Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Beautiful Mess

I look back at today and feel...well honestly?...  mostly guilt.
For the things I should've done.

The list of things completed is always so much shorter than the To Do list.

I lost my patience so many times today.

Learned supper last night was...interesting.

Forgot half the butter in the brownies.
In my defense, I was talking on the phone and fending off four "helping hands" while baking.  It's a miracle they turned out at all.

I heard so much screaming and crying and whining and ugliness coming out of my kids' mouths and hearts.
So much disobedience floating around here.
And not all from small people. 

The living room floor is STILL not vacuumed.

I'm accustomed to just quitting at the end of the day - knowing that I will never be done.  That the list tomorrow constantly grows bigger than the list was today.  Overflowing with the things never finished from the first.

We missed church tonight.  Maybe three nights and one morning a week at church is too much??

And all in the middle of so much NOISE!

Everything is loud with four kids.
And everything takes at least three times longer than you think it should.

So Caleb's putting kids to bed, and it's finally, mostly, quiet.  And I'm reading my Bible.  Which I didn't wake up early enough to do this morning and forgot to do at naptime - again with the guilt.

And here's what I read.  (Out of my grandma's amplified version again - so it's wordy)

Isaiah 62:2-3
"And the nations shall see your righteousness and vindication - your rightness and justice [not your own, but His ascribed to you] - and all kings shall behold your salvation and glory and you shall be called by a a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.  You shall also be [so beautiful and prosperous as to be thought of as] a crown of glory and honor in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem [exceedingly beautiful] in the hand of your God."

God's speaking to Israel here, but work with me...

I tend to think that someday my life will be quiet and calm and serene and beautiful.  And then God will look at me and say, "I know you went through a really rough, crazy time of life but now look at you!  You've survived and the whole world can see my glory shining through you.  You're beautiful!"

But maybe...and believe me, it only feels like maybe...

Maybe God sees His righteousness and His glory and my new name and His salvation shining brilliantly through His work in the middle of my crazy life - this beautiful mess.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Music dilemmas...

I'm doing music at church on Wednesday nights for about 25 fourth, fifth, and sixth grade girls.  Just three songs a week usually.  You'd think it would be easy, right?
A fifteen minute a week commitment?

Yeah, that's what I thought too.

I want to build relationships with these girls.  So I asked for their input.

Fyi:  Not sure I would recommend this.

See, I have sweet, sheltered girls whose minds have been diligently guarded by their parents.  They love the Toby Mac, Brit Nicole, K-LOVE type music.
I can do this on Wednesday nights.  (Since I have no guitar playing skills and the boys stole my husband who is my personal guitar playing guy, I'm stuck playing youtube videos anyway...)
But I also have girls who love Justin Beiber and Taylor Swift - and want to sing their songs for Wednesday nights.


I'm not going to argue with their parents here, but I watched Justin Beiber videos on youtube for "research".
Let's just say I could only stomach two.
He's a sweet-faced, cute kid until you see him dancing around provocatively with 20-some year old women in bikinis.

Wow.  Wish I could erase that from my brain.

Anyway...I'm going tonight armed with a few verses to explain why I pick the music I do, and we're going to have a little chat.
Maybe it will go way over their heads.  After all they're 10, 11, 12 years old.  Maybe they'll be annoyed with me and write me off as old and boring.  And maybe one or two of them will remember the Word of God next time they decide what to put into their minds.  

Anyway, the point of this is I'm practicing on you!  Be excited.  I always have to write down important things before I say them to make sure I thought them through right first.  I envy people who can say exactly what they mean the first time without re-wording it in their heads 15 times first...

So.  Here goes.

Ephesians 5:18b - 19
" Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord."

I might just stick to this one verse.  Don't wanna beat them over the head with a bunch of "shall nots".  
I love this "making Melody" phrase.  I feel like it sums up my whole life.  This is what I want any music that comes out of my mouth to be about.

My story goes like this.  I grew up listening to what my parents told me to listen to - read Sandi Patti and Steve Green.   My goal in life was to sing like Sandi Patti.  I sang ALL the time.  I remember my poor parents reminding me at practically every meal that it's rude to sing and/or hum constantly while eating.  (Yes, I know.  Now my kids do this too...)
Still today I ALWAYS have a song in my head.  This morning when I woke up the first thing that popped into my head was, "Worthy is the Lamb seated on the throne.  Crown You now with many crowns.  You reign victorious!"

