Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I am so happy to finally have some time to sit down at my computer and write.  Writing has always been he main way I am able to express my soul, and I love the art of finding just the right words to convey what I am feeling.  With everything being so busy lately, I have not felt at rest inside because I have all this stuff in my heart that I need to get out.  It's nice to finally sit and write.

So I know I have been talking a lot about the house and how much it means to me, but don't get me wrong I know I am not the first person on the planet to buy a house.  I want you to know that it's more than just a house to me.  I have moved around all my life- when I was little my dad was in the Navy and my family were no strangers to moving.  By the time I was 7 years old, I had lived in four different states.  Honestly, I loved it.  I love change and I always found it very fun to move around.  Then when I left for college at 17, that began a new chapter of moving.  In the 9 years Jeff and I have been married,  this will be our 8th move.  I have to say, it's not as fun as it used to be!  This house represents a chapter in my life that I have never lived before- establishing roots.

My roots have always been in God and nothing else.  Even friendships I have found extremely difficult in my life.  In college, people seemed to develop these amazing friendships- they would hang out together, visit over breaks, and to this day are still very close.  I have never been good at that.  I have always had a secret place inside that was just for me and God and nobody else, simply because when you live a transient life you get used to not making roots either with a place or with people.  I have always kept everything at arms length to make it easier for the inevitable move.

But now here I am.  Buying a house.  Planting some roots.

It's quite an interesting feeling to think you may very well be somewhere for more than 4 years, which is the longest I have ever been in one place.  It's weird to think that this house, this church, these people are all going to be a real part of my life.  There is no way on earth for this to really sink in, and in fact it is not something I will even have a clue about for quite a while.  But this house is a symbol.

When I first met Jesus at 10 years old, I knew He was calling me to live a life set apart for Him.  That the road was not going to be an easy one, but would I still follow Him.  I have always known my life is not my own and that His plan for me was one of sacrifice.   Buying a house here in Amsterdam is giving me a chance to start to open my self up to the heartbreak of loving and being called to a people.  The people in the city of Amsterdam are the people I am being called to lay my life down for.  That I may serve them, love them, and lead them to Jesus.  That Jeff and I might commit to being a beacon of light and hope to a lost city.  We experienced this to some degree in Albany, but we were serving and aiding someone else's vision and passion and calling rather than our own.  But Amsterdam feels like it may be our calling.

So like anything else, I will pray.  I will live the best way I know possible.  I will let Him take my roots and grow them deeper.  I will seek to make my house a house of prayer and a place of love for the fatherless.  I will work to make my home a light to others and an altar to Him.  I will strive to remember that it is HIS home, not mine.

I know that moving may not suddenly change everything that is difficult in my life, but it doesn't have to.  Sometimes the very lighthouses we seek to set up for the lost also serve as a reminder to us.  As I work to make my home a light, I have a feeling it will always serve as a beacon to myself as well- both of the places He has brought me from and the place He is leading me to.

"But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil." 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Let's Talk KEYS!!

No, I didn't forget it was Tuesday...I just didn't want to post until I was able to say WE ARE OFFICIALLY HOMEOWNERS!!!

We closed on our house today and everything went well and here is my new house key!!!

I don't want to post pictures of the inside until we move in, but here are some pics of the outside:

This is our backyard

So obviously I have a ton of feelings emotions about the whole process and about the future, but I will chat with you about all of it on Friday.  For now, we celebrate!  

Thank you ALL for your prayers!!!!  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Just Breathe

I realize this may be a bit lame, but here goes:  This is pretty much all I am going to write today.  We are finally closing on our house in 4 days, and I'm spent.  I mean totally and utterly worn out.  Not all in a bad's all very exciting, but there has been a lot of stuff going on and while this is a burden lifted, it is also the point in the game where you sit down for a second and realize just how stinkin' tired you are.

So that's where I'm at.  I'm sitting down and taking a breath, while trying not to close my eyes for too long for of fear of falling asleep.

But don't worry, I'll be back in the game real fast- I was never good at riding the bench.  Plus, we have a house to move in to.

