Sunday, December 31, 2006

Have you had yours?

I was thinking as I was singing on praise team at church this morning...

"Whoa...This is not what I ever thought I would be doing on Christmas Eve 2006!"

(Although, a church of 1,000 members and three other people with me...That's really NEVER been something I prefer to do!)

Isn't God amazing?

This year's New Year's Eve at the Harmlesses will be quieter than we've ever had before. We have declined most party invitations (unless Anne uses her charm on Matt and gets her way) and we will be ringing in 2007 with Sam.

This is the joy of older kids.

He could not be more excited and has big plans for how to spend the night. (He wants to watch Amazing Home Makeover all evening! I love him!)

I heard a song the other day and while it's not my favorite group, I stalled in the parking lot so I could hear all the words. Here is a section...

"There comes a time, in every heart
a time of real decision
when we reach the point of choosin'
how we would live our lives
all our hopes, all our dreams
will rise up from that moment,
the moment we surrender,
and choose to follow Christ.

He's been waiting all our lives to hear us say,
I am your's Lord take my hand and lead the way

When you believe He's all you need
that will be your defining moment.
As you live your life walking in His light,
trusting Him completely,
that will be,
that will be,
your defining moment.

All I have all I am,
is resting in His promise,
The promise that He'll make me everything that I should be,
I will live,
I will die
for the cause He set before me,
to take this love inside my heart
for all the world to see"

You know, that is so true. I look around and along with myself at some point in everyone's life, you see them come upon their defining moment. It looks so different for everybody but it's clear when they are there. For some, it's something they never would have imagined and for others it is as Job penned, "My worst fear has come upon me."

I know I have been there. Maybe a few times. I suppose that is because I keep in conflict over who has control over my life. My mom always says you've got to keep taking the test you fail...

I would hate for anyone to ever think I have (or believe I have) it figured out. I certainly have been made more aware of the contrary this Christmas. My appetite for sin and living for self is a minute by minute battle and the victories have nothing to do with my own strength...Trust me. I get frustrated and then I remember that God wanted to save me from myself and my selfish indulgences have left me in a fight for righteousness.

I suppose that will go on until the final breath. I know it will for at least the new year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Remember This?

This post is for my sisters...

Remember this?

This was the one thing that I asked for from Grandma L.'s house. I so much associated this doll with her bedroom!

Mom brought it to me this week.

It's a lot more creepy up close than I remembered it but I still love it. It's on a shelf in my kitchen with the other antique toys that I have. I'm hoping to find a professional that will be able to clean it for me.

I thought I would let you see it again. I have some of the best memories of my childhood at that house with you guys. I love you both and miss you very much. I'm sorry we didn't get our Christmas together but I was thinking of you all day. I didn't call because I didn't want to cry...

Christmas Book 2006

This year my husband gave me this book as my Christmas present. I know it's not an elaborate gift like some wives might have received this year but finances lead him to a bookstore with the mission of finding a book that I would like and would reflect me for $20.00 and under.

He walked away with the perfect choice.

Jane Austen-The Complete Novels.

Inside he inscribed this...

"...It is the living which I ought to have had. A most delightful place! It would have suited me in every respect." -Elizabeth; Pride and Prejudice

And so I give this book to you, my Lovely Lady...Because it suits you in every respect.
-Mr. Harmless

How sweet is that?


My bathroom and guestroom still smells like my dad's aftershave and it's making a little sick to my stomach with sadness....

After a week together, it's hard to reconcile why we're still choosing to live 12 hours away.

Of course, I love both my mom AND my dad but there's just something between a father and daughter that you can't explain but is very special and comforting.

I miss him all the time.


In response to popular demand...I am posting about the new addition to our family...


Sorry for the delay but it has been a mix of crazy week and a little mixed feelings about the puppy that now dominates our lives and schedule.

This should come as no shock to anyone who knows me. It took me a couple of days to understand the "freak out" I was experiencing but then I remembered in the middle of the night that I had the same response to the last dog we got ten years ago and to every one of my pregnancies and babies for the first three days after I found out about them and then brought them home. OH, and marriage!! Three engagements later and I still fought the urge to be the runaway bride!

