Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Four years ago I sat on a rock at South Mountain in North Carolina and took a picture of this waterfall…

Will You Marry Me - Engagement Day

I was sitting next to a boy named Ben.  We were on our last Saturday date before the end of the school year.  That day he asked me a question, and I said “yes”!  He placed a beautiful diamond ring on my finger and told me for the first time that he loved me.

Will You Marry Me - Engagement Day

Will You Marry Me - Engagement Day

Will You Marry Me - Engagement Day:: so happy together! ::

Will You Marry Me - Engagement Day:: one of my favorite pictures from that day ::

Engagement Pic:: the official engagement picture ::

Almost six months later, I got my first kiss
{yes – the first ever!} …

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…and it’s been “happily ever after” ever since!

I am so thankful for the husband that God gave to me!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reasons to Smile

Some of my blessings this week (and it’s only Tuesday!)

  • Hazelnut coffee…with half and half (instead of milk!)
  • Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins
  • Sunshine to dry my diapers
  • A happy, healthy little girl who is cute as a button (not biased or anything), and loves to do everything that Mommy does
  • Being married to Ben for 42 months today.  (I remembered before he did – a rare occurrence!)
  • Tulips in bloom all around me
  • The disappearance of Mt. Laundry Smile
  • Only nine more weeks in this pregnancy
  • Sandals and flip-flops
  • A visit from a college friend coming next Friday.  Can’t wait to see you, Shanaynay!
  • Ceiling fans
  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • 215359_599780084294_55301941_33516411_3504872_nThese adorable little pants waiting to go to the hospital and be worn home on a little boy.  Just wishing!  My bloggy friend Marah made them.  See her Etsy shop here.  I still have to pick a coming home outfit for a girl.
  • Revival meetings at church this week.  Tonight I get to sit in the service – no nursery, no Sunday School.  Can’t wait!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

“But now is Christ risen from the dead” 1 Corinthians 15:20

Today is Resurrection Sunday (I like that name better than Easter).  I think it is becoming one of my favorite holidays.  The time surrounding it is not hurried and busy like the Christmas season.  The spring time is refreshing after the winter cold and snow.  It’s such a nice Sunday to take and reflect upon Christ’s finished work at Calvary and His resurrection from the grave.

Our Sunday started with beautiful sunshine and warm weather.  The afternoon boasted rain and humidity.  It was so warm at church that we turned on the air conditioners!

When I was growing up I usually got a new spring dress and wore it for the first time on Easter.  Many years my mom made me a dress, and several times we had matching dresses.  Now that I’m “big” I don’t need that many new items in my closet.  The first year we were married Ben bought me a new outfit.  This year he surprised me with a shopping trip for a new maternity blouse!  (I needed something dressy for Kenny’s wedding in June anyway).

Easter 2011

Easter 2011I probably don’t need both pictures, but I wanted to show my baby belly a little bit.  And besides…I’m not often in the pictures, and Ben did such a good job taking these!

Today was also a busy Resurrection Sunday.  This morning’s service began a week of special revival meetings with Missionary Evangelist Chris Stoll.  He and his wife, Zoe, are called to the field of Ireland (where Zoe is from).  They were at our church for the first time during our missions conference in October.  Chris and Zoe have a little boy who is three, and a daughter about Elaine’s age. 

I am also teaching Sunday School this quarter.  I have eight 4 and 5 year olds on the roster.  Everyone was in attendance today, and we had 3 visitors!  My tiny classroom was bursting at the seams.  We even had to go searching for another table and more chairs partway through the class time!  Throughout the lesson the kids would raise their hands and say, “I’m squished.”  It was the truth!

Easter 2011
Back row: Anthony, Faith, Shastya, Becky, Adam, Diesel, Jalen, James
Front row: Aaron, Lexi, Jessica (my visitors)

It was a busy time, but a blessing to review the Crucifixion and Resurrection stories, and to hear some things from a child’s standpoint.  Even when I think they aren’t paying attention…they really are!  Our memory verse was the title of this post – “But now is Christ risen from the dead.”  I was so pleased that everyone quoted it for me – that’s a first!

When I taught my kids about the empty tomb, I was able to show them pictures from the garden tomb (where Jesus may have been buried).  I took the pictures during our trip to Israel in 2009.

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PICT0138I love the sign on the door – it is so true!  My “religion” is different from others because I worship a living God!

Easter 2011Elaine in my Sunday School room

Easter 2011
Our family – Resurrection Sunday, 2011.  We all ended up wearing purple!

Easter 2011Elaine was so worn out after church…she fell asleep on the way home and stayed that way for several hours!

