Friday, June 30, 2006

Weeds

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We are trying to grow some corn, tomatoes, and green beans. The tomatoes aren't looking so great, but everything else looks quite promising. I noticed a couple of days ago that there were quite a few weeds in the corn. There must have been grass mixed in with the peat that my husband enriched the soil with. At any rate, after having warm, but not too hot, weather and lots of rain these last few days, the weeds are now taking over. I decided to tackle them.

I do not like weeding. Remember, I am not Amish, nor do I possess their enviable work ethic.

The weeds were coming out easily, but I was quickly overwhelmed. I wanted to quit, but I guess the idea behind weeding is that I have to get rid of the weeds so that they don't steal the water and sun that the plants need to produce good fruit.

While I was working, I was thinking about how I let little weeds come into my life. I don't get rid of them right away, so they crowd in, leeching from the fruit producing that God is trying to work within me. Too much time on the phone or watching TV, at the expense of my kids and my housework. Too much time on the computer (well, I don't want to step on any toes here, so I'll move on). Entertainment choices that aren't that bad (but are they any good?). Unkind thoughts and words.

There were a lot of weeds. Seriously, I just couldn't do it. So, I decided to just get the hoe and uproot all of them together. Yes, I did damage one corn plant and one tomato plant, but the weeds had done so much damage that I had to completely overturn the earth to get them all out effectively.

I've honestly found that is the best way for me to deal with the weeds in my life as well. I don't do well with moderation (lack of self-control, I guess). I do much better with complete elimination. If I just don't turn the TV on at all during the day, I use my time more effectively. But if I happen to flip it on "just to catch. . . " then it stays on and many hours are wasted.

I need to listen to God's voice when I hear Him telling me what weeds need to be overturned so that the fruit He's working in me will be that much sweeter. Is there anything that needs to go in your life?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thirteen Things About being Thirty Five

The good (1-8), the bad (9-12), and the ugly (13):
  1. I'm no longer young, but I'm not old either.
  2. Self-confidence--I have never struggled with insecurity, but even so, at 35, I feel very secure and at peace with who I am. Many people who are younger seem to just be hitting their groove.
  3. Thirty-five years of knowledge that I can share with others. I can't help myself,
  4. But I have learned that there are times when I should keep my mouth shut, so I do.
  5. Thirteen years of growing together in marriage, parenting, love and friendship with the same man
  6. . . . .who will always be one year OLDER than me.
  7. Having different things in common with so many women: some older, some younger, and some right with me.
  8. I have more natural highlights in my hair. Well, that's what I like to call them.
  9. The eyes are starting to go.
  10. And there are more wrinkles (I mean character) around them.
  11. My doctor, pediatrician, and dentist are all younger than me.
  12. I hate to break the news about the thirty-five year old crazies. Something happens. Mood swings, crying--it's not PMS, it's not menopause or pregnancy, but there's some sort of hormonal change. My (slightly older) friend assured me that was the issue when I went from being very rational and calm to sort of weepy and weird (much like post-baby feelings actually).
  13. Actually, there is no "ugly." At 35, I feel as good (or better) about myself than I ever have. Not that I care about "Hollywood," but many celebreties are 35 or older--Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston (and the whole Friends crew), Sandra Bullock, even Cindy Crawford and Brooke Shields. All beautiful women.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens
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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


My Morning so Far

Before I even woke up:
I heard the crutches thumping around to my side of the bed. Since Tuesday, Terry has been back to work full-time (less than a week after surgery). Today that meant leaving at 6:00 am. Every morning, he comes and kisses me goodbye while I'm still sleeping. So, even though it required extra effort, he came and kissed me.

Just as I was getting up, at 6:25 am:
I heard Amanda in the bathroom. She is not supposed to be awake, and usually sleeps until at least 7:30. I told her to go back to sleep. She insisted that she couldn't. I told her to lay there with her eyes closed, and she said that they keep popping open. I know what the "problem" is. She's excited that her best friend is coming over today for a playdate.

As I was getting dressed:
I was excited to be participating in my first Thursday Thirteen, and linking around to some others. A quiet voice reminded me, "First things, first." So, instead of logging right in and posting, I did spend my time with God.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Prize in the Cereal Box

Today I was getting my husband some Frosted Flakes for breakfast (I don't normally pour his sugary cereal, but remember he's recovering from surgery). They were on sale, and they had a toy from Cars in the box, so I bought two.

Whenever we went to my grandmother's house, she would let us buy a box of cereal. She ate raisin bran every day of her life, but in the cereal cabinet there were all these boxes of cereal that we had bought. Peanut Butter Captain Crunch was one thing that I remember choosing. I think that my sister would often choose something for the prize. Mammaw would pour the cereal out in a big bowl so that we could get the prize right away. Now that's grandmotherly love.

I do remember from a few prizes I've looked for in the recent past, that they were now usually between the cereal and the box, instead of inside the cereal, which really seems to make more sense anyway. Well, today, I opened the box and it was right on top. Talk about immediate gratification. Kids today just don't know how easy they have it.

The Marble Jar

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I'm once again joining in Works for Me Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer. You can go over there each week and see links to many posts with great tips, or try to post one of your own next week. It's open to everyone.

I have figured out a way to give my 7 year old daughter incentive to do things routinely (without being reminded) and also encourage her to be extra helpful as well. It's called the marble jar. You need one empty jar with a happy face on it (I just used a Sharpie), one empty jar with a sad

face drawn on it, and somePhotobucket - Video and Image Hosting marbles. I will not identify which jar holds which of the marbles in this picture, so as to protect the innocent (or not so innocent).

When we started this process, together we decided things that would get her a marble in the "happy jar." These included getting completely dressed, down to her shoes, before coming downstairs. She also would get one for brushing her teeth before bed, without being asked (since I was still having to remind her most nights). Doing certain chores, right away when asked, such as feeding the dog, unloading the clean silverware from the dishwasher, watching her baby brother, doing homework in a timely fashion etc would also earn her a happy marble. She would get bonus marbles for being especially kind to her brother, or doing something without being asked that wasn't on the list, like getting the mail on her way in from the schoolbus. I recently awarded her one when I came downstairs and saw that she had turned off the TV and was reading her book.

The sad jar gets marbles if she argues with a grownup, doesn't do something after being asked, uses a disrespectful tone or look, does something that she knows she's not supposed to do, bothers her brother etc.

