2009 will go down in history as the year I grew up.

Looking back on this year is painful. Humbling. And hopeful.

I never thought I'd be grateful for the trials of this past year.

You know the jewelers trick, how they put their brightest diamonds against black velvet and shine spotlights on them?

The good from this year shines so intensely, contrasted against the dark and reflecting God's bright light.

I've learned the value of the friends I already had, which I probably would never have fully appreciated without Leila. The level of support we received was just tremendous. Christine, Shari, you guys are my bright diamonds. I love you!

I think this year was the year I fully came to appreciate God. He answers my prayers every day. I know putting our family through these situations hasn't been easy for Him. He hates to watch His children struggle. But He is infinite in wisdom and knows that these trials were intense learning experiences and would be necessary for our growth.

Despite all that's happened, 2009 will be fondly remembered.



Today Andrew and I met some friends at Boonshoft Museum for a playdate/mommy get together. We had a great, pretty unremarkable time - until the last 15 minutes.

We were on our way out when this darling little brunette girl, probably around 3-4 years old, came up to me with a very sad look in her eyes. It turns out somehow she got separated from her family. My friend Christine went to the office to grab an employee (we were on the second floor, and the little girl wouldn't go to the office on the first floor with us - as it should be, mom taught her well not to leave with strangers). The employee came and took her downstairs to the office, Andrew practically glued to her side. He was not letting that little girl out of his sight!

They didn't even get around to paging her mom over the loudspeaker before a distraught woman barged into the office to claim her lost daughter. Andrew was right there through the whole thing, and we were within sight of the whole reunion as we browsed the adjoining giftshop.

Andrew came up to me after mom and daughter went back to having fun. He said, "mom, I almost had a sister".

Ouch. All that time, I thought he was just being protective. But I guess he was of the "finders, keepers" mindset, waiting for that little girl to be unclaimed so we could take her home with us.

And then the employee who reunited the mom and daughter had to come over and compliment me on Andrew's manners, and made a comment about how he said he had a sister but she died.

Of course I start to tear up (in fact, I'm doing it right now). I don't often see how Leila has affected Andrew...but when I do, it's so painful for me.

We talked about it on the way home, about how taking a girl from her mommy would be wrong, and God would be bringing us our own little girl. My advice to him was to pray about it. God has a way of listening to that child. I said it was up to God to give us that gift.

And he said, "but it's up to you and daddy to do....um...that thing I'm not allowed to talk about."

Weirdest feeling in the world, crying and giggling at the same time.


Lines in the Sand

I've had so much positive feedback on my picture of the scale - people have repeatedly called me "brave". I wish I were full of courage.

My picture on the blog is a nod towards my "bravado". And my inability to complete things.

Instead of drawing a line in the sand, I've carved a line in bedrock.

By involving my friends, people I know will hold me accountable, coach me on when I get discouraged, I've added an insurance policy to weight loss. It's not like going to the Weight Watchers meetings, where I can simply stop going. I have people who know my real struggles, and will no doubt call me on it if I don't continue this journey towards optimum health. I certainly hope you won't be afraid to reach out and pat me on the back or slap me upside the head, depending on the situation.

So I just wanted to say that YOU make me brave. That I can't do this without YOU. God has provided YOU to push me to success. YOU deserve the credit here.


12/27 - One Day Down, ??? More to Go.

I just wanted to outline my first set of mini-goals.

1) I want to be able to go up and down the stairs 35 times by my 35th birthday. I'm trying to utilize exercise methods without paying out money for a gym membership, and my stairs, they just beckon me. My 35th birthday is right around the corner, so I'm not completely confident that I'll make this goal...but I'm thinking big!

2) Getting high fructose corn syrup out of our diets. I read and read about the evils of HFCS - how it messes with your blood sugar levels. And it's disturbing, the places it pops up. Last night my dinner was egg white omelet and a bowl of Kellogg's All Bran. And, while eating my bowl of "sticks in milk", I took a gander at the ingredients. Yup, there's my nemesis. Proudly taking third place in the list. Disturbing, I tell you! Anyway, I can't really nail down a to-do-by- date on this one - there's plenty of processed foods in this house, and we're not in a position financially to throw away food and do a pantry overhaul.

3) And my last mini-goal isn't really a goal, since I have no influence on when it will happen. I'm just curious. How long do you think it will take Yasar into making some form of comment on my losing weight? Something positive from his lips. Without me asking him. Yes, that's going to be the hard part. I'll let you know. :)

"I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13


The First Day...

I. Am. Done.

Yes. That is my feet. On a scale. What you can't hear is the groan of despair emitting from my mouth.

Is that number so terrible? No. I haven't really put on much weight in the last year. But I feel terrible. Easily winded. That general malaise that comes with eating crap food. The tightness around my waist and thunder thighs that indicates being too fat for my fat pants. That fact that I ate so much yesterday I ended up puking at 1am was kind of my epiphany - this has to stop. Now.

I need a little help from you all. See, the great thing about Weight Watchers is the accountability factor. I have to stand on a scale at the weekly meeting and either feel joy or shame, depending on that number. I can no longer afford Weight Watchers, so I'm wondering if you can help me accomplish the same thing.

Every Saturday I'll be posting my number. And I'm going to attempt to give you my average daily calories for that week. And, hopefully, make some mini- and mega-goals to achieve along the way.

No more excuses. No more "I'll start tomorrow..."

This is the first day of the rest of my life.


Christmas 2009

Before the chaos begins.

