Saturday, October 29, 2011

Remembering Grandma.

Assuming all went as planned, I'm in Illinois right now attending my Grandmother's memorial service.  This, I believe, is the only video I have of her with baby Coralynn Mae.  It's from last Christmas. 




It's surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.
 ~Barbara Kingsolver

Friday, October 28, 2011

"It's okay. I can do interpretive dance!"


So, what's missing from this picture?

2 hours earlier:  Last Saturday while the Bits was sleeping and after Amelia had packed, we decided to go work on my suitcases for the trip to Illinois.  We had the windows open because the weather was perfect.  Amelia and I were packing, Tony was watching football, and the kids were playing.

When the football game hit halftime, Tony came in to check on our progress.  I had him shut the door because I didn't want to risk waking the baby.  We chatted about my clothing options, and then we heard the baby waking up.   I finished packing the last items and zipped up the suitcase.  (We can't leave anything out or Terror Bits will be into it!)

As Tony was heading out of our bedroom, I heard a thud followed by sounds of rattling and jiggling.   "Umm, Amelia, can you come here?"  I look up to see Tony and Amelia fussing with the door knob.  "Hey, Chloe, try to open the door."  I hear Chloe desperately trying to open the door, and then declaring the kids' impending doom because all the grownups were locked inside the master bedroom.

I did my best to calm Chloe down.  She got the baby out of bed and, following my instruction, took a picture of them standing by the door.  Tony often loses his sense of humor in these situations, and this day was no different.  For my part, I think this kind of stuff is hysterical.  Poor Amelia was stuck in the middle.  She and Tony came up with a plan to unwedge the little metal thingie that goes in the little part in the door jam.  (Hope my technical terms didn't confuse you!)  Tony barked at me to stop having the kids take pictures and find something productive to do.  There was no room by the lock, so I determined that interpretive dance was the way to go.  (Unfortunately, the video camera was on the other side of the door with the kids so there is no footage of the dance.)

After a solid 15 seconds of dead silence, Tony recovered from my interpretive dance and refocused his attention on the door.  Quite fortunately, Tony keeps a series of Leatherman and Swiss Army knives in our closet.  The Handy Duo was able to free us from the room.  Chloe all but wept with joy that we were released and able to care for the "children" once again.  Even more fortunately, as I was looking for my old Staples Rewards card to tape to the door to prevent further problems, I found $40.00.  I thought that was fair payment for my dance!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday's 7!!

~Last night's basketball banquet was a lot of fun.  Carson received a "Best Effort" award, and Chloe did a nice job cheering!

~We are packed and ready to head to the United States in the morning.  (We would definitely appreciate prayer for safe travel, settled stomaches, and made connections!)

~The whole family had a great time with Amelia here!

~The kids all seem to be healthy and ready to travel! 

~I get to see my big brother tomorrow!!!  (and my parents)

~I got dinners made for Tony so he won't starve while we're gone!

~We found out yesterday that Coralynn is in the 50th percentile for height and weight.  The Bits has motored up to average!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Friends.

A week ago, my best friend came for a visit.  It was my parents' birthday present to me.  I've never been more excited about a present I received 13 days late!  We had such a good time enjoying this Panamanian adventure together.  She could only stay for a few days, but it just made everything seem right.  Complete.  And, as with everything, it made me think.

Enjoying birthday lunch with my Bible study group!

I've been friends with Amelia since 2007.  I have the unique pleasure of remembering the first time we met.  We were visiting the big church in the small town in Georgia that was our new home.  Amelia was the first person who came up to speak to us because she wanted to. not because she wore the greeter name tag, but because she was truly welcoming us.  A few days later, she called to invite us to church supper.  In her Alabama drawl, the "Come on" seemed deeply welcoming, so we came on!  We've been together ever since.  The richness of that friendship I wish for all of you.


Chloe (sorry, love, not the best pic!) and GL getting ready to cheer!

