Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Poor Bunny!

Since I can't handle the thought of (ugh) "replacing" Murphy with another kitten for a while, Kelsey thought that the next best thing would be a rabbit. I'm not real sure WHY she thought this, other than the cute and fluffy factor. Anyway, we have had this rabbit for a week or so now. The poor thing still has no real name, because Kelsey can't decide on anything that the little girls can say. She wanted to name her Nezzer (think Veggie Tales, Mr. Nezzer..."The bunny, the bunny, WOAH, I love the bunny..."), but Morgan and Jamie just kept calling her "lizard". So she thought Happy would be a good fit, as Kelsey loves the sarcastic Happy Bunny, but the girls just keep calling her Bunny, so who knows? This critter may never be named!

Yesterday, as Jamie was 'talking' with Grandma on the phone, the subject of the bunny came up. Grandma asked "Jamie, do you have a new bunny at your house?" Jamie's immediate but cool-as-a-cucumber anwser had us all in stitches for hours...

"No, we ate her all gone."

Oh, and Kelsey and Jon decided last night that the bunny's name may need to be "Stew"!

My how they've grown--Jamie

Our little fireball, the queen of all things extreme, Jamie lives with gusto that is exhausting, deafening, and downright hilarious! She does nothing halfway, but instead throws all of her heart and body into anything she puts her mind to. If she's laughing, it's a giggle that is reminiscent (as Pete says) of a machine gun, and her laugh is just infectious! If she's crying, you don't want to be in earshot! If she's pouting, her whole body pouts with her. She's pure emotion, and she wears her heart on her sleeve!

Jamie is also our most introspective, independent child. Just as happy to sit and thumb through any book or magazine she can find as to play with other kids, Jamie really doesn't need anyone to keep her company. In that respect, she is a carbon copy of her mother! She doesn't "need" people, although she's just as much a ham as any of the other kids. She loves to entertain, but she is perfectly happy curled up on the couch with her blankie and a book.

At two and a half years old, Jamie's toddler days are coming to a swift close. More than with Morgan, we can still see that "baby" in her eyes and there is still a little bit of her baby chub left from her more fluffy days, but she is fast becoming a preschooler in the truest sense. She wants to play with puzzles, stack blocks, and "write" along with her older sister, and woe be unto anyone who tries to redirect her energies! She may still be shy enough to hide behind Daddy's knees, but you'd best not be in her way when she lets go!

My how they've grown--Morgan

It never ceases to amaze me that the Lord saw fit to give us a second chance at the family He had in mind for us. If we'd have stuck to what we "knew" about what we wanted and what we could handle all those years ago, we wouldn't have our little Morgan (or her two younger sisters, for that matter)! We might be "crazy" to have started over again when Jon and Kelsey were entering the teen years, but I wouldn't trade the life we have now for anything. I can't imagine our family without Morgan, and I am SO thankful that God gave us the opportunity to restore the fertility we took for granted in our early adulthood.

I can hardly believe that Morgan is three and a half years old! It seems like just yesterday that we brought that squealing little ball of cuteness home from the hospital, and now she is potty trained and wanting to start school with Jon and Kelsey this Fall! Ironically, the time actually seemed to pass quicker with our "second family" even though we were trying to slow down and enjoy every little phase more than we did with our first two. Morgan just seemed to zip through babyhood, but I suppose that has a lot to do with her wanting to do everything her older sister and brother can do. She even picked up on jigsaw puzzles very quickly, just because she wanted to do what Kelsey does!

I'll start a slowed-way-down version of pre-kindergarten with Morgan in September. She desperately wants to learn how to read, so who am I to tell her no? I read at a young age, and I've been engrossed in the written word ever since, maybe I'll have another bookworm like me in the family soon!
As the days go by, we see less of the toddler and more of the child in Morgan, and I just wish we could slow her down a bit, but I know we can't. God has a purpose in mind for this little beam of sunshine in our family, and I can't wait to see what it is! She already charms every room she enters and within minutes can have anyone wrapped around her finger! Perhaps it's those bright blue eyes, or the wispy blonde curls, or maybe it's Morgan's signature grin, but whatever it is, "it" can make us see right past her fiery temper and the brassy little attitude that is developing uner that porcelain exterior!

