The Beautiful Ache

A few weeks ago I was browsing a blog...I wish I could remember whose...and saw a reference to Leigh McLeroy's The Beautiful Ache. For some reason, it caught my eye, and I immediately looked it up on Amazon. Then I did what I *never* do, and ordered it...on the spot. Now...this is coming from someone who waits for *years* sometimes to get a book used at just the right price. ;-) I have no idea why I decided to order this book knowing *almost* nothing about it...other than the fact that God knew that I was going to need it.

It came last week, and I began reading it as soon as I unwrapped it. I was amazed at how perfectly it spoke to me exactly where I was at that very moment...and where I am now.

Tomorrow holds an event on which we have waited...with quite mixed emotions...for almost 18 months. An event that has been scheduled, delayed, rescheduled, and postponed until I think we frankly had about ceased to believe it would ever really happen. Mixed emotions doesn't even really begin to convey the chaos of feelings it brings...from deep, deep sorrow at the senseless pain the actions of one has caused so many, to intense relief that finally, perhaps, we can move on with our lives and begin to find a *new normal*. We have waited so long, prayed so hard, and concurrently hoped and dreaded so incomprehensibly that now that the actual event is upon us, it almost seems as though it will be a complete anticlimax.

I've struggled greatly with the giant range of emotions the past few weeks...many related to tomorrow, and a few created by unrelated hurts that have just hopped on for the ride. The whole situation has suddenly come to the forefront for a couple of my children again, and tonight has brought meltdowns I am ill-equipped to handle at the moment.

I sat down to try to get a few minutes of peace and quiet...in between the dog barking, the four year old coming in covered in house paint ("Look, Mommy, Me help Daddy!!"), and the ever-present sinkful of dishes calling out to be washed...and realized again that I did not order this book on accident. God knew that these words were a reminder I would desperately need on this night:

" Like me, the Israelites were barely 'out of town' before their massive and miraculous exodus screeched to a halt. Backed into a corner at the edge of the Red Sea, they faced the sure menace of Pharoah's oncoming army. The only choice left to them seemed to be not whether to die, but how: by an Egyptian soldier's sword, or by slow drowning in salty waves? The same God who--by plagues and miracles--had weakened Pharoah's resolve to keep Israel in slavery now changed the Egyptian ruler's heart again: 'For Pharoah will say of the sons of Israel, "They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in." Thus I will harden Pharoah's heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharoah and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.'

"It made no sense. Why would God lead His people out and then threaten their very lives? Why would He arrange the all-too-soon showdown at the Red Sea? For His own glory, the Bible records. For His reknown. For His great fame and name. It seems that more was at stake than the Israelites' straight, comfortable, and expeditious journey to the promised richness of Canaan. Their going out was as much about the trip itself as it was the destination. They may have been focused simply on getting from point A to point B. God was focused on much, much more than that. Through time and tears and hardship, He would build their faith and cause them to boast in His provision. He would make believers out of opposing armies and prove His faithfulness again and again. His chosen ones were weak and dependent. He was mighty and strong. This was the truth they would be called to relearn at every bend in the road. "


"Could unarmed Israel have defeated Egypt in their own strength if they had turned and fought at the edge of the sea? Not likely. Had a single Israelite ever witnessed a body of water--any body of water--cleave itself in two? Negative again. But these end-result-oriented people were only just getting to know their process-happy God. In the months and years that ensued, they would find themselves helpless and held fast by circumstance many times, and He would surprise them at every turn......

"....They grew in faith, and He got glory. Lots of it. But they would never have chosen such a rigorous drill had the choice been left up to them. They were learning to be God's people in God's presence by God's power. They were tasting His kingdom, still miles and years from Canaan." (Leigh McLeroy, The Beautiful Ache)

For anyone who is experiencing a time of suffering, I would wholeheartedly recommend The Beautiful Ache as a must-read.

Cute Little Girly-Dos, part 2 (aka Arrgghhh, part 2 ;-))


Well, I *finally* managed to get Blogger to let me upload some pictures. We won't talk about how much time I spent trying to make this happen, or the fact that I am now having to post from IE instead of Firefox...grrr. No matter the contortions I've had to go through, I have photos now, and I am grateful.


*Now* Blogger won't let me move the photos once I get them uploaded. So...I cannot get them in order. Hopefully this won't make you *quite* as crazy as it has made me. ;-)

This was *supposed* to be the last picture. The caption was going to be..."And while we were busy with girl stuff, Peter was creating this spear." (I keep calling it a sword, and being reminded that it really bears no resemblance to a sword. Hmmph. It's long and it has a sharp point. Close enough. ;-))

Front view of Emlyn in her latticed puff-tails...

Another view...
I told you these were way out of order. *I'm* having a hard time telling who is who. This is a top view of Bayley in lattice puff-tails.
Front view of Bayley...
Another top view of Bay....
Ammah Grace calls these *Criss Cross Applesauce* puff-tails. I guess that would work, too. :)

Front view of Ammah Grace...
Side view of Gracie...she was really proud of her curls. :)
Remember Emlyn, way back at the top? ;-) This is a top view of Emlyn.
Back view of Emlyn...

Disclaimer...we'll post *better* pictures of this style soon, I hope. These were taken Saturday while we were *just playing*. :) We couldn't find a comb at the time, so it was a bit of a challenge, but the girls and I had fun anyway. :)

Simple Woman's Daybook

For June 30, 2008

Outside my Window...
Sunlight coming through the trees, birds chirping, an occasional car driving down the street.

I am thinking...
about all we need to get done today, changing our chore routine, a busy but welcomed "week (mostly) at home", and how nice it has been to have Billy off more than usual lately (and how sad we are going to be when his days off are over this week and he has to go back to a normal schedule for the rest of the summer :-( ).

