Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The "Why" of Christmas

Yes, I may have just wrapped my first Christmas gift of the season with a glue stick instead of tape because I can never find my scotch tape when I need it. No, you may not judge me!

But seriously, though, why does the Christmas season have to be hurried? Who decided to cram weekends and weekouts with parties, activities, and obligations? I bet it was the same fool who invented the Elf on the Shelf. Or his great great great great grandfather, or something.
  Please don't get me wrong, I love gathering together with friends and/or family for fun parties and doing special activities with my precious children as much as the next mom, but putting them back to back to back to back is taxing on anybody! Heck, my mom was listing her calendar of events for the month of December to me the other day, and I got tired just listening to it.
  I think I would better be able to handle all this fun-having if so much wasn't expected. Expected of me, expected of the party, expected of my kids,... just expected! You can't just host a Christmas party by cleaning your house and setting out the appropriate amount of seating and snacks; you have to make sure your home is beautifully and festively decorated and smells like warm sugar cookies and cinnamon and that you have enough theme-appropriate dishes you could stuff everyone at your next church pot luck. And when invited, you cant just show up at these events without an impressive, pintrest-worthy appetizer that will have people praising your culinary skills and asking for the recipe later. And if the lights you put up in your front yard aren't synchronized to music of some sort and costing you and arm and a leg and some sleep, don't even bother decorating, you slouch!
   My satirical tirade is not at all meant as a slight to those of my dear readers who actually do all the above with joy, gusto and aplomb. I'm simply trying to express how I feel in times like these. I do not have the gift of organization. Or planning. Or a good memory. So for me, all the seemingly simple additions to the usual party or gathering; such as buying/wrapping/bringing gifts, remembering all the ingredients for each platter I pledged to bring and having it prepared in time, or which day/what time the events are happening, is a stressful burden on my usually frazzled brain!
    And on top of all of the bonus tasks the holidays bring, I have to keep my house clean (-ish) and my family fed! Just writing about it makes me want to curl up in bed and take a nap.
   But I don't want this post to make me out to be a Grinch. I definitely don't want to cause anyone reading this to suddenly realize how much Christmas stresses them out and despair! Because the honest-to-goodness truth is I love Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Christmas parties are always fun and entertaining. I love how special all the decorations everywhere makes this time of year feel. I love the smell and tastes and sounds and songs that I always associate with Christmas time. (If I smell a pine tree in mid-June, I feel like it's Christmas for a few seconds, despite the Texas summer heat!) And, as I've already said, I love spending special time with my family and my friends.
   Most of all, dear readers, I love that we are celebrating the most mind-blowing, unbelievable, inconceivable birthday in the history of history. When I stop, slow my mind down, and dwell on the real reason why we're celebrating like we are, I am amazed.
     Friends, let's take a quick rabbit trail:
I am pregnant. Inside me, a life is forming, helpless and small, that is completely dependent on me for its survival. Even after the birth of said life, this tiny newborn baby will be the most helpless it will ever be in its life. Are you envisioning a tiny, new baby right now?
    Now try, if you dare, to envision the creator of the universe. The Alpha and Omega. The First and the Last. Try to picture the second person of the Trinity, through whom all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. A being that holds together the very existence of creation.
    All that glory- that bigness that is God the Son condescended Himself to become just like the helpless life that is currently the size of an apple in my womb. God didn't just become man, He was born. Jesus, the Son of God, was once Mary's newborn baby. Forget the humble manger, the lowly stable, the smelly shepherds being the first visitors- Jesus Christ, the very Word of God, was a newborn! Born to live a perfect life that I never could, then die a sinner's death as I deserve, then defeat death and rise again so that I can trade my sinful rags for his perfect righteousness and live forever with Him!            
 That's mind-blowing! That's life-changing! That's definitely worthy to be celebrated in a big, drawn-out way!
Without Christmas, there would be no Easter. Without Easter, there would be no hope. I love celebrating Christmas AND Easter because of what we are celebrating, not how we are celebrating. And my husband and I are trying our darnedest to teach our children this important truth.
  Oh, how easy it is to get swept up, carried away with, and overwhelmed by the business of this season. May it be, Lord, that through it all, we can show our children the true reason why this month of the year is distinguished from all the others. You came as a little baby, sweet and small, born to be the King of all. We are celebrating You, and what You did for us! Thanks for doing that, by the way.

