Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Blessings of Christmastime

This Christmas season has been a blessed one for me. Although it was fairly quiet, I was still able to talk with my loved ones far away and take time to ...be still!

My two week break from work started with me getting sick. But it was short lived and actually a way to force me to rest. I caught up on much reading. I read many of my favorite Christmas devotionals, including A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Thankfully, I was well enough to accept an invitation from a good friend to go to The Phoenician for their amazing Christmas tea. Terri has graciously invited me for at least 16 years. We began the tradition when her dear mom Eileen was still alive. So many memories of seeing her mom walk up to the piano player and sit singing familiar songs.
The food at this tea is absolutely amazing! I was definitely  not watching my calories as I accepted seconds. :)

I love my church! And I especially love my church at Christmastime. We have a wonderful choir with many talented singers. I love singing many of the familiar Christmas carols.

Greg and I had a quiet evening on Christmas Eve and then awakened to have our traditional bagels and lox for breakfast. I'm not sure how we got started with this tradition but we always look forward to it.

Of course, I always keep Norwegian waffles on hand though. There's something about the taste of cardamom that reminds me of home.

Although our condo is small, I do believe we've created a very warm and inviting place to live. Sometimes I think back on previous Christmases in our beautiful large home and feel a bit nostalgic. But then I quickly remember how far we've come these last few years.

I realize it's not so important as to where you live. It's really what's in our hearts that we bring to any home.

I love this photo provided by Edie Melson of The Write Conversation.
I came home from work loaded with so many gift bags and goodies from students, parents and co-workers. I felt blessed!

One special moment for me was when I was called out of our preschool classroom to see the faces of five preschool teachers. They welcomed me to their team and handed me a gift. It was an Origami lanyard locket to hold my work keys and photo ID card. Each teacher gave me a charm to place inside. One was a camera charm. Another was an apple, books and a cross. They knew me well! How special and touching this gift was to me and I will be able to wear it around my neck each day at work.

I am so glad that I was able to keep the focus on Jesus this Christmas season. After all, He is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

I have less than a week before returning to work full time in a new classroom filled with little mini-mustangs. I want to spend this time reflecting on the lessons of 2014. I always look forward to a new year and this one is no different. I want to learn from the past; both good and bad. I want to make wise choices.

Last Sunday, Pastor Scott Savage preached a wonderful sermon on John 15. The bottom line to his message about the new year was this ...Be With God.

How was your Christmas this year? Did you take the time to be still and focus on the reason for the season?

Blessings and love,

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gifts of Christmas

The gift of Christmas. I love this time of year. I love to go to church and sing Christmas songs. I love to be reminded of what Christmas really is; the birth of Jesus. It can be so easy to get caught up in the busyness of this season. But my heart feels right when I'm worshiping with other believers.

This Sunday was no different. But what was so special about this church service was ...the stories.

I love to hear people's stories.

My pastor asked people from our congregation to share their stories. It was filmed so we could all watch and listen to their voices. 

One young woman shared how she had a plan for her life and was intent on working her plan. But then she listened to the soft whispers in her heart as she realized that wasn't really God's plan for her. 

A father and son shared how they both got caught up in addiction to alcohol. It wasn't until the son was in jail in Phoenix's tent city that he prayed and asked God for help.

A couple were hopeless as they wanted to have a child. Their story involved a family boy who was taken into child protective services. Would they adopt this one who needed a home?

Another couple lost their jobs with the overturn in the economy. With two little children they traveled with the name of a friend of a friend as the only one they knew in Phoenix. 

Another young man shared how he was homeless living in his car. He attempted to hide this secret each day as he went to work. 


Towards the end of the service, the people who shared their stories in the video came forward and stood behind huge gifts that were labeled: Alcoholic, Homeless, Hopeless, Fearful, Stubborn. Then they opened up the gifts and held up the signs: Addiction-free, Belonging, Joyful, Secure, and Surrendered.

It was a beautiful sight! I was so thankful that these people were willing to be transparent and share their stories. I believe it helps each one of us when we realize we're not alone. We each have our own story. I may not struggle with alcohol but I may be fearful and stubborn at times. 

Are you still holding on to something or someone that you know isn't right? You may think it's too hard to change or that's just the way I am.

"For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37 (NIV)

There isn't any problem that is too hard for God. I encourage you to begin praying and asking God for help. 

Christmas is a time for giving and receiving gifts. But the true gift of Christmas is ...JESUS.

Will you give him your heart?