I am thankful for...
the beginning of a week we thought would never get here, which will hopefully bring some closure to a long-term extended family crisis so that we can begin to experience a "new normal"; my BIL and niece joining the church yesterday...my BIL's contagious joy and excitement about sharing the gospel with others, and the anticipation of their baptism Sunday;
that we survived camp and VBS and the rest of the summer is *empty* of major outside commitments!

From the kitchen...
Really simple fare this week...maybe taco salad tonight?

I am creating...
new chore lists for the kids, our "rest of the summer" schedule, and hopefully finishing up some "hanging" creative projects from the past couple of months so that I can start some new ones!

I am going...
to thoroughly enjoy a *normal* day at home today!!

I am wearing...
red print shirt and black shorts with jeweled black flip flops

I am reading...
The Beautiful Ache, by Leigh McLeroy. *Incredible* book and exactly what I needed to read at this time in my life. Highly recommended reading...especially for anyone who is going through one of the *storms of life* now.

I am hoping...
For no unexpected surprises this week.
For a great birthday for a young friend today!
For a safe and productive mission trip for my friend T....back in Haiti this week.
For a wonderful vacation for my friends J. and H. this week!

I am hearing...
Darcy bark because she wants the children to finish their chores and play with her!!

Around the house...
we are working to restore order and get back to the work of decluttering and beautifying our home. And Billy is painting the outside trim...YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

One of my favorite things...
a note from a friend, "just because"

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Continue catching up around the house and getting back to *routine* (as much as is possible with Dad off two days and a holiday on Friday! :)).
A big day tomorrow, with hopefully some fun thrown in later (we hope to picnic at the Nature Center tomorrow afternoon, and maybe play some putt-putt at the park tomorrow evening.)
Bayley gets her ears pierced Thursday in anticipation of her birthday in August!
(We told her she could have them done early so she would actually be able to *wear* the earrings she will get for her birthday. :))
*Something* festive on the 4th...not sure what yet!
*Maybe* a scrapbook day on Saturday with a friend or two...:-)
Tim and Brianna's baptisms on Sunday!!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Blogger still isn't letting me post pictures, so I will have to try again when I get that worked out!

Thanks to Peggy for hosting the Daybook each week!


Is anyone else having trouble posting photos on Blogger this week? I have been trying for 3 days to post some photos, and I cannot get the "upload photo" screen to come up when I click on the "upload photo" button.

In case anyone wonders, it's making me completely bananas. ;-)

If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them.


Cute Little Girly-Do's :)

I'm always on the lookout for cute girly hair-do's. I can't wait to try some of the ideas on this site, and this one. In fact, I think we may put in a movie this afternoon and play *makeover*, as the girls call it...sounds like just the right speed for a rainy Saturday afternoon following several weeks of camp and VBS madness. ;-) Maybe I'll even get some pictures posted!


VBS Week

Wow. When I last posted I had plans for several other posts to follow pretty quickly...and it has been a week. Part of that has been VBS prep, and part, I guess has been Satan attacking hard the commitment to developing a generous spirit. Last week was rough...lots of things hitting emotionally at once, as well as frustrating physical issues. Hopefully this week will be a bit more on track, even with VBS taking a huge chunk of time. I still have a list of things waiting to be posted. :)

In the meantime, it's time to get everyone up and out the door for Day 2 of VBS. :) More on that later....



It's funny how grief can hit sometimes. This weekend, I had a brief conversation with a friend who lost her father recently, and I suddenly realized that I was not dreading Father's Day with the dread of the past few years since Daddy died. I actually made it through all of Father's Day without tears. I was so proud of myself, and thankful to be past the debilitating grief that went on for so long. It was nice to be able to think about my dad, enjoy the memories, and even miss him, without the bone-crushing grief of a few years ago.

Then tonight in choir, there it was. From completely out of nowhere. Lyndel told us to pull out a particular piece of music, and it happened to be the arrangement of "When I Survey" that the choir sang at Daddy's funeral. No problem. We've sung it more than a few times since then, and the last few, I've been fine. Suddenly tonight, I was fighting the quivering lip and teary eyes...but fighting I was...I was determined not to lose it, and I knew that part of it was probably just the fact that it has been an especially difficult and emotional few days for a lot of other reasons. I set my jaw, sang a bit louder, and determined to smile. Then I turned the page.

How in the world out of a stack of 50 or more pieces of music did I manage to grab the one that had been my dads?? The name on the front had been erased, so I had no idea, until we turned a page and there was Daddy's very distinct handwriting. The lump in my throat suddenly overwhelmed me and the tears that had been threatening began to roll down my face. The only thing I could do was to stop singing for a few lines and use every ounce of strength to pull it back together.

That brief blip of grief reminded me of some things I apparently needed to be reminded of. To be thankful for my dad and the relationship I had with him. To be thankful that this was indeed just a brief blip of grief, and that God *has* brought me so far from the heart-wrenching grief that went on for so long. To be thankful for my husband and a few friends who trudged through that time with me, living out the Biblical admonition to "rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn." I can't imagine going through that time without them. To pray for those I know who are still wading through the grieving process.

And most of all...to be thankful for the hope we have in Christ: the certainty that Daddy is with the Lord, and the assurance that we will see him again.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
~I Thess. 4:13-18


I mentioned in my Daybook post this week that I've been pondering *the mom I am* versus *the mom I want to be* and, more importantly, *the mom God wants me to be*. I'm not sure how it started...the thoughts have been germinating for a while. I think part of it started with a friend's daughter graduating from high school, and realizing how fast that time has flown by...and how quickly my children will be there, too. Part of it has been Peter being *ten-and-a-half*...and part of it, I'm sure, is Ammah Grace suddenly not being in the nursery anymore, and being ready for K-4....it seems like overnight, I went from being a mom of *little kids*...4 6-and-under at one point...to a mom of *big kids*.

