Saturday, April 19, 2014

Challenge (unintentionally) Accepted.

While trolling Pinterest back in December, I vaguely recall some hype that blogger, Jon Acuff  created when he issued The Empty Shelf challenge.  Essentially, you empty a bookshelf in your home and fill it with every book you read from now until December 31st. It was a neat idea but I was to busy (uh, trolling Pinterest) to give it a second thought. 

Then recently, it occurred to me that I've finished at least 7 books since reading about that challenge...humpf! So I cleared out some books and emptied a shelf. 

Then I added the books I've already read this year.  I had to return two of the books to the library but I'll keep that in mind for future reads.  Now I'm looking forward to filling my empty shelf. What a fun little challenge and completely unintentional!  :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

I don't have many Heroes but Gary is one of them.

You know when you get together with friends and you begin to walk down memory lane and reminisce the years history you've shared?  You remember the funniest moments, special occasions, the tough times.  Then someone recounts an important detail but they get it all wrong  and those who know the facts pounce on the one in error to correct them?

This happened a couple of weeks ago as we were having dinner with friends who I lovingly refer to as the 'other Nortons'.  As the four of us talked, Dave casually mentioned that if it hadn't been for our close friendship with his sister & husband 12 years ago, we would never have connected with his entire family, the 'Nortons'.

Greg was very quick to correct Dave, it was not our friendship with his sister & husband that created the connection, it was Dave's Dad! I was dumbfounded at Dave's remark, how did he not know this?  I recalled a post I'd written a few years ago for Gary's birthday and read it aloud so the facts were set straight.

In conjunction, we are often asked 'How do you know the Nortons?'  To keep it brief we have a nutshell response but the truth is...its much more.  In answer to this question and in honor of Gary's birthday this year, I am borrowing from the post I wrote to commemorate Gary's birthday then and now. :)

This is Gary.  He is my Pastor.
He doesn't have a church building.
He doesn't speak in front of a congregation.
But he is my Pastor.

We first moved to Arizona in 2002 and while it was exciting and adventurous, we never felt more alone or disconnected.  We had no friends, no family, not even a church to speak of.  After visiting numerous churches, we both felt comfortable at Superstition Springs Community Church (now Mission).  The church was still meeting in a school and at the time was about 500+ people.  We attended for a brief time, less than a month I think, before we met the Pastor. Gary.  In our brief meeting, he suggested we get together for lunch.  And we did. We ate at Fuddruckers and I could even tell you the booth we sat in.  I don't know if Gary remembers this lunch, but I do. 

The Thanksgiving holiday was just a few weeks away and days before, we received a message on our answering machine from the Pastor. Gary.  He said he remembered we didn't have family in Arizona and wanted to invite us to Thanksgiving dinner at his home.  We couldn't attend because our family came to Arizona that year but the gesture meant so much to us.  I don't know if Gary remembers that invitation, but I do.

As time passed, we continued to receive invitations to special holidays, then family events and eventually to just their regular Sunday night dinners.  I don't know if Gary knows the impact this had in our lives, but I do.

Later, we up and moved to Texas.  And we found ourselves in trouble.  Our Pastor, Gary and his wife, Elaine flew in for a weekend.  And we were able to get our lives back on track.  I don't know if Gary realizes how life-changing that trip was for us, but I do.

When we decided to move back to Arizona and we needed a place to live until we could purchase a home, it was our Pastor, Gary and Elaine who opened their home to us and had us LIVE with them for as long as we needed.  I don't know if Gary understands how significant that was, but I do.

I've attended numerous churches, held member's status at many of them but there is only one person, I call my Pastor.  It is Gary. Because he is the only one, that has truly been a pastor - a shepherd - to me in all senses of the word.  He is a remarkable Pastor to this day. I don't have many heroes but Gary is one of them.

Happy Birthday to my friend, my Pastor. Gary.  You are a hero to me and many, many others! :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Breaking Free Cliff Notes - Part 1

Living in Freedom is a hefty subject, but it's worth the time. I have found it is the most life changing, greatest impacting endeavors I have ever poured myself into.

