Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Honeymoon Period

For those of you readers who are married or dating, do you remember that time with you significant other where you 'fell in love?'  The giddy time, the excited time, the wonderment, the enjoyment.... you know what I mean?

For Aaron and myself, I look back on trips we made to Sams, and hanging out at the Rink (those were the days).  I think back to visiting his parent's in Fenton and how forward I looked to taking those trips.  It goes even deeper, I can remember the smell of his apartment and his cologne, the look of the inside of his car, and how the sound of his voice made me smile.  I can remember how it felt holding his hand the first few times, and how I loved just being with him.  I was 'wooed' into his presence.  Everything about him made me happy, and thankful, and it made the rest of life worthwhile. 

And that was almost 7 years ago, now.  I can happily say that it still feels like yesterday, but we'd both be lying if we said that the toll of 'life', bills, busyness, and even kids hasn't made a difference in our 'honeymoon' feel.  Granted, I still experience those moments with him, often more times than not, but it benefits me to be able to spend some time and look back on what it was about him that drew me to him... to feel the wooing again, to remember the smells and sounds and details of our falling in love.  It rekindles that spark in me, and it shows me how far we've come. 

Such is our lives with Christ.  In a desperate, depressed, lonely time in my life I turned to Jesus in a way that I hadn't ever before.  My salvation actually became intimate to me, like finding love for the first time.  I can remember feeling God 'woo' me in with His spirit.  I can remember the joy and the realness of reading His word.  I shed many tears during this period over the undeserved love that I found.  The desperate, depressed, lonely girl that once existed was still lonely by human standards, but was completely fulfilled in the arms of  Christ.  It was our honeymoon period, it was the moment in time where I fell in love with Jesus (He already loved me.) 

Words cannot adequately explain this time period in my life, nor can it explain the depth of this relationship with Christ that I felt, but I know it's a period He desires all of us to experience. 

Did I always want to read my Bible?  No.  Did I always feel like praying and listening to God speak to me?  Not really.  But my desire to know Jesus better and to love Him more intimately was the motivation for me to do these things. 

Do I always want to 'talk' about things with Aaron when we're fighting or things feel 'off'?'  Do I always want to take the time to hash out life and details with him?  Do I always want to show him compassion when I feel I've been wronged?  No, but because I desire to know him and love him more intimately, these are the things I do to accomplish that. 

And just like my honeymoon period with Aaron, the tolls, and busyness, and demands of this life often get in the way of that intimate relationship I want with Jesus.  Sometimes I long for the time of that desperate, depressed, lonely girl who had a passionate, intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe, but looking back I see where we've been together, and what He has brought me through, and if I really think back and reflect on that initial intimacy I spent with Jesus, when I really fell in love with Him, the more I remember why I did.  I remember the songs that pierced my heart and the many tears I wept, and it brings me to that place again. 

I'll leave you with this, a song that I listened to multiple times daily, during this time in my life, and it rings to once again.  Enjoy:
When I Found You
By the Tree

Some days I think and I wonder how it all began
The first time I came to understand
Your love was real to me
More real than anything

When I found you,
That's when I found you for the very first time
Your glory all around
When I found you,
You came into my life and made everyday brand new, when I found You.

I long to explore the mystery of leaving it all behind,
And find you beyond this crowded life
I know there's got to be more
Wont you bring that day back again

When I found you,
That's when I found you for the very first time
Your glory all around
When I found you,
You came into my life and made everyday brand new, when I found You.

Well it's got to be
awakened in me
I've got to see reality
Come make a way
Awaken that day in me

When I found you,
That's when I found you for the very first time
Your glory all around
When I found you,
You came into my life and made everyday brand new, when I found You.

When I found you,
That's when I found you for the very first time
Your glory all around
When I found you,
You came into my life and made everyday brand new, when I found You.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A New Milestone and Being Prepared

Totally unrelated from one another, I know, but I thought I'd mention to very important things for this fall day.  First, every milestone is one to celebrate, and I can say, as of about 11:30 this morning, that I have officially cut Bryton's fingernails for the first time in probably a year.  No, I'm not a gross, neglectful parent, he has apparently stopped biting them long enough for them to actually be able to be cut!  Don't get me wrong, they weren't long by any means, but by golly, I could see white on almost all of them, and I could feel one or two when he'd hold my hand.  Before he got any ideas, I got rid of them! :)

Number 2:  here's a lesson on preparedness (or the lack thereof, as I'm not sure if I'm really being 'prepared' or if I'm ill prepared, I guess the next few days will tell.)  I decided to get all of our halloween costumes out today to check them, go over them, try them on, and hang them (to dewrinkle).  I wanted to make sure we are set for Thursday night's trunk or treat.  Sure enough, Bryton's Santa costume is minus a hat (which was supposed to be included... grrr.... gotta send an email to the company),  Aaron's costume is the easiest fix, it needs an extra piece of velcro or a pin in just the right place, and me, well mine was a 'make yourself not panic, we'll figure this out' type of moment.  To put it lightly, I'll be doing some costume surgery on mine, and I'm not panicking over it just yet.  So, I now have two days, kinda, to find a toddler size Santa hat (what is Santa without his hat), add a small fix to Aaron's and completely disassemble and reassemble mine!  Guess I'm glad I looked today and not on Thursday! ;)

More words of wisdom later, as I discover them myself...

Monday, October 25, 2010

An Internet / Computer Semi-Fast

I've a little bit had it with myself.  I'll be upfront and honest, the biggest thing I've been feeling conviction for lately is the way in which I choose to spend my time.  It's a huge pet peeve of mine now to be a good steward of money and responsible with our finances, but God's been really speaking to my heart about being a good steward of my time as well.  I'm watching Bryton grow up before my eyes, and I don't want to look back and think, "I was couponing when we could have been playing ball... I missed it."  Does that mean I'm giving up couponing?  Heck no!  Are you kidding?  It is my job.  It is how I contribute to our 'income.'  What it does mean is that in an effort to better prioritize my time, I'm making myself go on a internet / computer semi-fast. 
Here's the deal:  I spend most of the day off and on searching deals, checking blogs, looking through coupons online, etc.  Sure, I find time to do stuff around the house and to play with Bryton, but I don't want to have to 'find time', to do those things anymore, and like my miscellaneous budget and my grocery budget (the two places we have to 'take money' from in order to pay the other bills), the place that I have to take time from (which is also a limited resource), is my time spent on the computer. 
Of course, I can't completely, nor do I feel like I should, give up the computer all together.  No, my hobby (saving money), and our finances count on the work I do online.  (And, yes, I consider it work.)  There are basically two things I do on the computer:
  • Things I need to do:  Couponing, bargain hunting, swagbucks searching / winning, contacts, bill payment, picture / video work and editing, youth stuff and blogging.  I'm including blogging because I'd love for it to be a source of income for us someday.  
  • Things I want to do:  Check up on facebook, blog (because I love it too), research different things, and keep in touch on my 'bump board.' 
So I've come up with a plan to try - it's experimental so we'll see how successful it is for me.  It's up for the tweaking.  Rather than spend all morning every morning sitting at the computer and then coming back to it over and over and over again, I'm limiting myself to one hour between the hours Bryton gets out of bed (8:00 a.m. is a good estimate right now) and the time Bryton goes down for his nap (about 1:00 p.m.).  I can split that hour up however I want, so that I can check 'deals' at least twice in that time period (some don't last long).  This morning, I did a lot of things before I let myself get on the computer, then I spent a half an hour from about 9:15 - 9:45, then I came back and checked it all just after 11. 
During Bryton's naptime life is fair game.  I call this my 'Alicia time'.  Alicia time is pretty safe for me because if I have 3,000 things on my to-do list, I'll use my Alicia time to get them done and stop stressing about them.  But if I want to be on the internet the entire time Bryton's napping, so be it.  The same if I want to watch a movie, eat something I wouldn't normally let Bryton have, or work on a project, anything is fair game.  Naptime has been iffy lately, it's normally at least  two hours (normally), but could last as long as three.  Rest assured, it's rare I can spend an entire 3 hours online straight... but if I want to, hey, it's Alicia time.
Then from the time Bryton gets up (anywhere around 3 or 4) to the time I go to bed (yes, me, I'll explain in a minute), I'm giving myself an hour.  Again, I can break it up as I so choose.  I debated about this one, because if Bryton gets up at 3 and I don't go to bed until 10:30 or so, that's 7 1/2 hours I have that I could check swagbucks, deals, etc. I fiddled with the idea of giving myself an hour and a half, but chose not to do that just yet.  Here is why:  I've discovered that when Aaron is home and Bryton is up, I don't have near the desire to get on and check things.  I enjoy watching them play and spending family time together.  So, typically when I get on the computer, it's around 9 after we've got Bryton taken care of and put down.  So my time spent on the computer then is time not spent with my husband.  Giving myself an hour and a half would be the entire time from Bryton going to bed to me going to bed.  SO - what I'm going to do is allow myself any spare 'morning time' that I may have left over from that day and use it in the evening, but that time has to be used before Bryton goes to bed. 
Whether or not I really even need an hour in the evenings is debatable.  I like to check all of the deals again, update myself on facebook (when the students are usually on), and recheck my email to have it cleaned out for the next day (couponers get a loooot of email). 
So, again, this is an experiment.  We're going to see if it works, see if it allows me more time with Bryton and more time to feel like I'm accomplishing things at home. 
Just today I've finished (so far) 3 loads of laundry (and hopefully 3 more to go), ran to WalMart for a few things (that I couldn't buy at Kroger), planned our week / weekend (which is abnormally busy), and made one heck of a list of things that could keep me veeeerrry busy over the next couple weeks...
I'll keep you posted on how it goes! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Highly Emotional

