Thursday, December 29, 2011

Natalie Grace

Natalie Grace arrived on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 4:58 p.m. weighing 7 lbs 4 oz and was 20 in long.

God is faithful. He got me through 21 hours of labor and natural childbirth and blessed us with this amazing little life! I find myself crying tears of joy and gratitude as I think about good He is to have chosen to give us this gift. I am overjoyed to spend my days as her mama and can't get enough snuggles and kisses from this precious little bundle. Praise the Lord, our daughter is here! Thank you, God for Natalie Grace!

We came home late Friday night and have been going, going, going ever since. Christmas Eve was spent going back to the hospital for a repeat bilirubin test, which came back with a good report. Then we went to my in-laws' to open gifts with Alex's side of the family. Natalie managed to sleep through the excited banter of her four older cousins and received an adorable rocking horse 1st Christmas ornament from her Memere and Pepere.

Christmas Day was spent at home with my parents, brother, sister, brother-in-law and niece. Bella was more than a little excited to hold her baby cousin!

We plan to stay home and relax tomorrow, which sounds amazing. I'm loving every minute of Alex being home on vacation and do not look forward to him returning to work in a few weeks. He took to being a daddy so naturally. He even sneaked Natalie out of her bassinet at the hospital (she stayed in the room with us, just to clarify. He didn't break her out of the nursery!) and cuddled with her in bed for a few hours the first night. He calms her down when she cries and has even succeeded at changing a couple dirty diapers. Nursing has been our greatest challenge, but Alex has been an amazing source of support. I wouldn't have survived the first three days of nursing without him. This has been the most fantastic adventure of my life thus far, but is already so rewarding. I can't imagine life without Natalie in it. Here's a couple more pictures for good measure! This is one of my favorites:

Layla has been really great with her. She lays at my feet when I feed the baby and looks for her when she comes in the nursery or when she's in her pack-n-play.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Waiting Game

Today I'm so ready to meet my baby girl. I get asked at least 10 times a day how I'm feeling, if I'm ready, am I having contractions yet, etc. I'm feeling great and am having probably one mild contraction a day. Nothing exciting. Three days ago I would have answered that I wasn't quite ready, but now that my due date is just 12 days away, I'm just excited to see what Natalie looks like, to cuddle her close, to watch Alex hold his daughter in his arms and see his expression as she steals his heart. It's so surreal to think that this life-long dream of becoming a mother is about to come true. I can't help but hope that she comes sooner rather than later, even though I don't want to wish away these last moments as a family of two. With my sister and niece arriving for Christmas next Thursday, it would be really cool if Natalie chose to make her appearance in time to be back home on Christmas Day. My prayer is for her to be healthy and born with no complications, so whenever the nerves set in and fear and worry try to take over, I just pray and give it to the Lord because He is in control. Thank you, Lord, for this miracle of life!

Monday, December 5, 2011

37 Weeks, Wherein the Pregnancy Hormones Kick In

Today begins my 37th week of pregnancy. Gosh, that sounds like an eternity, but it has kind of flown by in a way. Until this past weekend, I'd pretty much felt like my same old self in the emotions department. No crazy mood swings, no crying fits, not even a craving (well, one day I craved nachos and french bread pizza, but other than that one day, I haven't craved anything!). Then on Saturday I started feeling overwhelmed about my pending motherhood. I tried to cross a few things off my "to-do before the baby comes" list and didn't get very far. Our hospital bags needed to be packed, but when I tried to pack Natalie's bag, I didn't know what to put in it for her. What if I left out something important? How many outfits did she need? Would the hospital supply diapers? So, feeling overwhelmed and like a horrible parent, I gave up and moved on to pack my bag.

Things didn't go any better there. So much laundry needed to be washed that I decided it would be better to wait to pack. In the middle of watching tv later that night, I looked at my growing belly and thought, "There's a baby in there, and she's getting ready to come out and I don't know what I'm going to do when she's here and I have to take care of her! I can't do this! It's too late to turn back now, but WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH A BABY!? I'M NOT READY FOR THIS!!!" I'd had my longest bout of Braxton Hicks earlier that afternoon after Christmas and grocery shopping for 3 hours. I think that experience kind of scared me a little because of the fear of the unknowns of labor.

Today, the emotions ran high again as I worried over a situation that I have no control over and stressed out about how and why I'd committed myself to so many crafting projects for other people that needed to be done before Christmas. After a few crying spells, lots of prayer, talks with friends and un-committing myself to one project, the day got better and now here I am. Layla is cuddled up with me on the couch and I'm relaxing to the sound of the dryer running. Alex was kind enough to play photographer for me once again so that we could capture this week's baby bump shot:

Our doula, Mattie, measured me at 33 weeks at my 36 week appointment, but she said that was nothing to worry about. Natalie's heart rate was 144 bpm, which is a little slower than average for a girl, but maybe that means she has her daddy's laid back personality. She's moving around a lot still and likes to kick her feet out against my right side. Maybe she'll enjoy playing soccer like I did. I'm not at all anxious to get this over with. I want her to stay in there and grow healthy and strong for a few more weeks, but hopefully no longer than three! I couldn't have asked for a better pregnancy. God has blessed us so abundantly; I refuse to take His blessings for granted by wishing this time away. Before I know it, my life will never be the same and there will be no going back to being a family of two. I want to enjoy these last few weeks and put aside the worries that tried to bog me down the past couple of days. God is bigger than all of that stuff anyway.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mantle Makeover

A few months back, a friend posted pictures of her baby nursery on Facebook. She had incorporated an old fireplace mantle into the design and positioned the changing table in front of it and put a cute lamp and picture frames on top. I thought it was a really unique idea and added a lot of interest to the room. So, naturally, I wanted to find a mantle for Natalie's room, but I wanted it be turned into a bookcase. One of my mom's friends happened to have one that she was selling, so we snagged it and hauled it home.

My father-in-law is quite handy and was looking for a project to work on, so he offered to work on the transformation for us. He stripped off three layers of old paint and sanded it smooth until voila!

At my request, he also added some shelves in the back on both sides for extra storage to make use of every possible nook and cranny:

I love to just go into the nursery and stare at it. Is that weird? Natalie has quite a nice book collection already and I've been looking forward to rocking her and reading the Bearenstain Bears and Clifford. The "It's a Girl" banner was made by a friend for our baby shower and looks perfect hanging there. Stay tuned for the final "Man Cave Makeover" post with more nursery pictures (they're already on Facebook, if you want to peek)!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Answered Prayers

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you all enjoyed precious time with family and friends! I have so many things to be thankful for. Just yesterday, I saw the hand of God at work in our lives and it feels so amazing (more about that in a sec)! God cares about the little things. He loves the details. Why else would He have created a world with such a beautiful array of colors and creatures? He could have made everything in black and white, you know? Or He could have just made maple trees. Instead, He made about 100,000 different types of trees (just a random fact I Googled).

