Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Blessing and Pains of Life

We've been in Washington about a month now. Moving always comes with wonderful opportunities, but also with it's heartache as well. Leaving family and friends behind is hard to do, even when you know it's for a good reason (volunteer missions work or moving to keep your family fed and clothed). But it's also tough when you have friends who make it all about them and they flake out on you. It's interesting how something as small as things not said, or even things said, can add to your stress.

I knew that at some point I'd probably cry because the stress would get to me, but I never expected it to be because I was going to sign Lizzie up for her new school! I walked to the van and as I got behind the wheel, I was a bit surprised to realize I was crying. Between flaking friends, the stress of having strangers pack and move us, as well as A LOT of time sleeping in hotels to get to Washington and living in a hotel I found myself suddenly overwhelmed with fear and the need to cry. Crying is a part of any move at some point, especially when you are making a huge change, I just thought it might be kind enough to come at a convenient time, like after the girls were in bed asleep, not whilst I attempted to drive. So as I am following the directions from the Garmin, I am trying to stop crying. . . what's a girl to do? Call her momma of course. It's amazing how something that small as talking to your mom can calm you down quickly. After telling her EVERYTHING that was going on she prayed with me and it helped a lot and I was able to walk calmly into Lizzie's new school. She's doing well and Mrs. Galloway is a good teacher and just as loving and experienced as Mrs. Silveous.

The good news is, we only had to sleep in a hotel for 2 weeks and now we are on our 2nd week in our apartment. Chris' first paycheck has come and we know that God will provide for us. The upside is that we are meeting new people and making new friends. God has led us to a church where we feel we can offer a lot to them and help with church growth. The people there are lovely and wonderful and we have found that most people here are kind and polite. Yes, we've met a few of them that aren't those things, but that is pretty much par for the course no matter where you move to. There will always be a few turkeys who mess things up for others - you just pray for them and pray that God works in their lives. The girls have really enjoyed getting to know the Washington area and seeing all of it's wondrous beauty that God has created. It is beautiful here, even with the rain - which thrilled Chris and Sarah both because they both have light colored eyes, so the overcast sky is perfect for them both. We may not like the traffic, but we are figuring out the best times to go out and when to stay in.

The bottom line is this - While not every place and not everyone is perfect, God's timing is perfect. When you feel that things are falling apart, that's when God's work is just beginning.
I do ask that you please pray with me for Washington - the God will begin to move through this area where we live and send a revival.

Love in Christ,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Meeting People

As you get older and wiser and go through life we all meet those occasional people who make you look at them bewildered and wondering, "Who put a bug in their soup?" You know what I'm talking about - the person who right off the bat is either having an extremely bad day or they just have a plain old-fashioned nasty attitude.
Today I chose to keep Lizzie home with me, because she's not looking so hot - kind of like the stress and strain are getting to her a bit more than normal. So she helped me run a few errands and on our way back down the alleyway to our apartment we discover a large U-Haul van blocking the alley that gives us access to our apartment and our parking spot. So I talked to Lizzie and we rehearsed how she needed to ask nicely if the person would please move their van. What we got was a full cup of straight up nasty woman. I went to talk to her and instead of being nice, even though I was polite, she swore at me and called me some names and tried to convince me that our apartment manager had told her she could park the truck there. Now I've only lived in this apartment a week, but I know our manager well enough that she did not tell this woman that. So I had to back out of the alley and park up at the top of the hill. This wasn't a terrible thing since I needed to drop off our rent check anyway and I'd forgotten to stop. And after discussing the situation with Cindy - she was nice enough to allow me to leave my van parked in the visitor parking and explained that the young woman was being evicted for the sad attitude she had displayed.
Here's the question - what do you personally do when you are confronted with a person with a nasty attitude towards you? How do choose to handle it? Do you get nasty back or do you just shake your head and say a prayer for them.
In honesty, I told her I remembered her from yesterday - we'd had a talk in the parking lot at Safeway just the day before. She had come out swearing and I had Beka with me. I asked her to please keep her mouth clean - the F-bomb does not need to be in my daughter's vocabulary - nor does taking God's name in vain. She wasn't very nice then either. I told her I hoped she got an attitude adjustment rather soon, because she needed it. Then as I was able to walk off some of my steam, I realized she must be one very unhappy young woman. She acted as if the world owed her something and that must be a rather disappointing way to live your life - because the world tends to think you owe it more than it owes you. So I'm sure she is finding that life is less than stellar for her these days with an attitude like that. So as I thought about it, I found myself praying for her instead. Asking God to please find a way to show himself into her life, because when you are that unhappy you obviously need God in your life (we'll debate the semantics of that statement another time please). I also prayed that she would have safe travel and be happier in her new home wherever it might be and that God would keep her safe from harm and bless her life richly. It's funny - when you begin praying for people in that way how it doesn't just affect them eventually, but it also affects you. It changes how you see them, it also may change how you deal with them on a daily basis.
So the next time you find yourself confronted by an angry and foul mouthed person take a deep breath and pray for them instead. It isn't always easy I know. Trust me I know, my first reaction is usually not to pray for them. Yet, I find that when I do pray for them I don't feel quite so angry with them in the long run.
Happy Easter and I hope you all have a good Good Friday.
Love in Christ,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Things We Tell Our Kids

