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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Making Memories

During this two week break for Christmas vacation, our home has been filled with making memories with our children.  They are growing up so fast, it's really hard to believe!

Make a memory with your children,
Spend some time to show you care;
Toys and trinkets can't replace those
Precious moments that you share.
Author:  Elaine Hardt

Vacation.  Family time.  Traditions.  Making memories. Helping our children grow up in the Lord.  I love it!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Chronicles of Biscuit - "My Daddy Says Bad Words"

A few years ago we were watching a baseball game, when the coach stopped by to visit our family.  Biscuit, then age 5, said (out of the blue!), "My daddy says bad words."  Joe and I looked at each other kind of puzzled - knowing that he doesn't say bad words and wondering what Biscuit might say next.  The coach looked at us, also realizing it was an awkward moment.  I asked Biscuit what he thought daddy said that was bad and he said, "Daddy says, "Whoa, Nelly!""  We all got a kick out of that!

You know, many parents would be afraid (and possibly embarrassed) if their child told someone that they said bad words, but we knew that we didn't so didn't have to worry.  Of course, there could have been a possibility that Biscuit could have heard a word elsewhere that could have been repeated, but at that time of his life, I didn't think so.  He didn't go to preschool and we don't watch anything on TV that has bad language, so I was pretty sure he didn't even know any "bad" words.

The Bible speaks a lot about the words we say and about the words we shouldn't say.  Here are just a few of the scriptures dealing with our words:

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." Deuteronomy 5:11

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29

"But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:36-37

As our children (or grandchildren) grow up, their little ears are listening to everything we say.  Are the words you are saying repeatable?  Would you be embarrassed to have them repeated?  Are they (as the above scriptures point out) free from using God's name in vain?  Are they helpful and uplifting or unwholesome?  Are your words careless?

Let's all make a point to watch the words we say and also strive to say only what will glorify God and be uplifting to others.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Chronicles of Biscuit - "Cool! Great!"

Sunday we drove to Altus to worship with my parents and my sister and her family.  Our niece and her husband (on my husband's side of the family) also worship at that same congregation and he is going to be the new youth minister there beginning in January.   As I took Biscuit down the stairs for Bible class, I was telling Biscuit that Daniel was going to be the new youth minister.  Biscuit said, "Cool!  Great!  I don't have a clue what that is, but it sounds really good!"  I could hardly contain my laughter!

Wouldn't it be nice if we all had the same positive and optimistic attitude as children do?  Not that they all do all of the time, but for the most part they tend to be more positive and optimistic than adults.  Biscuit didn't have a clue what a youth minister was, but he could tell by my attitude as I told him about it that I thought it was a good thing.  He was happy for Daniel not even understanding what it was for.

As 2009 draws to an end, take the time to think about your attitude.  Is it positive and optimistic?  Or is it negative and pessimistic?  I'm sure we can all plan to have better attitudes in 2010.  God will help us if we ask Him to.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 
Ephesians 4:22-24

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!


Each year as part of a Dr. Seuss' birthday celebration, our elementary school uses the book "Oh, the Places You'll Go" as a theme.  Different volunteers teach about one of our 50 states as part of the celebration.  Last year I chose the state of Indiana.  This postmark was one of the neat things I found about the state.  There is a town called Santa Claus, and there's a huge Santa in front of the post office building.  Also, every year people from all over the world send their Christmas cards to Santa Claus to get the special Christmas postmark.  If you are interested in how to get the postmark for your Christmas cards in the future, just "Google" Santa Claus, Indiana post mark.

In October, when I went to Indiana for the FFA National Convention, I saw the exit sign along the highway for Santa Claus.  I would have liked to go there and visit, but we were on a schedule...and it wasn't mine!  It reminded me of the postmark and so I decided to send our cards there this year.  Of course, I mailed a few cards back to myself so I would see what the postmark looked like.

This year I didn't use a traditional "dressy dress" for our Christmas card, but a picture of the kids from the end of summer.  This is one of my favorite pictures of all of them together.  If I had waited for a more "Christmasy" looking picture, this one from last week's elementary Christmas party would have been the one!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Surprise Trip

Several weeks ago my husband, Joe, told our kids and I to keep the afternoon of Sunday, December 20 open.  We had no idea what was going on, but marked it on the calendar.

In the meantime, our son, Zachary, quizzed his dad about the trip, so Joe gave him some outlandish tale about going goat/pig hunting in south Texas and being in a goat parade.  Since our children show goats and pigs and have been on farms in south Texas, Zachary believed him....and later told his siblings!  We were so shocked that he actually believed the wild tale and did up until the time we left. 

When we headed north instead of south, the kids all realized we weren't headed to Texas as all.  In fact we were headed northeast to Oklahoma City.  When we first got to the OKC/Edmond area, we went to worship at MRCC with Joe's brother, our sister-in-law and their family.  Worship at MRCC is one of our favorite things.  It's always so uplifting.  Sunday evening was a time of song, scripture, and prayer - focusing on the omnipotence of God. 

After worship, we grabbed a quick fast-food meal and headed to downtown OKC for a concert of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  I had figured out what we were going to do (because I snooped online for "Things to do in OKC" on Sunday, December 20 and my husband gave TSO initial hints to our kids), but the kids still had no idea.  Even when we got there, they didn't know what it was.  They've heard some of their songs, but not many and not enough to know what it was.

The lights and special effects of the show were amazing and we enjoyed most of it.  For us, though, a lot of it was too "rock band" for our style.  It didn't seem like the songs we had heard on the radio for the most part, BUT there were some beautiful songs and TSO has some amazing talent.  I heard a group of people comment that it was more rock-style than last year, so others felt the same way we did.  However, I'm certain we were in the minority on the opinion scale.  It just wasn't our thing this year.  Next year's style might be more what we would like.