  In closing, dear readers, be encouraged! Have great cheer! Enjoy yourselves as we draw closer and closer to Christmas day. Through it all, remember why we're celebrating. It's a sure-fire way to truly be blessed by this Christmas season. 

Monday, November 30, 2015


The little love nugget in my belly made his or herself known last night.
As I lay in bed next to my husband, my hands resting comfortably on my tummy, I was startled from my reverie by a sudden, solitary, and tiny "thump"! It only happened once, and it was a teeny little thing, but I felt it so distinctly that I knew in an instant what it was. I actually jump and went "oh!"
  That scared Stephan.
 "WHAT?" He asked, flipping onto his side and searching me for a source of my sudden start.
I didn't look at him. I was too busy rubbing my hands over where my baby had bumped me and smiling like a fool.
  "I felt a kick!" I gushed. "Well, hey there, little guy!"
Stephan sighed, annoyed to have been worked up over nothing truly concerning, and flopped back onto his back.
   "Don't be calling my little daughter a guy." He groused as he settled back down.

And thus began my second trimester.

  But to reminisce for a moment;
Thanksgiving was this past week. I love Thanksgiving. I don't think it gets nearly enough credit or applause. Sure, it might not have a vast history or deep, spiritual meaning like its over-shadowing, subsequent holiday that is Christmas, but I find it to be just as warm and lovely.
  Like every other family in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering together with family and eating a lot of food. Unlike every TV or movie family ever, these family gatherings of ours are never tense, awkward, or filled with strife and yelling. In fact, they're happy, love-soaked events that always leave me feeling blessed to have the family I do.
  It's a rather big family. When we're all together, we need plenty of space to house our shindigs.
  Thankfully, Aunt Kristi's new home was plenty spacious for all the clan to eat together. And eat we did! So much food! Such variety! The deliciousness! it was a tasty event. Everyone got to reconnect and get caught up on the latest family news that might have been missed on facebook. One of my cousins practically proposed to his precious girlfriend! (But not really. For a moment, though, everyone got really excited!)
  Besides the wonderful food and joyful company, what I enjoyed the most was what happened right before we prayed and ate: Jack, my aunt's husband and one of the newer members of the family, proposed that everyone form a circle, hold hands, and take turns sharing what we're thankful for. That was a great idea, Jack. We've never done that before, to my limited memory, and most everyone was eager to share. The predominant and most reoccurring theme of thankfulness was salvation. Praise was given to God for the family there and away, the food we were about to eat, and the undeserved love He gives to us.
   My heart was warmed by the love. My tummy was warmed by the food. I laughed a lot. I hugged family members I haven't seen in a while. Then we bid everyone a farewell until Christmas.
    Oh boy! Christmas is coming!! I'll try to be regular with my blog updates through the month of December, but don't be shocked if that doesn't happen, dear readers. This month is gonna be busy! So, until next time, stay warm and enjoy the Christmas lights, friends! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I Am So Upset

Y'all are about to get an eyeful of angry, 'cause I'm about to rant.

Not about cups or climate change or who is leading the polls, but about something truly near and dear to my heart.

I have written on this blog before about my love for lasagna. More specifically, my mother's lasagna. My mother makes dense, delicious, cheesy, meaty, saucy lasagna with love straight from the heart. When I slice into my mother's thick, hearty lasagna, I feel just about overwhelmed with tantalizing smells and happy thoughts. When I take a bite of this home made delight, I think of how loved I felt as a child. This meal needs no supplements; no Parmesan cheese or sprinkle of salt to boost the flavor, it's a culinary delight all on it's own. (Garlic bread is a permissible side. Salad is alright, too).
   It's because of my experience with and love of my mother's lasagna that I hold all other lasagnas to a very high standard. I've tasted some lasagnas that were almost as good. I've tasted some that were good in their own way. Most, however, fall miserably short of  my lasagna standards. The platter of which I shall now describe to you, dear reader, falls into the last category.
   (Reader discretion is advised: I'm not gonna pull any punches.)

