Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In "Other" Words--Whose Word is it, Anyway?

"The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian."

~ A.W. Towzer ~

Jonathan was seven years old, and had just gotten his first "big boy" set of Legos--a detailed set of teeny little parts that were supposed to create a very intricately designed race car. He was beyond excited and was chomping at the bit to get started on his little creation. He'd been working for two or three years already with the slightly larger and less "fun" Legos meant for smaller children, and this graduation to advanced construction and assembly made him feel ten feet tall. He was, however, a little too excited to follow the instructions that came with the package; and after I offered a little encouragement to maybe pay closer attention to what the instructions said, he expressed a very disgusted disapproval of my "help". After all, Dad didn't need instructions to put together the bookshelves that we'd purchased a few weeks prior, and he'd let it slip that "real men don't need instructions". In jest, maybe, but to a seven-year-old boy, Dad's words about what made a "man" were gospel!

I went about my business and left Jon alone, figuring it was maybe time for a little object lesson. Just as I expected, half an hour later the boy was in tears, yelling across the house that his creation was "broken" and that it was "stupid" and "didn't work". I very calmly asked him if he'd read the instructions yet, and he said he didn't need to--he had a picture to work from! Of course, at that point, all he wanted to do was throw it across the room and never touch it again. He'd lost interest in trying, so I let him go play in the backyard while I dug the instruction sheet out of the box and took on the challenge of assembling a race car.Half an hour later, a very sweaty little boy came back in and stopped dead in his tracks, wondering how on earth his "broken" set of Legos somehow became a working car, right there on the kitchen table. "Simple," I told him. "I followed the instructions." He didn't believe me, so I took it all apart and sat down with him to follow the steps in order and to the letter. We re-created a perfect replica of the picture on the box, and believe it or not, it worked PERFECTLY. To this day, he still rolls his eyes a bit when I ask him if, during the assembling process, he has consulted the instruction manual. However, he knows that there are some things he can't just "wing it" with, that if he wants the final product to be perfectly assembled and in the working order that the designer intended, he has no choice but to follow the directions given by that designer. There just isn't any other acceptable way. He CAN use a little creative license, but the finished product will be different, every single time.

This is one of those 'religious' issues that has me stumped. Maybe I'm just too much of a purist, but I just can't understand sometimes why folks would think that anything less than strict adherence to God's instruction booklet would produce an acceptable result. I've talked with people who will see a particular truth in black and white on the pages of the Bible but discount it in favor of "pastor says" thus and such or "well I've always interpreted that to mean" whatever. Why would we do that and still expect God's plan to work as He designed it? Why is religion the only facet of "truth" that we believe is up for debate?

I was listening to my 'Wow! Hymns' CD this morning on my way home from taking Pete to work, and the song "Trust and Obey" was playing. How timely, no? In the quiet (haha) solitude of my empty-except-for-me minivan, I was able to really stop and meditate on the words I've sung probably two hundred times in my life:

"When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way. While we do His good Will, He abides with us still, never fear; only trust and obey."

Are we really so bold as to believe that we can put our faith in a God we don't fully trust to determine His own plan? Do we truly trust God enough to obey His Will in its entirety or are we only willing to accept the truths that mesh with our limited understanding or the agendas of men who have gone on before us? If God says it, are we truly willing to accept it and live it? Are we really, as we sing, willing to walk in the light of His Word and cast off fear to trust and obey Him?

I'm reminded of the Family Circus cartoons that appear in the comics every week, and the antics of the little boy (Billy, is it?) who can never seem to go from point A to point B without taking a hundred little sidetrips in between. It's funny, but not comical when you consider how many people live their spiritual lives chasing after all those little sidetracked rabbit trails in search of meaning, joy, happiness, and fulfillment. The danger lies in never actually getting to point B; sometimes in the search for human meaning, the objective (which SHOULD be living a life in line with God's Will) becomes blurred and we can lose sight of what we were actually aiming for in the first place. Satan is crafty and he's very good at what he does; he puts things in front of us that "feel" more right than doing what truly IS right.

The most frightening passage of Scripture to me is Matthew 7:21-29:

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out deomons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."

I can only imagine what it must have been like to be in the crowd that day, hearing the words of the Savior who would eventually give up His life in the most perfect example of love and obedience the world has ever seen, but I know that now, thousands of years later, reading that passage fills me with a fear of God that sparks within me the desire to know everything I can about the Will of God. I want nothing more than to purge myself of my own opinions and fill my heart and mind with the perfection found in God's Word. I don't have time for interpretations. I couldn't care less about what religious "scholars" opine about the doctrine of the day. I have no patience for manmade theologies, because I don't want to be counted among the number who will stand before the Lord Jesus and be told to depart because He never knew them. I want only to have my foundation built upon the One who speaks with authority.

Speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent. Do Bible things in Bible ways, call Bible things by Bible names. Nothing else but the very Word of God can produce the result He had in mind when He designed it. Sure, we can practice creative license, but we can't expect the same end product. The end product of creative religious license is to be numbered with those whom the Lord will not "know".

In "Other" Words is hosted by Debbie at Chocolate and Coffee this week; why not take some time to blog about this week's quote, leave a link, and see what others had to say about it?

Monday, October 29, 2007


Jon and Kelsey are constantly trying to 'sell' me on skateboarding..."It's fun, it's good exercise, it's COOL, Mom." Yeah, ok, so shots like this MIGHT be a bit convincing:

But then there's this.

So someone, please explain to me....WHY?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Which Sesame Street character are you?

I saw this over at Learning2Love and thought it was a hoot. After last night's Elmo incident, I thought it was a fun, easy thing for my frazzled mind today. It's pretty accurate, with the exception of the neat freak thing. I'm a neat freak wannabe, but terrible in execution! Hmm, I wonder if this means I need to pluck my eyebrows?
You Are Bert
Extremely serious and a little eccentric, people find you loveable - even if you don't love them!

