Tuesday, December 30, 2008

photo highlights

Here are a few photographs of our family during this Christmas season.  And yes, our 7-year old daughter received boxing gloves as a gift.




















Monday, December 29, 2008


img_3563A few weeks back, a friend and I were working on a big pre-Christmas project:  homemeade Advent calendars.  If any of you know Amanda Price, you would not be surprised to learn that she has lots and lots of miscellaneous fabric pieces left over from completed projects or waiting to be used in a new "Amanda-creation."  

Stephen, after hovering over the craft table (aka: dining room table) for a long period of time, asked if he could take some of the fabric remnants.  Amanda said it was fine with her, but I hesitated briefly before agreeing.  After all, I have seen some late night reruns of Project Runway and somehow I immediately connected fabric remnants to a future lifestyle that I would not prefer for my son.  

He left with the fabric remnants.

Fast forward to Christmas morning.  Before the kids opened a single present, they insisted that Matt and I open the gifts from them first.  Accompanying a beautiful handwritten letter and picture for the both of us, was a little package just for me entitled:  Mom #1.  I was in tears already, like any Mommy would be.  

When I unwrapped the paper to my special gift, there they were.  The fabric remnants from that day at Amanda's house.img_3562

Stephen carefully cut and reformed them, added some construction paper and glue and as a result, created for me a truly cool and stylish wallet.  


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

hannah and sally

img_34441We finally got to meet Hannah Jane Williams.

She is really a beautiful baby - even Stephen commented on how pretty she was and he's the baby expert these days.  She looks like a little caterpillar all swaddled up!

Congrats to Brandon & Annie and thanks to God for a safe delivery and for giving peace and grace to B and Annie as they made several trips to the ER and doctors office.


While we visited with Brandon and Annie, Abbie spent some time with Sally.  Seems that good ol' Sally has been up with the baby all night and is also missing out on some attention.  Abbie came to the rescue, as she hid bones in her pocket and loved on Sally.  The second we walked out the door, Abbie asked me, which came as no surprise - "Mom, can I please get a dog?"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

not the one

...that I picked out for our Christmas card, but I still thought they were cute and wanted to share them.  I just love D's big smile. img_3418



new york, new york

This is Stephen's first official blog....let's hear it for my boy!

Last Friday I went to New York with my Mom, my Aunt Jennifer and my cousin Hannah.

Here is a list of the top ten things I enjoyed about my trip.

  1. the ferry ride to see Lady Liberty (that's what Hannah called it).

  2. seeing a fat rat in the tracks of the subway (Hannah spotted it).

  3. seeing the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center - NO FLUFFING MR. PAT.  It takes 5 miles of lights to fill the tree.

  4. trying to hail a taxi at Times Square

  5. going to the huge Toys-R-Us in Times Square.  I liked the Lego Statue of Liberty.

  6. it was fun eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp.  I really liked the popcorn shrimp - it was good even though i was tired and not very hungry.   We were right in Times Square and could see everything right out the huge windows.

  7. we were all happy when mom's migraine went away.

  8. riding on the subway and the Path (from N.J to N.Y) and looking out the window with Hannah

  9. going to the Walgreens right in Times Square.  It was funny that a pharmacy was located in the center of  Times Square

  10. walking into Trump Towers because we were freezing cold and there was a Star Bucks inside where we were hoping to get a hot chocolate.  Unfortunately it closed at 8pm.  :(


deranged snowman

Let me begin with saying that I am happy that my dear friend Becky has been blessed with a home!

I'm also happy that she is choosing to use her home as a means of blessing and serving others.

This past Sunday, my little Abbie was thrilled to go to her Aunt Becky's (along with a few of her little friends) to make Christmas cookies and a little craft.  Not only did Abs have a blast but I was able to share how Aunt Becky was a godly example of using her home to impart to a future generation that included her.  So far, this is just a perfect story isn't it?

Well.  Here's the kicker.  While I'm sure Becky had a different picture in her mind of how the snowman craft would turn out, this is what I saw this morning.  Sure, 2 days have passed and for the first night, Abbie slept with her snowman, but come on!  This is freakin' me out!


Monday, November 24, 2008

the little foxes....no, not becky fox!

Very practical for married and single folks!  Excellent stuff....

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.751592&w=425&h=350&fv=]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

another beautiful face that i love

Diamonte was napping during our last little photo shoot....so here's the biggest cheeseball of all.


Monday, November 17, 2008


Just a "box-creation" update.   Here's how it went down, in order:

1- Stephen pushed for his new walmart design.

2- Abbie spent most of the time climbing inside the box, which prevented any and all potential construction.

3- Matt threw the box away on Sunday night.

4- I was sad.

No walmart, no hotel for stuffed animals, just a big piece of trash.  :(

pat was wrong

Yep...although an odd occurrence, it does happen from time to time and when it does, I feel it is my personal job to make others aware.  Pat was wrong.

Facts:  The following was a statement made by Pat on October 21st in reference to my reorganization of the bathroom closet.

  1. I give it 2 weeks.

Granted, it's been a little bit longer than 2 weeks, but I feel that is to my disadvantage because it allowed for more time to mess things up.

Proof:  Here is a current picture of the state of my bathroom closet.  Still spotless Pster!  Zingerooni....


