February 17, 2018

BE THE CHANGE: School Shootings

Be the change you want to see in the world. 

The most recent mass school shooting sent my head spinning. It wasn't the tragedy so much as the one million opinions on Facebook on why this happened. The blame game, incessant arguing, and a demand for change. And there are lots of suggestions for why we have this problem and how to fix it. Yet, no one seems to have a quick solution on how to change our culture or implement their solutions on a grand scale. Why? Because it's a HUGE problem!

Me? I agree with all of you. I nod my head in agreement with every root cause.
  • It's the government's fault. (agree)
  • It's our parenting. (agree)
  • It's a culture issue. (agree)
  • It's because of Hollywood/media. (agree)
  • It's a mental health issue. (agree)
  • It's a medication issue. (agree)
  • It's a sin/heart/evil issue. (agree)

Honestly, there's not a one size fits all reason to these school shootings and that's frustrating. 

I'm also in agreement about how to solve this problem. But that's where my brain gets stuck. I don't know how to fix this on a large scale.
  • How in the world does one go about implementing stricter screening processes in every.single.state? 
  • How do we get around HIPAA laws to include medical information in background checks for gun applications?
  • How do we sync retail systems to monitor ammunition purchases?
  • How can we get every board of education to approve paid armed security for every school?
  • How do we keep guns away from the bad guys but still give the good guys the right to bear arms?
  • How do we (___fill in the blank___) on such a massive front?

I have racked my brain over who to call, where to write, or where to start for 2 days. Even if I knew where to start, it will take time (a lot of time) to get new laws and processes implemented. Let's be realistic here. 

Then, I saw this video. In fact, I've seen it before - the last time there was a mass school shooting. I thought "That's awesome! How come all schools don't have these? Surely they will work towards getting them now!" Nope. They didn't. Not on a large scale. This device is relatively inexpensive, especially compared to having a full-time armed guard, but is highly effective. I don't understand why this solution hasn't already been implemented.

I'm a big fan of the "be the change you want to see in the world" and "be a part of the solution, not part of the problem" philosophies. I do think law changes are coming but I'm tired of waiting. 

So here goes.... I called up my friend who is a teacher and showed her this video. I asked her what type of door she has in her classroom and ordered the appropriate device. It will be shipped to her directly.

I may not be able to solve the root cause of mass shootings but I can do something effective. I can't fix evil and I can't change laws but I can be proactive in protecting lives. 

I'm encouraging you to do the same. Yes, YOU!

The Challenge? We all know at least one teacher. Buy this for them. There is an option for every door type.

Is it a little pricey? Sure. But in comparison to their life and the lives of the kids they teach, it's priceless. 

I'm not taking any excuses here. 
  • If you can't afford one find a few friends and go in on it together. 
  • If you are a room mom, work with the other parents in your class to collect the funds to buy one for your child's teacher. 
  • If you are on the PTO, start a fundraiser. 
  • If you don't know a teacher, let me know and I'll connect you with one. 

Inward Swinging Door
Commercial Doors with Scissor Closure
Outward Swinging Door

If we are going to "Demand Change" we have to BE THE CHANGE!

*In full disclosure, these are Amazon affiliate links. For every purchase made, I get a small percentage back but pledge to use those funds towards additional purchases of the Barracuda Intruder Defense System for teachers.



February 2, 2018

5 Things I Learned After a Month of Fasting

We're coming off a month of fasting, which has been both challenging and refreshing. It's provided me with some insight of more than just spiritual proportions and I wanted to share my experience.

For starters, I have never fasted before. Not intentionally. In fact, I'm pretty sure just the word "fasting" made me feel awkward and had a bad connotation associated with it. In my mind fasting = starving. Prior to 2018, I have never been asked to fast or had the desire to fast. When our new church announced they were going to start the year with a fast for the month of January, I wasn't on board.

But, this is one of the things I love about New Tribe Church. They are challenging us in ways I've never known before. It's a little bit daunting yet exciting all at the same time. The invite always feels genuine and gentle. They have a way of making everyone, even the youngest or most inexperienced, feel unintimidated and welcome.