You are usually feeling: Logical - you rarely let your emotions rule you

You are famous for: Being smart, a total neat freak, and maybe just a little evil

How you life your life: With passion, even if your odd passions (like bottle caps and pigeons) are baffling to others
The Sesame Street Personality Quiz

Freaky Friday!

I'm not easily freaked out. Spiders usually give me the willies, but not so bad that I'm written off as truly arachnophobic. I don't scare easily. Shoot, I'm an Army wife, I'd better have nerves of steel, ya know? But occasionally....well, something breaks through this armor shell of mine.

I had one of those experiences last night and this morning.

Just as Pete and I finally settled into bed and shut out the world, and just as I was slowly drifting off to sleep, an odd sound permeated the silence. An eerie little voice...but where was it coming from? Outside? No, certainly no one had a toddler out at that hour! Maybe it was just my imagination, I thought. I asked Pete if he heard it, and he didn't. I settled back in to my little silent world, and there it was again just a few minutes later....what on earth???? "Pete, did you hear that?" Snort, shuffle, shuffle, sniff...."yeah, I guess so. Tell the girls to go back to sleep."

I checked on the girls. They WERE asleep, all three of them. It wasn't Jon and Kelsey, they were holed up in Jon's room doing today's algebra assignment (yes, algebra at 1am, is that a problem?), and besides, their voices were deeper than what I had heard. Surely it was my imagination. Go back to bed, already!

Ten minutes later, I heard it again......"heeeheee, wooooooOOOOOOoooooah."

Okay, this is getting creepy. Wait, what was that? "Elmo needs a streeeeetch!" You gotta be kidding me, ELMO??? Who is playing with Elmo at this hour? Maybe one of the girls is laying on him. I walked into the girls' room to seek out that annoying little Muppet, and found him laying ON TOP of the toybox, with nothing triggering any of his little speech buttons. And as I reached for him, he uttered one more shrill little "woooooooOOOOOOooooooah" before I even had a single finger on him, and I quickly snatched him up, dragged him to the living room and tossed him in the darkest, coldest corner I could find! Eek, what a creepy little toy!

If that weren't enough to keep my heart racing, I had to wake up at 6:30 this morning to Jamie's little face, eye-to-eye with mine, standing at the edge of my bed just STARING at me with the creepiest "Children of the Corn" look I've ever seen. She didn't say anything, just stared. I knew screaming would NOT be the proper response...but you know that scene in every scary movie where you just *know* something awful is going to happen? This was one of those scenes.

I think Jamie may have a future in horror movies, co-starred by Elmo. Eek.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I'm the Meanest Mom!

Shoot, this could easily be a Thursday Thirteen post too, ya know? I nearly giggled with glee when I saw this contest over on MomsBlogging.com while looking for some blogging inspiration today; "OOOOOh," my devilish little brain squealed, "A chance to vindicate myself!" After all, I've probably heard about being the meanest mom alive five times already this morning. Besides, not only do my toddlers respond to every cry made by the baby with "Mean, old, nasty Mama!," but observe the following exchange:

Kelsey: "What does a cow say?"
Jamie: "Moo"
Kelsey: "What does a dog say?"
Jamie: "Ooof, ooof" (she's never heard a dog say anything that started with a w, so "woof" doesn't fly)
Kelsey: "What does a car say?"
Jamie: "Vroom, vroom"
Kelsey: "What does Mama say?"
Jamie: "No, no"

I rest my case.

Well, no, not really. After all, I've got so many other wonderful examples! I'm not too much different from other "mean" moms when it comes to meals (yes, you WILL finish your meal or you get no dessert or snacks) and clean rooms (if I can't walk through it without stepping over something, the floor is NOT clean), hygiene (if I can smell you, there's a problem!) and common courtesy (no, that older gentleman is not a "dude", you will address him as "sir"); of course my kids think they have the strictest parents who ever lived. Nothing unusual there, I guess.

My real mean streak started a few months ago when my teens were caught doing all manner of misdeeds. This wasn't really small stuff, some of it could have been pretty severe, and it kept escalating till they saw my REALLY 'mean' side. It began small, with a $500 phone bill because Jon couldn't seem to figure out that Mom wasn't kidding when she said the German phone service is one of the reasons he cannot call his friends just "whenever". He thought he could hide the midnight phone calls to his girlfriend (even though he's not allowed to be on the phone after 9pm...just one of those common courtesies that the kids define as "dumb"), but alas, EVERY phone call is logged on our phone bill, so we knew just who was being called! He really didn't like us taking an entire Taco Bell paycheck, and he certainly didn't appreciate the fact that we suspended his allowance indefinitely when we got yet another extreme phone bill the next month! He thought he was safe buying a prepaid cell phone with his earnings, but hmm...I made him charge it overnight in my bedroom so I was assured he wasn't abusing the "no phone call after 9pm" rule. To date, he's lost ALL phone privileges, and he's lost the cell phone HE bought...since oddly enough, as soon as his minutes ran out, MY prepaid cell phone disappeared and when it was "found" (in his bedroom), it mysteriously had almost fifteen dollars less on it than when I had put it on the charger! You abuse it, you lose it. Mean? Yup, and proud of it!

Oh, I wish that were the only example. See, he and Kelsey really blew it with some of their hoodlum behavior...and as a result, we took away every video game they (or is that WE?) own and....drumroll.....SOLD IT. Gone. Forever. No more fights, no more arguments, no more gimme's, it's just gone. I hear about that almost every week. How it's not fair, that they're the only ones they know who don't have video games, you name it...

Then there's the clothing. I actually left each of the teens at home on separate Sundays because they had a fit over me telling them their attire was inappropriate. Don't like my standards? Oh well. Life stinks that way. You can't dress appropriately, you stay home.

