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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ch-Ch-Changes

I've been thinking a lot about changes today, and how life is just full of them. This isn't one of those posts where I have all the answers figured out, because I definitely don't, so forgive my rambling thoughts...

Isn't it strange how, no matter how many changes come your way, you somehow expect things to stay the same for any period of time? I guess I always have an expectation, to a certain degree, that things will always be as they are... especially in relationships.

We are approaching a new season of change in our lives, and I guess my mind has been wandering down lots of paths into the past, analyzing old friendships, wondering about new ones. My thought process reminded me of Britney's blog on this topic. It's easy to guard yourself against pain by forever avoiding friendships. It's easy to avoid conflict in existing friendships. It's easy to drift away from one another instead of dealing with the inevitable hurts along the way. On the other hand, I also believe God calls us "apart" for brief seasons to accomplish His work as well.

Anyway, there are some hurts in my past that quite frankly, sometimes still hurt. Ironically, I think they are actually the ones where people were trying really hard not to be hurtful and didn't address things. I tend to be a pretty direct person, so I really do feel like the indirect ambiguity allows the enemy room to move in and confuse the situation.

I was thinking the other day (what if cartoons got saved? - not really, but that phrase always leads to that second phrase in my mind, although I hate that song) about those reflections and how I feel about those who have hurt me. It is weird how acutely we can remember painful things and how easily we forget all the good things.

Let's say you spend the day at the park and have tons of fun all day, but at the end you fall and break your wrist. In your long term memory, all you will recall about that day is that it was the day you broke your wrist. In reality, that was the last 5 minutes of the day, not the 6 HOURS you were there. Know what I mean? Following along with that analogy, let's say that you later go back to the park to play again. While you're there, you're having a ton of fun and loving it. You may think about the "incident" briefly, but it doesn't take away from the fun you have while you're actually there.

I think those past friendships are like that. You have this acute memory of pain, and it can dull all the good memories.... but then when you are together with those friends again, you have fun and tend to forget the pain.

It got me wondering how those friends think of me. I know I've hurt lots of people in my life. I am sure they have times of reminiscing about me that are good, and probably a lot of acute memories of the pain that I've caused them. First of all, if I've hurt you and you are reading this, I'm sorry. I really am. I don't want those painful memories taking the place of the good in your mind. Seriously, if I knew how I'd hurt you, I would seek your forgiveness. Seriously. I'd be direct and talk about it (and it might very well be that my directness is what hurt you!) because I really don't want to be a hurtful person. I don't want you to go another second of your life feeling like whatever pain I caused you was right or okay or like I shouldn't apologize for it. Pain is pain, whether I meant to inflict it or not, and I'm sorry. I'm really, really, truly sorry. Please forgive me.

Following that line of thinking, I don't want to think of those who have hurt me in the light of pain either. Most of the situations that come readily to my mind, I KNOW that you didn't mean to hurt me. In fact, I know that your actions were meant to do just the opposite... and it's okay. It's over. I've decided to be done thinking that way. I'm sure I'll still struggle, but God's given the victory to me.

God takes individuals down all sorts of different paths. Honestly, it is sometimes hard not to take it personally when God calls people away from the path that you are on... but it's really not about that. It is about God's plan for all of our lives, intersecting us for certain seasons to accomplish His work, and sending us on our way to continue the plan He set before us.

I suppose I'm saying all of this in preparation for the new mission that God is sending us on as well. I don't want to leave a wake of pain because God calls us elsewhere to a different kind of thing. I don't want the enemy to have any wiggle room to cause ambiguity in past, present, or future relationships.

If your reading this, and think I'm talking about you, I might be! ;) haha! If you want to talk, I'm totally open to that. I love you. I cherish the people that God has brought into my life, for short seasons and for long ones. I'm glad to know we'll have eternity together, no matter what! Keep accomplishing God's purposes and seeking after the plans He has for you. I pray He blesses your work on His mission abundantly!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

GCA Brag Post!

So, this is totally going to be a brag post. I hope you don't find it terribly annoying. ;)


I have never mentioned my church by name on this blog. Why? 'Cause I'm weird. There is one thing that I have done in the past that I never want to do again, and it is REALLY tempting. I don't want to be a "my church is better than your church" person, because I TRULY, TRULY believe there is only one CHURCH, the BODY OF CHRIST, and we are all on the same team! Yes, lots of us "do church" in lots of different ways. Some of those ways are not my preference, but if they are reaching people for Jesus, more power to 'em! I kind of think of different local churches like the different parts of the body mentioned in I Corinthians 12.