I've been listening to a sermon about why God created America and our history as a Christian nation. Some of the names were familiar from history class, but I had so quickly forgotten the details. The Pilgrims literally risked everything to gain religious freedom, but I'm too afraid to tell my family about Christ for fear of rejection and "feeling uncomfortable". I have so far to grow.

Despite my shortcomings, God loved me enough to save me and be in a personal relationship with me. He heard my prayers and recently brought Alex the opportunity to start a new position at work. My prayer had been that Alex would enjoy his work and would find favor with management. He has had favor in several situations over the four and a half years that he has worked for his company, but had become burned out from his current responsibilities. After growing up watching my dad work at jobs that he hated, that exhausted him physically, mentally and emotionally, I didn't want that for my husband or our family. My dad is an incredible man for sticking with it through the hard times and doing whatever it took to provide for us and I am so thankful for his sacrifice. He is a wonderful example to me. I was concerned for Alex because, #1: I wanted him to enjoy work and not dread going in every day and #2: I knew that the added pressure of being the sole financial supporter of our family once Natalie is born would only be magnified if he wasn't happy at work. Thank God that He provided this new opportunity! I'm so excited for Alex and can already see that he is happier.

Our second answered prayer was regarding me leaving my job at the bank to stay at home after Natalie is born. Some policy changes were recently made that would prevent me for getting paid for time that I've earned this year. I was anticipating the extra income to put into our emergency fund to give us some more financial security, but was told that the money wouldn't be coming after all. I prayed that God would work in my favor, but the decision was made and I had to live with it. Ok, no big deal. It would all work out. God would provide for our finances. Then, yesterday my boss told me that something else had worked out and that I would get paid after all! What a blessing! Thank you, Lord, for providing for us in Your perfect timing and for hearing our prayers! Finding our that we would be parents this year was an amazing gift and now my due date is less than five weeks away. What a blessing it is to anticipate her arrival and know that God is working out all the details so that it comes together just like He planned :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Homemade Recipe Book

This past week I was busy working on a lot of craft projects. I sewed a shirt and skirt for our niece's 6th birthday, embroidered a jacket for a friend to wear on her honeymoon and made two wedding gifts. One of the gifts was a recipe book because every time we hang out with this couple, the guy asks me for recipes to help his fiance out in the kitchen. I hadn't actually ever given them anything, so I thought they'd appreciate this idea.

I bought the photo album from Walmart and the Retro Aprons recipe cards from Christian Book Distributors. The cards are actually double-sided, so there's plenty of room for lengthy recipes. I cut out the frames around each section label "appetizers", "desserts", "main courses", etc using my Cricut and found a cut out for the tab dividers, too. I forgot that they make laminated tabs, which would hold up a lot longer than the ones I cut out of card stock. I hope that some of our favorite family recipes become the happy couple's favorites, too.

Now that I've finished these projects, I have to start on some burp cloths for a baby shower. I'd like to get around to making some for Natalie, too! Add that to my ever-growing to-do least one items is going to get checked off the list later this week though, because our crib came in!!! We're going to pick it up on Thursday after our 30-week doctor appointment. I can't wait! I'm also going to have to add another little project to my list, because I thought this was too cute:

The bride bought this on Etsy and they put their cards in it on the gift table. Our current mailbox is the shape of a barn and is looking a little sun-baked. it's time for a modern makeover.

Well, Alex has started a movie for us to watch, so I'll leave you with a picture of us from the wedding today:

Monday, October 10, 2011

3rd Anniversary

Alex and I will have been married for 3 years tomorrow! I don't know where the time has gone because it really does just seem like yesterday. Neither one of us ever wanted to lose that "newlywed-ness" and I think most days I can honestly say that the we've been successful at keeping it alive. I truly cannot imagine sharing my life with anyone else. It's been so exciting preparing for the birth of our first child, a blessing from God to be sure. I can't wait to see Alex as a father.

We didn't make any elaborate plans to celebrate this last anniversary sans kids, but we did schedule in some quality time throughout the weekend. Yesterday we saw Courageous at the movie theater. I highly recommend it to everyone. The message was clear and strong: men, stand up and be bold enough to be the spiritual leader of your family. Teach your children the ways of the Lord and set an example for them. Encourage them to be who God made them to be. Don't wait for someone else to be an influence in your child's life. It's YOUR job as a father. I think that Alex really liked the movie. The whole topic was one that we've discussed numerous times, but I didn't think he fully understood the importance of. I hope that hearing that message in a different way helped it make sense to him and planted seeds on fertile soil.

Today is a banking holiday (thank you, Christopher Columbus!), but Alex took the day off, too, so that we could spend time together for our anniversary. We're going to lunch at Red Lobster and doing some shopping for the nursery. I don't need fancy gifts or an elaborate getaway (although those are nice, too!). I just want some quality time with my man and that's what we're gonna do! I've got my coupons to Hobby Lobby and Petsmart ready to go (shopping for dog food is soooo romantic, don't you think? LOL). Now I need to go get ready because somehow I don't think that Alex would want to be seen in public with a pajama-clad wife ;)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Two New Recipes and a Prayer Request

My mom had knee surgery on Wednesday, so I took off work Thursday and Friday to help her out around the house. She had this exact surgery four years ago on her other knee and ended up with a staph infection, lots of pain, limited mobility and two more surgeries. This time around, we hoped for the best, but braced for the worst considering her history. Thankfully, God answered our prayers and she came through wonderfully. She could even take a few steps without crutches the day after surgery. Because of her speedy recovery, our time together was spent napping on the couch (pain meds did the trick for her, pregnancy did the trick for me! LOL), baking new recipes, shopping online and just hanging out. It was much better than being at work for those two days, although I almost felt guilty that I was actually having fun and not really having to do much to help my mom other than fetch the occasional ice pack or crutch that was left in another room.

On Friday, we made stuffed banana peppers for lunch and pull-apart cinnamon sugar pumpkin bread just for the heck of it. Here's the link to the bread recipe. It calls for rum to make a glaze to go on top, but we used vanilla extract instead because I don't care for the taste of rum. It seemed like it took all day to make the bread because it had to rise twice, but the actual effort to mix the ingredients and all that was minimal.

Here's the recipe for the stuffed banana peppers. Ladies at work made these for breakfast one morning and we couldn't get enough (they're not really a breakfast food, but these girls eat Ramen noodles and Chef Boyardee at 9 a.m., too!). I was in pregnancy craving heaven!

