Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter week review

I was doing the "Resurrection Eggs" with the kids today and asked the boys if they remembered the name of the garden where Jesus went to pray before He was arrested.

Judah's response: "the Olive Garden"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

One Thing

I returned yesterday from a ladies' retreat my church held in Lancaster, PA. In addition to it being wonderful to be in Pennsylvania again and have my first (not last to be sure) taste of raw milk (for another post entirely), I experienced the nearness and love of God in special ways over the course of the 2 days we were away.

One way in which God met me is through the prayers and care extended to me by the women in my church over the past week. I was once again the humble recipient of many people's prayers and practical care after throwing my back out last Monday.

So many women asked how I was doing while at the retreat and sought to serve me by carrying my luggage, making sure I was comfortable and praying for me. Less than a week after I threw out my back, I can say that I feel so much better and probably 80% back to normal, the quickest recovery I've ever had from one of these episodes!

Some other highlights:
  • It was a treat to see one of my best buds, Laurie, and meet some of her new gals from Ohio.
  • The women from my caregroup who attended the retreat were such a blessing as they shared vulnerably and encouraged each other richly in our times of discussion after the messages.
  • Being given the privilege to pray for two dear friends of mine as they seek to take steps to grow in godliness.
  • Witnessing a number of women step out of their comfort zones in particular giftings such as sharing a prophetic word, praying for others and even delivering one of the messages in order to bless and minister to the other women.
  • A time of solitude was written into the schedule and provided some extended time for me to memorize scripture and pray through/journal about some upcoming transitions and making the most of the season of life I'm currently enjoying.
  • Seeing one of my absolute favorite people in the world, De Neumann, be rightly honored for the amazing woman of God that she is. I love you, De!
  • And, at the absolute top of the list from this retreat is that a woman received Christ this weekend and is now no longer an enemy of God but a precious daughter or the King of Kings. Truly amazing to witness new life in Christ.

I am grateful and humbled that God would provide such an opportunity like this retreat for me to experience His love and care in such tangible, memorable ways. I have said it many, many times, but I'll say it again. I LOVE MY CHURCH! I'm grateful for how the leadership of my church seeks to care for and shepherd my heart by providing contexts where I can grow in my knowledge and experience of God.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lightening the Load

My back went out this week. One minute I was talking to my friend on the phone; the next minute I was on the floor. God has been so kind in providing a good chiropractor whose adjustments along with persistent icing, rest and stretching have been helpful toward recovery.

This morning it occured to me that I must lighten the load in my purse. It's just too heavy, especially now that my back is on the fritz. How do we women manage to do that? We (at least I do) start with just the "necessities" in our bags, but somehow over time, we end up with everything in there but the kitchen sink. Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Nevertheless, it's time to clean it out.

The "spring cleaning" about to take place in my purse prompted some thoughts about this whole episode with my back and how it has forced me to "lighten my load" in other ways as well.
Within hours of falling to the floor, I had my schedule cleared for the rest of this week: cancelled dr's appointments, serving opportunities, even my weekly trip to the grocery store. Everything was wiped from my calendar this week knowing that I would need to do almost nothing but rest, ice and stretch to bring about the fastest healing possible.
And, there has been another effect of my back going out, another "lightening of my load" so to speak. I read somewhere (sorry..can't remember where or who wrote this), "Blessed is the thing that loosens our grip on earth."
This "affliction" has served to once again loosen my grip on earth, to remind me that I am not made to find my ultimate joy and satisfaction in the things of this earth, including my health and well being. It has once again lightened the load I can often carry around walking through my days, thinking that "load" will bring me joy.
God has indeed given us many gifts here on earth for our enjoyment. And, it is right for us to take pleasure in those gifts. I know for me, though, I can often derive so much pleasure in the gifts that I neglect pursuing my ultimate joy in the Giver. He mercifully "flattens" me at times to remind me to look up and remember the Giver of those many gifts. He reminds me that my ultimate joy will come another day, the day I leave this earth and enter into the place I was intended for, Heaven, to be with the Person I was created for, God.
It's not easy to have our loads lightened at times. When cleaning out that purse, don't we often hold onto things thinking, "I really need this and this and this..." only to discover we've not really lightened our load?!
It's not been easy to have my "load" divinely lightened this week. It's been hard not to serve my family in ways I'm accustomed. It's been hard and humbling to ask for and receive help doing things I'm used to doing on my own. It's been humbling to have to clear my schedule in order to solely focus on getting better. It's been incredibly humbling to be faced with my weakness, my needs and limitations.
But, I want to choose to see these things as God kindly "lightening my load", inviting me to come to Him for rest, take upon His load which is "light" (Mt. 11:30). What makes His load light? Humility, gentleness. (Matthew 11:29). I hope I'm growing in humility this week. I trust that is in part what God is doing through my minor affliction this week. It's loosening my grip on earth and growing me in Christ likeness.
How is God lightening your load lately?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Clone of a Cinnabon

