Sunday, June 30, 2013

Father's Day Knives

You know how churches give out roses or other flowers to all the moms on Mother's Day?


Well, in our church...on Father's Day, I heard something I never thought I'd church. Or anywhere else, for that matter. At the end of the service, after the closing prayer, our pastor left us with these words:

"Happy Father's Day to all you dads...and don't forget to pick up your FREE KNIFE on the way out."

I kid you not.

Welcome to a Southern Baptist Church in Arkansas.

Father's Day 2013

This Father's Day, as always, I am very thankful for the fathers God has given our family.

My father-in-law...he is such a mess! He's a hard working man who raised his boys to work hard and save money and plan for the future. He taught them not to be wasteful, how to fix everything with duct tape, and that you can burn just about anything in the fire pit in your yard, no matter what they say; that you go to church on Sundays, even if you throw up on the way; that you give when you can and help when you can and that you don't back-talk your elders; that LOUD is better than quiet and NOW is better than later; that you stay married even when you get on each other's nerves...and "don't-talk-to-me-while-I-am-talking, JACK!" Because of his foresight and planning, our families are where we are today. I can't ever imagine our lives without this man, and I am very thankful for his influence and presence in our lives.

I am thankful for my Dad. He is just about the sweetest man I know...godly, patriotic and humble. He seeks the Lord in all things, loves his wife and family unconditionally, gives compliments and encouragement to everyone, and he prays for us all daily. My whole life, he has been a quiet servant-leader for our family. They say that the greatest thing a man can do for his kids is to love their mother, and he certainly did that for the nearly 40 years that he and my Mom were married. He would say that he has been blessed. I say that WE have all been blessed to know him...and to have him as our Dad.

And I am thankful for my husband. He is not my Dad, but he IS a Dad...and he has given our family 4 precious children. The role of a Dad is sometimes rocky, sometimes, scary. Sometimes you face the unthinkable...or the unknown. But there are also many, many times of great joy and happiness. It has been such a blessing to watch our kids with Jim, and to watch him with them. He has worked his hardest and tried his best for them. He has prayed for them, agonized over them, fussed at them...and, most of all, he's loved them more than anything. It's been a great ride, and I wouldn't want to share it with anyone else.

During my life, I have witnessed many examples of great and godly fathers. My brother is a great father to his 8 children. We have a friend who is not only a great father to his own children, but has also been a father to many foster children along the way...even permanently adding two to their family by the blessing of adoption. And we have another friend...he and his wife don't have any children of their own...but he has consistently invested in the lives of many children in the roles of Sunday School teacher, AWANA leader, uncle, coach, mentor and friend.

A godly father is such a blessing.

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bringin' Home Baby

We are headed up to Missouri to pick up our son from Kamp...where he has been for the past TWO WEEKS.

I am beyond excited to see him...beyond excited to hear what God taught has taught him...what he's learned.

I've made a banner for the mantle...and a sign for the door. That's what we do at our house...birthdays, special occasions, doing well on a test, welcome home...we put a sign on the door.

And I made a special dessert to have later.

Parenting older children is a series of letting go and welcoming back...adjusting to your new normal when they leave...readjusting when they come home. Our house has literally been a revolving door the past 2 months. I love it...the crazy and unpredictable-ness of it...but it sometimes leaves me weary. I love having them all here. I just don't like it when they have to leave know...GO BACK TO THEIR OWN HOMES/LIVES.

Jim jokingly said that I wouldn't be happy until we have our kids living on either sides of us, and across the street.


What does HE know?

Because, I was thinking that we could buy some land, and then each child could build on it and we, all the kids and their families, could all live...there...together...

Just kidding (not really). Yes, really.

I think that might be too close for most of us...but, not gonna lie. I do like having the kids close. I know it might not always be this way, so I'm going to enjoy it as long as the Lord allows.

Anyway...we had to get up at 3:30 this morning...we are leaving here at 4. I barely slept all night...I'm so excited to see my bowie!

"A joyful heart is good medicine..." (Proverbs 17:22)

Friday, June 28, 2013

BOYS (and the girl): The Teenage Years and Beyond

Edited to link-up with Kelly today. Warning: OBNOXIOUSLY long post. 

I remember like it was yesterday...the births of each of our 4 children. Two of them, the first and the last, were born with potentially life-threatening complications...but all 4 births were precious and miraculous...all 4 planned, hoped and prayed for.

Life was crazy, as you can imagine. I remember when we announced our 3rd pregnancy. The comment I got from most people was, "you already have one of each!" Meaning, we had one boy and one girl already...things were fairly manageable. When we went out, we could each keep our eyes on one child. Why would we want more?

One thing we quickly realized after our 3rd baby was that we instantly went from "man-to-man" "zone." Seriously. If you know sports, you know what I'm taking about. If you have 3 kids, you can have 15...because after they out-number you, you're hosed you've gotta be on your toes and have a plan. You are definitely the odd-man-out! But I can't complain. I love being a Mom.

When you choose to have children, you have to imagine that life as you knew it would never be the same. Even so, it's difficult to imagine what you can't imagine. Am I right? Our lives were filled with spills and mistakes (theirs and ours), and lots of fun and laughter. There was school and church, carpool and gymnastics, dance and football and soccer...and all kinds of other sports and activities; therapy and scary hospital stays and friends who stood with us in hard times and during loss...and then celebrated with us in times of great joy. Jim and I sometimes met ourselves coming and going, but we were at team, he and I...and the kids.

People tell you about sick babies and teething and being up all night. They talk about the terrible twos...about discipline and teaching and parenting with grace. What we found out is that no one tells you about the teenager phase and beyond. Might be a good thing...we wouldn't have believed them anyway!

Side note: Anyone but me feel like our generation is WAY more hands-on than our parent's generation was? It's great, don't get me wrong. I was in the Pep Club in High School, and I don't ever remember my parents coming to any of the games when I cheered. On the other hand, Jim and I sat thru MANY Saturday Peewee football games WHEN WE DIDN'T EVEN HAVE A BOY ON THE TEAM...just to watch Holly cheer: "my back aches, my skirt's too tight, my hips shake from left to out...Eagles knock you OUT!"

