Thursday, December 4, 2014

Changes

So much can change in such a short amount of time.  We got an offer on our house on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  After a little negotiation (the buyer's readily agreed to our counter... they really like our house!), we agreed on a price and terms and signed the contract.  We then started to frantically look for a house.  Our house had been on the market for 6 weeks and after two disappointing showings, we started to think that this wasn't supposed to happen.  And then we got a request for a showing the day before our second open house.  And then we got a second request for another showing for those same people.  They put in an offer that same night.

After spending countless hours online looking at houses, we resigned ourselves to the likely fact that we'd be moving into a rental until we could find a house that met all our criteria.  And then I saw a house online that I liked.  It was a little out of the price range that we were looking in but it had been on the market for several months and had a blatant physical defect that would work in our favor.  We saw a total of six houses before requesting a second showing on the house that we liked.  The second showing was on Sunday and we put in an offer that night.  Our terms were pretty stiff but their counter was very reasonable and we agreed to it.  We're set to close on both houses on Jan 2nd if all goes well.

Our new house is pretty awesome.  It's a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 2 story with basement, 2 car garage and sits on a half acre.  It's in a little bit older subdivision that's right on the city limit so it really has a country living feel to it.  The house needs some updating but it's in pretty good shape and just needs some TLC to make it shine.  We're really excited about our new house but sad about leaving this one.  We've loved living here, loved making this house into our home, and we will miss it.  But we get to make another house into a home, a home that will one day, God willing, be bursting at the seams with children and animals.  What an exciting adventure we're embarking on!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Gone With the Wind

Last night, I went to a showing of Gone With the Wind at the Orpheum Theatre.  The Orpheum was built in the 1920's and is currently being restored to it's former glory.  It's a beautiful building and a lot of work has already been done on it.  About once a month, they'll show an old movie on their big screen.  I've seen GWTW several times in my life but not recently and never on a big screen.  It was pretty incredible.  For a movie that was released in 1939, it's hard to believe some of the things that were included, both visually and morally.  The burning of Atlanta... those aren't special effects, folks.  They pretty much had one shot filming that because the set was destroyed by the explosions and the fire.  And morally... there was quite an uproar at the time because of Rhett Butler using a curse word at the end of the movie.  But I was more surprised at some of the dresses that Scarlett wore.  And the scene near the end where Rhett's drunk and semi-abusive?  This film came out 75 years ago and was considered very scandalous by a lot of people.  If only those people could see the kind of trash that Hollywood puts out now...

The thing that always gets me with that movie is the romanticizing of the Southern way of life.  The knights and their ladies fair, the tranquility and prosperity, the happiness of the slaves... a life of ease and comfort for the ruling class, supported by the willing and dedicated slaves.  Everyone knows this is all hogwash, right?  In fact, there's a very ironic line in the movie.  Ashley confronts Scarlett on her use of criminals to run their mill, knowing that the overseer will abuse and starve the men.  Scarlett says that it's no different than using slaves.  Ashley counters that point by saying that their slaves were always well treated.  That point right there, fair treatment of slaves, was used by many plantation owners to defend slavery.  As if giving them food to eat and a roof over their heads made up for the brutal labor, the constant fear of being sold or seeing their family sold, the cruel punishments for infractions, and, most importantly, the complete absence of freedom.      

Monday, November 10, 2014

An Artsy Winter

Since finishing my last book, I haven't had the chance to read more than the forward of my next book ("Driven" by Donald Driver).  There seems to be so many things that demand my attention and when I finally get some down time in the evening, I'm so tired that I either just watch a movie or do a little computer work and go to bed. 

Josiah gets more self-sufficient everyday but unfortunately, is requiring more and more supervision.  Because he can go up and down the stairs by himself, he roams both floors now, getting into all sorts of things that he shouldn't.  And making messes.  He roams the yard too and because our backyard doesn't have a fence between our driveway and the street, he has no barriers to stop him from wandering into the front yard and out to the street.  He does go outside by himself because he needs to have (what he thinks is) unsupervised time but I'm always in the kitchen or the living room where I can keep an eye on him through the window.  He has a good time by himself, playing in the dirt in the vegetable garden beds with his little trowel and shovel or putting sticks and leaves in his wagon and pulling it around the yard or following Fluffy around.  If we don't sell our house by next spring though, we're going to have to put up a fence to keep him in the backyard. 

The weather this week has been amazingly warm but that all ended about 4:30 this afternoon.  A cold front came through and the temp dropped from around 70 to below 50.  We're not even supposed to get up to 40 tomorrow.  I brought in some of Josiah's outside toys and washed them so he can continue to play with them in the basement this winter.  I'm going to try to make our basement a little more kid-friendly so he has some space to run around and burn off energy this winter.  I think it'll be tough on him to be inside so much so I'm going to have to get creative with ideas of ways to keep him occupied.  Not that I think it's a parent's job to keep their child occupied 100% of the time (in fact, that's very harmful to a child because then they never learn how to entertain themselves), but the way he's kept himself occupied this summer is by going outside to play.  Now that he won't have that, I think I'll have to work with him on being able to occupy himself in the house.  I did get some new crayons and markers and coloring books a couple weeks ago so it might turn out to be a very artsy winter!

Friday, October 31, 2014

"There Are No Children Here"

I just finished a book called "There are No Children Here, the story of two boys growing up in the other America" by Alex Kotlowitz.  This is not normally the type of book that I read (I usually stick to history books) but I knew this was an area where my viewpoint needed to be expanded.  I was raised by and still very much believe in the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" principle.  I believe that through hard work and good choices, most Americans can do just about anything they set their minds to.  There are thousands of stories from before the founding of our country up to present day that back up that principle.  (Interestingly enough, the book that I've chosen to read next is "Driven" by Donald Driver, and his life is definitely an example of this).  The opportunities that Americans have are almost unprecedented in the world. 

But it's easy for me to believe this.  I was born into a white, two parent, middle class family who taught morality, valued education, and pushed us to succeed.  I was not exposed to drugs or drinking, poverty, rampant immorality, or violence.  That is not everyone's story.  And while I still truly believe that it's possible for a person to work their way out of poverty and make a better life for themself, I know that I need to have my eyes opened to what it's truly like to be born into horrible circumstances.  This book really helped to open my eyes.  It didn't, however, make me change my mind about the bootstrap principle.  It just made me realize how difficult it is for some people.  These two young boys, 7 and 10, were surrounded by drugs and violence.  Growing up in the projects in inner city Chicago, all they knew was what they saw around them.  It was difficult for them to believe that they didn't have to join a gang and sell drugs.  Many children were pulled into gangs, even when they didn't want to be, and selling drugs brought in money.  They didn't know that they shouldn't start fathering children at 14 years old.  Almost all the young people they saw around them had 3 or 4 children by the time they graduated high school... IF they graduated high school.  They despaired of ever getting out of the projects and with the violence that almost daily erupted around them, many times they despaired of even living past their childhood years.  They saw their friends, children, killed by stray bullets when the gangs would start fighting.  What was the point of working hard in school if they didn't even believe they'd be alive at 18 or 20? 

My heart was broken as I read this book.  Parts of it were very difficult to get through.  And although I think there are things the government should be doing to help alleviate the suffering of those who are in poverty, the answer is not the government.  The government has had a "war on poverty" for decades now and poverty is still winning.  No, the answer is Jesus.  The answer is God's people, the church, being motivated by the Holy Spirit, rolling up their sleeves and going to work to help those who are suffering.  This has always been the answer.  For some, this will mean working with their church body to provide food and clothes for the homeless (I have an amazing uncle who does this with his church).  For others, it will mean going to teach in inner city schools.  Some will be called to pastor churches in the inner city.  Some will be called to adopt orphans out of poverty.  Some of us will be called to hire those who can't find a job and give them a chance at a better life.  Others will be a role model, a big brother or sister, for children in vulnerable situations, to show them a different way of life.  There are those who will be police officers, risking their lives to protect the innocent; lawyers and judges, who will bring justice; journalists, who will shed light on what life is really like for these people; and social workers, who daily have to carry the burden of not being able to fix bad situations and broken children.

The call to help the vulnerable, to defend the widow and orphan, is put on all of us who claim the name of Jesus.  It is not an option.  But as we face the reality of what Jesus has done for us, going to the cross and bearing the weight of our sins, what He has called us to seems small in comparison.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

For Sale

A sign was put in our front yard last night and our house is officially for sale!  I want the house to sell, I want to move into a bigger place, but it will be very difficult to leave here.  This living room where I'm sitting... this is where Josiah took his first steps.  That bedroom where he's napping so peacefully... he's slept there every night since we brought him home from Nebraska.  I look out into our backyard and I can see him laughing as he goes down the slide.  I can see him grinning up at me as he sits in his lawn chair in his pool (because you can't just sit in the pool).  I can see him as a baby, laying on a blanket on the floor, wiggling around and cooing.  So many hours of rocking him when he didn't want to sleep or rocking him after he fell asleep and I just didn't want to let him go.  My baby grew into a little boy in this house and I feel like I'll be giving up a piece of his childhood when we move. 

