Monday, November 29, 2010

Marriage Mondays: Let's Celebrate!

Hello dear Bloggy friends!!

Today I am thrilled to join my dear friend Julie from Come Have A Peace for Marriage Mondays!

Yesterday was a special day for our family. It was my husband John's 40th birthday!! Woo Hoo!

After my amazing 40th birthday roller skating party earlier this year, I wanted to coordinate a party for John where he felt as celebrated as I did for my 40th.

However, I have learned over the past 10 years of marriage, that there are different "party languages".

Whereas I love family, the more friends the merrier, decorations big and bright, encouraging words, and tons of fun ~ John prefers family, a few friends, and special, meaningful conversations.

My hope and goal was to coordinate a party (actually a whole day) not just like I would want...but a celebration that would serve John well and help create a birthday he would never forget!

We started off by going to the JW Marriott's six*one*six restaurant for a special brunch (John's favorite brunch place in the whole wide world!). We were joined by John's parents, grandma, brother and his fiance. It was a perfect birthday morning! :)

John getting a little help from our girls Sarah & Manda...

After brunch, our family headed out to find the perfect Christmas tree. John has enjoyed cutting down a Christmas tree since he was a little boy, so it was the perfect way to spend a birthday afternoon together.

We found our tree! I love this picture of my son Jake carrying the tree, with our other kids trailing behind him! Special memories! :)

Lastly, we ended the day with a special 40th birthday celebration in our home. I asked our family/friends to bring 40 of something for John (thanks for the great idea, Erin!). It worked out great!

John received....40 pennies from our little Sarah (who just lost another front tooth yesterday!)

40 gift cards to Lowe's (from his brother Jim)...

40 dollars from my mom and dad....

PLUS 40 packs of hot chocolate, 40 gummy bears, 40 kisses (from guess who?? ~ smile!), 40 dollars to our favorite family-friendly restaurant, 40 Milk Duds, and $40 in gas gift cards. What fun!

And last, but not least, here is a picture of the birthday boy with his mom (my mom-in-love Jackie!) sharing in our traditional "birthday toast" with non-alcoholic sparkling juice.

Happy Birthday, John! :) It was a joy to celebrate you...and I loved at the end of the day when you shared it was one of your best birthday's ever. Woo Hoo!!

What about for you, dear bloggy friend...what's your "party language"? What have you learned about celebrating your husband/wife? I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! May your week be filled with much joy, love, and CELEBRATION!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

What A Weekend ~ Woo Hoo!!

My dear friends...

Can I just say thank you from the bottom of my heart for "
laying down tracks" through prayer as I headed to Knoxville, TN this past weekend?! Our God is so faithful ~ and He answered every single abundance! What an amazing, life changing, Truth filled weekend!! Woo Hoo!!

You may remember I was invited by Julie Sanders (from
Come, Have A Peace) to speak at 3 different events over three different days in Knoxville. What an awesome opportunity! And as Julie shared this morning, "Have you ever had one of those weekends when God's divine movement was clearly woven through the whole thing? Had one. Loved it. Full heart."

My thoughts exactly ~ God's fingerprints were everywhere! Again, thank you for praying! God was on display in our midst ~ big time!! I have so many fun stories to share...but for today I'll be brief. (When John and my kids get home, I've got some extra snuggling to do!).

Here is a quick photo recap....

Julie (in the center) and her sister Jenny (on the left ~ Jenny flew in from Virgina to spend the weekend with us! What fun!!). In the photo, Jenny and I are trying our first fried green tomatoes and grits. Yum! :)

Below: Here I am prayed up and ready to share my story (His story) of "Old to New" with the beautiful women from West Park Baptist Church. What a welcoming, warm, precious group of women! I feel like I made 250 new friends!

My favorite part of the weekend was meeting so many great women everywhere I went, loving on them, and hearing their stories.
In the photo below is my new friend Sandie. She was a great sport and allowed me to cover her with the "new" nametags from my message. (Thanks for letting me post this, Sandie!)

Another highlight was sharing part of the weekend with April from Barefoot Offering
. April drove in from Virginia to sit in the front row and pray. What a treasured friend (and boy did God have some fun plans for April over the weekend!)

Saturday morning I had the chance to share my story with the most beautiful group of women at the Serenity Shelter in Knoxville.