Here's a link to the recipe I used for our "cinna-bunnies" for our Spring Celebration breakfast.
I didn't make the dough from scratch, however, so I can't vouch for that part of the recipe. I simply used a store bought whole wheat pizza dough ball. It worked well, though I didn't give it enough time to rise once they were rolled up and sitting in the pan.

If you like "Cinnabon" cinnamon rolls, you will LOVE these. They really taste exactly like those. If you prefer a more traditionalk cinnamon roll, this may not be the recipe for you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Celebration, 2010

Today, we celebrated the return of spring. I have done this for the last several years with the kids, and the boys now look forward to their "cinna-bunnies" for our spring celebration breakfast. I "stole" many of these ideas from other mommas, the cinna-bunnies included; although, this year I tried to make them from scratch, mostly (thanks, Cathy Plack for the amazing recipe!).

I like doing the spring celebration separate from our Easter celebrations as it allows us to more easily focus solely on the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter. For our spring celebration, we start our day with "cinna-bunnies" for breakfast, pick one treat from the spring basket which included books for each child this year. I usually have a spring craft and/or treat to do. This year we made birds nests with our friend, Duncan and Owen Jones, out of chocolate, coconut, pretzel sticks and jelly beans. I sadly don't have any pictures of those because it took two mommas' undivided attention to make sure all the jelly beans weren't eaten up before they got into the nests. :)

We read books about spring. When LA arrived home from work, we went to Mistyglen farm (friends of ours) for a hike. We ate egg salad sandwiches for dinner and enjoyed another chocolate treat from our spring basket for dessert. It was a wonderful day giving thanks to God for seeing us through another winter and welcoming us to a new season of warmth, light and life.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lessons Learned

The boys were doing some practice handwriting for school this morning, and Bella was providing much distraction. I encouraged the boys to try to block out all the distractions around them and focus only on their handwriting. To provide further motivation, I told the boys that one day they might have a job where they are required to concentrate really hard on their task while others around them might be doing other tasks that could be distracting to them. They would need self control to block out those distractions to do a good job at their own task.

The boys sat for but a moment trying to process this bit of information and then Tucker curiously asks, "So, Bella will be at work with us?"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy 8 Years!

Happy 8 years to my lover
best friend
the one who has been the face of Christ to me more than any other,
the greatest gift God's ever given to me.

Thanks for asking for my hand 8+ years ago high up on the mountaintop
for not just staying with me when I've dragged you through some deep, dark valleys--
but loving me in and through them.

We've had some unexpected, amazing summit views
as well as stony, narrow, dark valleys to walk through.
Fewer for us have been the plateaus where we've just had to plod on,
but I've been grateful for those times, too--
when you've simply held my hand and enjoyed the trek.

I pray for many more years of journeying home with you by my side.

I love you and am grateful to God for you more than my words can express.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My "sweet" girl

Got this dress from a local thrift store and LOVE it for Bella. If I could find it or sew, I'd have a matching one and be corny like that.

I'm sure I wouldn't look quite as adorable in it as she does, though!

As cute as she is, she is that much mischievous. Here's what she got busy doing one night recently when LA and I were watching our favorite show, "The Amazing Race".

The bathroom was not spared.

Nor was her bedroom

This is how we found asleep. Notice the deodorant in the bed with her. That would have come from our bathroom! She has a thing about my hubby's deodorant. She asks to smell it nearly everyday.

Rather angelic, isn't she? Looking at least!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The underground church

The boys have been learning about different countries around the world at school.
Recently, China was the country of the week. As we talked about various aspects of Chinese culture, I explained to them that Christians in China cannot always worship God openly and in the same way we get to worship God here in the United States. I explained that many Chinese Christians have to meet secretly to worship God together, pray and read God's Word. I told them that this kind of secret meeting is sometimes referred to as the "underground church".

A couple days after this conversation, Judah was talking to Lawrence about this. He said, "Papi, did you know Chinese Christians have church in the dirt?"

