Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

Here's a sampling of favorite blog posts (or life changing lessons) through the year:

January:
Stop and Lick the Beaters

February:
Reflections on Peace


March:
Children Learn What They See...


April:
Double bonus!
Mixed Feelings
Farewell Four

May:
Lincoln Half Marathon


June:
Terror: Tantrum or Trust?


July:
My Story

August:
"Back"-to-school double feature!
New Clothes
Dayna's First Day of School

September:
The Power of a Moment

October:
Coexist?

November:
From the Heart of a Child

December:
The Maker of Noses

Of Pots and Potters

“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?" Isaiah 45:9

I was asked a few months ago what song I would sing to the Lord, and I realized that I've lost my song. The last few months have been difficult, and if I'm honest with myself, I can see some depression creeping back into my life. How sad that a lifelong musician has lost her song. So, I've really been thinking about this and praying lately.

In my last Bible Study before the Christmas break, my teaching leader was sharing about potters and clay. Did you know that when pottery is being fired, the potter will take it from the kiln and give it a good thump. If the pot is ready, it will sing. If not, it just thuds, and back into the fire it goes. So, I guess God has been thumping me lately, checking my attitudes and seeing if I will sing. Alas, I just keep thudding, and God continues to put me through the fire and refining me some more.

Now, this isn't a perfect analogy, and I don't want to give the impression that I think God is punishing me for my attitude by continuing to put me in the fire of various trials. But I do think there's something to be said for God continuing to refine me until my will (and attitude) come into alignment with His.

I'm walking through an incredibly fiery trial right now. I honestly don't know how it will end, but it could have potentially devastating repercussions for my family. I'm learning, and I'm facing my consequences...but most importantly, I think I'm learning to sing again.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Maker of Noses

There's an old Rich Mullins song called "The Maker of Noses." The refrain goes:

They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He's the one I have chosen
And I will follow Him

Well, Dayna's been preoccupied with her nose lately. Despite the fact that one out of every five people in the world is of Chinese descent, she is the ONLY one in the fair city of Ashland. Many of her classmates have been discussing her nose lately, which is making her very self conscious. She asks why she is the only person with a "squishy" nose while all of her friends (and her parents, I might add) have "pointy" noses. She tells me that she loves her nose, but she's tired of people talking about it and being different.

Today, we had a play date with some friends (both boys are Chinese and cleft-affected.) From there, we all went to McDonald's and met up with two other families and let the kids play at the play area. There were seven Chinese children running around and having a great time.

On the way home, Dayna assured me that she loved getting to play with other kids who also have "squishy" noses today.

I pray that she will continue to embrace every part of who she is, and that she would know that God knit each one of us together perfectly...whether our noses are squishy or pointy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Homesick

A few years back, I made it a summer goal to only read Nebraska authors. I quickly fell in love with Bess Streeter Aldrich's "A Lantern In Her Hands." One of the things that really spoke to me in that book was how the protagonist, Abbie Deal, leaves her family in Iowa with the promise to return. Her new husband takes her to Nebraska, where life happens and she never is able to return to her family in Iowa. As a transplant myself, I find myself so blessed by current technologies like email, social networking and Skype that keep me connected to my family. However, Abbie didn't have these luxuries. She must have been homesick indeed. Now, I know that she is a fictional character, but isn't that very typical of many pioneer women who left everything familiar to follow the westward call with their husbands?

Well, it hit me this Christmas that life kind of took a similar turn for Mary. She was living her life, presumably still under the shelter of her parents' home in Nazareth when Joseph was summoned to Bethlehem to obey Caesar's edict regarding the census. Certainly, the baby wouldn't be born while she was gone. I imagine her reassuring her parents, "We'll be back before it's the baby's time. Don't worry about us. Joseph will take care of me." Well, we all know the story didn't quite turn out that way. Was Mary caught off guard when they entered the crowded city and she had no place to rest from the piercing contractions? Did she notice the stench of the animals in the stable cave where the Messiah made His earthly entrance into the world?

We know from Luke 2:21 that they must have traveled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem after the birth of Christ, because He was presented in the temple on His eighth day to be circumcised. In Matthew 2, the Magi appear from the East. Tradition tells us that the Christ child was probably just past toddlerhood when they arrived. So, here are Mary, Joseph and Jesus, now staying in a house in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:11). I imagine the accommodations were nicer than the stable, and Mary must have enjoyed establishing her small household. But shortly after this visit, Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt (Matt. 2:13). The holy family stayed in Egypt until the death of Herod, when they finally returned to Nazareth. I don't know how long this would have been, but Luke 2:41 tells us that Jesus' parents took Him every year to Jerusalem during Passover.

Still, can you imagine the stories that Mary had for her mom when they finally returned? She was storing so much inside her heart...the birth of her first child in, shall we say, unusual circumstances; the visits from the shepherds; gifts from the Magi; fleeing to another country from a murderous official. I'm not sure how much time passed, but this seems to be more like years than weeks.

I wonder what Mary would have done if she would have been able to pick up a phone and pour these things out to her mom. Certainly the birth of Jesus was lifechanging for her. I had never considered all that happened after she told her parents goodbye on her way to the census.

I guess my occasional bouts of homesickness just don't compare...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Family Tree of Thanksgiving

Nothing like waiting until Christmas Eve to put up pictures of my Thanksgiving Tree! I guess that's the busy-ness that is my life right now.

We started this tradition last year, where on Thanksgiving Day, we take some time to write some of our blessings on a leaf and add them to a tree. (I'm thankful that I bought this ginormous tree bulletin board kit for my classroom about ten years ago and haven't used it since!)

Enjoy!
l

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Our Own "Gift of the Magi" Story

Twelve years ago, a tradition was born out of desperation. For our wedding, a friend bought us an angel food cake pan and box of cake mix. A few months later, Dan's first birthday came...two days before payday. We were poor. I literally had $.69 in change (from the laundry money...we lived in an apartment and had to pay for our laundry.) I figured we had a cake pan and cake mix, and angel food was Dan's favorite.

Imagine my surprise when I came home from work and discovered the mix was for a spice cake. So there I sat, with $.69 to my name, and nothing to make for Dan. I pulled out a cookbook (another wedding present) and found a recipe for angel food cake. The only thing we didn't have was a dozen eggs. So, I said a prayer, took a deep breath, and prayed for a miracle. (Okay...I prayed that there would be a significant sale on cake mixes.)

In true O'Henry fashion, I took my $.69 to the grocery store. To my dismay, there were NO sales on cake mixes. But...I could buy a dozen eggs for $.66.

That night, I made an angel food cake from scratch. Hands down, the best cake I have ever made. Dan took one bite, sighed in ecstasy, and informed me that I could make this cake every year for his birthday.

So, for the twelfth straight year, I've got a homemade angel food cake in the oven. The timer should beep any minute now.

Happy birthday, Dan!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sick Day

A friend told me once that she actually looked forward to the days when her kids were sick and SHE got to stay home from school...not the throwing up, high maintenance kind of sick; just the extra TLC kind of sick.

