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Now Choose Life

Choose to Live Your Life in Abundance in the after--- after the spouse dies, after the marriage ends, after the kids leave. Join me on my journey of CHOOSING LIFE in my after. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live- Deut 30:19

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December 27, 2019

New Years Eve outfits- black on black on black

My wardrobe consists mostly of black!! Just one reason I believe that I should live in New York City someday!!

We recently attended a Christmas Dinner Party, and I didn't want to buy a whole new outfit so I went looking for something fun and simple. I found these great jeans from The Loft. I love the shimmer on them. It's fun, but it isn't too over the top, and I'll definitely be able to wear them again. Especially for NYE!!

In fact, this entire outfit would be perfect for NYE!! I prefer to stay home on that night, but if I were a big partier, you better believe I'd be ringing in the new year in these cute pants.

There is a bit of gold shimmer to these jeans!

My necklace is from Bittersweet in Santa Fe. If you are ever in Santa Fe, it's a must
stop while shopping on Canyon Road.

I love that the shimmer is gold. It was fun to pair my favorite Loius Vuitton that has
gold hardware with them!!

Here are some other black on black on black ideas from Amazon. With 2 day shipping, you'll have them by NYE.

I love this jumpsuit.

A cold shoulder top is always fun for a party.

Animal print continues to be popular. I love this top!!

Another cute jumpsuit!

December 15, 2019

Life After Loss- A Glimpse- Family Calendars

I just finished putting together the 2020 Family Calendar. This calendar is probably the most significant family tradition that we have.

It all started when the kids were little. R and I had a friend whose niece always made a handmade calendar for him. I decided to do the same for my parents. I had to make sure that I got double prints when I had pictures developed!!! Each year before Christmas, my sister sent me six of her favorite photos from the previous year. I used the computer to print out the next year's calendar and glued each month with a picture on top of a piece of construction paper. It was held together with yarn through holes at the top. My parents loved it.

Over time the tradition grew. It soon became the reality that I had to start the calendar weeks in advance. I had to give Walmart at least 21 days to get each calendar made. Since I could order it through Walmart, I also started getting one for my sister and me. Life got crazy at times, and my sister took over the making of the calendar for many years. We couldn't bear to miss a year!!

My parents even made the calendar some years!

Soon my kids and my nephews became old enough that they all wanted a calendar of their own. It became a joke in the family as to which pictures were "calendar worthy." This calendar is so important to my kids and nephews that my daughter even took up the making of the calendar a few years ago when life was just too stressful for my sister or me to get it done!! Thanks, Molls!!

I have saved every single calendar that I've ever gotten. When I helped my parents clean out their antique store a couple of years ago, I found that they, too, have saved every calendar. I regret not taking some pictures of those construction paper ones!!

That all leads me to this. As I got all my calendars out of the box to put up on a top shelf of my new bookcases in our office a couple of months ago, the one that fell to the side was 2012. 2012 was the year that changed everything for us. It was the year that marks the before and after for our family. It was the year that my husband- the father of my children- passed away.
As the kids got older, those square filled up fast!!

I sat down immediately to look through that 2012 calendar. My heart sank as I saw his handwriting on so many of those squares. All of the plans we had for that year laid out before me on those pages... medical tests his dad was having done, the kids' dates for finals at college, our anniversary trip to San Antonio, our daughter leaving for her study abroad in Spain, the date we were going to meet her in Europe---- so many plans that we both had.

But all of those plans didn't matter. April 29th came. It didn't care that we had grand plans. It didn't care that we had so much living still to do together. It came, and it took. It took him from our lives. It took him from his plans. It took a future that I thought was solid and certain.

Life after loss teaches us that our plans don't matter.

It's wonderful now that we can add multiple pictures to a page.
As you look at 2020, what are your plans? It's a new, fresh year. It's a new, fresh decade. What are you going to do with it? From my perspective, I will tell you that if you have anything that needs to be said to someone, you better get it said in January. If you have someone that you need to forgive, you better forgive them in January. If you need to tell someone that you love them, you better tell them in January. If you need to start going to church, you better start doing it in January. If you need to start reading your bible, you need to start reading it in January. You might just need the words from that bible in February.

