Friday, December 31, 2010

Winners: & Pear Tree Photo Card giveaways

 The winner of the giveaway was Betty C. She'll be receiving a skirt, top or dress from
The winner of the 16 Pear Tree New Years Resolution cards was Shanda S.

Congratulations to the winners! Both have been contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond.

Right now I am running the Ma Mi Skin Care giveaway. Keep your eyes open for several other giveaways (including another giveaway!) that will be posted in the coming weeks! Have a happy New Year!


Obligatory End of Year Wrap-Up

Augmented BLT wrapphoto © 2010 Matej Novak | more info (via: Wylio)

First of all, I can tell that I call wraps "warps" all the time around here because I typed "wrap-up" as "warp-up" like three times before I spelled it correctly. So there's that.


If I had to use a word to describe this year it would be surprising.
I was surprised by Jason's announcement.
I was surprised by the generous reactions of our family and friends.
I was surprised by the depth of community that I found both online and offline.
I was surprised by the growth of this blog.
I was surprised by the depth of my doubt.
I was surprised by the love that I still feel from God.
Thank you for helping to make this a fantastic year. I'm really excited about some of the surprises that 2011 has in store for all of us.

Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Eve Service

Release the Kraken!

No, wait. Not the Kraken.

Release the CRC Finding Christmas Christmas Eve Service!

I'm so super stoked to be able to share this service with you! Everyone did a remarkable job and it's just about the coolest thing I've ever participated in. I can't believe I get to play with musicians this incredibly talented.

The video runs just over an hour, but be sure to check out the Trans-Siberian Orchestra piece at the beginning. And the hilarious Culps sketch after it. And the beautiful candle-lighting at the end. And the JJ Heller song in the middle. And Tim's thoughts.

Yeah, you'd better just watch the whole thing.


Not Alone Series Recap (Part 2)

lunchtime hugphoto © 2006 paddy patterson | more info (via: Wylio)

This is part two of the Not Alone series recap. Again, I am just so incredibly thankful to those who have already shared and to those who will be sharing in the future. It means so much to me to have people choose to be vulnerable here. I hope that everyone who has contributed knows that they are life changers. They have my deepest gratitude for their friendship and their vulnerability.

Anyway, here are the last four entries in the series. We'll be having a little break until I get all set up at the new blog. Laura over at Eight Days Designs has me slated to go live by January 9th, so sometime that week! If you're at all interested in contributing to the series, you can shoot me an email and we can talk about it. Thanks for reading these posts! And remember, if you deal with depression, you are not alone.

  • Joanna Ross: The Panic Room -- It was about 2 AM when I woke up, gasping for air.  My chest felt as if it was being crushed.  My body was paralyzed.  The beating of my heart was deafening and seemed to race out of control.  Was I having a heart attack?  An asthma attack?  A stroke?  A seizure?  I was terrified to close my eyes.  I blinked.  My eyes darted toward my bedroom door, but I couldn’t even open my mouth to call for help. I felt like I was choking.  The heaviness on my chest surrounded me like a lead straightjacket.  There seemed to be a sinkhole in my bed, and I was being sucked into it.  Only I couldn’t fight it.  I could only feel myself slowly sinking into it.  I was sure I was about to die. Suddenly, I was no longer being pulled down, but lifted up.   I was experiencing depersonalization, which is when you feel completely detached from your body.  I looked down and watched myself as if I were in a dream. It was almost two hours until my body began to calm and I was able to move and speak.  It was petrifying to feel a complete loss of control over my own body as I lay, trapped in my own little panic room. (read more)
  • Megan Wright: Through the Mirror Dimly -- In all honesty I probably experienced post partum depression with my first child but never really admitted it and it was not bad enough to warrant serious concerns. After my second child was born there was no denying the awful anxiety and accompanying depression  For me the anxiety was stifling and terrifying. Even the simple things in life created anxious spiraling thoughts. My heart raced and my breathing was labored. I never knew what might bring it on but I would mentally, emotionally and physically jump from A to Z in a few seconds. (read more)
  • Chuck Larish: Getting Better: Running to Find Myself -- I couldn't believe it. The worst case scenario I had imagined had just come true. I had no job, no career, no prospects, no goals, and no dreams for the future.  How could this have happened?  The previous year, I had been a teacher, directing a music technology program at a community college, a job that turned out to be much too far over my head and just two years earlier in 2008, I'd been a brand new dad with a five-month-old son in an audio production career that I loved with a job that I didn't but was decent enough.  When I quit my job at the college in May 2010, I was sure that I had a new gig at Big Toy Company, that my triumphant return to professional audio production was waiting for me.  My career had been progressing rapidly but now there was nothing but silence. (read more)
  • Tamara Lunardo: You Are Not Alone -- I've only just begun it, but I can already tell you: Writing about depression is hard. Writing about my faltering faith, my personality defects, my physical flaws, my parenting struggles-- that's easy. That's stuff everyone goes through; I know I'm not alone. But Depression is a sinister demon, and it's a damn good liar, and it loves to whisper, "You're all alone." (read more)

