Monday, August 4, 2014

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me; bless His holy name.

On August 5th, it will have been three years since that fateful day at the ocean that changed our lives forever.  Three years since our youth department decided to change the date and location of what should have been a fun-filled day trip with the teenagers.  Three years since many of our young people lost their naive belief in their immunity to harm.  Three years since our family, our youth group, our church, our nation, our world saw the power of prayer.  Three years since our God showed His mighty power over death.

It's been three years of pain, prayer, patience, and persistence.  Those first days of wondering whether Dale would ever wake up or what condition he would be in if he did.  The endless, continual, fervent shaking of Heaven's gates by those closest to us and people whom we'll never meet this side of eternity, begging God to spare Dale's life while remaining firm in the belief that His way is always best.  The incredible joy when Dale opened his eyes long after the doctors had given up hope.  The subsequent weeks of hospital care and in-patient speech, occupational, and physical therapy, trying to help Dale remember how to do what should come naturally to a twelve-year-old boy.  Those first months home from the hospital, juggling therapy and school and caring for our son, thinking he may never talk on his own again, may never not need help in the bathroom again, may never smile again.

There have been a multitude of times when we've wanted to quit.  Times when Dale seems to take one step forward, two steps back.  Times when our constant efforts are nowhere near enough.  Times when Dale himself just won't try any more; he's so tired of hearing the same reminders to keep his head up, to pull his shoulders back, to not lunge forward with his right leg and make his left play keep up.  Times, especially lately, when it seems all he wants to do is watch TV or play video games.  Times when we grow frustrated or get angry or just plain cry, knowing full well that anger or words or tears are not going to solve anything.  Times when we wonder why God answered our prayers to save our son's life, only to leave us with a physically handicapped, slow-speaking, memory-challenged lump of flesh who thinks we are supposed to do all the work to help him walk and think and learn and grow.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it?  Yes, it does.  Those of you who have had to face similar challenges know exactly how we feel.  We love our son and wouldn't trade him for the world---but sometimes we wish we could get a day off.  Sometimes his sisters wish they could just be normal teenagers again without having to constantly look out for their brother or help their brother or do their brother's chores or be embarrassed when their brother falls down in the parking lot for the millionth time because he won't listen when they tell him to stand up straight and walk the way he's been taught.  Sometimes I wish I didn't have to worry about rearranging his subjects at school to give him a chance to pass his classes so he can at least graduate from high school.  Or assist him into and out of the bathtub.  Or wash his hair for him.  Or chide him about brushing his teeth better. Or any of the hundreds of things that come up each day that Dale can no longer do because of the accident, like washing the dishes or carrying laundry upstairs or clearing off the table or helping with the chores or walking around a store on his own.  I imagine Chad sometimes wishes his only son could actually carry on the family name or work on the car with him or challenge him to a game of horse or help out in the yard.  It's tough having a handicapped child, and there is no nice way to say that.

It's been three years since our family's sense of well-being was traumatically altered, but it's also been three years since we near-physically felt the hand of God on us.  It's been three years since we learned we are not impervious to danger just because we are Christians, but it's also been three years since God proved He listens and He cares.  It's been three years since we looked death in the face, but it's also been three years since God granted our son new life.  It's been three years since our world was shattered, but it's also been three years since we learned anew that this world is not our home.  You see, each day is a gift from God.  What we do with that gift is up to us.  Our patience is daily tried; our limits are constantly tested; our strength sometimes fails; our endurance will occasionally falter; our attitude will at times be poor……..but our God is everlasting, never-changing, always loving, ever-giving, perfectly right.  When our patience runs out, He is there.  When we  have reached our limits, He is there.  When our strength fails, He is there.  When our endurance flags, He is there.  When our attitude is not Christ-like, He is there.  God is our constant; He is our strength; He is our very present help in trouble.  You may see us get upset or angry with our son sometimes, but you will never see us angry with God or blaming Him as if His miracle isn't good enough for us.  God knows what is best, and He knows His children.  He only gives us what we can handle; and when we can't handle it, He's there to hold us close and rock us gently until we feel better.  The only way we get through each day---and the yawning stretch of endless days ahead like this one---is by remembering what awaits us in Heaven.  There will come a day when I will see my son run down the golden street.  For this moment, today, I can trust God and His miracle and thank Him for all He's done for us.

