Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meeting Kristin and Trip Photos

Over the last 2 years, I have had the privilege of getting to know Kristin at Fill My Cup via the blogosphere. I knew she lives in North Carolina, so when we determined we would be driving through NC on our way to Washington DC, I dropped her an email to see if we could meet. We did! Kristin is the first blog friend I have gotten to meet in person, and Kristin, wouldn't you say we hit it off royally? I just wish we'd had more time. Here is a photo of us together.

Our trip has been great so far. Here are a few pictures to speak a few thousand words, just because I am too tired to try to write anything interesting right now.

First hotel night in Greensboro, NC. McDonald's in bed at 10 p.m. Special treat for all of us!

The beautiful 48 car at the Hendrick Motorsport Racing Complex.

Surprise treat--watching the Sprint Cup cars doing testing at Lowes Motor Speedway.

The kiddos meet Washington DC!

My MIL flew in this morning and met us in DC.
First acquaintance with the harsh reality of war.

Lots and lots of walking today.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The First Big Step

For almost 3 years now, Matt and I have desired another child. We knew that a medical condition might prevent us from having another one of our own. So adoption has always been on our radar. We had always thought we would pursue international adoption. But something happened that changed our course. Back in December, we were watching a television special on adoption, and we were both moved (me to tears, Matt to "moisture") when we learned about how many children there are in foster care in the U.S. They are not there through any fault of their own, either. So many of these children are available for adoption. Because the vast majority of them are 6 years old and older, their likelihood of having a forever family shrinks as time goes by. Both of us have a heart for kids--particularly school-aged kids. We agreed that adopting an older child out of foster care was something we would like to investigate.

Last night, we took our first steps down this path by attending an informational meeting about foster care and adoption. The meeting served to confirm the tug in our hearts. We both know this is what we're supposed to do. Unfortunately, we are moving to Florida, and Florida's paperwork and procedures are different from Arkansas' paperwork and procedures. The only thing we can do to start the process is get CPR and first aid certification. Matt is already certified, but my certification has expired. Once that is done, all we can do is wait until we are moved and settled.

Have I mentioned that I hate waiting? This wait is especially difficult, because I know that my child is out there, either in foster care, or still living in the painful circumstances that will bring them into the foster care system. That breaks my heart. Each night I fall asleep praying for the next child--or children, because we're open to adopting a sibling group--who will enter our family. I know they are in God's hands, and I just have to trust Him.

Sigh. I hate waiting. I supposed I could look on this waiting period as similar to pregnancy. For the next however many months it is that we have to wait, that child is growing in my heart.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Great Tornado Adventure

It is a gorgeous, sunny morning. The birds are singing, my daffodils are blooming, and I'm pretty sure today is the day I'll see the Bradford Pear trees put forth their first blossoms. But when you live in Central Arkansas, spring brings severe weather along with sunshine and flowers and bunny rabbits.

Last night when I went to church, I knew we were in a tornado watch. A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for producing tornadoes--warm, humid, still, with a cold front approaching. I also knew that there were severe thunderstorms to the southwest of us. For those of you who don't live in thunderstorm country, a severe thunderstorm has frequent, dangerous, lightning, strong winds, heavy rain, and often, large hail. Large as in the size of golf balls. Severe thunderstorms are spectacular, and I usually adore them. They are such a clear picture of the power and awesomeness of God. However, I don't get quite as excited about severe thunderstorms during a tornado watch. A severe thunderstorm warning can turn into a tornado warning in the blink of an eye. A tornado warning is issued when forecasters see rotation in the clouds. The technology is incredible.

So anyhoo, I'm the commander for our church's Awana program. On any given Awana night, I usually have about 120-150 kiddos in my care. I have a fantastic group of leaders who work with me, too. So last night at 6:30, I had completed check-in and was putting the computer away when the tornado sirens started blasting. I ran upstairs and got the leaders in action, getting the kids into lines and filing downstairs. We have 2 large, interior hallways that seal off from the outer part of the building. They are perfect for situations like this. All the kids thought it was a tornado drill, and they behaved perfectly. I was so proud! Our pastor's wife led the kids in singing all sorts of fun songs, which drowned out the sirens. When I was sure everyone was situated safely, I headed outside to where a few of our adult guys were watching the storm. One of them is a firefighter, and he was on the radio with his station. There was a tornado on the ground, only about 3 miles away, and it was headed in our direction.

At this point my stomach was in a giant knot. I was so concerned about the safety of all the kiddos, and worried for their parents, who I knew were worried about their kids. And then we saw it. It was patch black outside. The thunder was pretty much constant. No rain was falling, and it was very still. Then as the lightning flashed, I could see a huge column of cloud. I whipped out my cell phone and began recording. Later, I captured still photos from the video I took. Here is what I saw.

