The 2017 Anthony Family Christmas Card

And now… the Christmas Card!

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This year has been pretty rad.

We moved to a sweet neighborhood and scored a new house as our rental!  We even have a backyard and awesome neighbors.  Plus, we’re not too far from the property!

This summer we drove to Wyoming,

IMG_2877Colorado, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  You can read about it hereIMG_2554IMG_2516IMG_3396

Staying on the National Parks theme this Thanksgiving, we headed down to the Grand Canyon on our way to Arizona where we spent time with family for Thanksgiving and Celebrated Christmas at bit early all together.  It was 90 degrees and the kids swam every day in the pool.

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But there was no swimming anywhere near the Grand Canyon… It was FREEZING!

It was also the first real vacation that actually felt relaxing.  This wasn’t a trip with kids as I’ve said in the past… it was a VACATION!  I don’t know if it was all the prayer (probably) that went into this trip or if the kids are finally at a fun age where Davin and I are not full time on all day keeping them safe (#dontouchthat!), but Davin and I actually felt relaxed!  He went mountain biking with Eli and Jake, I played ping pong with the kids and took them on bike strolls through the neighborhood to see the Christmas decorations.  They splashed grandpa in the pool.  They made their Granna laugh and smile.  We watched movies and ate food.  And even though Evelyn wasn’t feeling well we knew she was in good hands with an Aunt Keeli the ICU nurse while we were out of town for two nights in Sedona.  Also, Keeli and Jake have the gift of hospitality.  Her house was FULL of our stuff, kid stuff and everything in between and she and Jake were like, “oh hey, do you need anything?”  SO CHILL.  She had our towels wrapped in cute jute string and a welcome note when we got there.  If I can even host half like she does in my life, I will have accomplished something.  We loved our trip with our family!  And we look forward to more trips with all of our family in the future.

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“Evelyn was cold”

We have two 1st graders a kindergartener and a toddler.  And while homework is relatively simple… no one prepared me for the extravaganza of it all.

We have to do homework individually in a quiet space so that no one compares reading levels, math abilities etcetera, all while Evelyn toddles around and pulls papers off the table and I keep the others from chaos.  It’s like standing in the middle of a popcorn maker trying to thread a needle and do long division in my mind.

Homework is my frenemy right now and dinner doesn’t make itself and well, the kids want to play outside, which is super important to their growth and development but they can’t watch themselves because they are still little so I have to sit outside in the cold and I feel like I lost my rhythm once the time change happened.  I had one, but now it’s dark and freezing at 4pm, soooo.  I’m at a loss and high frequency words don’t just learn themselves people!

Our house is coming along.  If you ever wondered what it’s like to build your dream house, I can share my experience thus far.  It’s AMAZING.  It’s so fun to dream and plan, and decorate in my mind and choose all the things.  So it’s so far not stressful because we are waiting on all the paper people to finish their paper jobs:-)  Also, Davin has become a bids babysitter.  We request bids, he checks on them every few days.  We finally get the bids, we make decisions.

Davin and I celebrated ten years of marriage this year!

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It’s going better than I thought it would when we first were married.  That sounds terrible, but at the time our new love felt so full of life and magical, it was hard to imagine it could stay that good for so long.

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Hello freedom! I’ll see you again in 18 years…

portrait photography by www.majestyphoto.com

I guess I was naive enough to think that the beginning was the best.  And although it was great, I had no idea what four kids would be like.  They have grown and matured Davin and I into such better people.  We have had to become less selfish and work A LOT harder!  Plus they are all just so cute with their different personalities!

Eli is 7.  Every year he turns a new age, it becomes my new favorite.

He’s the best!  He is kind.  I tuck him into bed and he asks me how my day was.  Now, he’s probably just stalling out bedtime as long as possible but it’s sweet and thoughtful and he listens intently as though what I have to say is important and we have interesting talks.  The other morning he said he felt like the Lord spoke to him.  He said he heard his name at night and almost came to our room but remembered the bible story where God calls Samuel’s name and instead Eli replied, “yes Lord?”  I was intrigued and asked him what he felt like the Lord said and I asked permission to share.  He said the Lord told him four things:

  1. Don’t say, “I’m the worst.”
  2. Help my family
  3. Be kind to my friends
  4. Set a good example at school

I watched him that morning love and serve his family and I teared up thinking God may have spoken to my son and helped me out a ton!  He even made lunch for his sisters and asked, “what can I do for you Mama?”  Mama’s (and Dad’s) if you pray for your kids – God actually LISTENS!!!  I’m still in awe.

Dani is our quiet calm.  Having her in the house just brings so much peace.

She’s able to ruff and tumble with her brother, playing all sorts of games that they come up with and then switch to an incredibly gentle and kind older sister to her younger two.  She loves Ellie with such grace and generosity, I watch her and it reminds me of Jesus.  She’ll often see me frustrated in the day, come up hug me and and say, “Let’s pray Mama!”  She loves her littlest sister with such big sister sweetness.  Before school, she is often the last one out of the car, and her and Evelyn have a thing where she asks Evelyn, “What’s this?” and she picks up her foot and then kisses it.  Then she grabs her other foot, hands and eventually her forehead asking the same question and giving each of them kisses.  All the while Evelyn soaks up every second and kicks her feet in delight.  Dani is a delight.

Ellie is a joy.

She is learning so much and becoming such a mature big girl.  She can organize her room, sweep the kitchen and is an unstoppable helper when she wants to be.  She loves to lead and is learning to hone that gift in amazing ways.  Ellie daily makes us laugh or smile.  She is also five, which we often forget, lumping in her behavior expectations with her older brother and sister.  She keeps up most days with them, but I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that she’s only five and to parent her with a bit more grace.  Ellie loves to dance, sing and dress up.  She adores her friends and will play and hug them as much as we let her.  Fashion just may be one of her gifts, as she’s always adding an accessory to her ensemble when permitted.  Ellie is a delight.

Evelyn, our sweet youngest.

She and I get to spend most days together, just the two of us.  It’s the dream I always thought I missed out on when I first had twins!  She in the stage where she loves to try everything herself first: buckle her carseat straps, crawl up into her high chair and put on her boots.   Most days we find ourselves smiling in awe when she uses a big word correctly or speaks in complete sentences.  Some days Davin and I get to have lunch with just her and we’ll both grin at her and she’ll smile and close her eyes and turn her head, pretending to hide and be shy from all the attention.  She loves to play with her siblings, our neighbors, and her cousins are kind of celebrities in her world.  “Sadie go wiff me to Peets?”  On the drive home from Arizona she counted to eleven all by herself and the car erupted in cheering and clapping for her.  She can sing her ABC’s by starting at the beginning, picking up around Q and finishing it from there;-)  We think she’s just about the smartest, most adorable two year old ever!  Evelyn is well loved by all!

We are grateful this year for our amazing family that we enjoy and look forward to spending time with.  We have super awesome neighbors that we enjoy doing daily life with, a church we feel at home in and group of friends who bring life, light and encouragement to our lives.  Family and friends are truly our greatest treasure – as a kid I’d read that and think, “whatever, that sounds like a Christmas card!” but in all reality, our family and friends are the best gift from Jesus.  Aside from Jesus himself, obviously;-)

portrait photography by www.majestyphoto.com

Thank you.  Thank you for being family or a friend in our lives, we are richer for it and treasure you and the memories we have, our relationship and days to come Lord willing with each one of you.

May you be richly blessed this season and year by our Lord Jesus Christ, the best giver of all the gifts!

He loves you and don’t you forget it!

Hugs,

The Anthony Family

 

Colors

It’s Christmastime!  I went a little over the top this year with Christmas.  I put up our decorations towards the end of October and pretty much had all gifts purchased and wrapped before November 1st.

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At first I thought my exuberance for Christmas  was because we are celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with Davin’s family over Thanksgiving break and I needed to be ready.  However, I realized that’s not it, because we’ve done that in the past and I remember Davin hinting that we had Christmas garland and what if he helped me put it up, and how about those stockings come mid-December?

I think it’s because last year at this time, we were in the hospital with Evelyn.  Last Christmas, although we absolutely had a million reasons to celebrate, last year was different.  It felt rushed and when we were in the hospital, Christmas the way we knew it wasn’t a given.  Neither was Thanksgiving.  Yes, the days would come but at this time last year, we didn’t know where we’d be celebrating them as a family.  As we walked the hospital halls grateful for the beautiful garland and decorations, we wondered if we’d be home to celebrate together.

We were up some of those nights praying that Evelyn would be well enough to celebrate at all.

So, perhaps my exuberance is an effort to make up for last year.  To really have as many days as possible listening to the music, making the cookies, seeing the garland light up on my own banister and not just the hospital hallways.  And I am so making up for it!  I wanted us to feel the lightness of this Christmas as opposed to the uncertainty and coldness of last year.  Which I have yet to fully write about.  (Another time!)

In fact even a month ago, I was still broken inside from what had happened to our baby.  My voice was still laced with an icy, angry tone that I tried to hide from myself when I talked about Evelyn not being fully healed yet.  I would notice tears that I would push back into my eyes, choosing to instead smile and reply, “It’s okay, it’s not what I want but at least we have her with us”.  But it didn’t feel okay.