She has claimed one of Kelsey's old t-shirts as her own to sleep in, and there is SO much truth found on that shirt...it has a cartoon drawing of Tweety bird and the words, "Don't let the halo fool you". Morgan in a nutshell!

Truth or love?

All of the ickiness we have witnessed in the church over the last decade has begun to feel like a very dangerous wrestling match--an ugly game of truth or dare with a twist. We've seen congregations split, people leave the church, even hurting souls driven away from the Gospel because of this "game", and the more I've studied on it, the more I am coming to the conclusion that Satan is having a field day watching God's children bicker and divide. It seems like there is a huge gap between the "truth" camp and the "love" camp, and ironically little wiggle room in the middle.

Why must there be "sides"? Why must we choose truth over love if we want to be counted among the "faithful" (here among earthly brethren, that is) or eschew an adherence to unwavering truth and strict doctrinal lines if we are to cling to the love Christ showed toward the lost and His followers alike? WHY can't the two intermingle? Why have we not figured out how to "speak the truth in love" as Ephesians 4:15 exhorts?

I can't find a single passage of scripture that places one of these virtues above the other in importance. I can't even find an inference. I haven't been able to come up with one example of Christ or the apostles or early church leaders teaching truth "at all costs", nor have I found a single instance where love trumped any of the other things God expects of His people. Incidentally, I have not found a single mention of the modern idea of tolerance or acceptance of sinful behavior in an effort to "love the sinner", but there are obvious references to Jesus meeting the typical un-loved and un-lovable and showing them love...all while keeping a spirit of truth. The woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery are two that immediately come to mind--Jesus had every right to condemn these women (the Law, which was still in effect at that time, certainly did), but what did He do? He loved them...but He loved them in such a way not to mottle or water down the truth. He never compromised truth OR love.

Our society, bent on "tolerance", is making this an ever-increasing challenge. So are those who would water down the truth in favor of love. But do we have any right to handle things in un-loving ways for the sake of truth? The only example of Jesus Christ doing anything we could possibly perceive as "un-loving" is his cleansing of the temple, driving out the moneychangers from the place of sacred worship. But...was that un-loving? What did He do AFTER the tables had been overturned? It is interesting that the only people who apparently grated our Lord's nerves were the religious elite and those who used the worship assembly to further their own agenda. We have plenty of those folks today as well...perhaps we need to be doing some long, hard searching of Scripture and praying for God's guidance in dealing with these people...because if we are going to follow Christ's example, we will have to deal with them. In love, but not forsaking truth.

Challenging quandry, but nothing God can't handle! After all, He is both Love AND Truth!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Just my opinion

The sermon that was given yesterday during our worship service really got the whole congregation thinking. A good thing, for sure, but it's a bit disconcerting nonetheless. None of us expects doctorate-level discertations here. Not one of our "lay" members has been to preaching school, and with no regular minister, we rely on the courage of the few men among our number to have a sermon at all! However, the man who gave the lesson yesterday (not an American) was "trained" at the Bear Valley school in Denver, so right or not, we look to him with a bit more than average expectations when his turn in the pulpit comes. For whatever reason, he chose a topic that left us feeling as if we'd been hit with a hugely irreverant brick that teetered between "opinion" and slippery slope toward blasphemy. It was even the first time in probably fifteen years that I have heard anyone interrupted during a sermon and corrected with Biblical truth.

Perhaps it's a cultural thing; many of us hard-nosed conservatives from the US Bible belt have felt a bit out of sorts when discussing "sound doctrine" with our European brethren, because on many occasions we have noted a divergence into "fluffy" liberalism and a what (to us, anyway) feels like a broad lack of convictions when it comes to things we American Christians see as pillars of our faith. It was far beyond culture shock to be invited to an anniversary celebration immediately following a Sunday morning worship service and to witness our German brethren partaking in what amounted to encouraged social drinking. Our feathers were not just ruffled but nearly ripped from us altogether when, during a joint English/German worship service, the speaker called on his sister to translate, when there were no fewer than three men who could have done the job just as effectively. Just yesterday every one of us had to grit our teeth and say we can't fully agree on a matter that the speaker said "seems wrong" but that really may just be his opinion based on what he "feels" is amiss in the corporate church worship? Are these things somehow "cultural" differences? Are they really? Our European brothers and sisters don't even wink at these differences, but it is becoming an ever-increasing source of frustration for the Americans among our number, and we aren't so sure what to do with it. Love them, yes...teach, yes...but to what end?

