October 27, 2016

Seven Things To Do When There's Nothing To Do But Wait

On a patience scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "not patient at all" and 10 being "very patient to the point of sainthood," I am approximately a minus-1000.

So a few weeks ago, when my friend Christine, a.k.a, The Real Mom, shared a post on patience, I read it straight away.

My favorite item on the list was Christine's suggestion about doing something while you're waiting. This idea of active waiting appeals to me because of my aforementioned patience deficit issue. 

I'm currently neck-deep in a season of waiting in one particular area of my life. (Sorry for the maddening ambiguity, but my family will stop supporting my blogging if I give away all their secrets.)

I have no idea how this situation is going to turn out. I have no idea when I'll know how it's going to turn out. While I'm waiting for it to turn out, there is almost nothing I can do to influence it or act on it. 

Because losing my mind over this is not going to make things a whole lot better, here's what I'm trying to do instead. While I wait...and wait...and wait.

1. Pray. I fight my mind on a good day, and in this season of uncertainty and treading water, that battle has, er, "intensified." My mind wants to think constantly about The Situation (TS), but there is only so much to think about it while it's going no where fast. So my new plan is that whenever I'm tempted to stew over TS, I should pray instead. Pray about TS, yes, but also pray about everything else I know that needs praying about. Which, given the whole "in this world you will have trouble" bit that Jesus was 100% on-target about, is a lot. I know prayer matters. I know it makes a difference. I've seen it again and again in my life and the lives of others. Doing it while I wait is not just killing time, nor is it a waste of time.

2. Memorize truth. Another weapon in my battle not to constantly let my mind get stuck on TS is to steer it in the direction of Scripture. Memorizing Bible verses is the one topic guaranteed to make some of my beloved Tuesday-morning Bible study ladies' eyes glaze over, and I get it: it's hard. But I've figured out a method that works for me (it's here if you're curious), and in this season of waiting, I need to put it back into regular action. Go-to verses and chunks of Scripture I come back to again and again include:
  • Philippians 4:6-8 ~ "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
  • Deuteronomy 30:20 ~ "Love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life." 
  • Isaiah 35:10 ~ "Gladness and joy will overtake them and sorrow and sighing will flee away."
  • Psalm 40:1-2 ~ "I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."
3. Deal with something you dread. You know that closet you've got that's a monument to chaos? The pile of papers you'll get to "later"? That to-do project that needs to be done but isn't essential to the viability of life as you know it so you keep putting it off? (If you don't have these things in your house, feel free to swing by mine.) Now--when some other part of life is in a holding pattern--is a great time to tackle one of these. Cleaning out that closet will probably have zero effect on your "situation." But I know from experience that when I finally--finally!--deal with a project like this, it makes me feel better afterwards every time I realize I've finally--finally!--done it. It's like a surprise present I get to keep opening. 

Hello, hangout-room closet (a.k.a., old school-supply graveyard)? Yeah, I've got my eye on you. One rainy day soon, it's going to be you, me, a movie on DVD, and a jumbo-sized garbage bag, my friend.

4. Control what can be controlled. One of the most maddening things about TS is that I cannot control it. And I am a certified control freak. Sigh. (See Isaiah...above.) I can do almost nothing to influence the eventual outcome of this whole thing. So not only am I waiting, but I'm waiting for some great unknown thing to happen. Or not happen. Or something. Sigh. But all of life is not out of my control, so I need to redirect my energy and commitment toward an area I can do something about. 

Take my arms, for instance. (Yes, this does relate.) I've always hated my arms. Well, specifically, my non-existent triceps. My biceps are decent, but their back-of-my arm counterparts need, um, work. So I've gotten a hold of a set of weights and have come up with some exercises and now I just need to do the thing already. I can't control TS, but I can control if I pick up these weights and use them. And who knows? By the time TS has worked itself out, I might be able to go sleeveless. (Insert NOT holding my breath.)

5. Be thankful on purpose. I'm sure there are plenty of gratitude experts and philosophers and other smart people I could quote here, but I'm sticking with the wisdom of Madam Blueberry on this one: "a thankful heart is a happy heart." I may not be crazy about The Situation or the waiting it's forcing on me, but I am very crazy about several of the people involved. I can choose to be thankful for them--that they are part of my life in the first place.

6. Celebrate anyway. While I'm waiting for TS to do whatever it's going to do, my tendency is to put the rest of life on hold. But there is much to celebrate now: fall (my favorite season); the return to fuzzy sheets on my bed; my daughter's senior year. Plus, after my old refrigerator up and died on me, I'm not ashamed to say I'm absolutely celebrating the fabulous "keeps stuff cold" feature on my new model. It's the little things.