Stuffed Banana Peppers

15 banana peppers, sliced long ways with seeds removed (can be hot or mild variety)
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded monterey jack (we used a mix of colby and monterey jack)
1/2 cup real bacon bits (we cooked real bacon and made our own "bits")
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder (you could add more if you like a lot of kick)
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Mix ingredients and spoon onto the banana peppers. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes and enjoy! Another great variation would be to just use the mixture as a cheese ball and eat with crackers. We had a little left over in the mixing bowl and ate it with garlic flavored pita chips from Aldi. It was awesome!

I wish I could take four-day weekends every week. Last week I was off Thursday and Friday because of my sinuses, so I'm kind of getting spoiled to the whole shorter work week thing. Speaking of shorter work weeks, the time is approaching for me to tell my boss my plans for after Natalie is born. She asked me to give her plenty of heads up on whether or not I'll be returning to work, so I've been planning to talk with her in the middle of October. I know in my heart what I want to do, and I also know what financial position we would be in, so I'm scared. I don't want to be, but I still am a little deep down. There are a lot of things to consider and I don't want to jump into anything without knowing all the ins and outs.

I'm speaking the Word over our family, our marriage, our finances, our health, and speaking life instead of death and curses over our future even though I'm afraid. God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). It's funny, but that scripture always came to mind when I started praying for Natalie after I found out that I was pregnant. I imagined that it was due to the fact that mental illnesses run in Alex's family and we wanted our family to be of a sound mind, literally, but now that I think of it, that scripture applies to this situation, too. I want God to be in control of my decision-making process, not my fear. I don't want to make God small in my eyes because He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8). I like the New Living Translation of that verse: "And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." Whether God provides all our needs by me working full-time, part-time or working at home as a full-time stay-at-home mom, the truth is that He will provide. If you think of it, please pray for us as we seek God's will in this situation. I want to have peace about the decision, whatever it may be, and know without a doubt that we are following His will and not our own desires.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Little Eye Candy

Lately I've been doing a little online "perusing" (I can't really call it shopping because I don't have any intention of buying anything...yet). Etsy is a dangerous website to peruse, let me tell you. Too much eye candy for this future mama to a little girl. Here are a few things that I've fallen in love with and can't wait to either 1)figure out how to make myself or 2)give in and purchase because I could never make something that cute myself.

Nursery Wall Art from Designbymaya at

Baby Pod Cocoon crochet pattern by Sweet Kiwi Crochet on I'd love to get Natalie's picture taken like this, so my mother-in-law let me borrower her Knifty Knitter looms to experiment with making a cocoon without a pattern. So far my prototype is coming along well! :)

Headbands by Harts and Roses on

I can't believe that I'll be holding my daughter in my arms in three short months! Time is flying by!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Just a Little Life Update

I've missed blogging these past few weeks, but haven't known what to write about! I celebrated my 25th birthday on Saturday by going to a 15-mile yard sale in the town where my parents live. Alex, who is NOT a morning person, agreed to wake up before noon to go with me :) We headed out around 9 and lasted a few hours before I had no more energy and needed a nap. We didn't find any out-of-this-world bargains, but I did get a few long-sleeved maternity shirts for winter, a Baby Bjorn baby backpack carrier and some more blueberry bushes! We finished off the day by having a wonderful dinner at my in-laws' house with my mom and little brother. Birthdays have always been a big deal to me, and this milestone was probably one of the best so far. Not having to work and having the whole day to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted was wonderfully relaxing!

Today, I started my 25th week of pregnancy. Here's how the baby bump is coming along:

I talked to a girl at work today who was a day past her due date. Here she was, looking quite full-term, just working like it was any other day. She said she felt great and that the pregnancy had been wonderful. I've never met a pregnant woman with such a positive attitude at 40+ weeks pregnant. She made me want to have that outlook, even if I can't breathe, can't sleep, and am generally ready to not be pregnant anymore when my due date approaches. To top it off, her husband was a 12 pound baby, so her little one could be larger-than-average, too! And she's STILL not freaking out! What a woman!

That about sums up what I've been up to recently. I think I'm going to go enjoy another piece of my birthday apple pie. Baby's hungry!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blessings from the Lord, Not Obstacles to Living the American Dream

I just read this great blog post at Passionate Homemaking. If you read it, it pretty much sums up how I feel about having a family. In short, I'll have as many kids as I want and not have the attitude that they are somehow hindering my pursuit of the American Dream of having a big fancy house, money, new car, money, career, money, designer clothes, money, you get my drift. My American Dream is to raise a houseful of kids that grow up to love and serve the Lord, to grow closer to my husband every day instead of growing apart and getting divorced after 25 years of marriage when the kids are out of the house, to be content with my used car, hand-me-down clothes, and clearance rack everything else, and most importantly to live my life with purpose, fulfilling the plans that God has for me instead of pursuing ME and the things that I want.

Two people at work have literally said, "You can't afford to have more than two kids". My flesh wants to be hateful and respond with some snappy remarks about priorities and such, but that's probably not the best way to handle the situation. But that's the attitude of society today. They say that kids are too expensive, they are too time-consuming, they are exhausting, they are too demanding. "What if I can't afford to buy them all new clothes for school? I want my kids to have everything their hearts desire." So we're just going to teach them to be materialistic and that life will hand them everything they want exactly when they want it? Reality check! Life doesn't work that way. Sure, it's nice to be able to buy things that you want and there's nothing wrong with that, but there's also more to life than THINGS. And sure, I imagine that kids are expensive, time-consuming, exhausting and demanding at times, but they are also a BLESSING. They are our future, our heritage, they capture our hearts from the instant that little stick shows two lines.

I choose to have the attitude that I'm going to enjoy motherhood and not let it pass by before I realize that I've taken it for granted. Our journey to parenthood seemed like it took forever, although I realize now that we are so fortunate. I want to live my life with purpose and to take pleasure in the small things. I want our home to be peaceful, a place of refuge, of hope, of love and laughter, of growth, exploration, unity. I'm so excited about the plans that God has for our family, even though I don't know details yet. I'm just standing on His word that His plans are good and His ways are higher than mine. No American Dream can compare to that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

20 Week Ultrasound

On Tuesday, we went to the doctor for our 20-week ultrasound. I'm halfway through this pregnancy already...could someone please tell me where time has gone?! It was such a blessing to watch the ultrasound technician type the word "normal" into every category that she checked during the anatomy scan. Head, heart, kidneys, bladder, diaphragm, spinal column, placenta, brain, everything was in place, functioning, growing, just as God designed it to. That's an answered prayer. Here's the latest look at our precious baby girl!