See that lovely woman pointing in the picture? She's my mom and when I was growing up she gave me helpful tips and advice. She also insisted she was 21 until I learned to do the math. Growing up parents teach their children the darnedest sayings. "Children in Ethiopia would love to have the food." "When I was a kid I had to walk to school up hill both ways; in ten feet of snow; with only socks on my hands for mittens." But I think one of my favorites that has stuck in our family is this one, "Eat your vegetables and it'll put hair on your chest."
Of course, leave it to my husband to take that saying and alter it a bit. So now he tells Beka if she eats her veggies that it will put hair on her pits. Imagine his surprise and chagrin when she started looking for the hair to be on her pits (pits = armpits). Even more humorous was when Beka realized that Jesus was more than just a baby - he grew up and became a grown up with . . . hair on his pits!!!" We had a good chuckle over that one and she spent a day or so talking about how Baby Jesus grew up and got hair on his pits. Thankfully she didn't discuss this in public, at least not that I know of.
Sometimes though, I think he goes a bit too far. . . for example; telling our girls there is an alligator in the lake behind our house to scare them away from the water. Although with Beka, just the fact that the ducks are there is enough to frighten her away. What funny sayings do you have that your parents taught you and you're passing down? Do you sometimes stretch the truth a bit when talking to your children? But a more important question - what do you think God would think of your fib even if you have good intentions?
I hope you all have a good week and a wonderful Easter Sunday.
Love in Christ,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cleaning House

Anytime you move it involves a good deal of clean up. Anyone who has ever moved can tell you that one. Moving out of a home and into another usually means at some point you are going to have to find your vacuum and make cleaning happen.
We've been in our home for a little over a week now and we already know we need to work on cleaning. So today since I woke up with more than my usual amount of energy I started tidying up and working on laundry. The house is looking good and it would look perfect except I have an obstacle. It's a small one, it's a very cute one and she looks terribly pathetic when she is frightened or crying. . . my obstacle? Rebekah Beryl Koeppel. Anytime I go near the vacuum cleaner she begins screaming and crying because for some unknown reason it terrifies her. In the beginning I would send her upstairs with Sarah or Elizabeth while I worked, but living in a home that is one story, that makes it a wee bit difficult.
So my cleaning is almost done, and yet I have one thing standing in my way. Often when we are working on giving things in our life to Christ we find that there is some obstacle in our path. Sometimes it is as simple as learning to let go of some small thing. Other times it is a huge obstacle - like surrendering control over our life and control over the things that frighten us. We all have heard the verses about Jesus standing at the door and knocking - we've seen the photos and yet, sometimes letting go is much more difficult than allowing him to simply take control over every aspect of our lives.
What obstacles are standing in your way? Is it your own feelings of inadequacy? Do you think you need to earn his grace and mercy? Because we can never earn them - they are gifts he gives to us. Maybe it's letting go of past hurts or anger and resentment? Maybe it is an attitude of unforgiveness? Whatever it is, once you let it go you will wonder Why didn't I do this earlier?
Whatever you are struggling with, the Body of Christ is praying for you. . . we will lift you up - even if you don't ask.
Have a good week.
Love in Christ,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Journey with Autism

