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!