Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Change and anxiety

Elizabeth begins high school in two weeks. While other parents think clothing,  supplies, I have a few extra things. One of which is enough to make me want to run and hide, I.E.P.

For anyone new here who hasn't run that fun meeting it is where you discuss yiur child's strengths and the areas where they fall short.  This is a meeting only for students who have disabilities.  Our first I.E.P. meeting took all of the wind out of our sails. Nothing screams failure  (in my mom brain, not because anyone said that) like having a group if people dissect and tear down what your child deficiencies are. It isn't said meanly or to hurt you,  but that doesn't make it stink any less. These meeting make me anxious and exhausted by the end. No one is cruel or unkind but it stinks listening to these flaws and feeling that maybe if you had done this different or eaten something else maybe others could see what you see. An amazing, beautiful,  smart girl with an amazing heart. 

And the truth is that Elizabeth has come so far. The girl who struggled with echolalia and spoke in jargon now can talk the hind leg off of a mule and I treasure every time I have to ask her to stop talking. The child who could only parallel play at first can now interact more with others. She has good days and bad days, but thankfully we go to a church with kids who are kind. We still struggle with impulse control and speech but she has still come so far in her years since age four. A lot of how far she has come is because she had us and a good team.

A good team is key. Let me say that again,  A good team is key.  People who fight just as hard as you do to break through the barriers and yet help you keep your child emotionally intact, because they realize that while your child may not fit what the world sees as normal that doesn't mean they are any less awesome. A good team will see Elizabeth's amazing and beautiful mind. They will see it as an asset instead of a detriment.  A good team realizes that despite the frustration we all feel when it feels as if we may never progress that if we all keep trying then she will hit that milestone we are all working towards.  A good team utilizes Chris and I as her parents to help get through to her. We have had that team before,  I am praying we will have a team like that again this time around.

So ready or not here we go again. Public school is happening and I promised to give them a full year. Heaven help us all.

Have a good week.
Maureen

Monday, August 14, 2017

Challenges

Do you know what is tough?  Accepting who you are and that it means you can't be everything you wanted to be.  In theory I love the idea of throwing parties, adopting enough kids to need 20 million bedrooms, taking in refugees, finding a way to run a tiny house village for homeless people.  Those are the things I would love to do.  Now for the list of what I can actually do. 

1. Pray for you.  I may not be able to be at every single party you throw, or come to a ton of busy stuff, because crowds are overwhelming for me more and more as I grow older.  I can however, and often will pray for you.  Sometimes even if you don't ask for it.

2. Encourage and be a good cheerleader!  I am an excellent cheerleader online.  I have friends who sell Younique, Mary Kay, do Beach Body Coaching, sell doTerra (I tried, I am not a party girl, it's not me), the list could go on and on, but I'll spare you.  You know what I can't do - sell stuff.  Seriously, I've tried countless times, it is not my thing.  I cannot sell ice to an Eskimo. So I need to let that go already and just accept it.

3. I can make a mean cup of tea and I'm learning to make coffee so you can come over and visit.  Or I'll bring them to you so we can hang out and chill or you can talk. 

4. I can sing. That's self explanatory I think.

5. I can research the heck out of stuff for you.  Seriously, it is something I enjoy doing. I love learning new things and sharing them.

6. I can write.  I am working on becoming a word smith - good with my words, sharing my stories and hopefully someday sharing them by selling my books. :D 

7. I can bake some amazing cookies and fix a good meal for you.

8. I can sit and knit with you.

9. I can watch documentaries and tell you all about how fascinating I find them and I apologize if it isn't fascinating for you, but I'm going to ramble anyway.

10. I can give good hugs.

11. I can encourage you to grow in Christ with my words on here and in life.


Normally, I am a fly by the seat of my pants girl. You want to take a spontaneous road trip, let me work the logistics for a few minutes and I am there.  You need someone spur of the moment to babysit, I can usually do that. Do you need someone to help sing the National Anthem in front of a stadium full of people, I can be ready on the fly.  I can pitch in with set up and clean up, I can do a lot of things.  I cannot however, be overly social.  I am learning to accept that I am a homebody who loves to read a good book, knit and listen to a good audio book (borrowed or purchased, either one works for me). I am learning that with the gift of Empathy, comes a price - and if I want to stay standing and not have it take a huge toll on me emotionally or physically, I have to practice a lot of saying no.  Some people call it self care, I don't.  It has the word self in it.  And I don't want to be selfish, I also don't want to go insane.

By the way, I hate saying no.  It gets me into trouble a lot. Because I want to say no, but yes comes out of my mouth and then I'm over extended (it doesn't take much) and before I know it I end up sick.  I'm beginning to realize it's my mind and body's way of making sure I don't get too crazy with my schedule.   I hate hurting other people's feelings, but I am learning to do it to protect my family.

What are you good at?  Are you a great social networker?  Can you sell ice to an Eskimo?  Do you love to sit quietly and learn for day and weeks and months on end.  Share with me your list of what you can do.

I hope you all have a good week. 

In Christ,
Maureen

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Libraries in Heaven

I took a challenge yesterday from a fellow wordsmith,  my friend Tricia Goyer to spend 30 minutes writing. The results in two days have been interesting. Today definitely turned interesting as I began writing about Heaven and what it would mean to me or for me.

It started as a question. Do they have professional readers and writers in Heaven? It's an interesting question and began to evolve into more and I began dreaming of a HUMONGOUS  Heavenly Library for those whose sole job was to read and write to entertain others in Heaven or keep them informed of how everyone was doing or let them know if something exciting was coming. Stay with me and imagine this if you will.

Imagine an extremely large building filled with endless rooms filled with nothing but books and wood furnishings and wood work intricately carved to praise God and Chris.  Each room has long tables for those who need to write and research and huge cozy fireplaces with fires blazing.  Each fire let's off a different pleasing aroma.  Around these numerous fireplaces as overstuffed chairs and sofas with tables to place your beverage on and plenty of light to read by because the light is the Son and it never goes off. We can doze there if we want as we allow our brains to absorb the information we have learned. Or discuss what we have been reading and what we we have learned or are learning.   Maybe angels help us with research and find the books we need. Iwonder if the Heavenly librarian requires a inside voice too.

