8.31.2018

Happy Birthday, Luke!


17 years.

Seventeen years of humor, creativity, affection, and serving.
These are the things you have willingly, and often, given to our family, and we are better because of it!

You are a natural leader, Luke.
You are strong, confident, logical, and undeterred by any obstacle.
You are a problem solver. Quick to see what needs to be done and always ready with a solution.
You lead with grace, listening to the opinions of others and considering the best options after stepping back to observe, ponder, and draw conclusions based on facts.
You seek out men who are older, more mature, more experienced, and who have walked with God far longer than you have to speak truth, share wisdom, and challenge you as a man and a child of God.
And son, this is important. 

Natural leaders can rely on Self more often than the Savior because they are capable. Trusted. Sought out. Admired. But Scripture warns against reliance on Self and is quite clear that any gift, strength, skill we possess is a gift from God, not a result of our own doing or our own greatness.
I challenge you to read and memorize the passages of Scripture that speak of humility, for as you grow in maturity, leadership, and wisdom, the enemy will feed your ego, whispering lies in your ear that you are your greatest asset, and you will find yourself a human lawnmower like your brother Nebuchadnezzar.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 14:11

Surround yourself with men who will push you toward Christ.
Surround yourself with men who love God more than you do.
Surround yourself with men who will challenge your thinking.
Surround yourself with men who respect you but are not intimidated by you.
Learn from them.
Listen to them.
Let them see you, the real you, and then sharpen you with the iron of biblical friendship.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you,
with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time
He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour. I Peter 5:5-8

You are a blessing and a joy to our family, Luke Samuel, and I cannot imagine life without you!

Happy Birthday, son.
I love you.
Mom

8.30.2018

TRUTH!


I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away,
and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
Abide in Me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine; you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from Me you can do nothing. 
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love.
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
John 15:1-5, 9-11

8.29.2018

The sweet value of Scripture.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:7-11

I love this passage of Scripture.
My 3rd-grade teacher taught us a song to help us memorize it, and I still remember it today!

In a recent Sunday morning Scripture reading (the quiet time I cherish each week in the empty sanctuary), this was the Psalm for the day, and I was struck by the adjectives the Lord used to describe His Word.
perfect
sure
right
pure
clean
true
All easy adjectives to understand - and - evoke a specific image. Even so, I wanted to do a word study and find the definition of each one. And I am glad I did! The definitions make the adjectives seem even stronger, especially when viewed in light of God's character.

perfect = being entirely without fault or defect

sure = firmly established

right = being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper

pure = free from what spoils, weakens, or pollutes, containing nothing that does not properly belong, free from moral fault or guilt

clean = free from dirt or pollution, free from contamination or disease

true = being in accordance with the actual state of affairs, conformable to an essential reality,
fully realized or fulfilled

Inserting these definitions into the passage would make it read thusly:
The law of the Lord is entirely without fault or defect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is firmly established, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are in accordance with what is just, good, or proper, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is free from what spoils, weakens, or pollutes, containing nothing that does not properly belong, free from moral fault or guilt, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is free from dirt or pollution, free from contamination or disease, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are in accordance with the actual state of affairs, conformable to an essential reality, fully realized or fulfilled, and righteous altogether.

Isn't that a wonderfully clear and detailed description of who God is and how He wrote His Word?
I love it!

But wait! There's more! This section of the chapter ends with a delightful description of the value of God's Word, and the promise of a reward for those who obey His commands and keep His law.
More to be desired are they (they = the laws, testimonies, precepts, commandments, and rules of the Lord) than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

This last verse brings to mind this gem in the New Testament.
But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Praise for such rich truths sewn into every page of Scripture! It is worth more than gold and it does taste better than the sweetest honey on earth. But until we open the Book and dig through what is buried inside, we will never discover the treasure or taste the sweetness of His Divine design.

So, friends! Let's start digging!

Seeing an old college friend!

