Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Monster Tree

Matt's Aunt and Uncle own Shenandoah Tree Farm. It is practically a sin in his family to own an artificial tree, but in the past we have been given artificial trees and it seemed an "unnecessary" expense to buy a "disposable" tree. Then we had the "cat" incident last year that forced us into the "real" tree phase of life. A phase we may not be able to recover from until the boys are old enough to be OK with a fake tree again.

So on Saturday we went out to Uncle Terry and Aunt Iva's to pick out a tree. On the way there Matt and I were discussing what kind of tree to get. Should we get long needle, short needle, pre-cut, well, the list could go on and on. Neither of us had really strong opinions, but our minor opinions were not on the same page so we left it up to the boys. First mistake. :) After inspecting the pre-cut trees, and I mean Josiah really inspected them. The boys decided we needed to ride the train out to the field to check out the trees there. Within 2 minutes of getting off the train Josiah had spotted the monster tree. Micah thought it perfect and the "chainsaw boy" was called to fell Pineasaurous.

It really isn't an ugly tree, but it is tall and fat. If we had a three story, 4000 sq. ft. house it would be perfect. As it is, our little living room ceiling is going to have sap on it, of that I'm sure. When you walk in our front door the first, yea, the only thing you see is THE TREE!!!! The boys are more than thrilled. The needles are long and loose and I'll be picking them out of the carpet for months to come. But alas, as a Mommy I have to say no to so many things, I'm trying to say yes when I can. I quickly died to the idea of the big bushy behemoth and it's "hair loss" and enjoyed our boy's delight. We even let them decorate it. The bottom half of "Treezilla" was over decorated, due to the fact that the boys could only reach about half-way up it.(Micah put 7 ornaments on one branch.) I confess, on Monday while the boys were doing some school work I did sneak out and rearranged a few ornaments. I even added some ribbon to finish her off. They never noticed the changes. And while the tree is far from beautiful, it is better.

And so that is the story of our Christmas Tree. I suppose if we had gotten the beautiful 6ft., short needled, skinny one we wouldn't have all these fun memories.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Awesome Responsibility.

It's easy to forget what an awesome responsibility it is to be a parent. I can get so caught up in healthy meals, clean bodies, and strong minds that I forget I'm shaping an individual with an eternal soul. How they think, what they think, how they relate to others and God largely depends on what I teach them and how I live.

This morning I was working with Micah on a Thanksgiving project. We have been studying parts of speech so I thought we would make a diary of thankfulness. We talked about a noun being a person, place, thing or idea. I asked Micah to name something or someone in each category for which he was grateful. In the "person" category Micah said he was thankful for God and Mommy. I asked him to list a few adjectives that describe God. He gave me a list of descriptors for God. I then asked him to list some adjectives that describe Mommy he said, "Well, maybe the same things."

Wow, the responsibility of being God's representative to my children hit me again in a very real way. Having a casual attitude toward parenting seems terribly irresponsible in light of the reality that is going on in the hearts and minds of my boys. It isn't only parents who are God's representatives on earth though, each of us who claim His name are charged with the responsibility of representing Him well. Having a casual attitude about our behaviors and attitudes seems equally irresponsible in light of the reality that we are the only Jesus some people will ever see.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crying Dragons

We were listening to "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" AGAIN last night(this is in the top 10 of favorite stories to listen to at our house). When we got to the following part, I almost cried(I always do). It rings so true to my own experience of God changing me from a beast into a "real girl". The process of learning to be honest with myself and seeing things in my life that were "beastly" was painful. But my Father loved me too much to leave me in my beastly state and though the process was painful He has made me new. And He is continuing to tear away layers and show me myself as I am willing and able to see reality. He continues to conform me into His image or dress me more beautifully every day. I'm so very thankful for that.
"Then the lion said, 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. ...Then he caught hold of me and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything, but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain was gone. After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me in new clothes." Eustace on his experience of being changed from beast to boy by the great lion Aslan in c.s. Lewis' "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader".

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Road to Becoming

An update seems in order. This summer was good and busy. I did a lot of mowing, the boys did a lot of growing, and Matt did a lot of working. Mode Camp was a highlight for us this summer,as usual. The boys would just as soon trade in the 4 bedrooms and 2 baths for the 10 X 10 cabin and outhouses. Cousin Savannah joined us this year for camp and it was such a joy to have her. She's such a ray of sunshine. Matt and I worked with the youth again this year. What an amazing group of young people they all are. Josiah broke his collar bone on the last Friday of camp. He was so brave. He's doing fine now.

