Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Textversation With My Oldest Child

James: If you bring me a Chipotle Burrito on your way from work, I will be full of happiness and my life will be further in debt to you!

Me: Debt is sinful and I am not supporting a life of sin!

James: Ummm, does that mean I no longer owe you 15 bucks?

Me: Oh no, you got yourself into that. I'm just helping you prevent further debt.

James: You can't fight fire with fire, Mom.

Me: I don't need to. I'm mom, so I win.

James: So no burrito then :( Well, I love you anyway.

Me: I love you too!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Today a friend who I sadly haven't seen in a bit asked me if I have seen anything that has helped me to understand why the month of June played out the way it did. Has God revealed anything to me, she was wondering. It's interesting because looking back on June, it just doesn't seem like it was that BIG of a deal. Our trips to the ER and Urgent Care were inconvenient for sure, as was a casted foot. And those trips were expensive also, but our money is from God, so I have to rest in that (even though it is hard at times). But really it was not so bad. However, I spent some time as I drove home today thinking about it because hopefully I can gain or learn something from the "inconveniences" in my life. This is what I came up with.


My family is all together, serving God together. Everyone is healthy for the most part. I am thankful that David's scare with his heart is something I can look back on and laugh . . . because it was heartburn!!! I am thankful that his concussion was mild. I am thankful that Sarah's break was straight and that it fully repaired and she is running and jumping and back in gymnastics and just doing well. I am thankful that Brent's back is feeling better and that he is up and about and being more conscientious about what he is doing and lifting (still a little bummed that he can't run with me, though). I am thankful that I had a silly migraine and not a stroke or a seizure. We are in good health. We have great friends. We have good jobs. God is an amazing provider. I could go on and on.

I think part of this thankfulness, besides the question being asked of me, is the result of my week . . . both good and bad. Wednesday was probably the worst and most stressful day of my entire social work career. I can't express the helplessness and hopelessness I felt in a situation that I was dealing with. I thought I might leave the situation and quit my career forever. I regained some sense later. However, in the midst of those hopeless and helpless feelings, while I was completely alone with only a voice behind a closed door and a voice on the other end of the phone, all I could do was pray . . . pray for God to protect and provide comfort, peace and hope in a situation that was anything but that. As Wednesday came to an end, I was emotionally and physically exhausted and fell asleep very early, only to have terrible dreams through the night. I spent Thursday continuing to deal with the events of Wednesday and just praying for the person I was trying to help and for my own peace because I was really struggling with what had taken place. I still am on some level.

Then today, which was a tremendously amazing day, we served a group of homeless people by taking a nice meal out to them, along with some toiletry items. At the last minute, we had a friend over for the boys to hang out with so that his mom could get some work done. Then we had our Community Group Worship service in conjunction with Downtown Christian Fellowship tonight. I ended up watching the kids, which I was bummed about initially, but even that turned out to be a blessing.

As I was driving home after lunch, contemplating the question about what God revealed to me after June, it was so clear to me that I am just so blessed. My husband loves Jesus with all his heart and wants so much to grow and to help others grow in their love for God and others. My children are equally the same. I watched as James struck up a conversation with one of the women at the park today. She had a severe cleft, which had obviously not been properly repaired, and while I do not think she was actually homeless, she has very little and was obviously delayed. Yet, James was able to draw her in with that commonality between the two of them. It brought tears to my eyes. I watched as he and Jason reached out to the younger kids in our group, playing whiffle ball with them and watching over them as we were around people who could not necessarily be trusted. I listened as James told his friend, who he invited to join us in our adventure with the homeless, why he enjoys serving so much and how he was so judgmental before we lived here and he had this exposure. I listened to David tonight as he expressed how he loves Jesus and prayed that Jesus would live in his heart and how he wants to follow Him and obey Him. And I was able to giggle as Sarah exclaimed that she doesn't want to be baptized because she "still can't breathe under water."

God may have other purposes for all of our medical emergencies in June, but maybe it was as simple as just causing me to contemplate on the question and realize how blessed we are!!!! I love my family! Tonight I am just really content with where we are. I love that God gave us an opportunity to hear tonight how he is using people in our Kaleo community to reach others and to love others. It's always nice when you can really see God at work and when you can be encouraged. It's at those moments that I want to say, "God is Good." But the truth is that God is Good all the time, even when it might not feel like it, even when I am feeling helpless, even when He seems so far away, even when my kids are driving me crazy and not displaying the behaviors evident of God being the Lord of their lives. The "evens" could go on and on, but you get the picture.

As I sit here tonight, I have some dear friends going through some serious trials . . . I am aching for them. But those aches keep me praying for them, too. I know I will have trials to experience in the future . . . And yet I know that I serve an awesome God who loves me and knows what is best for my life, even if what is best is not fun. And even in those moments of trial, I am truly blessed!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sarah + A Hard Lesson = A Really Funny Story

Yesterday Sarah was outside with our neighbor, who is seven, playing in the front yard. James was out there, too, keeping an eye on her. However, I'm not sure his eyes were open!!! I heard an ambulance outside in the distance. Then I heard Sarah running into the house crying (very hard). She sounded fearful and I realized she was telling Japan (that's the neighbor girl's name) that they were coming to get her. I heard Japan tell her that it was just an ambulance. I ran to see what was going on, and Sarah was frantic, hardly understandable. I came to understand after a couple minutes, that she was in the yard two houses down and was picking flowers from their flower beds. She heard the ambulance and thought the police were coming to get her for stealing. I tried to calm her down, but she was so upset that I ended up laying her in her bed until she could listen and talk. I felt terrible that she was so upset, yet I was kind of glad that she realized what she was doing was wrong and that it scared her. I think this will probably cure her from picking flowers, at least flowers that aren't in our yard. We all got a good laugh out of it (well, all of us except Sarah) . . . but I also felt pretty sorry for her. I took her down later to apologize, but no one was home. We will have to try again.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Neighborhood Birthdays

We are surrounded by such diversity in our neighborhood, and we have gotten a much greater glimpse of this over the past three weekends. Three of our neighbors' children (three different homes) had birthday parties. We have celebrated with a family from here, a family from Mexico and other parts of California, and a family from Jordan all in three weeks. It's been fun and interesting!

First a little about our small cul-de-sac. 11 houses on our little circle. Going clockwise, the families are hispanic and caucasian, hispanic, asian, hispanic, caucasian, caucasian, caucasian, african american, caucasian, jordanian and swedish, and hispanic. With the exception of a couple of the houses, we are all pretty well connected. Of the 11 houses, eight have children of various ages, so our kids are in school together. Most of the time you pull into our cul-de-sac, there is a basketball game going on between all of the teen boys and bicycle/scooter riding by the smaller children (that or riding in those large power wheel cars). Two of the homes are multi-generational. Two of the houses are owned by the same man, and his parents live in the second house (almost multi-generational). It's really a pretty fun place to live with lots of activity.

Over the past three weekends we have had birthday parties. The first was for Alyssa, who turned three. Her parents are from Bakersfield (I'm pretty sure born and raised here). I actually missed Alyssa's party because I was off in Palm Springs with my grandma, aunt and cousins. Brent and the kids went to it. The next week was for Kylee, who turned 2. She lives with her parents and maternal grandparents. They are hispanic, and they know how to throw a fiesta!!! The party was last Sunday. It started at 4. I told my friend Marcy that I was going to the party but would be home by the time she arrived at my house at about 6:30 to drop off her son, but if I happened to not be there, she could text me, I would be across the street. The point is that I really thought I would be home. I was so wrong. We had barely started eating, and there hadn't been a thought about opening gifts at that time. I finally left at about 8, but they hadn't begun winding down!!! The food was delicious . . . Mexican food with Carnitas and Carne Asada . . . muy delicioso!!!!! Tonight was Amir's 4th birthday and his brother, Ali's 17th birthday. They are our Jordanian friends, who live directly next door to us. Again, I'm having to adjust to parties that are not "American". The party started at 5. I finally told them I just had to leave to get the kids in bed because of school. That was after 8:30, and they were just beginning to open gifts. I had never been in their home before. It was interesting. Lots of interesting stuff on the wall. One of their friends was there. He just returned from Jordan and was sharing with us all about his trip and the different things he saw that he took for granted as a child. I never was certain, but he almost sounded like he might be a Christian. I need to ask Brent more about his conversation because I missed a lot of it. This family is interesting in that they are not your traditional middle eastern family who had arranged marriages. The mother is divorced from her first husband, who she met and married in Sweden, so even though her kids have dark brown eyes and dark brown hair and look middle eastern, they say they are Swedish, and they are because they were all born there. The mother met her current husband over the internet (both are originally from Jordan). After they met online, he went to Jordan, met and married her, and she returned to Bakersfield to live with him. They have since had their son Amir. Like I said not a traditional middle eastern situation. She cooked lots of interesting food for the party. There was this rice stuff wrapped in grape leaves . . . it was sour. Then there was some kind of meat with potatoes, but the seasoning was like nothing I had ever tasted before. She made some desserts that were very light in flavor. One was a cookie; the other some kind of custard or flan. I don't know if these were foods from Jordan or from Sweden. I forgot to ask, but last weekend, the daughter, Nadias, said they normally cook swedish foods.