But move we must.  Josiah is 19 months old and we want to start pursuing another adoption.  Even if we did pass a homestudy, it would be difficult to have two children in that bedroom.  Two cribs won't fit and Josiah isn't ready to move to a big bed yet (and that wouldn't solve our space issue anyway).  So we've decided to try to sell.  I don't know what we'll do if our house doesn't sell.  But I'm not going to worry about that because I trust in a God Who is big enough to handle this.  He's the One Who's called us into orphan care and called us to grow our family through adoption and foster care.  He knows this house is not big enough for the burden that He's laid on us.  So He must have a plan.  We're stepping out in faith and trusting that if this is not the path He wants us to take, He'll re-direct us.   

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Heavens and New Earth

It's been a rough week.  My kid is teething and extra fussy/clingy/tired.  I noticed last night that he felt warm and of course, my thermometer was out of battery.  I went over to my sister's house with him this morning to borrow hers and sure enough, he's running a slight fever.  After visiting for a little while, we came back home, I gave him some medicine, and put him down for a nap.  He hasn't taken a nap in the morning for months.  But that's just one thing.

There's a bad situation involving some people that we know that we were made aware of on Tuesday that has been difficult for us to accept.  There's been some tears and lots of prayers for repentance and restoration.  Last night, I posted the following statement on my Facebook: "But for the grace of God, there go I."  I have come to realize that anyone is capable of anything.  I don't condemn or look down upon anyone in this situation because I know that, given the right set of circumstances, I could do the same thing.  That's why Jesus told us to ask God to not even let us go near temptation. 

It's weeks like this that make me long for the new heavens and new earth, when all things will be restored and made right.    

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Earthquakes

I just experienced, for the second time since moving to Wichita, a natural phenomenal that I'm totally unfamiliar with.  An earthquake. 
About a year ago, I was sitting on the couch reading and I felt the house shake slightly.  It was very quick and since I wasn't sure it was actually a tremor, I immediately took to social media where my guess was confirmed.  Since that time, Wichita and the surrounding area has been feeling more tremors but I didn't feel any more until today.  About 15 minutes ago, I was sitting here at my desk reading through some emails when the house started to shake.  I thought at first it was the wind since it's pretty windy outside but then the wind died down and the house was still shaking.  It lasted long enough that my eyes got big and I started to wonder when it would stop.  This one was scarier than the last one, not only because it lasted longer and seemed stronger, but because there's been an increase in tremors recently.  They're originating in Oklahoma and whether it's man-made (fracking) or natural, we didn't used to have earthquakes and now we do.  It's certainly nothing like what happens along the fault lines in California or elsewhere around the world but it's still worrisome.

According to the USGS map, the earthquake originated near Harper, Kansas (southwest of Wichita) and was a magnitude 4.4.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Last Day of September

Tomorrow is the first day of October.  The weather has been almost perfect, with midday highs in the low 80's, sandwiched between morning and evening temperatures in the low to mid 70's.  We could use some rain though.  It's been forecasted at least once a week for the last month but we haven't seen more than a few drops. 

Last week, Book-A-Holic, a local used bookstore, had their semi-annual warehouse sale.  They opened up their storage room and sold books for $10 a bag.  I went on Thursday evening and got a big bag of books for myself.  Hoping that the sale was still going on on Friday, I went back and got a second big bag of kids books for Josiah.  On Friday, the bag only cost $7.50 (not sure why) so I got probably two dozen books for $18.  Most of the ones I got for myself were hardcover and in almost perfect condition.  The kids books were a little more "used" but still a really good deal. 

Josiah had his 18 month check-up last Friday and his last vaccination until age 4 (thank goodness!).  His weight is average but his height is below average which doesn't really surprise me given his birthmom's petite stature.  He's healthy and growing and the pediatrician was pleased with his development.  The only area where (I think) Josiah might be a tad behind is in speech.  He's used a handful of words but none very consistently (except "uh oh").  I think a big part of the reason is because he uses his pacifier all the time.  Since I'd like to take the paci away completely when he turns 2, I've started to wean him from it during the day.  Most of the time he doesn't even notice that he doesn't have it until he starts to get tired or hungry.  In just a week's time, I've already noticed an increase in his vocalizations.  I've also started to work on specific words with him ("momma" and "dadda" being at the top of the list) and read to him every evening before bed.  I'd gotten inconsistent in reading to him (and reading myself!) because of spending so much time outside this summer. 
I'm not concerned about his speech and word range yet.  At this stage of life, toddlers can learn things overnight so by next week, he might be surprising us all with what he can say.  I'm just going to encourage him and help him where I can and leave the rest up to him. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Terrible Twos

I had an epiphany last week.  Over the last couple months, Josiah has changed.  He's gotten more irritable, more emotional and dramatic, more strong-willed, and has started throwing tantrums.  I, having not gone through this before, was chalking it up to teething, the weather, a weird schedule, etc.  Anything I could think of to explain why my normally happy toddler was acting like this.  And then I had that epiphany.  The terrible twos!  I have no idea why I didn't think of it before but it makes complete sense now.  I posted something on Facebook asking my mommy friends when their kids first started the terrible twos stage.  A lot of them said it was at about 18 months old or earlier.  Their words really helped me because I suddenly saw my son in a different light.  He's normal and this is a normal thing that he's going through. 

Since my epiphany, my husband and I have discussed how we're going to handle Josiah's behavior.  We've gotten some input from other people and are now working on a discipline structure that works with our son.  We've tried a few different ways of dealing with his tantrums and have found that the thing that works best for us right now is putting him in his room until he calms down.  If we allow him to stay wherever he's thrown himself, he screams and cries for a lot longer than if we put him in his room by himself.  He's able to get control of himself a lot quicker without an audience.  I've also found that knowing how I'm going to discipline him when he acts out is good for me.  I do the same thing every time so he knows what is going to happen when he acts out.  I don't need to lose my temper or try to think of how to punish him this time. 

I've also realized something else after talking with some people.  Yes, this behavior is normal for this stage of life... but that doesn't mean it's okay.  I think that, for the most part, children live up to the expectations that their parents have for them.  If I expect Josiah to act like a raving maniac for the next two years, he will.  If I expect him to act like a kind, courteous little child, he will... some of the time.  Having high expectations doesn't mean he'll always do what I expect but it does mean that I'm not going to excuse his behavior, normal though it may be, and we're going to work at changing it.

In all this talk of discipline and right behavior, the main reason why we discipline can't be overlooked.  After all, right behavior does not a Christian make.  We discipline with the hope that our children will see themselves rightly (sinners destined for hell) and realize their need for a Savior.  Good behavior may be a by-product but it is not the end goal.  I want our home to be a place of grace and love, a place where people can mess up and be forgiven, a place where misbehavior is dealt with properly, where people are not constantly reminded of their mistakes but instead, reminded of the One Who died to remove the stain of sin. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Brass Teapot and the Power of Money

I just finished watching a movie called "The Brass Teapot."  It was a fascinating movie about a teapot that had magical powers.  It would magically produce money ($100 bills) when the owners of the teapot would hurt themselves.  Over time, hurting oneself paid less and less but then the owners discovered that if someone else got hurt, the teapot started producing again.  So of course the owners went around trying to find people that were in pain.  Again, over time, that paid less and less until they discovered that intentionally wounding each other and other people emotionally paid a lot.  Finally, they got to the point where they were willing to kill someone (a "bad" person, like a pedophile) just to get the money.  Thankfully, they didn't go through with the murder, but the teapot was stolen and they were witnesses to a 4-person murder as two different groups of people fought over the teapot.  This convinced the original owners to get rid of the teapot for their own sake.

This movie really hit home with me.  I don't think I'm alone when I say that I sometimes struggle with the desire for more money.  And to make matters worse, rather than just confessing this sin and bringing it to the One who can break the power of that desire, I will try to appease the prickings of the Holy Spirit by listing all the "good" things I would do if I had more money.  It's pretty frustrating for me to struggle with this because, as I've written in the past, I'm naturally a pretty generous person.  I love giving money away and helping other people.  I truly do.  I don't know why I struggle with this sin except that maybe God allows this struggle in my life to keep me from being prideful about having a gifting of generosity.  It's God who empowers me to be open-handed with our money and if I did not have His Spirit working within me, I know I'd be spending every penny on ourselves, to heck with those in need. 

