Thursday, July 26, 2007

Blogging Break

I am taking a bit of a blogging vacation for the next two weeks. Though I will miss posting, I want to enjoy our upcoming vacation and spend time reading and soaking in all that God has for me.

And so, this blog will be quiet for a bit... but I shall return! So keep checking back!
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All Over The Place Thoughts

Oh my, where did the time go? Has it really been two days since I have written anything? For shame, for shame... sometimes my writing is irrepresible, sometimes it is the last thing on my mind. And on the best days it is somewhere in the middle.

Today my mind is occupied with several things:

1. My grandmother was doing better, but today there was more not good news. She is unable to eat, and the doctors say she can't last much longer than 14 days at this rate. We will see what happens and trust that God is in control. As I am typing this, my daughter is singing this song. That is my prayer especially for my mom as she faces this time of losing her last living parent. (Interesting enough, if you want to hear how this song was written, go to this clip to see the band talk about it.) For all of you who have left comments or written me privately to say you are praying, thanks so much for the prayers.

2. We leave tomorrow for two weeks at the beach, which involves packing basically the whole house. And for all you robber types-- don't get any ideas as we do have house sitters here taking care of our big, scary dog and also extremely nosy neighbors. Also, my husband and oldest son will only be there the first week, and then come home to work and football practice, respectively. But the kids and I are staying down there for a second week and having some friends join us. That second week we will have three moms and 10 kids under the age of twelve!! Doesn't that sound fun??

3. Because of number two, I have no idea how often I will get to post over the next two weeks. If this blog goes dark, don't write me off and do keep checking back!!

4. I dropped a shampoo bottle on my foot the other day in the shower. This has severely cramped my running routine and I am anxious to get back to it. This running stuff really is addictive-- and I always made fun of people who talked that way in the past.

5. There is a guy who is interested in our house, but is continuing to look. Please pray if you feel so led that either he would be "the one" or that God would send that "one" very soon! We have found a couple of houses in a neighborhood that we are interested in, but need to sell this house before we can look seriously. Of course, all of that will have to wait until after vacation. There is one house that is truly the dream house-- I found it online and told my husband about it, only the price tag was way too high for our budget. He chided me for even looking at it. Then last night we learned when talking to our realtor that, coincidentally (or not), our realtor knows this couple personally and knows that they have had the house on the market for quite some time and might be ready to deal. I am praying for a miracle there. And believe me, it would have to be a God-sized miracle for it to happen!

6. Somewhere in all of this vacationing and house hunting, I have to plan school for next year. I have warned Curt that when I return I will be venturing out for a serious teacher workday! I might even need two days!!

7. If you live in the West Palm Beach area of FL (or within driving distance) and are a homeschooler, you might consider joining me at the Back To School day-long conference and used curriculum sale on Saturday August 25th. I am very excited about this and will be speaking three times (four counting the panel I am sitting on). This will be a fun day-- if you are interested, please email me privately for details.

8. Did I mention that I am leaving for the beach tomorrow?? What in the world am I doing sitting here?? Must. Go. Pack.
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Being A Good Mom

I was a good mom today. I didn't yell a lot or get too frustrated. I didn't really say anything I regret saying. I didn't get upset with any circumstances and take it out on one of my children. None of them had naps because we were too busy having fun-- and that was okay too. I didn't get bitter or spend a lot of time thinking about what I could be doing if only they were napping.

One key thing that made all this possible is that we went to our neighborhood pool. Now, with a toddler that usually just sounds like too big a nightmare to even attempt. But today my son asked (as he does most every day) if we could go to the pool and I thought, "Why not?" And it was like God might as well have tapped me on the shoulder and said, "That is a good idea. You need to take your kids to the pool." There may be a lot I still have to learn about the Christian life, but I know enough to listen to that still small voice telling me to do something! I am learning to listen and obey whenever I get that distinct impression on my heart that God is talking to me. At first I thought that perhaps God had a divine appointment for me at the pool-- like I was going to get to witness to someone or something. Now, as the kids are tucked in bed and I am reflecting on our day, I realize that I did have a divine appointment with my very own children.

I needed to get out of the house, away from the chores and projects calling out to me. I needed to jump in the water and race my daughter to see who could go the farthest without taking a breath and shoot my five year old with a water gun and hold out my arms to my toddler as she jumped into my arms over and over again. I needed to laugh with my children and be a kid with them. That is something I don't do enough. Later on we went to the library and tonight we even read books before bed instead of me just grumpily ordering them to bed. Ironically, spending time with my kids makes me want to spend more time with my kids.

I have said many times that I am a better mom when I am immersed in my children. Some would disagree with this, but this is what I have found in my own personal life.

Remember my post earlier about peace week? God must have read that and decided that today, in all His mercy, He was going to show me a different kind of peace-- one that comes from knowing you loved your children well. One that doesn't involve spending a lot of money or checking off a to do list or hiring a sitter. A peace that is unexpected, yet deeply satisfying to this mother's soul.
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Bad News

I got some bad news today from my mom. My grandmother, who suffered a stroke several months ago is not doing well and is not expected to live through the week. I have thought about her all day as a result, wondering how she is and how much she knows about what is going on. I know she has told my mom several times that she is ready, as I would be in her situation, I am sure. She knows the Lord and is ready to go and be with Him. Of course, that is still hard to accept this side of heaven. My grandfather died nearly eight years ago and she has not had much of a quality of life since his death. He was the glue that held the family together-- and he added so much to her life. His absence left a huge hole in all our lives-- and mostly, I expect, in hers.

Tonight as I ran I thought about how unfair it is that I was able to run while my grandmother sits in a rehab center slowly fading. I thought about how fast life goes by-- and how my grandmother would probably agree. My thoughts took me to the place of being the old woman who has already lived her life while my granddaughter is out living her life. And I knew with certainty how quickly that will happen. Just ask an older person and they will tell you.

And then I had one final thought-- that perhaps Jesus will return before that happens. And I realized that, as He said, "No one knows the hour or the day that He will return." (Matthew 24:36) And with that in mind, I thought about the fact that the reality is, He could return before my grandmother dies. Just as I thought of all of that, this song came on. And as I ran, I was envisioning His return and celebrating just for a moment what that will be like to see Him riding in on the clouds.

We will all sing: Here is our King.


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I Corinthians For Homeschoolers

I got this on one of my email loops and thought it was good enough (and true enough) to share here. Though I know that not all of you homeschool, the truths still apply no matter what your educational choice!

If I teach my children how to multiply, divide, and diagram a sentence, but fail to show them love, I have taught them nothing. And though I take them on numerous field trips, to swim practice and flute lessons; and though I involve them in every church activity, but failto give them love, I profit nothing. And though I scrub my house relentlessly, run countless errands, and serve three nutritious meals every day but fail to be an example of love, I have done nothing.
Love is patient with misspelled words and is kind to young interrupters. Love does not envy high SAT scores of other homeschool families. Love does not claim to have better teaching methods than anyone else, It is not rude to the fourth telephone caller during a science lesson, does not seek perfectly behaved geniuses, does not turn into a drill sergeant, and thinks no evil about friends' educational choices.
Love bears all my children's challenges, believes all my children are God's precious gifts, hopes all my children establish permanent relationships with Christ, and endures all things to demonstrate God's love. Love never fails.
Where there are college degrees, they will fail; where there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we teach in part. But when the trials of life come to our children, the history,math, and science will be done away and faith, hope and love will remain; but the greatest of these is love.
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Peace Week

Last week my neighbor had an unexpected week of no kids. It just so happened that her two girls had signed up to go on a mission trip the same week her son was going to camp. And so, she had a week of NO KIDS. She dubbed it "peace week."

This is where that part in the ten commandments about not coveting gets sticky.

A week of no kids at all? I can't even fathom it. What I could get done! I can't even swing a day of no kids. I mentioned to my mother-in-law the idea of her taking them off my hands just for a day and I got a shocked and horrified expression. I guess that won't be happening anytime soon!

Don't get me wrong-- I love my kids. But I would treasure a day or five of quiet time and time of constructive, focused efforts on those items on my to-do list that never quite get done. And yet, part of having six kids is that that just doesn't happen. Because people are, frankly, scared of the sheer number of them-- no matter how good they are. And they are. Good kids, I mean.

And so, my neighbor's peace week is over. To top it off, her son came home sick from camp. I tried not to feel vengeful about that. I was happy for her. I really was. I just won't lie and say that I don't wish it was me.

