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?"

Sunday, May 19, 2013

If only life came with do-overs

How many times have you wished you could rewind the clock just a bit---a couple of minutes, a few days, even a month or two---and change the way you handled something?  Do you find yourself wishing you could travel via time machine back several years and warn your earlier self about __________ (fill in the blank)?  That's the situation our family finds ourselves in right now.

For several months now, Amanda and the rest of her senior class has been raising money for their Senior Trip.  For the first time ever, the seniors would be allowed to go on an Alaskan cruise for their final activity as high school students, and everyone was excited.  Chad and I were at first reluctant to even allow Amanda to plan to go because the price seemed astronomical (after ballooning a couple of times, it finally settled at just under $1,000), but there were lots of fund-raising events that would help with the cost, and Amanda was able to raise the money without pitching in any from her own pocket.  This was a sticking point because she needed to be saving what she could preparatory to entering college in the fall.  There were a few seniors who had opted out of the trip for differing reasons, but most were really excited about going.  The dates for the cruise were announced  to be May 18 - 25.

There were several hurdles to jump concerning proper documentation and paperwork involved in allowing our minor children to accompany Bro. Jon and Mrs. Whitney Minge on the cruise.  I take the blame for not getting the ball rolling earlier on this.  I "thought we had plenty of time" to get what we needed, which was a government-issued ID card (since Mandie does not have her driver's license yet) along with a handwritten letter from us, her parents, stating that we give permission, blah, blah, blah.  I thought we could just run down to the local Dept. of Licensing and get her ID card in a couple of hours, so I put it off until the week before the cruise.  When I checked the website to see what we needed to bring for proof of identity, I discovered that we could get a paper copy of her ID card but not the real card---that would arrive in 7 - 10 days.  At this point, the cruise was a little over a week away.  Bro. Jon, Chad, and I all made tons of phone calls, trying to discover if Mandie would be allowed on the cruise with just a temporary ID card.  Amongst the three of us, we probably made around twenty calls to various people, offices, and organizations.  (Bro. Jon was directed to call our DOL, Canadian Port Authority, and---get this---even Homeland Security!  All this for an 18-year-old to go on a Senior Trip!)  No one would give us a straight answer, but the general consensus was that a temporary ID should be sufficient to allow Amanda to board with the others.

Amanda asked her father to go with her to the DOL to get the ID card, since, as she said, "Dad is more authoritative than you, Mom."  True, true.  In other words, if there are any unforeseen snags, Dad's the man to go to!  So, last Wednesday afternoon, Chad and Amanda, armed with her birth certificate and Social Security card, went to the DOL to get her official ID card stating that she is who she has been for the last 18 and a half years!  And may I just stop here and say how ridiculous it is that someone who is born in these United States has to go through more steps to prove they are who they are than someone who has entered this country illegally.  There is something seriously wrong with our government that is supposedly designed to serve us, the people, when we have to provide three different forms of identification in order to obtain an identification card!  And that, only after having filled out the proper forms and waiting a couple of weeks.  (Picture me throwing up my hands in disgust.)

Anyway, about an hour and a half later, Chad and Mandie returned to the school, obviously upset.  Mandie's face said, "I'm trying not to cry, so don't ask me anything."  Chad just came out and said, "It's the wrong birth certificate."  How do you have the wrong birth certificate for one of your own children?  As it turns out, the birth document---with an official-looking seal and signatures and all---was just from the hospital, not from the state.  For 18 years, we have held onto a birth certificate that was really just a pretty piece of paper.  The lady at the DOL was very blunt when she stated, "This is just a souvenir from the hospital."  We tried contacting the Indiana office of certification to maybe overnight a copy of her birth certificate but were told that if would take up to seven weeks to receive it.  And we have no family in the area who could possibly walk in and receive a copy to overnight to us.  Soooooo, that was that.  End of the line.

People have been very sympathetic, but it boils down to this:  we put it off too late.  If we had only started this process a couple of months ago, we would have discovered the glitches in time to get her ID card and allow her to go on the cruise.  But, these are the hard lessons of life.  Amanda asked Bro. Jon if she could let someone else go in her place, and he was able to get the name changed on the reservation so that one of the other seniors could take the trip instead.  I hope they have a great time and come back with lots of pictures to share.  No matter how you spin it, this week is going to be hard on Amanda.  We're trying to come up with some fun activities to help with the left-behind feeling; we'll see how that goes.  Amanda definitely has displayed a forgiving spirit and is deliberately not blaming anyone, and for this I thank her and the Lord.

Enough tragedy..........on to comedy!  Friday night, the high school drama class put on their Spring Play, written by the students and performed with great flair.  It was a comedy, a farce about old Rome, except Caesar liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and his band of Roman soldiers was less than well-trained!  It truly was alot of fun to enact and watch.  Mandie played the part of the younger sister who got to watch her older sister being prepared for the role she would play as wife to some great man (which meant dieting ruthlessly, standing for hours for dress fittings, and watching her tongue) while the younger sister got to wear whatever she wanted, eat whatever she wanted, and say whatever she wanted.  The plot twisted to reveal the fact that the reigning Caesar had had his older brother and family killed so that he could ascend the throne.  However, the soldiers had recently captured some dissidents sailing in their waters, one of which turned out to be the daughter of the nurse of the older brother's wife and infant son.  The son was now grown into a young man and able to reclaim the throne in his father's name.  And all lived happily ever after........even the former Caesar who, though imprisoned and enslaved now, could eat as many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as he desired!  We had a lot of fun watching the play and laughing at the various silly scenes, and it seemed like the actors enjoyed playing their parts, too.  Bro. Minge, our principal who recently took over the play production, was rather relieved to have the performance finished at last; props preparation and rehearsals and such took up so much of his time lately.  We held a bake sale afterwards to help balance the costs of decorations and costumes, so everyone got to stand around and fellowship for a bit.