I do have further proof of my meanness, though. Kelsey would say I'm the meanest mom in the world because I literally won't let her have ANYTHING to do with her friends. Nothing. No contact, no phone calls, no letters, no emails, no MySpace, nothing. Why? Because her 'friends' are rude, disrespectful little punks who showed her how to sneak out, drink, and do drugs. Nobody needs those kinds of friends, and I'd much prefer a lonely child whose worst influences were her parents. Oh, and Kelsey also tells me that none of her friends had any chores. I'm apparently the only mother in Germany who requires her kids to do dishes, laundry, and scrub toilets.

I'd rather be "mean" than have alcoholic, drugged-out, spoiled rotten kids. Anyday.

Guess what? I plan on being meaner with my younger kids than I was with the first two!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wordless Wednesday--Boy Meets Steering Wheel

Leave a comment, I'll link you up here:
~MM~ ~yen~ ~kailani~ ~pips~ ~tegdirb92~ ~hoto~ ~tiff~ ~qtpies7~

View other Wordless Wednesday participants!

He can be bought! (or traded)

Pete has had several people ask him if he's willing to part with his motorcycle over the last year or so. His answer has always been "for the right price, sure", but he never really had any intention of selling it. He LOVES that motorcycle. It's nothing special, just a '92 Suzuki Intruder, but he has it tweeked to sound like a Harley, and it's that sound that attracts the longing glances.

But ya know, someone finally found the right "price". One of the guys he works with asked Pete last week if he'd be willing to TRADE the bike....for a Porsche! Hmm, that seemed to get his attention! What is it with testosterone-driven humanoids that makes them crave horsepower and speed?

At any rate, we are now the proud owners of a 1983 Porsche 924. Yes, it's old. That's the point. Pete can bring it back to the States without paying the $5K to convert it to US specs since it'll be an "antique" next year when we're ready to go back! Oh, and yes, he did have a wee bit of trouble watching SOMEONE ELSE ride off on HIS motorcycle. He's grieving, but not TOO much.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In Other Words--Emotional Purity

"We women must realize how visual men are, and because of that we should wear modest clothes. Not because we don't have the right to wear what we want, but for the benefit of the spiritual life of our brothers in Christ."~ Heather Arnel Paulsen ~ Emotional Purity: An Affair of the Heart

I've been meaning to participate in the last few In "other" Words Tuesdays, but something ALWAYS comes up. Go figure, today I have nothing but time. And every time I look at the quote that Loni chose, my mind drifts far from the intended focus. Odd how that works. I've tried probably ten times to find something new and thought-provoking about the idea of modest dress and the intent of the heart vs. the misdirection of the eyes, but you know, there are so many more eloquent writers out there who have written volumes both in blogdom and in print about the issue of modesty. My eye, however was drawn straight to the title of the book the quote was taken from. Emotional purity is something we don't hear much about, and while I'm not able to browse the shelves of a Christian bookstore over here to see what is on the shelves currently, I'm intrigued to find a copy of this book to see what Ms. Paulsen has to say on the subject. Having come straight out of the fire quite recently, though, I do have some thoughts on what it means to me and why I believe it's so vitally important to today's Christian.

In all honesty, I believe with all of my heart that the modesty issue wouldn't be an issue at all if our minds were truly emotionally pure. Why? Well, look at what the word "pure" means--free from contamination; without any additives or revisions. Spiritually, a pure mind would be free from anything other than the motives of God. No "opinions" that justify ignoring scriptural truth, no denominational or societal biases. Just the mind of God. What place is there for arguing the gray areas or "how far" is "too far" when it comes to dress, behavior, or thought.

The world sees the mind of Christ as a chain, binding God's people to a set of rules that restrain. But the truth is that when one has been washed clean of sin by the blood of Christ and left behind worldly concerns to adopt the mind of Christ, it is a freedom that the world can't imagine. The "rules" don't matter anymore, because someone who has denied self in favor of the Will of God will not have their own motives overriding God's.

Back on topic a bit, I tell my teens while discussing modesty both in dress and in behavior that we can't ultimately be responsible for what people *SEE* in us, but we are most definitely 100% responsible for what we *SHOW* them. Does the mind of God dictate our dress, our speech, our attitudes, our reactions and our actions? Are our emotions pure, unspotted by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life? If not, can we call ourselves true ambassadors of Christ?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Birthday stuff

Okay, so Kelsey finally got the silly computer to recognize the foreign object in the drive as, well, yes, really a memory card! It may have defeated me, but hey, I'm the computer illiterate one of the bunch, so it wasn't really a big victory, ya know?

ANYWAY.....here's the pics from the birthday mini-bash on Saturday. Our little birthday girl was in typical hammin'-it-up form and we got several really cute pics. I am already working out all the scrapbook layouts I could do with these, I'll have you know! First, the birthday girl's big sister Jamie, "helping" out with the cake-making...

The cake was a bit of an issue this year. Try as I might, I could not find a cake pan that wasn't Christmas or Halloween themed, and since I left ALL of my shaped cake pans in the States, I was on my own with the two round cake pans we had in the cabinet. Hey, no big deal, winging it is what I live for! I didn't quite expect to be winging it THIS much, though, because I had no idea till the very minute I opened what Pete calls my cake decorating tackle box to take out my icing bags and decorator tips that I realized I was missing some very vital "parts" that (of course) our PX doesn't stock. So I was quite literally on my own with just an icing bag and a pair of scissors! All things considered, I don't think it turned out looking all that bad. I did have some sprinkles on hand, and it was filled with (YUM) cherry pie filling, so what it lacked in looks was well made-up-for in taste! Oh, and you can't beat cherry pie filling for making a devil's food cake uber-moist inside! Sinful, I tell you. This should have its own "thou shalt not"! Oh, and yes, Jill, that IS my homemade salsa behind the cake that Jamie was nibbling on between fingerfuls of chocolate frosting!
I might as well just go straight to the cake-eating pics at this point. Dani loved it. While it did take her a couple of minutes to dive in and realize she wasn't going to get fussed at for making a mess, once that realization hit her, she was completely focused on nothing but the cake! This little one had a BLAST with the cake, much unlike her three older sisters, who practically had to be force-fed their first birthday cake! Notice the initial look of confusion, progressing through to the total elation on her face when we started to clean her up!