Thank you, Nanny! I love it!
And Aunt Beth, I couldn't wait to put this on!
My bling-bling from Andrew. I'm gonna need a security guard to walk around with this on!
(hmmm, I wonder if he's a Bengals fan...)
Fun to decorate, not-so-fun to eat.
Tiger's glad the presents are gone so he can get back to normal.
Making kibbe with daddy.
Happy Birthday, Jesus!
My candles burned all day, remembering my little angel, and the angels of all my friends. Merry Christmas, my Leila. I know you're celebrating at an awesome birthday party in heaven!


"Poor" Me?

Want a guaranteed way to change your outlook on your life? Pick up this book. It should be required reading for everyone.

It would take so little of our income to change the life of someone. Literally change their lives.

Partners in Health has an innovative program going on in Rwanda. They build hospitals. That address the whole person. It impressed the heck out of me - when they have a child that is diagnosed with malnutrition, they offer a class to the family with information on how to maximize the harvest from their family garden. Very different from the "treat 'em and street 'em" philosophy here in the US. They also create jobs for natives in home healthcare, and the majority of their medical staff is "non-Western", meaning they are born- and trained-Rwandans.

Millennium Villages
is another organization that uses their funding to address the bigger picture, from industry and agriculture to healthcare and education. They are building communities out there. They are building HOPE. They are building FUTURES.

Lord, help me remember those suffering in other countries when I feel "poor". Thank You for putting this book in my path. Help me to maximize my donations for the good of those who need it most.

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
Matthew 19:21


O Little Stack of Christmas Gifts....

Last night I sent the boys out on a date. In "boyspeak" we called it a mission. Andrew had to take pictures of lots and lots of Christmas light displays with the digital camera, and then his daddy took him out to grab a treat and "bond" (we've both been suffering from Yasar withdrawl, but Andrew seems to be particularly whiny lately about missing his dad). They had a great time, the pictures are very cool (if a little blurry), and I plan to have them made into a photo book here if I could get my %@*^! slooooow internet to upload my photos to their server! Argh!

My real motivation to getting the boys out of the house is I needed to get the Christmas presents wrapped. My sneaky little 6-year-old was adamant that he was going to see his surprises, so I needed that extra layer of security that festive paper adds. I hunkered down with my scissors and magic tape and got it all done.

And then I looked at our presents. Sure are a lot less then years past. I started feeling a little bad. I mean, it's Christmas! We should have lots of gifts to open, not this small, pathetic pile. Isn't that our right? Oh, so humiliating......

I guess what happened next could be classified as an epiphany. Why are we opening presents on His birthday? It should be about what gifts we can give Jesus on His special day, right?

I'll give you a moment to digest that.

So I've been praying about what Jesus wants for Christmas this year. I feel like the little drummer boy - not much to give, but willing to give all I have. I can't wait to see where He leads me!

(Somehow, I don't think it's going to be to Zhu Zhu Hamsters)


Tag....I'm It.

Church today - two birth announcements in the bulletin.

Someone wrote on my FB wall, and when I went to reply via wall-to-wall, it pulled up the last time we'd posted that way. Back in March. I was all a-bubble about how Andrew was coming to the next OB visit to see the ultrasound, to see his little sister for the first time.

I mostly stay ahead of my grief.

But today it's catching up with me. It's reaching for me, ready to tag me.

I don't think about how this Christmas "should" be. I don't let my mind go there.

I just feel the stark emptiness in my arms.

I miss her today.

The Angel on Top of the Tree

Merry Christmas, little angel. Mommy loves you.


Stepping Out In Faith

Generosity has been the topic in church these last few weeks.

It's a conviction that's constantly stabbing my heart. It's been a long time since we've had an income to tithe from. I hate not being able to give what I owe, especially to God.

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, God spoke to me. He asked me to believe in Him, to trust Him.

My little cheesecake venture was just getting off the ground.

So I promised Him that every penny I took in between then and the next Sunday would go into our church's harvest offering.

That was so hard. Especially when I needed ingredients to fill incoming orders and didn't really have the money to pay for them. It felt like Satan was tempting me at every turn that week.

But I kept my promise. I walked proudly and tearfully to the front of the church that next Sunday with my husband at my side, our envelope containing our widow's mite clutched in our hands.

I believed that God would bless me for my faithfulness. I believed that it would be a blessing in the form of more cheesecake orders.

And it was. The few days between Sunday and Wednesday were exhausting. I made and sold 24 cheesecakes in 4 days. I am so grateful to God for His faithfulness.

But that wasn't all. I don't necessarily believe in prosperity gospel, but God made a solid argument for it Monday.

The church secretary stopped at the store to give Yasar and I an envelope that was left for us at the church.

An anonymous envelope. Containing $500 cash.

If I could explain the thoughts and emotions that I experienced, opening that envelope. My Father cares so deeply for me. How He loves us!

I know He will carry is through this next test. The one that's no longer on the horizon. It's here.

The store is failing. Whether it's due to the economy, or the new competition moving into town, it doesn't really matter. We've had two of the worst weeks imaginable, and no resources to pull from to make it up. We need a miracle of Biblical proportions to keep the business going.

And I think about the foreclosure, and the fact that our house is up for sheriff's sale, but is not yet on the list. I wonder if this isn't God's timing. His plan. It all fits together a little too conveniently to pass it off as coincidence.

My mom told me yesterday that my dad's got an appointment with the heart specialist this week. That his PCP ran an EKG on him and must have a concern with the results. A few years ago he had a quadruple bypass, and he's an uncontrolled diabetic.

I wonder if God's not setting the stage for us to move back to Pennsylvania.

I trust Him. Whatever is coming, He's shown me in a very palpable way that He's in control.

Stepping out in faith is becoming a habit.