I met so many honest, vulnerable, authentic women. Loved it!! We all had a great cry together. In fact, (I've never had this happen before), one woman was crying so hard ~ I had to stop in the middle of my talk and just go hug her. It was a morning I will never, ever forget.

In the pic below, here are my two new friends, Linda and Vicki, who are amazing women of PRAYER!! :)

I wish I had pictures from Sunday morning. I enjoyed myself so much with the Rebuilders Sunday School class, I totally forgot about my camera! And it was such a blessing to worship with the West Park Baptist Church. What an awesome, welcoming, Christ-centered community. :)

Whew ~ what a weekend. I am humbled, blessed, exhausted, fired up, and GRATEFUL to the Lord for this special opportunity!

THANK YOU so much for sharing in this adventure through prayer! We could sense God's presence and His peace in such unbelievable ways! Hearts were open, ears were ready to hear, and eyes were ready to see Him. I was healthy, my breathing was good, and my family did well while I was away. Most importantly, the Word was shared, His Name was lifted high, and lives were touched for His Kingdom purposes. For His Glory alone! Woo Hoo!

Thanks so much for stopping by *She Sparkles*! Please know that on this Thanksgiving week, I am thanking God for you!!!

P.S. One last picture....the Sanders family (host family extraordinaire!) were kind enough to take my to a restaurant I had only heard about....until this weekend!
Thanks, Jacob, Jeff, JoHanna and Julie for a delicious Chick-fil-A dinner! Yum!! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

TILT: Sharing My Story

If you're looking for family fun Thanksgiving ideas, be sure to check out my Thanksgiving Ideas from A to Z.

Today is Thankful Thursday at our home! One of my hopes (and prayers) is to raise children with hearts of gratitude. Hopefully every day we are finding ways to express thanks to God and to one another ~ but today especially we will pause to acknowledge and thank God for His goodness in our lives!

For me personally, I am grateful for so many things! For my handsome husband, our precious kids, my amazing family, caring friends, our health (woo hoo!!), our home, our neighborhood, beautiful Michigan weather (even though it's November)...I could go on and on!

And for today, I'm particularly mindful and thankful for the new life I have in Christ.

Many of you know my story...I did not come to know Jesus until the age of 26. And not only did I not know Jesus all those years, I experienced way more of the world than necessary.

I've wrestled with addiction to alcohol, shopping, food, even drugs. You name it, I've tried it. I often joke that my life before Christ is like a really bad TV movie. It was empty and defeated living.

But here's the Good News! Not only did Christ come to my rescue and deliver me, He gave me a new place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth. (Psalm 40). He gave me a new, clean, pure heart. Jesus has given me hope and a future. He filled my heart with love and joy and peace and satisfaction.

And, praise the Lord, Jesus gave me a whole new reputation!! Only Jesus can transform an empty, insecure, messed up girl into a woman who is able to live a life of freedom and fullness. Only Jesus!

I'm blown away by the opportunities the Lord has provided for me to share my story. Not one time have I ever pursued me "speaking" somewhere, but doors keep opening. Most recently, I've been invited to Knoxville, TN to share my story at 3 different events. Me?? Really?? That God would risk His reputation on me is humbling. It makes me want to serve Him and worship Him all the more!!

Thank You, Jesus, for delivering me from a life of darkness and bringing me into Your Kingdom of light!! Thank You for the beauty of abundant life in You!! Thank You that there is no one too far gone...and thank You for the satisfaction that You alone can bring!!!

I just love how God works (what a God of miracles He is!) ~ and I love sharing my story from defeat to abundant living! I thank God for this opportunity, and can't wait to see what He will do!

What are you thankful for today?? I'd love to hear from you!!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*!! Have a Thrilling, Thankful Thursday!

P.S. For more Things I Love Thursday ideas, hop on over to my real-life neighbor Jill at The Diaper Diaries.

P.S.S. If you would like to join me in praying for my opportunities in Knoxville, TN this weekend ("praying down some tracks"), I would be so grateful! Please let me know of your interest, and I'd joyfully send more details to you. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Impossible Possible ~ Vlog

If you're looking for family fun Thanksgiving ideas, be sure to check out my Thanksgiving Ideas from A to Z.

