28 March 2013

Bad Day & a test

So today was a fairly normal day in terms of small children fare and the usual. But for some reason, today was just a really, really bad day for me.

I don't know if it was just because I had these high expectations of having a nice, peaceful day at home where we didn't go anywhere and we just played, and having those expectations dashed pretty much as soon as I woke up, and then continually so all morning long with fighting over toys and kids disobeying or if there was some serious spiritual warfare going on, but it was just a really bad day.

Towards the end of the morning, I had pretty much just had it. My temper was on an incredibly short fuse, I'd already cried for no reason (no, I'm not pregnant) and Butterfly and Little Man had been quarreling over toys all morning and Flower was just having a cranky, fussy day.

I texted Mike something about if everyone lived through the day, it would be a miracle and he texted me back a beautiful prayer of encouragement, which of course made me cry again.

I felt a really strong urge to ask for prayer on Facebook, like the Holy Spirit was telling me to swallow pride and just ask for prayer. I knew I couldn't get through the day on my own strength, and I just needed my friends to cover me in prayer to help me get through the day.

I thought against it, but then, again, I felt this strong urge to ask for prayer on FB. So I turned on my computer and of course it went on the fritz (a sure sign that I needed to ask for prayer!)

I was serving lunch at the time to the kiddos, so I rebooted my computer and gave it a few minutes and then logged onto FB and asked to be covered in prayer. I didn't give details, just that I was having a really, really (there may or may not have been three "really"s in there) bad day. At that particular moment I just felt really overwhelmed, really angry (Butterfly had just done something to Flower to hurt her and I was on the verge of just losing it) and I just couldn't do it on my own. I needed the Lord to show up in a big way.

I also felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to open my Bible and just start reading. It didn't really matter where. Just do it. I felt that it was an obedience thing - I needed to listen and obey. I had been praying "Lord, please help me!" all morning, but I need to do more - I needed to take in His Word.

So while we ate lunch, I opened my Bible to the Psalms. Here is how the Lord comforted me in the midst of my coming unglued:

"Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken."
Ps 55:22

and then,

"In God, whose word I praise,
    in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can man do to me?"

Ps 56:10-11

"My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music."

Ps 57:7 

Psalm 57:7 really seemed to jump off the page at me and I felt like the Lord was telling me I needed to do what he said, right there, in verse 7: "I will sing and make music". My thoughts were more along the lines of, "I really don't feel like singing right now Lord, I want to cry and perhaps run away. Sing? Really? I don't want to sing. I'm upset. I'm angry. Singing is the last thing I want to do."

As I reread those verses again and again, I felt that the Lord was telling me that I really needed to sing praise to Him. It was almost like He was asking to obey Him in this specific instance. Like it was some kind of test or something.

I'd had a Christian music station on the internet playing all morning and I don't even remember what song was playing at the time, but I did sing. One line. That was all I could get out in the midst of my angry, upset emotions. But you know what? God was faithful and he brought me peace in that moment. He took away my anger and replaced it with His peace. 

I really believe it was because I chose to obey Him in the moment. I humbled myself and asked my friends on FB for prayer, I obeyed Him and opened His Word so He could speak to me and then I did what it said. I have to admit, I really didn't want to, but I did it anyway. And He was faithful to me. 

What an amazing and awesome God of love, mercy and faithful that we serve! I am so grateful for Him and the ways that He works in my life. I hope that you have an opportunity to experience Him like I have experienced Him. God loves us so much, so incredibly much, and he wants us to love and serve Him, even in the midst of our unglued days.   

22 March 2013

Story Entry #1

“Where are we?”

“I have no idea . .. All I know is that my head hurts.”

“Yeah, mine too – I totally didn’t see that see that coming . . . how are we even still alive?”

“I don’t know – that fall seemed to go on forever – that last thing I knew we were running from the [police] after . . .”