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

the box is always more fun than the product itself

At least according to kids.

img_3211-15The speedy growth of Azariyah required us to get a new carseat.  She's a whopping 21 lbs at almost 6 months of age, so goodbye free infant carseat, hello $99.00 Evenflo convertible carseat.

No one likes to cough up a hundred bucks b/c of something like weight gain, but I must say that I did enjoy picking out a sparkling new seat for the babe.

Before I even began taking the seat out of the box, the kids begged me for the box.  Stephen wants to create a Walmart and Abbie wants to make a hotel for her stuffed animals.  Matt wanted to throw it away.  I pushed for the kids and now they are downstairs creating!  I'll post what they come up with.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

bumbo body


laundry mystery

img_3210-1I've been wondering how and why my laundry seems to be increasing each week, when the number of people in our family has remained the same.

Mystery solved.

Abbie loves the layered look. It's not because she's cold - she just likes it. So today for instance, she came down with jeans on and four shirts. Yep, four shirts, all different colors. Layer one - red, layer two - orange, layer three - blue, and the top layer, green. It looks cute but come on - you know what this means. At bedtime, four shirts will be tossed into the laundry basket!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

fun pix

Just wanted to share some pictures with everyone...

Abbie - my pirate girl
Stephen - my mad scientist
Diamonte - our little football player tackling Azariyah our little panda girl.
Michele - a nun gone bad

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

a great run-on sentence

2 Timothy 1:8-12a  (Paul's words to Timothy)
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do.

What better news is there than this?

  • He saved us and called us to a holy calling

  • He did this because of His own purpose and grace and not because of our works

  • He has abolished death - through the gospel

  • He has brought life and immortality to light - through the gospel


Early this morning, baby nestled warm in between Matt and I, my phone buzzed.  Hmmmm.  A picture from Amy Long.  Who was the picture of?  I opened my little phone, surprised to see a small portrait of Pat Santavenere with his hair all curly on top.  Was this for real?  You'll have to ask Pat.

Later this afternoon, in light of Pat's fiasco last night, we got to talking about haircuts and Abbie expressed her desire to have hair like me, which I thought was sweet.  Her exact words were:  "Mom, I always wanted to be like you when I grow up, so can I get my hair cut to my shoulders?"  She is so stinkin' sweet that I could just eat her!

So....Abs and I left Stephen downstairs to make lunch for everyone and we headed to "Snips & Tips" (my bathroom where I cut the kids' hair and trim their nails....and occasionally they give me a tip).

Here's the before and after.  I'm happy to say that my client is pleased.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

unhappy laundry

At first Azariyah was happy.

And then she wasn't.  This is the way I feel whenever I look at my ever growing mound of laundry.

stop and smell the entire flower garden?

Ever since my kids were little, I've tried to express the importance of the phrase, "stop and smell the roses."   This sort of statement came from my lips primarily with Stephen, as he was (& still is a bit) often tempted to rush through things/experiences  without what I would consider, appreciation.  It's not that he didn't appreciate them in the end, but he didn't always slow down or stop to really let the enjoyment soak in.

Abbie on the other hand, stops to smell every single rose that comes her way and often ones that are out of her way.  She can rarely get from one point to the next without stopping to comment, express her enjoyment of or thoughts about something she has noticed that she likes.

This afternoon as Abs was on her way to brush her hair, she stopped by the baby to play with her feet and sing a little song to her...then she took one step up the stairs and looked back to say something sweet to Diamonte and then she even said something kind to me - out of nowhere.  All this before reaching step #4 where the brush awaited her.

I told her, "Abs - you don't just stop and smell the roses, you stop to smell the entire flower garden!"

When I am in "task-mode" and I just want the kids to do what I asked them to do in a timely matter, these sort of delays from Abbie can be tiresome.  Maybe I'm the one who needs to stop and smell my 7-year old rose that loves to take a detour in order to share her delight in something small.

20 resolutions from James

The following list was given by Sinclair Ferguson at the Desiring God conference I attended.  Of course I was far to slow to write them all down, but Justin Taylor got 'em and posted them on his blog.  They are given in Jonathan Edwards style...
James 1:5  To ask God for wisdom to speak and with a single mind

James 1:9010  To boast only in exaltation in Christ, & humiliation in world

James 1:13  To set a watch over my mouth

James 1:19  To be constantly quick to hear, slow to speak

James 2:1-4  To learn the gospel way of speaking to the poor and the rich

James 2:12  To speak always in the consciousness of the final judgement

James 2:16  To never stand on anyone's face with my words

James 3:14  To never claim as reality something I do not experience

James 4:1  To resist quarrelsome words in order to mortify a quarrelsome heart

James 4:11  To never speak evil of another

James 4:13  To never boast in what I will accomplish

James 4:15  To always speak as one subject to the providences of God

James 5:9  To never grumble, knowing that the Judge is at the door

James 5:12  To never allow anything but total integrity in my speech

James 5:13  To speak to God in prayer whenever I suffer

James 5:14  To sing praises to God whenever I am cheerful

James 5:14  To ask for the prayers of others when I am sick

James 5:15  To confess it freely whenever I have failed

James 5:15  To pray with and for one another when I am together with others

James 5:19  To speak words of restoration when I see another wander

Monday, October 27, 2008

james 3

Almost a month ago, Matt blessed me with a trip to Minnesota to attend the Desiring God Conference entitled: The Power of Words and the Wonder of God.  All of the messages can be heard or watched here.