In my previous post, Stepping into the Arena, I mentioned that I first picked up the 'Breaking Free' workbook by Beth Moore in 1999.  I emphasize Workbook because the 'Breaking Free' book by Beth Moore wasn't published until 2007.  As with many things, when something is successful, reiterations of that successful work will soon be found.

In 1999, I picked up the Breaking Free workbook and I read each word, answered every question, filled in every blank, checked all the boxes, drew the pictures, read every scripture, watched all the video sessions.  I studied that material.  It was like living water to a dry and parched soul. The truth is, I never stopped doing the study and as a result it changed me.  This is a picture of my workbooks.  I would write multiple times in each workbook, responses varying from season to season. I would fill the pages with my notes and I would need a new workbook for the next time.  I'm currently doing it again, the updated edition on the right, which is what prompted this Daring Greatly moment.

The Breaking Free study course-corrected more than my life, it course-corrected my mind.  I was literally "transformed by the renewing of my mind."  What I learned then and continue to study today is quite literally "the truth that set me free."  Cliche? Yes.  But this is a true story.

Perhaps this all sounds like religious mysticism.  To lofty, a little wacky, 'out there'.  I get it and that is probably why I am so grateful that I have had someone walking beside me and watching me as a "new creation" evolve over all these years. No one knows this is a true story better than my husband.  God. Bless. Him.  Seriously.

In Part 2, I'm going to outline some fundamental facts, key truths, that I have learned and have been studying from Breaking Free during all these years.

Living with genuine, authentic freedom - emotionally, mentally, spiritually- is unparallelled to anything I know or have experienced.  The catch is, you have to step into the arena. You have to fight a battle for it.  You have to work hard for it.

I know from raw, personal experience - it's totally worth the work. 


"If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going." John 8:14

More about this true story:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stepping in the Arena.

I am not articulate or eloquent enough to express how deeply this Theodore Roosevelt quote resonates with me.  Every. Single. Line.  It stayed with me from when I first heard and read it.
For more years than I care to admit, it was the critic's comments that counted the most to me.  It was the one who pointed out my stumbling  and told me I wasn't good enough that I cared the deepest about.

In 1999, I stepped into the arena and I began fighting in a battle with a clear mission and purpose. I was covered in dust, sweat and blood. I had a number of victories. I also had many defeats.  I did not deter from the course though because I was fighting for a worthy cause.  As long as I was striving towards what was right and true, the errors and shortcomings did not matter as much. 

To this day, I will catch myself placing to much value in criticisms, opinions, expectations.  So I step in the arena to battle for a worthy cause and before I realize it, I find myself Daring Greatly. Again.

What is the Worthy Cause?  It's Living in Freedom.
Make no mistake, I'm not talking about living in a free country with certain liberties as a nation.
I'm talking about living Life. Free. Not just physically but mentally, emotionally, spiritually. 
Entirely. Different. Subject.

Anyone who has known me for any amount of time, has heard me mention a study titled 'Breaking Free'.  I'm very comfortable 'talking' about the impact this study has had in my life but the idea of writing about it seems daunting. Daring Greatly. Simply because - it's a worthy cause.

Next post; Breaking Free Cliff Notes - Part 1. 

Stay tuned.  Or not.  Whatever.  ;)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bragging about God.

Back in August, I shared 'My Personal Testimony of Jesus Christ' and one of the things I wrote was:
"I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that the power of Jesus Christ has moved in my life in ways I never could have imagined."

I wrote that statement in the past tense but the reality is, God continues to move in ways I can't possibly imagine. It is humbling to try and explain the mysterious ways that I see God work at times. What I experienced this Thanksgiving holiday is no exception.  It was "more than all I could ask or imagine".  Why?  Because, as long as I can remember or know of, I've never spent a Thanksgiving holiday with both my mom and my dad - until this year.

