June 30, 2008

Deeper Still #1

I'm back and settled in again to real life with two small children. It sounds like Robert and the kids had a great time while I was gone. That was nice to hear so I don't feel guilty for leaving!

I had a great time too. There were some interesting dynamics as we took 11 leaders of the women's ministry... and that makes for a lot of chiefs in the camp! After a bit of the tension, it just got really comical, so a few of us gave up being frustrated and just laughed uncontrollably about the issue. Actually, I laughed harder this weekend than I have in a long time.

I thought I'd share a bit about the nuggets of truth that made the most impact on me. We'll see if I can make any sense...

One of them was within the first ten minutes of the event's beginning! Travis Cottrell was singing a song and this one line struck me like a baseball bat. I don't even know what song it was, and we were so high up in the nosebleed section I missed almost all of the words. But one thing I did hear was, "will you believe what He says to be true?" And for some reason, that was my first challenge.

I realized I have been believing only some of what God says. I believe that He loves me, that He died for me, that He is coming back, etc. All of the basics of the faith. But I have let man's opinions of me supersede God's love and acceptance of me. Many times I have encouraging scripture to say to some other people, but I haven't been believing them for myself. I have let man's thoughts about me fill me with fear, timidity, and a total lack of confidence in the woman God created me to be. I have allowed this fear to settle in and make me second guess myself on a daily basis. It has permeated my confidence in every relationship I have.

I know I'm not perfect, but God knows when I'm giving Him my best. I know I can't find my peace and rest in being liked by man. While I know I need to do my best to be at peace with men, I cannot measure my success or self-worth by the opinions of the people around me. I find it in being pleasing to the God I serve. And thankfully, my best is enough for Him. I know He's with me for the long haul, and will keep working on me until He's finished making me like Him! I am a treasure to God. I have been bought with a price. I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my shortcomings. God. Loves. Me. Aaaah, there is such rest in that!

"The fear of human opinion disables,
trusting in God protects one from that."
Proverbs 29:25 (The Message)

"You are my servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:9b,10

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June 26, 2008

VBS Day #4 and Heading Out

It's hard to believe we're winding down! Tomorrow is our last day and I will miss the kids. I have enjoyed getting back some time with those my heart is especially tender towards.

We didn't have anything remarkable today, really. One little guy was at therapy, and I missed him quite a bit. He and his family are unchurched, so I'm praying that our Special Needs SS class will draw them to join us.

I'm also heading out tomorrow with 10 other women from church for the Deeper Still event! I'm looking forward to some sweet fellowship with great women, only one of whom is my age. (I love that!) Of course I'll be hearing some great spiritual challenges from the speakers, some great music by Travis Cottrell, and then spending Sunday morning at Charles Stanley's church! They are having a special patriotic service that sounds fantastic! I really enjoy services that celebrate our country. Maybe it's the military kids in me, maybe not. Either way, I think it'll be a great service to end a great weekend!

June 25, 2008

VBS day #3

Well, we're hanging in there! We're almost running like a well oiled machine, and I'm remembering why I love working with Special Needs children! We've gotten a bit of a system down after three days of VBS, and the kids are all getting settled in. The fun part is we're getting to know each other. We're learning to understand and predict the children's needs, even the ones we just met Monday. We're learning to understand their individual dialects. :) And best of all, we're learning what makes each of them smile! And that is what makes this whole week worthwhile!

We have thirteen kids on our roll. Two of them have Cerebral Palsy and their cognitive level is fairly close to age appropriate, though from looking at them, you'd never guess that. Interestingly enough, they are both twins and each of their twins is perfectly typical. But on to the important stuff... They both made professions of faith today!!!!! I need a big jumping up and down smiley girl! What an amazing God we have to give us opportunities to love on "the least of these," but they end up blessing me with their joyful spirit instead.