I often have talked about the journey that comes with walking the path of having a child who has a learning/educational disability. But the truth is, it affects all of us in our family. While they are not completely 100% positive what causes a child to be born with Autism it definitely impacts the entire family. It is no surprise that having a child with special needs often leads to the end of a marriage. More often than not the marriage already had problems, but dealing with special needs just put too much stress on a marriage already struggling to make it. My family is an exception to that rule, but Chris and I are both talkers. We have our share of disagreements, but in the end we tend to pull towards one and another and hold each other up during the tough times. But I know that having Elizabeth impacts Sarah and Beka's lives. For Sarah, it is that overwhelming need to protect Elizabeth. While in middle school, Sarah and several of her friends chewed out a fellow student who mistakenly said that children with Autism are stupid or retarded. Sarah and her friends immediately set the record straight. When the kid asked how they would know - they all explained that Sarah's sister had Autism. He shut his mouth pretty quickly after that. When we go into a new situation - especially before Elizabeth could express herself, Sarah came to her defense several times when other children would be mean to her. Elizabeth is learning to stand her ground, but I think deep down, Sarah and I will always rise to the occasion when things get tough for Elizabeth. Chris is much quieter about how it affects him, but from time to time he lets me know that something bothers him or upsets him. I also know he feels as if some of what happened with Elizabeth is his fault because he has some of her quirks and he believes it is possible that she inherited it from him - and on that point so does my Mom. For Beka, the effects are mainly unseen at this time. She is the younger sibling so only time will tell. However, she and Elizabeth share a room, so for now she benefits having a playmate who gets along well with her. But I know Chris and I both worry about how she will act as she gets older and realizes that Elizabeth is a little bit different from her. There are a lot of worries that come from having any child who is as loving and trusting as Elizabeth. We worry about people taking advantage of her. We are terrified that some stranger will talk her into getting into their car and then we'll never see her alive again. But I think one of our greatest fears is that some boy or boys in her school will talk her into having sex because she wants to be liked so badly that we worry she will let them talk her into something she would never do if under our watchful eye. So this our life with Autism. There are tons of hurtles we have overcome - she talks very well now and before she barely talked (at least so others could understand her). She can go into a new situation - it's not without some fear and anxiety, but she can do it and not freak out. She makes good eye contact with us with only minimal prompting now - and before we had to and sometimes still ask, "Where are my eyes." We still have some things that have to be overcome - there are some challenges she will deal with for her whole life. But for now, she is slowly catching up and is reaching the goals set for her. We may always struggle with gender pronouns, we may always need to either live with her or at least very nearby. These are the things we look at for the future, just to name a few things. However, this we know with all of our hearts. Elizabeth is amazing! God has blessed her with a life so full and rich with imagination and people who love her without fear or reservation and that as long as God has her in His hand she will never really walk alone. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your week. Love in Christ, Maureen