Then there was the conversation a couple of weeks ago with a friend about the necessity of our children respecting our authority...not just being a *friend figure* to them, as some parents seem to want to be, but being the God-given authority figure He designed us to be. We've been working on some respect and obedience issues at our house lately, which have had me giving much thought to that subject. I don't want to be an iron-fisted dictator, but I definitely want my children to know that I am the parental authority, and they are the children, responsible to respect and obey that authority.

Then there was the comment I heard just recently about a mom who "just sucks all the joy out of life," and a family that noticeably *deflates* when mom enters the room. *That* stopped me in my tracks. I have a tendency to be that type of mom...the joy-sucking type. Most of it is for good reason and with good intentions...but I had been working, even before hearing that comment, to ease up a bit and be more of a *joy-giver* than a *joy sucker*. It's a hard transition, but we are slowly making progress. I don't want my children or my husband to *deflate* when I walk into a room, nor do I ever want to be described as "one of those people who just suck all the joy out of life." There was a time when I would never have thought I would be in danger of that...but the past few years, I think I've fallen into that category more than I really want to think about.

At camp last week, Bro. Kent talked about the fact that the number 1 thing God wants from us is our *affection*. (Mark 12:30) As Christians, we should not be obeying God out of guilt, we should be obeying just because we love Him. We should not be reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer and worshipping together at church and serving Him in ministry because we have to, but because we *want* to, because we love Him, in response to His great love for us. However, we do have to *choose* to love. There are going to be times when it *isn't* easy...but we choose to do it anyway, not out of guilt, but out of a choice to "love Him, because He first loved us."

In thinking about how this applies to *the mom God wants me to be*, I realize that part of my being *the mom He wants me to be* is choosing to obey Him out of love. Choosing to stand firm when needed, to train and discipline, even when it is hard, to be the authority that I need to be. Choosing to be a *joy giver*, rather than a *joy sucker*, to ease up a bit in certain areas, to *choose* to give my family fun, happy memories, etc. The flip side of that is that if I *am* the mom God wants me to be, my children will eventually transition from obeying me because they have to, to obeying me because they want to, out of love.

After all that, I came home and ran into a verse I had never noticed before: Proverbs 31:25. As I mentioned yesterday, I can't imagine there being a part of Proverbs 31 that I hadn't *noticed* before, but there was. And I loved the thought immediately...the thought of "laughing at the days to come." Imagine my further surprise when I began to study this verse more in-depth and discovered that it led me right back to my ponderings about motherhood. Isn't it funny how God does that? :)

I'll post more on my study of the verse later, but here's a taste: John Wesley uses the word "magnanimity" in describing the "strength" the Proverbs 31 Woman is clothed with. When I looked up "magnanimity", part of the definition I discovered was "generosity of spirit." Wow. That is exactly what I have begun to hunger to be to those around me...my family and my friends...generous of spirit. The very opposite of a *joy sucker*. :) Generosity of spirit would *not* be something I've been characterized by in recent years, but I *so* want that to be something I am characterized by from now on.

I have more thoughts on Prov. 31:25, the topic of generosity of spirit, and the road from being a *joy sucker* to a *generous spirit*(it won't be immediate or easy, but as Bro. Kent says, "It's not perfection, it's direction", and that is the direction I want to be headed), but they will have to wait till another post. This one has turned into a book already!

I never got baby pictures posted yesterday...I promise I am going to get them posted today! (After a bit more sleep...I've been up since 4 a.m., and it is time for a nap! ;-))


Keeping Us on Our Toes...

...That would be Ammah Grace! Always.

A few minutes ago, she came in with a baggie full of animal crackers, holding it in front of her face like a mask. I said, "Gracie, don't ever put a plastic bag over your mouth or nose."

Ammah Grace: "Why?"

Mom, trying to figure out how to explain the dangers of suffocation to a 4 year old: "Well, because if you have plastic over your mouth or your nose it can make you where you can't breathe, and that is dangerous."

Ammah Grace: "Oh, you mean me suffocate?"

Umm, yeah, something like that. Wind and Smile Giggle 4

Camp Pictures, part 1

I already know I won't get to these all at once...besides, I also have *new baby niece* pictures to post today!...so I'll try to do a few installments:

(Once again, these are in no particular order...I'm having one of those days when I'm not up to fighting Blogger's rather cumbersome photo-upload process, which leaves things in an odd order after uploading. ;-))

Snack Shack was a favorite time of day...
I think Em's favorite part of camp was the notebooks (she is her mother's daughter, after all!) Her camp notebook and the altered journal we made in crafts went everywhere except the pool with her. :)
Bro. Lyndel.
Billy, in a rare resting moment.
Phil and Phyllis.
I wish I had gotten better pictures of the camp itself. These pictures do not at all do justice to the chapel.

Billy and Phil delivered ice to all the ice chests every morning during class. The hardest part of camp for Ammah Grace was not getting as much Daddy time as she is used to, so one morning she decided to go along. I could not believe that she could actually *lift* these ice buckets. I've always said she is much stronger than she looks!
Billy in his ever-present camp hat (that used to be my dad's :)).
Bay and Em playing one of Miss Phyllis's crazy games Tuesday night!
Ammah Grace is *not* used to going, going, going all the time, and she was already tuckered out by Tuesday night.
Peter eating baby food during one of Miss Phyllis's *less popular* games! ;-) I was proud of him because he was such a good sport.
Miss Phyllis came to our dorm at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning to wake the girls up with her *unique* rendition of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning". It was a highlight of the week for the girls. I actually have photos of Phyllis, wet hair, no makeup, and all, but unfortunately, I promised they would *only* see the pages of my personal scrapbooks. So....if you want to see, you'll have to come visit! :-D

These pictures are of the girls while Miss Phyllis was serenading them:

Ammah Grace was sound asleep, and not planning to wake up *even* for her beloved Miss Phyllis. Bayley thinks Miss Phyllis has lost her marbles. :-D
I don't know where Em was at this point...probably sitting on Daddy's lap somewhere. These are the rest of the girls in our dorm:
Preschool crafts were always an adventure. Being the control freak detail person that I am, leading crafts selected by someone else is a bit of a challenge at times, but we managed, and actually had a lot of fun. I did have to give Kathy a hard time all week about the *one-eyed fish with feet* we made on Tuesday night, though. :-D (And yes, they were *supposed* to have two eyes, but between the packages that didn't have two eyes to begin with, and the little googly eyes that ended up *everywhere but on the table and the fish*, we ended up with a lot of one-eyed fish. I actually think these look more like chickens, don't you?? ;-))

Well, that is the end of our first installment of camp photos. *After* I post "new baby niece* photos and some other thoughts *and* do some editing on the remaining camp photos, I'll post some more....probably later in the week, though.

Found Treasures...

...around the Net this week...:)

Canvas of Happiness...Mt. Hope Chronicles is one of my favorite blogs...Heidi inspires me in so many ways! I love her Canvas of Happiness idea...I have some canvases I've been planning to play with this summer, and now I'm planning a twist on this idea for the kids' rooms. I love things that are simple *and* creative!

Altered Rolodex Idea File...I ran across a new-to-me blog this week, Blah, Blah, Blog. Lots of neat creative stuff there, but I especially loved this altered Rolodex idea file. What a great way to keep track of all the "I'd like to do that someday"s that I can't seem to keep track of no matter how hard I try. I'm going to have to keep an eye peeled for a good price on the right Rolodex (something else to scan garage sales for! ;-))

"Laugh at the Future"...Isn't it weird how you can read, hear, and study a particular chapter in the Bible all your life, and still completely miss a verse or phrase contained in it? Who would have thought that could happen with Proverbs 31? But yesterday it did. I was reading Janel's Simple Daybook entry yesterday, and she referenced Proverbs 31: 25:

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
She can laugh at the days to come.

I'm going to have to do some more in-depth study of that verse this week. I have been so thankful for the gift of laughter during rough days these last few years...I love the idea of facing the uncertain days to come with laughter, rather than anxiety. (I'm also enjoying Janel's blog, and hope to have time to read more there soon.)


for June 16, 2008

Outside My Window...
cloudy skies, birds singing, backyard flooded, sounds of people cleaning up storm damage.

I am thinking...
pondering *the kind of mom I am*, versus *the kind of mom I want to be*, and more importantly, *the kind of mom God intends for me to be*....much thought in these areas from camp and the surrounding days...hope to blog a bit about my thoughts later today.

I am thankful...
that last night's storms weren't much worse than they were...for safety and protection in them...that we still have power...that we have a reprieve from the rain for a few hours, at least.

From the kitchen...
bought lots of fruit yesterday...need to clean and prepare it and bake muffins to go along with...meals this week will be *creativity stretchers*, as I bought 5 pounds of ground chuck yesterday and then accidentally *left it in the van* for two hours (in 90 degree heat...ack!!). Rather than replace it, I'm going to see if I can use up some things in the freezer that have been sitting there because I haven't figured out what to do with them. :)

I am wearing...
shorts and a blue flowered shirt and the jeweled flip-flop sandals I lived in last week at camp because they are so *comfy*! :)

I am creating...
plans for creating this week! Trying to get back in *home mode* for a week between camp and VBS...lots of projects I'd *like* to get to this week, in addition to the VBS work that still has to be done for next week. Right now I'm just trying to create *living space* again after all the camp prep/packing before we left. :)

I am going...
to see our brand new niece for the first time tonight (I hope)...I can't wait!

I am reading...
Keeping Our Children's Hearts, by the Maxwells, still working through When All Hell Breaks Loose, by Steve Lawson, and planning to read this sermon by Spurgeon this week...my BIL sent the link yesterday and I can't wait to read it!

I am hoping...
for a day and week full of accomplishnment, and a *peaceful* week in our home.

I am hearing...
radio reports about the storm damage last night.

Around the house...
clutter everywhere, remnants of unpacking 6 people from camp :-) and preparing crafts for camp and VBS, kids getting back into the swing of daily chores and routine.

One of my favorite things...
My new toe ring. :)
(A gift from my sweet husband, for his wife who has suddenly gone bananas.:))

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Finish getting the house back in order after camp, a bit of advance food prep for a busy week next week, spend one evening at church finalizing VBS crafts prep, Saturday at church decorating for VBS, climb back on the de-cluttering wagon, and find a few hours somewhere to scrapbook/decompress a bit. :)

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

(To whet your appetite for camp pictures later today...:) Ammah Grace's turtle at camp, named Sarah after our pastor's wife. :) It was the bravest turtle I've ever seen...it kept acting like it was trying to snuggle with Billy! ;-))

For more on the Simple Woman's Daybook, visit Peggy at The Simple Woman.


Back from Camp!

We're back from camp!

I had planned a post full of camp pictures today, but, alas, I have none. (See "Most Important *Non-Spiritual* Lesson Learned at Camp" for details. ;-)) Hopefully I *will* have pictures to post tomorrow afternoon.

While we're waiting, I thought I'd post some random snippets from the Harris family's first week at Family Camp. I may have mentioned earlier, that while I grew up attending summer camp (Bible Memory Association Camp in Ringgold, LA), none of the other members of my family had ever been to church camp of any kind before. So...it was quite an experience for all of us! (Especially Billy, who spent his first-ever week at church camp as dorm counselor for 8 4th-6th grade boys! :))

These are just random thoughts, in no particular order, and I may add to them periodically, so feel free to check back. :)

Ammah Grace's favorite parts of camp (as of Thursday afternoon, when I asked her): Swimming, and going to bed!