For people like me, being rich would almost certainly ruin me.  The Bible warns us repeatedly about the love of and desire for money; that we can't pursue both God and money.  If we are pursuing and loving money, we've rejected God and are (probably) headed for hell.  If I was rich, I think that would be me, and that's a very scary and troubling thought.  I pray that God only gives us as much money as is good for us and I work at continuing to cultivate a spirit of generosity in my life so that money never becomes something that has power over me. 

1 Timothy 6:9-11  "Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  But you, man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Here Comes Fall!

My goodness, summer has flown by and we're heading into fall!  I've spent a lot of hours canning peaches, peach preserves, peach jam, beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  I feel very "Proverbs 31 Woman" when I'm canning: "She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family..."  I now have both a water bath canner and a pressure canner so I can preserve any type of fruit or vegetable.  I'm already planning on putting in more garden beds next year so we can produce and can even more vegetables.  I'm glad I can go to the grocery store and buy fresh or frozen or canned fruits and vegetables but I'd prefer to grow and can them myself.  I don't know that it's necessarily cheaper but it's definitely healthier and I like to know what my family and I are eating. 

The Kansas State Fair is going on this week.  After fighting the crowds on a Saturday last year, Daniel was planning on taking off a morning during the week this year.  He has a few things to finish up on the yearly audit though so we're waiting to see if he can get those done today.  If not, we'll have to go on Saturday.  Fortunately, waiting until the last half of the week or the weekend has turned out to be a great idea.  The weather at the start of the week was mid-90's but a cold front came through last night and it's supposed to be 70's or 80's the rest of the week into next week.  Friday is supposed to be a high of 59.  I'm definitely ready for fall, although this summer hasn't been near as bad as it could've been.  And after fall - winter!  And Christmas!  I've already started to think about Christmas gift ideas for the little guy.  We'd like to get him a full-size wagon but we might wait until his birthday in March for that, since it'll be closer to the time when he'll actually be able to use it outside.

Speaking of the little guy, I gave him his third haircut a few days ago.  The previous two were more like trims than actual haircuts but not this one!  I took off a couple inches from the front and back and made it as even and professional-looking as I could.  I know some parents like to take their kids to children-oriented salons for their first cuts but I'd rather spend that kind of money on something else and cut his hair myself.  Besides, if I get good enough, maybe my husband will let me cut his hair. 

Well, I suppose I should sign off and get some things done today.  I know I had a few weeks lapse in posting but I'm determined to get back on a twice-a-week or more posting schedule.  I enjoy writing and I need to keep it up, if not for others' benefit, at least for myself.  Sayonara! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Shed Project

Last night we finished another, rather major, improvement to our yard.  One of the previous owners had put a car port (or possibly for a boat?) in the south east corner of the yard.  It was huge and ugly and we had been wanting to get rid of it for awhile and replace it with a shed.  However, it wasn't at the top of our priority list until recently.  Since we didn't have a shed, we would put our mower and other tools under the car port and cover it all with a tarp.  It was better than nothing but certainly wasn't ideal since rain water collected in that corner of the yard, strong winds could blow the tarps off, and our son would always find a way to get into stuff that he shouldn't.  That last part is what finally did it for us. 

A week ago Saturday, Daniel and Michael (brother-in-law) disassembled the car port and dug up the posts (they were cemented into the ground).  It took them about four hours in the afternoon to get that project done (and it was hot outside).  We bought our new shed and big 2x2 pavers to go underneath it on Saturday.  We cleared out the area, decided where we wanted the shed and which direction we wanted it to face, and Daniel started work on Sunday morning.  It took him all morning to get the pavers put in place and evened out and then Michael came over again at about 2 and they started assembling the shed.  The shed is a 7x7 rubbermaid shed from Menard's.  We didn't want anything really expensive, permanent, or difficult to put together which left us with very few options.  Anyway, the men worked another four hours or so (again, it was probably 105 degrees in the sun and even hotter inside the shed once they got the walls and roof on) and finished in the early evening.  Although the shed isn't the sturdiest thing in the world, it'll serve our purposes and looks really nice.  Over the next week, we're going to add some dirt to the area around the shed and get grass planted. 

Our shed project was definitely a success.  There's plenty of room to put everything in the shed, including some tools in the basement that should really be in the shed.  Josiah can't get into it and it'll be locked so our things are secure.  And besides all that, the yard looks bigger and much nicer! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Intercede For Those Who Are Suffering

My heart has been heavy the last few weeks.  Tragedies, both near and far, seem to all be hitting at once.  The outbreak of the Ebola virus in Africa has hit close to home.  Nancy Writebol, the nurse who contracted it while working in Liberia, is the mother of one of our pastor's.  The last few weeks have been very difficult for the family and we, their church family, have been walking through it with them, feeling their pain and anxiety, their hope and despair, as they feel it.  The cruel comments on social media have hurt because they're about people that I care about.  Every time I see someone say "Why couldn't we leave those people in Africa?", all I can think is, "what if that was your mother?  Or your spouse?  Would you not do everything in your power to get them back here so they could have the very best medical care?  Would you not move heaven and earth to get them to a hospital where they can get medical treatment and have a chance of surviving?"  But most people are afraid and uninformed and they speak from ignorance and cruelty, not thinking to walk a mile in the victim's shoes. 

We have been receiving heart breaking news from Iraq.  The ISIS terrorist group is slaughtering men, women, and children, targeting Christians and other minority groups.  People have fled to the mountains and the young and old, those most vulnerable to the elements, are dying.  There's reports that parents have thrown their children off the mountian just so they don't have to see them die of thirst.  That's too horrible for me to even comprehend.  There are other reports of the terrorists beheading children or cutting them in half.  Women are being brutalized and sold into slavery.  Men are told to recant their faith or die... and many times, they die anyway. 

And then the news of Robin Williams' suicide.  This will, I'm afraid, cause a spike in suicide attempts as those who are suffering from depression follow in his footsteps.  I'm not even going to attempt to write about depression because I've never experienced it nor am I trained to handle it.  There are already far too many misinformed people spouting off about it.  The only thing I'll say is: if you're suffering from depression, there is hope.  Don't let yourself believe that suicide is your only option.  Talk to someone and get some help. 

As Christians, we're told to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  Now is a time for weeping.  Now is a time to get on our faces before the Lord and intercede for those who are suffering.   

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I'm an Aunt! And Other Happenings

Good heavens, I haven't written in two weeks!  And so much has happened...
The most important thing is, of course, that I'm an aunt again!  My lovely sister had a little girl a week ago Friday.  Joanna Isabel was 6 lbs 15 oz (I think) and 19" long.  She's a sweet little girl but it's kinda sad because she's making me incredibly aware of how NOT a baby my Josiah is.  Speaking of Josiah, he seems to be adjusting pretty well to the addition of a baby to our family.  He always kisses her goodbye ("kissing" to Josiah is laying his head against her head... it's so sweet!) and has held her a few times.  However, since she can't do much, he gets bored with her pretty fast and goes to find Zuzu to play with.  The only time he gets resentful of me holding her is when he's tired.  And at those times, it's not like he wants to sit in my lap or be held in my arms.  No, he just doesn't want me holding her

I've also been babysitting a lot the last couple weeks.  A mom needed to go to a dentist appt so I watched her son for a couple hours last Monday.  That same day, I was watching another little boy while his mom had some medical treatments at her doctor's office.  I watched him again yesterday.  And the third little boy that I watched last Friday and I'll watch again this Friday didn't have daycare on those two days so the mom had to find somebody else to watch him.  I'm always happy to help out other moms in the church and Josiah always has a good time with the other little boys. 

And last but not least, my own mother was in town for two weeks (she left last Saturday) to help out with Joanna.  We did some shopping with her, including a big consignment sale where I got some clothes, two winter coats, and some books for Josiah.  I like this particular consignment sale because they always have lots of clothes, shoes, toys, and other stuff for babies and kids and it's all in good shape.  They're not trying to sell junk like a lot of places. 

Well, I hear Josiah "talking" to himself so he must be up from his nap.  It's ice cream time!! :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Venerable Washington

The book I'm currently working on is "George Washington's First War" by David A. Clary.  This book is a challenge for me in a way that I wasn't expecting.  George Washington is one of the most influential men in our nation's history; many historians would say he is the most influential man in our nation's history.  And because of this, we tend to think he was near perfect.  I doubt anyone would say it out loud but this is what we think.  A man so wise and yet so humble, so knowledgeable on every important subject, a man who was able to lead a ragtag army to victory over the largest military on the planet at that time, a man who was almost unamimously elected our first president, a man who people know more by myth than reality it seems. 

