Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Finishing Up and Looking Forward

Good morning, Friends!

I hope each of you had a blessed Christmas, spent with those you love!  We had a grand time here at our house....lots of family time, lots of good food and some pretty serious naps!

Now that it is past, I am itching to get in there and start dismantling all the decorations, though.  It's always this way.  I love putting it all out, but when it's over, I'm ready to tear it all down and get the house back in order! The living room always seems to feel somehow larger once the tree is out.  Even though I didn't put as much out this year, it is feeling a bit cluttered now that we are past the 25th.....

How about you?  Are you ready to take it all down and start the new year off clean and fresh?  It's much like that in our lives, too.  Paring down, cleaning up, getting ready for the next chapter.  It is somehow invigorating and exciting! 

I am looking forward to 2012 and all the possibilities it holds!!!  This week between Christmas and New Year's Day, I am working on my list of goals for the upcoming year.  Goal setting is critical when you have your own business and I am still learning how to do it effectively.  In addition to business goals, there are personal goals to be set.  I'm avoiding making any "resolutions" - it seems they so often fall by the wayside by about mid-January.  Instead, I want to set realistic, measurable and achievable goals - with a definite, yet flexible, plan to meet them.  Sounds like an impossible project, doesn't it?  But, without some sort of road map for the year, I am afraid I will veer off course and end up in Podunk, Nowhere!!!  And, so I must focus my attention on sketching out the map for this year. 

What goals are you setting for yourself this year?  Feel free to share them in your comments.  Perhaps, with a little encouragement from each other, we can make them a reality!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 30 - Wrapping It Up With FAMILY!!!

The day before Christmas Eve, and here it is - Day 30 of my project.  I have to admit, I'm a little sad to be wrapping up this month-long series of posts.  Some days, it took Divine Intervention for me to get a post in!  But, over this past month, I have discovered a distinct shift in my attitude....

When I decided to answer the gentle nudge to undertake such a blogging adventure, I really had in mind that I would get many of these posts written in advance.  Seriously, I thought I would have several posts ready to hit "publish" on those days when I was running behind or feeling no inspiration to sit down and write.  However, it simply did not work out that way! 

Instead, I found myself writing about something that had come to my attention that day.  I began "looking" for a blessing to write about each day.  What a shift in attitude occurs when you begin to "seek" and "identify" the blessing!  It's like looking through a new set of eyes each day.....the focus is more intense, the vision more clear.  Little things that might have gone unnoticed before suddenly jump out at you.  Inspiration hits in the most unexpected places!

Although much of my posting has been spontaneous, I have known all along that my post today would be about my Family.  I've been saving this one, dear Friends, just for today.....

My Family....where would I be without them?!?!?  You see photos of them in my side column; perhaps you read a bit about them here and there in posts.  In many ways, my Family defines me; they make me who I am. 

Got to admit it....we are "that family", we always manage to act a little crazy and have a good time!

Eddie Dale.....my husband, my very own Prince Charming.  I wish I had met him many years earlier, but then again, we probably wouldn't have been right for each other at a younger age.  He was, and is, just what I needed, when I needed it.  He is the other half of my whole and the most fun, loving partner I could ever ask for. 

Eddie Dale and his pardner, Jake
My parents.....such big influences in my life.  Looking back, my childhood seemed so idyllic and happy, thanks to them and the memories they created.  Although they divorced when I was 22, they were able to find a common ground for all family gatherings.  We often come together with no discomfort.....it may not be traditional, but it's our "normal".  Both are always there for me and I am so thankful for that.

Mom and Daddy, Easter, 2010
My children.....oh, my children.  My heart is full for them.  I think they are the greatest thing I have ever done, hands down!

Eddie Dale and the kids.  You may wonder why Sam is holding his arms like this?
Because his big sister had just been doing this.....

Bonnie.....mother to my grandchildren, Trayden and Ansleigh!  My daughter and my friend.  She might have tried my patience and given me a measure of heartache through those tough teen years, but she is lovely young woman and I am so proud of her.  And those grandkids....the best gift ever!  I pray for her upcoming marriage in January; she deserves so much love and happiness. 

Bonnie, Trayden and Ansleigh
Benjamin.....my oldest son.  What a fine young man he has become!  Gentle, sensitive, kind....he always seemed so mature for his years.  When he was just barely a toddler, he had such a wise, grown-up voice.  He never babbled as a baby; it seemed he just started out speaking in complete, intelligible sentences.  Maybe because he was that "middle child", he seemed so reasonable and easy.   

Benjamin Ross....."Ben" now that he is older.
Samuel.....my "baby".  Oh, what a precious child he was.  Diagnosed with a rare and debilitating form of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 4, we spent many days in doctor's offices and hospitals, and formed a very special bond.  He has been in remission coming up on 15 years now and is such a talented artist and drummer.  He has a special heart for God and plays with the praise band at his church.

Samuel Grant....."Sam" now, but I will always remember how we all called him "Baby Sam" for so long.

I so love my Family.  I cannot lay my head on the pillow each night without giving thanks for them.  I've been so blessed to have so much love in my life!!!

I thank those of you have hung with me through this last month.  Although, the project may be concluding, the journey is just beginning.  I plan to take some of the lessons I have learned forward.  Just because I have finished the blogging assignment God laid on my heart, does not mean my days of thanksgiving and gratitude are over.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I know many of us will be focused on time with Family.  When the holiday has passed, I will be back here on Janie's Porch.  I hope you will continue to stop by and visit with me from time to time.

