Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What I'm Hungry For

Everyone has an appetite, so what are you hungry for?  Our pastor asked this question as part of our recent sermon series about the importance of healthy lifestyles.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? Corinthians 6:19 Eating healthier has been a desire of mine for years, but the list of excuses has outweighed that desire for just as long.  Whether we were in the middle of a move, adoption, traveling or pregnancy, I always had a reason that it was not a good time for something drastic and complicated.  Other than being in a constant state of flux, I feared the return of migraines that always come when I change my eating habits.
While at a women's event in December, I came across Manna.  It first caught my eye because whenever the kids ask what's for dinner, I tell them "manna."  When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was... Now the house of Israel called its name manna. Exodus 16:15, 31 But then I listened to the ladies present the product over and over again throughout the day (my booth was across from theirs).  This nutritional supplement is filled with vitamins, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and more.  It doesn't have all of the junk that you don't need like sweeteners, preservatives, gluten and chemicals.  As if that wasn't enough, I listened to the testimonials of these ladies, one of whom suffered from migraines until starting Manna and the other who used it to replace her prenatal vitamins.  It sounded too good to be true, but worth trying. 
I was finally at a point when my hunger for health overpowered my excuses. Armed with a tool that could boost my health, I started Manna in January.  Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Daniel 1:12 I was amazed at the changes, even one the first day.  A shake at breakfast satisfied me until lunchtime!  Even at 1 pm, I was able to eat a much smaller lunch than I was used to and again feel full until dinner when I would again eat a small meal.  My energy level was higher throughout the day and I did not experience a migraine.  I also noticed a strange side effect - my cravings for things like candy and chips diminished.  I recalled hearing that when your body is satisfied with the nutrition it needs, then the cravings for junk would go away, but this was unreal!  Without even trying, I lost 25 pounds in 3 months.  Even my kids said they felt better when they started their days with Manna.  At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.   Daniel 1:15
In March, our family took a road trip and the quality of our meals suffered.  I continued drinking my shake every morning, but I also fell back into the habit of eating things that I should have avoided while we attended a wedding, visited Disneyland and enjoyed the company of family and friends over countless meals.  Since then, we have been traveling to conferences and I have not been able to get back to the eating habits I enjoyed at the beginning of this year.  While my weight loss has slowed and I have experienced an occasional migraine, I still notice a marked improvement in my energy level compared to the days when I couldn't get my shake until lunch or dinner and my weight has held steady. 
I'm looking forward to getting back to a calmer routine and better eating again after our last conference this weekend.  With the warmer weather and my improved energy, I'm eager to get outside and start exercising because what I'm really hungry for isn't health.  My appetite is for a long life serving the Lord with my family.

If you'd like to try Manna risk free, click here.  You will also find shake recipes, testimonials, and FAQ.

All scripture is English Standard Version.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Is More Than A Three Day Weekend

Memorial Day, which was first called Decoration Day, is a day to remember those that have gave their lives in the service of our nation. There are many tales as to how it actually began. Memorial Day was officially recognized on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. But, it is not important who was the first to observe the day, what is important is that Memorial Day was recognized.

President Lyndon Johnson officially declared that Waterloo N.Y. was the birthplace of Memorial in May 1966. However the origins have be debated by many people. Most likely it had many individual beginnings; each state and town had their own celebrations where people would gather to honor those that were killed while serving out nation.
General John A. Logan
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-B8172- 6403 DLC (b&w film neg.)]
In 1915, in Monica Michael was inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields,"  and wrote her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Monica came up with the idea for people to wear red poppies on Memorial Day to honor those who died serving the nation. In 1922, right before Memorial Day, the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Within two years the VFW’s 
"Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.
Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry positioned American flags at each of the over 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They also guard the cemetery 24 hours a day during Memorial Day weekend to guarantee that each flag remains in place.

Sadly the time-honored ritual of Memorial Day has faded over the years. Many now consider it a three day weekend that marks the beginning of summer and have forgotten the significance of Memorial Day. To remind the public of the true importance of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps."

