Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Bowies

Is it just me, or are boys just a mess?

I mean, I guess I should be used to it by now, seeing that we have THREE of them. Ha!

Joshua is so different from the other two...and not in the way you'd expect! I'm just sayin' that if you went into their bedrooms, not knowing whose room was whose...you'd find one that looked like a tornado hit it, and one as neat as a pin. People might naturally assume that the messy room belonged to Joshua, and might think, "bless his heart." But they would be SO WRONG!

Joshua's room is the neat one! Bed made (every day), clothes put up (every day), everything in place (every day). Clark's room (and Logan's room when he's home from college) is awful. Seriously. Clark hasn't even slept in his own room since school started back...in JANUARY. Hello? He sleeps all over the place...family room...living room...Logan's empty room. And if I ask him why he isn't sleeping in his own room, he says, "no reason." I'm guessing maybe he can't find the bed?

My boys.

They are LOUD. I was in the kitchen making breakfast on Saturday morning, and two of the boys came in and started having some sort of imaginary Star Wars fight. And I should mention that one is a Junior in College, and one is a Sophomore in High School. Apparently, I was sliced right across the middle with a light saber...I didn't know it because I was MAKING BISCUITS AND GRAVY at the time.

And there are several little words or phrases that one of us will say that will result in some or all of us bursting into song. And before you think we are all VonTrapp-ish, let me put that to rest right now. I asked Logan what time he was heading home. And then I caught myself and said, "I mean, heading back to SCHOOL...because you're already HOME." I barely got the words out of my mouth when Logan and Clark burst into a loud, irreverent, redneck version of "I'm Already There..." by Lonestar. 

Good times.

My boys.

And maybe it's just my boys, but I can tell exactly what they've done...because they leave a trail. Right now, as I look around my home, the mess tells the story...

There's a soccer ball in the middle of the family room floor...that's because Logan was kicking it around IN THE HOUSE over the weekend. That's why we can't have nice things. Ha! There are clothes and shoes on and under the family room couch...because, apparently, that's where Clark slept. There's a kitchen chair pulled up to the built-ins in the family room. Clark needed it to climb on to hook up some wires on the TV, and then just left the chair there. There are cabinet doors open in the family room, because they were looking for the remote to the dvd player...And open cabinets in the kitchen. Speaking of the kitchen, OH MY! Open jars, cups sitting in puddles of water, spoons with dried ice-cream or Nutella on them...the oven was left on, even though there's nothing in it cooking!

My Boys!

And, yes, we did teach them manners and housekeeping skills, and they DO use them (sorta)...most of the time. It's just that, with Logan away at college, when he comes home and everyone is all together...manners and housekeeping seem to go out the window because of all the fun they are having.

I LOVE MY BOYS, but they are makin' me crazy!

"Let the high praises of God be in their mouth..." Psalm 149:6

Monday, April 29, 2013

Week(s) in Review

We are so blessed to be experiencing our first Spring in our new house...in our new town. But along with that, brings more work and responsibilities with the house and yard. I'm working on the house...the inside. It's a HUGE work in progress...and Jim is working in the yard. He has a vision of how he wants it, and I'm not a "yard person" (or so he tells me!) (and I totally agree!), so I just stay out of it. That system must work well, because our yard always looks great!

Side note: Jim's dad, Papaw Genie, is known for his eccentric ways. His piddling in the yard gardening makes NO SENSE to anyone. Watching him would make a sane person go crazy. He will decide to plant some flowers right in the middle of the yard and just start digging. And he hauls dirt and gravel and rocks in buckets from all over the Creation. Seriously. Jim's Mom says she remembers men that he used to work with...talking about how he would go out into the woods with buckets, and come back with them full of dirt or whatever.  Because, ya know, "God ain't makin' no more dirt." But he always has beautiful flowers, and lots of vegetables come from his gardens, so just sayin'.  Anyway, now Jim has started doing the same thing. I never thought I would see the day, because he has made such fun of his Dad's ways all these years. Our house in Bryant still hasn't sold, so Jim has been digging up plants, flowers, bushes, trees from that house and bringing them to this one. Okayyyy. That yard may look like it's infested with gophers by the time he's done, I'm on board with whatever he wants to do about that. But last week, we had to take the trailer down there with the mower...to do the yard. As we are loading up to head home, I notice that Jim has BUCKETS FULL OF DIRT and one full of rocks, loaded on the back of the trailer. Oh, yes, ma'am. He has caught a ride on the crazy train.