Something I wanted SOOOO bad and then...

"Wait a minute! I'm not too sure about this?! It seemed like a good idea but now..."

I usually recover pretty fast. I mean, I love animals. I love babies.....and husbands...I just get a little nervous about the long-term commitment and responsibility!

Isn't that pathetic? Selfish..I know.

So, Milo came to live with us this week and it's been an adventure for the boys and an adjustment for the mom. I almost cried the first night. I had to pray that God would help me not to be selfish when I know that a puppy would be so good for my sons.

The last dog we had for four years, I gave to the neighbors one day and never looked back. This did scar my husband.

I'm committed to not doing that to Sam and Jo.

For the record...None of this has anything to do with Milo. He is, in fact, an almost perfect dog. He doesn't bark. Ever. My vet who also has this type of dog said that in two years her's has only barked once.

Milo doesn't shed. I bathed him after a very stressful trip to my house and there wasn't one hair in the tub! It was a little freaky! I was immediately convinced that I would cut his hair but he's so cute with long hair and if I can find a way for him not to smell...I intend to let it grow.

He's very laid back. He's afraid of ALL things so he's not very curious. This is preferred when it comes to a puppy. He is very smart..already knowing to "sit" and "lay down". He lays around in a big hairy heap and plays the part.

The potty training is going fairly well. He is quarantined to my kitchen and his kennel when we are not around and is learning to ring a bell at the door for when he needs to go out. He can go all night without an accident and for that I am VERY grateful. I have no more babies and in return..I sleep-ALOT. I was not prepared to give that up for a dog.

I am convinced that I can make him smell good enough that even my mother-in-law won't be able to tell I have a dog in the house although I'm aware that she will never believe that.

I am simply hoping that Milo will be able to survive my perfectionism. I'm trying to chill but it will take some training of my own and I'm very stubborn.

We did go out the following morning after Milo arrived and bought him a proper bed and blanket along with food, small treats, bones and toys. He is living in style with all new accommodations. I've also met his vet and have started to think through the proper plan for flea treatment.

(See..I'm trying.)

The boys love him and this morning he escaped the kitchen and we found him "licking" the boys awake. It was very cute and Sam and Jo enjoyed it.

Thanks, Steph for the gift. It was the boy's favorite Christmas present.

(Waiting for their surprise gift)

(Sam never fails to give a great "surprised look"!)


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Scenes From Christmas

Sam and Jo...Ready to finally open their presents!

Sam reading what I wrote to him...I gave him my favorite book from when I was a little girl.

The only part of the day that got me choked up...Sam and Jo on the phone with their grandparents, wishing them a Merry Christmas. It was very sad.

Mom and Boys

I carried on a tradition of my Mother's by getting a birthday cake for Jesus.

Amanda, Steve and the girls join us for Christmas lunch.

It was a nice day and much better than I expected. While I missed my family and friends very much, it was the MOST relaxing holiday I've ever had! I wasn't sure what to do with myself...Not running from house to house with a bunch of presents and luggage in the cold! I'm not even sure I stepped outside the whole day!

The boys got their requested gifts..Sam and his video games and Josiah and all the pirate stuff, but they have no idea what the "Big" gift is that us on its way to our house as I write this.

Milo...A puppy!

Sam overheard us talking this morning because as of ten...Milo had gone to the bathroom in every way and puked for my father-in-law who is so graciously bringing him down. Poor Pop-Pop! Sam thinks he's figured out the gift and is getting a guinea pig!

Pop-Pop is also bringing my husband his "Big" gift...A pick-up truck!

My "Big" gift will arrive around 6 when my dad and mom pull up.

So, it's been a full weekend and while there's much more to come..I am looking forward to getting back to the mundane of things. Holidays are nice but they are often a mirror, reminding me of the things that are the hardest about life. Steph and I have talked alot these last few days about accepting what we see and being thankful that we've got help with whatever comes our way! Right, girl?

I hope you all had a wonderful day...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

For The Grandparents...

