Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Memories

I just wanted to share a few pictures with you from our Christmas holidays. We had such a good time! Our kids are at really fun ages right now (but I guess all ages are fun, right?), and I've discovered that Christmas just gets more fun each and every year! (I have more pictures that haven't made it from my camera to the computer yet, so maybe I'll post some more later.)
This picture was taken after the Children's Program at our church. Both of the kids participated, and Mark also had a part, so I got to: 1) be the official filmer; 2) give directions to stand up or stand still or sing or be quiet in the best nonchalant Mom sign language I could; and 3) continue to film even when I wanted to crawl under the pew when Hannah stood center stage to sing the final song of the program (as opposed to being back with the rest of the choir, where she was supposed to be!)

The kids probably get weary of Mommy and her camera during the holidays. There are so many photo opportunities, and I just can't pass them by! So some of my pictures include squirmy little angels!

This was right after our Christmas Eve service--the first one (6pm), that is. Our church also has an 11pm service with communion, so it is usually well after midnight before Mark is home on Christmas Eve (I guess that is officially Christmas Day). Fortunately Santa was already taken care of by the time he got home around 12:30 am--not too much assembly required for this year's Santa goodies (unlike a few years in the past!), so I was able to take care of it myself, with some help from my mom.

Nothing warms my heart more than a good picture with my kids and/or Mark. And this one will go down as one of my very favorites! A few months before Christmas, I found these cute snowman sweaters for Hannah and me to wear--our first "matching" outfit. I could hardly wait! I can remember as a girl seeing other moms and daughters dressed in precious matching outfits at Christmas Eve services and dreaming of the day that my daughter and I would dress alike. That day has finally come.

God is so good. We are so blest in so many ways.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sweet Conversation

I wanted to share a conversation with you that I had with Benjamin a few weeks ago. I was sitting in the floor, unpacking Christmas ornaments, and he picked up a framed picture of my sister, Susan:

B: Mommy, who is this?
K: That's Susan. She's my sister.
B: She used to be your sister?
K: No, she's still my sister, but she lives in heaven with God.
B: Is that for real? (he's learning "not real", i.e. on TV versus "real", i.e. real life)
K: Yes, it's for real.
B: Aww (in a sad way). Did I know her when she was born (alive)?
K: No, Sweetie, you didn't.
B: Did you know her when she was born?
K: Yes, I did.
B: (after pausing to think) So she's in heaven doing work with God?
K: (Smiling despite the tears filling my eyes) Yes, she is.
B: Do you think she watches over us every day?
K: Yes, Baby, I do.

We knew Benjamin was beginning to grasp the concepts of death and heaven, we just weren't sure the extent to which he understood--until this conversation. It was precious. I loved him saying, "So she's in heaven doing work with God?"

Wouldn't you love to know what that looks like to him in his head?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Battle

My battle began 14 years ago when I was a freshman in college. Looking back to that time, and knowing what I now know, I think the battle was fuelled by a combination of the stresses of moving away from home for the first time and starting a new chapter of my life as a college freshman, topped off with playing college basketball. That's a pretty heavy load of stress and change, and my body rebelled under that pressure.

For all I knew, that was the way life was supposed to be. I didn't know any better, having never been a college freshman or played college basketball before, not to mention never having moved away from home. But the day came that I lay sobbing on my bed, alone in my dorm room, and I realized that if someone were to walk through my door and ask me why I was crying, I would have no idea how to answer them. Yet I could not stop crying.

Thus began my battle with depression.

As always, the grace of God was present in abundance during this time. I was diagnosed with depression and began taking medication about two weeks before my best friend and roommate was tragically killed in a car accident. I shutter to think the condition I might have found myself in had I not already begun taking antidepressants.

I remember being angry about my diagnosis of depression. Internally I was kicking and screaming at the thought of being put on medication. Why did I have to take a pill to make me feel right or good or somewhat normal? It shouldn't be that way. I was embarrassed, not wanting anyone to know that I'd been diagnosed with depression for fear they would think I was crazy. And the cherry to top it all off was when my family doctor referred me to a psychologist to help me sort through this confusing time in life. Heaven forbid anyone know I was getting counseling. What would they think of me? Turned out to be one of the best moves I've ever made in life, but I certainly didn't know it at the time as an eighteen-year-old.

As I write this, I almost feel as though I'm posting a scantily-clad photo of myself on the Internet for all the world to see. The clothes we wear cover a variety of imperfections and perceived faults. The facades we wear can do the same. To disrobe myself on an emotional level for all the world to read is a bit scary. Ninety eight percent of those reading this will have no idea that depression has been a part of my life. I've had to work to come to terms with this being a part of who I am.

But I also know first-hand that God can indeed "make all things work together for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."

Since my battle began 14 years ago, this depression has dotted the canvas of my life. I've learned that for the most part, my bouts or episodes or whatever you want to call them are brought on by high stress--good or bad. One of the times I crashed the hardest was just a few weeks after Mark and I were married--the happiest time of my life. It was especially frustrating and sad to look at myself in pictures from our honeymoon in Hawaii and wonder where that person had suddenly disappeared to. Other times have been more obvious--the sudden death of my sister, moving to a new town.

But my recent episode came completely out of the blue. Unexpected. No obvious explanation. Frustrating.

My last post was on October 15--not quite two months ago. That was when I realized I was not going to be able to pull myself out of the slump I found myself in without some outside help. That last post detailed the trip Mark and I were about to take--a trip I was very excited about. A trip that I had looked forward to for weeks. A trip during which I spent much of the time fighting the darkness and anxiety that threatened to overwhelm me, not wanting to let Mark know what was really going on inside of me. Not wanting to ruin the trip we'd been planning for so long. By the time we were headed home, I could hide it no more, and I spent much of the four hour trip home in tears. Great way to end a vacation.

So that explains my absence these past several weeks.

After I was diagnosed with depression and became more aware of its prevalence in our society, I made the decision that I would try to be as transparent as I could when the right situations presented themselves in order to let God use me to help someone else who might be travelling this dark, lonely, frustrating road. That was a very hard decision to make. It meant letting my guard down and allowing others to see that I don't always have it together. That became especially difficult when this Type A perfectionist became a preacher's wife.

There are many lessons I've learned on the battlefield of fighting depression:
  • God's grace is indeed oh so sufficient. He is so much bigger than even depression and strong enough to carry me for as long as I need to be carried.
  • Despite what you see in others in the comings and goings of everyday life, you never know what battles they fight behind closed doors. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from those I've shared my story with, "I had no idea. You seem like you have it so together. You seem like everything is going so well." My personal battles have made me much more compassionate in this way, and I try hard to never forget this when dealing with others.
  • God can use medication as a means of healing. This is a controversy, especially among Christians, and I'm not here to debate anyone. But it is my own personal belief that medication is one of the avenues God uses to help those of us fighting our way through this strange monster called depression.
  • God can use counseling as a means of healing. I have become a very strong advocate for professional, Christian counseling and have personally experienced the difference it can make. God is our ultimate source of healing, but I believe He uses many different avenues to do so. I have learned that there is no shame in receiving counseling, and I believe it is a good idea, even when life is rocking along and going well. We take our cars in for periodic tune-ups in order for them to run efficiently, so why not take ourselves in for a periodic tune-up?
  • Satan loves an opportunity to kick us while we are down. Even though depression is not always a spiritual issue (again, a controversial opinion), there certainly can be a spiritual side to the battle that must be addressed and fought against as well. Praise God, victory is ours to claim because "He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world."

I have missed my bloggy friends these past several weeks, but my time has been and is continuing to be focused on getting myself as healthy as I can for the benefit of myself and my family. It's hard to be the wife and mommy I want to be when there have been days that just getting out of bed is an accomplishment.

I am doing better. I am on the mend and focusing on enjoying this beautiful Christmas season that is upon us. I am drinking in every ounce of joy and excitement and wonder that is a part of every day when experiencing Christmas through the eyes of a four-year-old and two-year-old.

