Monday, December 30, 2013

Fulfilled Dreams

Every parent dreams of making their child's wish come true. Not all of us have the power to make it happen. This Christmas I experienced perfect joy in my son. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed before; a pure, radiant joy that brought tears to every eye in the room.

My nine year old son, Gabriel, is an author. Ever since he was in kindergarten and could put pen to paper, he has been writing short stories. In the beginning they were difficult to follow. He was learning to spell at the same time he was learning to compose a story. You often needed an interpreter. As the years have gone by, he has improved his skills by leaps and bounds. Each story is better than the previous one. He learns something new about writing. He also increases his vocabulary.

When you spend a couple hours each day practicing something you are bound to get good at it. This is the case with Gabriel. He is really great at what he does. I am so proud of what he is becoming. Gabriel writes better than some adults I know. His stories are interesting and well written. He is going to go far.


This summer Gabriel wrote a book entitled, Toy Wars. It's based on his toy friends. Each toy has a place in his book. Some of the toys are the good guys, and some are the bad guys. Every toy is loved by my son; their value has no weight on what part they play in the story.


Over the past few months I spent hours with Gabriel typing his story. We worked together on this. He dictated, I typed. When the entire manuscript was in a Word document, we began the job of editing. I was the guinea pig. I told him what parts I didn't understand, and he clarified. The words of this story are all his. I would only prod him to give more details; he would come up with how it was said.

Once the story was finished, Ariel was assigned the task of illustrating. She did this secretively. It was to be a gift for her brother at Christmas. Hours and hours were spent in the basement drawing characters and depicting scenes. As each picture was completed, I would scan it into the computer.

We all worked as a team. Most of which was unknown to Gabriel. This was to be his big Christmas gift. I uploaded his story book to an online publishing company called Blurb. (I love this company! The books are high quality and low priced.)

By the first week of December we had a real live book in our hands, written by my son and illustrated by my daughter. I knew Gabe was going to be ecstatic.

The weeks went by so slowly leading up to Christmas, at least in the part of my son opening his huge Christmas gift. It was very difficult to keep it a secret from him. When I opened the package from the post office I wanted to run and show him. The book was beautiful, and it was his hard work. He had earned the right to hold that book. I couldn't wait to see that happen!

On Christmas evening my son's dreams were fulfilled. He held the book in his hands. He danced for joy, literally. He was happier than I have ever seen him. He sang a song, "Rejoice, Rejoice ... o come o come Emmanuel." He hugged me. He was so happy he hugged me a long good hug. He has hugged me a few times since in thanks.


I am so proud of him. He worked hard, and he did it. His dream came true. His book is published. People can purchase his book if they so desire. On Christmas day he autographed books from every member of the family. He felt like star because he was a star. We recognized his talents and gave him the respect he deserved.

If you see Gabriel, ask him what he's writing. He won't disappoint you. Success is not something to be achieved and placed on a shelf. His success has inspired him to write more, and write better. Already he has plans of publishing book two, Toy Wars: The Sequel.

God made each of us with a purpose. There is such fulfillment in finding out what that purpose is, and then doing it. We each have different talents and abilities. It's up to us what we make of them. Dream big. Dream the impossible, and watch God fulfill it.

"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us." Ephesians 3:20

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!

"We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
Walk in the Light"

1 John 1:3-4

"For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness."
Isaiah 9:6


"When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion."
Philippians 2:7-8

"The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish."
John 1:14

"While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel."
Luke 2:6-7


"At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him."
Luke 2:13-14


May God Bless you and your family at this very special time of year!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Joy Beyond Circumstances

Circumstances are not always ideal, and they don't often leave you feeling joyful. It's what we do in those times that defines us and refines us. It's how we react that makes us who we really are.

I want to share with you the miracle of how God came through for my son, Gabriel, and the difference it has made. I've said it a hundred times before. God knows exactly what He's doing, and He definitely has a plan for our lives.

Gabriel gets bullied at school. In a perfect world this would never happen. However, we do not live in a perfect world. Kids are mean and cruel. They say things that are hurtful and leave scars. They do damage that no amount of love from us as parents can change. Supernatural healing is the only possible solution.

On Christmas Eve of last year, I kissed and hugged my son goodbye as I took off for Mexico. When I came home a week later in the wee hours of the morning, I again kissed and hugged my son hello. This was a normal occurrence. I took it for granted. He wanted my affection.

In April I realized that things had slowly changed. Something was happening to my little boy, and I didn't like it. He started complaining about the other kids at school. He was very angry. He wouldn't let me touch him without flinching. His toys were the only ones who could provide him comfort.

No matter what I would say to him, it was always the wrong thing. I was being mean. I was being hurtful. I couldn't correct any behavior without him jumping all over me. My son was unhappy, and there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

Over the summer I had a conversation with him that scared me. He confided in me about these toy friends. He shared with me the reason they were there and I was heartbroken. He had been hurt too badly by other children. He couldn't trust them anymore. He decided he couldn't trust anyone. The only comfort he had was in some plastic toys that couldn't talk back or harm him.

School started out pretty good this year. He reported to me that it would be a good year. Kids were nice to him, and nobody was going to bully him. He was happy.

Things gradually started to change. It seemed like things were going to go well, and then all it takes is one kid to find a weakness. The rest of the kids pick up on it and capitalize on it. Bullying began again. It was heartbreaking to hear the things that would get said, and to see the tears in my son's eyes. There is nothing harder as a mother to see.

The difference this time, he was talking to me about it, not some toy friends. I was really listening to him. I took him seriously. One day in October he came home from school crying. I remember driving to the post office and hearing him say to me that he had to tell me something, but I wouldn't like it. He was hesitant to say it because he knew I would be upset.

One of the boys in his class was picked to hand out practice companions. Gabriel made the mistake of saying out loud, "I wonder why no one ever picks me." This kid responded to him, "It's because nobody likes you, Gabe."

When I saw the tears in the corners of his eyes, I started crying. It hurt me to hear such cruel words said about my son. It was a lie! I knew it; he didn't. How do you convince a young boy of that, when a peer just told him something different?

The next day, Gabriel's seat partner reinforced the lie, "Remember why nobody picks you, Gabe? It's because nobody likes you!" He laughed.

That is not a joke. It's nothing to be laughing about. My son was crushed, and the love I had to offer wasn't enough to wipe away his pain. It cut him deeply. I wasn't going to sit around anymore. I was tired of seeing my son suffer. Parent-teacher conferences were days away. I was prepared to do something about it. My husband took off early from work, and joined me for the conference. We met with the teacher and told her the circumstances that were happening. She was very sweet and helpful. We all left feeling much better, but I knew my son still had the scar on his heart. His tears during the conference were evidence. He was hurting.

The morning of the conference Gabriel lay around not doing much. I could tell he wasn't feeling very good. By that night a fever had developed. The fever stayed consistently around 102.5°. Thursday, Friday, Saturday all came and went. Gabriel didn't seem to be improving. A fever of this range for a small child is very natural and not much cause for alarm. But Gabe is almost ten and that number is fairly high. By Sunday the fever was still with him. He didn't have other symptoms, just a headache, stiff neck, and a slight rash on his chest.

Sunday morning his dad took him to ExpressCare. This is a walk in clinic and typically doesn't take as long as the hospital. They were running very slowly. At lunchtime, I switched places with his dad. Titus went home to make dinner, and I sat in the waiting room. By one in the afternoon a doctor finally had time to see us. They did a routine exam, and checked his mouth, ears, and heart. The doctor had Gabe move his neck around, but he had considerable pain. She called for a second opinion. This doctor checked Gabe out and began to question us some more about the neck pain.