At that point I headed back inside and had the kids get in their tuck and cover position. Again, they were perfect and did what they were told. Most of them still thought it was a drill. I'm so glad of that. About 5 minutes later, it had passed on to the north. It took a long time for all the parents to get there. We had a few teary parents, and a few teary kids, but overall, everyone did fine. I'm not going to post the video, because the lightning flashes so quickly that it is hard to see anything. You get a better picture this way.

This morning I found out that when I took the video, this was a wall cloud, and the tornado had lifted up. It touched down again a little later to our north, and did significant damage there. But still, whether the beast was active in the cloud or not, it was very impressive, and very scary. I'm still not totally convinced, though...I'll be interested to see if the specialists declare that it was a tornado after they have examined the damage path.

It took me a while to wind down last night. Can you guess what I dreamed about?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Kids Are FUNNY!

Okay, so if you read my last post, you know that I've had a difficult day...compounded by the fact that Matt left today to work at a conference, and will be gone until Sunday.


God has given me two glorious children, who are stinkin' HILARIOUS! The funniest part is that they aren't even trying to be funny.

As soon as the conversation started, I started typing, capturing what they were saying as the words were coming out of their mouths. I knew it was going to be good, and I was right! Ready to laugh? Fasten your seatbelt!

So I am at the computer, playing on Facebook. The kids are sitting in their little chairs in front of the office window, watching the sunset and drawing. Okay...they're still's a photo.

Snapper: "Mom, isn't Easter about when Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead?"

Me: "Yes! You are exactly right."

Snapper: (turns to Pepper and patiently begins to explain) "Brother, Easter is coming soon. You know, the day where we wear fancy dresses and go to church and have an Easter egg hunt? Well actually, you're a boy, so you won't wear a dress. You'll wear just regular boy clothes."

Pepper: "An Easter egg hunt! I want to have an Easter egg hunt!"

S: "Don't worry, Brother. We will, on Easter, and Easter is only 4 weeks away! But Easter isn't really about eggs or the Easter Bunny, which isn't even really a real rabbit. Easter is about Jesus. He loved us so much that He died on the cross for our sins. It was so horrible and it hurt Him real bad. They hit him with whips and put thorns on his head. And then they nailed him up there on the cross and he died."

P: "Easter is tomorrow! I bet Spiderman saved Him!"

S: (exasperated) "No he did NOT! Spiderman didn't even exist then! God raised Jesus from the dead. The bad guys buried Him, and three days later he rose from the dead. And now we can live with Him forever if we will just ask Him into our hearts. He will wash away our sins and make us white as snow. Get it Brother? He died for you because He loves you. Do you understand?"

P: (proudly) "Yes! I understand! Jesus was erased from the dead. My brother Spiderman saved Jesus. Now Jesus washes away all my sins with His water bottle. And grasshoppers are bees!"

Okay, brief pause here. Grasshoppers are bees? Snapper didn't say anything about grasshoppers or bees...where the heck did that come from?

S: "First of all, grasshopper are NOT bees! Bees are bees. Grasshoppers are grasshoppers."

P: "Grasshoppers ARE bees! Grasshoppers have wings, and so do bees. See Sissy? Grasshoppers are bees!"

S: "Whatever! Besides, Spiderman isn't your brother! You don't have a brother. You just have a sister, and her name is M-E!"

P: "I know you're my sister! Spiderman is too my brother! He's on my shirt...see?" (points to the Spiderman shirt he is wearing)

S: "Spiderman is not your brother! He is just a cartoon. Besides, Jesus was RAISED from the dead. You know, like, He rose from the dead? Like rose. See?" (she slowly stands up, dramatically raising her hands over her head, with a pious expression on her face) "He rose, like this!"

P: "Ohhhhh...."

S: "Anyway, you can't erase people!"


P: "And grasshoppers are bees. And Spiderman is my brother."

S: (Gives him a disgusted look, turns and rolls her eyes at me, shakes her head and quietly resumes coloring)

I Heart My Children!

Closed Chapter

Today I turned the final leaf in a chapter of my life that I never anticipated would end. To go into detail out where the world can see would not be wise, so I'll keep it general. A relationship ended today that has been part of my life since I was 7 years old. It was a very important relationship, one that was very influencial in shaping who I am today, and in preparing my heart for ministry. I never expected that it would come to an end. But I'm learning once again that if there's one thing I can count on in life (other than the faithfulness of God, of course), is that life is full of change. Some changes are good; some changes are bad; some changes are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Today's change I would classify as a bad one.

But such is life. Things change. People change. Ideals change. Values change. Priorities change. Unfortunately, I feel like I got the short end of the stick on this one. I guess all those changes were going on in this relationship, but I just didn't see it.

