Not too Proud for Pennies

‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Matthew 25:21

Believe it or not, a lot of people will walk down a sidewalk and skip over an abandoned penny. “Oh! It’s just a penny!” they’ll say.

Not my mom, she always told me not to be too proud for a penny. She instilled in me that no blessing was too small. If we deny the small blessings, why would He give us bigger ones?

Another way you could look at it, is that those penny moments add up to make the big blessings.

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I was reminded of this life lesson when I was on a walk with Tap two days ago.  I hadn’t seen it, but he dropped down and grabbed a penny.

“It was even face up!” he exclaimed through his smile and put it in his pocket.  At the time, I retold the lesson my mom had shared with me.  (She even picked up the pennies that were face down.)

The very next day, on our walk, we both paused and looked down at some crumpled trash on the ground.

It deserved a second look…

It was a five dollar bill!

“Well, would you look at that!” Tap reached down and added the bill to his pocket where his penny still sat. One blessing accepted, a second to follow.

We were surprised, and laughed at the little blessing… we remarked about the coincidences and let the thoughts of my mom’s life lesson turn in our heads.

I don’t expect a bill to follow every penny, but I want to always keep my eyes peeled for the blessings in each and every day.  I want to be sure I don’t pass them up, and that I’m not too proud to notice or appreciate them.  They are all gifts, and they were lavishly given to me.

What are some small blessings you stopped to admire today? What are some blessings you’ve passed over recently?

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Travis & Molly

Travis is my brother, closest to me in age, and I have the most childhood memories with him.  I’m sure I was the annoying little sister who always got in the way, but he didn’t make me feel this way too often.  More often then not he showed me that he was proud of me and loved me.

At Zion, on one of my first days of school, I ran out of class trying to chase after my mom who snuck out of the classroom.  She was already long gone, and Travis found me in the halls.  He made me feel better and helped me back to class.  Him and his friend created a Carnival night for me and my niece and nephew.  They pushed us around in toy cars like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, we rode a wagon down the drive way like splash mountain, and did all sorts of fun things.  He was constantly using his imagination to come up with fun games that evened the playing field between our 6 years age difference.  We played shutoff, legos, and built computers out of carboard and folders.  He taught me how to be creative, and how to draw.  We watched anime together, told nerdy jokes, and played video games.  He even let me visit him in the college dorms, and never let me feel like a burden.

Travis is smart, super loving and thoughtful, and insanely creative.  I have always wanted to draw like him, and to have the imagination he shares.

Travis and I

Molly is my sister, who would be closest to me in age.  She touched my whole family’s life, but I did not get the chance to meet her.  She was innocent and beautiful.  I often wonder what it would have been like to have her around… someone to share clothes with, to fight over boys with, and share a bedroom with…. But in reality she paved the way for me to be born.  I wish it could have been both of us together, not one or the other.  But I’ll meet her someday, and I will get to see along with the rest of my family, how she grew up and what her personality shaped up to be.

 

Troy Lowe & Jennie Prather

Troy is my oldest brother. I don’t remember too much from my childhood. I knew I was never allowed in his room, and his door was always shut.  I visited him in his apartment, in his first tiny house, then later in Chicago, Florida, and even Minnesota.  My mom said she was worried that, because of our large age difference, we would never bond.

We did.  Eventually, I would get to stay the night at his place and do nails with his wife Jantina.  We would watch cool movies and t.v. shows that I didn’t watch back home.  They taught me videogames and how to use a tivo.  However, we really connected over karate. I had so much respect for my brother, I wanted to do something like him.  My mom refused to sign me up, so I asked him if he would when he was visiting.  He did, and then I was in karate.  It gave us something to talk about, and when he moved back to Illinois, it gave us something to do together.  I loved sharing that with him, the car ride, the class, and so much more.  We would go to Sunday School together, we would talk about faith, we would play board games, and we would do karate.

Troy is my big brother, who I know will always protect and love me.  He is black and white, and gives you a straight answer when you ask.  He is faithful to his wife, and He is faithful to God.

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Jennie is my hip sister, she claims she’s the middle child, but there is no middle of 6.  She would babysit me and let me and Travis call in to Nickelodeon.  I’d watch her eat crackers and would do workout videos with her.  She took me on a lot of her dates to Chuck-e-Cheese and Jungle O’Fun.  She taught me how to line dance, and how to have fun.