The plan was as follows.

Week 1 - Fast from sweets
Week 2 - Fast from social media
Week 3 - Fast from meats & sweets
Week 4 - water only for 24 hours

They tenderly encouraged the church body to participate. The instructions were basic and allowed room for the individual to define their own parameters. If you want to simply cut out desserts for week 1 - great! If you want to read every label and be completely devoid of sugar - also great! If you cheat - keep trying! Need to be on social media for work purposes - you are exempt.  If you have dietary restrictions that prevent you from doing water only - completely understandable. If you want to stack your fasts and keep them going simultaneously - by all means. If you want to focus on one at a time - totally acceptable.

The goal? Develop self-discipline, depend on the Lord for strength, subsequently grow closer to Him,  and participate as a church body to launch our year together. Those are things I could get on board with. Even when they used the phrase "starve the stomach, feed the soul" I wasn't completely turned off at this point. It seemed reasonable, doable, and worthy of my effort.

So, here's what I learned.

1. Kids can participate too. Since I have never actually uttered the word "fasting" to Skylar before, I wanted to approach it in a way that didn't feel awkward or have a poor expectation of the practice. We explained what we were doing, why we were doing it, and just as tenderly invited her to define her own parameters and participate. She decided to do 24 hours for every week that we did. She skipped all electronics one day during social media week and ultimately did not participate in the water only fast. I didn't want her introduction to fasting to be overly strict and negative and was pleased that she joined in her own way.

2. I have more willpower than I thought. Recently I've been thinking that my willpower is dwindling as I get older. Sometimes I feel like it's getting harder and harder to stay focused. The practice of fasting takes a lot of self-discipline. As adults, we have a lot of leeway and don't always practice self control and stretch this muscle. We want what we want when we want it- so we do it, or buy it, or eat it - because we can. I am grateful that I was encouraged to participate because I can see how fasting can benefit me in regular old life as well.

3. Social media week was T O U G H.  I was amazed at my muscle memory towards social media. Every time I grabbed my phone my thumb automatically pressed Facebook. Like, an unconscious movement. It's what I did during commercials, while on hold, waiting for water to boil, or even going to the bathroom. It became obvious in a hurry that social media had become a time filler. There were times that I would pick up my phone to do something else and literally be shocked at how my finger navigated towards that blue button. It was mind blowing!  For an introvert, Facebook is seriously the best invention ever. It allows us to connect with people but not have to experience them. I still craved connection and found myself texting family and friends more during that week. But I'm kinda thinking that might be the better way. It's more personal and less filtered because it's intended for that one individual. I'm back on social media now but planning to cut my usage back and limit myself to only hoping on at specific times of the day (i.e. morning and evening). It's kind of tricky because I'm also online for work during the day so I'm still trying to figure out the happy medium.

4. There are health benefits to fasting. I came across "The Science of Fasting" on Netflix and was really impressed by the health benefits they have found from both short and long-term fasting. It can help with asthma, diabetes, skin conditions, cancer, Alzheimer's and more! In fact, studies show that fasting for 24-48 hours prior to chemotherapy significantly reduces the side effects but increases the effect on cancer cells. Fasting causes healthy cells go into protection mode while the cancer cells become more vulnerable. Very cool!

5. I thought fasting was making me fat. I've been eating the Trim Health Mama (THM) way for almost 2 years. During the sweet fast, I even excluded my natural sweeteners, which threw off my go-to foods like protein shakes and overnight oats. I eat on the go a lot so it was hard to find quick foods that I could eat that were still on plan. During our meat fast I didn't plan well enough and ate lots of crossovers that week trying to add in extra calories and protein. Most people loose weight during fasting but I gained because I was eating so differently and off plan. However, that was all remedied after the 24 hour water only fast. In fact, I have since dug deeper into research about the health and weight loss benefits of Intermittent Fasting and we plan to start incorporating this into our regular routine. I just learned today how to combine it with THM so I'm excited to add another layer of healthy nutrition habits to our lifestyle.

