Friday, December 26, 2008

Our 2008 Christmas Letter

The following several paragraphs is our Christmas letter that we opted to just put on our blog this year rather than send out. One, being that it is rather lengthy (imagine that!) and two, being that we realize that not everyone is all that interested in reading up on our life :) ! So, if you have some time, here is our very detailed account of our past year:

God’s Snapshots

It is early in the morning on Christmas Eve. As I write this, rain is pelting the windows and winds are howling, gusting up to 40 mph. Not exactly a picture perfect Christmas Eve, is it? However, things don’t always turn out the way we would like; things don’t always go as planned—life is not picture perfect.

Moments. Little or big, life is a series of moments. As a camera captures a snapshot, forever to remind you of a moment in your past, our minds also capture these moments to reflect upon, learn from or sometimes to just relish in and enjoy. The next few paragraphs are the snapshots of our lives this past year; moments that are forever etched in our minds and have defined and changed us. Moments that have God’s handprints all over them as they were purposed by God to shape us into whom He has designed us to be. I’ll warn you now, this year has been a difficult one for us. It has been a year of sadness. It has been a year of loss. There have definitely been sweet moments intertwined in the midst of the hardships. But, the things that have shaped us most have been the difficult things. So, here it goes---

February 17th—I will start here because everything before that date in 2008 seems a blur now and quite insignificant. February 17th is a day I will never forget. In my mind, whenever I am discussing something from the past, my mind mentally asks 'was that before or after Feb. 17th?' Because that date forever changed myself and how I view life. That was the day my mom breathed her last breath here on earth. That was the date that I understood the heartache of losing someone you love. That was the date that my heart ached and I wondered if it would ever stop. That was the date I experienced the regret you feel after someone dies, regret because you wished you would have said this or done that. Up to this point in life, I had a more carefree, light hearted outlook on life. I thought I understood loss. But now I realize that I didn't understand it at all. Loss can only be understood by actually experiencing it. As Beth Moore would say, 'you can't learn about this in the classroom, you can only experience it by taking a field trip'. What a field trip I have been on since that dismal day in February. It's definitely a field trip I would never have chosen.

I remember walking into my mom's house for the first time after she had died. Seeing her shoes sitting beside the chair she always sat in. Sitting by her chair was an unopened coke--her drink of choice. The shoes--that is what dug a knife into my stomach--seeing the shoes. I don't know why, but I could hardly stand seeing them sitting there. I remember walking into the viewing room at the funeral home for the first time. That was another first that I would give anything to not have to experience. I remember standing at the top of the hill in the cemetary with my siblings, discussing which plot to choose. I remember the bone chilling wind ripping through us, making us shiver uncontrollably--or maybe we were just shivering uncontrollably and the wind was helping it along. I remember not feeling like nor being able to eat for two days straight.

Reverend Shaw, whom my mom had always been fond of, did my mother’s service. He quoted several scriptures, including Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace." This verse is especially meaningful to me. It is the verse we had read at our wedding. It is the exact verse my mother-in-law had quoted to me the day after my mom died. It was the verse the Reverend chose to read at my mom's funeral. I love how God does that. It is His way of showing He is present--His pep talk of encouragement when you're just about to call it quits. There are moments in life when you feel God's presence so tangibly that you can almost touch Him. Her funeral was one of those moments. Strangely, and I know only God can do this, I felt joyful that day. The Bible says in Nehemiah 8:10: 'The joy of the Lord is my strength'. I can attest to that. He somehow brings you joy in the dimmest of circumstances.

That celebratory 'high' lasted only through that day...and then came some of the hardest weeks. I had to go home and do my life. I had to be a wife, take care of five kids, homeschool, take kids to practices, cook, clean...and when Eric traveled I had to do it all on my own. Everyone was counting on me and I didn't feel like being counted on. Those weeks after the funeral were just ones of complete sadness. And I really questioned my faith in God. Why did He do this and why did He let it happen the way He had? I just literally felt like quitting; throwing in the towel on my faith. Why? Why? Why? So many questions. And no answers. Believe me. I really let God know how I felt! And I believe God wants us to do that. He knows how we are feeling anyway, so why not get brutally honest? He wants us to be brutally honest with Him so He can meet us right where we are. He, again, made himself so tangible to me right when I was about to say 'forget it'...He continued to whisper to me 'The joy of the Lord is your strength', over and over again. Moment by moment He got me through this time. He reminded me that ‘true faith’ is having faith when everything is crummy. ‘True faith’ is trusting God when nothing makes sense. These weeks were not easy. They were messy. Let's just say I didn't win any parenting awards during this time! I guess you could say many things in my life had to take a backseat so that I could walk through this grief. After these weeks of intense sadness and faith questioning, my emotions turned a 180. I became mad--mad at just about everyone. Mad at my husband. Mad at my children. Mad at friends who didn't call me. Mad at friends who called me but didn't say the right things. This anger came out of nowhere and it surprised me. I mean I know I can get mad, but not that mad! Once again, God guided me through it. He kept showing me over and over: the joy of the Lord is your strength...the joy of the Lord is your strength…The Psalms gave me such comfort during this time: ‘Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.’ Psalm 62:5-8

On May 10, my youngest brother got married the weekend of Mother’s Day. My mother’s absence was painfully evident. However, it was redeeming and so like God to choose this weekend for their wedding. A wedding celebrates new beginnings and new life, as a marriage is born---all of the aspects that brought Mother’s Day into existence in the first place. It was comforting to share this weekend with my brothers and sister. It was therapeutic (I suppose that’s the right word) to spend this weekend celebrating a new beginning for my brother and his new wife.

I must back up to the first weekend in May for a moment and tell you of a defining moment. Our family (minus Owen—whom we still call the ‘O’ factor :) ) spent the weekend in Cincinnati cheering on Eric and his brother and two of their friends in the Flying Pig Marathon. This was a weekend much needed for our family. Leading up to this weekend, there had been many trips made and time spent cleaning out my mom’s house with my brothers and sister. These weekends were mentally and physically exhausting, yet they were also precious. Some of my favorite memories with my siblings were on those weekends. But we, Eric and I and the fam, needed some QT and I needed time to completely focus on something else. This weekend was that time. If you have never been to a race to cheer people on from the sidelines, especially a marathon, you must do it some time! It is absolutely one of my favorite things to do! It is inspiring and exciting…and really I can’t explain it; you just must go do it sometime! It is one of my favorite memories from 2009.

Cheering on Eric in Cincinnati birthed the idea of running a marathon myself. Which is what I decided to do a few weeks later when I signed up to run the Chicago marathon for Team Worldvision.

Running is a part of who I am. When things seem overwhelming in life, I run. When things are going great and I am on cloud nine, I run. I feel closest to God when I run. It makes me a better mom and a better person. It makes me think clearly about things that seem muddled. Little did I know, God was going to use the four plus months of training to bring healing to my heart. He taught me about persevering through suffering that I could only learn from experiencing it physically through running. He taught me how to rely on Him when I had nothing left to give. He taught me so much about not throwing in the towel on difficult circumstances. He brought my running to a different level. Before the marathon, I ran for sheer enjoyment and pleasure. During marathon training, I learned how to keep running through excruciating pain, just as He was teaching me to keep trusting Him through the excruciating pain that comes with grief and the loneliness that accompanies it. The verse that became my ‘marathon verse’ and non-coincidentally, began showing up in every sermon, bible verse and song during these months was Isaiah 49:30: ‘for those whose hope is in the Lord, He will renew their strength. They will soar like wings on eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ Running for Team Worldvision was a defining moment in my life. Raising money for people who do not have clean water or food helped my family and I keep our perspective on ‘others’ who are in extreme need. Having this perspective is a daily struggle for Eric and I and our children as we live in a country where we have most everything we could ever want or need at our fingertips. We so want to have the right perspective, to live for others--especially the hungry, the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, just as God commands us to. But this is a constant struggle for us! Living in such wealth, yet trying not to live in it is something we fight against daily. We pray that 2009 will bring us to a more Godly perspective on how to glorify Him by sharing with those who are in need. We pray that 2009 will help us to always ask the questions: ‘‘In light of eternity’ do we really need to buy this?’ Or, in ‘light of eternity’ do we really need to be spending our time doing this or that?’” Crossing the finish line on October 12 was another defining moment. A snapshot of victory, of accomplishment, of overcoming. A memory of being in awe of the sweet outpouring of support from friends and family. It was a weekend that our family will cherish forever.

