Grace

February 11, 2010

Part One

This morning I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom, reading my Bible and my various devotional books and TableTalk magazine.  I read the usual things and then I decided to read part of Philippians since our pastor has just begun a series on Philippians on Sunday mornings.  I actually just listened to the first sermon in the series last night online while I folded the mountain of laundry on my bed because I had been out of town and missed the sermon when he first preached it.  Anyway, I was reading chapter 1 and when I got to verses 9-11, they just jumped out at me like they never have before.  I love it when that happens…when something you have read probably 100 times in your life seems like you have never read it before.  Here’s the verses:

” And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. “

I think that this verse sums up what Michael and I desire and pray for our children, as well as what we all should desire in our own lives.   I haven’t gotten to share this with Michael yet but I am thinking this may become a “family verse”, one that we talk about often and memorize together, kind of like a theme verse.

Part Two

After I spent some time rereading that verse and thinking about all that could be said about it, I flipped open the February issue of TableTalk and read a short interview with Sinclair Ferguson about his new book entitled By Grace Alone.  He mentions in the interview that grace is not a “thing”.  He says it is legitimate to think of  “receiving grace” but that we need to be careful to remember that there isn’t a “thing” called grace…all there is is the person of the Lord Jesus.  Here’s a quote from the article.  “…there is no “thing” that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me.  There is only Jesus Himself.”  He is the grace!  Even though this might not seem earth shattering, it was a good reminder of what we mean, or of what we should mean, when we speak of grace.

Part Three

After that, I picked up the awesome book I am reading called Broken-Down House by Paul David Tripp.  I happened to be starting chapter 14, called Celebrate Grace.  I haven’t finished the chapter yet but he is talking about how grace should be the thing that is in the forefront of our minds.  It should shape every part of our lives and effect every decision we make.  He talks about how absolutely crucial grace is for our existence this side of eternity and yet we are so prone to list so many other temporal things as “needs”- like bigger houses, better cars, more money, better health, etc. etc.  and not even think of grace as a need that we have.   The point is that without grace (Christ!) none of that even matters!!!  (There is much more good stuff in the chapter and the book…I highly recommend it!)  But, I was really in awe of the timing of this since I had just been reminded of what/who grace really is!

Back to Part One

The word “grace” is not in the verses I mentioned above from Philippians.  But this phrase is there…” filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ”.  We can only have righteousness from/in Christ.  He IS the grace that we need in order to bear the fruit of righteousness.  He IS the gift of grace to us from God.

OK, I’m not even going to apologize about the infrequency of my posts on here, I’m just going to jump back in!

In my last post, I mentioned that my grandma was in the hospital.  She took a turn for the worse in mid-August and passed away at 2:30am on August 17.  It was a very bittersweet week for all of us.  We knew she was going to pass away because her kidneys were not functioning and she refused dialysis treatment so it was just a matter of time at that point.  My sisters came back to town, other out of town family came in and we all spent hours with her in ICU, talking to her and singing to her.  Special memories that we will always cherish were made.  It helped to be able to prepare myself for her death but I still find myself stopping in the middle of my day and just not being able to truly believe that she is gone.  I still think of things I want to tell her and things I so badly wish I could ask her.  I have some of her things in my house and most of the time that is a great comfort to me, other times it makes me sad to know that they can only be in my house and not hers because she is not here and her house is now empty and on the market.  I already miss her very very much and I know I always will in this life.  Thank God for his wonderful promises!

We had a really busy summer and this year is starting out that way as well.  We are all pretty busy with church and we are now back in school for the year.  It is going well so far.  We have a good routine that works well for us.  One of my challenges this year is working in a part time job that I do from home.  I found the job while scanning through craigslist, like I do occasionally, and it seemed like a good fit for me and so far it is.  I update content on facebook and twitter pages for a company that has several of each type of page.  I am enjoying it and it is nice to have a little extra money for all the little things that come up,especially with KIDS!

Today, we went on a field trip with our homeschool group to Powell Gardens, a beautiful place about 30 minutes from here.  The kids participated in a lesson about pond life which included looking at micro-organisms under microscopes and dipping for macro-organisms in a pond on the property.  We also walked around the grounds for awhile and enjoyed the beautiful flowers and fountains. 

