Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter 2011

Easter, as established by my mother, is not merely a "Sunday-only" celebration. It lasts the whole weekend and we love it! Actually, the kids started with an egg hunt during their class on Thursday at church. No photos, but they got plenty of goodies! Then, on Friday, Josie and I worked on perfecting a special project that I will share about in another post. Saturday we put together the Easter baskets, laid out every one's clothes and cleaned house. I had so much fun putting together the kids' Easter baskets. Joel helped with a few special touches- can you tell which item is from him?

My cheese head on Easter morning. We surprised the kids with their baskets and DONUTS! Joel made a special early morning trip to pick them up so they would be fresh. Honestly, I think Josie might have been a little more excited over the donuts than the basket!

Carson was thrilled with his basket. If you don't follow me on Facebook, then you may not know that he broke his elbow on the 16th. We thought they would cast it on Monday and everything would be fine. Well, to make a long story short, they decided he needed emergency surgery to have pins put in on the18th. He had a splint that was HUGE and a sling that he had to wear all last week-of course, just in time for Easter!

The big basket surprise was games for the Nintendo DS's! Aunt Robyn generously supplied Carson with one when we saw her at my mom's last month and he hasn't had any of his own games. He was so pleased! Clearly, it is difficult to get a photo of Josie in the morning where she is not making a goofy face...

Easter clothes! I know, Carson looks ridiculous. But his splint was so big that he could only wear sleeveless shirts and I couldn't do that on Easter! It was cold and snowy, so I wanted him to be warm. He was fine with it, and it will certainly be memorable in the years to come. Jocelyn, of course, had to have a new "princess" dress. She also had new high heels- she was thrilled!

After church and lunch (at the Black-Eyed Pea-yum!) we invited our friends, the Fletchers, over for the afternoon. Despite the weather, the kids were anxious to hunt eggs outside. Kegan, my friend's son, was so cute! Every egg he found he put in Carson's basket. Despite my careful planning so that each child would have the same goodies and an equal number of eggs, the all ended up in Carson's basket! Carson's arm didn't slow him down for a minute- he raced around scooping up eggs with the best of them.

Carson even helped Jocelyn find some of her eggs. She raced her friend Bekah to see who could find all their eggs first.

Josie, slightly dismayed that Bekah won. Still everyone had a good time.

Carson demanded that I take a picture of, "me and my big daddy". Notice the sword? This is Carson's new favorite pose, and I won't deny it-it is pretty darn cute to see both my boys smiling together. We ended the day by eating candy, having a barbecue and finishing that project I mentioned earlier. It was a great day.

On Monday, we incorporated eggs into school. Carson divided all the eggs by color and Jocelyn used them as manipulatives for counting by ten. It was a big hit.

Then, of course, we dyed eggs! After dinner we let the little artists loose. Everyone wore their best-ha!

Daddy assisted one-armed Carson. Carson loved seeing the eggs change from white to colorful.

Who needs two hands? Carson can skillfully display his favorite eggs with just one!

Even Joel got in on the fun. He dyed his egg four different colors! So very clever...

Jocelyn put some wraps on her eggs to make them more special. She was so careful with her eggs, and she liked experimenting to see what combining different colors produced. She is our little scientist.

The finished creations. Aren't they beautiful?

A pretty traditional Easter, but it made everyone happy. I like stretching a celebration out- it is nice not to feel pressured to do everything all at once. And especially since the kids are still young, it keeps them interested prevents them from getting too tired. Okay, maybe it really just keeps me from getting too tired!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ladybug Baby Shower

I have had a couple of people ask me about how I do my banners. This is my fourth one, and I think they get better every time. The first part is thinking about how the banner will interact with the theme- namely, what is it about the theme that I want to say with the banner? For the "tiny" shower, I wanted it to be small. For the "farm"shower I wanted it to have barns. I need to post pictures of my Dad's 50th birthday party- it was a Flintstone's theme. That one was a little more tricky, but I wanted it to look Stone Age. This one was easy- ladybug theme- ladybugs on the banner! I always use the shower colors as my palette, that is a no-brainer. Next, I usually do a sketch like the one above. It is kind of a brain-dump, I figure out what I want to say, how many separate pieces I will need, and what I want to special pieces to look like. As you can see, I played around with the shapes of the pieces, and how I wanted the ladybugs to look. Ignore the numbers- I was re-using a piece of paper- I have to work while the inspiration is hot!