Bible study came along this fall and the same group of women who’d prayed for us, brought us dinners and watched our kiddos last year asked, “How’s she doing?”  and I’d share honestly, “Well, she has to take daily medication right now, and I’m kinda mad about it.”  My heart each time I said it feeling betrayed by the Lord.  Trying to smile and be strong on the outside, but internally dialoging with God:

“You said she’d be healed.  THIS isn’t healed.  This is DAILY reliance on medication.  Haven’t we been through enough?  Didn’t we go through it right?  Didn’t we trust you!?  We had nine months of no medication, thinking she was healing fully on her own only to discover that she hadn’t.  She wasn’t well enough.  She wasn’t fully healed.  I don’t like that she has to be on medication.” 

I was SO angry and disappointed about it.

And those same women wrapped their strong arms around me while I cried in the school pick up line.  And my family came around me with encouraging words, prayer and support, and my friends all listened while I shared and everyone prayed with us for her full healing, each one still trusting God.

I’d say in my head as they prayed such sweet prayers full of faith and love,

“Well, it’s good YOU’RE praying for her healing, because I’m done!  At least someone believes she’ll be healed!”

I was a bit too mad to trust God that he had any further healing for her.  If he had, I figured he would have done it by now.

I believed the lie that God didn’t love me enough to heal my baby.

That he didn’t love me enough.

Even though I was being covered in love.

Maybe you’ve believed this lie before too.

A few weeks ago, one of my good friends, Melissa, sent me a voice text with a prayer and attached a song.  I had to run and hide upstairs in my closet just to hear the prayer because Evelyn was yelling for things downstairs and chasing me.  She found me just as the prayer ended.  Over the voice text Melissa had said that she could see Evelyn was in God’s care, she could see her so bright and full of color, right before God and that she was safe.   Yet, I was back, behind my friend in the shadows, lacking color.  That I was the one who needed prayer, not Evelyn.  She wasn’t sure what was shadowing me, but she prayed for Jesus to lead me out of the shadows.

And I knew her words were true.

Evelyn and I walked into her room and I turned on the song my friend had sent.

 

“Hold you?  Hold you?” Evelyn requested as she grabbed her blanket.

We sat down in her bright white rocking chair.  With her blanket in hand and thumb in her mouth she thumped her head against my chest.  I held her and we rocked together and listened to the song.  I thought about my friends prayer, as I wondered at the shadows she spoke of.   Rubbing Evelyn’s back I silently prayed,

“Lord, I don’t know what the shadows are, and I don’t know how to come out from underneath them.  It’s not like I’m trying to be miserable or doubt you.  We’re still friends, I’m just mad every time I think of how things aren’t going my way.  I don’t know how to get out of the dark shadows, to be bright and colorful again, but you do.  I don’t want to feel let down and mad at you but I do.  I need you to fix it, because I can’t.”

“Again mommy, again?” Evelyn asked.  She was so still, it must have been a miracle.

I hit replay and she rested her head back on my chest, even though we were no where near nap time.

I looked over at her bookshelf, and I noticed the penguin her aunt Keeli gave her when she was in the hospital, remembering how it sat in her dark metal hospital crib every day, brightening up the dull, cold space.  Pink and black and wearing a hat.

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I glanced up at an owl another family gave her just days after we were admitted, when we were so scared and unsure of the future.

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At that time, we were watching our baby grow closer to death each day right in front of our eyes and praying for a miracle.  And yet, I have a picture of her sleeping peacefully on Mr. Owl, smiling, bright white, yellow and gray.

 

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Evelyn was starting to nod off to sleep now and I could feel tears starting to rush behind my eyes.  I pushed them back, trying to hold back crying and waking her.

I glanced at her colorful books all lined up on the wall.  My brother Aaron and his wife, Christie gave her a giant set of board books for us to read to her in the hospital.  My dear friend, Kia even gave us a recording book to play for her.  Evelyn especially loves books.  Bright blue, yellow, pink, green, orange and red.  So many colors.  So much color and life in this room made just for her.  So many memories of the ways we were loved by others.

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I thought about how I decorated Evelyn’s room when we moved into this rental, trying to use Ellie’s pink pale decor but attempting to make her room look bright and colorful as opposed to the muted pink I had chosen for Ellie.

I thought about how fortunate we were that we needed to decorate a room for her in the first place.  That the reason for this bright colorful room was resting here in my lap.

All the books, animals and toys… all the colors in this room were for her.  For Evelyn.

Because she is still with us.

Because God took care of her.

It didn’t have to go this way.  Her life wasn’t a guarantee.  It could have gone a very different way.  I started to cry.

We may have never had the chance to decorate another room for her.

As I rocked her, I reminisced about all the people who loved us so well when she was in the hospital.  Some friends showed us love by faithfully visiting and sitting by our side at the hospital, others came and prayed over her, over us, others brought us meals and activities for our kids, others picked up our littles from school and babysat, others did our grocery shopping.  Tears were filling my eyes again, but for the first time in a long time, they weren’t angry tears.

They were different, they were grateful tears.

Grateful tears that God saved her life.

That she was in my arms, now asleep, safely resting and breathing deeply.

That God took care of all of us, as a family.

That God loved us through others.

I pulled softly on one of her blond little curls damp with her sweat, I felt her breathing in an out gently and as I stared at her dark eyelashes draping across her closed lids I felt so incredibly grateful for this little life.  This little person.

The song played,

“Take courage my heart.  Stay steadfast my soul.  He’s in the waiting.  He’s in the waiting.  Hold on to your hope, as your triumph unfolds, He’s never failing, He’s never failing.”

But she isn’t healed yet…

“And you who hold the stars, who call them each by name, will surely keep your promise to me and I will rise in your victory.”

“He’s in the waiting.”

“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

We have our Evelyn, and I have his word that one day she will be healed fully.

She fell asleep on my lap as I cried and listened to the song on repeat.  It was a healing moment from the Lord.  The one my friend had prayed for.  The one I had said I couldn’t do on my own.

The Lord doesn’t always answer our prayers in our own timing.  He answers them in his timing.  And I have to trust him and believe that what he said he’d do, he will do.

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”  Hebrews 10:23

I am grateful for all the color he has brought into my life because of her.

Cupdate… as in update on the Cups

So you can always wear white… or light colors, or any colors, or workout pants, or a dance leotard…

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Hey girlfriends, because if you’re a boy, you have no needs to reads the rest.  See you next time guys!

Cups:  Still love the Diva.  Purchased the #2, post childbirth and do feel it suits me better on the heavy days.  My go-to on the rest is the Lunette.  Love this one.  Has become by far, my favorite.  The Lunette wins.  Amazon has it Here.  Easy and quick in it’s application.  Easy to rinse.  And most importantly, I can’t tell it’s there.  This is why it wins.  Some of my besties have also chimed in after jumping on the cup wagon and found the Pixie is also a gem and cheaper as well.  So far on the cup conversion rate, of the friends who’ve tried, they’ve become believers and stuck with it – saving money and making the planet more beautiful along with it:-)

Wash:  I love soap and all things clean, so of course I purchased cup wash.  I only bought this one and have barely gone through it, hence no need to try another at this point.  I love that literally the tiniest drop is needed and it smells like eucalyptus.  Be sure to always fully dry your cup to avoid infection (so says the gals on Amazon reviews;-)

AND NOW… Big NEWS – I tried period underwear and you should too!  I think facebook must have decided I was into a more natural approach to menstruation because Thinx was pretty much the only advertisement all the time.  Although it looked like a decent product, I started researching and found some others as well and gave a few a try.  Here are my findings and why I’ll keep a few pairs in my life.

In all the pairs I’ve tried, the inside is black, so any color will do and they look kinda adorable actually.

Thinx review:  The website is different in it’s approach, it appears to not just be selling a product, but so much more.  They blog on many different topics and share opinions that I may or may not agree with.  So I feel it’s tricky to endorse them fully because I never fully agree with anyone when it comes to opinions!  So I kinda don’t like it when products do that but anyway.  That being said, I’ll review JUST the product, not the brand.  I emailed them for a pair to test out and they asked me for a media kit.  Since I lack the time to make one, I just bought one pair with a coupon.

The underwear is legit, the thinnest by a small margin of the three I’ve tried.  I purchased one black pair of the cheeky in medium.  I don’t recommend the cheeky as they tended to wander a bit more than I’d like… cheeky = wedgie.  That being said, they do what they say they’ll do and it’s impressive.  I felt safe wearing them and never worried that if I got in a pinch and couldn’t dump and rinse my cup in time that there would be an embarrassing situation.

Vv SkiVvys review: I emailed the company and they sent me a pair to try out.  The founders are adorable.  I sampled  the Rochelle Sporty in tan.  These are basically waterproof.  I feel like even if I peed my pants, no one would know.  They ran a bit warmer than the other two I tested and it may be because they provide the most protection as far as leaks go.  I see a lot of ads at my gym for undergarment leak protection.  I feel like this would be a much preferred alternative to undergarment leak protection.  Appear bulletproof as far as any type of leaks go.