Now summer is gone, and it seems to have taken the sun with it. The rain is falling and the wind is blowing. The trees are more bare everyday. With each season comes it's own joy though, so I'll try hard not to dread winter. :) We started school again on Labor Day....seems twisted, but one must labor even on Labor Day. Micah started school officially this year. It's interesting home educating a second child. How do you answer the "what grade are you in" question? He's been "sitting in" with Josiah for two years. His work spans about 3 grades, tough to "place" him. He loves school though and is eager to learn. Siah is doing well with his studies too. He started Karate this year as well, he REALLY loves that. He also has a new violin teacher, as our dear Mrs. Mellado is in the process of retiring. Miss. Guan is a very thorough teacher. We have grown to love her as well.

I am also in the process of learning. I know this is a life time pursuit, or at least it should be. My mind has been turning over the process of "becoming". New forces enter my life as I age and circumstances change. These forces act as a mirror to my soul. I find myself questioning and analyzing my heart. Holding it up to the light of Christ. Overwhelmed at times, as the force of my flesh is so powerful. I am not hopeless though. I recognize that it is my Father's great heart and great love for me, that compels Him to ask more of me than what just comes natural. He shows me reality. Ugly as that is at times. It tells me that He has no intention of leaving me as I am, broken and helpless. He calls me to surrender daily to trust and overcome, to become.

It's so tempting to want to just be, without the discipline of becoming. My flesh kicks against the hard work of self control and self sacrifice. The obvious is that I'm not "making" myself. I know I will never "discipline" myself into His image. However, I also know He calls me to do my part, to partner with Him in my metamorphosis.

And so I am feeding my mind on verses like Ephesians 4:13-16 ...13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. And Philippians 3:8-16 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 ¶ Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

That's a lot for me to think on, so I'll leave you with that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Open Letter to My Blog

Dear Blog;

I miss you. I'm too busy, too lazy, and too Facebooked to pay attention to you, but really I do miss you. I miss the real conversation, the real thinking, and the real sharing that you offer. I won't make promises or plans, I'll just say that I'm feeling motivated. The "fastfood" of FB is leaving me hungry for the "meat and potatoes" of blogging. My appetite is wetted, we'll see what pans out.

Best Regards,


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Independence Day!!

On July 3rd Keith and Rachel hosted an Independence Day party for our church family at Fink's house. Rachel cooked a delicious meal and Keith kept the fireworks coming. A great time was had by all.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Newsy Summer Update

Summer! I love it. It's always a busy time for us, but mostly a good kind of busy. This week has been a little less busy thanks to the Ferguson girls. They have been very kind to come down and play with the boys while I mow. The boys love being with the girls and I can get more done more quickly knowing the boys are well supervised. Thanks girls!

Camp is quickly approaching. Matt and I are helping out with the Youth this year. We are working on lessons right now and I still need to revise the script for the play. It should come together pretty quickly though. We are so looking forward to leading the youth. They are such a great group of young people and we always enjoy "hanging out" with them.

Josiah and Micah are growing like weeks. They both spend MANY hours a week in our pool. Turning into very blond fishes basically. :) Josiah started Karate this spring and is loving it. He also has made the transition to a new violin teacher. It was a tough transition at first for he really loved his old teacher who retired. But, he is learning to love his new teacher too. His old teacher taught the Suzuki method and this new teacher teaches traditionally. I'm thankful for the Suzuki beginning though. Ms. Guan(his new teacher) comments on his "good ear for pitch". I know this is not a "natural" thing of Siah. As a toddler his singing was often monotone. However, the Suzuki training really helped with that. However, I do think the time was right for him to move on to more focused site reading. And he is adapting well. Although he misses "playing songs" as he is mainly working in a site reading book. The songs will come soon enough though.

Micah is still Micah and we love him for it. We call him our drama king. For a while he was getting up in the night a couple times a week. There was always some lame excuse. Finally, we put our "foot down" so to speak. We explained to him that he was to stay in bed unless he had to go potty or had an emergency. This is not only for our own sleeping comfort, but also for his safety(children roaming the house while parents are asleep? Not a good idea). He is sleeping better and so are we as a result. The other night though, actually about 4am we heard a knock on our bedroom door. Micah walks in and says, "I'm sorry for disturbing you, and I don't know if this is really important, but, (and here he starts to sound weepy) I keep trying to get my CD player to turn on and I try and I try and it just won't work and it's getting annoying!" Daddy led him back to bed explaining that this was, in fact, NOT important at 4am and it certainly wasn't an emergency.

