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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

3rd Annual Graduation Luau

Summer vacation is here! I can't believe how fast this school year has gone. It feels like it was just a few weeks ago we were mourning the loss of summer, and yet here it is again.

The kids have been out of school for almost a week now, and we have kept very busy. We've been cleaning, doing yard work, and just watching movies and playing around. I love having this special time with my children. The only downside to having my kids out and staying so busy; I have very little time to blog. I have lots I could blog about, but practically no time to get it written.

With school getting out, and summer vacation arriving, that means, Graduation Luau! The kids really enjoy this event we put together. It recognizes all the hard work they put into the past year, and also celebrates the joy of being a family. We all love this party!

This year, we were the only ones who remembered to dress "luau". I can't resist getting that fun family picture with everyone sporting their colorful attire.

Gabriel was graduating from the 1st Grade! He learned so much this year, and has become an excellent reader.

Ariel was graduating from the 4th grade! She made many friends, and learned a lot with her teacher, Mrs. Booth. It's hard to believe that now Ariel only has one more year at her elementary school and then she's on to middle school!

We started off our ceremony with Gabriel leading us in the pledge of allegiance.

The kids learned several patriotic songs this year. We chose to sing, "Home on the Range" a favorite of Ariel's.

We had each kid share a special talent with us. Gabriel started us off by reading his story he wrote titled, "Charlie and the Math Factory." You can probably guess what it's based on.

Ariel read us a poem, "Garden Happiness" that she wrote in her gifted class, and then we quizzed her on states and capitols.

Mikaela shared with us about her science project she did trying to hatch baby chicks.

Zechariah just needed to join in on the fun, and stole Mikaela's cap she made at school.

Each of the kids received a special award of excellence for the grade they completed, and they also were given a certificate for having excellent participation in Bible study with Grandma.

Ariel and Gabe shared with us 1 Timothy 4:12, the verse for Kid's Prayer on Sunday's at church.

We are all very proud of our graduates!

After the graduation ceremony was complete, it was time to party! We all put together some chicken and sausage shish kabobs, a requested favorite of the kids. I must say they were delicious!

At Ariel's request, we all had fruit smoothies with our BBQ.

As we all finished eating, and spent time hanging out, everyone was welcome to check out the kids work they did during the school year. We saved many papers, but in reality a very small fraction of what they worked on this year. They did a great job!

Valentine is with the newest member of the family, Autobahn.

After all the food was put away, we played a couple games the kids learned in school. Ariel taught us how to play "Sparkle". You stand in a circle, and someone will shout out a word, while the rest of the players spell it. The first person says one letter, and then the next person says the next letter, and so on. When the word is completed, the next two people try to race to say, "Sparkle!" Whoever doesn't say it first is out. Then another word is spelled until you are only left with one person. It was fun!

Gabriel taught us to play "Heads Up 7-up!" I remember playing this when I in grade school.

We ended our party with some very delicious cheesecake.

so-papilla cheesecake recipe
So-papilla Cheesecake

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
2 (8 ounce) packages refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup margarine or 1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar mixture

Using a 9 x 13 baking pan, unroll one package of refrigerated crescent rolls and line the bottom of the pan. Mix together the cream cheese, sugar and extract, and spread over the crescent rolls. Unroll the other can of crescent rolls and place on top of cream cheese mixture. Pour one stick of melted butter or margarine over the top and sprinkle with about 1/2 cup of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. It's guaranteed to be a hit at any party!

It is at events like these that I feel so blessed to be a part of this family. We always have so much fun together. If you missed it, here is last year's Graduation Luau!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Light in Me

Our car situation has still not been completely resolved. Through it all, God has shown me many things, and helped me to see the light in the situation.

When we first brought our car home, I shared with you a post In My Darkest Hour. It was the first time we realized our car may not be all that we thought it was going to be.

God was helping me through a dark time, and I promised that I would still believe. Even when everything is so hard, and my faith is all but gone, I will believe that God will see me through. He has never given up on me, so how could I give up on Him?

God gave me a picture of a dark winding road that I had to trust Him to follow. It was not easy, and it was not clear which way I would need to turn. But if I just took it one step at a time, I would eventually be brought to a city full of light, and God would reveal His plan to me.

A little over a month later, we were dealing with some more car issues. The dealer we bought the car from, was less than honest with us, and we would be paying the price for his dishonesty. It was then that I posted Tear Down These Walls.