While Amelia was here, we were explaining to Chloe that the beauty of true friendship is that it wants the best for you.  She's struggling with the guilt of making new friends.  If you haven't ever moved, you may not understand the seemingly impossible internal battle between loyality towards your "old" friends and you heart's desire to make "new" friends.  It takes a special friend to not only encourage you to make new friends, but watch happily as you do so.  Oftentimes insecurities creep up, and the feelings of being replaced can be painful.  It happens within those who have left, too.  The blessing of "old" friends is the easy, comfortable place you slide into as soon as they arrive.  And, "old" friends remind you that you are capable of being a friend and having a friend.  A truth easily forgotten in the chaos of  new.  Prayers that you may all enjoy the ease of "old" friends while seeking out the "new" friends to share today.

As we watched Chloe and GL cheer for the basketball game, Amelia caught my attention.  She motioned toward the bottom of the bleachers where Carson and his friend were sitting.  I had to smile.


The second part of Proverbs 18:24 tells us "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."  As I watched these two friends sit so close together even though there was plenty of room for them to spread out, that verse sang in my soul.  Yes, these earthly friendships are sweet, but they are God's reminders that He is so much closer to us than any earthly friend or family will ever be.  That easy, comfortable place I slide into when I'm with Amelia?  It's so much easier and more comfortable in the presence of the Lord.  And He is the one who has allowed the sweetness of human frienship.



Monday, October 24, 2011

Money Monday!!

(Sorry I've been absent.  My bff was here last week, and my internet has been out all day.)
One more week.  That’s all that is left of October.  So, how are your budgets looking?  Ours is uncomfortably snug, but I think know all will be fine.   We have passed our original grocery budget number, but we have been able to move things around in other categories to make it work.  (For the fiftieth time, you need to let your budget grow and change.  It needs to be flexible enough to allow for life.)
As some of you know, I have twice-weekly language lessons.  In theory, these are helping me learn to communicate in Spanish.  In reality, they afford me the opportunity to chat with my language trainer, too often in English, about all my Panama questions.  At first, she stuck to the facts without much opinion.  As we’ve spent more time together, she’s been more forthcoming with her thoughts on my questions. 
We usually start each Tuesday class with a discussion on our fin de semana (weekend).   She was telling me about how late she stayed up, and that her mom wasn’t very happy about when she arrived home.  I was teasing her that she needed to move out.  That’s when all kinds of honesty broke out, and God made His point VERY clearly.
We began talking about how small some Panamanians’ salaries were.  I didn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable position of talking about her personal salary so we talked about public school teachers- my former profession.  I shared that 10 years ago, I started out at $32,000 which was a pretty good salary for that part of central Illinois.  She said in Panama teachers are lucky to make $1000/month.  (I didn’t ask her if that was for 9 months or 12.)
That number struck me.  That’s not very much money.  We live in the same city.  And she shops at the same grocery store I do. And I complain about my grocery budget.   I know people here whose grocery budgets are about $1000 a month. 
She was telling me about being a kid and feeling like her family was doing okay.  Why?  Because they knew that their school, food, housing, and clothing needs were going to be met.  They were confident there wasn’t going to be any extra, but there wasn’t any real concern about the needs.  Umm.  Yes.  Can we talk about needs for a minute?
We (as Americans, perhaps) can’t even begin to fathom what “needs” means.  Not even close.  The more she talked the more I thought about financial gurus in the United States.  I thought about the financial experts who recommend having “blow money” in your budget so you don’t get discouraged by the tightness of staying on budget.  Blow money?  The working-class people of Panama (some of whom, by comparison to the rest of the world, are doing pretty well) don’t have blow money.  They are thankful to have their needs met.  A $5.00 trip to Starbucks to reward themselves for their financial responsibility that month?  It doesn’t work that way.  A 3-day vacation to the beach because they’ve earned it?  It’s not happening.
I know when God wants me to get something because it comes up in every conversation I have until I get it.  Thursday, my Bible study friends had a lunch for my birthday.  Several of them do ministry in the impoverished area of Curundu.  A new lady has been visiting with them.  She’s turned to prostitution to meet her family’s financial needs.  How quickly do we shake our heads judging with fained moral superiority those kinds of choices while we can’t live within our means because we “need” to go out to eat 5 times a month?  (or once a month?)
My Bible study friends are praying she will trust Christ and turn from this life, but they fully recognize that for her to trust she has to be willing to risk her family not eating.  She has to trust Christ to meet her NEEDS some other way.  I listened to them, and I was overwhelmed with the conviction of the moment.  Not only do I pretend to have a tough budget, but I pretend to trust Christ, too.  I can’t even begin to fathom what a daily-clinging-to-faith-because-it’s-all-you’ve-got life really feels like. Sure, my cushy earthly life brings some challenges of faith, but let’s be real people.  My life is easy.  Yours is, too.  Do you have food in your refrigerator?  Do you have a refrigerator?  Do you have consistent electricity available to run a refrigerator?
As the orange of October fades into the glitter of the holidays, I challenge you to look at your budget, and deeply praise God for how truly financially blessed you are.  Thank Him that though we have financial challenges and struggles, we can’t begin to know what need truly is.  I pray that we may each be transformed in faith as we see how blessed we are.   And as we recognize our financial blessings (and all the nonfinancial ones!), we can turn our eyes away from our concerns and trust Him more deeply to use us for His eternal glory.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Money Monday!!

