Friday, December 9, 2011

Love is the Greatest

I have been slowly making my way through the book of 1 Corinthians. I wanted to be sure I fully understood and remembered what I read, instead of just reading through it quickly and not retaining any of it. This is one of those books I have avoided in the past, because, by reading through it quickly, I just end up getting bogged down and I don't remember a thing when I'm finished anyway so why bother. But I felt like God was telling me to give it another attempt, and so I began again.

1 Corinthians 13 is one of those chapters I have heard or read so many times I can nearly quote it for you. I caught myself beginning to read through it in a hurry, because, after all, I already know what it says. But I made myself slow down and read it verse by verse, line by line, word by word. And let me just say - WOW! God really showed me some things in that chapter. Here is what I learned.

1 John 4:8 says that God is love.

Love is patient and kind. God is patient and kind. Am I always patient and kind? Hmmm... Patient? Not even close. I am rarely patient with anyone. I move fast, and I expect everyone else to move at my pace. And if you don't, I get very impatient. When I am teaching my kids math, patience goes out the window. I become impatient and just want them to hurry up and "get it" so we can move on. Am I showing God's love in that area? Not a chance. How about being kind? Do I always show kindness to others? My kids? Back to that math lesson, and impatience and unkindness go hand in hand. Am I kind to people who are different from me? Those who are unkind to me? Rarely.

Love isn't jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Those four things really go together, and I find that I fail in all areas. When I see others who have things (material or spiritual) that I don't, I tend to become very jealous. Why couldn't God give ME those things? Why did He choose to waste those things on the likes of THEM? Jealousy is a great evil, let me tell you! And when that jealousy takes over, I find myself boasting, or bragging, about the things I CAN do, because I want to make sure everyone sees ME, ME, ME! Pride wells up inside of me, and I begin to think that I am better than I really am, and I forget the fact that the only good things in me are from Christ. Apart from that, there is no other good thing. And that pride also makes me think I am all together better than anyone else, especially the person or people of whom I was jealous in the first place. And boy does rudeness seem to find its way in there at that point. Jealousy, boasting, pride, and rudeness are things I find I struggle with on a regular basis.

Love doesn't demand its own way, but I sure do! I want my way or the highway. If others don't see things the way I do, well, they are just wrong and should really come around to my way of thinking. Really, why would anyone bother having any other thought than the one I have. I want things MY WAY, and when I don't get it, I can become very unkind and rude. Am I showing love in that way? I think not.

Love isn't irritable and doesn't keep a list of past wrongs. But so often, when my husband does something I feel is unjust, I get completely irritable, and my memory becomes very vivid. I can remember all the things he has done in the past that were unjust and how he never did anything about it and how he never changes and I am just not happy about all of it. Do I keep lists? You better believe it!

What God showed me in reading those few verses was that, even though I had read that chapter so many times and I knew the right things to do, I have some serious areas that need some work. So I began praying over these things and asking God to help me in each specific area. I want God to show me how to love with a God love - His love! I want Him to teach me how to be patient and kind with others in all situations. Every time I become jealous, I want Him to show me clearly my sin so I can repent. And whenever I feel the urge to boast about things I've done or am doing, and any time I feel like being rude to others, I am praying God will put a lock on my tongue and shut it down immediately. I want my attitude to be in the forefront of my mind, keeping a check on it, so as not to become irritable with people, my husband, or my kids. I want to burn those lists in my mind of things people have done to wrong me in the past. I pray that God will help me to start each day new and not remember wrongs from yesterday. Because really, if people kept lists of things I have done to wrong them, those lists would be very long. I am thankful for the grace and mercy God shows me by not remembering my past sins, so I should offer that same grace and mercy to others by not keeping lists of past wrongs.

When I read the Bible straight through and quickly, there are often things I miss, things God may want to show me that I was in too much of a hurry to see. But by slowing down and reading His Word more carefully, God showed me some things He wants to refine in me.

Don't think that, just because you have read something many times, you have it all figured out. And remember that just reading the Word isn't the ultimate goal here. Reading it in such a way as to understand it and digest it is better! Is there an area God is showing you that needs some work? Leave me a comment and share, and I will pray with you over it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

LEGO School Days

There are some days that I seriously have good intentions where school is concerned. But sometimes my good intentions just don't turn out quite like I planned. Most of the time, things start heading south because "stuff" happens. "Stuff" being things like my phone won't stop ringing off the hook, or the baby is very cranky because of those huge molars coming in and wants to be held, or an unexpected visitor drops by and stays for awhile, or just the fact that I am so exhausted after doing other "stuff" that we take a much needed day off. But not this day!

On this school day, the reason my good intentions were not carried out was simply because my kids were teaching themselves. Yep. They all went in the school room after breakfast and sat down with some LEGO's. Since they were all being quiet, I wasn't about to disturb them!! I figured I'd call them a little later for school. But as I peeked my head in the room to check on them, I saw they were deep in thought building some really creative things.

Britches was busy trying to make a tower that had several gears inside that would turn a wheel and make the tower roll across the table. And Little Man was working out the details on a robot design that would do all my chores around the house! YAY for me! I am so thankful to have a son who thinks about things like that. Now if he will just really create a REAL ONE, well, I would really be happy about that!!

Alas, I am a terrible mother and forgot to take pictures of Britches' moving tower. GASP! I know! I know! I will do better in the future! BUT, I did remember to take pictures of Little Man's robot design - mainly because he wouldn't stop pestering me until I did! So here it is. The robot that will one day take over all my house cleaning duties.

This is the robot from different angles. 

 This is the dishwasher portion. The LEGO's in the white boxes represent my never ending load of dishes, and the two arms are what washes them. And the bottom picture shows the side view of the counter space where it will stack the clean dishes.

These are the laundry hands that will fold my laundry.

This is the trash arm that picks up trash around the house. You tie it onto the bars and it will throw it into the dumpster for you. 

This is the broom that can sweep my house! Since I have a house with no carpet, this is a GREAT invention! 

And for the few rugs I have in my house, there is a vacuum arm attachment.

And of course you need access to the control panel for programming your robot for specific tasks. 

This robot has hoovering devices attached to the bottom.

And this is my little engineer with his invention. 

Most days, we are very good about getting our normal schooling done, such as spelling and math. But some days, delight directed learning takes over and I step out of the way. And you know what? That's OK! 

~For more information on delight directed learning, go check out Homeschool Oasis!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas at Our House

Well, the tree is finally up! YES, I am just now getting around to it! If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I am a terrible procrastinator. There, I said it. I feel better now, and we can move on.

Actually, this year Brient asked me if I would wait an extra week after Thanksgiving to put up the decorations, because then he can enjoy them for just long enough without being sick of them. I know, I know! I can hear all of you out there telling me, "We have ours up BEFORE Thanksgiving and don't take it down until sometime well into January!" Yeah well, we are not that kind of family. If they stay out too long, we all get a little crazy, because it's all over the place and I'm just ready for order to be back in my home. So I graciously went with his suggestion and waited an extra week.

So this past Monday, we pulled everything out of the closet, brought it into the living room, and went to work. It was so great watching ALL FOUR of my kids helping with the tree! The baby is now three, so she is really old enough to help AND enjoy everything.

They wouldn't let me put the tree up myself, because all four of them wanted to have a part in putting in the branches. 

I started putting garland around the tree, but Little Sister jumped in and took over. Then the other two got in on the wrapping of the tree, and I was completely out of the loop. 

Each year, my job is to pass out the ornaments and their job is to decorate the tree. I pass them out, because I keep all of my ornaments in a big box and they get a little tangled up. Plus, I don't really want any fighting over who gets to put what on the tree. It's just easier that way. They loaded the tree with all their ornaments that we have made together over the last several years. If you look closely at my tree, you might see a handful of store bought ornaments, but most were made by my kids.

