Monday, December 22, 2008

Torture - Guantanemo style

I have literally figured out how the military can break those pesky prisoners - fix their eyesight. On Friday I underwent PRK laser surgery. Let me preface by saying it was soooo sweet as a Christmas gift to fix my "legally blind" vision. No kidding. Without my contacts I walk into walls and run over small children. And I had so many people tell me how great it would be and how easy it was. Lasix that is. You know, where the procedure takes all of 2 min., you sleep through one day, and are back to work the next?? So easy. But I couldn't have lasix because I am again, legally blind. So on to PRK, without getting graphic on you - it takes a lot longer than 2 min. It involves ridding your eye of that pesky layer of cells that cover it. (Think tiny hockey stick to 'clean' your eye - get the picture?) Then lots and lots of water squirted over your eye repeatedly. Pretty sure that is what the definition of water-boarding is. Then about 2 min. of laser therapy. And you are cured. Or in my case, not. So then you drug yourself into oblivion on pain meds until your eyes have a chance to heal and regrow those cells. So for the last 3 days I would wake briefly for meds and to the feeling of staring straight into the sun. So today, day 4, for the first time, I can see a blurry computer screen and open my eyes without cringing. So fix the prisoners' eyes I say - that'll break em. I am 99% positive that Osama bin Ladan will be located within a week of surgery. And as a plus, it will probably throw those silly liberals a curveball, seeing as how we Southerners are so generous and all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our paid Artist

Seth is now officially a paid artist. The county has a yearly Christmas card competition in which he won 2nd place from his school last year. This year, he won FIRST place out of all the 3rd graders in the county! We went tonight to the ceremony and he received his $25 cash!! He is now a $25 millionaire and will be featured in an upcoming edition of the popular Kershaw County Chronicle. It is a shame but he has had a stomach bug all day so he can't really be excited about it. When they called to tell us he had won, I have to admit that mommy got teary-eyed. And it takes a lot to move me to tears!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No more baby Wages'

We had Addison's third birthday party this past weekend at my parent's house in N.C. so that the relatives could come. The ensuing dress-up and present opening sessions rivaled a nuclear bomb going off in their living room. The boys were so funny, escaping off to a corner to color or watch T.V. Just trying to avoid the screaming, crying toddlers who were all ready for naptime. But I was just happy to celebrate our break-away from diapers, bottles, and night-time feedings with the girly-est, jewel laden, prissy little girl tea party / induction into big girlhood possible.

Our Aunt Donna gave her the cutest little nurse set with scrubs and medical bag. She then threw in the white coat. Addison rejected the nurse's scrubs for the white coat as she 'wanted to be a Dr.' One day long ago I could relate, then I realized being a mom was much more fun.
So funny with the way she talks to her dolls and is her own best playmate. My parent's entire floor was covered with Barbie and baby doll paraphernalia. I am so proud, I finally have my own mini-me.
My baby is all grown up. She doesn't even look like a toddler anymore, sniff-sniff.
Dress up before our 'tea party'. I call this the 'gangsta-diva' look.
I love making all their birthday cakes. They usually start requesting certain themes months in advance and it is so much fun figuring out new ways to make them unique. But - a little stressful when trying to ice a cake 2 hours before the guests arrive (hey, what can I say? I am a procrastinator). T thinks it is hilarious we always have to take a picture of the cake before we cut it. If I spend 2 hours on a cake, I want those kids to remember it later and torture their wives with "well my mom use to always do it this way...." !!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gingerbread night

Seth's photography attempts:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Milkshakes and White Chicken Chili

So, as an update to my "why? why? whine" - the holiday went great. Wed night we went as a group to Riverbanks Zoo for the Lights before Christmas. It is always so much fun but at 39 degrees, it was a little nippy and we were feeling kinda idiotic! But the kids had a great time and we had fun getting to know our new neighbor and her two boys (that my boys love playing with).

Addison really did not want anything to do with this Santa character. He is the same Santa that has been there every year since we moved here and is just so sweet. I really think he may be the real thing. Santa talks to each child as long as they want, is patient with parents who take about 15 shots of their wiggly kiddo, and is just the cutest man ever. I had convinced her to get within spitting distance of him to tell him that she wanted a Barbie for Christmas. I misspoke and said "you have to tell him you want a Barbie and he will give you one for Christmas." Didn't think of adding, "on Christmas a month from now." So she lets me sit on the arm of his chair for the picture and then holds out her little hand as if to say "alright dude, hand over the Barbie". Then we get a little 3-year old tantrum as we walk away with her screaming "Barbie, my Barrrrrrbie". Little misunderstood, sweet child.

Thursday we had the best dinner at our new friends Chuck and Lauren's. Awesome food and even better, they asked us to play NERTZ!!!!!!! T and I lit up like the Christmas lights! To those outside of our old small group, Nertz is just by far the best and most fun card game EVER!! It is also a game that everyone in SC either doesn't know how to play, plays at my grandma's speed, or hates! So this was our first challenging Nertz game in about 5 years. (We were sorely out of practice and got our butts beat but didn't care at all.) No T tantrums that night! The icing on the cake of that evening is that Chuck and Lauren also have 3 children which played so nicely with our 3. It was nice to have someone else who completely shrugs off the child who peed in their kitchen, the playdough and popcorn in the carpet, and a trashed bonus room. Real bonding!!

Fri. I woke at 6:30, was at Wal-Mart at 6:45, Charlotte by 8:00 a.m. and returned home after the hour and a half drive and loads of caffeine consumed all day at an early 11:15.....P.M. It was great to have our yearly shopping trip bonding with my mom, sister, aunt, and cousin. We had a blast. Love those yearly Steak-N-Shake milkshakes!!

Sat. we hosted a cook-out with a friend of T's and met his wife and girls. We had planned to watch the Gamecocks game but gave up on them at halftime. Good thing we don't really care!! It was fun but after Wed-Fri., I was running on empty. No matter how much caffeine I drank. Then we had a birthday party to go to last night. T had invited other friends over this evening, Sunday. But as I lay paralyzed on the couch, I told him, "you have got to cancel tomorrow night." I realized that with 4 days off, I had barely seen my children face to face and really missed them. That and all day they had been asking, "when can we put the tree up? Why is it that everyone else has decorations up and we don't? When can we make the gingerbread house?" I felt like a heel. A tired, cracked, crusty, old woman's heel. Yuck.

So today we put up the trees (one for us, one for them, and an itty-bitty one for Addison). See, I'm smart like that - they decorate theirs so mommy can have her perfectly placed balls and absolute balance of cranberry strands and OCD spaced ornaments. Theirs is absolutely hilarious. I think if they added just one more ornament to the front, it would probably topple over. We may just find it face down tomorrow morning...

We ended the evening with White Chicken Chili (yum,yum) and the Tinkerbell movie on Disney. And I am going to bed a happy woman. Thankful, happy, and utterly exhausted. So I decided to write this blog at 11:00. Makes sense doesn't it???

As an early Christmas present, here is the Chili recipe:

2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
2 (4.5 oz) cans chopped green chilies, undrained
1 cup water
2 (15.5 oz) cans cannellini or white beans (rinsed and drained if needed)
1 (14 oz) can fat-free chicken broth
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 cup (or more to taste) Monterey Jack shredded cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (we had to use the dried and it was still great)

** Heat a skillet over med-high heat. Coat with spray or olive oil and brown chicken until done but still moist.
** In large soup pot or Dutch oven, brown onion in oil or spray over med-high heat. Add garlic and saute 2 min. more before adding all spices. Stir in chiles, reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 min. Add chicken, water, broth, beans, and bring to simmer. Cook an additional 10 min. Add hot sauce to pot immediately before serving. Serve with around 2 T cheese over each bowl and tad of cilantro. Great with corn muffins.