I had allowed myself to build walls of protection keeping everything and everyone out. My fear began to take over me, and I took my focus off of God, who could make everything right. I was overwhelmed, and looking to myself to figure things out. It wasn't until I realized this that my struggle lessened. God was in control again, and things were good.

In retrospect it seems so easy to trust God, and I often wonder, why do I falter in this? God has come through for me time and time again.

My only explanation is my humanity. It is natural to be fearful, and distrusting, and full of worry. To have faith is supernatural. I am not perfect, and I cannot expect myself to be.

Our car has been at the mechanic for the past three weeks. We brought it in initially to have the check engine light fixed, and to replace a dented transmission pan. We were pleased to find the dealer did not completely break the check engine light; he just covered it so the light would not shine through. This still resulted in a $200 bill, however we knew it could have been worse.

God was already preparing me for this new challenge that I would be going through. We dropped our car off at the mechanic on a Wednesday afternoon. As we were driving there, the song "In my darkest hour" played on the radio again. I was a bit fearful, but figured maybe God was telling me the hour was almost over. That night we went to church, and sang the song, "Tear down these walls." I told God, no matter what happens, I will still be strong. My faith will stand firm.

As the mechanic was test driving the car after he replaced the pan, the timing chain broke. He had to be towed back to his workshop. Now while I am very thankful it happened to him while he was driving it, I'm still frustrated that it had to happen.

I keep wondering, "what else could possibly go wrong on this car?"

The good news is that immediately the car was able to start the process of being fixed. The mechanic sent word to the warranty insurance we were given, and the paperwork is going through.

They have gone back and forth trying to fix the issue. The insurance is being difficult, but thankfully we have it and it will be fixed. The mechanic says the car should be as good as new when he's finished with it.

Through all this, we haven't received a new total for our bill. We do have a deductible we'll have to pay. Some things are not completely covered, and some are not covered at all.

I know that God is at work in all of this. I'm just tired and worn out. We've owned the car for 3 months now, and it's been out of our possession for more than a month of that time. I'm still driving my husband to work, and occasionally needing to pick him up.

I feel like I'm taking baby steps to follow God, but I know at least I'm doing it. As I was dropping Titus off at work this morning, the drive back home started to get to me. I'm emotional from school getting out, and my allergies have been driving me crazy. Neither of those things helped me.

I just started whining on the way home. I was trying to explain to God why I can't keep doing this. I need it to be over. I don't want to hear or think about this car anymore. I'm done.

It was when I yelled out, "God, why am I living in this darkness? I want to see the light of the city," that the words on the radio station made it through to my ears. "You put the light in me."

I broke down and cried. I could hardly see the road through my tears. I listened to the words as if God was speaking directly to me, because I knew that He was.

"You are the Maker
You tell the sun when to rise
I'm just a house on a hill
But You make me brighter
Than all the stars in the sky
Keep me from growing dim

‘Cause in Your perfection
I'm just a reflection
So pull me closer to You
I'll catch like a fire
And I'll hold You higher
‘Cause You put the light in me

I'll raise it high, I'll let it show
From the roof tops down to the streets below
In day and night, You will be known
And all will see
You put the light in me

The spark
The shot to the heart
You are the hope that leads me
Out of the dark
You let Your love shine down
So that the world can see
You put the light in me"

God is the hope that leads me out of my darkest hour. The seconds are ticking by, and soon the hour is going to be done. No matter what happens today or tomorrow, God put a light in me. I don't have to wait until I finally get to that lighted city.

The light has been inside me all along.

I want everyone in the world to know that my hope comes from God. And even when everything is dark and fearful, I have a light inside me that will shine out.

"God, you put the light inside me."

Matthew 5:14 You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world

"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
Liberty Truck Sales Mounds Oklahoma

The End

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Garden Happiness

Jude 1:2 May God give you more and more mercy, peace, and love.
Garden Happiness
by Ariel

As I walk through the garden path
See a tiny sparrow flitter to the bird bath
Thorny rose bushes I do see
Such royal glory for you and me.

Blooming daisies in the garden spot
All pretty with yellow dots
Swaying in the wind to and fro
I admire them as I go.

I see fiery tulips bowing their heads
Walking through the flower beds
As I walk through the lovely grounds
I see garden happiness all around.

