Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas to You!

The Christmas card I would send to make you think my children are adorable, loving and always well-behaved...

And, the Christmas card I would send if I wanted to tell the truth...

Merry Christmas to you all!!!

The Brick Birthday Cake

We celebrated my birthday this weekend and there's just nothing that says, "I love you, Mom!" like your very own brick-shaped birthday cake! They used two of my bread pans to make the cake and iced it right out of the oven...a cake only a mama could love!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Mother's Son

As I watch you sleep, sweet boy, my heart cannot help but ache for another mother's son. He was a sweet boy, too, I'm sure, taken to heaven this week, only three months older than you. I think of her grief, her sorrow, the overwhelming emptiness that must be her companion today. My heart breaks for her. I see so much possibility in you. I wonder what plans God has for you, and if you will allow God to fulfill them through you. Will you be strong? Will you be yielding? Will you be faithful? Will you be like you father...and our Father? I think about the thoughts and dreams the other mother must have had for her son. Surely this was not a thought in her mind. How could a mother conceive of such a startling end to her son's life?

And then I think of yet another mother, who long ago held her sweet boy in her arms. The Bible says she pondered many things in her heart. How she must have adored His baby soft skin and sweet little toes. She, too, must have had thoughts about His life. But, she knew her Son would also have a startling end to His life. How hard it must have been to watch His agony, the rejection by others, His suffering. And yet, she needed Him to accomplish God's will. He was not just her Son, but her Savior. I wonder how she spent those three days between His crucifixion and resurrection. Was it in despair and grief? Quiet expectation? Joyful hope? Reflective? Contemplative?

And, so I look at you anew, sweet boy. I still wonder what kind of life God will gift to you. No matter the outcome, there is the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus--another mother's son and every mother's Savior--and I cling to the promise that He holds every detail of your life in the palm of His hand.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Great Cookie Caper '08

Saturday, the kids and I hosted our first annual Great Cookie Caper. Ten (count 'em T-E-N!) children and their mamas (plus one grandmama!) gathered at our home to decorate and exchange cookies. Each mom/grandma prepared one dozen of two different kinds of cookies for each of the other moms/grandmas. Basically, we all brought four dozen cookies and went home with four dozen cookies. It was an easy way for all of us to accomplish our holiday baking as some of us are new mamas and some of us are working mamas.

Since we were gathering to exchange our cookies anyway, we decided that the kids should get in on the fun, too. I prepared in advance cut-out sugar cookies--eight cookies of eight varying Christmas shapes. Before the families arrived, I measured out a piece of wax paper for each child and wrote their name on. I also placed a baggie with their cookies on top...

(Sorry, I have about five free minutes and I don't know how to rotate the picture, so just exercise your neck and turn your head...)

Next, I prepared six little cups of icing for each of the two tables set up for decorating (one table for big kids, one for small).

My friend, Ann, had the brilliant idea to cut egg cartons apart and put sprinkles in the divided cup sections. Worked like a charm.

We learned as we went and ended up putting a dollop of each color of icing on each child's piece of wax paper to the keep the cross-contamination to a minimum. Olivia's ended up looking like tie-dye cookies...very cool!

I also prepared some extra cut outs for the kids to decorate and eat while their "take home" cookies were drying. Here's the end result:

It was really just an awesome morning, despite one moment of sheer panic the night before as I imagined icing dripping from the ceiling. The kids all had a great time and the moms and grandma had fun fellowshipping, too. Even the babies had fun...

Friday, December 12, 2008

...for nine (yes, NINE!) hours!

And it was the best night's sleep in almost a year!!! This time, I only woke up twice: once because I heard him rustling around and assumed he was waking up at 3:30 AM, and again at 5:30 AM because I had to go to the bathroom:) I feel like a new, happier, rested, healthful, invigorated mama today!

Thank You, again, Lord, for the rest. Rest for my body and rest for my spirit. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

And He Slept...

I just have to rejoice a little bit. Last night, I put Samuel in his own bed at 9:30. I went to help a friend for a bit, fully expecting to come home to a hungry, wakeful child. He was still sleeping, so I got ready for bed and curled up to wait for him to wake up. I woke up at 1:30...still sleeping. 3:15...still sleeping. 4:00...still sleeping. He finally woke up to eat at 4:45 AM! That's almost 7 hours of blissful sleep!!!

Now, if I can figure out how to repeat that again tonight as well as get myself to stop checking the clock all through the night, we'll be golden!

Thank You, God, for a great night with Samuel! I'm looking forward to our day together in You! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Unexpected Provision

This Fall, as I was putting away my maternity clothes (hallelujah!) and getting out my "street clothes," I discovered that somehow in my attempts to organize my clothing and store it last Spring, the "charity" box and the "keeping" box were switched and I only owned clothing that was either horribly out fashion or about 3 sizes too small or big. Clothing is one item in our budget that is almost always sacrificed. The kids have generous grandparents who bless them with beautiful wardrobes, and Charlie and I try to make our clothes stretch and work for as long as possible.

I remember offering up this half-hearted prayer asking God to clothe me somehow, but thinking that I might be doomed to a winter of sweats and maternity clothes. For our anniversary, Charlie surprised me by taking me shopping for clothes. We didn't buy much, but it was such a treat to wake up the next morning and dress in new clothes, made to fit me! I was especially grateful for a new pair of running shoes.

A few weeks ago, my brother called to say that he and his wife were cleaning out closets to make room for my new niece and wondered if Charlie and I might be interested in some of the clothing they were getting rid of. I said we would be happy to do that and they delivered three GIANT boxes filled with clothing today. After our families left, Charlie and I sorted and tried on clothes for almost an hour! It was like Christmas for us! Beautiful, like-new clothing was strewn all across our living room. I now have a closet full of comfortable, non-maternity clothing waiting for me to wear. Oh, how will I choose tomorrow?

After we sorted through the clothing, I called a good friend and asked if she and her family might be interested in the clothing that wouldn't fit us or didn't want. She has these two teenage boys and I thought some of the pants and shirts would be perfect for them. It was so fun to see their eyes light up as they looked through the box.

God really does provide for all our needs and even some of our wants. And I can't help but think about my half-hearted prayers for God to clothe me in righteousness, too. He hears those prayers, too, and answers. Like the boxes of clothes in out living room today, His holy garments come free to me as well.

THANK YOU, Lord, for our new clothes! And, thank You for reminding me that You do hear, even the smallest and weakest of prayers. Help me to remember that You are, indeed, faithful and true and will take care of my every need...and even some of my wants. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Many Moods of Sammy D.

