Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friends with Benefits?

I was reading an article today and it was discussing how newly divorced people sometimes have "Friends with Benefits." Now this article was discussing people who got together with another person to have sexual encounters and didn't do much else, but have sex. I think a few things have changed since I got married almost 11 years ago.

When I was in college if you had a friend with benefits, it meant a guy/girl friend (depending on your gender of course) who you went to the movies with, or out to dinner, just hung out so you two didn't have to do things alone. For me it also meant I had this friend over for suppers sometimes or to watch a movie at my place. I provided a car and he provided the money for the movie (since we were both poor college students it meant minus popcorn and other assorted goodies which worked fine for us both). We had a good time, laughed joked, sometimes introduced the other to fun things we enjoyed doing. For example: my friend taught me how to play Jurassic Park and I took him to some of the neat sights around the Oklahoma City area. We spent a good deal of time together - yes we had chemistry, but we both knew it wouldn't work out. There were certain things in our personalities that made a relationship between us not a great idea. He was a very nice man, and I liked him a lot and still am friends with him on Facebook, but we never dated seriously or kissed for that matter.

So I guess I'm wondering, how do people do "Friends with Benefits" and not become emotionally attached? I must be old fashioned, but sex is very personal and private for me, not to mention there are stretch marks, and gastric bypass scars that only mean something to Chris. I know I don't want another man to see me in the all together, since those scars won't mean the same thing to him and he won't really appreciate how I gained my war wounds.

If you found yourself suddenly single would you have a "friend with benefits" or would you prefer to remain single and alone for a while? If you did decide to do this, under what circumstances would you consider having a "friend with benefits?" Or are you like me, sex is too personal for you? Not my typical blog I know, but it got me thinking. In a society where sex is no longer truly valued as something sacred between a man and wife where would you choose to draw a line? In asking these questions do you find that the world today has chiseled away at what you used to think was black and white or is this a gray area for you?

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What it Means to Love a Military Person


There is currently a petition going around to help keep benefits for the spouses of veterans.
http://apps.facebook.com/takeactioncenter/vet/VeteransSpouses

Being the spouse of a military person isn't easy. It means living with uncertainty, facing the possibilities of raising your children alone and many things most people don't care to think about.

I love Chris, I'm proud to be a Reservist's wife and I wouldn't change him or what he feels called to do ever. But there are some things that come with being a spouse of a military person.

Being a military spouse means a lot of things and if benefits are cut it sends a message to our service men and women and their spouses that what they give to our country doesn't really matter. It says, "thanks we don't really care that you fix the house repairs on your own, that you deal with all of the garbage your spouse usually deals with when they are home, and if your spouse doesn't come home alive - guess what we don't care.


I could give you a long list of things that spouses face when their service member is gone, but would it make a difference. You either care or you don't. You either think military spouses should be allowed to keep their benefits once their spouse becomes a veteran or you don't. And sadly some of you won't sign. That's fine, don't sign but if you agree that spouses of veteran should not lose their benefits, please go and help sign the petition to help fight for them. After all they give so much for you, isn't signing a petition the least you can do for them?

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Leaving Your Heart Behind


In November 2002, I got a job with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Elizabeth was 15 months old at the time. Chris was working as much overtime as possible, we had debts from his first marriage and I had hospital bills from being in college and being too broke to be able to afford health insurance.

I wasn't thrilled, but the stress of trying to be our sole source of income was killing Chris. It was affecting our marriage and we had a brand new car with almost $500 a month payments attached. We were making it but barely and there wasn't a lot of wiggle room for extras. So I heard Royal Caribbean was hiring and as luck would have it, I got the job. So I started training and the first night I cried myself to sleep. This trend continued for the first three months I worked.

One one hand, I loved my learning the new things I was given the opportunity to learn. However, I was torn inside. I was missing the cute new things Elizabeth was doing. I missed getting to see her in the morning because during training I woke up before she did in the morning. Then training ended and I worked in the evenings which worked perfectly. Chris had been put on a new shift before I got my job and it meant he was home Monday through Thursdays. This gave Chris and Lizzie time to bond and get to know each other. On Fridays my mom watched Lizzie if Chris didn't work overtime for a few hours before I would get home. Then my new schedule began. I would go into work about 1:30 p.m and work until closing time. I hate it. While it meant I didn't work on the weekends, it also meant I was up later in the evenings and I didn't get to put Elizabeth to bed. Eventually, as I gained seniority, I was able to get a first shift position, but each day I was a woman torn in two pieces.

One part of me loved talking to people and travel agents from all over the country and sometimes other countries. The other part of me missed Elizabeth and helping her learn new things and go places, like the zoo, or the park or playing in her room. It also made it tougher to keep my house clean and to cook good nutritious meals for her and for Chris, because I was tired when I got home. I have friends who do this all the time, they do an absolutely wonderful job, but I learned something about myself. I am a good multi-tasker at home, but I don't have it in me to be a mom AND a full time employee. I try to give 100 percent to whatever task I am doing it, so to try to give 100 percent to both tasks was more than I could handle.

When Chris found out he was deploying in 2004, he talked me into staying. His logic seems good at the time, that I needed to stay busy while he was gone, so the time would go or I would go nuts at home with Elizabeth all day. But by September 2004, I began realizing that Elizabeth was falling apart and she needed me. I also couldn't keep child care anymore. Elizabeth was not yet diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder yet, so I only knew something was wrong, but not what. So with very little warning to my job, I left. I can't go back to Royal Caribbean, and I'll miss it to an extent, but after Elizabeth was diagnosed, the guilt that wracked me was horrible. I felt as if I had failed my daughter, because I wanted to work. I didn't listen to my instincts and I inwardly flogged myself for failing her and not seeing that she needed help sooner.