When you get to visit with a college friend/brother in Christ while he is in town and has a few free hours during a business trip - it is a GOOD day!
We haven’t seen each other in 23 years (other than social media spaces) so we had a LOT to catch up on. And we covered it all!
Jeremy and I enjoyed many thoughtful conversations during our Master's College days, and it was wonderful to hear how the Lord is working in his life now as a husband, father, and business owner. His passion for leading others toward Christ - and encouraging them to love Him more - has increased tenfold since he was a teenager. I can only imagine what he will accomplish for the Kingdom in the decades to come!
Thank you for making time to visit, Jeremiah!
It was an encouraging and joyful exchange, as always.

8.26.2018

TOGETHER!


He’s HOME!
He’s HOME!
He’s HOME!
We are TOGETHER.
And it is GOOD.
๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’—๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’—

8.25.2018

Seriously?


Apparently, I can wheel about a rink balancing on 4” high skates for two hours with nary a scratch,
but I cannot walk through my own family room without breaking my toe.
๐Ÿ˜ฉ๐Ÿ˜’๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿ™„
#ninedaysbeforeschoolstarts
#notimeforridiculousinjuries
#ihavethingstodo
#goodthingdennisishome
#looooooongeyeroll

Happy Birthday, Josiah!


11 years!

The Lord brought you into our family eleven years ago, and life has never been the same.
You were a quiet, observant, content baby and toddler, and everyone adored you.
You had nothing but smiles and affection to offer, and every one of us gladly accepted them!

You are the same today.
It is your nature, Josiah. How God created you.
You are sensitive, thoughtful, quick to offer assistance and the first to notice when someone is being left out or ignored. You defend the weak and stand up for the underdog.
And you do so because you, too, are an underdog.

You (literally) did not speak for three years but for a few words. We didn't know at the time, but it was the first sign that you had dyslexia. You watched, listened, and took everything in that was going on around you, but you could not push out what you were seeing and experiencing through words.
But you were joyful and content. You didn't need words to enjoy life. You just needed to know you were accepted and loved. And you were. By everyone. Which gave you confidence!
As you grew, however, you realized you could not make your mind work the way you wanted it to, and frustration began to creep in. You didn't understand why everyone else could read, but you could not. There was no shame, for you were safe at home with your family, but there was confusion.
We worked hard - together - and when you were eight years old, the Lord rewarded your efforts and blessed you with the ability and the gift of being able to read! What a WONDERFUL day that was!

You are not a rough, tough, athletic, physical boy.
You love to play and you have an adventurous spirit,
but you would much rather lose yourself in a story or art than jump over hurdles or kick soccer balls.
You are a thinker. A planner. A boy who loves (and needs) details.
You enjoy conversation and want to know what is going on with everyone around you.
And you love God's Word. You love people. You love being a leader.
And it is my prayer that the Lord will pull all of these qualities together and use you to do Kingdom work and glorify Him with your strengths, talents, and skills.

As it is with all of us, strengths also act as weaknesses.
Your love of details can overwhelm you and others.
Your desire to lead can cause you to lord it over others.
Your love for God's Word can cause you to see the flaws in others without seeing your own.
Pray over these, Josiah, fervently and often.
And ponder these verses as you pray:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23, 24

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8

Our God is faithful, Josiah. He is merciful and gracious and filled with loving kindness.
He will always give you the wisdom and strength you need when you ask for it, and He will always be your greatest helper, your greatest support, and your greatest encourager.
Seek Him daily.
Love Him fervently.
Confess constantly.
And then walk with confidence and joy in the blessings that flow from obedience.

We love you, Josiah Timothy!
You are a bright, empathetic, loving, and thoughtful boy, and we are grateful to call you OURS!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

8.24.2018

Rolling FUN!