In highschool, it was SO NOT COOL to listen to KROA.  So I started trying to fit in.  I wanted to avoid the - get in the car with your friends and not know whatever really popular Celine Dion song is playing and sit there like an idiot while everyone sings along but me - awkward situation.
So I started listening to Britney Spears and whatever else was on. 
I clearly remember being in the shower one morning singing, "Hit me baby one more time" when all of a sudden I thought, "I don't even know what this means?!"  "What is this crap I am putting in my head???"
And I decided I was done.

So I purposely pick music with really good words.  I'm pretty picky about it.  Annoyingly so, my husband would say.  He loves all kinds of music.  And he informs me that my "awesome words" music has a tendency to be BORING.
But I love it.
It puts my mind on Jesus all the time.  And keeps it there during my crazy days.

Hmmm...  That's all I have.  I'm afraid it's not going to go over well with pre-teen girls.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ethan's baptism

 Ethan got baptized on Sunday after church.  He's been nagging - read asking as nicely as any growing boy can manage - Caleb and I for a long time to let him.  And in our defense, we wanted to, but the last two opportunities were our 10th anniversary and my birthday, and we were out of town both times.

Anyway, we learned something.
This kid is destined to be a preacher.  Give him a mic and an audience who has to sit still and listen to him, and he will TALK.
I don't know why I should be surprised by this.  He's been talking nonstop to me and Caleb and anyone else who is anywhere near him for the past nine years.
It's a gift (although some days it doesn't seem like it) that I pray God channels for His purposes.

All my kids are so incredibly blessed to have several generations of godly men (and women) in their lives.  And I am so thankful for His goodness.  Ethan doesn't have to look far to find great examples of godly men to follow.  So, for the baptism, my dad, Alan, and Caleb figured out a way to split two jobs between three people.  =)

I was thinking Sunday morning about all the people who should've been at this baptism.  Sunday School teachers and others from Faith who spoke Truth into Ethan's young mind faithfully for many of the years of his life.  
And my grandma and Caleb's grandpa who prayed faithfully for him every day from the day he was born until their deaths. 

I LOVE the verse written on the wall.
It's Psalm 1:2&3.  (The reason I know this is because I memorized Psalm 1 in Fourth grade at LCS, and I can still quote it to this day.  Which I take as a reminder that what my kids learn now might just stick with them for the rest of their lives...)

"His delight is in the law of the Lord
and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers" 

It seems like that's my job as a mom.  To plant my kids close to Jesus - the living water.   
And then to nurture their love for Him.  
Shelter them from strong winds and water them through droughts.  
Coax their roots to grow deep and aim for the Living Water.  
And pray that their delight is in God.  
That their lives are prosperous - not in the way the world defines prosperity - but prosperous in the kingdom of God.
And remember that trees yield fruit in season.  Maybe not today when they're still growing and immature, but someday.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Maybe I should stay away from the news from now on...

I have a few things to say about the news today.
Be excited.  =)

Why should we read news articles and watch endless videos about the terrible destruction that might hit our east coast?  It seems the journalists and reporters want to scare us half to death calling it a "Frankenstorm" and comparing it to the movie, "The Perfect Storm."
Now I agree, it will be sad if millions of people's lives are interrupted and devastated by a giant storm. 
But we've totally missed the point that it already hit Haiti and Cuba - our needy neighbors. 
The lucky citizens of our East Coast have some combination of bank accounts, beach homes, vehicles to drive inland for the weekend (like a mini-vacation!), car insurance, home insurance, flood insurance, and (if all else fails) state and federal governments who will send rescue helicopters to fish them off their roofs.
The people of Haiti and Cuba have none of those options.  I think of the thousands of people living in tent cities in Haiti since the earthquake (how many years ago?) with little more than the clothes on their backs and the cardboard over their heads. 
Talk about devastation.

Along the same lines.
The news people seem to be bragging this morning that the presidential candidates have spend two BILLION dollars on this year's presidential race. 
Most of it focused on making the other guy look like an incompetent fool. 
Which has made most of us sick and tired of both of them.
Just one question.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Feeling dry?

This has been an extremely dry summer here in Nebraska.  The fields are edged with dead corn - those plants too far away from the irrigation shriveled up and died long before it was time to turn brown for harvest.  The difference between plants that were given water and plants that received none is stark.
Even the leaves on the trees lining the roads turned brown and died long before they should have.  If you walk along under them, the leaves crunch, reminding you of fall.  But you know it's a sign of premature death.

It's not supposed to be this way.  It's supposed to rain.

I wonder if the weather can affect my soul.

Ever feel brittle?  Thirsty?  Forgotten?

Well.  Here's my cure for that today.

