Saturday, November 28, 2009

confessions of a pharisee

I have Thanksgiving pictures to post, crafts to tell you about, and the perfunctory hand turkeys to display.

However, I've been an absolute chicken with my blog. Oh, yes. I play it safe. Don't want to rock the boat.

Have you ever participated in one of those" Words that describe me" emails or facebook things? You send it out, and people have to respond with ONE word, that describes you. Great way to fish for compliments, right? For me it was eye-opening. I received "cautious" or something synonymous quite a few times. This would probably surprise my family and in-laws, as they get the unedited version of me on a daily basis. In "real-life settings," I am very cautious about what I do and say. So much so that I get on my own nerves.

So I'm hoping to branch out, use this not just for a homeschool scrapbook, but also to share and sort my thoughts occasionally. Might as well start with a confession. Good for the soul, right? Okay, here it is:

I've worked very hard for the past 10 years to *redeem* myself. Yep, you read that right. Everything in me knows that I can't do that. God saves by grace alone. I say that with all seriousness and conviction, yet my mind was tacking on "grace, yada yada yada." That couldn't be enough.

So I went to church, got actively involved, taught Sunday School, went to the women's Bible studies (all great things, by the way, but not always motivated by the right desires.) I abstained from alcohol, wore "plain clothes," had my babies and acted like the Christian mommy I was supposed to be. Seriously, a ponytail was my daily hairdo, because it just didn't seem "right" to dress up and priss around when I was now a mommy. All silly notions in retrospect. I let some of them slip early on. After all, I have two very fashion-conscious sisters that wouldn't let me slide too far. Love you, girls.

What happened with my activities was not a redemption, by any means, but rather a Pharisaical standing. I had adopted legalism as a way to live. One day the realization hit me: pride was my plank. I was being "good"; I had turned my life around; I was not doing "bad things." Therefore I was "okay." Or maybe more than okay.

I, I, I... It wasn't about Him anymore. The Light that I had been following had been exchanged with such a faulty and poor substitute somewhere along the way; one flickering and fading bulb hanging over me, offering very little real light to see with. What I could see didn't look too shabby.

My life has been shaking over these past few years. My foundations were/are shaking, as God always shakes that which can be shaken in order to leave behind that which is eternal. There are a lot of eternal things left; but the judgementalism/ legalism/ hypocritical ways are falling away. The truth isn't as hard to share now. I have a testimony that is there, and has never been shared. Why? Because someone could judge me. That doesn't seem so scary any more. Still scary, but not crippling.

I am a black and white thinker. In my mind, things have always stood starkly black or white, wrong or right. I was good as a child. Bad as a teenager. Good as a married wife and mommy. And so forth. The blacks and whites are falling away as well. There are certainly absolutes. No question. Some things are sinful. Period. Some things are truly good, noble, praiseworthy. No doubt. However legalism takes things that are okay and twists them into something bad. Rules and fences get set up where there is supposed to be freedom.

Clearly, it is important for Christians to do what is right and to avoid what is wrong. But it is also important not to be so intimidated by "legalism" (the practice of turning Christianity into a system of behavioral rules which are not found in scripture,) that one is no longer free to serve the Lord in whatever way we have been called to serve Him.

And where does legalism start to affect others? The person who holds himself to those unscriptural standards holds others to them as well. My husband was raised in a family that believes in "the rules." You go to church when the church doors are open, you abstain from this and that, people who inter-racially marry are wrong (he no longer believes this, thanks to my sister and her husband...) ...on and on it goes. And they believe that if (when) you mess up, you lose your salvation. It's an odd mix of supposedly believing in grace, but also believing that our works control our eternity; That somehow screwing up in this life, even if accidentally, can remove them from the hand of God.

I'm tired of the games. It's not about any of this. And even if someone is doing something sinful, an absolute no-no... it is still not our place to judge. It's God's and His alone. We can use discernment, try to reach out, vote against what we know to be wrong, but leave the throne to the one who sits there.

An example? How about teen pregnancy, as this is the one I hear about most often, being in Arkansas. Yes, we're up there in the top ten states with teen pregnancy. Way to go, Bible Belt. Sex outside of marriage is wrong. But what do we do when someone comes to the church for help? Judge them? Accept them and help them, doing everything to act Christ-like? Why is it that most teens would be scared to go to the church for help? Why do so many Christian teens end up having abortions? Shouldn't we be a shelter for them? But it's so easy to slip into self-righteousness, even unintentionally. How can we possibly reach people for Christ, when we're on pedestals?

