Monday, April 21, 2014

HE IS RISEN 2014

Hope you all had a GREAT Easter celebrating our RISEN SAVIOR.


Lacy asked me the other day... "Mom, is Easter all about getting candy?"


I looked at her with that what-are-you-talking-about expression on my face. She KNOWS what Easter is about. She's been in church since she was 6 days old and had her first Easter shortly thereafter. Why would she be asking this?


Of course, I answered no.


She went on to explain that she knew the answer, that it was all about Jesus dying for us and now being ALIVE, but some friends on the bus had been talking about how Easter was all about getting candy, and it concerned her.


And mommy's heart felt so much better!


I LOVE that my children's hearts are starting to hurt for those who don't know God's truth. I love that she saw the fallacy that holiday's are about doing instead of remembering.


Remembering is the whole point of holidays, in my personal opinion. All year we go along with our lives, and sometimes things just get hectic. Yes, we should remember every day. And most days we do. But I love that we can have a day that is all about remembering our RISEN LORD. A reboot, if you will. God evoked days of remembrance way back in the old testament, wanting to make sure through the generations, that what He did for the Israelites was not forgotten.

We have lots of traditions. We have Easter baskets, bunnies, candy, egg hunts, and the like. Most of them are just fun and honestly, have zip to do with Jesus. They are fun traditions, and yes, we do them in our family too.

But we make it a point to remind our kiddos that these are just that. Traditions. That we do not celebrate bunnies or eggs or some Goddess that they celebrated years ago. We celebrate JESUS.

Super thankful today to have another year with my family to spend in remembrance. Thankful that my children DO listen, that they have taken the cause of Christ to heart and can see how minor things like "candy" are and how AMAZING and life changing JESUS is.

Oh yeah. I have some beautiful girls!!!

KK with her cousin:-)
Lacy with blurry gma in the background:-)

Gabby... with big sis lacy giving bunny ears. I thought it appropriate.....

Finding Easter Eggs! Go Annabelle!

She did SUCH a good job. Much better than I expected! Last year, she could care NOTHING about an easter egg hunt and wouldn't even put them in her basket or pick them up. This year, while I still had to instruct and point them out, she was SUPER eager to get them. Then she proceeded to open them all up, then steal her sister's eggs and dump out all their candy onto the floor. They were SUPER happy about this, as you can imagine!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alleys and bunnies and blogs, OH MY!


Blogging over on The Writer's Alley today--- talking about writing fiction with an agenda attached... and how that, for the most part, it isn't a fabulous idea.

Would love to hear your thoughts, if you want to stop on by!

(That, and this writer didn't have time to write two blog posts for the same day... either that or I'm just lazy.... eh, it's a toss up.)

Have a GREAT Easter Weekend, and remember that the day is about more than bunnies, eggs and candy. Wait... that's right.... it's not at ALL about bunnies eggs and candy.... it's about the fact that....

JESUS IS ALIVE!

(I think the above could be classified as me writing another blog post...albeit a small one.... WHOOPS!)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Unexpected Blessings-- when God shows off

We got a new washer and dryer yesterday!

OH MY GOODNESS. I think I am in love. Yes, with my washer and dryer. Don't judge.

Let me back up. Our old washer and dryer were... interesting. Our dryer is... I don't know how many years old, at least 10 or more. Not that that is SUPER old, but it was one of the cheapest ones you could get at the time.

It wasn't a "big" size... and with 4 kids now... we needed a bigger one.

To top it off, it took 2 to 3 drying cycles to dry one load of clothes. It probably could have been fixed... but given it's age and the fact that we really needed a new one anyway that fit our now larger family, I didn't want to put any $$ into it.

Our washer was a hand-me-down from my brother-in-law. I have no clue how old it is... but it looked like it might predate ME. It worked---but I always questioned exactly how clean it got our clothes, as it was a bit dirty looking itself.  It also liked to get uneven regardless how even the clothes in it were. My walls have the dents to prove it.

Through a strange series of events that are too long for this blog, we had the opportunity to purchase a new set. I still needed to be frugal but wanted to get one that wouldn't just "do." but that would fit our needs.

Every time we went to Lowes, there was this dream set. I would walk in and it's like that crazy moment when all the lights in the store would dim and a spotlight would shine directly on its pretty shiny paint and harps would play.....

Not really, but you get the idea. I literally DROOLED over them. It was the most expensive they had, so way out of my league, but you can't stop a girl from dreaming! A few weeks ago, it went on sale for a really good price ($200 off each of them, total savings of $400), but still more than we could spend.

