Monday, December 29, 2008

Family Photos

Well, I've been really exhausted and nauseous lately, so I haven't done as well as keeping up as I thought I would after the semester was over.

A couple of weeks ago we had a friend meet us to snap some photos of our family. It was a FREEZING cold day, so despite our three or four layers of clothing, Gabe had tears streaming down his face the entire time... not because he was crying, but just because it was so windy and cold. That means that he didn't smile more than once the entire time! The good thing is that, because it was so cold, he didn't try to run around! He wanted to stay as close to us as possible! And Ladan made some really funny faces, so without further ado, here's your entertainment...







Thursday, December 11, 2008

Can Anybody Figure This Out?


Do these provide any clarity?



If that's not enough, how about this?



August 18, 2009.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hairy Arms, Burping Bottoms and Other Fun Stories

Here are a few funny stories from recent days...

One day Ladan was trying to open something that was pretty hard to turn. He said, "Wow, Mom. This is really tough to open." He looked down again at it and said with determination, "Well, I do have hair on my arms, so I must be strong enough to open it." He gave it another try and got it opened... then yelled, "Aaaaahhhhhhh!!!!! I did it!!!" FYI--Ladan has a few clear pieces of hair on his arm that can't be more than 1/8 inch in length. Nevertheless, it is there, and apparently it makes him strong like Daddy.

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Last weekend I was watching the MU football game with Ladan. They lost. I told Ladan what happened, and he said, "Well, I guess they'll praise Him." Have you seen Facing the Giants? There is a line in the movie where the coach tells the team that if they win, they'll praise Him [God], and if they lose, they'll praise Him. When Chet came home, Ladan told him that the Missouri Tigers lost and were praising God. Let's hope they were!

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Just yesterday he woke up from his nap and was playing with Gabe. He accidentally tooted. He announced, "Whoops. I just tooted." I asked him if he needed to go to the bathroom. He responded, "No. It's kind of strange. It's almost like my bottom just burped." Nice observation. I replied, "Yes, that's pretty much exactly what it's like. And yes, it is kind of strange."

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Our neighbors are moving back to California and are leaving town tomorrow morning. We're so sad to see them go. I don't think I'll ever take for granted the days we've had with them right next door. Over the course of the last few days, their two little girls have been playing at our house a lot so Glen and Jessica can pack. Ladan and Hannah (who will be 3 in February) have been playing a lot of house. Ladan has a small tent set up in his room right now. It's a 3x3 foot tent with mesh walls so you can look in easily. They have the kid-sized lawn chairs set up inside the tent. Many times over the course of these days, Ladan and Hannah have gone into their house to sit together. It's really funny because they just sit there for up to 15 minutes at a time just talking and doing nothing else. It's like they're an old couple just chilling out on the screened-in porch chatting the day away.

They have taken their "kid" (a small snowman made out of a tube sock) to school. Hannah sits on the little riding toy holding the "kid", and Ladan pushes them to school. They drop the kid off, and then come back down the hallway to do something else for a while. Inevitably, they remember their kid and go back to get her from school.

At one point, Gabe tried to walk into the tent while Hannah and Ladan were sitting in their chairs. Hannah said, "No, Gabe. You can't come in the house right now, son." Awesome!

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We put our Christmas tree up after we ate our Thanksgiving dinner. Ladan has been so excited about it and keeps shouting out, "It's Christmas in our house!" He tells me regularly that he just loves Christmas and is so glad that it's Christmas in our house.

Amber, my sister-in-law, made us a set of ornaments last year that have different names of Jesus on them. Each one has a name that Scripture uses to refer to Jesus as well as the Scripture reference where we can read about it. There are 25 of them, so we do one each day, reading the scripture and talking about what it means when we refer to Jesus as ___________. Ladan has been having fun trying to read the names of Jesus on the ornaments. He gets some of them right off, and some (like "The One Mediator") are a bit more challenging.

One of the ornaments reads "Man from Heaven". It was the first one we did. When Ladan woke up the next day and came to the tree to try to read it, he said, "Man... (insert long pause) who goes to college." I helped him figure it out and he now gets it every time, but I thought his original version was pretty great!

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Gabe has been pretty funny lately too. He's starting to use all kind of fun phrases. Today I was wiping the oatmeal off his chin, and he said, "Oh my goodness. I'm messy."

When he does something wrong to Ladan, he says, "Foddy, Nanan" (Sorry, Ladan).

His favorite game is to wait for someone to get up from his/her seat, RUN over, climb into the vacated seat, and yell, "You get out of my seat!" This game NEVER gets old for Gabe and is a constant source of entertainment for him.

We got the following message from one of Gabe's Sunday School teachers a few weeks ago:

"... one of the parents asked us if we were teaching the kids to kneel or bow down when we pray...if you have noticed your kids wanting to do this when you pray at home it is not because we have taught them to do this. Although, at some point one of the kids just decided to lay face down when we started to pray and the power of influence on kids is I guess pretty big, because when we pray in Sunday school, most of the kids will now lay face down. So if you are wondering what your child is doing, that's the explanation!"
Can you even imagine a room full of two-year-olds laying face-down on the ground during prayer time? I so wish I could see it!

Well, that's all for now! Chet finished his classes for the semester, so I'll try to get better at posting more regularly again. Please be praying for us as we make all kinds of decisions in the next little while!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Pot Pie Recipe

Here it is!

Ingredients:
14 oz chicken broth
1/2 cup water, and another 1/3 cup water
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups quartered medium mushrooms (I don't use these)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 refrigerated unbaked piecrusts (for 9-inch pie)
2 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. (If you use a glass or dark metal pie pan, may need to decrease heat to 400 degrees)

2. Combine broth, 4 oz. water, carrots and potatoes in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms (optional) and onion; saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth mixture and peas.

4. Whisk remaining 1/3 cup water into the flour until smooth. Then whisk it into vegetable mixture. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a boil.

5. Grease pie pan and line it with one of the pie crusts.

6. Stir chicken into the vegetable mix. Then transfer it all into the baking dish. Just heap it all in there. It doesn't need to lay flat.

7. Lay the second pie crust over the top. The edges of the top crust should overlap the lower crust. Tuck it around the top of the bottom crust (inside the pan) and pinch it around the edges... so that it creates a seal around the filling.

8. Cut some fun or pretty shape out of the top using a knife or cookie cutter.

9. Bake until filling is bubbly and crust is browned, about 20 minutes.

*You may want to add salt and pepper, but I tend to just allow each person to doctor his/her own food.

I don't have the photo on this computer, but if you want to see what it's supposed to look like, click here.

(FYI--I got the basic idea from a sample recipe my grandma gave me from Easy to Bake, Easy to Make and made several changes.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fight the Freedom of Choice Act

Way to go Beth Bloom!!!! Beth is a senior in high school at our church, and she sent me the link to the petition to fight the Freedom of Choice Act. This is exactly the type of thing I was talking about in my last post! Please consider taking 30 seconds and signing the petition yourself.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hopeless for the Helpless?

In the wake of Election Day 2008, I have heard many people commenting on how sad they are for unborn children who will be aborted in our country. I have to say that I am totally right there. If Obama and Congress move to pass the Freedom of Choice Act and lift the ban on partial-birth abortion, there will likely be more helpless babies killed than ever before. (For a description of partial-birth abortion, click here. Warning! It's horrifying!).

I read a few ads during this political season saying, "It's illegal to give a Tylenol to a child without parental consent, but it's okay to perform an abortion on that same child without consulting the parents. Something is wrong with this picture." Pretty wild if you think about it, but sadly it's the case in many states. In the end, the whole thing seems a bit hopeless, right?

