Friday, December 31, 2010

Didn't We Just Do This??

Last week I shared a crazy day, the central point of which was taking my youngest son Henry to Urgent Care with an ear infection.

Yesterday, it was my oldest son, Tony.  He managed to not have a common ear infection, though.  He has a circular pneumonia on his left lung.  I am going to have to google that to know exactly what that means, but I know a few things it means:

$112 worth of antibiotics, which took almost two hours to have filled because of the precise amounts of dosage and the times the two are administered.  Several phone calls were made between the pharmacy and the doctor, while four hungry boys sat in the waiting area at Schnucks.  I must note, they behaved much better than some of the adults who were in line and complaining about the wait, their insurance, etc. 


His very first chest x-ray!  We got a bit of a scare, because the doctor wanted him to go to the hospital and have a CT scan to make sure it was pneumonia (What else could it be?  I did not even want to know.).  But, the radiologist at the hospital said it looked like pneumonia, and to treat it as such.

So now I need to call his regular doctor and get an appointment for late next week to follow up and see how he is doing.  I dread going to the regular doctor, because it is so hard to get an appointment, but hopefully if I call a week in advance I can get in!

All in all, the boys were really troopers through the whole event.  For four boys to not fight and be reasonably patient through a couple hours in a doctor office and then a couple hours in a pharmacy is pretty good.  While we were at the doctor's I left my two middle boys, ages 7 and 10, in the waiting area and just kept coming back to peek at them.  They were either talking, playing their DSs or reading medical brochures.  I saw other children whose parents were right there in the room climbing on the furniture, etc.  I was proud of my guys. 

While the boys were behaving so well, I was getting really, really tired and really, really cranky.  I'd left the house at 8:00 a.m. worked all morning, had a lovely breakfast with my friend Faith (I am so glad -thinking back over our conversation that morning got me through the afternoon!) ran some errands, took all the boys for haircuts (I know, he had pneumonia but that is not excuse for poor grooming!) and then the Urgent Care adventure began.  While we were waiting for our prescription I was listening to a lady who was really rude to the pharmacists.  They had problems with her insurance, needed more info, etc. and she was getting snotty.  "Well, isn't that YOU'RE job to call them?  Well, can't YOU take care of that?"  This reluctance to make a phone call from a woman who was sitting there with her cell phone out the entire time.  I watched her and thought, "Yep, that is how you sound too, sometimes - don't judge, learn!"  Everyone can be a lesson - some teach me what to do, some teach me what NOT to do.

After all that, we ate carryout for dinner.  I felt mildly guilty.  I bought a couple fried chickens at the Schnucks deli (actually pretty good), made instant mashed potatoes, microwaved a bag of frozen brussel sprouts and had applesauce.  Not a great meal, but no one cared.  Tony got both his medications down, which is pretty amazing from a guy who can take an hour to ingest 2 tsp. of Tylenol.  Now we just pray for healing, administer antibiotics and move on. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More chicken stuff

Today the Hardy Concords are heading outdoors!

Today I decided to let the "chicks" go outside.  They were born 10/13, and have never been outside.  They lived in a nice warm cage in the garage for a while, and now they are in their own house, but while they were on chick food we kept them in.  Then it got really cold, etc.  But now, they are pretty big, and it is time to venture into the world.
They are not enthusiastic.
These are the older hens - they love to be outside scratching around, as long as it isn't snowy or rainy.

I tossed some bread into their run, trying to stir up some interest.  Got a little bit going, but still not quite sure what they are supposed to do.

Here's the whole flock of them inside, all trying to look out at once and see what is going on.

Okay, we can do it....maybe!

They kept taking turns going out, looking and going back in.  I swept the snow off the ramp, hoping to encourage them.  I am going to go back outside in a bit and see how they are doing. 

I have had a lot of computer work to do today, and I need frequent chicken breaks to keep my spirits up!
It was so nice yesterday to get up and see blue skies and sunshine on the snow.  I am not really a winter person.  I used to be, but now I think I am a spring/fall girl.  I don't like to be hot, but now that I have to take care of the chickens all winter, I am not too crazy about cold, either.  As long as it isn't freezing I am fine, but when there are all the details and complications of freezing chicken water/heated waterers, frozen hoses, etc. it is just a pain to deal with. 

But, for now, as it is warming up and the snow is turning to mud in our yard, I think I am going to look at the pictures I took yesterday, of a sunny, snowy day.

The view from the front porch - it all looks different with the blue sky behind it!

Chickens don't like snow.  I had to get in the house and chase them out, and even at that, as soon as I got out of the house most of them ran back in.  These ladies are White Leghorns (like Foghorn Leghorn).  When we first started raising chickens I was informed that "Leghorn" is pronounced "Leg-ern".   

Don't the henhouses look pretty in the sunshine!

And the view off our back deck.  Please note that the turkey next to the tree in the center, and the deer in the lower left-hand corner are not real - those are targets.

Right now I am finishing up the school schedule for the next few weeks, and I have to do some cabinet drawings today.  But while I do these computer chores I am thinking over schedules, priorities, organization and redeeming the time.  I will post some of those thoughts later this week, as they all begin to jell. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And now, for something a little different

This year we decided to do something a little different for Christmas.  Usually Nevin takes the boys out one at a time to buy gifts for each other and me, and I take the boys out (en masse) to buy gifts for Nevin.  This has worked well for a few years, but we still find ourselves with a lot of gifts that are nice, but really, we don't need. 

Actually, we don't NEED anything.  We have more than everything we need - and we have pretty much everything we could possibly want as well. 

But there are so many in the world who don't even have clean water, a way to support themselves, or even a Bible.  So this year, we cut back quite a bit.  We asked each boy what one thing they would really like.  We got them each that one thing, and then we picked out a smaller item as well, and another small gift and some candy for the stocking.  We did not buy anything for each other (okay, Nevin did get me a box of chocolates, he knows the ways to keep me happy!).  The boys did not select anything for us or each other.

Instead, on Christmas Eve, we looked at the Christmas Catalog put out by Gospel for Asia.  Nevin checked into their ministry, and read the book Revolution in World Missions by K. P. Yohannan
(note - this is the book that has been handed out for free at The Greater St. Louis Homeschool Expo the last few years - and is available free at GFA's website).  One of the things that is different about this ministry is that the missionaries are not people sent to India from the United States or Europe - they are indigenous people, who have been discipled and trained to carry the gospel to their own countrymen.  They are also ministering to some of the poorest of the poor in the world.  Where $10 in our home will buy a small Lego set (that Ben can assemble in about 5 minutes), through Gospel for Asia it can buy a mosquito net, to protect a child from the biting insects that carry malaria.

With the kids, we looked all through the online catalog, and asked them what they would like to buy with their own money.  This is a new twist, also, because in the past they have "selected" gifts for the brothers and parents, which we then paid for.  This time, they were using their own money.  They kicked in $10-11 each ( the equivalent of two weeks' allowance for Tony and Ben, but 10 weeks' for Joe and Henry).  Nevin and I also put in what we would have spent on each other.  Together, for relatively little money, our family bought a pair of chicks, a pair of rabbits, a mosquito net, gospel tracts, VBS materials, a tool kit and a bicycle for a missionary.  Life-changing things for these people, with money that would have gone for nice, but unneccessary, items for ourselves.

This is not to toot our own horn, by the way - I want to share this because it was so easy, and yet so worthwhile.  So often we look for ways to help, ways to support missions (if you don't go yourself, you need to support those who do), we have a desire to do "something", but that "something" can be elusive.  This was something that anyone can do - it is a good start. 

