Friday, December 26, 2014

Christian Christmas Conflict

JOY to the world the Lord has come!

     I LOVE Christmas!  LOVE IT!!!  This year was weird.  I love putting up all the decorations, but this year I couldn't wait until today to take them down and get back to "normal."  Normal?  Whatever that is!   I felt like Christmas came at me like a freight train, and I couldn't quite catch my breath to enjoy it.  I had a huge "aha moment" as we call them in teaching.
     As a Christian, we try so hard to keep Jesus the focus of Christmas, but truly I LOVE all the hustle and bustle of the season. I love the lights, the parties, the get-togethers, the shopping, the Christmas cards, the hoopla of it all.   I love giving gifts, and especially love it when I feel like I got the gift "right," that special gift that wasn't expected.   This year, I realized it's really tough for me to enjoy it all and not buy into the materialism of Christmas that I actually DO enjoy too.  I enjoy the buying and giving (though I hate the bank account part of that too).  I kinda figured that this is all part of what makes Jesus the reason for the season for me too.  I love showing people around us just how special they are to us. I love giving all the teachers that help Lauren and Taylor a special something to let them know we do really appreciate them.  It's really great when you feel like you get something that hits the mark too.  I had to stop second-guessing everything I was doing and simply enjoy the act of giving.  It is the best feeling.
     This year I also realized how much I want to focus... really laser-beam focus... on some special people next year.  I want the girls and I to make an event out of our Operation Christmas Child boxes and invite others to join us on that special project.  (This year Taylor kissed her box before dropping it off, saying, "I know they'll never see that, but I love this kid already.")  I want to make the single women we know feel honored and special with treasured gifts.  I want to help at a local Ronald McDonald House with a group of caroling children and bring a meal or two because this year I know a family at one in Michigan.  I've heard their story of how much RMH has given them a safe haven in an exhausting trial with their own 1-pound micro-preemie. 
     A highlight this year was watching Lauren and Taylor buy Mike and I a gift.  They had planned for 2 days with secret "meetings" and asked if I could take them to Starbucks.  When we went grocery shopping at Albertsons, they headed on to the Starbucks located inside the store.  I passed by at just the right time.  They were at the front of the line 11 and 13-year-old handing over their own hard-earned money to the gal to buy Mike and I each a drink container with a gift card inside.  It literally brought me to tears, and they had no idea their mom was watching.  That was the first thing they wanted us to open Christmas morning.  I saw that it truly is more of a gift to give than receive.
Merry Christmas 2014!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Introducing Caroline Jane

"Be still and know that I am God."      Psalm 46:10

      Caroline is our newest niece born on December 9th.  She is a picture of perfection.  We got to meet her on the 11th, and it was the highlight of the week and who knew exactly how much of a highlight it would be.  It was also the beginning of some quiet time that needed to happen.
     We got to visit Caroline, Jess (my sister-in-law), Luke (brother), and 2 nephews.  It was awesome to be in their home, holding a precious and perfect newborn and seeing our nephews love on her, as well as rough around with us...awesome stuff to be in the superhero world with a 4 and 2-year-old since my daughters were more into the princess thing at that age.  We learned some cool stuff!!!
      Later in the week, Lauren got sick and we just had to stay at home...not what I thought I'd be doing the week before Christmas.  I am so thankful for the down time because we've gotten some crazy news this week...a dear college friend diagnosed with Stage 4 spine cancer.  She has 2 daughters as well.  Talk about being thankful for the time with Lauren on the couch this week to just be still.  We also learned of some close friends whose marriage needs big-time prayer.  I've gotten news of a highly influential teacher in Garden Grove and a father of 2 former students who have passed away, and other trials in our extended family and with friends.  I realized that Christmas stuff would get done but some visits had to happen first.  Time with people is far more important than some of the chaos I buy into this time of year...more on that soon...
     It's been a tough couple of weeks, but I realized the Lord gave us the sweetest time with Luke, Jess, and their family as a little token of what it means to slow down and appreciate what's and life abundantly!!!  It's been dear and meant so much to us.