Yes, Danica, chocolate does that to a girl....

So what, you ask, did the cake look like once she had sufficiently noshed on it and we each had a piece?

You'll notice the little hand in the picture, trying with all her might to drag that whole cake platter back into reach! Hey, just because it's ugly doesn't mean it isn't scrumptious! Doesn't it look yummy???

Okay, so the cake isn't the ONLY part of a birthday. There are, of course, gifts to open! Dani didn't quite get the idea behind ripping paper--normally she gets fussed at for that too, but hey, birthdays are days to do things you normally don't get to do, right? She did just love her Mom-and-Dad-can't-find-anything-else-at-the-PX-that-someone-in-the-family-doesn't-already-have ride-on Little Tykes dump truck. Yes, Grandma....truck. Poor baby is named after a race car driver and she gets a truck for her first birthday. What can I say, we're weird! But hey, she loved it, and even now it's the only thing she cares about in the toy stash--nevermind she got the coolest Elmo Daddy had ever seen, one that you can stretch the arms and legs on (for some reason, this is oddly hilarious to the big people in our family) or a kiddie CD player. Nope, give Dani the TRUCK!

Let ME do it, Kelsey!!!!

Ok, you can help me, but just this once...
After all was said and done, Morgan had only one comment..."Tomorrow's MY birthday, right?"
Oh boy.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dani Bird!

Hard to believe we have had this cute little critter with us for a full year already, but it's true! I'd LOVE to post a bunch of pictures, but for some silly reason my computer picked TODAY to get snippy and decide not to read the digital camera memory card...

Dani loved, loved, LOVED her cake...more so than any of the others have. WOW what a mess! And to make Daddy the happiest Daddy on the face of the globe, right in the middle of an amazing University of Alabama vs. Tennessee football game, Dani shocked us all by saying her first "real" word.....in response to the rest of the family yelling "GO BAMA", Dani picked a winner......her very first real word was "BAMA!"


Roll Tide indeed!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday's Feast

Appetizer: If you were a dog, what breed would you be, and why?
If I were a dog, I'd probably be a Golden Retriever. I'm loyal to a fault, intensely protective of "my" people, and I can go from lazy to hyperactive in no time flat! Oh, and I shed!

Soup: What does the color purple make you think of?
Purple? Hmm, it'd have to be scrapbook paper. My latest favorite color to do anything scrapbooky in is purple!

Salad: Approximately how long does it take you to get ready each morning?
About five minutes. Anything longer and I'd lose interest and give up!

Main Course: How many cousins do you have, and are you close to them?
Um...just two first cousins, but I honestly don't have any clue how many "extended" cousins I've got. I'm only close to one of them, my cousin Peggy, who is just a few years older than me. We aren't really all that close anymore because of geography, but we both get a little giddy to get a chance to catch up when we can!

Dessert: Take your initials (first, middle, last) and come up with something else those letters could stand for. (Example: SFO = Sweet Funny Otter)
KLH......hmm......Kitty Litter Horrors (HUH?????) Or maybe Kissy Lips Hang-up?
Okay, this was a fun little divergence from reality. Wanna play? Go see FridaysFeast.com.

Are we happy plastic people?

I had plenty of time to sit and think yesterday; spending two and a half hours in dead-standstill traffic that should have only been a 35-minute drive gave me way more "free" time than I wanted, but hey, when you get it, USE it, right? Kelsey had a Casting Crowns CD in and even though I've heard it a hundred times, their song Stained Glass Masquerade really clicked in my mind for some reason yesterday and got me thinking. Just before the song came on I was contemplating where to do a "nice" family photo shoot so we could capture not only current images of our family but also the amazing scenery and the awesome fall foliage that is nearing the transition between awe-inspiring and ugly...then of course my mind wandered to what we'd wear, how we'd get all the kids to smile, how do we hide this huge scrape on Dani's cheek that she has as a result of her little face-plant at the playground? Cue the music...

If you haven't heard that song, go listen to it somehow. Hey, if I can manage to figure out how to get one of those music doohickeys on my blog, I'll let you listen here, but for now, you're on your own in cyberspace. At any rate, it's a very thought-provoking song that speaks of the fake happy face we put on around church folk in an attempt to make everyone believe we're just "fine" and are as strong and righteous and happy and well-adjusted as everyone else. Thing is, is everyone else "all that"? And why on EARTH is there any artificialness (yes, I invented yet another new word) going on within the Lord's Body???? Isn't that the one place where all the masks should come off and we should be just "us"? Is real life truly too messy for fellowship?

For the most part, Christians are a "happy" bunch. At least that's what you see on Sunday mornings. But what's almost funny is seeing folks in their element, living real life. It's SO much different in most cases that you really do wonder who the people are who are sitting in the pew next to you worshipping God "in spirit and in truth". What's THEIR truth? Can we handle the truth? Can we really display the love of Christ by facing real life WITH them, or does it make us uncomfortable? We manage to handle physical illness pretty well--we know how to make sure freezers are full of casseroles or mailboxes are full of cards (whether we actually DO it is another matter entirely, but that's another soapbox I won't pull out just now), but what do we do when we know someone is dealing with something that is challenging their faith and turning their hearts upside down? All too often, we invite them to a fellowship meal or to go out to eat, or we invite them over to our house for a day full of idle chitchat that makes us feel like we've "done" something but doesn't really do much more than force them to be artificially normal for a few more hours?

