Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Be Afraid

This week I did something so dumb that I had to laugh at myself.

It started with a Bible verse.  The verse is Isaiah 41:10:
"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."
I have a history with this verse.  This is the verse God spoke to me as comfort when I was pregnant with a baby I didn't plan and doctors told me he may not survive.  God breathed new life into these ancient words in order to give me comfort and stability in a very difficult time.

Recently this Bible verse has been stalking me.

My husband was waiting to hear if he would be one of the thousands of Caterpillar employees to be laid off last week, and a close friend of mine sent me a text of prayer and encouragement.  She said Isaiah 41:10 was the verse God had given her for this situation.  It made me smile because it was God's way of reminding me of His faithfulness before.  I smiled and whispered "I love you too, God."

But then the verse kept showing up.  In a Bible study.  In a devotion.  On the radio.

Do you know what my response was?  FEAR!  God said, "Don't be afraid," and I got very afraid!  As I was driving and the sugary sweet radio announcer read the familiar words from Isaiah, I nearly crashed my car as panic struck me.  I suddenly realized that God must be warning me about some impending terrible situation.

My word.  I can't make this stuff up.  My first reaction was fear with a panic chaser.  To the words of the living God speaking directly to me:  Don't.  Be.  Afraid.

It's like when someone says, "Don't look!"  You immediately look, right?

Or a phone call saying, "First of all, don't worry; everyone is ok.  But..."  I clutch my chest and shrilly ask "What happened?!"

But as I gripped my steering wheel as tightly as the panic gripped me, I thought for a moment about what was happening.  And I cracked up.  Driving along alone in my car.  I laughed with my nose crinkled and my teeth and gums bared.  God pursued me with words of comfort and I freaked out.

Only someone like me--or most members of the female gender--could take something so simple and make it complicated.  God sent me a simple message and I read so far into it that I lost the original words.  I found some mystical hidden message and assumed I must be on the crumbling ledge of tragedy.

But you know what God was actually saying to me?  Don't be afraid.  I'm with you.  Don't be discouraged.  I'm your God.  I'll give you strength.  I'll help you.  I hold the ultimate victory in my hands, and I'll hold you in those same hands.

What precious words.  And my poor, persistent God had to tell me a good three or four times before I heard Him.  I picture Him in my head as a hand-drawn character from the Sunday comics, sprawled out with squiggly lines coming up from His head, exhausted from His task.  But I also think He got a good laugh with me.

So please hear God and take Him at His word.  His actual words, not the ones you fear could be wrapped up in dark clothing hiding behind the message.  Hear Him tell you that He's yours, and He will hold you, and He wants to share His victory with you and be your strength.

And it doesn't hurt to laugh at yourself every now and then.


Saturday, October 3, 2015


Yesterday I woke up to Jared whispering "Happy sixteen years!"  It was exactly sixteen years since the day Jared first asked if I wanted to officially be his girlfriend.  We've been together ever since.

We thought that was what our day would mostly be about.  We had planned a date in the evening so we could spend some much-needed time together.

But our day took a turn and left us focused on less-than-joyful things.

Our babysitter backed out so our date was cancelled.

Then began a string of sudden tragedies all around us.

I decided to read a bit of daily news, and I was horrified to read about the C-130 that crashed in Afghanistan, killing its crew.  One of my best friends is married to a pilot who flies C-130s.  He has been to Afghanistan.  This very well could have been him in this story.  The reality of it hit me hard as I reached out to my friend and realized I had very little comfort to offer (other than gratitude that her husband is safe).

We had some friends over after school, and as I was walking them out, we heard sirens barreling toward us.  We looked up and saw black smoke rapidly rolling out of a house and into the sky.  People seemed to appear out of nowhere as a stream of police cars, firetrucks, rescue squads, and ambulances rushed to the burning house.  The fire was extinguished as neighbors informed me that the house belonged to an elderly couple.  The husband made it out of the house, but his wife did not.  The late news last night confirmed that she was deceased by the time the firefighters got to her.

