Thursday, May 26, 2011

Charlie Bird

Day 1: Discovery
Just over two weeks ago we discovered a bird's nest with 4 tiny blue eggs tucked inside of it. The exciting part was that the nest rested just inches from where Sarah laid her head every night.  Two days after we discovered the eggs, we had a baby bird, whom the girls named Charlie.  Sadly, none of the other birds made it (we had several days of 20 degree below our average for this time of year, so it may have just been too cold). They were named cutie, fuzzie and wuzzie.
Baby Charlie Bird is born
With eagerness we checked on Charlie every morning and every night and got to see momma bird (whom they called Beauty) feed him LOTS of worms.  So adorable to see up close!! And as soon as Charlie pooped, momma bird put it in her mouth and carried it away (umm, gross!)...and then papa bird came and sat on the nest while momma bird was gone.  It was quite the tag team to watch.
Charlie wishing for some worms.
It was definitely hard to get pictures through both a screen and a window - but we did our best. Sarah took several dozen pictures of her 'pet birds'.  Today I went in her room and Charlie has now flown away. Hopefully she's not too sad because she's become quite attached to the little guy out her window. We all have. :) Hopefully the birds will return next year so we can experience this joy again! :)
Look closely, he's grown quite a bit in 2 weeks.
I took this last night before he flew away today.
See how close the birds were to Sarah!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Disaster Close to Home: Joplin

It's hard for me to ignore disasters. Perhaps it's because they make me feel vulnerable. That could be me. That could be people I love.  You think terrible things will never happen to you or those you love, but they can.  Perhaps it's because I have this desire within me to want to help, to fix, to comfort... those broken and hurting due to disasters beyond their control. Seriously, I've thought more than once, I should be a part of a disaster response team.  Do I ever take steps to make that happen? NO. But every time a disaster happens, this nudge wells up inside of me. Part of me says that perhaps when my kids are grown, it will be a path I'll pursue.  Who knows. But I'm trying to pay attention to what this stirring is inside of me and figure it out.  It's part of that same desire that made me get my degree in social work.

Yesterday our pastor said, "Your path trumps your intentions." I can't stop thinking about that in so many areas of my life, including this one.  Forget my intentions to help in disasters...what path am I taking to help?

I have been reminded that sometimes they best thing you can do before disaster strikes, is to give without ever even knowing what difference your time or resources will make. It happened just before the Haiti earthquake - I went to Convoy of Hope and packed meals - a week later the earthquake hit and those meals were being sent to Haiti to help feed victims.  Two weeks ago both Morgan and Sarah put their money together, and I used girl scout money (half/half thing), and bought items needed to make Hygiene Disaster Kits (we were grieving those hurting in Alabama tornadoes). So at a troop meeting we talked about 'making the world a better place' and about being 'considerate and caring' and took time to make the kits. We then took the kits we made to Convoy of Hope, so they would have them when the next disaster struck. Little did I/we know that just a couple weeks later the disaster would be just down the road in Joplin.

Today I am working only because the teacher is in Joplin helping her parents and other family members cope with the loss that is all around - the loss of homes, of friends, of a community. I woke up feeling guilty that I'd get paid today only because others are facing deep tragedy.  And as much as I want the money...I think there are some people down the road who need it more than I do today.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Extreme Fort Makeover

Sarah's Wall

Morgan's Wall

This spring the girls have been busy painting the inside of their playhouse.  They finally got *most* of the details added this week, although they still have a few ideas of things they'd like to add.  Their good friend Maddy helped them with the painting.

Maddy's Wall and curtains
So...I decided to make them some curtains and beanbags to help **transform** this fort into a place that feels special to them and they want to hang out in this summer to read, talk, laugh.  I was going to save it for summer, but with Mike gone one night these week, I began to work on it with the girls instead.

I found a flannel back vinyl tablecloth at walmart for less than $5.  We cut it to make the curtains. They are stapled to the wall. :)

turned couch into a 'bed'
Then we used the rest to make the beanbags.   We made two long bean bags, with which they can use as sit-upons, or put together to make a couch, or lay on as a bed. I thought it would take one hour to hot glue them together. Three days later, they are finally finished and we now have waterproof beanbags!

Plan A: Hot Glue them together. Got first one made and stuffed and then the seem split.  Note to self: hot glue does not stick to vinyl tablecloths.
Plan B: Sew them. Pulled out the sewing machine. Actually remembered how to thread it. But it's not working. Then I broke the last needle I had for it.
Plan C: Duct Tape. It appears our duct tape has gone missing. Mike didn't think it would hold either.
Plan D: Sew by hand. Seriously, I hate sewing, but I really wanted to make these. So, the girls and I sat down and spent a couple of hours sewing these. Sarah said that plan D was the best because it was the funnest!