We need to cut the act. Knock off the dramatics once and for all and (forgive me here, I'm going to quote Dr. Phil) "get real". What is the church really here for if not to offer help for ALL of life's ailments? Of course God is the one who does the healing, but if His people aren't in the business of ministering to one another, are we doing our commission a disservice by absentmindedly forcing people into false okay-ness?

We got some great news a few days ago; one of the men we've barely known in the church here (because he's only started attending regularly a few weeks ago) told Pete that after a long and nasty separation, his wife will be returning home to reconcile. This man and his wife have been on our prayer list for as long as I can remember; they have been having problems for the entire time we've known him, and we've never even met his wife. Thing is, we were discussing marriage and divorce in our Bible class last Sunday and this poor guy...you could tell he was very obviously hurting. This opened a festering wound for him and poured salt all over it. But what really hit hard was looking around the room and noticing how many of the mature, Christian adults who couldn't handle his questions. They gave the curt, scriptural answer and left it alone. Nobody could look him in the face. People almost rushed out of the room after that class was over, leaving him to sit there and gather his belongings in a painful silence. Maybe it was the fact that it takes us twice as long as everyone else to gather our belongings, or maybe it was that I was hurting FOR him, but I hung around a bit just to let him know that I knew just how hard it is to accept what we know is right. It IS hard. It's not always as cut-and-dry as we want to believe it is to be righteous. Sometimes what's right really does hurt. It cuts deep, it bleeds, and it is incredibly painful. But we can't just hand people a Band-Aid and expect that being right is going to make all the pain go away, because it doesn't. Sometimes we have to sit there and hurt with them. We have to get dirty; we have to get our hands all over their bloody wounds if we're going to be God's instrument here on earth that will help stop the bleeding.

News that this family was going to reconcile did something to me that I have never experienced before--it brought me to tears. GOOD tears, but tears nonetheless. And suddenly the vagueness of what God was preparing us for through all the trauma a few years ago started to sharpen. We barely know these people. We don't know the whole situation, but the little details we do know let us in to a world that we have visited before--pain. Life is ugly, sin is ugly, selfishness is ugly, and what it does to families is horrendous. But the news of reconciliation isn't the end of it. This may make everyone feel better, and it moves this family up a bit on the prayer list to "a prayer answered" status, but it doesn't help them to just let them go now. NOW is the hard part. Now they need what we needed in the past and never really got--the permission to be in pain without putting on a mask to make those who didn't know what to do or say feel better. That is what builds relationships. It's what strengthens the bonds of fellowship within the church. It never really did me or Pete any good to sit with our happy-face masks on during the worst time of our life. It didn't help us heal any. It made people feel better, though, to "see" that we were doing okay. But they didn't see what was real. We never truly gave them the opportunity to minister to us, because we learned how to hide the pain all too well. Problem was, there were only a few people who ever really peeked their faces behind the masks to see what was behind it all--it was that minute handful of people that got the real story, and it was those people to whom we were bonded through the hard work of repairing hearts and relationships.

Random thought time--plastic has an interesting quality about it--it's hard to get things to stick to plastic. You can't get Saran Wrap to adhere to a plastic plate. You can't paint plastic furniture very easily. Tape falls right off of plastic. What of "plastic" people? There's nothing to grab onto; nothing to "bond" with. So if we have shallow, happy-face-wearing, "I'm fine" relationships with our fellow Christians, do we really have a bond? The blood of Christ is an amazing glue to bond hearts, but what if they're coated in plastic? Interesting.

Anyone who gets a Christmas card from us this year will see that we are forgoing "pretty" made-up family photos in favor of "real" ones. We will not be wearing our Sunday best, we will not be hiding scratches and pimples with cover-up makeup, and you know what? If it's blurry or someone is making an ugly face, well, that's just going to have to stay. Because that's what life looks like.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yum, punkin guts!

We may still be skipping most of the Halloween trappings this year (Morgan got the stew scared out of her yesterday by a motion-sensing skeleton the thrift shop had just inside their front door, and she REALLY doesn't 'get' the idea of masks), but what could possibly be harmful about a carved pumpkin? No point in even debating that one. So we did it, we went out and bought a pumpkin for the first time in several years JUST to make a jack-o-lantern. Why have we avoided it in years past? Simple, I don't like pulling out the guts. I told the kids when THEY wanna take on that task, sure, we'll carve up a pumpkin. I just don't wanna be the one to do it! So this year, Kesley begged...promised she'd be the one to do the dirty work...so I bought them a pumpkin carving kit and a choice gourd. And of course, Kelsey enlisted HELP gutting it. Of course. It's okay, makes for a good photo op.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thankful Thursday--A Heritage of Faith

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

There isn't really anything incredibly striking about this passage, but when I came across it while flipping through to another passage, it caught my eye and my heart. It speaks very loudly to where I am today and it makes perfect sense that God would use it to re-emphasize what was already on my heart.

My grandmother's body was laid to rest yesterday next to my grandfather, who passed away fifteen and a half years ago, and they are buried not far from the graves of my great-grandparents. Two generations of faith, whose bodies are gone but whose love and faithful service to the Kingdom live on forever.

When we got the news several weeks ago that Memaw was nearing death, it was not really a surprise, but what did kind of catch me offguard was a sudden feeling of isolation--not only geographically, but spiritually. The reality that those in my family that are counted among the faithful is dwindling to a mere handful was something that can't quite be explained, but it just didn't feel good. I wasn't praying for God to ease that feeling, but He did anyway! Within just days, we not only had $4200 in plane tickets provided to us (without costing us a single dime), but we also had $500 for incidental travel costs granted to us. The way the Lord provides for us through the Army never ceases to amaze me, but this time...well, when we got on that international flight in Frankfurt and saw that our flight attendant was a man we go to church with here in Germany, I coudn't help but laugh and say in prayer, "Ok, Lord, I get it...this is ALL You, and now You're just showing off!" That trip was not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination--we got "stuck" in the Dulles airport after losing a checked car seat and missing our connecting flight; we ended up arriving at our destination (still three hours from my parents' house, mind you) at midnight, totally worn-out...but God wasn't finished taking care of us. We got TWO hotel rooms for less than what one should have cost--all through the special deal with the USO and the mercy of a sympathetic hotel night manager.