Caroline, with brothers Tyler (goofball :0)  and Charlie, Taylor and Lauren

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Crashing the Chatterbox

     Lauren's new softball team is meeting up with a different level of play, and a couple weeks ago we had a tournament.  Lauren has worked so so hard these last couple months...practicing 5-7 days a week at HER request!   Mike's been taking her to the cages at least 3 days a week, again at her request.  We have been blown away by her dedication. 
     It was all put on the line when she got up to bat.  She had a few grounder for a hit, a caught fly ball to right field, and two...yes two...strikeouts on check swing called third strikes.  The crazy thing is, she's never in 8 years and about 12 softball seasons had these check swings.  She might swing and strike out, but she goes for it with gusto!  Lauren was furious with herself.
     At the end of this game with two called check-swing strikeouts, we got in the car and the flood gates burst with tears.  She was so angry with herself.  She was angry that she could get "caught" like that not once, but twice.  We had a great conversation and are looking forward to another chance this weekend.
      I thought so much about those words, "Twice, Mom?  Really?  How could I do that twice?"  How many times do I ask myself the same thing, but it's more like this, "I did it again?  How can I do that same thing again?  I just went over it and promised myself I wouldn't do it." 
      What is your again?  So often for me, it's not losing my cool at homework time or over rushing out the door, or getting pulled into the gossip or letting the house get out of control again, or far more serious like saying the wrong thing at the wrong time that I just can't take back and will stick in my girls' or students' hearts.  Those things cause negative self talk like crazy and cause havoc in my heart.  I know in my heart to give these frustrations and failures over to God and let Him change me from the inside, but I get stubborn and think I can fix it.  He loves when we give it up because He changes us and then He gets the glory where it's due. 
    There's a great book I've read called, Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick.  It's so great about letting the Lord speak truth into our lives when we're doing nothing but running a marathon of negativity in our brains.  I love that I can be striking out nonstop, but God sees me as a homerun hitter on His team!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Seeing Light

     A friend shared this Facebook post with me yesterday. I was moved to tears for so many reasons.  First, the fact that this man is seeing light for the first time in 30 years is mind-blowing!  Watching him and his wife together is so beautiful.  Watching their intimacy as they pray and thank the Lord for the miracle is a gift.  Watching the doctors share their excitement is contagious.  Watching, watching, watching, and hearing...hearing what this man had to say moved me beyond the images on the screen.
     "I can see light, and we can go from here."  Oh man, I got choked up hearing him say these words knowing what he meant physically.  Taylor would be a different traveler if she had light perception.  The independence factor goes up exponentially!  AND, I thought of this.  Once we see the Light of Jesus, we can go from here.  That moment we see and know Jesus wherever we are, that's when we really get to move.  It doesn't make things perfect or easier, it just makes the journey brighter.  As Larry's wife says, "It's only going to get better." 
     I loved what the doctor says, "So the journey is just beginning.  This is Day 1."   I want my journey to keep seeing the LIGHT brighter and brighter and pointing others to that same Light!

Here's the address to view the full video...a MUST see!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Welcome to the Circus

     First Corinthians 13- The LOVE Chapter

     It isn't often that I write about my classroom.  I love my job! I love teaching part-time with the MOST AMAZING partner ever!  Susie grows me.  She and I make a great team.  We've done the team-teaching thing for over 13 years now.  We've taught together WAY longer than we've been on our own. We love seeing these kids transform each year.  This year's class is going to challenge us far beyond our limits.  I guess that's where God wants me so He can intervene.  I keep telling Lauren, where you're weak, He is strong.  I am guessing God wants ME to hear this lesson, much more so than Lauren cause boy do I need it!
     We've had a 3rd grader suspended (Really...not even kidding) for something awful...threatening the teachers.  (I was kind of glad it was Susie's day not mine ;0) )   We have had kids licking the glue sticks, smacking each other in the butt, our non-English students telling us about threats to him and his twin brother from other kids in our class.  Kids are gluing pieces of paper to their faces like mustaches.  We've had family meetings because of crying spells that start as soon as we meet our kids in line.  We've learned of divorces, parents killed in car accidents, fighting in the homes, couches and floors for beds, and the list goes on.  The crazy thing about all this is these kids are for real!  These are their lives.  I realize there's nothing I really can do but love on them the best I can, do the best I can to teach them the rigorous material we're responsible for (even though 9 out of 25 can't read above the 1st grade level), and again LOVE them!!!
      I've resorted to writing in Sharpie a little message each day because I find myself losing my mind daily.  I start each day with a High-Five, Handshake, or Hug but am often worn out early in the day.  I am also praying for each one of these kiddos before the day starts and wanting to go from desk to desk to pray specifics over them.  I am asking lots of people I know to pray for our class, for me to have supernatural insight and wisdom to get through to them.  It's going to be an interesting year and one that requires FAR more than me!!! 

P.S.  I'll never be a hand model!