Dear Kate Review: They provide so many options – coverage: full or mini.  Type: thong, hipster or brief.  Workout pants…  Bright colors for days!  I purchased a few Ada thongs  and they fit great!  I also like the Ada hipster mini, one of my other faves.  Mini means less leak coverage and less thicker material on the garment itself.  Since I was only looking for occasional leak protection, not to replace a cup, the mini hipster and thong have proven to be my go-to’s.  The full ada hipster also works great, provides a ton of coverage and I would never worry that a leak would happen and I could probably ditch the cup and just wear a pair.  I like Dear Kate because of the colors and so many options – apparently I’m an options girl.  They also have great customer service.  I ordered a thong and didn’t love it and they took care of me right away with a replacement.

Now, if I love the cup, why the period underwear?

  1. Never ruin another cute pair of undies.  Ever.
  2. Never fear… is my cup leaking?  Did I get it in right?  Case and point.  When my car broke down in front of a Costco (busiest intersection ever around here) and I was stuck waiting for a tow, with two kids, I didn’t have time to go dump and rinse.  It was my heaviest day and fortunately for me I was test running a pair of Dear Kates and even though my cup started leaking… it was FINE.  NO worries at all.  It was like insurance.  I was SO HAPPY about it.
  3. Even though I chart my period, my body is not a clock and it loves to surprise me at times.  If I feel like it’s up to something sneaky, a day or two before it’s arrival, I can toss on a pair and not worry for even a second.  Oh haaay period… I was ready.
  4. Am I the only one with 7th grade pad trauma?  I was ALWAYS afraid someone would see a leak or hear my diaper pad.  All I remember about math class was worrying that if I stood up there would be blood on my pants.  THE WORST.  Please tell me I am not alone in this memory?  I hate pads, but I digress.  This has changed me from period fears to no fears.  I just never have to worry.
  5. Light days.  You know when your period is over… but it’s not quite over?  I can just toss on a pair and go on with my day be like, “you can be over whenever because I have no cares whatsoever.”

So in the end – period underwear removed one more layer of stress from my life.

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Please appreciate my lack of ironed clothing.  These shorts say, “I’m a mom, I was on the ground with my kids, I’m gonna live my life.”
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100% have yet to master that adorable kissing child photo.  Attempt #152…fail.  #whataremylipsevendoing #Eveswillhavenoneofit #illkeeptrying

I have four little kids and I can’t always run to the bathroom right when I want to and towards the end of of a cycle I can just toss on a pair and be done with it.  I never have to see a pad again if I don’t want to and washing them is a breeze.

So besides yourself, who would benefit from these?  Your pre-teen daughter, niece, friend.  ANY woman who’s about to deliver a baby.  No matching diapers!  These would be a great gift for any of the above:-)

Let me know what you think ladies!

As always, thanks for reading 🙂

Fear

“This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Within context, the Lord is commanding Joshua, and the people of Israel to be courageous. Not because there was nothing that would normally cause fear or discouragement for someone facing such opposition, but because GOD WAS WITH THEM, they had nothing to fear.  That’s the key.  God was with them.  God already knew the outcome and he wasn’t going to abandon them.  He had it.

When God is with us, we have nothing to fear.

There will be circumstances in this world, every single day where we could have good reason to fear.  Good reason to be afraid, anxious, worried.  And yet, God’s word says, we have nothing to fear but God himself.

I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:4-7

With all the damage and potential for harm, injustice and pain, God’s answer is, “do not be afraid, you are with more than many sparrows.”  We are his kids.  Now this is in the context of the disciples going out and preaching the gospel, Jesus warns them that they will be flogged, thrown in jail and some even martyred, however I believe it applies to us as believers.  We have God with us, of whom or what do we have to be afraid?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Self-discipline.  For me, I think fear can be a drug.  It’s not even a nice one.  The irony is I literally hate real drugs because they can make my body feel out of my control.  And yet fear is a drug in itself that can cause us to loose our grip of control.  It distorts reality, and then starts everything spinning so much that then what is true and what is a lie are no longer distinguishable.  And it takes discipline and prayer to not give into it.

Once I felt God say to me, “do not take counsel from fear.”

I say all this because I feel like recently the Lord has spoken to me regarding my fears.  I am planning on getting lasik eye surgery towards the end of next week for my birthday.  The outcome sounds fantastic, and I really believe it will be.  When I prayed about it, I felt like the Lord showed me that I’d say, “I wish I would have done this sooner.”  So that’s a good end in my book.  The thing is… I haven’t gotten it yet.  Screeeeech!!!!

To get the surgery I have to have lazers shoot at my eyeballs while a vacuum holds them in place.  There are a lot of people who are not bothered by this in a bit, however when I think through having to take the drugs to numb my eyes, (something that is not my favorite feeling) and then not pass out from the loss of control over my body (which I’ve done in the past!) it freaks me out a little bit!  My eyeballs!!!  The smell of burning flesh!!!

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So naturally, I talked to the Lord about it.

He gave me an awesome word picture.  He showed me two different pictures.

In the first one, I’m waiting in a dark, cave-like hallway set up to be a fun waiting zone, like a cave or hallway at Disneyland.  It’s a bit dark, but has lights and is completely safe and a little boring.

The other picture is of a fun house, but it’s not really fun.  Mirrors are warped, tons of neon colors, music that is way too loud, stuff spinning, florescent lights, it reminds me of a cheap fair ride.  Inside, it is difficult to get anywhere and very disruptive and the fun is more for the maker and less the patron, almost to mock those who enter.  As though the creator could watch and laugh at those who enter.  And yet, outside, it’s a cool night, still, quiet and calm.  That is reality.

I feel like the fun house word picture is fear.  It seems like fun, but inside everything is warped and disorienting.  Outside, reality, is calm, cool and still.  Reality doesn’t change because you step into a fun house, but stay long enough and it will begin to mess with your mind.  It doesn’t make any of it true.  Outside remains a perfect calm night.

The darkness in both word pictures may represent that there will be instances where we wont see all the details, and yet there is no danger in it because God can see all of it.

The first word picture is safe.  And it’s designed with the purpose of making it fun for the patron.  Every detail was thought of (just like in Disneyland) and it was safe.  For the record, I REALLY like Disneyland, and I’m always impressed how even the tunnels and waiting areas are set up for the amusement of the patrons, they take every effort and energy and pour it into the finished product all for the amusement of the patron.

And that’s the difference.  In the one instance, the joke is on the patron and the maker gets to enjoy the foolishness and make fun of the one inside the “fun house” and it’s not really fun for those who enter.  In the other, the maker goes over every single detail, with the patron in mind, all for the patron’s pleasure.  The maker does all the work, just so we can enjoy it, and even if it’s just a waiting area for a fun ride, the details are all there, everything thought of in advance.  He did all the work for us to just enjoy it.

Isn’t that how God is?  He even has the details of the waiting set up to be perfect for us.  And that’s God’s grace.  He cares more about us than himself.  Jesus died for our sins, so we might enjoy life everlasting.  He gave of himself, for us.

The Lord spoke to me a few times just today about the upcoming lazer eye surgery.  Because it’s been keeping me up at night.  This morning, I was going through old photos and I found this one.  It’s of my dad holding Ellie because Davin was acting like a sleeping monster, and she was legitimately scared.  The older two were having so much fun with the “sleeping monster”, however Ellie really did become afraid.  So my dad held her.  He didn’t stop the game, he picked her up and held her.

When I saw the picture, the Lord prompted my heart reminding me that he holds me in this way.  That he loves me with that same compassion and that he’d hold me while having lazers shoot at my eyeballs.  That I didn’t have to be in control, but just to trust him.  That he would be with me.  I’d have nothing to fear even though I would be in the dark about so much of it.

Tonight as I walked to my car alone, leaving my dad and Davin with the kids, I felt the Lord walk with me, arm around my shoulder, “I’ve got you.”

Later this evening, I held my youngest before bed.  Just rocking her in her chair, savoring her beautiful hair, and soaking up the sweet cuddle moments.  I felt the Spirit remind me, “I love you just as you love her.  I made you, I adore you, I’ve got you.”

I say all this not because I am special or that lazer eye surgery is terrifically terrifying – it’s not.  I say this to tell you, God CARES, SOOOO much even when we are afraid of stupid things.  He feels the same way about you.

But we have to believe him.  We have to walk in that truth and reality, otherwise things can get distorted.  We have to have the self-control to not let our mind go to a fun house.

In all reality, when I’m not psyched out, I’m actually excited for lazers to shoot at my eyeballs and make my vision clear for the rest of my life.  That’s going to be SO crazy to wake up and be able to see in the morning.  I’ve never known that.  I can snorkel and swim without having to worry about loosing a contact, or travel without having to bring extra glasses and solution. That’s the Disneyland ride I’m waiting for in the hallway word picture.  But I have to go through the somewhat boring hallway (the surgery) to get to the fun part.

God loves me so much, that even when I am unable to calm myself down, when I am so afraid I can hardly think straight, when I feel like I might pass out in fear – God cares enough to wrap his arms around me and ease my fears.  My silly fears.  All in SUCH love.  He doesn’t mock me or tell me to get over it, or even minimize the concerns, he simply reminds me of who he is and who I am to him.

You’re his kid that he loves, and that just like with Joshua and the Israelites, “ God is with you wherever you go”.

You have nothing to fear.

