Get on the Field

Do you ever feel like you’re on the sidelines of life, watching everyone else have all the fun? You’re the chipper cheerleader or the rude dad barking at the ref from the bleachers, but you’re not playing the game.

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At the risk of sounding ultra-spiritual, I believe one way Satan makes us ineffective as believers is to get us to “sit the bench” and watch our lives pass us by. There is no era more prone to this than ours of social media.

We scroll feeds. We watch YouTube videos for humor. We follow transformations on Instagram instead of journeying through our own. We binge watch (isn’t that even the grossest terminology?!) TV shows. We Netflix on Fridays. We are taking life sitting down, becoming fat and lazy–if not in our bodies, in our minds. I am guilty of this too, friends. Often I have to remind myself, “Ashley, put down your phone. The people you love are right in front of you. Be present.”

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GET ON THE FIELD OF YOUR OWN LIFE.

There is no place I get a swifter kick-in-the-pants of perspective more than the Endeavor Games.

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This is an adaptive sports event–a pre-qualifier for the Paralympics–for people of various physical disabilities. That word, disability, is laughable here. These athletes are ABLE. They are blind but fast. They have one limb–ONE LIMB–and swim 800m. They use wheelchairs to race and play basketball. They run on blades. They are real-life superheroes in my book.

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These individuals have every right to sit on the sidelines of their lives, watching us able-bodied people have all the fun. Oh, but no. Excuses dishonor them. They’ve decided (or someone in their lives has decided for them, perhaps) that life is a GIFT. It is meant to be lived…messily, frustratingly, joyfully and victoriously.

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Finn has “competed” in the Endeavor Games at UCO for the past three years. This year our goal was to not get disqualified by crossing over the lines. Success!

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He took home three gold medals for the 20, 60, and 100m dash! This was the first year he was actually crossing the finish line first and he kept looking back over his shoulder to find his buddies.

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This child continues to amaze me with his joyful spirit. It truly humbles me that God chose me to be his mom.

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Paisley was SO ANGRY that we didn’t clean off Finn’s old wheelchair in the garage and let her compete. 🙂

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She’s not a side-liner by nature, and I love this about her.

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Stop watching others live. Stop giving your very best for another person or corporation’s advancement.  Start living your life. Use your gifts, given specifically to you by God. I need your friendship, your talents, your wisdom, your drive, your love to become the best version of me.

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Sweet friends, The Whites, came to cheer Finn on!

We need you to get in the game of your own life. Your children, your marriage, your career, your friends, the Kingdom depends on it.

“Life is either a great adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller

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Sustainability

You want to get fit; and you mean it this time, so you clear all the junk out of your pantry and get a sitter so you can meal prep for six hours on a Sunday. You hire a trainer and commit to 5x/week. You eat chicken breast basted in filtered water, quinoa and steamed broccoli for dinner  e v e r y    n i g h t   for a week and a half.

Your results don’t come fast enough, so you…

quit.

It took you three, ten, thirty years to get out of shape, but you want to transform in two weeks.

If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. So can most of my clients. Here’s what I teach them: sustainability.

A common characteristic of my clients who struggle the most is that they are “all or nothing” types. Extremists. They work out 7x/week, eat kale and ice chips…or they binge all night long and don’t step foot in the gym for months. I’m guessing they behave this way in other aspects of life too–relationally, financially, spiritually.

Perfection, though alluring, is not sustainable. It is much healthier to be “really good” in the long term than to be “perfect” in the short term. This means you’ve got to find balance and pray for self-discipline. Small, seemingly insignificant good choices yield massive results when compounded over time (The Slight Edge). Time is the main ingredient; the secret sauce. There are no short cuts for lasting health. effort-consistency-time

My Secrets for Sustainable Healthy Living:

  • Find recipes you look forward to–that you salivate over–so you’re not tempted to go out every night, “cheat,” or order pizza. No one can eat bland chicken, rice and steamed broccoli every night and enjoy their life. This means you should try new foods you’re not familiar with. You just might LOVE THEM if prepared properly. Eat REAL FOOD! Not chemicals, processed crap and genetically modified junk.
    • (If you need help here, click on my Online Training tab and order some recipes from me. If you have my cell phone number and we’re friends, text me and I’ll send you a few of our favorites.)DSC_0010-2-850x563
  • Hire a professional. A good nutritionist or personal trainer just may be the best investment you’ll ever make.
  • Get your spouse (or a close friend or family member) involved.
    • Look them in the eye and tell them you’re ready for change and you can’t do it without their help. Go to the doctor together and hear it from a physician. Remind them you’re a team. You’re better together. Set goals. Make it a family competition if that motivates you. IMG_7143
  • It’s easier to maintain a healthy habit than to start and stop.
    • Think about the dishes. What if you left dirty dishes balancing in the sink and spilling up onto the countertops all week long…then spent several hours washing and drying them all on Sundays. Your kitchen would stink, you’d have fruit flies (sick out!); you couldn’t invite anyone over for embarrassment. Wouldn’t you just dread Sundays?! The same is true of exercise and proper nutrition. tumblr_inline_n5baj7ZV1H1qbj2nm
  • Schedule your exercise, preferably before, during, or after work. Don’t go home first…you won’t want to come back to the gym. Put it in your calendar and set alerts.
    • Attend a group fitness class.
    • Train with a personal trainer at the same times weekly. I’d love to have you in one of my small groups at Sky! I’m currently booked for private training.
    • Set an appointment with yourself to workout at home. Put all distractions away; give yourself 15-30 minutes while the kids nap or once they’ve gone to sleep. 82a47d4ed769fc2f12770c83b6313016
  • Develop a “why,” a reason to invest in your health–one that gets you out of bed in the morning. If you’re a mom or dad, you’ve found your reason.img_3803
  • Find some products you LOVE. This will give you a few “go-to’s” when you’re tempted to choose something unhealthy or when you’re not prepared.
    • Here are a few of my favorites (we’re never without them):
      • Arbonne’s vegan protein powder (daily breakfast shakes, homemade protein bars)chocvan
      • Green apples (lowest glycemic index) with MaraNatha almond butter
      • Quinn Rosemary and Parmesan natural popcorn
      • KiZe Cocoa protein bars for me, Clif bars for Joeycoco_3cbb6e14793f226eea7d2220a2e68abe
      • Arbonne’s energy fizz sticks (My fav are pomegranate. Joey’s are the citrus.)
      • La Croix (Cerise Limon flavor) sparkling water
      • Terra sweet potato chips
      • Whole Foods hummus
      • Onyx or Brandywine coffeeSugar_Skull_Bag_Pic_3-20-17_800x
      • Arbonne’s herbal detox tea with organic, local honey
      • Target’s Archer Farms raw almond 100 calorie packets

My hope and prayer is that the healthy habits you develop and the wholesome foods you enjoy become the way you live; your lifestyle. They are not for a bikini or a wedding or a competition, but for every day. There is no finish line.

Jesus warns us, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Don’t allow unhealthy habits or inconsistency to rob you of life–life to the fullest.

How to Treat Kids Who Are Different: Part I

This blog post is in honor of Finn, on his 5th BIRTHDAY! I cannot believe it.

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You may be one of those people who want to be different. March to the beat of your own drum kind-of-person. Most of us, however, just want to fit in. I was the “new girl” every two years of my life, as my family moved around the country for my dad’s job. All I wanted was to blend in as quickly and seamlessly as possible, make friends, and become “popular.” Finding a cute boyfriend was a plus.

My son, Finn, however, cannot just “blend in.” Nor, do I believe, he wants to. He sits happily between two wheels, zooming through the lobby at church, holding back the urge to pop a wheelie in line at school, and eager to help me “treasure hunt” for groceries at Whole Foods.

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Finn’s 5th birthday party: bowling and pizza with 19 buddies from school and the cousins!

He is obviously different from the average five year old…and he seems okay with that.

When Finn was born, OU Children’s Hospital hooked us up with another family for emotional support. This child was several years older than Finn and also had Spina Bifida. I got up the courage one morning to call his mom, Debbie. I asked her what her son was currently struggling with. “Well, he’s really ornery and lately he’s been in trouble for annoying his big sister.” Her answer took me off guard! It was a relief, honestly. I expected something medical and tragic in nature, but her wisdom assured me that Finn will likely be like any other boy–mischievous and annoying, just on wheels. 🙂

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Spina Bifida will be a part of his life. It will not define his life.

Your differences will be a part of your life. But don’t let them define your life.

When you are unique or have a child who is unique in some outwardly obvious way, it is common to get stares, double-takes, sweet and curious questions, rude statements, unsolicited advice, and oftentimes unwanted attention.

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I hated this for the first two years of Finn’s life. I avoided birthday parties, crowded doctor’s offices, playgrounds…anywhere some child or parent might ask or say something I didn’t know how to answer. Now, though, I love to share Finn with the world; it just took some maturing, prayer, and preparation on my part.