Well, it's been awhile since I've done newsy update so here it is. I hope you are well and enjoying your summer.

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's Worth It!

Learning to work hard and lovin' it!

Well, so much for my lofty plans of once-a-week blogging. I’ve blogged in my head, does that count? Perhaps I'll try for once-a-month blogging. Grass keeps growing and life keeps coming at us at an alarming pace. We spent last weekend working at our church camp grounds. It’s hot grueling work and every year I think most adults look at each other and think, “What are we doing spending a perfectly beautiful weekend breaking our backs?” And so after a couple days of hard work it was with aching muscles and calloused hands that we got into our air conditioned van to come home.

The boys saw the weekend through totally different eyes. They think of our work weekends at Mode Camp as nothing short of a real holiday. We actually have them join in on some of the work, but that doesn’t for a moment inhibit their absolute joy any time we drive onto the grounds. I asked the boys what it is they love so much about Mode Camp and Josiah’s response surprised me. He said, “I love the freedom best.” I asked him what he meant and he explained, “I just love getting to walk around in such a big place on my own.” In all honesty his response perplexed me at first. Is it healthy at such a young age to desire freedom? Or are we smothering our children? I spoke with Matt about my concerns and he quickly informed me
that he well remembers the exhilaration as a child of walking around camp “on his own”. The more we talked and I thought, I realized that I really appreciate Josiah’s response.

Matt and I are not the kind of parents that leave our young children “on their own”. We would never dream of dropping them off for library time, homeschool group activities or music lessons. We think it is very important at their ages to closely guard influences and monitor their behavior. Our church doesn’t hold to the philosophy of segregated worship or learning. During the Sunday School hour there is a children’s class, but our young people join in with the adults once they are ready to leave the children’s class. And we see the benefits of multi-generational relationships as a result of this approach. Our family doesn’t do sleepovers with other kids or even much unsupervised playtime with other children. (Disclaimer: this is not an essay on how you should personally run your church or home. You have my permission to do things differently.) However, for 10 days out of the year we do send our kids off to “children’s church” and when the boys are old enough and mature enough they will be allowed to stay in the boy’s dorm during camp. Are we being hypocritical for 10 days? No, I don’t think so and here’s why.

Mode Camp is a safe place for our boys to “stretch their wings” a bit. What they perceive as freedom is still very carefully monitored. In all of the parenting material we have digested over the years we still come back to an analogy that we find so helpful from the book entitled “Child Wise”. It pictures parenting as a funnel. The narrow part of the funnel represents the child at birth. All of his choices etc. are made by his parents. There is no freedom or independence at this stage. But as the child grows, and as a trusting relationship with his parents deepens, the funnel widens. Until at last by the teen years there is very little restraint on the child from the parents, but he is now governed by self restraint and hopefully his relationship with God.

What better place then at camp when our boys are surrounded by our trusted friends to give a little room in the funnel? What an opportunity for Matt and I to observe and study our boys, watching to see if they are indeed ready for more freedom or how they behave when they think no one is watching. And oh how they love it. Not just the freedom, but the fun of spending hour after hour with so many Christian brothers and sisters young and old. And while admittedly at their ages the pews get hot and hard after a long sermon, their little souls are being fed. Maybe not so much from the sermons yet, but from observing the lives of those they see in the pews around them. At camp, relationships are built and strengthened in a way that the business of everyday life very seldom affords. I firmly believe that a relationship of trust is an extremely powerful tool with which to influence another for Christ. In light of that, even the "fun and games" of camp serves a purpose.

And so in reflecting on all that, I was reminded of why we do what we do. It makes perfect sense that we are spending beautiful weekends breaking our backs. And when I start to question if the work is really worth it, I have only to look into the faces of my children. It's definitely worth it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Strength to Stand

Matt and I are very interested in the persecuted church. We receive the Voice of the Martyrs newsletter every month and our hearts are always moved by the trials of our brothers and sisters. A few months ago the cover of VOM had a 10 year old girl named Namrata on it. Her little face had been burned. Her great crime and reason for her charred flesh was because she was a believer. Her testimony was beautiful, full of forgiveness and hope. In spite of the pain and the shadow of death that continually looms over her little life, her faith is strong.