Not unlike a lot of people, I don't have a memory bank full of memories with both my parents. No memories of Christmas', birthdays, special events, etc.  The handful of memories that I do have, fall in an entirely different category. However, this Thanksgiving holiday, both my parents traveled from their respective states to spend Thanksgiving in Arizona. I found myself making coffee for both my parents. I could hear both my parents talking at the table.  I would look up from what I was doing and see both my parents sitting in the room.  It was surreal.  Totally surreal.

One morning, as the 3 of us sat at the kitchen table, I shared a scripture that came to my mind that morning as I marveled at how God brought this special event together. Joel 2:25:
"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten"
They understood the verse and agreed. I shared my heart and told them why this time was so special for me. We each shared our hearts through tear filled eyes and together we shared God's sweet goodness. Then we prayed together.  Tears fill my eyes, even now, as I think about it.  Such a priceless gift of which I could never have even imagined.  

It gets better. ;)  All of my life, I've been missing something.  Something simple.  Just a picture - with me, my mom and my dad.   It's a picture I've never had. A picture that's been missing all my life. While my parents were here, my friend Lindsi Rian captured the picture I've been waiting 41 years to take. 

At this point, I'm just at a loss for words.  This is where my emotions get the best of me and I'm just overwhelmed by God's enormity and His tender love for me.  He knows me.  He knows my heart.  He knows about the constant longing for family that fills my heart.  And this Thanksgiving, He gave me the most Amazing Gift that Grace could give.. My family. 
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin Chiffon Recipe Revisited

In November 2010, I wrote about the Pumpkin Chiffon recipe that has an adverse effect in my life at the end of every year.  This is a revisit to the original post with updated pictures:

The last 2 months of the year, I am making this recipe at least once a week at the request of my husband who finds a way to work it into every conversation we have.  Here's some real-life examples that I kept track of this month:

Greg: I have a surprise for you
Julia: What is it?
Greg: Now if I give this to you now, you have to make a pumpkin chiffon for me today, ok?
another example:
Me: I want something to snack on.
Greg: Like Pumpkin Chiffon?  Hmm?
last example:
Greg: I've had a headache since this morning.
Julia: Did you take any Excederin?
Greg: No, but I think Pumpkin Chiffon would help it go away.

Finally, my husband has escalated his game to leaving cryptic messages around the house:

That being said, I am sharing the recipe so that someone else can share in my misery and his joy!

Pumpkin Chiffon 

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
2 (3 3/4 oz.) package vanilla instant pudding mix
3/4 cup milk
2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin (Not Pumpkin Pie Mix)
dash of ground cinnamon
2 (8 oz) cartons Cool Whip, thawed
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Combine first 3 ingredients; press into a 12 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish.  Set aside.

2. Combine cream cheese, eggs, and 3/4 cup sugar; beat until fluffy.  Spread over crust.  Bake at 350 for 20 mins; set aside to cool - critical, crust must cool off before proceeding!

3. Combine pudding mix and milk; beat 2 minutes at medium speed.  Add pumpkin, cinnamon and one carton of Cool Whip; mix well. 

Note the difference between these 2 cans.  Can on the left is Pumpkin Pie Mix, do not use this.  Use the can on the right, 100% Pure Pumpkin. 

4. Spread pudding mixture over cooled crust & cream cheese layer. Spread last carton of whipped topping over pumpkin/pudding layer.  Sprinkle top with pecans.  Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.


Recipe published in 1982 by Jacqueline Dorn of Leesville, South Carolina. Thank you, Jacqueline, the end of year just wouldn't be the same without the heckling of my husband to make your recipe.  Perhaps you could send me your number and my husband could call you to make Pumpin Chiffon every week. I hate you sometimes. So anyway....Yuletide and Happy Hullidays Ya'll!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Candy Sign

This Halloween, there is a brief period of time that we won't be home for the trick-or-treaters. Boo.  I don't want to be 'that' neighbor with the dark house and no candy so I scoured the internet for a Halloween sign for the unattended candy I plan to leave out.  I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for, so I had to make my own sign out of bits & pieces from here and there.  

If you are in need of a sign for an unattended candy basket, feel free to right-click, save as and print for yourself!