Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Word for the Year & 2013 Book List

Well, here we are ... the last day of January 2013.
One whole month down.

I am super stoked to say that it was a month of accomplishments!
I made this month count!
Yay me ;)

I do, however, want to share just a couple more things to put the final wrap
on the 'beginning of the year' stuff.

Choosing a 'word' for the year seems to be trending right now, so I've jumped on the bandwagon.
It kinda goes along with what I shared on Tuesday about James & I choosing
our motivational phrase for each month.
{January's phrase was POWER THROUGH!  Check it out here.}

Now, for my word for the year, well, I didn't even have to think more than a second about that!
It seems it had already been on my mind & heart for a while.
I actually chose 2 words:  INTENTIONAL & PURPOSEFUL.

Intentional living.
That's what I want from each & every day of 2013.
I want to live intentionally.
No 'whatever' days.
No aimlessly 'going through the motions'.
No life lethargy.
{Ok ... maybe some 'whatever' days, but not several of them in a row ... or whole months of them.}
None of that.

This year, I want to live on purpose!
I want that Joie de vivre, the joy of living, that zest for life!
I want to suck every little tidbit of life out of every single day.
Life is too short ... too precious to be squandered.

I believe in the magic of ordinary days ... in fact, I love ordinary days.
But, I want to look at each day as being full of possibility.

I've lived long enough to know that the day-to-day pressures & demands all too often
determine our course ... & can make our lives feel mundane, IF we let it.

Sure there's a lot to being a wife, full-time homeschooling mom, & home manager, 
not to mention all the other hats that we moms wear.
There will always rooms to clean, laundry to wash, & groceries to get.
But those things are inconsequential if I am not connecting with the hearts of the ones 
that I'm doing all this for.
That's what matters.
That's what will last.
That's where I have to get this right.     
I want my family to get the very best of me, not what's left over.
Here's where I must be intentional in writing my own story.
I must be purposefully choosing the best things to incorporate into my days ... into my life. 

My goal in 2013 to nurture myself spiritually, physically, mentally, & emotionally because 
these are necessary ingredients in order to be the best ME I can be!

 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139:14

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

Lastly, I wanted to share with you my book list for this year.
I am excited about these!

In keeping with my intentional living, 
I decided to make a list of the books that I'd like to read throughout this year.
I will make more time to read ... something I love, but I just don't set aside enough time for.
And ... I'm happy to say that I have finished one book this month!

I read Simplify Your Time by Marcia Ramsland.
It went right along with January's theme:  Simplify!
I bought it for my friend, Jody, a year or so ago ... & she loaned it to me to read.
It's full of easy ideas to make life simpler.
Here are two of the quotes that I loved:

"Life is a journey, a process.  Every day you must deliberately make the effort to take a few steps.
Learn, grow, become better than you are today.  The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine."
-John Maxwell

A high-quality life has a lot more to do with what you remove from you life than what you add to it.
-Cheryl Richardson

Aren't those good?

My plan for the reading is... well, no real plan other than to read these books!
The top 3 on the stack are devotionals, 2 oldies that I have read through several times 
& 1 new one that I am enjoying.
Along with my Bible, I try to read in one of these each morning ... & a different one before bed.
{I'll review these on a blog post next week.}

Since February is the month of LOVE, I'm planning to re-read the 2 small books by Tony Evans,
These are both very good little books!
{James bought both of these for me & the male counterpart books for himself.}

I have another book I want to read in February ... full of fun ideas to love & romance your hubby.
It's a cute book, by Family Life Today ministries ... I think?
The problem ... I've misplaced it!  Ahhh.
That's why it's not pictured.
I got to find that little book.

And here's one more.
James just bought this book for me & one for each of our sons ...
& he also gave one to each member of the leadership team at our church.

James started reading this in December & has been so impacted by it!
He feels like this will be pivotal in helping us reach our goals 
& for our personal/professional success in 2013.
How exciting!!
I'm only a chapter in & have to agree that this book is very insightful!

So for a wrap, on January 31, I'm feeling full of purpose!
I'm intentionally planning my days & months, for my life to be happy & fulfilled ...
& ultimately to bring glory to God!

