Happy Birthday, Mawmaw!

Special note: (thank you, Heidi!) this is a picture of me and my mother, taken when I was three or maybe four I believe. Heidi noticed that Gracie and I look a lot alike as children, and she's right!
Okay, so she's not my Mawmaw (she's my Mom!) and today is technically not her birthday. Unless you're in Qatar. Which is where she is. And right now, it is 5:00am on June 30, 2008, which means my mom is another year older!!

I wanted to call and wish her happy birthday, but we have digital phones and when the weather is bad they tend to act stupid. So I wanted to post it here so she'd know we were thinking about.


Happy Birthday, Mom! We'll see you Thursday!


Are you a faithful servant?

Your God is a Good God
by Max Lucado

Use your uniqueness to take great risks for God!

The only mistake is not to risk making one.

Such was the error of the one-talent servant. Did the master notice him? Indeed, he did. And from the third servant we learn a sobering lesson. "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground' " (Matt. 25: 24--25).

Contrast the reaction of the third servant with that of the first two.

The faithful servants "went and traded" (v. 16). The fearful one "went and dug" (v. 18).

The first two invested. The last one buried.

The first two went out on a limb. The third hugged the trunk.

The master wouldn't stand for it. Brace yourself for the force of his response. "You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest" (vv. 26--27).

Whoa. What just happened? Why the blowtorch? Find the answer in the missing phrase. The master repeated the assessment of the servant, word for word, with one exclusion. Did you note it? "I knew you to be a hard man" (v. 24). The master didn't repeat the description he wouldn't accept.

The servant levied a cruel judgment by calling the master a hard man. The servant used the exact word for "hard" that Christ used to describe stiff-necked and stubborn Pharisees (see Matt. 19:8; Acts 7:51). The writer of Hebrews employed the term to beg readers not to harden their hearts (3:8). The one-talent servant called his master stiff-necked, stubborn, and hard.

His sin was not mismanagement, but misunderstanding. Was his master hard? He gave multimillion-dollar gifts to undeserving servants; he honored the two-talent worker as much as the five; he stood face to face with both at homecoming and announced before the audiences of heaven and hell, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Was this a hard master? Infinitely good, graciously abundant, yes. But hard? No.

The one-talent servant never knew his master. He should have. He lived under his roof and shared his address. He knew his face, his name, but he never knew his master's heart. And, as a result, he broke it.

Who is this unprofitable servant? If you never use your gifts for God, you are. If you think God is a hard God, you are.

For fear of doing the wrong thing for God, you'll do nothing for God. For fear of making the wrong kingdom decision, you'll make no kingdom decision. For fear of messing up, you'll miss out. You will give what this servant gave and will hear what this servant heard: "You wicked and lazy servant" (v. 26).

But you don't have to. It's not too late to seek your Father's heart. Your God is a good God.


Bento Crazy!

Okay so this post is going to sound like a game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" for just a second. Have any of my loyal readers/working moms ever heard of a Bento Box? Well let me just tell you, with Gracie's preschool looming ahead of us in August, we have to take her lunch. And I think I found the coolest lunch box ever!

It started when I emailed the ladies of Working Moms Against Guilt to follow up their post about healthy summer snack ideas with some helpful lunch ideas for Gracie's preschool days. Much thanks to Tela for the post, who was also seeking help for her son O who has a nut allergy. One of the commenters linked to a website called Lunch in a Box, where I was first introduced to the Bento Box.

Apparently, it is a Japanese made creation that reinforces the food pyramid and the way you pack the food gives anyone (children in particular) an appealing, nutritious lunch. Don't believe me? Okay if the Lunch in a Box blog grosses you out due to the sushi stuff, check out this other Bento-packing mom at Wendelonia who packs more American cuisine into her preschooler's lunch box. What kid wouldn't take a look at that and want to dive in?

You can find Bento Boxes on various websites, some local and some not but the least expensive website I found was over at Ichiban Kan.

I will definitely keep you guys posted as to how it works out, and hopefully I can master the packing like these amazing moms already have!


Waiting on Him

Those were my nails
That was my crown
That pierced Your hands and Your brow
Those were my thorns
Those were my scorns
Those were my tears that fell down
And just as You said it would be
You did it all for me
After You counted the cost
You took my shame, my blame
On my cross

I need you. Only you know why. I am patient. I am waiting.
I believe in you and your sacrifice. I trust you. Only you know your plans for me.

I am waiting. I will wait. I pray that you will show me.


Food for Thought

I mentioned in my last post one of Rachael Ray's more disastrous recipes, but forgot to mention some of them I've managed to recreate with success. I wanted to share the following pictures and recipes I've made the last few days. One of them was a homemade blackberry cobbler, and while the berries were absolutely beautiful (see photos below) I was not impressed with the cobbler. But I'm used to old fashioned apple or peach cobbler, fruits that are sweet and juicy. This was extremely tart and runny, and Bryan and I just weren't happy with it. I don't remember where I got the googled recipe from, but I won't be trying it again for sure.

