Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Doodles (Freebie!)

On Christmas Day, I threw some Christmas items I'd worked on at several different times together into a freebie.  When I looked at them today, however, I decided they didn't really go together.  So I split them into two kits and added a few things.  Click on the previews below to grab the expanded kits (the link for my Dec 25 post now links to the second, more traditional, kit).  PU/S4H/S4O.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! (Freebie!)

Merry Christmas!  I hope everyone has had a wonderful day with family and friends, and most of all, remembering the true Reason for the Season!  My wonderful hubby got me a new pen tablet, so I've been playing on the computer a bit this evening.  Maybe you have a use for one more little Christmas freebie (revised)!  PU/S4H/S4O.

Happy Birthday, Jesus! 

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Strange Way to Save the World

Graphic by Angel Hartline
Several years ago, when the Navy sent us from New York to California, my husband and I moved across the country with our dog and 4 children.  Even with modern amenities like minivans and built-in DVD players, this is not necessarily an easy trip.  We had a lot of fun, but by the time we reached our destination, we were all tired and anxious to find a new place to live.  Our 4-year-old told people along the way that we had lost our house and could not find it, and she asked every day if we thought we might find it that day.  Now, during most of the trip, we had not made hotel reservations ahead of time.  We enjoyed driving, finding interesting things to do and see, and stopping wherever was convenient each evening.  Most of the time, this had not been a problem.  And so, after our 30-day trip, we arrived in San Diego.  We called the local Navy Lodge.  They were full.  So were the other Navy Lodges in the area.  We had not expected that.  We began to call other hotels and motels, starting with the less expensive ones that would allow dogs.  When none of these were available, we began to check with the ones that would not allow dogs, thinking the weather was nice enough that we could leave our pet in the car overnight.  We moved up the list through more and more expensive hotels.  Finally, we had called every hotel and motel in the San Diego area in the yellow pages.  We have traveled extensively, and we had never had this much of a problem finding a place before.  Apparently, there were several large events converging upon San Diego simultaneously that weekend, including a Chargers game, an American Idol show, and several conventions.  Everyone was booked.  We had been sitting at a rest area for hours making phone calls on our cell phones, and our tired children were beginning to complain.

Of course, I was beginning to get a little bit stressed out.  I didn't feel desperation yet, just stress.  I was thinking we may have to rent a tent somewhere, or maybe even sleep in our minivan.  My husband said even if we wanted to sleep in the minivan, we would have to find a campground or something where we would be allowed to do so.  What struck me was how upset my husband had become.  He's normally the calm, cool one, while I get stressed over little things.  Small things just don't bother him that much.  On this evening, however, he was feeling desperate.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, although I didn't believe that it was only my husband's responsibility to find us a place to stay, I probably was holding on because he was with me, and I knew he always took care of things.  Had I been alone with the children, things may have been different.  My husband wasn't just stressed because he was tired of calling hotels.  He felt a great sense of responsibility.  He had brought his family all the way across the country, far from family and friends, and now he had no place for them to spend the night.  He felt he had let them down (even though none of us felt that way).  I realized in that moment how different things could be for fathers and for mothers, although I'm sure many single parents take on aspects of both roles.  Although my husband and I both share the responsibility of caring for our family, he tends to be the one who feels responsible when there is just no way out.  Shortly after this, we called one more hotel, and they'd had a cancellation.  We paid an arm and a leg for the room, the dog had to stay in the car, and the kids slept in sleeping bags on the floor because there was only one bed in the room and the pull-out sofa was broken. But we had a nice place to sleep.  Surely much nicer than the stable or cave where Mary gave birth to the Savior of the world.

Living in middle class America, my family has not often felt the desperation of true need.  Even when things are tight, we generally have a place to sleep and food to eat.  This one evening when we literally were not sure we were going to have a place for our children to sleep made me think a lot about Mary and Joseph.  Mary clearly had the rougher trip; pregnant and about to deliver, walking about 60 miles, or possibly riding on a donkey or in a cart.  She finally gave birth to her first child in a place where animals fed and slept, without aid of modern medical facilities, her mother or aunts in her family, no place to shower, or even a bed.  I kind of suspect, though, that she might have been a little bit like I was that night in San Diego.  Although she was uncomfortable and in pain, she had Joseph with her.  He was a great gift from God, and she depended on him to take care of her and this baby.  She assumed he would find them a place to stay, food to eat, and everything they needed.

