Friday, December 30, 2016

So Long, 2016

Usually at the end of a year, I do a year in review type post, but I thought I'd do something different for this year.

I know this was such a rough year for so many, and even for my family, it's been chock full of ups and downs.  We've had health scares with ourselves and other family members, we've had money problems, car problems, house problems and just junk in general.  But way more than the bad, the good has outweighed it all.  We've been very fortunate.  We have our health, we have a husband and father who work so hard to provide for us.  We have family.  We have friends.  More than that?  We have hope in Jesus Christ.

And because of Him, and the salvation that He alone brings, we have everything we could ever need.
And thus, this post.  We were so honored to be able to go on a family mission trip this year.  By far, this was my most favorite thing of the entire year.  I've never been so far west, and the sights, the sounds, the smells, the culture of it all was amazing.  Even better than all those things was the fact that we were able to go with a group of people and share with the Navajo nation the love and hope of Jesus.

We knew some of the people who went, and we met a bunch more, most of which I now consider family.

Here are some of the highlights from the trip.

There is not much in life that beats seeing my kids serve others.  Noah loved pushing the kids on the swingset.

This tree?  It provided refuge from the sun that beat down on us each day.

One of the nights we were there, during the time while we were all sleeping, a bunch of men in a pickup truck showed up outside the gates of the property we were on, and were chanting and beating drums to try to intimidate us.  So many of the people were fearful of what could happen for the remainder of the time we were there, but my Graham got up and shared with us a passage out of Joshua.  After he did this, the missionary there came up to Todd and asked him if he had answered that call to ministry yet that God obviously had on Graham's life.

We might have cried a tiny bit.

I have never been so proud of this young man.

The newest honorary Goodwin, Marissa (on the right) and Abbey and me.

If you don't wear hats and glasses there everyday, you will die.  (Not really, but that wind is something fierce and you need eyeball protection.)

Jonah and Noah helped out with recreation everyday.

Graham helped out with the third and fourth graders, and I think Drew had the same group.

Todd did recreation with a friend from church and I taught preschool and helped with the opening and closing ceremonies everyday.  We held Bible school for all ages, three through a hundred.  We served dinner each night and got to eat with the Navajo people.  It was awesome.

This was our eating it was in the shade, but usually it was in full sunlight.

The Arizona sun is something to behold.

Tent city!  Otherwise known as where every slept for the seven nights we were there...except for me, I slept in the camper of my friend Cathy and her husband Carl.  I told them when we were leaving that we were the new kind of friends...we'd heard each other snore, and I fell asleep in the middle of our conversations every night because of sheer exhaustion.  I've never felt so spent in my life, but each night, I had nothing left.

Marissa the new and honorary Goodwin.  In the middle of our crazies.

 I loved being with all the teenagers each day!

My sweet little kiddos that I taught each afternoon.

I've never been so dirty in my life, than while I was here on the Navajo reservation.  The wind and that dust blew all over everything, and I promise, occasionally, traces of that reddish dirt can be found in our house or in the garage.

I've never experienced sun like that.

I've never experienced such extreme changes of temperatures.  In the sun, it was hotter than Hades.  In the shade it was thirty degrees cooler.  I carried my sweatshirt everywhere because I was always getting hot or getting cold.

This trip was amazing!  If you ever get an opportunity to serve like this with your family, do it.  I cannot recommend that enough.

The second part of this post that I loved about this year and am eternally grateful for is the fact that my husband and I were able to take a second honeymoon for our twentieth wedding anniversary.

He had some training in New York and I tagged along.  His schooling lasted two days, and the other four days we spent being tourists.

On the Sunday we were there, he took me to the Brooklyn Tabernacle for church.  We toured Brooklyn and upper Manhattan the rest of the day.

The streets were something straight out of You've Got Mail and I loved walking them.

I loved seeing the ice skaters at Rockefeller Plaza.

My man rocks the subway system.  I just sat back and let him tell me when to get up.  I even slept on the subway one particularly exhausting afternoon.

Carnegie Deli was amazing, as was their hot pastrami sandwich and Hershey's chocolate peanut butter pie.

Starbucks, phone charging, venti Cold Brews and people watching were all things that gave me added energy to get through the rest of our long days in the city.