I am just being honest.
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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Some Sunday Thoughts

I read this article with great interest today, thanks to a note on Lindsey's blog to check it out. Let me just say that this is an important article for all parents to read. I needed to read it today. What she says about taking time to evaluate where you are as a family is something that I am craving right now. My friend Dawn just returned from the beach and noted on her blog how she was able to spend time praying and studying her Bible, and just hearing from God while she was there. I am hoping for the same out of my upcoming time at the beach-- time to rest and refocus, time to process and listen.

Our pastor talked today about hearing from God. His message reminded me a lot of my friend Lysa's book, "What Happens When Women Say Yes To God." That book served to make me more aware of God's direction in my life-- of learning to yield my days to Him and to look for divine appointments from Him. Some days I do better with this than others, I must admit! But I am trying.

As I have said more than once on this blog, I am coming out of a hyper-busy time in my life. I am craving some slow-down and ponder time. I am looking forward to our time at the beach-- time to unplug and time to detach from all the things that pull at me at home. Time to seek God's face as I look heavenward, to hear His voice in the crashing waves.

But for now, I am thinking about what Amy said in her post-- and wondering how this fits in my life, and what it means for me as a mother. Some good stuff to ponder as I determine how God would have me (and my family) live.
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Just Checking In

Well, it has been a few days since I have written here-- mainly because I have not spent much time on the computer in the last several days!

Friday was spent visiting with my friend Lindsey. I "met" Lindsey through her blog, Just Enjoy The Journey, and have been a faithful reader ever since. When I learned she only lived about an hour away from me, I quickly suggested we meet up somewhere. One thing led to another and she ended up coming to my house on Friday to spend the day. We mostly hung out at my house, but we did squeeze in a visit to the Proverbs 31 office and by my favorite homeschool store. I was so blessed to have met her and we are hoping to meet up when we are both going to be at the beach in the next few weeks! I love making new friends and Lindsey is especially a blessing!

One neat thing that came out of my visit to the P31 office is that Leann, our executive director, mentioned that she was getting rid of her son's bedroom furniture from his childhood years as she transformed his bedroom into a true teenage bedroom as a surprise. She was giving away a handpainted dresser and bookshelf that was still in excellent condition. We had been wanting to get our five year old son a dresser for quite awhile-- but alas, something more "urgent" has always claimed the money that would be spent on something like that. And so, on Friday night after dinner we drove out to Leann's and picked up the dresser and bookshelf. My son was so excited and it has really helped his bedroom look more like a cute little boy room. I love when God orchestrates something like that to work out so unexpectedly!

Saturday was spent working around the house-- to be honest, I couldn't even tell you what we did. About 3:00 I finally got myself together and headed out to run some errands. I spent a few minutes at a local consignment shop in their homeschool room (didn't find anything) and also tried to look for one more bathing suit for two of my girls (didn't find anything) in preparation for our beach trip. Then I hit the grocery store and headed home in time to collect the family for a dinner with my mother in law as her brother and his wife were in town from CA for a conference. And so, we ate dinner over there with the whole clan. It was noisy but fun.

After we got home, I spent several hours (didn't intend to-- how does that happen?) loading songs on my Ipod. My daughter helped me-- what would we do without our children to figure out computers for us? My husband slipped away to Starbucks to veg and read his new Harry Potter book that had arrived from Amazon special delivery. All was relatively peaceful and I went to bed listening to my new songs in happy oblivion.

This morning dawned bright and busy as we had an early morning showing, which meant that we had to go to an earlier than normal church service AND get the house in "showing condition" before we left. Have you ever thought about how your house looks as you are running out the door to church-- just happy every one is dressed and has shoes on? Well, usually I sigh and think how glad I am that no one will see the house before we get back home. Not so today!

Of course, they never leave cards anymore-- so I have no idea if they showed or not. I am trusting they did and that our efforts weren't for nothing. This afternoon my oldest needs some new cleats for football mini camp this week and the younger ones want to go to the pool. Tonight is a date night for us. Hooray!

Hope you all are enjoying a relaxing last day of the weekend. That is what I am planning to do!
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Walk On

As I ran this morning, I listened to this.

And I thought about the lines to the song:

You're packing a suitcase for a place that none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen

And I thought that that is what we are all doing in this life-- packing suitcases. We have one go-round to put into our suitcase all that we can before we are finished with life on earth and move into eternity. For some of us, eternity will be spent in Heaven, others will spend eternity in hell, separated from God-- perhaps because of some of the things we chose to put into our suitcases. The things we chose to value over Him.

We all choose what goes in our suitcases: Some of us pack experiences; some pack things; some pack complaints and bitterness. Some pack the fruits of the spirit, which, as my daughter recited proudly to me the other day, are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. Some of us think that if we can cram enough stuff into that suitcase, we will win. Others of us know that we can't take that suitcase with us-- and that stuff is useless. Mother Teresa comes to mind.

Still others of us (me) are learning the balance of how to pack at all. Some stuff is good, and fine-- and even necessary like clothes, medicine, food, etc. And other stuff is just nice to have-- like little treats straight from the Father's heart. And then there's the stuff that isn't stuff at all. Experiences, memories, feelings, faith. It all goes in our suitcase. The trick is not to let the suitcase get too heavy-- physically or emotionally. So we don't end up dragging it through life, unable to experience the joy and freedom and abundance that was intended for us all.

And so, as I ran, I thought about the title to the song, "Walk On." Which is what we all have to keep doing every day.

To the single, bankrupt mom who has no place to live and wonders if God remembers: walk on.

To the business man who seems to have the world by the tail, but doubts inside that God truly loves him (He does, by the way): walk on.

To the stressed out mom who feels overwhelmed and incapable-- and wonders if God really knew what He was doing when He gave her these kids: walk on.

To the family in a bad place financially who is searching for answers and praying for deliverance from the bondage of debt: walk on.

To the man who struggles with pornography addiction and doubts a loving, holy God can forgive him: walk on.

To all those who hate their jobs but do them anyway to provide for their families. You are doing the right and fitting thing: walk on.

To the person who gives anonymously to people who will never know, but delights in the glory it brings to the Father: walk on.

To all those who strive for God's approval by outperforming and outdoing everyone else, hoping He will notice. Relax. He does. And He says: Don't walk so fast.

Walkin' on through another long, hot tv-free summer day...
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

When my husband saw this photo, he said, "That's a whole blog post right there."
So it is.

For more Wordless Wednesdays, go here.
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A Funny Moment

My five year old came back from our next door neighbors' house with a tomato in his hand. (They are a retired couple and are like grandparents to my kids.) He held the tomato up proudly and said, "Mom, Joyce sent you this tomato. She said to tell you that it might need a few days to frighten."

I didn't have the heart to tell him it was ripen, not frighten.

I plan to enjoy that tomato on a good ole southern tomato sandwich-- a staple of my diet in the summer months!
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blueberry Muffin Cake

Notice my cookbook stand with Martha holding court behind me.

As I mentioned last night as I summarized our day, I baked a blueberry muffin cake for our breakfast this morning. It was a great feeling to go to bed last night knowing our breakfast was waiting for us-- and a yummy treat of a breakfast at that! Somehow, though, I underestimated just how yummy the cake would be, though. It was a hit with everyone-- even the ones who don't love blueberries and shy away from muffins. I will admit that I cheated a bit and made a glaze to pour over the cake. The recipe didn't call for this, but it just seemed to "need" it after I made it last night.
I got the recipe from The Cake Doctor-- a cookbook my mom gave me that I am steadily working my way through. Periodically, I will try a new recipe from there. I haven't had a bad one yet!
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Bad Blog Tour Host

I signed up to do a blog tour stop for my friend Mary DeMuth, but figured out that I have overcommitted myself and bowed out at the last minute.

And I feel terrible about that.

But it is what it is (one of my favorite sayings) so I am just publicly apologizing to Mary. And encouraging those of you who are interested in learning about her book "Authentic Parenting In A Postmodern Culture" to go here to read blog interviews with numbers of other bloggers who did follow through in their promise to be a blog stop.

The truth is, I am trying to scale back on my busyness. I am coming out of the busiest season of my life-- and I don't ever want to go back there. I want to take the lessons I have gained through this season and live them out-- so I don't ever have to learn them again. So, I said no. I am in a season right now of going through every facet of my life and finding out what I can possibly say no to. It is freeing! But it also makes me feel bad at times.

I am turning a deaf ear to the guilty voices, though. Because my family's voices are louder-- and their cries are calling me home, home, home.

I don't know Mary well, but I think that she would support that.
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Scenes From Our Day

Helping mom make the salad for dinner.
Coloring in the high chair.

