Friday, July 29, 2011

The Coming Storm...

I can see it. It moves slowly from over the mountains, giving me plenty of time to prepare. Almost every afternoon for the past two weeks we have had rain. It is rare around here, in this semi-arid place. The storms follow a fairly predictable pattern; moving from west to east, north to south.

And I expect them. I appreciate the warning that the dark, gathering clouds provide. I know a storm is coming. I can't know how long it will last, or how fierce it will be, or how much rain will fall. But I know it is on its way.

And that is where our life is right now. I know that leaving the security of the military, searching for a new job and all the unknowns that accompany it, are slowly crossing towards me. I know that there is potential that we will be covered in a downpour caused by loss of health insurance, income and even direction.

But I am thankful for the warning that we have had. Many experience far worse life storms that occur without warning- veritable cloudbursts, hurricanes and tornadoes. We are aware a storm is coming, so we have had time to prepare. We can't ascertain the severity until we are in the middle, but we can plan for the worst and hope for the best.

However, I can also begin to acknowledge the blessing that storms bring. Here, we are always grateful for rain. The landscape immediately responds with bursts of green, the temperature cooler, the air calmer. You don't want the storms to pass you by here- the temporary inconvenience of torrential downpours, high winds, thunder and lightning leave behind too many gifts.

And the storms of life are similar. I can try to run away, hope that the ominous clouds will only threaten and not deliver. Or I can look forward to the benefits that they leave behind; stronger faith, new friends, a renewed sense of purpose.

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the Rock." Matthew 7:24-25 (NIV)

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4 (NIV)

This is my chance to see where my foundation is laid, to grow my faith and reap perseverance. This is my opportunity to put the rubber to the road, to see how strong my God can make me. To trust Him fully, because I can plan and prepare, but only the Lord can bring good out of that. He gives me these hard times to show me just how faithful He is, but also so that I can show my faith and give the glory to Him.

I know that there is a silver lining to these clouds, and it won't just be making it out alive on the other side. I don't know how long it will last, or how strong it will be, but I know when the leaves are dripping and the sky is clear that I will still be standing- by the grace of God, and only that. And that is how I want it to be.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Busch Gardens

We started off our day with a tram ride from the parking lot. Everyone was all ready to have fun!

We took a Sky Ride from "England" to "France"- different parts of the park are named and themed after various parts of Europe. Joel, Josie, Carson and I were in the cart in front so I got a quick picture of Steve, Gilly and Gideyon.

While the big boys (Joel and Steve) rode one of the roller coasters, those of us who were less adventurous took a train ride through the park.

Robyn is not an amusement park-lover, but she did brave the "Catapult" with Josie and Carson. I get pretty motion sick on things that go 'round, so I was so honored that my sister was willing to endure this particular ride for the sake of my kids- twice! She is the best person to go with- she cheerfully watched the kids while Joel, Steve and I enjoyed the rides. Such a great servant!

There was a fun kids' part. Steve helped Josie across one of the rope bridges in a big climbing area.

Gideyon and Josie piloted a dragon together. It was kind of funny to watch!

The park provided a cool service upon entry: they measured the kids and gave them color-coded wristbands so it was easy to know what rides they could do. Carson was sorely disappointed that he could not ride any of the "big kid" rides. He kept Robyn company and forced her to entertain him in Sesame Street (another kids' area). Gillyan and Gideyon were thrilled to find that they were tall enough for one "real" roller-coaster: the Loch Ness Monster. It was a sweet memory for me to be chosen as Gillyan's ride partner- that was my first roller coaster, too!

One of the fun things about the park was the abundance of things the whole family could do. We also all rode on the river boat together. It was nice and relaxing.

I thought this stockade was too funny! Although, probably the titles should have been switched...

At the end of the day, everyone was tired, hot and wet (there were quite a few water rides) but very happy. I haven't had such a good time at the amusement park in years- and I rode a couple of coasters myself! It made me miss my dad- he taught me how to enjoy them. It was nice to create some of those memories with my own kids and niece and nephew. I hope we will be able to go back soon!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fun With Fruit!