Aneirn looked around him, trying to get his bearings, looking out for Anwen, wanting to protect her, as he always had, even when she didn’t think she needed it or wanted it. It was dark and damp where they lay from their fall; the earth was cool and thick and black beneath him. He tenderly reached for the back of his head, where a throbbing bump was raising itself through his mess of dark hair. The last thing he remembered was running and running, his heart pounding in his chest and his ears, his hand tightly holding onto Anwen’s, as though as if he let go, he would let go of her forever. He glanced over at Anwen and quickly took her in, and seeing no obvious injuries, he signed a breath of relief and thankfulness.

She was all he had. Everything else good in his life was gone.

“We have to get out of here. Find out where we are.” He stood up, slowly and then held out his hand for his sister, helping her to unsteady feet. “You look barely worse for wear.”

She raised an eyebrow at him and sighed in contradiction.

He took a shaky step out from the darkness where they were. He looked up, but all he could see was the roof of the cave, far above their heads.  Where were they?? He didn’t’ remember any caves in their home woods. It was too weird, the way it had all happened. Running, the mist swallowing them up deep in the forest and before they knew it, they were falling, falling. He remembered hearing a faint chant just before they fell.

“We need to find somewhere to stay.”

“You know we don’t have a safe place, not after . .. not after everything that has happened.”

“We have to find something. I have a little bit of money.”

“Money! Where have you been stashing money? We haven’t had money in ages!”

“Da gave it to me, right before, before, he passed on.” He let his voice trail off, the memory still so painful it robbed him of words and he could see tears welling up in Anwen’s eyes at the mention of their beloved father, taken from them too soon.

They were near the mouth of the dank, dark cave and so they tentatively headed out, listening closely for signs of anyone that might be nearby, anyone who might have followed them. Might be looking for them.  He didn’t know why two teenagers were so important to the [police] and what they wanted with them, especially now. To what end was it to bring them in?

At the edge of the cave, he paused and motioned for Anwen to be silent, hoping she would oblige, listening and taking in the scenery. They definitely were not in the woods of home. Instead of tall, towering oaks lined with thick Spanish moss hanging loosely from branches and down the trunks, there were thin trees with small green leaves and yellowish trunks. There was no breeze, but the air was not balmy and sticky, like it would have been back home.  Home. Already, pangs of homesickness bent in on his emotions, but he pushed them down. He couldn’t think of home right now, he had to find out where they were and what they were going to do. He must find somewhere for them to stay. Find out what happened to them.  Where they were and what they were going to do. So many questions tugged at his mind and he tried to sort them out and he surveyed the scene before him.

Write Practice

So I have discovered this awesome writing site, called Write Practice, and I have had a lot of fun writing for them, although I have only posted twice. I so wish I could post more often, but as I have previously written, time for writing has been a bit scarce.

Anyway, if you are interested in writing, especially stories, I highly recommend that you head over to their site and check it out! The other authors on their are very encouraging in their comments. :)

I am attempting to write a story, and I think I may put bits and pieces of it here on my blog, entitled simply Story Entry #__. I hope you enjoy them! And hopefully I'll be able to keep a good story going.

21 March 2013

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks

"All the earth bows down to you;
they sing praise to you, 
they sing praise to your name."
Psalm 66:4

Over spring break (last week), I took Butterfly, Little Man and Flower, and with my friend Whitney and her three boys (yes - we had six children four years old and under!) and we drove to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

This amazing monument of unique rock formations was a really awesome to experience.  The rocks were formed from a volcanic eruption from the nearby Valles Caldera in the Jemez Mountains a very long time ago. Located just southwest of Santa Fe, it was a fairly short drive from Albuquerque, about 50 or so minutes.