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Cousin Ev, Tucker and Sully came all the way from Missouri to celebrate!

Today a sweet college friend messaged me and told me she took the initiative to tell her son all about Finn recently. She showed him videos of him wheeling up ramps and being silly. They laughed together and had a good conversation about being different. Her kindness and intentional parenting prompted me to finally write this post I’ve thought about for years. Her words: “My prayer is that God will continue working in his already sensitive heart…and that he will have eyes to see and a desire to befriend kids who are different than him.” Thank you, Claire.

I’ve had several friends ask great questions in confidence, “How do you like Finn to be treated?” “What should we say when our kids ask questions?” “Do you like to be approached or would you rather be left alone?”

These are all valid questions, and ones I will answer with the help of a few other moms of uniquely awesome children. That info will be in PART II of this blog post and I hope to post that late Wednesday night or Thursday.

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My mom and Finn share a birthday (today!). We celebrated my mom’s 60th in Dallas this weekend! She’s the cute one holding Paisley on the right. Check out Finn at the head of the table. 😉

I’ll leave you with this tonight. One of the best quotes I’ve heard on this topic is:

“If you want to know how to treat a child with special needs, watch their sibling. They will show you.” (simplyrealmoms)

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Hotel giggles and shenanigans…TOOK THREE STINKIN’ HOURS to fall asleep!

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SO GRATEFUL for their friendship. Thank you, Jesus.

Come back Wednesday night (or Thursday if I don’t get to it) for some more insight (and other opinions) on this topic!

Present Over Perfect

Shauna Niequist is my favorite Christian author for her raw vulnerability, her transparency, expert story-telling skills and her love for good food. I cook recipes from her book, Bread and Wine, weekly.

I knew her most recent book, Present Over Perfect, would rock my busy little world, so I put off reading it for several months. It would slow me down, settle my heart and convict my soul, and I wasn’t ready to be reigned in. The title speaks for itself–stop trying to be and just be.

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All my life I’ve been an achiever, a doer. I value efficiency, honesty and follow-through. In job interviews, I take pride in the fact that I’m responsible–I do what I say I’m going to do–and I’m efficient–I can do more work in less time than most people. I am goal-driven and feel incomplete until my goals are met. Even then I feel like I could have probably done more, been better.

These things, of course, matter very little in the Kingdom of God. At the end of my life, Jesus is not going to ask me about my work ethic. He’ll ask me how I treated people. He’ll lift my chin with His calloused hand and ask, “Ashley Dawn, were you kind? Did you obey me? Did you love the least of these? Did you give generously? Were you loving and slow to anger with your family behind closed doors? Did you share My love with my children who were hurting?”

Although the pace of my life hasn’t changed since I read this book over Christmas break, my mindset has. I’m consciously asking my mind to rest, to be fully present with the people I love, and to give myself grace.

Some of Shauna’s truths from this book that…changed me, quite frankly:

“I believed it was better to measure my life by metrics out there, instead of values deeply held in my own soul and spirit.”

Production values. Promotions. Credentials. Grade point average. Body fat percentage.

“The very thing that makes you you, that makes you great…is also the very thing that, unchecked, will ruin you.”

For me this is efficiency, commitment and drive.

Women often do what Niequist calls, “fake-resting. I’m wearing pajamas…It looks like I’m resting, too. But I’m not. I’m ticking down an endless list, sometimes written, always mental, getting things back into their right spots, changing laundry, wiping down countertops. Some might say this is being a mother, a homemaker, or this is what women have been doing for generations.”

For me, this behavior is handed down from a long line of strong, independent, capable, and restless women. My grandma Mary, at 80-something, has a hard time sitting still. My mom never does. If I am, my mind is somewhere else…I’m distracted by everything left undone.

Saturday morning, though, I was so proud of myself: Paisley snuggled up to me on the couch in her jammies and I held her tight, smelling the sweetness of her neck. I couldn’t put my feet on the coffee table because it was stacked high with laundry.  Dirty dishes lined the countertop, and my laptop was open with a business production number that was far from my lofty goal for February. I held my cold mug of coffee in one hand, and my tiny baby girl in the other. I closed my eyes and soaked up the long minutes she let me snuggle, truly resting.

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Paisley Dawn loves to do dishes!

