Friday, December 28, 2012

2012:Year In Review/New Year, New You! {Link-Up}

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on Fibro, Fit and Fab!
It's almost New Year's and that always makes me a little nostalgic along with making me think about the upcoming year and the changes I want to make in my life.  This thought process lead to the link-up that I'm about to present to you.
I see this time of year as a time when we are most aware of our past and our future.  We look over our shoulder, and there's our history.  We look ahead, and we see all of our potential.  For this link-up, I'm giving you a chance to share either or both, whichever you wish.

For myself, I will share both, because I feel I can't ask it of you unless I do it for myself. :)

First, my past:

2012 has been an incredible year of discovery and change for me.  I found out I had Fibromyalgia, I started this blog, I revamped my food/allergy blog into Natural and Free, I found SITS Girls, I joined Facebook with my blogs (and Twitter and Pinterest and Google+), I re-learned about how important the right diet is for me (as well as exercise, environment and attitude), I hosted my first link-up and co-hosted one, too.  I have found new friends online, in life and discovered old ones again.  My hubby and I started our own Sunday School Class, too, and it's been so much fun getting to know all the college and career age adults that make up our SALt class! :)

All in all, 2012 has been a full year.  There's been pain, hardship and lessons learned.  There's also been joy, triumph, blessings and discoveries.  There are some things I look back on now and wish I'd done them this way or that way, but I really do believe that everything worked out as it should have, so I'm happy. :)

As to my future:

I have so much planned for 2013!  I plan on trying to get monthly bloggers on here and on Natural and Free if at all possible.  I also want to be a guest blogger as I can because I really enjoy that. :)  I also want to do a link-up a month, either on here or on Natural and Free, sometimes maybe both places, and I already have one in the works for February on Natural and Free that I'm co-hosting with Stacey from Glued To My Crafts and Vanessa of that includes a giveaway and promises to be loads of link-up fun just in times for Valentine's Day! :)
I also plan on continuing with my diet changes and weight lost (30 lbs. overall, 21 since August 5, 2012 - YAY!  I need to lose at least 39 more, but would like to lose 59 more if I can.) as well as making other lifestyle changes so that I can keep my "Fibrowolf" at bay.
I want to give as I can (hence the reason for wanting to do the link-ups, because that is one way that I can give back in a way that I can afford), when I can because it is right and good to do.
I want to spend more time with my kiddos because they are growing up so fast and changing so much, hence the reason I have a plan with a schedule to adhere to so that I can stay on task and focused and get things done so there is that time for the family that I cherish so much.  If I don't have my blogging life and activities (including housework) planned out, then time gets away from me and those moments I should have for my family slip by.  I've found that the more organized I am, the more free time I have.   That's a good thing! :)
I want to do what is best for my kiddos as far as schooling goes, which may mean homeschooling next year, which has me a bit scared, but excited to.  The research for this has already begun, and will continue throughout the next few to several months until we have it all figured out. :)
I want to be better at organizing and crafting.  This includes things in and outside the home.  This is a big task.  This is probably a task that will come a little at a time, maybe even still be in the works by next year at this time! LOL :)  We shall see!
I want to love my Lord and Savior more every day and schedule time for Him.  Right now, devotions are done as they get done.  I'm thinking I need to have more of a plan on this so that I don't just rush through or glance over things.  Probably early morning is going to work best for me, after hubby is at work and the kiddos are still sleeping.  It's either that or at night after the kiddos are in bed.  I'm thinking morning will be best for me to keep my attitude right throughout the day.  We'll see how this pans out.
I want to take time to do things for my hubby and family just for them...No rhyme or reason; just because.  This could be anything from making cookies or hot cocoa or slipping them a note...anything that screams, "I love you so very much!  You mean the world to me!"  I think this would be a great addition to my routine somewhere. :)  At least monthly would be a great start.  Oh, and Mommy/kid dates, too!  Really want to do that.
Ok, so I'm rambling now!  As you can see, there's lots that I want to do.  Some of this (maybe even all of this) will happen, but maybe not exactly how I planned it to go, and that's ok. :)  The important thing to remember is that life is about change and growth and learning.  No matter what happens in 2013, I know it will be a year of change, some for the good and some for the bad, and I will never be the same.  I will embrace each day as the gift that it is and grow from my experiences instead of drowning in them.  I will love a little more, try not to be so pessimistic on the bad days, and always remember that God makes no mistakes and that joy is about choice, not circumstance.
Happy New Year (a little early)!   May 2013 be an amazing year for you!