I got to enjoy that kind of day today. Dayna's been down most of the week with a nasty viral infection. Yup...that was the official diagnosis from the Urgent Care center Tuesday night (day 3 of high fever and sore throat.) But, because I had programs this week, I couldn't be gone. So Dan stayed with her early this week. Today marks the official end of the fever and sore throat, so Dayna can go back to school tomorrow. In the meantime, I had a lovely day home with her.

I FINALLY got the living room cleaned (two weeks later) from the Christmas boxes. Now I can enjoy my tree! I got 2 more kinds of cookies baked, over half of my 2nd quarter grades in the computer, a dress cut out for Dayna's Christmas present, and various and sundry other items off my to-do list.

Dayna and I have had some nice conversations, and she's getting out of the tub now and ready for some snuggles in bed with a little more reading from "Farmer Boy." (It's taken 5+ weeks and we're only halfway through! I never realized Laura Ingalls Wilder was so verbose!)

I'm glad she's feeling better, but I'm even more excited to have had an unexpected productive day at home.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Traditions

I confess, I completely stole this idea from my friend Joy, who lives in Oklahoma (but since she doesn't cheer for the Sooners, she's okay in my book!)

We took Dayna to Paint Yourself Silly today, where she painted the first in a series of Christmas plates. We'll take her back each year to do another one. When she's old enough to go out on her own, she will have her own set of Christmas plates and a whole passel of memories to go with them.

Today's design was a large ladybug surrounded by holly leaves and berries. Unfortunately, we had no camera today, so I'll have to post a picture of the final product when we pick it up in a week or so.

Dan and I also painted a little cookie plate together. We had meant to do this 2 1/2 years ago for our 9th anniversary, but just got around to it today. Isn't that the way it goes sometimes?

So, thanks for the idea, Joy! We can't wait to see how this tradition unfolds.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Shopping and Lessons Learned

I went out with Dayna the other night for some "girl time." She wanted to eat at "M for Mommy's." So I pull off the Interstate and we go inside. There was a father and son in line in front of us waiting for their food. 10 minutes later, there were 8 more people behind us, the line hadn't moved, and nobody had so much as come up to the counter. The employees were in back yelling at each other. Dayna told me that she really didn't want to wait, so we could go somewhere else.

Good thing there's more than one "M for Mommy" in Omaha. So, after a quick trip to the craft store, we go into another one. This time, we were served immediately, but the restaurant was so crowded it took 20 minutes to get our food. They were absolutely slammed! But, the employees were working as hard as they could, and they were working together, so it didn't really bother me all that much. When we were done eating (our two experiences to get a fast food meal took over an hour!) I looked around the lobby. There were no clean tables, the trash cans were overflowing, and one table had a big chocolate milk spill underneath. I knew they were slammed behind the counter, and no one had a chance to clean up the dining area. So, before we left, I asked the manager for a dishcloth. I couldn't take care of the garbages, but I was able to quickly wipe down all the tables. I don't think the manager quite knew what to do with that, but it was definitely eye opening for Dayna. When she asked why I would do a thing like that, I told her, "because it's the right thing to do." It didn't cost me anything, but provided a small act of service to others and spoke a very loud message to Dayna.

From there, we went to the toy store to pick out a gift for her cousin (from all of us) and her dad (from her). She has really been excited about doing something for her dad this year. I told her that this year, she has to pay half for the gifts she buys. So, she brings her little glass jar labeled "SPEND." When we get to the checkstand (it was also a crowded night at the toy store!), Dayna stopped the line to count her quarters. I looked up at the cashier with an apology, but before I could get it out, the cashier said, "This is the best thing I've seen all night! I wish all parents would teach their kids about money!" The people behind me in line likewise seemed to have no problem waiting a little bit longer so a five-year-old could learn the value of saving and giving.

What set out to be a fun evening with my daughter turned out to be an evening filled with little lessons that will make a big impact on her life.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So Easy, and So Hard

Today was one of those days where it was so easy for me to become extremely irritable, and so hard to snap out of it. Just the thought of forcing myself to "be nice" is wearing me out. I pity my family, students, and anyone who crosses my path, and yet, even though I know my attitude is sinful, I just can't seem to find release.

Jesus...help! I can't do this on my own...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Here We Go Again!

It's Monday after a long weekend...a weekend that provided NO rest. So, here I go with a long Monday...preparing for programs at 3 schools; a likely staff meeting, an early leaders' meeting, and Bible Study tonight.

I'm praying for endurance, patience, and a lot of GRACE today. I know that I can't do it, but Christ can.

Can I get an AMEN!?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gretna Singing Christmas Tree

This afternoon was the final performance of the inaugural season with the Gretna Singing Christmas Tree.

Last August, I sat with three of my friends and listened to over 40 students audition to be part of this endeavor. We ended our season with 35 second through fourth graders. They memorized 23 songs, plus choreography. In addition to the great music, a very sweet drama took place, sharing the Christmas story straight from the Bible.

I have had the privilege of sitting in on rehearsals with these kids every Sunday since Labor Day. This week held 4 rehearsals and 4 performances. Needless to say, I'm tired.

But I want to reflect just a bit. I had 11 kiddos in my small group. During every rehearsal, we broke into our small groups to look at the Bible (thanks to a local church, all participants were given their own Bibles!) and discover the Christmas truths we were singing about. One day in October, my group was looking at John 3:16. Several of the kids were sharing all the good things they did (reading their Bibles, saying their prayers, going to church, etc.) Not one of these students seemed to realize that they didn't need to do a single thing to get to heaven. Jesus had already done the work for them. When I explained this to the students, a collective gasp went through my group as the simple Gospel message went straight to their hearts.

Today, sweet Isabella gave me a little card and told me that she wants to be an accompanist when she grows up. Another young man gave me a hand-crayoned card that said: "Merry Crismas! From Jonah. Thank you four accompanisting us. I know your hands got tirde Mrs. Alaina. Your welkom to have a rest Mrs. Alaina"

You know, I'm exhausted, and this commitment has at times been hard to keep, but I see the eternal value in saying yes to something outside my comfort zone. Dan has likewise been involved as one of the sound and light technicians. He asked me last night if we could do this again next year. Right now, I'm leaning toward a really big yes.

But first, I'm going to get some sleep!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Eatin' Some Bison

My late Aunt Sharon had a great tradition every year on the day after Thanksgiving.

After today, the tradition ends...

As Nebraska and Colorado both leave the Big XII conference at the end of the season, the post-Thanksgiving rivalry will end.

So, in honor of Aunt Sharon, we're enjoying some Buffalo Chili for dinner!

GO BIG RED!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey's in the oven, Dan's parents are almost here, and the house is as clean as it's going to get.

So, I have a minute to sit down and wish my friends and family a happy Thanksgiving. This has been a tough fall, with a lot of adjustments to our family. To be honest, a heart of gratitude is something I've really struggled with this year. But I'm so thankful that God understands, and that my situation isn't coming to Him as a surprise. I'm thankful that He continues to love me in my weakness and longs to shape my heart and attitude so they conform more to His will. I'm incredibly grateful to my patient husband who has stepped up and picked up a lot of the pieces that I simply can't keep up with anymore. I'm thankful for Dan's family and my own who find practical ways to help and encourage us.

