Monday, May 31, 2010

More Pics, as promised

This is the lovely bride I came to see walk down the aisle to pledge her love and life to Jerry. She was a radiant bride. Her wedding was beautiful. It was a great celebration and lots of fun. As a bonus treat, I had lunch with the newlyweds today. How incredibly special is that?!

Congratulations Denelle & Jerry!

Isaac is the cutest little man. He was fascinated with the camera and I used it to lure him into my lap for a cozy picture. He soon realized I wasn't so strange and actually let me kiss him on the cheek.
He likes to help with his baby brother Ry-Ry. Rylan looks just like his daddy and Isaac looks just like his mommy. Such sweet boys!

I went to lunch with friends after church and enjoyed seeing Randen holding Rylan. He was very proud.
And, I've been working on a project for 18 months that I finally finished! Back when I was pregnant with Rylee, my friend Heather made a cross-stitch for me that was beautiful. We had it framed and it has hung in Rylee's room ever since. (well, it's temporarily off exhibit because we keep changing the girls' room around and it needs a major overhaul, but that's another post entirely)
As I mentioned in a previous post, Heather was with Joel and me when Rylee made her debut into this world. She and her hubby Paul did not start their family until almost 5 years after us. One day, when she was about 7 months pregnant with her first, I saw the same cross-stitch at Michael's and thought "I have to make that for her!"
let's pause here. please note: I have not ever done a large cross-stitch. I cross-stitched a cluster of 3 balloons that was about 2x2 inches when I was 12 years old. I have three young children and serve in ministry.
So, I started the cross-stitch in December of 2008. I took it with me on our trip to India in January '09. Isaac, the planned recipient of the gift, was born in January while we were gone. I worked on it here and there, but would set it down for months and not work on it. Then, I knew I'd be seeing Heather and meeting Isaac in September, so I worked furiously to finish it. During my trip, I got the flu and knew there was no way I'd get it done. I set it down again after returning home. During that trip, I found out Heather was expecting baby #2. So, I began working on the cross-stitch again. In February I planned this trip to Arizona for Denelle's wedding and knew I'd see Heather and get to meet the new baby. The cross-stitch HAD to get done! I had a deadline.
I have worked frantically to finish this project and today it is complete! I am so proud. You have no idea. Well, you might since I'm writing so much about it and posting it on my blog! I feel very accomplished. Someone said to me as I was working on it, "Oh, you cross-stitch." My response, "No, I do not. This is my first project and my last. It was a special deal."

So, there you go.

Cute Little Man

I've been in Arizona since last Wednesday evening. I got to spend time with my friend Judy and some of her family. Then, I got to meet this little guy on Thursday.

This is Rylan. He is my friend Heather's son. He was born the day before Rylee's 6th birthday. Heather was with me when Rylee was born. So sweet...Rylan and Rylee. Heather and her family live in NY, not far from where we lived in PA. But, now we live much further apart. (sad face)

This is my mom holding Rylan. I've been blessed to spend some time with this family while being here for the wedding of our mutual friend Denelle. I've also been able to spend some time with other friends. It's been neat.

More pictures to a cute pic of Rylan's big brother Isaac with his Aunt Megan.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Teacher Appreciation Week

This last week was Teacher Appreciation Week at Jenna & Asa's preschool.

We had the pleasure of telling their teacher, Mrs. Sonya, how awesome and amazing she is and showering her with some tangible signs of our affection.

I saw a great idea in the Disney Family Fun magazine and decided to use it for our class gift. Then, my friend Kristin had a great idea to do a tote bag for Mrs. Sonya.

On Tuesday, I had each kiddo come one at a time with me to get their hand painted and stamped on the bag. I sent out letters to parents last week asking them to give gift cards if they chose.

Mrs. Sonya's flowers contained lots of gift cards to some of her favorite places. We hope she knows just how much all our kids love her and how much we parents appreciate her hard work to love our kids and teach them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ann!