If Joseph was an upstanding man like my husband, who felt the responsibility for caring for his family like the weight of the world on his shoulders - and I suspect that he was - Joseph was not calmly going from door to door like we see in the Christmas pageants.  He was not gently asking in two or three places if there was a place for his wife to deliver his baby, then returning calmly to Mary and a donkey and saying, well, I guess we'll just stay in this fellow's stable in the back.  Have you ever seen a man rushing his wife to the hospital when she's about to deliver?  Have you seen first-time fathers in the delivery room?  If you are a father, what would you do if you arrived at the hospital here in America with your wife in labor, and the hospital told you they were full, and that you would just have to stay in the parking lot???  This was the frantic state Joseph was in!  Joseph had brought his new wife who was about to deliver to this little town, far away from her family and friends.  Now he couldn't find a place for her to even spend the night, much less deliver her baby.  He was desperate, frantically pleading with any place in town to let his wife in.  "Are you kidding me?" he may have thought to himself.  "I had this one simple task of taking care of my wife, who is giving birth to God Incarnate, and I can't even find a place for her to have the baby indoors????"  He may have even been angry with God.  After all, when we are doing God's work and giving everything up for Him, don't we often expect Him to take care of the little things?  When Joseph finally laid Mary down in the hay near the manger, making her as comfortable as he possibly could, it was out of desperation.  He probably felt like a failure.  He probably wondered why in the world God had chosen him for this task.  And then he helped to deliver the Savior of all mankind.

Of course, it was all in God's plan.  The Savior came into the world in the humblest of circumstances, and the shepherds came to worship Him.  Mary and Joseph were both just the parents God wanted for the job.  They weren't perfect.  They didn't have to be.  God uses imperfect and humble people to do great things.  Joseph evidently found a house for his new family soon thereafter, for the Magi visited them in a house in Bethlehem.  And when King Herod wanted to kill his small baby - God's Son, who had given up His own power and placed Himself, defenseless, in the care of Joseph - Joseph took Mary and the Baby to Egypt and saved them.  He listened to God's leading throughout his life and was an earthly father figure not only to the Son of God, but also to James and Jude, who grew up to be pillars in the early church and wrote some of our Scriptures after they saw their brother raised from the dead.  Yes, Joseph was just the person God wanted for this job.

But how odd to have started out this way.  What a strange way to save the world!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Call it "Poetic Justice"

My husband loves White Elephant parties.  You know, the ones where you get together for a gift exchange at Christmas but instead of buying new presents, you bring something you have at home that you want to get rid of?  Some of the gifts are kind of nice; one person's trash is another one's treasure.  But then, there are always a few old lava lamps from someone's garage.  And then, at each party, you have at least one person who seeks out those outrageous gifts that no one wants, but everyone remembers because they are so atrocious.  The person who begins scouting thrift stores in August for those perfect treasures.  The one who will actually buy a White Elephant gift because it is just so much fun to give.  That person is my husband.

Imagine my husband's delight when, at a thrift store the day before the office White Elephant party, he found a 4-foot-tall stuffed baboon.  Complete with the bare bottom for which baboons are known.  For three dollars.  The quintessential White Elephant gift.  Some greedy person who wanted to unwrap the biggest gift beneath the tree would grab this up and go home with a gigantic plush monkey, while the unassuming people who picked up a small gift bag or a plain envelope would be rewarded with a $10 gift certificate to Dunkin Donuts.  One poor fellow didn't show up for the party today, so he risked coming in tomorrow morning to find the giant baboon checking its email at his desk.

Except that something went wrong.  Something always can when you mix children, Christmas presents, and a little greed.  You see, we had told our children which gifts we had brought, and that they should choose something else.  My daughter, one of the first people chosen to pick a gift, lucked out with a beautiful, pink-and-purple, hand-knitted cape.  The evil eye on her cute 9-year-old face kept any Marines or other wives or children from "stealing" it from her when their turn came.  One person had already unwrapped a roll of toilet paper from the Base Chaplain.  Then, our 5-year-old's number was drawn.  His eyes flew to the giant wad of green wrapping paper under the tree.  The one we had told him not to pick.  He had to have it!

As our youngest son unwrapped his treasure, those around the room who knew of my husband's prank began to chuckle.  The Base Chaplain quipped, "Now no one will remember the toilet paper!"  As it happened, our son was probably the only person in the room who would actually want to take that baboon home.  He was so happy when he got it all unwrapped.  He put it on the floor and began to ride it around the room.  He immediately gave it a name and began talking to it and trying to feed it Christmas cookies.  We tried and tried to get someone to "steal" the baboon and trade it for another gift, but then our son would grab it around the neck and cry, "No, no, PLEASE don't take my baboon!"

We brought the baboon home.  The guys in the office nicknamed it "Karma."

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Happy Holidays" QP Freebie!

Here's a Quickpage from Sprouting Seeds Studio's "Happy Holidays" kit!  Go to or click on preview at bottom of post to download Parts 1 & 2 of the kit.  Click on the QP image to download the Quickpage.  Regular PNG file and iRemember SBT file both included in download.  Personal Use only.

Merry Christmas!