Thanks for all the prayers, support, and encouragement.  See you on closing day. <3 p="">

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Let's Talk- Montessori Method and a mat Named Max

Hey guys!  How are we doing today?  I got a great topic to chat about is kid related, but teachers might want to chime in on this one too!

1) What do you think about the Montessori method?
You might want to google this if you have never heard of it, because I know I am going to completely botch the description of it!  It is basically a style of education for babies and toddlers that seeks to create a blueprint in which children become self motivated, independent, life-long learners.  It works closely with the parents and really fosters independent learning that hones in on the child's particular interests.  It has been around for about 100 years, flowing in and out of "style" over the years.  I feel the same about this as I do about many other learning styles- if you like it and you think your kid will like it, then cool.  I think you can search to the high heavens for how to best prepare your 3 year old to become a productive member of society, but if it doesn't include playing dress-up and building card-board box spaceships, then you are missing the whole point of childhood.  In my opinion, childhood is not the foundation for the future of your kid's academic achievement.  I think that childhood is the place where innocence is protected and simplicity is encouraged, with the point being that their hearts and minds stay as pure as possible so that they can be open to the simple yet foundational things in life: love, happiness, purity, fun, laughter, security, etc.  These are things that as we grow up do not come as easily, but if they are secured as children then they can help seal a foundation of love and security and hopefully a closeness with the Lord.  Their hearts and minds are so pliable at this young stage, which is probably why we want to jump on academics.  But I do not feel that academia is my number one priority...I feel my number one priority is to make sure my kids know the love of Jesus.  So if they are pliable, then I want to use that to see that they are playing, having fun, feeling loved, being free to be a carefree kid, and just hearing about the Lord.
Ok, I just re-read what I wrote and maybe I was a bit harsh regarding methods...I have nothing against this or other methods- if you are sending your kid to preschool then by all means find one you like.  My own kids go to preschool before I homeschool them because I want them to have that experience.  If you find a method that you like and you feel it will be a great fit for your kid, then that's great!  I am just saying that I think we need to make sure that we are guarding their childhood and the simplicity that it should encompass.

2) What do you do to treat your fibromyalgia?
Ok this is new territory for me.  I have talked about medication and stuff, but I am still finding my "groove" as far as finding what will work for me.  I am in tremendous pain every day, so clearly I am still navigating this.  I am weaning off my current medication and will be starting a new one in the next 2 weeks.  I did also discuss other plans with my rheumatologist that may work in conjunction with the medication.  A good friend of mine also contacted me and told me about how she handles her fibro which was really helpful.  So I am starting to develop a plan and we'll see how it works.  I am going to try melatonin (a natural OTC sleep aid) for sleep because I really don't like sleep medication, but getting good sleep is vital.  I also got a yoga mat and am giving that a's a little frustrating, because I have never "exercised" or worked out for any other goal except for physical fitness.  My doc was clear however, that I need to do little to no impact exercise- it mainly needs to be stretching, blood flow, and relaxation.  So, with my fancy new yoga mat that I have named "Max", I am going to give it a try.  I am also researching some other natural things to try, but for now, this is my plan: sleep, yoga, medication, and prayer.  My commitment to try and pray at night is very important to me...I don't want God to be on the back burner when it comes to my illness...He is my Physician, and I want to keep my eyes on Him even though it's hard.  Let's see if I can get my life back!

3) Are you pregnant yet?
I get asked this about every other week, so I will just go ahead and tell you that no, I am not pregnant, haha.  If I were pregnant, you would have already seen a picture of the pee stick, lol

Let me just say, that these are all just my opinions at the moment.  As time goes by I gain more and different experiences, and so my opinions may change.  What is most important is that you are seeking God and making the best decisions for you and your family.  If you are doing that, then you are doing great.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Line 'Em Up

I kept feeling like I had a lot to catch up on, which is weird because I have been posting regularly.  But then I realized that there are a few things I should update that may have gotten forgotten over the course of the past week or two.  SO...