And the finished piece! I used pre-cut, peel and stick letters from Michael's. My sister suggested them for my dad's banner and they are WONDERFUL! It makes it look so much more put-together. I always do my special pieces first- in this case, the ladybugs. I wanted an oval, rather than round, shape. I realized I had a container that, fortunately for me, was the perfect size for my dollar store felt. This banner took: 2 packages of felt, (at mine I can get packs of red,white, black and green- perfect!) 1 roll of dollar store ribbon, 1 separate piece of yellow felt, black pom-poms, black pipe cleaners and two packs of pre-cut letters. The letters were definitely the most expensive part, they run around $6 a pack. However, Michael's takes competitors coupons, and I had a 40% off to use. That made them a little more reasonable, and also because they are so linear, it is easy to cut other letters to make the ones you need (for example, I lopped off the two tops lines of the "E" to make some extra "L"s.). I should have taken better photos, but the ladybugs have some great detail. Their spots are pom-poms, and the antennae are pipe-cleaners! I was really happy with how it turned out!
Not so happy with how this photo turned out, though. So blurry-ugh! I filled my vases with red carnations and they have little felt ladybugs on the front. My baby shower buddy, Sarah, handmade the scrapbook sheets for the guests to sign as gifts for the honorees ( it was a double shower- and one mom is having twins!). My friend Denise loaned us the adorable ladybug rainboots to add to the theme.

I decided to buy balloon sticks and I was really happy with how they turned out! Sarah did the tablecloth and the buckets. You can barely see the black and white pinwheel in the flower arrangements, but they were really cute.

Anyway, another shower that we pulled off in about a week! I really am considering going into business. Just kidding- there is no way Joel would let me! But it is really fun, and I know I will most likely be able to use my experience in the future.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just Like Judas

He couldn't have been all bad. There had to be some good in there. What was the tipping point? I just have a hard time believing that Jesus would have allowed Judas to be part of the twelve when there was only evil in his heart. Luke 6:16 says he, "became a traitor". Could it be that he started out in earnestness, truly desired to follow Jesus?

Today, I am thinking about the betrayal. It is ugly, and painful, but without it we really wouldn't have forgiveness of sin. Jesus died a horrific, traumatic death, to take my place. But what about Judas?

I have often wondered if it had to be Judas. I know that the Father knows everything, so He knew it would be Judas, but I really feel like if Judas had chosen to go another way, the Father would have allowed it. He is the perfect Redeemer, and He is not willing that any should perish. I know if Judas had asked, He would have forgiven him.

I don't think it happened overnight. In some ways, I picture a young, innocent Judas, eagerly joining the disciples. He might have been out to change the world, even. He obviously recognized how important Jesus was. He was one of the Twelve from the beginning- it wasn't like he just showed up at the last minute to commit his evil deed.

I think it was a slow, gradual, seduction. It probably began with a few grumbling thoughts. Perhaps he saw the wealth and prestige of the Pharisees and thought, "Why can't I have both? Why do wealth and Jesus have to be mutually exclusive?" Here he was following around a Man who lived hand to mouth-teaching ungrateful crowds, catching naps at the oddest times, fasting for days, Who had no place to lay His head. No glamour in that.

It is clear Judas had a thing for money. John 12:6 said he was the "keeper of the money bag". I think Jesus lived off donations. People gave as He touched their lives. We know Jesus had some fairly wealthy followers (Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, most likely there were others) so perhaps at times that purse was pretty full. Judas was in charge. One of the disciples needed new sandals? Go ask Judas. Time for dinner? Go get the money for bread from Judas. It was a position that demanded trust. And initially, I am guessing he earned it. He probably had proved himself an able accountant- perhaps he worked with numbers before he joined the disciples. Whatever the case, it would prove to be his downfall.

He decided that the things of this world, the things he could see and touch, were more valuable to him than serving the One who would die for us all. 30 measly pieces of silver- Delilah sold Samson out for considerably more, gaining 1,100 shekels from each Philistine ruler (Judges 16). I found that 30 pieces of silver in Jesus' day was often the price for a slave. How greedy was Judas? It seems like so little. Judas literally sold Jesus to be the ransom for us. But I am guessing at the time Judas didn't know that.