Do you ever long for a fresh reminder of Who God is and what He is capable of doing??

Last week, I spent the first half of my time on my sick bed stressed out and almost paralyzed with fear and discouragement.

Besides being a wife and mom, this fall is an exciting season of ministry opportunities, Bible study writing, and speaking events.

Losing my voice, being unable to breathe due to my asthma, and struggling with bronchitis was not part of MY plan! AHHHHH!

I finally surrendered to the fact that I was sick (and trying to push through wasn't helping matters) and had a good cry about it all.
I also came to the realization that me being sick was not a surprise to God, and that He was fully capable of running things without my help. :)

So rather than pout and whine, I decided to use my time under my covers reflecting on Who He really is and what He is capable of doing.

I'm such a simple girl, so I started with A and made a list to Z...thinking of His character, His heart, His power....
It went something like this...

A ~ God, You are amazing...and I thought about how Amazing and Awesome He is!

B ~ God, You are Beautiful...and I reflected on His beauty and His majesty

C ~ God, You are our Creator...and I praised Him for creating us in His very image

You get the drift! :)

It was also fun to think about the amazing ways I've watch Him answer prayers. Here is my one of my favorite answered prayer stories...

(Again, not scripted just sharing my heart and God's story....thank you for your grace....)

Isn't God so fun??

And Yes, He is a God that makes the impossible possible!!!

So even though last week I missed a week of preparation time, I'm trusting God to make up that time in His own unique way.

And although I "lost" another writing day today (my little Sarah is home sick) ~ I "gained" the opportunity to lean even harder on God and His Word, and love on my little one (which I love to do!!).

What is it you need these days, my friend??

A fresh reminder of His strength and grace??

A special measure of His presence and peace???

A token of encouragement?? His healing touch?? A miracle in the midst of your relationship challenge??

Please be reminded that our God is Who He says and that He can make the impossible possible!!!

I would love to join you in praying for you on your journey....please feel free to send your prayer requests my way. And let's watch God do what He does best ~ heal, provide, protect, redeem, restore and perform miracles in our very midst!!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*!! God's richest blessings to you!!

P.S. If you would like to join me in praying for my opportunities in Knoxville, TN this weekend ("praying down some tracks"), I would be so grateful! I'll be sharing Friday night, Saturday morning, and again on Sunday. Please let me know of your interest, and I'd joyfully send more details to you. Prayer is the work...of this I am sure!! :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Randomness & Reflections from a Hockey Mom :)

My son Jake, the goalie extraordinaire :)

If you're looking for family fun Thanksgiving ideas, be sure to check out my Thanksgiving Ideas from A to Z.

Hey friends!

Happy Monday to you!! I'm finally feeling much better ~ boy was I sicker than sick last week! THANK YOU for your notes, prayers, and care! You bless me! :)

I'm busy getting ready for our last Magnificent Monday Bible Study tonight ~ and then an exciting week as I prepare to share at West Park Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN this weekend! Woo Hoo! I can't wait to see what God is planning!! (If you live anywhere near Knoxville ~ I would love the chance to meet you!! Please come join the fun!)

And, my wouldn't believe what God has been up to while I've been flat on my back in bed! I have so many fun things to share!

I'll give you some clues ~ it has to do with going to Israel (yes, Israel ~ picture me doing the HAPPY DANCE!), my Redhot Bible study, and more!! Look for more fun updates in the days and weeks to come!! I'm so excited I could JUMP FOR JOY!

For today....I'd like to leave you with thoughts from a hockey mom (me!). I was delighted to get out of my sick bed this weekend (finally!) and cheer on my two favorite red-headed hockey players. (My Jake is goalie for his high school's Varsity team, and my little Benj is a Squirt this year). It made me think of thoughts I shared earlier last year...but still very true today.

Here are my reflections "From the Rink"...

I love every part of watching my boys play hockey! I love the thrill of the sport, cheering my boys on (except sometimes my husband says I get too!), encouraging the other team members, sharing the stands with my family, keeping warm with hot coffee, and just the overall JOY of it all!

Hockey is a great reminder to me of how I want to live my life!