A few days before the surprise trip, I mentioned that I would like to go shopping in the City ("the City" is Oklahoma City to us Okies.  You may think of it as the biggest city in your state or country!) before Christmas. Joe thought about it and decided to tell me that as part of the trip we could spend the night in the City I was so excited and that gave me a clue as to what the surprise trip was going to be.

I told our daughter that we were spending the night somewhere so she could pack her own things, but packed the three boys myself. They had no idea we were staying in the City until we pulled into the hotel parking lot. They were so excited!

Monday morning we woke up and headed out shopping.  We had a great day and got lots of shopping done.  One of our favorite stops was Bass Pro Shop where Tyler got to see Santa and the store had lots of neat places to take pictures. 


Monday night on the way home we had one more surprise for the kids - the Festival of Lights in Chickasha.  If you live within traveling distance of Chickasha, Oklahoma, this spectacular light display is well worth your time.  It's beautiful!  We actually waited in line (a line of cars) for 50 minutes to even get into the park, then walked around to see the lights.  The weather was great, so it was a perfect evening for stopping by.  If you're not near Chickasha, here are pictures for you to enjoy :).






Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Holidays?

When I was a Freshman in High School, my great-grandpa passed away in December.  The next year my great uncle was killed in a car accident, also in December.  Believe it or not, the next December, another tragedy affected our family.  My great aunt and uncle on the other side of the family were both killed when hit by a semi truck.  Understandably so, the next year, I dreaded December.  I wasn't sure what would happen after three years of tragedies.  Thankfully, nothing happened that next year.

Last Friday, as I was cleaning up from the elementary Christmas party, I was visiting with the school nurse about their Christmas plans.  She was so excited about her family getting to stay home Christmas Day.  All extended family plans were later on that evening or on other days.  She talked about how usually they were not able to stay home on Christmas because of family obligations.  She was also looking forward to the two week break and relaxing with her family.

The next day I learned that the school nurse's mother had passed away that morning.  I was so sad to hear the news and it breaks my heart that she and her family will be facing grief during this time of year.  Death of a loved one is hard at any time, but around the holidays it seemed like that grief is compounded even more.

Today after worship services I thought about the prayer list of so many who were sick, awaiting surgery, or who had lost loved ones.  During this happy and joyous time of year - time of celebration - don't forget those who are hurting or maybe grieving.  Don't forget those who may be lonely.

The happiest time of year for some may possibly be the worst time of year for others.  However, we can reach out to those who are hurting by extending a helping hand and a caring heart.  By showing Christ's love to others we are letting our lights shine.  Just another way to "Shine Like Stars."

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tipton Elementary Chrismtas Party 2009

For the past ten years I've helped with the Tipton elementary Christmas party through our PTO (Parent Teacher Organization), but for the last six years, I've had the priviledge of getting to plan the whole party. While this might not be something many (or even most) people would enjoy, for me it is something I not only enjoy, but look forward to all year long.

This year's party theme was "Elves".  Each student was given an elf hat to wear for the party.  Early in the day the students got a visit from Santa.  Each student is given a picture of himself/herself and Santa. 

Each year, the students go to four stations during the party and come together at the end for cookies and hot chocolate.  This year at one of the stations, the students decorated sugar cookies.  After decorating their cookies, they took them to their designated seat in the cafeteria.  This is the cookie they eat at the end of the party.  This year the students decorated elf shaped sugar cookies.

I couldn't figure out why no one was making the cookies look like elves.  Little did I know that no one recognized that the un-iced cookies were elves!!  They thought they were stockings or something! After I finally said something, the last group was able to get a few real looking elf cookies.  So funny!

Another station is always a book reading.  This year the PTO purchased "An Elf on the Shelf" workbook, book, CD, and elf for the teachers to use during the month of December.  There are lots of worksheets and crafts in the workbook, so it's worth getting and using in the classroom.  The students never actually heard the book until the party.  They enjoyed hearing the book and learning about the little elf.



The next station is the ornament-making station.  This year's ornament was an elf (of course!).  The ornaments were so cute and the students had fun making them.  It's important for me for the students to have an ornament for each year of the elementary school.  Of course some of them make them in their classrooms, too.



Since the theme was elves, I wanted the students to "build" something in a center called "Santa's Workshop".  Last February I took the 4-H members to the Oklahoma Science Museum (formerly Omniplex) Lock-In.  One of the projects they made was a mousetrap catapult.  It "catapults" a ping pong ball!  I knew this would be a perfect toy for the students to build for this Christmas party.

Here's the finished project.  Each student was given their ping pong ball at the end of the day.  It seemed that 128 ping pong balls being flung all over the school wouldn't be a smart idea!  Of course, the students were warned to not catapult anything dangerous.  Marshmallows would be fun to try, though!

It's always fun when the students come together at the end of the four stations.  The enjoy eating their decorated cookie and drinking the hot chocolate.  They enjoy singing songs, too.


This year two my two oldest children were exempt from semester tests, so I recruited them to help with the party. Daughter, Lauren, and her friend were elves.  Of course I had to get their picture as elves.  Zachary helped in the toy workshop.

My younger two children are in the 1st and 5th grades and enjoyed attending the Christmas party.  It's Jacob's last elementary Christmas party.  Kinda makes me sad!  Tyler has several more to go, though.


Here's a family picture below with my children and I.  My husband actually helped in the toy making shop too, but he was gone by the time we took this picture.  He didn't dress up, though! I think it's fun to dress up and the students really like it when some of us dress up.