This book delves into his adventures as a young man, before he became the George Washington that we know.  And this book tries to show him for who he really was: arrogant, ambitious, driven by a desire to make money and be somebody, with a tongue that would twist the truth to his advantage when it was apparent that the straight truth would hurt him or the cause he was working for (namely, the Ohio Company).  To be frank, I don't really like what I'm reading because I don't like my heroes falling to earth and living like the rest of us humans.  I would prefer that Washington was always the great man that we now know him to be.  But this book also offers hope.  George Washington had a rough start in life.  He had a mother who was manipulative, petty, and clingy; he lost his father and then his older brother (father-figure) at a young age; in his campaign against the encroachment of the French in the Ohio country, he made many military mistakes.  He critically misjudged and misunderstood the allegiance of the Indian tribes on several occassions.  He undertook the command of a campaign against the French that was clearly driven by the ambition of the men who owned the Ohio Company and who were afraid the French would cut off their land conquests and trade with the Indians.  Most of his decisions in early life were driven by personal ambition rather than any thought for the good of others.  And of course, one of the great marks against his character that is well-known is his status as a slave-holder. 

The reason all this should give us hope is because he's an example to us that people who make grave mistakes can go on to do great things.  Instead of wallowing in our mistakes and letting them define us, we can learn from them and go on to be a better person.  This isn't something we can do in our own power.  It's clear that George Washington's transformation was due to his faith in God, a faith that he relied on more and more throughout his life.  This is why he's one of my personal heroes.  Our heroes should always point us to Christ and it's clear that Washington would not have been able to do the things he did without God working through him.  There is always hope for us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Prayer Meeting

This summer our church is doing a Wednesday night prayer meeting in our new building.  Pastor Chad is doing an 8 week (I think) sermon series on prayer so the prayer meetings give us a chance to put into practice the things we're learning and also spend some time in our new building before we move into it, praying for the building and the people who will worship there.  Daniel and I went to the second prayer meeting last night and I have to say, it wasn't at all what I was expecting.  I've never been to a prayer meeting before and even when I had opportunity to go, I'd avoid it because it just sounded like it would be very uncomfortable.  I don't like to pray out loud (I think that's true of most people) but I figured I should get out of my comfort zone and attend.  And I'm glad I did.

There were about 25 adults and half a dozen or so kids that showed up.  We started out by singing a song together and then one of our deacons, Dave, gave us some instructions.  He told us to break into groups of four or five and spread out throughout the sanctuary and balcony.  He would tell us specifically what to pray about for a few minutes, then we would move around and find another group and pray about something else.  Dave had us pray the five parts of a prayer: adoration, thanksgiving, supplication, intercession, and confession.  He also included a few minutes for people to give some examples of things they were thankful for. 

It was amazing.  And the thing that surprised me the most was that I wasn't nervous about praying out loud because... it wasn't about me.  It was about the body of Christ gathering together to seek the face of God.  And I think that brings up an important point.  Our faith isn't only a personal faith; it's also a corporate faith.  Jesus knew that we would experience things when we gathered with other believers that we'd never be able to experience on our own and that's why He commanded us to gather with others.  We'd be able to see that we aren't alone.  We'd be able to use our gifts to help others.  We'd be held accountable and loved and showed grace.  And most of all, we'd get a glimpse of what it looks like in heaven.  Believers gathered together, worshiping the Lamb.  Last night I got a glimpse of it.  I get a glimpse of it every Sunday.  And that glimpse reminds me of why I'm here.  It's not about me. It's about Him.

"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." Revelation 7:9-10

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Puppy

Well, my sister got a puppy.  Belle, her previous dog, developed heart problems and had to be put down several months ago.  Since they've been in the house-selling and house-buying process since that time, they've held off on looking for another puppy until they were settled in their new house.  They found one that they liked and picked her (Zuzu) up on Monday.  Josiah was a little scared of Zuzu at first but soon warmed up to her and now loves visiting her.  We'll be taking care of her for a few days since my sister (hopefully!) has a few more days of work before she goes on maternity leave. 

It's always been my intention to get a dog when we moved to a place with more property.  I don't want one in our current house because our backyard is open to the road and we just don't have the room for a big dog (we'll probably get a golden retriever... they're good family dogs and I grew up with one).  But I do believe that kids should have pets.  Pets teach children responsibility and empathy and are good companions.  They're also therapeutic and help children to heal from emotional or psychological wounds (something we'll likely have to deal with if we continue to adopt or become foster parents). 

Anyway, here's a picture of my baby with Zuzu.  I know.  They're adorable. :)

 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

A few years ago, I started to try to figure out what giftings the Holy Spirit had given me.  As Matt Chandler (President of Acts 29 network and lead pastor of The Village Church in Texas) said in a sermon recently, there are gifts that people are born with and other gifts that people receive when they're saved.  Some things, like compassion, people have naturally.  It's a personality trait that they have and they don't need to be saved to be compassionate (now, we can argue whether they're really being altruistically compassionate or if they hope to gain something in the end, but that's a different rabbit trail).  Other things, like the gift of healing, people only get from the Holy Spirit after they've been saved.

When I first started thinking about the gifts I have, I realized that one of my dominant gifts is the gift of generosity.  I like to give people things (money or material items) and whenever our church has a need or a drive, I always want to help.  It's pretty easy for me to be open-handed with our money and resources because I truly believe that we don't own anything (God does) and He expects us to be generous with the things He's entrusted to us.

Another gift that I've only recently come to realize that I have is the gift of encouragement.  This one is kind of weird because being encouraging in conversation with people isn't usually natural for me (and it usually is for people who are natural encouragers).  When I'm thinking about someone, I can carry on a whole conversation in my head and say all sorts of encouraging things to them.  But it feels awkward to say those things out loud to them.  So I started doing something else that's really working for me.  I write.  I have a box of cards on my desk and I write out the things I want to say to someone.  Sometime it's a birthday card, sometimes it's a thank-you card, sometimes it's just an anonymous card of encouragement.  I really like doing the cards because it not only gives me the opportunity to say the things I want to to someone but just about everyone loves getting mail. 

The following is a pretty conclusive list of the gifts: exhortation, giving/generosity, mercy, prophecy, service, teaching, administration, leadership, discernment, faith, healing/miracles, knowledge, tongues, wisdom, evangelism, celibacy, hospitality, martyrdom, voluntary poverty.  I think we err if we think we only have to do those things that we're gifted for.  On the contrary, we should strive to become good at the things we aren't naturally gifted at doing while continuing to exercise those gifts that are easier for us to do.  There are some that may not apply to your life (for example, those who are married shouldn't be practicing the gift of celibacy) and some that shouldn't be practiced without supervision and input from church leadership (for example, trying to heal someone or cast out a demon - those types of things shouldn't be taken lightly). 

If you haven't thought about what you may be gifted at, I hope this blog post encourages you to think about it.  Knowing and using your gifts is important to the edification of the body of Christ and the advancement of His kingdom.  And if you are exercising your gifts but have excused yourself from the others because they aren't natural giftings, hopefully you'll rethink that conclusion.  We mature and grow when we step outside our comfort zones.         

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Slavery Handbook

I've almost finished "Bound For Canaan" and I have a few thoughts I'd like to share with you.  First, the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I have yet to learn.  Each book I read leads to at least two or three more books that I want to read.  And that's in addition to the half dozen books I have in my line-up!  I hope I never lose my desire for knowledge and I hope Josiah grows up with the same insatiable desire.  'Tis a sad thing when a person neither wants to learn nor cares about learning. 

Second, I have a hard time trying to wrap my mind around the fact that, a mere 150 years ago, there was slavery in this country.  Slavery in one form or another has always existed and will always exist.  It's one of the horrible evils that will always exist because of the evilness of men's hearts.  But what I don't get is that America was supposed to be different.  We were founded on the principles of all men being created equal.  Most of the people who first came to America were deeply religious and were escaping religious persecution in Europe.  There was a wide-spread knowledge of and submission to the Bible.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not one of those people who thinks that everyone was "good" back then, that there wasn't immorality or sin.  But Americans had just fought a revolution to declare themselves free of tyranny.  And yet, they were tyrants to an entire race of people.  So much principle and so little practice. 

It's interesting to see the ways proslavery people justified slavery.  One way was to dehumanize black people, to assert that they were an inferior race or condemned (as descendants of Ham) to perpetual slavery or even created at a different time than white people.  And isn't it interesting that the same thing is done today when it comes to babies in the womb.  "They aren't babies!" abortionists scream.  "They aren't humans!  They're blobs of tissue!"  Or how about this.  Slave owners purchased their slaves for a price and because they owned them, they could do with them what they pleased.  Sound familiar?  "It's my body!  I can do whatever I want with it!"  Seems like abortionists have taken a page from the slavery handbook.