That girl loves her brother! 

And here is our finished tree. Absolutely beautiful! And all done by them!

Britches had a great time going all over the house adding Christmas touches here and there.

While we were decorating the tree, Baby Girl kept sneaking in the living room grabbing ornaments and heading to her room. I finally went to see what she was doing. She told me she was decorating her room! Very lovely!

And Britches and Little Sister made the last gingerbread house to add to the decorations. 

Our house is finally decorated for Christmas. I had a plan to help the kids so that it would look really nice. You know, ornaments perfectly spaced on the tree and things put in just the right place. But then I remembered, this is about them! So I just backed up and let them decorate however they wanted, and I just took the pictures. And it was fun! And they love it! And I couldn't be happier about our Christmas decorations this year!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Santa and the Reindeer - by Britches

Britches had a writing assignment today. Being that it is near Christmas, her project was to write a short story about something lighthearted with a Christmas theme. That is actually quite a challenge for her, because, since she is so detail oriented, her stories usually end up being several pages long! But today, she did exactly what I asked. Here is her story.

Santa and the Reindeer
by Britches

Once upon a time, there lived a jolly old fellow with rosy red cheeks and a belly like jelly. His name was Santa Clause. This jolly old fellow lived in Greece, a land far from the North Pole.

Santa gave out presents every year to all the good girls and boys at exactly 9:00PM on December 24. On Christmas morning, all the children woke up to find presents under their Christmas tree. 

But as the years went by, Santa decided he was getting too old to walk to every house in Greece. So he designed a sort of animal Olympics, and he invited every animal on the planet to join in. He designed the games to help himself pick the best animal to help deliver presents.

After the games, he tallied up the points. In third place, there was a horse. In second place, there was a moose. And in first place, there was a reindeer named Dasher. 

But when Santa asked Dasher to help him, Dasher said, "It's too hot here!"

So that's how Santa started in Greece, and ended up in the North pole with a sleigh team made up of reindeer. 

The End

Friday, December 2, 2011

Little Sister's Pictures

A few days ago, Little Sister got hold of my camera. Look out world, she is taking pictures now! She cracked me up as she kept asking me all about how to use that thing.

I showed her how to turn it on, take a picture, and look at what you took. She was THRILLED! I made sure she had the strap around her neck, and I left her alone to take all the pictures of her lego creations that she wanted.

But when I came back later to check on her and see the pictures she had, this is what I found. Well, some of them anyway.

That little stinker! I fear she has a bit too much of her mother in her...

Gingerbread Houses

Last year, a few days after Christmas, I was in Wal-Mart and saw they had their gingerbread houses on sale for A DOLLAR!! So of course I bought two of them! One pack had five miniature houses included, and the other had one house with a Santa sleigh. My plan was to pull them out one day this summer when we were bored. But that never happened. So there they sat for months.

Ever since Thanksgiving had passed, the kids had all remembered those gingerbread houses sitting in the cabinet, and they had been begging me to pull them down and put them together. So today was the day! After the older kids finished up their school work, we cleared off the table and pulled those boxes down. The house was just filled with excitement and anticipation!

Each of the kids picked which house they wanted, we divided up the candies, and the fun began. I was in charge of the icing, because, well, that goes without saying. I did give Britches the other bag of icing, because I trust her. But I wouldn't trust the other three as far as I could throw them. After "gluing" them together, everybody had such fun decorating their own house! Even Baby Girl got in on the fun! I was quite shocked and glad that she didn't try to eat any of the house or candies, because those things smelled like they had been on the shelf for, well, the last year!

Here are the pictures of our fun and our finished projects!

This is my sweet Baby Girl decorating her triangle house and showing it off. She specifically wanted the "triangle". And when she saw me break out the camera, she said, "Mommy, take picture of me and my house!" She had so much fun doing this!

 Little Sister had a great time decorating her house.

Little Man was very particular about his house, and even added sprinkle snow on the roof and a sprinkle sidewalk. The marshmallows around the house are snow. 

And here is my Britches with her meticulously crafted house. She took the green leaf gumdrops and cut them into strips, so she could make the wreath above the door and icicles around the house. She is so patient to do that! 

And here are all of our finished houses displayed on my hutch. Who needs the little miniature breakable houses when you've got such a fine array of gingerbread houses with which to decorate?

I hope you'll make some time this holiday season to do something FUN with your kids! Take a break from shopping and cooking and wrapping and whatever, and pull out a gingerbread house of your own or make some homemade ornaments or craft your own gifts for those you love. Christmas is more than just the act of opening presents on Christmas day. It's all the little things that you do leading up to the big day that are creating memories for you to cherish for a lifetime! Now go grab your kids and make some memories!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 24

Thanksgiving is finally here! We have feasted all afternoon, and now the house is quiet - really quiet. So I have a moment to sit back and reflect on some things.

Today, I am thankful for a few different things. For starters, I am thankful for the fantastic day we had with family and friends! My parents and Brient's parents came for lunch, along with some great friends and their four boys who joined us. And later, my brother and his wife popped in for a while. It was a great day with great people, great food, and a great time!

I am also thinking today about how very thankful I am for Brient's job. At this exact time last year, we honestly weren't sure if Brient was going to have a job anymore, or if they were going to fire him once the buy-out of his previous employment was complete. We were stressed to the max and looking at a move about four hours further south to a crazy busy city that we knew very little about. But on this day last year, I chose to put all the job issues behind me and focus on being thankful for that one day. I chose to praise God for who He is, and not think about our uncertain circumstances. The following months had us wringing our hands with worry. I tell you, saying you have faith that God will take care of you and actually living it out is sometimes a challenge. But God DID come through - at the VERY LAST MINUTE! About two days before Brient would lose his job, something came open and he was able to stay on with this company. I learned through that time that God is NEVER late, but rarely early. THAT was a hard time. But today, I am so thankful that Brient was able to keep his job, and, though it has been rough at times, he still has this job that provides for our family in a way that allows me to stay home with our kids. We have never gone hungry, and for that, I am thankful.

And lastly, I am so thankful for the things I have learned during these last 24 days of The Gratitude Project 2011. Sometimes it can be really hard to find something for which to be thankful, especially when the day just isn't going right. But by purposely looking for the things in each day that I have to be thankful for, it has taught me that there really are blessings each day that God pours out on me, even if I have to look for them. It has taught me to be a positive thinking person, instead of thinking about all the bad things going on around me. And it has helped me to see how truly blessed I am.

Thank you, Jesus, for all the blessings you have poured out on my life. Thank you for your continued blessing even in the midst of difficult times. Thank you that you will never leave me, but will always be there for me.

"Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." ~1 Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 23

The kids and I spent the whole day cleaning and getting things ready for the big day tomorrow. By the time supper time rolled around, I was starved! But tonight, Brient was cooking!! YAY!

A few days ago, Brient decided he'd like to try his hand at making supper for awhile. So I turned that job over to him, and he has been doing a great job for the last few nights. I am so thankful that he decided he'd like to help out in that area for awhile. Quite frankly, it is mentally exhausting trying to decide everything for everybody every day - including what we will eat for every meal. So the fact that he has taken that burden off of me is a blessing. We have eaten earlier each night and had some great dinners. It has left my evening free to finish up anything in the house that needs tending to. Last night, I painted the living room while he cooked! And we've both been able to sit back and relax each evening after supper, instead of me being in the kitchen cooking AND cleaning up all night. I'm thankful for him helping out, and I'm thankful that I had sense enough to LET HIM!