Prior to Sinclair Ferguson's message and Paul Tripp's message, they showed this poignant video.  It's best to watch in a place that you can hear it - the tone of the music adds to the sober theme.

sovereignty & sorrow, a worthy example

As I was wrapping up the previous post, Becky Fox immediately came to my mind, as an excellent example of the marriage between grieving and trusting.

Just last week, Becky found out that her car needed a new transmission, which would cost over 3k.  If she made the choice to not have her car fixed, and opt to buy another car, her brother had found one with low mileage for  a little over 4K.  Either way, the thought of emptying her savings and dipping into her retirement plan wasn't a happy thought I'm sure.  We talked on the phone one evening and through her tears, I heard my friend make the choice to trust in the Lord.  I remember her saying that she knew that all of the money she had belonged to the Lord.  It would be easy in a situation like this to feel sorry for yourself and stake a claim on the money you saved up for other good things.  But Becky did not do that.  She opted to trust, even in her sorrow.

I watched Becky exemplify this same sort of attitude as she waited and waited and waited for the settlement date on the purchase of her home.  The need to wait caused all sorts of problems as her well thought out plans and schedules, which involved moving and cleaning and painting, were shifted over and over again. The prolonged date even left her without a home.   No, she didn't take to the streets - a friend opened her home to her and her cat, Shadow.  :)

I can recall a phone conversation I had with Becky where I prayed for her...and once again, through tears and sadness, I heard her place her trust in God's timing.  Her words were not a denial of the realities of being upset and frustrated - but she made that important turn towards trust.

Both of these stories - the transmission and her prolonged settlement date - had great endings.  God showed His faithfulness in so many ways to my friend.  But before the great ending, when she was living in the uncertainty of what would happen - she chose to trust.

Thanks Beck, for being a real-life example of what it looks like to grieve and trust in the Lord.

sovereignty & sorrow

I struggle from time to time with the following conflict:

I believe that God is sovereign and that His ways are best and perfect and ultimately for His glory and my good.  Yet when something happens that I believe is not good or best for a particular situation or even seems to give way for more evil actions - yet God ordains or permits it, I struggle with my emotional response.

For example, if I trust God totally, is there really room to be discouraged, disappointed, or grieved over His plan or decision regarding something that has a personal effect on my life or the life of my friends and/or family?

In reading 2 Kings 8 today, the Lord gave me a small little nugget of truth in the response of his servant, Elisaha.  Here's a little background:  Elisha is at Damascus and Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria was sick so he sends Hazael to meet him and to find out if Elisha knew from the Lord if he would recover from his sickness.  Elisha is then greeted by Hazael who has 40 camel loads worth of gifts (not bad!) and a question: "Your son Ben-Hadad king of Syria has sent me to you, saying, 'Shall I recover from this sickness?' " v.9  Elisha informs Hazael that the king will recover, but that the Lord has shown him that he will certainly die.  This is not exactly good news to take back to the king - especially when it begins sounding hopeful (you will recover) but then ends horribly (but you will die).

Then in verse 11 and 12, we read this:
And he fixed his gaze and stared at him, until he was embarrassed.  And the man of God wept.  And Hazael said, 'Why does my lord weep?' He answered, 'Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel.  You will set on fire their fortresses, and you will kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women.'

Once again, not a very uplifting prophetic word.

Elisha doesn't just skip off into the desert with his 40 camel loads worth of gifts, thankful for the plans of God.  The Scripture says that "the man of God wept."

I was so thankful to read these five words.

In the midst of falling in love with our two foster children, the question of when and if (in that order) they  return to their birth mother looms over me.  My theology is what I cling to; it's what keeps me on solid ground when our family is immersed in such uncertainty.  Unlike Elisha, God has not given me a prophetic word about the future of these children.  I know the birth mother and she is not Hazael.  I don't believe she is setting out to harm her kids in any way, shape, or form.  But the future doesn't look so hot for these little ones based on the little bit of information I do know.

As I walk through so many unknowns, I am just relieved to know that grieving and trusting God do not have to be at odds.  In my grieving, I can turn to Him with trust and adoration.  The two can work together in a beautiful way that reflects the heart of our Savior.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

time out

The Abster takes time out of her busy day of scholastic studies to play in the baby prison (aka: play yard).

chop chop

Diamonte (19 months) got his first big-boy haircut, thanks to Marcia at Creative Design.   She did an excellent job at carefully trimming his curls and D sat very still, sporting a pink cape while sitting on Matt's lap.

not a "kid person"?

During the first few weeks of foster care, I could see how awkward and uncomfortable my son Stephen was with the kids.  I knew there wasn't a lot he could do with a newborn, but Diamonte was 14 months and full of energy and certainly excited to have a big boy like Stephen to play with.  Stephen seemed stiff around him though; almost indifferent.

I asked him one day what was going on and he made this confession:  "Mom, I'm not a kid person!"   In Stephen's mind, he concluded that he wasn't a "kid person" because he didn't know what to do with these kids that suddenly, overnight, became a part of our little, secure family.   The playing and teaching and caring didn't come naturally.  Well not at first.