Oh! Teach us to live well!
    Teach us to live wisely and well!
Psalm 90:12 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Today I'm Washing Shower Curtains

That's right ... washing shower curtains {the liner, specifically}.

Up to 5-6 years ago, when the shower curtains were looking dingy
& the soap scum was starting to take over,  I'd just replace it with a brand new one.
That was until my mom told me a little trick.

She said to buy a heavy duty shower curtain liner{they only cost a few dollars more}
& when it's gets grimy or mildewy to throw it in the wash machine!
I would've never thought!

So, I did just that & amazingly, I haven't replaced a shower curtain in a long, long time.

Here's what I do:

Place the shower curtain in the washing machine that's filled with HOT water.
Add 1/2 cup of liquid bleach {this kills mold & mildew} & a 1/2 cup of detergent.
{I make my own laundry soap which I highly recommend ... if you need the recipe, click here.}

Let the shower curtain soak for 20-30 minutes.
After it has soaked, I throw in a couple towels, or some socks or t-shirts
{only use white ones because of the bleach} & start the washer on gentle cycle.
The towels balance out the washer & helps to keep the curtain from wrinkling as badly.

That's it.
It's that simple.

Immediately remove from the washer & let drip dry.
Hang it on the clothesline ... or place in the bathtub ... just never put the shower curtain in the dryer.

I take mine up to the bathroom, hang it back on the curtain hooks,
& dry off the side that is touching the fabric curtain.
The wrinkles fall out, the curtain drips dry & you are back in business with a clean shower curtain!

Don't you just love stretching your buck?!

**In case you are wondering, I am referring to washing the liner part of the curtain,
 not the outside pretty 'for looks' curtain.
Course, the pretty outside curtain can be washed as well, but just in a regular wash cycle.

sharing at Savvy Southern Style

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our Plan of Attack for 2013

I posted this pic on James' FB page ... we are claiming it!

Life can get away from ya if you don't have a plan.
Minutes turn to hours & hours into days ... & before you know it, 
a whole entire month has passed by.
As I look back over the last maaany years of my life, 
it seems like they've flown by at breakneck speed.
And I don't like it.
I don't like it one bit, but the reality is, I cannot stop the clock.
The only way I have found to somewhat make peace with this is  
to make every day count. 
And ya know, I used to be pretty good at it.
The last couple of years though, not so much.
Instead, I've kinda let life happen to me.
Seems I've been moving in slow motion, a bit lethargic, just going with the flow.
I haven't had much of a plan, no real motivation, no zest for life.
And I am so over it.
Enough already.

I thought I was at rock bottom for several years now, but no.
Rock bottom came from about September on ... & especially in December.
I knew there was no way out but up.
I was at the end of my rope ... & it was either fall off OR start climbing up.
I chose to climb.

No more drifting here & there from whatever current wind was blowing ...
without a destination, without a course of action, without a plan.
No more.
It's my life.
I must get a hold of the wheel & start steering in the right direction.

Armed with my new positive attitude ... my sink or swim motivation, 
I started formulating a plan.

On New Year's Eve, James & I went to dinner ... & we talked, took notes, & planned.
James, knowing full well that I was at that rock bottom place, 
had already been working on his plans for 2013 ... 
not only for him, personally, spiritually, & professionally, but for me as well.
He wasn't planning on leaving me behind.
His exact words were this, "YOU are my project for 2013."
He said he would do whatever it takes to help me shake off every problem 
& move strongly ahead, making peace & putting to rest all the things 
that have been taking up too much space in my head ... & in my heart.
I truly felt like I was being rescued ... like help had shown up right on time.

James is ALL these things to me.  He's my rock.

Within the next couple days, we had mapped it all out & we ready to move forward.
Full speed ahead.