It's really fun to have such diversity around us. There is so much to learn from other people. There were things that took me out of my comfort zone a little, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. And as we allow others to share their culture with us, we are invited more and more to share out culture with them, and thus share Jesus. I'm looking forward to seeing what the future holds!!!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I can't recall if I have ever blogged about my epilepsy before, and I'm not going back through all my post titles, so this may be a partial duplicate entry . . .

When I was 17 years old, I suffered a grand mal seizure at church camp. I had been water skiing that afternoon and had a significant fall, hitting my head pretty hard on the water (which may seem kind of silly, but you can really hit water painfully hard). For years I never said anything about that to doctors because it seemed so silly, but just after that, I got in a car to go back to camp and dozed off only to be woken multiple times from startle reflexes. After we got back to camp, I had a seizure. Within a couple months I underwent a bunch of tests, had another seizure, was diagnosed with epilepsy and started on medication.

The first medication was tegretol, and the effect that had on me was terrible. There is about a month of my senior year of high school that I pretty much do not remember (and it's not due to age . . . I couldn't remember it at the time either!!!) I was then put on phenobarbitol and responded much more positively to that. It's hard for me to remember the exact number of seizures I've had in my life, but it has been very minimal and for that I am very thankful. I know I had one or two in college, several right after Brent and I were married (when I was not taking medication with doctor's permission) and another the day after James turned four. That was the last one, but also the worst one . . . lasting the longest and having the longest impact on me. Brent and I were at a marriage conference at our church that weekend. It was pretty much pointless for me to have attended. I cannot remember anything about it. I just felt groggy and out of it the whole time. That was almost 12 years ago now. Thank the Lord!!!

I really have nothing to complain about and I am really thankful for God's protection of me over all of these years. I had four babies and during the last three pregnancies I was off the medication for 16 weeks without a single problem. So I was shocked when I left my neurologist today with my eyes filled with tears. It should not be a big deal, and I'm sorry if there are others who have ongoing seizures who read this, but somewhere deep inside I have always thought that one day I might be able to be medication free. It's been 12 years now since my last seizure; 20 years since I started taking medication. But I'm pretty sure that without saying it directly, my neurologist confirmed that unless I ever live in New York City or someplace else with great public transportation, she will not recommend I discontinue medication. I went into the appointment knowing that she is conservative and concerned about my safety and the safety of others (regarding my driving if not on medication), but I held onto a glimmer of hope that she would say something like lets do one more MRI, and see what it looks like. Instead, she said she doesn't see any reason to do an MRI. There's nothing about it that would change her opinion. I really like her and respect her, and deep inside I feel like she is right. I would hate to be driving and hurt someone else because I had a seizure behind the wheel.

I don't know what it is about being on medication that is so bothersome to me. It really shouldn't be a big deal at all, but it definitely affected me today. I am on a new medication now, Keppra. I don't notice any side effects from it, but compared to phenobarbitol, it is a bit costly. I can think of a lot better things to do with the money each month, but I don't think that is what makes it so hard. I simply think it is the fact that I HAVE to take it. It's a little ridiculous. I am praying that I can let go of that and focus on the positives, the fact that I am overall healthy and that I am able to live independently and work. Many people who suffer from seizures cannot say the same. Their seizures have truly changed their lives, causing brain damage or emotional damage because they cannot cope with having them. Sadly, seizures can cause embarrassment to some people because of what they cause the body to do and because of the fear others have of seeing them.

I believe that as much as I do not like the news I got today, God must have some purpose, so I pray that I will be open and attentive to be used by Him in whatever way He wants to use me . . . in regards to my epilepsy and every other aspect of my life!

Monday, August 9, 2010


I have been looking on craigslist lately at job opportunities. In case anyone from work reads this, not because I want to quit my job, but just trying to figure out if there is a way to work a few extra hours here and there in order to pay for all the many new expenses we are encountering with older children. Looks like all four kids are going to need braces. James's costs $5200.00 alone, and that is scaring me with the rest. Things could change, obviously, but Jason's mouth looks crowded. David's bite is off, and Sarah has been sucking her thumb for over five years now. The odds are in favor of braces. And then there's driver's ed and extra car insurance when James starts driving, which is around the corner, six months from tomorrow he will be sixteen. And then Jason will start in a few years, and there is college and athletics . . . you know, just stuff . . . lots of stuff!!!

By far the most "interesting" (for lack of another term) jobs I have seen posted are to become surrogate mothers or to donate eggs. I don't know if those posts are on Craigslist in Oklahoma, but they are certainly on there in CA. On top of that, shortly after we moved here, I met a nice woman who in passing mentioned that she had been a surrogate two or three times. I must have looked shocked because she went on to talk more about it, and it was interesting. The only time I heard of being a surrogate before that was in movies or in the tabloids. I guess I knew it was a real thing, but I had never thought about meeting someone who had actually done it. I think for some reason, I thought it was morally and ethically wrong, but as I talked to this woman, I learned that she was a Believer. She has great relationships with the mothers of the children and maintains some contact with at least one of the children, and the child has none of her genetic make-up. They used the biological mother's egg and biological father's sperm and implanted them into her. She was basically just the nest.

I walked away from that conversation with lots of thoughts and questions and not really sure what I thought about it. Just so you know, I was not and am not contemplating this for myself. I am certain that I could not do it (for a variety of reason . . . sadly one of them is that I am too old now!!!), but I have continued to contemplate whether or not I think it is "right". Scripturally, I don't think you can take a stance against it, unless you say that it is not the way God created things to be. But when you start with that, then there are a lot of things we do that go against the way God created them. You could take it to extreme and say God created me with a seizure disorder, so I shouldn't take medication, but I think we all probably agree that God created doctors and provided them with what they need to come up with ways to make my life livable. And I am so grateful for that!!!

But still, there is something unsettling about it to me. I'm not sure what. I am so curious what other people think. Personally I would have a really hard time donating an egg and knowing that there was someone that "belonged" to me out there, but many people give their babies up for adoption because of how much they love them, and I totally respect those women. I would have a hard time being a surrogate to another person's baby because I think it would be very difficult on my children. They get attached to babies in utero just like parents do. It would be a devastating loss for them. Not to mention, I don't know how I would part with the baby either. The other thing is that I am shocked at what they pay people to be a surrogate. Obviously they should pay medical expenses, and I guess there is wear and tear on the mother's body, but to me this seems like one of those things that if I was willing to do it, I would want to do it to be a blessing to someone who could not carry a child. If I am doing something for that reason, do I really want to be paid for it?

So, I'm just putting this out there, curious about what thoughts people have. It's one of those things I may never have thought of before moving to California. And who knows, maybe its not as uncommon in the Mid-West as I think.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I have a ton of pictures!!! They should tell the story of our fabulous week!!! It was truly amazing!!!

This is a picture of Morro Bay and Morro Rock off taken from the back of the house, outside of one of the many doors. Locking up at night was a lot different than locking any house I have ever lived in. There were at least 10 doors to the outside. That was Brent's job at the end of the night.

This is a picture taken at sunset out of the large windows on the back of the house . . . BEAUTIFUL!!!

This was a two mile hike we went on to the top of Mt. Valencia, 1367 feet, I think. Sarah hiked almost the whole way up . . . pretty impressive for such a small person. She was being so independent, it was scaring me at times.