Well, this last weekend, we went to look at it, thinking maybe, if it was still on sale, we'd finally just bit the bullet and do it, even though spending that kind of money on something made my stomach churn. (again, long story on how we could even afford that! Suffice to say, we haven't run into any money that solves all our problems... only our washer/dryer one! LOL)

We get there, and it's no longer on sale. Only a $200 rebate if you bought the pair, thus making it $200 more than the week before.

I was bummed, but it was just God saying no, so decided to be okay with it. I think God likes to be involved in our lives, even little details like what washer and dryer we buy. He knew the perfect one for our family, and I trusted that we'd know it when we found it.

We looked at others, but considering the sales price the other one HAD been, they just didn't look like good deals at all.

If you know me at all, I am REALLY REALLY REALLY in love with good deals.

So, we turned around to leave, when out of the corner of my eye, something snatched my attention. I walked a few rows over to see MY washer and dryer... the one I dreamed of... sitting on the clearance aisle.

They were marked to each be $100 off what the old sales price had been. They weren't damaged or defective/repaired, just marked "used." Turns out, someone else had purchased a washer/dryer, had issues with it, and while the store was waiting for new ones to come in, they had "loaned" them this new set for 3 days. They'd only used it once or twice.

So therefore, we got our SUPER nice washer and dryer for $600 off the list price!

AND! That's not all... The sales guy told us because it was clearance, we probably wouldn't get the $200 rebate that it was now on it. I hadn't expected to, so no biggie.

Except when we got to the register, our rebate receipt printed off! So once we get the rebate back, we'll have gotten $800 off our dream washer/dryer!

God taught me a few things through this.

1.) While we don't always get our dream "thing" that we want... sometimes God likes to give us that little extra, because He loves us and likes to see us smile. 

2.) Good things come to those who wait. We could have replaced our washer/dryer a while ago with a cheap pair that worked. But it wouldn't have fit all of our needs, definitely not any of our "wants." Sometimes God gives us seasons in life that seem frustrating and have lots of issues, but if you have patience and wait, the result will be much better than you could have imagined. Washer and Dryer issues are just a tiny thing, but I think the lesson can be applied to a lot of things in life.

3.) Laundry can be fun. My washer has a clear lid and drum light. Seriously, my kids sit there watching clothes wash in awe. I, ahem, might have spent a few minutes watching it myself.....

Discussion: Have you ever "made do" with something, only to have God show off and provide above your wildest dreams?

Oh, and front loaders or top loaders.... what's your pleasure?

I wanted the top loader... and couldn't be more happy with it!

(and before I get emails advising me not to be in love with material things... the "in love" reference was made in jest. I'm just SUPER thankful for God's provision, so more than anything, I'm IN LOVE with Jesus!!)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

3 Years Ago Today....


April 9th, 2011.... It's a day forever etched in my memory.

I'd gone to bed on April 8th a broken, battered woman. Not physically, but my heart was so worn and weary that I might as well have been.

Laying in a twin bed at the Ronald McDonald House, I'd laid there, exhausted and hopeless, my husband beside me on his own twin bed.

It is the one time in my life that I can say, I almost understood to a very small degree what Jesus must have felt when he said on the cross, "My God, why have you forsaken me?"

For over eight long months, we'd fought for my daughter's life. I'd seen her at her worst... on ECMO with her chest open, her beating heart visible. I'd seen her first smile, even though the lips she curled where a strange shade of blue. I'd watched that sweet girl struggle for each breath, wishing with all my might that I could take over, that I could breath for her and do the work myself. I'd have gladly done it had God allowed.

But He hadn't. He hadn't let her to come home either, as we'd prayed for since her birth. Every time we had a ray of hope, it was be quickly dashed within hours or days.

Regardless of all that, I'd clung to Jesus. To His promise that He hadn't left us or forsaken us. To the knowledge that He was supreme and in power, and that through our circumstances, HE would have the ultimate glory.

Laying in bed that night, none of that mattered. My heart had reached the end of what it could take. My hope felt like a fleeting memory. I just wanted to cry out, "God, we have served you and given you glory. Why, oh why have you forsaken our family? What did I do wrong??"

I honestly had no strength to go on. I told God I was done. I couldn't do it anymore. I had no clue what to do in the morning. No idea how I was going to get out of bed. How I was going to be the mom he'd called me to be, to any of my 4 kids. How I'd have the strength to be the helpmate my husband needed.

I went to sleep that night a beaten woman.

At three a.m. the phone rang.

My husband and I both sat up in bed and looked at each other.

And this tiny ray of hope touched my heart.

Please understand, I had no idea what that phone call would hold. It could have been our prayers answered or our worst fears come true, that she'd finally been too tired to keep on fighting.

But before I even answered the phone, I knew. My heart knew. God had taken a crumbled mother and was gathering her into his arms. He was caressing my heart back into health, whispering to my soul that all would be okay. That he had me.