I've been pondering since Friday what I was going to write about today.  The grocery budget is hanging in there, the house savings is growing, and the opportunities to give have been amazing.  We continue to be beyond grateful to God's mercy on us.  Nothing really interesting in all of that.  Hmm...  What to write??

A web friend has started a blog about her debt journey and was sharing some of her struggles and victories.  I loved her candidness.  (I have a thing about real.  Transparent makes me happy and draws me in.)  As I read her posts, I began thinking about all the financial oops-es we've made over the years.  It occurred to me that maybe I wasn't free enough in sharing those.  Not because I was hiding them, but because they didn't seem relevant to today's successes and growth.

But they are relevant.  And they are relevant for a few reasons.  First of all, they taught us what mattered to us financially.  Also, I want you to have the full financial picture.  Now Tony is NEVER going to let me just post his W-2s, but I do think it is fair for you to know that we've messed up.  And how we've fixed it.  We are in a good financial place now, but not because we've done everything right.  I would never want someone else to be discouraged by their reality after reading this blog. 

Also, in the name of fairness, I thought I should share my personal oops-es.  One, because it's not fair to call Tony out on the blog and two, because Tony doesn't really have any.  He's annoying like that.  [Does this count:  When we broke-up in 1997, he went out and bought a used, but swanky, Honda Accord.  He brought it over to show me and said- and I promise this is the exact quote- "Look what I can afford now that I'm not dating you."  Not a financial mistake, but who says that!?!]

One of the biggest financial mistakes I can remember started in the fall of 2002.  Tony had moved in January for his job, and I was finishing my teaching contract in another city.  In June, I joined Tony in the new location.  In July, Chloe was born.  By August, I was bored to tears.  Tony was working, what I thought was, a lot of hours, and I had no friends.  I would go to the mall to be around people.  It was then that I discovered Gymboree.  My new best friend.  And my clothing addiction began.  I would go once or twice a week.  Every week.  I knew all the employees, and they knew me.  They started calling when the new lines came out, and they would hold pieces back for me.  I started getting a special discount because of the amounts I was spending.  It was glorious.  Until Tony told me it wasn't.

For those of you who haven't met Tony, you should.  He's as level headed as anyone you'll ever meet.  He runs our family with a calm contented confidence.  Some people have husbands who make commands and demands.  I don't have to run purchases by him.  I don't have to prove need.  I don't have to have his approval before I act.  But, my spending was draining the accounts each  month, and was upsetting his financial goals.  We had to talk.

Yuck.  The talk.  I hate it when someone has to "talk" to me.  We sat down, and he pulled out all the receipts, and added it all up.  Calmly, without emotion, he showed me the amount.  I stopped breathing momentarily.  Who knew Gymboree could get THAT expensive?  Apparently, Tony did.  I was ready for a lecture.  Ready to plead my case (and Chloe was stinkin' cute in her little fully complete outfits!).   That's not where the conversation went.

He got out a compound interest chart from one of his college courses.  He showed me how much money Chloe would have had for college had I saved that money instead of making her cute for the moment.  He told me that I was free to continue spending that much money on clothes, IF I did one thing differently.  He asked me to hand the clothes to the cashier and say, "This dress with the matching tights is more important than my child's education."  Umm.  That'll stop you in your tracks.  My calm, nondemanding husband got his point across.  The clothes buying declined significantly as I took the time to think about what I was spending and why.