Talk about good medicine.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Getting Ready

In about 24 hours, Mark and I will be heading out of town--no car seats, no Pack n Play, no diapers, no sippie cups. BY OURSELVES! Headed south, with no schedule, but an agenda that includes golf, good food (including PF Chang's), rest, shopping at our favorite outlet mall, more good food (including the Cheesecake Factory), probably more shopping, and more rest. Though it's probably not necessary to say, I'M EXCITED!

Now, I will admit, that yesterday my heart ached a little at the thought of leaving my little ones for 3 1/2 days. No matter how badly Mark and I need this time away, I still love my babies to pieces and miss them when they are not around.

Today--not so much of a heartache. All I've heard since we got up is arguing, whining, and fighting, ignoring my instructions, and a little more whining and arguing. Doesn't God just crack you up sometimes? His sense of humor is going to make it a bit easier to leave in the morning for 3 1/2 days!

My sister-in-law, Kim, and 5-year-old nephew are on their way here as we speak to keep Benjamin and Hannah while we are gone. My kids really are good kids (despite their behavior this morning), so I know they will all have a good time while we are gone. The kids love to play together, so hopefully the time for them will go quickly and they will hardly skip a beat while we are gone. I'm not sure Kim realizes what a blessing this is for us to have her keep our kids while we take a much needed trip out of town. I will return the favor anytime she asks.

I'm off to find a band aid for Benjamin, rescue Hannah from her room (where she is ordered to remain until I come tell her otherwise), and get us ready to go run those last minute errands that are always necessary before you head out of town--prescription at the pharmacy, cash at the bank, paper goods at Wal Mart (to relieve Kim of as much dish-duty as possible).

And chocolate.

Kim just might need some good chocolate while we're gone.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Journey of Faith

(Note: This post is actually a talk I gave this week to a group of people who have attended a spiritual retreat called the Walk to Emmaus. If you've never heard of it before, The Walk to Emmaus® is a spiritual renewal program intended to strengthen the local church through the development of Christian disciples and leaders and is sponsored by The Upper Room. My purpose is sharing this is not to promote the Walk to Emmaus, but to share part of my faith journey with you. )

My faith journey goes back as far as I can remember. There is not a time in my memory that I was not part of a church. The first 12 or 13 years of my life were spent in a Baptist church, and my years since then have been spent in the pews of the Methodist church. I can clearly remember the felt boards used during Sunday School to illustrate the Bible lesson for that morning. I can clearly remember memorizing scripture verses during Vacation Bible School in order to get that special reward, whatever that was. I can clearly remember that day at VBS where I made the decision to ask Jesus to come live in my heart and be my Savior. So church and Jesus have just always been a part of me.

My first knowledge of the Walk to Emmaus came when I was in high school. My older sister was asked to go on a Chrysalis (the youth and young-adult version of the Walk to Emmaus) towards the end of her high school years, so that was my introduction to Emmaus, though I didn’t know much about it besides I was asked to write a letter to Susan that she would read while on her Chrysalis. Truth be told, I’d probably be embarrassed today at what I wrote because quite frankly Susan and I really weren’t always fond of each other in high school! We did get over that, and when she left for college, she quickly became my very best friend. On a typical day, we would have emailed back and forth 2 or 3 times throughout the day and probably even talked on the phone again that evening!

Fast forward four or five years, and after Susan married, she and her husband became very involved in various Emmaus activities, and they would both talk about it frequently to me. They both had a fire in them that was contagious, and they wanted me to have that Emmaus experience as well. Susan was very excited at the prospect of being able to sponsor me for such a special weekend. I put them off for a while, never really feeling it was my time to go and also being young and single, the money to go was an issue for me. Though they never pushed me to go, they always were encouraging me and even offered to pay for me to go on my Walk. With money no longer standing in my way, and feeling in my heart it was time to go, I filled out the application in October of 1998 and sent it back to them to submit so that I could be put on the waiting list for the next women’s walk.

As I remember it, it was about 10 days later that life would suddenly change for me. I received a phone call one Saturday morning—it was actually Halloween day—and was told that my sister had been taken to the emergency room because she had gotten very ill during the night. Susan had been diagnosed with lupus when she was in junior high, so a sickness that was serious enough to go to the emergency room was of great concern to my family, knowing the complications lupus would add to the picture. We would later learn that Susan had contracted a very serious case of spinal meningitis, and less than 36 hours later, she went to her eternal home to be with our Heavenly Father.

As you can imagine, life would never be the same for me again. Life lost much of its joy, and my heart was broken into so many tiny pieces that I honestly thought it would never be whole again. I didn’t see how it was possible. But as scripture tells us, “all things are possible with God”—not some things, or most things, but ALL things. In the months and years since then, God has shown me first hand just how powerful his works can be and that He does still give us miracles each and every day, if we’ll just look for them.

As I prepared to give this talk, the thing that kept coming back to me over and over as I prayed about this and thought about this is that God is enough. God is enough. When you feel like you have nothing left in life or no where else to turn, God is enough. And he proved that to me during this time after losing my sister. I was single at this time, so God was really all I had most of the time. My family was all an hour away, and though I had a fabulous church family that gave me so much love and support during this time, when I would go home at night, it was just me and God. I went through an extremely lonely period of time during this grief, but on the other side, I found that God was indeed enough.

About 10 months after my sister passed away, my name came up quite suddenly to attend a Walk to Emmaus. I had such mixed emotions about going because a time that I had been looking forward to for so long had finally come, but the one that I had hoped to share it with the most was now gone. My brother-in-law (Susan’s husband) still wanted to be my sponsor, and I agreed to go.

For me, the Walk to Emmaus was a weekend of healing, as you can imagine. In my journal after returning home from my Walk, I wrote, “My weekend reminded me that God will surround me with his love and grace and give me the healing I need. Not only will He give me that Himself, but He will work through others as well.” I have truly learned how the Body of Christ works throughout this journey.

I have been amazed at the people that God has continually put in my path that I have been able to minister to because of my experience and grief in losing my sister so tragically. I realized early on that God could use this difficult time to help others if I would only allow Him to do so. It’s amazing what God can do if we will just lay the broken pieces of our lives at his feet and allow him to go to work.

Since my sister’s death almost 9 years ago, God has brought healing to my life that I never dreamed would be possible. My brother-in-law, who has remained very close to my family, has since remarried, and God has given me the gift of a very special friendship with his new wife. That is not something that could have happened outside of a miracle from God. Mark and I were even the only guests present at their small wedding ceremony, and Mark was the one conducting the ceremony—again, nothing short of a miracle could have allowed us to be there in that situation.

About six months after Susan’s death is when Mark and I began dating, and what healing and what joy God restored to my life as a result of this man. And you know, God is so into the details of our lives, and this is such an example of that. One of the things I grieved after losing Susan was that she would not know my husband, be able to be a part of our wedding, or be an aunt to my children. And not only would she miss out knowing my husband, but my husband would miss out knowing her, and how could I ever be able to express with words what Susan meant to me and the devastation that became a part of my life when she died. But God had already taken care of that. A few years prior to my sister’s death, Mark pastored my old home church where my mom was still a member. During that time, he became friends with each member of my family in very unique, individual ways. In fact, Mark’s last conversation with Susan occurred at a Walk to Emmaus and centered around Susan’s excitement in sponsoring me for my Walk. So as a pastor and a friend of my family, he walked through this heartache with us, from being at the hospital with us and in the room with us as we signed papers to take Susan off life support, to being one of the pastors who took part in her funeral service. You see, God knew how the story ended. But I didn’t.