Nevin and I have been reading Radical by David Platt, and it is really giving us pause, and causing us to re-think what is important.  What is enough.

What is too much.

But more on that later.  For now, Merry Christmas.  The traditional pictures of our over-indulged children will be posted tomorrow.  For today, we will bask in the glow of the day, prepare a Taco Fiesta for dinner, and a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A New Day, A Snow Day

I woke up to the snow that I had been praying so hard NOT to get....and once again I see where God provides what I don't even know that I need or want.

Last night I went to bed grumpy - the kids had been snuffling around for days, and all they had done all day was watch movies on ABC Family Channel (which should change its' name, but that is for another rant).  Joe was the exception - he felt fine, and had no brothers to play with, so by bedtime he was literally bouncing off the walls.

All I could think about was, "Please no snow.  Please, everyone well.  I want to go to Christmas Eve service.  I want to go out to eat.  I want to drive around and look at lights.  I want my mom and stepfather to be able to come over for dinner Saturday.  Please.  No snow."

Sometimes I think God must just shake his head in wonder at our lack of vision, our silly little plans.

I woke up this morning to a text from Nevin, with a picture of a snowy field.  He is sitting in a tree with a bow, drinking coffee and enjoying the snow, hoping a deer will wander by.

The boys got up, looked out side, and immediately became quite well enough to go outside.  Surely, no one is too sick to play in the snow!  It is a miraculous cure!  They are still a little snuffly and coughing, but the weather didn't cause it, and it won't hurt, especially if I fill them up with warm, homemade cocoa when they come in. 

I asked, "If you are well enough to go outside, are you well enough to go to church tonight?"  They say they are.  Henry says he is definitely well enough to go out to eat!

So, whether or not we can get out tonight, we'll leave up to God.  If not, I have plenty of food for dinner, snacks to celebrate Christmas Eve, things to do, and I am going to do a little bit more baking today.  I am sure Mom and Dave will be able to make it over tomorrow, and if not, the food will keep and we will certainly be able to enjoy time together on Sunday instead. 

"Therefore do not be anxious about tmorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matt 6:34 ESV

And now, some pictures of our country winter wonderland!

The view from my front porch - the fire pit, playset and garden look much prettier than they did yesterday!

Our chicken condominium complex.  Chickens don't particularily care for the snow, so they are all inside where it is warm and dry

And the view off our back deck.  We live in a cleared spot in the middle of the forest, so yes, there are trees in every direction.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sweet Potato Biscuits

I made these the other night and they are WONDERFUL - soft, with a wonderful flavor and just a little bit of sweetness - not sweet like cake or cookies, but not plain like regular white biscuits.

This comes from The Gooseberry Patch Country Baking cookbook, which I received at the homeschool mom party (Thanks, Shelley!).

3/4 cup sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled, mashed and chilled
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, butter and brown sugar.  Stir in the mil and blend until smooth.  Sift together dry ingredients and add to sweet potato mixture.  Turn dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead 2 minutes.  With floured rolling pin, roll dough until 1/2" thick.  Cut out with a 2" round cutter.  Place biscuits one inch apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet (I used parchment paper).  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until light brown.  Makes about 1 1/2 dozen biscuits.

With 18 biscuits, I calculated the WW PointsPlus value (new program) at 3 points each - and well worth it!

A Father's Advice

This is another daily reading from On This Day: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs and Heroes by Robert J. Morgan.

December 23 - A Father's Advice

Heinrich Bullinger was a good pastor and a better father.  He was born in 1504 to a priest who embraced Reformation views.  Young Heinrich loved Luther's writings, Melanchthon's books, and the study of the Bible.  At the age of 27, he took the place of slain Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli as pastor of the Grossmunster of Zurich, on December 23, 1531.
     Bullinger continued Zwingli's practice of preaching through the books of the Bible, verse by verse.  His home was open from morning till night, and he freely distributed food, clothing, and money to the needy.  His wisdom and influence spread across Europe.
     No one was more affected than his own son, Henry.  When the young man packed his bags and set out for college in Strasburg, Heinrich gave him ten rules for living:

 1.     Fear God at all times, and remember that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
 2.     Humble yourself before God, and pray to him alone through Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate.
 3.     Believe firmly that God has done all for our salvation through his Son.
 4.     Pray above all things for a strong faith active in love.
 5.     Pray that God may protect your good name and keep you from sin, sickness, and bad company.
 6.     Pray for the fatherland, for your dear parents...for the spread of the Word of God.
 7.     Be reticent, be always more will to hear than to speak, and do not meddle with things you do not understand.
 8.     Study diligently...Read daily three chapters of the Bible.
 9.     Keep your body clean and unspotted, be neat in your dress, and avoid above all things intemperance in eating and drinking.
10.    Let you conversation be decent, cheerful, moderate.

     This advice was taken; and Henry Bullinger became, like his father and grandfather, a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Parents, don't be hard on your children.  Raise them properly.  Teach them and instruct them about the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4 CEV

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Little Snapshot of This Life

This day (okay, this last week or so!) very little has gone according to plan.  But, I am trying to be flexible here, find the joy in everything, yada yada yada.

So, just to prove that I am too flexible, I will share my day.  It has been the most amazing cycle of up and down.

I woke up this morning with my now-familiar head full of mucus.  Stumbled out for my cup of coffee and my Bible.  In Psalms today.  Got everyone up, got dressed, fed the chickens, loaded the car.  Printed up some more Christmas cards to get in the mail today.  Dropped kids off at Grandma's house, then on to the shop. 

Paperwork, pay some bills, enter some bills, type some contracts, bring the bulk of the work home to finish.  My wonderful friend Joette came by with some yummy homemade snack mix, a gift for the boys and THIS incredible scarf she made for me!

These pictures do not do it justice - it is sort of oatmeal, with the smallest amounts of rose, blue and purple running through it.  It is SO SOFT - I wore it all day and got several compliments!

Head out to pick up my Mary Kay order from a friend.  Ran to Bread Co. where I was meeting a Homemade Gourmet consultant, and picked up some BLT Dip mix from her for a gift for another friend.  As long as I was at the Bread Co. I got a tasty Asian Chicken salad, and a free coffee and free chocolate croissant.  The MyPanera Rewards card is gold, you must get one!  Back to the shop, dropping off Christmas cards at post office.  Not the cards I brought to do today - they still aren't done.  These are the ones I did last night. 

Ate lunch at the shop.  Should not have eaten so fast, ended up with upset tummy.  Cleaned up and off to Schnucks.  Called friend Angel on the way, because I have her Mary Kay, too.  She said she'd meet me at Schnucks. 

Nevin calls while I am on my way to Schnucks - in the event that we get snowed in Christmas Eve, we need to make sure we have staples - cheese, sausage, crackers, popcorn, etc.  Mentally add that to my list.  Meet up with Angel in Schnucks, who immediately compliments me on my scarf.  I just love her!!  Go and get all the last-minute goodies, as well as a cart-load of OTC cold products. 

While I am standing in the checkout, the lady in front of me loses the button off her coat.  Everyone gets down on the floor, trying to find it, though it appears to have rolled under the soda machine.  Finally, I am checking out - ooops, forgot tortillas for our Christmas Day Taco Fiesta!  The bagger says to go get them so off I sprint through Schnucks.  I pass three people I know, and pretend not to see them because I must RUN.  I am sure I look silly, but I cannot stop myself.  Get back, hand off tortillas.  Look over and see Angel laughing at me.  She has been sitting and smiling, and watching people check out.  She says she could just watch that all day.  Apparently, there are a lot of funny things going on in the checkout lines besides me.  There is some reassurance in that.