If you need to finalize a plan of your faith; finalize what you believe to be true about God; finalize in your mind what Jesus Christ means in your life- you better get it marked down on one of those squares in January. 
Not sure what I'm ever going to do with all of these old calendars, but I just can't get rid of them!!

You do not know what this next year is going to bring. What are you waiting for? 

Don't forget those share buttons at the bottom of the screen!! Thanks for all of the support!
December 11, 2019

What I Read- My recommendations for some fun Christmas Break Reads 2019!

I've been wanting to write some book reviews but time has gotten away from me. I decided to do a-several books in one post review so here it is...

I read so many books these days that I forget what I've read. I really need to start a journal of my books. For now, all I do is take a screenshot of the book cover on my Kindle. If there is anything in the book I want to remember, I also take a screenshot of that page. So far, it's worked really well.

I love to do some lazy reading over the holidays. That's exactly what all of these books are meant to be... lazy reading. I'm only reviewing and suggesting the books I've read this past year that are fun, easy reads!! I'll hopefully get to some others in other posts!!

These books are in no special order except by how I remembered what I've read!!

One Day In December- by Josie Silver
This book was on Reese Witherspoon's book list. If you want some great suggestions, go to her list. I've loved everything she has recommended.
One Day In December begins on a city bus in London. Do you believe in love at first sight? If so, this is a great book for you. It's full of twists and turns. The only downside is that I had a hard time with some of the dialogue. It just was not believable for me, but I put that aside and really enjoyed it!!

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
This book is not a carefree read, but you will fall in love with the characters. We meet a family where the dad has passed away, and the mom is having a hard time dealing with the families' reality. The kids pretty much raise themselves. We soon find these kids have grown up and face another family tragedy.

You've Been Volunteered by Laurie Gelman
I was late to the party with this book because this is actually a sequel to a book I've never read. It didn't' matter that I didn't read Class Mom because the characters explained themselves. Anyone who has ever been the class mom or helped the class mom will laugh out loud as you read!! It's fun. It's easy. It's a must-read!!
If you watch Live with Kelly and Ryan, you will recognize this author's last name. Her husband is the executive producer of the show!!

The Perfect Couple by Erin Hilderbrand
I checked this out from my local library on my Overdrive app during one of my 2a.m. nonsleeping sessions!! That seems to be when I do most of my reading!! I instantly fell in love with it. A summer wedding, a beautiful beach house, a loving family, and a murder get this book off to a great start!!

Mostly Sunny by Janice Dean
Why did I read this book? I do not care for Janice Dean, but I've heard from women who have worked at Fox News that she is a great person. If you've followed me very long, you know my favorite genre is biography. There are very few biographies that I won't read!! This was very interesting. I'm still amazed at how people get their start and become famous!! She has great stories about famous people that she's met over the years. Of course, you are prepared to not like Imus who she worked for during her first job in NYC. She has a great story about meeting Steven Tyler, which I loved. I was not prepared for her story about Dr. Phill. I'll never look at him the same way. Have I piqued your interest?

The Proposal- by Jasmine Guillory
Another cute, fun easy read. There was a twist for me, but I'm not sure if it's meant to be there or if I just wasn't paying attention!! I guess the big lesson from this is to not ever ask someone to marry you on the jumbotron at a professional sports event!!

The Marriage Lie- by  Kimberly Belle
I used to like to read murder mysteries, but I just can't do it anymore. This is the closest to a murder/ mystery book as I went this past year. It was well written and had me always wanting to keep reading to find out the truth in this woman's marriage!!!

Searching For Sylvie Lee- by Jean Kwok
Another mystery for this gal who doesn't read many mysteries. I enjoyed this. It took me on an adventure back to The Netherlands. It's sad, but it's a great story.

Good Riddance- by Elinor Lipman
I had to keep reading to see where this was going. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. After her mother's death, Daphne discovers that her mother's yearbook, which she placed in the recycle bin of her apartment complex, has been taken. The neighbor who has it becomes a thorn in her side. The hard part was watching her get involved in her father's love life- that's just not going to happen!!!

