New York, a Snake, and Other Happenings

Here’s a peek into our August.

Outside fun in the heat.
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The bubble makers from Aunt C. were a hit.
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The kids asked if they could take their lunch outside one day. I said sure, but B and I would stay inside. When I looked for them later, I found them sitting way out on the driveway, of all places.
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Lots of playtime with cousins!

August=garden month. My rows and rows of empty jars are now rows and rows of full jars–tomatoes, tomato juice, salsa, pizza sauce, green beans, beets, and peaches. At least one day a week has been devoted to canning, and it gives me a lot of satisfaction to see the jars filled up.

I found out I have a baby who will hold his breath until he passes out. If I hadn’t heard of that happening, I’d have been totally freaked out. As it was, my heart rate increased a bit, but otherwise I kept my calm on. =) He was crying and turning blue and next thing he was all limp and floppy. As soon as he passed out, he started breathing again. He’s come close to doing so several times since, but thankfully the pass-out is still an isolated incident.

August 31 is the end of our church’s fiscal year, which has meant more work and several meetings for me (budget prep, etc.).

J led a group from our church to the Missions Training Center in New York City last weekend. I was thankful for several generous people who juggled our child care so I could go along this time. We left on Thursday morning and got back Sunday evening. We spent our time in classes, visiting a Buddhist temple, and in practicums (street witnessing, singing in a train station, prayer walking, etc.). The point is not to “go on a mission trip to NYC,” rather to learn and practice skills that we can bring home and use in our own community.
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Here’s our group walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m hiding. =)

We came home tired and the kids seemed tired too, from all the shuffling around and lack of routine. At least one of them had had a fever one day, and we have some coughing and wheezing going on. On Monday afternoon, I took B down to his room for a nap and THIS is what I saw on the bedroom door.
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This 5-ft. black snake has been around our house all summer. I’m fine with him in my yard. I’m okay with him in flower bed. I’m (mostly) alright with him on my deck. I am NOT okay with him in my basement. He may have come in the night the basement door got left open a week ago, or he may have come in an open drain (that is now plugged, believe you me). I didn’t scream, but I did some deep breathing between giddy laughing and quiet whimpers. =) Then I called J at work, and a girl from his office who loves snakes came out and removed him from our house. The very most bizarre thing was just that morning, M commented that Mr. Black Snake used to be in our flowers, and now he lives in a hole (which is true–a little hole in our backyard close to the clothesline). I checked the hole and told her I didn’t think he lived there anymore because I haven’t seen him for awhile. !!!! Never dreaming I’d find him in MY HOUSE! two hours later. The kids didn’t seem too bothered, but A was up three or four times in the night then crying because Mr. Black Snake was in his room…in his bed…on the couch… I felt kind of hypocritical confidently assuring him that Mr. Black Snake definitely was not in our house, since I wasn’t totally sure myself.

That’s the scoop from our house. Next big thing on the agenda–40th birthday party!

Back to School, Goals Report

Where did the summer go?! It’s back to school day in our area, and even though I have one more year before we send a student off to school, it is a reminder that summer is nearing the end. I even heard a couple acorns dropping when I was outside today. I feel a little melancholy thinking about all the things I had hoped to do this summer and didn’t get done. We’ve been running our tails off, and its the slow-down things like picnics in our picnic area, camping trips, and so on that didn’t happen. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that we need to intentionally work to create more margin in our family’s schedule, but that is much easier said than done and is a discussion for another post.

While Austin isn’t officially off to school this fall, I did buy a preschool curriculum for learning numbers and letters that I have good intentions of doing with him this year. I’m off to a good start–we did our first 10 minute lesson today. Yay me!  I plan to start with numbers and then move on to the letters. One of the main reasons I wanted to do this was to help him learn to slow down, focus and follow directions. Working on those will develop character in both of us, I think, if Day 1 is any indication.

If summer is done, then that means I should report on my summer goals. For my fitness goal, I now do 23 sit-ups, as well as some other core exercises, almost every morning and it doesn’t leave me feeling as if I’m going to die. I guess that counts as improvement even though the number isn’t as high as I’d secretly hoped. I might be able to do more, but I promised myself I’d never do fewer sit-ups than I did the day before, so I don’t want to go find out just how many I can do! =) My piano playing goal was a total fail. I got out some music and played maybe a handful of times and that’s it. As for teaching the kids to make chores a regular habit…I did teach them to do some things (fold laundry, make beds, vacuum, clear the table, wash windows, etc.) and I ask them to help more frequently, but we don’t have any habits going on yet. Cheerful obedience continues to need improvement. So it seems that the best thing goal-setting did for me was getting a bit more exercise. Better than nothing! =)

Book Review: Taste and See

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This book of short (2-4 page) meditations is a great addition to our devotional library. My husband and I have been reading them together. John Piper is an excellent teacher and writer, and these essays are classic Piper style–“solid meat and sweet milk from God’s Word.” (cover copy) Some of the entries are easier reading and others leave me scratching my head and pondering. I appreciate the encouragement, rebuke, and grace offered here from a passionate and compassionate, trustworthy biblical scholar.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Book Review: Next Door as it is in Heaven

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In this book, the authors challenge us to be the neighbors who care, who bring people together, and who notice God at work in the lives of the people who live closest to us. Many idealize the good old days where neighbors sat on the porch and chatted while the kids played in the yard. Ford and Brisco (church-planting strategists and consultants) say it is possible to have that kind of warm relationship today, but it takes intentional effort. They share Scriptural examples, personal experiences, and tips for ways to be that neighbor that gets the community spirit flowing.

