Calling

People say that hindsight is 20/20.  I believe that God calls people to specific places for specific times, and all of us have different callings.  It’s funny how I believe that God is in control but sometimes it’s hard to see in the moment how He’s working.  It is so powerful to look back and reflect on what He’s done.  I could go on and on.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to talk about and easier to write about.

When I was in 6th grade they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and they published it under our names in the yearbook.  I said ‘Accountant’.  Funny thing is now I am a Certified Public Accountant.  If you asked me in my senior year of college what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would tell you that I had no idea.  4 years of education.   2 majors and a minor, and I didn’t really know but I would tell you that I wasn’t keen on accounting – seemed boring – and I liked my other major, Spanish, so I thought for the time being I’d pursue that.  A partner at the accounting firm that I interned at thought that I’d become a hippie and not pay social security.  Well that never has been true but it took me a couple years to ‘find myself.’  I’ve been in public accounting for 10 years now.

When I left college I went back to New Jersey and was a Spanish teacher for a couple years.  All throughout college I told people that I thought that I needed to marry a guy from New Jersey.  I guess God had placed that on my heart.  As it turns out I met a guy who grew up a couple blocks away from me but we never met until after college.  This guy is now my husband.  For years in college I felt that I wasn’t going to meet my husband there – I was going to meet him in New Jersey – and that’s exactly what happened.

Fast forward a couple years.  All throughout college my dad marveled at western Pennsylvania, where I went to college.  He liked the culture and the affordability.  He was always looking at houses and showing them to me.  Then when my husband was in the military, especially when he was overseas deployed, we would dream together of owning a home in Pittsburgh.  It helped to have something to look forward to.  We wanted to settle down and start a family in a place where we could afford to buy a good sized home.  For about 3 years we dreamed about this and then it became a reality, and for the past 10 years we’ve now lived in Pittsburgh.

You may say to yourself that you don’t have stories like this but I promise you that if you live by faith in the God of the Bible you will, but more importantly you’ll know that He calls you to know Him.  I’ve been playing this song over and over again recently and it keeps hitting me, and I encourage you to play the YouTube version:

“As You Find Me” by Joel Houston, Matt Crocker & Benjamin Hastings © 2018 Hillsong Music Publishing CCLI: 7124065

VERSE 1: I’ve been strong And I’ve been broken within a moment I’ve been faithful And I’ve been reckless at every bend I’ve held everything together And watched it shatter I’ve stood tall and I have crumbled In the same breath

VERSE 2: I have wrestled And I have trembled toward surrender Chased my heart adrift And drifted home again Plundered blessing Till I’ve been desperate to find redemption And every time I turn around Lord You’re still there

PRE-CHORUS 1: I was found Before I was lost I was Yours Before I was not Grace to spare For all my mistakes And that part just wrecks me

CHORUS: And I know I don’t deserve this kind of love Somehow this kind of love is who You are It’s a grace I could never add up To be somebody You still want But somehow You love me as You find me

VERSE 3: Who am I To think Your glory needs my praises But if this borrowed breath is Yours Lord Take it all You are faithful and You are gracious And I’m just grateful To think You don’t need a single thing And still You want my heart

PRE-CHORUS 2: I was found Before I was lost I was Yours Before I was not You wear the scars For all my mistakes And that part just wrecks me

TAG: Your love’s too good to leave me here

BRIDGE: If You want my heart I won’t second guess ‘Cause I need Your love More than anything I’m in I’m Yours Your love’s too good to leave me here Your love’s too good to leave me

 

KonMari with Kids!

Do you long to declutter? Does it seem impossible with kids? There’s a Facebook group called KonMari with kids that I’ve found to be super helpful – check it out!