Today was so much FUN!
Josiah, Isaiah, Ellie and I went ROLLER SKATING!
Yes, you read that right. I laced up a pair of size 11 skates on my own feet! Since our health insurance does not provide nannies, cooks, or maids, I have refrained from activities that could land me in a cast for the past eighteen years. But now? All six kids are old enough to fend for themselves if necessary, so there was no reason not to skate! (I was smart enough to wait until the day before Dennis got home just in case a cast was in my future!)
Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie rolled right onto the floor of the rink and their wheels never stopped turning.
Me? It took twenty laps to loosen my feet - and - my grip on the handrail, but after that, I was skating footloose and fancy-free. I didn't even fall!
It was fantastic!
As I took my final laps around the rink I thought,
"I should take lessons to learn the tricks and gain speed and then throw an adult Skate Party for my 50th birthday and surprise my family and friends with superb skating skills!" And then I laughed and laughed.
The four of us skated together for two straight hours, and enjoyed every minute of it!



Josiah took this photo so I would have proof for Dennis and the teens that I actually skated!




I think the invisible fine print on this sign reads, "If you break a limb because you have no idea what you are doing but think you're cool - sorry for you! We won't pay any of your medical bills!"


Not only did we clock 5,000 steps and over two miles during our skate, we must have burned off at least five pounds! (Apparently, the discounted price for "open skate" is balanced by the lack of air conditioner use in the rink.) We were bright red and glistening with sweat at the end of the session.
But look at those smiles! Worth every roll of the skates!

8.23.2018

An ANCIENT Outing!

We finally made it!
The Getty Villa!
This field trip officially closed off our study of the ancients - and it was worth every single second of the two-hour drive through traffic to get there!
If you love ancient history and antiquities, put this beautiful museum on your Must See list!
And if you don't find antiquities thrilling, visit anyway! The architecture and gardens alone will make you grateful you took the time to explore such an aesthetically pleasing place.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time here and were blessed with perfect weather to make it even better!
What better way to spend a summer day than touring a replica of ancient beauty and feeling the cool breeze blowing in from the ocean in Malibu!
Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie could not stop talking about everything they saw as we drove home, and Ellie declared, "I am SO taking my kids there when I am a mom!" Yes! A successful adventure!




This audio tour - FANTASTIC!
The museum created a tour based on the Percy Jackson series (mythology) and the end result was finding your ancient "godparent" based on your personality and which ancient characters you were most drawn to. Quite clever and humorous.
Josiah was a descendant of Bacchus/Dionysius.
Ellie belonged to the lineage of Athena/Minerva.
Isaiah came directly from the top of the mythological food chain, Jupiter/Zeus.
And I was the goddaughter of Apollo.
Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were fully engaged with this tour and had a blast!


I'll let you guess who is who!


They were awed by the reflecting pool.





This grape arbor had dozens of bunches of green and purple grapes growing on it.
I could have spent an entire afternoon sitting underneath it reading a book!


We were all enthralled with the gorgeous lily pads.
I have never seen such gorgeous (or large) flowers budding from lily pads before!




Even the parking structure has art!

8.22.2018

Do not be anxious. TRUST!

Our shepherd was feeding different sheep on Sunday, so we enjoyed the preaching of another pastor. And he was wonderful! His message was fitting, timely, and one that can be referred to over and over again. "Rest to the Glory of God."
I wrote as fast and as detailed as I could make my hand move in order to record his words. I closed my notebook feeling encouraged, refreshed and praising God for His promise in Scripture,
"... for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5, 6

I hope you are encouraged by these truths!

➤ The Text: Matthew 6:25-34
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

➤ The Command (v. 25)
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
● the moment we try to take control (of anything), anxiety sets in - because - we are not meant to have control! God is the one in control - all the time.
● anxious = divided/worried/concerned/uneasy/apprehensive/fearful/troubled/bothered/disturbed/distressed/fretful/agitated/tense/overwrought
● rest = a demonstration of TRUST

➤ The Illustration (v. 26, 27)
1. The birds
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Birds do not give one thought to tomorrow. They wake up each morning, fly around, search for food, and find it! Because God provides for them. If God will provide for birds, He will provide for us!
(our NEEDS - not our wants)
● Even if you decide to worry (for it IS a CHOICE!), it has absolutely no benefit, and your worry changes absolutely nothing.
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
2. The fields
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? God clothes the fields. He will provide for us.
● consider = ponder, look, observe, soak in
We must learn to take time to appreciate the most minute of details in God's creation.
"Look at the flowers!" (Jesus)
● When Jesus declares, "O you of little faith," He is saying, in effect, "Don't you realize who you are with?!? TRUST ME!"
● Danger and difficulty reveal that we are NOT in control, for we would never choose either.
GOD is in control. Always.