In the last 3 months, Stephen has made a huge turn-around.  We haven't pressured him or forced him, but have tried to encourage him and give him time to grow.  The change came almost overnight.  He is on top of all the details.  When he hears the baby cry, he runs to put a pacifier in her mouth.  He asks me constantly how he can help and he is eager to learn how to do new things in order to be a bigger help.  I will mention that I did teach him a very critical skill:  making coffee in the morning.  Nothing like waking up to a fresh brew, courtesy of your 10 year old son!

He plays with Diamonte, teaches him things, reads to him, helps to dress him and corrects him!

Basically, my "non-kid kid" is actually a "kid person" and he didn't even know it!

I think it has surprised Stephen to see how God has changed him and has helped him to grow in his care and love for these children.

As a mom, I marvel at the lessons we are learning as a family as we've stepped out to do foster care.  There are family lessons that I was expecting, but there are all sorts of individual lessons that I wasn't expecting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008



After weeks of carrying around an article from some woman's magazine about how to reorganize your linen closet, I finally did it!  It took a few phases that lasted a few days, but it's complete and I love it.

Highlights include:

  • rolling the bath towels instead of folding them

  • having bins for hand towels and pillow cases

  • having all the cleaning supplies in one place - on the floor in a plastic bin.  Now when Matt is in search of the windex  (yes, Matt) he can go to one central place and wa-la, it will be there!

Here's a before and after shot.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Why does something so gross make your soup taste so good?  And just in case the picture below doesn't turn your stomach just a little bit, as you imagine it floating in a steaming hot pot of 16 various beans, then read this.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

something new

Knowing that I would be handed my new ESV Study Bible today, it got me thinking about my approach to reading the Scriptures.  It also got me wondering about how others read the Bible.

For the past several years I have chosen a reading plan that gets me through the entire Bible in 2 years.  I always used to do the one year plan but usually when April rolled around, I'd fall behind and the thought of trying to catch up was overwhelming.  Also, in my attempt to get all of the reading in, I found that I didn't have the time I wanted to just meditate on a particular Scripture and/or journal what I was learning.  I also enjoy being in two different books at a time as opposed to four.  It keeps me a little more focused.

What plan do you use and why do you like it?

it's here......woohoo!

Matt bought me the long awaited ESV Study Bible and it arrived today!  Michele....you know what this means.....yours is here too!  I can't wait to dig in.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

a frightening sentence

I am reading through 1 Kings and just wrapped up reading chapter 11.  We learn in the previous chapters that Solomon built a temple for the Lord, which was something his father David had on his heart to personally accomplish. He didn't get to do that; instead his son Solomon had that privilege.  Solomon took great delight in carrying this project out.  He was meticulous with the details.  He blesses the Lord in chapter 8 and dedicates the temple to the Lord and his prayers and petitions for his people are faith-filled.

At the close of Chapter 8, Solomon gets up from his knees and stands to bless the assembly of Israel, ending with this benediction: "Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day." v:61  They offered sacrifices to the Lord and they feasted and celebrated for seven days.  On day eight, they went back to their homes joyful and glad in their hearts for all the goodness that the LORD had shown them.

In chapter 9, the LORD actually appears to Solomon a second time and confirms that He has heard his prayer and then exhorts him to walk with integrity of heart and uprightness, being careful to keep His commands.  He warns Solomon not to turn aside from following Him and commands him not to serve and worship other Gods.

Solomon is a wise man, right.  We are told in Chapter 10 v.24 that "...the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind."  Solomon wasn't just wise - he was filthy rich!  God had blessed this man big time.  There was nothing he needed - nothing.  Nada.

There was something he wanted though.  And what he wanted was the very thing God told him he could not have.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh:  Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, "You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods."  v.1-2

The very next sentence is frightening:  "Solomon clung to these in love." v.2

And God was right.  They turned his heart away from the LORD and toward other gods.  The wisest man that ever lived was not walking in the wisdom he knew so well.  He knew what God had commanded him and he knew what the consequences would be because God made that crystal clear.  Solomon knew the goodness of the LORD.  He experienced it daily.  He was prosperous and respected by everyone.  Yet he clung - in love - to the very thing that God said was off limits.

As a Christian in 2008.  As a wife and mom and homeschool teacher.  As a sister, as a daughter, as a friend.  As a foster mom.  As a pastor's wife.  As a woman.  As a human being - this portion of Scripture is sobering.  How easily I drift, especially in "prosperous times", to things that draw my heart away from the Lord.

John Piper offers a helpful prayer from his book "Roots of Endurance".  I read this at the beach this summer and have sought to pray these words often.  They have helped me as I hope they help you!
Let your goodness, O God, bind my heart with a chain to You!  Seal my will to yours with an unbreakable application of your eternal covenant.  Keep me!  Preserve me!  Defeat every rising rebellion!  Overcome every niggling doubt!  Deliver me from every destructive temptation!  Nullify every future allurement!  Shape me!  Incline me!  Hold me!  Master me!  Do whatever must be done to keep me trusting You and fearing You till Jesus comes or calls.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

compare & contrast essay

A discovery has been made.  My ten-year old son is a Mac-snob and he doesn't even own a Mac...yet!  Big Daddy has informed us that come December, we're going to more than likely purchase an iMac and since that moment in time, great anticipation has filled our house.  Yes, over a computer.  Pat Santavenere will convince you that it's more than a computer.  Stephen agrees.

