Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear 2011

Remember this post?! My resolutions for 2011?! As I read through that post today, I smiled. I am so proud of the things on that list that I actually accomplished! I managed to bottle wean and potty train my daughter this year (excuse me while I do a little happy dance). I took several bike trips with Randy, as well as one amazing over night trip. I didn’t focus on my writing by growing my freelance career like I wanted, but I did choose a different career path, which is just as exciting to me. And no, we aren’t expecting another baby just yet (sorry to disappoint). Overall, I accomplished several of my goals for 2011, but in truth, I never planned on having the year I’ve had. This year has seen quite a bit of heartache and quite a bit of growth. I feel like times are changing, and for once, I’m not afraid.

2011 truly changed me as a person.

I found that this year, I tried to take everyday as it came. I tried to accept the things I couldn’t change and work on myself a little. I have a long way to go, but I’m getting there. I’ve accepted that I’m not perfect, and I no longer grimace at the girl in the mirror. I make time for myself. I do things I enjoy. I have realized this year that I am so much more than Randy’s wife and Emma’s mommy. I refuse to lose sight of the fun, quirky girl I was at 17 who wasn’t afraid to dream big, see the best in everyone, and learn to grow from every heartache. I love who I am. I love that I laugh at things no one else thinks is funny. I love that I’m a little weird. I love that I wear my emotions on my sleeve, because I’m not afraid to feel something. I love that I am no longer scared of being different. Of being the girl who everyone often rolls their eyes at. Of letting my crazy show. Because, what the point of being scared?! Of trying to fit into a society that is ever changing?! Why should we believe the lies or march to everyone else’s drum?! This year has helped me realize the answers to those questions and so much more. I think embracing who I am was my biggest feat of the year.

2011 truly changed my marriage.

In 2011, I watched my marriage crumble, but begin to rise from the ashes. It’s amazing the strength that comes from total brokenness.  It’s amazing the heights, depths, and lengths you will go to fight for something you truly believe in. For me…for us, it’s been a God thing. Some days are good and some days are still a struggle, but I know we are going to be okay. You know, I never signed up for this because I thought it would be easy…I signed up for this, because I believe with my whole heart that Randy was made for me. He completes me. I know that the things we face everyday…the struggles we are going through will only make us stronger. I have accepted that he is far from perfect, but you know, so am I. Every time I start to think something negative or count Randy’s sins, I try to think of my own faults and sins too. It has definitely helped me keep things in perspective. Because you know, at the end of the day, I’m not easy to put up with either. I have also began to focus on the positives. The things that brought us together. The things about him that make me smile. In a way, I think that’s a huge part of what it takes to keep moving forward.

2011 truly changed what I want from my life.

This year, I also said goodbye to the only grandfather I have ever known. I held my sister as he passed. I felt the Lord comforting me with hymns and songs of praise during those last few minutes in the hospital room. I spoke at his funeral. And through it all I realized just how much my heart could take. How strong I really am. In that moment I saw the woman he was always encouraging me to be, and in a way, I liked her. I’m still grieving, but my heart is no longer broken. I am no longer afraid of the unknown, but I am afraid of the life…the legacy I am going to leave behind. My grandpa taught me to embrace life  and to live every moment like it’s your last. He rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle until the day he died. He was 86. He took trips with us, and he spent every penny he had on his family and his hobbies. He was a man who truly LIVED his life, and I want to be just like him. I want to do what makes me happy. I want to accomplish my goals. I want to LIVE. And because of him, that is what I’m trying to do.

2011 changed the way I see my sisters.

Next to my grandpa’s death, one of the hardest things I did this year was watch a huge part of my heart get on a plane and move to an 8x5 island. To say “I miss her” is an understatement. It’s like life without one of your limbs…you can still do things that people with all their limbs do, but it’s just not the same. I feel an emptiness. A loss. But despite those feelings, I know getting on that plane was the best thing for her. She is letting this experience change her into an amazing young woman, and I am so proud of her. I’m proud of her for living her life, for chasing her dreams, and for refusing to live in fear. She is an inspiration to me. And because of her choice, I got to go on the vacation of a lifetime with my sisters. I got to let loose and be completely crazy for 5 days. It was amazing, and I know I will carry those memories with me always. You know, I think this experience more than any other has made us realize that we are so much more than sisters…we are best friends. We are soul mates. There is no one on this planet that “gets” me more than my two sisters. No one. We accept each other. We fight with each other. We ALWAYS tell each other the truth…even if it hurts. We stand by each other no matter what. They are truly my lifeline, and there really is nothing harder than having one of the people who tethers you to this planet living 3000 miles away. But, that’s the thing, we told her to go. We’ve been the ones telling her to stay. Because sometimes the ultimate sacrifice is letting someone you love just live their life. To let them simply be. Because it would be selfish to ask them to do anything else. I love you, Kasie.

2011 changed the path for my future.

This year, I made the decision to go back to school, and I changed my major. This was a huge step for me, but I knew that if I didn’t finish now…I never would. Sure I have big plans, and I hope someday my degree takes me to my dream job, but more importantly I’m going back to school to set an example for Emma. I want her to see me finish something despite all the voices telling me I can’t. I want her to see that I am capable of doing more than laundry and making dinner, but at the end of the day that is where I’d rather be. I want her to be proud of me, and to know that even if I never use my degree, I still finished and chose to keep doing what I’m doing now. Education is important to me. It stands for a brighter tomorrow. But, I know that life is more important than an expensive piece of paper. And I promise I won’t lose sight of what’s important while I chase my dreams. Honestly, this is more than something I need to do for Emma, this is something I need to do for me. This is just a part of my bucket list and I look forward to checking it off.


2011 gave me a fresh start.

