Friday, October 31, 2008

Another Great Give-away

OK, you are seriously going to want to go over to Debbie's blog. She is doing a month-long give-away and you can win some very nice stuff. (Including a copy of Finding Joy, which will be part of the last week's prizes.)
So go on over and enter to win.
And remember - 'Tis better to give than to receive. But in this case, you can enjoy the receiving!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Open Invitation

Where will you be on my favorite day of the year???

That would be November, 11. Or 11-11, as I prefer to say it! If you are wondering why I have such an affinity for this particular number, click here.

If, on 11-11, you are going to be anywhere in the vicinity of Troy, Michigan, I want to invite you to MOPS. I will be speaking at Faith Lutheran Church in Troy and they are opening the meeting up to non-MOPS members. Of course, they want to make sure there will be enough food(!) for everyone, so if you would like to come please email me (Karen at IrritableMother dot com). I will put you in touch with the coordinator and you may even be able to work out child care.
I would love to see you there!

I have a few other speaking engagements coming up which will also be open to guests. I'll keep you posted. (Pun fully intended. *grin*)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WFMW - Amazing Whites!!!

A few weeks ago I posted a WFMW entry about arm pit stains, and Mary Beth left a comment with a recipe for getting rid of stains.
I'm sure it was not a coincidence (Because I am convinced God is involved in everything. *grin*) that the next day my husband came to me with a badly stained white shirt - yellowed collar, and various other spots - but no arm pit stains. I told him I had a new recipe to try on it, and he gathered a few other "white" shirts for me to clean.
Well, last night I finally got around to it and I am telling you - I am amazed! These shirts look fantastic!!!
So, here's what I did:
I mixed three gallons of HOT water in my kitchen sink with 1-1/2 cups bleach and 1-1/2 cups dishwasher detergent (I tripled the original recipe, because I had several shirts to clean.) and soaked the shirts for about an hour, "stirring" a couple times in that hour. Then I rinsed them and washed as normal. Seriously amazing results!

And that? Works for me.

For more Works For Me Wednesday ideas, please visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Quiet Times and Motherhood - Wrap up

Last week I did a series which I'm wrapping up today. Here are the previous posts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
It was my goal to keep the posts "short-ish." So if you missed any of them, I don't think it will take you long to catch up...Go ahead. I'll wait for you!

OK, as promised, now you can see me wrap this thing up.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Quiet Times and Motherhood - Part 5

If you need to catch up...
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Praying on all occasions and carrying scripture in our pockets are two things we can do to meet our needs for fellowship with God and spiritual growth.

Even when our times aren't quiet.

But - as I see it - the third need we have which Quiet Times fulfill, can only be met by God, Himself. We need Him to cover us with His love, and that is something over which we have no control. It is completely up to Him to do it.
I can point to many times when I have been reading my Bible and God has shown me something so delightful, I get the sense He just gave me a big kiss. And there are times when I have been praying about something and when the answer finally comes, it's like God is embracing me in a tender hug.
I simply love it when these events occur.
But an even greater delight for me has been the realization that I don't have to be doing "spiritual" things in order for God to pour His love into me. He'll do the pouring whenever He wants to. He is present in every moment and never wastes an opportunity to show Himself. I just need to be paying attention so I don't miss Him.
And do you know what I have noticed? My children give God lots and lots of opportunities to show Himself! It makes sense, doesn't it? As mothers we're with our children more than we're with anyone else, right? So who better for God to use to demonstrate His love to us, than our children?
I am absolutely convinced God uses my youngest child, Matthew, to hug me and kiss me and tell me He loves me. And the things God has shown me about Himself through the every-day interactions I have with my children are a treasure to me. I could write them all out for you here, but that would make for a very long post...And I've already written about them in Finding Joy!

