Monday, June 21, 2010

"Small" Blessings, but HUGE gratitude

It's been a great few days for us. It's just proven to me over and over again that God is in control. Some people may look at what we call blessings and think we are insane for giving God the glory for it, but we KNOW who provides for us. For some others, what we call blessings may be insignificant. For us, we are grateful for the little things.

Adriana left an hour and a half ago on a mission trip. We are so excited for her and know this week is going to be amazing. Her heart is so huge and she is so mission-minded. I'm beyond thankful for God's provision for that to happen. I never dreamed that someone would step up and sponsor her. The most amazing thing is that we didn't even think to "ask". The registration deadline and parent's meeting had long since passed. I'm thankful for the lady that got the ball rolling and made that happen for her. It really has made Adriana (and all of us as well) see her faith in a whole new light. She has come under fire so much over the past few weeks because of the maturity of her beliefs. It was just a very beautiful moment to witness her whole being change when she found out she could go and that there was NO other way for it to have happened had it not been a "God thing". Yes, PEOPLE (that we are grateful for) may have physically and financially made it happen, but it was because God led their hearts. Thank you for all of you involved on every level.

That situation and everything that surrounded those few days has been very emotional for us. There was just something about all of it that touched us way deeper than just the surface. We've also had some other things happen over the last week or so that also showed us God's provision. I believe God provides even when it may not be in the most natural or "normal" ways. I just try to keep my eyes and heart open to seeing it. I've had people literally laugh in my face and say God has had nothing to do with it, but I know differently.

We wanted to have Bradlee a birthday party, but even the most very basic of activities was out of the budget right now. I enter contests, give aways, promotions, etc... on a constant basis. VERY seldom do I ever "win". I actually won a house party sponsored by Oscar Mayer. The date they requested JUST happened to be the exact day we had wanted to have his party. Coincidence? Not in my book! With what OM provided, I was able to do the rest for about $40. We had a great time socializing with our neighbors. We enjoyed it so much that we are already in the planning stages of our next block party.

It was a great day for Bradlee, but even more so for all of us. We were able to spend time with our precious neighbors that are in their 80s and can run circles around us. We've witnessed a sharp decline over the last 18 months and every chance to be with them right now is important to all of us, especially Adriana. She spends hours at a time visiting with them and listening to their adventures. She's happy to just sit and do jigsaw puzzles with them. We also got to spend time with a neighbor that has been great to us by giving us our very rare chances out as a couple. She's going through a rough time personally and very lonely right now. It was great to see her smile & relax. We loved getting to spend time with The Guinns and their 3 kids. We've been running so much this summer that I've missed getting to just hang out with them. Another neighbor came by and fixed plates for his family. His wife is in the early stages of pregnancy #2 and between the exhaustion and heat, she didn't feel like being out. Been there! He talked with Kevin & Jeff for quite awhile and he was excited to have had the chance for an official "meet and greet" kind of thing. They also are without family around and feel that loneliness we know first hand. They are both from Korea and language barriers have been difficult, but we were ALL AMAZED at the progress! The whole experience just made me grateful that we had the opportunity to spend that time all together. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time and God provided that for us in a unique way.

Another "small" blessing that meant the world to us was the opportunity to eat dinner out as a family. I say small because in many people's eyes it wouldn't be considered a blessing...just a daily "given". We received a COMPLETELY unexpected thank you card and a gift card in the mail a couple of weeks ago. We used that to be able to treat Kevin to a GREAT lunch after church to celebrate Father's Day. Otherwise, it wouldn't have happened.

I spent the last several weeks trying to figure out how to get him something great as a gift. I still wasn't able to get him something huge (like a WORKING MODERN TV that he would love or his own iPod) but I was able to find something meaningful for him. He was REALLY in need of a new Bible. They are just SO expensive. We had a new Family Christian bookstore open recently and I went in there. I kept looking around and couldn't find anything that fell in the $30 price range that I knew I could spend. I wanted a NLT one for him because even though we still go back to our NIV or KJV versions as the "standard", I have found a new passion for scripture by reading from the NLT. It just really comes to life for me and I wanted Kevin to have one. Anyone knows me know I CAN NOT stand being approached by sales people and I don't like to "talk" to anyone out shopping. This time God provided AGAIN----the lady saw me DIGGING through the clearance table of Bibles with a look of frustration. I couldn't find one and I knew I couldn't afford a regular priced one. At first she couldn't find one that fit my budget and "needs" (like we found a PINK one!) and I had given up on that idea. I had gone to look at something else when she approached me with one she just "happened" to find. (Another instance of God providing!). When it was all said and done, I walked out with a $65 leather NLT Bible that MORE than made us both happy....for $2 less than my budget! I didn't even have to settle for a paperback. It just happened to ring up on sale when she scanned it and she handed me a 33% off coupon that could be combined with sale prices! Oh yes!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oh be careful little eyes what you see....

There has been MUCH discussion going on in our house about of all types. We are living in a world where black is no longer black and white is no longer white. It's more difficult every day to make decisions about what is right or wrong without stepping into some kind of gray area. It seems like so much of everything we've dealt with as parents in the last months has been about taking a stance and sticking to our guns in regards to media. It's been about movies, TV shows, music, social networking, etc...