For those that have lost a loved one that was serving our county, putting aside one day to observe and honor their sacrifice is a small gesture of gratitude. Sure it is fun to go away with your friends and family and enjoy a long weekend. But remember it was those that fought to protect our freedoms that made it possible for the rest of us to live without fear. Take a minute and buy a few gift cards, make some cookies or be original. But stop by any cemetery on Memorial Day and you will find parents, wives, husbands, siblings, children and friends spending the day visiting the grave of a person that gave their life on your behalf. Go up to them and say thank you as you hand them your gift. It will bring you more joy than anything else you did over those three days off work. More important, it will show the loved ones that were left behind that you are appreciate their sacrifice. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Singing & Signing, Signing & Singing

For a while I have known that when I am an adult I would like to be a sign language interpreter. I love signing.  I find myself signing in my head all the time.  Sometimes I catch myself signing for real when I didn’t intend to.

I also enjoy singing.  Yep, signing and singing.  I have been practicing with our church worship team for over 8 months. At our church this is how you audition for the worship team.  When the worship leader feels that you are ready, he puts you on the team for Sundays.  He warned me early on that I would be coming for a lot of Wednesdays before being put on the team for Sunday, partly because of my age and lack of experience.  For a few months, I have been wondering if I actually want to be in the worship team or not because then when Sunday comes I would be on stage with a microphone singing instead of being in the audience signing.  Last night at practice I was singing, but not really paying attention to the words and more signing in my head. 

After the song I started talking to the lady next to me like always. I told her that I am always finding myself signing. She told me that maybe I have the gift of music not so I would be a singer, but so I would sign.  During the next song I continued to think about that.  I realized that it is very easy for me to learn to sign a song, generally only taking a day or two to get it down.  Also I can use my whole body to sign.  When practice was over I decided that this might be a nudge that I needed.  I’m not sure where it was nudging me to, but I was definitely moved to a different place than when I entered the building.   As I was getting ready to leave, the worship leader came to me and asked if I would consider signing on stage for the church. Seriously?!  I was so excited that I was speechless!  I have been waiting for a long time to be on stage singing and then I was asked to do something on stage that I love even more. If I had planned it wouldn’t have tuned out like this.  Once again I am reminded that God’s timing is even better than mine.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It's Not Just About Chores

Our family has handled chores many different ways over the years.  We have used charts, popsicle sticks, consequences, rewards and money to assign chores and motivate completion.  My husband comes from a background where he had to work (hardcore) as long as he could remember and was sometimes (rarely) compensated.  I, on the other hand, was never expected to do anything.  I was SPOILED and our family is still suffering the consequences.  After I was married I learned to cook, sew and complete projects around the house.  I'm still learning to be organized and tidy, much to the dismay of my dear husband.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1 Corinthians 13:11

Because of my upbringing, we have always sought to equip our kids with life skills such as cooking and cleaning.  Kids have a desire to learn and I want to capitalize on that eagerness.  I also believe it is best for them to contribute to the household responsibilities. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. Ecclesiastes 4:9

Our current system looks something like a calendar, except it is an exact 28 days (4 weeks).  Every box has a list of chores to be accomplished on that day.  There are only four chores on Sunday (load/unload dishwasher, feed the animals, empty the litter box, and empty the trash).  Those chores are done every day.  Other weekly and monthly responsibilities are distributed throughout the other six days each week - things such as dusting, sweeping, mopping, watering plants, etc.  Each child (an mom) is assigned a color and I color-code the chores each day to help us keep track of who does what. But all things should be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:40

While the chores and responsibility are important to me, there is much more going on when I assign the chores.  The chore assignments have become a reward in themselves.  Our kids struggle with getting out of bed on time, so sometimes I let the children who are up first choose their chores.  Other times, like tonight, I asked the kids whom they think should be able to choose first.  It is good for our kids to recognize the good in each other.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Our son was nominated by his sisters, one because his birthday is coming up and the other because boys always have to let girls go first and she wanted him to have a chance at being first.  It was funny to me because I would have chosen him because he was the first to complete his chores and schoolwork today.