** only 5.9 grams of fat per 1 cup serving. How's that for an early Christmas present?? Just trying to balance out the milkshake, folks.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for Fulfilled Promises

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
- Psalm 100 (NIV)

That is the song that I can sing this Thanksgiving morning! When I really felt that God wanted me to go to Africa, I told T "If He wants me to go, He will take care of it." With around $4000 in expenses due right before Christmas, it took a good bit of faith to send in that $395 deposit back at the first of November. Please don't think I am bragging, I am not usually known for my strong faith. While I trust in God for my salvation and for His love and care of me - I still have the sinful heart which worries incessantly about job security, children's health, safety. If it were only so easy to give it all to God!

But this morning, I am thrilled to write again that our God is an awesome God!! Last night, we had a call from a friend who wanted to donate the remaining portion of my need!! Just to show you how wonderful God is, I wanted to show you my 'excel' worksheet of trip bookkeeping:

(I promise you I do keep neater records for the speech therapy practice) If you could actually read it, you would see that as of today, Thanksgiving, $4196 has been donated! In ONE month!! And currently, the trip expense and my airline ticket to Washington have been purchased. The total?? $4184 !!!!!!!! I am in awe. When I wrote the remaining balance on Monday to Compassion of $1055 from savings, I was at peace thinking, "I knew God would take care of the trip and He saw fit to have this money in our account to be able to use". But He showed me, how much closer could the amounts be?!

In addition, we have several friends who have called to let us know they have checks in the mail so I think my Visa and shots will also be mostly taken care of. (If any additional funds happen to come in, I will be donating them to Compassion's fund to help alleviate the hunger in Ethiopia. )

So next time I worry about a pay cut, or about the risk of travel accidents, or childhood diseases, or fish-hooks in the eye - I need to just stop and remember,

"For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations."

So thankful that applies to our whiney, unfaithful, generation too, aren't you????

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why? Why? Why? whine

As a mom, I can honestly say I love my job. I love my job as mom to three monkeys, and I love my job as a speech therapist where I can train other moms for an hour a week to talk to their little monkeys. But about once every couple of months, I find myself sinking into that pit of mommy pity parties. Why do I have so much laundry to do? Why do I have to clean the toilet, again?? Why do I have to go get groceries at 10:00 at night?? Why do I have to sweep the "always dirty" floor again? There are just not enough hours in the day!! It must have to do with Eve screwing everything up for us women!

Then there are the "why can't I's??" Why can't I just go on a drive for coffee whenever I want? Why can't I sleep in until 10 on Saturday? Why can't I spend copious amounts of cash on a new wardrobe? Why can't I make time for myself to make friends and actually call or hang out with them (without young'uns tugging at our pant-tails)?

But then, I snap back into reality and realize - I need to quit asking WHY and instead WHO? Who is it that God gave 3 healthy, beautiful children to? Who is it God picked a wonderful man out for (a completely opposite but perfectly matched fit)? Who is it that God allowed to have a job where she can both be a part-time mom and part-time money maker? Who is it that God destined to live forever, with Him, in a place without tears, laundry, or toilets? Oh yeah, that would be me....

So yes, I do get tired. Irritable. Crabby. But then I take a step back to be thankful for the many blessings I have. Even as I feel sorry for myself with my lack of close girlfriends - T invites new couples over both Saturday AND Sunday night and I sigh, "more cleaning, more cooking" Why, oh why? Then I think - God is stepping in, yet again to try to please this ungrateful and whiny daughter with adult play dates. So this thanksgiving, I'm going to stop whining (at least for one week.. maybe)

BUT - I still can wish for the frozen coffee can't I????

Monday, November 17, 2008

What are you thinking???

So many things are running around in my head but I wanted to try to answer some of the frequent questions I have been getting in regards to my trip, just to assure you that I haven't completely thrown reason into the wind -

So what makes a mother of three, self-employed speech therapist slash full time housewife decide to run away to Africa for a week and a half??
Simple - God. When I first approached T with the idea of me going on a trip with Compassion, his response was "absolutely not". When I approached him the second time it was "forget about it, you're not going". When I approached him the third time, I told him that I really felt like God wanted me to go. I was waking up numerous times a night thinking about it, thinking about it in the shower, on the road, all day / every day. So he said - "well, if God really wants you to go, I guess you had better go." (To which my jaw hit the floor).

Why do you want to go?
In doing my presentations for Compassion I started out with friends and family groups from churches. That way I always had a familiar face to focus on and to ask later what I should change or expand upon. In my first several presentations, my knees knocked and my hands trembled but I made it through, hopefully pretty coherently. My first small group presentation - no sponsorships. My first large group presentation - no sponsorships. Now I know that I didn't do that badly and I had prayed that God would help me to just release the work to him, I was just there to present the need, not grow the harvest. But what I began to realize was the distrust that we, as Americans, have for sponsorship programs. For international charities. "It all sounded well and good but do you REALLY know your money is going where it is suppose to. It can't." So that is why I am going. So I can go and see, smell, and touch. So that I can learn more about Compassion's affect on real children and real families. So that I can then bring that knowledge back to share with others. THIS is what I saw. THIS is what I learned. THIS is what God needs us to do about it.

Just to show you how God's hand is on Compassion - they have been awarded four out of four stars from Charity Navigator for seven straight years. Only 45 charities in the U.S. can claim such status. Charities are rated on how well they use your money. In addition, with the failing economy and world situation, a recent Compassion blog celebrated that in this time of trouble - Compassion continues to grow! From the post: "Outside of supernatural forces and divine intervention, there is little explanation as to how or why Compassion is defying probability and odds. I would venture to say that at this particular time God has chosen to bless Compassion to do His work."

Be a part of that intervention by sponsoring a child - My Compassion site.

How is T going to handle the kids??
My wonderful husband is an even better father. He already takes a very active role in caring for the kids and will make sure their teeth are brushed and that they bathe daily. They may eat 10 meals at McDee's, but they will be fed. His work is also flexible enough that I am sure that the children will not be abandoned at school after hours.

How is T going to handle you being gone?
That is the hard one so please continue to pray for him while I am gone. T continues to work with his spiritual mentors to learn to give everything to God vs. trying to control the situation. He is really worried about having to raise the kids on his own if something would happen to me in a foreign country where he can't be there to protect me. But I have been assured from others who have taken this trip before that Compassion is VERY safety focused and avoids all areas of even slight danger. I have been told that even in the marketplace, we will have staff on each side of us as "bodyguards".

What are you going to do??
We will be visiting around 2 Compassion projects a day where we will be doing art projects, games, and playing with the children. We will also be visiting children's homes and the Child Survival Program for infants and pregnant mothers. And one of the days - we will be spending with our sponsored child! I've been told they keep you busy from morning until night and it is very intensive, and tiring!

What about your sponsored child?
Amanuel will be 6 years old as I am visiting during his birthday week. He shares his exact birthday with my middle son, Braeden. Braeden choose Amanuel from the Compassion website to be his buddy. He stared at him a minute before saying, "that's a real little boy isn't it??" About 9 months into sponsoring Amanuel, and writing him monthly - we hadn't heard any news from him for about 6 months. We had sent a family gift after sponsoring him but hadn't heard what they had purchased with the money. Compassion children are to write 3 times a year so we were getting very nervous, knowing that Ethiopia had a famine going on and many children were dying of famine related illness. Amanuel's mother is a widow and he has one sister. So one night, Seth prayed "God, please take care of all our Compassion children. But please, especially Amanuel. We are very worried about him and could you please let us know that he is o.k." The NEXT DAY we received a letter with this picture:

Our small gift provided this amount of food to help Amanuel and his small family survive the summer drought months. As I opened the letter I started to cry. God had once again answered one of my children's prayers. And he had allowed us to take part in his saving of an entire family.