Click preview below to download parts 1 & 2 of the kit from Sprouting Seeds Studio!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Holidays Kit by Sprouting Seeds Studio

Here is my first LO as a member of Sprouting Seeds Studio's Creative Team!  You can grab Parts 1 & 2 of the kit at

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Fun

Finishing decorating the tree and the kids making a Gingerbread Train:  that's the way to spend a Friday evening in December!   We normally do gingerbread houses every year, so we decided to try something new.  I think they did a good job!

Scrappy Bug's Challenges

I normally do not feel I have time for many forum challenges, but I really wanted Scrappy Bug's Christmas kit, so she talked me into it!  Check out her December 2010 Challenges at  Here are my layouts.

Template/Sketch Challenge:

Baby Photo Challenge:

"Layer It Up" Challenge:

Font Challenge:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm on the Creative Team for Sprouting Seeds Studio!

Exciting news!  I was accepted onto the CT for Sprouting Seeds Studio!!  Check out their December freebie, "Rainy Day Blues," and check back in January for my first layouts!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Another Giveaway by Sarah!

Find the below giveaway at!

200th Post GIVEAWAY!!!

Sarah hit her 200th blog post last
week and today is doing a GIVEAWAY to
celebrate! This giveaway is full of fun colorful
Christmas/Winter pattern papers, alphas, pearls,
ribbon, flowers, journaling spots, and she even
threw in a few of her hand punched paper doilies!

DT Call and Givaways! :)

Hello friends!

The Paper Variety is seeking creative crafters who would like to join their Design Team! They're looking for 4-6 new smiles to share their love of paper crafting and inspiring others - artists of all styles and experience levels. If you love paper and enjoy using it to create a variety of projects, then you are invited to apply! :)

Applications will be accepted until December 17th midnight. The announcement of the new team will be posted on December 22nd! :) 

Also..  they're giving away a Crate Paper "Snow Day" collection kit - just help spread the word about the new design team.

They're also giving away the Snow Day 6x6 paper pad and a $25 gift certificate to The Scrapbooking Cottage!

Sweet, huh?

Visit The Paper Variety to see all DT app information and giveaway details.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ring Those Bells: Bean and Bailey

Thanksgiving Freebie

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Now it's time to scrap those memories!!

Click on image.  For PU/S4H/S4O.  Papers in preview at 90% opacity.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lettering Delights Christmas Card Contest

2010 Christmas Cards that I submitted for the Lettering Delights Christmas Card Contest at

Product:  Christmas Dee-licious Graphics by Lettering Delights

Products:  Gingerbread Cookie Paper Pack, Graphic Set, & Alphabet by Lettering Delights

Products:  Golden Filigree Elements & Gilded Alphabet by Lettering Delights

Product:  Magic Season Alphabet by Lettering Delights
Background paper, ribbon, and bell element by Kellybell Designs ("A Very Mickey Christmas")
Deer element by KissedbyPix Designs ("Christmas Memories")

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Family Game Night - iRemember Quickpages Freebie!

I'm wondering if there are very many iRemember users out there?  This software for Mac scrapbooking doesn't do every action that PSE8 does, such as blurring edges; but for layouts and even some designing, it is spectacularly user-friendly and cost-effective.  It is my favorite software by far.  I don't see many quickpages for it, though, so I decided to make some.  Included in the Money Game Quickpages download are two iRemember quickpage templates, as well as the same two pages in PNG form for any other software you wish to use.  Let me know if you are an iRemember user!

There's nothing like a family game night.  My kids would rather play a board game as a family than play Wii or watch TV.  If you haven't played a board game lately, why not tonight?  Pop some corn, heat up some hot chocolate, and make some memories!  Oh, yeah, and then scrap them!!

Click on image to download for PU/S4H/S4O.

If you haven't downloaded the Money Game Mini-kit Freebie, you can find it HERE.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thoughts As We Approach Veterans' Day & Thanksgiving

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! 

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."

Proclamation Appointing A National Fast Day
--President Abraham Lincoln 1863

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Scrapbooking Christmas Cards

Would you just love to have those perfect, handmade Christmas cards to mail out this year?  You were planning on getting on that project back in July to have them all ready for Christmas, then you thought if you started in September you'd still be OK.  Now it is November, and the closest thing you have to a home-made Christmas card is a folded piece of red paper.  Fear not!  Check out for beautifully crafted Christmas cards.  The work is done for you!  :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Money Game Freebie!

I needed to scrap some pics of my kids playing their favorite game.  Enjoy!  Click image to download from 4shared.  PU/S4H/S4O.

Check out Suzy's blog for some Trick-or-Treat Blog Candy!