The past few weeks have been filled with track meets and cold weather and wondering what in the world that ground-hog was thinking. Brrr...

But this week, we went up to Ft. Smith for the 7A conference track meet, and it was the PERFECT day. Sunny...warm...breezy. Probably won't have another day like that this whole year. Clark's relay team qualified for the State meet...which is this week...which is scheduled to be on what is predicted to be the coldest day of this week. Like, it's predicted there could be SNOW.


Holly had her last clinical for the semester. She is loving nursing school and doing really well. It's been such a blessing to watch her and Aaron start their lives. Aaron loves his job. It's great when what you do is what you love. Holly will have 2 months off...from May 8-July 8...and then her classes will start back with a vengeance. She's gonna really enjoy her time off!

So, Joshua had his 2 night "camping" trip at Camp Aldersgate last week. His group had been looking forward to it for WEEKS. They were all so excited! I took him on Wednesday and got him all settled. It was no big deal for him, because he's used to going a week to Camp Barnabas in the summers.

It was WEIRD not having him here at home. When he's here, he spends a lot of time up in his room, but he keeps the door open and he goes up and down quite a bit. He's not loud at ALL, typically, but the house was really quiet without him. It's true that each person in a family has their own place...and they are really missed when they aren't here. Anyway, he was on his camping trip on Thursday, so he didn't go with us to the track meet.

On Friday, Logan came home! YAY! I was SO EXCITED! He brought a load from his room...to start moving home for the summer. It was also the day that Joshua needed to be picked up. Jim had some errands to run, so he picked up Joshua and they headed down to see his parents for the night. Holly came over and spent the afternoon since Logan was here. And then I guess all that visiting wore Logan OUT, because he went to his room to lie down...and FOUR HOURS LATER, he came out! I guess he was tired! By this time, Clark had gone to watch his school play, and so Logan and I went to get some dinner. Jim and Joshua came home on Saturday, and it was kind of a yucky day, weather-wise. Holly and Aaron met us for dinner on Saturday night. I love it when we are all together.

Logan left right after dinner to go back to school. He wanted to check on Morgan, but also wanted to be back for church on Sunday. We are so blessed that they LOVE their church. They are connected there and participate in ministry there. It is something I prayed for when he left for college and the Lord answered in a BIG way. They also are gearing up for finals this week, and then they will be HOME for the summer! Yay!

Sunday was a great day! We went to SS and church. Joshua is still fighting a cold or allergies...not sure. I feel so bad for him! He's not feeling great. His voice is deep and gravel-y. Or, as he describes it, "more manly-er and more huskier." (he adds "more" and "er" to a lot of words and it cracks us up!) We ate all the left-overs from the frig for lunch, and then spent the rest of the day just hanging out here.The weather was SO NICE! Jim took Joshua to the gym. I cleaned up the kitchen. Holly and Aaron came over and hung out. Holly worked on some of her crafts. She's always got something going on. She'll see it on Pinterest and we'll go get the supplies...and she will create something really cute! Aaron brought over the BAGGO game. It's one of Joshua's favorite things to do...play BAGGO with Aaron. Or with whoever. We ordered pizza for dinner and ate here at home.

*A funny thing: We were all outside. Jim was working in his garden. Aaron and Joshua were playing BAGGO. Holly was painting something...and I was coming in and out of the house, because I was making cheese dip and getting out plates and all that stuff for dinner. All of a sudden, I realized that the animals were everywhere. It's like we were living in Animal Kingdom or something. We have one Black Lab and one cat that Clark picked up from the local Wal-Marks parking lot.  And Holly and Aaron have a yorkie...which Jim and I refer to as the "half-a-dog." And the animals are so funny because they all 3 try to stay together. They are so afraid that they will miss out on something...like food. Or, like, if one of the animals is being held...or...(gasp!) being petted. They want IN.ON.IT. So, it was like we couldn't even walk...couldn't even sit in our chairs...the animals were everywhere!

*I just read this back and it doesn't sound remotely funny...but it was! Guess you had to be here.

Such a great weekend. I never want to forget these "ordinary"days.

"But from eternity to eternity the LORD's faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness toward the grandchildren of those who keep His covenant, who remember to observe His precepts." (Psalm 103: 17-18)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Joshua's Valentine Ball!

(This was written earlier, but I just got around to posting it...better late than never!)

They'd spent the better part of 2 weeks preparing for and anticipating this night: the very first Valentine Ball at Joshua's Therapeutic Recreation Center.