What really works for me is that using the jars takes the emotion out of a lot of our interactions. For example, the rule about being dressed and ready for school streamlined our mornings and made it so much simpler for me because there was no debate about if she had to have her shoes on before breakfast, if she could watch TV etc. Also, if she is doing her homework and getting up repeatedly, playing with her brother, talking etc, I can simply remind her that if she doesn't stay on task, she will get a sad marble. Again, no debates, no nagging, no procrastination, and even if she continues to delay, the sad marble speaks for itself, which means she doesn't usually argue about it, and I don't yell. In trying to be sure that I give her enough happy marbles, it reminds me to give her that positive reenforcement that she needs for those responsible things that she does that might have gone unnoticed or unspoken before.

The marbles usually speak for themselves, but I also wanted to start an allowance system, so I tied her allowance to the marbles. We subtract the sad marbles from the happy marbles and then I pay her 25 cents per marble.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How Do I Look?

If I'm just staying around home, you might find me with my hair pulled back in a ponytail wearing little or no makeup. I might be wearing a comfy (styleless) T-shirt and shorts that might be a little big and baggy. Now, if I leave home, I do try to represent my family and my self a bit better. I may still be wearing a T-shirt and shorts, but they both fit nicely, match, and are flattering. I'll accessorize with earrings and some cute sandals.

Isn't this always the way? I look (and act) my best when I'm out and have people watching. I've often judged others who I hear speaking inappropriately:
  • the mom struggling to keep her toddler under control at the supermarket
  • spouses who put each other down at a social gathering
  • Christians who gossip and speak hurtful words, sometimes right from the pew

Oh, it's easy to judge, isn't it? Even here at home, I often think about how my husband shouldn't be so harsh or unsympathetic to the kids. But in reality, who speaks out in anger more often? It's definitely me. Who struggles to keep her toddler under control; might be less than encouraging to her husband when in group gatherings; and speak critically about others right from the pew? Me, again.

I have double standards. One for myself--forgiving of all my misdeeds and mis-steps, because I know that I didn't do it on purpose--and one for others who I expect to be all dressed up in their speech and actions when they are in public. I think that I judge people more harshly than myself because I think to myself, "Is that her best T-shirt and her cutest sandals? She's out in public! Is that the best she can do?"

More than once, I've said something impatiently to my daughter out in public, and hoped that I wouldn't be judged by an eavesdropper based on that one mistake. Other times, I hear the even more unguarded, more hurtful words that come out at home, from my baggy shorts and T-shirts, when I'm not under the watchful gaze of society. I think, "What would someone think if they heard that?" It does remind me to be careful not to make judgments about others, based on one harried moment in the supermarket especially.

I know that I have to work on my anger. I know that it's a sin. And despite knowing that I don't do it on purpose, I really do judge myself as well. I know that I have to confess my sin to the person I've wronged, as well as to my Lord. And my daughter is very forgiving. Hearing me apologize teaches her that even grownups can make wrong choices. It also has taught her to catch herself and apologize after she whines or yells. I'm thankful that under His teaching, I now recognize it as a sin. I have far to go, but I've also come a long way. I know that with God's help, He will change me.

Galatians 5:22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Carnival of Family Life #7

I am proud to be hosting the Carnival of Family Life this week. By the way, Kailani is always looking for new submissions. Check out the guidelines and submit online. Also, for all who have participated, if you would like to host, contact her as well. It took me a bit of time to compile, but if you are handy with links, it's really not any trouble at all.

I have posted them in the order that they were received, but I would love to give special mention to new contributor, Creative Homeschooling. Her Satirical Cartoon featuring her children shows that she lives up to her name. It looks like everyone had fun with that. I also really appreciated the warnings of Summer Schedule Squeeze and The Mirror in the Backseat, and the laughs from Pregnancy Q&A.


************************************************************************

And now, here's the Carnival of Family Life. Take some time to check out the articles, or save this page and read a few each day.

Lisa McGarry presents How To Find The Time To Give Children Individual Attention posted at Family Of Five.

Congratulations 2006 Graduates! and a dose of advice comes from Blog Fabulous.

Jennifer, at Snapshot relates her toddler's eating habits to her blogging in Cereal, Poptarts and Ketchup.

There are a lot parenting blogs and a lot of competition for readers' eyes. Kate at Babylune comes clean in this post about how professional jealousy made her hold back on telling her readers about two very good sources of information.

Peter gives us the humorous (but true) bed time ritual that happens every night at the Tutu Boutique.

NEW contributor Lone Star Academy shares a recent run in with the law.

Shang Lee gives some tips about Why We Get Sick.

Trinity Prep School jumps right into summer with Around the World at Summer Camp.

Jennie von Eggers, at Creative Homeschooling, a NEW contributor, presents Satirical Silly Warning HOT Coffee! and also a comical but informative warning about The Sugar Demon.

Peter at Radical Hop for his FIRST contribution shares the moving story about how My Life Sentence Turned Out to be a Gift.

NEW contributor Willow Tree relates a conversation that reminds her that she is loved in Glad to Know I'm of Some Use.

At Bruggie Tales they celebrate International Fairy Day, but is it a holiday without presents??

Of Princess and the Pea pits play against the Summer Schedule Squeeze. I think she made the right choice.

Callapidder Days works on her patience with her Mirror in the Back seat.

Mrs. Sanity Returns to Work, and submits her FIRST post.

Snow White, Seven Dwarves and PPD shares a little background about her family in Coincidence?

Getting Out of Debt gives some practical advice about Leftovers. It's all in the presentation.

Kailani at the the Pink Diary gives us a very funny Pregnancy Q&A.

Amy Allen Clark at The MotherLoad presents Friday Freebie: Free Samples

ChrisJ at DubiousProfundity,com presents Dubious Art, and the Art of Parenting

Also, each contributor gets entered into a drawing for some lovely chocolate covered macadamia nuts. This week's winner is Callapidder Days! Contact Kailani with your address and she'll send them out.

Look for next week's carnival at the Pink Diary.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What a Friend We Have

When my daughter was in the preschool program of Bible Study Fellowship, she learned this song:

"My best friend is Jesus, love Him, love Him. My best friend is Jesus, lo-ove Him."