We head out to the car, give her her Mary Kay and we wave goodbye.

Now, drop the BLT mix off at my friend Mandy's house, to give to another friend for me.  We are supposed to be going there for fellowship and Bible study tonight, but with sick kids, we are staying home.  She gives me little bags of Christmas candy for each of the boys.  Do I have great friends or what?

Then, finally to Grandma's!  And......Henry is laying on the couch.  When he sees me, he starts crying and says his ear hurts.  Oh boy.  Get Henry up, confirm other boys can hang out with Grandma a little while longer, and then back into town to Urgent Care.

As an aside - this was my first visit to Urgent Care, and I love it.  We had to pay a $40 co-pay, and they had us in and out within an hour.  If I had even managed to get a doctor appointment with our pediatrician for today (doubtful) we would have been there minimum two hours, plus we have not met our deductible, so it would have cost us about $95. 

Anyway, dashed to The Apothecary at the hospital (so much faster and easier than Walgreens or Walmart!) and got the prescription filled, pick up other boys and BACK HOME!

I have done some laundry, finished a very good murder mystery, drank some tea, eaten some of Joette's marvelous snack mix, and now I am ready to go work on dinner (venison tenderloin, with bacon and mushrooms, yum!) and prepare for the return of Nevin to our home for the evening. 

And I didn't yell at anyone all day - even the lady who had us all on the floor looking for her coat button.

Tomorrow will be much quieter, I'm sure!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Now THAT Was A Party!

Last night I attended the annual Twin City Home Educators Mom's Christmas Party.

Is was, indeed, the party-to-end-all parties.

Fourteen of us braved the cold, dark night to drive wayyyyy out to Suzy's farm.  Okay, so it wasn't that cold, and some were very familiar with the road, but for those of us who had only been there once before (last year's party) and who have nightblindness (didn't mention that to the women riding with me) finding a mailbox on the side of a country road can be an adventure!

All was well until we came to the gate.  We knew we were in the right place, vividly remembered coming down the hill and over the little bridge last year.  But yet we sat in the middle of the drive, staring at this closed gate, wondering what to do.  Why would a gate be closed on the night of a party?  Were we in the right driveway?  We could see the lights of the carriage house through the trees, this must be it.  For whatever reason, three grown women could not decide to open the gate.  So we started making calls.  Susan, in her most patient voice, said, "Just get out and open the gate, it is closed so the animals don't escape."  Oh.  About that time another car pulled in behind us, so Elizabeth hopped out and opened the gate, we all drove through, she closed the gate and we headed to the party!  We were not, btw, the only ones to face uncertainty at the gate.  Angel got to the gate, couldn't get anyone to answer their cells, and turned around and started for home.  We managed to persuade her to come back and spend the evening with us, to everyones' benefit.  I had to call Betty and tell her I had given her poor directions.  But, we all made it to the carriage house.

The carriage house is like stepping into a Christmas card - it is rustic and charming, beautifully decorated with country antiques.  Every luxury, from coffee to an assortment of teas and cocoas was assembled.  No detail forgotten, down to the bowl of marshmallows by the cocoa.

We all brought food, and we laughed and ate.  You would think we were starving from the cheers that went up when Debi arrived carrying the boxes from Pizza Hut!  Never was a pizza guy so greeted!

After we ate, we had a time of devotion and prayer.  So many joys were shared, so many concerns.  As homeschool moms, so much of the focus on any of our gathering is our children.  Prayer requests for sons in the military, those leaving for new duty stations, for adult children and their families, for direction with children at home, prayers for young mothers with small children, for our husbands, our friends, for those who could not be with us.  Praises sang out for Debi, who announced at the party two years ago that she had breast cancer.  Yep, the same Debi who after chemo, surgery, and reconstruction was bringing us pizza.  And with a full head of her own hair, at that.  For Lettie, who will "bring forth" her third son next week (and yes, there were jokes about her being "great with child").  And a wonderful reading from Sheila, from her blog, Sheila's Dots and Daisies.

And then, after we cried out to the Lord....we open presents.  I always think this is funny, to go from meaningful readings and prayer to a raucous game of stealing, shaking and occasionally sniffing wrapped gifts.  But last night I saw it for what it was.  We come together, these sisters, in prayer, in sorrow, in joy, and most especially, in laughter.  The fun of stealing a certain wrapped package and seeing the games that are played, the strategies worthy of Survivor, to get a box that has appealed to you - with no idea what is inside.  And then, at the end, for everyone to declare they got the most perfect gift for them.

I got a beautiful baking cookbook - tell me God was not at the party with us last night!

After the game, more snacks, more coffee.  I so enjoyed watching the ladies move about from group to group.  No one was left out.  Friends who had not seen each other in a year quickly caught up.  A small group was laughing out loud...a few feet away two women were hugging and there were tears..I got to spend an hour in conversation with my dear friend who also has four boys, and whose steps I follow in so many ways.  I watched a younger mom just looking at everyone and taking it all in, and I remember the first few years that I was in this group.  I watched the "old timers" who had been there for more than a decade already, and I saw their interactions, heard their stories, and knew that this was a place I wanted to belong. 

And I do.  From the very first night, when Anita was talking about cooking the natural way in relation to learning problems and Debi was discussing the price of wheat grinders (to grind your own wheat for flour, can you imagine!) and Betty was nursing Connor, I knew that this was the place for me.  Some faces have changed over the years, some have moved, gone on as their children have grown up.  We have some mothers in our group whose own mothers and mother-in-laws are also in the group - I pray that someday I will be sitting in the group with my daughter-in-laws, listening to them wonder how to teach math to one, reading to another and keep the baby occupied at the same time.  And we will share how we did it.  How we do it.  With much prayer, with God's mercy on our endeavor.  Wavering, but always coming back to the vision that God placed on us.

I got home about 2:30 a.m.  I was unable to sleep (3 cups of coffee after 11 p.m. will do that to you).  I looked over the pictures that were taken, laughed again at the ones of the mom modeling the bright pink Snuggie she received as a gift (I did promise not to post those pictures, so you will just have to use your imagination).  And I looked at our group shot - another year, so many of the same faces, newer faces as well.  And I thought of those regulars from the group that could not be there this night because of things that could not be changed; family obligations, or illness.  I missed them. 

For many of us, this is a night that we try to never miss, for whom this night is a "night of all nights" - one to look forward to all year, one of the highlights of the Christmas season.  I am one of these.  I am so thankful for a husband who understands this need, for sons who don't fuss about being handed a pizza and being told to put their own pepperoni on - because it is Mom's night, and she is heading out to the Homeschool Mom Christmas Party.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The "W" Word

Walmart.  There, I said it.

Can I come right out and say that I really, really hate to go to Walmart?  I know some people love it - practically live there.  They love the one-stop shopping, lower prices, overall convenience.  I know this.  I have no deep-seated philosophical, moral, or political convictions against going there.  I know they buy so much from China (as do so many other retailers, though), that they don't pay their employees well (but that level of retail really doesn't pay well), and there is just something creepy about such a huge corporation.  I read a book a year or two ago The Walmart Effect, which detailed how Walmart has affected different economies, even the environment of areas that provide their goods.  It is incredible how far-reaching it is.