On Tuesday, they began to decorate. A curtain made from red and pink tinsel separated the "dance floor" from the "snack room." They hung lanterns and hearts from the ceiling. On Wednesday, they split into groups. One group strung white Christmas lights around the windows and around the ceiling beams (I asked who got up on the ladder, and Mrs. Sherrie said, "no one! We did it the JIMMIE way, and threw them up there! It made me laugh just thinking about it!). The other group was busy in the kitchen, making cookies and treats for the dance.

On the day OF the ball, which was Valentine's Day, the group went to the cosmetology department of a local high school, where the girls were treated to manicures and make-up...and had their hair styled for the dance! For free! While the guys were invited to go for a manicure, my Joshua saw the handwriting on the wall, which basically was lots of sitting while the girls were primping and he said, "no, thank YOU" and opted to stay home. He hung out with Holly and me, and we took him shopping, and to get a haircut.

He was pretty excited to dress up for the Ball. He wore his black dress pants. I bought him a new shirt, and he picked out a HAT he wanted at Target. He said he wanted to look "FLY" for the dance.

(You have to know that hats aren't a great look for a Downsy boy. He has a little head and tiny ears and hats just don't sit right...but he loved it, and I will have to say that it was precious on him...and everyone agreed that he looked so handsome!)

The place looked GREAT when we got there. They had transformed the "Center" where they meet, hang-out and receive instruction...to a real, live BALL! Slowly but surely, Joshua's friends began to arrive. The girls were ALL dressed up in their fanciest clothes! One of the girls cried when she saw Joshua, because she said he looked so handsome! They were all so excited...FOR EACH OTHER!

And when the music started, they all danced. I loved how uninhibited they were. The girls danced with the boys, or with each other. It didn't even bother them to dance alone. I watched as they swayed to the music, alone in their thoughts. They seemed to be transported to another place...a place away from their disabilities and challenges. It was so beautiful.

When Joshua was in high school, he was blessed to be able to attend his Jr and Sr proms. Jenni's school also had a prom that they attended together. But for some of these "kids," this Valentine Ball was their first opportunity to dress up and feel special...and boy, did Sherrie, Jimmie and the rest of the staff make them feel special! They got pampered. They dressed up. They had pictures made. They had a guest DJ (made even more perfect when they saw it was Jimmie!), and they rocked the night away! I am beyond thankful for everyone who made this night possible.

They had so much fun!

True kings and queens, fearfully and wonderfully made.

"...let us love one another, for love is from God..." 1 John 4:7

Friday, April 19, 2013

The One Where Joshua Used His Beast Voice...

Joshua used his "Beast Voice" on me this morning.


You have to know that Joshua has a pretty pleasant personality. Most days, he is happy...and on the rare days he's not, we can usually mess with him long enough to have him laughing in minutes.

He is helpful. Out of all the kids, he helps me the most (to his ability). Granted, he's with me more than the others, but he is always looking for ways he can help. He loves to go to the grocery with me. He pushes the buggy, and reminds me of things we need that I have forgotten to put on the "dad-gum list" (as my husband calls it). He helps me unload the groceries at home. He sets the table, and clears it after we eat (sometimes while we are STILL EATING!). He unloads the dishwasher for me every day. He makes his bed, cleans his room, and brings down his dirty clothes and towels...EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

He is complimentary. He tells me he likes whatever I cook, and that I'm pretty. But his compliments aren't reserved only for family. I've been out with him and heard him tell total strangers, "nice shirt," or "nice shoes," or tell the pastor, "pretty good sermon last week." (He also does tell the pastor other things like, "you went too fast for me to keep up," or "I didn't get what you were trying to say." He's honest to a fault!)

And he is very sensitive. He is the first to notice if someone is sad, and he's not shy about giving comfort. He's the first one, when there's a tragic or intense situation, to grab hands and say, "let's pray." Right then and there.

All this to say that I can usually "read" Joshua. I know his personality and can judge his moods. I "get" him. So, I usually have the sweet Joshua.

Not this morning.

Last night, we had a situation with Joshua and his phone. He was using it in a way that we had previously discussed he was NOT to do. This morning, he was supposed to go to his Therapeutic Recreation program. He was looking forward to seeing all of his friends, and going on an outing with them. They were going to see a cool Lego exhibit at the Clinton Library, and eating out for lunch. Fun! He was going to get to see his girlfriend, Jenni. And I was going to get a few rare hours by myself.