So that's why I am going - so that I can bring back the smiles, the needs, and the cries of Ethiopia and hopefully help others to be blessed by Compassion's ministry in the same way we have been.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Straight Arrow

Psalm 127:3-5

3 Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
4 Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
5 How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.

I love this verse. Although I sometimes feel like our 'quiver' may be a little crowded, I can't imagine it any other way. I love my children and too often, fall into the motherly game of "guess what my son did, guess what my daughter said". So, I decided I wanted to play that game again since I am so good at it!

My oldest son Seth, is my quiet arrow. His brother Braeden is the one to get hurt in freak accidents, the one who is unafraid to ask strangers for directions, the one who loves to make the room laugh. His little sister Addison, is my beautiful princess. She prances around the house like she owns the place (and probably does...) But Seth, he is my pride. Of the three, he looks the most like T

and acts the most like me in his shy and quiet way. I was told recently at their child care that "you have good kids. No really... you have really good kids." But it is when there are art supplies from one end of the house to another, or dirty clothes in the middle of the living room floor, or a mud-streaked bathroom - that I forget that I do have really good kids. They are a blessing from the Lord.

With Seth being the oldest, he is often the one to get overlooked. Partly because he can go to the bathroom by himself, and partly because he doesn't need to have his nose wiped by mom. But it is when he is quietest that he impresses me the most. His little acts of kindness that make him who he is, astound me. For example, both the boys had been given $6 by their grandparents recently and it was burning a hole in their respective pockets. The next day, Seth told me that Braeden had been playing with his gameboy and had left it outside. I told Braeden that if we didn't find the gameboy in good condition, that I was taking his prized $6 as it wasn't fair for him to loose his brother's game and go on to buy himself a toy. Braeden began to cry and Seth leaned up in the car to whisper to me, "it's o.k. mom, you can take my money instead." And then today, with his birthday money being saved for a really special something, he comes to me in Family Christian Store with a really thoughtful gift (to remain unnamed until December) and asks "mommy, can I buy this for Daddy's birthday?". What mom wouldn't want to brag about such a gentleman??

Not only is he the most handsome child I have ever seen, but he is the most wonderful, most talented, most gifted artist in his school (see how well I can play this brag game??). Seth is such a perfectionist and will only accept the best works of art from himself. I walked him through his first water-color painting and was amazed at the results (he drew/painted while I suggested colors and techniques) -

and I love to see his numerous characters that escape his backpack daily -

but the thing that I am most proud about with my straight-as-an-arrow son is his love for Christ. Seth asked Jesus into his heart about a year ago and has lived a life worthy of a son of God ever since. While he does still make childish mistakes, and often makes some really bad choices; he doesn't try to hurt others, he has empathy, and he shows love to those around him. He stands up for what is right at home and at school and has been overheard by his teachers telling others about things a Christian should believe in. So while his football career or his art contests may one day leave him lacking, I know that he will still be able to claim the greatest prize for eternity as that is something he can never loose. And that my friends, is something a mother can hold as a trophy as it is far more valuable than championships or first-place ribbons. While our little ones may not always stay on a straight path, I know that in Christ, their arrows will remain straight. And with that, I can be proud to show off my quiver, messy and heavy as it may seem some times.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Political Prayer

So up until now I have stayed away from the political side of blogging - but this one was just too good not to share. Our children, I would say, are very adept at asking questions and forming opinions on their own. When it came to the election, their school gave them the opportunity to vote so I first gave them the opportunity to see both candidates stance on a number of key issues using an unbiased comparison table on the web. Since the election, T has been a great example with having them pray for our future President and his success. Their mother has just been trying to be a good example by keeping her mouth shut....

So here was Braeden's prayer tonight, "And please help Barack Obama to think everything John McCain thinks." From your lips to God's ears baby, your lips to God's ears.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trick or Treat

The kids had a blast! I think Nana and Papaw had fun too with their first Halloween actually walking door to door. The boys were in a group of older kids so they kept running up ahead, thus very little evidence I have older children in the pictures. Addison lasted about 15 houses. After seeing a snake, too many monsters, and being scared by a lunatic running after kids with a chainsaw (no chain). She had had enough and was more than happy to give out candy on the front porch. However, she wouldn't give out any candy to the kids with scary masks. Too bad for them, the ones that were acceptable were given HUGE handfuls!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Princess

On the lighter side than previous posts, I just want to say how much I am loving being the mommy to a prissy, adorable, don't-you-just-want-to-kiss-her-cheeks-off little girl. We had a calm day at home today where I again, threw out my to-do list to play dress-up and have our first official tea party (to which she jumped up and down and cheered for). I just had to post some pics of my little princess and share a little funny:

Yesterday while watching the Mickie Mouse clubhouse, I heard her burst into tears. The tears that she reserves for when mommy has hurt her feelings or the boys have scared her. I go in to ask her what is wrong as the tears just stream down her cheeks. She points to the screen and after a couple minutes wondering if Disney has flashed some kind of subliminal message to terrorize my daughter, she finally says "that doggy was sad" in the cutest little toddler voice ever. Seems that the crew was paying too much attention to a new puppy and Pluto retreated to his doghouse sadly. Oh, how I love little ones.

Give me your eyes

So those of you that know us know that T is an awesome singer. And if you have sat anywhere near me in church, you know that I only have one note and it is greatly warped. I have even stopped singing "Happy Birthday" as an additional present. Now our little threesome, they love to sing. Especially Braeden and Addison. Braeden can be heard singing in his room while playing or driving down the road. Addison is just starting to sing along with the songs on the radio, a task which involves a lot of humming interspersed with a couple actual words. So I wanted to share a new song that has come out from the artist Brandon Heath called "Give me your eyes" as all four of my loved ones are singing this one around the house lately.

The chorus of the song says:
Give me your eyes for just one second.. Give me your eyes so I can see.. Everything that I keep missing... Give me your love for humanity... Give me your arms for the broken hearted... The ones that are far beyond my reach... Give me you heart for the ones forgotten... Give me your eyes so I can see

How often is it that we sing along to the radio and have no idea what the words are that we are saying? And in this case, while singing along, do we even realize what we are asking of God? "Give me your eyes so I can see"..... that's a pretty scary request if you stop to think about it. Do you really want to see and love humanity as God does? I think that if he granted that wish at even 1% fulfillment, it would still be enough to put me in a straight-jacket. To look at the suffering of the world through God's eyes would be a painful process. To see the persecution of His children in China, the killing of His babies in America, the starvation of His children in Africa, the prostitution of His little ones in Thailand. Do you really want to feel God's love in that way?

A couple months back Braeden fell face down from a play set - hard. As T picked him up, he went limp and stopped breathing for about 30 seconds. In that time, we both felt an over-whelming sense of panic and pain at the prospect of loosing him. Now think of your own children. Do you think that those across the globe feel any less love for their little ones? We don't want to see through God's eyes because it is too easy to hide in our little world on our own. Now I didn't start out this blog as a guilt inducer because I am as guilty as the next in meeting my own needs and wants before I start to think about others. What I wanted to do, and may be failing at doing, is to ask you to step up. Christians or not, there are those around you who need your help.
You could volunteer to get groceries for an elderly neighbor.
You could help to tutor a child at the elementary school.
You could help coach a little league team or volunteer at church (a dying art).
You could save the life of a child with Compassion.
You could contribute to help persecuted Christians through Voice of the Martyrs.
You could help to feed those who are hungry.
Just don't sit back and close your eyes.....