Tomorrow is the big day! I am thankful for all the people who will be coming to my house to share Thanksgiving with us, for the great food we will be eating, and the great fun we will all have together.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 22

Today, I am very thankful for my chiropractor and the ladies that work with him! I went to see those lovely people today, and I was reminded how great they are!

About two months ago, I started going to see him. After eleven years of carrying four kids on the same hip, my back and hips were pretty out of whack. I wasn't sure where to go, but a friend recommended this guy. I knew nothing about him, but I decided to give him a shot. I was so glad that I did!

After going for a few months, I am feeling tremendously better! Not completely better, because, after all, I do still have four kids that I run after and a baby that I still hold, so I end up with tension in my neck and a sore back. But overall, I am feeling so much better.

I am thankful for how kind he is, how he doesn't rush me in and out, and how he genuinely wants to help me feel better. I am thankful for the sweet ladies that work in his office. I don't know that I have ever dealt with such great people in an office. And I am especially thankful for Barbara, my massage therapist, who has taken GREAT care of me for the last few months. I have seen her every week for a massage, and honestly, I am not sure what I am going to do without her when the Dr. decides I am better and don't need to come anymore. But I'm not thinking about that right now!

Today, I took them all some of my yummy homemade bread - one for each of them - to go with their Thanksgiving meal and to say "thank you" for all they have done to help me during my treatment. I wanted to show them in a real, tangible way how much I appreciate them.

What are you thankful for today? How are you SHOWING your thankfulness in an outward way?

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 21

Thanksgiving is only three days away. The kids and I have spent the day cleaning house and getting things prepared for the big event.

Little Sister and I sat together this morning and colored lots of Thanksgiving pictures - a turkey, pumpkin, and cornucopia with plenty of fruit. She asked me if I would like to color with her, and I just couldn't pass up that fun with my girl! She had a chance to practice her cutting and gluing skills, too, when she got the pictures ready and glued them to some colored construction paper. I was very thankful that she loves me enough to want me to sit and color with her. She is the sweetest girl!

And I was very thankful today for my two oldest who are old enough to help me with the clean up job. We still have a little ways to go, but with their help, we have made a lot of progress.

So today, I guess the things I am most thankful for are the sweet babies God has given me the honor of raising for Him. I am so thankful for my four kiddos, and I wouldn't trade any of them for anything - even though I sometimes might consider it when the baby is especially cranky!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 20

Today is Sunday. I was so thankful that, after being out of children's church for the last two weeks, I was able to be with my regular kids and spend some time teaching them about thankfulness today. We talked about how to give thanks with our mouths. That means TELLING people how thankful we are!! And yay for me, that's what I've been doing all month, so this lesson was a great fit right now.

And tonight, I was thankful that we went to the church wide Thanksgiving feast! I was thankful for the opportunity to visit with some great people who I go to church with but don't always have the chance to see and talk to, because I am usually in the back with the kids. I am so very thankful for the friends I have at this church. Pretty much all of the churches I have ever been to, I have only had Sunday morning relationships with the people. We spoke politely on Sunday's, but then never talked again during the week. But this church is different. I love hanging out with these people during the week, on the weekends, at parties, and at eating times at church. These people are family - my family.

It was a great day! It was one for which I am very thankful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 19

Today has been a long day. I got to bed late last night, we have been going all day, and I am really tired tonight. I had planned a lovely family day for all of us today, but it didn't turn out exactly as I had it play out in my mind. I was a little let down about that fact. So tonight is one of those nights I'm having to really look at my day and think about what I am thankful for. So let me think...

I am grateful that God provided a day when my husband was off work and we were able to be together with all four of our kiddos. That isn't something that happens all the time. So when we are able to all be together, I treasure those days.

God created the most beautiful fall day for us to be out enjoying. The weather was not too cold nor too hot, and the breeze was blowing just right.

I am thankful that God gave us a safe trip to and from town, and kept us safe as we drove around town. It gets crazy out on the roads around the holidays, and I am always thankful when I make it where I'm heading and back home again in one piece.

Brient and I spent a little while today looking at some Airstream RV's online today, and just enjoyed dreaming together. Our plan is to sell his tractor and then buy one of those silver beauties! I was thankful for some time to just sit back and have some fun looking together.

Oh yes, and we went to buy a gallon of paint to spruce up our living room. I was thankful that all six of us had fun picking a color, and that we all AGREED! THAT was amazing! And I am thankful that my honey has decided he wants to take up my idea of painting the living room, because I will be able to get my new splash of color without having to do all the work by myself!! YAY!

And tonight, I will be very thankful when four kiddos make their way to bed. I am very thankful tonight that, when I get ready to call it a night, I will have a warm bed with a good pillow on which to lay my head. And I am thankful for a warm house in which to live.

Even though the day didn't quite go as I had planned, when I really think about it, there are still so many things I have for which to be thankful. Sometimes I have to really look, but the blessings of God are always there. And in truth, they are too numerous to even count.

What are you thankful for today??

Called to Minister - Part 2

*Before you read any further, be sure to read Called to Minister - Part 1!*

So my story picks up where I left off a few days ago. It was Friday morning, and we had pulled out of our driveway heading west. We had borrowed Brient's parent's camper to stay in, so we had to drive a little slower and it took us a full two hours to get where we were headed. But right around lunch time, we pulled into our home-away-from-home for the weekend. It took us about 20 minutes to set up camp, and we headed back out for lunch.

After lunch, Brient called the pastor of the church where we would be working to see if anyone was there at the moment to let us in. He said there was, and we were welcome to come on. So we got to the church around 1:30 and began our set-up for the weekend. I had swiped all the things I needed from my children's room at my church, and we had to bring it all in. I had no idea that it would take nearly the entire afternoon to get it all together and ready. We were blessed to be able to use the youth room for the weekend, and for that, we were so thankful. Everything was finally ready, and then all I had left to do was sit back and breathe for a few minutes before kids started arriving.

The revival didn't start until 7:00, but about 6:30 the kids began pouring in. I found out earlier in the day that this church runs a bus ministry and brings in kids from all over, so I wasn't exactly sure what kind of kids I would be seeing. It didn't take me long to realize that these were not the same kind of kids I usually teach. These kids were hungry. They were hungry for love and affection, hungry for some boundaries and stability in their lives, and hungry for God's Word. I made my rounds and started meeting all the kids. One thing I try to do with every kid I meet is to put my arm around them and give them a squeeze as I introduce myself. All of these kids just loved the attention!

Before we got started, Jon (the youth pastor) started passing out some bracelets for each of the kids. You know the ones I'm talking about. They were the bracelets with the colored beads on them that tell the message of salvation through the colors. A little girl came up to me right away and asked me what that bracelet was for. For a split second, I was a little shocked, because I haven't had a kid ask me that in so long. But then just as quickly, I remembered that was the exact reason God had sent me there. And so I began to share the message of salvation with her in a way that she could very easily understand. At that moment, she just thought it was pretty cool and went off to play. But that was OK. I knew God would take care of it from there. I had done my part.

The night got started, and the kids were so excited to be there! They had so much fun playing the games and singing the songs. Generally, praise and worship time is a struggle for me, because the kids in my children's church hate it! HATE IT! (Still can't quite figure out why. It remains a mystery to me.) But these kids LOVED singing and dancing and praising God! They loved coming up on stage with me. And when we had sung three or four songs, they were still begging to sing more - even though I was completely out of breath!!

The theme of our weekend was "Be Like Jesus." I wanted to share with them some of the things Jesus did, so we could see HOW to be like him. So that first night, we talked about how Jesus healed the man's hand on the Sabbath, because He cared more about people than He cared about rules. I made sure to tell them how much Jesus cares about each one of them, because I really doubt there are too many people in those kids' lives who do care about them.

