Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Happy birthday, Jesus!  Today is the day we celebrate Christ's birth!  Not that we believe He was born on this date, but rather we choose this day to celebrate His coming as a babe in order to grow to be a man Who would die on the cross to pay for the sins of the entire world.  Isn't Christmas wonderful?  A special time each year to remember that most wondrous event when the God-child was born and angels filled the heavens to sing praises to God on high for His incredible gift to man.  Wouldn't you have loved to have been a shepherd that night in the field?  Or the innkeeper wondering what on earth was causing that bright light that set the stable out back aglow?  Or, even better, one of the wise men who nearly came unglued when you realized that the sign you had been looking for for years had just appeared in the sky?

Even more amazing is the knowledge that Christ Jesus did all this......fulfilled prophecy, came to earth as a baby instead of a full-grown man, died on Golgotha.......for me.  He came for me.  If I had been the only sinner on earth, if everyone else had been perfect, Jesus would still have done it all---for me.  Thank You so much, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth that night so long ago.  Thank You for growing up as any child would and yielding Your will each day to Your earthly parents so that we might learn from and follow Your example.  Thank You for choosing to die such an awful death because You knew it had to be done and You were the only One Who could carry it through.  Thank You for being born, living, and dying for sinful mankind so that we might have the choice to live in Heaven with You one day.

How does your family celebrate Christmas?  When I was seven, my family started the tradition of opening our gifts on Christmas Eve for two reasons:  1) Christmas was on a Sunday that year, and my pastor urged folks to open their gifts the night before so that there would be no excuses for staying home from church the next morning, and 2) my mom was due to give birth at any moment.  My parents chose to open gifts Christmas Eve to avoid any disappointment from us kids if Mom and Dad wound up in the hospital Christmas Day.  As it turns out, this was a good idea---my sister made her appearance early Christmas morning!  Each year after, our family opened gifts on Christmas Eve and had a birthday cake for Kathy and Jesus on December 25th.  So, when my husband and I got married, we decided to open gifts Christmas Eve and celebrate Jesus' birthday on Christmas Day.  We still do that now with our kids, except Christmas morning has morphed into "Stocking Opening and Treasure Hunt Time."  We have my mom to blame thank for that!  The kids really enjoy opening gifts the night before Christmas while knowing they will get even more stuff the next morning.  I think we overdid it this year; Chad and I each buy stuff for the children and sort through it all in the weeks before Christmas to see what we have stored up for whom.  We wound up having to stuff two stockings for each child since there was no way to fit all their junk into just one stocking!  It was a lot of fun!  The only sad part is that we're missing Amanda this year; she opted to stay at college for the holidays and work ahead on next semester's school bill.  I know the college and church there will have special events planned and gifts for the college students who don't get to go home, but I also know that nothing will replace time with your family.  Mandie, we love you and wish you a very Merry Christmas in Santa Clara!

I hope your holiday has been just as wonderful as ours.  We're looking forward to tonight's Christmas service, too---what a great way to spend God's house!  Merry Christmas to all!  In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one!"

Luke 2: 11  "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I am presently at school, enjoying our teams' first victories!  We don't normally start our season this late in the year, but for one reason or another, here we are.  I think we can look forward to a good season this year in both volleyball and basketball.......not that we are so good that we'll blow everyone else away, but our teams practice their hearts out each week and are striving to do their best.  Only our girls have played so far, but both JV and Varsity won!!

Ashley played her very first official volleyball game today.  She's in seventh grade this year and excited to be on the JV team.  For the past couple of days, all I've heard from her is, "I can't wait for our first game!"  This morning she woke up and said, "Mom, today's our first game."  But her voice held a tinge of anxiety which only increased as the day wore on.  She began to get more and more nervous as game time approached, so afraid that she would make some horrible, glaring mistake.  (I began to seriously think that she would wind up throwing up!)  However, she held herself together just fine and played quite well (no prejudice here).  Coach even left her in for all three games, which greatly boosted Ashley's morale.  She's following in her older sisters' footsteps as a good volleyball player!

We've decided to switch Dale over to all PACES as he seems to do so much better working at his own learning speed.  We'll order the PACES now, but he probably won't begin them until next semester starts; this way we get a definite end-of-semester grade in each of his classes so far.  The possible negative of Dale having to stay in the Learning Center most of the school day will hopefully be offset by the positive of his grades improving.

Dale is growing by leaps and bounds---that might not be an apt comparison!  Dale is growing by shuffles and jerks.  :-)  He's taller than me (no great feat); he's taller than Katie now (slightly better achievement); he's grown so much in the last year that he'll pass Mandie soon and challenge Dad's height before he's done.  We tease him about the "caterpillar" on his upper lip......which I have to help him shave because, each time I envision trying to explain to the ER doctors why my almost fifteen-year-old son sliced off his upper lip, I shudder!  He has absolutely no excess fat on his body; his arms are long and bony; but his grip is super strong.  Sometimes when we are holding hands, walking together, and he feels shaky, he will tighten his grip on my hand until I feel like he's going to break my thumb right off!  And, of course, when I mention this, Dale just sort of shrugs his shoulders and chuckles like, "What did you expect, Mom?  I'm stronger than you!"  I threaten on a bi-weekly basis to walk off and leave him standing there to make his own way to wherever he's going, but so far I haven't carried through on my threat.  (I'm beginning to think he doesn't believe me!)

Well, tomorrow is the last day of school this week.  One more week before Christmas break!  The students have not been too crazy to handle, just crazy enough.  Sometimes they're bouncing off the ceiling which makes me want to climb the walls, but we've been able to keep our feet on the ground and still reach for the sky.  How's that for a mind-bender?!

I love the Christmas season, not just for the lights and food and presents, but because I get reminded every day to thank God for sending His Son to be born to die for my sins.  What an amazing gift God gave mankind that day!  It goes against all reason to suppose that the great God Who formed all things would create man, watch him walk away, and then choose to die for man to win him back.  Are we really that important to God?  The answer is---YES.  God loves us beyond all human comprehension, beyond all understanding, beyond all reason, beyond all boundaries, beyond all time limits, beyond all explanations.  He simply  Thank You, Lord, for showing us true love that day millennia ago when You first formed the plan for our salvation.  You are truly a wondrous God, One worthy of all praise and all glory for ever.

Galatians 4: 4 - 5  "But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law,  To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wow!  Can you believe it's already time for Thanksgiving?  Didn't we just start the year a couple of months ago?  When we were kids, time seemed to crawl by---Christmases took forever to come and birthdays seemed to be a couple of years apart.  Nowadays, however, time flies so fast Boeing is trying to figure out a way to harness the speed for commercial use!

We in the Ostrander household have so very much for which to be thankful.  My husband and I have steady jobs; our children are fairly healthy (all things considered!); we have a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs; our vehicles run most of the time!!  No matter how much we feel we have to complain about, the truth is that our God loves us and provides for us exactly what we need.  I cannot tell you the number of times I have wanted a magic lamp to rub and be granted wishes by a genie for a new car, a new house, a slimmer figure, a better voice.  I'm 43 years old and I have yet to find that lamp!  God gives us what we need, knowing full well that if we had everything our hearts desired, we would not need Him as much.......or at least we would act that way.  If I had a brand-new van that didn't break down every time the weather changed, I would not be in constant communication with my Father about keeping the van running.  If I had a beautiful house all on one level (so we wouldn't have to worry about Dale and stairs) with plenty of space (and a maid to clean it all!), I wouldn't be as appreciative of my family and our joint efforts to make our house as homey and comfortable as we do.  If I seriously got everything I wanted, I wouldn't be any better off than I am now.  I'd still be looking at something else and wishing I had that.  So, I'd best learn to be thankful for what God has given me right now so that He will be able to bless me later on with other good things instead of having to withhold them because of my rotten attitude.

Of course, what we are most grateful for is our son's continued life.  Dale is well and growing and alive!  Just the other day, I was talking to a friend of mine who reminded me that, even though Dale talks with more deliberate speech and struggles with simple memory tasks, he is very much still Dale.  He's a smart aleck who thinks he's right about everything and constantly argues with everyone around him as a result.  He deals with his physical difficulties (shaky legs, falling, etc.) by simply getting up and getting going again.  He said something the other day that nearly brought me to tears.  One of my third grade students was in my classroom after school for a while one day and asked Dale to play a game with him.  During the course of the game, their conversation got around to "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  Dale answered this question with one word:  "Mobile."  I was working at my desk nearby and not listening much but his response caught my attention.  I said, "Oh, Dale" in sympathy, and he looked over and kind of shrugged his shoulders.  I decided then and there to start working with him to exercise his muscles and strengthen his body.  God can do amazing things---and has!---but we need to work at making great things happen, too.

This Thanksgiving, remember to give God thanks, not just for what we consider the good things but for everything in our lives.  He knows what is best, and He always gives what is needed.  God bless you this week and always!

