Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2 Steps Back….

One step forward, two steps back.
This saying seems to embody our lives at the moment.

Almost 7 months ago we embarked on a journey. One that we prayed about, we felt led to and one that we thought would create new and exciting possibilities for our family. Those of you that have been with me here for awhile know that Dominic took a job in SW Minnesota. Because of the timing, kids in school, me 6 months pregnant etc. we made the choice that he would live up there during the week and come home on the weekends and I would stay with the family in our current home.

To say this situation has been difficult is an understatement. With the winter we had, bad commutes in bad weather, the stress of being a single mom at home for me and learning a new field of law for him has left us weary. But we pressed forward, trusting that the hard work would pay off eventually.

We started looking for houses in the area and prepared our house to be put on the market in the spring. We cherished…and still do…our nightly phone conversations and our weekends together as a family. Whether at our house or his we haven’t been apart once in 7 months on the weekend!

But what seemed like a step forward for his career and our family has taken 2 steps back. I cannot get into details just to say that the environment Dominic is in can best be described as difficult (putting it nicely). It is frustrating and very disheartening and we wonder where do we go from here?

He likes what he is learning…he enjoys it and when he talks to me about all he knows now I am so proud of him! He can and will be very successful at this “type” of law – I have no doubt. But what do you do when the environment you are in for 12 hours a day is so negative? Even someone like Dominic, who always tries to find the positive in every situation, is wearing thin….

And then last weekend as he was getting ready to leave Beresford to head to MN for the week, he was hit by a teenager in our community. It was an accident….her fault – she was cited and although our car was totaled, thankfully no one was hurt. But her insurance company has refused to pay and so we are once again left a few steps back as we try to figure out…what is next God?!

Why can't we catch a break here?!

I KNOW that we have so much to be grateful for, but my heart has been closed to what those things are. It has been much easier for me to wallow in self-pity and compare myself to others who seem to have things much easier than we do.

And so in my faith walk I have taken 2 steps back.

Folks, it is an ugly place to be. To look at my kids and not see the gift but to focus on the things that frustrate me instead, to see the fortune of others and feel envious, to spend time angry with God because “this was supposed to be our big opportunity…”. Trust me the list goes on and on…..

YUCK!

My mom is a very wise woman…..much wiser than I ever gave her credit for when I was younger!! She e-mailed me something today and I want to share just a part of it with you.

This is one of those moments when God Himself speaks through others….I hope that you hear it here.

Think about how you react when you give Gabriel a “super surprise”. When you gave him the snow globe and he said “Mom, this isn’t a super surprise” you were upset by his response. When you gave him the diamond he said “This is the best super surprise ever!” and you were so excited that he loved his gift. That made me think about how God must feel when he sends me a gift and I don’t appreciate it for the care and thought with which it was chosen and given. Is He disappointed in me? Is he less likely to give me another gift because of the way I responded to this one? Fortunately God’s love is unconditional and he keeps giving me gifts…..

Are you hearing that? That is truth being spoken!!

This is EXACTLY where I have found myself. Disappointed by the gifts God has given me because it hasn’t come in the package that I had hoped for.

I don’t know what will happen in the next 3 months or 6 months or year. We may find ourselves still in this same position…and I have to get to that place where I am ok wherever we are because we have God prevalent in our family and THAT is what is important. Not the package that surrounds us.

I know this too will be a process for me. I am not one of those people that changes overnight. So I just ask that you would pray with me that God would be real to me in all things. And that I would let go of my misperceptions and expectations and just find peace with God right where I am.

What Happens When....

What happens when Gabriel doesn't get something he wants??

He takes matters into his own hands!

On Sunday we had Karlena's dedication at church (that post to follow soon!) and after we were home Gabriel asked me if he went "above and beyond" with his behavior that day.

Dominic and I explained that his behavior was very good...but that it is expected that he will behave well in church and it didn't necessarily warrant a Flat Charlie. I wrote this post about what a Flat Charlie is.  We told him that he probably wouldn't get a Flat Charlie every day just for being a good boy...it was for extra special things.

This news DID NOT make Gabriel happy.

A few minutes later I see he is downstairs at the computer desk writing something on a piece of paper.

This is what he was working on.....


So there you have it...if you can't get someone to give you a Flat Charlie - take matters into your own hand and make your own! :)

Oh - and we thought this was so creative that Gabriel got a "real" Flat Charlie for being creative and inventive!

Have a wonderful Tuesday friends!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flat Charlie

This is "Flat Charlie"....well at least our version of it!



What is a "Flat Charlie"??