➤ The Application (v. 31-34)
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.● Stop being anxious! It has to stop!
● You cannot be joyful and anxious at the same time.
We are commanded to BE joyful - and commanded NOT to be anxious.
● We dishonor God when we do not trust Him. We are saying, "You can't handle this."
● We honor God when we ask for His will to be done, even when we don't understand or like it.
We are saying, "You can do ANYthing, Lord!"
With tomorrow's trials come the grace (God's grace) to sustain us in the trials. His mercies are new EVERY morning!
● Not WHAT IF ---> but EVEN IF (I LOVE this!)

Lord! Thank You for such an encouraging, thoughtful, and uplifting message! You are God. You are on Your throne. You make the sun rise and the rivers flow. You know our thoughts before we do and You know our needs before we tell You. As often as we 'think' we have control, we never do. And this is a GOOD thing, Lord, for as much as we hate suffering and wish it never had to be endured, we know that everything You do is perfect - and necessary. For Your glory and our good. Thank You. 

8.21.2018

Contentment - Trust - Peace.


So ...

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in all the earth!”
Psalm 46:10

And ...

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5, 6

Because ...

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3

8.19.2018

A renewed commitment!

I have grossly neglected the joy of sending hand-written notes to my brothers and sisters in Christ this past year.
I enjoy writing notes as much as I enjoy receiving them, probably more, actually, because I know how good I feel when I see my name scrawled across an envelope, and how touched I am when I read the thoughtful words contained therein and I want others to feel the same.
It is a dying art to be sure, and one I hope to be faithful to, even if I cannot single-handedly resurrect it.

Yesterday, as I selected a handful of cards to use for the miscarriage ministry, I realized that while I have sent dozens of birthday, anniversary, and graduation cards this year, I could not remember the last time I sent a hand-written note "just because."
Friends! This is not okay! We are commanded in Scripture to use our words to bless others, and the written word is a practical and powerful way to do so.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24

To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! Proverbs 15:23

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11

As I sat in the quiet of the church sanctuary this morning, the Lord kept bringing the image of my stationery to mind. I used to send at least ten notes/letters a week in college, and at least three to five each week after marriage. I love buying new stationery and imaging who I am going to send it to in the weeks ahead. Now, I have a drawer full of beautiful note cards and sheets of paper ... sitting blank, unstamped, and serving absolutely no purpose.

But no more!
An hour ago I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to pull out a handful of cards every Sunday and set them on the kitchen counter. Then, I asked the Lord to whisper the names of those who need honey-soaked words of encouragement so I can fill each card with His words and His promises and send them on the way to those who need them most. 

I am so excited!
Would anyone like to join me?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. I Thess 5:11

8.18.2018

A hobby - and a joy - for Luke.


I love every stage of life our children have experienced, but there is something sweet and unique about watching them use the skills and talents given to them by the Lord.
Especially when it is something completely their own.

When Luke was young, he would barely tolerate posing in front of a camera. Now, he lives with a camera and a bag full of accessories in his hands. And he uses them well!
He prefers photographing nature over humans and devotes time to research and study how to do so with detail and creativity, and his efforts have paid off!
It is a passionate hobby, not what he desires to do as a profession, but he will always be able to use his skills to enjoy looking at God's creation through a lens and capture the beauty on film.

Thank you, Lord, for designing man with creativity, for it makes the world more beautiful and enjoyable!

8.17.2018

Dennis and Micah say goodbye to Jordan.