Thanks to all for making this possible.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Etsy Shop

So I finally took the plunge (especially with the upcoming Handmade with Love hop coming up in a couple of months) and opened up an Etsy store. I've been crocheting for about 8 years and knitting for a little over 2 and this is just a small sampling of my work. I hope to add a few more items before too long, but it's a start. I also hope to have way better pictures up as soon as Jason gets his new camera.

Also, in honor of the grand opening, you can take 15% off of any order by using the code GrandOpen. Just to say thanks for stopping by!

If you have any questions about anything (like the colors of the items in the pics), let me know!


Best of the Year (as decided by me, your results may vary)

Best Actress Academy Awardsphoto © 2008 Cliff | more info (via: Wylio)
We're wrapping up 2010, so in an effort to promote myself just a little bit more, I thought I'd go ahead and round up some of my favorite posts from this year. I have to start in February since I wrote absolutely NOTHING in January (old readers, do you remember when I'd go for weeks without posting? What was that?).

  1. February: Who are you? -- What would it be like if we didn't worry about people knowing where WE stood on issues, and took time to know where THEY stand?
  2. March: Out of Touch -- Sometimes we live and work with people but don't take the time to really connect with them.
  3. April: Who loves you, baby? -- Does God want to "fix" us? 
  4. May: Full-Featured Friend -- Because that phrase is still one of my most favorite ever.
  5. June: Lessons from the Lobby -- I learned some awesome lessons playing a made up game in high school that still apply today.
  6. July: Collections -- Why my phone has a ton of pictures of yellow cars in it.
  7. August: Why I'm a Bad Mom -- This one made me giggle (is it okay to laugh at your own writing?). And the comments are spectacular. 
  8. September: Oneness -- Unity needs to extend beyond the walls of our own church.
  9. October: Musical Monday -- My friend Chuck wrote a song about me. Coolest. Thing. Ever. (So technically I guess this isn't really something I wrote, but still. It's about me, so it counts.)
  10. November: All I Need -- Is Jesus all we need? Still no lightening strikes here. And again, I have the best commenters ever. 
  11. December: Living on the Edge -- Living on the edge is not as exciting as jumping. 
  12. Bonus: It All Comes Down to This -- This was my most-viewed post of the year. 
Okay, that's it from here. 

Now, what did YOU write that I simply must check out? Because really, as much as I love talking about me, I truly do enjoy reading other blogs. So link up your best stuff below!


Review & Giveaway: MaMi Skincare Products

Sponsored by
While sensitive might not be the word one would use to describe my personality, it is most assuredly a word that accurately describes my skin. I tend to shy away from most soaps because they have a drying effect on my skin. I definitely approach new products with caution. So when I received the Ma Mi Skin Care Reawaken Foaming Cleanser to review, I will fully admit to looking at it with some incredulity.

However, I have been pleasantly surprised. First, it is, as it's name implies, a foaming cleanser. This means that it's very light, which I really like. Sometimes creams can leave a bit of a film on my face, and that generally translates to dryness later. With this foam, I find that it rinses off very easily and thoroughly. Of course, any time you use a cleanser, you want to follow up with a moisturizer, but I don't find my face feeling tremendously dried out after I use this product.

I also appreciate that it doesn't have a very strong scent (though for those who are sensitive to scents, the essential oils in this product do not leave it scent-free). I don't want to smell like my cleanser, so I'm glad to report that the scent is very light.