Psalm 30: 12  "To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever." 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I think I'm losing my mind!

I'm going to stop apologizing for my erratically timed updates and just blog whenever I can!  My husband, poor guy, has been complaining in his kindhearted way that he never sees us because of our "busy schedule" and tonight, I agreed with him.  He should record this event and store it in our safe!

I want our family to be as involved as possible in our school and church functions, and I encourage our kids to volunteer for stuff as well as volunteer for stuff myself.  Usually we manage things just fine---I think.  But lately, it's been one crazy merry-go-round of chaos that has not been very beneficial to us, our family life, or anyone else, for that matter!  Church choir is now practicing on Saturday afternoons for cantata; we're in the middle of our Fall Campaign to push for extra visitors (That's been exciting!  Our first Sunday was our church's 39th anniversary with a big service in the morning, special guests including the man who started our church, and a fellowship after the evening service.  Last Sunday, we honored all First Responders---police, firefighters, emergency personnel, etc.  What a unique and special service that was!  This Sunday, we will honor Healthcare Workers, and our last Sunday will be......I forget.  Did I mention I've been working too hard?); at school, we just wrapped up our first quarter and are looking forward to our Patriotic Program next Thursday, volleyball/basketball games starting soon, and Thanksgiving; Chad's delivery routes got rearranged a bit, so I can't predict as well what time he'll get home on some days---this makes making time to spend with him a bit more challenging; and WE STILL MISS MANDIE!!!  She kept teasing me that I wouldn't be able to survive without her, and I'm afraid she was more right than she knew!  I depended on her so much at school to keep order in the classroom when I needed to step out, to keep up on daily grading of math lessons and such, and to decorate the room each month.  I leaned on her even more at home to help with the cooking, cleaning, refereeing between younger siblings, and other stuff.  It's been quite a wake-up call for Katie and me both to just how much responsibility Mandie had taken upon her shoulders.  (I have the sinking feeling that I will have finally adjusted to life without Mandie when it will be time for Katie to go to college.  Aaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!

I stood in our kitchen tonight, looked Chad square in the eye, and said, "I think I might be doing too much."  He just grinned, silently acknowledging my admittance that he was right all along.  But my question now is:  how do I stop doing so much without feeling like I'm backsliding?  I mean, every single activity that I or my family is involved in is in God's service, right?  I don't sing in the choir because I want fame or recognition but because I love to sing and I want to praise God.  My girls don't go out on teen soul winning because they want to spend extra time with their friends but because they want to invite folks to church and tell people about Jesus Christ.  By the way, Ashley led two people to the Lord this afternoon!  She and her friend stopped to talk to a group of four, and each got to lead two of them to Christ.  YES!  Back to the previous topic, how do I give something up without feeling like "If I don't do it, who will?"

Even while typing this, the Holy Spirit is speaking to my heart, telling me, "Do you consider yourself to be the only person who can work in your ministries and be effective?  If so, you are full of pride."  He's right, of course.  I am only an effective teacher, mother, choir member, bus worker as long as I lean on God for His strength and wisdom.  If I keep close to God and daily ask for His guidance, I will not take on more than I can handle and I will know which tasks to say "no" to.  I know that some jobs I have now will not be forever; I will need to listen to the Holy Spirit's reminder to wait on the Lord and serve in the areas He wants me to serve in.  Sure, our physical bodies get tired or sick, and we need a break or some healing time.  But when our minds and our spirits get tired or sick, many times it's because we've labeled ourselves indispensable or "Super Mom" and feel we have to accept any task mentioned in our hearing because simply no one else is able to do the job right.  Then, when we begin to fail due to lack of Spirit guidance, we think we are overworked and under appreciated, instead of realizing the simple truth that we bit off more than we could chew.  God, help me to trust You to provide just the tasks You know I need and forego the self-promoting desire to sign up for everything.  After all, only God is able to do everything!

Dale is doing his usual thing---walking some/falling some, doing well in some classes/failing others, being sweet to his mom/annoying his sisters, claiming his faulty memory as an excuse for not doing something/ refusing to admit he did do something because he does not remember doing it!  Yep, that about sums it up!  Dale is exactly who God wants him to be right now, and we thank God for our son.

Take care and God bless you!

Proverbs 3: 5 - 6  "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Welcome, Fall!

Once again, I apologize for not updating this blog in a timely fashion, but this time I have a really good excuse........Mother Nature.  Or Father God, to be more accurate.

I've been thinking about what news to share, and I realized I really only have three newsworthy items to relate:

1.)  We have had the weirdest weather here lately.  You know how, a few years ago, everyone was blaming El Nino for all the rain we were getting?  Ever since September began, we here in western Washington have been subject to a whole range of inclement weather that we don't usually get to experience.  (Notice how I put a positive spin on that......"we don't get to"!)  In fact, I've begun to wonder if we're in some version of the Twilight Zone and have been secretly transported from Washington State to some other part of the country.  We've had lots of lightning and thunderstorms, and we even had a tornado!!!  Can you believe that?  A tornado right here in Spanaway---well, Frederickson.  This kind of severe weather knocked out power in some places and caused us to lose our internet for a few days (told you I had a good excuse!).  Plus, the city is doing road work down the street our church sits on; this construction combined with the storming knocked out our internet at church/school.  Qwest says they're working on it, but we've been without access for several days now.  Who's for moving to Hawai'i?  (Wait.....they have hurricanes there.  Never mind.)

2.)  Chad celebrated his 48th birthday on Saturday.  Katie paid him the ultimate compliment when she asked me how old he was.  I told her, "He's 48," and she replied, shocked, "He doesn't look 48!"  He just grinned when I relayed this to him.  He's been working out at our local gym and has lost quite a bit of weight in the past six or seven months.  He's quite the hunk now!  :-D  He gets to reward himself and take a well-earned vacation later this week when he goes hunting.  His cousin is planning to join him for a few days; he and Chad grew up together and will enjoy spending some time doing something they both love.  Happy hunting!

3.)  Our JV/V football teams played at home this past Friday, and we got to watch most of the games.  Our boys were victorious!  There were some awesome plays made on both sides of the ball.  Our guys were catching passes and running for touchdowns, and our defense was chasing down their receivers and pulling flags.  Two other teams came to play us and each other, so the field was busy all day.  I think our JV won one of their games, and our varsity won both.  We had a lot of fun cheering our teams on, and my students took a bit of time to run around before we headed back up the hill toward our classroom to get ready to go home.  The weather was actually really great that day---nice and sunny---and the only drawback to the day was the fact that the bees were out en force enjoying the day as well.  I don't think anyone got stung though, so that's good.

Don't we have a wonderful God?  It is amazing to realize that He loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us.  He isn't waiting for us to become a better person or clean up our lives and anything---He wants to be close to us right now.  And we use the stupidest excuses to avoid that close relationship with our Maker.  Like "I don't have time right now" or "I don't feel worthy" or "I will when I'm older."  We will never have more than 24 hours in each day, so why wait for more time?  Will there ever be a time when we feel worthy to approach if we could ever accrue enough good works to impress Him.  We should start now, today, and take just a few minutes to read His Word and pray.  As I tell my students, "If you never get started, you'll never get it done."  God is waiting to hear us say, "Hello, Lord.  I'm ready to start."

Hebrews 4: 16  "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Busy, busy, busy!

Isn't that how life always is?  Too busy to even think sometimes, it seems.  We're on this crazy merry-go-round of school and church and teen activities and choir and nursery and bus visitation and upcoming sports events..........AAAAARRRGGHH!!!   No wonder that, when we get a day off, we tend to sit around and do absolutely NOTHING!  Drives Chad nuts, unfortunately.

Amanda seems to be doing well at college.  She calls me nearly every day whenever she has time between classes, homework, and her new job at Chik-Fil-A.  She loves that job so much already!  This is a good thing since she needs all the hours she has been working in order to pay her own school bill.  Some of her classes/teachers she likes; some she is less fond of.  }:-(  Oh, well---you can't get everything you wish for.  Lots of church folks have been asking about her and wishing her well.  Her family misses her incredibly much (still can't think too much about it or we cry!).

The kids have taken just enough quizzes and/or tests to be encouraged/depressed about their grades so far.  And, of course, no matter how much time we spend at school, it never fails that, as soon as we pull into the driveway, someone remembers some vital book that they forgot in their locker.  I've already decided my response for this year:  "Call someone to get the notes or try to get it done first thing tomorrow morning at school."  This may sound callous, but it sure saves gas money!