I also found a couple of paper lanterns for only $1/each, which I hung up in their playhouse too!
sisterly love
Morgan, Madisyn, Sarah
As you can see from all their smiles, they are very happy.  It's only in the 50s here today and they are insisting they stay outside in the fort. :)

Dear FEMA, This means WAR.

I'm purely venting. Feel free to have a pity party with me if you'd like.

Our neighbors gave us a heads up about this a few months ago, and today the letter came in the mail from our mortgage company.  Someone at FEMA decided to look at the map and redraw the floodplain lines - and move our homes from not just being in a 'no flood plain', but all the way up to being in a HIGH risk flood plain! So now, we are being required to pay FEMA what looks like possibly an extra $150-$200 a MONTH for flood insurance!! and did you know - FEMA draws the flood line and you can only get flood insurance through FEMA? How convenient for them!

The thing is...I am 99.9% convinced our home will NEVER flood!  We had our land surveyed a year ago for another reason, so I called the surveyor.  He said that 100s of homes in our community have just been 'added' to a high risk flood plain - and of all the homes he's surveyed - none of them have been in the required flood elevation - they are all ABOVE it.  So, now we get to pay him a few hundred dollars - and hopefully he can prove that we are above flood elevation. Then we have to submit paper work to FEMA to get an exemption of sorts, then we have to submit paperwork to our mortgage company proving all of this. But you can be sure, we'll do all we can to not be fleeced by FEMA, because that is exactly what feels like is happening.

It's so frustrating...we would have NEVER bought a house in a flood plain. And adding an extra $150-$200 a month to our mortgage would certainly have been taken into consideration BEFORE we bought it. And now we're stuck. And it feels so very unfair. so.very.unfair.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Deeper Ponderings of My Mother's Day

Sunlight filtering down through the treetops. Hammock gently swaying beneath me. Wispy breeze playing with my hair. Water rushing over rocks, creating the most melodic sound. Morgan crawls into the hammock next to me. The top of her hair ever so gently coming to rest on the side of my cheek. And I inhale the joy of the moment. and I whisper, "I love you Morgan." and she whisper's back, "I love you too, mommy." And I smile. I can no longer sign 'mommy' to the notes I leave in her lunch box, she is 'too old' for that. But for some reason on this quiet afternoon, I am still her 'mommy' along this creek's edge. It's a moment I want to carry in my heart for always.

Bursting from within her is excitement to deep to contain. It is Mother's Day Weekend and something within Sarah wants to make it special for me. All weekend she keeps pausing to give me hugs, "I love you mommy!", "Happy Mother's Day weekend!"  She can't WAIT to give me their present. She keeps trying to give me clues every time she thinks of one. She is thrilled with the gift that Mike took her and Morgan to pick out for me. She knows I will "LOVE IT!" She tells me this many times. Then she wants to give me back rubs and back massages, so she keeps asking, "Can I give you another back itch?" I love how she words things sometimes - you can't help but smile. And every time I look at her, she smiles. Her big grin that comes from the depth of her soul and spills out and blesses all those around. And I hope nothing in life ever steals that smile away from her. 

On our second night camping, a young couple set up camp next to us. I looked at Mike and said "They remind me of us many years did we get from there to here?"  He said he thought the same thing and then added more that made me smile. But seeing this unknown couple made me thankful that Mike decided to venture into parenthood with me - and that our days camping are now filled with the memories that include two beautiful daughters. It makes me think of the song "Then" by Brad Paisley, that says, "we've come so far since that day, and I thought I loved you then..." and goes on to say "We'll look back someday, at this moment that we're in, And I'll look at you and say, And I thought I loved you then..."

I thought of my own mom this weekend a lot too.  Of her love of nature. Walking in the woods with her when I was a child. I have this memory of her one time poking a bunch of ferns in her straw hat to keep the bugs away.  I remember her stopping to take pictures of flowers and for the life of me I could NOT understand why she would want a picture of flowers or anything else in nature for that matter. But now I understand her. Here is just one of the many 'nature pictures' I took of my own this weekend. And there in the midst of nature, 600 miles too many away from my mom, I felt closer to her. And I felt my own lips curl up into a smile at that realization. 