Jason enjoyed walking with the young men and shooting photos!!! He loves the camera.

Here we are at about the half way point. It was bright, so we are all squinty, except for James, who is sporting those ridiculous looking aviator glasses. I have been enjoying teasing him about this fad!!!

The boys with Grandma Casselberry!!!

David made it up and back and didn't skip a beat . . . not shocking, though!!!

Brent and two of his boys, near the top!

"I MADE IT!!!"

Here we are!!! The whole group!!! The clouds moved in and it was very foggy. It was fun to explain to David and Sarah that we were actually "in" a cloud. It was nice and cool though, so we were grateful!!! Between the clouds and the ocean breezes, I think it was probably the most enjoyable hike I have ever been on . . .

. . . even on the way down, when Sarah was done walking. She went down most of the way on my shoulders. I didn't want Brent to carry her because of his back, and I didn't want anyone else to because I'm a mom, and there were parts that were very steep. I would have been a nervous wreck if someone else had been carrying her.

There was much exhaustion when we were finished. I love this picture!!!

One day Brent and I and Caroline took the kids into Morro Bay for several hours while all the young adults stayed at the house and chilled or worked. Caroline didn't stay long enough to ride the electric boat with us. We went all around the bay and out to the big rock. We saw seals and otters. And Jason was correct, we also saw jelly fish, large orange ones. Brent and I were not convinced that was what they were, but the guy back at the dock said they were in deed. Glad I wasn't swimming there!

This was my favorite activity . . . kayaking. Brent and I went a year ago and have wanted to take the older boys ever since. Brent wasn't able to go because of his back, so he stayed at home with David and Sarah. I was bummed that we didn't see all the sea life that Brent and I saw last year. Last year we saw dolphins and seals all over the place the whole time we were in the water. This time, we finally found seals the last 20 minutes or so that we were out. We had to go way out to see them, and we still didn't get as close as I hoped, but I was glad we saw something. Katie, Ryan, Becky and Adam didn't follow us out, but they were able to see a seal on the way back into shore. The other thing that was different from last year is that our (mine and Jason's and James's and Caroline's) kayaks tipped on our way into shore. A big wave caught us, and I thought James and Caroline were going to go on top of us. James and Caroline corrected and turned sideways, causing them to flip, and I lost control when I was turning to see if they were going to hit us. At least that's what I think happened. Jason was pretty scared, but we didn't get hurt at all, so I was thankful. Katie did get hit by one of the boats as she was trying to keep the waves from taking it back out to sea, but she was okay, especially compared to the group that came in behind us. The young lady in that group was bleeding like crazy!! I was thankful God protected us!!!

These are just some fun pictures hanging around the house!! I love the picture of Katie and Sarah, even though it is a little blurry.

We went to the beach one day with the Casselberry's, but I don't have any great pictures of that because it was so cold. On our last day, before returning home, we stopped again and flew a kite. The kids decided in the end to get in the water. David was soaked almost immediately before he got in his swimming suit. James followed with the boogie board. Jason used the skim board. I love the picture we caught of him with it still above the water. Sarah got into the water more than she ever has, but I didn't get any good pictures of her. David jumped into a game of volleyball with some older teens/young adults. I posted a picture on facebook. It was hilarious!

The whole week was just such an incredible blessing. We enjoyed our time as a family. We enjoyed our time with the Casselberry's and Mitchell's. It was great to get to know Adam a little more. We missed Johnny so much!!! And we were super bummed not to have some time with Meagan, Ryan's bride-to-be. We got to spend some time with Zach Weichbrodt as a bonus. We enjoyed sharing our lives, how God is working in each of us, the challenges we are experiencing, prayer needs that we have. We were surrounded by such amazing beauty that only God could have created: the ocean, mountains, plants, animals. We ate amazing food. We worked together cooking and cleaning. We walked and swam and relaxed in the hot tub. We just shared life!!! It was incredible!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Terrific Day

Today was one of those really great days!

We got up this morning, and I took James to the orthodontist, which was uneventful, but I had a few minutes of time with James, which is always nice.

I went home to get Sarah and take her to the foot doctor, where we were hoping she would get her cast removed, but I was fearful that it would not happen and we would end up at the beach on vacation next week with a daughter in a cast . . . that would really stink. But we were excited to find out that her foot was mostly healed, enough to remove the cast. It was such an exciting moment. I wish I could have caught her on video. She was giddy with excitement, squealing, "I'm healed, Mom. I'm healed!" Super sweet.

Brent met us at the doctor, but then he headed off to lunch and I took Sarah to find a pair of sandals that had a little more support than flip flops!! And we stopped for lunch together.

I went into work late, not until about 12, and Brent picked Sarah up from me. I had a couple great visits with foster children and a good visit with a couple foster families.

Brent took Sarah home and in the mail was our camera. It has been in Florida since April. We left it there, and it has been one LONG process getting it back. We were so glad to get it back before our vacation. Brent scrubbed Sarah's not so fresh leg and she got a nap. After that she and David went to spend the night with some friends and Brent and James and Jason met me at a barbecue for the former foster youth that we work with a Covenant. It was fun to hang out with these young adults and with my coworkers. None of the participants I work with actually were there, but I am excited to say five of them were missing because of work. I can't tell you how exciting it is that they are all working!! Of the other three, one has a job but that is not why she wasn't there tonight. I was thrilled to realize that of the 8 young ladies I work with, all but two have jobs!!!

After the barbecue, Brent and I took James and Jason to Dewar's for some ice cream. We so rarely have time with just the older two boys, and it was great to sit with them and not have little ones around interrupting. When we got home, Jason and I went out for a run. He actually rode the scooter while I ran, and though I was huffing and puffing, I still enjoyed his company. He talked and I answered with very quick answers because that's all I could get out, but I enjoyed listening to him or just being silent with him. It was precious time.

It's the simple things, nothing particularly special happened today, but it was just all in all a great day!!! I had a little bit of alone time with all my kids, except David. I can't say that too often. And I had alone time with David Saturday and again Tuesday. And as I wind down this week, I am eagerly anticipating a fun Community Group Sunday morning with Pancakes and people we love, followed by a vacation with even more people we love. I can't wait for our week away with the Casselberry's. What fun it will be!

All I can say is Thank You God for the simple blessing of a great day!!! It was truly wonderful!!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


We've been blessed this summer with quite a few visitors, which has been nice since we didn't get to go back to Oklahoma this year. That's been hard, so we really appreciate the little blessings of God sending people our way!!!

At the end of May, my dad came to visit for a week. He got to hang out with all of us and go down to San Diego and surprise his mom with a visit as well. He spent a lot of time with the kids, taking them on bike rides and even taking the older two up to the Sequoias . . . they LOVED it!!! He looked a little for a job . . . it would be exciting if anything came to fruition. We are praying and waiting on God in that area.

Just after he left, Ann and Wes Rumph came. Wes is now in Santa Monica doing on internship. Our intention is to see him periodically, but with all our June medical emergencies, we haven't seen him since they were here on Father's Day. It has great to have time with them. Ann is such a great friend!!! She is one of my closest friends and mentors and we were in small group together for years and years. It was partially the challenges given by her husband that led Brent down the path of ministry. We enjoyed having Ann over for dinner. They were able to visit church and then we had lunch before they returned to Santa Monica.

Joel and Krista were here this last week. They are friends from Oklahoma . . . we were in small group together. Now they live in Costa Rica and are missionaries. They are a fabulous couple, and we just love them. They were such an encouragement to us in the 24 hours we had to spend with them, and hopefully we were a bit of an encouragement to them. We had a nice dinner at home last night. Then took them on a tour of Bakersfield . . . proving to them that Bakersfield is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I think Joel especially liked seeing the Kern River. They were able to join us for church this morning and jumped right in helping set up and tear down. Then we came home for leftovers. The older boys remember them well and were so excited to have them here. David remembered them once he saw them. I don't think Sarah could remember them, but she LOVED them . . . I'm afraid almost to death, or at least the point of being overwhelmed!!! Hopefully they will come back again!!! :)

Next week, a third family from Oklahoma will be meeting us at the coast for a week. Caroline and her husband, David, were also in our small group for years and years . . . and she is an adopted grandmother to my children. David was an amazing man. He died from a brain tumor in 2001. She has four grown children. Three of the four will be coming with her for the visit. It will be a tremendous week, and I should have lots to post about it afterward. I can't wait for the time with them.