Last minute 3 Ingredient Present

Hey guys!

I’ve been making random videos for a few years now – I’ve just never actually put any on on my blog.  They are always spur of the moment and when I happen to be wearing zero percent makeup – so not necessarily made for tv, but I had fun:-)  Once I have a filming crew, I’m sure they’ll be 100% better and include lots of light and white and music and shots that pan in and out and have clips of people rowing early morning on our local rivers.

If you’re not the video type, directions are below:0


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/203951279″>3 Ingredient Present</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user6657366″>Rebekah Anthony</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter) Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Ingredients:

  • Strawberries (or other fruit, totally made this with blueberries and grapes for the kids, pineapple is delicious)
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup Butter (sliced into quarters)

Directions:

Wash and fully dry your fruit of choice.  Set on a small pan or tray with either a non-stick sheet or parchment paper.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt a little less than 1/4 cup of butter and about a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, space the butter out among the chips.  Melt for 20 seconds or so, remove and stir with fork. Repeat.

If you feel like it needs more melting time, add a few more seconds.  I leave mine with chunks and mix it for 30 seconds or so and it all smoothes out.  Also feel free to mess with the chocolate chip to butter ratio.  Occasionally I’ll add more butter to get a more liquid form.

Dip fruit into chocolate until it is covered.  Set gingerly on tray.  Once all fruit has been dipped, set in fridge for 15 minuets or 3 days:-)

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Very Random Yet Helpful Discoveries: Mostly Women’s Health

Hi Friends!

Now that Carly has helped us organize our homes – I thought I’d throw in some recent discoveries to perhaps better our lives as women in general.

First things first, Davin and I were watching Jimmy Fallon last night and we saw a guy who wrote a book called, Tools of Titans.  He talked about all the interesting things that highly successful people do.  One of the things he mentioned was that many of these individuals are serious about sleep.  I super want to buy the book, however I have like ten books I am still in the middle of, so I might just subscribe to Tim Ferriss’ podcast for now – we’ll see if it’s any good, at least it’s free:-)

Here is ONE thing he highlighted from his book on the show that I thought was very interesting and Davin and I might give it a try next time it’s present giving time:

Keep your Bed COLD

All the time.  He said this product has revolutionized his sleep.  It keeps your bed the same temperature all night long.  (The best Amazon review was from a guy who bought it for his wife who was experiencing hot flashes from menopause and now she sleeps thought the night.  How sweet is that guy?!)   I’ll let you know if we get one, but I was fascinated by the idea because sometimes we wake up because it’s too hot.

VITAMINS & Insomnia.  I just posted an Amazon review on Rainbow Light Women’s Mulitvitamins.  Here it is below:

I read TONS of reviews on many, many vitamins and settled on Rainbow Light because of the excellent manufacturing practices and other highly rated Amazon reviews. I’ve been taking these and the pre-natal version (when I was pregnant with our fourth) for the last two and a half years. I recently read some negative, 1 star reviews. I noticed that other women were getting migraines and suffering what seemed like hormonal imbalance. I have been suffering with migraines for the last ten years, so this was not a red flag to me, and they’ve drastically improved after taking Natural Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium Anti Stress, Organic, Raspberry Lemon, 16 oz each night before bed. However, since taking these vitamins, I have been sleeping though the night only three or so nights a week. The other four nights I wake in the middle of the night, am up for two hours and then fall back asleep. I just figured I was a stressed mom of four and to get used to it.

However, after recently reading negative reviews before ordering a new bottle, I noticed that other women said these vitamins contain the herbs, red clover and dong quai which mimic estrogen. I thought I’d do a test, and stop taking them for a few weeks, since I don’t want anything to do with mimicking or altering my estrogen levels. I switched to my kids vitamins, Freeda Vitalets-Children’s Chewable Raspberry Flavor – 250 CHW. Literally 24 hours after NOT taking a Rainbow Light Women’s Multivitamin, I have slept through the night EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since then and it’s been two weeks. I AM SHOCKED, and find it a little ironic that the small pill I was taking each morning to improve my health was actually decreasing it.

I am glad these work for so many women, this is just for those of you who may perhaps have a sensitivity to estrogen mimicking herbs, to keep an eye out for anything unusual, because it may be as simple as switching out the vitamin you take each morning to eliminate negative symptoms.

This would go for any women’s vitamin with the herbs red clover or dong quai in them, which most of the women’s vitamins contain some sort of herbal mixture.  What the heck?!   Who ever thinks that their multivitamin would cause hormonal imbalance, migraines or insomnia?   If this is true, then I am taking kid vitamins until further notice.

Lastly: Menstrual Cups: It’s like your period never happened.

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I first learned about this concept from Maskcara, a beauty blogger here.  That was over a year ago, and since I was breastfeeding our fourth, I didn’t have to concern myself with periods (yay!).  Since Evelyn stopped breastfeeding my periods have returned and I tried them out.  I read a ton of Amazon reviews (I should just dedicate this post to Amazon reviewers all around the world – thank you Amazon reviewers, you make the world a better and more informed place!) and went with three cups.  I didn’t want to get one, fail and give up. I wanted options!  I will say, everyone’s body is different, and what works for one may not work well for another.  One of my besties even picked up some cheaper, off-brands at Target and she loves them, so there is not a one-size-fits-all in this type of situation.

Here are the things you need to be okay with:

  1. Seeing blood.  You will dump out blood in the toilet.  If this is too much for you, abandon ship.  I have given birth three times now, so this is nothing to me.
  2. Washing your cup after you use it and then drying it completely.
  3. Give it a week to get it right.  I recommend wearing a panty-liner the first week in case of use error. At one point, I ended up in a Walmart walking down some isles, meanwhile the baby Luna was literally trying to wiggle itself out of me.  Improper placement indeed!  Baby Luna was unsuccessful, but a close call.  All I could think of was, “Well, at least I’m in Walmart,”  Walmart is literally the most distracting place in the universe, 1,000’s of things to look at… I don’t even notice other humans in there.  Davin was there as my moral support.  He let me share all of my menstrual cup thoughts the first go around – THAT is a true friend.
  4. Don’t trim the stem immediately like I did in haste.  Give it a few hours.  I know it’s annoying, but things may shift – give it a second before you take the scissors to it.  Learn from my mistakes.

Perks:

  1. There is no, “period smell”.  Not sure why, it’s just eliminated.  Major perk.
  2. If placed correctly, you will feel nothing.
  3. It feels WAY cleaner.  Dump, wash, insert, done, no waste – it’s like your period never happened.  I should copyright that phrase;-)
  4. They come in cute bags!
  5. 12 hours my friends – 12 HOURS
  6. Sleep through the night, uninterrupted.

Before the cup, at the beginning of my period, I’d have to switch out a tampon in the middle of the night to prevent leakage.  Not anymore!  (TMI for dayz! Your welcome).

Here are my reviews on the three I’ve tried:

Lena Cup: Came with two sizes, made in California, FDA Registered.  Pros: Came with two sizes, thought this would be a great place to start because it gave me two options from the same manufacturer.  Con: Small Lena tried to wiggle out in Walmart, quite possibly user error but I can’t be too sure.

Lunette (Light to Medium Flow): This one worked perfectly.

Diva Cup (pre-childbirth): But you’ve had children you say.  I know, but I ordered it on accident and it might just be my favorite one of the bunch!

Lunette Menstrual Cup Wash: Smells clean, like eucalyptus, only need the tiniest amount.

Check them out on Amazon and read the thousands of reviews from women all around the world, and then give your own feedback in the comments section:-)

Thanks for reading!

Organization Part 3 – Good ideas are meant to be shared – By: Carly Pray

This week’s post is the icing on the cake. You have thought through all the mental and emotional challenges of what to keep and what to part with. You are familiar with the basic laws of organizing your stuff and have given everything a home. You have an accurate view of where you fall on the personality spectrum when it comes to what you and your family need in terms of organization. Now I assume you just need some fresh and practical ideas for things that you keep.

More or less I will just be walking you through my house and showing you my favorite products and systems that have helped me to stay organized. There will be a lot of photos and some links. Although I have plenty of thoughts on how to decorate your home in beautiful and personal ways (hmm… maybe another blog opportunity if you all want an encore), this post is not dedicated to beauty; it is only aiming for organizational points.

MY CAR

Tips & Tricks

-You can reset your car just like you reset your house (see Part 1 of this post series). When you pull up to a gas station or when you pull into your driveway, have everyone scan their areas and grab any trash. Remember, be specific with your kiddos and have them do their part. Point out specific things to pick up and tell them specifically where to put those things.

-Don’t do the work for them and do not let them leave stuff that belongs in the house or in the trash in your car. Hold yourself to this too.

-I keep a couple gallon ziploc or disposable grocery bags under the shotgun seat so that I can use them as trash bags as needed.

Fave products

Thirty-One Large Utility Tote

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http://www.thirtyonegifts.com/catalog/product/28/catid/22/swid/597a/large-utility-tote-in-playful-pinwheel/

I love this bag so much that I have two. This is my old one and it lives permanently in the van. It holds a blanket for each kid, a picnic blanket for sports days & park visits, bug spray for baseball season, and a little box of stuff to do if the kids get bored. I also keep any other small car accessories in the bottom of this under the blankets (baby wipes, dash wipes, car seat accessories, etc). With all of this essential stuff corralled into a bag I can easily move it when needed (i.e. the car wash, loading the back area). I use my other utility tote as my swim bag. It’s sturdy and big and cute too!