I love watching how the hockey players keep an ear open to the voice of their coach. While the fans in the stands are yelling and screaming with all kinds of directions and instructions (Go! Move your feet! Get on the puck! Hustle!) ~ the hockey players skate with such focus and intensity, but are always listening for the voice of their coach. Always.
The coach has the big picture in mind (winning the game), so it's his job to tell the individual players what to do and when to do it.
And what do the hockey players do? Whatever the coach says ~ even if it doesn't make sense!

And have you ever watched how the hockey players change their line?! Amazing!

How do they know when it's their time to get off the ice? Or hop off the bench? The coach isn't yelling their names - he softly calls it, and the players follow his lead. It's a beautiful thing - to me, it's like poetry in motion, watching a well led team listen to their coach, obey his instructions, and follow his lead to victory!!

I want to live my life like an intensely focused hockey player!

I want to be in tune with my Coach. I want to follow Him wherever He calls me to go, whatever He calls me to do! No questions asked - just an absolute trust that my Coach knows what He is doing!

But I'll be honest...sometimes the voices of the folks in the stands distract me.

Don't get me wrong - the people in the stands are "for me" too - their plans can just be different than what my Coach has in mind. "Cindy, you should __________, or why don't you _________". And before I know it, I'm so busy looking to the stands for direction that I take my eyes off the puck, and whammo - score one for the other team!

I'm learning that true victory comes only from listening to the voice of my Coach and following His game plan! What a blessing to know that we are on a winning team (we know how this game ends!) ~ and that if we stay focused on Him - we are guaranteed VICTORY! :)

What about for you? Whose voice is loudest in your life these days?

Do you have folks in the stands shouting at you?

Are you looking to the stands for direction?

Is there noise or clutter robbing you of your focus?

Or do you hear the gentle, wise voice of your Coach calling your name? Follow His lead ~ He knows what He is doing!! :)

"My sheep listen to My voice: I know them, and they follow Me". John 10:27

Let's pray, shall we??...

O Lord, thank YOU that YOU always lead us to TRIUMPH in Christ! Thank YOU that we are on a VICTORIOUS team! Please give us FOCUS and CONFIDENCE and STRENGTH! And may YOUR VOICE always be LOUDEST in our LIVES! For Your Glory alone! Amen! :)

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! Have a wonderful, joy-filled life-giving week!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Family Fun ~ A to Z Style! (& Giveaway)

"There shall be "a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God...." --1789 Congressional Proclamation

Can I just tell you ~ I love THANKSGIVING! I love the focus on gratitude and blessings, the rich traditions that have been passed down (and the new ones we've created), the opportunity to connect with family and friends, and yes, the wonderful food. :)

I am pleased to share some of our favorite family Thanksgiving activities, plus other simple, inexpensive ways for you to make the most of your month of November ~ A to Z style!!

(I'd also love to hear about YOUR favorite Thanksgiving Traditions! Please be sure to leave a blessed reader will win Susie Larson's latest book Growing Grateful Kids ~ it's great!)

*Thanksgiving Family Fun ideas from A to Z*....

A - Attitude of Gratitude Calendar (Ask each family member to share one thing they are grateful for each day during the month of November. Write it on a calendar. Be sure to bring out the calendar again next year, and start again!); OR Activity sheets here and here
and here OR Activity sheets for Grown-ups here

B- Bingo (here) (Thanksgiving bingo w/ autumn color M&M's ~ always a favorite); OR Baking (great Thanksgiving recipes here or here) OR start a Blessing Book (here)

C - Crafts ~ Such cute Thanksgiving crafts here or here or here OR Conversation Coasters (what a great hostess gift too!) OR Conversation Starters

D - Decorate together (Check out April's great decorating ideas)

E - Educate (Spend time learning/re-learning the true meaning of Thanksgiving. One of my favorite teacher resources for verses, worksheets, stories, history & more ~ here)

F- Family Night: Attitude of Gratitude (here) OR Football (of course!)

G - Gratitude Journals (here) ; OR Give thanks (go around and share 5 things each family member is thankful for)

H - Hidden Pictures OR Turkey Hats
(just for fun!)

I - Ice Cream Sundaes
~ yes, we have Thanksgiving sundaes! I've included a picture at the end of this blog post! :)

J -
Jokes (here) (Have fun sharing these great Thanksgiving kids' jokes
and riddles with your family and friends)

K - Kids Table ~ If you're not planning on having a kids table for Thanksgiving, after you check out these amazing kids table ideas, you will want to!