Even those of us who have testimonies to share... can't. Won't. Is the pain self-inflicted, guilt and shame brought on by God, or perhaps from our own brothers and sisters in Christ? Who is more likely to judge you: a Christian or non-Christian? Or, a better question: who do you perceive more likely to judge? We're here to reach the world. How others perceive us DOES matter. Why do so many non-Christians want to stay away? Is what we're offering (eternal life, joy, purpose) unbelievable when surrounded by our attitudes and legalism. Does it seem like just a set of rules to follow? Who wants to give up having a good time, playing Nintendo, watching TV, having a drink, dancing and singing, playing cards (just a few things that some churches think are wrong... and none of these, by the way, are actually sinful.)

One of my favorite books is Philip Yancey's Soul Survivor. Amazing book. Read it, if you haven't. Another interesting one I've read lately is Un-Christian, about how the unsaved world perceives Christians. One of the best: Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.

Just thoughts. Feel free to share. I haven't elaborated much, as I scramble around here and there, but those of you who know me will know what I mean. Feel free to ask, if you are unsure. Please *try* to take things the right way. I'm casting off the cautiousness, in attempt to be real. it's harder for me than you might imagine, so don't strike while the armor is down.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Best Plastic Toy Award, in my opinion

I'm not a huge fan of plastic anything, but here is an exception.

We're lovin' the Deluxe Marble Run.

This was the only store-bought present for Dash for his birthday last month. Money well spent. The kids (okay, and ME, too) have spent hours playing with this thing. We're not the only obsessed ones; every child that comes over, gets glued to this. It's mesmerizing: create, build, set off marbles, loop, twirl, spin, circle, shoot down. Fun! You can see our other, wooden marble run behind this one. I love it, as well, (especially because it was a $2 yard sale bargain find.) However, there is something special about actually creating your own "system" to set into motion.... so the new plastic one gets a higher rating from me. Can I get away with calling this pre-K physics??
Wendy Recommended Toy Stamp of Approval!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bedding Body Outlines

And when you run out of large rolls of paper...
Draw outlines on the bedding. It's great way to see how much a child grows in a year! :-)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Long Craftiness-and-Outings Week

First things first. In case you haven't noticed (or you're reading in a feeder,) there's a rather extensive list of projects and crafts on the left sidebar. Not all of them come with directions or tutorials, but it could give you some more ideas for homemade gifts.

Now, back to business.

After I saw this idea, I've been aching to make my own. Alas, the WMart here no longer has a fabric department, and I forget to grab vinyl when I'm out of town. So, out of sheer desperation (the craftiness was about to explode within me) I grabbed my make-up clutches.

...and filled it with stuff. The example one used poly beads. Because I don't have poly beads on hand, I used everything from rice to sequins to beads.

Next the kids helped me gather itty-bitty things to "hide" inside. Make your list before you put the stuff in!!

The make-up clutches already have velcro, so a covering was super easy. I just cut fabric the right size, hemmed, attached velcro, and put it around.

For hard-to-find objects (or younger kids,) just remove velcro covering. :-)

Next up:

This week Dash has been working in his 3-D alphabet border.

No, it's not really a gift idea, but it is a fun pre-K activity!

A is for Art, B is for Beads

C is for Cinnamon, D is for Dog food

E is for Elbow macaroni, F is for FeathersG is for Glitter

Of course, if you already have glitter out, it's best to make good use of it. Dash painted sparkly Christmas trees while the older kids worked on their Altered Art projects. More about that soon.
Did I mention that our skeleton dude is getting fleshed out? ;-) Well, we haven't really added the skin yet, but we're getting closer.

Now, about last weekend.

It was great. My folks gave us a hotel stay for our anniversary. We went on up to Branson with them, to the Landing, Bass Pro Shop, and Silver Dollar City for two days. Fabulous weather the whole time!!
The following pictures will be out of order. Just go with it.

Dash and Little Lad went up on stage to be a part of the live Frosty performance. It was great. How many Christian Frosty plays have you seen?

The beautiful hotel pool. My kids swim like fish! Dash, Mr. Fearless Preschooler... Roller Coasters at SDC. I don't know how Fred does it. Or why he even wants to. Ick.
Another of the beautiful swimming pool room. Love it!
And here is the HUGE Christmas tree at SDC. Little Lad is asleep in that stroller to the left. :-)

The light show was absolutely amazing.
Pool again. Had to get the other kids and my handsome man in a water picture!
Fountains at the Landing.
Last but not least, the Living Nativity was fabulous. We had front-row seats-- spitting distance of the singers. Just made me want to cry... so real. Jesus was a real person; t's not just Bible "stories." He came here as a baby; defenseless in that form, helpless, completely willing. He was innocent all his life, but yet allowed himself to be murdered for our benefit. This is what Christmas is about. The Ultimate Gift of Love.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More things to make!