Will we ever tire in Heaven? Will we have freedom to choose our heavenly body? Or am I stuck being 5'3 and fluffy. Will I still require stepstools or ladders to reach my tea mugs? Or can I request of higher metabolism and a few extra inches to reach where I need to reach.  Or better yet, will my home be pint sized just for me and all who are height challenged have houses designed with our unique problems in mind. Jesus to his disciples he was going to prepare a place for them after all, will those homes be unique to each individual or uniform. . . I sincerely hope they are unique,  I'd rather not have to count to find my home. I can see me now, walking in to the wrong home as Chris tries to flag me down. Or a neighbor miscounted.  Oops, I'm sorry I seem to have miscounted again. Hey it that pot roast? Mind if I stay for supper? Will we have annoying neighbors in Heaven?

But the best thought to me, was the library.  The possibilities are endless! So many books and an eternity to read them?  What if Heaven for book worms was a HUMONGOUS library? I love that idea so much. It makes me giddy to think of it.

This is just an example of where my free writing went today. I hope as I practice each day I improve my skills and descriptive abilities.
So the question for the day is what would be your idea of Heaven?

Have a good week
In Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Books, loves and changing minds

I remember the day (not the specific date mind you, but when it happened) when I began to realize I really just wanted to finish my Bachelor's but maybe not in psychology much less go to graduate school for it.  I was following my advisor into her office and she was telling me how she was reading a book about James Watson a prominent psychologist already dead and gone and she was reading this for fun. . .I had no desire to read those books, much less for fun.

I admire those in psychology and studying it helped me understand myself, and those who had abused me better.  I wouldn't be who I am today if I hadn't studied that specific focus. And yet, it doesn't excite me as it once did. I had decided to minor in English for something to break up the monotony of constant studying. In the making that change,  I began to realize I enjoyed reading fiction and assorted types of literature much more than my psychology text books. That's problematic. . .not feeling excited to study what you've chosen.

So I decided to stay the course but would pursue English for my graduate work. Life got messy as it is apt to do and to this day I do not have my Bachelor's Degree. My husband is a sweet man, but he would like me to finish Psychology. . .no. It has been so long since I took Statistical Methods and Theory of Research Design that I would be hopelessly lost. You know where I wouldn't be lost? In an English class because I still read even now and work to incorporate classics into my reading list even now. I can and often do make notes in my books,  underline passages or quotes that I want to remember, and reread favorites often.
If I tried to finish my Psychology degree now,  I would fail miserably.  In part, because I'm not excited by it and also because I would be bored to tears. I would not,  however, be bored reading and discussing books.

Now for the tough question. Do I want to teach? No thank you. Teachers rock, teachers are amazing but I am not foolish enough to think I can succeed in that noble profession.  I can however, work on creating stories for people to read. Stories bursting out in my imagination. That I know I can do. Even at 43 years old, I know I can succeed at writing.

It's funny how we still in our 40's are figuring out who we are and who we will be or want to be. But for me the search is over. I will become a writer. Regardless of how successful I become or don't become. It's not really about money,  it's more about letting my imagination out and allowing it the freedom it has long been denied.

Have a good weekend.
In Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Friend or Father

One of my favorite sounds in the world (even when my TMJ flares is hearing our girls and their excitement when they see Chris and call him Daddy.  Dads are very important. The role they play in the lives of their children has been proven repeatedly in studies.  In truth I don't need a study to tell me this because I see it in my own life. I had my dad for five short years. But those five years shaped me and what I thought a husband and dad should be. Seeing Chris with our girls and knowing these things always makes my heart full and it also makes me long for my dad.

1. My girls have no clue what it is like to not have Chris around.  There is no mourning for the what could have beens if he wasn't gone or wondering if he is proud of them. They know because he has made it a priority to be sure they know he loves them.

2. I love knowing that he is there for them even when I can't be. He is an amazing dad.  It has helped heal some of the pain I feel seeing him with them.

There is another father we can count on as well. God. But what if you didn't have a dad growing up? Or what if your example of a dad was not a good example.  There are some really awful dads out there. That's just wrong, but it is a reality in our world that is filled with sin and free will.

Sometimes, I think we focus on explaining that God is our father more than the fact that he wants a relationship with us. And Jesus came to be the bridge. God was the law maker as our Father,  and Paul even says that the law is death. But Christ stands in the gap. He is like our older big brother who says, "Wait a minute Dad, I already paid the price for that remember? It's forgiven."  God sent Jesus so he could understand our humanity more and so that we could see Grace on earth for a short time as Jesus His One and Only Son. God does not want to be all about rules. He realized that no one could follow the law and not mess up and that the act of continually sacrificing animals became a routine without the heart behind the act of requesting his forgiveness.  But when we truly and thoroughly begin to realize that there was ONE major sacrifice, a sacrifice that no animal or another human being could possibly make on their own because we are humans are imperfect, the weight of that and what it truly means makes our act of asking forgiveness of our sins even more humbling. Realizing we could NEVER possibly earn God's love by acts of goodness alone. We as humans will never, ever be righteous enough on our own to deserve or earn the gift Jesus and God gave us.  Which brings me to a new question.

What is sin? Off the top of my head or many people's heads,  I'm sure we think of thieves, murderers, serial killers, or child abusers. But sin is more than that. Sin is the willful disobedience of God. Sin is when we hold a grudge, or tell a white lie, when we take office supplies, or when we cheat on our time card. These seem like such small examples, but they are still sin. That's why in Romans we see it written,
"As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;"
(Romans 3:10 NIV
http://bible.com/111/rom.3.10.NIV)
that means even those who you see going to church, we are not without sin either.  The church is for sinners and we are ALL sinners, including Christians, even me.

