Learning to Let Go

Happy New Year!

OK, yes, I know it is February.

Yes, I also know that I’ve posted very little the last two months.

And yes, I missed writing.

My focus was just elsewhere.

Life has a way of throwing chaos into our perfectly arranged schedules; car accidents, changes in college plans, early graduation, holiday travel, and this momma beginning a new full-time job….  If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen a glimpse of what’s happening in our life including many of the above mentioned things. While these little changes weren’t drastic, there is one more.

After five years here in South Carolina, we are moving.

While I have known this was a possibility for months (my Audley has been very unhappy with his job for about 8 months now), reality hit in December when after countless leads, interviews, glimmers of hope, disappointments and a flat-out “no”, what we were praying for  and least expected was offered to us.

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Honestly, it is not the ideal time with graduation, a wedding, and other big events in the near future, but apparently God felt it was the right time and it is actually a really good thing for us.  It’s also been good for my own spiritual life, something I really needed.

My prayer life has always been weak.  Growing up in a Christian home, I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve been told to “just give it all to God”.  It sounds so simple, but my version of giving it to God has always been “here you go” and then proceed to tell Him how to do His job.  It’s so difficult to relinquish control.

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I guess we are all like that from time to time.  As a mother I think it’s only natural to fix things, but I couldn’t fix my husbands disappointments with work.  The one thing I could do is continue to support, encourage, and build him up as I have done for nearly twenty-two years now.  As Audley’s frustrations began to grow, our prayer life actually grew stronger with them, which is the opposite of how we normally deal with stresses in our lives.  We found ourselves praying together more, and for the first time in my life I found myself giving my stresses, anguish and questions to God and not telling Him what to do!  I didn’t want the mess anymore!

Let me tell you, it’s a liberating feeling to finally completely surrender control!

It’s funny when I look back on my youth and think of the things I prayed for: to make Georgia state honor band, an “A” on a test I didn’t study for, make the softball team, a later curfew, or to wear makeup like my girlfriends… These things were trivial, but I wasn’t afraid to pray for them.  As adults it’s easy to forget the trivial and think only the big things matter like sickness, protection, forgiveness.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve rehearsed a standard prayer and can’t deviate from it because that is what an adult would do!

Oh to have that childlike faith of saying whatever is on my mind again!

The crazy thing is, we can have it, we just have to humble ourselves like we did years ago!

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So those precious moments when my son prayed for a dog or to get a hit in a baseball game as a little boy and the time his 16-year-old self recently thanked God for “letting his dad live to be so old” (Audley is 45…) and to let his sister not kill him with her driving on the way to school are the same way we should be willing to open up and pray as adults!

After experiencing the results of letting God take control, it’s something I plan to continue pursuing.

So, where will move number 14 take us?

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We will be in the suburbs of Atlanta.  Two hours from MacKenzie when she marries in June, just under two hours from Madeline when she heads to Point University to play lacrosse in the fall and Just over two hours from our oldest, Samantha and her hubby, as well as my parents in Tennessee.  Perfectly centered to be more available for all of our family!

Bradley has asked that we make the move as soon as possible so that he can jump in and get involved to finish his junior year, making his senior year much easier to begin.  He’s even been researching school districts on his on.

I’d say that boy of mine has been doing his own praying and has complete faith God will guide him through this as well.

Have a fabulous weekend my friends!

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A Blue Willow Autumn Tablescape

Happy Fall Y’all!  Are you all decorated and ready to kick off the flurry of holidays?  I think we are all set in our home, so next comes the fun of opening our home to friends and planning company dinners.

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I’ve always loved to set a pretty and often over-the-top table for our family at random times, so when company is coming it’s just natural to do a little more!  Setting a pretty table is my way of creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere.  Our guests are very special to us, and I try to show that feeling by the little things that can make dinner intimate and unique.

Nature and traditional color associated with autumn was my inspiration for the table.  For this particular setting I decided that a little nontraditional blue was the perfect combination for those traditional and vivid fall colors.

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I love to use real pumpkins in my decorating because they fit any fall theme, but I can also cook with some of them as needed for Pumpkin pies and the like, so they are useful as well!