We drowned her car together, she took me to the newest Disney movies like Parent Trap and Anastasia, she watched me throw up in a movie theatre… haha.  She encourages me to work out and teaches me how to do it well.  She answers my texts right away even when they are out of the blue.  She knows all things Disney, and is willing to help anyone plan their next magical vacation even though it probably makes her a little jealous each and every time.

Jennie is fun-loving, and laughs longer than anyone I know.  Her laugh is contagious and makes me happy.  If you want to feel young, she knows how to do it and show you a good time.

Jennie and I

Katie Hoinacki & Amie Kenney

Katie is my oldest sister and my second mom.  Her children, Kallie & Ethan, were so close to my age that they were my best friends.  To outsiders they would think that we are cousins.  Growing up, I was always at Katie’s house on Frorer. We would climb the tree and fall out of it with sap all over our hands.  We would play in the basement and do mischievous things.  A lot of the time we would play legos or hide n go seek.

In my memory, Katie and Jeff were always watching me.  I’m sure this involved a lot of time, supervision, meals, and discipline.  I distinctly remember a few spanking’s from Jeff.  As I grew up, Katie’s role shifted from a motherly figure to a true sister and friend.  We could mutually share and confide in one another, encourage each other, and cry together.

Katie has a good heart, the best of intentions, and truly desires to make all people happy.  She is fun and goofy, and the social butterfly, not afraid to be silly.

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Amie is the second oldest, my twin, and my mentor.  Before she had children of her own, she treated me like hers.  As a baby I slept in her room, showered with her, and ate her licorice.  I don’t remember a lot of what she did for me, but I know it from pictures and stories.  She also spoiled me at Christmas and with sleepovers.  I loved to make elevators in her tree, and play school in her basement.

By highschool she went from my sister to my teacher and mentor.  She was always my sounding board, and would hear me vent and listen to my drama.  She would read and discuss books with me that would solidify my worldview and shape my character.  She knew things about me that others did not, and she kept them when she could.

Amie is tough on the outside, but soft on the inside.  She is full of empathy and understanding, she only speaks the truth, and her stubbornness has made her successful.

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My sisters have influenced who I am today. I look up to them and admire them, and see small pieces of them in myself.  They are constant and stable, more than any friend.  They have certainly spent many “minutes” on me.

Our Christmas Story

As everyone starts making their way back to work, we ask one another, “How was your Holiday?” “How was Christmas?”  It is so hard to summarize the answer in the snippet they are really asking for, but to put it shortly: it was wonderful and too short!

The Christmas Eve service went so well that an old pastor came up and thanked my husband for his hard work, saying it was “the best Christmas Eve service my wife and I have seen.”  What a compliment!  I am so proud of my husband, who worked endlessly to pull together a team and a service to truly reflect the true Christmas story.  He worked hard to keep his focus on Christ during all of the extra practices and late nights.  Opening with a devotional and prayer, he tried to point everyone’s eyes up.  After the service we left in a pre-packed car and headed to Illinois.

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We pulled in at an early 11:30pm, with my parents and brothers waiting up.  Crashing into our beds shortly after, and waking to the traditional jingle bells in the morning, it was Christmas.  This year we slowed down our festivities to watch every single gift be opened.  It was wonderful pacing it down and seeing the excitement and joy spread on everyone’s face.

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With paper-crowns adorning everyone’s head, we had the traditional brunch .  We watched nieces and nephews open all their toys.  They cried with appreciation, and jumped with joy.  Siblings grabbed their stockings and tore open all the trinkets others had lovingly chosen.

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My most-surprising gift came from the most surprising person, my 16 year old nephew, Noah.  Noah worked at DQ over the summer and saved his money up to buy me a very big and special present.  He handed me a large box and I immediately thought of the times he spent teaching me how to long-board.  I once mentioned to him that I’d buy his board if he ever upgraded…. But as I began to open it, it wasn’t his board inside.  It was a beautiful sandy blonde board that looked just like a retro surf board, one I had spoken of before.  He had bought me a brand new board, with custom trucks and my favorite colour turqouise wheels.  He picked each piece and put it together himself.  The hand-me-down would have shocked me, but this selfless thoughtful gift had made me cry.  I am so very thankful for the relationship I have with Noah, and I wish I could be closer to be the cool aunt he could come run to when he needed advice.  Although I am states away, his selfless gift told me he was close to me anyways. I am pretty sure I cried at the overwhelming love I felt, and I am holding back tears now.

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I can’t wait to move closer to my family that I love so much.  I want to longboard with my nephew, have sleepovers with my niece, to do karate with my brother… Someday that will be my Christmas gift.

IMG_7716IMG_7712But just look at all these happy faces!

