Small Towns, Big Community!

When we first moved back to Central Montana, I was a little unsure of whether or not I was ready to “live in the middle of nowhere,” but after being here for 4 years and having the opportunity to get involved in some different areas has reminded me why it’s a blessing to live in the Central Montana community.

I think something really special about our community, is how all these small towns come together for different reasons year round. Also, how even though we may “compete” against each other with sports and 4-H and other club activities, when someone needs our help we all unite to help out.

Tough Enough to Wear Pink, Relay For Life, Festival of Trees, Bright Country Nights, Chokecherry Jam, Lewistown Downtown Assoc., and countless others that hold numerous benefits and fundraisers for different ways to support all of the communities in the area.

I have been able to work with the people who organize and put on the Bright Country Nights light show. This “show” – filled with handmade light displays by families and businesses in the Central Montana area – raises money that will help with maintenance and improvements around the fairgrounds. The Central Montana Fairgrounds hosts many events throughout the year and this is one way we can give back a little!

#38 Bertie & Jennifer
photo credit Jennifer Saunders, Old Horse Barn, Central Montana Fairgrounds.

I have enjoyed helping with this cause. Not only in the weeks before the show by updating Facebook and submitting informational articles to the local newspaper, but by also “manning” the gate for one night during the weekend long show. Although it was a cold experience, we (thanks hubby for “volunteering!”) had fun hearing how everyone enjoyed each display and what the favorites were! While this event is free we take any free will offerings, which will then go towards the maintenance and improvements of the fairgrounds.

This year we are very excited to announce that we will be offering hayrides on the last evening of the light show with hot chocolate and s’mores available before and after the ride! Just a little extra fun for making memories while out and about with your family!

Remember, all of this is free and our community members are willingly donating their time, efforts, equipment and handiwork for the benefit of raising funds for our local “events center.” Isn’t that what community is all about? Helping each other out and using our resources and talents to aid those that need it knowing that if we ever need their help in the future they will gladly do the same for us? And how amazing is it that we have one large community that includes all of these small towns who may “compete” as all small towns do, but when it matters most they will unite to help each other out.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. ~1 Peter 3:8

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Trust Test

So I am the Kids church leader on Wednesday nights; 10-20 kids, Pre-K – 6th grade. It’s definitely “controlled chaos,” but we have a good time (I think!) and I have two awesome ladies helping me out, so it’s a good experience.

The memory verse for this month is Luke 16:10a:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”

After having a couple of crazy weeks and plenty of needless worry, about a week ago this verse took on a new meaning for me.

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Technically, it means that same thing, but when I applied it to myself instead of trying to help the kids understand it, I realized that all that’s been going on is not new to God and – NEWS FLASH – He knows I can already do it! I am the only one who thinks I can’t do it.

Now, please don’t take this as arrogance either tho. I have TONS of help. A great family who supports me and helps with the boys when I need and, like I said, an amazing Kids’ Ministry team who helps me keep the chaos somewhat controlled.

What I’ve realized is I need to be grateful for these opportunities I have: helping kids grow in their relationships with Christ; showing my gratitude to those who lovingly help out; loving on two little boys that win me over after every “fight.”

It never occurred to me that God TRUSTS me with these “things.” While I don’t always say the right things or I lose my temper or get frustrated too easily or let myself get stressed out before asking for help, He still trusts me to be a good wife, mother, and leader.

WOW!

So if God, the creator of everything, trusts me, why can’t I trust myself?

Trust, n: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

All Things Fall

I love fall. And I am so very ready for it to be here. After weird, not-very-spring-like weather and then out of nowhere 90+ degree weather; fires and more fires and no rain, I am so very ready for fall. Brisk mornings, warm afternoons and cool evenings make for wonderful days. Along with that is the fun of having a bountiful garden and finding new recipes to use our wonderful veggies!

Fall baking is kind of my therapy sometimes. With it’s warm spices and cozy aromas, for some reason it helps me to refocus and remember to soak up all I have to be grateful for; a wonderful home filled with laughter (and yes, sometime screaming) and always full of love. Family close by to share and make memories with. Amazing friends that keep me sane! Above all, a God that doesn’t and will never give up on me!

So, in honor of fall and all it means to me, I want to share a few of my most favorite recipes with you all!

First up….

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread – this bread is literally ALL THINGS FALL! Yummy spices, with two perfect fall veggies; this bread is what I thing fall would taste like!