The point is, God loves you and He is telling you about His love all the time. Look at the blue sky. Look at the orange and yellow and red leaves lining the sky. (My apologies to those of you who don't see this picture when you look out the window. You have your warm winters. I have my beautiful autumns!) When I see this display of God's handiwork I am convinced again of His love. If He didn't care about us, why would He create such a glorious view?
And this awesome God who loves you so much is constantly revealing Himself to you - in the beauty of His creation, and even in the busy-ness of His creatures. Watch for it, Mom. In the midst of the noise, in the times that aren't quiet, even in the struggle - God is using you little noise-makers to love you. Don't miss Him!!!

And please come back Monday when - if I get my act together - you can see me wrap up this series.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quiet Times and Motherhood - Part 4

Please read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 if you haven't already done so.

OK. So we've established that we can pray all day, right? No need to sit in the corner with eyes closed and hands folded. God can hear us regardless of what we're doing and how much noise is surrounding us. And, in so doing, we can have fellowship with God - all day. That's a good thing.

But how are we supposed to grow spiritually if we don't sit down in a quiet place to study the Word of God for an extended time? We need to be in the Word, don't we???
Yes. I sure think so! And I am so thankful to be at a place in my life where most days I can have uninterrupted time to read my Bible. I am so thankful!
But it hasn't always been like this for me, and I know for many moms there are only big chunks of time to study the Bible in her dreams. So what is a person to do who wants to be in the Word, but for all her best intentions she just can't see a way to do it?
First, remember that nothing is impossible with God! And second, get creative. Hey, God is creative - why shouldn't we be, too?
Think for a minute about your wardrobe. Do most of your pants have pockets in them? Then I have a great idea for you!
Write down a Bible verse on a small piece of paper and carry it with you in your pocket. Whenever you put your hand in your pocket, or touch the outside of your pocket, or do anything which reminds you that verse is in there, take it out and read it.
Almost every day you will find me with a Bible verse in my pocket. And if you were to follow me around you would see me reading the verse many, many times throughout that day. When I'm waiting in the line at the store, or when I'm waiting for water to start boiling on the stove, or when I'm waiting for anything else - I'll just take that verse out of my pocket and read it. I read it, I think about it, and I pray that God will speak to me through His Word.
And I have found He speaks just as clearly through one verse on a little piece of paper, written by my little hand - as He does through that same verse written in my big Bible, which I could never fit into my pocket.

This practice of carrying a Bible verse in my pocket has been a major blessing to me. God has used these verses to speak to my heart all day long, and I love it. As I said before, I treasure the time I do have to study my Bible. But I am convinced that God can get His Word into our hearts very effectively when we are grabbing little bits of time throughout the day to read and reflect on one precious verse.

So if you are struggling to find time to be in the Word, please give this practice a try. Again, your times don't need to be quiet. God will use your willingness to get His Word into your heart!

Tomorrow we're going to talk about our need to have God cover us with His love. Please come back!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quiet Times and Motherhood - Part 3

Please read these first:
Part 1
Part 2

If the first of our quiet time needs is to have fellowship with God, how do we accomplish that? Well, how do you have fellowship with anyone else? By talking with them, right?
I think that's how we accomplish fellowship with God, too.
Through prayer.
We talk to Him, and He talks to us.

But I don't think this time of prayer needs to occur in a 10-15 minute window early in the morning before there is any noise in the house. I have become quite confident that God is perfectly able to hear our prayers when our surroundings are not quiet. Yes, He can hear you even when your children are screaming. And if you work on it, I believe you can hear Him, too - even when your children are screaming.
AND, I have become equally confident that God can also pay attention to our prayers even if we're doing some activity besides sitting in a corner with our eyes closed and our hands folded.
In fact, I am becoming more and more convinced that God made women multi-taskers so mothers of young children could have fellowship with Him. Though it took me a while to understand I could do it, now I pray all the time.
When I am walking my boys to school, I'm praying for them.
When I am doing laundry, I pray for the person whose clothes I'm folding.
Whenever I think of my husband, I thank God for him.
When the kids are getting loud, I ask God to help me deal with the noise.
And when I am getting frustrated with them about something, you better believe I am begging God to calm my heart and to give me wisdom.

As I have adopted this practice of praying throughout my day, even when my times aren't quiet, I have enjoyed sweet fellowship with God. I have become increasingly aware of His presence and have surely grown in my love for Him. It has been a very good thing!