"14For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, yet one body."


So, maybe there is a foot church, but I really belong in an eye church. I shouldn't knock the foot church, even though it isn't where God has called me to be. Does that make sense?  And yes, even within those local bodies, the many members have many different functions. That's how it works! ;)


Anyway, so I've been hesitant because I have lots of friends in lots of different local bodies. I have friends who are much more conservative than me, and friends who are much more charismatic. My two cents on that? It's all good. They love Jesus. I don't care about arguing theology or claiming "rightness." In bragging on my own church, I am NOT knocking yours! ;)


So after that long buildup and explanation, and with that understanding, I want to brag on my church, Grace Church of Avondale. God brought us here for a season of resting and rebuilding. We know that He is soon sending us on a new mission (more on that soon!), and we are excited about that, but I want to express my gratitude to the Lord and to the people of GCA for who they are, for fulfilling their calling, and for the encouragement and example they have been to us! I specifically want to honor the staff members I have gotten to know since coming to Grace. 


Roger Stark, Senior Pastor - FEARLESS. This is the word that comes to mind when I think of him. We have been in leadership in several different church environments. Quincy has been a head pastor. And I have NEVER seen a pastor who behaves so fearlessly as this man does. I'm telling you, it is a scary thing to be a pastor sometimes. People come and go. They can do crazy stuff sometimes. And what pastor just passes the mic without a little preview of what Joe Schmoe might be about to say? ROGER. He is not a hoarder of his pulpit. He trusts the Holy Spirit's leading in his life and in the life of ALL the believers. GENUINELY. This guy is a rare gem in the pastoral world. 


Ian Stake, Equipping Pastor - ENCOURAGER. Feelin' down? Spend 5 minutes with Ian Stake. He is a Holy-Spirit-led prophet of the Lord. He will support you, pray with you, and speak the words that the Holy Spirit lays on his heart. He has prayed over me and my husband, and the Lord has used Him to speak EXACTLY what I needed to hear, more than once. Ian listens to the Holy Spirit and shares His words freely. I am blessed to have encountered him. (And his wife!) 


Jonathan Scott, Worship Pastor - HUMBLE. Jonathan Scott is an INCREDIBLY talented musician. He is one of the few people in the world who can open his mouth and sing beautifully with absolutely no need for embellishment. He is a talented songwriter and musician as well... and the best part? He doesn't act like it. It is completely evident that he WORSHIPS. He does what he does out of love for the Lord. I know it is so tempting for a worship pastor to get really puffed up about their gifts and position. He is so far from it, it's ridiculous. I have often wondered, "Does he have any clue how talented he is?" I am grateful to be ushered into worship by a heart like his.


Adam Peterson, Student Pastor - JOY. This guy LOVES JESUS! His joy is INFECTIOUS! He is like a Jesus disease (which is a good thing!). This is something that you really cannot manufacture, and I am always blessed when I encounter him. He is a living, breathing reminder of the daily victory that belongs to the believers. He lives it. He walks it. He breathes it. Kids are getting saved because of his obedience to the call the Lord has placed on his life, and his JOY is evident in carrying it out! I am ALWAYS challenged by his attitude and pure pleasure in serving the Lord!


Rebecca Peterson, Adam's Wife (Okay, I don't know if she's really a staffer, but I'm gonna brag on her anyway.) - SERVANT. I confess, sometimes I think the wife jobs are the hardest. (This goes for Gloria & Caroline as well.) It takes a heart of sacrifice to be a pastor's wife. It requires a willingness to support your husband's ministry. It requires a desire to support him in what God has called him to do. It requires a toughness to deal with criticism and a tender heart to offer quick forgiveness. She's got it all. Rebecca loves her husband and his ministry. It is very evident. She serves alongside him and offers her own talents as well. Jesus, Adam, and GCA are all blessed to have her! (And I'm fortunate I get to have her for a friend!)