Saturday, September 27, 2014


     Middle school is truly happening.  The good, the bad, and the it all is in one story.
     Taylor came home the other afternoon and asked as we were heading to jiu jitsu practice, "Mom, am I handicapped?"
     I answered, "You're handicapable, Taylor."  (Our joke following a piano recital when a student mentions this PC term as the appropriate way to describe blind people.)  I continue, "Taylor,  by the world's standards you are handicapped.  By God's standards, you are exactly the masterpiece He created and knew He would create."  Topic dropped, and we were off and running for the rest of the evening.
     Fast forward to bed time...
     Taylor told Lauren and I that someone called her handicapped at P.E.  She continued, "It's OK though because my friend Thayna called them idiots, and I yelled out, 'I heard that.'"  She kept telling us about the other students on her football team sticking up for her telling the kid, "She's blind not deaf."  The whole team was on Taylor's side against this one ignorant child.
     As I was soaking it in and wanting to punch this kid in the nose (which is probably why kids don't want their parents on the middle school campuses often), Lauren chimed in, "Taylor, you should've just told him you are handicapped, and that's why you get to go to the front of the line at Disneyland."  I loved hearing this interaction and loved that these kids stuck up for Taylor even through the heartache as a mom hearing this was what she had to go through this day.  It stinks being different, especially in middle school when most kids just want to blend into the crowd.

     I also got to thinking about all the ways I am handicapped and God lets me to the front of the line anyway.  He's gonna let me right into heaven because I've got my "ticket."  I asked Jesus to forgive me and be my Savior.  I'm in.  I'm handicapped every time I'm asked to share our family's story.  He gives me courage and strength to share His words anyway.  I'm handicapped when I lose my cool.  He forgives me anyway.  I'm handicapped when I make a stupid comment or judgment just like this kid.  He shows me tenderly the right way to see others. Handicapped...and handicapable!

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Little Bit of Softball

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6
     Lauren has taken the plunge into travel softball, and as her family, so have we!  This was not a decision that came quickly or lightly.  It was thought over, prayed over, and cried over.  Lauren has always played soccer in the fall and softball in spring, but in thinking forward to high school (just a year away), she decided to hang up the soccer cleats and pursue softball for a full year.  
     We had planned to have her on a specific team with a specific coach with specific kids...a coach we knew, a coach whose style we liked, kids we chose and loved, and a team where Lauren would most likely get lots of playing time.  Did you see all that??? We chose, we chose, we chose!  Somehow none of that worked out...BUT Lauren's long-time coach pursued her!  He told us flat out she'd get minimal field time for tournaments. 
     We said, "Thanks, but no thanks!" 
     He said, "Think about it." 
     We said, "Yep, we did, and no thanks."
     Lauren went to a try-out, and little did we know, most of the teams were previously formed this was just a formality.     Every time we prayed about what to do with Lauren, a phone call from this coach would follow...literally 3 times in one week!   Finally, we all agreed to give this a shot for six months.  (We all did, but there were many tears over our plans...well thought out ones I might add... not working out from a couple family members.)

     Here's are some of the crazy things:
1)  Lauren is LOVING her 6 times a week workouts...sometimes 7  AND she's asking Mike to take her to them!
2)  The facility from which the team works out is run by a man whose daughter plays for a local Christian college. 
3)  Even crazier....that local Christian college wears jerseys from this guy's facility! 
4)  Even crazier still...we had just been introduced to that college's assistant coach...who attends our church!  She asked Lauren to sign up for their fall camp because they are often looking for great players, but even more importantly great hearts!  My girl has definitely got heart!!! 

God sees our tears, He's got bigger better plans, and He's in the details of everything.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Running the Race with Confidence

    “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him."  Jeremiah 17:7

      Taylor gets to run relay races once-in-a-while at jiu jitsu.  The other day I was watching and kind of laughing at her idea of trusting her sighted guide.  Taylor's running is "protected"  with her body moving forward but with a very tentative trust between her and her guide.  I'll have to get a picture of what it looks like because it's like she tries to go forward but her upper body is stiff and tilted backward.  The bottom line is she isn't fully trusting her sighted guide to lead her at a running pace.  She's great when they're jogging, but sprinting is a totally different story.
     Of course, I had a moment when I realized my walk with Jesus is much the same.  When things are cruising, I am much more trusting to take Jesus's hand and have Him lead me.  BUT, when the pace picks up and circumstances are out of my hands, I am much more hesitant to take Jesus by the hand and really run with Him.  I want to, but I'm afraid.  I loved seeing it in action!  I also want to grab hold of Him and really go for it... trusting He's really got me in the palm of His hand.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Day of School 2014