I ask that God would "give me the heart to help those that are forgotten". And hopefully, one day, I'll be ready to ask to see more clearly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Wisdom of Mommy

O.k., so I have to admit that I have a hard time with memorization. It's a good thing phone numbers can be programmed in or I would never call anyone. O.k., so I still never call anyone but that's not the point. I have a really hard time memorizing people's names, road names, and even sometimes the names of my clients. I have no idea how I made it through high school and college successfully. I also have to admit that I have a really hard time memorizing scriptures and rely way too much on because "I know it's in there somewhere." I have found that the best way to remember something is to teach it to my kids. Because those little jokers don't forget a thing!

One of my best pieces of advice for new moms is, "don't do anything you don't want to become a habit because kids have a much better memory than we do." If you give them a quarter to get gum out of a machine in a random Chinese restaurant, four years later when you visit that same restaurant they WILL expect to receive their quarter. If you give in and buy a screaming toddler a "quiet down" toy in Wal-Mart - you will be broke within a year after all your weekly visits. If you go to a screaming 2 year old in the middle of the night and give him a cup of milk, you had better get ready to make that milk every night until he is 8! But I digress...

So now to the subject of my blog - we live in a neighborhood with lots of kids. Kids that love my front yard and seem to gather there as much as the local fire ants. So one day after the kids had been outside, Braeden reported that one of the neighborhood girls had called him a not-nice name. To which Seth puffed his chest up and let me know that he and the other big boys had "taken care of her". Which I, upon interviewing, found out meant they had called her some pretty not-nice names right back. So I go into full mommy mode. Here would be a teachable moment and I need to capitalize on it. I whip out my highlighted Bible and find Romans 12:17
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody." (So you know that I just zipped over to biblegateway for that one don't you??) and discuss it with the boys. Man, did I do a good job! Nugget of knowledge passed to my offspring, my work is done for the day.

So the next day, the boys and their dad are on their way to Seth's football practice and are discussing the little bully that likes to tackle Braeden and be mean while his Daddy is out on the field coaching. T gives Braeden that old adage that every dad feels the need to crown their little man-child with "boy, if he hits you - hit him back!!" To which Braeden says, "oh no Daddy, I can't repay evil for evil!!" (mom is smirking now) Score one for the good guys.....

So my point is that even if you think that your little ones are too little, too preoccupied, or too immature to handle discussions about good vs. evil; Heaven vs. Hell; sin vs. salvation - they will learn things and remember things so much better than we could, even without lifting a finger in effort. There are so many touchy subjects today with abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, promiscuity, drug abuse. All those things, in our day, could wait until at least middle school. But moms and dads, your children WILL learn what evil is. Whether you like it or not. In many states, it has already made it's way into the elementary classroom and is being taught as normal and good. And I would much rather my children be able to see it and know the difference between right and wrong while their little minds are still pliable and while they still think I know everything! We have a lot of work to do and a long row to hoe.....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A classic mom moment

Alright, the story of the Wages wouldn't be complete if I didn't add the fishhook story... for those of you who haven't already heard it anyway. So a couple weeks ago the family was down at the lake with a group from church. Most of whom had already gone home. My two littlest then decided to go back in the lake so I jumped in and tried to persuade little Miss to jump in too. In the meantime, I look over to see Seth's fishing pole still dangling in the water. I tell the boys they need to get it out so that the hook doesn't get stuck in someone's foot (I could only have wished later....).

So then, with the boat hiding my view, I hear Braeden start screaming. That scream that you know is not a put-on. The scream that is not "I'm really mad at brother mom, come beat him up for me." The scream that is telling you that either a limb has fallen off, or, in our case, a fishhook is in their eye. Now, I like to think of myself as a very calm and collected mother. I don't go running to skinned knees and I don't shriek at the sight of my toddler on top of the refridgerator. I take pictures of children with chocolate cookie all over themselves and the walls and laugh at the baby with diaper creme covering her entire face and hair. But a fish hook?? seriously??? This was one sight a mother did not need to see.... ever.

So I literally walk on water and up onto the pier to hold my little buddy and all I can say is "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry". Not to gross you out but the hook had (thank God) missed his eye and had gone IN and poked back out of his lower lid when he picked the rod up. I screamed for Seth to find me someone to help and he found our youth pastor who came running. He took one look at it (much more calmly than I could) and said "Tracy, it's too bad, we are going to have to take him to the ER." Great..... again??? (that's another story for you). So I go to try to find something to cut the line and pass T coming down the hill as I go up to the house.

In the meantime - Chris tells Braeden that he wants to pray to Jesus for Jesus to help them. Braeden, in between gasps and tears, says "I don't wa-wa-want to pray" (great example for the pastor buddy!! Couldn't have made mommy look good, could you? What have the Wages' been teaching their kids!) So Chris says, "that's alright, I'll pray for us" and does. In about 2 min. time, when T gets to them both and helps to pry Braeden's hands away, this hook FALLS down. Mind you, I had spent about 3 min. holding and examining this nasty thing and it was through, no falling out allowed.

SO.... 5 min later, Braeden is running around acting like nothing has happened. Mommy is seriously looking for an adult beverage (kidding), and now gets to blame high blood pressure, once again, on my youngest son. But through it all, how awesome is it to be 5 years old and have your own personal miracle from the creator of the universe!! I just sometimes wish that Christ didn't have such a sense of humor. And yes, we CAN laugh about it now.

Crazy English

Just wanted to add, English is such a weird language. Seth had T and I rolling in the car recently when T was explaining what happens when you steal things (the boys were "borrowing" things from each other). He told them if it was something really big, you could be sent to jail. "Do you even know what jail is?" To which Seth rolled his eyes and said, "yes, I KNOW what jail is." So what is it? "IT'S THE STUFF MOMMY PUTS IN OUR HAIR!!" And here I thought that Braeden was our only one with a great sense of humor!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Is it fruit season?

So I am halfway there! With my support letters 2 weeks out, I am now half way to my full support needed by Nov. 24th! That includes an awesome yard sale we were able to do on a main highway last weekend where we racked up $423. Only about $200 more than any other yard sale I have ever done. Take into account that it rained on all the merchandise first thing and was threatening more rain all day and I say that it went pretty well!

So as far as the trip goes, I am really started to get into the planning mode. Now I am on to thinking about dreaded shots (I passed out during my shots for college, what a weanie), domestic flight up to D.C., and what to take for myself and for Amanuel. That has been the most fun! I waited patiently for backpacks to finally go on after school clearance and am now seeing how many goodies I can pack into all the multiple pockets. We have had a good time finding jewels on clearance such as flip flops, hand towels for his mom, new CARS undies, mini photo albums, colored pencils, etc. My biggest challenge is now going to be learning some Amharic words. I am absolutely awful at second languages (who would have thought it for a speech/language therapist). Thankfully, many of those in Ethiopia speak English because saying /ameseghinallehu/ for "thank you" is beyond my mental capabilities!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who have helped with financing my trip! Things started moving along at such a rapid pace when I finally just gave everything over to God. When I decided that if He wanted me to go, He would help make it happen. It just seems like now that it is happening, it is kind of surreal. (I hate that new hip word "surreal", but it just fit). I have had so much of a positive reaction from others that it must be of God. Even T is starting to feel at peace at relinquishing his standing as my protector and letting the great protector carry me under His wing instead. Please continue to pray that everything will continue to progress smoothly.