L - Leaves (We have a family tradition where we each write on a paper leaf what we are thankful for, and then I save the leaves each year...although I may need to make this adorable Thanksgiving table tree); You can also print leaves here

M - Mazes
OR Math sheets (yes, Thanksgiving style Math!) OR Minibooks OR Memorize Thanksgiving verses

N - Native American history and Activities here

O - Outdoor Games to celebrate Thanksgiving (lots of game ideas here

P - Pilgrims here OR Pumpkins Baking OR Parades

Q - Quiet time ~ Enjoy Thanksgiving Reading at home (Great Thanksgiving resource list here) OR Quiz your guests on Thanksgiving Trivia

R - Read together Family Life's Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember

Mrs. Rainey wrote this book for her family, "Thanksgiving was not going to be just eating, hours of TV football, naps and leftover turkey sandwiches-followed by a stress-filled Friday of frantic Christmas shopping at the mall." Instead, she seeks to educate her children-and others, through this book about the heritage of faith and freedom that is celebrated in the national holiday of Thanksgiving. The book revisits the schoolchild version of the Pilgrims' first festival of plenty, and is meant to be read aloud by families on Thanksgiving Day (preferably before small stomachs start to grumble). A half-hour-long CD of Thanksgiving music rounds out the package.

We love this book! It also includes a spot to record your blessings every year! Woo Hoo! :)

S - Sing some fun Thanksgiving carols (thanks, Knox clan) such as...

Here Comes Thanksgiving (to the tune of Here Comes Santa Claus)
Here comes Thanksgiving
Here comes Thanksgiving
Long before Christmas Day
No jingle bells, no Christmas trees
No songs about a sleigh
We will eat and we will sleep
We’ll watch some football games
Cause it is almost Thanksgiving
And it’s long before Christmas Day

T - Tablecloth of Thanks OR start a new Tradition (lots of great ideas here & here)

U - Ugly Turkey ~ A Play (adapted from "The Ugly Duckling" by Hans Christian Andersen)

V - Volunteer. Nothing will remind us more of how much we have to be thankful for than spending your day at your local homeless shelter or food kitchen serving Thanksgiving dinner.

W - Watch A Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving. (Our kids still love to watch it every year!)

X - eXercise. Head outside to the nearest park and enjoy the beautiful fall colors.

Y - YMCA. Go to the YMCA or another local gym. Many will let you try their facility for free for the day.

Z - Zzzzzz's! ~ Sneak in a nap! :)

Woo Hoo!! I'm so excited for Thanksgiving! As one article
I read recently shares, "This year, take advantage of the Thanksgiving season and use it as a chance to nurture a sense of real gratitude in your family. The Bible tells us to "give thanks to the Lord for he is good" (Ps. 107:1) and to "enter his gates with thanksgiving" (Ps. 100:4). That attitude is often lost in our "I want more" culture, and encouraging thankfulness in children is no small task. But when children understand what it means to be grateful, they begin to develop an awareness of all that God has given them...."

Sounds good to me!! You too?! :)

What special family traditions do you have planned for this Thanskgiving?? I'd love to hear from you!

And as promised, one blessed reader (who shares a favorite Thanksgiving tradition) will win Susie Larson's latest book Growing Grateful Kids. The winner will be selected on Wednesday, November 23rd at 9:00 PM.

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! May your Thanksgiving be filled with much joy, laughter, and fun, family moments!!

P.S. A special thanks to Tip Junkie,
Family Fun, Parents Magazine, Kaboose, & more for letting me share some of your fun Thanksgiving ideas! :)

P.S.S. For more Things I Love Thursday ideas, hop on over to my real-life neighbor Jill at The Diaper Diaries.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Share Some Love & Random Updates!

Hey Friends!

Well, it's official ~ I have bronchitis. :(

I cleared my schedule this morning, called my dear mother-in-love for dinner help (you know I'm sick when the thought of making dinner makes me start crying) and went back to bed.

Don't like.

From my spot in "sick bay", I've been trying to look at the bright side of things today...