My mom was kind and considerate enough to pick up a take-and-bake-type lasagna from a place she happened to drive by yesterday and bring it to me. I have eaten dishes form this place before, and they were rather good, so I accepted her kind gift with a truly appreciative "thank you". Also, it was a lasagna; a meal that I have been jonesing for for quite some time now. From the very get-go, however, I had about me my usual wariness of strange lasagna.
   A visual inspection of the dish appeared adequate. Plenty of sauce, a healthy sprinkling of mozzarella cheese on top, and I saw some meat peeking through in places, which meant that is wasn't one of those shady veggie lasagnas. (A travesty before God and man, whoever invented the meatless lasagna hated life and happiness). Feeling optimistic, I prepped the oven and baked the pasta.
  Then it all went wrong.
 The sauce had turned the noodles into more of a soup than a structured dish, a cardinal sin for any lasagna in my book. There were WAY too many huge, chunky tomato bits; another aggravating no-no for lasagna. But y'all, that wasn't even the worst of it. Not only was the promising ground meat I saw at the start sausage instead of beef, but some ignorant, ne'er-do-well, puppy-hating joker put artichoke and capers in this lasagna!!
  Y'all, I nearly cried.
I glared at my plate. I dug around, hoping to find a redeeming quality in this abomination of my childhood dinnertime fave. I gagged at at the thought of accidentally taking a caper and artichoke-riddled bite of lasagna. I scowled as I declared the whole meal a travesty to my husband, and then I stormed to the kitchen and glared even more at the remaining pasta.
   How DARE you get my hopes up like that, you wretched dish, and then dash them so completely! Sausage? Capers? Artichoke hearts?? I've had my lasagna with venison. I've had some with cottage cheese instead of ricotta. I realize there are ways to alter the traditional lineup of meat, noodles, and cheese that does not destroy the integrity of the meal. But this...this was unacceptable and churlish.

  Okay, I think I feel a little better. If Stephan doesn't want to finish this...this..."meal", then I guess the dogs can have it.

  Mother, if you're reading this, I appreciate you and your lasagna. Thank you for all the lasagnas you've made for your family. Thank you for passing on your recipe to me. I pledge to work at perfecting my lasagna platters until they reach your lasagna's level of deliciousness.

  If you're reading this and you enjoy your lasagna with artichokes and capers in it, we can still be friends. We just won't eat lasagna together, and all will be fine.      

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Of Fatigue and Nausea

Call me Myrtle.

Well, dear readers, it has happened again.
I'm not too terribly surprised, to be honest. The hubs and I were doing a pretty poor job of preventing it from happening. So it's no surprise that, after feeling a little off-pace for a few days, I took a test and saw a big, bold, blue positive glaring back at me. My initial reaction was "opps".
  You see, friends, Stephan and I have been blessed with three children. Because we had reached what seems to be the socially acceptable number of offspring to have in an American household, we had kinda figured that we were done producing kids. In my mind, I was preparing myself for what I thought was the next step in our family's five-year plan: becoming a foster family. Stephan, meanwhile, was preparing to buy a pontoon. Per usual, God looked at our plans and laughed.
    After the initial surprise wore off, it was very quickly replaced with a smile I couldn't shake. I was immediately excited about the new baby that had just made it's presence known. I rubbed my flat(ish) belly and said, "Well, hey there, little one! I'm really excited to meet you! I promise to take good care of you, while you're in my tummy and when you come out!"
  Then I called Stephan.
    "Hey, Stephan, you busy?"
  "No, what's up?"
     "So, you know that boat you wanted to buy?"
      "Weeeeeell, you might want to hold off for now."
(I've never been one for the pintrest-worthy reveals. This has pretty much been the pattern for all four times I've told Stephan he's going to be a daddy.)
 Much to my relief, Stephan was not upset about not getting to buy a boat us having another baby. Even though a few issues did quickly cross our minds. For one, where are we gonna fit the baby? God has blessed us with a beautiful, wonderful house in a great neighborhood, and it fits us perfectly. We have our master bedroom, the boys share a room, and Belle gets her own much better decorated room. We figured at first that, if the baby's another girl, she'll end up sharing a room with big sister Belle.