One of the biggest changes for me in 2011 was my decision to go back to work part-time after staying at home for 3 years. Financially, we need the extra income, because the extra money is going relieve a lot of stress and allow us to actually start saving. I really feel like working a few days here and there is going to be a big blessing to our family. I am also looking forward to getting to dress like a real grown up, and have intelligent conversations with the women I have missed so much. I am looking forward to being busy, to have a few days a month to just be grown-up Ashley, and to go back to doing something I was once really good at. I am excited about the opportunity, and I am trying to let my excitement drown out the fears and anxiety I have about leaving Emma. I know this will be good for us. But, I still have my worries. Worries I’m still trying to put into words. Worries that are a whole blog post in and of themselves. But, in many ways this has to happen. This is what’s best for our family right now, and I know someday Emma will understand that. She will understand that I am willing to do anything for her…for us. And that’s what’s important.

These are only a few of the events that made 2011 the year it was for me. There were lots of little things. Little changes. Little battles won. Little hopes and dreams accomplished that also made it a great year…a pivotal year.

And as for today, this New Year’s Eve, I find myself feeling grateful for the year behind me and truly excited about the year ahead. I’m not going to make resolutions or promises I won’t keep this year, because this year has taught me more than anything that you can never be sure where life will take you. I do want to continue to focus on the positive changes 2011 has brought into my life, and I’m looking forward to the ways the Lord is going to continue to grow and mature me into the woman He has called me to be. I feel so blessed that He’s not quite done with me.

Yes today, I am choosing to embrace the final sunset of 2011, and I look forward to the sunrise which will be 2012. Bring it on.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Top 5 Post Of 2011

Thanks to Ms. Sherri Lynn over at Life of A Wife, I'm excited to jump on the band wagon and re-live my top 5 posts of 2011 with all of you.

But, before I do I just want to take a minute and thank all of you who take the time to listen to my thoughts, my soapbox mantras, and my whining. I truly cherish every comment and email, and I already consider some of you dear friends. Some of you have touched my life over the last year in ways you will never know. Not just by reading and commenting on my blog, but by the things you write on your own blogs. I love reading about what's on someone else's heart and looking at all of your beautiful pictures. I have truly found a community of amazing friends in the blog world, and this year when I look back and count my blessings, my bloggy friends will be one of them.

So, without further adieu! My top 5 posts of 2011!









And my most read post of ALL TIME with 422 pageviews:



And there you have it: The best of 2011! I hope you all will take a moment and read through memory lane with me! I know I've enjoyed looking back at all your comments and correcting my grammatical errors from months ago! LOL! (It's funny the things you miss, no matter how many times you re-read before you post it!)

I also love to look at the keyword searches that bring people to my little ole' blog! Some of my favorites this year were:

cyberbully review
gyno exam
jennifer nettles slip
celebrities
pinterest

What about you?! What brings people by your little corner of cyberspace? I would love to look through everyone else's top 5 or top 10, so feel free to take a moment and blog about them! This was probably the easiest post I've wrote all year! LOL! 

I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year's and I look forward to reading everyone's resolutions for the coming year, because I'm to lame to come up with any on my own! ;) 

Happy New Year! 

Better Than Santa

You know what I'm excited about?! Hanging out with THIS guy:


And making more memories like these:








My friend, Kyle, was in my graduating class, and he is the only one I, out of the other 5, actually still talk to on a regular basis.After high school, Kyle went to college here in Missouri. He did is time, and after he graduated, he decided to do something crazy: he moved out to LA without a job or barely anywhere to live...and that's where he's been for the past three years! Currently, he edits music videos for a recording company out there. He also makes short films (which I can't find right now to share with you, because I suck), and he blogs! You can check out his amazing blog here. He doesn't just blog there. He publishes his short stories there, he tells you about his uber exciting life in LA, and he shares amazing videos like this one (that I just totally stole and posted to my Facebook), and he does movie reviews (which is kind of his thing).

Kyle is an amazing friend, and when we get together with our other friends who live here in MO...it's epic. One of the best days of my entire year. We usually do it in October, but because of some stuff with his job, we weren't able to make it happen. But, lucky for us, he decided to come home this week, and tonight we're making awesomeness happen. YAY! On a side note, I'm so bummed that I officially start my part-time job tomorrow (another blog post coming soon), which means I have to go home and go to bed at a decent time. But I know, that even if I'm exhausted tomorrow, it will be so worth it! I can't wait!

So, until then I plan to make the most of my last day at home with Emma this week. I need to finish my laundry and clean my house, and figure out how to not feel so guilty about having to go back to work (I'm seriously going to blog about this soon, as soon as I find a way to put it into words). We are going to watch some of her new movies, and read her new books. I want to get her new Play-Doh out and I just want to make the most it.

What are your plans for this lovely Thursday?!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Christmas Time Of Year

Well, I'm finally back! I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend...I know, we did! We just wrapped up our Christmas celebrations last night and I wanted to take a few minutes to recap our weekend for you with a photo dump. I hope you don't mind :)


Friday night we went over to my mom's house to celebrate Christmas with her. Earlier this month, my mom had mailed my sister, Kasie, her Christmas gifts and a small Christmas tree all in preparation for Friday night. We called Kasie while we opened our gifts, so that she could open her's with us. We put her on speaker phone and we all took turns passing the phone around and sharing with her what we had received, while she told us about everything she was unwrapping. It was a great night, and I'm so glad that Kasie was kind of able to share the moment with us. Things definitely felt funny without her, but knowing that she is out there being her own person is one of the best Christmas gifts ever.

 I received so many nice things from my mom, but probably my favorite gift that night came from my sister, Randi, who gave me a beautiful locket with a picture of my Grandpa inside. She has a locket too, and we wear them to keep him with us always. In fact, we wore our necklaces to every Christmas party this weekend to help us get through our first Christmas without him. I plan to wear my locket every Christmas, because no matter how many years go by, I know that I will always miss him and wish he could be there.