The rest of our trip was freed up to concern ourselves with the more weighty tasks of saying goodbye to a grandmother who, quite frankly, everyone expected to pass away before we even hit the ground. But she held on, and over the course of our eleven days there, she drank in the sight of the great-grandchildren at her bedside. She seemed to perk up and come to life a bit, and was even doing well enough to speak a few precious words to all of us the day before we left. I got an "I love you too", which was more than enough to soothe my grieving heart even before she passed on, but what she told Pete was just the icing on the cake. She mumbled a few things about taking care of us when we get home, but when it came time to say goodbye to the last of our family members to walk out of the room, she said simply, "Have faith".

That was simple, but so profound. She passed on, leaving behind a legacy of faith, and her final words echoed the teachings she and generations before her had left for us. And in all of that commotion, in that whirlwind trip, we saw just a teeny snippet of the faithfulness of God to provide for us, and we got to see firsthand the victory over death that we have through Christ's blood. Memaw's body failed her and her mind wasn't always "there", but her soul and her spirit were wholly intact and ready to meet the God she loved.

That heritage of faith is not just important to me, it's what I live for. It's not just a part of my life, it's my ENTIRE life. It's that heritage of faith that I want to pass on to future generations, and it's the very reason I seek to see things through God's eyes. For that heritage of faith in the Lord and His covenant through the sacrifice of His son I am thankful. For the generations that went on before me, I am thankful. For the opportunity to be an instrument of God for the good of the Kingdom, I am thankful.

This is what it's all about

I truly meant to blog about the very emotional homecoming of Pete's unit within a day or two of when they came home, but here it is a month later...no time like the present, right? I'll leave out the twenty or so pictures, though!

The picture above was taken as the 1st Armored Division Band played to pass the time between when "our" guys' buses arrived and when they actually marched across the field to their awaiting families. It was totally unstaged, I promise. And yes, my kids do naturally now find it quite natural to stand either at attention or parade rest. Part and parcel of this whole Army family gig, I'm afraid, but I won't apologize for it by any means. Why? Because my children are learning patriotism and respect for our country...and if that means they pick up on a little military protocol, well that's just gravy!

This homecoming was a bit odd for us. It was the first time WE weren't welcoming a soldier home, and it gave us an interesting perspective. We were able to sit back and just take everything in. We were able to feel the pride swelling in our hearts for our soldiers without fitfully searching the crowd for our own. We were able to really take full notice of the outpouring of love that surrounded us. And it was WONDERFUL! It was the blissful moment where all political opinion about war and our place in this world and the global responsibilities our nation has just disappeared. This was just a group of people who accomplished their mission and returned home to their families after a VERY long separation. Nobody on that field cared about anything other than their soldier.

Being a military family is not easy. Being an Army wife is HARD work. It isn't just about "standing by your man". Being an Army wife means that you have to balance being a single parent with having a husband out there....somewhere....who will come home and want to fit back into your life. It means you have to know how to work well without him for Lord knows how long, but be able to know how to step aside and let him take the lead the moment he's back at home. It means you need to know just about as much about how the military works as your husband does, and you have to be able to accept insecurity as a way of life. It means you can't really have true roots, because as we all say, "Home is where the Army sends us", but your heart is in five or six other places with your best friends, your family, and a deployed or "in the field" hubby. It means you don't really get to paint your living room.

And best of all, it means that one day when the stress has gone on for far too long and the loneliness has overtaken you to the point of numbness, you will stand on a field with hundreds of other family members and feel your heart leap from your chest as a military band plays Stars and Stripes Forever and you see that huge formation of green and brown march toward you. It means you stand tall and proud, because the soldiers on that field are yours.

Welcome Home, 596th Maintenance! We missed you!

Impromptu Photo Shoot

Why is it that no one can ever seem to get enough pictures of little ones? Thank goodness for digital cameras, or else my disgust at having to wait nearly two weeks to get my film developed would keep my family from EVER getting pictures! While I'm not *quite* as bad as SOME people (*cough, cough* JILL!!!! *cough, cough*), it does take me a long time to finish a roll of film and get it turned in to be developed. But now I can take pics and share in a matter of minutes!! Ok, Pete, stop snickering...I know, I'm singing the praises of the very technology that I fuss about being a pain in the neck...I give in, some things really ARE nice!

I regret not getting a picture of Morgan in a dress my Mom made twelve years ago for Kelsey before it just got to be too small for Mo, but now that I've got a Grandma-made dress on Morgan and Jamie, I wanted to make SURE I had it documented! Of course no picture lately seems to be complete without our little 'center of attention', so there Dani sits in a (*gasp*) storebought dress while her sisters model Grandma Nette's handiwork. I'm amazed (as was my Mom) that the dresses have held up as well as they have! There is some yellowing, but they're in great shape for dresses made over a decade ago!

This first shot is a bit...well, not great. But the others, let's just say I'm having fun playing with my digital pics! Yes, as a matter of fact they DO look like little angels! False advertising, maybe, but hey, what little girl truly IS all angel?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I can't affordz cheezburger!

If only my scanner weren't giving me fits, I'd have a rather irritating addition to Wordless Wednesday, but since I seem to be hardware-challenged today, I'm stuck with the worded version!