I just felt like this was a teachable moment. It's really hard, knowing what to do in these situations. I mean, he's 27 years old. He's a man...but he's also a child. I never want to make him feel like a baby, but I still need to make my point...always encouraging those baby steps toward independence. So, I told him we were staying home today. And I told him why. I could see the change in his face when he realized I was serious.

And that's when I heard it: the Beast Voice.

I'm assuming anyone reading this has watched Beauty and the Beast, and would naturally remember when Belle refused to come down for dinner. The Beast is extremely frustrated and yells, "then go ahead and STAAAARRRRVVVVEEE!"


That's the voice Joshua used when he looked at me and growled, "I guess you know this will break Jenni's HEARRRRRRT!"

He also told me that staying home today would "tear Jenni's heart into pieces and stomp on it."

Yeah. Well. Sorry. That was not my intention, and we did talk about how our actions (sins) don't always just affect us. Sometimes the consequences of our actions spill over into the lives of others. I hate it...but it's not my problem. I reminded Joshua that when we mess up...and we all do...we have to "man-up" and accept responsibility. He said, "yeah, like in the book of Acts, when Jesus ascended into Heaven. All the disciples were standing there going, 'well, He's gone. Now what?' And then Peter said, 'guys, we have to man-up and go preach the Gospel to the world,' and so they did."

Yeah...there's THAT.

But there's also THIS:

I'm still the boss around here, and it's about time everyone remembered it and started listening to me.

"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." (Proverbs 22:6)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Beautiful People

We were blessed to be able to spend a few days at the beach over Spring Break this year. It.was.awesome.

Years ago (like, 25), we were invited to go to Destin with some friends from our church. At the time, they had one young son, and we had Joshua and Holly. We went with them and had a great time...and became hooked on family vacations at the beach! They invited us back every year after that...for about 15 years! During that time, they had one more son, and we had two more sons...oh, the memories we made!

We finally had to stop going with them due to scheduling conflicts and it was SO SAD for me. Logan was in football all summer and didn't want to miss practices and stuff, and Holly was swimming and working. It was hard for the 6 of us to get away together. And then there was a hurricane that damaged our friend's family-owned condo, and the repairs and maintenance took a long, long time!

But, Leanne decided to rent a beach house for a week one summer, and we got to go. It was so fun! While we were there, we ran into another family we knew who were also on vacation...and they came by one afternoon for a visit. The Mom said, "I am just amazed at all of the ugly people here on this beach! It's like people think they won't see anyone they know, so they just wear whatever they want...and let it all hang out! Seriously, we are the most attractive family on this beach!"

And, y'all...she was dead serious.

After she left, Jim said, "what beach was SHE on, because I've seen plenty of..."

(and at this point, he let his voice trail off, because he had 10 pairs of eyes staring him down, wondering where in the world he was going with that statement!)

Beautiful people. It's in the eye of the beholder, huh?

Anyway, we just got back from Spring Break at the beach. It's a family tradition we started about 3 years ago before Holly got married...we thought it might be the last time all 4 of us could travel there together...and we were right! Logan and Morgan have gone on missions trips for the last 2 years during Spring Break, and Aaron has had to work. Still, with two of the boys, and our girl, we had a great time!

When our kids were little, trips to the beach were anything BUT relaxing. Seriously, the planning...the packing...the traveling...we were exhausted and frustrated by the time we even got there. But we went for the memories we hoped to make with our friends and our children. Now, though, our trips are as relaxing as we want them to be, and it.is.wonderful! Seriously. SO great! And I have lots of time to think and read and "people watch." I love watching people.

I'm not as bad as my m-i-l, though. She not only watches people, she makes up elaborate stories about perfect strangers...based on her perceptions of their actions, or their family dynamics. Example: "I saw a man eating breakfast with his young daughter at Chick-Fil-A this morning. Bless his heart. He is probably a single dad, and has to take his daughter back to her mom today. He probably lives in an apartment complex with no yard or playground equipment, so he brought her here so she can play...and have some fun before he has to take her back..."

I know.

Bless her heart.