In early June I was burned when I used too much lighter fluid and foolishly closed our grill lid. The flames had no place to go but out the side door straight at me. If it sounds like it hurt, I can assure you it did. In the car on our way to the Emergency Room, I was crying, "Oh God". That may seem small to many, but to me that is the name.of my God and my King. It is a very big deal. At that point, I was in so much agony that even now I am unsure if I was calling out to Him for help or if I was taking his name in vain. It bothered me. . .A LOT. So I prayed and asked him to forgive me. I would rather ask forgiveness and be certain, because I know God knew my heart and state of mind, but I was so blinded and confused by the pain, I couldn't tell. 

I am not sharing this to show you I am better than you. On the contrary I hope you see that even though I grew up in the church, even I still sin and have to seek forgiveness.  

Even as you read this if you are thinking But God could never forgive me, this woman has no idea what I have done. Let me assure you, God knows.  He has always known. And yet he loves you even now and wants to welcome you into his arms. He deeply wants a relationship with you. And you can find him if you seek him with all of your heart.

If you read this and want to ask Him into your heart it is as simple as this prayer.
God,
I am so sorry for everything I have done. I want you in my life and to be the King of my heart and life. Please come into my heart and forgive me of my sins.
Amen. 

Some of you may feel the need to confess your sins out loud.  You can alone, just you and God or find a Christian or friend who is a Christian and confess with them and pray more if you are led by God to do so.

So which is God? The man who made rules or the one who wants a relationship with us? He's both.

If you have prayed that prayer, Welcome to the Family!!

Maureen

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tough Questions and Good Books

Kennedy Stern has always led a sheltered life. Even though her parents are secret missionaries in China  she was sheltered, albeit privileged to see North Korean refugees training to go back to North Korea and spread God's word. Now a freshman at Harvard studying for pre-med nothing has prepared Kennedy for the tough experiences that change who she is and leaves her asking questions that could make or break her faith in God.

I started to read this box set of the first three books in the Kennedy Stern series because Alana Terry, a fellow author asked for reviews.  The set contains three books, UnPlanned, Paralyzed and Policed. What I didn't know was that I would find a set of books that are well written, thought provoking and that capture perfectly the time during a freshman year of college when many students find themselves asking tough questions about God and questioning what they truly think of Him and do they want a deeper walk with Him.

Here are the things I liked about the books.
1. Alana Terry does not back away from tough topics like abortion.  Which leads me to. . .

2. The first book UnPlanned doesn't have cut and dried answers and you see that in Kennedy's internal conflict.

3. Carl and Sandy Lindgren . . .these two characters are a constant source of support and nurturing as Kennedy faces abduction, being hunted by a killer and faces a corrupt cops actions and ramifications that she and someone she cares deeply for may face if she speaks out.

4. Interracial marriage and relationships.  This issue is discussed in the form of past experiences and present scenarios and even tackles race wars and what is happening currently.  The third book especially.

5. Questions about anxiety, depression and PTSD. After book 1 Kennedy has to face the aftermath of events in the first book. It is even discussed in book 3. Sometimes, God heals people from mental anguish, anxiety, depression or mental illness and sometimes he says no or wait.  This series covers that in a kind, compassionate way and even does a good job of explaining why healing may not always happen the way we wish it would (you know, right away instead of in God's perfect timing)

As someone who studied psychology in college as a major before leaving to marry and start a family and as the wife of a Veteran who struggles with PTSD, I liked how the issue was handled.

My only complaint? The books weren't long and left me wanting to find out more about Kennedy. . .I mean that is the best way possible.

I hope you all have a great week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fur Babies

For several years I resisted the idea of getting pets.  Read through one of my older blogs.

Read here: http://koeppelclan.blogspot.com/2009/08/pets.html?m=1

We hadn't had a lot of luck.  But after buying a house here in Washington it felt like the time was right.  We have a larger yard, and a nice sized home that could accommodate an animal, it was time to begin praying. And so I began praying 


Slowly, after hunting and searching I found some good groups on Facebook and online and prayed. I prayed two things. First,  I asked God to bless us with the wisdom to know what dog would God wanted us to have. Second, I prayed for whatever dog we found, it's safety, protection,  etc. . .

A lot of times when we pray we want I stant results.  Being human it is easy to forget that God's timing isn't always ours, I know I struggle with this. I become impatient and want to know right away or to have something happen immediately.  As I grow older, God has gently taught me to wait because when He moves, everything happens quickly and falls perfectly into place.  

Finding Lily was no different. For two months I looked at dogs, read descriptions. I knew after prayer that we needed several things and didn't need several things. 

1. WE DID NOT NEED A FREE DOG.

In the past we were given free dogs. Really what this meant was the dog needed medical care or had behavioral issues the previous owner was unwilling or unable to address. In short, the dog was free because they hoped to get rid of the dog and so their problem became our problem.


2. WE NEEDED A DOG THAT HAD A SWEET TEMPERAMENT.

We seemed to get dogs with issues. Aggression issues, home broken issues, medical issues. It was a mess and what should have been an easy transition turned into a royal pain in the neck. We needed a dog who could be easy going, loving and low maintenance.  

3. WE NEEDED A DOG THAT WAS GOOD WITH CHILDREN.

We struggles with jealous dogs in the past, we needed a dog who was patient. 

We finally found all of those things in Lily. One day a new for sale add popped up on a garage sale group I was a part of. Lily was a little over a year old and needed a new home because her owner was gone a lot for work. She had a sweet disposition and was nicely house broken and her owner was just as excited to meet us as we were to meet him and Lily.  

We drove to the park a little nervous and wondering if we would meet our dog that day. We did! And we have enjoyed her immensely. She wasn't free, but she was worth every penny of the  $200. Truthfully, we should have paid more.  

We enjoyed her so much that when our oldest daughter came home to live with us she asked if she could adopt a cat.  She promised to take good care of the cat and be responsible for it. So we said yes. Lol, she found Mikhail and takes good care of him,  but I think he is adopting us. And he and Lily after a rough first few days play well together and are becoming friends. 

God answers prayers and pets are awesome, if you find the right pet. I have been sick a few times and spent yesterday sad (that's another story), both Lily and Mikhail never left my side. They snuggled me and hugged me. 

