Notice of Changes

You will notice that some of my albums are "empty" on my Facebook page and that some pages and pictures are missing on here and on Natural and Free. Don't worry - they won't stay that way. :) In light of some recent events, I've had to watermark my photos and designed images. Until that is done and I get a chance to upload them, my FREE Fibro Banners and Badges and Inspirational Designs {By Me} pages will be down, and the albums under the same (or almost the same) names on my Facebook page will be empty, and pictures will be deleted and watermarked at various times for as long as it takes to get that done. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you. Thank you for understanding! In the mean time, if there is an image you would like that you saw or have an idea for a new one, feel free to email me or leave me a comment, and I'll do what I can to get one to you. :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Weakness & Strength

 
This is one of those posts I've been struggling to write.  It's one of those posts I write because I know I need to fess up to things that I'd rather not fess up to.  It's where I talk about my struggles and admit that I'm an imperfect human, too. 
 
Let's get to it, shall we?
 
Admission: I've always been totally fine with posting pictures of myself from the neck up like this one.

Me, June 27, 2013

I can paste on a smile, even give a genuine one, and hold the camera at just the right angle and I see that I look ok weight-wise.  Yes, I am down (as of Saturday, June 22nd, 2013) to 227.3 lbs. (according to the Wii, which is right on with the doctor's office's scales if I have it set at -2 lbs. (those who have Wii Fit/Wii Fit Plus will know what I'm talking about), and I could probably subtract a pound or so for the shorts and t-shirt I wear when I check my weight, but I don't, FYI) from around 245 lbs. in July of 2012 which is great...Until you consider that I was down under 215 lbs. for a little while there, almost down to 205 lbs. at times.  I hate when my weight yo-yos, but it does often, especially when I'm struggling to eat right and eating the wrong things more often than I'd like to admit.
 
Anyway, my point is, I'm ok posting pictures of my face, but when it comes to posting pictures of the rest of me?  Not so much.  In fact, I avoid it at all costs.  But today, for the sake of full disclosure and because I need to be just this brutally honest for myself, I am posting *gulps hard* side and front view pictures.


Side View of Me, June 27, 2013

Front View of Me, June 27, 2013

(Yes, these were taken in my bathroom.  I love me some owls! :) )
 
As you can see by the look on my face, I was not thrilled at taking these pictures, let alone posting them (I keep wanting to delete them), but as I said, I needed to.  Why?  Well, because I need to be honest.  What about?  My weakness.
 
I struggle so very much with eating right.  Oh, I know what to do.  I know when I shouldn't eat (i.e. when I'm an emotional mess or bored).  I know food is fuel and not entertainment or a pick-me-up.  I know I should stop eating when I'm full and not just eat because it's there or tastes good.  I know I should start with a smaller portion and eat slowly.  I know I shouldn't eat the processed junk because it makes me feel horrible and makes me hurt and makes me gain weight and is so not worth it.  I know I should eat more fruits and veggies and good for you proteins and whole grains and less sugar and and and.  I know all these things, but yet...here I am, struggling.
 
I am weak.  I admit it.  I thought I could do this without help, but I cannot.  I have decided that I'm tired of relying on me.  I'm tired of trying and failing.  I want to change old habits and there is only one way to do that: I need to lean and rely on God.
 
 
You see, God is the only One Who can give me strength to do those things I need to do.  He is the only One Who can show me how to change for good and to keep me from eating those things I shouldn't.  He is the only One Who can help me get active instead of eat to fill the voids or the boredom.  I need Him for everything, the little and the big things.  I thought this "little" thing could be mine to do alone, and He has allowed me to try, and it has ended up in utter failure.  So now, I turn to Him, begging for forgiveness and asking for His help, and you know what?  He's answered. :)
 
Each morning, I pray for God to help me have the strength to do what I need to do physically (easier to do with Fibromyalgia morning (and sometimes all day long) pains, maybe, but necessary nonetheless).  I also ask Him to help me feed my body right, to take care of myself right, to be a good mother and wife and housekeeper.  I beg Him to prompt me before I eat to ask Him if it is the right food, if I am really hungry, if it will be worth it, if I am eating for the right reasons, etc. and He has listened and is helping.  I can't say I always like that still small voice when I'm getting ready to grab that chocolate bar or scoop that sugar into my coffee, but I'm grateful for it.  It's what I need.
 
I am so grateful for a God Who listens and Who cares so much for me that He would help me with these things.  He has helped me with the worst of the cravings and is helping me find other ways to calm myself than by digging into the chocolate when I'm stressed or upset (namely by bringing scripture to mind like the one above or by showing me that I can wash those dishes or dust or go for a walk or play with the kiddos or any number of things to let out the emotion instead).  He is helping me learn to listen to my body's cues on when I'm truly full and even allowed those not good for me things to make me even sicker than they used to so that I'm not tempted to eat them any more, though I still struggle making wise choices sometimes.
 