Dale has has a hard time physically adjusting to the school schedule.  That's the only way I can explain his constant falling of late.  He falls at least once a day, usually with his legs jerking or giving out on him.  Yesterday Dale fell in the bathroom face-first, reddening the area around one eye and causing his nose to swell.  Chad and I were a bit alarmed because Dale's nose seemed slightly off-center.  I have no idea how long it's been like that.......maybe even since birth!  Either that or he broke his nose at some point and it healed slightly crooked.  We decided not to make a big fuss about it either way.  He is what he is.  ;-)  Please do pray for Dale, though, about his falling.  He is walking just about the same as usual, just his limbs jerk sometimes and cause him to be unsteady.  That, and the dog gets in the way and trips Dale up!  One of these days Peanut is going to get kicked and not necessarily by accident.  You'd think she would learn.

Chad is already looking forward to some time off next month to go hunting.  He's been calling his cousins to see who all is going and planning what he needs to pack.  This is his time each fall to get away from work and stress and noisy family and just enjoy himself.  He's not bagged a deer yet, but he says the ratio this year is really good.  Maybe he'll bring back some venison for us to enjoy.  Happy hunting!

It's that time of year again.......time to stock up on candy corn and especially candy pumpkins.  For some reason, I love those stupid candy pumpkins.  I mean, why?  They don't taste like pumpkin or anything.  Speaking of, I saw some pumpkin spice-flavored candy corn in the store the other day but I didn't have the courage to actually spend money to try it.  You never know with some of those flavors---they might be really good or they might be really horrible.  Like those Jelly Belly jelly beans that taste gross on purpose to prank people:  ear wax and vomit and dirt.  Who wants a jelly bean that tastes like that?!  Yuck!!  Then again, jelly beans aren't really supposed to taste like buttered popcorn either, are they?  To each his own.

I'm going to close this madly rambling post with an admittedly terrible joke:  Did you hear about the man who accidentally drank a can of varnish?  He died, of course, but he had a lovely finish.  (I tried using the word shellac, but my kids had no idea what that was!)

Proverbs 3: 5-6  "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path."

Monday, September 2, 2013

And then there were six.

At 5:10 this morning, I watched my husband's truck pull out of the driveway, laden with multiple suitcases, boxes, bags stuffed to the brim, a huge basket of goodies, my husband, two giggling high school girls, and one rather terrified but determined college-bound young lady.  I've been praying for and dreading this moment for nearly nineteen years!  Amanda is ready to turn this page and begin this new chapter in her life---she has prepared well through school; she has worked hard to earn the money needed to walk on campus and pay her first payment; she has given her heart to the Lord and is willing to do whatever He asks.  This is her moment of triumph, her destiny (if that phrase isn't too trite), her future.  Once she sets foot on the campus of Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara, CA, receives her dorm assignment, and settles in, she'll do great.  Right now though, she is nearly scared stiff!

Amanda is my oldest but not necessarily my most independent child.  She is the only one who couldn't go to sleepovers when she was younger without getting so homesick she would throw up and have to be brought home again. She is very independent on the outside but very much a homebody on the inside.  It took her a long time to even be willing to make the decision to move away from home; now she's going to be responsible for herself completely.  She has to get a job right away in order to work her way through college.  She has to plan her class schedule, her work schedule, her shopping schedule, and her ministry schedule.........not to mention finding time to eat!  (She seriously thinks she'll starve to death in the first month because she won't have any time or money to eat!!)  With each of her concerns, I've tried to alleviate the stress by assuring her it will all work out and God will take care of her, but that is something she will have to discover for herself.  I have no doubt God will provide her with a good job, caring roommates, loving friends, and helpful teachers who will guide her through these next few years.  She'll get to come home for Christmas and summer (I hope!), and each time we'll see her change more and more into the beautiful young adult God desires her to be.  I'm going to miss her so much I literally can't even think about it without crying.  God bless my Amanda Rae.

It's a very good thing we have a day off school today!  I have the luxury of staying home, sitting on the couch, and crying any time I feel like it.  And I've felt like it on average about every four minutes!  You'd think no one else in the history of the world has ever had to send their firstborn off to college, right?  The ladies at church last night were giving me hugs and assuring me they knew exactly how I felt and that it would be all right eventually.  The men were joking about how glad I should be to "get one out of the house", but they too know how Chad and I feel.  Chad gets to drive Amanda, along with Katie and their friend Samantha, down to college, but he doesn't get to stick around for a few days and help her settle in.  They get to stay for a few hours on Tuesday morning and then begin the 16-hour journey home, stopping somewhere to stay Tuesday night and arriving home on Wednesday in time for Chad to get some sleep before getting up to work a Wednesday night shift!  I'm glad Katie got to go with them; she's going to miss her older sister/best friend more than even I know.  And Samantha is friends with both of them and will keep everyone laughing on the way down (relieving stress) while comforting Katie on the way home.  It's actually best for me not to go; I have to teach anyway on Tuesday (my boss kind of expects me to be there), and I don't know if I could handle moving Mandie into her dorm room and then walking away.  I do know that I would be a definite wet blanket the entire way home, tears streaming down my face and breathing through my mouth because my nose would be stopped up and winding up with the mother of all migraines brought on by my own misery.  At least at home, I have three other children to distract me and demand my attention.  Who knew I'd be thankful for more kids?!

God has proven His ability and desire to care for us in so many ways of late.  We, being human, tend to see material gain or financial benefits as the only proof positive of God's loving care, but God knows that about us and sends us such proof occasionally just because He loves us.  Amanda has been in near-constant communication with her contact at college, receiving information about dorm life, the job fair, and financial status.  We had checked online earlier this summer to see how much she needed to walk on campus and found the amount to be about $950.  With the $100/month scholarship she received after graduation, Amanda had just enough saved up.  Then, just a week ago, Amanda received an email with her expenses broken down by category; unfortunately the bottom line read about $200 more than she had anticipated.  This nearly sent her into a tailspin, worrying that they would turn her away at the door for not having enough money to make that full first payment.  (God's hand of providence in three, two, one.......)  Last night at church, people gave her hugs and handed her notes of encouragement.  Tucked inside the envelopes were twenties and a couple of fifties!  This, along with her final paycheck from one of her cleaning jobs, totaled $205.  Praise the Lord!!!  Once again, He gives just what we need just when we need it.  Aaaaaaannnnndd, at church last night we were handed a letter that was addressed to The Ostrander Family but sent to the church address.  Inside was a sweet note from someone in the area named Sharon who thanked us for this blog, reminded us we still had prayer partners everywhere, and enclosed a check for $200 to use any way we needed to.  Amanda and I just looked at each other and grinned!  We have a God in Heaven Who is just itching to bless us, don't we?  Thank You, Lord, for Your wonderful hand of blessing on our family.  We don't deserve it---we deserve hell---but He chooses to shower us with His love through the kindness of others.  We get blessed and they get's a win/win situation!

Thank you for all your prayers, love, encouragement, and help throughout these last two years.  It's been amazing to see God's family in action all across the world as you agonized with us, cried with us, shouted with us, and prayed with us.  You have encouraged us and strengthened our hearts with your love and prayers and comments, and we hope to have helped you in return.  God bless you richly for all you have been to our family.  We love you guys!

Philippians 4: 19  "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back to school we go!

Here we are, gearing up for yet another school year.  Remember when we were kids and still in school ourselves and all we could think at the end of August was how fast our summer vacation had flown by?  It's no different now that we're adults!  We look back over the summer and think how very short those two and a half months were.  It seems like just yesterday we were packing up the classroom for summer break, and now this week we are putting all the charts back on the walls and making out lesson plans again.  Did I even do anything this summer?  Seriously, I think all our family did was sleep in, do cursory chores, and laze about.  Hmmmmm.........on second thought, it sounds like we did summer right!  :-D

My girls have been helping me get my classroom ready for school, which starts on Tuesday, August 27th.  I've been able to clean out a bunch of teacher junk which I tend to hoard "for a rainy day."  Well, since we live in Washington---aka RAIN FOREST---my "rainy day" stuff becomes my "every day" stuff, and what I haven't used by now I probably never will.  Hence, the need to clear it all out.  (I do this at home too, occasionally going through closets and boxes and taking loads of stuff to Goodwill.  I've often told my kids not to expect to someday find wonderful antiques in Mom's attic 'cause I will have thrown them all away long beforehand!)  Anyway, I've been fretting because I don't have any extra money to spend on special things for my classroom---which, being interpreted, means I can't just go buy anything that suits my fancy!---and decided to dig through my boxes of seasonal decorations to see if there was anything that needed to be tossed.  To my surprise and delight, I found a couple of beginning-of-the-year bulletin board themes that someone had donated last year and I had grabbed up and simply filed away for use later.  Well, NOW is later!!  I was so excited and rather ashamed of my "poor me" attitude when I found them, and Amanda, Katie, Ashley, and I spent some time sticking them to the walls and door.  I must say, they look pretty nice!  I had to stop and thank God on purpose for providing those decorations just when I needed them........and of course apologize for my bad attitude and lack of faith that He would provide what I needed when I needed it.  I know Philippians 4:19 is in the Book, but I forget to abide by it sometimes!