Another detail that amazes me still to this day happened a few weeks prior to Susan’s death and centers around a book that God made sure was waiting for me on my coffee table. I’ve always loved to read, and Max Lucado had a new book that had just been released. I purchased it, and with it came with a second book for free. I never paid attention to that second one because all I really cared about getting was Max Lucado’s. I brought them home and put them both on my coffee table, and quickly began reading the one by Max Lucado—again, never giving the other one a second glance. I returned home from the hospital that evening after Susan died, and my pastor had come over to my apartment to visit with me. As I sat there with him, my eye just happened to glance at the books sitting there on my table, and it was as if that second book just kinda jumped out at me. So as soon as my pastor left, I picked that book up. It was titled “A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss.” This book was written by Gerald Sittser, a man who had tragically lost his mother, his wife, and his daughter in a car accident, and I learned so much from this book about the grief process and the grace God pours over us during times of loss. I have since recommended it to several people going through the loss of a loved one. I knew then and I know now it was no accident that I had that book on my coffee table. It was as if God himself had hand-delivered that book to me. It was no coincidence. Again, God is in the details of our everyday lives if we will but look for Him.

Emmaus has certainly been a part of my healing process over the past nine years. And I will say that my life has been molded and changed because of what I have learned as a result of traveling a road I never would have chosen for myself. CS Lewis wrote, “God whispers in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain.” I certainly have found that to be so true. I have learned more about God while walking through this valley of the shadow of death than I ever could have learned otherwise. I would not be who I am today without having gone through such a difficult time in my life. I was listening to a Focus on the Family show a few days ago, and the guest was speaking on overcoming adversity. He made the comment that when going through difficult times, misery is optional and joy is a choice. We sing the song, “I’m trading my sorrows; I’m trading my shame. I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.” In one of her books on prayer, Stormie Omartian says, “joy doesn’t have anything to do with happy circumstances; it has to do with looking into the face of God and knowing He’s all we’ll ever need.” God is, indeed, enough, and God is good, even when circumstances are not.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just Stuff

I've spent quite a bit of time AWOL lately in blogland, and I so appreciate those of you who have said you missed me! It's nice to be missed! I thought I'd just mention some random thoughts and stories about what we've been up to:
  • Our kids started back to Children's Day Out at our church at the same time that school began. They go on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 am until 2:30pm. They LOVE going, have such fun in a wonderful, Christian environment, and it gives me some much-needed time to do my stuff! Oh, and it gives Mark and me the chance to have lunch dates, too! Needless to say, we're all happy!

  • I got a new haircut last week. That's a news flash, huh? Actually, for me, it is because I've never been very "brave" or exciting with my haircuts, and this time, I was actually a little of both! Maybe I'll get even more brave and post a picture soon!

  • We went to our first football game of the season this past Saturday. The kids were beyond excited! It was very fun for us all. The only drawback was that it was at an unusual time--it started at 1pm in the afternoon. So it was pretty hot and the sun was blazing! I try to be very diligent with sunscreen, but I missed a couple of places--like the tops of my feet! I was wearing my favorite croc flip flops and now have red feet! I don't know if I've ever sunburned the tops of my feet before! Yikes!!
  • A few weeks ago, we made our first trip to the emergency room. I had just been thinking a few days earlier how lucky we were that we had not had either of the kids in the emergency room yet! Hannah, our two year old, got her finger smashed in one of our doors here at the house--and it was me closing the door! Needless to say, my broken heart needed about as much mending as her not-broken (thank goodness) finger. And only God can bring worship into a trip to the emergency room. While we were waiting (and waiting, and waiting) in our little cubicle for the doctor to come see Hannah, she wanted to lay down on the bed and wanted me to lay down beside her. So we were just laying there talking, and she began to sing, "God is good, all the time, through the darkest night, His light will shine, God is good..." Doesn't God just have the sweetest way of working through our kids to touch our hearts just where we need it most?

Have a fabulous, blessed day!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

God is Enough

I've been working on a talk that I will be giving for a church group in a couple of weeks that basically reflects on my Christian walk. As I've thought about this, prayed about this, and read back through some journals from years past, I've recounted joys, disappointments, victories, and heartache, among other things. The one phrase that keeps coming to mind is that no matter the circumstance, "God is enough."

What I didn't realize while preparing this talk was how often these past couple of weeks I would have to remind myself of the fact that "God is enough."

Like when our friends' son chose to take his young life, bringing much shock, grief, heartache, and unanswered questions to his family and friends in a small, very close-knit community.

Like when my friend shared with me her heartbreaking story of a teenage girl in her town with so much promise and a powerful witness for Christ dying from injuries sustained in a car accident.

Like when Mark and I learned of a friend and colleague of Mark's losing his battle with cancer and knowing his sweet wife and five young children will be left to learn to live life all over without him.

There is so much heartache in the world we live in, isn't there? It's easy to get overwhelmed by it all and let it overtake the joys and miracles God gives us everyday. But when my heart gets so sad and the tears threaten to fall, it is then that my heart says to me, "God is enough."

Enough to sustain us through even the toughest of days.

Enough to give us strength, mercy and grace for the moment at hand.

Enough to trust that even though we have questions, He knows the answers to them all and can see how the story ends even though I can't.

It is then that the sun begins to peak out from behind those gray, dreary clouds, and I start to notice anew the beauty of the day--the beautiful blue jays singing and playing in my yard, without a care in the world; the cool breeze blowing, signifying the change in seasons brought to us from a creative and loving God; and two little miracles, full of energy and life, who call me Mommy and love me in spite of my many imperfections.

God is good. And God is enough.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Benjamin

Today Benjamin turns four years old, so in honor of his big day, I thought I'd share with you ten of my favorite things about this little guy!
  1. He is the one who introduced me to the wonderful world of motherhood! What more do I need to say?? Being a mommy has been my dream for as far back as I can remember, so what a feeling to have a dream realized!

  2. Even at four, he still likes to sit in my lap and cuddle! I'm such a cuddler that this makes my heart very happy! Every morning when he gets up, I stop whatever I'm doing, sit down on the couch or in the recliner, and we cuddle and talk while he wakes up to his day.

  3. No matter how much he fights with her, he fiercely loves his little sister. When they are apart, he always asks about Hannah and what she is doing. And he recently began just going up to her, no prompting, no obvious reason, and giving her a big hug and kiss! If that doesn't make a mommy's heart smile, I don't know what does!

  4. He is focused and detail-oriented. Example: one of his favorite things to do is mow (if only we can keep that intact when he gets old enough to actually do it with Daddy's mower!), and he will very methodically mow the entire yard with his little toy mower exactly the way Daddy does it. There's no zooming around in circles and weaving around for this boy. No, he goes up and down, back and forth, just as he would if he were doing it for real. And he has to do the whole yard--there's no leaving a job half-done for him. This makes me laugh now, but I know this character trait will serve him well as he gets older.

  5. When he laughs, his whole body laughs! His face lights up, and everything about him smiles! (On the flip side of that coin, when he's upset, his whole body is upset!)

  6. He says the sweetest prayers. Only in the past couple of months has he wanted to pray himself whenever we are praying, and they are just sweet, simple prayers that I know makes God smile a smile that only comes from a Daddy.

  7. He is such a boy. He loves all things "boy"--any kind of ball game, being outside, running, tackling, (seeing as how he only has one sibling, guess who he tackles??) rolling around on the floor...the list goes on!

  8. He loves his Daddy! Talk about making my heart smile--the two of them, hand in hand--my two favorite boys!

  9. He often chooses me as what he is thankful for. At bedtime, when we say prayers with the kids, each of them gets to complete the sentence, "Thank you God for..." He will often say, "Mommy," which, you guessed it, makes my heart smile!

  10. He's my son. There's no one else in the world that he calls "Mommy." It brings tears to my eyes just typing it...

The birthday boy eating his special breakfast treat: a chocolate glazed donut with sprinkles!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Birthday Celebrations

I may have been out of the blogging loop for a while now, but this weekend is certainly a great place to get back in the loop! Our weekend was filled with celebrations for Benjamin's 4th birthday! His big day is actually August 23rd, but we chose this past weekend to do our big family party.