"Then Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself [determinedly, as his vital need] to seek the Lord."  2 Chronicles 20:3 (My grandma's Amplified Bible that I've been reading through)
Judah and Israel are split.  God's chosen people separated into two nations.  Israel is under the rule of a wicked man named Ahab.  Remember the stories of Elijah running from an evil king?  That's Ahab.  The mountain with the prophets of Baal and the fire falling from heaven?  Ahab.  Jezebel?  Ahab's wife.

But Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, has decided that he's going to be different.  He's going to seek God and worship Him alone.  And what does he get for his loyalty?  Attacked by the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites (whoever they are) - a HUGE army.  

Jehoshaphat panics just for a second and then he decides to seek God, praying, "We have no might to stand against this great company that is coming against us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You."  2 Chron. 20:12

 And then?

Jehoshaphat and all Israel with him, "stood before the Lord" (vs 13) and waited.  Who knows how long, but they stood there until God spoke.

This is the part where it's easy to feel brittle.  Easy to feel that if it doesn't rain soon you might just shrivel up and die under the pounding of the sun.  Easy to feel that while God has been pouring Himself out to show others His heart, He's forgotten you.

But God is faithful and always answers His people.

"You shall not need to fight in this battle; take your position, stand still, and see the deliverance of the Lord [Who is] with you, O Judah and Jerusalem.  Fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you." (vs 17)

So... (I LOVE THIS!) Jehoshaphat sends his army out the next morning led by a praise band singing, "Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy and lovingkindness endure forever!" (vs. 21).
As a singer and not a warrior, it takes faith to walk in front of the fighting men to meet your enemies' advancing armies.  But when Judah arrived at the battlefield, they saw that God had been there before them and the armies were already dead.
All of them.
Suspecting betrayal among the armies, they had destroyed each other.

And God receives all the praise and glory for the victory.  Every nation surrounding Judah and God's people themselves know that the battle was won by God!

So, my takeaway from all this?  What's the cure for feeling forgotten?
1.)  Set yourself to seek God.  Fight distraction.
2.)  Stand in the presence of God and wait.
3.)  Remind yourself that God is always faithful!
4.)  Whatever He tells you to do - DO IT!
5.)  Praise God knowing that when He answers, all the glory will (deservedly) go to Him!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

First day of school pics!

So, the kids are at NC this year.  Thanks for all your prayers for us.  We needed all of them!  =)  After debating pros and cons forever, we always went back to the fact that we both felt that NC was the best option for us this year.  So with faith in and thanks to a God who always provides from His limitless resources, we sent them off for their first day on Tuesday.  They were SUPER excited! 
Kylie, my first grader.  Wow!  How did that happen??

And Ethan, very excited to be moving up to third-grade this year. 
 I have a feeling these next few weeks will be a little rough for us.  We are all tired because none of us are back on a good - go to bed at a decent hour so we can get out the door on time in the morning - schedule.  And this year has quite a bit of added responsibility for Ethan and Kylie at school. Add that to old friends leaving and new friends coming and getting used to new teachers, and it could be interesting. 
I'm sure we'll figure it out sooner or later...  =)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Apparently I couldn't stay out of it...

I'm a little... ok, maybe a lot... confused.
I've been reading the news and various blogged opinions about the Chick-fil-A thing, and I wish someone would explain all the hoopla to me.

Just to clarify, I've never been to Chick-fil-A.  Apparently Nebraska has a reputation for "Beef, it's what's for dinner."
Or something.
I don't think I've ever even seen one.  I've heard good things, but that's the extent of my knowledge of them.

Anyway, I finally tracked down and read what Dan Cathy, the owner of Chick-fil-A actually said in his interview.  You should read it.

Now I realize that I do not come from a neutral viewpoint on this.  Neither do you.  We have already formed opinions.

But I can't figure out for the life of me what the man said that was so terrible.  He never said the words "gay marriage."  Neither did the interviewer.  He simply said that as a family business, they support "the biblical definition of the family unit."  No hate speech there.

And yet Mr. Cathy has been ruthlessly vilified by practically everyone. 
And that is my issue.

He is an American citizen and has a right to voice his opinions.  He has a right to weave those opinions into the way he operates his business.  And he has the right to use the profits of that business to support causes that mesh with those opinions.

This freedom is envied by countless millions around the world who have been imprisoned, tortured, and denied access to basic human rights for being unpopular, the wrong race, politically incorrect, or speaking out for what they believe.  Be thankful you were born in the US, people!

Anyone who does not agree with Mr. Cathy's opinions is welcome to boycott his restaurant - even encourage others to do so.  As is anyone who does not like his food. 