This centerpiece was so easy to put together!  Using a variety of pumpkins, I arranged them on top of the table around an old tobacco jar that was picked up at Scott’s Antique market in Atlanta filled with $5 grocery store flowers and cut greenery from the yard.

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The Dutch blue and white candle sticks were from a local thrift store.  Final touches of a leafy garland and deer antlers add more layers of natural elements to pull it all together.

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When I put together a large centerpiece on the table as I did here, it is generally because I am also setting up a buffet to serve from.  It allows the table to be pretty, and people can spend more time enjoying their meal instead of constantly passing food around!

The Blue Willow china was handed down from my mom, while the blue transfer-ware plates are from a local antique/thrift store.

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The crystal has been our favorite for many a dinner party for 21 years now. We didn’t want folks spending a lot of money on something that could be considered frivolous when we married, so Audley and I picked out this Longchamp Crystal that is beautiful and definitely affordable!

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I love using thrift store finds in my decorating as it goes to show that you do have to have expensive dinnerware to create a warm and inviting table.

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Well, our first autumn themed table of the season is set and ready!

How are you decorating your table this year?

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Back-To-School Success

August is coming to a close, and the three remaining kids at home have all returned to school for the year.  One has gone back to USC for her sophomore year, then I have a junior & senior to keep me running like a mad woman for the next nine months!

You would think after twenty years of “First Days” (my oldest is 24 now) I would have the ability to pull off a flawless First Day, but the truth is, I don’t have a clue.  There is always something that doesn’t go as planned, which is why this year we found ourselves doing back-to-school shopping at 10:30 pm the night before classes were to resume!

While I may not have mastered the art of a perfect First Day of School, I have learned several things over the last twenty years that do make those First Days and every day thereafter so much easier to manage.

So, here are eight simple things you can try to make the beginning of the school year a wee bit easier in your home!

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1. Plan your breakfast/mornings ahead of time to minimize chaos.  Plan out your menu and even go as far to set the table the evening before.

Don’t teach your kids to eat on the run, it’s a horrible habit that is very difficult to break and can lead to other unhealthy habits as they get older!

Breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate.  If you want to serve cereal and milk, by all means serve it, just go an extra step by setting out bowls, spoons, juice glasses, etc.,  early so you aren’t slinging everything around the next morning trying to rush out the door!

If you prefer to cook, plan ahead and make sure you are up early enough to do it!  Breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate, just planned and easy to execute.  Pancakes (yes, from a mix) are always an easy option as are scrambled eggs and bacon.  One of my favorite things to make for morning breakfast is homemade muffins.  These are so easy and so flavorful.  Give them a try!

Mixed Berry Muffins

2. Sign all paperwork and homework the day before.  There is no worse feeling than to have a wad of paperwork shoved into your face five minutes before you walk out the door for school.  Seriously, it DOES NOT get any better when your kids become teenagers, so make the conscious effort to ask your kids if they have anything that you need to sign or review when they are pulling things out of their backpacks for homework.

3. Set aside a jar or special bank to hold only lunch/fee money.  As each pay day arrives, go ahead and count out what you know your kids need for lunch each day (should they buy) and then stick an extra $5, $10, or $15 in the jar for emergency fees.  If your kids carry their lunch, still have an emergency fee jar available.  That speedo for swim team that was $50 last year may have gone up to $65 this year, tee-shirts for homecoming are $15 x’s two or three, and for some reason there is never enough notice when field trips are planned.  This emergency fee money is one of the best things I ever implemented in our home!

4. If you plan for your kids to carry their lunches, have them assist you in packing them the night before.  While you make sandwiches or pasta salad, they can be getting ziplock bags, fruit, chips or crackers, and granola bars to add.  Not a fan of store bought packaged food?  Try this easy, peasy granola bar recipe.  You’ll all love this one and the kids can mix them up as well!

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We have a tradition of having homemade chicken salad each year for the first day (and many other days through the year).  While I love to take the time to bake my own chicken, for the salad, sometimes, grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the deli is a delicious, time-saving option when lacrosse practice has run over the night before.