Virgil & Kathleen Lowe

My mom and dad were, of course, two of the most influential people in my life.  They have both been there for me no matter what.  In my teen years when I thought they didn’t know a thing, when in reality they had the wisdom I needed the most, they were there. They held on strong when I was pushing away, because they knew better than I did that I would need them.  They wiped away the tears, they encouraged me to strive for better, they reminded me to be humble, but they were there to catch me when I’d fall.

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My mom inspires me by her strength.  Everything she has faced in her childhood, and how she grew up too fast, the responsibility she took up without being asked- She is strong and still today she holds our family together and she is a fighter.  She always displayed a strong work ethic, family-first values, and most importantly a free-giving faith.  God has held her close and she always praises Him for His protection.  She taught me about the comfort God gave her throughout all the trials in her life, and she showed me her unwavering faith.

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My dad inspires me by his wisdom.  Throughout my childhood, I could always count on dad to know the scriptures, to answer my questions, and to always fold reason and faith together in every answer to life’s problems.  He relies on God heavily, and gives every day to the Lord. He never misses a beat, He knows that God is in every thread and every fabric of our life and he never answers without acknowledging God’s role in the situation.

They taught me to work hard, to put my faith in God, and to love others.  When I messed up they showed me grace and forgiveness.  When I needed counsel they were always there with answers and prayers.  When I didn’t believe in myself, which is often, they believed in me.  My dad is always breathing life into my dreams saying that He knows God has something in mind for me.  They are my cheerleaders, and I love them so very much.  They have instilled in me to be an adventurer and a believer.

Christmas Shopping on a Budget

My husband and I are still in the stage of life where we love to give gifts, but we have to keep them in a budget.  With three sisters and two brothers of my own combined with Tappy’s three brothers and a sister… AND! if you want to count them: all of the significant others, eleven nieces and nephews, and so on and so forth… It simply adds up!  However, we love them all so much and think of them often, it can be hard not to get them something.  Here are a few ideas of how to do this while maintaining a budget.

Help find the “perfect gift” for other shoppers.

As my husband and I are shopping, we see items that would be perfect for him or her, but are out of our budget.  So I found a fun little loop-hole.  Anytime this happens, I text other family members who are still on the hunt and offer to pick up these items for them to give this Holiday season.  I have made myself a Christmas Elf parading as a shopping assistant.  That way I can think of others, find the “perfect” gift, without spending a dime… of my own.

* if you do this, try the Cash App! It is an easy and quick way to be reimbursed.

Make Something.

Another way we have kept our gifts in a budget is by making gifts.  In the past we have made Sharpie Mugs, Christmas ornaments, Sugar Scrubs (only 4 ingredients!), Roasted Pecans, and hand-knit scarves. There are tons of crafty ideas on pinterest!  The key is to make something that is still desirable or practical.

ModPodge Ornament of Memories

ModPodge Ornament of Memories

Tapscott Tested and Approved

Old Fashioned Roasted Pecans

The Cozy Old Farmhouse – DIY Sharpie Mug

The cheapest ingredients for a scrub!

Stephanie Lynn’s Vanilla Brown Sugar Scrub

Get Creative, see your budget as a fun challenge.

For those who are competitive, I know you will rise to the occasion!  Set a budget, whether it be under $5 or $20.  Then race to find the best deal or most unique present within your limits. Most individuals who value gifts as a way they feel loved and appreciated, don’t actually care about the price.  They care that you have picked up on something about them and remembered it.  For example, seeing that they always carry “extra” gum in their purse, or how they never seem to have socks without holes, or how they could really use a new ice-scraper.

Be attentive. Prove that you listen, you notice, and you care.

Wrap it Up for a King.

I am a firm believer that any present, big or small, can feel special if it is wrapped properly.  Putting in that extra effort to present your gift in a magical way, will make your loved ones feel extra special.  For example, I tied twine around each scarf and tied a bow through a button to give it an extra touch of love.

Check out other great wrapping ideas here, on my pinterest board for gift wrap.

To conclude, here are my 4 tips:

  1. Help find the “perfect gift” for other shoppers.
  2. Make Something.
  3. Get Creative, see your budget as a fun challenge.
  4. Wrap it Up for a King.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Can you believe it? It’s Thanksgiving already! I survived the drive (because my husband let me sleep), and was able to wake up to the smell of my mom’s kitchen, the sound of family laughter mixed with the Thanksgiving parade, and the warm feeling of being home for the Holiday.