Seriously? What was I thinking...letting her say that?

But Jim and I planned our weekends around her games. It never occurred to us to do anything else. And this past football season? Jim and I went to every sophomore, JV and Varsity game but ONE...even tho Clark was injured and couldn't play. Clark was there, standing on the sidelines...and we were there, too...sitting, cheering and support HIM.

Anyway, it seems like most people believe once your kids turn 16 and can drive...that they are "grown up." Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that they now have the ability to go to places you might not approve of...with people you might not approve of...and without anyone knowing. And even if their hearts and intentions are good, they can get themselves into situations that are way over their heads. Because teens don't ever think anything bad could happen to them, they typically don't think to plan a way out. Now, it's good for them to make a few mistakes and have to figure things out on their own...and learn to accept the consequences that result from their choices. What we all hope and pray is that these mistakes are small in the big scheme of things...and not life-altering. We always told our kids that they could call us no matter what. There would be consequences and we would talk about it later...but at that moment, just call us and we will come get matter what.

Our kids' high school years were fairly busy with school and church activities, homework, athletics, and responsibilities at home. We did a LOT as a family...together...all 6 of us. Many times, we had some extra kids tag along. I liked it that way.

Family is very important to us. And I will admit that we raised each of our kids differently. We have always told our kids that we weren't gonna attempt to treat them all the same...but that we would make every effort to treat them all fair.

Because aren't each of your kids so different?

Mine are. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for another one. And, as much as we said we would not do this...we parented our daughter differently that we did our sons. She reminds us of this constantly. But there are just concerns that are unique to having daughters and some that are unique when you have we wanted to mold and discipline and teach and protect accordingly. We kept a close watch over each of them. It was time-consuming, not gonna lie. We knew their friends. We knew their friends' parents. We tried to network. We got involved in their school and met the teachers and coaches. We trusted our kids, but we always told them that we were accountable to God for how we raised them. And goodness...we made a lot of mistakes. And a lot of the choices we made...they didn't like (big surprise). In fact, now that they are older, there is a horrible annoying fun game that they like to play when all 4 of them are goes like this: "remember what (or where) we didn't get to do (or go) shows and movies we weren't allowed to watch?"

And then they go OFF on all of that...all in good fun, of course.

Yeah. Good times.

The little rats.

Excuse ME for caring.

My kids' teenage years, so far, (our youngest is 17) have not been that difficult.



Let me back up. They were/are very difficult...the attitudes, the selfishness...WAIT! I thought we were talking about ME! (hahaha) Just kidding. Except not.

The hardest thing  is the fear that we weren't doing it right...or doing enough.

As I write this, our baby just finished up his sophomore year of high school. The other 3 have already made it through to the "other side." (ha) I guess the reason I said that the high school years haven't been that difficult is because I HAVE seen the other side...the after-high school, college, young-adult phase...and I have never been on my knees more than in these seasons of life. Because things seem more important now. Choices and decisions all seem so heavy..."more heavier" as Joshua would say...and potentially life-changing. Our kids are dealing with college and grad school choices, vocations,  where to move, getting married...and finding a church home. Soon it will be issues related to starting their families. What we've found is that we have had to be even more diligent in parenting even in these stages of their lives. Of course, our parenting style has changed as the kids have grown. Obviously, with our older ones, we have backed off as far as discipline and having "control" over what they do goes...and we are in more of a mentor/advisor/friend role. I am LOVING the young-adult phase of life SO MUCH! And I totally did not ever think I would!

So with our 10th grader...we had just moved to a new town. We don't know the friends or the parents or the teachers...we don't have a network. It's tough starting all that from scratch. Teenagers don't think they need parenting, but they do. Definitely, as they grow up, we have encouraged those baby steps toward independence. Isn't it sad when kids are so babied that they can't do anything for themselves? We wanted to teach our kids to work hard, and how to manage their money...and their time. And we didn't...and don't...want to waste an opportunity to influence and encourage our children in their spiritual lives. Because as difficult as the newborn/childhood phase helpless as you much as you pray for direction and discernment and for their's nothing compared to how uncertain you feel about them and their futures when they are in high school and college. And, as I'm finding out, when they're out of college and married. Because you know how you wanted to raise them...and how you THINK (in your mind) you raised them...but, like, everyone ever in the history of the world, they have their own minds and their own free wills to make their own choices...and the uncertainty comes when you want them to choose the best way...the right school and job and church and friends...when you don't know what is the best way for them. And you can advise and influence them if you are asked (and only if you are asked, please)...but you don't really get a "say" in the matter. Ugh. So hard! But God is faithful!

The role of a parent constantly changes and evolves. Like teaching a child to ride a bike...we have to hang on tight and steady them in the beginning, but eventually they take off on their own. And each child takes off in their own time and in their own way. Some need us to hang on longer...and some seem to not need that support much at all.

Keeps me on my knees.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (James 1:5)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

BOYS: Being A Helper

Another thing important in our family is being a helper. I wanted the boys (and my girl) to want to OFFER to help...and to have a cheerful heart while doing it. (that's not too much to ask of 4 children, is it? haha) I wanted them to help ME, but I also wanted them to help others. And to help each other.

Have you noticed that it's easier to help total strangers, and even be okay if they don't thank you...than it is to help and serve the members of your own family?

Or maybe that's just me.

It's hard, isn't it? The people that we live with day-in and day-out sometimes seem to be the least deserving of our kindness. But I wanted my boys to learn how to serve our family with love, because I wanted them to one day serve their wives and THEIR families with love.

This is an area in which I feel I have not done a good job. I've gotta admit...I used to be a very selfish person, but once I became a wife and mother, service just came naturally to me. I loved it...most of the time. So I thought that by modeling a spirit of servant-hood toward my kids...they would just  naturally pick up on it and do it for each other.


Or, not usually.

I guess my first clue should've been with my mother-in-law, who is the biggest servant of anyone I know. She has always put her family first...and her needs last (if ever) you would think her 3 boys would have naturally picked up on that, but they didn't.