Marie Kondo has been popular for a while but recently her popularity has soared with her new Netflix series! Before having baby girl #3, I Kon-Maried my house from top to bottom – mostly between the hours of 2-4am when I couldn’t sleep (all my kids were real active in the womb)! Also – just like Marie Kondo, I’m super into going paperless (I have another webpage devoted to that and my e-pamphlet ). I have a lifestyle of promptly throwing out, shredding or scanning papers – I HARDLY HAVE ANY PAPER IN THE HOUSE. It’s wonderful! I feel like it’s a huge stress reliever.

Anyway yet again we decided to KonMari our kids toys this past weekend. Here’s how we are organizing them:

You can see how each bin is labeled (LOL dolls, Hatchimals, Shopkins, Barbies, etc.). Very few toys live outside these bins and it’s been very helpful to teach the girls to clean up. Still, usually every Christmas or early winter we KonMari our house once again. Maybe we need to take a year off from getting Christmas presents (or something)! Still getting new gifts gives us a chance to share our used ones with someone in need.

Let me know your thoughts on kids and clutter in the comments below!

Kristen

Embracing Change

Yesterday we had a National Day of Mourning for George H. W. Bush.  This change brought tears to many, but I would venture to say that it brought joy to celebrate the life of a man who was respected by many.  Pictures like this one below flooded Facebook – celebrating a couple that many remember fondly.

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Do we celebrate life and embrace change?  Or do we often get stuck, afraid of what lies in the future?  The Bushes had a lot of difficult changes in their marriage – one of which was the death of their daughter at age 3 to leukemia.  George W. Bush, his son, spoke at the memorial service of how his father prayed everyday to God Almighty when he dealt with this very difficult, very sad event.  This was a change that no one wanted, but it obviously made George H. W. Bush and his family members into the people that they are.

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On a lighter note, the changing of the seasons is upon us – it’s COLD here in great state of Pennsylvania!  Although it was pleasantly 60+ degrees this past Sunday!  We haven’t had much snow but my daughters love every snow flake that falls.  They dance and spin around in the driveway with the slightest wind and snow that comes down, playing with the leaves and snow dusting.  They LOVE the seasons.

I would say that as much as we try to keep our kids comfortable, they thrive on change.  Starting elementary school…making new friends…visiting a new museum or amusement park…  They are sponges and they are learning and growing.  Let’s not stifle them out of fear or selfishness.  I want to keep my kids the way they are right now – I have a hard time imagining my 4 year-old in kindergarten.  I want to enjoy spending time with my 7 year-old when she comes home from school, rather than setup play dates.  BUT I’m trying to embrace these changes.  I challenge you – and I challenge myself – to embrace change and ENJOY the season we find ourselves in.

 

Anxiety (Defeated)

Do you live with anxiety?  Do you have trouble sleeping?  Do you avoid things because it appears to be less stressful than addressing them?

A couple weeks ago I came home after going out shopping for my birthday with my mom.  The gate to our fence was open and my 4-year-old daughter’s green bike was sitting near it in the driveway.  I was concerned a bit as I thought she was playing with the gate open, but as I walked around the yard I couldn’t find her.  I asked my husband and my dad who were supposed to be watching her, and they thought that the other one was watching her.   I started to panic and we all started running around the house and yard trying to find her.  Not to stereotype middle children, but this little one likes to blend in and apparently LOVES to hide.  This wasn’t the first time that she hid in a corner of our sunroom (that’s where I found her).  I was relieved and prayed aloud thanking God that she was safe, and the smile on her face showed me that she had found some sort to of thrill out of this hide & seek game that she created.  Needless to say we play a lot of hide & seek games now to get this out of her system!  It was scary.

I was quite upset for a couple weeks – I had a hard time sleeping getting over the situation.  When something traumatic happens psychologists say that it’s important to not stay on ‘high alert’ – it’s important to recover as our body needs to relax and rest.  It’s important to talk about what happened, face the fear, look for joy in other things, etc.  My husband and I went away for the weekend recently, and I started to wonder if something would happen to the kids while we were away (mostly concerned that it would be of their own doing!).  I had a hard time sleeping that night we were away, but I prayed with my husband and started feeling a sense of gratitude – that my in-laws could spend time with their grandkids.  Immediately after this I got a peace and went to sleep.  It’s amazing what gratitude can do!

