Monday, August 15, 2016

Our Grand Adventure -- Part One!

     Well, we made it back from our trip!  For those of you who may not know, our family took a 20 day, 8,000+ mile road trip on a tour of the western part of the US. We drove the whole way in our new-to-us 15 passenger van.  Four kids, 8,000 miles, and no DVD player!  It's a miracle they survived! (They did get to play the occasional game of "Angry Birds" however.)

     We saw so much of the beautiful country God has blessed us with!  From the tops of the Rocky Mountains to the flat of the Great Plains there was so much to see.  I was amazed at how many different things there are to see in our country alone.  You could take a road trip every summer and not be able to see everything!  I will post a few of the many pics that we took so you can enjoy a mini "slide-show" of our trip!

The kids looking out the top of the St. Louis Arch.

Antelope.  Even Little Sister got good at spotting these!

One of the main animals to see on our checklist was a moose.  No male, but we saw this female early in our trip.

SNOW! In summer!!

We saw many bison in Yellowstone.  There were even a few babies!

Black bear in Yellowstone

Photo op at the mud pits!

Baby elk.  Cute!

We were so excited to be able to see a grizzly bear!  Or as Little Sister called them "grizz-el-ly bears"!

These colored pools at Yellowstone are my favorite things to see.  This is one is called Morning Glory Pool.

      Well, that was only part one of our trip!  This blog will have to be in two parts, I think.  Stay tuned for part two!  :)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Celebrations and Rememberings

     Summer has officially started in our house!  Middle Biscuit's birthday kicks off summer around here. He is double digits this birthday...the big 10!  He is growing into such a mix of tender and tough.  He is the one who will help his little sister when she only annoys the other brothers.  He is our creative little Lego architect and artist.  And yet, don't make the mistake of thinking you can push him around!  He has proven his toughness by standing up to those who try!  Happy birthday, Middle Biscuit!  You are a gift to our family who brings such joy and fun!  

     Middle Biscuit's birthday always falls close to the holiday weekend of Memorial Day.  Most people view this holiday as the beginning of summer.  A time to get together with family and friends and maybe hit the beach or have a barbecue.  But how many families are missing someone during these fun times?  

     Hubby and I have been watching the TV show "NCIS" on Netflix.  A fairly typical crime solving's distinguishing factor is that it deals with crimes in the Navy and Marines.  Pretty good show all around.  There was an episode that we just finished that dealt with an old veteran who (in the story) had been on Iwo Jima.  What stood out about the episode to me was the way the other characters in the show treated this old, confused Marine with the utmost level of respect.  They recognized the service he had done for his country, and treated him accordingly.  They treated him with respect because they knew his story.  

     I told Hubby when the show was over that I believed that one reason that this generation was lacking in some areas was because the stories of their families hadn't been passed down.  The stories of their family members who had fought and perhaps died in defense of this country and its ideals.  How have we let the celebrity culture take over to the point where a young person can tell you about the newest boy band, but not the story of the men who fought and died?  Even in their own families?  

    I remember hearing the story of my grandfather's sister whose husband died on the beaches of Normandy.  He never got to meet his daughter.  His best friend came home from the war and married my great-aunt, and they tried to make a life.  However, he was so affected by the war that he self-medicated with alcohol, and they split up.  She went on and married again, and is still living in her nineties.  It may not have been a happy story, but I knew it.  It is so sad to me that kids don't know the stories of their families.  

     How can we expect them to have a sense of the history of their country when they don't even know the history of their own family?   They may not be happy stories, but they are important stories.  Kids need to know the unhappy side of life along with the good side.  We cannot have one without the other.  

     So, this Memorial Day, maybe take a few minutes to tell your kids the stories of their family.  And if you don't know any, find out about them.  Begin to instill a sense of a personal history, and you will also be instilling a sense of national history.  And thank you to all those in my family who have served this country.  Especially those who gave all, like my other aunt, who lost a brother just a few years ago in Afghanistan.  So, remember them.  Pray for their families.  And tell their stories.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Endings, Beginnings, and In Between

     Well, a month has gone by since my last post.  When will someone be able to solve the conundrum of how time can simultaneously fly past and yet seem so long?  I am sure the speed of time is directly proportional to how many events have taken place in a given amount of time!  