I like that this product was designed by moms for moms and that they are being environmentally conscious in their development by making the products paraben-free. They have a full line of cleansers, exfoliators, moisturizers and more.

From the storeThis completely natural, rose hip foamer will calm, clean, soothe and tone! It is enriched with a combination of rose hip seed, seaweed and essential oils to provide a complete spectrum of skin nourishment and protection every time you clean. Seaweed conditions and hydrates the skin with vital nutrients and vitamins while the Rose Hip treats overexposure to the sun and pigment spots. Lastly, the essential oils revitalize and renew Mom’s skin back to its natural state and prepares it for exfoliation and moisturizing.  
Specially formulated for normal to dry skin. 


Win it!

One lucky reader will win a bottle of Ma Mi's Reawaken Cleanser! This contest is open to readers 18 and older in the USA.

Mandatory Entry:
  • Stop by the Ma Mi website and tell me what product you'd like to try!
Extra Entries:

  • Follow Ma Mi on Twitter.
  • Like Ma Mi on Facebook.
  • Follow my blog publicly on Google Friend Connect.
  • Follow my blog on Networked blogs.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Like Big Mama's Blog on Facebook.
  • Tweet this contest using the following: Win MaMi Foaming Cleanser by @gogreenmoms from @BigMama247! #win #giveaway  (2x per day at least an hour apart)
  • Vote for me on the Fence (see button on the right -- just click! Can do this once a day!)
Please make sure that I have a way to contact you (if you leave an email in your Disqus comment, I'll have it even though it's not visible to everyone). If I can't contact you, I'll make a different selection. This contest will be open until 11:59 PM, January 14. I will choose a winner using the random number generator. I will send an email to the winner who will have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll select another comment. 

Thanks and good luck!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using and sponsored by Favorite Wigs Shop Name Brand Wigs at Low Prices! Large Wig Selection of Estetica Wigs, Quality Wigs. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Love Reflections

Hand mirrorphoto © 2007 Desi | more info (via: Wylio)
I am no fan of the mirror.

I mean, I use it. I need to run the brush through my hair and put on my lipstick and make sure whatever hat I'm wearing today is on straight, but generally speaking, I'd just as soon take a pass on looking at the mirror.

I think it's because most of the time when I look, I see what I don't want to see. The uneven skin tone. The way-too-grey-for-a-36-year-old roots. The lop-sided eyes. The crooked teeth. One fault after another. All right there in living color, reflected back to me. :::shudder:::

Reflections can be really unpleasant at times. It can be really easy to focus in on a single defect (or several defects) and allow them to completely define me.

I get that same feeling with my kids at times. I'll hear them say something awful or see negative behavior from them that I completely recognize as coming from me. It's easy to see all of my flaws as a parent (and as a person) when I see my children doing some of the same things that I hate in myself.

But reflections can be beautiful as well. Some days I can look in the mirror and what I see makes me happy. A smile that reflects my heart. Eyes that dance when I think about my family. Hair that happens to drape just the right way. Little things that brighten my day.

Sometimes I see that from my children as well. I'll see compassion. I'll see humor. I'll see selflessness. I'll hear words that I've heard coming from my own mouth that don't embarrass me to hear repeated. And I realize that while some of my negative traits show up in my children, some of my positive attributes can also be reflected.

And it's the same in my own life. It's easy for me to reflect the negative things that are a part of my world. To spew back hatred and anger and negativity that can seem somewhat prevalent in our culture. To focus in on the bad things that I see in the media. To allow cynicism and criticism to be my primary modes of communication.

But then I'm reminded of Christ's words, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Reflections of love? Yeah, that sounds like something I wouldn't mind seeing in the mirror.


This was a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. You can read more posts about Reflection and submit your own here.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Musical Monday

So if you follow me on Twitter or are my friend on Facebook or read the blog yesterday, it should be pretty obvious who is going to be featured on today's Musical Monday.

I've been hearing about Mumford and Sons for a few months now and everyone who has mentioned them has been absolutely raving about them. I'd been meaning to pick up their debut album for a long time and just found other things to buy and kept skipping them.

