Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Love You

I received this via email from Inspiration Daily and wanted to share it with you.

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The young woman was married and had two beautiful children, but one day as she was standing over the sink, washing dishes, she thought, "There must be more to life than this." When her husband came home, he found a note she'd written and began to weep. She would call him once every week to check on the children, and he would always tell her of his great love for her and beg her to come home. She would always say no and hang up.

Finally, he hired a private investigator to find her and he went to the apartment where she was staying, nervously holding flowers in his hand as he stood at the door. He had rehearsed over and over what he would say and he finally got up the nerve to knock on the door. She opened the door and he started to speak, but she suddenly began to weep and fell into his arms. Through her tears she said, "Let's go home."

Months after, when things were starting to heal, he finally asked her something that had been bothering him: "All those times I talked to you on the phone; I asked you to come back and you refused. Why did you come back now?"

"Before," she said, "you were just telling me that you loved me. When you came, you showed me."

The Bible tells us of God's love, but Jesus came and showed God's love.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Complaining Jar

A few weeks ago, I'd heard enough complaining from one of our children, that I decided to do something drastic.  I took out an empty jar, wrote "Complaining Jar" on a note pad and taped the note to the jar.  I informed all four children that, from that point on, anyone who complained would pay $1.00 into the jar for every complaint.  I'm sad to say that as of today, the jar has over $30 in it!  I'm even sadder to say that I, myself, have had to put some in it.  In fact, I need to go put $3.00 in it right after I write this post.  I'm not proud of that fact or making light of it - just stating the truth:  I have just as big of a problem with complaining as anyone else in this house.  I think that's why I took the drastic measure to make it visible.....with the money jar.

Earlier this week, one of our children commented on how the jar had quite a bit of money in it.  He stated, "Hey!  That money can go towards our next Disney World trip!"  He thought since we have saved change for years for our previous two Disney World trips, that this money would be used for that, too.  I replied, "No.  This money isn't going to be for something for us.  This money is coming from us doing something we shouldn't be doing, so this money is going to someone else - to help them in some way."  In fact, this money will be donated to a family at a benefit dinner this weekend.  I think at that moment "The Complaining Jar" held an even deeper understanding for the kids.

"The Complaining Jar" has made our family more aware of our complaining.  Hopefully as we continue on in this new year, we will see that it is filling up less and less.  When we're complaining, we're certainly not "Shining Like Stars", are we?

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe...
Philippians 2:14-15

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Don't Believe Everything You Think"

I came across this quote the other day. It's kind of interesting, isn't it?  What do you think about the quote? You think it's true?  False?

Let's look at ways this quote is true:

Many people believe that in order to have happiness we have to have looks, money, nicer cars, bigger homes, more "stuff".  If we believe this same way, are we believing something that is true?  Nope. True happiness can't be bought.  Things might make us happy for a while, but not for long.

Here's another one:  Suppose I think I am worthless, that I can never do anything right, or that I have to be perfect in order for someone to love me.  Is it true?  No.  Again, not true.  No one is worthless.  Each one of us is worthy.  We're all "somebody" to someone.  We are very special to God because He made us.  He loves us.  I don't have to be perfect - in fact I can't be perfect on my own, but when God looks at a Christian through the blood of Jesus, He sees a perfectly saved child.

Now let's look at it another way.  Maybe I believe that ,"I'm basically a good person.  I try to help others.  I'm a law-abiding citizen.  I'm honest.  I love my family.  But Christianity?  I don't have time for that.  I don't like that religious talk.  God will never punish a "good" person or condemn such a person to hell.  I at least know that He's known to be loving.  What kind of loving God would do that?"  Are these statements true?  Some of them.  This person may very well be "good" in all of those ways, but does God save anyone because of their goodness?  No.  He doesn't. I can never be good enough to be saved.  I can never be good enough to go to Heaven.  God prepared the way of salvation and the only way is through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It's because of what He has done, not because of what we have done.

So, what do you believe?  What do you think?  Can you believe everything you think?  Maybe yes.  Maybe no.  How can we know?  By searching for the truth in everything.  The truth is found in God's Word...the Bible.  Each of the scenarios I gave in this post....all of the untruths.....all of them in the "true" form can be found in the Word.  Every one of them!  The Bible is the only source of what is true and right. 

Only believe what you think if what you think is truth.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true.....think about such things. 
Philippians 4:8

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 
John 8:31-32

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6

Wrestlin' with the Pigs

OU girls basketball coach, Sherri Coale, used the following quote both of the times I've heard her speak at church events, "Don't wrestle with the pigs.  You'll both get dirty and they'll enjoy it."  I'm not sure who the quote originated with, but it makes a good point, doesn't it?

When dealing with people, as well all do - probably every day - we should be careful in the way we speak and in the way we respond.  Our actions and our words reveal to the world our true character.  They also show to others the example of Christ...or not.

When we "wrestle with the pigs", it means we are going down to the level of the mire and muck....getting dirty...playing dirty.  It's easy to stoop to that level.  It's often hard to not want go there - with the pigs.