7. Nurture a neglected relationship. The time, thought, energy, and focus I previously put into The Situation needs to go somewhere else while I'm waiting. So it might as well go into a relationship that could use some attention. There are emails I can send, coffee dates I can finally schedule (not just talk about scheduling), and even phone calls I can make. These relationship-nurturing actions have waited long enough.

Okay, mama, what do you do while you wait? What else can I do? Share your wisdom in a comment or over on Facebook. Go ahead...I'll be waiting.

My deepest thanks to Aimee Imbeau from A Work of Grace for so kindly featuring this post at Grace & Truth. Bless you, Aimee!

This post may have been shared at some of these other lovely link parties.

October 22, 2016

Five Ways to Make Your Home More Homey

One of the nicest compliments I've ever gotten about our house came from my younger daughter a few years ago. I was cleaning up after a family birthday party we'd hosted, and out the blue, she told me that while we were all sitting at the table, talking, she'd been looking around the place and appreciating it.

“It just felt like a place where you could be cozy and settle in."

Some people are car people; some people are jewelry people. I am a house person. I'm not talking about fancy or impressive;
I'm talking about comforting and homey. I'm talking about exactly what my daughter put her finger on: creating a place where the people I love can "be cozy and settle in." 

Which is why when my friend Lisa the Syncopated Mama mentioned that her upcoming 5 After 5 party was all about home homeyness, I started working straight away on this list of my homeyness must-haves.

1. Candles. I'm a big fan of wood-wick candles that give you the crackle of a fireplace without the whole chop-down-a-tree-cut-it-up-stack-it-haul-it-in-the-house routine. (Listen, we heat our house with wood, so I know whereof I speak.) I hope someone in my family reads this post, because the wood-wick candle they got me last Christmas is almost on its last crackle, and I think this pumpkin nutmeg layered number would make a lovely replacement...

And with apologies to candle purists, I also love battery-powered candles. I'm especially fond of this wall version that makes me feel like we're back in the early 1900s, when this house we live in was built. Except, you know, now we have better plumbing.

2. Low lighting. The only use I have for overhead lighting is that it helps you not ram into the furniture when you first walk into a dark room. Once I've avoided that pitfall and am safely settled, I want that glaring, "let's get something done" light off and a nice, gentle, "let's lay around and watch a movie" table lamp or floor lamp on.

3. Window coverings. We've got a lot of windows in This Old House. (And now that we've blown our daughters' inheritance on replacements for the original models, we can actually open them. This is surprisingly thrilling.) I love natural light during the day. But come evening, I want those windows covered. When I close the drapes and pull down the blinds, I feel like I'm tucking myself and my family in and shutting the world out.

4. Music. If this isn't your first visit to Guilty Chocoholic Mama, you probably know that music is a big deal to me. (Also, if this isn't your first visit, THANK YOU FOR COMING BACK! And if it is your first? Welcome!) We love lots of type of music around here, but homeyness-inducing favorites include Eric Whitacre, George Winston, and the inimitable Aaron Copeland.

5. Comfort food. I've mentioned on this blog before that my husband, daughters, and I are food people. We like to eat. Meals are not just something we do to stay alive; they are something we do to make the life we live better. We're fans of of comforting classics like homemade pizza and macaroni-and-cheese and pot roast. And cookies...LOTS of cookies. In fact, I've got a batch of these White Chocolate Pretzel Cookies in the oven right now.

One of my favorite perspectives on home comes from my cousin/friend/surrogate big sister Karen, who evaluates houses not by how elaborate or upscale they are, but by whether or not they look "loved." 

Which leads me to the real reason I care about whether my house is homey or not: I want it to look and to be loved, because that's how I want the people who live here to feel.

If "homey" is something that matters to you in a house, how do you get there? Share your list in a comment or over on Facebook or, better yet, at Syncopated Mama's 5 After 5 party. I promise when you get there, you'll feel right at home.

**This post may have been shared at some of these lovely link parties.**

October 20, 2016

Four Reasons Moms Are Nuts

One of my favorite things about blogging is that it sometimes hands me a "me, too" moment.

As in, "Wow, I'm not the only person who can't stand it when the kitchen towel hems don't line up?!" (Yes, my friend Lisa the Syncopated Mama and I know this is a little Sleeping With the Enemy-ish, but it's how we are.)

Or, "Thank goodness there's someone else out there who hates working out and mopping but loves brownies."

The latter "me, too" moment happened when I met Christine the "Real Mom," and now you can have one of those moments, too, because Christine has graciously put together this guest post. Check out her wit and wisdom, and then make up a big ol' pan of her Peanut Buster Parfait Dessert. 

What's that? You want a piece RIGHT NOW? Me, too.