Our 1st order of business:  GET HEALTHY!
We decided to start counting calories.
He's using the My Fitness Pal app & I am keeping a food journal.
In essence, we're both journaling, 
only I am doing it the old fashioned way ... paper & pen.
I'm tracking every single thing I eat & the calories, 
along with my liquid intake each day, the vitamins I've taken, 
& how much exercise I've done.
I'm writing down how I've felt physically, mentally, etc ... 
& general notes about what's gone on in my day.
{I saw a lady interviewed in December ... she has food journaled for 7 years & has successfully kept off 100+ lbs!  She attributed much of her success to journaling.}

We decided how many calories we wanted to use each day & the amount of of exercise.
Our food plan was to cut out processed & fast food, lower our carbs,
& very little food consumption after dinner.
Our liquid intake was upped to a minimum of 96 oz per day.
And I'm happy to report that as of today, January 29, 
James has lost 15 lbs & I have lost 9!
I'd say it's been a pretty successful month, right?! =)

We've eaten out a few times this month ... & each time, we've looked up the calories
for the restaurant ahead of time & have chosen wisely from the nutritional info.
We've also discovered sweet Italian turkey sausage links ... delicious.
We've enjoyed lots of Greek yogurt & have tried many new 'skinny' recipes found on Pinterest.
{I'll be sharing those periodically.}

For extra motivation, we decided to pick a different phrase to use each month of this year.
This month, we decided to use the phrase POWER THROUGH! 
I wrote it on our kitchen chalkboard so we see it every day.
We have said it & have texted it to each other countless times.
I woke up to find this little sign that James had made sitting on our bathroom counter ...
& there it stayed the whole month long.
{This goes along with yesterday's post.}

It really sums up our state of mind for this whole month.
We've powered through on the treadmill.
We've powered through our negative thoughts ... 
& powered through our desires for junk.
We CAN power through much more than we give ourselves credit for!

The second main thing in our plan was for each month to have a theme of sorts.
January's theme has been SIMPLIFY.

This is nothing new.
I am always in a 'simplify' kind of mood.
But for this month, everyone had to get on board.
The closets have been cleaned out, the garage cleared, & lots of Goodwill donations made.
{The biggest donation was about 340+ books!!  I'll have to tell you about that one soon.}
James has cleaned out his office & I've been decluttering kitchen drawers & cabinets.
It feels sooo good.
Our whole entire home feels lighter & airier.

Our 3rd main goal was to plan in advance everything that could be planned in advance!
So, we sat down with our calendars & started getting things marked down.
We penciled in potential daycations, vacations, weekend & camping trips. 

We also decided to be more vigilant in visiting family this year ... those near & not so near.
Those trips were marked on the calendar.

And the biggest achievement of all, we mapped out the year for our church.
We have activities lined up & new plans to put into action.
We must be about Father's business, greater this year than ever before.

I work in the worship department, so for nearly this whole month, 
I've organized & planned for 2013, preparing for our best year yet.

I'm sure, as with any set of plans, there will be adjustments along the way.
But I have to admit, it is truly exhilarating to have the whole year penciled in!!
I feel so ahead of the game!

I read that one of the most important steps in planning & setting goals 
is to write them down.
It's the difference between having a 'ok' life ... or a life that you absolutely love!
It's the difference between 'getting by' ... 
or being successful in creating true happiness in your life.

Sounds like a win-win to me.
While I'm in no hurry for this year to pass by,  I am already anticipating writing
 my year-end review blog post ... my highlight reel for 2013.
I know I'll have a whole year of accomplishments to be proud of.
I know I will say that 2013 truly was our year.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 
that according to the riches of his glory 
he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—
that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  
may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length 
and height and depth,  
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, 
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, 
according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
~Ephesians 3:14-21

Monday, January 28, 2013

2013 ~ Our Year FULL of Change!

Something about starting a new year.
I launch straight into my annual evaluate ... & reevaluate mode.
Throw in a BIG birthday, the mid-life kind of birthday {yep, I just turned 40 yesterday}
& folks, I've got myself quite a combo.
I think it's my biggest batch of self-examination yet!
I've been thinking about anything & everything ... leaving no stone unturned.

You see, all the sudden & out of the blue, DETERMINATION showed up!
I am determined to make 2013 a better year ... the beginning of the best part of my life yet.

