July 31, 2010

NEW GIVEAWAY WINNER

I picked a new winner for the Sheila Walsh book:

Jennipher!

Jennipher, please email me with your contact information!

ashley61985(at)gmail(dot)com

Thanks! :)

July 30, 2010

Walk Like An Egyptian : VBS 2010

I'm finally posting my VBS pictures! We had a great year, and it was my first time to be involved in VBS in a long time (due to travel, having a baby, etc.). My church actually does VBS a little differently than the traditional Southern Baptist model, which typically means using Lifeway curriculum. Our church LOVES and supports Lifeway, but last year they tried a different approach, which is a program by Group Publishing. Basically, the kids are put into "families," and the families consist of kids different ages from K-4th grade. 5th and 6th grade kids are "helpers," and we spend the entire 3 hours going to different activities and stations. It's VERY interactive for kids, which is a plus with this curriculum. Of course there are pros and cons to every method, but as long as the love is Jesus is being shown and the Bible is being taught, that's the most important thing!

This year the theme was Egypt! We studied the story of Joseph in the Bible. If you're not familiar with his story or haven't read it in awhile, you should definitely become familiar with this story again. Great life lessons!

Here are scenes from VBS 2010!

All crafts, etc. were in our church pavilion and it was called "The Marketplace." This was the animal area! We all LOVED it!!


Praise and Worship!


In the Marketplace, we visited the Salon and Barbershop. My brother agreed to have Egyptian makeup put on. HILARIOUS.


This is what we call Rehearsal Dinner Slideshow Material in my house!


That's my little family! I had a BIG group (10 kids) and had to recruit my brother and sister Alyssa to help me. Thank goodness they were available!!


Our "home base" in the sanctuary. Each family had their own area. We brought a blanket to sit on, and all of the Family Moms carried a basket around with supplies, etc. Our family was Asyut 2.


After each day, I laid out their bags, nametags, and blue belts for them to wear (these identified our family). By the end of the week, I had my system down!


My little sister Andrea was also a family mom to a different group. They were Giza 1. Lookin' good, Ange!


One day we were blessed to have recreation INSIDE. Bless God! It was the hottest week of the summer (no lie) when we had VBS.


My brother was the sweetest helper, and the kids LOVED him!


Me and Dad! He gave me a hand with my basket. This was right after I had done the interview with Lisa Whelchel in his office!


This little boy was Will's buddy all week. He was so precious and VERY high energy! He and Mr. Will had lots of fun together! Haha!


Our Student Pastor, Jeff, played Joseph. Every day we went to "Joseph's Journey" where Jeff did an AMAZING job telling "his" story. The kids thought he was a rock star!


One of my little girls and I were talking about how much we loved Christmas. The next day, she brought me an old sock with an owl on it, and told me it was a Christmas decoration. I couldn't for the life of me figure it out, and then on the last day it hit me: She thought it was a CHRISTMAS STOCKING! Hahahahahah! But it was a sock! Hahahaahahah!


My dad showed off impressive (seriously!) acting skills during worship time one day! Here he is performing a skit with my friend Sarah. They were awesome and hilarious!!




Mr. Melvin, a sweet senior adult at our church, and Mr. Ken, another super sweet man at Lynwood, worked at the "Brickmaking" area of the Marketplace. He was so funny. We all learned about brickmaking, and then I was REQUIRED to put my feet in the mud and make a brick. As in, Mr. Melvin wouldn't let me leave until I had MADE A BRICK. Haha!


It was scorching hot outside, the mud was slimy and sticky and it was drying on my skin, and I was thinking "This is miserable!" Then it hit me: This was exactly how the Hebrew people must have felt (only 1000 times worse) when they were slaves in Egypt, working for Pharaoh! The Bible just came alive to me in that moment, and I have Vacation Bible School to thank!


