March 30, 2013

Oh, This Week!

This has been a weird week.  I don't really know how else to describe it!  I got home a day later than I was anticipating from our conference due to tiredness and weather.  I think that has kind of thrown my whole week off. 

I decided before I even got home that, with all the activities planned for Easter this week, we would take a spring break and just enjoy each other and enjoy our preparations and celebrations.   But, of course, things don't always go as planned.

I am not sure why, but this has just been an off week for me.  I just couldn't get over the complete exhaustion from the weekend, not matter how hard I tried.  Of course, this made me one cranky momma. Oh, my poor children who had to deal with grumpy me all week.  I just couldn't seem to get past it.  And when I would sit down and to read my Bible and pray, it was like nothing was really sinking in or getting through.  I felt so lost, claustrophobic almost.  This was so not how I wanted this week to be.  I wanted it to be a week of laughter, joy, and anticipation of Resurrection Sunday, but it was quickly becoming clear that it was going to be a week of tears and aggravation!  (Of course, we did have lots of fun moments in between, just more non-fun moments than I was hoping for!)

But, God is so good because even in the midst of that, He showed up.  I have really been struggling with how to do some fun, exciting things and celebrate the true reason for Easter all at the same time, and still not really knowing what to do.  I don't know about you, but the kids and I love dying eggs, any time of the year.  Grandma Carol came over, we got out the cups and the Kool-Aid, and went to work dying our eggs.  As we were watching the eggs change color, the Lord reminded me that we aren't that much different than those eggs sitting in that Kool-Aid.  The longer we spend surrounded by anything or anyone (good or bad) the more we begin to look like that thing or person.  So, if we want to look like Christ, we must spend time in His word, in prayer, and with his people.  The kids and I had a great talk about this.  We talked about why it was so important that we choose close friends who love God and want to be like Him, too.  Yes, we must take His truth and the Gospel to those who don't love or believe in God, but our closest friends should be those who will encourage us to seek Him and will help us to continue to strive to be more like Him.  Not sure they totally got it...or that the comparison works on a deep level, but I hope that God will use it to help us all see that we need more time with Him!

We also had some friends over and did a Passover Seder this week.  I love the symbolism in everything Jewish!  Anyway, it went much better than I expected, even though I know many points were lost on the kids, I can't help but believe that as we continue this tradition each year, God will reveal a little more of Himself to us each time.  Lord, thank you for being the Passover Lamb. Thank You for giving us a way to remember all that You've done in the past to save and redeem us, and all that You will do in the future to bring us home. 

We also have some changes coming up in our fast.  The month of April was going to be our fast from TV, but, we have some exciting news!  Our friends, Jennifer and Jeremy Humiston, who are doing this fast with us, will now be spending about 10 days in April on a mission trip in Africa (they'll be serving some missionaries there, as well as getting to spend some time with their son, David, who will hopefully be coming home to Hannibal by the end of the summer)'ve decided to postpone the TV fast until June, since they will be gone for part of April and wouldn't be able to really do the fast together.  For April, we will be focusing gathering 300 pairs of Dollar Store reading glasses to send with missionaries Crisit and Michelle Harlea when they head to Romania this summer.  They will host an eye clinic where they will give away the glasses along with Romanian New Testaments.  You'll be seeing more information about this in the coming weeks!

I am also going to do something else in April, that God really laid on my heart this week as I was feeling so detached and grumpy.  This is actually something that I was going to do in May along with our Sabbath days, but I think April is a great time to do it, especially on the heels of this crazy week.  I am going to be intentional about stopping in the midst of my day at least twice (other than my normal morning devotion and prayer time) to pray.  I am planning to make these prayer times at 10 a.m. (which would be right in the midst of either house cleaning or school, so I know it will be hard and uncomfortable for me to do) and 8 p.m. (this is when Kevin is putting the kids to bed and I am usually using that time to be on the computer checking facebook or pinterest or reading blogs, which is such a stress relief for me at the end of the day, so it will be hard for me to give that up!)  Would you like to join me?  You can start with just one extra, intentional prayer time, or more than that if you want.  Choose any time that you want and prayer for whatever the Lord leads you to pray for.  I am going to get a special notebook that I can record these prayers in separately from my other prayer time just so I can see how God is working.  I am praying that the Lord will use these times to draw me closer to Him and to interrupt my plans and lead to His plans!