I've never bought blackberries, but aren't they beautiful?

Another shot.

Blackberries covered in granulated sugar.

This next recipe actually came a wesbite called Follow Your Bliss a website that Rachael shares with her mother and sister. Jessie, Rachael's sister, actually posted the recipe for theSteak Teriyaki but commented that she didn't have a chance to snap a quick picture. I don't know if her teriyaki sauce turned out as runny as mine, but I may try more cornstarch and cooking it in a pot on the stove. All that aside, Bryan and I absolutely loved the steak teriyaki and I might be re-creating it tonight using chicken tenderloins instead of steak. We served it with white rice and it was AWESOME!

Quick close up of steak teriyaki

Lip smacking good food!

And then last night, Kayla and I decided to make a recipe we'd seen on Rachael Ray Tuesday afternoon called "Deli Stuffed Eggwiches" that were - in a nutshell- Ab.So.Lute.ly WONDERFUL! We used Sara Lee Hearty White Bread, some black forest Ham and butter herb turkey, and swiss cheese. I used regular dijon mustard instead of grainy, and apricot preserves. Bryan didn't care much for the sauce but Kayla and I loved them!

Now that I've made myself hungry, it's time to find something to snack on before dinner!


What is the worst meal you ever had?
Oh wow. Okay, while my mom is notoriously known for "back of the soup can" recipes (one of them was REALLY bad!) I will take credit for the nasty meal I ever made. And hands down, Bryan agrees with me on this one. I love cooking. I love Rachael Ray. But be forewarned, I don't like all her recipes. However, she made this Thai peanut chicken one night on an episode and made it look REALLY easy. In a nutshell, when I tried to recreate it, it was like eating grilled chicken smothered in peanut butter. Needless to say, that is the bar we set all our other "bad meals" at. Nothing can top peanut butter chicken.

Name one place you could vacation every year?
Orlando. Universal.

5 things that drive you crazy?
1. I work in retail. Specifically, in a grocery store. I handle customers all day. Voids, refunds, money orders, western unions. It bothers me to no end for a customer to come into the store on their cell phone, and stay on their cell phone the entire time. I refuse to help someone who is too busy carrying on a conversation with someone else!!
2. People who walk suuuuuuper slow and are in front of me. Blocking the aisle, so I can't get around.
3. People who think that in order to communicate with some one else, they had to use profanity. Every other word.
4. Germs. Seriously, if you think I'm joking-ask my family.
5. People who have the impression that because I (or any one else) go to church, that you are "too good" for certain things.

Name 3 people from your past that make you stop and think, “Hey, I wonder what ever happened to…”
I'll pass.

Kids' TV show you might actually enjoy more than your kids do?
Hi-5 on TLC and that's about it

5 Worst movies you’ve ever seen?
1. Number 23 with Jim Carrey
2. One Hour Photo with Robin Williams
3. Titanic. I'm sorry, THE SHIP SANK!!!
4. She-Devil with Roseanne. Worst Movie Ever.
5. Any Star Wars or Star Trek movie. <---I agree with Amy here!!

Most under-rated TV show you watch regularly?
Bryan and I watch alot of "True Hollywood Story" shows, and some of the Dateline NBC specials about true crime. I am literally amazed at what some people will do to others.

Most popular TV show you never watch?
Lost. Never interested, never will be.

Celebrity whose looks you’d like to have?
Reese Witherspoon or Jennifer Garner. Anne Hathaway, because she looks so much like a classic beauty.

Celeb you can’t stand?
Kevin Costner, Keanu Reeves, and Hilary Duff. They just bug me.

What did you do today?
Worked and came home. We're having burgers for dinner. Yay!

Who are you tagging?
Amy has already tagged everybody I know....so if you want to be tagged, YOU'RE IT!!


10 Years Ago...

What was I doing 10 years ago?
In 1998, I was working full-time at the Winn-Dixie in Montgomery. I was living with my maternal grandparents at the time.

5 Nonimportant things/habits/quirks
1. I am a Germophobe. Honestly, I think I have stock invested in Germ-X, Lysol, and Clorox all three.
2. When I drink coke or something from a can, I swish it around in my mouth before I swallow it.
3. I am a planner. I love schedules. I love the orderlyness of schedules.
4. I have a serious popcorn addiction.
5. I am obsessed with chapstick. If I don't have it in my pocket, I panic until I can find it or buy a new tube of it.

5 Things I would do if I were a billionaire
1. After tithing 10%, I would invest some of it in a savings account.
2. Put aside mucho amounts of money for Gracie's education.
3. Travel
4. Help my mom pay off some debt.
5. Donate to charities for needing/abused/neglected children.