We were blessed to host the Stoll’s for Easter dinner, so yesterday I was busy cooking and preparing.  It was fun to plan a scrumptious meal and know that we could share it with another family.  I made a ham dinner with green bean casserole, mashed potatoes (Grandma’s recipe…loaded with sour cream and cream cheese!), Waldorf salad, rolls, and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Ben has been looking forward to this meal all week, and he helped a lot with the preparation.  I confess I have never made a ham before.  I was nervous, but I found a yummy sounding crock-pot recipe.  I used a dressing of peach jam (I still had some homemade), brown sugar and mustard.  Both Ben and I were pleased with the results – the ham was delicious!

Easter 2011

Easter 2011

This was kind of a long rambling about our holiday, but I feel so blessed and happy I wanted to share it with you.  I hope you had a great day as you worshipped the Risen Savior!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Elaine’s 18 Month Pictures

I decided to take some more home-portraits of Elaine today.  She will be 18 months in about a week.  We did three outfits today.  Elaine is hard to capture lately, because she moves so much and is easily distracted.  I shot over 400 pictures (using a continuous shutter mode) and these are the best pictures…

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Elaine 18 month portraitsthis is Elaine’s Easter dress this year – it is perfect because of the matching coat in case the weather is cool!

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well…every photo shoot has it’s trials…

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my favorite!

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getting a little pouty…

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our neighbor/landlord gave Elaine this dress as an Easter gift.

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in an attempt to get her attention, I stuck a flower in my mouth.  My little copycat did the same!

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I used a manual camera setting, and some of my shots came out grainy.  I guess I need some more practice!  Maybe I should take a class…

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Tree that Saves

untitledToday is the 41st Earth Day celebration.  Many people around the country are focusing on this celebration this weekend.  While I believe that we should do our part to be good stewards of this world that was given us, I also understand that when God is finished with this earth nothing we can do will stop Him from destroying it and creating the New Earth.

You see, while most people are focusing today on how to save the trees, as Christians, my family is remembering a Tree that saves.  Today is not only Earth Day, but more importantly it is Good Friday.  Around 2,000 years ago, my Savior Jesus Christ gave His life on a tree called Calvary so that the entire earth might be truly saved by placing their faith in Him. 

I know that it is not really the Tree (His cross) that saves, but rather what He did on the cross that brings salvation.  I am so thankful for my Jesus, and that He was willing to pay the price for my sin, to take my punishment, so that He could save my soul.  The salvation of a soul is far more precious than saving the environment. 

Today Lisa Redick, a missionary to Asia, posted this on her Facebook status: “On that Friday they didn't know about Sunday, but we do! Don't keep it a secret!”

How true that is!  While we can remember this Friday and the death of Christ that purchased our redemption, let us not forget that on Sunday He conquered death with His resurrection from the grave!  Let us spread the Good News that Jesus died and paid for our sins, but let us not forget the better news that He rose from the grave and offers salvation as a free gift to all who will believe.

One of my favorite songs is called The Power of the Cross.  May the words cause you to remember what Christ has done for you as we celebrate this Resurrection weekend!

O, to see the dawn of the darkest day;
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men, torn and beaten, then
nailed to a cross of wood.

O, to see the pain written on Your face,
bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Every bitter thought, every evil deed
crowning Your blood-stained brow.

Now the daylight flees; Now the ground beneath
quakes as it’s Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two, dead are raised to life—
“Finished!” the victory cry.

Chorus:
This the pow’r of the cross: 
Christ became sin for us.
Took the blame, bore the wrath;
We stand forgiven at the cross.

O, to see my name written in the wounds,
for through Your suff’ring I am free.
Death is crushed to death, life is mine to live,
won through Your selfless love!

Chorus:
This the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love, what a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Words and music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

The Purse Lady

I love purses.  Elaine has picked up on this “vice” of mine, and she loves to be carrying a purse or a bag too.  For a one year old little girl, she has almost as many purses as I do!

We share this little love with another special lady – the Purse Lady.  She is JoAnne Neiner, the wife of Ben’s pastor when he was growing up.

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Mrs. Neiner is probably to be blamed for Elaine’s obsession even more than I am!  She sent Elaine her first purse at the ripe age of 3 days old!

Elaine Day 4 My First Purse

When Mrs. Neiner saw my Wordless Wednesday post last week of Elaine’s cowgirl diaper and boots, she decided that Elaine needed a matching purse.  This week Elaine received a special package in the mail – a stuffed cow purse!  The little note made me smile.  I hope she doesn’t mind if I share… it said, “The Lord even provides purses!”