But most of all, I'm so incredibly thankful for Christ and His sacrificial love for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ah! Politics...

You know, November is a polarizing month in the United States. I was hoping some of the hooplah over the elections would have died down by now.

What really surprises is me is what it has done to some of my friends. You know, I really do have a lot of friends (A LOT!!!!) who disagree with me politically. I know it, they know it, and it really isn't an issue (usually). In fact, it's pretty much a non-issue as (I thought) we just agree to disagree and focus on what we have in common. I respect their rights to their opinions and (I hope) they respect my right to mine. Isn't that what makes America so unique?

Well, I must say, I have been surprised by some of the hateful comments my friends have posted on Facebook this month. Not necessarily directed to me, but I certainly fall under the scope of their comments. I have been called an idiot (i.e. "The idiots have spoken"). I have been called ignorant. I have been called all sorts of names that these friends wouldn't say to my face, but seem to have no problem saying as a generality in a public forum.

I know that elections haven't always gone the way I would have preferred, but I know that our government is in the hands of God...nothing happens that comes as a surprise to him. Thus, I never get all that worked up over elections that may or may not go "my" way. But, I would never make public statements about people being idiots just because they don't agree with me.

What makes this even sadder to me is that most of these comments are coming from people who claim God as their Savior (I'm not saying that He's not, but the comments, attitudes, etc., don't really seem to be reflecting God.)

Just my $.02 worth...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Semper Fi!

A huge thank you to my dad and other Marines who valiantly fight to protect our freedoms as Americans.

Semper Fi, and Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm-3y17uuJU

Saturday, November 6, 2010

From the Heart of a Child

Dinner conversation at Panda Express was about Orphan Sunday tomorrow:

Dayna~What's an orphan?

Mom~An orphan is a boy or a girl who doesn't have a mommy or a daddy.

Dayna~So was I an orphan?

Mom~You were, but you aren't anymore!

Dayna (to Dad)~Were you an orphan?

Dad~No, I wasn't an orphan.

Mom~Did you know that there are over 143 million orphans in the world? That's why we're telling people about it at church tomorrow.

Dayna~What can I do to help an orphan?

Mom and Dad share several ideas.

Dayna~Can we go buy some clothes now to send to Gutian (the orphanage where she once lived)?

Mom & Dad~ABSOLUTELY!

Panda Express was conveniently located near Wal-Mart. A half hour later, we were walking out with warm clothes for older boys and girls, several pairs of thick socks, some fun baby toys and knit winter hats. We have to restrain Dayna from packing everything up tonight!

I'm so glad to see her generosity.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Presidential Proclamation

Whatever your political leaning, this is pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nana Time

Dayna's Nana is teaching her embroidery this week. Dayna's working on a little bluebird. I'm sitting in the next room listening to them. Nana has taught Dayna how to do a backstitch around the edge of the blue, and she has promised to teach Dayna how to do a satin stitch if they get to the beak. Dayna's response: "Oh, I hope we get to the beak soon!" What fun memories!

Her stitches are remarkably even. Way to go, Dayna!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ten!

My mom and Dan think I should leave October's posts alone and leave it at nine. I just can't do it.

Phall Photos

There was an old woman...

For all the times they made me sit alone in my room...


Feeding the goats with Papa


Bagging the kettle corn.


Dayna is finally big enough to reach the pedals!


I think we should get this one.


Dayna and Sarah in their matching pig jammies (with their matching pigs, Snort and Curly)
Pretty colors in Amana.


Going through the shops in Amana with our friend Sarah.


There something about pictures of kids sitting on a pile of pumpkins.


Dan drove the train this year at the pumpkin patch. Dayna got to ride up front!


Fall Mums


Pretty girl. We get a picture at this fence every year.

Annual family picture on the bridge in Nebraska City

Hayrack Ride in Nebraska City

Friday, October 29, 2010

That's What Friends Are For

My best friend called me tonight. I really needed that. We first met 23 years ago in 8th grade science class...Carrie Van Daam (the new kid) was seated alphabetically in the back of the room next to Alaina Wood (the loudmouth). An unlikely and lasting friendship was forged.

We are now in very different stages of life, yet she seemed to completely understand some of the ups (but mostly downs lately) I've been experiencing. I realized as we hung up just how blessed I am to have a friend like Carrie...and to think of all that our friendship has experienced in 23 years, I'm even more blessed that she's stuck with me through it all.

After our conversation, I found myself reflecting and praying that Dayna finds a friend like that someday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You're Never Too Old

I am looking forward to a special visit tomorrow from my parents. It seems that you can never be too old to appreciate your parents. Not having them live nearby makes you appreciate them all the more when you do see them. Right now, they're somewhere in Wyoming, and I'm looking forward to driving home tomorrow and seeing them when I get home.

Now, if only I could convince them to stay a little longer...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There Used to Be a Time...

...when I could do many things well. I could cook, I could sew, (I never really could clean...), I could can my summer produce, I could love my husband and daughter, I could teach kids who didn't know their alphabet how to read music...

Then this year happened. My family is suffering, my job is suffering, I fear that my health will begin to suffer. I really wonder why God has brought me to this point. I know that I'm in His will, but I still don't like it.

I know, I sound like a broken record. I just keep waiting for things to even out, but I wonder now if they ever will...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

You Catch More Flies With Honey

You know...when you have a parent walk into your class without introducing themselves and pull a student, then you try to give that student useful information for next week's test, only to have that parent chew you out and follow it up with a scathing email about all your shortcomings as a teacher, misconstruing things that you said and did to fit their agenda...it kind of sets the tone for all future dealings with said parent, and possibly their child. Then, when you find out said parent is a fellow teacher...

Heaven help me from ever attacking one of my child's teachers like this...aren't we supposed to be in this together? I can't even fathom opening my mouth to tear someone apart that I want to be helping to build up my child.

I've always said that teacher/parents are the best ones to work with, as well as the worst. Thank you, God, for reminding me this week what kind of parent I want to be (and what kind of parent I DON'T want to become.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Coexist?


With the amount of time I spend on the road, it's inevitable that I see some interesting political, moral, and religious statements sticking to the cars I see on the road. At least once a day, I see the one above. It has never set well with me. In my study of Isaiah this fall, I've had some interesting thoughts about this.

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter. (Is. 5:20)

The commentary notes I read on this section (from Bible Study Fellowship, International) put it this way: "In our day of moral relativism, tolerance becomes the absolute good, and under this standard, the prohibition of immorality becomes intolerance and therefore evil." There used to be a day where right was right and wrong was wrong. We live in a world with so many shades of gray now, that if you speak up for black or white, you are labeled a bigot, or intolerant.

The concept of there being one God who provides one way to heaven (through Jesus...see John 14:6 and Acts 4:12...these are God's words, not mine) is not popular these days. Then again...just because something is popular doesn't mean it's right.

Along those lines, the concept of a holy God is one that we can't seem to fathom today. We want a loving god, a kind god, a tolerant god...a god of our choosing. Any god created by man is an impotent god. But the one true holy God is exactly that: holy. He cannot be in the presence of sin. That's why He provided forgiveness and atonement through His Son. As my teaching leader put it on Monday night, God's glory and sin cannot coexist.