Their trip has come to a close, and they went out with a bang! The leadership team of Academy
Alliance Jordan surprised the conference speakers when they arrived at a gorgeous hotel near the Dead Sea and said, "This is where you are staying for the night!" They were stunned.
Dennis, Micah, and two other speakers spent the night and then enjoyed a tremendous day of swimming in the many pools, sight-seeing, and floating in the Dead Sea. And the sunset! Oh my!
After a long week of presentations and training, it was the perfect way to end the week - and their visit. A good-bye meal concluded their day and then it was off to the airport to begin the journey home. (and to Cambodia for Dennis)
Dennis and Micah both agreed that it was a phenomenal trip. Not only did they experience warmth, kindness, and generosity from the AAJ leadership and staff, making new friends and mutually encouraging one another, they did it TOGETHER. And they will never forget it.


The view of the courtyard from their room.


Sunset. Like liquid gold.



The Dead Sea!


Floating in the Dead Sea - and loving every minute of it!



Mt. Nebo - the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land.
Such history in this country! Rich, wonderful, biblical history!

Micah returns tomorrow afternoon (YAY!) and Dennis continues on to Cambodia for another week of training teachers. Pray for him if you will! For energy, good sleep, physical strength, health, and a clear mind to train the teachers and administrators in Cambodia. He travels there every year - and always looks forward to his time in the country and with the people.
And we are thankful the Lord is using him to serve and encourage educators in their field.
Dennis loves what he does. His passion is teaching and he loves sharing that passion!

While Dennis is away ... we play!

When Dennis travels, I plan enough activities to keep us busy, but not so much that we are exhausted.
Thus far it has proved successful!
And this time was no exception.
We still have eight days until our fearless leader returns, but we are doing well and enjoying our days.
Luke works full time and Caleb has his own teen activities, so most of our events consist of me, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
Things like ...
- taking an early morning or evening walk (have to get in those 10,000 steps!)
- beach days with friends
- serving
- Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were whisked away for a playdate by a sweet friend (and I enjoyed 45       glorious minutes getting a pedicure)
- audio listening (we are currently enjoying At Home in Mitford - a favorite!)
- movie nights
- hanging out with grandparents
- swimming
- roller skating
FUN! FUN! For everyone!


We combined our daily walk with breakfast at Bruxie's!
We have lived one mile from this place for five years, and this was our first time enjoying it.
A fun and delicious way to end our two weeks "alone."


We've had the privilege of caring for our G3 once a week this summer! (during the school year we can only have them twice a month) Last week, Grace was having a particularly rough day, so I challenged Ellie to be her source of comfort and safety. Grace needed some quiet time away from all of the boys, so we set up a movie in Ellie's room for "girl time."
And this is how I found them when I opened the door to deliver a snack.
I love every.single.thing about this image!


When you live in the city, you must be intentional about finding NATURE.
And this park satisfied the need for huge trees, grass, and bodies of water! We arrived early in the morning to beat the heat of the day, walked three miles, and took 7,000 steps. Woohoo!
After such a delightful morning, we decided that we are going to take at least one daily walk at a regional park so we can enjoy nature every week. While walking the neighborhood on concrete is beneficial, walking in the shade of trees and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature feeds the soul!


One of the highlights was an overnight trip to visit my dear aunt in Fallbrook.
It was a hot day, so we loaded up the car and joined the other 1,000 people basking in the sun and feeling the splash of cold ocean water on their feet in Oceanside. It was LOVELY!
My aunt has always been a gracious, thoughtful, and warm hostess, and this visit was no exception. ♥


The littles boys and I had a beach date with a friend (Ellie was on her own playdate), so we arrived at the beach two hours early to eat breakfast and take our daily walk. It is so nice to be at the beach in the early morning! It is cool, quiet, and empty. And we had a great time - together.