As always, if you like what I've done here, please share my post on social media!! The links are at the bottom of the post after the words- share it:.  Thanks so much!!

As I was putting this together, I got two emails with book lists for the holidays that I wanted to share.

86 Reader Recommendations...- If you don't follow The Modern Mrs. Darcy, you have to start today. She lists books her readers are recommending in this post!!

Bill Gates' book list- I look forward to seeing an email from Bill Gates!! It means I get to see what a highly intelligent and world-changing man is reading. It's always a great list!!
December 09, 2019

Christmas Home Tours 2019

I love looking at Christmas decorations inside and outside any home. When my kids were little, we would leave church after our Wednesday night meeting and, they knew that we would take the long way home during Christmas time. I just couldn't resist seeing all the lights.

I'm still that way. It's just one of my favorite things about the holidays-- beautiful decorations and lights. I always loved going to a Christmas pilgrimage of homes when women agreed to open their homes and beautiful decorations to the public.

These days, we can visit any home that is willing via the internet. I'm sharing two links below full of beautiful Christmas decorated homes.

Every day this week you can click on A Stroll Thru Life blog and find several new houses to see.

I love following Thistlewood Farms. You can find her home tour here.

I don't have a professional photographer, but I'm sharing a few things from our home.

Hopefully, next year the area around the fireplace will have built-in shelves. 

I loved using this old sled instead of a skirt. This is the first year since my first husband passed away that I've put up a big tree. It has been fun, and every ornament on it has special meaning. We hope to add to the ornaments as we travel and experience more together.

This is a nativity scene from Dr. T's family. Most of mine are still in Texas. I always enjoyed putting one in almost every room.

One of my favorite little chairs with a vintage pillow. 

I love the idea of a small scene on a cake stand that so many are doing. 

I've collected Santa mugs for several years. Some are very old.

The dining room is ready!

Hanging the pickle on the tree reminds me of Randy!! I always hang a redbird nearby now.

Our special traveling partners are very generous!! I loved getting this box of goodies!!

I got these ornaments from my mother and put them on the small tree in the game room. They just fit over the lights on the tree.

We watch TV here most evenings so I wanted a small tree in this space!

I'd love to see some pictures of how you decorate!! You can share in the comments!
Merry Christmas!

Remember- you can click on any picture to share on Pinterest. You can also use the share buttons at the bottom of any post to share.
November 27, 2019

Being Thankful!

There is a video at the bottom of this post. If you receive my posts by email or other RSS feed, you may not be able to see it. Please click HERE to go out to the post.

Have you taken the time to stop during this busy season to think about all that you have to be thankful for? It's easy for me to get caught up in the planning, shopping, and traveling leading up to Thanksgiving and not really give it a thought until the time before the meal when we go around and say what we are thankful for. Then, it's a scramble to think of something profound to say!!

I remember one year before Randy died, I had actually thought about it because there was a family of squirrels that lived in a knothole of an oak tree that I drove under every day down our road. Many times several of them would be out on the limb or sticking their heads out that knothole as if they were sending me off on my day. I came to look forward to their sweet goodbyes as I headed off to the school where I worked as a librarian. I shared that sweet family of squirrels as one thing I was thankful for that year because I truly was.

One year when my son was a young teenager, we had an issue with his orthodontist's office. It was a family operation, and the orthodontist's wife was the office manager. I had to do what was right for my son in this situation, and at what was to be our last visit, I went to her in tears to explain my decision. The week before Thanksgiving that year, I got a card from her. She said that every year, she sends out three cards to people she is thankful to know. I was one of her people because of how I handled this very difficult situation. Wow!! This practice is something I've wanted to add as a Thanksgiving tradition, but I think I've only done it once!!

My biggest experience with gratitude came in the months after Randy passed away. I'm not sure where it came from, but I knew that I had to be OK with my life. I knew that one way to do that was to be thankful for the things that I did have, not the huge things that I didn't have in my life anymore because of his death. As the new school year started in the fall of 2012, I felt overwhelming gratitude for my life every time I walked through the front doors of my school. Anyone who works in education will tell you that there are some extremely sad stories in kids' lives every single year. How could I not be thankful for my life when I saw middle school students every day who were living in much more difficult situations than I have ever known in my life.