Bro. Minge, our principal, and I hammered out Dale's schedule yesterday.  Praise the Lord!  Dale is going to have the chance to catch up this year with his studies so that he doesn't lose any more ground academically.  He is taking 8th grade math and English, but all other classes are 9th grade level.  We hope Dale can work steadily enough at his English PACES to be able to complete the 8th grade course and continue straight into the 9th grade course.  He will also be taking Earth Science in PACES, which is a 9th grade level course and counts as a full credit toward his diploma.  We've cut out most electives, keeping Dale in 9th grade history (Pacific Northwest History/Geography) and Bible.  He will have four study hall periods each day; this should allow him ample time to get his PACE work done as well as any homework and perhaps enable him to work ahead some in his PACES, thus finishing the 8th grade English course and working on into the 9th grade course.  I've already sat down with Dale and talked with him about taking responsibility for himself and his grades, telling him that I intend to ride herd on him and make sure he's getting his work done.  I also intend to ask Katie if she will keep an eye on him during study halls they may have together, but it is ultimately up to Dale to work hard and study hard.  We can set up a good schedule and keep pushing him to stay on task, but Dale has to be the one to want to do it.

Emily is entering 2nd grade; Ashley is going into 7th grade; and Katie will be a junior this year.  This is her last big year for academics, and she has at least one hard class (geometry).  But she also gets to be my TA (teacher's assistant) for an hour after lunch, and she doesn't intend to join the volleyball team this year so she doesn't have to worry about her grades making her ineligible to play.  Next year, as a senior, her class load will be much lighter and she'll be available to TA more.  She's scared about some of her classes but looking forward to the year still.  And then there's Amanda........our soon-to-be-gone-to-college student.  She is so excited about college and scared nearly stiff at the same time.  She has almost all of the stuff she needs, just a few odds and ends left to get.  Now comes the chore of packing it all up to transport down there!  She's attending Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara, CA.  We've known several people who attended there, including church kids and staff.  I know she'll have a good time, get a solid education, receive further instruction in how to live her life for God's purpose, and maybe meet someone special!  She's poised on the brink of the rest of her life, and I can't wait to see what God has in store for her.  She's such a wonderful, caring, sweet, beautiful person, and I'm so proud to call her my daughter.  I'm going to miss her so much I can't think about it without crying, but I wouldn't hold her back from this for anything.  She's going to be someone greatly used of God, I know.

I don't know where you are in life, whether you are young and just starting out like Mandie or a young married person with a child or two or middle-aged (like I guess I have to call myself!) or nearing the end of God's path for your life; regardless, I want to challenge you to ask God to show you His will........and then do it.  Ask God for some great thing, some impossible thing........and then believe He will bring it to pass.  Talk to Him and wait for His answer.  It will come; we just have to slow down enough to hear it.  We get so busy racing around that we can't hear that still, small voice.  I think we kind of want God to do some huge, unexplained thing to get our attention so that we have a big story to tell about how God Himself talked to us.  We want to see His hand appear and begin writing on our dining room wall exactly what He wants us to do so that we can have visible proof that He has spoken to us.  Just talk to Him, and He'll answer.  Give Him a chance to get through to you; pay attention when the Spirit touches your heart; read His Word.  You'll be amazed to realize that the God of Heaven doesn't just love the world..........He loves you.

Jeremiah 33: 3  "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."

Monday, August 5, 2013

A life worth living..........

People who aren't saved sometimes look at us and wonder,"Why in the world would anyone choose to be a Christian?"  Have you ever had a family member or friend ask you that?  "What's so great about church? I mean, isn't Jesus dead?"  Even saved people who aren't fully surrendered to living for God don't really know why we are so involved in our church and God's service.  They think we're part of some cult, that we're brainwashed into thinking we're happy while some revered official bilks us of all our worldly possessions.

Our pastor just preached about this last night in church.  His sermon title was "What Sports Fans Can Teach Us."  He reminded us that the word "fan" is a shortened form of "fanatic" and that some sports fans are, indeed, fanatic about their team.  They stand by them when the team is losing, cheer for them when they are struggling, spend hundreds of dollars in merchandise or tickets, and have no problem speaking up for their team in the company of strangers.  Our pastor challenged us to be just as fanatical about serving Christ.  We should not be fair-weather Christians, attending church when we feel like it, putting money in the offering plate only if it doesn't interfere with our purchase of something else we want, and shying away from "too much" involvement in our church's ministries as if we'll be sucked in against our will.  We should be more than willing to meet together in God's house as many times as our church holds services because that's our time to hear God's Word preached, be convicted of sins we need to let go of, be stirred to draw closer to our wonderful Lord, and fellowship with other Christians---some more mature, some less mature---in order to encourage each other in our pursuit of His holiness.  We should be grateful enough to God for His blessings in our lives that giving Him ten percent or more or our income should be a joy, not a drudge.  We should willingly volunteer for different ministries, knowing that Jesus, when He left this earth, commissioned His disciples and all those who follow Him to so do.  No, the Bible doesn't specificially mention working in the nursery or driving a Sunday school bus or helping out in the baptistry as part of the Great Commission, but surely we can see that any service that aids our church in getting folks saved, teaching us how God says we should live, and encouraging us all to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" is a worthwhile occupation.  We shouldn't find it difficult or embarrassing to speak up for Christ in everyday conversation.  We should be ready and waiting for any opportunity to share our testimony of what Jesus has done in our lives or a few words pointing someone to Calvary.

But the real reason why we should be so fanatical about our God is simply because of Who He is and what He has done for us.  I don't mean daily blessings or answers to prayer; I mean the fact that Jesus came to this earth for no reason other than to die for my sins, for your sins, for the sins of all mankind whether they accept His payment for their sins or not.  The God Who created the entire universe just by speaking sent His holy and beloved Son to earth to suffer and die a most excruciating death because He desires a restored fellowship with us and we had no way of restoring that fellowship ourselves.  God wants to talk with us; He wants to walk with us; He wants to hear us ask Him for what we need and tell Him about our day.  God expects the world---unsaved people---to ignore Him, but the sad truth is, most of us saved people turn our backs on Him and live as if we are the most important being in our lives.  We go through the motions of being a good Christian at church on Sunday, but we barely give God the time of day the rest of the week.  We make our own decisions without asking His counsel; we choose our mates without seeking His approval; we rear our children without following His guidelines.  We follow career paths, invest in retirement plans, spend our leisure time, and draw up our wills all without considering God's will and God's desires.  Oh, we give Him a nod every Sunday morning; we may even sing in the choir.  But do we involve God in our very lives?  Better we allow God to involve us in His plans?  We shouldn't give God a portion of our time---we should surrender to Him our whole life to do with as He wills.  And why?  Because He loves us and has given everything for us.

Have you heard the song "But Still He Loved Me"?  The first verse describes my actions as I help to crucify Jesus.  Literally, as if I were there in Jerusalem that day, nailing His hands to the cross and following His progress as He staggered His way through the streets and up Mount Calvary, standing and watching His lifeblood drain away.  Then the chorus:  "But still He loved me, in death forgave me.  By grace He saved me from all my sins.  He now lives in my heart from where He'll ne'er depart, that Christ Who died for me on Calvary."  Jesus gave His very life for me so that I might not just go to Heaven when I die, but live right now for Him.  I have the opportunity to hold daily fellowship with God Almighty because He has given me this wondrous gift of life.  Why wouldn't I serve Him?  Why wouldn't any of us?  It's not so much to ask to read my Bible each day, to pray and talk to God about everything, to meet Him in His house regularly, to tell others about Him whenever we can.

People may look at our family with pity and some confusion since Dale's accident.  It would be so easy to rage at God and ask Him how He could let our son drown (on a church-sponsored trip, no less!).  We could be angry with God and question why He hasn't healed Dale fully from his accident.  Don't we have enough faith?  We could blame the youth leader and the chaperones for not watching the teens well enough to prevent the tragedy from ever happening.  We could turn our backs on our church family, on God, on everything we've ever known because of what our family has endured over the last two years and what Dale will probably have to struggle with for the rest of his life.  This is exactly what many families who have faced similar tragedies have done; this is what the world expects us to do.  But, trusting God means trusting God.  It's easy to trust Him when the sun shines brightly and life's road is smooth.  But when the dark clouds of sorrow or tragedy cover the sun and we can't see clearly, it's harder to trust God.  That is the real meaning of trust---continuing to follow God when we can't see the way, when we can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, when all there is around us is tunnel.  Trusting God is the only way to get through this life with our sanity intact.  You see, it's as simple as this:  as much as I may desire it, I don't have to see the reason behind God's workings.  I don't have to see the end result; I just have to see the Saviour.  If I keep my eyes on Him, I can keep walking through the storm and the darkness and the fear and the struggles.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Thank you again to all of you who have been with us on this journey.  Your prayers, your tears, and your encouragement have been so wonderfully helpful to our whole family.  It's been an incredible two years, hasn't it?  May the next two years see our faith and trust in God continue to increase as we let Him have His way in our lives.  God bless you as you serve Him.