I know this is a phenomenon that extends beyond national borders. We see this in the continental US as well. It's tearing the brotherhood apart, and I know Christ (who, incidentally, was the entire focus of yesterday's lesson) would disapprove of the great divide in "opinion". Would He even approve of us calling those gray issues "opinion"?

God forbid we have the audacity to insert our opinion on those things He saw fit to give us direction on in His Word! It should be our heart's desire to rid ourselves of service to self and "opinion" and instead favor those things that God approves of and wants of those who seek to serve Him!

Thankfully, a very good result came in response to the lesson yesterday, even if it did rub everyone the wrong way--we are all meditating on God's Word with a passion today, studying something we never really thought was an "issue" before. Study to show thyself approved...indeed!

PLEASE, can I take a sick day?

I wanna do nothing but lay in bed today. I want to be able to follow where the antihistamine fog is leading me. I don't want to have to struggle to keep my head afloat. I do NOT want to fold laundry, cook, sweep, clean toilets, make my bed, or even get dressed today. I just want to be "sick". It's my turn to be a big baby, for goodness' sake!

I've been thinking...if the theory of evolution were correct, wouldn't all females grow a replacement clone during that nine months before the arrival of a baby? A backup, someone who doesn't have to be trained in the intricacies of family life, but who can snap into action when the ailing Mom needs her? Seems to me that we, the supposed tippy-top of the evolutionary ladder, would have evolved to suit our needs, no?

Ah, the wonders of creation. God KNEW Adam would need help. So...did Eve have a nanny for her rambunctious brood?

Friday, July 27, 2007

My how they've grown--Kelsey

Physically grown but not not yet mature enough to give up the selfish pursuits of a child, Kelsey embodies the very heart of what it means to be fifteen years old. She's as tall as I am already, but far better proportioned than I was at her age. She's also so much like her father that it's almost scary...a heart of gold but no fear--of anything. Also like her father, she's quick to lose her temper but so passive-aggressive that you don't know you're being played till she's got the whole situation turned completely in her favor, so nothing is EVER her fault. That little character trait does not bode well with me and Jon, who are as far from 'passive' in any conflict! Kelsey's idealism is amazing, but sometimes she'd be far better served by keeping her head out of the clouds! Again, JUST like her dad! She even looks like him!

Kelsey has always been my mother's "revenge"--the girly-girl I never was, and full of all the fire I have always had. Oh, how I long for her future, because in turn, I have "cursed" her with the prayer for twin girls JUST LIKE HER!

Unlike me, Kelsey is more able to stay on task till it's fully accomplished, and when she's at rest she can fully rest because she never has fifteen different irons in the fire! She's a hard worker, so whatever he does in life, she will do it well and wholeheartedly.

Kelsey's spent much of the last few months in trouble, but as time passes she is learning self-control, so hopefully her future will be more "on purpose" than haphazardly lived. It is our prayer that as she gets closer to adulthood, she will keep her heart open to what God wants her to do, because we can see the potential in her to be used for His glory in ways she can't even begin to comprehend. We do already pray for the man she'll eventually marry, because he's going to need all the preparation he can get, with this fireball in his future!

My how they've grown--Jon

I spent nearly an hour and a half on the phone the other day with Jill, and it occurred to me that how I remember her "little boy" is totally unlike the young man he must be now. SO much happens in two years, it is going to be a shock to see Wesley after we get back to the U.S. We left and he was just a boy, now...well, now he's hit that growth spurt and there's no telling what he looks like! Too bad Jill isn't interested in sending pictures! I love ya, Jill, but goodness, the last picture I got of Wesley was when he started third grade, and he's now in high school!