But, as Christians, we're called to be different.  We're called to be set apart.  We're called to be holy.  Sometimes that means by keeping silent.  Sometimes that means submitting to others.  Always that means taking up our crosses and following Jesus.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18

Monday, January 24, 2011

Joseph - Teaching Children about Faithfulness and Forgiveness

For the past two weeks, I've been teaching my Sunday morning Bible class students about Joseph.  This Sunday I had each of the seven and eight-year-olds make their own colorful, ornamented coat.  The children enjoyed making their coats and all but one wanted their picture taken wearing it. 
 The story of Joseph is an amazing story of faith and forgiveness. His life is an important one for us to learn from, as his example and devotion to God is evident in every situation.
Interestingly, Sunday night I was flipping through channels on the TV - something I rarely do - and I saw on TNB a movie about Joseph.  It was just beginning at 9:00 p.m . and was to end at midnight.  My oldest son and I began watching it.  My husband had been out of town preaching and speaking to churches about Tipton Home, so he got home about 9:30, and began watching it with me.  We both stayed up until midnight, watching the entire movie, and there were no commercials at all. We both wanted to stay up and see the ending. For me to sit and watch anything on TV for three hours is a big deal (except for the occassional Texas Rangers' baseball game!)
The movie of Joseph was well made and true to the scriptures.  I enjoyed following along in the Bible using Biblegateway.  It was interesting to see how the creators of the movie portrayed each character.  I almost cried when Joseph told his brothers who he was.  To think about how he forgave them after all they had done to him is amazing!

And then I think of Jesus.  He forgave the ones who were killing him as he was dying on the cross.  It kind of makes me think about the little petty things where I might be not be forgiving as I should.  If Joseph can forgive his brothers and if Jesus can forgive his killers, I think I should be able to forgive anything that ever comes my way. Nothing in my life compares at all to anything Joseph or Jesus have gone through!

The one thing I tried to get the children to realize in the story Sunday was that the scriptures repeatedly say, "The Lord was with Joseph.".  God blessed Joseph because Joseph lived his life to please God.  He praised God, even in bad times.  God is there for us, too, even in the bad times.  We should praise God, even in the bad times.

On this Gratituesday, I am grateful for the example of Joseph and Jesus!  May our hearts be forgiving and faithful, too. May we God praise - always.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Hidden Blessings

Each Christmas, I get my husband a devotional book...something that he can use in our nightly devotionals with our children.  This year's book is called "Jesus Calling - 365 Devotions for Kids" by Sarah Young.  The devotional thoughts so far have been great.  They're not very long, but they make excellent points directed to connect with the children (and us adults) and make us think about our every day walk with the Lord.

I would like to share with you the devotional from January 22:

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Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Learn to trust Me in all situations - the tough ones, as well as the easy ones.  Trust Me when you don't understand what's going on.  Trust Me when everything seems to be spinning out of control.  Trust Me when you feel like you are all alone and no one understands.  I understand.

Don't waste your time thinking about how things should have been.  Don't try to run away.  Start right this minute - accepting things exactly as they are - and search for My way through your challenges.  Learn to look for the blessings and the opportunities I have hidden in those difficulties.  Trust Me and lean on Me.  I love you, and I will never let you down.

Read on your own:  Psalm 52:8
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Remember all of the Hidden Blessings from the Lord as you go through this week!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Date Night with the Boys

My husband's work place (Tipton Home) was given tickets to see the Globetrotters last night in Wichita Falls.  Because he had a board meeting, he wasn't able to take our three boys, so I volunteered to take them.  Our daughter was busy working/watching basketball games, so she couldn't attend, either.
I had seen the Globetrotters as a child, so I was excited for the boys to see them.  I picked them up after school and we headed for Texas.  Of course, being boys, they were only interested in shopping at one place before we ate or headed to the game - Academy Sports.  We looked around and the youngest found a few things he needed, before going to eat.
I let the boys choose where to eat.  One of them suggested Olive Garden.  My husband had given me an Olive Garden gift card for Christmas, so that made it an even better suggestion. (Although, maybe Joe intended for me to invite him when I used the gift card????!)  Anyway, the as the waitress seated us, she asked if we wanted a table or a booth.  The boys said a booth.  I love what middle-son, Jacob (12 years old), asked as we sat down at the booth.  "Mom, if you were going to propose to someone, would you want to set at a booth or a table?"  The oldest, Zachary, and I both agreed that a booth might be better for privacy. 

My heart swelled with pride that Jacob's mind was thinking of sweet proposal ideas!  Not that I'm wanting him to propose to anyone any time soon, mind you, but that he actually has a plan and some ideas.  Because his daddy did not.....but I'll save that post for another time! :)
We headed to see the Globetrotters, meeting up with the rest of the Tipton Home group.  The Globetrotters are talented, fun, and entertaining.  The boys, as well as all of our group, enjoyed the show.  Afterwards, we stood in line to get a few autographs with some players.
Date night with the boys was special.  I love getting the opportunity to spend time with all of them together or with my daughter by herself, or each of the boys, individually.  I know they'll be grown up before too long and I will miss those times, but I hope they always remember the special times.  It doesn't have to cost a lot of money.  It doesn't have to be anything elaborate.  Just time spent together making memories.  Talking, sharing, laughing, and learning....
Thank you, God, for my children!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Finding Yourself

This morning as I was getting ready, I was thinking about my age - 41...almost 42.  So far I'm liking my 40's.  My children aren't babies any more, and though I sometimes wish I could go back to that time and rock them, now is such a fun time watching them learn and grow.  It's also good to have the early stages of parenting and discipline behind me.  They survived those years without too many bumps in the road, and so did my husband and I - major accomplishment! Yea for us! (I can't speak of the teenage years, just yet!)