Saturday, Christmas Eve Day, we went over to Randy's parents to celebrate Christmas with them. Randy's grandparents were able to come too, and Emma enjoyed unwrapping all her gifts from Grammie and Papa. Randy's parents gave us a new chest deep freezer for Christmas. They knew we needed one, and it will be so nice to have next year if Randy actually shoots a deer. Haha! Anyway, Randy and I just got it into our back room yesterday, and we already have big plans to use it to help cut down on our grocery bill by buying more meat and frozen foods when they go on sale so that we will have them for later. I'm excited to start filling it up!

Saturday night, I gave Emma a bath and helped her get ready for Santa!


She "helped" me blow dry her hair with her new Princess blow dryer, and I loved getting her dressed in her Christmas PJ's that said, "Santa's Little Helper" on them! :)


After she was all ready for bed, we read a Christmas story about the birth of baby Jesus and we talked about how Sunday was Jesus' birthday! Randy and I really wanted her to understand this year that Christmas is about so much more than gifts, it's about the ultimate gift: Jesus Christ. That night as I tucked her bed and warned her to stay in her bed or Santa wouldn't bring her any presents, we said our prayers and thanked God for giving his Son to us so many years ago. It was truly the sweetest of prayers.

That night, after I was sure she had gone to sleep, "Santa" came to our house!


Sunday she decided to sleep in until 9:00 AM! Randy was chomping at the bit as he wandered around the house and waited for her to wake up. He was so excited to help her open her gifts this year, while I think I was more excited that she had actually slept in! :) But, she eventually woke up and stared in awe at our tree. She couldn't believe that Santa had actually came! Randy wasted no time in moving the couch and getting her situated on the floor, so that he could start handing her gifts! :)


She truly had a wonderful Christmas morning! Randy and I felt so blessed that we were able to pull it off, especially with the slow year he has had at work. It's amazing the things you will go without just to see that glow on your child's face on Christmas morning. Randy and I didn't do a lot for each other this year. We spent most of our money on Emma and others, but we did get each other a few things. He really surprised me by going all out and getting me the two biggest things on my Christmas list: new pots and pans, and a new bedspread which I don't have yet, because he was afraid to pick it out without me! :) I was so glad that we were able to spend Christmas morning as a family, and I loved making breakfast for Randy and Emma with my new pots and pans.

After breakfast, we went over to my Dad's to celebrate with him.


Sunday evening was spent with my mom's side of the family: The Dickerson's. I love Dickerson Family Christmas! That side of my family is really big, and when we get together we are crazy, loud, and we just love being around each other. We have a crazy white elephant gift exchange where things get rather intense, delicious food, and Pitch tournaments that go late into the night! It's a wonderful time, and I always find myself looking at all their faces and thinking just how blessed I am to have them in my life.


That night my Grandma, who usually just gives us all money, surprised us by actually purchasing gifts for us this year! She gave all the girls in my family a freshwater pearl necklace, and all the boys real silver dollars. We were all floored! We couldn't believe it! I cried a little as I clasped mine around my neck, because after my Grandpa's death this past August, I know how important it is to have something from someone you love to remember them by. I am so grateful to have my necklace, but I am even more grateful that Emma has her's. Because no matter what she will always be able to look at that necklace and know that her great-grandmother gave that to her. I decided that night that she will be <strike>forced</strike>encouraged to wear that necklace on her wedding day. It will be her something old. Something that will always carry my Grandma's memory, and that is more beautiful to me than the gift itself.

My Grandma and her girls! We are all wearing our necklaces! 

Monday, we drove to visit Randy's mother's family who live near Kansas City, MO. Randy's grandparents who live up there have only seen Emma a few times, so we wanted to take Emma to see them this year, and since Randy had Monday off, we thought it would be a great opportunity to go. Randy's parents and sister went with us, and Emma did so good on the long car ride. She played with her new toys and colored in one of her new activity books. She was great! It was a long day of sitting and visiting, but Emma did really well at both the places we went. I was so proud of her! She slept most of the way home, and even slept okay for me Monday night. I was so thankful! I don't think that day could of gone any smoother!

Yesterday, I spent the day with my sister, Randi. We hit the mall in search of the perfect outfit for the White Party we are attending on Saturday for New Year's Eve. We didn't find anything, but we had a great time shopping! We've decided we aren't going to wear white, we are going to wear whatever we want and stand out! Since when have we ever cooperated, anyway?! ;)

Last night we had our last Christmas party with my dad's family. We got together at my Grandmother's for gifts and dessert. My chocolate turtle brownies were a hit! I am usually a terrible baker, but my brownies actually turned out pretty good last night, even I was impressed! I loved getting to see my cousins on my dad's side, I don't get to see them very often, so its always nice to catch up with them. My aunt gave me a "gift certificate" valid for one free night of babysitting, which I will be taking her up on very soon! I will never turn down a babysitter! In my opinion, that is the best gift for any mommy! :)


After 4 Christmas parties and one day of long distance travel, exhausted is an understatement. I am drowning in laundry that needs to be done, and I still haven't found the perfect place for everything, but despite the stress, I am so grateful.

 I am thankful for these people that I didn't get to choose, but who God blessed me with as my family. I am thankful that Emma gets to be apart of two huge families who love her, and who will always be there for her. I am thankful for every gift I received big or small, I know so many went without this year. I am thankful for good food and the warm homes where we shared the food and lots of laughed. But, most of all I am thankful for what Christmas represents: Jesus Christ. I am thankful that He came, born of virgin, and made His bed in a trough. I am thankful that He humbled Himself and made Himself just like us, so that He could save us from ourselves and our sin. That is what I am the most grateful for this year and every year. 

I am also thankful for these two people: 


They complete me. They give my life meaning. And I feel so blessed that I get to share Christmas with them for many years to come. They are what Christmas is about for me, because to me nothing, not even the most precious of gifts, is worth more to me than these two. I am one lucky girl. 