I just read the report of the horrific torture of Gao Zhisheng. I was brought to tears reading all our brother had endured and may still be enduring. I was overwhelmingly thankful for the freedoms I enjoy. If you stop and look at history you will see how time and again freedoms never disappear overnight. It is the slow erosion of a culture. A complacent acceptance of the sirens call to change. It frightens me to hear Christians say it is not our place as believers to stand up against the erosion of our culture. It only takes a glance back at the history of the world to show us the devastating ruins of good people doing nothing. Thank God for the Dietrich Bonhoeffers and Gao Zhishengs of the world. But I digress.

The thought that has weighed the most on my mind is how well would I withstand in the face of such torture? Am I preparing my children to have the kind of faith I saw in the face of little Namrata? A few Sundays ago we were visiting a church. We enjoyed the service, but something struck me during the song service. We sang a few token hymns presumably for the "old people". The song leader stopped us in the middle of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" and said, "Can we pick this up a little? If we don't, this song just drags on." Musically I understand what he was saying. But it seemed to me the message of the song seemed to be being missed, we were just getting it "over with". Then we moved on to the praise songs and while I enjoyed them, the lyrics were a bit repetitive. And while they inspired good feelings(which aint all bad) the challenge and encouragement found in Luther's hymn was not as evident in the praise choruses. During this portion of the singing we were encouraged to "think of the words" and worship. Now before you get your boxing gloves on, this is NOT intended to be a argument of hymns vs praise music. Neither is this a criticism of the service or the music minister of the church we visited. I gave the background because it was a catalyst of thought for me. I asked myself what would sustain me or my children in the face of persecution? Have we fed them so much ease and feel good theology that they would immediately crumble into the "why me Lord?" mentality when faced with discomfort.

I don't have all the answers to my questions, I'm really just thinking out loud here. I pray we never face in America what Gao is facing in China or what Namrata faced in India or what little Mark in Iraq is facing everyday at school. But should that day come, I wonder if we would be sustained by an understanding that others have faced this and more and stood strong for Christ. Would a knowledge of Luther's world and how powerful his song was in light of what he was facing bring us encouragement? Would the powerful trust of being eternally protected by our Mighty Fortress call to our memories scriptures of promise from our Savior? And so Matt and I are trying to actively prepare our family for whatever may come. To prepare our hearts and minds to lean hard upon Jesus in times of trial. Be that in a jail cell or in a peer group.

1. A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

3. And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

4. That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For Mom


The yellow climbing roses have finally bloomed! You can hardly see the electric meter under there. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mothers, Daughters, and Chocolate

Saturday night my amazing friend Becca hosted a Mother/Daughter dinner for our church ladies. It was wonderful! She had two menu choices that she prepared herself, complete with fine service from some of our young men. The theme of the dinner was chocolate and friendship. Sounds perfect for a girl's gathering huh? Becca asked me to give a short devotional. Below is my "little offering" and I thought I'd share it with my blog girlfriends too. (I handed out chocolates before my talk. None of the ladies knew what "filling" her chocolate held.)

As the infamous Forest Gump would say, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get." I’ve never seen the movie myself, but there is some truth to what Forest had to say. Life rarely turns out the way any of us planned when we were dreaming it out as young girls. And yet we do have a choice with what we will do with the reality we have. We can hold on to those youthful dreams and demand that life give us what we want. OR we can surrender those dreams to God and let Him give us a life that far surpasses anything we could have dreamed. Don’t get me wrong, I don't think that necessarily means an easy life or even a happy life. But experience has taught me that following God has led to the most fulfilling, joyful, peaceful life imaginable.

Another aspect of life we can learn from a box of chocolates is how our expectations can greatly affect our lives. For those of you expecting a caramel and you ended up with a fruit center didn’t you somehow feel a bit cheated? Your expectations led you to believe something that wasn’t true. Even if you enjoyed the fruit filling and even though the candy was given free of charge our emotions can end up sending us spiraling downward. I have to constantly remind myself when I feel disappointed or dissatisfied with life that I haven’t been cheated or let down by anyone. I have created a reality in my own mind that doesn’t exist. I’m trying to make the world around me live up to my expectations. This, my dear friends, is a recipe for misery. I heard a radio preacher once say, "Expect more from yourself and less from those around you." I think if we practiced that principle we would find ourselves living a much more contented life.