I Kings 18: 36 - 39  "And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word.  Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the LORD God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.  Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces:  and they said, The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Almost two full years of miracles

Please forgive me for taking so long to update this blog!  I can't plead a busy work schedule since school's out for the summer, but I still cling to the "I'm a mother of five" excuse for not being more diligent about updating everyone who still follows Dale's progress. Not that that really holds water either since my youngest is seven and all my children are old enough to fend for themselves---to a certain extent!  Emily (seven year old) is still too short to reach the upper cabinets in the kitchen or hold the tea jug steady to pour herself a drink, but the rest of them have no excuse!  Even Dale, bless his heart, is able to get himself a drink or snack whenever he wants to........and he's had to remind me often that he can do it just fine.  I tend to think that, because he needs supervision walking up or down stairs and still needs a hand when walking in a crowded or unfamiliar place, he can't do anything for himself.  Then I start smothering him instead of mothering him!

As for Dale's progress, he's doing okay.  I don't grade him as great because he still has a ways to go, but he's definitely better than right after his accident.  Summertime is always hard for him because it's just too easy to sit on the couch and vegetate!  During the school year he has to be up and moving at regular intervals, but  on summer break he feels it's his constitutional right to play video games all day.  Chad has instituted a mandatory reading time each day to keep his mind active, and we are trying to get Dale exercising each day (simple sit-ups, stretches, and balance work) to keep his brain from forgetting how to move his body.  A year ago, when we stopped physical therapy (insurance difficulties), Dale was walking pretty well and only had real struggles with falling.  Once he loses his balance, there's no stopping till he hits the ground!  Somehow, his brain has no ability to think fast enough to put his arms out to catch himself.  Now, though, Dale thinks too much about falling and so precipitates the accidents instead of avoiding them.  He literally puts his body in a position to fall instead of straightening up and walking correctly.  He has also formed the habit of moseying along like a cowboy---hips forward, long lunges, with the addition of hunched shoulders and stationary arms.  When he is reminded, he will pull his shoulders back, pull his hips back, and swing his arms, giving him a much more natural gait.  Lots of progress still to be made!

Dale's speech is still slowed, causing no end of frustration on the part of his listeners whenever he wants to say something.  He talks as if he's just learned the English language and must phrase each sentence absolutely perfectly or he will be reprimanded.  This causes him to start and re-start and re-start a sentence until he gets all the words in place that he desires before finishing the thought that he began a couple of minutes ago!  It's kind of like having to wait patiently while a stutterer speaks; you don't want to be rude and hurry them along or finish their sentence for them, but you don't want to be stuck there all day waiting for them to speak their mind.  (Any stutterers:  I am not talking about you personally, and I am deeply sorry if I have offended you.)  However, Dale is able to speak well; he can read well; he understands just fine.  It's so easy, isn't it, when you see someone obviously handicapped like Dale, to assume that they can't understand normal speech, right?  Folks who don't know Dale very well still talk to him like he's four years old.  "Well, Dale, how are you today?" and then look at me and say, "He's doing really well, isn't he?"  Dale doesn't help matters either by taking at least five seconds to respond to their simple question.  If you're around Dale for any length of time, you soon realize that he isn't retarded, just weird!!!

One major improvement that I'm not sure I've mentioned is that Dale is able to release things from his hands much easier than during his stay at the hospital.  He used to have such trouble throwing a ball or rolling dice; his brain wouldn't let his fingers let go of the object.  We were playing a board game recently, and Dale was rolling the dice and moving his piece quite easily.  When he throws something, his aim might be off but his release is wonderful to see.  (I'm not sure how this ability will help him in life unless he becomes a professional baseball player---doubtful---or a professional gambler---over my dead body!)

We're approaching the two-year anniversary of God's wonderful miracle in our boy and the aftermath of God's people praying.  If you could have told me two years ago that God was going to use an terrifying accident to lead people across the world to unite in prayer, I would have been rather puzzled.  After all, things like that just don't happen nowadays.  If you had told me that God would perform such a drastic change in our family, I would have begged it not to be.  I'd always prayed for God to use our family, but I never imagined it would be this way.  If you had told me then that two years later, people would still be reading this blog and following God's miracle in Dale, I would have been disbelieving.  Isn't it a good thing God doesn't act on our unbelief but rather on the infinitesimal belief we do have?  Isn't it wonderful that our God's size is not based on our thinking but on His ability?  Thank You, Lord, for Your blessings on us, our family, our son, our daughters, our friends, our church, our prayer partners whom we've never met.  Our God still lives and works today.  If you have any doubts about that, just page back a year or two and read all about it!  God bless you.

Romans 8: 28  "And we know that all things work together for  good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."

Friday, July 12, 2013

Visiting Grandparents!

Our family is all excited and going crazy because we have my folks visiting from Ohio for just over a week.  Amanda and I picked them up from Sea-Tac Airport Monday evening and don't have to take them back until next Tuesday morning.  Fun-filled days have followed since; we have been to an antique store, Mt. Rainier, the outlet stores in Centralia, church (!), and are now planning a thrift store trip.  Ashley and Emily have enjoyed walking down to our neighborhood playground with Grandpa, and I have loved having my mom here.  I have no idea what is planned for Saturday, but there is already a Dragon Buffet lunch scheduled after church Sunday.  *sigh*  I love having my parents come visit!

I am notorious for getting lost super easily.  I have no sense of direction and must have detailed instructions in order to arrive anywhere without a complete breakdown.  Needless to say, MapQuest has become my closest companion on trips!  I made sure to look up directions to the airport and write them down carefully before Mandie and I left so I wouldn't get lost getting there or back.  Mandie brought along her laptop in case the airport cell phone parking lot had wifi, and we planned to stop at a McDonald's to get something to drink on the way.  In an effort to save gas, we didn't turn on the air conditioner, opting instead to roll down the windows and enjoy the breeze.  Not ten minutes down the road, Amanda leaned down the grab a new CD and momentarily took her hand off the directions lying on her lap.  You can guess what happened next!  Mandie yelped, snatched at the air helplessly, and then sat back, chagrined.  It all happened so fast that I didn't catch on for a few seconds.  By the time my brain figured out what just occurred, the directions were just a speck of paper tumbling in my rear view mirror.  Thankfully, McDonald's has wifi, so Mandie used her laptop to pull up the directions again so we could get to the airport on time!

Dale has been taking things in stride (pun intended) with our activities.  He's not been sticking to a strict sleep schedule which affects his stamina and balance.  Plus, he's not familiar with these places we've been going so he's hesitant to sally forth and conquer.  I mean, at home he walks pretty well; at church and school, he's getting better.  Even in Wal-Mart, Dale will eventually relax and walk somewhat normally.  But take him to a new place and he automatically thinks there will be problems---which make him slow down, over think his actions, and shake a great deal more.  Still, he's enjoyed each place we've been, doing what he can and not fretting over what he can't.........which is more than I can say about myself!  We continue to pray for God's full healing and for Dale to listen when we give helpful hints.

I'll close now; we've got a lot to do!  Enjoy your weekend!

Psalm 23: 4  "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

God just keeps blessing us!

It would be so easy to look at our lives and constantly complain---and sometimes I do!  Life is not perfect nor are we, and, as a result, things happen that we wish would have happened to someone our worst enemy.  Not that we have any of those, mind you!  But, you know what I mean.  Every day brings disappointments, arguments, selfishness, tears, whining, griping, and pain.  However, it doesn't do anyone any good to dwell on those things.  Steeping in misery never improves anyone's outlook. So, let's look at the positive instead---and it's amazing how much good stuff there is to thank God for!

1.)  Chad has been getting good hours at work which naturally brings in more money.  This is obviously helpful in a family of seven with one child preparing to go off to college and the rest of the kids trying their best to grow out of every stitch of clothing they own.  Thank You, Lord!

2.)  The gym membership that Chad signed us up for is paying off. Chad goes nearly every day, and the results are obvious.  Katie and I go twice a week and have noticed a difference in our shapes and fitness levels, so we are getting ready to step up to going three times a week.  Thank You, Lord!

3.)  Dale and I have recently joined the bus route that Amanda, Katie, and Ashley already work on.  The single ladies that used to drive them around visiting on Saturdays recently moved to Texas, leaving them without transportation.  This was the first real chance to rejoin a ministry for both Dale and I since Dale's accident.  He hasn't been able to go out on a bus route or teen soul winning because of his physical difficulties, and I had to stop going out with Children's Challenge to stay home with him.  So, this opportunity is (pardon the pun) heaven-sent!  Right now, I'm learning the route (since I'm the driver AND since Amanda is leaving soon for college), so Dale and I just stay in the car while the girls do the actual visiting.  But soon I'll make sure Dale and I get in some visiting and soul winning time as well.  Thank You, Lord!