Anyone who agrees with Mr. Cathy is welcome to eat there three meals a day forever - not that I would recommend this.  As many people who agree with Mr. Cathy philosophically have pointed out, Chick-fil-A is probably not the healthiest or cheapest way to buy food.  In theory, considerably fewer obese Americans and starving orphans would inhabit this world if fast food chains in general no longer existed - more accurately, if we weren't so obsessed with our own comfort and ease.  But this doesn't make Chick-fil-A any more evil than the makers of Oreos or designer shoes or the countless other luxuries with which we pamper ourselves.

Sorry...rabbit trail.  Moving on.

So, our government is not allowed to discriminate against a business because they dislike the values on which it is run - unless those values lead to illegal activity.
As citizens, we are allowed and even encouraged to discriminate between competing businesses based on a variety of issues - one of which could be their values.

Anybody else get the email recently asking them to boycott Sears, JC Pennys, and several other retailers for their support of anti-family policies?  I am perfectly within my rights as a citizen to avoid these retailers from now on.

On the flip side, people who disagree with my values (say those calling for a Chick-fil-A boycott) have every right to avoid Chick-fil-A or any other business they disagree with.  That's part of American freedom too.  We don't get to pick which ideology is "right" or "wrong" for everyone else.

Here's where my faith in Jesus gives me a different set of guidelines to follow.  I am perfectly free to avoid a situation where my money goes to support something that God's word clearly defines as sin.  Since greed, selfishness, and lack of compassion are all identified as sin, however, it might be difficult to avoid such opportunities.

What I am not free to do is be hateful towards those I disagree with.  I am commanded to love.  Unconditionally.  Without strings attached.  Turn the other cheek. 

Jesus purposely spent His life on earth with the "tax collectors and sinners" of His day.  The lowest of the low.  The ones everyone else hated and ignored.
And I recall no instance of Jesus ever standing up to defend His own rights.
He did stand up for truth, but never for His own personal benefit or gain.

So, what are we fighting for?
Why do we, as Christians, feel the need to stand up and fight for our rights?
How dare we join the hate slinging and fear inciting?
Why are we so quick to promote "us" vs "them" and feel so self-righteous at being on the right side?
We should look different. 

Dan Cathy sure does.

So where's the balance between defending my Constitutional rights as an American citizen to freedom of speech and religion and my responsibility as a Christ-follower to walk as He walked?  To love the unlovely and reach out to those who hate me?

I don't know.  That's what I wish someone would explain to me.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer fun!

Our girl party!  I know you can't really see, but we used my Grandma Johnson's china.  The girls were so excited! 

The Merchant cousins at the splash pad for Honey Rae's second birthday.  I love Hudson's smile!  =)

A birthday kiss.  How sweet is that?  Who knows what Kylie is doing...

Kylie lost her first tooth! 

Can you believe he's NINE???

Trying out the ripstick for the first time.  He's practically an expert now. 

The king of pancake makers.  =)

This pic cracks me up!  I think it's the combination of Truitt and Kylie's faces...  =)

A little excited...

A bow!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Who knew?

You know what I learned yesterday?
According to a Feb. 2008 government study, an average family of four spends between $570.20 and $1,113.80 on groceries.  Every month.
Don't believe me??
Look here
Adding in my two extra children means I should be spending from $185.60 to $347.90 more than that for a grand total of:

$755.80 to $1,461.70

On food!
And that was more than four years ago!
Does even the "thrifty plan" end of that range seem extravagant to anyone else???
I so do not spend that much money on groceries every month. 
If I budgeted that much, we would eat really well. 
And do nothing else. 
We wouldn't be able to afford to buy gas to drive to the grocery store to buy our steak and lobster.  (If we liked lobster...)
So much for googling what a normal grocery budget is for a family of six...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

So I don't forget...

Yesterday Ava swallowed a marble.  Not a little one.  One of those big flat ones. 
Ouch.  It hurt going down.  She cried.
But she didn't choke on it!  Praise God!
Today, she bent over and found her ankle bone.  Rubbed it a while.  Walked up to daddy and said, "Look daddy!  I found the marble!"

I just love this child.  =)

By faith

We seem to be in the middle of what I fear will be a yearly crisis around here. 
The dreaded school bill has arrived.  And every year it is much more than we can afford to pay - even with a discount.  So we go through the budget the Dave Ramsey way, trying to be wise, allocating money for unforeseen expenses and not just barely scraping by with food and rent and gas money.
Apparently we cannot afford Christian school unless we barely scrape by with food and rent and gas money.
We learn this every year, and PANIC! 
Our kids loved NC last year.  We loved the teachers, the schedule, the other parents and kids.  For our family, it seems to be a great fit.  So we try to balance godly wisdom in managing what God has given us with faith. 
And faith is scary.  A little panic inducing for a slight (?) control-freak like me.