I've finallllly come to the realization that there's been too many things/people/situations
keeping me down ... holding me back ...
distracting me from my purpose ... distracting me from a full, abundant life.

And you want to know who one of the main ones is?

I heard recently a statement that resounded big time with me ... with my heart ...
with my life for the last few years.
The statement was this:
I don't know if you know who you are til you lose who you are.

I fully understand that!
Over the last few years {about 6 to be exact}, I've experienced many big changes in my life.
Course, I can't list them all.
Some are too hard to talk about ... too personal ... too painful to repeat,
but here are some of the most impacting ones:
James lost his job & began a new one.
Talk about losing something big.

We transitioned from Christian schooling to our homeschooling adventure.
Our little boys turned into teenagers ... & 2 of them learned to drive, graduated high school, 
& have begun working full-time. 
Those 2 are also in courtships with 2 wonderful girls, who are answers to prayers.
{Thank goodness I still have one to homeschool, 
but his days of keys & courtship are right around the corner.}

James & I have closed out many various chapters in our lives in the area of ministry.
We had served in the same church, in the same positions for many years ... 
pouring our heart & soul into the Lord's work there.
With that closure came an end to the familiarity of  'this is who I am ... this is what I do'.
Although we were sure of our resignations & of God's direction, it was still quite an adjustment.
All this for a girl who doesn't like change.

It is at this point when God truly revealed His work for our lives. 
Seems like all else had been leading up to this.

2 years ago in March, we began the biggest ministry opportunity of our lives thus far 
with the pioneering of a brand new church!
If that didn't just land me smack in the front seat of a wild & scary, 
completely unpredictable roller coaster ride!
All this for a girl who doesn't even ride roller coasters!

My personal motto for the first 6 months was 'put your helmet on'!
I hate to say that I needed my helmet on, but boy did I ever.
Let's just say that this new church work didn't come without questions, concerns, & controversy. 
But by God's grace & the invaluable support of family & friends, we've weathered storms
and have only come out stronger.

I don't know if you know who you are til you lose who you are.

During this time, these 6 or so tumultuous years, I have dug in to God's Word more than ever before,
digging for His truths, desiring to know His Word, His plan, His thoughts more than ever before ...
for myself, unobstructed by opinions of others ... just the truth of His Word.

With 'losing' so much of myself already -- what I did, who others perceived I was based on what I did, positions I held -- it started becoming easier to sacrifice the rest of myself to God.
Desiring to start with a clean, fresh, blank slate, I did just that.

      I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. 
     And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, 
     who loved me and gave himself for me.
     Galations 2:20
I don't know if you know who you are til you lose who you are.

And herein is where the statement rings soo true to me, personally.
I have learned more about myself during these tough & trying times than I ever, ever did before.
I am learning about who I am for myself ... & who I am in God's eyes.

    Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
   Matthew 10:39

Now, with all that being said, back to 2013 being a year full of change.

As if everything that I just shared isn't enough,
remember I mentioned that I am sort of at that 'mid-life' point here?
Now, some associate mid-life as a crisis ... & they go all crazy getting tattoos & buying Harleys.
Trust me, I am so not that girl ;)
I don't even see mid-life as a crisis!
Instead I embrace it.
I'm so much better than I was when I was in my twenties!
I've had so many life experiences, good & bad ... & they've all worked in making me who I am today.

Here's where I want & need a change for this year ... for any & every year thereafter.
I've been letting these changes ... these times of transitions steal my joy.
I've been more negative for several years than I ever should've been.
Thankfully, God have me the best life-coach & encourager ever ... my dear husband, James.
He has single-handed, being led of the Lord, changed my perspective.
He has prayed for me, listened to me, inspired me ... & has been so patient as I've slowly maneuvered through the changes that life has brought about.
His sermons have been so challenging, & through them, I've seen crystal clear that my thought process
hasn't been God-pleasing.

I have the POWER IN ME to turn this thing around!
Although I cannot choose what happens to me in 2013, I CAN choose how I respond to it!

I can choose!
I can choose joy over despair, love over hurt, & peace over fear.
I can choose a sound mind.