Gabe remembered on Wednesday night he had been playing at church and accidentally ran into another child in the dark. They were playing a game with a flashlight, so all lights were off. He said his head hurt. It was that night that I noticed him lying around. The doctor seemed especially concerned about this. With the neck pain he had been experiencing, the high temperature, and the lack of other symptoms she was worried about a head injury. She went to confer with the first doctor we had seen.

I had just been praying with Gabriel before the doctor came into the room. I told him about the lesson I had taught at church that morning. The Israelites were trusting God to take care of their needs. He sent them manna and quail. In the same way that God took care of them, I was convinced He would take care of Gabriel. I explained to him that we would not be diagnosing him (as he often tries to do). We were going to trust God to use the doctor's knowledge to care for Gabe.

As I as finished up my talk, the second doctor came back in the room. She wanted us to go immediately to the hospital. The other doctor was with a patient and she felt that this was an emergency. Her exact words were, "I want you to go straight to the hospital. You don't stop for a drink, a snack, or anything. Do you feel comfortable driving him there yourself?" Nothing like putting the fear into the mom. Can I drive him? I about lost it, but with God's help remained calm for Gabe.

When we arrived at the hospital they immediately showed us to a room. I've never had such fast service. They began tests at once. They did a chest x-ray, drew blood for various infections, and took urine samples; he was tested for everything you could think of. Within an hour, an IV was stuck in his arm, and fluids and medications were being given.

After we had been there for a few hours, and all the test results were back, nothing could be found wrong with Gabriel. A new doctor was brought in. This doctor was a specialist. He looked Gabe over, checked his neck movement and found that it wasn't acceptable. His concern was meningitis. If Gabe had other symptoms he would have demanded we do a spinal tap, but under our current circumstances he could only suggest it to us. The doctor left us alone in the room.

I reminded Gabriel about our earlier conversation. We were trusting God to speak through the doctors. We couldn't stop now, after we had come this far. If this doctor said meningitis was a possibility we needed to see it through.

If you know my son at all, you are probably familiar with his irrational fears. He constantly tries to diagnosis himself. If he hears about some sickness or disease, within a few weeks he will come down with it, or so he thinks. He also has a pretty low pain tolerance. We have been extremely fortunate that this was our first trip to the ER since Gabriel was born. He freaks out when he sees needles, blood pressure cuffs, scales, and other medical items. His fears overtake him very easily.


When Gabriel heard that meningitis was a possibility, and they would have to stick a needle in his back and extract some fluid from around his spine, HE FREAKED OUT! He thought he was dying and was rather inconsolable. His father and I prayed over him, and we decided a spinal tap was necessary. When a doctor suggests you do something, I would rather error on the side of caution. I also knew my son. If they didn't test him for meningitis, for the next few months I would be hearing of all his symptoms.

The doctor informed us that a spinal tap done on a child would probably require sedation. If Gabriel moved during the procedure it could be very dangerous. He explained to us that if he had the slightest apprehension about doing the procedure on Gabe, he would put him to sleep. We signed a waiver.

The room filled with nurses from all over the hospital. We had two in there for medications. We had one to watch his IV drip. We had another nurse at the computer logging all the times that things were done. We had a nurse to hold him steady, and a nurse to watch his vitals. Just before the doctor was all set to go, he administered some meds in Gabriel's IV. He explained that Gabe would taste bitterness at the back of his throat. Immediately Gabe gagged a little. One of the nurses laid him back down onto the bed and the wait began.

I had no idea this would work so quickly. Almost as soon as Gabriel laid his head down, the doctor started to take Gabriel's shoes off. He set them aside. I watched my sons face. He didn't flinch. I couldn't imagine that he would be so relaxed while the doctor was messing with him. Gabriel is a very private guy. He struggles with taking his shirt off to go swimming. If he sensed what was about to come, he would have protested. My son had a blank expression on his face.

The nurses in charge of medicine had informed me before starting that I might be a little anxious when I saw how Gabe reacted to the drugs. He would appear to be awake. His eyes would stay open through the procedure. To say this might be disturbing was an understatement. I was not prepared for seeing my son in this state of mind. The doctor continued to take Gabriel's clothes off of his body. He unbuttoned the pants first, then the shirt. The entire time my son stared straight forward as if in a daze. He did not appear asleep, and he was most definitely not conscious of what was going on. I was terrified. He was laying there in his underwear, and appeared to not have a care in the world. He didn't protest, in fact he didn't move a muscle. He stared straight forward, unable to lock eyes with me.

My husband had already been asked to leave the room by this point. Only one parent was allowed to stay in the room while they worked on Gabriel. The doctor assumed it would be me, the mother. If I had known what was ahead of me, I probably would have declined. I trust the doctors with my son's life. However, it was very difficult to see my son in such a state of mind.

Gabriel's eyes didn't change. He wasn't blinking, and he wasn't moving. While a nurse was holding him on his side, I was seated in a chair behind her. The only thing I could see was my son's face. As soon as the doctor began, I texted my mother to pray. Another friend texted me, offering to come to the hospital. I was in a state of shock. I had to continually remind myself that Gabriel was alive. These were the most frightening moments of my existence. Nothing could have prepared me for seeing my son unconscious in that way. It was as if he were dead.

The nurse who was in charge of his vitals asked me for his coat, or shirt; anything to place over his face. I guess even as part of the medical world, this type of anesthesia can be unnerving. Once his face was covered, I relaxed a little. I knew my mother would be praying.

Across town my mother was watching my other children. Some neighbors came to play. When they heard the news that Gabe was put to sleep, they all gathered together for a prayer meeting. The kids took turns asking God to protect Gabriel. Jamari, a little boy down the street, prayed for the very first time. This was to be a historic occasion.

The twenty minutes spent on the procedure appeared to last for hours. It felt as if all eyes in the room were on me to see how I would respond. I kept my composure, while on the inside I was slowly dying. I wanted to hold my son. I wanted to go back a few days in time and forget this had ever happened. My fear was crippling me. I wished for the end. And I was hungry. By the time they started the spinal tap it was four in the afternoon. I had eaten breakfast just after 7am. When I was given food at eight o'clock that evening, I could only manage bites. My body was wracked with anxiety. It took hours for me to calm down.

The doctor finally finished his job. Gabriel did very well through the entire thing. When the needle went it, he flinched but didn't move. The anesthesia did its job. Once most of the nurses had left the room, I was able to pull my chair up close to Gabe's side. I had been informed that children often wake up from this anesthesia with nightmares. They wanted me to be close for the moment he woke up.

I struggled with knowing when he was awake. Remember, his eyes are wide open and they appear to be looking directly at me. I rubbed his head gently with my fingertips, and talked in a soft voice. "Gabriel. You're all done. You did great." He would turn his head side to side as if trying to answer me.

After a couple minutes he mumbled that he was awake after I questioned him. I looked to the nurse in the room. She chuckled a little, "He's not really awake yet."

He started to cry and moan. I reassured him he was done. They brought a robe to cover him. I knew when he was fully conscious he would be embarrassed to be undressed in front of them. He continued to cry for a few minutes, "Ohhh.. It hurts."

I knew he couldn't be in pain, but I was worried about his dreams. Every five minutes his blood pressure cuff would go off to check his vitals. He would cry softly about how it was squeezing his arm.