Santa walked up and down to school hall, which is connected to the gym.  Some of the junior high and high school boys were practicing and we were able to take a quick picture, interrupting their practice.  They didn't seem to mind at all!

My mind is spinning thinking about next year's Christmas party.  This one was a lot of fun as you can see, but, then again, they all are fun to me! 

Other party themes have been snowmen, reindeer, gingerbread man (my absolute favorite!), Oklahoma Country Christmas, and Santa.  Whatever is chosen, one thing is for certain:  Special memories are made in the lives of these students.  That's important to me and that's why I am so thankful to have the oppotunity to
 plan the parties for them.

This year at the end of the party, one of the teachers had the students sing "Jingle Bells" to me as a thank you for the party.  It was so sweet and they did such a good job!  I had lots of helpers during the party and they deserve a big thank you, too.

Two of the helpers are here visiting family for Christmas.  They are having a break from their missionary work in England and volunteered to help with the party.  (The link to their website is on my blogroll under "Lovejoys in Morley", if you're interested.) Thank you, Jed and Shiloh, for all of your help!  Shiloh actually baked half of the sugar cookies from me (and she didn't even know what they were while she was baking them - hee! hee!). 

Merry Christmas, Tipton Elementary!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Let There Be Peace

Several months ago I posted "A Norvell Note". Mr. Norvell gave me permission to use his notes from time to time. I wanted to share this one with you today. Enjoy!

A Norvell Note
Vol. 12 No. 50 December 14, 2009
Let There Be Peace

As recorded in Luke 2, the shepherds received word of the birth of Jesus with these words:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (13,14, NIV)

Peace on earth. How's that working at your house?

Christmas is just over a week away. Is it there peace in your world? You've been working for days trying to get all the decorations up. You're almost finished. Then, you remember that you're supposed to bake cookies for your children's class parties. So, the decorations will wait a little longer while you run to the store, buy the ingredients, come home, bake the cookies and somehow manage get the laundry done before you and your husband leave for his office party. You come home exhausted from the day but before you go to bed you have to make sure the children have their Sunday best clean and pressed and ready for church tomorrow morning.

The alarm goes off much sooner than you prefer, but out of bed you jump and within in minutes you have the kitchen in full gear as you prepare lunch for your church holiday potluck luncheon. As soon as the luncheon is over you stop by a couple of stores to grab a gift for Uncle Fred and another for Aunt Lucille. Then, you rush home so you can prepare snack foods for the small group meeting in your home. The group finally leaves and after the kids are tucked into their beds you head back downstairs to spend a few minutes with your husband who is frantically trying put the finishing touches on a presentation he has to be ready for by 9:00 in the morning. "I'll be up for a while," he says, as you head toward the kitchen to clean up the dishes that were left from breakfast. That's when you see the box of decorations waiting to be unwrapped, dusted and put on display. You do about half the box and get a call from the mother of one of your child's classmates saying they have a family emergency and ask if you can fill in as a chaperon for the party. "Sure. I'd be glad to," you say as you finish loading the dishwasher.

Peace on earth.

Your boss just walked in your office, closed the door, and sat down across from you. They plant's cutting back. We have to let thirty employees go. Your job is safe, but he tells you that you are the best person to inform those thirty faithful employees, that this week's paycheck will be their last. It's the week before Christmas.

Peace on earth.

You had gone to the doctor for a regular check up last week and everything seemed to go fine. At least that's what you thought. Then, you get a call from the doctor saying he needs to see you in his office as soon as possible to "talk about something he saw on one of the scans."

Peace on earth.

Is there a chance the angels were misinformed? Surely they meant to say, "Chaos on earth and good luck to all men."

No, they had it right. It was God's desire when His son came to be "with us" that peace would reign on earth and in our hearts. It wasn't a miscommunication or wishful thinking. It was an announcement of what can happen when we receive the Messiah. Peace on earth.

It doesn't mean there won't be chaos in your world. Sure, you can probably slow your pace, cut out a few things, stay at home more, miss a party, bake a few less cookies, make some adjustments in how your job manages you, and find a way to reduce your level of stress. But, face it: life is a full-time job. It's hard to say, "No." Not impossible, but hard.

However, even though your life during these last few hectic days before Christmas if full and overflowing with activity, peace on earth is possible.

It starts with taking a few minutes to listen to the earlier part of the announcement: "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10,11). That's the key.

Peace on earth. A Savior is born.

A savior is born. Peace on earth.

The Savior is with us. Let there be peace.

Tom
A Norvell Note © Copyright 2009. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.
 
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Chronicles of Biscuit - How to Cook a Turkey

Biscuit's (Tyler) 1st grade class wrote a cookbook just before Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately he forgot to tell me about it and I didn't check his backpack until the Monday morning after Thanksgiving.  I wanted to post it for you now - just in case you are one of the families that has turkey for Christmas, too.