At the beach this year, I saw only beautiful people...because my vision has changed over the years. And because I have a lot more grace than I used to. I saw the young couples on their honeymoons...beautiful! I saw older couples, in their twilight years of life, walking hand-in-hand. Beautiful! I saw one couple...the man's face was stressed and worn-looking. His wife was bald. And she was beautiful! I saw another older couple...the woman looked and acted like Katherine Hepburn. Her hair was pinned up, but, in the wind, most of it had come down and was moving wild and free across her face. Her head shook as she talked. Her man had her hand and held onto her arm, supporting her..guiding her. Beautiful! Saw LOTS of teenaged boys walking the beach...way more boys than girls. I'm thinking the girls were all laying out by the pool! And all the little kids...so fun to watch them run excitedly from the water to their families with their latest "finds..." shells, driftwood, buckets of water. Watching them, God showed me that not all families are like mine. They don't act like we do or talk like we do...but that doesn't mean they don't fiercely love their children.

One of the most beautiful sights was the large family swimming a ways down from our condo. I saw them on one of my walks. A mom, a dad, and 6 or 7 children. They stood out because they were exuberant...loud and excited...and because they were swimming IN THEIR CLOTHES! I'm talkin...the boys looked like they could've come straight from church: khaki shorts and button-up shirts. And they weren't just getting their feet wet...oh noooo! They were drenched from head to toe...ALL IN. It was beautiful!

That's how I want to be. Not always so boring and predictable...but throwing my head back and running in. ALL IN.

("...I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Box Full of Memories

I opened the box and it hit me immediately...and I knew. And part of me thought, "just put the lid back on and walk away...you're not ready." But the other part of me wanted to see...what was this that was all packed away?

I was going thru some boxes in our garage. We've been in this house 7 1/2 months, and the boxes are still everywhere. Ugh. Still can't get any of the cars in there. I know that if I would just tackle a box a day...I'd be done by  now, but other things get in the way each day...life...and so here we are.

So, the familiar scent hit me the second I opened the box. I knew it had to contain items from my Mom or my Grandmother. I wasn't sure which one at first. The things that we packed up of my Mom's have a certain smell...a mixture of her perfume, make-up, hair-spray, powder...I don't know. Her house smelled like her, and I guess when we boxed up her things, we boxed up the smell as well. Same thing with my Grandma. I have some of her furniture, and even now, I can open up a drawer and instantly feel her presence...because it smells like I remember her.

Weird, I know.

Or maybe you can relate.

This particular box contained items from my Grandmother's house...several photo albums...wedding pictures of my parents, and some of my Mom growing up. There was an album of when my Grandma Ellen and her sister, Janie, went on a trip to see family. They had to be in their 80's if they were a day...and they were acting goofy and posing in funny ways for the pictures. Maybe that's where I get my sense of humor!

And there were some pictures that my siblings and I had sent her over the years...of our kids and our lives. Grandma lived halfway across the country from us, and person-to-person visits were few-and-far-between. She had put the pictures in an album. I imagine she looked at it often. I wondered about the last time she touched those pages. The last picture in it was of Clark at 8 weeks old. That would've been in 1996. My Mom died in 1998, and I doubt that my Grandmother looked at old pictures from that point until her death in 2004. It would've been to painful for her.

I flipped through the pages and breathed it all in. My throat tightened up and I felt tears coming to my eyes. I had to close the box. I wasn't ready. As much as I loved seeing all the pictures, I am still not ready to process all of the emotion from my Mom's death...and seeing photos of her as a child, teenager, young wife...it's still too much.

I just really miss her. We didn't have the relationship that my daughter, Holly, and I have...but, for what it was, it was good and I loved her very much. And I miss her when I look at the pictures from the past...but mostly I miss her being here with me and my kids. And I already miss future things that she won't be around for...milestones and special events. She's already missed the birth of some of her grandchildren, and she's missed two weddings so far...and there will be another one she'll miss this summer (well, I guess SHE'S not really missing it...we're missing HER at these events). I miss not having her in the present...and I miss not having her for the future. But, because of Christ, I know I will see her again one day!

I am so thankful for the legacy of my great-grandparents...who took their 5 children to church, and taught them about the Lord...so that my Grandmother would come to know Christ at an early age...so that when she had kids of her own, she would teach them about God and take them to church...and because of that, her daughter, my Mother, would come to know Christ at an early age. And when my Mom married, her life would greatly influence her husband's life, and he, my Dad, would give his heart to the Lord, and would be a faithful servant for going on 50 years. My parents raised 4 children in a Christian home. Now the 4 of us have children of our own, and we do the best we can to seek God in all things. Like our parents, and the ones who came before us, we are not perfect...we mess up and get off track...but, by God's grace, we can start again. We have that chance because somebody way back when told my great-grandparents about Jesus...and they were faithful to carry the torch...and pass it down to the next generation.