Central Park and Bethesda Terrace was everything I thought it would be, and more, because we had a man entertaining us with his saxophone playing.

The memories will last a lifetime....along with this picture of us accidentally walking to the wrong part of Hudson river one afternoon.

I love all the buildings!

The city that never sleeps was much better on our voyage journey there the second time.

I am so thankful we were able to go on these trips...especially because 2015 was a very disappointing year and every trip that we had planned ended up having to be canceled.

I have already asked Todd for another trip together alone in 2017, and we are working on it.  I have no idea when it will be or where we will go, but I am excited at the prospects that this and the new year brings.

As always, thank you for reading my blog.  Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

bible study and journaling

First off, let me say that I have to do a weekend blog post this year and I never do those.  I had all these great ideas for an end of the year blog post, and I can't do it today or tomorrow.  So, I will see you back here this weekend at some point, or twice on Monday, depending on when you read my blog.

I had a friend ask me yesterday to share about journaling.  I thought I'd do that today, and also share a bit (again) about studying the bible, because for me, the two go hand in hand.

I have to say that the way I've been reading in the bible since October is a way that I love.  I use the SOAK method: Scripture, Observation, Application and Kneel in prayer.

I pick a book and I go through it one chapter at a time, for five days a week.  I always, always, always begin with prayer.  I ask God for wisdom and for understanding and for Him to speak to me that day through His word.

The scripture part is easy~I pick a verse that stands out to me and I write it out.

The observation part can be tricky, but I usually observe what's going on in the verses before and I write that out.  For instance, yesterday I was in John three and in that whole chapter, Jesus is talking to His disciples.  In the passage that I picked, He was talking to Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law.  I just wrote all of that out in my journal.

The application part is where you take the passage and you apply it to your life.  Yesterday, God brought to my mind a time when we were at the Navajo reservation last summer and an illustration He showed me with the mighty rushing wind one day.  I simply wrote all of that out.

The kneel in prayer part is where I just write out a prayer to the Lord, asking Him to use that in my life, to remind me of what I read and for Him to teach me more and more about Him and help me to know Him better.

Here's what yesterday's pages looked like:

I use fun pens and some decorative tape to spice things up, because I love it when things are pleasing to the eye.

(I am being SUPER vulnerable here....I never usually show all that I write out, because it's so personal, so please know that I am sharing with you a bit of my heart.)

This was where my friend asked me to share about journaling.

Here's what I came up with.

First, this was inspired by a friend on Instagram, Amy Hale.

You can read what I wrote, but I'll write it out again, just in case.


I use one journal for all of my journaling needs.  This means that this goes with me in public a lot.  Mostly to church and on the occasional shopping trip.  (I make lists in here.)  Also if I travel, my bible and journal are the first things I pack.


Here is what can be found on the pages inside:

Quiet time notes.  I keep up with where I read in the bible and write out the passages that stand out.

Scripture writing from my monthly plan.  Speaking of, here is January's.

Sermon notes from church services, retreats or any conferences that I attend.

Personal writing.  I write down all that we do most days.  I like to remember.

Lists for shopping or things to do around home.

Ideas for my blog...because it's hard to maintain a blog everyday of the week.


Notes from reading the bible using the SOAK method above.

Needless to say, I fill a journal about every three months.


The key to journaling is to just jump in and start.  Over a decade ago when I got serious about my relationship with God, He was doing so much in my life that I had to write it all down.  I remember things better when I write, plus I write a lot because of my love for the art of handwriting.  Writing it out and going back to look over it years later is faith building!  My journals say, "Look at what all God has done!"  Also, and I didn't write this down, I do this for my family.  I credit Karen Kingsbury for this, partially.  My first books I read by her were about a man who journaled and when he died, his wife was able to read them and be assured of his love for God, thus spurring her on in her relationship with Him.


I pray.  A lot.  A long time ago, I began to pray Psalm 42:1, and it goes something like this: "Lord, as a deer longs for streams of water, let my soul long for You."  Well.  God heard me and He answered.  I long for Him and time spent with Him in prayer and in His word.  I cannot get enough of Him.  This means that I wear my bibles out.  I get a new one every two or three years because I mark them all up.  I also do this for my family.  If something were to happen to me today, I'd want them to know how much of my heart is poured out to God on their behalf within the pages of my bible.  I write their names down so I can pray scripture over them.  I draw and use decorative tape in my bible to let them know how much I treasured God's word and how I love to study it.