What a fool I was.

Seriously, I finally downloaded this on Christmas Eve and have been listening to it pretty much non-stop since then. While it doesn't quite beat out The Paper Raincoat for me, it's a very, very close second. Mumford & Sons has a really unique sound. It's listed on their site as "folk rock" but with the banjo in it, I can't help but hear a pretty strong bluegrass sound. Which they pull of beautifully, especially for a bunch of Londoners! All I know is that listening to this album is a spiritual experience for me. The vocals are incredibly raw and passionate, the instrumentation is full of energy, and the lyrics are just out of this world.

The download is still just five dollars from Amazon and I promise, you will not spend a better five bucks this Christmas season. Go return that little piece of tchotchke that you got and use some of that to pick up this album. Really and truly, it's a thing of beauty and your day will be better for listening.

The song that has really moved me big time has been Timshel. I listened to it about a dozen times yesterday. I'm sure it's due largely in part to my affection for the Not Alone series here on the blog, but when the harmonies are combined with the lyric, it just grabs my soul in a deep way. Enjoy the song and then really, go buy this album.

Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
Hold your hand

And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
Hold your hand

And I will tell the night
Whisper, "Lose your sight"
But I can't move the mountains for you 


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Stuff I've Been Reading

Here are some of the posts that caught my attention over the week. I hope you find reading here that sparks an interesting discussion for you!
  • Jason Dye wrote a lovely piece about Mary and how she plays into the Christian story.
  • Kely Braswell reminds us that Jesus pooped.
  • And not to be outdone, Matthew Paul Turner, on his daddy blog, talks about his ADORABLE son, Elias pooping.
  • Sarah Bost Askins started writing poetry again. I really loved this piece she wrote about winter.
  • Kristin Tennant was published over at Huffington Post with a really wonderful post about dealing with joint custody of her children over the holidays.
  • Also, I finally downloaded Mumford & Sons' album Sigh No More. I can't believe I waited so long to listen to this. You can buy it right now for just five dollars. (Affiliate link)
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Feel free to link up your own writing!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sappy Saturday: Merry Christmas Edition

Yeah, I'm not writing today. But here's the true story of Christmas. (Thanks MPT!)

Enjoy your families and I'll catch you back here soon!

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Wanna See Me?

Or at least hear me?

Our church is broadcasting our Christmas eve service this year live over the radio here in WV. Our 3PM EST service will be available on many of the WV MetroNews affiliates. For my friends not in the WV listening area, you can go here to listen live. Just click the little "Listen Live" button on the top right of the screen. Amazing music and a great message to listen to while you wrap some presents.

And if you're already wrapping (really? You're finished with that already? Well done!) and you're just thinking of watching your A Christmas Story DVD before the 24 hour marathon starts, might I humbly suggest clicking over to our church's website and watching the service being webcast? The video is right at the top of the home page. It will be running live at 3PM EST and will be rebroadcast at 10PM EST. At the very least, I recommend checking in at the beginning of the broadcast, because we're doing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 and honey, it will melt your face off.

Of course, if you're around in Morgantown, feel free to stop by and see it all live! We've got three services at 3, 5, & 7PM. Come give me a hug if you happen to visit! I love hugs, especially on Christmas! And if you happen to watch it, stop by ye ol' blog and let me know, because that's like a virtual hug and I love those too.

Do you attend any services on Christmas Eve? Does your place of worship go more contemporary or formal?

Merry Christmas! 


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not Alone Series Recap

hugsphoto © 2009 Julie McLeod | more info (via: Wylio)
This has been an interesting year at the blog, but my favorite thing has been the introduction of the Not Alone Series. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am to the eight people who have shared their stories here. Struggles with depression, with anxiety, with feeling alone.

I'm not posting any new stories until the move to the new blog, but I did want to give any new followers a chance to read some of the previous stories that have been shared.

For real, these posts are always some of the most popular that go up. So to those who have shared already, thank you, from the deepest place in me. You are making a difference.

To those of you who have read and commented or shared links, thank you for supporting those who have written here. It takes amazing courage to pour out your heart like this and it really helps to have people validate their thoughts.

And to those who have read and not commented, thank you for coming here and reading the words. It encourages me to know that these posts are reaching others.