“Busyness is an illness of the spirit.” -Eugene Peterson

“Loving one’s work is a gift. And loving one’s work makes it really easy to neglect other parts of life…Being good at something feels great. Playing ninja turtles with two little boys for hours is sometimes less great.”

I love my job. I get to coach people (mostly women) toward their best self through fitness and healthy living. I’m good at it.

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I oftentimes feel less good, however, at being a mom–and sometimes a wife. I can get more easily frustrated with my kids than my clients. I have better customer service with strangers (WHO COULD CARE LESS ABOUT ME) than I do with Joey, the love of my life. Ugh. Holy conviction.

“This is what I know for sure: along the way you will disappoint someone. You will not meet someone’s needs or expectations…These are basically sharp blades into the hearts of people like me, who depend very heavily on meeting people’s expectations.”

Disappointing people terrifies me. My greatest fears are to let someone down and to be misunderstood. I’ve lost sleep this past year over feeling misunderstood by people I cared about and for feeling like I’ve let people down.

“But here’s the good news: you get to decide who you’re going to disappoint, who you’re going to say no to…What you need along the way: a sense of God’s deep, unconditional love and strong sense of your own purpose…Aim to disappoint the people at the center of your circle [family] as rarely as possible.”

Ah, my purpose. I know my purpose, my “chazown”: helping people live life to the fullest through healthy living. Inspiring people to reach their God-given potential.

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Our relationships are like concentric circles, with those closest to us at the very center. Then our most trusted friends and extended family. Then more friends. Acquaintances and co-workers. Strangers. I chose “servant” as my word for 2017 because I want to be a servant FIRST to those people God has entrusted to me at the center of my circle: Joey. Finn. Paisley. If I can’t be really really good to them, nothing else matters.

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Here’s where I’ll leave you (and I’m only on page 55 of 234 of incredible wisdom, but I’m going to play Nertz with Joey):

“We disappoint people because we are limited. We have to accept the idea of our own limitations in order to accept the idea that we’ll disappoint people. I only have this much time. This much energy. This much relational capacity.”

I don’t like to feel limited. Do you? I like to feel powerful and unbridled. But it’s so incredibly freeing to me to accept the fact that I can’t do it all.

I need Joey’s help around the house. I can’t remember everyone’s birthday. I’ll forget some clients’ squat weight. I can’t remember to pray for everyone I want to pray for. I need my mom’s tenderness. I need my dad’s wisdom. I need grace from my kids. I need a committed team to help me reach my goals in Arbonne. I need my training clients to show up to get paid. I need my long-distance girl-friends to check up on me. I need people, and I deeply need God.

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I will disappoint people. I may have disappointed you. And that’s okay, because I am imperfect; an intrinsically flawed, yet redeemed daughter of God, doing my very best. And it’s enough. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough.

The Last Slice

As a child, pizza made me a crazy person. Ask my brother, Chad. I would split the pizza down the middle (my slices were larger, of course) and if he so much as stole a half of pepperoni, I’d flip out. I would have lost a friendship over pizza. It’s embarrassing.

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One of Craig’s sermons last year changed my outlook on life. I didn’t realize it had affected me so much until one evening I didn’t care if someone else took the last slice of pizza. Honestly.

The thought is this:

I live in a place of abundance, not scarcity.

Instead of mourning the last slice of pizza or punching Chad in the arm for taking it, I think, “Take it. We’ll just make/order another.” There’s always more pizza.

Or think of it this way: you either see a half-eaten pie as plenty or not enough. Glass half-full or empty. Bank account never enough or provision for our needs.

This mindset changes everything.

My relationships improve with this worldview. I’m more generous because I’m not worried about “getting mine.” I see people as more important than things (or food). I give of my time and my love and my resources, trusting my friends will also give back to me. And if they don’t, that’s okay too. I celebrate their promotion, their new car and their children’s accomplishments because their gains aren’t my losses.

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Psalm 84:11 “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk upright.”

My career improves. I used to worry that the other trainers or the other consultants would take all the business, leaving no one left  for me. The reality is that whether it’s training or promoting Arbonne, my goal is to help people; and there’s always someone who needs help because we’re all unhealthy in some way or another. As long as processed food, artificial ingredients, obesity and low self-esteem exist, I will always have a job. There are certainly enough clients to go around.

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My marriage improves. We haven’t run out of things to talk about; there are more dinner conversations yet to unfold. There are new, creative ways to show love. More arguments and more reconciliation. We have collected more love and respect for each other as the years progress, not less.