About the house...well, it looks like a go, but I really won’t be jumping for joy until we close, which SHOULD be in the next 7 to 10 days.  So yes, I am super excited but it is being tempered until I have the key in my hand!  Also, I have been trying to do my praying at night before any other entertainment.  I have been doing it maybe 60% of the time.  I realize this is not stellar, but I’m working on it.  Spending time with Jesus is just so important and I want to keep talking to you all about it so that I can continue to press in.  And lastly, my’s been a heck of a week!  I have had a very bad week with my pain, and have officially been diagnosed by the rheumatologist with fibromyalgia.  We worked out a treatment plan that I almost like, but wish I could do without daily medication.  However, I am willing to give it a try so that maybe I can get some relief from this.  I will also be trying some natural methods as well, and I will keep you posted on how I am doing with all of that.  Phew, that's all for now...

Well that last part actually makes a nice segway into what I have on my heart to talk about today.  Watching my health go downhill has taken me on a very different journey than I ever thought I would go on.  I feel like I am 2 different people.  On one hand, I am the “inner me”...the part of me that hasn’t changed- my spirit, my likes, my passion, my love, my family.  Then there is the “outer me”- the part of me that is weak, tired, and always in pain.  It got me thinking about duplicity and whether or not I was still “me”.  

A lot of times in the Christian world we put a smile on our face whether we mean it or not.  We ask each other how we are doing and we all give the same answers.  We weep at the altar then do our best to clean up and put the smile back on.  I am not saying that these things are bad- I am simply highlighting the fact that too often we THINK it’s bad.

I have heard people trying to encourage others to stop wearing a mask- to simply be who you are all the time and not try and cover it up.  I think that advice may be a little too simplistic.  It implies that when we smile on the outside while crying on the inside that somehow we are being dishonest.  I disagree.

The truth is, sometimes black and white are both true.  Sometimes we want to give our friends a smile and give God our tears.  Sometimes even we are not sure which side is true- because maybe they all are.  And that’s ok.

We are complex people, you and I.  We are mind, body, spirit, and soul.  We are experiences, thoughts, actions, and interactions.  It’s ok if all these parts don’t always line up with one another...what matters though, what always really matters, is your character throughout your complexities.

If you act one way in church and one way at home, but only one of those ways are God honoring, then that is hypocrisy.  It is ok to be going through difficult things and to wrestle with that.  It is ok to not be entirely sure of everything in your life.  It is ok for these things not to line up...but I encourage you to line 'em up with what the Bible says is pleasing to the Lord.  I have a very hard time speaking kindly when I am in pain, but I need to work on that.  I have a hard time going to prayer when I feel like going to sleep, but I need to work on that as well.  There is nothing wrong with being confused and having emotions such as anger and sadness...but I encourage you to look at all the aspects of your life and work hard to make sure that while you are going through these emotions, your actions and heart are God honoring.

I hope I am making sense.  I have no desire to try and come up with things to share with you...I only want to share my heart.  I went back and read my interview with my sister that I did on Tuesday and I thought “wow, I sound so happy and upbeat!”  I was in pain and agony that day, and yet I came across as happy.  Does that make me a hypocrite?  Am I being dishonest?  These were the thoughts I wrestled with...and these are the conclusions I came to.  I don’t have this figured out yet.  I am still somewhat in denial about my health, and I have some more stages to get through before I learn to accept it...and that doesn’t make me a hypocrite.  This is one part of who I am, but I have other parts.  I really was happy when I did that interview.  I really am excited to buy this house.  I really am angry and in a lot of pain.  

These things really do coexist.

But I don’t want to become a hypocrite to the Lord.  My prayer is that in all my ways, all the time, I will acknowledge Him.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Let's Talk- Interview With a Sister

You guys are in for a real treat today!  Many of you know that I have a sister, and you have probably heard me say things such as "oh, my sister wrote a book" or "oh, my sister lived in Africa" or "oh yea, my sister is in another play."  Well, get ready to meet the woman behind the legend!  She is the one I call when I need to feel brave, the one who got me to wear skinny jeans, and the reason my hair has blonde tips at the end.  I love my sister..she is an awesome person who has done so much in her life.  I am thrilled to have her answering some questions about her life and work...and some of these questions were even submitted by readers of this blog!  And so, I will now turn this blog over to my big sister!  (And by the way, check out the link to where you can buy her novel- it is one of my absolute favorite books and would be even if my sister didn't write it. Truly a book worth reading!)