Well in our school they have these "Way to Go" slips. They are given to the kids in school when a teacher sees a child doing something that demonstrates good character.  It is a way that they continue to encourage the Character Counts idea into the daily school time.

Gabriel came home last week talking about this "Flat Charlie" and how he REALLY wanted one. I had no idea what he was talking about so I e-mailed his teacher to find out what it was.

One of the colleges in our state - the college I graduated from - is the University of South Dakota.  Their mascot is "Charlie the Coyote".

As a part of Character Counts, Charlie visited the school and the teachers, for the month of March, started giving out the "Flat Charlies" instead of the traditional Way to Go slips.

So to encourage this good character at home I came up with my own Flat Charlie seen above!  Now everytime Gabriel does something helpful without being asked, or really behaves without complaining I give him a "Flat Charlie".

Yesterday he went outside after we got home and picked up sticks in the yard...without being asked!  A few days before he went out and picked up garbage around the house.  The first one he got was for doing everything I asked in the morning without complainig or arguing once.

He has them taped to the front of his bedroom door. He LOVES this form of "reward" and I have to say it is an easy way to encourage good behavior!

So how do you encourage good behavior/character with your children?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Devotional

The devotional below is one that my mom sent to me from the website http://www.girlfriendsingod.com/. I wish that the words below fully reflected how my heart felt right at this moment….but in truth I am struggling. Without getting into all the “discouragements” we are facing right now I want to instead remind myself (and you) that even when we are in the valley, God is with us. I am praying the prayer below for my family today and I hope that this is an encouragement to you too.

Friend to Friend
It was advertised that the devil was putting his tools up for sale. When the day of the sale came, each tool was priced and laid out for public inspection. And what a collection it was. Hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, pride, and lying ... the inventory was treacherous. Off to one side was a harmless-looking tool priced higher than all the rest, even though it was obviously more worn than any other tool the devil owned. "What's the name of this tool?" asked one of the customers. "That," the devil replied, "is discouragement." The customer asked, "But why have you priced it so high?" The devil smiled and explained, "Because discouragement is more useful to me than all the others. I can pry open and get inside a man's heart with that tool when I can't get near him with any other. It's badly worn because I use it on almost everyone, since so few people know it belongs to me."

The valleys in life are lined with disappointment and discouragement. Some people seem to thrive on adversity, emerging from their valley with greater strength and deeper faith. Others stumble and fall, giving in to discouragement and dropping out of the race. The difference in outcome is determined by the way we choose to handle discouragement.

We must respond to each valley with trust and faith. The word "trust" means "to lie helpless, face down" and is the picture of a servant waiting for his master's command or a soldier yielding himself to a conquering general. "Heart" refers to "the center of one's being." In other words, to trust God completely means that from the very center of our being, from the very core of our existence, we trust Him, totally abandoning ourselves in childlike faith to Him and His plan. We come to God, holding nothing in our hands, with one word in our heart - "whatever!" Whatever You want me to do, Lord, I will do. Whatever You want me to say, Lord, I will say. Whatever You want me to think, Lord, I will think. Whatever path You have for me, Lord, I will walk."

If you are like me, you sometimes think you don't have enough faith. The amount of faith is not nearly as important as the right kind of faith - faith in God alone. Faith does not rest on what we have done, but on what Christ has already done on the cross and in our lives. Faith builds on the victories of yesterday to help us face the valleys of today and the storms of tomorrow. Faith does not bypass pain. It does, however, empower us to deal with pain. Faith steps up to the bat

and invites the opponent to throw his best pitch. Sometimes faith strengthens us, and other times, surprises us. Great faith is forged in the deepest valleys, beginning where our strength and power end.

I love the story of a missionary family, home on furlough and visiting friends. When it was time for dinner, the mother of the missionary children called her kids in. When her son burst through the door, she took one look at his hands and said, "Son, go wash those hands. They are dirty and covered in germs." With a scowl on his face, the little boy headed to the sink muttering, "Germs and Jesus! Germs and Jesus! That's all I hear about and I've never seen either one!" While we tend to say that seeing is believing, faith says that believing is seeing. Doubt creates mountains; faith moves them. Faith produces trust that shatters fear and leaves no room for discouragement.

Let's Pray

Father, I am so discouraged. Life is just not turning out like I thought it would. I have had so many disappointments and it seems like I face one valley after another. I need You and the hope that only You can give. Help me to trust You will all of my heart - not just part of it. Teach me how to walk by faith and not by sight. Today, I come to You with a "yes" in my heart for whatever You have planned for my life.

In Jesus' name,
Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

3 month birthday!

3 months ago today sweet Karlena joined our family!


