It seems this month is the month for internal battling in our family. Mercy has started fighting her own temptations, but my favorite part is that she does it verbally. For example...

This morning, I had to get my grocery list off the computer before we could go shopping. Mercy Jane impatiently stood next to me, commanding me to "Hurry up, Mommy!" She leaned closer and closer to my left arm, first patting it, and then more aggressively hitting. Finally she got very quiet, and in a firm voice said, "No! I do NOT want to bite your arm, Mommy."

I stopped what I was doing to look at her. "What?"

Her face registered determination and peace with the decision she had made. "I do NOT want to bite your arm anymore, Mommy."

"Well...I'm glad for that! Good decision, Mercy Jane!" I encouraged her.

She smiled up at me, but I still moved my arm a safe distance from her teeth.

Later at the grocery store, she told me in that same determined voice, "I do NOT want to open the raisins, Mommy."

I glanced down at her and noticed that she was staring at the box intently. "That's a great decision, Mercy!" I praised her. "Let's move that box so you can do right easier, okay?"

"Okay, thanks, Mommy!" she said happily.

I had to laugh to myself.

Then just now, I got her up from her nap. She stared at the button on my shirt that she had been playing with all day (and had been being told NOT to play with all day), and she said, "Mommy, I do NOT want to unbutton your shirt anymore."

I had forgotten her previous temptation fighting statements, so I questioned in puzzlement, "You don't?"

"No. I do NOT want to unbutton your shirt!" she said with vehemence. "Not. At. All."

I cracked up inside, but decided that was just the encouragement I needed to make my own right choices. I don't have a clue what's going on with her to cause all these serious decisions, but I'm all for it! And I'm so glad I get to hear it!
Normally, days and days of gray winter make me feel cooped up, restless, cabin-feverish, as I've blogged about before. But Thursday, I looked at the driving snowstorm outside my window, and I felt happily secretive. It seemed very appropriate to be cooped up inside while God and I accomplish a transformation - like a caterpillar hard at work inside a cocoon. Nobody else knows what's going on inside my house, but I do!

I grinned to myself, and I felt my eyes crinkle up. Thursday marked a week since I logged in to SparkPeople and began being purposeful about what I eat, drink and how I exercise. (Truthfully, the exercising isn't happening as often as it should, but regulating my appetite on a consistent basis is such a big step forward for me, that I'm not even concerned about the exercise. That will come in time.) One whole week of discipline. One whole week of not being ruled by the desire for food.

Do you know that even the thought of a random food popping into my mind used to force me to go eat? I'm being serious about the word force because even when I told myself, "No, you're not really hungry. You don't need it," I wouldn't listen to me. But now, I have a chart that I can look at to know if I need to eat or not. I know when my snacks are. I know what my calorie limits are. I know what nutrients my body needs. I even know which foods provide those nutrients and which foods do not. So when my body says, "I'm hungry! Feed me!" I can verify with an outside source that my body is communicating truthfully to me.

This may sound ridiculous to just about all of you, but to me, who has never disciplined myself to eat correctly, to me who has never really taken a stand against my appetite and said, "YOU SHALL NOT PASS." To me, this is freedom.

And this battle going on inside my cocoon? It's not a bad thing. It's a necessary thing. It's a life-giving thing. It's a death-to-self thing. It's even a joyful thing!

So Thursday, when I looked out the window at the world outside, I thought, "When the snow melts, when I join creation again in the sunshine, I'll have won!"

But first, I attend to business inside my cocoon.
You're not going to believe this. Well, maybe you will; I'm the one still in shock over my newest accomplishment.

I signed up for SparkPeople, a nutrition and fitness and any-other-goal-you-might-have tracking website. Yeah, yeah, that's not the amazing part. Are you ready for this?

I worked out tonight, because I wanted to! The website made it easy.

I've been on a different website, Live Strong, for a few years, but all it did was record whatever I put in. I'm not a goal-oriented person. I'm a fun-oriented person. So when my friend Alicia told me she had joined SparkPeople for free, I thought it might be worth a try if I have a friend. (Plus, Live Strong had locked me out because I couldn't remember my password. The nerve!)