Come back tomorrow so we can talk about growing spiritually.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quiet Times and Motherhood - Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, please read that post before getting into this one.

So, what are quiet times?

I was taught that a quiet time is a portion of your day which you set aside to sit quietly before the Lord, to read your Bible, pray, and maybe spend time journaling. People often had suggestions for the amount of time one should spend on each of these components - the longer, the better, many would say.
And for some reason, it seems this "quiet time" was most frequently prescribed for the morning hours - which, for most mothers of young children, means very early morning hours.
So, I'm wondering. Who made up these "rules" for quiet times? And who decided on the time limits? If I don't read my Bible for 15 minutes, does that mean I haven't met with God?

And why do we have quiet times, anyway? What's the purpose? Does God need this time with us?
No. We are the needy ones!

I have thought about why we have quiet times, and I think I can boil it down to three things.
* We have quiet times because we need to have fellowship with God.
* We have quiet times because we need to grow spiritually.
* We have quiet times because we need to have God pour His love into us.

But, do we have to have 30-45 quiet minutes of Bible reading and prayer, and maybe some journaling, to accomplish those goals? Each of those components is a good thing, I encourage you to engage in them. But for all you mothers of young children, I want to offer you a different perspective on quiet times.
Because as a mother of young children I am willing to bet most of the times at your house are anything but quiet. And the hope I want to hold out to you is this: Even if you don't have "quiet times" you can still have fellowship with God. You can still grow spiritually. He can still cover you with His love.

Come back tomorrow and we'll talk about fellowship.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Quiet Times and Motherhood - Part 1

I became a Christian when I was in college and quickly became aware of this phenomenon called a "quiet time."
I was taught that I needed to spend time every day reading my Bible and praying. Although no one explicitly stated it, I had the distinct impression that God's love for me was directly tied to the frequency and quality of my quiet times.
Over the course of the next five and a half years, I rarely missed one. OK, during exam week I might have missed a devotion or two, but I'm sure I felt bad about it!
And if I felt bad about missing one or two during exam week, you can only imagine my angst after I had my first baby. You can imagine it, right? I mean, I'm guessing you might even know exactly how I felt?
With a new baby, nearly sleepless nights, and rarely a quiet moment during the day, I was not sure if I would ever be able to have a quiet time again. I was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt. In addition to often feeling inadequate as a mother, I was feeling like a second-class Christian. I felt like God probably didn't love me as much because I wasn't having quiet times. I felt like I was letting Him down.

I was not in a good place.

Then an older woman who had "been there," told me it was OK that I wasn't able to have a quiet time every day. She told me God understood, and I shouldn't feel bad about it.
If I wasn't a Type-A freak, her words probably would have been just the grace I needed. But I had a tendency to operate on an all-or-nothing basis. Since I couldn't maintain the rigorous quiet time regimen to which I had become accustomed, I essentially threw the whole thing out the window.
If God "understood," if He wasn't upset with me for being a busy mom, if it was OK that I couldn't manage to have quiet times every day, I figured I had permission to put quiet times on hold until my times were quiet again. Of course, this wasn't a conscious decision - I can only understand it now because of hind-sight. The point is, I had an incomplete understanding of quiet times and because of that confusion I missed out on spiritual growth and fellowship with God over the next several years.

Because He is patient, because His grace knows no bounds, because He loves me more than I deserve, God waited for me during those years.
I didn't walk away from God. I never stopped believing in Him. There was no crisis of faith for me. But I wasn't engaging with Him in fellowship like I could have been.
Yet, He waited.
And I'm sure He was speaking. I'm sure He was calling me. Though I wasn't listening, I am sure God was telling me that I could have delightful fellowship with Him in the midst of motherhood. Oh, how I wish I would have been listening. How I wish I wouldn't have missed those years with Him.

How thankful I am that God never gave up on me!

When I finally started paying attention, God opened my eyes to some truths about quiet times. He showed me ways that I can be near to Him - even when my times aren't quiet. And I discovered that I can, indeed, have delightful fellowship with God in the midst of motherhood.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2!