Our last stop of the week in the Marketplace was the Linen Shop. This was so sweet and special. We made "knot blankets" for little children in Africa, through Operation Kid to Kid. Everyone participating in Group VBS's all over the country are making these blankets and signing coloring books to send to children in Africa. Most are orphaned, and they need a simple thing like a blanket to keep warm, make a pillow, or carry food they gather. We will be sending lots of blankets to these sweet children!

Here is Mr. Wendell teaching us about these children and where our blankets and coloring books will go.


This is so sweet. Each child held a little felt heart as we prayed over the blanket. Then we put the hearts inside the blanket before we knotted the edges. So each child receiving a blanket literally has prayers surrounding them. Precious!



Here's our family with our special blanket and coloring book!


On the last day of VBS, I had my kids put their hands on the blanket and my brother said the sweetest, most sincere prayer for the child that will receive it. It impacted the kids, and it was neat because they were learning that "faith without actions is dead." (James 2:20) We were putting into action our love for Jesus to share that with someone who will desperately need that hope.


We had a fantastic week, and I was so glad to participate. Serving with people at Lynwood is such a joy!

July 29, 2010

101 in 1001 Update!

Here's how I'm doing on my goals! I've had to admit defeat on a few, but that's okay! I really am not going to beat myself up about it. Setting goals is sometimes even more important than achieving them! I also feel like it's important to be honest about where I struggle, and it's good for me to see where I need to work harder in being disciplined. I've got 10 months to go, so we'll see how I end up doing!

I was challenged by Kristal to create 101 goals for myself to be completed in 1001 days (that's about 2.75 years). This was challenging, because our lives are going to drastically change in the next few months and years. We will be having a baby, Kurt will complete residency, and we'll be moving to Cape Girardeau, to name a few! For this reason, I tried to set realistic goals for myself. Some of these I will accomplish, and some will show that I'm very human! Worth noting: some of my goals are borrowed from Kristal (she did a great job!). Go look at her blog to see what her list is. I really appreciate the idea!

Here are my 101 in 1001:

For Me
1. Make once-a-month trips to bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Lifeway) to read/relax.
2. Expand my Disney movie collection by at least 6 movies
3. Start collecting crosses to eventually hang on a "cross wall" in my home.
4. Start and keep a binder with future vacation plans.
5. Buy some new sheet music for piano and practice/learn it.
6. Read for pleasure daily. (This hasn't happened everyday.)
7. Go to Disney World.
8. Go horseback riding with my Dad.
9. Wear a bold lipstick (not just neutrals all the time).
10. See Topol perform in Fiddler on the Roof.
11. Develop a skin/beauty routine.
12. Buy 1 or 2 nice, flattering maternity outfits that aren't cheap.
13. Use my library card at least 3 times. (1/3)
14. Make a wishlist for my birthday and Christmas--don't just tell people "I don't know..."
15. Order Yankee Candle catalogue.
16. Attend Mistletoe Marketplace and buy something.
17. Attend Handworks market and buy something.
18. Buy at least 4 chapter books I loved as a child/young adult.
19. Allow myself Japanese takeout when I want it before we move to CG.
20. Try Asian food other than Japanese.

For My Mind
21. Read 5 historical biographies/nonfiction books.
22. Visit the National Civil Rights Museum.
23. Visit the Mississippi Museum of Art.
24. Visit the Glenn House (even though I've gone before).
25. Watch "The Business of Being Born" (even though I know how I'm giving birth!).
26. Record/watch 10 shows from the History Channel.
27. Read at least 5 chapters from my housekeeping manual. (1/5)
28. Research Jewish Passover customs.
29. Make voting a priority.
30. Develop photography skills.

For My Soul
31. Complete at least 5 Beth Moore Bible studies. (2/5)
32. Read Bible daily. (I've missed days, and I'm not proud of it at all.)
33. Visit the Jackson Zoo with Evy.
34. Move to Cape Girardeau.
35. Resume weekly lunches with my Dad.
36. Find at least one ministry to serve in and be actively involved.
37. Decorate for Christmas in November. (2/3)
38. Visit an apple orchard/pumpkin patch at least twice.
39. Always have apple cider in my refrigerator while it's in season.
40. Celebrate Passover as a family in our home.
41. Fast at least once when/if I feel led to do so.
42. Read through the Bible chronologically (in the order it was actually written).
43. Visit my grandparents in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
44. Visit my relatives in Texas.
45. Spend a day shopping with my mom.
46. Take a family vacation with Kurt's side of the family. (March 2011!)
47. Take a family vacation with my side of the family.
48. Identify 100 things that make me happy and list them.