HOW TO COOK A TURKEY
by Biscuit

10 pounds of dressing
9 cups of juice
One 20 pound turkey
9 eggs
20 cups of milk

Directions:
Go shoot a turkey.  Then take the skin off.  Then you can use the feathers to decorate something.  Wash the turkey off in the sink with some water.  Put the clean turkey in a big, big pan.  Put all of the dressing on top of the turkey.  Bake the 9 eggs and then put them in the turkey.  Then pour water on the eggs and that will make mush to go in the turkey.  Take a little spoon and get some dressing out, then pour the milk where the dressing was.  Then put the dressing back where it goes.  If you want to put the feathers on when you're not eating it you can, then when you are gonna eat it take them off.  Put the pan in the oven.  Don't cover it cause the feathers might get hot.  Cook the turkey and feathers for about 30 minutes.  Then taste it and look at it to see if it's done.  When your mom yells "It's ready!!!" then it is prolly done.  Then take the turkey out of the oven and put it in the middle of the table.  Take the bones out.  Throw the bones to the dog.  Have your dad cut it up and put it on your plate.  Eat the turkey after you say a prayer.  After you eat, take all your Thanksgiving stuff down and get ready for Christmas.
***

So, just in case you've never cooked a turkey, you can try Biscuit's recipe! This 1st grade Thanksgiving cookbook will become one of the special memories from my children's younger years.  I'm thankful that their teacher, Mrs. A, was willing to take the time to listen to each student and write down their "recipes".  What a special cookbook!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jesus' Dash

When you visit a cemetary and look at the tombstones, you will see the person's birthdate and then the date of their death. I've heard lessons before about how the "dash" - what's in between the two dates - is what matters.  Maybe I've even posted about it in the past.

Today I was thinking about Jesus and his "dash". Jesus didn't need a tombstone because he wasn't going to be staying in the grave very long. In fact, he had a big stone in front of his burial cave and it was soon rolled away, wasn't it?

Christ's birth is celebrated on December 25th. However, most, if not all, Bible scholars agree that most likely December 25 was not Jesus' birthdate. I just noticed the other day that even my NIV study Bible notes that it most likely wasn't December 25th. I've seen reasons listed why it was most likely in the spring and reasons why it was most likely in the fall. But, we know that He was born and we read of His miraculous conception and His humble birth. I just love reading that story, don't you!?

And then we know of His death, celebrated at Easter each year - and that date is different every year. But we know HOW He died. On a cross. For you and for me.

So, what about Jesus' "dash"? What did He do from birth until death, at age 33?

1. Birth - Born in a manger in Bethlehem. Luke 2:6-7

2. Shepherds visited. Luke 2:16

3. Eight days old - Jesus was circumcised in Jerusalm and blessed by Simeon at the temple. Luke 2:25-35

4. Jesus went with his parents to Nazareth and he grew.
"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." Luke 2:40

5.  The Magi (or wise men) visit Jesus - sometime after 8 days old and under 2 years old. 
(Note:  The Magi didn't visit Jesus at birth as is often depicted in Nativity scenes and in songs.  We know this because the Bible says the Magi "came to the house" Matthew 2:11 and also because of King Herod's decree in Matthew 2:16, "When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi."
Also you may note that the Bible never says there were three wise men, but that they brought three gifts of "gold and of incense and of myrrh"

6.  Jesus is 12 years old and goes with His parents to the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem.  He stays behind without His parents knowing.  When they find Him three days later, He is found in the temple courts listening to the teachers and asking them questions.  Luke 2:42-48

7.  Jesus goes back to Nazareth with His parents and is obedient and He grows.
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:52

8.  Jesus is baptized at about 30 years old and begins His ministry.  Luke 3:21-23

9.  Jesus is tempted by Satan. Luke 4:1-14

10.  Jesus begins preaching.  Matthew 4:12-17

11.  Jesus calls His first disciples.  Matthew 4:18-22 and following chapters

12.  Jesus heals many, performs miracles, speaks in parables as He teaches, and designates His 12 apostles from among the disciples. (Throughout the gospels.)

13.  Jesus is rejected in his own hometown.  Matthew 13:53-58

14.  Peter confesses that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Jesus says that upon that confession, His church will be built. (Note:  Not the building, but the people.) Matthew 16:13-19

15.  The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread where the last Passover meal is served.  Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper to be done in rememberance of Him.  Luke 22:7-20

16.  Jesus prays, knowing that He will soon give His life on the cross.  Luke 22:39-44

17.  Jesus is arrested.  Luke 22:47-53

18.  Jesus is on trial. Luke 22:66 - 23:25

19.  Jesus' death at age 33...the ninth hour.  Luke 26-46

20.  Jesus is buried on a Friday.  Luke 23:50-56

21.  On the first day of the week (Sunday), Jesus is risen!  Luke 24:1-8

22.  Jesus appears to some women and to His apostles (Eleven now, minus Judas), and others Matthew 28:9-15

23.  Jesus tells His disciples what they are to do: 

A.  Make other disciples all over the world, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them (the new disciples) to obey His commands.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19-20

B.  He opens the minds of the disciples so that they could understand the Scriptures. They were to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.  They were witnesses because they actually saw Jesus and His miracles.  "What the Father has promised" would be the Holy Spirit, which would give them the ability to do miracles, too.

"Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."" Luke 24:45-49

24.  Jesus' ascension.  Luke 24:50

So, there is Jesus' dash.  What is your response to His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection?  Many all over the world are happy to celebrate December 25th, or perhaps think about Him all month long. But, when the Nativity scenes are put away in a box on December 26 or by January 1, Jesus is forgotten.  He's left in their minds as a sweet little baby, never allowed to "grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor".  He's never allowed to become their Savior.

And then there's Easter.  Some may also think of Jesus then, too.  But, is that really what Jesus and God want?  During our Lord's Last Supper - the Feast of the Unleavened Bread - Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of Me".  Do you suppose Jesus meant to only remember Him on Christmas and Easter?  Of course not!  Jesus wants us to remember His dash - remember His life  and what He did for us all year long.

There's another thing, though about Jesus' dash.  It doesn't end at all because He's alive still today!  He's in Heaven with God and will return to this earth some day.  I look forward to that day, don't you?  It's at that point the "dash" in our life will be very important.  How are you living out yours?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

EVERYTHING

Tonight as I sat down to write this "Gratituesday" blog post, I quickly searched through my blog roll to see if there were any new updates. After reading THIS new post from Trey Morgan, I couldn't help but say that today I am thankful for EVERYTHING.