Well, maybe not. Here's my take on it. It is totally true that the Lord is sovereign and that He is in control of all of this. We can fully trust Him. However, that doesn't mean that we have to sit back and wait around for some edict to come from the government making abortion illegal in order to protect the helpless unborn. Our sovereign Lord doesn't use only elected officials and their power to outlaw abortion as His means to save babies. If we really are pro-life, then here are a few possible ways we can help to save unborn children right now...

One obvious one is to volunteer at an established crisis pregnancy center. Or team up with other believers in your community to get the necessary training and start a crisis pregnancy center.

Another is to continually remain involved in public affairs and political issues. We can regularly contact our elected officials and let them hear from us on this matter. We should for sure be praying that the Lord softens their hearts, that they hear His voice, and that "pro-choice" officials change their minds.

We can also be proactive in many ways. For example, what about investing our lives in young men and women, whether they are our own or someone else's? What if we loved the Lord so much ourselves that it was contagious and these kids wanted more than anything to have what we have with Him? What if we spent time helping them to realize that, even if abortion is legal, it's wrong? And better yet, what if we spent time helping them to tell the difference between a good relationship and an ungodly one, helping them to realize that, besides pregnancy, there are MANY consequences of sex outside of marriage. The possibility of pregnancy is just one of a host of issues that comes along with doing things in the wrong order, and even perfect protection from pregnancy couldn't protect them from these terrible effects. We also need to teach them that there are MANY rewards and good reasons to save themselves for the one they will marry... and that it really is totally worth the wait. What if we didn't wait for these young people to "figure it out" on their own, and we actually cared enough about them to tell them "no" sometimes, even if they didn't like us very much for a while?

All of those same things apply to college students and grown adults. Even if we don't have the authority to tell them "no", we can take an opportunity to speak the truth to them and lovingly, but firmly, say something they may not want to hear. After all, while the majority of abortions are chosen by young people, there are plenty of adults who make the same choice for themselves.

This is no small battle, and it seems like we're fighting on an uphill slope that keeps getting steeper. Yet, we're not left without hope!

Let's say that each of us took seriously our responsibility to love people well and to proactively work to prevent bad relationships, inappropriate and unhelpful sexual behavior, and untimely pregnancy. What if we were able to help encourage men, women, boys, and girls in their walks with the Lord so that they were positively motivated by the right things? I wonder how many abortions would be prevented then?

And what if some of us were able to dedicate ourselves to serving and loving men, women, boys, and girls in the event that they do end up conceiving a child that they aren't sure they're ready for, in a crisis pregnancy center setting or not? I wonder how many abortions would be prevented then?

It is my encouragement to every person to study what it means to live life in a way that honors the Lord. Find out what it means to fulfill your God-given role as a man or woman. Find out what God says you should look for in a relationship or how He says you should carry out your relationship if you're already in one. Then be committed to that. Commit yourself to sharing that with others and pouring yourself into the next generation of young people who are making tough decisions every day. You will not only be preventing the death of unborn children, but you will be giving life to those who are already walking around outside the womb!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Faces and Homemade Goodness

What a day! This morning I was able to go to Panera for ALMOST TWO HOURS BY MYSELF! I ate a whole grain bagel and read my Bible the entire time. Well, I didn't eat the bagel the entire time, but I did read my Bible the entire time. I popped my earplugs in and was able to focus really well. I finished 1 Kings. I just joined up with a couple other moms for a Thursday morning kid swap, so I was able to take Ladan to a friend's house. Since Gabe was sick, Chet stayed home with him. Normally Chet comes home from his morning class and goes straight to bed, so this was a really big treat for me that I thought wasn't going to be possible because Gabe is sick. Yippee!!!!

When I got home, Ladan asked if he could have a piece of candy from our church Reformation Party. He picked a blue Starburst, and this is what it did to his mouth...

It was great! He thought it was hilarious! His blue mouth made his face happy for quite a few minutes. I'd say that there was enough dye in that one piece of candy to color enough icing for an entire cake.

Once the boys were in bed for their naps, I did a few things around the house. For dinner, I made a chicken pot pie... with a happy face cut out of the top (forget the boring scalloped circle recommended in the recipe)! It only takes about an hour to make this, and it's really good. It's also huge, so it lends itself well to leftovers. And apparently you can assemble it, wrap it well, and freeze it for future baking. I'll post the recipe in another entry just in case you're interested in trying it out.

Once I got dinner cleaned up, I started making some pumpkin bread out of that friendly pumpkin we brought home from the pumpkin patch a couple weeks ago. Although it took a while from start to finish, it was very easy and included long chunks of time to do other things. If you'd like to see the recipe, click here. I turned our pumpkin into one loaf of pumpkin bread and three cups of pumpkin puree that are in the freezer waiting to be turned into three loaves of bread sometime in the future!

As if all that wasn't enough homemade goodness for the day, I decided to attempt to make the ear infection drops suggested in a FABULOUS book I reference all the time--Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Natural and Conventional Treatments for Infants & Children. (I just realized that there is actually an adult version of this book when I went to copy the link. I'm going to add it to my Amazon wish list immediately! I've been using the kid version even for myself, and it's been great, but this will most certainly be even better for we old folks.)

Anyway, back to the ear infection and drops. I can't be sure if Gabe has an ear infection. I haven't taken him to the doctor, because even if I take him, all they'll do is give him an antibiotic. All I know is that he sure has been crabby for almost a week, has hardly eaten, and today he started pulling on his ears. He's got a pretty wet cough, so I wouldn't be surprised at all by an ear infection.

I know there are varying opinions on antibiotics for this type of thing, but in short, I don't like them much and will avoid them if at all possible. I talked to a nurse who works at Children's Hospital in St. Louis once, and she told me that they don't even administer antibiotics there unless there is danger of death. She was shocked when I told her that so many of our friends' kids are continually put on antibiotics for ear infections. Sure, ear infections are painful and irritating, but there has to be a better way in most of these cases to help kids get through it that doesn't diminish their resistance to future infection. Well, I think I found at least one helpful solution today!

In Smart Medicine, they suggest making some simple ear drops. You put about 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a small pot on the stove. Then peel a fresh garlic clove and cut it into about three or four pieces (the book doesn't say you have to cut it, but I did so the garlic would get out into the oil faster). I heated the oil and garlic on medium for about 5 minutes, removed it from the heat, and let it cool until it was still a bit warmer than body temperature but not too hot. You then suck up a bit of the oil in a medicine dropper, lay your kid on his/her side, and drop one or two drops into their ear canal.

We did this in both of Gabe's ears, and while he absolutely hated the process of being held down, after about 10 or 15 minutes, he was up and running around like himself and had a great time until he went to bed an hour and a half later! Apparently, garlic has antibacterial properties and works to heal ear (and other) infections. And the warm oil mixed with the garlic helps to relieve pressure and pain. It was awesome! We'll definitely be doing this once or twice a day until this thing is gone completely.

So I sent him to bed with a bit of Olbas Oil on his shirt, the humidifier on normal setting, and a HAPPY FACE on the front of his head for the first time in almost a week! Praise the Lord!

Chet even had a happy face before he left for work. He was able to write half a paper in the chunk of time after dinner until he left. Great work! He's still got a TON to do between now and next Monday, but he's on a roll!

Oh, and I made some hummus from scratch earlier this week, which turned out to be 1/4 of the cost of buying it in the store. I'm on fire! Too bad I don't have a photo of my happy face tonight!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Illinois... and Gabe in Concert

We spent Friday and Saturday traveling to Springfield and Champaign, Illinois. It was a packed 38.5 hours from 11am on Friday when we left Louisville till the time we arrived home at 1:30am on Saturday night (Sunday morning for those of you who are concerned about precision). Gabe was a showing some signs of being a little bit under the weather before we even left, so I packed the Ibuprofen and Olbas Oil.