I didn't know these people, but I couldn't stop thinking about it.  That man lost his house and his wife in just a few moments.  This was also the third house fire in our neighborhood in the past year.  I don't feel super secure about the safety of our house.

I sent a text to my family about the fire, and my dad replied by letting us know that a friend of his had passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack while he was out in his corn field.  Again, this was a sudden death with no warning.  I felt very shaken.

We were outside talking to neighbors and friends who had driven over to see what was happening.  Nora checked both sides of the street and then began to cross right in front of a parked car.  That parked car began to drive at just that moment.  I shouted Nora's name and she backed up to the curb, and thankfully the driver paused.  Nora ran into the house crying because I had shouted at her, but at least she was safe.  It was such a close call.

Once I could squeeze my car between emergency vehicles to get out of our neighborhood, I took Nora to a friend's house.  Her friend's dad works for Caterpillar, the same company my husband Jared works for.  If you read the news at all, you know that Caterpillar is in the midst of laying off thousands of employees.  We discussed the possibilities of how this might play out for both of our families.  Jared has already told me that he feels confident that he could get another job.  It just would require that we move.  Moving isn't exactly tragic, but it isn't easy.  I trust that God had planned for my sister to move to Florida.  But it hurt like crazy to let her go.  It still stings when we don't get to talk often enough.  I trust that God would lead us to the next job if it came to that, but I also know it would hurt.

I didn't sleep very well last night.  I just couldn't stop feeling the heaviness.  So many situations of sudden tragic loss and all of them were so close to us.  Is this a warning?  A coincidence?  A reminder to be so grateful for our safety?

I was lying awake during the night when Jared woke up too.  I told him I couldn't stop thinking about the man from the house fire and everything that had happened.  He wrapped his arm around my waist and squeezed me tight against him.  He said sleepily, "Happy sixteen years."

We know this world is a broken place, and being part of God's people doesn't keep us from experiencing the heartache this world can bring.  We are not of the world but we sure are in it.  I know God has a plan for me personally and for my family.  I trust Him to lead us through His plan for us.  The very emotional human part of me just doesn't want to experience the growing pains along the way. 

People often quote Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."
I love these words and I believe them.  But I have also studied them in context.  They were written to God's people who had been in exile.  God's people had been rebellious and had been warned over and over to turn back to Him.  Because they chose not to obey him, God allowed the Babylonians to take over their land, destroy their temple, and scatter God's remaining people.  The words of Jeremiah 29:11 were spoken to those weary, broken down people once they had been through the heartache and God was ready to restore them.  God was being so compassionate toward them and was restoring their hope and faith in Him.  I cling to the reassurance of these words, but I also know what can come before them.

If my husband was killed on his job, my God would have a plan for me.  If I lost a family member in a house fire, God would take care of me.  If my child was hit by a car or someone I loved had a sudden massive heart attack or my whole family had to move to somewhere unknown so my husband could have a job, well God would certainly give us a future.  But I honestly still struggle with fear of the sudden unknown as well as fear of the pain.

Jared reminded me of our discussions at church as we are studying heaven.  I told him I am 100% secure in knowing my eternity is in heaven.  It's the time on earth that churns my stomach.

So I'm gathering up some verses to help me combat that fear.  I need these and maybe you do too.

"So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you."  Psalm 56:3

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6-7

"Peace is what I leave you; it is my own peace that I give you.  I do not give it as the world does.  Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid."  John 14:27

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind."  2 Timothy 1:7

"But now this is what the Lord says--he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you Israel:  'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.'" Isaiah 43:1

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:34

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."  1 Peter 5:7

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"  Psalm 27:1

"I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear:  Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him.  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."  Luke 12:4-7

More verses to consider:  Psalm 94:19, Proverbs 12:25, Psalm 23:4, Luke 12:22-26, Psalm 55:22, Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:13-14, Psalm 46:1, Psalm 118:6-7, Proverbs 29:25, Psalm 34:4, Romans 8:38, Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 91


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kids' Chore System (Take 1)

I am here to ashamedly admit that we have not had a chore system for our kids.  Ever.  Until now.

