Friday, February 27, 2015

Time For My Big Girl Panties

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  That includes laundry, disciplining my children well, finishing my cross fit workout and my black belt test.  I do not have it in me to tighten up the things that need to be tightened up for this test next week.  BUT I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME. He already told me that.  The promise has been made.

I don't feel the miracle in this one is going to be for me to suddenly remember every technique and kata perfectly.  I know them all.  I've been working on them for hundreds of hours now.  It's an amazing amount of information to store in one's head.  (It's a good thing I like to collect information.) I believe my miracle is going to be in me giving myself grace and trusting that what I already know is in my head.

 she believed

She believed she could and so she did.  It doesn't matter that I have an amazing number of super supportive people behind me on this one. They can't do it for me.  I'm glad they're there (and I'm extremely glad they're praying for me), but I have to do this. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

What do you need to rely on Christ's help to get through?  Comment below.

P.S. This favorite expression of mine is on sale right now through tomorrow, Saturday, February 28th, at midnight.  Click here to order.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Be Still

It's time to be quiet.  I'm 11 days away from my black belt test.  Eleven. That's not very many. At all. I've been working on this for 6 years now.  No, I haven't been prepping for my black belt test for that long.  I've been learning karate for that long.  Actually, the truth of the matter is that I have been prepping for this test for 6 years.  Where I am now started then.  I love it.  Obviously I love it or I would not be here still. Now the big test is finally here...almost. 

It's funny.  I thought I would be more anxious.  It's not to say I won't be next week.  But right now I am remarkably calm.  Unusually and miraculously calm. I have been for the last week.   I liken it to giving birth.  When I was in labor with my daughter, I can distinctly remember a short time right before she was born when I retreated into myself. One of my dear friends was with us when my daughter was born at home.  She and I discussed later that I was talking and interacting one minute and the next minute I was gone away, working, pushing, going to that deep place that I needed to go to find the strength to finish the imminent task of having a baby.  As soon as my sweet baby girl was born, I was back.  Instantly, I had returned.  That quiet place is where I need to be right now.

The calm I am experiencing right now can only be attributed to the many beautiful people I know are praying for me.  I'm still practicing.  I'm still studying.  I'm still learning.  Like I said before, I've been working on this for 6 years.  I've got this, though. It is absolutely not through any power or strength of my own.  I can ONLY do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  That includes allowing clarity and peace in my often scattered mind during my black belt test and the time leading up to it.  

It's time to be quiet, to be still and know that He is God.

 be still

I'd love to hear some times when you knew you needed to just be still and listen to God. Comment below.

Here's a link to a quick video that about the journey.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What Terrifies You?

I'm terrified.  I have a test coming up in 2 weeks.  This isn't just a test on paper.  If it were, I would be fine.  I have never had trouble taking tests in school.  There might have been the occasional intimidating test or project, but overall test taking was a non-issue for me.  This test is a bit different. It's my test for my black belt in karate.

Let me start at the beginning of the story.  About 6 years ago, my parents bought karate lessons for my son, who was then 6-years-old.  This is my child who doesn't like change or new things.  While he is a relatively outgoing kid now, he wasn't at that point.  We went to the intro class and he was so shy that he didn't want to get up and do the intro class.  Instead of letting him quit, or not begin, I did what every good mom does and I got up there and did it with him.  Little did I know that I would fall in love with it and continue my own studies to this point (and beyond).  

It has been a lot of fun and very challenging.  We are not what I would call a squishy, easy kind of school.  As martial arts are known for, we teach discipline and respect, self control and self discipline.  We also do a lot of hands on things like weapons and and candles and sparring and brick breaking.  A lot of schools do some of those, but not all of them.  I have to say that our tests set us apart from other schools, though.  We test on everything from white belt to the current belt that one is testing for.  At least in our area, a lot of schools seem to just test on  the current material learned.  I'm not being critical of them or judging.  Honestly, they are all great people, as far as I can tell.  It's just  a bit frustrating that people I know that go to different schools that started about the same time as I did are already black belts and have been for the last couple years. 

