Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chasing Daylight

What is the old tv show, "Grandma Knows Best"...well something like that. In this situation, it is Grandma.

Whenever I was about to take a road trip, during the winter time, my Grandma Judith always called to ask if I had packed boats and mittens in the car...readily accessible. I would sometimes roll my eyes...the boots she was talking about were not always the fashion statement I wanted to make. I loved my Grandma, with a passion. I always made sure to have them "handy".

Years later, as we are preparing for our trip home to Minnesota for Christmas, I made sure to pack all of our "winter wear" into a bag that is "readily access able". I also loaded up duvets for the kids...makes napping better on the long drive. Boy was I glad I listened to Grandma!

We first spent the night in Knoxville with Todd's dad and Mamo (grandma). They had an amazing dinner waiting for us. Todd's aunt and brother joined us as well.

The next morning we hit the road. The temperature gauge read somewhere in the 60s. We were heading to Chicago this night. Already the O'Hare airport was cancelling flights, due to snow (yippee!!!)

We hit snow in the evening, made it to our destination and got snuggled in for a good night's rest. We heard the wind howling all night. The next morning we were ready to hit the road again, heading for Minneapolis. It was time to get the ol' heater blowing, clear off the windows, and load up on coffee!

It was -4. As we moved north our gauge moved to -6. It was bitter cold, but we had snacks, coffee and Christmas music promising me that I would be home for Christmas. Funny thing was happening, the heater was blowing out only cool air...hmm.

Our van was purchased in Florida. A few years back, while traveling north, we discovered that rear heat is an "option" on a Chevy Astro van. (I guess the people who ordered it in Florida had no intention of traveling north of Jacksonville!)

Anyway, we rarely got out of the van. The wind was whippin. It actually hurt to be "out there." It actually hurt to be in the van as well...hmmm. We did tell the guys at the oil change place that we were headed to sub zero destinations WITH our van. Maybe they did not put in the right antifreeze...they certainly did not put in the proper windshield wiper fluid, which was no longer fluid!

As we continues to drive west/north west, I was asking the Lord to please let us have daylight until we arrived at Grandma and Papa's. I was driving across the river and through the cities of St.Paul and Minneapolis, teeth chattering, but my heart warm...we are almost there.

Warm hugs and tons of kisses were waiting, along with a warm meal and sweet candle light.

I thawed out the next day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Oh, how I love Christmas time!

It is not just Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but the whole season! Of course, it is filled with wonderful memories, and I am wanting to make wonderful memories for my children and others. It is the excitement and kindness in the air, the anticipation of something about to happen, the sense of wonderment. It truly is wonderful!

If I could, I would put up our tree before family simply says, "No." (They do not say no to me very often, so...the day after Thanksgiving it is! (I would leave it up until Valentine's Day, but the tree needles abandon me before then.)

This year we have celebrated the season in a number of ways. We have had the town Christmas Parade, Ashley was on her school's first float this year!

Then there was the lighting of the city's Christmas tree. Ashley is in chorus this year, and her school sings at the lighting each year. It is so wonderful. This year the songs were just beautiful, celebrating the birth of Christ.

After the tree is lit, a salutation from the mayor, the Christmas prayer given by a local pastor and the promised "snow" falls, it was off to have a carriage ride, some hot tea and coffee at Sweetea's. It was a wonderful evening. I found myself thanking the Lord for the community He has placed us in. It is His hand that has placed us where we are at. I am truly grateful.

We continued to celebrate with our annual Christmas Party and gift exchange, times with friends, choral performances at the mall, PTA and school, our traditional St. Lucia Day celebration, and so much more. We have been busy, and we have enjoyed every moment!

During much of the year, I hear about the absence of God in our world today. Now, I know we are living in a post modern society, but the Word says that "where two or three gather in His name, there He is in the midst of them." God isn't absent from us. We are to be His representatives, so to speak, in this world. We are His hands, His feet, His arms...