Who told you?

I cannot imagine my life without Christ...I truly can't. I can't imagine not having a relationship with the Lord to lift me up and walk with me in times of struggle. And even the happy times, as good as they are, they remind me that this world is not my home...and that even BETTER awaits me one day in Heaven. For me to have strength in the hard times and confidence in the future, I had to come to the place where I would meet Jesus. And that started because someone told me about Him.

Who told you?

When I can go through the box again, I want to take out several pictures and have them framed. My Mom's legacy...and that of my Grandmother's...is not in pictures, but in the lives they lived during their time on earth. And even tho they are gone from this life, their influence remains in the lives they helped reach for God...and it will hopefully be felt for generations to come.

Maybe you don't have this kind of legacy...and that's okay. You can be the first! It's gotta start somewhere, right?

"Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won't grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Affirming Words

Spent time today with some "old" friends. Not that we want to think of ourselves are old! But time marches on, through good and bad.

A group of us became friends over 25 years ago, when we were all in the same SS class at church. Just starting out in marriage...in life...starting our families. It was a wonderful time for Jim and I. We had just moved to Little Rock for Jim's job. We didn't know one soul. But in a year's time, we managed to make friends and forge bonds that would last a lifetime. Or, we hope they will.

I know they will.

It was in this class that we also learned how to govern our lives and build our families...how to be husbands and wives, dads and moms; we learned about love, commitment...and loss; we learned the importance of church and community, and that Christianity was not a religion, but a relationship. We learned about the importance of service and giving, and we learned how to comfort others.

And we had fun. Lots and lots of fun.

We were also taught that God was sovereign in all things, and that His plan for our lives would greatly exceed anything we could come up with on our own; that God worked in the trials and difficulties in our lives just as much as He did in the good times; that He loved us all the more when we needed it all the more. For many of us, this lesson was learned only after much struggle and heartache.

It was a precious, precious time...and even then, I felt like I was in the midst of a great work of God.

It was into this band of gypsies that Joshua was born. He was born to Jim and I, but he was also born into the hearts and lives of many in our class. His birth rocked our world...in many ways. For some of us, it shook our faith to its core; for others, it was a time that defined and strengthened us. And it brought all of us closer than ever before. We found out that we were stronger when we all stood together...and when we all knelt together. And what the enemy might have used to tear us down and break us apart...ended up being one of our greatest joys.

But the years have passed, and we moved away. Others just moved on. The kids all are grown, or nearly grown, in most cases. Many are married and have children of their own. It's like deja-vu watching them make their way, and we pray that they will find a church and a group that will mean as much to them as ours has meant to us. That time, when we were all together and starting out...is a touch-stone for me as far as my Christian walk is concerned. The days when I look back and remember remind me of how blessed I am...and how very overwhelmed I am by the goodness and the greatness of God.

Life has not always been easy, for any of us. Challenges, medical or financial issues, adoptions, love and loss, life and death, aging parents, rebellious kids. We go on...living by God's help in an attempt to glorify Him in all that we do. But sometimes, we just get...weary. 

Have you ever been there?

And then there are times like today...a celebration to honor a young groom, as he starts his own life and family. We were together...not all of us, but most. We picked up where we left off since the last time.

Like we always do.

We talked. We laughed. We prayed. We got serious. We cried.

We were able to give words of affirmation to one who is struggling...a little beaten down by the circumstances in her life. I walked away feeling so blessed and thankful for this friend...and kind of burdened, too...but not in a bad way. I just need to make an effort to encourage her more, and to lift her up in prayer more often.

And then before I left, one friend and I talked...away from the group. She spoke words of encouragement to me. She's a kindred spirit...a sister in Christ...and in parenting a child with special needs. It's a life that you just can't explain to someone else, and to have a friend who just "gets" it is such a blessing. Because some days are just a struggle...and when those days roll into weeks and months and years...you can find yourself feeling wiped out, frustrated and exhausted. This friend encouraged me by reminding me of where we came...of those days all those years ago...when we were scared and unsure; and how God used our friends to hold us up when we were at the ends of our ropes. Her words came like a waterfall over me. I came away feeling refreshed and renewed...and lightened. Isn't it amazing that speaking a few words can mean so much?

We all need encouragement. Can I get an "Amen?"

All I needed to know was taught to me in that young adult SS class all those years ago: Biblical principles and truths that guided me, protected me, encouraged me. Some of them, I didn't understand at the time, and I hid them in my heart for later. All of them were the foundation on which my faith was built.