When the evening was nearly over, I had Brient play a slower song, and I had prayer time with them. I asked if any of them wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts, and I told them how to go about doing that. I told them that, if they had prayed that prayer, to be sure to come see me after services, because I wanted to pray with them. At the end of the night, FIVE KIDS found me to tell me they asked Jesus into their hearts - and one of them was the little girl I had shared the message of salvation with at the beginning of the night!! YAY GOD!

When the night was over, we went out to eat with some people from the church. It was loads of fun, but we were so tired! We got back to our camper and crashed at about 11:30 that night.

The next day, we played around town a bit, did a little shopping, took Little Sister to Build-A-Bear to spend a birthday gift card, and went to a hands-on science museum. Then we headed back to the church to get ready for the evening.

I had been in a mindset of prayer the whole day (yes, you CAN have a prayerful attitude even at a children's museum and while shopping!), and I just really sensed that God was telling me to change my lesson for the night. So I stepped out in faith and switched gears.

That night, the kids had just as much fun and excitement as the night before! They were anticipating what was to come. My lesson that night was about when Jesus told Nicodemus that the only way to see the Kingdom of Heaven was to be born again on the inside. When it came time for prayer, we had several kids who came up to pray. I was really thankful that my friend, Emilee, had come with her dad to the revival, and that she wanted to help out, because she was great praying with the kids! No new kids got saved, but we had quite a few that wanted to pray about something.

We made it back to our camper around 11:00 that night. Whew! I was glad that it would be time change that evening, because that meant an extra hour of sleep the next morning!

Sunday morning, we headed to church for the morning service. The kids got to do a song that we had learned in front of the whole church that morning, and they were really excited about that!

My lesson that morning was about Jesus and Zacchaeus, and how it didn't matter how bad Zacchaeus had been, Jesus still forgave him when he truly repented. I told them that sometimes we need to really tell Jesus we are sorry for things we have done, and sometimes we need to be like Jesus and forgive others who have done wrong against us. Sometimes that can be really hard! When it came time to pray with them, I gave them the chance to come and pray at the front, and it was such a blessing seeing all those kids pouring their heart out to Jesus! I could look at those kids and tell you there were people in their lives who had wronged them and who they needed to forgive. My heart just broke for them.

That evening, we played review games to make sure they remembered all the lessons we had learned. They had a great time playing. But by that point, Brient and I were worn out, and the kids were pretty much worn out, too.

After the service was over, we jumped in the truck and started on our two hour drive home. We pulled in to our driveway at midnight that night. We were all quite exhausted!

Here are some things that I learned from that weekend.
1. There really are kids out there who have really bad home lives, bad situations, and no one to love them. There were children every single service who came in crying because they were hungry. Their stomach hurt, because it needed food in it! There were kids there every service who came sick, because their moms knew that the church bus would come and pick them up and get them out of their hair for a few hours, so the moms didn't care. I had to take care of quite a few sick kids that weekend. But I didn't care. They are why God sent me there - to minister to THEM! So I loved on them anyway, and I just prayed and trusted God to take care of my health.
2. Ministry can be hard work, but it is more than made up for in the rewards you get from Almighty God! We were so pooped by the end of the weekend, we could barely get going Monday morning. In fact, it took me nearly all week to get my energy back and get it in one direction again. But my heart is light knowing that I made an eternal difference in those kids lives!
3. I need to always pay attention to God, and if He tells me to change my plan, He has a better one in mind. I was so thankful that I listened to God telling me to change my lesson for the second night. Those kids really needed to hear the message of how to get to Heaven. Because when I left there, all they would have is what I taught them. And I really wanted them to remember THAT! They don't need me to get saved. They only need to know how. So for the kids who didn't ask Jesus into their heart while I was there, that's OK. God will still work on them long after that revival is over. And I taught them what they need to know to do that. So listen to God if He changes the plan!
4. When I ask God to send me out to work for Him, when I am willing, He will answer and He will use me! I was so thankful for the things He did through me that weekend, and for the things He did in my own heart!
5. God made me EXACTLY the way I am for His specific purpose! He did not make a mistake when He made me with a gypsy spirit. He did not make me this way just to torment me by keeping me in one place for my entire life, even though some days it feels like I will never go anywhere. He gave me the energy that I have and the desire in my heart to GO so that I can be of use to Him. And I know that, when He says I am ready, He will send me again.

I am so thankful that my God allowed me to be used to do His good work that weekend. I am so thankful that He allowed me to get outside of the walls that I generally find myself in, and go outside of my comfort zone to reach kids who were unlike most that I am called to minister to. And I am thankful for the ongoing call He has put on my life at my own church to minister to the kids there that need teaching and training. I serve a BIG GOD, and He has a BIG PLAN for my life. I can't wait to see where He takes me next!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 18

Today, I am in a mad rush to get out of the house. So this is going to be quick! But the thing for which I am thankful today is the fact that I am on my way out the door for a GIRLS NIGHT OUT with my friend, Marci! YAY! Being able to get out of the house for some girl time without four kids is a rare thing around here. So I am so thankful to my hubby who is watching his children tonight in order for me to be able to go out and have a little fun! I think I'm going to owe him a guy's night out soon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Called to Minister - Part 1

I am a gypsy at heart. I am rarely happy being in one place for too long. Before long, I start to get antsy and just need to DO something and GO somewhere! Believe me, it is no fun living with me when I get like this, because I just completely wear everybody out with my whining about the need to MOVE! I don't mean like moving houses. I mean like getting up and GOING somewhere to do something! I have been this way since I was a kid. Always had my bags packed and ready to go to the next adventure. (For those of you who share my gypsy spirit, you will know what I'm talking about here. For the rest of you, I don't really expect you to get it. But keep reading anyway!)

Unfortunately for me, my husband does not share the same gypsy blood as I, and, quite frankly, I start to really wear on his nerves after awhile. He is perfectly happy staying put in one place for his entire life. In fact, he has moved more times in the last 14 years of being married to me than he ever has in his life. So this is usually a big issue with us.

In fact, it got so bad a few weeks ago that I was just wringing my hands together and had such a heavy burden on my heart that I just didn't know what to do. So I did the only thing I knew TO do. I cried out to God in my anguish. I began praying and seeking God. My heart cried out wanting to know why in the world He would make me with such a desire in my heart and then not allow me to go and do and move. I told God in my utter despair that I needed Him to show me in a tangible way why I was made like this and show me what He would have me do with this desire He put in my heart, or to completely take this spirit away from me. I just couldn't keep living like this, wanting to GO and having a husband who wanted to stay put. I also told God that I didn't just want Him to tell ME what I was to be doing with this spirit in me, but I wanted Him to confirm it to me through my husband. And so I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and waited.

The coolest part was, I didn't have to wait long. I just LOVE it when God answers in a quick way. Generally, it is a very long process, with Him working things out inside of me while I learn to be patient and wait. But thankfully, not this time! Within about two days of praying and seeking God for direction, He answered - in a BIG way!

I got a call from this guy, Scott. I had never actually met Scott before that phone call, but I did know his wife. I had met her at camp over the summer. Scott was calling on behalf of his church, and they were looking for someone to come teach the kids at their church during their upcoming revival. They had heard about what we did with the kids at camp over the summer, and they thought we might be available. The pastor wanted to give all of their church workers a chance to sit in on the revival, so they needed someone from outside to come in to take care of the kids. Honestly, my first thought was, "There is no way Brient is going to go for this." The church is, after all, two hours away from our house. No, that's not really that far, but I still didn't expect him to want to go. So I told Scott I'd think about it, talk to Brient, and get back with him.

