Monday, December 24, 2012

A last glance over 2012

If I’ve said any one thing repeatedly in 2012, it would be, “Is this really happening?”

My Aunt Janelle and cousin Alexandra came to visit from England last December/January.  They stayed at our house for about a week, right before Christmas.  This provided the perfect excuse to have a large Epps family Christmas party at my house.  I’d never hosted a large family gathering – and don’t think all six of Mom’s siblings had been together since the early 1990’s – so this was very special.  We had a wonderful time, and I went to bed that night with a smile on my face and a greater understanding of my mother and her family.

No one would have guessed that it would be the last time we’d all be together.  My mother passed away unexpectedly three months later.  I’ve never known such shock, and can scarcely recall how we got through the following week, but I do know that my husband, my aunts and cousins, and our friends are incredible rock stars.  Their loving kindness and prayers carried us through those gut-wrenching days (and those that still come when least expected).  I’m pretty sure that it’s impossible to ever really be prepared to lose a loved one, but I am so grateful for the healing and restoration that Mom and I knew in the final few years of her life.  We were at peace and knew true joy in our relationship; my only regret is that we didn’t get more time together.

In May, I graduated from college.  It’s only an Associates degree from the community college, but I honestly never really thought I’d even complete that!  We had a really fun graduation party with loads of friends who celebrated as if I’d been elected President of the United States!  The plan is for me to eventually finish my Bachelors in Elementary Education, but the timing is not right right now.

Our summer was really great.  We spent a lot of time at the pool, amusement parks, riding bikes, and hanging out with friends.  We took a few short trips to Wichita, Atchison and Omaha, and even talked my brother into joining us on our church’s annual canoe trip on the Niangua River.  Since our boys have never been interested in taking swim lessons or joining swim team, I offered to pay them $25 each if they would master the crawl over the summer.  Zach is $25 richer (and a great swimmer!).  Each of the boys played soccer in the spring and fall, and Luke played summer and fall baseball too.  Zach returned for another summer of Junior Golf, and both boys are currently playing another season of Upwards basketball.

School started in August.  I am now in my second year of teaching Writing and Public Speaking at a homeschool enrichment center about 30 minutes from home.  I have about 50 students, grades 2-8.  I can’t believe I get paid to do this!  Zachary is in 3rd grade and Lucas is in kindergarten.  Both kids have amazing teachers this year – seriously, I’m convinced that these women have extra hours in their day!  Zach and Luke are above grade level in all subjects, and their teachers think outside of the box and go the extra mile to challenge and encourage them to reach their potential.  Each of our boys LOVES school, and for that we are so very grateful.

Zachary has been playing piano now for 16 months.  He is currently working on a selection of Christmas songs to play at retirement / nursing homes in the area.  Bryan’s granny was admitted to a rehab center for a month on Christmas Eve a few years ago (following a serious illness), so we know just how much people in such situations love visits and music… especially at Christmas, when it’s so hard to be away from home.  Zach has a sweet heart and cannot wait to bring this gift of music (and a plate of cookies) to others!

The boys are awesome – very happy, thoughtful, sensitive, generous, funny and fun-loving.  It is truly a blessing that God would entrust them to us.

I continued to run in 2012.  I spent the summer training for a sprint distance triathlon with my dear friend, Tiffany.  We put in a lot of hours of swimming, biking and running for our early Sept. triathlon.  As soon as that race was over, I had to step up my running in preparation for a half marathon, so I enlisted the help of my friend Marcy to get me through the long weekend runs.  The St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon was my most recent “Is this really happening?” moment.  The race was just last weekend, and I still can’t believe that I can run more than 13.1 miles non-stop.  I also cannot believe that I traveled there with fifteen other girls (including Tiffany!), coordinating when and where we were going successfully for three whole days.  That, in and of itself, is quite a feat!

Did I mention that all of this running has turned me into a morning person?  (Who’d have thought?)  In order to keep my training from interfering with my family’s schedule, I run while my family is sleeping.  Since this works so well, I decided to give early morning Bible study a shot.  I asked around to see if anyone would be interested, and now we’ve got a group of 5 girls meeting at 5:30am on Tuesdays to study God’s word.  It’s early, but it’s incredible to start my day with a Chai Tea Latte, five close friends, and God’s word.

Bryan is still enjoying his job at the railroad.  He’s made a lot of good friends, and has figured out how to successfully juggle his evening shifts, mid-week “weekends”, time with the kids and me, and sleep.  It is not always easy, but we make it work.  Any drawbacks to his job do not compare to 9 years of employment instability (or running a paper route for 11 months), so instead of complaining about the little things, we are simply grateful for the blessing of a job and the stability that it brings.  God has been so very good in meeting our every need.

One of my favorite changes in 2012 … maybe my very favorite … is that Bryan and I are teaching Sunday school together.  We each lead a discussion table during children’s church (grades 3-5).  His table is filled primarily with boys (including our son), while mine is usually all girls.  Sharing God’s word with kids is such a precious opportunity, and we are both completely committed to pouring into these kids’ lives every chance we get.  It has been an enormous blessing to me to see this side of Bryan.  While he never saw it coming, he’s truly a natural with the kids and other leaders!  We are supposed to be the ones teaching, but I’m awe-struck by just how much we are learning.

This year has definitely been one of change, both sad and … well … nothing short of miraculous.  As we close out the year, we reflect on all that we have been given.  God has been overwhelmingly good to us, blessing us far beyond measure and far beyond anything we could ever pass on to others.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What a run!

My mother would have been 66 tomorrow.

October has been a difficult month for me for as long as I can remember, as every year I ached from the pains of not having the relationship I'd wanted with her.  The pain this year is different...  I'm missing her - just as I had for so many years - but now there's the added ache of finality.  Finality on earth, anyway. 

In the last couple of weeks, I've struggled to put a name with the dull ache constantly hovering right below the surface.  Exhaustion?  Failure?  Loneliness?  Frustration?  Life is good; however, overwhelmingly busy right now...  There's that nagging feeling that I'm doing a lot of things, but nothing particularly well.  I had chalked my sad nameless feelings up to a challenging season of life...and stuffed away the pain of missing Mom.