Creating their own hair salon. Big sis was the stylist (they really cut that doll's hair off!) and little sis was the overly attentive mom.

Well, today was our first day of unplugged life-- and we survived. Though there were moments I had my doubts. At first I was thinking, "This isn't gonna be so hard. This is a welcome change." But by four o' clock when we had exhausted all our resources and had two hours before dad came home and the five year old was demanding (remember the attitude situation I wrote about?) that I turn on the tv, I was having serious doubts about this little decision of ours. Perhaps we have been too hasty. I mean, it is summer, and hot outside. What else can the poor little dears be expected to do but while away the hours in front of the tv?

But I persevered. Mostly because I didn't know how to turn the satellite back on and was afraid I would ruin something by trying to. But let's pretend it was because of my resolve to be a better parent.
In the end, as I reflect on the day as my older two are playing Stratego together and a blueberry muffin cake is cooling so it will be ready for tomorrow's breakfast, it doesn't seem all bad. I mean, they're all asleep now. But all in all, I am glad we are doing this. We needed to do this. I so enjoyed seeing them being creative and coming up with things to do that didn't involve electronics.
Tomorrow is a new day-- and I am hoping it will get easier with every day we make it through without all the stimuli we have relied on the past.
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One More Story From ICRS

Ok, I forgot one very important element of my ICRS experience, and I couldn't let it slip by without telling the story.

We had slogged our way through 2 days of being on the floor-- talking and meeting people... and walking. Lots of walking. Our feet screamed in protest as we made our way through the convention center towards the shuttle bus that would take us back to the hotel, where our car awaited to get us home. We were all ready to get home.

We flopped into our shuttle bus seats, just relieved to be off our feet. Just as the bus was about to pull away from the curb, Rachel's phone rang. She listened to whomever it was and then handed the phone to Lysa. She listened for a few seconds, then stood up, gathered her things and began to get off the bus with Rachel following suit. They turned to me and said, "Come on. Just trust us." So, I followed them-- I mean, what choice did I have right? But I was grumbling the whole way.

When we got off the bus I looked at Lysa and said, "This better be good."

She beamed, "It is."

I replied, "The only thing that would be worth me getting off that bus right now is if Steven Curtis Chapman himself was here giving a private concert." Her eyes got big as saucers as she nodded.

She started laughing. "That's exactly what it is!" We began to run (remember our sore feet?) to the room where the concert was taking place. The guy at the door stopped us, as the event was by invitation only. Lysa stammered out the name she had been told by Gwen (remember Gwen, the music girl?) to tell them and we were allowed in to take our seats. I turned to look over and there he was, just standing around like everyone else. Though I have been to see him in concert numbers of times, I had never been that close to him. It was surreal.

I am not often starstruck, but I have to admit I was in that moment. There were only about thirty people there to hear his new album, which will be out this fall. The room wasn't very big. It was kind of an odd setup, as he would introduce the song, talk a bit about how or why he wrote it, then they would play it-- he didn't sing or play along on guitar. His daughter was sick and had been taken to the emergency room back in TN, so he was constantly watching his phone for text messages from his wife (Marybeth, cool name) updating him on her condition. He asked us to pray for his daughter, and when he would get updates he would tell us what was going on. The whole thing lasted about an hour.

I realized yet again, that SCC is just a person like the rest of us-- albeit a very musically gifted person. He's a dad who loves his kids and was just as torn between his job and his home as any dad would have been in that moment. I will never forget our little impromptu encounter with SCC and am glad I got to hear the cd. I only regret that I didn't get an advance copy. Because, folks, this cd is good. The songs "Cinderella" (about treasuring our children while we have them) and "One Heartbeat" (about the value of a mom's job) are worth the price of the cd alone. It will be out 10/23/07, so mark your calendars!

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dontcha Just Love A Man In Uniform?

My oldest at his graduation from basic training for Sea Cadets yesterday. He is the one in the middle!

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Going Cold Turkey

Warning: this is an honest post.

We have gotten off track with our kids. Neither one of us knows how it happened, but it has. Today was one of those days where we simply could not deny it any longer. The funny thing is, if you know us, you would say that our kids are very well behaved. And they are in public. But something has changed about the tone of our house-- you know, the "behind closed doors stuff" that no one else sees. Our loss of parental authority is evident in their lack of response to us, their rude, selfish behavior, and the disrespect that has grown rampant.

It is really bad when you find yourself not liking your very own children.

But undisciplined children will do that for ya. And so, we made some sweeping proclamations today, mainly out of desperation, but somewhat out of sheer resolve. Something has to change. As I have thought about how/why we got to this place I find some themes.

1. I have been WAY too busy. This goes back to my struggles at She Speaks. Even though talking to Gwen about priorities helped, seeing my kids' behavior today brought it all back to the forefront. A distracted mother can not be an effective disciplinarian. Plain and simple. I can dress it up and call it whatever I want, I can make excuses all day long-- but the effects on my kids when I take on too much are my own dang fault. Boy, I wish I could find someone else to pin it on!

2. I have been parenting out of fear too much. I wrote about this some time back on my old blog. If I had a lot of time to do so, I would find you the link. Parenting out of fear is when you say things to yourself like, "Well my gut is telling me this is wrong but if I don't let them, they might resent me some day." Or, "If I make them do too many chores, they might grow up and talk ugly about what a drill sergeant I was." Or, "Well, I want other kids to like them, so letting them do ________ will help them-- even though I don't really agree with it, per se." I am the world's worst about these type thoughts. And so, I have let this mentality creep back in, set up camp, and get pretty comfortable. And the results of this are obvious.

3. My husband challenged me to decide why I am doing what I am doing and begin to parent them from the standpoint of our longterm vision for them. This is such a perspective change from parenting out of fear. I need to decide what kind of adults I want them to turn out to be and begin to parent with that in mind, instead of being consumed with trying to make them happy in the here and now.

The next days and weeks might involve much weeping and gnashing of teeth-- for all of us. But it has to happen. Today we boldly unplugged the satellite, took the mouse off the computer they use, and declared their Ipods and personal dvd players to be only used in moderation. My husband also announced that from now on, they should get up each day expecting to work more than they loaf. Ooooh, I like that. This afternoon and evening, they have read, baked cookies and played with Knex. I can't say it isn't going to be tempting even for me to turn that tv on as a babysitter. But I know that, just like my children, I need to go cold turkey away from the things of this world that have tripped us up.

I'll keep you posted!
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I am having spaghetti, salad, and french bread for dinner on Wednesday night, which is an old standby and favorite at our house. (Except for my oldest, but hey, you can't please everybody, right?)

In fact, we had a cookie-making fiasco this afternoon when my 12 yo daughter made cookies all by herself. The long and short of it is, she did something wrong to the cookies and they didn't turn out right. Oh, they were still edible, they just weren't the right consistency-- and they were sort of transparent-- like stained glass-- when they were finished baking. And so, I talked to her about it-- and we tried to ease her mind with the story of how, when we got married, I only knew how to make spaghetti. And even then, I didn't know how to make it very well because I used to leave the lid off and all the liquid would evaporate and we would have basically tomato flavored meat over noodles by the time I was done with it. And so, in short, I hope we made her feel better.

I am truly a living testimony to God's transformative powers-- and not just in the area of homemaking!

But I didn't post this to talk about that. I posted to link to this recipe. I am so excited to try this with our bread on Wednesday night, as this is one of my favorite things to get at Carrabbas or Macaroni Grill. I even have some fresh garlic on hand that I plan to use. I will let you know how it turns out-- and let me know if you try it!
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Another Writing Quote

I found this quote over at Ann's blog, Holy Experience. Since I just posted writing quotes, I thought I would post this one as well. This one is especially true:

"Writing can be a creative and invigorating
way to make our lives available to ourselves...
we may discover that the better we tell our stories,
the better we will want to live them."
~Henri Nouwen
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Saturday, July 14, 2007

He's Baaack

Well, my son called just a bit ago to let me know that he and his dad were on their way home from his nine day intensive training camp for Sea Cadets, a program he is a part of. He was genuinely excited to hear my voice and I was genuinely excited to hear his. Absence does make the heart grow fonder! We talked for a few minutes about his experiences at the camp and how (his words) appreciative he was going to be when he got home. He said, "I never knew how much I took for granted. I even took for granted being able to look in a mirror!" He shared with me about getting up at 5am, the intense physical training, the lack of manners the other boys had, and his desire to be able to sleep in his own bed and take a long, hot shower.

Ah, just let me enjoy this moment for a bit....