Scrumptious Chicken Salad

Also, pack lunches in age appropriate bags or containers.  My 16 year old son has absolutely no desire to carry a lunch box.  He is also a growing body builder, so he doesn’t carry sandwiches, but grilled chicken.  We found a great lunch kit that allows him to pack his protein powder and aminos as well as help him measure out the chicken or salmon he might carry.

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Now my seventeen year old daughter?  Give that girl a monogrammed bag please!

5. Keep a dry erase calendar in your kitchen.  The first of every month take 20-30 minutes and update it with everything you know that is on your schedule from dentist appointments to sports practice.

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And to think, August isn’t a busy month for us!

I also add holidays, youth group events, my personal schedule and my husbands travel schedule.  You can also color-code this, giving each family member their own color.  When the kids are older have them add things that come up after your calendar is up to help keep everything current. Doing this becomes a visual reminder for everyone in the house, especially teenagers who need that reminder of some things every now and then.

6.  Purchase a day planner and package of colored pens for each preteen and teenager to help teach them how to organize their life and time.

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There are some awesome planners that begin in July (generally when early practices for high school sports begin) and are tailored to fit the school year by month.  I also use the same style calendar so that we are on the same page.  Our planners are organized so that homework is one color, sports practices another color, appointments yet another color, and youth group/church activities another.  It works well for keeping track of little details most teenagers seem to forget.  This has worked wonderful for my girls, and now I have my son doing this as well.  You can find adorable planners at Barnes and Noble, Swoozies, and Target.  Boys of course want a more manly look, so check out Staples for a professional planner for him.

7.  Set a specific time for turning off social media and going to bed.  My kids have never been allowed to watch TV on school days, but now we face the battle of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Netflix on their iGadgets and Kindles.  While I would like to think that they are old enough for me not to have to monitor them, they are still kids.  At 10:00 PM I want the electronic devices off.  If they don’t comply, the item becomes mine.  Rest is so important to these growing bodies.  Even though they don’t want to admit they are tired, their bodies are whipped, and they need at least seven hours of sleep. How else does a 16 year old boy recover from growing 12 1/2 inches in two years?!

8. Start each day with a devotion or prayer.  This is a great way to begin the school day on a positive note.  You can find devotional books with little 2-minute devos at Walmart, Barnes and Noble and (don’t laugh) truck stops like TA or Loves.  Let the kids read so that it makes a little more of an impact on them.  We kicked our year off with Audley offering a prayer for our kids.  It was such a special time, especially since he is usually on the road traveling for work.  It was also a reminder that while you often hear “it takes a village to raise a child,” the reality is 95% of what a child learns and habits they develop come from the home, so why not give them positive vibes to carry with them through life.

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I picked this up at Family Christian Stores as a deal for $5.00.  Lifeway and FCS are great for having these little bargains at the registers!

I hope your First Days and all the ones following while not perfect, are a wee bit easier to manage this year!

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It’s A Shiny New Year!

I’m not sure when or how, but the holidays came and went in the blink of an eye and here we are, through the first week of a shiny new year!  I love a new year, don’t you?  It’s such a beautiful time when we have the hope of leaving a conflicted time behind us and begin anew with a beautiful, clean slate.

Resolutions have never been something I’ve made in the past (who really keeps them?), but for some reason I felt a little more compelled to do so this year.

You see, I seem to have found myself at a little crossroads of sorts filled with inner turmoil and conflict as 2015 rolled into 2016.  It’s time to make some changes and focus on improving myself.  For some unknown reason I am my own greatest enemy and I keep sabotaging myself because of self-esteem issues and trying to please everyone else.  These emotions I am experiencing are affecting my little family as well, and I do not want that at all!

With a season of change looming on the horizon, we kicked our New Year off in the best way possible with a little family get-away to the Florida Keys.  This was the first time in twenty-one years we turned off football and parties; leaving our traditions behind to start our year off on the right track!  It’s inspired me to definitely focus less on the world and more on my family, our spiritual lives and our well-being.

New Years Eve Sunset cruise on the Jolly II Rover sailing from the port at Key West.

New Years Eve Sunset cruise on the Jolly II Rover sailing from the port at Key West.

This isn’t going to be a “new year, new me” post, but more of a “new year let’s get our act together” post!