But for our kids to know how to serve, they had to see our example. Our kids saw us working at church in various ministries...and even if they weren't exactly sure what all was going on, they saw us doing things for other people...friends, family, strangers. And we have taken them along with us on various outings and trips...service starts in the home, for sure, but they can learn to serve others at a very early age.

Joshua has a huge servant's heart, but I don't think it has anything to do with anything we've taught him. I just think it's his bent. He helps me to the best of his ability every day. He will help others at the drop of a hat. There have been many occasions when we've been out, and someone has fallen, or dropped something, or left something...and I am telling you...Joshua is on it in a flash! And there were days when the boys were younger, that Joshua would go into their rooms, and straighten up and make their beds for them. Because having a neat and orderly room is important to Joshua. Now, his brothers? I don't think they ever thought to do anything like that for him. Not that they are selfish or uncaring just never crossed their minds. Having a neat room is not important to them, so they wouldn't think to do that for Joshua. But I think their days are coming, like they do for all of us, when they will see someone else's needs/desires and consistently put those before their own. I already see evidences of this as they mature. Everyone just matures at different rates.

I didn't worry about this as much with our daughter. I could see from an early age that she had a heart that leaned toward service. There were some years when that servant's heart was buried deep inside, but it was always there and God was always working. It would make random appearances, mainly when she was caring for or helping with Joshua. You know someone is really kind if they can help a person, even when it's embarrassing...or when the person they're caring for cannot ever pay them back. It was this quality that Jim and I saw in her that made us believe she would be a great nurse...years before she ever saw it in herself. And it's this quality that makes her a wonderful daughter, devoted wife, overly-protective faithful sister, trusted friend.

And our younger boys...they love each other, they do. And they do serve others, and do so with a willing heart. They volunteer at Special Olympics and service activities at church and school. They've been on missions trips. Both have worked at camps and retreats associated with church...they have reached out to younger kids as mentors and friends. Both are great with kids of all kinds. Both are great with kids who have special needs. I LOVE to watch them serve...and to hear of their service to others. Both Logan and Clark love Joshua. I am proud to be their mom and proud of the strong and loving men they are becoming.

I guess it's like everything else. The Bible clearly states how we are to conduct ourselves, and it is full of examples...Jesus being the #1 example...and yet, being obedient doesn't come "naturally" to us either. And just how I don't want to be defined by my selfish attitudes and mistakes...I am not defining my children by how they were when they were younger. We continue to model the behavior we want to see in them, and pray that as they get older, they will continue to grow in their desire to serve God and others. Jim and I aren't perfect and we mess up daily. But just like God works in and thru us, even in our imperfections and flaws, I know that God is working in my children as well!

Psalm 133:1 "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!"

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BOYS: Parenting and Respect

Warning...obnoxiously long post ahead...

One thing that was really important for us as we started out parenting was teaching our kids respect.

My Dad was raised in a military family. Children, in his day, were to be seen but not heard. As an only child, he was the perfect little man at an early age. His parents loved the social scene, military Balls and such, and my Dad was taught to appreciate manners and order and civility. He didn't fight against it, even as he grew up. He did exactly what was expected of him at all times. It was the only way he knew. And there's nothing wrong with that.

My Mom, on the other hand, grew up in the same small town her whole life. She knew everyone, and had great friends and lots of family around her. She was a social butterfly, and loved proms and parties and dances. When she started dating my Dad, she said she felt so lucky because he was considered quite the catch. A BMOC (big man on campus). (Side note: I think he felt like the lucky one...and seemed to adore my Mom to the end of her life)

My Mom grew up in a home where both of her parents worked, and worked hard. They didn't ever have a lot of money. When my Dad and Mom married, she fully embraced the military life. She tried very hard to fit in with my Dad's family by learning all the social graces. She never felt like she measured up in their eyes, but my Dad sure thought she did!

So, I grew up in a 2nd generation military family. We said, "yes, ma'am" and "no sir." We sat still in church and we went to the bathroom BEFORE the service...not during it. We removed our hats and stood for the pledge...out of respect for the flag, and for those who serve. We wrote thank you notes for gifts, and letters to our Grandparents every few weeks. We answered the phone with "Logan's residence." We said Grace before we ate one bite of food, and asked "may I be excused?" before we got up from the table. There was no sassin' our parents. In fact, we weren't allowed to even question them if we felt like they were being unfair, or...God forbid...WRONG! We listened to what they had to say, and I'm 100% sure that what kept me out of trouble on more than one occasion (besides the grace of God) was the thought that I would disappoint my parents.

So, all of that, combined with Jim's hard-working, respect-authority family, gave us plenty of ideas to draw from when it came to our own parenting style. And let me just say that I am in no way criticizing our parents for how they raised us. Both Jim and I grew up in loving homes and our parents did their best with what they had and what they knew...just like we are trying to do our best with what we have and what we know as we raise our own children. Isn't it scary interesting to note that how we 'do' as parents is measured by our kids...from their perspective...when they are older...and not necessarily by all the effort we put into parenting when our kids are young.


THAT stinks...

But our parents' views and values made us the people we are today. We are very thankful for our parents.

It was important for our kids to respect God...and the things that are important to our faith: ceremonies, baptisms, services, principles, beliefs, the Bible. We tried to reinforce what we heard from the pulpit...not just counting on the weekly church meetings and Sunday School teachers to teach our kids about God. We wanted to encourage our kids that our faith is not about a "religion," it's about a "relationship." We tried to bring Jesus into the every day things going on in our home, and make him relatable, which He is...and we encouraged questions about everything, even if we didn't have all the answers.

I am saying we "tried" these things...I hope no one thinks it was easy, or that we were perfect parents raising these children. We were NOT. We failed many days. In fact, most nights, I would fall into bed with the weight of all I had done wrong that day heavy on my heart...the angry words I had spoken or the look of disappointment in one of the kids' eyes when I blew it. Being a stay-at-home Mom, the bulk of the every day teaching fell on me...and Mommy guilt is very real. But I tried to be an example to the kids thru my honesty...showing that mommy messes up, too, and God forgives...and His mercies are new every morning.