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

YUM! Seriously, super moist and perfect, served warm with butter! Breakfast, snack, dessert – it’s great all day long!

With our new addition coming in the spring, I have a feeling I will be doing some major fall/holiday baking and I’m hoping to join the “be prepared with frozen meals stocked up” club; I will share what I find along the way!

Stay tuned for more yummy fall recipes this month!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

 

Mayday {no, it’s not a typo}

May Day has arrived and I have called out a Mayday; I have some serious winter blues.

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May 1, 2017

Yes we’ve had a few nice days scattered in every once in a while, but come on, it’s gonna be summer before we get any spring!

As I’m sitting in my kitchen, watching it snow….again….on May 1st….I’ve decided I’ve gone beyond cabin fever. I have never been a winter/snow person, but I can handle snow…in the winter: A) it’s SUPPOSE to snow in the winter, B) it’s nice snow, you can play in not wet, sink-into-your-bones and freeze-you-while-the wind-plasters-it-on-your-skin snow. Yes winters can be nasty here, but you expect in then, right? But in May?

And when I have to sit inside and listen to cartoons with two ridiculously rambunctious boys who really just want to go outside and if I didn’t feel so guilty over the nasty weather I’d probably just throw them out and watch them freeze (only for a few minutes) just to stop listening to the fighting…then laughing…then screaming…then whining; what would be the next step beyond cabin fever?

My “tuning out” skills have really been fine tuned lately and I’ve decided that if they want to jump off of the couch for sport, so be it; “play” the piano for a bit? Sure, wait…just don’t pound on it! More cartoons? Whatever gets us thru this day that should be spent outside, but we’re not….because it’s snowing.

And to top it off, my farmer husband is talking about how crazy busy – even more than usual – they’ll be once it actually get’s nice and dry enough for them to start farming! Which really means (but he hates saying it out loud for fear of my reaction) is he will be gone super early and home super late. BUT, when I consider this (and work to refrain my groan) I remind myself that when that happens it will be nice enough to spend all day outside and the fighting-laughing-screaming-whining chorus won’t be on repeat; I realize I need to get over my pity-party and figure out how to be supportive during the out-of-his-control-crazy-busy season.

Because while the weather is out of our control, my emotions and reactions and attitude are in MY control. So, even though I do feel a bit unhinged, I know that if I fix my attitude and focus on how awesome this moisture will be for crops (aka our way of living), I will enjoy that nice weather so much more when it gets here.

And when I remember all I have to be grateful for – a supportive family that I can “pawn” my kids off on to have time alone; a loving husband who is also a wonderful role model for our boys; a warm home with food and a “play ground” that goes on for miles; most of all, a loving, merciful Heavenly Father who uses my own words (sometimes) to remind me where my heart should be instead of letting me dwell on my “winter blues.”

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Yes, it says ALL CIRCUMSTANCES…there is always something to be thankful for.

Grateful {Books}

I have always enjoyed reading and in here I am going to share something that I have never shared with anyone; please be kind with my vulnerabilities.

Reading was my way to escape, to feel a part of something, to find friends. Now before anyone gets upset with me, I want you to know that I have had (and still have) some wonderful friends growing up, but I still never really felt like I fit in. I didn’t think or do the same things that my friends did. Not that any of this is bad – all people are different, have different talents, abilities and desires. While I liked spending time with my friends and having those relationships, I also desired time to myself and quiet. And I’m pretty sure that is what made me so different. Also, I really wasn’t very rebellious (I think that “stage” came a little later for me, in college). I knew what my parents expected from me and having their approval and not disappointing them was very important to me. I don’t resent that, I am very grateful for growing up with that desire and from it I learned not being like everyone else is ok and so I turned to books for companionship.

And it’s still true for me today – when I’m feeling overwhelmed or bogged down, reading helps me to escape or I saw somewhere someone called it “Mommy’s in time out!” I still need that quiet time to almost recoup from the day-to-day chaos.

I’d say in around junior high I discovered Christian fiction. It started with romance, what girls doesn’t love a good romance? And then I read a series by Frank Peretti that was different. It was a thriller/mystery that had my heart pumping and I would stay up way to late because I just couldn’t put it down. And from there I found Ted Dekker. He has become one of my favorite authors; he delves into the supernatural “realm” so to speak – making my faith stretch and question. He wrote about spirits and demons and a whole other world. Some of that is scary, but the way he wrote it made so much sense to me. While I loved to read romantic stories of characters finding their faith through hardships and falling in love after having to let the loved one go and how families miraculously came together against all odds, albeit through tragedy and sometimes chaos, I found myself wanting to find something a bit….deeper? Ted Dekker and now his daughter Rachelle Dekker and another Christian thriller author, Mark Andrew Olsen all write books that make me think about who I am in Christ and helped me to understand that light always overcomes darkness.