Eva Scott, Administrator - FAITHFULNESS. Eva Scott works her patootie off. God has gifted her with intelligence and organization, and she uses those gifts for His glory at Grace Church. She is a behind-the-scenes, no-credit-getting (or needing) kinda gal. She is a lover of God and His work in Grace Church, and she supports it with all she's got! She also gets credit for being a pastor's wife (Jonathan Scott) and all that entails. She is a faithful woman. She is a 110% person. She works hard and lays down her life for this ministry, and I am thankful to call her friend!


I know I'm not mentioning everyone, but these are the people I know the best, and whose influence has affected me most. I am thankful for you. I see God working in you and through you. I am so grateful for the things that God has used you to show me. I am thankful for Grace Church of Avondale. You are a beautiful community of believers. You have encouraged me more than you will ever know. 


If you live in this community and are looking for a body of believers, go check this place out. You will be blessed.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Craft Match!

Guess what? I've got somethin' new brewing. Are you surprised? If so, you don't know me at all. :)

Here's the story. I love crafts. I love making things. I definitely feel like creativity in itself is a gift from God, since He's the original creator, and I've been pondering offering my craftiness back to him, as a form of worship. Actually, this whole thought process started when I was thinking about baby tutus. I started thinking about how adorable, yet self-indulgent, baby tutus are. I mean, seriously, they are just silly. Now, don't get me wrong here. I make them. I love them. I dress my daughter up in them, and I'm doing all that I can to turn her into Fancy Nancy. (See below.)


I also don't think we should feel guilt about that, or about being creative.... but we should be able to honestly admit that baby tutus, in the scheme of things, are pretty silly.  

Anyway, I've opened an Etsy shop recently, and I've felt like God has laid it on my heart to use that as an outlet to give back to Him, through crafting. I love organizations like Craft Hope, which organize crafters to complete all sorts of missions, but sometimes the schedules or projects don't work for me. My Etsy shop, on the other hand, is totally under my control. So, I'm going to use my Etsy sales to craft match! In other words, if someone buys a baby tutu from me, I am going to send a baby tutu to Africa. Just kidding. They wouldn't care about that. I am going to match the baby tutu purchase to something USEFUL for someone in need. I was thinking maybe a tutu purchase would send one homemade cloth diaper overseas, or something like that. Etsy allows you to put 5 pictures up of all the items you sell, so I'm thinking I will have 4 pictures of the item being purchased, and the 5th picture will be of the matched item. Fortunately, through Tied Together, CrossEyed Design, Ascension, etc., we have connections with lots of organizations who help out the needy, so I know it will be no problem whatsoever to find an outlet for my matched items, and I'm excited to further the Kingdom and use my craftiness and our culture's (and my own) silliness for good. 

Anyway, this might be a totally insane idea, and I'm sure it will be a process of figuring out appropriate pricing and item matches, although I am genuinely happy to reinvest a portion of my profit in this project. I think it's going to be awesome!

Be on the lookout for my new CRAFT MATCH items in the Etsy shop! I will probably leave the currently listed items as they are and slowly work my way into this thing, but I am SUPER excited! If there's something you'd like me to craft for you, let me know! We can work together to benefit ourselves AND the world, for HIS glory! 

Much love!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Puzzle Sticks: A SUPER Easy Kids Craft!

Here's a very, very simple tutorial on puzzle sticks. You just need some craft sticks, masking tape, a folder (or something like it), and markers. That's it! Easy and fun for all ages!

These pictures probably tell the story themselves, but I'll use words anyway. :)


Tape a series of craft sticks to a folder or poster board, or anything that is stable and not easily ruined. :)


Draw a picture on the sticks! It can be anything. Since we love Spiderman, that's what I drew. We also painted his eyes white, but paint isn't necessary. We only chose that because white is a tough color to achieve otherwise. 


Color in the picture!


Take it apart!


Mix 'em up, and it's a puzzle!


I thought that just in case the smoke and sickness keep us inside awhile longer, we might make a few more of these puzzles, so I added a star to the back of each of the sticks. Our next puzzle will have a diamond shape on the back, and so on. It'll help us keep the sticks straight. I think it'd be cute to make a crayon-roll-esque holder for all your puzzle sticks. They'd be a great travel item since they are so cheap and easy to replace! 

Anyway, hope you have fun with this one! I'd love to see your Puzzle Sticks if you make them!

Beating the Smoke Monster & Fourth of July Crafts!

