Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day

I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day.  I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it.  We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did.  ~Benjamin Harrison

Happy Memorial Day!  I'm so thankful for our freedom.  I'm thankful to the men and women who serve and have served for our country.  I'm thankful for the military families who have also sacrificed so their husbands and wives could serve.   Freedom always comes at a cost!

Our family has had a blast today!  Ryan made an awesome lunch of ribs, baked beans, and potato salad.  Then he made his Gran's homemade ice cream (recipe below).   I watched Brody and his friends play in the sprinkler.  I even blew up a lot of water balloons for them.  Then as soon as I'm finished writing this blog, I'm going to go cut up a watermelon.  It's just a good day!

Gran's Homemade Ice Cream
6 eggs, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 c. sugar, 2 large cans evaporated milk, 1 tsp. vanilla, dash of salt, milk (about 1 qt.)

Beat eggs with electric mixer until they are very thick and light yellow. (This takes about 15 minutes.  This is the secret to making this ice cream.)  Add sugar and salt; continue beating.  Add evaporated milk and continue to beat.  Add vanilla and mix well.  Pour into freezer container.  Fill with milk--about 1 quart.  Makes 1 gallon.

For Chocolate: Use same basic recipe, but use 1 cup of sugar instead of 1 1/2 cups.  Fill freezer with chocolate milk instead of white.  Also can use only 1 can of evaporated milk instead of 2.
"It's COLD!"  Thanks to the Ackermans for the new ice cream machine.
The boys eating the ice cream.

Brody's Buzz Lightyear Rocket

Nothing's better than a good old fashion sprinkler. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Motor Racing Outreach

We walked the track on Friday.

Motor Racing Outreach (MRO) is one of my favorite ministries.  It lets two of my "loves" combine...Nascar and serving people.  At every track, you're bound to come across the hospitality of MRO.  It varies from group to group as to what they do at different tracks.  Our church will serve in one of the campgrounds free food for four days with a worship service on Sunday morning.  I like this because it allows more time to build relationships, and it also gives non-believers the opportunity to watch Christians for a few days.  It's a lot of work for our Mission's Pastor Kem to gather, prep, cook, transport, and serve food (and it's good food).  This hard work pays off.  These Nascar fans really like Kem.  They smile when they see him, and they learn quickly they are welcomed and wanted in our big tent just the way they are.  So many are suprised to be served meals for free.  I'll get asked several times why we do this, and my answer is "Because you're worth this, and I really hope you have a great weekend."  Camping out and going to the race is a lot of families' vacation.  I truly do desire them to have the best vacation possible.  It delights my heart to watch these campers come get a hot breakfast after a long night in a tent or RV.  Many of these Nascar campers have begun to ask at the camp ground gates if the MRO tent is here this year.  They like to set up their camp near our big white tent.  It has developed a reputation of letting people know they are important.  Isn't that just what Christians are supposed to be doing in the world?  We are called to love God and love people.  I want to serve each of these Nascar fans just as if it was Jesus in front of me.   If you ever get asked to volunteer for MRO, say yes to the opportunity as quick as possible.  Go be His hands and His feet.  Go and treasure people as God treasures them!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

So Teach Us To Number Our Days

I'm thankful to spend my days with these guys!
Psalm 90 Everlasting to Everlasting
A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.
8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

My first thought of Psalm 90 is pessimism, but as I read it over and over I'm filled with great optimism.  Psalm 90 deals with the sad side of life, one I don’t usually like to focus on. Given the choice of Psalm 90 or Psalm 91, I would gladly choose Psalm 91. 

So why does Psalm 90 got me feeling so good? 

 God is eternal! 
 God is from everlasting to everlasting. 

I'm just a mortal human.  My life is so short compared to eternity.  I'm nothing without God.  It is only faith in the eternal God that makes life meaningful.  Moses compared our lives to a watch in the night, a dream, grass that flourishes and then fades--all brief and fleeting images.  Then he prayed this,

"So teach us to number our days."

We need to “number our days.” People tend to focus either on the past or the future. Young people usually focus on the future. Older people think about the past. We reluctantly focus on the present. Life is short with no guarantee of tomorrow.  It is important to fulfill our purpose today.

Have you numbered your days lately?

How many remaing days do I have with my child?  It seems like yesterday Brody was born, and now he will start kindergarten this fall.  The days will pass by quickly until he graduates, gets married, and has children of his own.  The thought of this makes numbering my days with him so important.  I want to show him love and teach him everything I can while he is under my care.

How many remaining days do I have with my husband?  Each day I have the opportunity to encourage him, to cheer him on, and support him in all that he does.  I love Ryan very much, and should we be blessed with 50 years of marriage (18,262 days) it would still not be enough days to tell him how wonderful he is.