Jared has too much commute time, and he's been spending that time listening to too much Dave Ramsey.  So he and I talked about how we wanted a chore system to work in our house.

I'm sharing with you what we are currently doing.  We are only on week 3, so I'm sure we will make adjustments as we go.

First, we made a list of possible jobs for the kids.  Then we assigned 5 jobs to each child.  The others became "extras."  Each child must complete their personal five chores all week long in order to be paid their weekly allowance of $5 on Saturday (pay day).  They will receive an additional $1 for each extra job they complete.

So just to clarify, their regular chores are worth $1 each for an entire week of completion, no matter how many times they do each chore.  The extra jobs are worth $1 per job.  Make sense?

I made a simple table to show the chores, and I put it in a super cheap picture frame (it's actually a document frame so it's 8.5"x11" but you could trim your chart and use an 8"x10" frame).  I glued magnets onto the back of the frame so it could hang on our fridge.  We also glued a magnet onto a wet-erase marker.  The kids use this to tally their extra jobs for the week.

Most of the kids' chores are self-explanatory.  We divided the basement into two sections, and Griffin and Nora are each in charge of keeping a section clean.  "Laundry" means the kids have to gather the dirty laundry and sort it by color.  After I fold all the clean laundry, they each have to put their own laundry away (including putting their hanging clothes on hangers and hanging them in their closets).  I take care of my clothes, Jared puts his own away, and I do the towels, wash cloths, etc. 

The second part of this system involves what to do after they are paid for completing their chores. 

The kids are required to split their allowance between Give, Save, and Spend envelopes.  We pay the kids their $5 in all one dollar bills.  They put $1 into the Give envelope, $2 into Spend, and $3 into Save.  When we explained the system to the kids, Griffin immediately said, "But $1 is more than 10% of $5."  That kid is too smart for anyone's good.

So normally we tithe 10%, but for the sake of simplicity, the kids give $1 each week.  We pay them on Saturdays so they can take their Give dollar to church on Sundays.  We set a cap that they can only earn up to $10 per week (for chores plus extra jobs), so technically they are tithing 10% of their highest potential earnings.

I am working on making the kids fabric zipper pouches for their Give/Save/Spend envelopes, but I'm not nearly finished.  So for now we had them label regular envelopes.  We also required them to list at least 3 goals on their Save envelopes so they can have a clear savings goal in mind.

Griffin's envelopes

Nolan's envelopes

Nora' envelopes
The kids' personalities totally came out during our family meeting about the new system.  Here are their comments:
Nolan:  "Can I just save my Spend money?"
Griffin:  "Can I spend my Save money?"
Nora:  "Can I decorate my envelopes?"
So far this system is working very well.  We are noticing that Nolan's jobs come up more frequently, so we may shift a few things around.  That should go over well.

At least we are finally making progress teaching our kids about money!


Friday, September 18, 2015

Owl Cupcake Toppers

This weekend I will be hosting a baby shower at church (along with my trusty church shower teammates).  We will be celebrating the upcoming arrival of a baby girl, and our theme for the shower is owls with pink and purple.

I decided to make fondant toppers for my cupcakes.  These need to be made a couple days ahead of time so the fondant can dry out to hold its shape.

Here's what I came up with:

I looked around Pinterest and just copied what I liked best about each version of owl cupcake toppers I found.

I used my Christmas light bulb cookie cutter to cut out the body of the owl.  I used my Easter egg cutter to cut off the bottom and top of the Christmas light bulb.

Then I used my leaf cutter to make the wings.  I put purple wings on the pink owls and pink wings on the purple owls.