We've all made money mistakes.  Some of those mistakes are bigger than others, but the fix is always the same.  Either spend less or make more.   And ultimately, until your heart is ready to spend less, you'll never make enough.

Friday, October 14, 2011

And the Winner Is...

The Drawing Container!

The Names!

Ready for the Drawing!


And the winner is...



A big thank you to everyone who participated.  Jen and I had a great time making this possible for y'all.  And I hope you enjoyed this first giveaway.  Definitely check out JustJen82 to use your 20% off coupon code: PANAMOM20.




Glenda at Enriched-Mom!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

EXPIRED!!

UPDATE:  If you cannot get the comments to work, please email me at panamom4@yahoo.com  and I will happily add you to the list




Out senior pastor's father gives away gifts on his birthday, and I thought that sounded like a fabulous idea so I began researching the idea of having a giveaway.   My friend, Jen, from Illinois has an etsy shop and agreed to participate in this fun day!


Jen and her husband, Dan, were our first ever Crown Financial leaders, and their money skill is in a league of its own.  I have never seen anyone stretch money farther (or is it further?) than these two.  Whenever I get down about our money "issues," the Lord reminds me of Dan and Jen who stick with seemingly unrealistic financial goals until they are met.  Truly amazing!


Now, on to the giveaway...


Jen at JustJen82 is giving away a $20 credit (with free shipping!) toward ANYTHING in her store which is full of cute handmade wallets, barrettes and more!  You have to look at her adorable party invitations!  (She doesn't know this yet, but I think she's making my Christmas cards this year.  Don't tell anyone that my "handmade" cards weren't made by my hands!)  Even better, Jen is offering all my blog readers 20% off anything in the store with the coupon code PANAMOM20.  Hmm.. wonder if I should go ahead and order my cards now.
(My stinkin cute checkbook holder is on the way here.  I'll get in next Tuesday, and I'm so excited!)

This giveaway is open to anyone in the US (and to those in Panama, if Jen can fill the order by 10/29).  To be eligible, you need to leave a comment on the blog telling me what your favorite item in her store is.  (You aren't obligated to choose this item should you win.)  The comments must be left on my blog by 12 noon CST on Friday, October 14th. 



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Weekly Wednesday!

~I have four healthy happy kids whom I not only love, but enjoy hanging out with!

~Bible study continues to be an awesome time of growth!

~We are settled here in Panama- this feels like home!

~I was able to get our plane tickets back to the US for my grandmother's memorial service!

~The kids did super well on their 1st quarter report cards!

~My bff will be here in 6 days!  (The best birthday present EVER!)

~I have the privelge of sitting here watching Coralynn play in the mirror with a stuffed monkey.  I'm so thankful that I get to be home with her to enjoy all the little moments.


Remember-- Tomorrow, we will have our first giveaway.  It will be perfect for ladies and girls!!  Stay tuned!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Money Monday!!

(My apologies for no Funsy Friday.  Just wasn't particularly Funsy here on Friday.)

I have to tell y'all about our fabulous warehouse store find.  I've mentioned before that we buy a lot of things in bulk because the prices are better.  The problem with this is that it ties up a lot of the budget early in the month.  And since budgets are alive, the tied up money can cause some issues.  I've decided that if the savings aren't very high (more than 50 cents) or if it's not going to be used in a week or so then PriceSmart isn't the way to go.  Simply put, we want to make sure that the savings is worth the money being tied up.

I've known for some time that salsa, a staple at our house, is expensive at the normal grocery stores.  I was saddened to see that my usual PriceSmart stop carrying the big containers.  As part of my birthday celebration, we went to the other PS to check there.  (Yes, that's how I wanted to celebrate my birthday.  No shame.)


Score!!  I was so excited.  I got a little weepy.  Tony thought I was going insane.  I assured him the price difference was signifcant.  I bought two 2-packs.  Each 2-pack is $7.49.  At the grocery store, I pay $4.29 for 16 ounces which works out to $0.47 per ounce.  Each of the large bottles contains 38 ounces equaling 76 total ounces for the $7.49 or less than $0.10 an ounce!!!  That is a savings worth tieing up some money!!


