We are 10 hours away from bringing 2016 to a close.  For the past 3 years, at least, I have looked forward to ending the year and starting fresh and new the next, anticipating it will be better. 

Sadly, for the past few years, the following year seemed to come with even more pain and heartache.  I will not dwell or get into why, as if you are a reader of this blog, you are more than likely very aware of what has taken place in our lives in the past few years.  

The past few years have been marked with much sorrow and struggle, but in terms of devastation, 2016 takes the cake.  

In this past year my heart has been taken to the brink of shattering what seems to be a zillion times.  I spent nights alone, while my husband was fighting and addiction and began to feel as though life could be easier without my marriage.  I pondered leaving, I was convicted to stay.  I felt betrayal like never before and also experienced a whole new level of forgiving.  I wanted to give up, but was given God's powerful strength to keep going, just one more day.  

In my weakness, I fell on my knees and realized on my knees is where strength was birthed.  I went from believing God would always provide and care for me to KNOWING God will always provide and take care of me.  I stood up for what I knew was right and accepted it costing me in the end and found blessings are often disguised in adversity. 

So though, there are things I long to leave behind, there are also many things I will choose to take with me. 
God shown Himself to me throughout this past year like never before.  He revealed Himself through the hug of a friend, the words of encouragement through a loved one, through giving me reasons to laugh in the same moments I was wanting to cry, for allowing me to step out on the edge but never far enough that I would lose my balance.  He gave me strength to keep going even though logically, I saw no reason to do so.  

He would not let me give up.  Ever.  I cannot stress to you all enough, what God has to offer you is not just life changing... but LIFE SAVING>  
God's conviction saved me from making permanent decisions based on circumstances He knew were temporary and with purpose.  

Today.... I leave behind my need to always understand... and embrace the lesson in trust I was gifted.  Trusting takes the why.... out of the trial.

Peace and Blessings
Your Friend
Missy
 
 
Not too long ago, I was talking with Garrick about setting goals.  I have learned sooo much about goal setting from one of my favorite blogs.... Money Saving Mom.  Often, the mistake many make with goal setting is setting a goal that is achievable, but lacks the planning and strategy to be achieved.  If you do this, you will find yourself feeling defeated and frustrated.  

Garrick informed me, that is why he does not set goals.  He winds up feeling like a failure when he does not achieve them. I told him that is because he lacks planning and strategy and perhaps, he chooses goals that are a little unrealistic.  

The past few years have not been, what I would call, joyful years.  Though God allowed us to feel joy, even through the struggles and pain, overall, these years were full of trials and pain.  Don't get me wrong, God had purpose for that pain and I learned so much walking through the valleys. I learned how strong I can be with God as my foundation, I learned the power of forgiveness, I learned the value of strong Christian friendships and most importantly; I learned there is not one person or relationship too far gone that God's restoration cannot touch it!  

I can now use this to encourage others walking through the valley!  And I find it an honor and privilege to do so!!  

BUT; with that being said, I am still very excited to venture into a new year anticipating something very different!  I am going to share with you my goals for 2017, NOT RESOLUTIONS, my goals.  I will also share with you how I break them down into different categories that are priority in my life and how I then have learned to break those down into bite size pieces, as I have learned from Crystal, at the Money Saving Mom.  I want to make them achievable and enjoyable!!  SO here goes!

SPIRITUAL GOAL:

*Grow in trust and my ability to "be still."
-Here are my bite size pieces that will help me achieve this goal!
  • Continue my morning reading/prayer/blogging time.
  • Read a daily Psalm and Proverb
  • Spend AT LEAST 5 minutes a day in quiet,intentional and uninterrupted prayer. 
  • Read AT LEAST 2 inspiring books ( I have yet to select these)
  • Seek others in need and assist them.

MARRIAGE:

*Continue working toward restoration and letting go of past hurt and fears.
Here are my bite size pieces to achieve this goal!

  • Continue to pray for my marriage and husband, daily.
  • Have at least one date night per month (AWAY FROM THE HOUSE! LOL)
  • Continue our yearly get aways, at least 2.
  • Pray together at least 4 times per week (I am pushing for daily, but that goal has been harder to achieve)
  • Spend at least 5-10 minutes each evening talking about our needs as well as our achievements. 
  • Possibly read an inspiring book on marriage together.
  • Continue our Sunday night marriage devotion.