Today is my step-mom's birthday. I won't divulge her age; that's just not nice. Though, she has aged very gracefully, I must say!
Ann has been my step-mom for almost 23 years. When I was little and at a store with just her, people would assume she was my mom because we both had dark hair. When she joined my family, she brought me a sister. Then, a few later, another sister. I have been blessed because my family has many wonderful ladies in it!Ann can dance and enjoys music; she has a beaming smile; she loves to get a tan in the summertime; Ann likes to give gifts; she can be adventurous (parasailing with me in Florida in '01); she likes simplicity and neatness; Ann is smart (she went back to school as an adult to be a dental hygienist and was top in her class); she is organized; and she loves her family.
Happy Birthday, Ann! May this next year be full of blessings and may today be a celebration of your life and all the living you've done up until now!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Empty Wall No Longer

What do you do with a completely blank wall?

This wall used to have a couch centered on it with a large mirror hanging over the couch.

Then, we got rid of the couch and got a chair with ottoman instead. Next, I moved the mirror (it looked pretty dumb just hanging there with no couch underneath).

I wanted some cool pictures for this wall.
Finally, I found some large black frames on clearance at Target. I found one picture of each kiddo, got enlargements done at Costco, and presto!
Very inexpensive way to dress up my wall! Frames $10 (total) + enlargements $10 (total) = great look for a great price!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Not Favoritism, Really!

It really isn't that I love my son more than my daughters. I promise.

It's just that this series of photos is so stinkin' cute, I can't help but share them!
I actually feel like I have more posts on my girls, overall, than on my son. And, I just happen to have had the camera in hand the last few weeks when he's done something really cute.

So, what's the story with these?

One day Asa put on this hat. He now has some "boy" dress-up, thanks to generous friends who were tired of seeing my son in his sisters' princess dresses and tu-tus. He has Spiderman, a cowboy outfit, lots of hats, and a fireman jacket.

So, he put on this conductor hat.
Then, he was watching tv with his sisters. I believe it was Electric Company on PBS. They began a song, a rap I believe. He started bopping. I caught the tail end of it.

He was so cute with his dancing (by "cute" I mean the boy has his father's lack of rhythm and it's totally adorable on a 4 year old boy!).
He came in the kitchen and demonstrated for me again.
Look at that sweet face! Melts my heart!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Food - And Not Enough of It

A friend shared this story from BBC with me today.

My heart is a little sick right now.

I write on my blog about meals I make and hear my children tell me they don't like certain foods.

I cannot fathom my children eating dirt because they have nothing else.

Children in Asia do. They are hungry and there is no food.

As you read the news story below, you will hear mention of corruption. The food, even if it's "provided" by the government, doesn't always get to where it should go. Why? Sometimes it's corrupt leaders and officials. If a leader feels some people (Dalits) are worthless and are sub-human, they think it's fine to starve them. It really all boils down to a need for heart change.

Gospel for Asia's Bridge of Hope centers, Compassion Services, Christmas Gift Catalog, and many other programs meet the physical needs of people in Asia, but also make sure they hear the Gospel. If we only feed a belly, they will just go to hell with a full stomach--still separated from the God of the universe who loves them and has died to know them.

The following story was taken from BBC News "Diet of mud and despair in Indian village"
"We live on a day-to-day basis," Suraj says, as the faint sound of hammering echoes across the village. "What we earn is what we spend on our families in a day."

In Ganne, just off the main road about an hour south of the city of Allahabad, this is a simple fact of life.

It is home to members of a poor tribal community, who live in small huts clustered around a series of shallow quarries.
Inside one of the huts sits a little girl called Poonam. She is three years old, and in the early stages of kidney failure.

Like many children in Ganne she has become used to eating bits of dried mud and silica, which she finds in the quarry. Tiny children chew on the mud simply because they are hungry - but it is making them ill.

When reports first emerged of children eating mud here local officials delivered more food and warned the villagers not to speak to outsiders. But Poonam's father, Bhulli, is close to despair.

"What can I say," he shrugs. "We can't afford to eat properly, so how can I afford to buy medicines for her?"

"I am really worried about my daughter, but I don't know what to do next. The poor need the government's help - if we had it, we wouldn't be in such a desperate state."

People like Bhulli and Suraj make their money filling lorries with bits of rock. It takes about eight hours for five men to fill one load. They carry the stones up from the quarry in plastic washing-up bowls balanced on their heads.

One of the women in the village, Phulkari, approaches to tell us about her little boy.