Now that I'm on SparkPeople, I'm seeing how easy they've made everything. They created a workout program for me with video demos. They created an eating program for me, not that I'm going to follow it, but you know, it's nice to have options. And they've actually made the whole atmosphere over there really fun!

So now, I would like to say two things:

1. I apologize for the excessive italicizing on this post. I'm just so excited.
2. No one has asked me to post about this or offered me any wonderful things for advertising for them. I'm just so excited.

Well, maybe three things:
3. I actually feel like I may accomplish something (as long as Alicia pushes me from time to time). Did you hear that, Alicia? You're a very important part of this!

I'm so excited!
At the dentist today, Liberty needed to get a cavity filled on her upper back molar. She's my uber-compliant child, so I didn't worry too much about how she would behave in The Chair. I did worry, however, when the dentist informed me that I could not stay in the little room with her. In their experience, children sit better when their parents are not in sight. Plus, I had squirmy Mercy, my NON-compliant child, with me.

It's a small office, and I was amused and relieved to realize that Loquacious Liberty's voice could be heard all the way in the front waiting room. Unfortunately, Sesame Street on the television prevented me from hearing her exact words, but the receptionist, whom I could see through the little glass doors, did not have that problem. She sat typing at her computer, and from time to time she would giggle to herself at something she heard Liberty say in the back room. Her amusement amused me, as did the torrent of words pouring from Liberty's mouth with no break for breath.

After about fifteen minutes, the voice stopped, and I thought about worrying, then I realized the dentist must have had her hand in Liberty's mouth. An appropriate amount of time passed for a cavity to be filled. Then the waiting room door opened, and the dental assistant gently led my daughter to me. I searched Liberty's face to see what she had thought of her dental visit. She looked pleasantly spacey, and she sounded unusually quiet.

The assistant explained, "She's still a little woozy. We had to give her a bit of gas."

"Gas?" I questioned.

The assistant laughed slightly. "Your daughter is amazing. What a little trooper! She was braver than most adults we see, and so happy to be at the dentist. But we couldn't get her to stop talking long enough to work on her teeth..."

Later tonight, when I repeated the story to my dad, he laughed, too. "Sounds just like another little girl I used to know."

I grinned. I clearly remember my dentist asking me why I was "so darn happy" when I was about seven, and my dad leaning into my line of sight with an amused look on his face to kindly request that I stop talking for just a little bit so the dentist could do his job.
The gray winter months trouble me. I find myself wishing for life change, longing for weather change, and if I'm not careful, I can easily get discontent, grouchy, discouraged. It has happened often enough that I've recognized the winter-time pattern, and I know I have to sternly tell myself, "Missy, that's enough of that. Sure, it's wise to take introspective inventory to see if your heart is lining up with God's heart, but don't get sucked into your own emotions. Don't buy into the idea that what you feel is reality." So here I am again, preaching to myself.

Don't get me wrong: I love snow. I love the change in seasons. I'm just of the opinion that it should snow on Thanksgiving Day and melt on January 2nd. Nice, easy, simple, organized. Ta-da! And now on to Summer!

Last night, I was discussing all this with God (because if He didn't have me to keep Him updated on the weather patterns, I don't know what He'd do. He needs me, I tell ya!) Anyway, I was telling God how insignificant I feel right now. I know my children need me. I know my husband needs me. I know the meals I cook keep them from starvation (See? I'm making a BIG difference!), but when I spend ten minutes cleaning the living room, and I get to the far side and turn around and see twelve toys lying there where I just cleaned, I don't feel that I'm accomplishing much, you know? Where's the purpose?! I didn't plan to waste my life on things like cleaning the living room. I had goals, dreams, aspirations. I was going to make a difference in people's lives, and I don't mean by keeping their diapers clean.

(Ironically, if I worked in a nursing home or a hospital, and my duty was to feed and clean people, I think I would feel more significant. What's up with that?)

(Now, do you see why my emotions do not equal reality?)