There are many lessons we could take from a chocolate box, but the one I’d like to focus on today is how a box of chocolates, can be like the Body of Christ. While I love the caramels in the box, a whole box of caramels would be unbalanced. Do you wonder if the chocolate almonds ever look over at the cherry cordials and say, "Wow, I wish I could drip when people bit into me like she does! It’s so much more valuable to be a cherry than an almond." I can hear the chocolate creams wishing they were as well shaped as the thin mint patties. The box of chocolate would never fulfill the needs of a whole family if they were all the same. And it is an insane waste of time for the orange creams to wish they were bon bons. It is the beautiful variety in the box of chocolates that helps make the package complete.

Paul admonishes the Corinthians in 2 Cor 10:12 …"but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise". While we share so many of the same values, likes, and dislikes not one of us is in the exact same place in life. Some of us have older children, some young, some none. Some of us are married, some single. Some of us come from large families and some of us are only children. We work at home, in offices, factories, hospitals the list could go on and on. The point is, we accomplish nothing by trying to compare our situation in life with somebody else’s. I find myself wishing to be as organized or as disciplined, or as creative, or as productive, or as intelligent as all of you. And where does that lead me? I end up trying so hard to be like somebody else that I’m not being all that God wants me to be.

Don’t get me wrong I believe there is power in being challenged to be more than what comes naturally for me. I know the slippery slope of being in a situation where you feel you are the "top dog". Here's a hypothetical: I go to the Dr's office and there are 3 other mother’s there with their children. Their children are wretched. Screaming, climbing and biting. There sits my "perfect little angels". Because of some strange aligning of the planets they are good today, sitting quietly reading books. The other mother’s look at me as if my super hero cape is flapping in the breeze. It’s tempting to think, "Wow, I’m doing OK here." That kind of thinking is just craziness people. The reality is my "little angels" have really devilish days too. Any "success" I may have in any area of my life is a result of the influence of someone else. I have been blessed to be surrounded by godly people who have helped me learn and grow. I NEED to be challenged. I need sisters in Christ who are overcoming in areas in which I am weak. I learn from your lives more than I’ve learned in many years of sermons. The search light of the Holy Spirit using your lives to reveal my own grim is much different than my own measuring stick of comparisons.

If we had time to ask each lady in this room "how together" she has her life, I’d be willing to bet every one of us is working hand in hand with God to refine some character trait in our lives. And every one of us has had a laundry basket unfolded, a junk drawer in chaos, or a frozen pizza dinner with no vegetable in sight to feed our families. By God’s grace we are growing together. Where one is weak another is strong. As a Body, or as a box of chocolates, we can delight in each sister’s strength, and use our own strength to bless others. We can use Christ’s measuring stick in our lives and be thankful for the encouragement we can gain from each other to do more, be more, and live more for Jesus.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I Miss My Blog

I miss blogging. I miss reading your blogs. Facebook is fun and quick. It helps me to keep in some sort of contact, albeit a very shallow form of contact. It's nice, but I miss blogging. Time is in short supply and the necessities of life rise to the top of the priority list and so my blog time is neglected. I console myself with "summer dreams". I tell myself that when we finish school I will make myself set aside an hour a week to read/write blogs. Perhaps the accountability of writing that down will make it happen.

Since I last blogged we've celebrated two birthdays, attended a homeschool convention, mowed grass, built hundreds of rocking chairs, visited with family and the list could go on and on. And so instead of going on and on right now, I'm going to go read your blogs and see what you've been up to.

Looking forward to being a better blogger in the future.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wonderful Weekend

It's hard to believe that one week ago today I was having breakfast with some of my dearest friends in the world. I am blessed in the friendship department, I have many dear friends, from my past and present. These particular ladies and I have been friends for a very long time. Most of us even went to high school together. I've watched as they had crushes, then loved, and married their husbands. I've held their babies, sat with them in hospitals, and spent many long nights figuring out life and solving it's problems. I've been to Europe with five of them, Asia with one, and Central America with another. I've lived with all but 1 of them at some point. Lots of history, lots of shared experiences, lots of love.
Several months ago Kim sent out an email suggesting another attempt at a weekend together. In 1998 the same group of ladies, including husbands and a couple babies got together in Branson. We had a great time, but as our families grew and our responsibilities became more pressing, planning anymore reunions was difficult at best. This year it happened though. We simplified and stuck to just the girls. We found a very reasonably priced cabin(thanks to Butch Heath) and, thanks be to God, it worked out. We hadn't all been together since my wedding over 8 years ago. Several times over the weekend we'd walk into a restaurant and the hostess would say, "So where are ya'll from?" To which we would reply, "All over." We've all landed in different places in life. 8 ladies and 7 states. But there is something about shared experiences, the tough times of growing up together, and the great times of laughter that have forged a bond between us. The strongest bond we have though of course, is Jesus. It is our shared desire to know Him and pattern our lives after His example that keeps the bond so close.