At any rate, I guess I just want to say, "This is me.  I'm not perfect.  I struggle, too.  Please pray for me.  Thank you."
 
What are you struggling with?
What do you need me to pray with you about?
 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Distinguished Dads Link-Up {Wrap Up}

~*~ Welcome To The Wrap Up Of ~*~
 

Over Father's Day weekend, I hosted a link-up similar to what I did for Mother's Day, highlighting some wonderful Dads in my life via open letter and giving you the chance to link-up some "Daddy" posts as well.  The link-up is over now, and I hope you have gotten to read not only all of my open letters, but the other posts that were linked up, too.
 
If you missed it, on Saturday I wrote an open letter to my husband, Aaron, on Sunday I wrote a letter to my Dad, and yesterday I wrote one to my late Grandpa Dale.

I did think about doing features, but decided against it.  How could I choose between some of those amazing heartfelt letters and wonderful crafts?  Instead, I'm going to encourage you all to visit the posts that were linked up and share some comment love.

Some of the posts will make you laugh, some will make you cry, some will make you hungry and others will get your creative juices flowing!  Which ones will do which?  Well, that would be telling! ;)  You're just gonna have to go read them and see for yourself!  Enjoy, and you're welcome! :D  You won't regret the time you spent visiting those posts, I promise!

I hope you all had an amazing Father's Day weekend and that you will have a wonderful rest of your week.  I hope you got to honor your dad or be pampered a little if you are a dad.  I hope that those of you that have lost your fathers know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.  I hope that those of you that are blessed enough to still have your father in your life will let him know how much he means to you before you no longer can.

Thank you to all who linked up.  I couldn't have done this without you!

 
 
~*~*~*~


~*~*~*~

Grab A Badge!
 

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Distinguished Dads Link-Up {Day3}

~*~ Welcome To The Last Day of ~*~
 

In honor of Father's Day, I decided to do a link-up similar to what I did for Mother's Day, highlighting some wonderful Dads in my life via open letter and giving you the chance to link-up some "Daddy" posts as well.  I hope you will link-up and join in the fun and spread the word, too (rules below)!  You have until 11:55pm EST tonight to link-up!
 
On Saturday I wrote an open letter to my husband, Aaron, yesterday I wrote a letter to my Dad, and today I am writing one to my late Grandpa Dale.
 
~*~*~*~
Dear Grandpa Dale,
 
How I wish I could wish you a Happy Father's Day face to face!  I can't believe it's been almost 10 years since you passed away!  I miss you so very much!

I am so glad you got to live long enough to see your first great-grandchild born.  I know it threw you for a loop when we told you that his middle name was Dale after you.  I still remember you tearing up on the phone, so thrilled, so honored and so humbled all at once.  It is a moment I will never forget.

I remember the first time you saw Stephen.  You were so thrilled that he was little enough to hold and not protest! :D  I could tell you loved him with all your heart and more, and would do your best to be the best great-grandpa in the world!  I could just see it going through your mind about all the things you would teach him and share with him.  We didn't know then that you would not live long enough to see his 2nd birthday, but you were that amazing great-grandpa to him in the time you had with him!
 

 

My Grandpa About Two Months Before He Died With His Name Sake, January 2004



I also remember the last time you got to hold Stephen and the last time we saw you alive.  We knew things weren't looking good, but you were still mostly yourself and we had a great time with you!  I am so grateful that Stephen let you hold and cuddle him!  Those pictures will always be the nearest and dearest to my heart!  I am so glad that you knew I was expecting again and got to hear about your first great-granddaughter's birth (my brother's oldest), too.  What an amazing time that was!
 
There is not a day goes by that I don't miss you and think about what a wonderful, godly man's man you were.  I tell my boys stories about your love for God, your legacy and the crazy and fun things you did with us (We always had so much fun laughing and sharing together!).  It is my hope that my boys will do you and their Lord proud...and so far, it looks like they are well on their way!
 
I love you, Grandpa, and miss you so very much!  I can't wait to see you again one day!

 

Much Love,
 
 
~*~*~*~
Now It's Your Turn! 
~*~*~*~
Grab A Badge!
 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Distinguished Dads Link-Up {Day 2}

~*~ Welcome To Day 2 of ~*~
 

In honor of Father's Day, I decided to do a link-up similar to what I did for Mother's Day, highlighting some wonderful Dads in my life via open letter and giving you the chance to link-up some "Daddy" posts as well.  I hope you will link-up and join in the fun and spread the word, too (rules below)!
 