My own kids, well, just like kids do, they are growing. Physically, they are all bigger than they were than when we moved to Germany. They're all completely different in every other way as well. I suppose it wouldn't hurt for those I share this blog with to be able to "see" how they've grown, so I'll take a few blog entries and devote them to each of the kiddos.

Our oldest, Jon (once actually known by his full first name, Jonathan), is 17 years old. Quickly becoming a young man, and it seems that every day we see a little less of the 'boy' we used to see in him. He's almost two inches taller than his father, and weighs the same that Pete did when he left for basic training nearly 18 years ago. He *should be* shaving, but much prefers the Shaggy look. In the last six months, his tastes in hair styles have changed more times than we can count. We've gone from long and grungy to short and dyed to even shorter and spiky. Unfortunately, the too-tight but too-low pants have not gone out of fashion, so we still end up staring at Jon's underwear more often than not. At least they're clean.

Jon would love to be driving like his stateside buddies, but thankfully German and US Army Europe regulations keep him in the passenger seat. I don't think Mom could handle having her son on the autobahn just yet! It's a bit disheartening that taking away the privilege of driving, the overabundant opportunity for a part-time job or extracurricular activities that are more than available in the States makes military kids overseas more than just a little bit "lost". Finding their way isn't an easy thing, considering that the future isn't something they can readily put energies into preparing for outside of academic pursuits, and too many of these kids get into more trouble than they would had they been less bored, but it seems that Jon is finally growing past that self-absorbed pity party phase. He is still very interested in skateboarding, and since there is a nicely designed and maintained skatepark just a couple of blocks from our house, he has ample opportunity to improve on his skills.

Jon will begin his senior year this Fall. We don't know where we'll be when he graduates, but he plans on doing what the last three generations of men in this family have done--join the military. We've known for quite some time that this was a likely path for him, and while the risks of military life are very apparent to us, we're proud that our son will serve his country like his father and grandfathers and great-grandfathers have done. We are looking forward to seeing Jon march across a parade field with his fellow basic training graduates to begin his own Army career, and our prayer is that God will bring someone into Jon's life who will be a perfect fit for him and who will complement him well as he begins what will hopefully be a long, prosperous life of his own. And maybe, just maybe...He can bless Jon with someone who will tame his fashion "bling":

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dare I hope?

If there is one place that our hearts keep returning, it's Huntsville, Alabama. Maybe it's the people, maybe it's the way the Southern hospitality refreshes us like a tall glass of sweet tea...or maybe it's the fact that Pete's training keeps taking us back there every now and then! Whatever the reason, both of us are always looking for an opportunity to go back. We thought that our opportunities were behind us as Pete's military career draws to a close, but we might have been wrong!

Finally, after several years of constant pain, Pete's shoulder is well enough so he's actually making good on the oft-put-off plan of applying for Warrant Officer Candidate School. In the past he's either been deployed or in too much pain to even be able to take a PT test, but now...well now he's ready! And even though he thought his age and time in service would require a waiver, it doesn't, so he's fully qualified--it's all just a matter of putting in the application!

The icing on the cake was hearing the excitement in Pete's voice on Sunday as we bade farewell to a couple (and their unborn son) we've become close to through the church here. Mike and Ela are moving to Anniston, Alabama, and Ela was in dire need of more encouragement to settle her soul for her first "real" move. She is Polish, and the idea of moving to not only a foreign land but a place that neither of them know anything about was overwhelming to her. As we talked (and heaped on the praise for another of our "favorite" Alabama cities), Mike expressed to Pete that he has paperwork submitted for a more permanent job in Huntsville, and Pete just lit up like a Christmas tree! He hasn't spoken of Huntsville in a long time, and it seemed that Mike opened a floodgate! Pete is now saying he NEEDS to get back there, he just misses it so much, and he told me today that he's hoping to have that Warrant Officer packet submitted for the next selection board! Yippee!!!

Of course this doesn't mean a "permanent" assignment to Redstone Arsenal, but even a 3-4 month stay there would be food for our souls, especially now with Jon so set on enlisting! If it all lines up (oh, PLEASE, Lord!!), we could be in Huntsville when Jon enlists and we won't be a 13-hour plane trip away when our firstborn graduates from basic training!