Suzy is giving away an awesome scrapbook prize on her blog:!  Please check it out and let her know I sent you! Have a great weekend!! :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Josefina Lapbooks

Here are the Josefina Lapbooks.  Once again, my son chose to do the Mexican-American War rather than a Josefina theme, and his lapbook was not nearly as ornate as his sisters'.  I realized, however, that when I said he wasn't "into" the project yesterday, I had short-changed him.  It is true that he is not nearly as concerned about presentation as his sisters are.  That is a lesson we will have to learn another day, as he does need to learn that presentation is important before he goes to college, writes a resume, and gets a job.  This assignment, however, was a history assignment, not an art assignment, and I did not specify that they needed to be concerned about presentation or that their grade would have anything to do with visual presentation.  I said that we were doing this project as an alternative to the frequent written report, and that I wanted them to show what they had learned about the period in history.  So his project was within acceptable parameters.   As I watched the kids work on this second lapbook, I realized that he was doing far more research than his sisters, and he learned a lot of information that we had not covered in class.  While the girls took things we learned in class, and mainly things just from the "Josefina" books, and looked up a few items, they basically took what they already knew and started working on making a perfect-looking lapbook.  They said the more "flappy" things it had in it, the better!  They also learned the required material, worked hard on their lapbooks, and certainly deserve an "A."  Meanwhile, my son spent the entire morning that they were working on cutting and pasting to research more information about his topic.  He enjoys finding trivia that his audience would not know to include in his report.  He learned a great deal.  True, he can be a minimalist and did the least amount of work he could get away with on the actual cutting-and-pasting project.  He's not the only 10 to 12-year-old boy who is a minimalist when it comes to schoolwork!!  But when the kids stood up to deliver their oral presentations, he was a wealth of information, gave an excellent speech, and was able to answer the others' questions.  He definitely deserves an "A" as well.  In another project, we will talk about the importance of visual aids in getting and keeping your audience's attention, and I will encourage him to spend more time actually perfecting his visual aid.  What it all comes down to, though, is that children all have different interests, different personalities, and different strengths and weaknesses.  Being able to know them well and to have so much time working with them one-on-one on these things is part of the beauty of homeschooling.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

American Girl Lapbooks

Wow!  I have been wanting to get this project done for a long time, and we finally did it!  We studied Felicity (and Colonial Days in general) 2 years ago in homeschool, but the interest was renewed recently as we went to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia for the homeschool days last month.  The kids loved it!  It gave us a good chance to review that part of early American history and to make these fabulous "Felicity" lapbooks that I had since found templates for on the Internet.  The templates and ideas are available at  If you have a girl who loves the American Girl characters and you'd like to use them to spruce up your history studies, take a look at Portraits of American Girlhood.  You can usually find the American Girl books at the library and will not need to purchase anything else.  I use these alongside Beautiful Feet's American History through Literature.

My son was clearly not into this assignment (which he did on Colonial Williamsburg rather than Felicity specifically).  No worries.  When we do a lapbook on the NASA Space Program, his will be immaculate!

Noteable Scraps

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn Papers Freebie

Here are some papers for all those lovely leaf-jumping pictures from one of my favorite times of year!  Click image to download from 4shared.  PU/S4H/S4O.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like - "Subtle Hints" Time!

Yes, it's getting to be that time of year again.  Oh, I know we are over a month from getting out the Christmas decorations (although my kids begged to get them out all weekend!).  The Hallowe'en costumes need to be sewn and the Thanksgiving turkey cooked before we think about decking the halls in red and green.  And only if you are far more organized than I am do you have much Christmas shopping done (OK, I've done a fair amount.  I LOVE Christmas!).  But if you have any hope of getting something besides nail polish remover from the drugstore for Christmas, you've started dropping the hints.  Let's face it, Christmas is only 69 days away!

You know the game.  You are almost out of your favorite (rather expensive) perfume.  So you say - in plain hearing of your husband, during the commercial of a football game - "Darn!  I'm almost out of my favorite perfume!"  You will comment on the shortage several times between now and Christmas.  "Oh, honey, sorry I don't have any perfume on tonight.  I completely ran out!  But I guess I won't buy myself any this close to Christmas.  We have gifts to get for other people."  And so it goes, until Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning, your husband hands you a nice little package with a big cat-that-swallowed-the-canary grin on his face.  You tear it open, ready to put on your new perfume, and it is - a purse-size tool kit for you to keep in your car.  Or nail polish remover.  Or a new drill.  "Oh, sorry, honey," he says.  "You don't think you'll use the drill much?  Well, I can keep it out at my workbench for you!"

You probably wanted something besides perfume for Christmas, but if you're married, you've probably played the game.  And you had the same thought:  "I practically hit him over the head with a 2 x 4, and he didn't get it at all!"