The day after they leave, our friends the Fishers will arrive in LA. We will get to see Dalene and her mother, Esther, I'm sure, but the main thing we will be doing is picking up Steve and Dalene's oldest son, Spencer, who is James's best longest friend and bringing him up here with us for a while. I so look forward to the time the boys will have together. I wish all of the family could be up here with us, but they have some stuff going on down south, and Brent and I did get quality time with Steve and Dalene back in November. James is so, so excited!!! We've talked about doing this every summer but it just hasn't worked out.

Basically as soon as Spencer leaves, my mother will arrive. She will be here for about a week to hang out and so stay with the younger kids when we take James down for his second cleft lip surgery. I'm glad she will get to be here to see us and to be with the kids. She hasn't been here since we launched Kaleo; I am excited for her to meet our friends and to hear Brent teach.

As I type this, I realize even more that we had something incredible in our small group in Oklahoma. In 2010 alone, we have had the opportunity to see at least 2 members of four different families from that small group. We had such impacting (them impacting us) relationships with everyone in the group. It was such a diverse group . . . singles, couples, families with young children, families with older children, families with an empty next . . . we learned so much from each other, and though we had a lot of differences, we formed amazing bonds . . . friendships that will last our lifetime, I'm sure. It's very cool!!!

I hope the relationships we are building in our small group now will become the same. I love all these people as well, and while it's probably not as diverse, we have a lot of differences in other ways and still have a LOT to learn from each other. I'm glad God made us to be in relationships!!!

By the way, we LOVE visitors . . . come see us anytime!!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Less Spiritual Thoughts While Running

So, sometimes when I run, I think about very little, other than getting it over with. Here are some of the thoughts I had tonight when I was out running in the upper 90 degree weather (with slight humidity, though nothing my friends in Oklahoma or other parts of the country are experiencing).

1. Definitely run after the sun is setting or before it has fully risen, when the temperature is at least 15 degrees cooler.

2. Definitely run after dinner has had plenty of time to settle or before I eat breakfast.

3. Run far away from home because the first part of the run is easy, and when it gets hard, I am motivated to get home. Not good if I am just two blocks away.

4. I hate to fail, but even more I hate to fail in front of people; thus, run with someone!!! Even my children keep me going, not because they encourage me necessarily but because no way do I want them to see me quit!!!!

Shallow, I know, but true!!! I need to get in the shower!!!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Our Month in Review . . . A Bit Stressful

This will either make you stressed or crack you up, one or the other. I know this pales in comparison to many people's lives . . . we are healthy and happy, but the sheer number of times we have been to the Emergency Room/Urgent Care this month is unbelievable, especially when you consider how many different people in one house have been there. I need to call my AFLAC agent, and currently I am thankful we have it!!

May ended and June began with major trauma. Brent's back has been terrible, and he finally gave up on it getting better on its own and saw the doctor the last week of May. The doctor gave him medicine, so we decided that I would take the kids to San Diego for Memorial Day by myself so he could stay home and lay flat in bed in hopes of his back getting better. That's usually what it takes . . . a couple days of rest and pain medicine/muscle relaxers. Then it's usually better for several months. Well, he did that, and our trip to San Diego was fun!!! We had a good drive, followed by enjoyable time with my family. I drove back on to our street at about 7:30 Monday night. I could tell there was something going on at our neighbors and people were scared. I told the older two boys to take the younger two kids into the house and to tell Brent that something was happening. I ran over to find that the grandmother in the home (who was probably about 80) was in the car but not breathing. She had an oxygen tank, but it didn't seem to be working. I know nothing about oxygen tanks. The young woman in the house (her granddaughter-in-law) was calling 911. Brent came outside. The 911 operator told us we needed to get her out of the car and flat on her back in the driveway. She was a larger lady and Brent should not have been lifting her, but you do what you have to do when someone seems to be dying in front of your eyes. So Brent and her grandson lifted her out of the car. Her grandson began trying to do CPR while we waited on the ambulance. I continued giving instructions and talking to the operator. It appeared to me that she had already passed away, but we continued on, praying the whole time. The firetrucks and ambulance arrived, along with many family members. They transported her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead about 20 minutes later. We've both experienced death before, but never so traumatically. It was a tough night.

The next day, I was at work and got a phone call from the school that David was in the office saying, "My heart is cracking," and he was crying. He doesn't usually cry. Brent was closer to the school, so he went to see what was up. I thought everything was probably fine. My first thought was that he must have gotten in a fight with Reese or Sophie and meant "broken" not "cracking." However, Brent got worried and called me when he was on his way to Urgent Care. Brent was in such pain and had Sarah who was still in her PJs because he had been laying down all morning. I met him at Urgent Care and he left with Sarah to go back and rest. I was a little bummed (embarressed) to have to stay and explain the situation to the doctor (because I really thought he was fine), but I did. Thankfully, the doctor decided it must have just been heart burn. I don't know that he's ever had heart burn, so he probably didn't know what was happening. I think Brent was a little shaken from the night before (and maybe not thinking real clearly with the medication) and just overreacted a bit. It was actually kind of funny!!! That was June 1st.

On Friday, Brent went back to Urgent Care and got more help for his back. He also saw a pain management doctor and started physical therapy. That was Urgent Care visit number 2 for our family this month.

About a week and a half later, on Wednesday the 16th, we left the kids at home for a little bit while Brent went for a meeting. I was at work. Jason called and David fell off the swing that hangs from his bed and hit the back of his head. He was crying, but it was not a long fall, and I could not imagine it was that bad. He bangs himself up a lot. Brent's meeting was close to over and he was closer to home, so he went to check on things. David was throwing up by that time and could barely stay awake, so I met them both at the emergency room by my office. David had a mild concussion, and they wanted to do a CT scan to make sure it wasn't worse. We were at the ER for about 4 hours (really not so bad, actually). When we got home, Sarah who was home with James and Jason, was on the couch with ice on her foot, crying. Jason was lying on his stomach on the exercise ball. She jumped on his back and the ball rolled. Somehow in all of this her foot got twisted and Jason was on her. Because she cries so easily, we thought it probably wasn't a big deal and we watched it but ended up putting her to bed. However, when she woke up in the morning, it was swollen and discolored, so off she went to Urgent Care. She now has a cast on her foot until July 15th because she has a broken bone inside her foot.

Seems like three Urgent Care visits and one ER visit should be enough for one family in one month, right???? Well, I guess not. Last night, I drove to pick Jason up from a friend. All of the sudden, my vision got really messed up and I wasn't sure I should continued to drive. I stopped and called Brent and took a break for a second. My vision straightened out, so I went ahead and drove the rest of the way home. When I got home, I had a headache and things felt a little foggy. I was kind of groggy. I told Brent it kind of felt the way I feel when I come out of a seizure, but I was certain I had not had a seizure. Generally I have grand mal seizures and there is no way I wouldn't have realized. I have had smaller ones, but I still think I would have known. We decided to call the nurse hotline. While I was on the phone with the nurse, my lips got numb, and the fingers on my left hand started tingling. By that point I was pretty freaked out. They sent us to Urgent Care, but Brent was not sure that was enough, so he called our friend, David Rumph in Oklahoma, to see if he recommended the ER instead. He told Brent that it sounded like classic signs of a migraine. That put me more at ease, and we went ahead and just went to Urgent Care. David sure is a good doctor . . . I highly recommend him!!!! He was right, even from hundreds of miles away. I had an ocular migraine. They treated me with morphine and reglan at Urgent Care then sent me on to have a CT scan, just to make sure. It was clear, and we came home. This time, while we were gone, we asked our neighbor to come over and hang out with the kids. She didn't stay the whole time, but long enough!!! I'm thankful for a neighbor we can call on like that.

Needless to say, I am not sad that June is coming to an end. My goal is to stay away from doctors for the next three days and then all of July. And to submit those claims to AfLAC so we can pay for the medical bills we have accrued. I'm choosing to laugh at this point. It was nice to see our friends Eric and Shannon this morning and get to laugh with them about it.