But then, we remembered that, like Samson of old, Stephan has God-given, super-human abilities. He'll just add a new room to the house and move somebody there. Until that time, just as we have done with the other three, we'll keep our new baby in our bedroom with us. You know, for peace of mind and easier middle-of-the-night feedings.
      Any other issues we could think of were minor and non-consequential. The biggest thing that Stephan was most concerned about was how we were going to tell everyone. As I have previously stated, I am not good with planning and executing adorable, memorable reveals. The last few times we've been pregnant, we've never had the patience or willpower to keep it in and ended up blabbing the good news to anyone nearby. So for this, our last pregnancy for sure this time, Stephan wanted to do something truly unique and special. It just so happened that Stephan had spent an admirable amount of money earlier this year on a ticket to go see his Cowboys play the Patriots in Dallas this October. With that in mind, he swore me to secrecy and laid out his plan. With a bright enough poster board and a little bit of luck and timing, Stephan hoped to let the world know of his forthcoming fourth-coming child on that massive screen above the center field at AT&T Stadium.
  Well, that plan didn't work. Also, I'm due in June, not July. Sadly, Stephan never got any screen time, so he ended up sending me the above picture and giving me the go ahead to tell people. I got to tell my parents in person, as I was there while Stephan was at the game. (They were ecstatic). The rest of my friends and family found out soon after when Stephan posted that picture on Facebook. Good ol' Facebook; the ruin-er of surprises. The good news is that the Cowboys lost, so we don't have to worry about naming our kid "Weeden". (WHEW!)
    Once the word got out, we received kind, congratulatory sentiments across the board. I honestly did worry a bit about people's reaction to our fourth pregnancy; having heard tales of other parents receiving  judgey, critical, even harsh responses to their consecutive pregnancy announcements, but we have gotten no such response, and are happy for it. Instead, we are preparing our hearts, our home, and our family for the addition of another.
    Unlike my pregnancy with the boys, but very similar to my pregnancy with Belle, I have been nauseous. A lot. It could be worse, of this I'm sure, so I'm grateful for the level of nauseated I'm feeling. Besides the upset tummy, I've endured several other classic symptoms of growing another person. Fatigue has been my favorite so far. Thanks to fatigue, I've been in bed and asleep by 9:00 most nights these past three weeks. (I like sleep).
    The kids are excited about having another baby in the house. Even little Belle will poke me in my squishy belly and say "baby!" (It's only precious or adorable when she does it.) Noah and Witten are coming up with names to add to our list of possibilities daily. So far, their favorites are Marco, Chip, or Ivan for a boy, and Joy, Georgia, or Emma for a girl. (I think they're taking the girl names far more seriously). The boys love to see images of what the baby looks like right now via my pregnancy app, and they are eager to share the good news with anyone who cares to hear it. All in all, there is a spirit of excitement and anticipation in our house. Also, every time I see a newborn, my chest constricts a bit and I squeal, either mentally or out loud, because I get to have one of those again!
New Noah

New Witten

New Belle
You're next, little one!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Camping is for Cool Kids!

The Du Toits went camping!

Stephan found and purchased this little rv trailer a while back. He's been fixing it up all summer. Twice before, we made super fun plans to take it out and put it to good use. Both times we had to cancel last minute, and our little rv had to wait.
Finally, the time was right! All the repairs were made, the plans were set, and the family was packed. Since it was our first outing with our new-to-us trailer, and we wanted to be cautious, we reserved a spot at a state park a little over an hour away. We went with some dear friends of ours who (praise Jesus) were expert campers and were completely prepared for this mini-adventure, instead of just mostly prepared, as I was. (Soap is a good thing to pack when you go camping. And trash bags. Who'da thunk it, amirite?)
The plan: Arrive, set up, hang out, spend the night, hang out until after lunch, then pack up and head home. Like I said: super short and easy. The mini van tugged that rv impressively well, though I doubt we'll be towing it to Montana anytime soon. We reached our destination and set up our camper with ease. And by "we", I mean Stephan. I helped Sheryl set up a canopy for eating under and chairs for chillin' around the fire.
Once the men had the rv's set up, I prepared the beds for the night and arranged our things as efficiently as possible.
   I love our little rv. Off the front, over the hitch, is a queen sized bed. Off the back is a full sized bed where the boys slept.  Belle slept in her pack 'n play, kinda, which we wedged in there as best we could. In the future, I think we'll just let her bunk with us, 'cause that's where she ended up. It was really quite sweet; getting to snuggle with my precious baby again.
    While renovating, Stephan replaced the floors and we washed the cushion covers, so the interior is homey and comfortable. The toilet-shower works perfectly, which was fantastic for me, since I have a tiny bladder, and for when we returned to the campsite after an impromptu swimming session in a super muddy lake. The microwave popped the kids' popcorn with ease, and the stove worked very well when Stephan grilled some sandwiches for lunch on day two.
   The time we spent there was wonderfully relaxed. After everything at our campsites were in order, our two families went for a leisurely stroll around our neck of the woods. for dinner, we grilled some hot dogs over the fire, and then we made some 'smores, of which the children at, like, one and a half combined. They were too excited about watching a movie in the rv to enjoy all this "outdoorsy" stuff.

