Saturday, December 31, 2011

My real resolutions and our year in review

I am really good at goals.

Even better at written goals.

I thrive under the pressure of achieving something new.

Wonderfully Brand new.

It even gives me joy just thinking about making a list of things to achieve this year...

But simply put? I stink at New Year's Resolutions.

I mean, I did okay with last year's goals (completing about 80%).

But after thinking about it, most of those goals remain unchanged even today.

I still need to organize my life better.
And my closets for that matter.

I could stand to hit the gym again (it's been months.....bleh)

I am pretty sure there were some days that The Husband didn't deserve get a kiss goodnight.

We certainly spent too much "quality time" in front of the t.v.  
(I think our new romance with the Star Trek series' would be worth its own post if it weren't so comical)

And not enough time in the multi-purpose room, worshipping.

Our year was full of ups and downs.

Things I wish could happen every day for the rest of my life

And others I don't mind burying in the cemetary that is "Years gone by"

But overall, I am thankful for the many lessons learned this year.

For the hours of lonliness spent feeling as though I didn't have a friend in the world.

The sorrow that spurred on more pity parties than I deserved.

The boredom, frustration, and excitement that each had a hand in pushing me forward into new territory.

Because, in the end? It's each of these moments that shape us.

The ones we loved. The ones we loathed.










Alone they each have qualities I love and hate, but woven together? They help me to become exactly who God intended me to be.

A sinner --full of mistakes and letdowns and regret--- saved by grace. Called into a bigger destiny than I ever deserved. Asked to walk a road I never would have chosen for myself.  And brought deeply into the comforting embrace of my Father over and over again.

So this year? With all the goals in the world I could choose to pursue?

I resolve to follow whatever path He leads me on.

To run to Him when things suck.

To run to Him when they don't.

And each day to ask what He would have for me. That I wouldn't miss a single moment of the life He has purposed me to live.

Because even when I think my days suck? I know my God is Good.

So. Very. Good.

Happy New Year.
May your 2012 be everything God intends it to be for you!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why I have said "Yes" to the Daniel's Fast

I grew up in an environment where fasting was not only a principle taught from the Bible, but was a real foundation into a growing relationship with God.

It was never forced into our doctrine of beliefs as a necessary element to Christianity. In fact, Fasting in a completely voluntary act. While leaders may invite persons to join in a time of corporate prayer and fasting for a specific goal and timeframe, the fact remains that fasting could never be compulsory. It's a personal choice to make in your faith to abstain from anything.

So, while it was always taught as a powerful element in aligning our body, soul, and spirit with our Heavenly Father, we made the choice to practice it as individuals.

There were years in my youth where every Wednesday I would fast sunup-sundown for my generation.

There were seasons of fasting for moves of God in our midst.

And there were times where I felt compelled by the spirit to fast personally to grow in my relationship with my Father.

The Daniel's Fast is one of the latter. 

Yes, practicing it at the beginning of a year is most definitely a learned habit. But it's one I have never regretted.

Giving time at the start of a new year to abstain from earthly desires and instead fill those places with prayer and God's word? Has never proven to be worthless.

In fact, it's in the sacrifice of the firstfruits that God seems to pour out even greater blessings and brings renewed vision and revelation in my life.

It's here that I am able to say "God, I love you more than anything in this world" with sacrifice on my lips and truly hear His responses to my heart's cry.

So what does it look like in my life?

First, my disclaimers:

There are so many versions and ideologies and doctrines that dictate how a person fasts or whether a person fasts or how they interpret the Bible or whether they think I am interpreting it wrong.

I don't really care about all that. And honestly? I don't think God does either.

God is concerned with the condition of our hearts so even if we falter in our interpretation of the original Hebrew meanings of specific words used to designate Daniel's actual fasts? That's not nearly as importatant as the reasons why we are pursuing the fast in the first place.

That being said. I was taught and brought up (by spiritual leaders that I still greatly admire, respect, and love...and therefore---follow) that there are three principles that governed the ideas surrounding the creation of the Daniel's Fast.

1. Abstain from meats and pleasant foods
2. Drink only water
3. Fast at least three weeks

In Daniel 1, Daniel asks to be given a diet in line with his Hebrew beliefs (therefore no royal foods or wine) and was given a diet of vegetables and water. At the end of a testing period, Daniel and his men were stronger and in better appearance than any others. God had blessed their decision to abstain from the royal cuisines.

This is where we get the fruits, vegetables, and water piece of  what we consider Daniel's Fast.

Later, in Daniel 10, we see the Prophet fasting for three weeks from choice foods, meats and wine. God heard the prayers of Daniel while he was humbled and pure in fasting and prayer and responded with a vision from the Lord.

This is where the abstention from meats and sweets, as well as the timeframe comes from.