Please put Brent's back on your prayer list. He is in so much pain. It's hard and so frustrating for him because it limits what he can do. He had an MRI last week, and is waiting on a return call from his doctor to see when he can get in to see what's going on. We know he has two herniated discs in his lower back, but usually it feels better faster than this, so we are becoming more concerned that there could be something else. In all of this chaos, we know God is in control. We are still trying to figure out what He wants us to learn from all of it!!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thoughts While Running

I have been trying to run regularly. Brent and I started out doing a couch to 5K program. Since then, his doctor told him that because of his back condition, he can only walk briskly, but I am determined to complete the program . . . even if it kills me!!!! I don’t particularly love to run, but it has been good. I have been spending the time praying for people, particularly my family. In my prayer time, I have found myself asking and wondering what is truly important for my kids, particularly James and Jason, as they are getting older and their time at home is becoming shorter . . . Blah!!!

It’s been a tough year for James academically, particularly second semester. I say that only because school always seemed so easy for him, but it has gotten harder, and he has had more difficulty with it. A lot of it is because of his social life and possibly his priorities not being on the right things. I think because it always came so easily he has had to learn a hard lesson that sometimes it takes more work then you expect. But as I have been praying for him, for balance, for perseverance, for a good work ethic, I have also been thinking about how he has changed and how social he has become. This has not been a bad thing. He has a HUGE impact, or at least the opportunity to have a HUGE impact on his peers. If he was coming straight home every day and only doing homework, he would not have the friends he has or the opportunities he has to show them Jesus. Now, does that excuse poor work ethic? Of course not, the Bible says, “Do your work as unto the Lord.” This goes for students as well. But it has caused me to stop and think about things.

Parents can sometimes tend to focus on the wrong things. For some, it is athletic ability; for others, their child’s social life. For us, in the case of James, it has been his academic abilities and his potential. There is a difficult balance in this. Definitely there are great things that kids learn as a result of sports, social life, academics, drama, or any other extracurricular activities, and we, as parents, should encourage them in these areas. However, how often do we get too focused on these things, and forget the child’s heart. I don’t mean their salvation. I think most parents who love Jesus WANT their children to know Jesus, but I also think that after that decision is made, we sometimes become negligent of helping them grow in Christ, in helping their hearts develop to be like Jesus’s heart. How many times a week, how many hours a week, do we have our children practice sports or work on their multiplication tables or on their writing? How many hours a week do we have our children really seek to discern how the Lord is working on their hearts? For me, personally, it is a sad reality that the second is significantly less. I think, for some reason, that I just expected that after salvation, the rest would follow. There are many times in the day that I point my children toward Jesus, but how often is it truly intentional? How often do I really encourage them to seek to figure out how God is convicting them? Yet, I spend a lot of time reminding them to finish Geometry or spelling or whatever is on their plate.

I am now including in my running prayer time, that I will be a mom who focuses on the right things with my children. I want to encourage them in the areas where they excel, but what I want them to excel most at is being like Jesus. As their mom, as their greatest encourager, this needs to be my focus. All their abilities are temporary. They could be gone so quickly. I was no star athlete in high school. In fact, if any of my high school volleyball teammates read this, they might laugh at even the mention of it, but I was busy with other extracurricular activities, and I was very focused academically and made good grades. I also remember the day at church camp the summer between my junior and senior year when I had my first seizure, and I remember the day I was diagnosed with epilepsy and started on medication, and I remember how that changed my life, and how much it complicated things for the first few months. I struggled academically as I adjusted to new medication. I could not drive. I’m sure if I had been playing any sports at the time, I would not have been able to do it because I could barely get through a day of school from being so tired. There is about a month of my senior year that I really can’t remember because I was such a mess from the medication. The loss of abilities can happen so fast. They could be lost by an injury, an accident, health, anything. But what is in a child’s heart is there forever. Obviously, a person’s heart can go astray. But I believe the values that have been cultivated and grown, can be drawn out of them again. And if they have been cultivated well, it is probably less likely that they will go astray. I wrote in my status update on Facebook, Lord, help me raise my children to have hearts for YOU, and not get too focused on what they can and cannot do.

It’s hard . . . We made a decision this year not to allow David to compete in gymnastics. It was a HARD decision for me. He is a great little gymnast, and he loves it. It’s fun to watch him, and it’s fun for him (and for us, if I am to be honest) for him to get attention for his abilities. Brent had to remind me many times that we always said we would not let sports consume our children or our family when they were that young, if ever. It was still hard, and I know people in our lives who thought it was the wrong decision. I will say that we did not necessarily make the decision for the reasons I have written here, but I am glad that we made the decision now that I am pondering all of this. It is just too much for a child his age to go to school, do homework, practice like he was going to have to practice, and grow in his relationship with Jesus . . . and too much for the parents to be able to stay on top of. We would have neglected the cultivating of his heart, I am sure!

I’m sure I have friends out there who will read this and disagree with me. There are probably others who can, or think they can, do all of it. There are many people who balance better than we do, I know that to be a fact. That’s okay . . . I just feel convicted by it, and wanted to share. The important thing is that we focus on our children’s hearts, on helping them to have hearts like Jesus, who loved and served others.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Glimpse of Jason's Heart

Jason wrote this in school, and I am reprinting it with his permission. I just thought it was sweet. It will be fun to look back on one day.

"Thinking Ahead"

What will I be when I'm 23?
I will be finishing college and I will have a part time job as a photographer. The college may be Oklahoma Wesleyan University. I will live in a campus apartment, so I am closer to my classes. When I graduate, I want to have my master's degree. After I graduate, I will come back to California and work for my church.

What will I see when I'm 43?
I'll have a beautiful wife, three kids and two or three dogs. We'll live in Oklahoma, out in the country. We'll own seven to eight acres of land and a big house with a pool. My kids will be 15, 13, and 9.

What will I do when I'm 62?
I'll be close to retirement, but I will work for a church. I might even become a pastor. I will have grandchildren. I will live in the same house. My wife will be retired. I will want to have my grandchildren around a lot. My youngest child will still be in college. She may go to Oklahoma University.

If I'm Alive at 95 . . .
I may have great grandchildren. I will be retired but in shape and healthy. I will live in the city, and my wife will be with me. She'll be healthy. My grandchildren will be under the age of 50. My brothers and sister will still be alive.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Status Updates

I thought it would be fun, for myself, to look back through my facebook status updates to see the funny little things my kids, particularly the younger two, have said over the last couple years. Brent’s grandmother has always told me I needed a little book to write down all the funny things. I never listened to her, but now I have a little record through FB. I decided I am putting it in my blog because it takes a long time to got back through status updates for the last 2 1/2 years.

I just picked David up from his first day of kindergarten. He said, "It was awesome! But I missed you mom!" That's the best evaluation I could have gotten!

When I was pregnant with Sarah, I wanted to name her Katie after Katie Casselberry and Katie Rumph (sorry to those of you who do not know these amazing young women!) because I wanted a daughter just like them. Today, I must say, she is not meeting those expectations!!!

The conversation in the other room: Brent, "You have to wear a shirt, Sarah." Sarah, "Dad, they're boxers." Brent, "You still have to wear a shirt. You don't see mom running around without a shirt on." Sarah, "But Dad, they're boxers." My poor daughter, growing up in a home with only brothers!

David told me tonight, "I want to go back to the old days." He's 6!!!

I think the internet and text messaging has ruined spelling for the current generation. As a mother, it's making me crazy!!!

Tonight David asked if we can see Jesus. I told him that when he was on earth, people saw him, but that was a long, long time before he (David) was born. He asked, "Did Grandma Mabel see him?" Grandma Mabel is 90. It's funny what a long, long time ago is to a six year old.

Sarah just came in and asked me to smell the stamp on her hand. I guess it is supposed to smell like candy canes. I told her it smelled like a dirty hand. She said, "You're not nice. You called me a trash can!!"

Brent and I went on a nice date tonight. This is what Sarah said when we got home, "I can't believe you went on a date without me, mom." James said, "That's the point!!!" I can tell who's growing up!!!

Sarah, standing in my closet looking at a dress I wore to Becky Casselberry's wedding, "Mom, when will you wear this dress again? Are you going to wear it to my wedding?" Me, "No, probably not (with a little snicker)." Sarah, "You're not going to come to my wedding?” Only she was almost in tears!

