Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Double the Blessing, Double the Return

Several weeks ago, I shared my desire to purchase gifts this season that would make a difference, rather than mearly allow me to check someone off my list. I am happy to share a special treasure that was hidden among the other miscellaneous mail and catalogs that were delivered yesterday.

For 35 years, the Children's Art Project at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has made life better for children with cancer. Through worldwide sales of young cancer patients' original artwork featured on seasonal note cards and gift items, the project has returned more than $24.5 million to programs that benefit cancer patients and their families. Each year, the project offers Holiday, Everyday and Valentine collections of note cards and gift items.

I have seen their precious notecards around the Houston area but were you aware they have a boutique located in Uptown Park (610 West Loop at Post Oak Blvd)? Their store hours are Monday-Saturday 10 am- 6 pm. I know it might be a bit far for some of us in the 'Burbs, but make a day of it and grab lunch or cupcakes at Crave!

You will be blown away by the selection and unique touch each has to offer. Some of the items available are t-shirts, ties, platters (this one and this one are my faves), ornaments, calendars, jewelry and stationary. Check out this darn cute umbrella. Who doesn't need an umbrella in Houston? The cutie that created the design lives right here in Houston! Her name is Stepanie and she is 9 years old.

You have two choices...order $125 or more off their site and receive free shipping or buzz down to Uptown park and save shipping by driving. What a deal!

A Laugh in the Pocket

Save this litte gem for after you have endured ALL the family, pink stuff (you KNOW what I am talking about...yours might just be green or orange) and dry dressing/stuffing you can endure. And be sure to empty your mouth of any food or beverage as your computer screen might need a cleanin' after viewing.

May your Thanksgiving be FREE of Hot Pockets.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things that Make You Go Eeewww

My husband has a need to be near trees. If he had his way, we'd live on a few acres where it would take some type of ATV to check the mail or visit a neighbor. It only made sense to choose a heavily wooden neighborhood when we began our house search a few years back. Enormous pine trees fill our front and backyards and we back up to a you guessed it, more trees. It is beautiful to look at but it comes at a price.


They come in all shapes and sizes. Some have fur, most have tails, some have scaly skin, some have wings and sometimes they have fangs. Yes, you read that right. FANGS. But that's for later.

Two Thanksgivings ago, we returned from our Texas Tour to quite a surprise. When we came in the front door, I noticed a few dead red wasps and yellow jackets on our entry floor. No big deal...we back up to woods, remember? Then I proceeded into our living room and looked up to see large groupings of wasps and yellow jackets in the corners of our upper windows and the ceiling. Let me be clear...I DON'T possess a poker face. I think I gasped or maybe called for Tray, still stunned by the sheer numbers in our house. We convinced the boys to hang out in our bedroom and watch some tv while we 'unpacked the car'. Several hours and a few cracked windows later, we thought we had it under control. Let's just say that didn't happen until last year. It wasn't a constant problem, but it didn't totally go away until Tray got up on the roof and sprayed two huge cans of wasp spray down our chimney. Protector and provider...that's my man. And I got to be pretty proficient with a broom and dustbuster.

Just when the boys had gotten over their twitch brought on by anything that resembled the sound of insect wings, we had another visitor, brought to us by opening the damper for the 1st fire of the season.

It's like Ranger Rick around here. This time instead of being the neighborhood freak show who was rumored to have unconfessed sin, we are the totally awesome parents that put the winged friend in our freezer for JT to take to school on Monday. Fortunately, smarter thinkers prevailed and we sent pictures instead.

Would living inside the Loop be so bad??

And no, Nancy, we are not deep frying it for T'Giving, but thanks for the suggestion. That is very reminiscent of Sammy Kershaw, Queen of My Double-Wide Trailer...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Making a List, Revisited

As you are creating your Christmas lists, I am quite sure this or something similiar went through your head, "_______ really doesn't NEED anything but I'd sure love to find of something special and unique to blow their socks off."

We ALL want to wow our family and friends with something that they will use and enjoy, instead of merely finding some item that will fufill the perceived need and we can check them off our list. I have not begun my shopping yet, but here are some things I am considering.

Photo Creations: I have to say photo books are just my new favorite thing in the whole entire world. I was turned onto these by an insane special offer from Winkflash. I was able to create a 100 page book for $19.99. Can you hardly stand it? I was able to take all my photos from Italy that would have lost their luster in an 3x5 state and make them come to life as 5x7s and 8x10 on the pages of a book. It was such a huge success that I ordered 3! Now that is a deal! There are many sites which offer this service (Photoworks, MyPix, VioVio, Shutterfly )but so far, Snapfish is my favorite. And althought I haven't created a book on Shutterfly, I have seen one created on that site and it was beyond cute. These sites have a multitude of other items to create from serving trays to ornaments.

Personalized Cookbook: is offering you a chance to make a unique cookbook for someone using your own recipes or their online recipes. Who doesn't need a new way to cook chicken? And you can put a photo on the front of your creation. If only I had a taken a picture of me wearing that hairnet at my kids' Thankgiving Feast today. Oh.....I kid. I really wore a baseball cap.

