Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Good Stuff Guide

A year or so ago, I fell in love with this website, www.thegoodstuffguide.com. I love the articles she has on here. Just happy and fun, featuring great ideas, interesting products and toys. And the fun part is that she's been featuring some of my ideas on her site! :) I must admit, it is fun to see others LOVE my ideas and share them around! And she's even asked me if she can share my ideas on a more regular basis! Ummm, yay!! Thanks, Heidi!

If you're interested, you can sign up, on the website, for email or RSS feed so you don't miss any of the inspiration and fun! You can also find The Good Stuff Guide on facebook.

Here are the articles of mine she has already posted! (Is it okay that I'm smiling as I type this?!)

Our Christmas Stocking Tradition

Our Thanksgiving Tradition

Our A to Z Summer Fun

Monday, November 28, 2011

Double Murder at the Lake House: 15 Years Later

Time is a mystery.  Some moments it feels like it was a lifetime ago, and then other times, it feels as raw as it did yesterday. The actual date is most likely December 2, but to me, I always feel it the deepest the Monday after Thanksgiving.  That was the day my world changed forever. I wouldn’t know about it until the wee hours of Wednesday, and you can read about it here if you want (this is the beginning of a memoir I wrote for the girls to read one day).

Double Murder at the Lake House. Sounds like the perfect plot for the next great bestseller. Or the latest story line on CSI. Until it is real life. Until it is my life. And my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Until it shatters my happily ever after life. Until I’m 22 and dealing with evil so horrific that my heart is shattered into a hundred or more unrecognizable pieces.

So here I am 15 years later, pondering some of the things my heart has discovered along my journey of healing.  (for those of you who do not know, this tragedy continued with a not-guilty verdict at trial, an equally difficult thing to deal with)
  • As much as my heart still wants justice, I’ve discovered that the one thing more powerful than justice is grace. Grace is forgiveness undeserved.  Along with that, you must forgive as often as you need to. Again and again.
  • Life does go on. And you can still live ‘happily ever after’. But it’s also okay to occasionally break down and cry, because sometimes the pain just needs to be released. They will always be missed. And that is okay.
  • Sometimes you get to choose your life path. Sometimes life chooses it for you. Just keep travelling, and enjoy the journey. Figure out what’s important and remember, you always have time for the things you put first.
  • Sometimes it takes the tragedy to see the goodness. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.
  • Yes, we live in a broken, messed up world. With pain and evil.  God gives us free will to choose him or not choose him. To choose goodness or choose evil. And some people choose evil.  And even those of us who choose goodness still must live with the suffering caused by those who don’t. It stinks. Yet, there is a God who is here, in our lives, carrying us, especially when we find ourselves hurting from a life that has indeed given us too much to bear. He never leaves us. Ever. Even when it may feel like it.
  • God is big enough for our toughest questions and our never ending ‘whys’. He embraces our transparency and authenticity.
  • Healing takes time. There are layers upon layers of healing. I’ve worked thru many of those layers and yet, if I’m completely honest, I’m still healing.  Still layers of pain and confusion my soul is wrestling with. 
  • You are never ever promised tomorrow. Enjoy this moment. Cherish the relationships that are a part of your life right now.  Love BIG. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dear Linda,

Just in case there really are windows in the floor of heaven, or better yet, they have access to the internet there, I’m writing this letter for my mother-in-law to read.

Dear Linda,

Sometimes I’m still amazed when the tears fall without warning, but they still do. This week it happened when I read this saying, “Thank you for raising your son to be the man of my dreams.” Oh how I wish I could tell you this in person – turn the saying into a cross-stitch or a painted plaque for your wall; then wrap it up with love and watch your hands unwrap it, and look into your eyes after you read it - my own eyes certain to be holding back the tears of gratitude as I look back into yours.  But I can’t. 15 years now and I still miss you.

I wish you were here to see what an amazing man your son is. A man who loves me, and your grandchildren, deeply and well. A man who has his priorities right, one who looks forward to getting home to us at the end of the day to simply enjoy ‘life’ with us. Yet a man who works hard, who helps make the world a little bit safer and better place, everyday in his career. He provides well for us. He is a man of integrity.  He is stable, trustworthy, and always calm under pressure. I’ve had more than one person whom he works with ask me, “Does he ever get mad?” to which I simply respond, ‘no, not really’. They simply find it amazing that someone can be so calm. I seriously can count on my fingers the number of times he’s gotten angry in the past 20 years. He is faithful and steadfast. His arms are a safe place for me to fall each night. He laughs easily. He makes sure we have fun. He makes wise decisions. He’s patient with me and all my mood swings.

Thank you for letting him ‘fix’ so many things in your home growing up. For letting him cut apart frogs and sew them back up (you may or may not have known about that one!), for letting him take apart radios and tvs and tinker with cars. For trusting him with home repair projects and believing in him when was trying to fix things. And for telling him thank you when he finished. He is so incredibly handy. There are very few things he can not fix. I’m constantly amazed at what a great problem solver he is!