5 Foods I enjoy
1. Chicken. I don't care if it's grilled, fried or what.
2. Pasta. Again, any kind.
3. Popcorn
4. my Granny's homemade dressing (she makes it at Thanksgiving and Christmas)
5. Green beans

5 Places I have lived
1. My mom's house
2. My grandparent's house
3. Mine and Bryan's apartment
4. Mine and Bryan's house
5. A house with some friends


The Aquarium Trip Part II

So after our trip to the zoo, we drove back to the hotel to get checked in and shower before we headed out to dinner. Thankfully I had spaced out our day so I could determine how Gracie would deal with nap time and lunch. Lunch at the zoo was fairly close to our regular lunch time, but when we left nap time was lagging. And I was suprised to discover that even after sleeping in the car ride from the zoo for about 30 minutes, Gracie was still pleasant the rest of the night. When we were reading, I had planned ahead and called the hotel to find a local family restaurant. The rep suggested Taco Mac. When we got to the restaurant, it kind of reminded me of a combination of Chili's and Applebee's. It was the same kind of sports bar/beer and wings type place, only their menu also offered southwestern style foods like quesadillas, nachos, and wraps. I think Bryan tried a sandwich, and we also tried their chips and cheese dip. The restaurant was good, and they had a fairly good kid's menu.
Special note to Miss Leigh: If you are reading this, Gracie was going to wear the Eiffel Tower dress to dinner Sunday night. However, we put it on and it is WAY to short. If there is any possibility, could you make us some bloomers or capris in the Eiffel Tower fabric to go with the top?

Mommy & Gracie after dinner at Taco Mac.

Mommy & Gracie again

Kayla & Gracie playing on the balls in the exercise room. This was just before Gracie got bounced off the ball and landed on her butt.

We also "rented" Horton Hears a Who that night at the hotel, but I really wasn't that impressed with the movie.

Ok, that's it for today! I'll post the aquarium pictures tomorrow.

Aquarium Trip Part I

So we got up at 7:00am Sunday morning and my goal was to be out the door by 7:30. We pulled it off! We had packed everything up Friday night while Gracie was at Nana Kay's, and then we left it all in the livingroom. The only thing I had to do Sunday morning was pack up the cooler of drinks and off we went! Traffic wasn't too bad heading toward Atlanta, and we made our halfway stop at the GA visitor center on that side of the state line. The woman behind the counter offered us free reading material and then informed us that there was construction going on in downtown, so she jotted down some alternate driving directions for us. We got lost trying to get to the hotel and when we found out J.Christopher's was going to have a 30 minute wait to be seated, we decided to head off to the zoo and have lunch there. And to be honest, the food was rather good to be so decently priced.

They had this board up just outside the carousel, and I let Gracie "feed" the giraffe some spare change.

Gracie picked out a bear when she rode the carousel with me. When she rode a second time with Kayla and Bryan, she decided to ride a bird instead.

Gracie, on the carousel with Mommy.

Gracie on the "choo-choo".

Kayla, Gracie, and Bryan on the carousel for the second time.

Gracie, "cheesing" right next to the tiger!

She looks a little too close for comfort, huh?

This adorable baby Panda bear!

Panda bear again.

Kayla and Gracie, sipping an Icee to cool off in the scorching heat!

The zoo was fun but we didn't last long (mainly because of the outrageous mid-afternoon heat wave) but we enjoyed the time we did spend there.


Panda video

This was the other video I took at the zoo when we saw the Panda bear. Too cute, and Gracie laughed at how he was trying to "eat" this whole tree that he was smothered under.

Aquarium Trip

Okay, so I really, really, really wanted to come home early this afternoon and post every single picture and these awesome stories about the fun we had. And there was much fun to be had visiting the Atlanta Zoo and the Georgia Aquarium. However, we also had to deal with getting lost finding our hotel, trying to leave the hotel today only to discover a dead battery, and then getting side tracked for an hour to locate a Wal-mart to purchase said battery and then find 85 to get back home. Did I mention I've been fighting this nasty allergy attack since Friday that has now turned into an ugly cough?
All that said, we did have a great time and I know Gracie did too. She was disappointed we had to come home!

Some things that suprised me:
1. Gracie not crying when we made her get off the carousel at the zoo.
2. Gracie sleeping all night in a pack-n-play in our hotel.
3. Gracie taking a 30 minute nap in the car ride to the hotel and still being pleasant at dinner that night.
4. The decent prices and edible taste of the food at the Atlanta Zoo.
5. How nice random strangers can be when you ask if they have jumper cables.
6. How cute Gracie can appear to total strangers.
7. How awesome the aquarium actually was.
8. How glad and sad at the same time I am to be.