The other thing I let the kids do sometimes is trade chores.  This gives them experience in bargaining, compromising and being persuasive.  One also had to face the reality of being told "no, thank you" when the other decided that what she had was better than what she was being offered.  Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment... 1 Timothy 6:6

When we set out to teach our kids to do chores, we never anticipated it would end up being about so much more!

Monday, May 20, 2013

SPARK - Special Personal Acts of Random Kindness

Like most people, I watch, read and listen to the daily news. Which to me often begs the question, what is news? It seems that the only things or the usual things that make up the news are negative. There was a shooting here, a murder there, robberies, threats, damaging weather…. and the list goes on. I noticed that even when I would talk with people in the community or friends, the conversations seemed to lean to all the negative aspects, as if the positive events were not worth talking about.

About a week and a half ago it got me thinking what if, without turning a blind eye to the negative, we put more focus on the positive things that happen in our lives. I thought I would try and put this idea into action at the office. I created a SPARK board (Special Personal Acts of Random Kindness). I placed different colored post it notes and pens on a white board with a brief explanation. The first day there were a few people that placed a thank you note on the board, within a week the board was over half full. It changed the feeling in the office. The nine people in the office all thought of something to write and thank others for as well as thanking members and groups in the community for things they have done.

I put it on our work Facebook page and was surprised when I saw others make comments and I received personal messages asking me if they could use this idea both at work and at home. One woman told me that her five children bicker and complain to the point that it upset her. She said she put up a SPARK board and the kids look every day to see if their name is on the Board. This mom told me she has even noticed that the kids will do things for each other so that their siblings or parents will put a post it on the board. The local county saw my SPARK idea and they picked it up.

I am not saying that we should turn a deaf ear to the negative issues, but I do think that the good things should get just as much acknowledgement.  We all have good things happening in our daily lives and for me; I would like to focus on those things. I think a positive act encourages a pay it forward environment. I bet if you stop and think about it, you would come up with a dozen things that someone did for you yesterday. Maybe you said thank you or maybe you have just come to expect those people to do kind acts. I know I woke up and found a hot cup of coffee next to my bed this morning. But then I find it there every morning.  Today I made sure to tell my husband how thoughtful he is. After my shower, I saw that he had also done the morning dishes. Kindness bread kindness is my theory and I have observed that I am surrounded by thoughtful people. Is there someone you should say thank you to? Maybe you should leave them a note letting them know you are appreciative of what they have done for you. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Brother Wanted

About two years ago, I started daydreaming about how cool it would be to have a brother.  A month later, I was still thinking about it a lot and even had a dream about it.  In my dream, a dark kid was sitting with us around our Christmas tree opening presents.  I wasn’t sure what to think, so I talked to my parents. I could have predicted what they were going to say. They told me, “ask God about it. If you spend time reading your Bible and praying, you will know.”  So I did that and it became even clearer.  I went back and told them my results.  Again they said, “ask God about it.”  It just so happened that we had already decided to take a mission trip to Taiwan that year.  So after I asked God about it again, we went to a meeting for the Taiwan group.  After the meeting, I went to talk to the pastor about adopting since talking to my parents wasn’t going anywhere.  All he had to say was “maybe you are going to adopt when you are an adult.”  I didn’t think so, so I went back to praying.  By now it was the beginning of July. 
One morning my parents made breakfast for us.  After prayer they asked us what we thought of adopting.  After a while of talking they told us that a good friend, who was in the Taiwan group, had e-mailed us that there was a 6-year-old boy in Taiwan that needed a home.  When I heard that I felt that God was yelling “here’s you answer!”  I knew that we would be bringing him home.  My parent still did not believe me.  Since the trip was only 2 weeks away, my dad said that we could think about it and see the boy.  Fast forward 2 weeks and I got off my first airplane ride.  We went straight to the orphanage where the little boy Guan Guan lived.  I loved him at first sight. He and the other orphans got me involved in a mixed-up game of keep away and tag. It was such a fun experience.  Over the course of the trip I went to a swimming pool, night market, park and beach.  At the beach Guan Guan’s aunt came and talked with my dad about adopting him.  After a while, my dad came into the water and told me we were going to start the adoption process.  I was so excited that I fell underwater.  Every time after I saw him I thought, “he is going to be my little brother.”  Once I got home my family started getting things ready.  I will be honest - the whole adoption process was stressful and hard.  I had a very hard time giving up my own bedroom.  I couldn’t find someone to talk to about the process of adopting, so I had no idea what to expect.  A social worker came to our house and talked to me about what I thought about having a brother. Although it seemed like forever, our adoption was only 4 months long and that is actually very fast.  About 4 or 5 days before Christmas my family was in our kitchen making breakfast and my mom all called us to come to the table. We all gathered around her as she read the e-mail that Guan Guan was ready for my parents to come and get him.  I was so overjoyed! I felt like screaming and crying and jumping for joy all at once. 

