 1/2 hours later I had enough meals in my freezer to last me a month, and I even had cleaned my kitchen and washed the dishes. The next thirty days would prove weather or not this was going to be a way of life for me.

Tonight we tried the first "freezer meal." I was a little afraid that it would taste like left-overs, but to my delight, it didn't! The meal I chose for tonight was Meatball Subs. The meatballs were already cooked and frozen, so all I had to do was put them in a saucepan with marinara sauce and toast the bread. They were DELICIOUS! Total time to prepare dinner tonight: 5 min. of preparation, 10 minutes of cooking. So far, this "Once A Month Cooking" is a lifesaver! Can't wait to see how the rest of the meals in my freezer turn out!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Year Full of Memories








Today is Kyndra's first birthday. It is amazing to me that it has already been 12 full months since I was in the hospital delivering her. I remember telling the nurse that NO child was worth the labor pains I was having.... I took it back as soon as I had my little one in my arms! Along with the fun and excitement of bringing home a baby, I remember being filled with sobriety, realizing that a person now depended on me. My husband and I were talking yesterday about the new fear a child brings. You are responsible for teaching and training them. My child's view of God, authority, marriage, and a myriad of other concepts is shaped by mine. When Kyndra was only a few weeks old a church member remarked, "She still wakes up to feed at night. This is the hard part." I knew how untrue that comment was. Yes, it was hard to wake up several times a night to feed her. Yes, the lack of sleep was tough and exhausting. However, I knew that a few years down the road I would be missing the days where sleep deprivation was my biggest problem. Sleepless nights spent praying about my daughter's spirituality, who she was dating, who she was marrying, who she was friends with, and where she went to college were only a few years away. I was thankful for the small problem at the time!
I want to take a minute and reminisce about the last 12 months. So much has changed. What a great year!
I remember telling my husband that it was time to go to the hospital. It was a particularly stressful time in our ministry, and he had not been sleeping a lot. I had been having contractions all night, but decided to let him sleep until I HAD to go to the hospital. His alarm went off that morning like it had every morning before. I brought him a cup of coffee and said the line that every man can't wait for and dreads at the same time. "Honey, it's time to go to the hospital." He simultaneously he was nervous and excited!
I remember telling the anesthesiologist that I loved him after he game me my epidural and it kicked in. He laughed and said that he gets marriage proposals all the time from soon-to-be moms who just got an epidural. I remember my mom taking time off from work to help me out when I came home from the hospital. She was such a help and blessing to me! Thanks, Mom!
I remember going to every store in the mall to find an Easter dress that would fit my 3 week old sweetie. All of them were too big! Finally, Mom found one that would work! She looked so adorable!

I remember the first time her GiGi (Josh's mom) got to meet her. It was so exciting! We had her dressed up in her little cowgirl hat and boots and put her on the doorstop. I, hiding in the bushes nearby, had brought the camcorder to record the introduction. Josh knocked on the door and ran, I zoomed in on the baby and grandma. Later I realized that I had been so excited to see GiGi's face that had forgotten to hit the record button, so I had NOT recorded any of it after all! (Sorry Mama G! Can't find any of my pics of you two together!!!)

I remember Kyndra's first pedicure. Just a few weeks old, my grandma's birthday was at hand. My mom and I took Oma (my grandma) for her first pedicure, and while we were there, the nail tech also painted Kyndra's toes. "No charge for baby," she said in her cute broken English. 4 generations all getting pampered together!

I remember the blanked that Grammie made for Kyndra, and how she would LOVE to sleep with it. She would pull it over her eyes and snuggle up in it.

I remember the first time Kyndra said a word. It was "Mama." However, she said it because she wanted me to pick her up and I wouldn't. She didn't say my name out of affection!

I remember her first Christmas. She was so excited, and didn't know why. We were excited so she was excited!
I remember the day that I thought Kyndra had died. She had what the doctors believed to be a seizure. I remember shaking and trembling as I rushed her to the hospital and waited for the diagnosis. I remember thinking what a wonderful church family we had. We had only been on staff at Calvary Baptist Church for two and a half months, and yet we felt like we had been there forever. Our church was so supportive, bringing meals, sending cards, calling us, and visiting us. We felt so loved!

I remember the first time she walked to her daddy. He beamed with pride as his little baby toddled to him and gave him a hug!