I'm so glad we changed our minds. I can't imagine our home without them. It seems we are pet people after all.

Have a good rest of your weekend.

In Christ, 

Maureen 



Friday, July 28, 2017

Friends

Once upon a time long ago (1988-1989) there was a girl. She was awkward, had low self-esteem and braces with huge Jane Fonda 80's glasses and her mom permed her hair. It was not a pretty picture.

As the girl entered 9th grade she found herself welcomed into a group of kind and caring people. They talked and laughed and included her. But of all the group who welcomed her one boy stood out. His name was Curtis but everyone called him Kent. He sat with her often and even helped her out of a few scrapes. He was cool. He was older and he had A CAR! But morw importantly,  he was her friend. He didn't care that people said she was weird or the other stuff they said and he made 9th grade bearable.
Flash forward to today. Today my friend is losing the fight with cancer. Today he is being kept comfortable in hospice care and friends are encouraged to visit. Sadly,  this friend, the girl who wishes she could fly to see him cannot be there.

Living in Washington has a lot of nice perks; beautiful landscapes, 
amazing places we can explore and the list could go on. But today it is too far. Too far to afford a ticket or gas money to drive to see my friend. Too far to say goodbye to the boy who made this girls days a little brighter even though, high school pretty much sucked. He made me laugh,  he was hard working,  generous when needed, and willing to talk and listen when I needed it. No words will ever be able to say thank you enough to Kent.

So today I am sad, wistful and wishing for a short time I could go back to Oklahoma and say the things I need to say, but this blog will have to be enough.
Thank you, Kent for being my friend and for finding me on FB so I could get to know you again. I love you and I am praying for you.

In Christ,
Maureen, the girl who needed you as a friend.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Changing strategy

I spent my childhood attending public school. I survived, albeit sometimes by the skin of my emotional teeth. Middle school was the pinnacle of the tough times. I am still here but I suppose you could say I am proof of the proverb, That which does not kill you makes you stronger.

The school Elizabeth attended in Wichita, KS was an excellent school for her. I share this because it is easy to assume that as a mom who has homeschooled her girls for six years that I am anti-public school. But I'm not.  I was just against Everett Public schools. I struggled with seeing apathetic teachers walk the halls and listening to educators with a Masters Degree using poor grammar, the list could go on and on, but I'll spare us all that story.

In August 2016 we moved further north from Everett and Seattle and settled in a beautiful small town that quickly felt like home.  The feeling of being home had eluded me since our move.  I found Washington a tough state to enjoy while we stayed living in limbo.  Now that we no longer reside in limbo, I find I LOVE where we live.

All of that to share that after prayer and thinking it over, I asked Chris about placing our girls in the schools here and he agreed. Why now? That is a good question.

1. I felt God prompting me that the time had come to revisit public school as an option.  I was willing to consider this because. . .

2. It no longer feels as if putting our girls in the schools that we would be throwing them to the wolves.

3. Parents here actually teach their children manners and to be kind to others. That was a huge one for me. When we moved to Everett I met many parents who seemed to not care that their child was unkind, or that they bullied others and they themselves behaved just as badly.

4. I LOVE our home and town, so I'm more willing to embrace our girls becoming a part of the community here.

5. The people here are amazing!  When Beka went missing for those horrid 6 hours people on the garage sale groups went out in their cars and began searching as well. People spoke up who saw her so we would know she hadn't been kidnapped.  Living in Everett, I would never have contemplated this as an option. 

5. I am not really a good teacher. I know how to write a term paper, I can outline and take notes like a champ. However,  I cannot figure out how to teach the girls write these.  I want the girls to have a very good education, and I am willing to admit I cannot provide that for them.

6. I am tired. I love spending time with the girls a lot. But I will be honest, I am ready for some quiet time. Time to work on my doTerra business and more importantly time to spend quietly with God. I struggle with both of those right now.

7. The girls are lonely and fighting with each other constantly.  If Beka and her adventure of Lizzie continually falling and crying for attention showed me anything it is that they want more social interaction.  I am a homebody,  so I admit they need friends. I can be a hermit for months on end and not think anything of it. The girls cannot.  So there you have it.

I hope everyone is having a good week. Enjoy your summer.

In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Heroes!

Heroes are rare or so the media would have us believe. We rarely hear stories about positive people making a difference in the world. Thankfully, there are new sites dedicating themselves to sharing inspiring and praise filled stories for those who help when others won't. 

http://www.liftable.com/carolynfultz/28-yr-old-screams-psycho-starts-rape-homeless-man-1-answers-cries/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=bencarsonistheman&utm_campaign=dlvrit&utm_content=2017-07-05

Maurice Osborne the man in the article above is such a man.  But heroes may also be doing little things that may not seem like a big deal but it helps brighten another's day.

Today I have three heroes. Mr. Osborne who dared to stop a rape in progress, Jake the AAA guy who helped jump start my car after the battery died at the gas station today and my handsome husband, Chris.

Chris is often my hero as it is, but today he came, he didn't say I told you so, or I can't believe you didn't do this. He instead picked us up at McDonald's grabbed a new battery for our Kia and then gave me the Volvo so Beka and I could come home to air conditioning while he made certain the alternator wasn't really the issue.

But he's often the hero of the day. The man who decided to not become his dad and chest or abuse me. The man who makes it his goal to be an A+ dad, despite his own poor example.  He works hard to make sure the girls and I are doing well and taken care of.  He was right beside the nurses helping change the cold towels on my face, hands and arms when I burned myself. He made sure I stopped and rested and still makes sure I get rest as my hands finish healing. It's a million little things that make him not just my best friend and husband but my hero.

Who is your hero? Who inspires you to work hard and try to overcome challenges or who will come along side of you to help with the day to day things that threaten to overwhelm you.