Another moment caught forever in the snapshots of my mind was one seemingly ordinary night in September. It was one of those rushed evenings due to an unplanned trip to the doctor earlier in the day with a sick child. Dinner hastily figured out and fixed at the last moment while a whiny child hangs on you…you get the picture. That night, after putting the children to bed, I exhaustedly and absent-mindedly put chicken on the stove to boil (chicken I was supposed to have boiled earlier that afternoon). Then, I took a Tylenol PM (because I, too, was sick) and Eric and I went upstairs to bed. Yes. I FORGOT ABOUT THE CHICKEN. Anytime I take a Tylenol PM, I am out for the count. And Eric is ALWAYS out for the count. It takes a freight train to wake him. But this night I awoke at 2:00 AM. I groggily got out of bed, thinking something was not right. I very sleepily walked into each of our children’s bedrooms (also upstairs). When I got in Joshua’s room over the kitchen, I thought I smelled something strange--not a burning smell, just a strange smell. As my eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness, I thought it seemed hazy. I decided to investigate further and walked down the stairs. When I got to the bottom, all I saw was smoke. It suddenly hit me—THE CHICKEN!!! I ran into the kitchen and pulled the pot off the stove—at this point the chicken looked like a mess of boiling black tar. It was within minutes, possibly seconds, from going up in flames. Thick smoke covered our entire house, even the basement. No, our smoke alarms didn’t go off (because we had forgotten to change out the batteries). Yes, we installed new smoke detectors (with lithium batteries that last ten years) the very next day and now we have a total of six in our very medium sized home. All I could do the next day was thank God over and over for his hand of mercy. It was such a picture to me of how God looks over us and takes care of us even when we mess up. It also made me realize that God is ULTIMATELY in control. I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Holy Spirit awoke me that night. It was nothing short of a miracle that kept that night from ending disastrously. ‘I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone O LORD, make me dwell in safety.’ Psalm 4:8

In July, Eric and I got to get away for four days to Savannah, Georgia. It was here that God began to lay on my heart the possibility that He might not be done with our family. It was here we first began talking about this. In the months that followed, God changed Eric's heart too. We realized that we needed to relinquish control over this part of our lives and let Him be in control of whether or not to have more children. While the world wants to tell us that children are an inconvenience, expensive, etc. etc., we firmly believe that children are a blessing from the Lord. Yes, letting the Lord lead in this decision may keep us from ever experiencing Disney World or HD TV. It may make college for our children a big question mark and may make retirement in America’s standards unattainable. It means all of our children sharing bedrooms. It also means less time to do what we want to do. Ultimately, we realized it came down to this question: In what do we put our trust and our security? Things or the Lord? So, we let go of our fears and insecurities, deciding to trust God and choose life; four weeks after the Chicago marathon we learned I was pregnant! My due date was to be exactly one year after the vacation we had in Savannah.

Fast forward to today. It has been a couple of eventful days, but eventful in a way I wished they hadn’t. You see, our plans for our Christmas card were to send a picture of our children holding a sign that said ‘Oh me, Oh my, #6 is due in July!’

Our plans were to announce to you that we were expecting our sixth! We were so excited to share this news! Two days ago, we told our children the news, made the picture, and sent it off to be developed. We were going to tell our extended families the news when we were together for Christmas. Our New Year’s card to you was going to say “Celebrating New Life in a New Year”. However, God had a different plan. An hour after sending off the picture, I began to have a miscarriage. As I was eleven weeks along, we were in shock. We have been through every emotion in the last forty-eight hours. We are deeply saddened that our sixth was not meant to live on this earth yet joyful that he or she is in heaven. We are trusting God that He is in control and will somehow bring joy through this sorrow. We are trusting Him and remembering once again that ‘the Joy of the Lord is our strength!’ I changed our greeting on our New Year’s card and it no longer reads, ‘Celebrating New Life in a New Year’, but I am regretful of that decision. As I write this, I am reminded of all the ‘new life’ we are going to experience this year. I am reminded of the fact that Sophie is going to be baptized on February 22, 2009. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is almost exactly a year since my mother’s death. I am amazed at how God can redeem your loss by bringing about moments that celebrate ‘life’. I am thankful that we will be celebrating life when Eric’s brother and his wife have twin baby girls in March! I am thankful of the fact that we will be celebrating life with our friends who have been trying over six years to have children and just recently found out they are pregnant and due in August! I am thankful and reminded of the fact that we will be celebrating life with some other friends who recently announced they too are having children in 2009! I am thankful and reminded of the fact that we will be celebrating life with some friends that will be bringing home four adopted children from Ethiopia in 2009! Also, I THINK I am thankful :) that we just gave our children a puppy for Christmas. He is a big ball of fluff and the cutest thing ever! We might name him Murray—an important place to us, as Eric grew up there, we went to college there and got married there. Plus, it rhymes with Furry! I don’t think my home town would make an appropriate name—Boonville. No, I think we’ll stick with Murray.

MOST importantly, we will be celebrating the life of all lives this season, JESUS CHRIST. The one life that came to give each of us life through HIM, if we so choose. The one life that gives us hope for the future as we look forward to eternal life through HIM.

To quickly update you on our children: honestly, not much has changed from last year. Joshua’s passion continues to be sports and anything outdoors, Wes is quickly following in his footsteps, Sophie’s interests change daily and Jeremiah just goes with the flow. Owen—the O-Man, the O Factor—is a complete trip. He gives each of us a new strand of gray hair daily :) .

As I look back over this letter, it is quite odd, I suppose, for a Christmas letter. It speaks a lot about the sorrows and difficulties that we have faced this past year. However, these things are what have most shaped and changed our family. The Bible tells us we most identify with Jesus through our sufferings. These are the things that make us most like Him. Times are uncertain. Life is unpredictable—it is not picture perfect. But Jesus is unshakeable. He is the calm of the storm. We pray you put your trust in Him in 2009. We pray you lean on Him through whatever trials you might be facing and find joy in the journey.

‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’

Happy New Year!
With Much Love,
The Grogan Family—Eric, Maria, Joshua, Sophie, Wes, Jeremiah, Owen and Murray

'O' Man, What are we going to do with you?

Well, this morning our neighbor across the street called to inform us that our O-Man was out on our front sidewalk. Yes, he has learned how to unlock our front door and keeps going outside and hanging out on our front porch! We caught him out there three different times today, once with Sophie's boots on (which come up to his knees and he can barely walk in). Yesterday he was swinging a bread knife around in the air like a conductor. He is also climbing up on the stools in our kitchen and onto the kitchen island. The other day I walked into the kitchen and found him sitting on the stool calling someone on the phone. He is also climbing up on the top bunks of all the kids beds and throwing everything off. Little O, what are we going to do with you!???

Thursday, December 25, 2008

SSSHHHH!!! Don't Tell!!!!

I am so excited I can't sleep! Tomorrow morning is Christmas Day! The stockings are full, santa gifts are out and most excitingly---this is waiting for our children tomorrow:

They are going to be so shocked! I cannot wait!

Sweet Dreams and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crock Pot Recipes

I bought a Crock Pot cookbook at Barnes and Noble three weeks ago and for a mere $9.98 my life has been changed. This book has become my best friend. Here are a few recipes that have been so, so easy and yummy:

Chicken and Dumplings: (Makes 4 servings)

2 cups of cooked chicken
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) cream of chicken soup
2 soup cans of water
4 teaspoons of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (8 biscuits)

Combine all ingredients, except biscuits, in Crock Pot slow cooker. Cut biscuits into quarters and gently stir into mixture. Cover and cook on LOW 4 to 6 hours.

NOTE: chicken you put in the chicken and Dumplings recipe is COOKED chicken. I usually boil a bunch of chicken and freeze it in ziploc bags to have on hand when needed.