I made the marks on the owl bellies by using this frosting tip:

I used a large round frosting tip to cut out white circles for the eyes.

I tinted some fondant orange to make the beaks and feet.

I had to cut teeny tiny diamonds for the beaks.  I wasn't in love with the triangle beaks I saw on most of my inspiration pictures.  There was no shortcut here.  I just had to cut strips of orange fondant and then cut it into diamonds with a knife.

For the feet, I cut out little flowers and then cut those in half.

I had some leftover fondant, so I cut out large white circles for the owls to rest on.  The feet weren't adhering well to the owl bodies, so this way I could just stick them to the circle backdrops.

The last step was using a black food coloring marker to draw in the pupils of the eyes.  Since this is a baby girl shower, I made the eyes girly.

All done!  I'll bake the cupcakes tomorrow, but I'll wait until right before the baby shower to frost the cupcakes and put the owls on top of the frosting.  If you put the toppers on too early, the fondant absorbs the moisture from the frosting and it wilts and melts.  Not cute.

*Just in case you're interested, I make homemade marshmallow fondant following the recipe/tutorial here.  I promise you this fondant is so much more delicious than store-bought fondant!  I put wax paper on cookie sheets and use those to lay out my fondant shapes while I assemble them and they dry.  That's the ugly background in these pictures. 

Basically, I get to have adult Play-doh time when I make fancy toppers for baby shower cupcakes. :)


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lunch Jokes

My kids take a packed lunch to school most days (Nolan takes one everyday).  I like to include a note in their lunch.  In the beginning, I wrote a little message each morning.  After awhile, I ran out of things to say!  Eventually Nolan got too cool for "Mom loves you" notes, so I started giving the boys jokes and riddles instead.

Do you know how quickly you run out of jokes and riddles when you have three kids needing a lunch note everyday??  I have exhausted the interweb of all free printable lunch notes/jokes.

Since I've run out of handwritten ideas and free printable ideas, I came up with a new plan.  We'll see how long this lasts.

Recently while I was shopping at Sam's, I spotted this book:

An idea quickly sprouted in my tired mind.

I bought the book and started cutting the columns apart. 

Then I tried to cut between the jokes to get multiple lunch notes from each column.  Some couldn't be split nicely, but oh well.  I can put one of these in each lunch (still just for the boys since Nora wouldn't get most of the jokes), and the kids can have multiple jokes each day. 

And there you go.  I'm solving life's problems one joke book at a time.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Story

I have quite a story to tell you.  Part of it is the end of one of my stories.  But mostly it's someone else's story.  I got her permission to tell it to you.

This is one of my favorite stories ever.  But it starts with a car accident.

I caused a little fender bender back in May (you can read about it here).  I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I had caused an accident.  And I just couldn't understand how it had happened.  It was literally like my eyes were kept from seeing this car that I hit.  I told Jared at the time that, as crazy weird as it sounds, I felt like maybe God had a hand in me getting in an accident.  There were little ways we saw Him working, but it turns out now that He had a huge plan in mind.

I got a ticket (Failure to Yield while making a left turn) from the accident.  I was given the option to take a Traffic Safety class in order to have the ticket removed from my record.  I dragged my feet until I was almost out of time to take the class.  Finally, I registered for the FOUR HOUR class on Monday, August 10.

I was complaining to my friend Michele about having to take the class.  It's so long.  I'd have to drive to our local community college, and I don't know my way around the campus.  I was just whining, but Michele was concerned about me, especially about me walking back out to my car late at night.  She said she wanted to go with me.  What?!  I said no way.  I couldn't let her give up her whole night just because I have weird anxiety about driving and finding my way in new places.  But Michele said she'd love to sit outside my class and use the time to do her Bible study homework.

Let me pause a moment to talk about Michele.  She lives down the street from me.  We became friends last school year from seeing each other everyday at school drop off and pick up.  She has become one of my best friends.  When she was offered a job last spring, I started watching both of her kids each morning (Garrit and Abby) and just her daughter during the day.  She has the summers off since she works at a school, so we went swimming at her house nearly every day this summer.

