Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happy campers

We haven't had a "normal" summer in years.

In 2009, Bryan was on a night shift and working 6-7 days per week.  He'd leave home around 4pm and return around 4am.  He slept during the day, so the summer flew by without Bryan participating in much of our usual summer activities.

In 2010, Bryan was laid-off and we were running a paper route to make ends meet.  The paper was delivered seven days a week, 2am-7am Monday through Saturday and 2am-10am on Sunday.  Again, we rested at odd times.  We were never away from the house overnight.

It has been a long time since we've had any room in our schedule for extended periods of family fun. 

But this summer...  Bryan is laid-off again and my teaching job doesn't start until August.  Since we have the time - but limited funds - we have decided to explore the great outdoors around us.

We took our first camping trip last week.  We waited for a storm-free forecast...and headed up to a nearby lake for 24 hours.

Our family has taken incredible vacations to Washington D.C. and Estes Park, CO...but Zach declared our camping trip to be "the best vacation ever" as we were headed into the tent for bed.

Does it get any better than that?

We grilled burgers and hotdogs.  We had s'mores and hung out around the fire pit with our "neighbors".  We took walks.  We watched deer.  We took a late night trip to the playground. 

We woke to the call of an owl.  The boys stepped foot on their first beach.  We swam in the lake.  We built sand castles and buried our feet in the sand.  We read.

We handled a lot of nightcrawlers and minnows.  We tried to catch a catfish and a crocodile, but came up empty-handed. 

We listened to music.  We jumped rope.  We played soccer.  We blew bubbles and drew with chalk.

We climbed trees.  We watched birds.  We watched the sun set over the lake. 

We attracted geese every time we were near the water.

Our camping trip was magical.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oh my word!!!

Bryan is with Zach and our nephews at Junior Golf.  Luke just left with my sister-in-law for a surprise date. I'm home alone.

This rarely happens!

And...  It's 70 degrees at 9:45am in late June.

It's a 2+ mile run outdoors kind of day!

Every time I run I want to write about it.  I run often, write about it rarely.  I want to write about it because it's such an accomplishment for me now-a-days.  Running a mile as a teenager was a whole lot easier than running 2-3 miles in my late 30's... post babies, post injuries, with an entirely different body --- but a healthy mindset.  I never knew I had this sort of determination or wellness in me!  Every time I run, I'm reminded that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Praise God.

Disciples in the making

Last night, Zach and I decided to read the Bible together this summer.  I let him choose where we'd start, and he picked John.  (He has been obsessed with reading John lately!)  There are 21 chapters in John, so I figured we could tackle one a night and it would take three weeks.  As I got started reading though, Zach didn't want to put it down.  We read through chapter 3.  (And he was begging me to keep reading when I put it away.)  At this rate, it will take us a week.

These are stories and lessons that I've read 100 times, but it is very exciting to explain them to my hungry little 7 1/2 year old.  He gets this excited look on his face - like it's his birthday or Christmas morning - or when he's doing challenging math!  Zachary loves God's word as much as he loves math.  That's saying something!

It has been so exciting to watch Zach grow in his faith.  It seems like we spent forever camped out on the story of "the guys in the fire".  We read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego every day for at least a year when he was three or four.  And Zachary gave a Bible to his preschool class for Christmas when he was five, and often wanted to buy Bibles for friends that he didn't think had one.

Sharing God's word with our children has been an immeasurable joy.

I love that John repeatedly mentions disciples - both Jesus' and John's disciples.  It hits home the message that more experienced people are meant to train less experienced people.  That those who know God are meant to tell others about him.  It demonstrates just what a willing and available teacher Jesus was...the sort we ought to mimic.  This goes hand-in-hand with Thursday's VBS memory verse, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."  Matthew 28:19-20

At a glace, this 1,208 page book with big words and deep meaning can feel overwhelming for an adult to read, let alone a child.  But it's words are so precious, so life-giving, so applicable to everyday life...  This book is a gift for every man, woman and child.  I am abundantly blessed to get to share it with my children.  I cannot wait to see what John chapter 4 has in store for us today.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Art galleries

Stop by our house almost any day of the summer and you will recognize the odor of paste, Sharpie, or tempera paint.  The kitchen table and floor will likely be littered with art supplies, paint drips, glue smears and paper scraps. Summer is a free-for-all art fest. Galleries hang throughout the house.