MUDROOM / LAUNDRY ROOM / GARAGE

Ha. I don’t actually have these rooms, but I dream of them from the garage where these things happen for me. It’s the home of our current sports equipment and where we put laundry. There are nails in the wall for hanging gear bags and a place for umbrellas & outside boots.

Tips & Tricks

-Only kids who have current season sports use the hooks. Off-season stuff is put away in another area away from the door.

-Big 5-gallon buckets work really well for umbrellas & baseball bats

-When kids get home from practice they take off their gear and put everything back in the bag before they even enter the house. That way it’s all there and ready to grab when you walk out the door next time, and nothing gets lost.

Fave products

-Laundry basket caddy. My handy husband made this for me, and you can find the plans here: http://www.ana-white.com/2010/11/laundry-basket-dresser. (I never got around to painting it a solid color, which of course I regret now that I am posting it for the whole internet to see… Organizational points, not beauty, right?)

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-Rubbermaid storage bins for the garage. They hold everything from seasonal decor to car wash supplies to snow clothes. Walmart has a killer deal on these. You can even go the extra mile and label them with fancy painter’s tape like us (jk). They keep anything you can’t keep in the house stored in a way that’s easy to find, easy to access, stackable and safe from dust.

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THE LAUNCHING PAD

This is what I call the area where everything lives that you need to grab as you walk out the door. Backpacks for kids, your purse, shoes, etc. This could also be in the mud room if you have that luxury. I chose to work with the little corner spot right by the door to our garage.

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Tips & Tricks

-Each person gets a hook. I hang my gym bag and my reusable market bags here too, so I get extra hooks. I’m the mom and I will hog the hooks if I have to 😉

-When the kids get home they hang their backpacks and put their lunch boxes away before doing anything else.

-When kids finish their homework, its gets put all the way away which means in the backpack.

-If I need to take something with me the next time I leave (library books, mail, stuff for work) I set it on this counter by my purse so that I don’t forget it.

-Cheap wood and pretty knobs make life better. This is a cheap painted piece of wood (Home Depot for the wood + $1 cheap acrylic craft paint) with pretty knobs (Target) attached before screwing the wood into a stud in the wall.

Fave Products

Ikea Shoe Compartments. There are several styles to check out in this link. They hold shoes and they are shallow to the wall so they don’t gobble up too much space. My friend bought the standing white ones and put a stained piece of wood on top for an instant classy upgrade. I chose this deeper style because it fit more shoes. In our family each person gets a compartment. No smelly shoes stinking up their closets! No overfull shoe basket that takes forever to dig through. Love.

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http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/departments/hallway/10456/

KITCHEN

Organized people put everything into categories. Everything. Their stuff, their lists, and even their time. Like-things should be together. So organized kitchens have categories. I should be able to tell when I see a cupboard/drawer/shelf which category I am looking at (i.e. all the serving bowls, all the cups, all the canned goods, all the baking goods, all the lunchbox items, all the pitchers). The amount of items on a shelf should not be overwhelming; the items should have space around them unless they are stackable/nesting sets. If you have to crowd the shelves and I can’t see clearly see what my options are in a cupboard, you have too much stuff in that cupboard.

Tips & Tricks

-Slim your plastic/kid dishes way down. Use your organizational math here: you really only need one plastic plate/bowl/cup per kid and a couple extras for when friends come over. Same goes with plastic water bottles. 

-Have your kid stuff in a low cupboard that is easy for the kids to access.  This way kids can get their own stuff without needing your help. We have one set of plastic bowls, a bin of plastic plates, and a basket of plastic cups. I also have a basket of mom-approved kid snacks there that the kids know they can choose from. The rest of my dishes are grown-up (aka made of nicer glass and ceramic materials).

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-I have one water cup per kid (I bought these on amazon:https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0142LP1CY/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1 and have a different colored straw for each kid). These cups always stay on the counter by the fridge and they are for water only. They do not need a new cup every time they want water, and no one has time for that many dishes.

Fave products

A cute charging station. Organized cords for electronic devices, a home for a few other essentials like my blue tooth speaker (I love me some happy jams in kitchen) and that little drawer has stamps and gift cards and little things like that. I found this one years ago on Amazon.

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HALL CLOSET

The priority for your hallway closets should be useful stuff. Of course if you have extra empty closets you can use those for {organized} storage of things you use less often. If you have only a few closets, they should be categorical (like the kitchen cupboards) and I recommend extra storage items be kept in the garage in Rubbermaid bins. One thing I love in my house is the use of small bins for the top shelf of the coat closet. I can reach the bins to pull them down and put them away, so I don’t have to climb on a stool and sort through loose items. All the items inside the bins stay dust-free when they’re not loosely on the shelf. My categories of “useful stuff” here are Cleaning Supplies, Touch Up Paint, Batteries and Hardware, and back up Rags & Scrubbers for cleaning.

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Tips & Tricks

-Keep a mason jar full of each room’s paint. Then you can toss the giant can and you have easy access to the touch up paint when you need it. I have lived in my house for 5 years and haven’t even gone through a third of a mason jar of touch up paint. You only need to hang on to a little.

Favorite Products

-Giant Ziploc bags. I store off-season comforters in these. It makes them easier & smaller to stack on the shelves. https://smile.amazon.com/ZIPLOC-BIG-BAG-XXL-Bags/dp/B000V9N1WO/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1485368301&sr=8-2&keywords=GIANT+ZIPLOC+BAGS

BATHROOM

The only things you truly need on a bathroom counter are hand soap, a towel for drying hands, and tissues. Everything else can be put away.

Tips & Tricks

-Because this is a classic place where there a bunch of tiny things to keep, I use bins inside of my drawers to corral the little things.

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-Don’t forget vertical space where you can store stuff! I store my yoga headbands on the inside of the vanity cupboard doors with command hooks. I  have 2 pretty hooks on the back of the bathroom door for 2 guest towels. I have a hanging rack behind my bedroom door for all my sandals. There are vertical spaces in your rooms that you may not realize you can utilize.

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BEDROOMS

The biggest problem I see in bedrooms was already addressed in Part 1 of this series: You need to put your stuff all the way away. Avoid the temptation to just leave things thrown on the bed or dresser. But there are a few ways to help make putting things away easier, and most of your organization here happens in the closet.

Tips & Tricks

-Fold less, hang more. It’s easier to hang up your clothes than to fold them neatly and keep your piles neat in your drawers.

-Felt hangers not only feel classy, but they are thinner than the plastic ones and you can fit more clothing if you have a tiny closet.

-Bins on the top shelf of the closet (instead of loose piles) are easier to access.

-For kids, consider having big bins instead of folded dresser drawers. My son does not have a dresser. He could never seem to care enough to fold anything or maintain folded piles. So under his hanging clothes and under his loft bed we use cube shelving (Kallax line @ Ikea http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/series/27534/). In one cube he has a bin with socks & undies. In bin 2 he has all his hats. Open cube 3 has his slippers. Open cube 4 has his shorts & pants. In another cube under his loft bed he has all his PJs thrown into a big bin. This way it’s easy for him to find his things and it’s easy for him to put away his laundry. The categories are simple and obvious and the bins are large enough to hold his things with room to spare.

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-Sports clothes are in separate bags. Above his cube unit in the closet, my son has one bag with his karate stuff in it. All the karate clothes live in there: the gi, the belt, and even his soccer sandals that he wears for off the mat. When he gets home from karate he puts everything back in that bag. That way when it’s time to go he can just grab the bag and we don’t waste time running around looking for stuff. He also has his baseball clothing in another bag. All of it: pants, belt, cup undies, cup, and socks. If I’m in a hurry I grab that bag and his gear bag and I know I have everything he needs.

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-If you want to hear the ultimate organized wardrobe system, look no further than my husband’s closet. My husband is not into style/fashion, and he got sick of trying to remember what he wore on previous days so that he didn’t accidentally repeat outfits often. So he created this system: He has all of his work shirts in a row in his closet. Every morning he chooses the shirt that is first in the line. When he rehangs that shirt he puts it at the back of the line. If a shirt just got washed it has a it’s hanger facing the wall. After he wears it once he rehangs it with the hanger facing the room. After the shirt is worn twice he puts it in the laundry. This way his clothes wear out evenly, he knows he’s wearing all his clothes, and he knows he is not at risk of repeating an outfit too often. On a funny note, I asked him if he has favorite shirts and ever breaks the system to wear a favorite. His response: “I don’t break the system. But I do get excited when I see my favorites coming down the line to the front.” I don’t do this system because I have style moods, but it truly is the epitome of clothes organization.

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-Again, don’t forget your vertical space. Jon has 2 hanging rods and vertical shoe storage to maximize his space. His belts hang on nails on the inside wall of his closet. Nails or command hooks for hanging hats on an inside wall work well too.

-Speaking of vertical space, we LOVE loft beds. Two of my three kids have loft beds. They keep stuffed animals out of sight (for the love, stuffies look just like clutter but my kids adore them), they free up floor space underneath, and kids think they are cool and “teenager-ish”. For my older girl this gave her her own space in a shared room. For my son this afforded him a cozy reading area and play space.