It shouldn't be just during this time of year that we are nice to each other, that we prefer one another, that we share a cheery should be all year through. Reach out to others. If you sense that God is "missing" somewhere, go and show that He is not.

We can make it the most wonderful time of the year, all year through.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

So, I needed a break...

Okay, I been cruizin the blogs a bit on this overcast day. (Forget that I am teaching in an hour and have a million and one things on my "to do " list...that are not getting done!) I was at "A Girl Raising Boys" hoping there was something new there. There was. Here it is. It was super fun...well a bit confusing on my Iraqi name. If you can pronounce it, please call me!

Enjoy your day! I have to run...seriously!

My 9 Names:
1. Your Real Name: Vickie
2. Your Gangsta Name (first 3 letters of real name plus izzle): vicizzle
3. Your Detective Name (favorite color and favorite animal): Black Dog
4. Your Soap Opera Name (your middle name and street you live on/or your apartment #): Lynn Fourten
5. Your Star Wars Name (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 of your first): hedvi
6. Your Superhero/Criminal Name (your 2nd favorite color, and favorite candy): Red Chocolate
7. Your Iraqi Name (2nd letter of your first name, 3rd letter of your last name, 1st letter of your last name, 2nd letter of your mom's maiden name, 3rd letter of your dad's name, 1st letter of a sibling's first name, and last letter of your mom's first name): idhrljn
8. Your Witness Protection Name (parents middle name): Lee Hobert
9. Your Goth Name (black, and the name of one of your pets): Black Cookie

Monday, December 8, 2008

Frosty and Friends!

What an amazing day I had! I recently got to spend the ENTIRE day in my friend Tammy's craft room...making snowmen, or as her husband Al says, "A whole snow family!"

Tammy invited me over for a day of "play". She had sent me a photo from the magazine, Cloth Paper Scissors. I could not resist! I had a hard time sleeping for two nights before venturing off to her house. I had such anticipation. Oh...this was therapy. I love therapy!!

We started out with vintage bottles.

All of my bottles were from my grandparents farm in Minnesota. When I was young I loved to explore, and their farm was the perfect place! I could get "lost" in the groves for hours. When I was about 10 or 12, I loved going on "digs"...looking for treasures for another time period. I would find old toys, dishes and bottles. I started collecting the bottles. They have been in our attic waiting for this very moment! And boy, did they come through!

Tammy and I spent time altering our bottles into little snow personalities. We would get excited over every new creation, as they came to life.

These are just adorable little glass bottles filled with stuff...and love. I have had such joy creating!
As I was doing this, I was thinking of all of God's creation...the universe, the stars, the trees, animals of the fields and birds of the and woman! In Genesis it tells us that when God finished creating things He would look around and say, "This is good." When He finished with man and woman He said, "This is very good!"
We are made in the image of God...not the other way around, as we sometimes get it mixed up, therefore, we are creative. (Some of us have to dig a little deeper than others to find it!) So, imagine the JOY!!! that the Lord had in creating each of us.
Jeremiah 1:5 says that even before He created us in our mother's womb, He "consecrated" us. That would "consecrated" means, "destined with a purpose." Each one of us was created with a destiny, dreamed in the heart and mind of God! That just blows me away! Here, I get excited about creating these adorable snowmen, and seeing their "seemingly" personalities come about and they are mere clay!
God created man/woman in His imagine!!!...with a purpose!!!!...with a destiny!!! Can you say "Amazing"? Wow! What revelation comes to me when I get to be creative.
On this day, may you know the pure JOY that God has for He was creating you and as He watches you walk out in all that He has for you. May you know the dreams and destiny that He, Creator God, has desired for you.
I'm so happy just to be creating.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

With Thankful, Grateful Hearts

"The First Thanksgiving Observance
A Proclamation Signed in Script Type by George WashingtonAppearing in The Massachusetts Centinel of October 14, 1789

This historic proclamation was issued by George Washington during his first year as President. It sets aside Thursday, November 26 as 'A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer.'
Signed by Washington on October 3, 1789 and entitled 'General Thanksgiving,' the decree appointed the day 'to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.'