(Going a tad off subject here, but bear with me!)

That is the “theme” behind Rachelle Dekker’s first series, The Seers. (My most recent reading adventure.) Light always overcomes darkness and remembering that light in myself – in all of us – is what makes us whole. Sometimes that light has to work hard to overcome, but that hard work is what builds our faith.

“It took me a long time to learn that faith’s purpose is not to release you from life’s trials. Faith gives you the strength to see the trial fully and to know this too shall pass. To hold nothing against the world or the trial before you. To practice true forgiveness.” The Returning, Rachelle Dekker.

(No worries, this will come full circle!)

reading
credit: Patsy Clairmont Facebook page

I didn’t see it when I was growing up. I just thought I was different because I didn’t like or enjoy the same things as those around me. This made me an outcast, made me “miss out,” made me wonder (more times than I can count) “Who am I?”

And I still do. “Who am I, to be responsible for these two, sweet little boys?” “Who am I, to have this wonderful family?” “Who am I, to be offered the unconditional love of a man who I’m pretty sure I drive crazy?”

But what if my being different wasn’t just because that’s who I was? And since I didn’t have the same interests I was missing out? But being different meant I had something I needed to share and all of the quiet, reading time was the Father’s way of showing me what I have to offer – His light. What if even then, when I wasn’t sure of who I was, that He knew I would come to this realization and I would feel like I’ve been struck by lightning at how clear it is to me now?!

I have read many non-fiction books (most recent Bible study Finding I Am, by Lysa TerKeurst is wonderful!) about how to connect with God on that personal level and how to delve deeper into the Bible to build that relationship; they have been helpful to me, by guiding me on the process. But the fictional stories have seemed to help me to apply it to myself. They write HOW their character find their light; remembering what the Father says about them and for whatever reason it resonates with me a bit more. And I really love that these specific authors don’t shy away from the evil. We all know that it exists, but sometimes we feel like if we don’t acknowledge it maybe it won’t hurt us, but that’s exactly what it wants. Ignoring the problem only gives it more room to grow; shining light on the problem, while most likely painful, is the only way to find the solution. (One lesson learned from Finding I Am study!)

(Full circle coming!)

My love of reading, in the long run (close to 20 years!) has helped me to find who I am in Christ. It’s helped me to remember how to find my light; it’s brought me back to faith when I doubted myself; it’s made me dig deeper and want to become a better person, not just myself but for those around me.

I want you to know that this is a HUGE work in progress for me, as I’m coming to find out that it is in everyone. This quote from Rachelle’s book really hit home for me:

“If I’m being honest, which I feel like I can be here with you in this safe place we share, I am living in a constant state of judgement. I judge myself for losing sight of my true nature. I judge myself for needing to remember. I judge myself for aging, for feeling weak and tired. I judge myself for the blame I carry. And I judge myself that I can’t let it go. I know I shouldn’t, and then I judge myself because I do. Maybe that’s all this life is, really. Waking up each morning and forgiving yourself. Forgiving the world around you. Seeing things with clear eyes and letting go of the grievances we hold on to for dear life. Maybe that is the only way to really find peace. It’s hard to do when the darkness creeps in. When thoughts of you flood my mind or when I’m overcome with worry for your sister. But I am trying to see myself as I hope that you see yourself: blameless, whole, lacking nothing, perfect. For the love given to us call this forth.” The Returning

And now I’ve found a new habit to work on stacking – stop judging myself and remember who I am: the daughter of my Father, who chose me and gives me His light (and a love for reading!)

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.'” ~ John 8:12

Grateful {New Day}

A month into my new year and I’ve stuck by my “no resolutions” mantra. Now before you start laughing and scoffing “No resolutions, but that’s the whole point!” I’ve been working on a new idea – habit stacking and using this method to help me to reach and accomplish my goals.

True to my people pleasing/second guessing self, I have thought of all of the arguments against this new method I’m trying: 1) just an excuse to not be more disciplined; 2) easier to give up; 3) takes longer to get results and etc. I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe these are all true and maybe this method doesn’t work for every one, but it does work for me.