Basically for the month of January, as a time of firstfruit sacrifice and as an opportunity to realign my affections to God above all over things, I choose to fast from meats, pleasant foods (sweets), and all drinks besides water.

Here are my personal "differences" in how I approach my fast.  I will still eat grains, some cheese, and eggs as part of my diet.  There is no Biblical backing for that. It's my personal choice as I know my deficiencies and how terrible I am at consistently taking vitamins.

So there you have it.  The reasons I have chosen to say "Yes" to Ringing Fasting in the New Year!

There are many great articles, sites, and books examining the Daniel's Fast and I am more than happy to link a few for you to research. (see below).

I, however, was blessed to be spiritually raised in a house where fasting was a natural element and I choose to follow that which I was brought up under.

As I said before, God cares more about our the condition of our hearts anyways...

So, whether you or not you choose to participate in Daniel's Fast this year, I would ask you to at least examine a fasted lifestyle as part of your faith's foundation.  I have found no greater source of clarity and renewed fervor for my Lord than in the seasons where I sense natural hunger pangs and fill them with spiritual food instead!

Final Disclaimer: I am aware of the scripture in Matthew regarding fasting in secret and not boasting. I sincerely hope and pray that this message did not come across as boastful or proud. I prayerfully considered the reasons for writing about this important piece of my faith and I pray it touches someone's heart to the point of at least examining the benefits of living a fasted lifestyle.

“Fasting begets prophets and strengthens strong men. Fasting makes lawgivers wise; it is the soul's

safeguard, the body’s trusted comrade, the armor of the champion, the training of the athlete.”
—Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (AD 330–379)

“Fasting . . . opens the way for the outpouring of the Spirit and the restoration of God’s house. Fasting in this age of the absent Bridegroom is in expectation of His return. Soon there will be the midnight cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ It will be too late then to fast and to pray. The time is now.”
—God's Chosen Fast, Arthur Wallis

5 Things On My Mind: Anyone need a few New Year's Resolutions??

As people start gathering all the ways they might make their lives better?

As they take all their goals and dreams and compile them into a beautiful list and prepare to ring a new year filled with better choices?

I thought it would only be appropriate for me to offer up a few options that I believe would make our world a better place.

You know, in case you are having trouble coming up with an adequate list....

Here are some items I believe should be on everyone's resolution list this year:

1.  Stop dressing animals up as people.

There is something just. so. wrong. about this new fad in our society. Your dog's dignity depends on you being better than this.

I can't think of anything else that needs to be said here.

2.  Park straight.

 Really? Do you not realize the ripple effect of crazytown you start with this nonsense? Do you even think about the fifty other people who have to look like donkeys because they have to park crazy because YOU parked crazy?

Let's make this a crooked-free 2012, shall we?

3.  No More One-Uping.

The reason Kristen Wiig is so funny as Penelope is because we all have someone's face we can imagine when she gets going. People? The one-uping has Got. To. Go. already.

I get it. Every now and then you have a moment you just. must. share.  You get carried away and you can't help yourself.

I've been there, too.  I have inadvertently one-upped a love one in a moment of impulse.

I'm not proud of it. But I've done it.

But it's not the inadvertent one-ups that really get my goat. It's the people who word-vomit a constant barrage of one-ups, reminding those around them that they are WAY UP HERE and all the rest of us are all way down here.

Consider this your intervention.

Say "No" to one-upping today. Friends, we can start a revolution!

4.  Commit to walk properly in public places.

Close your eyes with me for a second, if you will. Now, imagine you are in elementary school. You are walking in a line down the hall to recess....

What does your line look like?

Are you zig-zagging down the hallway? Are you right in the middle? Are you going so slow that people have to dodge you left and right to avoid stepping on your shoes??

NO! You are on the RIGHT side of the hallway. And you are keeping with the flow of traffic.

This should be second nature, folks. We are groomed from childhood to walk properly in public places for crying out loud!

Friends, if we can Get This, I truly believe we can achieve anything. World Peace? A Man on Mars? Nothing will be impossible for us!

Together? Let's resolve to walk at an appropriate pace in public.

Let's agree that zig-zagging and middle-walking is intolerable.

Let's commit to walking on the Right Side of the aisles.

Because We? Are worth it.

5.  No More Email Forwards.

Really? Are we really a culture that would give our loved-ones crap? first, the dreaded (and quite unexpected) email crap? and now this new generation of text-crap?

We can do this, friends. We can break the chain.

And, here are the statistics regarding what happens to those who do NOT forward emails (just in case you are gripped by the fear that something tragic will--indeed--happen to you if you fail to subject your family members to ridiculousness)

In the words of FDR, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself".

Stop hatin' on your family and friends. Learn the power of delete.