After the second or third time the cuff went off, it started to get a little comical. Gabe hit his arm that had the blood pressure cuff and cried, "Oh no! There's a cat biting me." He said this while still dazed. Every word was sighed and moaned. Five minutes later the cat started to bite him again... and again... and again. This went on for several minutes. On Gabe's other hand was a steady red light which measured his pulse in his finger. At one point he held it up in the air and started to cry after the cat had just bit his other arm. He moaned, "Oh no. The cat doesn't want to eat me because I'm turning red."

The more he began to wake up, the more he spoke, and the less we could understand. At a different time, Gabe held up his red pulse finger and started to cry. He held it up high for all of us in the room to see and asked, "Is that a gobstopper?" Gabriel also had moments where he thought he was at the dentist. He couldn't figure out how many cavities he had and began to cry.

The last thing I remember happening when I was stroking his head, and calmly reassuring him that he was okay, he turned his head to the side, looking directly in my eyes and said, "Mom? Are you here? Where are you?" I was inches from his face. "I'm right here, Gabriel." He rolled his eyes a little and then finally seemed to focus on me. "Oh. There you are."

The worst was over. After an hour of slowly coming out of his sleep, we had the test results back from the spinal tap. It was negative for meningitis. With fourteen tests behind us, they were able to figure out that Gabriel had a virus. It was hanging on and didn't want to let go. They said if the fever didn't break after two more days, we needed to be seen again. We were sent home.

For two days Gabriel had to make sure to lie still on the couch. After testing for meningitis, it's common to get a spinal headache that feels like someone is hitting your head with a baseball bat. We made sure to prevent this from happening. He slept on the couch for two days. We watched movies, read books, and typed his latest story on the computer.

By Wednesday, six days after the fever began, it finally broke. Gabriel was able to go back to school. He went back a new person. The sadness was lifted, and God spoke truth into his life.

You might wonder how this came about from all that I shared with you. God used this sickness for His good. Gabriel is convinced that it was the best thing that ever happened to him. God helped him to triumph over his enemies. The bully's words no longer had power in his life.

You know why? He felt loved.

The second day that Gabriel had a fever, our neighbor brought over a card and paper swing set she had made. She wished him to get well, and said she was praying for him.

My friend came to the hospital to visit him.

The first day of his rest on the couch, another friend of mine, brought cookies and cards from her and her son.

Those two days following the trip to the hospital, I received numerous calls and texts asking how he was doing. Some friends also had messages for me to tell him, words of encouragement.
While he was in the hospital, a neighbor prayed his first prayer asking for healing for Gabriel.

With each kind deed, the truth was solidified. The first girl brought a glimpse of truth into his life. He verbalized with sincerity as he read her card, "I didn't know she cared about me." As each person's actions were shared with him, or seen with his own eyes, the truth would be lived out again. "I had no idea that all these people loved me."

Sometimes that's how God works. It's through our pain and our circumstances that we see a need for God. Gabriel explained this very thing to me the first day he brought those hurtful words home. It was through his tears that he was able to voice his need for God. His exact words were, "If I didn't have kids who bullied me, I wouldn't have a need for God." He has clung to the love of Jesus.

It's in our weaknesses that God works best. "Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Corinthians 12:9. We often shy away from weakness instead of embracing it. I am so proud to see my son figure out this spiritual truth.

I cannot stress this to you enough. We never know how a kind word or action can change a person's life. Gabriel is proof of this. Look for people to encourage and build up. Find someone who needs your care and love. And then do whatever God tells you to do. You can be the difference between life and death. This also pertains to the negative. A careless word or deed can crush someone's spirit. We must be sensitive to the feelings of others.

I don't think my words can express the depth of this healing in Gabriel. This sickness took place in late October. It's been over eight weeks since this all came about. My son is a new person. It's as if he has had a spiritual rebirth. The old him has disappeared into the wind. And the new him has emerged.

The kids at school still say mean things. They still tease him. They are still using their words to try to get to him. The difference is what happened deep inside my son. Those words aren't sticking anymore. He knows the truth! No matter what they say to him, he has been given a gift. He saw the love of those people close to him, and God showed him how His power works best in weaknesses.

My son had been feeling very weak and crippled. When you start to doubt your worth and acceptance, it's debilitating. You're entire world begins to revolve around what others think. You start to see things through those glasses. You read into what other people say and do. You figure if one person thinks you're worth nothing, then all people must believe that about you. It must be true.

I am here to tell you, that is a lie! Hurting people hurt people. We are all trying to make it through. When our feelings are questioned and we start to feel as if our heart is breaking, we build walls around ourselves. We shoot arrows to ward off the bad guys. We share the darkness that is inside of us. We lash out at the world, because the world has hurt us. We must stop the cycle.

We need joy beyond our circumstances. At the end of every dark tunnel there is light. God has promised us, "everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28

One of the things that has also made a huge difference in my son is the power of positive thinking. For a while, I would get the daily report after school as if it were the weather. "Today was a bad day. Storm clouds came and ruined everything." I never would hear about the sun coming out and shining, and I knew that it had.

Years ago I took a challenge of finding three good things each day, and it literally changed my life. My circumstances weren't any different, but my outlook was as different as night and day. There is something miraculous about finding the good in the midst of the bad. This has also done wonders for my son.

I gave Gabriel a pocket sized notebook. He must write down five good things that happened at school that day. If he does find five, he has earned his thirty minutes of computer time. If he can go above and beyond, it means more time on the computer for him. Each extra thing after five is worth one minute of time. He can earn up to forty minutes each day, that's fifteen good things.

Gabriel has been shocked to see that so many good things were happening to him. He had no idea. He was so hurt and worn down by the unkind words, that the kind words and actions were being ignored. It was as if they were placed in the shadows. They happened; you just couldn't see them very well.

God has accomplished the impossible. Gabriel is happy and feels loved. I tried for months of my own accord to do this in Gabe. It wasn't happening. He needed a divine meeting of truth.

I am so overjoyed to have witnessed this miracle in my son. God is doing something great in him, and I am so pleased to be a part of it. As the days go by I have had more and more opportunities to see the change in Gabe. He doesn't get as angry anymore. He accepts my correction. He apologizes when he explodes. The biggest thing I have seen is the laughter. He seems to enjoy life. The teasing words of his siblings don't injure him. He sees it for what it is; a chance to smile and laugh together. While he doesn't accept hugs freely yet, he has softened to the idea of them. He used to shudder and flinch when anyone had physical contact with him; that is not the case anymore. I believe the day is coming when he will hug us back. Trust is being built, but the walls are still a little shaky. We are building that foundation now.

Gabriel is being refined by the circumstances around him. He is emerging a beautiful creation. Joy is not out of reach anymore. The circumstances are still there, but Gabe is grasping at the good and hanging on for life.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Grateful Heart

As the Thanksgiving season is drawing to a close, and Christmas will soon be upon us, I wanted to reflect on all that God has blessed my family with.

It's a long standing family joke to say, "There are just so many things. I don't know how I will choose." This is usually said with nervous anxiety from being put on the spot in front of others. Your mind can tend to freeze up, and you draw a blank. You know there is much to be thankful for, you are having trouble voicing the words that your heart often feels.

I don't mean it lightly when I say there are so many things I have to be thankful for. It would take hours for me to write down and share how truly blessed I am. My cup has overflowed with blessings. God's love will pursue me all the days of my life.