The hardest fasts for me were definitely social media and then the 24 hour fast. Those were definitely a sacrifice. I was praying nearly constantly during those times but felt sustained. It's definitely easier when you have someone to help keep you accountable and commiserate with so I'd recommend that as well.

Overall, it was a great month of learning, practicing self-discipline, and growing in our faith. I'm thankful we have found a church that challenges and encourages us!

January 31, 2018

January 2018 Update

After the "year of hard things" and "the month that almost killed us" I was an eager beaver to move into 2018!

We rang in the new year with our sweet friends who have become such a constant in our lives over the past year. It took us 12 years of marriage to find "couple friends," which is another reminder to me to never give up on the important things!

We did have snow this month, much to my disappointment, but it does look so much prettier at the BFF. I am missing the subdivision life about zero these days! Onyx was a hoot. I love puppies in snow like I love babies eating lemons. They get me so tickled. She's been staying inside a good bit since it's been #stupidcold at night but the temperature and snow truly didn't bother her a bit. She's such a gorgeous girl and we are all so smitten with her.

Speaking of snow (and ice) it almost caused us to cancel Skylar's birthday party. We did have to change the date but we are so thankful all of our family could come celebrate with us. Mom and Rex even braved the roads to come from Alabama. It's a tradition! Scooby Doo is all the rage so that's the cake she picked for this year. I still can't believe this kiddo is 11. If you haven't seen it already, be sure to check out her year in review video. She received a new board game, Isle of Skye that we are loving! It's kinda like a cross between Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, which are our other favorites.

For her birthday, we gave her family tickets to the Symphony. Skylar LOVES Elvis and they were doing a show playing his songs. She has also been quite interested in orchestra instruments so it was literally the PERFECT combo for her. We sat 3 rows behind the stage. For some reason, those are the most inexpensive tickets but we thought they were the best seats in the house. We had an amazing view and didn't notice any decreased quality in the acoustics. In fact, Mike and I bought the same tickets for an upcoming Sinatra Symphony next month. They had a band play along with the orchestra and the sound was so unique. We loved the whole night!

We started back to Co-Op this month and Sky is enjoying her classes this semester. She's learning to knit and is quite good at it. She even taught me so that's been a fun activity to do together snuggled up in my bed most nights. We also finally got connected with the Wilson Co. 4H Homeschool Program and are looking forward to participating more with that group this year. In other news, she saved up some money and bought herself a violin from our neighbor. Her first lesson is this Thursday and she's so excited!

This year I picked COMMUNITY as my word of the year. It combines so much of what has been on my heart the last few months. I also had an opportunity to meet Jen Hatmaker and hear her speak, which was like a dream come true. I absolutely adore her! I swear she stalks my life for content and makes all of life's quirks and frustrations seem not only tolerable but downright hilarious. I listened to her most recent book while riding the lawnmower this past summer. When I wasn't doubled over in laughter, she was totally blowing my mind and flipping my world around in a good way. She's such an encouragement and I'm so grateful I had this opportunity to see her.

As is typical for January, I've had several new clients join SBVA. I'm so thankful for my assistant Ashley who is helping me manage all of these wonderful women and their projects. It's been fun to see my business continue to grow and there's no substitute for dependable, quality help! I also had the opportunity to work on my first children's book this past month, which was a blast! My final copy should be arriving any day now.

Mike is doing well. We went to the year-end celebration for Union Station earlier in the month. The dinner was 1920s themed and we had a blast!  I was so happy to see TWO of his employees nominated for an award. The whole account is in a much better place than where it was a year ago when he took over. He has worked really hard and I'm so proud of him!

We are also still loving New Tribe Church. We are starting to meet more people and we even participated in their month-long fast. Here are 5 takeaways I learned from that experience.

I'm so happy that the days are starting to get longer. We are really excited about the Winter Olympics starting soon. Even though they aren't the Summer Olympics they still get me pumped for TeamUSA. And after they are finished we will be practically to spring - YAY!

For more January pics, click here.

January 2018 in Pictures

For the full January update, click here

Happy New Year! Had so much fun ringing in 2018 with our peeps! 