What a wonderful addition to our lives you have been, sweet Kyndra. I can't wait to see what the next year holds in store!
Love,
Mommy

Friday, March 6, 2009

Frozen Dinners Again?

What a busy time of year! We have a youth conference, we are moving, my parents are coming to visit, Pastor's School..... the list goes on and on! I have been so extremely busy this month that the majority of my meals have been "Healthy Request" microwave meals. Knowing that these are full of preservatives and way more expensive than cooking at home, I decided that as soon as I get home from our trip, I am going to make my own frozen meals. After spending some time researching online, I can across a great meal preparation idea. It is called OAMC, or Once A Month Cooking. The idea is to spend a day cooking and freezing so that you will only have to cook once a month. Anybody that knows me knows that I LOVE to cook, so the idea of only cooking once a month disinterested me at first. Then I decided that it would actually be nice to have a couple of weeks worth of meals ready for times when my schedule is hectic. I found a website that I LOVE, and it features a bunch of OAMC recipes. You can also find all sorts of great household tips and ideas. After looking at the site I immediately added it to my list of favorites. I can't wait to try out some of the new recipes. I will post the good ones for you to try!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Peek-a-Boo!

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Kyndra's latest game is to play peek-a-boo. She likes to hide behind her duck toy. I guess she doesn't know that we can see her when she hides behind it! (by the way, I have no idea where this duck came from. If your child is missing a duck, let me know and we will give it back!) Anyway, this video showcases Kyndra's new walking skills as well as a game of peek-a-boo. (it also showcases Kyndra's handsome daddy!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kyndra Walking

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More pics!

Here are some more pictures from our teen banquet. Will post some pictures from the adult banquet soon.

This is Josh's fish pond that he built for the banquet. It had floating candles that really added to the atmosphere.



Here is Josh as the old Chinese man!



The teens helped draw and cut out the awesome dragon. It really looked cool!
We made all of the decorations on the tables. The laterns really turned out great! I will show you how to make them on another post when I have time to sit down and do it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Asian Escape"





This year Josh and I got to help plan the Valentine banquet at our church. The theme was oriental, so we called it "Asian Escape". It was so much fun dreaming and scheming about all the details! The skit, to me, was the highlight of the night. Let's just say that it included my husband (playing an old Chinese man), Mr. Snider (playing a fat Chinese woman) and Seth ("Sumo Seth"). The decorations turned out really great. Of course, my husband's love of fish was displayed in the fish pond that they built in the middle of the fellowship hall. Above are some of the pictures from the teen banquet.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Scrappy Frog!


Hi Guys! My friend, Jeanette, has the cutest kids crafting blog. If you have little ones and are looking for great ideas, look no further! I also noticed that she just started selling her custom artwork online. Many of you have seen the custom art that she made for Kyndra's baby shower... It is AMAZING! If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind baby shower gift, send some business her way. You won't regret it! To check out her blog, go to www.thescrappyfrog.blogspot.com. There is a link for her online store.
Above is the art that she made for Kyndra's room. Behind the art is the blanket that she used to match the colors and stuff. AMAZING work!!!!

There is Somebody in our House!

Late last night (early this morning to be correct) I was having trouble sleeping. While I lay in my bed trying to relax, I heard a noise which sounded just like somebody coming up our stairs. The first time I heard it, I told myself that my mind was just playing tricks on me. There was nobody in our house..... but then I heard it again, and again. I leaned over to my sleeping husband and shouted, "Josh! There is somebody in our house!!!!!!" He flew out of bed, grabbed his gun, and began a heart-pounding investigation. Every room in the house had been checked. There was no intruder. He double checked every lock to make sure that they were secure, and then went back to a terrified wife.
"I KNOW I heard something," I told him. "I wasn't just hearing things!" Sweetly he assured me that maybe the neighbor's dog had wandered on our front porch.
"No, it sounded like footsteps on the stairs," I told him. Now he was a little jumpy too! He calmly reminded me that he had just been in every room. There was nothing to be afraid of. As he was speaking, I heard the noise again. This time, Josh heard it too! We both lay there, listening, when we heard the footsteps a few more times. "Maybe it is just Kyndra rolling over in her crib," Josh suggested. About that time we heard the sound of one of Kyndra's toys going off. She had been playing with her toys and smacking the side of her crib, making that terrible sound! When we heard the toy, we both laughed. I was sooooo glad that my little eleven month old daughter was our intruder!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Annette's AMAZING Frappuccinos

Here is Annette's great recipe that she gave me! Girls, I could drink these all day long!!!!