Yesterday I wrote an open letter to my husband, Aaron, and today I am writing a letter to my Dad.
 
~*~*~*~
Dear Dad,
 
Happy Father's Day!
 
I don't say it often enough, but you're a great Dad!
 

My Parents, 2012

 
You have always been there for me, always wanted what was best for me and, to this day, offer me advice when I need it.  I cannot thank you enough for raising me to fear and love the Lord and for showing me what unconditional love is.  I know you pray for me and my family daily, too, and that means more than I can ever say!
 
Do you remember the day you became a grandpa?
 
My Dad Becomes A Grandpa For The First Time, October 2002
 
I can remember you being afraid to hold your first grandchild, sure you would break him, but the look of joy and awe on your face I will never forget.  I knew you loved him the instant you saw him, though you have always been a man of few words and didn't say anything elaborate or eloquent to that effect.  It didn't matter - your face told the whole story.  I knew you would love that little boy forever and pray for him and help guide him from that day forward, and it was more than enough for this new momma.
 
I always love watching you play with the kids.
 

Grandpa Playing With His Grand Kids, October 2008

 
I'm not sure who enjoys it more, them or you.  They sure do love their Grandpa/Papa/Boppa!  It thrills my heart to see you wrestle and chase them and make them giggle and squeal.  There is nothing like time with you!
 
I think they love your stories as much as I did when I was a kid, too.

Grandpa Telling Stories Around The Campfire, June 2011

You could always tell a story, and it is one of my fondest memories to hear you tell stories when I was a little girl.  I am so glad that my kids and nieces and nephews get the same privilege!

Did you ever think that you'd be the grandfather to 8, soon to be 9?


The Whole Crew, April 2012


 I can hardly believe it myself!  What a blessing!  It is so great that they have a godly man to look up to.  They have a heritage that is priceless, and I hope that they grow to appreciate that even more than they do today. I love you, Daddy!  I don't know where I'd be today without your influence in my life.  Your faithful service to God over the years has made an impact on my life that cannot be compared to anything else.  I am so blessed to have that kind of role model not only for myself, but for my children, too.  Thank you for loving the Lord and following Him no matter what, and thank you for all you do for Him and for this family.  We'd be lost without you!

Love,
 
 
~*~*~*~
Now It's Your Turn! 
~*~*~*~
Grab A Badge!
 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Distinguished Dads Link-Up

~*~ Welcome To ~*~
 

In honor of Father's Day, I decided to do a link-up similar to what I did for Mother's Day, highlighting some wonderful Dads in my life via open letter and giving you the chance to link-up some "Daddy" posts as well.  I hope you will link-up and join in the fun and spread the word, too (rules below)!
 
Today, I want to write an open letter to my husband, Aaron, the father of my children.
 
~*~*~*~
My Dearest Aaron,
 
Do you remember the first day you officially became a Daddy (aside from the day we found out I was expecting and terrified our cat by spinning him around and around and squealing in excitement)?
 
October, 2002
I remember that day clearly.  How much you smiled, despite how tired you were.  How much your mom thought you looked like your dad on the day he held you for the first time.  It was a surreal moment for us all, for sure.

And then there was the day our second born came into the world and he had to be whisked off to the NICU, thanks to you realizing he wasn't breathing right.
 
April, 2004
I truly do believe you saved his life that day.  You were showing your protective Daddy side on his first day of life, and it confirmed in my protective Mommy heart that I'd made the right choice in my spouse.

Let's not forget when our little girl was born and again we faced the NICU.
 
July, 2010
You stayed with me in the hospital even when work wanted you there because I needed you, and then you spent 3 days after we left coming to get me from the hospital after a long day at work, turning your 8 hour days into well over 10, just so that I could be with my little girl during the day and my precious boys at night.  I know it was a toll on you, but you were willing, and it melted my heart and I fell in love with you all over again during that time.

Then there was the day we were finally all home and were one big happy family.
 
Elaina's First Day Home, July, 2010
That was a great day!  I have never seen a happier Daddy.  To have his 3 kiddos surrounding him without tubes and wires was a great feeling...for all of us.

We've been together for 13 years and you've been a Daddy for nearly 11 of those years.
 
Easter, 2013
I think you're doing an amazing job, and had to tell you so!
 
Happy Father's Day, hubby!  I love you more than you know, and always will!  Thank you for always being there for me, and thank you even more for always being there for them!  I hope that some day my boys will grow into men like their Daddy and that our little girl finds a husband like you, too. :)
 
Xs and Os,
Forever Yours,
 
 
~*~*~*~
Now It's Your Turn! 
~*~*~*~
Grab A Badge!
 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What A Week!