God never fails. His love endures forever. And He is faithful and true.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever." (1 Chronicles 16:34)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

We Call Him Fred


I don't know when it started, but at some point in his early days, he became known as "Fred" to us.

And then, one day when I was out, I saw a little girl with Down Syndrome. I came home and was describing her to Jim, and I said, "she was really cute...like a girl Fred." And so that's how, within our family, people with Down Syndrome or other challenges began to be described as "girl Freds" or boy Freds." When Joshua is with his Therapeutic Recreation group, I call it his GOFs..."Group of Freds." NOT IN A DEROGATORY WAY at all...just that saying, "group of intellectually/physically challenged individuals" sounds so awkward.

We only talk like this when we are with family...or really close friends...because they all know what we mean and how we mean it. I am totally opposed to using the "R" word, or any word that paints these wonderful children and adults in unflattering ways. And calling Joshua "Fred" makes me happy. It reminds me to look at the happy and fun sides of life with him.

When we call him to come downstairs, like for dinner, we usually yell up, "FREDDDDDD?" And he will respond, "ma'UHMMM" and comes right down. When he does something silly, or says something funny, we say, "oh Fred, oh Fred, oh Fred." When he's being cute, Holly will say, "ohhh...Freddy." His girlfriend, Jenni, calls him "Josh." And when she's being silly, she will call him "my Freddy Weddy Teddy." Isn't that sweet?

Most people call him Joshua. I do. Most of the time. Other people call him "Josh." I'm fine with that, and so is he. But, he's also fine with his nickname of Fred. Random people don't typically call him that, and will look at us funny when we do! But there have been a couple of instances...it's rare...when Joshua will actually tell someone that they can call him Fred.

When he was little, I called him "Joshua Giraffe." No clue why. He's definitely not tall like a giraffe, and he doesn't have a long neck. I even made up a little jingle about "Joshua Giraffe" at some point. I think my Mom started it all when she called Holly,  "Holly BEAR"...so, of course, I had to make up animal names for everyone. We all have them. There's Logan Lamb...and Clark Koala. So, naturally, Jim is Daddy Duck, and I'm Mommy Moose. Lame, I know. Now you know wayyyy too much about our family.


Anyway...when we first talked about names, early in my pregnancy, we both loved the name Joshua. Jim's only concern was that it wouldn't sound "professional" enough, like for someone in the business world. But, of course, it does...and it is..and I went the majority of my pregnancy calling my baby bump, "Baby Joshua." And when he was born, of course, no name could've fit him better: Joshua: Jehovah Saves.

Peace to my soul...

"Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 'before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you...'" (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

"A good name is to be more desired than great riches..." (Proverbs 22:1a)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pinterest and the Pious...(and I'm talkin' to ME)

I'm not creative. AT. ALL. 

There, I admitted it. Although, since this blog is basically for my children, it will come as no surprise to them. Oh, there are some things in which I excel: Posters.  Yes, posters and...well, okay...mainly posters. When my kids have had to make posters for reports at school, or signs if they were running for a school/club office...I.AM.YOUR.GIRL.

And I love it.

Not gonna lie...I'm pretty good at it, too.

Clearly, writing letters on a poster board with magic markers qualifies as "creative" in my mind. Don't take that away from me.

That's where my creative abilities end. I stink at everything else: house organizing, decorating, sewing, planning parties, being crafty...even choosing clothes and putting outfits together. Not good at any of it.

But, like with sports, I like to think that I make up for what I don't know...with enthusiasm.

My two sisters, Leanne and Robin? And my daughter, Holly? They are good at it all! I must've been watching a football game when God handed out the creativity genes. Or, maybe He figured that, with 3 boys, I wouldn't need to know how to arrange my furniture...as much as I would need to know how to use the super-glue to repair all the furniture the boys would scratch, chip and break during their lives! And, honestly, when it came to throwing parties for boys, my experience was that they weren't really concerned with the leaves and branches I spray-painted for decorations (in an effort to keep things "organic" and "not girlie). They basically wanted to know, "where's the food?" THANK GOODNESS...because I can cook for boys.

So, somehow I've been able to limp thru life up to this point.

Enter: Pinterest.

