Category: family

A fresh lemon arranged in two halves against a pair of green leaves.

Summer break started here last week, and already my kids are living it up. We’ve had an overnight at our family cabin, fires in the firepit (with s’mores, of course), pool days and popsicles and a new rainbow slip & slide for the backyard.

Today, we went to the pool in the morning and the library in the afternoon. (One kid picked two books, another picked 12, and the youngest picked 24. #justlikehermama) You’d think that would be enough fun for one summer day, but you’d be wrong.

My daughters, 10 and 7, love to bake. They’re still in the learning stage where they need an adult nearby for most of it, but I’m beginning to see glimpses of independent-recipe-followers, and I can hardly wait for that day!

After our library trip, they wanted to bake chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately, I’d let our pantry supply of chocolate chips run out. So they turned to an old standby and started browsing.

They settled on lemon bars, a treat I’ve eaten other places and loved but have never baked at home! We had everything on hand and set to baking.

I was helping measure out the lemon juice when a bit splashed onto my fingers. It was a tiny bit of juice, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed–except that I have a little cut on my ring finger. (It’s one of those weird little scrapes just below the cuticles. Do y’all get those?)

As you can probably guess, I had a sharp intake of breath and bit my lip! OUCH. Oh, the burn. The sting!

Before the juice hit my skin, I hadn’t even been aware of that tiny little cut. Have you ever had something small, like a papercut or a nick from a razor, that you didn’t even sense until something irritating hit it?

I got to thinking: God’s Word works a lot like lemon juice on the papercuts of hidden sins in our lives. You know, some sins are big and flagrant. People are aware, usually, if they’re lying to people or swindling folks out of money or committing adultery or murder. But I’d bet that many of Christ’s followers are susceptible to letting small sins enter their lives, and they don’t even know it.

A couple of months ago, in my time with God’s word, I kept running up against the idea of self-centeredness. I did not think I was self-centered. The first few times I encountered verses like:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Romans 12:3-5

I was clapping and cheering: “Yeah, that’s right, y’all quit thinking of yourselves more highly than you ought.” But as weeks went by, I kept encountering verses like:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

And I started to feel that lemon-juice-on-a-papercut sting. The oooh, that’s me, Lord burn. I’m self-centered. I’m selfish. I feel resentful when I don’t get my way, when I have to work harder than I perceive someone else is, when my kids or spouse don’t seem to appreciate my role.

Maybe self-centeredness isn’t the hill you’re dying on. That’s okay. My point stands. You may very well have something in your heart, in your life, that’s sinful. And you don’t even know it’s there.

The best way to uncover it is to pour God’s word over yourself and see what stings.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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In my last installment of #OrganizeMe, I shared the way I block off my time each week to have the best chance at accomplishing all I want to. It’s the only way I’ve found to “fit it all in,” and even then –sometimes life happens, and it doesn’t “all” get done.

If you’re single, that might be all you need to get organized since once you master your own time, you’re set. But if you live with others –whether roommates or family– odds are, a big aspect of organizing your time revolves around coordinating the schedules of multiple people.

There are apps that some folks love for keeping a husband and wife (and even their kids, if they’re tech-connected as well) on the same digital page. If that’s the approach you’re looking for… sorry, you’ve landed in the wrong place.

I know, I know — we are each walking around with a computer in our pocket that has more power than what used to take up a while building. I hear you. I adore my phone’s GPS feature and even though I still break out my DSLR for special occasions, my phone’s camera has become my BFF❤️. HOWEVER, using the phone’s calendar/notifications/calendar-linking-apps just doesn’t work for me. My brain literally just loses information I type into my phone calendar.

But I have three kids (in 8th, 4th, and 1st grades this year) and three dogs and one general surgeon husband. We have plenty of appointments, activities, and obligations to keep track of. This is what works for me:

An Erin Condren Life Planner open to February 2019 is shown above a large wall calendar open to February 2019.

The open spiral-bound book is my Erin Condren Life Planner. (I’ve written about those before.) During the last week of the month, I sit down with my ECLP and a large wall calendar. This one is a 2018-2019 academic year that I ordered online. (Here’s a similar calendar.)