Me and Stef a year ago

Hello everyone!  I am very honored to be interviewed today for Ashley's blog.  For those of you who don't know me, I am Stefanie DeLeo, Ashley's older sister.  I am 30 years old, single and have no kids.  As you can see, Ashley and I lead very different lives!!  I am an actress, writer, director and teacher.  People often tell me that I am an interesting person.  I have to say, however, that when I read Ashley's blog, I always think, "wow, my sister is so interesting!"  To me, my life is just normal, but I do realize that I have a unique set of experiences.  I have a publisher, I've lived in Africa and have been all over the world.  But even so, a blog written by a woman with 6 kids inspires me every week!  With that in mind, I hope that I can inspire you through this interview.  The main thing I want to express is that all of our unique life experiences are used by God to lift one another up.  Without further ado, here is an interview from a woman who grew up in the same home as Ashley - only one year apart in age - if you can believe it!!

(*Please stay tuned at the end where I am going to donate money to New Hope Church in Albany; a church that I know is near and dear to Ashley’s heart.  All you have to do is like my writer’s page on facebook and/or watch my youtube video and/or follow me on twitter and for every new like/hit, I will donate!)

What do you do for a living?
That’s a loaded question!  I am a teacher, actress, writer, director and world traveler!  My “day job” is teaching middle and high school.  I teach history and social studies as well as drama.  My hobbies/dream jobs are the latter four.  I’ve also been in the Peace Corps, where I lived in South Africa for two and a half years.

What does your typical day look like?
That depends largely on whether I am doing a show or not.  Every day I begin work at 8am.  I teach middle and high school drama, 12th grade AP Government, 6th and 10th grade World History, 8th and 11th grade United States History.  I teach until 4:10.  At that point, my day depends on if I am acting or directing.  If I am doing a show, I would go home, eat as quickly as possible, memorize lines in the shower and then go to rehearsal until 11pm.  Then weekends usually are full day rehearsals, and Sundays I make time for church.  If I am not in a show, I come home from work and put on my “comfy clothes,” work on my writing and watch tv.  About three nights a week I meet up with friends at a local coffee house or restaurant.  I was just given a private audition at a big theatre in Westport.  If I am cast, this will be the largest part I’ve even taken on as an actress.  I would be the lead in a three hour show – in every single scene!  Which basically means I won’t have a life again until the show closes.

What advice do you have for people who want to get involved in a hobby like writing, knitting or painting?
The most common complaint I get is “I have no time.”  I am a firm believer that idle time is the devil’s workshop.  I always get way more done when I’m busy than when I am not.  As you can see from my day, if I am doing a show, I also have “no time.”  The reality is that finding time is a choice and sometimes a sacrifice.  When I am doing a show, I am working nonstop from 8am until 11pm.  But, I always say to myself and others, try to squeeze 15 minutes a day for your craft.  And don’t beat yourself up if it takes you 14 minutes just to wind down and get started on whatever project it is you do.  Fifteen minutes may not sounds like a lot, but 15 minutes a day adds up to seven and a half hours a month!  That’s a full day’s work right there!  Remember that for most people, finding time is a sacrifice.  It means fifteen minutes less sleep or fifteen minutes less tv.  If you have kids or work long hours, it means fifteen minutes less of “me time.”  But here’s the trick.  Start to think of your craft as your “me time.”  For some of you, it may be tackling a huge organizational project and for some of you, it’s scrapbooking.  Instead of thinking of it as losing “me time,” start to think it as making time for “me time.”  When I write, that is my “me time.”

Tell us about your travels.
Currently, I have been to 19 countries, 5 continent and 27 US states.  I live to travel!  My favorite countries are Italy, Iceland and Kenya.  Though I will always have a heart for South Africa.  Japan was a country I enjoyed more than I expected to and I ate the best in Argentina!