Whitney, the kids and I arrived about lunch time, so we started out little adventure with a picnic lunch at the conveniently located shaded picnic tables near the base of the trail. After enjoying our lunch and catching up on the latest in each others lives, we put away our lunch stuff and geared up for our hike. Whitney's youngest is under six months, so she wore him the entire hike in her baby carrier. I put on my mei-tai wrap, but sans a child, as I wanted to tire my children out before I had to carry any of them. :)

There were a few trails that we could hike, and taking into consideration the ages of our little troupe, we chose the shortest, a 1.2 mile loop at the bottom of the canyon called The Cave Loop Trail.
 Hats were donned, sunscreen was applied, potty breaks were taken (twice), children were warned of the dangers of snakes and mountain lions and we were off! Whitney's two older boys were our official map carriers, and they took their job quite seriously - very cute! Butterfly was the water carrier for my half of the troupe - and she did very well carrying her back pack almost the entire way (she had a short break towards the end).

The scenery was enchanting, which is, of course, fitting, as it's in the Land of Enchantment. The rock structures were so beautiful and the color striations of the cliff sides were just gorgeous - my pictures absolutely do not do this place justice. It was really neat to see the round tops of the rock "tents" resting precariously at the top. Apparently these rounds top protect the entire rock tent from complete erosion.
Whitney's picture, not mine, which explains the superior quality. :)

Our hike was fairly good. Flower got too tired to go further about half way through, which was a lot farther than I expected her to go. So into the mei tai carrier she went. Little Man was not in the mood to listen and kept running too far ahead, which really put a damper on things. He ended up having a fit about two thirds of the way through and was forced to hold my hand for the duration of our hike; a fact which he lamented quite loudly, I'm sure to the detriment of those who were trying to enjoy their nature hike in peace.  I think for the last .2 miles, I ended up just carrying him as well.

I really enjoyed the stunning views and would love to take Mike back here. If I do get to come back, I'm really hoping to do the longer trail that takes you to the top of the canyon cliffs. I'm not sure the kids would be up for that though, so we'll have to see how that works out. There is also a Veteran's Look Out that I want to see, which has a one mile trail. I didn't realize it was there until I studied the map further when I got home later that night.

If I do get to come back, and have the kids, I'll be aiming to come a lot earlier in the day so that nap time doesn't coincide with trail hiking time. :)

I highly recommend seeing this beautiful place if you are ever in the Albuquerque or Santa Fe area. It doesn't have to be an all day adventure, although you could probably make it one if you wanted. Just to warn you, dogs are not allowed.

Overall, the whole adventure with Whitney and her kiddos was really fun. I'm glad we got to go together and hang out and enjoy God's beautiful Creation and teach our kids about getting out there and exploring. :)

Bible study and True fellowship

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7

This semester in PWOC, the small group that I am apart of is studying 1, 2, 3 John by NavPress. 
1,2,3 John has been a really great study! And talk about deep - I think this may be one of the deepest studies that I have ever done (yes, deeper than some of Beth Moore's studies! Not to say she isn't an awesome teacher and doesn't dive into Scripture, she is and does. . .) There really isn't much commentary - it's basically you read the text of Scripture and the study asks questions that probe deep into the meaning of what John is trying to say.

It has also been a very hard study that has really forced me to look at myself and look at what the Scripture says and see if my life lines up. Probing - yes. Thought-provoking - goes without saying. Convicting - absolutely!

What has also been awesome about this study, this semester is the sweet fellowship that has come about in our small group. The group of woman that is in our small group (about 8 of us) have become a group of ladies knit together by the common bond of Bible study, sharing lives (fellowship) and prayer. There is much transparency, which I think is such a beautiful element of our fellowship. We have been able to share with each other what's going on in our lives without judgment, or fear of judgment, and our burdens have been shared and by this we have all been encouraged. I really feel that true love has been shown to each other (including to me) as we have cried together, laughed together, answered questions about the Scriptures together, supported one another, prayed for one another and encouraged each other.