All in all my pregnancy with Bryton was a cake walk.  I swelled like crazy at the end and developed some platelet issues, but all very minor things in the big scheme of it all. 
You all know from what I've written that this pregnancy has been completely different.  Another thing to note... I'm insanely emotional.  Like, whoa. 
See, this is something I prided myself in (I know, I know, pride before the fall) when I was pregnant with B.  I had one small emotional breakdown in the doctor's office when I told my doctor that my wedding rings didn't fit anymore.  She laughed, I laughed, and I barely shed a tear. 
Oh no!  Not this time!  Nope, this time I'm a walking sobbing machine!  It is very annoying!  It doesn't really matter who I am talking to, what we are talking about, or if there's anyone around at all.  It is triggered in a moments notice, no warning, no explanation, boom, not just tears, sobs. 
I've at least gotten to the point that I can laugh about it, usually while it's happening, but it's still extremely annoying. 
Here's just a few examples (the most recent ones that I can remember) of what I'm talking about:
  • Just a couple weeks ago I was talking to Craig about reformed theology, completely burst into tears in the middle of the conversation.  Sorry, Craig.
  • Aaron and I went to see "Life as We Know It" in the theater last Saturday.  Cried at multiple parts of the movie, and sobbed loudly during one part that wasn't even sad.  Had to tell Aaron to 'shut up, I'm pregnant.'  (P.S. - good movie, and not sad at all, unless you are pregnant, have kids, and think about having to leave your baby with someone else to raise them... never to remember you ever!  Ugh.  Still a good movie.) 
  • I'm working on a 'special project' for Christmas this year, and Bryton and I were looking over it today, and I completely lost it.  Poor guy was looking at me like, "mom, what is your major malfunction."
  • Was talking to Aaron in his office today (notice all of these that are in the past few hours?) about separating our miscellaneous budget up so that our haircut money doesn't have to come out of our blow money.  Cried during the end of that conversation. 
  • Had to continue working on the said project listed above, can't even look at it without crying so working on it for 45 minutes, yeah, that was fun. 
And the list continues, these are just within the last week or so... imagine a whole pregnancy of this fun.  Luckily, Aaron has been more than understanding, and actually can laugh along with me... which is much needed!  (Unless there's a time when I'm not laughing, then, babe, don't laugh.  It might get ugly. :)
So apparently all of these extra female hormones that Ansley is producing is enough to have me a complete basketcase!  Fun!  :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Parenting Responsibility Often Overlooked

Do what we do.  It's four crucial words that are the essence of raising a child.  Why?  Because whatever it is that we do or don't do, they will do or not do.  They are mimickers of behavior.  Trust me, I see it in my toddler everyday.  I quickly learned that yelling at him isn't going to accomplish much, because my behavior taught him that it was okay and in response, he yelled back at me.  That being said, guarding and carefully choosing our own behavior can be the single most important thing we do for our children.  It effects how we relate to them, how we related to our spouses, in turn how they one day will relate to their spouses and children, and how we relate to God. 

When I was pregnant with Bryton it was crucial to me that Aaron be the male role model in the household.  Bryton will look to Aaron and pull from him how he managed his household, how he treated his wife and kids, what his priorities were, what his 'role' in the household, if he helped around the house, if he led us spiritually, if he took time for his wife, etc.  In turn, Bryton looks to me to see how he should be treated and respected by his wife someday.  How I treat my husband, how I serve our family, how I choose to discipline and raise him, will all be a learned 'behavior' of what his wife may someday be like. 

Consider it - how many of you now parents or spouses ever think to yourself, "Ugh, that's exactly what my mom would do," or "That's exactly what my dad would have said."  We become the products of our environment.   It has to be a conscious decision as to the products I 'weed out' from my own raising. 

And now a girl comes into the picture.  This has to up our games even more.  Aaron is going to have to be conscious to not only be the head of the household, but to love this little girl in such a way that she doesn't go looking for that love in other places as she gets older.  He's got to tell her she's beautiful and wonderful and that he'll always be there for her.  I've got to display to her the assets of a Proverbs 31 woman, I must show her what real beauty is about.  Even the decisions I make about the clothes I wear will speak loudly to her. 

All in all... our jobs as parents are full of more responsibility than one would have ever guessed.  If done properly, it should make us better, more well rounded, more responsible people ourselves.  Not to say that we'll never fail, but then that's part of our teaching... we fail with grace, apologize with truth, and keep trying until we get it right. 

Praying for wisdom to raise my boy and my girl

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Had planned to update this blog yesterday, but it was a busy day to say the least.  First, let's just get it all out there... baby wasn't as 'anxious' to show us her gender as her brother (who flashed us all first thing in his ultrasound), but towards the end of the ultrasound we looked again, and sure enough, it's a girl!  

So it is now official that Ansley Makenna (yes, we changed the middle name... about 10 minutes after our ultrasound as a matter of fact) will be physically joining the Gregg family sometime around March 12th!

Other notes about yesterday's doctor appt (for those of you who care):
  • Ansley is in the 50% for her size right now.  She weighs 11 ounces!  Almost a pound!  I hope she continues this trend, personally.  Bryton was a 'big baby' (to say the least), so having a slightly smaller child to 'push out' this time would be well received by this mother.  
  • I had a good inclination of girl this whole pregnancy anyway, but I'd read the night before the ultrasound on a board that I follow, that an ultrasound tech had been noted in saying that he'd guessed the last 27 genders right without seeing the 'goods' first, just by hand placement.  Our ultrasound tech tried to get a good 3-d picture of Ansley (before we knew she was even Ansley), and her hands and fingers are all up in her face.  I felt for sure it'd have to be a girl... and it was.
  • Everything that can be 'seen' on the ultrasound looks pretty good.  She was head down (not that I expect her to stay that way from here on out, and back up, so we saw a lot of good pictures of her spine, but not many good pictures of her heart.  The good news is that I get to go back in for my next appointment for another ultrasound to get more pictures.  I'm quite alright with that!  
As far as my health, etc.:
  • I've gained 6 pounds in pregnancy so far, which is apparently right on target.  (Which is amazing considering I've been eating sweets like crazy.  I have to cut it out.) 
  • My blood pressure is a - ok.
  • Apparently I have a low lying placenta at the moment, which is currently not an issue, and is apparently really common in mid-pregnancy.  Dr. said we aren't going to worry about it right now in hopes that it moves up.  The way he made it sound, that'll make for some more ultrasound pictures later.  Worst case would be a c-section... and quite personally, I'm praying really hard against that. 
  • I also, apparently, had a low thyroid count in my prenatal bloodwork.  The doctor didn't act like this was a huge deal, and actually said it's fairly common in the first part of pregnancy.  He explained that the pregnancy hormone fights the thyroid hormone and it usually goes back up.  He said we'd look at the count again at my 26 week glucose test.  He didn't seem worried, so I didn't worry... until I got home and started looking at what a low thyroid count can do to growing babies!  I finally had to stop looking at stuff and move on, or else I'll worry like crazy.  Someone tell me you had this and your child is fine!  Please!  Praying it is back up now.  It does explain my exhaustion at the first part of this pregnancy. 
  • Lastly, we talked platelets briefly.  Mine were 'pretty low' as he deemed it, when I had my bloodwork done in the lab at about 6 weeks, but at 12 week prenatals my platelets were back up to 145,000 (normal is 150,000 - 400,000... my 'normal', or not pregnant, number is around 241,000).  So they are still technically 'low'.  He said the big word again about what it probably is, and said we'll just have to watch that and my blood pressure like the time before.  I'm getting used to the platelet thing.  Still praying to be over 100,000 at the time of birth, praying for that epidural this time.  (Could be awful if I have low platelets and require a c-section for any reason, completely narrows down anesthesia options... in fact, general anesthesia, which isn't great for me or baby, may be one of few options I have... pray against the c-section, please.)
So anyway - all in all, I'm not worried about much at the moment.  There is a lot of time for things to change.  Would love for you to join me in the prayer things mentioned above, and I'll keep you posted on our newest little blessing (and our oldest too, he's getting ready to turn 2!)