When we set out, Ladan asked for a cookie randomly. I told him he could probably have one when we got to Illinois. On the way, we stopped at Old McDonald's (that's what Ladan calls it) in Danville, Illinois and got some chicken nuggets for the boys. Danville is just inside the state, so we had just told Ladan we had entered Illinois. When we were pulling out of the parking lot, Ladan said in distress, "Oh, no! We almost forgot to eat a cookie in Illinois!" We had to explain that Illinois is a big place and that we'd be in it for another whole day. Whew! He felt so much better.

The boys didn't sleep at all on the way. Nice. We got to Springfield at about 4:30, settled into our hotel room, and met up with Chet's old youth pastor, Ed Ingram, and his family. We went to dinner at a place called the Pizza Machine. It's something like three stories, but you can see each of the levels from one side of the restaurant. There are all kinds of crazy things to watch and do in the place. They hold birthday parties on the lower level, which you can see from any spot in the place. They make a 40- or 60-inch pizza, put it on a massive pan, and lower it with a chain and pulley system from the ceiling above the third level. Crazy! Needless to say, the boys were a little bit overwhelmed to start. It really wasn't until about 20 minutes before we left that they even broke in and wanted to play with things.

Gabe had a horrible time falling asleep and even woke up in the middle of the night. Not normal for him. We had to have the boys ready by about 7:45 so they could go to Kevin Ingram's soccer game. I was not optimistic that they would do very well. They're used to having 12 hours of sleep at night and at least 2.5 hours of rest/nap time in the afternoon. They had missed their nap on Friday and only had a maximum of 9 hours of sleep that night. And Gabe was definitely getting sick.

The Ingrams kept the boys for about 6 hours, and when we met up with them again, the boys had been really good! They had eaten well, obeyed, and had a great time! The Lord provides just what we need when we need it. Gabe was in pretty bad shape at this point, though. He was hardly talking (a sure sign he's not well), had a fever, and was coughing.

We popped the boys in the car and headed off for Champaign. They each slept for about 45 minutes in the car. Hardly a full nap, but at least enough to hopefully sustain them. We met up with our new friend, Jim, in Champaign. He hopped in our car and showed us all around the city. It was awesome! Pretty much like Columbia, only a little bit more of everything. The campus is a little bit bigger. The downtown area is a little bit bigger. The city is a little bit bigger. However, it pretty much has exactly the same feel to it. I guess the only difference is that there probably weren't nearly as many wooded or road walking/bike trails in Champaign, but they had more large parks than Columbia. Nevertheless, it was just our speed... pretty much everything we love about College Town, USA. We had never been there before, so it was definitely fun to see it.

We ate dinner with Jim and his wife. Throughout dinner, I'm pretty sure that Gabe didn't say even two words and ate only his applesauce. Ladan, on the other hand, was shockingly social. He was talking and playing with the kids in the booth behind us. He laughed and joked with Jim. He even ate all his food, including some appetizers. All of this on very little sleep is really great for him!

After dinner, we got back in the car and headed for home. We stopped for some $2.23 gasoline outside of Indianapolis, but other than that, we just kept moving. We were SO TIRED! The boys slept most of the way, and Chet and I wanted to sleep most of the way. I was trying to stay awake just to keep Chet awake. Let's just say that it was a good thing he was driving, because I would have sent us off the road.

We got home at 1:30, unloaded the van, and got ready for bed. By this time, Gabe's temperature was 103.4. I gave him some Ibuprofen, put some Olbas Oil on his shirt, and Chet turned on the humidifier. He was so happy to be in his own bed. He just quietly smiled when I laid him down and went to sleep immediately. He slept until 1:30 on Sunday afternoon.

When I went in to get him, I opened the door and was surprised to see that it appeared as though he was in concert! Chet hadn't paid too much attention to the setting on the humidifier, but it turns out that it was putting out so much mist that all I could see was Gabe's head popping out over the top of all the fog. It literally looked like those fog machines people use in concerts/plays. It was hilarious! Everything was damp, but I noticed that the curtains had been pretty nicely steamed. Definitely a benefit. (Note to self--never iron curtains again... just turn the humidifier on high output and shut the door!) Gabe felt so much better that he was eating, playing and chatting like normal. We determined that Olbas Oil and the humidifier on "concert setting" can possibly cure most anything!

In reality, Gabe's still got a cough and is pretty hoarse, but he's on the mend. It's actually been kind of nice to have him want me to hold him so much. He's not overly demanding, but he comes up and wants to sit in my lap while I type on the computer... and he doesn't even feel the urge to punch all the keys and wreck what I'm doing. He's just been sitting here pointing at all the letters on the keyboard and whispering what he sees. I can handle that. Last night we were watching baseball, and he was just chillin' on my lap with his little hand on my arm. I'll take it while I can get it. In no time he'll be too big to sit on my lap, and probably even sooner than that, he won't want to.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Vote Your Conscience"

A friend sent me the link to this video produced by the Catholic Church. I would suggest that most of what's included in it pertains to all Christians, not just Catholics... so please take 3 and a half minutes to watch it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Proud of My Boys!

I've been attempting to edit one of Chet's papers for an hour and a half now, but I'm totally delirious and can't focus. I guess four hours of sleep last night didn't turn out to be enough to sustain me for a late night of academic paper reading tonight. Shocking!

I just thought I'd post a quick note to say I'm so proud of my boys... all of them! Chet's been working HARD to get through this semester. In about six weeks, he'll complete his last full semester. Then he's got two classes to finish up. He's totally exhausted and has a ton on his plate right now, but the end is in sight! He's such a hard worker!

Ladan and I finished lesson 16 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons today. He's reading some short words, some short sentences, and has been introduced to some picture interpretation over the course of the last few lessons. And he's TOTALLY LOVING IT!!!! He can hardly wait for his lesson every day, and he is so excited throughout each one. It's so much fun to see him learning and enjoying it so much. I forgot what he did the other day, but when he finished, I told him he did a really good job. He replied, "Yeah, I'm so proud of myself!" This may sound a bit puffed up to some of you, but I am so excited to see this new confidence coming out in him. We've worked and prayed long and hard for this, and it's finally showing up! Rather than hearing him say, "I can't," I see him backing up, thinking, and then trying again until he gets it.

Gabe has really made some big progress in the last few weeks with his letters also. I wasn't too sure if he was going to be into letters and sounds, but he's really blown me away. He stands at the refrigerator or the white board and points out all his letters. He still gets about 5 or so of them confused every once in a while, but considering that he only knew 5 letters total about a month ago, I'd say that's pretty great. And considering that he does it all voluntarily, I think it's REALLY great!

Learning is so much fun! And lest you think that my boys are the only ones doing the learning, I'll let you know that I too am catching on to new things. I had a chance to take Beth Bloom's senior photos yesterday. In preparation, Chet had to teach me a little bit more about our big flash. Beth, Kathy (Beth's mom), and I went out to a few fun spots around town to snap the photos. We had so much fun! I almost fell in the creek about five times, but thankfully I managed to stay on dry land. I had downloaded the 30-day trial of Photoshop Lightroom to play around with, and I had a blast using Beth's photos as a learning experience!

Then tonight I went to a meeting of current and potential homeschoolers at our church to learn more about how to homeschool on a tight budget. Homeschooling freaks me out in many ways... but every time I think about acquiring materials/supplies, taking time to learn or re-learn all that content myself in order to teach it, and then watching my kids' faces light up every time they learn something new, I realize it could the perfect combination of all the parts of school that were my favorites!!! Only the Lord knows if it's what we'll end up doing for sure, but I'm so thankful for the opportunity to learn from so many wise, experienced people here. My friend, Becky, is always telling me that I'm already homeschooling my kids, and she's right. It's just not structured-sit-down-and-do-worksheets homeschooling.