Mark and I decided to purchase a swing set for Benjamin's birthday, knowing that he and Hannah would both have lots of fun playing on it. In my head, I have had visions of 2 or 3 days of busy little ones climbing, sliding, swinging and having fun on the new equipment. But Mother Nature had other visions--ones that included a LOT of rain! We knew with the tropical depression that rain was predicted for the weekend in our area. So Mark and I spent all day Thursday trying to get the swingset assembled and erected in order to beat the rain. Unfortunately, we were not able to finish on Thursday, and the rain hit Thursday night! Mark spent Friday dodging the rain showers to get it all finished, only to then have 9 inches of rain prolong the fun! I've never in my life seen so much rain, especially not in West Texas! At one time, we had four inches of rain standing in our yard--guess we could have opted for a swimming party! Fortunately, the rain stopped and the nine inches managed to soak in the ground enough for us to go outside Saturday evening to begin breaking in the new swingset. The kids had a great time, and I know there are many more great times to come!

I cannot believe that Benjamin will be four years old in 3 more days! It seems like just a couple of weeks ago I got my first glimpse of that wailing little baby and discovered we had a son--a moment we had awaited for nine months! And wasn't it just last week that I was laying on the floor laughing at and encouraging our expert "army crawler" as he became mobile for the first time? I feel like just a few days ago we moved him from his crib into his "big boy bed" as we prepared for the arrival of his little sister. Now, he's a non-stop, always on the go, bundle of energy that stills likes to cuddle in my lap (thank you, God!) and can hold my hand by intertwining his fingers with mine rather than just me wrapping my long fingers around his entire little hand. My, how the time flies.

Happy Birthday, Benjamin!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Icey Creamy, Icey Creamy

"Icey Creamy, Icey Creamy
Cold and Sweet;
Icey Cream, Icey Creamy
Can't be beat..."

For those of you moms with toddlers who love Barney, there's a pretty good chance I now have this song singing in your head! (You are welcome--it's stuck in my mind, so why shouldn't it be stuck in yours as well?) My two children love Barney, and even though I swore to myself during my teenage babysitting days that "my kids will NEVER watch this annoying dinosaur--EVER!", I do let them watch it. And anytime the topic of ice cream comes up, chances are, one of them will start singing the Ice Cream Song.

I get an email everyday from the Everyday Cheapskate, and one day this week, it included a recipe for "Campground Ice Cream." I've seen similar recipes before, but have never tried them. So I decided for a fun little family project, we'd give it a try this evening. Here's the recipe:

Campground Ice Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 egg,
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1-pound coffee can
1 3-pound coffee can
crushed ice
rock salt

Place cream, milk, egg, sugar & vanilla in a medium bowl and mix well. Clean the 1-pound coffee can well. Pour the liquid into this small can. Seal with the plastic lid and tape the lid to the can very well with sealing tape or duct tape. Set this can in the center of the large 3-pound coffee can. Pour 4 parts crushed ice and 1 part rock salt into the spaces between the small and large cans until full. Cover the large can and tape this cover in place as well.

Take the cans outdoors and roll it back and forth on the picnic table for 10 minutes. Or let the kids roll it back and forth in a game, out on the lawn or other open area. Uncover and stir the ice cream. Recover and tape shut as before. Return to large coffee can with the salt and ice (or replace as necessary) and roll 5 minutes more. Open, serve and enjoy!

If you are like us and are not coffee drinkers, you can buy cheap coffee at WalMart in the two sizes needed for about $6 or so. (I can hear some of you saying, "why don't you just pour it into your electric freezer, plug it in, and have ice cream--much less energy." And I say, "Much less fun!") We rolled our cans around on the driveway this evening, and it worked great. One thing we did not do was replace the ice and rock salt partway through the process, and we ended up with a milkshake instead of ice cream! But that didn't stop us from eating it (or rather drinking it!) and enjoying it. But I bet if you put new ice and rock salt in halfway through the rolling process, you'll have thicker ice cream.

Here is Campground Ice Cream in action:

Enjoying the finished product...
So, Benjamin, how did you like it?
The look says it all!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Comparison Game

Do you ever find yourself comparing you to someone else, and find you coming up short? Like someone who has a bigger house than you? Or can afford nicer vacations than you? Or looks cuter in an outfit than you could ever look? Or finds time in her days to do twice the amount of fun things that you are able to do, and she has twice as many kids as you do? Or does a better job of teaching her kids their alphabet or memorizing Bible verses? Or cooks her family meals that are ten times healthier than the ones you cook your family?

I do.

It doesn't take too much effort to find myself smack dab in the middle of the comparison game. And when I do that, I always end up on the short end of the comparison. Funny how that works, isn't it?

But it doesn't take long before I remember that I am who I am because I am who God made me to be. If I were just like so and so or whoever it is I am comparing myself to, then I wouldn't be the unique, fearfully, and wonderfully made child of God that I am meant to be.

Also, when I do find myself in the midst of that comparison game, I'm basically saying that I don't think that me, that fearfully and wonderfully made child of the God who doesn't make mistakes, is not good enough. So did God mess up when He designed me? Or you? I think not.

If you find yourself thinking you just don't measure up, remember this:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8.3-5

Did you catch that? A little lower than the heavenly beings?? Crowned with GLORY and HONOR??

I'd say that maybe I'm okay afterall. And so are you!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy 4th!

There's not much that makes my heart swell to overflowing faster than a great picture with my kids. Probably because outside of being a wife, being a Mommy is the most joyful thing I've ever done. Being a Mommy is truly a dream come true. God saw fit to send me these two precious little ones, and thought I don't deserve them, I'm so glad He did. So my plans for the 4th of July are to just enjoy the heck out of my sweet family. Mark took off yesterday, today and tomorrow, and we just plan to have fun together while he's off. I'll do no work and little housework--only what is a must to get us by. And while we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in this great country of ours, I'll also be celebrating the "fireworks" that light up my life everyday!!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Merry Maids?

My mom taught me at an early age the basics of keeping house. Some of those lessons were just part of the raising we received; some of those lessons, though, were out of necessity. My mom had two major kidney surgeries when the three of us kids were still pretty young, so my sister and I needed to be able to do much of the work around the house while she was recuperating. Then when I was in junior high, my mom went to Europe with her mom and her sister for almost a month. My sister had a summer babysitting job, and my brother went to the farm with my dad every day, so the house was pretty much left for me to take care of--doing laundry, cleaning house, making the grocery list, cooking lunch and dinner everyday for my family, etc.

(A little aside here: one of my favorite funny memories of Mom being gone was when my dad took us grocery shopping. My sister and I had made the list, and then Dad took us kids to the store to buy what we needed. I remember whispering to my sister that Dad was going to have a fit when he saw how much the groceries cost--not because our list was exorbitant or anything, but because Mom did the grocery shopping and Dad was not really in touch with what things cost. Sure enough, in the check out line, Dad about had a cow when he saw the final tally of the contents of our shopping cart! You probably just had to be there to think it was funny, but my sister and I had a good laugh about it afterwards!)

I've always been very grateful that my mom taught me so well how to keep house, and I want to teach these things to both of my kids early on. I've often read and now know by experience that small children enjoy being given some responsibilities. My kids--who are almost 4 and 2 years old--put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket, put their shoes away in their closets where they belong, pick up their toys and books at the end of the day, and now are learning to clear their own dishes from the table, throw away what needs to be thrown away, and then put them in the sink. I don't want to have to "teach" them these things when they get older and have them think they are somehow being punished with "chores". I want them to know early on that this is just a part of life and part of their responsibility as members of our family.

Often when I vacuum, Benjamin and Hannah are right beside me with their "vacuums"--Benjamin with his mini-Dirt Devil, and Hannah with her little popper push toy. Benjamin now likes to get my small vacuum--a light-weight rechargeable one--and really and truly help me clean the floors. It makes me smile when they do this, but it also makes me glad that they want to help.

And, deep down inside, if I am totally honest with you, it makes me jump up and down with joy thinking that in a few years, I can have them believing it's Mommy's job to sit in her favorite chair and read a book while they clean the house! Okay, not really! But I do like knowing I have two good helpers in the making!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Princess Girl

She's my Princess Girl. I try to tell her that at least once a day.

"Are you my Princess Girl?" I ask her.

"Yes," she replies, that sweet smile spreading across her face.