As an aside, I also purchased two handkerchiefs at a second hand store recently as I figured that most likely, I would be going through a supply of Kleenex over a week and a half. Funny, T absolutely thinks handkerchiefs are the nastiest things ever. Anyway... a recent post on Compassions' bulletin board from someone who went to Ethiopia last year told me to get ready as it will completely break my heart. In his words, "Not because you will feel sorry for their condition, but because they will make you realize your own condition. I met the most selfless, content, faithful, and loving people and I try every day to be more like them. " It brought to mind:

Matthew 13:22
The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.

Sometimes I think how much easier we would be able to hear the whisper of the Lord without the cell phone's ring, TV's call, or computer screen's lure. In the US, we think we have so much but are we really the ones that are lacking? Everything we have will one day waste away and then where will we stand? So my education begins in February. And I can't wait to get started as I feel that I have just begun to get a glimpse of my destitution through my work with Compassion. The above poster Steven also wrote that, "we never regret the good things we do, only the good things we don't do." Something to think about, how much fruit have I produced lately?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Little Messages

For those of you who don't know. I am planning on taking a trip with Compassion International in February 2009 to Ethiopia to see poverty first-hand and be able to bring those experiences back to my work with Compassion. I plan to use this blog to keep friends updated on my trip and experiences. More on that later as I'm running late for work, as always. Anyway... I finally got the go ahead to send out my letters for support, with the $4000 due Nov. 25th. Big order for God.

I was up until 12:30 last night working on the first batch of my support letters for the trip. I had flip-flopped a little recently with the economy in the state that it is whether or not I was really suppose to go or not. I decided nothing was too big for God and if HE really wanted me to go initially, He still wanted me to go. Anyway, this morning I am tired, I am kind of pessimistic. Just not feeling very light and chipper. Lack of faith is rearing it's ugly head. Decided I really needed to pray "over" the support letters and have God to bless them and help those who receive them to receive them positively. Anyway, then I opened up this daily devotional from CrossWalk and was just amused to see how God talks to his children:

"Maybe today you feel like you have pulled off to the shoulder of that road and all the other cars are just whizzing past you. Everyone else seems to be intent on where they are going and how they are going to get there. But you just feel lost and hopeless. Do you need someone to come along and help you accelerate back into the flow of traffic? Just for today, I invite you to pray and ask God to help you get where you are going. I challenge you to listen for the Holy Spirit to speak to you - to open up God's Word and let it guide you. The exit numbers are all there. And, with God's help, you will get where you are going.

Dear Lord, I need Your help to make it where I am going. I confess that sometimes I don't even know where I am going and get overwhelmed by the distance it is going to take to get me there. Yet I know that You have provided me with the Way to get there. Help me to trust in that. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

And who says coincidences are just coincidences???

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dec 2007 - Have Enough??

Hi all!
In this Christmas season, I am writing to ask that you would all take a moment to stop and look around at how blessed we are. Even those of us on a tight budget are still able to buy a little something for our loved ones, our friends, and sometimes - even those we don't even count as friends but feel an obligation to spend our hard earned money on. And next month, will you really feel you have made a difference in someone's life through your gift of fruitcake or just another Yankee Candle???

As an intro, I am now a Compassion International advocate. So - my job is to just let others know about the really awesome organization that our family has been involved with for about 2 1/2 years now. My job is to let you know the information, your job is to prayerfully consider if you can commit to helping and truly make a difference in someone else's life. Now that I have been doing this for a couple months, I have learned how quickly I can get people to change the topic when I bring up this topic! So instead of me talking, I wanted to share a few words from our Compassion liason in a recent letter to all Advocates.

""The young man said to Him, 'All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?' Jesus said to him, 'If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.' " Matthew 19:20-21

I think that when many people hear this, they are afraid that Jesus is going to tell them to do the same. Give it all away! Sell all you have and give to the poor! That is where I think the blinders come from – you know, the blinders people wear so they don't have to see poverty. I know I have these blinders. Every time I see someone asking for money at a stoplight, I have to face the decision again: do I give something or not? If not, do I at least acknowledge them and talk to them or just avoid eye contact altogether? It's difficult to know what to do every time. If we can just avoid seeing it or facing it, then we won't have to do something about it, especially something that may lead to hearing Jesus say "sell all you have".

However, in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, there is clear instruction that reveals that the call is not for everyone to sell all they have for the poor. It addresses those who are "rich in this present world" (that includes almost every American citizen by world standards) and tells them to "do good, be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share." Being ready to share and being generous is a far cry from giving all we have to the poor. These verses even say that God "richly supplies us with all things to enjoy". We are allowed to enjoyed things! That is comforting. But not at the expense of those who are in need. We shouldn't enjoy those things while pretending that there is no one out there who has need. We enjoy what God has provided but with an eye to share out of our abundance.

I've written this before but I think it is worth writing again: Bishop John V. Taylor puts it this way: Our enemy is not possessions, but excess. Our battle cry is not "nothing" but "enough".

We have a hard job cut out for us. We are trying to help people see that they have enough. That is hard to do when all around them are messages that say "buy this! Just one more thing! You need to have this too! Don't give that money to someone else – you might need it later!" It is hard to cut through all that with a message about a child in need."

So many of us are weary of the sponsored child "scams". However, we had the pleasure of experiencing our close friends recent trip to the Philippians to tour a Compassion site and visit homes of some of the served children. Our friends saw first-hand the renewed hope and love that these children were receiving. They saw first-hand the opportunities given to these children. They also saw the filth and poverty these children lived in absent of the project. When I asked her of seeing such children in poverty if it made her want to scream at everyone she met to do something, she replied, "I think if you are not on Welfare, you should try to help at least one child." Our own children are just blessed beyond measure and I am so glad they can be exposed to how much God has given us through our letters and correspondence with our 2 Compassion children. The most meaningful letter I have received from our little boy said that he "and his mother pray a lot for you because you are his second family and it is a great treasure for him to tell his friends about you."

These children are given the ability to learn, to grow, to play, to just be children. Through your letters, they come to understand that they are not expendable, they can be something, do something, and escape the lives they have been born into. They get to see and feel that someone really does care about them and want what's best for them. And most of all, they are exposed to and given the hope of a better life through Christ Jesus.

Please go to my website to browse and learn more about this organization and it's purposes. Please email me to talk more or ask more questions. Please remember that we do have enough...... especially this Christmas season.

Love to all,

Compassion Website

** Compassion was given 4 out of 4 stars by Charity Navigator for 7 straight years, an independent charity review group. That places them among the top 1% of thousands of non-profit charitable organizations they review. The American Association of Philantrophy ranked them higher than even Habitat for Humanity. Only 45 countries nationwide have their record of faithful use of your gifts.
** monthly contributions are only $32. Eighty percent of that money goes to the churches which help these children thru tutoring, Bible study, medical aid, supplemental food, field trips, and parental counseling. If you give a birthday or family gift for your child's individual needs, 100% of that money goes to your child. Our little boy chose to buy a new pair of sneakers with his birthday money, my friend's sponsored child bought vitamins.
** Our children write us about every 2-3 months. In 2 1/2 years, we have gotten many letters and many photographs of our growing and maturing child. The letters are very personal with drawings, questions for the boys, and replies to our child-like questions (what is your favorite color? do you like to play baseball? etc.) Our children know and pray for Hector, Rupa, and Amanuel every night.

Nov 2007 - Time to put the puzzle pieces together

As some of my close friends know, I have been joking for years about my "retirement plan". Whenever we talk about my kid's non-existent college funds or my measly IRA, I usually respond with "oh well, Jesus will be coming back by then." In the last few months, I've become pretty secure with my savings plan and just wanted to throw some info out there. Just think of it as "Tracy's future planning advice". I have just learned from talking to others, how few of us actually follow the news anymore. And, how many of us put the pieces of the news together to form the puzzle that is our society. And, how many of us, Christian or not, take the time to compare what is going on in today's world with what the Bible says will be going on in the end times. So before you count me crazy, realize I am just pointing out to you what the Bible says – and if you truly see the Bible as the ultimate truth, then how crazy am I, by just pointing out some obvious facts?? I've done a good bit of research for you, but feel free to use google and to check my facts out.