Posted by Picasa

She was moving her arms up and down and it looked like she was smiling at us! Granted, at 20 weeks, she still doesn't quite look human in the 3D ultrasound; head on she looked scary, but from this angle, she looked cuter, lol.

I went out to breakfast with a dear lady from church this morning and she gave me the cutest outfit from DaySpring for Natalie. I literally cannot wait for her to wear it.

It says, "Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens". LOVE!!! And another dear friend gave me my baby shower gift a little early today...our first cloth diapers! I'm so excited it's ridiculous. Two FuzziBunz all-in-ones and a pack of newborn prefolds! I showed them to Alex and he kind of just raised an eyebrown and said, "Hmmm", but at least that's better than a, "Good luck with that," or something smart. It's so much fun to receive gifts for Natalie. My lifelong friend, Boo, sent her a super cute polar fleece jacket this week for when she's a little older. It's like Christmas around here! I've got to get in that giving spirit and figure out what to do for a baby shower later this month. There are way too many cute baby craft ideas out there! Hope you're enjoying this beautiful weekend!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chicken a Pan!

Maybe it's because I'm pregnant, or maybe it's because I've been making the same dinners for the past two and a half years, but I couldn't take anymore of the same old foods. The thoughts of eating some of our "old faithfuls" practically brought back the morning sickness. I've tried four new recipes in the last week and a half when, until now, I hadn't tried a single new recipe in months. Granted, some weren't anything special or glamorous (french bread pizza, my first pregnancy craving!) and one was practically a bust (homemade chicken alfredo), but tonight, attempt numero quatro, was a winner!!!! Makes me wanna yell, "Winner, winner, chicken dinner"! Or not....but you see how excited I am about finding a new recipe that is more than just a "Oh, that was ok for one night, but I don't think I'll ever bother to make that again" meal and is actually something that I could put into a regular rotation?! Alex and I each had two servings and there's still enough leftover to take for lunch tomorrow and freeze for another dinner. It all started when a friend let me borrow this book:

Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue by Carla Fitzgerald Williams

I looked through it and found a few recipes that I thought Alex and I would both like and got all the ingredients at the grocery store this weekend. Tonight, I made Chicken Divan, which is essentially chicken, rice and broccoli casserole, but this recipe changed it up a bit by cooking it all in a pan on the stove top.

I didn't use a rotisserie chicken, but cooked some chicken breast that I already had on hand while the rice and veggies were cooking. That's one thing I liked about the book - you don't have to use an expensive rotisserie chicken for all the recipes if you don't want to. In this case, it wouldn't have saved me any time making dinner if I had actually used the rotisserie chicken instead of cooking it myself. (Other recipes would definitely be more labor intensive if you cooked your own chicken.) Later in the week I'm going to try mac n cheese with chicken and broccoli. Usually chicken and I have a love/hate relationship, but seeing how it's less expensive than steak and I currently have an abundance of it in my freezer, I'm trying to find new ways to cook it that don't gag me. Literally.

If you're in a cooking rut, pull out those recipe books that are lonely, just sitting there in your cabinet, or ask a friend to borrow one of theirs and have at it! And if you have any good recipes that use ground beef, let me know! Besides making taco salad, chili and hamburgers, I have no idea what to do with the stuff and I have three pounds of it in the freezer!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

First Kick

Alex got to feel Natalie kick today! I started feeling her little flutters in the middle of my 14th week and have been eagerly awaiting the day when Alex could share in the excitement, too. It's so amazing how God designed the whole pregnancy process. I mean, how crazy is it that our bodies were made to create new life and that somehow all the nutrients we eat and the vitamins we take and our dna all works together (I'm sure there's a whole lot more to it than that!) and somehow a little human being is made. Looking at our first ultrasound picture at 11 weeks and comparing it to the pictures at 17 weeks is incredible. So many changes take place in such a short time.

I've been thinking about Psalm 139:13, "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made" and Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." I'm full of wonder at God's love for us. He already knows this little girl that I am so eager to meet and get to know. With His grace, my prayer is to be the best mom possible to her and build a relationship that will weather any storm and last a lifetime. God already has a plan for her life. He knows all the little details like whose nose and eyes and smile she will have. That's just amazing! How great is our God?!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Girl Time

Today, my mom and I went to Lexington to shop for a crib and fabric for Natalie's crib bedding. We spent a total of 4 hours in two different Hancock Fabrics stores (oh. my. goodness.) and finally found enough coordinating fabrics for what I hope will turn out to be the most beautiful crib bedding I've ever seen. Fingers crossed!

Anyone who knows me well knows how um...fickle....I am about making decisions. In the last week, I think I've changed my mind five times about how I wanted the nursery to look. First, I thought about painting over the two dark aqua stripes in the nursery with pink paint to coordinate with some bedding that I'd found. Then the next day I decided that I liked a different bedding set better. Next, I decided that I hated the horizontal stripes that my mother-in-law painstakingly lovingly helped me paint on two of the walls and wanted to paint the room gray or purple instead. Then I decided to paint over the stripes with more pale aqua paint (the main wall color already). Most recently, I decided to leave the stripes alone until all the furniture was in the room and see what I thought. I'd hate to paint over them and then regret it, you know, since clearly I can't make up mind literally from one day to the next!

So...I've decided to make a conscious effort to not be so stinkin' picky. Mom and I found a bunch of fabrics with the same dark aqua, green and white as the stripes and no pink whatsoever (which will appease Alex). She's going to make the quilt and I'm going to sew the bumper and crib skirt. I can't wait to see how it comes together.

We also went to a nursery furniture store that had a ton of beautiful cribs for sale. I had looked at a million cribs online and hadn't really found anything that caught my eye (surprise, surprise!), but when we walked through the store I think I liked nearly every single crib. They are just so much more beautiful in person. This is the one we picked out (and it got the hubby's stamp of approval!):
Regency Collection from Creations Baby

In other news, our next doctor's appointment is Tuesday and it's time for our 20-week ultrasound! I'm excited to see Natalie again and make sure that she is indeed a Natalie and not a Nathan. I had a dream last week that the first ultrasound was wrong and that we were actually having a boy. I cried hysterically in the dream. It was really kind of terrifying because if that were to happen, I've already been bonding with my daughter and I'd have to kind of start all over again and un-bond with her and start bonding with my son. Does that make sense? Sure, it won't matter in the end, because I'll be holding my child in my arms and will love them no matter what, girl or boy. In this moment, I really respect my friends who have chosen not to find out their baby's gender! No chance of human error then! I can't believe that I'm halfway through my pregnancy. Where has time gone?! Gotta make the most of the next four and a half months and stop being so fickle and make some progress! Ahhhh! Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Great Gender Reveal

Today was the big day! Alex and I went to Lexington with our parents and his grandmother this afternoon to find out if there are hair bows or Tonka trucks in our future. The Baby Belly Spa was so cute! It was kind of hilarious to browse through the "hooter hiders" and belly cast kits with my mom. I told her that belly casts make good chip and dip servers ;) Personally, I wouldn't want a model of my belly or my "girls" hanging on the wall in my house, but, to each her own.