So as I thought about these "Fabulous Forties", I began to think about how some people spend this time of their lives searching for more.  They spend the time they should be enjoying with their family and their friends, by trying to "find themselves".  They are looking and looking, but without success.

Then my mind began to wonder, I thought of the game "Hide and Seek".  Those who are looking for themselves are often playing "Hide and Seek".  The reason they never find themselves is often because they are hiding who they really are.  They are trying to "seek" something or someone that doesn't even exist.  They are looking for who they wish they were instead of who they really are.

When I think of a mature, Christian person, I think of someone who is sure of who they are, but not because of anything they, themselves, have done.  A mature, Christian person is sure of who they are because of what Christ has done for them.  They are confident in their salvation because of the wonderful grace and mercy of  God.  They have a hope that doesn't wane, but that is steadfast and unwavering.  Their hope is built on Christ Jesus.  Their confidence comes from the Heavenly home that is waiting for them in the end. They've found what others may still be searching for - Jesus!  They put their trust in the only One that will always be there - God!

Maybe you, too, are trying to find yourself.  Maybe you're in your 40's, 50's, or whatever age -and you are in a game of "Hide and Seek".  Here's some advice:  Quit playing games! Quit looking for someone who doesn't exist!  Be real.  Be genuine.  Look upward!

You will truly find yourself, when you find Jesus.

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Matthew 6:7-8

SPARKLE!

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Sparkle is one of my son, Tyler's, spelling words this week.  As I gave out each word this afternoon (all ending with "le" this week), and we got to the word, "sparkle", I just kept thinking,
"I LIKE THAT WORD!" 

Sparkle! Sparkle! Sparkle!

As Christians who are striving to "Shine Like Stars", how can we SPARKLE?

1.  S - SMILE
A simple and easy way a Christian can sparkle is by wearing a smile.  A smile shows love.  A smile shows that you care.  A smile is understood by all languages.

2.  P - PRAY
Prayer releases any worries, troubles, and concerns we may have, by giving those worries, troubles, and concerns to God.  He lifts our burdens and keeps the sparkle in our lives!

3. A - ATTITUDE
Having an attitude that sparkles is very important for a Christian.  This attitude will submit to others instead of being selfish.  This attitude will be kind and not rude.  This attitude will build up instead of tear down. A sparkling attitude reflects Christ.

4. R - RELATIONSHIP
Our commitment to God and Jesus should be one that results in a close relationship, not just something superficial.  When others see that we rely on God, that we live for Jesus, and that we strive to pattern our lives after His example, only then will they see that our sparkle comes from Jesus being in our hearts.  Our spiritual lives must be built on a relationship with Him and not on a man-made religion.

5. K - KNOWLEDGE
Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov, said, "Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice."  Reading and studying the Bible will give us knowledge, but unless we live it and share it, it is of no use....it's of no value.  When we sparkle and share our knowledge of God and His Word with others, they will sparkle, too! Then our lights will be shining brighter and brighter for Jesus.

6. L - LOVE
Just as knowledge should result in action, love must also result in action.  For Christians to truly walk in the steps of Jesus, we must love one another as Christ did.  It's not enough to just say we love others.  We must show that love to others.  That's how we share Jesus! In showing Christ's love to others, our lives will sparkle!

7. E - EXAMINE
To sparkle as Christians, we must take the time to examine our lives.  Maybe our sparkle has dimmed.  Maybe our sparkle is hidden to the world.  Maybe it's time we take a look at ourselves and evaluate the image we are sharing with others.  Is my sparkle reflecting Jesus?  If not, maybe I need to make some changes. 

As you come to him, the living Stone - rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him - you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Chronicles of Biscuit - A letter "To All Folks"

The Chronicles of Biscuit:  Stories about our youngest son, Tyler, whose nickname is Biscuit.
On Thanksgiving Day, as my husband and I sat eating dinner with family members at his parents' house, Biscuit brought us a letter he had written.  It was addressed "To all Folks"...
The body of the letter read as follows:
"We make mistakes but it's good to make them.  I'm not the person that you thank (his wording) I am.  The truth?  I am really a nice guy.  I was helping people but now I'm not.  People was (again, his wording) nice to me, but I wasn't nice to them."
And then the ending of his letter:  "I'm going to be better at evrything."

I think it was about this same time that Biscuit asked if I had noticed that he was being a smart aleck to others.  I said that I had noticed that he was being that way a little bit, but not a lot.  I told him we all have times when we're not as kind as we should be and we all have to work on it.

Biscuit's right. It is good for us to make mistakes sometimes. That's how we learn. That's how we grow.  And sometimes, that's how we learn to love others even more.

On this Gratituesday, I am grateful for Biscuit's tender heart and his sweet letter.  He hasn't mentioned it since then, and neither have I.  In fact, I had folded it up and put it in a basket.  I found it a few days ago. 
So sweet!

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Recipe for a Happy New Year

Although we're almost half way finished with this first month of the new year, I just happened to find this "recipe" today and decided it was worth sharing with you today. Enjoy!

Recipe for a Happy New Year
Author Unknown

Take twelve whole months.
Clean them thoroughly of all bitterness,
hate, and jealousy.
Make them just as fresh and clean as possible.

Now cut each month into twenty-eight, thirty, or
thirty-one different parts,
but don't make up the whole batch at once.
Prepare it one day at a time out of these ingredients.