Another fun thing happened today... a little guy I've known since he was 4. He has autism... one of my favorite special needs to work with. Actually, he started coming to another church 5 years ago when I was there to help in the Wednesday night class. We moved away several months later, but I've kept in touch with his family. His family has recently begun coming to our present church and Levi is in our Sunday School class. So anyway, I didn't know if Levi had any clue who I was, other than someone who wouldn't let him escape! But today, he was headed toward the door and I said, "Levi," in a sing-songy voice with a warning tone in it. He immediately said in an exact echo, "Melissa," with a huge grin on his face! He was being funny at me! Oh, I wanted to love that boy to pieces!

So today I am reaping the blessings of waiting on the Lord... waiting for a church where I could be a part of a disability ministry, waiting for people to help, waiting for children to come! And, oh, have they come! Thank you, Lord for letting me be here... in this time, this place, with these kids.

June 23, 2008

VBS Day 1

We made it! We had a VERY chaotic beginning, but I guess that's to be expected with 500 kids getting registered!

In our Special Friends group, we had 13 kids! Two of those were unexpected and required 1:1 help, but the Lord brought us two available people at the last minute. Ranging from ages 3 to 14, we had 4 kids with Down Syndrome, 2 with Autism, 3 in wheelchairs, 2 with feeding tubes, and 2 with various other disabilities. Wow! It was a great day. Great to be able to spend the time with these special kids, great to be able to give these kids' parents a break for a whole week!, great to help familiarize typical kids to some new challenges, and great to be able to share Jesus' love with these unique little ones.

Keep praying for us!

June 21, 2008

It's VBS time again!

We have VBS this week at church!

One of the things I really liked as soon as I saw the curriculum this year is the main concepts are very. basic. truths. There is so much busyness involved in VBS, I think it's easy to miss the message. But this year the truths are basic so they can't be missed!

Last year I taught the four year olds, because I didn't know about the Special Needs class. Well, this year I get to teach the Special Friends! I'm really looking forward to so much time with them! We have 11 Special Friends signed up, so that's a pretty good crowd, I think. Please be praying for us this week if you think about it.

June 19, 2008

Nine years ago today...

I got to begin my life-long slumber party with my best friend!

In 1997, I returned from a summer in Alaska to the small town where I was attending college. I had one semester left. Before I'd left for the summer, I had been helping with the music in our college Sunday School class, and someone told me I'd have a new guitar player when I got back. That was when I met Robert for real. I had seen him around campus and we'd even had a class together, but we didn't really run in the same circles.

That fall was the beginning of a great, steady thing for me. We were just good friends... for a long time! Our friendship had its ups and downs, I moved away for a bit, then came back. He hung in there with me while I was gone. But when I came back, we started to spend more and more time together. I think we just realized we really enjoyed the simpleness of hanging out. We went on hikes, went camping with friends, hung out at one of our houses with roommates, playing spray bottle tag... football in a very small living room, etc. And we just spent a lot of time talking.

I didn't realize how remarkable that was until one day our SS teacher's wife said, "Robert talks to you?" He was quite friendly, so I thought he talked to everyone. I guess he did, but he talked with me. Somehow, I got something very different from him. When I look back, I think we trusted each other for our no-nonsense-ness. We were both very real, and I think that attracted us to each other. And somehow in the middle of this, I developed a serious crush!

In the late fall of '98, we realized something was different as we were spending just about all of our free time together... with still no declaration of any feelings for each other! So anyway, not much exciting to write about during this time... just lots of fun and long talks and not nearly enough sleep. We had talked more than once about the option of marriage, because neither of us wanted to waste our time or hearts in a relationship that we knew would not have the possibility of marriage. And eventually, we decided that we were way too close to keep our friendship just a friendship. We knew we had to cut off the friendship or get married. :) We decided to get married!

He proposed officially in the living room of the small rental house I shared with a friend. He was in his dirty work clothes, and I was still in my clothes from teaching that day sitting on my white hand me down couch. Mind you, this was also after we had ordered the invitations! I was getting a bit impatient and feeling a bit like a fool, but I had no idea he was waiting on a custom ordered ring to come back for me. Thankfully, almost everyone around me did!