Make a Memory: Several family members decided this would be the year we DID something instead of BOUGHT something. This could be something as simple as a trip to Incredible Pizza, Itz's or Main Event or a fancy night on the town with some couple friends. Feeling really spontaeous? Go for a concert or a weekend trip to a city you love or would like to visit. Don't forget to take your camera to document the adventure. Then you can create a fun book!

A Future Experience: This one is huge in our family. My peeps aren't big toy people so last Christmas we put the money aside and then registered them for some amazing summer sports camps at a local church. Tremendous success and BIG fun! This has no camp, pottery classes, cooking classes....whatever you choose!

The Gift of Hope: Billy Graham and his son, Franklin, have done tremendous things for the Kingdom. They organize two different ways to bless those in need during the holiday season. The first is Operation Christmas Child, which is packing a shoebox with items that will delight a child. Jump online and find a church/drop site near you. The Target Dollar Spot and many Dollar Stores are great places to find hygiene items, toys and books. The second is Samaritan's Purse. This part of the ministry offers a Christmas catalog filled with items to provide physical assistance to those who are hurting. Now, let me warn you....not everyone knows how to react when a goat or a brood of chickens is given in their name to a family a continent away. There are LOTS of gift options from hot meals to blankets to sports equipment. Pray that God will give you discernment as to who might be good choices for this type of gift and then pray for them to have a heart to receive the tremendous life-changing blessing you are inviting them to be part of.

Homemade Gifts: Oh, this is a popular one.....just NOT in my house. I was toying with the idea until my husband, who wasn't using his filter, said, "Oh Dear Lord, please don't make the gifts this year." Um....WHAT? I am not sure what I made in the past that has scarred him so badly but I officially lost any interest I had with that. Hmpf.....But if I WAS going to make something....I loved the etched Martini glasses my sister made me last year. They are so snappy! Each has a different animal print. Apparently she used masking tape and etching cream. Good luck with that!

Alrighty, my pot is dry. Have fun ideas? Comment away and let's help a sister out!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Pharisee in Me

Authenticity is HARD.

Am I speaking to anybody? It is incredible challenging to live out what I say I live and love Biblically.

I am a born and bred, dyed in the wool 'good girl' . Growing up I rarely broke the rules or lived in a way that was contrary to how a rule-follower should. Did I live perfectly? Nope. But I would not have been viewed as rebellious or even 'edgy'. I can't say much has changed today....and I am not saying that is a good thing.

Abundant life isn't lived out by just living.

Recently at church, I realized that I do not have a heart for all that enter through our doors.

Did I just say that outloud?

As painfully honest as it is, the only way for me to move to a place where I might someday have that burden to love is to say it outloud and ask God to begin to chip away the layers that have covered up my compassion and mercy.

I saw this very thing described as I checked in on the blogs I read yesterday. You see, she is not only calling the people of God to love but she is truly giving an example of what 'loving it out' looks like.

What would my life, and in turn, my ministry look like if I adopted this kind of love?

This kind of love sees beyond the actions of a teen that puts her feet up on the brand-new Worship Center seats while text messaging during the sermon AND the time when people are making life-changing decisions with God, and sees she is seeking Someone who can fill all the empty places.

This kind of love reaches beyond a person who may not understand the how-to's of 'doing' church but made the choice to visit a church that can seat 3,000 people on any given Sunday...all of which might be complete strangers to him.

This kind of love chooses grace when dealing with those that act or think differently than her....and realizes with absolute certainty, someone, somewhere extends her that exact same grace.

Far fetched? Nope. Hard to swallow. Yes.

Sometimes people question why I take the time to read and keep up with the blogs I follow. My answer? It is for days like yesterday when something hits me right between the eyes and I am moved to change. God will use whatever He chooses to bring about the change He desires.

A bus or plane is not always required to reach your mission field.

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see

-Brandon Heath

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's the Code?

It's a rainy day here in Htown and it actually gives me no excuse but to take care of some things around the house. Boring, but true.

As we move into November, I am starting to create the Christmas gift list in my head. We have made a committment to really be mindful of what we are buying this year. Could it be the multiple trips to CAM and Goodwill or perhaps the toys from last Christmas that I knew they would just love but sit, sad and alone, on the shelf (the hazard of working at a toy store). And not just gifts for my for family too. I vow not to even go into a Bath and Body Works shop this year.

Online shopping is something we all do (some of us ONLY do) and I admit, it KILLS me to pay shipping. I know, get a life, right? There are so many ways to get around it...and I don't mean just buying more items to get to their pre-determined no-shipping total. so often taunts me with their "you only have to spend $2.31 more to get FREE SUPER SAVER SHIPPING! Ugh...

Below are a plethora of sites I have found that just might offer a code to save you some green when shopping online. The codes are not limited to free shipping...sometimes you are offered a product or a certain percentage discount. I created a collage poster for free from last week. If you haven't checked out Snapfish lately, give them a peek. Lots of fun ideas using your photos. I mean, really, who doesn't want more pictures of YOU? Ahemm..