Sometimes I get caught up in the busyness of life. At this time of year there are parties, programs, and other Christmas-time functions. There are presents to buy, presents to wrap, and things to decorate. There are deadlines to meet and bills to pay. Plus kids' school activities. Everything comes fast and furious all year long, but seems to come head-on in December.

If you clicked on the link above, you will see why I am grateful for EVERYTHING. Unlike the people Trey talks about in his blog, I don't have to worry about where my families' next meal is coming from or if there will be a meal. I don't have to worry about whether my family will have shelter during the night. I know that I have plenty of clean clothes in my drawers and in my closet. They probably do not have that luxury.

I am grateful for EVERYTHING because God has blessed me so abundantly. And, because of that abundance, I want to do what I can to reach out and help the people of Honduras and all over the world who are in need.

Thank you, God, for EVERYTHING!

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

"But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand."
1 Chronicles 29:13-14

Monday, December 14, 2009

Respect the Elderly

Note:  I have messed up my blog feed somehow.  Please let me know if you are recieving Shine Like Stars via email.  Many that were signed up to get them have not gotten them since Nov. 19th.  Thank you, Lori

"Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:32

Yesterday our church was in charge of the nursing home worship service at a nearby town. The nursing home worship is typically something we do two or three times each year.

Every time we visit the nursing home, we leave the place feeling uplifted.  Watching the smiling faces as the residents see the little children is always a joy, but so is watching them sing along during the worship.  It's interesting to me that the residents always want to touch the children.  Many children aren't comfortable visiting the home, but some are not bothered by it at all.  In fact, many little children visiting freely disperse their  handshakes and hugs.

Of course, sometimes the visit is heartbreaking, too.  I remember one little couple who would turn the pages of the song book and follow along with us as we sang.  They would look at each other and smile.  The husband would try to help his wife turn the pages and she would take his hand (sweetly) and move it back to his own book, continuing to try to find it herself!  It was always great to see them working together through the struggles of their mental and physical bodies.  And then I remember going back one time and that little couple wasn't there anymore. There are many I remember that are no longer there.

At this time of year, angel trees are filled with gift wishes for children.  People all over the world are giving of themselves to help those in need.  While not neglecting these younger ones, let's not forget the elderly, either.  Christmas time can be especially lonely for the elderly who may no longer have family of their own, or maybe whose family lives far away.  They need our handshakes, hugs, visits, prayers, calls, cards, and maybe even gifts, too. 

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Ephesians 1:27

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Middle Man


When our son, Zachary, was in the 5th grade and played on the elementary basketball team, the coach divided the team into "A" and "B" teams (including 4th - 6th grade boys). Zachary was at the very bottom of the "A" team.

During one particular tournament, the "A" team was playing an arch-rival. This is the team that always intimidates our teams, from Little League baseball and all the way up to high school. The game was close and our boys ended up losing by a only a few points. Zachary never, ever got to play during that whole game. He was the only boy that didn't get to play - all of the others did.

I didn't get upset. I try very hard to be realistic about my kid's abilities while also trying to be encouraging to them so they won't give up. Zachary didn't seem upset that he didn't get to play, but my husband and I both told him we were sorry that he didn't get to play.

The "B" team boys played afterwards. We stayed to watch half of that game and I don't remember if they won or not, but I know everyone got to play. So, out of all of the 4th - 6th grade boys on both basketball teams, Zachary was the ONLY one that didn't play during that day's games. I remember thinking to myself that he was in the middle. He was the "middle man". It would have been better to be at the top of the "B" team than at the bottom of the "A", but that's where he was - for the whole year.

Coach G. recognized that Zachary never played. It must have been sometime that evening because he told Zachary that if he had stayed for the other part of the "B" game, he would have put him in (even though we were sitting in the bleachers and Zachary was up there with us). I thought it was neat that the coach actually thought about it. He had lots of other things on his mind - like the almost 30 boys in his care!

Well, two years later, things are kind of at the same level, although now it's junior high and now there's no "A" and "B" team. All 20 boys (plus 4 more that share jerseys with others) play together. These boys are great ball players. They are a team we are expecting to go far in the playoffs in a few years. It's exciting! But, guess who's in the middle again? Yep. Zachary.

Last week he got to play, but for less than a minutes. Those on the top played a lot. Those on the end didn't play a lot, but played several minutes. Oh, and that game? Same arch-rival team, but not close at all. 40 points difference!

Well, this time Zachary was disappointed. We were, too. We talked to Zachary about it and cheered him up some. The coach didn't notice this time. And, I know for certain it isn't deliberate - it's just an oversight. And, I know we'll never say anything and coach will never read this blog. But, it's obvious that Zachary is still the "middle man".

Someone else was/is a middle man. His name is Jesus. Jesus came to earth to be the "middle man" to save you and I for our sins. God sent Him as His Son to be the "middle man" to take our punishment.
Zachary will survive being the "middle man" again this year. In the end he'll be stronger because of it, too. But, nothing Zachary will go through will ever compare to what Jesus did. Jesus went to the cross as the "middle man" in full submission to His Father.
Being the "middle man" is okay.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Remember the Duck?


I received this devotional thought via email and wanted to share it with you. I had heard this story before, but didn't remember where it was from. Mr. Smith follows up the story with his own thoughts about God's forgiveness. I emailed Mr. Smith several months ago and asked for permission to post an email of his. He said that was just fine and to use any of them I wanted to share with my readers from time to time. Enjoy!

REMEMBER THE DUCK?