Though a lovable bloke, our little guy seems to have a bit of a temper. At three months old, he is a wailer, but also turning out to have a gorgeous, melt-your-heart sort of smile!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What Our Kids Are Giving For Christmas

First, we've been trying to emphasize the joy of giving at Christmas versus the thrill of getting at Christmas for their entire lives. It isn't about isn't about isn't about presents. That's my holiday mantra, I think. I knew they were starting to get it two years ago when they started their own little tradition of secretly wrapping gifts for the family. I lost my favorite kitchen spoon for a few days and then realized it was wrapped neatly under the tree with my name on it. I also intercepted a jingling package that was a set of keys. Last year, we told them they could wrap gifts, but they had to be items they themselves already owned. So, I was blessed with a stuffed animal, Charlie received a board book. You get the idea.

I love that they love giving, so this year I've been working with each of the girls to find appropriate things they can give to each other and to us. Emma is working on a song to play for me on the piano. She's also working on a secret writing project for her dad. Ruthie wants to make up a song for me and sing Samuel a lullaby. Olivia is going to practice writing her name. For our extended family, the girls are working on Christmas cards and cookies. Lastly, they have been saving spare change all year for our Compassion International child. We will take that change to the bank to be tallied and make a special donation to her. The girls are also working on a special letter and drawings for their "Uganda sister," as they have named her.

While I can't do anything about the commercialism that runs rampant outside my house, I certainly can try to contain it a bit within my own walls. The girls will still receive lots of presents--from family, friends and their own parents, even--but I think what they will enjoy the most is sharing with others the talents and gifts God has blessed them with this year.

So, how about you? What are your kids giving for Christmas this year?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why We Don't Celebrate Santa

This was going to be this long and detailed explanation of the whys and wherefores that went into our decision to not celebrate Santa Claus with our children. But, I have four--one, two, three, four!--children under the age of seven and that sort of post will be left for someone with only one soundly sleeping child, or the mother whose children are at least somewhat grown.

Here's the simple, edited-for-time-allowed version: we don't celebrate Santa Claus because of Jesus. No, not just because Christmas is supposed to be the time we celebrate God coming to be with us. We still put up a tree and hang lights and sing carols and bake (too many) cookies and exchange gifts. We don't celebrate Santa because Santa is a fictional character our kids can't see to believe in. Jesus, on the other hand, is a real person our kids can't see, but need to believe in. When these little people started wandering into our lives, we wanted to only tell them the truth. Lying to them about the existence of a white-bearded gift-giver was wrong for us. I'm not judging other believing parents who do perpetuate Santa. (If you have prayed this out and have freedom to do so, go for it.) We know that this is how God would have us be obedient in this area.

So, that's the not-so-long scoop. Where does your family stand concerning Santa?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Intentional Christmas Traditions

We had Christmas traditions growing up. We always put the nativity set up first and put it away last. We always put the star or angel on the tree first and took it down last. My mom always made buckeyes (an entirely too delicious candy). We always had to search for the stockings because they were never put away where they were supposed to be. We always went to church on Christmas Eve. My mom always bought us an ornament or decoration--some of which adorn our tree today.

We have traditions in our family today, though we've just begun the process of creating them. We put our tree up Thanksgiving weekend. As we decorate the tree, we listen to Christmas music--our favorite is Bing Crosby. We don't celebrate Santa Claus (another post on that later). We always bake cookies together.

This year, wanting to be a little more intentional about our tradition-making, we borrowed some ideas from friends. My good friend Rachel and her husband shared with us how they made a list of people they wanted to pray for and chose a few names each night. I liked that idea and so this afternoon, Charlie and I asked Emma and Ruthie help us compile a list of names written on scraps of paper. After we finished, we placed the names in a box with a lid. Every night before we eat dinner, we will draw out a couple of slips and pray for those individuals or families. Also, we will spend some time talking about the things we appreciate about those people and ways that we are grateful they are in our lives. I love how enthusiastic our girls became for this project! Tonight, we prayed for my brother and my step-dad...two people I love very much and should pray for more often. It was good to spend time thinking about them as the evening wore on.

Another tradition we are creating this year is to attempt to eat as many dinners as possible by candlelight. We did this on Christmas Eve last year as we enjoyed our shepherd's stew and bread. I liked it so much that I wanted to do it more often this year. Tonight, we enjoyed our spaghetti and meatballs by the glow of candles. The magical part of the evening was that the girls didn't notice how many peas and carrots were on their plates, so they just kept eating them!!!

Lastly, a tradition we are beginning but will not complete until next year is our World Vision savings jar. World Vision is a Christian organization that uses resources to help impoverished families purchase animals and livestock to ease their suffering. The livestock are used to supplement the family budget, and often makes it possible for children to attend school instead of earning money. We started a jar for spare change and next Christmas we will use the money to purchase chickens or goats or a calf or whatever we can afford.

I'm sure that default traditions will Charlie spending at least an hour trying to get all the lights on the tree working. But it's these intentional Christmas traditions that give the Lord greater latitude to work His reasons for this season in us.

Thank You, Father, for Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Little Girl's Dreams

Today, I was working on a few projects in the kitchen and Emma was hanging out with me; mostly talking up a storm, but also helping here and there. She started telling me about her dreams. Honestly, that child has the greatest memory for details! She was recalling not only her dreams, but also where and when she had them--at Grandma's house, last Christmas, in the summer. Most of her dreams were about Disney princesses and flying on dragons and ponies and living on rainbows with ice cream cities and glittery jewels everywhere. But, one dream stood out from the rest...

Emma: I had a dream last night that was REALLY weird.
Me: Oh, yeah? What was it about?
Emma: I dreamed about Wal-Mart being like those two cities.
Me: What two cities?
Emma: No, the dream was about Wal-mart!
Me: Yes, but what two cities were like Wal-Mart?
Emma: You know! Those two cities in the Bible!
Me: There are more than two cities mentioned in the Bible, sweetie. Which two cities were in your dream?
Emma: Well, I dreamed that the same thing happened to Wal-Mart as what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Me: And what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah?
Emma: They were burned to bits!
Me: So, why did Wal-Mart get burned to bits?
Emma: Because of their false idols.
Me: What false idols?
Emma: You know, the giant Oreo guy and the giant pumpkin and the HUGE Santa Claus at the front of the store.

And a little child shall lead them...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just exactly what I was thinking...

Thoughts have been swirling and twirling in this too-full head of mine. Have you even read another blog post and thought, "That's just exactly what I was thinking?"

Read here to see what I was thinking just today...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fall Fun

Last weekend, we had our kids' favorite friends over for some fun while their mama got some much needed rest and recuperation time. Charlie wins "Dad-o-the Year" award for his efforts to entertain them. Our tree was greedily holding onto her beautiful yellow leaves and the kids were begging to rake leaves and jump in piles of crunchy foliage.
So what does my inventive husband do? He dragged a GIGANTIC blue tarp down the alley and raked the neighbors leaves onto the tarp. He then dragged the heavy-laden plastic back to our yard and piled the leaves high for jumping and tossing and general frolicking. What a guy!

