Monday, May 21, 2012

Dancers and Leaders

Most people that know me, unfortunately quickly learn that my biggest weakness is the need to control.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have thrived on organization, structure and at the very least, the need to have a clean room.  Anything less was always unsettling to my young mind.  At 29, not much has changed and sadly, some of those tendencies have only worsened over the years.  Last week (and since writing this, today again), I experienced one of those realizations where it was finally time to make a trade:  control for freedom.

When I married my handsome groom 2 1/2 years ago, I realized that control was not really welcomed in a marriage.  He is one of the most patient men I know and thankfully has put up with my shenanigans over the last few years, especially when I wanted things done on my time and my way.  (Yes, selfishness seems to be a weakness, too.  I think control and selfishness must go hand-in-hand.  Go figure.)  Just in case you are newly married and want to tell your husband to pick up socks again or re-clean something, it's not worth it.  In fact, it can be border-line disrespectful, in my opinion.  Control can be a messy thing - and can corrupt your life.  Don't let it creep into your marriage, your workspace, or any other area of your life.  In the end, I have learned that control seems to be one of those battles that I have struggled with for years - even before Jeff was in the picture. 

My expectations were set above any bar and in order to reach them, it was as if I had to climb 1,000 staircases to even touch the first floor.  This led to sleepless nights, headaches, unhappy moments, and many tearful conversations.  It was not only wearing to my mind, it was damaging my heart.  It shouldn't surprise you that I realized last last week that I have lived many (unprofitable) years mentally exhausted, trying to control things that are out of total reach and simply just out of my control.  A hard lesson for such a stubborn soul to see.  Never was anything "in my control" to begin with anyway, except maybe the occasional disciplines like brushing your teeth or perhaps learning to study for a test weeks in advance rather than the night before?  Nonetheless, I look back at my life and review the blessings, the very unfortunate heartaches and believe this: 
It is always the best policy to trust Jesus. He will consistently take better care of our hearts and plans better than we ever could or ever will. Sounds so cliche, right?  But, so full of truth, friends!  The best part?  When He takes the lead, you will find yourself in a place of true freedom, and I believe there is no better place to live.  How many years have I been living in mental bondage, when all I needed was a time of surrender to my Savior?  I hate to even start calculating the math.  

Last Thursday, as I was cleaning, I landed on one of our music channels and found this catchy tune.  When I paused to listen to the lyrics, I couldn't help but giggle at the thought of the Lord saying, "This is for you."  I took a moment from cleaning and re-played it a few times - and found myself dancing with zero inhibitions.  Talk about a whole other kind of freedom! 

My favorite part of this song is not only the title, "You Lead," but the end of the chorus:  "I know what you've got for me, is more than I can see."  I kept thinking that as I moved around my living room.  How much greater are His plans than ours and what He has for us is more than we can see?  It reminds me of childhood, when all you wanted was to climb over the fence just to see the animals at the zoo, but Mom or Dad stopped you because what they saw on the other side, was far more dangerous than what you could see on your side.  Or what about the time as a young adult when you wanted so badly to date "Joe" or "Sue", but "someone" else saw him for what he/she was and chose to protect your heart instead or perhaps just had someone better for you around the corner?  As a Christian, I believe my path is directed by someone greater and His eyes see more than me.  I realize there will be bumps, STOP signs, and many "uneven" roads along the way, but I trust Him.  I give Him the control. 

I don't know where you are in your walk with Christ, or maybe you haven't yet given your life to Him or entrusted your path to His leadership.  But, let me tell you, there is some serious freedom when you give that up.  So much is completely out of our control.  I encourage you to live in freedom and allow Him to take the lead, I promise you - you won't regret it. 


Friday, May 11, 2012

Magical Moments and Fried Okra - A Tribute to Mothers

You may remember back in April, I wrote a little something to honor my amazing mother, here
.  In celebration of Mother's Day, I feel it's only appropriate to share about the other special women in my life.  My heart continues to remain full as I watch the blessings overflow in my heart when I think about all the mothers in my life.  In particular, I think back on November 14, 2009 when I officially became a 3rd daughter to my fabulous Mother-in-Law and for the years of my on-going, wonderful relationship with my amazing sister who became a Mother last year.  Today, I dedicate this post to them!

Colleen, my older (and only) sister, became official "Momma" to Tatum Lynn Carroll on February 2, 2011.  I'll never forget the day this little miracle came into our worlds.  Weighing in at 7 lbs, 15 oz., and 20 inches long, Tatum stole every heart that laid eyes on her.  She. Was. Beautiful. That day was unforgettable for many reasons, but one reason I will never forget is how my sister looked the very first time I saw her holding our new little bundle of joy.  She was glowing - beaming really.  I had never seen my sister with this look before.  I remember trying to "soak" in the moment.  Looking at Colleen and watching my niece so delicately gaze at her new Momma for the first time, was, well, magical....