Monday, October 18, 2010

Praying for a healthy baby

For me there's been something about a second pregnancy that has made me a little less naive this time around.  Maybe it's experience between now and two years ago.  Maybe it's friend who have shared their pregnancy ups and downs.  Whatever the reason... I've probably been more concerned this pregnancy that I was with Bryton's.  (I made up for all of that after Bryton was born.  Hopefully this time I'll be a little less obsessive with this baby since I was during pregnancy.)
Anyway - tomorrow we go for our 'anatomy scan'.  I'll call it that because, well, I'm not sure what else to call it.  It's kind of ironic, because finding out the gender of the baby is a 'perk' to the ultrasound, but it's not the reason for it.  I've become painfully aware of this during this pregnancy.  They are checking to make sure baby is progressing right, that their are no visual malformations, that there is an adequate amount of amniotic fluid, etc.  And knowing we'll want to find out baby's gender, they'll give a little look in that direction too.  (Pray for cooperation on Baby 2's part ;)... B was extremely obvious, and I would love to be 100% sure leaving tomorrow!)
All of that said, I have to say this, with pre-knowledge, that all I want is a healthy baby.  10 little fingers, 10 little toes, everything in it's place... growing on track, etc, etc, etc.  I was so concerned with finding out what Bryton was that I didn't even think about those things at the 'anatomy scan'.  Trust me, I thought about them in the weeks proceeding birth!
So tomorrow, boy or girl, we are praying for healthy healthy healthy.  As far as a boy or girl is concerned, it's very odd.  With Bryton, I wanted a boy first, I didn't 'care' either way, but, well, you know.  This time, I can really see perks to both.  I could dress up a little girl (who may cause me a lot of heartache later), but a little boy I would be used to, I'd have the toys for (would still need clothes for different times of the year and some other things), and I feel like two boys would be closer than a boy and a girl would.
So, one way or another we're happy.  Healthy is our major concern!
Big post tomorrow!

Friday, October 15, 2010

What I Appreciate About MY Husband Pastor

The list is too long to list them all, but here's things I don't credit him for a lot:

  • He works hard!  Preparing lessons, making relationships, planning worship, praying and caring about the spiritual life of his band and his students, planning retreats, trips, events, and the like, doing paper work, going to games and activities of students, counseling and making himself available. 
  • He's very compassionate and caring towards students.  He has great discernment on how much 'tough love' each student can handle, and he is compassionate enough for students to know that he cares.  
  • It takes a lot for him to get frustrated.  In situations where I'd find myself fuming, he's calm.  
  • He loves to have fun.  Huge plus in youth ministry!  He likes to laugh, joke around, get dirty, and have a good time!  My kinda guy!  
  • He has passion.  He desires greatly for people to encounter God during worship, for students to be zealous for the Lord, and for lost students to find the cross.  He loses sleep when one or all of these are lacking.  
  • He works well with people.  All people, senior people, children people, youth people, middle aged people... he has an attractive personality that is well received on a multi-generational level.  I have similar qualities, but depending on my life's circumstances, am not always as approachable as he is.  
  • He's outgoing.  This kind of goes with the point above, but he has no problem walking into a room alone and approaching anyone who might be in there.  Very extroverted! 
  • He's an optimist (okay, most of the time.)  But he wants to see the good in people always before he sees any negative. 
  • He's a good listener.  Granted, he is a male as well, so he sometimes wants to be a 'fixer' too, but he's always a good ear when you need a sounding board, to vent, or advice. 
  • He enjoys getting in the Word.  Some of my favorite conversations with him are hearing what God has been communicating to him... his inspiration often inspires me. 
  • He shows a great amount of humility.  
  • He articulates the Word well, does lessons well, and his passion is evident in his messages.  
  • He does a good job at not showing favoritism.  
  • For a man who spends several nights out a week doing church related activities, or going to sporting events or activities of students, or setting up the church on a Saturday night, or running errands for youth ministry, he includes his family (us) in many of those things so that we can still be together, and then he makes time for just us as well.
  • He knows how to bite his tongue... and often bites mine for me as well.  (It's that whole submissive thing... gotten me out of a lot of trouble, probably.)  During times when I feel he's been wronged his biting his tongue, and him encouraging me to bite mine (ahem), often keeps us from dissension with others.  It's a good thing. 
  • He knows how to serve.  Those things listed yesterday:  parking blocks, snow, mowing for a home-bound who couldn't do it herself, cleaning, volunteering, serving meals, picking up (after himself and others), all are part of his 'servant' nature.  
And again, the list goes on... but I wanted to name a few, especially some I don't mention to him a lot.  Don't forget your pastors, everyone.  They make a lot of sacrifices to better serve us.  
 Until next time -
- a 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pastoral Appreciation Week, Day... or something like that...

As church family we hear it every year in October... during October we celebrate our 'pastors'.  We're supposed to show them that we appreciate them.  So, I've had a hard time of where to take this blog, so this may actually become two blogs.  I really wanted to write about all of the reasons I appreciate my pastor, as in FBC Du Quoin's Youth / Worship Pastor.  Unfortunately, as my husband, he probably gets less of my verbal (or in this case, written) appreciation than he deserves.  But, I also feel it's important to really talk about why we should appreciate our pastors.  As a pastor's wife (and not a head pastor's wife... wowza) I see the sacrifice made to minister to others, and I feel like we have to lay that out first, before I can really go on to talk about my appreciation for my husband pastor. 

So - all of that being said, here are some things you probably know, and some you probably don't about why you should appreciate your pastor: (warning:  all of these things don't apply to every person in every church, but I can tell you almost every pastor has felt each of these things at some point in ministry...)