I think seeing the numbers dwindling so drastically every week at church is taking its toll on us; homesickness is setting in. I think even Pete is ready to go back "home".

I need a hobby

...that doesn't require a computer screen! I've put off a lot of the scrapbooking projects that I've had in the back of my mind for far too long. Why? Because I didn't want to look through all those pictures I knew I had of Murphy. Maybe I'm just being a big baby, but I just haven't been ready to look at that furry face since she died. I know I probably *need* to just bite the bullet and dedicate a scrapbook project to her, but I haven't bring able to bring myself to it. She may be "just a cat", but she couldn't have been any more a part of our family than if she was one of the kids! Eleven years is a long time, and Murphy's silly personality is sorely missed.

So WHY am I putting this off? Why am I torturing myself, not engaging in a hobby that was a wonderful outlet for me and one of the very few things I did just for me? It seems silly, to avoid a whole activity just because I don't want to run into painful memories. In fact, I know from experience that documenting the good memories helps to rid myself of the bad. So I guess it's time to dust off the scissors and adhesive sticks, get out the patterned paper and chipboard and just start scrapping. After all, I've missed scrapping almost a year of Danica's life. I am WAY behind!

Maybe I'll go indulge in a scrapbook magazine to get my creative juices flowing. Hmm...and maybe I'll even see if I can find some kitty stickers or cat-themed paper!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nose in a book

I'm a nerd. There, I said it. I've always had my nose in a book, devouring everything I could get my hands on to read. My favorite place in the mall is always the bookstore. I was elated when I realized Books*A*Million had teamed up with Joe Muggs to create bibliophile nirvana by offering up a cup 'o' joe and a comfy chair to those of us who love to curl up with an armful of books before whittling the pile down to the one or two we'll actually purchase.

This time of year, though...the end of summer...brings an incredible feast of the senses to folks like me. When we began homeschooling ten years ago, I learned very quickly that Christmas had a rival. There is nothing quite like opening a huge box of brand-new BOOKS! The beginning of the school year has always been a wonderfully exciting time for me, but mainly because I loved the smell and "feel" of new books and school supplies. Odd, yes, I know. Like I said, I'm a nerd. To me, there is something akin to the smell of a new baby's skin in never-opened books and brand-new Crayola boxes. It brings with it the prospect of a new start; the beginning of a grand adventure. Some people like to watch flowers bloom; I like to sniff books.

"Box Day" this year was amazing. The day that 46-pound box from Sonlight arrived...I couldn't even wait till after dinner, I HAD to open it. Thumbing through the books and savoring the sound of being the first one to open each one's pages just could not wait another minute! I had cleared off space on our shelves days earlier for our newest paper residents.

Ahhhhh, that "new book" smell...I love it!

This school year brings with it a not-so-new but much-missed return to preschool supplies as Morgan all but insisted on being included with the academic pursuits of her older siblings. So next to the mechanical pencils, graphing calculators, and stacks of college ruled paper sit the standard school box full of Crayolas, thick "trainer" pencils, safety scissors, and glue sticks. It also seems as if I've finally borne another nerd like me, as Morgan is as fiercely protective of HER "school books" as I am. She guards her little stack of workbooks and their rightful place next to algebra and grammar texts like uncovered treasure.

I have trained her well!

Monday, July 23, 2007

A sweet little tagalong

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThis has become one of my favorite pictures of Dani. It somehow shows so much of her little personality--even though she's so small and the picture is a very limited view of her face. Those big, blue eyes, the hidden grin...the fact that you don't know what else is going on in the background but that just doesn't matter. Just like Dani. What you can't see is that there is a huge Fourth of July festival going on behind her, complete with loud rides, a paintball game, live music, and a block-long BBQ party. But it just doesn't matter to this little sweetie. All that mattered was being cozily snuggled up to Mama. It never ceases to amaze me how each of my children have managed to fall asleep during events like these (Kelsey even dozed off during a car race!); they haven't been the least bit fazed by background noise, and they have all been able to "turn off" the busy-ness around them to fully relax, as long as they were safe and snuggled up to me or Pete. I wish I could shut off the outside world sometimes!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Short Summer