Well, we have been trapped indoors by unbearable smoke and late last night, Aspen added a fever to the mix! :/ The upside is, we have been making some crafts!


First thing's first. You gotta make a giant tent in which you can do your crafts. To my kids, that means hanging a sheet from the ceiling! ;)


We made this easy-peasy craft stick flag using markers, sequins, glue, and craft sticks!


Next up, we made some pipe cleaner sparklers! These will be the safest sparklers on the block!


Naturally, we needed some American pom-poms as well (yarn and pipe cleaners).


And we wrapped it all up with some "fireworks." We are SO ready for the Fourth! If you're stuck inside like us, I'd love to see your crafts! :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Great Park Adventure - Ed Austin Regional Park

Okay folks, this is definitely one of the very best parks in our entire city. I wish there were replicas of this park on each side of town for people to enjoy! When I was younger, this park used to be The Dunes Golf Course. The city purchased this land and turned it into a HUGE public park! There are tons of amenities, and the park is always packed on the weekends. If you've never been to this park, you should definitely go. There's something for everyone. Quincy particularly loves it for the disc golf course! This park has an awesome playground, walking trail, basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball fields, field house, and even a skateboard ramp! It's great!

We were fortunate that it was not too terribly smoky today, and best of all, we got to see some friends! Thanks for the cupcakes, by the way! :) The park has always been really clean, and today was no different. Awesome, awesome, awesome park!

Anyway, check out the pictures of this amazing park! (Disclaimer:  My photos do NOT do this place justice. I don't have a super fancy camera, and I have lame photography skills, but don't let that deter you.) GO TO THIS PARK! :)



Here is the main playground area at Ed Austin Regional!


Swingsets! (There are three separate swingsets, one of them being a baby swingset.)


Aspen is pointing to something amazing, and modeling her TOTALLY homemade outfit. She's making homemade look GOOD!


Ephraim running across the bridge!


Aspen admiring big brother's skills!


This is a series of photos of Aspen desperately trying to escape the park because there was a dog outside!



This is when she gave up and climbed on the table.


UP THE STEPS, DOWN THE SLIDE. Don't you know the rule!?!?



Down the slide!


This gated park area has TONS of shade and plenty of places for grown-ups to sit!




Here is one of the friends who met us today!


This is a view of SOME of the soccer fields at this park. You see? It goes on FOREVER!


This is where the disc golf course begins.


Here's a little sign telling you all about the wonderful world of disc golfing! This park hosts some major tournaments and everything. It's a fun activity to try out!


This is a picture of one of the baskets at the end of a disc golf hole.... ultimately where you'd like your disc to end up. :)


The pictures from this point on were taken out the window of my van, driving around the park. It's that big! Above is the Senior Center, which looked pretty busy!


This is the park field house.


Here's a better view of the field house. "Filling playgrounds, not prisons." 


This sign is in front of the field house, as this is also a Police Athletic League park. 


Here are a couple of out-the-window shots of the skateboard ramp.


Pretty cool, huh?!?


Here's a blue trash can. Well, really I meant to be showing you SOME of the baseball fields. There's a concession stand in the center as well.


This is a second playground area near the baseball fields.


The entire park is encircled by a long, beautiful, walking/jogging/biking path.


This is another view of the vast expanse of this park.


More baseball fields!


More disc golf course.


More walking path, and my rear-view mirror. :)


Another disc goal thingy. I'm sure it has a name, but I don't know it. Quincy will tell me. He lives to FROLF. (Not really, but he does like to play disc golf, and this seemed like an appropriate moment for an Andy Bernard quote.)

Well, I hope I've convinced you to visit Ed Austin Regional Park! If you go, let me know what you thought!

Here is the park's website, and its amenities.

Baseball Adult 2
Baseball Youth 2
Basketball 4
Benches 35
Bike racks 4
Bleachers 21
Car Parking 925
Community Center 1 
Concession Stand 2
Drinking Fountain 4
Gymnasium 1 
Picnic shelters 3
Picnic Tables 23

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Book Project, Continued (Books 71-80)

I can't believe we've almost come to the end of our list! I love reading with Ephraim. We have actually even started reading some chapter books at nap time. Crazy! I can't believe how much he's growing up! I've also been checking out some Level 1 readers for him as well. FUN!