Happy Wednesday. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

All the presents are wrapped and tucked snuggly under the tree...
except for the gifts from Santa, of course. ;)

All of Emma's Christmas outfits are clean.
Waiting for the busy weekend ahead.

Santa's cookies are baked,
and once again my baking handicap has proceeded me.
Poor Emma.
Poor Santa.

Emma's favorite Christmas book about the birth of Jesus
is waiting patiently on her night stand.
I plan to read it at least 20 times this weekend.

Tonight we are having Christmas
with my mom, my sisters, and my nephew.
Everyone but, my sister, Kasie.
My heart will miss her deeply.

Tomorrow we are having Christmas with Randy's parents.

Christmas Day will be spent with my mother's family.
I'm excited about the food,
the card games,
the laughter,
and us
just being us.
My big, crazy family.
You gotta love them.

I will also spend some of Christmas Day with my Dad.
My Grandpa's absence will be greatly felt.
It already is.

And so, as I prepare for the busy weekend ahead that will be full of family, friends, laughter, and a tinge of sadness, I wanted to take a moment to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

However your weekend unfolds, I hope you will take a moment to look around and count your blessings: Family. Friends. Food. A warm house. Presents under your tree. The light in your child's eyes on Christmas morning. The laughter shared with people you love the most. Just take a moment and embrace it, because so many won't have that this year.

So, until next week:


Merry Christmas,
from my family to your family! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Very Pinterest Christmas

After massively compiling my Pinterest Christmas "wishlist" which contained all the wonderful ideas of things I WANTED to make this year for everyone, I was only able to find time to do two projects. But, two projects is HUGE for me! As many of you know, I am severely craft-challenged and even these two seemingly simple projects required some adult supervision. But, after weeks of crafting and even some failed attempts, I am extremely proud of the outcome, and I can officially say that:

Yeah, be impressed. I am.

Anyway, without further adieu, here are my recent Pinterest adeventures!

My take on the...


My friend, Katie, helped me sew these with her sewing machine which officially made her my hero! I picked the embellishments instead of the flowers, because my sisters and I are bling people. Seriously, glitter is our FAVORITE color! ;) I actually think they look so sparkly and wintery with pretty embellishments instead of the flowers, don't you?!

And then there was my nemesis...the tile coaster.


So, here's the story: Katie and I were on a quest for a perfectly smooth finish that we were not getting from mod podge, so we decided to add a layer of polyurethane. Well, the mod podge and the polyurethane were fine, but we decided to take it a step further with a layer of clear spray paint. Yeah...bad idea. They cracked and bubbled, and we were back to square one. I went back to Lowe's, bought more tiles, and a little container of polyurethane, because we thought the ones we just used polyurethane on, instead of mod podge reacted okay with the spray paint. Well, everything was smooth sailing, until once again I tried to put clear spray paint on them. OH. MY. GOSH. They bubbled and cracked...ALL of them, but three! Ugh. So, last night at 6:00 PM, Emma and I made ANOTHER trip to Lowe's for tiles and ANOTHER trip to Walgreens for pictures! Randy helped me cut, glue, and polyurethane pictures and scrapbook paper last night, because he knew I was weary of the project. This morning, they still weren't smooth, and I'm not sure why, but I'm over it! I think we should of just stuck with the mod podge, but it's too late to change them and I am not going to Lowe's again. I think they turned out okay, and I just hope that everyone likes them (I made 16 of them), even if they aren't perfectly smooth.

So, what about you?! Did you make anything Pinterest-ing this Christmas?! Can you believe we are 3 DAYS AWAY?! OH. MY. GOSH. I am so excited to give everyone their gifts and to see Emma open her gifts! That's what all the worry and penny pinching is really about anyway, right?!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We Need A Little Christmas

I don't know about your part of the country, but it's not very Christmas-y here in Missouri. It's been in the 50's and rainy everyday this week...YUCK! And this is only one of the things that has made it hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit. Yep, on top of the non-Christmas-y weather, I have ruined the tile coasters I have been trying to make for my mom, my mother-in-law, and both of my grandmothers for the SECOND time! Ugh.

As I've explained before, I am anything, BUT crafty! However, in an effort to save money, I decided to make a few of my Christmas presents this year. My headbands/ear warmers turned out pretty good, but these coasters are going to be the death of me for sure! Bleh. So, as a result of yet ANOTHER mishap, I will be making an impromptu trip to the hardware store and to Wal-Mart to get some pictures developed today. Yes, I know I'm crazy for braving Wal-Mart today, and I was trying to avoid Wal-Mart during Christmas week at all costs! But, with my recent craft dilemma that cannot be the case. Oh, joy. Hopefully, I will be able to get in and out without too much of a hassel! Pray for me!

So, since I can't do a post about my awesome, finished Christmas crafts like I wanted to do today, and I'm in dire need of some Christmas spirit, I've decided to share my Christmas playlist with you. Playlist.com didn't have a lot of the songs by the artists I actually listen too, but I was able to find some of the Christmas songs I love. Enjoy!


Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

If you want to spice things up, here is a list of the actual artist I am listening too, in addition to some of the songs above! I've also included a few of my favorites I wasn't able to find on Playlist.com

Baby, It's Cold Outside-Lady Antebellum
Blue Christmas-Brooke White
Christmases When You Were Mine-Taylor Swift
God Is With Us-Casting Crowns
Santa Baby-Kylie Minogue
O, Holy Night-Emmy Rossum (This one is absolutely amazing!)
My Only Wish-Jessica Simpson
I'll Be Home For Christmas-Kristin Chenoweth
Merry Christmas, Darling-Glee Cast

I hope all your Christmas plans are coming together nicely! Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Clothes-Minded

FashionPoliceLet’s talk about modesty for a second…

A few months ago, my bloggy friend, Katie, wrote a really interesting post that captured my attention. It basically caused me to re-think everything I have been taught/forced to believe about modesty. She gave a voice to the nagging doubts I have had about my body image and my wardrobe choices since I was 13 years old. It was so refreshing.