In my Bible Study we are going through The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp and the book talks about how the average human has 25,500 days in their life.  Do we want to waste our life living in anxiety?  The Bible says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6.  If it’s a command, then isn’t it possible with God’s help?  Ann Voskamp lost her sister at a young age in a tragic circumstance.  She struggled with anxiety much of her life growing up.  In her book she propels that anxiety can be defeated by being broken before the Lord.  I’ve seen this in my own life.  By doing this He will provide opportunities for gratitude and healing, and by helping others in service and obedience to Him, we will find true joy.

-Kristen

5 Tips to Start Planning Your Disney Trip!

Hello!  We’re already planning our Disney trip for next year – because that’s how it works!  It’s never too early to plan!  Here are 5 helpful tips to plan your Disney trip!  Read to the end to see my gift card tips!

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#1 GET A DISNEY PLANNER – The first time we went to Disney World with children I thought I could handle it myself – I had booked a non-Disney resort and thought I got a good deal, but then my friend who works for Disney introduced me to a Disney planner who got me on Disney property with meals for about the same price!  I also got free monogrammed minnie mouse backpacks for the kids and autograph books as part of the package!  Here’s my Disney planner is you’re looking for one!: http://uponastartravel.com/, or ask around – there is no cost, Disney pays them directly for helping you!

#2 TIMING – Most people recommend that you book the resort one year before going, the character dining six months out, and the FastPass rides 60 days out.  Disney planners can do all of this for you which saves you staying up until midnight, etc.  Certain times a year like February, September and November are less crowded and cheaper.  In my opinion there’s something of value to going to Disney that makes it ok to take the kids out of school (especially since my school district is super supportive of it) and get a better experience with less crowds!

#3 DISNEY DINING – Part of the Disney experience is dining with Disney characters.  The Disney dining package makes it easy and more affordable to book places like Cinderella’s table, Be Our Guest and other dining experiences.  Certain times of the year Disney offers a discount and even free dining.  Our Disney planner takes care of the reservations, and one time when we had to wait longer than 30 minutes for our reservation, we got extra FastPasses to rides which was awesome!  Disney knows how to please customers.

#4 DISNEY CREDIT CARD – I highly recommend getting a Chase Disney credit card – there’s a no annual fee option, but the annual fee option gives you twice the points and there’s a statement credit that makes up for the annual fee.  I usually accumulate a couple hundred dollars a year in Disney bucks, which helps to pay for a vacation!  The Disney credit card also allows you to get special discounts on Disney travel packages, and a number of other perks.  The Disney credit card also offers 0% financing for promotional periods of time on Disney trips.  Although I don’t endorse credit card debt, this is an option to be aware of.

#5 GIFT CARDS – Sam’s Club and other wholesale clubs have discounts on Disney gift cards which you can use to pay for your vacation!  I save on average 7% by buying the gift cards from Sam’s Club.  In November/December look for Target’s gift card sale – you can get 20% off of Target gift cards.  I then turn around and use them to buy Disney gift cards.  In the end, between gift cards and Disney redemption bucks from my credit card, I save hundreds of (more like a thousand) dollars on the Disney trip!

Hope this helps!

– Kristen

Fearless 9-1-1

Hello!  Thankfully I’ve only called 9-1-1 a couple times related to emergencies with my kids – one time I had hardly any cell reception, so I wanted to help educate people on the texting 9-1-1 option and let you know I’ve gone through some scary situations with my kids and am striving to be fearless – hope to encourage you to do the same!  Finding joy through my faith in God and being thankful has helped me through so much, but to be honest I still struggle with anxiety related to my children.  I am thankful that my strength and peace continue to be renewed even despite certain situations.