We all thank you in advance.

So there you have it. Five opportunities to better our world with your New Year's Resolutions!

Happy New Year. May we all do fewer annoying things this year.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A few of my favorite things: Winter edition

Shout out to all my dry skin, hair, face,and lips peeps out there!!


Is this thing on? (*tap* *tap*)




Okay okay. But really, folks. I live by the "don't-wash-your-hair-everyday-and-lotion-up-with-baby-oil-before-bed" principle even in the swealtering heat of Oklahoma summers. So imagine the dryness-ness  that encompasses winters 'round here? It's unbearable. Just imagine it....

And for the total effect: Go ahead and also imagine me in one of those sweeet velour sweatsuits. I desperately want one but The Husband started packing my bags the last time I tried to convince him of the versatility of this outfit:

You'll have to forgive the pretty model: For a more realistic depiction, add 10 lbs, take off the make-up and put two-day dirty hair in a ponytail

No amount of begging or research confirming society's general acceptance of these beauts has swayed him.

Alas, I live in old yoga pants and the velour sweat-jacket that I bought to spite him.
What? He said I couldn't get the SUIT. He made no mention of the individual pieces.

Wait. What was I talking about?

Oh yes, favorite winter stuff. So let's get started, shall we? 

I love this stuff. That's the awesome thing about preparing to raise a child of a different ethnicity. You really learn a lot about tricks and tips for their hair/skin care that aren't widely practiced habits in your own circle sometimes.

Coconut oil was one of those lightbulb moments! I love this stuff. Primarily, it's recommended as a natural oil for dry, curly hair (see types 3 and 4) but it is also great for adding moisture to skin. And you can cook with it, too.  And, while I have been a solid baby-oil-user since my early days of lather and bake..I wanted something a little more organic and natural for Little Smith's skin and hair.

Have I mentioned I love this stuff?

For us peach-skinned fellows, a little will go a l-o-o-o-o-ng way. Use sparingly. You've been warned.  I put it on right after a shower to seal in the moisture and water on my skin and, on particularly dry days, I will lather up before bed. You will smell like toasted coconuts and will probably dream you are on a beach somewhere. Just another perk, folks.

It's good for hair, too. But even my dry hair can't have oil just laid into it! Sometimes on freshly washed and dried hair, I will put a tiny little itty bitty bit on the ends, new growth (you know? those hairs that stand straight up) and frizzies. But only sometimes. And make sure you don't have to see anyone important. Just in case you overlooked the "tiny little itty bitty bit" part or thought I was joking.

Because...I am not joking.


I swear by this stuff.

For real ya'll.

It weirdens up my swearing a little but it's totally worth it.

Check out my marketing slogan:
For dry hair? Biolage Conditioning Balm is Da' Balm! (Get it, Bomb? Balm? Ohh...I crack myself up!!!)

I think there are around 752 different ways to use this product because everytime I get my hair done, they try to tell me about a few more ways I can use it different than I already do. But I am only pretending to listen to them and am more interested in reading the smut magazines that I can't bring myself to buy on my own. So I have no idea what to tell you about unique ways to use it. Blame it on US Weekly , if you must.

Or just Google it, people. Geez, get off me!

For me?  I just put it on freshly washed, damp hair and use it as a leave-in. Works wonders.

P.S. A Jar this size will last until the cows come home. Which--word on the street-- is a really long time.

Love Caught Me By Surprise. That is the title for the book of poetry I am writing about Aquaphor. You see, I am a pretty solid Champagne-tinted Burt's-Beeswax-lip-balm-kinda-girl. But for harsh winds and dry cracked lips, I L-O-V-E this stuff. Love it enough to write its name in the margins of my notebooks.

Ashley + Aquaphor = Always & 4Ever

It's pretty much diaper rash creme mixed with vaseline for your lips.  I use it daily. And nightly. And sometimes 'round noon.

All the time, really. Don't judge me.

 Moving on:

 This stuff isn't exactly Dry Skin stuff.

Or Winter stuff, for that matter.

It's sort of one of those "necessary to live" things.

I don't know how to describe this stuff without using the words "Sent from Jesus Himself".

I carry it everywhere with me. Except to bed. Because that would just be weird.  Too weird.

Basically it's aromatherapy-ish on-the-spot relief for tension, headaches, tiredness and fatigue, whatever.

You take an itty bitty bit and put it on your pressure points (wrists, temples, behind your ears) and breathe in the eucalyptus menthol pepperminty magic.

I don't know what it's doing to me. But I like it.

This is a super tiny bottle but it lasts a LONG time. I just got my second one. Two years after buying my first. =)

So, there ya go. Now, help me out...What are some of your Essentials to help brave the Winter cold??

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dear Self.