Last weekend, I was part of a marathon relay team.  I'd picked my leg sight unseen.  I had no idea what neighborhood I'd be in or what landmarks I'd run past.  Had I known that the first 3.5 miles would be uphill, I probably wouldn't have picked it.  I traveled by bus out to my transition station in the dark and waited for 3 1/2 hours before my turn to run.  I was at my stop for nearly an hour before the sun started to come up.  Only then did I realize where I was sitting.

Directly west of a park I know from my childhood.

My mom was the team caption of her company's March of Dimes team walk when I was young, and this particular park was at the finish.  We had many-a-picnic in this park after the walk when I was a kid.

I took a walk down the street and paused to take in the beautiful sunrise over the creek.  My mom would have loved this.  And I loved remembering all the times we'd been here together years ago.

I'm not sure exactly where my mom lived when she was a girl, but I always imagined it was near here.

 And I know her high school was just up the street ... I ran past it!

I'd never been in this part of town on foot (this race took me in the opposite direction as Mom's March of Dimes walks), and here I was...seeing it in all of it's beautiful fall footstep at a time for 6.77 miles.  It could not have been a prettier day.  (Note:  Except for the sunrise over the creek, these pictures were taken 8 days after the race.  Imagine gorgeous red and orange leaves on the bare trees.)

When I turned off to head north, I found myself winding through Hyde Park.  I ran within a block of the chapel where Bryan and I married.  

And the finish line is just blocks from where we held our wedding reception.  What wonderful memories.

And my mom's office is across the street from there.

Saturday's race could not have been more perfectly timed.  It was an impulse race for me ... but God so clearly had a plan for it!

When my mom passed away in March, I remember thinking that God knew I was going to need running this year.  Evidently He knew I was going to need running right now specifically.

I rarely run alone anymore.  I have trained almost exclusively with friends since June!  In fact, I'm so used to running with friends, that I didn't know how I was going to run alone - with only my iPod - for such a distance.

But, when the time came, I turned to the only playlist I've ever run to, and sang worship songs the entire way.  I ran faster than I've ever run that distance - faster than I've ever even run a 5k!  I felt my mother close every step of the way...  And I was privileged to run alongside marathoners in their final stretch of a grueling race.  Many limping, bleeding, clearly in pain but determined to overcome their obstacles.

And I did it all with dear friends.  Friends who fought the good fight and finished the race.

Every runner faced their own challenges that day - or in the days leading up to the race - but every one of us forged ahead.

It was, without question, a healing, spiritual kind of day.  I felt close to my mom, held tight by my loving heavenly father, and reminded again of all the greatness in my life.  I really needed that.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  Psalm 34:18

God is so good, ever-present and generous.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The world is loud ... but not our guiding force

It could simply be the circles I run in, but it seems as if a huge number of families these days is dealing with at least one child who struggles with anxiety, insecurity, or feelings of being overwhelmed.  My heart aches for these kids...   

These kids that I know are not unloved or unchurched.  They are not neglected.  They are not under-encouraged or ill-prepared.  Their parents are not oblivious or uninvolved.

So why are these young people overwhelmed by their lives?

Kids are kids.  Shouldn't they be playing, laughing, riding bikes, skipping rocks, exploring...enjoying this season of innocence and little responsibility?

But...  When I take a step back and look at the environment our kids are growing up in, I see a great deal of competition.  In everything from sports, to popularity, to exclusive recess clubs, to test scores, to keeping up with the Joneses.  In elementary school!

At lunch this afternoon, I saw a table of moms wearing t-shirts that read, "Playing against our team is hard.  Playing for our team is even harder."

What is the purpose of these shirts?  To intimidate the other team?  [The kids couldn't have been more than 9 years old...  If intimidating them is the goal, the adults should be ashamed.]  To inspire their team to greatness?  [Who wants to play on a team that is HARD to play for ... especially at age nine?]

But, when I read it, I felt like it answered my question.

Why are kids overwhelmed?  Because we've made everything so hard.

So intense.

With our words, we tell them that winning isn't everything.  We tell them that they don't have to BE the best, they just have to TRY their best.  But, when we think the kids aren't listening [or we're out of control], the truth slips out.  The desired outcome for so many is excellence.  To be the very best.  To WIN.

That parent scolding their child from the sidelines because he missed a shot?  That kid's best effort today was not good enough.  The parent [coach] that forced his child to play in tears, then picked him up and carried him off  the field while yelling in his face because he hit the ball well but was thrown out at first because he didn't run hard enough?  That kid's best effort today was not good enough.  The coach who screamed insults and directions at his players and bullied teenaged officials [while parents sat silently] throughout the entire game?  The team's [and officials'] best effort today wasn't good enough.

Even if none of these things have ever happened directly to one of my kids, my kids still saw it.  And the message that winning matters was received loud and clear.  Somehow, in spite of all of the times my husband and I have assured our children that only their very best effort matters, they hear something different from the world, and it overwhelms them.  The world is loud.

And, it doesn't stop at sports.  Our kids are inundated all day every day with having to be the best.  The top speller, reader, writer and mathematician in the classroom.  The best knock-out or kickball player at recess.  The best gift-giver at birthday parties.  The funniest at lunch. The owner of the coolest backpack or skateboard.

Of course most parents don't directly tell their kids that they have to reign supreme in every area of their lives, but what we tolerate from our coaches, and how much of our schedule is dedicated to sports, and the things parents shout from the sidelines, and how we respond to grades and talk about our kids' teachers and school administrators, even how we talk about our neighbors and select birthday gifts and birthday guest lists ... it all writes on their hearts and tells them what matters most.

And I think it overwhelms a lot of kids.  Heck, I think it overwhelms a lot of adults.

Because things have become so intense, so competitive ... we have overwhelmed our schedules with multiple weekly practices and regular season and tournament games - sometimes for more than one sport in a season.  Throw in summer tutors and enrichment work.  And ultra packed social schedules during our limited down time.  And music lessons.  And somehow, in an effort to balance things, we even add in volunteer work and keep up all church commitments. 