For My Marriage
49. Date night once a month.
50. Stay at the Fairview Inn again.
51. Take a trip to the Northeast United States, including New York City. (Spring 2011!)
52. Plan a celebration for Kurt's 30th birthday and his completion of residency (same day!)
53. Try a new recipe at least once a month.
54. Daily pray for our marriage while making the bed. (I have prayed for him daily, but I've missed just a few days making the bed!)
55. Find a way to serve together at church.
56. Affirm Kurt to my friends and when in public.
57. Take a walk together once a month.
58. Leave an encouraging note for Kurt once a week. (It hasn't always happened once a week, but I've left him notes!)
59. Go to the Pilgrimmage in Natchez at least once and stay in a bed and breakfast.

For My Health
60. Walk/work out at least 2 times per week. (There have been weeks when I didn't get it in, but chasing after a baby does count for something, right?!)
61. Drink at least 3 tall glasses of water daily. (I just haven't done THREE everyday. Ugh!)
62. Take an aerobics class after Baby is born.
63. By the end of the 1001 days, be confident in a swimsuit.
64. Take prenatal vitamins daily. (I didn't EVERY day. Oops!)
65. Be able to jog at least 1 mile comfortably.

For My Wallet
66. Learn to use and utilize coupons.
67. Plan meal menus every week. (I just haven't been organized EVERY week!)
68. Have at least one garage sale.
69. Find 5 free/unique things to do in Jackson or CG and attend/see them. (3/5)
70. Save all change that I have/find for 1001 days. (I haven't kept up with this!)

For My Blog
71. Learn how to link, draw a line through words, etc.
72. Pray for the people who read my blog once a week.
73. Find 4 new interesting blogs to follow. (4/4)

For Others
74. Pay for the person behind me in the drive-thru on 4 occasions. (3/4)
75. Send a note to my sister at college.
76. Sponsor an Angel Tree child at Christmas.
77. Go through house/closet twice a year. (3/6)
78. Participate in Operation Christmas Child every year. (2/3)
79. Leave a "Jesus tip" at a restaurant 3 times. (0/3)
80. Host something in my home at least twice. (1/2)
81. Send a care package to a soldier.
82. Donate 10,000 grains of rice through http://www.freerice.com/ (2,780/10,000)

For Our Home
83. Organize the idea file we have for our future home(s).
84. Decorate the nursery--finish by January 2009.
85. Once we move, paint at least two rooms something other than beige.
86. Create a guestroom that feels like a hotel.
87. Touch up kitchen cabinets with white paint.
88. Buy eight accessories/items for the house that make me happy.
89. Buy a good-quality rocking chair for the living room/den.
90. Vacuum once a week, no excuses. (It just hasn't happened!)
91. Buy a sofa and dining room furniture.
92. Make a cross wall.

For My Child
93. Pray daily for him/her and their future spouse.
94. Buy at least 4 DVD's for Evy that I loved as a kid.
95. Pick out and claim a Bible verse for him/her.
96. Buy "Hide 'Em In Your Heart" by Steve Green.
97. Buy a personalized dinner plate from Emtanner Designs.
98. Have Evy dedicated by my dad and grandfather(s) if possible.
99. Select and book a photographer to take pictures of Baby during first year.
100. Ask godly men in our family to write and say a blessing over our Baby.

101. To Be Determined!!!


Begin Date: August 21, 2008
End Date: May 19, 2011

I will put a link to this post on the side of my page and will continually update it:

Italics: Started/In progress

Strikethrough: Completed

Normal: Haven't started

Red: Didn't complete the goal.