In our English class today, Stephen's assignment was to pick a subject and begin outlining the framework for a compare/contrast essay.  He didn't take very long to choose his subject.  "I want to do Mac and PC Mom!"  At first I suggested another idea but he kept coming back to his first choice so that's what he's going with.

I wanted to share with everyone what he wrote on his T-chart, which lists details about each subject.  I think you'll get a laugh.  Pat...well, you'll be beaming with pride at the little monster you helped to create.


- you can get a desktop or laptop..............with a PC you can get a desktop or laptop

- it can run microsoft word.....................with a PC you can run microsoft word

- it can run iTunes..................with a PC you can run iTunes

- you can play games on it..................with a PC you can play games

- it is fast..........but a PC is slow

- it has funny tv ads..........but the PC tv ads are boring

- it has time machine to back up your stuff........but the PC can't back things up; at least not like TM

- it turns on fast.............but the PC takes forever to turn on

- it has leopard.......but the PC has Vista

Upon learning that we would be purchasing our first Mac, Stephen began creating his own Mac/PC commercials using lego people and his camera.  His tag line is, "I'm a PC but I don't want to be!"

Monday, October 6, 2008

cords of steel and silk

John Piper's latest book, Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ, is a must read! I say this having only read the introduction and chapter one - it's that good.

In this short (it's only 112 pages) book, Dr. Piper seeks to answer four questions:

1- Why does God think it is good for us to know that He is sovereign over sin?
2- Why does God not restrain sin more often (natural disasters, calamaties, personal tragedies, etc.)?
3- How can we have faith and joy during the severity of the last days?
4- How is Christ magnified/glorified in a world of sin like ours?

Here's an inside look at how personal this quest is for him:
"...I preached a series of messages under the title "Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ."  It marked the beginning of my twenty-eighth year of preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church.  There was death that autumn, just like there had been death in the spring.  My father and my granddaughter.  The I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed.  Darkness overcame the young.  And steady-state suffering kept its inexorable pace.  I write out of the way I experience the word of God.  And what I experience almost every day is someone's pain.  Sometimes my own.  Always someone else's that, in part, becomes mine."

Dr. Piper will seek to show how the Bible answer these questions as he navigates through various historical accounts throughout the pages of Holy Scripture.   His prayer for the reader (that's me and hopefully you!) is
"that as these great historical vistas of God's sovereignty over sin take their place in your mind, they would have a profoundly practical effect in making you strong in the face of breath-stopping sorrows and making you bold for Christ in the face of dangerous opposition - Christ-exalting strength in calamity and Christ-exalting courage in conflict.  I pray that the Lord will weave cords of steel and silk into the fabric of your soul."

Cords of steel and silk.....

I love John Piper.   Get the book and read it!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

all in his head?

We have a bees' nest under one of our bushes in the front of our yard.  The bummer is, the bush is at our front walkway so everytime we go out or come in, we need to walk around so as to avoid the mad rush of bees.  I for one just walk right by figuring that if I don't bother them, they won't bother me.  Matt and the kids are not so carefree.

Matt had to preach this morning so he left early and was probably in a rush, so instead of walking across our lawn, he just risked it and walked quickly past the bush.  Bad move.  Before even reaching his car, he realized he had been stung and as he was driving to church, his arm was swelling up.  Did I mention that Matt is allergic to bees and as long as I've known him, I've heard him proclaim, "The only good bee is a dead bee!"

After church when I saw him, he showed me his arm and I immediately pulled him over to Steve Bickel - the resident pastor/pharmacist.  Treatment required:  Benadryl.

When Matt arrived home, his arm was swollen even more and he was finding it extremely difficult not to scratch it.  Treatment required: anti-itch cream.  Sounds good, right.  He found some cream upstairs that he apparently really lathered on - BIG TIME lathered on.  It seemed to help.  Or, was it all in his head?

My friend Allyson was over and we were all watching The Amazing Race when she slipped into the kitchen for a cookie.  When she walked back out, her face was turning a bright pink and she looked like she was holding back laughter.  I asked her a few times what was going on and she finally whispered in my ear that the cream Matt was using was this.  Of course I cracked up and then told Matt to check out the cream he had been using.  He got up, walked into the kitchen and broke out in his deep laughter upon the discovery.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

ever feel stuck?

If you're like me and you struggle with your speech, feeling stuck is a daily experience.  I am talking about feeling stuck in your ability to change for more than a day or maybe even for more than an hour on a rough day.

I went to the Power of Words and the Wonder of God conference with one simple prayer.  It sort of came out of a feeling of dread and fear due to the anticipation of the messages that I believed would strike me with deep conviction.   When you feel stuck, conviction is not really what you want.  You want quick solutions to what is always a much deeper problem.  Or, you get used to being stuck and you get comfortable.  At least I do.  So I went to the conference half scared to take a hard, serious look at my "talk problem", as Paul Tripp calls it.