Michele was born and raised Catholic.  She and her husband have not regularly attended church, but they enrolled their kids in CCD, which is a Wednesday night class for kids to learn about the Catholic faith and traditions.  Michele went with me to weekly Play Group (moms of little kids hanging out) at my church a few times before she started working.  In July, her kids went with mine to our church's Vacation Bible School.  Abby LOVED it but Garrit wasn't so sure.  Our VBS always ends with a celebration during the church service on the Sunday morning after VBS.  Michele and Abby came to our church that morning for the celebration, and it was their first time attending one of our church services.

I was offered the opportunity to teach a unique women's Bible study called Passion Pursuit (about how to enrich sexual, emotional, and spiritual intimacy in your marriage) starting back in July.  I brought one of the books to Michele's one day when we gathered to swim, and I asked if anyone was interested in joining me.  Michele took the bait.

So Michele came to my Wednesday night class starting in July.  She came to her first Sunday morning service on August 2 in order to watch her daughter perform her VBS songs.  Abby loved our church so much that Michele and Abby came back the next Sunday.  And the next.

Now back to my traffic class on that Monday, August 10.  I accepted Michele's offer to come with me because I am a 'Fraidy Cat.  She brought along her homework for our Wednesday night class.  She sat outside my Traffic Safety class for the full four hours and completed all of her weekly homework.  She enjoyed the peace and quiet and I enjoyed her companionship to help me during class breaks.

While we were driving home that night, Michele and I had a conversation that would change her life.  We just didn't know it yet.

We started talking about the Bible study homework and various spiritual matters.  I gathered my boldness and asked her if she could recall a time in her life when she knew she had received forgiveness and salvation.  She has so much knowledge of God from so much time in church, but I wanted to know if she had a relationship with God beyond head knowledge.  I told her that I can point to a specific day (although I don't remember the date) when I prayed a prayer of salvation and received forgiveness for my sins and started a lifelong journey with God.  She said she didn't have that moment.

She was stuck on one thing.  She had a couple sins she just didn't think God could forgive.  She wanted to get her mistakes made right before she came to God.  I told her that if she could do that, she wouldn't need Jesus' forgiveness through what He did on the cross.  She heard me and accepted what I had to say, but she was still processing it all.  I told her choppy pieces of Bible verses about how God removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west and He casts our sins into the ocean and he remembers our transgressions no longer.  We parked in her driveway and continued our discussion for a long time.  Eventually, we hugged and she went inside.  I could tell it was a lot for her to think about.  I went home feeling a little discouraged and wondering if I had said the right things.

I couldn't go to bed because I kept thinking about our conversation.  God put four Bible verses in my mind, so I looked them up and typed them out for Michele.  Of course, I made them in fun fonts with cute colors.  I printed them but forgot to give them to Michele.

We had our normal Wednesday night class with excellent discussion.  I'd like to add that at this point, Michele's marriage was already completely changed by the work she was doing because of our class.  Michele gave this study her all, and her husband saw changes in her and responded with his own growth and changes.  In fact, their marriage was so improved that two different women from our neighborhood approached me and said that they were astounded by what they saw in Michele's marriage.  These women have never even considered attending my church, but they asked to be invited to the next Passion Pursuit class because they want what they saw happening in Michele's marriage.

Back to That Week.  Monday was the traffic class.  Wednesday was Passion Pursuit.  Saturday evening was a block party in our neighborhood.  Michele and I both attended the block party.  We chatted with each other and with lots of neighbors.  Then I remembered that I had the printed out Bible verses for her, so I gave her the paper.  I just told her that these were the actual verses of some of the pieces of Scripture I had referenced in our previous conversation.  She was grateful and folded up the paper and stuck it in her purse.  Then my night derailed quickly because of a super scary event in which Nolan was with a friend and then the friend's mom dropped him off at our house when no on was home.  Nolan was terrified out of his mind but handled it by finding my iPad and texting three of my close friends asking for help.  They contacted me, and I rushed home to Nolan.  And I'm still working on getting over the whole event.  After I was reunited with Nolan, I broke out in what we referred to as leprosy.  It was a strange rash that two doctors couldn't identify or help treat.  We now know it's a viral rash, and I'm still waiting for it to clear up.