And then there's this.  When abolitionsts started to gain ground in the north and more and more people started condemning slavery, laws were passed to try to punish and silence abolitionists.  In fact, during a trial for a white man who had been caught trying to help some slaves escape, the judge told the man's defense attorney that he couldn't say anything negative about slavery during the trial.  The attorney was not allowed to say that the reason the man was trying to help slaves escape was because slavery was a horrible evil and all people had a right to be free.  Abolitionists were driven out of towns, banned from southern states, frequently in danger, and sometimes killed, all because they wanted to speak about the horrors of slavery.  And again, the same thing happens today.  Anyone who speaks out against abortion or homosexuality is punished in an attempt to silence them. 

If the only way you can win an argument is by silencing your opponent, you've just lost.  If your argument is reasonable, it will stand up to criticism.  It's only when the arguments are ridiculous and contemptable that the critics have to be silenced. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Busyness

It's been a busy week.  My sister and her husband signed the papers to sell their house and buy their new house on Thursday so I spent most of Thursday and part of Friday helping them load and unload the moving truck and unpack boxes.  I personally love that sort of thing.  I enjoyed moving from our apartment to our current house 4 years ago.  I like going through stuff and packing boxes and I especially like unpacking boxes and deciding where things are going to go.  My sister and her husband haven't been quite so thrilled about the process but that's understandable since my sister is 37 weeks pregnant and her husband tends to just see all the things that still need to be done or things that need to be fixed at their new house (I think he would even agree that he's a bit of a pessimist).  I was at their house for awhile yesterday afternoon, unpacking baby clothes and sorting out sizes.  There's still lots to be done so I'm sure I'll be over there tomorrow (they both work today). 

On top of all that, Daniel's aunt and two cousins were in town last week (from Michigan) so there were several family events that we participated in.  It's always fun to get together with family, especially since we aren't going to the family reunion this year. 

Josiah has had a pretty miserable week and a half.  He has one tooth that's really causing him some pain and probably several more that are getting close to coming through.  I know it's bad when he gets a runny nose and is unusually cranky. 
He's added a couple more words to his vocabulary.  According to Daniel, he said "water" a few days ago and he's said "uck" (truck) a couple times when trucks have gone by on the road.  It continues to amaze me how much he understands when I talk to him but that doesn't always work in his favor because there are times when I'll tell him to do something or stop doing something and he ignores me, even though I know he knows what I'm saying to him.  And people think children are born without a sin nature... hah!  Another thing he started doing recently is folding his hands and jabbering when we pray before meals.  It's especially cute if I put him in his high chair and turn away to get something and he sits with hands folded, patiently waiting for me to come back so he can pray.  It's kind of scary that he's so young but already so good at mimicking what we do.  When the Bible tells parents to train up their children, it means from the time our children are born.  They understand far more than we give them credit for.   

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bound For Canaan

My current reading is a fascinating book called "Bound For Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement" by Fergus M. Bordewich.  Not a lot is known about the underground railroad but the reason for the lack of written documents is unknown.  The underground railroad wasn't very secretive.  In fact, the more well known the "conductors" on the underground railroad were, the better it was for the fugitive slaves.  Slaves would flee from their masters, some knowing that help was available and some having no clue about the "conducters" and "stations" on the underground railroad.  The ones who knew a little about it usually had a tip as to who would help them, or what type of people (Quakers led the movement for many years), or at least what town might be sympathetic to their cause.  The ones who didn't know just stumbled across people who were willing to help them.  And the ones who fled north and didn't have anyone to help them?  We know very few of their stories because most of them were caught and returned to their plantations where they were most likely sold into the Deep South, never to be heard from again.

The book also describes the national feeling toward slavery in the North and South and how it changed over time.  A lot of people in the early 1800's, even slave owners, felt that slavery was a bad thing.  But the slave owners weren't willing to give up their slaves to change it and many in the north weren't willing to state plainly that slavery was a sin and should be erradicated.  There were a handful who spoke loudly and boldly though and because of their voices, the people in the north who were already feeling convicted started to realize that they needed to take a real stand and do something about the horrible evil.  As abolitionists in the north got louder, the backlash against them grew more vicious.  Many were harassed in some way, some were jailed, a few were murdered.  But the belief that God created all men equal, regardless of the color of their skin, continued to grow until the country was deeply divided.  (Interestingly enough, there were several women who joined the fight for abolition because they believed that if people changed their minds about all men being created equal, why not all people?)

And all of this brings me to a point.  Many people who were against slavery in theory but not willing to speak out against it claimed to be Christians.  They knew that by freeing their slaves or demanding that slave owners free their slaves, almost the entire economy of the south would collapse.  Many northerners also benefited from the cotton and sugar trade and, until it was outlawed, the slave trade.  These people were not willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of what was right.  They weren't willing to lose their jobs and income, be maligned and harassed, and possibly lose their lives.  It's not an easy thing to do, standing for righteousness.  But it's so necessary.  "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?"  (Matthew 16: 24-26)   

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Appointed Path

Today is rainy and cooler and I love it!  Rain in the summertime always gives me hope... hope that it won't be such a long, hot summer; hope that all my plants won't fry and die of thirst; hope that, as much as people seem to mess up the earth and it's ecosystems, God still cares for the animals and plants and trees.  Last summer was the mildest and wettest summer we've had since I moved here.  The summer before that was the hottest, driest summer we've had since I moved here so this summer could be anything.  It seemed to be heading for the hottest/driest type but the last few weeks have brought quite a bit of rain and cooler temps so who knows. 

Daniel's first week in his new position was long.  He didn't get home until 7 a couple nights last week and he worked from home for part of the day on Saturday.  Their system is set up so he can access his work desktop and documents from his home computer so hopefully he won't have to go in on Saturday's, even if he does still have to work.  At this rate, he'll be putting in between 50 and 60 hours a week at work.  I'm a little sad that he has to work this much because we don't get to spend as much time together but there's something I've come to realize over the last few years of marriage.  There are seasons of life when the options that you have are less than ideal but you make do with them because you know it's just a season and things will eventually be different.  The season of our life where Daniel has to work long hours will probably be a long season.  The responsibility of breadwinner will rest on his shoulders alone until our children go off to college.  He's well aware of this and he's worked hard to advance his career so he can provide well for his family (which he does).  Our decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom and homeschool our children also means that the majority of the parenting responsibility will fall on my shoulders, along with the responsibility for our home.  Its very important that neither of us allow resentment to creep into our relationship.  Are there days when Daniel would like to sleep in or take a nap (as I sometimes get to do)?  Of course.  Are there days when I'd love to get dressed up and go into a job where a child isn't hanging off my leg screaming or constantly making messes?  Yes.  But this is the path that we believe God has appointed for us and we know He will give us the strength to endure and that knowledge brings joy and contentment.   

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Grandpa's 90th Birthday

I haven't blogged in awhile so I figure I should catch my 2 readers up on what's going on in my life.  Well, the toddler and I got home from Phoenix last night.  My Grandpa lives in Sun City West and his 90th birthday was on Sunday.  For over a year now, the whole family has been planning on being in Phoenix last weekend to celebrate with him.  And almost everyone was able to make it.  Grandpa's 5 children and their 4 spouses and 1 girlfriend; 8 grandchildren (1 of my brothers wasn't able to make it) and 3 spouses and 1 fiance; and 4.5 great grandchildren all flocked to Phoenix.  We had a wonderful time catching up with everyone and it was good to see that my grandfather is still doing quite well (physically and mentally).  Since Daniel was starting his new position on Monday, we flew down to Phoenix together on Friday morning but he flew home on Sunday afternoon and I stayed there until Tuesday to get some extra time with Grandpa and my parents and litle brother. 

Two points I want to make about this trip.  First, I would take 100 degrees in Phoeniz over 85 degrees in Wichita any day.  I know people think the "dry heat" thing is a joke but it's really not.  When you walk outside into 85 or 95 or 105 degrees here in Wichita, you feel like you're going to melt and externally combust.  It's not the same in Phoenix.  Yes it's hot but it feels so different (and much better) without the humidity.

Second, traveling with a toddler is difficult.  Traveling with a toddler who is headstrong, who doesn't like anyone but Mommy or Daddy, and who has two teeth emerging is... even worse.  He didn't want anyone but me to hold him.  He wanted to be held A LOT.  He fussed a lot and at one point, spent 45 minutes screaming at the top of his lungs in the car.  He also spent a good 25 minutes screaming on the plane before we took off and he fell asleep.  But even with all that, I'd still do it again.  It meant a lot to Grandpa to have all of us travel there to celebrate his birthday with him.  And I wanted Josiah to get to meet his other great grandfather and have pictures of the two of them together.  It was a good trip and I can't wait to go back for his 95th!   