Campbell's Nacho Chicken and Rice Wraps: (Makes 10 Servings)

2 cans Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup
1 cup water
2 cups Pace Chunky Salsa or Picante Sauce
1 1/4 cups uncooked regular long-grain white rice (I used Minute Rice)
2 pounds bonesless UNCOOKED chicken breasts, cubed
10 flour tortillas

1. Mix soup, water, salsa, rice and chicken in the Crock Pot slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours or until done.
2. Spoon about 1 cup of rice mixture down center of each tortilla. Fold tortilla around filling.

By the way, the name of the Cookbook is: 3 books in 1 Rival Crock Pot: Slow Cooker Favorites, Winning Slow Cooker Recipes, Slow Cooker Recipes for All Occasions

Dessert Day!

Yesterday, we got a little sweet happy and went and bought these desserts:

Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes are the BEST Christmas snack EVER! If you want to get on my good side, buy me a box :)

After we got home, we got a little creative--a RARITY here--and made these festive snacks:

All it takes is a sugar cone, icing with green food coloring and mini M&M's and presto! A fun treat!

Turkey Trot

We awoke on Thanksgiving with a feverish 'O Factor', but did that stop us? By no means! We had some turkey trotting to do--fever or no fever--it was a 'go'! So we bundled him up and went anyway. We're such nice parents.

Eric ran the six miler and Joshua, Soph and I ran the two miler. I pushed cranky Owen in the stroller. Joshua placed fifth in his age group and 64th overall. Yea, Joshua!

Then it was time for the children's races. Here's the 'O Factor' getting some coaching from his Daddy before entering his first race.

Him and all the other one year olds ran to the finish line either crying all the way or being blackmailed with a cookie. Some wouldn't run at all and just stood crying. 'O' would only run when Eric walked backwards in front of him. He never made it to the finish line because he fell flat on his face onto the freezing ground and just laid there screaming until we picked him up. Fever or no fever, it was very 'O' like of him.

Next, Jeremiah and Wes ran in their age groups. Wes fell down but was a great sport and jumped right back up and finished strong. Sophie won 3rd place in her age group and proudly sported her extra tall turkey trophy!

All in all, it was a very successful Turkey Trot!

Doesn't 'O' look excited in this picture?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Morning Thoughts

  • Am I really seeing my sin the way God sees it? Do I understand how sinful and unworthy I am?
  • How drastically will I have to adjut my focus from what it is today to what it will be one day in eternity?
  • What earthly monument--a ministry, a church, a denomination, a reputation--am I seeking to build instead of genuine worship of Christ?
  • Have I spoken out of emotion rather than conviction from the Spirit? When have I spoken out when I should have been silent in worship?
  • When I 'do' things, what is my motive? Am I doing these things to build myself up or to point others to Christ? Did God tell me to do whatever I am doing or am I doing it out of my own guilt or for man's approval? Does my service overflow from my relationship with God?
  • Am I being still and really listening to what God has to say to me? Am I listening to His still, small voice?
  • Does my focus stay on Jesus throughout the day? When do I tend to lose my focus in my day and how can I reign my focus back in?

"Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes, I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path." Psalm 119: 97-104

Lord, I want this Psalm to be true of my life--I want to meditate on your Word ALL day long, not just in the morning, or here and there! I want more insight and understanding. and mostly, I want to obey you through and through.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I love Thanksgiving

  • I love getting up early on Thanksgiving and running the Turkey Trot with my family. I love cheering on our kids as they run their little races and receive Turkey trophies.

  • I love that the 'O factor' gets to run in a race this year

  • I love getting out and running in the cold, crisp air. I love watching all the people run with their families, talking about their plans for the day

  • I love that everyone wears toboggans and gloves

  • I love that Eric helps everyone sit out their toboggans and mittens in neat little piles the night before

  • I love how excited my kids get about running their Turkey shirts and pinning on their race numbers

  • I love that Soph and Joshua are old enough to run in the longer races

  • I love driving to Indiana on thanksgiving

  • I love the fact that we get coffee for the road

  • I love butterhorn rolls and homemade noodles. I don't love the fact that I can't make homemade noodles worth a diddly. correction: I love Grandma and Aunt Mary's homemade noodles and butterhorn rolls!

  • I love hanging out with my brothers and sister and their families

  • I love the deep fried turkey that my brother makes

  • I love the fact that my sister in law posts a menu of the food in the kitchen

  • I love that the Titans are playing today

  • I love that we actually put our Christmas tree up early this year.

  • I love how neat Joshua and Wes are and the pride they took in decorating their trees in their rooms and hanging lights on their bed

  • I love the fact that you have a hard time seeing Sophie's tree amongst the clutter in her room. (even though I have a panic attack every time I walk in)

  • I love watching my kids play with their cousins

  • I love pouring over the ads with my sister and planning our strategy for Friday's shopping spree

  • I love the fact that Melissa, Chasisty and Reagan are going shopping with us this year

  • I love how much we laugh on our shopping spree

  • I love having thanksgiving at Jimmy and Melissa's.

  • I don't love how this will be the first Thanksgiving without my mom there. She loved this holiday. But I love the fact that she is with Jesus now, completely healthy.

  • I love the fact that God is with us today, healing our hearts, making our relationship with Him and with each other stronger. 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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve!

Today is going to be such a great day. Eric is home from work. I am cooking all day in preparation for tomorrow--butterhorn rolls, homemade noodles, brocoli cheese casserole, coconut cake, corn pudding. Today the kitchen will be filled with great smells and absolute yumminess. I will make twice the needed amount of rolls because we like to eat lots of them during the cooking process!

We are getting out the Christmas decorations and decorating today! The kids are SOOOO excited! They will be busy setting up their little trees in their room while I cook up a storm! We are going out on a limb (no pun intended) and putting our Christmas tree in a different spot this year. I know, we are sooo wild and crazy, changing it up like this. We are also one of those few families still living in the stone ages with a tree that is not pre Eric may need lots of your prayers today :) It is also missing some limbs and beginning to look a bit Charlie Brownish...every year we say it is its last year.

I got a crock pot cookbook not long ago and I am wearing it out! Last night we had chicken and dumplings--they took about ten minutes to put in the crock pot and then four hours later, dinner's ready! They were so, so good and so easy! Today I am throwing some ingredients in and presto! Four hours later we'll have philly cheese steak sandwiches on toasted hoagie buns. This sounded really good to me, for some reason. It's not even 8 am and my mouth is already watering.

So what are you doing for Thanksgiving Eve? Hope it is wonderful and family filled!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dedicated to the One and Only

My husband turned '39' yesterday! Whooooa, Nelly! I thought we were still in our late 20's!!!????

Here are 39 things I love about my hubby:

  1. His love for the Lord

  2. That he'll do anything for me, even go get me coffee at 5:30 in the morning if we are out.

  3. That he is the person behind the scenes that really makes homeschooling work for pitching in and doing laundry, dirty dishes, you name it!

  4. He is the best daddy in the whole world to our children

  5. The bond that him and our 'Little O Factor' shares.

  6. That he is unimpressed with fashion and labels and outward appearances

  7. He has a heart for the poor, widowed and orphaned

  8. He is a true servant through and through

  9. His work ethic is like no other

  10. He does not do things for accolades or recognition

  11. that he cares about staying physically fit

  12. He prays for me and our children

  13. He knows the Truth but isn't all theological about it. It simply is what it is and that's all that matters!

  14. He goes to the store for us and is really good at it

  15. He does our bills (in my opinion, the yuckiest job in the whole world!)

  16. He loves the Office as much as I do

  17. He gives me free time or 'girl' time whenever I need it

  18. He is organized

  19. He looks good in a cowboy hat
  20. that he likes to coach our kids in sports

  21. that he can strike up a conversation with any stranger on the street

  22. He can paint a wall faster than anyone I know

  23. His discipline

  24. He can see something so black and white and simply that I have over-analyzed for hours.

  25. He rarely worries about anything

  26. He loves the beach

  27. He's got that 'cool' factor that I've never had

  28. He still dates me

  29. He's always game for all the goofy things I ask him to do

  30. He can keep a secret better than anyone I know

  31. He still plays flag football at 39 and is holding strong

  32. that he leaves me notes

  33. He likes me without makeup and doesn't care that I am wearing it less and less these days

  34. He enjoys cooking

  35. the fact that his Starbuck drink is so strong it's hair-raising

  36. his quiet dry wit

  37. He'll take all of our kids out to eat or to the store by himself like its a walk in the park

  38. eating dinner together often is important to him

  39. He is a walking sacrifice for me and our children, sacrificing his wants and desires daily

Eric is not perfect nor will he ever be. He does things to annoy me, frustrate me and get under my skin just as all of our husbands do. But these are the things I love about him and want to celebrate and focus on these things as much as possible!