I am looking to go back to college and finish up my psychology degree, just so I can be done, and yet I know that between working with the youth group and being a stay at home mom; I know I am right where God wants me at this time. I don't know if I'll ever go back to work -it's possible. It's also possible, I won't until Rebekah is much older. Only time will tell.

For those of you who are mom's and you are torn in two every day you go to work. My heart goes out to you. I understand, I honestly do. I was fortunate that I no longer have to work and we can make it on one salary, but I also realize many of you can't. On the other side of the coin, I also know some of you have to work to be a good mom. It's what makes you a better mom, that eight hour work day gives you a bit of sanity in what would be an insane day for you if you stayed at home.

Have a good week. God Bless and I hope whatever is going on in your life that God opens the doors you need opened.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Walking Fine Lines


Parenting is sometimes like trying to walk a tight rope. On one hand, you don't want to be a drill sergeant and lack flexibility. Because each child is different and what worked for one child may not necessarily work for another child. On the reverse side, you do not want to be a "popular" parent either. We all know a family where one of the parents wants to be their child's friend instead of the parent who gives rules, guidance and discipline when needed.

There is a section in S. E. Hinton's book The Outsiders where the main character is visited by one of the friends of boy (Bob was his name) that Pony's friend Johnny had killed in self-defense to protect Ponyboy. Randy, the friend of the boy who was killed talks to Pony and tells him that all Bob wanted was for his parents to care enough to notice him and ground him or punish him so he would know they cared about him.

I know we all hate it when our kids mope and sulk when they are disciplines, whether it be through grounding (or removing privileges as we usually call it) or whatever other effective means you have found. And yet, I have several teens in the youth group who have openly told me they wished their parents cared enough to stick to their punishment. My oldest daughter, often told me that she wished her mom would stick with her punishment. Yes, sometimes grounding or disciplining your child punishes you too. However, it is necessary.

The irony of this conversation is that my family is at odds at times over how strict or not strict we are with our girls. My sister, is convinced we are too tough on Sarah and that we need to lighten up. My mother, though thinks we give Sarah too much freedom. This in itself makes me chuckles since I know my Grandma Taylor and Mom used to go rounds about the fact that Grandma thought Mom wasn't strict enough with us. As it stands, I figure between my liberal sister and my decided more conservative mother that we must be doing something right.

It was interesting at church a bit to say the least when we allowed Sarah to dye her hair black underneath and blue on top for her fourteenth birthday. One person asked what we thought of it and if we were mad at her. They were rather shocked when I told them, no I wasn't shocked, I paid for her to color her hair. This is my theory. In allowing Sarah freedoms in some areas (clothing, what she does with her hair, sleepovers when she has earned them) we are able to lay restrictions on other things (going to boys houses, wearing make-up too soon, dating, and doing things with her friends that might be a bit dangerous). I met teens who outwardly met all the requirements that society and church folks might consider the makings of "good kids." Inwardly, they were the kids who were out partying, drinking, and doing drugs. They often rebelled in ways that were harmful to their bodies.

I don't think I am an overstrict parent. I have some rules though that I refuse to budge on.
1. You will speak respectfully and with good manners to ALL people at ALL times. This is especially upheld when it comes to teachers, principals, guidance counselors, and adults in charge or you at youth functions. You may not like the choices they make, but they require you to follow the rules for a reason even if you don't understand it at the time.

2. OBEY YOUR PARENTS! I think that one covers it all.

3. It's important to be uplifting to your children, but realistic. I love Sarah very much and I think she can do almost anything she sets her mind too. However, to become an engineer you must have a love of math and numbers and she does not. She loves Music, English, and Poetry and to read. Engineering would not make her happy so we encouraged her to keep searching or learn to love Math. She's still searching for her career path.

4. Don't discipline your children when angry. . . there are more than a few times when I tell the girls I will speak with them in a little while. It's not because I'm trying to think of a harsher punishment. It's so I don't ground them for an unreasonable amount of time.

5. Don't ground your kid for something you haven't told them they shouldn't do. The one exception to this rule I've made is finding them doing something insanely dangerous. For example: Over Christmas 2009 I found Elizabeth getting out of a car of friends of our neighbor. While the neighbor was a great friend of ours, I did not know her friends. She spoke to her friends, and Elizabeth lived in her room for a full 7 days and had to write sentences for me to hammer home the point "I will not get into a car with strangers that Mom and Dad do not know."

6. Kids, manners are important. I started teaching this one as soon as each girl became vocal in some way or the other. For example: If the girls had something in their hands as babies I would ask "May Mommy have that please?" As I gently removed it from their sometimes death like grip, I would respond "Oh thank you." And I made it a point to smile at them. I got a little bit later start with Sarah, but I had help. Grandma Mary and Grandpa Ted really hammered them into her when she was five years old and stayed the Summer with them in Florida.

7. Speak kindly to everyone - even the people who make you truly nuts at times. And as parents it's important to lead by example.