Still, I am shallow enough that while this lingers in the back of my mind, it is not enough to keep me away.

I don't know what has created this repulsion that I feel - maybe it is the lighting?  Or having to walk 1/2 mile from the toothpaste to the toilet paper?  Or that if I take the kids in with me I am going to end up standing in the Lego aisle telling them I want to leave NOW and no, you are NOT going to spend $12 for a set you can put together in 5 minutes and I don't care if you DID bring your own money. 

Can I show how really shallow I am by saying that while I know I am called to love everyone, I really have a hard time with the people who are wearing their PAJAMAS and slippers in Walmart.  There, now you know!

But today, I am faced with a choice.  I have a church fellowship tonight, a family Christmas tomorrow, and a homeschool mom Christmas party on Monday.  All of these events involve me bringing finger foods. 

I have just a few things I need to make my life complete.  I need:

black and color printer cartridges, so that I can print up the Christmas cards
envelopes for the Christmas cards
some sort of decorative containers for Christmas cookies
disposable bread pans for pumpkin bread and pound cake
some gift cards
gift bags
a couple craft things for projects that I think I will have time to wrap up this weekend
some art supplies to round out gifts to our nieces
several small, but necessary, ingredients for the preconceived "finger food" list I have prepared

Now, I could go to Metro Office Suppy - a locally-owned store - for the printer cartridges and envelopes, and probably even the paper/art supplies.  Buying those items there, instead of Walmart, could reasonably cost me $10-15 more.  Walmart really has them on printer cartridges, at least in my limited experience.

I could then head over to Schnucks, my very favorite grocery store, to pick up the groceries I need, and the disposable pans, and probably find something to put the cookies in.  I can get the gift cards there, too.  This is going to cost me about $10 more, by my estimate.

Still left with craft items, I could always try Joann's and probably find what I need, though still at a higher price.  And I really don't like going in there, either.  There are never enough cashiers and they give me a hard time about the educator discount. If I can't find the art supplies at Metro (an iffy proposition) I should be able to get them at Joanns, but they will be at a premium.  Not certain of the price difference, but I know that in the past when I have bought things there and then compared them, they were definitely higher than Walmart.

Some of these items (like the gift bags) could also be purchased at Dollar Tree

There is always a chance Walmart won't have something I need (I am thinking the right size envelopes could be problematic) and that I will still have to go someplace else.  But, it is a pretty slim chance. 

So, therein lies my dilemma.  I will also note that we are expecting a HIGH of 28 degrees Fahrenheit today, so I am going to be driving around and hopping in and out of a cold car.  And I also only have about 2 hours to do this in, as I am dropping the boys off at my mom's house and don't expect her to make them lunch today.  Extra time, extra gas, extra money.....all to buy products that are manufactured overseas, no matter if I purchase them from Walmart or Metro. 

But there probably won't be anyone in their pajamas in Metro Office Supply.....

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Plans are all awry again today!  Last night while we were at our Bible study/fellowship it began to rain.  Just a soft, drizzly sort of rain.

Which hit the pavement, which had endured single-digit temperatures the last few days.  And then it turned into a solid sheet of ice. 

Last night was not too bad for us.  Four cars left the fellowship, caravanning out into the wild winter.  The first car got stuck on the hill.  The other three cars stopped, so all the men could go out and determine what was to be done.  While the men were out, I was texting back and forth with my friend Mandy.  We had all just been at Mandy's home, and she was suggesting that we all might want to come back and camp out for the night.

I started texting her updates on what the guys were doing, and as each car made it up and over the hill and out of her subdivision, and she was texting me that she was praying for us.  Everyone made it home safe and sound.  Everyone should have Mandy praying for them!

This morning we awoke to a world that looked fine, and prepared our plans for the day.  Those looks were deceptive, though.  Outside there is a thin layer of ice all over the road, the yard, walks, etc.  Within 1/4 mile of my house there were 5 cars off the road this morning.  A tow truck showed up to pull one out, and was promptly hit by another car.  So the tow truck left.  Our road was to be closed, but the news we got was the both state troopers who were coming out to close the road ended up in ditches along the way.  We live in a little dip in the road - on either side of the hills the roads are clear enough to travel, but our section is impassible. 

Sooooo, plans for the day - I was going to do school and then take the boys in to town for haircuts, and run a few errands.  Instead, we had a big breakfast - homemade waffles, bacon, omelets.  Now Nevin and the boys are camped out around the fire, with books and the Wii.  I have been baking cookies, and will soon move onto breads and pound cakes for Christmas gifts.  Get some laundry done, maybe a little housework, watch a movie together.  I am going to fix a nice meatloaf for dinner.  All is well in our icy world.  There is no use to fret about the cabinets that aren't being delivered today, or the errands that aren't being run.  Might as well take this day as a gift from God. 

So nice to have a time, even if it is forced, to slow down and reflect on God's mercy on us today.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And I'm Not Particularily Artistic, Either!

With our study of St. Nicholas last week, I had the boys do some coloring pages of him.  I have found that it really helps them to concentrate if they have something to do with their hands while I am reading out loud. 

Now that I had all these really nice pictures, I needed to find a use for them - voila!

The Christmas Card!

Please note, I am not one to cut and glue, and make decorative cards.  This is all strictly from the scanner and cut and paste on Printmaster.  But, they did turn out pretty good, if I do say so myself!
The front of the card, with artwork by Tony

The center, with Ben and Joe's pictures
 For those who don't care to squint, the left-center reads:

"Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in the 4th Century. He suffered persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, including imprisonment. Tales of his generosity were widespread, and from this man the legend of Santa Claus arose.

The significance of Nicholas for us today is that his response to God's great love for us in Jesus was to care for other poeple. His kindness and care for children are modeled every time we give a gift out of love.

God gave us the greatest gift we could ever imagine: He gave us a Savior, Jesus Christ. We celebrate his birth, but eventually He would die for the sins of the world.

Jesus is the real gift of of Christmas."
And the back, with a picture done by Henry
Now, if I can just get them printed, pick up the envelopes, get them addressed and the pictures of the boys inserted....every great plan has its' share of obstacles!

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm So Not Laura Ingalls Wilder

I love Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I grew up reading the Little House books over and over (and over and over and over).  As an adult, I have enjoyed her other writings, especially her columns for The Ruralist newspaper, and I have moved into Rose Wilder Lane's works as well.

She had always had responsibilities with her family's animals.  Especially in Little Town on the Prairie she talks about feeding the animals, moving the calves, etc.  In her later years, after she moved to Missouri, Laura became well-known in her community for her chickens.  Laura wrote and spoke about her flocks, how to care for them, what to do to get the best egg production, etc.  I always imagined I'd be like Laura, gathering eggs in my apron while the sun shined down on my flock.

It has not happened exactly that way.

Yesterday I wandered out into a blizzard (not quite The Long Winter, but close!) to feed the chickens.  First, I berated myself for having been too a)lazy b)unorganized c)distracted to have set up the heated waterers.  We have waterers that plug in and will keep the water from freezing.  Marvelous devices, which Laura did not have.  Only problem, you have to plug them in.  I am afraid of electricity.  All those cords and connectors in the henhouse, plus a big tub of water, make me anxious.  Nevin has told me that there is not enough current to kill me if I stuck it in my ear, but I am not going to test his theory. 