Every Thanksgiving we sit down with my extended family and spend hours talking about the goodness of God. You may have the tradition of football, movies, or games. We have the tradition to share what's on our hearts. This can literally take hours and hours to accomplish. Every year we take turns sharing our top five things that God has done in the past year. We don't share our five all at once; we take turns going around the room. Our thankfulness began somewhere around five thirty, and ended after ten at night.

It's a breath of fresh air to see how God works in our lives. He is always up to something good and something new. It's up to us to recognize his handiwork.

I neglected to get permission this year from my extended family to share their five things. This year you will have to settle for my family's thankful heart. I know you won't be disappointed. God is AMAZING!

Amanda


  • In January God gave me the word STRETCH. I had my ideas of how He was going to do that in me, He obviously had other plans. It's unbelievable how God knows exactly how everything is going to work together and He knew in January that it was going to be hard. Even with the difficult times I can say it has really been a good year. I probably wouldn't have chosen to go through some of the things that I did, but now that it's over and done with I can see exactly what God was up to. He had my best interest in mind. My faith has been made stronger and I have relied on Him more than ever before. There were several times this year that my cry was Jeremiah 17:14, "God, pick up the pieces. Put me back together again. You are my praise!"

  • I am really thankful for children and the opportunity that I've had in the last year to work with them. I am so thankful for Compassion and World Vision. The relationship that I’ve been able to start has been amazing. From the very beginning Aberu was very special to me, and I pleaded with God that I would have a special relationship with her. In the past 5 months, I have received 10 letters already. I am overwhelmed by God. I am also really thankful for Yeabsira and Meyli. I even told them that we were going to be sharing things that we were thankful for and that I would be sharing them as one of the things. I have loved to see my children praying for these kids every day. Not a day goes by that we forget them, and it’s always my kids who remind me.

    At the beginning, I wanted to adopt more children and I had to restrain myself. God told me to wait until the end of the summer before getting more. I made a deal that I would wait until my birthday, and then I would adopt one as a personal gift. But when my birthday came around, I didn’t feel that pull anymore. I was content to wait, and thought maybe at Christmas I would adopt a new child. After the first week of school, I knew why God told me, "Wait." We met neighbors that seemed to really want to be part of our family. We had our own real live children that we could talk to about God and show kindness to. God’s timing is so perfect. If we had met these children last year when they moved to our block, I would have probably dismissed them. Now that my children are all in school, I have extra time and energy. I think that's just one of the ways that God has been stretching me this year. In all honesty, at times it's really exhausting to have extra kids in my home but also it’s been very rewarding.

  • I'm thankful for different things for each of my children. With Ariel, I'm thankful for the extra attention that I've gotten to give with the Bible studies we've had together on Thursday nights. I think we've gotten to know each other better and our relationship has gotten stronger. This year I've gotten to know Gabriel a lot better. He's shared his troubles with me. I like that he comes and talks to me. I think a lot of it happened when he went to the hospital and we had those three days together. With Zech, I think it's been really neat to watch him learning to read and learning site words and going to Kinder College and watching him sound out words. On the subject of stretching, I know that the issue with Gabriel may not seem like a good thing, but God has been using it in all of our lives to make us grow.

  • I'm thankful for the financial blessings God has provided. God has definitely been stretching me in this area! We had a "Summer of Unfortunate Events". Through it all we may have had a lot of things go wrong, but I don't feel like it was a bad summer. It was very memorable and it all fit together. Towards the end we would laugh about what went wrong. We have had many unexpected bills come up and every time God has provided. I don't know why I ever worry over money. This past month has been a huge stress for me with all the medical bills we have accrued. Gabriel’s trip to the hospital has totaled so far over $5000 from Doctors and we haven't even gotten the hospital portion. I was physically making myself ill worrying over it. But God spoke truth and the fear vanished. This trip to the hospital was one of the best things that could have happened to Gabe. He has had freedom from lies that were holding him back. He has confidence again, and he feels loved. That to me is priceless. I don't care what the charge is, I will be happy to pay it because Gabe's happiness is worth it to me! God has been stretching me to a new level of trust.
    *Update* Insurance paid the entire hospital bill. We didn't owe a penny! Thank you, God!

  • I want to say I am really thankful that all of my children are in school. I have been able to rejuvenate myself. After 12 years of taking care of children, I didn't realize how stressful it was. I love my children dearly, but everyone needs a break sometimes. I wasn't getting that. The past few months have given me so much patience and energy. I used to take naps almost every single day; since I've had so much "me time" the need has disappeared. This of course has not all been easy. It was terribly difficult to let go of my last little baby. It still happens to me where I forget and go to talk to Zech and he's not there. The tears still come. Through it all I have been stretched and I am so excited for this next phase of my life. I have free time to pursue the dreams I have, and I can accomplish my goals much easier. I am free to be me. God knows exactly what we need, when we need it!



  • Titus


  • I'm thankful to God for protecting my family so much this year. He's had plenty of opportunities to do so.

  • I'm thankful to God for all of the opportunities that He gives. Specifically referring to the new A/C and heating.

  • I'm thankful to God for the ways that He's provided for me and my family this year. Unexpected bonuses at work, etc.

  • I'm really thankful to God for providing the job that I have in such a miraculous manner. He's shown me how important it is to have something that gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

  • I'm thankful to God for the family He's given me.



    Ariel

  • I am thankful for my community group because I've gotten really close to them.

  • I'm thankful for my family. Because they're always at home and I get to play with Gabe and Zech and talk to Mom and Dad.

  • I'm thankful for Valentine. She's really old and I've had her for most of my life and the doctor said she was not going to live very long. But she's lived for a very long time. She doesn't even bite me anymore, but she falls off my hand a lot.

  • I'm thankful for school because I've got a lot of friends and I get to meet new people and I learn a lot and stuff and its fun.

  • I'm thankful for all my stuff, like my phone, iPod, house, and stuff. Because I know that a lot of people have to go without.



    Gabriel

  • I am thankful that I have been able to get by and recover from what the kids at school have been doing. Grandma taught me a while ago how to pray and give it to God. I gave to God the bad thoughts and memories.

  • I am thankful for the opportunity to publish my second book that I've been working really hard on.

  • I am thankful for food and how tasty it is. (Takes a bite of pie) Amanda said "you're not kidding."

  • I am thankful for all of the organs in my body. Thump-thump. I am thankful for my chance to learn a whole lot. If I hadn't gone to school for K-2nd grade, I don't think life would have any meaning at all. I love reading, and without school, I wouldn't be able to read.

  • I'm thankful that God gave me an idea for a new novel.


    Zechariah

  • I am thankful for God in my heart. It makes me proud because I like God. He's my friend.

  • I'm thankful for the states. Because they have presidents in it. (Told the story of Luke Washington and the Pilgrims)

  • I'm thankful that I'm in school with Mrs. House. I like to learn.

  • I'm thankful for music and PE. In PE, I like it when we play games. In music, I like to sing.

  • I'm thankful for the world because there's a lot of people in the world and the people in the world are my friends. Like Zana, Ella, Noah, Jamari, Danger, and Mark.



    I pray you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were reminded of how much God has done in your own life.

    "Let me shout God’s name with a praising song, Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks." Psalm 69:30
  • Friday, October 11, 2013

    Psalm 23

    The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
    He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
    Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
    I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

    You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
    You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
    Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
    and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


    It's been a difficult week. But when all is said and done, God is with us. While my peace this week has been shattered and life has been overwhelming, I know now that I have nothing to fear.

    He protects. He guides. He loves us.