Psalm 86: 9-10  "All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O LORD; and shall glorify Thy name.  For Thou are great, and doest wondrous things:  Thou art God alone."

Monday, June 30, 2014

Where did June go?

Is it really the last day of June already?  It feels like school just got out, and now we're facing the fact that tomorrow we'll be able to say, "School starts again next month!"  That's just plain wrong.  June should be extended for at least another two weeks to give those of us who've spent at least half of each morning in bed a chance to experience a full June day before we move on to July.  Not that I'm admitting to being lazy, mind you.  I'm just.....sympathizing......with those who may be.  Yeah.

Anyway, we've had a relaxing first month off school.  I keep telling myself ---and Chad--- that we'll get up earlier each day so as not to set ourselves up for trouble come the last week of August when we have to get up around 6:45 a.m. for school.  Eventually I will fulfill that promise and be an early riser.  Eventually.  Like, when I'm in Heaven.  Maybe.  Please tell me they don't have alarm clocks in Heaven.

For those who have been praying with us about Dale's necessary meds and neurology appointments, the news is not good.  Apparently everyone is "really sorry" about having us over a barrel, but there is no way around paying through the nose for a once-a-year doctor appointment.  The insurance company said that's just the way the provider chooses to bill it, and the provider said that's what the insurance company's contract states.  Either way, we have to meet our $600 deductible along with the $60 specialist fee in order for Dale to be seen by the neurologist.  Dale usually sees this doctor in May, but we couldn't get an appointment until November.  They put us on the wait list for cancellations, though.  This visit will be especially important because the doctor will be able to see Dale's regression since the last visit.  It just seems like Dale has given up trying to walk correctly and instead chooses to shuffle along, posture all out of whack, taking no more than four steps, and depending way too much on his right leg to do all the work.  Chad and I and Katie and Ashley have tried and tried to get him to walk correctly, but Dale just ignores us for the most part.  Once in a while, he walks correctly---good posture, right foot then left, shoulders back; these moments are few and far between, and, when we point out his errors, Dale makes excuses.  Nothing is ever his fault, so there is nothing he can do to change it, see?  Please pray that Dale will take more responsibility for his own actions and be desirous of achieving the goal of being more independent and walking better.

Every week we have people ask us, "How's Dale doing?" or "Is he getting better?" or "Have you considered _________?"  Neither we nor the doctor think a cane or walker would help Dale right now; it would just give him one more thing to have to think about.  He does not go to physical therapy because (a) Dale is only allotted six therapy appts. per year (and what good would that do?) and (b) these each cost $60 because they're specialty visits.  We honestly have no idea if Dale will get better or worse or stay the same for the rest of his life.  We appreciate everyone's prayers for him and our family and are by no means giving up; we just realize the need to think practically.  My husband has a good job which pays our bills; our family is strong yet vulnerable; we all have "good" days and "bad" days.  Just because you see Dale struggling to walk doesn't mean prayer doesn't work.  Just because you see me or my family frustrated with Dale for not listening/trying doesn't mean we're mad at God over our situation.  And......please don't take offense.......just because something has worked for you or your family member or your friend doesn't mean we're going to jump right up and buy it.  Trust me---we've looked into numerous different products and therapies and supplements for Dale; there is simply not enough data/studies/time/money/patience for us to try everything that has been brought to our attention as the next medical or natural wonder.  We are sincerely doing all we can to help Dale improve, and only God knows God's plan for Dale.  It's easy (and more hopeful) to think that God has some grand and complex plan for Dale's life that will naturally require him to be fully healed to fulfill, but the truth is THIS may be God's plan for Dale.  Sparing his life may have been the ultimate plan God had for Dale, and now it's time for someone else to be God's next miracle.  Maybe God's plan is for us to trust Him day by day to give us the courage, strength, wisdom, and patience to live with His ultimate plan.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God's plan is best, and so I trust His choice in this matter just as I trust His choice in all other matters.  I'm not giving up on God.  I'm learning new ways to trust Him.