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-I made a simple cinder blocks + cheap wood shelving unit for my son’s Lego display area (see photo above). Style points: You can paint the front of the cinder blocks to make them look cooler. (Haven’t done that on this set shown, but I have on his other shelving unit and I love it).

Favorite Products

-Ikea Kallax unit & bins: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/series/27534/. This line has larger cubes & bins than other stores’ versions.

-Ikea wire drawers. Jon I both have these in our closet under our hanging clothes. They are cheap and work well. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S69183931/

KIDS

Kids naturally end up with more stuff to organize than adults do because they grow and change interests all the time. This is why teaching your kids to part with things they no longer love or no longer use is so useful (See Part 2 of this post series). There are more ideas than I have written here (hint: Pinterest), but here are the ones I use and love most. 

Tips & Tricks

-Organize your morning routine. This little tiny sign I made 4 years ago has been the simplest solution to our morning routine. This is the list of everything my kids MUST DO to be all the way ready for school in the morning. It’s on the counter in their bathroom. After I wake them up in the morning they have to do all of these things before they do anything else. No playing with toys, no electronics or TV (even for me – it was just too distracting), no reading. They don’t have to do these tasks in a rush, but they may not do anything else until these things are done. Once they are all the way ready, they can do whatever they please. If I see them playing I say “Hey, are you all the way ready?” and they go check the list or I verbally ask them each point on the list. (Here “check your backpack” means check for HW, library book, and pack your lunch/snack). I don’t get mad. I explained to them before I started this that I don’t want to yell at them and I want a peaceful morning (which they wanted too), and that if we agree to simply do the list before we do anything else I think its attainable. I has worked and we are all happier for it.

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-Kid art can be a clutter struggle. A simple way to display it is to only hang one art item at a time. That way they can feel special about something and you don’t end up feeling cluttered. To do this you need a way to change out art easily. I have these clipboards hanging on the wall in the hallway. I also love this openable art frame sold at Target for the ease of changing it up: http://www.target.com/p/loft-by-umbra-kids-art-display-storage-black/-/A-51067191?ref=tgt_adv_XS000000&AFID=google_pla_df&CPNG=PLA_Home+Decor+Shopping_Brand&adgroup=SC_Home+Decor&LID=700000001170770pgs&network=g&device=c&location=9032515&gclid=Cj0KEQiAtqHEBRCNrdC6rYq9_oYBEiQAejvRl3YyUvtDvjVGTz5wTkeeFI-uqlY6OU0jf-ekk624eXEaAvb88P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds If the kids make something awesome I tell them to go put it on the art wall on their clipboard. Every couple months I take off everything on the clipboard and keep my favorites in a file area.

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-DVDs can be stored in CD a wallet case. We have a separate case for grown-up movies, one for animated movies, and one for live-action kid movies. It’s compact, makes movies easy enough to find, and the cases are portable for road trips. https://smile.amazon.com/Case-Logic-CSW-72-Capacity-Wallet/dp/B000FL9S98/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1485368919&sr=8-17&keywords=CD+WALLET+CASE

-Kid toys and books can be stashed away in your everyday adult space. I have a bunch of kid Legos in the pretty baskets under my coffee table. Our current library books are in a pretty basket on my shelving unit. The play food & kitchen toys live in a handsome vintage suitcase under the other coffee table. After successful purging I had empty drawers in my kitchen, so I use those for kid craft & art supplies that are often used at the kitchen island. You don’t always need special large storage units just for kid items because you can give those items a home in your existing areas. As long as you make sure to put things away from your first activity before you start the next activity, you will not become overwhelmed by your kid stuff.

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These posts are aiming at the end goal of increased sanity, pleasure, and peace in your home. If you are happy with the way you run your home and keep your things, then you are in a good place and don’t need my help. If your possessions are bringing you stress and/or becoming a burden, it’s time to reconsider the ways that you have things organized and try a new system. Hopefully this last post sparked some new ideas. If you feel stuck, one of the best things to do is to get fresh eyes on the area. Ask a friend to come over to look at the area that’s bothering you and see if they have any ideas for how to change it up. Don’t expect anyone to do it for you (unless you want to pay them of course). Remember: you control your possessions, you are in charge, you are capable. I truly hope that these posts were helpful to you. Happy organizing!

Guest Blog Part 2: The Art of Purging: Only keep things you use and love – By: Carly Pray

Hi again! Thank you to those of you who gave me positive feedback on Part 1, I really appreciate it. As I said before, I hope it was truly helpful. 

Now to Part 2, the most difficult part for most people: THE PURGE. Getting rid of the stuff you don’t use or want. 

PERSONALITY, AGAIN

“Stuff” is an interesting thing and if we are going think on it for a moment, this once again ties back to personality. There is another spectrum here, and it is the spectrum of how emotionally attached you are to your possessions. I see this so clearly in my kids. I have one kid who just said to me yesterday, “Mom, can we purge my bookshelf soon? There are books on there that I don’t even care about and I am never going to read.” This kid loves being able to find toys easily when needed, likes a neat room, and enjoys knowing that the purged things will go to another person who will use them. This kid is practical and not emotionally attached to most stuff (notice the word most – if we were to try and purge the stuffed animals in that room there would be strong feelings flying all over the place). Then I have another kid who is very good at expressing feelings and does a full self-lecture through a purge. “I love this, but I know I don’t use it. But I love it. I remember buying it. I want to keep it, but I really never use it. URGHHHHH!” Luckily this kid is old enough and logical enough to get through it. Obviously I have guided her through it and forced her to prevent hoarding. I used to purge kid stuff during naps or school so that she would never even know anything left the house. She told me once that she was glad I hid my purges from her; it was just easier for everyone and she did not even notice what was missing. This kid attaches high value and emotion to everything she owns. Like I said in Part 1, a lot of things come down to this: Know yourself and adapt accordingly.

Here’s the extreme end of the stuff-attachment spectrum: One time I was purging kid toys while my kids were napping. A friend of mine was hanging out with me while I did it. When I told her what I was doing she said, “Awwww, don’t get rid of her stuff! That’s sad!” The practical part of me just about snapped. I do not think it’s healthy for someone else to attach unnecessary emotion to my stuff that I know is unneeded and/or unwanted. That friend of mine has kind of personality that will have the hardest time with purging. It is smart for this kind of person to ask a friend on the other side of the personality spectrum to come over and help her purge. 

That little memory leads me of an important point: If you are an adult, you should be the only one assessing the value of your things. If you hear your mom’s voice or your friend’s voice in the back of your head saying “Don’t get rid of that!” Shake it off. Do not keep something because you fear what someone else will think if you part with it. You are in charge of your things and it is your prerogative to decide what to do with your things. I give you permission to move yourself toward a healthy relationship with your possessions. This healthy relationship results in feelings of usefulness and/or pleasure. No one else can feel those things for you or tell you what to do. Do not allow anyone to burden you in an unhealthy way. Saying goodbye to some of your stuff does not mean you are a mean person.

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

If giving everything a home (that is not on the counter) was difficult for you, you probably have too much stuff. How much stuff you are allowed to keep is directly related to how much space you have. I live in more or less 1500 sq feet. For where I live this is on the smaller side of homes. If I lived in a mansion or in a tiny little San Francisco apartment, I would obviously change the amount of stuff I chose to keep. 

Regardless of how big your space is, the big question is this: 

Can you truthfully say about every single thing in your house one of the following statements? 

I USE THIS. I LOVE THIS. 

As you go through your house, I recommend that you purge in small bites. It almost always takes you longer than you expect and it can quickly get overwhelming. I recommend only doing one room at a time – even if you really want to declare a purge on the entire house. Finish purging one room completely (meaning everything you are getting rid of is in a bag or box and in your vehicle and everything you are keeping is put away in it’s home) before you move on to the next room. When you start to go through an area you should already have one bag or box where you are going to put everything that you are donating, and one bag/box for trash. Don’t make a pile that you will bag later – that’s double work. If you decide you are done with something you put it directly in the bag/box. 

Here’s how it looks:

1. Take everything out of the area you are working on. Just one drawer/cupboard/shelf at a time.

2. Set aside the items you use frequently. Only the favorite items that you love or use regularly.

3. Put any items that you immediately know you will not be keeping in the trash or donation bags.

4. Now you should have your “Maybe” items remaining. Pick up each item and ask yourself, “Do I actually use this?” “Do I really love this?” “If I got rid of this, would I even notice that it’s gone?” If the answer is “No” to more than one of those questions, you need to be done with it.

5. Put everything back in its home in an organized manner: like things together, frequent use items toward the front, small things corralled into containers.

The Maybe pile is the hardest part. If it feels impossible for you to get rid of Maybe items, you can do this test: have a storage bin to put those items in. Instead of taking that bin to the donation center, hide it in your garage. If you end up desiring one of those items in the next couple months then you can go and dig it out. If you go a few months and items are still in that box, it’s time to say goodbye. 