They took us all into the "viewing room", complete with a sofa, chairs and flat-screen tv and I almost forgot why we were there because it's just so cool to see your baby on the screen! It's all, "Awwww! Look at the face! There's an arm! What is that we're looking at?" We heard the heartbeat, 134 bpm, which had slowed down a lot from our first ultrasound. Then the ultrasound tech told us that the baby's legs were crossed. Oh no! But I'd been praying against that! Thankfully, the diet Dr. Pepper I drank and the apple I ate on the way up did the trick and Little Bit moved around like crazy and got into a better position for us to take a peek. And.....drum roll, please.....we're having a little girl!!! We're going to have a little Natalie around Christmas!!! I'm so excited!!!

Alex is going to be great with a daughter. Now I want to buy him the Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters book that we heard about on Dave Ramsey's radio show. I can't wait to see Alex in action as a daddy! He's a natural with kids and I love that about him. This week couldn't have started out any better!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Oh Baby Boy? Or Girl?

So many changes are ahead as I try to prepare myself for motherhood. I'm so excited to start this new adventure! I'm 16 weeks and 4 days into this journey now and it's already really exciting. Our parents are going with us to Lexington this weekend to find out our baby's gender!!! So many people have asked if I have any "mother's intuition" about what I'm having, but I honestly don't know one way or the other. I've been trying to guard my heart against favoring one gender over the other so that I'm not disappointed if I'm wrong. How awful would it be to tell your child when they ask what your reaction was to finding out what they were that you were sad or disappointed? I want to be able to tell them that I was thrilled and excited! My brother-in-law was so upset to find out that he wasn't having a son that he wouldn't speak to anyone for two days.

It's going to be great to get out of the house, away from our smelly wet floors and have some quality time with the grandparents-to-be (we're waiting to hear from the insurance company about what the assessment is before repairs can begin. In the meantime, the kitchen and dining room smell moldy and gross). Some friends of ours are expecting their baby girl at any moment, so hopefully we'll get to celebrate with them this weekend, too!

Here's how the belly looked after work today (I'm the most un-photogenic person on earth! Ugh!):

Monday, July 4, 2011

New Beginnings

Today was the icing on the cake to a terrific holiday weekend; I got to meet Alex's three oldest nephews for the first time. Alex reconnected with the boys on Saturday after a ten-year separation that was due to extenuating family circumstances. In the past, Alex has tried to downplay his disappointment about not having a relationship with the boys, but once the arrangements were made for them to visit their grandparents for two weeks, he got really excited. He spent the weekend going to the water park and then to the movies with them while I had other previous engagements.

I was nervous on the ride over to my in-laws' house today because what if the boys didn't like me? What if it was really awkward trying to relate to three teenagers? We ate lunch and then had a corn-hole tournament wherein my father-in-law and youngest nephew proceeded to beat everyone else in the family.

The boys were all very sweet and things went really well. God is so good to work things out, at least for now, where the family can hopefully continue to build a relationship with the boys even after they go back home. Their being able to visit was a long-awaited answer to prayer for many family members and we pray that this is just one of many to come.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Water Woes, But God is Bigger!

On Saturday, I stumbled while walking through our dining room. I turned around and saw that two long sections of hardwood planks had buckled and were sticking up above the floor. Alex checked for water under the house. All dry. The air conditioner in the attic wasn't leaking through the ceiling. So, I called the local company that installed the floor for my parents three and a half years ago. The owner of the business came over after work today and literally uncovered the problem in 2 minutes. Our dishwasher has been leaking. A lot. For a loooong time. A hose was installed improperly or something like that. The sub-floor in the kitchen, dining room and possibly the laundry room needs to be replaced. Mold is everywhere. Even the drywall in the dining room is damp on one wall. Everything down to the support beams under our house will need to be replaced. Tile floor that was installed just a year ago in the kitchen needs to be removed. Beautiful hardwood floors are ruined. I can't imagine what this is going to cost, but the flooring guy is running an estimate for us. Since our insurance agency was closed for the day by the time we discovered the chaos, I got online and filed a claim with the insurance company. Now we're praying that they will cover the damage because otherwise we'd need a loan to cover what I'm estimating to be $10,000 or more in repairs. Our homeowner's insurance is with the same company as our auto insurance. They were excellent to deal with when I had my car accident in October, so I'm hoping that this experience will be positive as well.

Honestly, I was more concerned about cooking dinner and feeding my hungry belly (I'm ALWAYS hungry now!!! Sheesh!) than being upset about mold in our house and having to stay somewhere else while repairs were being done. God will provide. He was faithful to see that this happened before the baby arrived so that it will be a distant memory by the time we bring home our precious bundle. Please pray for us that we will have favor with the insurance company and that whoever ends up making the repairs will do an excellent job so that there are no complications down the road.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Man Cave Makeover Continues

We got a great start to the nursery this week during our stay-cation and now I'm in full-on decorator mode. I can't wait to see everything come together! Here's a sneak-peek at what we started:

This morning, I got up bright and early to hit a couple yard sales close to my house. I snagged a changing pad and three covers, a waterproof crib liner thingy, sleep sacks/gowns, and two onesies for $31. Buying all gender-neutral yellows, white and greens is kinda boring, but at the same time it's still really fun to finally shop for my own baby! Eeeek! I found a pink gown that I loved, so I had to get it, and to even things out I got a cute boy one with a puppy on it, because we LOVE puppies around here!

Speaking of puppies, I saw the cutest boxer pup yesterday that I wanted to take home with me so that Layla could have a buddy. He was tied up on his front porch and looked lonely. Poor thing! If dogs weren't so expensive to feed, vaccinate, etc, etc, I would find Layla a playmate pronto.

I hope you're having a great weekend! I'm going to try and make the most of what precious little time we have left before returning to work on Monday. *Sigh* No more mid-day naps for me....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Man Cave Makeover Begins

Alex and I are on a one-week stay-cation this week, so we decided it was a great time to start turning his old office (now a storage room) into the nursery. We picked out paint yesterday and then lost the motivation to actually put it on the wall once we got home. The primer and main color are now finished and we'll start painting some stripes tomorrow. Hopefully the painting will be done tomorrow or the next day! I can't wait to see my vision come together, although I'm a little nervous that it might not turn out the way it looks in my head. We've started shopping for a crib, found one we liked and then discovered that the color we want has been discontinued. The crib search continues! We did find a neutral shag area rug for the room though, so it's coming together little by little. I'll post pictures of the nursery once the painting is finished!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How Do I Say This?