March 26, 2013

End of Lent and Other Random Things

I have to admit, I've lost count of the days for Lent.  This past week was long, crazy, fun, and I am thankful for every moment of it (even though the majority of it was spent away from my family). 

I left on Tues. to head out on the first leg of my journey toward our second Ladies in Purple Conference.  I only went as far as Harrison, AR, where I was able to spend the evening with some sweet friends.  On Wed. I picked up another sweet friend and the two of us headed to Salado, TX for the next step in our journey.  It was about a 12 hour driving process, broken up a bit by a dinner stop with an old friend.  When we got to Salado we stayed up wait to late visiting with some amazing college friends, who are on this ministry journey with us.  Oh, how I love that God gives us those forever friends who, even when we don't see or talk to them everyday (or even every week or month), we can pick up just like no time has passed!  I am so blessed! 

Thursday we were joined by one last amazing friend and we headed to Bastrop, TX to start our ministry.  What a great time we had!  God really blessed us with some great "down" time to just hang out, just the four of us.  We really needed that.  We stayed in some sweet host homes and were able to have some great conversations with the ladies hosting us.  The conference went well and I think several of the ladies really went home refreshed and ready to start working on becoming the woman, wife, and mother God asks us to be.  Not perfect, just obedient!

Because we were so tired, we ended up spending the night again in Salado and not heading back to AR until Sunday.  I dropped off my friend and headed for home.  But, once it got dark and the wind was about to blow me off the road, I decided it was best to stop for the night and continue my journey on Monday.  So, I got home a day later than I was hoping, but I was so blessed by the time spent with those sweet, amazing, Godly ladies!  Thank You, Lord, for placing ladies in my life, both near and far, who are willing to share their lives and their wisdom with me!

As Lent draws near an end and I realize that I will be back on facebook next week, I am not sure what to think.  I certainly didn't miss it as much as I thought I would and I hope that I will be able to continue to use it in a manner that encourages others and points them to Christ, but that I don't allow it to monopolize my time. I have enjoyed the extra time I have had to spend with my kids, exercise, finish things around the house, etc.  Lord, thank You for this time to see where I truly need to spend my time!

Looking forward to celebrating Easter this week.  We are doing a Passover meal on Thursday (I have no idea if that is actually where it fits into the week, but it's the day that worked best for us.) Today we took time to look at the first passover and to read a bit about what each of the foods represents.  Sophie really enjoyed it.  She is looking forward to helping us get it all prepared this week.  I think we will be doing something different with our Easter baskets this year.  Instead of filling a basket with more things neither of them need, we're going to fill a box, as a family, of items that we can send with a friend to Haiti to do a dental clinic. Christ came to serve and gave His life for ours, so we are going to follow His example and serve others with this holiday, even in this small way. Lord, continue to mold and change our hearts!  Help us to always want to share you with others. 

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March 17, 2013

Lent-Week 5

I know, I am posting early, but....I will be leaving town for 6 days Tuesday morning and I have lots of cleaning and packing to do between now and then, so I thought I would go ahead and post.  Week 6 might be lacking in content because I will not have the laptop with me to keep doing the journal, but I'll do my best!

Day 29:
Today was such an off day for me.  I had a terrible time falling asleep last night, so I think I ended up with only about 3 or 4 hours of sleep.  This always makes me feel a little sick and very grumpy.  It was a long day with two kids who were full of ornery!  Good thing the weather was nicer and they were able to spend about an hour outside this afternoon.  All three of us wouldn’t have survived otherwise!!!  But, I did get everything printed and sorted and ready for Kevin and his mom to do school next week…I think…I hope…well, I got done all that’s going to get done, anyway!