I still remember her little three year old voice singing that song. It has a simple tune, and the words are simple, but singing it along with her, I made application. He really is (or should be) my best friend, because He says that I am His.
John 15:15
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
That leads me to think practically about how we can be His friend. I always try to think what it is I do to nurture along a new friendship, and try to apply it to how I could be friendly with the Lord:

· Give Him time in prayer and study.
· Find out more about Him in prayer and study of His word.
· Tell Him more about yourself. Don't hide things; He knows them anyway
· Enjoy good times together: marvel at His creation, worship through singing.
· Go to Him with your problems.
· Trust Him to help you when you need it.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus is a great hymn which teaches us even more about what it means that Jesus is our friend, and what we should do to be a true friend to Him.

Blogging Chicks Carnival #3

It's Sunday, so it's the Blogging Chicks carnival. Check out the best weekly posts of some of the Blogging Chicks!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Pulling Her Weight

If you have some time today, you can surf the links. If not, you won't miss much by just reading through the entry. But if you like the links, or don't like them, please let me know, because I'm thinking of making the "link around" a regular feature.

I love the Amish. When we visited Lancaster County last summer, I was amazed and inspired about the amount of work they do. But they don't just work hard, they appreciate beauty, too. Their yards are immaculate, and they grow their own vegetables, but bordered around their vegetable plots are beautiful blooming flowers. I yearn for that work ethic and am only marginally successfully in implementing it. I think I'm missing the hard work gene. Conversely, Gina at Portrait of a Writer Interrupted struggles as hard not to work. She's gone AWOL, but is having a hard time letting her kids do it all.

One reason that I was thinking about the Amish again is what I read here yesterday over at Humble Musings. Amy was talking about the family table, but made references to Gone with the Wind and the Amish. She shared the Amish theory about childraising that

before the age of seven, children are a cost to the household; between ages 7 and 14, children pull their own weight; and after the age of 14, children contribute positively to the household economy.
My daughter is almost eight, and I can proudly say that I think I've raised her the Amish way. She gets herself up for school each morning (she even uses the alarm clock); she gets herself dressed and usually puts her stuff away (like me, she is also missing the hard work gene); she can fix herself cereal and put her dishes in the sink. Like Katrina at Callapidder Days, I am loving the gap. Because she's 5 1/2 years older than her brother, who is two, she often wants to watch her brother, and I often ask her to. So, this morning, due to a couple of nights of interrupted sleep (I guess we're both recovering from surgery), I slept in. At 8:00am, I heard the children, so I was going to get up. What I heard was Amanda talking to Kyle in the hallway. She had gotten him up out of his crib. She had not ever done this in the morning, but I had taught her to do this after naps, under my supervision, and look how helpful it is now! When I came downstairs, they were quietly playing together and Amanda told me that I could go back upstairs.

So, I grabbed my Bible and had a few minutes in the Word. I've been reading Matthew, but I just got into Mark, and I'm finding it to be a little more brain challenging. For this chapter at least, I'm going to implement Unfinished Work's method of reading the Bible. So, thanks to my daughter pulling her weight (and a bit of her brother's as well), I was able to have some time with God that I otherwise would have missed due to sleeping in on a Saturday, Terry's propped up enjoying the Saturday paper, and I'm blogging. I wonder how she'll be contributing when she's fourteen?

P.S. My creative juices are flowing about about this link-around thing. I was even thinking of making a button that you could put on your site, if you were linked to for that issue. Would that be desirable, or stupid? I got this idea from Everyday Mommy's Writing Contest, which, although I don't want the competition, looks like it will make for a lot of interesting reading. So, check it out.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Other Side of the Anesthesia

My husband had surgery on Thursday. It was "just" ACL reconstruction on his knee, but he did have to be put under general anesthesia. I waited in the waiting room (it's really aptly named). It had been a couple of hours, but I knew he was fine. If he wasn't, I would have heard otherwise. In fact, before she took him to the OR, the nurse told me, "Don't worry, I'll take good care of him." But I still had to wait out there for three hours until the doctor came out of surgery to report that it had gone well. I wasn't really going to be at ease until I knew he had woken up, and I had seen him for myself.

This was the first time I had been on this side of the anesthesia, the waiting side. I've been on the other side a few times, and frankly, I think I prefer it. I remember the reactions. Because I tend to be easily sedated, it takes me a while to wake up. So, when I was twelve and had oral surgery to have my pre-wisdom teeth removed under general anesthesia, my mom responded that she thought I'd never wake up. I can only imagine now how she felt. The second time was for my own ACL surgery four years ago. Neither Terry nor I remember too much about that, except that the nurses were kind of mean and trying to push me out before I was fully with it. But two years ago Kyle was born under an emergency C-section. Because it was so fast, they put me under general anesthesia. I remember waking up and Terry was right there, leaning over me, holding my hand, looking very loving and concerned.

So, about five hours after he had gone into surgery, I was able to go and see him and help him get ready to leave. He didn't feel good. He didn't look good. But it was still nice to see him. I hope that when he saw me, he saw the love and relief and care on my face. He didn't register much when I walked in, but the nurse did tell me that when he was first waking up, and very out of it and in pain, she told him that Jennifer was in the waiting room. And he smiled.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mine

I've been writing a lot about my little guy lately. I've been enjoying him.

A recent Saturday:
Me: Do you want applesauce for breakfast?
K: Noooo.

After I give it to him he decides to reinforce his decision by pushing it over to his sister's placemat, "'dada. Cuh eet."

A few minutes later I call Amanda into the kitchen to look at the biscuits that are baking, and Kyle grabs the applesauce, "Mine." Oh, so now he wants it?

One day the next week, Amanda comes downstairs for school, and Kyle is sitting at the table eating his Poptart. "My Poptart. Mine." To clarify, in Amanda's defense, she is not known for stealing food off her brother's plate.

In the car after all of this happened (and Kyle grabbed something and said, "Mine"), Amanda asked if I thought that Kyle would get less selfish soon.

She's almost eight. She doesn't like to share her dessert. She likes to watch what she wants to watch on TV. When her friends are over, it's hard to take turns at a favorite activity.

I'm thirty five. I don't like to share my dessert. I like to watch what I want to watch on TV. I find it hard sometimes to put aside a book or get off the computer to play with the kids.