    I refuse to think about what might have happened anymore. Zechariah was hurt earlier this week, and I have been haunted by it for two days. If I had waited twenty seconds longer, I might have been spared the images that have plagued my thoughts these past couple days.

    The man with the wheel barrel in my mind has been working overtime. He has forged paths to the memory, and I haven't given him a break. When I started to feel peace, it was as if my mind rebelled and the wheel barrel had to be filled with anxious thoughts, not peaceful happy thoughts. I needed to think about it. I felt compelled to think about it. In the same way when you pass an accident on the side of the road, you try to look away, but your eyes are drawn there anyways. My mind has been on Zech.

    I don't want to go into the details of what I saw, but I am convinced my son has angels that sole focus is saving his life and keeping him safe. God has remembered Zechariah. He has not forgotten him or been caught off guard by the things that happen.



    This morning I was still struggling with the ruts my mind had dug. I was making myself sick with worry and fear, and I couldn't seem to get past it. My mom told me to pray and ask for a new picture. I tried. I prayed hard. She also witnessed Zech's accident and she understood my haunting fear. She saw it happen from a different angle, but still the trauma was the same. It's really hard to experience that life altering fear, and move past it. The man with the wheel barrel repeatedly filled his barrel with thoughts of ... he could have died. The force of that blow could have knocked him unconscious. It could have killed him. They were horrible thoughts to be focusing on.

    Seconds before it happened, my mom was holding Zech. He had a stomachache, and she was praying over him. She held him close and asked God to protect him. She was even reminded at how God had intervened for him in the past. When we talked over lunch yesterday, she shared with me how she wished she had held him a little longer, a little tighter.

    There are things we can't go back and change. Bad things happen in life. Things we can't undo. The hard part is living with those things. I am convinced the only way to truly make it through is with God's help. His peace is what I choose to rely on.

    As I was doing my dishes today I was trying to get the man with the wheel barrel to walk a new path. I wanted him to walk the road that said, God remembered Zech. Zechariah is okay. He is laughing and playing. Life goes on.

    I needed to let go of the darkness I was holding on to. It was not going to comfort me. It never has.

    Each week a different kid has Bible study with my mother. They are each assigned a Bible treasure hunt. It might be a verse to memorize, a picture to draw, a verse to write in your own words.

    Gabriel had to write any Psalm he chose in his own words. He picked Psalm 23. I haven't felt much like blogging lately, but today I wanted to share his Psalm. It meant a lot to me to hear him reading the paper aloud. I cried. Even though it was written in his words, about his struggles, it was a picture from God. I was changed.

    I see where God was, and how He had His hand of protection on Zechariah. I didn't need to be angry anymore. I didn't need to fear what might have happened. I finally have peace in my heart. God protects. God guides us. God is with us. I can let go of my pain and fear. God has a plan for my life. And God has a plan for Zechariah's life. It's different than what I see. I always see perfection. No troubles. No pain. No tears. God sees that trouble, that pain, and He wipes away those tears.

    Psalm 23
    God is my Savior.
    He lets me relax on great days.
    He keeps me from peril.
    He keeps me from being selfish.
    He guides me through the people that are mean to me because of talking about Him.
    When I walk through the disappointment God is with me.
    He uses His power to save me from the mean kids.
    He helps me to stay with him when bullies are there.
    My cup overflows with blessings and I will live with God.
    -From the heart of Gabriel-

    Saturday, October 5, 2013

    Kids Do The Darndest Things

    When I walked into the bathroom, I was quite shocked at the sight I saw. There was a water gun floating in the toilet. Both my son and daughter were standing nearby.

    “What in the world are you doing? Why is the gun in the toilet?”

    Zech could sense there was trouble brewing, and quickly put things straight to me, “Ariel did it!”

    I turned to her, “Well, why didn’t you pick it up if you knocked it in. That’s so disgusting to leave it there.”

    My daughter, who turned 12 recently, very calmly replies to me, “I was filling it up. I made sure that it was clean. Nobody had gone to the bathroom in it.”

    I was totally flabbergasted. “Are you serious? Would you want to get shot with a poop gun? We’re going to have to throw it out now.”

    This brought tears for Zech as it was his gun he just received last night. I relented and promised to do some serious sterilizing today.

    Apparently, my daughter has never thought about the germs floating around in a toilet. It seemed perfectly natural to her to place a water gun into the bowl. What really got to me was the fact they were even resorting to using it. Whatever happened to filling up a water gun at the sink, which sits right next to the toilet?

    Monday, August 12, 2013

    Kids Do the Darndest Things

    Some styles are not for everybody. We all want to fit in and at times wear things that are unflattering to our bodies because we think it makes us look like part of the "in" crowd. Who gets to decide what's "in" and what's "out"? And why do we let them decide that for us?

    I am reminded through my son's actions how young of an age this starts. We all want to belong and be loved. It's the way God made us. Often times we choose the wrong way to get acceptance. We look to man to fill that need, when the answer lies in looking to God.

    Layering is in. In fact, I found 7 rules to layering. These are not original to me.

    Rule #1 - Thinner clothes first
    Rule #2 - Define the layer
    Rule #3 - Keep it casual
    Rule #4 - Always feel comfortable
    Rule #5 - Mix in some color
    Rule #6 - Layering is practical
    Rule #7 - Jacket not required
    I have two children that care about how an outfit goes together, and one that grabs the top clothing item in the drawer. Zechariah is one that cares. He has noticed the style of his older sister. He wants to fit in. He doesn't realize this style is called layering. He just knows he wants to wear 2 shirts. It makes him cool.

    No matter what temperature it is outside, he will walk out of his room with two very warm shirts. He hasn't quite figured out the "rules" and the correct way it's supposed to be done. I love his innocence.


    When he walks out in his multi-layered outfits, I have been guilty many times of telling him to change. It's not practical. It's hot outside in the summer, and the extra shirts are going to make him sweat... more. Zech is always highly disappointed when I don't approve his outfit. I'm guilty of the same desire for approval. I can't let him leave the house wearing it. What would people think about me as a mother? That I don't care what my son looks like? Or what if they were thinking I thought he looked good? Ouch. I didn't mean to go this deep on my post.

    The story always ends the same. I make him change. I am trying to guide him to what I think looks good. On more than one occasion he has been angry with me for this.

    A few weeks ago, Zech called me into the bathroom. He is still learning the basics of clothes and doesn't always get his underwear pulled up straight and flat. When it bunches it leaves red marks cutting into his skin. It's uncomfortable for him, and I am required to help.

    I soon found out why I was no longer needing to ask Zech to change his clothes. He was slyly layering his underwear. Zech had four pairs of underwear that day! If only everyone around him knew just how "stylish" he really was.

    Thursday, August 1, 2013

    Angel

    God works in mysterious ways. I am in awe of His power.

    Grocery shopping day is not our favorite time in this family. I don't particularly enjoy shopping. I buy a lot of things online to save myself a trip to the store. My children have adopted my dislike for the experience.

    After a particularly hard morning, we were loaded into the car on our way to the grocery store. My daughter was determined to butt heads with me the entire time. She wanted to stay home; I refused to let her. Hormones were raging and things were quickly deteriorating.

    Most people cannot believe that my daughter has a dark side. Unless you've witnessed it for yourself, you probably are under the impression that she is always sunshine and blue skies. She is one of the most positive people you will meet, and she is kind to all... outside the family circle.

    Raising a tween can be rather difficult, especially a strong willed one like my daughter. I have tried to be creative in my discipline, but this still can be challenging. I was at the end of my rope.