Ladan and Gabe are both having a great time singing. Their current favorite is "Holy, Holy, Holy". Ladan knows all the words and sings it along with his air guitar while he dances around. And Gabe apparently doesn't want to miss out on the fun, because he inevitably chimes in, "Woewee, woewee, woewee!" and then belts into an endless stream of babbling with the occasional clear syllable until finally at the end, when Ladan is shouting out, "Blessed Trinity," Gabe ends on cue with "i-tee!" as if he just sang the song as clearly as his older brother. Great!

Ladan is loving his Jesus Storybook Bible. We've been through it quite a few times already, but he still can't get enough of it. Whenever it's time to read together, he only wants to read his Bible. I can't argue with that. He saves his other books for his independent "reading" time. Tonight we were reading about God's message to Isaiah, and the story referred to the coming king as a servant. I asked Ladan if he knew what a servant was. He kind of stumbled around for a bit, so I explained that it's a person who helps another person. He replied, "Yeah, Jesus is that servant. He helped us because he died on the cross to take our punishment." Okay! I guess he knew right where this story was headed!

Gabe, on the other hand, tends to have a hard time sitting still for books that have any length to them. But that kid cannot get enough of prayer time. Especially before bed, he loves it when we hold him and whisper our prayers in his ear. He bows his head, snuggles close, and says, "Pay?" So we pray with him, and when we finish, he'll ask again. My prayer is that this time will provide a foundation for him and that he'll know without a doubt that the Lord is near and that He hears us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Consider This...

I've mentioned before that I'm on a quest to read the whole Bible in a little over six months. I started with the New Testament and am now working through the Old Testament. I don't think I'll always read through it this quickly, but it's really great to get the big picture in a short period of time. I'm finding that I'm picking up connections that I didn't necessarily get in longer, more spaced-out reads.

I've been reading 1 Samuel for the last few days, and I wanted to mention a couple of things that caused me to stop in my tracks all over again even though I've read them many times before.

The first is in 1 Samuel 12. Israel is asking God for a king. Samuel warns them that they really don't want a king. They insist that they do indeed want a king. They're tired of trusting a king (God) that they cannot see... they want an earthly king, partly so it's someone they can see and partly just because it's what everyone else around them is doing. The Lord appoints a king, but it's not without consequence to Israel. Here's how it goes down:
1 Samuel 12:17b-25 (ESV) [Samuel says,] ... And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord in asking for yourselves a king. So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

And all the people said to Samuel, "Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king." And Samuel said to the people, "Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king."

I mean, seriously. Just sit and read that second paragraph again. It's amazing, and it applies to every human being who ever walked the face of the earth. Israel totally blew it! And yet they had this great encouragement from the Lord through Samuel. And they still messed up. Over and over and over again. We mess up over and over and over again. Which is exactly why God had a different plan from eternity past, one that doesn't count on our ability to get it right. Jesus.
And isn't Jesus' message to all humanity the same as Samuel's message to Israel? We have all sinned against the Lord and worshiped "empty things that cannot profit or deliver" (ourselves, other people, knowledge, things, status, good hair, a clothing size, etc.). If you are reading this and are in a place where you are not trusting in Christ ALONE for the forgiveness of your sins and hope of eternal life, you can choose right now to recognize that God is the only One worth worshiping, turn away from your sin, receive His forgiveness, and begin to serve him faithfully with all your heart.

Even those of us who have already accepted the Truth of the Gospel still need to hear it over and over again. It's sweet every single time we hear it and recognize how wonderful God's grace is. The Lord has done great things for us, and He alone is worthy of our praise and honor.

Samuel points out that it would be a sin against GOD for Samuel to give up praying for Israel. There are times in life when we have done all we can physically do for a person, but there is NEVER a point in time when we are allowed to give up praying for those who are wandering or separated from the Lord. He also says that he will continue to instruct them in the good and right way. As an added note, if we're receiving instruction or correction in "the good and right way", let's not reject it. It is a gift from the Lord, a mercy that gets or keeps us on track.

Samuel warns Israel that if they continue to do wickedly, they and their king will be destroyed. Likewise, if we fail to turn away from all of the empty things that we worship and fail to repent of our sin, we will be destroyed right along with all the stuff we focus on that doesn't last. This warning is very scary. But ultimately we don't worship the Lord only as a way to get out of being destroyed (although it's definitely a healthy part of our motivation). We worship and serve him faithfully with all our hearts because he has done great things for us. It is his kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). There is so much more (infinitely more), but hopefully, I'm getting the basic point across.

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The second thing I wanted to mention is the story of David and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. I would encourage you to read the entire chapter, but I'm not going to type it all out here. In short, Abigail is married to a guy named Nabal. Nabal acts a fool and is a punk to David. David decides that he's going to seek revenge and kill Nabal.

Abigail finds out about David's plan and approaches David to ask him to have mercy on her husband (who she admits has acted foolishly). She encourages him to let the Lord take care of it and says, "And when the Lord has... appointed you prince over Israel, [you] shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for ... taking vengeance [yourself]." (1 Samuel 25:30-31)

"And David said to Abigail, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from avenging myself with my own hand!'" (1 Samuel 25:32-33)

David decided not to kill Nabal. Abigail told her husband all of these things. Ten days later the Lord struck Nabal dead.

"When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, 'Blessed be the Lord who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from wrongdoing.'" 1 Samuel 25:39.

The Lord used Abigail to speak to David, to prevent David from doing something terribly wrong. Even if the Lord had not struck Nabal dead, it would still have been His job to decide to avenge David. It is not our responsibility to get back at people who do wrong to us. We are to trust these things to the Lord. And we are to heed the warnings of other people that God uses to warn us. David humbly accepts Abigail's warning and praises her discretion. He didn't continue on with his plan just because he had already resolved to kill Nabal. He snapped out of it and realized that it would be a big mistake. He saw Abigail's action as loving.

Like Abigail, when we see other people heading into a situation where they are about to make some big mistakes, it is our responsibility to come to them in love and warn them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Weird Shouting Guys

Tonight, Ladan and I went for a walk to Walgreens and to the bank. It's about a mile or so each direction, and since it was a nice night, I decided to see how long Ladan can walk. It was lots of fun! He held my hand the entire way and wanted to run every time we needed to cross a street (after looking both ways and yelling out, "We're safe!" every time of course).

Well, we got into Walgreens, and since Halloween is approaching, there were lots of strange looking creatures hanging from the ceilings and the walls. Ladan doesn't know a whole lot about Halloween, so these things were a little bit surprising to him. He kept saying, "Mom, look at those giant weird guys up there."

We were walking out of the store to go to the bank, and he saw a strange-looking ghoulish kind of guy. The guy was bald, had no eyebrows, had his mouth open like he was yelling, and had a sort of dirty-looking robe thing on. This particular guy stood out to Ladan for some reason. He stopped to look at the guy and said, "That's really strange, Mom. That guy is shouting."

I asked him what he thought the guy was saying. He replied, "I think he's yelling, 'Help! I lost my eyebrows and my hair and I'm all dirty!'" Nothing about, "I'm going to get you!" or any such phrase that might be scaring someone else. Ladan was fairly certain that the guy was just freaked out because he looked like a freak! Hilarious!

On the way home, he was talking about the weird shouting guys in the store, and I said something like, "It's not too nice that they're shouting like that, is it?" He answered, "No. That guy should have said, 'Would you please help me find my eyebrows and my hair and clean me up?' He didn't need to shout about it." We laughed all the way home!

On Saturday we took the boys out to Huber's Orchard to pick a pumpkin. We went into the kids' area and rode out to the field to feed the animals. And then we rode a different tractor out to the pumpkin patch. It was a lot of fun! Here are a few photos...

This is about as close as Ladan got to a goat's mouth.

Gabe, on the other hand, was all about the goats licking the corn right out of his hand. He loved it when they had to pry his little hand open to get their food! His own tongue was sticking out the entire time he was feeding them.



These are out in the pumpkin patch...