Here is an excerpt from a letter he sent us earlier this week from camp:
"Thank you for everything you instilled in me, IT'S ALL PAYING OFF HERE! I miss you so much and I appreciate everything you have done for me."

Now, how many parents long to hear those words? I know I might have to wait a LONG time to hear them again, but at least I have them in writing... and don't think I am not tempted to frame this letter and hang it in a place where we both will see it often!
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An Easy Meal

Last night I fixed the easiest meal ever! And it was yummy, too!

So, I wanted to pass it along to you all in case you need a little inspiration.

Here's what I did: I thawed a package of frozen chicken tenderloins and put them in the crockpot. I liberally sprinkled them with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Then I added two cans of Campbell's chicken gravy. That's it! I cooked it all day and then served it with Stove Top stuffing with the gravy over it and green beans. It was a yummy meal and my daughter remarked that the only thing missing was the sweet potato casserole! It is important that you thaw the chicken all the way or the gravy will get watered down... ask me how I know.

Remember: I didn't promise this was a gourmet meal-- but I did promise it would be easy.
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Friday, July 13, 2007


We just had to send this one to our pastor... anyone in ministry (and that includes all bloggers who point others back to Jesus) will recognize good ole Alice... just think about those "helpful" corrections, advice and admonishment you receive through comments and private emails. I know I have had my share! This cartoon helped put all that in perspective. Sometimes it helps to know that you aren't alone! And please take this in the spirit it was intended-- one of fun and lightheartedness. I hope this makes you laugh instead of hitting any nerves!
(Having trouble reading the smaller print? If you click on the cartoon, it should pop up bigger.)
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Great Quotes on Writing

Speaking of my friend Bonita, she has a great weekly E-letter that you can subscribe to for free called Encouragement For Writers. Each week she features some thoughts on the business and craft of writing. I have really enjoyed some of the issues in particular! This week's she included quotes on writing that she has collected through the years. I have included them, with information at the bottom for those who might like to receive her E-letter.
Happy writing!

However great a man’s talent may be, the art of writing cannot be learned all at once. Jean Jacques Rousseau

We cannot write well or truly, but what we write with gusto. Henry David Thoreau

The worst thing you write is better than the best thing you didn’t write. Unknown

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork. Peter DeVries

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to write will die without putting a word to paper. E.B. White

Every artist was first an amateur. Ralph Waldo Emerson

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. Henry David Thoreau

Sit down to write what you have thought, and not to think about what you shall write. Willam Cobbett

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. Robert Benchley

Never give up and always allow a stranger to read your work. They may find something that a close friend may not be willing to tell you. Unknown

There is no great writing, only great rewriting. Justice Brandeis

You can’t sit around and wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. Jack London

If you cannot write well, you cannot think well, and if you cannot think well, others will do your thinking for you. George Orwell

The pen is mightier than the sword. Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The most valuable of talents is that of never using two words when one will do. Thomas Jefferson

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. Robert Frost

The reason one writes isn’t the fact that he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say. F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writing is long periods of thinking and short periods of writing. Ernest Hemingway

By writing much, one learns to write well. Isaac Bashevis Singer

Write what you like; there is no other rule. O.Henry

There is no perfect time to write, there is only now. Barbara Kingsolver

** If you know someone who would benefit from these emails, please have the person contact me at and I’d be happy to add another writer to the list.
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Thanks Bonita!

Ok, so I know we aren't supposed to care about these types of awards, but ever since I have seen this one circulating, I have eyed it with the thought of how nice it would be to be nominated. Thanks to my friend Bonita I now have been! Yay!

Thanks Bonita-- you know I think you rock so right back atcha!

The way this works is I am supposed to nominate five other Rockin Girl Bloggers. Since I have finally inspired several of the P31 girls to take the plunge into blogging, I thought it would be nice to reward them for doing so. And so, I nominate Rachel Olsen at My Life In Chapter and Verse, Lysa TerKeurst, Van Walton at Created for the Garden, But Lost In The Jungle, Micca Campbell at Reflections, and the designer of all these blogs-- Dawn at Barefoot Blogs. Dawn, you rock! Thanks for your help and patience with all of us!

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Faith Lifts Friday

Hi all-- just a reminder to visit Faith Lifts today to see my post on perfection.

Does that word strike fear in your heart? Don't let it. This post explains why perfection is possible. Check it out!
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Menu For The Next Five Days (and other stuff)

As we drove home from ICRS, we sang a few lines from the song, "Back to life, back to reality."
Ah, but it is true. I am back to life, back to the reality of dishes and laundry, sibling skirmishes and the noise, noise, noise, noise!

Today I had a very productive day-- and if I sound like I am patting myself on the back, well, I am. Because if I don't, who will?
I got up, got ready, got my daughter to her orthodontist appt, stopped and had lunch with my mom and the kids at Chick fil a, went by the library, then went to the grocery to stock up on much needed food. Got home from the grocery, unpacked the groceries, got the baby down for her nap and left her with my oldest daughter while I took the younger two to get my hair cut. It had not been cut since NOVEMBER people. I am not lying.
When we got home, I made tacos for dinner and baked a loaf of banana bread to have for breakfast tomorrow. After the kids ate, Curt got home and took them to the pool for a bit while I went on my run. After I ran, I came back to the computer and sent off my posts for Faith Lifts for the next three weeks, then started writing blog posts. When Curt and the kids got back, he made them all Root Beer floats-- a real treat. And yes, I will admit that I had one. Boy, was it good!

And now, I am going to bed with the sheer satisfaction of knowing that I gave my family my all today-- and managed to squeeze a bit of ministry around the edges to boot.

A good day, all in all.

And here is the reason for the title of this post:

Tonight) tacos, grapes, sliced strawberries (To make taco filling, brown two pounds of ground beef, add 30 oz of tomato sauce and two packets of taco seasoning. This is way more yummy than the kind from the back of the box and feeds a crowd!)

Friday) chicken and gravy, stuffing, green beans

Saturday) marinated grilled chicken, broccoli, pasta pomodoro

Sunday) grilled chicken (planned leftovers) over salad

Monday) spaghetti, french bread, salad (planned leftover)
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ICRS Monday and Tuesday (the final chapter)

I have so many stories from ICRS to share, I am not sure that I will have the time to write it all out. Many of the photos in the previous post have stories behind them, in fact. I love to tell stories, just ask my husband!

Monday at ICRS was not a busy day for me, so I got to just walk around and check out the newest releases from all the publishers and just visit with people I bumped into that I know. In my two days at ICRS, I got to visit with authors Leanna Ellis, Sharon Hinck, Ginger Plowman, and Mary DeMuth. I also got to see some of the folks at Money Matters: Howard Dayton and Chuck Thompson.

Most of all, I hung out with the P31 girls and laughed and got books signed.
Friends and free books-- you can't beat that!

One of the highlights of Monday was walking around with my friend Micca Campbell. She is a funny, funny girl and just keeps me laughing with her antics. We ran into her friend Dave, who also happens to be Gwen's producer. (More about Gwen later.) Since Dave works in the music business, he showed us around over in the music section and we even got a cd from a new group called Austin's Bridge that is supposed to sound like Rascal Flatts. Dave is a very humble man and won't talk about what he does, but Micca whispered to me that he had written 25 number ones-- but she couldn't remember any of the names of them. The next day she told me that one of them is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, "A Strange Way To Save The World." Dave was already gone back to Nashville by then, so I couldn't say anything to him about it-- which is probably how he wanted it. But I was wowed by having gotten to spend time with such a musical genius. He would shake his head if he heard me say that, I know.

That night we had planned to meet the people from my online writer's group for dinner, but right in the middle of the gathering I got a call from my husband telling me that his job had been eliminated and that he was most likely going to be offered another job, but was understably shaken up. We talked for a long while, then I told the coordinator that I couldn't do dinner after all. My friend Rachel Olsen and I decided to just walk over to the food court in the CNN center and get something fast. But first we popped into the personality party and got a few books signed there. That was fun and I was glad we got in.

My "prize" of the night was a signed copy of Voddie Baucham's new book. I made a fool out of myself telling him how much I like him and how we visited his church in Houston, TX while we were there. He nodded patiently but was not real impressed. The funny thing is, I ran into his wife and two sons on the floor the next day and did the same thing. And they were equally unimpressed. Oh well.

Tuesday was a bit different in that I had a few meetings to go to and less leisure time. I sat in on a marketing meeting and had a proposal meeting with the new women's brand manager from Moody. She was great! We had a great meeting and whether they publish me or not, I was impressed with her and her vision.