So, the kids enjoyed a beautiful, warm Fall day and here's the proof...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nine Years Ago...

...we said, "I do and I will" to each other and to God.

Thank You, Lord for my wonderful husband. For these four beautiful children. For these memorable nine years...filled with promises, faithfulness, blessings, and love. Thank You for faithfully remaining in the very center of our hearts and our home. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I guess pigs really can fly...

Because the bloggy world is so accepting of every infinitesimal detail of one's personal life...

Every stinkin'--yeah, I said stinkin'--piece of laundry in my house is washed, dried, folded and/or hung on a hanger, and tucked neatly into closet and drawer.

Oh yeah, I am SUPER MOM!

Now, if I could just do something about that inch-thick layer of dust through out the house...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays--Things That Will Still Be True, No Matter Who Is Elected President

This was in our bulletin Sunday appropriate for today!

1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost.
Thanks to Ann for hosting Top Ten Tuesdays!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Down Swing

I've really hesitated to write much about our time with Samuel in the NICU after his birth. Part of the hesitation is naturally due to the lack of free time I have for all things blogging. I'm happy I've been able to post a few pictures and what not! I've also been so ecstatic just to have my family back together again. What a joy to have all my little chicks safely under wing. I seriously thought about hunkering down in the house for a good month--no phone, no Internet, no visitors...

But, perhaps my greatest cause for hesitation as I have mulled over how to share all that God has done in my heart and in our family through Samuel's birth and recovery has been my fear of re-visiting all the emotions of that month. And it was very emotional. When I took Samuel in for his check-up this past week, I felt a knot in my stomach as we passed the hospital. All the familiar landmarks caused a rush of memories to flood my mind. Images of my sweet boy hooked up to monitors and poked with tubes and wires and bandages and hoses; the smell of antiseptic foam; the distinct beeping noises of the monitors around his warmer. I didn't dwell on those thoughts, but they reminded me of how serious that time was and how difficult it was to walk through that valley.

While I am still rejoicing in the good health of our son and the reunion of our wonderful family, the last couple weeks I've found myself beginning to feel the "down swing" of life with a newborn. The sleepless nights; the horrible messiness of our house; the disconnected mealtimes; the difficulties of managing 4 separate individuals with individual needs. It's all wonderful, of course, but not at all easy. Samuel has colic that keeps him (and me!) awake through the night and the girls are all requiring more and more attention as we progress through our school year. Really, we are just experiencing (again!) the reality of adding another family member to the mix and navigating our way through those first months of finding the "new normal." And, I find myself really turning to the Lord for strength and renewal each day. He is so faithful!

I receive the newsletter for my parents' church and the pastor had written a brief exposition on the first page. It was an anecdotal piece about falling and I found the last paragraph to be so encouraging:

Our lives at all times are more at the mercy of the forces that act on us from the outside than we may be willing to admit. We are vulnerable as human beings--some of us more than others. At all moments our lives are also are in the hands of a Sovereign God who loves us dearly. We may find ourselves, at moments, feeling a bit helpless and have a realization that what is about to happen is going to hurt--and still be unable to change it. Out faith is Jesus Christ though gives you and me the assurance that God is with us before we fall, while we fall and after we fall to help us pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move forward. My prayer is that we can all feel secure and firmly grounded in the knowledge that we are SO loved by Jesus Christ.
Dwight McCormick II


Thursday, October 23, 2008

His First Date...

Samuel had his first date today. Granted, it was with his mother, but it was a celebratory event all the same.

He will be 2 months old Saturday. Two months...and how did I ever manage to live life fully without him?

Today, I took him (and him only) for his one and only follow-up appointment with his surgeon. As expected, the surgeon was ecstatic over Samuel's progress. He is weighing in at a hefty 10 lbs. 8 oz and has exceeded all expectations. He's been rolling over on his own for a good week, now! Instead of being behind the curve, he is well ahead of it and that is entirely due to God's great blessings and grace.

To celebrate his good health, I took my sweet boy to Trader Joe's to buy some fruit and lotion. They were out of the lotion I was hunting for (boo-hoo), but we did splurge on strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Samuel spent the entire shopping trip making adorable cooing sounds and locking eyes with anyone and everyone who peered into his car seat for a look-see at the most beautiful boy. Ever.

After the store, I wanted to eat at Chipotle where they make a mean vegetarian beans-and-rice-and-all-things-yum-o bowl. But, the line was entirely too long and time was short. That was okay. The whole recycled-building, crazy-good food atmosphere would have been lost on Sam anyway.

When we got home, we settled down for a nice nap on the bed while the girls watched a movie on the computer. I vaguely remember being able to nap in the middle of the day with our first baby. Sigh. Those were the days... It was nice to have some snuggle time with my little man.

All in all, it was a good first date. He was ever the gentleman, allowing me to pick and choose the activities and providing wonderful companionship. He dressed stylishly, yet comfortably. Oh, and he kept the drool and other bodily noises to a minimum. Always a plus! I'm looking forward to our next date...

Thank You, Lord, for Samuel and the miracle fo his life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Abundant Life and the Word of God

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (NKJV)

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NKJV)

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 1 Peter 2:1-2 (NKJV)

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25 (NKJV)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

There is a connection in the Scriptures between abiding in Christ and the word of God. To abide, we must continually lay aside sin and worldly pursuits and turn our attention to the word of God. Growing in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ depends on it!

The enemy would lead us to believe that abiding in Christ through the word of God is optional, that we can know the Lord in other ways.

But apart from God’s illuminating words, we will stumble along the path of life and never mature and attain to what the Lord has in store for us. True joy will elude us and sin will overtake us.

Are you tired and frustrated? Are you struggling with life-dominating sin? Have you become entagled and consumed by the things of the world? Do you feel overrun?

Then spend time with the Lord in the Bible; prayerfully read and think about His word. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart through it, and then apply the counsel of His word to your life.

You will notice a marked strength in your life. The Lord will restore joy to your life and a renewed sense of confidence. You will find strength to resist and overcome life-dominating sin. Your mind will be renewed to the things of God, and you will begin to discern the will of God through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

In short, you will grow; you will have life, and have it more abundantly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Pumpkin Patch

It's hard to tell which pumpkins are cuter.
Oh, who am I kidding? My pumpkins are the cutest in the patch!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Melt-in-your-Mouth Cornbread

This is for Mrs. Pear...and because we are having chili and cornbread for dinner, and I have about 5 minutes to blog today! Enjoy!