If you've thought that you might like to share your story, I'm always accepting submissions. Shoot me an email and we can talk about it.

These are the first four posts that went up. Lots of amazing stuff here. Thanks for taking the time to check it out!

  • Katie McNemar: Little Miss Sunshine -- I never know when it’s going to happen.  Sometimes it will hit me when I am in the middle of laughing at a joke.  All-of-a-sudden, I’ll feel a million miles away even though I am, physically, still in the same location.  I feel totally alone even though I am surrounded by people.   I look at the people I know and I feel like I don’t know them anymore.   The feeling of panic starts like a wave.  It grows in momentum until it finally comes crashing down on me.  I break out into a cold sweat.  My fight or flight response has been activated for no real reason.  I want to run, but I don’t want to freak everyone out or look like a crazy person.  It takes every drop of energy I have to not run.  The world seems to close in on me; wrap itself around me and squeeze so hard I can barely breathe.  I wish I could just unzip my skin and run out of the body that has me trapped inside.  The inability to calm myself down or talk myself out of this makes me feel like I am on a runaway train.  My stomach starts cramping and I get hot.  More sweating. (read more)
  • Misty Chaffins: Depression Defined -- There are times that I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders…that’s enough to depress anyone! Some days, everything feels like it weighs 20 pounds heavier.  My arms, eyes, the milk, my feet, the air…everything is so much harder to do.  It would be easier to just stay in bed.  Overwhelming exhaustion occurs, but sometimes with the inability to sleep.  Outrageous thoughts swirl in my head. Everything feels like it’s my fault.  We are out of toothpaste, my fault.  It rained, that’s my fault too.  My outlook is undeniably pessimistic.  Nothing will go right again.  Ever.  Typing this stuff out…I can see the absurdity of it, but it’s what is seriously in my head.  How do I get someone who has never had thoughts like this to understand me? (read more)
  • Julia Dixon: Trains and Chains -- I have had minor bouts with depression off and on for many years. I would slip into counseling and then slip right back out again. I was very afraid of medication. Many members of my family are strictly against antidepressants and I have a family member who has been on medication for as long as I remember. 
    My solution - Don't start taking it and you won’t have to keep taking it right? 
    Not exactly! (read more)
  • Jamie: Tearing Down Walls -- 
    I had a wonderful childhood with amazing parents who are still together and have been for 33 years. I always had friends and made good grades in school. I accepted Jesus into my life at a very young age and have never known life without Him. But I've also dealt with depression on and off for the past 11+ years. I married very young and our marriage didn't last very long at all. After we broke up, I pretty much spiraled a bit out of control. It ended up with me heading downhill very fast. This was my very first encounter with the monster called "Depression". I felt very alone, hopeless and helpless. I felt like nobody knew what I was going through, much less cared. Of course, that wasn't the case but when we start to feel that way, it's easy for Satan to come in and build on that and make those feelings grow until we see nothing but the despair. (read more)
Thanks again to all for making this series possible. 


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Classic Blunders

Given that he doesn't have a QWERTY keyboard on his phone, Jason isn't much of a texter. But while he was taking finals last week, he shot me a number of quick little one-liners from campus. They were all funny, but my favorite was when he quoted The Princess Bride (since it's still one of the best movies of all time). He quoted Vezzini's line, "You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia' - but only slightly less well-known is this: 'Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line'!" And he added, "And never take a 300 level Economics class without having taken Calculus!"

It made me giggle all day. Or at least for like 5 minutes.

Anyway, I started thinking, what are some other classic blunders? These are a couple of classic blunders that I've made over the years.

  1. Trying to coming up with coherent Tweets before the coffee has kicked in.
  2. Okay, trying to do ANYTHING coherent before the coffee has kicked in.
  3. Thinking you can clean a sippy cup that got lost for 2 weeks with milk in it.
  4. Going on a date night with your spouse in a town you don't know and forgetting to check the address of where you're staying and getting lost for 3 hours.
  5. Going to see Spiderman 3 for said date night.
  6. Deciding to clean out the freezer the day AFTER garbage day.
  7. Trying to ease your way out of a phone conversation with me.
  8. Allowing your kids to open a canister of Floam in  your house.
  9. Putting liquid dish soap in a dish washer.