On Friday several of us met in Lexington, KY and headed south to pick up Gaye and Kayla. This is the really cool state-of-the-art Welcome Center of TN.

Friday night we ate supper at The Apple Barn and then met up with Marty later that evening.

Saturday we went shopping. Kayla and Sonja found these BEAUTIFUL little....things. We ate at Bullfish Grill. Yummo! But mostly we did a lot of this.........

Even baby Emma laughed!

Each of us girls are care-givers of some sort. Combined, we care for and are responsible for over 200 people. That's a whole lot of pressure. While we are content with our lives, this weekend was a much needed time of low pressure and "being young again". We are so thankful for the fun time spent together.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Uppercase Living

This week is a crazy one. Monday night I was home. But that was it. Violin lessons Tuesday, church Wednesday, DQ Club tonight, Uppercase Living Party Friday, and Parenting Class Saturday. I like to be busy, but this week is a little over the top, don't cha think? I'm looking forward to each event though. I couldn't handle this every week, but once in a while, it's fine.

The Uppercase Living party this Friday is really more of an excuse to have girlfriends over. So if you live close by be sure to stop in around 6:30pm. If you don't, and you desperately need any of the beautiful wall rub-ons that Uppercase Living offers, here is a website you can check out. I'm not sure if Natasha takes orders online or not. If not, call me(618-918-8366) and I'll place the order for you.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day with Peter Parker aka Spider Man

We had an interesting Valentine's Day here in our neck of the woods. On Saturday Matt worked his normal Saturday hours from 8 to noon. At around 11:30am he was moving some old lumber and felt a prick. He checked to see if he had a splinter and there was none to be found. Almost immediately his finger started swelling. Having seen many brown recluse spiders that day while moving lumber he was pretty sure he had been bitten. We were inclined to wait it out to see what would happen. If you live in Southern Illinois you know that you don't normally ignore a brown recluse bite, but then again, some people don't react too badly to the bite. We looked on the Internet and learned elevation of the bitten area, ice, benedryl and slowing bodily movement down can help the venom not to spread. Matt did all of the above and we spent a half hour or so looking at disgusting videos of Brown Recluse bites on YOUTUBE. (If you want a gross fix go check it out. :))

The swelling remained about the same, but a few of our nurse friends recommended a trip to the Rural Health Clinic to at least get an antibiotic. People can lose limbs and such due to brown recluse bites. So we sent our boys with our trusted friends and spent a romantic afternoon in a waiting room. I know you're jealous, but not all of us can live the life of luxury and romance that I do. After a romantic stroll into the local CVS to fill the insanely priced antibiotic we picked up the kiddos. Then I whisked off to clean the church while Matt stayed home and entertained the children. I came home and Spider Man already had the spiderlings in bed. I was pretty tired so I nearly fell asleep while Spidey was reading Redwall to me.

Now you may find this hard to believe, but it really wasn't a bad day at all. Matt and I don't technically celebrate Valentine's Day on the 14th anyway. Since we were engaged on the 22nd of February we usually celebrate on that date anyway. But any day that I get to spend with my "Superhero" is usually fun. We laughed at all the spider jokes we could think of and both dozed off waiting for the nurse to see Matt. Nothing flashy or exciting, but you don't need bells and whistles when you're with your best friend. We just enjoy being together.

BTW, Matt is doing fine. He had gloves on when the spider bit him so we assume he didn't get as much venom as you might normally. He still has some mild swelling and discoloration, but no pain. We are VERY thankful. Although Josiah was disappointed that they didn't put a leech on Matt's finger at the hospital. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Growing Up!

Last night after we got home from our "Family Night" adventures (which included an excursion to Save A Lot, a drive by at the ATM, a splash and dash to the library, and finally a escapade at the Dairy Queen.) Josiah lost his tooth. Well, "lost" is a strong word. While at Dairy Queen he noticed his ice cream had blood in it (totally disgusting to you, but super cool to an almost 6 year old). When we got home and he brushed his teeth, the tooth got looser. I said, "Boy I hope you don't swallow that in your sleep." This was enough for him to go to Daddy, the great tooth puller of the ages, and ask him to do his handiwork. In one small painless pull, the tooth was "lost".