And now, we enter the final sprint!  There are only two weeks of school left in this year.  Parents are pushing their kids to do their best on their finals while at the same time trying to fill out book order forms for next year.  Students have been going crazy just thinking about the thrills of the upcoming summer break.  Teachers have been doing their best to keep hold of the reins of the class and conduct their students to a safe and successful finish.  When the final bell rings at 12:35 p.m. on Friday, May 31st, there will be great rejoicing from the student body and heartfelt sighs of relief from the teachers!

I need to go now; church is starting soon.  God bless each of you as you live for Him.

Philippians 4: 13  "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dale's latest adventures

Where to start?  So much has happened in this past week and a half that, if I were to recount every bit, this blog would be fourteen pages long!  However, I'll try to give you some idea of how our days have gone lately.

Last Tuesday (April 30th) was Ashley's 12th birthday.  We still had school, of course, but we allowed Ash to invite a couple of friends to come home with us afterwards for a small party.  Ashley had decided she wanted to go walk around the mall on her birthday; Chad very kindly offered to take them so that I could spend some down time recuperating from the school day while simultaneously cleaning up the house and baking Ashley's birthday cake.  Chad and the girls (Amanda included) were gone almost two hours and came home in great spirits.  The girls said they spent nearly an hour in Claire's, and, since Ashley had some birthday money with her, she got to purchase something for each family member (except Dad and Dale who don't want something from Claire's anyway!) plus lots of fun stuff for herself.  When they got back, we had Ashley open her gifts and ate cake and ice cream, then let the girls play around some before taking them home.  Ashley seemed to have a good birthday.

Dale, however, did not enjoy quite all of Ashley's birthday because.......he took quite a bad fall on the sidewalk after school.  He was heading for the van as usual---we try as much as possible to let him walk by himself whenever he feels like it to encourage him to feel more comfortable walking on his own---and had gotten about halfway down the sidewalk when he tripped up on something (maybe just an uneven spot on the cement), and down he went!  I was only about three paces beyond the door---too far to help---and Amanda was standing by the van and could only watch as he toppled over.  The bad news:  Dale's head bounced off the cement hard enough for us to hear it.  The good news:  Amanda said it looked like Dale tried to twist as he fell so as not to land face first.  This is actually really good!  He was able to keep thinking enough throughout the fall to change his trajectory somewhat.  Unfortunately, he still landed pretty hard on his left side, bruising himself and scraping up the left side of his face above the temple and on the ear.  How he managed to scrape both the front and back of his ear, I'll never figure out!  Dale wound up with some raw, bleeding patches on the side of his face and ear, a lump above his left eyebrow, and a bit of a headache.  His scrapes colored nicely into a seriously black eye, and his lump slowly seeped down to swell around his eye, leaving him looking alot like Rocky!  I told Amanda that his face was exactly what movie makeup people try to reproduce to make it look like someone has been in a fight---except, in Dale's case, the sidewalk won.  When someone asked Dale what happened to his face, I told them that we couldn't afford a coat of many colors for our favorite son, so we gave him a face of many colors!  Yeah, yeah, just kidding.

As if this wasn't bad enough, on Thursday, the very day Dale had a neurology appointment, he fell again---this time landing completely face first.  He was walking in the gym and stepped on a small pebble which caused him to lose his balance.  Our preacher was nearby and told us Dale leaned forward, trying to regain his balance, and almost had it before pitching forward onto his nose.  Of course, this resulted in bleeding from both nostrils, a small lump on the bridge of the nose, and four painful bite marks on his tongue which proceeded to bleed profusely.  All of this happened just before lunchtime which means the entire high school witnessed Dale's pain and tears.  Most everyone responded with sympathetic looks and offers of help or just turning away and pretending not to see Dale cry.  It took a while before Dale could manage to eat lunch, for obvious reasons.  Then, within an hour of Dale's tumble, we had to leave for his doctor appointment.  Poor guy!  What a face to present to the neuro doctor!

The neurologist was pleased to see Dale and, during the course of the visit, put Dale through some simple tests to determine how well Dale is progressing in his comeback from drowning.  Some of these tests the doctor had done before with Dale, like following the doctor's finger with just his eyes and tapping various rhythms with his hands, and some were new, like trying to walk heel to toe and trying to walk on his tiptoes.  This was hard for Dale to do, but it gave the neurologist a better idea of how Dale's brain is working now.  Something interesting:  the doctor had Dale stand and close his eyes; then he pushed lightly on Dale's shoulders and arms to try to cause him to lose his balance.  The result surprised the doctor---instead of losing his balance easily because his eyes were closed, Dale retained his balance with no effort, like we would.  The neurologist said he thought Dale was taking alot of visual cues to help him balance and walk, which would perhaps explain why he falls sometimes.  However, Dale's balance does not seem to be altered by loss of visual cues.  This is both good and bad; if his balance was being affected by his sight, maybe we could take certain steps to fix that.  Since this does not seem to be the case, Dale is kind of "on his own" still.........needing to control his balance and walking every single minute.  But, Dale is doing well, disregarding the falls he takes occasionally.  He just gets up and tries again, even bloody and bruised!

The verse I chose for the end of this blog is a good lesson for us all but especially descriptive of Dale!

I Corinthians 10: 12  "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."  Apt, don't you think?!