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!

True Worship

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Life in the military requires frequent moves, and frequent moves require church-shopping. If you have attended a church or two, you've had opinions about worship services. Now, I can worship with traditional hymns, contemporary choruses, children's songs, or rap music; I love them all. The challenge for most worship teams is to find the balance between an excellent performance and an excellent worship experience. We've all seen praise teams that could have put on a rock concert, but they sang songs we didn't know, they were too loud, and we left wondering where the good ole' gospel sing-alongs were being held. And then we've all been to churches where we knew and appreciated that everyone's hearts were in the right place, but bless their hearts, if they could just get a songleader who could carry a tune. Most places are somewhere in between. We know that God requires our best, so why is it so hard to keep our eyes focused on worshipping Him and to do a good job musically as well?

Well, when we visited our current church when we moved here a few months ago, I knew almost immediately that we had come to the right place. It was our very first Sunday visiting this new congregation. I already knew that the worship minister was musically talented; I had seen him lead music at church camp before. We were impressed by the praise team, the instrumentalists, the chosen song mix, and the participation of the congregation. Then came the test. A boy walked up onto the stage in the middle of the worship service. He seemed to be lost in the music, oblivious to the audience. To be honest, I expected someone to come across the stage and rush him quietly out of the room, but that is not what happened at all. As he walked over to a singer and touched her face, she smiled at him and took his hand. He continued to walk around the stage, looking at the different instruments, trying to figure out how they made the sounds they did, and everyone just kept singing. He walked over to the worship minister, peering at his guitar, and the worship minister turned slightly away from the microphone, holding the guitar towards him so he could see and hear it better. There was no interruption to the worship whatsoever. After the song was over, the boy left the stage, and the worship minister spoke. "For those of you who may be new here, this is our friend, Tommy (name changed to protect privacy). Tommy is autistic, and sometimes music can reach him in ways that nothing else can. He is part of our church family here, and this is part of his worship. We are glad he can worship God with us through music." Wow. Musical excellence for God with no concern for putting on a "show." Evidence that the people in this congregation wanted to truly worship God, in spirit and in truth; and that they cared about every single member of the family of God. Yes, we were in the right place.

Praise God!

The Family Tree

Friday, August 14, 2009

One of the greatest gifts that I think we can give our children is the gift of knowing their extended family. For many of us in the military, this can be difficult. My young children sometimes only see their grandparents once a year, and they haven't seen their cousins since our last duty station, over two years ago. Since I am a scrapbooking/picture queen, I use pictures to help my kids supplement their memories of extended family members. It is amazing how well this works. Even when they are young, they immediately recognize and feel like they know people whom they haven't seen in a while. The older children can begin understanding simple family trees to see who is related to whom.

My oldest son absolutely loves his grandparents (not that all the children don't, but he is very exuberant about their relationship)! When he was about 3 and my husband returned from a deployment, my son introduced my husband to his own mother! My son didn't really understand how Grandma was related, and since Daddy had been gone for so long, my son didn't remember Daddy and Grandma ever meeting.

Recently, I have joined my mother-in-law in some research and album-making of the family history. One interesting thing we have discovered is the extensive involvement of the various branches of our family tree in the Church. Also, since I was adopted, when I was a child, I never knew anyone from whom I had actually inherited genes. Though this has never bothered me, it has been fascinating for me to see photographs from the 1800s of people in my husband's family who look eerily like my own children.

My mother-in-law and I worked off-and-on for two years scanning in her old pictures, with me typing in every detail she could tell me about them. Then after Christmas this past year, I spent a solid six months - countless hours - working very hard on this album. I made it digitally on my Mac, so now I can make copies for anyone in the family who wants one. I input all the family tree information we had into Reunion for Mac. I was able to make family trees of the different branches of the family from this software, and pull them right into my scrapbook, made with the iRemember program. I even have the family tree, complete with pictures, on my iPhone! This is so much better than the old paper way to record family data! Once I finished, I made a copy of the 187-page book for my mother-in-law, and one for myself. I use the term "finished" loosely, since now family members are helping me make corrections and possibly add some old pictures they've had tucked away. This could be a whole-extended-family-work-in-progress for years to come - another reason to make the project digitally, for ease in making changes and corrections! My mother-in-law loves the book, and I am glad I was able to make it for her. But the real reward for me? Seeing my children pour over the pages. They love looking at the pictures and reading the stories, and realizing that they have a connection to the people on these pages. They are learning about making family trees and preserving history. But more importantly, they are getting to know their roots. I plan to make corrections and additions to this book, and also to do one for my side of the family. Someday, I'll be looking at them with my grandchildren.

Even if you don't have extensive family research available, consider making your children some photo albums of extended family members. If you like to scrapbook, this could be a fun project to do with your children. If not, just purchase an inexpensive pocket-size photo album and fill it with pictures. You'll be giving your kids the gift of family. Not to mention the gift you are giving Grandma, when even young children act like they know her well after not seeing her for a year or more!

Happy Scrapping!

Awana Scrapping

Friday, June 5, 2009

If you digi-scrap and have kids in Awana, check out The 29 May post. I feel so privileged that Annie made the kit just for me!! :)

Fingers Wiggling Under the Door

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Someday, when my children grow up and go to college, I will go visit them in the dormitory. When they go to the bathroom, I will bang on the door, throw myself on the floor, and stick my fingers under the door, yelling, "No, no! Open the door! I want to be with you!" If they forget to lock the door, I can fling it open when lots of people are in the room outside it. Of course, they will not remember the days when they did this to me, and they will think, "Mom is losing it!" and put me in a home. But someday, when I am able to go to the bathroom in peace and have privacy in my own home, I will miss those little fingers under the door. I will be lonely. A day is coming, sooner than I want it to, when they will not want my advice and they will be embarrassed to be seen with me in public. So for now, when they climb me while I'm on the phone and sit on top of me while I try to fold laundry, I will enjoy every minute of it. I will lovingly help change the doll's diapers, and I will carefully step over the toy cars zooming under my feet while I work in the kitchen. For these are among the greatest blessings of my life, and someday I will long to come back to this day.

Whatever You Do

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Col 3:23 NIV

I LOVE to scrapbook. Sometimes I think it may be a waste of time (and in fact, I have to budget my time so I don't scrapbook all the time and let my dirty house fall down around me!), but then my children eagerly sit down and devour each scrapbook as I finish it, and it's worth all the time and effort. As we move from place to place with the military, what better way to help children remember family members they don't see often, houses they've lived in, and friends who've moved away? Not to mention all the wonderful places we've seen on vacations and during PCS moves, such as Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone Park? In addition, I believe that God created us to be creative beings, and we need outlets for our creativity. It is true that the scrapbooks could be ruined by the movers during the next PCS, but in the end, why do we spend time in our various creative outlets? What is the purpose of everything we do while we are on this earth? To bring glory to God. We sing, we paint, we play instruments to the Glory of God. And even if we're not very talented, we still appreciate beauty and creativity, often exclaiming in awe over the beauty of a forest or a sunset. The Scriptures tell us, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." So, if you're like me and have kids, church, and a busy schedule, possibly an outside job, you may not get much time to be creative. But when you do carve out a little piece of time for yourself, use it to praise God!

God of Wonders

Monday, July 21, 2008

Few things can make you more aware of God's awesome power and beauty than watching your children play on the beach on a perfect summer afternoon. The vastness of the ocean, the beauty of the sunset, the simple joy of little toes burrowing in the sand. None of this could have appeared here simply by accident. God's majesty is evident in the waves crashing on the beach. The beauty of the created world brings glory to Him. All creation sings His praises!