     We had a difficult event happen in our school family at the end of January.  A parent of one of my little kindergarteners was killed in a car accident.  She left three young children behind.  A tragedy like this is always difficult to go through, but it is even more difficult when little ones are involved.  It was a comfort to know that this young mother knew the Lord as her Saviour, and so we know she is in a better place.  The little ones in my class have faithfully mentioned their classmate for prayer every day since the accident.  Oh, that we could have the faith of these little ones!  They believe with their whole hearts the simple fact that Jesus is their friend and cares about every little detail of their lives.  From big things like a friend's mother dying to little things like how their sibling treats a family pet,  they rest in the knowledge that once Jesus knows, they don't have to worry anymore.  Which, of course, they don't.  At what point do we as adults lose this concept?  Do we think that because we have "grown-up" problems, the fact of God's sovreignty is somehow diminished?  Learn from the faith of children...our Saviour used it as an example for a reason.

     The rush of the holidays has settled, and routine is returning to our lives.  This is always a relief to me, as I am a creature of habit.  However, much as we encourage trying new things in our kids, I have been attempting to begin one or two new things in my own life.  I can't very well tell my kids that it is important to try new things if I am not trying new things myself, can I?  So, with that in mind, I have returned to my 5K running program.  I had begun this at the beginning of the school year, but a foot injury put me on hold.  I have discovered that I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to do something that I never thought I could.  I hope to do a 5K event sometime in the near future as well.  I have never considered myself to be a super-athletic person, but I enjoy being (mostly) in shape, and the energy boost is great.  And running doesn't take fancy equipment or a gym membership...just a good pair of shoes and a place to do it.  Emphasis on the good pair of shoes...lesson learned!

     Another new project, less physical, but no less difficult (for me at least!) I have been working on is learning to knit and crochet.  Hubby gave a me a "learn-to-knit" kit for Christmas.  Knitting is hard, y'all!  But I managed to keep at it without throwing it across the room, and was able to learn the basic stitches and make a little knitted skirt for one of Little Sister's dolls.  I have now started to learn some crocheting, which is nominally easier, but still a bit of a challenge for me.  One thing I have learned from this experience is that these skills are only relaxing for people who have mastered them!  I am still at the novice stage, so I am a bit more "intense" with mine! 

     Little Miss turned three a couple of weeks back.  What can I say about this little ray of sunshine in our lives?  As a parent you know that each of your kids is different, but the difference between our boys and our girl is so huge.  She can be sweet as sugar one minute, and the next she has a brother in a headlock!  She is really enjoying being three, and she tells everyone that she is "bigger enough" now. (She hears "You're not big enough" quite often around here!)  She loves pink, princesses, purses, jewelry, and her babies.  She likes being mommy's helper, and she is Daddy's girl.  And she is definitely the boss of her brothers, of course!  Happy birthday, Little Miss!  We love your sweet smile and spunky attitude! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mondays...and Stitch is 7!

     So, today was Monday.  All day.  One of those days where bedtime cannot come soon enough.  No one was really terrible, just a lot of foolishness which compounded to get on my nerves quickly.  The kind of day that ends with a little person mumbling about "mom not liking us."  Yikes.  So, after an explanation and a conversation about how to make our time go more smoothly, we all decided to try to have a better day tomorrow.  Sometimes that is all you can do.  Go to bed and start fresh with a new day.  

     I think tomorrow will be better right from the start -- because tomorrow we are celebrating Stitch's birthday.  He will be seven.  Our littlest guy with the biggest personality.  This kid never meets a stranger.  And he always has something to say...about everything.  And sometimes the stuff is truly cringe-worthy as a parent.  But somehow he manages to get people laughing about the most outrageous stuff!  For example, a couple of weeks ago, he told an older man we know who has to use oxygen that he looks like Darth Vader!  And (thankfully) everyone thought is was the funniest thing ever!  And a few months ago, he asked a man in our church how old he was.   The man replied that he was seventy.  So Stitch answers in a musing tone, "Huh.  You're old enough to be dead, but you're still alive!"  Seriously, how do you handle that as a parent?!  But everyone just loves him to death.  It is obviously a gift.  Maybe he will be a pastor when he grows to say the hard truth to folks and somehow they still love him.  

     He is so excited about this birthday.  I am not sure why.  We don't really have anything extra special planned.  But he has been asking and planning, and counting the days until his birthday since about November.  (By the way, y'all, it is not easy to count how many days between November and January before 7:00am for this girl! And he always asked first thing in the morning!)  But I hope to have a treat for him to take to school and share with his friends tomorrow, and maybe pancakes for his birthday breakfast.  I guess birthdays are just more exciting when you're seven.  