Ok, moms. Let’s admit it. We are all nuts. Seriously: certifiably off-our-rockers crazy. Let me tell you why…

1. We sign up for pregnancy. Did we not think this all the way through? Morning sickness, swollen feet, swollen legs (oh, who am I kidding—swollen EVERYTHING!), giant belly, food aversions, stretch marks, varicose veins. And how the baby comes out?? Oh dear. We really didn’t think this thing through. And yet, we willingly do what it takes for this to happen to us. Nuts.

2. We work for free. Who else would willingly do what we do?  Motherhood is a full-time job and yet we don’t get paid a dime to do it. Not. One. Dime.  Not even a penny. And yet, day-in and day-out, we cook, we clean, we do laundry, we pay bills, we sweep, we claim to mop (but who really does that anymore?), we change diapers, we get spit up on, and we view showering and going to the bathroom by ourselves as terrific feats for the day. And some of us do all of this on top of another job. Totally nuts.

3. We give and we give and we give and we expect little in return. Do you know anyone more selfless than a mom? So much of our time and energy goes into being a mom that we barely have time for ourselves. We give so much of our time caring for the basic needs of our children (which we don’t get paid for), but we also give our love and compassion and life lessons and kindness and honesty and integrity and security and value and empathy and sympathy and patience. We give our whole hearts to our kids. And we do it willingly and without pay and sometimes without any appreciation…and often with a smile on our faces. Completely nuts.

4. We would do it all over again. Ok, so I’m not this money-hungry-motherhood-is-horrible-why-do-we-give-give-give mom at all. I went through five years of infertility before I became a mom, so motherhood is a very special gift to me. But it’s pretty funny that we willingly put our bodies through the ringer. We give so much of who we are into raising a new generation of human beings. We don’t get paid even a dull penny for anything we do, and yet, we would do it all over again. None of these things seem to stop us. I know…I’ve done it three times myself. And I seem to get crazier and more nuts with each kid, too. No pregnancy woes, no birth process, no lack of pay, and no give-until-you’re-exhausted factor seems to stop us. Hmmmmmmm. The only explanation? We are all absolutely nuts.

That’s right. We are all nuts, moms.

Nuts about our kids.
Crazy in love with being their mom.
Certifiably off-our-rockers on fire for being the best moms God created us to be.
Let’s never apologize for how nuts we are. We’re all in this together!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to celebrate my craziness with the best Peanut Buster Parfait Dessert in the world and eat it alone…in my closet…hiding from my kids…whom I love dearly…with extra chocolate sauce and, of course, nuts on top.

Peanut Buster Parfait Dessert {print}

1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
2/3 cups or more chocolate chips (But who really needs to measure? Who’s ever heard of too much chocolate? Just pour them in!)
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 package sandwich cookies (Oreos)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 cups (or more) Spanish peanuts

1. Crush cookies (I use a potato masher) in a 9 x 13 pan. Add 1/2 cup melted butter. Stir well with a fork and press into the pan. Put in freezer while you make the chocolate sauce.
2. In a sauce pan, combine evaporated milk, 1/2 cup butter, chocolate chips and powdered sugar. Bring to a boil. **Get ice cream out now and let it thaw a bit** Cook chocolate sauce for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Then add vanilla. Remove from heat and let stand.
3. Remove cookie crust from freezer. Add a layer of Spanish peanuts and drizzle generously with some chocolate sauce. Spread on softened ice cream.
4. Add another layer of Spanish peanuts and more chocolate sauce. You will have plenty so use as much as desired (or save some to serve warm over the dessert). Freeze for several hours before serving. ENJOY!

Guilty Chocoholic Mama note: I make this version of chocolate sauce, which is similar but lets me save a little butter for my next batch of brownies:

Chocolate Sauce 2
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk 
1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power for 3 minutes. Whisk, then microwave on medium-high for 3 minutes. Stir again, and continue cooking on medium-high until the mixture boils enthusiastically and thickens, stirring every couple minutes or so. Now is NOT the time to walk away from your microwave and get sucked into some BuzzFeed quiz about what kind of Pop-Tart you are. Remove from microwave and stir in the vanilla. Cool just enough so you can do quality-assurance testing without burning your tongue. Use as specified in building your dessert; save remaining sauce to warm and spoon over individual pieces of the dessert when you serve it. It's that whole hot/cold, creamy/crunchy, frozen/melty thing that you'll really go nuts for.

CHRISTINE LEEB is known as the “Real Mom." She is a speaker, writer, Christian Life Coach, and the founder of 4Real Moms—an organization encouraging moms to be real while helping them be the best moms God created them to be. She has three beautiful (and exhausting) children and has been married to her husband, Brad, for almost 16 wonderful (and challenging) years.She enjoys garage sale-ing, brownie eating, friendship keeping, book reading, family tickling, and husband dating. She is the author of the devotional In His Light: Facing Fear with Faith, and her newest ebook is Meal-Planning for the Mom Who Hates Meal-Planning. For more encouragement and resources, visit her website at www.4realmoms.com

October 6, 2016

Dear Children: 25 Things I Think You Need to Know

My Dearest Daughters,

Yesterday, you were babies, but today you are young women. When or how that happened, I have no idea, but it did, which means there is a very real possibility you will be out on your own in fewer years than you've been living in this house. 