So, while the kids watched Despicable Me on our tiny rv tv, us adults chatted around the fire. And ate more s'mores. I love s'mores!
     When the kids' bedtime rolled around, they happily prepared for bed and then settled down. Belle and Jana konked right out, but the older ones were so excited about their temporary sleeping arrangements that they were up well past 8:00. After a tired game of Phase 10, the adults called it a night as well.
   Though the bed we slept on is queen sized, Stephan had to pretty much sleep diagonally from corner to corner so as to fit his tall frame. That meant that I had to either curl up in a corner, or sprawl across Stephan's bossy knees if I wanted to stretch out. Besides the bed-hogging, it was a fantastically comfortable sleep.
    Bright and early the next morning, our kindly camping neighbors, the Brabons, had us over to their campsite for breakfast. we broke our fast with ample servings of bananas and strawberries and scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast.  After dressing for the day, we struck out for the playground, which just happened to be located right next to the swimming area of the state park's lake. Like loud moths to a flame, the children were drawn to the lake's muddy shores. The boys and Lucy practiced swimming, while Belle and Jana splashed, ate mud, and explored the shoreline.
   It was while I was following Belle down the shore that I came across a herd of tiny baby frogs. (Herd? Gaggle? Horde?) As I excitedly called for the others to come see the cute, widdle frogs, I watched, to my amazement and mild disgust, as one fleeing frog was snapped up by a little bitty ribbon snake not even three feet from where Belle and I were standing. The kids arrived just in time to watch a live baby frog get swallowed whole by a snake. Yay, nature!
   Anyways, as Sheryl and I watched the kids splash and play, the men snuck off to surprise us by renting two paddle boats for our families to enjoy. The kids loved it. Us parents quickly realized that paddle boats are a really bad idea, unless you regularly race in the Tour de France. The guys paid for us to have them for an hour. We lasted 25 minutes. But again, the kids loved it, so I'd mark that up as a camping win.
   After returning to our campsites, we rinsed of the dirty kids and then enjoyed lunch. Right after lunch, we broke camp, packed our stuff, loaded up, and headed home. Overall, I'd count this quick trip as a victory. We noted things we could change or do better next time we camp (and we plan to camp often), and we made some happy family memories. In summation: I really enjoy camping. When there's air conditioning.
The triumphant return

Sunday, August 23, 2015

These Moments Don't last

A new mommy and a new Daddy looked down on their very new baby.
He was bundled snugly in his warm blankie and tucked safely in his crib for the first time.
The new mommy and daddy marveled at the tiny person that God had entrusted to their care, and they prayed that they would be the best parents they could be. They wondered about their new baby's future and prayed for his safety. They imagined great things for him as he grew big and strong, but for this moment, they stared in awe at how tiny and precious he was. The mommy picked him up and very slowly swayed him back and forth and back and forth, and she whispered to him,
"Take your time growing, baby. Don't grow up too fast. Time moves so quickly and these moments don't last."

That tiny baby grew. He grew and he grew and he grew, until he was two years old. He ran really fast, he lifted heavy things, like his daddy, and he ate everything in the kitchen. He also became a big brother, and was most excited to be a good helper. His mommy and daddy would try to hide their smiles as that little two year-old tried to do big and strong things and have clever little ideas, and they would swoop him up and tell him what a big boy he was! Then the mommy would cuddle him close and tell him with a smile,
 "Take your time growing, baby. Don't grow up too fast. Time moves so quickly and these moments don't last."

That two year-old boy grew. He grew and he grew until he was five years old. He loved puzzles and solving problems. He ran after his brother and carried around his baby sister. He was shy when he met new friends, and loved his good friends with all his little heart. After graduating from pre-school, it came time for this big little boy to start kindergarten. The night before his first day of school, he packed up his backpack, laid out his first-day-of-school outfit, and then said a special prayer with his mommy and daddy before going to bed.
As his mommy kissed him good-night, she marveled at how big he was, and how smart he was, and how blessed she was to be his mommy. As she turned out the light, she quietly whispered,
 "Take your time growing, baby. Don't grow up too fast. Time moves so quickly and these moments don't last."

Saturday, August 8, 2015


I'm going to try to keep this certain post short.
I've said that before and failed miserably. This time, I aim to stay true to my intentions. In part because I have a short window of guiltless sit down time before naptime is over (during which I should probably shower. I can smell my hair...), but mainly because of the fact that, if I let my emotions take over and run with this topic, I'll be here all day. Then I'll cry and get angry and feel guilty and cry some more... it wouldn't be pretty.