His Word says that I am made new through Christ.
These 'old' things that have been holding me back are passing away.
I am an overcomer through Christ!

I am happy to report at the close of January, this whole month has been crazzzy different
around the Pennington place!
We have made huge forward strides & I can't wait to tell you all about them.
Starting tomorrow, I'm going to share some of the changes we've made in our household this month...
and I'll tell you our plan for the whole year.
2013 is our year of change.

        All things are possible to him who believes.
        Mark 9:23

Never be afraid to fall apart ... 
remember it's an opportunity to rebuild yourself the way you wish you had been all along. 
~ Rae Smith


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Highlight Reel ~ 2012

2012 was a big year.
Full of big events, mostly in our children's lives ... but honestly, they are my life,
so it's basically one-in-the-same for this momma's heart.

I guess the cliched 'life is like a roller coaster' sums it up.
We had our shares of highs ... lots of them, in fact.

Buuut, if you've lived long at all {or ridden a roller coaster}, 
you know that those are quickly followed by the twists, curves, 
& as bad as I hate to say it, the lows.
You really can't live life having one without the other.

Looking back through the highlight reel of 2012 memories,  
it's the good ones that stand out,
warming my heart with a flood of emotions ... of gratitude, of blessing, of love.
And it becomes ever so evident as to what kept us grounded,
through the good & bad ... the highs & the lows.

Our faith.

Faith in a Sovereign God, knowing that all things work together for our good,
is what held all things together.
As my head touched the pillow each night & the scenes from the day began to play,
whether I said a prayer of thankfulness for such a perfect day ... 
or I tearfully prayed for better tomorrow,
I never doubted that He was in control.
He daily loads us with benefits.

It's with a grateful heart that I share with you a glimpse into the memories 
we collected in 2012.
{there's plenty of pics, but I make no apologies ;)}

My Highlight Reel ~ 2012.


Garrett & Gunnar bought & paid cash for their 1st vehicles.
Totally a big deal, a super big achievement, & super proud of them!

Garrett & his Dodge Dakota
Gunnar & his Chevy

I celebrated my 39th birthday ... yep, officially 39 & holding!
The Mr. took me to Sybaris to celebrate.

Also in January, Garrett was an official page in the House of Representatives.


The Super Bowl came to Indianapolis  
~ course, we had to go downtown & take part in the festivities.


March was full of 'typical' Indiana weather.
We were seeing snow flakes one day ...

and grilling out the next!

James looks menacing in this photo ... but he's really nice ;) I promise.

We had to have an impromptu backyard dinner with our precious friends, the Ellis family,
complete with wrinkly tablecloth & broken umbrella ;)
{James bought a new one later in the summer.}

Garrett attended TeenPact at the statehouse~ he was elected governor!
He gave a speech any momma would be proud of.
{Come listen to it here if you haven't had a chance to yet.}

Garrett at the Statehouse

Flowers bloomed early ...

And we surprised a wonderful girl on her birthday 
at our ladies fellowship night.

sweet Carissa ~ Garrett's girlfriend
Also, a big event in March was Gunnar & Garrett taking their 1st road trip, 
just the two of them.
They drove clear to Oklahoma for Gunnar to see Abigail.
Boy, that was a long day.
Their trip went well ... another step toward manhood.
Yes, this is all tough on momma ;)


This month was much anticipated!  
Our 20th anniversary trip, planned for July 2011, just the two of us, well, it just didn't happen.
We decided to postpone it ... & what it turned in to was a 21st anniversary - family trip.
When it boiled down to it, we just couldn't think of leaving the country without our boys.
We were SO happy to be able to take our whole family on an amazing vacation,
the first time for each of us to see New Orleans, 
take a cruise, & leave the country!

We sailed from Nola, after sightseeing for 2 days ... an interesting city, to say the least.
Turns out, the French Quarter was packed out for Jazz Fest, which was a huge treat for us.
We love jazz music, so to be able to hear it there, LIVE, on every corner, stage, 
nook & cranny, was a huge treat!!

Not every part of the city was beautiful, but is plenty rich in history & culture.  
I took lots of interesting pictures & I'd love to share them all, 
but since I can't, I'll post my faves.
Jackson Square had the most gorgeous ironwork  ...  I loved this lamp post 

 & the old iron gate.