  • His life is 'on call' 100% of the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and he knows that.  It is a decision that he has made to serve you.  Sickness, check.  Marital distress, check.  Offspring issues, check.  Death in the family, check.  There's a number to get a hold of him, and he does everything within his power to be with, counsel with, or fulfill whatever purpose that is put upon him.  And after he's talked to you on Christmas day, his mind ponders on it the rest of the day forward.  
  • His work hours are crazy.  Refer back to number 1.  All of these 'extras' often come after an 8 hour work day in the office, or on visitation, or preparing a message or three.  There is no 8-4 work day, no, not with things to get done, people to talk to, meetings to attend, concerns to address, emails to return (or not return), and church services to attend.  Sure, he usually gets an 'extra day' a week off (which is really just part of his two days off), but if he's anything like my husband pastor, Fridays and Saturdays always involve ministry somehow.  
  • On top of all of his other responsibilities, he has to communicate and commune with God constantly.  I mean, what kind of pastor would he be if he didn't?  Messages must be prepared at the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Counsel must be given prayerfully and gently.  As a church, we should pray that our pastor's spiritual life is his number one priority, which must be difficult with all of the responsibilities put upon him!
  • On top of all of his responsibilities (for lack of a better word), he is expected to fulfill all of our responsibilities as well.  If we had an administration committee, an evangelism committee, a discipleship committee, etc. etc. etc, he'd be expected to be the head of all of those, and we'd deem the reason why 'because that's his job'.  Ehhh, wrong answer.  Technically, scripturally, his job is to lead the flock, us church-goers, he gets to deal with us.  Lucky guy.  He prays and asks for wisdom for direction for our church.  He leads us through God's word.  He helps equip us  to do all of the things we expect of him.  That means he gets to make all of the evangelism outreaches, he gets to visit the nursing homes, he gets to make all of the hospital visits, he gets to talk to little Johnny when he feels God calling him to be saved... none of these are bad things, just things the pastor shouldn't necessarily have to do.  Just imagine the rejoicing that could happen amongst a family if little Johnny's father led him to the Lord.  After all, scripture says the father is the head of the household... right?  
  • Speaking of households.  Let's just be honest... his probably suffers.  Please don't misunderstand me.  This is not always true, but find me a pastor's wife or pastor's kids who have never felt 'alone' from time to time.  I firmly believe that a pastor's wife is called to be a pastor's wife.  It takes a special kind of individual to accept every point above.  It takes special kids to share their father with several other people, and watch him be treated poorly from time to time by those very people.  (If you don't think they see it you are fooling yourself.  I've had too many long talks with too many pk's who have been turned off from the church because of how the church treated their family.  It's a tragedy.)  I pray for Bryton and baby 2 everyday that God will give us wisdom to raise them, wisdom as to what they can handle and what they can't in the realms of Aaron's church work, and that God would protect them from this very aspect.  The last thing I need is "church" turning my babies away from the Truth.   The pressure to 'perform' is a demand put on the pastor's family by the church as well.  They are often held to different standards, making faith difficult.  One thing I learned from the road:  God must come first, family must come second, and ministry / job must come next... if a man is struggling within his family, his ministry too will struggle. 
  • He walks on egg-shells... kinda.  It's easy to preach a message that people agree with, it's difficult to preach one that people may be offended by, but it's even more difficult to deal with people outside of the pulpit.  He must be nice to everyone, speak to everyone, show equal support for every ministry available in the church, have a good personality, say things perfectly and most of all, not offend.  Okay, now let's get real, he's a human being, not Christ incarnate (who would be the first one to offend us by the way), it is completely impossible for him to do these things perfectly, in fact, it's virtually impossible to do these things well, but these are the expectations we put upon him.  Then, when he fails to meet those expectations we confront him, email him, or all the better, quit coming to church all together.  He most consistently finds himself between a rock and a hard place.  It's impossible to always do the right thing, or even the thing God has called him to do when he is put under this kind of pressure. 
  • He thinks and thinks and thinks about everything.  He's the one who feels the pressure when the church isn't booming, when budget isn't getting made, when one person is in conflict with another, when there are issues amongst staff, when administrative actions need his attention... he's the guy.  He doubts when he knows God has led him one direction, yet the church is decreasing in size, not increasing, he questions the new programs initiated because no one seems to care about them, he has to preach on money sometimes, but how much is too much, especially when the church may be really needing funds... and at all the same times he's worrying about your family, your situation, and your spiritual health.  He prays for revival and then searches how to make it happen.  He gets confused, frustrated, and distraught himself.  (But must appear to us to have it together, at least that's the stigma.)
  • Kind of hit on this before, but can't end this without saying the one thing people actually acknowledge he does... he prepares messages.  It looks like a 'speech' to us, but that 'speech' took a whole week or more of prayer, study (and I mean study, remember that thing we tried to avoid in school... yeah, that) he studies Bibles, concordances, commentaries, Bible software, the internet, previous messages by other pastors, and even a whole lot of cheesy illustrations and jokes on line to try to keep us entertained during the messages.  That message that we often criticize was full of blood, sweat, and tears so to speak.  The amount of work and effort is unexplainable.  
And you know, the list continues... it's forever long.  It's been nothing for pastors (mine included) to help shovel snow, mow the church grass, nail down parking blocks, clean from floor to ceiling, organize trips, plan retreats, institute programs, plan events, help a shut in grocery shop, or bite his tongue when he has nothing nice to say.
Wouldn't you say we have a reason to appreciate our pastors... every day or week of the year, not just in October?  I would...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Psalm 139

To be a mother - any mother - I'm not sure how you cannot learn and experience more about God than ever.  In raising our children we learn more about Him, in the gift that comes with receiving that child we learn more about Him, and if we have the opportunity to carry that child before it is born, we learn even more about Him.

The entire time I was pregnant with Bryton God kept showing me and uttering within me this chapter in Psalms.  For a set of scriptures that I had always applied to myself, now I could not apply it to anyone except that unborn baby I carried.  I know it is not 'theologically' correct, but I'd venture to say that not only childbirth, but pregnancy too, is a miracle. 

Now, every time I feel these little flutters of Macklin / Ansley (yet to be known), I'm reminded that God already knows every day of this child's life... He has already counted every hair on his / her head, He knows his / her gifts and talents, He knows his / her weaknesses, He intimately knows this baby now, and forever, more than anyone else ever could, including the momma that is carrying him / her right now, and you know, I'm thankful for that. 

So as I write this, Psalm 139:13-18 says that God is knitting together our little miracle in my womb... creating a masterpiece... this child is wonderfully made. 

It's my pleasure now to share with you the whispers God shares with me through the 'flutters' everyday: 

Psalm 139: 1-18

O Lord, you have examined my heart
      and know everything about me.
 2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
      You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
 3 You see me when I travel
      and when I rest at home.
      You know everything I do.
 4 You know what I am going to say
      even before I say it, Lord.
 5 You go before me and follow me.
      You place your hand of blessing on my head.
 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
      too great for me to understand!
 7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
      I can never get away from your presence!
 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
      if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
 9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
      if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
 10 even there your hand will guide me,
      and your strength will support me.
 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
      and the light around me to become night—
    12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
   To you the night shines as bright as day.
      Darkness and light are the same to you.
 13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
      and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
      Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
      as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
 16 You saw me before I was born.
      Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
   Every moment was laid out
      before a single day had passed.
 17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
      They cannot be numbered!
 18 I can’t even count them;
      they outnumber the grains of sand!
   And when I wake up,
      you are still with me!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Do We Really Want Truth?

If you don't think about the question, really, then you say 'yes, of course I do.  Who wouldn't want truth?'  But then just take a second and realize what truth could really mean in our lives.  On a shallow level it could mean finding out that your favorite pair of jeans really aren't all of that flattering on you.  It could mean finding out that, for one reason or another, your personality just really doesn't mesh as well as you thought it did with (fill in your blank here).  It means sometimes finding out that we've hurt others much more than we ever thought, it means finding out that people may not like you as much as you thought, it means finding yourself in an extremely vulnerable situation... and we all know that isn't comfortable. 

I mean, think about it, if anyone has ever said to you, "Well, do you want the truth?" you immediately feel yourself shutter inside.  People just don't say that when the truth is good.  It seems anymore that our lives have become to comfortable for 'truth'.  We don't like the vulnerability, we don't like the exposure, and we'd rather go on living in our little naive worlds because we are comfortable.  

You want to know what's crazy about the word comfortable, though?  I've seen a lot of complacent Christians who have become far to comfortable in their faith.  I've seen a lot of broken marriages, because the spouses had become too comfortable with one another.  I've seen a lot of unruly teenagers speak harshly and disrespectfully to their parents because they have grown comfortable to do so.  I've seen and talked to a lot of unhappy people because they were too content to do anything outside of their comfort zones. 

Being comfortable isn't necessarily always a bad thing, but as Americans I believe we've made it our goal.  We want to be comfortably, live comfortably, and get by comfortably.  And quite frankly, truth and comfort don't actually mesh together very well.  Thus, comfort has often times won out over truth. 

And what is truth?  It could be a lot of things.  It could be the things listed above... maybe your haircut is awful and no one ever told you.  Maybe it's a bad pair of jeans.  Maybe it's a bad attitude.  Maybe it's sin in your life.  Maybe it's a failing marriage.  Maybe it's a whole slew of these things that we mask and hide because we want to appear to be 'comfortable', and truthfully, bad attitudes and failing marriages or kids that disrespect you, well, they aren't exactly comfortable.  So when the greet time at church comes around and someone asks how we are doing we say, 'Great', regardless, because we don't want to make them uncomfortable. 