    We drove to the store. The air was suffocating. She refused any form of discipline. I couldn't even get her to put her seat belt on. You might think I am a weak parent, and I'm not "doing" the right thing. But I have done and tried it all. I have taken away things and privileges, I have grounded, I have tried work therapy, and I have done time outs. I am consistent. I do what I say. I don't make idle threats. I follow through. If my daughter absolutely does not want to obey me, there is nothing I can physically do to get her. Her physical strength matches mine. I no longer can "make" her do something, and she has figured that out. I can certainly give her consequences, but as for forcing her to do something like keep a seat belt on while I'm driving, that's out of my hands.

    All that is left is to pray. And pray I have done.

    When we arrived at the store, I requested my daughter carry the bags. The store we were at does not provide sacks for free, so you must bring your own. My daughter refused. She tried to throw them in my shopping cart, and I kindly handed them back to her. The bags ended up on the ground with my daughter standing nearby folding her arms defiantly.

    I went into the store with last instructions to feel free to pick up the bags and join us when she was ready.

    The morning had been a roller coaster of emotions, but I was sticking to it. I sighed in frustration and exhaustion. Prayer was the only thing I had left. I don't know why it took me that long to remember. I took out my phone and sent a quick text to my mother. "Pray for Ariel and myself. She is acting up 10 times worse than before and we are shopping. She is standing outside the store."

    I felt the tears start, and I didn't want to make a scene. I have tried my best with these children God blessed me with, but sometimes I feel like an utter failure. I lose my cool. My temper takes over. Or I just don't have a clue what to do. I feel helpless and out of control. My emotions were starting to take over. I had kept calm this entire morning, and I wasn't sure how much more I could take. When I am overwhelmed, my natural desire is to give up and throw in the towel. I quit and shut down my emotions. I can't do it.

    As I pressed the send button on my phone, I uttered the words, "God, I don't know what to do. HELP." I turned back towards to the door hoping to catch a glimpse of my daughter. I worried about her being there, outside, alone. When I turned, I almost ran into someone. She was a foot away from my face. She had long dark hair, brown eyes, freckles and a golden brown tan. In her hand she held a shopping list and pen. No shopping cart.

    "She's still there outside walking in circles. I thought about talking with her."

    I didn't know what to say, "Oh yeah?"

    Understanding showed on her face, and I had to try even harder to hold back my tears. This woman cared about me. I could see it in her eyes.

    "I saw the whole thing. She needs to respect you. You are her mother and God wants us to respect our parents. Would it be okay with you if I went and talked to her? She has to know that you are in control and she needs to obey you. Do you think it would help if I talked to her?"

    Baffled that this woman would care so much, I responded, "Yeah that would be nice. Thank you. I think she would listen to you."

    When the woman walked out, I didn't know what to think. I kept back the tears, and felt a weight lift off my shoulders. Normally, I might feel a little put off by someone trying to intrude in my parenting. But this time I felt at peace with the woman. I only hesitated for a second wondering what her motive was. I trusted her. She looked me right in the eyes and I felt a supernatural calm.

    I continued to shop, looking over my shoulder every few seconds, waiting for Ariel and the woman to come into the store. I had no idea what they could be talking about. After about 5 minutes, Ariel found me down at the end of the aisle. She had red eyes, and a look of compliance about her. I didn't question her immediately. I figured she would talk when she was ready.

    We quietly made it through the store with no problems. I searched the store with my eyes to find the woman, but she was not there. The store is quite small, only having four aisles, so it's not very hard to locate a person. I wanted to catch a glimpse of the woman, and say "thanks." My daughter came in quite a different person. I wanted to know what happened; what words were said.

    I noted that Ariel also was scanning the store looking for the woman. I thought she might be embarrassed at the confrontation. Maybe she wanted to prove that she was going to change and comply with me.

    The longer we were in the store, the more desperately I searched for the woman. Where had she disappeared to? She had a long list and I met her right inside the front door. There is only one entrance and one exit. By the time we made it to the check out, I had gone over and over my conversation with the woman. I was convinced the woman was a messenger from God.

    I don't see angels everywhere that I go. In fact, I would have told you that I had never seen an angel. But the closer I came to the exit, the more I began to believe that I had a supernatural encounter. I wanted to talk with my daughter about it more, but didn't want to bring it up in the middle of the grocery store.

    As we were bagging our groceries, I began to think again about the woman. I had requested prayer from my mom, and then uttered a very desperate plea for God. "I don't know what to do."

    You have to understand the background for this plea. I have struggled a lot over the past few months emotionally. I feel overwhelmed with my commitments, and I'm learning more and more how truly helpless I am. I used to think I could do everything myself. I like to be in control. But I am finding that the control I thought I had was an illusion. I have been broken these past few months. I'm still trying to put back the pieces. Some days I do really good asking God for help. And other days I experience that satisfaction that comes from thinking I did it. God has been stretching me. My perfect world has shown many cracks and weak spots. It has only been in my anguish that I found how little I was depending on God, and how much I was depending on myself.

    God has done some pretty amazing things in me when I have been willing to cry out to Him, "I need help."

    This was no exception. God answered my plea in a very personal way. He sent that woman to me. I am convinced she was an angel.

    The groceries were loaded, and I was alone with Ariel to finally ask what happened. I began to question her. "What did the woman say to you?"

    "She asked me, 'What's wrong'. I told her I had a fight with my mom."

    My daughter was hesitant to say much more to me. I knew I had to share a little bit first, to get her to open up to me. I could see how the woman affected Ariel.

    I wanted to share my thoughts with Ariel, but I couldn't quite get the words out of my mouth. "Ariel. I think. That lady that you talked to." I no longer cared to stop the tears. "I think that lady was." I couldn't get the word out. "I think she was an angel." I whispered the last word through a sob.

    A light went on inside my daughter. She started sobbing. In between choking sobs, "I thought the same thing."

    Neither one of us have ever made this claim before, but both of us came to the same conclusion each individually. We both tearfully agreed that this was no ordinary encounter. I explained to Ariel how I tried to find her in the store, but she was nowhere to be found. I just wanted to tell her thanks. Ariel agreed with me, "I wanted to tell her thank you too. I kept looking for her, but I couldn't find her again."

    The woman told Ariel, "I can see that you have a really good mom who cares about you. God wants us to respect our parents. In the Bible it says we should honor them. When we respect our parents it's the same thing as respecting God. And respecting our parents makes us stronger." The woman gave Ariel a hug and said, "Let's go inside."

    Ariel found me in the store just a few feet away, and when she turned back the woman was gone. Neither one of us ever saw her again.


    I am convinced that woman was on a mission from God Himself. She had a message specifically for me and for my daughter at the exact moment we needed it. The woman came shopping with a list, but instead of buying she came straight to me. When my son overheard the conversation between me and my daughter, he speculated that her list was not of food, but names of those people she was sent to help.

    I don't believe it was a coincidence that we ran into her. I believe we had a supernatural encounter, and I am changed because of it. I was encouraged. I am doing the best I can to raise these children of mine. And I believe that God is proud of me. He said I'm a good mom. What more can I strive for? I have affirmation from God Himself.

    Ariel and I both came to the same conclusion. God must really love us to send an angel to be with us during our pain. He cares when we are hurting, and He does something about it.

    Friday, July 5, 2013

    The Daily Coffee

    My kids have done it again, they've gone and impressed me. Earlier this week the older two had the idea that we needed a family newspaper. Titus is gone at work all day, and they felt he needed to hear all about our days. After something interesting happens, they write an article.