The boys loved this green pumpkin.
We had to convince them that it wasn't necessary to throw it like a football.


Ladan was having a blast!
I think Gabe was trying hard to develop a strategy for choosing.
(Doesn't he look like a coach standing on the sidelines?!?)

Here's the little guy we finally brought home. As a result of our new friend's presence in the middle of the table,
Ladan is very proud to be properly pronouncing pumpkin (as opposed to "ponekin").

Did you notice that Gabe has to wear his hat just slightly tilted to the side just like Ladan did? How cute is that?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The New 20

Today I turned 30. My brother called me a couple of days ago and asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I can never think of anything when people ask me this question, but I remembered that I do have an Amazon wish list. I got on the computer while I was talking to him and sent the link to Amber, my sister-in-law. While she was pulling up the list, my brother was heckling me about how old I am. I heard Amber yelling out from the background, "30 is like the new 20!" He said, "Yeah, she said that 30 is like the new 50!" Nice. That's what little brothers are for I guess.

I was just excited to hear Amber say that she thought my Amazon wish list was so fun that it caused her to think that she needed to spice hers up a bit! I guess I'm not a total dud yet.

Last night my guys gave me my birthday present early. They got me Volume 1 of the Love Comes Softly movie series. We do like them because they're wholesome movies... but apparently part of the reason Chet bought them is that we laugh really hard at some of the acting, particularly the body movements and facial expressions of Dale Midkiff (Missie's father). Chet can do a mean Dale Midkiff impression that causes me to crack up. You'll have to ask him to oblige you sometime.

Earlier today I was getting ready to go to the grocery store, and Ladan walked me to the door. He gave me a hug before I left and spontaneously said, "I think you're really cool." That's a great birthday gift right there!

My mom had Chet go out and get me some balloons. He thought it was too much to get 30 balloons, so he got six latex balloons and wrote "5", "plus five", "+ five", "add cinco", "+ V", and "add another five" on them. Then he had them include a mylar balloon that says "thirty". He said that 6 x 5 = 30... and he was able to accomplish the goal with only seven balloons. Efficiency is definitely key. Now you see why we fit well together.

Before I went to the high school girls small group at church, I stopped at Starbucks and got my favorite treat, a mint javachip frappuccino. While I was waiting for it, the barista gave me a free multigrain roll and apple bran muffin. He didn't even know it was my birthday, so I consider that a gift straight from the Lord!

Then the small group gals had another little treat and a very sweet card for me. All of these things on top of the MANY Facebook, phone, and e-mail birthday greetings were a real blessing today. I definitely don't feel much different than I did when I turned 20. That said, I think Amber is probably right on. It's the new 20!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

So I Slapped My Husband

Here's the story. Sunday after church I went down to the nursery to get Gabe. I realized that he had a dirty diaper after a few minutes and went to find Chet so we could go ahead and get home. We were also planning to go to a party for a recent Marine boot camp graduate from our church, and we needed to get home to get a few things together first. So I found Chet and explained that we needed to get going because Gabe had a dirty diaper and because we needed to get some things ready before going to the party. After a couple minutes, his conversations were wrapped up, and we were heading out to the vehicle.

We got in, and Chet started it up. He looked at the clock on the dash and realized that it was only 12:15 and politely asked what the rush was all about, obviously still not fully understanding what I was talking about but attempting to go along with me. As he was turning over his shoulder to make sure we weren't hitting anything when we pulled out, I was explaining that it was because Gabe had a dirty diaper and that we needed to get a few things ready before the party that started at 1:00 (I guess he didn't hear me the other two times I explained it, but that's fine).

Well, as I was explaining this, he was turning his face back toward the front, and I noticed a mosquito on his cheek. If you've spent any time with me outdoors in summer humidity, you know how much I hate mosquitos. I'll do just about anything to see them dead, and apparently that includes slapping my husband's face! Without even thinking about where the mosquito was, I just knew that it had to die, so my reflexes took over, I threw all caution to the wind, and let that mosquito have it... or so I thought until I saw it flying over the top of his head. Whoops! I missed! Then I suddenly realized that I hadn't missed Chet's face! I really let him have it!

He turned and looked at me with horror and asked, "Why did you just do that?!?" You should have seen his face. All I could do was start cracking up... pretty much just like I'm doing right now as I write this. I explained that there was a mosquito and that I just had to get it! He reminded me that it probably would have hurt less to have a mosquito bite than it did to have me slap his cheek! Right. I guess I should have thought of that. But like I said, there is only one thing I'm thinking about when I see a mosquito--IT MUST DIE!

We have laughed hysterically over and over again since Sunday about this. I told Chet that he needs to write a blog entry to tell his story, and then we played out all the ways he could exaggerate it. Talk about hilarious!

I'm praising the Lord for a husband who's so gracious and who's willing to laugh with me when I do crazy things! I do have to warn you that if you're standing near me and have a mosquito (or bee) on your face, I might not have any more sense to hold back than I did on Sunday. Let's just hope I get the mosquito and that the smack isn't without value!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Our Baby is TWO!

Gabe turned two today! I can hardly believe it. He's such a little man! To celebrate his special day, we had pizza for dinner and invited our neighbors over for brownies. Jessica, Hannah, and Maddie are three of Gabe's very favorite people, so it was great fun for him!

Here are a few photos of our birthday fun... (You have to click on this first one and look at what he's doing.)






We (Chet, Ladan, and I) got him a doctor kit. The boys are pretty freaked out by the doctor, and since they have to go again in two days, we're hoping this type of toy will help ease their anxiety about things that happen at the doctor. I'm also going to make Gabe an ABC photo book, but there are still a few photos that I need to get before I can make the book. Basically, it's a 6x6 scrapbook, each page displaying a photo of Gabe doing something starting with each letter of the alphabet.

He also received two sets of trucks (thanks to Gigi and Grandma) and some money from several folks that will go into his account. It was a good day for our little guy!

Here are some fun things about Gabe:
  • He's starting to learn his letters and probably knows about 5 or 6 of them.
  • He LOVES to read books and is unbelievably cute when he sits on the floor with his little legs straight out with a book spread from his hips all the way to his feet.
  • One of his favorite things to do is take out all of the kid movies one by one, looking at the front first, then the back, then lay them on the floor. (I'm thankful that he doesn't seem to enjoy this as much as he has for the last several weeks, because it's a pain to put them all back in their proper places.)
  • He's using more and more sentences all the time, but you still have to know him pretty well to be able to pick out what he's saying.
  • He's a magnet for pre-teen and teenage girls! Probably because he freely distributes lots of kisses to them and says their names with a super-cute voice.
  • He can jump really high with both feet off the ground. They say this is a helpful sign that he has the muscle tone necessary for successful potty training. However, since he doesn't like to sit still for longer than 2.9 seconds, I haven't had a whole lot of success getting him to even pretend he's going potty. Good thing I'm not all worried about getting him potty trained and won't be for quite some time.
  • He still seems to prefer his left hand while eating, throwing, drinking, or doing just about anything. We'll see if he turns out to be a lefty or if it's just a random thing for now.
  • He is getting better and better at throwing, kicking, catching, and hitting any type of ball. He's had some recent success with his tennis racquet. It's a pretty funny sight since his racquet seems like it's almost as tall as he is!
  • He sleeps with his ball blanket, his little bear blanket, his binky, his football, and sometimes a Mega Bloc Lightning McQueen and a London double-decker bus.
  • He can never get enough milk.
  • Every morning, I get his cup of milk for him, and then he promptly goes to the cabinet to get his little glass bowl out for his "pancakes"... which is really oatmeal. He loves both pancakes and oatmeal and would be happy with either. So, when he hands me the bowl, I ask him if he's ready for some oatmeal, and he shouts, "YEAH!" Then he happily announces that he's going to shut the cabinet and waits for me to confirm that I heard him before he actually closes it.
  • He is still a great sleeper most of the time. He sleeps about 12 hours at night and 3 hours in the afternoon.
  • I can still tell when he's got a dirty diaper... not because he smells, because many times he doesn't. It's because he's getting into trouble. Whenever Gabe is disobeying, when I hear screaming, or if there's some kind of scuffle between Ladan and Gabe, the first thing I generally check is Gabe's diaper... and it's almost always dirty. Crazy.
  • He's starting to get a little bit more shy the older he gets.
  • I've had to trim his curls a couple of times, but they seem to keep coming back. We'll see if that lasts forever, or if it's just a little boy stage like it was for my brother.
  • He has such fun expressions, both facial and verbal!