Monday evening, after a nice day of browsing Heidelberg's Holiday Bazaar, we toodled off for what we *thought* would be an early dinner at Burger King on base. We should have known better. BK in the PX Food Court was CLOSED......at FIVE O'CLOCK IN THE EVENING!!!! Why, you ask? Well, it was Columbus Day. Sounds like a good enough reason to the management, I guess! Anyhoo, we got a bit disgusted and decided to try the other Burger King that Heidelberg has, next to where the Bazaar was being held. Lo and behold, they were open "late" that evening--till seven! A quick giggle should have sufficed, but we'd had some growing annoyance with Burger King as of late, so the nagging irritation with it didn't go away so easily. By the time we sat down to eat, I'd pretty much decided that we'd be boycotting Burger King the rest of our tour here in Germany. Pete was THRILLED to say the least.

I'm fed up. No pun intended, because for Heaven's sake, "fed" is not what I consider myself when I eat at Burger King lately. Inevitably, something we've gotten each time we've visited has been barely room temperature. I've been uber-sensitive about the temperature of my fast food for a long time, but come on...have you ever even tried to eat a cool BK onion ring? BLECH!!!! Monday night, my onion rings (the one weakness I have at Burger King) didn't have the slightest hint of warmth. I'm sorry, but when I'm paying $1.99 for ten onion rings, they'd best be hot, crispy, and finger-licking good!

What really beat all was the cost. I was so sick about the cost that I couldn't bear to part with the receipt, odd as that sounds. I somehow felt the need to have proof of how much the price of fast food has gone up over here in our "We save you money...everyday!" AAFES Food Courts. It's insane. See, when we left Germany the last time we were stationed here, I remember distinctly having to pay for the first all-adult meals, as the kids had finally gotten too big for kids' meals. Jon was ten, Kelsey eight. And that meal, for four, cost us $22. I was floored. I never imagined not being able to feed four people at a fast food joint for $20, and two days after we landed in the US, the cost was back under $15 for the same food. I knew it was going to cost more to feed a family of seven. Trust me, I'm not completely unrealistic. But see, the thing is we only buy ONE more meal now, as Morgan and Jamie still don't eat enough to justify buying two kids' meals.

So what was the tally that got my knickers so twisted? Here's the rundown of what we ordered:

1 Chicken crisp sandwich value meal $6.69 (for Pete)
1 Chicken crisp sandwich value meal, minus tomato $6.69 (for Jon)
1 9pc Chicken fry value meal $5.19 (for Kelsey)
1 Big Kids' 6pc chicken nugget meal $5.09 (for Morgan and Jamie)
1 Big Kids' double cheeseburger meal $5.09 (for me)
1 Large onion ring $1.99 (to share with Pete)

Inflation MY HINEY!!!!!!! You mean to tell me that at BURGER KING, the cost of just ONE additional kids' meal in TEN YEARS raises the price of a family's meal ticket to thirty bucks????

I truly can't affordz cheezburger.

Oh, and in case you have no idea what the deal is with the 'cheezburger' (since those of you who know me well know that I detest deliberate 'cutesy' misspellings), go check out this hilarious website! I laughed till my side hurt!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Happy Armyversary!

Eighteen years ago today, Pete stood with a hundred or so other recruits in front of a group of scary, foul-mouthed, loud and obnoxious Ft. Dix drill sergeants who had one goal in mind--creating fighting machines worthy of the world's leading military force. They did just that...but only after they were tuaght to properly shine those now-obsolete black boots!

Today I share a home and a life with one of America's Finest, an NCO I'm proud to call my husband. He's softspoken and prefers to work behind the scenes, but he is still a force to be reckoned with. He's an asset to this nation's Army and to the Lord's army as well.

Hooah, Honey! I love you!

The yearly internal debate--Halloween

This is one of those topics where when I don't see a clear right and wrong, so I choose to err on the side of caution...but admittedly, I waffle every year on how to handle the whole Halloween issue. I love this time of year. Fall is my favorite season. It's the one (okay, one of two) that I missed out on growing up in South Florida, and this season just leaves me awe-struck. I never got to witness the glorious change of colors that Autumn brings as a child, never got to feel the brisk Fall air that came with the new season. In fact, while I took part in Halloween festivities along with (and in the same manner as) everyone else around me during my childhood, it was Halloween itself that ushered in Fall as I knew it, and that was just an inconsequential 'holiday' leading from one month to the next. I remember far too many trick-or-treating sessions in blazing heat, with that ridiculous store-bought costume clinging to me and dripping sweat all over the place because it was still well over 80 degrees at night. Halloween was the last 'blast' of Summer, the last activity that took place before we started gearing up for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Thing is, when we began our family, Pete and I just basically did everything our parents did. We 'did' Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Easter just the way we'd grown up celebrating them, and Halloween was no different. We adorned Jon and Kelseyas little penguins, pirates, ballerina princesses, and ninjas and paraded around the neighborhood in search of bagfuls of candy. But the last year I remember going trick-or-treating with them (Kelsey was eight), something happened that changed my perspective forever.

We were walking with a group of smaller kids and their parents in my parents' neighborhood because we'd just returned from Germany and were in transit between duty stations. The fact that we weren't at "home" per se allowed us to see things a little more objectively because we really didn't know anyone and didn't have any personal biases to color the way we viewed anything--we just saw everything as it actually was. We passed a house that was decked out in full haunted-house style, complete with fake cobwebs on the eaves, terrifying music and sound effects blaring from the windows, and a "dead body" laid out on the porch. Two of the kids we were walking with expressed their fears to their dad about going up to that door, but he insisted that houses like that always had the best candy. What happened next turned my stomach. These little preschool and kindergarten children followed my eight- and ten-year-olds up the driveway, then paused while Jon and Kelsey approached the door. On cue, as Jon rang the doorbell, the "corpse" decorating their front porch sprang to life with a scream, and Kelsey and the two younger children scrambled for the safety of Mom and Dad's side. The "corpse" yelled out after them that, "Hey, kid, this is what Halloween is all about, getting the pants scared off of you!" The youngest, just four, was screaming in terror, sobbing uncontrollably for the rest of the walk home--Jon was the only one of the four children to continue ringing doorbells. Even Kelsey said "I've got enough candy, I don't feel like getting scared anymore". As we parted company with the other family, I overheard the four-year-old telling his Mom (who was home handing out candy) that he never EVER wanted to have another Halloween. The father laughed, told the little boy he'd outgrow it and was just acting like a baby.