Everyone is talking about it recently, and for obvious reasons. With the videos being leaked of what is happening in the clinics that provide these procedures, it has become impossible to turn a blind eye to this heavy topic, unless you are obstinately refusing to see the issue and, therefore, weigh in with your opinion.
  Here's my opinion:
This is my youngest baby, Belle, at 18 weeks in utero.
Had I been so inclined, I could have legally terminated my pregnancy at this time, even up to two weeks after, in some states.
This is Belle a couple of weeks ago at a friend's fifth birthday party. She really enjoyed that cookie cake. She's a sass. She loves dogs and gives any dog she meets kisses. She does not take kindly to being told what to do, which means that she and I will have a long road of tough times ahead of us when it comes to obedience and training of any kind. Belle loves to dance and loves her daddy more than me. (That last one stings a little bit, but I'm okay with it, 'cause I know what it's like to adore your daddy. It's a good thing, trust me!)
Belle's sharp little mind is growing and learning new things every day. I see so much beauty and potential when I look at my baby girl. She is perfect! She is a blessing! She is everything she was when they took that sonogram picture of her in my belly over a year ago. All of her beauty and potential began the moment part of her daddy and part of me came together to form an entirely unique individual, who happens to look like me and share her father's temper. All of that could have been snuffed out and lost entirely, had I chosen to do so.
  The truth is, I never had a choice. We wanted a baby. God blessed us with another pregnancy. I recognized it for what it is: my body miraculously and amazingly creating, carrying, and nurturing a whole new life inside of me! I used to wonder what she would look like, what she would act like, and what God had in store for her in the future. I still do. Each baby born has the potential to do amazing things!
  If they get to live.

Now's the part where I try not to get emotional.

I have heard the arguments for abortion. Some are so ludicrous, weak, or downright terrible that I dont even care to address them right now, 'cause I'll get mad.
Some, however, are reasons that show real concern, or are veiled to look like just reasons to chose to end a life.  Reasons like: rape, incest, hopeless mothers in war-torn countries, starving mothers in abject poverty, or an extremely high-risk pregnancy that will cost the mother her own life.
  To these, I say; let's talk. I'll discuss this with you. I'm pro-life, so I would vote for whatever means, method or procedure that would save as many lives as possible. A mother's life is just as much a life as the baby's and vice verse, so I realize the need for compassion, understanding, and help in these extreme cases.
  But, precious readers, that's just what they are: extreme cases.
  In the United States, at least, the main reasons for abortion are for convenience's sake. The unwanted responsibility. Not wanting to be a single parent. Not ready to be a parent. Can't afford a baby right now. Already had all the children they want. Or this reason, my least favorite: concern that having a baby would change their current lifestyle. According to pretty much any honest study done on reasons for abortions in America, and specifically the one I'm citing *HERE* , The percentages of abortions performed for reasons concerning the mother or baby's physical, mental, or emotional health aren't even above 5%.
  That means that at least 95% of abortions fall into the realm of convenience. A (new) person had to die for the sake of another person(s)'s (the parent(s)) ability to live their life the way they want to. Doesn't that kinda sound like murder? Isn't that definitely murder? In which of those situations is adoption not a loving, life-giving option? (I will save my entirely favorable opinion on adoption for another post. This one is already far longer than I planned on it being.)
  In summation, dear readers, my opinion is this: Adoption, not abortion. Abortion is the ending of an innocent life. It is sick, evil, and selfish. It is killing. It is murder. These words sound harsh, but so is murder, so I'm not sorry to use them.
  To women who have been there, who have done that, I'm sorry you felt like you had to sacrifice your child's life for any reason. I'm sorry if your situation in life was so dire that you thought you had no other option. Please believe me when I say that abortion is not an unforgivable sin, and that there is forgiveness, redemption, and restoration offered to all who fall short of God's high standard. I need that just as much as you.
  To any women who are contemplating abortion: please think about what you are doing! For the sake of the life inside of you that (for at least 24 weeks) is entirely dependent on you to survive, please don't do it. Seek alternative measures! Look into adoption! If I know you personally, I will take your baby for you and love it like crazy, and I'm not even joking. This is a new life we're discussing here! A beating heart, a thinking mind, kicking legs, ticklish feet, grasping hands, blinking eyes, and a yawning mouth. For this new person's life's sake, chose life!  
To my fellow Christians: please consider adoption. there are so many parent-less children out there that need homes. If God has given you the means to care for kids, prayerfully consider adding to your family through adoption. Stephan and I have plans to become a foster family with the intention to adopt, if that is God's will for us. Consider doing the same, Christian family, if you are able. The need is great, but our God is greater, and He uses us, His body, to work out His will on earth.
    Life is precious.