Blessings and love,

Friday, December 12, 2014

The True Gift of Christmas

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. No matter where you live or what your background you can't help but feel the festive change that happens in the month of December. The sound of holiday music fills the air. Children are excited as they anticipate what Santa will bring. The newly popular Elf on the Shelf reminds children to be good. Baking cookies and preparing family recipes provides familiar smells in kitchens around the world. Malls become crowded with people shopping for gifts. 

The dictionary defines gift as "something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or  make a gesture of assistance, present."

Gifts are something we give to people we care about. I used to love to buy gifts throughout the year to set aside for Christmas. Searching for that special gift became an adventure. Wrapping the gifts and including a special note of love was a task that gave me so much pleasure. I longed to see my loved one's reaction as they opened the gift I'd especially chosen for them.

To continue reading, please link to Lisa Shaw Cares for Women Walking with Jesus.

Blessings and love,

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Do You Struggle with Change?

I have a confession to make. I don't like change! I tend to stick with the same because it's comfortable. As I look back over my life, there are times when I knew I needed to do something different but ...I stuck with the same.

You'd think I would have become more accustomed to change with the ups and downs of the last four years of my life.  I transitioned from a very comfortable retirement living in my dream home to returning to full time work in a different profession. Oh and along the way we moved into a much smaller living space; a condo. How's that for change? 

I even changed my profession. Instead of working as a nurse, I switched to education. For the last four and a half school years, I've worked in a preschool classroom with another teacher. 

 

Heidi and I worked so well as a team.  We laughed, we cried and encouraged one another. She helped me get through those transition years as I adjusted to a different way of life. Besides being co-workers, we became friends. When she decided to leave the job to work with her husband, I was happy for her but sad for me. It had been a great run! 


But then I was teamed up with Mandie. It was a change but I have to say that we've had a great school year and we get along very well. She is so much fun!

But now ...another change. I was asked to be the lead teacher for the Mini-Mustangs beginning in January. Same school but different classroom, different students. Another change!

I am very excited. I know this is a good change. I look forward to teaching these very little ones about school. I realize there will be adjustments like separation anxiety for mommy and child. But I hope to provide a stable loving environment so they will have a great first experience with our school. 

However, I will miss the students in our Pre-K 3 classroom. I will miss the students in my after school class. Of course, I will still get to see them but it won't be the same. 

I think back to years ago when I dreamed about what my life would be like. I used to line my dolls up in the window seat of my bedroom with my little sister Christine wedged right in the middle. I' d pretend I was a teacher. I also dreamed of being married and having several children. Fast forward to today.   I'm married to my honey but we weren't able to have children. 

So beginning in January, I will be teaching little ones in my own classroom. I'll have the opportunity to teach them and spend  the week days with them.  But I then I get to return them to their own mommies and daddies at the end of the school day. It's funny how life turns out. I think God answered my prayers in ways I never imagined.

Maybe change isn't such a bad thing after all. 

So how about you? Do you struggle with change or do you embrace it?

Blessings and love,

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My 5 Favorite Christmas Books

It's the season of Christmas. I love this time of year when I get to decorate my Christmas tree, light the candles and listen to holiday music. Nestled underneath my tree are some of my favorite Christmas books. During the next few weeks, I will pick up each one and read.


Here are my 5 favorite Christmas books:

1. Let's Keep Christmas by Peter Marshall. Peter served as Chaplain of the United States Senate and pastor of New York Presbyterian Church until his death in 1948. This short book can be read in 5-10 minutes but it's loaded with wisdom. He writes about Christmas traditions and the 'spirit' of Christmas as he writes about its true meaning -- "the beginning of Christianity, the Second Chance for the world, the hope for peace, and the only way." It is a book I read and reread every year.

2. A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident many years ago. Despite her physical limitations, she has lived her life giving glory to God. This book addresses the longing within each one of us for something more. Only Jesus can truly fill that longing. Each short chapter offers encouragement as she shares the true Christmas story. Included are stories of family celebrations and reflections on the Christmas season. But she invites us to consider Jesus, who is the answer to our Christmas longing.

3. The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel. You may recognize Lisa's name from the long running television show 'The Facts of Life'. I enjoyed watching her more recently on the TV show 'Survivor'. She is a Christian and a mom. In this book, she writes a fun guide for families that focuses beyond the family traditions of Christmas. You will be able to teach your children and yourself about the history of decorating and lighting the Christmas tree, the wrapping and giving of gifts, angels and candles. It is packed with simple recipes you can make with your children. There are teachable moments that include questions like "Why do you think we decorate with red and green at Christmas?" This is a great reference book for me each year.