While there were Thanksgiving observances in America both before and after Washington's proclamation, this represents the first to be so designated by the new national government. "

-taken from

What a day to thank the Lord for His many "favors" to us. We have so many things to be grateful for. That was the theme of our table this year..."Grateful".

We were so happy to have a table to gather around with special friends and dear family. This year we enjoyed the company of the Shauan Family, Nana (Todd's Mom) and Uncle Brad (Todd's youngest brother). It was a sweet time of conversation, yummy foods and a bit of laughter.

Every year, prior to this, we have had outreach with our students and staff. This has included feeding the homeless, delivering meals to those unable to leave home and delivering whole meals to families in our community. We then would gather, all of us together, for our own Thanksgiving meal.

This year, we were able to collect food and put together, and deliver, over 200 meal boxes for those families in our community that are unable to provide a Thanksgiving meal for their families. These meals included a whole turkey, green beans, mashed potaotes, stuffing, bread, cranberries, butter...all the "fixins", including dessert! What a joy! After we finished deliveries on Monday and Tuesday night, we started preparing for our YWAM Family Thanksgiving. We celebrated, all 30 of us, on Wednesday.

As we shared a wonderful meal, we also took time to share the history of Thanksgiving (for our family members from India, S. Korea and England) as well as what we are most thankful for. Over, and over again, we heard how thankful we all are for this "family", this group of people, this time in our lives, our fellow journeymen...

We really are grateful for the people the Lord has chosen to surround us with. What a privilege to be walking this same road.

May you find JOY in your journey, as you look around and see who the Lord has graciously placed beside you as you journey on.

10 Things I am most grateful for at this very moment...

1. the relationship I have with the Lord

2. my precious family

3. my amazing friends, both near and far

4. the job I get to have with YWAM

5. my dinner club nights

6. the home that the Lord has blessed me with

7. that I get to celebrate Christmas in Minnesota

8. my computer

9. creativity

10. House, CSI Miami, Law and Order

Happy Thanksgiving !!!

A Most Unexpected Bloom

This is my last "Blooms of Summer" posting...seeing as it is Thanksgiving Day, even in the South it is hard to push a bloom this late into the season!

For the past few years, we have had the privilege of going to the Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, for summer holiday. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world to us. (My brother in law's family has a place that they have graciously invited us to enjoy). Due to our busy schedule, we were unable to go this summer.

Because of that busy schedule, we really were desperate to get away. Both Todd and I needed time away, our kids needed it. At one point, I felt that I was crawling through sand just to get a break. I was really wondering if I could even "bloom" in The Wilderness. (Today, it seems like a lifetime ago...for that I am so grateful.) Todd called some friends who have a rental business on Top Sail Island, to see if they had anything open this late in the season. They did! They gave us an amazing deal, and we were off.

I did have a lot of apprehension in going. Jackson was having a hard time, he was upset a lot, showing more and more aggression and just unsettled. Would we have neighbors? Would Jackson's behavior allow me a break? Would I be doing the same thing that I did at home, only in a different location?

Todd went a day ahead of us (scheduling issues) and made all the beds, stocked the fridge, put familiar things around, checked out the location, etc. He called to tell us that we were an arm's throw from the beach, it was beautiful and that someone staying across the path from us had a bumper sticker that said, "I love someone with autism." God, in His mercy, heard my prayer. Hopefully, they would love our "someone" with autism.

Needless to say, our time away was so healing. The sand, the sun, the salty air. We spent whole days at the beach, I'm talking 9:30-4:30! We could run into the condo whenever we wanted something. It was close enough that if Jackson wanted to watch a movie, he could go inside and do that...perfect. His behavior was great. Ashley was a huge help as well. We grilled every night, that made Jackson's whole week!

We were curious about our neighbors. One day, I saw them on the beach. It was a young mom, working with her six year old son in the sand. She would draw the ABC's and together they would stand on them and she would say, "A" and he would repeat. I told her what an amazing job she was doing and introduced myself. She also had a baby girl with her. Her kids were the same age spread of ours.