I've never been able to get that mental picture out of my head. Is that what it's truly all about? If so, if Halloween is all about scaring the socks off of preschoolers all in the name of "fun", then honestly, I don't want any part of it. That Halloween, of October 2000, was our last. Neither Pete or I could bring ourselves to even consider 'celebrating' again. We dove deeply into study about the origins and meanings of Halloween in the years immediately following, were mortified when we stumbled across websites where "white witches" bragged about having a holiday that was readily adopted by "gullible, uneducated Christians" (don't ask me where I saw this, I don't remember...but I assure you it was most definitely REAL, as I'll never be able to rid my mind of that quote), and just spent way too much time totally confused by "Fall Festivals" and "trunk or treat" celebrations at different churches we've been a part of. I've read the debates, and I can see valid points on both sides of the argument. It's that very fact that has my brain in such a bind about this.

Is it truly possible for a Christian to honor God by taking part in Halloween? How? Does dressing up as Bible characters and handing out Gospel tracts really have an impact like we seem to think it does? When our churches host "Harvest Festivals", do we actually use those opportunities to honor God, or are we just re-creating the world's festivities without the witches and goblins? Why do we do that?

In all seriousness, this is one of those issues that I'm sure plagues the hearts and minds of many a Christian family. I know it confuses and bothers me. It's one of those things that I just can't reconcile in my heart, it's something that, in all good conscience, I can't even justify by calling it good, clean fun. I've seen the ugly side, and I've seen that ugliness turned on a preschooler whose innocent little heart was seared with fear. I've had to avoid certain stores (even Wal-Mart...and yes, I DID avoid it, thank you very much) because their just-inside-the-door-display scared my preschoolers to the point of shaking, shrieking, and hiding in Daddy's armpits. This is NOT my idea of good, clean fun. Pumpkin patch quests for just-right gourds, hayrides, costume parties...sure, I'd love to take part in the good and clean part of the fun, but how on earth is it even possible to take part in just PART of it without getting our hands and hearts dirtied by the ugly bits?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Wordless Wednesday--My photography buffs

Jon and Morgan, showing Mom how it's done...

Part of me is jealous

Pete got an email yesterday from the hostpital in Landstuhl telling him it was time to put away the contact lenses for good and to start wearing only his glasses. Why? Well, that's the final step before his PRK surgery; the cornea has to be de-'conditioned' so they can operate on a true astigmatism instead of the correction that the contacts make. The whole thing gives me the willies! Paralyzing the eyeball so there can't be any voluntary movement, propping it open, and then scraping the cornea of all irregularities while he's AWAKE.....I can't help but say "EWWW!"

So why am I jealous? Well, after all this is said and done, he'll be free of glasses, contacts, all that mess. I won't. Laser surgery wouldn't fix what's wrong with my eyes. In fact, last time I talked to an opthalmologist about it, I was told that strabismus surgery really hasn't come all that far in the 30 years since I had my last operation; that there's only so much they can improve on microsurgery. So I'll wait it out till my vision gets so bad that there's real improvement they can make on the muscles behind my eyes, because after that, I'm at the mercy of the aging process. And my hubby....well, he'll be bepopping around wearing his cool Oakley sunglasses not worrying about anything more than reading glasses, just 'cause he's a good candidate for laser correction. Bum...

Oh, and what's the deal with the doctor telling him he should do nothing but rest for almost a week after the surgery??? I'm sensing a conspiracy here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tackle It Tuesday--Where's my dining room?

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

I awoke this morning to a most ugly sight--we've been home from the States for the better part of a week, and it seems like everything we took with us somehow ended up on our dining room floor, the table, and the school shelf. Pictures? NOT ON YOUR LIFE!

But after a good two hours of picking up, putting away, scrubbing, sweeping, wet-mopping, and rearranging of extraneous "stuff" that makes its home in our dining room (hey, with 7 people in a 900-square-foot apartment, rooms have to multitask!), I now have my dining room back!

Awesome! OOOH, and the high chair even has its own corner now...and we have a little something new--a time-out seat! Double-awesome!

Our cute little stick family portrait

I've seen these on the rear window of countless cars and vans over here in Germany, and I've kind of always wondered where one would go about getting one. Well, now I know! From Lisa's blog to Renee's blog to Christine's blog I went, then on to the site where you actually make the stickers to purchase! Okay, so now that I've got it made and priced, there's NO WAY I'm going to pay $59 for a sticker...especially one so big that it would likely take up the entire rear windshield in the van! YIKES! But hey, it was fun...kinda like the kids making all their Mii people at Uncle Greg's house last week! Wanna see? I just LOVE how slimming this is!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Indian Summer

It was inevitable. All that glorious cool, crisp air has given way to one last blast of warmth. Oh well, at least it's not as hot as Florida was! I may be a Florida native, but that's a merre technicality. I don't "do" heat, nor do I relish the humidity of the tropics. Or the bugs. I rather enjoy the drier, cooler, nearly-bugless climate that Germany provides, even during this little warm spell before Autumn truly settles in and temperatures drop past the short-sleeve comfort zone.

This is one of those days that you just HAVE to get out and do something--out in nature where you can experience all the Autumn colors while still enjoying a little taste of warm weather. It won't last long. Today is just beautiful. Right now, at just a few minutes shy of noon, it's 63 degrees. The sun is shining, the breeze is just barely blowing, making all the spectacular Fall colors nearly twinkle as the leaves dance. I love this time of year, and there is NO way I'm going to spend the day blogging. Sorry, but I'm getting out of the house today. Time for picture-taking, outdoor-playing, and maybe a hike or two up a hill to take in all the colors of the season.
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