So excited to see what 2018 holds. I’m still thinking about the sermon I heard yesterday. If 2018 looks different than you expect, will you still receive it and trust God? There are lots of other great tidbits included. Take 30 minutes and listen to this. http://newtribe.church/messages/#BlessedYearEver

 This is my hope for the BFF this year (and always). We worked hard in 2017 to create a home that you (yes, YOU) will feel welcome and comfortable to stop by ANY time. This is something I grew up with but it has gone out of fashion. Such a shame! I PROMISE that you can come by anytime. We’re doing things differently here. It’s likely you will find me in my pajamas and a hasty bun and I will be thrilled to see you. Our little house may be small but it has a lot to offer. This house is a safe zone. There are no judgments here. There is coffee, wine, or ice cream along with a table, sofa, or hammock. We can sit and chat or walk the property. There is time for laughs, tears, or silence. You will find food, support, and a breath of fresh air here. Hugs are optional but highly encouraged. Seriously, just stop by. And come on around to the back door when you do. #BishopFamilyFarm

Took me 6 months but I finally finished it! In case you didn’t know, I’m a bit patriotic. πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ #merica#teamUSA #wethepeople

This girl loved the snow!

 ❄️ Obligatory snow pic of the #BishopFamilyFarm and I don’t even like snow. But that view!!! 
Ask me how much I miss the subdivision life. 

 Skylar's Piggy Bank Project she made for 4H. The body is paper mache, on toilet paper legs, and it's nose is made out of a milk jug top. That's how you get the money in and out!

 We call her Onyx for a reason. She's such a beautiful girl and a great farm dog. 

 On our way to the Union Station year-end celebration. 

Oh how I love this girl. She’s such a unique little human with a style and personality all her own. My devotion to her fan club deepens on a daily basis. Happy 11th birthday, Skylar! You are so adored.

Scooby Doo Birthday Cake

Isle of Skye, our new favorite game. 

At the Elvis Symphony for her birthday

Met Hatmaker. She called us “cuties” so naturally we are besties now. 

Thankful for this girl - we both love us some Jen Hatmaker!

I’m still thinking about every word I heard from Jen Hatmaker and Nichole Nordeman the other night. It made my commitment to my word this year stronger than ever. COMMUNITY! She also told the elephant story which is fascinating and beautiful! Ask me about it if you haven’t heard it. I was reminded of the time I was in the middle and my little village protected me at all costs. I will be forever grateful! Forget mama bears. Let’s be mama elephants together! πŸ˜ #buildcommunity#mamaelephant

December 31, 2017

2017 Year in Review

This is always my favorite post to write but 2017 will go down in history as "the year of hard things."

I remember taking our little house down to the studs and putting it back together again. I SERIOUSLY do. not. know. how we survived that season. Mike had just been handed a hot mess of a hotel site at work. He was working overnights + day shifts. I was doing my regular VA work and homeschooling and also working overnights for a postpartum family. We worked at the house several days each week and weekend. When we weren't at the house, I was managing a million other logistics to select, order, and arrange delivery or pick up of needed items. It was nonstop for 2 months. It was unquestionably exhausting. Just thinking about it makes me tired. We were clearly insane and high on the excitement of our new journey. Despite the crazy schedule, I have nothing but fond memories of the process. I loved every minute of our remodel. We, hands down, had THE best contractor on the planet and that made all the difference in the world.

I remember living with Grandma and D-Dad and how gracious they were to accommodate us. I remember dinners around the table and great conversations where I learned even more new stories about them.

I remember our moving weekend. Our crew had us settled and ready to sleep here on day 2 and then built us an amazing fire pit like icing on the cake. Our sweet neighbors even fed our crew and I remember the sheer delight of knowing how blessed we were.

I remember mom coming to help me with the decor. We shopped until we literally dropped but we decorated this entire house in one weekend and it made me love our little home that much more! The very first thing Mike and I hung on the wall was my marquee lights HOME sign. It is still one of my most prized possessions.