We had a few conversations through out the week. At the end, she said she was so encouraged by our family. She said, "Watching your family is like seeing our lives, 10 years from now. I do not have to worry about our daughter. We will be able to do things." God, in His mercy...

The week was also filled with long walks, many shark sightings (4, seven foot long, about 10 yards away from me...thank God I was on the beach and not swimming!!!), flying kites, reading, play and laughter!

On my walks I saw these amazing flowers, growing in the sand with intense heat and humidity, the wind whipping around, pelting sand. All summer I had felt the heat, felt like I was crawling through the sand, sometimes crawling against the wind and pelting sand. And yet, here were these beautiful flowers, drawing me in. During the summer, I never doubted the Lord, but I cried out in deep desperate ways...sometimes saying, "How much more Lord? Really..."

He says that He knows me, He knows my frame. He knows that I am but dust. He will not give me more than I can bear. He also knows that He has a destiny, a purpose in my life. He has made me to withstand the heat, humidity, intense sun, the pelting winds. Out of all of that, a flower blooms that has colors that catch your eye. What a wonderment to see a thing of great beauty in a place of seemingly harsh conditions. God, in His mercy...

May He find me, His creation, of great beauty!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Prettiest of Blooms

This is another promised "Bloom of Summer"...

My sweet, dear friend, Janelle, sent me a beautiful Mother's Day package in May. It had amazing goodies wrapped with such care (including my favorite pajamas), but what I cherish most is the hand written letter. Her letters are the kind that I make a cup of coffee for, find a cozy place and then sit down and get lost in their beauty.

This particular letter remains close to me at all times. She wrote many beautiful words, but I found myself treasuring, and smiling at, these, "Ashley finds inspiration and beauty in your relationship, she has also found a friend for life. How cool is that? To birth your own friend?"

Yeah! That is birth my own friend. I have never thought of it that way. Oh, but what a sweet friend she "Prettiest of Blooms".

It is hard to believe that 10 years ago this past June, our little flower came a bit too early. (As life has gone on, we see that it was only that she did not want to miss any of the action!) She was born at 34 weeks and was a tiny little peanut. I got a brief glimpse of her before she was whisked off to NICU. It was days before we were able to hold her. I remember when they said I could hold her. I felt that I had just been crowned Miss America and they were placing the roses in my arms. It was a glorious moment for me...wires and all!

The years have passed, albeit too quickly, and I find many of my adventures are shared with her. She is 10 and can hold a conversation with anyone. She is the most compassionate person I know. She loves children. She is a helper and a friend to many. She is a great traveler. Her giggle is genuine, and when you realize that, you can't help but join in. She loves God and she loves others.

Birthdays are always a fun, BIG deal for us. Life is SO precious, and we do not take it for granted. We have done Hello Kitty, The Incredibles, American favorite, so far, was the Willie Wonka party! The invites were Golden Tickets. We painted huge lollies and stuck them in the front yard. There was candy EVERYWHERE. Kids had to come as their favorite character from the movie. One boy went home saying, "I never thought that I would say this but, I think I ate too much candy!" He was holding his tummy...

As Ashley gets older, she really wants to plan the party. (For a mom who loves to do surprises, it is a bit of a bummer.) This year we got creative together. It was HSM (High School Musical) beach party. We spent the day at the water park and then off to pizza. I made her a t-shirt that says, "Single Digits are SO last year!" What a great day with friends.

I am grateful for the flowers in my garden, my blooms of summer. I am grateful to the Lord for the daughter He has given me. Sometimes, I have been sad for the kids I didn't have, when really, God has given me the greatest gift. I celebrate, and am grateful for, this precious daughter, my life long friend!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sixteen Candles

In an earlier post, I promised to share my "Blooms of Summer". I was trying to explain the lack of postings by saying, "I did more blooming than blogging this summer!" So, before the first snowfall comes...