I never want her to doubt for a minute how special she is.

I give her a bath tonight, washing the snow cone syrup from her face and hair. I comb the tangles from her chin-length strawberry blonde hair. Then the moment she's been waiting for all evening--I put her new, long pink nightgown over her head and let it fall almost to her ankles. The ruffles at the hem just make the gown. The more girlie, the better, in my book. The first thing she does in her new nightgown--the first thing most of us did as little girls in a new nightgown--is hold the sides of it out and start twirling. It makes me smile, because I can so clearly remember doing that myself when I was small. I'm certain at this moment that she knows she is a Princess.

After one last drink of milk, we brush her teeth, and then settle into the rocking chair for prayers and a few Bible stories. I finish reading, close the Bible, and as I set it aside, she says, "I want to rock." So we snuggle in a little tighter--my arms around her, her head on my chest. I pat her back, she pats my chest. We rock silently for a few minutes. Then breaking the silence, she looks up at me, puts her finger to my lips, and says, "I love you, Mommy."

"I love you, too," I reply.

It's moments like these that I don't think my Mommy heart can hold any more love. No words can do the moment justice.

I lay her in her bed and cover her up with her girlie pink ruffled quilt. I kiss her goodnight, turn on her music, and quietly close her door.

My cup runneth over.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Celebrating with Cake and Crocs

I celebrated my 32nd birthday Thursday. Thus far, birthdays have not bothered me--this one was no different. I know my sister struggled with 25; many struggle with 30. My thought has always been "it's just a number." I know that mindset could change, but for now, I'm okay with whatever my "number" happens to be.

My birthday celebration began a little bit early. Mark wanted us to have a night away to celebrate, so we were telling this to the kids Wednesday evening over dinner. We explained that we would be going away for my birthday, and that Granny Sue would be coming to stay with them. Benjamin got the most disappointed look on his face, and said, "But I wanted to have some of your birthday cake." Being almost 4, he envisioned my birthday being every bit as involved as his--cake, decorations, the works. Well, being 32, there were no cake plans in the works, so I said to Mark in code that maybe we needed to go to the bakery real quickly and get a cake for us to all share so that Benjamin wouldn't be disappointed. (I absolutely LOVE birthday cake with lots of icing, so how convenient to use Benjamin as an excuse to have a cake!) So as I cleaned up the kitchen, off Mark and Benjamin went to "secretly" get Mommy a birthday cake. Not only did the boys come back with a cake that said "Happy Birthday, Mommy" (Benjamin was so proud that he had told them what to put on the cake and got to watch them write it!), but they came back with these:

I love, love, love flowers, so I was thrilled to have some fresh flowers to enjoy for the next several days!

My birthday celebration also involved a HUGE waffle bowl with an ice cream concoction from Cold Stone Creamery, eating out at my favorite restaurant, sleeping late in a hotel, and these:

I've heard people rave about their Crocs for months now, but I could never get over how not-attractive they were to want to try a pair. Then along came the flip-flops, so I was intrigued. With the exception of our bedrooms and dining room, the floor of our house is all tile, which necessitates me wearing some kind of footwear at all times or else my feet and back complain. I had thought that the Croc flip flops might be a great thing for wearing around the house, but had never gone and bought them for myself. Well, seeing as how I have such a sweet husband, he bought them for me! I had my choice of colors, and there were some that were more fun than black, but I knew black would go with more. I am now IN LOVE with these flip flops and will probably soon be going back to get another pair!

When Mark and I returned from our night away, these were waiting for me:

My sweet brother-in-law and sister-in-law sent these to me for my big day. I now have beautiful fresh flowers to enjoy in my bedroom and my entry way! I feel a bit spoiled!

It's fun to be queen for a day, but I guess it's now back to the real world with bills, a dirty house, and laundry. But I am thankful to have another year of life full of blessings to look forward to, and I can't wait to see the adventures that are ahead for my 32nd year! I have a feeling that some of the best adventures of the year will involve


What more could I ask for?!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Weary Travellers

Whew! We have been out of town for the past eight days. We left a week ago Sunday and returned home last night.

Our trip began with Mark attending a church conference about 4 hours from home. I was able to get together with some friends in the area, and then the kids and I did a lot of "hanging out" at the hotel while Mark went to all of his meetings. Fortunately, Benjamin and Hannah thought simply staying in a hotel was an adventure in itself!! That is one thing you can count on with little ones--they don't require lots of bells and whistles to have a good time!

After the conference, we drove another hour to spend some time with my family. I have a nephew that is almost a year older than Benjamin, and they always have a good time when they are together. My dad has put new swings on the old swing set that I had growing up, so it's fun to watch my kids have fun in the same yard that I knew as a child.

A few days later, it was on to my in-laws for some time with them. One of my favorite things about visiting my in-laws is getting to use their whirlpool bathtub! Nice, relaxing, hot baths are a favorite, rare treat for me, especially with two toddlers. I wasn't able to enjoy the "relaxing" part of that treat since Benjamin and Hannah were both standing by the tub as I soaked, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless! Another treat on that leg of the trip was attending my in-law's church and getting to sit beside Mark during the service. That may not sound like a big deal to most of you, but it is for me. Since his "regular" place at church is in the pulpit, it's usually just Benjamin and me in our pew.

Then yesterday, we packed up and headed home, arriving yesterday evening.

In case you didn't pick up on it, this trip required packing, unpacking, packing, unpacking, packing, unpacking, packing, and finally unpacking for the final time here at home. And the clothes we needed for the first leg of our trip were different than those we needed for the rest of the trip, so I couldn't be so efficient as to pack 3 or 4 outfits for each of us and then just wash the rest of the trip. So there was, um, LOTS to pack and unpack! (It's hard work to be away from home with two little ones!! I knew that already, but boy was I reminded of that fact this week!)

Needless to say, I am behind on all of the events and happenings of many of you, my bloggy friends, and still have some good, quality sleep to catch up on. In a few days, I'll have the bills paid, the laundry caught up, things will be settled down and we'll be back into our routine. Then maybe I can resume life in the blogging world.

So, I'll see you all in a few days!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Eight Things About Me

I've been tagged with my first meme ever by my new East Coast friend at Investing in Eternity! I am so excited! For those of you who may not know what a "meme" is, it's simply an idea transmitted from person to person, like a virus. Basically, it's just a topic that someone gives you to write a blog post about. I've read memes on lots of different topics, but this particular one is simply eight random things about me.

Here are the rules: Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged write a blog post about their own 8 random things and post these rules. At the end of your blog, you need to tag 8 people and post their names. Don't forget to leave them a comment and tell them they're tagged and to read your blog.

So, here are eight random facts about me:
  1. My husband and I recently celebrated our 7th anniversary. Mark is the love of my life, and I am so blest that God chose me to be his wife! He loves the Lord, loves me, and loves our kids. Besides being a terrific husband, he's a fantastic daddy! Some of the fabulous things he does includes playing with the kids every evening when he gets home; washing the sheets every Friday; ironing his own clothes (he used to iron mine, too, until kids came along--I guess he decided if he did mine, he'd have to do theirs, too, and that would be a bit much!); always takes the trash out (in 7 years, I don't think I've EVER had to ask him to take out the trash!); and unloads the dishwasher as often, if not more often, than I do. (BTW, don't tell him I told you guys this--he might think it's his little secret!!) But I digress...this was supposed to be about ME!
  2. Being a wife and mommy is a dream come true for me. For as long as I can remember, when someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, no matter what I actually told them, my heart ALWAYS said, "I want to be a wife and mommy."
  3. I am 6' 1". Being tall has its advantages and its disadvantages. Growing up, my mom never needed a ladder to get dishes down from the top shelf or to change a light bulb--she just called me! As a teenager, I always said the two disadvantages to being tall were finding a boyfriend taller than me (which I rarely did) and finding pants that were long enough. Now that I'm married, I don't have to worry about the boyfriend thing--just the pants. That's why I LOVE capris!
  4. One of my biggest pet peeves is someone leaving a stinky, sour dishrag in my kitchen sink. This really makes me crazy!
  5. Another of my pet peeves is when someone does not return their shopping cart to the "shopping cart corral" in the parking lot of stores. I know that there are exceptions, but for the most part, I see this as just being lazy. I don't know very many people who get the exercise they need each day (including myself!), so a few extra steps to put the shopping cart where it belongs is not going to kill anyone! Again, this makes me really crazy! OK, I'll step down from my soap box now.
  6. The past couple of weeks, I've finally gotten back into a good routine with my morning quiet time, and I'm loving it! I get up at 6:30 am, which is about an hour before everyone else, fix a cup of hot tea while listening to praise and worship on my iPod (one of the greatest inventions ever!), light my candle, and watch the sun rise as I read my Bible and say good morning to my Father. A fabulous way to start the day!
  7. I have a funny little habit of having to put lotion on my feet every night before going to sleep. I keep my lotion in my nightstand drawer and "grease my feet" as Mark calls it, before I turn out my light. I never thought much about this, but Mark thought it was quite quirky when we got married. He loves to give me grief about it!
  8. Last but not least, I get to go on a date with my husband tonight--complete with a real babysitter and everything! I'm so excited!! Our plans are to eat at Outback (Mark's choice), then go shopping so I can spend the gift certificates that I got for Mother's Day. Oh, back to #1: Mark doesn't mind shopping with me, and he has good taste! What more can I say!!