Have a safe and wonderful Independence Day!  Remember to thank God for our country and our freedom.  God bless each of you.


Psalm 150: 2, 6  "Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness.  Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.  Praise ye the LORD."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hooray for summer!

I know only kids are supposed to get excited about school ending, but we teachers are pretty pumped too!  I mean, we've had a great year and my students are wonderful---but I can't wait to not set the alarm.  Oh, the bliss of waking up at 6:00 a.m. and realizing, "I don't have to get up soon!"  Yes, this is what motivates me to smile and love and overlook my class' boisterous activities these last few days/weeks.  We only have three days left!

Having said that, I am so thankful to be a teacher.  I taught K4 for several years and loved it.  A lot more stress, a lot more goofiness, a lot more potty breaks, but so good.  A few years ago, I had the opportunity to move up to 3rd Grade.  The teacher at that time was leaving to have a baby, and our principal was looking to fill her spot.  My husband, wise man that he is, urged me to tell my boss that I could teach third grade if he wanted me to.  I was terrified!  I had become comfortable in K4; I had a great routine in place; I had little grading or testing to do.  I had it made!  But, I followed Chad's advice and threw my hat into the ring.......and I've never been so glad I did.  These students are at the perfect age:  they are moldable, teachable still; they listen still when I talk; and they love unconditionally.  I have learned so much from them about helping others, about seeing the Bible through a child's eyes, and about how kids grow up---what shapes their thinking.

Let me just stop and say, "Thank God for godly teachers for my children!"  We take our teachers for granted, expecting them to train and instruct our kids in academic values, forgetting that they teach much more than just 2+2=4.  My children are who they are because of their godly teachers.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

But, even with a school year full of excitement and a computer full of grades reflecting how well I taught and they listened, there comes a time when we all need a serious break.  We call this summer.  Summer is the time when even adults try to sleep until noon, when life takes on a more relaxed pace, and when we pretend to get lots of chores done that had to wait until we had time.  This is also the time that drives my husband nuts.  He can't stand the fact that we don't have to get up at O-dark-thirty or the fact that we tend to laze around for at least the first week!  To pacify him, I will create a "chore list" of things that truly should be done around the house, and then each week we will look at the list.  We probably won't actually do any of the work, but we at least looked at the list!  This also drives Chad nuts.  I may have to change my strategy.

I think I need to make some actual changes to Dale's schedule.  He seems to have regressed physically this year.  He is not at all steady on his feet; he falls frequently; and his balance is way off.  I want to implement a workout program for him to strengthen his muscles and help him feel better in control of himself.  I think, with the growth Dale has experienced over the past couple of years (height), he's not as sure of himself as he used to be.  Chad thinks we also should make another appointment with the neurologist to see if Dale's medication needs to be adjusted.  Please pray that the insurance will approve a referral from our regular doctor to the neurologist so that we will only need to pay the office visit fee.  Right now, the contract that the neurologist has with the insurance company states that any visit must be covered as an outpatient hospital visit which means we must pay our $500 deductible as well as the specialist fee.  That's quite a chunk of change!  We need to make the appointment in the next week, so your prayers are coveted.