Happy Birthday, sweet hubby! I LOVE YOU!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Mystery of the Stolen Birthday Cake

So my daughter has been asking daily when I am going to post about her birthday party! This is the same daughter that wants a facebook account--what in the world??!! She's sanguine through and through. So here is a detailed recap of her party:

On Sunday, Nov. 16, we had a surprise birthday party for Soph. It was SO much fun! It was a mystery birthday party. After eating lunch, I informed the 'secret agent' girls that they had been invited over for a top secret mission. I fingerprinted each of them and took their mug shot, telling them they were now part of the 'circle of trust'. I informed them that someone had stolen the birthday cake earlier that morning and they had to figure out who did it. We handed out clipboards with sheets I had made similar to the sheets you use with 'Clue'. There was a list of suspects (with their pics), a list of weapons and a list of rooms the crime could have been committed in. Their job was to narrow it down to who did it, with what weapon and in what room. After they figured out who, with what and where, they had to run outside and find a box. The box contained a walkie talkie with a note to call headquarters with further instructions. They called me telling me that 'Bob Marley' was the culprit. Bob Marley was really Eric wearing a Jamaican wig with dreadlocks. I proceeded to tell them to go in the fort in our backyard and find a basket of balls. They did. Then I yelled, "Look, here comes Bob! Get him!"

Bob (Eric) comes running through the backyard with the stolen birthday cake, shooting them with a nerf gun. They pelted him with balls and finally 'caught' him. Mission Accomplished!

This birthday party was so, so fun (did I say that already?). I wanted to be a detective most of my childhood and even had a 'Snoopy Club'. So, let's just say I really got into this one! I felt nine again.

This day was also my mom's birthday; she would have been 64. She loved birthdays, so celebrating Sophie's birthday on this day seemed the best way to spend it!

These are the 'secret agent' girls:

Friday, November 14, 2008


Perseverance--this is the word I feel that the Lord has given me this year as He has whispered to me over and over:

'Persevere, precious child--you can, if you rely on me.'

This is what I felt He said to me when He led me to run a marathon. This is what I heard whispered to me as I pounded the pavement through my training. This is what I heard Him say to me on that scorching hot, excruciating day in Chicago.

As I ran the last six miles of the marathon, I was not prepared for the agony that my body would experience. I was not prepared for the pain that I could not get away from, no matter if I was running, walking or stopping and stretching. It was 100% torture. The pain was in full force and there was no getting around it--I had to move through it. I had to keep going.

Post marathon, I realize the mistake I made through that last painful hour. I took my eyes off of Jesus and focused completely on the pain. And as I focused more and more on how awful it was it became worse and worse and bigger and bigger. Remember the scripture cards I was determinedly going to carry and pray through as I ran? Did I pray through them once during those last six miles? Nope! In fact, they felt so heavy in my hands I almost through them down.

'Persevere, precious child--you can, if you rely on me.'

He whispered it to me--but I chose to focus instead on the circumstances of the moment.

Perseverance. The Lord has opened my eyes to a deeper appreciation and meaning of this word and what it looks like to actually do it. Running a marathon gave me a real, tangible definition to associate with this word. It has given me a little glimpse of the agony and torture that Jesus endured for us on the cross. It has given me a backdrop against which to lay the difficulties and troubles that arise in everyday life:

I am going through my homeschooling day and coming up against all kinds of obstacles...I am about to throw my hands up in the air. Suddenly, I hear that gentle whisper: 'Persevere, precious child--you can, if you rely on me.' I am reminded of what it took to make it through those last six miles. I see Jesus up on the cross. My obstacles don't seem so difficult anymore.

Eric goes out of town for several days. On day four, loneliness starts to set in and one of the children get sick. I begin to let it defeat me and the whisper is so faint I almost miss it: 'Persevere, precious child--you can, if you rely on me.' I am reminded of the marathon. I see Jesus up on the cross. Once again, I get perspective on this momentary trouble and fight through it.

We came with Eric on a business trip and arrived last night. I geared up for staying in a hotel room with our five children. What I hadn't gearup up for was a stomach bug that hit me and one of our children, keeping us up most of the night. Today, I felt lousy. The last place I wanted to be was in a hotel. The last thing I felt like doing was all of the activities we had planned the night before. But I had no choice. I had five little ones counting on me. I felt the way I felt after the marathon--achey and flu like. It took me back to that day and again, I thought about that race. I heard the words of my Lord: 'Persevere, precious child--you can, if you rely on me.' As I forced myself through each step today I kept picturing those last miles. I kept picturing Jesus and the agony He endured. Everytime I pictured it, my current circumstance seemed a little bit smaller.

During my training, I heard so many people bewilderly say, 'that is so crazy--I just don't understand why you would want to put yourself through that.' They thought running a marathon was looney. But, I wouldn't trade anything for what I've learned through it. I have learned how to buck up and endure through chaotic days with my children. I have learned how to keep going when I am really tired in the middle of our school day. I have learned how to reach inside of me and pull more out when needed. I have learned more about relying on Jesus when there is nothing left in me to keep going. I have learned a little bit more about persevering.

We are told in God's Word that in this world we will have pain and suffering. Suffering is an invitation to know Jesus better. I am glad I took the challenge and ran the race. I am glad that I learned a little more about suffering. Today, I feel closer to Jesus. I leave you with the words of Paul:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They doi it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 cor. 9:24-2

'Persevere, precious child--you can, if you rely on me.'

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Dear Daddy,

I think Mommy needs you to get home. She has been in the bathtub for over an hour, she has had two starbucks today, her hair is looking even crazier than usual and she is letting us watch lots of movies. Actually, we kind of like the movie watching. Oh, and little 'O' threw up all over his bed. You might need to bring her something extra special from your trip.

Love, Soph

What do You Think?

Well, here are my kids with ratty hair, bathless four+ days and the 'O' factor had thrown up all over the place when I went to get him out of his bed this morning (He did actually get a bath :) ) So, I thought why not try for a Christmas card pic? We're going for the natural, everyday look. What do you think---give me your vote!

On the Campaign Trail...

So you can tell I have five kids because most of my posts are so tardy! Here is our oldest and his friends campaigning on Halloween--they got a lot of laughs!

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's time to get FUNKY

In light of the sobering times in which we live, the kids and I decided it was time to get a little funky. And this one's going out to Big Doug in Mt Juliet--come on, show us your moves!

Little Guy

Meet 'Little Guy'. My husband affectiously calls our third boy (fourth child) this and it just suits him. Little Guy captures my heart. I love:

  • his high pitched little voice
  • his hair
  • his brown eyes that are so brown they are almost black
  • that he is a clone of Eric
  • the way he sucks his two fingers and holds his ratty 'sheet' up to his nose (...even though this is going to cost us thousands in dental expenses one day...)
  • that he gives me hugs when I need them the most
  • that he wants to be a baseball pitcher when he grows up
  • his wind up and pitching stance
  • listening to him pitch in the hallway at the front door (with a 'soft' ball, of course) for hours on end as we have school in the next room.
  • how he says 'Sorry!' when he draws a Sorry card.
  • the way he overpuckers his lips when he says 'Mom'
  • his tender heart
  • that he dressed up as Yoda on Halloween and was the smallest, cutest one ever
  • watching him play softball and kickball in the back yard
  • how his tummy suddenly 'really' hurts when it is time to clean up
  • that he is four (STOP GROWING UP! JUST STOP!)
  • that God gave us this joyful little boy that I couldn't imagine our life without.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Are You Ready?