Their connection was instant.  They say newborns can't really see - but for reasons I can't explain, I believe she saw Colleen.  Of course, I cried like a baby and tried so desperately to snap a picture of this moment that will forever be engrained on my heart, but I failed.  I just remember not wanting to take my eyes off my sister - as a new Mom - and my gorgeous new niece.  (I'm so glad Melissa - Colleen's best friend - captured it on camera so I can re-live it by picture, although this snapshot will never quite give that moment appropriate justice).   

Ever since that day, I have continued to witness my sister be one incredible Mom to our Tatum, every reason why little "Tay" will always want to hold her gaze on Momma...

Colleen has taken care of kids that were not hers for as long as I can remember. She stole the hearts of countless families for the times she loved, cared for, and nurtured their little loved ones.  She made a career of it and traveled to states near and far to carry the title of "nanny".  She spent time holding, calming, teaching, playing, and spending hours with kids - she was a second "Mom" to so many.  She played the role of big sister famously and made sure I was taken care of, too, especially on stormy nights when this kid just couldn't quite get to sleep.  Nurture was Colleen's second nature - no doubt about that.  Last year, she finally became Momma to a beautiful little girl.  Now, she spends countless hours bathing, holding, reading, teaching, playing, and loving on our sweet Tatum - and she does it beautifully and with complete humility.  Tatum is one of THE happiest babies I have ever seen and I give Colleen the credit.  What a fabulous job you have done with your own.  I am so proud to call you sister, friend, and now Mom to Tatum Lynn.  I love you!
Have you seen a happier baby?
I remember meeting Edie for the first time when Jeff and I were dating.  She ordered fried okra at a local restaurant and I instantly fell in love.  Not just because she ordered fried okra (one of my very favorite guilty pleasures) but because she had a smile that could warm your heart.  I felt an instant bond and knew we would be friends! 

Most people reluctantly share stories about their dreaded "in-laws" and visits home to see them.  I, on the other hand, have the blessing to call mine friends.  I have the blessing to call mine true family

In Edie's home, there is always room for one more, there is always food on the table and you better believe there will always be a hug to greet you.  She sets the example of a servant's heart and a humble spirit.  She loves people and she certainly loves her family - and she'll tell you that.  She will go to bat for them, too.  Sound familiar?  Yes - my mother and Edie are strangely alike and I don't doubt for a second God didn't have this in mind when he orchestrated his plan for Jeff and me to marry.  He's good like that, isn't He?

My most favorite thing about Edie is simply that she loves with every bone in her body.  She loves others more than herself and she'll do anything, for anyone, at any time.  When I think of Edie, I think of service and love.  My heart is full at the thought of God placing her in my life.
Thank you, Edie for being more than just another Mother-in-Law.  And, thank you for always sharing a good bowl of fried okra with me.  

My Mom?  What else can I say that I haven't already?  She makes me want to be a better wife and I only hope I'm half the Mother to my kids that she has been to Colleen and 
 me.  I love her more than cheeseburgers, a clean house, fresh flowers, and even fried okra.  You are, indeed, a blessing from above.  I love you! 
to Colleen, Edie, and Mom!

I love you!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

From Old to New: A Throw Pillow

For months now, I've had my eye on the dreaded, boring, wide-striped, brown and green throw pillow in my guest bedroom.  A few years ago, it was a total steal at Target.  I loved it.  However, since my sewing ventures, I've wanted to really tackle it and convert it into something new and fresh for my bedroom (now in greys, blues and black).  This Saturday was another Sewing Circle day and a perfect opportunity to take on the challenge. 

The girls and I sat around as I pulled the pillow out among the sea of fabrics - you should have "seen" the wheels turning!  To re-cover it seemed like the easiest choice, but no one knew how to sew in a zipper and to make an outside stitch wasn't appealing to me or anyone else.  Then, it was like the silent wheels in our heads stopped and one spoke up and asked, "What about ties?"  Perfect.  That'll do it.  Our beloved teacher was unable to attend last minute, so it was up to us to help each other in completing each project: a few square pillows, 1 tie throw pillow (my project), a duvet cover, and the most grueling?  Recovering a couch.  Yes.  You read that correctly.  One of us decided to take the plunge and wanted to re-cover an old couch.  Let's just say I'm glad I'm not giving you a tutorial post on how to make covers for your cushions.  (Now, just in case your wheels are turning concerning my friend's supply list, she did not lug the couch to Sewing Circle - she only brought two cushions for measuring.  Rest assure, we're ambitious ones, but still very much girls in the truest sense when it comes to carrying our supplies to class).