We all miss you very much!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve

Well, we are on our way to our first Christmas holiday at our own house. It's strange because in ten years of marriage we have never celebrated Christmas at our home. Sam and Jo have never had a Christmas morning at their own house. It wasn't really our choice to stay this year but we are trying to make the best of it and find some special ways to celebrate.

It started today with going to dinner with Amanda and Steve...Matt's sister and brother-in-law. They get all dressed up on Christmas Eve and eat at a fancy place and this year they treated us! It was really nice and festive. Here are some pics from the evening...

(Amelia saying "Ho, Ho, Ho!")


After dinner, we all headed back to Amanda's to eat the treats that I made yesterday for the neighborhood.

So, the boys are in utter glee, awaiting the present time and snuggled in for a "sleep out" (that's what we call being able to sleep out in the living room in sleeping bags) and watching "The Nightmare before Christmas".

Matt is happy because Amanda made him homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast...

And, I am happy because I've made it through another year with my family!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"And The Winner Is..."

Mauldin High School.

For those of you that have been asking and waiting for Matt's decision-He has chosen the slightly nicer (okay LOTS nicer) school. Lots bigger, too, with about 2,300 students in their high school.

For those of you that haven't heard...the job dilemma has been resolved. Matt's going back to teaching and he's opted for public school for the first time in his career. Should be pretty exciting if he can keep himself from getting stabbed! (That's for you, Mom!)

He starts on the 3rd and already has his books. It will be interesting to see how much he gets mocked over his name.

I will get to share parenting again AND go back to running at night! YEAH! (It's the little things that keep me going!)

Watch out Mauldin we come!

Outtakes Part 2

Steph just recently posted about her family Christmas picture and her outtakes from the night and so I decided to join her by posting ours. We usually have a professional picture taken but with limited funds this year we decided to do a candid shot at our house. We were going to have someone take them but with sickness and schedules, we decided to utilize the "timer" on our camera.


Here are some of the ones that didn't work at the last minute and others that are a product of boys taking over my house!

(Okay, right off the bat, the option for me to stand was a BAD idea! I struggle to not be taller than my husband in my favorite shoes and I look like a GIANT compared to the rest of them!)

(This one had good potential but as usual, Josiah is looking very amused at the wall. How the child can already have debilitating ADHD at four, I'll never understand!)

(Okay, this one is hilarious because the head pose that Matt is doing is in almost every professional picture that we have! The photographer always asks him to tilt his head down...Either to avoid the glasses glare or to endear him to our family...but Matt overcompensates in this dorky face and IT IS SO ABSURD!! The fact that he did it AGAIN in our amateur pics is shocking!)

(This one needs no explanation. I had just walked away from them frustrated, washing my hands of the whole situation..)

And then our final Christmas card picture:

Not too bad. I guessed we pulled it off the end.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Celebrating The Season

Matt and Abe

Saturday night our good friends Abe and Amy took us out to dinner to celebrate the holiday and the relief that has hit our house with the TWO job offers that Matt got last week! I'll tell you more about that later when/if everything goes through. I don't mean to sound cynical but you tread very carefully when things have been rocky!

It was nice to have an evening out...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas in My Hemisphere

San sent this to me...It's just easier to do it on here than to send it to everyone. If you care to know...

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Egg Nog...Hands down!
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Santa doesn't bring presents to our house...I'm too poor to give him any of the credit for my kid's gifts!
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? white
4. Do you hang mistletoe? Yes..Every year
5. When do you put your decorations up? The week after Thanksgiving
6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Oyster stuffing! I love those slippery buggers! And Grandma's cream cheese ham and pimento dip (now dad's) with chips!
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? Well, as a teenager, My favorite memories are the years that I did stuff with Matt and Steph and Matt on Christmas evening. I have some great video of those nights! (Sorry Gary..I love you!)
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Never knew any different than there wasn't a Santa. Poor Charity!
9. When do you open your presents--Christmas eve or Christmas day? Both
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? White lights and gold and wooden stuff.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it if it doesn't prohibit my plans.
12. Can you ice skate? not very well
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I got a gun one year from my Father-in-law that was fun and my space coat from Matt (still an on-going joke.)
14. What is the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family-it's usually the one time a year that all my siblings gather together.
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Peanut butter balls
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Dad reading to us each Christmas and Mom's Birthday cake for Jesus.
17. What tops your tree? A big bow
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? I love to give and receive a well thought out gift that really looks like it was meant for me or the person. I hate both when they come out of "pressure gift buying".
19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Religious: Oh Holy Night/ Secular: Have yourself a Merry little Christmas
20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yuck!
21. What's number one on your Christmas list this year? My parents. I'm thrilled and relieved they are coming when we can't come to them. I know it's a sacrifice.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Humility and Grace redefined