Now, when Leanne and Holly, invited me to look at their Pinterest "boards," I had no clue what they were talking about. I'm technologically up-to-date like that. They talked about "pinning" things to their boards. I didn't get it. "Pin" it? For WHAT? Oh, I can just "like" it? Okay...but why do I have to click on it and let people know that I "liked" their pin? Can't I just say, "oh, that's cute?"

No. No, you canNOT.

So, as with most things new and technical, Holly set up my Pinterest account for me, and helped me with it until I got the hang of it all by myself.

And then, hellooooo time-sucker!

I wasn't on Pinterest a week before I got a message from a sweet and well-intentioned friend, expressing her concerns about how she thought it (Pinterest) was negatively affecting our younger generation of women. Mainly, she was concerned that it, and me talking on social media about how FUN it was, might be making them discontent as young women and wives; that when they saw the different sites, they would wish for what the other person had...the perfect wedding, the coolest fashion finds, their "dream home"...and be dissatisfied with what they had at home. And then what to do with the feelings of disgust (mixed with awe and envy) for those women who seem to LIVE to post hundreds of pictures of the perfect bridal shower that they threw for their college roommate's brother's fiance. Or the elaborate birthday party some mom threw for her 3 year old twins (Color-coordinated paper straws...are you kidding me? Because the ones they don't end up using as swords, trying to poke some kid's eye out, will be soggy in 2 minutes).  

Don't even act like you don't know what I'm talking about. 

And, as fast as the pictures were "pinned," emails and blog posts came faster...challenging the priorities--and even the spiritual depth--of the creative women who somehow manage to live well, and be good moms and employees and friends...and still pull off really cool parties for their families and friends. God bless 'em, is what I say.

My mind doesn't think creatively. My furniture stays in the same exact place unless we move...and fashion? I would wear warm-ups every.single.day. if I could. I speak the truth, young Padawan. As far as parties go...in my early days as a mom, my kids' birthday parties were basically some sort of cake or cupcakes...and bright, red Hawaiian Punch. I know, right? Not that there's anything wrong with that. Kids don't care. Now, parents are throwing kid parties that have bounce-houses, pony rides, zoo animals and "spa" parties, and you know what?


Seriously. I wish we, as women, would stop fussing over what other women choose to do or not do. Breast vs bottle, working mom vs SAHM, family size, homeschooling vs public school, public school vs private school...on and on and on. I've been there. I'm ashamed to say that I fell into that trap at one point. I know the pressure is there to do more, or to do things differently. But if your friends know YOU and love YOU, and if you are doing what GOD is calling you to do, and not one thing more...isn't that what matters?

Still, when it came time to plan my daughter's wedding reception, not gonna lie...I thought, I've got this: cake, punch, nuts...and a dish of those little pastel mints. That's okay, right?

Oh, no ma'am.

At least I had the good sense to call in reinforcements: Leanne (Momma didn't raise no fool). She planned everything and pulled it all together...and it was beautiful: a beautiful end to a sweet ceremony, and a thank you to the precious family and friends who had gotten us to this point in our lives, and had come to share in our joy.

Just last month, Holly and I helped with a wedding shower at church for someone we didn't even know. We weren't trying to impress anyone...we just wanted it to be cute. Because, hello? Girls...wedding shower...cute? We saw some ideas on Pinterest and, because my mind doesn't think creatively on it's own, I was able to see what they did...and we replicated it, and everything turned out just like we wanted! And I was SO excited! Not in a "look what we did way," but in an "We can be crafty, too" way! I was proud...but it was because we saw an idea, and then attempted to re-create the parts of it we liked...and it actually turned out! It was SO FUN seeing it all come together!

You know that not everyone who dresses fashionably, decorates their home beautifully, or plans fun and creative parties is shallow, right? They aren't always "prideful" and may not be trying to show off for their friends. Some people are just wired that way. They just love to give...and love to plan. They thrive in situations where they can take a vision and bring it to reality. It's a gift, really. And, typically, they love doing it, and find JOY in making other people happy.

I have no problem pulling out plain, white napkins to use if we run out of the ones that "go" with all the decorations, but I have friends that that would really unnerve. They wouldn't think less of ME...it would just bother them that every detail wasn't in place. Perfectionists? Maybe. I prefer to think of them as diligent, caring, attentive and insightful. These same friends are loving wives and moms, Christ followers...humble, gentle, kind people who want to do their best in every project.

We need to be careful in painting people...women...with one broad brush. And I don't know about you, but I don't want to judge someone's heart by their Pinterest boards.

And I hope you won't, either.

"There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us." (I Corinthians 12:4-6)