Apparently growing up with all boys is taking it's toll on Sarah. Just now she asked me, "When I get married, what will you name me?" I was trying to explain that her first name won't change but her last name will. I told her Colaw will change to the same last name as the boy. She responded, "Not a boy, no, not a boy. I don't want to marry a boy." Oh my!!! We have some teaching to do!!!

James cleaned the kitchen so nicely!!! Too bad he threw away our thawing dinner . . . even when I try to cook, something happens!

Tonight I was teasing my boys about growing mustaches when they grow up and Sarah said she wanted to grow one. I heard David tell her girls can't have mustaches. She immediately asked if this was true. When I told her yes, she began to cry!! OH MY!!!

Conversation with Sarah after coming home from Wendy's, which she requested: (Very Cranky Voice) Mom, why'd they give me fries? Me: Kid's meals come with fries. Sarah (still very cranky): I didn't want fries. Me: Okay, don't eat them. Sarah (normal voice): I want to eat them. I like the salt.” I am a girl, and I do not understand her!!!!

Sarah cracks me up!!! This morning I took her into her room to pick out clothes, which she helped me choose. A few minutes later she came into my room with a very cranky voice and said, "Mom, I look ridiculous! I look like David!!!" I have no idea why she said that. However, when I told her we could go choose something else, she refused. I can't imagine what things are going to be like when she is a teenager.

In effort to put things into perspective, God provided a situation that was much worse than the insurance thing. David did not come home from school today. His friend said he wasn't on the bus, but the school office said he wasn't there either. . .After a couple minutes of panic on our part, he walked into the school office. He missed his bus stop and was in deed on the bus, so the driver took him back to school.

If my son does not accept my friend request, I am deleting his whole facebook account!!!!

Just had to wake David up to get him OUT of the shower, and now he is telling me he is NOT tired and does NOT need to go to bed.

David just ran into my room saying, "This movie freaks me out!" He's watching Babe. Yes, the movie about the pig . . . not the best movie ever, but not one I would expect to freak him out either!!! Weird!

Made ribs for dinner tonight (a first, and they were pretty good)!!!! I was pulling the meat off the bone for Sarah. She asked, "Are those real bones?" Her response to my "yes" was, "Whose bones are they???"

Brent just corrected Sarah when she said, "Oh My God" by saying, "Sarah, we can't use 'God' as an explicative." I'm sure she totally gets it now!!!! Sometimes his father in him comes out big time. He says he used to have to go ask his mom to translate.

There are so many things wrong with this . . . keep in mind, David is terrible with names so he often has to describe people. David: "It's someone's birthday today." (Clearly, that's true, but I figured it must be someone he knows.) Me: "Whose?" David: "You know the one in my class who disobeys a lot . . . but sometimes he doesn't." (I guess he was giving him some grace? But also doesn't that describe almost everyone in his class???) Needless to say, I was no closer to figuring it out after that description.

Role playing in Sunday School about telling people about Jesus . . . David to Paul, "Do you know Jesus?" Paul, "No." David, "Jesus died on the cross for your sins and if you believe in Him, you can die on the cross also." Oooops!!! We all got a good laugh out of this one before he corrected himself!

I'm wondering what it says about me that anytime I am sweeping or vacuuming or any other type of cleaning, the kids ask, "Who's coming over tonight?"

Me: donde esta su padre? Sarah: if you speak Spanish, I'm going to say you don't have eyelashes. Me: WHAT????? Sarah: well, dora doesn't have any! I don't think that's the message the producers were trying to tell.

James is definitely taller than me now!!! I still have the psychological advantage, however!!! And he better not forget that!

I learned a couple things through doing this: 1) Sarah causes me to say “Oh, my!” a lot! 2) I need to post more about James and Jason, but Jason especially.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Favorites . . .

First of all, I want to say that it occurred to me today that we have been in Bakersfield for three years now. It was three years ago today that we got the key to our house and unloaded our moving truck. WOW!!!

But on to my favorites . . . today I asked the kids in Sunday School what one of their favorite things was about their mothers. Mostly I got very vague answers, like, "She's awesome!" When I asked for specifics, they had a hard time. My kids said things like, "She cooks nice." or "She's fun." I hope they were just stumbling because it was so last minute and nothing else was on the tip of their tongue.

I decided that I wanted to write down some of my favorites about each of them, so here goes . . .

James: He is a good friend, and relationships are important to him. He is loyal. He is excellent at critiquing things, his dad's sermons being one of the things. A couple weeks ago, I asked, "How was church this morning?" I was in Children's Ministry. He said, "Dad did a great job. His sermon was good, very practical. His introduction grabbed my attention and his examples were easy to relate to." Occasionally, he says something like, "The introduction could have been a little better" or "Your conclusion wasn't the best." It's hilarious, but Brent loves it because it is honest. When he wants to be, he is very helpful. He can be the best big brother, again when he wants to. He is friendly and willing to take risks.

Jason: He is also a great friend!!! And he is a friend to those who have no friends!!! He's not afraid of what that might do to his reputation, and he will put up with a lot of annoyance from those who are not easy to befriend. There is one boy at school that comes to mind quickly. He is charming and most people love him, peers and adults. He is diligent, and he perseveres. He is not afraid to say no when he doesn't want to do something. He doesn't like to have his schedule over full.

David: He is so excited and happy about EVERYTHING!!!! Tonight we were watching The Blind Side, and he was cheering for the football games and clapping when the plays ended, as if we were watching something live. He is an encourager. His gymnastics coach has told me time and time again that when other kids are having trouble with something in class, it is David who encourages and pushes them to do their best. He's strong and has incredible endurance. He is a terrific older brother and loves his sister so much. He recently wrote a book and read it out loud at his writer's tea at school. He dedicated his book to his sister and gave her a big hug after he walked down from the stage. It was so cool!!!!

Sarah: She has a super laugh (only not when it is a fake laugh). She takes charge, which can be a problem, but it is fun to watch! She is hilarious and says the funniest things all the time. She is very loving to all of us and to her friends. I think she is also a very loyal friend. We will see if this continues, but so far it seems this way. Her strong opinions make me crazy sometimes, but I think it is great that she has them, too. With three brothers, she is somewhat of a tomboy, but she also likes to be girly. She loves to play dress up and wants to have tea parties all the time!!!

I'm sure there are 100 other things, but those are the things off the top of my head. I'm very blessed!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

On My Heart

I need to post about so many things . . . Easter . . . a book . . . my kids . . . life in general. So here is some rambling about what God has been teaching me. I'm still working through all my thoughts, but here goes.

Just before Easter, our small group completed a study on becoming a good samaritan. I was dealing with the abortion issues from my previous post. We have some friends who are serving and loving some homeless people and I felt a tug to get involved on some level. I completed the book The Same Kind of Different As Me and now the sequel, What Difference Do It Make, and both touched me deeply. With all of this plus my job, I figure God must be trying to work on my heart in regards to being a servant to those in need, but what does that mean? To tell you the truth, because of my job (which might seem kind of backward), in many ways I lack compassion and mercy for the down and out. It is very conflicting. I said something in small group one night that caused someone to question my contradiction, which in turn caused me to think about it a lot. What does God want from me? What do I need to do to be obedient to Him?

I think it is hard to come to a good balance with these issues. There is such a fine line in trying to balance responsibility and compassion, similar to the balance of grace and truth. In my job, I work with former foster youth, young adults who turned 18 in the foster care system. Some might think that their 18th birthday means freedom, but in the words of one of my co-workers it's more like they "were thrown to the wolves." They do not know what to do next. THey don't have the support of their family as they learn independence, no one to call when they make mistakes and need direction. I have a giant heart for these young adults. I know their back story and can totally understand why they are responding and making the choices they are making. However, I also know the only way they can redirect their lives is to learn to make good choices. The best choice they can make is to follow Jesus, but some of them aren't ready to do that. I believe they can learn to make good choices in their day to day activities without following Jesus, so practically that is what I am trying to teach them. Sometime I just want to slap some sense into them. I am working through this balance of loving and showing mercy, yet trying to talk honestly to them about the irresponsible choices they are making.