My daughter wrote this poem during one of her gifted classes. I thought it was beautifully written, and wanted to share it with everyone.

bright purple flower that looks like fireworks
purple flower with bee on it
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The God Sale

This Saturday me and my children had an encounter with God. There is no doubt about it in my mind; God was at our house.

The kids put together, with my help, a Garage sale. Ariel was raising money for church camp this summer, and Gabe was raising money to buy himself a new game for his DS.

On Friday, as I thought we were all diligently getting ready for the sale, Ariel and Mikaela instead were having a little fun with Zechariah. He was spending a few minutes at the beauty parlor. This is one of the benefits or hardships, whichever way you want to look at it, of having a big sister. I personally think he looks beautiful! You may not be able to see it in the picture, but yes, he is wearing lip gloss too.

Saturday morning we all woke up early, with great excitement, to greet our customers at our garage sale. The kids helped me put the whole thing together. They collected their old toys they no longer played with, went through all the children's books we have, donated some of their old clothes and games. It was a sale full of kid things.

As we were preparing for the sale, each morning when it was prayer journal time we would pray for good weather, and that the right people would come. Ariel had a lot of money to earn, as Kidz camp cost $189. This past Sunday a deposit was due, which is why Ariel came up with the idea.

Gabriel got to have a bake sale. He wanted to purchase himself a new DS game, Mario vs. Donkey Kong. We made two different kinds of cookies, and bags of caramel popcorn. Since we were a little short on time, I baked the popcorn and one kind of cookie while he was at school on Friday, and then in the evening he was able to make the chocolate chip cookies. All his baked goods were delicious!

I believe garage sales are always a good idea; getting rid of old things that could turn into new treasures for someone else. Our garage sale turned into a God sale for us.

Since kids were the biggest target shoppers, all the items were $5 or less. We had nothing big to sell. Everything was small, and therefore, I was hoping to make $100 of Ariel's camp money. She was a little less optimistic and was hoping to make her $30 deposit, or maybe $50.

Several times during the sale, Ariel wanted to count out her money, and I wouldn't let her. I told her it would be more fun to wait until the very end. We had no idea how much we had sold. We were very busy, and didn't have more than 5 or 10 minutes in between people, and often we had 3 or 4 cars on the street.

I was blown away with how much we sold!!

God is so WOW! There is no way that it's a coincidence on the money that came in. God put it all together, and worked the details out perfectly. Ariel earned her $189, she earned the $5 for McDonald's on the drive home from camp, and she earned $15 spending money that she wanted. We then had $7 left over.

I spent $6.97 to buy the ingredients for Gabriel's cookies and popcorn.

How did God do that? He has to be the greatest mathematician ever! We had 10 cent items, 2 dollar items, etc.. How did he know how many items we would need to sell? And how did he know how much they would need to sell for?

I was completely in awe by the details of our sale. God could have easily given us enough money to cover everything, but to do it in the exact amount. I could not stop the tears from flowing. God loves and cares for us so much that it's overwhelming. We don't deserve His goodness, yet He gives it anyways.

This verse says it beautifully, "If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
Matthew 6:30-35

Life is so beautiful when God takes care of all the details. Why would we ever worry about anything, when we have such a big God on our side?

Not only did Ariel earn the exact amount that she was working towards, but Gabriel did also. His baked goods earned him $26. We were able to find the DS game he wanted, for the price he could afford. I try to teach my children to give to God first, and then spend what is leftover. Gabe was able to bring with him to church a ziploc he titled, "God's Money," and with his extra he had the exact amount to purchase his new DS game which should be arriving on Friday.

I am so grateful to God for His blessings. He is continually showering my family in ways that I never expect. This weekend, we didn't just have a garage sale, we had a God Sale.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Adventures of Lollipop Dragon

Last night was our turn to have Lollipop Dragon spend the night with us. What a treat! All of the kids in Gabriel's 1st grade class get their name put in a drawing for Lollipop Dragon, and yesterday Gabe was the lucky name drawn. There is a notebook that comes with Lollipop that the kids are supposed to document what adventures they have together. Today at school, Gabriel will get to read his page in the notebook, and share with the class what fun they had. I thought it would be even more exciting to make a photo journal of our adventures with Lollipop.

The Adventures of Lollipop Dragon
Here is Gabe's page from the notebook. All of the previous children made a numbered list, so Gabe followed their example. I will translate it for you since it is a little difficult to understand.

1st We went to pick up Dad from work.