8. Church is not negotiable. Until you are 18 years old, you have to go to church with the family.

Something I've made it a point to give to Sarah is her own room. This will be passed on to Elizabeth as she gets older and Sarah moves away to college. However, a room is a privilege and not a right. So I have a few rules about this:
a) You have to keep your room clean. If you don't keep it clean you lose the privilege of having your own living space and have to share a room with another sibling. The only thing that saved Sarah was that Elizabeth missed Beka too much and asked me after seven days if she could move back in with Beka. But it made my point and Sarah improved in keeping her room clean.
b) Your room is your sanctuary. When I send you in there, you can scream into your pillow and say what you need to on one condition. If I can hear you well enough to understand what you are saying, then your sanctuary is invading my sanctuary and we'll have a problem. It's about learning to express yourself in a manner that is less loud and more about getting to the point.

As Sarah got older there were times when I would send her to her room not as a punishment, but to give her time to calm down and take a few deep breaths. I usually told her, "Sarah, you are not being punished, but I need you to go take 15 minutes in your room to calm down." By ten minutes I would tell her it had been ten minutes and she needed to start winding it down. This helped her still express what she needed to get out and have her little kvetching session but not end up grounded because her attitude stunk big time. This saved her from being grounded on a permanent basis and it gave me a few minutes to think about what might be going on and think how I wanted to approach it. By the way this method wasn't always used and in times of stress I admit, Sarah got grounded a lot more than she normally would have if I had been a little calmer myself.

That is our rules for our house - for now. Stay tuned they always change and need tweaking as each girl grows up and shows her own personality and own needs for discipline.

Have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Differences of Each Child


As you get more seasoned in parenting, you begin to realize something - each child is different.

So far, Sarah has gone through her absolute girly phase, emo/goth - I am so misunderstood phase, and we are currently in the I want my own independence and can't wait to move out of here phase.

Elizabeth is currently in the between the I love all things princess and the I am trying to be an older even though I"m not quite 10 years old phase.

Beka at this point is just happy to play dress up, snuggle with Daddy and she's thrilled to play outside and has very few cares in the world.

Each of my daughters is definitely strong-willed and try to be as independent as they are allowed. Naturally, this means that each one is learning the rules of speaking with a polite tone and not sassing mom or dad. They each love to test the limits, but each of them goes about it in a different way. Sarah spent most of her middle school years fighting anything and everything I had to say, because I was the one who said it. Somewhere between this fighting for her own autonomy and living with rules, structure and discipline she picked up a good deal of the lessons we had to teach her.

Elizabeth on the other hand is not a fast learner in some areas. She is the child who kept putting her tongue on an electric cord repeatedly until it hurt too much. Chris just shook his head, he had tried to warn her, but when she began to cry he had to pick her up - the Papa Bear in him couldn't let her just cry. Each of the older girls reaches a certain age where we know they are ready to have some more responsibility. Elizabeth is an awesome dishes and kitchen helper. The autism in her demands structure and cleanliness. By the time Sarah was 10 years old she had an atrociously messy room. Now at 16 after getting onto her repeatedly she realizes she must keep it clean and she does a good job at doing so.

Sarah remained on kitchen duty for YEARS!!!! Elizabeth will remain on kitchen duty while I teach her the ins and outs of the kitchen and what cleaning . Elizabeth is very particular and likes to have things perfect, where Sarah wanted it to just be over. She remained on kitchen duty for six years before realizing that taking the short cuts only ticks us off and costs her computer time.

Beka seems to be a bit more stubborn. Especially once she is upset. Like Sarah once she's mad, she doesn't care if it gets her into trouble, she will scream, yell and be downright rude to me, even if it means she has to spend all day in her room. Sarah still goes through jags where she will purposefully make me mad until she loses privileges because she's in a mood. Elizabeth on the other hand, hates to have anyone mad at her, and she will go out of her way once she's had time to calm down to say she is sorry with deference and humility. So she tends to not be grounded that long.

For my part, I try to keep each girl separate from the other and remember that what worked for one child may not work for the other. Take Sarah's mp3 away and you would think her head might explode. For Elizabeth it is grounding her from television. She really, really loves television. For Beka it's a stern word and a well timed, time-out.

Each girl is different, each girl loves different things. Sarah is music and English. Elizabeth loves science and math. Beka enjoys matching things and play with her Leapster. She and Elizabeth both love puzzles.

An interesting difference I have noticed is Elizabeth and Beka seem to get along very well with the occasional fight. However, Sarah and Elizabeth together are two first born children who begin fighting for power and to assert that they are the alpha females. And yet, each of them can get along with Beka very well. See differences . . . they are in each family dynamic.

By the way these differences are often seen in each teen in the youth group as well. The question is how to bring them together and help them bond and become a community? These are things I am working on right now as a youth pastor.

How are you children different from each other? How do you deal with these differences? Do you have different punishments for each child or do you keep it the same for each child regardless of their differences? How do you think this works in your family? Is it maybe time to consider some changes?

I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Friday, July 22, 2011

Adventures in Sicily


Have you ever watched the movie Under The Tuscan Sun? It's a good movie, but the reason I ask is because there is a scene in the movie in which the main character, Frances is with a handsome Italian man who has offered to help her find pieces to a chandelier that she needs. They are driving in the car to Positano and he's driving rather quickly and races through a red light. She asks flippantly, "Do traffic signals mean anything here?" He explains to her Green means go, Yellow means drive faster, and Red lights are just a suggestion. She laughs, but in reality I've heard other Italian and Sicilians say that. Pastor Gianni was one of them, to which I just gripped the handle I had an iron grip even harder.