Note: Since having the baby, it's difficult for me to update daily/weekly tasks. I will give an update on how I'm doing with different goals, but there are some I just can't keep accurate numbers on! This will make me less stressed out and more able to focus on the goal itself....not keeping track of it religiously!


Stay Tuned!

July 28, 2010

Loss.

I really don't want to write this post. I really don't. But I feel like I need to.

Yesterday was one of the saddest days I've had in awhile. I need to say first that everyone in my family is fine; it was nothing like that. But yesterday was a day of very sad loss.

Our family dog, Muffy, died unexpectedly yesterday. She had been having episodes where we knew her little heart just wasn't keeping up, and was slowing down. She has been with our family for about 14 years, so this was just entirely upsetting; it's like we lost a family member. My dad took her to the vet yesterday morning because she was showing more signs of distress. She passed away at the vet's office, after the vet tried to save her. My dad came over to my house to tell me, and it was just one of the saddest moments. The only thing that helps is that I had an intuition that this was coming. About a week or two ago, Muffy started having these episodes, and something just told me it was about time. I sobbed and sobbed with Kurt one night last week, and I think that was really when I let my initial grief happen---before the fact. But it's still just as sad when it actually happens. I'm so glad that last week I took extra time to cuddle and love on her. I just knew. I love my sweet little Muffy Sue!


I hadn't mentioned it, but about a month ago my family's black lab, Penny, escaped her fence and we haven't seen her since. We have all been saddened by losing her, and then little Muff. I told Kurt it almost makes me want to never get a family pet for us; the loss is so upsetting. I know that's a terrible way to live....avoiding love because it could hurt. And we probably will get a family pet at some point, but not anytime soon. I can't handle it.


The good thing is, we have such wonderful, happy memories with our pets. I'm so thankful that God created animals for us to love and enjoy. In a sense, until you have a child, it's a little taste of unconditional love, which is a beautiful thing.

Yesterday was also upsetting because I got the news that a little girl I taught in 2 year old Sunday School back in Mississippi was killed in a tragic, freak accident. I got an initial email that she was being rushed to the hospital because of this accident, and then an hour or so later I received word that she had passed away. I found out about Muffy and little Lauren around the same time.

Of course, the loss of a child always puts into perspective the loss of anything else, but each are sad and deserving of grief. Recently after my friend Kristal brought up the topic, after a friend of mine lost a little boy at birth and now that little Lauren has passed away, I've had to really search for truth when it comes to the "why's" of losing a child. There's no way to make sense of it, but I just feel the need to collect my thoughts.

I think it's stating the obvious that we live in a fallen world, and tragedies happen because we live in a world that isn't perfect. However, God didn't initially create the world this way. He created a perfect, sinless, beautiful world, and because of man's choices, there is now sin and suffering. So God is not to blame.

Now the question arises: Why would God then ALLOW suffering and sin? If He has the power to take it away, why doesn't He? The simple answer is,"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How un­searchable are His judgments and un­fathomable His ways." (Romans 11:33, NASB) We aren't MEANT to understand the mind of God.

However, as humans, it's so hard to be satisfied when we don't understand something. I KNOW that if Kurt and I ever lost one of our children, we would go through the process of being angry at God and questioning Him.

But ultimately, we must remember: Jesus (who is also God, being "three-in-one"), while on earth, experienced every human emotion that we face. He experienced it all. Dorothy Sayers wrote the following:

"For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is— limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile" (Dorothy Sayers,"Creed or Chaos? New York, Harcourt Brace, 1949, p. 4).

Now, obviously, I don't believe that God is "playing a game" with His creation. He has a sovereign plan in all things: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11) But even if one sentence was off, Ms. Sayers makes a strong point. When we search the Bible, we find that God's ultimate, all-encompassing emotion was love. He placed His own Son on the cross FOR US. He watched Him bleed and experience torture FOR US. He sacrificed his perfect, unblemished Son FOR US. That's radical, incredible love.