I've heard of so many women lately who have recently their husbands. It is heartbreaking to me to know the pain that they are facing this holiday. It is hard to be grateful when your world has been torn apart. But, in my Facebook memories, a post showed up recently. From Thanksgiving of 2012. In that post, I shared what I was thankful for on that day. Although I was heartbroken, I still had so much to offer thanks to God for.

Here is a great article on GRATITUDE.
My biggest take away is this quote from the article:
"Fox said it’s a mistake to think of gratitude as a cure for pain — something that can be applied when things get bad to lessen the blow. Instead, he said, it’s a regular practice that shores up our reserves and changes how we perceive the bad times."

I admit, there were some days when I didn't feel grateful for anything in my life. I remember several times when I was thinking of what I had to be grateful for, and all I could think of was that I was grateful that I wasn't a widow in a Third World Country. That reality did make me feel somewhat better.

How about you. What are you grateful for this year? I urge you to take time to think about it before you have to share right before your Thanksgiving meal!!!

Many people have been sharing this video on Facebook.

Happy Thanksgiving!! It surely seems to have gotten lost in the flurry of all that is Christmas this year. Let's let tomorrow be all about giving thanks!!
November 22, 2019

What I Wore- Leopard Print

Two things that are very popular for fall and winter are animal print tops and snakeskin boots!!

I recently spoke at my church. As I looked in my closet for something to wear, I suddenly realized that I have nothing to wear in there!!

Because I was anxious about getting through my interview, I knew I needed to feel very comfortable in what I was wearing!! I headed to my local Bealls and found this cute top!!

This blouse can be found HERE.

I also love these animal print tops from Amazon.

Found Here.

Found HERE

Found Here.

November 19, 2019

A Conversation On Grief (and a Godwink)

There are videos in this post that, for some reason, don't always come through on RSS feeds. If you receive my blog posts through email or through a blog service, please click HERE to have full access to the post.

I was so honored to be part of my pastor's sermon on grief this past Sunday. I was honored and also extremely anxious!! It's hard to tell our stories, isn't it? I'm not sure why I have such a desire to tell others my story. I hope to get a dialogue started about our journeys. That's for sure. I hope to inspire, not necessarily through me, but through what I've learned, so I guess that's a big part of it.

When my pastor asked if I would be part of the sermon, I agreed, but definitely started having feelings of anxiety!! The topic of grief is so emotional. Everyone is dealing with a different situation and a different relationship. My concern came from wanting to make sure that my part of the sermon was clear and without mistakes which could take away from the meaning and purpose. (I hope that makes sense).

Here is the conversation with my pastor. He did such a great job preparing and leading this discussion!!! He made me feel so at ease, and I'm so grateful!!

If you want encouraging messages, you can subscribe on Youtube to get his sermons HERE.

And now, here is my precious Godwink.

First, in case you aren't familiar with the term, let me explain a Godwink!!

"A Godwink is what some people would call a coincidence, an answered prayer, or simply an experience so astonishing that it could only have come from God." from Beliefnet.

I've had several Godwinks with music since Randy passed away. I will write about those next week!! Yes- God has used Aerosmith to wink at me!!!

I guess if these other musical Godwinks hadn't happened, I might not have thought as much of what happened Sunday morning. Here is the story:

Although I felt fairly prepared for Sunday, I woke up feeling pretty anxious. The topic is so important to me that I let my fear of misspeaking get the best of me. I don't want my verbal typos to take away from the message. I looked over my notes one more time and felt the most anxiety I had felt since I started preparing for this day. I prayed but still felt anxious. 

As I walked into the bedroom where Dr. T was listening to the songs that were going to be sung that morning (he plays the drums some Sundays). I heard Kristene DiMarco's "It Is Well." I walked in just before the part where she sings the words from the old hymn, "It Is Well." (just about 3 minutes into the song)

I told Dr. T that I had just had a Godwink. The hymn "It Is Well" was sung at Randy's memorial service. God has used it before in my life to get my attention. If you don't know the story behind the hymn, you can read about it HERE.