"My son's name is Suraj, and he's started eating mud too," she says. "What can we do? We eat the mud from the quarry when we feel hungry."

"Where do we get the money?" she asks. "We usually eat food only once a day. Last night we went to bed without eating anything at all."

Food protests
The World Bank estimates that one third of all the very poorest people in the world live in India, and stories like those from Ganne have now inspired a national Right To Food campaign.

There have been protest rallies in the heart of Delhi, as the Indian parliament prepares to debate a new Food Security Bill. It will dictate how many people in the country get access to massively subsidised food grain.

There's no doubt that India should be able to afford to feed its people. But the devil is in the detail.

"It'll only cost the government about 1.2% of GDP to universalize a system of giving food for all, cheap food for all," says Kavitha Srivastava, the national coordinator of the Right to Food campaign.

"They can do it, if they have the political will. It's prioritising - where do you want to put the money?"

"We think it should go in building people's nutrition levels. You can't have a country which is weak, which is hungry, which is anaemic. How can you have a nation like this?"

Now the government seems to be prepared to accept a new way of defining poverty, which will increase the number of people below the poverty line by more than 100 million to about 372 million.

If international poverty standards were used, the number would be much higher still - and some Indian economists believe it should be.

But whichever figure is used, the poverty line feels like a rather fictitious divide because feeding more than a billion people is a massive logistical exercise. Vast quantities of food provided by the state go missing every day because of corruption and theft.

"Food ought to be a right," says Dr Kaushik Basu, the Chief Economic Advisor at India's Ministry of Finance. "And I believe this is a movement in the correct direction."

"But what worries me at times is that we're being too glib and quick about the delivery mechanism."

Official estimates are that right across the country 75% of subsidised grain does not make it to the intended target in villages like Ganne.

"So if you simply throw money at this problem, you'll have to throw four times the amount to get the result you want," says Dr Basu. "And the government of India can't afford that. The budget will go bust."

In other words, the delivery system needs to be reformed as well - and corrupt local officials need to be taken to task. There is a long way to go.

Daunting challenge
Jean Dreze, a highly respected Belgian-born academic who has worked in India for many years, points out that the current debate is only about the most basic levels of food intake.

"For a family of five to have reasonably good nutrition, nothing like meat or fish or any such thing, but just one egg per person per day, one banana, some dhal, some vegetables, a reasonably balanced diet - it would cost more than 200 rupees ($4.4; £3) per family per day," he says.

And that is far more than the amounts being discussed at the moment.

It is a sobering reminder that feeding India is a daunting challenge - the government knows it, and the prime minister says it must be a priority. But the Right to Food Campaign insists they are not doing enough.

The Indian economy continues to grow at impressive speed, and there is no shortage of food in the country. It just isn't reaching the people who need it most, on a consistent basis.

So in Ganne they continue to eat mud. And without finding a solution here in India, the world will come nowhere near the targets it has set itself for reducing global poverty.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Seriously...a Video that Captures One of My Loves

I laughed. I agreed. I had to share!

Before you watch it, though, let me explain. I was born and raised in the south for the first ten years of my life. I moved to Arizona when I was ten, but went back to visit all my family (dad and his side) who still live in NC twice a year. While I fully assimilated into Arizona culture (have a decent accent when I speak the wee bit of Spanish I know and love a good NOT Tex-Mex! burrito), I'm still very much Southern at heart. Why do I not sound southern? First, you must not have ever heard me talking to my family on the phone. But, when I was in 5th grade I was teased pretty bad about my accent. In fact, my teacher would make me read aloud because he enjoyed hearing it, which only exacerbated the teasing. So, I learned how to not talk southern pretty fast. When you have a boy haircut, incredibly hairy arms, and a gap between your two front teeth, you do not need yet another thing for kids to tease you about!

Back to the video...enjoy!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Giveaway over at Lisa Leonard

I would love to win some of Lisa Leonard's designs. Such beautiful work she does! Go check it out here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Girl

This is why we serve at Gospel for Asia. Joel's day is spent finding ways to share about the ministry--the plight of those in Asia who have no hope and how our missionaries are ministering to them--via the internet and social media.

We saw this story on the BBC today and it tells of Asma, a child laborer. Click here to see the original story, which I've also copied below.