Wishing you much Joy, Peace and Love this Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 29 - The Christmas Spirit

I awoke this morning with a cheerful heart!

If you know me, then you know I am not particularly a morning person.  My husband has said that it's almost painful to watch me wake up....that he can literally see me struggling against opening my eyes and clinging desperately to sleep just a bit longer.  I laughed when he told me that, but it's probably true.

But, this morning I woke up in a good mood.  While I was getting ready, I found myself continually humming Christmas songs and smiling at myself in the mirror.  It was almost scary!

Our Broker and his family hosted a wonderful brunch at his home for all of us this morning.  We gathered in their beautiful home and prayed together, sang a Christmas carol around the long table and enjoyed the most fabulous food!  As we hugged one another before leaving, my heart swelled with emotion.  This is one of the most enjoyable parts of Christmas - the time spent with friends, pausing to be with one another, fully focused on the joy to be found in the friendship.  Each of us was given a beautiful LED ornament to take home for our tree - it constantly changes color - just so cute!!!

My Christmas spirit did not diminish as I ran errands and battled the crowds at the grocery store.  Even though people around me seemed rushed, frazzled, even cranky, I found the words "Merry Christmas" rolling off my lips frequently throughout the day.  And I realized my simply saying it with a smile brought a smile to the face of the one I greeted. 

Today, I am thankful that I feel so full of the spirit of the season.  The stress is simply gone.  There are still some things to be done around here, but the pressure (which I put on myself) is gone.  I truly enjoyed the day and felt that I was blessed just to be in the moment! 

I hope you are feeling what I am feeling!  Blessed, content, so very fortunate and loved.  This search for inner peace by focusing on gratitude and the Giver of all good gifts has helped me to stay on track and experience a day like today.  I pray I remember the lessons I have been learning on this journey! 

Day 28 - Rest for the Weary

Nearly midnight....and here I sit, fingers poised above the keyboard.....cutting it so close tonight!  But, at Day 28 of my 30 day project, I am not about to blow it now!!!

Today has been long, so long.  I woke at 4:30 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep.  I finally drifted off a few minutes before my alarm went off at 6:15.....not good, for me.  I woke up in a fog and felt so tired.  But, I had a full day planned at the office. 

By the time I arrived home late this afternoon, I was weary....both in body and spirit.  I sat down to take care of some bookkeeping and business, but I simply could not face it.  Have you ever felt that way?  Just bone tired, the numbers swimming in front of your eyes? 

Since Eddie is pulling the late shift at the store, not home til after midnight, I went ahead and fed the dogs, took them outside to do their business, put on some comfy sweats.....and crawled up on the bed.  With a warm blanket over us, daylight waning outside, the pups and I dozed off.  And slept.  Rested.  My body probably thought it was down for the count! 

We woke at 9:33 pm.  After a snack and quick clean-up in the kitchen, I tackled the bookkeeping I needed to get done.  I sat amazed as we still had money in the bank after taking care of everything.  After paying bills, my spirit felt undefeated.  God is so good to provide for us!

I am grateful that I was able to find refreshment in that nap this evening....that I was able to forge on after feeling so weighted down.  But, in my heart, I know who truly gives rest to my heart and refreshes my soul....

"For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes." - Jeremiah 31:25

Even when our walk is going well, when we are feeling the Presence of the Almighty daily, it is easy to grow tired.  Sometimes I think this is when the sneaky ol' enemy attacks the most. 

Today was a reminder for me that days will come when I feel tired, when I feel defeat beckon me to give up.  Sometimes, taking a break for an hour or two to simply rest allows me to come back feeling refreshed and renewed.

Sleep in peace, dear Friends....


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 27 - Christmas Is All In the Heart

In just a few short days, it will be Christmas!  Whether we feel we are ready - or not - it will be here.

Today was Eddie's only day off this entire week before Christmas (you gotta love retail....), so we headed out early to finish up some shopping.  It wasn't so bad - no, really!  It wasn't too bad.  But, it's pretty obvious that people are beginning to get stressed as the holiday bears down on us.  And, for some odd reason, it seems that people's driving skills seem to diminish as they get more stressed......

But, we survived it - and in one piece, too!  We are just about done with the whole shopping thing for this year.  There are only a few more presents to be wrapped and I got a really good start on the baking/candy making yesterday.  The cards are done; the groceries bought; the menu planned; everyone invited.  All in all, we are in pretty good shape!

In fact, I was feeling "on top" of it enough to actually check out some new books at the library.  Yes, I have a Kindle - and I love it.  But, I spied a couple of Christmas themed books on a spinner when I was returning some books that were due today....I could not resist.

As we slide towards the weekend, I find myself breathing a bit easier.  In fact, I am feeling excited and eager for the holiday to arrive.  In years past, I have gotten so involved in the preparations that the actual holiday was almost anticlimactic.  It seemed I would work and plan, and plan and work, until I couldn't enjoy the actual celebration of Christmas.  This year, I have made a serious effort not to do that.

The trimmings are less this year - I do not have a tree in every single room and the herd of lighted deer and large trees wrapped in lights are conspicuously missing out in the front yard.  I have not done one single Christmas craft.  I have not staged and photographed every angle of my house to post here.  (There is plenty of that already out there and I seriously doubt anyone will miss seeing a home tour post on Janie's Porch this year.)