With the close of the school year, everybody moves up a grade.  Emily will be in third grade---yep, my class.  (The year I moved up to third grade from K4, Emily was supposed to enter K4.  She was soooo upset that I wouldn't be her teacher.  She has been threatening me all year with dire punishment if I move to another grade this next year!)  Ashley will be in eighth grade.  She acted recently in our school plays; she was an accountant to the king in one and part of a group of protesters in the other.  As the accountant, she was dressed in a much older style and had her hair up and makeup on---she was almost unrecognizable!  She's already pretty, but in a few years when she can start actually wearing makeup---watch out!  Dale will be in tenth grade, although he is still catching up in a few subjects.  And Katie will be a Senior!!!  She is excited and scared to death.  But those feelings are swamped by the overwhelming relief that she passed geometry this year!  Amanda is finished with her first year of college and is coming home in a few weeks for a two-week visit.  We are so excited, not having seen her since saying goodbye in September.  Each member of our family has had to deal with not having her with us each day, but the ache in our hearts never eases.  I thank God for kind, loving people who are helping work out the plans to get her home.  Sooooon!  :-)

God has been good to us.  There's no doubt about it.  Have you every heard the song, "God's been good in my life"?  Each word is so accurate an accounting of our family that I cry each time I hear it.  He is so loving, just giving us breath; to bless us with health and home and work and children and mercy and kindness and love is beyond expression.  He is wonderful.  He is good.  He is!

John 11: 40  "Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

A very happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful women out there who have made us what we are today!  Remember:  if there's anything wrong with us, it's your fault.  :-)

Don't all moms thinks this way?  We work and pray and cry and beg and teach and plead and care and nurture and scream and try and love with all our hearts 24/7, but if our children choose to act on their own sinful nature, we blame ourselves.  The Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."  This verse is supposed to be an instruction to parents about rearing their children, but it is, unfortuately, used mainly as a guilt-inducing mantra to point fingers whenever our offspring, whether child, teenager, or full-grown adult, chooses to do wrong or chooses to go a different path than the one his parents' critics would have chosen.  The fact is we are all our own people; we all know what is right, and we all at some point choose to ignore the right and go for the bad.  Moms, don't blame yourselves for your children's choices.  None of us are perfect parents, so why should we expect to have perfect children?  Our children must choose what to do with their lives for themselves; they must make their own decisions.  Children, don't blame Mom or Dad for your choices or failures.  You must stand on your own two feet and be the person God wants you to be.  Perhaps you didn't have a wonderful childhood; you have the option to have a better adulthood.  God knows we are all imperfect vessels, yet He uses us anyway.  He has a plan for your life no matter how secure or normal or messed-up we are to start with.

So I say again, "Happy Mother's Day" to all the moms out there.  This is not a day to mourn perceived failures; this is a day to celebrate not killing your kids!  Enjoy your day.  You deserve it!

Last week our whole family was busy with our church's first Youth Explosion.  (No, we did not explode any youth.)  Bro. Reno Likens started these Youth Explosions about twenty years ago, so he came out to help us with our very first one.  On Friday, May 2nd, our teens went out to the public schools and handed out flyers announcing the upcoming event.  Then on each day of the event, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, they got out of school early to hand out flyers, came back for a quick meal, got on buses to go pick up teens who wanted to come, came back to church for the Youth Explosion from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and then rode the buses again after the service to drop the teens off.  Chad was working Monday night but drove a bus Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  Katie and Ashley worked each day's event, Katie pushing through a headache that lasted from Sunday night through Thursday.  Dale got to attend each service; Emily and I worked in the nursery Monday and Tuesday nights and attended service Wednesday night.  We had well over 300 brand-new teenagers attend the Youth Explosion over the three nights and 117 people accepted Christ as their Saviour!  What a privilege to be a part of these newly born Christians' lives!  Our teens got to be involved in something special that will impact their personal walks with God.  We were all exhausted but happy.  Praise the Lord for souls saved and teens introduced to church and lives affected.