I am so grateful for what the Lord has shown me so far through this study and I look forward to what He is going to do in the remainder of this study. I love the beautiful example of true fellowship He has shown me, in which we love each other, get to know each other, pray for each other, share each others burdens and encourage each other. I don't know if you can have true fellowship without transparency - no one is perfect. We all struggle with something. And when we cover each other in prayer - we collectively bring those struggles to Jesus and lay them at His feet. Such a beautiful thing.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as we see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:23-25 

Been pretty busy around here . ..

If you are a regular reader (or if you're me), you may have noticed that I have not been blogging very much in the last 2 or 3 months . . . life has gotten really hectic around here, and it's been pretty hard for me to get some time to write without interruption.

From about the week after Christmas until the end of the first week of February, we had a lot of sickness run through our house . .. I think everyone had a stomach bug at one point or another, I got the flu pretty bad in mid January, then Daphne it two weeks later (all five of us had our flu shots). Someone was just sick with something every week for six weeks . . . sometimes minor things, sometimes not . . . had a trip to the ER once . ..  but thankfully, it seems the sickness season has ended around here.

I usually write at the end of the day when the kids are in bed, but that has been pretty hard to do, what with the BBC making these fantastic shows that captivate my attention . .. (I'm talking about Downtown Abby, Merlin and Call the Midwife) - so my evenings were pretty occupied with watching entire seasons of those shows (in the case of Merlin, I was so enthralled, I watched four seasons in less than three weeks). This is while Mike worked on schoolwork for his college class, for those nosy people who think I need to spend time with my husband instead of watching TV by myself. . . . And when I haven't been watching BBC TV, I've been doing a lot of reading  . . . so it just hasn't left much time for writing.

Another reason I haven't been writing too much is because it's very hard to write with a wiggly nursing toddler on your lap. It used to be I could write while I was nursing Flower, but now she likes to help me do whatever it is I'm trying to do (at any time, not just while nursing), so that has made it rather difficult to blog . . . that and she likes to cuddle with the random odd object while she nurses at night . .. .like a Playschool Bus . . . or a giant stuffed animal . .. or a set of kitchen utensils . . . I'm telling you, she is a creative, busy little toddler!

And yet another reason for the blank pages is a kind of blank, funk mood. Truthfully, I'm tired of being judged. I've had some people judge me pretty harshly in the last year, and I know some of them read my blog, so I've just shied away from writing anything that shares my mind. Well, now, I'm tired of that. And I have time to write (at least for the moment), so write I shall.

So hopefully, I'll be able to get back to blogging! Yay!

Tuition Assistance Reinstated! Yes!

In an article here, I learned that Tuition Assistance in being reinstated for our service members! I wrote just previously today, that TA had been cut.

From the article:

"Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., one of the sponsors of the measure, said on the Senate floor Wednesday that numerous troops he has spoken with were dismayed over service officials’ decision to end the education benefit."

So Congress wrote a bill that the Senate passed and the President will sign, reinstating Tuition Assistance for this fiscal year.

"Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., another amendment sponsor, said after the Senate vote that the tuition assistance program was the wrong place for military leaders to find savings.
“We cannot balance our budget on the backs of servicemembers,” she said. “The brave men and women who serve in uniform have never given up on our country, and today the Senate signaled that we won’t give up on them.”"

Well said, Sen. Hagan! Thank you!! 

Farewell Base Library & Financial Sentimentations

Today I walked to the Base Library with Little Man and Flower, and a friend and her children, for the very last Story Time. ::sniff sniff::

In line with recent budget cuts across the government, the Base Library here at Kirtland (and other bases I've heard) will be closing on 30 March, possibly indefinitely. As of right now, the library will be closed for the remainder of the fiscal year (end of October), but most likely fiscal year 2014 as well.

No more Story Time.
No more Summer Reading Program for kids.
No more immediately library access for young Airman who don't have cars and can't drive to the city libraries off base.
No more free use of Rosetta Stone language software.
No more renting books/DVDs/movies from a source close to home (within walking distance).
No more free internet access for those who don't have it at home (or in the dorms).
I could go on . . .