Isaiah came face to face with the Holy God in Isaiah 6. He immediately recognized his sinfulness and confessed, "woe to me, for I am man of unclean lips." He realized that his sinfulness could not coexist with God's holiness.

So, as happy, cheerful, sunshine and rainbows as that bumper sticker sounds, there's simply no truth to it. It's filled with empty promises.

Now, this is not to say that as Christians we should not live at peace with those around us; we are to love our neighbors, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile...But we are not to compromise when it comes to worshiping God (He does make it clear throughout Scripture that He is a jealous God, and we are to have no other gods but Him) or accepting sin.

In the words of the late Rich Mullins (who, as a side note, is the second person I want to meet in heaven...right after Jesus):

I believe what I believe
Is what makes me who I am
I did not make it,
No it is making me
It is the very truth of God
And not the invention of any man.

Let me say it again: God and sin cannot coexist.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

So Glad She's Looking Out for Me

The following conversation took place during bedtime tonight:

Dayna reaches for my hair.

Mom: What are you doing?

Dayna: I'm pulling out your gray hair.

Mom: You don't need to do that.

Dayna gives a sharp tug.

Mom: Ow!

Dayna: What's wrong? You don't want me to look out for your hair?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Things We Do for Love

Long day...check.

Headache...check.

Exhausted...check.

Husband's gone tonight...check.

Dinner made...check.

Dishes done...check. (Well, not the handwashing.)

Popcorn popped...check.

Football game on...check.

Princess Leia costume cut out...check.

While sitting on the basement floor...check.

Major backache...check.

Bedtime snuggles...can't wait!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Caution: Objects in Mirror Are Older than They Appear

Overheard while getting Dayna ready for school pictures Thursday morning:

Dayna: Dad, what was picture day like when you were in Kindergarten?

Dad: Oh, a little different than it is now.

Dayna: What was school like when you were in Kindergarten?

Dad: Things were very different when I was little.

Dayna: Is that because you were born during the Old Testament?

Mom (from other room): loud snorting sound while hot tea escapes her nose.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Music Teacher's Greatest Joy

I taught my fifth graders an activity yesterday. At the end of class, one of the boys asked if he could borrow my tennis balls if he found enough people to practice the activity between now and their next music class.

Sure enough, as I walked to my car over the lunch hour to go to my other school, I saw a group of fifth graders (boys and girls) bouncing tennis balls to each other on the strong beat while singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

It brings so much joy to my heart to see that my students are taking what they learn in my class and playing those games on their own. It was just what I needed yesterday to see that I am getting through.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Interesting Read...(I Imagine)

I recently ran across a link to this book. It appears that finally, someone has found some of the courageous mothers in China who have, for whatever reason, chosen to release their precious babies. Their stories have been collected and put into book form.

Unfortunately, the book won't be released in the US until March. I wanted to put this one out on your radar, because it looks like an incredible read. (The picture is of the Kindle version...you'll have to stay tuned to your favorite book source as time gets closer.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Power of a Moment

This song by Chris Rice has been going through my head for a few days now:

What am I gonna be when I grow up?
How am I gonna make my mark in history?
And what are they gonna write about me when I’m gone?
These are the questions that shape the way I think about what matters
But I have no guarantee of my next heartbeat
And my world’s too big to make a name for myself
And what if no one wants to read about me when I’m gone?
Seems to me that right now’s the only moment that matters

You know the number of my days
So come paint Your pictures on the canvas in my head
And come write Your wisdom on my heart
And teach me the power of a moment
The power of a moment, the power of a moment

In Your kingdom where the least is greatest
The weak are given strength and fools confound the wise
And forever brushes up against a moment’s time
Leaving impressions and drawing me into what really matters

You know the number of my days
So come paint Your pictures on the canvas in my head
And come write Your wisdom on my heart
And teach me the power of a moment
The power of a moment, the power of a moment

I get so distracted by my bigger schemes
Show me the importance of the simple things
Like a word, a seed, a thorn, a nail
And a cup of cold water

You know the number of my days
So come paint Your pictures on the canvas in my head
And come write Your wisdom on my heart
And teach me the power of a moment
The power of a moment, the power of, the power of, the power of a moment.


I feel that in this new chapter, where I have so little time, I'm finding the power of the little moments God gives me. I no longer have long uninterrupted (or minimally interrupted) blocks of time where I can spend time with God, unwind, take a nap, or otherwise find refreshment. What I have found is that God has given me little moments all along.

At school, where I have minimal plan time, I find that in the 3 minutes between classes I can shoot off a quick email before I forget something. Or I can outline a lesson plan so that all I have to do is type it up later. Or I can whip up a quick visual to print later.

In the car, I have a few minutes where I can call and catch up with friends or family. I no longer have Dayna in the car with me, so my conversations can once more be private.

At home, I may not have a free hour to just play with Dayna, but I might have 10 minutes to crawl into our "covered wagon" and read another chapter to her.

My life is no longer filled with free time, but He has given me moments in my day to find restoration. I know that 30 years from now, this time of stress will be a vague memory to Dayna, but she will always remember our covered wagon!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fine Dining

I took the day off to rest my voice and shake these allergies. I also surprised my sweet girl by showing up at her school for lunch today. It was a great reminder that sometimes I just need to stop and let myself mend physically, mentally and spiritually. Let me tell you, it was nice to walk by a playground and not have 15 students simultaneously yelling, "Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Wilson!" (Don't get me wrong...I love hearing that at school. But today, I was a mom.) I got to have my picture taken and put on the guest wall of Dayna's classroom, and I got to hear Dayna's class sing me some sweet songs all about their sight words. Let me tell you...lunch with Kindergartners in the cafeteria was fine dining indeed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Little Home Under the Piano



It doesn't exactly look like this...in fact, it's more like a jungle print fleece blanket thrown over a baby grand piano...

Dayna and I are reading Little House on the Prairie, and she has decided that our little fort should be a covered wagon. Every few paragraphs, she peeks out to look for wolves. Her little stuffed dog is "Jack". Of course, she gets to be "Ma", I'm "Laura" and "Pa" is usually downstairs watching TV or checking his email...we just say that he's off hunting.

Oh, these moments are so sweet!

Monday, September 20, 2010

1:25

That was my clock time for the Corporate Cup 10K yesterday. I imagine my chip time will be about 10 minutes faster. Let me tell you...my endurance is gone! 3 miles is tough on me now, and 6.2 yesterday just about did me in.

I have a 5K in two weeks, and then I think I'll be hanging up my shoes for awhile. I just don't have time to run/train and spend time with my family.

Ah...it was fun while it lasted (not really, but I can say I've accomplished a lot this year in my running endeavors.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Word Aptly Spoken

Things have been pretty discouraging lately. I've been grumpy, and feeling less than successful at any area of my life. Today was one of those days that required an inordinate amount of flexibility. In talking with my new principal about some of the things going on (and trying to keep a positive spin on it all), she shared with me that she's really excited to come in and see what I'm doing in the classroom, because she's heard a lot of really nice things about me from other teachers in the building.