That phone call?

It was Annabelle's cardiologist. They had a heart match, and it was PERFECT for her.

There could still be things that went wrong. It could still fall through.

But it didn't. At 4pm, she was taken in to the OR. At around 8pm, her sick heart that had fought a valiant fight was removed and laid to rest, and the heart of a sweet two-year-old was put into her chest, allowing it to continue it's life-giving mission.

I've spoken about this many times, but words honestly aren't enough to convey the bittersweet miracle this is and will always be. A sweet child lost their life in tragedy, yet their heart was able to live on.

It is not lost on me that the day God allowed our prayers to be answered was the same day that another family was completely devastated.

All I know is this: The miracle of Annabelle's life does not involve the death of someones child. That sweet little one would have died regardless of Annabelle's condition.

The miracle is that God can take tragedy and allow life to come of it. That God has given wisdom to doctors to figure out the nuances of transplant. That God allowed that family to recognize the gift they could give someone else, even in the midst of the horror they faced.

So today, we celebrate. Celebrate the gift of LIFE. Celebrate that the heart of a sweet life taken too soon has been allowed to continue beating. Celebrate Annabelle's heart that is now at rest, no longer having to bear the load of giving life that it was too weak to give. Celebrating an unnamed family who will forever be in my thoughts and prayers.

Three years.... Wow.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My 2014 "Books-I-Want-To-Read" List

In no particular order.... Below are a list of SOME of the books releasing in 2014 that I REALLY want to read. It is no where all inclusive. I'll probably end up reading about half of them, and half of other ones I stumble upon throughout the year. But if you're looking for some great reading options, here you go!


 

OH MY GOODNESS! You will usually hear me squeal big time over a new Francine Rivers' book! And this year is NO exception! Seriously, if you haven't read any books by Francine Rivers, you are truly missing out. I also highly suggest Redeeming Love and the Mark of the Lion series, starting with A Voice in the Wind

 

Melissa Tagg's "Made to Last" was her debut novel last year, and I couldn't NOT put her next book on my list his year! SO excited to read it!!!


Denise is another author whom I've loved for a long time and pretty much read every single release as soon as I'm able! She's yet to disappoint me!


Ohhh, Deeanne is a fun one. I'm getting ready to start It Happened at the Fair (on last year's list) and while I can't review it yet since I haven't read it, I've pretty much loved ALL of Deeanne's books so I'm preadding this one this year. She writes historical romance, but with a flare of humor and a sharp spark of romance that I LOVE!


LOVED "Once Upon a Prince" last year. I mean, how can you not love a good princess story??? So I'm looking forward to it in Rachel Hauck's Princes Ever After!


Jody is one of those authors who I "grew up" with as a writer... we started blogging around the same time and I will confess, I had just a TINY bit of envy when she started getting contracts and being SO successful. But HOLY CANOLI. Her success is so incredibly deserved! I LOVE all of her books and am excited to read the next one coming out this summer!!


Katie is pretty much amazing, both in writing and in person!! I'm in the middle of reading Wishing on Willows, her second novel, right now, and can't wait to be able to read her third, a Broken Kind of Beautiful.


I love Tamera Alexander's historicals for lots of reasons, but her newest series is set in Nashville, and it's fascinating to read a book set right in ones own neck of the woods! And she's an amazing writing, so I know I can't go wrong with A Beauty So Rare.


Susie writes fantastic fiction (and is a heck-of-a-good teacher too, as I've been to several of her workshops at ACFW.) This is actually the second book in the series that came out in January, and the third is coming out later in the year. I haven't gotten a chance to read either the first or the second, but intend to rectify that this year!


This last isn't necessarily one book... although I put one of the covers up here... but many. I'm a HUGE lover of Tamara Leigh books, but I've ashamedly gotten behind on reading them, not because I don't love them, but because I just haven't gotten the time! I have THREE books of hers I still need to read, and considering I am president of her fan club, I need to get on it otherwise I might loose my position! She is also in the midst of "republishing" some older books that she wrote for the general romance market, and "cleaning" them up to be clean reads. I'm super excited to read them!!

~~~~~

Okay... I'll stop there, even though books keep popping into my head at random that I REALLY want to read! WAIT, I lied, there is one more, Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer. She writes humerous historical romance that I literally can't read in more than one sitting and end up staying up until 3 a.m. to finish because I don't want to put it down.

NOW I'm making myself stop. I need to save time to write my OWN books too!!

What about you? Any books that you're wanting to read soon? Any of these spark your interest? Any favorite authors that you ALWAYS are the first in line to read their newest book?

Monday, March 31, 2014

What I Look for in a Book

I'm preparing my 2014 "Books I want to read" list. I'll be posting it here on Thursday. It's a little late... already 3 months into the year, but better late than never, aye?

I'm a bit particular about what I read, though. I don't have an abundance of time, what with 4 kiddos and trying to write my own books. I'm pretty selective and read a narrow genre/type of book. I've heard lots of people say, "You should widen your scope, add a little variety! It's good for you!"

Eh. They're probably right. But I don't listen :-)

I read for enjoyment. For escape. To make my heart happy for those hours I spend in another person's life. When I'm older... maybe have less kiddos under toe... maybe I'll jazz it up a little. I'd love to go back and read some of the classics, as my "classic" reading was very sparse as a child. But I've tried... and I quickly fall asleep during them at this point in my sleep-deprived life.

Others might totally be at a different place in life, or have different reading selection criteria. And that is super cool because...

God made us different! Imagine that!! We all have own own strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, etc.It's scene in our book choices, TV show selections, movie selections, and even what kind of pizza we like or what popcorn we eat :-)

So, below are the things *I* look for in a book when creating my list of books I want to read.
  • Have a romance plot. Some more than others, and if they end up NOT being romance and fool me, I'll be very disappointed at the end of the book! I'm a romantic at heart... it's just who I am!
  • Be written by a Christian, most written for the Christian market. Not that I believe it is wrong to read a book written by non-Christians or for the general market. Occasionally I do read them. Like I said, I read for my own pleasure, and I don't take pleasure in reading cuss words and graphic sex scenes. (I might blog about this topic at some point in the future, because I know this snippet doesn't fully explain my thoughts on the matter, and it's an important one!)
  • Contemporary or historical, doesn't matter. I like them both! You'll see a good mixture of both!
  • NOT Fantasy/Sci-fi. LOTS of fantasy book lovers out there. I'm, as a rule, not one of them. Not sure why... it's just not something that flips my trigger. That said, a super good author friend has written a GREAT fantasy series for the Christian market (from the reviews I've heard and a sampling I read!), and I do aim to read them. If you're interested, check out Patrick's books... the first one is A Cast of Stones, and he has 2 sequels out as well and is working on another series! 
  • Not usually Amish. I read them occasionally, and there is NOTHING wrong with them. They just aren't usually the books I gravitate toward first. You'll find a few on my bookshelf though, and I've read some really good ones!
  • More realistic than sweet/light. This is a hard description, and mine probably doesn't hit it on the nose. There is great variety in Christian fiction these days, and many don't realize that. The "sweet" fiction of old is definitely still there and I do read them, just not nearly as much as I do some of the more contemporary styles that involve real issues and deep struggles, with characters who don't give an example of how we should act... but give us an example of how we DO act and our need for repentance and God's grace.
  • Favorite Authors. I have a lot of favorite authors... and when I find one who is the bomb, I tend to stick with them and read all their books voraciously. So you'll see lots of common themes in my to-read-list, and a few newbies!
So what about you?

What kind of books usually take up your bookshelf/nightstand?

(disclosure... over the next few weeks, we'll be doing some book talk, and I'll be putting links to my favorites and to-read list. Any links are to Amazon and use my affiliate account, so any purchase you make through them, I get a small percentage from Amazon as an advertising fee. Doesn't cost you anything more than your purchase, just helps pay Phillips' household bills! HA!)

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Lent Wagon

My first year in trying to "give" something up for Lent....

And I've officially fallen off the Lent wagon.

Between Annabelle's sleep study on Monday and heart cath on Friday, the odds were just stacked against me re: finding time for pretty much anything.

Next week isn't looking much better, as it's Spring Break. While we have zero plans to "do" or "go" anywhere, I do plan on trying to find fun things to do with my kiddos.

I momentarily thought about getting up early to do my "one hour" but since Annabelle's gotten into the bad habit of waking me up between 4 and 6 am.... yeah, NOT getting up earlier than THAT.

Not that I'm not still going to climb back up into the Lent wagon.

I have ever intention of doing so.

But I'm just thankful today that God forgives when we screw up. That He understands the challenges that life brings. And that He gives us second chances.

I'm also reminding myself that Lent is a man-made tradition with a fabulous purpose, but really, we should be committing each day to God. We should be "dying" to self and putting God first every day, not just 40 days before Easter.

Denying ourselves on a daily basis and focusing on Jesus is not easy. It goes against our culture of late that says, "Do what makes YOU happy."
Can I just tell you? I see that phrase ALL. THE. TIME. in stores on children's tshirts.

I HATE IT.

Despise it.


But that is a whole other blog post/soap box.

So what about you? How are you doing on your lent wagon, if in fact you ever got on?