March 1999 I learned a small lesson in Sicilian driving. We had just finished up church and we were having a special Sunday evening gathering where we would go to other peoples homes and eat different things they offered and fellowship together with other families from the church in Catania. I had only been in Catania a short while, so my Italian was very rudimentary. I had yet to learn how to conjugate a verb and I was informed I'd be riding with Graciela and Antonietta her great aunt (at least I think that was their relation to each other) and Mariella's mom. I was still learning a lot about them and about life in Sicily when I got into the car.

I suppose my first clue that something might not go well is when Graciela began grinding the gears on her car and as luck would have it, I was sitting in the front seat. Thankfully there was a handle above the window so I had something to hold onto. I sit stone still as she started out in front of other cars, and they all magically stopped, she wove her way through the streets of Catania and the entire time I was sitting in the car all I could think of was to pray. Dear Lord, Please don't let this be the way I die. She would grind the gears and go. I think I may have actually looked out the back of the car at one point looking for her clutch to fall off and be left behind. Then we got into an area with more hills and mountains in them. Oh and I forgot to mention they were all having a rather robust conversation. At the time though, still being new to the mission field and already having a fear of dying in a car wreck (my family was in a terrible accident in 1996 and I've been a little skittish since then) it sounded like arguing to me. I was okay and trying to listen politely when she started talking with her hands WHILE SHE WAS DRIVING!!!!!!

At that point in time I had a million things flash through my mind. I could see the headlines now, "American Volunteer Missionary is Killed by Insane Sicilian Woman Driver" Details to come. I imagined them explaining how I died to my mom - not because I was feeding the homeless or helping a small child or a family in need. I was going to die because I was overweight and it was tough to fit me into the already small Sicilian cars!!! I just stared at the mountains and thought, Look at the mountains, Maureen. If you're looking at the mountains you won't see your impending death as it comes crashing up on you! Maybe it will make it less painful as you die.
So when she took her hands off the wheel, I frantically began to search my brain for any word to convey that I would like them to stop fighting now. I finally came up one word Battersi! It meant to fight and remember I hadn't learned how to conjugate yet, so all I could ask in a voice that I'm sure sounded terrified, "Per favor, non battersi?"

Graziella took her hand on the wheel and said, "Va bene". That didn't help me at the time. I didn't know yet that Va bene meant "It's okay". By the time we reached the Bellisima house, I was white as a sheet and if I'd been drinking woman I would have asked for a good strong drink then and there. As misfortune would have it I hate the taste of booze and the Nazarene church doesn't allow drinking. So I had to go into the bathroom and try to regain my color. It sort of worked, although my flatmate looked at me and asked if I was okay. I told her I never wanted to ride with Graziella again.

Looking back on that little adventure now I realize that she probably wasn't really driving all that crazy. She was driving like a Sicilian and as our friend Angelo explained, "In Sicily they drive psychologically." I still don't know exactly what that means, but it sort of helped. I learned how to not cringe when I got in the car with my friends. I learned how to hold up my hand and just walk across the street. And yes, I even learned how to conjugate verbs to a point by the time I left. But I also learned how to take things in stride and just laugh at the little things. I would absolutely love to back to Sicily. In part to see old friends, but also to say, "Thank you." I went there to serve, but the lessons I came back with were priceless.

I hope you have a good weekend.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Leaps of Faith

This is me at 25 years of age September 1999. The tree behind me was a an amazing ficus tree that was thought to be over 1,000 years old in Catania, Sicily. My mom was awesome enough to take this picture for me when she came to visit.
The year was 1998 and I was a student, still, at Southern Nazarene University. And while I was no longer required to attend chapel, I still enjoying going anyway. The semester was coming to a close and 1999 was coming very soon. I already had all of my next semester classes chosen, but that day in November (shortly before Thanksgiving to be exact), I was happy. I owned my car, finally, I no longer had a huge insurmountable amount of money I owed the school and I was with my friends. I remember as Dr. Culbertson got up to speak being excited. I loved to hear missionaries speak about other countries, I had since I was a young girl. My mom's older sister, Aunt Christine and her husband my Uncle Frank had been missionaries since I could remember. It was always so exciting when they came home after four years to visit and live in the States for their year long furlough.

As Dr. Culbertson began speaking about a need for Nazarene's in Volunteer Service or NIVS - and the need for Croatia, I felt God tugging at my heart. I had felt that desire and tug before, but financially it was not possible. While I know all things are possible with God, at the time it seemed like I would never have my finances in order so I could do a year of NIVS. But as God would have it in 1998, I had paid off my car, I no longer had huge financial debts hanging over my head - it all fell perfectly into place. The last obstacle I would need to hurdle would be gaining the money to go. Somehow though I wasn't very concerned with that. So after chapel I went to Dr. Culbertson and spoke with him, and while I couldn't go to Croatia, they did need someone in Catania, Sicily. It was decided I would go there. I had a few videos I needed to watch and they really were very helpful. They talked about the need to be flexible. I had Volunteer Assessment Training to attend and a few other things that needed to fall into place.
But I was excited and I knew I was going.

Have you ever tried telling your family that you dropped out of the next semester and you were going to go live overseas as a missionary for a year? Yeah, it was a little daunting, but true to form, I just dove in and dealt with what was coming. They all looked at me like I was nuts. Especially, since my goal was to be in Sicily by the end of February. I figured if you are turning 25 and you are going to a new country why not aim for before your 25th birthday. My Aunt Chris and Uncle Frank pledged some money and several friends made pledges and once college was done for the semester I began speaking at churches. Let me tell you speaking at one church in the morning and one church in the evening gave me a whole new respect for the job a pastor does every Sunday and once on Wednesday.