Most important *non-spiritual* lesson learned at camp: Never, ever, EVER relinquish possession of your completely full digital memory card to ANYONE, no matter *how* technologically proficient they generally are. (Thanks to Bro. Kent for his assistance in teaching me this lesson by his *erasure* of all 394 photos on my xD card yesterday morning as he was uploading them to his hard drive. I did not require emergency resuscitation when I discovered this fact, although I did scare Sue and Kay half to death when I burst into the *hotel* lobby in search of Bro. Kent and his laptop. Thankfully, Bro. Kent assures me that he has *all* of my pictures safely stored on his harddrive and that he will burn them to disk and deliver it tomorrow. Until then, I am practicing my deep breathing techniques (learned in childbirth classes) to avoid severely elevated blood pressure and hyperventilation. ;-))

Scariest moment at camp: Well, perhaps I should label this scariest *personal* moment at camp...as hearing Allen D.'s head bounce off the pavement when his skateboard hit a crack in the sidewalk, and realizing that what I thought was red hair paint on Payton E.'s forehead under his hairline was actually his *scalp* where *he* hit his head on the pavement when he fell out of the back of a moving vehicle were both quite frightening. Amazingly enough, we did *not* have to make a drive in to the nearest Emergency Room for any of the youth boys all week...but there were a few times we thought we were going to have to take some adults due to heart attack or stroke *because* of the youth boys!

Anyway...my scariest *personal* moment at camp was almost sitting on a large ugly spider in my bed shortly after we got up Friday morning. Erica *assures* me that she is *certain* that it came off the beach towel one of the girls had just tossed on my bed, and that it most definitely did *NOT* share my bed all Thursday night. She's positive. I believe her. I do. Nonetheless, as I told her, it was a good thing that occurred on *Friday* morning; otherwise I would have had to sleep in a metal folding chair all week. :-D

Honorable Mention for scariest moment: Hearing (after the fact, thank goodness) that my husband fought a water moccasin with a (rotten) stick. Ack!

Best *awwww* moment at camp: There is a tie here. The first was watching Peter and Ammah Grace together in the rare times they were in the same place at the same time. It was obvious that Gracie missed her Bubby terribly, and that he missed her. They were really sweet.

The second was Ammah Grace naming the turtle she found on Thursday afternoon after Mrs. Sarah (our pastor's wife). *Hopefully* tomorrow I'll have pictures of Sarah the Turtle to share. It was an exceptionally nice-looking (not to mention brave) turtle, and Mrs. Sarah seemed quite honored that Ammah Grace had named it for her. ;-)

Biggest blessing in the services/classes: Hannah T.'s testimony Tuesday night. What a blessing it was! Kathy and I were glad we were on the back row so that our teary faces weren't quite so noticeable.

Biggest hit of the week in the children's girls' dorm (where I happened to be with the girls): Miss Phyllis coming in early Thursday morning to sing our wake up call of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning". The girls were so disappointed when they asked Thursday night if she was coming back to sing Friday morning, only to find out that she had had to leave camp Thursday evening. :)

Biggest surprise of the week: Ammah Grace slept in her own bed all three nights! I almost didn't even take her her own bedroll because I figured she would be in my bed all week anyway. I'm so glad I borrowed a sleeping bag for her at the last minute, because she *loved* fixing up her own bunk every morning and crawled into bed every night and went straight to sleep. (And my bed was pretty crowded as it was Wednesday night when my two older girls both ended up in bed with me!)

Best meal of the week: Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and cream gravy Wednesday night. Yumm!! (Sorry, Erica! ;-)) And may I just say that it was *heavenly* to go four days without cooking a single meal. Or washing a single dish. *Definitely* a treat!

Lots more to tell, but time is up for now. Hopefully I'll be back later today with another installment, and tomorrow with *pictures*!!

Cool Nature Blog

I just ran across a really neat nature blog with some *wonderful* bird pictures:

Aunt B's Backyard



Sunday Song

Christ In Us, The Hope of Glory

We never could repay the debt that we owe, never comprehend such grace.
For as Jesus paid the price for our sins, He died to take our place.
But He rose from the grave, glorious victory, and ascended to His Father's throne.
And as we trust Him as Savior and Lord, He makes our heart His home.

Christ in us, the hope of glory,
Miracle from God above.
Christ in us, the hope of glory,
We'll tell the story of His wondrous love.

As we are guided by His Spirit within,
We will follow where He leads.
In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His name.
He is everything we need, we need!

Christ in us, the hope of glory,
Miracle from God above.
Christ in us, the hope of glory,
We'll tell the story of His wondrous love.

Christ in us, the hope of glory.

~Cindy Berry

Happy Feet :-)

Ahhhh. Have I mentioned that I have the *most* wonderful husband in the entire world? Proof, once again. My very happy feet:

It's been a long, hard, hot week, and it seems like I've been on my feet for a much-larger-than-usual percentage of it. And they have not been happy feet. My feet have complained more than *I* have this week, which is saying a lot! Even my broken-three-times ankle has been rebelling against the abuse.

So this afternoon, my dear wonderful husband, without being asked, sat down on the end of the couch where I had decided to take a 10 minute rest break before attacking my list for the afternoon, and gave me a foot massage. And a pedicure. Ahhhhhhhh. They feel *soo* much better. And they look a bit better, too. :)

Isn't he sweet? :-)


Happy Birthday Woodland Heights!

For the past few days, I've been thinking, "June 7. Why is June 7 important? Something happened on June 7. What WAS it??"

I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out whose birthday or anniversary I was about to miss (not that I've done too well with keeping up with those in the past few years, anyway, but at least I like to *know* which ones I'm missing. ;-))

Yesterday I kept thinking all day..."What on earth is June 7? Or is it June 6? Maybe whatever *it* is is actually today, and I'm already missing it."