Did another chapter in my Sabbath study today.  It was a great reminder that God is my provider, even during the Sabbath times of no work (Exodus 16:1-30).  Lord, help me to release the busyness for one day a week so that I can focus on You and all that You give and provide.  Help me to set aside the worries and cares of day-to-day life in order to worship and praise You as a family.  I am so looking forward to having days of Sabbath in May.  This is the one fast that I want to keep, in some form, from here on out.  Lord, show me how to truly keep a Sabbath, fasting from the world and it’s busyness, so that I (and my family) can focus on You and this gift of family You have given us!
Day 30:
What a day!!!!  So, Sophie and I had quite the science lesson today.  A few days ago she was flipping through her science book and next thing I know she’s asking me, “Hey mom!  What’s egg and sperm?”  I told her it was something we would be talking about soon, but not today.  Well, while Ethan was in the bath today, we talked about it.  We started by reading Psalm 139 together and talking about how God was our creator and He knows everything about us.  We talked about how God makes each one of us special and He made the process of making a baby very intricate and unique and special.  Then we talked about how what we were about to discuss is very personal and private.  It isn’t something we talk about with other kids or adults right now, only with mom and dad (I don’t want her to be the kid spilling the beans to everyone she sees!)  Then we opened the science book and got started.  I quickly and briefly went over the names for body parts (which was made a little easier by the fact that she has a brother and has known since he was born that boys and girls are different) and that men have sperm and women have eggs.  It takes the two coming together to make a baby.  She was curious as to how the two get together but, thanks to wisdom from Mandy Taylor, I was able to answer her by saying, “That is something very special and you are not old enough to know that right now.  But, we will be learning about that in the next few years.” When we were done I asked if she had any questions, which she didn’t, then we prayed and thanked God for creating us and for the amazing process that happens to make a baby.  Then she just ran off to play as if nothing happened!  It went really well and was pretty painless.  I got this book for us to start doing together this summer (The Care and Keeping of You for Younger Girls), so I showed her that and she’s eager to get started!  Here are some other great books that I’ve read recently about talking to your daughter about the changes that will happen to her body and teaching her modesty: (Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl, 8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters, Secret Keeper:The Delicate Power of Modesty). 
Day 31:
God was so good to me today!  I woke up with a terrible sinus headache.  I took a little medicine, and while it didn’t completely go away, it did dull enough to carry on my day.  I was able to spend almost two hours with a sweet friend and her kiddos before heading off to our homeschool classes.  I teach the youngest music class (crazy, huh?) and God provided some nice, quite fun for us today.  It wasn’t until after class that I really started feeling sick.  And it only got worse.  Nausea.  Muscle cramps. Stomach cramps.  Yuck!  Kevin was out of town working, so the kids got some quality What’s in the Bible? time.  I am just thankful that I didn’t get sick until after my class was over today.  God, thank You for Your goodness in even the small things!
Day 32:
After about midnight the nausea finally went away, but the stomach cramps were lingering.  I slept most of the morning (so thankful that the hubby took the kids to grandma’s for a bit) and after lunch felt much, much better!  We headed to Quincy this evening to take the kids to Scotty’s for some family fun (another great idea of Kevin’s, especially since I’ll be heading out in a few days and will be gone just a little less than a week).  As I was there watching our kids have such a blast, from the ball pit, to the slides, to the silly games, I couldn’t help but feel so sad for those who never get to experience this, either because they don’t have families or because there are just no resources available for them to do such things.  I am so thankful for these opportunities we’ve been given to help out in Romania and Haiti (and looking forward to some for Africa and China, as well).  I was really proud of the kids when they, without a fuss or second thought, willingly chose to use their tickets to get prizes for our shoe boxes for this year.  I so pray that God is changing their hearts, even if it seems to be going too slowly for me, to be more like His.  Lord, change my heart, too!
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March 12, 2013

Lent Week 4

Has it really been 4 weeks?  In some ways it has crept by (I feel so out of the loop, want to see every one's pictures, hear all the amazing testimonies I know I am missing) and in some ways it has just flown by (how are we only 2 weeks away from Easter and 3 weeks away from the kids' birthdays!?!?!?!)  Anyway, here's what we've been up to!