I made that goal, to post a homemade item every day until Christmas, and then I promptly dropped the ball. Sorry. We took off to Branson for the weekend.

73 degrees and beautiful the entire time.

So, to get back on track, I'll show you several things that I've done lately. I had five hours in the passenger seat of the van this weekend. I made several hats, but also did some beading:
Simple, simple stuff. Buy beads and stretchy jewelry string. Get some cute embellishments or charms. Hobby Lobby often has them on sale for 5-15 cents each. Design and string.

I also made more pillow cases for The Nature Man and The Artist.
The next thing isn't really a homemade Christmas gift. But you could make it and give it or give it and then make it with your child of choice. :-) I love educational gifts!!
This was a mud clock kit that we bought on sale.
We had fun putting it together and reading about how it works.
(Yes, I built clocks instead of unloading the van. heh heh)
Click to enlarge, and read about the clock. :-)

Enjoy your homemade Christmas making!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Peace through the storm

Do you ever have weeks that feel more like a television show than real life? So much has happened, and so quickly, that it's hard to absorb. So, until now, I've chosen to let the blog be my "happy place," and leave the worries behind.

First, good news. My sister's surgery was a complete success. They removed the entire right kidney, and the cancer along with it. She had a mostly good hospital stay: wonderful staff and care, but a scary time when the epidural wore off and the pain hit hard and unexpectedly. Oral pain meds and oxygen did the trick to right the problem. Still, I know that must have scared her.

Overall, it went excellently.

Now some bad news. Julie and I went up there on Tuesday night to visit and bring Amy and Vu some PF Chang's food. Julie and I ordered Mongolian beef to share. Mongolian beef. Mongolian beef. I had to repeat that all night. We started eating... and Julie choked. I kid you not. She choked on beef while visiting someone in the hospital. What are the chances? She could breathe, but couldn't swallow. Anything. Even spit, She vomited repeatedly, but that did no good. The doctors sent us down to the 2nd floor ER. Two little sisters in the hospital at the same time: one for cancer surgery and the other choking. Yeah, it was quite the night. Poor Amy had no idea what was going on down in the ER. After almost two hours, IVs, anti-nausea meds, X-rays, and a call to the gastrointestinologist, Julie finally dislodged the food and we went on our merry way. Yeah. No more beef for you, Julie. (Should have been in a Friends episode, right??)

Okay, more good news. Tell me when you start feeling sick on this roller coaster.

Yesterday Amy was released from the hospital. Yay! Most importantly, her pathology reports are all back: no more cancer!! All of her symptoms should be gone now, and life will resume as normal when she has fully recovered. It should take about two months to heal and regain strength. Another praise: her husband will be home, with paid leave, for the entire two months to take care of their adorable fat baby.

Some very bad news: my aunt just found out that her breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and bones. Christine and her family need prayer please.

More big bad news. A few days ago, we got word that my Mimi's CT scans were not at all good. Her pancreatic cancer has now spread to her liver, lungs, pelvic region, and has significantly intensified around the bowel area. She must be in pain. I pray every night that she won't suffer. I just can't imagine fighting such a horrible disease. I wish I could hug her and stay with her, and shield her from any kind of pain.Yet, through it all, her voice is soft and kind. A nurse of hers wrote yesterday and told me, "she looked so beatuiful. The peace that radiates around her comes from the Lord I know."

Some other not-nearly-as-bad-in-relation-news: car troubles for everyone in my family. My sister's car went out and she had to pay quite the hefty fee to get it back. And now the transmission on her other car is going out. Yeah. Then my Dad's truck died. And then my van. We'll be paying several hundred dollars to pick it up today. Sigh. In the grand scheme of things, this so-does-not-matter. Not in the light of cancer.

Good news: I feel shielded. Yes, I've cried. I did get lost driving the other day, just cruising along, deep in thought and then I "woke up" and had no clue where I was. Life has been consuming. Sometimes I can sail along, happily and smoothly, just enjoying the scenery. But the last few weeks have been different, rocky, fraught with danger. But yet we are shielded. Somehow. I can't even explain that but to say I know I'm being prayed for. I know my own grandparents, struggling with cancer and the pain of impending separation, are still praying for me. And their prayers are being answered with the gift of peace. I've never before cried like this, and yet still felt such peace.