My sister has graciously allowed us to use her pool this summer, any time we ask, and it has been a fun little retreat on the hottest of days for Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie. Today, I decided to join them, and we also coaxed my sister into the cool, refreshing water. What a great time we had together!
The water slide is always a hit, and I felt like a little girl sailing down the slick rock, laughing all the way.
(Yes, I am plugging my nose. I only do it when I jump in because I hate the feeling of having hose water sprayed up my nostrils. Call me a wimp if you will. My children (and sister) do!)


Our children have always crept into our bed early in the morning. Sometimes they are wide awake, sometimes they go right back to sleep. Regardless, our bed has never been empty in the morning hours.
When Dennis is gone, however, it's as though someone placed a homing beacon inside of our mattress which calls to our littles in the middle of the night, for they ALWAYS make themselves right at home in the wee hours of the morning. I never know when they arrive, but am fully aware of their arrival by the time the sun peeks through the windows because I wake up just as I am about to fall to the floor from being shoved to the edge of the mattress. And it makes me smile every time!

8.16.2018

A most excellent study with my girls!


My COMMITTED girls!
We just started a fantastic study on the Proverbs 31 woman.
Our pastor chose this chapter as his text for Mother's Day, and it was one of the BEST sermons I have ever heard preached on this icon of virtue. Often, when women hear the phrase "Proverbs 31 Woman" they groan. Audibly. Why? Because she is held up as the standard for all women, and not just any standard, a perfect, unrealistic, and unattainable standard. So we walk away feeling discouraged and disheartened after comparing ourselves to her because, in the comparison, we are found wanting.
But not this time!
Our pastor did a superb job communicating that a) she was not a real woman, but an ideal created by a mother for her beloved son, b) the character qualities we see in her are qualities every Christian should possess whether married, single, male, or female, and c) her attributes should be seen as virtues to strive for, emulate, and rejoice over - not used to compare and despair.

When the girls and I met together in June, we discussed the sermon at length, including our convictions and desire for making purposeful, tangible efforts to grow and mature in the areas for which this woman is praised. After a lively discussion, we decided to pull the sermon apart and study each main point. Instead of listening to the sermon one time, calling it terrific, and moving on with life, we are going to dissect it, point by point, verse by verse until we know this woman so well we feel like she is one of our best friends!

The next seven months will be well spent studying this passage in depth as we ask the Lord to reveal to us where we need to grow and encourage us where fruit is already evident. And the best part is - we will do it TOGETHER! ❤

The monthly assignment:
- listen to the entire sermon
- listen (again) to the specific point we are studying
- record the areas in which you already see success
- record the areas in which you need to grow and mature

The first study - VIRTUE.

She is strong in character in all facets of her life
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. v. 17
She is a woman of commitment - honor - strong opinions
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. v. 25
Virtuous is translated "able or capable" - powerful, strong, admirable, competent
Her commitment to character is directed to her husband and family, and their lives are enriched because of her
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. v. 12
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her ... v. 28
She adds reassurance and riches to her husband
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. v. 11
She adds to his reputation
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. v. 23
 This husband excels because he has an exceedingly good wife
 She is strong - she is spiritual - she is a substantial woman
 She is her husband's cheerleader, advisor, lover, helper
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Genesis 2
✽ She is his helper
✽ She is his equal
She is discerning - she is wise
A virtuous wife uses her strength and excellence to benefit her husband and her children
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” v. 28, 29

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31: 10-31

8.15.2018

Dennis interacts with Jordan!

Today, the Inclusion Forum in Amman, Jordan hosted by Alliance Academy Jordan came to a close.
And Dennis could not be more thrilled with the outcome!
All of the passion and planning he invested into his portion of the conference were well-rewarded by an enthusiastic and thoughtful group of leaders and educators who share the same goal of including, serving, and encouraging students with special needs and learning needs in the classrooms of Jordan.

Because he can articulate the details much better than I, please enjoy a synopsis of the event written by his own hand.