Other than my meetings, I also squeezed in some time for more book signings. I got a signed cd from Third Day for my husband so that was cool. He has been a fan of theirs for quite some time. I ran into my friend Gwen in the line to get a cd from new teen Christian singer, Britt Nicole. She and I ended up walking around together for awhile.

At one point her friend Sean Smith was signing cds and she made me play a terrible joke on him. Since he is a new artist, she told me to go up and lay it on thick that I am his biggest fan. Though I felt bad, Gwen can be very convincing, so I did it. He was clearly confused as I walked up to him and said, "Are you Sean Smith? The Sean Smith?" He nodded. "I just love your work," I said. "You are the whole reason I came to ICRS-- in hopes of just getting to meet you." The look on his face was priceless and I just couldn't keep it up. "I am a friend of Gwen Smith's and she made me do this!" He was like, "WHERE IS SHE??" And so, that is why in the photo I am holding up my finger saying I am his number one fan.

But seriously, he gave me a cd and it is good, good, good. And so, to make amends, I hope that many of you will go to his site and order one. The link is below his photo!

Gwen had just had a disappointment of her own, as she was supposed to have a song on Mandisa's new cd called "Broken Into Beautiful." Gwen is also writing a book based on this song that will be released with Harvest House publishers. Just before she came to ICRS she found out that for whatever reason, the song will not be on Mandisa's cd after all. This was really hard for her. And so, that is why she is not posing with the real Mandisa, just the picture of her. I told her to do it just for kicks. She is a nut and was a total blast to hang out and walk the floor with.

Gwen has no idea how much she helped me as we walked around. We talked about the contract that she drew up with her husband to keep her priorities in focus as she goes out singing and ministering to women. She said that to deny what she was created to do, and what God has called her to do would be wrong-- but to spend too much time away from her first priority as a wife and a mom would be even more wrong. And so she and her husband sat down and decided what was fair to them both. They decided that she should be gone only 25% of the weekends during the year, with the other 75% being family time. They took 52 weekends and divided that by one fourth and got 18. Then they drew up a contract and signed it. And so, as she gets inquiries, she knows that she can only be gone 18 weekends out of a year. No more.

As I wrote about in my post about struggling at She Speaks, I have been really searching for a happy medium and some balance in my calling of ministry and motherhood. This conversation with Gwen was truly perspective changing for me. I found someone who "got it" and had not only struggled with it, but come up with a workable solution. She may never know how much her sharing that helped me. I feel very blessed.

All in all, ICRS was great. I am so glad I went and am hoping to make it to next year's in Orlando, FL. The Orlando one was the very first one I ever went to, so that location holds sentimental value. I am thankful for what I have learned about the business of Christian publishing in the years since then, and I am thankful that what was once so foreign is now somehow familiar. I am thankful for the many friends and faces I see year after year there, and the commitment we all share to make Jesus' name famous, all manifested in different ways.
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Pictures From ICRS

The P31 gang all gathered for a group shot. From left to right: Micca Campbell, Glynnis Whitwer, me, Lysa TerKeurst, Susanne Scheppmann, and Rachel Olsen

Me and Sean Smith-- I am his number one fan, as is evidenced by the picture.

Me attempting to score some cool points with my daughter by posing with Britt Nicole.

(From left to right) Micca, me, Susanne and Glynnis celebrating Susanne's book signing. Her book Perplexing Proverbs was just released. Glynnis also had a signing of her new book Work @ Home.

All of us posing with Mandisa. I was so thrilled to get a copy of her new book "Idol Eyes" and a sampler cd of her upcoming release-- which is just wonderful!

my buddy Gwen Smith and Mandisa

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pictures of My Baby

This is the baby-- who is hardly a baby anymore! She will be two in August!

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ICRS Adventures (Part Two)

Saturday and Sunday

Saturday morning we got up a little later and took our time getting ready since we didn't really have to be anywhere til after lunch. We were looking very rough and scary but that didn't stop us from getting our breakfast in the very beautiful, very public dining area. Other people looked very nice and put together and we just, well, tried to hide out in a dark corner. We sat for a very long time and talked, because, well, it was a new day and we had a whole new allotment of words to be used. It was peaceful, and while I did think about my poor husband at home managing the kids, I enjoyed the peace and pushed the guilty thoughts from my mind, choosing to savor the moment instead.
We finally dragged ourselves into the shower and headed over to our other hotel-- the place we would call home for the rest of the trip. We got checked in and then it was time for the AWSA workshops that we had to lead. The format of this was quite interesting, as it was a roundtable discussion-- which meant that the outline I brought didn't really apply. I was very worried that I would not know enough technical stuff for some of the questions they might ask about blogs. When one of the ladies opened the discussion by asking me to explain what a blog was, I knew we would be okay. The discussion was great and I had many ladies come and tell me that they appreciated the info and would be starting blogs when they got home. (If you are one of those ladies, be sure and let me know when you do start a blog!)

After the workshops ended, we changed clothes and freshened up and met my friend Karen from high school-- who was so wonderful to come all the way to downtown Atlanta to pick us all up and take us out. We went to dinner at Applebees and to see the movie Evening. It was so great and was the kind of movie that sparked a lot of conversation when we got back to our hotel room that night. We discussed every angle, as we still obviously had some words left to use up. Mostly the theme of that movie is regret and priorities, and it just really hit home with me. I like movies that make me think. I will admit that it is a bit slow at some points.

Sunday morning we got up and had church in our room-- Lysa read a devotion but we didn't sing or pass the collection plate. We all got ready and headed downstairs in the hotel for the AWSA Golden Scroll awards banquet, where Lysa was keynoting. That was fun and Lysa did an excellent job. She gave an inspiring message about keeping your focus on God and not on opportunities and exposure. The message really set the tone for the week at ICRS.
After we finished at the luncheon we had to hustle upstairs to get ready for the Harvest House (Lysa's publisher) dinner. It was a garden party theme held at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. The gardens were truly beautiful and we just had a great time seeing old friends and laughing. I thoroughly enjoyed myself-- and the food was great. The evening was topped off with an awesome gospel choir whose voices filled the room and ushered us all right to the edges of Heaven. It was a magical night-- one that will not soon be forgotten!
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ICRS Adventures! (Part One)

The plan was to leave for Atlanta (a 3 1/2 to 4 hour drive) about five pm and drive as far as we could and then get a hotel. But that plan is not what happened. Two of us met at the prescribed time and two of us did not. I will not name names as to who was on time and who was not. Some of us had to shop for clothes to wear to ICRS--- and go by Target and Radio Shack. And some of us got hung up in traffic. And so, I have no idea when we finally got out of town. But it was MUCH later than five. I will tell you that. But it was all good-- why? Because I had no kids with me.
Except that I was hungry.
We did stop at a Cracker Barrel about an hour after we left. Now, Cracker Barrel is one of my favoritest places in the world to eat (not shop for clothes though, right Shari?) But Cracker Barrel is not the place to go when you want to eat quick.
Curt called me at nine pm and asked where we were. We were still only an hour outside of town. I am not kidding. Though he truly did think I was kidding.
But some of us did buy some great smelling candles at the Cracker Barrel that were discontinued scents by Yankee Candle, and so that made us all very happy. Clearly it doesn't take much-- and clearly women can find any and every excuse to indulge in a little shopping.

We got to downtown Atlanta at ONE AM. I only wish I was kidding. Approximately eight hours after I left my house. (Remember how long I said it takes to get to Atlanta?) We were greeted by no less than 50 Latino men dressed in dark suits, white shirts and red ties, milling around outside the hotel like it was noon and not one am. It was surreal. Truly Twilight Zone material. We asked the extremely nice bellhop dude why there were approximately 50 Latino men dressed in dark suits with white shirts and red ties milling around outside the hotel and he said that it was the Latino equivalent of Amway's convention. Oh. Well, that explains everything. We learned that they meet from five pm to five am. No kidding.
Inside the hotel there were more Latino men and some women all waiting for the elevators. There were no less than 75 waiting for elevators-- they must have just taken a break from their convention when we arrived and were all wanting to go up to their rooms to nap or something. But it was quite a crowd. Since we were on the forty-eighth floor, walking up was not an option. So we waited and in desperation got on a severely overcrowded elevator and rode up, praying all the way. When we got up to our room we decided that we hadn't quite used all our words for the day, so we talked some more-- hearing all about my friend Rachel's mom's death when she was just 17. It was after two am by the time we got to sleep. Our adventure was beginning.
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Running In The Rain... And Other Thoughts

Tonight after Curt got home from work tonight and my two travelers got home from DC, I made myself go for a run. MADE is the operative word. Because, frankly, I didn't feel like running. I had taken a five day break while I was gone and just was feeling lazy and complacent about running. I didn't want to go and I had moments where I thought, "I'm just not going to go. What difference does it even make if I miss just one more day?" And yet, my complacency was an indicator that I needed to move before things got any worse. One more day stretches to two more and three more, and suddenly I am back where I started-- I know the drill.