So I waited until a good time to talk to Brient (as in, I waited until the commercial came on), and I told him why Scott had called. He sat listening while I told him all the details. And when I finished, he looked at me and said, "Well, I think God just gave us an open door. I don't think we can do anything else BUT go through it." WOW! Is that direction WITH confirmation or WHAT!?

I was so thrilled I just could barely contain myself! For the next two weeks, I wrote out my lessons and got all my games together. We borrowed Brient's parent's camper, and got all of our things packed and ready to go. And when the weekend came, we pulled out of our driveway and headed West - to the next adventure God was calling us to.

For a really long time, I just couldn't understand what God was doing in me. I couldn't understand or put my finger on why I was made as I am. But when I needed some answers, I went to The One with ALL the answers. I asked God to give me direction and to confirm it through my husband, and boy did He ever answer. God didn't just tell me what was in store for my future, but He SENT ME somewhere to do work for Him. And he told Brient the plan, too. I was completely thrilled to be able to sit back and just watch as God moved and worked and revealed things. And I know - I KNOW - that He has even more things in store for us in the future!

In a few days, I'll write the rest of this story, and I'll tell you all about the ministry that went on during that revival. It was THRILLING! But then again, God is ALWAYS thrilling!

*Be sure to check out Called to Minister - Part 2*

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 17

One of my favorite times of each day is meal time. I LOVE sitting down to a meal as a family. But alas, meal times at my house are rarely what I envision. Generally, there is chaos at my table, with at least one spill to clean up, some little one needing second helpings, the baby needing to go potty while I'm in the middle of a bite, or food that I left cooking on the stove that ends up burnt. ACK!

But tonight, ah yes tonight, dinner at my house was exactly as I had hoped. We all sat around the table eating our meal, everyone was smiling and laughing and talking, the baby was GOOD for a change, and we all just had a great time of enjoying being together. Tonight, I am thankful for having all of my family around my table, for the food God has given us to eat, and for the great time of fellowship we all had together.

Tomorrow may bring chaos once again to my dinner table, but for tonight - ah yes tonight...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 16

For the last few days, I haven't felt all that hot. I've been going to a chiropractor for a few months now to try to line out my back and hips after having four kids on the same hip for the last 11 years. And for a few days now, the nerves in my back are just SCREAMING! Apparently, I'm getting close to having it all straightened out and my nerves don't like it, so they are rebelling. Anyway...

Since I haven't felt up to much, because I don't feel like walking or sitting or anything else, Brient has stepped up and taken care of things for me. Last night, he cooked supper. The night before, he took care of baths for the little ones. And tonight, he fed everyone and gave the little ones piggy back rides to bed. ~sigh~ He's so handsome when he does stuff like that!

So today, and really for the last few days, I am thankful for my sweet, wonderful husband who takes care of me when I don't feel well, and who loves me even when I'm grumpy when I don't feel well. I'm thankful that he's not a lazy man, but helps out around here, because, after all, it is his house, too. And I'm thankful for a man who is a good daddy and doesn't mind taking care of his kids. There are a lot of men out there who don't help AT ALL with their kids, but just let the wife do everything. I'm thankful for a man who realizes that they are his responsibility, too, and doesn't mind doing his part. Love that guy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 15

This morning, I woke to cloudy skies and very mild temperatures. I kept expecting it to rain all day, but so far it hasn't happened. But this morning, since it was so pleasant outside, the kids had some time to get outdoors and play on the new jungle gym their daddy made for them last month.

I am so thankful for the beautiful fall weather we have had lately. I am thankful for a husband who is not afraid to work and get dirty, and did a great job building that play set (from his own design) for his kids. And I am thankful that we are able to homeschool, so, on days like today, my kids can get out and play in the fresh air instead of sitting in a room at a desk and having only a few minutes outside during recess.

God has blessed my family beyond what I can say. And on days that I am frazzled and worn out and would really like to just sit down and feel sorry for myself, I only need to really look around me at all that my God has done and all that He has provided. Then I remember how blessed I really am.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 14

I heard a song today as I was driving to town. It's a song I have heard many times before, but I've just never really slowed down enough to hear the words. But today, I really listened. And I let the words of that song really sink in to my head and my heart.

Today, I am reminded of how thankful I am for my God's forgiveness. God has a way of forgiving that I just can't comprehend.

There are things I have done in this life that I wish I could go back and re-do, things that have hurt my Maker, sins against Almighty God. I feel as Paul did when he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15 that he was the worst of sinners. And I can honestly say that Paul speaks truth in Romans 7:18 when he says there is no good thing that lives in the flesh. God has absolutely no reason whatsoever to love me and forgive me for the wrongs that I have committed, and yet He DOES love me and He DOES forgive me when I repent of those sins and ask His forgiveness. That is simply amazing to me.

This song that I heard today sums it up perfectly. Here are the words to the song, so you can really look at it and let it sink in before listening to it.

by Sanctus Real

Well the past is playing with my head
And failure knocks me down again
I’m reminded of the wrong
That I have said and done
And that devil just wont let me forget.

 In this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am.

I’m forgiven
I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
Cause I’m forgiven.

My mistakes are running through my mind
And I’ll relive my days, in the middle of the night
When I struggle with my pain, wrestle with my pride
Sometimes I feel alone, and I cry.

In this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am.

I’m forgiven
I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
Cause I’m forgiven.

 When I don't fit in and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere
When I don’t measure up to much in this life
Oh, I’m a treasure in the arms of Christ ‘cause

 I’m forgiven
I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
Cause I’m forgiven.

My favorite part of that song (besides the chorus) is the part that says, "In this life, I know what I've been. But here in Your arms, I know what I am." 

Today, I am thankful for forgiveness. Without it, I would be completely lost and hopeless. Thank you, God, for forgiving me, even though I don't deserve Your forgiveness. Thank you that I don't have to carry that heavy weight of who I once was, and that my past does not define or determine who I am now and will be in You.

And the Winner Is....

Congratulations go out to my good friend, Jessie, who is the winner of my blog give-away! Up for grabs was a year subscription to an AMAZING children's ministry magazine, K Magazine. Jessie will be getting her first issue in the mail soon, and I just KNOW she is going to LOVE it!

And for all of you sitting there reading this looking very forlorn about the fact that your name was not drawn, fear not! You, too, can have your very own subscription to K Magazine just by heading over to the KidzMatter site and signing up. The cost is less than $20 a year, and it is the BEST investment you will ever make in your children's ministry!

Thanks to all who joined in the fun! I can't wait to hold another giveaway!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Gratutude Project 2011 - Day 13

I have so much to be thankful for today. Where to start? I suppose at the beginning.

This morning, I awakened to a quiet house and had a few moments alone with my God. I'm so thankful for those moments, and I am so thankful that He never sleeps and is ready and willing to meet me at any time of the day or night.

We all headed to church this morning. I was very thankful for our friend and helper, Gary, who stepped in to teach children's church this morning so Brient and I could go to "Big Church". I honestly can't remember the last time I heard an adult sermon on a Sunday morning, and I was really excited to be able to do so this morning!

I am thankful for a preacher who preaches what God lays on his heart, even if it hurts. I am thankful for his tender heart. And I am thankful for the genuine person he is and the ministry in which he is involved. I have said this so many times, but I just can't say it enough. I have never in my entire life had a preacher such as the one I sit under now. He is REAL! And he is on my level. And he loves God and he loves people. I am very thankful for him.