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:33-34

     I have been excited about having both girls back on the same campus for a long time!  Just thinking about one PTA meeting a month, one place to focus my efforts, one set of calendar's all very freeing in a way.  I've been conflicted with the "no more elementary school kids" thing for a while but thought I'd be over it quickly.  Not true...
     Yesterday was my first day of school with my 3rd grade class.  Being a teacher is so much fun, and we get the same "First Day Jitters" as the kiddos.  (Great book I might add too!) Yesterday flooded me with emotions as I walked out to greet my class and saw all the parents mingling, watching their kids from afar or trying to peel them off their own legs, while the kids kicked and screamed their way to the Kindergarten or 1st grade line.  I was sad realizing that wouldn't be the same vibe on the middle school campus for my daughters' first day of school.  It was my first year not having an elementary schooler, and I felt caught off guard  (not the best way to start my own school year with a fresh set of eager faces).
     Today, was HUGE!  Not to anyone else but me...(or maybe to all those moms across the country whose youngest was starting middle school today too).
     Taylor starts her day about 40 minutes earlier than anyone else to receive her Braille tutoring.  Her teacher is amazing and wanted to start on the first day of school.  I thought this would be fantastic, and I'd even get to see Miss Jamie before the new year officially got underway.  Instead, I drove to the curb, got the girls out of the car and loaded up with backpacks, P.E. clothes, and all Taylor's additional materials (cane and BrailleNote) to start the day.  I was just about to take a step toward campus when Lauren says, "We got it, Mom.  I'll walk Taylor to class.  I know where we're going."
     "Um, OK.  Bye.  Have a great day.  Love you!"  That's what came out, but inside I was thinking, "Um, nope.  I'm going to meet Miss Jamie, make sure you're at the right door, and wait until a student or two arrives...then I'll leave before you are completely embarrassed by your MOM... But today is my day too!"  (How glad am I that that didn't come out????)
     I was so proud and scared and nervous and excited at the same time.  They are becoming more independent.  That opened up a whole other can of fears and anxieties I didn't even realize were there.  Why am I thinking about next year and the years ahead when today had enough to worry about?
     Another thought came to mind a little later in the day.  God...He prepares us for what He wants us to accomplish. He doesn't throw us out there right away.  He prepares us one step at a time for what will be growth and opportunity for growing...if we just take those little steps one at a time.
     The last view of the girls walking hand-in-hand today was breathtaking.  I saw a beautiful picture of them working together and walking together.  I also saw how God gently guides us alongside us to take those steps into new adventures.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Walking by Faith

"We walk by faith, not by sight."  2 Corinthians 5:7

     Jeremy Camp sings an amazing song called, "I Will Walk by Faith."  The lyrics go on to say even when I cannot see. It's always been one of my favorites since it came out several years ago.  This last month has been filled with lots of unknowns.  I have shared with my husband, Mike, that I feel a little like we're in the Spin Cycle of the washing machine.  I don't exactly know what's in store for us.  Of course, that's the truth always....we have no idea what's coming our way, but we usually have several "knowns" going on in the midst of what might be coming.
     We're in the middle of lots of unknowns right now.  Lauren has started a new adventure with softball, a travel team, where we have no idea where we'll be going, how intense the schedule will be, IF she'll even be playing, how many weekends in a row they'll be playing...lots of unknowns.  On the flip side, we're excited about the challenge and new level of competition.  We're excited about the opportunity for her to play on this team...personal invitations don't come around all that often.  (This story is a whole other post as we're seeing God's hand upon it.)
     Taylor is starting middle school.  Yikes!  SCARY is all I can say, but I can't say that out loud when Taylor's around because we all know we have to be strong for our kids.  Inside I'm freaking out, but on the outside cool as a cucumber (at least I think that's what's coming across).  Scared of the schedule, scared of the homework load, scared of how she'll be embraced/not embraced by her peers, scared of how the teachers will handle her.  The flip side is that I'm thrilled to be seeing this next stage of life coming her way, and she's both nervous and excited as well.
     Mike's job is always an unknown.  In commission-only real estate, we never know if a sale is coming, if a paycheck is coming, if there's something ahead.  We are trusting every day the Lord to provide.  I have no idea what kind of class I'll have this year, what kinds of new ideas are going to be thrown my way.  We are trusting Him on this walk by faith and there's no where I'd rather be.  The security of knowing He's got me right where He wants me is worth the scary feelings of the unknown.  I'd much rather walk God's path for me by faith than try to figure the path out on my own.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Secret Location