Finally, this morning, just before I was ready for the men in white coats to come get me, I figured it out.

June 7, 1987, was Constitution Sunday for "the new church", now known as Woodland Heights Baptist, in Conway. We had planned and prepared for the day for weeks, worked on special choir music (which was exciting, as we hadn't even had a *choir* so far, due to having no building.) It isn't every day you get to be a charter member of a new church (especially one starting out with 200 members! :)), and this was going to be an event to remember forever.

And I was actually right on both counts. June 6 *and* June 7 were memorable days. On June *6*, 1987, I came down with the chicken pox. Yep. The chicken pox. I was 18 years old, and had been exposed a million times, to the point that we all thought I was immune. Um...no. My brother had had them for two weeks, and the first day he was able to get out, we went to Little Rock to shop and go to the zoo. We were at War Memorial Park enjoying the beautiful day, when I began to feel funny. *REALLY* funny. My head was feeling really strange. My dad said, "I think you are coming down with chicken pox." I remember my reply as though it were yesterday:

"No, I can't be coming down with the chicken pox. If I have the chicken pox I will miss Constitution Day, and I CAN'T miss Constitution Day. I must have a brain tumor."

I wasn't joking. A brain tumor was not contagious, therefore there would be no need for me to miss Constitution Day. Chicken Pox, at that point, was the worst *possible* diagnosis I could have.

We arrived home an hour or so later, and sure enough, there were a few telltale spots peeking out. By that evening, there was no doubt. I cried myself to sleep over the fact that everyone would be going to Constitution Day without me, and then spent the next few days practically delirious with fever and severe itching.

Constitution Day went on without me, and I was declared a charter member despite my unplanned absence. Those early days of seeing God start a new church from scratch and bless it abundantly were a tremendous period of growth in my own life. I spent five wonderful years there until I moved to Fort Smith after college, and no matter how long I am gone, it will always be part of *home* to me.

I had hoped to post some pictures today of the early days of WHBC, but I haven't had time to locate and scan them. Maybe I'll get to do that before we leave for camp. In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Woodland Heights!!

Question of the Day

Ammah Grace was in the living room earlier with Billy and I while I was folding laundry, when out of the blue she asks:

"Why Quincey and Darcy not have to wear underwear?"

Quincey and Darcy, for those of you who are wondering, are the four-legged residents of our house.

I decided to defer the answer to that one to Billy...it's hard to answer a serious question when you are doubled over trying not to laugh out loud.


Thankful Saturday :-)

I was so determined to post my Thankful Thursday post this week. When that didn't happen, I was determined that I would get it posted yesterday. I guess it is appropriate that in this week of plans gone awry, my Thankful Thursday post has turned into Thankful Saturday!

We won't even talk about all the ways that our plans have been mangled this week. It would have been a busy week regardless...getting ready for camp, and for VBS soon after we return. Throw in a large last-minute camp assignment (planning crafts :)), a dead air conditioner, and a van that wouldn't start, and it went from busy to berserk really fast!

But there is still much to be thankful for. I had a whole list on Thursday, and I can't even remember what those things were at the moment. Here's what's on my mind today, in completely random fashion (because that is all I am capable of this morning :)):

* A van that runs.

* My husband and our friend Justin who transformed "the van that won't start" into "the van that runs", after almost 5 hours of work last night.

* Good friends who are always there no matter what. Especially for Jodie and Kathy, who have listened to me whine all week and are still speaking to me. :)

* My friend Kathy, who not only saved our lives yesterday when it was hotter in our house than it was outside by bringing big ice-cold Sonic drinks for the whole crew, but who also sat in the middle of the street in front of my house in her brand new car with her flashers on so that our husbands wouldn't be mangled by speeding cars as they laid half in the street and half under our van, wrestling with an uncooperative fuel pump. And who let me sit in the car with her in the ice cold air conditioning to get cooled off after *roasting* in our nice, warm, toasty house. ;-)

* That Kathy's daughter (and Bayley's best friend) wasn't seriously injured when she was hit in the head by a fly ball at softball practice last night. She's going to have quite the goose-egg for a while, not to mention a serious headache, but it could have been much worse.

* For my mom, who saved the day by loaning her van for a while yesterday so that I could run at least the most urgent of my pre-camp errands.

* That less than 48 hours after I found out I would be doing crafts with the kids at camp, the supplies were (almost) all bought and I have a plan. :) For Kathy's help in making that happen, and for Phyllis, who keeps assuring me that all will be wonderful. :)

* For a new window unit A/C, provided by a friend and a friend-of-a-friend, which as soon as we figure out the best way to make it and the wiring in our house cooperate, is going to be a life-saver, following the death of our over-20-year-old main window unit on Thursday.

* For my children's excitement about going to camp! It has been so much fun to watch their enthusiasm spill out into everything this week.

* That God truly does provide for every need, even when our faith is very small.

For more Thankful Thursday posts, visit Iris at Sting My Heart.


FOR June 2, 2008...

Outside My Window...very welcome sunshine.

I am thinking...pondering the subject of suffering today.

I am thankful for...a handy hubby who has once again patched the roof so that it didn't leak during the storm yesterday! And for a week *at home* to prepare for some very busy (and fun) weeks ahead!

From the kitchen...chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and veggies for supper, with chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

I am wearing...shorts and a top with patriotic flip flops. :)

I am creating...finishing some clipboards this week (I hope!), starting a special gift album, and actually pulling out the sewing machine to make a few things for camp.

I am going...Nowhere (!!) today, I hope. At some point this week we will need to do some shopping for odds and ends for camp, and one night I need to go to church and sort and count and prep VBS materials. Other than that and normal church activities, we are planning for a busy but quiet week at home. (Yay!)