Anyway, being "a", "b" and "c" yesterday morning, I went out to feed the chickens in my bright purple pajamas (I didn't want to have to get dressed twice) with the dancing penguins pattern.  They were a gift from my sons.  Anyway, I put on the snow boots, my coat, couldn't find my gloves (see "b" above) and headed out.  The hoses are no longer hooked up, so I had to carry the waterers to the hose bib, hold the valve open with one hand and the 5 gallon water with the other.  Amazingly enough, I didn't get the base back on the way I should, so as I walked to the henhouse and turned the waterer over, the base came off and 5 gallons of water ran down both the legs of my purple penguin pajamas.

How refreshing!

So, back to the hose, mumbling unkind things about chickens and poultry in general. 

But it was done, grumbling aside.  Today both houses have heated water and food.  I believe the hens are happy (or at least happier than they were).  And I feel like a pioneer, forged from rugged stock, taming the land and the animals. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Clean Socks and a Servant Heart

What exactly is a "servant heart"?  This blog post really got me thinking about it this morning Everyday Ordinary Dawnings.

In our homes, are we teaching our children to be servants, or is it "every man for himself"?  How do we respond to cries of unfairness, why should I have to clean up HIS mess?  I know that my standard response is that I have to clean up messes I don't make all day long, so why shouldn't everyone.

True, but perhaps not the best response.  It may be "fair" or equitable, in the interest of keeping all these equal.  But all things aren't equal.  We are called to serve each other in love.  Not in maintaining a proper balance of who owes who.

I joke about being the only lady in a house with five men.  Some days I get to be the princess.  Many days I am the serving wench.  That is actually a pretty good representation of my life.  But - is that the correct attitude?  It is funny, but is it correct? 

Having a servant heart means serving without thought of what I am getting back.  It means being the helpmeet that my husband needs - serving his actual needs, not just what I think I want to do, or what he should need, or even what I read in a book (written by a woman) about how I should serve him.  It means serving my children gladly.  In serving them with a glad heart, I can set an example of service to them.  If I holler, "Who left this here?  Do you think I am your servant?" this is not setting much of an example.

My husband just came in to get ready for work and commented that he has no clean socks.  Ouch.  That is a need he has.  I guess I could go on about how busy I have been lately (though I have had time to blog and facebook, so there you go), or about how many pairs of socks he and the boys go through, or about all the things I need to do today.  Or even suggest that perhaps after working at the shop all day he can be a modern fellow and take on 50% of the housework (maybe I can make a chart on Excel for him!).

Or I can just admit that I fell short there - I blew it.  Laundry has piled up and I missed getting the whites done.  And he did not speak harshly to me, he did not complain or grumble.  He just noted that he doesn't have any socks. 

And he set an example for me.  He mentioned it gently, and now I really want to rectify this, to make sure that he has socks and his needs are met.  If he would have snapped at me, "Can't a guy who works all day get a pair of clean socks?  How much time are you on the computer, anyway?" I would probably be less inclined to go do his laundry with a smile.  Would this gentle approach work better with my sons, as well? 

Wouldn't hurt to try!

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10, 1985

On December 10, 1985 I was hanging out in the living room of the Zeta Tau Alpha house at Central Missouri State University.  It was finals week, everyone was finishing up and heading home.  There was a major snow storm going on, and we were all just sort of hunkered down and studying.

Then the phone rang.

One of my sisters called me to the phone.  My mom was on the line.  My father and brother had been in a serious car accident and they did not expect my father to live.  Come home now. 

I was five hours away, and did not have a car at college.  As a zombie, I told everyone what was going on.  The Zetas jumped into action.  Several girls started packing my bags (I overheard one say to be sure and send home things for the whole Christmas break, including something nice for a funeral.).  Others got on the phone with the buses and trains, to see what was moving.  Another helpful soul handed me my smokes (I was a chain smoker for many years) and another handed me a Seven and Seven.  That was how I coped with things then.

My aunt got me a plane ticket.  One of my sisters called her boyfriend and another of his friends who were stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base.  They came and picked us up and drove us through the storm to the Kansas City airport.  I remember exactly what I was wearing - skinny, ankle-length jeans, white Keds (no socks), a ZTA t shirt and my brand new, sapphire blue coat that my father had bought for me a few weeks before.

Mom had just kept telling me my brother was fine, but went into great detail about my dad.  I came all the way home that night thinking that my brother was dead and that no one would tell me.  He actually was fine, physically, though.

I could never have recognized my dad.  He had a severe head injury.  He was driving his Corvette (Daddy always had a Corvette) along the Outer Road in Arnold, by Fox Chase Apartments.  That is where my mom lived.  He had just picked up my brother and was on his way home.

An oncoming car decided to pass the car in front of him, came into Dad's lane and hit him.  Daddy tried to get out the way, and his side of the car apparently took the full brunt of the impact.  My brother said that he closed his eyes at the impact and when he opened them the whole front of the 'Vette was gone.  I never saw the car, but friends went to the impound and saw it, and said they could not believe anyone came out alive.

Daddy ended up in a permanent vegetative state for the next 7 1/2 years, until he died on July 24, 1993.

He was 42 years old at the time of the accident.  It is so hard to believe that I am older than he was then.  He was so young.

The story I tell is that I dropped out of college and came home to take care of him.  That is patently false.  What really happened is that I completely fell apart.  I had no coping mechanism whatsoever.  I had long since abandoned the God of my childhood.  I had placed my faith at an early age in a short prayer and walk up an aisle, and that action did not save me.  Nor did it sustain me.  I was already a mess at the age of 20 - drinking, smoking, and the lifestyle that went with it.  I also was filled with a rage at the young man who had hit my father.  I knew his name and where he lived, and entertained fantasies of knocking on the door and letting him know just what he had done. 

It didn't get better.  I believe I had a death wish, as I continually put myself into situations with dangerous people.  I didn't care.  My image of God was wrapped up in my image of my father, and that was gone, and so was any vestige of God. 

And then it got worse.

I meant for this to be a memorial to my Dad, but I cannot tell any story any more without including my testimony, as it is the greatest story of my life - the story of how Christ gave His grace to a despairing, desolate sinner and saved her. 

In June of 1993 I could not live one more second feeling the way I felt.  The shame, the guilt, the loneliness, the despair was too much.  But, being a coward, I could not actually do myself in.  I remember that Monday morning (though I don't recall the exact date) of being face down on the floor of my bedroom and crying and sobbing to God to PLEASE do SOMETHING and I can't go one.

And He did.  He saved me.  I heard Him.  He said to get up.  He told me to get help.  He even told me where. 

And I did.  And my life changed instantly and dramatically in that one second when God reached down and plucked me off the path to Hell.  I even managed to forgive the man who hit him.

On July 24, 1993 my daddy passed away, at the age of 49, of complications from pneumonia. 

The funeral was actually anti-climactic, after the events of December of 1985.  He is buried in Jefferson Barracks. Brother Richard Adams did the funeral service.  Daddy's hunting buddies were all there, and were his pallbearers.  Over the years I have heard stories about his friends, who came and sat at that nursing home with him for years.  When I was not faithful, when I could not force myself to do the small things I should have done, those men sat by his bedside.  I thank God for them - Denny T., Dan K., Bob McK., Dave H., John Z. and others.  For his sister Terry, who made sure everyone knew EXACTLY who they were caring for.  For those who carried the load that I could not.  For Ken R., who took care of all the legal and financial aspects of our lives, and who saved my life more times than he can ever know.