We love this little boy and are so thankful to the Lord that He's given us two whole years with him. We are praying for many more. More importantly, we're praying that he is captivated by God's Word and that he develops an intense love for the Lord that brings him to his knees in repentance, obedience, and JOY!

This afternoon Ladan was asking Gabe if he wanted to pretend like he was Baby Jesus, and Ladan could be Joseph. Ladan told him they could pretend they were in Bethlehem, and it would be fun because he (Gabe... aka Baby Jesus) could rescue everyone! Wouldn't it be amazing if the Word came to life in Ladan's heart and he ended up teaching his brother in such fun and understandable ways that Gabe can't help but fall in love with the Lord?!?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Hurricane That Hit Louisville

As many of you know, Hurricane Ike went through Galveston and Houston and came straight for Louisville. By the time it reached us on Sunday morning (the 14th), the rain was gone, but the wind was still 75-80 miles per hour. Trees and power lines all over town went down. We were driving out to the Murrays' for lunch after church that Sunday. We were almost there when suddenly a telephone pole snapped in half just about 40-50 yards ahead of us. When the transformer came crashing down, it exploded right in front of us. The top half of the pole was left tangled in the wires and dangling over the road. If we had gotten to that spot just a couple seconds earlier, that transformer could have exploded right on top of us. So we found another way to get to the Murrays', and we all enjoyed lunch without power.

On our way home, we saw ridiculously large trees laying all over homes and cars across town. When we entered our neighborhood, we saw that there were several large trees down. The main entrance had already been mostly cleared of a large tree that fell and spanned the entire roadway. The power was definitely out. We learned that about a half million people were out of power in our area and that it would be 10-14 days before everyone got power back (apparently, they had sent a bunch of our local folks down to the coast to help with Gustav clean-up, so they had to wait for them to return).

Thank goodness I had recently purchased new flashlights and maintained a stock of things like batteries and non-perishable food! Of course, I thought I was keeping them for something like a tornado... definitely not a hurricane. We had also purchased a new cooler right before Ladan's birthday party this summer. Our old one leaked and wouldn't hold ice.

Our food supply was actually my main concern. I had planned our meals really well and had acquired most of everything we'd needed to prepare them for the rest of the month. I was hoping to only spend about $25-$50 more for the rest of the month. Realizing that I couldn't complain if having to spend additional money out of our very tight budget was the worst of it, I still prayed that the Lord would help us keep our food from going to waste. We determined not to open the fridge and freezer so that as much of the cool air in them could stay put.

On Monday morning, we found out that all classes on campus would be cancelled for the entire week. So Chet was home for breakfast! I made pancakes and eggs on the grill. We have a side burner, so it wasn't difficult. The worst part is that a strong wind came toward the end and knocked the remaining uncooked eggs on the ground, making a pretty disgusting mess to clean up.

I decided it would be fun to follow up our breakfast with some coffee. So I marched out to the van and attempted to use our AC adapter to plug in the grinder and coffee pot. It worked GREAT for the grinder, and it warmed up the coffee pot, but I guess it takes more power to actually pump the water through. It didn't work, but at least now we know just in case this need/desire ever comes up in the future. You know, in case we're out camping for real sometime!

A few hours later, our neighbors (who happen to work at Outback Steakhouse) called and said that they had just picked up a box of 24 11-ounce steaks from the restaurant because it had no power and couldn't save the meat. Several of us pitched in veggies, and they invited a bunch of neighbors over to share in the fun. They even had one of the Outback grillers come over and perfect our steaks for us. We definitely weren't suffering!


Then we learned that the seminary was going to be serving dinner that night to the entire seminary community. They decided to serve three free meals a day to everyone for a couple of days (after which their power came back on, and people could purchase meals like normal if they wanted to). We were at dinner that Monday night and ran into Ryan Townsend, our church administrator. He told us that the power at the church had come back on that afternoon and that we could take our freezer stuff and put it in the church freezer! We went home to open our freezer for the first time. Since it was jammed full, everything was still totally frozen through! We transferred it to the church that night and didn't lose anything!

By Tuesday morning, our fridge wasn't very cool anymore, but since we had only opened it about twice, everything was still okay. We were able to find ice at a nearby gas station. It was not an easy thing to find for MANY people, but Chet happened to find it at the first place he stopped. AMAZING!!!!! I did decide to get rid of things like ranch dressing (which we don't often use anyway) and a few other containers that had just a tiny bit left. Otherwise, we didn't lose anything major from our refrigerator either.

Wednesday night our church provided dinner before church. I was at church late for a meeting, so the boys came home first. When they got here, OUR POWER WAS BACK ON!!!!!! Chet sent me a message right before I left the church letting me know it was back, so I was able to load up our freezer goods and bring them home.

I walked in the door, and Ladan shouted, "Mom! God gave us our light-tricity back!" He normally says electricity correctly, but he was so excited that it came out funny. Later that night I was putting him to bed. He walked down the hall to his room, turned, and looked up at his light switch. He slowly moved toward it and flipped the switch. It came on! He was once again SO EXCITED that he started jumping up and down with his hands in the air, screaming, "My light turned on!" He jumped up into my arms and gave me a massive hug and a kiss on my cheek! He prayed that night thanking God for everything that came back on and for taking care of us when our lights were off. Amen to that!

Some people were without power for quite a few days longer than we were. Most of the schools were out for at least a week. And many people are still cleaning up tree limbs and making repairs to their homes all over town.

Compared with many people, we really didn't have it bad at all.
  • It was kind of like a camp experience, including the nightly visit to the "mess hall" for dinner... except we were staying in a really nice cabin with our own beds, running water (although cold), flushing toilets, and no bugs!
  • We didn't lose any groceries other than a few items we don't use often anyway, and we really did make it through the rest of the month only spending $30 more!
  • On top of that, we had meals provided for several days so that the groceries we had will end up going a lot farther than I thought they would.
  • Our old antenna works now. Several weeks before the storm, we were having trouble getting even the most basic channels on our antenna, and it was very difficult to get anything to come through on the digital converter box. The problem with digital is that it's all or nothing, but the analog signals were terrible too. So we decided to try a new antenna from Radio Shack. We had 30 days to try it out. The power went out on day 26. By day 29, we decided to return it because the remote had never really worked, and it wasn't really great at getting a strong signal. When I took it back, they explained that these were extremely unusual problems for this model, but because of the power outage, they didn't have any others. I went home, and we figured we'd have to continue the hunt later. When the power came back on, we decided to just plug the old antenna in and see if we could pick up any news (we still hadn't heard anything about what kind of damage was done in Texas or anything). Well, something must have happened during the repairs, because our old antenna works FABULOUSLY now!!!!!!!! We don't have to spend that extra money at all, and if it weren't for that faulty Radio Shack antenna, we may have never known it! (Not that we would have "had" to spend the extra money, but I think you get my point.)
  • We got to spend a lot of time with our friends and neighbors helping one another.
  • We realized even more what the Body of Christ can do together when there is a need. We were so blessed by things as simple as our friends allowing us to shower in their homes, wash a couple loads of laundry, and store our frozen goods.
  • Chet got to rest a little bit more since classes were cancelled for the entire week. Chet's schedule is especially challenging this semester (not the classes, but the times of them), so we were both getting really exhausted. The fact that he was able to catch up more on his sleep was a huge provision from the Lord.
  • Our power returned literally hours before the heat returned to town. We didn't have a single sweaty day or night during the outage (although plenty of people across town did).
Hopefully you can see that none of these things are coincidences. And to think that there are probably a million other ways that the Lord meticulously cared for us that we don't have any clue about! That's enough to cause me to fall on my face before Him!