Matthew 19:14
  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Monday, June 22, 2015

VBS: Very Busy Schedule

I grew up in a non-denominational church. This church was like a second family to me. Everybody knew everybody. We weren't a small church, per say, we just started out small. For most of my young, formative years, my church hosted Vacation Bible School every summer. It seemed like the entire church took part. From my experience with volunteering at my current church's VBS this year, I'm starting to suspect that volunteering was mandatory for the congregation and all who abstained from assisting in some way was excommunicated or something, because everyone played some part in making it happen. All that to say; the VBS that my old church put on was the bomb.
  I can remember very little from my childhood, due to a crummy memory that I've mentioned before (I think...), but I can clearly recall, with fond memories, many aspects and details of this week-long summer "school" that were crazy-awesome, especially for small children. The theme for many, many years was something along the lines of the 12 tribes of Isreal and life in Jerusalem at the time of Christ. I'm not sure if this theme was concocted entirely by the elders/deacons/pastoral staff, or if, like all Vacation Bible Schools offered nowadays, the theme was selected from some catalog that many other churches ordered from, but I again suspect that it was the former, because I haven't seen another church do anything similar to it.
  The effort, detail, and time put in to making this week-long event happen must have been phenomenal! I remember so clearly feeling like I had traveled back in time when I entered my room at VBS, because each individual room was decorated to look like a Middle Eastern nomad's tent or Jewish home. Each class a tribe, and each group leader went all-out when decorating! Sheets covered the walls, rugs covered the floors, cushions were set around for sitting on, and there was a menorah and mezuzah put in the proper place in each room and used in the proper way to teach children how the Jewish people lived when Jesus was alive. Not only that, but everyone dressed to part, too. Women and men wore long tunics and robes with appropriate head coverings, and little tunics were handed out to each kids attending. We were all given our own little leather money pouches with a set number of pennies in them for us to "spend" or give to the poor at our discretion. Once we were out of pennies, we were out.
   Where did we spend our pennies, you ask? In the marketplace. Our sanctuary would be turned into a noisy, busy bazaar. Stalls lined the walls with crafts to make and wares to buy. And when I say "crafts", I don't mean making a sun out of paper plates, glitter and glue. I mean leather working, candle making, even paper making! I could spend a penny to make a belt, then go next door and watch a potter at his wheel make urns and pitchers and bowls, then I could drop a penny or two to make a couple of functional candles. You had to be careful not to trip over the crippled beggar that would beg for any pennies you could spare. Good, kind children would give the beggar some pennies. You also had to watch out for the wicked tax collector. He would make rounds in the marketplace, dressed in the fanciest robes, demanding your taxes and snatching pennies from careless kids. Once or twice, I even saw the tax collector steal the poor, crippled beggar's stash of pennies! I felt real outrage! Especially that time me dad was the beggar. Oooo, that tax collector had sinned the greatest sin by stealing my poor, crippled daddy's meager begging wages! Yeah, that marketplace was awesome.
  I recall these fun memories now because I have just completed my first night working at my church's VBS. The theme is Climbing Mt. Everest. My church is all decked-out to look like a snow-covered base camp at the foot of Mt. Everest. The classroom that my friend and I are teaching in has a tent and some trees and sleeping bags and lanterns and snowflakes in it. The curriculum we're following is fun, simple, and full of Biblical truths. Many members of the congregation have dedicated a lot of time, effort, and energy in making this VBS a reality, including myself. Here I am, after one evening of co-leading the pre-school class, and I am exhausted!
    I don't want to compare the nostalgic memories of my childhood with the responsibility of this present VBS week, but just thinking about the work that must have been put into setting up, running, tearing down, and cleaning up Jesus' Jerusalem must have been ridiculous! I can only hope and pray that the kids who are attending Sylvania's Mt. Everest VBS will hang onto the memory of the fun they had and the truths they learned with us for years to come. Also, thanks, Bethel Bible Church, for hosting some pretty crazy-awesome Vacation Bible Schools back in the day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Well, there goes half a year...