Only a few short weeks of school left before we're done!  Seniors are getting sooo excited to be going on their Senior Trip and then graduating soon.  Juniors (like Katie) are beginning to freak out, knowing they will soon be Seniors and must account for their academic life thus far.  Everyone else is glad to move up a grade.  Elementary students are just looking forward to summer break.  Teachers are trying to cram in the last bit of curriculum they can before final exams must be taken......and graded.......and averaged......and computed.  There are always some students and parents who are biting their nails, waiting for grades to be announced so they can either slump in depression or sigh with relief.  Some teachers are already looking ahead to next year, planning classroom layouts and papers and preparing their lesson plans.  Others will be glad just to close the books on this year's class!  All in all, we've had a good year and are looking forward to some genuine time off.

For those who are wondering, I'm not skipping church.  No, this Mother's Day I am home sick with a nasty cold.  Someone (either husband or student or friend or choir partner) gave it to me, and I'm not complimenting them on their sharing ability.  Emily is home sick with the same cold; she was running a low-grade fever last night along with the coughing and sneezing and runny nose.  Dale is home with us because I didn't wake up in time to wake him up to get ready to go with his Dad!  We may make it to service tonight......and then again, we may not.  Depends on if my head has exploded by then.

Again, Happy Mother's Day to all!

II Timothy 1: 5  "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How big is your God?

Have you ever heard someone say, when asked how they're doing, "I'm okay under the circumstances"?  As children of the most High God, we should never allow the circumstances to determine how we successful our walk with God is.  Don't we have a big enough God to handle the circumstances?  God has proven over and over throughout the Bible that He is bigger than anything that may be bothering us or holding us back from a joyful Christian life.  God can control the rising and setting of the sun; He made water come out of a rock; He made an entire valley full of dead bones come alive again; Jesus controlled the weather; He made the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk; He even raised the dead!  We sometimes act like our God has somehow lost power or ability or strength in modern times.  We live as if "Sure, God could do all that WAY BACK THEN, but nowadays He's just not the same."  Not true!!!  Our God is all-powerful, all-seeing, fully able to do anything we need.  Why do we then mope around, wishing we had a magic lamp to rub so some mythical genie could grant us what we want?  Just ask God!  He expects us to go to Him with our needs and desires.  He wants us to ask Him for His divine help whenever life gets too big for us.

"When life hands you lemons, make pizza.  Then stand back and smirk while everyone tries to figure out how you did it!"

Isn't this a great life motto?  I mean, who wants boring old lemonade anyway?  It's always too tart, and adding enough sugar to keep your mouth from puckering makes your blood sugar skyrocket.  Am I right?  Why not do something amazing instead?

If you can't tell, I'm deliberately looking for the crazy in life to celebrate.  If I were to list all the events of the Ostrander household from the past few weeks, by the time you were finished reading it you'd be curled up in a corner somewhere rocking slowly back and forth, waiting for the men with the straight jackets to come.  We have not had a "normal" day for weeks!  Our days off are like mini circuses, and our "regular" days have turned into nothing short of torture devices cleverly packaged in 24 hour increments.  Not to say we've had nothing but bad stuff going on, but even good days or fun times can be chaotic when you start with a husband/father who works himself to the bone to provide for a family of seven, then attempts to find some free time to take care of the house and yard, go to the gym, and maybe relax some!  Next comes the wife/mother who, at her best, is slightly neurotic and, at her worst, resembles the Wicked Witch of the West.  Somehow, despite her looks, figure, and abilities, she views herself as Wonder Woman and is constantly volunteering herself (and her kids) for all sorts of extra activities.  Add to this a daughter who is a freshman in college, away from home, and homesick; another daughter who is fast approaching her senior year and maybe college after that and then what do I do with my life???!!!!!; a son who somehow can't seem to keep from falling.....while walking, standing, or even sitting (!) and keeps us all literally on our toes, waiting for the other shoe to drop---with him in it; another daughter who is almost 13 going on almost 39 and is proving to be the proverbial challenging mix of teenage angst, sweet help, and crazy woman-girl; and the youngest daughter who, precious though she is, is driving us all nuts with her goofy antics, unwillingness to do more than two pages of schoolwork on any given day, and desire to be the center of each and every conversation anyone within five miles is having. 

 In other words, we're just a normal family living normal lives and facing normal struggles like everybody else.  We have frequently had people tell us with all sincerity, "Your family is amazing.  There's no way I would have been able to handle what happened to your son and still serve God or stay faithful."  Truth be told, what I said earlier is absolutely true:  we're just a normal family.........with an incredible God!  You're right; there's no way we would have been able to handle Dale's drowning were it not for the fact that we trust God.  Period.  We trust Him to always know what's best, to always do what's best, and to always be what's best.  We don't trust God unless.........and wait to fill in the blank whenever something happens we don't like or understand.  If God is trustworthy, then trust Him.  Why does He constantly have to keep proving Himself to us?  Wasn't Calvary enough?

As crazy/hard/unbearable/overwhelming as life gets sometimes, we can lean on God at all times to be Himself---trustworthy, loving, true, right, good.  If you have not already made the decision to trust God no matter what, try it.  You'll see.  He won't fail you.

Psalm 104: 1  "Bless the LORD, O my soul.  O LORD my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honour and majesty."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

We've come this far by faith.

Do you ever feel like "you can't see the forest for the trees"?  Sometimes we get so close to a situation that we get bogged down in minutia and forget the bigger events being played out.  This applies to parenting, marriage, ministries, housework, etc.  For us, this applies to Dale.

Don't get me wrong---we love Dale and can't imagine our family without him.  We are so thankful each day that we didn't have to find out how that would feel.  But sometimes we as a family have to take a giant step backwards and look at the bigger picture God is mapping out.  We get frustrated by daily struggles with Dale's unsteadiness, his constant memory problems (he acts like he has Alzheimer's!), the continual need for someone to be near him/hold his hand when walking somewhere or going up/down the stairs, the incessant jerking and falling, listening to his slower speech as he tells us some joke or story.  I, especially, start feeling sorry for myself, as I feel I bear the brunt of Dale's care.  Can't you just hear the whine in my feel-sorry-for-me voice?  "I'm the only one who ever helps Dale.  I'm the only one who walks around the store with him.  I'm the only one who walks up the stairs behind him.  I'm the only one who cares if he falls.  I'm the one who has to be the mediator between the girls and Dale when he's being stubborn and they're fed up."  Of course, this is merely my perception of events, but each of us feels that way.  We each begin to focus on how much extra work Dale is causing us to the point that we forget:  we're living every day with a miracle straight from God's hands!

Two and a half years ago, God reached down and changed the future I had all planned out for my family.  God proved His might and His power, He returned life to Dale's body after all hope was lost, and He showed that He can and does still answer prayer "now in this time."  Oh, the rejoicing and praise and extolling of God's power that was heard then!  Our family, our church, our friends, and new friends across the globe joined as one in praise and worship of our God.  We felt the Holy Spirit's presence as never before because we could actually see God working in our lives.

And then we had to go home.  We left the hospital, returned to our house, and began the (sometimes) drudge of everyday life:  therapies, school, church, home, repeat.  We began to realize that, while God had answered our prayers to make Dale wake up, he would never be the same again---and neither would we.  Every day we see just how different this Dale is from the one we used to have.  Every day we are faced with the increasing knowledge that Dale's brain just can't hold on to information the way it used to.  Studies are ever so much harder for him now.  Every day we see Dale struggle with stuff that should be so easy, like walking, standing upright, writing.  Every day we think about the fact that our girls are growing up and will head off to college before we know it, but Dale probably won't.  He probably won't be able to hold a job.  He probably won't ever get married.  He'll probably stay with us the rest of our lives.  One day we'll have to worry about who will care for him after we're gone.  (His sisters will step up!)