Anyway, while God and I were talking, He reminded me of a sermon my college pastor preached, called "Brush Your Teeth." I won't go into details, but the illustration was about his son who did not like to brush his teeth (hence the sermon title). Pastor Schettler pointed out that if we are not doing the little daily things that we know we should do, then God is not going to give us anything bigger to do. God also reminded me of Philip in Acts 8:26-31 who while doing the little things God gave him, "stumbled onto" the big thing God had in store.

So I woke this morning with PURPOSE -- I was going to Brush My Teeth! I chose to pick up those extra twelve things with a GOOD ATTITUDE. (Can you imagine?) I chose to focus on things that will last, like sitting at the dining room table gluing random objects onto construction papers WITH my children. I choose to get off this computer and make meatballs and rice for supper tonight with delight, knowing that I am carrying out God's perfect will for my life at this exact moment.

Judging from the depth of the footprints I see outside my window, we got about six inches of snow yesterday and last night. I could be very wrong, but that's the story I'm sticking with. (Get it? "Sticking?" I crack me up.)

So it's glitteringly, gorgeously, powderly snowy outside, and I've just put this recipe into the crock pot (leaving out Jeremy's nemesis, the evil green celery, of course).

(I'm all about maintaining my healthy eating resolutions; can you tell?)

Chicken Corn Chowder
from SouthernFood.About.Com

•2 tablespoons butter
•1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
•1/2 cup chopped onion
•2 ribs celery, sliced
•2 small carrots, sliced
•2 cups frozen corn kernels
•2 cans cream of potato soup
•1 1/2 cups chicken broth
•1 teaspoon dried dill weed
•1/2 cup half and half or evaporated milk
In a large skillet, melt the butter or margarine; brown chicken. Transfer chicken to slow cooker. Add onions and celery to skillet and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes, until just tender. Add the onions and celery to crockpot, along with carrots, corn kernels, soup, chicken broth and dill to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 5 to 6 hours or until chicken is done and vegetables are tender. During the last 10 minutes, stir in the half and half or evaporated milk.

Serves 8.

MMMM, I can't wait for supper tonight!
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I heard this song by Kerrie Roberts on the radio the other day, and it has snagged itself upon my soul.

I’m running back to Your promises one more time.
Lord, that’s all I can hold on to.
I gotta say this has taken me by surprise, but nothing surprises You!
Before a heartache can ever touch my life it has to go through Your hands,
and even though I keep asking why, I keep asking why... matter what, I’m gonna love You!
No matter what I’m gonna need You!
I know You can find a way to keep me from the pain, but if not...
If not, I’ll trust You no matter what, no matter what!

When I’m stuck in this nothingness by myself I’m just sitting in silence.
There’s no way I can make it without Your help; I won’t even try it.
I know You have Your reasons for everything, so I will keep believing.
Whatever I might be feeling, God, You are my hope,
and You will be my strength.

Anything I don’t have, You can give it to me -- but it’s OK if You don’t.
I’m not here for those things; the touch of Your love is enough on its own.

No matter what, I still love You, and I’m gonna need You.
No matter what, I’m gonna love You.
No matter what, I’m gonna need You.
I know You can find a way to keep me from the pain, but if not...
If not, I’ll trust You.

I know You can find a way to keep me from the pain, but if not...
But if not, I’ll trust You no matter what.

No matter no matter what
No matter no matter what
No matter no matter what

Songwriter: Chuck Butler, Kerrie Roberts, Tony Wood
I'm finally ready to fill you in on the last chapter of the marriage certificate/driver's license story.

Read Part One and then Part Two first or this story won't make any sense.



So I called my Mama, like any girl in trouble would do. She listened, laughed in the appropriate spots, and finally said, "Hmm. I'll have to look into this."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I'm going to go visit that clerk and see what they have to tell me," she responded matter of factly.
And she did.

The following morning, my phone rang. "I have your certificate," my mom announced.

"What!? How did you get it?"

"I asked for it."

"That's it?"

"That's it."

"Now, why aren't things ever that easy for me?" I wondered.

My mom smirked. I could hear it over the phone. "You just have to be Mom," she said breezily.

"But I AM a mom!" I wailed in my most convincing "poor me" imitation. We both laughed.