So if you are married, or engaged, or think you may ever get married or have any kind of a relationship with a man in the future, let me share a lesson with you that I learned from my good friend Pam in the earlier days of my marriage.  "Oh, I'm so excited!"  she exclaimed.  "Marvin is taking me on a real date tonight!  We are going to dinner at my favorite restaurant, and he made the reservations and arranged for the babysitter and everything!  I wonder what made him think of being so sweet?"  After a pause, she continued.  "Oh, it was probably when I said, 'Marvin, I need you to take me on a real date this week.  I need you to make the reservations at my favorite restaurant and arrange for the babysitter.  I need you to treat me like I'm special!'"  Marvin took the hint!

Yes, ladies, we often have to completely spell it out for them.  It's not because they are slow, or stupid, or they don't care.  It's just because men and women are different.  You know that.  You've heard it a million times before.  My husband will not remember anything I tell him during a football game.  When I think I am heavily hinting that I want a particular thing, he thinks I am mentioning something I saw in the store in passing.  Like, "Honey, I bought milk today, and I thought maybe I should get some chicken because the freezer is running low."  And he says, "Oh, OK."

So I pledged that although I love perfect surprises, I will not expect my husband to read my mind.  I will not get upset when he buys a perfectly good birthday gift but forgets to get me a card, even though he knows I scrapbook and I love birthday cards to put in my scrapbooks.  I will not get upset when he goes shopping Christmas week or the night before my birthday because he forgot earlier.  And I will not leave "subtle hints."  When I want something, I will leave great big, screaming-billboard, colossal hints.  Several years ago I wanted a die-cutter for Christmas.  It was on sale at a local store.  So I cut out the coupon, cut out the ad, and put them on my husband's desk, saying, "If you are looking for a nice Christmas gift, here's one at this store.  Here is a coupon for it, and it is on sale until Friday."  Imagine my surprise when I unwrapped the die-cutter Christmas morning!

It was a surprise.  You see, I still wasn't sure he would pick up on my hint.  I might have been too subtle.

So girls, do your hubbies a favor this Christmas.  Don't make them play a guessing game.  If you'd like a little surprise, make a list of about 5 different things that you want, and he can pick one.  Make it easy for him.  You'll be happier, and he'll love you for not putting the stress of staying out of the doghouse on him.

Merry 69-days-before-Christmas!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy 5th Birthday!

Today I would like to share a poem my daughter wrote for her brother's 5th birthday:

I love my brother
He likes jeans
My brother is five
He can't drive
He's not sixteen
He sometimes likes steam
He's really sweet
But maybe not his feet
He has his mother
But he's my brother
Happy Birthday!
P.S. You're greater than Mater!

When the Road is Marked with Suffering

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blessed be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your Name
Blessed be Your Name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your Name
Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the Name of the Lord
Blessed be Your Name
Blessed be the Name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious Name
Blessed be Your Name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your Name
Blessed be Your Name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your Name
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your Name
-Matt Redman

The age of information and technology has brought our friends closer in many ways. The world is smaller, and communication is instantaneous. This is a wonderful blessing, especially to those of us who have friends and family who are far away. It can also be painful, as it has been today. Our dear friends whose 17-month-old baby boy was diagnosed with cancer last October were recently told that nothing else could be done for him. This morning I received an email, sent to many friends who have been following their story, that his breathing is slowing down, and that the mother will not be sending us any more messages, as she is devoting these last hours to holding her precious child. In generations past, friends suffering this way across the country would be alone or surrounded by few friends, and those of us far away would find out much later what happened. Today, though, we all cry with them and pray for them as they struggle through this most horrible of circumstances.

Like Job, when the sun is shining and our families are healthy, it is easy for us to praise God. He is our Provider, our Sustainer, and He has given us every good blessing. But what about when our children are not healthy? What about when we see this tiny child having pain and difficulty breathing? What then? Of course, the theological answer is still that God is our Provider, our Sustainer, and the Giver of every good blessing. He still loves us. He will still get us through this. He is still worthy of praise. It's just hard to think that way when we are the ones suffering. This family, however, has remained a steadfast example of faith in God in all circumstances. They have not let go of their love for their Creator. They have not let go of the Hope that their son will soon be in a place too beautiful for words with no pain. If you think religion is a crutch for people with no hope, I would guess that you haven't been in a situation like this. Sometimes it would not be easier to keep praising God. Sometimes it would be easier to curse Him, as Job's wife encouraged him to do. But God gives us the strength to handle whatever comes.

In Job 1:20, even in the midst of Job's suffering, after he had lost his wealth, his property, and 10 sons and daughters, he worshipped God, saying, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

There is pain in the offering today, Lord. Please bless this family with the peace that only You can give.

Meritorious Service Medal

Monday, May 17, 2010

The second item of business today is to say how PROUD I am of my husband! This morning, we took a homeschool field trip down to the Base to see an Awards Ceremony in which Daddy was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his last tour.