What I heard was not what I expected to hear but it's what I needed to hear.  Here are two quotes that set the foundation for me.  Almost immediately, they wiped away my fears and refocused my attention on what matters most - the glory of God.
"The greatest aid is to have the word of God preached over me so that it can do its spiritual work in me.  God's word sanctifies.  All my vain efforts to train my tongue will be left in the past because He will transform me through His word."   - Sinclair Ferguson

"The gospel is so robust that we don't need to be afraid of looking at the trouble of our talk."    - Paul Tripp

If you find yourself battling with speech, these two messages in particular will serve you well.  They are free online to listen to or watch right here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

john piper in a skater jacket...

This was a hilarious conference highlight...and it happened the first night.

check it out here

goin' steady

Ok.  So here's the scene - We just finished dinner and the following conversation takes place:

Stephen: Mom, I think I wanna go steady.

Me: What?  Do you even know what going steady means?

Stephen: No. But I remember hearing it on the Brady Bunch.  Is it when you fall in love?

Abbie: (enthusiastically) I know what it means, Mom!

Me: What does it mean Abs?

Abbie: It's standing on one leg and being still.

agnes, abraham & amos

My husband was kind and generous enough to send me on a weekend conference to Minnesota to participate in the Desiring God Conference, entitled "The Power of Words and the Wonder of God."   Speaking in a godly, edifying manner and knowing when to be silent, would be a real weakness for me so when I was made aware of the subject of this conference, I felt a pull to go.

I quickly learned as I set off for Minnesota - alone - that our "plan B" is really God's "plan A" for us.  Let me explain.

As I arrived at my hotel, that boasted of a free shuttle service to the convention center, I was informed that a reservation was necessary.  I compared the times I needed to be at the conference with the times that the shuttle was available and they didn't match up except for once.  I panicked.  I went upstairs to my room, unloaded my stuff, and flopped on the bed, practically in tears and wishing I had just paid more to stay in the city which was closer to everything.  I didn't even pray.

I went back downstairs to talk with the front desk with the thought of staying just one night at this hotel and then transferring to another - although I figured most of the reasonable hotels in the city would be booked.

Enter Agnes.

Agnes is a short, zealous, Filipino woman who approached me while I was talking to the clerk about my options.  She seemed to come out of nowhere.  Before I could even finish my conversation with the clerk, she jumped in and asked if I was having problems with getting to the conference at the necessary times.  Tired and discouraged, I quickly explained my dilemma to her - the same dilemma she found herself in.  Her suggestion, as if I was asking her for one:  how about if we room together somewhere in the city close by the convention center and split the cost.  I didn't hesitate to even think it through.  "Yes!" I told her.  Without a second to spare, she began calling hotels - all of which were booked like we anticipated - but thankfully, because of a connection she had with Double Tree, was able to set us up in a gorgeous room only 10 blocks away at the Hotel Minneapolis.   It was then that I remembered that Matt had prayed that I would have divine appointments on this trip.  Before I could share this with Agnes, she told me that she had been praying in her room about what to do and asking God for a divine appointment and direction.  That's when I entered her world.  So, what would have been plan B for me, was plan A according to God.  And, plan A meant that I was going to room with a complete stranger!

A strange thing to pray...

During the weeks that led up to the conference, I began praying for 3 simple things.  Two were kind of unimportant but just things I wanted to ask the Lord for, because I know that He cares about the small details of our lives and loves to bless and surprise us.   One of these desires was that I would get a chance to meet Abraham Piper (one of John Piper's sons) and thank him for his insightful blog, 22 Words.  I wasn't sure how this would happen but after the first day, I stopped looking for him amidst the crowds.  Saturday evening, while talking to Matt on a break, I saw the back of someone pushing a stroller that looked like it could be Abraham.  I hung up rather hastily with Matt, and walked over to see if it was him and sure enough, it was!  I introduced myself and thanked him and asked him some questions about his blog.  I also got to meet his newest son, Morrow.  How kind of God to arrange this short but meaningful time for me!

On Sunday afternoon, I was more than ready to head home.  My heart was aching to see Matt and the kids and it seemed like I had been gone for weeks.  I missed holding Azariyah and playing with Diamonte and I hated being away from Stephen and Abbie.  My heart was literally racing with anticipation to see them.  I got to the airport in plenty of time to check in and walk around.  It wasn't long after I reached my gate when the announcement was made that our 4pm flight to Philadephia was pushed back to 6pm and maybe even 7pm due to weather delays in Philly.  This meant I would miss my connecting flight to Baltimore.  Ugh.  They changed my tickets around and I was re-routed to Charlotte, NC with a connecting flight to Baltimore leaving at 10:25.  Oh well - at least I was on my way home.  The flight to NC turned out to be a wonderful time as I was seated next to a missionary that attended the conference.  He and his family live in Peru and are involved with reaching an indigenous tribe in the mountainous regions.  This was his first trip home in 6 years.  Our conversation flowed well and we discussed what we learned at the conference.  Very nice surprise!

Then came the flight to Baltimore.