In other science related news, last week in school we were reading about butterflies, monarchs in particular, and how they migrate to Mexico about this time every year.  The next day I got an email from a friend telling us about a monarch watch going on last weekend.  Michael took the kids since I had something at church that day and they had a blast!  They each received a monarch butterfly chrysalis to take home and observe and wait for the butterfly to emerge.  Saturday evening we could see the wings showing through.  Each chrysalis was turning black by the time we went to bed and before we left for church Sunday morning, two of the three had broken open and the butterfly had climbed out.  It takes awhile for their wings to be ready to fly so we carried the hanger they were tied to out to the deck so they could fly away when they were ready.  When we got home from church, the third one was ready to be taken outside.  Very cool and once again, God’s timing was perfect!  The kids were so excited to see what we had been reading about with their own eyes. Another reason I love homeschooling!

We are now looking forward to our family vacation, coming up in 10 days.  We are stopping by to see my uncle and aunt in Arkansas, and each of my sisters in Alabama and Georgia on our way to Bristol, Virginia to see some friends and some of Michael’s family.  On our way back we are going to stop at the Creation Museum near Cincinnati.  We won’t be in any one place very long but we are excited to spend a whole week together as a family.

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Open Up the Jungle Book!

August 5, 2009

Again, my apologies for not updating this blog!  But I guess since I’m here, I might as well get busy catching up!

In my last post, I mentioned that my grandma was in ICU.  Now, 2 months later, she is still in the hospital but doing better on almost every count.  She still has some physical therapy to go through to get back to where she was before her back surgery but we are all praying that she will be able to make the progress she needs to make to get back to her home and her life.  We are all very thankful that she is still with us and that she can now talk and eat food again.

In late June, Jana and Heidi and their kids came to Kansas City for a visit.  We had a great time!  My kids and I spent several nights at my mom and dad’s house as well so it was definitely a full house but the kids had a wonderful time hanging out with their cousins for so many days in a row.  Alley purchased her first digital camera during that week and she took lots of great pics of everyone (and some not-so-great pics of me 🙂.

Our other big news of the summer is that Alley finally got to be onstage in a play, with a speaking part!  It all started a few months ago when my mom found out about a local theater who does a summer program for kids when some cast members came in the thrift store where she works to get props.  She told me about it and I looked it up online.  I signed her up for the program but she ended up being on the waiting list.  I basically put it out of my mind, thinking she wouldn’t ge to do it this year.  Well, a few days before Jana and Heidi left, I got an email telling me she was next in line and there was a space for her.  So, I found out more details, talked with Michael and then we talked with Alley.  She said she definitely wanted to do it.  It was a big commitment for us and for her–she had to go from 10 am to 4 pm every weekday for 14 days and then they would perform the play (The Jungle Book) 3 evenings at the end of the month.  She didn’t know anyone and it was about a 25 minute drive each way to take her.  We told them we would be there!  We attended a parent’s meeting on July 8.  She went to 2 days of practice and then they assigned parts.  She was cast as Mowgli!  We were very surprised–not because we didn’t think she could do it but because we assumed there would be lots of kids with more theater experience there.  She had only been in one other play about 4 years ago and didn’t have a speaking part.  We were very proud of her!  The performances were last week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening and she did a fantastic job.  She was very expressive in her voice and body language.  She was great!

She once told me when she was about 4 years old that she wanted to be on the stage with the light shining on her and she got her wish last week!  She was so excited about the whole thing and we are praying for more opportunities for her to develop her talent.

I haven’t had a chance to download pics yet but I will try to get that done soon… we really didn’t get to take too many since they didn’t allow recording during the play.

Now, to finish up the summer and get ready to begin school again in a few weeks!

DMV, ICU, VBS

June 10, 2009

One week.  It is truly amazing what can happen in one short week.  Last Wednesday I made a quick trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new Drivers License since my car insurance company was requesting that I have a Missouri drivers license instead of a Kansas one since I am now a Missouri resident (and have been for over 8 months.)  It didn’t take long at all, thankfully, and after I returned home, I got ready for the women’s summer Bible Study at church.  We have just begun reading and discussing Praying Backwards by Bryan Chappell.  It is an awesome book and even though I am not even a full two chapters into it, it has already affected the way I pray.  There’s much more to be said but so far, he has encouraged us to think about the fact that we are praying  ‘in Jesus’ name’ when we begin our prayers and not just tack that phrase on the end as an afterthought or out of ritual but to really think about the fact that when we pray, we are to pray for His glory and for His will to be done.  It is really very comforting, since we can just rest and trust Him to do what is best since He is sovereign over every detail, and that nothing can happen outside of His control.