Melt In Your Mouth Cornbread
2 C all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 C corn meal
2 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 C light brown sugar
2/3 C vegetable oil
2 C milk.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (2) 12-cup muffins tins or (1) 9X13 baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, brown sugar and vegetable oil together until smooth. Gradually whisk milk to egg-sugar-oil mixture. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients all at once and whisk just until combined (do not over mix). Pour into prepared muffins cups or pan. Bake: Muffins--12-15 minutes, Pan--30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hold Onto That Thought...

Tonight, we applied our tag team system before bed time. Charlie tackled bath time with the younger two while the older two helped me clean the upstairs bedrooms, hallway and bathroom.

First, let me just say that while we were eating our dessert at Culver's, we were working out the details of our tag team plan and when Ruthie heard me mention the word "chores," her eyes lit up. When she realized she was going to be assigned to the work crew, she leaned over and hugged me tight saying, "I love to clean Mommy! I'm a very good organizer!" True, daughter, very true. Please hold onto that thought as you grow up and I start giving you more things to do!

As we made our way around upstairs--picking up the toys and laundry, me--vacuuming, them--dusting with baby wipes (a great way to dust, by the way)--we ended in the bathroom. I gave Emma and Olivia (fresh from her shower) wipes to clean off the dresser and step stool and then asked Ruthie to get the toilet brush and scrub the bowl. Mistake.

Big, big mistake.

All three girls started arguing over who got to clean the toilet bowl!

Charlie was coming up the stairs and started laughing as he heard me say, "Believe me girls, you will all have ample opportunities to clean toilet bowls in your lives."

Again, hold onto those thoughts, daughters. I see many dirty toilets in your future and I hope you have the same enthusiasm for cleaning them as you did tonight!

Thank You, Lord, that my daughters are so willing to help and eager to please. Thank You that we have so much joy in our home right now. Thank You that we are all living and loving in Your perfect will. And, thank You that we have toilet bowl cleaning to laugh over...In Your Name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Little Encouragement for the SAHM

I read Mrs. U fairly regularly and enjoy her posts so much. This quote on her blog was encouraging to me today:

The important thing about being home and having the responsibility of the family and the house, is not that others think it is okay, or that anyone approves, but that it is something that God gave us permission to do.

There are many days when the weight of what others think or the unsolicited opinion of another makes me wrestle with my position, my title, my choice. But, tonight as I tucked my girls into their beds, my heart was filled with gratitude to the Lord for allowing me the privilege of being home. Not only that, but I am grateful my husband desires for me to be here as well.

Motherhood is a calling, a privilege, a gift...Father, help me never forget what You have called me to do. Help me to love my husband and submit to his servant leadership. May I be a blessing to him always. Equip me to impart Your truth and wisdom to my children. May all who enter our home find comfort, peace, solace, grace, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, and, most importantly, LOVE. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

At least I didn't burn down the house!

So,this afternoon I had a craving for cookies. All three older girls were either napping or resting (it was an emotional morning for some reason and they needed a break) and Samuel was fed and on his way to dream land. I got the first tray of cookies baked and had put the second in the oven when the phone rang. The ringing startled the baby for some reason and he started crying. I let the machine get the phone (thank you very much to whomever hung up!) and picked up Samuel to comfort him. I switched out the cookie trays and placed the third and final one in to bake. Samuel fell asleep and I decided to fold laundry while waiting on the cookies. I put away the laundry and then decided to fill out some medical forms that needed attnetion. Then I started filling out our new family calendar and sorting through some other paperwork. Things were going along very nicely and I was enjoying the peace and quiet...

Then I realized that third tray of cookies had been in the oven for over 30 minutes....

Do I know how to bake or what?!

At least I didn't burn down the house!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Words Can't Express...

Words can't express the great joy we have been experienceing, having our family complete and together. Really, we are just enjoying the favor of the Lord and His great goodness, kindness and mercy. So, instead of words--which don't so it justice--here are some images instead!

First bath

Our crazy, supportive, loving, giving, fantastic families.

Enjoying the wonder of God's creation.

Sweet baby

Male bonding
Thank You, Father, for the joy of what You have created in our family. Thank You for the love, trust, grace, support, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and wisdom You are weaving in and through us all to knit us closer to each other and You. I find myself at a loss for words...
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Olivia!

How did my baby girl get to be three so quickly?!
Happy birthday, sweetheart! I love you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Family

Today, with the help of my best friend, we had our first family shoot with the newest member--"Baby Samuel"--as he has been dubbed. And, I've just typed my first one-handed blog post!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Maybe Friday...

It's late and the drive back and forth to be with Samuel each day has really wiped me out this week. This will be a quick post...

For those of you who are lifting us in prayer --and, really, I can't begin to thank you enough for interceding on our behalf! I know how Moses must have felt when the Israelites lifted his arms for him. There have been days I could literally feel your prayers lifting me out of bed and driving me safely to the hospital and home again. Anyway, if you are praying for us, please be in prayer for Samuel's release from the hospital. Several of the nurses mentioned in passing that they believed he would be going home this Friday, but that hasn't been confirmed by his surgeon or doctor. There are several little things that must take place tomorrow for his discharge to take place, and, like any organization, bureaucratic red tape can get in the way. Please pray that all the final tests and xrays and exams and reports will be done in a timely manner and that Samuel will "pass" them with flying colors. We are READY to have him home with us!

Also, our girls are (FINALLY!) coming home Saturday after being gone for three weeks, visiting Grandma and Grandpa. Please pray for their adjustment and for our family as we all get used to life with four children. New babies are fun and special, but also make for a zoo-y atmosphere!

We'll update more tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Supportive Husband--Part 2

Just a quick note, faithful readers, to say "thank you" to my supportive and wonderful husband for keeping up with the updates here at "Blessings." It has been overwhelming, to say the least, since Samuel's arrival. Charlie has been faithful to post pictures and video clips of our little guy and has even taken his precious free time to share what God is doing in our hearts and thoughts. What a guy!
And, he is so right to share his recent thoughts on faithfulness...these last weeks and months have tested our steadfastness and our trust in the Lord's will for our family. I have many of my own thoughts on this subject that will have to wait until I have a bit more time to devote to sharing. Until then, thank you for your continued prayers for our family. If you are so inclined, you can pray specifically in these veins:

That Samuel will continue to progress and recover quickly so he can come home SOON!
That our girls will be covered in grace and love as they spend another week away from home.
For traveling mercies as we drive back and forth to the hospital each day (an hour drive each way).
For protection against negative thoughts and grumpy spirits--the routine at the hospital can get monotonous at times.

Blessings to you and yours!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Living With Certainty....