That all being said, can I share how I’m habit stacking?

The idea was first shared with me from my Thirty-One Gifts director. She is amazing; really, I am very grateful that God has put her in my life and especially in this position. I’ve been in different direct marketing ventures before and didn’t really expect much from myself, but Elisa expects her team to do their best and to realize that every one’s best is different. That’s where I always struggled (don’t we all!). Anyways, even though she brought this up doing a video on our team page, she explained how it doesn’t have to be just business centered, but that it works with everyday habits, too.

It was like a light bulb for me! I like routine and even though someone looking in might say “Are you sure that’s what you like?” I do really have a routine for a lot of things and I really think habit stacking is great for routine! As most who read my blog knows, my life is a bit chaotic; between trying to keep a relative peace between two little boys and making sure everyone is well-fed (does anyone know how picky boys can be!) and trying my best to keep a decent amount of clothes clean, well let’s just say I’m still trying to figure out the routine for the chaos! But when it comes to my more personal goals, habit stacking is wonderful! I really do enjoy working out and I’m not a morning person so I needed to find another time to get my workout in – afternoon naps! Even though at first that seemed to take away from my “quiet time” (oh the peace of sleeping boys!) I reworked my mind frame into “making-a-better-me time” and once I got into that routine, it became a habit and so started my habit stacking journey.

The next habit is eating better. In the past I’ve noticed that when I work out regularly I don’t crave the crappy stuff. Why would I right? Now, a bit of a disclaimer, I haven’t set myself on any sort of diet, I’m simply WORKING on not eating the crap. I still indulge and I haven’t thrown out all the bad stuff, but I’m WORKING on forming the habit to grab an apple instead of a cookie or just a few crackers instead of the bag of chips. There are days when I go without eating bad stuff and there are days that I snack all day, but those “bad” days are hopefully becoming less and less.

Another habit I’m working on is getting organized when it comes to household chores. I am a TERRIBLE housewife; cleaning is like my arch-enemy. This habit is definitely still in the “infant” stages (as my husband will readily agree!), but I’ve found that if I write down what I HOPE to get done there’s a slightly better chance it gets done. I’ll keep you updated on how well this habit forms!

But I think the most important thing I’m learning is that every day is a New Day. A new day to try to be better about cleaning; a new day to eat healthy; a new day to not lose my temper at every little thing that goes wrong…a new day to work on my good habits.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

anotherday
Graphic credit: TobyMac

Grateful {Small Moments}

I’ve had a hard time coming up with this second “Grateful” post. Which sounds really terrible, but I’ve been struggling with how to put into words what is it I want to say.

It started out with being content and grateful with the life I have right now, which is something that I need to work on, but a devotion I read recently challenged me to “pray bold prayers.” It was a very convicting message asking why do we pray for things that we can “answer” ourselves? Like our daily bread – I already know that I will have more than enough food to eat today, so why do I pray for it? Anyways, so while I need to be grateful for where I am, I also shouldn’t be guilty for looking forward to what will be.

Needless to say that post was deleted and so now here we are.

Small Moments; I have actually read a few posts and devotionals about this. About finding God in the small moments/miracles of the “ordinary” day. For me it’s come to finding JOY; making the choice to FIND, not just look, but FIND joy in my day, to help me get through the day.

I have always been a person that needs alone time. I need to have time completely to myself to recharge. Some may call that introvert or a hermit, but if I go too long without some time to myself I start falling apart, and my husband can be a witness to that! I am completely comfortable doing things alone; going to the movies, having lunch, shopping – you name it I can enjoy it by myself.

So the whole point to this is that when I make the conscious effort to FIND JOY, it helps me to not long for that alone time. When I choose to enjoy the sweet laughter of little boys and I indulge their need to wrestle (something I probably don’t do often enough) my spirits lift. When I make myself take the time to just sit and read a book (which they both love!) and soak up their need to be close, if only for a minute, my heart feels overwhelmed with love.

Joy of being together

Most of all, when I just sit in the silence of nap time and really think about the amazing gift God has given me of a loving, supportive husband and honor of being momma to my sweet, energetic boys – I realize I should not have to try so hard to find joy. I can get to caught up in wanting my alone time and not realize that the joy here in my home can often give me the peace to get through the day.

The small moments piled together make for the best kind of journey through life instead of relying on one big moment to define who I am.

Wow….a bit deeper than intended, but so glad I chose a change of subject.

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” ~Romans 12:12

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18