When the certificate arrived in the mail, I was shocked at how different from the photocopy it looked: on blue and gray cardstock, a full sheet of paper, and wonder of wonders - the coveted SEAL rested happily on the back!

Jeremy and I had a grand old time celebrating our marriage, and then he asked me, "So, do you think the BMV Nazis will approve of this one? Does it have the appropriate recording marks?"

That worried me, so the next morning, I checked carefully for any recording notations. I found none.

Then I crossed my fingers and took it to the BMV. The woman behind the counter examined all of my documents closely but paused while handling my marriage certificate. She frowned and examined it more closely. "Is something wrong?" I asked her in my most casual voice. I was prepared to deny it all, if necessary.

"No-o," she said hesitantly.

"No?" I repeated.

"Well, it's just that I've never seen a marriage certificate like this one before."

I sat silently. What does that mean?

She stared at the document a while longer, turning it at various angles, I have no idea why. Then she called her supervisor over.

You've got to be kidding me! I thought.

I watched in silence as the two women held the fate of my driving in their hands. Finally, I said, "What's the matter?" The supervisor answered, "We've never seen a marriage certificate like this one before."

What, do people married in Illinois NEVER move to Indiana? What's the problem!

Finally, the supervisor shrugged at her employee and walked off. The woman turned to me and said, "We're going to go ahead with this. What is your address?"

"Well, I'm moving on Monday, so would you like my new address or my current address?"

"Oh dear, that's a problem. We cannot use your old address because driver's licenses do not get forwarded in the mail, and we cannot use your new address without proof that you are living there."

I just sat looking at her; my mind remained completely blank. It could have been due to the state of disbelief I was experiencing. God was probably trying to tell me something, like, "Move to Hawaii. Life will be easier there."

The lady then suggested that I come back after moving into the new house, and then I could try again.

After a week of nothing but junk mail, my friend kindly offered to mail me a card, just so I would have proof that I'd moved. Unfortunately, the BMV Nazis did not think that was good enough. I ended up going to the bank and having them print out forms showing our new addresses, then they stamped and notarized them, and I took those forms to the BMV.

I now have a driver's license! I'm legal!

But I still think I should have moved to Hawaii.
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It's January third, already? I guess that means it's back to the real world again, huh.

I took a blogging break for the holidays, and enjoyed every minute of it. Jeremy had the week between Christmas and New Year's off, so we whipped our house into shape. Now there's nary a box in sight. (If you don't count the boxes of off-sized girls' clothing stacked in the basement or the skinny boxes "hiding" between my couch and the living room wall. They contain, I think, large hanging decor that would make our home gorgeous, but gorgeousness is on hold until we are completely organized...and until Jeremy feels like working on the gorgeous.)

We were going to hang fun stuff in the dining room tonight, I have a large clock and three small paintings to go up, but we've all come down with some weird stomach bug that forces all thoughts of decorating from our minds. Well, I was victorious over that symptom, but the rest of my family hasn't been.

Speaking of decorating, the girls love hearing Fancy Nancy books read to them, and Fancy Nancy enjoys decorating everything in sight. Last night, Liberty happily confided to me that after she went to bed, she was going to make her room "sooooo fancy!" I nodded and said something like, "Oooh, that sounds like fun."

A few hours later, near midnight, Daddy discovered that Liberty had sneaked to the bathroom closet and pilfered three bottles of bathtime body paint. She then used them to make all of the walls in her room fancy. Streaks of blue, purple, red and pink and a beautiful smell greeted him when he checked on them before his own bedtime. Liberty told us that Mercy did it, and we believe her since a large concentration of the paint hovers over Mercy's crib. The trouble comes with the question, "How did Mercy get the paint?" You see, Mercy cannot get out of her crib.

We hosted a scrubbing party in the middle of the night last night, and this morning, I noticed a small area of blue that we missed, but it is so high up on the wall that I'm still trying to imagine how Liberty reached that particular spot with her paint.

I have heard nothing from my literary agent. Their literature promised a response within three to five business days, but I've been telling myself that the lack of email from them is due to the week full of holidays. I mean, everybody has to take a vacation sometime, right?

Somebody please say, "Right," convincingly.