Karlena has grown so much and I can't wait to see at her 4 mo appt how big she is. She has pretty much outgrown her 0-3 mo clothing and is wearing 3-6 mo with not much room to grow. I think that she will be just like her brothers!

She has made it through her first week of daycare and overall it didn't go too bad. She doesn't take much from the bottle during the day...about 8 oz total. This means that at night she is nursing all the time to catch up but I am just enjoying the mom time I get with her.

She, like her brothers, thinks that she needs to eat every 2-3 hrs during the night. Most nights I lose track of what time she is getting up but I know she is not sleeping for long stretches of time. Somehow though I don't feel too tired during the day and I know that this too shall pass!

She is at that stage where she loves to talk to us and her smiles just melt my heart! Sometimes she gets really excited and it looks like she just wants to tell us what she is thinking so badly!

Karlena is loved by her brothers, Gabriel especially just doats over her. It is really sweet to see and I hope that as she grows up they will continue to take care of her like this!

We are just blessed by her addition to our family and can't believe how fast the last 3 months have gone!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Missing a Good Friend

It is often and at the strangest of times where I find myself missing Karlena all over again. I don’t think that her loss ever really leaves me, but it is more prominent at times I suppose.

As our Karlena is growing and changing I recognize all those times and things that I would have been sharing with her. When we had Elijah she was always asking for more pictures and updates….she loved our kids as an extension of her own family.

Next Sunday we will have Karlena’s dedication and make that promise to God to raise her up in a Godly home. I know how much Kar would have loved to be there. She was always so invested in us, so supportive of our family.

A few days ago I sent an e-mail out asking a few close friends to pray for our family. Her e-mail address came up in my list of contacts…again a reminder that I don’t have that friend to reach out to. I miss that so much. She was faithful in praying for us.

Last March I went to see her with Elijah and she called me while I was in the airport and left me a message. Every so often when I am listening to other voice mails hers comes up again. It is so good to hear her voice…to remember how she sounded.

On Sunday our church is doing a variety show fundraiser and I am singing “I Will Rise” again and sharing a message about my faith life. I have the courage to do this because I saw that courage in Karlena. Her faith held strong even in the darkest of times. Today in what seems like a difficult and troublesome time for our family I can hold onto the promise that Jesus has overcome the grave and although we will have troubles, He is always with us and someday a greater reward will be waiting for me as well.

John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world!”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Things You'll Discover When You Vacation with Your Entire Family

We just got back from a wonderful vacation with my parents, brother and sister and their families. We all stayed in a house together and really had a good time! On one of the flights home I was thinking about some of the things I learned about travelling together and specifically for our family with 4 children!  So this post really is more for me and my memories...but feel free to read if you are interested!

  • Even when you try and pack light you will inevitably over pack!
  • Putting full outfits together in ziploc bags for each child makes getting ready in the morning much easier. (Thanks mom for the idea!)
  • Often the youngest children don't get the memo that vacation means sleeping in and wake everyone up with their exuberant running at 6:30am. (Elijah you know who you are!)
  • If you happen to be travelling with an infant that is still nursing (and won't take a bottle) your schedule will revolve around feedings every 2-3 hrs.
  • If you will be nursing in public places and are nervous about privacy like I was...look into purchasing a nursing tank from Undercover Mama. It is a tank-like top that attaches to any nursing bra and keeps the mid-section covered when you need to nurse. I am in LOVE with these and purchased a couple more to wear everyday.
  • When you travel with a large family you are constantly checking to make sure that everyone is still with your group - especially in crowded places like airports and amusement parks!
  • If you are anything like me patience is a MUST and I didn't ever have enough of it!! Dominic commented that it seemed a common theme at Disney. Parents all over telling their kids to keep up or stop fighting...even at the happiest place on earth, things aren't always so happy! :)
  • When there are 6 people in the family to get ready in the morning, even with an early start, you will likely cause others to wait for you. Let's face it - I might as well accept the fact that we will always be running late and not get so stressed about it when it happens.
  • Renting a house with a pool is a HUGE bonus! Not only did we save money on hotel costs but we were able to have our meals all together as a family and each family had their own "private" space as well.
  • Taking LOTS of pictures was a must. I am so glad that I could use that as my excuse not to ride the scary rides! :) Karlena and the camera...that was all I needed!
  • Spending time with your parents, siblings and their families like this is something every family should do! This vacation was just the thing to help us all reconnect again!
  • Having a good quality sling was invaluable. I used a ring sling in the airport and plane rides and carried Karlena all day in a snugglie-like front carrier at the parks. She enjoyed that much more than riding in the stroller.
  • Date night with the husband may often be found in trips to the local Walmart!! :)
  • If you have a GPS system and are renting a car - bring it with. It may get you off track when you try and visit the outlet mall but usually it is a huge benefit to have along. (Pretty sure it was the GPS and not the wrong address that was the problem on said trip!)
  • If you plan to vacation and visit WDW buy a week long park hopper. In 6 days we didn't see half of what we could have seen, but we also didn't have the pressure of cramming it all into 1 day so we enjoyed our time much more.
  • Changing a diaper in the airplane bathroom with even the slightest bit of turbulence is a trip in itself....enough said!
  • And above all HAVE FUN! My dad has always said that on vacation "anything goes". The kids love this and really never tried to take advantage of it at all. They recognized that this whole week was a special gift and enjoyed every moment of it.
It was such a blessing to be able to celebrate 40 years of marriage with a trip like this. Mom and Dad we are all so grateful and blessed to be a part of this family! Thank you for everything!!