In his book, "Will Daylight Come?" Robert Heffler pens this moving illustration:

There was a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm. He was given a slingshot to play with, out in the woods. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit the target. Getting discouraged, he headed back to dinner.

As he was walking back, he saw Grandma's pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let fly, hit the duck square in the head and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch that day Grandma said, "Sally, let's wash the dishes."

But Sally said, "Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn't you Johnny?" And then she whispered to him, "Remember the duck?" So Johnny did the dishes.

Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing, and Grandma said, "I'm sorry, but I need Sally to help me make supper."

But Sally smiled and said, "Well, that's all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help." And she whispered again, "Remember the duck?" Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally's, he finally couldn't stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he killed the duck. She knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, "Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing. But because I love you, I forgave you. But, I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you."

********

You would think that once we receive forgiveness from God, Satan would leave us alone, but he doesn't. He continues to accuse us and tries to make us feel guilty. That's what he does best -- he's an accuser. Sometimes we make the mistake of listening to him and thus remain a slave. Forgiveness offers freedom -- freedom from guilt as well as freedom from sin.

"Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.' " Revelation 12:10

May you seek to know God's forgiveness, and the freedom that goes with it.
Have a great day!

Alan Smith
Helen Street Church of Christ
Fayetteville, North Carolina

At Your Service

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.  Ephesians 6:7

Recently a need came to my attention concerning our county's food bank.  4-H Clubs across our county were asked to help with the food bank.  Each of the local town 4-H leaders said, "Yes!  We will help!"  We were each assigned a particular Tuesday of the month and it was explained to us that we would need to help for as many months as needed - not just during the holiday season.

Because my boys and I didn't have any other plans made for Tuesday afternoon, I volunteered to help this week.  Other local 4-H members and their parents will be asked to help in the following months.

I have to admit that at first the boys  were a little reluctant to be enthused about giving up a "free" afternoon and evening to go work.  I was a little bit, too, but didn't let them know it.  Besides the hour of actual work, we also drive to the nearby town where the food bank is located.  We don't have many free days any more and the boys especially miss their play time when we're so busy.  But, after working for that hour and filling up bags of food and distributing the food to those in need, our attitudes changed - both mine and the boys'.  What an uplifting feeling to know you are helping someone who truly needs your help!

As I mentioned during "The 30-Day Giving Challenge" during the month of November, sometimes our "time" is what we are most selfish about giving to others.  But sometimes our time is what people need from us the most.  The verse at the top of this post should always be our attitude when we are serving others:  Remember that in serving others, we are really serving God.  He's worthy of our service.

In old movies, if someone called for their servants - maybe a butler or a maid, they might have replied, "At your service!".  As servants of God, we should say that very same thing, "AT YOUR SERVICE, GOD!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Discipline Those You Love

A friend posted the following quote on Facebook: 
Parents, they're strict on you when you're little, and you don't understand why. But as you get older, you understand and you appreciate it. -Grant Hill

It was interesting because I was working on a "discipline" post at the time and had looked up several scriptures about discipline.  When you read through these scriptures below, it is easy to see that God disciplines His children and He expects His children to discipline their OWN children. 

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. Deuteronomy 8:5

My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke,
because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 3:11-12

He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. Proverbs 10:17  

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.
Proverbs 12:1

I mentioned recently that our daughter got a cell phone.  I teased her at the time and told her that I was glad she was getting a cell phone because it was something we could take away from her as punishment.  She said, "That's mean mom" - in a teasing way. Before the cell phone, there really wasn't anything to take away.  She doesn't watch much TV - doesn't have the time.  She doesn't have friends over too often - also because of being so busy with extra-curricular school activities.  There just wasn't any creative way to discipline her until the cell phone came into the picture.

Well, the other day, Lauren's attitude towards me caused her to get her cell phone taken away.  I first talked to my husband about it, but we agreed that she would give it up for two days.  I asked her to give me her phone and she asked why.  I told her that it was because of her attitude a little while before. She gave me her phone. This afternoon the punishment time was over and I gave her back her phone.  She was glad to get it back, especially since she was leaving soon  for a school event. (Actually, we were glad, too!) 

Sometimes it is hard to discipline.  Discipline causes the routine of life to be changed in some way, and because of that, it may make parents less willing to follow through with the punishment.  But, just as Our Heavenly Father disciplines those who are His children, we MUST discipline our children.  God expects us to do that because it's our job!

Discipline shows your children that you love them.  Why?  Because when you set boundaries, you are showing that you are protecing them.  When you have rules, you are teaching them that you care about them and how they behave.  Protection and care to a child translates into love to them....maybe not at that time, but later on - just like the quote above points out.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:

"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.

For what son is not disciplined by his father?
Hebrews 12:5-7

Don't be afraid to discipline those you love and who are in your care.  God will bless you for it.

Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul
Proverbs 29:17

Tyler's Sports Birthday Party

Gratituesday:  My Children's Birthdays
On Saturday, I woke Tyler up saying "Happy Birthday".  He was so excited about turning 7 that day.  In fact, the first words he said were, "I've got an idea.  How about everyone sing "Happy Birthday" to me at one o'clock today?"  We had music lessons, baskeball games, and basketball practices scattered throughout the day, so we decided to sing "Happy Birthday" to him that morning instead. 

He opened his presents from us.  Joe's brother and our sister-in-law picked up a Texas Longhorns jersey for us to give him.  They brought it from Texas when they came for Thanksgiving.  Even though Tyler's an OU fan and I had gotten him an OU baseball shirt/short set back in the summer, he had recently become a Longhorns fan, too.  One sibling called him a traitor!