Friday, September 26, 2008

How About a Nut?

I was just standing in the kitchen eating a few walnuts. Did you know that just 1/4 cup of walnuts provides a TON of omega-3 fatty acids? Well, Ladan walked in, and I asked him if he'd like a nut.

He replied, "Sure! I like nuts! They're good! I need protein." I wanted to just squeeze him at that moment! Isn't it amazingly exciting when a 4-year-old realizes that he has certain nutritional needs and that they can be supplied by a variety of food items?!?

We've completed the first 8 lessons in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and Ladan is really enjoying it! He breezes through most of it, but there are little spots where he needs a little extra help sometimes. I'm so excited that I'm getting to help him eliminate these small errors before they compound and cause him big problems! He's already able to sound out some short words, and we only have a few more lessons before we start reading short sentences and working through some picture comprehension exercises.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Updates from India

For those of you who don't know, we were without power from Sunday afternoon until last night. Many, many people are still without power in Louisville. As a result, I didn't get a chance to update the blog as much as I wanted to. We've received a couple updates on Chet's friend, Ani, and the other two men who were beaten. I've copied portions of them below, changing a few words here and there to be sure that I'm not putting a bunch of info out there that would put people in harm's way. These messages will bring more clarity and will provide specific prayer points.

Message #1

Dear Prayer Partner,

Thank you for your prayers over the past several days for Ani, Waid & Rabiul who were beaten in India this past Sunday. Below is what we have learned during the past few days.

They traveled to a village last Sunday because 25 Imams (Muslim spiritual leaders) were there and had invited them. The Imams said they wanted to ask questions about Matthew 9:12-13. If Jesus came for sinners then why did Mohammad come? Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, has started and they were asking questions about the need for sacrifices, etc. The Imams were also asking why the Koran 43 : 61-69, says that in the last days Jesus will be leading people.

The Imams were actually listening to our guys and sincerely interested. During their discussions, a mob (over 2000 people) came along and started shouting, "so you think you know more than our clerics" and started beating Ani, Waid & Rabiul. Thankfully, two of the Imams went into the mob, grabbed our guys, and took them out through the back gate of the mosque and warned them that they better not come back. All three guys have been treated by a doctor but are still in a lot of pain.

Ani told us that many members of the mob were people from other villages where jamats (which are what our Indian brothers and sisters call churches for former Muslims) are located. They have figured out the same ministry is behind the conversions in their villages and have all come together to combat what the Lord is doing through these jamats. Sadly, this means that the forces that are against us are trying to band together to defeat or slow the work down and will require that much more prayer as we move forward.

Please especially pray for Rabiul. His father was part of the mob and was telling the rest of the mob to kill his son, cut him into pieces and throw them into the river because he is so disgusted that his son came to the Lord and is now working for the ministry.

We should not be surprised that this persecution is happening. The Apostle Paul tells us in Timothy 3:12, "And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Jesus says in Matthew 10:17, "But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues." He goes on to say in verse 21, "And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child..."

While we certainly grieve deeply for our brothers who have suffered this affliction, we also know that it is because of the obedience and faithful witness of these 3 men and many others that God is using our ministry in incredible ways to reach the lost. These men have a heavenly perspective, they understand what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:11, "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me."

What should we do? Our first responsibility is to pray. We can specifically pray for the following:

  • Thank God for the faithful witness of these men
  • Pray for the love and forgiveness of Christ to conquer hate and fear
  • Ask strength for Ani, Waid & Rabiul. We believe Ani is attempting to re-enter this village to resume discussions with the Imams.
  • Pray for the salvation of all those who are persecuting Christians

Prayer partner, we are fully engaged in a spiritual war for the souls of the nations and we can't back down. The stakes are too high! Hebrews 13:3 says, "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body." We are so grateful to have you alongside us in this battle.


Message #2

Dear Prayer Partner,

The violence in the state of Orissa [this is a state nearby where the guys were] has not slowed down. However, God is showing up in miraculous ways. Pastor B relayed two amazing accounts of how God protected His people. In one account, while a mob of radical Hindus was moving towards a group of Christians to assumably inflict harm on them, a tiger leapt out of the nearby woods and sat down between the mob and Christians for a few hours until the mob grew tired of waiting and dispersed.

In another report, a very bright light appeared and blinded a radical Hindu mob of people that were ready to inflict bodily harm on a separate group of Christians. What an amazing God we serve! We praise God for making His presence know to these Christians during their time of great need.

In the state of West Bengal, 6 jamats (churches for Muslim background believers) are being forced to either relocate or combine with other area jamats due to the persecution from Muslim extremists. This is occurring in the area where Ani, Waid & Rabiul were recently beaten. These three men are healing from their wounds and greatly appreciate your prayers. We don't have confirmation yet as to if or when Ani will go back to the village to continue conversations with the Imams. Please continue to collectively lift up our Christian brothers and sisters affiliated with our ministry and those who work with other Christian organizations. Your prayers are critical during this difficult time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Books I'm Reading or Will Start Very Soon

Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem. This is the text for the Systematic Theology class I'm taking at our church on Tuesday mornings. I'm really excited about it!

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I've been working on this for a while, but I'm still enjoying it. It's something that only gets fit in a few nights a week for about 15 minutes before I hit my pillow, so I'm not exactly speeding through it.

Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart by John Ensor. This is the book we're going to start going through with the high school girls small group. Speaking of them, we've got our second sleepover scheduled for Saturday night, and I'm really excited! One girl refused to come if I didn't bring cookie dough from Papa Murphy's so I guess I'll have to comply... and eat plenty myself. FYI--Papa Murphy's cookie dough has no raw eggs in it just in case you're concerned. Raw eggs don't stop me from eating cookie dough at any point, but I've decided not to impose my reckless irresponsibility on other people.

We haven't decided what we're doing with our adult small group, but I'm kind of hoping it's not too intense on top of all these other things and my daily Bible reading. I'm really working hard to complete the Bible in 6 months. December 31 I'll have to let you know if I accomplished the goal!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request

Last night, Chet had a terrible time falling asleep. Monday is a very full day for him and is always followed by a long night at UPS, so he really needed to sleep. He had no idea why he couldn't fall asleep. Well, he finally gave up and came out to work on some things. At about 6am, he was on the computer doing some assignments when he saw an e-mail message pop up. It was an e-mail update from a ministry he worked with when he was in India saying that two church leaders and the regional church leader from that area had been severely beaten over the weekend. The regional church leader is the man that Chet spent the most time with there when they traveled around to the villages, etc. and Chet became good friends with him there. They correspond fairly regularly via e-mail.

Back to the story. The three men were invited to go and preach in an area that is largely Muslim and Hindu (not unusual to be invited here). They were told that it would be a crowd of about 2,000 people who were interested in hearing the Gospel and learning more about Christianity (exciting, but not strange either). Well, it was a set-up. When the three men arrived, the very large crowd closed in on them, and they were all severely beaten. Apparently, there were some Muslim imams who stepped into the crowd and ended up breaking it up; otherwise, they may have been killed. It is very unusual for Hindus and Muslims to cooperate with one another, so this gives you a picture of how greatly these particular people despise Christianity.