Mix well into each day one part of faith,
one part of patience, one part of courage,
and one part of work.

Add to each day one part of hope,
faithfulness, generosity, and kindness.
Blend with one part prayer, one part meditation,
and one good deed.

Season the whole with a dash of good spirits,
a sprinkle of fun, a pinch of play,
and a cup full of good humor.

Pour all of this into a vessel of love.
Cook thoroughly over radiant joy,
garnish with a smile,
and serve with quietness, unselfishness,
and cheerfulness.

You're bound to have a happy new year.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It Takes Teamwork

I've read this story twice recently, in a little inspirational booklet that came in the mail.  I'm not sure of the author, but wanted to share it with you. It's such as great story about teamwork!

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A man was lost while driving through the country. As he tried to reach for the map, he accidentally drove off the road into a ditch. Though he wasn’t injured, his car was stuck deep into the mud. So the man walked to a nearby farm to ask for help.

“Warwick can get you out of that ditch,” said the farmer, pointing to an old mule standing in a field. The man looked at the decrepit old mule and looked at the farmer who just stood there repeating, “Yep, old Warwick can do the job.” the man figured he had nothing to lose. The two men and the mule made their way back to the ditch. The farmer hitched the mule to the car. With a snap of the reins, he shouted, “Pull, Fred! Pull, Jack! Pull, Ted! Pull Warwick!” And the mule pulled that car right out of the ditch.

The man was amazed. He thanked the farmer, patted the mule, and asked, “Why did you call all of those names before you called Warwick?” The farmer grinned and said, “Old Warwick is just about blind. As long as he believes he’s part of a team, he doesn’t mind pulling.”

Think of those people with whom you are most effective. I mean the people that, when you work together, you accomplish more than you would have if both of you had worked alone. Take some time to tell us about them, and, most importantly, take some time to thank them for what they help you do in life.
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It really does take teamwork!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Get Them to the Church, Quick!"

This statement has been on my mind all afternoon.  Driving home from Altus today I was listening to the radio.  Some older song (like from my teenage, '80's era) was playing.  As it finished the DJ said that the song had something to do with adultery.  I usually change any songs with lyrics like that, so I was still trying to figure out what the song was and what the words were, when he made the statement, "Get them to the church, quick!"  He was meaning the people the song was about, implying that if they were taken to the church - meaning a building - that everything would be okay or at least there would be more hope for the people.

This statement made me also think about a quote in one of my favorite Disney movies, "The Princess and the Frog".  The spoiled little character named Charlotte makes this statement in the movie, "I was sweatin' like a sinner in church!".

The church, as thought of in both of these instances is the building where God is worshipped.  In both of these statements, it's as if someone will enter this building and automatically something miraculous is going to happen.  This kind of thinking puts power in the building, instead of in God and in Jesus. The Bible tells us that the church is not a building.  The church, rather, is the called out....the children of God.  Christians around the world make up the church, and Jesus is the head of the church.  He died for the church - for the people - not something made of bricks and mortar.

It would be great if everyone that walked into a building where God is worshipped would automatically turn away from sin and turn towards God, but that isn't the way it usually works. Only when a sinner comes into the presence of God, hears about His Son and the Savior, Jesus, and then responds to that gospel message (which may or may not be in a building with a group of other believers) is there a change.

So, instead of the statement, "Get them to the church, quick!" we should be saying, "Church, get to them, quick!"

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Ephesians 5:25-27

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Do Everything Without Complaining...

It seems impossible at times, doesn't it - to do EVERYTHING without complaining?  It seems like it's impossible, anyway.  Or at least it does to me!

Sunday my husband preached both at the morning worship and the evening worship.  The evening lesson was based on the same verses at the title of this blog is based - Philippians 2:14-15.

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."

Apparently everyone listened intently to the lesson, as my husband outlined the various types of complainers.  I'm sure most, if not all, of us could see ourselves in at least one of the descriptions. 

All week people have commented about the complaining lesson.  It seems that it's being used to point out to others when they are complaining, whether at a ballgame, at school, or in individual homes.  A friend commented that she needed to hear the lesson again....something about dealing with an armadillo eating her pansies and dealing with an insurance company!

Adults have talked about the lesson, but it's been interesting to hear the children and teens talking about the lesson, as well. Our own children have mentioned it and have said that their classmates at school have mentioned it.  Even our youngest, Tyler, used it on me this morning.

I was helping him take his asthma medicine and saw one of the prescription pills on the floor.  I said, "Tyler, make sure you don't drop those pills.  They cost too much and we need to be careful with them."  He replied, "Mom, Dad's lesson said not to complain and you are complaining about that medicine!"  Well, he was right - I was - but I think he was using that out of context just a bit! 

Another story I heard about the complaining lesson was with one of the cottages at Tipton Home, where my husband works.  After the Sunday evening lesson, the house-dad of the cottage was "complaining" about something that his girls were doing.  They said to him: "We're going to tell Mr. W (my husband) about you complaining."  His reply?  "Well, if you do you will be complaining about me!"  Yes, very true - they would have been!

It's great to see the word of God being taught in such a way that it is reaching the hearts and minds of the kids, as well as the adults.  Sometimes we may get the impression that the younger ones aren't paying attention, but they really are.  Their minds and hearts are soaking in all of the information, which makes it even more important that we are teaching them and telling them about Jesus, as well as showing them Jesus.
They want to know and we must tell!