I remember going to see a man about some chickens and then transporting 9 of them in the back of my SUV from Birmingham to Nashville. It was S T I N K Y but we were so happy to start chicken farming! We've lost a few and added a few along the way but chicken wrangling turned out to be much easier than I expected. Plus, farm fresh eggs are so, so good!

Easter was our first family gathering at the BFF and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment. After wishing and hoping for property for years, it felt so good to be home.

I remember trying to go to the lake. It somehow managed to rain almost every Saturday this spring and summer. We did sneak out one evening for a little cruise around at sunset and dinner with friends that I'll never forget. I'll also remember the day we literally tried all day to get on the water. There were constant roadblocks to the point that it became comical and we finally gave up.

I remember many an afternoon on the lawnmower. Grass cutting season went on and on and on. We went from spending about 30 minutes cutting grass at our old house to 3 days at the BFF. We have so much that we cut it in sections. But I listened to a lot of good books on that lawnmower and one in particular that rocked my whole world (thank you, Jen Hatmaker)!

I remember our road trip with dad and visiting Plant City, FL where we lived when I was in the 5th - 6th grade. A lot had changed, yet so much was still the same. We also got to see our family friend, Sue. I adored her as a girl and Skylar was just as smitten. I remember going to Animal Kingdom with my girl and conquering so much! We met a ton of characters and rode everything. The street performers and dancers were definitely a highlight this trip. Although, Lion King and the Safari will always be my favorites.

I remember Easton dying. He was 13. After moving here, he had really perked up and loved to ride the lawnmower with me. I thought for sure we had at least 2 more years with him but it ended so suddenly. I am thankful that we could bury him at the BFF. Skylar made a large cross out of scrap wood and metal that was perfect for his grave. We picked out a nice, bright spot by a tree that reminds us of how he loved to lay in the sun.

I remember Skylar playing softball. Over the years we have let her try all of the sports/activities she desired but this one. I played ball from Sweetie League through High School so I was done spending my Saturdays at the ballpark. Wouldn't you know it? Softball is the sport she loves! Oh the things I do for this kid.

I remember our Summer Solstice Party. We had over 70 people come celebrate with us. Mike and his Dad cooked a whole hog. I was so tickled to be able to share our home and property with our family, friends, and neighbors. It was the summer solstice party that I have always dreamed of.

I remember Skylar getting her expander and talking with an accent for the next 3 days to cover up her lisp. It was great, and she was really good too! When she got braces, she looked instantly older. I'm still not a fan of this growing up business almost 11 years later.

I remember my doula babies. I had one sweet girl who was in the biggest hurry ever and even took us for a little ambulance ride. Then a precious boy took his time arriving but gave me an awesome new respect for the power and determination of a mother. I was also finally able to witness a birth at Nashville's birthing center. Now that I'm only taking repeat clients, close friends, and select new clients, it makes each birth that much sweeter.

I remember our car accident. I still dream about it. I felt surprisingly calm while it was happening even though I thought we would never stop flipping. Strangely enough, Skylar and I were talking calmly the entire time it happened. I am still amazed that she was unharmed and I had minimal injuries. People die from accidents like ours. I remember my dear friend coming to pick glass out of my hair at midnight, Grandma coming to do laundry and drive me to appointments, and my bestie coming to wash my hair. Our village served us well. I remember thinking I would bounce back in a week yet here I am still in physical therapy almost 6 months later. Yet the drunk driver got a tiny fine and a few days in jail. Regardless, I'm still in awe of God's protection and thankful that He's given me more to do on Earth.

I remember our Solar Eclipse Party. I still can't believe that our address was in the complete path of totality for such a rare event. We had over 60 moms, dads, and kids join us. The 2 minutes of total eclipse was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced in my life. We all cheered and yelled and kids ran around with glow sticks. Being around so many other excited participants made it even more special!

I remember car shopping. Oh lawsy. What an ordeal. We had 3 cars literally sold right out from under us. It became a running joke about how hot the used car market is. I'm a sucker for American made SUVs but, in the end, I ended up with a Toyota Sequoia that I love.

I remember celebrating our 12th anniversary. I feel like it's taken us this long to finally hit the sweet spot but it feels really good.