  • HEALTH:

    -Keep my body healthy and strong (as possible LOL)
    -Here are my bite size pieces!

    • Run or exercise at least 4 times per week.
    • Continue to take my vitamins daily.
    • Eat AT LEAST 4 fruits/ veggies daily. ( I have gotten bad about this!)
    • Continue eating dark chocolate!! LOL

    FINANCIAL:

    *Pay off Camden's braces and begin paying on Addy's.
    *Save money each week for our getaway fund as well as for Christmas 2017!
    *Increase church giving.
    -Here are my bite size pieces!

    • Continue the cash envelope system, which has been working awesome!!!
    • Use any extra money to put toward braces until they are paid off.
    • Put $25 per month in getaway savings as well as Christmas.  
    • Use tax return to pay off debt and also save.
    • Increase giving at least $10 per week.

    PERSONAL:

    *Find joy in each day and live with intention.
    -Here are my bite size pieces!

    • Continue my time with the Lord.
    • Write AT LEAST 2 things a day I am thankful for in my journal!
    • Stop feeling guilty for taking time for myself and do something peaceful or enjoyable at least 15 minutes a day. (watch an episode of Lucy, read, start a fun project, write a letter. etc)
    • Do something fun for myself at least once a month (manicure/pedicure, shopping by myself, coffee and bible at Smoky Row, whatever I want!)
    • Seek ways to help and serve others.


    PARENTING: 
    *Be an intentional parent!
    -Here are my bite size pieces!

    • Spend  intentional one on one time with each child at least 1 time per month. 
    • Pray daily for each child during my prayer time.
    • Laugh more with my kids!


    So... there you have it!  These are my goals for 2017!!!  What goals will you be setting?? I would love to hear!!

    Peace and Blessings
    Your Friend
    Missy


     
     
    I have been very lazy at posting over the past week and for that I apologize!! Every year we travel to the Chicago area for Christmas to be with my side of the family.  My mom and her hubby as well as my sisters and their families all live in the same area.  It is a yearly tradition my kids have come to love and anticipate all year!  

    It is a few wonderful days full of belly laughs, excessive food intake and family traditions we all cherish.  During the time away I was able to see my cousin's new baby girl born on December 21st. We got to visit them downtown Chicago and though I risked both life and limb driving down there with my older sister behind the wheel (BAHAAAA) it was well worth it! She is precious beyond words and her name was inspired by our beloved Poppy.

    I was also able to see my grandma, whom I only get to see twice a year if that.  She is not really with it mentally and you could tell her the queen of England was coming to visit and she would get excited and forget about it the next minute, but getting to see her is always wonderful! It often leaves me teary eyed as I ponder my grandparents wonderful life together and I see how 60 years of marriage ends, grandma in a nursing home alone, often forgetting she was even married.  It is a reminder to remember to cherish life as it literally flies by in the blink of an eye. 
    One of the other MAJOR highlights of the trip was finally receiving the affections of my sister's peekapoo, Bruce!  I have been seeking and longing for a special connection with this dang dog for four years and he always shuns me!  He will jump up on almost everyone else's laps, while leaving me lonely and begging for his affections.  He could be a real jerk!! LOL  BUT, for whatever reason, this year, all I had to do was call his name and he came running and jumping onto my lap accepting and almost begging for my love!!!   

    IT WAS A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!!LOL

    You can see why I'm so smitten!  He is quite the hunk a chunk of burning love!!!! Those teeth really get me!!! LOL

    I was truly blessed as I received EVERYTHING, I mean EVERYTHING on my list!!!!  Even things I did not ask for!  My husband and family blessed me greatly this year, as they do every year!!!  I got my warm, cozy jammies, some adorable fluffy pink slippers, my Philosophy lotion and bubble bath, my sweatshirt and much, much more!!!  

    Even with all of these wonderful blessings God had one even greater in store for me!  I had prayed and prayed for this one!  I had massive anxiety over not receiving this gift and it almost drove me to dread Christmas!

    You see, last year and several Christmas's prior ended with much stress and damage due to Garrick's struggle with addiction and my actions to it.  They were devastating episodes for all involved and really began marking our Christmas with a very dark and dreaded tradition.  