That was Wednesday.  On Thursday morning, I got a call from my mom telling me that my Grandma was being taken to the Emergency Room from the Rehab center where she had been recovering from her recent back surgery.  Her blood pressure had dropped dangerously low.  Later, we found out that she had blood clots in her lungs, alot of them.  The doctor said that that would have killed most people right on the spot.  Over the next several hours they thought she was improving after they removed the majority of the clots.  Then she suddenly took a turn for the worse and they moved her to ICU and they said family should stay close.  I called a friend who agreed to watch my kids so I could go to the hospital.  I was rushing around to get the kids ready and in the car and I somehow locked my keys in the house!  I couldn’t believe this was happening!  I was able to “break in” my house and finally get on the road, all the while thinking about how it had only been 10 months since we lost Grandpa so suddenly and knowing I wasn’t ready for another day like that.  But I remembered what I had been reading and I began to pray for God to do what was best for her, for us and what would bring Him the most glory.   I asked for Him to spare her life a little longer but I took comfort in knowing that He was in control no matter the outcome.

Several family members gathered at the hospital and more began traveling to Kansas City.  I finally went home to try to sleep.  I prayed with my kids as we were going to sleep on the living room floor, leaving beds available for my cousins who were arriving around 2 am.  I didn’t sleep well but was thankful in the morning that I hadn’t received a call in the night….that Grandma had made it through the night.  All day Friday and most of Saturday things were very touch and go.  Her blood pressure wasn’t staying high enough without medication.  We thought her organs might be shutting down due to not enough oxygen when the blood pressure was so low.  She was on a ventilator, not because she couldn’t breathe at all but just to help her body not to have to work so hard.  We were allowed to go in and see her during some of these hours but she didn’t look good most of that time.  She was sedated and had so many things hooked up to her, helping to sustain her life.  On Friday, she was a little more awake and was able to open her eyes when we talked to her and she would nod and squeeze our hands in response to what we said, still unable to talk with the ventilator.  Still hovering around the line between life and death.  We kept praying and I realized that beginning my prayers with a focus on God and on His will made it so much easier to pray, so much easier to know that His will would be done.

She was hooked up to dialysis on Sunday since her kidneys weren’t functioning very well.  This was expected due to the shock her body had gone through and some of her medications and diagnostic treatments were hard on her kidneys.  The doctor was hopeful that normal function would return eventually.  Her blood pressure began to stabilize at this point which was very encouraging.   We went to church Sunday morning and then spent most of the afternoon with family in the ICU waiting room.  The kids were getting very excited about VBS starting on Monday.

Monday morning the kids and I headed to church to start a busy Vacation Bible school week.  My mom called while we were there to tell me that they were planning to remove the ventilator that afternoon.  They did do that and she has been awake and able to talk to us.  Her throat is sore and her voice is soft but she knows who we are and is remembering details such as when her estimated tax payment is due and when her favorite show comes on!  She has quite a bit of therapy to go through to recover from this as well as finishing her rehabilitation from the back surgery but we are all hopeful that she will continue to regain strength and be back to her normal self before too long.  It is truly a blessing from God that she is still with us.  I know that “praying backwards” didn’t save her life… it just prepared my heart to be quicker to accept His will either way.  This Wednesday, I am truly grateful for what our family was spared this week and that God has given us the gift of more time with Grandma.

There are many, many reasons why I love being the one to teach my kids every day but today I was reminded that God is our teacher and the Creator of all that we are studying and He is sovereign over every detail and when all those things combine…it’s awesome!

This year, the kids and I have been reading a book called Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day for our science. So far, we have studied birds and bats and now we are studying insects. Yesterday, we were reading about ants. We all learned some new things and one thing we learned was that when an anthill is disturbed, the worker ants try to save the “baby” ants, (the pupa stage of their development), by carrying the pupae out of the anthill. Today, I was doing some yard work in the backyard and I inadvertently disturbed an anthill that was under some leaves I was trying to move. All of a sudden, ants started crawling all over the leaves and I looked down and noticed that several of them were carrying the pupae! It was amazing! I called to Liam and he came to see and then he went to get Alley so she could see as well. I think they were amazed to see the very thing we had discussed the day before happening right before their eyes, right in their own backyard! I couldn’t help but think about how perfect God’s timing is! If I had done the yard work before we read that section in our science book, I might not have remembered seeing it and I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought to show the kids these ants carrying these ugly white things! God knew it all and He made it something we won’t forget! Awesome!