As time moved on and kept going, I began to worry a bit. I needed at least 10,000 or so to go to Sicily and be able to live. January came and was almost over and I was still woefully shy of my goal. My family was even suggesting that maybe I needed to consider pushing back my timeline, but when I would pray about it, I knew I needed to wait, because God had a plan. But as it got closer and closer to the time I needed to be leaving, I realize something, if the money didn't come soon, I would need to push it back. Interestingly enough the same day I was walking in the yard of the place I was renting, I began to pray. It went a little like this, "God, I know you have a plan here, but even my missionary aunt is becoming skeptical - I kind of need a little something here. I need you to please move and soon, because I'm starting to get a little nervous myself." Shortly after that, the phone rang. One of the women from church was calling to let me know that the rest of the money I needed had come in. Mom was able to call Aunt Chris and give her good news when she'd just learned some very sad news about some fellow missionaries they knew in India. A few weeks later, I was on a plane and heading towards Catania, Sicily. It sounds crazy I know, but yes, it really happened and it was amazing to live there and meet and learn to love the people there. It's an experience I will never forget, but it was also an amazing journey in learning to trust in God and his plans for my life.

I hope you all have a good week. I am still on a journey of faith and I look forward to more journeys and watching God work amazingly in this crazy life.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, July 18, 2011

Anniversaries


July 17, 2000 was an normal Sunday like any other Sunday, but I was so nervous. After, Mom, Aunt Nina & Uncle Ed spending time talking and talking to me about this guy named Chris Koeppel I was heading there to meet him at church.
In April 2000 my Aunt Nina had e-mailed me and told me about this lovely young man who was in her singles Sunday School class. I politely declined. I was NOT interested in being set up. Experience had told me that blind dates end badly and sometimes end in cab rides home soaking wet. So naturally, Uncle Ed had to have a shot at talking me into meeting Chris. He promised they'd never set me up with a loser or a weirdo. I laughed, my mom loves me but she had a terrible track record with the guys she had attempted to get me to date. I really wasn't interested, but I figured if it meant getting them to leave me alone, I'd just agree to meet him and then make sure it never happened.

No such luck. Chris wrote me a letter and so Aunt Nina called and told Mom that he'd written to me. This was mid-July so my Mom told me that if he could go through the trouble of writing me a letter then the least I could do was go up there and meet him. You really can't argue with your mom. You can but it isn't a good idea and it's usually like fighting the Borg from Star Trek - "Resistance is futile." So we packed up my little Pontiac LeMans and we drove to Wichita, KS to meet this man who everyone was so certain I would like.

I made it to church and we met, and then I kind of freaked out a bit, so I basically ignored him throughout the entire service. This was done for two reasons; first, I don't think when we are told in the Bible that we should gather together and fellowship with one another that the apostles had the idea of hooking up with someone. Second, I was nervous, what do you say to some strange man you've only heard about from family IN CHURCH?! It's a valid question and if you have an answer I'd love to hear it.

So I ignored him, and I as he was leaving I decided to find him and ask him to join us for supper. I caught him heading to his truck, but when he put his Bible in the truck and headed back to the church I kind of panicked a little so I went back to my Aunt and Uncle and about the time I was about to ask him to join us, Mom beat me to the punch. So that helped a little bit. After that, we got to know each other and we hit it off. He was funny and smart and adorable and I really had a good time. Six months and two days later we married in our living room with the judge and with our friends, Joe & Helen Lane there as our witnesses.

Ironically in some cases, knowing someone for such a short period of time can backfire, but for Chris and I it meant we didn't have enough time to second guess ourselves and rethink if we wanted to marry. And since we are both solid decision people, once we'd taken those vows, there was no going back for either of us.

I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Friday, July 15, 2011

Change and Growth

I have been reading the book of John lately. I finished Isaiah, so I thought it would be nice to indulge in the Old AND New Testaments this time. It's been refreshing to reacquaint myself with the stories I grew up hearing as a small girl about Jesus and his teachings.

Today I've been reading John Chapter 8 about the adulterous woman. You know the sad truth is that she was a pawn. The men who brought her to Jesus was using her to trap Christ. Of course, they failed because Jesus being God AND man knew what they were planning. I was reading the verse where he wrote in the dirt and suddenly the men who wanted to stone this woman walked away. I wonder even now, what exactly did Jesus write in the dirt?

Maybe he wrote their names and the sins that they were guilty of? Maybe he began writing the laws that they loved to use to browbeat the other Jews for years. These men had taken God's laws and twisted them into a harsh and binding law that made is very tough for men to have a relationship with Christ.

Do you find yourself falling into the trap of legalism? Do you long to be free and have more of a relationship with Christ and be free from the law? It is possible, by letting go of the law and focusing on God, we can have a real relationship with him daily. It isn't always easy and it isn't always going to be a joy - because sometimes having him lay the Spirit of conviction on your heart can hurt. However, it is through that pain that we find growth and a relationship in Christ.

I hope you all have a good weekend. If you are searching for a church, we'd love to have you come and visit us at 25th and Lombard and this weekend we are having Crossroads come and visit us. They will bless us with a concert.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Monday, July 11, 2011

Marriage and Relationships

Sometimes I wonder, why do some people get married and they live happily together, with a few minor tiffs and upsets. While others get married and it seems as if all they ever do is fight and argue and make each other miserable?