ROOM-SPECIFIC TIPS

Kitchen

This is a classic clutter place because you got stuff as wedding gifts and then realized a few years into your marriage that you don’t even ever use the trinket that someone else thought you would love. Once again, this should not be a guilt game. If you don’t use it, you don’t use it. Set yourself free. One person can only use so many decorative serving bowls. Your bowls do not have feelings. You are allowed to have favorites 😉 Keep your favorites and donate the others to someone who will be excited to have them and actually use them. For example, I only need a small and a medium sized sauce pan, a big fat soup pot, and a skillet. I chose to part with all the others to save space and I don’t even miss them. If something is of high value, take the steps needed to sell it and enjoy the money you get from it. Your pantry should only have foods in it that you eat regularly, you only need a minimal stockpile of items unless you live in an area where you won’t be able to get to the store for several days in case of an emergency. 

Clothing

One idea I’ve tried is to put all of my hanging items with the hanger facing backwards. Once you wear an item, you flip the hanger back to normal. At the end of the season you part with the clothes that are still on backwards-facing hangers. It’s good to see what you are actually wearing or not wearing, even if you thought it was adorable in the store or during a different season in life.

Unless you are not done having children and you have a bin of maternity clothes, Do not keep clothes that don’t fit you. Just don’t. Those poorly-fitting items will look great on someone else and you do not need them to distract or depress you. Be honest with yourself about why you are keeping those clothes and say goodbye. A shirt that fits you well and flatters your figure is worth 10 shirts that make you self-conscious. If you have shopping habits that are hard to break, consider going on a clothing fast where you do not buy any new clothes fro 6-12 months. I have done this twice and it really helped me to stop browsing items just because they were a good deal. 

For non-hanging clothes you can use some pretty basic math to help you know how much to keep. You do not need 20 pairs of underwear. Unless you go 20 days between laundry sessions. I never go more than 10 days without doing laundry. Just in case I get really behind, my husband has 12 undershirts and 12 pairs of undies. I wear my PJ pants a few times before I wash them, so I only need 2-3 pairs. I only let myself have 2-3 pants and 2-3 shorts for sleeping. I workout 4 times a week, so I have 6 workout tops. If you have a big closet and a generous budget, you can afford to have and keep more. But if you are trying to pare down, use this kind of easy math to give yourself a number and stick to it. When you pull everything out of the drawer, put the keepers back in priority order of how much you love them and stop when you get to your set number. 

Linens

Again, there is math here. You technically only need one set of sheets per bed in your house. I only have one set of summer sheets and one set of winter sheets for my bed. When they need to be washed, I wash them that day and put them back on before I go to bed that same night. For the kids I have the set of sheets currently on their bed and one extra set per bed. That’s it. For towels I have one towel per person in the house. For extra towels I imagine that I will never host more than 6 people overnight at a time, so I have 6 additional towels. For snuggly blankets I have one per person in the house and a handful of extras for when guests are here. 

Cleaning supplies

You do not need a ton of cleaning supplies. You really only need a multi-purpose cleaner, a toilet cleaner, and one way to disinfect (wipes, bleach spray, etc). You also only need a few tools – a few rags, a scrub brush, a toothbrush for little tricky places, a magic eraser and a duster. Many of you can really scale down in these areas. 

Beauty Products

If you don’t love a product, you don’t love it. Do not put a bottle in under your sink or in the drawer simply because it’s not empty and you feel guilty. Throw it away and move on to a product you like. Again, under your sink and in your bathroom cupboards there should only be cosmetics and products you USE or LOVE.

A FINAL THOUGHT: DON’T RUIN YOUR PURGE

Once you purge, you need to be very careful to avoid ruining your hard work. If you go out and buy a bunch of things that you do not need or love, you will just reclutter your space. As you put things in your cart at the store, you should be imagining where you will put it at home. Imagine exactly when you will be using it. Ask yourself if the item is worth storing. Wait until you completely run out of something before you buy it’s replacement. Do not buy craft supplies for yourself or your children unless you can imagine exactly when you will complete that craft project and know that you will actually do it. Trust me, I know that everything in the Target Threshold line is adorable and I want all of it. But I have to put the breaks on and remind myself that I have limited space. I am committed to only bring things into my house that I know I will use or love.  The 3 questions mentioned above really work to help guide you. Once you have your purged items in your vehicle, head to the donation center as soon as you can – your purge is now complete and you can work on the fun part of organization: Smart and Practical ways to store your stuff. See you next week for Part 3!  – Carly

And since I had the chance to read this yesterday, I took her advice and went after my kitchen pantry.  Let me tell you she’s right when she says it may take longer than you’d expect.  Bonus of my hard work?  Discovering a lost bottle of champaign that was on the verge of expiration, so of course I had to drink some while making dinner last night.  I toasted to a (mostly – the kids will purge their own boxes) purged pantry!img_9670

Christmas Card

 

Davin won quite a few mountain bike races and has become an expert in home construction.

 

Most weeks I’m just happy I get to drive the kids to school, hang with the baby, run errands and make dinner (well, Davin cooks half the time, so I should say, “eat dinner together as a family”).  Davin and I try to go out on a date once a week and look each other in the eyes:-)  I just feel so grateful for everyday life.

Eli can tie his shoes, ride mountain bike trails with his daddy and loves to make breakfast for himself and the girls most mornings.  He also built a rocket and started pastoring his own church in our pantry.  Everyone is welcome.

Dani knows all her sight words and has lost five teeth is tall enough to ride Screaming California and has become quite an artist and story teller.  She blessed us with a drawing of my Gramma Jo when she passed away at the beginning of the year.

Ellie has learned self control, loves to take care of her baby dolls, her baby sister and generally enjoy life to the fullest.  She is often found in a tutu, crown or jewelry of some sort.  We have discovered that there is nothing Ellie can’t make into a good time.

Evelyn learned to walk, say at least ten words and has mastered the tiger growl sound, which she now uses for ALL animal sounds.  She also spent 19 days in the hospital, grew 5 teeth WHILE IN the hospital, fought e. coli and overcame HUS.  She came out happier and more full of life, and we took her to Disneyland to celebrate!

There were a TON of visitors at the hospital and I can’t wait to write about Evelyn’s story and how so many people rallied around us and helped us in such miraculous ways.  Here are just a few photos from her time in the hospital.  Thank you EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU for praying for our sweet baby, Evelyn._DSC3813.JPG_DSC3808.JPG_DSC3806.JPG_DSC3805.JPG_DSC3875.JPG

Here’s a photo of me, probably getting e. coli.  I just couldn’t gown and glove anymore!  I needed to hold and touch my baby.  And then I got e. coli.  So there’s a lesson in there somewhere.   #stillworthit_DSC3877.JPG_DSC3880.JPG

These two.  Let’s just say our other three kids came out of this whole experience happy, healthy and perfectly normal – I can’t thank Davin’s parents, Ivan & Pam enough for putting their lives on hold, flying out here and basically running our home and parenting our three other kiddos for the length of Evelyn’s hospital stay.  They did it with a smile like old pros:-)  We love you Dad & Mom!_DSC3882.JPGSome of our MANY favorite nurses and doctors.  Seriously, I have only good things to say about this hospital.  What an INCREDIBLE facility with INCREDIBLE people._DSC3884.JPG

The photographer and chief, “cheer-er-up-er”,  Dad would stay with Evelyn to give Davin and I breaks, and he spent many of his days at the hospital with me so I wouldn’t be alone.  And he brought me chocolate milkshakes.  Love you dad!_DSC3886.JPG

This was our view most nights._DSC3896.JPG_DSC3914.JPG

Uncle Tom and Aunt Nancy:-)_DSC3949.JPG_DSC3953.JPG_DSC3955.JPG_DSC3967.JPG_DSC3982.JPG

Christmas on the Peds floor.  _DSC3983.JPGMom took a couple night shifts so Davin could actually get some rest at home, and we could see each other for more than a second when trading off at the hospital.  Mom loves Evelyn and mom loves our marriage.  I love you mom!Grandma Evelyn 2 .JPG

Thank you for your prayers.

In 2017 we are praying for a year of excellent health, that we sell our home, move into a perfect rental near the property and begin all the fun on our project of building our dream house on the little piece of property near the kids school.   This Christmas we are celebrating that we are all healthy and together as a family.  We feel incredibly blessed.

We love you all!  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

 

Travels, Barfing and an Angel – Merry Christmas!

For Christmas, my family and I went to Colorado.  My husband’s  parents live there, on a beautiful five acre property in horse country.  We had a white Christmas, fresh snow on the ground and all.  IMG_1949

We went sledding, the kids made a snowman with their Papa. IMG_2041

We had a snowball fight
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sunroom hot tub-runs out into the snow and back into the warm water,
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hot chocolates from Starbucks and an hour spent in the indoor Chick-Fil-A play area (one of the kids highlights for sure).

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Most importantly, we were all together under one warm roof,

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snuggling under blankets by the fire with tasty food (including mom’s famous TV Mix), celebrating Jesus and his birth.
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We opened presents, Skyped Aunt Keeli & Uncle Jake and enjoyed being together as a family.

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Getting there was a different story.  We flew on an airplane.  These photos are from the way home, since I didn’t take any on the way there.

That’s Rosie, the class mascot.  We had the privilege of taking her to Colorado over Christmas Break!