After church, we went out to our local "hole in the wall" pizza joint for lunch with friends. I was very thankful for the food and the fellowship! And afterwards, Brient took the kids home while I went BY MYSELF to get groceries!! That is such a rare occasion when you have 4 kids, and I was so thankful to my hubby for allowing me that time! He's a great husband and a great daddy! Not every guy would brave taking 4 kids by themselves. But he is such a great daddy and doesn't mind one bit!

And I was thankful that I had the chance to go back to church tonight for our singing service. I just LOVE when we have singing night! I grew up singing old hymns, and I love singing them in church.

There are so many things today for which I am thankful. God is so good! And tonight, I will be thankful to lay my head on my lovely pillow, because, after such a busy day, I am quite exhausted!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 12

Our homeschool group hosts an annual Thanksgiving feast and fun day at our local park, and it is open to any members of the group who wish to come. During the feast, we have a great spread of food brought by all attending, and there are all sorts of games for the kids to participate in. And this year, there was even a homeschool family who brought their instruments and played some great music during the feast! This was our first year to attend. Yep. I've been a member of this group for about 7 years now, and this is the first one of these shindigs I've ever been to. And it was so FUN!

Our daddy person even got to come with us, which made it even more fun. He and I took turns keeping an eye on Baby Girl, because, as soon as you blink she is GONE!! So we each had some time to visit with other homeschooling moms and dads, while the kids had a ton of fun playing with all their friends.

Today, I am thankful for a homeschool community that meets regularly to enjoy some good fellowship with one another. I am thankful for like-minded people who understand where I'm coming from. I am thankful for people I can talk with and they can empathize with me. And I am thankful for people who understand my reasoning for homeschooling without looking at me like I'm a complete crazy person for not shipping my kids off to public school like everyone else.

I am thankful that God provides the friends that we need at exactly the right time.

And I was equally thankful that God provided such an amazing day for going to the park. The weather was perfect. Not too cold and not too hot. The wind blew some, but not so much that it was unbearable. And the beauty all around was just amazing. The trees had all turned a gorgeous shade of orange, yellow, and red. I just LOVE the colors of fall!! Thank you, God, for a gorgeous day!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 11

Today is November 11, 2011 - 11/11/11. How cool is that?! It also happens to be a national holiday. Today is Veteran's Day. This is the day when we honor all men and women who have served in our country's military, either currently or in the past. Without these people defending our freedom, our country would not be where we are today.

I have three people specifically for whom I am very grateful. First, I am thankful for my granddaddy, Floyd Kelley. Second, I am thankful for my other granddaddy, Glen Felkel. Both served their country proudly, and I adore them both! And third, I am thankful for my late brother-in-law, Wade Neeley II, who passed away due to effects of serving his country during the Gulf War. These men are all heroes in my book, and I love them all!

So on this Veteran's Day 2011, I am very thankful for the people who keep my country free, so that I am able to live my life however I may choose, and I may serve my God however I wish. A BIG THANK YOU to all the veterans, both past and present.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 10

My grandmother asked me the other day if I would meet her this morning and help her with something she needed to get done. I, of course, told her I would! So the kids and I spent the morning seeing her and my sweet granddaddy.

Today, I am so very thankful for both of my grandparents. They live about 5 minutes up the road from me, so I am able to see them often. I am thankful for that.

For the last several weeks, my grandparents have been so sweet to keep my kids about once a week, so I could go to town to the chiropractor. It was something I needed to do, but, with 4 kids in tow, I simply wasn't able to do. But they helped me out so that I could do that.

I am thankful for all that I have learned from both of them over the course of my life. They have both been such a big part of my life, and I am who I am today because of the influence of them.

God has been so good to allow me to have these great people for such a long time. And for every day that I get to spend with them, and for every hug and kiss on the cheek I get from them, I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 9

Today, the kids and I went to our homeschool co-op. We go every Wednesday, and we all really enjoy it. Today, I am thankful that Brient and I decided to join co-op. For a very long time, I had a very bad opinion of co-op, and really didn't care a thing in the world about joining. But I am so thankful for my sweet friend, Juliann, who encouraged me to give it a try, because, well, we are really glad we joined! Each week, the kids get to see some great homeschool friends, which is a really good thing seeing as how they don't see kids each day like they would if they were in public or private school. This gives them some really needed interaction with kids their age. And I am so very, very thankful for all the great mama friends I have made! These ladies are just great, and I don't know what I would do if I didn't have friends like them. I am so thankful for all of them!! God is so good to give me and my kids friends like these!

K Magazine Review and Blog Giveaway Time!!

Children's ministry is something I am very passionate about. God called me to this ministry many years ago, but it has only been in the last two years that I have actually submitted to that calling and begun working as a children's minister. For awhile, I just sort of went on what I knew - things I had been taught as a child and things I had seen other children's ministers teach. But there came a point last year where I knew I was becoming stagnant in my children's church. I knew I needed to go beyond what I already knew, beyond my own thinking, and branch out to see what other resources and ideas were available.

A dear friend of mine, Larry (who happens to be the youth pastor at my church), suggested that I purchase a subscription to a children's ministry magazine. He told me about the magazines he gets that are geared for youth ministry, and thought I might benefit from something similar. So I looked online to see what was out there. There are so many things that one can find online that it can actually be a little overwhelming. Adding that to the fact that many of the ideas people are using are out of date and not nearly as effective for this generation of children, after all that searching, I didn't really come up with much. Then I looked for children's ministry magazines. There are only a hand full out there, and they each cost roughly $20 for a yearly subscription. I couldn't afford to get them all, so I had to pick.

The magazine that stuck out the most was called K Magazine, and is put out by Kidz Matter. I will admit, the title didn't look that interesting. But the more I thought about it and looked at some of the things they had in this thing, the more sure I was that this was the one I needed. It wasn't until I got my first issue that I was ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN this was the magazine that was going to provide me with the resources I needed to move me forward in children's ministry.

The theme of my first issue was "Leadership." That was something I had been trying to get some direction on, but didn't really know where to start. The articles were so helpful, and I have read most of them several times. I have plans to pass that issue on to others working in children's ministry in my church, but so far I can't come to part with it. I just keep picking it up and re-reading it!

The article that I enjoyed the most was titled "Full Steam Ahead," and was written by Tina Houser. Mrs. Houser talks about the power of momentum in your children's ministry, and how to go about fueling that momentum so that it is like a train that can't be stopped. She showed the importance of declaring your vision and sticking with it, jumping right into things rather than slowly getting into the race, and pouncing on opportunities that land in your lap. Being a step ahead of the game helps you to keep moving, instead of just coasting along in your ministry. She shows how to multiply your effectiveness by increasing your mass (people who work in children's ministry with you), how to set up wins for your team, the importance of plowing through obstacles that stand in your way, how to go public with what you are doing with your group, and the necessity of continually evaluating what and how you are doing. She hit the nail right on the head with that lesson on momentum.

Each issue is packed with so many great articles, it is hard to put the magazine down once I get started reading! And the articles are written by very experienced children's ministers such as Tina Houser, Roger Fields, Ryan Frank, Jim Wideman, Greg Baird, and so many more! You get great articles from experts in the field of children's ministry, ideas for ways to add some excitement to your lessons, decor, and overall ministry, encouragement for when you feel like things aren't going just right or like you're not making a difference, and loads of information on curriculum and products out there just for you! I am looking forward to the next issue, because the theme is "Creativity in Ministry." I need all the help I can get in that area! It's going to be a great issue!

If you want to check out this AMAZING magazine, along with plenty of other children's ministry resources, take a look at their web site! Or you can give these lovely people a call toll free at 877-568-2437. You will get to talk to an actual PERSON, and they are all very friendly! For $19.95, you get six completely PACKED issues!