Thankful Thursday on There's Just One Mommy

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas, Blogger-Style! {A Link-Up}

So, I was sitting here thinking about how blessed we've been this year for Christmas.  I am just overwhelmed by it!  I don't know about you, but when I've been blessed by others, there's something inside of me that makes me want to give back. 

I have no money, so to give to a charity or something is out of the question unless it's something like The Dose of Reality is helping Rants From Mommyland do where you sign-up for something and an organization donates money to a worthy cause.  That was fun and great to be a part of, and I hope the rest of you were able to be a part of (and hopefully in a bigger way than I was able to be) something like this, too.

I have made goodies for the neighbors, doctors in the doctor's office, choir members and our Sunday school class which have all been delivered.  I've handed out our holiday pictures and holiday cards and sent them off to family.  We've bought presents for our kids and family, though not much, but still a wonderful thing to be able to do thanks to a check and a gift card.  We donated items to our local version of a Goodwill.  We've been kind and helpful where we can, but still I wanted to do more.

And then, an idea struck me.  I have yet to give something to my blogger family!  And what do bloggers like more than comments?  Well, I can't think of anything!  So, here's my idea: We do a link-up called, "Merry Christmas, Blogger-Style!" 
Who's with me?  Grab a badge below and start spreading the comment love, so we can have a Merry Christmas, Blogger-style! :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Unexpected Blessings

Months back, a letter came home from school talking about The Giving Tree that our local grocery store was doing.  Basically, they wanted us to fill out information on our kids (i.e. ages, clothing sizes, favorite colors, needs, wants) and they would fill out paper ornaments with the names of those items to place on a tree located in their stores.  People would then come in, pick off an ornament and buy presents accordingly, bringing them back to be packed up and delivered to the families who needed them.

Now, I have filled out these things before, but never had a response, and honestly, I had mixed feelings about doing it.  I thought maybe it was a drawing or something, but as I prayed about what to do, I felt God leading me to fill out the paper (and I have learned never to question God's leading, no matter how odd it may seem at the time), so I filled out the slip of paper, sent it back to school with my eldest and forgot about it...Until the other day.

A few days ago, I got a call saying our stuff was ready for pick-up.  At first, I was totally confused until she explained that it was The Giving Tree gifts, and then I understood.  My heart was immediately melted and thankful to God for answering my recent prayers about being able to have something for the kiddos under the tree (It was looking kinda bleak in that regard, though we did have a few small things.).  I mean, I had just been asking God for that extra blessing that very morning, and He provided it!  I was overwhelmed with gratitude and I think I said, "Thank you!" like a million times. :)

Anyway, long story short, there was a little mix-up and they ended up bringing the presents to us instead of us going to them.  They had warned me on the phone that it was a lot, but I really had no idea what that meant.  Imagine my surprise when she came to my door bearing not 1 box, not 2 boxes, but 3 HUGE boxes (one of which contained paper products) PLUS 3 large bags of goodies!  It took up half our living room (literally)!  I was speechless and so grateful that she left me with addresses to the grocery store and the church that provided this blessing for us (We will be writing those thank yous soon!).

Here are some pictures to show you just the gift portion (we stayed up until nearly midnight wrapping them all AND had to prop up the tree with a crate so they would all fit):

Wild, right?  Just blows my mind!

Now, let me tell you the most amazing part of everything.

This year, my kids knew Mommy and Daddy were tight on cash.  They knew Christmas would be bleak present-wise.  Hubby and I have been wondering about how we're going to purchase things like toilet paper and paper towels at times - Yes, it's been that interesting! - let alone presents.  We were able to get presents for those on our list last weekend thanks to a gift card from my hubby's aunt and a check from my Granny (the gift card and the check are yearly things) for just those reasons.  We even bought some much needed paper products, but knew they would only go so far.  I knew in the back of my mind that God would provide like He always did, but I never dreamed of how that would happen.