Maybe I'm not doing such a horrible job after all...

New Year, New Study

Hooray for the new year of Bible Study Fellowship and the BRAND NEW BSF study of the book of Isaiah. I'm so excited about my group this year and the opportunity to dig deeper into this book of God's justice and grace.

If you're not familiar with BSF, check out their homepage and a list of classes near you. It's a lot of work, but SO rewarding. This is my 8th year, and it has changed my life!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Something's Got to Give

My little girl is whimpering right now, and I don't blame her. This weekend was so packed...with good things...many of them a thrill any 5-year-old would enjoy. We spent 2 hours at the Kids Against Hunger open house yesterday, where Dayna had the bouncy house pretty much to herself the whole time. Last night, I took her on an errand, where we ended up at Sonic. Afterwards, we came home, popped some popcorn and set up a fort to watch a movie. This afternoon was a picnic for Families with Children from China. . .

Well, life happened this evening, and she really wanted to play house with me. Unfortunately, I only had about 10 minutes to give her. Now bedtime has come (and gone), and we still haven't really just played together. Tomorrow is Monday...the whirlwind starts again.

I'm really trying to make the most of the time we have together, but quality time just isn't enough. I need to be able to have a quantity of time with her as well. I dropped everything a few minutes ago, took my half-dressed daughter (the other half was in pajamas already) for a dusky walk around the block. I tried to have a heart-to-heart with her, but we're both just so sad and strung out missing each other, that we're both in tears.

I keep telling myself that the routines are just now starting...new year of Bible Study, new year of Children's Ministry programming...once we get that routine set, it will get easier. It just seems so hard right now, and I need my daughter...dare I say she needs me, too?

I don't know where I'm going with this, but I'm signing off, crawling in bed with Dayna, and reading her a story...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just When I'm Feeling the Routine...

Finally! Week 5 of working full-time (week 4 with students) and I'm finally fitting into a groove. At my new school, I finally feel like 3 of my grade levels and I are starting to figure out how we all work together. I'm starting to see small successes with my new students, I'm not feeling quite so crabby and "fly by the seat of my pants." Classroom routines are working and I've finally made sense of our new online grading system.

Things are humming along, and I'm finally beginning to feel like I can do this. It's going to be okay.

Then I walk into my portable and discover that sometime in the 5 days since I've been at that school, my laptop was stolen. The good news is that I'm not liable, since it was taken from school property. But...all of my CDs were loaded into iTunes; a lot of my chapter's information was on the hard drive....my lesson plans, my power point presentations...

I know this is not the end of the world, but it certainly put a wrinkle in my week that was very, very hard to shake. Crabby Mrs. Wilson came back, and it was generally a really crummy last two days of the week.

Cars and computers...necessary evils. *sigh*

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Know I'm Not the First...

I know I'm not the first mom in history who had to work full-time outside the home, but it certainly feels that way. For 3 weeks, the only day I've left work before 4:30/5:00 was Dayna's first day of school. Even then, I brought a lot of work home. I don't remember putting in this much "extra" (and also unpaid) time when I was full-time before. I wonder if it is going to end...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dayna's First Day of School

Pretending to sleep for the camera. Notice the sticker she's already put on her hand?
Awake and ready to go
Healthy breakfast to start the day
We all love this outfit
Can she contain the enthusiasm?
Backpack? Check. Lunchbag? Check.
Always Daddy's girl
Wilson girls ready for school
10 minutes until school starts!
Here's her class
She's easy to spot in a crowd.
Looks like she had fun!
Telling Mom all about her first day!

The biggest impression? "I think I'm going to like Mrs. Starns, 'cause she smiles ALL the time!"

Alaina's First Day of School


It's a tradition to take my picture every year on the first day of school. I have no idea why Dan waits to take it until I get home...I usually look pretty beat by then! Enjoy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Needed This

This crazy week has overwhelmed me, and it almost won. Then God reminded me:

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Is. 43:2

Thank you, Lord that your Word is living and active. It is timely and timeless.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Identity

I've been reading some interesting adoption blogs lately. A common thread I've seen is a discontent (I'd even go so far as to say anger in a lot of cases) of adult adoptees. These issues really stem with a crisis of identity. In no way to I want to discredit real, honest feelings of adoptees. But I must question some of what I have read.

I've seen this angst particularly with cross cultural adoptions. They are angry with their parents for taking them from their culture. I have even (repeatedly) seen comments like "I wish I would have stayed in the orphanage with people who look like me rather than be adopted and taken away from my heritage." I've also seen people make generalized statements that if parents can't put a child in a school with a certain percentage of (whatever ethnicity...I'll say Asian) students, those parents have no business adopting. So...a child is better off in an orphanage than in a small town? I've even seen one (I'm sure well-meaning) adult adoptee twist Scripture and cast curses on those who would "rip a child from his mother's womb."

Are there still problems with adoption? YES. Would a child be best with biological parents? If at all possible (but not necessarily always...look at our foster care system.) But I also know that international adoption today is not like it was 30 years ago.

I really do feel for these adult adoptees who are struggling with identity issues. It makes me a bit anxious for what Dayna will face as an adult. I certainly hope that she won't hate me because we adopted her and brought her to small-town Nebraska.

But then I think...if anyone is searching for their identity outside of Christ, they will always be disappointed. I KNOW that adoption is a good thing. I know that it is a Biblical thing. And if God has orchestrated the hearts of countless officials, sometimes literally moving heaven and earth to unite families, then adoption must be part of His plan for the lives of so many people.

And so I pray for wisdom for myself, and contentment in an identity grounded in Christ for these unhappy people.

Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not. But I'm so glad I know the One who gave us all the answers.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Full Speed Ahead

It has been a crazy, crazy, crazy two weeks. Have I mentioned that it's been crazy? I can't say that we've settled into a full-time routine yet, but I must have the most amazing husband in the world. He hasn't said a word to me about my preoccupations and general distractions since I went back to work. He's quietly made sure dinner gets put on the table and laundry gets done throughout the week. He's kept Dayna entertained and on task when necessary. He's spent his day off setting up my classrooms and sticking velcro on whatever I need velcro stuck on. (Yes, I ended a preposition, that should tell you where my mind is at. Oops...I did it again!)

But school is going well. I have a learning curve in my new building. Little procedural things like how I get copies made, how to procure supplies like a stapler and pencils...these things will take time to navigate. The staff is wonderfully friendly, and I haven't noticed any major student behavior issues. My new building does have a high percentage of non-English speaking students, and I need to learn to SLOW DOWN when I talk. I have always been a fast speaker, and in my attempt to start the year with enthusiasm, I think I've overwhelmed some of my kiddos! My familiar buildings seem to be humming along nicely. However, I'm exhausted and wondering how in the world I'm going to keep up with all my responsibilities.

Keep praying for my priorities and balance. I'm hoping that once I get my feet underneath me, I'll land upright and be able to find that balance.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Using a Ladle

My goal for the summer (and everyday, but particularly this summer) was to be purposeful in my activities and conversations with Dayna. I wanted to establish routines, habits and memories that would help shape Dayna into a future responsible adult.