So what is all of this anyway?  It's a plea for truth.  It's an urgency for us to forget being comfortable for awhile and get down to business.  Let's stop dancing around the truth for the sake of our comfort.  You see, folks, comfort isn't working for us!  Comfort doesn't save marriages.  Getting uncomfortable does!  Talking about stuff that hurts does!  The truth winning out... that's what saves marriages!  Or faith... our comfort accomplishes nothing in our faith!  The truth does, and let's all face it folks, the truth that we have in Jesus Christ, it's not comfortable!  I don't know when the last time was that you explained the gospel to an unbeliever, but it's not exactly comfortable to let them know, allbeit gently, that in their current situation they are not bound for heaven.  That is not comfortable for anyone involved, but it's still truth!  Even from a theological perspective, we get so caught up in our comfort that it's easier for us to look at what we've always believed rather than deal with the discomfort of what the truth might bring. 

The truth is usually hard, but it's also always right.  Jesus said He is the truth.  Scripture also tells us that we should worship God in spirit and in truth... and frankly, if worship is the offering of our life, and not just something we do on Sunday mornings, then God receives worship in my truthfulness, regardless of how hard, hurtful, or difficult as it may seem.  Love rejoices when truth wins out!

Our comfort is getting us no where.  Let's put it aside and see what truth has to offer.  If Jesus is truth, I'm venturing to guess we'd all be much better off. 


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Boy or Girl: Submit Your Guesses ;)

Okay - in 8 days we finally get to find out if we are blue or pink this time around.  With Bryton the majority of guesses was right...  about two thirds of you said boy.  I look forward to seeing what you all think this time around.  Here's some points of things that may interest you in making your 'final decision':

  • We've heard the heartbeat twice, the first one was in the 150's, the second time in the 160's. 
  • I've had cravings a lot this pregnancy (as opposed to Bryton's), but they haven't necessarily been for any specific kind of food. 
  • I'm 18 weeks currently and have gained 3 pounds. 
  • I was nauseous throughout most of my first trimester this time around.  
  • My face hasn't changed much in the way of acne.  An occasional blemish here and there, but nothing major really. 
  • The Chinese Birth Calendar says 'boy'.
  • During the first trimester meat completely grossed me out.
  • I've been pretty emotional this pregnancy. 
  • During the 2nd trimester I've really 'felt the same' as I did with Bryton. 
  • How am I carrying?  Well, judge for yourself.  This pic was taken at 18 weeks, 3 days.

  •  I have had headaches almost everyday this time around.  Whether that is pregnancy related, stress related, or weather related are all up in the air.  
  • Undoubtedly I've instinctively called this one 'she' throughout the entire pregnancy, but whether that means anything or not is in question because I thought Bryton was a girl too! 
  • I don't believe my face has changed shape at all, but you can take a look for yourself:

Regardless what Baby 2 ends up being, we're happy as long as he / she is healthy.  There are definitely perks to having either, and as much as I thought I'd want a little girl after having my boy, I'm really equally happy with both!  
If you have any other questions that may help you make a better guess... just leave it on facebook or in the comments ;)  Let's see if you all are right this time around!


    When I Put Jesus First

    I have to start by being very honest.  I have a tendency to be impatient, easily frustrated, bitter, spiteful, arrogant, and lazy.  For those of you who just know me, I try to mask this the best I can.  I put on a good 'front', in fact, I don't even know that I'd call it a front, it's easy for me, most of the time, to be kind and respectful to others.  To those of you who know me, and I mean really know me, you've probably seen one or more of the listed characteristics come out from time to time.  If you are in my family, though, namely my husband and son, you may know them all too well. 
    Don't get me wrong, I'm not abusive, awful, or completely terrifying to be around, but I felt it important to make the point that it is a constant struggle for me daily to not lose my temper when Bryton throws his block (that is not a ball) after I've reminded him 3 times in the last 30 seconds that we don't throw blocks.  Especially when I can see on on his face that he's testing me. 
    It's even more difficult for me to maintain a positive attitude when Aaron comes in happy, and Bryton and I have had a challenging day, which is rare, but happens. 
    But if I can take a step away from my pride for a moment, step away from the situation, and really look at myself for a second, I can see that if I'm really putting Jesus first, that the opportunity to properly discipline (root word: disciple) my son may not only leave us both feeling a little better, but would be much more effective as well. 
    I realize if I'm really putting Jesus first that my husbands positive attitude should be a blessing to me, not an object of frustration. 
    Granted, all of life isn't butterflies and gumdrops, and there are definitely those circumstances that test and try us, but I have to remind myself when all else is put aside to put Jesus first and my perspective on everything else normally changes. 
    It's not always easy, but who ever said it would be?

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Halloween at a Glance: Our personal stance ;)

    It was mentioned in the replies of a couple of those on my Santa blog about how their families didn't really do Halloween either, which got me thinking... "we kind of have a view on Halloween too", so I figured I'd jot that down too.
    I grew up in a family that didn't do halloween and then did.  Confusing?  The short version is this:  my brother (who is 12 years older than me) was allowed to do nothing for halloween.  It wasn't celebrate at all.  There was no dressing up, no candy, etc.  My mom even took him out for his halloween parties at school and took him to a movie or to get ice cream.  Then, when I came around we 'did' Halloween, but it consisted in cute (not scary) costumes (normally homemade, can't tell you how many times I was a hobo ;), and my trick or treating consisted of getting in the car and driving to one grandma's house and one aunt's house... basically so they could take pictures.  Mom left me in for school parties, but she was always the room mother to help 'maintain' things.  I didn't know any different until I got older and was allowed, one year, to go trick or treating with a friend and her mom... wow, was that different.
    Okay, fast forward to us.  Our idea is that Halloween is a lot of what you make of it.  I'm not celebrating anything negative, in fact, I don't even know if the word celebrating would be the word I would use at all.  There is nothing in particular to 'celebrate', but it's a day Aaron and I feel we can have fun, enjoy, and serve together as a family.  So here is 'our policy' (if you can so call it that):
    • Our kids (and us adults) are free to dress up for Halloween in costumes that are not scary, vulgar, gross or *ahem* seductive.  (Halloween costumes for women now may as well be classified as lingerie, seriously.)  If Bryton wants to dress up as a football player for Halloween one year, so be it.  Last year he was a cuddly lion ;)  Seems like a great time to dress up and be goofy (not mischievous).
    •  We're lucky to have offered at our church an annual Trunk or Treat, where church families decorate and fill the trunks of their cars with candy.  It's a great ministry for kids to be able to trick or treat and parents to feel safe about what their kids are getting and where their kids are walking.  For them it is a fast way to get all of the 'trick or treating' done in one spot.  When our kids are old enough to 'trick or treat', we'll be trick or treating at church, and our kids will be asked to help serve during the trunk or treat as well, when they are old enough of course :) 
    • As far as school parties.  I'm not anti-them just yet.  Sadly, one of the reasons I've become anti school parties has nothing to do with the theme of the party, but mostly because of the junk in the party.  Back in the day when I was growing up we got a small treat bag (that had to be taken home) and one treat (cupcake, cookie, etc) and a glass of juice.  The time was taken up with a game or a craft.. not eating.  Subbing and working during a lot of parties last year, I see kids getting fed huge cupcakes and a couple of cookies and a rice krispy treat and as much juice as they want.  THEN, all of the candy on top of all of that.  No wonder our kids are obese nowadays... I'm not a huge stickler on Bryton having treats and stuff throughout the day, but seriously, one sweet treat a day, or every other day (small) is PLENTY.  I'm going to be that parent that brings a bag of apples to the 'halloween' party.  Not like any of the kids would eat them.  Anyway, we'll try the halloween party thing, as soon as it gets too questionable, I might be that parent.  I think our school district does a fairly good job at enforcing guidelines for the halloween party.  
    So there you go:  much shorter than the Santa one, but there's much less to explain about this one.  Costumes, I personally think are, or can be, cute.  Halloween has become our 'excuse' to play dress up.  With Bryton's birthday so close to Halloween anyway, I've considered doing a 'costume party' for him in the next couple of years, where kids can re-wear their 'not scary' halloween costumes.  In fact, I think it'd be totally cute next year, and would make for some really cute pictures.
    Anyway - that's us on halloween ;)

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Pregnancy Update

    I figured a short post to update everyone on the pregnancy was needed, as it's been a lot of 'other' stuff lately.  Here's the 'just' of it all:

     Me at 15 weeks.  I'm only taking pictures every five this time around. 
    I'm pretty sure I've 'blossomed' since this picture was taken! See a new one at 20!