So, back to the complaining.  I have to admit that I have to work on this issue daily.  From time to time I get out a complaining jar.  If anyone complains, they have to put $1.00 in the jar.  I think it's probably something I should keep out all of the time - just to make us aware of the complaining that comes from our mouths.

In order to "Shine Like Stars" we must combat complaining.  What are some ways you combat complaining?  Let me know!

Monday, January 10, 2011

You Had a Bad Day....

Just as I sat down at the computer to write my blog post for tonight, one of my children came in and made the following statement.  "I don't know what was wrong with a lot of the teachers today.  They all seemed to be mad and in bad moods." The child (I'll refrain from naming my child, for fear of retailation at school tomorrow if one of the teachers reads this :) Hee Hee!) then went on to name names.

I explained to my child, that just as they, themselves, some times have bad days, teachers do, too.  My child's response?  "Well, I understand, but I wouldn't think they would have all had the bad day on the same day!"  Well, it could happen!  All four of my children seem to have bad moods on the same days at times, and I'm thinking that the teachers feel that all of the students may have bad moods the same days, too, sometimes.

A lot of thing can contribute to bad days and in Tipton, OK, for today, in particular, I can think of a few.   First of all, it was a Monday.  I like Monday's, myself, but sometimes Monday's are hectic, just because they follow a more relaxing or enjoyable weekend or maybe an extremely busy weekend where there wasn't time to rest.  Another thing about this particular Monday was that it was freezing - or below freezing, actually.  Add to that the drizzle/moisture in the air.....it was the type of Monday that most of us would rather have had no where to go.  Most of us would have rather been able to stay at home, in bed, or at least snuggled up with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee waiting and watching out the window for the 20% chance of snow.  It did technically snow, but it was teeny, tiny, so didn't show on the ground.

So, my child didn't understand the teacher's moods today.  I don't think that was a bad thing for my child to see.  It just shows that the teachers are human - that they are normal.  We all have bad days from time to time, and, just maybe, it will make the students think about their own moods and how the teachers might feel when they are all in bad moods!

I'm grateful for good days, but some times those bad days do come, unfortunately. I decided to look up some "bad day" quotes and here's what I found:

“It's the bad days that make the good days seem better.” -- Unknown Author

“The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.” -- Dennis S. Brown, Author and Motivational Speaker

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.” -- Dr. Seuss

Very good quotes! And these scriptures, we should remember ever day - but especially when bad days come our way:

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

On this GRATITUESDAY, I am grateful for the good days, and thankful to God for the strength He can give and will give in the bad days. Teachers, have a great Tuesday!

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The Imperfect, Perfect Snowman

Friday after school, I kept seeing Tyler's 2nd grade classmates come out of the building holding cute snowman posters.  I was looking for Tyler to see if he, too, had made a snowman.  Sure enough, her he came with the large poster in his hands.

As Tyler got into the car, I asked to see his snowman.  As he showed it to me, he said, "I didn't have time to put his eyes on."  His snowman was just a bunch of cotton balls that still resembled a snowman, but the balls were outside of the outline the teacher had made, as well as covering the snowman's scarf.  It was an imperfect snowman, but something still handmade by Tyler.  And of course, I looked forward to hanging it up on the back door, as we do each of the children's handmade arts projects.
When we got home, I decided to take a picture of Tyler's snowman.  He's just not really particular about art projects (in contrast to more important things in his opinion - such as sport's schedules!).  I thought he would enjoy seeing his project some day when he's older.  As I took the first picture, I noticed the snowman's hat.  It hat two Nike swoosh looking things.  Just like Tyler!  No time to put eyes on the project, but plenty of time to put the Nike swoosh on there (and two of them - one says BOOM!)
But then, I noticed something else on the snowman's hat. A Bible verse: Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Prov. 3:5.  Tyler made his snowman without eyes, so the snowman can't see, but it appears that the snowman is far from imperfect. I think it's a perfect snowman, don't you?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Chronicles of Biscuit - "Did You Forget You Had Kids?"

The Chronicles of Biscuit: Stories about our youngest son, Tyler, whose nickname is Biscuit.

After working over four hours on a belated Christmas dinner Tuesday, cleaning up the some of the kitchen, and trying to get pictures from Disney World uploaded, I sat down on the bench at the dining room table and was talking to my husband about something.  All of a sudden Biscuit said, "Mom, did you forget you had kids?"

I was surprised at his question, but looked at him and realized that I had been on the go from the time he had gotten home from school until then.  He was missing me just being with him.  I asked him if he wanted to rock for a while and he said yes.  We rocked and talked about how some days are just busier than others and that, no, I hadn't forgot that he was my child....or that any of his three siblings were my children either.  But, occasionally, some of the things I do as a mother, are things that I may be "doing" for my family, but may actually be taking me away from "being" with them (Ex. the Christmas dinner that evening).

We continued talking about how life has changed and that he's not the little boy who needed me all of the time like he once was.  I teased him and asked if he always remember that he had a mom.  He said he did, but sometimes he acts like he doesn't!

Let's think about God for a moment.  As a child of God, do we ever question God and say, "Do you remember that you have children?"  I pray we don't, but I'm afraid we may act like that sometimes - as if we don't truly believe that God will do what He promises He will do.  Sometimes we have doubt.  Sometimes we have fear.