Instead, this year, I have chosen to focus on what is in my heart for Christmas.  If my heart is not right, then no celebration - or present - will be big enough to fill it and make it right. 

Christmas truly is in the heart. 

Every single day, I have been listening to this song by Steven Curtis Chapman.....it is such a beautiful reminder about the true meaning of Christmas.  It's been my theme song for this holiday season....it's loaded on my phone and on my computer so that it's very accessible.  Today, I am so thankful for the message in this song.......for the way it lifts my spirits, brings back memories of when I had two little blonde-headed boys up before dawn.....and for it's powerful ability to remind me to stay focused. 

(I've been a fan of Steven Curtis Chapman for many years.  My kiddos just about wore out his cassette tapes when they were little!  After all these years, and all he and his family have experienced, he still rings true on the Message.  If you're not familiar with him, and his family's story, I urge you to check him out HERE.)

Preparing the heart for Christmas....



Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 26 - Light of the Season

I just love all the lights of Christmas!  Don't you?

The twinkle of the lights on the Christmas trees.....

The soft glow from candles burning....

The multi-colored outdoor lights and displays seen as we drive through town.....

Even the warmth of lamplight in a room on a gray afternoon or cold, dark evening.....

Yes, I love the lights at Christmas time!  But, even more than the holiday lights, I love the symbolism which they hold. 

"There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." - John 1:9 

"I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me 
will not remain in darkness." - John 12.46

The lights of the season represent our belief in the birth of One who brought Light and Life to the world.  Each time you admire the twinkle of the lights on the tree, or focus on the flame of the candle, remember the reason for the lights. 

"Lord, thank you for being a beacon in the night, drawing me near to your light and love."

Only a few more days to go until Christmas!  Try with me - not to get too caught up in the busy-ness to remember the real reason for the season!

Merry Christmas!!!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 25 - Change of Plans....

I had a post all thought out in my head for this evening.....

But, as I sit here and listen to the thunder of a storm passing over, rain hitting the window and rooftop, I am so thankful for the rain.....

Plans change sometimes.  Life throws a little curve ball and events change to make us realize what is important in the moment. 

The rain is welcome!  We have been caught in a terrible drought for some time now.  It has been rough on our part of the country.  Any moisture that falls from the sky is a relief.  And, in the last three weeks, we have had wet stuff (in the form of both snow and rain) on a more consistent basis than we have had all year.  It is truly an answer to prayer.

So, tonight I will table my planned post until tomorrow.   

There is most likely a reason that it is getting bumped to the back burner.....perhaps, it needs more thought and work before it is ready to share. 

Tonight I will focus on the blessing of the much needed rain and be thankful! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 24 - Friends

Today, I am thankful for FRIENDS!

Whether it is the friend right across town, or the one who lives many miles away - each is meant to treasured!  Whether it is the one who will honestly tell me "Yes", my rear looks big in those jeans....or the one I seldom see, but we can always pick up right where we left off......a true friend is one that will consistently be there when the dust settles. 

Where would we be without friends?  Those people who touch and enrich our lives in so many ways.

We don't get to "pick" our families, but we do get to "pick" our friends.  Once picked, those relationships must be nurtured and tended.  Yes, there is effort involved in being a "good" friend.  But, the reward is so sweet!

I've heard it said that many will come into our lives, but few will remain.  I've been blessed with some who would go to the ground for me....and I hope that some of them would say the same about me. 

Filled with gratitude for the gift of friends....


Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 23 - An Afternoon Simply Being "Mimi"

Day 23 - and I haven't lost my rhythm yet on the daily posting!  Some days, I just don't know where I will find the time to sit down and prepare something, but (amazingly!!!) I have.  Just being able to continue this project has been a blessing - and I can see where there has been some Divine Intervention along the way, allowing things to fall into place!

Today was a special blessing for me, as a grandmother.  Ansleigh, my five-year old granddaughter, has been a bit under the weather.  Since she still had fever this morning, she couldn't go to daycare.  I had business at the office and some running to get done this morning, but I was able to help out this afternoon.  After spending the morning at my mom's house, she came home with me about noon.

Thankfully, she had no fever and wasn't feeling that bad at all by the time she got over here.  So, we were really able to just enjoy some girl time while she was here!

We had macaroni & cheese for lunch - eaten in front of the TV, watching a Christmas movie.

Then we piled up on the bed, with the little pups, for a nice nap under a warm, snuggly blanket. 

After napping, another Christmas movie was in order while she ate a bowl of Cheerios - her appetite was much better today than yesterday.  

Before we knew it, it was time for her mommy to pick her up!  But, what a nice and relaxed afternoon we had together.

Oh, the blessings of being a grandmother!  I am thankful for my grandbabies and time I get to spend with them!!!  And I am thankful I was able to help Bonnie out today - 'cause that's what Moms are for!!!

Snuggle with the ones you love....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 22 - Preparing the Heart

Preparing the heart for Christmas.....

Does the world really know how to adequately prepare for the true blessing of Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of our Messiah?  Judging by commercials and advertisements, I think not.  For many, this sacred holiday has become the height of commercialism.  Rushing around, shopping and overspending, stressing over getting everything "just so" has become the norm - but, it isn't truly reflective of the spirit of the season.

How exactly does one prepare the heart for Christmas?  

Emptying the heart of the ways of the world and seeking the blessing of the Divine, the Christ Child, the King of all kings.....prepares the heart for Christmas.  For only by emptying the heart is there room for Him to enter in. 