My boys (ages 10 and 8), bless their hearts, knowing all this, though they had wants of their own, wanted to get gifts for others first.  They had Store Night with NBB (our version of AWANA) last night, and all they could talk about (and this was way before they even knew about what was coming) was using their hard earned points on gifts for others.  Made me so stinkin' proud of them!  They weren't even considering themselves.  They even took to saying things like, "I get to play Santa!"  Too cute. :)

They've even been asking when we can go give our goodie bags out to our neighbors (something we decided years ago that, no matter the budget, we would do somehow even if that meant we did without a few things which was the case this year) because they loved giving them out and doing nice things for our neighbors!  Yes, I feel like one blessed Mommy, that's for sure!

Anyway, my daughter is only 2, so when she saw the presents (she was home with a nasty cold with me when they were dropped off) she was beyond excited.  It was so neat seeing her little eyes light-up and it's hard to keep her out of the goodies!

I hid all the presents in the bedroom before hubby and the boys got home, and hubby and I got them out after the boys went to bed.  This morning, when the boys saw them, they were overwhelmed.  They thought Dad had gotten a Christmas bonus and went nuts shopping. LOL :)  I told them, "No, they aren't from us."  They asked who they were from and I told them, "I honestly don't know."  I told them about The Giving Tree and they thought that was the coolest thing ever and can't wait to write thank you notes to the store and church.

Backtrack a little bit, when my hubby and I looked through all the items, he couldn't stop saying, "Wow!" and I kept saying, "I know!"  When I looked through and saw that the kids had gotten everything from toys on their wish list (toys I know I didn't even put on the list) to underwear and sock that they need (also not on the list), snow pants that my middle kid just that morning had told me needed to be replaced due to rips in the lining, plus paper products that we needed so desperately (again, something they told me when they dropped it off that the church just felt lead to add)...Well, I knew then that God touched the hearts of those who bought those presents.  They could not have picked more perfect gifts if they tried!

After we got it all gift wrapped, my husband and I talked about how amazing God is and His timing.  We also talked about how next year we really want to be on the giving end of this blessing.  We're praying that God will make it so.

I know Christmas is not about getting.  In fact, we always work very hard to make it as much about giving as we reasonably can.  This is the first year that the boys have really been on board about this without prompting and maybe even more eager to give than we are.  I think that lack of selfishness is the reason God answered our prayers in this way this year.  I don't expect this to happen every year, in fact we probably won't sign up to be part of The Giving Tree next year unless it's to get presents for others, but I know that this year, this event made an impact (we had something similar happen a few years ago, too, but this year it hit home with them more than last time).

This year my boys learned that nothing is impossible with God.  They have learned that God takes care of His Own, that He not only gives us our needs but sometimes our wants, and He uses sources we'd never expect!  They learned that you cannot out-give God.  They learned that God answers prayer.  They learned that they want to make miracles like this happen for others; they want to be answers to prayer, too.

To all of you out there that participate in things like this, who buy presents for others you probably don't even know: Thank you.  You will never know what a blessing you are!  It may not seem like much, but you are answering someone's prayers.  You are being used of God.  Thank you for letting Him use you.

A special thank you to The Dose of Reality for sharing this story.
Your email asking to share it along with your touching post about it blessed my heart beyond words.  You gals are the best! 
May the Lord bless you richly for your kindness!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Traditions