Erica asked what it was like growing up with Ashley!  I love this question!
As you can tell, Ashley and I are very different people!  So as young kids, I saw her as the carefree bratty sister that was only one year younger.  Our minimal age gap meant lots of competition and an overlap of friends, which drove me nuts as a kid!  She was the very typical carefree younger sibling, and I was the very typical rigid, neat and “fair” older sister with a thirst for justice on even the smallest offense.  By the time we got to middle school, we were best friends.  We found a church youth group and our friends overlapped, so we learned to think of each other as friends.  As adults, we’re just as different from one another as we were as kids, but in different ways.  She has stayed put for about nine years, and I cannot remember anyplace that I’ve lived for longer than a few years.  But we both still ask each other for advice since we know we can offer such a different perspective than our usual circle of friends.

Lori asked what the thing I miss most about South Africa is and if I am planning a visit.
I think the people and the scenery.  I made some amazing friends over there.  I also miss the constant feeling of “oh my gosh, I live in AFRICA!”  That honestly never got old even though I was there for two and a half years!  As for going back, I did go back to visit in February of 2011, and as much as I miss it, I have to be honest, that is probably it for a while.  There are just so many places in the world that I still want to see.  It’s also a 20 hour flight to South Africa, and that really does make me exhausted.  I need at least two weeks to make that type of trip worth it.

Where is your next trip?
California on Wednesday! (Feb 13).  I’ve already been there several times, but I am in love with Los Angeles and could possibly see living there one day, even if only for a summer or a year or two...who knows?  I have a pen pal in Northern Ireland that I’ve been writing to since I was 12 years old.  That means we’ve been writing for almost 19 years and I’ve never met her!  We are very much in touch, but need to get to Ireland!  Greece is also high on my list along with New Zealand.  I would like to hit all seven continents, so that would mean getting to Australia and Antarctica and YES I do plan to do both!

Jennifer asked if I ever get tired of people asking “When are you going to get married?”  How do I respond and am I afraid of losing any of my freedom.
This is an interesting question.  Thanks, Jennifer!  I actually almost never get asked this question.  Many of my circle of friends are more like me, and the thought of marriage at the ripe young age of 30 would be crazy!  In fact, more people ask, with intrigue, if my sister ever regrets getting married so young.  It’s all about perspective, I guess.  However, there are still people who ask me that question, and many single women my age do have to confront this question at some point.  My knee jerk reaction is to say that this is an insulting question, because it’s usually is asked in a way that implies that I am somehow missing something.  Which, as a believer, I know that if I follow God, I won’t miss a thing – married or unmarried!  Most people have made choices, in their lives, based on their wants and desires.  But, other times, we have to submit to God’s wants and desires for our lives.  So I am as happily unmarried as many of you may be happily married.  Do I EVER want to get married?  Yes, one day, in God’s timing I would like to get married.  And I am not afraid of losing my freedom, because my husband would have to be a nomadic spirit just like me.  The right guy will only give me more freedom, not less.  I would say freedom is very subjective.  We are all free to do as we wish.  If you made the choice to have kids, than that is the freedom of raising kids.  One day, I hope to adopt kids (slightly older like 4 or 5).  To me, when I make that choice to adopt, that will be a new type of freedom.  I won’t see it as the end of my travels, it will be the beginning of providing a life for someone else – and hopefully, God willing, my kids will be my new travel buddies!  My advice to anyone who is married, single, with children, or without is to recognize the freedoms we all have.  The freedoms to work within God’s will.  We’re all part of the Church body, and some of us need to be raising the next generation, while others act as ambassadors of Christ all over the world.  Sometimes, the blessing of being single is being able to serve others (overseas or in our own neighborhood) selflessly without the guilt of leaving my family.  I let God be the author of my life, and when He puts my husband before me, then (and only then) will the time be right.  Until then, I take advantage of all the things I know I can only do while I am single – because that is where God wants me at the moment.

Sarah asked what I spend most of my money on.
Traveling and food.  I love to travel and any extra dime I get goes on planning a vacation.  I also love to go out to eat.  My hair, clothes and all those other things are secondary to traveling.