According to the librarian today, the Commander deemed that those utilizing the base library could use the library branches within the city limits [of Albuquerque]. Hopefully those libraries won't close either, because of government funding being withdrawn.

There have been a lot of cuts going on recently across the nation with the Sequestor and this is just one small part.

Another benefit that military members are losing (well, have lost if you are in the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps) is Tuition Assistance (TA). Tuition Assistance is a promised benefit of the government for those serving our nation - they receive x amount of money for college education while they are active duty. This is separate from the Montgomery GI Bill. Now it seems, the government has reneged on their end of the deal (not surprising, really). With less than 24 hours notice, TA was suspended indefinitely.

I have to wonder what other benefits the military will lose in the name of saving money?

My issue with all of this, is that military members serve their nation, putting their lives on the line for the freedoms of this country. Military servicemen and women have been going off to war for a decade now, leaving their spouses and children behind to wonder if they'll return home alive. We constantly live with the possibility of deployment - it's always in the back of our minds. So why are military benefits being cut when military members do so incredibly much in the service of their country?

Military members and their families move across the nation or around the world every three or four years for the duration of their careers. Have you ever moved? Packed up your house and headed out on the open road? It's not easy.

There are a plethora of other ways that military members serve the rest of this nation that I won't go into here, but I have to ask: why is it when money is tight in the government, that the military benefits are the first to pop up to get cut? I would think that a nation grateful for its' freedoms would consider the benefits of those who serve to keep that freedom in tact sacrosanct. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I wish it were.

Being a member of the military is not "just" a career choice. It is a service choice. It is giving long hours, months (or years) away from your family to make sure that other people can be at home with their families. It is missed birthdays, anniversaries and special events so that others can be there. It is going to remote locations, getting shot at in foreign countries, so that wars are not brought to American soil. It laying down your life so that others may live, often times this is quite literal. Military members don't do this for a simple paycheck - they do it because they believe in the freedoms that the United States of America offers its' peoples.

Freedom of religion - to serve any god they choose without fear of persecution. Freedom of speech - being able to say and write anything you want without fear of recrimination because the powers that be didn't like it or agree with it. Freedom to bear arms - the right to take up a weapon and defend your family and your property. Freedom from search and seizure - we don't have to worry about the police barging into our homes in the middle of the night looking for some evidence of some kind, or arresting us without a reason. Freedom from quarters - we have military installations in this country so that the common citizenry don't have to house soldiers without permission, including feeding them, for months on end. And this is just a short list of our precious freedoms that I feel so many in this country are taking for granted.

If anyone in Congress/Senate/White House is reading this (I doubt it), please do not take any more benefits from the men and women, and their families, who proudly serve this nation because they value its' freedoms and want to protect those freedoms. Honor them. Thank them. Take care of them when they can no longer take care of themselves or their families.

Happy Birthday Little Man!

My Little Man turned three years old this week!
Happy Birthday Little Man!!

 It's somewhat hard to believe that Little Man is already three years old! It seems like so much longer that he came into the world, that sunny Oklahoma day three years ago. 
He has always been my Little Man, and now he is growing from a baby into a little boy. He talks a lot, and is always telling us the newest thing that he has learned about. He is quite extraverted and his latest thing is to run up to people (we're working on stranger danger) and telling them "I'm a boy!" while signing "boy". 
Little Man is very active, and loves to run around and jump - indeed I don't think he stops moving if he is awake! Whether he's wiggling in his chair at the table while he eats (or sitting in it upside down so he can try to pet Boots Kitty), or running up and down the length of the house, or jumping on the couch or the bed, or playing with his sisters, he's always on the move.
Little Man has such a sweet side as well. He loves his sisters and will give them hugs on whim. He is also very protective of Flower, and if Flower will start to get into something she shouldn't, he'll yell "Watch out Flower!"
Being half of a set of Irish Twins, he and Butterfly are still very, very close. Every day when we take Butterfly to school, Little Man is eager to pick her up again from the time we leave the parking lot. I love that they are so close!
To celebrate Little Man's birthday, we just did a quiet family celebration this year. No big party like last year, just the five us. I made spaghetti for dinner, one of Little Man's favorites, and he got to open his present from Grandma and Grandpa at the dinner table (a Signing Time video about the Great Outdoors). He was pretty excited about it! Little Man also got a Thomas the Tank Engine plate and matching silverware.
After dinner he got to open his big present from Mike and I: a train set! It came complete with a helicopter and airplane (because he loves those too) and a mountain (also a very loved thing - what with the Sandia & Manzano Mountains in our back yard), not to mention the trains. Little Man loves trains - everything is trains, trains, trains. :)
The night before Little Man got his other big present - a red tricycle! (I love the Airman's Attic!)