Here are their most recent galleries.

Beloved Star Wars guys -R2D2, Greedo, Darth Vader, Jango Fett, Boba Fett.

Here's a thought

Luke:  "I would hate to have a little sister.  But I would LOVE to have a little brother who is a droid."
~ bedtime, June 19, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Can every day be a VBS day?

VBS week is always a highlight of my year.

This morning, as Pastor Schaun was in the process of asking 500+ kids in the main worship rally to bow their heads and silently offer a prayer from their heart, the little boy next to me bowed his head and said his beautiful, honest, heart-felt prayer aloud.  I couldn't help but reach out and put my hand on his back, joining him in prayer.

And as I taught my Bible story today, all of the kids were engaged with incredibly insightful questions and answers.  They were so curious (and a little grossed out) about the woman who cleaned Jesus' feet with her tears, oil and hair.  But mostly they were amazed by just how repentant she was and how much she loved Jesus.  We had wonderful discussions about faith, Jesus' forgiveness and love, and the peace that comes with it. 

"Your sins are forgiven...Your faith has saved you; go in peace." Luke 7:48-50

Among the many obvious church-goers who are familiar with various Bible stories, there is one boy in particular who does not fall into that category.  Yesterday he asked for a Bible to take home with him.  Today, he had loads of questions.  As I was sharing the story of the woman washing Jesus' feet, he interrupted with a very important question...  "She did all this for a baby?"  I explained that by this time Jesus was a grown man, probably about 30 years old.  My response set the scene for many questions.

"If Jesus is God's son, does that make Mary God's wife?"  "Did Jesus die?"  "What do you mean, he died on a cross?"  "Why did they kill him?"  "Well, gee...  They didn't have to KILL him."  "Are heaven and hell the same place?"  "Is there food in heaven?  Water in hell?"  "Is hell under ground?"  "Why did the wise men bring Jesus gifts?"  "Why was perfumed oil so special?"  "People say that God and Jesus are the same person.  How is that possible?"  "Yesterday you said God created the world.  Who created God?"

What an amazing gift it is to be a part of these moments.  Getting to pray with a child who already has so much faith, gratitude and confidence that praying aloud while surrounded by 500+ people didn't seem strange.  And getting to answer exciting questions offered up by a 7 year old who knows a little about the Baby Jesus, but almost nothing about the grown man whose ministry changed the world and will never cease to save lives.

These conversations do not happen with complete strangers as part of everyday life.  It makes me wish that every day could be a VBS day.

Today I pray especially for those kids at VBS who do not know Jesus.  I pray that their teachers see their faces and hear their questions.  I pray that amidst all the chaos and schedules to be kept, that opportunities to talk and answer questions do not get missed.  I pray that every kid meets Jesus this week.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Even children need a savior

I signed up to teach VBS in early February and spent the rest of that month recruiting other teachers to help me.  In early March we went to the kick-off meeting.

I then promptly put VBS on the back burner for the next three months. 

Last week I dug out my leader's guide and got serious about planning.  We set up our classroom this afternoon.  Kids show up tomorrow morning at 8:40am.  I am officially excited about VBS.

As I was making up one of our crafts this afternoon, my friend came into the room and peeked over my shoulder.  As she looked down on my sad little suitcase craft, she read the tag that said "God has a PERFECT plan for my life" and began to well with tears.  Like me, my friend knows what it is to live a life without Jesus, and knows just what a precious gift his perfect plan really is.

As I have planned for VBS this year, I have done so more intentionally than ever before.  I keep thinking about another friend whose testimony includes a horribly abusive childhood and an older woman she met at camp who told her about a Jesus who "could save her from absolutely anything and restore her life."  At nine years of age, my friend had the wisdom and maturity --- or was it the way the woman explained it to her? --- to understand that God would not necessarily remove her from the presence of these horribly abusive people, but that He would rescue her emotionally and spiritually.  She understood at such a tender young age that God had a perfect plan for her....  A plan to give her a hope and a future.  The promise of a full life.   