(and my italics are stuck, so just go with it...)

There have been days lately when I catch myself having "too much fun," enjoying life too much, smiling and laughing... and I think, "wait, people are suffering. People are hurting. I shouldn't be so happy right now. I should be crying. How am I even supposed to feel??"

I don't know.

I could ask if it's okay to have peace right now. Okay to be happy in my day-to-day craftiness and schooling, using my blog as a haven. But I already know the answer is yes, even if it feels unnatural. I cry, but I'm protected. Even the financial aspects feel "okay." I wondered today if we were being kept off the road with the kids for some reason. And then I prayed and thanked God, if that was the case. His ways are higher than mine. I'll do my best, but I'm trying not to question the things completely out of my control.

This is a haven at times, and will continue to be such, but it's also a great way to reach out. I ask you to please keep my sisters in prayer. Both of them, as Julie seems to be very prone to freak accidents. ;-) By golly, she never should have gone sky-diving. Could have ended very badly.

Please pray for my aunt Christine, her daughter Rachelle, and the rest of the family. Please pray for my Mimi. That whatever time she has left will be as pain free as possible, and that she will feel so loved, and at peace. And please pray for my Papaw as he takes care of her very day. This is the greatest trial of their lives.

In more good news, today is my 12th anniversary to a fabulous, funny, laid-back and handsome man. He is my best friend. He has stuck with me through it all. And I love him so much.

Honey, SHMILY!!! (See how much I love you...)

Photo bookmarks

In my family, there's a lot of book-giving around the holidays. Wouldn't it be nice to include personalized photo book marks with each gift? I saw this example at Zakka Life several months ago. Isn't it cute? You just glue the photo to card stock, laminate it, and cut around it (arms or hands cut separately with an exacto knife.) Viola. Durable, memorable, personalized gift within a gift.

I have several copies of this picture, so I may make bookmarks for all three of us. :-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yes, it's still fall!

About a week ago we made turkey handprints. Yes, sure, it would seem that a couple of my kids are too old for that. Psha. You're never too old to fingerpaint! I made one, too.
My kids used to do this at church every year in the fall, and I think it's a good tradition.
Paint each finger a different color, and the base of your hand brown. Smash your hand on the paper. Let dry. Add details.

And now for a "Homemade Christmas" goal: I will post at least one homemade Christmas idea every day until the Big Day. At least, that's the plan. We'll see how it goes. :-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

How many minutes are in a day?

1440 Minutes... but I make mine stretch. :-)

Meow. Yes, I've been sewing kitty cat hats out of fleece and old sweaters.

Fred models for me. Thanks, baby. You're so hot.

This was the sweater. Cute, but too big. Nice for kitty stripes. (tutorial soon)
One sweater = four hats, and two glittens with covers

(you know, fingerless mittens.)

(This is what I do to pictures of myself that I don't really like. Distort it so that I'm only kind-of recognizable... have to show the hat actually worn as a HAT, not a ski mask robbery thing-- can you imagine?)
Little Lad in his yellow yoda hat. Yes, the new puppy name inspired me to create yoda hats. I'll make some green ones with larger ears next.

By the way, I've had some people ask me recently how I find time to sew and craft. And so I ask: how can you not find time to sew and craft? :-) It's nourishing. And necessary. Like reading or bathing.

For hand stitching, I use car or waiting room time. We went to the Tulsa Zoo over the weekend. That gave me two full hours to sew while Fred drove. When you factor in clinics, meetings, the revenue office... wow, lots of "free" time.

So, where was I? Weekend plans. On Saturday, we had an impromptu playdate.

Boys. Gotta love 'em.

That evening I hosted a Ladies Game Night for some friends.

Pay back for Murder Mystery Night, Jules!

We played "I have never," Imaginiff, Apples to Apples, Taboo...

Then Zoo on Sunday:

And Family Firepit Night when we got home:

Phew. Busy weekend.
Last but certainly not least, Amy's surgery was today. I kept up to speed through Vu's Facebook postings. Really, going up there with four kids to spend the day in the waiting room wouldn't have been wise. Although I felt like I should be there.

I'll see her tomorrow. From what I hear, the surgery went perfectly. The entire kidney was taken out. Amy went "down to sleep"easily, and woke up smiling afterwards. That's Amy for you. She'll be in the hospital most of the week,, so we're all bringing plenty of magazines and things. Any reading donations are appreciated. And please keep praying for a full and speedy recovery.