4. Keeping Christ as Christmas by Jennifer Walker is an eBook I have on my Kindle. My blogging friend Jennifer of Smelling Coffee has been such an inspiration to me over the years.  It is jam packed with practical advice, ideas, worksheets and helpful resources. Jennifer writes in a beautiful conversational style. Everything focuses on the gift of Jesus, including the motivation behind gift giving. She outlined how to spend 10 minutes with Jesus in the morning. She writes, "10 minutes with Jesus will make a world of difference in the next 23:50 hours of your day." Jennifer offers this book in a variety of formats and you can find it here.

5. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voscamp. This is a new book for me but one that I will be placing under my Christmas tree each year. I enjoy reading Ann's blog A Holy Experience as she is the one who inspired me to begin counting my every day blessings. This is the perfect book to explain the Advent season to your children. Each day leading up to December 25th, Christmas Day you will be able to read true Bible stories. At the end of each day, she includes thoughts to discuss and family activities. She provides instructions for making a Jesse Tree with your children or grandchildren. Creating a 'family tree' traces the family line and heritage of the family of God.

Each one of these books are a treasure to me. I'm sure you may have favorites of your own.

I'd love to hear some of your favorite Christmas books. Would you share in the comments?

Blessings and love,

Saturday, November 22, 2014

How To Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude

I want to ask you a question. Let's be honest. When you review your day, what usually stands out in your mind? Do you tend to remember the things that went wrong? Do you dwell on the way someone treated you unkindly? Do you grumble when things don't go the way you expect?  Do you envy those who seem to have life easy?

Over and over, the Bible tells us to be thankful. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to cultivate a heart of gratitude.

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

Maybe you are struggling in this season of your life. While I don't advocate putting blinders on to the situation you may be dealing with, I do suggest a number of ways that may help.

I've walked through many storms in my life. I can say with all honesty that praising God in the midst of my storms has helped get me through.

To continue reading, please go to Lisa Shaw Cares ...

Blessings and love,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Do You Want Beautiful Eyelashes?

Do you wish you had longer eyelashes? Eyes are often the first thing people notice. While I truly desire to have my beauty come from within, I must admit something.

I still like to look my best no matter how old I am. 

Lately, I've noticed that women on television seem to have the most amazing long lashes. They couldn't be natural.  But then I realize that most of them probably have lash extensions which are quite expensive. I'm not  in the market for a large recurring monthly expense. And then I heard about 3D fiber lashes; a special mascara that helps make your lashes look longer and thicker.

I met Jill Samter through blogging. It was probably around 2008 or so. I've learned that when Jill is passionate about something, she loves to share it with others. First of all, she is passionate about her relationship with Jesus. That's what first bonded us together as friends. She has a heart for women and speaks out on issues that impact them. And she also loves to be healthy. She refuses to use harmful products. So when she finds something that she loves, she tells others.

And that's how I came to know about Younique, a company started by a brother and sister.  They have the best Moodstruck 3D Lash Mascara! I noticed Jill posting photos of herself with no mascara and then using the 3D lash mascara. I couldn't believe a mascara could make such a difference. So I bought it for $29 so I could try it out for myself.

It actually works! Check out this photo of my eyes with no mascara.


I followed the 3 step process to put the new mascara on. Check out the difference; thick, bolder lashes.


My good friend Heidi also tried the mascara. You've got to check out this photo of her eyes; one with no mascara and the other using this product. It's amazing!


I'm not the sales person type. I don't push products on anyone. But I decided to join the Younique team as I viewed this as an opportunity to help women look their best.

Check out this video to see how to apply.


If you can't see this video, click here

I'm not a person who spends hours in the morning getting ready. In fact, sometimes I get so absorbed in reading and writing and suddenly realize I only have 15 minutes to get ready for work. It's true!

So here's what I do. I hold the transforming gel and the fiber tube in my hand. I do the three step process. But I typically don't take the time to use a blow dryer. I use Q-tips precision tips cotton swabs. They are more pointy and I bought them for about $3 at Walgreen's. I dab any spots I mess up with the fibers and it seems to work.

I even have my own website where you can purchase Younique products; Lashes by Debbie. The mascara is $29 but lasts a few months. Believe me, it's worth every penny. And it would be a great gift. 

I've much more to say but I'll leave you with this photo Jill used when she welcomed me to her Wonder Woman Team on Facebook. By the way, I plan to have a virtual party on Facebook soon. I'll keep you posted.


So have a fabulash day! And don't forget to check out my Younique site. Thank you!

Blessings and love,

Friday, November 14, 2014

Five Minute Friday: STILL


It's Five Minute Friday when I get to link up with Kate Motaung and many other bloggers. Each week we are given a one word writing prompt. The rules are to write for five minutes flat. Our word for today is STILL.