And by that point he probably didn't care. He had slowly, but surely, become so calloused in his heart that he could no longer discern between right and wrong. We are all familiar with his chastisement of Mary when she poured her perfume on Jesus' feet. He was jealous that all that wealth would be wasted- in his eyes at least- on the lowliest part of Jesus when it could have gone in Judas' pocket. He could only see his own ravenous appetite for personal gain. He was not rejoicing because his Master had been honored- he was angry because he felt slighted.

And then, when I stop to think about it, I feel sorry for him. I turned that feeling over and over. Why? He was the worst kind of traitor. He felt remorse over his actions- but not until the next day after Jesus had been found guilty. Had Judas held out hope that perhaps Jesus would be released? Surely, Judas recognized that Jesus had not done anything wrong.

I could have been Judas. That is why I feel such empathy with him. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) God can- and fear not, He does. He sees that the ability to do evil far greater than Judas exists in the human nature that often threatens to control me. Would I have sold Jesus? Yes, again and again.

If ever I allow my human appetites to control me, if I ever stop trying to "take every thought captive" (2 Corinthians 10:5), if I ever allow my gaze-even for just a moment- to be fixed on anything other than His wonderful face, than I am in danger of becoming Judas. Judas knew Jesus, but when the time came to make it count, Judas was more concerned with the immediate than the eternal. He was more concerned with his comfort now than his condition for eternity. And that could be me.

Except for the grace of God. And that is the only exception that matters. When I am relying on Him I am nothing like Judas because He is the one that keeps me from falling. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man (that should make you very afraid! Greed is certainly a human temptation, but no worries the best part is coming) and God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. BUT when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So I could be like Judas, but I don't have to be. I can weep over the death of my Lord, but I can also rejoice knowing that His resurrection was also my coming back from the dead. Good Friday is truly a day of rejoicing, knowing He is fully aware of the evil I can commit but instead of condemning me, He chooses every day to give me His power to be so much more than that. The power to do good, to bear His witness, to love others and put my own needs aside. The power to be like Him, not anything like Judas.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: Bad Girls of the Bible

I don't know that I would present myself as an expert on the Bible, but when it comes to the Scriptures, I am certainly not a novice, either. I suppose in that is probably one of the biggest reasons why this book did not pull me in in the manner that it could have. That said, it a still a terrific book worthy of any library. Liz Curtis Higgs uses her trademark "girlfriend" manner of writing in an effort to make this book accessible. It came across as a tiny bit forced at times, and I do think that in a number of years some of her cultural references will be dated. I absolutely love her fiction, so I was a little surprised that her non-fiction style was so different and not as much to my taste. Writing style aside, she opens each chapter with a modern day re-telling of each Biblical character. Some of these were excellent, others seemed a little contrived. The meat of the book is when she goes through each account in detail, breaking down the Scriptures and explaining each little nuance of the story. I already knew much of the information, but for someone that has not had as much exposure to the Bible this book is full of terrific facts presented in an easy to understand way. She closes each chapter by encouraging you to relate to the historical figure personally and apply the lessons that she learned to your own life. Finally, there are questions for you to pursue further study. Overall, I think this book has far more pros than cons, and I would easily say that many of the things that I did not care for are matters of personal opinion. I think especially for newer believers this book will strike more than one chord. It was still an easy read, and I do not feel my time was wasted. As it was one of Higgs' first nonfiction books, I wonder in part if perhaps her more recent publishings are a little more polished. Still, there were several stand-out chapters. The chapters on Rahab and "the Sinful Woman" were my favorites. You can't help but be moved by the change wrought on their lives by the grace of God and Higgs' makes that contrast even more startling. I encourage you to read it for yourself- it would be impossible not to feel personally connected to one of these women. After all, God made sure that they crossed the pages of His Word for a reason. Higgs just helps you to make the connection more swiftly.
Take a minute and please rank my review!

I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review, by the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah. All views expressed are my own.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

To Carson, on His 3rd Birthday

Dear Carson,

What a year this has been! You have grown so much- and I am so glad that I got to be a part of all of it. I have always loved the age of two, and you reminded me of all the reasons why. You really made a name for yourself this year.