And so, I went while Curt took the baby and picked up Chinese takeout. (Hey, I am just not back in full homemaking mode after my trip.) The first part of the run was plain old painful. I was stiff and could tell I have already lost ground in just five short days. I have written (I think) about the one stretch of road I face every single time where I just want to stop. This never changes-- it is always on this one stretch. Every. Single. Time. I would think that the more I ran, the less problematic this would be. And yet, I still struggle. You can imagine what a struggle it was today after my break.

But the great part about struggling through this long stretch is that as I get to the downhill part, I hit my stride and start feeling (however briefly) that I could run for miles and miles. Like I am Rocky when he reaches the top of the steps. It is the reward for hanging in there through the tough part. I love that part of the run. Today during that part it began to rain-- hard. And my shoe came untied. And yet I ran, feeling incredible. Listening to Tina Turner sing, "You're simply the best" on my Ipod. Yeah, I was thinking, I am the best runner around (there was no one around.) And then-- amazingly enough-- the song from one of the Rocky movies, "There's No Easy Way Out" came on. And I was the champion, running in the rain, struggling against all the odds to finish the race.

And then it really started raining hard-- the bottom dropped out and I knew I better tie my shoe lest I trip and fall and break up this happy moment of runner's bliss. So, I headed for home and shelter and a shower. But I am glad I went running and I can't wait to go again tomorrow. And I feel like I passed some test.

I won't insult your intelligence by drawing dramatic parallels between my running story and your spiritual walk and other various elements of this life we are all living-- I will trust you to do that for yourself.
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Trying This Photo Thing

My girls!

Ok, this was a total test to see if I could get a photo posted... and it worked!

So, these are my girls... Oldest girl and youngest girl, posing together just having fun. This photo was taken this spring just hanging around the house.

Alrighty, I have figured out how to post photos... you all are in trouble now!
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I'm Home!

I have one word to describe how I feel today: tired. The crazy lifestyle of ICRS has caught up with me now that I am in a place that is more restful and slow paced. But, whoo boy did we have fun! It was worth the tired-ness to have that much fun. At some point in the near future I will do a day by day breakdown of my time (as if you care). I will also hopefully post pictures from the trip IF I can get them to load. That is not working out thus far-- so we shall see.

In the meantime, I have much house cleaning and laundry to do. Though Curt and the kids did keep up the house, it just isn't like when I do it... anyone know what I mean? I also have spent mucho time unpacking and passing out treats I picked up for the kids and Curt at the show. I came home loaded down with books, cds, candy and other paraphenalia. The kids were tickled! I still need to go running (I took a five day break over the trip-- horrors!) and get a shower today at some point. My two little travellers to the nation's capitol will be home this evening, so I will be hit with a whole new round of laundry-- and a whole new round of stories as we all share our adventures.

To quote a tee shirt I used to own, "Dorothy was right-- there's no place like home."
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Friday, July 06, 2007

Faith Lift Fridays

I know... you're thinking, "Is she ever gonna leave?"

But I just had to add that I have a devotion up today at Faith Lifts. So go check it out! I post every Friday, so keep checking back and I will always try to post a reminder on Fridays.
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Another Benefit of Blogging

I have like ZERO time to write this, but I just had to get it down before I go. I am speaking this weekend on "The Benefits of Blogging" and was reminded today of another benefit. People always remark that they think blogging takes so much time. But actually it saves time. Why? Because by having a blog you don't have to keep individual people updated on your life-- they can go to your blog and catch up. This saves time!

I became aware of this fact today when my mother in law came by to pick up two of my kids for their trip to Washington. She already knew all about my plans for the weekend-- why? Because she read my blog. Instead of filling her in on the details of my life, we were able to pick right up and move forward. I love it! She said that although we have both been busy and hadn't had time to talk, she felt like she knew what was going on with us. Because of our blogs!

And so, instead of taking time, it is actually saving me time. I am in a stage of life where talking on the phone for very long just isn't possible. It distracts me from what I need to be attending to. So I write it once on the blog and everyone knows the deal. Very cool-- technology can be ever so handy!
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Well, today I leave for this. I will be speaking at this on Saturday, then staying to enjoy the fun and some serious girlfriend time. I won't be back until Tuesday night, so expect some silence on the blog. Although I just got notified that I won a contest for "most posts" (16 posts in 7 days-- who knew?) on my friend Leah's blog, so I guess that will make up for it! Thanks Leah!

Before I leave, I have to get lots of stuff done-- including making meals for when I am gone. Of course, my family could feed themselves (Domino's delivers!) but I like leaving homemade food for them. It's the least I can do. In the meantime I get to enjoy the break from cooking while I am gone. I will definitely enjoy that!

Kudos to my amazing husband for letting me do this-- and for taking care of things while I am gone. He pointed out last night that this weekend our family will be scattered across four states-- no kidding! Two of the kids will be in DC, one is in SC, the rest are here in NC and I will be in GA. While that is quite interesting, it is also not something I like. Like a mother hen, I want my brood right up under my wings!

I hope you all have a great weekend. And look for me to post about my trip sometime on Wednesday, after I spend a substantial amount of time snuggling with my kids! I am really dreading being away and in the middle of the night last night had serious thoughts of not going. I know going is the right thing to do, but leaving is not easy. No matter how much fun it is going to be, I still would rather be home. I am just strange that way.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

An Important Post

This is an important post that I think every mom should read-- whether you are a mom of one or ten, homeschooling or public school, rich or poor-- you can benefit from her words. I guarantee it!
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Looking at Another Year of Homeschooling

Thanks to posts like this, this, this, this, this, and this (I can't figure out how to link to her individual posts-- just scroll down to the two she wrote about what they are/are not using for the 07-08 year), I am finding myself in the mood to pull out curriculum catalogs, pull stuff from the shelves, and just generally ponder the coming school year.

Many of you already know that I am facing a big decision after our oldest went to an excellent school last year. We really feel good about the school, and with him entitling us to sibling preference, we can *probably* get our kids in there for this coming year. (I say probably because they are all number one on the waiting list.) And so, I have been torn for a long time about whether to put them all in and enjoy my time with just the baby or continue in homeschooling-- especially my younger ones. My husband has pointed out to me numerous times that homeschooling really has benefitted the older kids, and suggested that perhaps the youngest deserve the same?? Ah, those pesky husbands. I hate it when they bust out with wisdom that goes against the "mommy is just looking for a break" mentality we were originally going with!

But I know in my heart of hearts he is right.

And I know in my heart of hearts that homeschooling-- while not the easier of the choices-- is what has worked best for our family. I am not one to advocate homeschooling for everyone. I am not one to advocate homeschooling forever and ever amen. My oldest has certainly helped me to break out of that mold! He was just not suited to being at home all day long with mom and a bunch of little kids. And so, for him, school has been a great option. We are much happier and fight much less than we used to. When it came down to it, I was not willing to sacrifice our relationship on the altar of homeschooling. Though I nearly did. I had to let some things go-- including my "ideal" picture of what the "perfect" homeschool family was going to look like.

And so, the past several nights I have gone to bed with the homeschool catalogs on my lap, perusing them and dreaming of what another year of homeschooling might look like for us. I have taken my spiral notebook and begun to make lists. The jury is out as to whether my fifth grader and eighth grader will be home. They are making noises about wanting to go to school. I know that the school they would be going to is a good alternative. A great alternative. And so I must decide whether to let them go or keep them home. To a degree I believe in not holding them back but to a degree I also know that God gave me the final decision on what is best for them. Ie, they would probably like to eat candy all day, but I have to reign them in from making bad choices. And so, I just keep praying and asking for wisdom. If I let them go to school, I will do so knowing I gave them what they needed when they needed it-- and will be here in case they decide that homeschooling was not so bad after all! (Which is entirely possible.)

But not my little ones-- they still need more time to just be home with me. They need me to focus on them as I once focused on their older siblings. They need my TIME-- more than writing or ministry work, more than volunteering at church or being in another Bible study. Those things will come, but time with my little ones won't ever come again. I have seen the foundation that homeschooling has given my older kids and I know that my younger ones deserve that same foundation.