    I diligently prayed with every bit of myself that God would reverse this.  That He would bless my family with a stress free, peaceful Christmas without damaging episodes of addiction and dysfunction.  I prayed continually for my heart and for my husband's as well.  

    My prayers were answered!!  This was the first Christmas n a very long time that there was complete joy and peace.

    "Blessed be the Lord!  For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy." Psalm 28:6
    God continues to lead us down the road of peace and recovery and for that.... I am the most grateful!!  

    Restoration is the greatest gift and it is available to all her seek it with all their heart.  You often have to wait very patiently and it requires great forgiveness and faith, but God is magnificent at it!!  I pray if you are seeking restoration, you never give up on it!  

    So, that is where I have been!!  It was a marvelous Christmas and now it is time to focus on the new and upcoming year!  I continue to pray restoration with follow us through 2017 and believe with all my heart, God has marvelous plans in store for us as long as we stay seeking him!!!  

    I pray you had a wonderful Christmas!!!  Keep posted for the New Years giveaway!!!  

    Come on!! You knew I would have one!! LOL

    Peace and Blessings
    Your Friend
    Missy
     
     
    Okay, okay.... I will be 41 years old in March, but I am not too proud to admit that I do have a grown up Christmas list!!  I love Christmas!  I love giving gifts and I love the little surprises that as adults, we really only get two times a year... Christmas and birthday!

    Now, let me start by saying that I do have some non materialistic things on my list.  In fact, those will always trump anything that can be bought in a store, however, the little girl in me still has the twinkle in her eye at a few choice items every year.  

    The past few Christmases have been pretty rough around here, I am not going to lie.  Due to the issues that Garrick and I have been battling, recent Christmases have been marked with some tension and stress to say the least.  So, YES... the first thing on my list is a safe, joyful, peaceful Christmas with God in the lead.  My heart cannot take another stressful Christmas, so really and truly, this is numero uno for me!!

    BUT... I will share with you today a few little items that I have on my "fun list" this year!

    1. North face hoodie- I really didn't know I wanted this until I was scoping out Brads Deals (a great website that gives you the best current deals on all things!) and I saw it listed!  I thought to myself, I do not own a hoodie, I won a lot of fleece zip ups but no hoodies. I am chronically cold in the winter and often sleep with a sweatshirt on!  And, if it is not TOO cold out, I run outside and this would be PERFECT!  Ergo, it made the list.  Now, I hinted around to my spouse a few dozen times, even sending him the photo, but we shall see if there is a box waiting for me to unwrap!

    2. Philosophy Lotion and/or Shower gel-  I usually get this every year from my mama and I always look forward to it!  I love bath and body items and Philosophy is a little more costly, therefore, I seldom if ever buy it for myself.  So I look forward to getting it as a special gift!!!

    3. Pajamas-  I LOVE pajamas!  Yes, I have way too many!  And yes, it is a tad ridiculous, but I can't help myself, cozy, warm and fun jammies are just my favorite!  You can never go wrong buying me a pair of jammies!  

    4. Fun scarves and pieces of jewelry-  My sisters buy me these types of gifts often and I love them!  Last year my older sister bought me this small silver bracelet that says, "one day at a time,"  I am not sure if she knew how fitting this was for me, but it could not have been more perfect.  I love meaningful little gifts like that.  Another year, my younger sister bought me the cutest, most elegant looking scarf.  I get so many compliments on it and I have never seen one like it!  To this day, it remains one of my favorite scarves!

    SO THAT'S IT!!! Those are at the top of my list!!!  

    I will keep you posted if any of them end up under my tree!!!

    Peace and Blessings 
    Your Friend 
    Missy
     
     
    Last night, I was in the kitchen whipping up some fudge, listening to nostalgic Christmas music.  Of course, I began thinking of my grandparents and all of my wonderful Christmas memories.  Some days, I truly would give anything to go back in time.  

    It prompted me to make a post on facebook asking others to share their favorite childhood Christmas memories.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE hearing about precious family traditions and somehow, when people share these memories, the true meaning of Christmas come out!

    As I was reading though the wonderful comments, one thing stuck out at me, as it always does when people share their treasured memories.... NOT ONE OF THEM had anything to do with expensive gifts or self indulgence.  Every single memory revolved around family, traditions, laughter and priceless homemade gifts given to them by cherished family members.  
    To this day, one of my very favorite Christmas gifts remains a homemade gift given to me by my grandparents.  That year, all I wanted was this strawberry shortcake dressing table I found in the fat old JC Penny magazine.  It is all I thought about.  I was a girly little girl and loved that thought of having my own little dressing table.  