When I say week, I actually mean more like week and a half.  It has been a whirlwind since Memorial weekend.
 
 
 ~*~*~*~
 
We went over to my parents' and did some walking around a few times in this time frame.
 
We got to not only hear, but see a Woodpecker...
 
 
And wonder how a little creature could make such a racket!
It reminded me that it is not the size of the creature that matters, but the heart and determination.
Little things can surprise you when you least expect it!
Don't underestimate anything!
 
 ~*~*~*~
 
 
We got to see not only the beginning...
 



But the ending of life...


And it got me thinking about how endings are just beginnings of a new phase of life, so calling anything an ending isn't exactly the reality.  It's just the start of something new.
It might be scary and different, but it can be beautiful, too.
 
~*~*~*~
 
We got to watch the creek flow...
 
 
 And be awed by its beauty and its ability to calm.
It reminded me that God gave us these things to whisper to our minds that He is here, that He cares and that He loved us enough to give us places where we could be completely at rest.
My heart is full with that love that knows no bounds!
 
~*~*~*~

I got to make homemade jam after my wonderful neighbor and friend, Ms. Bonnie, brought me a great gift of rhubarb from her yard!

It was as  a wonderful a birthday present to me (and my family) as all my cards, homemade and otherwise, well-wishes and other gifts from family and friends.
It all reminds me that I am one very blessed woman!  I feel so undeserving of so much love!
 
~*~*~*~
 
Then there's all the end of the year school activities and celebrations.
 
My Sean got a reward for...
Excellence in Behavior!
That will do any mother's heart proud!

My Stephen got a reward for...
 
 
Young Author/Writing!


 
He takes after me in so many ways!
 
 
I couldn't be more proud of my 2 little men!  They never cease to amaze and inspire me!
Love you, boys!
 
~*~*~*~
 
 
Yesterday, Natural and Free won a position in the Top 25 Foodie Moms on Circle of Moms, too!  #24, but it's a spot and I beat out some of the bloggers that I consider mentors to me who are just amazing, so I feel on top of the world and blown away at the same time!  I appreciate all who voted for me and felt me worthy of the title!  I couldn't have done it without you all, and "thank you" just isn't enough, but it's all I can say!

~*~*~*~
 
I have felt like an emotional roller coaster.  I've been all over the board.  I've been excited, I've been sad, I've been on top of the world, I've been a pit of nerves, I've been relaxed, I've been calm, I've been frustrated, I've been scared...and I've never felt in more need for the Lord's guidance as I do now.
 
So many changes are coming or have come.  So many things are ending or have ended (i.e. the school year, my 34th year of life) and that leads to beginnings (i.e. summer and my 35th year of life).  I need God's help to do it all.  That's a good thing.  At least I know I need Him now and not halfway through when I've made a royal mess of things first.  I can start right...and hopefully finish right, too.
 
Would you do me a favor?  Would you pray with me about these upcoming changes in my life?  Please pray:
  1. That I (and my hubby) would have wisdom on what to do over the summer to prepare my kids for online homeschooling this fall.  (They were approved to join a great online school program that should be a wonderful transition for them since it is nearly identical curriculum to what they've been learning and I can be more one-on-one with them and keep tabs on all the things I need to keep tabs on.)
       
  2. That my kids will adjust to being homeschooled with me as their Learning Coach. (They will have a teacher through the online school, but it will be about 70% me, 30% online, so I'm kinda like a sub, if that makes sense.)
       
  3. That we will continue to seek God's will in all we do, not just the hard things.    
         
  4. That I will find the answers needed around our kids health and education and my own health.  (My middle kid is having more blood sugar issues and there is a question about my youngest in regards to food sensitivities, and all my kids have other allergy issues that need monitoring and possibly addressing again.  My middle and youngest also both have "chicken skin" issues that we may have found "cures" for, but we have to talk with the doctor about it before moving forward.  My middle kid is still waiting for his neuropsych evaluation that will tell us exactly where his learning difficulties lie and stem from, too...It could still be several months yet, and we want God's perfect timing in getting this done and with the right doctor.  In regards to me, I'm having more IBS type symptoms and pain that seem to be diet related and am keeping a food diary to figure out the triggers fully.  I also have to have some routine tests done because I am now "that age" to have them done that we need wisdom on timing and money for, too.)
          
  5. That I would have peace surrounding all the unknowns in the upcoming year and beyond.  (I feel very overwhelmed right now!)
Thank you!  And if there is anything that you need me to pray with you about, please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an emailMy email is always open. :)
 
~*~*~*~
 Have an amazing rest of your week, and know that if you need me, I'm just an email away!
 
 
How has your week been?
Are you ready for summer?
What is your favorite thing about summertime?