I'm thinking the answer to her question is no. Or maybe those of us past the toddler stage just stop vocalizing, "Mine" as much. Good thing we don't wear our selfish hearts on our sleeves.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Quick Thaw

I'm once again joining in Works for Me Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer. You can go over there each week and see links to many posts with great tips, or try to post one of your own next week. It's open to everyone. I had another post written about a little incentive system for my daughter, but it was long, and since I somehow posted THREE times yesterday, I decided to post this quick and very cool tip so as not to make my readers tire of me. The longer tip will be up next week.

A friend recently shared that she had heard a tip of using aluminum to thaw her meat quickly. She tried it out, using her Calphalon pan, and putting the meat right on it. I don't even know what I have that's aluminum. I think most of my metal stuff is stainless steel. So, I decided to use my brand new Zodiaq Quartz stone countertop, and it worked! I put a package of chicken (I love the way Costco packages it now!) right on the countertop. I didn't check it often, but within 2 hours, it was totally thawed, so it was probably thawed enough to cook in an hour, or maybe less. I am not a food safety nerd, but I will say that it thawed quickly and was still cold, so then I put it in the fridge. We asked our scientist friend why this worked and we got a scientific answer--something about water molecules. I don't really care, but it works for me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Amanda's Snapshots of Kyle



Okay, this photobucket strip is the coolest thing ever! Actually, having a seven year old who likes to play with her brother, especially if I let her bring the camera outside, is pretty darn cool, too.

A blogger who can't control herself and posts three times in one day--the jury is still out on that one.

I Got Tagged!

Okay, this is my first time ever, and I'm kind of excited. Thanks Shelled Peas.


1. Grab the book nearest you, turn to page 18 and find line 4.
"You gave me the better room," said Skye.

2. Stretch out your left arm as far as you can. What can you touch?
my kitchen cabinet

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?
a bit of Judging Amy on TNT

4. Without looking, guess what time it is.
2:48pm

5. Now look at the clock. What is the actual time?
2:44pm

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
Not really anything. That's cool.

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
Before lunch. I was bringing in groceries.

8. Before you started this survey, what did you look at?
Shelley's blog

9. What are you wearing?
a blue striped Tshirt, denim shorts, flip flops

10. Did you dream last night?
I think I had some weird dream about getting some stamps in the mail but they were only 26 cents (I remembered this when I went to the post office).

11. When did you last laugh?
This morning reading some blogs.

12. What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Sage green paint. It's the kitchen so it's not very exciting.

13. Seen anything weird lately?
I saw Kumquats at the grocery store today. At least that sounds weird.

14. What do you think of this quiz?
I feel like I've arrived in the blogging world (I am copying Shelley's answer because I think that's true), and I will add that I hope that it's not too boring to read.

15. What is the last film you saw?
It's hard for me to remember. We've been watching 24 (Season 3) on DVD instead of movies. It was probably Shopgirl, about 3 weeks ago.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?
A bigger house, fully decorated. Multi-millions would just about cover that here.

17. Tell me something about you that I don't know.
Someone just asked a mutual friend of ours if I was a very quiet person. If you do know me, you know this is funny.


18. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt and politics, what would you do?
I guess I would get rid of prejudice and racism.


19. Do you like to dance?
No

20. George Bush: Daddy Bush --; Baby Bush --
They're both fine. I am not very political, but I love the fact that they affliate themselves with Texas!

21. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
I called her Amanda.

22. Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?
I always liked Luke.

23. Would you ever consider living abroad?
I would love to, especially if it was a temporary stint.

24. What do you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gate?
Hello, friend.

25. 3 people who must also do this quiz in their blog:
Well, I hate the word "must." I will ask Katrina, Dianne and Jeannine. If you don't "do memes" then don't do it, and I won't tell. But if I haven't seen you do one because you haven't been tagged, then consider yourself tagged!

Cereal, Poptarts, and Ketchup

My two year old would live on these three things if he could--cereal, Poptarts, and ketchup. In fact, solely because of his love for Poptarts, I had to put a child lock on the cabinet that held the poptarts, because he would go over there and help himself, and get mad when I refused them to him. He usually gets a Poptart about five times a week, for breakfast or an afternoon snack, and I'm okay with that.

The cereal is on top of the fridge, and there it has to stay, because there's really no other room for it. So, as he sits at the table supposedly eating a real meal, he looks up there and says, "Cereal. Cereal. Cereal." This sometimes causes fit throwing and crying (him, not me. Well, sometimes both of us). Actually, the cereal isn't so bad. I once read this magazine article where a nutritionist analyzed the food selections of a few women and tested them to see how they matched up against the RDA. One woman did very well, simply because she ate a bowl of cereal each day. The cereals, even the sugary ones, are all very fortified with vitamins. The biggest problem with this is that Kyle's favorite cereal is Lucky Charms. If he ate the sugary oat pieces, it would be marginal, but he only eats the artificially colored sugary marshmallows. This cereal I do try to hide so as not to torment him. And if you're wondering why I don't just stop buying it. . . . it's my husband's.

This brings us to the ketchup. He eats it with a spoon. If I don't give him a spoon, he puts all of his fingers together and uses them to scoop it up. I'm not feeling so bad about the ketchup, either, because I think that President George Bush (the first) did declare it a vegetable. Tomato paste is the number one ingredient. And it has lycopene. Everyone knows how good lycopene is.

He's only two. He likes these things. He things that more of a good thing is a great thing! I think that most of us have learned that this theory is not true in general for our lives. For me, I've gotten my creative juices flowing, with this blog and some other writing I've been doing. That's a good thing. But is more of that good thing a great thing? I've had a hard time getting to sleep the last couple of weeks. The creative juices are flowing and flowing and flowing keeping my mind active when my body wants to rest. Now I'm trying to figure out how I can get them to stop! I jot in my journal to remove the thoughts from my head so I can stop thinking, and sometimes they go away and sometimes they keep tormenting me like the Lucky Charms on the top of the refrigerator. The good news is that these thoughts are usually the fortified oat pieces, not just the artificially colored sugary marshmallows. So I'm going to continue to allow myself this treat.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Creative Nonfiction

I came across this term, "creative nonfiction" on Jeanne Damoff's site, where it was used to describe the style of her soon to be published work. You can read the first two chapters here. I was absolutely riveted and the book is on my list to read when it is published.