Asma's Story
The electricity supply in the sweatshop in the crowded part of old Dhaka where Asma, 10, makes safety pins for a living is so dangerous that the foreman can only turn on the lights using a broomstick.

"If I use my hands I may get an electric shock," he explains.

Asma is one of about 10 workers in the dingy factory - in the heart of the crowded and maze-like alleyways of this part of the city - who are under 14.

Sitting on a bench alongside her co-workers, Asma operates a powerful cutting device in the poorly-lit premises for up to 12 hours a day.

The safety pins are thinly cut and the machine she operates is cumbersome, heavy and dangerous.

Despite being blessed with nimble fingers and remarkable manual dexterity, if Asma makes one mistake she could easily lose a finger to the gigantic metal puncher she handles so professionally.

There is no first aid in the factory and no lunch break. None of the children know what happens to the pins once they have been made and none knows exactly who is employing them.

Like many other child workers in Bangladesh, she does not complain of her plight, remaining resolutely cheerful throughout the morning I spent with her.
... continued and taken from this site.
Gospel for Asia's Bridge of Hope ministry reaches out to children just like Asma. Learn more about BOH and how you can help change the future of a child--and possibly an entire family and village--for just $28 per month. It's a small price for us to pay considering the price they pay daily.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Greater than a Mother's Love

From The Way To God, by Dwight L. Moody

“A leading minister in the state of New York once told me of a father who was a very bad character. The mother did all she could to prevent the contamination of the boy; but the influence of the father was stronger, and he led his son into all kinds of sin until the lad became one of the worst of criminals. He committed murder and was put on trial. All through the trial, the widowed mother (for the father had died) sat in the court. When the witnesses testified against the boy, it seemed to hurt the mother much more than the son. When he was found guilty and sentenced to die, everyone else, feeling the justice of the verdict, seemed satisfied at the result. But the mother’s love never faltered. She begged for a reprieve, but that was denied. After the execution she craved for the body, and this also was refused. According to custom, it was buried in the prison yard. A little while afterward the mother herself died, but before she was taken away she expressed a desire to be buried by the side of her boy. She was not ashamed of being known as the mother of a murderer.” (p. 15)

Moody’s Point—“The strongest human love that we know of is a mother’s love . . . Death cannot quench a mother’s love; it is stronger than death.”

Isaiah 49:15-16—Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

I once heard Beth Moore teach about this Scripture and the concept of us being graven into the hand of God. Have you ever held something so tightly that it left an imprint on your palm? This is how we are engraved on the palm of His hands.

That's a pretty amazing thought.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

For My Mom

It's almost the end of Mother's Day for the year and I have neglected to write about my own mother. Shame on me!
That's my mom, my older brother Shawn, and me, as a baby.