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Since You Asked...

OK, so Edie was the only one who really asked. But I bet the rest of you were probably wondering.
And that's all the prompting I need to tell you the rest of the story.

So there we were on the stage at Aloha Friday, where I had just successfully blown the Conch Shell. (Yes, "soft-spoken" me - with all my hot air. Thank you, Jessica, Leslie, and Sweet Mummy.) And the final contestant stepped forward.
That final contestant would be my dear husband.
When he said he was "Brian from Okemos, Michigan," the announcer looked at me and said, "Do you two know each other?" And I confirmed that we were married. Then he looked at Brian and said (because he had just made a BIG fuss about me blowing the conch shell), "No pressure, man, but you better do this!"
So Brian held the shell up to his mouth and gave it his best shot, and...Nothing.
Not a sound could be heard.
Well, except for the sound of more women cheering and the announcer saying something about Brian sleeping on the couch and doing the dishes. I wanted to mention that Brian is my Mr. Wonderful and I would never send him to the couch, and sometimes he does the dishes anyway. But I was still in too much shock that I blew it. So I just stood there and grinned.
And that, my friends, is the rest of the story.

I just finished up a busy "speaking week" and will be doing it again next week. Hence the "silence" here the past few days. And it is quite likely I won't be able to blog much next week either. But I wanted to let you know about a couple of things you can be watching for here.
Next Tuesday I will be speaking to a MOPS group about "Quiet Times." Or, more accurately, about having a growing relationship with God even when your "times" aren't quiet. This issue was a big struggle for me when my children were smaller and I plan to do a mini-series on the topic here on my blog.
AND, I am also planning to begin doing video devotions here. Not sure how often I'll be posting them, or even when I'm going to get started, but it's something to which you can look forward. I mean, I hope you'll look forward to them! *bashful grin*

Now I'm off to run errands.

Have a great weekend!!!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Blew It!

But not in a bad way.

Brian and I had a great time in Florida. What a gift it was to have four days to just be "us."
Well, almost four days. Brian had a meeting to attend Saturday morning, and I? Got to meet a friend with whom I have been emailing for, oh, I don't know how long now. She and her family came and took me out for breakfast, and we had a great time!
Sunday Brian and I went to Universal's Islands of Adventure park and had fun on the rides. And since the resort at which we were staying was right "next door" to the park, we were able to go back in the middle of the day, take a nap by the pool, and return for more fun when we were ready.
Ahhhh, what a cushy life we got to have for a few days.
It was wonderful!!!

Now, it's back to reality. I'm doing laundry, just picked up Mindy from the vet, and need to go get groceries.

But before I do, I have to confess that I "blew it" Friday night. There was an event called "Aloha Friday" at the resort, and Brian and I thought it would be fun to attend. There was a band playing and a conga line formed, which we joined. The next thing we knew, Brian and I were by the stage when they were asking for three male and three female "contestants" to come up. Big surprise - I dragged Brian up.

Then I found out what the contest was all about and began regretting my move.

They brought out a conch shell and told us we were going to participate in a conch shell blowing contest.
I just looked at Brian smiled sheepishly. Oops. Sorry!

The leader of the band demonstrated how easy it was to blow the shell and then the contest was underway. Someone thought it would be a good idea to have the "ladies" go first so contestant number one steeped up and, she couldn't do it.
Then it went to the first male contestant, and he couldn't do it either.
Lady number two? Nope.
Meanwhile, Brian and I were whispering to each other and he told me it's just like blowing a trumpet. Great.
Except, I've never blown a trumpet!!!
The second man stepped up and blew it like a pro. He told us he was from Hawaii, and I thought that just wasn't fair. Blowing conch shells must be in his blood, or something!


it was my turn.

The woman who was running the show put her arm around me and asked my name. Then she said, "OK, Karen. No pressure, but the women are counting on you."
So I shook my head and rolled my shoulders - just being silly - and I held the conch shell up to my mouth and blew that baby.
And I couldn't believe my ears. I actually made it work!