OTHER EXCITING NEWS: We are going to have our first giveway this week!  I'll list the giveway Thursday morning.  And the winner will be announced during Funsy Friday.  Stayed tuned for more information!!! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thoughts from Thursday: Guest Blogger!

As you all know a thousand times over, I love all things October.  Today, we have a special guest blogger who has a special affinity for October, as well!  Throughout this month, we will be having special and surprise blogs!

For those who don’t know me, I am Erica.  I have been married to my husband, Bruce, for nine years.  We have three fantastic children, Natalie (8 this Fri!!), Caleb (3), and Ephraim (19 months).  And now you maybe thinking- great, so why are you guest blogging?  Well the answer to that is simple and complex all in one.  My youngest child has Mosaic Down Syndrome, and October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.    Now if you didn’t already know about Oct being DS Awareness month, don’t feel badly.  Until I learned of my son’s diagnosis and started stalking blogs of other parents, I had no idea either.  In fact, until I had my son, I didn’t know much about DS at all.  Sure I saw a few kids at school when I was growing up but they were kept apart from the “normal” kids. 


Down Syndrome is the most common occurring genetic disorder.   Down Syndrome occurs when an individual has three, rather than two, copies of the 21st chromosome. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome

There are four types of DS and as I mentioned before my son has Mosaic DS.  So what does that mean?   Well not all of his cells have the extra 21st chromosome.  Out of the 20 that was tested only 5 had the extra chromosome.  

We did not find out that Ephraim had MDS until he was 10 weeks old.   When he was born, I thought I “saw” it in his eyes, but no one said anything.   It wasn’t until he was 6-7 weeks old that a murmur was heard, and we were sent to a cardiologist.  He is the one who suspected DS and ordered the test for us. 


That weekend of the test, I was devastated.  I didn’t want my son to have DS, and I didn’t want him to have a hard life.  I thought the worst thoughts ever and cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.  After that, I was over it.  I am the type of gal who is a control freak and let’s make a list of what I need to do and get this thing done. 


So what have I learned having a child with special needs-

~It’s most defiantly not the end of the world or a death sentence.  

~God did not choose me because I was perfect for E, it’s the other way around.  Ephraim is perfect for me.  He challenges me in way no one else could.  Molding me to become a better person, mother, and friend. 

~Having DS makes you cuter.  Okay, I am biased but I mean Ephraim is pretty stinking cute.

~Having Ephraim in my life is not a burden.  It BREAKS my heart that some people are so afraid of DS that they choose to not give birth to their child or they give them up for adoption.  Ephraim has brought so much to not just me and my family but those around us as well.  Ephraim has some magic, he has figured out to get everyone he comes in contact with wrapped around his little finger.


Thank you for taking the time to read a stranger’s post.  J  If you want to learn more about DS you can visit www.ndss.org.  Want more info on Mosaic Down Syndrome, check out www.imdsa.org.  


You can find Erica, Ephraim, and the rest of her crew at http://unfinishedramble.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

And that's why God gave me kids.

The inside of the lovely handmade birthday card from Chloe had this lovely handwritten message:

"I love you and I am glad you live this long!"


Thanks, dear.  I love you, too.

Partying Like It's 1978!


The Bits and I are celebrating while the kids are school.  Mashed banana for everyone! 

Time for the Wednesday 7- Birthday Edition!

I'm thankful for:

~My parents.  They are great in so many ways, but the one that strikes me this morning is that they never treated me like I was just a little kid.  My father is a notorious strong disliker of baby talk, but it was more than that.  I was always allowed to have a voice.  We definitely didn't always agree, but I got to be heard.  When tough or stressful things came along, the information wasn't hidden from me.   The highest compliment any of my children has ever told me came from Chloe.  During the stress of the move to Panama she pulled me aside and thanked me for "even though I'm a kid, you let me know stuff like adults know."  Feeling like you are actively involved in your own life instead of a boat in the waves is an awesome gift- and I definitely received it from my parents! 