So, let me take a moment and introduce you to her, if you've never before met. This is Linda. She's my mom.
What in the world can I say about this woman that will do her justice? My mom is my hero in many ways. She has endured hardships and yet continues to have a positive outlook. She's walked through triumphs and victories a plenty, but is still incredibly humble. She has never met a stranger and loves people.
My mom was first my hero because of what she'd done long before I was born. She was part of her high school all-star ladies basketball team with my Aunt Peggy. She graduated college in just three years with a teaching degree. Then, she entered the Air Force and went through Officer Training School to become a Lieutenant (don't remember the exact rank; sorry) as the only female in her class. That's when she met my dad. They got married and had three children. I'm number 2. During these years my mom taught school, then stayed home with her kids and ran a daycare in her home. She also sold things--I remember vacuum cleaners, but I'm sure there were other things. My parents divorced when I was about 7 and when I was 10 I moved to Arizona with my mom and brothers.
My mom had gone back into teaching math and taught at the high school where I would one day attend and graduate. She went back to school in the evenings and earned her Master's degree, plus about 60 hours. She went as far as she could without getting a doctorate, which didn't interest her much.From the time I was a baby my mom took me to church. She taught Sunday School, read me Bible stories, was part of the Women's Missionary Union, and kept us active in the church as kids. After we moved to Arizona we had some rocky years, to say the least, but after I recommitted by life to the Lord at age 15 my mom started going back to church and recommitted her life as well. I've watched her continue to grow in love with Jesus, depending on Him to guide and direct her. My mom encouraged me to pursue ministry back in college when I felt led by the Lord to put off getting my Bachelor's degree and serve in youth ministry. Despite her own feelings, she said goodbye to me and Joel and supported us 100% when we moved to back to Pennsylvania just six weeks after we got married. And, she again supported us 100% when the Lord called us to leave PA and move to Texas to serve on staff with Gospel for Asia.
My mom couldn't be with me when Rylee arrived in this world. She had to use a free ticket she had so she came to see me just two weeks before my due date. We were hoping the baby would arrive while she was visiting, but the Lord had other plans. So, Rylee met her Nana for the first time when she was about two months old. They hit it off immediately and have been great pals ever since. Mom wasn't about to miss the next birth, so when I was due with Asa and Jenna and it looked like I was going to have them early, she canceled her return flight to Arizona and told her school she would be gone for the month of January. We waited another 3 weeks for them to finally arrive (which was a good thing; they were born 4 weeks early as it was). Mom was with us when they made their debut and then stayed to help us adjust to being a family of five in those first few weeks.
There have been many times throughout my six years of motherhood that I've thought about my mom and wanted to be just like her. I've often imagined how overwhelming it must have been to be a single mother with three young kids. She's not perfect; she'll be the first to admit it. And, while there are certainly things I do different than she did or hope to have happen differently, there are a whole bunch of things I hope I can teach my kids that my mom taught me. My mom was always completely open and honest with us. She encouraged us to be who God made us to be and never criticized me for having a strong will or being outspoken. She tried to temper it, but never squelched it. She encouraged me in the things I wanted to pursue and gave me both roots and wings. She wasn't afraid to watch me fail, as I did regularly. She cried with me and laughed with me. She held my hand when I was scared, spanked my hind end when I needed correcting, and set high expectations. As a dancer, my mom wasn't a typical "stage mom", for which I was grateful. She was there and supportive, but she let me be independent. She cheered me on from the sidelines, clapped for me when I was on stage, and always believed in me.
Mom, so much of who I am today is because of you. I believe with all my heart you're exactly who God knew I needed to raise me. I am so grateful for you. Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Humility - a thought-provoking quote

C.S. Lewis says
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call 'humble' nowadays: he will not be a...person, who is always telling you that...he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

From Mere Christianity, page 128.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Having a Son

There are things I'm learning about having a boy.

My sweet Asa is a joy and delight. He has a tender heart and gentle spirit. He is much more like Joel than me.

He was cautious for a very long time, but is now gaining in bravery. He loves to climb trees, fences, furniture...anything. Last summer he was the most brave in the water - being the first to just go for it and jump in off the side. He likes bugs and loves to turn over the bricks outside to find what's living underneath.
Asa is also like Joel in that he can draw really well. He likes to draw firetrucks and buildings. While he isn't so great with identifying all the letters of the alphabet when I point them out, he can draw people better than I can.
He loves to build with his Legos, Lincoln Logs, and blocks. He also loves guns, especially the Nerf gun he got a few months ago. (We ended up buying one for each of the kids and for Daddy; it's hilarious when they all get going.)
Asa is tenderhearted. When we were hiking in Arizona and the wind picked up, he got scared. He doesn't like thunder and lightning, either. He is very concerned about the weather and for a long time was having issues with being scared at night. (Thankfully we prayed against fear and he seems to be doing much better!)
My precious son will often burst out in singing praise songs. But, he's a little bit more shy than my girls and is often drown out by them, so you don't hear it much unless he's by himself. He's so much like his daddy!
He also loves to eat...and eat and eat and eat. Right at this moment he is sneaking another piece of watermelon off the counter. He is also my crier. If he gets upset or frustrated, he just can't handle it and cries. We're working on that one since the alternative to him crying is usually him hitting. Gotta find a balance in there.
So, why am I telling you all his about my little man? Because he's the one who brought his mama flowers twice in the last two days. These are from a friend's house on Sunday...
and these are from our neighbors yard (who helped him pick them).

Then, I came in to find this...
can't tell what it is?
Look at it more closely.
Yep, the boy hung a fake mouse on my pantry door!
I love this little man.