Sometimes it's hard enough to make good choices as an adult about what is appropriate, but add in the incredible responsibility of raising Godly children and it's seems almost impossible! I KNOW there are other parents out there that are just as vigilant as we are, but it seems like those numbers are fleeting every day. I applaud those of you that are doing your best to go "against the grain"!

Our biggest battle recently has been with movies and movie ratings. We all KNOW the "ginormous" (I so love that word!) need for more family friendly movies and what a huge battle it is to find good ones that can TRULY be family oriented. Having a now 13 year old in the house has created a HUGE battle for us in regards to choices. In general, we still don't find them appropriate and it's hard for her in the "world". Almost every time, she is in agreement that a particular movie doesn't fit in our value system and is FINE that we don't watch it. However, that makes it VERY hard on her because 99% of her friends (which are mostly Christians) have no restrictions. We know as adults how hard it is to feel left out or go against the norm. It's so many times worse as a teen!

So what do we do? That is the HUGE question in our house. Our two standards are Focus on the Family Plugged In movie reviews and The Holy Spirit. In general, almost everything we need to know can be found on FOF. For example, we were just looking up the popular movie Avatar that most of her friends have watched. I hoped it might be one that we could allow since I had heard so much about the technology and colors. Our decision was EASY to make when we read: About a dozen s-words. Also, 10 misuses of God's name (including six or seven pairings with "d--n") and three abuses of Jesus' name. We hear roughly 20 other profanities ("h---", "a--", "b--ch", "b---tard", "p---") and three crude references to the male anatomy ("d-ck" among them). Hello, not in my house!!!! Kevin and I don't even feel comfortable watching movies with that much language. The rest of the review had lots to say, but the language alone was enough to tell us no way-no how! I can't tell you how many parents have talked about how great the movie was and how it wasn't "too bad". We've learned through many of our own mistakes to not take other peoples opinion to heart without doing research on our own.

On the flip side, we've at times made the decision to watch some that were borderline of our comfort zone. For example, we chose to watch The Blindside and LOVED it. It wasn't spotless, but the story line FAR outweighed the negative aspects. We read reviews and then listened to the Holy Spirit. We made the decision to fast forward through one rough scene, but watched the rest. It was GREAT and brought about many fantastic discussions.

I firmly believe that if you are earnestly seeking to raise a Godly family, HE WILL guide you. That doesn't mean that the road will be easy or without obstacles. Just like we talk about OFTEN in our house: We may be in this world, but NOT of it. Sometimes living a life "set apart" is the hardest thing to do, but we sleep well at night knowing our hearts are focusing on the right direction. We firmly believe that what goes in MUST come out. Sure, WE CAN watch movies or listen to secular music (which I LOVE lots of!) that may not be "godly" in nature and NOT repeat the words or repeat the same actions. It's ABSOLUTELY possible. However, I personally find myself feeling "dark", agitated, depressed, or just plain unsettled. Do I really want that? Doesn't life itself present enough challenges without adding more to it? I know that I'm MUCH more effective as a wife and mother IF my heart & EARS are inundated with BEAUTIFUL God-driven lyrics. I can INSTANTLY turn a horrible day into a calming one within seconds of turning on WBGL, a great CD, or cranking up my Ipod. There is nothing that bring more healing to me than listening to contemporary Christian music. Just stop and read the lyrics and see if it doesn't soothe your soul and uplift!!!!

To those that have vocally told us that we are sheltering our kids and the real world is going to slam them in the face someday and they won't know how to have their own faith. BOO! YES, in regards to the younger kids in our home. THEY get no CHOICE-----plain and simple---an unapologetic NO choice! As for Adriana, her opinion FULLY matters but we do get the final say. However, aside from the fact that her friends are being cruel, she AGREES. She has no desire to be of THAT world and her biggest problem is that her HEART BREAKS for them because they can't see what they are doing! YOU GO GIRL! All I have to say is as painful as things are right now for you, you have an amazing support system standing right beside you READY to keep on giving you the strength and encouragement to stand your ground!!!!!! WE love your amazing heart for what is pure and we know how hard it is to watch those around you crumble and not even know it! HANG in there!!!!

On a side note to what goes in, must come out----NEVER EVER forget that your children are listening and watching every single thing we do. OH how I fail them EVERY day in that regards. There is ALWAYS something at the end of the day that I wish I had not said or done. I know that by filling their hearts with as much good as I can, it helps overcome my failings. Just last night, Bradlee FLOORED us. Peyton attended MegaSports Camp last week at a local church. The focus was on sports, but they had a key verse that they all attempted to learn. On the way to and from the church, I would help Peyton say it (usually no more than 2 times!). On the way to the grocery store last night, BRADLEE said the whole thing WORD for WORD without prompting and only messed up on the chapter number. He really wasn't included in the conversations with Peyton, I thought he was mostly watching his VeggieTales DVD. IT really made me stop and reevaluate my own need to be EVEN more intentional with teaching him scripture and such, but MOST especially it has taught me to guard EVEN more my actions and words. How I interact with EACH of them is VERY important, because the others are soaking it in, too! is that "LITTLE" verse he picked up by absorption. "In my father's house there are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you." John 14:2

I think I will take THAT EVERY SINGLE day over what the world would consider normal!!!