Fast forward 4 1/2 years to my brown belt tests.  In our system, we have 3 levels of brown belt.  The first brown belt I passed.  The second brown belt, I didn't pass.  The second brown belt, I didn't pass...again.  It took me 3 times to pass my Brown 2 test.  Ick and ouch.  I did manage to pass Brown 3 in one try and now onto Black.  That's what's coming in 2 weeks...less than 2 weeks.  The test is 2 weeks from yesterday, as I write this.  I really don't want to take this test more than once.  Five or 6 hours of seriously intense testing which includes running, sparring, candles, blindfolded sparring, techniques, katas, brick breaking, weapons, and who knows what else is not something I want to have to do again because I failed it.  That's where this expression comes in:

 she believed she could so she did

I have been working on this for 6 years.  I love it!  For someone that loves to learn, this is ideal because I get to learn new things all the time.  Even during times when I am not learning new techniques or material, I am still learning and refining.  It's a physical activity, which I love, too.  But I still doubt myself and my abilities.  Doubt is not helpful.  It's not from God.  It is a lie the enemy tries to get me to believe.  Now is my time to believe.  It is time to believe in myself and in all the hundreds of hours of work I have put in.  It's time to go and do it.

I'm sure you will be hearing more about my black belt pre-test jitters and ramblings in the next couple weeks, but I'd love to hear about your fears and how you faced and conquered them in the meantime. Comment below.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Have the Best Things in Life

As I help people choose glasses frames, I often tell people that it is a gift to be able to automatically go for the most expensive frame on the board right off.  You can just see the quality in the material and feel it in the hinges.   You put the frame on and it just feels solid.  Most things that are made well just feel like they have been made well.  A Mercedes feels different than a Kia.  It's nice to have nice things.  Nice things are nice.  I even have a few nice things.  In the end though, it's just stuff.  Really.  It's just stuff, things, bling,  What is really important in this world?  Stuff?  I'm going to go out on a limb and say no.  

 the best things

People are important.  We have people in our lives that have more influence than others.  Are they more important?  I don't believe so.  People are all precious.  I work with the public and sometimes it's difficult to look at someone as "precious" when they are yelling at you for something (that they ultimately did).  Fortunately for us, that's not how God sees us.  God loves us no matter what.  He loves us so much, even though we in no way deserve it.  He doesn't love clean people more than He loves dirty people.  He doesn't love rich people more than He loves poor people.  He loves us all.  In 1 John 4, the Bible tells us that "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." I'm sure I don't want to send my son to die for people that don't love me back, and in fact hate me and treat each other terribly just to spite me.  But that's what God did for us...for me.  It's very personal, this faith thing, but it's for each of us.  
John goes on to say in this letter "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." He doesn't say love just not smelly, pretty people.  He doesn't say just love rich, nice people.  He doesn't even say just love people that treat you well.  No where in there does he say to love stuff over people.  It's simple.  "Love one another." That's it.  Love one another.

 Love others as God loves you

I hope this post has been encouraging to you today.  It's been encouraging to me to write it.  I'd love to hear your comments below.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Whole Room Makeover for $38? Yep.

I might be a bit premature in reporting on this one, but I'm really excited about it so you get to read about it now.  

I have some of the rare vintage of furniture called Early American Hand Me Down Stuff.  Actually, not all of it is hand me down.  Some of it we actually purchased from a real store (and not a garage sale!), but we've been married almost 16 years now, so our tastes have changed a bit.  The problem with that is, well, most of it doesn't match.  It's highly functional and relatively solid, but not so high on the "we'd like to display this piece" scale.  Enter super awesome studness of a husband and a few cans of spray paint.

Here's the before...

Here's the after...

It's quite lovely, I must say.  He did the same thing to the really scratched up coffee table, and the set of end tables that matched each other, but nothing else.  Guess what.  Now they all match and have a modern, shiny espresso finish.  Yay!  It's not completely finished yet...  I still need to recover the cushions from this... (which was fantastic and beautiful for the hours and hours and hours that I spent rocking my children in it, but now...)