As many of you know, I attended a small, Christian school where I was expected to wear knee-length skirts and dresses. Because of this experience, I know A LOT about modesty. From a very early age, 1 Timothy 2: 9-11 has been the definition of my womanhood:

9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.”

And as a Christian woman, I have aspired to uphold the standards set for me by God. I think every Christian woman does. But, the more I have thought about modesty and what modesty is, I have realized that modesty isn’t necessarily the knee-length skirts and dresses I was asked to wear to school. I am starting to realize that the church has put too much of an emphasis on modesty in regards to a woman’s dress, and not enough of an emphasis on modesty in regards to a woman’s heart and attitude.

Scripture talks a lot about modesty and women, but it never defines it in the aspect of “thou shalt not wear dress pants to church” or “thou shalt not wear a sleeveless top in the house of the Lord”. And if that’s the case (which it obviously is, because no one can show me Scripture that actually says those things), then why do some churches/pastors frown upon wearing dress pants to church on Sunday morning? Why is a young woman gossiped about in church circles for wearing a skirt that hits right above her knee or wearing a top that shows a glimpse of her lace cami? Why?! Why do we cling to the opinion of a MAN (who is not your father or your husband) who states that knee length skirts and turtlenecks are the “right” example of modesty for women in the church? Why do we let that man’s OPINION dictate our life, our dress, and our relationship with the Lord? I think it’s a valid question.

Scripture also accompanies most of the verses in regards to modesty and women’s clothing with verses that talk about a women’s attitude and how she should carry herself. So, why will a pastor get up and preach a 60 minute sermon on why dress pants are a inappropriate clothing choice for women at church, but he will only glaze over the verses about how a virtuous woman “opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy” or how “she is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” ? In my opinion, those verses prove that a woman’s modesty is about so much more than what she's wearing. It’s about her attitude and her heart. Her choice to put her family and others before herself. Isn’t that more important than whether or not she wears a long dress to church?

Now before you accuse me of not understanding, because I must be one of those New Age women who attends one of those radical New Age churches where appropriate clothing is optional. You need to know that you are dead wrong. I actually attend a VERY conservative Baptist church. And before you label me a “guilty woman” who is struggling with the “conviction” of her clothing choices, then you need to know that you are also dead wrong about that as well. Actually, just a few weeks ago my husband complained that I try to dress “too nice” for church. You can come over and look through my closet and I can show you all of the skirts, dresses, and dress pants I have set aside for church and you would see that I too have built my entire wardrobe around one man’s opinion, who is not my husband.

In fact, I have become so obsessed about the clothes I wear to church and what everyone is going to think about them, that recently I realized that obsession has completely taken my focus off of God. This realization first hit me two weeks ago, when I spent an entire service trying to make sure my knee length skirt stay perfectly positioned over my knees while I was sitting. Of course, I had a two year old crawling up and down and all over me which made keeping any type of clothing in place impossible, but that didn’t matter. I was so worried that someone was going to see my skirt slightly pushed up above my knee and think what a hussy I must be. I have no idea what the sermon was about, but I can tell you my focus was everywhere, BUT on God. How sad is that. I mean, the more I thought about that moment, and all the times since that I have stared at my closet trying to pick the “most appropriate” skirt or dress for church, I realized that while God wants me dress modestly and in my best, He never wants me to let my clothes take my focus off of Him.

Yes, I believe in dressing your best for church. I believe that when you come into the house of the Lord, you should be prepared to offer Him your best: from your attitude to the clothes you wear. That doesn’t mean that I think I’m a “better” Christian, because I wear skirts and dress pants to church and some women wear jeans to church. It just means that for me, my best is the skirts and dress pants I have in my closet. I also whole-heartedly believe in modesty. I don’t think shorts are appropriate for the house of the Lord, but I don’t think it makes me less of a Christian because I wear them on Tuesday to go to Wal-Mart. I think really low-cut shirts that show off your cleavage are always inappropriate and I would NEVER wear one to church, but I’m not going to pass judgment on women who have decided those types of shirts are perfectly okay. I’m not a “better” Christian than them, because I always wear tank tops under my low cut tops or whatever. I believe that everyone has different convictions about modesty, and I don’t think that so and so is going to hell, because they dress differently at church than I do. Who am I to tell them differently?!

On another note, one could argue that dressing in floor length skirts and turtlenecks would eliminate the worry and keep the focus on God, and for some women that may be true. But, not for me. I would probably be so hot and uncomfortable in clothes like that, that once again my focus would be off of God. I know for a fact that there is nothing wrong with the clothes I choose to wear to church, and my discomfort is not coming from personal convictions, but from what everyone else “might” think. I think that some churches put too much pressure on what one should wear in the house of the Lord. Not only do these standards make members of their own church uncomfortable, but it also makes a church seem lofty and unwelcoming to just a regular guy or girl off the street. I mean no one wants to be judged or criticized, and if you decided to visit a church wear everyone was dressed way nicer than anything you have in your closet, why would you want to come back? You would definitely leave feeling like you didn’t fit in or belong there. Do you see my point? I know, I know…You could go off on several different tangents about how a person’s decision whether or not they attend a church shouldn’t be about clothes, it should be about whether that church shares the same doctrine as them or if they agree with the Pastor’s sermon. But, let’s get real. In today’s society first impressions are everything. And if we are truly going to reach the lost, which is our ultimate calling, then why do we let something minor like dress code scare the lost away?