I carry my ECLP with me everywhere when I make appointments, sign the kids up for lessons or teams, buy entertainments tickets, and everything else that needs a date and time in our lives, so it’s chock-full of information about the upcoming month. If you’re comfortable setting appointments and reminders on your phone, you could use your phone calendar for this step of the process.

I transfer everything to the large wall calendar. Now the caveat: I like stickers. And I like to color-code with pens (orange for me, blue for Chris, green for Jonas, purple for Susannah, pink for Abigail, gray or black for whole-family). But hear me: you do not have to do anything cutesy to make organization work for you. Use a plain black ball-point pen if that’s more your style! The key to making this work is simply to put every time obligation in one place.

February 2019 wall calendar with color-coded time obligations filled in.

This is how you’ll know that you and your spouse need to divide and conquer next Friday night to get everyone where they need to be. This is how you’ll be able to say “yes” or “no,” confidently, to plans with a friend because you’ll already be aware of your spouse’s time commitments. This is how you’ll be able to predict that your introverted self is gonna feel overloaded and need a day of rest — or that your extroverted self is gonna feel squirrely after too many days alone with your kids and you’ll need a night with your friends!

The only things I don’t note on this calendar are some of my appointments that take place during the work/school day, because they don’t impact anyone else in the family, and our regular Sunday morning and Wednesday evening church plans, because they are so routine. I do write in special church events or services and days when I’m scheduled to serve.
Once everything is in place, this calendar is hung in our kitchen where everyone can see it.

February 2019 wall calendar hanging on cabinetry beside a coffee maker. Two clothespins above the calendar hold school notices and a receipt.

The clothespins above the calendar are attached to the cabinetry with 3M removable adhesive (extra strips from packs of hooks). I use those to keep school newsletters, library due date receipts, birthday party invitations, and other kid-centric paperwork that comes through the house.

What’s amazing is that the calendar fills in even more over the course of the month. We’re busy! Every family is.😊 But the saving grace of this kind of organization is that it allows you build in the margin you need, at this season of your life.

When we had littles, I didn’t schedule anything late in the evenings because bedtimes x3 took a lot out of me, but I did host a ladies’ Bible study in my home that doubled as a playdate for the kids. Now that my crew are in school, we still need to keep a reasonable bedtime, but they can hang much later.

The date nights on our calendar used to be evenings for free or cheap and usually at home; now we plan pretty regular nights out with a babysitter.

We now really love having folks over for dinner, and keeping our month organized helps me see when we have space to do that and who we haven’t shared a table with yet (or recently). Chris and I both enjoy getting out with groups of friends, so at some point this calendar will probably have at least one “Supper Club,” one “Mom’s Night Out,” and one “Dad’s Poker Night” in place.

Whatever season you are in –and let me encourage you that they ebb and flow!– I am 100% sure that the organization of a family calendar will be a help and a blessing.

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Mom holding me; Panama, 1980

Dad, me, and Mom; Shorter College graduation, 2001
Dad, me, and Mom; Rome First United Methodist, 2001

Mom & Dad; Midway, Georgia 2004?
Mom holding Jonas; Davie Florida, 2006
Mom holding Susannah; Elsmere Kentucky, 2009

Mom holding Abigail; Owensboro Kentucky, 2011
Today was my mama’s last day on this earth. When I spoke to Dad this morning, I told him she would like these numbers (1-11-12 has a certain ‘ring’ to it, and she was always big on stuff like that for important dates. She loved the fact, for example, that there’s a multiplication fact in Jonas’ birthdate 2-3-06). I called him again a little after Noon, my time, and he said her breathing had changed in the past hour and he really thought it would be very soon. We spoke for about 40 minutes, and he called me back at 1:22 my time to say that she was gone. He has posted the visitation & funeral details on his blog; Chris and the kids and I will be attending just the services in Thomasville. Neither dad nor mom wanted us to put the kids through two services plus the extra travel across the state, so that’s what we’ll do.

Update 1/12/12: Mom’s obituary is published here.