Your dad says that he can't believe how many people know you. Whenever he picks you up from Sunday School you swagger down the hall while everyone says hello. You love to pick out your own clothes- especially anything with "bu-tars" (guitars), drums or Star Wars on it. You tell me that you will do your own hair "with spikes", too, and you stand on the toilet to reach the sink so you can splash water all over your head and then you have to use gel, "like daddy does".

You mimic your dad all the time, and I just love it. Today, you insisted that he wear his Star Wars shirt to dinner so you would match. When you opened Daddy's gift to you, a new lightsaber, your face was what lit up. You love to watch, "Star Wars, Clone Wars" with your dad. Really, you just love to do anything with him. You love your "big daddy"- and he loves you.

You love your sister, too, although lately you call her your brother! You say, "C'mon, Jos" and are always happy to have her near- even if it is just to aggravate. But really you have realized how much fun she is to play with. You love sharing a room with her now that we live at your "new house". You like anything that is part of your routine- you get up every morning and the first thing you do is ask for breakfast- before you are even out of bed. You like to eat! And then almost every night after dinner you go upstairs, get on your own pajamas (really, just the pants- you haven't figured out the shirt, yet) and then ask to watch, "Scooby Batman". You also love to snuggle with me on the sofa- and I can't resist.

I love that you are such a big helper. You are always careful to put your clothes in the basket, and your dishes in the sink. You are pretty tidy for a little guy- I hope you stay that way! You want to help and are eager to learn. You want to do school with Josie, and often you pretend you can read. You already know the days of the week, how to count and all your colors. I didn't even really teach you, but you seem to pick up things so fast on your own.

You have already figured out that Jesus loves you. You love to listen to all the VBS cds, and never forget to pray at meals, or ask for your Bible story at night. You love being in "Miss Kelly's" class on Thursdays and I know she is teaching you to love the Bible and Jesus, too. Everyone in our family is.

You loved visiting Grammy's house recently. You are still asking for Luke. I hope he will always have a special place in your heart. Luke was the first two-year old boy that I learned to love, and sometimes you remind me of him. I won't mind if you grow up to be like him- he is pretty wonderful. You loved seeing your Aunt Robyn and Gillyan and Gideyon. You didn't forget any of the girls, either. You and Mark didn't always get along- sometimes that happens when you put two "babies" together, but I think it will only be a little while before you are good friends.

It will only be a little while before you are potty-trained, too! I am so proud of your motivation- you love wearing big boy "panties". It makes your dad crazy that you call them that, and I think it is hilarious! You decided at Grammy's that all the big boys use the potty, and you started, too. It will probably only be a couple more weeks before you are dry all the time. You like being a big boy- I think that is the only reason you could be convinced to give up your buddy. I think that was harder for me than you!

I am so thankful for you. You are my funny, charming, sassy little man. You remind me of your dad, which I love, and though you adore him, you always have time for me. You aren't a sissy- nope, definitely all boy, but you have a soft spot for your mom. You always give me a kiss at night and remind me to "sleep like a champ!". What would I do without you?

I would be missing a piece of me- and God knew that. He made you so amazing- and I am honored to have the privilege of raising you in the fear and knowledge of Him. I pray every day that He will make me worthy of that task. I want you to grow up to be a godly man. I am so proud of who you are, and I know that won't change. Happy Birthday, Carson. I love you.

Love, Mommy

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

35,999 Miles

(image via)
We bought our car "new-used" two years ago this month. I say that because we purchased it with 100 miles on it- we think it may have been returned- and so got used car pricing, but really it was a new car. With a blessed new car warranty.

A new car warranty may be optional to someone who has tons of money in savings, or a husband who can fix anything, or just generally is not a worrier. At the time, though, Joel was deployed to Iraq (we bought the car while he was home on R & R) and we have never had tons of money in savings (or anywhere else, for that matter) and I have always been a worrier. Which, considering all the problems I had been having with our Explorer at that time, were not completely unfounded. The Ford was our only car, and with a three year-old and a baby less than a year, I needed more reliable transportation. Like the kind that would start EVERY time you turned the key!

So, I really wanted a warranty. We have made good use of our warranty. While we have not had any major repairs made, we have had the clock worked on four times (they ended up replacing the entire radio/clock/ center console thingy-kind of a big deal to me), the motor in the back window replaced and a couple of other minor things. It also included regular oil changes for the life of the warranty, which was a nice savings.