1) There will be an increase in wild weather. Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:25 – in looking at earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes in the last several years, they have been as a woman's birth pains. Earthquake Frequency Not only occurring more dramatically, but occurring faster and faster. Romans 8:22 AP reported that Yellowstone National Park's mega-volcano has been observed to recently have been moving upward almost 3 inches per year for the past three years. That is more than three times faster than ever observed.

2) The country of Israel would be re-born in one day. Isaiah 66:8. Happened with the signing of a treaty on May 14, 1948. Luke 21:29-32 and Matthew 24:32 - After cursing a fig tree and causing it to die, Jesus said, "Learn this lesson from the fig tree, as soon as it's twigs get tender and it's leaves come out…" Some say the fig tree is Israel since Israel is referred to in other passages as a fig tree, and that its putting forth leaves refers to Israel's 1948 restoration to the land or rebirth. Continuing in Matthew He says, "So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place." So how long is a generation from 1948?? 60-80 years??

3) The country of Israel will be a cause for great conflict throughout many countries. Zechariah 12:3. How is it, we wonder, that a country the size of New Jersey is causing such an uproar throughout the world today? It also mentions that harm will befall those who attempt to split Jerusalem – look to theAnnapolis peace convention (orchestrated by C. Rice of the U.S. of A) for an attempt to divide Jerusalem in the sake of peace, this month or next! The Jerusalem Post is reporting that "a group of rabbis from Israel have sent a letter to US President George W. Bush warning him that if the planned Annapolis Middle East parley is not cancelled, a disaster will befall US citizens, just as Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans after Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005."

4) Christians will be luke-warm in their faith. Revelation 3:15. Oh yes, I would say this is complete truth!! When was the last time you saw the Christian church stand up against something that was wrong? Or how often does the church just sit by and let poverty, adultery, sexual immorality, just happen under their nose and sit quietly on their hands?? Many churches today have become country clubs where members pay their dues for a "feel good" message. Many also preach that the Bible is open to man's interpretation and is not the true word of God to be taken literally. If it is not literal, that why have so many previous prophecies come to pass?

5) There will be unusual, unexplained signs in the heavens. Luke 21:25. In an AP report, Paul Lewis, director of astronomy outreach at the University of Tennessee, said of the sudden brightening of Comet 17P/Holmes, a star which within just 24 hours increased its brightness almost a million-fold. "This is truly a celestial surprise," Lewis said. "Absolutely amazing. A once-in-a-lifetime event to witness." Also check out the Hubble site for an awesome picture taken of the center of galaxy M51, the Whirlpool galaxy.

6) There will be a global government. Revelation 13:7. Heard of the Law of the Seas Treaty? The US is looking to sign a treaty which will give the UN the rights to over-see over 70% of the Earth's surface. Add that to the global warming call for global cooperation and you've got the recipe to levy carbon taxes or global laws via a world-wide governing body.

7) A strong delusion will take place to explain a huge end times occurrence. 2nd Thessalonians 2:11-12. Many see this as something used to explain away the disappearance of millions of Christian believers, or the rapture. On yahoo's news page on Nov. 13th, was the story of "UFOs are no joke, group (of pilots) says." CNN is also reporting of pilots and even the former AZ governor who are now coming forward to say they have truly seen UFOs and want the government to step forward and acknowledge their legitimacy. So will all Christians be taken away and told that it was an alien abduction? Seems silly to me but I wont be here to be fooled by this "strong delusion" anyway. Yahoo UFO article

8) Religious cults will flourish. 2nd Peter 2:1. Let's see: Kabala, Scientology, Satanism, Global Warmingism (because they are worshipping the mother Earth), wicca, etc.

9) All the world will be able to see war and death as it happens. Revelation 11:9. In what other generation would the entire world have been able to see (through internet or television) happenings across the globe at one time??

10) Sexual immorality will be flaunted. Jude 1:18. President Clinton anyone?? Recent law to allow middle school children in Maine access to birth control pills and morning after pills, without parental consent. And let's not even start on the sexual immorality on TV. (Yes, even my loved Grey's Anatomy…….)

11) Homosexuality will abound. Luke 17:28- 30. California and it's law allowing cross-dressing teenagers to use the opposite sex's bathrooms and to ban the use of "dad/mom" in textbooks as it conditions children to be intolerant of alternative lifestyles. They also recently held the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco for homeosexuals... the advertisement mocked the Last Supper. The festival, among other things, had public displays of gay sex, and worse.

12) Technology will exist to track the world's finances and people's abilities to buy and sell. It will then be required of all to take this mark (known as the Mark of the AntiChrist) to buy and sell. Revelation 13:16-17. Recent AP headlines taunt the ability for the microchip previously used on animals to be injected into humans with the ability to quickly read medical info or other pertinent facts (think Alzheimer's victims or soldiers). ABC News Report After some bad publicity (minor issue with it causing tumors in lab rats), the VeriChip company changed it's name to XMARK/. No kidding (check the "About Us" section for verification). Not saying this is it, but just letting you know the technology IS IN PLACE, for the first time in history.

13) A coming war is prophesied with the major players named being the current countries including: Russia, Turkey, and Iran. These countries will attack Israel, (and be defeated). Ezekiel 38-39. Retired Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston , in a brief interview, told McClatchy Newspapers that the United States is unwittingly "driving, strategically, the Turks and the Iranians together" because both nations share concerns about violent Kurdish separatist groups. Add to that the Democrat Congress' recent fiasco with trying to pass a document to accuse Islamic Ottoman Turkey of genocide against Christian Armenians during WWI. While we could be working to solve the Social Security crisis or finding our own sources of energy, instead Congress was working to alienate one of our ONLY allies in the Middle East, over something that happening in WWI for Pete's sake!! So now in the news, Turkey has chastised the US and is gathering its armies on the Iraq border, looking to pound the Kurds over the border, another common interest of lovely Iran. Let me also mention, Russia's Putin having chummy-chummy talks with crazy President Ahmadinejad of Iran, the same man who has stated he will wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. Until just months ago, this prophecy could not be fulfilled due to Turkey's stance with the Western world. As we speak, the chess pieces are being set.

14) The capability of an army of 200 million soldiers. Rev. 9:16. In Christ's day, it is estimated that the world population was anywhere from 100-400 million people. In 2007, the CIA estimated that China had approximately 343 million men fit for active military duty alone. CIA China Report Add that to the Nov. 13th AP reporting that Iran and China met to pledge cooperation and boost their ties. And again, Iran's president has chanted "Death to the USA & Israel". Hmmmm. Ahmadinejad has also told his country it is the time for "martyrdom" and even prayed in N.Y. at the U.N. for the return of the Islamic messiah – the 12th imam. This messiah is thought to return during a state of world wide war and will reign on the Earth for 7 years before the end of this world comes to pass. Ahmadinejad sees his role is to start that war. And this past week, he politely announced he has 3,000 working uranium-enriching centrifuges. "US experts say 3,000 machines running for long periods could make enough enriched uranium for an atomic bomb within a year." Times Report on Ahmadinejad

14) There will be a one-world religion. Rev. 13:11-15. Just look to the current global warming crisis and the way the facts are now being replaced with a "faith" that this IS happening vs. the "proof" that it is happening. All religions are based on faith in and of something. John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, has written an article in which he writes, "It is the greatest scam in history. I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming; It is a SCAM. Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create in [sic] allusion of rapid global warming. Other scientists of the same environmental whacko type jumped into the circle to support and broaden the "research" to further enhance the totally slanted, bogus global warming claims. Their friends in government steered huge research grants their way to keep the movement going. Soon they claimed to be a consensus. Environmental extremists, notable politicians among them, then teamed up with movie, media and other liberal, environmentalist journalists to create this wild 'scientific' scenario of the civilization threatening environmental consequences from Global Warming unless we adhere to their radical agenda. Now their ridiculous manipulated science has been accepted as fact and become a cornerstone issue for CNN, CBS, NBC, the Democratic Political Party, the Governor of California, school teachers and, in many cases, well informed but very gullible environmental conscientious citizens'" (Weather Channel Founder: Global Warming "Greatest Scam in History," by Rick Moran, American Thinker Blog, Nov. 8, 2007). In my opinion, only with pure evil's help, would masses of intelligent people be able to so blindly follow such a huge "SCAM". Especially one that may very well move into the global arena more prominently.