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My relationship with God improves. When I see God as a loving Father and King, I realize that as His child, I inherit those riches. His creation is full of beauty and wonder, waiting to be discovered. He doesn’t manipulate me by withholding good things. He is an extravagant God who lavishes His love on me if I’m willing to receive it. He’s got enough blessings to go around and around and around…but I think I must have eyes to see them.

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.”

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Jesus, continue to teach me how to be more generous and live life with a mindset of abundance. Thank you for blessing us richly…more than we need.

How to Roast Vegetables

(Many of you have requested this post, so here it is, but please don’t judge. I’m FAR from a foodie blogger or photographer…but I have some friends who are great at that if you’re interested!)

As a kid, I hid my green peas under my mashed potatoes like the rest of you. But early in our marriage, Joey and I found a way to LOVE vegetables…roasted. Here’s how we do them:

  1. Preheat a smokin’ hot oven…like 450-500 degrees.
  2. Wash (duh) your veggies and cut them all about the same size so they cook evenly. This is important, people. You can’t have a long stem of asparagus with diced zucchini or some large potatoes with some cubed.

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    SHARP knives are safer!

  3. Create a “medley” of veggies of about the same texture. Some examples:
    1. Sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, carrots
    2. Zucchini, onions, zucchini squash, peppers
    3. Asparagus, artichokes, French green beans
    4. Broccoli, cauliflower
    5. Brussels sprouts and green onions…or add sliced red grapes for sweetness

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      This is honestly not the best example because they aren’t all the same size…but it was what was left in our fridge before Christmas. 🙂

  4. Chopped onions and minced garlic go well with all veggies. We love red onions, sweet yellow and green onions the best. White are gross. Ew.
  5. Drizzle the veggies with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). My mom actually pronounces this “ee-voo.” 😉 You could also use coconut oil. img_6008
  6. Sprinkle with sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt if you want to be fancy. We don’t do black pepper but you could.
  7. Roast on the top rack for as long as it takes for them to get soft, caramelized and golden brown. Usually this is 15-25 minutes…potatoes take the longest. img_6009
  8. DIVE IN! In our house, veggies take up at least half our plate at dinner. img_6010
  9. If your kids are picky, call them “chips.” We eat “green bean chips” and “kale chips” and “edamame chips.” Make them crispy.
  10. The prettier (more colorful) the vegetables, the richer they are in nutrient content and the more fun your kids will have with them. fullsizerender-67

What Are You Waiting For?

I struggle with impatience; always have.

When I was five, I wished I were 25. As a teenager, my mom gave me this little Willow Tree figurine of a girl with her arms folded across her knees, waiting. I set it on my nightstand, asking God for patience until we had Paisley and now it sits on hers.

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Thankful for cozy winter nights with Joey

I’m a doer. I like action, movement, change. Procrastination is silliness to me. In my arrogance, I think my timing is best, and God is usually a little late. He is never in a hurry like I am.

I hate waiting because it feels like time is wasted, and time is something I value highly. But if I believe each breath is a gift, each day an expression of God’s mercy, then it holds true that with God, time spent waiting is never wasted.

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College Roomie Christmas brunch…our 8 little loves, minus one!

In fact, I believe the waiting period is perhaps what it’s all about. I teach my clients to focus on the process, not the end (“I will exercise 5x this week.” Not, “I will lose 5 pounds.”). The interim is where we find out what we’re made of, and our attitude matters. When we are waiting–on a person, a prayer, our big break, the light in the darkness, forgiveness, love, healing, a job, whatever–our character is being forged and time is not wasted.

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Christmas Train at Dry Gulch!

When I was pregnant with Finn, we knew he would be born different, but we didn’t know exactly how or to what extent. Some days I was terrified of what could be. Some days I was hopeful. There were months that Joey and I both cried ourselves to sleep. There were moments of clarity and intimacy with God like I’d never experienced before. Although those several months were some of the darkest of my life, I know without a doubt, that time was not wasted.

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Finn and Pais helped me decorate the bottom 1/3 of the tree

I like to imagine Mary, Mother of Jesus, felt something similar as she waited for her son to arrive. She was told He would be no ordinary boy. He was the long-awaited Messiah. How overwhelming for a young mother!

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage.” Ps. 27:14

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“It is good to wait quietly on the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:26

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Nana and Papa Rosell visited!

If you’re waiting, settle down. Take a deep breath. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments. In this season of Advent, I await the arrival of Jesus, the Savior of my soul, and I don’t want to waste it.