2nd We did our homework.

3rd We played on the DS.

4th We played outside.

5th Lollipop Dragon met Flames. (This is Gabe's Webkinz dragon.)

6th I read to Lollipop Dragon a story.

7th We watched a movie. (I Love Lucy episode)

8th We ate dinner.

9th We bought some lollipops at the market. (Lollipop is special because he shoots lollipops instead of flames. We thought it would be fun for Lollipop to buy some lollipops to share with Gabe's class at school)

Lollipop even helped check them out at the register. Gabe made me carry Lollipop into the store since he is pink, and he was too embarrassed to be seen holding a pink toy. In the privacy of our own home, Gabe treated the dragon with the utmost respect.

10th We went downstairs to help get ready for the garage sale. (It's tomorrow! It's actually more like a kid sale; Ariel is in charge. She's trying to raise money for church camp this summer. Almost everything is kid stuff: toys, clothes, books, movies, puzzles, games etc.)

11th We go to bed. (I snuck into Gabe's room and took this picture while he was sleeping.)

12th We go to school.

This was such a unique idea to have Lollipop spend the night with all the children. We really enjoyed our turn. Gabe is certain that Lollipop Dragon had the most fun with our family.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts."
-Washington Irving

What makes a great Mom?

M ) Modeling
She serves as an example in life.
1 Corinthians 11:1 "Follow me as I follow Christ"

O ) Openness
She is willing to be open rather than withdrawing.
Openness is an expression of faith, while being closed is an expression of fear.

M ) eMotional Maturity
No one is ever all grown up! It's a process.
"the best moms are the ones who can reign in their own emotional impulses and consider what will truly help their children grow and move forward in life."
Matthew 5:16 "Live your life in such a way that people can see how you live and be impressed by what God has done for you."

"The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness." -Honoré De Balzac

I was raised by a mother who was and is an excellent example of these things. She has always been my friend, and my encourager. She is my biggest fan. I know that she will always set an example that I can be proud to follow. In a very large part, it is because of what she has done for me that I have grown into the woman I am today. I am blessed because of her.

"We never know the love of the parent until we become parents ourselves." -Henry Ward Beecher

I am so thankful to God for allowing me to raise my three beautiful children. They are each a gift to me in all different ways. My life has been filled with purpose. I am convinced that God made me to be a mother, and I have experienced immense satisfaction in fulfilling that calling.

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise."
Proverbs 31:30-31

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

God's Blessings

This past week has been full of God's blessings. I am never amazed at what God can do, but sometimes it amazes me what God chooses to do for me and my family. It seems to me that God has blessed us so greatly that we've had our fill, and my cup is so overflowing that he would stop pouring. But that is not God. While I set out this little cup asking for God to fill it up; God sets this huge pitcher in front of me. My cup cannot even begin to hold what he has chosen to lavish on me.

As the spring has come, and warm weather is upon us that means cleaning up the backyard, and getting it ready for family BBQ's and hours of summer playtime. Several years ago for Ariel's 4th birthday we purchased her a swing set. The kids have loved playing on it like a jungle gym, and swinging for hours on the swings. They have outgrown the set, and it was literally breaking apart. I knew we were going to need to throw it out.

Ariel has grown up enough that this was an easy thought for her. Gabriel and Zech on the other hand still have a few years before they get to that mindset. Gabe was taking it the hardest, and couldn't bear the thought that we would soon be throwing out his beloved swing set.

We've recently spent some time visiting a psychologist with Gabriel, and it was suggested for him to be involved in as many extracurricular activities as possible. When I asked Gabe what sport he would like to join, his response was, "swinging."

You must understand that the idea of throwing out the swing set to Gabe was absolutely horrible, the end of the world.

Here's where God's blessings comes in. As we were mentally preparing to take the swing set apart, and talking about it, my father has a rental property that is sitting vacant. One of the former tenants put in a very nice swing set. Since the house is empty right now, my dad very graciously gave us the swing set. It's huge compared to what the kids were used to playing on.

All we had to do was take it apart and then put it back together in our backyard. You would have thought it was Christmas morning the kids were so excited. It was a dream comes true for Gabriel. He's always wanted a glider swing. Because our swing set was so small, that was an impossible addition to our set. Now he has his glider and even more! The set is very sturdy and should last us for many more years to come.

Thank you, God, for providing us the means to fulfill Gabriel's dream!