However, the environment IS speaking – with monstrous storms, deadly floods, drought, almost daily earthquakes worldwide (Luke 21:11; Luke 21:25). But man has not caused the environment to reject us. It is instead, God fulfilling his promises to us. Promises which are not meant to scare or harm us. But promises meant to WAKE US UP. To alert us to HIS power and majesty. And to give us one last chance to realize that He means what He has said. Worse days are coming (Matthew 24:21). And I for one, am giddy with excitement that I, and my family, have the promise that we will not be here to see those days of death and pure, unimaginable evil and suffering.

Now is not the time to idly sit by and shy away from talking to your childhood friends about the truth. (Or for that matter, risk alienation for sending a 4 page blog to your closest friends and family). Nor can we be embarrassed to mention Christ's love in the grocery line. Whether we have 1 month, 5 years, or even 85 years left on this Earth…. NOW is the time to gain the courage to wake up and look around you. And even with the possibility of 85 years to go – that is still not enough time for us to even be wasting a precious minute in the light of God's promises.

Luke 21:28: "And when these things BEGIN to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."

Romans 13:11: "And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."

Luke 21:36 "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."


Oct 2007 - The Concert

Don't know if I liked this email forward so much because I can easily imagine one of my monkey's sneaking up on stage and embarassing me. Or if it's just that the message is so awesome.

The Concert

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.
Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights
focused on the impressive Steinway on stage.
In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out
"Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star."
At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and
whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing."
Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached
down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato.
Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience.
The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played.
Only the classic, " Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
Perhaps that's the way it is with God.
What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy.
We try our best, but the results aren't always graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life's work can truly be beautiful.
The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing."
May you feel His arms around you and know that His hands are there, helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.
Remember, God doesn't seem to call the equipped, rather, He equips the 'called.'
Life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch than by the things you acquire.
So touch someone by passing this little message along.
May God bless you and be with you always
and remember: "Don't quit. Keep playing."

May 2007 - I'm FINE

So this wont be my greatest work as it's now midnight and I really should be in bed. I've had a ton of people ask lately how we have been doing and haven't gotten a chance to write each of you back so I'm blogging to update and inform everyone in one big giant swoop.

We are doing FINE. Don't you just hate it when people say that?? As far as the chilluns go, they are awesome. They make me laugh daily and are all smart, beautiful, and so happy. They are also very well-fed and eating us out of house and home! It has been so much fun to see their dynamics and how they interact with each other and their different character traits. Addison is definately a strong-willed little girl. She will never be the shy little wildflower that her mother was! Yes, I did say WAS. 11 years of marriage to one such as T will bring you out of your shell a bit...

Some of you have also asked about how Laken is doing. She is doing o.k. Mike's mom & dad are taking excellent care of her and she was given permission to remain at her previous school which was good for her. She still has a ways to go but that is expected. She loves T and really latches on to him when we are together. The boys miss getting to play with her every weekend, as they live about 30 min. away now.

I feel like I should say something about Mike - since I devoted a whole blog earlier to Danica. Mike was unlike anyone you have probably ever met. He was completely kind-hearted. But also as stubborn as a mule and would argue about the color of grass if the mood hit him. He loved his wife, and he loved his daughter. And he loved his friends and knew exactly how to make you laugh when you needed it. His colorful, redneck language will stay burned in all our minds and will always be thought about with a smile. And he loved God. He had a picture of Christ in Heaven across the back glass of his new truck. And across the front a cross with the words "It's not mine, it's His" Mike lived his faith everyday. I don't know if they have mud-boggin in Heaven, but if they do - he's right there! He is definitely missed, but he is with his wife and with his savior so it's hard to be sad for his sake as that is exactly where he wanted to be.

In terms of my marriage, my husband is still the best gift God ever gave me. I have said before, that I feel like my children just kind of come along as part of me, but to think that T was hand-picked by the creator of the universe just for ME, leaves me in awe. I have to say, the last few months have not been our greatest moments, but we are still staying strong. Mike's death completely devastated him and he is still grieving for what was lost in his one true brother. In that loss, I couldn't relate. I couldn't comfort him. I couldn't replace his lost friendship. And so I grieved the lost of MY best friend. I'm only writing all this to let you know that it is so easy to come off to the world as having a perfect marriage. The difference is, we were able to find our way back to what we were. Changed, but still the same. Even with the pain we were going through, we still both had Christ. And in Him, we both knew we had no option but to see each other through His eyes and not our own tear-stained ones. We could have opted out, it would have been very easy... and almost understandable under such stress. But instead, we are clawing our way back. So when I say we are FINE. We are. I am nothing without the man who gives me chills every time I see him on stage singing, who makes me smile every time I see him out in front playing football with the boys, who makes me tear when I see him rocking our baby in the darkness. I am just thankful to God that we were able to make our foundation strong so that when the storms came, our house didn't crumble.

May 2007 - Black Eyed ME

So in preparation for our anniversary this weekend (of 11 years) - T kindly gave me my first shiner. It's really funny to me, although it wasn't at the time my nose was running and I was weeping uncontrollably. Truth is I was looking for a remote in the bottom of the TV cabinet, he up top, and he dropped one of our 16 other remotes on my eye. Ouch. But what I have learned from my one and only battle scar, is more than just that I need to be aware of falling objects.

In the 4 days since this happened, I have had exactly TWO people ask what happened to me. Now I'm not the embarrassed type and I usually don't keep things to myself, so I don't know why everyone I have come in contact with has been too embarrassed to ask me why I look like Rocky's sparing partner. I have had a couple friends say "well... I was wondering but I didn't want to ask". You didn't want to ask???? Maybe it's because they know that T would never hit me.... but then why not ask? Maybe it's because they are afraid someone MAY have hit me.... but then why not ask? And then I started thinking..... how often do I "not ask" because of fear of hearing something that may make ME uncomfortable?

How often do we ask "how are ya doing?" and then nod "well that's just greeeeat" and walk away? We have become so self-absorbed that we often don't want to be burdened by another one's heavy load. "It's not my place..... I don't know them that well..... I really don't want to intrude..." But why not?? Black eyes are not the only battle wounds that jump out like big red flags. How often do you meet the friend or acquaintance with the down-cast eyes or the timid, uncomfortable conversation? Their wounds may be just as painful and we look the other way. I know how busy life is. How we run from ball practice, to church services, to the grocery store. But we still need to see that by flying on our jet plane through life, we may be leaving other's stranded in the process. I know that God didn't put me on this Earth to go to ball practice, or to even keep the church nursery. I was put here to develop relationships, with my family, my friends, and all those I encounter. To show them a peace that I have, (black eye or not). If I can't take the time to ask my children or my friends about their own shiners, than I am falling down on my job in this world and probably deserve my own beating.