    On Christmas, my older sister and I were asked to leave the room for a few minutes while opening gifts.  I sat in my room so excited at what I was about to see!  I was SURE it was my strawberry shortcake dressing table!!  

    When I walked back out in the family room, I couldn't have been more happy that I was wrong!  It was a homemade dressing table, made by my poppy!  It was cream, had three mirrors, two cabinets that opened, working lights with a little switch and was dressed with old ribbon and cream lace.  

    I could not have wished for a better gift!!!  I never gave that stawberry shortcake table another thought!  


    CHRISTmas is all about heart.  If the heart of CHRISTmas is removed, it become meaningless.  Every memory people share has to do with heart touching moments and gifts.  The sacrifice and love of those around us and the time others took to think outside themselves and bless another person.

    We all know why we celebrate Christmas..... Jesus's birth, however, it is so much more than that.  It is a recognition that placing others needs and desires above our own brings much joy and many treasured memories.  

    This is why is breaks my heart when I see so many stressed out at Christmas time..... perhaps... they removed the heart from Christmas.  

    Believe me when I say.... I want not one person to STRESS about getting me a gift....... it means more to me that others hearts find joy this time of year, than for me to have one gift to unwrap.  

    My Poppy found SOOOm uch joy giving to others.  He spent his entire life doing nothing but giving of himself in some way, shape or form.  I will never forget the look on his face when he would see the joy on ours as we opened a gift or tried on a new outfit he and grandma had bought for us.  

    That was Christmas to him.  That is the heart of Christmas.  

    Peace and Blessings
    Your Friend 
    Missy
     
     
    I would say, that a vast majority of the population is possibly on a pursuit to significance and self assurance.

    What do I need mean by this? 

    We live in a world that thrives on flashy recognition.  Aside from the constant bombardment from the media, we also have evolved into a world that gives massive rewards to the woman that has the best body and most beautiful face and the man that gets to grace the cover of People magazines "Most Sexy Man" cover.  

    We are a world of shallow reward seeking and sadly, this pursuit has us chasing after vanity, which Solomon warns us in Ecclesiastes, is like chasing after the wind.  

    There was a girl named Mary.

    Who was Mary?

    Most of us are fully aware of who Mary was.  Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus.  She married Joseph, they traveled to Bethlehem for the census ordered by Ceasar, when they arrived, there was no room for them in the inn.  They chose to stay in a barn for the night, where Mary gave birth to Jesus and wrapped Him in swaddling rags and placed him in a manger.  

    There was a briefing, just in case you weren't sure of the story!! LOL

    But back to Mary.  I want you to  take a moment to let this post truly sink into your heart.  While you envision in your mind, the woman or celebrity you find yourself comparing yourself to.  While you ponder all of the physical things that you would change about yourself or the goals your hope to achieve.  Really, really meditate on what you are about to read.  

    Mary, the woman chosen to be the mother of GOD in flesh... the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.... was a normal, insignificant, every day, girl.  She came from a normal, unknown family and did not stand out in any way, shape or form.  She was not a portrait of beauty and more than likely, could have cared less about the shape of her body.  She was the the girl, that in today's world, would walk down the halls of school and totally blend in without recognition.  

    Yet...... God chose her.  

    Why?

    All the Bible tells us regarding God choosing Mary is she was a virgin, upright and faithful. It does not go on and on and on about her abilities, her achievements or her background.  She was chosen, simply for her character and God was able to see far more into Mary than anyone else ever could.  

    You are able to learn a great deal about Mary's character when she is approached out of nowhere by an angel.  The angel tells Mary that she is about to conceive a child and give birth to God's son.  

    The ONLY question Mary has for this angel is how will this be, as she is a virgin.  The angel explains to her that God's Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive in that manner.  
    Picture
    Photo Credit: Passion of the Christ
    Now, here is the most miraculous thing in my eyes.... Mary does not go on to ask five zillion questions as I certainly would.  All the what if's and then of course the blatant doubt I would have that such a thing could take place.  