1 cup milk
enough ice to make 3 cups with milk
1 box of instant pudding
1 cup cool whip
1 tbs. instant coffee (I like a little more to make it stronger!)

Blend away!

You can also add peppermint extract, chocolate chips, cinnamon, or vanilla.

ENJOY!!

I am STILL God's Favorite!


This is a continuation of my previous post. Just in the last week or so I have been overwhelmed with God's blessings!!!

*My little baby is almost too big for her car seat! Can you believe that she will be a year old next month? Anyway, we priced car seats and found that they were $56.00 at the cheapest. Within a few days of pricing them, we were given one that a friend's child had outgrown! PRAISE THE LORD! HE just saved us $56.00!!!!

*A friend of mine had me over one day and made me a frappaccino. I marveled at the way her blender was able to blend the ice.... mine just kind of pushed the ice around in circles!!!! A few days later she stopped me and told me that she was SOOOO excited because she had a surprise for me. She had asked her husband if she could buy me a blender like hers, and he said yes! They didn't have the same one that she had in stock, so she bought me an even nicer model. I had a blast making frappaccinos and smoothies and everything else you can make in a blender!!!

*It looks like we are probably going to be able to get the house we have been praying for. It is not for sure, but very probable. This is VERY exciting to us!

*A friend called today and asked if my husband needed any shoes. They had found a great sale where the shoes were practically BOGO. They wanted to see if Josh needed dress shoes because it cost almost nothing for a NICE pair of shoes! Thank God! (His shoes were a little on the ratty side!!)

*Our teen department is going to a youth conference next month. We had little time to raise a lot of money. In the first week of fundraising, we have really seen God bless. The teens have already been able to raise much of the money needed!

These are just a few of the amazing things that God has done for us this week. Again I ask the question, do you feel like you are God's favorite?

Spa Day!


Every once in a while I try to take a little extra time to freshen my appearance. I am a huge fan of professional makeovers. At least twice a year I make an appointment for a friend and I at a major department store to get a few fresh makeup ideas. I know that luxury cosmetics come at luxury prices, but almost anybody can come up around $25.oo. This is usually all that I spend when I get a makeover. Most of the high end cosmetic companies will do a FREE makeover as long as you buy at least one thing. I have tried almost every company, but Clinique is my favorite (and happens to be the most inexpensive too!) When you make your appointment, tell them something that you have been wanting to try. One time I had them do "smoky eyes", while another time I wanted to get a dewy complexion. Really make this a special time. Grab your favorite drink to sip while they go to work on your face. Many of the bigger cosmetic companies also have a bonus time. This is a bunch of free stuff that they will give you if you spend a certain amount. This is a wonderful time to try out a new trend and get free stuff. Plan your makeovers around this promotion time!
Mama G (my mother-in-law) and I went during the holidays. We looked FABULOUS when we were done!

Another way that you can pamper your self is with an at-home spa day... in my case it is usually a "spa half-hour"! Light some candles, play nice music, take a long bath, do your toes, use a face mask, and read a great magazine. Take time to take care of yourself!

Since it is winter time, the weather has been bitterly cold here lately. My face has especially been dry. The at-home micro-dermabrasion kits are WONDERFUL! They really do a great job of getting rid of the dry skin and making your skin glow. I have tried the Mary Kay one and LOVED it! I have found a recipe for making your own micro-dermabrasion skin care. You can go to http://www.ehow.com/how_2256788_own-allnatural-spa-skin-cleanser.html.

If you have daughters, why not have a spa time with them? Do their nails, put a mask on their faces, and let them feel like princesses!I have many great memories of my mom, my sister, and I having our "beauty time" together. Not sure if it made us look any better, but we sure felt good about ourselves!

Monday, February 2, 2009

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My Festive Table




I am one of those people who believes in the expression, "Less is More," especially when it comes to decorating. I do, however, really love to decorate for every holiday. The solution I have found in decorating for a special day without going overboard is to use my table. I Have found that if my table looks special, my husband always notices! Here are some pics of my Valentine's Day table.