I am reading...Going back through some old Bible study notes on suffering, flipping through recipes for menu ideas, working through When All Hell Breaks Loose by Steve Lawson, and for bedtime reading, Ten Thousand Charms by Allison Pittman.

I am hoping...for uneventful days between now and the time we leave for camp, for everyone to get back to normal sleeping schedules (we've had lots of interruptions in that area lately!), and for my somewhat temperamental sewing machine to be cooperative as I attempt some sewing projects this week. :)

I am hearing...My 6-and 4-year olds singing silly songs and my 10-year-old chatting with the dog. ;-D

Around the house...I need desperately to get back to decluttering!!! And priming the dining room walls. *That* will probably have to wait until after camp, however. I do have a beautiful new red front door (well, the *red paint* is new, the door is definitely not!) and a lovely new shade of brown paint on my porch, thanks to my wonderful and hard-working husband. :)

One of my favorite things...creative little pieces of artwork from my children.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Finish and mail some "thank you" and "just because" notes, sew!, work on our schedule for the rest of the summer, finalize the camp packing list, finish a few creative projects, and cook a *real* dinner every night. ;-)

Here is picture thought I am sharing...(add your picture here)

(The little girls helping Daddy at the hardware store. Bay and I had to run back *again* on Saturday morning, and she said, "Mom, I think we've been to Home Depot 18 times this week!" I said, "Well, not *quite* that many, but it is starting to feel like a second home." ;-))

For more info on the Simple Woman's Daybook, to see what others are doing this week, or to participate yourself, visit The Simple Woman. Thanks to Peggy for hosting!

On the Subject of Suffering...

"Nothing takes God by surprise."

"The situation you are experiencing now came as no surprise to God. He knew it was going to happen before the beginning of time, and He has a plan for it."

"God is not sitting in Heaven saying, 'Oh, dear, how did *that* happen?'"

About 18 months ago, during some very hard days when I was questioning my faith in ways I'd never imagined questioning before, words like those above began to hit me from every direction. A friend encouraging me over the phone, every book I picked up to read, a radio program I just *happened* across, and more than one sermon. They were the words I needed to hear....over and over again....and I was awestruck by God's grace in gently reminding me of what I should already have known.

It's happening again.

Everywhere I have turned lately, I have been bombarded by reminders that all carry the same theme:

As Christians, we are to *expect* to suffer. We are not to expect an easy life. God does not give us a *free pass* from the storms of life. But we have the assurance that God is in control, whether it *seems* that way to us or not, and we know that His plans for us are for good and not for evil, plans to give us a future and a hope.

Old journal entries. This book, that book, and the other book I pick up. A blog entry emailed to me by my BIL. An entire blog I *happened* across due to a news article. A sermon by a guest preacher while Bro. Kent was on vacation. A sermon by Bro. Kent when he returned from vacation. A conversation between a friend and one of my children. *Everywhere* I turn, that is the message I am hearing and reading. Again...not a new message at all. But somehow one I keep needing to be reminded of as we continue on the path down which God is leading us now, and as I ache for friends who are suffering intensely as well. Seemingly senseless, needless suffering on all sides, suffering that tempts me daily to question the sovereignty and goodness of God. Suffering that unexplainably continues to lead me back to a constantly renewed assurance of that very sovereignty and goodness. And love, and grace, and mercy, and power.

From a sermon by a guest preacher a few weeks ago :

"The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in Him."
Nahum 1:7

I don't know that I had ever noticed that particular verse before. Here's an excerpt of an email I typed to a friend about my notes from the sermon:

"Not anything new or earth-shattering, but the first thing I heard him say was, "God is good, period. Whether circumstances are or not, He is. It is God's character to be good, and He cannot be anything else." Then he said, "When you start to struggle with the issue of God's goodness, look to the cross." He talked about the fact that if we focus on the cross, we can't help but see God's inherent goodness...no matter what else is going on around us.

I was already really beginning to see this as a refresher in what God has been teaching me about His goodness for the past 22 months. I was sitting there thinking about how easy it was to cling to and be certain of His goodness with all that went on with Ammah Grace, and even in the bittersweet testimony of my dad at the end: 'God has been *so* good to me,' but how I struggled with the issue of His goodness two summers ago to the point that I questioned everything I had believed all my life for a while....and how much He has taught me since about His goodness and love and grace. Then he said this:

'Goodness and safety are not synonymous. The church has begun to equate safety with the goodness of God, and it is just not true.' He said that even most Christians today have the idea that God's goodness means that we are always going to be safe and protected from harm...or that if something does happen, it will all be okay in the end, because 'God is good.' He said that is a false idea of God's goodness, and then went on to talk about the disciples, and how all but John ended up as martyrs, tortured before they were killed.

When he was talking about all of that, the quote from The Chronicles of Narnia popped into my head..."Aslan is not a tame lion. He is good, but He is not a tame lion." That quote and surrounding parts of that book were a big part of getting me *over the hump* with things [two years ago, when we] were teaching the Narnia class. The next thing I know, he is saying, "In the Narnia movie and book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Beavers are telling the children about Aslan, and one of the children asks, 'Is he a good lion?' and the Beaver responds..." and then goes on into the quote about his being good, but not being tame. He went into some detail about it, and then said, "And God says to us, 'You can count on my goodness, even when it is not safe."

Wow. I needed to again be reminded of all that, especially [right now]."

From the book, When All Hell Breaks Loose, by Steve Lawson (btw...this book should be required reading for every Christian going through trials. *Excellent* reading.):

"But the fact of the matter is that God's children do suffer, don't they? We are not exempt from trials. Tragedy is a required course, not a chosen elective....