And here is the after material:

Yay!  Neutral and easy to clean.  Here's the coffee table:

I don't have a before picture from the coffee table because it was just that bad.  (Actually, my hubby is too fast.  He was half way done painting before I realized what he was doing.)  Just imagine the color close to the rocking chair, but more orange and way more scuffed.  Those are not scuffs in that picture.  It's the wood grain showing through again.  It's quite lovely.  Now to get rid of the pine green couch...

The final touch to the table will be this little guy:

 cafe label. Jen's Walls Talk

It will be white.  I'll post more pictures when it's done.  The fun thing about paint is that you see the results immediately.  It's unlike retexturing (which I have going on in another room) that is a process...first coat, second coat, sand smooth, third coat, sand, add texture, refine, and finally paint.  I love new texture and will be stoked when it's done, but it doesn't all happen in a matter of hours.  Adding vinyl is the same way as paint: instant results.  

All this painting of my mismatched furniture took place in just a few hours and for less than $40.  It really ties everything together and is creating an atmosphere of flow and calm rather than crazy and discombobulated.  I love it!

What simple things have you done in your home that were inexpensive and made a big impact?  Comment below.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What Does It Mean to "Eat Well?"

 live well eat well

What does this mean?  To live well is to eat well. I'm going to explore this for a few minutes today and answer every single question or thought you've ever had about food.  After all, it's not like there are so many food ideas out there that it can be completely and utterly overwhelming and confusing to sort through them all to decide what's best for your family.  Are you sensing my sarcasm here?

The one thing that is common to every single eating plan, diet, or food lifestyle choice, is that what you put in your mouth makes a difference.  I don't care what body type you have.  Honestly, I couldn't tell you how many body types there are anymore: 4, 10, or 52!  Who knows, really?  There are short and thin types, short and stocky, short and curvy, medium and stocky, medium and athletic, tall and lanky, tall and thick, and the list goes on and on and on.  You get my point.  We're all different.  We're all beautiful.  We're all made in God's image.  

Recently, I started a book study with a group of beautiful ladies called The Daniel Plan.  It's been amazing.  I would consider myself a relatively healthy eater prior to doing this study.  That's the food I grew up eating and that's what tastes good to me.  I don't eat a lot of "junk" food.  It's not that I don't ever have any treats, but I try to keep them to a minimum.  The Daniel Plan is comprised of 5 main elements: faith, food, fitness, friends, and focus.  They feel that the "secret sauce" to the success of the plan has been the faith and friends elements.  Absolutely, I would agree.  To know that I can call upon God who created me and wants the very best that He has for me, so that I can serve Him to the best of my ability, when I am wanting to indulge in a food that just isn't going to make me feel well, is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.  In other words, I can pray.  So cool!  The friends element is super amazing, as well. Maybe I just know really fantastic women, but the thoughts and insights these ladies share each week is an encouragement to me.  They are real and honest about their struggles and their victories.  It is sweet times, for sure.

The food aspect of the Daniel Plan is very simple.  It boils down to this: if it comes from a plant (as in, green, living organism), eat it. If it is made in a plant (brick and mortar, science building), don't put it in your mouth.  That's pretty easy.  No processed foods.  Eat from the abundance of God's creation.  Try new things.  You just might like it.

Let's look back at my original question.  What does this expression mean: to live well is to eat well? In order to live well and do the things we are put on Earth to do, we must fuel our bodies with food that is nourishing us...not poisoning us.  But here's one (ok, two) more thoughts to remember along the way to wherever you are trying to get to:

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what eating well means to you and your family.  Comment below.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Are Grandparents Taking Over Your Kids?