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CALLING 9-1-1.  When my oldest daughter was four months old I was busy learning to be a mom, working part time, while at the same time trying to be a good wife too.  One day while nursing her, I was on the computer, not fulling focusing on the nursing, and she scratched her cornea.  She went limp.

I tried CPR repeatedly, with no response.  She wasn’t breathing.  It felt like forever before she took a breath again – in the meantime I called 9-1-1.  Thankfully we have police that patrol our town 24-7, as well as an ambulance service right in town, so they came very quickly.  By the time that they came, thankfully she had started breathing again.  The event lit up the neighborhood – one of my neighbors gently said to me aftewards ‘it looked like you had quite a scare’.  On the ambulance ride to the hospital, the situation happened again.  Thankfully the ambulance crew put an oxygen mask on my daughter right away but it was still scary!  There were other details to this experience but the bottom line – I had to keep praying and trusting God, relying on his good plans and love for me.  He gave me the faith to leave her in day care after this instance, have two more kids, etc.  Also a PSA: clip those young babies’ nails!  Also try to not multi-task while nursing!  Over the next weeks this situation repeated itself – one time at day care – I had to learn to not overreact.  I’m so thankful that she’s out of that phase!

TEXTING 9-1-1.  I wish I had known this a year ago when my three young girls and I got stuck in an elevator late one evening at church after an event.  Here they are in this professional picture taken shortly after the incident.

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Anyway, here’s the story…the power went out in the church – it was about 8:30pm, so no staff was around, and the elevator got stuck underground in such a way that I had intermittent cell reception.  Thankfully a text to my husband went through after about 10 minutes of waiting.  The call to 9-1-1 didn’t go so well, as they couldn’t hear me, but the call eventually got pinged so the police came.  But, if I had know about texting 9-1-1, I would have done that first thing!  My daughters and I prayed – it had been about 15 minutes, and it was getting very hot in the elevator.  My middle daughter (then 3) said that she saw an angel in the elevator, and shortly there after, a woman who had been cleaning up after the event called through the walls “is anyone in there?”  She said that she had heard a voice.  She was the ONLY person in the building and she happened to walk by!  Total God thing, but also a PSA: text 911 in the “To” field for text messaging.  Send a short message with no photos.  Include the location of the emergency, municipality and type of help needed before sending.  This is especially good when cell reception is bad, or you’re in a situation where you cannot easily talk (i.e. intruder).

These are things that aren’t fun to talk about, but I hope this info helps someone out there!

– Kristen

Pray. Love. Repeat.

It’s hard to write a blog post on decluttering and other 1st world problems when you hear on the news about the border crisis, hungry children around the world, and other bigger problems.  Our pastor at church on Sunday reminded us to pray – especially when the right solution isn’t clear.  Specifically he said to pray for our leaders.

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In my opinion, it’s important to look at the law involved in a governmental situation, rather than just at the leader.  The law has been around longer than the ruler, and obviously laws can be interpreted, but there’s a reason why a law was established and needs to be upheld.

Still, with the goal of keeping the law, needs to be grace.  When a leader has an obligation to follow the law, in this sinful world there will be casualties in the wake.  We know what God desires of us – to love Him and to love others.  Whatever your stance is on the border crisis, I hope that we all can agree on the fact that we need to help the immigrant children.  Here’s one of many groups helping them: Holy Family Institute.

I don’t believe that praying is a cop-out.  I believe that it’s a true solution to a problem.  God asks that we come before Him to pray.  (1 Peter 2) We are to entrust ourselves to God, as He is one who judges justly.  If we are involved in government, we have the responsibility to do things God’s way – to punish those who do wrong and reward those who do right.  We have a responsibility to love others, even when it might mean tough love for a time.

There are many reasons why our borders must be secure.  One reason is the problem of human trafficking; without secure borders this has become an increasing problem in the United States.  I’m not going to dive into this complex issue in this blog, but if you’re interested here’s info on an organization helping: Asservo Project.

Pray.  Love.  Repeat.