Summer in Europe is not quite like Summer in the U.S.; certainly not like Summer in the sticky Southeast! Last year, we had an unusually long and hot Summer here in Germany. We had to endure almost two and a half full months of above-90-degree temperatures and humidity that rivaled Coastal Georgia...just without the nice sea breezes! Without air conditioning, we were pretty miserable. This year...well, this year is pleasantly more "normal". On the 4th of July, the girls were in long sleeves and long overalls. The wind was strong and the sun only peeked out of the rain clouds for a few minutes.

Our Summer arrived in full force with 98-degree oven-like heat and unrelenting sun this week! Well...it did, for the standard four days. Last Satuday, this Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were HOT. It was hard to do anything but sit and enjoy the weather. Well, most of us did. I am admittedly NOT a fan of hot weather, so I just did my best to avoid making it worse. I pulled up a glass of lemonade, dressed the girls in sundresses, and set them to "work" in the sandbox on our well-shaded balcony. I'll say they enjoyed themselves!

Dani didn't really enjoy the taste of sand, however! One "bite" was all it took. She then spent about fifteen minutes spitting it all out! As Morgan said, "Mean, old, nasty Mama", I just let her try things...poor kid, I'm not nearly as overprotective of her as I was with Jon.
Today, the temperature doesn't look to get up past 75 degrees. Nice, cool, refreshing breeze blowing through the house yet again. I'm LOVING it.

Fun with Gummi Bears!

Poor Pete...he's such a good sport! Kelsey started it--she just started sticking Gummis to her hand, and Pete issued the challenge: "See, what you need to do is see how many you can stick on your entire face." He never should have said it. Of COURSE, she had to try it, but not with her own face, but HIS! Here's all she could do...she ended up just too giggly to continue:

And of course, Pete should have known that I can't stand to see a prank pulled only halfway. I had to help! See, now THIS is Gummi art:

All silliness aside (is that possible?), today Danica is nine months old! How can time have passed so quickly? The teeny little scrawny critter we brought home last October has grown! And grown, and grown, and grown! She is anything but scrawny now--just LOOK at all that chunk!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Not My Home

I realized recently why it is I have had such a hard time getting into the swing of things during this tour. I can't manage to get fully unpacked; I haven't put things on the walls like I have in other places we've lived; I can't even bring myself to put out all the dozens of family photos that have decorated our previous homes. Why? This isn't "home". My mind, my heart, they just aren't "here". It all feels just so temporary!

This was, of course, the one duty station that we weren't expecting in the least. It snuck up on us just when we thought we were putting down roots and making a home for ourselves. We left behind our first house, hopes and dreams and plans; we left behind family that needed us more than they ever had; we left behind friends and sweet memories. We arrived here in Germany fully knowing what to expect, because we'd been here before. But this time...this time was different. There were no brothers and sisters in Christ within close proximity with whom we could share fellowship regularly. We had very few options for short-term friends, and none of those options really was a good fit for our family. The apartment we were assigned, well, it is less than ideal, to put it bluntly. More than adequate, but just a huge step backward from the life we had started to build for ourselves before the move. We may be living here, but our "life" is elsewhere.

God teaches us amazingly basic lessons from some of our most complex trials. We just have to "be still" and meditate on what He may be trying to teach us. It has not been easy to fit in here, but nevertheless, it is our station in life now and that's what is expected of us. Likewise, I can very clearly understand now how dear the words of the hymn "This World is Not My Home" truly are, and how TRUE they are. It always seemed an odd paradox to me in my youth (did I just say that? I'm only 34, am I admitting that the proverbial "hill" is something I am not far from being "over"?) that Christians are to be "in the world, but not of the world". I never really understood it till I set foot on foreign soil and was expected to fit in while still retaining my American roots and citizenship. My body may be here, but my heart is not. My heart can never be taken from its true home--heaven--and my loyalty, my citizenship, is in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I long for home...yet I live each day, blessed to be cognizant of what I am not missing out on.
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