Grandparents have a special place in our hearts.  When my son was born, he was the first grandchild on both sides of the family.  Needless to say, he was a bit spoiled.  I made t-shirts for the grandparents that said "Grandkids are the reward for not killing our children." He has since overcome that spoiling for the most part, but he loves his grandparents.  He saw this expression in my catalog that I had lying on the table and specifically told me,

"That grandparent one is so cool!" We are extremely blessed to have not 1, but 2 sets of grandparents that are very involved in our kids' lives.  Growing up, my immediately family was always the family that lived far from the grandparents because my dad was in the Air Force.  My hubby was the same way, minus the Air Force part--they just lived far away.  So while it is sometimes tempting to move far, far away from family drama, we have chosen to stay close so that our kids can have that relationship and extra helping of love.

Even though we see the grandparents on a regular basis (Grandpa even gets to pick the kids up after school most days), they still like to spoil the kids on a fairly regular basis...a little candy stuck in a backpack pocket, ice cream after school, staying up late to watch a movie.  You get the point.  Left to their own devices for too long, there might be a bit of trouble, but sometimes, I'll admit, it's just easier to play by Vegas in, what happens at Grandma and Grandpa's house or Gram and Grandad's house, stays at their house.  It's not that I'm in denial about what goes on.  It's certainly not that I don't want to be in control.  I have just learned that sometimes the ensuing battle and hurt feelings aren't worth it over 1 piece of candy or one night where ice cream came before dinner.  If it happened every night, then we might be revisiting the issue...

In the meantime, snack away, laugh, giggle, and snuggle, stay up late and eat ice cream.  These times are coming to an end all too fast.  Then come home to reality and chores, but for now, what happens at the grandparents' house, stays at the grandparents' house.

P.S.  If you are reading this and you are the grandparent, do not take it as license to do absolutely anything and all the time.  One reason I have learned to allow some space to the grandparents in my kids' lives is because they have been respectful of our boundaries and don't push them all the time. Honestly, that gets old really quickly.  There.  That's my disclaimer.

I'd love to hear what fun memories that your kids have because grandparents pushed the rules a smidge.  Comment below.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Get Everything Done That You Need to In 10 Minutes

We only get one chance on this earth.  That's it.  Once we use up our time, it is spent.  Done.  Finished.  Gone...forever.  There is no getting it back.  All cliches, I know.  But there is truth in them.

This little expression has been one of my best sellers since it came out.  I love it.

What a great reminder that time with our family is paramount.  What normally happens?  We know we need to spend time with our family whether it be a date night with our spouses, or playing with the kids, but we just have so much to do to take care of those people.  After all, they do need food to eat and clothes to wear.  Right?  Of course, but more than anything they need our time.  Kids spell love as t-i-m-e.

 love is spelled time

We all know how it goes.  You're trying to do laundry/dishes/vacuuming/etc.  The kids run in and say, 
"Mom!  Come play with us!  We're playing _____!" The first thought that comes to mind is,  
"I just want 10 minutes to get SOMETHING done!" But what comes out of our mouth is something closer to a growl, accompanied by an eye roll, a deep sigh and a slam of our hands on the counter.  Even though not an actual word has come out of our mouth, what did we just scream at our child?  
"Sorry, honey.  Laundry/dishes/vacuuming/etc. is more important to me than you." I am so not judging you.  I'm am just as guilty of doing that as the next guy...and much more often that I'd like to admit.  So here's is my proposed solution to answer that quandary:  take 10 minutes to do the "stuff" that needs to get done.  But you only get 10 minutes.  Then GO PLAY!  Set a timer if you have to.  Have the kids help you (age appropriately, of course).  They'll be much more motivated to help if they know they get to play with you at the end.  Let's be honest.  We probably get more done in that 10 minutes than we did in the previous 30, anyway.  THEN let's visit what lessons we just taught our kids: work needs to be done, then play; we work together, then play together; I am important to my mom because she makes time to play with me.  Aren't those the messages we want to send our children?

The event that sparked my my attention to this issue came about from my daughter.  It wasn't her persistent insistence that I play with her.  That would have been too easy.  It started when we went to her parent-teacher conference last year and they had been working on a project where the teacher asked what the kids' parents like to do.  She told her teacher that I liked to clean house.  Can you believe that?  I like to clean house???  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  Ouch.  I don't like to clean house, but I don't like living in a filthy one, either.  My 9-year-old didn't see it that I was doing it for her.  She just noticed that I was doing it all the time.  I'm learning to let go of the little things that don't get done as often as I'd like.  I'm trying to play more because time spent with family is worth every second.