I've met some amazing couples who while they have their share of disagreements, are loving and kind and caring towards each other. My Aunt Nina and Uncle Ed, are a very good example of that type of marriage. I know other couples who will remain nameless who make each other miserable, but they are still married.

Why marry someone when there are red flags raised? Why not listen to that voice that tells you to get up from the table and run away and run as quickly as possible? Why is it some people choose to listen to that voice while others don't? Why is it that some choose to listen to God's voice instead of the voice of the world while others blatantly refuse to hear what he has to say? After all doesn't the Bible share with us what real love is supposed to be in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8? "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (NIV - Blackberry Application) Why is it that in this world there are those who choose to live without God's love and without his rules?

In this aspect marriage/choosing your spouse is a lot like life and making choices to either sin or not to sin. Some of us make our way through life and we choose to live by God's way and to have a relationship with him. Then there are others who choose to willfully live outside of a relationship with him. Some choose to listen to 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness." Wow! What an amazing promise. I find that even now in all these questions I find peace in knowing that while I may not have all of the answers, I do love the Lord and He carries me through the times of doubt and struggling.

Please, if you are struggling with life, with love, with marriage - you are not alone. God is there and he wants to know you in a real way. His book is his promise to us that what he says is true. It is designed to show us the long history he has of taking care of his sheep, just as the shepherd who searches for the one lost sheep - God also is searching for you.

What challenges are you facing today? How is your walk with Christ going? I'd love to know how I can pray for you.

Love in Christ,
Maureen

Milestones

Milestones happen in childhood whether we as parents are ready for them or not. And it can be tough to deal with them sometimes.

This year Sarah will be 17 years old and she has an older boyfriend now. Yes, Sarah has a boyfriend who is 19 and getting ready to head to basic training and AIT school before becoming active duty. While Chris is not necessarily thrilled over this development, he agreed with me to give it time and let the two work it out amongst themselves. It's tough for him to do that, it's tough for me to do that but we love Sarah and we know she is a smart girl and we did our best to raise her right and now we have to start giving her more freedom so she won't go completely wild once she goes off on her own for college.

Now watching Elizabeth hit those milestones . . well that's a little tougher. Her reading is coming along nicely and I found some of the children's missions books at the church library. The chapters are short and the print is bigger than your average books, but they are a good thing for her in two aspects. First, it helps her learn about other people who loved God and wanted to do what He asked of them. Second, it helps her improve her reading skills while learning about God and others. It kind of seems like a win-win on this one, which is nice. However, there is another milestone that we are facing and I'm not sure how I much I like this. It's not a milestone I can stop, it's coming full speed ahead whether I like it or not. It's time to do some bra shopping for Elizabeth. Yes, my nine year old who is challenged in so many other areas is an early bloomer?! I knew it was coming sooner rather than later when she began developing a bit of hips at eight years old. I knew it was coming and yet I hoped with all my might that I was wrong. I wasn't. . .

So now as pay day arrives, I find I must do two things I don't like. Paying bills, is always something I dislike a lot and I have to take Lizzie shopping for a bra. For now I think the small ones will do, but who knows what we are looking at. In truth, it brings the concerns we have for her rushing back to us. We worry that our girl who wants to be liked so much by other kids will let some boy talk her into doing something she shouldn't do. We worry that we'll become grandparents with Elizabeth too young to take care of her own child. There are a lot of things we worry about, it is one of the reasons we are strongly considering whether to home school her through middle school or not. We are currently weighing our options. She does pretty well for me so far, we've been doing a small amount of summer schooling. We are working on improving our spelling, vocabulary and reading skills. Also there is a Math website that the school told us about that she can use to help her improve her math skills. It's something I plan to have her work on throughout the summer so she doesn't lose anything. Between the Math, and English help, she still has tons of free time to play outside and run the ants out of her pants.

Beka to is hitting milestones. She's no longer a small toddler, she's a full-fledged preschooler and she is starting to learn all of her shapes. And her letters! I let her do fun games that she doesn't realize are helping her eye hand coordination right now. Thank you Discovery Toys for the patterns game! It's helped a lot and she is reinforcing not only her colors but also her shapes at the same time and learning how to think critically w/o realizing it. It's all just a game to her. We'll be pulling out Candy Land this week too so we can learn about taking turns and sharing with others. All of these are milestones that are being achieved.

As parents we love when our children are small and miss those days when they hit adolescence. We wonder what happened to our small and easily cheered children, but milestones come. We may not always like that they come, but come they will and while we are powerless to stop our children from growing up, we can choose to help them embrace the changes that are happening in their lives each and every year that they are with us and pray we lead them in the ways of God and to be amazing men and women of faith.

I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Different Perceptions

I have a beautiful Bible and I love it very much. It even has a beautiful cover, Chris purchased it for me as a Christmas present. My other Bible was become very worn and falling apart. Actually it seems to be happen often with my Bibles, so Chris purchased me a lovely cover that zips closed so I can keep it in better shape.

Then I have a Bible that I can take with me everywhere, but it's rather unusual. I have the Bible application on my Blackberry Curve cell phone. While I love my beautiful and thoughtfully given Bible, I also love my Bible on my cell phone. Somehow it made wading through the book of Isaiah a little easier, because I can't see what is behind or in front of me. I can alter the print to make it large enough that I can see it without squinting and it gives me one verse at a time.