OK, I'm not sure that I have 8 bloggers to tag, but I will tag these (if you are reading this and you did not get tagged by me, by all means go for it--the more, the merrier! Just leave me a comment that you participated, and I'll link to your post!):

Deidre at "For Such a Time as This"

Rhonda at "A Mother's Heart"

Kim at "Lifesong"

Stacey at "A Measure of Grace"

I'm off to get ready for my date with Prince Charming! Have a great weekend!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Dance With Your Daddy

I did a class at our church yesterday morning for our junior high girls and their moms entitled "Spiritual Beauty: Secrets to Being a Godly Girl." I talked to them about inner beauty and outer beauty and more than anything wanted to convey to them how special and perfect and beautiful they are to God. As I was praying and preparing for this, God gave me an idea to start out our time together. I gave each girl and mom a 3x5 card and asked them to write on the front of the card five things they liked about themselves and on the back, five things they didn't like so much about themselves. I was then going to go into some of the lies society tells us and then what the truth is based on God's word. I fully expected it to be easier for the girls to come up with the five things they didn't like about themselves than it was to come up with the five things they liked about themselves. Sure enough, that is what happened.

But what I didn't expect to happen was that the moms had as much trouble or even more than the girls in coming up with five things that they liked about themselves. I heard comments such as, "I can't think of five things I like about me. Why couldn't you have asked us to come up with just two or three?" I was reminded that this is not just an issue for pre-teen and teenage girls--that we as adult women struggle sometimes in realizing the value and worth that we have, especially in the eyes of our Creator. So I'm going to share with you some of what I shared with these girls and their moms, and I hope that you are reminded just how precious you are in His sight!

Here are some things God says about YOU in the Word:
  • "YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL." You grew up and became a beautiful jewel. Ezekiel 16:7
  • "YOU ARE HONORED." You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Isaiah 43:4
  • "YOU ARE TREASURED." The Lord your God has chosen you to be His own special treasure. Deuteronomy 7:6
  • "YOU ARE ONE OF A KIND." I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born I set you apart. Jeremiah 1:5
  • "YOU ARE PRECIOUS." The Lord's loved ones are precious to him. Psalm 116:15
  • "YOU ARE LOVED." For he loves us with unfailing love. Psalm 117:2

In her book "Do You Think I'm Beautiful?" Angela Thomas writes this:

“The God who slung the stars across the heavens…that God, the King, has always been taken with you. You have been noticed. He thinks you’re beautiful, the glass slipper fits, the music is playing, and He’s asking you to dance.”

The King of Kings is our Daddy, and, girls, that makes us Princesses! Don't let anyone or anything tell you differently. So grab your tiara and get ready to dance the night away in the arms of your Daddy.

He's waiting just for YOU.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Lots To Do

I've been playing catch up this morning after what seems like a whirlwind during the past few weeks. Part of that catch up was going to be posting on my blog--I haven't done that since this whirlwind began several days ago while preparing for Hannah's birthday party. So I've been mulling around in my head this morning what I wanted to post about and how I could squeeze all the events of the past few weeks into one post.

My thoughts started out centered around the whirlwind itself:

  • we celebrated my daughter's birthday last weekend, so you know the plans and preparations that went into the party and having family here;
  • then I spent the following days preparing to be gone from Thursday until Sunday night for a women's retreat that I was helping with. Those preparations included wrapping up some business; packing everything I would need while I was gone; cooking and freezing and making menus so my family could eat during that time; making schedules and leaving instructions for Mark and my in-laws, who would be caring for the kids while I was gone; and getting all the laundry done
  • then came the weekend itself--me, totally immersed in over 72 hours of the retreat, all the while not getting much sleep (and missing my family--I've never left my kids for that long!!); and my family, just going through those hours and days without Mommy
  • and now, after me being home for not even a day, Mark has left for a meeting of a board that he serves on and won't be home until tomorrow night; and
  • I have lots of laundry, unpacking, and other various things that need to be done to make up for being gone for a few days.

Oh yes, and yesterday was our 7th anniversary, which we managed to celebrate by exchanging cards and promising to make plans soon for a night away to really celebrate.

Whew. What a whirlwind. So that was where my thought were centered.

Then Mark called to let me know that he had come up with the devotional that he would be bringing at the beginning of his meeting today. His scripture? "Be still, and know that I am God." I usually just think about the "be still" part of this scripture, which is important, but it also has a second part that doesn't need to be overlooked: "know that I am God." So, I'm not only supposed to slow down, I'm supposed to trust in who God is.


So for today, as I try to end this whirlwind that seems to have been non-stop for a few weeks, I will apply this scripture in this way. I will resist my urge to be overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. I'll start some laundry, but if it doesn't all get done today, I'll remember that there is always tomorrow. I'll begin unpacking, but if everything doesn't find its way back to its appropriate drawer, closet, etc. today, the world won't come to an end because of it. I'll slowly reintroduce myself to the work that is waiting for me, but not try to accomplish it all in the next 24 hours. I'll do what I can to catch up on some much-needed rest and not feel guilty about it. In short, I'll trust in God and let Him make my to-do list for the day.

If I could actually see the list He has for me, I have a feeling it would start something like this:

"1. Love on Benjamin and Hannah. They've missed their mommy the past few days."
Their mommy has missed them, too.

So, I better get busy. I've got lots of loving to do today.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Thoughts From a Mommy

My baby turns two tomorrow. Oh my word. I cannot believe it's been two years since we brought that little bundle of joy home from the hospital! I was so excited to have a little girl to be girlie with--and still am! Having Hannah just seemed to complete our little family--one boy, one girl, perfect. At least for now. We'll see if God agrees.

I've had a couple of moments with Hannah lately that have given me glimpses of what might be around the corner in the years to come. A few days ago, I was sitting in the middle of the living room floor, sorting through some boxes that had just come from the UPS man. Hannah "found" me and then promptly went back to her room to get her big, fluffy, pink pillow. She plopped it down beside me, plopped herself down on her tummy, rested her arms on the pillow, and then just looked up at me, as if she were primed for conversation. And she's getting to be enough of a talker that you can actually have a conversation of sorts with her. So there we sat, us girls, talking about what she had done at Children's Day Out that day, which of her friends were there, and any other exciting thing either of us could think of. It brings tears to my eyes just telling you about it (I know, I get awfully sappy when my children's birthdays roll around!) because it was just so sweet. It was as if God gave me a little preview of moments I have to look forward to as Hannah grows up into a little lady. It is one of my hearts strongest desires to keep that line of communication between me and my kids open as they grow up. I always want them to know they can share things with me about their lives, ask me questions, and tell me their secrets.