Taken from the Lamb and Lion Ministries

Written by: Dr. David Reagan

Many people believe there is nothing that can be known about the timing of the Lord's return because Jesus said He would return like a "thief in the night" (Matthew 24:42-44).
But Paul makes it clear in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 that Jesus' statement does not apply to believers: "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief..." He then proceeds to explain why: "for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober." Paul is referring, of course, to the light of the Holy Spirit who indwells all true believers and who can enlighten us through our study of Scripture to know the season of the Lord's return (1 John 2:27).

God's Attitude
As a matter of fact, God is obligated by His character to warn the world of the imminent return of His Son. The reason is that Jesus is returning in great wrath to "judge and wage war" (Revelation 19:11), and God never pours out His wrath without warning.

God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should be brought to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, God always warns before He executes His wrath. He warned the world through Noah for 120 years. He warned Sodom and Gomorrah through Abraham. He sent Jonah to warn the pagan city of Ninevah, and He sent Nahum to the same city 150 years later.

Likewise, God is warning the world today that His Son is about to return. He is calling the world to repentance. The message of the hour to unbelievers can be summed up in these words: "Flee from the wrath that is to come by fleeing into the loving arms of Jesus now." Jesus came the first time as an expression of God's love; He came to die for the sins of Mankind. But when He returns, He will come in vengeance to pour out the wrath of God on those who have rejected God's love and grace.

The soon return of Jesus also carries with it a message for believers. Lukewarm Christians and carnal Christians are being called to commit their lives to holiness: "The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts" (Romans 13:12-14).

God's Method of Warning:
God is alerting believers of the soon return of His Son through what are called "signs of the times." These are prophecies concerning world events that we are told to watch for, prophecies that will identify the season of the Lord's return.

The Bible is full of these signs. There are about 500 prophecies in the Old Testament that relate to the Second Coming of the Messiah. In the New Testament, one out of every 25 verses is concerned with the return of Jesus.

In fact, there are so many signs that it is difficult to grasp all of them. The best way I have found to do this is to put them in categories:

1) The Signs of Nature — We are told to watch for earthquakes, famine, pestilence, and signs in the heavens (see Matthew 24:7 and Luke 21:11).

This is the least respected category of signs for several reasons. For one thing, many people simply shrug their shoulders and say, "There have always been natural calamities, so what else is new?" Note that Jesus says these signs will be like "birth pangs" (Matthew 24:8) — that is, they will increase in frequency and intensity as the time draws near for His return. In other words, there will be more intense earthquakes and more frequent ones. That is exactly what is happening today.

Another reason these signs are given little respect is because most Christians are so rationalistic that they do not really believe in the supernatural, and they therefore find it difficult to believe that God speaks to the world through signs of nature. Yet, the Bible teaches this principle from start to finish.

God dealt with the world's sin through a great flood in the days of Noah (Genesis 6). He called the nation of Judah to repentance through a terrible locust invasion (Joel 1). In like manner, He called for the nation of Israel to repent by sending drought, wind storms, mildew, locusts, famine and pestilence (Amos 4:6-10). The prophet Haggai pointed to a drought as evidence that God was calling the people to get their priorities in order (Haggai 1:10-11).

The New Testament begins with a special light in the heavens marking the birth of the Messiah (Matthew 2:2). On the day that Jesus was crucified, there was three hours of darkness and an earthquake (Matthew 27:45-51). And when Jesus returns, the earth will experience the greatest earthquake in its history as every mountain is lowered, every valley is raised, and every island is moved (Revelation 16:17-21).

God has always spoken through signs of nature, and He continues to do so today. We had better pay close attention to them.

2) The Signs of Society — Jesus said that society will become increasingly lawless and immoral as the time approaches for His return. In fact, He said it would become as evil as it was in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:12,37-39).

Paul paints a chilling picture of end time society in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. He says it will be characterized by three loves — the love of self (Humanism), the love of money (Materialism), and the love of pleasure (Hedonism). He then points out that the payoff of this carnal lifestyle will be what the philosophers call Nihilism — that is, a society wallowing in despair. Men's minds will become depraved (Romans 1:28), and people will call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).
We are seeing these prophecies fulfilled before our eyes today as we watch our society reject its Christian heritage and descend into a hellish pit of lawlessness, immorality, and despair. Even worse, we are exporting our nihilism around the world through our immoral and violent movies and television programs.

3) The Spiritual Signs — There are both positive and negative spiritual signs that we are to watch for. The negative ones include the appearance of false christs and their cults (Matthew 24:5,11,24), the apostasy of the professing church (2 Thessalonians 2:3), an outbreak of Satanism (1 Timothy 4:1), and the persecution of faithful Christians (Matthew 24:9).
These negative spiritual signs began to appear in the mid-19th Century when Christian cults started forming. First came the Mormons, then the Jehovah's Witnesses, and then a great variety of spiritualist groups like the Church of Christ Scientists and the Unity Church.
The apostasy of the mainline Christian denominations began in the 1920's when the German school of higher criticism invaded American seminaries and undermined the authority of the Scriptures, teaching that the Bible is Man's search for God rather than God's revelation to Man.
During the 1960's Satanism exploded on the American scene and has since been exported worldwide through American movies, books, and television programs. Dabbling in the occult has become commonplace in the form of astrology, numerology, crystal gazing, transcendental meditation, and channeling. The whole trend has consummated in the appearance of the New Age Movement with its teaching that Man is God.

As society has secularized, true Christianity has come under increasing attack. Judeo-Christian values, once the foundation of Western Civilization, are now openly mocked, and those who still adhere to them are castigated as "intolerant fundamentalists" by the media.

The positive spiritual signs include the proclamation of the Gospel to the whole world (Matthew 24:14), a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32), and spiritual illumination to understand prophecies that have been "sealed up" until the end times (Daniel 12:4,9).

As with the negative signs, we are seeing these positive signs fulfilled in our day and time.

Through the use of modern technology, the Gospel has been proclaimed throughout the world in this Century, and the Bible has been translated into all major languages.

The great end time pouring out of the Holy Spirit that was prophesied by the prophet Joel has also begun. Joel called it "the latter rain" (Joel 2:23), and he said it would occur after the Jews had returned to their land. The state of Israel was re-established in 1948. In 1949 God anointed two ministries that would have a worldwide impact — the ministries of Billy Graham and Oral Roberts. Then, in the 60's, came the Charismatic Movement which prompted renewal in worship and gave emphasis to the continuing validity of the gifts of the Spirit.

The acceleration in the understanding of Bible prophecy began in 1970 with the publication of Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth. It seemed to open up to popular understanding many prophecies that had been "sealed up" until the end times (Daniel 12:4, 9). Remarkably, it became the number one best seller in the world — with the sole exception of the Bible — for the next ten years!

4) The Signs of Technology — The book of Daniel says that there will be an explosion of knowledge in the end times and that people will move about quickly (Daniel 12:4). There are many Bible prophecies that cannot be understood apart from modern technology. For example, how can the whole world look upon two bodies lying in the streets of Jerusalem (Revelation 11:8-9)? Modern television satellite technology makes it easy. How can the False Prophet build an image of the Anti-Christ that appears to be alive (Revelation 13:15)? The answer, of course, is the science of robotics. How can the False Prophet require all people on earth to take the mark of the Anti-Christ in order to buy and sell (Revelation 13:16-17)? It would not be possible apart from computers and lasers.

Jesus said that the Tribulation will be so terrible that all life on earth would cease to exist if He did not cut the period short (Matthew 24:21-22). How could all life be threatened prior to the advent of nuclear weapons? Another reference to nuclear power is likely contained in Luke's statement that men in the end times will "faint from fear" because "the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:26). That certainly sounds like a reference to the splitting of the atom.

5) The Signs of World Politics — The Bible prophesies that there will be a certain pattern of world politics that will characterize the end time geopolitical map.