God is just so GOOD! That's all there is to it. I've thought of a million different ways to write this post, but I think straight-forward is just gonna have to do instead of something fancy and creative. I'm pregnant! We found out April 16th at just 3 weeks and 5 days along. Now I'm 11 weeks and had my first official pre-natal visit today. My doctor normally doesn't do ultrasounds until 20 weeks, but I think he wanted to let Alex see the baby for himself so that it seemed real, so he scheduled an earlier u/s for us. Here's the first peek at baby Godin!!!!!:




The heartbeat was 167 beats/minute, which is on the high end (wives' tales say that girls have faster heartbeats, but we'll see!). It was such a dream come true to look at our precious baby up on that screen. We saw the heartbeat for a split second and then got to hear it. What an amazing sound!!! It was music to my ears!

I'm due on Christmas Day, which might seem like a bummer to some, but it is such confirmation that things happened in God's timing. About 5 years ago, while we were still dating, Alex and I picked out a boy and girl name. Our girl name, Natalie, means, "born on Christmas Day". I don't want to jump to conclusions that we're having a girl, but how cool would that be?! I'll be super excited with either a boy or a girl. If baby G is a boy, we want to name him Nathan. Middle names are still up in the air because Alex has always hated the idea of middle names (loooong story), but I'm determined to convince him to give our baby a middle name or else I'll sneak one onto the birth certificate! ;)

So far, I've been nauseous all day long, but have still been able to eat everything except onions and sharp cheddar cheese, and breakfast. Apparently the baby doesn't agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Even though I've been really tired during the day, I usually get a second wind once I get home in the evening. I told my boss my news a few weeks ago and am going to tell my co-workers tomorrow with the ultrasound pictures. I wonder if they've already figured it out? Thank goodness babydoll-style shirts are in style since they hide a lot!

Alex and I have both enjoyed keeping track of the baby's development with's email updates, but I've really enjoyed reading Praying Through Your Pregnancy by Jennifer Polimino and Carolyn Warren. Each chapter covers one week of the baby's development and shows you different ways to pray over your baby. For example, when hands and feet are forming, you pray for them to grow properly, but also that your child would grow to use their hands and feet to serve others and live out the Gospel. It even includes chapters on how to pray while you're waiting to conceive.

For so long it seemed like we would never get pregnant, but now I'm so thankful that things worked out the way they have. It seems cliche, but it's so true that God's timing is perfect and His plans are perfect. Waiting is so hard, but without the waiting, I might not have learned things about the Lord that He wanted me to see. My eyes were opened to have compassion towards couples struggling with infertility. I don't want to take the next 7 months for granted because I've waited a lifetime for them.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I'm A Basket Case

A dear friend recently arranged for a lady from our church to teach a basket weaving class for 9 eager women and girls. I didn't know that people still made their own baskets until last summer when my college roommate received a gorgeous hand woven basket from her future husband's grandmother as a wedding shower gift. I was instantly intrigued to say the least.

The class lasted 5 hours, plus an extra hour at the end to stay and talk, as we women love to do! Here's how the project progressed:

I think it's safe to say that we all left the class addicted to basket weaving. It's very therapeutic! Now I just have to find the perfect spot in the house for my basket...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Sweet Serenity

I'm back from sabatical once again. It's been hard to come up with anything interesting to write about (or at least something that might seem interesting to someone other than myself!). Alex and I have just been enjoying life. The rain has kept us indoors a lot, but we've ventured outside to tackle some much needed yard work this weekend. I joke that we have the 2nd worst landscaping in our neighborhood, second only to a man two doors down who keeps a rusty broken-down car, rolled up dirty carpet and an old recliner chair in his driveway. We've tackled the weeds, but oh how I'd love to do more than just try to maintain what landscaping we have. I dream of putting down fresh mulch and ripping out some of the 20-year old holly bushes that are just not so good-looking anymore. Someday, someday...

Last night, we went to a fish fry with my parents, a friend and her little boys and her parents. It was so peaceful to sit on a deck overlooking a little lake just enjoying the scenery and company. I feel like that kind of sums up my life right now. Things are peaceful and serene. God is good. I have wonderful friends, I feel closer to my family, I'm so blessed. I pray that the same is true for you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grateful for Gideon

I went to the doctor today because of concerns about possible thyroid issues and not being able to conceive after 11 months of trying. Several friends and my sister in law have all been to this particular doctor and have had very positive things to say about him. This was actually my second visit, but today he had a more profound impact on me than my first impression. Before I get into what I really want to write about, I didn't get any definite answers to why I'm tired all. the. time. But, he wants to do blood work soon to rule out thyroid issues and anemia. And he was really encouraging about us starting a family, even though it's taking longer than I ever imagined. We're going to give it a few more months before moving forward with a specialist.

During our visit, the doctor kept quoting Scripture and relayed the story of Gideon to us. He said, "If you had gotten pregnant right away, you might have taken the glory for yourselves, instead of giving the glory to God. Gideon started out with an army of 32,000 men and the enemy had an army of 135,000. God knew that when Gideon defeated the Midianites, he would take all the credit himself. 'Look what a good leader I am! I led these men to victory against this huge army!' But God had different plans. In the end, God whittled down Gideon's army to just 300 men and led them to victory in a battle that would have been 450 men to 1. God got all the glory for it, too." Our doctor encouraged us to trust God and relinquish all control to Him so that He gets all the glory when we become parents. I like the sound of that a lot.

He also quoted Isaiah 40:31, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength...they will run and not grow weary...". He explained that the word "wait" in this scripture was talking about someone with their hands bound together, unable to break free or do anything. They have to wait for someone else to come and set them free. We are helpless except to wait upon the Lord to move. When He is ready, He will come and set us free, but in the meantime, during the waiting, we must hold on to hope and be renewed! We must trust that He will be faithful to rescue us! Through the waiting, there is refreshing. Strength rising as we wait upon the Lord. The part about running and not growing weary ties right in with another Scripture that I've been standing on: Hebrews 12:1-3, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Throughout this past year, I have had such highs and lows. Twenty five of my friends, family and co-workers have either had a baby or become pregnant. It's been a hard pill to swallow at times, seeing them so full of excitement and anticipation, preparing for the changes to come. It's especially hard to listen to them complain about feeling like a whale or having indigestion or getting to those last few weeks and praying that the baby would come early so they wouldn't be miserable anymore because I'd give anything to be big, fat and pregnant right now if it meant I'd have a sweet baby in my arms as a result. Sometimes I've thought my pms symptoms were those of pregnancy and have enjoyed feeling nauseous because it meant that my dream might be coming true.