Not that baking cookies or giving gifts is a bad thing.  That's not at all what I am saying.  Surely, it is a way to show our love to people we care about.  It's not wrong to decorate our homes, light our trees and candles, fill the air with the sounds and smells associated with this time of year.  The error is in focusing too much on the "trappings" of the holiday and losing sight of the true meaning of Christmas.  The secret is in finding balance.....

This year, I strive to let go of the expectations of the world; cease the struggle with perfection and seek the Perfect One.  I am grateful that God has placed this on my heart and whispered in my ear - "Prepare your heart for me."

Take the time to be still and meditate on the wonder that Christ entered the world through the womb of a humble maiden.  The story of the Nativity is powerful in its complex simplicity.  It's a good place to start when searching for the true spirit of Christmas. 

Today, I am linking with Ann Voskamp's "A Holy Experience" for "Walk with Him Wednesdays".  If you are looking for insight on preparing your heart for CHRISTmas, I encourage you to visit and be inspired.

Be blessed, sweet Friends....


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 21 - Welcome to Work!!!

Today I am thankful for the wonderful place I get to "work"!

When I was interviewing for a sponsoring broker last December, even before I got my license, this particular Broker was so excited to share with me that a new building was in the works.  However, when I came on board, we were crammed into a small space in a retail shopping center - wedged between a hamburger joint and Chinese take-out.  Privacy was often lacking as we tried to work with clients in cramped cubicles, but the knowledge it was temporary helped all of us on the team get through that awkward time. 

As the company has grown, so too have our quarters.  In August, we finally moved into our brand, spanking new offices.  Each agent was provided a desk and given the opportunity to decorate their private work space with their own flair. 

Here is the space that I enjoy when I am working at the office.....

During this holiday season, I have dressed it up a bit with greenery, tiny white lights, simple gold beads and glittery gold and white poinsettias....all items left over from decorating at home.

Just the other day, I came into the office to find this beautiful, and very large, poinsettia that Eddie Dale 
brought by and left on my desk....what a terrific surprise!

My office is on the east side of the building and gets the most wonderful morning light.  Even on this cloudy, wet afternoon, you will often find me working by lamplight only.  With the warm, butter-colored walls, it feels cozy, so much more like home. 

I am thankful to have such a comfortable and efficient place to work!  However, the biggest blessing about being with this agency is the support and comraderie I have found there.  I knew from that initial interview - this where I needed and wanted to be!  I practically begged the Broker to find a spot for me to work - even if it was in a closet! 

I want to share the Mission Statement upon which our Broker established this company
- just 3-1/2 short years ago -

And this scripture which graces the wall of our large conference room - both in this new office 
and at the previous location -

Perhaps this gives you a glimpse into the type of work environment with which I have been blessed. 

I am thankful I found a career I love, that allows me to help people and rewards me on so many levels.  And I am thankful God led me to an agency which is founded on Biblical principles and filled with fantastic agents who have blessed me with friendship, support and mentoring.  I am incredibly blessed to be part of this team.  

If you are ever in town, in the neighborhood, stop by and I will give you the Grand Tour of our fabulous new digs!

Wishing you all well this evening.....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 20 - The JUMBO Eraser

Funny how sometimes things will just jump out at you when you least expect it, isn't it?

For instance, I spied this while shopping in the dollar store......

For some reason, it caught me eye - even though it was hanging about halfway down the aisle from the crayons for which I was searching.  But, there it was and it spoke volumes to me! 

Ever feel like you just need a big ol' eraser to clean up messes you make in your own life?  Gosh, I think most of us do feel that way from time to time.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could just pull out an eraser and whisk away mistakes?!?!?

Well, God has the original JUMBO eraser!  He can erase those mistakes, if we are just humble enough to admit them and ask Him.  And the most amazing part is that when He uses His eraser, there's not a trace of the mistake in His eyes anymore.....totally clean paper, once again.

It's called FORGIVENESS.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins 
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." ~ 1 John 1:9

Now, there is a flip side to this.  We are called upon to also use our own "eraser" and practice forgiveness towards others.  

"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, 
your heavenly Father will also forgive you." ~ Matthew 6:14

Our eraser will never compare to His, but using it will certainly bless our heart even more than the heart of the one whom we forgive.  Forgiving keeps our heart from growing hard and bitter....it opens it up to receive our forgiveness from above.  

Today, every day, I am thankful that I am forgiven!!!  If that is not a tremendous blessing, I don't know what is.....

Keep your hearts open so they can be filled.....


Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 19 - Family Traditions

As the days speed by, Christmas draws closer.  Quickly, so quickly, time flies by.  Are you ready for Christmas yet?  I admit, unashamedly, that I am not!  But, hey!  We still have nearly two weeks to work on it, right?

This evening, I'm pausing to reflect on the seasonal traditions that our family has developed through the years....

Without fail, we have to set aside a couple of evenings to load up in the car and drive around town "looking at lights".  Sometimes, it is just Eddie and me.  Sometimes, now that we live closer, we have my mom or Bonnie and the kids loaded up with us.  But, as the children were growing up, this was an integral part of our celebration of Christmas.  As we wound through the most decorated neighborhoods, viewing the display of lights on the houses and lawns, there was much "oooooh"-ing and "awwww"-ing.  And, if we were out on Christmas Eve, the search for Rudolph's red nose in the sky was on!

