Thursday, December 26, 2013

The One with All the Pretty Lights...

Christmas is such a lovely time.  I enjoy spending time with my family and creating new traditions.  I also enjoy remembering the real reason that we are celebrating and that is Jesus, our Savior.  In our house we don't stress too much over Santa Claus or presents or money.  We just try to enjoy it and hope the kids will look back on these days with good memories.
The kids were in a Christmas play at church.

Olivia made this in kindergarten.  I love pulling out their homemade decorations.

Jonah's Star Wars Christmas Tree.  Those are R2D2 lights.

Olivia's Pretty in Pink Christmas Tree
Our Presents

Our presents with Uncle Thad & Aunt Jenny's presents

And then Gigi & Daddy Keys got there and whoa!
My favorite gift...Cute little magnets made by Olivia & Jonah

Little Westie bookends from my Mom & Dad

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The One with the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party...

I have always wanted to throw an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and this year that is just what I did for our Sunday School class.  It was so much fun! 

As everyone arrived I took their photo...
Levi & Jackie Woods

Curtis & Jodi Terrell

Coach Sims & Myself

Coach Helm & Hayley

Jamie & Amanda Talley

Chris Andrews...We missed Angie!

Dr. Jay & Shana Parmer

The Winner of the Ugliest Sweater won this $25 gift card to Walmart.

And the winner was.... LEVI WOODS!

We enjoyed some yummy snacks that everyone brought and then we did a gift exchange.  Everyone had brought a White Elephant gift.  It was so much fun and we laughed all night about some of the gifts!!

Finally, for the rest of the evening we played Spoons.  Well, Jason and I had not played this game before.  When I said I had never played it they said, "Oh you will like it." ...and when Jason said he had never played it they ALL said, "You will LLOOOOVVVEEE it!!!!" Then shortly after that I found out why.  He is pretty competitive (which is an understatement) and I was knocked down to the floor just so he could get his hands on that darn spoon.  He will tell you that he gently moved me so that he could get to the spoon, but people, I had bruises to show for it! We had so much fun! 

Here is a couple of videos of our fierce games of Spoons...
(Thanks to Coach Helm & Hayley who are some serious gamers for providing the table!)

I love the satisfied look on Jackie's face as she beats us!!

It was a wonderful night spent with friends and I can't wait to do it again!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The One with the 34th Birthday...

I love birthdays!!!! Loooovvveee them.... I think every girl should adorn a tiara on that day for sure! I think you should celebrate from the moment you awake to the moment you fall asleep that night.  

I awoke that morning to a sweet chalkboard message from Jason.

I went to work and Shanna had once again made one of her world famous cheesecakes.

Then my favorite part of the day was when the Indian bus picked me up at work to ride to Claude for the basketball games and when I got on the bus they all sang Happy Birthday to me! It was sooo nice of them! Then at this time .... 3:30 p.m. we were getting ready to cheer on the Indians and Lady Indians!!!

Sweet friends gave me a gift of $$ that I was to only use in my "Louie Fund"...

This is the lovely gift I received from my parents.... Love it!

33 was a great year.... and I expect 34 to be even greater!!!!

Count your age by friends, not years - Anonymous

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The One with the Diploma...

This degree has been years in the making!! I feel so ecstatic that I have completed this milestone.  I started working on my Master's Degree several years ago.  I would take a class here and two classes there.  There were many times that I felt frustrated and alone in this journey.  My mom thought I was crazy.  Sometimes I thought I was crazy, but I just did not want to look back with regret.  

Jason has always been my number one supporter and encouraged me that I could complete this goal that I had my heart set on.  

When I had about a year left of school I was in one of my discouraged phases and I remember talking to Shanna Parmer at church one night.  I told her I had three or four classes left, but that I just didn't know what to do.  I remember her telling me to finish and that I could do it.  She told me that I didn't want to regret not finishing and I was almost there.  She gave me that final push.