I remember getting Onyx. Our last experience with a puppy was horrible. I was expecting the same this time around but I was smitten with her from the start. She has the sweetest personality. Skylar made the best video to welcome Onyx to our family. I was so proud of her hard work. I'm still amazed at how easily Onyx has blended into our family and how adored she is by all of us. We almost ended up with a different puppy but I'm so thankful that it worked out for us to get Onyx. She has been beyond perfect for us in so many ways. The best part is when she brings me treasures out of the woods.

I remember our annual trip to the beach with mom. This year we had Hurricane Irma to deal with but it ended up working out okay. One of my favorite pictures from this year is Skylar shell hunting on the beach.

I remember our fall family getaway to Louisville. The Ark Encounter was truly mind-blowing! Downtown Cincinnati was also a highlight but I'll never forget seeing my girl ride roller coaster after roller coaster at Holiday World. She rode every single one multiple times!

I remember Skylar learning to drive the Bobcat. When we had the concrete poured for the garage they left the Bobcat key and Mike gave Skylar a quick lesson. She drove that thing all over the place and even spread 2 piles of mulch in the garden. Like a boss!

I remember being hurt so deeply by a friend in a way I never expected and never saw coming. Losing this relationship felt like losing a family member. It nearly crushed me. There are days that I still mourn over it. Sometimes it feels like I'm going through the stages of grief all over again. But, as promised, God works all things together for good. I can already see how this situation has helped to stretch and grow me in ways that would not have happened otherwise. Some areas of my life had gotten really comfortable and this gave me a push outside my comfort zone that I needed. It doesn't make it hurt any less but seeing the purpose gives me hope for the future.

I remember drinking the Wilson County kool-aid, so to speak. For starters, I never thought we would live near Providence, much less Wilson County. The more we are here the more I'm learning to love it. It also helps that the area is continuing to grow and more businesses are moving "out here." We visited the fair, went to the Dancing Christmas Lights, and the Christmas Parade. I even signed Skylar up for 4H. I'm slowly but surely moving all of my business out this way.

I remember visiting church after church after church. Oh my. We were so weary from visiting, trying to connect, and find a good fit. It's really hard being the new person at church and we couldn't quite find somewhere that had all of the big things on our list. At one point we were dropping Skylar off at one church and then going to our car to live stream the service from a different church. I refused to settle and gave it one more shot. We found New Tribe Church and are so happy there. I'll never forget the night that God connected all the dots of the last year and showed me that this place had everything I had been looking for. Instantaneously, I knew we had found our new church home and we've been all in ever since.

I remember Skylar having the flu right before Christmas. In fact, we were all very sick. It was brutal. I had all these grand plans for creating traditions our first year in our new home but we just went into survival mode instead. LOL! We even missed Christmas with Mike's family. But I'll never forget seeing the fullest, brightest, double rainbow on Christmas Eve. We even saw where it went into the ground. Amazing memory!

I remember being D O N E with 2017. Between the remodel, rollover accident, church searching, losing my confidant, and having all of us so sick at Christmas, I was 100% convinced that 2017 was trying to kill me. Literally. I felt crushed from all sides - physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially.

This year was such a conundrum. 2017 pushed me WAY outside my comfort zone over and over and over again. Bless! It truly was the year of hard things. But, for as much as it took from me, it also gave me so much more. I'm rather excited to see how the growth of this year moves us into 2018 and beyond.

December 2017 in Pictures

If you missed the full December update, you can find it here

 A quick and easy little bunting I made with Skylar. 
 Mt. Juliet Christmas Parade followed by Mexican for lunch!
 Gainey's Annual Christmas Party
 At Mike's Christmas Party for Towne Park
 My poor car. 
We closed out our construction loan. This little house has come a long way this year. 
Our first gingerbread house. 
 Onyx and some of the gifts she brought me. 
 Flu sucks!
 We saw the most beautiful rainbow on Christmas Eve!
 Onyx was good this year so she got a mammoth bone. 
 New Tribe Church & Heart
LOVE our 2017 family pictures!
Merry Christmas from The Bishops. 

Ringing in the new year!