How many remaining days do I have
with friends and family?
to share the gospel?
to defend the orphan?
to give my best at the jobs I do?

Psalm 90 encourages me to seize the day!  I will number my days so I can give them everything I've got.  I'll blog and while cackling Carpe Diem!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Snake Slayer

I killed a snake.
What a day!  My sweet dog Maggie was needing to do her business so I let her out the back door only to find a five foot long snake on the porch.  The snake arched up like a cobra would and struck at Maggie.  Now Maggie is my baby, and I'm super protective of her.  I was so scared Maggie would get hurt.  The snake went under our porch, and I went to the garage to find something to get rid of it with.  Most of our tools, such as a much needed shovel, were locked under the house.  Ryan is the only one with a key to the lock, and he was at work.  I was left with the choice of a broom, mop, hammer, bubble stick, or machete to use.  So like a good southern gal, I hiked up my skirt and grabbed the machete.
Poor snake.  He would have lived if he would have left Maggie alone.
I love animals.  I even get onto my son for killing insects outside.  It makes me sad to kill anything.  The thing is, I love Maggie more than I do the snake, and I will not worry all summer about her.  So I apologized several times to the snake.  I was not afraid of it, but I felt guilty for killing it.  I took a big stick and chased it out from under the porch.  Then I chased it through the grass and was able to whack it with the machete...several times.
"I did it!" 

Brody came down to check it out.

I put the dead snake in the back weeds.
I know these snakes are good for killing mice, but I wasn't sure it realized that our yorkie is not a mouse.  Brody had called me the best dragon slayer in the world yesterday while we were playing sword fighting.  Today he said I was the best snake slayer in the world.  I'll add that to part of my homemaker credentials.  A special thanks to Dawn Pollard for capturing this on camera.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Keep On Going

Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down. ~Charles F. Kettering

There are many lessons parents learn from their children.  One of my favorite lessons I've learned from watching Brody is that he gets up every time he falls.  He doesn't just lay on the ground for a day, a week, or even a year dwelling upon his failure.  He gets up, shakes off the dirt, and moves forward.  As a child, getting up after falling down comes so easily and naturally.  It's just what you're supposed to do.  Prehaps it's even what is expected of a child.  So what changes when we become adults?  Why do adults think it's fine to lay down in defeat?  It's like "OH, life is really hard at this moment so I better stop what I'm doing."  I think NOT!  It's when life is difficult and you keep striving towards your goal that defines the kind of person you are.  The moments in my life that seemed impossible to overcome are the moments I look back upon now with pride.  I'm proud of not giving up and of my determination to keep moving forward. 

The past several days, life has thrown some curve balls at me from many different directions all at the same time.  I've been knocked down on my booty over and over, but I refuse to stay there.  I'm going to keep giving my best everyday.  The outcome of the day may not be what I desired, but at least I can say I gave it my all.  I love quotes, and I give myself a little pep rally daily.  Here is stuff you will hear me say:

Failure is only a fact when you give up. Everyone gets knocked down, the question is: Will you get back up?

Have you hit a brick wall? Aim higher and jump over it.

Think of yourself as a toy train. All toy trains de-rail now and then. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on track.

Life is a game. Are you going to be a participator in it, or just a spectator?

Like the eagles we have to move our wings to soar like an eagle.

Confidence is feeling satisfied with who and what we are.

When you discover it's your choice and your attitude, things start to happen!

Successful people do what unsuccessful people won't even attempt.

If you keep on going the way you're going you'll end up where you're heading - which direction are you aiming for?

When the sun comes up each day, be up and out with it.

It's your choice - will you choose to be a victim or the victor?

When you expect success, your mind focuses on success.

I know I seem goofy pumping myself up, but if I don't do it who will?  I'm in charge of my attitude.  My hubby encourages me to smile and cheer up, but it's my choice to do it.  I know I've said this before, but I cannot imagine what life is like without a relationship with God.  As good as quotes can be, they are nothing compared to God's word in the Bible.  It's His word that I need.  My heavenly Father also listens to my problems as I'm talking to him in prayer, and He cares about me.  I Peter 5:7 says…"casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you."  He doesn't want me to quit the things I'm called to do, but to boldly come to Him in prayer because He sympathizes with my weaknesses.  Hebrews 4:15-16 says "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  Amazing!  So while I'm knocked down, I might as well pray while I'm down.  And you know what?  It's His strength that's helps me stand back up again.  He has a purpose for me, and He will see me through it.  "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  Philippians 1:6  God is so good to me!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lack of power = HIS POWER