St. Louis Cathedral was stunning.
M ass had just let out & it was interesting to watch the priest
as he exited the church & gave blessings to the many parishioners.

Pedesclaux-Lemonnier House ... this was my favorite.
Talk about charm & personality, this has it!

Now on to the cruise ... it was quite an adventure too.
Some of it we loved, some of it, not so much ... but all in all, we had a good time.
I have to say, when we rounded the corner of the parking lot, 
my breath caught in my throat as I saw this big ship sitting there.
Yikeys!....our home for the next 5 days! 
I must admit, I prayed fervently all week ;)

Here's the ocean on the first evening.
It was breathtakingly beautiful

My sister was so right about this strawberry soup ... yum, yum, yum!

Our first stop was in Progresso, Mexico ... a very authentic experience.
Not touristy, not overly-pretty, but it was an interesting experience.

We spent most of the day here on the beach, only a few feet from this boat.

This little guy caught my eye as we were walking around town ... adorable.

Our second stop was Cozumel.
It's totally different than Progresso ... more touristy, much more to do.
A major highlight of the trip was the snorkeling!
I sipped on a delicious drink & watched my 4 loves on their underwater adventure.

After the snorkeling, we jumped back into our Jeep rental to explore the island.
This is when the real fun started.
It came a down pour like no body's business & yes, the Jeep top was down ...
& we couldn't get it back up!!
We laughed our heads off.

Thank goodness we brought along beach towels cause we were drenched.

The evening dinner was always fun ... we had a wonderful waiter & great food.
Here we are on our last night.

I know.
I am so blessed to live in a house with these gorgeous guys.

I wish I had blogged about our trip in April, right after we came home, 
but it just slipped through the cracks.
I have so many pictures that I would've shared.
But, as soon as we came home, Gunnar attended a 3 day music conference ...
& we began crazy busy planning for the next big event ...
Garrett & Gunnar's high school {homeschool} graduation!!

Garrett, Carissa, & Gunnar

Our family & Ellis family ... proud of our homeschool grads!
And in 2015, we'll do it all over again for our Riley & their Codey.
It's more fun to graduate with friends ;)

In addition to graduating, Garrett & Gunnar began working full-time for James' company.
They are prayerful concerning their futures & following God's guidance.


We celebrated our 2 graduates by hosting their open house in our back yard.
Unfortunately, it was a hundred degrees, literally, but a good time was had by all.

{I still haven't gotten around to posting a tutorial of how I made this chalkboard sign.
I am always behind, it seems.
Do I hear a 2013 resolution?!}

Here's a pic or 2 of the food & decor.

The smoked pork bbq sandwiches were served on these plates 
that I made with a sharpie marker ...
which in turn is my most-viewed blog post 
& pin on Pinterest {come follow me!}.

Also, by this month, Riley has worked his behind off ... and has lost 40 pounds!
He set a personal goal in Dec. 2011 to not eat sugar ... 
& let me tell you, the boy has discipline!
He rarely veered from his resolve, going almost 100% sugar-free for about 8 months.
He also took up boxing, weight lifting, & began jogging 8-12 miles each week.
He has been a great motivation not only to us, but to many of his friends.

All my handsome fellas headed to a co-workers wedding

Riley & his dad building a log fort in the woods
Riley also went to his 1st week of church camp in Ohio ... 
he had a great time, but we sure missed him.


James & I celebrated our 21st anniversary on July 13.
We took a weekend trip to Amish country in Holmes County, Ohio.
It officially became one of our favorite places ever ... & we are planning to go back this summer. 

This is the chalet we rented for the weekend ... it was perfect x 100.

The rural countryside goes on for miles & miles.
We loved driving slowly down these country roads, taking it all in ... taking lots of pictures.

These were parked outside one of the local grocery stores.

Also in July, Gunnar participated in a music conference, 
singing in the worship ensemble.
This was his 3rd year ... he had several solo/lead songs & did an outstanding job.
He truly has a worshipper's heart.