I don't think that a year has gone by that I haven't struggled mightily with the decision. I think there is a misnomer out there that homeschoolers homeschool with great joy and complete confidence. That homeschoolers somehow got endowed with an extra measure of patience and wholehearted commitment. And perhaps there are those out there who do feel that way. But not me-- and not most of my friends. Oh sure, we have our good days. But mostly we just persevere in obedience because we trust that doing what we are called to do-- in spite of the personal sacrifice-- will bring about its own reward. I see that reward in my son now heading into the high school years. While he might not have made it all the way through, I know that homeschooling served him well and gave him a great place from which to spring. As a parent, I can't ask for much more than to give all my kids just that.
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy 4th!

Before I wrap up my day and fall into bed exhausted, I thought I would blog about our fourth of July plans tomorrow.

Are you taking the time to celebrate in some special way?

We are having friends over to cook out, which we love to do. First we invited my son's friendgirl's family over-- mostly because I didn't want to part with him for the day, as he is leaving for camp for ten days the very next day. When he started making noises about spending time at her house for the 4th, I very quickly suggested that perhaps her family would like to come here instead. And we have a pool in our neighborhood. I'm just saying. So, I called up her mom and they said they would love to do that. So, we put together a menu and the plans were made. Fun!

Then my friend Shari stopped by today to visit with me and my kids for a bit. I asked her what they were doing and she explained that they always do something with this couple-- but that when she called the couple they said they were having a party and FORGOT to invite them. The nerve! I quickly offered for them to spend the 4th with us-- so they are!

And so, we are having a housefull. Of course, that's pretty normal. Full-er, I should say. Everyone is coming over about three to let the kids play up at our pool. They do a true old-fashioned 4th with the coin toss and greased watermelon and pie eating contest-- the whole nine yards-- so that will be fun. We women discussed it and none of us felt like baring it all up at the pool, so we will be staying home to get dinner ready and talk.
Here is the menu of pretty typical fare:

hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill
baked beans
macaroni and cheese

I am making two chocolate pudding pies for dessert, which I plan to decorate with red and blue sprinkles. This cool dessert will taste good on a hot day. My kids love it-- one of them even asked for it in place of a birthday cake one year. And it is SO easy! Make the chocolate pudding, put it in a bought Oreo crust and spoon a whole container of Cool Whip over top. Voila! De-lish!

After dinner we will head back up to the pool and watch our neighborhood's fireworks over the lake. It should be lots of fun and I am hoping that the baby will hold out long enough for the fireworks. She's such a little night owl it shouldn't be too hard.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. Hanging with Shari is always fun and I am enjoying getting to know my son's friendgirl's mom Tracy. She is a sweet person-- much sweeter than me. I admire people like that.

And so, those are our plans for tomorrow. Whatever your plans are, I hope your day is fun and special. I thank God for a country that allows us the freedoms we so often take for granted.
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On Love and Music

I read a great post over at Holy Experience about some of her reflections on love and marriage, in honor of her anniversary. She referred to John Denver's classic song, Annie's Song. I had to go over to You Tube and watch the video, as that is a song I love-- a song that takes me back to my own childhood.

I watched a documentary on John's life and they interviewed Annie. She talked about "her song" and how one day she was in some foreign country and they were playing the song in that language over some loudspeakers, and how surreal that was to her. I wondered what that must have felt like for her to know that something that was so private had become so public. Her song has become so many people's song.

I grew up on John Denver and Jim Croce. I will never forget an interview I heard with Jim's wife, as she talked about the song "I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song." (I apologize for the lame link but it was the best I could find.) She said that they had had a fight about something and he had struggled with telling her his feelings for her. She had gone to bed angry and he had stayed downstairs. Much later he woke her up, sat down on the bed and played that song for her on his guitar. Again, I wonder what that must feel like for that private moment between them to become so public through that song's release. I have never heard that song the same way since I heard the story behind it.

I wonder for both those women what it is like to go through life with those men now gone, still hearing their voice, still living with the evidence of their love for them for all the world to know. I'm thankful they were willing to share.
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Monday, July 02, 2007

My Crazy Husband and Friend

If you go over to my husband's blog you will see a photo my friend Karen sent me that was taken at She Speaks. He didn't explain the photo on his blog, so I will.

When I read Karen's book A Life That Says Welcome (excellent book, btw), she had a recipe for Frito Pie in it and noted that this dish is a popular southern dish. I got on the phone and begged to differ. I professed that I am a southern girl through and through and had never heard of nor tasted Frito pie. To be funny, Curt got on the phone and pretended to be this southern bumpkin named Earl (inspired by the tv show) and went on and on about eating Frito pie. We all got a good laugh out of it.

And so, for his birthday a bit later, what should arrive in the mail from dear Karen but a can of chili and a bag of Fritos! He was quite surprised. And so, off and on since then, the Earl joke has surfaced from time to time. When Karen got here she was on a mission to take this photo to prove that Earl does exist. And so, check out my goofy husband and my hilarious friend in one of their finest moments here.
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Decisions/She Speaks

It is good to be loved. First of all, by a Heavenly Father who sees to the details of my life even when I act flicted. (Karen, that was for you.) And second by friends who read my blog post or sensed there was something wrong with me at She Speaks and took the time to call or email their concern. And pray for me. And finally by my husband, who listens patiently when I am quite sure he wants to tear his hair out as I wrestle again with the same issues and doubts. The good news is, I am feeling much better. The bad news is, I am quite certain that this is not the end of my questions and doubting.

Our pastor preached a great sermon on dealing with the same stuff over and over yesterday at church. It helped me feel normal. He basically said that when you stop struggling, you're dead. You don't arrive until you get to Heaven. I liked that. It ministered to me and made me feel less strange. (If you would like to watch the sermon online and feel ministered to, go to this link.)

I still can't explain exactly what happened at She Speaks, except to say that there were several factors at play over the course of the weekend. One was not only my own publishing appointments not going well, but also several of my friends' publishing appointments not going well. I just felt discouraged by all of it-- and I got to the place of wanting to yell, "Stop the ride, I want to get off!" One word I kept hearing was "package." As in, great idea, great concept, just need to package it a bit different. Ie, make it palatable for the buying public. I know that publishing moguls know their stuff-- and I know that a book (no matter how good it is) that won't sell doesn't do anybody any good, but I also just get tired of the business end of publishing at times. And so, it sucked the wind right out of my sails pretty quick.

That set me up for questioning a lot. I wondered why I was there, what was I adding, was I really making any difference taking a weekend away from my family? Because the truth is, I do make a difference spending the weekend with my family-- so to be away from them is a sacrifice. And I wondered why I was making that sacrifice. And then I just wanted to go home. It is safe there, and I don't have to take any risks or face rejection. And then I convinced myself that home is where I was meant to be and not ministry in any shape, form or fashion. Folks, I was all over the map. I was driving myself crazy.

It took days of processing and praying to get to a sane place about it. I didn't really talk to anyone about it-- except my husband. He listened more than any one human should have to. And to his credit he never even seemed exasperated. He offered his input, he made his suggestions, but in the end he left me to figure it out. More than that, he trusted me to figure it out.

Two things happened last week that seemed "random" at the time, but later I realized that they weren't random at all.

The first thing was we swam against one of the speaker team members' kids' team and I talked to her a bit at the meet. She asked me if I had gotten an email sent by one of the team members about a dream she had had. (I hadn't.) In the dream a man dressed in black had entered the Proverbs' office through the back door and began to steal from the office. She sensed the danger in this man's presence and rushed around trying to warn everyone. When she woke up the next morning and had her quiet time, she felt God telling her that man was Satan and his goal was to steal from the staff in the days following She Speaks, just like in her dream. I realized that what I had been facing was, to a large degree, Satan's effort to steal from me and others through me. The interesting thing was, I didn't get that email, but God made sure I ran into that team member and He led her to share that story with me. It really helped me to see the stronghold Satan had on me for exactly what it was, instead of writing it off as "nothing."

The second thing that happened was when I was eating lunch with my new friend Kelly. She was so sweet in asking me how I balanced motherhood and ministry. I didn't fail to miss the timing as it was right as I was struggling. I was honest with her about that, but what stuck out to me was how she said that she had been observing me and what I do, and how that had given her hope that she could be a good mom to her girls while also pursuing what she is passionate about. I realized that I am not only doing this for God, or myself or Proverbs-- but for all the younger moms (how did I get this old?) who will come behind me and need encouragement as they try to figure out how to balance motherhood. This was powerful and encouraged me to persevere.