He was really proud of the Texas jersey (Oklahoma is showing through from his shirt underneath!).  He wore it to school yesterday.  The principal called and asked me, "What happened to Tyler?  He's got a Longhorns jersey on?"  Of course, he was just teasing about it.  He really called about PTO stuff, but since he himself played baseball at OU, he's pretty loyal to the Sooners.


Tyler's party was Sunday after worship services.  We couldn't fit it in on Saturday, his actual birthday.  Tyler shares his birthday with his Uncle Teddy, so that's neat.  This year I failed to get a picture of them together like I usually do, but can some time later.  We had a family party with the usual food for Tyler's party:  Chicken Tortilla Soup (which I have posted here), Potato Soup, and Vegetable Beef Stew along with cornbread and garlic-cheese biscuits. 



One of Tyler's brothers said recently that they felt bad that Tyler's birthday meal was always soups, but Tyler wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, he expects it!  Chicken Tortilla Soup is his favorite.







The party was decorated in a OU and sports theme.  Tyler's favorite sports are football, baseball, and basketball.  He likes golf, too, but we didn't use it in the decorations. 

Of course, since it's in December, Tyler's party decor alway has a Christmas flair to it.  I asked him if it was okay to use the OU Santa hat. He liked the idea.

Tyler's cake was fun to make.  I had made sports ball cakes using the Wilton ball cake pan, but I hadn't ever done an "All Sports" cake before.  Don't look too closely because the lines are crooked and the edges are not smooth and straight!  I was in a big hurry trying to get it done and get to one of  the ballgames!

Blow out the candle!  All of my kids have liked having the number candles.  A few have switched over to wanting more candles now.  His wish was that Christmas could be every day. 













Immediately following the family meal part of the party, the children arrived for the party.  Tyler invited his 1st grade class and seven of his friends were able to attend.   It was a nice sized group. Tyler's siblings helped with the party games, which was a big help.
Thankfully it wasn't too cold and the kids could play outside.  The party games were:  Hot Football (like Hot Potato), a ping pong ball relay (hard to do because of the wind) and a balloon popping game - where the balloons were tied to each child's leg and they would pop each other's balloon.  They had lots of fun!

This is the final birthday party of this year for my children and the 46th birthday party I've planned for them in all.  No wonder I'm tired!  Actually, I am GRATEFUL for each of my children's birthdays.  I enjoy parties and enjoy planning them and decorating for them.  But I'm grateful for them because it means that they have been blessed by God with another year of life and that he has bless us as parents by giving us another year of happiness and joy as we watch each of them grow up.

What are you grateful for on this Gratituesday?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lunch Box Notes

Ever since our first child started Kindergarten 10 years ago, I've been making school lunches at least three times a week. Now that all four of our children are in school, this lunch box preparation takes more time and planning.

With the exception of a few times, I have always put a little note in each of the kid's lunch boxes. On occassion I will have them write each other a note. It's interesting to ask what they've written to one of their siblings and thankfully it's always been nice - maybe funny, but still nice.

I remember when Lauren (the oldest) was in 6th grade. She had moved up to middle school. After taking her lunch for all of those elementary years, she suddenly became a little embarrassed about taking it. It wasn't that she necessarily wanted to eat the school's food, but it was just that most of the kids in her class didn't take their lunch, so she would have to sit alone while waiting on her friends to go through the line.

Sending our kid's with home-packed lunches serves two purposes: First of all, we want to know for sure our kids are eating healthy (whole wheat/whole grain, fruit, non-fried), but secondly, it saves us money.

A few months later after getting used to the new lunch time routine, Lauren's friends began wishing they had their own home-packed lunches. But, it wasn't the lunch they wanted. They wanted the lunch box notes! They would have Lauren read them out loud so they could hear what I would say to her. It's never a really long note - in fact it's quite short. Sometimes the note has a spiritual message. Sometimes it may refer to a school even that will be during that day. But I always make sure to say something postive to the kids and to tell them that I love them.

Last year, when our youngest went to Kindergarten, I quickly realized he wasn't even looking at his notes. It took him a while to get into the lunch routine, but he had one particular friend who noticed the notes. In fact, that little boy told his mom, "I want you to pack me a note in my lunch box just like Tyler gets." She told me about it later.

Little lunch box notes are just one of the many special ways we can tell our family members that we love them and care about them. It lets them know that, although they are not with us at the time, they are still in our hearts.

We can use scripture for our special little notes. We can post a favorite scripture all around your home. We can stick them on the refrigerator door, write them on a kitchen chalkboard, write them on a mirror, maybe even pack them in your own lunch box...anything to help you remember throughout the day that God is with you. You are in His heart. Little lunch box notes can help us remember that God loves us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, Tyler!


It's really hard to believe that our youngest child, Tyler, is seven years old today!  From two years on I've thought at each of his birthdays, "I'll never have another 2 year old, 3 year old, and on and on."  I have to work on not being sad about that and just enjoy the time we have with our children.  It goes by soooooo fast.

In August, I wrote about losing a baby due to stillbirth.  (Click here for post.) That little boy, Caleb, was due in December.  December was the one month of the whole year that I really had never wanted to have a baby - just because of the busyness and the presents all at one time of the year.  But after we lost Caleb and then got pregnant again the next year at the same time, I was thankful we were going to have a December baby.  And, from each birthday on, I've continued to be thankful.  December/Christmas babies and birthdays are lots of fun!