We are of the group of Christmas Eve package openers!  After dinner together, and a drive to look at lights, we open all the gifts that are under the tree that evening.  This was the tradition that I grew up with.  After all, we had to make room under the tree for Santa to visit and leave his presents, so it was essential to distribute and open all packages in his way that evening! 

Ansleigh opening presents on Christmas Eve, 2010
 The food, oh, the food!  There are yummy treats that we only seem to have during the holidays.  Homemade fudge, sausage and cheese balls, spinach dip, hot apple cider and lots and lots of cookies.....there must always be something tasty to nibble on.  It requires more time in the kitchen and that's probably why we only have some of these goodies once a year.  But, having them so seldom is part of what makes them special - and identifies them with the holidays.  

A Christmas DVD is always running in the background.  Some of our favorites are "A Christmas Story", "The Polar Express", "Christmas with the Kranks", "Prancer" and "The Santa Claus".  One of my newer favorites for the last couple of years has been "The Christmas Cottage".  But, it seems we always have a Christmas movie playing when we gather - whether anyone is actually paying much attention or just catching bits and pieces as we wander through the living room. 

Trayden opening his presents last year.  Note - "A Christmas Story" on the TV!
 And, of course, there is this tradition!  One that I am sure is carried out in many homes around the world....

Family time is paramount in all of our traditions.  The entire celebration centers around being together.  I cherish the traditions.  They bring a feeling of comfort and security; and help to build wonderful memories for our children to recall - often leading to their adopting some of these same traditions with their families in years to come.

I am thankful for our family traditions!  

We are so blessed to be able to continue with them each year, adjusting and adapting as the need arises.  

What traditions do you and your loved ones share at this special time of year?  I invite you to leave a comment and tell us a little about them!

Warm hugs....


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 18 - Shifting Thought Patterns.....

Like many women, I have many roles in life - wife, mother, daughter, sister, grandmother.  I am also a friend, a coworker, and my career is extremely service oriented. 

It seems that I am constantly doing something for someone! 

Every once in awhile, I get to thinking along these lines -

"I just do, do, do for everybody.  All the time.  
Nobody ever does anything for me!  
Why am I always the one doing for others?!?!?!  
I wish someone, just once, would think of doing something nice for me,
without me even asking!!!"

Imagine that in this monologue in my head, my inner voice grows louder and whinier with each statement.  And as I begin to submerge into this line of thought, my actions grow resentful and hateful.  Joy flees in the face of resentment and anger.

Any of this sound familiar?  If you can honestly say, "No, absolutely not", then I applaud and admire your sweet and giving spirit.  Because, I am just not there, yet. No, I still get off on this negative line of thinking when I feel stretched, or even sometimes used, by people and events around me. 

When I get to feeling like this, the best way for me to get out of it is to work on my list of gifts, blessings for which I am thankful.  Because, at the very top of the list, on page 1, I always see when I open my notebook, is the greatest gift of all.....and the one that gives life and meaning to every gift that follows....

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, 
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." - John 3:16

It is a powerful reminder that someone has done something for me! 

God gave His Son; the Son gave His life - for me. 

No matter that I let the emotions and actions of the world weigh me down, I am still a child of God by blood.  And it would serve me well to remember this always.....and to give thanks unceasingly.

Today, and every day, I am thankful for this most precious gift! 

Peace to you, sweet Friends....


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 17 - An Evening Out

It is late.  And I have been so busy today that I haven't gotten to prepare a post yet.  But, it's been such a full day and I really have a good excuse for being so late!

I ended up working for a few hours earlier in the day.  Then, the afternoon involved helping my mom get a dear family friend settled into his new "assisted living" apartment.  Finally, we came home late in the afternoon to prepare for an evening out with friends.  This was an evening to which I have been looking forward for quite some time......

After meeting our friends and enjoying a nice dinner, we headed downtown to the historic Paramount Theater for a special showing of "White Christmas".  I must say, it was simply magical!!!  (As I had imagined and hoped that it would be.)

A full house enjoyed the show in the beautifully restored theater.  People of all ages came together for the evening and sat mesmerized by the classic holiday film.  From the opening credits, I had goosebumps from seeing one of my all-time favorite movies on the big screen.  As the movie reached the final scene, the audience began to sing along with the song, "White Christmas".....it was simply so touching and nostalgic that I felt my heart swell.

Tonight, I am thankful for such a wonderful evening with Eddie and our sweet friends, Barbara and John.  I am grateful that we were able to enjoy such a special outing together.  And, I am thankful for the infusion of a little more Christmas spirit into our hearts!

Now, I'm off to dream of little twinkling Christmas lights and gently falling snow....

Rest well, dear Friends.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 16 - Enjoying Little Slices of Time

Ever have one of those odd little pockets of time that fills up in an unexpectedly pleasant way?  Maybe you had time set aside to work on something that you weren't particularly enthusiastic about, but ended up enjoying it anyway.  Or perhaps you had a couple of hours that had no direction and you decided to do something on the spur of the moment and it brought you a measure of happiness.

I was blessed with one of those little episodes yesterday afternoon.  I found my schedule slow for the afternoon, so I left the office and went by the grocery store to pick up a few things.  I knew in advance of heading to the house that I was going to have to sweep and mop the kitchen because Jake tracked in a stinkin' bunch of mud right before I had to scoot out the door in the morning rush.  I just put all three dogs in the kitchen, on tile, until I could get back to the house and clean it up.  The knowledge of that chore waiting on me at the house hung over me like a dark cloud.....