Matt asked during my travels, what was the most unique thing/experience I came across?
Well, I could tell country-specific stories.  But for anyone thinking of traveling, but are maybe afraid or timid, I’ve chosen to talk about an interesting airport story.  I’ve been on a plane alone many times flying all over the world.  The one most unique travel experience actually happened in an airport.  I was flying home alone ahead of my group from Kenya.  The only way to not buy a new ticket was to fly the exact same route back to the US that I had flown coming to Kenya.  That meant flying from Nairobi to Uganda to Belgium to Washington DC to Kansas City, then on to Chicago then finally home to New York.  And I was all alone.  Every leg of my flight was overbooked or canceled for some reason.  In Belgium I was told my ticket was invalid and I had to pay for a new one.  I was there for six hours arguing my way out of buying a new ticket.  Then, I ended up stuck in Washington with my luggage on a plane to Kansas City and me bumped off the flight.  I slept in DC, argued my way into a direct flight to New York only to have that flight canceled due to thunderstorms in New York!  It took me days to get home, but I met so many amazing people from all over the world.  We all sort of became a community.  We were a community that only crossed paths for a few hours, but that bonding helped me get through a very stressful couple of days.  To say I was stressed was an understatement.  I called my parents and basically threw adult tantrums.  It really was the people along the way that helped me get through it.  I’ve slept in airports all over the world, and so far I rank Dullus as the worst for sleeping and Israel and Dubai’s airports as the best!

What are some things that you’ve written that have found success?
Several of my plays have been produced in New York City, Minnesota, Kentucky, Connecticut and South Africa.  One of my plays Worth a Thousand Words was picked up by a publisher and is now being sold on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  I also have a book that is self-published (being sold on Amazon and Barnes and Noble).  That book is called Cry My Safari.  My play, Answer the Question Iris was co-written by myself and J.M., and that play has won three festivals and can be seen on youtube!

Now my shameless plugs!  For every new like on my facebook page, every new hit on my youtube video and every new follower on twitter, I will donate 15 cents to New Hope Church!  Get me up to a thousand likes and hits and that’s $150 for New Hope!  You have 7 days for this offer!!

Here are links to my facebook page (please like my writer’s page!) as well as my youtube video and links to buy my book or play!

Facebook Writer’s Page:

Youtube video of my play Answer the Question, Iris – only 9 minutes and very funny!

My twitter page:

My book on amazon:

My book on Barnes and Noble:

My play on Amazon:

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Redeemed

I took one on the chin this week.  Remember how I said that all the stuff for the house is done and now we sit and wait for closing?  Well, apparently things can happen while you wait.

There is a chance this is going to fall through.

I won't go into details until things finish playing out, but there is a chance this could fall through and we won't get the house.  Those of you who have been following this blog know that things have not exactly been easy in my life.  I am trying to handle things with as much grace as I can muster, but this one just did me in.  I was out grocery shopping when Jeff called me with the news that we might not get the house.  To say I got upset is an understatement.  It was as if the weight of the past few years just suddenly came crashing down on me.  I just started crying right there in the store.  Not just a few tears...Im talking all out weeping, shoulders shaking, blotchy face crying.  In the middle of Walmart.  In my pajama pants.

Ok, so in my defense they were yoga pants, not pajama pants.  But about feeling like you are at your lowest.  I just walked around trying to finish my shopping ignoring the fact that the tears would just not stop.  I finally said a prayer- a prayer I never pray.  I asked God to please, please just give me a sign.  Just any small sign that He was still there- that I was going to be OK.  I never pray like that mainly because who am I to ask GOD for a sign?  The cross is the only sign I will ever need to know that He is still there and that I- my very soul- will be OK.  But He answered my prayer in spite of myself.

As I started loading my things at the register, the cashier told me that he liked my sweatshirt.  I immediately felt there was more going on then meets the eye.  You see, I was wearing an old, ratty, gray sweatshirt...but it said Zion Bible College on it.  The cashier was very friendly and he asked me if I was ok.  So of course I instantly start bawling, failing miserably at keeping any sign of composure.  I mumbled something about our house falling through, but I just could not stop crying.  This wonderful young man proceeded to tell me to stay positive and that if it doesn't work out, then it's for a reason.  He then told me that he has had a very difficult time in his life lately, but that a friend gave him some advice and it changed his life.  Thats when I knew...this man was a believer.  I gave him a hug, wishing there were no customers behind me so we could keep talking.