    • I'll be 18 weeks pregnant tomorrow!  On one hand it feels like it's flying by!  On the other hand:
    • We find out if Bryton is going to be a big brother to a baby brother or a baby sister on October 19th.  This is making time feel as if it's crawling by.  I'm so curious this time around with my pregnancies being so different, I just feel like it must be a girl... but I've been wrong before ;) 
    • I'm having lots of round ligament pain / stretching this time around.  I've heard that it's worse in subsequent pregnancies than it is the first, but this time around it's enough to double me over until it subsides.  It's not necessarily happening more often, it's just more severe when it happens. 
    • I'm in that awkwardly in between stage as far as clothes are concerned.  I can still wear most all of my own non-maternity shirts, but they just don't feel right.  Maternity shirts still kind of swallow me.  As far as pants are concerned, maternity pants are more comfortable, but I feel that I'm constantly pulling them up all the time.  All in all, I'm definitely getting a 'bump' now and see the normal clothes, especially pants, going out the window completely in the next two weeks for sure.  
    • Nausea etc. are basically gone at this point.  Praise the Lord!  During the first trimester I didn't think I'd ever get relief or energy every again in my life.  I'm trying to enjoy it while I can because I know I'll be super tired again during the 3rd trimester, and equally as tired when our lovely offspring shows up :)  Nausea now is once in a blue moon, and normally something light to snack on or some water with lemon cures it right up! 
    • I'm having major cravings with this pregnancy, unlike my pregnancy with B.  The thing is, I'm not necessarily craving anything in particular, just when I'm craving something it's almost an emotional need that I have to have it.  Most recent craving:  Taco Johns chicken softshell tacos with house dressing, potato oles with cheese, and a churro.  Haven't satisfied that one yet, but my goodness does it sound good!?
    • Lots and lots of headaches this time around.  Who knows why?  I just know with Bryton I didn't have hardly any... one or two total.  Now it's rare for a day to go by where I don't have one.  I do better on the days that I'm up and moving around for most of the day, and I've noticed that I normally wake up with the headache.  If I can get up and get some food / drink in me, get a warm (aka hot) shower, and get up and moving around, I can usually prevent having to take any tylenol.  I've finally just got to the point that I'd rather have a little headache and not take the tylenol so I don't feel guilty taking the tylenol when the big headaches come.  The good news:  these aren't migraines.  Praise Jesus. 
    I think that's all for the pregnancy updates at the moment.  I'll be updating lots more coming up!  We have a TON of things coming up including Bryton's Seussical 2nd Birthday (I should be posting lots of pics and tips from this), Halloween (and a blog about our halloween stance as I did our Santa stance), and hopefully some good couponing / Jesus blogs coming up!  Keep checking it out!


    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Santa Claus Might Be Coming to Town

    But he's skipping our house. 

    Move in reverse 5 - 10 years, and I had dreams and aspirations of being a mom and enjoying the holidays with my kids and my husband some day.  In that dream was this shiny figure of the 'Santa Claus' I would one day get to be for my kids.  I never had any second thoughts, any reservations, or believed that anyone anywhere might do anything else for the holidays.  I guess it's the mindset that comes with living in a small town and having a very narrow view of what really happens in the world, and that other people might do things differently, have other traditions and other customs. 

    It wasn't until I really began talking to people and allowing myself to 'entertain' other ideas, that I realized that Santa Claus wasn't something done in every household.  In fact, there were some families I admired who loved one another, and their kids grew up well, and they were close, who didn't do the Santa Claus thing.

    I won't lie.  At first I was appalled, "I know you love Jesus, but seriously, that's pushing it a little too far.  What is Santa going to hurt and what does he have to do with your faith?"  I'll admit, I thought this for a long time.  Then, I met yet another family in our little small town that didn't do Santa, and I began to wonder why.  What was their reason?  So I asked.

    Family 1 decided early on that it would be impossible to do Santa Claus / Easter Bunny / Tooth Fairy without consistently lying to their kids for years upon years.  They also knew that eventually there would be a time that they'd have to 'come clean'.  Trying to raise children of integrity and trust, they didn't know how to balance the years upon years of teaching their kids to be truthful and honest, and then spring on them one day that they'd been lying to them for possibly the past decade of their lives. 
    Hmmm... I never thought of that. 

    Family 2 just decided that if Christmas was, indeed, about Jesus (and, it is, indeed about Jesus, solely, completely, whole-heartedly, Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ) then why would or should another 'man' share in the glory that is rightfully God's?  Hmmmm, another true statement. 

    And I'll admit again.  I was not convinced at this point, but I did now have some legitimate information in my head to allow myself, if I so chose, to step out of the traditional 'box' and change things if I wanted to. 

    Then Aaron and I got married and believe it or not, long before Bryton was on the scene we had 'the talk'.  In his single life, as well, he had experienced the same battle, the same thoughts, the same debate.  So we decided we would both continue to pray about it, think on it, and when the time came, we'd make a decision. 

    And the time came... kind of.  Bryton was born in November and Christmas was right around the corner.  We talked about what we'd do about 'Santa', but decided he wasn't going to remember that Christmas anyway, and though we didn't buy any 'from Santa' gifts for him, we didn't make a decision not to at that point, either. 

    The next year was relatively the same, still too young to have any memory of Santa, or to have any memory of what he really 'got' for Christmas even, so again, we moved the decision a little further down the road. 

    And that brings us to today.  It's doubtful that Bryton will remember much about Christmas this year, either, but he is definitely alert enough and understands enough to know who presents come from, etc.  That meant it was time for us to make a decision.  And this decision was hard.   Here's what we were dealing with:

    Pros (of not doing Santa) -
    • We never have to feel as if we've 'lied' to our kids about a fictional character being real. 
    • We can concentrate completely on Jesus as the number 1 and only reason that we celebrate Christmas.
    • Our kids eventually learn the sacrifice and effort put out by their parents and relatives to provide for them gifts that they not only want, but reflects our care and interest in them.  Those gifts won't be coming from a man they've never met before.  And frankly, I'll be honest, I think it'd peeve me off a little bit for some fictional guy to get all of the credit for the hard work put into the Christmas gifts Aaron and I get for them!  (P.S. - I hope this is clear, our kids will still get gifts for Christmas.)  
    • The 'sneakiness' is a whole lot easier when you are just trying to hide gifts from yourself, and not get Santa gifts wrapped, hidden, and not under the tree until Christmas eve after kids go to bed.  
    Cons (of not doing Santa) -
    • The grandparents love it.  My mother in law has experienced Santa with an older grandson, and I'm not going to lie, being around for part of it, it was fun watching his eyes light up when he thought Santa was flying over head.  
    • (And probably the biggest)  I don't want my kids to ruin it for other kids.  This was obviously a difficult decision for us to come to as a family, so we cast zero judgment on any family that would decide to do Santa.  In our opinion, this really has a lot to do with preference, and our kids should not ruin the preference that another family has about whether to do Santa.  I assure you now, if my child is in your child's class in school, I will do my very best to make sure your child doesn't come home and say 'Bryton told me there's no Santa Claus'.  We figure we have some time to work those kinks out. 
    • And how's this for a random one.  I cannot wait to pack our kids up someday when they are old enough and take them to Disney World.  It's such a magical place for everyone, but especially to kids!  So... how do we address the characters there?  Technically they are just that, characters... people in costumes.  So how to deal with this:  well, I don't think we'll hype up the characters a whole lot.  I don't ever remember a time in my mind when my mom had to tell me that Mickey Mouse didn't really exist.  I mean, seriously, I'm pretty sure I figured that one out on my own.  If they get to Disney and run into Mickey and it excites them, we'll go along with the excitement, take a picture and move along... no words from mom or dad about it.  If I was going to oust all characters we'd never watch tv or go to a movie either.  More about this in relation to Santa in a minute.  
    After much consideration for us, the pros definitely outweighed the cons on a priority basis for us.  So, that being said, this is how we are not doing Santa in our house:
    • Santa is not prohibited.  No.  Santa will be taught about (St. Nick) and our kids will know who he was historically.  There's a lot to be learned from the story of St. Nick about our caring about others (as Jesus would), and the Christian characteristics he displayed.  So our kids will recognize a picture of Santa, or Santa Claus hats, or will be able to talk about him like they know something about him.  We won't take our kids out of school for 'Holiday parties' (though I may be tempted to send my kid in with a shirt on that says "Christmas is about Jesus" :)  And I won't get angry or upset, or even flinch if my kid colors or makes something Santa related in school.  This will not bother me at all.  Frankly, Santa just won't bring gifts to our house on Christmas eve, and he won't be talked about as if he's a real person that still exists.  Jesus is a real person that still exists, so we'll talk about Him conquering death, not Santa Claus. 
    • Instead of gifts from Santa our kids will receive gifts from us.  Amongst those gifts we'll include a 'gold gift', a 'frankincense gift', and a 'myrrh gift'.  (Thanks Files for this idea!)  Their gold gift will be something they really really want.  The frankincense gift will be something for them spiritually (Bryton's getting a toddler Bible this year).  The myrrh gift is something for their body (clothing or cologne / perfume, etc.)  They'll get other gifts besides these, but these will be their special gifts.  (Also a side note:  our kids will still receive Easter baskets... from us... and we'll do fun things in place of the tooth fairy - how about an DQ ice cream cone each time a tooth falls out ;) 
    • Each child will get a stocking each year.  The goal with the stockings is to do a secret delivery (like a Secret Santa), where we all choose names between the four of us and that person fills the stocking for the person they choose.  I think this could be a fun thing to do, and a way that we could include grandparents in on the 'Santa-like' fun.  So Aaron and I don't know each year who all has whom, we can equip each set of grandparents with the stocking 'budget' and a kid, who can relay to them who their 'person' is.  I hope this is something our kids get excited about someday.  I really want them to appreciate the joy of giving.  They may even be required to 'earn' their stocking money... though it won't require much ;) 
    • Lastly - I'm excited to have family traditions that allow us to think of others more than ourselves in the holiday season.  More to come on this later!  
    So anyhow - there it is... the Gregg family and their Santa policy.  