     Yesterday was our first Car Rallye (yep, that's the way it's spelled) with Braille Institute.  The blind kiddos are the navigator for drivers who bring their decked out cars to Los Angeles.  The parking lot was full of 48 cars...."Old Fashioned" ones, police cars, vintage ones, Porsches, Back-to-the-Future styled DeLoreans, souped-up everythings, Vipers, smart cars.  Basically, you name it, it may have been there.  It was a sight to see...and watching the kids feel their way around their cars was awesome!
     The coolest thing about the event is there is a secret location only a few parents (who ask until they find out like me) and the organizers know about.  The drivers are expected to take direction from the students who read the directions in Braille.  The drivers CAN read the Large-Print directions if they choose, but they are not allowed to run for the winners' categories if they do so.  They totally trust this blind child sitting next to them.  It's so stinkin' cool!
     I was one of the few parents to hang out with the kids since I was new to the event and like to see what these things are all about before trusting anyone with my kid for 4 hours in a car alone.  I was so thankful Taylor was with a husband and wife team.  They seemed great enough to spend the day with Taylor.  I watched the send off and figured I'd meet up with them at the secret location several hours later. Off they went.  I LOVED BEING THERE!

      I got to meet up with Taylor, Miss Patty, and Mr. Skip after 4 hours!!!  They literally spent the entire time driving, taking direction from an 11-year-old blind girl, and getting to know each other a little better along the way.  Taylor found out this couple lost their 40-something year-old son to cancer about a year ago.  She told them how sorry she was.  They found out her secret boyfriend is Scotty McCreary when his song belted out of the radio.  She told them about her sister, her parents.  They told her how much fun they have spending time with children and giving back to the community since they don't have grandchildren of their own.  Taylor was exhausted after the drive, and Patty and Skip let me know she was their first navigator who hadn't fallen asleep on the road! 
     As I was driving home, I realized this event is much like life with Jesus.  I am born into the world, and as soon as we make our entrance, we're rushed off to the great game of Life.  We can have the directions in our Bibles and through prayer, but really we have no idea what the exact directions for our life say.  For Christians, we know our "secret location" is Heaven, and I know I get to be reunited with my Father and family one day.  In the meantime, I'm doing my best to navigate the way and making mistakes en route.  It's comforting knowing the Lord is truly doing the driving and my back is covered if I get too far off track.  I love that He allows us to make mistakes and guides us back onto the right path.  He doesn't just take over, He wants us to experience the thrill of the ride all the while being right there with us.  Sometimes, it's totally painful and other times we're riding the mountaintops.  One day we get to make it to our not-so-secret Secret Location! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

5th Grader of the Year

    "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  Hebrews 10:24-25

     I'd been dreading the last day of elementary school for about 2 years now.  There are no words to describe the gratitude we have for every student and teacher, staff member and parent at Smith Elementary School.  Everyone was amazing from the first day of Kindergarten with Lauren to the last day of 5th grade with Taylor.  We tried to do what we could to thank them over the years, but it was in June that things just really felt totally overwhelming emotionally. 
     Several parents and I put together a luncheon thanking the staff for their many years of dedication to those of us whose youngest child was moving on to middle school.  It was a way of looking back over the years and thanking teachers for their love and support for our children.  I look back at the way the Kindergarten and 1st grade teachers took a chance on Taylor without knowing what kind of experience it would be for them, for us, for the other children, for anyone.  They never doubted themselves or Taylor's abilities once.  The other children and parents at Smith embraced Taylor the moment they saw her which was 2 years before she ever started Kindergarten because she'd be with me dropping off and picking up Lauren.  It was remarkable.
     The last week of 5th grade is a special awards ceremony.  Parents are welcome, and students are given awards for academics, attendance, responsibility, citizenship, artistic talents, and several others.  There is one award honoring a 5th grader each year.  Taylor received that honor. 
     We had no idea and almost didn't make this assembly a priority because of our work commitments.  It wasn't that we didn't think it was important or special, it was just trying to figure out what we could miss work for and what we couldn't this last week of school.  There are so many different events that come up.  I am SOOOOO thankful we were there!  We asked my parents to go, and my aunt visiting from Spokane was there too.
     The emotions of the month welled up inside me as I realized they were going to honor Taylor. Mrs. Beck, our principal, read a paragraph of Taylor's accomplishments and mentioned that at Outdoor Science School a huge group of her classmates helped her reach a steep peak, guiding her and cheering her on those last grueling steps.  (After the ceremony, I just let it all go with my dad's arm around my shoulder.  It was completely overwhelming.)  I realized all the people involved in making this award happen. Every teacher, every student, every parent, each staff member had been a part of Taylor receiving this award.  If it could ever have been given to an entire class this was the year.  Taylor's successes are only because of all the people who surround her.  The encouragement she's received from Day 1 has gotten her where she is.  The belief that she can do all things through Christ who gives her strength (Phillipians4:13) is evident in what she does and who she is.  The understanding of building others up and spurring one another on to do good works (Hebrews 10:24) is how she gets it done.  Never before have I seen so clearly how the Body of Christ can work and has to work for God to move mightily!  And to think I almost missed it
     How many times have I almost missed God's timing or have I missed His calling?  I am beyond grateful for this experience in so many ways.  How many times do I almost miss it, and how many times do I miss out on working together with others because I think I can get it done?  Taylor's award was representative of mountains being moved TOGETHER! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Just Say Yes