Chet e-mailed his friend as soon as he heard about it to confirm that it really was him. It was. He's in bed for 10 days healing. As soon as he can, he plans to return to the town to talk to the imams who stepped into the crowd. Please pray for his quick recovery, and PLEASE PRAY THAT HIS LOVE FOR CHRIST AND FOR THESE PEOPLE WILL BE APPARENT AND TRANSFORMING!!!! The other two men may be going back with him also, but I'm not sure about that. Chet's friend has a wife and two children. I'm not sure about the family structure of the other two men. Please pray for their families as well.

Chet was so glad that the Lord kept him awake so that he could receive the message and begin praying immediately. He had a really hard time concentrating in class. He was trying to write a book review and told me that it's really hard to do such crazy things like "writing book reviews for Jesus" when his friend is being beaten because of the Gospel. He had tears in his eyes as he told me that he so wants to be right there by his friend's side and really would like to go with him when he returns to the town in 10 days. We know that it's not possible, but it's definitely a challenge for Chet to be so far away.

Their testimony is a blessing to us, even if we can't be there by their sides. What a neat opportunity also to share this story with our friends (believers and unbelievers). We never know how this type of thing can help people see how valuable the Gospel is and how much passion these men have for the Truth if they're ready to return to this town OUT OF LOVE for the people there and share the reason for the hope they profess.

Chet does realize that his assignments are not pointless and that they are collectively providing preparation for all manner of ministry... but today his heart was in India.

It would be great to let these men know that people from all over the place are praying for them. If you are praying, please comment, and I'll have Chet pass that encouragement on to them.

(On a much less important note, I posted a couple other new entries earlier today, including a description of the system I've put in place to stay on task and another entry with some photos of Chet with the boys.)

The Schedule

Quite a few people have urged me to provide a more detailed description of the strategy I'm using to keep up on chores and make sure I'm taking time to address my priorities. It's a challenge to do this online, but I think I might be able to describe it fairly well (at least well enough that you can get the picture, decide if you like the general idea, and adapt it to fit your own needs).

I use a basic $5 planner from Staples. I like their version because it has both montly and weekly views, and the weekly pages have ample space for notes. I get really sick of rewriting the same things repeatedly, so I decided to print my priority/chore lists on 2"x4" shipping labels that can be slapped right in the notes section of my planner.

I haven't written much in for this week yet, which will make it a little clearer. First of all, I use pencil for notes I write in the daily section. I cannot stand to have a bunch of things crossed out when they change. I only want things crossed off when I've addressed and completed them. Not to mention that things change enough in my schedule that I'd run out of space if I used a pen all the time. I do use a colored pen to mark things off on the label just so it's easier to see.

You'll see that I write in what I'm planning to fix for dinner beside the date. I divide the notes section for each week day into two sides. On the left side of the day's notes, I write in scheduled things that start at a certain time. On the right side, I write in random things that just need to be done before the end of the day.



Here's a close-up of this week's label.



You can see that I have the daily tasks listed on the left (things that I want to do EVERY day). Beside each thing, I've listed the first initial of the day of the week, and when that item is completed, I mark an "x" over the top of the day's initial.

Daily Priorities (in order of importance)
  • Time in the Word
  • Vitamins
  • Exercise
  • Dishes
  • Laundry
  • Tidy
  • Update Quicken (budget stuff)--if I do this every two or three days realistically, that's GREAT!

Then there is the list of chores I need to complete throughout the week. I try to fit them all in Monday through Friday, and I try to make sure that there's at least one day that is a little bit easier so that I can be flexible and squish those things in on another day if something comes up. I have two different sets of weekly lists, but the only difference between the two is the chores listed for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I draw a line through the item once it's completed. You can see above that I've already marked through "kitchen" on Tuesday, but Tuesday is tomorrow. I thoroughly cleaned the kitchen on Saturday, so I'm not going to do it again for another two weeks... so I crossed it off. Here are the weekly sets:

Weekly Chores (Set 1)

  • Monday--Monthly ___, Iron
  • Tuesday--Dust
  • Wednesday--Vacuum, Sweep, Mop
  • Thursday--Groceries
  • Friday--Bathrooms, Wash Towels/Sheets
  • Three Lessons with Ladan

Weekly Chores (Set 2)

  • Monday--Monthly ___ (see rotation of chores listed below), Iron
  • Tuesday--Kitchen, Sweep, (Mop if necessary)
  • Wednesday--Meal Planning
  • Thursday--Groceries
  • Friday--Bathrooms, Towels/Sheets
  • Three Lessons with Ladan

And then there are the "monthly" chores. I have "monthly" in quotations because I have six sets of these, so they really are chores that end up getting done every six weeks. When I made this first set of labels, I had only really thought through four sets of monthly chores, but when I make the new set, there will be six sets that rotate through. I go ahead and write all the monthly chores on each label because then I know what's coming and what I've already accomplished. I set aside Monday to complete the monthly chores on a rotating basis. Here are the "monthly" chores:

"Monthly" Chores

  • Monthly Set 1--Dust ceiling fans, clean light fixtures, dust air vents
  • Monthly Set 2--Clean walls, clean windows (inside)
  • Monthly Set 3--Clean window treatments, vacuum inside furniture
  • Monthly Set 4--Check smoke alarms, change filters
  • Monthly Set 5--Clean humidifiers, shred paper
  • Monthly Set 6--Clean kitchen appliances

So, in the end, I come up with a set of six labels (one for each week) that include these sections:

  • Label 1--Daily, Weekly Set 1, Monthly Set 1
  • Label 2--Daily, Weekly Set 2, Monthly Set 2
  • Label 3--Daily, Weekly Set 1, Monthly Set 3
  • Label 4--Daily, Weekly Set 2, Monthly Set 4
  • Label 5--Daily, Weekly Set 1, Monthly Set 5
  • Label 6--Daily, Weekly Set 2, Monthly Set 6

I don't print more than one set of labels at a time, because there are inevitably improvements or changes I've thought of. Not to mention that life changes all the time. If I were nursing a baby every three hours, I am fairly certain that I would NOT be getting all these things done all the time. My main goal is to get the daily things done, and the weekly/monthly things can be adjusted if necessary.

It's a great form of accountability. Hopefully everything is marked off before I flip the page. By the end of the week, my entire page ends up full of additional notes and lines through things. If anything remains incomplete, I can then transfer it to the next week. Oh, and if I did something that I didn't have written down already, I tend to write it and then immediately cross it off. This helps me remember what it was that came up and filled my day.

Sometimes I really do get everything done in a week, and sometimes I don't. I'm definitely not using this as a tool to promote legalism in my life, and I'm encouraging you against that possibility as well. However, I do very much appreciate the opportunity this gives me to flip back through quickly and determine if I'm struggling to get a particular thing done.

This system will help me see whether or not I'm being realistic. I will also be able to see if I'm overcommitted and am signing up for so many outside things that it's impossible for me to focus on my first priorities (my relationships with and responsibilities to the Lord, Chet, and the boys). It becomes a good tool for evaluating what I really need to get done in a week so that I can determine if I'd rather throw out the dusting for that week and agree to fit something else in... or say "no" to the opportunity that's popped up and stick to the dusting. Sometimes the dusting is more important, and sometimes the other thing is more important. Balance in this way is crucial. For example, Chet is allergic to dust, so if I don't keep up on the dusting, it's not very good for him... and yet, if there's someone who has some important thing they need me to do, Chet won't die if I put the dusting off for a bit... as long as I'm only putting it off for a bit and have time to catch up in the near future.

I hope I've explained this well. Please let me know if it makes no sense at all.

Down By the River

We went to Cox Park on the river on Saturday night. I took a few photos of Chet and the boys.








Ladan found a stick shaped like the letter "J". He was pretty excited... for about 2.4 seconds... and then he threw it right in the river! We had a really great time.
I started Ladan's reading lessons today. We did lesson 1 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Engelmann, Haddox and Bruner. He did great with the first lesson!