Enter Amos.  Amos is a 49 year old, African American man, sporting a bald head and gold hoop earring.  I was on the aisle seat and he ended up being in the middle seat next to me.  When I opened my newest John Piper book, "Spectacular Sins," to read, he plugged in his earphones to listen to Al Green.   He rested his head back to sleep and I leaned forward to read and underline stuff.  Of course when you are reading a Piper book, most of what you read gets underlined, even in the introduction alone.  Within a few minutes after take-off, he asked me what I was reading and then he asked me what a spectacular sin was!  I found myself explaining the crux of Piper's point for writing this book which led into a discussion about God's sovereignty over sin - to accomplish purposes for his glory.  Amos wanted to know more.  In fact, he asked me what I underlined in the book and why.  So, I began taking him through the introduction, reading him the underlines sections and sharing why that was of importance to me.   What an easy transition to sharing the gospel with this curious man.  We spent the entire flight talking about the implications of the gospel (I don't think he was saved) and he was delighted to answer the questions I asked him about his life.   As the plane was descending, he told me that in all of the flights he's been on in the past five years (and he flies alot b/c he works for US Airways), he has never stayed awake for more than a few minutes.  He thanked me for the conversation and told me I was an angel.  I figured I'd more than likely never see him again, so I asked him if he would accept the book I was reading as a gift.  I apologized for giving him a book with underlined marks and notes on the sides of the page -but he was thrilled.  Having marks made it more special to him.  He gripped it in his hands and said he was going to begin reading it right away.

Plan A, my plan, was to get on my flight to Philly at 4pm.  Plan B, which was really God's plan A, was for me to be on the Charlotte flight to Baltimore.  After all, Amos was there.

Monday, June 16, 2008

poem from a friend

Just four weeks ago, Matt and I received our first phone call for our first foster care placement!

This morning, my poet-friend Allyson, sent this via email.

Thanks Al, for your thoughtfulness and encouragement, and most of all your support and help these past weeks. I think YOU should be a foster parent!
four mondays ago, your telephone rang

and with that one call an adventure began

in that brief moment your calm family day

turned into a frenzied chaotic melee

with nervous excitement you got your new kids

and went to the store for clothes, wipes and bibs

you were off with a bang when that telephone rang

two fortnights ago, could you have guessed

that this decision could make you so stressed?

the changing and feeding and long sleepless nights

were certainly taxing your patience and might

yet through many trials there has also been joy

as you've lovingly cared for this girl and this boy

you have been blessed more than you could have guessed

one month ago was the start of this story

of faith put to action to bring your Lord glory

the challenge of wearing this uncomfortable shoe

is nothing compared to what He's done for you

His grace sustains you each night and each day

He is growing and teaching you as you obey

see His allegory in your family's story?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

dessert for amy

Amy Long is coming for dessert on Sunday night and upon her request (upon my asking), I made something peanut-buttery.

I went searching online for a peanut butter pie recipe and found one that received raving reviews.  And, as usual, I added my own special touches.

T's Peanut Butter Pie

Chocolate Crumb Crust: (pay a little more, but please, make your own crust - it's easy!)

1 1/2 Cups of Chocolate wafers, crushed into crumbs

1/4 Cup of unsalted butter, melted

Mix the two together and then spread into your pie pan, pressing down on bottom and sides.  Bake for 6 minutes in preheated oven at 325.  Remove and allow to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Filling:

8 ounces of cream cheese

2/3 Cup of Creamy peanut butter

2 Cups of Powdered sugar

1- 8 ounce container of cool whip

Beat together the cream cheese, peanut butter and powdered sugar.  At first it will be clumpy but it will get smooth fairly quickly.  Fold in the cool whip.  Spoon into cooled pie crust and enjoy licking the bowl of the leftover mixture...it's delicious!


Crumble approximately 5 Nutter Butters and mix with some of the leftover chocolate wafer crumbs (if you have any).  Sprinkle on top.

Put your peanut butter pie in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to set.


Monday, June 2, 2008

uncomfortable shoes: part 2

Sorry to end part one at such a pathetic place! The mourning really did only last an evening and after talking to Matt and my little sister Jen, the following morning I was able to sit down and spend some time in God's word and in prayer. My Savior was faithful to meet me right where I was at - down low - and remind me of His grace that is readily available!

So what do uncomfortable shoes have to do with any of this and what are my personal reasons for wanting to be a foster parent?

Let's start with the reasons for doing this. As a Christian, I have a desire and mandate to share the gospel with others. As a homeschool Mom of 2, I find that most of my life takes place within the walls of my home, which I love & which I wouldn't want to change. I was growing discouraged as I was trying to think of ways in which I could share the gospel with others in this season of my life. Most of my neighbors work during the day - the neighborhood kids are in school - and aside from trips to Weis and Target for errands, I'm not really bumping into people too much. Years ago I had wondered about foster care but set it on the back burner of my mind, until I ran into a friend at Target one day. She had a new foster child with her and she was running around getting things - diapers, wipes, clothes...all the necessary stuff. We talked and I believe God used that conversation to put a spark in my heart to reopen the topic with Matt.

The more I read about fostering, the more I talked to other foster parents, and the more I just pondered and dreamed about the possibilities this might have on impacting others with the gospel, the more convinced I was that this was a real possibility for our family. After all, with fostering, you bring a child or children into your home and they become a part of your everyday life. They literally become a part of your family. In addition to caring for the children, I also would have the opportunity to work with social workers and birth parents. In addition to that, as a foster family you become part of a network of foster families (which meet monthly) so there are just many inroads I could see for the gospel to flow. THIS excited me, particularly because it's something we would do as a family.