BUT, I am so EXCITED to tell you that I am GIVING AWAY a full year subscription for my blog giveaway today! The good folks at Kidz Matter have graciously provided me with this prize, and one of my followers is going to win it! You are definitely going to want this prize! I promise!!

Here's how to enter. First, you MUST be a follower on my blog. So if you haven't clicked the "Join This Site" button on the right, go do that now. GO! GO! GO!! If you are a follower through another site, such as Google Reader, you need to leave me a comment and let me know. Everyone who FOLLOWS my blog gets entered automatically! YAY!!

If you would like to have an additional entry, here's what to do. Leave me a comment telling me why you want to win this prize, and/or if you would keep it or give it to someone else. Hey, I know all of you lovely people aren't children's ministers like me, and might not actually use something like this. But remember, kids ministry is a HUGE thing to God, and you could definitely pass this on to whomever has the privilege of being in charge of this ministry in your church! So whether you keep it or give it away matters not. You still REALLY want to win this!!

And for one more additional entry, post a link to this blog post on Facebook or Twitter telling all your friends about my prize giveaway! Then you need to come back here and leave me a comment letting me know where you posted the link. 

Be sure to leave me your e-mail address in your comment, so I can contact you if your name is drawn.

So there you have it. You have three ways to enter. The contest will run until Monday, November 14, so you all will have plenty of time to enter.

This magazine has been so helpful to me in my children's ministry, and I just can't WAIT to give away a subscription to one of you!! And if you just can't wait until Monday, or if you want to go purchase a copy for someone else, head on over there to the Kidz Matter website and pick up a subscription. You will NOT be sorry!!

*And a BIG THANK YOU to Hip Homeschool Moms for letting me post my giveaway to their site!! Go check them out!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 8

Tonight, as I sit down to think of the things for which I am thankful, I hear the rain as the wind blows it against the outside of my window. It has been such a long, hot, dry summer here in the Deep South, and now that fall is finally here, we are getting a slight reprieve. So right now, I am very, very thankful for the downpour that God is sending on my house. Yes, there are some severe weather threats out right now, but I am trusting in my God to protect us from whatever weather He sends. And in the meantime, I will be sitting back for the rest of the evening listening to the lovely sound of wet outside and will be remembering how thankful I am that God has sent that rain!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Days 4, 5, 6, and 7

Yeah, yeah, I know I'm behind here. But I have a VERY good reason for missing a few days posts on The Gratitude Project. Brient and I have been out of town since Friday doing kids ministry at a church during their revival. It was AWESOME!! So now I have a moment to think, and I can sit down and play catch up on the things for which I am thankful.

Day 4: Friday morning, Brient, the kids, and I pulled out of our driveway heading to a town about two hours away. They called us a few weeks ago asking if we would come do children's ministry at their church during their revival for this weekend, and we were THRILLED to be going! In a day or so, after I have rested a bit, I will give you a good idea about all the ministry that went on there this weekend! But for Friday's Gratitude Project, I was thankful for several things. I was thankful that we made it safely to our destination. We pulled my in-law's camper to stay in, and I was very grateful they let us borrow it. The church where we were ministering was very gracious and took us out for supper Friday night, and I was thankful! I was really thankful for all the kids that came to our program! And most importantly, Friday night I was SO THANKFUL for the FIVE kids who gave their lives to Jesus! YAY GOD!

Day 5: On Saturday, I woke up thankful for a great nights sleep in the RV park. The five of us went shopping around town a bit, and I was thankful for some time with my girls at Build-A-Bear Workshop. After shopping, we went to a hands-on children's science museum. My friend met us there, because she said she had season passes and could get us in FREE!! I was VERY thankful for her going out of her way to do that for us! And I was thankful she brought her son back up there to play with us, because Little Man just LOVES to play with him! I was thankful that, while thinking on my lesson for the night, I was open to the Spirit leading me to change my game plan at the last minute. Instead of my original lesson, I listened to God and changed to a lesson on how to be born again on the inside. And I was thankful for each kid that came Saturday night to hear that message God had for them. My friend, Ray, and his daughter, Emilee, came over for the revival that evening. I was ESPECIALLY thankful that Emilee asked if she could hang out with us and help us out!! I seriously had been praying about how we were going to pray with that many kids, when it was just myself and Brient. God sent her at the perfect time, and it was such a blessing seeing her pray with the kids that needed prayer.

Day 6: On Sunday morning at around eight o'clock, my sweet Baby Girl turned THREE! WOW! Where did the time go? I was a little disappointed that she wasn't there with us so we could celebrate her special day. But I was thinking how thankful I was that her Mamaw and Papaw had kept her for the weekend, and I knew she was going to have a blast with them! I am so thankful that God gave me that sweet girl, even though she does wear me out more than the other three combined! I was thankful that morning, also, that we had the chance to take the kids from that church up on stage during the service to sing a song, so the church could see a little of what we had been doing all weekend. It's always good to be seen by the congregation, so people don't forget about you back there or think you are just babysitting their kids. I was thankful that we had some new kiddos in children's church that morning, and thankful that we had such a great time of learning. It was awesome to see so many kids come down front to just pray about some things. LOVE seeing kids talk to God! I was thankful that the church took us out to eat lunch after church, because I was so tired after the long weekend that I really didn't want to cook in the camper. We spent the afternoon at some friends' house, and I was thankful for a chance to run away with my friend for a while to go do some shopping. We took Britches, too, because she loves shopping! And last night, I was thankful for a great time with the kids, some great hugs to end the weekend and say good-bye, supper before we left, and a safe trip home back to my own bed!

This weekend was FILLED with things for which to be thankful. This weekend in itself was an answer to some prayers that I have been offering up for quite awhile now, and that was something for which to be thankful! In a day or so, I'll sit down and actually tell you all the goings-on from this weekend. But for right now, for this 7th day, I am thankful to have my baby back home with us, and to be able to spend this day resting up from the amazing weekend of ministry! And you know what?? I can't wait to do it all again!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gluten Free Living - Day 5

Well today was just lousy! Today is the day I decided I really don't like this whole gluten free living thing.

This morning, I made some very delicious homemade bread, which smelled up my entire house and was calling to me, and I couldn't take a single bite. All of it will be for my family. I am more than happy to make it for them, but I would at least like to be able to have a slice of it, thank you very much! I tried to make my own gluten free sourdough bread, but that was a total disaster. Dismal failure! Hopefully it can be redeemed when I try to make some gluten free "cornbread" dressing with it in a few weeks. (Believe me when I say, though, I will have a pan of REGULAR cornbread dressing just in case the gluten free batch is terrible!)

And then when it was time for lunch, and I made the girls some very delicious PB&J on regular bread, I had the thought to make one for me. Then I remembered, I CAN'T!

I was doing OK with all of that, until it came time for supper. I was reheating the last of those yummy delicious veggie enchiladas I made a few days ago, because, since we are leaving in the morning and will be gone all weekend, I was trying to finish off what was left in the fridge. They were looking all nice, hot, and bubbly reheating in the oven. And then, when I pulled them out and was just about ready to serve them onto my plate, I realized they are made with FLOUR TORTILLAS, which means they have gluten in them. UGH!

And I was just plain not happy when I baked the last of the homemade sugar cookie dough that I had been keeping in the freezer for the kids. As I smelled their delicious yumminess from my oven, I thought back to all that flour that I had added to the recipe.

So I have spent most of my day today thinking about all the foods I CAN'T have because EVERYTHING seems to be made with flour! But my sweet friend, Marci, told me she was going out of town and would be heading by a Whole Foods Market near where she would be staying, and she told me she would pick me up anything I might would like. Well, since we don't have a Whole Foods near where I live (sad, yes, I know), I really have no idea what they offer. So I told her to just surprise me and pick me up a loaf of gluten free bread and a box of gluten free crackers. I have no idea what she's going to come back with, but I am anxious to try it.