The authors spent a good bit of time talking about three societal changes after World War II that have led to our current disconnect with our neighbors–the rise of the automobile culture, the creation of suburbs, and the proliferation of home entertainment technology. They talk about the importance of hospitality, utilizing talents and resources present in our neighborhoods, and creating public spaces for risk-free interaction. The point that challenged me most was the discussion about time, and the importance of creating margin in our lives where relationships can happen.

I thought the authors had good points but they tended to be wordy in making them. It is assumed that the reader lives on a city block, an apartment complex, or a cul-de-sac. The reader like myself, who lives in a very rural area, will have to use creativity to translate the material to the very different way of life. My impression was that the book’s target audience is primarily white, middle-upper class Christians. The writing style is casual and includes occasional uses of “mild swear” words and numerous references to movies. Alcohol and tobacco use (not abuse) are discussed as parts of the author’s lives and as a tool in community interaction.

So…some good points, but I didn’t really connect with the presentation. I would not read the book again or recommend it to a friend.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my review.

Family Time

It has been fun to have my sister Mel and her family back in the area again. They’re living in my parent’s basement for the time being. That means that when I go over to work on garden harvest, there are usually eight cousins, give or take a few, running around having grand times. Last weekend Cheryl and her family came from Baltimore, so we were all together in one place for a few days. Good times.

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(Mel gets the credit for these pictures.)

My big boy achieved a big milestone this week–he learned to ride his bike. He hasn’t been very keen to try, but he did so well on the balance bike we knew he could if he would. Out of the blue, he asked me to come help him and within a few minutes, he was rolling solo.

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J’s 40th birthday is coming up the end of this month. I’ve been dreaming and brainstorming about a little weekend getaway for us in honor of the occasion. It came to pass, through a series of events, that I realized that I was planning a birthday trip according to my preferences and desires, not necessarily his. So I scrapped the plans and started over. I’ll definitely be out of my comfort zone, but we’re going to work off his bucket list instead of mine and I’m sure I’ll have lots of good tales to tell when it is over. =)

Three Years Old!

After waiting through Austin’s birthday, then Mommy’s birthday, then Blake’s birthday, FINALLY it was her birthday. What joy!

Since Macey’s birthday was on Sunday, our day largely followed Sunday routine with her party in the evening. She had requested the presence of Grandma and Papa, Aunt Carolyn, and Ms. Ferne for her birthday. (Ms. Ferne is the lady she sits with while daddy is teaching Sunday School.) It was a fun evening, celebrating the special little girl we love so much.

First, there was the matter of that cake disaster. With no time to bake another cake, I wasn’t going down without a fight.
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Two pounds of strawberries, four cups of pudding, one package of cream cheese and a large container of CoolWhip later, I had a reasonably decent looking trifle. Daddy did the decorating honors, using yogurt to make the requested beautiful butterfly.

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Judging from the raves around the table, the trifle was a vast improvement over frosted cake. =) My kids usually only eat the frosting off of their cakes anyway, and they love trifle, so the cake was salvaged and I scored a birthday success. Yay me.

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Aunt C. gave her a box of doll clothes (many of them hand-made). Grandma made her a skirt. Ms. Ferne made her a blanket. We gave her gum and second-hand bargains. Guess you see who puts the time and effort into gifts around here! =)

**I’m going to clarify my second-hand “bargain.” I kept an eye on eBay for quite awhile, and spent quite a bit more money than I would have had to spend, to buy her a Memory game that was the same as the one I played with when I was a kid. The new games are largely cartoonish drawings or TV characters, and I love the simple, colorful illustrations on those original Memory cards. Maybe it was more of a gift for me than for her, but I’m going to thoroughly enjoy playing Memory in the years to come, reliving old memories and making new memories with my own children.

Truth for Our Times

Some days the current events and news seem overwhelming–evil prevails, truth and justice are silenced, and people suffer unspeakably at the hands of others. I can become anxious and discouraged, dreading the future, or I can turn in trust to the Lord, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. As I’ve been reading the Word, I’ve been reminded over and over that there is really nothing new under the sun. The Old Testament is largely stories of wickedness and suffering. The Epistles were written in a time when Christians were suffering great persecution.