He’s taught me that even though life can be hard, really hard, it still goes on and we can still live a happy and full life. He told me you taught him that. After you lost his dad, you found strength and courage to raise your family and make a happy, secure childhood for them. And you took him to church and told him about Jesus and he saw you believe in God throughout it all. Thank you for attending childhood concerts, and all his sporting events, and especially for all those drives you made to pick him up from college so he could come home and see me! I imagine you were weary at times, and shed a few tears of your own. Please know that it was worth it all. You raised an amazing son.

In fact, I’m sure my two sister-in-laws could say very similar things. You’ve actually raised three amazing sons. I wish you could be a part of all our families. I wish all eight of your grandkids could know the warmth of your hugs and the comfort of your handmade blankets.  And I really wish I could tell you this Thanksgiving how very thankful I am to you. I will continue to love your son deeply every day ‘until the day after forever’!

With love and gratitude, Cathy

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Autumn Gorgeousness

I absolutely LOVE pinterest these days. Even more than facebook, which is saying a lot. Pinterest just makes me smile. and feel happy. and inspires me. I've collected a few autumn photos on my pinterest boards.
Rainbow Woods
 I **wish** I could take beautiful photos like this.
 I **wish** I could visit these breathtakingly beautiful places in person.
Early Autumn, Bulgaria
I **wish** one of these photos could be the view off my back deck.
But for now, I'm **thankful** for the talent of others who do visit and live in these places, and pause to capture these sights on film. Because just looking at these pictures makes me smile. And breathe in deeply. And celebrate the One who painted all this gorgeous creation!  So as the last of autumn leaves us for another year, I just wanted to pause and celebrate the beauty these photos capture! Thank you to each of these 'unknown' photographers whose photos have added a simple joy to my life!

Somewhere 'Out West', America

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hope. It's a Beautiful Thing.

This week hope is alive. And hope makes me smile. BIG. And dream. And believe in my dreams. And feel alive. It makes a stressful day brighter. It renews passion. And I couldn't imagine a world without hope. And it's such a good feeling, it makes me want to pass it on. and on. and on.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

(in)courage (in)spired deals: Table Runner and Gratitude

Oh, I am loving these monthly giveaways from DaySpring/ incourage. You see, they send me an awesome product, for free, and then I get to leave a honest and fair review of the item on my blog (i.e., my own opinion). So here I am!

I was already smiling when I saw the box on my doorstep, but then I opened the box...and my smile grew! This absolutely beautiful tablerunner was in the box! The details are worth noting...The words are stitched on, the flower designs appliqued/stitched around the edges, ruffled pleats along the border.  And I LOVE the fall colors - not gaudy, but simply beautiful. I immediately put it on my table. Then a miracle happened (just kidding - kind of!) My husband even noticed I got a new table runner and commented how much he liked it when he got home!

And I love the subtle reminder that is stitched onto both ends of the runner.... Let there be thankfulness to God! Ephesians 5:4. Oh, I want that to be my life song...not just for the holiday. All the gifts He gives me every day...oh, let me pause and say thanks! That's what this past year, my year of counting 1000 gifts and more, has been about. A lifestyle of stopping to show thanks to the very One who gives them all to me.  During this season of thanksgiving, I am also pausing to show my daughters how thankful I am for them, by writing a new reason every day of the month on their bathroom mirror. You can read about it here. I am reminded of the saying, "We always have time for the things we put first." and stopping to show gratitude is something I try to be intentional about, something I try to put first. I.must.make.the.time. AND.take.the.time. It nourishes my soul!

And now I have this beautiful table runner to serve as reminder of life's simple pleasures... and all the thankfulness that is mine. And I'm glad I get to share the joy of it with all who stop by and share our table this holiday season. Thank you, Dayspring for your monthly (in)spired deals! You brighten my world! And I love the way your products give subtle, yet, beautiful reminders of truth.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gratitude. Thanksgiving. Passing it On.

Every November, since 2006, we've been doing the same activity. I have this old cornucopia that sits on our dining room table. Next to it are strips of blank paper and pens. Every night at dinner, we write one thing we are thankful for, share it, and put it in the cornucopia. Then on Thanksgiving Day, we read them all.

Then I saved them all. And when I finally had enough at the end of last year, I made place-mats with them.

Tonight was the first night they were on our table. The girls smiles and enjoyment from reading them was simply precious. They were trying to get each other to guess who had wrote what! :) I also saved their fall artwork during these years and put it on the place-mats too.  Two sheets of paper, covered with contact paper. Simple. Easy. Here are a couple of pictures, sorry for the poor photo quality.

New this year, I decided to do something different during the month of November.  So, using my favorite EXPO marker idea, combined with my other favorite A to Z idea, I'm writing on the girl's bathroom mirror, one new thing every day this month. The top of the mirror says,
"My A to Z reasons I'm thankful 4 my girls!" So far...

A. Always try to do the right thing.
B. Big Brown Eyes (windows to their soul!)
C. Care about other's feelings.
(and for tomorrow) D. Dance and Sing

Gratitude. Doing my best to pass it along to my girls!