And now, the pictures of Daddy:

Me and Daddy, March 1970.  He was 26 and I was 4.  This is our house on Frisco Street.

Da Nang, 1968

Probably around 1977 or 78, at our house in Arnold.  Daddy was always on a softball team.  I spent a whole lot of my childhood in ballparks.
Daddy and Dave H., after a successful hunt, probably not long before the accident.

This is one of my favorite pictures of him - it really captures his spirit.  This was just a few years before his accident.

I wish I had some pictures of him holding his four grandsons.  I am prone to get very blue this time of year, as all the memories - and all my regrets - come flooding back.  I try to cherish and enjoy the memories I have of him, and know that I am forgiven for how I failed him.  I miss him every single day.  He was a larger-than-life character, the sort of person whose presence filled the room.  He has left a void in a lot of lives.

Jim Politte
January 29, 1944 - July 24, 1993

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Be Who God Made You to Be

This quote comes from The Chloe Chronicles, a blog I follow:'s never too late or...too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit; stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same... We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

Do you hear that, friends?  You can be whoever you want.  I am not talking about tossing the kids and family aside because you really want to be an astronaut or something.  This is about being yourself - whoever that may be.  Whoever God in His sovereignty created you to be - not being trapped in whatever image or expectations other people have put on you.  Or even the ones you have made up in your own head, that you just THINK others expect.  I mean it - maybe no one has actually SAID that you must do thus-and-such, but you are just assuming that they are spending their valuable time worrying about how you live.  Chew on that for a few minutes and get back to me. 

Who are you?  Are you comfortable with who you are?  Are you in the relationship with God that you want?  Are you following His leading in all aspects of your life?  Do you have sin in your life that you are not willing to face, to repent of, to be forgiven for?  Is change that scary?

Are you willing to face your doubts and insecurities? Are you willing to tell someone how you truly feel, even if could get uncomfortable? How about share a struggle, even if it might make you look bad?  Are you too embarassed to tell someone that you love them?

Do you sing praises with gusto, even if you aren't much of a singer? How about lifting your hands in worship, even when you are alone?

What about when there is someone else who will see?

Are you learning the things that you want to learn - be it a new art form, a skill, a topic of study?  If not - why not?

Are you meeting new people, engaging new ideas (even with people of other denominations or political persuasions - oooh, scary!), stretching your mind, learning about ideas that conflict with your own, so that you can come out stronger on the other side?

Do you dress the way you are comfortable, listen to the music you enjoy, eat the foods you like, read the books that challenge you, parent your children as God leads you - or are you following the leading of some other (fallible) person that you think knows better than you?  I am not talking about issues of obvious sin - of course we want to be influenced by those who are living Godly, serving lives, who set an example for us. That is different.  But do you let someone else set up extra-Biblical, legalistic boundaries for you to live in?

Do you have a "church" face, and a "family" face, and even an "extended family" face?  It is not nice to make faces, you know!

Are you putting on a show for others, because you have an image that you want to project - are you trying to convince people that you are something you are not? Why? Aren't you good enough?

Do you let the opinions of others shape you to where you don't even recognize your own God-designed shape anymore? 

For whatever reason, God has laid these thoughts on my heart today.  I am asking myself these questions.  You are just getting to hear me think out loud.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On this day in history....Providence

He was an Anglican, then a Puritan, then a Separatist, then a Baptist, then a "Seeker".  He quarreled with civil leaders, frustrated church leaders, and loved the Indians.  He founded an American colony and established the first Baptist church on American soil.  Most of all, he trusted the overruling providence of God so much that he named a city in honor of it.

Who was he?  He was Roger Williams,

born about 1603 in England.  He grew up in London near a square in front of Newgate Prison, famous as the site of execution for condemned heretics.  young roger witnessed many such executions, and he developed an abhorrence for the persecution of those with differing religious beliefs.  As an 18-year-old, he worked as recording secretary in a British courtroom, transcribing the cases of heretical prosecution.  By the time Williams graduated from Cambridge, he was a powerful preacher and a relentless advocate of religious liberty.

In 1630 under King Charles I,

Williams was infuriated by the treatment given his friend, Dr. Alexander Leighton, a Puritan - life imprisonment, heavy fine, defrocking, public whipping, ears cut off, nose split on both sides, and branding of a double SS (for "Sower of Sedition") on his face.

With righteous wrath, Williams began preaching and writing against the church/state unions and their resulting policies of coercion and persecution.  Finding himself at risk, he accepted an invitation from Puritans in Boston and embarked secretly on a ship for American December 8, 1630.  But he found Puritan leaders in America also intolerant.  They, too, sought to impose their beliefs through legal constraint.  One night news reached him that authorities were plotting to seize him and return him in chains to England.  Bundling himself against the cold, he fled through the snow in Indian country.  On the shores of Narragansett Bay, he purchased land from the Indians

and there he founded a settlement, naming it Providence, where all could worship in freedom.  There he established the first Baptist church in America.  And there he established the colony of Rhode Island.

Taken from On This Day: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs and Heroes, by Robert J. Morgan

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Today my family is celebrating St. Nicholas Day.  I want my guys to grow up understanding the historical reasons behind our traditions.  So much of what should be a holy time - the Season of Christmas - has been turned into a secular, commercial, how-much-can-I-buy-how-much-can-I-overindulge-in-food-and-drink season.  I am not against buying gifts, and certainly I am a strong advocate of Christmas cookies!  I am, however, also a lover of history.

One of my main quests over the last few years has been to discover when different Church practices - both doctrine and tradition - came into being.  I love to study Christian history.  I have found that this history is a very true example of "the victor writes the history books".  It constantly amazes me how the same events can have different meanings, depending on who is doing the writing, and from what perspective. 

Anyway, back to St. Nicholas.  An excellent book for children is
Saint Nicholas, The Real Story of the Christmas Legend:

This book was given to my boys several years ago by my friend Anita, and it is one that we have read over and over.

Today we will read this book again, I have printed some excellent coloring pages from a great website The Saint Nicholas Center .  This is a very helpful website, with links to other sites, activities, recipes, etc. 

I have also done the really fun part - last night I stuffed the stockings!  This morning they will find gold coins, to represent St. Nicholas' generosity to the poor, gingerbread cookies (legend has it that he was quite a baker of gingerbread and fruitcakes), a Christmas ornament for the tree, and a couple little candies just for fun.  Hopefully, I can keep this fun, as opposed to taking something fun and turning it into "school"!

So, Happy St. Nicholas Day, and blessings to your family today!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Time Experiment

Can I admit that, for someone who has a reputation for being organized, that I am a terrible manager of my time?

Can I admit that even for someone who acknowledges being unorganized, I would be a terrible manager of my time?

Okay, I admit - I am a terrible manager of my time.

I find time to play on the computer.
I find time to grocery shop and prepare meals.
I find time to homeschool my kids....though not the way I'd like to, and not the way I planned to, and I DEFINITELY don't keep up with the paperwork end of it like I should.
I find time to read novels and fun books.
I find some time to study my Bible, but nothing like what I should.
I find time to pray, but not even close to what it needs to be.
I find time to send fun cards and notes, but not thank you cards.
I find time to do quick pickup cleaning, but not big cleaning and organizing.
I find time to pay the bills and do basic invoicing/design work at the shop, but have 6 months worth of "data entry" stuff in a pile to be done.  And I have a pile of filing, too.
I find time to go out to lunch once a week or so.
I find time to get my hair done every 5-6 weeks. 
I don't find time to exercise.