And when parents intentionally choose not to over-schedule, there are the down-lookers who seem to be judging us.  There are countless catty comments and unsolicited advice about how we're putting our kids at a competitive disadvantage, sometimes disguised as teasing or simply delivered as a backhanded compliment about how our kids might be able to read, but theirs is a stand-out athlete.  As if we are under-achievers...  And, if I feel like an under-achiever, how must my child feel?

It's a vicious cycle...  It really is no wonder that so many people are overwhelmed, insecure and anxious.  We live in a very busy, competitive world.  And it starts early.

But, it doesn't have to be this hard.  I'm just not sold on the idea that the competition has to be so great at such an early age [or any age].  And I'll never be convinced that ruling ones schedule and crushing their self-esteem is the path to success.

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Colossians 3:2-4

"Let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't."  Romans 12:6 

"Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always."  Psalm 105:4

Sunday, September 2, 2012


As I tucked the boys in tonight, we discussed all of the areas where they've grown over the summer.

Sports camps grew Zach in confidence and comfort on the field.  The difference between soccer now and soccer last spring is remarkable.  Not that he's suddenly a super star, but he plays with utter joy and excitement.  We're seeing a hunger that we haven't seen in a long time, and he's wearing a smile again as he runs the field.

Luke moved very quickly from t-ball, to coach pitch, to machine pitch baseball between the spring and summer.  For a group of boys who didn't know which direction to run to get to first base, we're thoroughly impressed with how they are now fielding the ball and consistently hitting.  We are a team of kindergartners, playing 1st and 2nd graders in fall ball.  These kids are a full head (or two) taller than most of our players, but we hold our own.  And we couldn't be more proud of Luke, as he pays attention to the game and always gives his best effort.

Both boys were offered $25 if they would take the time to learn - and use - the free style stroke in the pool...all summer long.  Zachary is the only one who actually used it consistently, so I'll be forking over the big bucks to him tomorrow.  It beats paying for swim lessons, and I'm thrilled that at least one of my kids came out of this summer a strong swimmer.  Luke is well on his way; he was just more concerned with hand stands and somersaults than he was with swimming this summer.

Diving was another hot pool pursuit.  Luke's is still more of a belly flop, but Zach has turned into a good diver...even though diving is prohibited at every pool we've ever been to.  (What's up with that?)  I'm not sure that diving could be considered a necessary life skill, but it's fun.  And, it seems to me that a belly flop hurts less from the side of the pool than from the diving board, so why not start at the side?  (Yes, I did just justify breaking the rules....and I'm generally a lover and follower of all rules.)

And they both went off the high dive this summer!  Luke only did it once, as he didn't really like it.  But Zach loved it, and is now a lover of the diving boards.  This was a paralyzing fear last summer.  Poor Zach would try every time we went to the pool, but just couldn't talk himself into it.  This year he took the leap of faith, and he's never looked back.

The boys grew a ton socially too, as both kids developed a lot of friendships over the summer.  Zach discovered that a group of school friends lives just a couple of blocks away, so they are now taking frequent turns walking or biking to each others houses to play.  And Luke met several neighborhood kindergarten boys over the summer through sports, and almost all of them are in his kindergarten class!  It's nice to finally have "neighborhood kids".

And each of the boys has also found some really great friends through church.  Many of these are kids who also go to school with them, but some are simply kids they see each week in Sunday school.  It's taken a long time to start asking other kids what their names are and what they're interested in, but we are finally arriving at that place in their social lives.

And when a friend recently ditched Zach again for someone else, Zach didn't allow it to define him, but instead shrugged his shoulders and said, "I think that's just the way he is."  He's beginning to understand who and whose he is, and is resisting the enemy's lies that every bad thing has something to do with him.

As we quickly rattled off half a dozen ways that each kid grew over the summer, I was awed by the work God has done in their lives.  These are areas that we have prayed over....and sometimes shed tears and lost sleep over.  And God has met them right where they were at, and given them just what they needed.  I cannot even begin to imagine all that He will do in these next nine months of the school year, as we are partnered with outstanding school and Sunday school teachers.  I'm excited and so full of hope.  I won't wish these months away, but I do look forward to who my guys will grow into as a 3rd grader and kindergartner.

"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

He teaches me...

I vividly remember sitting on my deck in the summer of 2003, very pregnant with my first child, talking with my sister-in-law on the phone about my quickly approaching motherhood.  As we chatted, she said something that has played out time and again in the years since.

"Being a mother is like walking around with your heart beating outside your body."

She was so right.  My heart most definitely feels as if it's on the outside of my body sometimes.  And never more than when I'm watching my kids suffer.

As I watched one of my boys writhing in agony yesterday, completely overcome with anxiety, fear and doubt, my heart was breaking...  All I could do was remind him, over and over again, of the truth.  God made you exactly as you are.  He gave you talents and areas of difficulty - this is by design.  He wants to use you, just the way you are.  Honor God by being you.  In your weakness, He is strong.  God wouldn't ask you to do something and then abandon you there alone.  Don't panic, pray.

Don't panic.  Pray.  How many times have I gotten that wrong?  But, I digress...

We prayed over the situation with our guy yesterday.  He sobbed, he nearly hyperventilated, he rubbed his eyes red, and he got a headache...  But, eventually, he got back up, blew his nose, and determined to trust God.  He began to prepare himself for the task at hand, through prayer and practice.  At first, the practicing was pretty puny, but by the end he was completely on board.  That night, he went to bed with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.

And this morning, he did it.  He led worship in kids church.

For my guy, this is a really big deal.  He does not like performing.  He does not like eyes on him.  He does not like risking "failure" or embarrassment.

But he loves God.  And he's excited to let God work in him and through him.  And he loves worship.  And he loves his brother...and wants to be a part of his big kid church experience.

So often, I marvel at how we're able to coach him through a situation because we have the knowledge, but then he turns around and teaches me so very much about faith, courage and obedience as he actually does it.

My young guy is something else.  I always say that he's going to be a really remarkable long as I can get him to adulthood.  But, really, he's pretty remarkable already.

I could not be more impressed or inspired by him.