4.)  I got to talk to a young lady last night after church for a while. She was visiting for the first time, and someone had asked her if she knew for sure she were on her way to Heaven.  They then collared me and asked if I would talk with her about salvation.  As I said in the previous point, I haven't been able to go out soul winning for some time; I felt a little rusty which only made me pray the more desperately for the Holy Spirit's guidance.  It's a wonderful thing to know that not one word coming out of your mouth is yours; it's all God's!  She and I talked for some time, and it was apparent to me that she really just needed a shoulder to cry on.  Life has not been easy for her; she needs God but is afraid to let Him in.  I was able to at least give her a tract and tell her that the verses printed thereon are straight from the Bible about Heaven and leave her with the impression that I am someone who will listen when she talks, not just shove verses down her throat and demand she repeat some words.  I know not all soul winners are like that, but I'm sure there are some who think I should have made her stop talking so that I could take her through the Romans Road and make her pray with me.  Like I said, I was asking the Holy Spirit the whole time to guide my tongue, and I truly feel that the seeds of love and truth were planted last night.  Someone else may water them or reap the harvest, but I got to be a part.  Thank You, Lord!

5.)  I saved the best for last.  As you know, Amanda, our oldest, has graduated from high school and is preparing to attend Golden State Baptist College this fall.  She has been working hard and saving money to have, hopefully, her first month's tuition and room/board by the time college starts.  She will be getting a job once she gets there to earn the money to continue to pay her way through college.  Last night, our youth pastor, Bro. Jon, called Mandie into his office and handed her a certificate from Golden State with her name on it.  (I think he was given this certificate at the recent Youth Conference and instructed to award it to someone whom he felt could use it.)  Bro. Jon said he'd been looking for someone who had attended Youth Conference with the teens and was planning to attend Golden State in the fall.  He said, "I'm not sure if you'll want this or not........" and let the statement trail off questioningly.  At this point, Amanda could only see the back of the certificate, which is blank.  When he turned it around, she nearly gasped.  The certificate awards the recipient $1,000.00 towards their first semester's tuition at Golden State Baptist College!!!  Can you believe it?!  Mandie said breathlessly, "Yes, I'll want that!" and then began crying.  Praise the Lord!  What an answer to prayer this is!  She now can breathe a good bit easier as she feverishly readies herself for college.  THANK YOU, LORD!

Our God just never stops blessing us.  And our family is just like any other........we have good days and bad days; we get mad at each other and kiss and make up; we set good examples and bad examples; we love God and forget to pray.  Why God chooses to bless us so abundantly is beyond me.  I mean that---why would God pour out His blessings so richly on sinners like us?  The only answer I can come up with is.......because He is wonderful.  He doesn't bless us because we are something special; He blesses us because He is.  Thank You, Lord, for Your blessings on us!

Have a great Independence Day, everyone!  Thank God for our country and those who fight to keep it free.  Eat lots of watermelon and hot dogs and potato salad.  Be careful with fireworks though; don't become a statistic.  God bless y'all!

Philippians 4: 19  "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's summertime!

The calendar has officially passed the summer solstice, and we are enjoying a rare glimpse of early summer for eastern Washington.  Normally, this time of year is like every other time of year---rain, rain, rain.  A few years back, a friend of mine planned an outdoor birthday party for her son and husband whose birthdays fall only days apart in July.  The sky poured buckets and we had to move the party indoors!  This year, however, we've been treated to sunshine with regularity interspersed with bouts of rain.  Many folks are spending extra time out-of-doors, working in their yards or gardens or playing with the kids.  I'm sure some people are wandering around dazedly wondering if all the dire global warming predictions have finally come to pass!  Our family chooses to take each day as it comes and enjoy whatever the weather is for that day.

Our oldest three girls are gone this week to Youth Conference in Santa Clara, CA.  Amanda, Katie, Ashley, and a whole lot of other teens boarded the bus after church Sunday night, happy and chattering and (for the new teens like Ashley) nervous.  This is Ashley's first big trip away from home; while excitement hummed through every vein, there was also a great deal of fear and uncertainty.  After all, she would be gone for nearly a week; she would be in a hotel room with three or four other girls whom she was sure would be mean to her (!); she had to budget her food money to make it last the whole time; and she had two older sisters breathing down her neck.  So far, none of her fears have come to fruition.  Katie has been nice enough to let Ashley borrow her phone to call home, and Ash's reports have been cheerful and excited.  The conference, according to all three girls, is going well; they got to visit a water park on Tuesday morning (part of the schedule); I'm sure each service is filled with lots of singing, preaching, skits, and good Godly counsel; and they still have two days to look forward to.  Today (Thursday) is the last day of the conference, I believe.  On Friday, our teens will take a tour of San Francisco before loading the bus for the 16-hour trip home.  Each year that our kids go, they come back fired up to serve God and keep their lives on track for Him.  It's definitely worth the time spent raising money, sorting clothes, packing and repacking, missing our children, and welcoming them back home, exhausted, hoarse, and probably sunburnt.........all so they draw closer to God. Yep, definitely worth it!

In our case, our girls also learn a valuable lesson in trusting God through this Youth Conference.  Amanda and Katie both approached me last week before they left, expressing their fear and concern for Ashley's safety on the trip.  As older sisters, they already feel responsible for her behavior and conduct.  Since Dale's accident, they also feel responsible for her very life.  Each of them actually asked me not to let her go because, to their thinking, if she never leaves home then she can never get hurt.  Understandable, yes?  We talked and cried together, reminding each other that God is in control at all times.  Dale's accident, while not desired or planned for, was completely under His supervision.  If anything should happen to Ashley (not so far!), then we deal with it as with every other part of life---trusting God to know what is best always, asking for His guidance, and always looking forward to Heaven where all earth's troubles will be forgotten.  I confess:  I did go to Mrs. Rau (lady counsellor) and Bro. Jon Minge (youth leader) both, letting them know my concerns and asking them to keep a special eye on Ashley so that Mandie and Katie would be able to enjoy themselves more.  But, just allowing Ashley or any of our children to leave home is an act of faith on our part.  Chad and I have had to face the very real fact that, though we are as careful as can be, we cannot shelter our children from everything in life.  Unless we decide to lock the front door and never leave our house again, our family will probably encounter other hardships and possibly dangers.  We trust God to keep us in His hand and, if He chooses to allow bad things to happen, we still trust Him.  The Lord giveth and He taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  Amen.

Meanwhile, back in the Hall of Ostrander, those of us left behind have been experiencing life with less chaos.  Fewer children = fewer messes, less laundry, fewer complaints, and less stress!  Chad and I took the remaining kids (Emily and Dale) camping on Tuesday which happened to be Emily's 7th birthday.  She considered this to be a good tradeoff for having the girls gone on her birthday.  We went to Ocean Shores for the night, intending it to be two nights but Chad's boss called and needed him to do a short run Thursday morning which meant we had to return Wednesday afternoon.  Chad and Emily wandered down the path to the beach a couple of times, and Emily had great fun dancing around on the wet sand with "no shoes, Mom!"  Dale and I tried walking the narrow path to the beach; he was doing okay for a short while, but the many distractions and difficulties proved to be too much for his brain to process and he had a seizure right there in the sand.  It was strange; he picked up his leg to take a step and his knee sort of locked.  I said, "Dale, just put your foot down," and he said, "Mom, I can't!" and then the seizure hit.  Of course, there was no one around---Chad and Emily were far ahead---so I held him until the seizure released and then comforted him as he regained feeling and movement.  This was no longer than any other (in fact, it may have been somewhat shorter) and Dale seemed to recover from it a bit faster than usual.  He voted to keep trying to make the beach, but I told him Dad would kill me if he had two seizures in a row (!), so we turned around and headed back to the camp.  When we were almost there, Chad and Emily overtook us, and we were able to explain what had happened.  Dale was fine the rest of the night, although a bit tired, of course.  We all voted for an early bedtime so as to better enjoy the next day.  On Wednesday morning, we walked around the shops and looked at silly souvenir things.  Our favorite was a shirt that pictured a shark with wide-open jaws and a caption that read "Send more tourists; the last ones were delicious!"  :-0  We drove down to the beach to let Dad and Emily walk around once more, and Emily picked up three sand dollars, much to her delight.  This led to all sorts of jokes about what kind of money do fish use.  I think we all had a great time but were glad to head home.