Now get out there and give the Guys in Brown something to do today!

Friday, November 7, 2008

It Is What It Is

If I had the chance to re-name my blog, 'It Is What It Is" just might be the title. I promise you, I say it at least 5 times daily. It has to be right up there with 'Seriously'. It carries a ton of is the ultimate thing to say when things are what they are no matter how much you did or didn't want them to be and nothing will change that.

Maybe some of us felt like that on Tuesday, as if our prayers went unheard. He IS still God and He is STILL working. Period. And often He'll do what HE HAS to do to get us to do what HE wants us to do. If you look at our nation as a whole, we aren't so obedient, if you catch my drift. Painful, but true the same.

I have told you before, if Time magazine had a version for kids, I'd totally subscribe. Well, as it turns out, they totally do. They have now called my bluff. Don't worry...even if I impulsively order a years worth of currrent events geared toward 5th graders, you have my word I won't bring politics into my blog. That is just crazy talk.

But, may I share two different responses to the current State of our Union? The first was written by a well-know Bible study/author. The second, penned by a gal just like you and me. I know you'll be blessed.

So I challenge us to stop wringing our hands and starting talking to Him again. He can take whatever we have to bring to Him. And He's one of the few that will listen to all our ranting and raving, patiently...until we are through, before He begins to mend and heal. I totally dig that about Him.

If my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I'll be there ready for you: I'll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Not By Chance

Yesterday, I decided to bite the bullet and get serious about fixing our two computers that have minor issues. I say minor...they are major enough that I have been unable to fix them with my limited knowledge gained by surfing the internet for solutions.

So, I called up the Geek Squad and quickly hung up as they told me just how much it was going to cost to fix my 'minor' problems. Sheesh! Don't they know it is a down economy?? Apparently not as their store is still filled with customers purchasing big fat TVs on credit. Ooops, I'm sorry. Did I say that outloud?

Plan B. I googled Computer fix Cypress and came up with several choices...even with testimonials. Now, I am aware websites can fake their testimonies but for some reason, I trusted what these people had to say.

I took a chance and called Computer Fixs and was first greeted by a 9 year-old, acting as receptionist for the day. I thought I had the wrong number but he then put his dad on the phone. I have to admit, by now I am thinking, 'Back to the drawing board, or google searching' but then everything began to look up.

I began to describe the situations with my two computers and asked what he charged per hour. Almost joyfully He said, "Well, today everything is free!" Seriously? Nothing is free, and in this case, I didn't want/need any 'free' advice when it came to fixing my computers. He then went on to explain he had been diagnosed with cancer 3 months prior and was able only to consult over the phone-so my services were free that day. I assured him that I did want to compensate him for his time but he would hear none of it, as long as we could fix whatever the glitches were over the phone. Over the next several hours, he walked me step-by-step through several of the problems, told me his 'story' and even directed me to multiple places to learn how to change out the RAM on my computer. (I have to say, that freaks me out and I am not sure if I have the courage to take the computer apart myself, but at least I am armed with the knowlege if I choose to use it. YouTube is a total trip!)

Feeling like I had a good handle on the rest of the steps (severe understatement) and not wanting to take up more of his time, our session ended. Several hours later (I had a kiddo with a stomach bug at home) I began working on the computers again and hit several snags. Not wanting to impose on him again, I grabbed the computer manuals and jumped on the internet on my 1 working computer to see if I could figure out what was going on (stop laughing!). Of course, I couldn't. And would you believe the darn phone rang and it was HIM checking on me to see if I was able to complete what we had started. I explained to him that I had hit a rough stop and again, he worked the problem with me over the phone.

You see, I believe my God put Mardy, in my path yesterday for a reason. Mardy is having surgery this morning to remove several cancerous lymph nodes and then he will begin treatment. Mardy is a God-fearing husband and father who runs his business with great integrity. I am still just flat blown away by how it all transpired yesterday but I believe that I can return the blessing he gave me yesterday by praying for him, asking you to pray for him, and getting the word out regarding his business. If this blog has one purpose....that is recommend something worth recommending.

And by the way, He is not getting off that easy regarding payment. I am TOTALLY going to figure out a way to pay him. That may mean sending his family gift cards so they don't have to worry about cooking one night, but I will figure out a way to bless them. And the thing is, Mardy's services are worth what Best Buy would have charged...and I would have gladly paid.

And the cool thing I DO have a computer guy I can call instead of having to haul my computers to Best Buy! Now that is cause for great praise.

Father, I pray your richest blessings on Mardy and his family today. I pray You will flood them with your peace. I pray the surgeons will have great knowlege and direction as they operate today and I pray Mardy's recovery will be thorough and quick. I pray for complete healing for him, Father. I pray you will lavish his business with great success as he continues to honor You through his giftings to fix things that need fixing. Thank you for the simple reminder that You are about not only the big things, but the small as well. We trust in your plan for us and Your Sovereignty. In Your Mighty Name I pray, Amen.