Day 22:
We are slowly getting plans made for our glasses drive for the Romanian mission team that is heading out this summer.  Can’t wait to get the kids going on that!  Lord, help us to reach our goal of 300 glasses so these people will be able to read Your word and be changed forever.

Day 23:
I am really having a hard time getting motivated today!  This is the third day in a row Kevin and I have gotten up to exercise together.  I am so sore I can barely move!  The kids have already enjoyed a little more than an hour out in the snow (great PE hours, right?!) and it’s only 11!  I guess we’ll just wait to start school until after lunch today.

Day 24:
Man, today was a crazy day!  I made it out to church to make the copies of the James memorization cards to take to the Ladies in Purple conference in two weeks.  Cutting those sure took longer than I thought!  A huge thanks to Calvary for letting me print them there and to Beverly for laminating them for me!  Can’t wait to share them with the ladies!!!!

Day 27:
I am noticing it is getting harder and harder for me to get on and do these updates because, without facebook, I am getting on the computer less.  I am thinking this may be a good thing!  I have gotten way more housework done and spent some sweet moments with the kiddos.  I do, however, miss getting share and see all the things God is doing with those around me. 

We did our poverty meal on Haiti tonight.  I am just blown away by the poverty in that country.  To be honest, as I sat looking at pictures, it was almost hard to tell whether they were pre or post earthquake.  That is so sad!  We have some friends heading there on a mission trip soon and they will be working with an orphanage when they go.  Many of the orphans are those who were found living in the sewers, parentless, after the earthquake three years ago.  The saddest part, and the part the kids just couldn’t get over, is that these children are not adoptable because they are undocumented orphans. They will never know a “forever family” here on earth.  This is the second country we’ve learned about with children that will just never know a true earthly family and it breaks my heart.  Those are the orphans that I just want to reach out and love on and pour all I can out to.  Perhaps this is how God will use our family among the orphans of the world, I am not sure.  Once again, I forgot to take pictures, but it was a memorable night for all of us!  I think the thing that stuck out in their mind, other than whole families having to live in tents, was when we told them they could go play, but they could each only play with one toy.  We wanted them to know what it’s like to not really have anything, and we thought that would be a good lesson for them.  Oh, you should have heard the bargaining that went on!  In the end, they did it and were able to use their imaginations and have a grand time, but they won’t soon forget the night they only got to play with one toy!

Day 28:
I got  to work on our Christian Passover Meal that we’ll be doing for the first time this year.  I found two online that I liked and kind of combined them together into something we could use.  One of them has a study guide to do with your kids leading up to it, so I am excited to do that as part of school the week of Easter.  I am praying that God will use this to remind us all of His grace and love in becoming our Passover Lamb!

I leave one week from today for our next Ladies in Purple Conference!  I am excited!!  I get to see some amazing ladies I haven’t seen in awhile.  I love these ladies!  Of course, I have begun pouring over my scripts like mad hoping that I remember everything!  I am sure Kevin loves that he gets to sit here and run lines….but he is so good and does that with me! 

I do feel bad, however, because I am pretty sure I will be leaving him with the house in shambles!  We’ve had to move school to the middle of the living room floor because the school area flooded a bit in the big rain we had on Sunday.  So, Kevin will probably be having to rip out the flooring there (and maybe even some of the carpet) in order to fix whatever the problem is.  So, school is a little scattered at the moment…oh…and did I mention that he will be working full-time and doing school for me next week?  He must really love us!  So, I am trying to get school done and get “sub plans” done (ha ha!  Like I even know how to do such a thing!), which just makes things an even bigger mess!

Lord, lead and guide us as we look to being apart next week.  Give us all peace and rest in You alone.  Continue to show us how we can give to others out of the abundance you have given us.  Mold us and shape us.  Give all four of us a heart for loving on and sharing with others for the purpose of them coming to know You.  Give all four of us a desire to know more of Your word, know more of You, and to be more like You!

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March 05, 2013

Lent Week 3

Day 15:
More snow.  I love the snow, but I think I’ve had about all I can take!  No Family Quest tonight, so we headed over to Grandma Carol’s for some puzzle time and lasagna.  It was a great way to spend the evening.