To any who are concerned about Dale's reaction to seeing the ocean for the first time since his accident, let me set your minds at ease.  He was absolutely fine.  He has no recollection of drowning that he knows of and no underlying fear of the water.  As we sat in the truck on the beach before we left, I asked Dale if he remembered going on that youth activity (where he drowned).  He said he remembers going on the activity but nothing else.  He was not scared of the ocean or the sounds of the waves or anything.  And, obviously, we would not have taken him if he was.  I try not to pry too deeply into his memories of that day, but once in a while I'll ask him about it.  Sometimes he thinks he remembers being in the water but not being in peril.  For the most part, my older girls carry the fear of the water.  Amanda handles it pretty well, even being willing to go on the beach if it's not the same one where Dale drowned.  None of us have been back to that particular area since his accident.  Katie, however, won't set foot on a beach and is not interested in overcoming her fear.  Last week, her Bible class had an activity to a beach in West Seattle; she refused to go, saying she didn't want to go near any water like that.  I see no reason to push her beyond that boundary, realizing that I truly have no idea what that horrible day was like for them when their brother died.  Katie does not have a fear of all water, however; she went in the pool at the water park (Youth Conference) and had a great time.  Our family chooses to overlook the obvious desire to stay away from all water at all costs or protect our children to the point that they feel smothered.  In fact, we tend to joke about Dale's accident and subsequent challenges as our way of letting stress bleed off.  And it's not just the girls and I---last week, when Chad was planning this camping trip to the ocean, he said, "We thought we'd let Dale see what the ocean looks like from the outside!"

So you see, as in all things, our God is good to us.  He gave us back our son; He gave us life eternal by sacrificing His Son; He gives us life each day; He gives us strength to handle each situation; He loves us.  And that's what it's all about:  He loves us.  If we had nothing else in this life to cling to, we would have this knowledge and be content:  God loves us.  What a wonderful Lord!

I John 4: 18-19  "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:  because fear hath torment.  He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  We love Him, because He first loved us."

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Let go, and let God!"

Have you ever heard this phrase before?  "Let go, and let God."  It means to let go of our lives, our desires, our ambitions, our plans, and let God have His way in us.  My preacher spoke along these lines in last night's sermon.  He was preaching from the passage of Scripture where the angel announces to Mary that she has been chosen to give birth to the Saviour of the world.  Odd verses to use on Fathers' Day, right?  But, Pastor Minge drew our attention to the verse which states, "For with God nothing shall be impossible."  He emphasized the fact that the verse says "with God", not "to God."  The Bible isn't saying that God finds nothing impossible; it's saying that we will find nothing impossible if we work with God.  And, usually, that means readjusting our sights to focus on what God deems important, rather than our own petty, personal goals.  Pastor Minge challenged us to imagine what we could accomplish for Christ if we let go the tight grasp we have on our lives and let God use us as He desires.

There is another verse in the Bible that compares our lives to a vapor that is here for a short while and then vanishes away, a puff of smoke that lingers for a few seconds and then is gone.  We humans, because we are human, tend to live as if this is the only life we'll get.  In a way, that's true; we should live each day, each moment, as if it were our last because it very well could be.  But, as children of God, we are promised eternal life---a new life that lasts forever in Heaven with God Himself.  We should be so willing to let God have control of us here on earth, to let Him direct us in the paths that He chooses, to carry out His will and His mission.........knowing that a life everlasting awaits us once our time here on earth is spent.  And yet we clutch our dreams and desires to ourselves and refuse to give God full control.  We give God part of our heart, part of our week, part of our attention while chasing rainbows and following our dreams.  Oh, I  believe God wants us to work hard at whatever job we have; I believe He wants us to be diligent and hard-working and good stewards of our employer's time and money.  But we should not have making money or climbing the ladder of success as our goal.  We should not sacrifice time spent serving God for time spent serving self.  We should not take time away from gathering at the church house and hearing His Word preached in order to spend time at the lake or work a double shift because that will impress the boss.  We should not forego soul-winning time just to go fishing or catch the early opening of a new store.  God expects to make out our schedule, not take whatever time we have left each week.

This goes for our daily activities as well.  Sermons on giving God your all tend to address only the "big" things:  church, soul winning, tithing.  But God wants each minute of each day.  He wants us to want to get up early in order to spend time with Him in the morning before we start our day.  He wants us to let Him control our tongues, not our own minds or---in a lot of cases---feelings.  He wants us to talk with Him throughout the day, making sure we stay aligned with His wishes and His will at all times, from the time we awaken to the time we fall asleep.  I believe it was Dr. John R. Rice who was approached by some young men once, telling him they had heard about his ability to pray and wanted to follow him around one day and witness this prayer in action.  Dr. Rice agreed and allowed them to shadow him throughout the day.  He chose a day that he was on the road, traveling somewhere to preach.  The young men were excited; they were getting the chance to see how Dr. Rice prayed!  They observed him as he got up and prepared for the day, shaving and dressing.  They watched him bow his head for a simple prayer before eating each meal.  They viewed him as he dealt with his appointments.  They waited rather impatiently for the time that he would push everything aside, drop to his knees, lift his hands toward Heaven, and address the Father.  As the sun crossed the sky, the young men began to fidget and ask themselves, "When is Dr. Rice, this great man of prayer, going to actually pray?"  The day began to wane and these young men began to feel ill-used.  They had expected some dramatic, life-changing ritual of prayer that they could copy.  They felt that they had wasted their time pursuing an overblown idea.  Finally, as it was apparent that Dr. Rice was preparing for bed, the young men thought, "Here it is.  Before he goes to bed, he will pray.  Now we get to see it."  But Dr. Rice merely reached out to turn off the bedside lamp.  The young men could keep their disillusioned thoughts to themselves no longer.  They burst out, "Dr. Rice, what are you doing?  We wanted to see you pray, but you haven't stopped to pray once all day!  Now you're just going to go to bed?"  Dr. Rice, that great man of God now in Heaven, looked at the young men in some astonishment.  He replied, "I have done nothing but pray all day long.  I prayed as I brushed my teeth this morning; I prayed as I studied my Bible; I prayed as I counseled people; I prayed as I was driven to the church; I prayed as I preached; I prayed as I was eating my meals.  I PRAYED ALL DAY LONG!"  Dr. Rice was trying to teach these young men that it's not important just to have a prayer time.........we all need a prayer life.  We need to give God every minute of every day, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.  God help us to give Him everything, holding nothing back.  Only then will we find perfect peace and know true joy.

On a more personal note, we're fine.  :-0

Seriously, we're having a good summer.  The girls (except Emily) are getting excited about Youth Conference next week.  They leave after church Sunday night and will return some time Saturday---early, early Saturday.  They will come back sun-soaked, possibly water-soaked, and hopefully Bible-soaked!  This week will be spent packing, unpacking, repacking, and then cramming things in at the last minute.  (Am I right or what?)  Emily's 7th birthday falls next Tuesday, and the girls won't be here to celebrate, so we are having cake and ice cream on Saturday instead.  That is also the day of our annual community yard sales; it's always fun to spend some time walking around in the afternoon and looking at stuff.  It's even more fun to buy stuff, but we'll have to wait and see about that.  So, as you can see, our week is full!  Packing to get rid of three children and yard-saleing on the weekend........what more could you ask for?  ;-)

At the end of the school year, Dale took an English diagnostic test to determine whether he should be in 8th or 9th grade English next year.  I haven't fully graded the test yet, but it seems as if he'll need 8th grade English PACES to reinforce this last year's teaching.  I thought the next book order day was in July, so I waited to talk to our school secretary until last night at church.  Turns out, there was a book order day in June, and she just sent the order in on Thursday! So, Dale will have to wait to start those PACES---oh, well.  No complaints from him, to be sure!  We're looking forward to next year already but not focusing on it too much in order to allow the kids to enjoy their summer break.  Plus, we're really working on getting Amanda ready for college, and that's taking up a lot of our money, time, and daily stress levels.  (LOL)

We have so much to be thankful for at our house.  And we waste so much time complaining about little things.  Silly, isn't it?  Thank You, Lord, for all the wonderful things You do and provide for our family.  We are blessed to be in Your family and privileged to call You Father.

II Corinthians 2: 14  "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

She did it!

After years of hard work, fun activities, and quite a few tears, Amanda has finally graduated high school!  Yes, our oldest marched across the platform Monday evening to accept her diploma stating that she did indeed successfully complete the required course of study and is now officially a high school graduate.  Chad and I and the family sat in the section reserved for graduates' families and shed a few tears/cheered along with them over our children's success.  This was definitely a night of mixed emotions:  excitement flowed from the graduates in an almost tangible river; parents were proud and relieved---for some this was their first child to graduate while for others this was their last; the audience was pleased and proud of those graduating for their hard work and perseverance against difficulties; the used-to-be-11th graders-now-turned-official-seniors were strutting around, already plotting their reign of terror next school year (just kidding---they're good kids); and the younger kids were just wanting to get over to the gym where there was a feast spread!