What message do you want to send your kids today?  Comment below.

Monday, February 9, 2015

How Facebook Lies

I must start by admitting that Facebook can be a great tool for a lot of different reasons. I get it.  You can promote your business.  You can connect with long lost friends before your 20th reunion.  You can even post prayer needs and ask others to pray for you.  All great things, indeed. You can also share podcasts, links, websites, or memes that you find particularly compelling or inspiring.  Again, that is completely positive and on the up and up.  However...

Since we are soooo inundated with social media everywhere and all the time, it seems that the once catchy and clever headline that got our attention 3 years ago no longer does.  As a result, we make even more sensationalized headlines that are maybe having to do with the actual topic, but not completely and exactly on par with what we thought we were getting.  It's a bit of a lie, I'd say.  But we fall for it...every time.  I find myself getting sucked into the weird headlines, too. "500 pound woman keeps eating and grows a third arm out the side of her head!" You've seen it.  You know what I'm talking about.  

The problem is that we get used to such craziness.  It numbs us to the fun in simple things.  The joy in simple things.

Today's call to action is to slow down just a bit.  Forget about all the craziness out there for just a minute.  Take a deep breath.  Thank God that you have breath to take deeply.  Enjoy it.  It is so simple a thing: breathing.  Yet without it we die.  It gives provides life to our body.  It nourishes our cells.

Now go enjoy the simple things in your life.  Your child's laughter.  Your dog's excitement to see you at the end of the day.  The simple pleasure of food.  Your spouse's smile.  These things are what life is made of.  Enjoy the simple things.

What are your simple things you've noticed today?  Comment below.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Happy Girls Are the Prettiest

I love this expression.  It doesn't say girls that are "perfect" are the prettiest.  It doesn't say the girls that have the most cleavage showing are the prettiest.  In our culture where it's the norm to wear clothes that are, in my humble opinion, all too revealing, we often miss the person underneath.  It distracts from the person behind the clothes when we get too caught up in the latest, tightest fashion.  It really does.  

There is a beautiful, very intelligent, very caring woman that I know (who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this discussion).  When you meet her, what you notice is her low neckline, and her tight jeans.  I am a woman and I get distracted by these things when I see her.  I can only imagine how distracting it would be for a visually stimulated man.  Hear me when I say that I am not judging.  Really I'm not.  What I am saying is that I am distracted from the message that you are trying to tell me when I see your cleavage.  Have you ever heard the saying "Your actions speak so loud I can't hear what you're saying?" That would apply in this situation.  It's ironic to think that the woman I mentioned before is actually rather shy.  You wouldn't think it to look at her, but that's the honest to goodness truth.  Once you get past the outside stuff going on, you will find an amazing, passionate, caring person.

So what is the point of my little rant here?  Why does all this matter?  Because of this girl.

This girl is my girl.  She is sweet, and funny, and kind.  And she LOVES to sing.  I don't want her to sell herself short someday by thinking that she has to reveal more of her body and less of her dignity to have people listen to her singing.  She is a precious gift.  She is God's daughter.  She does not need to cheapen her self worth to please anyone.  She is a happy girl therefore she is pretty.  In fact, she is beautiful.

I realize I might be oversimplifying this issue, but I don't think it needs to be complicated.  I'm not telling you to wear a turtle neck and floor length skirt.  I certainly don't, but let's look in the mirror ladies and take a good look, and then ask yourself what it is you are really saying.

I am now stepping down of my soapbox.  I'd love to hear your comments below.  Agree or disagree?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

You Are Awesome.