    My faith is not even a match for Mary's faith.  Not only that, she was engaged to be married to Joseph.  Now, the angel appeared to Joseph as well and explained to him what was going to happen so he was aware of how Mary conceived.  In that day, it was extremely shameful for a woman to be pregnant outside of marriage.  Mary would have been the target of much ridicule and judgement.  And without question, she willingly accepted this calling.  

    Her response to the angel remains one of my favorite scriptures in the Bible.  

    " I am the Lord's servant, Mary answered.  May your word to me be fulfilled." Luke 1:38

    She responded.... I am the Lord's servant.... may God's purpose be fulfilled. 

    THAT MY FRIENDS.... is what was significant about Mary.  Her beautiful, flawless faith.  Her awareness that her body and being was simply a tool God needed to use on earth to fulfill His greater purpose and she embraced that calling without hesitation.  

    How I long to have that level of faith, or even half of it.  As I discussed yesterday, in the Meaningful, Messy Marriage devotion, God needs us empty, empty of ourselves, empty of our own needs, desires and aspirations, in order for us to be able to embrace and accept what His purpose for us.  

    I pray.... for the kind of faith.  I pray... for that kind of internal beauty.  I pray.... I set aside vanity and personal aspirations to serve the God that gave me life for His glory.  I pray... I stop letting Satan's fear rule my heart and question every challenge God brings me.... but embrace the challenges with the strength of God's Holy Spirit knowing He could be using me to change the world and I may never know it.  

    Mary had no idea that she was about to give birth to the Savior of the world and that she was have to endure the excruciating experience of watching her son be tortured and killed.  However, without her willingness to blindly accept her calling..... the entire world would be headed for hell.  

    Mary.... a normal, insignificant, every day girl..... helped change the course for mankind with one act of obedience.  

    There truly is.... something... about Mary.

    Peace and Blessings
    Your Friend
    Missy
     
     

    Oh, to be content..... each day of my life.  If even for just one day. To feel the amazing feeling of complete comfort and peace, surrounding each curve of my being.  To embrace the evening with the same enthusiasm I embraced the sunrise.... would be precious.

    It is very easy to experience contentment in my life, I would say for short increments of time.  Sipping a warm cup of coffee in the glow of nothing but Christmas tree lights, while praying to my Father... is contentment.  Soaking in a warm bubble bath, with my eyes closed and my heart open to God's voice... is contentment.  To lay in the warmth of my flannel sheets..... and drift off to a peaceful sleep.... is contentment. To hold my child in my arms while reading the same torn and stained book I have read a zillion times before....... is contentment.


    Where does all this contentment go?  As the sunrises on my coffee and tree lights.... I let is slip away.  As I empty the bathtub after my time of peace..... I let it slip away.  As the alarm rings and I have to leave my warm cozy bed....... I let it slip away. As my child rises..... and the sweetness in their eyes.... begins to disappear..... I let is slip away.

    There is a common thread in all of these scenarios.... "I".... "I" let is slip away.  It is so much easier to feel contentment.... when my life is what I "think" it should be.  The precious greeting card moments are priceless but fleeting.  Real life.... is what is real.  The secret to true happiness.... is finding contentment with the sticky peanut butter, temper tantrums, piles of laundry and cold evenings.

    "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the                                              circumstances." Philippians 4:11

    Even as I type this.... I wrestle with discontentment.... with uninvited emotions and mental battles that want to trump joy and I often let them.  Our circumstances may never change.  God willing.... if they are difficult..... God may deliver us..... but His timing is not our timing.  

    The longer you base your level of contentment on the circumstances surrounding you.... the longer you choose to live in misery, turmoil and discontentment.  No one ever taught me how to joyful and content.... even during hard times, sad times, loud times or painful times. For most of my life.. I never knew that was an option.  Until I had my encounter with my Father. 

    He taught me that even while beaten beyond comprehension, with their limbs nailed to a cross.... an individuals heart can still be loving, tender and forgiving.  Contentment is as easy to grab as bitterness..... but our selfish nature does not want to fight for contentment..... self pity.... is the easy road. 

    I challenge you today.... to find contentment.  For me... this is the reward.... at the end of the race.  A peaceful and happy heart.... that is unwavering.... able to stand against the most violent storm and come through it.... all the more content.

    Peace and Blessings
    Your Friend 
    Missy