The ceremony began at 7:00 p.m. and lasted about 45 minutes to 1 hour, followed by the reception which lasted until almost 10:00 p.m.  You know how Baptists like their food and fellowship!!  Each graduate had a special table set up that their family had decorated with special mementos and pictures to honor them; we had spent time earlier in the day getting it all set up.  My husband had made a small canopy to cover the table and arranged rather pretty valances over it.  We brought in small balloons and pictures and stuff while Mandie put together a slideshow of pictures on her laptop which played during the reception.  Each graduate stood by his/her table which allowed everyone to move around the room, congratulating each one and admiring their table.  There was also a small basket on each table for cards and gifts; Mandie didn't open her cards until the next day, but, when she did, she discovered she had received a couple hundred dollars in various cards!  Praise the Lord!!  This she plans to use to open a bank account to draw funds from for college.  She is planning to go to Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara, CA, and will probably major in Elementary Education.  She and Dad are already planning their trip down to drop her off at college and get her started on the rest of her life!

The rest of us have been enjoying our first week of summer vacation.  In fact, we've been enjoying it so much that Chad has already begun to scold us for sleeping in and not getting any housework done.  (And, I must admit, the scolding is most definitely deserved!)  However, we will not spend the entire summer break in bed; I will make up short lists of necessary household chores for us to work on, and we'll check them off as we go.  At least, that's the remains to be seen how much we actually accomplish!

We have each been to see the doctor, not because we were ill but to establish care at a new clinic.  The care provider we have chosen is actually an ARNP---Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner who works at the clinic with a doctor, and she is very nice.  We are all well pleased to be under her care (should we need it) and have already benefited from her advice.  She confirmed our belief that Katie suffers from tree/pollen allergies and then diagnosed Emily and possibly Ashley with that same allergy.  For now, we are dosing Katie with generic-label Zyrtec and Emily with generic-label Claritin; Katie seems to be responding to the medication---WHEN SHE ACTUALLY TAKES IT---sorry, family discussion spilling over, but we need to take a few more days before seeing if Emily will respond to her meds.  They inherited these allergies from dear old Dad who suffers the same problems each year.  I had kind of hoped his allergies would not be handed down, but there's not a whole lot to be done about that.  So far, Amanda seems somewhat allergy-free (she only has troubles if she rolls around in a field of dandelions) and Dale shows no symptoms whatsoever.  He's always been the healthy one in the family........go figure.  I don't think I have any allergies, just children!!

God is so good to us, and it's so obvious to anyone who cares to look.  Those who say that life is just full of coincidences or that God doesn't involve Himself in our daily lives are really just looking for an excuse to live their lives to please themselves.  God's hand is evident in the smallest the bouquet of flowers Amanda received from someone for graduation, beautiful orange flowers bursting out of a clear vase.  Orange is not my favorite color at all, but it is Amanda's.  The family who gave her the flowers didn't know that, but God did.  God loves us just as earthly fathers love their children and expresses that love to us just as earthly fathers do.  The only difference is God's love will never diminish or change.  Nothing we can do will cause God to stop loving us.  We may anger our earthly parents to the point that they say, "Enough!  You are no longer my child!  Don't ever speak to me again!"  But that will never happen with God.  No matter what we do, good or bad, God is always there.  If we obey His voice and follow His will, He blesses us with manifold blessings.  If we turn away from Him and do our own thing, God lovingly draws us back.  We may even get so bad that God feels like He must take us on Home early to stop our wrongdoing, but He never turns His back on us.  He is always there, whether we want Him there or not.  God loves us so much, doesn't He?

Romans 5: 8  "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

God is our loving Heavenly Father.

We are all sinners.  This is made clear in the Bible (Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23, and everywhere else!)) and even more clear in everyday life.  We know that, as Christians, we have but to confess our sin to God to be forgiven and washed clean again, but that sounds kind of trite sometimes.  "God, I sinned; please forgive me. Amen.  Great---all done!"  God showed me this week that I need to "keep a clean slate" with Him, even if it means going through the motions, feeling like I'm just saying words.  Yes, God wants us to be sincerely sorry for our sin and strive not to repeat it, but He still wants us to confess our sin to Him even if we're not through sinning.  Does this make sense?  I'm not saying we have a license to sin, but I do not believe that we must achieve a state of true and complete repentance before speaking to our Heavenly Father about our transgressions.

I was teaching the Bible lesson in my third grade class this week when something that I was saying to the students really hit home with me.  I felt the Holy Spirit guide my words so that the kids could learn from what was being taught but so that I, too, would get the message.  Amazing how that works, right?  God loves us so much that, even though He knows we are not fully repentant for what we've done wrong ("Lord, I know it was wrong, but, boy, was it fun!" kind of thinking), He still wants us to keep in the practice of confessing that sin to Him right away.  He wants us to keep the lines of communication open and establish the right habits of always talking to our Father about what goes on in our lives because the more we talk to Him, the more we are listening to His reply.  The Holy Spirit can convict a heart open to hearing Him much more easily than a heart closed off from listening.  You see? God wants us to practice right habits even when we're not practicing right actions.  Of course, having realized this, I was able to more sincerely pray and ask God's forgiveness for my sin without feeling so much as if I were a hypocrite or a liar.

Our Heavenly Father wants so much for us to stay in close fellowship with Him that He will listen even to a less-than-heartfelt confession, for then He can work even more in our hearts and bring us to a true confession.  Isn't He merciful?  How many of us have faced frustration when we feel our kids are saying "sorry" for something without really feeling sorrow?  God faces the same situation each day multiple times with His children and shows us by His example to keep working with our kids toward the ultimate goal of true repentance which results in a changed attitude and life.  Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy and love and for constantly drawing us to You for forgiveness, mercy, and life.

Amanda did all right this week, having missed her Senior Trip.  She got to go out to eat with different folks a couple of times and stay home from school a few days.  On Tuesday, Chad took Amanda and Katie to the Southcenter Mall to walk around and shop; the girls can't get enough of this mall---it's huge and cleverly designed so that there are literally shops around every corner.  They came home happy and exhausted!  Katie's birthday was Thursday; she turned sweet 16.  This is a special birthday for the girls in our house because they get to start using makeup!  So, Thursday night, Katie and I prowled through the makeup section at Wal-Mart and bought lots of products for her to experiment with.  When we got home, Amanda and Katie sequestered themselves upstairs so that Mandie could show Katie how to put on her makeup properly.  The finished result was absolutely beautiful!  All of us were exclaiming over Katie's face so much that I think she got the message that we liked her makeup a lot!  Then, Friday morning, Mandie chose to sleep in and not go to school, so Katie was on her own applying makeup for school wear.  She did great!  She got lots of compliments, enough to make her realize that she looks good with makeup, not like a clown as she feared.  One more step to growing up for her!

Dale has done well this week with school.  He's finishing up the year like everyone else and studying for his finals.  We've about decided to order PACES for him for some of his classes next year. It's worth trying out to see if he does better working at his own pace to learn than trying to keep up with a class and huge amounts of material.  Yesterday he was a bit sad because he thought he would have to go to summer school to make up for poor grades this year, but we think he'll be able to catch up pretty well.  When I told Dale this, he brightened considerably!

This is Ashley's last week as an elementary student.  As of 12:35 p.m. on Friday the 31st, she will officially be a seventh grader!  So many changes are in store for her this summer:  she will stop going to Children's Challenge and start working on a bus route; she will join the youth group; she will get to go to Youth Conference for the first time; she will be a worker at Vacation Bible School instead of a participant; and she will be going to junior high classes in the fall.  Wow!  The biggest sign that she's growing up?  Oma (Mrs. Helen Hernandez) bought Ashley a whole lot of little pots and seeds and soil to start a garden, and---get this---Dad said she could transplant them into the flower garden at the front of the house when they get big enough!!!  THIS is truly a BIG THING.  A year ago when Ashley asked if she could plant some seeds there, Dad gave a resounding "NO!"  But now, he willingly offered this area to her, showing her that he considers her able to handle such a job.  She is over the moon with excitement!  Please pray that her flowers and vegetables grow so that she is able to transplant them and see results of her labor.  This is a good hobby to have, one that will encourage hard work and also help provide food for the household (her thinking).  Ashley, Emily, and Dale sat out on the patio yesterday filling the little pots with special soil, adding water carefully, and pushing little seeds into the fresh dirt, then labeling the pots so they wouldn't forget what was in what!  We'll see what happens.

Amanda's graduation is in one week now!  So much to do this week to finish out the school year, order books for next year, and get ready for our oldest to graduate.  We thought this day would never come, and now here it is!  Praise the Lord for allowing her to grow up strong and healthy and bringing her along this way toward serving Him.  What a wonderful Heavenly Father we have.

Thank you to each of you who read this blog, rejoice along with us over our victories, and pray with us during our difficulties.  You are a special part of our family, and I can't wait to meet you all at some point---either here, there, or in the air, as they say!  God bless you!

Hebrews 12: 6, 7, 9  "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence:  shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?"