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Walgreens Couponing and Halloween Update

    Well scratch the elf for Bryton for Halloween, he's instantly become Santa Claus ( ironic, since we won't be doing the 'Santa thing' in our house, I guess we should blog our decision on that too, huh?)  Anyway, we're still going to acknowledge Santa as a fictional character and make believe - so Bryton is dressing up as Santa Claus for halloween, and Aaron and I are elves ;) Should make for a good time! You guys knew I loved Christmas!

    Anyway did a quick trip to C-dale today to do some Walgreens, Dollar Tree, and Hobby Lobby shopping.  2 out of 3 experiences were good, so that isn't too bad. 

    Walgreens went like this, I bought:
    2 bottles of 'DayQuil' (20% more free in each)
    6 Nivea Lip Care Products
    A Schick Hydro 3 Razor
    Schick Hyrdo Shaving Cream
    Some 'Peeps' Halloween candy (I'm a sucker and can't pass these up!)

    I used:
    1 $1 off 1 Vicks Product (wish I would have had two of those coupons :( )
    2 $1 off 1 Nivea Lip Care product
    2 $2 off 2 Nivea Lip Care products
    1 $4 off 1 Schich Hydro 3
    1 Buy a Schick Razor get a Schick shaving cream free coupon (that I just happened to find ON the razor I purchased)

    Before coupons My total was $29 and some change
    After coupons my total was $15.35
    I received back $9 in register rewards
    thus it was like I spent $6.35 for all you see listed above!  I was pretty proud of this trip! 

    I went to the Dollar Tree because I know they have the cheapest options in the way of 'party supplies'.  I'm having fun creating Bryton's Seussical 2nd Birthday Party on a budget, and so far I think I'm doing pretty good.  1 way I keep costs down for his party:  I found really cute Dr. Seuss things at, where I purchased a couple packages of dessert plates, dinner plates, napkins, and some stickers.  The kicker is, I only purchase about half of those particular items that I need (besides the stickers).  I then match plain colored plates, napkins, etc to the printed ones, as they are usually much cheaper but I still get the same 'effect' with the printed plates.  Especially for the kiddos.  So I went to Dollar Tree to pick up 6 table covers, a package of dinner plates, a package of dessert plates, a package of napkins, some curling ribbon, and a few other small items.  I spent around $25 at Birthday Expresses website to purchase the things I mentioned above (in smaller quantities, mind you), and spent about $11 to finish it all out AND buy excess at the Dollar Tree. 

    I went to Hobby Lobby to see about some white gift bags.  (The stickers are going to go on the front of white sacks to make the 'treat bags' for the kiddos to take home.)  Talk about it a disaster... not only did they not have any of those at a decent price, but I did pick up some streamers (they had the colors I wanted whereas Dollar Tree did not), and some baking cups for cupcakes.  Three items, a whopping four dollars in my cart.  We were working on about 12:15 when we got in line, so I knew we needed to get through somewhat quick so I could get B home, changed and down for a nap, and low and behold, I've never waited so ridiculously long in such an unbelievably slow work environment in all of my life.  There were two people in front of me, one actually checking out, the other behind her holding 3 balls of yarn, and me, with my three items, and at 12:31 (I looked at my phone to see what time it was), I finally pushed the cart aside, took Bryton out of it, and headed for the door.  On the way out the door, the lady with the yarn STILL hadn't paid.  Huge disappointment.  I try to limit our trips to C-dale to save the gas, so it would have been nice to have got it all done today, but it was clear we were going nowhere quickly.

    So anyway - there it is, the day's shopping trip!  It's a good week to scout out Walgreens!  Go check it out!

    Crock Pot Applesauce

    Since we've decided on me being a stay at home mom until after baby number two gets here, I've found myself much more apt to try more recipes and make things at home more often.  Half of the reason for that is because I have the time for it, the other half, well, let's just say this time of year helps :)
    So I found a recipe on one of the blogs I follow for crockpot applesauce and decided to give it a try.  I was surprised how easy it was!
    What you need:
    6 medium apples, peeled, cored and chunked into pieces
    1/2 cup of water
    1 tsp - 1 tbsp cinnamon (depending on how you like it)
    1 tsp of sugar (again, depending on how you like it and how sweet your apples are)
    1/2 tsp of vanilla

    Put apples in the crockpot.  Mix all other ingredients together and then pour them over the apples.  Mix them all so the apples are well coated.  Cook on high, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft and 'mashable'.  I ended up mashing mine with the wooden spoon I used to stir them.
    Not only does it make for a great fall treat, but I know what I'm putting in my family's bodies and it makes my house smell realllly good ;)
    Until next time -

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    12 Dates of Christmas

    Right after Aaron and I had Bryton we knew Christmas was just around the corner.  I was still in healing mode, our marriage was in adjustment mode, and Bryton was in, well, baby mode.  Needless to say we were tired, emotionally and physically, we were frustrated, and we were trying to figure out how to properly budget for our new little 'bundle' of joy. 
    After a long colicky night one night (that resulted in an ER trip to make sure my little man wasn't dehydrated after refusing a bottle for 14 hours or so) we decided to head on up to the state football game and 'get away' for the first time.  Thank God grammy was willing to watch B.  It was a nice refreshing, baby free day... much needed at that point, and on our way up and on our way home Aaron and I got to really 'talk' (about anything besides Bryton) for the first time since Bryton was born.  In our talking Aaron mentioned a suggestion for our Christmas that year; rather than buying each other expensive gifts and possibly pushing ourselves further than our comfort at that point, he suggested that we instead do 12 'dates' of Christmas.  We'd start planning them then (I got to choose 6, he got to choose 6), and the last one would be on Christmas day. 
    Granted, he fessed that he'd heard the idea on Oprah and that he liked it, but still yet,  I was overly impressed that he'd not only humor an idea like this, but he'd suggest it!  Sure, I'll agree to something that I know is going to require him to put more thought in my gift than money! 