As an aside: 1 out of my 2 friends' comment: "I hope T looks worse than you do!!" ha,ha.

April 2007 - When Right is Wrong

(Just a warning to all - keep your toes back on this one cause I'm very likely to step on a few!)

I recently heard a radio host say that his grandmother had once warned him that there would come a day when "all that was wrong would be right and all that was right would be wrong". Is it just me - in my ultra-conservative mindset - or is that day pretty much here? Have we ultimately reached a point in our society's timeline where the area of gray is so vast that we can no longer see the difference between what is good and what is bad?

Not long ago, I had an instance with my family where I had to put my foot down and insist that my children not be around when the t.v. is spewing every 4-letter word known to man. I had to stand up and insist that - why is it o.k. for today's children when we, as children, were not allowed to view shows more traumatic than Scooby Doo? Now, it's not even just the movies. Every night, on regular programming, our children are subject to a large range of 4-letter words and we don't even hear them anymore. We don't even think to change the channel. We laugh through the viagra commercials vs. turning them off in front of our 6 year old.

My biggest beef at the moment is with ABC. Why is it that every program must have their token gay couple with the gay kiss and the persecution of the stray family member who may object to that lifestyle? Why is it that Rosie O'Donnell is allowed to preach against our President, Christians, and anyone else she deems have "sinned" in this politically correct world - yet my own child is not allowed to stand up in his own school and preach the virtues of his Maker without the risk of being expelled. Why is it o.k. for Madonna or Tom Cruise to preach the virtues of their man-made religions yet no one in Hollywood would dare stand up for Christianity for fear of being black-listed? Even on reality shows, the Christians are often first to go home as they are seen as strange or hate-filled.

In the search for right and wrong, based on what I can find in our media and television - I can now make a list for my poor children that it is now O.K. to: burn flags, be homosexual, have extramarital affairs (hey, the president can do it and not be condemned), have premarital sex, kill unborn babies (but not o.k. to show their mothers ultrasounds showing them sucking their thumbs before killing them), cuss in public, solicite prostitution, trash our country and our God.

However, it is not O.K. to: tell anyone else that what they are doing is morally wrong, drive an SUV, use the wrong kind of lightbulb, kill an animal for clothing, go to a church that tells anyone that anything is wrong (for that matter, going to any church is probably not o.k. for most), or stand up for any value or moral that may have been acceptable 50 years ago.

At one point when growing up, we knew the difference between what was right and what was wrong. And yes, we often chose to step over that line and experiment a bit (or a lot) in being bad once in a while. But at least we had that line. Any one of you that has known me for a long time knows that I have been arguing religion and morals for a long time. But it doesn't work to argue anymore. I am becoming a part of the minority. With all that is around us now, the only thing I can do is to try to show others that while I may not approve of their lifestyle or accept what society is trying to tell me is right - I can still show love, and show compassion - knowing that at some point in the future... and what seems like the very near future - there will come a day when all that is right will be restored. And all I can say to that is "Any day now Jesus, cause I don't like to be told I am wrong."

Feb 2007 - Sick Days

Today was a crappy day. One tip about being self-employed - you need to work. I really NEED to work. I miss an appointment with a client, I don't get paid. My bank account is screaming, you NEED to work. So this morning, on the way out to see a new client (read as: mo money), the babes are all safely buckled in their carseats, I back out and then hear that tale-tale sound. Throwing up. Now for those of you that aren't parents, you can imagine that this is the worst sound to a parents' ears. This one sound can totally change the next 24-48 hours of your life. So I put it in reverse and find my lovelies completely covered, car seats covered, floor board, back seat, middle seat. This crap is everywhere. Lovely. For those of you again, that aren't parents - we often give that old adage of "as long as it's your kid, it's not that bad to clean up". Today, that adage was crap. I was gagging... suffocating.... in my own car for the next hour as I cleaned every nook and cranny this stuff had found it's way into. So now I'm giving baths, doing laundry, washing dishes.... and making phone calls to reschedule my desired appointments. Man, I am one happy woman.

So as sick baby sleeps her morning away, I go to list #2 - the "stuff I never get done" list. As I am out gardening, my adorable 4 year old is playing happily in the yard. I put him to work carrying the bucket as I cut flowers back. Here we are, on my crappy day, gardening together. He's telling me "God made the flowers", "God made the trees", and then for no reason... "I love you Mommy". I kiss him on the lips and after we're done, we spend the next two hours in play-doh, doodling, and making birthday cupcakes. Suddenly the sun is shining just a little brighter.

So here's my point... while I saw my day as a total waste, he saw it in the light I should have from the start. Children are able to see God's blessings so much easier than we are. And while I was upset at having screwed my schedule up, he was more than happy to give up his storytime at school to spend time doing chores with mommy. Why can't we be more like that? Why is it, that as adults, we see time spent staring at the next American Idol as more important than time spent playing catch with who should be the most important Americans to us? If we were given a new Mustang, would we let it sit in the back yard while we drove around a beat up Honda? Yet that is exactly what I do to our children everyday. God has given us these special beings as gifts. Gifts that we are to take care of and enjoy only for a short time. And yet we put so many other nonsignificant errands, shows, or hobbies above that gift.

So as I sit in my big comfy chair, and snuggle with my sweaty, feverish infant, I can't help to think - what an awesome day this was. That "stuff I never get done" list will just have to wait another day.

Jan. 2007 - He's not Me

I never wanted to be one of "those" moms. Working in the public school system, I saw the mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. You had your parents who only had children because their birth control didn't work and they unwillingly accepted the consequences. Then you also had your parents that would happily have chained their ankle to their prized offspring's desk if it would have been allowed. Their entire life centered around their child's success and of course - their child NEVER misbehaved and NEVER forgot to dot that /i/. You know "those" parents. Then you had the gems of parenting who were able to find that balance between concern and intrusiveness. Such a parent I aspired to be.

A couple years back as my child happily made his way through preschool, I made the comment that I would never be one of "those" moms. That I believed in the public school system's ability to make its own decisions. I would never be one of "those" moms who requests certain teachers for my child, or demands a switch when I am dissatisfied. You make lemonade when you are given lemons little Johnny! I had images of my little prodigy going off to school, returning to quietly do his homework, and then having me sign off on his straight-A efforts.

Now, two years into our much too long educational adventure, I am trying to get up the nerve to be one of "those" moms. The kind that principals cringe when they see a message from. The kind that teachers roll their eyes about over their morning coffee. Why exactly? Because I love my child more than my own ego. My little prodigy has instead turned into a very average and yet very imaginative little one. And while he has an intellect hidden within his blond-haired little brain, he chooses to think about puppies when the subject is prepositions. And while my little unfocused one spends his days daydreaming, I am left to wonder "when do you draw the line? how hard do you push?" For while I never wanted to play the blame-the-teacher game, all teachers are not the creme of the crop. While I have always said that my children must learn their own lessons, I also have to remember that he is still young. And it is my job to protect him and keep his education on the right, albeit average, track. It is my job to try to keep him from becoming one of "those" children that teachers again roll their eyes about.

The hardest thing to come to terms with is... my children are not me. They don't look like me, that's for sure. They don't even act like me. And while I may have my own dreams for them - so what if they don't get into the best colleges? So what if they don't get a wrestling scholarship (say it ain't so!) My children are perfect - made by God in His image. I can only pray that my children don't make the same mistakes that I did. That they learn from the mistakes they do make. And most of all, that they stay on the path that God created them to take and be who He created them to be - Just Perfect.