However, once I arrived home, the dogs greeted me so enthusiastically that it was hard to remain mad about the mud.  I shooed them out of the kitchen and it seemed I had the mess cleaned up in no time.  So, I decided to throw a quick dinner in the crockpot and try out my new cookie sheet.  For the next couple of hours, I hummed Christmas tunes and piddled in the kitchen.  I made oatmeal cookies with Heath toffee pieces and pecans in them.  I also prepared some jalapeno cream cheese dip so we would have something in the fridge to serve if anyone dropped by.  (Okay, in case we get a bad case of "the nibbles" ourselves.....)

All in all, it was such a pleasant time.  I don't spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen these days, but it felt really good to spend some time baking and cooking while the dogs looked on.  And, it didn't feel like a chore.  Instead, it reminded me how much I enjoy being a "homemaker".  To me, being a "homemaker" means making this home feel comfortable and welcome to all who enter.  Once in a while, it feels nice to focus on achieving that in some way other than just cleaning!

I am thankful for that little slice of time that brought me so much joy!  Not only did I find peace and pleasure in doing something so simple, but we had an easy and delicious dinner and will no doubt enjoy the homemade snacks in the coming days.  In fact, I am sitting here with a cup of hot coffee and a yummy oatmeal cookie as I write this post!

Enjoy and be grateful for those unexpected times when you find joy where you least expect it!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 15 - "Live in the Moment".....

 .....it's not just a cliche!

My goal for Christmas this year, and beyond, is simply ~

"Live in the moment."

I know, I know...that seems to be a popular catch-phrase right now.  But, it is a wise directive and definitely a worthy mantra.  

For me, the challenge is in focusing and reigning in my own agenda.  Sometimes, that takes an extremely concentrated effort on my part.  I'm apt to be thinking ahead, planning in my head; rampant thoughts battling for the number one spot in line.  And I tend to be a champion worrier, often fretting over things that cannot be helped by fretting. 

Consequently, I am making a conscious effort during the holidays this year to simplify ~ meaning less decorating, fussing and fretting and more experiencing, enjoying and expecting to be blessed by being present in the moment. 

Today, I am thankful that God is impressing upon me the need to live in the here and now.  
I am thankful He has placed a burden on my heart about this.  
Each moment is a gift from Him ~
I don't want to miss a single one because I was looking the other way or otherwise absorbed.     

Until tomorrow.....


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 14 - A Man Who Cooks!!!

I am such a lucky girl - I married a man who can - and does - cook!!!  In fact, he actually ENJOYS it! 

Eddie Dale loves to create yummy food and he is very, very good at it, too.  The first time he cooked for me, he made chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy....traditional comfort food that tasted better than just about any I had ever eaten before.  Before long, I learned that he can cook, fry or grill just about anything!  The only thing he does not do is bake - except for the pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving.  

My husband is fearless in the kitchen.  He has created some wonderful recipes, combining and layering non-traditional layers of flavor to make the tastebuds rejoice.  In particular, he makes a raspberry chipotle sauce that is truly divine on pork tenderloin.  His vegetable lasagna is another one of my favorites; as is his old-fashioned chicken stew.  I will eat anything he smokes or cooks out on the grill - meat, chicken or veggies.  His smoked ham and brisket are legendary! 

Our understanding is that he will do the cooking and I will do the cleaning afterwards.  Cleaning is my forte anyway, so this arrangement works well for us.  

I am thankful for this man who knows his way around the kitchen!  I am grateful for his willingness to prepare meals for us and for his ability to do it with both skill and love. 

Yes, I am very fortunate and blessed to have partnered up with this guy!  As we approach our 8th anniversary later this month, I am thinking that I am going to keep him!!!

Now, gotta run!  Not to make you envious, or anything like that, but Eddie is bringing steaks in off the grill for our dinner! 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 13 - Living in a Modern World....

With the chilly weather we've been experiencing here in our little part of the world, I've been thinking how wonderful it is to come into a nice, warm building after being out in the cold.  Thank God we have central heating almost everywhere these days!!!

And that got me to thinking about all the wonderful, modern conveniences we have around us.  To name a few.....

Automobiles - We can get around so quickly and efficiently now.  Imagine if we were limited to where we could walk, or had to saddle a horse or hitch up a wagon to go to town.....

Indoor plumbing - Think about having to head to the outhouse when nature calls in the middle of the night.  And how often do we take for granted having indoor water at the tap, both hot and cold?

Electricity - Powers everything.  Remember how disabling, and downright paralyzing, it was the last time you lost electricity?

Cell  phones - As a realtor, I truly depend on mine!  But, beyond that, it helps me stay in touch with my family and friends; and serves as a camera on the go.

Computers - Admittedly, there are pro's and con's to being in the most technologically advanced world of computerized everything.  But, overall, they improve our quality of life in many ways.

Supermarkets and grocery stores - With the urbanization of America, and much of the rest of the world, we have come to depend on someone else to catch, kill, harvest and even prepare our food.  Most of us rarely bake a loaf of bread anymore.  Putting food on the table takes much less time that it did even a hundred years ago!

I could go on and on about all the modern developments and inventions that make our lives so much easier.  Our survival is so much different than previous generations.  I, for one, am thankful to be alive at this time.