Now, think about God as our Heavenly Father.  Do you think He ever looks at His children and says, "Do you remember that you have a Father?"  I'm sure the answer to this question is yes.  Many times we, as His children, act as though we're not His children.  Occasionally we act as if we're living this life all on our own and without a higher authority who can give us strength, wisdom, and unconditional love.  And, sadly, sometimes we're so busy "doing" for Him, we may not actually be taking the time to "be" with Him.

Biscuit was reassured that I knew he and his siblings were my children.  We can be assured that God is and always will be our Heavenly Father.  He knows who His children are, as a shepherd knows his sheep.

Thank you, God, for knowing us - for remembering us - and for never, ever forgetting us!

"I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me." John 10:14

Teaching Children About Table Settings and Table Etiquette

Yesterday was our 4-H club's monthly meeting date.  There aren't many 4-H events going on in January, so for the meeting I (as the local 4-H leader) decided to do something different and teach them about table settings and table etiquette.  I knew that some of our members would be gone for another school event, but we still had 12 in attendance.

I have taught my own children about how to set the table correctly and continue to teach them table manners at each meal (it seems!).  I've always wanted the table set properly, for most family meal times. I guess it was drilled into me and stayed with me during my junior high and high school home economics classes, because that was always my favorite class in school.

So, as the meeting began yesterday, I asked the members to go wash their hands.  They looked at me like I was crazy (and even commented to some of the teachers in the hallway that they couldn't believe they were having to wash their hands!), but I told them that they were about to have a fancy meal and needed to listen carefully to the instructions.
Before sitting down at the table to eat, each member was given a table setting place mat, which I printed off from Parents.com.  It showed an example of a simple place setting. They had to set their place setting properly, though we were just using paper and plastic ware.
After each plate was properly set and examined, I distributed the "food", which was bowls of snacks, such as cereal, popcorn, M & M's, and things like that.
The members had to pass the bowls around the table family style and properly, from left to right.  If they needed something else, they would ask another member politely to pass the snack.
While the members ate their snack, we discussed table etiquette.  I found a lot of quizzes and information from these sites: A to Z of Manners & Etiquette and Family Education.
The children learned, but had fun while learning.  It helped to have a tasty snack mix as the entree'. Table manners are important, and learning proper ways to enteract socially with others is important. 
Family meal times have changed throughout the years, but that family time is important.  Yesterday, as going through the quiz, I asked the question, "When is it proper to begin eating your meal?"  One member answered, "After the prayer."  I loved that answer and for my own family, that's exactly when it's time to begin eating.

Great job, 4-H members!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Top Ten Tips for Walt Disney World

Though going to Disney World twice doesn't make me an expert on "all things Disney", I thought I would share with you some tips that have helped our family. If you have any tips, I would love to hear them, too....just in case I get the opportunity to go back some day!
1. EXTRA COSTS
Be aware of extra costs that can add up during your trip to Disney World. Parking at Christmas time was $14/day. Storage lockers can be rented for $12/day, but after returning the key you can get $5.00 back. Most airlines charge for checked bags, so look up the prices online before you head to the airport.
During the year before our Disney trip, our children put any money they received in an envelope with their name on it.  Little by little that money added up, so that when it was time for the trip, each of them had saved up quite a bit of cash to take on their trip.  They were allowed to spend their money on souvenirs and on gifts for others.  The youngest needed a little guidance in spending his, but not much.  In fact, he came back with half of the cash he had taken!  I would have thought he would want to spend it all, but he didn't.
Santa helped the kids with their money, too.  He left gift cards to Disney in their stockings.  This made it possible for all of them to return with some of their saved cash.

I mentioned before that on saving money for our trip we saved change.  Little bits and bits of change can add up quickly into money for your trip! 
Other extra cost things would be:  Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where little girls get a princess makeover.  See the Disney website for costs and for information about booking a makeover.  Last time I looked the prices ranged from $50 to $250.  There is also a dress-up plan for boys.  They are made into pirates and other characters.  Lots of fun for little ones, I'm sure!

2. FOOD AND BEVERAGES
Guest staying at a Disney resort can buy a dining plan, which is customizable to meet your families' needs.  For others who are staying off-park, food costs can add up quickly.  I mentioned in yesterday's post that we took sandwiches to the park every day.  Some days we would eat them early and some days we would eat them late, but either way, it saved lots of money by taking them.  We also took snacks and water.  I'm pretty sure that any soft drinks or juices in plastic/paper containers are okay - just not glass or metal.  Your food and water can be stored in the locker - ready and available at any time. 

While we were at Disney World, there was a promotion going on where some restaurants had 30% off during certain hours of the day.  We planned many meals around that schedule to get the discount.  Also, some of the restaurants would give receipts with 20% off of merchandise at certain stores during morning hours.  We took advantage of that savings, as well.  Disney doesn't offer deals like that often!  And one more tip: some restaurants in the parks allowed free drink refills when keeping that paper cup.  We did that a few times because options included lemonade and Gatorade-type drinks.
3.  CHARACTER MEALS
Character meals are not cheap, but they are worth the money.  We have done character meals at Chef Mickey's (Mickey and friends), the Crystal Palace (Winnie the Pooh and friends), and Cinderella's Royal Table (6 Disney princesses).  If doing character meals, be sure to book early.  Reservations can be taken 180 days before the desired date.  The character meals often include a portrait package (Cinderella's Royal Table) with the meal.  The characters also come to your table,  so your children can get autographs there instead of waiting in long lines at the parks.  You can also take pictures using your own camera at the character meals.  At Chef Mickey's the portrait package is separate from the meal price, but the picture comes in a special folder.  The cost is somewhere around $25.00.