* I'm thankful for the chance to re-watch lots of my Beth Moore DVD's before
I put them on Craigslist

* I'm thankful for my friends & family who have left me phone/e-mail/FB messages of love and care

* I'm thankful for the chance to pray very specifically and uninterrupted for some exciting opportunities coming up...

(I'm heading to Knoxville, TN next weekend (woo hoo!!), and was just invited to teach a *Red hot* retreat this winter. Maybe you can join us??)

* And I'm thankful for the hope and peace that I have ~ knowing that God is in control, and that He is not surprised or alarmed that I have bronchitis. I can rest in His good plans...

What are you thankful for today?? :)

I'm also wondering....if you might have a minute to do me a favor??

I've been thinking and praying a lot this week for my cousin Chris May.

(Here's a pic of Chris from a few years ago with his mom, my amazing Aunt Debbie).

Chris is such a special young man, who unfortunately, ended up hanging out with the wrong kids and made some wrong choices, and has spent the last few years in jail.

Years ago, I had Chris spend some time with me in Michigan. He accepted Jesus as His Savior that spring, and has such amazing potential....but, like many of us, believes lies about his identity, and struggles to believe that there might be a plan or purpose for him...outside of being in jail.

The world screams, "Not wanted. no hope. no second chances. no job for you." ~ but that is not the Truth.

Chris' birthday is coming up on Monday, November 15th and I would just LOVE to overwhelm him with notes and cards of hope, encouragement, and Truth.

You know me...I just love to celebrate...and the thought of Chris spending his birthday alone is heartbreaking. I checked with my aunt, and she thought my idea would really help brighten Chris' day.

If you are interested/able, would you mind sending Chris a quick birthday card?

Chris May #54432
Hamilton County Jail
18102 Cumberland Road
Noblesville, IN 46060

Our family has been busy drawing pictures, and putting together little cards for him (I did learn the hard way I cannot send confetti to him ~ oops!). My kids love sending notes to Chris, and what a wonderful teaching opportunity to love on someone in Jesus Name.

Thanks for hearing my heart, my dear friends. My hope is to encourage and inspire YOU through *She Sparkles*, but I've really felt led to share this request with you.

I'll keep you posted (through my aunt) on Chris' response. May the Lord use this birthday to remind Chris that he does have purpose, that he is a new creation, and that God desires to redeem and restore all of the lost years. And may God surround Chris with words of Truth and hope during this difficult season.

I'm so thankful for His too??

Well I'd better head back to bed. I'm coughing like a crazy woman (and I've got more Beth Moore to watch!!) Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. Have an amazing, joy-filled day!!

P.S. As I was going through all of my cards and letters from my cousin Chris (I've saved every one), here is a picture he drew for me from jail with a ball point pen. Awesome, isn't it?!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oh No!!

Oh No.....I lost my voice!! Ahhh!!

Thankfully I made it through our Magnificent Monday Bible Study (although I had taken my fair share of cold medicine, so who knows if anything I said made sense ~ smile!)

But I was all set to share another vlog with you! :)

Bummer! I'll have to save it for later this week. In the mean time, here is one of my favorite quotes. It inspires me to live powerfully and purposeful every day!

Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says..."Oh no, she/he's awake!!"

Let's live such powerful, liberating, life-changing, joy-filled lives that the enemy is sorry he ever messed with us!! Amen?? Amen!!

Do you have a favorite quote/scripture/word of encouragement? Share it with us...please! :)

Have a Terrific Tuesday!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frazzle Free Christmas ~ and a Little Help from You (GIVEAWAY too)! :)

Thanks for all of your kind words re: my 1st Vlog! And your warm comments to my "videographer" and "prayer support person" made my girls' whole day! Thank you! I appreciate you all so much!! :)

Hey Friends! Happy Weekend to you!!

Anyone else having a hard time it is November already?! We even had *SNOW* here in Michigan yesterday! I guess it's time for me to realize that, yes, the countdown to Christmas has begun!

This year I'm committed to remaining "Frazzle Free" during the Christmas holiday!! I am determined to prepare, plan, pray, and stay focused on the True Meaning of the Season! Anyone with me?! :)

Recently I was introduced to the “8 Weeks to A Frazzle Free Christmas
” plan from Families With Purpose. (A huge thank you to Jen from Big Binder!).

Have you heard of this amazing plan?? It’s a day-by-day breakdown of what you need to do now so you can enjoy Christmas when it gets here. It is awesome!!