Hannah also is very curious about my makeup these days. As I'm getting ready in the mornings, she looks in my drawer full of makeup and says, "What's this, Mommy? What's this, Mommy? What's this, Mommy?" And I think, oh how much fun we will have together, playing makeup, painting our nails, and doing all those fun, girlie things! (But for now, I have a safety lock handy because I want to play makeup on my terms, not hers.)

Sometime tonight, if I get the house cleaned, the laundry done, the presents wrapped, and the decorations put up, I'll sit down at the computer and write Hannah her 2nd Birthday Letter. I started this with Benjamin and am continuing it with Hannah. I write letters to them on their birthdays and any other big occasion that comes up, telling them about their life as it is now, telling them how much I love them, telling them whatever it is I want them to know. Then someday, when they turn 18, or 21, or 47, or whenever, I'll give them all to them as a book of memories about their lives and about my privilege of being their Mommy. I'm pondering sharing the letter with you guys. I'll have to think about it--sharing it may be too personal, but it would also be a fun way for you to know more about my little princess and her second year of life.

But I will share this with you, since we are on the subject of my little princess. I took this a few weeks ago. Aren't they sweet when they are sleeping? My mommy's heart just melts every time I look at it. And I get teary. Because that's what I do when my kids' birthday's come around.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007

"This is Going to be Good"

I read the blogs of several wonderful Christian women who provide me with such wisdom, insight, laughter, and comfort on a daily basis. I've spent the last several minutes visiting several of them to read their thoughts on this Good Friday. It's been a blessing to see so many different thoughts on this day that means so much to us as Christians.

Last night, our church had a Maundy Thursday service that God used to really touch my heart. I went to bed Wednesday night with a heavy heart because it suddenly hit me that I had been too busy this week to stop and prepare my heart for Easter in the way that I would have wanted to. I allowed the worries of my everyday life to overshadow what is the most important time in the Christian year. So I went to the Maundy Thursday service last night with a strong desire for God to touch me and prepare me in the way He wanted for these days leading up to Easter. And, as you know, God never disappoints!

We had some beautiful music interwoven with touching scripture passages, and then we all filed down to our Fellowship Hall to partake of communion in a special setting. We were seated at tables of 12--representative of Jesus' last supper with His 12 disciples. We were served by a man dressed in attire appropriate for that day, and our meal was lit only by candlelight at our tables. It was a blessed time.

As Benjamin and I were filing down to the Fellowship Hall with the rest of the congregation, he was very curious about what we were doing. He kept asking me 20 questions in his little boy whisper voice, and I struggled to balance the reverance of the moment and the innocent questions of a very curious 3 year old. As he realized we were going to have "bread and juice", he became very excited, almost jumping up and down. Then he looked at me and said, "Oh, Mommy! This is going to be good!" My heart thought, oh baby, if you only could understand how good it really is.

Benjamin sat beside me at our table of 12, and as we waited to be served, he was still very curious and excited. We were directed to break off our piece of bread and take our cup, but to hold them and not partake of them yet. For a little boy who loves having "bread and juice," that was almost torturous. So when we finally ate our bread and drank from our cup, he took his almost ravenously, as if he couldn't eat it or drink it fast enough. As Benjamin drank his juice from that tiny cup, he was practically gulping it. It took him several drinks to take it all in, where I usually just swallow it in one swallow. As I observed him doing that, I thought, that is how I want to take in God's grace--not casually drinking it down with one swallow and then moving on. But gulping it down, ravenously, excitedly, not able to take it in fast enough. The good thing is this--God's grace is indeed abundant enough for us to gulp it down, and the cup never runs dry.

Good Friday is always a sad day as I remember all that Christ endured for you and for me. But what always gets me through is knowing that Sunday is coming! There's such hope and joy in knowing that the story doesn't end today. Walking into worship on Easter Sunday almost overwhelms me with the joy and excitement, gratitude and thanksgiving that is in my heart for our Savior.

Yes, Benjamin, this is, indeed, going to be good!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Oh, My!

This is my son, Benjamin's, room. Note the books on the shelf, toys against the wall, pillows and things on the window seat. The lighting is not great, but I'm sure you get the picture.

This is also Benjamin's room. Note: there are NO books on the bookshelves, NO toys against the wall, NOTHING on the window seat. Again, not great lighting, but did your eyebrows raise up into your hairline like mine did when I saw this room? And, no, I'm not going overboard in my participation in any of the Spring Cleaning Challenges that are floating around in blogland right now. This is what I found this morning after the kids had their playtime in their rooms, as they do every morning. When their time was up, Benjamin came to me and very excitedly said, "Mommy! Come look at my room! I cleaned it!" And just where did all his stuff go, you ask? That was my first question as well. Here's the answer: the closet.

Those of you who know me know that this is the sort of thing that has the potential to send me into orbit!! Yes, every book he owns, along with all extra pillows and stuffed animals, his piano, his guitar, his piano stool, his step stool, and many, many, many other various toys and things were all on the floor of his closet in ONE BIG MESS! Thankfully, all I did was laugh (and go get my camera--no way was I going to miss this one!) and shake my head at him. Oh, dear Lord, help me keep laughing because the alternative wouldn't be pretty! So after snapping these shots to share with all of you, we began unpiling his closet and putting everything back in its rightful place.

Goodness knows what I would have found to do with my time this morning had Benjamin not "cleaned" his room!

(I feel the need to defend myself a bit: Benjamin did NOT learn this method of cleaning from me! My Type A/OCD/whatever-you-want-to-call-it personality does not allow me to clean a room by stuffing everything in a closet. For this I am thankful. Otherwise my mental state would be much worse than it currently is. And that would not be pretty!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My Dad

My dad turned 60 last week, so to celebrate, we spent the weekend with my family and gave him a big birthday party with lots of friends and family. We had tons of fun, and Dad enjoyed it, so it was all just great! During the 3+ hour drive there and the 3+ hour drive home, I had plenty of time to think about Dad. Here's some of my favorite things about my dad:
  • his voice--When my sister and I were of dating age, Dad's voice would always put the fear of God in the boys that might want to call us. It is very deep, and though it may not have always been his intent to put that fear into those boys, I'm sure he thought it never hurt!
  • his mechanical skills--We had trouble with our car on our trip to see my family this weekend, so Dad rearranged his schedule to spend the better part of one morning working on our car. An hour or so of work, a trip into town for a new battery, and another hour or so of work, and our car was good as new! Oh, and I might add that part of that work was done in the rain. On his day off. Thanks, Dad!
  • his sense of humor--Part of the work Dad did on our car, he did with a 3 1/2 year old grandson right by his side asking him, "Granddad, why....? Well, Granddad, why....? Oh. Why? Granddad, why...?"
  • his heart--When some people, men especially, might have allowed some tough blows from life to cause them to be bitter and harsh, Dad chose to allow it to make him better. To make him more sensitive. To make his eyes well up with tears at the drop of a hat. To make him love his family even more than ever.

Happy 60th Birthday, Dad! I love you.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bits and Pieces

A few random thoughts on our life lately:
  • I am loving that Spring is here!! One evening last week, I packed a picnic supper, and we all four headed to the park. It's amazing how "gourmet" a ham and cheese sandwich becomes to the kids when eating it at a picnic table at the park. It was such a fun evening of being together and enjoying this sweet little family that God has blessed me with! Benjamin is already asking for us to do it again!

  • Speaking of Benjamin...a few nights ago, he ran by Mark and me as we sat visiting at the kitchen bar, and very casually (and with a big smile) said, "Mommy, I don't have any underwear on." My first thought was he had an "accident" and maybe was on his way to get a new pair. So I asked if that was the case. "No," he again very casually answered. My mind raced to figure out what was going on here, remembering all the errands we had run that day, and trying not to fall off my stool, I said, "So, did you put any underwear on when you got dressed this morning?" "No," came his reply. Acting like this was an everyday occurrence and no reason for me to blow a gasket at my son running around town all day with no underwear on, I said, "So, why did you not put any underwear on when you got dressed this morning?" His reply was, "Hmmm, well, because it's a special day!" I had no idea.