With all the modern conveniences, we have time to do so much more with our energy and our lives.  It's no longer just a matter of working sun up til sun down to survive.  What do we do that extra time???

A lot of it is spent working, I am sure.  Jobs and careers take up much of that gained time.  In order to feed all the machines, we must put money into them.  But, after that....where does that time go?

Unfortunately, I admit that I probably waste a good deal of the extra time gained by living in our modern world.  Generally, I spend too much time sitting in front of the TV or the computer.  Perhaps, just maybe, I should focus on spending that time in a more fruitful or productive way.  What if each of us mentally made the effort to carve out more time for reading, or writing in a journal, volunteering, creating, spending time with family, helping our neighbors.....?????

What we do with our time reflects our hearts and character.  Time is a valuable gift, and as such, should not be squandered.  Down time is necessary, yes......but wasted time?

Today, on this 13th day of my Gratitude project, I am thankful to be alive in this day and age!  I am thankful for all the modern conveniences I enjoy from minute to minute, from coffeemakers to blow dryers to my Kindle.  I am thankful to have limitless opportunities, courtesy of science and technology.  And I am thankful for the gift of extra time!

I know that you, too, were blessed in some way today.  Please feel free to share your blessing today.  I know you've received many!!!

Wrapping up Day 13......


Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 12 - A Snow Day!!!

I awoke early this morning.....5:30 am, to be exact.  What woke me up so early?  The tinkle of Pepper's tags as she wandered around the bedroom....she was trying to wake Jake up to play.  Ugh....way too early for that!  So, I called her back to her bed, told her to go back to sleep and got up to look out the window.

Snow came during the night.  A good dusting covered the ground in white and illuminated the dark outside.  I crawled back into bed and snuggled down deep in the warm covers, saying a silent prayer that the dogs would sleep a bit longer.

They did, thank goodness!  And when we got up a couple of hours later, the snow was already starting to melt in spots.  But, it is still very beautiful and since the temperature didn't get much below freezing for very long, it is just wet and mushy - not slick and dangerous.  No school delays today.....

Our beautiful, and sculptural, mesquite tree out front

The mums are done for this year....

As I am enjoying another cup of coffee, I am so thankful that I don't have to get out early in the weather this morning.  I am thankful that I have a job that allows me some measure of control over my schedule.  I am fortunate to be able to work from home a lot of the time.  This is a particular blessing when the weather is bad or I've been under the weather.  

When I decided to take that leap of faith and get my real estate license, I knew the first year would be the proving ground.  It is difficult to get established and the money only comes after a closing, so there's not a guaranteed paycheck every other Friday.  But, I've been blessed to have steady enough business since my first closing to help out with household expenses and build us a little cushion.  All in all, I feel like I've had a pretty good year considering I am a rookie. 

Of course, in real estate, it's either feast or famine.  Putting that money into a cushion fund is necessary because there are times when business is going to be slow - like during the holidays and shortly thereafter.  Many seasoned veterans have warned me about this, but after the last couple of years Ed and I have had, they really needn't have been concerned.  When there was no or little money coming in and we were living off of savings, I learned very quickly that you can't "blow the wad" if you come into some extra money!  Also, it seems that when I've had some of my best months in sales, some major expense comes along - like having to replace the entire heating and cooling system in our house.  But, God has blessed in a way that allows us to meet the needs and be able to keep going.

Today, I am thankful for being able to work in a job that I love and appreciate the little benefits like setting my own hours.  Eddie doesn't have to go in to work until 2:00, so I get to spend some extra time here at home with him this morning.  God is very good in providing for us and bringing us to this place in life. 

Still counting blessings.....


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 11 - A Bumbling Start to the Day....

For some unknown reason, I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. 

Not literally, of course.  But, I just felt cranky and short-tempered from the moment my feet hit the floor.  Realizing my mood was not very pleasant, I wisely crawled back into bed after getting the dogs out and fed.  After all, I reasoned, perhaps the problem was that I just needed a little more sleep.  And so I hibernated under the covers until Eddie left for work shortly before 9:00 o'clock. 

However, my mood didn't seem to really be that improved when I attempted getting up again.  I guess the knowledge that today was the day set aside for some housecleaning and laundry didn't help.  I brewed a pot of coffee, drank two cups, spun my wheels for a bit on Facebook......

And procrastinated getting started. 

I even went so far as to make a rather smart-mouth comment on Facebook that I was having a hard time finding "joy" in scrubbing the toilet.....

Finally, at nearly 10:30, I just realized I needed to just get started and get it done.  After a couple of bumbling starts, I had laundry going, linens changed, floors vacuumed, furniture dusted and the house pretty picked up.  And you know what????  I found my "joy" in that accomplishment!!!!

Maybe that's how Life is sometimes.  We dread knowing we've got to do something and we're just not looking forward to it.  We build it up in our minds, make it even more unpleasant than it actually is.  Put it off.  Whine or gripe about it; resent having to do it. 

Any of this sound familiar to you?

Well, now that the day is done and I got some of the necessary stuff out of the way, I am much more relaxed and at peace.  Eddie and I had a nice dinner (take-out from Chicken Express - an adventure all it's own....) and enjoyed a couple of our favorite TV programs together.  While the temperature outside is dropping, the wet stuff is beginning to sound more like frozen stuff....

I am so thankful to be snuggled up here in our warm, cozy and clean home.  

Lord, I am thankful that you had this lesson for me today.  
Sometimes the joy is in the finished job.......and sometimes it is found in the doing of the job.  
When there is a job before me, help me to approach it with an eagerness for discovering which.....

Stay warm and rest well......


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 10 - The Project is the Blessing....

What a day!!! 

Yesterday, the temp hovered in the upper 30's and lower 40's all day, with a good rain coming last night.  Oddly, it warmed during the night, creating foggy and drippy conditions.  By 3:00 pm, it had cleared to a sunny and warm afternoon.  By this time tomorrow, though, an arctic front should pass through, dropping the temperature considerably and possibly bringing a wintry mix our way. 

Although it was raining this morning, I decided to venture out to do a little Christmas shopping.  The stores and mall were crowded, but it wasn't terribly bad.  I covered a lot of ground and I would estimate that I am over halfway through with the shopping for this year.  As for tomorrow, I fully intend to get everything that I have purchased so far wrapped and under the tree!

Eddie is working this evening, so I am here, alone with the dogs.  When I got home this afternoon, I put a pot of chili on and the boys came over and had dinner with me.  Now, they are gone and I am settled in - my warm pj's on and a Christmas movie playing for the dogs in the living room.  And I am so thankful to be home.....

It is time to slow my thoughts and my body down.  It feels like I have just been "running" all day.  I zoomed from store to store, then battled my way through the aisles of the H-E-B.  I unloaded the car and took the dogs out for a potty break; this necessitated a thorough cleaning of all twelve paws before they reentered the house.  And still they tracked in mud from the all the rain we had last night.  So, I ended up vacuuming and mopping before I started dinner.  Now, that everything is cleaned up and put away, I can finally relax....

I tell myself.....

Be still.....breathe deeply.....and focus on being thankful.  
Enjoy the "down time" and don't think about what needs to be done next.  
Just turn that off and let it go, for the day is done.
There is nothing else that MUST be accomplished tonight, 
Except to rest and recharge.
(This is a gift I am learning to give myself.  To just stop.  Not easy for this Type A personality.  But, it is something that can be learned....and so now I suppose I am a student in the School of Learning to Chill.)

I am grateful that God led me to embark on this journey of 30 days of Thankfulness.  I'm even more thankful that I didn't ignore the gentle nudge to undertake the project.  For it is compelling me to slow down each day and focus on a particular blessing - to name it, specifically.  And I find myself looking around at the world with eyes wide open....searching for and seeking out the little gifts that are all around me every single day. And that, my friends, is called "a change in attitude".....something I desperately needed.  The project, itself, has become a blessing. 

So, Day 10 passes and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.....

Good night to you, sweet friends......


Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 9 - Keeping Family Close

Some days, as I approach writing my daily blog of gratitude, there is just so much in my life for which I am thankful that it is difficult to narrow it down.....

Today is one of those days!  WHAT to write about???  How to select just one topic on which to expound......

But, I'm going to narrow it down....not just sit here, with fingers poised above the keys, waiting for inspiration to hit. 

Today, I am thankful to live so close to much of my family!!!  Since we moved back to Abilene, less than two short years ago, our lives have changed in many ways.  One of the best changes is that we get to see loved ones much more frequently!

Ben and Sam share an apartment here in town.  They come over for dinner pretty regularly, as you would expect two young, single guys to do.  Sam's schedule at work even allows us to get together for a late lunch now and then.  When they need something, they know we are just a phone call away.  And this is one momma who enjoys answering the phone every time caller ID shows any one of her kids! 

Bonnie and her two children also live here in town.  Occasionally she has to work on Saturdays for a while and Trayden and Ansleigh get to come over and spend some time with Mimi and Papa Ed.  They will arrive early in the morning, before the sun is peeping over the horizon, and snuggle back into bed with me until Papa Ed cracks out the griddle and pretends he is the cook at IHOP. 

Mom lives just over a mile from me.  I've even ridden my bicycle over to house when the weather is fair.  Now that she is retired, we can get out and do a bit of "junking" from time to time.  And every outing includes stopping at Sonic for a cherry coke!  She is faithful to run over and take the pups out for a potty break when I get detained at work.  And she painted tirelessly when we moved into our place here.  She's more than my mom - she is my friend.

Daddy lives a couple of miles away, but he shows up quite often on Saturday mornings with a box of donuts....for no reason, whatsoever.  He loves to come over and have dinner with us and he and Ed get along famously.  Since I live on his way to HEB, he stops by en route quite often.  Sometimes he just drops off the newspaper or coupons he has collected for me and visits for a minute.  But, I love getting to see him on a regular basis. 

After living so far from family for several years, I truly have a deep appreciation for living near everyone now.  I love that no one has to travel for holidays or special occasions.  We can get together and then everyone gets to go home and sleep in their own bed.  It's such a wonderful set-up that there are days when I can scarcely believe what a blessing it is to be near family. It is something I will never take for granted!

Getting together for a birthday dinner at Famous Dave's

Celebrating Sam's graduation from high school

Squeezing into the kitchen/dining area for dinner together - card table necessary!

Pumpkin carving on the back patio before Halloween
 Thank you, God, for the blessing of Family.  And thank you for allowing us to be close and part of each others' daily lives.  Family makes life so much more sweet - even in tough times.  It's a built-in support system for us and for that I am eternally grateful!

Blessings to you, sweet friends.....


Capturing a Magical Light

After several gray days of frigid temperatures, along with a bit of ice and a flurry or two of snow, the sun shone brilliantly on New Year&...