I can't promise I will post every single picture tonight, I do have some being developed at Wal-mart so those of you who we see often can actually look at all of them. I do, however, want to post one of the videos from the zoo (the only videos I took) because of how absolutely amazing both of them are. So enjoy, and I will post more very soon! I will post the second video later.

Gracie & the Tiger (that is Gracie on the left, who sticks her arm in front of the lion at the end)


VBS Ends in Disaster

Ok, well not absolute disaster! Mrs. Debbie, Gracie's teacher, told us all week long about how she sang all the time in class. Especially in music. So last night they get ALL the preschoolers onstage to sing and wouldn't you know it? My daughter plops herself down on the floor and has a tantrum. Just starts crying while everybody else is singing! "I want my maaaamaaa!!"
I couldn't believe it! All this practicing, Nana Kay had even come to see her, and all just so we could watch her throw herself on the floor and cry.

Anyhow, I have not been able to locate the USB port to plug the camera up, so my last few VBS pictures will have to wait. I have a homemade veggie lasagna in the oven and then first thing in the morning we are going to pack up the van and head off to Atlanta! I'm sure I'll have tons of pictures when we get home.


Vacation Bible School

This post will more than likely be an entire post of pictures, just because this week has been so busy. (You will notice that Sunday was the last time I posted! A record for me!) Anyway, Sunday night kicked off Vacation Bible School at our church. The theme was "Outrigger Island", which is basically a Hawaiian/luau type theme. Our final night (Parents Night) is tomorrow, where the kids sing songs they learned throughout the week. Gracie has thoroughly enjoyed it, she came home each night crying about how she wanted to stay. I had to promise her we would come back each night just so she would leave. Anyway, enjoy the photos!
This will probably be my last post until we return from our trip to Atlanta to visit the Zoo and the Aquarium. We are super excited and promise to post lots of pictures of our trip next week!
We will be gone Sunday and Monday for our trip. Bryan, Kayla, Gracie and I will be heading out early Sunday morning. I also have some pictures on the camera that Bryan took of Gracie at the park when he took her on his off day. I will post those when I get a chance. Enjoy the pictures!

Gracie, hanging out in her VBS class (2-3 yr olds)

The beauty pageant for "Miss" Outrigger Island. (No, you aren't seeing things-those are men onstage!)

Jonathan Denham, one of our contestants for "Miss" Outrigger Island

Our music minister, Mike Denning, "Miss" Outrigger Island (the one in the blue!)

VBS Director Jay Taylor (left) and 4 yr old teacher Bryan Fray (right)

Some of the children in our Pre-First Grade class

Nathan Wesley, one of the kids in our class

Gracie, hard at work on a craft at VBS

Gracie in the car on our way to VBS

A group shot of our class Thursday night


Powerful Thoughts

I have a lot to say, and I don't usually ramble so please bear with me here.

A few days ago, I found out a former co-worker of mine's youngest son, Dalton, might have cystic fibrosis. Please pray for the Williams family on many leaves, first because they already struggle financially (Dawn and her older son, Austin, but have chronic asthma problems) and they thought originally that this was what Dalton was suffering from. However, other symptoms have caused doctors to question whether or not it might be cystic fibrosis. Play first of all that any medical needs will be met and not cause them more financial hardship. Also pray for peace for their family, whatever the outcome of these tests that are being run.

Then say a special prayer for my grandmother, who is not saved and does not know Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. That said, she has been visiting our church the last three Sundays without my encouragement. I don't know where God is leading her and I don't know why our church, but I don't question it. He knows what he is doing, He knows the plans he has laid out for her life. My greatest joy would be for her to be saved, so I hope where ever He is leading her it is to accepting Him.

Today in Sunday School, we talked about the kind of mental image we have of God when we pray to him. I always put the image in my head of the child-like one....long brown hair, beard, white robe. The whole she-bang. Anyway, it got me to thinking because some people in our class said they don't really picture a God. I don't know that I picture him when I pray, literally it's more like snapshots of the people I'm praying for.

Anyway, we talked about different things but it kept bringing Angie Smith and her family to my mind. And I thought about Jon's post about the prodigal son that I mentioned a post or two ago. It just stuns me to think that some people blame God for all the bad things that happen in the world. And I thought about Angie, who has lost a child very recently and then her sister-in-law as well. I thought about Steven Curtis Chapman, who lost one of his little girls a week ago. And I'm just stunned in silence that they continue to believe that God loves them and cares for them. But today's lesson made me think about something Angie said on her own blog, about how nothing suprises God. He knows that the plans are. He knows before we do. And it's okay to get angry and scream at him, and even Angie said he's okay with you saying "you know what? I have nothing for you right now." He doesn't let the bad things happen - his only hope and wish is that those bad things will draw us closer to him.

I'm rambling, I know, but I was on an emotional rollercoaster at church today and just wanted to share my rambling thoughts.