Sunday, June 28, 2009

I Heart VBS

Okay, so I mentioned several months ago how we were beginning to prepare for VBS and how much I love it.  Some of my earliest church memories are from VBS.  I vividly remember the red kool-aid and the ring shaped cookies that came with it.  At our church there was always "hot dog Friday" and bring a friend day.  It was a highlight of my summer from grade school up.  Not only did I enjoy attending VBS, but I got some of my earliest ministry opportunities serving in VBS.  Ryan and I have joked that we'll go anywhere if we can teach VBS!  I was recollecting this spring and this is the list of the places that I could think of where I have taught VBS:  Kentucky, Idaho, Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico.  I have taught as many as 3 consecutive weeks and I have loved every minute of it.  I love sharing the story of Jesus with children.  I love seeing the church body come together for a common goal, and I love seeing families realize how much we care about their children.  

I also love the music. This year Ryan bought a CD of the last decade of theme songs from Lifeway's VBS themes.  We have had the best time listening to that thing.  All of the kids have asked how old they were when we did different ones or who their teachers were that year.   I've had fun remembering which decorations I made that year or who my teaching buddies were.  There is one song that runs through my head in Spanish as the CD plays in English because I have such vivid memories of teaching that particular one in Puerto Rico.  Lots of fun memories!

The last 2 years, our church has elected not to do VBS.  The first year we were in the middle of building a children's building, so it was impossible.  Last year, there were a variety of budget and time issues that prevented it.  But, this year, we were back at it and everybody jumped on board as we traveled on the Boomerang Express for a journey through Australia.  We were overwhelmed with 600+ children and over 3oo volunteers.  It was so encouraging to see folks from virtually every ministry of our church contributing  to the Kidztown ministry.  It was a great success as children heard the gospel and even today we saw a number of visiting families as a result of the week.  We are already looking forward to next year!  To be honest, the week flew by, but I did manage to get a few photos along the way.  Enjoy!

Here is the giant paper mache tree Ryan and some gals built in the registration area.  Can you find the kangaroo conductor?
This is Lizzy and her good friend Alexa on "Dress like your favorite Worship Rally character" night.  They both chose to be VegaMite, the hollywood diva character.

Here's Ryan acting goofy one night in train conductor garb.
Here are our senior pastor and his wife dressed as their favorite characters, VegaMite and General Specific.
All week long, we had live sheep in our lobby...needless to say our facilities team loved Ryan for that!  But, did you know that there are more sheep than people in Australia?  How could we not have sheep?
Here is Isaac on the stage during Family Night.
Lizzy singing at Family Night.
Lily with her teachers, Ms. Ashley and Ms. Gladys.  She wasn't really interested in attending VBS, but after lots of prayer, one very dramatic meltdown, and some caring teachers, she fell in love with it too!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A new skill

I mentioned in my last post that Abby just turned 11.  This birthday was different, because this was the first time EVER that she has not had a "friend party."  Because she was the first, we started her with big ol' parties beginning on her 1st birthday, and we just kept going.  I told her as we were planning her party last year, that she would not have another party until year 13. 
 I just thought that it was time for the other kiddos to get some of my party energy.  They have each been a little later to get their first bash.  For Lizzy it was 3, Isaac and Lily started at 4, and poor Abe- he may have his graduation party and his first birthday party all rolled into one.  I'm just kidding!  But seriously, even though we've always done very homegrown parties, they still take time and money, and both of those are limited.  
Abby was mostly okay with that, but her response was, "Will you at least make me a cake?"  So, I promised I would.  When I asked her a few weeks ago what kind of cake she would like, she told me she wanted a daisy cake.  So, I began a quest for a design that would be girly but not little girly.  I decided that since it was just for us and the grandparents, I would risk a new technique.  
 I have been wanting to try some fondant/gumpaste type work, but I am just a buttercream kind of girl when it comes to flavor.  So, I came to a compromise on this one.  I frosted the cake with yummy homemade buttercream, but then tried my hand at gumpaste daisies for the decorations.  I found a blog that gave me step by step instructions and then I tried my hand at it.  I was very pleased with how it turned out, for a first attempt.  Abby loved it, and that was my main objective.  So, here are some pictures of my new skill-making gumpaste daisies!

I made the daisies the night before and let them dry overnight in the flower forms.
Here are a bunch of them on the top of the cake.
Here is Abby blowing out her 2 candles.  Ryan insisted that they made a perfect 11
I put Ryan to work with the leftover icing and cupcakes and he made some daisies of his own- cute, huh!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthday Wishes!

Eleven years ago today, something extraordinary happened in my life.  That was the day that I became a mother.  As long as I live, the details of that day will be vividly etched in my mind.  I won’t bore you with all of them, but one of the things that I remember most was an overwhelming sense of being loved.  I remember that feeling coming frequently over the course of Abby’s birth day and the days that followed.  So many people came and sat through that long day of waiting.  The phone rang all day long with folks anxious to know how things were progressing and I distinctly remember thinking how much these people loved us and how very loved this little girl would be.  It was an amazing day.

I smile when I look back on that season and how very young and naive we were.  I was at the beginning of what I thought would be a long career as a public school teacher.  Ryan and I were casually attending a small rural church and our commitment consisted of an every other week gig in children’s church and summers as camp directors.  It seems so simple now.

If you would have told me then that 11 years later I’d be a homeschool mom to 5, I would have laughed in your face.  That was so not my plan. The Lord has certainly spent the last decade knocking out a variety of idols in my life. In his gentle way, he has stripped them away one at a time.  First, we left our beloved KY and two full time incomes so that Ryan could attend school.  Then, He blessed us with another child and called me away from the classroom.  Next, he called us into service on a local church staff- something we had never intended to do.  He called me to homeschool rather than returning to my coveted classroom.  Then, child by child he has stripped away my control issues and my perfectionistic tendencies.  