I don't come to you with all of this to boast, my friends, but to boast on the Lord Jesus and how much He has done in my life.  I would be NOTHING without Him and He is my priority.  I cannot stress this enough: PRAY.  A LOT.  Read His word.  Ask Him to make you LONG for Him.  And then, sit back and wait and watch what all He does.

May God be praised!  He is faithful.

I pray this helps someone today in their personal walk.

Love to all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

the one I don't know what to call (other than random, and that gets old)

I have a couple of things I wanted to share rolling around in my brain today, but first, I want to share about our night out in Downtown Memphis last night celebrating my favorite man's fortieth birthday.
We always always celebrate on the actual day and with his parents.  We kind of combine the two of our birthdays, though, and they tell us to pick a restaurant to eat at.  (We never eat out, because hello teenagers and stay at home mom.)

I am so glad that Todd recommended The Spaghetti Warehouse downtown.  I was thinking of local food, but downtown never occurred to me.  The boys LOVE going there and we don't do it as often as I'd like.

I love this picture of us that his mom took!  Neither of us love being in pictures, but occasionally we'll get a really good one of the two of us.

We had a delicious dinner and got dessert to go, because it was free.

After this we drove to Tom Lee park that is nearby to see the Memphis bridge.  The boys are all about taking pictures for their stories on Snap Chat.  (Heck, who am I kidding?  I am too!)

We stayed there for a while and while the boys all walked around with Todd, Phyllis and I stood outside her car and let Wiley watch us.  It's kinda creepy there at night, or it used to be, and I always remember hearing of stories that happen there.  (Todd knows a little too much about things that go on in the city that aren't even ever made aware for the public, and that's what I'm thinking of.)

We finally got cold enough to want to leave, and Phyllis and Wiley went home and we drove around.  Drew ended up asking if we could go to a rooftop and we immediately thought of the Peabody hotel.  Todd and I used to hang out there all the time while we dated and in the early years of our marriage.  We'd sit in the lobby and drink coffee, we'd sometimes go to Cafe Espresso for dessert, and we'd go to the rooftop to see the views.

While we were walking there, we ran into these guys.

Some Georgia Bulldogs.  They're in town for the Liberty Bowl that they're playing in this weekend.  I asked for this picture, and I think I embarrassed the boys.  Afterward they discovered that one of these guys is someone they know of, a running back for the football team.  I know not of his name.

I am not a football girl and don't even pretend to be.

This was the First Tennessee bank with a Christmas tree on one side and a bell on the other.  I loved it!  I love our city views, even if they are quite different from NYC.

The boys have been here before, but Jonah and Noah don't remember and Graham and Drew were a lot younger and didn't have social media accounts.  It was a really fun night.

We laughed ourselves silly.  I cannot tell you how much nights like this mean to me.  I love it when it's just us (well, kinda...we really missed Alex, but he had a basketball game) and when we have fun together.  We are weird and nobody else thinks the things we find funny are that funny.  We tease, we laugh, we talk loud (well, THEY talk loud) and I always just sit back and enjoy taking in the views around me...not of any THING, but of them.  I know that all too soon they will be grown and nights like this will be a distant memory.

The other thing I wanted to share is about the new year.  Years and years ago, I used to love to pray and ask God for a word for the year it was something to remind me of His faithfulness, one year it was a reminder for me to be present in every single moment, another year it was a word for me to pray often over myself and others.

I haven't done this in several years, but the Lord has been gently nudging me in that direction again, through a passage of scripture I recently read and in remembering a Christian fiction novel by Robin Jones Gunn.

I'll share the scripture first.

It's from John 1:16 and 17 and says this:

Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

There have been a few circumstances in my life lately that have honed this truth in for me.  One was a situation with a friend.  She was very hurt by someone dear to her and because I love her so much, I too, was hurt FOR her and was more than a little upset at this person for hurting my friend so much.