It’s going on three weeks, and Sam’s still not out of the hospital. Though he’s off all the medicines and IV’s, the doctor’s are taking a conservative approach in introducing food to him. Needless to say, we’ve spent many hours in the rocking chair, watching him eat and sleep. But the doctors are hopeful that Sam will be out of the hospital by the end of this week or early next week.

One of the blessings in going through this is that we’ve had plenty of time to reevaluate our life—where we’re at, what we’re doing and whether we’re missing the mark or not concerning the things of the Lord. Several verses have jumped out….

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV).

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

Specifically, the Lord has zeroed in on one issue—faithfulness. The Lord wants us to be faithful. He wants us to stay at the task of living for Him. He wants us to know Him and trust him with certainty. He wants us to know that we don’t serve Him in vain. He wants us to be at peace, content and victorious; not unstable, discontent and plagued with carnal thoughts. The Lord wants us to be led by Him, not distant from Him.

Again, I was challenged. It’s easy to attend church services and even talk about the Lord, but in my heart of hearts have I really given myself fully to the Lord, to His work? Is my life characterized by faithfulness, by certainty? Or am I living at a distance, discontent and going through the motions of Christianity?

If you’re weighed down by cares and concerns, or just simply not sure or happy, the best place to be is in the Bible, reading the Word of God. It’s funny-- when you lay everything aside and prayerfully spend some time there, the Lord will speak and bring things to your attention that, on the surface, are unrelated.

Oftentimes, He’ll reveal something to you about Himself in such a way that it draws out the issues of your own heart, and exposes them so He can help you deal with them. Then it becomes an issue of obedience.

Do I agree with what the Lord has revealed or do I contest it? Reasoning around an issue and attempting to justify it is a good indication that it's sin. We simply need to accept the conviction of the Holy Spirit, confess whatever it is as sin, and ask the Lord for His grace to enable us to repent. God will give us grace; and with our obedience, He will impart joy, peace and a renewed sense of faith.

Praise the Lord for His faithfulness! May He find us faithful.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

All things are possible, nevertheless...

After I finished updating this blog yesterday, I received a phone call from Jen-- Samuel was scheduled again for surgery at 1pm. Apparently, the radiologist determined there was a blockage that needed to be removed. So, back to Indianapolis I drove, in time to hold our little boy for about five minutes before he was rushed off to surgery.

At about 4pm, the surgeon came to our room and informed us that his surgery went very well, and that there were no complications. Amazingly, they were able to do the procedure through about a 1 to 2 inch incision. The surgeon estimated that Samuel would be in the NICU for about three weeks, or until he showed all the signs of a healthy newborn i.e., gaining weight, normal digestion/breathing.

Today, he was taken off of the ventilator, as the anesthesia is finally wearing off. And he is beginning to make noises and twitch around again. Hopefully, we'll get to hold him soon and spend some quality time with our "little sir."

Jen is also doing very well. She is now moving around with some slight pain and should be out of the hospital sometime tomorrow. Please continue to pray for their recovery.

Through all of this, God has been showing me some things about myself, as well as about Himself:

1. All things are possible with God-- this was a theme that kept jumping out of the Bible as we were studying this week. On Monday morning, before we left for the hospital, we read through Mark chapters 9 & 10. Mark 9:23 & 10:27 seemed to jump out. We were reminded that with God, and for the one who believes, all things are possible. This gave us both hope that perhaps, God was going to supernaturally intervene and make this all go away. But it didn't go away.

Could God have intervened and outright healed our son? Yes. But that was not His plan.

2. All things are possible with God... according to His will. Over the course of this past week, many prayers went up to the Lord about Samuel and Jen. There were many pleadings to God to heal without surgery. I even cited examples in the Bible, as if I needed to remind God of His words and power to act on our behalf.

Again, could God have intervened and outright healed our son without surgery or doctors? Are all things possible for God? Could this all have been avoided? Yes. Yes. Yes. But no.

It wasn't until after Samuel's surgery and after reading Mark 14 that God gently gave me His perspective. Before he was betrayed, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. And three times he reasoned with God: "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."

Jesus recognized and knew that all things are possible for God. But He also knew what the will of the Father was in advance and ultimately submitted to it; He knew that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. He expressed His humanity in telling God that He preferred not to face the cross, but He also modeled a right relationship with God; He knew God well enough to know what God could do as well as what God wanted to do and still committed Himself to the Lord.

I was challenged. I know that "all things are possible with God." But I wasn't close enough to Him to know His will and submit to it. Instead, I had insisted, pleaded and reasoned with God to move in a direction I thought could both bring Him glory and make things easier on me.

Anyway, that's what the Lord's been showing me this week-- that ultimately, I need to know Him better, listen more and commit myself to Him-- regardless of personal loss or gain.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All things are possible...

Good morning,

My wife asked me to post some details concerning the birth of our son, so here's the facts:

On August 25, 2008 at 12:17pm, Samuel David Henze was born. He was 6 lbs, 12 ozs and 19 inches long. Both mother and child are doing well. Jen should be coming home on Friday, and hopefully, little Samuel will be following shortly thereafter.
As for the rest of the story, I'll leave the telling to Jen. Basically, God is answering prayers and the doctor's are astonished. Samuel's pending surgery has been cancelled, and he is passing obstructions. Continue to pray-- he's not out of the woods yet, but praise the Lord for what he has done!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Things Don't Always Go According to Plan...

***Updated to add: Our c-section has been scheduled for 11:00 AM Monday morning. Please pray for a smooth delivery as well as speedy recovery for all.

Well, at least not our own plans. They never stray from the Lord's plans, and I am so grateful He holds the details of the universe in the palm of His hand.

It seems that the time is drawing close for our son to be born. At this week's appointment, the doctor noted that he has more fluid in his abdomen. This is beginning to form an unsafe pattern and the end result could be a baby with ruptured intestines and severe complications. The doctor performed an amniocentesis to check the maturity of the baby's lungs. The results came back today, and although his lungs are borderline fully mature, all the doctors involved with this pregnancy agree that it is in his best interest to deliver him next week. The extra few days will most likely give his lungs the time they need to further develop and will also ensure that the entire team of medical personnel we will need will be on hand to help all of us. Unfortunately, the baby will be delivered via c-section--something I really didn't want. But, I am trusting the Lord that this, too, is part of His plan and that this will ultimately bring Him glory.

We are making plans to enjoy these last few days with our girls. They will have the opportunity to meet their little brother and visit with me after he is born, but will then be whisked off for spoiling at grandma's house. Depending on the recovery process for the baby, they could be gone for a few weeks. Even typing those words brings tears to my eyes. The hardest part of all of this has been choosing to put the welfare of one child over all the others. Choosing to be separated from those dearest to you in order to care for another one who simply needs more. Again, though, we are trusting that this, too, will bring glory to God and is all part of His glorious plan of redemption.