4.  DON'T SKIP THE SHOWS
Of course the rides at the Disney World parks are lots and lots of fun, but be sure to take time to see the shows, too.  You will not be disappointed in any of them, plus it gives you an opportunity to rest your tired legs!  I wish I had worn a pedometer because I'm certain we walked 10 - 12 miles each day we went to the parks! 
 Our favorite shows are "Nemo" at Animal Kingdom and "Beauty and the Beast" at Hollywood Studios. There are also stunt shows, magnificent parades, and random entertainment at various times. One of the funniest things was a mime show in the Italy section of Epcot. It was just two guys performing on the street and everyone gathered around to watch. Very entertaining!
5. PACKING FOR THE TRIP
If you are renting a house or condo with a washer and dryer, only pack a few sets of clothes per person rather than lots and lots of clothes.  This cuts down on packing and utilizes the appliances you've already paid for.  Also, even though you'll be wearing the same things over and over, you won't be seeing anyone you know at the parks, most likely, so no one will know....and I'll never tell!

Also remember that if you are planning to purchase souvenir t-shirts, that will count as one of your outfits.  There's no need to pack too much. 

Our first trip we actually mailed a box of clothes in advance.  It was easier because our four children were younger and not able to take care of their own luggage, plus we were having a family wedding the weekend we were leaving and it was easier to get it done in advance.
This trip we didn't mail clothing in advance, but did mail some food and the Christmas decorations I mentioned in yesterday's post.  Of course, nothing would have to be mailed at all.  It just depends on your particular needs.

6.  BE PREPARED FOR THE SEASON
During our summer 2008 trip, it rained every afternoon at Disney World. We bought cheap plastic ponchos and used them daily, but the only problem was that they began to sour in the hot, humid air. This time we didn't get ponchos in advance because of it being winter. We didn't need them. Of course you can purchase ponchos at Disney World, but you'll be paying quite a bit extra for them. I did notice that Target near Disney World had some that were Disney themed. They weren't the cheapest like we used before, but they weren't too high, either. They might not sour as soon, either, which is a huge plus!

7.  DRESS ALIKE
For our days at each of the parks, we planned to dress alike for our Christmas vacation trip and our 2008 trip.  There are several reasons we do this:  #1:  Spotting family members is a lot easier when everyone is dressed in the same colors or styles.  (The goofy hats you may have seen in the pictures above made our kiddos pretty visible, too!) #2:  Packing is also a whole lot easier when all packing so much of the same thing.  You can decide one thing to wear and everyone else just follows suit for that particular day! #3 And my favorite reason is that when everyone matches, then everyone coordinates for family pictures!  I took almost 2,000 pictures, so the picture-taking is important to me!
My sister made our family matching Mickey head t-shirts for Christmas.  I can't tell you how many compliments we had on those shirts.  She could sell them!  My husband almost sold his and would have if the price had been right (just kidding!).  We saw family groups with matching tees that were so cute.  Also, at Downtown Disney, there is a Design-a-Tee store where you can design your own t-shirt.  Prices range from around $17.00 to $35.00.  Shirts are ready in about an hour.  Our children did shirts of their own, which was a lot of fun.  I saw several family groups that had made matching shirts at that store.  They would say "________ Family Christmas" and then "Disney World 2010".  Very fun!

7.  GET UP EARLY OR STAY LATE
During peak seasons, get to the parks early.  On Christmas Day, we arrived at the park at 6:30 a.m.  We were riding rides at 7:00 a.m. and by 8:00 a.m. had ridden several rides multiple times.  It was so neat being able to take pictures of Cinderella's Castle with NO ONE around!  Many resort guests go early and stay late.  Disney offers extra magic hours for their resort guests, which is a benefit of staying at the resorts versus renting a home or condo.
If you would rather, go to the parks late. Many of the rides may be less crowded later on, but be aware that the more popular rides may still be long. There is a fast pass option where rides can be booked for later on in the day, but for the most popular rides those ride times can be taken up before noon.
During times such as Christmas, there is always the possibility that the parks will close because of their full capacity.  This happened to us on our last day to go to Magic Kingdom.  When we got there, we were told it was closed.  I was really, really disappointed knowing it was our last day.  They encouraged us to go to Epcot and even gave us a free parking ticket, but since we didn't buy a Park Hopper option that would allow us to go to more than one park a day, we didn't go into Epcot.  Instead, we hopped on the Disney buses and went looking at Disney resort hotels - just for fun!  That was kind of neat and lasted a few hours.  Finally, Magic Kingdom opened back up and we were on our way to enjoy our last day at Disney World.

8.  STAY LONGER
During both of our trips to Disney World, we've stayed 10 nights.  The first trip we went to the parks for 7 days, but this time we went 8 days.  At first my husband got tickets for only 7 days, but added another day when we got there.  Now, for six of us....how much do you think that 8th day cost us????  ONLY $30!!!  FOR ALL SIX OF US! Yes, one more day at a Disney park for only $30 dollars total. So, even though it will cost a little more to stay longer, it really isn't that bad at all, and the time spent getting lots and lots of time at each of the park, is well worth it.