And this particular issue is really scary for a person who would make a good legalist.  You see, I like lines because then I can be careful not to cross them.  Something in my nature screams for the "right" answer.
Like God booming from the clouds, "If you send your kids to public school, they'll end up thinking the world was created by aliens from another planet!  So obviously you shouldn't send them there."
Or, "If you homeschool your kids, they'll be social rejects and live in your home til they're 40! So please don't pick that option."
Or, "If you send your kids to Christian school they'll be so sheltered, they'll be too scared of the world to impact it for Christ! Try again."
These are all fear-inducing thoughts that rattle through my brain.

What if??? 

What if I make the wrong choice and screw up my kids forever?
So I start searching for the "right" choice.  The perfect answer for my kids and my family in this place and time.  And do you know what I get?

No lines.

No right.

No wrong.

Just a bunch of grey.

There are benefits and drawbacks to every option.
But I've learned something.  Every option involves faith.

If we send our kids to NC, we step into a path trusting that God will provide the resources to pay for it and all the other things necessary to provide for our family and allow us to be generous.

If we send our kids to public school, we step into a path trusting God to guard our children's hearts from the deceit and enticements of the world.

If we homeschool our kids, we step into a path trusting God to give us energy and patience to nurture four energetic kids with few breaks.

Then this morning I read Numbers 13 and 14.  Honestly, I was not happy to see that Numbers came after Leviticus.  Leviticus was bloody and depressing, but the first part of Numbers is just an endless list of unpronounceable names.
Imagine my surprise when I got to chapter 13 and found something not only interesting and useful but convicting.

The Israelites have walked through the wilderness to the edge of the land God has promised to give them.  Moses sends in 12 spies, and 10 of them come running out, eyes wide with fear.  They induce panic in the people.
"They people of the land are GIANTS!
They have HUGE walls!
We'll NEVER win a single battle against them!
We'll all be killed!
We'll all starve!
We'll never have a home!"
Their imaginations ran wild, visualizing all the terrible things that would happen to them.  Those of you who know me know I would never do this...  Imagine something terrible happening???  no... =)
Meanwhile Joshua and Caleb saw the same land and came back confident.  The land was not smaller, the people not weaker, but their God was greater.  They begged the Israelites to make a decision based on the character and strength of God - not on their fear. 
The people of Israel did not listen, and God was so angry He was ready to kill them all and start over with just Moses.  In a stunning scene, Moses pleads to God to remember His promise to Israel and spare them, and God relents.  He lets them live, but of the people over 20 years old, only Joshua and Caleb will ever see the Promised Land. 
Here's one of my favorite verses.  Bet you can't guess why.  =)
"But my servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it."  Numbers 14:24
It's a great story and you should read it.  Go Here. 

So I am warned and encouraged.
God has a place for us.
It will require faith to make it happen.  God does not dream small, easy dreams for His children.
So I will sit at the feet of Jesus begging God for wisdom and then go where He leads.  Keeping my mind focused on the strength and character of God.  Ignoring the urge to panic. 

If only writing this insanely long blog post had helped me figure out which "Promised Land" our family is supposed to enter...  =)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

That mom

So all of a sudden it has hit me that I am that mom. 

The mom who just bought the giant box of pretzels at Sam's marked "Great for food service and child care!" in giant letters above the boxes.  And on top of that, when looking at the sign, I actually thought, "Wow!  Food service and child care is a pretty accurate job description for me!"  Instead of, "Normal people don't buy this many pretzels just to feed their own children."

The mom who bought 30 pairs of little girl underwear and spent a very long time in Walmart attempting to buy three different styles, colors, and brands so I could tell them apart while folding clothes - without having to read every single tag.  I've actually started contemplating sewing different colored threads on their socks and writing with permanent marker on their underwear.  Two things my mom used to do that I thought was crazy.  After all, if I could tell my underwear and socks apart from my sisters', why couldn't she???  I now realize that she was very, very smart. 

The mom who keeps asking, "How many days is an acceptable number to leave the clean clothes in the laundry basket without folding them??"  I need a rule to follow.  Like: Three days is fine.  You're busy.  But four days, and you're just a lazy bum.

Happy, happy birthday! =)

So last night we decided to try the new Olive Garden in Grand Island.  Why???? 

My favorite 30 year old sister's birthday! 