It will be quiet here until after our son is born. I want to spend my time with my family and preparing my heart for the joy of meeting and knowing our son. My sweet husband will post photos and details of the birth late next week. If you feel led, please keep our family in your prayers and know that those prayers don't just change us, they will change you, too.

Blessings to you all!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Praying for the World Unreached

I've added a link on my side bar--a connection to the Joshua Project which is sponsored by the U.S. Center for World Mission. You can access their site by clicking on the picture. Daily, you can pray for people groups living in areas of the world that are largely unreached by the gospel of Jesus Christ. More than 40% of the world population is yet unreached by the transforming power of the Gospel. 40% friends. That's a lot of emptiness, suffering, darkness, hopelessness. Join me in praying for these hurting, dying peoples...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Baby Henze Update--Week 34

Yesterday, we had a "regular" appointment (I hesitate to label them 'regular' because they are so different from our previous pregnancies) with my OB specialist as well as a consultation with the surgeon who will perform any necessary procedures on our son. At each visit, they do an ultrasound to check out baby boy's abdomen and the level of amniotic fluid around him. If either one increases or decreases, they make a note of it. Until yesterday, the levels and measurements had remained the same. Unfortunately, the size of the blockage in the baby's intestine has increased to about 3 cm. Apparently, that's on the large side. My OB said he would consult with his partner and the surgeon later in the day to determine whether we should be concerned at this point. The good news was that the amniotic fluid level is just perfect and my health is fine as well.

After our regular appointment, we met with the surgeon. Many of the doctors have spoken in ways that are a bit beyond my comprehension. This doctor was different and I appreciated his humility and willingness to field any and all questions we might have. He said that although we won't know what we are getting into until the baby is born, he understood that we might think of things closer to the birth that would require another meeting or phone call. That was reassuring to me. At the end of our conversation, he said that he and his staff feel it is the greatest honor or their lives to be entrusted with our most precious possession--our child. Well, that put this hormonal woman over the edge emotionally and I couldn't keep a few tears from escaping. It is good to know that he understands how hard it is for us to trust another person with our child's care.

Yesterday was the first time the reality of our situation started to really sink in. We can't really plan anything since we don't know what we are getting into. The entire situation is completely out of our control, and that's a hard reality for me. I like being able to have a say in what is happening and express my own personal opinions. But, this isn't about me. It's about our son and what is best for him. I think it's just hard to accept that being in my arms and our home won't be the best thing for him right away. In fact, many of the instinctive things that I selfishly want to have a say in, are things that would actually bring him harm. It's a tough thing to fight that mothering instinct and let someone else make decisions for our baby.

This week, if you feel led to pray, please pray that God would give me peace that He is in ultimate control, though I don't see all that He is working out on our behalf. Also, continue to pray for our son's healing and recovery. Please pray that the details of our life would be sorted out for the days and weeks we will need to care for a sick baby and three active, energetic girls. Lastly, please pray for protection against thoughts that are not healthy and comments from others, though well-intentioned, that are insensitive and discouraging. Oh, and again, that the Lord would be glorified in this all...even in my doubt and fear!

Thank You, Father, that I can come to You boldly and lay this all at Your feet. Thank You for knowing all, seeing all, being all. I trust in You. Amen

Monday, August 11, 2008

Homeschooling--Week 1

Don't worry. I don't plan to continue posting weekly updates about what we're doing in school all year long. Nor do I plan to start titling each and every post "Subject--Week X." My creative juices aren't flowing all that well right now. I'm hot and pregnant and craving chocolate... and did I mention hot?

As I mentioned before, we started school a bit early this year. Some homeschoolers are the super-creative, relaxed, go-with-the-flow, easy-natured sort. They can come up with creative unit studies and "real-life" studies that complement the unique personalities of each of their children. I am not one of those home schoolers. I need a plan. I need a calendar. I need lists of things to do and a place to put a neat little check mark once we've accomplished the list. I need a schedule and a table and a three ring binder to keep all my notes and what not. I have to know what we are doing before we start doing it and I need to have a goal.

Last year, we tried downloading worksheets and curriculum off the internet. That suited my husband perfectly, but since he was only doing school once in awhile, it wasn't the right plan for us. I felt nervous, not knowing if we were covering the basics thoroughly or challenging our bright kindergartener enough. We are first generation home schoolers so we had no experience to draw upon. Late in Spring, we decided to order kindergarten and first grade curriculum from Covenant Home Curriculum. It's a classical based program that we felt best fit our needs and would help us accomplish the Lord's will for our school. Best of all, it comes with a pre-printed calendar to help me organize and plan each week (including space for a nice, neat check mark!)

I spent most of last weekend familiarizing myself with the materials we would be covering this first month. I then printed off some easy worksheets to keep my two-year-old-who-thinks-she-is-seven occupied while we work on school. Suddenly, Monday afternoon was upon us and we launched our new school year.

Overall, the first week went well. The materials for first grade are intensive...35 words for her first spelling test (which she aced!) and several pages of math, grammar, penmanship and Bible work each week. I was worn out trying to keep it all organized, but I think now that I understand the system, things will begin to get easier. The first two days it took us four hours to get all our work done. But, with some adjustments and streamlining, we have already cut the work load down to two hours...much more reasonable, I think! This leaves us plenty of time to work in the other things we want to do along with the established curriculum: library time, cooking with Mom, P.E. with Dad, computer time, art projects, and piano practice. This week, we will be working to integrate a regular P.E. time in the late afternoon (bike safety this week and next) as well as figuring out a good time to practice piano each day. One thing I am already learning is how important it is to maintain good boundaries. While it's true that we can flexible with our schedule, it's still important to protect our school time as much as possible. I am also learning that things don't always go according to plan, but it's still good to have a plan from which to work. My blog friend, Judy, summed it up well in this post: I am one tool, not the Carpenter.

So, that was our first week of school for the year. I am so grateful for the freedom to be able to home school and the protection of the Holy Spirit as we seek God's will for us in this area.

Thank You, Lord, for being with us as we start our school year. Thank You for the confidence I have in You as we walk in Your Spirit and will. Give us strength and wisdom and especially bless our girls as they grow in their knowledge of You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

You Know The Pregnancy Hormones Have Taken Over When...

...watching the under dog win during the Olympics makes you cry. I mean "I-need-to-blow-my-nose" kind of crying.
...scrubbing the kitchen sink with three kinds of cleaners and four scrubbers doesn't make your sink "smell clean enough." bump your head on a kitchen cabinet and want to throw a two-year-old style temper tantrum.
...your husband lovingly suggests that perhaps a different, less form-fitting outfit would be appropriate for the day and you disappear into the bathroom for 20 minutes to have a good, old-fashioned cry.
...same husband tries to make you feel better by offering to take you clothes shopping, albeit at a store known to sell clothing only for plus sizes (he didn't realize it wasn't a maternity clothing store), and you bite his head off for calling you "fat."
...when you realize the need to apologize for losing your temper with your husband, it involves a lot of weeping and Kleenex and general mayhem.