When we are in Richmond for the conference, 
Gunnar loves to go to Chipotle & get this ginormous burrito!


Garrett to Florida with 2 friends for a TeenPact Congress Alumni event.

We also proudly supported Chick-fil-a on Appreciation Day!

Abigail came up for several weeks ... one day, we had a picnic at Brown County State Park.

We also went to the state fair!
Garrett & Gunnar decided to scale this brick wall ... silly boys.


We spent a wonderful day at Conner Prairie, 
one of James' all-time favorite places to visit. 
It always succeeds in making us wish we lived in the country.


Mr. Riley turned 15 this month!
We didn't do big birthday celebrations this year for any of the boys ... 
& bad momma! ... I didn't even snap a pic of the birthday boy =(
Although we didn't seem to take part in as many fall activities as we would've liked,
our church did have quite the Reformation Day Celebration.

Gunnar on the stilts he built himself
The Casey's won the prize for best dressed!
The straw jumping was the event of the day ... so much fun & laughter!

James turned the big 4-0 this month!
My sister said if I wasn't going to plan something to celebrate, then she would!
Wasn't that sooo sweet?
She got together a surprise dinner for him & it was a great turn-out.
{Only I messed up the time & got us there before I was supposed to 
& kind of spoiled the surprise ... Good grief  ;) }
My sister, Lisa, took these great shots!!


For some reason, I didn't take many pics this month ... too busy to remember, I suppose.
We did have some memorable events though.

Garrett & Gunnar turned 18 on the 21st.
We had the traditional birthday meal for them ... Red Lobster.

We had a super fun Christmas party for the ladies of Family Life Assembly.
Tammy was a lovely hostess & Wayne was a great photographer!

This is us acting nice.

 This is us acting normal ;)

Also this month, we remembered our dear friend, Cayla, 
on the 1 yr anniversary of her home-going.
She moved from her earthly home to her heavenly on on Dec. 18, 2011.
Her memory has hovered close each & every day ... 
& we all have been forever changed by her life & her passing.

so grateful for the years of memories our boys have with the whole Ellis family

One of the main weekend activities here during November & December 
was been deer hunting.
And they've been quite successful!
Between James & Gunnar, they dropped 3!
We are grateful for the venison meat filling the freezer. 

We enjoyed being with family during the holidays 
although they always seem to end all too quickly.
Course, one of the sad/bad events was Gunnar being stranded 
 in O'Hare International Airport for 16 hours ... alone on Christmas night!
He took his first solo trip, flying to see Abigail, & due to his plane arriving 40 minutes late,
he missed his connecting flight.
The next one didn't leave til the morning ... 
& it was delayed several times due to snow/bad weather.
I tell ya, I got 57 new wrinkles & grey hairs that night ... no joke.
He had a great time there, though ... & made it home with no problems.

If I were to pick a December highlight though, 
it would be our trip to the symphony.
Garrett wanted to plan something special for Carissa, a December surprise ...
& he invited James & I to go too.
The music & dancing & singing ... it was all so spectacular!

The Yuletide Celebration at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

Garrett & Carissa ... she looked stunning!

The hubs & me

Now, don't get me wrong ... as I mentioned earlier, 
this year wasn't free of trials, sadness, & sorrow.
In fact, the last year & a half has been one of the worst I've ever experienced.
You see, I have a blessed life, but I do not have a perfect life.
I hurt.  I struggle.  I battle.  I fervently pray.  I hope against hope.

However, what I refuse to do is blog about all of those things ... the 'lows' of life.
I may in time, but as of now, I haven't chosen to go that direction.
I am working hard to keep my focus on the good, the blessings, 
the happy times.
After all, they far outweigh the bad.

As the Pennington family begins to plan & 'resolve' for 2013, we'll approach it 
with greater expectations, stronger hope, & increased faith.
We pray to draw closer as a family as we strive to draw closer to God.
We acknowledge that highs & lows will run their coarse ... as is life
for each & every one of us ...
and we'll depend on God to be our strength & guide.
He is ever faithful.
He will see us through.

Blessings to you & yours in 2013.