You see?  Like Peter, we take our eyes off Jesus and train our sights on what's around us.  We become fearful or angry or judgmental or sour because of "what we have to deal with each day."  Isn't that what we say?  "You have no idea what I have to deal with."  Instead, we need to refocus our thoughts, energy, and sight on the One Who will never leave us nor forsake us.  God is bigger than all our problems.  This does not just mean He can overcome them; this also means He is more important than them.  At this point, only God knows the future.  We make plans, but only God knows what will actually happen.  When we take that step back and see again the miracle God has given us in our son, then we become thankful again for His goodness.  We stop fighting and bickering and lashing out in anger and start praising God again.  We remember that this life is temporal, but eternity lasts forever.  I can't wait to get to Heaven and see Jesus, but the next thing I want to see is my son walking with no problem again.  I want to see him running!

Our lives are a testimony to those around us about God.  We can be a testimony of God's failure to do what we want or His lack of care for us or just how phony our "walk with God" really is.  Or we can be a testimony of God's amazing grace, His love that covers all sins, His mercy and forgiveness, and His incredible miraculous power to save, heal, and keep.  We get to choose.

Galatians 2: 20  "I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thank God for mini-vacations!

A couple of years ago, our school began splitting our Spring Break up into two separate weeks, one in February and one in April.  What a stroke of brilliance!  We get to enjoy a week off school on two occasions, get caught up on housework (yeah, right!), spend some family time (going shopping), and recuperate from the various viruses that are always circulating amongst the student body.

So far, we've managed two out of three items from the list above.  We spent yesterday going from thrift store to thrift store, searching for bargains, and came home with some nice purchases.  Each of the kids got something, and I was able to buy my class a chess set. They've been asking for one, and they assure me they know how to play.  I've never gotten the hang of it!  Anyway, we had a really great time out shopping in the pouring rain.  We stopped at Sonic on the way home and indulged in their $1 hot dog/chili cheese dog special for Presidents' Day and then went home where the kids spent a blissful half hour trying on (again) all their clothes.  The kids and I haven't had the chance to go thrift store shopping in a long time, so we really enjoyed our day out.

We are also enjoying the down time away from all the sniffling and sneezing of everyone at school.  Katie especially is needing this week off to get over (hopefully for good) this cold she's been nursing.  It seems she's been getting sick every other week this school year.  She's already missed a lot of school, to the point that she really can't afford to miss any more.  I've been very glad for her sake that we get a week off so she can catch up on her sleep and stop being so sick.  She already seems better, only coughing a bit and blowing her nose.  It's so good to see her smile again in decent health!  The rest of us have had sniffles and coughs but nothing like hers.

Our varsity teams are on their last sports trip for the year.  The Presidents' Day Tournament is always an exciting climax to the season, one which everyone looks forward to.  Since Katie isn't playing volleyball this year, no one in our family is gone, but it's still fun to send the team off with a bang.  Last Friday, our school had a pep assembly with lots of cheering, posters, and fun competitions.  The senior varsity members led us in a couple of cheers before announcing the winners of the poster contest:  6th grade!  Then, those elementary classes who chose to could compete in a cheer competition, and my class won!!!  So both 6th grade and 3rd grade will get a pizza party!  There was a guys-against-girls varsity seniors obstacle course; the guys won……but barely!  Bro. Minge then announced each team member's name and had them line up, at which point the elementary classes handed them goodie bags we had put together for them.  We had a lot of fun getting our teams razzed up for the trip.  They left after Sunday morning church because the games started Monday morning.  It's a good thing they left when they did; there're some nasty snowstorms moving through the passes, and this tournament is held over the mountains.  The main pass was closed soon after they crossed!  Please pray for their safe return Wednesday late afternoon.

God is so good to us, daily, weekly, hourly.  Our world is so busy, so frantic, so minute-by-minute, that it takes conscious effort to stop and purposefully thank God for what He does and is.  Don't forget to display an attitude of thankfulness---not just say the words but feel them.  You'll find this thankfulness will spill over into your children's lives and your spouse's and your coworkers'.  God bless you this day especially!

Colossians 3: 16  "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."