Got two new books in the mail today.  One is for Sophie and I to start teaching her about how to take care of her body and to gently start to introduce all the changes that she’ll be experiencing in the next couple of years. (Is it scary to anyone else that she’s getting old enough to need this information?!?!?!)  Haven’t decided yet just when we’ll start this book, but glad to have it.  The other is a book to use for our fast from stress in May.  Looking forward to digging into it to see what it has to say about taking specific times in the day to stop what I’m doing and pray.


Finally back to school today!  I have recently started doing one day that is just math and history and one day that is just math and science, then the other two days are math and language arts.  It’s actually been working pretty well.  It keeps all the history together and easier for them to remember, and does the same for science.  We’ve all seemed to enjoy it, so I think we’ll keep it up. 

Got two more books I am excited about today.  One is another book for helping Sophie understand all the body changes of the tween years.  Once I skimmed it, I realized it’s a little too old for her, but I have a friend with a daughter just the right age.  Hopefully it will work well for her.  The other is one that is a study of the Sabbath, again preparing for our fast in May where we will be celebrating the Sabbath as a family.  Looking forward to learning more about this sweet time to prepare our hearts for worshipping our Creator.

Day 17:
MORE SNOW!  We don’t have our homeschool classes today, so it’s another snow day.  The morning went by quickly as we worked together to get the house clean.  It was fun and it’s nice to have the house back in order!  We were also able to sort through the kid’s toys and set aside some to send to Douglass Community Center.  Both kids have birthdays next month, so we had the chance to talk about ways we could give back since we’ll have so much on their birthdays.  Giving toys to others is a great way to show God that we are thankful for what we have, and a great way to show worship, by choosing not to be wasteful with our toys, etc when there are so many others with so much less.

Kevin also got several things hung up for me in our school area.  LOVE IT!  We’re hoping to get all the school stuff off the walls upstairs and on the walls in the basement so that hopefully by spring we can work on making that dining room wall a Eucharisteo wall…a wall where we, and anyone who visits, can write the things they are thankful for at any given time.  I am so excited about this wall, so I hope we can find a way to make it work.

Recycling is going pretty well.  In just one week we already have probably 1/3 the amount of trash in the trash can (of course, the recycling bin is overflowing!)  But man, this is hard, for 2 reasons.  1-old habits are hard to break, and 2-so many things (mainly plastics) don’t have the information on them you need to know in order to make sure they can be recycled!  I guess we’ll learn by trial and error!

Found today an irritating day not to be on facebook.  I had a few questions I wanted to throw out there for some quick answers, and facebook would have been the perfect solution!  Oh well, guess it’s time to be creative!

We finished The Magician’s Nephew today.  Struck by two things in it: at one point, when Aslan is still making Narnia and talking to the animals, etc, the observation is made that Aslan’s eyes never closed.  This drew me back to the Beth Moore study we did on the Psalms and the sweet Psalm that promises God never sleeps.  Oh, what relief!  He is El Roi,  the God who Sees, who is never sleeping or slumbering, whose eyes never close or cease to watch us here on earth.  The second was a little later in the book when the horse, I think, makes the comment that Aslan already knew what Digory was wanting, but he seems to be the kind that likes to be asked anyway.  Another great picture of our all-knowing God.  Nothing we want or need ever surprises Him, but He still likes to have communication and relationship with us as we pour our hearts out to Him!

Day 18:
What a nice day!  It started out with some much needed girl time with some sweet ladies!!  Then, when I got home, Kevin and the kids were still out doing breakfast/grandma time, so I had some great alone time.  It was a great quiet time, a little personal reading, then some school planning for next year!  Whoo!  Lots done today.  Of course, I still need to clean the house for the company I’ll have Monday when we do our first “poverty meal”, but all that can come later, right?