    I love their dedication! They each write different parts of the paper and they came up with cute names. The paper is called The Daily Coffee because their father can't go a day without his pot of coffee! They have in the issue a joke section, titled Laughing Caffeine. Even Zechariah is involved in this paper. While he doesn't write the articles himself, he does dictate what his article will say.

    Summers are normally spent playing and having fun with education taking a bit of a back seat. Not in this house. We keep it at the forefront at all times. This has been an excellent way to continue education. And the greatest part, since it's their own idea they are excited about it. They can't wait to put together each issue and read the final copy. The only part I help with is typing up their articles and inserting photos. I am the official photographer for The Daily Coffee.

    This is such a great idea for kids in school. They get a chance to write and practice their skills, and you are left with a keepsake worth treasuring. I hope they keep this up, even if the paper cuts back it's printing to only once a month, it would still be a significant advantage.


    Our latest edition is highlighting all the fun we had this Independence Day. The kids get so excited holding their paper, they can't wait for their dad to walk in the front door so he can read their hard work.

    Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
     

    Tuesday, July 2, 2013

    Backyard Safari

    Ever think about taking your kids on a safari, but don't have the means to get there? Why not host your own backyard safari? You could make it a party and invite your friends. It's easy, it's cheap, and it gives your kids a chance to go on an exciting adventure, without even leaving your home.

    During my week alone with Zech, we chose to explore the wild side. We went on a hunt for animals in the rainforest in our own backyard. He loved this activity.


    For $8.99 at Hobby Lobby you can purchase your own set of Rainforest animals! They always have %40 off coupons, and if you coupon, you can get your animals for only $5.39 plus tax. If you aren't too into the rainforest idea, they have tons of other animal toobs to choose from. There are reptiles, dinosaurs, ocean animals, horses, farm animals, sharks, and much more.

    After I picked out my animal toob, I put together a worksheet of all the animals we would be hunting for. I Googled different coloring book pictures of each animal. Once Zech found the animal, he could color it on his sheet, and it helped him keep track of the other animals he still needed to find.


    He was so excited to go on this hunt. The hard part for him was waiting inside while I hid all the animals in the backyard for him to find. I tried to put them in their natural habitats, but you can imagine how that might get a little tricky when you don't live in the rainforest. We went for as close as possible.


    I handed him a magnifying glass and he went to work. (These animals are really small when looking for them in the big backyard!) I tried to find this old safari hat we had in the basement, but it seemed to have disappeared. He didn't mind.



    We hunted for... an Alligator

    Anteater


    Iguana

    Jaguar

    Parrot

    Poison Arrow Frog

    Red Eye Tree Frog

    Snake


    Spider Monkey

    Tapir

    Toucan

    It was such an easy activity to put together, and it gave the greatest satisfaction to Zech. He begged me to hide the animals again. He has also taken to putting together "safaris" for me in the computer room. I have found all these animals time and time again. It never gets old for him.

    Friday, June 28, 2013

    The Journal

    Gabe just spent 10 days on vacation with his grandma. Life was not the same without him, to say the least. If you know my son, you know he loves to talk. I think he has a word quota for each day and it's pretty high. He is very much a people person. We figured out at a young age that the best form of punishment was making him sit off by himself. It's pure torture for him. He loves to be around everyone interacting and having a good time.

    While he was gone I read a couple books through with no interruptions. It felt weird and made me sad. I was used to stopping every so many pages and hearing some story or thought he just couldn't wait to communicate to me. Sometimes it takes missing something to realize how much you enjoyed it. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

    I may get frustrated from time to time when I can't get a moment alone. I may want to pull my hair out a few times after telling him to stop talking and JUST GET IN THE SHOWER. I may want to yell when I've heard thought after thought and he STILL isn't in bed yet. But after ten days of being without my Gabriel, I was ready to be interrupted. I longed to hear his voice and his thoughts. I was ready to need to tell him repeatedly to go DO THE DISHES. I love his words, and the world is not right when he isn't there to share them.

    He brings so much color to our family. Even when I'm frustrated I find myself laughing and enjoying his unique ways. He is an exceptional kid!

    While on the trip, Gabe kept a detailed journal of his days. I loved reading it. It made up for all those stories and thoughts I missed hearing.

    The Journal of The Trip

    Monday, June 17th
    Today I woke up with excitement. I was going to Allegheny, New York. As soon as I got up and got ready we were on our way. I read to Grandma G a book called How to Train Your Dragon. It was good. I read it to her for four hours. Then we came to the St. Louis museum. We put together fossil puzzles, felt an earthquake, and looked at a fake tornado. On the way out it was rainy and I was getting really wet because Grandma kept taking away the umbrella. I read to Grandma another hour. Then we listened to The Tale of Despereaux. It was more better and well done then the movie. And for the night we went to Castleton Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was great even though it had no swimming pool.

    Tuesday, June 18th
    We woke up early, too early in fact. And I couldn't even lift myself up from the bed. We went down to breakfast. I don't like cereal and that basically is all there is. Instead I ate a few donuts. We went on the drive and it was long. Then we stopped at Wendy's. It was hard to get there. Our car was almost out of gas and we could hear it drying up. So luckily we got gas just in time. We went to the Biblewalk Museum. It was amazing, spectacular, awesome. It was a bunch of rooms in the wall and there was a bunch of plastic figures in the wall. Then a light comes from above the plastic figures so you can see them. Then the plastic figures start talking. The whole tour of the Bible took four hours. We listened to the life of Christ, one-fourth of it. We went on the drive again. I was getting excited to see Grandma and Grandpa Lemon. I never met them before. And we made it there. I thought they would look like Grandma and Grandpa Power. But they didn't.



    Wednesday, June 19th
    The next morning we woke up in a house. I thought it was my house because I was used to my house. We got ready and stuff and went out to lunch. We got to sit in a carriage that was real without horses. I got chicken fingers, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Then I also got a milkshake. Then we went to the Amish country. I spent $30 getting presents for my family. I got Zech an Amish board game called The Peg Race. I got Ariel a $5 herkimer diamond. I got Dad Amish fudge. I got Mom goats milk soap. When we got home we had stuffed peppers for dinner and then we watched a very good movie called The Encounter. And Grandma Lemon usually falls asleep in movies but she stayed awake. And Grandma G said God was working through the movie. And then we went to bed.

    How to get a friction burn!

    Thursday, June 20th
    The next day I got ready after eating eggs on toast. I started to watch the Science channel. After learning how a car engine is made, and how sponges are made, and how peanuts turn into peanut butter, then Aspen and Aunt Linda arrived. Then we went to the Strawberry Festival. The food was good and then we went to the inflatables. If you're wondering why my knee is injured its because the inflatables have a lot of friction. And I was being very rough going down the slide so I hit the other end of the slide catching myself with my knee. Then we got home and I played on the DS. It was time to go to Sprague's. And I got a generous serving of bacon. The plate was the size of a sheet of paper and you couldn't even see the plate itself it was so covered in food. So I was definitely full after eating that. There was a table with animals sitting around it and I tried to take the moose's milkshake. But it wasn't a real milkshake. Then we went home and slept.


    Friday, June 21st
    We woke up and got ready. I hated sleeping on a cot. It was not soft and I slept sort of with brown recluses. And the blanket was rugged. It was basically a rug. We got ready to go to the Seneca Iroquois Museum. I learned about the game snow snake. It was cool. It's a winter game where there is a path that is 375 yards long. You put some slick stuff on the snake and then you throw it on the path and try to see how far it goes. That night we went to Aunt Leona's.