Have a good weekend.
In Christ,
Maureen

Friday, June 30, 2017

Freedom

For the past five weeks I have been primarily stuck in the house. Why is a stupid story that only highlights my poor judgement. Short story I used too much lighter fluid on the grill and ended up burned badly.  Second degree burns on my hands, arms, chest and lips (yes you read that correctly,  I burned my lips)

For those who aren't on my FB, when you have second degree burns it means you have to stay out of the sun. Even indirect sunlight must be limited.  So while I recovered I was basically stuck in the house unless it was dark.
I didn't mind at first because I was in a good deal of pain, but by week three and a half I started feeling the cabin fever.
You don't realize how much you like going outside until you can't.  Today (Friday) my purchase arrived. Four beautiful pairs of driving gloves arrived. They even have UV protection. Freedom in a package arrived. Thank goodness.

Add to this joyous arrival the fact that Chris got the 2006 Kia we purchased up and running means we have more freedom.  We can go to the library anytime, I can go grocery shopping without waking up at 4 a.m. to drive Chris to work and I can take the girls to the library or to hiking trails. I can go get in laps at the mall. FREEDOM!!!!

The irony is I have enjoyed the ability and freedom to stay home, especially this past winter. It was nasty, but now we are thrilled to be able to go out and make friends. FREEDOM!!

I hope you all have a great 4th of July because this year bells of Freedom will definitely be ringing!!!

In Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, June 24, 2017

One Great Adventure

Yesterday was an uneventful day to start. Then we found ourselves in the middle of a great adventure. The main character in this adventure is our youngest child Beka. She is 10, smart and apparently was feeling very confident in her ability to get home before I realized she had been gone. . .She was wrong.

Around 1:15 p.m. Beka asked if she could go explore and play at the creek. I told her to stay close because Chris a.k.a Daddy would be home soon and he might want to go somewhere. So she left happy and she hadn't ever been gone too long before so I was surprised to see it was 2:30 p.m. and no Beka. I asked Elizabeth to go search for her not knowing Lizzie had seen her at the park earlier when she took the dog for a walk. 

Chris made it home and about this time I'm beginning to worry. Beka had never been gone this long before and something had my mommy sonar going off. So we drove looking for her and no Beka.  Chris came back, dressed in hiking clothing and had Elizabeth show him where the creek was specifically and then he began making his way through the creek while Sarah and Elizabeth began driving around searching for her.  In the meantime I was stuck here in the house. I was burned four weeks ago in a grill fire and so I am not supposed to get my hands and arms in the sun due to the severity of the burns. Talk about a crummy thing to be, stuck...

As they all left I started praying and asked for prayer on Facebook.  People began praying, I continued praying asking God to let me know if I should panic or not...Nope I had a sense of peace. After a while some of my friends convinced me to call the police,  I did and the Mount Vernon Police responded quickly.  Officer Gless came to the house and asked for important information. I was able to give it to him and slowly but surely we began playing the waiting game.  In the meantime I got things going on garage sale groups and tips began pouring in of sighting of Beka.

Truthfully,  those tips helped me not lose it completely.  Don't think I didn't cry, I did. And Lizzie stayed with me.  She was a huge comfort and gave me hugs, brought tissues, and remembered she had seen Beka at the park. We shared this news and discovered the police were already following social media.  I had made my profile public for that time  (it has since been returned to it's  locked down status).  Four o'clock, five o'clock came we hit the six o'clock mark and I was struggling to trust in God and know Beka was okay when the phone rang about 6:30 p.m. Sarah had found her!

So where during all of this was my wayward wanderer? She decided she wanted to take a long walk so she left the park, went towards Burlington. Now our town and Burlington are connected so it wasn't a stretch for her to want to go that far.  After all when puppies,  kittens and fish call to you who can resist their siren song? Apparently, not my daughter,  so she walked 10 miles to see animals, not before stopping at the Country Store for some free popcorn because she was hungry and to see their baby chicks. She meandered all over and headed back to Mount Vernon and stopped at the River to rinse her shirt because it had thorns from the creek in it and she was tired of them irritating her. And then proceeded to walk around the downtown area looking around and exploring before her oldest sister, Sarah found her. The adventure was over and now she had to come home and face the music. 

This music wasn't fun, she was scolded by a police officer because she wasted police resources and the search and rescue volunteers time and Sarah woke up only to spend her time from being awake until she had to go in to work searching and crying because where on Earth could Beka be?! Her boss called another waitress in and so Sarah was able to come home and relax. The neat part of this was I had been praying that God would help Chris and Sarah hear Him speaking. Sarah was ready to give up when something nagged at her to go downtown one more time when she found Beka.
Chris is scratched up all over his hands and arms, Beka is also scratched and she is sunburned, Sarah and I required chocolate and a good night's sleep. Chris needs another 24 hours to recover and Beka is learning rapidly the consequences and how her choices affected all of us.

I hope you all have a less eventful weekend than we had.
In Christ,
Maureen

Friday, June 9, 2017

Gardens and Hearts

For many years I could not for the life of me grow anything. I killed a cactus, bamboo, any and all plants. The exception to this was crepe myrtle and I didn't even plant it, the former owners of our home did, I just left it alone and it thrived.

I tried a few years ago to grow bell peppers, they were doing well until my husband put up a black out curtain. At that time it became out of sight, out of mind and nature took over the rest. By the time I remembered them,  they died from too much sun and not enough water. I decided I was a plant killer in my own right.

None of this would have bothered me except that my Grandma Taylor had an amazing green thumb and her garden thrived under her care. She even tried to teach me once but became frustrated with me and gave up. In my defense I was 15 years old at the time so my commitment level wasn't what it should have been. It didn't help that we had a neighborhood cat that wouldn't leave the flower bed alone. I gave up and figured it was a problem. Every once in a while I would try again only to have to give whatever plant I attempted to grow to Grandma. She finally asked me to stop trying because her house wasn't large enough for me to continue my efforts in a college dorm.

Now I am in my 40's, my husband and I joke that I don't need Gardening for Dummies. I need the remedial version. Except I am actually growing a tomato plant and it is thriving! We grabbed two Mortgage Tomato plants a few weeks ago and then transplanted them a week or so ago into terra cotta planters (they are rather large, so the roots have plenty of room to grow).  I looked this evening and joyful realized they are healthy and thriving and soon we will have tomatoes!!