This is where I need to confess that I seriously struggle with the concept of grace.  Not that I've received it from God, I know that, and I know that NOTHING I do made me have this awesome relationship with God.  It was in the fullness of HIS grace that I received mercy.  Not me...him.

I've got that part of grace.  The part of grace I struggle with is GIVING IT TO OTHERS.  Did you catch that?

I know that people are flawed and imperfect.  I am that way more than any of them.  I mess up daily and need grace from others.  I know that, too, yet I struggle with remembering this when it comes to others.  If they mess up, I want to hold it against them.  I don't tend to remember that I am to have grace for them.  More than this, too, I get mad and I talk about my husband, my mom or to that friend I was hurting for.  In all of that loudness of my voice and all the talking I was doing, I was forgetting to take it to God, and I was drowning out what His word was telling me, I was drowning out His voice.

Yet He, in His loving kindness, gently reminded me of this through another friend.  One who always gives grace fully to others.

I remember in a book I read by that author I just mentioned, how the main character discovered this same truth about God and about herself.  She was near an ocean and through the waves, God gave her an illustration of His grace, and how it comes as if in wave after wave.

I love that illustration and that's the one I always remember over this passage above, but in starting to read John on Monday, I found this again.

And so I started thinking that maybe God keeps bringing up this word grace to me for a reason.

After realizing this and thanking God for what He shows me through His word, I decided to make that my word for 2017.

I am also going to borrow an idea from a friend and get a sign to hang over the front door that says, Grace Lives Here.  (I have a friend who named her house that, y'all, and I love that idea!)  I want the reminder ever before me.  I NEED the reminder ever before me.

Jesus Christ, in all of His love and mercy and grace, came to this earth as a baby to save us from our sin.  This relationship He calls us to with Him is based on that grace He gave us by dying on a cross, being raised again three days later, and then leaving in us (as believers) His Holy Spirit when He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  That is what grace is: the free and unmerited  gift from God.

Those are my thoughts for this coming new year.  That and the reminder that people are imperfect and things are not always going to go my way.  I am also always reminded to cast off my pride and to put the needs of others before my own, whether in an actual situation that is physical of whether in an instance that irritates me.

My prayer is that I demonstrate this to my boys, thus teaching them these same things.  I always pray that God would make their hearts soft and teachable, and that they would learn these things quicker than I did.  However, even in typing that, I am reminded that God is perfect.  His ways are perfect.  His ways, His thoughts are higher than our ways and our thoughts.  His timing is perfect, and there is NOTHING that takes Him by surprise.  He is the One sovereign over all, and He uses every situation that we face for our good, for those of us who believe in Him.  He is faithful.

Psalm 67:20:

May God be praised!  He has not turned away my prayer or turned His faithful love from me.

Thanks for reading.  Love to all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

simply Tuesday and all about Toddley

Tuesday.  December twenty-seventh.  Todd's FORTIETH birthday.  (Finally, he caught up to me!)  The first day of normal again, after all the Christmas celebrating.

I am thankful for all of these things.  I love the slower pace after Christmas, does anyone else feel that way?  I also love that with the new year comes a fresh start.  I love a blank calendar, and a fresh planner with its pages still mostly white.

Yesterday I packed up all the Christmas decorations, with the exception of our tree, and Drew carted them all back upstairs for me.  I'm thinking the tree is coming down today, if Jonah will agree.  He was adamant yesterday that he wants it to stay up a few more days.

I made one of our favorite dinners last night (beer cheddar joes) and then my best friend and her hubby and daughter came over.


I miss her so very much in between the times of seeing her.  This year I saw her four in the spring, in late summer, in November and then last night.  I love anytime I get to spend with her and last night was extra sweet.  They came over after dinner and stayed until a little after ten.


And her, as well.  Sweet Annalise was buttering me up lots by calling me Aunt Jen.  She was eating snacks and joining in our conversation in this picture.

And yes, she came in her jammies.

It was a great night, and as a bonus, Jason fixed our pantry door for us.  (Christa's husband.)

Yesterday I started reading in John (again) in my quiet time.

I love this chapter (the whole book, actually) and got lots from it.

I also started back in Psalms (I always go through this book in the Bible and just picked up where I'd left off in December) and wrote out the scripture for the 26th day of the month.

Speaking of that, January's plan is already up on the Sweet Blessings blog.  If you want the printable version, click here.

This morning in my quiet time, this verse jumped out at me.

It was out of Psalm 65.  Do you ever have that happen?  You're reading along, in a passage you KNOW you've read many times, and you see a verse, as if for the first time?  I guess with the new year approaching, I noticed it, but I love that about God's word.  It is truly living and active.

I cannot stop praising God for this's not been stress free and absent of problems, but compared to what some of my closest friends have been through, we have MUCH to praise Him for.  Good health, our home and His many provisions, another wonderful year shared with family and friends....I can go on all day long.  God is faithful.  I'm feeling particularly thankful after some scary health moments with family members in the past couple of weeks and months.

And last, but not least, here is the second part of this blog post.

Today is Todd's birthday.  His fortieth birthday, and thank goodness, he finally caught up to me.  These thirteen days of waiting for that to happen are EXHAUSTING.  He loves telling the world that he married an older woman.

We've had a wonderful, amazing and fun year together, and this trip to New York was the highlight.

This moment together in Central Park in NYC is probably my favorite moment of the entire year.  We were exhausted and slightly giddy because of said exhaustion, and were just soaking up our time together in this lovely and romantic spot in the park in the middle of that bustling city.  We sat down, he drew me close by putting his arm around me, and we just laughed and talked and people watched.  There was a musician nearby playing the saxophone, and that made it more special.

It was also hotter than Hades, but that's beside the point.

In everything we do, we have fun and he makes me laugh.

Laughter is SO IMPORTANT in marriage.  I tell teenagers that all the time...find someone that makes you laugh.

He loves to have fun and mess around with people.

He is my best friend, the greatest dad in the world to the boys, and my superhero who can do anything he puts his mind to.

He's a defender of justice and those wrongly treated and the boy loves him some Alabama football.

We've grown up together, and I look forward to the next twenty years we get to spend growing old together.

Tonight the celebration continues, and we get to go and have dinner together with the boys and his parentals.  We're eating downtown, at The Spaghetti Warehouse, and we're going to enjoy looking at the sights together.  I'm excited!

Thanks for reading my blog!  Love to all.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Weekend

What a WONDERFUL weekend we have had.  On Friday night, the boys, and Toddley and I loaded up in the suburban (in our pajamas) and drove around to look at Christmas lights.  We stopped for Starbucks first, then hit up all our favorites.

This was after a super lazy day spent around the house, reading and watching movies.

In my quiet time Saturday morning, I was struck by the words in a song I'd been listening to.

"The glory of Christmas is the glory of Christ, and the glory of Christmas is the story of His life."  It's not about the stuff, the food, even the traditions that I so love, it's about Jesus and the salvation and hope He brings to us all who believe in Him.  He simply overwhelms me sometimes, and this day was one such time.

On that day, we stayed home until three forty, and we went to church for our Christmas candlelight service.

This is my favorite service of the entire year.  I always end up being so choked up that I can't even sing.  I love all the candles, the Scripture that's read, and the songs we sing to the Lord.

After this service, we went to Daddy's for our Christmas with them.

Where I proceeded to get absolutely ZERO pictures.  A wonderful time was had, though, and I am so thankful for Daddy and Sandy, and another Christmas with them, and the good health the Lord has given to them.  Dad has been really sick the past couple weeks, so I was thrilled to see/hear him feeling better.

On our way home, we drove around our town square to light gaze again.

The kids all went straight to bed, and then Todd and I watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

 I wrapped a couple things and did stockings, then went to bed.  (We wrapped all the gifts this year.)

These lovelies woke us at six and were ready to come downstairs.  I love their annual picture on the stairs...I love seeing how they fill more and more space each year.  I can't believe Graham is almost eighteen and that they're all the ages they are...I have one more year of NOBODY driving me as a learner, then I'll get to do that times two as Jonah and Noah learn!

We all opened presents, then I spent some time finishing up reading my Advent plan.

By the light of the lovely candle a friend gave me on Christmas eve, of course.  I love this verse in Hebrews one: The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word.  After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

We got dressed and went to church for the special one hour service and visited with friends, then came home and changed and drove out to Mom's house.

Where I took no pictures, again, except for this one, because my sister Debi sent it to me.

I saw this in a store in her town in Colorado when I was there in November, and I was with my other sister, Lisa when I saw it....and then Debi picked this out on her own, and without knowing I had loved this, and gave it to me for Christmas!  She knows me so well.  I love the thought of people coming into my home and leaving a prayer request for me to pray over for them.  I will use this a lot.

 Lunch was amazing at Mom's and Bill's, and the company was perfect.  Todd's parents came over for lunch, too, which I loved.  Aside from them it was Mom, Bill, Trish, Devin (my nephew), and my family.  We laughed, got a little teary, and shared a wonderful handful of hours together.

After we came home, my dad and stepmom came over for snacks and to see the boys' gifts.  This is always another tradition I love, having them come here.

We all got so many generous and beautiful gifts this year, and everyone was so thoughtful in their giving.  I am so appreciative of it all, but mostly, I am thankful for God's perfect gift to us in His Son, Jesus.  We are blessed beyond measure, and I am grateful to God for all that He has done.  My prayer is that all of my family and friends will know Him the way I do, and that they, too will have relationship with Him someday.

I hope your Christmas was merry and bright.

Love to all.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Favorites, all things Christmas edition

Happy Friday, and Merry Christmas Adam!  (I got that expression from my friend Marcia.  I love saying it!)  I'm linking up with Andrea from Momfessionals for this blog post.

Here are some of my most favorite moments from the week and possibly this entire Christmas season.

We had a blast at our Christmas party last Friday night.  These junior and senior girlies are my favorites, and we had so much fun laughing, playing games, yelling and then caroling together.  Such a fun night!

I interrupted my Christmas coffee mugs each morning for this one.  I love thing so much!  This is one of my favorite passages from the Bible, this one in Lamentations three.

Christmas gift wrapping is one of my favorite things to do.  I know, I know...some people hate it, and mine are not perfect, but I love wrapping all the gifts up to make them pretty.  Also?  I am crazy fast at this activity.  I can wrap ten gifts in about thirty minutes.

On Saturday night last weekend, I took the time to watch my favorite movie, You've Got Mail.  I love Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks together.  While I watched this, Todd and the boys were playing Monopoly.

My favorite man and I went out shopping together on Monday night.  We always have so much fun together.  I am so glad that the Lord put us together twenty two years ago.

Favorite moment from the whole week~seeing this movie together with friends.

I cannot say enough how much I loved this movie!

My favorite thing to do when my people are watching something I don't want to watch~read a Christmas book.  I went to the library this week and borrowed this lovely stack of books.

I love these two guys.  My husband and his brother Tim.  They have so much fun together, and enjoy every moment they get to share.  We only see them about once a year, and it's never long enough.

These three have so much fun together, and are my most favorite thirteen year olds.  Jonah, Nathan, and Noah.  They're practically triplets who are more like brothers than cousins.  They were born within about three weeks of one another.

I took this at my in-love's house yesterday while we celebrated Christmas.

This is my favorite Christmas song of all.  I walk around singing it constantly throughout the season, and sometimes, throughout the year.  The words are not seasonal to me.

I will so miss my morning quiet time backdrop when I take the decorations down.  I always say I'll leave them up longer each year, but they usually get taken down the day after Christmas.  It's my favorite thing to gaze upon and my favorite thing to take pictures of.

And lastly, I loved this image so much when I saw it that I shared it on Instagram and then later made it my wallpaper on my phone.  It's my favorite thing I've seen online all week.

I want to live here.  It's somewhere in Finland, and that is the aurora borealis behind the cabin.

Seeing that in person is on my bucket list.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, my friends.  Thank you for always reading my blog~I don't know who you are, but I see those numbers rise steadily each day.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you'd like to read about in the coming new year.  Some days it is hard to find things to write about!  I'll continue linking up with other bloggers, and sharing my personal life, but if you have other ideas, let me know of them.

I'll see you back here next week.  Love to all.

Friday Favorites, 7.12.2024.

  Hi, friends! As you can tell, I'm forcing myself to be here often, because my life needs to resume some sort of normalcy right now; th...