Alright...I'm not much of a personal blogger.

This is very evident if you look back over my blog. There are various reasons for that-some good, some bad but I've enjoyed the privacy.

Keep it light. Make it look happy.

In person I am way too visibly transparent to make it look happy but on a blog...WOW, I'm a professional.

Maybe the last blog opened some floodgate and so I share a bit more but I promise to recover soon with a cutesy post about motherhood. Just stay with me!

If you would have asked me to define grace prior to these past few months it would have been something about the supernatural good feelings that you get that carries you through some terrible time that would otherwise crush your emotional self.

That is really not correct.

I'm learning that grace is the ability to do the right thing when everything about your situation compels you to do wrong. It's an undeserved favor with God that blesses your life in any light and helps you to persevere. The feelings may soften or brighten but they may not for a while or ever. That fact is really secondary to the good actions that are produced when otherwise there would be failure.

Humbleness. This is another hot topic for me. Choices made in my life may be humbling by definition but might not birth humility.

I preach non-judgment. I believe that stones should be dropped and love should be supreme.....But do I? In all ways do I humbly show compassion?

I thought so. THAT should have been my first clue.

That brings me to the problem at hand. We are in a bit of a financial crisis.

My mom raised me to "do it right" and save your pennies and if you do, you will reap the benefits of that. People who sink financially must not be "doing it right". Right?

I have always been serious about our finances. I pride myself that most of the time I run it like a business. We live modestly. We've never had serious debt if any. We save. My husband is willing to work ANY job regardless if it is his dream or not. In fact, he recently left his college degree job for a much more difficult, dirty job in the hopes that it would provide better for his family.

Sounds like the formula for success, right?

I have spent all day wracked with concern and listening to voices in my head. Concern about what will happen now that the employment is falling apart and no other jobs are surfacing and haunted by a familiar set of unspoken and sadly, spoken opinions about other people who were struggling financially in our lives.

The voice was my own.

I would never say that I judged people who were struggling with money even to the extreme place of facing a foreclosure or filing bankruptcy, but I think I thought in some way that as long as I "did it right" those types of situations would NEVER happen to me. Of course not. They must be doing something careless.

I've learned about stewardship and would have readily said that any money we have is not our own, it's God's but secretly I thought that He really appreciated my knack for budget discipline.

I've discovered that when we are responsible with God's money it has absolutely noting to do with our own goodness. If I have a moment of discretion with my bank account it is merely God's grace that has influenced my actions. If left on my own, I would squander every penny for my own benefit without regard for God's commandments.

And this whole "job thing"...That's a false security that takes over our hearts before we even realize it. If we are willing to do ANYTHING to pay our bills and provide for our family, THAT is grace. The ability to get a job and keep it is also entirely granted by God.

He will reveal His authority one way or another.

It's very humbling. Submission to it will produce humility.

"I get it God...Now how about a job?"

I'm praying for the grace to accept it but I know in my heart it's already available to me. So, I'm transitioning my pray for the desire to want to want to accept whatever God gives or doesn't.

It's hard to know how to end this post. The writer in me wants some clippy statement or enlightened thought that will make everyone impressed but I can't seem to muster it. It's very grey right now and I'm afraid. I want my Christmas with carols and presents and "tiny tots all asleep in their beds." Others seem to have that and I struggle being sinfully jealous. But, I am able to choose to remember the big picture and the beauty from ashes that God creates.