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A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away – or at least as far away as South Florida – Chris and I thought we might never have a baby. After his chemotherapy, we’d been told, there was a 50% chance that he would remain sterile. We had prepared for the possibility by using a sperm bank, but as a teacher and a medical student we knew that we wouldn’t be able to afford assisted reproduction procedures for a number of years. Then one day, the happy surprise: we were pregnant! On our own! It was a miracle! The pregnancy only survived a few weeks, and the loss was devastating – except for the silver lining of learning that pregnancy was possible.

Almost a year later, we were surprised again to find out we were pregnant; and a few days later I miscarried again. The loss isn’t necessarily easier the second time, but at least I knew what to expect. I was mentally prepared for several months of grieving and then finally feeling ready to try again –

but Jonas came along the very next month. The first trimester of my pregnancy with him was blessedly easy; I was so thankful that everything was going right.

When Jonas was 9 months old, we got pregnant again! I remember the first few weeks being shocked. Worried – how could I handle two babies 17 months apart? Overwhelmed. And then I started to dream about brothers, close as thieves. I saw two boys toddling through my house. I even had a dream about the new baby’s name. But when I was 11 weeks pregnant, I started miscarrying. It was my most physically complicated miscarriage (because I was further along) and it was the most emotionally draining, too.

My next pregnancy was Susannah’s, and it was another blessedly easy one. Even though I puked my guts out almost daily for the first 18 weeks, I was kind of happy to do it – it was reassuring that everything was okay in there.

And this January, I found out I was pregnant for the sixth time. Abigail is probably our last baby (at least, Chris says he feels “done.”)

I don’t hide the fact that we have lost babies, but I don’t talk about it all the time either. I am sure he’s overheard me mention it, but I haven’t sat down to explain it yet. I didn’t want Jonas to be worried throughout my pregnancy with Abigail that something would happen to her, for instance.

So when Jonas drew this picture this morning, I found it Very Interesting that he drew a gift box for Mom & Dad… with six little people inside. 😉

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Our family lost a dear woman on Monday night. A long time ago, we called her Grandmother Nancy – but when Jonas came along as a young talker, he renamed her “Yaya” out of the clear blue sky. We don’t know where he came up with that moniker, but it stuck and pretty soon we all called her Yaya.
About a month ago, Yaya was diagnosed with AML – acute myeloid leukemia – about a month ago. This past Friday, she was hospitalized with what appeared to be pneumonia. Monday night, she passed away. While it was sudden, it wasn’t totally unexpected because of this form of leukemia.
We are so sad that she’s gone. Last night when I was lying in bed, I remembered one year (was it Thanksgiving? or Christmas time?) that Yaya had found a recipe for Chex mix and she wanted to try it out. Donna and Missy and I were all there – and maybe Laura and Andrea? – and we had all the ingredients spread out all over the kitchen counters while the guys were watching football. Karl made some joking comments about how it would have been cheaper to just buy a bag of pre-made Chex mix, and Yaya told him, “We are not making Chex mix here! We are making memories.” She was so right. 😉
Her funeral will be this Friday in Cedartown, Georgia. You can view her obituary online by clicking here.

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New sprinkler! And hey look, this is our backyard. That patio/deck is HUGE and needs furniture. (But then, so does most of the house. I have a feeling the patio is low on the list, haha!)
Two kids in a sprinkler! And Chris in the background putting yard stuff into his shed. He <3’s his new shed. 🙂

Baking chocolate chip cookies. I have a couple of things to say about this picture. (1) That apron makes me look ENORMOUS! (2) You can see how open the kitchen is to the family room – and look, there’s my fireplace! (3) That stack of boxes? That’s our DVD collection. We have no place designated to put them, so they are staying put for now.
Another baking picture. And in this one, you can see my current “trouble spot” — that section of counter behind the island, to the right of the fridge. My goal is to have the counter hold my laptop, some kind of iPhone dock, and the house phone. On the backsplash, I’d like some kind of pinboard or message board, and on the narrow wall on the right I want to hang a mail sorter or inboxes or something like that. Until I get my organization tools going, it’s just a catch-all for piles of all sorts. Ugh.

And finally, “Look, Mom, your bathroom isn’t babyproofed!” Susannah found my makeup bag and put on mascara and green eyeshadow. On the positive, at least she’ll make a great Epsilon Sigma pledge in about sixteen years.

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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