A Valentine's Day Photo Shoot


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Sunday, February 1, 2009

From the little pumpkin!

Happy Valentines
imikimi - Customize Your World!

Stay in your Cage!


A month ago a sweet yellow lab puppy adopted us. Usually a family chooses which animal they will take home.... this animal decided which family he wanted! He showed up at our house and wouldn't leave. We called Animal Control and the Humane Society to see if anyone had reported a missing puppy... needless to say, he joined our family!

Because we can't trust him when we leave our house, we always put him in a dog crate (or kennel... Josh and I still can't decide which name we like better!). He HATES the "crennel" (This is a compromise between crate and kennel!) The puppy always freaks out and jostles the cage so much that he scoots it around the room. He also discovered that if he moved it enough, he could wiggle the locks on the door open. Once or twice he has been able to get one of the two locks open, and squeeze out. Last night was a little different.

We got home late from a teen activity (Which, by the way was AWESOME!!!). We heard the puppy, which we ended up naming Stinky Pete - 'cause he stinks! - crying and barking. When we walked around the corner, immediately we realized that Pete was hurt. There was blood everywhere, and his whimper was different from his usual, "I want out so I can play," whimper. He had gotten one of the locks to open and had managed to squeeze most of him through the door. His right leg was now wedged tightly in the door, and no matter how hard he pulled, he couldn't get out. As a matter of fact, the harder he pulled , the worse the cut on his leg got! Luckily, the cut was wide, but not too deep. Josh held the dog while I cleaned the wound. We cleaned up the blood and wearily crawled into bed.

I thought today of how much this story reminds me of people. Because my husband and I work with teens every day, they came to my mind first. God gives us rules, or a "cage", to protect us. He sets up laws and boundaries in order to keep us safe. We never seem to see it that way. We see it as confinement from the good life. No drinking, no smoking, keep yourself pure until marriage, no inappropriate TV shows.... there are so many ways we see God's rules as a big cage, or crate, or kennel, or whatever name you have for it. Growing up, I can remember countless times where my friends were doing things that I knew went against the rules that God and my parents had for me. I chose to do right. Was I jealous of them? Honestly, yes. Sometimes I wished that I could live like they were living. It seemed so fun. Now, I see what a wonderful "cage" I had. I have the life I always wanted. I have a husband that loves me. My brain isn't fried on drugs. I haven't been divorced twice. I don't have a hangover every Sunday and wonder what happened Saturday night. I have such a great life, and it isn't on accident. The choices I made as a high school and college student are reflected in my life today. Boy, am I ever glad that I stayed in my cage!

Friday, January 30, 2009

What Would I Do?



My dear friend, Veronica, was supposed to come and see me tomorrow. However, her sweet little twins that she will have in March have prevented the trip. I told V (I call her "V") that I would make a list of all the things we would have done if she had come out to Canton, IL this week. So here goes.....


*I would have stayed up until the wee hours of the night playing catch phrase with you. We would sip our chai while we laughed and enjoyed each other.


*We would have driven to Peoria and gotten makeovers. Just got one at Christmas, but i am always up for another one! We then would either marvel at the talent of the makeup artist or make fun of her once we got in the car!


* We would get some "California Pizza Kitchen" pizza from the freezer section of the grocery store. We would eat it while we watched some chic flick that we only half paid attention to.


* We would go thrift store shopping and look for shoes, purses, and anything else that we might need. Can't ever have too many pairs of shoes.


*We would make a trip to the pet store so Dillon and Mr. Josh could look at all the animals.


* I would take you to house hunt with me. It would be so fun to get your opinion on the houses we look at.


* I would take you house hunting for YOUR house. (Hopefully it is close to mine!)


* I would make you one of my AMAZING cups of coffee.


* I would spend hours catching up on everything I have missed in the last 5 1/2 months.


* I would play with your make up!


* I would steal your coach purse while you are sleeping!!!


* I would wish that you were already living here.




So there you have it, Veronica. Miss you!

Please don't ask to use my bathroom!