~My big bro.  Tim and I are almost four years apart in age.  Since having my own children, I'm convinced that 4 years is one of the more difficult gaps to overcome.  We were too far apart to have similar interests, but too close for him to be the much older sibling that functions as a semi-parent.  I watch my 4-year gappers struggle for common ground.  I can actively remember this struggle within my own heart and mind.  And I remember when it stopped.  Thanksgiving 1994.  I went to visit him at college, and we got to be friends.  Friends take all the pressure of family away.  I've quoted him before, but the best advice I've ever gotten came from him.  I'm so thankful that my big brother is a great friend.  I love that he loves my kids and my husband.  I'm simply thankful for him.  (And if you knew him, you'd be thankful for him, too.)

I just received word that my grandmother passed away this morning.  If you would please be in prayer for my family, I would appreciate it.  Though it might seem odd, I firmly believe that when the heavy rains of grief come, the need to praise doesn't diminish, but grows even more valuable.  We can't understand all the whys and hows, but we can know the One whom numbers the days.  And He is worthy of praise.  (I did wait to publish this until, I believe, everyone in the family knew.)

~My husband.  I've been in love with this man (teenager) since 1995.  I'll spare you the long twisted tale and the mushy stuff, not because I don't want to say it, but because he wouldn't want you to read it.  He's the reserved to my transparent.  He's always been my strength.  My other half.  My rock.

~My Chloe.  The world's greatest child.  No comparison.  No contest.  She is.  For the Lord to choose to work so mightily in someone so young, you know that He knows who she is and will be.  I'm just grateful to get a front row seat in her life.

~My Carson.  My son.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I had a Carson David.  I am firmly convinced that God gave me this child to humble me.  And Carson has always been the other half of my heart.  We look at the world with the same vision.  We react with the same explosive passion.  We both hurt deeply beneath our hard shell.  Carson is more protective of me than anyone ever has been.  He's my little man, and I'm so thankful he is.

~My Camilla.  God was so gracious to give me a child who just loves life.  Her silly shyness makes the whole world seem simpler.  Less scary.  Her shy braveness always takes my breath away.  She is obedient and mischievous to the core- traits she gets from her Daddy!

~My heaven Baby.  3 years ago today I became pregnant with baby number four.  15 weeks later, I released him to heaven.  No single moment has had a greater impact on my life.  I am beyond blessed to have gone through the experience.  The bible clearly records that children are a blessing.  It doesn't record how long that child must live to qualify.  I confidently look to the day when I hold my second son in eternity.  I am blessed to be his mom.

~My Coralynn Mae.  My gratitude for a healthy pregnancy after the previous loss is too big to describe.  No words could express the love I have for the Bits.  The sweetest blessing, if that can even be determined, is the change in me as a mom.  I had my first baby at 23.  My last at 31.  I love the mom I am at 33.  I love that Coralynn and I get to live this together without all the stuff that comes from being a young mom.  I love that she is nothing but a joy to me as I throw away the insecurities I had nearly a decade ago.  I'm so grateful that I get to see life through her toddler vision.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Money Monday!

Sweet victory, folks.  We've had a sweet financial victory.  Chloe earned enough "money" at school to "shop" at her class's "store."  She got in the van beaming with the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a goal.  She bought the item she's had her sights on for nine weeks.  She earned... the frame!




When she saw it, she knew she had to have it.  Why?  Because she has a picture where she's wearing her red and black cheerleading uniform and standing with bff, Libby.  The picture would match perfectly, and from that moment on, the frame had to be hers.

I've known from the beginning the item of her desire.  A picture frame?  Seriously?  Nine weeks of saving to get a red and black picture frame?  I can't imagine, but here's another one of those money truths that seems so obvious when you look at a child, but so difficult when we look at each other. It was her money.  Her desires.

And she had done the right things- moneywise: 
She worked hard earning her salary. 
She made a goal for herself. 
She took care of her financial responsibilities. 
She remained focused on the long term, not letting instant gratification sideswipe her. 
She saved enough money. 
She bought what she wanted- and could afford.

It's easy for us to spend other people's money for them.  We look at their lives and question why that item.  We determine what could have been done with it had we had the money.  We look, from the outside, and judgementally see waste- rarely stopping to see the heart behind it.

A picture frame?  We have dozens of picture frames.  We have photo albums.  In my mind, it was a misstep on her part to focus on that item.  And then I saw her face when she earned it.  She was thrilled.  It was hers.  She insisted that we skype Libby as soon as we got home.  I sat in the other room listening.