Pastor Jeff Long

"God used the lack of power to speak power into our hearts."  Jeff Long
Church this morning was so good, and I just have to write about it.  A few minutes before our first service was to begin we lost power.  With lots of rooms on campus that have no windows, I could hear lots of little squeals.  Why do people immediately gasp, squeal, or panic when they cannot see?  I may never know.  My first thought is "please don't cancel church because I need to hear God's word this morning."  Having been sick this weekend, I felt drained.  So here am I in the dark with thoughts of me, me, me, and how this affects me.  I'm such a stinker sometimes.  There is nothing good in me except God.  The Holy Spirit humbles me quickly, and I make my way to the sanctuary.  My second thought is "well, there are churches in Africa who will have church without power today so can we."  I'm proud to have a pastor who did not cancel church because of not having light, fancy projectors, or air conditioner.  As Pastor Jeff got on stage to get service started, I see all over his face that he intend to bring God glory regardless of the circumstances.  And service was amazing!  It was my favorite moment to ever be at Parkwood.  Our worship pastor Chad lead us in a couple of songs, and it's wonderful to just be simple and simply say "How Great Thou Art."  Then the choir sang one song to which the humbleness moved me to tears.  I wished I had words to describe it.  Jeff Long got up afterwards and did what he does every week, preached from the Bible.  It was a great message from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 on being a "Biblical Family." 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Verse 5 sums up this morning to me.  "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."  I'm convinced churches to not have to have the best technology, beautiful interior, amazing bands, people dressed in fancy clothes, and big names to bring glory to God.  Churches just need to teach from God's word.  The Bible as well as His Grace is sufficient.  There is no need to give out ipads for professions of faith or to do Easter service in 3-D.  The Bible is all we need.  Why do churches feel like we have to do things "BIG" in order to teach the gospel?  In all the money that goes into making me, me, and me happy and comfortable, we could spend His money on things that would actually further the Kingdom of God...building churches, funding missionaries, feeding & clothing the poor, defending the orphans & widows, sending out Bibles in all languages, sending people to translate those Bibles, OH THE THINGS THAT ACTUALLY DO MATTER!  We do so many unnecessary things because we like them not because it is helping anyone grow in their faith.  It was so awesome to just praise His name and study His word.  The power being out was a huge blessing because all the distractions went out with it.  I could feel hearts all around me crying out "just give me Jesus!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spend the Afternoon

Brody, "Mom, we need a picnic!" Me, "Yes, we do."
Spend the afternoon.  You can't take it with you.  ~Annie Dillard

Normally our busy time of the year begins in June, but this year the business began in May.  The calendar is already being checked daily, sometimes hourly, to make sure everyone in the family is where they need to be.  Summer in the student ministry is a blast, but it's busy.  It's important to us that we don't just go and go and not take the time to fully enjoy all the good moments.  Life can really pass by quickly.  We will blink our eyes soon, and it will once again be August with school starting.  Although there is lots to do and plan, it is a must to stop and smell all the roses as much a possible.  So when my son tells me what a beautiful day it is and how we need a picnic, we will stop and enjoy life.  It's easy to get into surviving mode instead of living mode.  

My Mother's Day card.  Brody said I was 145 years old and 20 inches tall.
Brody went bowling for the 1st time over the weekend for his friend's birthday.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Our Almost Fight

Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world. ~George Bernard Shaw

Before I get into the almost fight inside of Kohl's yesterday, let me give a little background on a certain little member of our family.  BRODY, oh my sweet yet challenging son Brody, he can make me smile and sigh at the same time.  Brody's mind works a little different than the average child.  He is very literal, and he takes your word for truth.  Should someone say they are coming to visit him, well they better do it because panic takes over him.  "Maybe" does not exist to him.  It's a yes or a no.  It's either right or it's wrong.  It's black or it's white, and there it absolutely no gray area to him.  There are inappropriate words in the world to say, and he knows not to say them however he takes it to the extreme to become the "Word Police."  He is slightly OCD, and sometimes it is very difficult for him to let something go.  Should something really bother him, he will repeat it over and over, and it can consume him.  It's difficult for me to watch him get so stressed.  Our family has gotten good at defusing situations before they start, and Brody is slowly but surely learning how to deal with the anxiety he gets.  Even though it is a challenge with Brody somedays it's also a blessing.  I love him just the way he is.  He can get consumed in doing nice things for his mommy too.  He has building projects in my honor, and there`are times he is determined to write me the sweetest letters. 
Lately he has had many good days.  Since things have been going so well, I'm sad to admit I let my guard down yesterday.  I've spent the last several years constantly watching for and trying to prevent intense situations.  I try to be more relaxed as he is getting older because I can't prevent all bad in the world, and he has to learn how to handle the hard too.  Yesterday was a reminder that although he has come a long way, he still has a long road ahead of him.  I get teary eyed writing about this because it is very personal.  Why do I write about our life adventures?  Because we're not the only ones who deal with this or has challenges.  I want to tell people they are not alone, and if you keep working with your child it does get better! 
At Kohl's, I was getting a pair of running shoes.  I had Brody sitting on a bench while I laced the shoes.  He was watching a little girl about his age with her family.  The mom of the girl got frustrated with her and said, "You are so stupid."  Brody is not allowed to use the word stupid plus he did not like the way the mom yelled it.  He jumps up and runs over to the family.  Then he shook his index finger at the mom and said "It is not nice to call her that."  She looks down at him and told him to "SHUT UP!"  This upset Brody even more.  He said, "That word is worse.  You a baaaaaaaaaad girl!"  The lady explodes at this point.  As she is yelling, Brody begins to match her tone.  I'm trying my best to calm Brody down and remove him from the situation as she is threating him.  Let me just say, I'm no fan of anyone threating to hit my child.  I'm a fiesty gal, and it took all my self control not to join in on the yelling.  Shoppers began to gather around us, and no one helps. She is filled with anger, and she will not listen to reason.  Eventually, I get Brody to walk away however he is completely stressed.  For the next hour, he is consumed by the woman and her harsh words.  Even though the girl was his age, he kept calling her baby.  Brody would say over and over, "Moms are not supposed to talk to babies that way." I love his tender heart.
It's a hard lesson to learn at five years old, but there are lots of bad parents in the world.  As we talked about it today, Brody said, "I just wanted to rescue the baby."  That's my boy!  I've explained to him that is not ok to yell at adults.  I've replayed this event over and over in my mind.  There was nothing I could have done to prevent it besides never leaving our house (we will continue to keep working with him on this).  Brody sees things as either right or wrong and good or bad. I wished I would have been able to explain, but I guess she would have probably got offended by that too.  I hope as she looks back on it she has some kind of guilt that a five year old boy was able to identify verbal  mistreatment to a child. 
The second lesson I tried to get Brody to understand is that you can be right and wrong at the same time.  And no, he cannot process this yet.  Maybe when he is a little older, we'll talk about this again.  Until then, we'll take Mr. Shaw's advice "Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama

The pilot gave Brody wings to wear.

Home is a shelter from storms - all sorts of storms. ~William J. Bennett
Brody and I went to Alabama for his Spring Break, and it was quite the adventure.  For me, it's always good to go home.  On Easter morning, we went to the 8:00 service at church, and then we were off to the airport. 

B loved his first plane ride.  The pilots and flight attendants gave him so much wonderful attention.  I was unsure of how Brody would react to flying because he does take medication daily for anxiety.  The hospitality shown to him was a great help.  It's amazing how going out of your way to show kindness can make for a great memory to someone.  Hooray for the Delta Airline folks! 

My mom, Mimi, picked us up at the Birmingham airport.  We went straight to the zoo from there.  Brody is always begging to go to the zoo so this is a huge treat for him.  He will ask me to go the zoo every week.  The kid loves animals.  His favorite is the Komodo Dragon.  The new elephants were great to watch, and they will be adding two more elephants over the summer.  My favorite part was riding on a camel.  It's been on my bucket list since I was six years old.  It's $5.50 per person for a very short ride, but it was worth it to have my goal accomplished.
Mimi and Pop got Brody Mario Kart for Easter.  Brody was delighted!  He got everyone to play with him, even Pop.
I wished we lived closer to my parents because Brody loves seeing them.  Brody will hug his Mimi and say, "I sure do love you my GRANDmommy!"  It touches my heart that he thinks they are so grand like I do.  I just love all the hugs and good food while I'm home. 

Brody helping to make biscuits
 We made lots of fun memories while we were in Alabama, but there were also some disasterous sights that will forever be in my memory as well.  On Wednesday afternoon, many tornados hit my Sweet Home Alabama.  It was horrifying to watch.  My family was very blessed and suffered no damage, but there was so much of my old stomping ground that was destroyed.  There have been 250 people who have died and many who have lost their homes.  The Heart of Dixie has lost much, but in these trails there has been many people who have shown great kindness to their neighbors.  Many ordinary individuals have become heros to those in need of help. 

This morning as I sat inside my nice comfortable church, I thought of those who lost their church and had to meet in parking lots.  I pray for the pastors who preached in these parking lots and then went to preach funerals afterwards.  On hard days such as these, I'm thankful for God's promise in Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  God's grace amazes me how He takes the sin of this world and makes good of it.  Max Lucado said, "Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end—the glory of God."  Alabama has many heartaches today, and I pray as a result many would see the glory of God.  Christains have to opportunity to be His hands and His feet in the weeks to come.  May the lost see His love in action, and may they desire to hear the gospel of the greatest love story...Jesus!