Have you ever had somebody stop by unannounced, and the whole time they are there you are thinking.... "Please don't ask to use my bathroom!" When Saturday is your house cleaning day, Friday's bathroom is probably a little scary! Here is a quick, easy way to keep your bathroom clean all week.
I keep a bunch of cleaning rags, a disinfecting cleaner, and shower spray (the kind you just spray... no scrubbing required) in my bathroom under the sink. After I am done getting ready each morning, I spray the shower. Then I use the bleach spray to quickly wipe down the sink and toilet. It takes me about 1-2 minutes total. I can't tell you what a relief it is to know that when somebody does drop it, my bathroom won't embarrass me!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Save your $4.00!


Nearly everyday I find myself wishing for a Starbucks latte. The problem is that, first, I don't usually have $4.00 to blow on a cup of coffee, and second, the nearest Starbucks is a half hour away. Want a cheap alternative that you can make at home in no time?

I got a milk frother (pictured at right) a few months ago, and it has made my coffee seem extra special. I buy whatever flavored creamer I am in the mood for. The tiramisu creamer is super yummy. I microwave it in my mug for about 20 seconds. This is where the frother comes in. Use it for about 20 seconds and the creamer will turn into a froth. Pour in strong coffee, and you will have a DELISH treat that is very cheap. Enjoy!


The frothers can be bought on Ebay for $2.50. Just type in "milk frother". Ikea makes one very similar to the one I have.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Money Saving Ideas


I am ALWAYS looking for ways to be frugal so that I can be lavish in other areas! For instance, I would rate a good haircut as a necessity in my life. The cheap ones never really work with my hair! So, I am willing to be a penny pincher when I grocery shop in order to have a great haircut. All that to say, I love to be creative with my budget and shopping.

Recently a friend told me of a book where she got recipes to make home-made baby wipes, laundry detergent, and dishwasher detergent. I have to admit that I was skeptical at first. "I am too busy to make baby wipes," I told her. Well, I was too busy until I found something at Goodwill that I wanted and needed a couple of dollars more that I had. Maybe I could try the baby wipe thing....

A roll of paper towels and an 1/8 cup of baby shampoo later, I decided that this wasn't such a bad idea. It was a LOT cheaper than the cheapest wipes I have found at the store so far. They weren't quite as good as the store bought ones, but the money I saved made it worth it. I am eager to try the laundry detergent when I run out of the bottle I already have!

If you are on a tight budget, look for recipes for all of these items (and more) on google.


One other tip that my friend, Heather, gave me was a great one! A lot of people drink 2% or skim milk. Buy a gallon of whole milk and water it down. It will taste about the same as the milk with less fat, and it is practically like getting a gallon of milk for free!


If you have any great tips for me, please leave me a comment below! I would LOVE some more fresh ideas!

Get Your Crockpot Out!!!!


Learning to cook in a crockpot literally revolutionized my Sundays! Everyone knows the Sunday Rush. We rush to get ourselves ready, the kids ready, (our husbands ready!), breakfast ready, the diaper bag ready, and then we RUSH to church. Half way through the sermon, you feel your stomach growling and instead of listening to the preaching, you are trying to figure out what in the world you are gonna fix for lunch. By the time you get home and cook a meal, it is almost time for supper! This is where your crockpot will change your life (or at least your Sundays!)


Saturday night you can get your meal ready in the crockpot. Put all of your ingredients in there and stick it in the fridge. Before you leave for church, simply take it out of the fridge and plug it in. When you get home, a healthy, tasty meal will be waiting for you! Now you don't have an excuse for not paying attention during church!!!


Here are a couple of my FAVE recipes!!!


Throw a bag of chicken breasts and a bottle of Italian dressing in the crockpot. Cook on high 4-6 hrs. You can use the drippings to make gravy by whisking the drippings and a few teaspoons of cornstarch in a saucepan if you want. Talk about easy!!!


Put a lg. can of enchillada sauce and a bag of chicken breasts in the crockpot and cook several hrs. until the chicken shreds easily. add a bag of cheese. spoon into tortillas and cover with more sauce and cheese. bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is browned a little. These are the easiest and best enchilladas I have every had!


Cover a can of sweetened condensed milk in the crockpot with water. Make sure it is completely covered with water. Cook for about 8 hrs on high and you will have the most amazing caramel dip ever! Cheap and easy!!!


My Bittersweet Collection


I was never really the collecting type growing up. I tried stamps… too boring. I had a few porcelain dolls, but didn’t really enjoy having a toy that you just put on a shelf. I suppose you could say that I collected books, if you were ever to look at my bookshelf. The truth is, there are just a handful of books that I have read more than once. What is the point of having a bunch of books that you are never going to read again?