I would also like to add that it's my favorite 30 year old brother Rob's birthday too.  But since he won't move to Nebraska to live next door to me forever we had to celebrate without him.  =(  Love you Rob!  

Anyway, the Olive Garden seems to be the only place people in GI are going right now, because it was PACKED.  We waited for over an hour for a table.  Well...I went to Sam's with Grandpa to buy groceries, and everyone else sat outside in the sun playing "throw the landscaping rocks at the side of the building" with my kids. 
By the time I got back, Becca was bored...And hungry!
Becca and the kids looking cute before supper.

Most of us.  There wasn't room to get Caleb and the girls in the pic too... 
Becca showing off her favorite birthday card from Kristi.

And blowing out the candle on her cake with Ava.
So happy birthday Becca! 
And in case you're interested in another blog post about Becca, here you go!  From Sept. 4, 2008.  Some beautiful pics.  I was reminded of this post last night while trying to get a decent picture of Becca - who likes to make funny faces at the camera instead of smiling...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Black Hills

 For my birthday this year, Caleb took me to the Black Hills for the weekend.  I'd never been there before, so I was excited to go!
I learned that there's pretty much nothing in north central/west Nebraska other than endless rolling hills and a few cows.  When I moved to Central City from Lincoln, I told people we were moving out pretty much to the middle of nowhere.  But I was wrong.  30 minutes from Walmart and Hy-Vee is nothing compared to 30 miles to your nearest neighbor! 
I didn't take any pics of that part of the trip...
We camped at Big Pine Campground just outside of Custer, SD.  It was the best camping place ever!  They had free wi-fi!  And the cleanest bathrooms I've ever seen at a campground.  And hot showers.  I was very impressed.  Caleb rolled his eyes at me because I was sitting outside my tent checking Facebook while he built a fire.  I'm not much into roughing it.  =)
To get out of the hot sun on Saturday afternoon, we took a tour of Jewel Cave.  I had never been in a cave before and was a little nervous...  But it was huge, so I was not claustrophobic at all.  It is a little creepy just because it's so barren.  It's amazing how God's creation speaks of His glory even 300 feet underground! 
We also drove along the two scenic, twisty roads.  That's where most of the pictures are from. 

Caleb dangling over the edge of a cliff...

We drove through there!

We thought this one looked like a castle.
My attempt at being artistic...  =)

We saw several tree stumps like this.  How on earth do they get all twisty???

 We went to Mount Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony.  It's amazing to me that they can carve things out of a mountain like that!  And the ceremony was pretty neat. 

 We had a fun, relaxing weekend!  Next time we'll have to take the kids.  =)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


"Don't be afraid for I am with you.  Don't be discouraged for I AM your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with My victorious right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

This verse is on my refrigerator door.  I think it's the New Living Translation.  I'm not sure that means it's the most literally accurate.  But I loved the "don't be discouraged" part.  I've memorized this verse.  Heard it how many times?  In how many different translations?  And it usually says "Do not be dismayed" or "Do not anxiously look about you."  Which are things I need to remember not to do.  But this day, I needed to be reminded not to be discouraged.

Then yesterday when I went to open the refrigerator door in the middle of 15 other things that were going on, God grabbed my attention with the last part of the verse:
"I will hold you up with My victorious right hand."
A picture flashed into my mind of an Olympic athlete, a state-championship team, the Super-Bowl champions.  Take your pick.
What do the victors hold up in their hands?

The trophy.

And I haven't been able to get the image out of my brain since.
I always thought of God helping me out by holding me up above the discouraging, dismaying things around me.

I got it wrong.

He's holding me up as the trophy of his victory.

He's displaying me (and every other believer) to the world, the universe, every created thing saying "Look at me!  I won!  And here's the reward!  She's the proof of My victory!"  He's celebrating His glory by displaying me.

I'm almost speechless at the thought of it.

That I would be the trophy - the award of victory - to a holy God.

Stunning, jaw-dropping grace.