And depending on what works best for can print off the whole 8 Week Countdown, or receive daily or weekly to-do lists.
(Check it out for free here). It's not too late to jump in!! Frazzle Free here we come!! :)

This week is still part of Getting Organized for Christmas. And that includes thinking about Christmas Cards! Yippee! I love Christmas Cards! I love sending out notes to our friends all around the nation! And then we use the Christmas card pictures we receive to put into my prayer guide. What fun!

So imagine my delight when I was offered a chance to get this year’s cards from Shutterfly! In the past I've ordered pictures, calendars, mugs, and even photobooks from Shutterfly, and have been extremely pleased with their service, quality and care!

A friend recently took some new family pictures of us (thanks, Natasha) ~ so my life is getting less frazzled by the minute! Woo Hoo!

But here's where I need your help, dear friends! Did you know Shutterfly has over 700 holiday cards to chose from?! 700!! And for a girl that has a hard time making decisions...this is painful!

My neighbor Jill over @ the Diaper Diaries recently asked her friends to help. What a great idea!

So I thought maybe YOU could help me pick our Christmas card. Here are some of my favorites...

Love 2010

In His Name

Simply Joy

Christ Wishes

Elegant Cross

Ok, I'll stop with my Top 5....they are all so cute! I just can't decide!! What do you think?? I'd love to hear from you!!

And to help us all get into the Christmas spirit (and to encourage you to help me!), I'll have pick one blessed reader who shares her/his suggestion ~ and I'll send you Michael W. Smith's "It's A Wonderful Christmas". Woo Hoo!!

So here's to a Frazzle Free, joy-filled, peace-full, healthy, whole Christmas season for one and all!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*!! I thank God for you!!


This post is part of a series sponsored by Shutterfly. I am receiving 50 free photo cards for sharing, but all thoughts are completely mine.

GIVEAWAY winners for Carol Kent's amazing book ~ Between A Rock & A Grace Place

A huge THANK YOU to all who entered in my GIVEAWAY of Carol Kent's latest (and AMAZING!) book Between A Rock & A Grace Place: Divine Surprises in the Tight Spots of Life.
I wish I had copies to give to will just LOVE this book!
Here are the 4 blessed winners ~

* Debbie Mowery
* Brenda Steinmeier
* Gigi
* Rose Horton

(Please send me your mailing address, and I'll be sure to get this awesome book to you this week!)

Thank you to all who entered!! God's richest blessings to you~

P.S. In case you've not seen this yet, here's Carol Kent sharing briefly some of her story. Powerful!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My First Vlog!/Lessons learned from Craigslist

If you haven't had a chance to enter my latest book GIVEAWAY, Carol Kent's "Between A Rock and A Grace Place", please join the fun! (Click here for more information). You have until tonight (Thursday, November 4th) at 9:00 PM to enter. I'd love to hear from you!!

Well, hello dear friends!!

Welcome to my very first "vlog" (or video blog)!

I can't believe I'm doing many of you know I "dislike" the video camera ~ however, I have such a fun "God story" to share, I thought I would humble myself and give vlogging a try!!

Thank you in advance for your grace! My message was unscripted and from the heart. My little girl Amanda (age 7) was the videographer, and Sarah (age 6) was the prayer support during it was definitely a team effort.

Enjoy :)

Bottom line... I am learning so many lessons through this Craigslist adventure, such as....

That yes, God still speaks to His children.

And that He sometimes even chooses to use His kids when they are weary, worn out, and tired of one too many days not being able to breath or sleep at night.

I am learning that yes, our God is such a generous, Grace-filled, EXCITING God ~ we just never know how He might want to empower us to reflect His character, His heart, His generosity to others.

And I am learning that I might want to get out of my pajamas before noon (even if I really have been up working for hours!) ~ you just never know what special blessing God might bring to the door.

What about for you, my friend? What is God teaching YOU these days?? I would love to hear from you!!

And before you close this post, would you please stop and pray for this family in the process of adopting a sweet baby from Ethiopia?

I asked permission from my new Craigslist friend (aka Susan) if I could share part of their journey so that we could all "pray down some tracks". Here is part of her response....