I've mentioned before that I am a crossfitter.  If you're not familiar with what that looks like then here is the Reebok's "Be More Human" commercial from the Super Bowl:

I'd like to think that's what I look like, but I'm pretty sure I'm not quite there yet.  I couldn't quite tell you what there is, though.  My pants do fit better than when I started doing it.  My arms are more toned.  I can actually do a pull up now--mind you it's a kipping pull up with a black band (the 2nd thinnest support), but I could barely do one with a green AND purple band (the widest & 2nd widest support band) when I started.  I can even do a real push up.  I'm not bragging, and certainly there are others at my box (that's what we call a crossfit gym) that can do amazingly more than I can, but I am proud of myself.

Yesterday's workout was a bit on the hard side of things.  Thirty box jumps, 20 push press, then 30 pull ups.  As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.  I did 2 (rounds!), plus 11 box jumps of round 3, thank you very much.  I was proud of my accomplishment, but at the same time was a bit self-deprecating thinking I could have done more, but didn't.  I might have been a bit slow on the 2 rounds of pull ups, but I honestly felt I did push myself on the box jumps and push press.  In the middle of my picking on myself, one of my beautiful crossfit buddies, Tara, reminded me that I am awesome.  First of all, I was 5:00 in the morning...working out.  Most people are sleeping at 5 a.m.  I'm not better than them.  I've just made a commitment to do that so I do it.  But that does make me awesome.  It's out of the norm.  It's exceptional, and that is awesome in itself.  Here's the other part that makes me awesome: I did it.  Yeah, baby.  I did it.

There is a fine line between humble and self-deprecating.  I like to think I'm humble.  I know that all my abilities come from God.  Apart from Him, I can do nothing. He gave me this body and mind.  They make up who I am. I don't work out because I hate my body.  I don't even dislike it.  Is it perfect by the crazy standards the world sets?  Nope. But I still love it, and it's the only body I'm going to get in this life.  I can take care of it as best as I can and see how far I'll go, or I can fill it with junk and abuse it and feel like junk along this journey called life.  I choose to be awesome.

How do you choose to be awesome? Comment below.

Monday, February 2, 2015

My Vinyl is Popping Off the Wall!

On occasion, I get a call from one of my vinyl clients saying their expression is falling off the wall. At first, this really freaked me out, but I did what any good Learner Personality would do and I got more information. What I learned is that many factors affect vinyl expressions and how they go on your walls.  Today, I'm going to take a look at one of these.  Bear with me as I get a little more technical and a little less fun.  In the end, we all benefit from having more knowledge.

One of the biggest factors is the texture of the surface you are putting it on.  A textured wall or something like a canvas where it has a variable texture is probably the biggest cause of vinyl mishaps I see.  Take a look at this picture.

The top 2 rows have been applied to the canvas in the normal fashion (i.e. backing removed, top sheet and letters lined up, rubbed and top sheet removed).  The bottom 2 rows are applied the same way, but have one teensy little extra step that makes all the difference: heat.  After the letters are on the surface and the top sheet removed, you can use a hair dryer on a high heat (it doesn't need to be on a high fan setting) and go over each of the letters slowly.  It only takes about 15-20 seconds over each letter to get it soft.  After it is soft, press--don't rub--the letters into the grooves.  You don't want to rub because the vinyl is soft at this point and can be stretched.  Voila! Your vinyl is now properly applied.

Don't worry.  You can still take your vinyl off the wall.  This heating process only gives it more of the "painted on" appearance.  

One more little disclaimer at this point: I can only speak to the performance of vinyl from Uppercase Living.  I know there is more than one vinyl company and you can even get it at the local discount store, but not all vinyl is created the same.  This is what I believe in and this is what I know.  Enough about that.  I'm not going to drag other options through the mud.

I would estimate that 90% of the time, heat will fix the problem of popping up vinyl expressions.  Another 5% of the time it is operator error and the remaining 5% of the time it is defective adhesive or something of that sort.  If you are one of the 5% that had an operator error or you did happen to get one of the defective adhesive expressions, I love that Uppercase Living will stand behind their product and replace it at no charge within the first 90 days.  You do need to contact the person you bought it from originally, but I hope that helps.

I'd love to see some of your favorite vinyl expressions.  Post a quick pic in the comments below of your wall.

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