With all of that said, I’m just going to throw this out there. My definition of modesty is ultimately going to be up to my husband. If my husband thinks that dress pants are perfectly okay to wear to church on Sunday morning, then I’m going to feel confident and beautiful wearing those dress pants. The same goes for jeans. If my husband thought that nice jeans were appropriate for Sunday morning service, then I would wear my jeans proudly. Call me old-fashion, but I actually care what my husband thinks about my clothes, because he is the head of our household. If he were to ask me to wear a skirt every Sunday to church, I would choose to do so without much complaint (except for when it was really cold outside, then he might hear a huff or two ;). I have been called to respect my husband and his opinion about my clothing, and his opinion\ should be the final word. Period.

I am tired of feeling inferior. I am tired of feeling like the lady who buttons ALL the buttons on her blouse is a “better” Christian than me. I am tired of being afraid to wear dress pants to a Sunday morning service  or even nice jeans to a Wednesday night service, because of the looks I may get. I am tired of letting another man, who is NOT my husband, define what is and isn’t okay to wear to church. I refuse to raise my daughter to believe that one church and one man’s opinion is the official standard on modesty. I am going to raise her to respect her father and to one day respect her husband, because that is what God has called me to do, and that is ultimately what God wants from her…not floor length skirts.

Friday, December 16, 2011

MIA: An Update

So, I've been MIA all week and I bet you all were just sitting there wondering where I'd gotten off too, weren't you?! ;)

Well, as I explained on Monday, Emma woke up Sunday night with bronchitis and a fever. Bronchitis/strep/ear infections has been going around, and I'm convinced she caught the germs last Wednesday when I took her to the pediatrician for a nasty rash we've been battling since July. Anyway, she woke up sick and has been coughing/hacking/vomiting from the coughing ever since. Besides the antibiotics the pediatrician gave her on Monday, I have been slathering her in Vick's Baby Rub at night and running her warm mist humidifier...all with no prevail! The night before last, I even tried sitting in the bathroom with her while the shower was running in hopes that the steam would help...but, it didn't. Yep, nothing really seemed to be working, but yesterday I finally got my hands on some cough syrup that I can give her at night to help her sleep. We tried that for the first time last night, and while we still had a few coughing fits, last night was the best she's slept all week! She even slept in until 9:00 AM this morning! I was so excited! I finally feel like we are on the right track to recovery and things are starting to get back to normal...starting with the massive house cleaning/disinfecting I need to do today! :)

On top of dealing with the plague, my laptop (our only link to the outside world) decided to get a virus last week! Actually, we aren't really sure when it started or how our computer got infected (I have my suspicions), but by Monday, it was basically non-functional. I took it to a computer repair guy on Tuesday, and he was able to locate the virus, as well as a rotovirus that was eating away at all my programming. He also updated my Java script and I got my computer back last night as good as new! My separation anxiety from my laptop a.k.a. Facebook and my blog was a little pathetic, but I was able to keep it under wraps and I indulged myself last night for almost 3 hours after Emma went to bed (yes, I know I have a problem!). It's so good to be back and reconnected! "Reunited and it feels so good!" :)

Okay, so that explains my recent MIA status! I hope ya'll didn't miss me too much! I have several fantastic blog post brewing, and I'm ready to finish them and get those up! I plan to do a little blogging while Emma naps, as well as, finish up some of my Pinterest-inspired Christmas gifts! (Yep, get ready for a blog post about those too!)

What about you?! Any big plans for your Friday?! BTW, can you believe that Christmas is NEXT Sunday?! Whoa. I am completely blown away by this! It really snuck up on me this year! What about you?

Happy Friday!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Right Now...

I've had a rough day...actually a rough 48 hours. Emma woke up Sunday at 12:00 AM with bronchitis/vomiting/diarrhea/high fever, so needless to say, it's been an exhausting few days at my house. I promise I have a few good blog posts brewing, but for tonight I am borrowing this from Amber over at Goodnight Moon. Thanks for the idea, girl!

Right now, I am...

Watching: The news (sooo boring!) and wishing that I didn't have to wait until January 8th for Pan Am to come back on! :(

Eating: Lay's Kettle Cooked Original Potato Chips...YUM!

Drinking: A glass of homemade sweet tea...again, YUM!

Wearing: My favorite pair of skinny jeans and a gray tank top. I had on a flannel shirt, but I prefer to just wear my tank tops at home...I'm too lazy to look social acceptable here :)

Avoiding: My bed, because I know tonight is going to be another long one! (What's the point of even attempting to go to sleep?! Ugh.)

Feeling: Perturbed at a certain family member...darn you, Facebook!

Missing: The beach and my sister, Kasie. The last few days have me questioning why I even bothered to come home! ;)

Thankful: For so many things, but right now I am thankful for the future! I start back to school in just a few short weeks, and I'm going back to work part time in January.

Weather: 45 degrees and cloudy. It's probably going to rain tomorrow :(

Needing: To start my blog post on a controversial topic, but that's something else I'm kind of avoiding.

Thinking: "Man, I really need to start that blog post before I forget everything I want to say!" and "Man, I am such an idiot! I should really be in bed right now!"

Loving: My life. Despite the stress and exhaustion over the last few days, I am so in love with my husband, my daughter and our life.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Grief

"Mommy, who makes it dark?" Emma asked the other night on our way home.

"God." I replied.

"He's the one who makes the sun rise and tells the sun to say goodnight, so the moon can come out."

"God." Emma said as she tested the word on her tongue and allowed His name to register.

"That's where Grandpa is."

"Yes." I said quietly, ending the conversation as quickly as it started.

Is it bad that I don't have the answers? Nothing has ever made me feel more inadequate as a mother. I feel bad that at the age of 2 1/2 concepts like God, death, and Heaven are so far out of her grasp. I can see her wanting to understand: "Mommy, where's Heaven?" or "Mommy, when will Grandpa be back?", but all my answers seem to only create more questions. Questions I don't have the answers for.