I realized that I started posting our vacation photos terribly out of order. So, I am just going to go with it. I don't figure that any of you really care how accurate the timeline is! I love the "big events" of a vacation, like travelling to the beach, but my favorite parts are the sitting-around-doing-nothing-important ones. The kids had a ton of fun just being together,too. One of the things that Joel and the kids loved is that it rained quite a number of days while we were gone. Here the rain is very brief and usually accompanied by thunder and lightening-not suitable for playing in. There, my kids had the chance to enjoy being outside.

The girls thought it was hilarious to stand under this tree and get dripped on. It wasn't raining very hard, so the additional water just added to the fun.

Why, you may ask, are our children clustered around a half of a watermelon, outside, eating it with spoons? Well, the short version is: we were leaving for the beach and my sister asked Gideyon (her son) to carry this leftover watermelon down the edge of their property and throw it into the woods. Immediately, all the kids asked if they could just eat it instead. We decided that it would be fine, since they were all outside.

I guess playing in the rain made them very hungry. They managed to destroy half a watermelon between four little people. They started standing up, but eating slippery, sticky melon in the rain isn't the easiest thing.

They switched to the deck, and Carson joined in on the action. He doesn't even usually eat watermelon, but I guess the allure of enjoying al fresco straight from the rind was too much to resist! They were just so cute and excited about it, it was sweet.

On another day, they all set up a Lemonade stand. Gillyan had done one earlier in the summer with great success and she was anxious to try it again. My sister, who does everything so well, of course managed to find the adorable stand for $25 and magically produced all the matching accessories from various places around her house. A little disgusting isn't it? The banner and sign were from the Dollar Spot at Target! How cute is the whole thing?

Of course, the little entrepreneurs were also the first customers. I am surprised they had any to sell at all. However, true to the reported nature of Southerners, all the neighbors were as kind as could be and after quite a bit of patronage, the kids came away with over $40 for a few hours of work!

It probably didn't hurt that they are all adorable and it was hot enough to boil an egg on the sidewalk. I was impressed with their perseverance and after a couple of $5 "tips", I am considering opening a lemonade stand! They put their earnings towards fun things on our trip to Busch Gardens. No worries, I will post pics soon!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Beach and a Birthday!

I hope you don't get bored easily, because I figure I have a least two more posts worth of vacation photos after this. We had such an amazing time at my sister's. I actually didn't get pictures of a lot of it because I was having too much fun and there was no one else to man the camera! We decided to go to Virginia Beach, VA, while we where there, mostly because we also wanted to visit Busch Gardens, which is nearby. So we loaded up all our gear and hit the sand!

The girls loved it. It was HOT that day but the water felt terrific. There were quite a few people (no surprise in July) but it was still really nice. That is saying a lot for me because I am not a beach person. I HATE sand. Truly. If I could visit the ocean without dealing with the sand it would be perfect. Sand is the most insidious substance on earth. And trust me, it was everywhere after we left!

Carson was a little more cautious, but he loved filling up his sand toys with water. He ended up insisting on removing his rash guard (his swim top) so that he could be like the big boys. I wasn't too happy with that, since I am a little OCD about sunburns. However, after slathering him with more sunscreen he was just fine.

My fabulous sister and her great husband. She is definitely the hostess with the mostess. She is a great vacation planner, and due to all her forethought and skill we were able to accomplish everything we wanted to do and see (and eat!). And her house is always clean- even with four extra people in it!

Joel had the most marvelous time. We actually went on his birthday and he said it was one of his best ever. He adored the water. He and I have been to the beach in Mexico, but it was during our cruise and we didn't get to spend as much time there. He was in the water the whole time in Virginia, and he definitely would have stayed longer.

Jocelyn got a little braver about the waves towards the end. I am glad that both kids do well in the water. A few more rounds of swimming lessons and they won't even need us anymore!

The only (sort-of) photo of me at the beach. I won't lie- I am not too fond of swimsuits, and I never have been. I don't run around in my underwear in real life, so why would I want to do it for the water?! Not that I have a problem with swimwear, it just isn't my thing. Anyway, I thought the shadow/sand photo was kind of fun.