Maybe I was wrong.  Maybe he is just a really nice guy who likes old gray sweatshirts.  But my spirit tells me otherwise.  I saw a man whose face was lit up with more than just kindness and a good attitude...I saw Jesus in him.  I cannot even tell you how much that blessed me.  His love, his kindness, and the fact that his soul has been redeemed and it showed.

I needed that reminder.  I needed to be reminded about the only thing that matters, which is not whether I get this house or not.  I have been too distracted to always remember what this life is really all about.  Jeff talked to the lawyer and there really is a 95% chance that we are going to get this house.  But when you have spent the last few years living in the 5%, you can't help but think that surely this will not turn out well.

So I don't know.  Maybe I will be blogging next Friday about how excited we are to be moving forward with closing.  Maybe I will be writing through my tears telling you that things have not gone as we planned.  But no matter what happens, nothing can take what happened today away from me.  Nothing will get me to forget what it looks like when someone has recently given their heart to Jesus...the problems are still there, but the spirit is so beautifully free.  I may be beaten down, but my spirit is as free to soar as I will let it.

I guess that is what it always comes down to.  Simply Jesus.

**And just to let you all know, this Tuesday's blog is going to be featuring an interview with Stefanie DeLeo- published playwright, Peace Corps veteran, world-traveller...and my sister!  Going to ask her questions about her work and her experiences, and also going to ask her some "wouldn't-you-like-to-know" kinds of questions.  Looking forward to having her on here, hope you can tune in! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Let's Talk- Almost There!

I am going to apologize in advance, because if the topic of home-buying doesn't interest you, then this may be boring!  Surprisingly enough, I have gotten a lot of questions about the process, so I am going to answer the "what happened next?" questions.  But there is one question on child discipline at the end if you're interested!  I was out with some girlfriends yesterday and we chatted about discipline, so I will be sharing a tidbit on that.

1)  When does a closing date get set?
I mentioned in an earlier post that we have a tentative closing date of feb. 28th.  When you sit down with your real estate agent to sign a bunch of papers and make your first offer on a house, that is when you choose a closing date.  You leave enough room for everything to get done and you choose a date.

2) Ok, so you made an offer, it got what?
After an offer is accepted get ready to move at a pretty fast pace.  You have 3 days for your lawyer to look over the paperwork and approve it (we just used the lawyer from our bank/lender- we never even spoke to him, the paperwork just went to him).  The you have 10 days to have any inspections done that you want.  If you do it past the 10 days, then if something is wrong it doesn't release you from your contract to buy the house.  So get it all done within the 10 days so you have a chance to back out if something is wrong.   If inspections come back bad, you either walk away or negotiate with the seller as to who is going to fix the problems. If all inspections show that everything is ok then an appraisal is done on the house.  You need to pay for this- for us it was around $350.  Because you can only borrow up to 90% (I think thats the amount) of the house value, it is important for the house to not come in less than what you agreed to pay for it, otherwise you may not be able to finance the whole house.  But if it comes in at the right amount, then you proceed.  You will be getting a letter in the mail from your lender either approving or denying your loan.  If they approve it, there may be some "conditions"- for example, we got our loan approval letter and ours was contingent on our turning in a couple more things (a signed letter saying we will get flood insurance, proof of our tax return, etc.).  So once you get those things back to them that they ask for- thats it.  You sit and wait until closing.

3) Anything else?
Well, we have not closed yet so I really can't answer this with finality, but there are a few more tid-bits you should know.  You will have to have homeowners insurance before you close.  You have to pay for an entire year's worth immediately and bring proof of that at closing.  Also, anything over $1000 that goes into your bank account needs to be accounted for.  It is fine if a family member wants to help you financially, but don't just deposit their check into your account or it will get questioned.  You can receive up to $10,000 as a gift, but you have to fill out paperwork before just taking that money and depositing in your account.  So just be aware and do your best to keep your bank account free of any major transactions until the process is over.