It has been six months since my last post.
How on earth does that happen?
A friend of mine shared a quote with me that may be entirely too accurate in describing this strange phenomenon: when parenting, the days last forever, but the years fly by. I believe that is true for life in general.
   In high school, I wished the time away, because it was high school. I lamented the time-suck that was organized education, and the laughably light load of responsibility my part time job(s) put on me. Yet, at the same time, I was having the time of my life. My friends were a tight-knit group of awesome, surprisingly well-behaved (comparatively speaking), kind and supportive kids, and we had lots of care-free fun. I loved being the star and soul of the softball team (my old teammates may disagree as to whether that was my actual role, but deep in their hearts, they know it was true...) I loved singing in the choir, I loved working on the newspaper staff, and I loved the lazy summer days spent at the lake. We got some impressive sunburns there.
  Now, as I look back, those are some sweet "good old days". I thought they would never end, at the time, and yet they went by so fast.
    Stephan proposed to me 6 months into our relationship. We set the date for 6 months later. Those were the longest 6 months of my young life. The planning, the preparations, the tantalizing waiting! I had a countdown going until the big day. My future husband had a countdown going for the start of Cowboys' football. I still married him. In that time of excitement and anxiety and an impressive show of self control, it felt like that special May 12th was years and years away.
  Boy, that day flew by so fast. That was 8 years ago.   
 When I was enduring my stunted stay in the frustrating quagmire that was my college experience, I would sit in a class, staring at the wall, daydreaming of my handsome boyfriend-who-quickly-turned-fiancee-and-then-husband, and think to myself, "Woah, I found the place were time stands still." Everything about collage was annoying to me. I didn't want to be there. I was doing what I had to do because that's what everyone said everyone has to do. The instant I got pregnant and uncomfortable enough to convince Stephan that college was unnecessary for my chosen vocation of home management, I tossed up the deuces to the University of Texas in Tyler and settled in to the life of a stay at home wife and mother.
   I thought my time there would never end. It passed by so quickly. Good riddance, college.
  As I sat on the couch in my quaint, quiet house, my very  new baby nestled on my propped up thighs, I counted his toes and waved his arms and tried my best to get any reaction out of him as he tried his best to go back to sleep. (Baby Wise says it's wake-time right now, kid. Sorry.) I was barely three weeks into my first go as a mother. My newborn son was everything I had dreamed about and prayed for for a long time. I loved him so much! He was perfect! He was healthy and adorable and looked like his daddy. I was living the life that I had always wanted! And I was beating myself up with guilt because I was bored. Noah's days were unending cycles of eat, stare at lights, poo-poo-tee-tee, sleep, repeat. And I was only really needed for the eat/poo-poo-tee-tee part. I tried my best to enjoy every moment, because everybody and their mom (especially their mom) tells you to, but often I found myself willing my baby boy to hurry and reach that next big milestone! I thought those days were going to last forever. Now, I have a five year-old who is going to start Kindergarten this fall.
  Foolish, stupid me, did you really try your hardest to enjoy every moment? Because I can hardly remember that first year, and that makes me far sadder than I like to think about.  
   A few weeks back, Stephan and I were wrapping up a Netflix binge-session with The Office, and something that was said in the finale by the character Andy Bernard really struck me. It was said with the intention of being poignant, yet humorous, a feat few sitcoms on tv can successfully achieve. The Nard-Dog said, after summing up his time at Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., "I wish we could know we were in the 'good old times' before they became the 'good old times'."
  Amen and amen, Nard-Dog.
 After the flash in the pan that was Naoh's infancy, I pledged to do a better job of soaking in every moment with my future children. I can clearly recall the feeling of self-satisfaction I had once when Witten was a small baby. I thought that I was doing it! I was stamping those moments so permanently in my brain that even my goldfish-level memory wouldn't forget what it was like when I was loving on my little baby. Of course, that's the only clear memory of Witten's baby-hood that I can recall.
  So what can I do?
Praise God for the invention of the photograph. Thank goodness I was bored enough to try my hand at blogging that one night 6 years ago. And please, Lord, help me, now and always, to truly, truly relish and live in these fleeting moment. These boys often drive me nuts, and I experience far more parenting fails than I'd like to admit, but I don't want my life to be hurried living, ended by wistful remembering. Be with me in every one of these moments, Lord, so that I can live a life that brings you glory.
   And, as always, please save my children.     
Aren't they precious?