I blew the conch shell!!!

I think I only heard women cheering in the audience, but that was OK with me. It just felt good to be able to finally be proud of the fact that I blew it!

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

You Call that Funny?

Yesterday as the boys and I walked home from school, I decided to take advantage of Matthew's good spirits and talk to him about homework. I said, "Matthew, when we get home today let's get started on your homework right away."
He smiled at me and said, "OK, Mom."
I added, "And let's remember how it went yesterday and let's see if we can make it better today. Remember how you thought the work was too hard and you had a big fit about it? And you got really mad and wouldn't do your assignment? But when you finally settled down and focused, you got the work done quickly. And you told me it really wasn't that difficult afterall. Do you remember that?"
But I was thinking, I cannot handle another day like yesterday. I sure hope this little "talk" will be what he needs to approach the job rationally. He's really a smart kid. He should be able to hear my words, remember how miserable we BOTH were over homework yesterday, and make a better decision today. Please, God! Let today be better than yesterday!!!
He smiled at me and said, "OK, Mom."
I said, "Great."
But I was thinking, GRRREAT!!!
So, with high hopes for a peaceful afternoon, we finshed our walk home.
Upon entering the house I thought, Wow! This is going to be even better than I had expected! Elizabeth was finished with her homework and was happily reading on the couch. Joshua had finished all his work at school, and since his buddy just got a kitten Joshua was going over to his house to see the new addition. That meant - the house was quiet (i.e. The TV wasn't on.) so I could let Matthew do his homework at the kitchen table, rather than sending him to the dining room. (I usually have to do that because Matthew simply cannot stay focused when there is noise around him. He doesn't like being "separated," but there is really no other way to do it.)

Matthew got his work out, I gave him a pencil, and WHAMMO! the peace came to an abrupt end.

The homework was subtraction of three-digit numbers and Matthew thought it was going to be too hard.
I said, "Matthew, you know how to do subtraction. You can do this!"
But I thought, C'mon, Matthew! This is easy math. So you don't like to "borrow." Get over it! You can do this stuff!
But he wasn't thinking rationally. He started crying and yelling. Things escalated to the point that I told him he needed to go to his room for five minutes to get control of himself. But instead, he yelled at me again.
So I said, "OK, now it's ten. If you aren't out of the kitchen by the time I get to 'three,' it's going to be 15." *Note the absence of anything which resembles a gentle, soft-spoken tone!*
But I thought, Why does he get to go to his room for ten minutes by himself? I wish I could get sent to my room for a Time Out. This isn't fair. Hmph!
And I watched Matthew run to his room and heard him slam the door. I walked over the the microwave and set the timer for ten minutes. Then I looked at Elizabeth and sighed.
She said, "What?!"
I said, "Do you mean to tell me you didn't hear what just happened?"
But I thought, Man, that must be a really good book if she seriously just blocked out Matthew's tirade!
She told me she did hear him. But, whatever.
Yeah - It must be a good book!

When the timer went off, I went and knocked on Matthew's door then went into his room. I hugged him and asked, "Are you ready to come out and do your homework now? You seem to have calmed down."
He smiled at me and said, "OK, Mom."
And he came and sat at the table, and we worked out a problem together, and he finished the rest of the page in a matter of minutes.

As he was putting his paper into his homework folder, Matthew said to me, "Hey, Mom, isn't that funny? You said when I get upset I think my homework is too hard, and I can't do it. But then when I just decide to do it, I find out it isn't that hard afterall. And I get it done quickly. And that's what just happened today!"
I smiled at him and said, "Yeah."
But I thought (as I contemplated banging my head against the wall), Funny? You think it's funny? Oh, child, we've got to work on your sense of humor!

BTW, I am leaving tomorrow to go to Florida with my husband. He won a trip for two, and chose me! *grin* Have a great weekend. I'll be back next week!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

WFMW - Getting Personal

On this blog, I have held back almost nothing from you. I have shared my failings and frustrations, my insecurities and hang-ups.
But today? Today I am taking it a step further. Yes, today I am going to talk with you about something very personal.


