Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekends Are the Best II

Well, we had another wonderful weekend! Friday morning began with me getting up a little extra early to blow up sixteen balloons with helium for Elizabeth's 7th birthday. Many years ago, when William was a toddler, we began a tradition of putting helium balloons over the bed of the birthday child the morning of their birthday. It has been a very easy and inexpensive way to make our birthday child feel special from the moment they first open their eyes. They know immediately that its their special day and that Mommy and Daddy have remembered. The kids really love this and have come to very much expect it.
As an extra treat for Elizabeth, we had arranged to host our Sunday School class playgroup on Friday. So, seventeen kids enjoyed playing on the deck with playdough, coloring with chalk on the driveway, playing with ride-on toys, splashing in the kiddie pool, running through the sprinkler, spraying water guns, and throwing around a football. Sandwiched in between this activity was lunch and the added treat of popcorn from a concession style popcorn machine and flavored sno cones from a professional grade sno cone maker. My parents were the ones who kindly loaned us the equipment for making the kid-friendly treats. It was pretty hot on Friday, and I think the adults enjoyed the sno cones as much as the kids!! :-)
Friday evening, we enjoyed a family pizza party. Elizabeth wore her Birthday Princess hat and we all took turns sharing a favorite memory about Elizabeth and something we really loved about her. It is so fun to go around the table and hear what every one has to say...especially the kids. Carolina, our two-and-a-half year old never fails to make me laugh. Since visiting Disney World in April, her table response almost always has to do with Disney World, regardless of the question. She will speak a little bit of gibberish, articulate "Disney World" and "Elizabeth" (or whatever the topic is) very clearly, say a little more gibberish and then smile, as if to signal that her contribution to the round table discussion is complete.
Almost every year, we pull out the child's birth video and reminisce on the day they were born. This is also something that the kids love very much. I am ever amazed when I see the video of me holding my newborn child (because it takes me right back in time to that very moment) and then I look beside me, in real time, at that same child, now, a year older. It is very sobering. My little girl is now 7 years old. How I love her!!
Saturday morning we ended up sleeping in after staying up late for Elizabeth's birthday. My parents took Elizabeth, William, Sam and Larissa (our au pair) to the 3D movie "Up" for the 10 pm showing Friday night. I stayed up doing things around the house till they got home. So, Saturday morning proved to be a great time to catch up on a little sleep. After breakfast, we loaded up the van and drove to Lake Wylie to attend the Scottish Highland Games Festival with some friends of ours. I got some great pictures of Sam dancing with the six kids in front of the bandstand where a Scottish Bagpipe Band was rocking out in kilts. It was pretty funny. Sam was throwing the kids up in the air and trying to do some sort of Irish jig with his legs. The kids then jumped to their hearts' content in a bounce house there for the event. We were able to see some folk dancing and exhibits and then sit in the bleachers to watch a demonstration of dogs herding sheep.
Following the festival, we went back to our friends' house, grilled hamburgers and hung out while the kids played. As I've mentioned before, it is truly a blessing to sit with Christian friends and share trials and triumphs of how God has worked in your lives. Reflecting on God's providence in the past renews confidence in the future that God's hand is still there...
Again, Sunday was my favorite day of the week. Pastor Munro spoke on Psalm 23. There were so many awesome truths from his message, I had difficulty writing them all down. I have heard many sermons on this psalm before, but as our Sunday School teacher, Buddy, always reminds us, God's Word is living. The Holy Spirit can speak to you in different ways about the same passage, time and time again. He can speak to you about one matter while speaking to some one else about another matter; yet, it is the same passage He is using to speak to you both. Awesome! Today, the passage that grabbed my attention most was the line, "He makes me lie down in green pastures." Dr. Munro read a quote from a master shepherd by the last name of Keller. He said, "Because of the unique disposition of sheep, it is almost impossible to make them lie down unless four requirements are met." You will rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to see sheep lying down. (I thought back to the Scottish festival the day before and the sheep we watched. When they were in their trailers, sure enough, they were standing. When they were in their pens, they were standing. When they were in the grassy field, they were standing. I never saw any of them sit once. And, I never really thought about it until Pastor Munro brought it to my attention.) Keller said that for sheep to lie down, four requirements must be met: (1)They must be free of FEAR. "Owing to their timidity, sheep are unable to lie down unless they are free of all fear." (2) They must be free of FRICTION. "Because of the social dynamic of the flock, sheep are unable to lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their kind." (3) They must be free of PESTS. "If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. Only when free of these pests can sheep relax." (4) They must be free of HUNGER. "Sheep will not lie down as long as they feel in need of finding food." Here, then, is the significance of the Shepherd's provision. The Lord is MY Shepherd. He leads me so that I can lie from fear of harm, free from the stress of friction with others, free from the pests and parasites...the struggles of life that seek to suck the very life blood from me, free from hunger...spiritual hunger that only He can fill. When truly, "The Lord is MY Shepherd", I can rest...I can "lie down in green pastures" that God will take care of all my needs, all my cares, all my fears, all my anxieties...
There was a time, not that long ago, that I was waking up at night worried about my job, worried that the kids were growing up too fast, worried about my marriage, worried about the life expectancy of my parents, worried about worry itself. I was praying. I was active at church, regularly attending Sunday services and Sunday School...but I wasn't opening God's Word every day and really seeking MY Shepherd. I thought about that this morning. I thought about how sweet my sleep has been lately and the peace I've felt when lying down and waking up.
"The Lord is MY Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures." Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Learning A Lesson