Day One
The day was a lot of fun.
The AAJ staff is so very passionate about serving all students well and they went the extra mile to put their best foot forward at this event.
The audience participation was excellent.
The country is ready to see this initiative gain traction and the Inclusion Forum served as a wonderful catalyst for providing executive-level decision makers, and, more importantly, teachers, the opportunity to hear from professors, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and parents about the important role that teachers can play in the lives of children with learning needs.
The speeches were wonderful, given by AAJ Director Nathan Greenfield and honored guests, including HRH Prince Mired Ra’ad ZZaid Al-Hussein and the Minister of Education.
I gave the keynote speech and highlighted my gross ignorance of learning needs and accommodations in my early years of teaching, and then shared that my very own children served as significant change agents in my perspective regarding those with learning needs. Caleb was the hero of the story and I always choke up with I retell the day he shined like a star at Camp Eastman on behalf of a child who had some physical and cognitive needs.
I then presented three workshops during the course of the day that featured learning need awareness and universal design principles for the general education classroom.
The teachers in the room were quite responsive and incredibly kind and thoughtful about how to best serve students. Overall, it was a stellar start and we are looking forward to more of the same tomorrow!

Day Two
The day was eventful to be sure!
Great attitude in the room and a genuine desire to learn more about serving students well.
The intent of a conference such as this one is to bring awareness and invite a catalyst for attempt- starting with the people who interact daily with the students.
When I was a young classroom teacher I really believed I was reaching all learners. My class was interactive and the students appeared engaged. Those unfortunate few who had trouble were in need of greater effort. They needed to change their practice. This glaring professional blindspot clearly revealed I did not understand the difficulties and daily burdens that each student was compelled to bear. It was also plain that my classroom practice would have to change. Simply put, a change of heart to change my daily practice.
Unfortunately, "simply stated" and "simply accomplished" are not the same.
Former president Dwight Eisenhower once said, “There are no victories at bargain prices.” This is very true when working with students. Change is sometimes painful but necessary.

The conference was more than an invitation to consider inclusion, it was about changing hearts and minds to do something about inclusion for all students in all classrooms.
This will no doubt cause disequilibrium for teachers who have employed a “one size fits all” form of a learning experience, but it is pale in comparison to the effort being made by the student who has to learn in spite of what the teacher is doing.
Jordan is a great country with big-hearted people who are generous and hospitable. It is my hope that the teachers at the conference were deeply encouraged and will use the momentum of the conference to make significant traction toward helping students with the greatest needs.
Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to hopefully influence teachers to employ an attitude of attempt toward all learners every day.

(Dennis') Presentations at the conference:
-Keynote Address: Inclusion begins with your attitude
-1: Help me understand: Walking a mile in the shoes of a student with learning and emotional needs
-2: Creating an environment of motivation in the classroom
-3: Creating an environment of attempt in the classroom
-4: Universal design for learning: Differentiation for all learners
-Wrap Up: Atmosphere of attempt or agony: Teacher attittude in the classroom


Dennis and Micah with the Academy Alliance Jordan leadership and staff.
A tremendously gracious, welcoming, and passionate group of people!


Their hosts surprised Dennis after the conference with a quick field trip to an ancient ruin
 of a church dating back to 4,000 B.C. To quote Elsa from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
He was as giddy as a schoolboy!
This man never loses his enthusiasm for antiquities!

Thank you, THANK YOU, to everyone who prayed, encouraged, supported, and showed interest in this trip. As always, the Lord used his time in another country to challenge and shape and grow my husband in unique and beautiful ways. We love who he is when he leaves, and we love the new pieces the Lord adds to him while he is gone. Those he ministers to benefit from his expertise and sincere enthusiasm for what they are doing on behalf of students, and we benefit from the way those interactions mature and refine him as an educator, a husband, a father, a man, and most importantly, a child of God.

And thank you, to the entire leadership team and staff at Alliance Academy Jordan, for trusting Dennis to speak to the hearts and minds of the leaders and educators in Jordan. He was honored to be asked, he was honored to serve, and you made him feel welcome and wanted from the moment he stepped off the plane. You are a blessing - and we are grateful for you!