(His mom and dad had given him a set of diamond earrings to use in the ring for me. The earrings were the gift his dad gave to his mom on their wedding day. Robert had them set surrounding the center diamond he bought. I think it's beautiful, but I love that it came from my in-laws as well.)

Okay, fast forward three months... the day had come! In spite of some major wedding day tears caused by the absence of some beloved people, my Gramma Lil and my Aunt Marcy and Uncle Danny and their kids, we had a great day! We had a few hiccups, and I misunderstood a few things so made some strange planning decisions that I didn't realize until later, but most importantly... we drove away a married couple!

When I look back on how it all happened, I wouldn't change a thing. We only went on two or three "dates." There hadn't been much romance per se, but we built a very solid foundation. There hadn't been any pretending, so we didn't have that really hard first year everyone told us to expect. And because of the foundation the Lord gave us, there's been a lot to rely on when our circumstances haven't been ideal. I will say it definitely gets better every year. And I can't wait to see what God does over the next nine years!

Happy anniversary to us!

June 13, 2008

Jacob's Soccer Season

Traveling with the pack

Jacob just finished his first soccer season! Overall, I'd say it was a success, though we weren't so sure the first two weeks that it was going to be.

Kicking a goal kick

The first three or four weeks he's hope for rain on Saturdays so he wouldn't have to play in his game, but he begged to go to soccer practice with Coach Ralph on Tuesdays. (He didn't have to run as much!) His coach was excellent, and was perfect for Jacob's personality too. He was upbeat, supportive, loud, and totally called Jacob on his negativity! Once Jacob said, "We're never gonna score!" Coach Ralph quickly retorted, "Play better and maybe we will!" No coddling there...

His biggest fan! (She loved to go "watch Jacob sock-her!")

He did Upward Soccer. It is a program that focuses on Christ, sportsmanship, fairness, and fun! They have a devotional during each practice. And then after each game they roundup and each player is awarded a sticker for some character quality they exhibited during the game. And in kindergarten, they don't even keep score! It really is all about having a great sports experience to begin. I was very pleased with it.

Round Up at the end of the game

A few weeks later I asked if he was interested in soccer camp at church, and to my surprise, he said yes! He seemed to have a great time and definitely made improvement on his skills. On the way home the third day he was crying that soccer was never going to come around again!

Great job, Jacob!

An update

Just in case anyone wonders why I'm hardly blogging lately (or if I owe you an e-mail), I have tendinitis in my right arm. Computer time aggravates it the most, so I'm limited in how much time I can spend on it. Typing just makes it hurt!

Anyway, we're surviving the paci withdrawals. I am quite sad for her, and I don't think we've rounded the corner where she's happier without it yet, but I sure hope it's coming! We have not gone backward and given her one (I did keep her favorite "pink paci" for her memories box), though at 1 AM Wednesday, I was sure tempted. The first night she was exhausted, so she went right to sleep and slept through the night great! Then a couple of times she screamed for quite awhile going to sleep. Her crying has a lot less energy now and is much shorter... 5 minutes or less now. And now we have 10 less arguments each day b/c there's no paci to ask for (and then get mad about when I tell her "it's only for in your bed"). So, I think we made it!

(The jury's still on out whether I'd choose a paci baby or thumb baby. I have one of each, and both have their perks and pitfalls.)

June 09, 2008

Pray for us today...

We've thrown these all in the trash this morning. I don't anticipate this to be an easy transition. This girl is majorly attached to her paci! But she is way too old for it! She relies on it to make her happy and it makes me crazy.
We had a throwing them in the trash party with lots of celebrating! "You're a big girl!" and very convincing, "Big girls don't need pacis!" We're having cupcakes at lunch too.
I'll let you know how it goes...