So I sit here at the computer now, less than an hour before I go to bed before I start the full-time teaching thing in the morning. I've been reflecting all day on how I did with my goals.

Today was one of those days that I never really stopped moving. Dayna and I were up and going by 7:00, had laundry gathered, sorted and started by 7:20 before we took the car to be fixed (again!) We walked home from the mechanic, stopping for a special breakfast on the way. Once home (about 8:15), it was go, go, go. I really was moving nonstop, and yet my house wasn't getting any cleaner. I was getting frustrated, because I really wanted to enjoy Dayna today and give her a little extra attention. But duty was calling, and I had to just keep moving. I ended up talking to both my mother-in-law and my mom this morning, sharing some of my angst at getting things done, but having nothing to show for it.

Well, lunch time came. Dayna has been asking and asking for mac and cheese lately, so I told her we could have that today. I used my handy shortcut (have I mentioned yet the instant hot water dispenser Dan gave me for my birthday? He's really the best husband in the world!) and started with near boiling water. Dayna poured in the noodles and I set the timer. When it was done, I drained the noodles, but Dayna did everything else to prepare our lunch today. While I was flitting around like a whirling dervish trying to get things picked up around the house, I flew back through the kitchen to see Dayna using the wooden spoon to dish the mac and cheese into some plastic bowls. At this moment, it dawned on me to STOP and help Dayna find a better way. I pulled the soup ladle out of the utensil jar. Dayna quickly learned that the ladle is much more effective than the wooden spoon.

And it dawned on me...it's a very little thing, but I taught my daughter how to use a ladle today. Never again will she try to serve mac and cheese (or similar dishes) with a wooden spoon. It's great for stirring, but not for serving. This may not have an eternal impact on my daughter, but the simple act of showing her a better way is one step closer to helping Dayna make a happy home for her family someday.

Have I been purposeful? I have a daughter who wants to help (and is truly helpful). I've seen a better work ethic in both of us. I'm learning to stop what I'm doing (okay, today wasn't the best example) and spend time investing in my daughter. And I've learned to give myself grace when it comes to keeping house. I've thought for years that I must be a lazy person, and I've seen this summer that I've accomplished SO MUCH...and a lot of it has been eternal. Keeping a clean house is being a good steward of what I've been given. But, it's not the most important role in my life.

So...tomorrow starts a new chapter. I'm terrified. But I think I'll be taking a wooden spoon to work with me to remind me when I'm not getting anywhere that there might be a better way. And the answer might be sitting right next to me in the utensil jar.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

With a Little Help from My Friends


I love Dayna's imagination. She asked me yesterday if Silvermist could come over and spend the day once she was done putting the dewdrops on the spider webs. Of course, Silvermist is always such a perfect guest, I couldn't refuse. And she and Dayna get along so nicely.

Well, it was time for Dayna to do her chore, which was folding her basket of laundry. Dayna, like many five-year-olds, has a habit of stalling and not completing her work in a timely manner. She asked yesterday if Silvermist could help her fold the clothes. I told her I thought that would probably be okay.

In twenty minute's time, Dayna had her basket folded! She informed me that work always goes faster when Silvermist helps.

I wish I had an imaginary friend to help me get the housework done faster. Fairy friends...where are you?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Students Are Gifts

I confess...I'm not sure I'm ready to go back to work this week. This has been a struggle for several months as I've waited to go full-time. The pressure is starting to build and my attitude needs to be checked.

Today, I received my summer letter from the school where I have the least teaching time (only 3 classes a week.) I'm not really known at this school, and yet the principal took the time to add a handwritten message personally telling me she was glad I was returning. She enclosed the following excerpt, from Joe Martin's book "Good Teachers Never Quit."

Students Are Gifts

At my school, students are God's gifts to me. They are already wrapped, some beautifully and others less attractively. Some have been mishandled in the mail; others come "Special Delivery." Some are loosely wrapped, and others are tightly enclosed.

But the wrapping is not the gift, and this is important. It is so easy to make a mistake in this regard, to judge the contents of the gift by the wrapping paper.

Sometimes the gift (the student) is opened very easily; sometimes the help of others is needed. And maybe it's because they are afraid to be opened. Maybe they have been opened before, and because the last person didn't value them, they don't want to be opened again. It could be that when they were opened before, they were discarded and thrown away. They may now feel more like "things" instead of human beings.

At my school, just like my students, I too am a gift to be shared. God filled me with a goodness that is only mine. And sometimes even I'm afraid to look inside my own wrappings. Maybe I'm afraid I would be disappointed. Maybe I don't trust my own contents. Or maybe I've never really accepted the gift that I am.

Every meeting with my students is an exchange of gifts and an opportunity to share. I'm a gift; they are gifts. We are gifts to each other.

Monday, August 2, 2010

New Clothes

Dayna is just a *little* excited about her new school clothes!

video

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Heart to Heart

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children." (Titus 2:3-4)

14 years ago, I moved to Nebraska. I was young, far from home, and very, very naive. I was engaged to the wrong man, trying to earn a graduate degree, and generally trying to find my way on my own in the great big world. I started attending a new church, and saw a notice in the bulletin for the "Heart to Heart" program. Heart to Heart paired older women with younger women in a mentoring relationship. I was familiar with Heart to Heart back in Oregon, and thought it would be a good idea to find someone and plug myself in here in Nebraska.

Early in the week, I called the number and was paired with a lovely woman named Mary Ann. I was a graduate student studying music, Mary Ann was a piano teacher. On the surface, we were a perfect fit.

I'm so glad we were able to go beneath the surface. For 14 years, Mary Ann has become a mother figure to me (she'll never replace my mom, but it's wonderful to have somebody HERE when I need a shoulder or some advice.) She has helped me learn to be more selfless and fall more deeply in love with my husband. She has given me an example of a heart that is always worshiping her Savior. She has Godly insight into parenting. God has orchestrated so beautifully in our families the gift of adoption. We have our precocious Dayna, and Mary Ann is grandmother to precious Joshua (Liberia), Danny (Sioux), Alex (US- Hispanic), and Matthew (US - Caucasian).

Today we all gathered and celebrated Mary Ann's birthday. I was honored to be considered part of the family and join in the celebration. (I even got to help with wedding invitations for the upcoming nuptials of Mary Ann's youngest daughter.) To see those children (and sweet Savannah...a beautiful foster grandchild) playing together must bring a huge smile to God's eyes. I know it put a smile on ours.

Mary Ann is one of those bright spots of sunshine that helps everyone she touches to grow and bloom.

So now it's my turn...I wonder who God will bring to my life, and how He will use me to help another woman become more like Him.

Happy birthday, Mary Ann!

My Friday Night Frenzy Bargains

After the stress of the insurance debacle, I decided it was time to do something different on Friday. So, Dayna and I headed into Lincoln to do some school clothes shopping (is it time already!?) I must say, we scored at Kohl's. 4 outfits + a package of really cute socks for $65. I saved $73, picked up Kohl's cash for next time, and will receive an additional 15% of a future order. Not bad! Dayna was so cute in the fitting room...striking a pose and dancing around (often while not fully clothed as I was trying to pop a shirt over her head!)