A Fast Funny

March 25, 2009

I was helping Dresden take a shower this morning and I told her I was going to wash her with my body wash since hers was gone. She said, “You gonna smell me good!” At least she appreciated it! 🙂077

Valentine Party

March 14, 2009

Alley wanted to have a Valentine party this year for some of our family.  So, we invited some of my aunts and uncles and my two grandmothers and my parents and we started planning!  Alley and I came up with the menu, went shopping for food and decorations and cleaned the house.0310282 We played Bingo with conversation hearts and Alley and Liam quoted part of 1 Corinthians 13.  We enjoyed heart shaped Red Velvet cupcakes, crackers with heart shaped pieces of cheese, M&Ms, conversation hearts and yummy red punch!  The kids gave goodie bags and got Valentines in return.  They had a great time!032035037

Catch up

March 14, 2009

Once again, I am seriously delinquent in posting…my apologies to my faithful readers.  :)   It seems life doesn’t ever slow down with four kids in the house!  I am hoping to do better on this and maybe having a new computer will help.  We finally replaced the computer we bought when we moved to Germany SEVEN years ago.  It is actually still running, it is just slow and bogged down, so it has become the kid’s computer.  The new one is now in my room so maybe I will actually get a turn and can write some posts!

We have been in our house for almost 6 months now and it is finally starting to feel like we are really settled.   I recently bought a picture for the living room wall, a big one, since all I had before were too small to look right on a big empty wall.  I still need to reorganize practically every closet, especially with it being about time to switch out the winter clothes for the summer ones.  I also want to get the basement and garage organized.   They have been “the last frontier” so far since we were focusing on getting unpacked in the fall and then it turned too cold to spend much time in those places working.  Some friends of ours from church are redoing some things in their house and they gave us a big cabinet with drawers and a countertop as well as a tall, deep cabinet that will be perfect for all kinds of things.  Now that I have that sitting there empty, I am motivated to get to work and get things rearranged.  I am planning for this cabinet to hold extra school and craft supplies, maybe games, and hopefully lots more!  It will really help in getting the current craft closet cleaned out and ready for when we move Alley into that room when Megan moves in with Dresden at some point.   I am hoping for some warm weather this week so I can get down in the basement and get started!

One of the things we were most excited about when we bought this house was having enough space to host things and have people into our home.  It was really impossible to do that in our apartment and we really wanted to be more hospitable.  So, in the last 9 days we have hosted two big events.  First we had our small group from church here for one of our regular twice-monthly meetings.  There were 15 adults in our family room and nine kids playing upstairs!  Then, just a couple days later, I was asked to host the monthly Ladies Craft Night since the lady originally scheduled couldn’t do it.  I agreed and I think there were 13 women plus me and Alley.  We set up a big table in the living room so there would be enough space for all the scrapbookers and jewelry makers to do what they needed to do.  It was fun and I hope to have many more occassions to have a house filled with people!

Dresden said something funny as we were sitting together waiting for the ladies to arrive for Craft Night and waiting for Grandpa to arrive to pick up her and Liam.  She said, “I never was a cowboy.  Or a…a…a sheep-help.”   I said, “What?”   and she said, “A sheep-help.”  And I said, “A shepherd?”   And she said, “Yes, a shepherd, like Jesus!”  I love it when they come up with new words or phrases that are so perfect!  We are His sheep and we definitely need His help!

Megan is rapidly approaching her first birthday!  She will be ONE on the 27th.  So far, I haven’t nailed down plans for a celebration but we’ll figure out something, I am sure!  She isn’t walking yet but she does stand on her own quite often throughout the day and has taken a few small steps.  She has also learned to climb the stairs and is actually quite fast at it!  I had to take some time to teach her how to turn around and go feet first to go back down the stairs and she does fairly well at that but sometimes she goes too fast and I am afraid she will sit up and fall onto the hard floor below so I spend much time going behind her.  Pretty soon, I think she will be good enough to do it on her own and I won’t have to follow her everywhere she goes!

Life is busy but good.  We are looking forward to warmer weather so we can enjoy our yard and our deck.  We are so thankful to have a place that meets our needs so well!049024038064

Family Chore System

February 2, 2009

dscn2108I recently revamped our chore system…twice!  I have always had trouble figuring out exactly what I should expect from my kids at their various ages and ability levels and how to combine all the responsibilities to make a clean, fairly straight, smooth-flowing home and routine.  Adding in a baby  and a new house this year made everything even more complicated!  I realized about 2 weeks ago that we had lived in our new house for almost four months and we only had a few routines in place (such as Kitchen Helper of the Day) and it was time for more!  So, I figured out a plan but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed that something wasn’t right about it, so I went back to the drawing board.  I thought back over some of the things that have worked well for me in the past (some of FlyLady’s concepts) and some blog posts I had read from moms dealing with this same issue and I also thought about what I wanted the kids to learn from doing chores and helping around the house.  I knew I wanted something simple and flexible and I wanted something that combined individual responsibility with working together. (Kind of a smaller scale picture of how we live in the body of Christ…taking care of our own families but helping the body as well).  So, I started making notes on a scrap of paper while I was cooking one afternoon.  Then I typed it all up, explained it to my family, and we have now been doing it for a week.  So far, so good!

