Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 {a good challenging year}

2013 has been a year of change for my family. My husband had a very rough year at his job in regards to job security and stress. He had to personally lay off 70 employees earlier this year at ONE time. It was very hard on him and he experienced severe debilitating headaches during the final months at that job. Bad enough he decided to get a CAT scan to be proactive and as he would like to report: "there are no cats in my head". 

Please, do not take stress in your life lightly. Stress will negatively impact your life (and fast)!

Also equally stressful for us was the fear of losing our only income at any given time. With that being said he decided to move on from that company. 

By a miracle of God, another job found him a few months ago (it's not easy finding a job near us in his field that he wanted to do). And you read that right...they found him. This job is one that he loves (and it's closer to home)! 

While it is a lot less pay, it is stable and rewarding. The owner of the new company practices many acts of "giving" in the community, which by now you know is very important to me (and to good overall well being).  A true blessing.

Other than that my year has been a great one. 
Could I have worked out more in 2013? YES! 
Will I let that bother me? No. 
I have now completed 3 years off Diet Coke and ALL artificial sweeteners. I have continued to feed my family a healthy clean diet that I feel great about. My 9 year old knows how to read an ingredients label and does so on her own many times. So proud!

Many of my family and friends aren't well and are struggling. This is hard to witness, but it drives home the importance of being healthy (mentally, physically, and emotionally) for a greater quality of life.

My husband's headaches have went away with his new job.  What a blessing! It goes to show that stress can cause you a lot of discomfort, worry, and medical bills! 

My pastor has been speaking lately on being filled with HAPPINESS vs being filled with JOY.  There is a huge difference. 

Happiness comes and goes as situations change around you (finances, health, relationships), but being filled with JOY stays consistent day in and day out allowing you to see good beyond the struggles. Allowing you to do God's work. Allowing you to accept that life will have struggles and speed bumps and through those you will grow.

Being able to be filled with God's JOY and always seeing things through a positive filter is a true gift. There are many "happy" people in this world that are miserable. They are always wanting more "things" and always seeking other's approval and acceptance. They will probably forever be trying to fill some void.

 Have you ever wondered why a person with cancer (even on their death bed) can be filled with such happiness? Well, that's not happiness, that's JOY!  Deep in their soul they are filled with JOY and share it with those around them.  I have witnessed this first hand with two friends that left this Earth way too soon from cancer.  Their strength, love, and joy has changed me forever.  I will NEVER, EVER take a single day for granted for as long as I am on this Earth. Even the crappiest of days I will look for the good and I have them both to thank for that.

Joy is a Fruit of the Spirit, which every Christian receives at the moment of salvation.  Our joy is constant because God is constant. 
Therefore, we are to be constantly delighting in the Lord.

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, wracked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” - Agatha Christie

I found this wonderful blog post below...

It has never failed that when I have been through the most heart-breaking passages of my life — betrayal, financial hardship, divorce, dreams dashed — the pain brought me to the floor of my being, and what was there to be found?:

The simple joy of being alive. So cosmically basic it’s mind-blowing: the joy to be here, connected, animated, breathing, blessed, resilient, to be broken, to be open, to have what was, what’s left, what’s coming. The joy just to be part of reality.
Happiness. Love it when it comes.
Joy. It’s the love that lasts no matter what.

Read more here:

Please read my link and tips from last year if you haven't, or take a refresher course: Are you ready ???

I hope you have a 
BLESSED and JOYFUL year in 2014. 

Much love, Angie

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Giving Back {a blessing to all}

My husband's new job is awesome in the fact that the owner challenges his employees to GIVE BACK. He even starts off the challenge with giving his employees money to give to others. If you ask me, there isn't many employers doing this these days. Especially in the hands on type of way this one does. 

My husband shared with me a story from a fellow employee sharing his story of himself and his wife, Jen, on their journey to give back. I wanted to share this with you to show you how being aware of others around you can truly open your eyes to the hurt and struggles others are experiencing. 

Going into the Christmas season, Jen and I had a plan and knew what we were going to do with the Giving Challenge cash and our personal donations. 

 Throughout the year, along with our in-laws, we had been helping a mother who is battling cancer, and her three children.  They live in a “house” with roaches scurrying across their dirt floors, and little more than state assistance to get them by.  Every time the mom is able to get a job, they lose their state aid, which barely makes it worthwhile.  The plan was to help them as much as we could.  That was the plan.  I like plans.  Then, on 11/21 at the company meeting, the match was rolled out.  Jackpot!  I worked out an “arrangement” with Scott (he's the owner) for the match so the family could be helped even more.  Again, I like plans…

...and then the following Monday rolled around.

Soon after I arrived at the office, I got a call.  It was Jen. 
“The van won’t start.” 

Ugh.  The symptoms she described sounded a lot like the time the battery in our last minivan ended up having a dead cell and we were left stranded late at night in a Terre Haute McDonalds with two five year olds and a newborn.  That vehicle was 5-1/2 years old.  This one was 5-1/2 months old. 

“Keep trying, and let me know if I need to come home to take the boys to school,” I said.  Click.