The focus will be the re-established state of Israel (Zechariah 12:2-3). It will be besieged by a menacing nation from the "remote parts of the north," the nation of "Rosh" — or modern day Russia (Ezekiel 38:2,6). There will also be a threatening nation to the East that will be capable of sending an army of 200 million — namely, China (Revelation 9:13-16 and Revelation 16:12-13). A third source of danger to Israel will be the Arab nations that immediately surround it. They will covet the land and will try to take it from the Jews (Ezekiel 35:10 and 36:2).

Another key player on the world political scene in the end times will be a coalition of European nations that will form a confederation centered in the area of the old Roman empire (Daniel 2:41-44, Daniel 7:7,23-24, and Revelation 17:12-13). This confederation will serve as the political base for the rise of the Anti-Christ and the creation of his worldwide kingdom (Daniel 7:8).
Other international political signs include wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6), civil wars (Matthew 24:7), and general international terrorism and lawlessness (Matthew 24:12).

6) The Signs of Israel — The signs related to the state of Israel are prolific and very important.
The most frequently repeated prophecy in the Old Testament is the prediction that the Jewish people will be regathered from the "four corners of the earth" in the end times (Isaiah 11:10-12). The Bible states that a consequence of this regathering will be the re-establishment of the state of Israel (Isaiah 66:7-8). The Scriptures say that once the Jews are back in their land, the land itself will experience a miracle of reclamation (Isaiah 35). The desert will bloom and people will exclaim, "This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden" (Ezekiel 36:35).

Another end time miracle will be the revival of the Hebrew language (Zephaniah 3:9). Most people are not aware of the fact that when the Jews were dispersed from their land in 70 A.D., they ceased to speak the Hebrew language. The Jews who settled in Europe developed a new language called Yiddish — a combination of German and Hebrew. The Jews who migrated to the Mediterranean basin created a language called Ladino — a combination of Hebrew and Spanish.
Other significant signs of Israel that we are told to watch for in the end times include the re-occupation of Jerusalem (Luke 21:24), the resurgence of Israeli military strength (Zechariah 12:6), and the re-focusing of world politics on Israel (Zechariah 12:3).

All these signs have been fulfilled in this century. The nation has been re-established, the land has been reclaimed, the ancient language has been revived, the Jews are back in Jerusalem, and Israel is the focal point of world politics.

Jesus says in Luke 21:28 that when these signs begin to happen, we should "straighten up and lift up our heads" because "our redemption is drawing near."

The Key Signs:
The most important signs are the ones that relate to Israel because God uses the Jews throughout the Scriptures as His prophetic time clock. By this I mean that very often when the Lord is revealing an important event that will take place in the future, He will point to the Jewish people and state that when a certain thing happens to them, the important event will also occur.
A good example of this principle can be found in Daniel 9 in the famous "Seventy Weeks of Years" prophecy. The prophet tells us to watch for a decree to be issued that will authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem. He then says that the Messiah will come sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years) after that decree is issued to the Jewish people.

There are two key prophecies which relate the return of Jesus to events that have occurred in Jewish history since 1948. These two events clearly established the period in which we are now living as the season of the Lord's return.

The State of Israel:
The first is the re-establishment of the state of Israel which occurred on May 14, 1948. Jesus singled out this event as the one that would signal His soon return.

His prophecy is contained in the fig tree parable (Matthew 24:32-35) which He presented in His Olivet Discourse. The day before He delivered this speech, He had put a curse on a barren fig tree, causing it to wither (Matthew 21:28-29). This was a symbolic prophecy that God would soon pour out His wrath upon the Jewish people because of their spiritual barrenness in rejecting His Son.

The next day Jesus reminded His disciples of the fig tree. He said to watch for it to bloom again. In other words, He said watch for the rebirth of Israel. He indicated that when the fig tree blooms again, He would be at the gates of Heaven, ready to return (Matthew 24:33).
Equally significant, He added an interesting observation: "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (Matthew 24:34). What generation? The generation that sees the fig tree blossom.

We are that generation. The fig tree has blossomed. Jesus is at the gates.

The City of Jerusalem:
The second key event was prophesied by Jesus in the same speech, as recorded by Luke: "[The Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24).

The first half of this prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D., forty years after Jesus spoke the words. In that year the Romans under Titus conquered Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews among the nations. Jerusalem remained under Gentile occupation for 1,897 years — until June 7, 1967, when Israel won the city back during the Six Day War.

The Jewish re-occupation of the city of Jerusalem is proof positive that we are living in the season of the Lord's return. Jesus said it would mark the end of the Gentile Age.

A Call to Action:
There is no way to escape the conclusion that we are living on borrowed time. The signs of the times are upon us, and they are shouting for our attention.

Are you ready? If Jesus were to return today, would He be your "Blessed Hope" (Titus 2:11-14) or would He be your "Holy Terror" (Revelation 6:12-17)? If you have never received Him as your Lord and Savior, now is the time to act. Repent of your sins, and call upon the name of the Lord that you might be saved (Acts 2:14-39).

And if you are a Christian, are you living as if Jesus might return any minute? Have you committed your life to holiness? Are you praying for the lost and witnessing the Lord when you have an opportunity?

Are you yearning for the Lord's return? Can you say with Paul that you are a candidate for a "crown of righteousness" because you have lived your life "in the love of His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8)?

I Want to Live by This Today:

"Be Joyful Always, pray continually, give thanks in ALL circumstances!"
1 Thessalonians 5:16

Hope you have a joyful Wednesday!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thank You!!!

Over the past three weeks I have been amazed at how BIG our God is! My goal with Team Worldvision was to raise $1,500.00 to bring clean water and food to communities in Africa (particularly Zambia), thus rescuing them from disease, poverty and death. But God had much BIGGER plans in mind!!! Through the support of many families and friends (YOU!), I raised almost twice that--$2,930! Yippee! I can't even begin to tell you how exciting it began to be each day that the marathon got closer and I would get on to check my First Giving status. Every time the percentage went up, my heart would swell and tears would fill my eyes. And then I would read the sweet comments you left along with your donation and--well, it was just too much! I can't even begin to explain how moving the whole experience was. Every gift, no matter how big or how small, was used to rescue people in dire need! Thank you so very much for responding to this need. It was such a very exciting thing to be a part of and I am praying that the Lord would bless you and continue to move your (and our) hearts for his kingdom! I will be sharing a video soon showing footage of Team Worldvision's trip over to Zambia. Tangible footage of wells being dug--something that could not have happened without your donation!

I Am So Conflicted Within

I am trying with all of my heart to not be caught up in what's going down with this election but I have to confess I'm having a hard time not. I have a wrenching in my gut that tells me that this election is the most important one thus far in the history of our country. I think that freedoms are at stake, not to mention our safety and our morality. I guess when you are raising five children your instinct within is to shelter them from evil and all that is bad in the world. And there comes the rub. As Christians we are supposed to expect suffering and persecution in this world. In fact, we have it so cush in our country and don't even have a clue about the suffering and persecution going on in the rest of the world. Yet, as a parent, I want to do everything within me to protect my children from experiencing such. My heart is so conflicted within.

There is a movement in the Christian circle that is really fed up with Americans and their lack of concern/ empathy/ care for what is going on elsewhere. I get that. So much of me feels that way too. These Christians have an even rebellious spirit about them. Maybe the rebellion is against the system because they've grown up seeing corruption and greed run so deeply and rampidly through our government. I get that too. I am fed up with that too. They are vying for absolute change. Partly because they are so angry with how our current government is working and partly because they are so angry with Americans and their self centeredness. I understand the anger. I struggle with anger regarding these things too. But I am conflicted within. Throwing out the whole bucket with the water doesn't seem to be the answer. Democracy and freedom is a good thing. The Bible itself promotes private property, justice for all, voluntary care for the poor, low taxes and public policy that favors the debtor instead of the creditor. Our current system is corrupt and does need to be cleaned up but I shudder to think we might vote in 'communism' as the answer.