There's still time. Maybe just maybe I'll get some Christmas miracle, right?

Yeah...there's the clippy! Oh well!


*A side note to my friends and family who are having a hard time and are avoiding me now that this has occurred (as not to bother me!)...Let me leave you with my famous quotations:
"To help is to heal"
"My ears need to hear what my mouth is saying!"
"Counselor..Counsel thyself"

Stop trying to lessen my load. I thrive on loving you guys! Don't take that away!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wandering The Gap

I have found myself in a very odd place these past few months.

I'm wandering around in what I like to call "The Gap". Sadly enough, this is not the retail store. This is the waiting place in life that God so often brings you to when He wants to build your faith.

I don't like it here. I want to reject it. I'm positive if I had enough time to reason or more resources, I could get myself out of the gap. It's funny, because when I realize that I've been brought there (and it often hits me suddenly) I don't respond too calmly. My pulse starts to race and I begin to wander around in an inward panic until my frustration comes out in some form or another...Like a breakdown of tears or a misplaced argument with someone I care about it.

You see, "The Gap" is that place between God's promises and His provision. I know His promises. They are a mere verse away from my knowledge but His provision...How and when He intends to solve my problem-that's a whole different story.

It is here in the gap that you can become a big girl Christian and not a first grader. The humbling may not be your decision but it can yield great results.

If you let it.

You have to be careful. It is in this gap that Satan tempts you to despair. He desires for you to accuse God that He is not working. I sensed that urging as I opened my mailbox yesterday and immediately whispered a prayer of defensiveness.
God stays His hand for what is like a moment compared to eternity and I race to doubt. It seems so natural to wonder if God really cares for you in the gap. If His thoughts are towards you for good.

That's the sad realization for me. I tell people nearly every day that God loves them and desires to bless them in obedience and the first visible road sign for the gap and I question His presence and intentions.

It is in the gap that you find out who your true friends are. I mean that. Many may say they pray for you or send well wishes but it is those who are willing to come into the gap with you and grab ahold, that you discover a real sister or brother.

I know who these people are because while I'm wandering they don't listen to me! I tell them to stay away and I attempt to detach...I become that hermit at my house (pacing and reasoning) and they barge in and drag me out. They call and call and drive me crazy and then they feed me a little cake until I look better to them.

(Cake is very effective for Charity..Please feel free to send some!)

They remind me of the promises I know and reassure me that they are there until God debuts His unique provision. We choose together to praise in the gap and be thankful for it.

It's bittersweet...This gap I'm in.

I'm so thankful I'm not alone.

My friend Linda and Substitute Mom, Laura Baker (Author of "Prasso")

Sweet Amy

My Danville Girls-Steph...How can a phone call make all the difference?

Matt-The eternal rescuer. How many of my friends can attest to that?

Supper Club


Abe, Matt's closest friend. Our financial consultant and cheerleader.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

You know you are "sort of" a single mom when...

(...The "Sort of" so as not to offend any real single moms by insinuating that I am one just because my husband is gone 20 out of 30 days a month. The true single moms have it MUCH worse and I am praying for them and willing to attempt to serve them in any way possible...Like-late phone calls, sleep-overs or compassionate responses to general bouts of screaming and yelling in a mall parking lot.)

Thank you. That being said...

You know you are "sort of" a single mom when:

1. You insist that the cashier should take your CVS discount card only to realize that her hesitancy is because you are standing in Walgreens.

2. Dawson's Creek becomes your new favorite show to watch over breakfast. I mean, who's around to mock you?

3. You begin to really fantasize about being a dog owner.

4. Your diet consists of cereal and whatever is left on your kid's plate.

5. Your friends begin to avoid your calls because they realize you still have 25,000 words to use up before sun down!

6. You have located all the restaurants in town that let kids eat for free and rotate them each night of the week, finding the cheapest thing on the menu for yourself so you can brag to other moms that you fed the whole gang for $3.95!

7. You begin to ask your 8 year old if he thinks "my butt looks fat in these jeans?"

8. Any major crisis feels like it would be unbearable. Like the stomach virus hitting everyone in your house.

9. You keep any traveling in your car within walking distance from your house because if it broke down you wouldn't have anybody to come and get you at a moments notice.