With all that said, I want to give a shout-out to the Jacksonville Public Library and encourage all local parents to get their children signed up for the summer reading program! You keep a list of the books your child reads (or that you read to your child) and show them your reading list for weekly coupons and prizes. Also, they've teamed up with Barnes and Noble to give each participant a free book at the end of summer! Read more about the summer reading program here, and sign up today! Check out the many summer library activities here. Also, we've been attending the Regency Branch Preschool Family Story Time each Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. for stories, music, and a craft. We'd be happy to see you there! It's less crowded than the Main library. :)

On to the book reviews!


My Review - This is a cute, lift-the-flap book about a little boy on the hunt for the perfect pet. It is perhaps a little below Ephraim's reading level, but Aspen did bark ferociously at the revealed puppy on the final page! ;) 

Ephraim's Review - Good, 'cause it has animals on it.


My Review - This is an EXCELLENT book for new readers! There were tons of words that Ephraim was able to read in this book, and the rhyming silly story is perfection. Yay Dr. Seuss!

Ephraim's Review - I think I want to hop on pop because I want to hop on pop. And guess what? I hop on his head! 


My Review - Naturally, I am a lover of this classic Christmas tale. Between reading this and "The Polar Express," I did have Ephraim asking me when Christmas was coming all week long. Christmas in July, perhaps?

Ephraim's Review - Bad! Because he stole all the presents, but at the end, he shared! It was good that he shared at the end.


My Review - This is a sweet, rhyming story of two friends on the hunt for various types of berries, with really cute illustrations. If your kids are berry lovers, check it out!

Ephraim's Review - I think I would have berries. Awkward! Silly man!


My Review - This was a silly story of a kitten who mistakes her first full moon for a bowl full of milk, and all the antics that ensue in her mission to take a lick from said bowl. Silly kitten! Ephraim and I shared a laugh over this one!

Ephraim's Review - Odd, odd, odd, odd, odd! Because he was trying to drink the milk and the moon was just plain!


My Review - I thought this book was so cute and funny! I am officially a Mo Willems fan! He also wrote "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus," which we loved. This is a cute story about a child, probably Aspen's age, who leaves behind her beloved toy and just has a fit about it. Eventually, the discover the problem, go find the toy, and "Knuffle Bunny" is the child's first word! Ephraim immediately said this book reminded him of Aspen. Me, too!

Ephraim's Review - She said "blah blah blah," and then her last word, she said, "Knuffle Bunny!" It kicked me off because it was so cool!


My Review - "Llama Llama Red Pajama" really did crack me up. It is a rhyming story about the typical nighttime routine of every mother and child. If you've ever mothered a little llama, you'll relate! :)

Ephraim's Review - That's silly because it's called Llama Llama Red Pajama, Momma, Momma!


My Review - This is another lift-the-flap book that is probably a bit below Ephraim's level, but is really cute nonetheless. Different animals are hiding behind each flap, and it's a great book for teaching little ones about animals. Aspen thought it was great! 

Ephraim's Review - I think I'm too tired to do this one.


My Review - This is a most-loved story in our home! I'll admit, we love the movie even more, but it is fun to read where it all started!

Ephraim's Review - That was awesome! I don't know why, it's just awesome!


My Review - Okay, I think that maybe these stories are a little TOO stupid for us. I honestly didn't even get some of it.? Some of the stories were cute and funny, though. I say check it out and read it. It may be right up your alley. It is totally out of the box of children's fiction!

Ephraim's Review - (Laughing!) That's stinky cheese!


My Review - "The Story of Ferdinand" has been around for a LONG time. Ferdinand is a gentle bull who is accidentally mistaken for a rowdy bullfighting opponent. His story will definitely make you smile!

Ephraim's Review - That's awkward because it's odd. Awkward, odd, awkward, odd! 

Just so you know, these are Ephraim's two favorite words right now. It's sometimes embarrassing... like when we were at the grocery store, he asked me for something, and I told him "No, that's junk." Then, someone else picked it up immediately, and he said, "Awkward!" Uhhh, yeah, it's not really junk. It's totally healthy for some people... uhhh... YOU made it awkward, Ephraim.! ;) 


AND... not on the list, but I think you should read "Not All Princesses Dress in Pink," by Jane Yolen. As a woman and former girl, it warmed my heart. I plan to read it to Aspen a few thousand times over the years!