.
GO

"Be still and know that I am God." The words from Psalm 46:10 immediately come to my mind.

But how easy it is for me to want to take action and not be still. You know, figure out things in my mind and do something. After all, I'm fairly intelligent. I have a good mind and a healthy body. I've heard the popular slogan JUST DO IT.

But when do I come to the end of myself and begin to trust the One who created me?

Do I trust Him enough with my life to be still?

I think of the children as they learn to float. Little Jimmy was so scared of letting go. But over time he came to trust his swim instructor. She taught him to rest quietly, be still and not fight. Slowly she removed her hand from beneath his body and ...he floated.

I see that as an illustration for my life. Do I trust God enough to be still? Do I really believe He can perform the impossible in my life? Or am I struggling and trying to do it in my power?

As I consider the word STILL, I see that often my pride gets in the way. I can do it myself. I can figure it out. I, I, I.

Being still causes me to rest. To rest in His promises. To rest in His ways.

As He teaches me to trust, I find that my desires begin to conform to His desires for me.

Being still teaches me how to walk by faith. When He prompts me to move, I begin to obey.

It's the best place to be. Be still.

STOP

Blessings and love,

Monday, November 10, 2014

How To Handle a Challenging Week

Have you ever had one of those weeks? You know, it starts out with one challenge after another. I had one this past week. There were moments when I wanted to put my head between my legs like the children in our preschool class.

It started out like this. Several teachers approached me asking if I owned a white Lexus. I had a feeling of dread and nodded yes. A rock hit my rear window and shattered the glass. Apologies and a letter from the student ensued. His parents had my window replaced and lessons were learned. A little inconvenient but ... all is well.

This was the week our condo roof was to be replaced. We were the last group and I'd been observing the progress for weeks. Little did I realize the total mess that would transpire! I had to cover all my furniture with sheets and put away all fragile items. It was very challenging to come home from work each day to such a mess. The roof was so old and in need of replacement that there were tiny flakes of black falling down from the ceiling. Poor Greg had to try to work from home with the constant hammering and the sound of loud footsteps on the roof all day long.  The roof is now finally completed and looks great. But the aftermath of cleaning continues both inside and outside. I'm thankful to have a three day weekend!

Then to top my week off, I almost lost my wallet!

I stopped at Costco for gas and placed my wallet on top of my car. I never do this but for some reason I did it this time. I drove away oblivious to the fact that I forgot to put away my wallet. I drove several miles on busy streets and did some food shopping at Trader Joe's. At the checkout, I realized I didn't have my wallet. I silently prayed as I frantically ran outside to my car. There right on top of my Lexus was my wallet untouched. I thanked the Lord over and over and returned to pay for my groceries.

Instead of crying over inconveniences and the issues I encountered this past week, I chose to be thankful. Things happen. Life doesn't always go smoothly. But in the midst of challenges, I know Jesus loves me and knows every single detail of my days. And for that, I'm so thankful.

So how do you handle a challenging week? Do you comfort yourself with food? Do you go shopping as you convince yourself you deserve it after the week you endured?

Or do you believe that every challenge is an opportunity to learn and allow the Lord to develop your character?

I make a daily choice to count my every day blessings ...
  • It was only a car that was hit and no person was injured
  • Windows are replaceable
  • We have a new roof on our condo 
  • Our electric bill should go down in the future
  • An opportunity to do fall cleaning in our condo
  • My wallet wasn't lost and remained intact despite a wild ride
  • The Lord's care for me
Will you begin to count your every day blessings? I guarantee that it will help to change your perspective on life.

Blessings and love,

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Blessings

It's Monday morning and I'm blessed. Today is Greg and my 30th wedding anniversary. As I think back over the years, we've gone through so much together. I remember that day so well. We had flown our family members and a few close friends in for our special day. It was a small group but a very special day.

We said our wedding vows in a little chapel beside the mountains in Vail, Colorado. I'm so glad I meant every word as little did I know at the time what a rocky road the next 30 years would take. How many people promise to love only in the good times?

I remember saying:
"I, Debbie, take you Greg, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death us do part."

We have experienced so many good times. We've traveled and gone to places I never dreamed I would go. I've had the opportunity to live in a home I helped design for 12 years. I've attended so many formal functions and met so many interesting people.

And yet I've also experienced many hard times. As I'm writing this, I'm propped up in bed in our very small condo. I'll have to get up soon to get ready for work. We won't go out on the town to celebrate tonight. Instead, we will quietly have dinner at home but with each other.

I have to say that Greg and I have a closer relationship today than we ever did before. I often tease him and say 'HOME TEAM'. We stick together and work through whatever comes our way.