Mother's Day Memories

Last year, for Mother's Day weekend, it was FREEZING cold at Roaring River State Park, but I still fell in love with this beautiful natural wonder. So this year, with the weather looking **GORGEOUS** I knew I wanted to head back there. With temps in the 80s, we spent the weekend exploring new trails, meandering through the woods for hours, jumping creeks, searching for geocaches, peeking in caves, climbing rocks, and pausing to notice all the mini waterfalls. Seriously, what could make a mother's day weekend any better than hours of uninterrupted time with the three people I love most in the whole world!?! Then at the campground, we laughed playing a game called Spoons, relaxed by the creek's edge in the hammock, and enjoyed skipping countless rocks in the river. And of course, s'mores were a given!
"Devil's Kitchen"
Cave Exploring
Water dripping off the cliff walls.
So many beautiful spots to stop and enjoy.
Skipping Rocks.
Relaxing by the water's edge. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Expo Makers in the Medicine Cabinet

Seriously, I think EVERYONE should have EXPO Markers...or window crayons...or window their medicine cabinet.

Our family has SO much fun writing messages on the mirrors to each other!! I mean, you walk into the bathroom...and there it is...a new message just for you! And you can't help but smile!

Here are some of the things we write on the mirrors:

  • a single word: Explore, Dream - and the other responds to it. 
  • coded messages that make our kids go 'huh?' and  have them writing things like 'good luck mom!' 
  • Reminders: last night the girls wrote me a reminder to pick up the pizza for Sarah's class today.
  • Bible Verses.
  • virtues we're reinforcing from church at home. Right now the girls mirror says: Forgiveness:Deciding that someone who has wronged you does not have to pay. 
  • a phrase to finish. Last Friday I wrote: "Weekends are for..." and we added ideas all weekend. 
  • countdowns to special events. Girls mirror says: 21 Days til Aunt Suzie arrives.
  • the girls write messages to each other. and to us. 
  • Encouragement: Good luck on your test today! 

Try it...I bet you'll be hooked too! One word of caution, if you buy Expo markers, you might also want to buy an extra bottle of windex cleaner! :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

...and to think I almost gave up on the church.

In 1996, when I was only 22 years old, tragedy so dark and deep shattered my heart into a million unrecognizable pieces. At my darkest hour, I cursed God, doubted his very existence, and at my best during those days, I questioned him - this God that I had always known, that I had put into my own box - suddenly was in question.  And going to church made me feel worse! Forgiveness, mercy, judgement - my heart needed a safe place to heal. And, sadly, I could NOT find that in most traditional churches. They too had put God 'in a box' defined by cliche phrases and lists of rules. I needed to find the real, true God elsewhere. At times, I wanted to give up on church, yet something inside me refused to! I had to keep searching.

Then enter, Woodcrest Chapel (1998) - a church in a 'blue polebarn' that made me skeptical to even enter.  But once inside, I found real people on a real journey who told me that God was big enough for my most difficult questions - I could ask him why - I could search - and guess what, my heart found healing. And I began to understand God's true heart towards me. I began to really understand grace and love and forgiveness.  And not just understand them, but live them, in my everydayness. It was His church that helped me get to this place.

Then three years ago (2008), we had to move, and I mourned that we would never find another church quite like Woodcrest.  We tried a dozen churches when we moved, and finally decided to call North Point Church home. I'd like to say we jumped right in, we've been as actively involved here as we were at Woodcrest. We have not, for many reasons that I will save for other discussions on another day. But it is where we choose to worship each week. It is where we tithe, because we believe that money provides resources to let God meet people on real journeys who are asking real questions. It is where we facilitate a small group in our home every other week because we believe that spiritual journeys are meant to be shared.  It's where our kids hear others reinforce life virtues that we are trying to teach them at home. It's where they look forward to going each week. It's where we laugh every week. And we're reminded of God's truth. of the cross. of the resurrection. of love. and grace. And then I get emails from the church (see below), of people, real people, responding to the message of Easter last week, and I can't help but think - "I'm so glad I never gave up on the church!" Because when the church is is a breath of fresh air to individuals and the community. And when Easter services go from 2,064 people four years ago ('07) to almost 9,854 this year - well, God is breathing life into people and the community through North Point Church! And I'm glad that we are right here. right now.

Here's the email:

  • We met a man who had never stepped foot onto a North Point campus. But he has been watching Pastor Tommy’s messages on TV. He saw Tommy talk about The Point during the Hungry series, so he came and got plugged into a group…having never been to a live weekend service :)
  • Talked to a few couples whose first time at NPC was this past Easter weekend, and they loved it so much that they wanted to jump right in and start getting involved so they came out on Wednesday night [group connection event].
  • Yet another couple, it was their first time in a church…ever…ANY church, this past Easter weekend. They were so excited for the atmosphere & attitudes they experienced that they wanted to get connected with other people.