Although we love all of our children just the same, everyone in our immediate family will tell you that Tyler definitely adds something special to our home.  Tyler's three siblings each have their own talents, gifts, and abilities and so does he.  I suppose if I had to list one thing that is special about him is that he makes life fun (and funny).  If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you've seen "The Chronicles of Biscuit" posts, which are all about Tyler, whose nickname is Biscuit.  Hardly a day goes by without him saying something that makes us laugh.  Most of the time he has a happy disposition which overflows into our family life and into his first grade classroom.

A note about this sweet little picture.  It's taken by Blunck's Studio in Clinton, Oklahoma.  They have awesome photographers there and I loved how they captured Tyler's personality in this picture and all of his one year pictures.  They even used one of them in their store window the next season, so I guess they liked it, too.  Just now as I uploaded it I noticed Tyler's left eye.  It appears larger than the right, although I never noticed it at the time.  To read why it really is later (which we found noticed about six months later), click here.

When Tyler was born he was jaundiced.  That was no surprise to me since two of our other children were, too.  We brought him home from the hospital with a bili-blanket and treated him at home.  A home health nurse was sent out to monitor his progress and take his blood.  After the first few days at home the nurse noticed that he wasn't eating.  I was nursing him just as I had all of the other three and I knew he was eating, but after several days and onto a few weeks, it was obvious he wasn't gaining weight. 

We took him into the pediatrician and after a few visits, it was finally suggested that maybe he had a condition referred to as "failure to thrive".  That was scary, but it just didn't seem right. Tyler seemed to want to eat, but he just wasn't growing like he should.  The lactation consultant mentioned that a rare type of problem is that the roof of the mouth (palate) is so high and arched, that sometimes a baby wouldn't be able to suck properly.  My husband and I decided that was probably the problem and we talked to the pediatrician about it.  He had us finger-feed Tyler every hour every day for several days.  We would tape a little tube onto our pinky finger and feed him that way.  We could make our finger go further up to the roof of his mouth and he could suck better.  Of course I would have to pump every few hours, too.  I remember that first Christmas Day of 2002 when he was just 20 days old.  I was exhausted having to feed every hour (all day and night).  My husband would help too, but he had to go to work, too. 

It was an extremely difficult time, but thankfully everything worked out for the best and Tyler began to   grow. He was about two months old before we were able to go back to regular nursing.  The roof of the mouth seemed to flatten out a bit, making nursing easier for him.  When I look back at pictures of those first few months of his life - especially around Christmas time - it makes me sad.  Instead of seeing a healthy filled out little boy that we had at birth and even when he came home at two days old, I see a scrawny, unhealthy looking little baby.  It's amazing that I didn't notice that he looked bad at the time, but I didn't at all.  That part makes me feel bad now.  It's kind of scary to think how little nourishment he was getting in the beginning.  Apparently just enough to keep him alive.  God blessed us during that time by helping us through it and for restoring Tyler to his normal weight.


Yesterday at school, a friend bought Tyler a sucker at the cheerleader's candy sale.  After school Tyler was eating it and when he bit down on it (Why do kids BITE a sucker?  They're to be SUCKED on...hence the name!) it made a bottom tooth loose.  He promptly pulled it out.  He already has three on the top missing, now one on the bottom, too.  He's singing, "All I Want for Christmas is My Four Front Teeth!"

Thank you, God, for Tyler and for his life.  You have blessed him through his growing struggles at the beginning of his life, through his problem with his eyes, and continue to bless him now.  Through his life you have blessed us, too.  Thank you for the blessing of children.  Tyler brings much happiness to all of us and it is our prayer that he always uses that bright-shiny attitude and happy dispostion to Your glory and in service to You.

Happy Birthday, Biscuit!  We love you very much.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The U in Jesus

I received this poem via email. It's so good I wanted to share it with all of you.

THE U IN JESUS

Before U were thought of or time had begun,
God stuck U in the name of His Son.

And each time U pray, you'll see it's true,
You can't spell out JesUs and not include U.

You're a pretty big part of His wonderful name,
For U, He was born; that's why He came.

And His great love for U is the reason He died.
It even takes U to spell crUcified.

Isn't it thrilling and splendidly grand
He rose from the dead, with U in His plan?

The stones split away, the gold trUmpet blew,
and this word resUrrection is spelled with a U.

When JesUs left earth at His upward ascension,
He felt there was one thing He just had to mention.

'Go into the world and tell them it's true
That I love them all - Just like I love U.'

So many great people are spelled with a U,
Don't they have a right to know JesUs too?

It all depends now on what U will do,
He'd like them to know,
But it all starts with U.

AUTHOR UNKNOWN

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gingerbread Houses and Firm Foundations


Each year our children decorate gingerbread houses for Christmas.  We used to make graham cracker coated boxes for them to decorate, but have found homemade ones that are really cute and smell great, too.

This year we got a head start on decorating the houses right before Thanksgiving because we knew we would be too busy with basketball games after Thanksgiving.

It was fun watching the kids be creative.  Each year their skill levels increase and their creative minds are expanded as they create and even better house than they did the year before.

I couldn't keep each of the houses on the plates they were on because they would take up too much room.  I transferred them to a long piece of cardboard I thought would work just perfectly.  Just as I was lifting it to the kitchen window ledge, the cardboard bent in half and the houses tumbled down!  Thankfully the only thing that happened were a few of the candies came off of each house.  It could have been disasterous!

The cardboard wasn't a firm foundation for the weight of the gingerbread houses.  It wasn't sturdy enough by  and gave way - right in the middle.

It reminds me of one of the parables in the Bible about the wise and foolish builders.

"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

We, too, should be like the wise builder.  We should put our foundation on the rock.  That rock is Christ Jesus.  Have you built on His foundation?  Don't be negligent and use something that isn't firm and solid, like I did with that piece of cardboard.  Build on THE ROCK!
 
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