Thank you Mrs. Neiner for loving and spoiling Elaine like a grandma.  These pictures are for your enjoyment!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Living By Cash

I know – we live by faith, not by cash.  However, Ben and I recently decided to switch to a cash budget in order to track our spending in a better fashion.  Life in NYC truly is by faith, especially when your income doesn’t meet your out-go.  But God is faithful, and He has never let us down!

I guess it took me a while, but I have finally figured out that most of New York City works on cash transactions.  Especially the little stores and grocers that I shop at!  Most of these places have a minimum purchase of $10, $15, or $20 in order to use a credit or debit card.  I found myself constantly going to the bank ATM for cash.  The bank is close, but it is the opposite direction from most of my shopping.

I also found, to my great frustration, that I was constantly going over my food budget.  I would get to the store, shop my list, sometimes add a few extra items, and my total was never what I wanted it to be!  It was time to rethink things…

After discussing things and crunching numbers, we came up with a weekly budget which we think is doable.  My dad and brother are Dave Ramsey buffs, and I knew about the envelope system from Money Saving Mom.  We had a family budget, but we didn’t always follow it to the number, or consult it as frequently as we should have.  Since the Lord is providing for our needs, we want to be good stewards of everything He gives us.  This includes not wasting our money because we don’t know exactly where it is going.

I use this sturdy divided file for all my cash categories.  I also keep the weekly/monthly budget in the front, and there are extra pockets at the back for my coupons.

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Now, from each paycheck we take out cash for our food, toiletries, gas (for the car), and tithe.  We then set aside a portion for our rent, phone, gas, and electric bills so that when they are due the money is ready.  We were not doing this on a weekly basis.  Now when I go to the grocery store, I have my cash and that is all. 

Great idea, right?  Right…as long as you can buy the items you need!  I was still coming up short, but I didn’t have my debit card to back me up.  The system still needed some work.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI used to shop with coupons, and I could get a lot of food for a little money.  It’s not that easy here in NYC.  I don’t subscribe to the paper and the coupons weren’t that good.  Only the bigger grocery stores accept coupons, and I think only one of those stores doubles coupons.  I had been rather discouraged about couponing and had basically given up.  I don’t have the means (read car), time, or energy here to run around to five or six stores in order to get the absolute best bargain for every item on my list.

Here is/was our solution:  Plan my menu around the sale items.  I was planning my menu, and then going to the store and trying to buy all of the ingredients.  Before, I was able to stock up on enough items that I could plan my menu this way and still save money.  Now I am learning to shop the sale flier, get a bargain, and then plan a menu.  It’s still not perfect, but it is working.

Around here the sale ads start on Friday.  I switched my shopping day to Friday so that I can be sure and find the sale items in-stock.  Then I plan my menu for the coming week, and everything is on hand.

Here are some other things I am doing to save money:

  1. I buy my fruit and veggies at the fruit stand, not the grocery store.  The prices are much cheaper.
  2. I buy my milk at the corner market – it is at least 25 cents cheaper, and usually more.
  3. I make all of our bread in the bread machine.
  4. We eat at home seven nights a week, with an occasional exception.
  5. I make my own laundry soap.  Read more here.
  6. When I can get a bargain on meat, fruit, veggies, etc., I buy a bunch and freeze it.  Sometimes I make it into a meal first and then freeze it.  I also enjoy canning  when I find the right price.
  7. We eat at least two meatless meals a week.  When I do add meat, it is never as much as the recipe calls for.  I only use one chicken breast in casseroles and dishes for both Ben and me to share.  You would never know the difference, and it saves money.
  8. I stretch hand soap by reusing a foaming soap dispenser.  I fill it about 1/4 full with soap (sometimes just using plain dish soap) and then fill the rest with water.  Your hands still get clean, but the soap lasts a lot longer.
  9. I mix my loads of laundry {don’t tell my mom}.  Yes, I sometimes put lights in with darks, towels in with whites, etc.  If I run the washer on a full load, I am using the same amount of energy and soap for the cycle.  It only takes a little more water instead of twice as much (though we don’t pay for our water, so I don’t reap those savings).  And it sounds like less work to do one big load instead of two half loads!
  10. We line dry everything.  Though many times it would be easier to go to the laundry mat and use the dryer rather than have my living full of drying racks!
  11. We use as many reusable items as possible – dusting cloths instead of disposable dusters, rag and bucket instead of a Swiffer mop, cloth shopping bags (when I remember to bring them!), cloth napkins, rags instead of paper towels, cloth diapers & wipes, and a vacuum with no bags.

So far it’s working for us.  Do you use only cash?  Got any other money saving tips?  I’d love to hear them!