Just as the Kindle is great for trying to read a huge book like Jane Eyre or even War & Peace the Bible as an application somehow make the Bible manageable for a new believer. It's also easy to take with me where ever I go - especially since I have my cell phone with me at all times. So even when I am sitting in the doctor's office waiting to be called back or if I am in the car while Chris is driving, it allows me the ability to take God's word with me anytime and anyplace.

Do you struggle when you read the Bible? Does it often seem as if you'll never make it through the entire Bible in a year or more? Try it on a Kindle or a Blackberry, sometimes changing to perception of a book seems to help. You don't got bogged down by weight or heft of a book and you can focus on what you are reading when you are reading it. Sometimes changing how you perceive a thing can make all the difference in the world and make what seems like an insurmountable task much easier and less daunting.

Have a good weekend.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Friday, July 8, 2011

31 Days of Freedom

Last year the Home Foundation decided to do 31 Days of Freedom in which, those who chose to could pick something to fast. Some people chose soda, some television, some caffeine, and other assorted things we all love. The point of this fast was give it up and use our cravings for those things to prompt us to pray and ask God to help end Human Trafficking.

Human Trafficking is still a huge issue world wide, not just in the U.S. Millions of women and children disappear every day and disappear into the human trafficking trade. Some of them are used for manual labor for low wages and in harsh working conditions. Others though, the incredibly unlucky ones find themselves sold into sexual slavery. This is not only confined to girls, even small boys find themselves sold to pedophiles and sexual deviants who use and abuse them and then throw them away when they are done.

Since this year the Home Foundation was not doing 31 Days of Freedom, I decided to do it myself. So I started a page on Facebook and so far we are just under 50 people who have joined us to fast and pray that God works a mighty work and helps end Human Trafficking.

I actually started my 31 Days of Freedom on July 5th because I thought it might be unfair to my mother-in-law to start my fast and be craving diet soda big time. So today in July 8th and I am on day four and I've made an interesting discovery. I found Mio - you add it to your water and it flavors the water so it has a nice taste to it. You can choose different flavors; peach tea, sweet tea, raspberry lemonade. . . you get the idea. It has made the no soda thing much easier, which raises an interesting point. Is it the carbonation I was craving, or was it the taste of the diet cherry in the Diet Pepsi? And is it cheating to use the Mio? So I thought today I wouldn't use the Mio at all and we'll see. In some ways it almost seems like cheating, because isn't the point of the fast supposed to be that you crave it and it prompts you to pray? These are all interesting questions and I'll definitely be thinking about them more as I get closer to August 5th when I will end my fast. And yet, I'm also wondering if I should even go back to soda. How can it be good for you? Something that you crave that much - can it really be good for you?

I hope you all have a good weekend and God Bless.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Being Mommy


I'm watching Father of the Bride with Steve Martin and he was talking about parenting and how things change as your children become adults and it got me thinking about my choice to stay at home.

I have a friend who knows that for herself, she needs to work. And she is a better mom because she works. I have other friends who aren't working because of the economy and they want to be working. I'm not one of those women. While I am not a total feminist, I also don't mind that I stay at home. I like it. I like being there in the morning to put Lizzie on the bus with kisses and prayers to go with her throughout her day. I like knowing that I am at home when she comes home so she and Sarah can each tell me about their days at school if they need to talk.

I tried working. I even loved my job working at Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines. I was good at it, but every day I went to work I was torn in two. I felt as if I was not doing my job as a mom, like I was failing Elizabeth. This feeling was made worse when even after I left my job, Lizzie was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder. I was consumed with remorse and guilt as if I had failed her while Chris was deployed (I continued to work while he was deployed until after Labor Day). It was the worst feeling in the world. So I waited until she was in school to begin thinking about finishing up my college degree. I even thought about starting while she was in Kindergarten, I'm glad I backed out at the last minute. I had a feeling that she was going to need me more during that year and I was correct AND I was also pregnant with Beka so I wouldn't have done very well between worrying about Lizzie and morning sickness every evening.

The interesting thing is most mom's cannot agree. There is a line drawn between mothers who work and those who stay home. While my friends and I don't have this problem, I have seen it at work in other areas and on television when working mothers feel that stay at home moms look down on them and vice versa. The truth is, every woman is different. My friend, Lisa is a good mom, she's a good mom because she works and she knows she needs that time each day away to be an adult so that when she comes home to her two cuties, she can be a better mommy to them. I can't fault her for that either, nor would I. She is a very good mom and working in no way diminishes that.

For myself, I need to be at home. In part, so I know what is going on, and in part, because the girls do much better when I am at home and I am not torn in two pieces. Chris and I discussed me going back and finishing college and going to work, but we both agreed, that Beka needs to be in school. He told me, he never wants to hear me cry at night again because I know we need for me to work, but I feel wretched and as if I am missing all of the good things in the girl's lives. Of course, there are things we do so that we aren't in the position that means I absolutely must go back to work.

First, we live within our means. This means that we are not under financial pressure for me to find a job. This also means that Chris doesn't feel like he absolutely must work overtime either. While he is working overtime right now so we can pay off some debts we accrued while he was unemployed, soon it will not be an absolute necessity. Second, we don't do set aside money that is "his vs. her" money. Chris realized while I was in college that just because he doesn't always see the things I do for our family, I do a lot more than he originally thought. So yes, Chris goes to work and earns a pay check, but it is our money because I work just as hard at home as he does in the workforce. Finally, we work together to make our finances work out. This means we buy used cars instead of new; we discuss purchases over $20 with the other before we just go out and buy stuff and we make sure we discuss our bills before each payday and work it out together. We've discovered that this does several things, it means one person isn't solely in control of the finances. If I died tomorrow, Chris would know what bills to pay and when and where to find all important paperwork and I could do the same if Chris were to pass away. This also means that no one can point a finger at the other for spending money we don't have. This is incredibly important since we each have a debit card.