Today, it was Andrew's turn to travel with me to the dental office. At his last check-up, he showed early signs of cavity, we knew he was getting more than just a cleaning today. Well, it's official, Andrew is my first child with cavities and the first of my children to receive fillings (from me). Andrew actually had 4 very, very small cavities. Two were even on the same tooth, but on different surfaces (facial and occlusal). Andrew has always been a child with a "sweet tooth" and one who learned early how to climb the pantry shelves in secrecy to retrieve the goodies of his choice. Unfortunately, because these treats were taken in secret, the sweets he consumed sat on his teeth for extended periods of time before being brushed away.
After taking a little mini tour of the dental office and checking out the prize drawer, this morning, he hopped up in the dental chair and took the shots I gave him like a man. :-)) Not once did he cry or wimper or even flinch while being given needles or while being drilled... He was very easy to work on, and I was so proud of him! When I completed his procedure, however, I felt that the time was right to reinforce a lesson. "Andrew, have we learned a lesson today?" I asked. "You had FOUR cavities filled today. That's a lot, buddy. We really need to make sure that you're brushing your teeth after eating sweets. You can't be sneaking treats without Mommy and Daddy knowing, right? Do you think you learned your lesson?" I prompted. He sat there in the dental chair with the left side of his face completely numb, pondering my first words. "Wow, FOUR cavities! ...So, do I get four prizes, then?"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"I Can't Be Moses, But I CAN BE ME"

Riding in to work this morning, I was blessed to hear the end of a 14 part devotional series on the life of Joshua. I went in to work a little later this morning than usual and heard a program that nornally wouldn't play during my drive time. For some time now, I have been struggling with a number of issues at work. One of those issues is very much related to a feeling of inadequacy... of never being able to quite measure up. My dad is a very talented and wonderful practitioner. He is truly as gifted as any dentist I have ever met. He, of course has been practicing dentistry for 35 years plus, while I have only been out of dental school for a little over 3 years. It is a given that he is superior, but sometimes I just feel incredibly inferior. Well, God knew my heart this morning, and he gave me a little nugget from the devotional on the life of Joshua that I've been chewing on all day. :-)
The speaker began by reading Joshua 24:29 "After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being 110 years old." She reviewed all that Joshua had accomplished in his 110 years by serving the Lord to the fullest of his ability during the lifetime he was given. We only get one lifetime, she said, and we shouldn't squander it or waste time being distracted. She then described how Joshua could have been distracted or discouraged with the fact that Moses, who led before him, was such a great and mighty prophet who knew God face to face. Deuteronomy 34:10 says, "And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharoah and all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of Israel." How discouraging this could have been for Joshua as he took over the leadership of Israel. "The Bible tells us that no prophet before or since has ever been like Moses. How can you measure up to that? You can't," she said. "Joshua knew, 'I can't be Moses, but I can be Joshua, and I can serve the Lord in my own way with the talents and abilities he has given me.' And Joshua went on to be a great, great leader for the Lord."
How refreshing! How liberating! "I can't be Moses, but I CAN BE ME."
Thank you, God, for sending these words my way.

"I'm Too Exhausted"

Yesterday, I took Elizabeth with me to work. Since the older three have begun their summer break, I have been taking each of them to work with me one day a week. This has given me a wonderful opportunity to share some one-on-one time with them, as well as given them one day a week to focus on independent learning and academics. The dental office I share with my father has a second half that has been converted from a physician's practice to an apartment. The apartment consists of three "bedrooms", a kitchen, a family room, and three bathrooms. The apartment makes a great place for my older kids to come after school during the school year to do their homework (I actually did this as a child, myself) and a wonderful place to hang out while mommy sees patients. On Tuesday, Elizabeth brought to the dental office the last of her four library books to read, as well as a notebook for journaling a summary of her readings. On the way to the office, she and I listened to the Christian radio station WHVN. We heard a story about a seven-year-old girl who reads to her blind mother. Well, Elizabeth is turning 7 on Friday, and I could see in my rear view mirror that she was paying particular attention to this story and identifying in some way with the plight of this little girl. "Mommy, I read to Carolina at night in our bed," she said. "Oh, really," I replied, unaware that this was going on after Sam and I tucked them in at night. "Yes, in fact, I read her a story just last night. It was from my children's Bible about Jesus dying on the cross." "Wow, Elizabeth," I remarked, "that's wonderful that you're reading stories about Jesus to Carolina. I'm sure she must really appreciate that." "Oh, yes, she does. She begged me to read her more stories last night, but I told her I just couldn't. I told her,'I'm too exhausted.'" I glanced back at her again in the rear view mirror. Her rested little face was as sincere as it could be:-))

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekends Are the Best!!

What a wonderful weekend we had! Every day was jam-packed, but so much fun!! Friday, the six kids and I, along with Larissa, our au pair, spent the afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese. We clipped out a coupon from the paper for $19.99 and went there to enjoy our pepperoni pizza, 4 unlimited drinks, and 40 tokens. (I ended up upgrading to 100 tokens). I just love how excited the kids get about going to places like this. They all lined up with their empty cups, as I went down the line dropping in one token at a time. Christopher shook his cup with the 10 tokens I initially gave each of them. "I'm rich! Look at all my monies." William and Elizabeth went straight for the "older games" while Andrew considered his "purchases" and Christopher and Carolina went to ride in the car with Chuck E. and have their picture taken. Peter fell asleep during the car ride over from our house and slept most of the time we were there; so I inherited his coins :-)). There were lots of children celebrating birthdays that day; so I shouldn't have been surprised when Christopher came walking over holding a cupcake he had de-iced with his tongue. Running behind him was an 8-year-old girl who had come to let me know that he had taken something that wasn't his. I gently reprimanded him; but I understood that he was confused by the table of attractive cupcakes that appeared to be for all the kids at the party. (Unfortunately, he didn't realize that he wasn't invited to that party. :-))
The kids did fairly well earning tickets. Even with the marked up exchange rate, we ended up with 2 bags of cotton candy, a large swirl sucker and three small lollipops. Perfect choices for children of a dentist, right? Oh, well. ;-)
Friday evening, we watched a Bible cartoon movie with the kids about the life of Paul. Sam and I have been studying Thessalonians in our Sunday Life Group at church; so it was nice to bring our study full circle by discussing Paul's testimony with the kids. We have also been reading a proverb a day with the children. Some nights, we will let William or Elizabeth read a few of the verses. We usually read a verse or two at a time and then ask the kids if they have any idea what the verse means or what a particular word in the verse means. This can be quite entertaining at times. More than anything, though, it is a wonderful learning experience. The proverbs are so packed with wisdom.
Saturday morning, I got up and took William, Elizabeth, and Carolina to W & E's swim meet. Sam stayed home with the other three. Carolina sat on my lap at the event. She enjoyed cheering for her siblings. In between their individual races, we entertained ourselves by reading our way through some Sesame Street and Dr. Seuss books she had brought in her back pack. Once the meet finished up around 11 am, the kids and I made our way back home. Sam was all geered up to pull weeds when I pulled in the driveway. Sam is very diligent about trying to take care of our yard. The weeds, at times, though, seem even more determined than he. :-)) I chopped up ingredients for a bolognese sauce, and let it simmer. I then set about steaming some green beans with mushrooms and mixing up a fresh salad. The large watermelon I had purchased earlier in the week sliced up nicely. I threw some pasta in the boiling water as I quickly finished the setting of the table that Elizabeth, Andrew, and Christopher had initiated. (I love having the kids help me set the table, but we are almost invariably missing a plate, utensil or cup from one or two places each time. They mean well, though.) I called the family to the kitchen, and we enjoyed a relaxed Saturday lunch around the table. Our topics of discussion were "What is your favorite thing that you've done so far this weekend?" and "What are you hoping to do this weekend that you haven't yet done?" Sam and I are always posing group questions to the kids when we sit down to eat. It seems to be a good way for every one to get the opportunity to speak. In this way, no one person dominates the conversation, and we don't end up with simultaneous conversations. When lunch was over, Sam was kind enough to put the kids down for nap, while I made my way to our bedroom for a much-anticipated nap for myself. However, a nap was not to be. Instead, I read some friends' blogs and decided I was ready to jump on board. I discussed the possibility with Sam, and he was game. So, together, we navigated through the process of starting up a blog. Before we knew it, the kids were waking and it was dinner time. Where had our afternoon gone?
Sunday was the highlight of my weekend. We have been at Calvary Church since May of 2008 and have experienced so much spiritual growth since then. I sincerely praise God for the wonderful Christian friends and mentors He has brought into our lives through that church. The sermon was on Psalm 1 and the importance of spending time in God's Word. It tied in beautifully with our Sunday School lesson. (Our teacher, Buddy, sends us questions each week via email to complete at home and come prepared to discuss.) I had read through my questions several times over the weekend, but did not sit down to complete them until early Sunday morning when I awoke. One of the questions that really caught my attention was, "Are there times when Satan interferes with your 'Christian walk'? In what ways?" I pondered this for a while trying to come up with specific examples of Satan hindering my walk. I couldn't think of any specifics. What did come to mind, however, was the realization that "anytime I am tempted to prioritize my time in such a way that I 'run out of time' to read the Scriptures, pray , and spend time with God, I grow weaker in my Christian walk. It is then that I am less able to confront the daily struggles and temptations of life". This is so basic but was such a revelation to me. Every time I structure my day in such a way that time with God is not a priority, I am unequipped to deal with the "stuff" of life. We are commanded in Ephesians 6:10-20 to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Without elaborating too much, I really feel the "trials" during the work week. Some days it is all I can do to make it to the end of the work day. I feel like Fred Flintstone waiting for the whistle to blow so I can "high tail it" out of there :-)). I am reminded of the country station I used to listen to in Baltimore, where a different listener would call in each day at 5pm to do the "Quitting Time YeeHaw". The caller would let out the biggest "yeehaw" possible as a means a releasing the pent up stress he was experiencing from his job. Okay so it's not that bad, but you get the point of how I feel at times. Buddy's questions and the pastor's sermon reminded me that I find it most difficult to stand firm with the Lord when I am not in His Word. The more time I spend reading the Scriptures and meditating on His words to me, the easier it is for me to think pure thoughts and respond with kind words and actions. I want to be like the tree planted by streams of water, yielding forth fruit in season, with leaves that do not wither. I desire to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit to every person I encounter.
Sunday concluded with friends (another family with 6 kids) coming home with us from church and spending the day with us at our neighborhood pool. We enjoyed lunch and dinner and hours of conversation while the children played. Christian friends are such a wonderful blessing. What a joy to share in others' trials and triumphs as well as swap stories of parenting mishaps and such. Yes, weekends are the best.
As I enter my work week, though, I am reminded of James 1:2-5. "Count it all joy, my brothers WHEN" (not if)"you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that THE TESTING OF YOUR FAITH PRODUCES STEADFASTNESS. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask it of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."
Wishing each of you a wonderful week!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Beginning a Blog

Today, I have finally decided to begin a blog. For a long time I viewed blogs as somewhat self-indulgent and wondered why any one would want to read about me or my family's weekly events. However, after keeping up with several friends of mine through their blogs and finding encouragement from their experiences, I have taken a new perspective. In addition, I have come to see it as a wonderful way to journal about life. I have never been good at keeping scrapbooks of our family life. All the cutting and pasting became too tedious, and I was never able to keep up. Blogging, however, seems to be a wonderful way to record daily life as time permits and upload pictures without all the material mess. In addition, it is a great way for family and friends to stay connected with you. Lastly, it is a wonderful means of encouraging others you may never meet.