My first and only real collection started while I lived in China. I bought a mug from the Starbucks in Beijing. When I came home for my sister’s wedding, a friend begged me to sell it to him. Figuring I could get another one when we returned to China, I sold it to him for the price that I had paid. We returned to China, and I never got around to buying another one. The time for us to return to the States for good came, and sadly my husband and I said our tearful goodbyes and loaded up our taxi. Just before we left, my dear friend, Paula, handed me 100 Yuan, which was roughly $12.00 in Chinese currency. She told me to buy another Starbucks mug and think of her whenever I used it. We got to the Beijing airport and I rushed to the Starbucks and purchased my cup. As the stewardess came down the aisle on the plane offering soda and green tea, I carefully poured my beverage into my mug. As I drank, I thought of my friendship that God had given me with Paula Connor. What a blessing to have her in my life!

Then I thought of another mug that a friend in China had given me. I have always liked Mary Engelbreit stuff. While shopping one day, Cheryl Watkins found a coffee mug that was black with a bright red cherry. It was very “Mary Engelbreit”, so she bought if for me. I realized that I had two very special mugs that I was bringing home from China. So, for the next few months I alternated between those two mugs as I drank my coffee each morning. While I sipped, I would thank God for these friends who are really more like family.

Since I started collecting mugs, my collection has really grown! I have the pink Hello Kitty mug from Veronica, the one my husband bought me at Disney World, and numerous others. Each time I choose a cup in the morning, it is a great reminder of how good God has been to me.

In my kitchen cupboard there sits a mug that I will probably never use again, but I wont throw it out. Somebody who hurt me deeply gave it to me. I have never had a person hurt me like this particular person did. My first thought was to get rid of the mug so that I wouldn’t be reminded of the person who mistreated me… but honestly, this mug has really been a good tool to help me grow as a Christian. Each time I see it, I pray for the person who gave it to me, I thank God for everything that I learned from him, and I ask the Lord to help me to treat others better than this person treated me.
Who knows…. Maybe someday my relationship with this person will be restored and I can dust off that mug and use it again. I will be glad that for all that time I prayed for him instead of hating him. It is amazing how the Lord can use a mug!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Why Entertain?


I really enjoy having people over to our house for a meal. We have folks over nearly every week. It seems as though people today are too busy to take the time to entertain. Let me share a few reasons why I feel you should go ahead and open your home up to others.

1) You will have a cleaner home. If you know that friends are coming over for dinner, it is amazing how much cleaner your house will be. I have found that company is a great motivator! The more often company comes, the more often I make sure our home is CLEAN!

2) It is a creative outlet. I am always trying some new recipe, learning a new way to fold fabric napkins, or changing up my table decor. Entertaining is a great way to channel your creativity! I am always searching Goodwill for tableware and centerpieces so that I can create a "homey" environment for my family and guests.

3) It is biblical! The Bible tells us over and over to be friendly and hospitable. Why not invite a family that is having trouble making ends meet? This is a great way to show others that you care.

4) It is FUN! Recently we had some friends over and we played "Who wants to be a Millionaire" after dinner. Boy were people surprised when we were using them as our life-line and "phoning and friend"! Thanks, Veronica for helping me on my question! What I am saying is that it is a lot of fun to hang out with people. Instead of spending a fortune at Olive Garden, get a game at the thrift store and have somebody over. Cheaper and probably more fun!

5)You will really get to know people. Because my husband is a youth director at our church, it is our job to know the teens we work with and their families. When they come for a meal, these teens and their families know that they are loved.

Some tips to make entertaining easier.....
*Use meals that you are comfortable with. I love crockpot meals because they are ready whenever we are. If company is late... no problem!
*Do as much early in the day as you can. Make the salad, dessert, etc. early so that you won't be scrambling later.
*If they offer to bring something, let them! It saves you time and preparation and makes them feel like they are contributing.

*Don't stress out! If you hate cooking, do a pre-made lasagna. Better to use store-bought food and be calm!



The finishing touches....
*I love to use fabric napkins. Nobody does this anymore! I have a million ways to fold them. This little finishing touch really makes your table look great!
*I like to dip the rims of the drink glasses in sugar. A quick, easy step that makes a great impression.