     He has definitely made our lives more exciting.  He has a tender side that he tries to keep hidden under a tough guy exterior.  He does his best to keep up with his big brothers and show them that he is just as strong as they are.  But he adores his baby cousins and broadly hints to dad and mom that he would like another little brother.  

     So, happy birthday to our sweet, funny guy.  And maybe tomorrow will not be a Monday!  :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Pond Water

     So, I have started out this year reading the devotional "My Utmost for His Highest".  This is a fairly famous series of daily devotions written by Oswald Chambers.  While familiar with the book, I hadn't really taken time to use it as a devotional on a personal basis.  

     It has been very good so far.  What struck me the most is that although the devotionals themselves are not long in content, they have so much in them to think about.  

     *Literary side note: It seems that writings from years ago have so much more rich vocabulary than most of the writings of today!  Authors seem to be able to write with more depth in less space.  This seems to carry through not only in the Christian realm, but also the secular authors.  Compare Sherlock Holmes with a current mystery story.  Or Jane Austen with a current romance novelist.  The story just seems  to have more depth; not only is the vocabulary richer, but the characters seem to have more depth. *end literary side note*

     The devotional today was titled "What My Obedience to God Costs Other People".  I have never really thought about how my personal obedience to God has the possibility to cost other people.  Obviously, the converse is true -- my disobedience can cost other people.  This is the aspect that most of us understand.  Our disobedience can cause others to stumble in their walk with Christ.  This is a simple concept.  

    How does our obedience to Christ cost other people?  Mr. Chambers brings out the fact that others will be affected.  "If we obey God it will mean that other people's plans are upset, and they will gibe us with it --'You call this Christianity?' We can prevent the suffering; but if we are going to obey God, we must not prevent it, we must let the cost be paid."  In other words, our obedience to Christ will be inconvenient for others.  And we must not let our desire to not be an inconvenience stand in the way of our obedience.

    This essay also contains this quote, which I found very powerful: "Stagnation in spiritual life comes when we say we will bear the whole thing ourselves."  To me, in the context of this essay, what this is saying is that we will become stagnant in our walk of faith if we try prevent our spirituality and obedience from affecting others.  By trying not to be an "offense" to others, we will actually become flat, lifeless Christians ourselves.  In the same way pond water becomes stagnant if it does not have some amount of outflow, we as Christians will become less if our obedience does not have an affect on others.  If we only focus on our walk as it affects us, we will be less powerful for the kingdom of Christ.  

     He ends the devotional by saying "We have simply to obey and to leave all consequences with HIm."  Is this what I do?  Do I first think of obedience and what it means to God?  Or do I spend time thinking "Well, if I obey God in this area, this person will be will be affected this way, and I don't want them to be offended at me?"  If God is calling me to a higher standard in my life, should I really hesitate in my obedience just because I don't want my relationship with someone to change?  

     The last sentence of the devotional states, "Beware of the inclination to dictate to God as to what you will allow to happen if you obey Him." This is so true!  How often do I allow my obedience to God to be contingent on some preconceived plan of my own?  "I will obey if..."  This is pride in our own independence, thinking we can choose the terms of our obedience to God.  Think how you would feel as a parent if your child said, "Well, Mom, I will obey you in this, but I expect to you to do this in return."  Umm, no!  Then why do we think we can dictate to God the terms of our own obedience?

     We spend a good portion of our children's early developmental stages teaching the concept of obedience.  This can take many forms, from "Don't touch the stove" to "Pick up your toys," but it all boils down to a very simple concept -- Do what you are told.  Why do we spend all those minutes instructing in this area?  Yes, to keep them safe and help them become someone the rest of the world can stand to be around, but those are only the surface reasons.  The most important reason is because we want them to have a lifetime habit of obeying their authority.  If they can learn to obey mom and dad, then obeying God is the next natural step.  This is the end result of what we are trying to accomplish.  

     But we can't just teach this; we have to live it.  And we have to live it in such a way that we are not concerned about how our obedience may affect another.  We would find it a little strange if our child offered the fact that they were afraid of offending their sibling as a reason for their disobedience!  So let's not let our lives become pond water.  Don't stagnate in your spiritual walk.  Let the blessing of being obedient to God flow through you and make a difference in the lives of those around you!