Today I praise God for his constant presence and comfort.  For the truths found in his Word, and for the abundant encouragement from the people in our lives.  And for passion....especially passions that are simply about jubilation, and are not necessarily areas we feel gifted in.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The really hard [tear jerking] part

Five months ago, I was in the foggy throws of planning my mother's funeral.  As I went through the motions with my brother and sister, I carefully considered what I wanted to say at her funeral.  It wasn't determined yet who would speak, but I knew God was laying things on my heart that were meant to be shared.  Ultimately, I wrote the draft of her eulogy with my brother and sister's input, rewrote it with their edits, and stood there crying as my brother read it.

I have not yet spoken those sentiments myself in front of a group of people.

But I will tomorrow.

I am naturally a crier.  I often wish I wasn't, and occasionally I even pray that God would harden me up ... even if just a little bit.

But, so far, no such luck.

So, I'm here writing...  Hoping that sharing here just how hard this is might at least ease those nerves.

I have shared my story hundreds of times, and my tone is never an angry, embittered, unforgiving one, but I feel even more sensitive to it now that she has passed.  I really do not want to hurt my brother and sister, or my mother's siblings, or our extended family, or even my mother's memory as I honestly share the ugly truth...  Not that what happened didn't happen, or shouldn't be discussed.  Because it did, and it should.  Because, as I openly share, it allows others the freedom to share and examine their own unresolved pain.  What I went through can be used to help others get through what they're going through.

The really hard [tear jerking] part is that merely saying her name hurts my heart.  As each month has passed, it's been that much longer since we were together.  And it somehow feels like the missing gets worse, as it's evident that she's not coming back and our lives continue on.

And I didn't have a "normal" mom.  My mom was hurt.  And she hurt others.  It wasn't until the final few years that she really made significant efforts to learn to love.  In the end, but only for a couple of years, we had a loving relationship.  It was still effected by pains from the past, but it was genuinely good, and loving, and fulfilling.  I'm so very grateful for it, but it was simply too short.

So, that is how I think tomorrow's talk ends...  [Mind you, this is only the few-second version of my 40 minute talk...]  With the message that sometimes we need distance in a relationship to mend our hearts and prepare us for reconciliation.  And that reconciliation is a precious gift.

Praise the Lord that my heart is heavy not because of what I never had, but because of what lasted only a short while....and that I miss deeply.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

God's got this

That's a first...

I just left my kids in bed, and one was crying and wouldn't tell me why.  "It's okay" and "you can't do anything about it anyway" were uttered time and again when I tried to get him to talk with me.

We had a really rough day.  Emotions were ever-bubbling at the surface.  One child is returning to school tomorrow after a very difficult year ... and taking a really awesome, unexpected [nerve-wracking] field trip (hours by bus) to make a documentary of the K-State football program on the 2nd day of school.  One is beginning kindergarten the following day.  Bryan is working evenings, so, aside from breakfast, he won't see Zach three days a week (the pits for everyone).  I've slept poorly and woken early for the last 10 days or so, leaving me a little less than pleasant and patient.

And then KFC got Luke's dinner all wrong (discovered at home).  And Zach's nose piece fell off his glasses (after our optical place closed).  And one of my kids spit water on the other (gasp!).  And one got whacked in the back in a Nerf sword battle.  Normal things ... going dramatically wrong.  It's been rough.

So...  What was I to do with a crying child who wouldn't confide in me?  Pray.  And hold him as much as he'd let me.  And remind him that Daddy and I are here.

That's all I could do.  I prayed with him, reminded him, reminded myself ... that God's got this.  Whatever it is that's troubling my guy, God's got it.

This is the first time that he's ever not allowed me to hold him close.  It's the first time he's ever refused to talk with me.  It's the first time he's ever nodded off with tears still streaming (with exception of the baby days).

Honestly, I'd hoped that he'd come down a few minutes after I left, having seen the light...  Realizing that confiding in Mom is the right approach.  But he didn't.

And I expect that this won't be the last time he takes that approach.

I don't love it.  But, I'm praying for my boy.  And with him.  Constantly praying for God's arms to wrap themselves around him, for Zach to know His presence, for confidence in who and whose he is, and for the constant nudging for Zach to keep an open dialogue with his heavenly father.  It's no picnic, getting shut out as his confidant...  But, God's got this.

And I'm amazed at how God's grown me.  Some of you are reading this, remembering Tonya from a few years back that would need a padded room on a day like today.

But, God's got this.  All of this.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  Phil. 4:6

Sunday, August 19, 2012


As a blog post is brewing in my heart, I sometimes think that my blog subtitle should be "making other moms feel superior one post at a time".  After all, my pattern is generally to blow it royally for a really long time before something smarter occurs to me.  Read:  I get in my own way.  I make matters worse.  I'm a slow learner.

Confession:  My husband and I have occasionally been guilty of comparing our kids' performance to other kids'.  When our kids didn't "get it right", we inevitably found ourselves on a mission to help them "get it right".  If we're being completely honest, this helping was generally more upsetting than anything - for everyone - as we'd somehow end up saying or insinuating that our son was blowing it by not trying hard enough, or not taking it seriously enough, or not practicing hard enough.  Although we never meant it this way, basically the message received was often that our kid wasn't good enough.

I know.  Horrible.  Right?

Is it just this ridiculous pressure to fit in?  To conform?  To have a reputation?

That's laughable...  After all, we're talking about little kids here!

And, frankly, that last one makes my stomach flip ... but I think there's some truth to it.  I don't worry anymore about my reputation, but my kids still have their entire lives ahead of them and I don't want them to be teased or isolated for not having the just-so reputation.


I know that there is absolutely nothing godly about that thought process...  But this is an area where I struggle.  I want my kids to have an "easier" time of it, and that includes being easily accepted by their peers.

And then we go and muddy the waters completely by sending the message - through all of our help - that they are not good enough.

I've been convicted.

Certainly, we do expect full effort in all areas ... but how my kid stacks up to your kid doesn't matter.  How my kid feels about himself is what matters.  Does he finish with a smile?  Does he feel built up and successful?  Is he proud of himself?  Is he happy?  Was it fun?  These are the things that matter.

We can study and practice till the cows come home, but we are no longer comparing our kids to other kids.  It's entirely about being the best version of themselves.