I remember turning 16...probably because it was just a few years ago. I loved the movie "Sixteen Candles" with Molly Ringwald...Lord knows I've seen it WAY more than 16 times! Being 16 was amazing! I really loved it.

Now, as of May 1, I am a parent of a 16 year old, hard to believe, but true. That's right, Jackson turned 16! This was such a monumental day for us.

It doesn't seem that long ago that we were walking to the hospital in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to deliver our first born. Yes, I walked 6- 8 blocks, during intense labor, stopping to lean over a newspaper box when the contraction got to be too much. I'd do it all over again. My labor lasted a whole 5 hours...gotta love that!

Back to the blooms...

I love my son. I loved him before I even knew he existed. I imagined the joys of motherhood before I even met his dad. I've always dreamed of being a mom, and I have always planned to love my kids with intensity and much joy. Our dreams and plans do not always turn out as planned, but life is still rich and beautiful and joy-filled!

When Jackson smiles, the whole world is smiling. He has a great sense of humor. You can see it in his face. Having a non verbal child is very challenging (and that is the understatement of the year) but, it really helps us fine tune our listening skills. We now listen with our eyes, our spirit and then our ears. It is amazing what you can hear when no words are spoken.

Jackson is very loving and sensitive. He will come up to us and spontaneously give us a hug...miracle. He LOVES his Papa. He will just come and sit close...just to be near. On a recent visit from my parents, Jackson would be put to bed by his helper. Once she left, he would come back out of his room and just squeeze in next to my dad and sit for a half hour or so.

Jackson is creative. He loves to paint and cook. His watercolors are really beautiful. I sometimes think he has captured a world I have yet to see.

Birthdays are a BIG deal to us...we just love having a reason to celebrate with friends!!! Turning 16 is a BIG deal. Other kids would be celebrating their driver's license so...

Todd worked with an agency here and he found a HUGE advocate for Jackson. Melinda is amazing. She worked so fervently to see this dream come true. Besides having fun, (and Melinda says having fun is enough!) maybe Jackson can eventually get a paper route in our neighborhood! Todd is hoping that Jackson may one day be able to drive a riding lawn mower. Right now, Jackson loves to give rides.

Jackson...we celebrate you and your life. We love you more than words can say.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Never a Dull Moment

At 10:15 a.m. there is knocking at my door. This time Todd and Ashley are at church, Jackson is watching 101 Dalmatians and I am watching my Bible Study session on my computer. Wayne, friend, brother, neighbor and fellow ywammer is at the door. Hmmmm...I see my next door neighbor walking back to her house. Wayne says, "Call the sheriff."

This time I will give a bit of a layout of the neighborhood for you. As YWAM, we have two houses on this street. Also, two ywam families own houses on this same street, there is another family just around the corner and one family about a mile away. The house across the street from ours is called "Hospitality House."

This sweet little house is totally furnished to welcome guests that come through, either visiting or volunteering with YWAM-Charlotte. Well, to my surprise, just moments before Wayne came running over, the neighbor decided to adorn this yard with...

...his Chevy Blazer! First, let me say, no one was hurt. The baby was in her car seat. Although she lost her shoe, she was uninjured.

I just looked at Wayne (who with his wife Karyn had witnessed the whole incident from their front porch) and said, "How in the world?!!"

This guy driving lives right next door to me. From his drive way to this front yard is MAYBE 50 feet! He did peel out of the gravel driveway. The cement wall of the neighbors, and then of Hospitality House, indicate that he must have hit the wall causing him to go air born.

After he knew everyone was okay, Wayne asked "What happened?" Our neighbor only said, "My wife." (For the record, she was not driving.) Sounds a bit like Adam... in the garden. My neighbor did pass the Breathalyzer test. Although, he could not produce a valid ID or Driver's License.

I sit on my front porch and thank Jesus that no one was hurt. The car did not flip. The passengers are only shaken up. There were no children playing outside or pedestrians walking by. It is a miracle of a day.

Well, I think Todd will be surprised at how well we took care of the neighborhood while he and Ashley were at church. We saw a few miracles of our own right here on Talleyrand!