We spent Easter lunch with our friends, Seth and Callie, at this small grassy area in Bakersfield where we fed lunch to about 10 homeless people. We took tri-tip, beans, potato salad, cookies and drinks. Most of them came to us to get food, then left. A couple weren't very social, so we took some plates to them. Three of the men ate with us. One of them, specifically sat down with Seth, Callie, Brent, James and I and shared his story. What sadness and loss he has experienced. I'm sure in the midst of all his losses, he made some poor choices which has made it difficult for him to find work now, but I cannot imagine walking the path he has walked. He has no one. His parents and brother have passed away, and his sister lives clear across the country and they have not maintained contact. He truly has no one. It doesn't change the fact that he made some poor choices, but he is suffering the consequences. It's our job, now, to show compassion and to help make a difference in his life. We still don't know exactly what our specific role is, but we are seeking God in all of that, and He has laid a lot on our hearts.

I am praying that I will seek God in trying to find this balance. I think my biggest issue is lack of waiting for direction. I speak when I should be quiet and I act when I should be still and listen. I need to know from God what to say and when to say it, what to do and when to do it. I think if I can slow down a bit and wait on God, my responses will probably show this balance that I think we have to have. I just know that we are called to serve, and when I serve others, I want to serve them well, with the heart of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Birthday Season

We are nearing the end of birthday season in our house. We have all six birthdays between February 10th and April 25th with four of them in March. It's hard to believe my oldest is fifteen, but I think even harder to believe that my youngest if nearly five. As I type, she is sitting next to me writing letters on a piece of paper and adding 2 + 1. Oh, my, where did the time go?

James turned 15 on February 10th, and we celebrated by he and I jumping in a car and driving to Bartlesville. It was a great time on the road. Pretty much once we got to Bartlesville I didn't see him, but the time in the car was fabulous! He's such a great kid. He's a teenager and drives us crazy occasionally, but when I really think about it and think of myself at that age, I am so proud of him. He checks his brain from time to time, particularly when he is interacting with his siblings, but most of the time he is really on top of things. I am most proud of his walk with Jesus. When I was 15, I was boy crazy and acting stupid, making bad choices a lot of the time. He's hanging out with his friends, usually at our house. I'm sure he thinks girls are cute, but he's not over eager to date, enjoying his guy time! He's usually up early reading his Bible, and he likes to sit and hear his dad's sermons on Sunday morning. When he was little, we called him our "little evangelist". This hasn't changed . . . he has some pretty crazy friends who he loves to have over, and they seem to like to be here because they keep on returning. Most of them have had little to no exposure to Jesus. James is ready and willing to share the Truth with them! It's great!

Jason turned 12 on March 31st. He had four friends over to spend the night. He is a great friend to others, such an encourager. He does not study Scripture like his brother, but he has a heart of gold, and his actions truly display the love of Jesus. This is something we hear about him from others frequently. You can read an earlier post of mine about what his teacher said about him earlier this year, one of the greatest compliments I have received on one of my children. He is a friend to the friendless and the people who no one else will befriend. I know it's not always easy to be friends with some of the people he is friends with, but he does it anyway. He loves the Lord and grows daily to be more like Jesus.

David turned 7 on March 2nd. He actually had a birthday party this year, although not until March 13th. He had several friends over and they had a big Wii tournament on the big screen in the house. None of us really like cake, so everyone had giant chocolate chip cookies. David's were shaped and decorated like a bowling pin, a baseball, and a putting green! It was fun! I baked, and Brent decorated! David is asking so many questions about Jesus. Easter was a precious time with him this year as he was able to better comprehend Jesus's death and resurrection and what that means for him personally. He has asked to be baptized. We still are not certain he fully grasps it, so we are waiting and having almost daily conversations with him.

Sarah will be five in a couple weeks. She will have her first birthday party ever. She wants a princess tea party, but recently she told us she wanted to invite prince's also. We will see. I would rather keep it small. She has been planning every little detail, including making up her own game that I don't think I can possibly re-explain. Not sure how we are going to handle that yet! She is really into learning and will do great in kindergarten next year. She loves preschool, loves learning her letters, loves adding, and is excellent at following instructions and making sure everyone around her follows them also. She has been talking way too much lately, so that could pose to be a problem for her in the classroom. We will see! Again, I reflect on my own life, and I am sorry to my parents if they happen to read this. I love you! But the thing I remember about turning five was that it was my first birthday without my parents being together. It was hard. I'm so grateful that Sarah will remember five differently.

In the mix of all the kids' birthdays, Brent and I often don't do much to celebrate. Usually we try to get out by ourselves for dinner or something. This year I decided to try to have some friends over to celebrate with Brent. His birthday was Saturday, so I emailed a few of his close friends here and down in the Thousand Oaks area. Not everyone could be here Saturday, so we had two birthday dinners. Saturday we had steak and potatoes, and I made my first cheesecake ever, and it actually was okay. I don't really care too much for cheesecake, but Brent loves it. Scott and Amberly were here for dinner with us. Then on Sunday we had chicken and linguine with a white sauce and a chocolate chip dessert. His friend, Mike, came up from Thousand Oaks, and our friends Eric and Shannon came over also. It was nice.

Then for my birthday, we went to BJs with our small group and had dinner and my favorite, a pizookie! We laughed and enjoyed each other's company. And Brent went out shopping for an orange tree for me. He wasn't actually able to get it. They didn't have the size in that he wanted, but soon I will have an orange tree. I wanted a house with one when we moved here, but that didn't happen, so I have been asking for one since. I think it might be one of my favorite presents of all time! We just have to get it and get it planted!!!

I look at my life, at my family, at our friends . . . We are truly blessed and I am so thankful!!! It's not always easy, but it sure is incredible!!! I can add to that in another post when I share about Easter Sunday, which was such an amazing treat! Our birthdays pale in comparison to what we have to celebrate on Easter, what we need to be celebrating each day!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Update on my last post

I am very, very sad to say that there was an abortion . . . and it has been hard. I did not know it took place until several days later. Please pray for this young lady. Please pray for me as I continue to love her unconditionally. My heart aches for her!

Through all of this, I have become further frustrated that abortion is legal. When you relinquish your rights to a child (I have sat through many a proceeding in this regard) you have to answer all sorts of questions to prove that you are of sound mind and not under duress or anything like that. I am just wondering who, when they make a choice to have an abortion, is "of sound mind" or "not under duress"? I remember my first few months of pregnancy . . . I was anything but. I was hormonal, sick, emotional, you name it. And a person who is in a contemplative state, considering termination of her pregnancy, must be in a more stressful state of mind than I can even imagine (for probably a million reasons I cannot understand), and not of sound mind. But a person getting an abortion does not have to prove these things. I just know this is going to be painful for her at some point, if it isn't already.

I'm not one to blog about politically hot topics, so I am not going to go on and on about this. I pray if you read this and you have had an abortion, you hear what I am saying in a loving way. That little life is with Jesus now. It is the mother, here on earth, who has to suffer from the pain of a decision she made. She is the one I ache for now. And I ache for her because I care so much about her.

This life is sad and very hard. Heaven is going to be a wonderful place!!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sadness . . .

I have seen a lot of sad reality in my years as a social worker. I have met hurting and broken people, and seen and read things that most people pretend do not exist. The trauma that happens to children is appalling, and it carries over into their adulthood. There's no doubt about it. I have been faced with many situations which have caused me to have to really look inside to determine things that I once thought were dogmatically immoral. (For example, putting a child on birth control before she started menstruating for fear that she would become pregnant before she ever had a period . . . yes, it can happen, sadly.) That was many years ago when I felt strongly that putting kids on birth control was only encouraging their promiscuous behavior. That's still debatable, and I still struggle with it, but I also know too many people who shouldn't be parents are becoming parents. And they have not been raised with the morals and beliefs that my children are being raised with, so it's a tough one.