It was important for our kids to show respect to us, as their parents...and to their grandparents, great-grandparents, and other family members. Also, unlike how we were raised, we did allow our children to come to us if they thought we were being unfair to them. We didn't always respond in the right way right then...sometimes we had to think on it a while and allow God to move on our hearts...or on our kids' hearts...before we figured out exactly what to do. And we also listened if they had observations or concerns about people in authority over them...teachers, coaches...even family members. Because kids are perceptive, and because you just never know. And because I don't care who you are, if you hurt my child in any way, I will hunt you down and it will not go well for you.

We tried to teach our boys to be respectful of girls and women...not viewing them in a subservient way, by any means. But that girls are different and special, just like they boys. I know this is not a popular way of thinking, and it's a hard thing to explain. When we started out, we were going to treat all 4 of our kids the exact same. If our boys wanted to play with dolls, and our girl wanted a toy truck, that was going to be fine for us. But somewhere along the way, I realized that it's not about any of that...for me. I'm a girl and I love it...and I want that to be okay. I don't want to be a boy, but I love my boys. And I love my girl. I wanted to teach them to embrace who they are and how God created them...and be okay with that. Jim was big on letting our boys being he kept them outside playing and doing things that would scare me half-to-death, and wrestled with them on the living room floor. They played football and spit in the yard and peed off the deck (the boys, not Jim!). Lots of the time, Holly was right in the big middle of the rough-housing, but she was just born a girly-girl and would much rather play with her dolls or have me paint her the house...because her was hot and boys are gross.

So for our family, we wanted our boys to know that it was okay to expect the same skill level from a woman as a man at a job; that it was okay and right to expect equal pay for equal work; that even if you work with a woman (or a man) that you don't agree with, you can still show respect for them; that opening doors, holding an umbrella, or standing up when a woman approaches your table in no way means you think less of women.

*I'm not trying to be that...politically correct or old school or any haters who may read this, let's all have some grace for each other. I said from the beginning that these are values that are important in our family. This blog is mainly written for my children. Jim and I are just doing the best we can to raise our children according to how we feel we've been called...and if we'll all just respect each other, we might all learn something from each other.*

Jesus talked to women and included them in His ministry. Throughout the Bible, God used women to further His kingdom. He did not think less of people because of their sex. He does provide an orderly way for a home to function, but always, always with respect given to each partner. Ann Voskamp does a GREAT job of explaining how Jesus views women in this post. For me to rehash that is...well, to rehash that.

I think that any of us who have been married any length of time know that there are times in marriage when one spouse has to take more of the load for a bit. Maybe one has a big test at school, or a huge project at work; maybe one has experienced a loss or tragedy that has deeply affected them; maybe there's a job loss, or a health issue. Maybe you just want to give the other spouse a break...and, in all of these situations, it doesn't matter if you are the man or the woman. In marriage, you need to have respect for your partner...for who they are, what they are going through, and for the contributions they make each day for your family.

We want our boys to be respectful young school, at work, at church, at home...and in life; to (in the future) love and respect their wives. We want our boys to love the Lord and be godly be good providers, companions. leaders, lovers, encouragers, supporters, teachers, partners...and Dads.

"Likewise urge the young men to be sensible in all things." (Titus 2:6)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


In early January of this year, I was asked to come and speak at a former church as part of a parent panel. She wanted me to talk about parenting a child with special needs, as well as parenting BOYS, since we have 3. Boys, that is. I said, "yes!" without thinking.


(Just kidding)

I wasn't sure exactly how it was gonna go, but I've spoken about Joshua on many occasions and in front of different groups, so I wasn't too nervous about that part of it. Seriously, how hard could it be? I jotted down my notes and I was good-to-go.

But then the day came. And then I walked into the room. It was not at all how I pictured it. I thought we'd be sitting at a long know, "panel-style," and we'd briefly tell our stories, and the audience could ask questions.

Ummm. No.

There was one long podium up front and we had to each go up there BY OURSELVES and talk.

I started to sweat.

And then everything I was going to say just fell out of my head.

(Did I mention that I had left my Bible AND my notes out in my car, and I didn't run out and get them because I didn't think I would a) have time, or b) need notes.

Wrong on both counts.

And another little fact that I hadn't considered was that I was going to be speaking in front of people I knew really well. Friends. And it was different from speaking to high school or college classes about Joshua, which is what I had done before. This time, there were some older (my age) parents in there, and even some grandparents...thinking, I guess that I might have something insightful to share.

Ummm. No.

I can only remember one thing from my speech, and it's not good. I was trying to talk really fast because there were 4 of us on the panel, AND THEY MADE ME GO FIRST. I made it ok talking about Joshua, because I've done it often, and it's more in my comfort zone. When I switched to talking about boys in general, I don't know what happened, but I turned into a raving lunatic. Should you think that I'm joking, let me just say that the ONLY thing I remember saying is that, as a Mom of boys, I kind of had to be like Jason Bourne. You know, walk into rooms...churches, schools, restaurants, homes of friends...and mentally assess the potential risks in the room: ways to escape, items that could get broken, things they could climb...or eat, places they could hide and potty (in their pants)...exits, windows, fire alarms, stairs, pools. I could do this quickly and accurately.


First of all, this made me look like a super freak, which...

Secondly, it made my boys seem wild or out-of-control, and they weren't (usually). They were just...boys. And there were 3 of them.

And lastly, pretty sure I heard crickets chirping at one point, because if you don't have boys, older boys, you might not even know who Jason Bourne is. And if you don't know who Jason Bourne is, you probably don't have all 3 Bourne movies (the Matt Damon ones) on your home. and if you don't, then I probably can't even talk to you.

*Disclaimer* I am not recommending these movies. These movies are violent and contain lots of bad words, and my boys did not watch them until they were much older...but the action scenes are amazing and intense, and for those reasons alone you can understand why these movies would appeal to older boys.

Anyway, after I sat back down, I just groaned in my spirit, because I hadn't shared anything on how we have intentionally parented our boys...the values we've tried to instill...the issues that pertain specifically to boys. So I'm gonna try to write down some things that were important to our family, so that if my kids read this one day, they'll know that we tried...and it will help me remember to try and encourage these things if Jim and I are blessed with grandsons.

Follow-up posts: Boys and Respect, Boys and Being a Helper, Boys (and the Girl) the Teenage Years.

"Let each generation tell its children of Your mighty acts; let them proclaim Your power." (Psalm 145:4)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Joshua: Camp and the Midnight Run(away)

This may or may not be my last post on Camp Barnabas for a while. I'm on a roll with several posts in one week. Like, I've posted for 6 days in a row! I don't know what to think! It's like I don't even recognize myself! Ha! I guess my "normal" life is just really boring, and, since it's summer, a lot of the days are the same. But, here goes...

Two years ago at Camp Barnabas, the boys in Joshua's cabin had a night that they spent away from the cabin. Those who were physically able, along with their CIAs, went on a hike to a site away from the Camp. They took their sleeping bags and stuff, and camped out under the stars overnight. They built a campfire, roasted s'mores and had their nightly devo. Sounds like an awesome experience, right?

Except not.

Except for the part where Joshua's CIA woke up around midnight to find that Joshua was GONE. And it's pitch black outside. And they are a ways away from the cabins. Suffice it to say it was full out panic among the staff and CIAs at that point. They told me they were minutes away from calling authorities and forming a search party. His CIA told me he thought they were gonna call in a helicopter.


They found Joshua, safe and sound...and on his way BACK to the camp-site.

They never could understand what the problem was...why he he found his way back to Camp Barnabas in the pitch and why he was on his way back. They asked him over and over, but he couldn't make himself clear to them.

When we got to Camp on closing day, they told us the story. My heart sank...just thinking of what all COULD HAVE happened. I am so thankful that nothing did. I asked Joshua to tell me what was going on that night...what happened to make him leave.

Joshua; "I couldn't get to sleep because my shirt was choking me in my neck. I decided to go back to the cabin and change my shirt."

Me: "Joshua, how in the world did you find your way back?"

Joshua: "I found the fence and followed it by feeling it with my hand until I got back to the road (the one that goes thru the camp, not a main road), and then I found my cabin."

Me: "Then what did you do?"

Joshua: "I went into my cabin very quietly because some of my friends had stayed there and they were asleep. I felt around in my suitcase for a different shirt. I changed my shirt and I started walking back to the campsite when I saw everyone running toward me."


He had no wrong intent. HIS SHIRT WAS JUST CHOKING HIM IN THE NECK. He tried to be quiet so he wouldn't wake anyone up because he was trying to be considerate.

So thankful for God's protection and provision. Joshua was covered in chigger and mosquito bites...I mean COVERED. I bet he had a hundred bites. It took a long time of us putting neosporin and benadryl cream on them before they finally all went away.

They wrote all this information on Joshua's "file." I know this because last year, I started telling his new CIA about it...just to give him the heads up...when he stopped me and goes, "we know."


Joshua's group hasn't gone back on the camp-out since then.

Can't say that I blame them...

Can't say that I'm disappointed about it, either...

"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Worst. Mom. Ever.

Well, by now, my son thinks I am the worst mom ever.

Maybe he feels like that...I don't know.

Clark is up at Kanakuk. This is his 11th year to go, so it's not like we don't all know the drill. He typically stays one week every summer. This year is different. Today is his last morning of the week as a kamper...this afternoon, he starts his 2nd week...but, this week, he will be volunteering...doing maintenance, counseling, helping out when and where he's needed. It's called M:i-7. He is SO excited about it.

He only gets two weeks off of football in the summer. In Arkansas, we have two AAA mandated "dead weeks," where there can be no football at all. He will spend both of them at Kamp...and then be back home at the end of next week to hit the ground running. He wanted to be able to do some sort of missions or ministry work this summer, so he is excited about the M:i-7 program.

Today is the last day of Kamp for the week. It's when the parents come to pick up their kampers. There's a breakfast and we get to meet their new friends and go to their teepee and take pictures (yes, the kampers stay in these giant teepees!). Their counselors give them awards and talk about the qualities they've observed in them during the week. It's such a special time.

And where am I?

At home.



I wanted to drive up to Kamp and experience all that is going on this morning. I wanted to be there for Clark, so that he wouldn't be the only kid without their family there. I mean, I know he won't be...but STILL. I wanted to be able to take the pictures and hear the affirming words and enjoy the morning. But it's a good 3 1/2 drive there...and I would be turning right around and coming home...without Clark. And then going back up there the next Saturday to pick him up. So, if you're keeping count...3 trips up there and 3 trips 3 weekends

I was up for it. Jim was not. And he was not opposed to me going up there...he just didn't want me going by myself. I hated to ask any of the other kids to ride with me. We would have had to leave no later than 4 a.m. today. I casually mentioned it around the family, but had no volunteers. Can't say I blame them.

So, I've just been praying for God to make it all okay. In my heart...and in Clark's. He might not even care that I'm not there. Probably doesn't. I mean, he is 17 years old, after all.

But I'm a mom. And he's my son. And it's not because he's the youngest...I would feel this way about any one of our 4 kids. And I hope they know that I always want to be there for them...even when I can't be.

"Can a woman...feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See? I have written your name on the palms of My hands..." (Isaiah 49:15-16)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Joshua: Camp and Matt

Another one of Joshua's friends from his very first year at Camp Barnabas was in his cabin again this year. His name is Matt. I don't really remember any stories about him from previous years, but this year, when Logan and I went to pick Joshua up from Camp...Matt met us outside the cabin, introduced himself to us and started a little conversation. So sweet. Matt has Down Syndrome like Joshua.

Back story: Joshua has a few chores he does here around the house. He unloads the dishwasher, bags up the reycling, takes out the inside the trash to the outside trashcan, sets the table, brings down his laundry, etc. Actually, Joshua has such a servant's heart that if he sees something that needs to be done, he will usually do it...and to the best of his ability. We are always quick to praise him when he helps. I want him to feel like he contributes to the family...that he's a necessary member...that he matters. 

And that he is missed when he's not here.

In the weeks before he left for Camp, Joshua spent time making sure everything and everyONE was taken care of. He wrote us all individual notes. He organized things in his room. This year, he left a stack of DVDs that he thought Logan would enjoy watching...and he left a note explaining all that. He also made a point to tell Jim that he would need to do his chores...the ones that Joshua typically does. Mainly unloading the dishwasher. Joshua is obsessed with making sure everything is taken care of when he is gone. He told Jim that he (Jim) might want to use some of his "vacation days" so that he could help me around here.

We are able to email Joshua every day while he's at Camp Barnabas...he can't email us back, but he gets some sort of note from us every day. In one of my emails, I mentioned that I'd had to unload the dishwasher every day BY MYSELF and how I was really missing him.

So...back to this year at Camp: I think I mentioned in another post about "cross-carry" that happens on the last night at Camp. It's a really emotional night for everyone. Apparently, Matt was very upset and all the guys from their cabin were trying to comfort him hugs and pats and affirming words. Joshua, in attempt to use humor to lighten the mood (wonder where in the WORLD he got THAT?), says, "when I get home, I'm gonna have to show my Dad how to unload a dishwasher because apparently he doesn't know how!"


So, at Camp Barnabas, they pray...a lot. The staff prays, the counselors pray, the campers pray. This is a Christian camp and Jesus and God and faith are all freely talked about. In the building where the campers eat all their meals, there is a little stage and a's also the place where they have their nightly 'devo' times. So, before each meal, a camper is chosen to say the blessing and give thanks for the food. Joshua tells us that the instant the prayer ended and the "amen" was said, Matt would bolt up to the stage (uninvited) and begin to recite the pledge of allegiance. He would follow that by a rousing and enthusiastic rendition of "How Great Thou Art."

Three times a day.

At least.

And the campers all showed respect by standing (if they were able) during the pledge and the song until he was finished.

So I leave you with these meaningful words from Joshua:

"I love God, and my country...but sometimes I just wanna eat."

"I will bless the LORD at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Psalm 34:1)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Joshua: Camp and Allergies

I feel like y'all might think I was complaining about Joshua talking and talking on our drive home from Camp Barnabas. I'm really not. It was all said tongue-in-cheek. He is so precious, but he can talk a blue-streak, and some times, after being on the road for several hours...even though I want to hear every detail about his week...a mom just gets a little tired. Can I get an amen? I fully realize how blessed we are. Joshua can communicate verbally...whereas some at his camp cannot. From the time Joshua was 5 months old, he had speech therapists working with him several times each week...and I worked with him at home to reinforce those lessons...every single day...all so that he would learn to talk and be able to communicate to the best of his ability. I realize how blessed we are in this way. That he can speak and read and write is the result of the hard work and dedication of many people, and by the grace of God.

The first place you have to go when you check into camp is the medical area. Joshua takes no medicine on a regular basis. He is fairly healthy, praise the Lord. I had to wait in a long line while people went thru each medicine their child was taking...and gave detailed instructions to the camp nurses. Joshua takes no medicine, but I still had to stand in the line and wait my turn in the paper that said he doesn't take any medicine. Crazy, I know, but they have quite a job keeping everything straight at Camp. As I was leaving that area, I saw two parents that were carrying small kitchen garbage bags FULL of medicine. Oh my goodness! That may be in our future, but for now it is not...and I am so thankful.

Joshua also informed us that every boy in his cabin but sick at some point during the week. Didn't really give us a good feeling about things, considering we were leaving early the next day for a weekend trip to see family in Texas. Eeeeeeeek! But all was well.

One thing that typically does bother Joshua at camp is his allergies. Maybe it's being in a different location and climate...different bed and bedding (sleeping bag)...different air-conditioning...being outside more...I don't know, but he always comes home with a runny nose and cough. Joshua has a runny nose or eyes, even on a good day, so he always has a hankie in his pocket. For some strange reason, he said he only packed 4 hankies for the week...and I didn't catch it when I looked thru his suitcase before we left. I don't know if he went days without one, or if he had to re-use one for more than one day. I didn't ask. I really don't want to know...because...ewww.

He did say, "my allergies were really bad at camp. I only packed 4 hankies. I had to USE MY BEDDING AS A TISSUE on the last night."

(I think I just threw up a little in my mouth)

"in everything give thanks..." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Joshua: Camp and Jason

Joshua's first year at Camp, he was in a cabin with a boy named Jason. Jason was a HOOT! It was apparent from the time Jason walked in that he was gonna be the life of the party. I wasn't sure how his personality and Joshua's were going to "gel." Joshua was born an old soul. He just was. He has never been real playful with others. He was more when he was younger, but he's pretty much been kind of serious his whole life. He thinks a lot of people just act silly, and he just doesn't get it. He doesn't "get" sarcasm or joking around...or even good-natured teasing.

So here comes Jason...all guns blazin'. He ran around the cabin. He did some break-dancing moves in the middle of the floor. He took off his shoes and socks and ran around the room asking everyone to smell his feet. I was cracking up. Joshua looked at him and then asked me, "what's WRONG with him?"


The next thing Jason did was dig out his electric razor from his suitcase and turned it on. And then turned it off. And on. And off...and on. Then, the funniest thing by one, the other boys in the cabin (not Joshua) all got their razors out and started turning them off and on. It was like a symphony of sound. "hummmmm." Then, as quickly as he got it out...he turned it off and put it up. And so did the rest of the boys.

Next, Jason found his disposable camera down in his suitcase. The campers are encouraged to bring one or two disposable cameras. If you bring two cameras, then the camper can use one, and the CIA can use one...and you will actually get some good pictures! Jason brought one disposable camera. He got it out and started taking pictures in the cabin as fast as he could. He took pictures of his feet and his bed and the ceiling and the light and the fan. The whole time, his CIA was saying "Jason, why don't we save some for later? Jason, I don't think your mom will be too happy..." After 27 "clicks," the camera stopped. He slowly finished winding it to the end and very matter-of-factly says, "well, that's done," and put his camera back into his bag and zipped it up. That whole thing took about a minute. It was the funniest thing I had ever seen! I was in love with this place. I just knew this was the camp for Joshua.

I sat down on Joshua's bunk and looked around at the other campers in the cabin. They didn't all have Down Syndrome, but most of them did...and even tho they shared the fact that they each carried that extra chromosome, they were all so different. Tall, short, heavy, thin, red-hair, brown hair, blonde.

A week later, when we came to pick up Joshua, we saw the bonds that had been formed between all the boys in the cabin. We got there early, of course. I was so anxious to see how Joshua made it during his first week of camp...we waited for them to open the gates and I practically RAN to Joshua's cabin. He was really happy to see us and said that he had had a great time. We stood there chatting with his CIA and noticed a of Joshua's cabin-mates sitting on the ground crying. Before I could say a word, Joshua had run to him and wrapped him up in an embrace. And not just Joshua, but EVERY OTHER BOY from that cabin had surrounded the one who was sad, showering him with comforting words and giving hugs and affirmation.

I'm sorry, people...but could we all just love like that?

Could I?

Such a beautiful picture of how we should care for each other. How when one hurts, we all hurt. How we should love one another and strengthen the weak and bear each other's burdens...

"...some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary." (1 Corinthians 12:22

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Joshua: Camp...and Smoochin'

I always look forward to picking Joshua up from camp...for many reasons. I mean, I miss him terribly during the week he is gone. He is my little shadow here...he's almost always with me, and so when he's not, I constantly feel like I'm forgetting something.

The main reason I enjoy being the one who picks Joshua up from camp is that that is when he tells his stories (I may do a post or two on some of his stories, so that the posts aren't obnoxiously long). No matter what Joshua does, when he comes home, he will recount what he did...step by step, moment by moment. Usually, he starts with what he had to eat, because, yall...the boy loves a good meal. But I am serious when I tell you that he literally talked for 4 hours and 12 minutes on the way home...only taking a break when we stopped at Braum's for lunch.

*And, side note, we were eating at Braum's on the way home...Joshua, Logan and I...and, as usual, Joshua said the blessing before we ate our lunch. At one point, I got up to refill my drink. I had noticed a couple of older women sitting at the booth next to us, but they were talking with each other and not really even looking our way. Or so I thought. While I was up getting more drink, I noticed the 2 women had gotten up to leave. They had stopped by our table and were talking to Joshua and Logan. When I got back to the table, Logan said that the women had come up to Joshua and said, "thank you for praying for your meal...we were praying right along with you." Joshua is a stickler for saying the blessing before we eat every meal...and it doesn't matter if we are at home or in a restaurant. I love that about him. In his mind, there would never be an inappropriate time or place to publicly thank God for our food. It was a reminder that someone is always watching...

So, yeah...he talked the entire way home. OH MY WORD. I kept looking in the backseat and begging Logan with my eyes to PLEASE ABSORB SOME OF HIM for me. A person's mind just gets weary after a while because it was the same thing over and over and over. And I was driving. I honestly have no idea how we made it home. Every time I would look in the backseat, Logan would be all, like, fake sleeping.

Whatever. I'll get him back. There will be a day...

Actually, Logan did drive some and listened some...and it was nice.

Most of Joshua's camp stories involved Jenni. Apparently, the two love-birds got in trouble for smooching...ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION. Eeek! I think I stated in a previous post that each camper has a special helper, called a CIA, who is with them 1 on 1 for 23 hours a day. So, to get in trouble for smooching (or anything else), you have to be pretty creative. I'm here to tell you that Joshua and Jenni could transport secrets for the government. Seriously, you could be watching them like a hawk and the next thing you know...they have disappeared. They are so fast! So, I'm not saying anything negative about the CIA. She apparently DID catch them and DID get onto them for kissing, to which Joshua replied, "she asked me to...and she LIKED IT."

Oh, did she now?

Another time, according to Joshua, Jenni asked for more kissing time...and they were caught. Again. Joshua's CIA got onto him and Jenni's CIA got onto him. He said, "Jenni ran off, but I stood there and took it like a man." Actually, there is another variation on this story as to who ran off (ahem), but I got it from the horse's (CIA's) mouth. Later that night, the Cabin Dad talked to him in a firm but caring way about what behavior was appropriate and expected at camp. And Joshua and Jenni have been going there for 10 years. They know, man...they know. Apparently, Joshua told the Camp Dad, "well, I'm 27 and she's 25 and we are in love and you can't tell us what to do in our relationship."


The last night of Camp, they have the "cross carry" which is a very emotional time for most of the campers. There is a large cross at camp that has little metal plates on it that have the names of campers who have gone to be with Jesus engraved on it. The cross is then passed thru all the campers and they are all given the opportunity to pray for the families of those campers, or others, or just take time to remember those they've lost. Just this year, the camp family lost at least one it's personal for many of them. And it's also a deal where some will get upset when they see others get upset.

Anyway, Jenni is one of those who gets very upset at the cross-carry. She was upset and Joshua wanted to "hold and comfort her." His CIA (wisely) said, "no, she needs her personal space." To which Joshua replied, "no she does NOT need her personal space (and did the "air quotes"). You don't know what she needs because you have never been in love with a guy. You've probably never even HAD a relationship because you are from CHICAGO. She doesn't need her personal space (air quotes)...she needs her MAN."

"He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy." (Job 8:21)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Camp Barnabas 2013

He had folded his shirts back nicely, and placed them neatly in his suitcase. He had even buttoned them all the way up...even after he wore them. He's funny like that.

It was Joshua's 10th year to go to Camp Barnabas. Camp Barnabas is a Christian sports camp for kids and adults with challenges of one sort or another. They have different weeks you can choose from, depending on your camper's age or "diagnosis." It is such a wonderful place, and we feel so blessed that he can go there for a week each summer.

Joshua is such a creature of routine, so it's a pretty big deal for him to be away from his surroundings, even for a short time. He lives simply, and so when it comes to's all pretty easy. Each night at Camp, there is a dance, and each dance has a theme. Joshua is not one to really get in to the "silliness" of all that (his words). You won't catch him dressing as a robot or a pirate, but on the final night when they dress up in their finest clothes for the ball? Oh, yes ma'am...sign him right on up!