9.  COMPARE FLIGHTS
When booking flights, begin checking early.  I'm pretty sure that flights can't be booked until it's 300 days until your trip, but begin then by looking at prices.  One thing that I've found is that sometimes it's cheaper to purchase one way tickets instead of booking round trip flights.  That's how I've booked both of our trips, anyway.

I only made one mistake in our flight schedule but it was a big mistake.  A month before our trip, I received an email from Expedia telling of a flight time change.  As I looked, I noticed that it said for the airport:  Dallas.  The DFW airport says DFW, so I looked further.  I had us leaving out of DFW, but returning to Dallas Love Field - two airports.....several miles apart!!  OH, NO!  What to do? What to do?

My husband called Expedia, but it would have been $150 per person to change the flight - too much for us to want to pay.  A shuttle from Love to DFW would have been $85.  Not too bad, but still money that didn't need to be spent.

Well it just so happened that one of my husband's brothers and his wife moved to Plano this past summer, which isn't too far from DFW airport. We asked if they were going to be around during our trip and they were.  They drove us to the airport, kept our Expedition, then parked it at the other airport the day we were going to return!  Cost?  $11.00.  A much, much better plan and a mistake that actually saved us money.  I like that!  I'll have to remember that mistake :).

10.  BE FLEXIBLE
This tip may very well be the best bit of advice I can give you.  You must be flexible in your planning.  You may spend hours and hours planning and charting your course, only to find that something has to be changed when you arrive at Disney World.  Maybe your plan is to get to Magic Kingdom at 8:00 a.m. and stay until after the fireworks show, which begins at 10:00 p.m.  That makes for a very, very long day.  It's likely if you have young children that they will be really tired by the end of that long day.  It's even worse if it's hot and humid.  It drains you.

Instead of staying all day, maybe it would be better to leave for a few hours in the afternoon.  I've heard that many resort guests do take afternoon breaks.  Maybe instead of going early, you sleep later one morning and eat a big breakfast before heading out to the park around noon.  Sometimes that extra rest is much-needed by everyone.  Disney World is a vacation, but it's crammed-full-of-activity-vacation, so you'll be tired.  In fact, I would like a Christmas break this week to recuperate from our trip last week (it's not gonna happen, though!).
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So there you are.  My "Top Ten Tips for Disney World."  Please let me know of any tips you might have.  Also, if you would like more information about Disney World - with a lot more insight than I can give, please visit my husband's cousin's blog:  Dad's Guide to WDW.

A friend passed along another great website where you pay a minimal fee to get lots of help for Disney vacations:  http://www.tourguidemike.com/

Monday, January 3, 2011

Our Disney World Vacation - Clutter and "Stuff"

Because there are six of us in our family and to save some money, we rented a house in Kissimmee, Florida.  We did the same thing in 2008.  The two houses have been within 10 minutes to Disney World, so it's not far, but the advantage to renting a home is being able to have many meals at the house.  Another big advantage is having plenty of room and a washer and dryer.
This rental home was cheaper than many hotels would have been.  The only catch is that most rental homes require a minimal seven night stay.  We stayed ten nights.
We chose this particular home for the way it looked (mostly me....I like to see how they're decorated) and for the game room (mostly for the kids, of course).  We especially liked the Mickey Mouse decorated room for the younger two boys.
The kitchen was equipped, though the "equipped" part was lacking in this particular home.  Still, we were able to have all breakfasts and several main meals at the house.  We also took sandwiches for lunch or for snacks to the parks each day.  Disney doesn't mind their guests taking in food or water at all (probably even bottled soft drinks would be okay).  Taking snacks and water saves a bunch at the parks.
When  we arrived at the rental house, we were excited to see the rooms.  You'll notice that it's decorated, but there is NO CLUTTER!  That is such a great feeling!
There are not piles of junk mail, no mounds of laundry waiting to be taken care of.....in fact - no piles of ANYTHING!
The garage/game room is neat and in order.  The floors are clean.
Beds are made.  The boys rooms are without toys, trash, and "stuff".
Everything is neat and tidy.
But then WE arrive.  Then we bring our STUFF into the home.  We buy STUFF.  We collect papers, pamphlets, Disney World memorabilia.  We get our clothes dirty.  We cook.  We live.....and pretty soon.....there's "STUFF" and CLUTTER all over the place.  JUST LIKE HOME!
We even sent a Christmas tree and other decorations to the home to make it seem more like home and more like Christmas. (Yes, more stuff - boxes of stuff!)  Of course, at the end of our stay, it was up to us to get rid of all of that stuff.  Much of it came home with us.  Some of it was mailed home.  Some of it was thrown away.  We de-cluttered the house before we left so that it could be cleaned and ready for the next house guests.
I was thinking about our lives when we first become a Christian.  At that moment, our lives are uncluttered.  They're made clean by the blood of Jesus.  Our sins are washed away...all the "stuff" is gone.  But sometimes, little by little, we allow clutter and "stuff" to come back into our lives.  Sometimes this is deliberate. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes some of it is beyond our control.
Each January brings a new year.  For many it brings commitments to live differently in some way (diet, exercise, Bible reading, deep cleaning a room, house, etc.)  Maybe now is a good time to de-clutter our lives?  Maybe there is some "stuff" we should get rid of?  Just as our Florida vacation home began with just the bare necessities, but began filling up with "stuff", maybe we should take the time to analyze our lives.  Maybe we should take the time to get rid of all of the things that get in the way of our Christian walk.
 
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