I can seriously tell a difference in the way my stomach feels. No more pain or heaviness or anything like that this week since I have eaten gluten free. So I really believe I may have found the root cause of my stomach issues. That's a GREAT thing! But it's a LOUSY thing that one of my FAVORITE THINGS in the whole world to eat is the cause of my problems. But at least now I know I have a choice. I can stay away from what ails me, or I can eat it and pay the consequences. But I have a choice. At least now I know.

And for tonight, well, let's just say I am VERY glad that they make gluten free chocolate/chocolate chip rice cakes! I have made a severe dent in them tonight. And at this moment, I am attempting to reclaim the last bit of today by slowly savoring a Hershey's chocolate bar. Yep, that's gluten free, too! So I guess the whole day isn't a total loss.

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 3

Today, I am thankful for my dear sweet new friend, Marci! She and I met up within this last year and started to really get to know each other, and I just LOVE HER!! I think she and I are like soul sisters, and we must have just been separated at birth or something. OK, except for the fact that I am 4'10" and she is like 5'10"! Yeah, we look pretty crazy together, but WHO CARES?!

So besides the fact that I am very thankful for her dear friendship, I am today especially thankful for her sharing spirit! A week or so ago, Marci shared some of her sourdough bread starter and recipe with me. YUMM-O! So I have been busy this morning making up a batch of sourdough bread for the weekend!

This recipe takes a LONG time, because sourdough takes longer to rise than regular yeast bread. So I mixed it up yesterday morning, put it in the pans last night to rise overnight, re-punched them down and re-divided them this morning because they overflowed the bread pans (yeah, it looked like lava coming out of a volcano!), let them re-rise (wasn't supposed to have to re-do all of that!!), and popped them in the oven. As they were baking, I was thinking a very kind thought about Marci!

This weekend, we will be heading out of town, and I plan to slice all these loaves and take them with us. I pulled out three lovely loaves from the oven, two regular sized and one about half that size, and they will make wonderful sandwiches for my family. (No, I'm not planning to eat any - darn it! - because they are loaded with gluten, and I, quite frankly, have enjoyed NOT having a stomach ache this week because of staying away from gluten! But I will be drooling as I watch the rest of them devour that bread!) I'm planning to take one loaf to share with a friend who we will be meeting up with, as well.

So today, I am very, very thankful for the friend that God put in my life at just the right time! Marci is just so much FUN, and I could hang out with her traveling in an RV all over the country side and never look back! Go check out Marci's blog to see how much fun she and her family have together, and you'll see some of the reasons why I love her so much!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Gratitude Project 2011 - Day 2

Today I am reminded how thankful I am for Divine Appointments. I don't believe in luck or chance, but I believe that God is completely orchestrating every aspect of life - even down to the details.

I went with my four kids to Wal-Mart this afternoon. It was late in the day, and I usually try to make my trips to that mad-house in the early morning in order to avoid the after work crowd. I went in for dog food only, but true to form, I came to the register with a buggy full of "things". OK, so they are things we will actually use! I grabbed some Almond Milk, 2 bags of gluten free chips (AKA Tostitos Scoops!), some Thanksgiving plates and napkins (paper, of course!), and some very small pumpkins that were on sale to go on my Thanksgiving table. The point is, I ALWAYS come out with more than I planned. What can I say? Everybody has their faults.

So we finally made our way to the check out line, and a gentleman pulled up behind me in the motorized cart. His cart was completely loaded down and he was pulling a buggy behind him that was even more filled than the cart. As he began talking, my heart immediately went out to him. He told me that, when he got home with all those groceries, he had kids and grandkids who would bring boxes over and load up food to take home with them. He said they rarely came to visit him, but only came over to get food or other things he had that they wanted. And he said, "That's just the way it is." He went on to tell me about how he raised his nine kids alone, because his wife had left him because he worked all the time trying to be somebody and didn't spend enough time with them. And he told me of the poor choices in a husband his daughters had made. As he talked, I could see tears forming in his eyes. And at one point, a few tears even rolled down his face. This was a man who had lived a long life and had no idea that things could actually be better than that. He had lived a hard life, and he told me that, if he could do it over again, he would do so many things differently.

Well, it was finally my turn in line. My two oldest helped me unload my buggy, as they always do. Generally, I have to tell them to stop fighting over who is going to help put the things on the conveyor belt! But tonight, they worked together beautifully. And when they finished, I called them over close to me, so as not to let anyone else hear. I told them that, while I was loading our things back in the buggy and paying, I wanted them to begin unloading his cart for him. He was old and tired, and I could tell he was already worn out from shopping. Both of them went right to work without any hesitation or questioning. When I got ready to pay, I looked up and saw the look on the man's face. He didn't really know what to do. Little Sister, my third, asked if she could get out of the buggy, because she wanted to help unload his buggy, too! So I lifted her out, and she went straight to work. When I was able, I went to help, too. Between the four of us, we had his buggy and cart unloaded, and all he needed to do was pay. I discreetly asked the girl working there if she could call over someone to help him take his goods to his vehicle and load them, and she did that very happily.

When we got ready to leave, I went and gave him a big hug and told him I hoped he had a great night. He looked up at me and thanked me, and the kids and I watched him roll away.

The kids and I headed to our van and loaded up. Once inside, I told them how very, very proud I was of them. I explained to them that this man had no idea of what real love was, and they just showed him a God love in a very real, tangible way. This man had lived a hard life. He was worn down from the disappointments that had come his way. And he knew he was going home just to face it again. But for tonight, for a few moments at the check-out register in Wal-Mart, this man got a glimpse of a God type love. We didn't know him, and we will probably never see him again. But I believe God had that Divine Appointment set up tonight, so that this dear man would be able to see in a real, tangible way that love for others does exist. To simply tell this man I hoped things got better for him would have been pointless. To wish him well and tell him to have a good night would have been ridiculous. Nothing I could have SAID would have spoken nearly as loudly as what my kids DID for him. They showed love. Unconditional love. Love for a complete stranger. Love for their neighbor.

And as for my kids, well, tonight they learned an amazing lesson in SHOWING God's love for others. How often in our small world do they have an opportunity to put into action the love for others that we instill in each of them? God provided that learning time for them. This is something I should think they will not soon forget.

So tonight, I am so very, very thankful for God's Divine Appointments in my life and in the life of my kids. I am so thankful He chose to use us and gave us the chance to serve Him through helping this man. And I am so thankful that He took me to Wal-Mart at an odd time and allowed me to stay longer than I had planned, all so that I would end up in line at just the right time to meet this dear soul whom God wanted us to love on. I am so thankful that God's timing is beyond any of my understanding, and it is greater than I could ever imagine.

I didn't write this so that people who praise what we have done. I am not looking for a pat on the back or any other thing such as that. The reason I tell you all of these things is because of this. First, I want you to see that you don't need to be a missionary in some foreign world to be used of Christ. You don't need a degree to share the gospel. Second, realize that I was NOT preaching to this man! I rarely said anything, but just let him talk. You don't have to be in a "church" setting or be a minister to be able to share the love of God with others. You can win people over more by your actions than anything you could say to them. And third, there are hurting people all around you. Look up from your own buggy and see the fields white with harvest! Is there someone you can help today? Someone you can share God's love with in a REAL, TANGIBLE way? Ask God to put someone in your path whom you can speak love and healing to today in the name of Jesus. And then come share your story of God's Divine Appointments in your life! 

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess