Photos courtesy of Ryan Prouty

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Welcome to Florida





AH, FLORIDA...
We are developing a new appreciation for this type of cartoon (thanks to my stepmom Lori for emailing these to me). I thought I would share them with you as we brace for another hurricane here. Gustav is wreaking havoc in Haiti with over 5 deaths from flooding already. Their deforrestation has left them prone to flash floods when there is a lot of rain, and they received over 5 inches as the category 1-2 hurricane passed near the southern beaches of Haiti. Please be in prayer for the people there. The hurricane is predicted to head west and sneak between Jamaica and Cuba, staying over water and gaining strength and is predicted to make landfall somewhere between the Florida panhandle and New Orleans as a category 4 (or Cat-4 as its called around here) hurricane. I am not sure if I should be relieved or scared silly. The last hurricane was predicted to make landfall right on top of us and instead it went all the way around us leaving our little area just about the only untouched land by Fay in Florida. We joked that if they didn't predict for it to hit us, then we should be scared...that was just a few days ago. Not so funny now. But, we are not worried, it is still too soon to be making any plans or becoming anxious. I just wanted to share a giggle and ask for your prayers for those struggling in Haiti.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Today's mail and some loose ends

We'll talk about today's mail first since that is the most exciting part of our day! THIS was on the door step this afternoon. I was instructed to wait and let the kids open it, so it stayed in the living room until I brought them home from school...
We didn't open it slowly, but we did notice the messages for us!
Here is the whole message. Some people are so thoughtful!!
Our neighbors from our old house sent us snacks for the kids lunches (and a little candy too). They were just a little excited!
After that picture, the kids wanted to take a silly picture (as if the last one wasn't silly enough?!? I told you they are crazy about doing these goofy things)...

And these are the pictures I promised to clarify about the pine needles poking through the screened cage over the pool. Our neighbors spent HOURS trying to get these out of their screens with a power washer! If you look closely you can see the upside down " V" that is white just to the left and higher than the tree.



And this is our neighbor's house with the hurricane shutter over their window. It is corrugated metal and I am sure it doesn't let in ANY light. People around here are still in various stages of taking them back down. Many people left a few up...I am curious as to whether they will be up all hurricane season!



I pray you are having a blessed Monday. Special thanks to our dearly missed neighbors, Lynn and Lance Anderson and their girls Grace and Hope for making us feel loved all the way from Iowa. The kids will think of you each time they eat a snack for the next several weeks...as will I when we make lunches for school!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Warning: If you are tired of hearing how God provides, stop reading now (if you want to read on, you may need your tissues)!

Yes, He is good, perfectly faithful, and He loves us. We have enjoyed a much less stressful week than last week. Even though the kids started school and we were struggling to get to sleep and get up early (we are all night owls by nature in this family), get into a routine for making lunches and handling the tidal wave of paper that comes home with each child each night, we had much more peace this week than last. One thing that helped was the reward (sticker) system we started a couple weeks ago. The kids earn stickers for doing things they should do without being told such as chores (setting and clearing the table, emptying the dishwasher), keeping their rooms picked up, bringing all their things when they get out of the van, listening to mom and dad, being kind, ready for school on time, and others. We made up a list of rewards they can "purchase" with their stickers like a motorcycle ride with dad, a special snack in their lunch, picking out what we are having for dinner, choosing what game we play, a chore free day, etc. They each have a chart:

This is Gabriel's chart, he is still saving up his stickers for a big prize.

Their charts live in the den on the wall under the kitchen counter where they are seen constantly and remind them to keep their eyes on the prize...literally!

Anyway, these routines have helped us, but God has held us tightly in His hand and the wind and waves around us haven't rocked our boat this week! We enjoyed dinner at one of the elder's houses this week where we met some missionaries staying with them who train church leaders and especially youth leaders. They have worked with, and are friends of Paul and Amy Hansen! They discovered this by having a conversation with our children and eventually pulling out of them where we went to church, then came inside to meet us. Paul and I immediately recognized their faces, but had no idea why. Luckily, our children had already connected the dots and we had a great time getting to know each other! It was so fun to meet someone who knew the people we love! It was a special blessing that we have not enjoyed since moving here and never expected to enjoy!! Another way we saw God's hand directly this week was yesterday. Paul asked me what was for dinner around 11 am because he didn't see anything thawing in the sink. I told him I planned for BLT's (our favorite meal!!). He noticed we had no tomatoes...oops, left that off the grocery list. He reminded me there was a farmer's market and I sent him straight there to get tomatoes since they closed at noon. He got there by 11:30 but they were closing up shop. He stopped and spoke to a woman putting her things away and she told him they closed down when everything was sold even though the hours are officially 9-12. She wanted to know what Paul was looking for and he told her he needed some tomatoes. She reached into her things and pulled out a bag of 4 farm fresh tomatoes and refused to allow him to pay her for them! We already ate 2 of them, but you can see they are GREAT! In case you can't tell, I LOVE summer tomatoes! I am sure I could live on them!

And this is what was handed to us this morning at church by someone Paul has spoken to only briefly who wanted to show his support for what Paul is doing. He handed an envelope to Paul after church today saying only something along the lines of, "This is for you and your family, for what you are doing." Now, I wish I could tell you I was surprised to see the contents of the envelope. Paul said when we got into the van that someone handed him an envelope of cash at church, and I knew instantly how much was in there without seeing it. I wish I had said it out loud! But, Paul wasn't surprised either. We both knew that we had been talking about a certain need in our budget that just simply isn't there right now. It is the need that drove me to anxiety and fear and worry last week (causing me to forfeit much ground to Satan and much peace). It was the need that we created a new line in our budget for and said we would allow this much for things like: toilet cleaner, laundry soap, hair cuts, socks, school supplies, etc, basically all those things that are not food, utilities or rent. I was still not sure where those funds were going to come from and had a conversation with Paul about it again yesterday, reassuring him that I was not worried, but was that coming out of our personal savings (i.e. the equity we had in our house that we hope to use to pay cash for our next house when we have saved up enough)? Yes, it was. Okay, God can work that out even though that doesn't allow us to save up at all. So, when we were handed an envelope of cash, it didn't surprise me at all that it was the exact amount we had budgeted for those items. Once again, here we were in the church parking lot sobbing in awe of God's unfailing love and provision for our family. That family had no idea what we needed, but were obedient to follow God's lead in giving generously.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hurricane Aftermath


So, we got excited here for...nothing. The hurricane downgraded to a tropical storm and veered east of us. We didn't even get pounded with rain...to say it sprinkled a couple times today might even be stretching it! What we did have though was NO SCHOOL, cooler weather (all the way down into the 80's), and a nice breeze all day. So, I am sure you are asking yourselves what an Iowa family does during their first hurricane warning, you are probably itching to hear the answer, so I will tell you without further delay! We cleaned house, organized the garage, opened the windows and sliding glass doors and let the breeze in and searched every nook and cranny in vain for our baseball gloves!
This is the view from the den into the eating area out to the pool area (minus the furniture that is in living room currently) with the sliders open bringing in the breeze. Crazy that we considered mid 80s cool enough to open up the house!! The breeze made it cool though.
This is from the pool area into the dining room on the left and the eating area of the kitchen on the right. You can get a significant breeze with these open!
Paul (neat freak that he is) noticed the debris/dead bugs in the slider tracks and had to vacuum them all up. That lead to sweeping the carpet and tiled area clean. Later in the day, we discovered we were not nearly as freakish as the neighbors behind us as they spent HOURS power washing the pine needles that were stuck on the cage over their pool. We just let ours stick through right where they are! I'll get a picture when its light out!
The search for the gloves started in the garage where all the items packed with them are currently stored as well as any unpacked boxes. This got us motivated to use the attic storage space and we moved all the Christmas decor up there and the empty moving boxes we really liked. The garage looks much more tidy and organized! What an accomplishment!
After dinner, we went fishing on our neighborhood dock. We didn't catch a thing...until the walk home when Alayna accidentally caught Riley about 2 mm (that is millimeters, not centimeters or inches people!!) below his EYE!! He froze as he was walking and was yelling, but otherwise kept his cool as we figured out where he was caught and quickly were able to remove the hook from his lower eyelid. At first it was impossible to tell where it was with the lure and it was pulled tight to the pole as well. Paul quickly got the tension off of it and I could tell it was just (JUST) in the right lower eyelid and didn't penetrate the entire first barb that would have made it impossible to back it out without taking out a hunk of meat or skin! Once it was out, he was much better and I just hugged him and he cried, but didn't lose a drop of blood! He was so brave! Our friend Ryan is staying with us a few days finishing up video work for Agape and we came back to tell him of the 80 pounder Alayna caught! I am sure that she will NEVER be allowed to forget this night, just like my sister still brings up the day I pushed her down the stairs and she had to get stitches in her head when we were 5 or 6 years old! So here is the proof that he is essentially unharmed:

I must say it was a very fun day spent together as a family, working together and having fun. God's timing was perfect as I already knew this might be a sad day and I was glad to have my family around me as we remembered sweet Avery Kochan on her birthday (she would have been 2 years old today) and prayed for her family and the hurt they must be feeling today, and thanked God for His son Jesus who paid for our sin and will allow us to hold this precious baby once again in Heaven. They had a celebration and balloon launch at their house to remember and honor her memory...I would have given about anything to be there. But God has me here and all I can do is pray and love on my children extra bunches.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What more could we want??

To everyone who's hurting
To those who've had enough
To all the undeserving
That should cover all of us
Please do not let go
I promise there is hope
Hold fast
Help is on the way
Hold fast
He's come to save the day
What I've learned in my life
One thing greater than my strife
Is His grasp
So hold fast
Will this season ever pass?
Can we stop this ride?
Will we see the sun at last?
Or could this be our lot in life?
Please do not let go
I promise you there's hope
You may think you're all alone
And there's no way that anyone could know
What you're going through
But if you only hear one thing
Just understand that we are all the same
Searching for the truth
The truth of what we're soon to face
Unless someone comes to take our place
Is there anyone?
All we want is to be free
Free from our captivity, Lord
Here He comes
Hold fast
Help is on the way
Hold fast
He's come to save the day
What I've learned in my life
One thing greater than my strife
Is His grasp
So hold fast (Mercy Me)


This may be a long post, so if you don't have time, move on until you can sit down and get comfy! It has been a wild few days here! I don't even know how to begin to recap or summarize. God has been so good (shocking, I know), and there have continued to be territory battles with Satan for our peace. A hurricane is coming, and school started, and I earned my first paycheck since the first week of June (and that was just today!).

I guess I should back up to last week as the battles continued to rage. I felt better mood wise the day of my last post, but it was the calm before the storm. Our budget issues were really stressing me out and I didn't even know what the source was. I began feeling angry at God for having to deal with this stress, for asking me to actually volunteer for this stress. It all came spilling out one night until Paul and I could talk through it and get to the bottom of it. We figured out what we needed to do to relieve my stress and I felt better after we prayed and gave this situation to God. The next day, a new friend called to see if any of my boys were going to play baseball this fall because her son wanted to play and she wanted to see if I could carpool. When the cost came up, I had to decline and she told me of a "scholarship" we could get, then had to admit she was the scholarship and offered to pay for Riley to play. Riley has talked about playing baseball for at least 6 months and I just couldn't figure out how to fit it into the budget, so I agreed to accept the scholarship. We went about an hour later to sign up the boys and then went to the thrift store for baseball pants and cleats. We found the perfect size cleats for $4.99 (woo-hoo, was in the budget!) that were practically brand new! No pants yet (but God can still do it!). The other problem is that since our move, our baseball gloves have gone missing. We can find all the things we packed into one of the trash cans (we were desperate for boxes and space!) with the gloves, but no gloves. I am still sad because my left handed, first base glove has been with me for almost 3 decades!! Paul's glove was in there as well as Holden and Riley's...all missing. We have looked everywhere...still missing. But my friend said we could borrow one of theirs for Riley until we found ours or replaced them (not in the budget!). So, the next day was Sunday and at church another friend (who first spoke to us when we were new to this church and tried to get to know us and whose wife dragged me to the Bible study she was leading so I could get to know people) asked if he could give our kids some toys. I said he could, but that we couldn't promise we would keep all of them (we still have the 10 toy rule). He said that was fine. After church we met him at his car and he pulled out (all new toys) 3 mini remote control cars, some army figures on motorcycles, toy motorcycles, these really cool baseball card size cards that are plastic that you punch out the pieces and use them to build things like tanks, AND a baseball glove, a helmet and 3 bats. When I saw the baseball stuff come out of his car I dropped my head into my hands and sobbed!!! WHERE IS MY FAITH??? Is it so small??? All I have to do is look over the past 2 months posts to see God's handiwork and I actually have the nerve to be surprised to see baseball things!!! We just sat in the van and cried while our kids were completely confused. When we got home, we prayed together and praised God for His faithfulness to us, for showing us His glory through a man who wanted to give us some toys. No, there is no such thing as coincidences. Our God loves us and cares for our deepest needs and wants! How amazing He is. How unworthy and faithless we are! God, help our unbelief!

These items will forever remind us of God's unfailing love, kindness and faithfulness. I am not sure I will make it through too much baseball without tears of unworthiness, overwhelming love and gratitude. I have definitely learned that His grasp is strong and that thankfully, it is not up to me to hold on, He holds on to me with the tightest grasp and I need only wait on His perfect timing and provision...at least I think I have learned it!

Next in our crazy few days was the first day of school!! Here is the blow by blow for our family and especially Aunt JoJo who called in tears that she was missing their first day of school. She has been the one to drive them to school for the first day for the last 2 years! She set her alarm since we are an hour ahead of Iowa time to call and wish us a happy day!! Next we had breakfast with a special treat of cinnamon rolls, packed up all the school supplies and actually got ready early enough for some pictures in the front yard:


Don't they look like model students in their school uniforms (Gabe is modeling the PE uniform--he'll be wearing it every M-W-F), all lovey towards each other, kind and helping each other out?? After this picture I told them I would take a silly picture (they are obsessed with this!), and this is what I got:

Now the real Prachar kids have shown themselves!! So, after some scolding and redirecting about not even joking about punching someone THERE, we went back in and packed all the school supplies onto backs and shoulders. Alayna is seen below modeling her homemade book bag from VBS (she is supposed to get one from school, but it hasn't come in yet, so she got to use this one), and her ADORABLE lunchbox. It looks like a purse and it makes me laugh, I love it!

They got loaded up into the van...still smiling! So far so good! We are even running ON TIME!

We arrive at school without incident, actually find a parking place and get out...notice the absence of Alayna's book bag??? I didn't, I closed the trunk and went to sign the younger 3 into before school care since middle school starts 30 minutes before elementary school (new thing this year...we'll see how this goes, they have to take care of all the kids with big brothers/sisters in middle school to save the parents 2 trips)


Drop Gabe off at the door...

Sign in the kids at before school care (uh-oh, Riley is already yawning!), and notice the missing bag. So, I head back to the van...

And notice just above the trees (dead center, thanks to my advanced photography skills) that the moon is still out. I think to myself, surely this has some deep and profound meaning that I was meant to find on my way back to the van with only my thoughts and my camera and my keys, but I am too dense to grasp it now, so I just find the bag and grab it after noticing that whoever got out last on the opposite side of the van left the door open the entire time. No big deal, just my purse and lap top in the van!! I lock the doors and return with the bag! Still haven't grasped the deeper meaning...

I return with the bag to find them doing this. They are comparing how far back they can bend their thumbs. We sit together and discover I can bend mine back the farthest!

Then, finally time to go to the classrooms. Alayna finds her room, her cubby, her name tag and barely notices that I am still there! She gives me a smile and takes off to play (don't let the door hit you on the way out, Mom!).

So, its on to Holden's class just down the hall where he is equally excited to get to work. I waved from the door and turn to take Riley to his class...and he's already there! Bye, I guess!

So, my day was before me, mine to do whatever I want with. I look at my watch and see it is 8:20 and I think of my friend Deb dropping her daughter Jaclyn off at preschool...the same preschool Alayna would be going to today if we had not moved, the same preschool her Grammy will be helping out at today, the same preschool that she would have had many friends at...so I call Deb (completely forgetting we are 1 hour ahead of Iowa) and I get the voice mail. I had called her to be an encouragement...I had just dropped off my baby (literally my baby, the last of my children, my only daughter) without a tear in a completely strange environment...but when I heard her voice on her voice mail, I lost it. I could barely leave her a message! I was glad I had a full day planned. I met one of the Agape pilot's wives to help her clean a house (long story, she needed help and I could use the cashola!). It only took us about 3 hours and we sat down in front of the TV to eat lunch and get the latest on Hurricane Fay. While we ate, we were upgraded from a Hurricane Watch to a Warning (I felt compelled to capitalize those words for some reason), we watched as they announced that school would be cancelled tomorrow (our first snow day...errr hurricane day) and City Hall would be closed as well! There was a mandatory evacuation for all who live in a mobile home. The hurricane is expected to be a category 1 (the weakest), but entails winds over 81 MPH. Fortunately, the house we are renting has hurricane windows, so we are not frantically boarding up or putting up hurricane shutters. Some of our neighbors had already done this a couple days ago...it looks weird to look at a house with all the windows covered by corrugated metal...I bet its DARK in there! I will try to get a picture for you tomorrow! All we have done is bring all the outside furniture inside...which we are asking ourselves why we haven't thought of this before!! We have a nearly empty living room (it has only a desk and one chair and the kids' toy box). It looks more homey with the outdoor furniture in it:

For those of you worrying about us, Paul will likely stay home from work to take care of us and we have been reassured by those who have lived here for a long time that it will just be windy and rainy. I tried to also remind them of the words they used to reassure us when we talked about our hurricane fears when we first moved here: "We haven't had a hurricane make landfall here in Venice in my lifetime." We are not afraid! God holds us fast in His hand!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thanks for caring!

After receiving phone calls and hugs from several of you who read my last blog, I thought I better update you on my mental state! I actually felt much better after venting my frustration on my blog (I call it my blog therapy!), and by the time Paul got home from work I was over it (not crying anymore anyway!).
I also did some decorating therapy yesterday. I have been trying to get some pictures for some frames (that were abandoned here when we moved in) for weeks now. I decided to use the pictures of the kids' first time in the "ocean", and had a 1 hour order for 3 8 x 10s to a local (and shall remain nameless) pharmacy just down the road. To make a long story short (or maybe not so short afterall), the pictures got shuffled to the wrong place and they would not be able to do them, so 2 days later they had me send them to another branch still close to me and on the way to almost every place we go. I re-sent them over the computer and was told it would be 3-5 days to get them. Fine, just wanted to get them done while my sister and mom were here...fun to see the completion of a project. So, after 3 days I get an email that my pictures are ready. Stop in for them...not there, come back in a couple days. Couple days later, stop in...not there. Now they are getting alarmed and tell me to call back when the manager is there to try to figure out where my pictures are. We figure out they are on the way. Several more days later I get an automated phone call that my pictures are in the store. I send Paul by on his way home...not there!! I call the next day and they find them (now it has been 11 days since the order), woohoo! Seems they were looking in the 4 x 6 size pictures and not finding them. We went by after church later that night (a Saturday) and ...you guessed it...not there! Now they are really alarmed (and wanted to prevent me going postal in their store though I just laughed each time they told me they couldn't find them!), so they gave me a $25 gift card! I left with no pictures, but up $25!! Monday I gave them a call and they still couldn't figure out what had happened and asked me to save the pictures to a disk and bring that in to get it printed directly (why we didn't do this weeks ago, I don't know!). SO, I went in yesterday armed with my disk plus the disk of our family pictures our friend Ryan Prouty took (as seen in the collage) to get prints of those as well. It still took 2 trips to get it all right, but I got ALL the prints I wanted for FREE!! Plus the woman helping me yesterday happened to be the one there most of the days I went in, and she got the biggest kick out of choosing 5 or 6 extra pictures to print off for me including insisting on printing an 8 x 10 of the picture of Paul and I!!! I offered to pay for the other prints (besides the 3 in the botched order), but she wouldn't hear of it!! She kept saying, "Is there anything else you want, you're not paying!!" So, that was a fun boost of my spirits (and another comfirmation of God's provision for us!), and I went home and framed my pictures and got them hung:

Here are the "ocean" pictures. The left one is from the baptisms at the beach we went to weeks ago and the right one is the kids' first experience in March with the ocean.

And this collection resides in the living room/den above the chair I sit in most often to blog (because its close to the wireless router and gets a good signal!)

In addition to the blog therapy and decorating therapy, I also get to share great news that my friend Jeanie is expecting! She shared her news today with the unveiling of her own blog. Check her news and blog out at http://www.thekochanklan.blogspot.com/! I also added 3 other blogs to my blogroll today (and that is always a good thing)!!

So, again, thanks for your hugs, your comments, your prayers, your emails, and your phone calls. We will be victorious in this and are determined not to allow Satan even the tiniest bit of our territory! We love you all!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Some prayer requests

So, I am having a rough day and feeling discouraged, then feeling discouraged for letting Satan discourage me...vicious cycle here! The pinch of our severely changed financial situation is driving us to look at all avenues for cutting back. Someone told me of an insurance program here in Florida that covers kids for hundreds less than we are paying. I applied and was apprehensive knowing that we met the income requirements, but one of the requirements was that the children be UNINSURED. We did not think it fiscally or morally responsible to leave our children uninsured, and thought surely the fact that we cover them at a great expense and large percentage of our income would factor in and not make us ineligible. WRONG! I spent almost an hour talking with Ruth (who was fabulously understanding and reminded me that God can take care of my children just like he did hers) from the agency about the fact that we were denied coverage because our kids were already insured. We were offered a policy through the state (costing over $100/month more than we are paying now for their insurance), that if we took it for 6 months, we could then qualify for the $15/month premium. The only kicker is that we have to submit proof of cancellation of our current policy and it could take 2-6 weeks to be approved and covered under the new, more expensive plan, and no, if anything happened to my kids in that gap between plans, I was financially responsible for that. Needless to say, she had a crying mama on her hands at the other end of the phone. I know that God called us here and we were obedient to the call and that He can take care of the details, but some days I just want to go back to being dependent on ME!!! I want to just increase my hours to relieve our financial situation as I have been able to in the past, I want my old fabulous insurance back, I want my friends to be just down the road, I WANT TO HAVE A PITY PARTY...want to come??
So, if you have time, would you say a prayer for Paul and I? This water is so uncharted for us and God is using it to grow and stretch us and make us more dependent on Him...and quite frankly it is no fun. I called Paul (still crying of course) to explain what I found out and he admitted that these times make him want to go find another job without these headaches. We both know that Satan will use anything to make us and our ministry ineffective. Please pray for our protection from his attacks. While you are praying, will you please pray for God to raise up more supporters for our financial team. We are over 80% funded, but haven't made it to the 100% mark yet and it doesn't help the financial worries, especially if we are going to be paying an extra $100 plus for the next 6 months for the kids health insurance. Thank you so much, we already know you are out there praying for us and we so appreciate it!!

Birthday revelry

We made it a fun Monday in honor of Riley's birthday and he declared it the "best day ever"! It is amazing how little it takes to please them! We went for a bike tour of our neighboring neighborhood to find a shortcut to the bike trail to keep us off the busy Laurel road, found the short cut, rode the trail a bit (it was hot and they were tired from our long short cut), then went to the park just off the trail (I have referred to it in a previous post, the park with all the spinning rides and multiple swing/slide/climbing sets). We played there for a long time playing king of the mountain on the spinning wheel and trying to send each other flying off first. By God's grace, no one got hurt and we had a blast. We also did a small physiology experiment when the kids were asking about being dizzy. I allowed myself to be the guinea pig, sat in the spinny seat and spun around until I was dizzy then had them stop me and opened my eyes wide while they observed them. They got a huge kick out of my twitching eyes and I got to explain the anatomy/physiology behind the response! They all thought it was cool...I may have a medical person in the family after all!! Anyway, when we were ready, we headed back home as fast as we could to work up a good sweat, then jumped straight into the pool when we got home (we wore our swimsuits under our clothes so we would be ready!) and I even got my hair wet and played and splashed in the pool with them (that was about when the announcement about the best day ever came--what is it about me getting my hair wet that makes the day so fabulous??? I do not know, but it is very important to them!), then let them watch a movie that Riley picked out (Pirates of the Caribbean). THEN, I went and picked up Chinese food (just for Riley, the rest of us had pork chops and sweet potatoes) and we had supper and Riley made his own birthday cookie (his request) and shared it with us! The mailman came late today :( and we thought we had no mail, but we rechecked after dinner and sure enough, there were 2 packages and several cards (Thanks Aunt JoJo, you saved the day!).

Making cookies

The big cookie and a birthday wish!

Two of his gifts: a new watch and rechargeable batteries (can you ever have enough of those??)

The watch again :) Thanks Grammy Sharon and Papa Marv

A light saber that actually lights up!! Thanks Grammy Mary Lee!!

video

Alayna's birthday interpretive dance just for Riley!

Happy day Riley, we love you!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Riley!


Today is Riley's 9th birthday! He was born at 8:36 am on a Wednesday morning, our second son and biggest baby. He changed our lives and the way we parent (strong willed!), and we have seen him grow into a sweet, charming, competitive, fun boy. God blessed us richly when he gave us Riley! Here are some things we love about him:

R: Responsible (stays on task and finishes what he starts)

I: Intelligent (catches on quickly)

L: Loving

E: Eager to help

Y: Yells and screams (loves to have fun, be tickled, wrestle with dad, and can scream like a little girl!)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

New blog

Gabriel and I have created a blog all of his own for you to enjoy! His blog is open only to those he invites and he has invited his family, classmates from school and teachers and a few others to view his blog already. If you would like to be invited to read his blog, please leave your e-mail address in a comment, or e-mail me directly to get on his list (or check your e-mail to see if you are already invited!). He will be updating it while improving his typing and spelling skills and hopfully hone his story telling skills as well!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sitting across the table from myself

Good morning my brothers and sisters in Christ. How gracious our Father is and how sufficient his grace is in everything he places in our path. I pray that each of you focus on His glory rather than you current circumstance. He is not surprised and He is always in control, even when it feels as if He is not. Praise Him for who He is, the inventor of life, grace, peace, love and joy.

Today I found myself sitting across the table from myself. A few weeks ago I met a young man (younger than me that is),after he gave his tremendous testimony as a sermon to the church we attended that Sunday. For purposes of anonymity lets call him John. The testimony drew me to him and we agreed to meet and encourage one another. The meeting materialized this morning and I found myself sitting across from myself. He saw himself sitting across from himself but was able to look into the future. I had a vision of the past.

Drive and accumulation of power, wealth, and acceptance drives this young man, just as it drove me. I say "drives" for him, but that may not be the case. The "drive" is now a wresting match between him and God. I know who is going to win, and he knows it also. But he just needed me to come over this morning to him, show him pictures of myself (word pictures) and call the match. God has won. "John, you are already defeated, He wants you on His team so you can once again be a winner. But, you must first see that you are beaten down, so that you can claim the crown He has won for you. He's been preparing you all of your life to go the direction He has created you for, and now it's time to squeeze the trigger. Pull slow, pull steady, and let God determine when the hammer falls and when the primer will be struck and the bullet will travel down the barrel. It will be a fast twisting ride, but it will be straight. When you are done, you can slide to a stop, used up and ready to enter the kingdom." This was the sum of our conversation this morning, and my experiential advice to him. I pray that today, I was enough to push John over the cliff of denial to realize that God has placed a call on his life. A call to work for Him and not himself. A call to trust Him with all of his life.

For many of you men out there this rings true for you as well. What are you waiting for?? Retirement? More money? A better wife, job, house, what? Who are you living for, really? Don't fool yourself. Some need to be preachers, some need to be doctors, some need to be contractors, some need to be laborers, but what are you laboring for. Is it the new truck? The new house? the boat? So your kids can have more than you? Or is it just for you, for your position of authority in this feeble land, for your position as an elder in the church. Even the best of ministries can be tainted by pride, what is it for you? Talk to me now.

I saw myself this morning, I only wish I had the passion that he has right now, 20 years ago. Praise God for John this morning. He is listening to the call, and it may cost him everything-his business, coworkers, money, house, stuff, but he is listening, wrestling. Will God really ask him to do something he hates, will he call him to something he was not made for? Who knows us better than ourselves? God does. He places us where he wants us and we will be miserable when we are not where He has designed us to be. What's holding you back. Friends? They're not friends if they are against what God has for you. Money? He will supply everything you need, including the joy of being exactly where He designed you to be. Family? They will follow or not, take your wife and children and go. Live free my brothers and sisters. He designed you to be free, to be a slave only to Him and His grace.

Thank you, "John," for meeting with me today. Thank you for showing me a picture of myself, to confirm that I am where I should be, and for this morning is was right there, with you, across the table.

I think of all of you often, and pray that you are listening to His call on your life. It may be to stay right where you are, but to stand firm in presenting His gospel daily, or it may be here with us, or it may be in Congo-I don't know, that is truly between you and God. I only pray that I do not stand in your way and that I push you when you need it.

Wives, print this or drag your hubby to the screen to read this, don't let them say, "later honey."

We love you all.

In Christ,
P

Thursday, August 7, 2008

OOOps!

Okay, so I am completely freaking out. I just got off the phone with our landlord and it seems we are in trouble for painting. We discussed the painting before we moved in and Paul and I both were sure she said we could paint anything except for the outside of the house and she is sure she said we could only paint Alayna's room. She is slightly ticked off I think. I had to e-mail her pictures of the new colors and we'll see what she says. She seems most upset about the "faux finish" in the dining room that I covered up. I'll just post the before and after photos and you all can be the judge. I can take the criticism, I need honest evaluations and several of them. If you are reading this, you can comment about the colors here so I can see what you think...okay? I know who you are and I will hunt you down for an opinion!! Here they are before on the RIGHT and after on the LEFT (backwards I know, but it is really hard to get pictures lined up and this is what I settled for!):



Eating area








Kitchen











Entry way and hall









Dining room











Living Room/Den

If anyone has ever been a tenant who has done this and has some advice, I would appreciate that too! I feel like a teenager who has just been caught for something BAD and I am waiting for my punishment!