There are others who are not going to vote. They feel that as Christians we should not even be concerned with the election. God is in control. Jesus wouldn't be concerned with it, why should we? I get that too. However, there are a lot of things we get caught up in our world that Jesus wouldnt bother with too. Sports, television shows, blogging :) , to name a few. Does that mean we don't weigh all the facts that are in front of us and cast our vote? I can't get totally comfortable with throwing my hands up and staying out of it altogether.

Many people laugh at the absurdity of our country actually becoming communistic. They think people are getting all worked up over nothing. I get that. It does seem far fetched. Yet, I have read and done as much homework as I can on our two candidates, and the 'little' info I can find on one of them is alarming. And it is even more alarming that there is such 'little' information. If I owned a company, I wouldn't be able to hire him, there is so little information to obtain on this guy. And the little that is out there, shows real ties to people who hate our country and want to usher in communism. Again, there's the rub. I want to protect my children from a government that will dictate to them how to live. I don't want that for them. The thing is, even though I don't want that for them, it might be God's plan. Maybe God's plan is to usher in a whole different government for our country; maybe he wants to awaken the people in our country from their slumber. God's will is that which will most glorify himself. It is that which will draw people to Him. I know that and am praying for His will even though a large part of me yearns for comfort and security for my children, a future full of baseball, football and such and no worries. ...I feel so conflicted within...

"Ha, Ha, people are communism's going to happen. " I just have a gut wrenching feeling in the pit of my stomach that this is no laughing matter.

One thing I know, God's Word tells us we can petition Him about anything. He says to not worry, but to turn those worries into prayers: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:67

I have been praying for forgiveness for being worried; I know He is in control. He is the King of kings, the lord of presidents. So come Tuesday, I will do the only two things that can make a difference. I will cast my vote and then be on my face praying for our country.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Enter the Story: Advent Conspiracy

Wow, Love this! SOOO Convicting! Every year, Eric and I say we are so going to do Christmas differently....I think this year just might be the year that we radically change our focus. More to come on this subject....

Tired of It

  • I am tired of the liberal media...they make my blood boil.

  • I am tired of the endless jabs, remarks, punches at Sara Palin
  • Iam tired of the remarks about Sara Palin's wardrobe. If you are going to make a big deal about the amount of money being spent on stuff like this, than disclose it on ALL sides. Definitely, it is ridiculous, but make a big deal about ALL of the money WASTED on stuff like this.

  • I am tired of the media's ability to go in and try to destroy a plumber's life in one day just because he had a different opinion and questioned the policies of the candidate they endorse.

  • I am tired of the media that will probe and prod into the life of a plumber, an ordinary guy just trying to make a living, going to all lengths to try and discredit him, yet won't even consider looking into the background of someone running for president.

  • I am tired of a media that won't seriously investigate and question relationships that a person RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT has had with a person who bombed our country and is still glad he did it.

    • I am tired of what both the Democratic and Republican Party have come to represent.
    • I am tired of all the time spent yelling back and forth about who stands for what and the twisting and turning of verbage until you have to be a law professor to even know what they are talking about.
    • I am tired of the corruption in our government and the money that is WASTED while 143 million orphans are going hungry each and every day
    • I am tired of this post.

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Picture This

    Okay, what if these guys dress up for Halloween as Scooby and Friends? The little guy, second from the left, could be Velma--doesn't he have perfect Velma hair? He could wear wide rim glasses and a thick turtleneck sweater. And Joshua could be Fred, Sophie could be Daphne, Owen could be Scooby and lanky Wes would make a great Shaggy. We could make a cardboard Mystery mobile...Wouldn't this be great? They won't cooperate, but I think it would be hilarious.

    GO SOX!!!

    SO inspired by Boston's tenacity and ability to come from behind----again! This team is the picture of NEVER giving up! I am so inspired I just might wear my Red Sox hat to church :) Hope you have a great Sunday!

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    Happy Birthday, Theo!!!

    We are looking forward to celebrating with you!
    And break a leg in your performance today! Steal the show! (have your mom explain these to you...we don't really want you breaking or stealing... :) )

    The Greater Work

    "...I say to you, he who believes in Me,...greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father" John 14:12

    • Prayer does not equip us for greater works--prayer is the greater work. Yet we think of prayer as some commonsense exercise of our higher powers that simply prepares us for God's work. In the teachings of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working o fthe miracle of redemption in others, through the power of God.
    • Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, "I am of no use where I am," because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed.
    • There is nothing thrilling about a laboring person's work, but it is the laboring person who makes the ideas of the genuis possible. And it the laboring saint who makes the ideas of his Master possible. When you labor at prayer, from God's perspective there are always results.

    Taken from Oswald Chamber's, My Utmost for His Highest, October 17th

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Christ and Christ Alone

    'He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.' Colossians 1:15-20

    We are sinful. God is Holy. God sent His one and only son to earth. He died upon the cross for all of our sins--past, present future--so that we could have eternal life. Jesus is holy and blameless...He took upon Him all of our sins so that we could have a relationship with a Holy God. Jesus is the 'bridge' between all mankind and God. To have a relationship with God, all we have to do is recognize who we are (a sinner in need of help), who God is (Holy and Perfect), and believe in the bridge (Jesus) that will bring us to God. We have to believe in this 'bridge'! That's it! How simple. How life changing.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    This Friend is MY Hero

    So I see Eric and the kids at mile 10.5 and I run up to the curb to slap them high five and about fall out! My friend, Nicole is standing there with them cheering me on! WHAT IN THE WORLD????? I spent the whole rest of the race trying to figure out how in the world she got to Chicago and wondering what the story was.

    I got the scoop after the race. She drove up the night before and spent the night with a friend and then met up that morning with Eric. WOW! What an AWESOME FUN surprise! My kids had a super fun time with her and having her there sure did make the weekend extra special for me. I had SO much fun hanging out with her afterwards!
    My, oh my, I am once again speechless and beyond knowing what to say. ...except, girlfriend, you out did yourself! Thank you seems like such a small word....but thank you for making my day on Sunday! You are one in a million! Love you, sweet friend!!!

    This is just so like God!

    Oswald Chamber's 'My Utmost for His Highest' is my favorite devotional ever. It has a reading for every day of the year. This past Sunday, October 12 (the day of the marathon), the title of the reading was 'Getting Into God's Stride'. How cool is that?!! I love how God gives you just what you need when you need it! I am sharing the whole thing with you because it is just soooo good!

    "Enoch walked with God..." (Genesis 5:24)
    The true test of a person's spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. a person's worth is revealed in his attitude toware the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight (see John 1:35-37 and 3:30). It is painful work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him--it means getting your second wind spiritually. In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself. The individual person is merged into a personal oneness with God, and God's stride and His power alone are exhibited.

    It is difficult to get into stride with God, because as soon as we start walking with Him we find that His pace has surpassed us before we have even taken three steps. He has different ways of doing things, and we have to be trained and disciplined in His ways. It was said of Jesus--"He will not fail nor be discouraged..." (Isaiah 42:4) because He never worked from His own individual standpoint, but always worked from the standpoint of His Father. And we must learn to do the same. Spiritual truth is learned through the atmosphere that surrounds us, not through intellectual reasoning. It is God's Spirit that changes the atmosphere of our way of looking at things, and then things begin to be possible which before were impossible. Getting into God''s stride means nothing less than oneness with Him. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it. Don't give up because the pain is intense now--get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.

    Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

    I love the beginning of this, where he talks about that what we do in the ordinary moments is what counts...not the extraordinary moments....I don't think it was a coincidence that I read this the day after the marathon--not the day of. It reminds me that every day I have to get into stride with God. All of those ordinary moments in life are what really matters. Life is a marathon...each little step counts...and I could go on and on but I have to go now and get into the 'ordinary' moments of my life with my five children! :)

    Somehow--I finished!

    I finished in 4:17:31....not exactly what I was aiming for....

    I hoped to finish in 4:00. I was running my training runs right at 9:00 per mile, so I thought, 'sure, no problem'. I've put in the miles...I can do this thing....Right? WRONG!

    HA! I have to laugh on this side of the race at my niavity.

    I was so unprepared for what laid before me...I had absolutely no idea how difficult this race would very hard those last six miles would be....