The next morning (Sunday, August 16), we went to church as usual, and Michele and Abby came, too.  Our pastor has been doing a summer sermon series called 8 Great Life-Changing Verses.  Each week he preaches on a verse that can change your life.  On this particular Sunday, his verse was 1 John 1:9.  I elbowed Michele and told her that verse was on the paper I had given her.  To my delight, she picked up her purse and pulled out the sheet of Bible verses I had made.  Sure enough, 1 John 1:9 was at the top of the list.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  1 John 1:9
God had Michele's attention.  As our pastor worked through his sermon, he referenced ALL of the other verses on the paper I had given Michele.  She just kept nodding, looking at me, and looking at her list.  I was giddy inside over watching God speak to Michele.  This verse addressed the very issue Michele had confessed to struggling with:  forgiveness for her sins.  At the end of the sermon, the pastor led us in an incredible time of prayer.  When we were done praying, Michele's face was covered in tears.  I gave her a tissue and a long hug.  My heart overflowed with love for this friend.  I was so grateful to literally watch God break through to her.

On that morning, Michele accepted the forgiveness that Jesus has been offering her.

There are a lot of churchy ways to say it.  Michele got saved.  She received salvation.  She gave her heart to Christ.  She claimed her free ticket to heaven.  She became a Christian.

What I know is that Michele is not the same as she was before that day.  She didn't instantly become a perfect person.  She didn't automatically understand everything.  She's still asking God to help her forgive herself for past choices, even though she knows that God has forgiven her.  She now looks at hardships and struggles in her life and asks how God wants her to handle them.  She downloaded our church's mobile app (you can get it in iTunes or GooglePlay) and signed up to have daily Bible verses and devotions sent to her phone.  She struggled to understand the Bible before, and now the Holy Spirit in her helps her to not only understand it but to also believe it and be changed by it.

Michele's story just keeps going.  The next Wednesday night class went a little late, and Michele and I were nearly the last two people to leave the church building.  We bumped into our pastor on the way, and we were able to tell him the whole story of how God used a conversation, four verses, and a sermon to draw Michele into Him.  Michele and I both cried when we got to tell our pastor that Michele had received salvation.  It still gets me every time!

Then Michele said to our pastor that she still just doesn't know how to pray.  Pastor said, "That's what my next sermon is about."  Michele's eyes were so wide as her jaw dropped.  She kept asking me if I had talked to our pastor about her or if I had asked him to preach directly to her.  I was able to tell her that it was totally God pursuing her.  Our pastor chose his verses for this series back in February.  No human could have orchestrated all of this.  God laid every piece into place in order to reach His precious daughter.  He wanted Michele to know that He is real and He is reaching out to her.

That next verse that helped Michele understand prayer was Hebrews 4:16.
"Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Hebrews 4:16    
In case you're interested, here are the verses on the sheet I gave Michele:

If you want to watch any of the sermons in the 8 Great Verses series, click here.

This past Sunday was the last sermon in the 8 Great Verses series.  Wanna know what it was?  Romans 8:28:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28
It all rushed over me yet again.  That fresh sense of God in our midst.  The gratefulness that He not only works in us but also lets us participate in what He is doing in others.  He's so real, and He's so good.

He does work in all things for our good.  He worked in a car accident and a Traffic Safety class.  Satan tried to distract me with the Nolan Incident and my leprosy, but God's plans prevailed.  Nothing, nothing, NOTHING compares to the greatness of knowing God and interacting with him and participating in what He is doing.