4) Ok, here is the discipline one.  The general topic was about how to effectively discipline, and here were my thoughts, which were my friends' thoughts as well.
Consistency and love.  Your goal is to break their will but not their spirit.  You are to train them in love, and the best way to train is with consistency.  It really does not matter what the actual punishment is, as long as it is effective and given every single time.  Punishments vary with each child at each stage.  Find out what works for your child- dont just use a standard punishment.  The goal is to have something happen that they do not like so they are trained not to do the undesirable behavior.  Once you find a suitable consequence, you MUST ENFORCE IT EVERY TIME!  Yes it is tiring, but unfortunately there is no way around it.  If you are inconsistent, then you will not see an improvement in the behavior you are trying to correct.  Love your kids enough to see that they are molded and shaped correctly.  There is nothing wrong with loving your child through a punishment either, but you must refrain from getting into negotiating.  You do not even have to yell- you just need to calmly enforce the rules and explain why, but thats it.  Do not respond to their pleas, attempts to negotiate, etc.  If my kids have a big tantrum about it, I simply put them in their rooms and explain that they may come out when they are done.  End of story.  Discipline is a loving act and you need to see it that way.  Yes it is hard to see your kid upset, but you love them enough to gently and firmly work out behaviors that are not pleasing to the Lord.

Well I hope you all have a wonderful week!  I hope to be blogging soon about my new house, and I promise to post pics when the time comes.  See you all on Friday!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Gangster's Paradise

Last week, I did something spontaneous.  For those of you with kids, you can appreciate why this is such a big deal.  My husband works a double on Fridays, so I am home all day and night with the kids.  But I heard that there was a youth event at the church my husband and I used to minster at, and I really wanted to go.  So I called my friend and asked her to go with me, then called my brother-in-law to come babysit the kids.  And I actually pulled it off- I went out on a Friday night!

Going back to New Hope Church in Albany was incredible.  These were the people I spent 5 years laughing and crying with, praying and fasting with, learning and growing with, and serving the community with.  I looked around at the youth group, which was filled with kids I used to teach in Sunday School and suddenly ached at not still being there.  There is so much I miss about it.  I miss the strong sense of family that you feel when you are with them.  I miss the thick blend of cultures that is so prevalent there.  Being in an inner city church, you see a wide variety of people and it's a great feeling to be around and learn about so many different people.  For me it was Little House on the Prairie meets Dangerous Minds.  I arrived as a white girl, and left as a white girl who was able to make mac n cheese and rice and beans, correctly use phrases such as "mad hot", "yo, that's wack", and "talkin' smack"....and I even learned how to correctly do this:

                                                               (yes, this is really me)

But it was so much more than that.  The pastor and his wife that we served under became invaluable to me.  They did more than teach me...they showed me.  They showed me how to pray.  They showed me how to fast.  They showed me how to take care of a church and a community.  In fact, I didn't even get to see Pastor because there was a fire in their neighborhood that night and in his true fashion, he was busy meeting whatever needs he could of the people involved.  I was broken down and rebuilt while I was there.  I am eternally indebted to the work they did on my soul.  

And I wished I was back there.

The feeling didn't last long...just long enough to pierce my heart a little.  No matter how much I love them or how much I believe in what they are doing, I can't go back.  God's Hand keeps us moving along on the path He has for us.  The past is always a tempting place to go, especially when your present is difficult.  But we must keep moving forward- keep pressing on so we can fulfill all He has for us to do.  Don't be fooled into thinking that going backward will make things better...don't ever forget that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind can imagine the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.  So you need to keep walking forward.

I am grateful for the time I spent at New Hope...and now I must take what I learned with me and give it to others.  I need to use my past to push my future.  You cannot stay idle and you cannot live off of yesterday's bread.  You need a fresh Word and a fresh touch for today.  It doesn't matter how you got here or even whether or not you want to be here- you ARE here.  So take it and live it with all you've got. will not end in vain.

**In dedication to Keith and Susan Davey.  Your lives taught me my greatest lessons.  Your love and sacrifice are reaping a harvest so vast that you will never be able to measure it in this life.  I love you...and I've always got your back.