Friday, April 13, 2012

For my family

I have a bunch of cousins.  The amount of time it would take me to count them - let alone name them - is rather pathetic.  I think there are around 35 of us.  Plus spouses and children makes for a big group very quickly.  Some of them I have never met more than a handful of times.  One cousin I forgot existed until I met him when he was 9.  Sad, huh? 
It seems rather strange to have such a huge family and not actually know most of them.
Here's what I've learned through Grandma telling me and from Facebook...  =)
Each one of us is very unique.
We are actresses and businessmen and moms and fashion aficionados and writers and Walmart employees and computer geniuses.
We are men in kilts and suits and army fatigues.
We are Catholic and Evangelical and who knows what else.
Many of us are musicians of some sort - even if it's only privately.  I just know we sounded pretty good singing all together.   
We are a family full of people who know their mind and are not afraid to go against the flow to say so.
Getting glimpses of all these things in various relatives over the last week made me wish I could spend enough time with them to actually know them.  I think we would have fun together.
The amazing thing to me is that Grandma loved us all specifically for our individuality.  She loved it that we don't blend in.  That we are opinionated and able to express it.  That we aren't afraid to make hard decisions.  That we are creative.  Even if she disagreed with us - with me.
I don't know how many times she told me I should be more strict with my kids.  And that I should really try sewing 'cuz handmade clothes are so much better than store bought.  And that sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the same thing, so it doesn't matter if you eat either.  She told me how to cook and what books I should read and what books I should read to my kids and what kind of music I should let them listen to.  I learned a non-committal nod and an "Oh really?" or "I suppose I could try that."  And sometimes - maybe often? - she was right.  But I never have been one to disagree too loudly with a person about much of anything. 
Listening to her, I felt a little rebuked sometimes.  Grandma was an opinionated, stubborn woman.  And she knew Jesus and had so many more life experiences than I have.  I respected her wisdom and treasured her advice.
Grandma spent much of our time together telling me about my cousins and their parents and kids, bragging about how smart and kind and hard-working they were.  And about how much she loved them... and what she thought they should do differently too.
And I knew she loved me.  Grandma always said exactly what she thought and so was never shy to say how much she loved you or how beautiful she thought you were or how great a job you were doing in some area.  She encouraged me more than she pointed out areas that needed work. 
The last time she recognized me in the hospital, she hugged me tight and whispered, "I love you.  More than you'll ever know."
That was Grandma.

Monday, April 2, 2012

For Grandma

Hmmm....Where to start.  I know I have to write something.  My brain is begging me to get the swirling thoughts out somehow.  So here goes...
I was 12 months old when I became a big sister.  Rob and Becca entered the world 18 days after my first birthday.  My mom did exactly what I would have done in her position.  She called her mama.  I'm the oldest daughter of my grandma's oldest daughter.  And my grandma and I spent alot of time together before I can even remember.
I have a great mama, so it's not like I needed another one.  But my grandma became mama too, to me. 
Some of my earliest memories are with her.  At "The Loom," her yarn shop, touching samples stacked high - for those of you who have shopped with me, I am convinced this is where I learned to feel all the clothes...  At Goodrich with her and grandpa picking mint chocolate chip every time.  Sitting at her kitchen table on that awful red and gold carpet eating those wafer cookies with the layers of frosting.  Carefully descending her twirly stairs to Chelley's bedroom with the big mural on the wall.
I remember when my parents told me we were moving to Africa.  I wasn't sad to leave anyone but Grandma.  When my mom said we could keep one stuffed animal to take with us to Senegal, I took the calico kitty Grandma sewed for me.  I remember hugging that kitty and crying under my mosquito net in the dark.  Grandma's house was home to me through the next few years of moving and changes.  She wrote letters and sent Odyssey tapes, and I waited for hugs.  I remember looking through tears out the back window of our van at her disappearing house.
I distinctly remember sitting in my 6th grade classroom in Elba, NE looking at the clock and knowing that Grandma was in surgery and the doctor didn't expect her to ever wake up. 
When I had a problem or something was on my mind, I went to Grandma.  She had such a hard life in so many ways and had walked through all of it with Jesus.  So she was full of wisdom and compassion.  And she loved me.  And prayed for me. 
I laughed and cried through her old stories.  Grandpa's spunky great-grandma who was ninety-some years old, standing on a table, on a chair, painting her ceiling when they went to visit her.  Her brother who got run over by a car while walking down the side of the road.  Riding on the tractor with her dad.  Seeing a curly-haired boy for the first time when she was 14 (?) and telling her mama she was going to marry him.  Driving from Ohio to California by herself with three babies and pregnant with the fourth. 
I remember holding it together at my wedding until grandma walked in the door and I cried on her shoulder.  And I remember how pretty she looked in the purple dress she made just for the occasion.  I was always so excited to take my babies to meet Grandma.  I was so afraid she'd die before she held them and that they'd be lacking something forever because Grandma never touched them.  Her face lit up every time with pure joy.  Even yesterday, barely awake, she held Hudson and was so happy.  And now I'm jealous because she's going to hold one of my babies before me...
I've watched her grow weaker over the last few years.  But she never lost her love for life.  She always said, "Bored people are stupid people."  So even as her world shrunk, she was joyful and kind and interested in everything.  She watched birds out her window (I'm convinced the birds are going to miss her) and read endless books about everything.  She learned to use and ipad (and loved it!).  She tried new recipes and kitchen gadgets. And she prayed for and listened to and loved her family.
And I watched Grandpa love her.  I have never seen such selfless love lived out in front of my eyes.  He is a man of integrity and faithfulness who has fulfilled his marriage vows and lived out his love for Jesus.  And it has been joy to him every step of the way - even these last painful steps. 
Thirty years of memories, framed forever in my mind.  Glimpses of smiles and laughter and tears. 
I've been preparing for this day for a long time.  I knew she would beat me to heaven.  I knew I would somehow have to survive crises without her.  I know she's longing to dance the gold streets of heaven with Jesus.  To truly live - with no pain.  To see her mama and daddy and her baby and her brothers.  She's ready to go home.  And I don't blame her. 
I am reminded, or maybe taught clearly for the first time, that we were never meant to die.  God created us to live forever.  I am learning just how awful the price of sin is.  So I grieve that she has to die.  That death, though inevitable, is not what we were created for.  At the same time I rejoice!  I KNOW for certain that I will see her again.  And that when I do she will be perfectly whole - and so will I!  =)  That we will live forever (hopefully next door to each other) at the feet of Jesus worshiping.  With no pain.  No tears.  No fear.  No death.  No moving or change or separation.  Forever. 
The effects of sin erased forever. 
And all because of Jesus' shed blood.  He defeated sin forever when he died and came back to life.
So I cry and rejoice at the same time.
I never knew I could do that so intensely before.

If you'd like the shorter and much more poetic version, go to my cousin Claire's blog here

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The joys of being an aunt! =)

I had four kids in my house this morning.  I know, I usually have four kids in my house, but this morning was different.  Two of them were my sister's kids.  So I chased Julia (4) and Ava (2) along with Honey Rae (20 months..ish) and Hudson (2 months).
And I learned a few things. 
First off, did I really used to do that all the time?  I need a nap!  And my house is completely destroyed.  I don't know how Kayla's house always looks so clean...  Which brings me to point number two.

Everyone should train their babies to watch tv from a very early age.  Honey is not interested in tv, so she kept screeching and poking at Hudson's face when he was almost asleep. 
Which made him wake up. 
Which made me have to put him to sleep again. 
Which made Honey wait even longer for more milk in her baba. 
Which is why she was screeching and poking in the first place. 
She wanted "MORE please." 
If she had stared like a zombie at the tv for an hour like my girls were doing, I would not have had this problem.  On the other hand, Honey is going to be so much smarter than my kids whose brains have probably turned to mush...  =)
Next lesson.  I have officially lost my baby muscles.  Hudson is a sweet tiny little thing, and I held him all morning. Partly because I love to cuddle him and partly because I was afraid to put him down.  Anyway, after two and a half hours, my arms are tired!

Bottom line:  It was a great morning!  I love babies - especially Kayla's babies.  And I was happy to send two of them home so I can do another thing I love - take a nap!  =)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quick Update...

I know. 
Even if you have not particularly noticed or cared.  It has been a pathetically long time since I blogged.  I could blame this on many things. 
I have four kids.
A husband. 
A huge house to clean. 
But bottom line is my brain is confused.  It can't seem to put two coherent sentences together.  God has been teaching me so many things.  And I've been trying frantically to keep up.  But I have to say most of the time, I've just felt tired, exhausted at the sheer pace of His thoughts speeding by me.  I've been grabbing for them, attempting to store them and maybe...hopefully!...remember them whenever I feel like me again.  Maybe I don't know who "me" is. 
Anyway, all this to say that I haven't been able to think of anything funny or interesting or even useful to write down.  Usually I write to organize thoughts in my head.  So here goes trying again. 
So for news since the last time...whenever that was...
Kylie's six now!   Julia's four!  Ava turned two!!  AH!  How is that possible! I don't have a baby anymore....  hmmm....
And our house in Lincoln sold.  Praise God!  The two house payment thing was not going well.  Although I have to say it was bittersweet.  The last time walking around the house holding so many memories made me rethink our decision...again.  We lived so much life with our babies in that tiny little house. 
So we're officially Central City people now.  Not Lincoln people who just happen to be hanging out in Central City for a while.  I'm not sure that's what I thought I wanted.  God's thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, right?  He sure has pointed that our repeatedly this last year.  Apparently I am a slow learner...
That's all for now. 
Time to pick up kids from school.  And clean the house.  And fold laundry.  And think of something for supper.
Maybe I'll be back tomorrow...