But a week ago I was faced with the most difficult situation yet. It was not a hard decision to give an answer to the request, but truly it had never even been something I imagined ever happening. I had someone ask me to take them to the abortion clinic. I told her immediately that I could not, but I found myself later wondering about it . . . here's the story. There is a woman in my life who had a very difficult childhood. She's barely out of that childhood now, but she is an adult. She wants absolutely nothing to do with Jesus, and I am not sure that she has any healthy adults in her life. She already has one child, who she has great difficulty parenting. I truly believe she loves him, but she has NO skills, and teaching them is much harder than I ever imagined. She has been antagonistic against anything related to "religion" or "church". She didn't even want to come to a parenting group at a church because it was held at a church, even though it is non-religious. She got mad at a friend of mine when he offered to pray for her one day. I have been building a relationship with her over several months, probably 8 or so. A week ago Thursday I got a text message from her saying some choice words but ultimately telling me she was pregnant and trying to find a clinic. I asked her to hold off on finding a clinic and told her I would be by the next day to talk to her and in the meantime would be praying for her. I didn't know what her response would be to that, but I wanted her to know it. She simply thanked me, no anger.

The next day I went over and sat with her. The story got sadder as we went along, but I will hold off on the details because of confidentiality. However, when I was at her house, she shared with me that her family was angry with her. One particular family member had recently started attending church. Before she started attending church, she was fine with cohabitation and multiple fathers, but after she started at church, she was very judgmental and basically told this person she was living in sin, so she would no longer have any relationship with her. Through this conversation, I was able to share with her the fact that Jesus loves her and that He died on the cross for all of her sins, if she would only believe that. He does judge, but more importantly at this time, He loves and forgives. He is love. She did not get angry and did not throw me out of her house. But she would not let me pray for her either. So I told her I would pray quietly and outside of her house. I talked to her about the life in her and how important this baby is and how God loves the baby. She has always thought abortion was wrong, but in the midst of fear and stress, she was/is contemplating. So I spent the weekend praying for her every time I thought of her.

On Monday when I saw her again, she requested I take her to the clinic. She said she is definitely having an abortion. I continued to counsel her along the lines of how difficult I believe this will be for her in the future as she deals with the fact that she chose to kill her baby. I told her that I cared about her and will be there for her, but I absolutely could not take her to the clinic. I asked her to hold off on making any decision until I could get her some literature on abortion and adoption. It is interesting because she thinks adoption is just as bad as abortion. It's not the killing of the baby that is so hard for her, it is the giving up the baby in any way that is hard for her. I never thought about that before, a different perspective, which makes perfect sense knowing what little I know about her history. I went to our local crisis pregnancy center, a CareNet facility, and got some literature and took it to her that night and asked her to read through it, particularly about the difficulties mothers deal with after they make that decision and then the facts about the types of abortions and what they can do physically and emotionally. I don't think I have ever read through one of those . . . terribly difficult to read. As of today, she is still pregnant but continues to say that she is planning to go to a clinic. I am trying to prolong the situation so I can continue to have conversations with her. There aren't many days that you can get an abortion here, so that is helpful, and I don't think she has any money to do it, so that also is good. i just continue to pray that things will happen that keep her from a clinic.

When I mentioned that I have continued to wonder about taking her to the abortion clinic, it's because I can't imagine her going through that alone. I can't do it (go to the clinic). Morally, I just can't do it. I think I would physically be sick if I was party to the situation, but I keep thinking about her having to sit in the clinic all alone going through something so traumatic. If she were losing her baby by natural causes, I would be there holding her hand and helping her to process. Just because she makes a choice does not mean she doesn't need the help processing and being loved. I wonder if she has ever experienced unconditional love, love given to her even when she is acting in a way that someone who loves her thinks is wrong. I think of all the times I totally and completely love my kids, even though they are doing something wrong. I think of all the times God has loved me, even though I was doing something wrong. He is there with me so often when I am making poor decisions. Those are the things that have been coming and going in my mind. Tough stuff! Pray that I would show her this kind of love through this situation and pray that she would have the courage to make the right decision, to find an adoptive home for this new little baby.

And on a selfish note, this is very stressful for me. I feel like if I can't make a difference in her choice, what am I doing in this role. Pray that I will just do what I can and be obedient to what God wants me to do and trust God with the rest, and that I won't put undue pressure on myself.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Same Kind of Different As Me = Fantastic

At the recommendation of some friends, I just read Same Kind of Different As Me. For those of you, who like me a few weeks ago, know nothing about this book because you are not up on books, it is a true story about two men from very different worlds who meet and become lifelong friends through the encouragement and faith of an incredible, strong woman. It is a story of God's power to overcome heartache and pain that seem impossible to overcome.

For me, it was a story of the blessing and encouragement I can be for my husband, especially, but also for others. If it was not for this woman, this friendship would not have taken place. It was through her forgiveness and loving encouragement that her husband was able to become the man he became. It was convicting! It was through her courage and conviction that so many lives were touched. I pray I can leave a legacy (in my own way) like she was able to do. I hope I am obedient and the woman of God that I am called to be. I hope I am in touch enough that I can hear or see when God points me in certain directions so that I can leave the legacy He has called me to leave.

I can't recommend the book enough!! And, aside from the tears, it is an easy read!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Holidays

I know I'm a bit late on this one . . . but we had a fabulous holiday season, so late or not, I want to share!!!

For Thanksgiving, we traveled down to my aunt, uncle and grandmother's. I don't think I actually took any pictures. We spent the evening before Thanksgiving at Disneyland, then we had Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle's and spent the night there that night. It was nice. The kids enjoyed their second cousins, and we enjoyed my first cousins.

Christmas was just wonderful! We started off the break from school with our last trip to Disneyland. It was such a great year with season passes, but we had pretty much decided we would do something different for 2010, just because Disneyland passes are so expensive. So we enjoyed a night and day there. The biggest excitement that night was that David was finally tall enough to ride California Screamin'. He has been waiting for this moment all year long, and I wasn't sure he was going to make it. He was a little freaked out, as was I. I'm still not sure he was tall enough, no matter what the sign said! But he loved it and rode it several times! Here are few pics of our two days. The first is of Sarah on the Ariel Carousel while the boys were on the roller coaster.

The next is of David and Sarah on the main Carousel in Storybookland.

Then we have Sarah comparing shoes with Mrs. Clause . . . they were very similar.

I didn't get any great pics of the older boys, at least not any that are on my computer.

I spent the next couple days cleaning the house and preparing for Christmas. Dad flew into San Diego and picked up my grandmother. They arrived here on Wednesday. This was our first Christmas since leaving Bartlesville that we were with family. I was so excited to have them here!! We have done fine the last couple years, but I was really dreading not having family with us this year, so I was so happy when Dad said he was coming and then when Grandma asked if she could come, too. Among other things, she was great help in getting prepared for Christmas Eve. We invited everyone from the church over, and we had about 40 come. We sang carols, read the Christmas story and just enjoyed company. We had a lot of finger foods. When everyone left, we attempted to get some family snapshots in front of the Christmas tree. I got a couple of decent ones of the kids and the kids with Dad and Grandma, but none of the six of us.

We woke up Christmas morning and opened gifts, followed by a nice breakfast (a rare occurrence in our house)! Then Brent put together Sarah's kitchen while I finished the food for lunch. Everyone watched Up. Then at about 2:30 our friends Scott (our new strategic pastor at Kaleo!!!) and Amberly and their children, Judah and Josiah, and our friend, Susan, came for dinner. We had a HUGE amount of food. It was delicious! Clean up was followed by a short nap and playing of games.

Dad and Grandma stayed until Wednesday morning, at which time we all went to Escondido (Northern San Diego County) to my aunt and uncle's to spend New Year's Even and surprise Grandma for her 90th birthday.

New Year's Eve was celebrated at my cousin, Cindy's. The kids swam while the adults played Wii. Even Grandma had her turn batting and golfing, as did Aunt Mary, who is blind. Yes, she batted, swinging when the crowd told her to, and proudly, she scored better than her husband, my Uncle Jim, whose sight is perfectly fine!!! It was a blast.

The following day we celebrated Grandma turning 90. Her birthday was not actually until the 7th, but this is when everyone could be in town. It was special for all of us who were there. She seemed to enjoy herself very much. She is in amazing shape for her age. I hope I am doing that well if I live to be that age. She will be spending a month on a cruise in early spring . . . a month, yes!!! But I figure, at 90, if that's what she wants, that's what she should do!!! It's great to be close enough to celebrate with her!!! We returned home late that night, or rather early the following morning. I felt so blessed this year at Christmas, with friends, family and church family around. I could not ask for more, except for the rest of our family to be here, too!!!