Friday, November 13, 2015

Moving Day

And this time I don't mean that Jay and I are moving houses. 

I've just birthed a new blog Awkwardly Graceful - and I'd love for you to join me over at my new digs. In my Welcome post, I explain the reason for the name change and move. 

Familiar faces are always welcome.

Monday, November 9, 2015

For I Was Hungry

Sandwiched between two typically child-centered holidays, falls Thanksgiving. The sun is sparse and the stress of the upcoming holiday season is approaching. Is it truly possible to cultivate a spirit of gratitude during all the chaos?

Enter a post about charity. Thanks to Kelly for the #FridayFive prompt, because its often when we truly consider others that our issues are put into proper perspective.

One of my issues? Being away from my computer too much, leading to an inability to get this written in time for the link-up. Even still, this is a blog I want to share with the world, or at least the small portion who join me here.

Being the spreadsheet geek I am, a tab in my check register excel document is devoted to charitable giving by the year. I have so many charities I respect, I like to know when I gave to each so that when the opportunity arises I can give to the one which has gone the longest without a donation.

Many are local charities; who knows better about the needs of the community than those who live and serve here. I've even received personal letters from the director of one such ministry, when she realized they were serving my cousin - and mentioned me to him as well!

Her group, The Philadelphians, serves in east Tennessee prisons. Donations help them lead Bible studies for the incarcerated. 

Local causes also win a place in my heart for selfish reasons too. When the money I give goes back into the community, I can trust that my $$ are being well used - rather than going to the 3+ figure salaries administrators make in some of the larger organizations.

During my last marathon training cycle, I noticed yard signs boasting "Work Provided by LIVE-IT." This group maintains a database of community needs and opportunities to serve. Both those seeking assistance and those desiring to serve can find their needs met with this group. 

Projects include building ramps onto houses of the disabled, light maintenance for the elderly, and shifts to work in the groups thrift store. Jay and my father have taken donations to the store, and were met with great attitudes reflecting the love of Christ (after having their items turned away by a different group.)

Some needs, however, must be met by larger organizations. Currently I donate a small monthly amount to help support the Tavianos, my favorite missionary family. They are serving a town in Cambodia through the IOC and the Hard Places Community

If Marla's name sounds familiar, then perhaps you have been around when I joined many of her bloggy read-alongs. While never having the opportunity to meet them in-person, I enjoy seeing her photos of the people they are building relationships with while serving Jesus in the country they love.

For each charity, I have linked to their websites. In the case of the Tavianos, however, there are a couple of different options. 

Marla is a fabulous author (ebooks these days) and purchasing a book (via Amazon or some such retailer) helps her support their mission. In fact, she has a brand new book out. 

After a heart attack left her husband Gabe with debilitation anxiety, the family had to fully rely on God for each breath - sometimes literally. I want you to buy the book, The Storm: When Anxiety Rocks Your Marriage & Your World (its only $2.99 on Amazon).

Sometime this month I plan on reviewing the book and giving a copy away, but why wait??

Also on the global scale, I love the heart behind Compassion International. Several years ago for Valentine's Day, Jay and I researched together and decided to sponsor a child through the organization.

Since then we've traded letters with Suman, now 11 years old, via his Compassion center in India. I keep his drawings on the refrigerator until the next one arrives.

The work done by the missionaries at Wycliffe Bible Translators is essential for sharing the Gospel to unreached people groups. These laborers for the Lord can spend years learning the native languages of regions which don't have a Bible translation in their native language.

Once they are fluent in the dialect, they can then begin the translation process and bring the Word of God to people who otherwise haven't heard the gospel.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

I hope you'll click through and read more about each ministry and how it supports kingdom-building. For me, fulfilling tangible needs is essential for anyone hoping to make a difference in this world and bring glory to the name of Christ.

35‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’  Matthew 25:35-40 
I'd love for you to toot the horn of your favorite charities in the comments. Why do they stand out to you above other options?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Nerds for Words

This year I've thought more about my purpose, ministry in life than I have the previous 34. Or at least it feels to me like I have. First I discovered I had been equipped with spiritual gifts to serve the body of Christ. 

In theory, I knew each believer was equipped in some fashion for kingdom work. In practice I had no clue what that looked like or meant for my life. Discovering that the gifts don't necessarily manifest in standard ways was game-changing for me.

Teaching doesn't necessarily mean sitting in a class room of 3 year olds reading them a Bible study. I very much enjoy substitute teaching for my Bible study class, but that too isn't the full extent of my calling.

More and more I'm starting to truly believe that writing is another form of the gift of teaching. Putting thoughts and concepts into words which can be savored and enjoyed. I'm not sure I'm there yet, but the more I write, the more I can refine my craft and get that much closer to my goals.

Purpose. Calling. Gift.

These seem so serious and dramatic. And they can be. However at heart, I am a brutally honest, geek who doesn't take herself too seriously. I'm slowly learning that God isn't limited by my personality, but can work through it for His glory. No matter how loca I am.


Linking up with Jaime for Stream of Consciousness Weekend.  What's on your mind? Share it in the comments or let me know if you post your on SOC blog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ghosts of Halloween's Past

And finally, I present my first ever Pinterest project.
 2015's costume:

Did you dress up for Halloween? See any interesting ideas?

Friday, October 30, 2015

My Spirit of Fear

In the spirit of Halloween, let's discuss fear. Some love to dress up in scary costumes, watch horror movies, or visit haunted corn mazes. While I don't enjoy the traditional horrifying aspects of Halloween, I certainly don't live life in a bubble - afraid to experience all this world has to offer. 

So which am I? Fearful or Fearless?

On one (well sanitized) hand, I'm germophobic, claustrophobic, and radiophobic. 

On the other (trail dirt) filled hand, I'm always up for an adventure. Whether it be zip-lining, roller coasters, or gazing over tall cliffs, I enjoy pushing the limits of sanity.

I feel like I get the opportunity to write about my fearless when recounting my adventures. So what scares the girl who finds herself at peace in situations like this?

Animals top the list of things which freak me out. I hate encountering a dog while I'm out running. I scream when a friend's cat brushes up against my leg under the dinner table. I need a Xanax to calm me down the evening Jay trapped a rat in our house.

Social situations can also leave me anxiety ridden. Best I can figure, I'm an ambivert - a weird combination of needing to make plans to go out with the girls, and weekends spent home alone with a good book.

I feel awkward making conversation, but have also been told I could talk to a tree if there were no people around.  The difference is subtle enough I'm not sure I can understand it, much less put it into words to explain to someone else.

Despite my seemingly nomad lifestyle (3 houses in 6 years) real estate transactions fill me with trepidation. If its a home - what if we miss the old place? What if we over-bought and can't afford it? What if our new neighbors suck?

When it comes to investments, the potential of losing money doesn't scare me as much as the prospect of going broke. I've been poor before (relatively speaking of course) and I survived. I just don't wanna go back there.

Like the fear itself, this transition makes no sense. I wasn't a child of the Cold War, and at only 9 years of age I don't even recall the Berlin Wall coming down. Yet somehow nuclear radiation is one of my biggest phobias.  

While I can't handle scary movies, the only one to ever give me legit nightmares afterward was the based-on-a-true-story K-19: The Widowmaker. For those who haven't seen it, the film doesn't belong in the horror genre. The IMDB synopsis explains: 

When Russia's first nuclear submarine malfunctions on its maiden voyage, the crew must race to save the ship and prevent a nuclear disaster. 

Saving the most fearful for last, I hesitate to even write about this one. I don't want to think about it and consider it as a possibility. Despite the fact that this fear is the most likely to come to fruition.  

The thought of losing someone I love breaks my heart. Sure I joke about ways I'm going to kill Jay, but that's totally different. My family and friends are precious to me. This fear is probably a sign that I don't pray for them nearly enough.

Rather than trusting the God who blessed me by allowing them to be a part of my life, I just hold tight to the fear of the unexpected.
For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. 2 Timothy 1:7 HCSB

Friday Five LinkupI'm linking up with Kelly today for her Friday Five link-up. Join us in the conversation.

Let me know in the comments if you plan on posting on the topic. 

If not, then in the comments I'd love for you to share your fears in the comments. My rule of thumb: the more weird the better!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Future Homestead

Shortly after getting back from vacation, I made reference to our latest land acquisition* - a 5 acre lot meant to serve as a building ground for the new Camp FTW. Have since closed on the land, I thought it was past time to share it with my blog-folk.

*Jay totally does NOT see the humor in my cheeky references to our adventures in real estate. For other unacceptable words, see also: empire, procurement, and venture.

Speaking of my ever-modest darling love, full photo credit goes to him. I'm sure some editing was involved, but I'm perpetually amazed at the quality pictures he can produce on his smart phone. 

We've already begun to look at floor plans, and hope to be able to enjoy the view from the living room as well as the back deck.

The second photo is of the opposite direction. The pond would be seen from the front of the house.

The land is close to my parents, and Jay assures me he has no Everybody Loves Raymond fears living just a couple of miles away from them. I've already got my dad enlisted to help with the acreage needs bush-hogged. And just maybe Jay could plant a garden one day! 

From what I hear, building a house is both exciting and quarrelsome at times. Have you ever gone through the process? Any advise for me on layout musts? I'm open to any and all suggestions!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Life-Giving Marriage

This post is part of Sue Detweiler’s #MarriageRocks Blog Tour - I feel honored to join up with some other great bloggers. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

Both thorough and concise, 9 Traits of a Life-Giving Marriage offers insight and tips for couples seeking a marriage that honors God. I enjoyed the way the author broke down the traits, how problems can manifest if they are neglected, and practical ways for couples to work on each area.

This volume was both short and easy to read, and also full of quality content. Detweiler challenged the way I've applied scripture in my marriage, examining the heart behind the verses - radically changing how they are lived out.

Specifically, her explanation of Ephesians 4:26 - don't let the sun go down on your anger was eye opening to me. I've fought with my husband well into the night, only getting crankier and more accusatory as the night goes on.

Instead, she explains, taking the verse to mean not to dwell on your anger, sometimes going to bed and getting some rest - letting go of your anger if only for the evening - can be the best approach to a swift conflict resolution.

If only for this insight, the book will serve my family well. Thankfully, however, Detweiler has other wisdom to impart in the book's pages.

Acceptance is the first trait she tackles, and its a doozy. How many times have I sat around with girlfriends gabbing about all the things wrong with our spouses?

What drives wives (and husbands) crazy about their spouse are often the personality quirks which brought them together in the first place.

Do I love it when Jay is devoted and totally focused on doing something special for me? YES. Am I incredibly annoyed when he treats a client the same? You bet!

And that's why I love him.
Having been accused of being honest to a fault, I thought perhaps I'd have an easy time of the the section on the topic. I couldn't be that lucky.

Trait # 4 Honesty: Ground Rules for Honesty in A Marriage
1. Watch your Words
2. Listen Attentively
3. Speak Honestly
4. Keep a Positive Perspective

To paraphrase the great Ian Malcolm: I'm too busy being self-righteous about the fact that its true, I don't stop to think if its something which should be said.

Over the past 7 years, God has been refining my words, attitudes, and actions as a strive for a marriage which honors Him and my darling. Maybe in another 43 we'll have this figured out. Until then, I am gratiful for resources like this book to help me along the way.

Is It Possible to Enjoy a Strong and Healthy Marriage  - -Till Death Do Us Part? Yes . . . with God!

Sue Detweiler’s new book, 9 Traits of a Life-Giving Marriage, will help you:

*Heal the broken places in your marriage
*Strengthen your relationship with your spouse
*Understand God's plan for your marriage
*Revive your relationship with God's transformative power 

Order your copy today!

I was given a free copy of this book as a participant in the 9 Traits of a Life-Giving Marriage book launch team. All opinions are my own.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Faces of My True Love

Tomorrow, my darling love turns 36.  
What better way to celebrate him than post several photos which will most likely embarrass him? 

I love how in the photo to the left he's trying to look mean, but can't quite pull it off. The snap is from a hike to Rainbow Falls with out-of-town guests. 

Sure, we've been known to bicker on the trails. 
Brooke, you're acting like a hungry toddler.
Have a snack.

Thankfully he's also not one to hold a grudge. Ultimately hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park never fails to bring a smile to our faces.

My nephew and I like to say "hashtag dangerous is fun!" And yes, hashtag must be said. My husband, Jay, however is the king of the DIF movement. He loves pushing the limits of what he can do.

I'm pretty sure there are deep rooted psychological reasons for this - given that his mother wanted to put him in a bubble after his hemophilia diagnosis. However I can't deny that life on the edge is a bit more fun. 

But seriously, we're always safe. Promise.

He gets sick of me perpetually wanting to take selfies (us-ies?) or at least he pretends to be annoyed. I love the smirks he makes when I take the pictures, so I don't mind his annoyance - real or pretend.

I took the photo on the left at a Tennessee Smokies game a few years ago. Unfortunately this year, we didn't get to very many games. 

Speaking of unfortunate: those bangs! Since this blog is about him not me, we'll just move right along.

Living in a tourist town has its perks. Sure I may gripe about traffic, but the tourism industry is the reason both Jay and I are employed, despite not being directly in the industry ourselves.

In addition to that, we frequently have the opportunity to attend free concerts and other types of entertainment. The idea of course is to draw in tourists for sales, but we are still able to have a good time.

In the case of the photo on the left, Jay and I headed up to Moonshine Holler (home of the original Old Smoky Moonshine Distillery and Store) to hear his favorite musician Daryle Singletary perform. 

I'm really not sure why everyone in picture (save us) looks miserable. Free moonshine, free music, can life get any better?

Actually it can. A life of love with the one who constantly puts a smile on my face.Happy birthday to my favorite scruffy nerf-herder in the galaxy!!!!

Friday Five Linkup

This week's topic: Five Smiles. 
Who/what has brought a smile to your face this week?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Welcome to Dinosaur Park

This past weekend, I visited Backyard Terror's Dinosaur Park with my sister and her family. Little man shares my love of dinosaurs (not surprising given his status as a 7 year old boy), and wanted to take me to see all the cool displays.

The concept is fairly simple: life-size replicas of what different types of dinosaurs are believed to have looked like. 

We even were able to see the newest display, showing the bones (so to speak) on how they are built. For perspective in the photo above, look for the ladder which can be seen between the hind-legs of the structure.

Given that they aren't my children and I don't have their mother's permission to post photos of them, I've blocked out there faces. This particular dinosaur has bloody flesh in his teeth and the carcass of lunch between he and the little man.

The princess and I feigned terror when posing next to the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex, but the attractions weren't truly frightening. I held the little man's hand through the dark raptor exhibit, but unless your party wants to scare you themselves, nothing jumps out at visitors.

I believe they have a night exhibit as well, but I can't speak to if it is scary (or how much so). The little man is super pumped, though to come back for the Halloween even this coming weekend.

Most intriguing about this park is the location and set-up. All of these dinosaurs live in the yard of a residential neighborhood. Once you go into the park, the property stretches for quite a piece, but its odd to walk through the front gate and see houses on either side.

There is a donation box near the gate, but entry is free. A gift shop is located in the park, and has another donation box. Prices of items are posted, and patrons contribute on the honor system.

My top 2 favorite dinosaurs were represented: the Compsognathus (aka Compy) and the Velociraptor (Raptor) were both well represented at the park.

Along the walking path, picnic tables are set up and visitors are encouraged to bring in a meal or snack. My sister said that the local pizza joint also delivers to the location. As we were leaving, we ran into a group setting up a birthday party.

All in all, it was a cool experience.

Do you have any off-the-beaten-path adventures in your neck of the woods?