As I teach these amazing little 1st graders this week at VBS, I will be thinking of my friend - the little girl who was seeking a savior and met Him at summer camp.  With the knowledge that even small children need a savior, I pray that God will give me his heart, his words, his eyes, his sensitivities and his timing so that no opportunity is missed this week.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The grace of God

A few days ago, Bryan, Zach and I were watching a TV show about a divorced mother of triplets living in a small mid-western town.  The babies had been born prematurely, seemingly relatively healthy.  However, as they aged, symptoms of their premature births became obvious and eventually worsened.  Two of the three children - now school-aged - are confined to wheel chairs as a result of a muscular degeneration disorder.  A local man unsuccessfully tried to get them on Extreme Home Makeover.  Undeterred - and deep down very happy they were turned down by the TV show - the man took matters into his own hands and rallied their entire town around this family and completely updated and modified their home.  During very difficult economic times, thousands of volunteers - some laid-off and homeless themselves - gave their time to work on the home, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised locally and by surrounding communities.  It was a beautiful picture of a community coming together to help a family in need.

"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"  Galations 5:13-14

And tonight, Zach and I watched a short piece on 20/20 about children with Williams' Syndrome.  It's a peculiar syndrome with significant health issues as well as learning and social difficulties.  A person living with Williams' Syndromes is socially uninhibited and deeply desires meaningful relationships; however, they lack the fundamental skills needed for meaningful relationships.  Often, this leaves someone with Williams' Syndrome vulnerable to heartbreak and misfortune.  However, one benefit of the syndrome is that they are generally quite happy and are naturally drawn to love on others.  Regardless of the many physical, social and emotional hurdles, I loved how one little girl summed up her life...  "God made every one of us just the way we are, and anything is possible with the grace of God."

She couldn't have been more than 10 years old, and she's already got the key to a full life.  As I walk through motherhood, I pray daily that my children will not only learn this lesson in their youth, but that they will cling to it firmly throughout their lives.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" Matthew 19:26

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Life... Abundant life.

My friend gave me a little gift on Sunday morning.

I immediately commented on how I love John 10:10 so very much.  That scripture puts a smile on my face every time I see it.  God has so abundantly given me a full life.

I especially love it in its entirety.  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  The thief had stolen a great deal from me.  The thief attempted to destroy me, along with future generations.  But God sent his son so that I would have life.  Abundant life.

As I often do though ... I opened my mouth and inserted my foot.  I tend to be a little sarcastic, thinking of myself as witty and clever.

I read the scripture aloud, said: "Did Jesus hatch from an egg?", and gave my friend a wink.

Seriously.  I said that.  Feel free to smack me.

I love the egg and I said as much...but then I cracked my joke and sounded like a jerk.

Thankfully my friend is merciful and was willing to explain something to me that I'd never heard.  The egg is a symbol of life.  Birth.  Rebirth.  Resurrection.

I will never again look at an egg without this in mind.  As I'm scrambling, boiling or cracking one open, I won't think about the chick that didn't hatch; rather, I will remember the risen Savior and my own miraculously restored life.  (The chick that finally did hatch...all because of Him!)

He's given me abundant life.

Thank you, God, for amazing friends who put up with me and love me so much more than I deserve.  They are such a precious part of my abundant life.  My cup runneth over.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like summer

I love Luke's flippers and goggles - to use in the sprinkler!  And his shoes.  He didn't like getting grass on his feet.  He also got out the pool torpedo, water guns and a kick board.  He used the kick board as his shield.  The boys had a great time...  Getting the sprinkler out ended their whining about the pool being closed.  

Always thankful for simple things that entertain little boys...and fill the house and yard with giggles!

Friday, June 3, 2011


Treadmill ownership means...

A/C and a fan
No babysitter required
No hip pain
Singing along to my iPod
Runs at anytime of the day/night
Wearing whatever I want
Not having to call home for a ride


Thank you, Bob and Bryan, for moving her in.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

He has a gift

Zach was born with a tremendous interest in the people around him.  As young as age two, he was acutely aware of others' emotions.  I have never shed a tear in his presence without a hug, an arm around my shoulders, or his hand reaching for mine.  I have never shared good news without Zach having a high-five or an enthusiastic hug for me, all while wearing an ear-to-ear grin.  It's as if Zach feels what those around him are feeling.