     This has been a fantastic few weeks...insane scheduling and chaotic time, but fantastic!!!  Lauren has reluctantly said yes to a couple of things that have had huge payoffs.  The "Yes Attitude" has paid off in tremendous ways!
     Lauren was a catcher in our championship tournament for softball a few weeks ago.  She hasn't played catcher since she was in the 8U division, (5 years ago!) and she only played 2 weeks back then.  She had a blast using her regular mitt rather than the specific catcher's mitt, calling pitches, seeing the game from a completely different angle, and even held the runners at their bases.  She looked like a bit of a pro, not that I'm biased or anything!  She was afraid of being in that spot but said yes anyway.  It paid off!
     A week later, she was partnered up as a "Buddy" for a special needs child at Beach Cities Church's weeklong camp.  She was not too excited about this volunteer position, but we discussed committing to the role for the first week of camp since it was where the staff felt she would best be utililized.  (I told her if she wasn't comfortable with it, she could take on a different job for the 2nd week of camp.)  She reluctantly agreed.  Well, we found out she was Buddied with our dear friend Scotty.  He is a 6 year-old vibrant, handsome, charming, energetic little guy who happens to have a mild case of Cerebral Palsy.  Scotty and Lauren bonded immediately!  Each day he would run from his parents to Lauren as soon as he saw her on campus.  It was beautiful!
     I saw reluctant and hesitant "yeses" turn into some pretty special moments and memories.  How often am I reluctant to say Yes to the Lord because it just doesn't seem to fit into my schedule, my plan, my desires?  I loved seeing Lauren's yes turn into these beautiful memories, and I can certainly look back with fondness at the times I've trusted the Lord and said yes when I feel that nudge (or push) to go for it.  I guess the lesson  for me is to Just Say Yes!!!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Waiting on the Lord

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans."  Proverbs 16:3

     Mike's mom has had some really challenging months recently.  She's been diagnosed with a kidney issue, has been hospitalized three times in the last three months, has lost part of a toe, and has been dealing with vision loss for about five years.  Let's add to that that her husband had a stroke about five years ago and has had lots of struggles since that time.  They live independently and manage to pretty well.  It takes more work, but most of the time they handle things on their own...until this year. 
     We've tried to rally around Russ and Bev as a family and have seen recently that some of these things are just out of our grasp.  We can't help the way we want to or they need us to.  Additionally, they aren't able to do the things they used to be able to do independently.  Last weekend was rough to say the least.  They were trying to do something on their own that they actually needed help with.  They don't want to inconvenience anyone, but it ended up becoming a bigger issue that took up more time, efforts, and energy to deal with on everyone's part.  It also created a health risk issue for Bev that could have easily been avoided.
     It hit me that my life with Jesus is much the same.  I try so hard to do the things I can all by myself rather than committing it all to Christ.  I wait until problems come up, and they end up being bigger issues than if I had just prayed through it in the first place or "talked with God" and worked it out with Him first.  I often create my own problems rather than trusting Him in the first place.  I want to be independent at times rather than yoked up to the One who makes my burdens light.  I find myself so much more at peace when I surrender my wants and timelines to the Creator of Time Himself, to the One who knows me best and knows what best for me. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Patience PLEASE

1 Corinthians 13:4-7  "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

      I promised to take Taylor on the bus one day during Easter Vacation.  It's a big deal because this is how Taylor is going to get around for much of her future...that is if she can't convince her sister to take her around and earn some gas money...
     I had this crazy realization as I was tapping my fingers, checking out my phone, and looking every 2.5 seconds for the bus to come.  (We happened to be about 15 minutes early!)  Taylor's entire life will be about patience.  She'll have to wait for someone to pick her up, drop her off, wait for someone to give her directions, wait for someone to help her out...wait wait wait wait wait.  Then wait some more. 
      Taylor is really good at being patient, and she's really good at taking her time.  I am NOT!  I want to move fast, get there fast, do hundreds of things up until the last second, then push the limits of time but relish in being there right on time with my to-do list checked off.  Sitting with Taylor and seeing how bad I am at waiting made me realize I am not helping her out for the future by satisfying my own instant gratification problems.  I am also realizing that patience helps me listen better.  I had a blast listening to Taylor and having some fun conversation with her.
   Of course, I also see how patient God is with me, but that's another entry for another day!
Waiting for the bus...practicing patience
We have reached our destination! Just a bustrip away