The prophet Jeremiah says,
'Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
that extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.'
~Jeremiah 17:7-8

Here is what God is saying: Those who trust God are like massive trees. Strong. Tall. Towering. Deeply rooted. Growing upward. Fruitful. Productive. And, yes, exposed to life's storms."

A little later in that same chapter, Lawson says to those who are suffering:

"...the message of this book is for you. An all-wise God who knows what is best for your life loves you very much. He remains completely in control, ruling in unrivaled sovereignty. He is Lord of your storms, able to calm the angry waves and hush the fierce winds. He is Lord over Satan. He is Lord over adversity. He loves you deeply and seeks your best."

From Bro. Kent's sermon yesterday (pardon the shape of my notes here...I had been up all night with my mom and my notes show it!):

At the end of John 15, the Holy Spirit is referred to as "The Helper". This refers to the fact that we are not going to have the strength to make it on our own. In John 15 and 16, He is telling them, and us, that times are going to get so tough that we can't face them on our own, so...we need a Helper. "We have a bullseye on our back."

1. God discloses our need for a Helper because we are prone to stumble.

2. God discloses our need for a Helper because of the certainty of persecution.

3. God discloses our need for a Helper so that we will not be discouraged when trials come. Our flesh says, "If you loved me, why would you allow me to suffer like this?" Jesus says, "When suffering happens, remember I told you it would happen, so don't be discouraged."

When the world sees us looking like Christ, they will hate us, because they can't see us without seeing Him. They aren't going to love us for our love and kindness and goodness. They are going to hate us."

4. God discloses our need for a Helper because when Jesus left, we became the target.

God is glorified in us when we are going through the fire...that is when others see God in us more than at any other time.

Excerpt from a blog entry my BIL forwarded to me: (Btw...if you want a blessing, check out my BIL's blog. God's work in His life is so evident and exciting, and His heart for the Lord shines through everything else.)

"No doubt the incident [referring to the death of Steven Curtis Chapman's daughter Maria in a tragic accident] shook the faith of some. How could God allow such a thing to happen? Some will even conclude that God must not exist, because of the accident. Yet, being a Christian doesn’t mean that you are immune from the pains of this life. If a Christian is in a tornado, he may be killed, just like a non-Christian. If it rains, he gets wet." He goes on to share his thoughts on tragedy in the life of a Christian here.

And then this week, I *happened* upon this blog, following the death of Greg and Nicol Sponberg's infant son. The blog is written by the Sponberg's sister-in-law, Angie. She and her husband, Todd, lost their infant daugher just a few months ago. Although our circumstances are very different, I have devoured her blog this week and been amazed at how often her words are a perfect echo of what God has been teaching me over the past two years. There is truly a shared "fellowship of His sufferings" in those who have been brought to the point where intense suffering challenges faith and belief, those to whom God has said, as Angie puts it,

"Either you do, or you don't."

For those who have come to that point, and made the choice, "I do. I do believe. No matter what, " there is a fellowship of suffering, even in those who have never met.

God continues to teach me that there *is* joy in suffering...and that the deeper the pain, the more precious the things He shows us about Himself through it.

"The Spirit Himself testifies with our Spirit that we are God's children.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,
if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
~Romans 8:16-18

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives,
so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.
And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."
~2 Cor. 1:3-7


Happy Birthday....

to my best-friend-since-college-and-Maid-of-Honor-in-my-wedding T Marie!!!!!!!!

I had great plans for a wonderfully fun post complete with photos and all sorts of creative stuff. However, spending the night in the ER has not only temporarily zapped me of any and all creative juices, but also rendered me completely mentally and physically incapable of finding and/or scanning/uploading vintage "Jef and T-Ri" photos at the present time.

So, for now, I will just say a huge "Happy Birthday" to my dear friend, and direct you to her blog, Creative Confetti, if you would like to pop in and wish her a wonderful day yourself. (While you are there, scroll down and check out her Haiti pictures. They are incredible. Grab some Kleenex.)

Love you, Girl!!! Have a totally fabulous day!!!!

Are We Having Fun Yet??

My mom is always asking this in the midst of the *not-so-fun* experiences of life. Last night sometime around 11 she asked the inevitable question. And for anyone who is curious...no, we weren't.

In case you have lived a charmed life and not discovered this fact for yourself yet....the local ER is not the place you want to be on a Saturday night. (Especially when it is the *other* ER...the one across town from the one where Dear Hubby is employed. ;-)) However, that is precisely where I ended up last night with my mom. I'll save my rant for later, but let's just say I have spent more than my share of time in ER's in my life, and last night was one of the *worst* experiences *ever*. (And that is saying a lot. Believe me.)

The short story (aka the "I Still Haven't Had Any Sleep" version) is that the external fixator (metal pin/screw/bar contraption that was surgically placed 7 1/2 weeks ago to set my mom's broken arm) was coming loose and moving in places that it wasn't supposed to. We were told that she would have to have surgery (in the middle of the night, mind you) to re-place it. After sitting for *hours* with no activity at all, she finally went up to surgery at 11-something. And *after* they had already started pre-op anesthesia, the surgeon actually looked at her arm and decided she didn't need surgery after all, but simply needed the device removed.

So....they went ahead and put her to sleep to do a procedure that they would normally do in-office without any sort of anesthesia. Have I mentioned that my mom does not do well with anesthesia? For anyone local, if you want the name of an orthopedic surgeon to avoid like the plague....let me know and I'll be glad to share. :)

However, all's well that ends well, I suppose. Mother's arm is now metal-free, I finally ate supper around 1:30 a.m., and I even got home in time for Billy to finish patching the roof before church (in anticipation of the heavy rain/wind we did indeed have immediately *after* church. Ugh!)

I'm trying diligently to stay up until the church-bound folk leave in an hour or so, and then I plan to go to bed. For the night. As in, until tomorrow morning.

Maybe we'll have fun tomorrow.