10. Your kids looked surprised and want to take your picture when you emerge from the bathroom wearing make-up and having your hair done!


Thanks for the shock, Sambo! You really know how to boost my confidence!

Oh and honorable mention:
11. You are often found screaming at your faulty computer because it is your only lifeline to the real world!

12. Your kids ask, "Are we going somewhere?" when you change out of your pajama pants before noon.

13. Screw roses and's a Mountain Dew that makes you really happy!

14. You don't blog for a week because you HAVE NOTHING TO BLOG ABOUT!

(I'll leave 15 for San or Steph. I'm sure they'll have some of their own!)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

It's a Man's World

Well, it's finally happening.

The boys are eating me out of house and home.

I knew the day would come that they would catch on to the joy of food and never stop wanting it but it has come faster than I would have anticipated. With our current job situation, I am trying to make the pantry stretch a little more than usual and I am losing the battle cookie by cookie.

Tonight, I fed them frozen waffles. It's a staple item in our freezer and while they are fairly cheap, my boys could eat a box of them in one sitting.

I certainly don't want to deprive them of nourishment but I also want to teach them some level of self-control. I suppose I need to consult a mom of teen-aged boys if this is unreasonable...Or maybe just pointless!

I had just taken Sam to the track with me to scooter while I walked and I'm guessing that the 2 1/2 miles he did worked up an appetite.

After he scarfed down two waffles he came into the living room where I was eating one plain waffle as a snack. "I'm still starving, Mom. I want another one!"

"No, Sam...Two is enough. If you drink your milk and sit a while you'll be surprised how full you feel."

*sniffle and whine* "Mom...I'm starving!"

"You can't be starving. I'm an adult and I'm only eating one and without any syrup!"

"You don't count, Mamma...You are just trying to be skinny!"



Season Confusion

It has been really hard to accept that it is actually December here in the South. I know that the really cold weather must be on its way but up until now, I've felt over-dressed just putting on my big sweaters. I keep thinking I will wake up to winter and every day its so warm and blue out.

I know Steph will kick me for being regretful about that but I kind of am.

It's just too weird.

I was making a Christmas present and it required me to look through my archives of pictures. I found these of Josiah a couple of years ago when we went to pick strawberries together and I thought they were so cute.

In memory of summer...


I was posting this for my buddy San to read when she gets off work but I just remembered that she may not be near her computer! Darn it! San, I thought you would get a kick out of this since we just talked about it when you were here. SEE...I've just been waiting for someone to validate that I should be involved in Environmental Studies!

What the heck is that anyway?

(Hope your first night back went okay. I'm on my own again and the insomnia has returned so call late if you want!)

WARNING! This is what people do when they are LOSERS and up too late at night-Online quizzes. I found out what I should major in should I go back to college next year:

**Your Scholastic Strength Is Inspiring Others***

You are great at developing a vision, and getting others to adopt your way of thinking.
You are talented at leading, balancing tasks, and helping people work together.

You should major in:

Environmental studies
Social work
Political science

What Should You Major In?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Merry Christmas, Charity!

I have become a real antique lover in my thirties. It is not uncommon for me to go visit an antique store and walk around for an hour creating a "wish list" in my mind.

Typically, I leave the store very sad.

Oh well...

But, Matt moved an elderly couple last week out of their home and into a retirement facility and their sons were heading up the packing. The house was apparently full of antique furniture and the least of their stash was going to be left by the road for somebody to scavenger if wanted.


I have to say that after Matt unloaded the pieces into my house, I cried.

Really. I cried.

I would NEVER be able to afford these wardrobes in a store and the fact that someone "gave" them away stuns me.

Aren't they beautiful?

(I imagine there will be some very unhappy daughter-in-laws when they discover what has been loaded and NOT loaded onto the moving truck!)

This is in my kitchen. Funny secret...the tv is on the left behind the upper door.

This is in my guest bedroom. It's my Chronicles of Narnia Wardrobe!