The words of Scripture offer so much hope and direction for how we should live in times like these. Here is just a very short list of words of truth and hope that I have encountered recently. I included the full texts for only a few, but it would be worth your time to look up the others as well. =) If there is a particular passage that has been life-giving to you, please add it in the comments!

Is. 33:5-6

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
and he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the
Lord is Zion’s treasure.

Is. 45:22-24

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in
righteousness a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
“Only in the
Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him.

Tit. 3:1-8

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Heb. 10:32-11:1

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Heb. 13:5-6, 15

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”…Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Others: Ps. 46 , Is. 40:27-31, Phil. 2:14-16a, Col. 4:2-6, Tit. 2:11-14, Heb. 12:1-3, I Pe. 1:3-9, 3:8-17, 4:7-10, 5:5b-11

A Not-So-Promising Start…

…in my next birthday cake adventure. People! WHY!?!??!

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(Not pictured: the mess in my oven where the batter overflowed the pans.)

Guess this one won’t make it into a “beautiful butterfly” after all.

CostCo birthday cakes are looking really attractive right now. Or DQ ice cream cakes. Or shoot, even Food Lion. I don’t have time for this business. =(

Any delicious trifle recipes using shattered strawberry cake?

(The only good thing about this is lots of crumbs to sample, and it is a yummy, from-scratch cake.)

Book Review: Seeking Refuge

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In Seeking Refuge, three experts from World Relief, a global organization serving refugees, offer a practical, well-rounded, well-researched guide to the current refugee crisis–arguably the greatest geo-political issue of our time. Who are refugees and other displaced peoples? What are the real risks and benefits of receiving them? Drawing from history, public policy, psychology, personal stories, and their Christian worldview, these authors offer a compelling portrayal of the plight of refugees and the extraordinary opportunity we have to love our neighbors as ourselves. (adapted from the cover copy)

As I read this book, I kept thinking, yes, YES, YES!! I appreciated the Biblical basis they provided, and the reminder that Scripture is full of refugees and directives about how they should be treated. I also appreciated the gentle answers to misconceptions and fears that are rampant in our day, particularly concerns about safety and security, which are often idolized and used as excuses to not obey our God-given mandate to sacrificially love our neighbors. I was glad to see them promoting humanitarian and social causes with the ultimate goal of proclaiming the Gospel and building the church. They included lots of personal stories, which helps to put a face on the statistics and overwhelming needs. I think this is a great entry-level book that inspires the reader to obey Jesus’ command to love their neighbor and get involved in some way–whether in prayer, relating to immigrants in their local community, giving to support local churches serving refugees in far-away places, or maybe all of the above. =)

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my review.

Our Indiana Trip

Last week we went to IN for the annual BMA Convention. J had to be there for board meetings ahead of Convention, so we left here Tues. afternoon. We drove our little RV and the trip out was uneventful. It was nice to be at the school, where the kids could run and play. It made my child-wrangling job easier, for sure. J’s meetings were Wed. and Thurs., and then Convention started on Fri. We broke out early on Sat. afternoon to start the trip home. It feels so much less stressful to have two days for the trip. The estimated ten hours of driving was more like 12 in the RV, and it is more fun for the kids when we can take time out to get some exercise and fresh air. Those rest stops ended up being some of my favourite times too. On the way home, we spent a couple hours in Louisville, KY, enjoying the riverfront.

Now that J has a smartphone, he takes the pictures. =)

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The memorable things about Convention for me will probably be camping and the heat. Absolutely, oppressively, hot and muggy. I never felt so gross and sweaty for public church meetings before, I don’t think. The meals were outdoors, and various facilities were spread out enough to require a good bit of walking, so it was impossible to stay cool and fresh as a daisy. =) I did enjoy visiting with people and the meetings I was able to attend.

Unfortunately, the most memorable thing happened when we were within a half mile of home, already on our driveway. I was driving, Blake was strapped in his car seat beside me, and J and the other two were in the back. If you know our driveway, you likely remember the really steep section. I didn’t get up enough speed starting up and before we got to the top, the RV lost power and we started to coast backward. The brakes couldn’t hold the weight and momentum. It was one of those “five seconds that last two hours” sorts of things, but I completely lost control and the RV crashed into a tree off the side of the driveway. J said later it was a blessing that we hit the tree, because he’s sure the RV would have turned over, given the steep grade, the sharp curve at the bottom of the hill, and the rapid rate at which we were gaining momentum.

Long story short, M sustained the only physical injury from an object flying backwards on impact with the tree. We were worried when her eye immediately began swelling and was bleeding out all around, but she’s looking better every day. I thought it would cause a lot of drama, but it hasn’t seemed to bother her that much. The damages on the RV still need to be assessed, but from appearances may take significant work/money to fix. M’s tricycle was crushed. But we are alive and well and so thankful for the Lord’s mercy to us.

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