Zach is a giver of compliments and encouragement.  He's recently taken to videoing Luke's games, and I love to hear him in the background rooting for his brother.  He's also the guy patting friends on the back when something has gone wrong, promising that everything will be alright.  He inspires greatness rather than complaining about defeat.

Zach is a helper.  He's ready with gentle advice and assistance when he notices a friend in need.  He's also the boy on the field helping every injured player up, regardless of which team they're on or what's going on in the game.

Zach is thoughtful and generous.  He personally selects birthday gifts for his friends, and he loves giving tokens of his appreciation to his teachers and coaches.  Whether it's an apple, a picture, a homemade card, home-baked goodies, or a store bought present, all gifts from Zach are chosen specifically for the recipient.  He often brings notes home from school and church, written to let a family member know they were thought of while Zach was away.

Zach prefers intimate settings to large group activities.  Parties are fun, but he'd much rather play one-on-one with a good friend.  He's generally found on the outskirts of a group or at the end of a line, hanging with one or two friends...  He's not the center-of-attention type.

He's been this way all of his life.  Zachary is a person who cherishes closeness, intimacy and relationships.  I deeply admire his ability at such a young age to genuinely express love and affection, and to give without expecting anything in return.  His expressiveness is a gift that many spend a lifetime cultivating.  His kindness, remarkable.  There are countless things that I adore about my son, but this ranks at the top of the list.  He is so real, and so full of love.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Purposefully woven

Long ago I stopped believing in coincidences.  I don't know how God has the time, or even why He cares so much, but it seems to me that God orchestrates every detail of every day.  There are just too many times that I've looked back on something in my life and saw the hand of God.

There are huge times...  Abusive or destructive times when He delivered a rescuer in the flesh.  And then not-so-huge times (in catastrophic terms)...  When He's just lined up the right people to be in the right place at the right time.

A weekday afternoon in early August 2009 was one of those times.  The boys and I had just presented the money raised by the '09 bike-a-thon to the foster agency during a luncheon, and we stopped at Chic-fil-a afterwards to play.  Since we'd just eaten, I don't even know if we purchased a soda that day!  We just came to play.  The kids quickly tossed aside their shoes and busied themselves with two other children in the play area, while I sat on a bench with the mother of these new-found friends.  She and I made small talk, which quickly turned to much deeper talk.  Her husband was in seminary at the time, and they'd recently moved from the south.  Mississippi, I think.  We talked seminary, homeschooling, public schooling, bike-a-thon, support groups, sexual abuse, hope & healing, Women of Faith, kids' sports, church, etc.  I think we both stayed way longer than we'd anticipated.  We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses, and quickly became Facebook friends.  We have often made tentative plans to get the kids together to play, but we hadn't seen each other again until last Thursday.

That was when I went for a job interview at her new homeschool enrichment center.

What I didn't know when we met nearly two years ago is that...  I would return to college to finish my degree in Elementary Education.  That I would fall deeper in love with writing and public speaking.  That our family would be put in a position where I needed to return to work before our children were in school full time.

What Melissa didn't know is that...  She would move to within about 25 minutes of my house.  And that she would start a homeschool enrichment center in her new town.

But God knew.  He has woven my life together with my friend Melissa's for this very purpose - and many others too!  Through Melissa's invitation, God has opened the door for me to teach public speaking and writing to homeschooled children grades 1-8.  He is giving me this incredible opportunity to learn and grow in my own abilities, while teaching kids to do what I'm so passionate about.

Everyday I am grateful for words and the ability to put a few together in coherent sentences.  I have felt for some time now that writing and speaking are meant to play a big part in my future.  This new opportunity has me so excited.  I cannot wait to see where this leads!

Thank you, God, for the sweet friendship I've cultivated with Melissa.  And thank you so very much for the opportunity to share this gift you've so generously given to me with your kids.  Might these children and their families be blessed, as I am certain my family and I will be.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

"Everything has been created through him and for him.  He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together." Colossians 1:16-17