As I was considering all of these things, talking to Matt and the kids, and as we prayed together as a family, I was also reading through "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper. This was the second time I was reading through this book and it came at just the perfect time. In spite of all the ways that I could see, by the grace of God, that fostering would be an outreach for our family, I began "weaseling" out of the idea. As I began thinking of how my simple and relatively easy life would change, I panicked. I remembering Matt and I both using the phrase, "Why mess with a good thing" which translated: Why complicate our lives? We've got two pretty easy-going children that we love to pieces, a family of 4 is easy to be seated at restaurants and easy to do special trips with - why make it tougher on ourselves? There was too much at risk. Enter chapter 5 of John Piper's book, entitled "Risk is Right - Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste it." Midway through this chapter, I was convinced there was no weaseling! God was in this and I needed to simply trust Him.

So, even though it's hard work, and our family looks a little different, and the laundry has doubled (I don't get this) and I'm housebound because someone is always napping, and it takes way too long to get in and out of the van, I am at peace. The circumstances haven't changed, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what God has asked us to do with our lives for this season.

What do uncomfortable shoes have to do with tall of this? Well I have likened fostering to being a bridesmaid in a wedding and being asked to wear shoes by the bride that happen to be painfully uncomfortable.

My Savior, who has died on the cross for my every sin....

My Savior, who has called me to be His child and to trust in Him....

My Savior, who has asked me to walk in faith and to obey Him...

He has asked me to "wear" these "uncomfortable shoes" for His sake - for His glory - for His Kingdom purposes, that His Name might be praised from the lips of infants and from all peoples. These shoes are not comfortable at all - they have caused some pain when I walk, they burn when I stand still, and at times I want to kick them off and put on my nice comfy flip-flops. But they do fit. And I've been asked by my Master to wear them for now. And obeying Him in this has brought me a measure of joy that is very new to my Christian experience.

At the risk of being misunderstood, I will share a truth about myself: I am not a "kid" person. In a general sense I care and love children, but I am not a "kid-magnet" like others I know. In other words, loving and caring for children that are not my own does not come naturally. It takes work and it takes a faith and trust in the Lord each step of the way. I am amazed at how faithful He has been to me in this arena and specifically with these first two children. These foster children are not mine, but I can say with integrity of heart, that I love and care for them like they are mine - and that is God's grace at work.

uncomfortable shoes: part 1

Have you ever been a bridesmaid in a wedding? If yes, did the bride request that you wear a certain pair of shoes that match the dress?

Back in 1994, on a beautiful sunny day in April, I was a bride. I was a bride that asked my faithful little bridesmaids to purchase and wear specific heels that would match their coral dresses perfectly. I admit that they were not comfortable. In fact, Becky Fox, one of my bridesmaids, likes to remind me that they were painfully uncomfortable. The rest of the bridesmaids must have felt the same way because as soon as the ceremony concluded, the girls all kicked their heels off, almost in a celebratory unison.

We joke about it now, but looking back, I don't remember anyone complaining about having to buy the uncomfortable shoes and I don't remember till after the fact, anyone sharing how horribly painful they were. These are the sacrifices you make for your friend; for the bride. It brings you joy to do so because it's their special day and it's important to them.

As many of you know, our family has become a "fostering family." After 9 weeks of training, lots of paperwork and homework, doctors appointments and most importantly, lots of prayer and communication as a family - we were approved as foster parents. On Monday, May 19th, we got a phone call with news of our first placement: A 3-day old baby girl and a 14 month old boy. We excitedly accepted and that day became a flurry of running errands, getting clothes and diapers, calling people with babies to ask them questions, and just lots of raw emotion.

Since that day, 2 weeks ago, we have gotten into a schedule and after an initial week of chaos (2 more kids and Matt leaving for New Attitude added to the craziness), we have sunk into a groove made up of nap times, feeding times, homeschool, grocery shopping, trying to get rest, and did I mention feeding times? It has not been easy for me at all.

In light of the fact that so many people have asked me why we decided to do foster care, I decided it would be good to write up a post answering that question. It's strange how I knew the answer to this question prior to getting custody of these kids. I had no doubt about it. Then, on the Tuesday Matt arrived back from Na, I found myself sitting at the counter, feeding Diamonte (the 14 month old boy) in tears. Looking around my house, all I could see was a pile of toys, scrunched up kleenex from wiping snot from D's nose all day, dishes in the sink, stained burp cloths everywhere, piles of diapers around the living room, a sink full of dirty dishes, and homeschool books on the dining room table - opened with unfinished work. I was losing it and I broke down emotionally and began asking myself why I decided to do this (fostering). Stephen and Abbie heard my crying and Stephen simply hugged me. I shared with my 10 and 7 year old why I was upset and Abbie sweetly said, "we can help you more Mom."

I spoke to a friend through tears and she sought to remind me of the faithfulness of God. I quickly hung up the phone as Matt arrived home. The kids ran to the door greeting him with hugs and kisses and as he made his way through the living room mess, he found his desperate and seemingly hopeless wife sitting at the kitchen counter - eyes puffy and face reddened with tears.

So why did we choose to be foster parents? What do uncomfortable bridesmaid shoes have to do with that?

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2. The story does get better!

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