I have been sharing this journey with my husband and he is loving it! Thank you so much for your prayers—knowing that people are praying for us keeps my heart peaceful in this incredible journey.

I would love for you to share your “Craigslist Journey” and our link on your blog---we have some huge things coming up in our adoption that I would love to have bathed in prayer. We are now #3 on the waiting list---I am nesting like crazy and can’t concentrate.....

Please feel free to follow our blog for updates about our adoption—I don’t update super frequently, but try and keep any major happenings posted.

Blessings, Susan

P.S. ~By the way, my daughter went to school as Dora today—too cute!

Would you please pray that God would continue to reveal Himself to this family in significant, physical ways ~ and that He would supply all of their needs (physical, emotional, and spiritual)?

And if you have a moment, maybe hop over to Susan's blog and encourage this sweet family! :)

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles* today, my dear friend!! May God bless you TOO in very real and unique ways!!

You are special to special to me!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: "Award Winning" Chicken Chili!

If you haven't had a chance to enter my latest book GIVEAWAY, Carol Kent's "Between A Rock and A Grace Place", please join the fun! (Click here for more information). You have until Thursday, November 4th to enter. I'd love to hear from you!!

Hi Friends!!

Happy Tasty Tuesday to you!!

As many of you know, I love chicken chili! I've shared my favorite Chicken Chili recipe before, but over the past few weeks, I've been on the look-out to see if I could find a new favorite. What Chicken Chili recipe would qualify as Award winning??

So I've tried white chicken chili, chicken chili with corn, chicken chili with salsa verde (which I am ashamed to admit I didn't have a clue what salsa verde was....thank goodness for my FB friends!). I even tried Beth Moore's family's chicken chili recipe. My poor family has been eating so much chicken chili ~ I even started giving it out to friends and neighbors! :)

Why have I been going to all of this trouble you may wonder??

Well, this past Saturday was my church's 1st Annual Chili Cook-off!! And my girls and I decided to enter! (Our very first Chili Cook-off, we had no idea what to expect.....)

Here are some photo highlights...

My little Chicken Chili station. Notice my recipe was called, "Cindy's Amazing Chicken Chili" :)

Here I am (taken by my daughter Amanda) before the fun began.... I must confess to being a little nervous. I'm certainly not known for my cooking!

Ada Bible's Kentwood Campus leadership team did an outstanding job as Chili Cookoff hosts! :) It was so beautiful! Below, a table filled with an assortment of fresh breads, crackers, tortilla chips, and desserts. Yum!

Let the Chicken Chili tasting begin!! There were about 20 different chilis to try, and 3 different categories you could vote for (traditional, vegetarian, and creative). Notice in the photo below, my chili is almost halfway gone!

And when it was time for the votes to be tallied and the winners to be announced....imagine my surprise when they shared....

"The winner of the 1st Annual Chili Cookoff ~ Traditional is Cindy Bultema".

Woo Hoo!

Here I am (with my prize ~ a new embroidered apron ~ what fun!) and the amazing other winners!

My favorite part of my day (besides trying all of the other amazing chilis and meeting lots of new great people from my church) was spending the day with my girls!
We had so much fun participating together (while the boys were at hockey) and sharing the joy of our hard work. What a blessing!

Here, once again, is my favorite Chicken Chili known as

"Cindy's Award Winning Chicken Chili" ~ smile :)

2 large chicken breasts cooked & diced (I usually boil the chicken)
1 jar salsa
1 small can chicken broth
1 small jar Great Northern beans
1 2C bag shredded cheddar cheese

Crock pot - low- 3-4 hours

How easy is that?? Enjoy!!!

What's for dinner at your house tonight?? I'd love to hear your Tasty Tuesday ideas!!
And for more great recipes, head over to All Thingz Related, Tempt Your Tummy Tuesday and Tuesday's at the Table recipe exchanges. What fun!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. Have a Terrific Tuesday!!

P.S. This post is dedicated to my amazing friend, ministry partner, and kindred spirit Julie Richardson on her birthday!! Happy, Happy Birthday to you, my friend!! The Chicken Chili recipe originally comes from Julie (and we actually prepared it together for the first time on her birthday, exactly 3 years ago today!).
Love you, my sweet friend!! So glad you made it home safe from your trip!! I thank God for you!! :)
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