I have always enjoyed non-fiction, and it is this "creative nonfiction" that I enjoy most. Reading a book which vividly recounts situations which I have never and probably will never experience allows me to live temporarily in a new culture, mode of operation or frame of reference. A book which defines this for me and has become one of my all time favorites is Into Thin Air. Another nonfiction book which I was surprised to enjoy was Barbarians at the Gate.

Learning this new term got me to thinking that we can be creative in our nonfiction kind of lives. I have never described myself as creative, and yet I believe that I was created by a Creator, in His image. I also am made to be creative. Here are some ways I've realized that I can also create while doing the mundane:
  • Instead of preparing an old stand by meal for dinner, I can give it my own interpretation by adding a new or exotic ingredient, or I can experiment with new recipes frequently.
  • Instead of just having music playing as background noise, I can sing along with my whole heart, or close my eyes and let the music stir an emotional response, which might manifest later in my own form of creation, in prose or poetry, or art or music composition.
  • I can repaint a room in my home, appreciating the look and feel of color and how it transforms my surroundings.
  • While watering my vegetable garden, I can look forward expectantly to the part I am playing in growing food. I can take the time while I'm just standing there, sweating, to examine the microcosm of life in the ground, feel the air moving through the trees, and listen to the birds.
  • I can dance with the duster or the broom.

Carnival of Family Life #6

The Carnival of Family Life is up again. Each Monday you will find funny, touching or informative stories. I like to save the carnival page in my favorites and work through the entries a few at a time over the week.

Also, it is an open carnival, and features any submissions regarding family, and that doesn't just mean kids! The instructions for submissions are at the bottom of the page as well with a link to Kailani's email address for submissions.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I'm a Blogging Chick

I have joined my first blogroll over at Blogging Chicks. Many of the blogs I was drawn to were a part of it, so I decided to join up. If you want to find a new blog, you might check out the blogroll on the sidebar. They also have a weekly carnival each Sunday, and this was a writer's choice--any of our best posts, so check it out. There are some wonderful bloggers on this blogroll, so if this is one of their choice posts, they are going to be great.

I participated in another carnival this week, too, theChristian Carnival. There are many links there, and I haven't had a chance to check many of them out, but there is a wide variety of stuff out there.

And finally, I wanted to share which blogs I love the most--and why. I am still working on updating my links section, at which time I will permanently add some to my sidebar, but I thought I could include some more detail by way of this introduction.

Katrina at Callapidder Days is my "for real" friend. She is also a mentor to me, in my Christian walk as well as my writing, even though she's younger than me. Her writing is sometimes funny, sometimes informational, and always true and relevant.

I found Dianne's Unfinished Work through Callapidder Days, and she has quickly become my first "blog friend." I read her stuff, she reads mine, and we both enjoy both the reading and the feedback, I think. You can tell she gives each word thought, because in the economy of two paragraphs she can make a great point and get me thinking. Also, she's not a mom, so it's kind of nice to read a little more about non-mom life and thoughts, since most of my friends are moms and most other blogs I read are from moms. Kids are great, but you know. . . .

I have no idea how I found Books and Tea. Well, I'm sure it was on someone's sidebar, or maybe from a comment, but I love books, and I like tea (mostly iced, but hot is good too), and I was intrigued enough to click over. To me, Jeannine is like a helpful neighbor with some easy, everyday thoughts or information or something to give me a lift.

Rocks in My Dryer is a fun read. Shannon is funny when she writes about her own life, but she's also a fount of blog knowledge and resources. She is the host of Works for Me Wednesdays, which I really enjoy (reading and participating in). In addition to that, she often links to very interesting sites or articles that keep me adding to my own personal blogroll.

My friend over at Shelled Peas is also a real life friend, from waaaay back. She is very funny. She thinks that she's only funny, but she's also quite insightful and honest as well. She's a homeschooling mom of two, active in her church, a great cook and she's usually up to something. . . .

There are a few others that I am starting to read regularly and really enjoy like My Code Yellow Life, who's good for a laugh and often an a-ha moment at the same time as she shares her life as a mom. And just last week I found Jen's Robinson's Book Page. Her tagline drew me in right away, "Promoting the love of books by children and the continued reading of children's literature by adults." Her site features reviews of children's and young adult books as well as adult fiction, and maybe more.

Of course I come across more and more intriguing and interesting blogs each week (danger, danger), but I can't list all of them, and I'm still deciding how many I can/want to keep up with on a regular basis.

And finally, D.C. Roe is trying to get 2996 bloggers to each run a tribute to someone who lost their life on 9/11 as a tribute on 9/11 this year. If you go to the site and contact him, he will send you a name. He obviously needs to get the word out, so if it's something you support, consider linking to it sometime soon. You can get all the info on 2996 here.

Friday, June 16, 2006

My Daughter's Addiction Problem

She's addicted for sure. And because of her addiction, I have been searching her room, lifting her mattress, looking under her bed, in drawers, and behind bookshelves. The really sad thing is I encouraged her addiction by buying her the stuff in the first place.

My daughter's only seven, and she's not addicted to a toxic substance, but to books. The reason I was searching her room is because I was looking for a particular lost library book. It was a hardback book, which will cost me $15 if I don't find it. I have now learned a lesson. When I am getting chapter books for her, pick the softcovers, which are always available alongside the pricier hardback books, just in case we were to lose one.

We do purchase books (mostly at library book sales, Goodwill--full of the books she loves, barely read for fifty cents--and used bookstores), but the library is a much needed resource to be sure that books are on hand so that she will read them. She can easily read three or four chapter books within a weekend. She also has a few less commendable addictions, such as sugar and TV, but if I turn off the TV, she chooses to read. In fact, she often chooses to read anyway, so I think we're doing okay, and nowhere near the road to recovery from this particular addiction.

A few of her favorite series are
Nancy Drew Notebooks (the eight year old Nancy Drew and friends unwrapping mysteries)
The New Adventures of Mary Kate and Ashley (the adorable media mogul twins at nine-ish also solving cases)
The Boxcar Children (I think that they are mystery solvers as well. Do you see a theme?)
The American Girls Collection Books (she's read Kit (our favorite), Molly, Felicity and some Kirsten and Josefina so far)
Magic Tree House (she seems to be outgrowing these, but there's still much history to be explored there, I think)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

How I Became a Mom

A couple of years into our marriage, one of mine and Terry's recurrent arguments was when we were going to try to get pregnant. Terry wanted to wait. He wanted more time for us to be focused on each other, which is really sweet. He wanted to be more financially ready, which was perfectly fair since he was going to have the stress of being the sole breadwinner. But a couple of friends had already gotten pregnant or given birth, and I was ready to join the club. In addition, I didn't really like my job.