I realize I should not brag too much on my own husband, but since this is my blog, and no one has to read it if they don't want to, I think I'm going to brag just a little! A Meritorious Service Medal is awarded for outstanding service outside of combat. My husband, a Naval Chaplain, did a number of things to earn this distinction. He participated in humanitarian efforts to get food and water to areas that had been hit by natural disaster. He counseled people and took suicide prevention classes. One of my favorite things that he did on his last tour was to set up a coffee hut on the beach, called "The Gator Cafe." He has always believed that to help people, you have to really get to know them. In the military, you have to get in and serve with them. And so, he set up the cafe, and he went down to the beach in the mornings where the Marines were working on equipment, and he served them coffee. One of the reasons I have always loved him is because of the way he shows love to others through service.

Now, while I am thrilled that we had this ceremony this morning for my husband, who certainly deserves it, my favorite part of the ceremony was when the Marine Colonel addressed my children directly, in front of all present. He told them specific things their daddy had done to receive this medal. He told them how important Chaplains are to the military, and how their daddy had helped so many people. He told them that he knows how hard it is when their daddy is gone, but that there is a purpose for it, that he is able to help other people because of the sacrifice that they are making. My children know there is a purpose for the hardship they suffer, and that other people can live better lives because they are willing to do it. I am thankful for people who help us make sense of this career for my children. I am quite certain they deserve it.

GPS: God's Plan of Salvation

May 17, 2010

So the first order of business today is to say how PROUD I am of my kids - my own four children and the other 20 in our church's children's play - for their performance Saturday night inGPS: God's Plan of Salvation. The children's musical was perfect, and the teens preparing and serving the meal for the dinner theater, as well as the teens performing in "Hands of Praise," were all just marvelous. What a fantastic weekend!

I have written previously about Colossians 3:17 - "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (NIV) This is what these children are learning at this young age. Too often, they feel they must wait until they are older to do things. They sit in children's church and do not become "part" of the church for years. Meanwhile, they enjoy music, acting, and other creative expression, and the world will give them places to express themselves. What I want most from plays like this is for the children to learn to use their creative talents for the Lord. To do the best they can because they are doing it for God and God alone. To enjoy worshipping God with their creative expression. And to begin a lifelong habit of using their talents for worship and service to the Creator of all. We are blessed to be part of a church congregation that recognizes the value that its youngest members and attenders can contribute. These children will remember the applause and every compliment that was paid to their hard effort. The experience has built their self-confidence and given them affirmation for a job well done for the Lord. For every person who walked up to one of these children and said, "You did a good job tonight," I am thankful. You have invested in the Kingdom of God.

Happy Birthday, Grandma

Monday, May 3, 2010

Yesterday was my grandmother's 91st birthday. It was a bittersweet day for me. Her 91 years are certainly worth celebration. I miss, however, talking to her on her birthday. You see, I used to always make it a point to call Grandma on her birthday. The last time I did that was May 2007, three years ago. On that day when I called, she could not understand everything I was saying on the phone. I believed she knew who I was, but she also may have believed I was one of her daughters. She did not understand whose birthday it was, and she became extremely upset, thinking that she had forgotten someone's birthday that she was supposed to remember. When our phone conversation was over, I realized that she was no longer able to speak to me on the phone. Several months later, it became difficult for her to even recognize her own children.

You have probably realized at this point that my grandmother has Alzheimer's. It is a terrible disease that steals those we love and leaves an empty shell. The last time I saw her was summer 2006. She was living in her own house and taking care of herself, but she must have realized even then that something was wrong. Before I left, she said, "You know you have a good husband. I've always liked him. You take care of each other, and take care of those beautiful children. If I don't see you again here, I'll see you on the other side." I cried as we drove away, wondering why she thought she would not see me again. Or perhaps she was letting me know that she wanted me to remember her the way she was then, not as the empty shell that she had watched her sister become several years before. Shortly thereafter, we were transferred to the opposite coast for several years, and I have not seen her again. She is well-cared-for. My parents and my dad's siblings visit her regularly and see to her care. She is cheerful and loving to the strangers that now surround her every day, and my mother said that perhaps she still has some work to do for the Lord on this earth, to encourage someone somehow.

My grandmother's life has always been about working for the Lord. A preacher's wife, she raised five children with my grandfather, then lived in retirement with him until he went home to be with the Lord more than 10 years ago. After God, her family was the most important to her, and she always made time for family. She played the piano for church services until she could no longer read the music, and then she kept playing by ear or from memory. She was thrilled when my husband became a Navy Chaplain, and she prayed for him faithfully every time he deployed. I called her sometimes when I just wanted to talk. She understood my feelings when we moved so frequently, when I was getting established in a new church and making friends, my love for music, and the joys and trials of raising children and working in a ministry. She'd been there. She could always put my feelings into words. She always prayed for me, as well as for all of her other children and grandchildren, every night.