Even though I'm still in the process of waiting and my hands are tied until God says, "It's time!", I want to give Him the glory now. If it weren't for these past 11 months, I wouldn't have this compassion for women who struggle with infertility. I wouldn't have this kind of relationship with God and started praying Scripture over my family and myself. I wouldn't have met this wonderful doctor whom I'm greatly looking forward to delivering my baby. I might not have cherished these last few months of "singleness" with Alex and let them slip by, taken for granted. I wouldn't have learned all the many lessons that God wants me to understand through all of this.

Thank you, Lord, for the times of waiting. Even though it's so hard to be patient and it's so easy to get caught up in a pity party of despair, You give me hope. You have good plans for my life, not plans to harm me. I rejoice in You in the midst of sorrow because You are still in control. I give You all the glory and praise for being with me in this season, because a time of harvest is coming and it's going to be awesome!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

And This Week's Memory Verse Is...

Our church just finished up a four-night production of Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames, a drama depicting different scenarios where people die and either go to heaven or hell. At one point, Satan comes out and talks to the audience and quotes a scripture (I can't remember which one!) and then says, "What? You're surprised I know scripture? I know lots of Scripture - way more than you do!" I knew that Satan knew scripture because he manipulated it to try and tempt Jesus in the desert. But this part of the play convicted me. Satan does know way more scripture than me and I need to memorize more of God's Word so that I have weapons to fight spiritual warfare.

"10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6: 10-17

The sword of the spirit is the Word of God, the only piece of armor that can be used to fight back against the enemy. I can't waive my helmet of salvation at the devil and make him flee. If anything, that puts a bigger target on my back. He hates that I'm saved and wants to see me turn my back on God.

"10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

The word of God is the best weapon I have to defeat the lies of the enemy. When he whispers little "white lies" to deceive me, I have to speak the truth of the Word so that the lies don't take root in my heart.

I came home from watching the drama on Tuesday and wrote down probably 10 scriptures on index cards that I want to memorize right away. My goal is to memorize at least one verse a week (52 a year). I took the first note card to work with me, leaned it up against my computer monitor and memorized a scripture on the first day. Not only do I want to have God's Word in my heart to fight against Satan, but I want to be able to teach it to my children, pray it over my family, and encourage other people with the Truth. No more "garbage in, garbage out" mentality. I want to speak hope, truth, life into other people's lives. I want to stand firm in my faith. I want to fight the good fight and not grow weary and lose heart. Sometimes battles seem like there's no end in sight, but the Word says "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours" Mark 11:24

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26

"I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" Jeremiah 32:27

The Bible instructs us to hide God's word in our hearts that we "might not sin against God" (Psalm 119:11) and also says that the word is "sharper than a double-edged judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12). The Word is powerful! It keeps us from sin, convicts of us wrong attitudes, strengthens us in weakness, connects us to God's heart, gives us instructions on how to live our lives. I don't know about you, but I want more of that in my life!

Friday, April 1, 2011

We're Debt Freeeeee!!!!! (except our house)

Sometime at the end of 2010, Alex and I started listening to The Dave Ramsey show on the radio. Then I bought Dave's book, The Total Money Makeover, on cd along with a cd about cash flow from his Financial Peace University for Alex for Christmas. We started using a cash envelope budgeting system in February and as of March 30th, we've paid off a car, a motorcycle and a credit card. Now we only have a mortgage and are working on saving up 6 months of living expenses. We're (practically) debt free!!!! It feels so wonderful! If you've never read The Total Money Makeover, I highly recommend it. It's geared more towards people with tons of debt, but so many of his principles apply no matter what state your finances are in. I'm so excited to see where we go from here! We have so many ideas swirling around in our heads. Now, to figure out how to fit some money in the budget for curtains...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Eco-Easter T-Shirt Bags

After whipping up my first t-shirt bag without a hitch, I headed to Goodwill to see what I could find to make bags for our nieces and nephew. It took just 30 minutes to make 4 bags. How's that for a quick and easy sewing project?! Here's how they turned out:

The little knots on the shoulders were made out of the shirt sleeves since I found long-sleeved shirts for the older girls. The princess shirt was a hooded sweatshirt.

Strawberry Shortcake was a pajama top.

(I didn't want to lose the purple ruffled trim on this one, so I stitched it closed on the outside instead of turning it inside out.)

Sky has graduated from infatuation with Spiderman to quite an interest in Transformers.

On one hand, they just look like tank tops, but once you hold them up as bags I think they're a lot cuter. Now to get the Easter eggs ready for hunting!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

T-shirt Bag Tutorial

I'm putting together an Easter egg hunt for our nieces and nephew again this year and was on the hunt for a thrifty easter basket/bag/bucket idea. I bought $1 buckets last year and they were ok, but I didn't really want to buy something like that again since they end up getting thrown away. A friend found an idea in a kids magazine that I fell in love with instantly: a t-shirt bag. Before I went to Goodwill to buy shirts for the kids' bags, I did a test run using an old t-shirt I already had. The logo on it is for our children's ministry at church, so I made it to give to the children's pastor's wife. Start with a shirt (can be long or short-sleeved) and cut off the sleeves and collar and trim off the bottom hem if you want to make the bag shorter. I've found that it helps to turn the shirt inside-out so you can more easily see to cut all the hem off. Jersey knit doesn't fray, so you don't have to worry about having raw edges!

With the shirt inside-out, straight stitch across the bottom of the shirt:

Using the neck hole, turn it right-side out.

Voila! The arm holes are now the handles of your bag! I added ribbon bows to the handles for a little decoration and to make it look a little less like a t-shirt.

I think I'm going to dig around for some more shirts so I can make reusable shopping bags. Stay tuned for the Eco-Easter Edition of the t-shirt bag! I found some cute shirts for the kiddos!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Move This Mountain

A friend of ours said something tonight that Alex and I thought was really powerful. Then Alex said that I'd probably forget what it was in 5 minutes, so what better way to remember than to write it down (or type it out). It went something like this:

Sometimes we have issues in our lives that we ask God to fix, but nothing happens. God is there with us, as His Word promises, and He has the power and authority to remove any mountain that hinders us. The problem is that sometimes we hold onto the very things that caused the mountain to be there in the first place. The movies and tv shows that we watch, the books we read, the music we listen to all in the name of entertainment and good fun can open doors in the spiritual realm that we don't want opened. We give the devil a foothold and then ask, plead, beg God to intervene and rescue us, but we're not willing to close the door to all that junk. Someone gave the example of a co-worker who was afraid to be alone at night if her husband had to work. Come to find out, this lady read vampire books at night before bed. It seems elementary to see the connection here, but I am guilty of the same thing in my life.