    It was brutal. It was excruciating. All I can say is that God's grace pulled me through it.

    I have friends who have ran this race and withstood those last six miles to finish strong and within their desired time. My admiration and amazement of them went up ten notches on Sunday. They are my heroes :)

    This has been the biggest learning experience of my life. I hope to write about it over the next couple of days.... Whatever 'race' you are in this week, may you find strength through the Lord to endure and experience God's grace like never before!

    "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace"
    Acts 20:24

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    WAY TO GO, GIGI !!!

    This special guy got inducted into the Murray High School Hall of Fame tonight for his outstanding football history...Way to go, Gigi!!! We love you and are so proud of you!

    Marathon Training Lesson #3

    My training schedule called for one 'long run' a week. Long runs are so unpredictable. You can start out feeling great and just suddenly 'hit a wall'. The wall can be caused from lack of planning--not allowing time for adequate digesting of food, for example. It can also be caused by just pure physical problems such as cramps, shin splints, you name it. Other times, you just hit a wall for no apparent reason. I think these are just simply 'mental'. So much of running comes down to your 'mental game'. When I hit these walls, the only way I ever recovered was to refocus my thoughts. Halfway through my long runs, I began carrying scripture cards. When my mind would start to weaken, I would start praying scripture. Wow! This made a huge difference! I also began to shift my prayers to others rather than the 'me' prayers of 'give me strength, help me not be weary...' Refocusing worked; it worked every single time. It worked because I quit relying on myself and began relying on God. It worked because it quit being about me and started being about Him and others.

    As I have been learning how to cope with 'the wall' in my training, I've thought about how much 'the wall' affects my daily life. I want so much to live my life focused on God first, others second, me last. Just like my runs, I can start off well. I get up and spend time with the Lord--I get filled up with Him with the hope that what I get filled with will flow out on those around me throughout the day. Just as physical 'training' is making me stronger to run a marathon, my daily time in God's Word and prayer is 'training' me spiritually to think and be more like Jesus. Starting the day off with God at the forefront is a great plan and gets that mentality of 'God first, others second, me last' in order. However, somewhere along the way--sometimes early on in the day--my mind shifts, these priorities change. 'Me' starts to creep up to the front. I hit the wall--the wall of 'Me'. I have found the wall of 'Me' to be the biggest challenge of my life. The wall of 'Me' disguises itself in all different ways, including what I have began to call 'emotional tizzies'. I can get worked up into an emotional tizzy in no time flat. And then my mind can become consumed with it. I've realized that I have to refuel my mind throughout the day with God's Word, not just in the morning. I've got to reframe and refocus my mind moment by moment. Just as running a marathon is a moment by moment battle, so is life. Focus, focus, focus. Where is my focus? What am I thinking on? Am I thinking about what I am thinking about? I don't want to be stuck behind the wall of 'me'. I want to climb it and conquer it and I know the only way to do that is through God's supernatural power.

    'Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.' Psalm 26:2-3

    'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself' Philippians 2:3

    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8

    Thursday, October 9, 2008

    GO MOM!!!

    WOW! My husband and sweet family pulled off a huge one last night! I still can't believe it. Supposedly, Eric was taking me out to dinner to celebrate my training/fundraising for Worldvision for the marathon (which is Sunday). Eric's sister and family came over to babysit and we left for my favorite restaurant (Chang's). So, we get to the restaurant, get out of the car and Eric says, 'Oh man, I forgot a gift card my manager gave me; we're going to have to go back and get it.' Now, knowing we have an expensive weekend coming up, gift cards are of upmost importance right now, so I didn't think it strange that we would drive back to our house to get it. So we get back in the car to drive to our house. I did think it strange, however, that he was driving mighty slow (he NEVER drives slow). As I was beginning to think he was acting strange, we rounded the corner to our house and pull up in front to a multitude of friends and family, yelling, 'SURPRISE!!!!'

    I was in complete shock. The first thought to go through my head, 'Oh no! My hair is a mess!' :) At first, I was overwhelmed and I only saw a crowd...then, my eyes began to focus in on faces...first I saw several of my sweet neighbors, then other precious faces came into view--old friends and new friends...

    I got out of the car...they had a huge banner painted in orange, saying 'Run, Maria, Run!'. Then, my niece Piper yelled, 'give me a G' The crowd: G!'
    Piper: give me a 'O'
    Crowd: 'O!'
    Piper: give me a 'M'
    Crowd: 'M!'
    Piper: give me a 'O'
    Crowd: 'O!'
    Piper: give me a 'M'
    Crowd: 'M!'
    As they yelled each letter, each of my children ran out with the letter on a bright orange shirt.
    Piper: What's that spell?
    Crowd: GO, MOM!!!!

    Oh my goodness! I was speechless. I was floored. I was overwhelmed by feelings of love. Now, I didn't cry because I never cry in the moment (HATE this about myself, by the way! Wished I cried in the moment). It always spills out later, at the strangest time. Probably, today, while I'm going through a drive through or at the library, it will hit me and spill out all over the place and people will think I'm weird.

    Anyway, back to the party! They had a big spread of food, a huge cake with orange letters saying 'Run, Maria, Run!', orange napkins, orange everything! (Worldvision's color is orange, by the way). People brought cards.... wow, it was so encouraging!!!!!! I have never felt more loved. I was just, well, overwhelmed. I felt like I was being enveloped in one, gigantic hug last night. (okay, so now I am crying). I don't even know how to thank all of these incredible people. What a pep rally! You will never know how this has spurred me on! I just feel ....tingly. (Tingly? Is that all you can say?) I know, I know, I just don't know what to say! As my mom would have said, 'I'm just flabbergasted and beside myself!' :) Okay, there--I am flabbergasted and beside myself! Seriously, my husband and sweet mother/father in law and sister/brother in law are just over the top! Eric scored some major points tonight :) !!!! I just love you guys so much! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I feel so loved today. and READY TO RUN!!!!!!

    Pics of the 'instigators':

    'And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching' Hebrews 10:24-25

    I LOVE YOU GUYS---I am adding this verse to my scripture cards for Sunday! I will be praying thanksgiving over you guys as I run!
    Other pics:

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008

    Ephesians Scriptures

    This week I am reading through Ephesians. These are the scriptures God hit me over the head with today :)
    • "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds (emphasis added); and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

    Am I daily putting on Christ in the attitude of my mind? Or am I defaulting to the habitual way of thinking that still marks the 'old' me--the person I was before Christ? If the attitude of my mind does not reflect Christ, than I am allowing an old thought pattern to have its way. I can get control of the attitude of my mind if I intentional 'think on what I am thinking on' and pray immediately when my attitude begins to go sour in my mind!

    • "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:29-32

    Oh, that part of my body that gets me in trouble far too often--the tongue! This is something that is spoken about daily with one of my children, in particular. However, I believe this is a weak area in my child's life because God knows I SO need it too!!! Everytime I ask my child, 'Did those words you just chose to speak build up or tear down?', I feel the burning conviction of the Spirit wash over me anew! Also, thinking upon the 'bitterness' part this morning. If I allow frustration to 'hang around' in me over particular people or circumstances in my life, I am allowing a root of bitterness to grow. This will grow and grow and grow until it takes over. Instead, I need to pray at once over that person or circumstance and ask God to give me His heart for it/them.

    • "Be very careful then how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." Ephesians 5:15-17

    Oh, I so want to make the most of every opportunity! I do not want to be foolish!

    • Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." Ephesians 5:4

    While obscenity is not a weakness for me, sarcasm sure is! Oh, I am being convicted over my sarcasm, lately! I have been thinking about how 'humor' has changed so much over the years. Everytime I watch a 'classic' --movies from long ago--I am amazed at the contrast of the humor than vs. now. It used to be funny to watch someone get a pie thrown in his face, or trip over something. Now all of the humor in entertainment is directed at someone else (usually berating men, which is another post for another time). Sarcasm is everywhere today. Sarcasm is cold and cynical. Sarcasm is critical. It has erected a stronghold in my life and I want get rid of it!

    These are the things the Lord is speaking to me about today--how about you?