Another person that always encouraged me was Shanna Floyd.  She has helped me over the years in so many different ways.  There are too many ways to even name, but on a daily basis she encouraged me just by allowing me to do what I needed to do to put school as a top priority.  

I am so grateful for the professors and the classmates that I have met along the way.  Dr. Yvette Castillo was truly an inspiration and I learned a lot from her.  During my final semester this fall I had the privilege to study under Dr. Leigh Green and I thoroughly enjoyed her class.   

Thanks to Rene Havel our Graduation Day was very memorable.  She put together a dinner for us after the ceremony that was complete with cake and champagne.  She also hired our own photographer for the evening.  She made it so special and I am thankful for that.

I woke up that day on December 13, 2013 feeling like I was floating on a cloud.  Jason was so sweet and sincerely proud of me.  First on our schedule was a Quanah Indians basketball game in Vernon.  We went to the game and then left in a school vehicle that Mr. Freeman was generous to let us use while he rode back on the activity bus with the team.  We switched cars in Quanah and then headed to Childress to pick up the kids from school.  

Graduation was at 7 p.m. that night and because I love my Mama dearly I made sure and told her it was at 6 p.m.  I had emailed my dad to tell him what I had done, but that it really was at 7 p.m. and his reply was, "All that education is finally paying off." 

We made it to Canyon in plenty of time.  We walked in and I found my classmates while my family found their seats.  Jason stayed with me until I needed to get lined up.  He's so sweet to me.

Then it was time.
Graduation was here.

I'm so glad I chose to walk.  It was far away from home and super far away from home for my parents, but gosh darn I had worked soooooo hard to get here! It was totally worth it.  Being hooded then accepting my diploma was the best feeling.....

Well, almost.  The best feeling was seeing my family afterwards.  They looked so happy and proud.  The kids were precious while handing me beautiful flowers and giving me sweet hugs.  

How cute are these two?

I love them so much

Next up was our dinner.  There were 8 of us that were pretty close throughout the program.  Our families and friends joined us at a restaurant to enjoy some yummy Mexican food.  

Our Future Graduate

Before we ate Dr. C got up and read bios from each of us.  This was my bio....

Tara Sims lives in Quanah and is married to Jason Sims who is the Athletic Director and Head Football Coach as well as the Head Boys Basketball Coach.  They have two children, Olivia who is in 2nd grade and Jonah who will begin Kindergarten next fall. Her parents are Bobby and Gwen Keys and they live in Bridgeport.

Tara graduated from Childress High School in 1998 and then began her undergraduate degree at the University of North Texas.  In 2007 she graduated from Mid-America Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Management and Ethics. 

In 2008 she began the Counseling Program at West Texas A&M University.  Slowly, but surely she has taken class after class and is now finally a graduate!!! She has had the privilege to learn from the best, Dr. Yvette Castillo, Dr. Terry Hargrave, Dr. Melodie Frick, Dr. Robin Kelly and Dr. Leigh Green.  She believes that an education is something that no one can ever take from you and that her fellow graduates should be very proud of themselves for reaching this honorable milestone.

She would like to thank her parents for being there for her and thank her husband, Jason, who has always been her #1 supporter and encourager.  If it wasn’t for his continued love and support she would not be standing in this room tonight.

Currently, she is the Assistant Chief of Probation for the 100th Judicial District.  She plans to continue that job while building her own private practice.  Her desire is to help guide individuals, families and children become the very best version of themselves and to help them achieve their own dreams.   Her motto is, “There is always hope.”

After we ate they toasted us with champagne and then we had cake.  
What a celebration!!  I am so proud of all of us.  
A life changing moment for us all ... here's to our dreams of helping others achieve their dreams!

I was also showered with many gifts including this jewelry and lots of cash.  I am so grateful for kindness and the love you have all shown me.