    So it was on.
    That year we had an amazing Christmas.  Not all of our dates were 'out' because who can afford a sitter 12 days in a row, but all of our dates were fun.  Aaron chose things like a 'video game night' where we ate snacks (basically for dinner) and played video games together all evening, and another night where we made a meal completely from scratch, with ingredients we'd never heard of, together.  We fixed PF Changs lettuce wraps and mongolian beef for supper in our kitchen that night.  One night we went to the free musical put on by First Baptist Church Marion.  (always a good time)  Another night we were at his parent's house and we drove through a maze of Christmas lights in the convertible covered up with a blanket.  We went out to eat and Christmas shopping for B one night.  I can remember being in Marion at Sam's and Bryton was fussing.  We were taking turns carrying him and feeding him through Sams that night.  We laughed so hard about that.  The memories are so good. 
    This year will be two years from that Christmas, and last year we didn't do the 12 dates.  Life was busy, time was short, Bryton was older so it was harder to take him on some of those dates, or him to be 'home' for those dates and them still seem like 'dates, so we resorted back to just the ho hum of gift giving.  (Ahem, okay, I'm not going to lie, I love gift giving.  I love the shopping ahead of time, I love the hustle bustle, I love the wrapping presents, and how they look under the tree, I love the surprise of it, I love seeing people's faces when they open a gift from us... I just love it.) 
    So this year I was thinking about it.  Technically we can 'afford' to buy gifts for each other this year, and, like stated above, I like buying gifts for each other.  But, I thoroughly enjoyed the 12 dates of Christmas that we did just a couple years back.  SO - we've decided to combine the two.  Aaron and I are going to buy for each other, but we'll find a way to do it in moderation.  This year, well add to the 12 'dates' of Christmas by including Bryton in some of the festivities.  Maybe Aaron and I will both choose 6 things each, but we'll include Bryton in four of those (so we don't have to spend a ton on sitters).  I'm thinking things like decorating cookies as a family, going to do lights together as a family, of course I'd love to do FBC Marion's Christmas play again, etc. etc.  Some things we may be able to do after Bryton goes to bed, like do a movie or video game night, but one way or another, it's a tradition I'd like to keep around as long as kids allow it.  I hope it's something that they can look forward to as much as mom and dad do. 
    Family traditions are very important to me.  Even when Aaron and I were dating we'd get the house all dimmed down, put some Christmas music on, and get something sweet or Christmasy smelling the house up and decorate the Christmas tree together.  I look forward to that again this year. 
    I believe some of God's greatest blessings are the times we get to spend with each other, after all, Aaron and Bryton (and baby 2) are gifts given to me by my heavenly father.  After all, they both have taught me so much more about Him than I could have ever learned on my own.
    That being said, I'm so thoroughly excited to enjoy some memory making this year with my family!  Yet another blessing. 

    Monday, October 4, 2010


    I'm not sure if any of you are already signed up for this site, but if you aren't you should be!  I've actually been a member for quite some time, but I've really just started watching the site and buying in on some of the deals. 
    The 'just' of it is this:  If companies know that a lot of people are going to buy something, they can sale the product less expensively because they know they will still make a profit on it.  Also, it's exposing their product to a lot of people.  The way groupon works is that a company makes 'available' a deal and offers it on the site (there are others out there as well).  The company requires a certain number of people to 'buy in' to a deal for the deal to be 'on', but as soon as that number is reached the deal becomes effective.  Make sure you read all of the print because the groupons do expire, though I've not found any groupon deals that have insanely fast expiration dates.  There are also periods that you must wait before being able to use your groupon, but it's usually a processing time period of a day or two.  That being said, here are my most recent deals:
    The other day there was a groupon for  (NOTE:  Groupon separates their websites by city, so I usually just look at the St. Louis deals, but this one was in Baltimore.  If they are online deals, you don't have to be in the 'area' to purchase and use them!)  The groupon was $30 towards the website (which couldn't include taxes or shipping), but you paid just $15.  I've been struggling on what to make us all for halloween, when I decided with a chance at half off costumes I should go check it out.  I'm not going to lie, I looked at kids costumes for like an hour, then womens, then mens... when finally I found a Buddy the Elf costume in the men's category for almost 70% off for that day only!  I saw that it was still available and remembered that there was a Happy Holly Days costume in the women's section that I could 'dress up' to look like Jovie during her days in the department store.  I quickly bought the groupon, used it, and spent $7 to get those two costumes to our door!
    Here is the costume I bought for Aaron (it was just $22 the day I ordered it!).  He's safe, no tights.  And here is the costume I bought for myself.  $10!  Granted, I need some tights and a Santa hat to make the costume really what I want it to be, but that's where groupon number 2 comes in! 
    So, today, I noticed there was a groupon for with the same criteria.  $15 for $30 in merchandise, so I decided to head on over to costumehub to see if they had any of the costumes I've been looking at for Bryton to fit our theme (a Santa or a Snowman... though we really wanted to try to find an Elf to make him one of us).  So, I'm checking out their website and I find all of these costumes well within the $30 range on their website!  In fact, they were all cheap enough that I could add my red tights and my Santa hat and be just at $30, even for the most expensive costume!  So, it's looking like Bryton is going to be an Elf just like us! 
    Bryton's Halloween Costume!
    If you haven't done your halloween costume shopping yet, I suggest you go check out their website and the groupon which is the side deal on St. Louis' today! 
    Lastly, I've been dying to go to some movies lately.  Bryton is finally old enough where he can be watched without any fear of getting a phone call (okay, he's been old enough for this for about 15 months now), and I'd say it's time for us to go enjoy some dates at the movie theater.  There's a groupon in Jacksonville today that is $20 for 4 movie theater tickets!  The cool thing, they don't expire until January 5, you don't have to use them all in the same trip, and the tickets come from fandango or, so 98% of theaters are included!  The tickets are ALSO good for imax or 3d showings!  You can't beat $5 for a good Christmas 3d movie!  I'm so excited I can't hardly wait!  So we bought into those too!  A good movie is hard to pass up :)
    Go check out and sign up for groupon now!  Check out this link!

    Now is a Great time to Coupon at kroger!

    Mega Events at Kroger are always my kind of thing, and its seemed over the summer it's been really hard to find those great deals in our area.  You know, the ones that almost surprise you when you see how much all of that is really going to cost you. 
    Well:  for those of you who have any coupons on hand, and even those of you who don't, this Kroger event is worth your time! 
    Right now Kroger has a "buy 10 participating items and get $5 off of your overall total" sale, making for some really inexpensive items, especially if paired with coupons.  Here's what my shopping consisted of yesterday.  (BTW, this completed my menu plan for the next 10 days, minus another trip to buy some fresh produce, namely fruit, in between.  So the total you see reflects the cost to feed our family for a week and a half as we are eating a lot of what we already have in cabinets.)
    1.  Sara Lee Honey Wheat bread (our favorite, just .99 with the deal, normally like 2.17!)
    2.  1 Gallon 100% Apple Juice (Kroger brand)
    3. - 4.  Microwavable Mac n cheese (makes good lunch side dishes.. this is 3 and 4 because I got 2 of them)
    5.  Turkey Bacon
    6.  Stouffers Family Sized Frozen Lasagna meal
    7. 8. 9. & 10. Green Giant Fresh Valley Steamers Frozen Vegetables
    11. Chips Ahoy Reeses Cup Cookies
    12. Lemon (for the lemon water I drink constantly)
    13. & 14. Two cans of Kroger fruit (in fruit juice, NOT syrup)
    15. 1 lb of hamburger
    16. 1/2 gallon of Vitamin D Milk
    17. 18. 19. 20. 21 - Philadelphia Cream Cheese (I know I know, it's five sticks of cream cheese, but these cost me ZERO out of pocket, and actually they paid me .05 to take them, so I did.  We'll be having some taco dip one day, may make Aaron some dip he likes with jalepeno jelly or sweet pepper relish, we'll have cherry delight I'm sure, and I can make heaven.  We'll definitely use this before it expires at the end of January!) 
    22. & 23.  2 containers of Oscar Meyer Deli Fresh meat (ham and turkey)
    24. & 25.  New York Garlic Bread (Got one garlic bread and one breadstick... these go great as sides with italian food or with a plain seasoned chicken meal with a veggie and fruit as a side)
    26. 1 Package Nestle Tollhouse White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
    27. Wheat Thins new Honey Wheat Snack Styx

    There you have it:  27 items
    My out of pocket cost for all of these items (and the food to feed my family + lots of Snack / special occasion food + lots of stockpile items) = $26!   I paid less than $1 per item!

    I have a few other coupons I'd like to use (including the Nabisco coupon that is on their facebook page today, which will count two items towards another 10 and I'll get one of the chips ahoy cookies for .99 and I'll get the other one free!) so I'll be heading back to Kroger this week to get some jello, 2 more bags of frozen veggies, two more things of cookies to bake, two more things of chips ahoy cookies, probably another loaf of bread, and a couple other things.  May as well stock up for next to nothing while I can! 
    It's a good time to be a Kroger shopper!