I would love to say this bravery is because I read some book that helped me see the mistakes previously made, but my confidence comes from knowing Chris and Sarah have experience successfully growing plants and my willingness to listen and learn from them and my cousin, Dawn, and a good friend in Massachusetts. They are more experienced than I and as such, I would be wise to listen and learn from them.

Like learning to garden, we have to be willing to learn from  God and other mature Christian if we want the garden of our heart to grow and thrive. Like a garden we need to work at keeping out the weeds, watering our hearts and strengthening our hearts by spending daily time in the word. 

I wonder if Jesus wasn't a gardener growing up because he uses the Parable of the Seeds,
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Matthew 13:3‭-‬8 NIV
http://bible.com/111/mat.13.3-8.NIV

And then he explains,
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.  The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Matthew 13:18‭-‬23 NIV
http://bible.com/111/mat.13.18-23.NIV.
We can spend time with God daily and let his word and Spirit take root in the soil of our hearts or we can be stubborn and refuse to learn or listen to those more mature than us in our walk.

Which seed will you choose to be? And how well will the garden of your heart thrive?

Have a good weekend.
In Christ,
Maureen

Helping Hands

As a young woman I remember when people didn't even stop to ask if a person struggling needed help. By struggling I mean they faced an injury to themselves or a family member. People organized meals, some people would show up and help with yard work or clean dishes, little things that people needed done and yet they would never dream of asking people to do for them.
What happened to that tradition? When did we as a society become so self absorbed that we never think we should jump in and help.
So here are some suggestions of ways we can help people in our area or that we know who face a tough time.
1. Depending in the season mow their yard or shovel the snow from their walk ways. By the way this is a great idea even if a person isn't facing tragedy but is maybe older and struggling.

2. Fix and bring a meal. People won't ask for help,  we need to become a community that jumps in and helps even if we aren't asked. Being a country that is largely created by emigrants and those who learned to be reliant in themselves it is easy to see why we hesitate to ask for help or accept it. And yet when we refuse to allow others to help us we rob them of an opportunity to learn the adage, It is more blessed to give than to receive. 

3. Go and sit with people whose loved one is facing surgery or who has gone to the hospital no matter what.
I'm guilty if not jumping in and doing this. Granted for now it is tougher to do with us being a one car family but what was my excuse before then?!

4. Pray for and with people during tough times.

5. Bring meals to people.  With modern technology it is easy for people to sign up to make a meal for people these days.
As an addendum to this I would add to make sure there are not food allergies or food restrictions. Some people may be diabetic, have high blood pressure or they may have severe good allergies.

6. Offer to watch any children for as long as necessary and stick with it.

This seems like a small list, but every little bit we do to help others can make a difference. We can still be a community who helps,  who shows we care and are more than just obsessed with our technology.  After all, Jesus said any of these we do for even a small bit is just as if we are doing them for Him. Whether it is making a meal or helping in what seems a small way can be helpful.

Have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Great Expectations






                           How Bold Are You?

     If I have learned anything in almost 43 years of living it is that doing something new is scary.  However, it can also be exhilarating.  When I was 16 years old we had an amazing youth group come visit us.  They were from another church in Missouri.  These youth had decided to bravely pray and ask God to use them to minister to other youth groups and He used them in a mighty way. Nothing seemed different about them at first, until the evening of their special service.  They came walking in singing Rich Mullin's Our God is an Awesome God.  I had heard this song before, but in that moment, as they sang, God was in that sanctuary and I knew I was in the presence of the most high God. I had asked Jesus into my heart at age four, but I had never been sanctified and I wanted that.  As this group of brave teens sang and entered into our sanctuary, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed more than just a four year old's desire to please and love God, I needed his Spirit in me.  It took me years to realize that was the moment of my sanctification.  That moment changed my entire life and any possibility of me walking away from my faith in Jesus Christ, died that very day.

     Tonight as I spoke with the church teens, our lesson was from You Can Do Hard Things - it is a teen devotional on YouVersion Bible.  We talked about God's expectations for our lives, which are pretty high versus the world's expectations, which are pretty low even I felt the spirit of conviction.  The world says we are incapable as teens to do anything amazing and we should mess up. But God sees us as a child or an adult and He knows that even teens can be great.  The world wants to lull us into complacency, it has low requirements for us.  God says, "Follow me and I will make you fisher's of men".  Jesus didn't say it would be easy, but it is certainly never dull.  And because when I hear God speak I am willing to leap into action on His prompting, I had some good examples of great expectations and how they can become amazing journeys with the teens. We laughed and enjoyed the meeting.  But the highlight for me was seeing their eyes engaged and lighting up as I challenged them and encouraged them that they CAN BE AMAZING if they will allow God to use them.  And then I acted up on that expectation.

    Tonight I challenged them to pray and ask God to make them bold for Him and brave enough to move out of their comfort zone - and then asked one of my shy teens to please pray for us.  It took him a few minutes to breathe deeply, but he did it.  And even if it may have seemed short to others, I thought it was beautiful. I am so proud of him.  :D
 
     Here is the biggest thing in all of this.  We do not know what tomorrow brings for us. If I know one thing it is that nothing is guaranteed, I knew this after losing my Dad when I was small.  While Jesus told us to not be afraid because God took care of the flowers in the field and the birds in the air, he also warned us that we didn't know when God would come again.  He can come like a thief in the night or we can die tomorrow.  We just don't know.
   
     Now for the tough questions.  Are you stuck in a life that is comfortable?  If you are would you willingly shake off what would be comfortable to meet God's great expectations?  What could God do if you allowed him to move you into the uncomfortable places but you trusted Him and his wisdom?   Even more to point I ask this. . .Are you ready to be bold?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Perspective

                       What Is Your Perspective?

     Growing up I usually saw the glass as half full.  However, during my teen years and early college years the glass definitely felt half empty.  Instead of seeing that God could use my trials as a way to relate to others, I saw them as one more way in which I was different from other people.