"Having a baby because you don't like your job and want to quit is a really stupid idea," said my husband, who loved me so much he didn't want to share me.

But, see, I knew what my calling was. I wanted to be a mom. As my job. And I really didn't see these unfulfilling jobs as training for my call of motherhood. I felt like I was in a holding pattern, waiting for what I was really meant to do. Because of this I didn't perform very well at work and in the end, my self-esteem was not so great in the career arena (which caused a vicious cycle of having no motivation to do well). It's kind of unlike me, because in general I am good at what I do, even competitive, but I was never a high-achiever at my job(s). I never found my niche. I think that perhaps God knew that I was not to be trusted with worldly success. Would I have set aside my calling of full-time motherhood if I had achieved financial or emotional success in a job? I would like to think that I would have, but knowing my nature, I can't be so sure. Or perhaps I could have quit the job, but that would have made the job of mother one that I viewed as a constant sacrifice and second best to whatever else I could be doing. I think that this helps to clarify or add another layer to what I was really trying to say when I wrote this. Not that being a mother is second best. It's foundational to me and who I am. By choosing to be a stay at home mom, my world has opened up to me. In it I have learned sacrifice. I have also learned how exciting it is to be a child's first teacher and first playmate and first love. I have learned the joy in sharing this journey with other moms. I've become more introspective and sentimental, which is one of the things that has urged me to write.

Just after our fifth anniversary, and right after we had picked up and moved across the country from Houston to Oregon, Terry and I found out we were expecting. As always, it was God's perfect timing.

So, over eight years later, as I think about how I came to be a mom, and how long I waited, and how important it was to me back then, I was reminded that being "just a mom" is what I've always aspired to. Hey, I've made it!

To read some more about my parenting journey, please check out Mary DeMuth's Pioneer Parenting blog. A pioneer parent is someone who wants to build the Christian family they never had (as her new book explains). I'm always one to share my opinion, so when she asked for some people to do interviews, I volunteered. What I have to say is not very profound, but you won't be disappointed by what Mary has to say here or at relevantblog. One of the most relevant and honest books on being a Christian mom that I have ever read is her book Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Amazon Wishlists

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I'm once again joining in Works for Me Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer, and I have uploaded her cool graphic banner this week as well. You can go over there each week and see links to many posts with great tips.

For so many reasons, I looooove amazon.com. Two things that really work for me are the comments by other users and the wishlist feature.

I am a listmaker, and the wishlist really helps me to keep up with books I hear about and am interested in reading (and DVDs and CDs as well). When I hear a book mentioned, I go over to amazon.com, look at the comments of other readers, and either add it to my wishlist, or my thinking about it list, or directly to my shopping cart (which also features a handy "save for later" button if I know I want to buy it, but not on that particular purchase day). A fairly new feature is the ability to create more than one wishlist. There is the main list that will come up with my sil or bil search for a gift to buy me, but I now can keep a private list with books I'm thinking about getting, or might just want to check out at the library. That way, when I'm making a trip to the library, and want to pick up a book, instead of wandering through the fiction aisles aimlesses and unguided, I can check out a book that has been personally recommended to me, or matched up to my interests by the almost-too-smart amazon search engine.

Those comments on the amazon items are priceless to me. I trust other booklovers, and especially on a non-fiction book or cookbook, what someone has to say about it will convince me that it's worth my time, or not. In fact, I consult amazon.com for purchases of most items, including a power screwdriver which we bought my father in law. I know nothing about power tools, but by reading the reviews, I was able to ascertain what features were crucial and which ones were superfluous.

I know that all of these things were meant to drive their business, and I'm sure that it has (speaking personally), but the user-friendly helps are something that really make that site work for me.

Are there any wonderful ways that you use that site that you'd like to share with me?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Perspective

Marker on my fingers and my arms means I have been creating,
In and around my mouth--exploring all the marker is.
Scraped knees show that I like to run, even though I'm not very good at it.
Dirt under my fingernails means that I was getting up close with nature.
My finger points at all I find interesting.
A dried tear on my face--a reminder of my frustration when I don't get my way.
My smile shows my joy and easy forgiveness.
I shout, just to hear my voice.
Stains on my fingers prove that I enjoyed eating the berries.
The twinkle in my eye lets you know I'm planning my next move.

I am Two.


Pen marks on your legs reminds me that pens should not be left out.
The mud on your pants makes me think of Spray and Wash.
Your squeals alternately delight and frustrate me.
A new word or new song never fails to bring me joy.
Reading the same words each night is worth the joy that it brings you.
I remember that bugs and airplanes and trucks are fascinating.
I am thankful for washable markers.
Tears and screaming make it hard not to give in,
But tantrums remind me that I need to try my hardest not to.
The smile on your face helps me to do it day after day.

I'm a Toddler Mom.

Monday, June 12, 2006

My First Carnival

I just recently became aware of blog carnivals. Certain websites solicit and compile submissions, from members of a weblog or with a certain theme. This Carnival of Family Life deals with submissions having to do with, um, family life. You can check out the new posts from the carnival each Monday. My post from a month or so ago called When Will I Learn is featured as the first link!

Check out the whole list, and look for these links:
I particularly enjoyed Chris Quimby's "Beaten at Scrabble," and Friday Playdate's bloody tale. If you're not completely grossed out after that one, keep looking down the list and read the Tutu Boutique on "Spit Up" (it has an upside!).

Kailani at the Pink Diary is the host of the carnival, and I just checked out her site. Pregnancy Q&A just cracked me up and made me mostly glad that I don't have any more pregnancies planned.

This blog universe sure is big. I'm not sure that I can keep up with all of it.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Settling for Second Best

**Warning: This entry features SPOILERS from the movie Dreamer. If you like to watch movies without any knowledge about what might happen, and you haven't see it, then go out and rent it today, and then read this tomorrow, but it probably doesn't give away any more than your average preview.**


So, the movie Dreamer deals with a race horse who is hurt while racing. At the prompting of his charming daughter, Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell decides to keep the horse himself. He decides that a prize winning racehorse could earn a bit of money by selling her colts. He calls in a favor, and then scrapes together the money required for the stud fee of another former great racer. But then the bad news comes from the vet checks her out, "She's sterile."