There. I said it. Now, Karen, move on.
Several weeks ago Shane at Heart Reflections posted a Works For Me Wednesday entry about how to get rid of armpit stains in shirts. I was so interested in this post because it was a question I always wanted to ask, but was too shy to do so.
I hated that my shirts would get armpit stains, but I thought there must be something "wrong" with me which was causing them. So I just quit wearing the shirts that looked bad and tried to avoid raising my arms.
Then I saw Shane's post, and I tried treating several of my shirts with a baking soda paste. But I was so interested in finding a solution to this problem that I kept researching different options, and I came across some information I didn't expcet to find.

The stains in my shirts were not caused by some weird chemical imbalance in my body. They were caused by my antiperspirant! Specifically, by the active ingredient aluminum. I don't know what it is, but something about the aluminum causes the stains.

Whew! What a relief to know it wasn't ME.
Anyway, I went on to do more searching about antiperspirant alternatives and found a wealth of options. For a while I was trying plain rubbing alcohol, but I didn't like that very much. So I looked in the store and found there are a number of deodorants which are not antiperspirants, and therefore do not contain that nasty stain-causing aluminum.
I bought herbal clear natural deodorant, and love the scent of it. However, I noticed it sort of makes my armpits feel sticky, so I also put on baby powder and find myself to be quite comfortable. Depending on my level of activity, I sometimes feel the need to freshen up during the day, but if it will save my shirts from now on - it is so worth it to me.

And there you have it.
Deodorant without antiperspirant, and a little baby powder.
No more armpit stains.
That works for me!
For more great ideas from Works For Me Wednesday, visit Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer.
***Edited to add***
Several people have asked if the baking soda paste worked. Well, I tried it once. Put it on the shirts and let them sit overnight, then washed them as usual, but didn't notice any improvement. The thing is, I read several places that if you have put the stained shirt through the dryer, the stain has been set. So, it's the eternal optimist in me that was giving the baking soda treatment a try in the first place.
I don't know if repeated attempts would take care of it, or not. I kinda doubt it. But I might try anyway! *grin*

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Sunday, October 05, 2008


Oh, my stomach hurts!
These comments I'm getting about me being so gentle and soft spoken that a person cannot believe I am an "irritable mother" are cracking me up!
Stop it! I'm going to wet myself!

Seriously. I laugh every time someone who saw my video from Friday makes such a comment. And my kids keep asking me why I'm laughing. So I explain the situation and they look at me with smiles and confirm that I can, indeed, be an irritable mother.
Matthew suggested that he and Joshua could stage a fight and we could record how I respond to them. Isn't he precious???

OK, some explanation is fair. I had to be soft spoken in that video. The webcam is all new to me and I haven't played with it much. I'm sure there is some adjustment I can make to the microphone setting so it isn't as sensitive. But until I get that figured out, if I make too loud of a noise the recording sounds just awful. So, there you go!
For those of you who are interested, you can get another view of me by going to my website and watching the video clips from my Confessions talk. I am pretty soft spoken in the one called, "Refined Like Silver," but the other three have moments when I am more like an irritable mother.
Honestly, sometimes when I am speaking I almost feel the need to stop mid-sentence and let my audience know I'll get "nicer" as the talk progresses. When I am telling a story about a particular incident with one of my kids, or when I am just talking about frustration in general, I get rather animated. Sometimes the looks on the faces of some of the women listening make me think they're scared of me. But as I share about how God is using my struggles as a mother to refine me, I try to portray that transformation in my delivery of the message. So far, I have not noticed any scared women at the end of my talk. *grin*
And I pray my children are witnessing that transformation, too.

All that to say, thank you for your sweet comments. It is my heart's desire to display that gentle spirit on a regular basis - not just when the microphone is too sensitive!

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Friday, October 03, 2008

It's Here! It's Here!

I am so excited! Finding Joy is finished!!!

As promised, I have prepared a special announcement for you. Be sure to watch to the end, because I will draw the winners for my give-away.
BTW, the "secret word" is for the subscribers to my newsletter.

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