Today, I watched my oldest play soccer with fresher eyes.  He's on a really good team, with really competitive kids who play a lot of different sports year round.  And, my guy is ... well ... analytical, slower, not eager to get physical, not one to over-schedule ... but he rocked it his way today. 

With our support [with us off his back], he had the freedom to simply have fun and be himself.  It was a tournament, playing against elite teams, and our kids are really focused on learning their positions and responsibilities this season ... and Zach has an excellent memory for those kinds of things.  He knows the rules and doesn't break them - no off-sides for our guy.  And every time someone had to throw-in or take a goal kick ... he knew which player had that job and was telling them where to be and when.  He was an excellent player-coach today.  And he got in there and fought for the ball every chance he got.  And I've got to think that it was, in part, because we just stayed out of the way and let him do his thing.  However quirky.

And he had a blast.  Their team rarely loses, but they lost all three tournament games this weekend.  But Zach came off the field saying, "Wow, they are elite teams and we're just a rec team.  I bet they think we're an elite team too, because we're really good."

That's the smile we're looking for.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

No bounty hunter here

Today was our official kick-off for fall sports.  Luke had a baseball game, and Zach had two soccer games.  Tomorrow, each has one game.

Over the years, I've listened to them whine about practices or looked on as they gave the bare minimum at games, and I've realized that there's something I should take credit for passing on to my kids...  The giving up gene.  We get tired, we quit.  We get hot, we quit.  We get discouraged, we quit.  We feel insecure, we quit.  We just don't feel like it today, we quit.

But when a game is scheduled and a team is counting on us, quitting isn't an option.

So...  Don't judge me for this, but I offered the boys a punch card incentive to give their all at games.  If they run their fastest and try their hardest 80% of the season, they get a prize.  If they run their fastest and try their hardest 100% of any given month, they get another prize.

We're not talking grand slams or game winning goals - just 100% of their heart, attention, and their best effort.

Luke is all over this. And negotiating a "medium Lego set".  I'm pretty sure that the prize will not be that big.  After all, this is not NCAA bribery ... but, at some point today, on the dawn of a new sports season, rewarding positive behavior just seemed like a good idea.

After thinking about it for a few minutes, Zach said, "Well...  Can I start it in two days?"

At first I thought he was trying to get out of playing hard tomorrow (he's exhausted) ... but instead of jumping to conclusions, I asked why he wanted to wait.

"Because...  I don't want to be like a bounty hunter.  Or your employee.  Before you give me a prize for doing what is already expected, I want to prove that I can do it for nothing."

Be still my heart.  What an amazing young man.

Friday, August 17, 2012


So, Pat Robertson broke my heart a little tonight. 

Televangelist Pat Robertson has said on Thursday's edition of The 700 Club with co-host Kristi Watts that people thinking of adopting children should be cautious about taking in those that have been sexually abused or deprived of food for risk that they may turn out to be weird." 

Yes, he said that.  Among other things.

You can read the full article here.

It breaks my heart for many reasons.

I was one of those sexually abused [neglected....abandoned child of a drug addict] kids.  Should I have been cast aside by society, for fear that I'd turn out weird?

And...  Okay, so I did turn out pretty messed up.  Or "weird".  After an entire childhood of heartache, I developed coping mechanisms that were not healthy.  And I had a no self-esteem and a fairly skewed moral compass.  In my late teens/early 20's, I made some unwise and hurtful decisions that I will forever regret.

And, oddly enough, I'd felt called to adopt the unloveables when I was nine years old.

But, clearly, I was not yet ready ... and I knew it.

Thankfully, by my later 20's, I was piecing my life back together and found a church family that helped guide me into healing and wholeness through a sincere relationship with the Lord.  I thank God for his grace, mercy and forgiveness!

And it breaks my heart that Pat Robertson is a Christian leader who has influence over others.  Did someone hear his message and decide against adoption because of his fear-filled, faith-less, self-centered message?  Will a child go without a forever family because their potential parents found the justification they needed to ignore God's call?

Don't get me wrong.  The fears are real.  And justified.

Kids are hard.  Wounded kids are harder.

And change is hard.  Adapting to someone else' habits, style, needs, etc. is difficult.  Always.  This is why the first year of marriage is often not a picnic.

And, because it cannot be undersold, adding kids - especially wounded kids - to your already-settled family is definitely complicated, hard, taxing, stressful, expensive, risky...  Add whatever adjective you want, and it'll probably fit. 

But those little people deserve a family to call their own.  They deserve loving, protective arms to be wrapped around them.  They deserve a note written on their lunch banana that simply says, "Love, Mom."  They deserve a hand to hold in the dark.  They deserve the prayers of a father whispered over them at bedtime.  They deserve a parent to attend parent teacher conferences.  They deserve a visit over family weekend at college.  And ... one day ... their children will deserve loving grandparents. 

And it breaks my heart that non-believers might read what Pat Robertson said and chalk it up to just one more reason to believe that all Christians are self-serving, ill-informed, narrow-minded, self-righteous hypocrites.

Pat Robertson doesn't speak for all Christians.  And Pat Robertson is human.  Perhaps this is an area where fear takes over for Mr. Robertson...  I shudder to think of how many opportunities that my family misses simply because we allowed fear (or our desire for comfort) to win.

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families."  Psalm 68:5-6

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7

God was not only the founder of adoption; he was the first adoptive parent.

Nearly 30 years after the first seed was planted in my heart, it is still my prayer to one day be an adoptive parent.  There are so many precious children waiting, aging, crying, longing ... missing out on all of the blessings that come with a forever family.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Praying for coaches

I added something new to our prayer list last night...  Our coaches.

Why has this just dawned on me?  We have prayed for the educators and staff at the kids' schools since before we were ever in school.  And we pray for Sunday school teachers...  And we've thanked God many times over for our coaches, but we've never really prayed for them. 

If our kids participate in sports for the reasons my husband and I say they do, then their coaches need all the prayer support they can get! 

Why do our kids participate in sports?

To grow social relationships with their peers.

To establish trusting relationships with adults outside of our family.

To learn how to be a part of a team.

To maintain physical activity and good health.

To receive support, encouragement, and constructive feedback from someone other than Mom and Dad.

To learn how to win and lose gracefully.