Our Christmas Tree and Stockings
I have been thinking a lot about Christmas traditions lately, probably because of all the posts I've been reading about them.
I've heard lots about Elf On The Shelf, making Christmas cookies, reading the Christmas Story, trips to grandma's, donating to charities, Christmas caroling, Christmas pageants and plays, etc.  All of these things can be wonderful things, but let's not get so busy that we forget the Reason behind the Season: Christ.
I read a post about being so caught up in tradition that you forget to stop and think about what's important.  We lose sight that this time of year is about being with family and friends and reflecting on Christ's birth and what He did for us.  We put so much pressure on ourselves to out-do last year present-wise, decoration-wise, food-wise, etc. or on just squeaking in those traditions that we just forget to stop and think about how it's not about getting or traditions or the commercialism...It's about loving and giving.
On Christmas Day (though most likely not December 25th like we celebrate), God gave His Son to us so that, one day, He could give His life for us (John 3:16, KJV).  Imagine how different this time of year would be if, instead of focusing on what we can get, we focused on what we could give because we've been blessed so much already and want to be a blessing.  Would be amazing, right?
What if we decided to make cookies for our neighbors or take a meal to someone in need?
What if we randomly filled up someone's gas tank?
What if we gave our treasured mittens or scarf to someone who obviously didn't have any?
What if we paid for someone else's meal or groceries?
What if we taught our children to give to others?
What if instead of teaching our kids "If you're good, Santa will...", we taught them "God wants us to love others, and this time of year is about His greatest gift to us, Jesus, so let's see what we can give to someone else in the spirit of giving"?
What if we focused on not the traditions, but the heart behind them?
Whether you realize it or not, each day you make new memories, some of which will form into precious traditions.  For example, this year I decided to do a 12 Days of Christmas {Goodies} link-up with my friend Stacey, and it's been a whole lot of fun, so we're planning on making it a yearly tradition.  The best part about it all has been showcasing other's amazing posts (you really must pop on over there and see what some people have linked up - AMAZING! - and feel free to add your own post if you're so inclined) and being able to have giveaways with it.  You just don't know how much I'm looking forward to our feature day and when we announce the giveaway winners!  I haven't been able to contribute much (Stacey has been able to make more of it happen than I ever could, and I think she's all kinds of amazing for it - Thank you, Stacey!), but even having the small part of it that I've had has been a blessing beyond words!
Another tradition we have is that the boys get to do a LEGO Advent Calender.  This is one of their favorite traditions that started because their aunt wanted to do something great for them on a Christmas where we didn't know if we'd even have presents other than that Advent Calendar.  It's an amazing gift from her that reminds me every time they open those little toys just how good God was that year as well as how good He is now.
We have also made it a tradition of taking goodies to our neighbors.   This is a tradition that warms my heart.  We don't get to chat with our neighbors often due to we all have our own lives, but this is the time of year that we can let them know that we enjoy having them as neighbors, even if things aren't always perfect, and that we care about them.  It does wonders for morale. :)
When we can, we also try to do something for our doctor's office.  One year we donated books, one time we donated lollipops for the kiddos to get after their visit, sometimes we make cookies or other treats for the doctors and staff, but we always try to do at least cards for the doctors.  We think it's important that they know how much we appreciate all they do for us.
All these traditions started out of a giving heart on someone's part.  They are traditions that, when we do them, we can talk about how they started and why.  They weren't forced out of guilt or forged out of pity, they were just done to be a blessing...and that's how I pray they will stay.
When my middle child brought home a slip to fill out for his wish-list for the class present-exchange, I almost got upset.  I know, it's a silly thing to get upset about, but I just didn't like that the focus was going to be on "What can I get?"  I know the teacher well, and I know she is one of the sweetest women in the world and that that was not her intention at all, so don't get me wrong here.  I know she just wants the kids to have an amazing Christmas party.  However, there was part of me that wondered why it had to be that way with the gift-exchange.  Why couldn't they do another type of party?  Why couldn't they participate in Toys For Tots or bring in non-perishable food stuffs for a family in need or write letters of thanks to our troops or any number of other things along those lines?  Why can't we take this time of year to teach our kids about being a blessing instead of about getting?
I guess because the burden lies on us as parents.  We have the job to teach gratefulness and gratitude.  We have the job of teaching our kids that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  Hard lessons to teach because we ourselves sometimes struggle with this very idea.  We get selfish, too.
Now, I'm not against gifts.  I'm all for presents.  I like to get with the best of them.  But I do think that I need to remember, especially this time of year, just how blessed I already am, just how rich I am in family and in Christ, and just how much I can do for others to be a blessing that will do my heart a world of good.
Let me challenge you, in the midst of your traditions, in the midst of your go-go-go, rush-rush-rush, to take a moment to stop and reflect on the "why" of the season.  Step back and evaluate why you do what you do.  Maybe it's time to take away a few of those traditions.  Maybe it's time to add a few more.  Whatever you decide, do it for the right reasons and in the right way and do it to the glory of God.
May you have an amazing holiday season!

Thankful Thursday on There's Just One Mommy