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Tale of an Exemplary Employee

In August of 2009, my husband found a temporary job at SCKEDD (South Central Kansas Economic Development District).  I'm not even sure what his title was but the job he was hired to do was pretty menial office work.  Filing, answering phones, mailing letters, etc.  At that time, he had a Bachelor's Degree and was enrolled in the fall semester at WSU to pursue his Master's Degree.  That the work was beneath him (as far as education level) is an understatement.  But he did the work cheerfully, always doing more than what was required of him, and he gained the respect of his boss.  In December, SCKEDD offered him a permanent position.  Since that time, he's been moved to the SCKEDD warehouse, promoted to office manager, financial manager, and finally Controller, a job that he will assume on June 2.  I want to use my husband as an example of what an exemplary employee looks like. 

First, if you want to gain the respect of the people you work for and with, you have to be respectable.  This means: don't gossip, be on time for work, be at work as much as you possibly can (some people are notorious for calling in "sick" and they can't be relied upon), and don't complain about your job or other employees to anyone at your work.  Keeping your mouth shut is highly underrated.  If Daniel needs to vent, do you know who he vents to?  Me.  Not his boss, not the lady that has the office next to him, not the guy in the warehouse that he befriended.  If there's a valid concern, he will discuss it with the proper person but venting comes home with him. 

Second, you have to do more than just the items listed in your job description.  Why?  Because you have to prove that you are capable of handling more responsibilities and you're willing to take them on even when no one has asked you to do them.  This is huge.  While Daniel was in school for his Master's Degree and then studying for and getting his CPA license, he had his eye on the Controller position at SCKEDD.  It was the highest position in his field at that company and it was what he really wanted to do.  All the way along, he assumed job duties that no one else wanted to do.  He volunteered to do countless tasks, knowing that it would make his job more secure and give SCKEDD a reason to promote him.  Another thing that he's really good at and is continually doing is improving things.  He's a tinkerer and his motto is, even if something is working well, it can always work better.  He's always improving systems, trying to make them more accurate and less time-consuming. 

I know that some people will think that Daniel is just "lucky" and that's why he's done so well at SCKEDD.  Luck has nothing to do with it.  Now, was he blessed with bosses who recognized his abilities and a company that rewards hard work?  Yes.  I know not all companies are like that and some amazing employees are stuck because of bad management.  But in my experience, that's not the majority of cases.  The attitude these days seems to be that somebody (God, the government, my employer, my parents, whoever) owes me something.  Might I bust that delusional bubble and say that that's just not true.  Nobody owes you anything.  You have to work, and work hard, for what you want.  If you show up late for work most of the time (or even sometimes! there's rarely a good excuse for being late), you're obviously not a responsible person who cares about their job so why would your boss promote you?  And you complainers... do you think your whining deserves a raise?  Daniel says that there are many jobs he's done himself over the last few years because he knows that if he asks someone else to do them, he'll get a bunch of whining.  And this whining about having to do something that's "not my job" comes from the same people who whine about not getting a raise... imagine that.  My husband works late almost every day (I don't even call it late anymore... it's now the normal time he gets home).  He's worked Saturday's in the past and he'll be putting in at least a half day on Saturday for the next few months.  It's what he has to do to make sure his job is done well. 

A side-note: because Daniel does work a lot, when he comes home, he's home.  He leaves his job at the office (except for a short time of venting if he needs it but that's definitely not a daily occurrence) and is a wonderfully attentive father and husband.  I'm so grateful that our son has such a godly example to follow.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Squirrel

This past week, my 14 month old son decided that he was going to go from two solid naps a day to one.  Up until now he's been sleeping an hour or two in the late morning and the same thing in the late afternoon.  But now when I put him down for a second nap, he won't sleep.  He's still good... no crying or screaming or anything.  He just plays with his animals and waits for me to come and get him.  I finally decided after a couple days to put him down for his one nap right after lunch.  He's good and tired by that time so he falls asleep quickly, sleeps soundly for a couple hours, and then is up and ready to go again until he runs out of energy in the evening.  Of course, this means less time to do things without him but I'm trying to include him in more of the chores around the house anyway so it's not all bad.

I saw something pretty sad this morning.  I went in to get Josiah up and when I opened his blinds, there was Oreo out in the yard, playing (read: torturing) a young squirrel.  I don't know that I've mentioned Oreo before so I'll tell you about him.  A few months ago, I noticed this pretty, black-and-white kitty hanging around in our yard.  He was thin and dirty and had obviously been involved in some battles with other animals.  I started putting some food out on our deck for him and he'd come up and eat after I went back inside.  Every day I worked on taming him and now he begs for attention when I go outside.  He's put on some weight and isn't near as dirty and I think he's staying out of trouble (for the most part) because he spends most of his time in our yard.  This has created a small problem though because my other two cats hate him.  They're always hissing at him but they're both pretty cowardly so they do it from the safety of the inside of the screen door.  I like Oreo but I know he's still a half-wild cat so I'm careful around him, I always wash my hands after I pet him, and I'm not overly surprised when he gets his own supper.  But catching a squirrel?  It was sad.  When it comes to cats catching anything, I always try to get the poor critter away from them.  Both of my cats are well-fed and Oreo certainly isn't starving anymore so they don't need to eat birds and mice and squirrels.  Anyway, I went running outside and scared Oreo away.  The poor little squirrel dragged himself over to one of the trees.  He painfully tried to climb up but fell back to the ground after only getting a foot up the tree.  He hobbled around the base of the tree, trying to find a hiding place.  I wanted to keep an eye on him to make sure Oreo didn't come back but Josiah and I hadn't had breakfast yet so I went back inside and we ate.  By the time we got back outside, the little squirrel had disappeared.  I looked for awhile and even let my cats outside but neither of them found anything.  He must've either crawled away or got up into a tree.  Some of you may wonder why I didn't just kill the squirrel, since it was obviously in pain.  Well, that's a tough call to make.  I know from a lifetime of being around cats that a lot of times, their hapless victims are more stunned and scared than anything.  If he was still sitting out there after a couple hours, I would've probably done something about it.  But since he was gone, I can only hope he's off in a hole in a tree somewhere, tending his wounds. 

My sister and bro-in-law brought over a kids pool for Josiah a couple weeks ago.  The weather has been cool recently but today it's supposed to be mid-90's so I set it up outside and put a few inches of water in it.  Hopefully by the time the kid gets up from his nap, the water won't be so cold and he can play in it.  Heck, he'd probably play in it if there were ice cubes floating in it!  I've very quickly realized that my son feels neither heat nor cold. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day

Yesterday was my second Mother's Day.  Although it's designed as a day to honor mothers (and rightly so... you should especially honor your mother on that day), I spent most of the day thinking about how honored and blessed and how much of a privilege it is to be a mother to my young son.  That God would see fit to entrust one of His precious children to me is amazing.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that without His grace in my life, I'd be totally unfit for the job.  Every single day, I make mistakes as a mother.  And that fact would crush me if it weren't for the more overwhelming fact that God makes up for my shortcomings.  He won't disappoint my son or let him down the way I will.  He loves my son much more than I ever could and I take comfort in that.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Meriwether Lewis

This morning, I finished "Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West."  Although I enjoy most books that I read, rarely do I find books that suck me in like this one did.  I was very sad when it ended - not only because it ended tragically but because I was left wanting more.  As good of a writer as Stephen Ambrose is, it's just not the same as actually seeing what the men of the Expedition saw... and that's what I want. 

The story ends tragically with Meriwether Lewis' suicide.  He had a lot of debt, drank heavily, probably suffered from attacks of malaria and the effects of syphilis, was mostly likely a manic-depressive, and, most depressing of all for him, believed that his beloved country and government no longer believed in him or trusted him.  After coming back from the Expedition, Thomas Jefferson appointed him Governor of Lousiana Territory.  For someone who had lived with and constantly conversed with Lewis for two straight years before the expedition, Jefferson's decision was a grave error of judgment and he should have known his friend better than that.  Lewis was no politician.  He was an officer, a woodsman, a hunter and fisherman, an adventurer.  For two and a half years during the Expedition, Lewis was pushed to the limits, physically and mentally.  He used every bit of his knowledge to describe and document the prairies, mountains, rivers, birds, fish, animals, and Indians that he encountered.  He made celestial observations so latitude and longitude could be pinpointed along the way.  He led his men in such a way that they were willing to follow him into the most dangerous situations with complete confidence in his ability to keep them safe.  His mistakes were extremely few.  One can't help but wonder how long Lewis would have lived if, rather than becoming a politician, he went back out on another expedition.  Leading men through the wilderness was what Meriwether Lewis should have been doing. 
And now I'm on to my next book, "One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd."  Evidently the book is about a thousand women who volunteered to marry into the Indian tribes in the west to help civilize them and turn them into normal American citizens - the government's idea of course.  I've never heard of this program before so I'm excited to start reading.  Should be interesting!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Some Days Just Suck

Some days just suck.  I've had a few of those days this past week.  On Monday, I decided that it was time to put my kitty Nibbles to sleep.  I called a mobile vet since I didn't want to have to take her anywhere because she hates car rides.  The vet couldn't come out until Tuesday afternoon.  So I had this black cloud hanging over my head for two days.  And to make matters worse, I met with a realtor on Monday and he informed me that houses in our neighborhood weren't selling very well and if we were to put our house on the market, it would be priced about $15,000 less than what we were thinking.  We were already planning on waiting another year before trying to sell but according to this guy, we're underwater on our mortgage (based on what he said he could sell our house for and what the county appraisal is).  Although we are taking what he said with a grain of salt, it was still depressing.  We want to adopt more kids and we want to do foster care.  But this house really limits us to two kids (and we're even more limited with foster care since they have restrictions on opposite gender kids sharing a bedroom or same gender with a big age gap).  I really love our house and I'll be sad when we leave but we need a long-term house and this just isn't it.  And now it looks like we'll be stuck here for far longer than what we thought. 