To learn how to be competitive while keeping ones integrity and character in tact.

To have fun.

To know the freedom and joy of simply being a kid and playing.

As I've sat back and watched my kids with their various teachers and coaches, I've often wondered if they realize the full scope of what they are doing.  Or do they just think it's about piano, or soccer, or baseball, or basketball, or math...  Do they realize that they are writing on the heart and mind of the child before them?

The work of a teacher - a coach is a teacher - is a tall order and calls for prayer.

Additionally, our coaches are given a degree of permission to add things to our family's schedule.  And they are given discretion regarding the safety and discipline of our children when we are not there.

Our family has been richly blessed with loving coaches who are passionate about all of the above.  As fall sports continue through late October, we will continue to lift these men up in prayer.  So their hearts and minds will be primed with wisdom, patience, endurance and passion for the kids entrusted to them.  We also pray that many blessings are poured out on their families, as they give generously and sacrificially for the team...more specifically - for my child.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

You only fail when you refuse to try

This afternoon, I took a stroll down memory lane - remembering time spent with little girlfriends when I was young.  Dressing up in Tiffany's mom's dresses, high heels, jewelry and accessories.  Shaving legs with Kasha.  Listening to music with Angel.  Long afternoons sharing secrets and whispering about boys in Kile's backyard.  Looking through Tiger Beat and Teen Beat magazines with Kim, professing our undying love for Don Johnson and Ralph Macchio.  Underwater tea parties at the pool with Marci and Michelle.  Experimenting with hair and make-up with Mandy.  Doing bedroom ballet and singing into hairbrush microphones with my sister.  Babysitting classes and crafts with my Girl Scout troop.  Cooking and sewing classes with girls in my Sunday school class. 

When girls gathered, we were pretty stationary - keeping only our hands and mouths moving.

However, as a mother of boys, I've learned that boys socialize differently.  Little talking, lots of movement.  Lots of sports.

And...  If excelling easily at sports isn't your thing, this kind of socializing can be difficult.

At the start of the summer, my husband and I agreed to invest in opportunities for Zach to grow in this area.  To grow in the knowledge of who and whose he is (so he doesn't feel he needs to find his identity in sport), while growing comfortable and confident in actively engaging with other kids.

We didn't enroll him in sports camps to groom him for super stardom.  We were not trying to give him a leg up or condition him for the next season.  We merely wanted him to have several opportunities a week to play with different groups of kids, trying new things, going outside of his comfort zone.

And he loved every minute of it.

Today was the last of all of his camps.

And, can you believe it ... he WON FIRST PLACE in the championship round of Junior Golf.

He was happy to simply have been at Junior Golf for the last eight weeks with his cousins, but to win a trophy?  He's over the moon.   And we are so proud of him.

Win, lose, or draw in sport - he's learned and grown a lot and made several new friends this summer.  As he returns to school next month, I pray that he will cling to the successes he's had this summer and remember that ... you only fail when you refuse to try.  And, it's just life.  Don't take it so seriously.  Have fun.  Laugh.  Get dirty.  Play.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

10 year old trend-setters

I often think about the facades people keep up and the secrets that are hidden deep in our hearts.  How it separates us from others, and leaves us feeling alone.

Leaves us feeling less....less worthy, less capable, less loveable, less acceptable, etc.

Today I enjoyed the company of two ten year old boys.  Both, complete strangers to me.  One in the morning at church.  Another in the late afternoon at the pool.

These boys set a shining example of vulnerable living, honest sharing, bold encouragement and faith.

As we discussed forgiveness in our small group at church this morning, one young man at our table piped up often.  "I've been left out at recess a lot of times.  It hurts my feelings, but I try really hard to forgive and be nice to them anyway."  As the young boy next time him said that he didn't have anything he needed to ask forgiveness for, he piped up again, "You mean you've never hit your brother?  Or talked back to your parents?  Or been the one who was a bad friend??"  His vulnerable sharing and gentle questioning paved the way for the other kids to honestly assess their lives, jot down things they need to forgive or ask for forgiveness for, and even share a little with the group.  As we bowed our heads, this young man asked if he could pray, and he offered up the prayer of  a confident, contrite man.  At the ripe old age of ten.

The young man I had the pleasure to meet this afternoon was a similar kind of awesome.  As Zachary climbed the ladder to the high dive, fear was all over his face.  As he stood at the top, bracing himself on the handrails, breathing heavily, squeezing his eyes tightly shut, and trying hard to convince himself to walk forward and jump ... encouragement came from a young boy on the ground.  "We've got all day, take your time.  I still get scared up there too, so I have to force myself to jump sometimes.  And it's fun.  Just a little scary at first.  But FUN."  As Zach climbed back down the ladder, the kid encouraged him to take a break and try again later.  This scenario repeated itself three times.  Zach going to the top, the young boy encouraging and confessing his own weaknesses, Zach climbing back down.  The forth time, the boy stood at the base of the ladder as Zachary hurried to the end of the board and jumped....before he could change his mind, exactly as the young encourager had suggested.  And the encourager missed it!  He told Zach that he was sorry he'd missed his jump, and Zach readily did it for him again.  And again.  And again.  And the boys cheered and celebrated with high fives and laughter. 

These two boys were such blessings to be around today, as they loved others through affirmation, truth, transparency, encouragement and even prayer.  Amazing kids.  As I lay my head down tonight, I will pray that they don't lose their heart for others, and that through their hearts their piece of the world will be changed.  I will also pray for the courage to be more like them, and for the wisdom to impart this way of loving on the hearts of my children.  It was through these two boys' words, actions and examples that those around them found the courage to be honest about who they are and where they struggle.

"Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:39

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My wild child

I'm feeling a special kinship to Tony Hawk's mom and John and Stasi Eldredge tonight.

A $4 set of knee & elbow pads found in a thrift store led to the purchase of an $11 skateboard at Target.

I had skateboards growing up, and have often wanted my kids to have them...  But, frankly, I didn't want to watch them break their wrists.  When they found the pads, Zach mumbled, "But I know you'd never let us have a skateboard."

To which I shrugged my shoulder and replied, "Why not?"  After all, I had skateboards and never got hurt.