From the store, we ran to Hy-Vee where I had my daily Facebook deal in hand. (If you live near Lincoln, and you haven't become a fan yet, you really need to check out their page and join.) I was supposed to get a large one-topping pizza for $2.99. At the checkstand, the pizza rang up for $5.00 and they gave me $4.00 off. That's right...pizza for the family for one dollar. And...I might add that it was one of the tastiest pizzas I've eaten in awhile! I'm definitely remembering that option for a night that Dan gets to be the "dinner hero."

We took that pizza to Dan's work and ate it quickly in the cafeteria before heading to our evening entertainment:


Earlier in the week, Dan had helped a coworker set up her new laptop. In an unnecessary act of generosity, she paid Dan a small amount for his time. It happened to be the perfect amount to pay for admission for the three of us.

Financially speaking, last night was a huge win.

Now...on to the movie...we have been reading the Ramona books to Dayna all summer. It has been so much fun for her to have the family time (us, too!) I have thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I LOVED the Ramona books as a child. Growing up on the east side of Portland, I totally related to the Quimby family. I was disappointed when I got a little older and realized that not every child had a view of Mount Hood from their classroom window.

Well, I was so pleased to see that the movie was indeed set in Portland. I would have been so upset if they put it anywhere else, or even in a "nameless" city. Beyond that, the movie really kept to the integrity of the books. It's difficult to take books that span 7 years of a girl's life and put them in a few month's time. But the key parts of the stories were all represented. It was a fresh, modern take on the books, but I never felt that the director or screenwriters were taking liberties. I also found myself completely engaged in the movie. With Selena Gomez, I thought it would be geared to the pre-teen crowd, but Dan & I were both engrossed in the film. (Don't tell...I even teared up a little bit at the end.) Because we had spent all the time reading, Dayna also followed the movie well...she was the youngest in attendance by about 4 years.

All in all...a great movie, and a great series of books!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Homemade *kosher* Marshmallows

Alaina's idiosyncracy #436: I don't eat pork. I don't eat food cooked in the same pan as pork grease. I don't eat anything with pork byproducts (i.e. lard, gelatin, etc.)

Did you know that cheap, store-brands of frosting are filled with lard? And gelatin...let's, see...most brands of yogurt, many candies, and yes....marshmallows. Do you know what this does to my camping-loving soul? How miserable I am watching and smelling everyone's marshmallows toasting and oozing out from that tasty little graham cracker sandwich while I sit and munch on a plain old graham cracker and bar of chocolate...

Well...no longer! I made my first batch of marshmallows last night...I can't believe I've gone this long in life without the joy of homemade marshmallows. I made sure that the unflavored gelatin I used was kosher (our local store brand is...I also believe Jell-o makes an unflavored gelatin. All Jell-o products are kosher as well.) I even made a huge mistake (omitted an ingredient during the boiling process...I just added it quickly when I was mixing everything together.) I also used twice the vanilla it called for...definitely adds to the flavor.

Try them...you'll fall in love. You may never buy regular marshmallows again.

http://homecooking.about.com/od/candyrecipes/r/bldes60.htm

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ranting of a Mama Bear

We're trying to get a small procedure scheduled to reduce the size of Dayna's scar before she starts school in a few weeks. We've been working for almost 2 months to get it on the books. The problem is that our insurance company is requiring a preauthorization to do a "cosmetic" procedure. Apparently, they are the only insurance company that requires this (at least, the only company our doctor works with.) They have lost requests, shuffled our paperwork around, etc. for five weeks now. In the past week, 3 urgent faxes have been sent. Each time I call, our estimated timeline for approval gets longer.

Today, I was finally told that the insurance company will not approve the procedure. They told me to schedule it, submit it, and appeal it (because it WILL be denied....straight from the insurance company's mouth.)

Well, meanwhile, we found out that Dayna's ear tube has dislodged itself and needs to be removed. This is causing some minimal hearing loss in her left ear. We figured we'd have that done while she was getting the scar revision handled...one round of general anesthetic for two procedures.

Because we are now denied the "cosmetic" procedure, we are forced to go through two surgeries with Dayna in the coming months.

I'm absolutely disgusted with our insurance company. I have never heard of a company denying care ("cosmetic" or not) for a cleft affected child. Her lip was repaired (beautifully, I might add) when she was 14 months old. Since then, her face has grown, skin has stretched, and her scar and lip need to be revised. I don't fathom how the insurance company doesn't consider this medical. Do I really WANT to put my child under the knife? Do I just arbitrarily schedule plastic surgery for a five-year-old because I don't like how something looks? Seriously, now!

Okay...my ranting is over...for now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Winning the Skirmish

I've long been convinced that since there seems to be no earthly value or good in crabgrass, it must be one of the consequences of the curse.

So, as I pitched yet another battle with this not-so-ornamental groundcover in my back flowerbed this morning, I couldn't help but send thoughts out to Adam and Eve while doing my own share of gardening this morning. Of course, my thoughts weren't exactly charitable or kind. Then, to confirm my suspicions of crabgrass being part of the curse in that original Garden, a sneaky, ugly snake made his way across my path.

I really have no deep spiritual thoughts about this subject...I suppose I could have spent more time praying and less time muttering to the crabgrass and snake. I will say, I may not win the war, but I have won today's skirmish with the crabgrass.

Now...what to do about another one of my garden creations that seem to have no earthly value....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Expectations

Disclaimer: random, honest ramblings ahead.

I recently wrote of a party I threw to celebrate God. I never wanted the party to be about me, but to be about God's goodness.

The lead-up to my party was kind of disappointing. I confess, I wonder why it's so easy for people to spend hours on Facebook or other computer sites, but when asked to send a brief story of something God has done in their lives, I got little response. In fact, over 90% of some very personal messages and requests were outright ignored. Invitations went out to people I knew have been touched by the Lord in some way...people who profess a relationship with Christ. Less than 10% of the people I invited responded with a story. I don't share this to sound judgmental...I just don't understand why people wouldn't want to take a moment to share God's goodness.

In talking with my mom, we discussed that the whole concept of celebrating your re-birthday is foreign to many people. They didn't quite know what to do with my invitation. If you fell into that category, I'd love to get into your head a little bit and know what I could have done differently.

Anyway, I did receive some lovely stories, and I cherish the scrapbook that I have made. It's a wonderful way for me to celebrate what God has done for my friends, and a reminder when things look bleak that GOD IS WORKING.

As far as the party goes, aside from husband and daughter, I had 4 friends come. I had planned on 30. It was a little hard to not be disappointed, but since I had been specifically praying about my expectations, I see that God hand-picked the friends who would come. When I think about the 3 people who have influenced my faith the most since I moved to Nebraska, I realized that all 3 were there. I was also able to make a connection with a man at church (he "happened" to be walking by, so he came in and joined us...he makes the total jump to 5) who works with foreign students at the University. We're hoping to use this connection to meet some Chinese students and further make an impact on that country we love so much.

So, if you were able to share in my celebration, either by sending a story or coming to my party, thank you. If you weren't, please take the time to celebrate God by sharing one thing...just one thing...God has done with someone around you (it doesn't have to be me). Please...do it today!