Started reading Sabbath in the Suburbs today in preparation for the month of May when we will be doing Sabbath once a week.  Not sure if this book will change me deeply, but a few things did hit me today as I was reading it: “The Sabbath day is a gift for the Jewish people because it reminds them of the time when their people were slaves in Egypt, captive to Pharaoh’s regime.  But God brought the people out of slavery. God parted the Red Sea and gave them safe passage to freedom, and with it, the Ten Commandments. Among them? For six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest (Ex. 20:8– 11). So the Jewish observance of Sabbath is an exclamation to the world: ‘We are not slaves to the empire anymore! We are free!’ Sabbath is more than a day; it’s a mind-set.”  I am so looking forward to this month, yet nervous at the same time!  I don’t really know what to expect at all!

Day 19:
This was a lovely day!  What a great time of praise and prayer with our Sunday School class (not to mention a great fellowship breakfast), sweet worship and teaching with the church family in our service, then a fun, relaxing afternoon with the family.  I was able to catch a small nap and do some coloring with Sophie.  God has really softened my heart to her need to spend non-school time with me and I am trying to be better about stopping what I am doing to spend and cherish time with her. 

Day 20:
Today was our first “7” meal.  We learned about Romania and ate Romanian vegetable stew.  Not gonna lie, the kids were not a fan of the food.  But, they loved Miss Michelle.  She and her husband are missionaries to Romania (and he is Romanian.)  She brought lots of pictures and other fun things to look at.  She also had lots of eye opening information about those living in the village where they serve.  They have no access to medical care or running water.  She works with many orphans who will always be orphans (at least in the earthly sense) because of the strict adoption rules in Romania.  She also gave us several ways we can help them serve and give God’s word to those orphans. (I can’t believe that I didn’t take any pictures!)  Can’t wait to share our plan (when we get it all finalized and put together) with our friends and family so they can help, too!

Day 21:
Another great day…and really another day I didn’t miss facebook!  Still processing all the things we learned last night about the orphans in Romania.  My heart breaks that they will never be allowed to be adopted simply because the government won’t allow it.  How much these children need loving, nurturing, forever families, and they will never receive them.  It makes it all that much more important to be sure they know about Jesus and the adoption and love they can have through Him!

One of my biggest trials today came from a size 4T suit.  I had been looking at suits for Ethan for Easter and had eventually talked myself out of it.  They were kind of expensive and I knew it wouldn’t fit him for very long, so it didn’t really seem like a good investment.  But I must be honest, I wanted to get it so badly!  It would look so cute on him!  I had thought about it for days.  Then Kevin’s mom bought him the suit I had been looking at.  Again, not gonna lie, I was very excited.  It has a little purple shirt that matches a shirt Kevin has, and Sophie and I have purple dresses, so we’ll all be able to match for Easter!  Then, the shallowness of that just hit me.  There are children in this world who don’t have the supplies to brush their teeth, take a bath, or even have more than one outfit, and here I am focusing my time and money so we can wear matching colors for one morning.  Lord, help me to find the balance between pouring out our excess and thankfully using what You have given us here in our own home.  I feel trapped.  I feel  lost and unsure of how to balance not spoiling my children and not unjustly making them do without.  I don’t want them to resent our giving from our abundance, I want them to rejoice in it and desire to make it a lifestyle for the rest of their lives.  I want that to be the automatic response of everyone in this house!  I am just now sure how to ensure that it doesn’t become tedious or merely checking something off a list.  Lord, help!

March 01, 2013

Easter Ideas

So, in between Lent posts, I am dropping in another post to ask for some advice/creative ideas.  As we look toward Easter, I want to know how those of you out there celebrate this time, yet keep the focus on Christ's death and resurrection, as it should be. (OK, I guess I should start by calling it Resurrection Sunday instead of "Easter" since that name actually comes from the name for the goddess of spring, which goes against what I am trying to accomplish, I suppose!) I don't want to go overboard and be so heavy-handed with it that my kids dread this time each year.  Rather, I would like to be able to begin some traditions that have us anticipating the Resurrection each year, not just wanting to dye eggs and get baskets filled with candy.  Similar to Christmas, I want to take back this holiday and put the focus where it needs to be, but I am at a loss as to how to do this.  I look forward to hearing what your families do to celebrate that "He is risen!  He is risen indeed!!!"