My stunned first born paused and said, "But, don't you have to ask Dad?  I'm sure he'd want to discuss this with you first."

At that, the indignant feminist hiding deep inside of me tossed the pads into the cart and promised a skateboard.  Tonight.

As we shopped for a skateboard, I told them we should probably hit the bubble wrap aisle too.  My witty kids laughed, and then argued through the store over whose turn it was to carry it.  The moment it was paid for, they started ripping the packaging off.

When we got home, Zach had to change into his professional skateboarder uniform.  Tony Hawk shorts and his skater shoes.  Clothes have always mattered to Zach.

When he first approached getting on the board, he confessed to being scared.  "It's looks hard to balance.  And how do I get started?  How do I stop?"  After a quick tutorial - with Mom demonstrating in flip flops, using Zach as my spotter - he figured that if Mom could do it, he could do it.  And with Mom holding his hands for the first 30 seconds or so, he was off.

In no time at all, he was trying to control what direction he was heading.  Flipping it here and there...  Gaining confidence and speed.  Checking the scratches on the bottom after every stop.  You know, scratches are a sign of a board well-used!

Next thing I know, he's saying things like, "WORD!" and "Now, that's how it's done!"  He was a boy, excited about a new, thrilling, somewhat dangerous accomplishment. 

Zach is often so subdued that it's easy to forget that he was designed by God to be wild at heart.  But tonight, the wildness shone...  The wildness that is too often hidden under his skeptical, analytical, careful, perfectionist tendencies.  The wildness that is too often squashed by a nervous parent who doesn't want him to get hurt.

He had a blast tonight.  He went to bed with his chest puffed up and a huge smile on his face.  He was so proud.  So accomplished.

I am so glad my guys found that $4 bag of pads buried in the sports equipment bin at the thrift store.  And so glad that I didn't get in the way of him taking a walk on the wild side.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Too many problems?

One of the kids' devotion questions last week was, "Do you ever feel like you have too many problems?"

To be honest, I had to stifle a laugh as they both gave emphatic YESes.

My first thought:  "They're kids!  What kind of problems do they have?"

So, I asked them.

When teachers give too much homework.  When others won't play fair.  When my brother isn't being nice.  When I can't beat a video game level.  When I have too many things on my schedule.  When I'm not included.  When I have to play sports in the heat.  When I don't feel good.  When I'm in time out.  When we have to clean our playroom.

When you're going into kindergarten and 3rd grade, these are legitimate problems.  Too many problems.

Romans 5:3-4 speaks to this issue.

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation."

Love it.  I've printed it and taped it to the wall.

As a runner, my endurance has been under constant scrutiny for the last year and a half.  I used to get hot or tired and just throw in the towel and walk, but as I've stayed steadfast in my training, my endurance has grown and I'm going faster and farther.  

On a broader scale, I see this playing out in my life and in that of my family...  We're quick to quit on things.  Quick to believe the lies that we can't.  Quick to believe that we're in over our head or outmatched.  Quick to believe that everyone else has it together and we don't.  Quick to believe that whatever-it-is is a bad idea.

This bit of scripture is so life-giving...

Problems - processing through them, exchanging the lies for truth, praying with faith and expectation, charging through fear, falling back on God's promises and provision - develop endurance.  And endurance builds character, and character strengthens hope.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

God last

When I crawled out of bed this morning, the house was quiet and a cup of coffee was calling my name.  After filling my favorite mug, I grabbed my Bible, and headed for a quiet corner in the living room.

I'm not currently in a Bible study, so I didn't really know where to begin.  As I thumbed through 2,300+ pages, I quickly settled on Romans.

Romans 1:10 really spoke to me: "One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you."  

It struck me that Paul always prayed for this same thing, yet hadn't grown tired or hopeless.  And I love how "God last" almost sounds desperate - at least it does the way I read it. 

Boy can I relate to praying for the same things... often in desperation.  Pleading.

First I thought of fostering/adoption, and missions work.  It's been on my heart since I was a little girl, but it's not yet been a call on our family. 

Then I thought of my son.

And then I thought about a conversation I had Monday night with my friend who prays every night with her daughters that they won't have bad dreams.  Yet, the bad dreams come anyway.

As I thought about Paul, prayerful in his desires to one day go to Rome, his story came to mind.  He did eventually make it to Rome, but he arrived as a prisoner.  He'd prayed for safe travels, and did arrive safely ... but only after getting arrested, slapped in the face, shipwrecked, and bitten by a poisonous snake.

Talk about hiccups along the way!

I'm reminded that God does answer prayer, He just doesn't generally do so in our timing, nor does he do so in exact compliance what what we had in mind.

My thoughts return to my son.  My son who sometimes cries out, asking WHEN WILL IT BE EASIER?  The son who will one day be on the other side of things, saying to another little person, I know what it is to be scared, intimidated and insecure sometimes.  I know what it is to be a bit quirky.  I know what it is to get overwhelmed.  I know what it is to be sick of doctors appointments and frustrated with your body.  I know what it is to have to work hard at things that seem so easy for others.  And I know what it is to wait on answers to prayer...  Hang in there.  God is listening.  He has a plan.  God willing ... at last, things will work out.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Last week I attended an exciting planning meeting for WHOLE Women's Conference coming up at the end of Aug.  I have the humbling privilege of leading break-out sessions where I get to share with as many women who will listen, the journey back to wholeness after the life-shattering pain of sexual abuse.

The conference is offering 17 breakout topics, each being led by 17 incredible women with a heart for God and for his children.  Women who will boldly share truth, hope, and encouragement, drawing on their own very real, very personal stories.

But first...  We must plan - with God's leading, of course.

Our first order of business is naming our breakout session and providing a few sentences to describe it.  Now...  I'm a woman who likes to talk.  And I like complete details, not snippets of information.  I generally fall on the more is more side when it comes to this sort of thing.  Yet, I only get a few sentences to describe my break-out session.

And then there's the break-out session itself.  Forty-five minutes.  As my friend Mary put it, "I can't say hello in 45 minutes!"  So...  To narrow it down, I keep asking, "What am I meant to say at this point in my life, to this audience?"