Thanks for letting me honestly ramble...I pray I haven't offended.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Story

Tomorrow, I'm having a 25th Birthday celebration. I hope this will be a time of worship and praise for what God has done not only in my life, but in the lives of my friends. I've asked my friends to share a brief story of something God has done in their lives. Here's mine (not very brief, but hardly everything I need to say, either.)
It’s amazing to look back at 25 years of life in Christ. I don’t even know where to begin as I think of the lessons He’s taught me along the way, the blessings He’s so graciously given me and my family, and the times He’s carried me and held me close when I just couldn’t seem to take another step.

For some reason, God chose to give me the thorn of anxiety and depression. At various times in my faith, these have hit me with a vengeance. I even remember a slump when I refused to open my Bible for several months. I’m so glad God didn’t go through a similar slump and ignore me. When I was finally able to forgive a friend (whom I blamed for my slump), I saw that God had never really left me. I see that these times have prepared me for other trials by imprinting Scripture on my heart.

These lessons came back when I foolishly agreed to marry a man who was absolutely NOT the man God intended for me. After almost a year and half of being mistreated, God extracted me from this relationship.

As the initial shock wore off that day and the uncertainty about the future started to sink in, I called a friend for one of those heart-to-heart talks. I cried, I sighed in relief, I worried, and I asked my friend to pray. Knowing that sleep would probably not come to me that night, my friend opened the Bible and read these words to me over the phone:

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
2 My help comes from the LORD,
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

My friend gave me permission to sleep, knowing that God would keep the night watch for me.

You know, I ended up marrying my friend...

Early in our marriage, it became evident that becoming parents by traditional means was not a probability. By God’s grace, we realized that our plans for a family were shutting out God’s plans.

Meanwhile, Dan was working at Back to the Bible. After hearing the stories of a coworker who regularly traveled to China, the seeds of passion for the Chinese people were planted in his heart. In fact, Dan gave up his dream of getting a short wave radio for his birthday one year so he could send one to China instead.

During this time, I read the book Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. After reading this book, she was awakened many times in the middle of the night with the overwhelming need to pray for the people of China. “Why China?” I asked. The message gently came, “I have plans for you there.”

After about a year of separately praying for China, we visited a church in another town. The guest speaker was a missionary on furlough from China. After the service, one of us mentioned to the other (we forget who now), “I think God wants us to go to China.” Imagine our surprise when we realized that this desire had been planted in both of our hearts without the other’s knowledge.

We attended an informational meeting with the adoption meeting in November of 2003. The morning session was about international adoption (specifically Chinese); the afternoon was about domestic. We walked into this meeting open to whatever God would have us do. By the end of the day, we realized that God had brought our hearts to China “for such a time as this.”

Our adoption journey was bumpy, filled with detours and potholes, and often roadblocks where we would simply stop and wait on the Lord.

But holding my daughter today, I see that she was EXACTLY the child God planned for our family, and that we are the parents she needs. I can’t imagine giving birth to a child whose personality and interests would complement our family more.

Today this little girl, who for reasons known only to God, survived the first few days of her life, has been hand-selected by Him to come to the United States, become a Wilson, and ultimately be part of His family. On February 8, 2009, Dayna asked Jesus to be her savior.

Somehow, God has seen fit to entrust us with a child who has a compassionate heart, especially toward others. At least once a week, we hear her wish to grow up and go to China so she can tell people about Jesus. She prays for people who worship Buddha, that they would know Jesus is the only true God.

She also cares very much about orphans. Last fall, she enthusiastically wanted to give food to hungry kids in Africa and reluctantly shared one dollar to send to them. Through word of mouth (but ultimately God’s purposes), that dollar stretched and grew to over 1,000 dollars, providing over 4,000 meals to children in Sierra Leone. To further impact her little heart, we had the chance to physically package many of the meals that were sent to these children.

These are just a few stories of God’s faithfulness in my life. We’ve seen God provide through unemployment (and underemployment). We’ve experienced the heartache of leaving a church that we took part in planting. We’ve learned to depend on God’s Word alone as the authority of our lives. We’ve also learned to depend on those Words for comfort, conviction and daily Spiritual nourishment.

My story began in God’s heart in eternity past. My physical life began 9 months before I was born. My eternal life began 25 years ago when a faithful teenager shared the story of my sin, God’s grace, and Christ’s sacrifice. I’m so glad my parents sent me to Bible Camp that year.

I only pray that through these past 25 years, and however many more the Lord gives me here on earth, I can likewise be as faithful as that high school volunteer. I pray God gives me the courage and compassion to share what He’s done for me, and what He longs to do for others.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Responsibility System


I've been praying this summer about how to instill more of a sense of responsibility in Dayna, as well as finding a routine that will fit our family's "new normal" in August once Dayna starts school and I return to work full-time.

This week, a friend on Facebook posted a link to a great resource: the Fisher-Kids system. (Click here for more details.) I absolutely love the philosophy and motivation behind this system. Teaching kids that they are part of a team, that they earn rewards and are not entitled to them, learning wise (and dare I say, Biblical) financial skills...this just makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, I don't have the money to invest in their system (but if it works for you, I say go for it!) We did find a way to make it work for us, though, at an investment of around $20.00. I still plan on buying 3 little piggy banks for Dayna (Give, Save, Spend), and some play quarters to represent her "Commission". (They will be magnetized on to her board.)

So, this is how we made it work for Dayna:

Daily Responsibilities (these are expectations...she receives no monetary compensation for them, it's just part of being on Team Wilson):
  1. Make bed
  2. Get dressed
  3. Clear dishes
  4. Empty box (we all have a box now for our stray things)
  5. School work
  6. Tidy room
  7. Brush teeth
These are represented by a yellow stick. When she completes them, she moves the stick to the empty pail.


Weekly chores (she will have to complete an assigned number each day, excluding Sunday; she will receive 1 quarter for each chore completed. Dayna helped choose most of these tasks.):
  1. Pick up basement (putting stray items in appropriate boxes)
  2. Pick up living room (same)
  3. Vacuum stairs
  4. Sweep under kitchen table
  5. Spot clean kitchen floor
  6. Wipe toilet and bathroom sink
  7. Gather and sort laundry
  8. Fold laundry (as she is able)
  9. Dust living room
  10. Mom's choice
  11. Dad's choice
  12. Free chore (extending grace and giving her the occasional day off when least expected)
These are represented by a red stick. Once completed, they go in the empty pail, and she can move the magnetic quarter to her weekly "commission bank." There are more chores to choose than she will have to do in a week. This adds to the randomness, and also shows that Mom & Dad are helping get things done as well...she doesn't have to do EVERYTHING. (I am aware that there are many things Mom & Dad do that aren't on sticks.)
Sunday is a day of rest and worship. It is also the day that she can collect the quarters she earned in the week.

She will need to fill out a slip of paper telling us what she earned.

For now, from her earnings, she will be expected to give at least one quarter to church and save at least one quarter for the bank (we will start taking regular trips to the bank). The rest of the quarters are for her to save short-term and spend with our guidance.

We are all excited to start our new system on Monday. I love the fact that it looks pretty cute hanging in her room as well.