While it has been pretty smooth sailing-not always, see the aforementioned four trips for the clock- it has been nice to have that safety net. To know that if we needed something fixed it was taken care of. To know that I didn't have to rely on my own common sense, or lack thereof, to determine if something was "serious" or "minor".

Unfortunately, we have also made good use of the car. I say unfortunate in terms of the warranty. That 36,000 or 3 years warranty that lasted 36,000 miles but only two years because of our extensive (to where, I don't really know) travels. So I find myself hesistantly peering at the odometer each trip. Will these be the miles that push us over the edge? We have already cleared the 35,000 mile mark, so it is swiftly approaching. And I am fearful. What if something goes wrong? What if when it reads 36,001 the engine suddenly falls out? Or the door won't open? Or the clock stops working? Isn't that what they always say about warranties? That they just last long enough to get you to where the trouble really starts? It has been a faithful vehicle, but what if those miles are inching it towards the edge and I just can't see it?

I liked the security of the warranty. Knowing exactly how it worked, and being certain that any problems would be taken care of. I don't like the feeling of being on my own, with evil money-grubbing repair shops and car dealerships lurking around every corner. And the teeny-tiny voice that I try so hard to quash- the little mournful one that always says such absymal (but sometimes true) negative things nags,"And you know something will happen once Joel is separated from the Army...." and it leaves it hanging, as if I don't KNOW that he could very well be between employment for a time. As if I don't KNOW that would be such poor timing for car trouble.

Because that little voice knows very well that I am concerned over going past 35,999 miles in my little car, but it also knows (mostly because it is me, it is my so-very-human little voice) that 35,999 miles is not the only thing that I am worried about. That the warranty in my car is not the only thing that is coming to end. That it is not the only sure thing that will soon be over, that I don't know what to expect on the other side. Because it is easier to trust in what you can see than what you can't. And I can't see much right now. In some ways it feels as if all the certainty in my life will end sometime around the end of June. Joel will be out of the military, our lease on the house expires, and I am being a little petty and refusing to make plans after that because I don't know what the future holds. And the oh-so-pessimistic little voice is quick to assure me that whatever it does have for me, it isn't here. Because I like to KNOW, and right now I am not being given that as an option.

G.I. Joe said, "Knowing is half the battle." But right now it really feels like 99% of it. And I don't want to have faith. That is too much work. So I want to park my car in the garage, with the odometer hovering so close to the 36K mark that it can spit on it, and sit there. I don't want to go anywhere, because once I push those little clicking numbers over, there is no turning back. And it is scary.

But a car that sits in the garage will eventually fall apart. And I could leave it there, but the three year mark will come sooner rather than later and I will be in the same place I am now, just a year further down the road.

And what is a car for, if not for driving? For transporting? For going to and from? And what is a life for if not for living? For taking leaps of faith that seem larger than the Grand Canyon? For going places we have never been and doing things we have never done? Because I have been made for life, and not just any but "life...more abundantly" (John 10:10 NKJV). But still I am afraid.

"For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." -2 Corinthians 5:4 (NIV)

I don't want to not know- I don't want to be unclothed. But my real clothes aren't here. I want what is mortal to be swallowed up by life in my heart, but not in my head. Because life swallowing up mortality still means death. Death of my sin nature, death of my selfish desires. True life is only found in death- the death of Christ on the cross. True freedom, as it as been said so many times, is only found when I let go. When I cross the line and let the tires turn over, forcing those numbers to 36,000 and past- into the unknown. When I have so much less of me, taking captive that ugly little voice, recalling over and over the precious promises that I have been given.

The real guarantee is that this is only a "little while".

"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials."-1 Peter 1:6 (NIV)


"For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” -Hebrews 10:37 (NIV)

My security is in Him. I want, in my frail, feeble, nature, to put it in things that don't last. I want to stay parked where I am. But, as Switchfoot said, He is "daring me to move". I don't want to wait until it is too late. Because my life is passing me by whether I am a part of it or not. I won't lie, when that 36,000 shows up, there will be more than a twinge. When the things that I take security in now are part of the past rather than the future I will be holding my breath. But I hope it will be in anticipation, rather than dread.


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