I am so thankful for the close relationship I have with the Lord. This morning I am thanking Him for the good times and the bad. You see, it's through those challenging times that I learn so many important lessons. It's not so much about living the so called good life but about building our character.

I'm so thankful for my husband and I love him more than ever.

So on this Monday morning I continue to count my blessings.

How about you? Are you keeping track of those every day blessings in your life? I guarantee it will begin to change your perspective.

Blessings and love,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Weigh In Wednesday

Pinterest
Exercise, exercise, exercise! I know it. I promote it. I believe it. So why don't I always do it?

The older I get, the more I realize how vital exercise is to my health. You see, I can't take my good health for granted. I'm at the age when I'm hearing reports of friends dying of heart disease. It used to be my parents and grandparent's generation but it's starting to impact mine.

It takes so much more work to stay and get in shape since I passed the 60 mark! The flat stomach disappeared and ...I don't know where it went. I want it back. :)

I work with preschool children each weekday. And I love how they go to PE two times a week. They are learning from a young age how important it is to get moving.


Stretching

More stretching

I've allowed too many Wednesdays to go by without posting on this important topic.

After all, Heart Choices is about making wise choices body, mind and spirit.

So I am back in the saddle again!

I am happy to report that I've not gained weight since losing about five pounds this summer. That's what working summer camp will do. But I'm determined to tighten up any sagging muscles. I'm determined to get moving more as I want to maintain my good health. I want to have energy.

How about you? Will you join me each Wednesday as we encourage one another to get back in the habit of exercise and healthy eating?

Blessings and love,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Weekend Blessings

Happy Fall! It's finally beginning to cool down in Phoenix. While it's not yet sweater weather, I'm so grateful for morning temperatures in the low 70's. What a welcome relief from the triple digits of a long summer.

I stopped by Trader Joe's (a favorite of mine) to pick up a few items and couldn't help but take some photos of the colorful flowers and pumpkins. I love anything pumpkin!

This weekend I actually spent some time in the kitchen. Since Greg works from home, he often fixes dinner during the week. I love to come home to discover what he concocted for us to eat. He never uses a recipe but has a creative knack for using leftovers.

But this weekend I took over and made several recipes from Pinterest.
Pinterest
Chicken Dijonaise is a quick skillet recipe that is so easy and low calorie too. It took me less than 20 minutes and got a thumbs up from both Greg and me. You can find the recipe by clicking on the link under the photo above.

I spent two hours on Friday evening watching a live webcast with Kay Arthur. I've done many of her Precept Studies and they helped me to learn to study the Bible in depth. But I have to say that she looks fabulous for 80 years old!  She continues to be energetic and beautiful inside and out. And she has a passion for getting people into the Word of God. The conference's topic was "How to be Holy in an Unholy World".

Living in a world that is constantly changing with 24 hour news coverage can be scary. How easy it is to get tough in order to protect ourselves. I love the graphic by Holly Gerth.

When I learn to trust God fully, I can live with a soft heart in a hard world  I can live by faith in an unholy world.

As I choose to cultivate a heart of gratitude, I continue to write down my everyday blessings.

#1104 Beautiful weather in Phoenix
#1105 Pumpkins abounding in this season
#1106 Amazing teaching by Kay Arthur in the comfort of my home
#1107 Words of encouragement from a dear friend I admire (thank you Georgann)
#1108 A rare weekday dinner with friends
#1109 The smiling faces of children in our preschool class
#1110 Amazing 3D mascara (I will be sharing more about this soon)
#1111 Yummy new recipes to try

I hope you have a wonderful week!  Will you make the choice to write down your everyday blessings? It makes all the difference as you focus on the good and lovely and pure.

Blessings and love,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Do You Do When Life Gets Tough?

There are times when life seems to be going along well. Maybe you're in one of those seasons. You know, the kids are behaving and doing well in school. The bills are getting paid and you're able to take family vacations. Or maybe your children are grown and it's a good time for you and your husband.

I remember a season in my life when life seemed very good. I was living in my dream home. I was able to retire from my nursing career and spend time on activities I'd postponed for years. I volunteered and taught children in an international Bible study. Vacations in Europe, a new car and beautiful clothes were the order of the day. I loved to be able to help my family and provide the extras for my parents. I was so grateful to Jesus. I thanked Him for the blessings in my life. I appreciated all I'd been given. I didn't take it for granted.

But life doesn't always continue on the mountain. Sometimes we go through valleys.

To continue reading, please link over to Lisa Shaw Cares ...

Blessings and love,

Am I a kid or what?

Am I a kid or what?

I love this place...Carmel, CA

I love this place...Carmel, CA