So ultimately, it's not a question of placing blame, faulting God, questioning His love and goodness, or determining that He couldn't be a kind, compassionate God. It's choosing how we will respond when the trials come. God doesn't allow anything to happen to us that He hasn't sifted through His hands and that we can't handle. (1 Corinthians 10:13) He is bringing out the character of God in us, so that His ultimate purpose can be revealed.

I know so many that have lost children: Angie, Julie, Emily, and I could go on and on. God is bringing so many people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ through their stories, and He is working miracles in their hearts through the stories of children. All of these women, and countless others, have said they would never survive each day (or even want to get out of bed) if it hadn't been for their faith in Christ. He has given them a "peace that passes all understanding." (Philippians 4:7) Their love and trust in the Lord in ALL circumstances has been completely inspiring in my life. They are my heroes, because of their godly responses to things that are beyond understanding.

I in NO WAY want to act like I have the answers on this topic, and there's no way that I can relate to the tragedy that is losing a child. This post is not meant to sound like a lecture, or be insensitive, or anything of that nature. It's simply where I'm sorting out my thoughts and findings in Scripture about something I've seen so much of lately. My prayers are constantly with those who are hurting, especially in the realm of losing what is most precious to you.

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Note: Josh McDowell wrote an article that really helped me with all of this, and it's where I got the quote by Dorothy Sayers. You can read the article here. Also: Even if you don't agree with me on this topic, out of respect for anyone who has lost a child, please keep your comments respectful and appropriate. I am not going to host a debate, because this topic is too sensitive. Thank you for understanding!

Giveaway Housekeeping: Please Read!

I am in the process of sending out the Lisa Whelchel and Sheila Walsh books! I have everyone's address except for the winner "beth" (that's how it was written in the comment). If I don't hear from "beth" by Thursday evening, I'm going to draw a new winner. It's been a week, but I still want to give her a chance to email me--I understand schedules, etc. can be crazy! :) So beth, if you're reading this, contact me asap! Otherwise I'll announce a new winner on Thursday night or Friday.

Thanks!

ashley61985(at)gmail(dot)com

July 27, 2010

All-American Andersons

I'm FINALLY getting our Texas pictures up! Here are scenes from our trip:

Evy and Uncle Mike enjoyed playing and goofing around!


Just enjoying being with family.


My brother was told by our (MUCH YOUNGER) cousin that the blocks can't be stacked backwards. Because my brother can't stand to pass up something like this, he takes on the challenge.


I LOVE THIS PICTURE:


Alyssa had JUST gotten done counseling at Pine Cove, so this says it all!


Me and my dad's dad, Dah:


And Mimi:




Evy Kate HATED her first time in a big pool. I even put on a bathing suit to take her in for the first time, and it was a WASTE. Maybe next time! :)


My beautiful mom with Evs :)


Get ready for a progression of sister pictures. They turned out hilarious, in my opinion! (Thanks to cousin Lydia for capturing these....)





And no, I don't remember what was so hysterical....


My dad's sister, Aunt Karen, and Mimi:


My grandparents :)


Evy cuddled up so much to Aunt Karen!


That's my cousin Will and my brother Will. They got into stacking. Who knows...??


This was when we were reunited with Alyssa after a LONG summer of her being at camp!


Together again!


We celebrated my cousin Lydia's birthday. My dad's youngest sister, my Aunt Hazel, was there with her kids (Lydia is one of them!). So we were glad to get to see them!



And now the fireworks show. Orchestrated by my truly awesome cousin Will. I need to brag: he started a Bible study at Baylor University that now has THOUSANDS of students attending. He is awesome!!!


Along with being such a spiritual guy, he also has great style:


Bitty wasn't impressed.



Please look at my brother.



Hilarious: Andrea tried to sit on my dad's lap and Evy tried to PUSH HER OFF!


I can't remember who snapped this?


Me and Punky:


My sisters :)


Stylin' and profilin':


Whew! We had lots of fun with our sweet family! :)
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