What classic blunders would you add to the list?


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's an Inter"faith" Christmas!

I've always been impressed by folks who can wrap really beautiful packages. I was helping the kids wrap presents for their class gift exchanges and was reminded, once again, that I am just terrible at it. I was able to find Christmas wrapping paper, but I don't keep a stock of ribbons and bows, and the edge of my paper was pretty wrinkled. Plus, I'm just not good at the mechanics of wrapping. I'm sure there's some tutorial online on how to wrap a beautiful present, but I haven't sought that out. And I'm definitely not good at it on my own.
Presents Presents Presents!photo © 2004 Dana Graves | more info (via: Wylio)

Anyway, this is our first Christmas "out" as an inter"faith" couple (I don't know what you call it when one person is a Christian and the other is an atheist. It's not really interfaith, since one has no faith. Mostly we just call it marriage, but for the purposes of today's post, I'm going to call it interfaith and just go with that.). And I don't think I'm coping very well.

Last year wasn't too bad. I mean, it was weird, but I chalked most of it up to an inability to share what was going on with people around us and the general newness of the whole thing. It had rough moments, but I didn't really pay it a lot of attention, figuring that as we settled into the new normal, things would even out.

And for the most part, this has been the case, until just the other night when we were setting up our Christmas tree. We had put in Relient K's Let It Snow, Baby...Let It Reindeer, which is a family favorite, and were all singing their version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Lots of laughing and fun.

Then, out of nowhere, it hit. The song I Celebrate the Day came on and I was totally thrown into this place remembering that my husband and I don't share our faith.

It's weird how that happens. Most of the time things really are pretty normal. We're just the same people we've always been. We share almost entirely the same interests and truly, he's just one of the most fun people I know. We're best friends and I love spending time with him.

I think part of the deal is that during most of the time, our faith is kind of an undercurrent thing. When we both shared a faith, it wasn't something that we talked about all the time, it was just...there. Sure, we'd go to church together and we'd have discussions about spiritual issues, but for the most part, it wasn't something at the forefront of our relationship. It was a reliable foundation, but not something that we pulled out and examined constantly.

But at Christmas? Well, that's a time when faith has always played a pretty big role. Being church musicians, we'd spend time working on and listening to sacred music. We'd read stories that had Jesus-y themes. We would set up a nativity and marveled one year as a 18 month old Deborah placed all of the characters prostrate in front of the manger. Faith has always been a centerpiece of how we've celebrated Christmas.

Standley chasmphoto © 2009 Alberto Otero García | more info (via: Wylio)
Now that's changed. Most days it's like it was. We laugh at The Daily Show. We talk about spiritual things (though conversations are a little bit different now). We like to eat hot wings. It's mostly the same. The difference is there, but it doesn't define our marriage.

But I've got to be honest, during weeks like this, it just plain sucks. It feels like a huge gap between us. My Christian guilt will kick in and I'll think that I should be feeling this bad all the time and why am I not trying to make him a Christian again. Then my doubt-y brain will combat that and say that I hate being "fixed" so why on earth would it be okay to want to fix someone else and shouldn't I just be happy that he's happy? Then I'll feel bad because I shouldn't be so complacent about his eternal destination. Then I'll think that maybe I'm not so sure that I can follow a God who sends people like my husband to hell. Around and around I go.

And what's really frustrating to me is that I've been wracking my brain writing this post, trying to figure out how to tie this all together into a nice little package that is suitable for Christmas. But I'm bad at wrapping presents and right now, I don't have the tools here to make this look pretty or to bring it together into some kind of neat, tidy conclusion. The best I can do is quote Fred Rogers who said, "The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self," and promise you that even though this is messy, it's definitely all me.

I think the main take-away I've got here is simply that relationships, with people and with God, are hard. Even at Christmas. But they are worth the effort. Even at Christmas.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Musical Monday

Last week before Christmas! I promise, I won't keep this going next Monday, but I have to do one more Christmas song.

Every year on Facebook or Twitter people start surveying for favorite Christmas songs. And people post tons of great tunes. But my favorite, every year, continues to be Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

I know I've posted it here probably every year that I've been doing Musical Monday, but honestly, I just can't think of a lyric that moves me more during this season. It's not one of my favorite musical settings (though I do love the Israel Houghton version I posted below), but really, these lyrics are just the whole point of Christmas (and my life as a Christian). I really would encourage you, even if you know this hymn, to take a minute to read through the lyrics and think about them a little bit. I think Charles Wesley was really onto something.

Hark! the herald angels sing, -
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th' angelic host proclaim,
"Christ is born in Bethlehem."
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Christ, by highest heav'n adored:
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the favored one.
Veil'd in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th'incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Hail! the heav'n-born Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sone of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Do you choose your favorite Christmas song based on lyrics or the tune?


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winners: Carmex & Harry Connick Jr.

The winner of the Carmex Tinted Lip Balms was #39 Teresa C.
The winner of Harry Connick Jr.'s When My Heart Finds Christmas is #40 Kngmckellar.

The winners have been contacted and have 48 hours to respond. Thanks to all who entered and be sure to check out the other 2 contests running right now. More coming soon!


Stuff I've Been Reading

Here's a quick list of some of the things that I've been reading this week. Enjoy!

  • Matt Appling deconstructs the traditional Christmas letter. Really funny stuff.
  • Rich Chaffins finished the bass he's been working on. You can see pics here and hear it in action here. And if you'd be so kind, you can like Agape Guitars Facebook page here.
  • Elizabeth Esther wrote a great list of people you need to deal with at Christmas. (I think we're #6 this year. Please bring wine instead of vodka. Cookies are still fine. Thank you.)
  • Bryan Allain punched Santa. I know. 
  • Rachel Held Evans won an INSPY Award for best Creative Nonfiction. If you want to treat yourself to an awesome read for Christmas, go buy her book (affiliate link). You can read my review of her book here.
  • And even though this is a few weeks old, if you have dogs and haven't read this Hyperbole and a Half, you are seriously missing out. We said the, "The ground is all weird! I'm a dog!" line about a million times this week.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Feel free to pimp your own stuff - I'm all about self-promotion here!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sappy Saturday

As my fantastic readers know, Wednesday was my dear husband's birthday. First, thanks to everyone who went and commented on his blog. You guys are awesome.

But even more awesome than you (yeah, I know it's hard to imagine) is my absolutely incredible husband. (People who hate internet PDA should leave now.)

I've written before about meeting Jason. And how I wanted to marry "someone like him." And I talk about how fantastic he is, but I don't always give really concrete answers to the "what makes him so amazing" question.

First, he makes me laugh all. the. time. I absolutely love that about him. I love to laugh and he provides humor at a steady clip. One of our family mottoes is that almost everything has a funny side, and he helps me find it, even in the really difficult to see times. Because of him, I can't think of anything that we've gone through as individuals or as a couple that hasn't had an amusing aspect to it.

Another thing that attracted me to him has been his passion. When Jason gets into something, he gives it his all. As someone who gets scared of jumping, I'm always inspired by those who plunge in. Watching him attack going back to school with full vigor is just really exciting to me. Despite taking really difficult classes, he is excelling in his studies and is on track to graduate with honors in May. After waiting so long to finish a degree, it is really fantastic to see him just a few months away from achieving that goal.

I also love that he is one of the most honest people that I know. It is just not in his nature to lie. I know that if he tells me something that he really means it. As someone who has a lot of self-doubt, it is reassuring to know that my husband tells me the truth.

I also love his creativity. I know that he gets nervous about things like writing and music, but he's really amazingly talented in those fields. I can't wait for school to be over so he can get back to some more creative pursuits. His blog is totally worth checking out (even though it's been long dormant) and I can't wait to see him start working on music again.

He is remarkably selfless. He will go out of his way to help people who need it, regardless of the cost to him. I love that he teaches our kids generosity through his example. I'm sure that they are learning this from their dad and that is a wonderful thing.

I love all of the ways that he's made me a better person. He pushes me in areas where I'm likely to hold back. He makes me smile when I'd rather grouch around. He encourages me to examine ideas that are uncomfortable to me. He loves me when I'm unlovable.