How many times to I turn on the tv out of boredom? WAY too many times. How many times do I try to convince myself that a certain show "really isn't that bad"? I've read books about witchcraft that were intended for children, so are they really that bad? Surely not! I try to justify my actions to soothe my conscience, but it only lasts for so long. Then I get upset that God hasn't answered my prayers and given me the desires of my heart. I get discouraged when the battles I've been fighting aren't won. How badly do I desire the mountains in my life to be moved? Is my relationship with God more important than "entertainment"? YES! Is my marriage more important? YES! Then why is it so hard to fight against my flesh and be set free from bondage and allow God to have control? I've opened up the doors for darkness to come in, but then fail to recognize what opened the doors in the first place. All I can see is the darkness and can't figure out how to get rid of it. It's like eating junk food, gaining 50 pounds and the saying, "God, make me skinny! Heal me of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes!" and then turning around and eating a gallon of rocky road and a biggie order of french fries.

If we want God to move mountains, we have to put some muscle into it, too. It's scary to ask God to reveal sin in your life because you can be sure that He'll bring all kinds of stuff to your mind that you didn't really want to deal with right then. I remember being in high school and praying that God would show me sin in my life. He just kept bringing things to my mind and it seemed like it would never stop. I realized how much I had to repent of and ask forgiveness for. It was hard! Pride is dangerous! I didn't want to have to admit that I was wrong, but it was the only way to move forward into the plans that God had for me.

If there is a mountain in your life that you want God to move, start by examining your life and allow the Holy Spirit to bring things to your mind that you need to deal with. I'm nervous about it myself, but I'm ready for the battle to be won. I don't want a stupid tv show or book or attitude to hinder me from receiving victory. Christ endured the agony of the cross for me, and I'm not going to take it for granted. If He could endure torture to forgive me of my sins and give me eternal life, then I can handle putting aside my pride to deal with my sin and ask for forgiveness. The next time I ask God to move a mountain, I don't want my own issues standing in the way.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Benefits of Budgeting

Call me a nerd, but I like living on a budget. Alex and I are in the middle of our second month using an envelope budgeting system and it's going really well. I bought Dave Ramsey's book, The Total Money Makeover on cd for Alex for Christmas along with one of Dave's seminars on cash flow. We finished listening to them in January and jumped into our new routine in February. Since then, I don't stress about money as much and Alex and I are on the same page about where our income is going. If you aren't familiar with Dave Ramsey, he is a best-selling author, a radio talk show host and creator of Financial Peace University, which teaches people "baby steps" to get out of debt, save for emergencies and plan for their financial futures. I'm happy to say that by the end of this month, we'll be debt free (except for our house)!!! Throughout this process, I've learned a lot about my spending habits. There are some great benefits to living on a budget.

1. You tend to buy less stuff on impulse and instead, think before buying that "stuff- you-just-can't-live-without-because-it's-only-$1! A dollar store opened up a little over a year ago just a mile or so from my house. They have an entire aisle devoted to scrapbooking and card making supplies (and much of it is name brand), which is right up my ally. I bought countless brads, buttons, paper packs, stickers, and more with the intention of making my nieces homemade cards every month to let them know that their Aunt Amanda loved them. And then I never used any of it. The stuff just sat around my office taking up space. So, $30 and a shipping box later, my nieces received a lovely care package in the mail full of those kiddy embellishments so that they could make their own cards (which they had been starting to do with my sister and her Cricut).

2. Because you don't buy as much on impulse, your house isn't cluttered with STUFF! This is pretty self-explanatory. It's amazing how I used to go into a store and buy something without much thought about it. Now that I have a set amount of spending money every month - in cash, so as not to be tempted by the debit card - I really think about what I buy and I usually end up walking away without feeling deprived.

3. You have less stress! Knowing when money is coming in and when it is going out and having it all accounted for on paper gives me peace that bills will be paid on time, there will be money put in savings and not taken out because we overspent and our goals will be met because we're actually doing something to reach them.

4. Budgeting gives you goals to work towards. We're working toward saving up 6 months of living expenses in case of an emergency, saving for retirement, and eventually some home improvement projects. We also know the timeline of how long it should take us to reach these goals.

5. Budgeting opens up communication between you and your spouse about goals, dreams, etc. Statistics show that fights about finances are a major source of strife in marriage, even leading to divorce. Thankfully, so far, Alex and I haven't really had any issues in this area. We sat down and talked about how much to budget for everything from spending money to vet visits. After the budget was set, we kept talking about it to work out a few kinks and discuss new dreams and goals that we wanted to be prepared for.

6. There is freedom in having boundaries. Simply, I don't feel controlled by money. I know how much I have to spend every week on groceries, eating out, hobbies and clothes. If there is no money in the "Amanda's spending money" envelope, then I don't buy the pretty fabric to sew a new purse until the next month. I've learned a lot of self control over the past 6 weeks!

Sometimes I look back over the last two and a half years that we've been married and regret that we didn't make these changes sooner. We could have had our emergency fund ready by now. We could have replaced the 1984 faux-butcher block laminate kitchen countertops already. I can't change the past, but I can change our future and it's looking bright!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Craft Room Revamp

I'm back from the land of "No Blogging Inspiration"! No matter how much I wanted to post something, nothing interesting came to mind. I've been dreaming of how to decorate our house so that I could post pictures of a finished project, but nothing has been accomplished on that front yet. I did finally clean, organize and expand my office though, which was a long process. Alex helped me with the final touch today - a sewing space! No more cluttering up the dining room table with fabric and such! Woohoo! I'll admit, the "before" pics are really embarrassing, but it makes the "after" pics that much better. My office is my old bedroom from when I lived at home with my parents. It's now the place that paperwork goes to wait 6 months before being put in the filing cabinet, where random "stuff" gets thrown when I don't know where else to put it or I'm trying to hide it before company comes over. Then we close the door and ignore the horrendous mess until I can't stand it anymore. Please, please, please don't judge me for the chaos that you're about to see. Before:

I told you it was horrendous. Ugh. Here's the after:

In a perfect world, the desk would be held up by actual legs or something other than mismatched hand-me-down furniture, but hey, free is great! After we moved into our house almost two years ago, my mom and I went to a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Lexington and found two doors to use as a desk top. I paid a whopping $1.00 for two doors (one was FREE), but stored one in the garage until today. I'm really excited to have more wide open space to be creative and sew. I should be getting an embroidery machine soon, too, so there will be plenty of room for that as well. The wall decor has been a work in progress, but I have a few ideas to change it up a little and make it less cluttered. Hopefully that will happen soon and I'll have more material to write about! Hope you had a great weekend!