The day I met my brother in Taiwan
The day after Christmas my sisters and I were dropped off at Grandma’s house.  My mom and dad flew to Taiwan to complete their paperwork and spend a couple of days getting to know Guan Guan.  They were gone for almost 2 weeks.  Those were probably the most impatient weeks I ever had.  Finally, on January 10, friends of ours came to take us to the airport to meet our brother. I ran down the airport halls at 11:00 pm trying to find the gate that my parents were at. I practically attacked them when I found them!  We brought Guan Guan home and showed him his room, but it didn’t feel real that he was with us.   I will never forget the first 2 months or so we would have to stay in his room for a while every night and my mom couldn’t leave Guan Guan because he was afraid that we would not come back.  It just broke my heart that he would feel that way.  I was happy when he learned enough English that we could tell him that we love him and that we would never leave him.  As hard as it has been getting used to having a brother and working through his past, it is all worth it in my heart to know that know he doesn’t have to worry about any of that now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy Endings

The end of the school year is a busy time.  We scramble to work in the last of the lessons, reviews and assessments.  We also find ourselves running to all sorts of activities celebrating the end of the year such as graduations, picnics, dinners, and parties.  This busyness drives me crazy, yet I find myself participating.  Why do I subject myself to this year after year?  Suddenly, a moment of clarity hit me.  I like the idea of an ending, not just the festivities.  Endings offer a sense of accomplishment.  Whether it's an assessment or end-of-the-year party, these events provide a definite point in time when we can say that we have completed something.  They also offer an opportunity to start fresh the next time by moving on in the same class or starting a completely new extra-curricular activity.  As we wrap up the completion of this school year, I'd like to wish happy endings to you!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Remembering Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Mother's Day recognizes mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds in general, as well the positive contributions that they make to society. The first attempts to establish a "Mother's Day" in the United States came from women's peace groups. A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the U.S. Civil War.
The daughter of Ann Jarvis, Anna, campaigned to establish Mother's Day first as a U.S. national holiday and then later as an international holiday. The holiday was declared officially by the state of West Virginia in 1910, and the rest of states followed quickly. On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day and requesting a proclamation. On May 9, 1914 President Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the very first national Mother's Day as a day for American citizens to honor mothers whose sons had died in war.
From that Mother’s Day has expanded into a day for every family to acknowledge the mother figures in their lives for all that they do. One of the most popular ways to honor Moms is to give them flower, cards and take them out to eat. Speaking as a mother, and grandmother, the best part of Mother’s Day is being able to spend time with the entire family, hearing the laughter and reflecting on the past and seeing all the possibilities that the future has in store for my family.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

My mom’s grandma passed away almost three years ago.  Before she passed away, we visited her almost weekly, often spending the night or a weekend with her and Papa.  She went shopping with us, helped Mom with things that needed to be done, and always showed us how much she loved us.  She was never in a hurry and she always included us in what she was doing.  This is for her.

Happy Mother’s Day Grandma!  I miss you a lot!  I wish you could spend Mother’s Day with us, but I know that you’re in heaven and it is better for you there. If you were here, I’d give you a bouquet of flowers and make a delicious dinner for you and Papa. 