There's also a 10 second blurb in which I am to answer the question, "What does it mean to be WHOLE?"  I can gush over that for an hour, easily.

These are the things that wake me from a dead sleep in the middle of the night.  Things I think about throughout the day, every day, and even while I sleep, yet I can't quite sum any of them up in complete thoughts.

Good thing I have a month and a half.  And GREAT thing that I don't have to rely on me to come up with what to say...  I rest in the gentle assurance that God has a plan and can overcome every shortcoming I have.

In the mean time, I think.  And pray.  And blog a little.

Hmmm...  What does it mean to be WHOLE? 

Knowing who and whose I am.  Knowing that I am not defined by the sins I've committed or the sins committed against me, or what I think of myself or what others think of me, or by the things I have or the things I don't have ... but rather I am defined by what GOD says about me.  "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14.  "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12 

Finally knowing what the ever-elusive parent / child relationship looks and feels like.  "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5   "He rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards.  His huge outstretched arms protect you - under them you're perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm." Psalm 91:2-4 (Msg). 

Living a life free from shame and secrecy, knowing first-hand the strength of the human spirit.  "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31 

Peace.  That feeling in your heart when forgiveness is real and the anger, fear and bitterness are noticeably diminished.  "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one anther, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:31:32  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 

Living out the impossible - enjoying the sweet restoration of relationships.  "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18  "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.  But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them." 1 John 2:9-11 

Having had a sad life of despair completely exchanged for one filled with hope and joy.  "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 

God is good...all the time.  Grateful to wake up today, free from the bondage of darkness and brokenness. 

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  John 10:10

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sub 140

This is not at all my normal kind of post, and it's certainly not what I've been mulling around for the last week, but today is a day worth noting.  Just stepped on the scale - 139.8 (I totally wish I could make that flash in neon colors).  Honestly, I had completely surrendered to my weight gain last fall.  I even gave away this adorable red winter coat that I absolutely loved, but knew there was no way it would ever fit again.

Steph, I don't want it back...  I'll just be forced now to buy another one.  Ooooh - we can be twins.

When I registered for my triathlon last summer, I considered the Athena division for women over 155.  Right now I'm shaking my head at myself as, aloud, I'd questioned: "Does anyone my age weigh under 155?"  I had surrendered and, still being fairly slender and within my normal healthy weight range, I assumed that the older we get, the heavier we weigh.

When I impulsively started this weight loss journey on March 1, I weighed in at 161.  Pinch me!  I'm down 21.5 pounds and the shorts I'm wearing are completely falling off of me!  Back to school shopping is going to be really special this year...  Mama gets some new clothes too - only, opposite the children, mine will be smaller and not BIGGER.

Cori, thanks for casually complaining about the diet you were on...  Your complaining prompted our life change.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Nebraska...the good life.

I can't believe that one week from today will be July 1.  Who gave summer permission to fly by so quickly?

Bryan just had an unexpected long weekend...the first REAL WEEKEND he's had since starting his job in we took advantage of it and headed up to Nebraska for some camping.  You know, since it IS the good life.


We'd heard great things about their state parks, and the parks did not disappoint.

We tented, of course.

At Louisville State Recreation Area.  It was packed.  Only 10 spots left in the entire campground when we made our reservations online five days prior.

We had a shady spot, close to air-conditioned restrooms and shower house.  And close to the river.  There were people everywhere - floating down the river, fishing, swimming, playing tag, riding bikes...  And a dude driving the Mystery Machine.

Our spot was gorgeous.  In the back of the park - tents only, no RV's.  I don't know that our kids had ever seen so many fireflies or stars.  And we saw the space station fly overhead as we turned off the lantern for bed on the last night.

We played Uno in the tent every night.  And roasted marshmallows and enjoyed lots of s'mores.  We landed on good radio stations - oldies and some classic rock.  Oldies as in REAL oldies, not the 70's, 80's and 90's stuff stations are passing off as "oldies".  Each morning we had delicious pancakes and biscuits and gravy in a downtown cafe - one that serves homemade pies and malts.  While waiting for breakfast, we played Dominoes.  I won once.  In the car, we listened to the iPod, and I read Harry Potter to the family.  Good thing I don't get carsick while reading in the car.

We visited the Strategic Air and Space Museum.  It would have been really fun and fascinating five years ago when Zach was obsessed with space, but it was still a very fun learning experience.  So many awesome planes and interactive games and activities.

But I was so tired that I actually fell asleep for a few minutes...gasp!  I did NOT sleep the night before.

After the air and space museum, we broke for a late lunch and then headed over to the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari.  We saw a lot of animals and gorgeous land as we drove through the park, and enjoyed a mile hike around the bears and wolves.  We were only able to catch glimpses of the wolves as they ran through the brush, but a bear came out as I made kissing sounds at it.  I would never have thought that a crazy bear would respond to this silly mom entertaining her youngest child, but evidently he finds my kisses irresistible too.  Luke thinks I'm a bear whisperer [kisser] now.

Did I mention that we tented through a horrible downpour on our first night?  This is why I was so tired at the museum...  And some water pooled under our tent in spots, so the rest of the weekend it felt like we were walking on a waterbed.  But the pooled up water was nothing compared to the lightening and thunder...  Why must it always storm when we camp?  One of these days Bryan is going to mean it when he declares it his LAST time tenting.

Thankfully, it was perfectly smooth sailing after that stormy night.  Clear skies.  Blue by day, starry by night.

I forgot to mention that we went to an Omaha Storm Chasers game on Friday night too.  It was a beautiful night for baseball.  And we enjoyed a Storm Chasers win!

On our final day, we stopped by the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium at Schramm SRA.  It cost us all of $2.50 in admission fees and we learned a lot and had a great time.  A must see, for sure.  Our favorite thing there is the classroom with interactive games and an awesome touch table - AWESOME!  And...  As our final bit of vacation fun, we opted for a swim at the water park at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in lieu of showers.  Yea, that's how we roll.  We surfed, slid, swam and splashed till our hearts content...  No pictures though, as the camera battery died last night. 

On the drive home we were already brainstorming plans for our next Nebraska camping trip.  Good times.  Nebraska is ... the good life.