And on top of all of that, every time she mentions him I cringe from the pain. I don't want to talk about him. I don't want to remember. Last night, my husband wanted me to watch, City of Angels, which I've never seen. He swore it was a good movie. But, I was crying so hard that I made him turn it off within the first 10 minutes. I can't do hospitals. I can't do movies or TV shows where people are dying in hospitals. I can't watch actors portraying the grief of those who have just lost a loved one. You'd think I could...5 months later, but I can't. I just can't. And that desire to push images of death out of my life, is the same desire that keeps me from being able to talk about my Grandpa with Emma. People say, its good to remember. But, right now, for me, it's not. And, I feel like crap. I feel like I'm doing Emma some kind of disservice. I wonder, do 2 1/2 year old's grieve? And if they do, how do you help them? Because, I am doing a terrible job. I feel guilty that every time she wants to talk about him or Heaven, I change the subject. I mean, it's my job to teach her, right? It's my job to help her understand. And, I can't. I just can't.

I'm not depressed. I'm just grieving. People say, that everyone grieves differently, and I have never seen that truth more evident in my life than right now. I haven't even been to visit his grave. I can't. My sister says she feels closer to him there, but not me. I don't. I feel like a rock with his name carved in it makes him seem farther away. I look at his pictures every morning. His pictures make me feel closer to him. They remind me that he was real. He existed. He is the reason I am here. But, all I do is look. I don't talk to the pictures. I don't say his name, and when Emma mentions him, I change the subject. I'm still grieving. I'm still processing. And right now...I just can't. I hope that someday I will. That the selective muteness regarding the subject of him will fade. I know I will never have the answers, but at least I will reach a point to where talking about him, isn't quite so painful...right?!

I hope so. I need to move on. I want to move on. I want to take those steps forward into the light, because I know he would want me too. He wouldn't want his name to cause me so much pain. And, because of this. I know I will make it through. I know that someday, Emma will ask me about him or Heaven and it won't hurt quite as much. I don't think that day will be today or even tomorrow. But, I know it's coming.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
~Psalms 34: 18

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Toes In The Water..."

As I unpack my suitcase, I smile at the remnants of sand that still clings to everything from my shorts to my flip flops. And a little part of me cries as I place each one of my bathing suits back in the bottom drawer. A part of me cannot believe I'm unpacking, while other parts of me cannot believe that I was even there. It's true: St. John's, USVI is a little piece of heaven on Earth. I have never seen anywhere more beautiful in my entire life. The people are amazing. The beautiful turquoises and dark blue of the water is breathtaking. The landscape is truly majestic and awe inspiring. And at night you can walk along the beach with a Bushwacker in hand and think to yourself, "You know, self, despite all of the poverty, heartache, war, and sickness in the world, there are still beautiful places that make you forget about all of that, even if it's just for a little while."

I don't say all of that as someone who spent her entire vacation in the shelter of a luxurious resort or relaxing in the safety of a cruise ship. I say that as someone who spent her entire vacation in a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment with 3 other girls and a cool guy named, Jacob. I say that as someone whose sister works at the smallest, but busiest place in town, so that is where you could find me everyday around 4:00 PM. I say that as someone who met a local homeless guy named Piney, who asked my sisters and I for money everyday, and wasn't afraid to tell us he was going to use the money for a smoke. I say that as someone who walked home to Kasie's apartment every night in the sketchy part of town. There was nothing sheltered about my vacation. I met people who have a totally different perspective on life. I vacationed in a place where time truly does move at a completely different pace. It was a raw and exciting experience. One, I will not soon forget.

Randi and I got into St. John's Thursday night around 7:30 PM. We spent Thursday night out on the town meeting all of Kasie's wonderful friends. There were SO many of them! Later on, we got to spend the night at the most gorgeous villa on Ditleff Point thanks to our awesome friend, Justin, who truly treated Randi and I like princesses the entire time!

{Pictures from Thursday night. Top: Kasie, Randi, and I at Tap Bar,
home of the most delicious pineapple infused vodka EVER;
Middle: Some super cool kids: Abi, Justin, and Kasie at Tap Bar;
Bottom: Me, Kasie and Randi at our favorite hang out: Beach Bar!}


{The view from Ditleff Point where we spent our first night in St. John's!}

Friday, Justin took Randi and I to the best private beach ever: Dennis Beach! We got to lay out and swim for 3 1/2 hours all by ourselves while Kasie was at work! It was heavenly!

{Dennis Beach}

But, Saturday was the best day of all. Kasie was off of work, and we decided to hit up the beach at Cinnamon Bay with one of the coolest guys I have ever met: Ted! Seriously, I love that kid.

When we got to Cinnamon Bay, the first thought I had was, "THIS is the most beautiful beach in the world." Granted, I'm not a world traveler or anything, but I'm pretty sure that Cinnamon Bay could give other beaches a run for their money. It is seriously gorgeous. We spent the entire day (11:00 AM to 5:00 PM...yeah, buddy!) laying out on the beach, swimming, and just talking. I read a huge chunk of my book, while Kasie listened to music. Randi and Ted got to paddle board and skim board, while Kasie and I looked on and laughed (you can see THIS video for proof!). We drew pictures in the sand, we admired the beauty around us and at the end of the day we all looked at each other and said, "Today was a GOOD day. The best." It was a beautiful moment in time, a day that I needed, not just as a wife and mommy, but it was a day that we needed as sisters to just be sisters. To be girls. To laugh. To talk. To relax. It was a day I will remember forever. I will tell my grandchildren about that day. It was perfect. Everything about it.

{Cinnamon Bay}

Sunday, it rained! :( So, we went over to St. Thomas and went to the flea market. We picked up a few trinkets for our friends and family back home, and I got a super cute bag. We ended the day watching the football game at the Caribbean Saloon with Kasie's roommate, Kacie and our friend, Chad. Later, Chad gave us a ride back to St. John's in one of his boats. It was so much fun. Other than the ferry ride, it was the only boat ride we had all vacation.