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Such a happy girl on the plane!IMG_2198

Six people, four of them five and under.  Please understand the luggage situation alone involving FOUR carseats.  You know that TSA line was LOVING us.  They were actually crazy nice aside from a Desitin confiscation.  All that AND I was completely disabled by a serious flu.  Pardon me if I am too descriptive, but I feel like the details are imperative to this narrative, so bear with me.

It was Monday, December 21st and we were on our way to the airport when I started crying in the car.  Crying a rare occurrence for me, I was beginning to get delusional, for reals.  The kids had all just gone through a horrible flu.

Here is the day before, all Christmas smiles and celebrations for the special school performances they were about to be a part of.

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The flu started Friday night around three in the morning with Dani throwing up, six hours later Eli and then six hours later, Ellie.  And it wasn’t just barf.  It was the kind of flu that completely disables its victim for about 24 hours.

It had been a tough weekend of wiping up puke, holding kids, changing sheets, cleaning carpets and doing lots of laundry.  We had made it through just in time for our Christmas flight on Monday.

We call this photo, “trying to celebrate Christmas…”

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I woke Monday morning with a queazy stomach.  I decided to work out, believing that I could sweat out the virus.

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Since the worst of it looked to be about six hours with the kids, I totally thought I could still make it to Colorado.  I’m tough after all.  We’d booked our flights, and changing them would not only be expensive, but because it was Christmas maybe not even possible.  My choices were, keep the whole family home and try to find flights once I was better, stay home alone with the baby who’s nursing while my family flies to Colorado and try and catch a flight later, surviving the flu alone, or get on the plane and tough it out.

Being the ever optimistic enfp that I am, I really thought it would all just work out fine.  I also had been given a flu bomb of oils, worship music about healing and had friends and family praying for me.  None of that changed the fact that I was about to get crazy ill.  And for future reference, Davin has declared that he will never, ever take my word for it again when I say, “I’m okay, I think I can do this” if I’m sick and start crying in public ever again.  He said that he’s never, ever letting this happen again.

By the time Davin had unloaded all our luggage to the sidewalk, asked me five times if I wanted to go home and then went to find parking, I was shivering and crying while leaning up against the windows of the airport.  I couldn’t stop shaking but I was determined my friends, determined to get on that plane.  I had packed ALL the kids suitcases and stuff.  We HAD to get on that plane.  Dani was holding me and rubbing my back, Eli was telling me that it was going to be okay.  I just kept trying to do the next step.  It took us two hours to get through check-in and TSA because I was so violently ill.  At one point I was puking in the middle of the airport while Davin held a plastic grocery bag.  It was horrendous and is probably on YouTube.  I also still had to nurse the baby, so I was drinking water by the gallons so I could at least produce milk, since all the liquid was fast leaving my body.  When we finally made it on the plane, I told the male flight attendants that I was going to need a few bags.   Fortunately we were in the back a few rows from the bathroom.  Most of that flight is a blur.  Davin said I got up every fifteen minutes to puke and otherwise in the bathroom. One time I didn’t make it and was actually barfing IN THE ISLE into a bag.  Those poor people around me!  Everyone was so nice, they probably assumed I was airsick since all the kids were healthy and happy.  I tried not to touch anything and washed my hands a ton so others wouldn’t get sick.  I sat on the end by Eli while he watched Whinny the Pooh, Davin held the baby in the row next to us with the girls.  Davin said it was such a crazy contrast to hear the kids laughing and squealing with delight during take-off and landing while his wife was almost passed out from the flu.  I remember three different times, almost loosing consciousness.  My eyes wouldn’t even stay focused where I wanted to look, they kept drifting off.  When I had to nurse the baby, she felt like she weighed fifty pounds.  I remember wondering what happens when someone passes out on a plane, wondering where they would put me.  The entire flight I was shaking and vomiting and otherwise.  Every joint and muscle hurt.  All I wanted to do was lie down.  I just kept thinking all I have to do is make it to Colorado.  I wonder if this is what hell actually feels like?  Except Jesus felt close, so not that part.

When we landed, they had a wheelchair brought out for me.  Then we caught a ride on the golf cart thing that the cute old ladies get to ride on in the airport.  One sweet older woman looked at me and said, “you don’t look well.”  I was like, “yea, I’m not (eyes roll back into head, praying I don’t get her sick).”  It was all such a daze.  It’s funny how much we care about how we present ourselves in public most of the time, but when I was that ill, I couldn’t care less if every tv camera, the president and the entire internet saw me.  I couldn’t care stinkin’ less.  I probably looked like the walking dead and I certainly felt like death. Except my outfit.  I had a very cute outfit on, black leggings, black loose top with a cropped dark brown leather jacket and matching booties, and a topknot.  It was pre-flu planned, oh and I wore gold stud Tory Burch earrings that Keeli got me last Christmas, I live in them right now with a hands grabby baby in my arms all the time.  My outfit was super adorable, despite feeling super horrible.

And now, here’s the very best part of the entire dramatic, horrific photo-filled, miracle-ending story.

When we finally made it to the carport pickup area, Davin and Ellie went outside to find his parent’s cars.  I say cars because there are so many of us, they have to bring both their cars just to get us home.   The older two, the baby and I waited just inside on a bench, because I already couldn’t stop shaking, and the cold was just making it worse.  On the second bench next to me, sat an Old-World-Russian-looking woman possibly in her seventies.  I glanced at her and normally would have smiled or even started up a conversation with her (I have a strong affinity for Old-World Russian looking ladies) but this time I just sat there, looking down shivering and silently mouthing, “Jesus help me”.  After a moment, she walked over to me with this large, dark-green, decorative fleece jacket.  She spoke zero percent English and motioned to me to put on the jacket.  It was not a suggestion.  I was now a five-year old little girl and she was going to put that jacket on me.  She even zipped it up for me.  Then she wrapped her arms around me and just held me.  I started sobbing.  I have never felt grace like that before.  This woman didn’t know me.  She didn’t know if I was a nice person or a mean person.  She didn’t know anything about me and yet there she was taking care of me in the middle of the Denver airport.  She rocked me and held me for the next five minutes while I cried.  I think she was praying over me in Russian because she kept saying in almost a soft song what sounded like, “Do Papa, Do Papa” in her sweet Russian voice.  I just cried and cried because I was so sick, in so much pain, and so tired just trying to make it for my family and here she was holding me.  I hadn’t done anything to deserve this grace and yet I found myself in the very center of God’s grace.  I knew God hadn’t abandoned me, I didn’t know why I was so violently ill even after I and so many others were praying for me, but there in that moment, it was as though Jesus was right there holding me.

Here’s the most interesting part.  When Davin came in to get me, he just said, “They’re here, come on” and walked away.  I thought it was so strange that he didn’t come over and ask who the woman was holding his wife or ask why I was wearing a stranger’s jacket.  He just motioned for us to come outside.  So, the kids and I got up, I gave the jacket back even though I wanted to keep it in THE worst worst way to save and treasure it for the rest of my life.  I thanked her as best as I could in English and hand motions and we left.  When I glanced back at her she sat back down in her same spot, all alone.

When I was later retelling the story to our friends over a New Year’s dinner, they asked Davin if he saw the woman.  I thought that was such a strange question because I had just assumed he had, but was trying to hurry, although I had thought it peculiar he hadn’t acknowledge her.  And here’s the craziest part.

He never saw her.

How he never saw her I will not understand, because she was literally covering me.  I had to peek through her arms to even see him when he called us.  She was draped over me like a blanket.

He never saw the woman, or her coat.

The older two kids saw her.  I saw her and she certainly seemed like a real person.  She smelled like a real person, she looked like a real person.  But that experience was something very different.  I’ve never felt so clearly the grace of God as I did in that moment while she rocked me, prayed over me and I cried the tears of understood grace.  I’ll never forget it.  The contrast of feeling terrible, and yet feeling so absolutely and unconditionally loved and cared for by a complete stranger.  It was worth having norvirus on an airplane.

Months earlier, I had been praying about understanding unmerited grace.  Reading again and again of the prodigal son. I had been telling God that I am so much like the older grouchy son, who thinks’s she’s got it all together in so many ways and I longed to feel and accept the overwhelming grace of God like the younger son did, but without all the shenanigans.  To truly stand where I should not be able to stand in God’s presence, and recognize the absolute grace of Jesus Christ.

The thing about the older son is that he is just in denial.  He thinks he’s all great but really his heart is in a prideful state and he’s just as much a sinner as the younger son, the sad part is he doesn’t realize it.  So he misses out on the blessing.  He never even comes to the party.  I kept longing for the feeling of getting a coat, and a ring and feeling the full weight and grace of Jesus on my life.  Having been lost and then found.  I always thought growing up a christian would feel different than someone whose lived a wild life and then later comes to Christ.  At least, that’s what I thought.  I was always a little jealous of the believers who’d have amazing stories of meeting Jesus after all the years of crazy and really truly understanding his love and mercy.  However, the grace is just the same if we only look for it.

And that is where I found myself.

In the very center of God’s grace, with a coat put on me and all!

And Jesus used that terrible situation for good.  How sweet is Jesus to meet me there at the airport when I was having one of the worst experiences of my life?

It’s true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him.

Merry Christmas from 2015!