Carson thought the sand was amazing. I knew he would love that part. He kept running back down to the water to wash his hands off. I thought it was kind of amusing, since after washing off he was right back in the sand!

In all, it was a great way to celebrate my honey's birthday. He loves a vacation and it was wonderful that the two events coincided. I am sure we will be planning another beach trip soon, since it seems that I am greatly outnumbered by sand-lovers. Oh well, I did have a good time- but don't tell anyone!

BTW: What do you think of my new blog header?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Well, the VBS craziness started the first full week in June. I volunteered back in February to co-direct the Vacation Bible School at our church. I have taught for years, but this was my debut in a directing position. I really was more like assistant, but everything went well and I would like to think I had a teeny tiny part in that. We had a ton of amazing help, and as usual, everything came together in the 11th hour so that it was a success. One of my personal favorite things was the huge paper lanterns that our decorating team put together. They are at the top of the photo above.

Every VBS we have participated in this summer has been the Pandamania curriculum by Group Publishing. I am a hardcore Lifeway girl, but we made the best of it. There have been some highlights (the curriculum is really easy to use) and I have to admit that I love one particular aspect: the kids make snack each day. A different group of kids made snack for the rest of the children each day. Jocelyn's group (kindergarten and first grade) made the snack above for the day they studied Jonah and the whale. Cute, huh?

Carson was still in our nursery this year. He will graduate to pre-k and that will make him deliriously happy. He was disappointed he was not in "Josie's class", but he did enjoy all the playground time his group got.

Jocelyn was invited to help lead worship on stage. She was delighted as she loves the spotlight!

This is the majority of our VBS. I thought it was a really great idea to get a total group shot.

The very next week we did VBS at the chapel on post. Switching from night VBS to a morning one is a little bit of a challenge! However, it was my second year to lead "Chadder's Theater" (one of the rotation classes where the kids watch a video segment and discuss God's work in their everyday lives) so it was pretty easy. Carson was able to be part of the preschool class there- see how much happier he is? The set designers at the chapel always do a really great job. This year's theme wasn't quite as fun as other years (it was pandas-just pandas, not China or Asian, or anything besides just the bears) but they still made it look good.

A great idea that I stole from my sister is "thank-you" happies. I made one for each of the kids' crew leaders, with little notepads, pencil cups and candy. Then for the chaplains' assistants who ran the video for the theater, I made little popcorn cups. I figured they deserved some movie snacks after sitting through the same cheesy video four times each day!

This week we are doing a mission VBS with our church. We are at a trailer park full of underprivileged kids. We are doing a lot of creative thinking because we are not in our home environment and these kids aren't your usual regular VBS students. This is part of the "altar" that was a visual aid for today's Bible story about Elijah. I know it looks strange, but offering up candy as a sacrifice is pretty meaningful to kids!

Jocelyn got roped into helping with the singing again. She had a little too much time off and forgot some of the motions, but she gave it her best shot.

The kids are doing well, and I am glad that they get a chance to see that everyone doesn't have the same kind of life they do. The school district provides lunch for the kids every day because many don't have enough to eat. One of the kids had a pretty rough day because his house was broken into last night. There are little five and six year-olds who come by themselves because they are used to taking care of things on their own. It is a little heartbreaking, especially since we live in such a prosperous area. However, I am glad that I get to have a part in ministering to these kids.

Since I am officially in my third week of PandaMania, I think the kids and I now officially qualify as PandaManiacs. Don't you?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quick Check-In

A little sneak peak of beautiful North Carolina...

I feel like I haven't posted in forever! We went on vacation and I am planning to post my recap(s) soon, but those take some time to put together and that is a scarce commodity right now. I am in my third week of VBS (once at our home church, once on post, and now a mission VBS nearby) and still unpacking from the aforementioned vacation. However, I did not want anyone to think that I fell off the face of the earth. Just trying to get back to real life, and it is taking a while to cross over. I hope to be back at it soon. Did you miss me?


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