“The wife and mother in a family often ‘sets the tone’ in the home. The ‘tone’ God wants her to set is one of joy, optimism, and a delight in the Lord and in her family.”

~ Martha Peace

So here are a few of my resolutions to fill this clean slate that is 2016:

*Let go and let God.  I spend so much time trying to control every aspect of my life that I am losing my relationship with God.  It’s time to give Him all of my life, let Him take control and become number one in my life again.  As a wife and momma I have the ability to make our home in a way that either brings my family closer to God or tears them away.  I for sure don’t want to do the later by neglecting God in my own life.

“Unless the LORD builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain…”

~Psalm 127:1

*Create balance and harmony between work and home.  I let my job stress me out so much that it is truly affecting the atmosphere of our home.  It’s not good for my husband, my children, nor myself.

I'm in the process of creating my own space for keeping our family organized as well as a place that I can slip away to regroup and refocus.

I’m in the process of creating my own space for keeping our family organized as well as a place that I can slip away to regroup and refocus.

When it comes to developing character strength, inner security and unique personal and interpersonal talents and skills in a child, no institution can or ever will compare with, or effectively substitute for, the home’s potential for positive influence.
~Stephen Covey

*Start saying “no”.   There are many sides to this “NO”…. “No” to working when I’m not scheduled (after Elizabeth Arden gift with purchase ends… I do have a customer base to be available for and goals to meet as a part of my job).  “No” to over-extending myself trying to play perfect mom.  “No” to people pleasing, and “NO” to feeling serious mom-guilt when circumstances beyond my control affect little things in my life.

It's time to stop and smell the flowers instead of trying to "Keep up with the Jones'" No pun indended.

It’s time to stop and smell the flowers instead of trying to “Keep up with the Jones'”
No pun intended.

*Get back on track with my health and fitness goals.  I have maintained my weight for over a year now, but it is not the goal I set for myself a couple of years ago.  It’s time to quit being lazy while maintaining, and hit those goals!  Besides, if I am not happy with myself nor am I as healthy as I should be how can I take care of my family?  They look to me as an example and I need to be that example 24-7 in all aspects of life!

This is how I've changed in the last couple of years; it is time to continue my journey. When I have my physical in June I want the nurse to tell me I am no longer in the obese catagory when she calculates my BMI.

This is how I’ve changed in the last couple of years; it is time to continue my journey. When I have my physical in June I want the nurse to tell me I am no longer in the obese category when she calculates my BMI.

*Tackle my to-do list and make progress!  I have dabbled in so many projects that are only half complete over the last several months that it’s really embarrassing to have nothing to show for it.  It is time to clean, sand, paint, decorate, and organize our house and truly make it a home!

desk project

*Incorporate more simple goodness into my home and in my own life in an effort to create a blessed and cherished atmosphere for us all.  Detoxing from technology (phones, kindles, etc…) is at the top of this list, closely followed by decluttering, less television and more games, books and outdoor activities.

I also plan to sit down and take in every page of this beautiful and inspiring book (Modern Mix) by my friend Eddie Ross!

I also plan to sit down and take in every page of this beautiful and inspiring book (Modern Mix) by my friend Eddie Ross!

Strength of character may be learned at work, but beauty of character is learned at home.
~Henry Drummond

*Open up our home more to friends and loved-ones, making everyone welcome, wanted and cherished.  I miss having friends over to play cards, watch the “big game” or dine with us.  There is no reason that we stopped, except excuses.  Our doors are open, our table is set and it’s time to focus on building personal relationships with others, not a text or Facebook relationship. When people leave our home, I want them to feel appreciated and wanted in our life.

table setting

There are also some smaller tasks to focus on this year, but these are the ones that have sat on my heart most heavily and the resolutions I fully intend to keep. When 2016 ends, I want to look back and truthfully say this was the year I kept all my resolutions and made a positive change in my life!  I also want my children to know setting goals to improve themselves in all aspects of life is most important and not something they should take lightly.  At the end of the day I want to be an example they can be proud to emulate in their own adult lives.  Setting and keeping positive goals that benefit us all is a great way to help with that!

The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.
~Confucius

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Did you make resolutions this year?  I would love to hear about them!

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