I talked with my friend Karen about this this morning and she said that she also struggles at times with balancing it all-- homeschooling, motherhood, homemaking, being a wife and then also doing the writing and speaking thing. She said there have been so many times where she just wanted to quit-- that it was too hard to try to "do it all." And in those moments, she felt God nudging her that quitting would mean failing to take the test. He was asking her to rise to the occasion-- to not only test herself, but to test Him in what He would add to her life if she would only take those first tenuous steps of faith. This also helped me put it into perspective. I need to hang on to that image of failing to take the test. The easy way out just seems so lucrative at times, but is that what will bring about God's best in my life?

I am thankful for those people in my life who help me when the tests come. Without them, I would most certainly fail miserably. On Saturday I leave to go to ICRS with my friends Lysa, Rachel, Micca, Susanne, and Glynnis. All speaker team members. All people who are doing this thing with me. All fun, vivacious girls who add to my life. I am going with my husband's complete blessing. I am looking forward to it. I am going with no designs or motives-- except to have fun and get some free books.

I am teaching a workshop on blogging at the AWSA conference on Saturday, and I get to be Lysa's "date" to the Harvest House author appreciation dinner. This will be my fourth time going to this shin-dig as her date. It is fun and has become something of a tradition. Is it hard to go be around all those published authors when I am not one? In a way, yes. I am human after all. But more than that, it is surreal to be in the same room with Elizabeth George, Emilie Barnes, Donna Otto, and others who helped me first figure out how to be a Christian wife, mother and homemaker. When I most feel like giving up, it is those ladies' sweet faces I picture. I know what a difference they made in my life-- and I know that writing books is worth it, and by default Christian publishing is worth it. Because I don't know where I or my family would be without their wisdom entering my life through their books. And so, I persevere because maybe, just maybe, God will use me to help someone else like those ladies helped me. When I think about it that way, I realize, how could I not?
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Preparing For Kindergarten

I found this handy little article on preparing your child for kindergarten, so I thought that if any of you have kids who are about 4, 5 or even 6, you might want to let them do some of these activities this summer when they complain about being "bored."

  • Roll playdough into balls. Vary the size of the balls from pea size to gradually larger. Have them use different parts of the hands-- fingertips only, palms only, etc.
  • Use toothpicks to draw designs in playdough.
  • Cut playdough with plastic knives. Have them cut different shapes out.
  • Tear newspaper into strips and crumple into balls.
  • Use a plant sprayer to mist plants. (I let mine squirt Windex and clean all the glass doors, mirrors and windows in the house!)
  • String beads, cheerios, macaroni, etc.
  • Turn over cards, coins or buttons without moving them to the edge of the table.
  • Make pictures using stickers or paper reinforcements.
  • Cut up junk mail to make collages
  • Make fringe on the edge of construction paper or cardstock
  • Cut playdough with scissors
  • Walk like a crab or pair up siblings and do the wheelbarrow walk
  • Catch bubbles with hands
  • Draw with fingers in wet sand, salt, rice or goop. Make goop by adding water to cornstarch until it reaches the consistency of toothpaste. Add food coloring. (We did this not too long ago and the kids are asking to do it again-- they played with it forever! It did make a mess, though, but it was worth it.)
  • Pick out small objects like pegs, beads, coins, etc. from a tray of salt, rice or sand. Try it with your eyes closed.
  • Play Simon Says and use left side or right side commands.
  • Play dot to dot games.
  • Trace around stencils
  • Make scenes using felt boards or magnetic boards if you have the equipment to do so.
  • Draw on a chalkboard instead of always using paper.
  • Check out some hidden pictures books. Highlights magazine has these each month.
  • Throw bean bags into a hula hoop placed on the floor. Increase the distance gradually.
  • Throw and catch a ball. Start with a large ball but work towards a smaller one.
  • Make a bowling game using empty soda bottles and a ball.

Credit: Loubina Buxamusa and Ann Mahoney

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The Dating Game

A few months ago one of our neighbor kids was over and got on the phone to talk to a boy my daughter is friends with. Mitchell is the son of my friend Karen, and he and my daughter have struck up a long-distance friendship-- no big deal. They talk on the phone, IM and email. They are friends in every sense of the word. Through this friendship, my daughter is learning about this whole boy/girl thing in what (I think) is a healthy, non-threatening way. It is not being thrust on her before she is ready.

So, back to the neighbor girl. She is in school and is caught up in the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing. She insisted on the phone to Mitchell that he and my daughter liked each other and just acted tacky about it-- embarrassing both Mitchell and my daughter. What she didn't realize was that I could hear the whole thing over the baby monitor! I went upstairs and asked to speak to her alone.

I sat down with her and explained that we just don't believe in the whole dating game like other people she knows probably do. I have never encouraged my kids to seek out a boyfriend or girlfriend, never called it "cute" to my friends or played it up in talking to them or others. Now, I also don't have my head in the sand and think that they aren't going to show interest in that sort of stuff as puberty sets in! I explained this as best I could (and as gently as I could) to the neighbor. I told her that she is beautiful and that God created her with one special man in mind to be her husband someday. I told her that she should be praying for that boy to have his heart protected as he is also somewhere right now navigating the whole boy/girl thing. The interesting thing is, as I uttered the words "You're beautiful" she began to cry. Hard. She continued to cry the rest of the conversation. I don't think anyone had ever talked to her that way. It made me really sad. I still hope I gave her a vision beyond here and now for what awaits her.

Later she told my daughter that she knows that what I said to her was true, but that if she tried to live that way in front of her friends she would get made fun of mercilessly. And so, instead of guarding her heart and saving herself for the man God has for her, she will sell out in the name of fitting in. I have thought of this often since it happened. I feel sorry for her and all the kids out there who enter into "relationships" they are nowhere near ready for. I wish more parents would catch the vision for protecting kids from themselves instead of acting like it is cute and promoting it. It just isn't something to make light of.

I saw a young woman once give a presentation on courtship and she walked across the stage pretending to give pieces of her heart to different boys as she walked. Then she pretended to get to the altar at her wedding and hold this little scrap of a heart up to her groom, saying, "Here, you can have what's left." That image has always stuck with me-- and it is what I am trying to prevent my kids from doing.

(DISCLAIMER: In an effort to not sound like a hypocrite, I will say that my son (15) does have a "girlfriend." I call her a friendgirl, which he does not think is funny. This girl is a precious, godly young woman who seems to have her head screwed on straight. Her family is a Christian family and if they spend time together it is always with the family present. For instance, her family is all coming over here for the 4th to cook out and go to our neighborhood pool. Most importantly, he and this girl are good friends, and that is the foundation of what they are building from. But at the same time, we also feel very strongly that we have to protect our son in his immature emotional state. And so, we walk the balance between letting him feel normal and hemming him in. It's a hard path to walk and we won't know if we did it right for many years to come. But then again, doesn't that sort of sum up all of parenting?)
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Sunday, July 01, 2007

League Champs

The kids had their swim team banquet tonight and they had lots to celebrate-- They were the regular season champs and the All Star meet champs. They are now undefeated for two years running. They were so proud of themselves tonight and we count ourselves blessed to have been part of this team for the two years. The coaches are excellent and I commend them for taking time to pour into the lives of the kids. It is a huge time commitment!

My seven year old daughter got "most improved" for the eight and unders division. I wish I had had a camera to capture her huge grin. They came home loaded down with trophies and medals-- proof of another excellent season and the value of perseverance. I am so glad that we can be involved in swim team as a family. Curt actually got pretty sad tonight as he looked around the room of neighbors all gathered and realized that if our house sells we might not be back next year. We shall see what happens-- we might just put an addition on and stay put. Right now that sounds pretty good to me!
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Happiness Is...

FINALLY getting a new Ipod. My kids and husband got theirs at Christmas but I didn't for reasons that I can't honestly remember. I regretted that later as I watched them all enjoy listening to theirs. Well, on Saturday after Curt dropped the kids at the All Star swim meet, he drove to a nearby mall with our five year old and purchased a frost blue Nano and brought it home to me.

Can I just say that last night we didn't get to bed til nearly 1 am because I was having the best time loading songs on my new toy? This afternoon I have enjoyed loading even more songs. I have loaded everything from Big Band music (Stardust, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes) to current stuff. Most of all I have been loving resurrecting all my old 80's faves. My family is laughing at me and my husband says that I am musically schizophrenic. What can I say? I like ALL types of music-- except not much country, I will admit.

I know the new will wear off eventually-- but in the meantime, I am having a blast!

And yes, I am listening to it as I write this. What's playing? Shock the Monkey by Peter Gabriel. Good stuff.
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