Monday, Justin picked Randi and I up and took us to the Kaleidoscope Villa while Kasie was at work. We welcomed back the sunshine while we swam in the infinite pool and enjoyed our last day in St. John's. We laid out, we talked, and Justin spoiled us with an expensive bottle of wine and some champagne (Yep, two bottles. You heard right! He's the best!). That night, Justin took all three of out to a really nice dinner at Morgan's Mango, where we enjoyed the best food we had our entire vacation. After we ate, he decided to share with us that Tuesday was his birthday. I then felt terrible that he had paid for dinner, but that's just how Justin is. He's such a good guy. He will make some lucky girl very happy some day.

{One of the many views from Kaleidoscope Villa}

{Randi and I lounging in the infinite pool!}

After dinner, we went back to Beach Bar for one last night. We bought our Beach Bar t-shirts, sat on the beach, and enjoyed our last exotic drink. It was truly the perfect way to end our vacation.


Tuesday, I did one of the hardest things I have ever done. I left a piece of my heart in the Virign Islands. To say that Randi and I's lives are different without Kasie is an understatement. It was so nice to have 5 days where everything was normal...we even bickered a little bit. For 5 days my heart was complete, and it was so hard to come back to the emptiness Randi and I feel without her here. I know that I will always have Randi, and she is truly my lifeline here at home. We do everything together, but despite all of the wonderful times we have, it's just not the same without Kasie, and until she is home we know that it never will be.

But, you know despite the heartache, Randi and I are so proud of her. She is doing something that Randi and I never got to do. She is embracing life and doing something crazy. She is making memories she will never forget. Memories that will forever warm her heart, even on life's darkest days.

My Grandpa used to always talk about the time he and a friend road their motorcycles down the California coast. It was some of the best memories of his life. That was his "something crazy". His moment in time where he felt young and free, and where he made memories he continued to tell us about years later. I have been comparing Kasie's time in St. John's to the stories he used to tell us. She is getting those memories and moments just like my Grandpa did. And because of that, I am proud of her. Because of that, I can live without her for a little while, and I have and will continue to tell her to stay, to stick it out, and continue living. I will not tell her to give up, because I'm selfish and want her here. I won't.

Instead, I will embrace these pictures and the memories they represent. I will count down the days until I get to see her again, and Randi and I will continue to make the best of it (karaoke, anyone?!). We will be okay. Kasie will be okay. And 20 years from now, we will laugh about our first, crazy sister vacation and all the ones to come. It's going to be epic. Our Grandpa would be so proud.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"We're Here, Because We're Not All There."

Randi and I got into St. Louis this morning at 12:00 AM after spending the day before braving delayed flights and mean flight attendants. After picking up her car and saying goodbye to our friend, Manda, who took us to and from the airport, we decided to drive the 3 hours home this morning. I was in bed by 4:00 AM. To say, I'm exhausted is an understatement, but it's a good kind of exhausted. The kind of exhaustion that comes with having just experienced some of the best days of my entire life. I made memories over the last 5 days that I am going to cherish forever, and some of them I may never be able to put into words.

I have so many pictures and things I want to share with you about our trip, but those stories will just have to wait until tomorrow, when I'm rested and a little more coherent! ;) I have also relished today with Emma. She has been extra lovey today, and I am enjoying every minute of it! So, for now, blogging will just have to wait!

But, I knew I couldn't just leave you hanging. I know you all are DYING to hear all about it and see my pictures of one of the most beautiful places on Earth! So, I will leave you tonight with the funniest moment from our entire vacation. Seriously...we are all still cracking up about it! :)

I hope this makes your night and I will see you all tomorrow!



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Leaving On A Jet Plane...

It's here! It's here! Today is FINALLY here! This morning at 6:00 AM I hopped on an airplane bound for...


St. John's
which located in the U.S. Virgin Islands!
Woot! Woot!

I'm on my way to see this girl:


with this girl:



It's going to be 6 of the most FANFREAKINTASTIC days of my life,
and I cannot wait!

The best part about it is...
that Kasie has no idea that I'm coming with Randi!
It's a HUGE surprise!
So, SHHH!
That's why I haven't been blogging about my excitement!
And let me tell you,
THAT has been even harder than trying not to tell her!
She is going to flip!
I just hope Randi catches the moment on camera,
because it will priceless.

So, I hope you all will forgive me.
I'm going to be a little MIA for a few days:
laying on the beach,
reading my books,
sipping a FEW cocktails,
and enjoying some long-overdue MOMMY time,
as well as,
some of the best sister time EVER.
Ahh...it's going to be perfect.

I would like to ask everyone to keep my sister, Randi and I in your prayers today. We are flying separately to the Virgin Islands, thanks to my last minute booking, and this is the first time either of us has ever flown alone. We are super nervous. Please pray for no delays and that we both end up in St. Thomas in one piece and with all of our belongings. Please pray for safety while we are on the island, and that our return trip home will go smoothly as well.

I would also like to ask you to please pray for my husband, Randy and Emma. This is the first time I have EVER left them alone together for more than an evening or a weekend. Pray that things go smoothly for them, and that Randy remembers everything he's supposed to do. He's not used to playing Mr. Mom, so hopefully he will catch on quick! I know they are both going to miss me, as much as I am going to miss them. But, the awesome thing about my husband is that he understands. He knows that I need this, and that if all I got for Christmas was a week in paradise with my sister, I would be one happy girl <3 I love him!

Well, goodbye, bloggy friends! I will return next week with amazing,crazy stories and the pictures to prove it! I hope you all have a beautiful weekend!

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I do not receive monetary compensation from any of the products, companies, or organizations I promote through my blog, unless otherwise specified during a giveaway or promotion. I am just your average mom trying to share products that I enjoy with other moms, as well as organizations and charities I believe in.