About 30 minutes later, she called back. 
“I managed to get it started, but something definitely doesn’t seem right.”

“Well, you should probably take it to Penske and have them check it out.”

“Ugh.  I might try going to the new dealership up on 37.  It’s closer, and I really don’t like going to Penske.”
We had always gone to Penske – since about 2003, I believe.

Fast-forward to that afternoon.  At 1:45 PM, I started getting frantic texts from Jen.  She was in the kids’ section of the waiting area at the new dealership.

Jen:  I’m sitting at Honda and almost in tears. I’m sitting with a mom and her three kids. The husband has a brain tumor, they’re upside down on their trade-in, and can’t afford the used 2007 minivan they’re looking at.
Me:  :(
Jen:  They have 5, 4, 1, and are pregnant and due in March with number 4
Me:  Wow
Jen:  I am so sad that I can’t just write them a check
Me:  Would 500 make difference?
Me:  1000?
Jen:  I don’t know. It sounds like thousands :( I’m going to ask if they could use our crib
Me:  K
Me:  Could they use the changing table too?
Jen:  I’m going to ask.  And I’m going to ask about the money too
Jen:  There’s a reason why we are here with them
Jen:  Do you have the 500 cash?
Me:  It’s at home. I can go get it.
Jen:  Let me talk first. He is medically retired from military […] I’ll let you know.
Me:  Ok
Jen:  He has gone two years longer than expected but is having seizures again
Jen:  He can’t reason and is losing inhibitions. Tumor too close to stuff to operate

[Way too much time goes by]

Jen:  Please go get the 500!!! :)
Jen:  Or stop by bank!!!
Me:  What made up your mind?
Jen:  THEY did!!! Please hurry!!

While the husband had gone to negotiate with the salesperson, his wife felt the need to open up to Jen, and Jen quickly found out the strength and faith of this family.

The husband was deployed with the Army in 2009 when he suffered a seizure.  They discovered a brain tumor in his frontal lobe the size of a fist.  They discharged him, and he had partial removal of the tumor, radiation, and chemo.  The weekend before coming to the dealership (this is almost 4 years later), he had his first seizure since surgery and, as a result, had to give up driving.

Knowing that they were needing a larger vehicle with their 4th child on the way, they were at the dealership to trade both their cars for a used minivan. 

 He came back into the room to explain to his wife that they were upside down on both their cars and couldn’t get the van without paying more money than anticipated.  With his tumor where it is, his ability to verbalize this information was compromised.  He was very frustrated, and they were both near tears.  They prayed about the situation.  Neither one of them wanted to go against God’s path for them.

Jen was touched by their faith and commitment to each other and to Christ, despite their unfathomable circumstances, and felt the Spirit move her to help this family.  She texted me, and I was able to drive over and meet Meagan, Jeremy, and their kids.  We gave them the Giving Challenge $500, some additional money I pulled from our safe, and baby furniture that his wife mentioned they needed.

We could tell that they didn’t want to accept our help but humbly did with deep gratitude.  We didn’t know it until afterwards, but $500 was the exact amount they needed to buy the van.  And the rest was to be used for medical bills and other expenses for their diabetic and autistic child.  Jeremy’s tumor is now inoperable, as it’s too close to a major artery.  It’s only a matter of time before he meets the Lord, but this isn’t stopping this family from following the call of becoming pastors and moving toward being missionaries.
We stopped by their house this past weekend to drop off the baby furniture, and learned that Jeremy had been experiencing partial seizures over the last few days.  In spite of all of this, their faith remains amazing and inspiring, and has touched us in a way we could never have understood had we not been led to meet them personally.

And our minivan? There was nothing wrong - everything checked out fine.  And that baby furniture?    Just the night before, we had decided it was time to get rid of our crib and changing table, and to list it on the Facebook selling site the next day (that Monday).

What started out as a normal day full of activities was turned into a day completely planned by God.  And His plan was way better than ours!
In the end, with the Giving Challenge cash, our contributions, and the match, two families were helped.  We have been blessed in this experience this year.

 It’s amazing what the Lord does for those who seek to do His will! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

{dairy free} Hot Cocoa

Every once in a while I treat the kids to Hot Cocoa (with marshmallows) after school on a cold winter day.  Holy sugar!  If you look closely at the store bought hot cocoa ingredients you will quickly realize there are many added preservatives, added dyes, etc in those convenient little packets. A big NO NO!

Here's the recipe we use to make our hot cocoa. Enjoy!

{dairy free} Hot Cocoa

  • 2 cups dairy-free milk (I use Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
  • 2 Tbps Cane Sugar (Coconut Sugar Or Maple Syrup would work too)
  • 2 Tbps Cocoa Powder (higher quality the better)
  • 1-2 ounces Enjoy Life dairy free chocolates
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch of cinnamon

1) Add all ingredients to high speed blender (like a Vitamix) and run on high for a few minutes until warmed. Or you can blend and then heat in microwave if you want it hot!
2) Top with marshmallows. I chose Campfire Brand because they do not have added dyes. I found them at Kroger and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.