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bev's Prayer Mat

     My mother-in-law, Bev is an amazing prayer warrior!  She was so sick for about 4 months, and the doctors finally figured it all out after a few days in the hospital and pumping her with lots of different medications, followed by lots of medications at home.  One of the things I found out while helping her around her house was that she has had a prayer mat for fact, the same prayer mat for years! 
     I looked on her table and saw this gardening mat.  It was worn so badly that I just had to inquire about it.  She told me it was her prayer mat and that she used it almost every day during her prayer time.  She was feeling badly that she hadn't been able to physically get down on her needs most days these last few months.  The most amazing thing about this is that Bev has suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for most of her life.  I never dreamed of her being on her knees every day.  I knew she prayed for us, for others, for the church prayer requests, for any requests people make known to her, but I never realized she physically got down on her knees.  It blew me away.
     I also got to thinking about each of the crevasses and creases I saw in that mat, and realized each one stood for a person or people and their needs brought to her attention.  I was humbled because I knew that mat had my name on it.  It had Mike's name, Lauren's and Taylor's.  It had the names of several family members who we had prayed for and who Bev prayed for.  It also had the answers to prayers upon that mat.
     Bev got me my own prayer mat.  I hope it's as worn as hers one day!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Taylor!

     Today Taylor turned 11!  Today was awesome in so many ways.  I got to hang out with the Birthday Girl for much of the day, teaching art in her class and having lunch together.  After school, we went to Lauren's softball game which also happens to be one of Taylor's favorite things to do. She kept saying, "This is the greatest birthday ever!" throughout the day.  What joyous words to hear for a mom.
     One of Taylor's latest talents is being able to call balls and strikes, high and low pitches, pitches in the dirt and over the catcher's head strictly from listening to where the ball is caught (or not).  It's incredible...and she's nearly always right.  Tonight was no exception, and it got me thinking.  What if I was that in tune with the Lord's voice?  What if I could decipher His voice that clearly?  What am I doing to be more in tune with Him all day long?  Tonight was a great lesson for me.
     After the game, Taylor got to experience the catcher's gear first hand.  She couldn't get over how heavy it was and how much work it was to get it on and off all game long.  She asked questions about why it was needed and what each piece was for.   This got me thinking too.  I have to get my equipment and gear ready for the fast balls, curve balls, and change-ups of life.  That would come in the form of putting on the whole armor of God in Ephesians.  Now I'll definitely think of His armor as our catcher comes out prepared for each inning.

"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:11-17

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Volumes of Growth


      I took this picture a couple days ago when Taylor's second copy of her Brailled math book arrived for us to lug home. The two boxes filled with braille volumes is the same content included in the purple text book. (It was ordered in June last year, so it took a little while.  Luckily, the school's copy was there for her to use beginning in September.)    I looked at this photo in a whole different light after a few minutes.  This picture symbolizes the growth I've made since Taylor's birthday nearly 11 years ago.
     The sheer immensity of the volumes and volumes of books can be overwhelming as I look at it compared with the print version Lauren in holding in her hands.  I realize since Taylor's birthday, I have grown by volumes!  I have also had to "lug" some lessons around.  It isn't easy and sometimes feels overwhelming.  It can't be carried all at once.  I have to learn a little bit at a time or I become paralyzed with fear.  I need help carrying the load all the time, and I have been blown away by the support team God's given me in Mike, our family, and friends.  Just like the learning that comes from opening each volume of that book, I am so grateful for Taylor and the crazy volumes of learning that come from our life with her.  Now, I hope that next year when we get the Braille home copies of the literature, math, social studies, and science books it isn't a representation of the amount of learning I'll be doing in one year!!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Help Needed

     Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43

     A few weeks ago I was feeling like I wanted to do more to help at church.  I have definitely made a shift from helping at church to helping with the girls' schools and activities, and it's been a perfect switch for the time.  I have missed being involved with the families of our church on a more regular basis.  The last few months have been awesome...Lauren, Taylor and I help out once a month with the 2 & 3 year-olds.  Taylor also brings her keyboard and sings worship songs for both this age group and the 4 & 5 year-olds.  How sweet it's been to serve alongside my girls and watching their gifts and talents being used for Jesus.
     So along came an email just as I was contemplating how I could get a bit more involved looking for someone who would come up with craft ideas to go along with our stories of the month.  I definitely thought this was right up my alley and something I'd be interested in doing, especially since I didn't have to gather the materials, make the sample or anything...just get the ideas together and put it on paper for someone else to follow.  Basically, I would be writing a short craft lesson based on Bible stories...exactly what I LOVE to do in the classroom every day with our reading stories!
     So, I emailed our Children's Director back and said I was interested.  Guess what the first story would be....Bartimaeus, the man who couldn't see!  WHAT?  Are you kidding?  No way!  I knew this was definitely my new place to help.  Not only was the timing right, the story touches my heart each time I read it. 
     Bartimaeus is about a blind man who hears the commotion as Jesus is coming near and yells out, "Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!"  Everyone tells him to be quiet, but he shouts all the more...and louder!  He knew Jesus could heal him, and Jesus does indeed heal him.  The things I love about this story are that even though others told him to be quiet, Bartimaeus shouts all the louder to the One who could heal him.  I want to be shouting to the One who can heal me in all situations.  In the midst of the crowd, Bartimaeus hears Jesus's voice.  I want to hear Jesus in the midst of my crowded life.  In the midst of the crowd, Jesus hears Bartimaeus.  Jesus always hears me when I call.  Bartimaeus threw off his cloak and ran to Jesus when he couldn't see but followed His voice.  I can run to Jesus even when I am not clearly seeing the path He's laid out for me to follow.  And best of all, Bartimaeus's first sight is that of his healer...Jesus.  Jesus heals us on the inside and out.  Taylor's first sight will be Jesus.  Oh, how comforting and beautiful that is for me all the time.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


     There have been many Mom-moments in my life the last few weeks.  I have seen some super exciting "ups" but have seen some sad "downs" these last few weeks with respect to different moms in my life.  It's made me realize how lucky I am to be a mom, to have my mom and my mother-in-law, special friends, sisters and sisters-in-law for lifelong friends and role models.
     Yesterday, I was invited to a "Celebration of Life" for a "Kindergarten Mom" as we called ourselves, a group of 6 moms who met when our children were in Kindergarten together.  (Those kids are now in seventh grade!)  This woman, Sue, fought lung cancer before succumbing to it after 9 years.  She used every single day of that 9 years to invest in her one and only son, Jake.  Her son knew his mom because of Sue's daily fight to give him one more day with his mom.
     This month, an incredible woman lost her one and only opportunity to become a mom when the surrogate chosen to carry their baby miscarried that unborn life.  This woman was Lauren and Taylor's 3rd grade teacher who has left her handprints all over my daughters' hearts.  She fought and won her battle with breast cancer, but she was diagnosed before she and her husband had children of their own.  I could not imagine a greater mom than Mrs. Edwards.  She mothers over 30 students each day, and she brings life into the classroom with her creativity stemming from the amazing things her mom taught her.
     I do not claim to understand the whys of this world, and often times, it's all I can do to put one foot in front of the other so I don't think too long and hard about the sufferings of others.  That is when I become paralyzed in my own functioning.  I do know these two women have made me appreciate my own daughters that much more.  I am grateful I get to spend time with them, grateful I get to learn about parenting and more about life in general because of them.  I am thankful for my own mom and the unbelievable memories we have together throughout my entire lifespan.  I am thankful for my mother-in-law who has taught me so much and has treated me like her own daughter.  I want to seize opportunities with Lauren and Taylor like never before.  I want to be a mom they love, respect, have fun with, and one with whom they can share all their ups and downs.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Best Day Ever

    There's this amazing foundation called "The Best Day Ever Foundation."  The name truly speaks for itself!  This organization puts together a day for disabled youth that can be the youngsters' best day ever.  Taylor got to experience a day of paddle boarding, outrigger canoeing, swimming, and all-around goofing off with her sister and two volunteers.  There were more volunteers than participants, and it was spectacular. 
     There was one interaction between Taylor and the paddle board instructor that cracked our whole family up. 

     "Do you see those dogs in the water?"  asks the instructor.
     "No. I can't see them," replies Taylor.
     "Here.  I'll point them out to you."  Instructor points to them. "Do you see them now?"
     "No, I can't see."
     "Oh," he says.  "It's hard to see them anyways," finishes paddle board instructor who doesn't understand that Taylor really CAN'T see them...EVER because SHE CAN'T SEE!!!

     I was definitely left with a great lesson to learn.  I feel like often times there are those obvious things RIGHT there in my life that I just can't see.  More often, it's because I don't want to look or really don't want to see what's right there before me.  Other times, it's God pointing out things to me subtly at first and then a little more directed.  I also realize things that are so obvious to others are things I am just not seeing. The opposite is true too.  I think that is why we need one another.  God uses Himself, others, and us to work together to point out new things.  It's such a beautiful example of strong teamwork and working together to make each day The Best Day Ever.

 Brooks (her instructor) and Taylor on the paddle board.

 Taylor and Lauren with their special volunteers for the day