Opening his present from Grandma and Grandpa!
 For Little Man's birthday, instead of making a cake like I did last year, I make him some transportation cookies (airplanes, trains, boats, motorcycles, trucks and cars). (Making those cookies is another story!)

I think these trains will be a beloved toy for many years to come! :)

I think it was a really good birthday!

14 March 2013

A Cast of Stones Book Review

Errol Stone thinks that he is only going to deliver a message to the local hermit priest so he can get some more ale, but what Errol thinks and what actually happens are worlds apart.  In A Cast of Stones, by Patrick Carr, Errol finds himself on a dangerous and deadly quest with a small band of friends to help find the next king, all the time wondering how he got into this business and how he can get out. The extraordinary journey that Errol finds himself on will leave you holding your breath and guessing what will happen next. Filled with engaging characters, plot surprises and unexpected turns, Patrick Carr will have you turning the pages rapidly until you get to the exciting climax.

I would highly recommend Carr’s novel to anyone who has an interest in Fantasy Fiction. Carr’s writing is so fluid and his novel is filled with beautiful and at times, intense, descriptions of Errol’s world. His book will leave you waiting in anticipation for the next addition in this gripping saga in The Staff and the Sword series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

02 March 2013

Stumbling on Open Ground Book Review

 Christians are guaranteed trials in this life, just like non-Christians. Fire, famine, floor, illness and persecution . . . Christians certainly are not immune to the pressures and troubles of this life. The difference is that we have a loving God to call on at any time in prayer who showers our life with promises, if we choose to read them in the Bible and then believe them.  Ken Mansfield very poignantly captures what it is to suffer trials (very horrible, painful trials) as a Christ-follower in his book Stumbling on Open Ground: Love, God, Cancer and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Ken gives his readers a good, hard look into his spiritual life as he journeyed through a rough trial with cancer, not once, but twice – one cancer incurable, and the other very dangerous and incredibly painful with a torturous treatment.

Ken’s book is incredibly memorable and inspiring as he wrestles with the Lord, his faith, his place in the trial and the questions that go with it all. He presents his relationship with God as very real, with amazing highs and terrible lows. I love how he wove music, especially from the 1960’s (he was one of the top guys with Apple London and one of the insiders with the Beatles and other famous musicians) into his journey – he used anything and everything as a message from the Lord – truly seeing God in all that was around him – nature, music, the kindness of other people, trials and good times.  His conversations with the Lord as he communed with Him in the midst of nature were so real, you felt like you were a silent observer that was actually there.

I would recommend this book to any person who is going through a difficult ordeal, but most especially a person who is battling with the monster of cancer. Ken went through the gamut of emotions when he was waiting for a diagnosis, as he was diagnosed and during the treatment for both cancers – everything from fear to uncertainty to resiliency to pure survival of the next hour to love to contentment. He didn’t sugarcoat anything – it’s about as real as you can get. He offers hope though – a lasting, loving relationship with his Almighty Creator who was right there with him every moment of the way.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html>: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”