A Trial Run

Tomorrow my maternity leave "officially" ends. :( I can't believe that 12 weeks ago Karlena joined our family. Her 3 month birthday is this coming Sunday. So today I decided to bring her to daycare for a shorter day, while I was still in town to see how it goes for her (and me).

The daycare that we are bringing her to is the same place that Isaac went to 12 years ago. We know and love the people there and I feel comfortable with the care that they give my children.  I am also on the Board of Directors so I see how things run behind the scenes too. But in spite of all of that...dropping her off a few minutes ago was so hard. She always sleeps when I take the boys over to school/daycare...and so I would just let her sleep in her carseat until she was ready to be awake once we got home. Today when she wakes up she won't find her mommy and I am crying just thinking about it. :(

And then there is the small (ha!) issue that she has not taken to the bottle well recently. She took it when she was first born but when I tried it again a few weeks ago she refused. I have literally purchased EVERY bottle available on the market to try. We did find one in Florida at a local Walmart that is the same brand as her paci (which she also has just recently learned to accept) and have gotten her to take a few ounces from that. So I have been worried sick for a week that today she will not eat for them and be starving and miserable all day.

There will be LOTS of praying going on today....

I have always worked....always had to, and always enjoyed it. But lets be honest here - if we had been better stewards of our money early on in college and early married life maybe we could afford for me to stay home today. But we have looked at the budget and even if we downsized considerably it isn't something we could do. I carry the health insurance for myself and the kids and it is cheap...if I wasn't working and we had to be on Dominic's plan we would be paying as much as we are paying for 2 kids in daycare a month...it just isn't feasible at this time.

I can't live my life filled with regret....but today I am reminded once again that I wish I could do it differently and be there, ready to feed her when she wakes up. So please pray with me that she adjusts well. She is such a sweetheart and I want her to be happy when she isn't with me. In 12 weeks the longest I have been away from her is a little under 4 hours. Today will be a LONG day and tomorrow even longer.

Thanks for your prayers on our behalf. I know that God hears them and I know He will be beside both Karlena and I all day. Thank God for that!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vacation Part 5

Today was our last day here...our plane leaves tomorrow :( So we spent the day at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Of course the boys had to ride the Tower of Terror right when we got there!

And then on to the Rockin Roller Coaster. Gabriel was just tall enough to ride this one!

Isaac and Eliah waiting for the parade to start.

These parades are so much fun!!

The Toy Story float was cool!

Grandma and Karlena watching the parade!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vacation Part 4

Today, after the rain cleared, we headed to the Magic Kingdom...
We arrived just as a parade was starting. Woody came up to Gabriel and tried to shake his hand because he was wearing his Toy Story sweatshirt...but Gabriel got a little scared by that. He told me later that he thought if he shook Woody's hand that Woody might follow him around for the rest of the day! Too cute.
All the boys rode on the teacups together. Dominic didn't feel too well after all that spinning!

Gabriel and Dominic rode on Space Mountain not once, not twice but 3 times. Who knew that our 7 year old would love the scary roller coasters so much!

Cinderella's castle at night.

Elijah with a great view of the light show on dad's shoulder.

Who else loved Pete's Dragon when they were younger??

The fireworks show was awesome and a great way to end our day at Disney!!

Vacation Part 3

On Wednesday my parents, Dominic, Elijah, Karlena and I went over to Cocoa Beach to see the ocean and watch the shuttle land. The rest of the family stayed home for some rest and swimming!

Elijah was not so sure that he liked the ocean.
 
Dominic found him some shells but he just wanted to throw them back into the ocean.

Father and son

Elijah was soaked within minutes of walking

Gabriel spent the day swimming. I think he went at least 5 times! He was loving the pool!