Kurt's mad about all the time and money he's wasted on this horse, but Dakota doesn't give up. She wants to Dreamer to race again. Well, whether you've seen the movie or not, you can guess that Dreamer does race. I won't give you the details, but it did get me thinking.

Dreamer was a racehorse who had already won races and was showing promise to be truly great. Kurt thought that she could still be of use as a breeder. She'd pass on her genes and help create future champions, making some money to earn her keep in the process. But Dreamer wasn't meant to breed champions, she was meant to be one.

How many times do we settle for second best? Is there something that you know that God has called you to or gifted you with that you've let go of? The idea of being breeders may hit too close to home for some of us. How many times as a mom do we sit back content to raise the champions, instead of being the champion?

It's a hard question. I know that as moms we are more than breeders. We do have a great and scary responsibility to raise children worthy of their calling. That in itself is second to none. And yes, I do think that being "just" a mom sometimes is our calling for season. However, I think that we often make excuses about something we can't do, because our "children need us." There is a good deal of time in my day when my children are sleeping or otherwise engaged (God blessed me with two great sleepers). How do I use those hours? I can use them to nurture my marriage, making me a champ to my husband. I can use them to keep up with friends and likewise keep in touch with myself as a person, not "just" a mom. I can use them to nurture my dreams and refine my abilities.

That vet was able to stop Kurt from wasting the money for the stud fee, because he knew that was not Dreamer's calling for her life. God is the Author of our lives. He knows the path we're on (the beginning, where we are stuck in the middle, and even the end). Have you had your regular checkup? God can tell you if you're on the right path or the wrong one. He would delight in doing so.


P.S. Of course I know that Dakota and Kurt are the actors' names, but I'm horrible at remembering them, so this will do. I ask Dreamer the horse's forgiveness for not knowing her "real" name to refer to. . . .

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Friend's a Friend Forever

Yes, cue the annoying stereotypical Michael W. Smith song here.

I have always felt blessed by my friendships. Because I contacted my best friend from college, and she wrote me back, I have been thinking (mushily and nostalgically) about how she helped make me who I am. I mean, that's what friends do, right? They either bring out the best in us, or maybe by allowing us to be ourselves, they help us to move away from what we think is the best, and really be ourselves. They support us when we think we've blown it, and if we are really lucky, we get a friend who will tell us when we have blown it.

I told her I had a blog when I wrote her, just because I'm now in the practice of telling people--see this post from oh-so-long ago. So, she wrote back, and told me that she also had a blog, and then she wrote some very nice things about me. So, in the interest of self-promotion, I will link to that blog here. She sees things in me that I know I would not possess without her influence in my life. Since we were inseparable in college and for some years after until life and distance gave us a little break, we really began to emerge as the women we are still becoming. We haven't been great about keeping up with each other. Months, and I think even sometimes years, went by with little more than a Christmas card or quick email.

But after writing her yesterday and reading her honest response and nostalgic blog post, none of that matters. By reading her blog, I was reminded of what I love about her, and that even though there's been a break in communication, our roots are deep. Because of this, I know that we will always be there for each other, in some way or another.

It makes me think of another friendship that I rekindled over the last few years. I know that Danielle would want her name mentioned, so I will. We were friends in those early married years, still figuring out how to be wives and homemakers and teachers and all of that. We also lost touch after a couple of years of living in different states. However, something brought us back in contact, and we picked right back up after so many years, and we're now closer than ever.

I will sum up both friendships by saying this: because we shared years together, and particularly because of the formative nature of those relationships, we are part of each other, and you can't change that. The past is good, but adding that rich layer of history to a present friendship is even better.

Answers to Blog Questions

This comes directly from She Lives. She's been blogging about blogging for 7 days. I just found her yesterday, but since blogging, I find myself wondering these same thoughts. I thought I was going to answer several of the questions that she asked, but I did not find my answers interesting, so if I'm not even interested, then I figured I shouldn't waste blogspace with it. So, check out her whole list and other answers if you are curious.


-- What are your thoughts about encouraging offline friends to read your blog?

This is a question that I've been pondering myself! At first I blogged in secrecy--only one friend really knew about it. That helped me hit my groove and make sure it was something I could commit to doing regularly and with results that pleased me. Lately, I've been telling friends about it, and giving them the link. I get some great feedback from them, but it makes me a bit self-conscious, as if they might think I have given them the blog so that they read it and say, "Wow, you're a great writer. I love what you have to say." In reality, I tell people so that I have more accountability to write in general and accountability to write something of value in particular.

That leads me, Jennifer, to ask "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

If I'm writing, but no one is reading it, is it still worth the effort? I think so, but I do enjoy knowing that occasionally I get things right on target, or I say something that someone out there needed to hear.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Power of Words

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that had been made. John 1:1-3

Yes, we all know that words have power. We know it when we bring up a past misdeed to someone that should have been forgiven and forgotten. We know it when we speak harshly to a child or relative, regardless of the "reasons" we have to justify it. Words have power to hurt, but we can see word's power to help when we can say, "Way to go!" to someone who has achieved something that took lots of effort. We see it when we hear a heartfelt compliment of our cooking, or our children, or our talents. We know it when a friend calls up just when we need some encouragement.

But did you ever really ponder that words hold more than just power to squash or sustain, but actually to create? Jesus, as the Word, was responsible for creation. God said. . . . and it was so. Any of us who aspire to write know that each written word takes on a life of its own when it is a part of a body that becomes "something." So, as writers, we become aware of the power of creation that happens as words find their way to paper.

What else can we create with our words? We can create children with good self-images bolstered by our expressed approval. We can make cooking dinner a pleasure for she who provides it by praising the effort and the result. We can change a heavy heart into one filled with joy when we make someone laugh, or give them a new perspective on a bad situation.

So go ahead and use your words. Be careful with them, but never stingy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dealing with Distraction

Sometimes I have problems focusing--on the Lord while I'm trying to pray or study the Word, on my children when I have other things to do, on a friend while talking on the phone, or on a task I'm trying to complete at home.