Michele's son Garrit, who has refused to come to church until now, decided all on his own that he wanted to come with her and Abby this past Sunday.  We prayed for that precious boy all morning, and he had such a great time!  Michele and both of her kids will now be attending our church regularly.  We will keep praying for Michele's husband, and we will watch as God works in his heart to reach him in His timing.

Michele is one of my very best friends, and I always enjoy spending time with her.  But now all of our interactions have an undertone of joy because I can't look at her without remembering what God did over these last few weeks.  She had a rough morning today and sent me a text asking for a Bible verse to help her.  My spirit instantly said "Yes, God.  Thank you, God."  This is what I want.  Bringing my own focus back to God as I encourage a fellow believer to hold onto God in the midst of life's yuck.

I know this was a long story, but every single detail was important to me.  Because every single detail was important to God.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Morning Joy

I'm not a morning person.  I never have been.  I'm not sure it's something I can ever become.

But I've learned to enjoy certain parts of my mornings.

My long-time favorite part has been the first time I see each child for the morning.  It may be when I wake them up with a hundred kisses on their warm, soft skin.  Or it may be when I drag myself out to the kitchen, following the scent of coffee, and find the boys already sitting at the table eating breakfast.  And then I kiss them each one hundred times on their warm, soft skin.

It's been crazy around here trying to get into our new morning routine.  Today completes our first full week of school for this school year.  Our timing is different because Nolan's new school starts 30 minutes before the elementary school does.  I'm caring for my friend's kids, Garrit and Abby, each morning for about an hour before school.  Last year I had to get all 5 kids into the car on time, but only 3 of them had to be ready for school.  Now I have to make sure all shoes are tied, jackets remembered, lunches in back packs, and back packs in the car.  Like I said, it's been a little crazy.

But I'm starting to love a new part of our morning.  When it's time to go, everyone piles into our new (used) minivan.  This is the first time we've owned a minivan!  I'm still opposed to the gold color and the fact that I'm a minivan mom, but I'm LOVING the convenience of this vehicle.  It's a good thing I love it because we spend so much time in that car!

So each morning we pile into the minivan and set off towards Nolan's school, which is about a ten-minute drive.  The route is new to us this year, so we've been observant of what we pass along the way.

Our morning drive has become an adventure.  On the first day of school, we noticed some geese in an open field.  Then we passed a lake where there was just one single goose floating on the water.  A few turns later, we passed some flood water in a field and saw ducks in the water.  Most of them were diving down into the water (presumably getting their breakfast), leaving their hind ends up in the air.

So now our morning adventure has morphed into a daily story involving these settings and characters.  We check the open field and notice whether the geese are gathered closer to the road or further back from it.  We guess what they might possibly be eating in that field.  Some suggestions may be weird or even gross.  We drive by the lake and look for "the lonely goose."  Yesterday he wasn't there, but then we saw a few geese later in a new spot.  We all agreed that it was the Lonely Goose and he had finally made a few new friends.  We were very happy for him.

Then we turn onto a road where I accelerate quickly and the kids are positive that this activates wings that come out of the side of my minivan.  This is just one of the many features of our fun new vehicle, in addition to its ability to morph into a submarine should we ever have a need to go under water.

Around the curve we come up to "Duck Bottom Pond."  This is everyone's favorite part of the drive.  We all tell each other when it's coming up.  Then as we pass it, we search for ducks diving down to get whatever they're getting (we guess about that, too).  We all triumphantly yell "Duck Bottom Pond!"  And that's when we are officially ready to start a new day.

I haven't been a very playful mom.  Imagination isn't my strongsuit.  But somehow these kiddos have helped me see the fun in making our morning commute into a story.  It starts their day out on a fun note.  It gives them little things to look forward to and distracts those who don't really feel like going to school.

It also reminds me to truly enjoy every minute of time I have with my kids each day.  Even the time in the mornings.