On Monday night, Grandma and Aunt Rebekah babysat and the hubby and I went out for dinner.  We usually have community group on Monday nights but I didn't want to go.  I knew they'd ask about our week and I'd tell them and then probably cry and I hate crying in front of people.  We had a groupon for dinner at a bar so we went there.  It was interesting to say the least.  The bar scene is not something that I'm familiar with so the amount of F-words that were liberally sprinkled throughout conversations kind of shocked me.  Do people not know how to talk without using foul language?  There was also a guy who was probably pretty drunk (although he didn't act like it) who was fascinating to listen to.  He had no filter on his mouth and said some pretty outrageous things to the couple sitting next to us.  Anyway, it's not a place that we'll go back to but it did take my mind off things for awhile. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring in Kansas

The last couple weeks have been beautiful.  We need rain but if it's not going to rain, I prefer a sunny, breezy 75 degrees.  Josiah and I have been spending lots of time outside.  He only had a couple outside toys so we went over to Wal-Mart after his nap this morning and I got him a lawn mower that "blows" bubbles when he pushes it, a little bucket and garden trowel, and a kids rake/shovel/hoe set.  He sees me weeding and digging up plants so, rather than having to share my garden tools, I figured I'd just get him his own.  I filled his bucket up with water and he had a grand time playing in it and pouring it all over himself.  Once it gets a little warmer, we're going to get him a pool. 

My gardens are looking good.  I did some more transplanting today.  One great thing about having more mature plants (my oldest things are three years old) is that I can do a lot of splitting.  I'm trying to keep my planting-buying to a minimum this year (just a few annuals for my pots and the bed by the road) so I'm splitting existing plants to fill in areas where something died last year.  I've also been given permission to steal a few things from my sister's garden before they sell their house so I'm going to be taking some baby lilacs and possibly a small chunk of her peony for my gardens.  A tight budget means I have to be creative and luckily, I'm pretty good at that when it comes to plants. 

It looks like we're going to be getting some bad weather this weekend.  It was predicted that this spring would be especially bad for tornados but there haven't been any yet (as far as I know).  This weekend will change that I'm sure.  We have a basement and in the corner where we hide, Daniel has his desk... We call it Mega Desk.  When there's bad weather, we're in the basement.  When tornados are touching down near us, we're under Mega Desk.  We already have an emergency kit so aside from grabbing some food and toys for the kid, we're ready for tornado season.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good Friday

Today, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is the day of silence and waiting.  Yesterday, Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried.  His disciples and family are shocked and devastated.  It happened so quickly.  Last Sunday, Jesus was a rock star!  He rode into Jerusalem and the crowds worshiped Him.  But the next day, Jesus cleared the Temple and, in the eyes of the religious leaders, sealed His fate.  The religious leaders had to get rid of Him and Judas Iscariot offered to help them.  Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples on Thursday night then went to Gethsemane to pray.  Late in the night, Judas came to Him, leading a mob armed with swords.  He was dragged before Herod and Pilate (in the middle of the night), tried, and condemned to death.  The next morning, He was crucified.  In just a few hours, the "Jesus movement" was dead.  The disciples had no leader and they certainly weren't going to do anything by themselves, especially not since Jesus was murdered.  But we who live 2,000 years later know the whole story.  Jesus didn't stay in the grave.  He rose to life on Easter morning, conquering Satan, sin and death.     

Every year, our church has a Good Friday service.  It's a very solemn, somber ocasion.  We read through the accounts of the Last Supper, the arrest, and the crucificion.  We take communion.  We pray and there are many tears.  Easter weekend is not just about Jesus rising from the dead.  It's also about Jesus being murdered.  We murdered God.  That should hit us hard.  There should be sadness and grief, repentance and rememberance.  We don't stay in that place of course.  Easter Sunday dawns and we celebrate.  Jesus rose and our hearts are filled with joy.  But there can only be true joy when we understand and feel what we did to the perfect God-Man on Friday morning. 

Man Of Sorrows
“Man of Sorrows!” what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Expedition and Stewardship

I'm slowly but surely making my way through "Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West".  It's a very thorough and descriptive book which makes for slower going but it's quite fabulous.  Can you just imagine... seeing the untainted prairies and mountains for the first time.  Seeing a land that's teeming with wildlife, some of it scarily tame because it's never seen a human before.  Seeing herds of buffalo that stretch to the horizon.  Seeing the migration of Canada geese, so many that they almost block out the sun.  Seeing a land that hasn't been touched by axes or plows.  To those men who first saw it, it must have looked like the Garden of Eden.  To be sure, there were inhabitants in the land before the Lewis and Clark expedition.  And there were trappers and traders of European descent who had done some exploring in the west.  But as far as we know, Lewis and Clark and their men were the first Americans to trek across the newly purchased American land and record the things they saw.  What they did, what they saw, what they experienced... truly unprecedented. 

But it's not without sadness as well.  The Lewis and Clark expedition opened the west to more settlers.  There were bitter and bloody wars with the Indians before they were finally driven from all their lands by the unstoppable force of progress.  Was there another way?  I don't know.  But I don't think so.  And with progress came a general disrespect and disregard for the land.  The trees, the soil, the minerals, the rivers were all used for what could be gained from them.  The land was altered and much was destroyed.  There were signs that we weren't doing it the right away, the Dust Bowl being one of them.  You can't just go in and dramatically alter the ecosystem of a place without a bad outcome.  Now we use irrigation systems, but the underground lakes that we've relied on are drying up.  American ingenuity has pulled us out of many of the messes we've gotten ourselves into but wouldn't it be better if we were just a little more respectful of the land that God has intrusted to us?  I'm not what you'd call an environmentalist but I do believe we should be respectful of the earth because we don't own it... we're merely stewards.  And good stewards take care of what's been intrusted to them.   

Friday, April 11, 2014

Not Much To Say

Some days I'm bursting with words that need to be written down.  And then there are days like today where I don't really know what to say.  Are there things going on?  Oh yes.  In the wider world... Russia is likely to invade the Ukraine in the coming weeks; North Korea continues to aggressively persecute and execute Christians; searchers are close to finding the crashed Malaysian jet; the Middle East is as unstable as always.  In the US... Kathleen Sebelius stepped down from her position as Secretary of Health and Human Services likely because of the failure of Obamacare; there was another shooting at Fort Hood where 3 were killed and 13 wounded; there was a mass stabbing at a high school which left 20 wounded.  And in my life... my sister and brother-in-law put their house on the market and are deep in house-searching mode; a great-aunt of mine passed away yesterday; Josiah continues to grow like a weed as do the weeds, flowers, and plants in my gardens.

Although fall is my favorite season, I love seeing little green things poking their heads out of the ground in the spring.  I've already done lots of pruning, transplanting, weeding, mulching, and de-leafing in the garden. 

Uh oh.  My kid just slammed his fingers in a drawer.  I guess I'd better go see if he's okay.   

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ode To Joy

Last night, my husband and I attended "Ode to Joy", a classical music concert put on by the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and Choir.  The first song was a piece called "Serenade to Music" by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  It was about 20 minutes long and very beautiful.  There was a short intermission and then we sat down to enjoy the masterpiece of the evening: Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  My husband loves classical music and he especially loves the 9th Symphony so he was on cloud nine during that hour and a half and well into the night afterward (he said he had trouble falling asleep because he was on a music high).  What's amazing to both of us is that Beethoven composed the 9th Symphony when he was stone deaf.  There are four parts to that piece of music and all are unique and beautiful.  To think that someone could compose that beautiful piece of music without being able to hear it is, in my opinion, miraculous.  Composers like Beethoven and Handel... these men truly had a gift and I think at certain points in their life, God especially touched them so they could create things like the 9th Symphony and the Messiah. 