Josiah was so excited. We were excited for him too. However, I must admit in my Mommy's heart I had a brief sadness. My boy is growing up. Oh sure, " it's just a tooth" you say. But next it will be his voice getting deeper, and then driver's Ed and ......Well, you know. I remind myself that the reason I work so hard everyday is to see them grow up to become men. Not just perpetual boys who hang on Momma's skirt and never fly from home. Who avoid work and commitment like a plague. Men who are grown in body and spirit. SO I say hooray for the "lost" tooth, which is hiding securely in a zip lock in the file cabinet. My boys are growing up and that's how it should be. :)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Check Out This Blog

I heard Michael Yon interviewed on the radio today. I checked out his online magazine and was spellbound. He is an embedded independent journalist whose eye-witness reports give a fresh, and often differing account of what is really is going on around the world. Check it out.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tying Strings

We got snow! A lot of snow! Here in southern Illinois we don't see a lot of snow. We get cold and wet, but rarely a sparkling cover of whiteness like we have seen this week. It started falling Monday night, but I assumed by Tuesday morning it all would be gone. It was with joy that we awoke to a yard and woods full of snow. I started to mentally plan my day. "We would have a snow day, no school. I would bundle the boys up and send them out for some much needed outdoor recreation. I would do the dishes, throw in a load of laundry then put the kettle on and curl up with a good book to enjoy, I mean our day off."

As Matt was getting ready for work, I excitedly told him I was going to give the boys a snow day. He innocently said, "You should go out and play with the boys." I gave him the look. He said, "They would love it." Hmmm? What to do? Then I heard the ideas I once read ringing in my mind. "I can discipline my children and they will be well behaved. I can train them in morality and they will have ethics. But it is the time I spend with them, it is giving up my own agenda and enjoying life with them that ties their hearts to mine. It is each act of selflessness, of enjoying what they enjoy that ties their hearts to mine. String by string a relationship is built. A relationship that will endure them to me and to the God I represent. A relationship that will stave off rebellion, that will lead them to Christ.

Suddenly that cup of hot chocolate and book didn't look quite so enticing. So we donned our snow things and trekked through the snow. We threw snowballs, we were snowplows we laughed and I tied strings. In 20 years I will never remember on what days I got to relax and have "me time". I do believe though, I will remember playing with my boys. I'll remember because by God's kindness they will be beside me, not only as my sons, but hopefully as my brothers in Christ.

Monday, January 26, 2009

God Box

The other day I was speaking to a gentleman and in the course of the conversation he said, “Well you don’t think we can ever be in God’s perfect will, do you? We certainly can be in His permissive will, but we are humans. We cannot be in His perfect will.” Inside, my mind was reeling. “What does that mean? Where do those ideas and terms come from? Why even ask the question?” Outside, I just said, “Well, I’m not exactly sure what you mean by perfect will and permissive will. The conversation went on congenially. He is a precious man who I respect, and he has wisdom that I would be a fool to ignore. However, his question got my mind to turning.

Why do we do that? Why do we have the compulsion to put everything into neat little boxes, especially when it comes to God? Perhaps we get overwhelmed by how big God is and how much we really will never be able to completely wrap our minds around Him. Or perhaps we feel the need of the security that “knowing” brings. I suppose our human answer is to categorize, outline and alliterate our relationship with Him into a neat package that can be put into a book, sermon, or theology class notes.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand more now than ever my need for true Bible study. Not just reading a few chapters and checking that duty off my list, but the need to bathe myself in the word. To eat, as it where, the bread of life and let it become part of me, to change me from within. To take in His perspective and let it change how I see life, how I think, how I act. But is it helpful to make our charts? Does it encourage me to question my heart and motives (which after all is what Jesus is most concerned with) to have an outline that I can check off and then go about my life? If I already have it all figured out and have given it my own man-made terms, then do I really come to scripture open and ready to conform myself to it’s teachings as opposed to making it fit into mine?

I know that as humans we are limited. We can only communicate with language, and so at some point there may be a need for charts and outlines. However, when I look at what a relationship ought to be, I can’t help but think how meaningless a relationship would become if we had to categorize everything. I can see it now. Matt and I have a contract, I do the dishes everyday, however on days that I am unwell, busy or otherwise predisposed he is to awaken early and unload the dishwasher. This is called prevenient love. On days when I unload the dishwasher, even if I’m not feeling well, all because Matt has provided food from which I gain strength to do the said task, this is called provisional love. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Takes the beauty of Matt and I both doing all that we can for the other simply out of love and trust, doesn’t it? The further danger is that the contract becomes our law, and so I only do what is specified in the contract, because that is all that is required in order to still be married. Furthermore, I have the “right” to be mad if Matt doesn’t fulfill all of my expectations of what I read into the contract. It turns beautiful acts of love and devotion into servitude, and it gives permission to do what I want within the bounds of the contract. Somehow we go from being focused on the other to being focused on ourselves.