Monday, April 4, 2011

Women and Their Roles

A few years ago we had the privilege of attending a church that eventually we left. It was a privilege because it forced me to look at what I think a woman's role is in the church. Growing up in the Church of the Nazarene meant I saw many young women rise to roles that were leadership roles. I also saw wonderful examples of how husbands and wives lived together and worked together as a team. As I got older and began studying the Bible more in depth, I too First Peter and other verses talking about how a woman should submit to her husband. I also read the follow up verses about how husbands should treat their wives. And until a few years ago I never thought I was a feminist. Honest, I don't think I am a feminist. If I were a feminist, I wouldn't think it was important to teach my daughters to be respectful of their dad, and their future husbands. I do believe that men are the heads of the household. I also know that having a good solid father figure is incredibly important to girls. I have lived with and without my dad - and it's made a difference between my sister and I and our views on life and dating and sex even. So in stating all of that, this is what I believe. I believe that as a wife, I am to submit to my husband. I also believe that he too should follow the God's outline for how he should treat me, and this goes across the board for all men and women. I do not believe I am better than all men - there are some amazing, smart and incredible men out there, but there are also some incredible women out there as well. I don't believe we are equal - I think God made men and women different for a specific reason. I am not as strong physically as my husband, and we really balance each other out very well. He is great with a checkbook and he's great at fixing cars. I am not so hot with a checkbook, and I couldn't fix a car to save my life. So let's hope the fate of the world doesn't ever rest on my ability to fix a car or the world will end - because if so, I'm sorry, but you are all toast. I know that God is my master and savior and so Chris is to be my master - the lovely part about this is that my husband doesn't treat me like a slave. I do believe that a woman can be a leader in the church - I think given the time that the verse in Timothy that many churches use to argue against women being leaders was written that a woman can be a leader, but she should absolutely be called. I am not called to lead music or to teach Sunday School, but kudos to those who are called. Please don't ignore the call or your gifting. However, I saw something in the church we went to - men who used the Bible as a way to keep their wives beneath them and not by their side. They acted as if they were superior to their wives instead of recognizing their strengths and encouraging them. There are times to the authority - and when it is that time, Chris asserts his role as the leader of our home. I saw men who acted as if all women were beneath them - to the point that they refused to open their ears when help was offered - because that person was a woman. Being a man doesn't give you all of the answers anymore than being a woman does. We all have our strengths and our weakenesses. We all have areas where God must carry us - and having one appendage in your pants does not make you a better person than someone else. So there you have my opinion. You don't have to agree with me - it's just my opinion and you can take it or leave it. I hope you all have a good week. Love in Christ, Maureen

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dear Washingtonians!

Dear People of the State of Washington, We are so happy to have discovered your lovely state. The greenery, the trees, the water, and even the rain is wonderful. We are enjoying your Pike Place Market, Whidbey Island, and the fact that unlike Wichita, KS (where we originate from) your streets actually make sense. We have enjoyed meeting the lovely people and making new friends for the whole whopping week we have been here. However, and this is a big HOWEVER!!!! We do not enjoy your traffic. So here are a few things we've noted in the small amount of time. 1. Rubber necking - you know that thing you all seem compelled to slow down (which is dangerous enough in itself) and look at the accident. It seems that you are completely oblivious to the fact, that when others have to slam on their brakes so they can too can do two things 1.) refrain from rear-ending you and 2.) also rubberneck/ fine we'll call it gawking if you don't know what the term rubbernecking is - the said accident. News flash - it is dangerous and it makes us completely insane!!!!!!!!! Slowing down to 40 miles per hour so you can look at an accident which slows and hinders traffic to only have it open up after you've successfully looked at the accident is just plain NUTS!!!!!!!! 2. It's the long skinny pedal on the right, not the short fat one on the left. Learn how to use it for the love of everything good and true. Driving 30 in a 40 is infuriating to those of us who know how to drive and makes my husband want to ram you with the front of my minivan. This is bad - very bad. I really love my car - I've waited a long time to find the right minivan that God wanted me to have. If you knew how often I had to put up with the pieces of junk my husband chose or he purchased cars we couldn't afford and so we were in too deep - then you would understand why if he rams the front of my van into the back of your car in anger and fury, I am going to be the one you deal with and I assure you it will not be pretty. Because as much as I love the minivan, we take our children with us everywhere and they are more precious to us than the car. Smack down will happen and you will find out how the Midwest raises it's women - tough and terrible to deal with! 3. The turn signal - learn about it, live it and learn to love it!!! Please. Swerving in and out of traffic or almost ramming the side of my van will again result in the aforementioned consequences I wrote of in point number 2. 4. While your traffic makes me nuts, your price gouging makes me even crazier. Excuse me, but if your average family's income is $45,000 - $55,000 a year - it makes absolutely no sense to gouge them in the housing department! In fact, you are just contributing to those who end up needing state assistance to make ends meet. Are we the only ones who see the insanity in this? I happen to know that no we are not the only ones. So why not finally put some state representatives and congressmen in who will actually insist on lower housing rates. Thank you and good evening. Love in Christ, Maureen P.S. While what I am writing is accurate of our feelings about the traffic - it is meant to be humorous - so please take it in that light.