I've always loved the hymn as I remember singing it in church with my family so many times. After my Grandad passed away, I remember going into my Nana's room to check on her. She was sitting on the side of her bed, and as I sat by her, she told me she was just saying over and over to herself, "It is well with my soul." I knew when Randy passed away that I wanted to have it sung at his service because it had such significance for me. 

I don't believe in coincidence. I believe that God used that old hymn being sung in a new way this past Sunday to just give me a little wink. He used it to say to me. "I'm Here. I am in control!! It's all going to be OK. You will be OK this morning, no matter how badly you mess up what you intend to say. I can still use it!!"

I felt such a sense of peace after hearing that song. Before Dr. T left, he reminded me of two things. First, he reminded me that this wasn't about me!!! And, also, he let me know that we would be singing that song right before I sat down with my pastor, Mike. Both of those things I needed to hear!!!

So as I stood in church Sunday singing the last song before I was called up, I sang "It Is Well" with a grateful heart. Thank you, God, for caring so much about me!!!

Have you experienced a Godwink? If you haven't, I'd be willing to bet you haven't been looking for them!!!

Here is my favorite Godwink book.    
It can be purchased HERE

 Other Godwink books and movies can be found HERE.

November 08, 2019

It's Still Fall, Y'all!!

I honestly don't have anything against anyone putting up their Christmas decorations early. Although, it does seem that for some it gets earlier and earlier every year.

I happen to still be enjoying my fall colors around our house as well as in what I'm wearing!! It's not too late to put out some fall decorations. Here is a look at my world of fall colors!!

I love decorating with books. I love the different colors of old books. These were weeded out of the library where
I used to work. I'm so glad I got them!!

Fall decor

I also love decorating with flameless candles. These are on a timer so I never have to turn them on or off.

 You can find similar candles HERE.

As an Amazon Affiliate, I profit from qualifying purchases that you make.

Although, I don't usually wear earth tones, this time of year I make an exception. Here are a few outfits that I'll continue to wear through Thanksgiving!!

I have loved this green blouse. It is comfortable and easy to wear. 

This could be a great outfit for Thanksgiving!

I've shared this vest before. There are so many colors to choose from.

It can be found HERE.

November 06, 2019

Rebuilding From The Ashes

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I got in 6.2 miles this morning. It wasn't pretty, but I'm done. It's a deposit made into that mental strength bank that I'm going to need when I run my 10K with my friend in January. I'm sure it's also what I will need to keep going in this round of training leading up to the race.

While I was out, I had some random thoughts that I thought might be good to share.

As a side note, I mentioned Kanye West's Jesus Is King album last week. I finally downloaded it and am listening to it while I'm doing some work on my computer. It is really good!!! I can't believe how much I like it!!!

I like all the songs on the album, but I keep going back to this one!!

Back to my morning run... I wanted today to be my long run day because our weather here is supposed to get colder. I knew I needed to get a 10K in to see how I feel. Because of all of this, I had to run down a street that I've never been down before. I looked up a hill and noticed a house at the top that was so pretty!!

I then realized that I was running down a street that had been devasted by wildfires years ago. Many of these houses have been rebuilt. As I ran along looking at these lovely, new houses, I started trying to imagine what this area looked like during and right after the fires. I can't imagine. During one of the fires, the entire town had to be evacuated, and so many people lost their homes.
The new growth is finally taking over!!

What I was witnessing is an excellent picture of our lives. We sometimes have to rebuild from the ashes. Ashes left by death, divorce, abuse, mistreatment. I was so encouraged today to be reminded of the hope that exists in all of our lives.

Looking towards town.
I don't know what ashes you are rebuilding from this morning. You may be at the beginning of a journey that you never thought you'd be on. I have been there.

I encourage you today to do something for you. Sip a cup of tea or go for a walk. Do something that will get you in a good mood and the right mind to face whatever it is that you have to heal from!!
 You can rebuild from the ashes!!