"Libby," she exclaimed.  "I bought you something at school." 

"You did?"

"Yes!  Let me go get it!"  
(returns with frame)
"What do you think?"

"oh cool, Chloe!"

"I have a picture of us to go in it, Libby!  The one of us with the magician."

"Great idea, Chloe."

"I got it for you, and for me.  To share."

(They talk for a while like 4th grade girls do.)

"Chloe, I need to go.  Thanks for the frame.  I'm glad we're friends.  I love you."

"I love you, too, Libby.  Bye."


After she was done, I asked her how Libby liked the frame.  "She liked it a lot, Mom.  She likes it because I got it.  Because we're friends.  And we are going to be friends 4ever.  Best friends."  It made my heart smile.  The picture frame that I was so quick (in my mind) to deem wasteful was more than a savings goal.  It was Chloe's daily reminder, during these very diffiuclt first nine weeks of school, that she had someone in her corner.  A faithful friend who, though thousands of miles away, gave her the strength to deal with the fear and uncertainity of a new country and a new school.

That red and black picture frame isn't a four-pretend-dollar trinket to Chloe.  She did not love the frame because she wanted more stuff.  She was not buying it because the money was burning a hole in her pocket.  Chloe didn't want it because everyone else has one.  She wasn't trying to be on the cutting edge.  She wanted it because it spoke of Libby.

The Bible tells us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.   Chloe made a purchase because she treasures her sweet friend.  Her money followed her heart.  That, my fellow adults, is the biblical picture of financial stewardship. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Seasons

I've mentioned before my love for fall.  My heart is drawn to the change of seasons. The surprise of weather that every day brings,   I love the crisp cool mornings and warm afternoons.   The rainy days that signal the nearing cold weather.  Nature is actviely preparing itself for the deep slumber of winter.  It's magical to me.  It sends my mind deep into my soul.

As I watch the seasons run their course, I'm acutely aware that we all change.  Perhaps not as obviously as the seasons, but we do change and grow.   Looking back over months and years, we can notice how we are not the same person who started this journey.  Other times, we can look back at a single moment and realize we are now on a different path.  The rains of fear and hurt bring forth the growth of trust in our souls if we allow Him to work in us.


Last Friday, life brought a rain down on my life.  Not a heavy thunderstorm of grief, but the drizzle of sadness that reminded me that, again, I am in a season of change.  Nothing colossal happened.  Nothing that I can't overcome.  That small shower washed away some of the illusions of my mind, my heart.  Like chalk drawings on a sidewalk, the confidences of "always" were washed away. 

Yesterday brought sunshine on my soul, but in that I was able to see the debris from the rain.  And debris always brings with it a choice.  Do you gather yourself, pick up the pieces and rebuild?  Or do you gather yourself, remember- with gratitude- the good times, and move on?  The depth of my hurt from this small incident made it seem obvious that I needed to rebuild right where I was.  My initial reaction was to work at putting it all back, but the reality of the seasons reminded me.  Change has come.  I'm not right where I was. It's time to move on.

My life will never look the same as it did before we began this new season.  The Lord has brought many people into my three decades of life.  He's beautifully woven them into my experience to draw me closer to Himself.  Some of those people served for a moment and changed me for a lifetime.  Their value is lasting regardless of their role today.  Others will seemingly never cease from actively partnering with me through life.  But just as hot summer days and dark winter nights seems to never end, those relationships, too, will change in time.  Their value, however, will never be dimmed.

My role is to sit back and deeply, intentionally drink up the rich blessings of today.  To take in all I can from the richness of every moment all the while knowing that today is fleeting.  The rain of hurt brings with it the sweet blessing of knowing that I paused long enough to love and be loved.  The change of seasons does not mean that love is gone or that it was never truly there.  Quite the opposite really.  The change of seasons allow us to refocus, to pause and remember how blessed we truly are.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy October!!



I love October! It's my favorite month, and not just because of my birthday. Tony's birthday is also this month! I love fall weather (though I won't get to experience any this year). October is the calm before the storm of the holiday season. Have I mentioned that I really don't care for the holidays? Someday I'll blog about it. Until then, I'm enjoying the cuddly calm of fall- even if it's 90 degrees outside.