Now, I don’t believe that any of these things are evil.  Two incomes, living close to family, working full-time, public school, one child families, none of these things are wrong.  But for me, they represented things that I was putting before God. I was finding my identity in the accomplishments or orderliness that these things allowed.  And, by no means do I claim to have “arrived.”  In fact, every time I feel as though I’ve mastered some issue in my life, it seems as though I find myself very much aware of another area that needs work.  I truly believe that I will always have to guard my heart against the idols of perfection and order.  There are times that I find myself struggling with my own pride about the things I do or don’t do.  

Sometimes, it’s so frustrating.  I want so badly to be better.  I want to grow to the point that I don’t have to struggle with these goofy sins anymore.  Or at least could I trade them in for a different set of failures?  Then I wouldn’t feel so stupid for always finding myself confessing the same basic sin in a different scenario.  But, then I look back at where I’ve been and where I am and I see that God really is working in me.  I remember that Paul tells us in Philippians to “press on toward the goal.”  So, I keep pressing on, realizing that the good Lord really can use a worthless lump of clay like me.

One way that I can see he really is using me in spite of myself, is when I look at my sweet Abigail.  My precious firstborn daughter who is really turning 11 years old today.  Now, she’s a typical 11 year old.  She is far from perfect, just like her mother.  But, she is turning into such a beautiful young lady.  I look at her and I am amazed that in spite of her two self-centered, sinful parents, God is raising up this lovely lady who has such a heart for children.  She has such a sweet nurturing spirit.  Already, the Lord has given her such a love for orphans and for missions.  I’m excited to see how it all unfolds over the next decade.  

I pray that she will leave our home fully equipped to walk in righteousness.  I pray that she loves Jesus with a passion and that that very passion will give her an overwhelming love for those who don’t.  I pray that any hard knock that comes her way will drive her closer to the Great Physician and that her life will be a testimony to God’s faithfulness.  

Okay, enough rambling from me... the point of this post was simply to say...Happy Birthday Abby!  We love you and we’re so proud to call you our daughter!  Just like I’ve always told you...I’m so glad that out of all the mommies in the world, God chose me to be your mommy!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Family Day

When we left KY 10 years ago, we weren't sure how long it would be before we returned.  We were headed to NC with the intentions of going to school and then we weren't sure where we'd go from there.  A decade later, we find ourselves back at the same church we first visited when we came to NC.  For the most part, we love it here.  We love being midway between the beach and the mountains.  We love the climate and we love our church and our little town.   

The one thing I am not absolutely in love with is Raleigh itself.  When people come to visit, they often ask, what's the thing in Raleigh you "must" do.  To which I always respond with a blank stare and a half-chuckle.  There's nothing, nada.  For a city that has such a great variety of things to offer career-wise, there's not a lot that's distinctive culture-wise.  At least, we haven't found it.  

Christmas is the worst.  I grew up in Cincinnati where there were more Christmas events than you could possibly fit into any one holiday season.  There was the Cincinnati Ballet, the Festival of Lights at the zoo, the downtown train display, and Winterfest- just to name a few.  We have found none of that here.  It frustrates me every year.  I guess one good thing is that we've been challenged to create our own fun.

There is one thing in Raleigh that we've discovered in the last year which we really enjoy.  That is a pair of museums that are downtown, just across from the capitol.  One is the NC Science museum, the other is the NC history museum.  They are both very neat, and they are also FREE, which we love!

We ended up down there on Saturday.  We had decided early in the week that we were going to make it a family day.  We wanted something that would be fun, cheap, and that we would all enjoy.  So, when we found out about Pirate Day at the history museum, we decided it was the right fit for us.  We had a fun time, along with a gazillion of our closest friends.  My, it was crowded.  But, it was a good day and we took a few pictures of the fun.  So, here they are...

Friday, June 5, 2009


It's been almost exactly 5 months since we left for Ethiopia.  Almost 5 months since we met our beautiful boy.  I'll never forget that first hour.  The way he just sank into my chest and held on for dear life.  I am sure he was absolutely terrified- that made 2 of us!  

Some days it is still very hard.  Occasionally I still have these "What was I thinking!" moments. There are still weeks when I wonder if it's ever going to feel normal again.  I admit, the whole adjustment has been so much tougher than I ever dreamed.  Abe is one intense kiddo and I am way too attached to order and things being "just so."  We've had our share of struggles and prayer has been my close companion.

But then, I look back at these past 5 months and I can't believe just how far we've come.  There is not any big thing that I have to measure our progress, but the sum of all of the little things gives me lots of hope.  Little things like sleeping through the night instead of the nightly fearful fits, or being able to walk into the next room without Abe being reduced to tears.  Then, of course, there are the smiles.  Oh, they melt me.  

If there is one word that I think sums up our last 5 months, it would be trust.  I have had to trust that God really did choose the right family for Abe, that he knew our limitations, and yet he chose me to be Abe's mama anyway.  Abe has also had to learn to trust us.  He has had to trust that we really are on his team.  I think that is the corner we've turned the last 6 weeks or so.  I think he really is beginning to trust us.  He realizes that we are always coming back, we are always going to feed him, our touch is always motivated by love, and that our "no"  is for his good.  These things are slow going, but they are definitely coming together.

The progress is often two steps forward and one step back, but it's progress.  And I know that one day, I'll truly count it all joy.  Every part of this crazy, difficult journey that knit my heart together with this beautiful child will be a precious testimony of God's faithfulness.  For that, I am grateful.  

I have to leave you with this photo.  This is Abe's latest skill.  He is "showing his self-control."  You gotta love it!