  • Another fun thing that we've recently done was attend the carnival last weekend that was in town for our fair city's annual celebration. Now you have to understand the magnitude of this. Ever since last year's event, Benjamin has been completely enamored with carnivals and Ferris wheels, and to have it back in town was nothing short of a miracle for this 3-year-old. After making daily, and sometimes twice daily, visits to the carnival site during its construction, we actually got to go to the carnival and see it in all its "glory". Aside from the fact that it was way too expensive and I'm way too cheap to spend much on tickets when my kids are 3 1/2 and not quite 2, it was fun just to see the kids take it all in, with all its bright lights and activity. Again, it made for a fun family night out. But then again, we can go to Wal Mart together and have a fun night out! (Seriously. I hope that's not too sick and demented. I think that's called life with toddlers and any event to get us out of the house is fun.)

Anything else that I would post about our recent happenings would revolve around the sicknesses that seem to be hanging around our house way too much, so I won't bore you with details. Let's just suffice it to say that the kids and I were home from church today for the third time in the last four weeks.

I will close on a positive note by sharing with you the scripture that has been on my mind this week, and frankly has gotten me through these days of dealing with what seems like our never-ending sicknesses:

Psalm 54.4: Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

May God sustain you and bless you in the week ahead.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Silver Lining

Do you remember when you were sick as a kid, and there were always perks that went along with whatever ailed you? Like missing school, unlimited TV, free-flowing Sprite, 24-hour room service (or couch service), or, as was the case for us, your choice of music on the car radio on the way to the doctor. Those were the days, huh?

Well, after being in bed all weekend with bronchitis, I discovered there are still some perks that go along with being sick even when you are a mommy. Now, these perks have to be weighed against the fact that you will now be even further behind than you were when you got sick and your kids will get to watch way too much TV because their whining drives their daddy crazy, and....the list goes on. But, you have to find that silver lining in the cloud or it's just no fun.

So, what are the "grown up" perks of being sick, you ask? Well...
  • Guilt-free napping. Forget the fact that I was too tired to lift my head up off the pillow to have options of what I could be doing, but still, it was guilt-free!
  • Room service. Never mind that it involved a Wendy's hamburger and french fries. For whatever reason, I was absolutely famished, so it tasted like fancy cuisine. And I didn't have to fix it. Or get out of bed to get it. Or take care of my dishes afterwards. Enough said.
  • Guilt-free TV viewing. OK, so this was only after the first day or day and a half. Before that, I couldn't keep my eyes open to watch anything.

And one of the best perks of being sick as a mommy? Hearing your sweet husband say, "Things just don't go as well without you."

Enough said.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

"Mommy, Where's Heaven?"

This was the question posed to me by Benjamin on our way to church this morning. Completely out of the blue. I don't even think the Veggie Tales that play repeatedly any time my car is in "Drive" had mentioned heaven in their songs up to that point. Seeing as how our commute from home to church is all of, say, four minutes, I knew that was not long enough to do justice to the topic of heaven.

So I said to Benjamin, "Well, Sweetie, heaven is waaay up in the sky."

Benjamin: "So can we go there?"

Me: "Sure...."

Benjamin: "How?"

Me: "Wellllll..." (by this time, we are half way there, so I SURE can't answer this one in full in 2 minutes or less)

Benjamin: "Maybe in a space ship."

Me: "Okaaaay...."

Benjamin: "But we'd probably need to go buy space suits, too. Because our faces might get dusty if there's clouds."

Me: "Good idea, Sweetie."

Benjamin: "Mommy, be sure and tell Daddy what I said when we get to church."

Me: "Oh, don't worry--I'll be sure to!"

Hopefully the next time Benjamin brings up the subject of heaven, we can spend a little more time on the subject. Until then, I'll sit back and marvel at the thought processes and imagination of a precious three year old!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I took part in a bridal extravaganza event on this past weekend. As a vendor, not a participant. Been there. Done that. Don't plan to do it again.

During my time at the event, I had plenty of time to observe the brides-to-be, the mothers of the brides-to-be, and all the other various folks the brides drug to this event. And in these observations, I thought of several things.

First of all, as the saying goes, it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round. I saw everything from girls with their "Bride" nametags on that made me question whether they were even of legal age, let alone old enough to marry, to a "Bride" that could have passed for a grandmother. And she seemed just as innocent and giddy and excited as those who were of the "usual" marrying age (if there is a "usual"). I love that. My husband was 38 when we married--never married before. So I have a soft spot in my heart for those who have to wait a little longer than others to meet their "perfect match." Of course, Mark says his excuse is that he had to wait for me to grow up (he's 13 years older than me!!).

I was also reminded that some brides and grooms enter marriage with so much more to deal with than which way the toilet paper hangs or what is the right way to dispense toothpaste. I saw so many brides-to-be pushing strollers and feeding babies while deciding which photographer to use or what they wanted their flowers to be like. My heart breaks for these girls. I know several ladies who began their married life that way and now have a great marriage and are wonderful moms, but I know that is more the exception than the rule. The three years that Mark and I had together before children were such fun, and I wouldn't trade that time for the world.

More than anything, though, I was reminded of what a special time in life that is. How exciting it is to see that engagement ring on your finger and to be willing to get frostbite in your fingers before putting on gloves in the winter just so that no one will miss seeing it. How fun it is to try on so many beautiful gowns that make you feel like a princess--and to be treated like one in the process. How blessed it is to have treasured friends and family by your side during one of the most special times in your life. And how overwhelmingly blessed it is to begin walking down that aisle, towards your Prince Charming, and to realize that all those little girl dreams are finally coming true and that all those prayers are indeed being answered.

God is so good.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday Morning Tradition

I grew up in a church-going home. Not a "we all go to the same church" church-going home, mind you. But we all went. Every Sunday. Unless sick or snowed in. It was not an option.

I am thankful for that.

My dad grew up in the Catholic church, and my mom grew up a Baptist preacher's kid, now turned Methodist. So when they married, I guess they made the decision to "agree to disagree" and continued going to their own churches. (Though that is a story I've never heard--I'll have to ask about that!) I knew from early on that that was not what I wanted for my family one day, but it worked for them, and I don't think any of us are any worse off for it. At least we grew up knowing that church was where you were supposed to be on Sunday mornings.

Even when I went off to college, I don't remember very many Sundays of not being in church. College introduced me to the heartaches of "real life" very quickly, so my faith began growing roots of its own about the time that some kids begin rebelling against the religion they were raised with. So, though it took some "church hunting" to find the place I felt comfortable in to worship, I think I was in church most Sundays, even in those days.

What I didn't know during all of this was that God was molding me to be a preacher's wife--a privilege and joy that comes only after that of being a wife and a mother. At our wedding, the pastor, who is a good friend to us both, said these words to me:

"Karen, God has called you to share in a very special way in ministry, and your job is just as important as that which Mark is doing in his ministry. And the gift that God has given you--the talents, the joy, the love--will go a long way in completing his ministry and building a marriage that will be an inspiration to others..."

I very humbly took these words seriously and keep them on a notecard inside my Bible as a reminder to me of what God has called me to as a preacher's wife. Being in church every Sunday took on a new role and responsibility when I married Mark--that of encourager and cheerleader in addition to what you usually go to church for. It is a great blessing for me to sit in just the right pew so that whether he's sitting down or standing in the pulpit, I can catch his eye and give him a smile of encouragement and love.

It is because of this that I miss it even more when I can't be in church on a Sunday like today. I miss that "filling up" that we all need each week to keep our spiritual tanks full in order to get us through our week. But I also miss getting to be my husband's supporter and biggest fan--you need one of those as a preacher, you know. So I just have to know that I'm here at home this morning, rocking and doctoring sick babies, where I need to be. This is where my encouragement and love need to be today. And I know Mark understands. And I know He understands.

But I still miss being there.

(For the record, I've missed more Sundays at church since having kids than I've ever missed in my whole life!!)