I'm incredibly blessed to have this man in my life. He is a wonderful husband and father and I love him with all my heart.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Winner: Electric Scalp Massager

Sponsored by
The winner of the Electric Scalp Massager was #32, Judy B.! Congratulations!

Judy has been emailed. Thanks to all who entered. There are two contests ending today and two ending on the 30th. And stay tuned for more to come.

Have a great day!



I've done a few reviews for the One2OneNetwork and all have been fun. I enjoy music and television and having the chance to review those things is right up my alley.

Recently One2One partnered with This is a really fantastic tool that allows you to set up your own giving foundation. It's free to sign up and when you do, you automatically get $5 to donate toward the charity of your choice. Any charity that is registered with the US IRS is eligible to receive funds from By using this, all of your charitable giving is tracked in one area and you

There are a couple of ways that you can donate. You can just add funds from a credit or debit card, which is really simple. You can also shop over 400 merchants on the site and earn money from your purchases there, up to 15% from some of the shops! Additionally, the folks at run different contests where you are able to win money for your charity. I participated in a Twitter party with them a few weeks ago and won $100 for Nuru International!

Below you'll find a short video that gives you more information about this site. As the year winds down and you're looking for a way to give to your favorite charities, I encourage you to check out

Disclosure: I was not compensated for writing this review of, however I will be entered to win a trip to BlissDom '11 from


Thursday, December 16, 2010

You Are Not Alone

I stumbled across Tamara on Twitter not terribly long ago and it took almost no time to realize that we were totally kindred spirits. She writes a fantastic blog, is dead funny and makes me laugh almost constantly. I'm crazy blessed to have her in my virtual village and I'm honored to have her as a guest poster today. If you're interested in sharing your story, you can email me at

Alisonphoto © 2008 Lawrence Murray | more info (via: Wylio)
I've only just begun it, but I can already tell you: Writing about depression is hard. Writing about my faltering faith, my personality defects, my physical flaws, my parenting struggles-- that's easy. That's stuff everyone goes through; I know I'm not alone. But Depression is a sinister demon, and it's a damn good liar, and it loves to whisper, "You're all alone."

Writing about depression when I'm not having an episode is hard because it forces reflection on something so dark. But writing about it in the midst of it would be impossible. When Depression attacks, sometimes the most I can do is just get out of bed, and even that is unwelcome and trying. Forget productivity,  fuck creativity.

Depression strips me of my energy until I am bare useless. I sleep, and I sleep, and I sleep, and still I am tired. Body-tired, mind-tired, soul-tired-- dead tired.

Depression overcomes me and I am helpless to fight it off, and, exhausted, my mind and my heart succumb. It tells me that there is no one who sees or hears my pain, and even if there were, there is certainly no one who cares enough to touch it.  And I listen, and I believe.

Depression toys with my emotions so that I am alternately weepy and apathetic. Both everything and nothing at all can make me cry-- sobs that go soul-deep and find no catharsis and begin again.  And then, mood changed out of nowhere explicable, I will be unmovable. My normally soft heart will not care, cannot care, about anything or anyone. And the demon Depression gets off at its own sick game.

Day 253photo © 2009 Julie V | more info (via: Wylio)

But although it lies, Depression is half right when it says that no one understands, because some of the people closest to me do not have to fight this particular demon, so they cannot grasp its power. They think I ought to snap out of it, shrug it off, perk up, rejoin life, carry on as usual. But what they don't understand is that I am not free to do any of those things. I am captive, I am bound.

Others, out of well-intentioned, utterly useless ignorance, may point to my Christian faith and say, "You're too blessed to be depressed." And their trite rhymes poke new pain in a deep wound. As many times as I have been attacked by this demon, I have turned to my Savior and begged, "Why?"

I don't know that I'll find an answer in this life. But I do know a few things: Writing about depression is hard. Living through it alone is harder.  And there's nothing like writing down 453 words of truth to stick it to a liar.

You are not alone.

Tamara Lunardo writes the blog Tamara Out Loud: Thoughts on Real Life and Real Faith. A full-time mom of five, part-time freelance editor, and big-time Jesus freak, she lives in Florida with her husband, Bryan, who not only puts up with her insanity but also buys her white wine when he sees it coming on.

Please visit her on Twitter and Facebook!

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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
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