    Saturday, June 22nd
    I woke up and got up to swim. They have a pool at their house. That's almost all we did the whole day. Then I went to the Hillview restaurant. I got a Greek pizza. And then I went to the bathroom and there was an eerie light. On the wall there was a graffiti that had a toothy grin that looked like the gotcha sign in the basement. Then a toothy frown. Then an untoothy scream looking thing. I heard two footsteps. But nobody can get in the bathroom stalls with just two footsteps. But when I opened the bathroom stall door nobody was there. It wasn't anything. Then we went home and swam a little bit more and then went to bed.



    Sunday, June 23rd
    Today we went to church. The theme was taking responsibility for your life. We listened to the story of the three men in Matthew 25. Then we went home, ate and swam, and got thrown into the pool by Uncle Ernie. It was basically a cousin reunion.

    Monday, June 24th
    We went to Niagara Falls today and they were bigger than I expected. We went on Maid of the Mist and I got soaked. Then we searched around for other stuff to do, but we couldn't "afford" to do anything. And we swam and watched a movie when we got home. We watched Escape from Planet Earth.



    Tuesday, June 25th
    We woke up and drove and missed almost everything we wanted to do. We ran out of time to do the Biblewalk Museum again and the river was too low to go on a canal boat on the Ohio Erie Canal. How disappointing.

    Wednesday, June 26th
    We drove without anything to do. Because in the morning I made us run out of time because I was too scared to go into the pool because at the bottom it was slimy and I thought a shark was down there. The only thing we got to do was go to Subway and eat lunch. We ate dinner at McDonalds in the car. And then I got to see my parents again.


    "So I recommend the enjoyment [of life]. People have nothing better to do under the sun than to eat, drink, and enjoy themselves. This joy will stay with them while they work hard during their brief lives which God has given them under the sun." Ecclesiastes 8:15

    Thursday, June 27, 2013

    I Spy

    For ten days Gabriel was in New York with his grandma, and Ariel is currently at youth camp. The house has been eerily silent. While I've missed both of my children, I completely enjoyed that extra time alone with Zech. I know it will soon be upon us when he begins kindergarten, and my life will change drastically. For twelve years I have stayed at home with my kids. I'm excited and scared about this next step of my life.

    Zechariah is your typical little kid who loves playing I Spy. We have look and find books, and "I Spy" puzzles and games. We have some conversation stones we use at dinner and his favorite are the stones with colors on them.

    No matter where we are he will say, "Mommy, I spy with my little eye something blue... green... yellow... white..." The game never stops for him. In fact, he's been talking about having an I Spy birthday party for some time now.

    This week we had an I Spy day together. We played I Spy for hours. That is an act of love for me. I can only handle so much before I get tired. My brain can't take it.

    For some added enjoyment we made our own I Spy picture to look at. It was so much fun to go around the house gathering items and toys to put in the photo. We found some really random items that were special to Zech.

    I have a white foam poster board that I like to use for pictures. We put all our things on top of it as close as possible and snapped a photo. We strategically placed a few buttons and other small objects in "hidden" places. It was so easy and has already provided hours of fun for Zech.



    I know we will be making several I Spy pictures in the future. We can do theme I Spy. Trains. Cars. Craft Supplies. Food. The ideas are endless!

    Since becoming a Compassion and World Vision sponsor I am always on the lookout for new and fun paper gift items to send to our sponsored kids. I think this would be fun for them! We could laminate the two photos onto a piece of construction paper. This could become a whole series of I Spy pictures and we could mail them with our letters each month!

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    The Gift of Giving

    "The only way you can truly get more out of life for yourself is to give part of yourself away."
    -Jim Stovall-

    "One of the key principles in giving, however, is that the gift must be yours to give- either something you earned or created or maybe, simply, part of yourself."

    As I've said before, I meet monthly with my friends to discuss a book we've read and to watch the movie of it, if possible. This is one of my favorite activities that I take part in. It's such a great opportunity to have that time to look forward to.

    In May we were given the challenge of reading, The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall. It is a very motivating book. If you haven't read it yet, I would highly recommend it to you. And to top it all off, there is a corresponding movie to watch. Movies don't normally live up to the expectations I set after reading a book, but this one does a more than adequate job.

    When we got back together to discuss our book, I challenged the rest of the ladies to follow in Jason's footsteps. Each month Jason was given 30 days to complete his task. The month I wanted us to focus on was the Gift of Giving.

    For the entire month, until we met again, we were challenged to give of ourselves each and every day. I printed off calendars for everyone to keep track of this on. It could be something as simple as letting someone go in front of you at the grocery store, to giving up your close parking spot. It could be costly as well, as long as you were giving from your heart and in some kind of sacrificial way. It could be babysitting for a friend, or writing a letter of encouragement. The ideas are endless.

    We met together a week ago and shared how our month went. It was so uplifting! I loved hearing about the time these ladies gave to others and the creativeness that they showed. I want to challenge you to do the same. Spend the next 30 days giving of yourself. See what happens! I guarantee you will be blessed.

    If you're already familiar with The Ultimate Gift, you might also have heard of The Ultimate Life. It takes it one step further for Jason. In the first book he must learn how to apply the gift of giving to his own life. In book two he figures out how to share that gift with others and teaches them to give.

    I tried to get my family and kids involved as much as possible in this challenge. For the first month of summer vacation we practiced giving to others. We were richly rewarded.

    Just to inspire you, I thought I would share a few highlights from our 30 days of giving.

    We volunteered at our church and cleaned the chairs in the auditorium.


    On Memorial Day we bought a bouquet of flowers and went to the cemetery near our home. We each took turns picking out a grave to leave them on. For each person we chose, we said a prayer for the families that have been left behind. You could do this any time of year.


    One of our favorite things we did was writing encouraging notes and leaving them on cars anonymously. We wrote the letters before we left our home, and then we purchased more flowers. The kids each had two notes to leave. They were very excited about this!

    I loved how seriously they put thought into where and whom would receive them. Prayers would go up and God would show them what parking lot we were to drive to, and what car we should stop at. If the people who received them were half as blessed as my children who were giving them away, they were in for a treat. The kids thought this was the most exciting thing to do! Gabe requested we do it every week. He can't wait to be a grownup and be able to drive around delivering secret gifts.

    One of Gabe's notes read: You are spectacular because God loves you very much, even when you make mistakes. So remember God loves you.


    One of Ariel's notes: You are a lion or lioness of God. He handcrafted and made you unique. He loves you so much. Even if other people don't, God thinks your a very cool person. God loves you so much he gave up his life for you.


    One of Zech's notes: God loves you very much and he will never forget how he loves you. You are special. He made you happy, and strong and courageous.


    I believe each of them had a word from God for some very special individual. All I told them was to write from their heart what they wish someone might say to them. I was blown away with their words. I think each of them showed great maturity. It was an unbelievable afternoon... to say the least.


    On another day we left a gift of mini chocolate bars and a thank you note for our mail carrier to find.



    After donning some stylish blue gloves, we picked up trash in the parking lot of our movie theater. One parking lot, four bags of trash!



    The kids baked some chocolate chip cookies and made thank you cards for our neighborhood firemen. This was another one of those things the kids really enjoyed doing, and the firemen were so receptive. They let the kids play around on the fire trucks and showed us around the station. It was an equally rewarding experience!



    "Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you." Deuteronomy 16:17

    I challenge you for the next 30 days to give of yourself. You will receive back far more than you ever hoped to give!