Jewelry that my sweet Mama made and a James Avery ring
 (along with some $$$)

Such a cute Brighton bracelet from the Bursey Family

This stunning jewelry set from Kevin and Shanna Floyd

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sweet Tonya...

Meme and Olivia - May 2010

I miss you so so so much.  I wish you were here so we could've celebrated you today, but I know this birthday in Heaven was your best birthday yet.  You touched so many lives, especially mine.  I will forever be grateful for the love you had for my family.  You loved us like we were your very own.

I think of you often and I will love you always.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The One Where I Talk About Darkness&Shame

Have you ever felt ashamed or insecure? I have and occasionally still do.   This is probably the "biggest issue" I'm currently working on in myself.  It is something that I wish no one knew, but here I am blogging about it.  It's because I know how terrible secrets can be.  Secrets can hold a power over us.  Think back on your own lives and think about a secret you have had....were there any good consequences that came from it? Now, I'm not talking about keeping a surprise party a secret or about Santa Claus.  You know which ones I'm talking about.  Life is better when we step out of that darkness and live in the light and in truth. I believe the truth can set you free from many things...especially yourself. In truth is where healing begins...
I am far from perfect.  I have made so many mistakes in my life it is embarrassing.  When I was younger, specifically in high school, I was thisclose to God.  I treasured that relationship.  I made time for Him, all the time.  I was on fire for God and I loved my life.  It was such a sweet time for me and that is why I love the verse 1 Timothy 4:12. 
Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
Fast forward a few years and things were quite different for me.  After graduation and for the next 14 years I lived in some pretty dark moments.  Some were darker than others, but one thing was for sure, God was no longer at the center of my life.  Many decisions I made reflected that.  I did things that I never ever ever ever dreamed I would do. 
I know I am not the only one.  I know we are all human....but there are times when I get so down on myself.  I walk into rooms and feel like people are judging me or thinking about my mistakes.  It's hard for me to trust others.  It's hard for me to love myself.  It's hard for me to let go of my past.
There are times when I come across a tweet, a facebook post or a story that I want to share with others....but then I stop myself because I think - oh no what if "they" think I'm being a hypocrite or judging them or trying to pretend that my life wasn't filled with sin.  ...and then I don't share it.  The other day I was thinking about this and I know what my life is not defined by one tweet.  Just because I tweet something that does not add up to how my life used to be does not matter today because how my life used to be does not matter today.  If "they" read my tweet or post and think those things then "they" do not know me.  "They" don't know my struggle or my heart ... and while we are on the topic...who is "they" anyway? "They" are not God so I shouldn't even worry about what "they" think.  Right?!?
Most importantly, what I am learning is that despite my past I do still have value.  I matter.  I have worth.  Today, that is why I am so glad that my foundation from my youth was built on knowing God.  Finally, one day I had had enough.  Enough.  I looked at my life and thought this is not the life I wanted at all.  My whole life I wanted to be committed to God and live my life in a way that brought God glory not shame.  That day I got serious about making better life decisions.  Unfortunately, because of past decisions I am still dealing with stuff, but I know I am on the right path.  I know that I must deal with it {completely} ask for forgiveness, receive His mercy, forgive myself {that's the hard part for me} and MOVE ON....
I want to share stories because I have learned from my mistakes and I want others to learn from my mistakes.  What I want more than anything is for other's to see their worth&value also and to think twice about their decisions.  It can be so easy to let doubt, insecurity and fear slip in.  Be stronger than those things. 
I don't say these things today because I have it all figured out .... not even close.  I still struggle, but in my heart I know that I don't have to.  God doesn't want me to live in fear, doubt or insecurity.  He wants me to be free from all of those negative feelings and I am working on it. 
I am not where I want to be, but thank goodness I am not where I once was.... 

It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin.  You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living tell you how to live.  You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.  We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.  It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.  Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us.  He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ.  He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.
Ephesians 2:1-6 (The Message)
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus
Ephesians 2:1-6 (NIV)