Each camper at Camp Barnabas is assigned a special person who will spend 23/24 hours with them. They get an hour off each day. These special helpers are called CIAs (Christians in Action). They are usually mature older teens from church youth groups who come and volunteer a week (or more), and work to ensure that kids and adults with special needs have the ultimate camp the best of their abilities! Joshua usually has a guy for his CIA...they try to do same sex for campers and CIAs...but the past two years, he has been assigned a girl CIA. This works out fine for Joshua because he has a sister, so he's used to that relationship. The girl CIAs cannot stay in the cabins overnight if their assigned camper is a boy, obviously, but that works out fine for Joshua. He is pretty self-sufficient and doesn't really need any help at night. Plus, there's a Cabin Dad who stays there overnight to oversee everything as well. His CIA this year, Jessica, was from Chicago, and she did not know one soul at Camp. She had come last year and loved it so much that she came back. ALL.BY.HERSELF.

Joshua's girlfriend, Jenni, also came to camp last week. They've been coming together for the past 10 years. They "aged-out" of their regular term, so this was the first time for them to come with the older campers and they did just fine. We always worry about the "drama" that typically is involved whenever the two of them are together. I wish I could explain it...I just can't. Even tho they are in their mid-20's, they sometime act like they are pre-teens. Some days, it's like they are overgrown toddlers. They can be so mature in some things, and very immature and unpredictable in others. It's just that they are very perceptive to things in the world around them that they see...and they have the same hormones and dreams and longings for the future that everyone else has. They just don't always know how to control or direct those feelings. One thing I noticed this year is that this is not a behavior just confined to Joshua and Jenni. Since we were at the older term, there were several campers there who had "significant others," and there was the same type of drama going on in those relationships as well. Made me feel better, because when they were younger and I thought of the day when Joshua might have a girlfriend, I imagined that they would be very quiet and loving and mellow...that they would enjoy watching tv and movies, and taking walks or swinging in the glider.


For the most part, Joshua and Jenni got along well. The one piece of advice I gave to his CIA is that when it came to them...if she had to intervene...LOGIC WILL NOT WORK. It just doesn't, and you can talk until you are blue in the face, and make all the right points. You'd be better off trying to pick up ice with chopsticks.

Trust me on this one.

Joshua always has so many interesting stories to tell after his week at camp, and I really want to write a post just on some of those things. Hopefully, I can get on that soon. And, hello disclaimer, these stories are told from Joshua's perspective and may or may not have any truth to them at all! Ha!

AND, big news...I got a new lap top from my sweet husband, so as soon as I figure it out ask my daughter for help, I will be able to post some pictures! Yay!

I love this Camp Barnabas. I am thankful for the one who had the vision to start it back in the beginning...for her and her husband's obedience to God's calling.

"The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty." Psalm 91:1

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Goin' to the Chapel!

Our 21 year old son is engaged!

We could not be more thrilled!

To say that it was unexpected would be the understatement of the year. From the time they first met 5 years ago...until's been clear to everyone that they were meant to be together.

About 5 years ago, I remember that Logan had been over at a friend's house with a few other kids. He ran in the house later that night at some get something, I don't know...and he said, "I have Morgan in the car with me...would you like to meet her?"

We were new to the area, but I recognized the name "Morgan" as a girl from our church. He went out and brought her in. They sat on the couch together. She was all nervous and shy. And, all of a sudden, so was he! I saw him look at know, really loooook at her and I just knew. Right then and there, I became the "other woman" in my son's life.

Now, for all of y'all out there who don't understand what I mean...I'm not talking about anything inappropriate. Sheesh. You moms-of-sons will understand. We are the first women that our sons love. Those first few years when they just adore us are so precious. But we want them to find their mate...the one God has for them.

Morgan was "the one." The one I had been praying for for over 16 years, and she became a part of our family that day.

It has been a blessing to watch their relationship evolve over the past 4 1/2 years; to see them grow in the Lord, both separately and together; to see them choose to have a relationship that honors God and each other; to watch them build a strong foundation on which to start their lives and family.

Last July (2012) he came in and announced that he'd found "the ring" for Morgan. He asked Jim and I to go with him to look at it. He and Jim talked to the jeweler. They used the eye-piece to check it out. Logan was already sold. He said it was "feminine and pretty...just like Morgan." that not the sweetest thing?

This Spring, he started talking about proposing. They want to wait to marry until after they graduate from college next year. Morgan had planned a trip for them to go to a concert in Texas. They were going to stay with my sister and her family. They went to the concert one night and the next day, before they headed home, they went to the Dallas Arboretum. Logan had asked my sister about pretty places he could take ask her a very important question. Logan and Morgan both love being outside...they love parks and nature. It was the perfect place.

Logan said they walked around and they took random pictures of each other. He said everything was soooo pretty. He said he was looking for "the" place and would know it when he saw it. He saw this stage area that had a waterfall background and he knew that was the place he was looking for. He said they had been using their camera and cell phones to take pictures...propping them up on rocks and things. He said a middle-eastern woman asked if they would like her to take some pictures of them and they said, "yes!" Logan took the camera over to her and showed her what to do. He asked her to take a few random pictures and then he was going to get down on one knee and propose...that if she could get pictures of that, too, it would be great. He said that while they were taking the random couple pictures...his heart was about to beat out of his chest. He said, "I thought Morgan could probably hear it beating, because it felt so loud!" He said finally Morgan turned to the lady and said, "I think we're good...thank you." And Logan said, " about one this...and he got down on one knee. Morgan was shocked. She thought Logan was playing around until he pulled out the ring...and then she started crying. It was so sweet. And the best thing was that a random stranger got it all documented on the camera for them!

And the hardest thing was that Morgan wanted to have a "candlelight" with her sorority (a special thing they do to announce and celebrate an engagement)...and we had to keep the engagement a secret for 22 days so that she could surprise all of her friends!

We are thrilled and so happy that our family is growing in this way! We're goin' to the chapel next summer!

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

"Then the LORD God said, 'it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him." Genesis 2:18