I've shed some tears this afternoon, mourning this loss. I think it's a loss I will always mourn. But it's over. There's nothing I can do to change it. I guess I pick myself up and move forward from here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thoughts about Joy

We are in a community group at our church. We meet every Sunday evening with a group of 5 couples and 3 single moms, for dinner and to discuss what we're learning in church, and how we are applying it to our lives. This group of people has become like family to us, and I really look forward to Sunday nights. Our time together on Sunday was fantastic. All of the kids were at a different house with two babysitters, which provided peace for the adults. When I say all the kids, I mean ALL the kids: three 7-year-olds, two 5-year--olds, one 4-year-old, five 3-year-olds, two 2-year-olds, and two babies. Yikes!

Anyhoo, right now our pastor is doing a series on joy. He is teaching out of Philippians, and it has been really good. We discussed joy on Sunday night, specifically joy in the midst of trying circumstances. Every person in our group has gone through at least on major tragedy. Experiences include losing a child to drowning, 2 years of unemployment, divorce due to the spouse committing a major crime and landing in prison, the sudden loss of a young healthy husband, death of parents, a middle-aged mother with Alzheimer's, multiple miscarriages, etc. Some of these circumstances are still fresh and raw. The conversation turned from joy in circumstances, to the character of God. Joy and happieness are not the same thing. Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can have joy, even in the midst of pain, because we know God never changes, and God's promises always hold true. So even when I am unhappy...or miserable, the joy of the Lord that comes from knowing Him will uphold me. God is who He says He is.

We all shed a lot of tears on Sunday night, and it was good. I am so thankful for these wonderful people, with whom I can share my hurts, my doubts, my struggles, and my joys. They love me, encourage me, pray for me, and would do anything for me. I know that.

Yesterday I went to the funeral for the father of my dear friend Stephanie. I came home with a deep ache in my heart--not for her dad, but for Stephanie, her sisters, and their mother. I remember acutely the pain of losing a parent. I felt grumpy all evening. And I woke up grumpy this morning. The sky is heavy and gray, and it is cold out. So how does any of this relate to what I already wrote about? It all comes back to joy. I have a chance today to put into practice the things my group discussed on Sunday. I don't feel happy. At all. I feel as gloomy as the sky outside, especially when I start remembering that in a few months, I am moving away from my community group. Grrr! But here's what I am going to do, as agreed upon by those sweet friends on Sunday night. I am going to take my eyes off myself.

My pastor, in his message, gave us an easy acronym to help us maximize on God's joy in our lives.
J-Jesus first
O-Others next
Y-You last

I am going to put my focus on Jesus first, by spending some time with Him this morning. Then I am going to focus on Others, by going grocery shopping and getting a bucket of food to ship to Haiti (part of a project our church is doing). I will also get ingredients for the dinner I am making for a swim team teammate of Snapper's whose dad is in the hospital with a brain tumor. Then I will take another look at myself, and I imagine I'll be feeling a lot better.

There are three other sources of joy in my life: Matt, Snapper, and Pepper. I'll take a brief minute to brag on each of them.

Matt is my Mr. Wonderful. He works so hard to take care of our family. He loves me completely, and is an excellent daddy to our kiddos. In the last few weeks, he has devoted every spare moment to working on our house, getting it ready to put on the market. I am so impressed that he was able to lay tile in both the upstairs bathrooms, even though there were several very tricky cuts, and though some of the corners in the bathrooms weren't perfectly square. He also painted our shutters. (I painted the door). The work has been hard and time-consuming. But it is just about done! Matt, I love you and I'm thankful for you!

Here's the before...February 4th

And here's the after--February 28th!

Kids' bathroom floor in progress...almost done!

Our bathroom floor, with new baseboards.

Snapper is really having fun with school. Her February math test scores were very high, which delights us! She is working on multiplication now, and is picking it up very easily. She has a wonderful mind for numbers. She just completed her biggest project of 2nd grade thus far: a research assignment and presentation on a famous American. She chose Rosa Parks, because she admires Rosa's courage and willingness to stand up for what is right. She wrote a page about Rosa Parks, did a project to represent why Rosa Parks is famous, and presented her paper and project to her class. For the project, we found a photograph of Rosa Parks sitting in a bus. Snapper sketched the photo, colored Rosa with crayons, and colored the rest of the drawing with colored pencils. Then I put waxed paper over the drawing, and ironed the crayon part. That causes the crayon to melt into the paper, smoothing out the crayon marks and giving it a rich, smooth look. Snapper was thrilled with how it turned out, and she said her class loved it.
Today is book character day at school. She dressed up as Betsy, the heroine of the Betsy-Tacy series, by Maud Hart Lovelace. This series was my very favorite when I was a child, and I passed my collection on to Snapper. She looked so cute today, all dressed up in an old-fashioned dress that I loved when I was little. I braided her hair and tied red ribbons on the ends of the braids. And right now I am kicking myself for forgetting to take a picture.
Snapper is a joy.