Just in case you might be wondering about the details, here they are:

First of all, we kept the Kitchen Helper program we had already instituted.  This person (rotating between Alley and Liam right now since some of the duties are too difficult for a three year old) helps set and clear off the table, they put away the plastic “kid” plates and cups from the dishwasher, they take the kitchen trash to the garage can and they take the small kitchen-sized recycling bin we have to the bigger recycling bin in the garage.  They also help with any other jobs that come up in the kitchen throughout the day when asked.  Dresden is asked to help here as she is able.

Secondly, I came up with 5 morning and 5 evening responsibilities for them to do on their own.  Each item on the lists begins with the letter “B” for easy memorizing.  The “Beginning B’s” are Bed (make bed), Body (get dressed), Breakfast, Bible, and Bathroom. “Bathroom” refers to a quick cleaning of an assigned bathroom.  They remove any dirty clothes, toys, etc and straighten the counter and towels.  They check the trash can and empty if necessary, and they wipe down the sink, counter and toilet.  When they are done with these jobs, we all meet together to begin what we call “House Help“.  (Similar to “room rescues” that we have done for years when things are getting a little out of hand).  I set a timer for 3 minutes and we each go to our own bedroom, where the bed is already made, and straighten until the timer goes off.  We call this Bedroom Boogie. Then, we meet again and do the Family Room Frenzy for 3 minutes.  Then, we do the Hall Hurry which includes the entry and bedroom halls and the stairs.  Next is Living Room Limbo and then Dining Room Dance.  This gets the house basically straight and then we spend about 15 minutes doing what we call Deep Clean Determination.  For this we have divided the house up into zones and we clean one each day.  Today was Living Room/Dining Room so we dusted and vacuumed those rooms, as well as wiping off the chalkboard and the dining chairs.  Tomorrow we will dust, sweep, and mop the family room and on Wednesday we will work in the kitchen, wiping the appliances and sweeping and mopping.  Thursday is the bathrooms (a deeper cleaning of the toilet and tub and floor) and Friday is the bedrooms.  In the evening, they have a list of “Bedtime B’s” to do before bed.  They are:  Bath, Boogie (this refers to a quick straighten of the office/craft/play room and putting their laundry away), Body (putting on pajamas/brushing teeth), Book (I read outloud to them for about 15 minutes), and Benediction (our prayer to end the day).  On top of this, I am mostly responsible for the kitchen (a work in progress!) and I try to do a load or two of laundry every day.  So, far this has worked well for us.  We sit down to our schoolwork with a clean house and it seems to make the whole day go more smoothly.  I like this plan because Dresden can jump in and help with quite a bit of it, even though she is not capable of doing as much as the older two, and she is learning about doing it together.  Also, if one child is sick, the rest of us can very easily make up for their absence by just picking up a few more items and spending a few minutes in a bathroom.

I have also noticed that everyone is more inclined to pick up after themselves throughout the day when everything is already neat and tidy.  Alley and Liam have both commented on this new system and they think it is fun and easy to do.  Time will tell if it will truly work in the long run but I am hopeful at this point!dscn2105

Sweet Sisters

January 23, 2009

Lately Alley has been very helpful with Dresden.  She has been giving her baths, which is a huge help to me and she says Alley gives her “gentle” baths…I guess that means mine aren’t so gentle…?? 🙂

Last night Dresden was in my bathroom while I was putting on a little make-up before going to our church small group and she said something about Alley helping her with something, I can’t remember what it was now, but I asked her if she thanked Alley and she said, ” Yes, Alley is a nice, nice, nice, nice girl.”  She said it slowly, like she was saying several different things about Alley but could only think of “nice”!  It was very sweet!

Alley has also been reading The Babysitters Club books that I read when I was about her age and so she is trying to “practice”.  I have told her it will be awhile until she is really old enough to take on the big responsibility of babysitting officially.  She did keep all the little kids, including Megan, entertained in the basement of the house we were at last night for small group and she did a great job.  She is growing up MUCH too quickly!dscn1913