Dear Ashley from two years ago,

I know you're overwhelmed with the paperwork. I know it seems like this is the hardest part of this journey and that so many times you think to yourself, "everything will all be better once we are through the paperwork". 

Looking back at how consumed you were with the details of the paperwork.

Every fear that some item wouldn't be done correctly.

Every doubt that they would disagree with you that you could be a fit mother...

Well? There is just no way we could have told you what was to come.

I mean...Even if we COULD? We wouldn't.

Because, I know you Ashley. You wouldn't have gone through with it. You would have evaluated the risk? the pain? the uncertainty? and turned around and walked away.

You would have thought that you didn't have the Grace for something like this.

And I just couldn't let that happen. Because if you had walked away? You would have never seen her face. You would have never spent countless hours pouring over photos and trying to pinpoint aspects of her personality. You would have never prayed for her destiny. 

And for whatever reason? She needed you in that season. She needed those prayers. She needed that love. And she deserved to be sought after with the fervor that you would pursue her with.

And, in the end, she deserved to get her Happy Ending, even if it wasn't yours. 

And that? would have been too hard to explain to you then.

I wouldn't tell you about how two years later, I smirk at how overwhelmed you seemed in that season. I wouldn't tell you to hold on, because this ride is going to get much crazier before it gets any better.

I wouldn't have told you that two years later this journey would be far from over...or about the tears you would cry as you begged God to move mountains for you. To do anything for you.

What I WOULD tell you? Is that God is faithful.  That He HAS placed you in this journey...this awful, heart-wrenching, anxiety-driving journey....and He will fulfill His promises to you.  He hasn't left you in the throngs of paperwork...and He won't leave you in the trenches later either. 

That even two years later, after everything, that you believe that wholeheartedly.

I would tell you that the greatest lessons you would learn would be in Humility, Patience, and Pursuit.

And that they wouldn't always come easy, but they would ALWAYS be worth it.

I would ask that you tell yourself in two years to allow joy to swallow fear and apprehension.

I would ask you to be strong in the process, even in the most difficult parts.

And to remind yourself that this journey isn't about you. That the reality is? It was never about you.

I would ask you to take deep breaths when uncertainty starts creeping in. To give yourself wholeheartedly to any child that God brings before you, no matter how scary it is. And I would ask you to Trust Him to come through for your good, no matter what.

Because He Loves you.

Oh, and  here are the winning Lotto numbers...


Me (in 2011)

One month

Saturday marked one month since our adoption journey took a drastic turn.

This month has been filled with the obvious:




But what really surprised me? Were the feelings of joy. humility. and strength.

We don't doubt God's hand in our situation. We don't question His plan.  And even with all that? It just...

Wasn't fair.

There is no one to blame. No one did anything wrong.

In fact, what happened is the true picture of God's grace and love in reuniting a family.

We know that we were not supposed to be Cupcake's family.

And yet, for us? it still just wasn't fair.

We're not supposed to be here. 




We're supposed to be somewhere else. Somewhere happier.

Somewhere more?  Fair.
(I've tried explaining this to God. It's gotten me virtually nowhere)

But we're not.

And in the midst of hardship, we give God more room to work. 

And He gives us more grace.

Grace to handle things that we were certain we couldn't.

Grace to pray with renewed clarity and fervor.

Grace to walk through the pain of inconsiderate questions and comments and come out the other side undamaged.

Grace to trust that He will fulfill what He promised.

This Christmas season, I have been blessed with greater gifts than I though possible. But they didn't come without a price.

Of course, nothing does.

And, then, the child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:33-35

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our Growing Family

That's right...our family is growing again...

Allow me to introduce you to Moses, our 9 week old Shepherd mix mutt.

He's already learned a few difficult lessons regarding biting.  barking.  biting.  chewing. and biting.

He's proven that he's ornery. And also that he bores easily.

And he's quickly discovered the power of puppy eyes.

It's a good thing he's so cute (and naps often). =)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Book Giveaway WINNER

So, here we are...two days later and I remembered about my giveaway...

I told you this might happen.

You were fairly warned.

In my defense, I had an eventful weekend. Full of puppies and concerts and grocery shopping and such.

There was little time for things like *thinking*

So without further ado..

wasting no more time...

without delay...


Okay, okay... Don't leave.

The winner is:
Lauren Ellis said...

I keep hearing about this book and I REALLY want to read it.
And since Lauren was just wed this weekend, I will probably have to get in touch with her...It would be unreasonable to think she would be blog-hopping this week =)

Lauren blogs over at Not Your Average Southern Belle. And she's pretty darn good (I taught her everything she knows. Of course). So go say hi and tell her I sent you!!

For everyone else...Stay tuned. There might be some more stuff coming your way!