My poor husband. I think he must be considering moving into the garage for the remainder of this pregnancy! I can't say I blame him. Sometimes, I think I should move into the garage for the next month, so I can avoid these little emotional roller coasters. Then again, I'd probably end up crying about how beautiful the air compressor is or blame the table saw for my bad hair day.

Thank You, Lord, for a wonderful husband who keeps loving me through the daily ups and downs of being pregnant. Thank You for the miracle of this child. Help me to be in better control of my emotions and forgive me for the many times I've been completely out of control lately. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Baby Henze Update--Week 33

Now that we are having weekly appointments, it seems like we receive new or changing information more often. This week, we met with one of the OB specialists--or "oven mechanic" as he called himself--as well as a pediatric cardiologist and the neonatologist who will be caring for our son after he is born. (Did you get all those "ists?") It was a long morning and I was so grateful Charlie could be with me to help me listen to all that was being discussed.

My OB was pleased with how well the baby is progressing and how well I am doing. The baby doesn't seem to be suffering any abdominal swelling at this point, which is a good sign. All my numbers etc. were also good. My contractions are manageable with rest, so that is a relief. Every week we inch closer to my due date makes things safer and safer for this little guy.

The cardiologist did a very thorough ultrasound exam of the baby's heart and concluded that he has zero detectable problems. Another great piece of news as this contributes to the theory that the baby only has a problem in the bowel area.

We had a tour of the NICU. That part of our day was emotional for me. I didn't expect to be so affected by the environment we were in, but it was overwhelming to think that our son would be calling this part of the world "home" for a matter of days or weeks or even months. Although it is a bright, cheery place, it's also filled with monitors, warmers, IV stands, ventilators, and very sick babies. It became real to me that we would need this place. But, I don't want to need it...

We also met with the neonatologist who covered the basics of staffing for the NICU as well as possible things we might be encountering once our baby is born. That, also, was overwhelming. Even though he tried to be comforting and reassuring, there really is no comfort in the thought that your newborn is going to have to a number of procedures performed on matter how minor they may be. One good piece of news is that unless the baby is born with respiratory issues or is unresponsive, we will be able to spend time with him in the delivery room for awhile before he is taken to the NICU for assessment. In my mind, I was imagining giving birth and not even being able to hold my baby as they whisked him out of the room!

At this point, two schools of thought exist concerning the baby's condition. First, there is the thought that he has what is called an atrisia (uh-tree-shah) in his large intestine. Basically, this is a blockage. Treatment for the blockage would involve removing that section of intestine and either re-attaching the intestine (if the section is small) or routing his intestine to a colostomy bag until the intestine can grow enough to be stretched for re-attachment. The second theory is that the baby simply has a duplication, or an extra section of small intestine that has attached itself to the regularly functioning intestine and is filled with fluid. Treatment for this would involve removing the duplicate piece and wouldn't affect his normal digestion and elimination. Obviously, besides praying for complete and total healing, we would rather be dealing with a duplication. It is less involved and the healing time would be significantly less, barring any complications or infections after surgery. Either way, he will need to remain in the NICU until he has healed significantly. Next week, we will meet with his surgeon to discuss in detail both treatment procedures as well as other issues. Really, the surgeon may not know exactly what we are dealing with until he is actually performing surgery. Not what a "need-to-know-details" mama wants to hear! But, the Lord knows and I know the Lord. So, when He wants to impart that information to me, He will. And I can live with that.

So, that's where we are this week. If you are led to pray, please pray along the following lines:
For complete and total healing of this baby boy.
For freedom of fear as we draw closer to his birth. That we could rest in the total peace that comes from knowing our God is faithful and always works for our ultimate good. Always.
For the details concerning the care of our girls during the baby's birth, surgery and recovery be worked out in advance.
For peace in our home in the midst of what could be stressful and tumultuous.

Thanks for praying for our family. The Lord bless you!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays--Amended

Ahem...I think I need to amend my previous post by adding ten things about today that are not, in fact, driving me crazy, but are simply wonderful. It read sort of complaining and the Word instructs us not to complain...

10. It's 8:15 PM and all three girls are tucked into bed for the night!
9. At swim lessons today, Ruthie went under water several times and Emma learned to free-style swim!
8. The girls have almost mastered their first Bible verse for Memory Madness--even Olivia.
7. Friends brought us a frozen, homemade dinner for later this week--who doesn't love a night off from kitchen duty?!
6. Charlie cleaned up the kitchen and took charge of the girls for awhile tonight to give me a breather...what a guy!
5. We have a bumper crop of tomatoes this year...dozens each day and more than enough to share with neighbors and friends.
4. We had ice cream and oreos for dessert tonight. Hey, my husband knows how to take care of me!
3. The kids got to visit with their bestest buds this evening and burn off some extra energy...hence #10.
2. Emma wrote her first story today!
1. Although I woke up tired and crabby, and things didn't go according to logic or plan all day, and I didn't feel super--the Lord was with me, just like He promises in His Word...before me, behind me, in each and every moment.

Top Ten Tuesdays--Things That Are Driving Me Crazy Today!

Thanks to Ann for making Top Ten Tuesdays...

10. I can't see my feet anymore...putting on socks is a major undertaking!
9. My kids have no volume control today...we're stuck on "louder than loud."
8. This little guy is determined to break dance all over my bladder morning, noon and night.
7. The aforementioned break dancing has resulted in over 20 trips to the bathroom in the last 24 hours.
6. The dogs got caught in the thunderstorm this morning and STINK like only wet dogs can.
5. "Someone" in our house likes to snore.
4. I can't find my reading glasses.
3. Suddenly my internal temperature gauge has sky-rocketed, so while I'm sweating, I'm freezing my family to death.
2. I seem to be craving some weird food groups...lemonade (which gives me heartburn), Mexican food (major heartburn), chocolate anything, salty pretzels, and pie...any kind of pie. So healthy...
1. I've dropped things, tripped over imaginary hazards, slammed my fingers in drawers, bumped my head, and just become generally klutzy.

Father, thank you that You never go "crazy" or have bad days. Thank You for understanding and for just being with me in this nutty day. Help me stay focused on You and not on the things that are happening around me. Thanks for loving me...In Jesus' Name, Amen

Monday, August 4, 2008

First Day of School-2008

As I've mentioned before, we home school. One of the many advantages of homeschooling is that you have the freedom to arrange your school calendar to fit your own family's needs. This year, with a new baby coming in mid-September, we opted to begin our school year the first full week of August. This will (hopefully!) give us about six weeks to get our school year rolling and then enough cushion that we can still finish our curriculum by the end of May.