I admit that I have a lot going on - I really do.  I have a home, I have four sons and a husband.  We homeschool.  I am active with my homeschool group and do a lot of activities and planning for that.  We go to church and while our commitments right now are pretty minimal compared to in the past, we still enjoy worship, fellowship and study both on Sunday and Wednesday.  We have chickens, cats and a guinea pig.  You get the picture.

I am also disorganized, distracted and slightly compulsive in my mind.  I have lots and lots and LOTS of interests - from Bible to Church history to doctrine to cooking to Ancient history to U.S. History to making jewelry to reading murder mysteries to biographies to homeschooling them as well as me....

There have been days when I have been on my feet all day, am dog tired at 8:30 p.m. and still feel like nothing has been done to completion - a bazillion things, all started, all in mid-process, all well along the way - but none of them done.

Thank goodness my meal planning has still been kept up, at least we get to EAT through all this disorganization!

I know the obvious things - you can't miss it this time of year, when we review the year past, and plan how we are going to do it DIFFERENTLY next year, by golly!

I need to make a list of priorities.  Have a homeschool vision statement.  Get back to my housekeeping schedule that I used to have. 

But before I devote a full day to making all these lists and plans that will go nowhere (see, I've done this before!), I think I need to make a budget for my time.  Just like money. 

Okay, I don't have a budget for our money, either, but I do write everything down.

It came to me while I was on the treadmill, wondering what has brought me to this state.  I need to track my time, find the places it is being wasted. 

Blogging is not a waste, by the way.

But just like I track my food in a food journal each day, and can see where I am eating healthy and when I am slipping into bad habits, and just like I have a checkbook register where I can see how our money is being spent, I need to track my time, and see what jumps out at me.  Where am I spending my time?

When you begin a financial budget, the experts say to write down all your expenses for a month and see where your money is really going - you will probably be surprised. I am going to do this for a week, and see where my time is going.

I know what one answer is going to be, and it is not pretty. 

So, starting tomorrow, upon awakening - for one week, I am going to log my time.  Truthfully.  How much of my time in the morning was in Bible study - how much in Facebook? 

We'll re-visit that next week.

So, upon the morrow, we shall let the experiment begin!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Birthday parties

We do everything pretty low-key here.  We don't have big birthday parties with all the decorations and guests.  With four kids, that can get a little crazy.  We also have four birthdays in six weeks here, so I am already stretched with just the cake-baking!  In our house, the birthday person gets to pick what kind of cake we have, what we have for dinner, and gets some gifts to open.  We eat, sing, open gifts, and then usually watch the video of what we just did.

Big party folks, we are not!

Everyone gets to do it differently, but we are just not inclined to the big party.  We already have everything we need, and just about everything we'd ever want as far as material possessions go.  We have big groups of kids over all the time, so there is a "food and fun" atmosphere pretty frequently.  And we don't have a big family, or lots of cousins.  Our immediate family all lives right here in town, so we can see each other any time we want.  We tend more to big holiday bashes - having the whole family over and a big meal at Easter and Thanksgiving, going to Grandma and Grandpa's for Christmas, and various get-togethers throughout the year. 

But, since yesterday was my 45th birthday, I thought I'd share some highlights:

Me and my guys - all our pictures are either me and the boys or Nevin and the boys - you seldom see us together (someone has to take the picture!)
Blowing out the candle on my Chocolate Lovers cake - yum, can he pick them!
 I especially like that there was just ONE candle, not a whole forest fire to put out!
The cake was an excellent accompaniment to the China 1 carry out he brought home - I LOVE Chinese food!

Okay, I know everyone does not love G.W. like I love G.W., but hey, it was my party and I could have what I wanted!  Looking forward to reading it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Middle Ages

Yesterday I asked my mother if I would be “officially” middle-aged today, as it is my 45th birthday. She informed me that since the average lifespan for American women is 85, I have actually been middle-aged for 2 ½ years.

Well, let the celebrations begin!

Actually, turning 45 is pretty interesting. I don’t feel old at all, even though many people my age are grandparents. Nevin and I got married later (28) and started having children later (32), so my sons are 12, 10, 7 and 6. I am just now entering the “middle school” age, while still learning with a kindergartener.

I do feel caught in the middle at times. My “child rearing” contemporaries are mainly younger – most in their early 30s. My friends my own age, however, mostly have children who are late teens. So our paths rarely pass at playgroups. Sometimes when I realize that I am almost (!) old enough to be the mother or some of my friends, it takes me aback a bit.

One of the things that I have been facing this year is my own vanity. I realize that many, many women all over the world are facing much worse issues, but this has been a struggle for me. Being confronted with my own sin is always difficult, but being confronted with my own sin and a sagging jaw line at the same time can really wear on the spirit.

I will admit it – I have always taken pride in my appearance. I have always tried to present myself well, most of my life I was very thin (thin=beautiful, you know) and while I’ll never be on a magazine cover, I thought I usually looked pretty good.

The first gray hairs didn’t bother me. As they have increased, I find them very interesting, but they still don’t really upset me. I don’t see myself ever coloring my hair. I am 45; it is okay to be going gray. And I am too lazy to keep up with roots, so there you go.

The creasing around the eyes was okay. Those are laugh lines. Varicose veins? No problem, now I know why women my age wear Bermuda shorts. Lots of fashion options.

Hmmm, my eyes are getting smaller, though. I wonder what has happened to my eyelids?

Weight gain – ack! I have gone from someone who could eat anything and still be thin to someone who counts my Points every day – just to stay where I am. I am not particularly unhappy with my current weight and body shape – some things (c-section scars for instance!) are badges of honor to a body being worn out in service. I think that as I am seeing the need for diligence in what I eat, and seeing parts of my face sliding down, that I am not so much distressed about my present, but sort of anxious about my future….

This is probably the time of life that I really need to focus on some regular exercise. I’d like to, I really would. You hear such marvelous things about women my age who start exercising and have wonderful results. Of course, by my age most of those women no longer have small children in the home to care for, or are homeschooling four children who still need my attention, or any of the myriad of excuses I can use. I guess my main excuse is that I am on my feet a lot of the day, I am physically and mentally tired by the time I go to bed, and when I do have free time I don’t want to use it on the treadmill or with my Weight Watchers exercise dvd. I want to read things on the computer, visit with friends, enjoy some fellowship, or pursue my intellectual interests.

Now there is a difficult choice at times – take time to pursue reading and scholarship or exercise. I feel like I never get to read and study enough, and my husband is very gracious in never criticizing a messy home, decorated in stacks of books. I do get plenty of time to read. I choose to use that time to read instead of exercise. I LIKE it better.

But I know that as an “older mother” with four active boys, I will need to still be in good shape ten years from now, when Henry is 16 and I am 55. I have taken steps in eating better, even including dreaded “Healthy Goals” each day (5 servings fruit and veggies, 2 servings dairy, etc.) and reading vitamin catalogs with interest. I’ve eliminated artificial sweeteners, and am considering a purchase of coconut oil in lieu of my beloved Butter Flavor Crisco next time I am in Schnucks (thanks to Sherrie E., my healthy-eating guru!).

I am trying, people!

So, dealing with the basic vanity, dealing with health and body issues, dealing with the idea of dressing like a 45 year old woman, and all that entails. But more than that, there are the spiritual aspects of growing older.