We got to hear the shuttle come in...2 very loud sonic booms. Then WAY off in the distance we saw it coming in across the sky. It was so far away and so fast that I didn't get it on film but it was pretty cool to know that it was coming in so close to where we were! 

Vacation Part 2

Our second day we spent at Epcot. Each of these parks are so big that we didn't see even half of the park. But we really enjoyed our day there.
The symbol of the park when you come in.

Couldn't get a smile out of Elijah on this one...but grandpa is smiling!

These flowers of Mickey and Minnie were beautiful.

Elijah having a mini meltdown....

Elijah having fun with his 3D glasses!

Gabriel in the mouth of a shark! And still smiling!!!

Can you believe that Isaac is as tall as my dad already?

Mission Space was one of the boys favorite rides...although grandpa didn't feel to well after all that spining!

Vacation Part 1

We are in Florida this week as a whole family to celebrate my parent's 40th wedding anniversary that was this past August! We are staying all in a rented house together and have our own pool. The kids and the adults are loving it and we are having a great time!

We also have week passes to Disney and our first day we spent at Disney's Animal Kingdom!

This is the Tree of Life that you see when you first come into the park. It is huge and has all these animals carved into the tree trunk. Really amazing!
Karlena is with us but at the time we first came in she was all strapped into the stroller and very content so we just had my dad take a shot of the rest of our family.

Gabriel was SUPER excited about this ride. It was a roller coaster that went around and through this mountain. I am not a big ride fan so I was on little child duty and the rest of the big boys went on this ride and Gabriel said it was "Awesome"!!

This was Elijah during the parade. He was wiped out! I am just grateful that he sleeps well just about anywhere!

Mickey in the jungle parade

Karlena sound asleep in grandma's arms!

Part 2 etc to follow!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

I started reading a new book recently along with the Bloom Book Club over at (in)courage. You must check them out...a neat group of women and so encouraging. Anyways the book is titled "One Thousand Gifts" and is written by Ann Voskamp.

This book is amazing...transforming and I just wanted to share a few of the things that so far have impacted me along with a few of the items from my "list". This isn't a "formal" book review but rather just me sharing my experience and what has inspired me recently!

Ann shares her journey of starting to see God in all things and making a list of all those things that she has to be grateful for...even in those times where life seems mundane or difficult or is filled with loss.  I had seen good reviews of her book and so I ordered it. I thought that a study on the idea of gratitude could do my soul some good.

And once I started reading I knew that I also needed to start my own gratitude list. We do have so many things to be thankful for...even when times aren't easy or "ideal". It is just a matter of looking for them...seeing the small gifts that God gives us in everyday moments.

1) A husband who honored me at church

13) The sound of Elijah saying "Amen"

22) Early morning text messages of encouragement

26) Forgiveness from my kids - GRACE

Ann talks about the story of Satan in the Garden of Eden. "Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory....Satan's sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave." page 15

And isn't that so true of myself? I live in a world that offers me so much. More than enough. You should see the things I throw out each week or the piles of bags of things that I have waiting for the YMCA pickup. When some have so little...I have so much and yet I want more and am often ungrateful for what I DO have.

30) The soft grunts of a newborn baby

40) Prayers with Gabriel on the way to school

46) Isaac doing just "one more" favor for me without complaining

This experience has challenged me to look and see if I can truly trust God in ALL things. So much right now is still unknown. When will we be all together as a family, where..will the job work out, will my job transfer, will we be able to sell our home and find another suitable?

All of these unknowns wear at me and I begin to fear the future, I begin to feel ungrateful and I begin to feel jealous. Jealous of how easy it seems for others and I wonder why it can't be that way for us....and I stop seeing anything to be grateful for. It is an ugly place to be and it isn't someplace that I can stay. I am missing out on the full life when I get stuck in a place like this. Ann talks about this...

"We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace." pg 39

53) Moments of clarity in the midst of sanity

So I set to seeing gifts in ALL things. And this practices changes your vision, changes your attitude, changes your life.  If you aren't convinced yet...just try it for awhile. Get out a note pad and start looking at the world around you and see where you can give thanks.

71) Shoveling snow mounds to be helpful

88) The sound of a dryer tumbling

97) Feelings of jealousy that convict my soul

98) Seeing blessings when it all feels uncertain

107) Not getting angry when my son expects I will

111) No expectation, no regrets, just joy in this moment

114) Stepping out in faith - trusting in God that there IS a plan even if we can't see it

I am only a short way on my journey to 1000 and I hope it doesn't end there....are you ready to join me?! I know that God will meet you and open your eyes to a new way of "seeing" as He did with me!!


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