Grandma called me right after 9-11-01. I was expecting my second child, and I was due any day. Like so many in my generation, I was about to bring new life into a world that was changing before my eyes, and we did not know what the future would hold. But that is not new to our generation. Grandma was expecting when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and my dad was born the next day. We gave our daughter Grandma's name for her middle name.

Now that Grandma's mind has been claimed by Alzheimer's, I do miss her, but I know that our bond cannot be broken. She is still there, somewhere, still a daughter of the King, still living for Him in her own way. Someday she will see Him face to face, and her mind will be cleared. The disease will be obliterated, and she will be reunited with the ones she loves who have gone before. I will see her there, in that great Morning, just as she promised four summers ago.

Until then, happy birthday, Grandma. We love you.

Simple Joys, Simple Machines

Monday, April 26, 2010

Today was one of those days that I realized just how much I love to homeschool. Beautiful weather, achieved milestones, and a flexible schedule combined to make it an almost perfect day. True, we spent most of the morning inside working on our workbooks like usual. You have to get the hard work done some time. My third-grade daughter didn't have to sit at the table too long, though. Her assignment for science this morning was to find "simple machines" we use around the house. After a brief walk around the house, writing down a few items, and some time in the kitchen with me showing her different gadgets (she was only moderately interested), she lost herself in the garage. Dad's workshop - now THERE is a place to study science! I lost track of how much time she spent out there studying the garage door opener pulleys, the various tools that use levers or inclined planes, and the bicycles. She has a pretty good understanding now of how the simple machines work by themselves, and how they work together in more complex machines.

The really exciting "aha!" moments for me, though, are when I see things suddenly click in my children's brains, and they start doing things that they weren't doing before. I still remember the day my other daughter, then in preschool, suddenly realized that she could transform her "scribble writing" into the letters of the alphabet that she had been tracing. She was so excited! My 4-year-old son had one of those days today. He enjoys drawing, colors between the lines, and often enjoys doing his own thing while the other kids do "real schoolwork." Today, though, art class caught his interest. We were talking about how you could use different kinds of straight lines - horizontal, vertical, diagonal, long, short, or broken - for shading in your drawings. This fascinated him. Instead of scribbling on his paper, he could copy the simple lines I was showing them how to make and actually draw a picture. Different kinds of lines made roads, water, or the fur on a teddy bear look real. This was the first time he had ever actually followed the directions in art class and made the same kind of picture that we were making. I could see the concentration in his eyes as he drew a tree, a teddy bear, then a man with hair, mustache, & a beard. I'm not saying he's the next great Rembrandt, or even Picasso. But he learned a skill and applied it. And took pride in doing so!

The afternoon brought our reading-out-loud time, which we decided to do outdoors today, since the weather is so beautiful. I sat in the swing under the oak trees and read to my children in God's positively beautiful creation. This is the most fun I've ever had in school!

The Mommy Factor, or Pulling Yourself Together When It Matters

Friday, April 16, 2010

First, I should probably make a confession. I hate baseball. Now, I know that sounds un-American, but I don't mean that I hate Babe Ruth, the Yankees, or the great American pastime in general. In fact, I love attending professional games in big cities or watching the local farm teams with my family. I especially love the Baltimore Orioles, and I've even enjoyed some high school and little league games. Of course, I love seeing my own children play more than anything. What I hate is the last several years of unorganized children's baseball that we have plugged through. Knowing no schedule until the last minute. Finding out every Monday whether or not you have practice that night. Being told there will be no practice or game over Spring Break, making other plans, then being told at the last minute that there is a scrimmage after all. Having several of your children's teams - within the same league - schedule regular practice at the same times in different places and expecting you to be two or three places at once. Perhaps the more dedicated baseball moms can handle it. I am ready to leave it behind and spend more energy on the bajillion other activities in which my kids are involved.

So you can imagine that I was not a happy camper last night when I arrived at the park where we have been playing all season to find out that our team was not playing there. The schedule said we were playing on Field 1. This park had a Field 5 and a Field 6. I am new in this town, and I had missed the memo that Field 1 is not at this park. Field 1 and one other field stand alone in a separate park on the other side of town. I tried to call the coach but could not find his number. I checked my email on my iPhone; there was no email that we would be playing in a different place. I tried to pull up the schedule or a map to where I needed to go online. I couldn't find anything. I finally went to ask the guy who was supposed to be in charge of the league, and who was at the park where I was. He snapped my head off. He did give me directions, though, and I finally found the place where we needed to be, after trying to get the information for about 45 minutes. We were only 15 minutes late for the game.

At this point, I got my son to his field and retreated to the ladies' room. I needed to be alone. Driving around in strange areas where I don't know where I'm going further frustrates me. I did not want to be at this game. I wanted to go home and get a nice cup of coffee. For those of you who are reading this and think I was being utterly ridiculous, you are right. I didn't need to let myself get that upset. The reason I'm publishing this anyway is because I know there are others reading this who have been in exactly the same situation. I decided to pull myself together and go back and watch my son play baseball.