I don’t just want to get old. I want to get wise. I want to grow old in the wisdom of Christ. I want to be able to share this with the younger women. I want to be able to minister to those around me – not so they will be impressed by “me” and “my” knowledge, but so that I can serve Christ through serving them. I have felt this calling on my life very strongly in the last year or so, but I am not sure how it plays out in the real world. I don’t always want to be known as “Paula with really big earrings” (though I do love big earrings!) but as “Paula who loves Christ and others”. I want to be known for my countenance, and for a gentle spirit.

If God can part the Red Sea, surely He can give me a gentle spirit, right? RIGHT???

But I know that God in His sovereignty will give to me the gifts that can best be used to serve Him. I know this. And I know that the Holy Spirit dwells in me, and the fruits of the Spirit are there for the picking, if I only cultivate them. When I look at who I was when Christ saved me, and look at who I am today, I truly see a miracle. Not that I am so wonderful now, by any means, but that I was really a mess back then. Not only just by Godly standards – even by the world’s standards, I was a mess.

But God is gracious; He has been gentle in His leading. The bumps I have hit have mainly been of my own making, through my own sin. And when I am in pain from my sin, and I repent and cry out to Him, He is faithful to forgive. Again and again. And we go on.

So, what is the goal?

“likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works.” 1 Tim 2:9-10

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to too much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:3-5 (emphasis added is mine)

So much more scripture on this topic – I’ll save that for another day. For today, the goal is that in whatever I do, the word of God is not reviled. Christ is honored.
That is the goal.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reading Log for November, 2010

Here it is, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Actually, this was a really good reading month - lots of 4s and 5s.  For those who don't know this particular idiosyncracy of mine, the number to the left is how many books I have read this year (up to 96, the goal is 100) and the number after the title is my rating, 1-5.  You won't see many 1s and 2s - if they are that bad I don't finish them!

88. Voices of the True Woman Movement: A Call to the Counter-Revolution – 5-Nancy Leigh Demoss and other contributors including John Piper, Mary Kassian, Joni Eareckson Tada, Janet Parshall – a collection of writing from the speakers at the 2008 True Woman conference. I attended the 2010 conference in Indianapolis, and it was incredible – this book is a good reminder of what that was all about.

89. Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel – 5 – Louise Penny – the latest in the series – this is such an incredible book – so many details, with three storylines going at once, all intertwining in the people. Just a wonderful book. Some crude language, but that is it.

90. A Quiet Revolution -4.5 - the history of the current reformation going on within the Southern Baptist Convention. There is a strong movement to return the Convention to its traditional historic roots. Probably only interesting to someone who is a Southern Baptist, and I really enjoyed it.

91. No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green – 4.5 – Melody Green – biography of singer Keith Green, written by his wife Melody. Really an interesting read. Keith’s contemporaries considered him prophetic. He mainly spoke to the Church, to those who called themselves Christians but were not living a life subjected to Christ. Very convicting. God used him so mightily – Keith was saved in 1975, and went to the Lord in 1982. During that 7 year period he grew a world-impacting ministry.

92. Royal Blood: A Royal Spyness Mystery – 4 – Rhys Bowen – one of the more fun light mysteries in this series. Georgianna goes to Transylvania to represent the Royal family at a wedding. There are vampires. Very fun.

93. Radical – 5 – David Platt – incredibly convicting. If we truly lived and discipled how Jesus taught, it would turn the Church in America upside down. I need to read it again to process it. Convicting – so much so, that I wanted to push it away.

94. Little Men – 5 – Louisa May Alcott – one of my favorites, a read aloud with my older boys.

95. Dangerous to Know – 4 – Tasha Alexander – the continuing period mystery series featuring Lady Emily. It was good, and a page turner, but Lady Emily is starting to get on my nerves. And there were some parts of the mystery that were never satisfactorily resolved.

96. Prudence Crandall, Woman of Courage – 5 – Elizabeth Yates – story of Prudence Crandall, a young Quaker woman who opened a school for African American young women in Connecticut in 1833. Really did an excellent job of showing the forces and groups at work in this time in our nation’s history. Prudence persevered through harassment, property damage, and imprisonment. A remarkable woman. I was so impressed by her simple faith, plain speech, kindness and dignity. I highly recommend this book to anyone studying this period of US History. It is a junior biography – I’d say junior high reading level, but still having more mature themes.

On Accountability and the Friendship of Women

This post is in honor to my mom, Mary Katherine H., Andrea C., Tammy M., Laura A., Julia D., Becky H., Susan V., Angel B., Sherri E., Faith S. and the long list of women (not all of whom were older, a nod to Angel!) who have walked, and continue to walk, with me. Thank you for your friendship and your honesty.

Who do we choose as our closest friends? Do we choose those who lift us up, challenge us to be our best, and admonish us when we sin? Or do we take the easy route – find casual companions with whom we can be our “worst”? Do we choose to spend our time with those who by their participation encourage us in gossip, complaining, coveting or any other sin? Well?

There is a difference between friends and acquaintances. By friend, I do not mean Facebook Friend. While those lists may contain your close friends, I do not believe that anyone has over 400 people that they can share their hearts with. Most of us are lucky to have two or three our entire lives.

A true friend should be the ones who are willing to gently admonish you when they see you falling into a sinful pattern. But – they should not leave it there. It is no service to a sister to point out the specks (or logs) in her eye and then leave her to her sin. A true friend then encourages, uplifts, and covers you in prayer.

If I am in a friend relationship with someone who encourages me in sin, then I need to examine that. If this is someone that I consider a close friend, then I have made a poor choice in friendship. If it is a casual relationship, then I need to be on-guard and aware. I need to make an effort to lead all conversations to areas that are encouraging and Christ-honoring.

I would also recommend having a woman in your life that you can be held accountable by – someone that you respect enough to go to and to LISTEN to. If you are in a situation where you do not have such a person, you may want to examine that.

Are you in a church/faith family where you have no one that you would be willing to be held accountable to? Why?

Is there no one among your acquaintances that you respect enough to be held accountable by? Why not? Who are you surrounding yourself with?

And I hate to say it, but…….if you cannot find anyone that you respect enough to hold yourself accountable to them, are you perhaps esteeming your own self too highly? Surely there is someone out there who knows more than you and can teach you.

While my mother has been my guide, especially when I was a child, I have gone through several stages of accountability in my adult life. I have had several Godly women who took me under their wing when I was saved in 1993. They taught me how to live, how to love and respect others, how to follow God’s leading. Later, when I found how lacking I was in Bible knowledge, God led me to a lady who became a dear friend and who also taught me how to read the Bible, starting with baby steps. I had another dear lady who taught me about Biblical scholarship, the need to study and learn, to know my Bible and doctrine, preparing myself not to be puffed up with knowledge but to be able to teach when called.

Later, there have been others. There are women who have gone before me in child-rearing and homeschooling, whose example I have followed, and whose phone lines I have burnt up in distress. I have seen those women with God-honoring marriages, who speak respectfully of their husbands, never with put-downs or coarse jokes. These I have watched and try to emulate. And now there are those, as I approach (okay, as I have entered!) mid-life, who are gently leading me to my own role as the older woman, that I may be an encouragement to others. It is so humbling to see my sins become apparent, but so gracious of God to provide those who will hold me accountable in that, who are willing to say things that I may not like. Who are willing to give of their time (a precious commodity) and serve their Lord by instructing me and others.

So, what is a friend? Who do you call friend? And more importantly – who out there can call YOU friend?

That's right - a true friend challenges you on all sorts of levels!
Love you, Betty!