For us, the deciding factor in choosing to home school (other than pure obedience to God's calling for our family) is the opportunity to pour the Word of God into their little hearts and heads. Children are sponges and they soak up whatever they are exposed to. We began to get excited thinking about all the ways we could share the love of Christ with them and encourage them in the Lord! One tool we are implementing this year is called "Memory Madness." It's really a program designed to be used in a church setting, but we have been able to tweak it to fit our family's needs. The basic premise is that children are given a "mission" which consists of ten scripture verses, grouped topically. Each week, they are assigned a verse or verses for memory work. They are then quizzed over the verses until they are able to recite all ten verses from memory. Once they have completed their "mission," they receive a prize of some sort. Our prizes will take the form of special activities, books, games, puzzles etc. A great side-benefit is that Charlie and I will be learning the scripture right along with the kids! Also, each scripture is a basic, fundamental truth or promise from the Word, so there are lots of opportunities for application as we learn.


Growing up, my mom always took a picture of us on the front porch the first day of school. While our kids aren't rushing off to catch the bus, I still like the idea of a "first-day-of-school" photo opportunity! Seems like just yesterday they were babies and school was a long way off...they are growing up so fast!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Personal Prayer Request

It's taken me a few days to figure out how to post this prayer request. Partly because I wasn't sure what I wanted to share, and partly because I wanted some time to pray and let God minister to my heart.

Last Friday, my regular OB called to say that my most recent ultrasound (conducted 2 days prior) had shown some irregularities with the baby's bowel and stomach. When he faxed the information to a specialist, the specialist called immediately and said he wanted to see me ASAP. I had about 3 hours to make arrangements for my kids (Thanks, Ann!) and get myself to the specialist's office 1 hour away.

When I arrived they ushered me into an exam room right away and conducted another, lengthy ultrasound and focused in on the baby's bowel and stomach. They took dozens of pictures and measurements and I asked (probably 100 times) if everything was okay. The technician was comforting but also vague about why I was even in their office. When the doctor came in, he went over the results and even did more looking at the little mister's bowel area.

Finally, the specialist turned to me and explained that although the original ultrasound that had been faxed to him indicated a life-threatening blockage and build-up of fluid in the baby's abdomen, he did not see that problem existing. I breathed a sigh of relief just before he went on to explain that the baby does, however, have a blockage in his large intestine. He also explained that the blockage will need to be surgically removed when this little guy is born. I know he said a lot of other things after that, but most of those things are lost to me. I heard the word "surgery" and then my brain refused to process any more information until my heart had time to catch up...which took several more hours.

As I drove home...alone, but in the presence and power of the Lord...I thought over my little guy's unbelievable life. He isn't really even supposed to be here at all. We aren't supposed to be able to have any more children. But, here he is...a beautiful, wonderful surprise. And, he is a boy! An unlikely result after so many girls... It was clear to me as I thought about my son that God has clearly chosen to bless him; to create and fashion him; to preserve him and keep him. So, if that is the case, then I can choose to continue resting in that knowledge instead of letting an emotional tornado rip through my heart and head and house.

So, as you pray over the next few weeks, if you would add the following requests to your list:
1. For complete and total healing of our son.
2. For protection against fear and the unknown.
3. For wisdom for the doctors, surgeons, nurses, and staff that are assisting us.
4. For the Lord Jesus to be glorified in ALL that is about to unfold...that we can lift His name in praise and honor in each moment, no matter what may happen.

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplication.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You.
That You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning-
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Psalm 20

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice. (Selah)
May He grant You according to your heart's desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.
We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God
We will set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
Now I know that the Lord saved His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.
Some trust in chariots,
And some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright.

Save, Lord!
May the King answer us when we call.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Psalm 138

I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name for your lovingkindness
and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
In the day when I cried out,
You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul.
All the kins of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
When they hear the words of Your mouth.
Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the Lord.
For great is the glory of the Lord.
Though the Lord is on high,
Yet He regards the lowly;
But the proud He knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
You will revive me;
Against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Invisible Mom

My good friend, Alyssa, e-mailed this to me some time back. It's such a great reminder: the Lord sees what we do as moms. And, if you have a mom who made any sort of positive influence or difference in your life, call her today and thank her.

The Invisible Mom
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom .

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.' I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a hair clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: 'To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything. A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.' At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it there.' As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Psalm 121

I will lift my eyes to the hills--
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out
and your coming in from this time forth
and forevermore.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Music To A Pregnant Woman's Ears

After being pregnant four times, there are certain comments you come to expect throughout pregnancy--some welcome, some that make your skin crawl. I know most people mean well, but some folks are just missing that filter of courteousness. Anyway, here are a few comments that I've received lately that I am just certain were designed by God to encourage me...

You're expecting?!?! I didn't even notice until today!
(Wow. I managed not to look like a beached whale for almost 8 months this time!)

It's so great that God is blessing you with another child.

I hope I handle pregnancy as well as you seem to handle it.
(Good thing she can't read my mind or listen in on my nightly vent sessions with hubby!)

You look so tiny.
(Is she talking to me? There must be another pregnant woman around here somewhere...)

You look like you are all baby! Seriously, you look great for being almost 8 months pregnant!
(I knew she was a good friend...)

Lord, Thank You for sending encouragement in the form of human words. Thank You for the almost daily reminders that You care enough to put such loving friends and family in my life. Bless each of them for the ministry of their hearts and words. Thank You also for the reminder that a word of encouragement can really lift a troubled heart. Help me to be better at encouraging others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Giving Thanks

The meds I've been on--and now am blissfully allowed to stop taking!--have had some really unpleasant side effects, so "modified" bed rest has not been much of a picnic. However, I was reminded this morning in Philippians to give thanks:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

So, with that in mind, these are some of the things I'm thankful for today:

The wonderful lotion my best friend sent me from The Naked Bee.
That my servant-minded husband is in the kitchen preparing lunch as I type.
Clean, fresh, white sheets and a freshly laundered quilt to sleep under.
That this little guy is happily kicking away, oblivious to anything amiss in my body.
That each day that passes by uneventfully, is one day closer to the day I will meet this little boy.
For friends who call just to pray over the phone with me.
That my bathroom scale seems to be broken...I didn't really need to know how much I weigh, right?!
That my girls seem to be content to stay indoors today and color and play ponies and Barbies with me, instead of running around outside.
That Emma is reading at a third grade level!
For the Word of God, which always takes me to a place closer to the Lord and farther from my own concerns.

Thank You, Lord, for reminding me to thank You in all situations and that all things can be brought to Your feet. In Jesus' name, Amen.