For my project, all you really need is a throw pillow, some fabric (about 1/2 - 1 yard, depending on the size of your pillow, of course) and some thread.  Easy, peasy!

How To:

1. Cut your fabric to cover your pillow - make sure you leave enough on the sides to make holes for your ties.  Then make a nice fold with the side you want showing together:

2.  Sew your seams.  They should look something like this: 

3.  Next, measure (mine were about 24" each in length) and sew your ties. This was a little bit more time consuming than I had anticipated.  But, totally worth it.  You may choose to leave them with a frayed look and that is totally acceptable.  It all depends on the "look" you're wanting with your pillow.  I desired a more polished throw, while others may want a more rugged, unfinished look - which I think could look just as great (and certainly way less time consuming)!

4.  Now, you're ready to stuff your pillow in your new lining to prep for the tie holes.  I took my trusty tape measure to see exactly where I wanted the holes.  I decided on two on each side for now, especially after sewing those pesky ties.
Then, I took my pins and used those as markers for where I wanted them. 

5.  I'm not proud of this moment - but I decided to make a small cut for each of the 4 holes.  I haven't conquered the world of button holes on my machine, but I will and I'm sure I'll fall in love with it.  But, until that day arrives, I settled for a simple, very unprofessional "half-moon-fold-material-together" kind of cut.  And, I think it worked out just fine.  Besides, no one can really see the unpolished holes because the ties are that adorable, don't you think?

6.  The last step is to put your ties through your holes and simply tie a knot or a bow - the choice is yours, my friend!  Clearly, my very outdated iPhone takes poorer pictures than my digital camera.  Lesson learned.

Friday, May 4, 2012

When the New Carpet Smell Fades...

For several months now, the hubs and I have worked diligently on bringing serious love to our home that desperately needed it when she called our names in October of 2010.  Between ripping out walls, sanding cabinets, tiling, scraping ceilings, and one of my favorite stages - enjoying the smell of new carpet - one thing I have so humbly learned is this:  Your house will never truly be your home, until you see the importance of those you're sharing it with. 
Jeff and I have only been married a little over two years now - some may say we're still very much in the "honeymoon stage".  We started our first year of marriage with moving cities (or from one city to a very small town), changing jobs, moving homes, and now living in a house that continuously asks for our attention daily, whether we answer her calls or not.  We quickly learned that change was everywhere: in our home, in our jobs and in our lives.  We embraced it and forged ahead...of course, I didn't quite know what I was getting into when we started the trek into the Renovation Stages...

  • There are times you flip a switch and nothing happens.
  • Water may not always be hot when you want it be.
  • Shower knobs aren't a guarantee.
  • Covering outlets is the last priority.  So are baseboards.
  • Parts of your home may be ready for stage 2, but stay in stage 1 for many months.
  • One of your rooms may quickly morph into a "tool shed" to keep track of all the crazy amounts of hammers, nails, saws, machines, carpet pieces, paint, baseboards, etc...
  • People will ask about progress and you often give the same report from the previous months, "No change."
  • And, the new carpet smell eventually fades...
For months, my O.C.D. would strike and my attitude wasn't the best, I'll admit.  I thought, "We are in way over our heads.  There is no way we'll ever finish this and will live in an unfinished house for years, and never be able to sell it."  Most of this was "internal" thinking and often shared "externally" in increments when I would see a loose plug or when all I wanted was a bath and the knob would conveniently break off.  Over time, I've realized that all of these things are just that: things.  This house has not only saved us money, it has allowed for many teenaged boys to play video games until late, hosted Bible Studies, created a safe place for youth to come over when they needed a place to vent, gathered family together, enjoyed late night rituals of Law & Order with my man, eaten meals with our church families, and taught us the blessing to receive from so many wonderful, dedicated, loving volunteers who have helped along the way to transform this place!  Who really cares if my backsplash isn't up just yet?  I still have a place to cook meals for anyone who walks in my front door.  I may not have sheet rock up in my hallway bathroom, but I DO have a new shower/bath and my heart delights when I see my nice, white, clean shower walls each day.  

And, there are some rooms that eventually receive the attention they deserve.  That fresh, new carpet smell may have faded - but it's only because we've had shoes, feet, traffic, people between the walls of our home over the last year and a half...and that I wouldn't trade for the world. 

Besides, that's what vacuums and professional carpet cleaners are for, anyway?  Right?  Nobody knows clean and organization like this gal, but don't miss out on people and relationships, because your focus becomes so involved on things.  So, whether we sell this house with every inch completed or not, I pray the next homeowners feel the love, the blessings and that they experience the kind of relationships we have built in this home, because that is what has made this house a home. 

Joshua 24:15 (NIV) " for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."