Our next blessing this week came for Ariel. She has long been interested in the American girl dolls and books. You may think this a bit premature, but it's already been decided that her birthday party in August will be an American girl party. (When you do very detailed parties, you have to plan ahead!) Ariel has asked me many times to allow her to play with my Felicity doll, and I try let her on occasion.

For the past few months, she's been diligently saving most of her money to purchase her own doll. When you only make a dollar a week that can take some time to save up.

As Titus and I were shopping at the Goodwill store for some sheets to make Ariel's music program costume, we happened upon a well used American girl doll at the register. I asked the cashier if she was saving it for someone, and her answer was no. I then asked for the price and she told me, $1.99.

I grabbed that doll and bought it!

If it had been a month ago, I might have let it go. The doll's hair was in pretty bad condition. But if you remember I recently did a post about fixing up my Felicity doll. I knew I could fix this one. The dolls limbs were really loose too; so I watched some YouTube videos and Titus and I fixed that doll.

fix broken american girl doll
Just like this doll, no person is too far gone that God can't fix them; or help them realize their potential. Titus and I worked together, and made this doll beautiful again. You never would have known how she looked before. And the pictures I have just don't do justice to the hair transformation she went through.

American girl doll
The really awesome part about it all, the cost of fixing the doll came to the exact same amount that Ariel had saved so far. She was thrilled when I gave her the option of buying it from me. She may not have had to save $100 for the doll, but she still learned the value of good work and patience.

God is so WOW!

Both of these things are probably items that Titus and I could have purchased for our children. However we didn't. God did. He knew the desires of each of their hearts and said, "Yes! I would love to bless you with that!" Can you imagine how much more these items mean to my kids knowing they were a gift from God?

"Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this"
Psalm 37:3-5

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Normally I share the funny things that my kids say; however today I’ve got something funny that was said TO my kid.

I was watching a young boy a little older than Zechariah. I heard the two of them talking and playing in Zech’s bedroom. Zech said something to his friend, to which his friend replied back, “I can’t understand what you’re saying. I think you might be talking Spanish or something.”

On occasion, I have personally felt that way too when I hear Zech speak!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Last Goodbye

"What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! ... You're worth more than a million canaries." Matthew 10: 29-31

green and yellow boy parakeet
Our Beloved Bird, Otto

boy and girl parakeets
girl and boy parakeet in bird bath
Yesterday our family gathered together for a memorial service as we said goodbye to our parakeet Otto. He was a member of the family for the past 4 years and was greatly loved.

To start our service off, we had a reading of scripture. My mother read from the Message Bible, Matthew 10:29-31. God cares even more than we do what happens to the birds we own.

We had a beautiful bouquet of bright orange flowers that we each were given to remember Otto by.

As we took turns coming forward saying a special word about Otto, or some words of goodbye, we laid our flowers down on the grave. I think this was very helpful for my children, as it allowed each of them some closure from the loss of their bird.

Some of the things we'll always remember about Otto were his gentleness, his singing voice, and the friendship he gave. We were also thankful for the happiness that he gave to both my daughter and my father.

"In all the world there is no better friend than you." We allowed Valentine a chance to say goodbye too, although I'm not sure she really grasped what was going on. I'm certain she must know Otto is gone, but she probably doesn't understand why or that he's not coming back.

chocolate bird nest with jelly beans peeps
We had a special snack to share together, some chocolate bird nests filled with jelly bean eggs and our own baby chicks.

The last part of our service for the bird included a balloon release. We each had the choice of either a yellow or green balloon.

As the backyard is full of trees, we decided to walk to an open field where we could let go of our balloons with no worries.

In loving memory of our parakeet
We attached a note to each balloon asking if it be found that they send an email to my father. We are all praying that at least one person this week sends us a message.

memorial balloon release
As we released our balloons we each said our last goodbye to Otto. I hope he realized how special of a bird he was, and how loved he was by the family.

yellow girl parakeet
I think the day was a sort of celebration of Otto's life. We don't know that pets will be in heaven, but we do know how thankful we are that we had the time we did together.

memorial balloon release into the clouds
I found it very fitting that on the trip back to the house we found a nest of baby birds. Here we were grieving the loss of our small bird, and God was creating new life.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death ’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:4-5

"How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—
a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you."
Psalm 84:1-4

baby birds in a nest
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?" Matthew 6:25-26

God loves you so much!


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