    Somewhere along the way that began to shift, I am not 100 percent certain when exactly, but it did.  Maybe around the time I read Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life (a good book to read by the way, I highly recommend it) combined with Sarah coming to live with us.  Either way I began to realize I could choose to focus on the negatives in life or I could choose to see the blessings.  A funny thing happened...as I chose to shift my focus it shifted my attitude.

     A good example is yesterday I got my left pointer finger slammed in between a dining room chair and the cushion.  It hurt... A LOT!  I could whine about how it hurt even now (it's a 1 on the pain scale really so I'd be a HUGE whiner if I whined about it, but stick with me for the purposes of this blog)  however, I choose to be very thankful that I caught my pointer finger instead of my ring finger.  You see I have permanent nerve damage in my ring finger, so what is manageable now on my pointer finger would hurt significantly more.  I know this because I have had the misfortune of slamming said ring finger in a car door - it takes much longer for it to stop throbbing than my other fingers.

     Another good example: We are currently a family sharing one vehicle.  I could whine and moan and groan about how inconvenient it is.  And believe me it is inconvenient on Sunday's if Chris works.  Instead, I choose to focus on this is a great opportunity to focus on homeschooling and doing what I should be doing instead of what I like to do which is to run around and take mini-drives to explore. While that may not seem positive, it really is very positive, because it helps us focus on what is necessary instead of caving to temptation.

     King David understood the importance of perspective.  Continually in the book of Psalms as he laments, we see him turn his lament into praising God for his mercies and grace.  King David quickly realized that without God his life would be nothing and instead of whining, he chose to praise God even in the storm.  

    How do you choose to view life?  Is it full of looking at the negative side of things?  Or do you choose instead to count your blessings?
I have found that counting your blessings while sometimes more difficult always seems to improve how I see life.

    By the way something else happens when you choose to see the positive...you are less afraid of living your life.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What is love?

     I have been thinking a lot lately about love.  What is love? What does love really look like?  What does it mean to truly love someone.  How can we show love to each other and our significant other?  More importantly do we go out of our way to show the people in our lives that we love them?
     Chris and I have now just celebrated 16 years of marriage.  While our first five years were not awful, they could have been improved upon by each of us.  I was naive and foolish and didn't safeguard my marriage as I should, letting Chris know what I thought was okay and what I absolutely wouldn't tolerate.  In my effort to be a kind, caring and understanding wife, I did not realize that not everyone had our best interests at heart.  Not just our marriage, but us as individuals.  Growing up in a family who loved me unconditionally left me ill prepared for the harsh realities of the real world.  I did not realize that some women see a wedding ring as a challenge to go after a man.  Or that even though someone talked a good talk about their relationship with Christ, it didn't always mean that they were above board. Things happened that at the moment seemed disastrous, but God turned them into a great catalyst to encourage us to make our marriage strong or fireproof if you will.  So I thought I would share some of the ways we keep our marriage fun, strong and affair resistant.

     1. Build Each Other Up: We make it a point to build each other up.  We both make it a point to tell each other how wonderful we find the other person. We share what makes us proud to call each other wife/husband.

     2. Help Heal Old Wounds:  My dad died when I was young and my mom remarried for 2 years to a man who was emotionally and psychologically broken...that brokenness spilled out into his relationships with my siblings and myself as well as Mom.  This created in me a fear of abandonment and truthfully, a fear that something bad could happen at any time to Chris or the girls.
     Chris grew up being told he wasn't smart and that his younger brother was smarter, would grow up to be successful and affluent.  Worse is that teachers in private and public school fed this lie.  It left Chris feeling as if he had married a woman who was smarter than he.  This is absolutely and unequivocally untrue.
    Chris does things like calling when he is running late to help me know he's still coming home.  I build up his ego about his intelligence.  We both tell each other we think we have a sexy partner.  These are a few things I can share that we do....we have a few things I won't share (because my mom and pastor may read this).

     3. Flirting:  Flirting is important.  Whether it is something as simple as a wolf whistle at your spouse or pretending to be a stranger hitting on your significant other, it works.  More importantly we find ourselves often laughing and have a good time.  It also usually ends with some kissing.

     4. Date Your Mate: This one is very important.  Especially if you haven't do this in a while.  Sometimes we go out someplace nice.  But often our dates are simply going to McDonald's for a drink and talking.  Maybe we take a nice walk together, but it is about carving out time for just the two of us without children around or fighting.

     5. Little Things:  It's not just the big things that make a marriage, it is also the little things.  Surely, this one isn't a surprise.  A good marriage is about the little things.  Making your loved one's favorite meal, warming up the bed with a heater blanket, opening the window before they head to bed because they like it cold or even warming up the car in the morning so they aren't freezing as they commute or start the day.  When we do the little things for our spouse or loved one, it says I am paying attention. I am listening to you and trying to speak your language.  These little things can make the difference when facing big problems.

     6. I LOVE YOU MORE:  When my mom married my dad, her father told her something very wise.  He told her to make sure she and Dad said, I love you everyday.  She then shared it with us when we married. This tidbit of wisdom holds Chris and I in good stead.  It works to strengthen our marriage.  But our favorite way to say I love you hands down is the I Love You More Game.  Sometimes it's as simple as we are playfully arguing over who loves who more.  Other times we have reasons why we love the other person more.  Sometimes it's a fairly simple answer as "I love you more because I took you out for sushi and I didn't really want sushi" or it can be as complex as "I love you more because I didn't tell your family off or someone that would have taken it out on you".  Chris won a few years ago by telling me he loved me more because after I left very upset and took a walk to talk to a girlfriend he told his family off for me.  He won.

     7. Defending Your Spouse:  Standing up against your family for your spouse is VERY important.  I hate confrontation but Heaven help anyone who messes with Chris or the girls.  I will find it within myself to tell you off if you hurt them.  The same goes for Chris.  We do everything we can without reason and God's will to protect our family.  By the way this includes defending your spouse against a child from another marriage - that one is very important. 