I often wonder why people today can't or don't write music like what was written several hundred years ago.  So much of Christian and secular music today is just trash.  There's nothing beautiful or captivating about it.  Many times secular music is vulgar and obscene.  I just don't get how people can think this muck is music.  I don't think that everyone should listen or like classical music.  But I do think we should hold music to a higher standard.  Just because someone writes a song doesn't mean it's good or should be considered music.  Same thing with art.  Anyone can throw some paint at a canvas.  That's not art.  There has to be something beautiful and captivating about it, something that shows you clearly have a talent that not many other people have.  If everyone can do it, it's not special and shouldn't be considered art or music.  Anyway, that's my two cents.     

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Busy Week

This week has been a busy one and we have two more events before the week is over.  My husband and I used to lead a church community group and one of the young women who attended moved to Colorado and then our group was restructured and we moved to a different group.  The young woman who moved away is back for a week to visit and clean out a storage unit.  She stayed at our house on Monday night (we had community group that evening so she can by after we got home) and last night and I think she's going to be staying here on Saturday night as well.  Although we don't have the most comfortable or spacious accommodations, we're happy to let her sleep on a blow up bed in our spare room in the basement.  Last night, we invited the members of our old community group over to eat some burgers and spend some time catching up.  Almost everyone was able to attend and it was a great time.  Tonight we have a birthday party for Daniel's sister.  Tomorrow night, Daniel and I are going to Ode To Joy, a classical music concert in downtown Wichita.  We aren't usually so busy and I enjoy our more relaxed, free schedule.  Daniel works pretty long hours so we try to keep our evenings mostly free so Daniel can have father/son time with Josiah. 

If the weather is nice next week, Josiah and I are going to go to the zoo.  I'm going to get a year pass because he loves animals and I have a feeling that we're going to spend many hours there this summer. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"Parenthood"

I've started watching a TV show called "Parenthood."  I really liked it in the beginning but recently, some of the situations have gotten a little nauseating.  The show is based around an older couple, their four grown children and children's spouses, and their grandchildren.  One of the things I really like about the show is that it's very family-focused.  There may be times when the siblings don't like each other but they're still there for each other and they eventually work out their disagreements.  The married couples are committed to each other.  There have been a few sticky situations but so far, there's been no cheating or affairs.  That's pretty unheard of in today's television. 

One of the couples decided to adopt a baby after they were told that they couldn't have any more biological children (they had one child already).  In the end, the birth mom backed out after giving birth.  Those episodes really hit home.  I often wonder how close we came to being in that situation.  We would have been devastated and the show did a good job of showing how painful it was for them.  This stuff is real.  Until those final papers are signed, anything could happen.  We prayed everyday that our birth mom wouldn't back out.  Thankfully she didn't and we have a beautiful son.  But that's not everyone's story. 

But back to the stuff that's starting to annoy.  It's a toss up between the rebellious teenagers or one of the grown (40 year old) children as to whose behaviour is the worst.  And I'm sure the show is being written that way on purpose but this woman is an adult and a mother and her behaviour is just ridiculous for a woman of her age and situation.  She has no qualms about inviting men into her bed and although she continually talks about how much she loves her children, her actions are very damaging to them (especially since they have a father and they don't want to see their mother with another man).  This makes me angry.  And unfortunately, this stupidity is prevelant in our society.  Mothers and fathers alike claim to love their children and then do things that are extremely destructive to the well-being of those children.  Divorce is the number one example of this.  You say you love your kids?  Then love their mom.  Respect their dad.  Even if it's difficult, fight every day to stay with your spouse and make your marriage work.  I don't care if you're not happy and frankly, neither do your children.  All this hogwash that we're told about how your children just want you to be happy... it's a lie.  They don't want you to be happy if it means having their family ripped apart.  You say you love your kids?  Then prove it.  This woman is a prime example of a parent who says one thing but doesn't back up her words with any actions.  At some point, words become meaningless.   

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Cranky Child

Today was one of those very, very rare days that I was in my pajamas until noon.  My little guy hasn't been feeling well.  I'm not sure if it was the vaccinations he got on friday or the tooth that's coming in or a combination of both but he's been unusually cranky and clingy.  He woke up during the night at least once the last three nights (which is very rare for him) and he's woken up and started crying at 6 AM the last three mornings.  By 8:30 this morning, he needed some consolation and a nap.  I had fed him and we had both eaten breakfast but nothing else had gotten done.  I sat down in the chair with him to rock for a little while and he promptly fell asleep.  I dozed off not long after him but woke up after awhile and had to content myself with perusing facebook and playing on my phone while he slept.  He needed the sleep and it was too risky to try to move him to his bed.  He woke up at 11:30 and we both had lunch before I was finally able to shower and get dressed.  I didn't mind though.  My little guy isn't a natural snuggler so a few hours with him sleeping in my arms is a rare luxury. 

We had some news this week that was rather disconcerting.  I don't really want to go into detail but needless to say, one of my siblings did something impulsive and unexpected and frankly a little stupid, and it's thrown the rest of us for a loop.  I grew up with them and I know them better than I know almost anybody else but some of their actions are still hard for me to comprehend. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another Generation Grew Up

I was reading the first few chapters of Judges last night and came across a verse that was rather curious to me.  Judges 2:10: "After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel."  The generation that passed away was the generation of Israelites who had marched across the Jordan and conquered the Promised Land.  They saw many miracles from God as God gave them the ability to conquer the land against overwhelming odds.  God dwelt in their midst and spoke to them often.  In Deuteronomy 6:6-12, God says "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you.... be careful that you do not forget the Lord..."

God tells them to read, talk about, meditate on, and teach the commandments He gave them but it's obvious from the verse in Judges that they didn't do it.  He specifically commanded them to teach their children and they didn't do it and a whole generation grew up who didn't know God.  This is just amazing to me (in a bad way).  All it took was one generation of people not doing what the Lord had commanded them to do and the next generation completely turned away from a God who they didn't know.  As a parent, this is pretty scary.  We have an awesome responsibility to introduce our children to the God who we serve.  And this can't just be a once a day devotional (although that's better than nothing).  God makes it clear in Deuteronomy that everything we do can and should be used to refocus ourselves on God and teach our children about Him.  It's true that the salvation of our children doesn't depend on us... we can't make them be saved.  But I truly believe that God uses parents to help get the Good News of His salvation to our children.   

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Kitties

I have been facing this question for some time now: when is it time to put down your pet?  How much do you do, how much do you put up with, how much expense do you bear before it's just not justifiable anymore?  I do believe that the answer to that question is different for every pet owner and very much dependent on the situation.  Here's my situation.  We have three cats.  You might think that's a lot but I grew up on a farm and we always had a dog or two and a cat or two in the house, in addition to the other dogs and cats (different quantities at various times) and farm animals in the barn.  I'm used to being surrounded by animals.  I've had my old kitty, Nibbles, for a long time.  She was one of the kittens of a litter that was born when I was 8 or 9 and for some reason, really took to me.  When I got married and moved here to Wichita, she came with me.  I'm not exactly sure how old she is but she's at least 15, possibly a couple years older.  My other two kitties, brothers, were acquired after we moved to our current house.  My husband and I were looking for a piano for him and we went to see one at the home of a lady who had two kittens left from a litter.  One was the runt (turns out he wasn't... he was just a short hair or medium hair and the others were long hairs) and she didn't want the runt to be by himself so we took both.  It was a good decision because Nib is too old to play with them so they have each other to play with.  They are now going on 4 years old. 

But back to Nibbles.  A couple years ago, I noticed that her health was deteriorating.  She had gotten thin, wasn't eating a lot, and drank lots of water.  I took her to the vet, expecting the worst.  The vet said she had diabetes which is treatable with insulin.  At the time, I wasn't really given the option to put her on insulin or have her put down.  The vet just assumed I'd treat her and since I wasn't mentally prepared to lose her yet, I went along with it.  Since that time, I give her two insulin shots a day.  She recovered her health, as much as an old cat can.  But she's only gotten older and I really wonder if I should be prolonging her life.  The insulin is rather expensive and although the doses are small, it still adds up.  But after this long, how do I say that I'm going to put down my kitty just for financial reasons?  Can we afford the insulin and syringes?  Yes, right now we can.  Do I want to afford them?  No, not really.  That money could be spent on other things or saved.  But since she hasn't had any health crisis since the diagnosis, there's not really any reason other than financial to make the ultimate decision.  She's old and I know it's just a matter of time before her body and internal organs start failing.  Do I just wait until she has cancer or some other disease that we definitely aren't going to treat? 

I've never had to make this type of decision before and it's definitely the hardest decision I've ever faced.  I love my kitty.  She's been with me for as long as I can remember.  But she's just not in good healthy anymore.  As far as I can tell, she's not suffering at all.  She seems quite content to sleep away most of the days and nights.  But I have to make that decision at some point.  Do I make it now or wait until she gets something incurable?  Sometimes I really wish I could hand over all the responsibilities of adulthood and go back to being a carefree child.  Wouldn't that be wonderful?