What I’m learning is that I don’t need to focus on all the terms if my heart is where it should be. If I am completely surrendered to my Father’s will, if I wholeheartedly trust Jesus with my life , than the obvious desire of my heart will be to please him, to obey him, to study his life and teachings. My understanding at this point is that if I am there, if I am honest before my God and willing to do, go , or be whatever would please Him, than I am acceptable in His sight. Perhaps we should take the energy that we spend on terms and “what ifs” and do the hard work of examining our hearts, asking ourselves the tough questions, crying out, “Search me O God and know my heart today.”

Before I close let me add a disclaimer. I realize that ideas have consequences. Some ideas must be addressed because of the consequence of following after them. So often, terms and charts must be discussed for good reason. Even in this, the terms or ideas are not the focus though; the focus is coming to the place of a heart fully surrendered to God. But that is for another blog…..

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Crow and the Pitcher (A Narration Exercise)

One of my favorite things we do occasionally in Language is Narration. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Narration, it is the process of reading a story to a child and having them tell the story back to you in their own words. This can also be done with art, the child looks at a picture or work of art and tells the story of the picture. In both cases it encourages the child to listen/look for detail, to imagine the story in their own mind and in their own words (comprehension) and it helps them learn pre-writing skills and sentence structure. Not to mention, when you read back to them their exact words and they hear inappropriate grammar it helps them to correct themselves. Obviously if they don't catch the mistakes, I will point them out. It is so fun for the boys to see "their words" put into story form to read or to read to Daddy when he gets home.

Today we read, The Crow and the Pitcher by Aesop. Below is their Narration.

The crow and the pitcher (Micah)
One day the crow was getting really thirsty because he was flying hard and it was hot. Just then he saw a pitcher on the bottom of a cool patio. He went down and he tried to drink, but there was just a bitty bitty bit of water inside the pitcher. And so he tried to get it with his beak, but his beak was too short. And so he went out under a tree looking and thinking of what could help him. Just then he saw some pebbles, he said, “Oh, maybe I could drop them inside the pitcher and then the water would rise.” He dropped the pebbles in one by one. The water rised and he drank and he drank and he drank and he drank until he was full.

Moral: “Many hard things can be accomplished with stuff.”

The Crow and the Pitcher (Josiah)
Once upon a time there was a crow flying over cottages and he began to get thirstier and thirstier. At the edge of a little patio there was a little pitcher with a bit of water in it. The crow thought, “I will try to tip the jar over and drink what spills.” But the jar was too heavy. So the crow tried to stretch his neck as long as he could to get the water, but he still couldn't drink the water because his neck was too short. And then the crow sat under the shade of a tree so that he could think for a bit. In the cool shade of that tree he noticed by the patio a bunch of pebbles. And he said, “If I can put those pebbles in the pitcher the water will rise and I can drink.” And so he began, one by one, picking up the pebbles and putting them in, picking up the pebbles and putting them in. Sooner or later the water was high enough for the crow to drink.

Moral: Hard work makes joy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Where Have I Been?

It's been too long and I make no excuse except to say between our church Christmas play, Christmas, a trip to Michigan and starting school...well, enough said. All is well and I've celebrated another anniversary of my birth, had a great Christmas with my family, enjoyed a wonderful Christmas play and have a great start on second semester.

Our boys were in the younger children's play this year (3-9 years old) All the children did a superb job and I was amazed at how well they did under Miss. Jo and Miss Rachel Ryder's instruction.(Two kiddos are missing from this photo)

Micah played the part of "The Angel of the Lord" and "The Constable". Josiah was the "Sheep who was allergic to cotton".

Becca and I had the privilege of directing the Play for the older kids (9 - 14year olds). We had a blast and were SO proud our "our" talented kids.

Detroit Louie and his side kick, Harry the Lift!

Our two Angels

The Doctor

Mrs. Aiken, Julie, a blind girl, and Mr. Varner. (Don't you love Mrs. Aiken's hair? What a blast from the past. :))


Thank you Alice!