     8. Be flexible.  This one is very hard sometimes.  As I grow older I struggle more to be flexible.  After growing up moving often and having a lot of instability in the last 16 years I have learned to love stability.  It doesn't mean I still don't get bitten by the moving bug occasionally, but it happens less often now and I find contentment in staying home.  However, there are times it's important to be flexible.  Whether it is about your spouse's raise not being what you know he/she deserves or giving up plans because you know it isn't in the budget, flexibility is necessary.

     9. Save Your No's:  If you say no to your spouse all of the time, after a while it loses it's power.  Plus, you aren't your spouses parent.  It's one thing to say no to your children often, because children come up with some crazy ideas sometimes.  However, it's important to make sure you always saying no to your spouse.  Also by saving your no for something important, it holds more weight.  At this point in our marriage if I say, No, Chris knows it's important for him to listen and vice versa. 

     10.  Sometimes it pays to be stubborn.  In 2005 we had a problem arise.  A woman attempted to break up our marriage.  She could have succeeded, except I am thankfully stubborn when needed and this was one of those times.  I refused to quit and give in to what someone outside of my marriage wanted.  We are now celebrating 16 years of marriage and she is nowhere near our family.

     11.  Dream with your spouse.  Some of us are not dreamers by nature.  I understand that, but dreaming is important.  Dreaming is half of the fun.  Chris and I often dream about what if something exciting happened.  For example:  What if we won the lottery?  You have to buy a ticket to win, which we don't, but that isn't the point of our dreaming.  It is about dreaming of endless possibilities and how we could make a huge impact.  Chris is dreamer, I love this about him.  If you aren't used to it, learn for your spouse how to be a dreamer.  It makes life more interesting and it breathes life into your marriage.

     12.  Marriage Before Children:  Children grow up and leave home, your spouse doesn't, and you CHOSE your spouse.  You made a conscious choice who you wished to marry.  You do not choose your children (obviously, adoption is an exception to that statement) and children leave as they mature and are ready to leave our safety.  DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR CHILDREN OVER YOUR SPOUSE.  Do not put your children before them.  It's a recipe for disaster and many marriages have fallen apart because the spouses choose the children over their marriage.
These are just a few of the things we do to keep our marriage strong.  I hope you all have a good rest of the week.

Another exception to this last piece of advice is if you discover your spouse is abusing your child, emotionally, physically or sexually (or all three), PLEASE LEAVE AND PROTECT YOUR CHILD.  This is one of the few exceptions to number 12.

In Christ,
Maureen

Monday, January 30, 2017

New Beginnings.

 Lily Christmas 2016 snuggling with her new toys she received as gifts.

I have a confession to make.  For years I didn't understand why people spent insane money on their pets.  Cute outfits, toys galore, expensive dog treats, crazy veterinarian bills, the list goes on, but I think you get the idea. We had several failed attempts at owning a pet when Chris and I first were married and living in Wichita.  In ten years of wedded bliss we owned three dogs, a cat and a goldfish that only survived 20 hours in our home (see past blogs for explanations of this phenomenon).  I decided maybe we should not own a pet, period. Then something odd happened.  Once we felt more settled here in Washington state, we finally purchased a house.  After five years of renting apartments, we found ourselves looking for homes.  We began looking in May, but it took a little while and looking outside of the county we lived in to find our dream home. But we finally found our home and it is perfect for us.

As we grew comfortable in our new home something began tugging at me.  Maybe it was my friends who post photos of their pets because they love them so much or maybe it was really for Elizabeth.  Whatever the reason, I felt it was time once more to search for a pet.  This time though I took a different approach. In the past, we decided to get a dog and just jumped into it with little regard for what we wanted in a dog or which animal would be a good fit to our family.  This time, I spent months researching dog breeds looking for a dog that would emotionally be a good fit for our home and children.  But more importantly, I took it to God in prayer.  We began by praying for our cars, which one did God want us to have in 2008 after I read an article in the Sunday School paper about the subject.  It worked very well, so we began praying about our housing, our moving, college choices, how best to help Sarah, etc. . . but we had not prayed about any of our pets, because we were a little late catching up in the prayer game. 

This time I was determined that we would do this the right way, so I began praying for wisdom about the dog that God knew we needed.  I saw several and wanted to meet them but one thing after another stood in our way.  I also felt led to allow Chris to choose our dog, he grew up with dogs, whereas I did not meaning he understands them much better.  After weeks of searching and looking and praying, a young man posted on a Facebook pet finder page that he had a Labrador retriever mix dog just a little over 1 year old for sale for $200.  He loved the dog, but he worked a lot and so he wanted her to have a home where people stayed home more and she could interact with humans and receive the attention he felt she deserved.  Since we are currently doing the one car family thing, this was a perfect fit for us. We met Lily in October and took her home with us that very day.  We stopped and invested in a leash, training chain (without teeth) and dog bowls and food. We took her home and the two weeks adjustment period began.  It had some rough spots - she liked to poop in the house, but thanks to some good friends on Facebook and a friend who is dog lover in Massachusetts and a lot of research we were able to stop the accidents. 

I knew that Lily really considered us her family when Chris took the girls to the church Halloween party and Lily went running down the driveway.  I was terrified that she decided to leave and attempt to find Andrew.  When I got down the driveway, she was there looking around and I realized...she was looking for Elizabeth.  She doesn't like it when Elizabeth is gone. I considered that excellent progress and she improves constantly. 

So here we are now with a dog that is 16 months old and somehow I don't know how we ever lived without her.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be so attached to a dog or any animal.  She likes to sleep on our bed after Chris goes to work in the wee hours of the morning, she makes sure he gets up and that I take her out first thing when I wake up.  We have a good routine down for her now and she enjoys it as much as we do.  But the best part is that Beka who was at one time very afraid of Lily is now very affectionate and Lily often kisses her and follows her around.  As time goes on I foresee them bonding further. 

We have a lot of changes that have happened over the last few years.  My Facebook friends know, but somehow in having Lily, it feels as if our family is complete and all is right with the world again. 
Have a good week and God bless you.

In Christ,
Maureen