Here are some solutions that work for me:

Make a list
--It helps me to dump out my thoughts and get them on paper so that they don't plague me throughout the day. The list might be packing for an upcoming trip, things to do for the week, groceries, calls I need to make that day or anything that is frequenting my thoughts. I even keep my planner or a piece of paper next to me while praying. It is certainly less than ideal to interrupt my time with God to write on a list, but I find that I can stay focused if I take a few seconds to jot something down, and then return.

Turn it off--If the computer, the TV, and/or the radio are on, I experience overload, especially if I'm trying to listen to my husband talk about his day, or to my kids, or talking on the phone. The same can go for the phone. Just because it rings, doesn't mean you have to answer it.

Do One Thing--This works for listening, but also in doing tasks at home. I should be able to fold laundry while I'm watching TV, but sometimes it's easier to do it quickly and single-mindedly by not multi-tasking by talking on the phone or watching TV while I'm doing it. The same goes for the phone--just because it rings, doesn't mean you have to answer it if you are completing a task or giving a family member your attention.

I certainly don't go to these extreme levels all the time, but if I'm having trouble getting something done, or giving someone the attention they need and deserve, it seems to help.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Things I Want to Remember

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Kyle turned two on May 27. We celebrated when we were camping with my in-laws over Memorial Day weekend. I have wanted to blog in honor of that, but I've delayed because I haven't dowloaded my pictures. So, I finally wrote, and I finally uploaded my pics.
  • Kyle is funny! He does a great Cookie Monster imitation, he will give the wrong answer on purpose to see us "cry" ("Can Mommy have a kiss?" "Noooo."); he slams around the room running into things to get a laugh. When he was about 8 monhts old, if his food was a little warm, he made a "hot face" (his fingers spread out, mouth in an "O," and shaking). He realized that got a reaction, so he made the hot face any time something was even barely warm.
  • He's our prayer police. He caught on quickly to our family ritual of saying the blessing before meals. Sometimes he and Amanda get started eating a little before we do, but when Terry and I sit down, he clasps his hands together and says, "Pray?" I don't usually eat lunch the same time he does, but when I did recently sit down to eat with him, he again knew that it was time to "Pray?"
  • He likes letters and numbers. He will notice a letter and shout, "E!" He's right 1/26th of the time. Letters confuse him a bit more. He knows that there's something to them, so sometimes he says, "A, 2, B," trying to number them off. Actually, he can sort of count to five, and he does know that all five fingers is "Five!"
  • He's a great little sleeper. I rarely get protests at naptime or bedtime. He just lays down with his blanket and goes to sleep. One time when he was protesting, I gave him a board book, so he now asks for them if the aren't in there, "Apple? Puppy?" for Ten Apples Up on Top and Puppy's Day at Play. He doesn't read them before bed, but will hold them like a stuffed animal.
  • He's a hugger. For no reason at all, he'll come up and press his head to mine, "Hug? Mommy?" and then he usually makes the rounds to anyone else in the room. "Daddy, hug?" "Dada, hug?"
  • He repeats the last word of anything that we say to him. "Do you want to eat?" "Eat?" "Are you ready to go to church?" "Church?" "Daddy's coming home." "Home? Daddy?"
  • He's very verbal, but we can't understand everything, so he will say something, and we try our best guess at it. Kyle: "side." Us: "You want to go outside?" "side." "Outside, yes?" "Yes." If "side" really means something else, he still repeats outside, confusing us, but when we say "Outside, yes?" He will answer, "Noooo."
  • His "no" (which we do hear a lot), is not a bratty NO!, but a very sweet informative nooooo.
  • He already does not like the confines of his stroller. He will put his feet down, stretch around to try to see what's in the basket behind him, and want "down!" When I stop the car to get him out, he will grab my hand and say, "hand, hand" to indicate his preference for holding hands over riding in the stroller or a shopping cart. Unfortunately, he doesn't usually get his wish, because he is only a good hand holder if you are going exactly where he wants to go.
  • A recent cute story: Kyle learned the "I'll get it," and repeated it early on--when the phone rang, when he dropped something, but could reach it again etc. So, Sunday night we went to Wendy's before church, and he was asking, "French fry?" and Terry was giving them to him. Terry and I must have been talking and so when he asked, "French fry?" and one didn't immediately appear, he said, "I'll get it," and reached around the carton that had meant to sort of obscure his view, and grabbed his own. He was fairly pleased with that, and continued, "French fry--I'll get it."

These are just those little snapshots of things that don't get captured by the camera, but that I want to remember. I know that there are already things that I've forgotten about his first two years, but I know that I will recall things that are important over the years.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hearing from God

Eight years ago, we moved to Portland, Oregon from Houston, Texas. We had never even been to Portland when we flew up to check it out and to begin looking at the housing market. We had three or four days to buy a house in a city we knew nothing about. We had a wonderful realtor, who knew the whole city, traffic patterns, and the market. We also brought my dad and his girlfriend along for advice. We looked at homes in different price ranges, and many different areas of town. Of course we were seeking God's guidance, but when it came down to it, we weighed the pros and cons of each home, the neighborhoods, and the price we could pay. We settled on one, and our offer was accepted. We liked the home, Terry had an easy commute to work, and the really big "God thing" is that there were several Christian families on the street. The Pacific Northwest is not exactly the Bible belt. I made several close friendships right on my block.

Our move back to Houston three years later was a bit easier. We did consider a few different areas and neighborhoods, but because of some other factors, we ended up having a fairly narrow search. We loved our home, the neighborhood and the location.

Two years ago, we moved to Connecticut. We knew very little about Connecticut. We had two visits and a total of about five days to find a home this time. I was just talking with my friend who is here visiting about how much we love our house, the town we ended up in, the schools and everything. When I look at the other two homes that we were really considering, we are quite glad for many reasons that this is the house we chose. It's obvious that the Lord's hand guided our decision.

But how did He guide us? Was our search narrowed to one home, due to sellers' demands or price or lack of inventory? Was there one home that had every single thing that we wanted and others which would have been a distant second? No. We sought the Lord. We used the expertise and knowledge of those around us. We made lists with pros and cons. In the end, we went with gut instinct. But even after looking back with more knowledge of our surroundings, or with the benefits of neighbors who became friends, there was no place we would have rather been. Did we get lucky? No. We sought the Lord, and He guided us in ways that we can't describe and will never fully understand, but for that, we thank Him.