I remember a day when I was about five years old and we were at your house.  I was playing dolls in Mommy’s old bedroom and you came to check on me.  Wanting you to join in my game, I told you that we were both teachers and that our students lived at school.  You replied, “I don’t know how to play that, but I do know how to plant flowers. I think we should go plant some. What do you think?”  I thought that was a great idea and pulled you outside because I was so excited.  From that day on, I have enjoyed gardening and looking at flowers. Thank you for taking time to share your loves and teach me. I love you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Four Spoons Full of Sugar

A rare event happened in our house this week.  All four of my kids are sick.  We're talking more than just the blahs that come from snow and cold temperatures in May.  We're talking falling asleep during morning lessons sick.  Like any mom, I questioned the possibility of such an occurance last night when the fourth child told me that her tummy hurt as I tucked her into bed.  I suspected that the truth was closer to the fact that she didn't want to be the only one doing chores.  Reality began to set in at 6:00 AM when my morning person crawled into bed between me and her daddy, snuggled up and remained peacefully still long after my alarm sounded at 6:30 AM.  The seriousness of this sickly situation was confirmed later when she asked if she could stay home while I went to the library.  This is the child that will do anything for a trip to the library and here she was laying on the recliner with her beloved Bluey the Bear, across the room from her older sister who had taken over the couch and two younger siblings who each set up a makeshift bed on the floor.  I had a bad situation on my hands and had to act.

Rare events cause me to resort to rare measures.  I allowed the kids to slide on their school work and chores.  Instead, we turned to Netflix for some educational flicks (you've got to check out the biography of the Kellogg Brothers, but be prepared for two brief segments of an adult subject).  I also took a mid-week trek to the grocery store for extra fruit, juice and popsicles.  On day 2 of The Sickness, we were blessed with a beautiful afternoon and I pulled all of the kids off of the couch and recliners that had become home.  We took dinner outside and enjoyed the chirping birds and hum of lawnmowers as we ate.  By the time we finished, all of the kids admitted to feeling better to some degree and that makes this mama happy.  One sweet girl was even happily swinging on the trampoline swing while another picked dandelions in the yard.  Maybe Grandma was right when she said that love, sunshine and popsicles are the best medicine.  I'll just save the spoonful of sugar for another day.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Finding You Real Dream

Thinking back to when I was in high school, I remember all the dreams I had for my life and none of them included living in Missouri, marrying a farmer, or having a chronic illness. I was sure I would always live in California, become a famous writer, marry a movie star, drive a brand new sports car, live in a mansion and live a very happy life.  As each year passed by, I adjusted my dreams. I soon learned that missing a day of school just met that I received an absent on my school record, but missing a day of work met a day without pay. Bills no longer were addressed to my parents, they were addressed to me. New cars equaled payments and higher insurance. The bigger the house the more it cost to keep it up and the longer it took to clean. Again I adjusted my dreams.

Being rich and famous took a backseat to being able to support myself and finding someone that loved me for the person I am. In time, I discovered that you can’t find happiness. Happiness is a state of mind. No matter your circumstances only you can choose whether to focus on the good or the bad. My preference is to look for the good and make the most out of whatever life sends my way. So you may ask am I living the dream. Yes, not the one I had in my younger years. I am living dream that is better than anything I could have thought up.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Season of Celebration

I recently had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday.  Last year my birthday was almost completely overlooked due to some family circumstances, so my family was determined to make up for it this year.  Over the course of four days, the surprises and celebration unfolded - gifts, cake, ice cream, special dinners and on and on.  It became a joke in our family that the celebrating would never end.  When it did, we had another milestone to celebrate and then another.  All of this celebrating cause me to stop and think that maybe (definitely) every day offers a reason for celebrating. 

They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. - Psalm 145:7

Of course, some days are better than others.  I will be the first to admit this fact.  However, I also firmly believe that if we spent more time celebrating even the little things that we would soon realize that even the worst day feels a little better than if we celebrated nothing. 

What things do we celebrate? Anything!

  • A-ha moments
  • Displays of kindness
  • Relationships
  • The completion of a project
  • Clean rooms

How do we celebrate? Sometimes big, sometimes small.

  • Hugs
  • Sweet treats
  • Choice of dinner
  • Movie night
  • Take a picture
  • Praise
  • Sending cards
  • Telling others

What will you celebrate this week?