I am far from being the wisest mom you could have ended up with, but I have tried to impart some sage advice to you while I've had the chance. And by "impart some sage advice," I mean, "I've told you such-and-such a bunch of times in the hopes you were paying attention at least one of those times so that you might remember such-and-such when I'm not on hand to say it again."

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I've told you...for easy future reference should you need a refresher course. (If not for yourselves, then for my grandchildren. Many, many years from now. Many.)

1. Just because something is good to do doesn't mean it's good to do right now. A season for everything, my sweets...a season for everything.

2. On a math test, make sure you've answered the question that's actually being asked, in the right format. If there are five steps to solving a problem, don't finish four of them and get all excited and move on to the next question. And if your answer is supposed to be in feet or in a fraction, don't scrawl 5cm or 0.25 and call it good.

3. Stain removal 101: cold water for blood and chocolate. Also, Dawn dish soap is great for getting out grease.

4. When baking, check for doneness early. You can always add time, but you can't take it away. And you just simply have to pull brownies out while your brain is screaming, "These cannot possibly be done!" They're not. Which is how they should be.

5. God isn't going to hold you responsible for the actions or decisions of other people. You just worry about what He wants you to do in a given situation, and that will keep you plenty busy. For, oh, EVER.

6. Grammar round-up: 1)Affect=verb, effect=noun. Such as, "That movie affected me deeply, and the effect was that I cried for an hour." 2)Apostrophes show contraction or possession. If you want the grammar police's approval and you're not showing contraction or possession, don't use an apostrophe. 3) You lay something else down, but you lie down yourself...as in, "I'm going to lay this boring book on the table and then I'm going to lie down and take a nap." 

7. When buying lemons or limes or oranges or grapefruit, pick heavy over light. More weight means more juice. Which you want.

8. If God wants you to do it, He will help you to do it. But/and, if God isn't in it, you need to get out of it.

9. When buying chocolate, the following words are good: cocoa butter and cocoa liquor (which has nothing to do with alcohol). The following words are bad: hydrogenated oil. Bad chocolate is sad, whereas good chocolate will change your life for the better.

10. When you are tired, make yourself breath deeply, drink more water, and get natural light into your eyes.

11. The best gifts show the person you're giving them to that you've paid attention when that person has mentioned what they like and don't like. Bonus points if those gifts don't require maintenance, storage, or dusting.

12. "Right is right though all condemn, and wrong is wrong though all approve" (Charles Spurgeon). Or, put another way, right is right even if no one else is doing it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone else is doing it. 

13. Hand sanitizer will get ink and Christmas tree sap off your hands (along with, purportedly, 99.9% of germs...yes, Anna, our little germophobe, I know you dispute this).

14. When you're cooking pasta, don't forget to save some of the cooking liquid to use later if you need to unstick your noodles or thin a sauce or do any number of other pasta-y things.

15. Always buy unsalted butter. That way, you have a say in how much salt ends up in whatever you're making.

16. Practice rarely makes perfect, but it often makes possible. And preparation can be stronger than nerves. 

17. Don't be afraid of being a little nervous before you perform or do something else you don't do every day. Your nerves are just telling you that you're getting ready to do something amazing and out-of-the ordinary--which is why you don't get nervous before you brush your teeth. Remember: "anxiety is just a glimpse of your own daring" (Maria Shriver). Dare to be daring, my darlings.

18. As often as possible, try to "disrupt the world with grace" (Shane Claiborne).

19. If you're thinking something nice about someone, tell them! Don't let the thought stay stuck in your head. The world needs more encouragers.

20. I've borrowed a bunch of my mom advice from Ma Ingalls. The darkest hour is just before dawn? There's no great loss without some small gain? See "Ma(Ma) Always Said."

21. If you're making a recipe that tells you to beat egg whites to stiff peaks, make sure there isn't a single drop of egg yolk or any oil in the bowl or on the beaters. Egg whites and fat do not play nicely together. When in doubt, wipe down the bowl and beaters with a paper towel dowsed with white vinegar.

22. There is no substitute for homemade frosting

23. Don't settle for God as a spoke on your life's wheel. Make Him the hub.

24. Life is not about perfection. It's about process and progress.

25. I like you. I love you. And being your mom has been one of the greatest joys and privileges of my entire life.


What's one thing you want your children to know, mama? 
Share it in a comment or over on Facebook.

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**