Then it happened. The pitcher threw the ball. The coach had told my son to try to bunt it. He choked up on the bat and swung. The ball hit his finger. He bent over, said, "OWWW," then shook it off and was getting ready to bat again. Until he saw the blood. Some males just don't do well with the sight of their own blood. He came off the field and I ran over to him, not sure whether his finger was broken and I needed to scream and let him know Mommy was here, or whether it was just scratched and I needed to hold back and not embarrass him in front of his friends. I opted for the less dramatic approach and tried to calmly look at his finger. The coach had already seen it and said, "You need to take him to the hospital." I rushed him out to the car and started trying to think of the best way back to the hospital. I really am not good with directions and was not sure exactly where I was. I took my iPhone out to call my husband, and dropped it on the ground and broke it. This day just kept getting better. I realized the GPS was in the other car, with my husband. OK, I just had to be calm and get to the hospital. I drove out of the ball park and started to turn left, the way I had come, to go back to the highway.

Suddenly I felt a shift inside myself. The anxiety was gone instantly. The whining about my bad day stopped. I did not feel lost or confused anymore. Peace took over. I remembered someone saying the ballpark was just past "Kidville." I knew where that was, and it was close to the hospital. I pictured the map in my head. If I turned right instead of left, Kidville should be over the next hill. I turned right and got to the hospital in less than five minutes. Anyone who knows me knows that I am absolutely horrible with directions. Was it the Holy Spirit telling me where to go, or just a God-given mothering ability to pull yourself together when you have to? I don't know. What I do know is that the complaining, whining (if only to herself) girl at the ball park was gone, and Mommy was back.

"Hey, Mom!" I heard from the back seat. "If I learn how to fence left-handed while my right hand is broken, then I'll be ambidextrous. When I'm having a sword-fight and someone asks why I'm smiling, I can say, 'Because I know something that you do not know. I am not left-handed!'" Apparently, my son is going to be fine as well. He may lose his nail, but the fracture in his finger should be healed in a few weeks. His greatest problem may be the warped sense of humor he has inherited from his parents.

Ready, Set, VBS!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Vacation Bible School time is almost upon us again. Oh, you may not think so if you are in third grade and summer vacation still seems a lifetime away; but if you are a Sunday School teacher or a parent in a local church congregation, chances are the VBS leader has already approached you and asked if you will volunteer in June, July, or August of this year. You may already have your preparation materials in hand. Many years I have rushed, with others in my family and church, from my regular day-job to nighttime VBS, barely having time to grab a quick dinner, during that busiest week of the summer; and I must admit that at times, I have wondered if it was all worth it. One year I had a particularly difficult teenage boy in my middle school class, who disrupted the class, did everything he could to get attention, and told me every night that he wouldn't be back the next evening. Well, I could only hope. I was surprised, however, when his mother came to meet me after the closing program on the final evening. "Thank you so much for all you did this week," she said. "My son has been working in construction this summer, and some evenings he was barely able to get a shower and get here on time, but he absolutely refused to miss it. All he could talk about all week was your class and all the things he was learning here."

Yep, it's worth it.

There was another summer when I was, once again, in a new church (see prior posts about military moves). I approached my good friend Pam, who was the VBS director, and said, "Pam, I will be happy to do ANYTHING you need me to do for VBS. I can do music, crafts, teach lessons. . . ." Lesson One: Never tell a VBS director you will do ANYTHING.

"Great!" said Pam. "We are planning to serve a light dinner each night to all the kids and workers, since a lot of people don't have time for dinner before they come here. You can be in charge of cooking for the kids."

Are you kidding me? Cooking for 100 kids or more each night? I really was not much of a cook. "Uh, Pam," I said, "I don't think you understood. I can do VBS things - you know, music, crafts, stories. I'm really not comfortable working in the kitchen every night."

Now, you would think that the average VBS director would sigh and say, all right, I'll find someone else, but not Pam. "Debbi," she said, looking me right in the eye. "God is asking you to step OUT of your comfort zone. I need you to stretch your abilities and work in the kitchen."

Well, clearly, I ended up working in the kitchen. The amazing thing was how much I learned from the other ladies who were working on the adult workers' meals in there. On my husband's next duty assignment, we ended up at a college Academy, where I frequently had 20 or more college students coming to dinner. God had been preparing me for the next job He needed me to do.

We have moved a few more times, and we again have found ourselves at a church where Pam is directing VBS. I'm a little bit afraid of VBS this year!

If you happen to have an excellent VBS director who has the gall to ask you to step out of your comfort zone, give it a try. It's only for a week, and you might just learn something. And trust me, it's worth it!