I can’t wait to eat up on a few traditional favorites: Mom’s homemade noodles and marshmallow fruit salad.  I am excited to see my family, especially the Aunts and Uncles that I normally don’t.  Then tonight my mother-in-law is making bacon-wrapped dates just for me!

However, most of all, I look forward to standing in the circle of all my loved ones.  Staring into the faces of my family as they take their turn sharing their favorite blessings this year.  Wrapped up with a prayer of thanksgiving to the Gift-Giver Himself.  I am so thankful to have a family that credits God for everything, and who chose to demonstrate it throughout their lives- even during the bustle of a holiday.

As you know, to prepare my heart for Thanks, I have been counting down the days with a thankful thought.  I’ll be honest, I stopped posting them on twitter around number 18… But I have plenty to be Thankful for… more than 27 things, but here’s my list.

  1.  Sitting on the couch, nestled between my parents.
  2.  Christmas decorations- The warm glow of a snowy evergreen.
  3.  Ghirardelli Turtle Brownies… especially the corners.
  4.  Waking up to my husband’s handsome face every morning.
  5.  My husband’s unpredictable morning hair.
  6.  An evening with absolutely no commitments.
  7.  Heaters to keep me warm.
  8.  A day full of small favorites.
  9.  My husband knowing how to use a toolbox. He fixed my jewelry cabinet!
  10.  Communion at Church, and open honest discussion in Sunday School.
  11.  Dinner with friends.
  12.  When my husband jams with his buddies, making rockin’ songs to the Lord.
  13.  Meeting someone new.
  14.  Cuddling up to my husband and enjoying some cookies.
  15.  Watching a good, wholesome, T.V. show with my husband to unwind.
  16.  Saturdays, our All-Day Date day.
  17.  When my husband gets to play drums at Church.
  18.  Church parties, like the Battle of the Ages.
  19.  Beautiful Snow-Covered Trees.
  20.  Safe travels.
  21.  Surprising my husband.
  22.  Laughing at the Ellen Show.
  23.  Being a part of something bigger than myself.
  24.  Being my husband’s teammate, and co-teaching a Sunday School class.
  25.  God talking to me through someone or something else.
  26.  The ability to travel with ease.
  27.  Catching my little nephew under the mistletoe.

What are you thankful for this year? Do you have any traditions that keep the reason for the season at the heart of your celebrations?

My Grandmas

Grandmas always have a very special place in your heart… That no one else can fill, and no one else can compare to.  Grandmas are different, so different, than moms or anyone else.

Both of my Grandparents died when I was fairly young, and I have always desired to know them better, been wiser to appreciate the times I did have with them… The one who couldn’t see, and the one who couldn’t hear… My little mind could never comprehend that Grandma had a name other than Grandma.

One was Grandma Eileen: the one who couldn’t see well, but told the best stories about me and my sisters and my pink pony. She would always get me this icecream that was packaged as a log and it had the fanciest lacey carved sides, and she would slice me a piece. She would always serve Macaroni and cheese with shell noodles on a paper plate.  We would watch The Price is Right.  One time I came over and she didn’t have a surprise for me, so she led me into her bedroom and let me pick out a pink lipstick to keep, all of my own.  When she lived in my room I would go up and play her a song on my toy harp, and no matter what she would say it sounded beautiful.  When she was dying, I didn’t understand.  I wouldn’t come downstairs, because I was drawing her a picture and it wasn’t perfect yet.

Grandma Eileen

The other, Grandma Lowe: the one who couldn’t hear, but was always making something with yarn watching the Golden Girls.  We’d always go to visit her… I always wanted to be the one who called to ask for the door to be unlocked, and the one who got to push the button that led us up to her floor.  She was strong, she lost her husband and a son.  I wish I knew her story, I wish I asked and listened.

Grandma Lowe

Marilyn: The grandma I didn’t expect.  She was my niece and nephew’s grandma, my two best friends.  They shared her with me.  We would go to her house and play in her basement all day.  She took me to miniature shows where we got to buy the cutest tiniest things and create rooms out of them in the base of her lamps.  She taught me how to quill, and she’d sew anything I ever needed fixed.  She made me adorable kitchen curtains when I got married.  We both love turquoise, and our kitchens are like sisters.  She aged, but her mind stayed sharp- she had the funniest one liners that you would never expect. “I was going to dress as lady gaga for Halloween, but I didn’t have enough meat in my freezer.”

Marilyn

They are all home now.  That’s the best part….  This isn’t goodbye, because they all clung to Jesus in their heart.

I am sad, but I am so glad this isn’t the end… How relieving is that?!