Are we still struggling a bit? Yes and I could probably look for a job and it might help a bit financially, but it wouldn't help us out emotionally. Sarah is preparing to take her GED test and SAT's this means I need to be at home while she is studying or she won't have the peace and quiet she needs. Also, Elizabeth and Beka do much better when I am at home - do they fight still? Oh yes, they fight indeed, but they also know that at any point in time they can come and the computer/tv or electronics go off and I will sit down with them and listen. The one exception to this rule is when I am on the phone, then they must wait patiently until I am finished.

If you are a single mom or a woman who has to work - my hat is off to you. I don't know how you do it, but I have great respect for you to work and take care of your family is no easy feat. If you are a stay at home mom, my hat is still off to you too. Neither one of you is more important or a better mom than the other. You are both doing the best you can, some of us just have a different set of rules to work by than others.

Have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Georgia on my Mind

March 2010 we took our first ever family vacation that did not involve going to stay with family. We had already paid for most of our trip in advance when Chris got his re-enlistment bonus so we had paid for our condo, the tickets to Disney World. We had it all planned out.

The plan was for Chris to fly up and visit his mom the week before we would leave for Florida. I purchased his tickets and he was supposed to fly home on Tuesday and we were going to leave on Thursday evening when Lizzie got out of school and go on our wonderful vacation. This was the plan, but life got in the way.

Tuesday morning Chris called me and told me he wasn't going to make his flight because Ted had passed away. So I took a deep breath, made the phone calls I had to make, broke the news to Sarah and waited until I was alone, then had my own mini-breakdown and kept trucking. In between Tuesday and Thursday I purchased not one, but two plane tickets to Florida - one for Chris to meet us Sunday evening in Orlando and the other ticket for his mom, Mary to join us.
Ted had been ill for quite some time and we hoped to help Mary have a small reprieve by bringing her with us - and it worked to an extent. So Thursday evening we drove to Oklahoma City and stopped for the evening. We visited with Meg and her family and Friday morning bright and early we left for Tennessee. Our goal was to stop in Nashville for the evening and it was a long day. But we had a nice hotel and it was right next to one of the malls so we were able to walk to the mall and stretch our legs and spend a quiet evening just hanging out and moving around.
Here is where I think we goofed.

In hindsight, we should have waited until the trip home to stop in Georgia so Chris was driving and with us. This is what I should have done, but Sarah really wanted to stop in Georgia, so like an idiot I agreed. I say I was an idiot for several reasons. First, I hate rush hour traffic - if you have ever driven through Atlanta, you know that it seems to be rush hour all of the time. So on Saturday around noon, I made my way through Atlanta and two hours later we were finally done and my knuckles were white from terror and gripping the wheel. Second, I was tired. I was tired of getting everything ready by myself, tired of being the only driver and after driving through Atlanta, I was extremely tired of trying to make my way to Florida with three children on my own. So on Sunday morning when we left a small town near Hinesville, GA I was as ready as the girls to get to Florida, our condo and just be out of the minivan.

This is where I made my biggest mistake - I let fatigue and annoyance get the better of me and I started speeding. So I got stopped. I was guilty and I willingly admit I should not have been driving so fast. This is not why the state of Georgia annoys me. . . I'm getting to it, honest. So I got my ticket, I took it like a trooper and I finished our trip. I picked up the necessary parties, we had all of the awesome necessary fun and Chris was the driver all the way home from Florida and I let him do this with great pleasure. After a year of him being deployed and with myself as the only driver in the house I was ready to let him have the wheel.

This is where it gets crazy. . . I got home from vacation and I took out the money to pay my ticket and I sent it out mid April - Priority Mail. So imagine my surprise when I got a notice saying I hadn't paid my ticket. I called it in and they finally claimed it arrived May 25th - 7 days after the ticket was due. Now someone explain to me how I can ship something priority mail in mid April and it didn't get there until May 25th? AND they had to sign for it? So then began the lovely joy of taking care of everything. It took over 1 year to clear up this mess and for them to fix the suspension that the state of Georgia had put on my license. A suspension they swore they had fixed, but not before I was stopped IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON!!!!!!!! Between talking to McClintoch Country AND the State of Kansas and it taking so long to get them to fix what they screwed up I never want to go visit the state of Georgia ever again.

Was Georgia beautiful? Yes, it was. Were the people nice? Yes they were, except for the crabby police man who stopped me and who had woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Of course, if you were one of the lowest paid police officers in the country (Georgia police are not paid enough for the garbage they put up with. It's sad but true.) you wouldn't have a sunny disposition either. And I loved the drive before dealing with Atlanta, it was after Atlanta I was less than thrilled. But worse was the tons of red tape and the run around I got when trying to fix this mess. Now I have a public defender in the state of Washington who will hopefully help this all go away once and for all. I have to go back to court in August, unless something is fixed soon. So while I love my friends who live in Georgia, I really truly don't want to visit it again anytime soon - at least not if I am the one who has to drive.

Have a good week.
Love in Christ,
Maureen