Monday, March 01, 2010

We've come a long way, baby!

There have been several milestones and memorable moments here at the Almengor homestead (ha..not really, but I'd love it to be) that I haven't taken time to write about. (I know I'm ending my sentence in a preposition...but, it's my blog for my own sake, so I'm going to. Ha. I did it again!)

Let's start with Judah since this is "" after all.

We've been tracking Judah's growth for several years now. I cannot believe it's been several years that we started down this road, but alas time flies when you're having fun (or just too busy to notice).

It'll be 2 years in May that Judah's endocrinologist recommended we start Judah on a daily shot of human growth hormone. It's been nearly 2 years that we've patiently and persistently asked God to sustain Judah's growth so as to either hold off on such a course of treatment or not need it altogether. It's been 2 years that we've gone to Dr. Germain-Lee every 3-4 months for height/weight checks and blood draws. It's been 2 years that we've avoided having to begin the treatment of HGH shots because God has answered our prayers and continues to answer our prayers to sustain Judah's growth.

During Judah's last endocrine appointment, Dr. Germain-Lee looked at his charts, bloodwork and him and said (and I quote), "He is an anomaly. I do not understand it. He should not be growing like he is."

We give thanks. We do not take it lightly that the God of the Universe, Creator and Sustainer of all things, hears and answers our prayers. We know that God may in time allow Judah's body to fall in line with the laws of nature that HE established and halt Judah's growth. By God's grace, we will accept that with gratitude just as we have gratefully accepted God's supernatural intervention up to this point.

On another health front, I recently took Judah to see his neurologist, Dr. Comi, whom he hadn't seen for nearly 2 years~ Understanding the implications of Sturge Weber Syndrome, one would realize that this fact alone is a lot to celebrate. There aren't too many folks with SWS who willingly go 2 years without seeing their neurologist. BUT, we have had no need. Neurologically, Judah has been doing so well. No signs of seizures/strokes/developmental delays, etc. No problems have erupted with his VP shunt.

When Judah was 13 months old, he had an MRI of his brain which gave no indication of brain involvement in regards to his SWS. To say we were relieved is truly an understatement. Unless you are a parent of a child with SWS or perhaps some other chronic diagnosis, I'm not sure you can fully appreciate the relief that comes with news such as this. Nevertheless, our relief has always been somewhat stifled by our understanding that not enough is known about the progression of SWS for a doctor to confidently write off the possibility of neurological complications to begin in a person somewhere down the road. We've never received that kind of concrete prognosis for Judah...until last month!

Dr. Comi was grateful I brought Judah in to see her. In her vast experience with SWS patients, she has not had another who had no brain involvement AND hydrocephaly (swelling of the brain which required Judah's VP shunt) at the same time. She and other of Judah's doctors found this to be puzzling at best. Mere coincidence that the same child would end up with two different kinds of neurological disorders? Well, we know better, of course. We know that whether Judah's SWS and his hydrocephaly are related or not, God is His Creator and fashioned Judah in such a way that this is not a mystery to Him. Along the way, there have been a number of doctors "puzzled" by our little man. We are so grateful to know the ONE who is never puzzled by any health matter/bodily function going on with Judah or any of our kids for that matter.

So...we saw Dr. Comi, and I asked her about then potential need for another MRI to see if there might have been changes in Judah's neurological status. She felt there was no need for a repeat MRI because in her entire career and vast experience, she has yet seen a patient who had a clear MRI done after 1 yr. of age return later with signs of neurological involvement. WOO HOO. Thank you, Lord. Like Judah's growth, we'll take what comes. We will choose to trust ultimately in God and not solely on statistics and what our doctors prognose. But, we will give thanks for every bit of good news we receive on this journey with Judah.

Now, there is our girlie.
She has had some of her own "big news" in the last several months.
Two weeks before Christmas (her timing not mine), she decided to potty train. I write potty "train" loosely because really, she didn't require much training at all. One day she had "the look" like she needed to go to the bathroom. So, I asked her if she wanted to try to do it on the potty. She wanted to try, and SHE DID IT! We all praised her like she had won the Nobel Peace Prize. It was about 2 days of asking her every 10 minutes if she needed to go to the potty, a handful of accidents later and she was pretty much trained. She hasn't worn a diaper since..even for naps or nighttime sleep which, to me, is rather impressive. The girl just gets it, I guess.

Not long after being potty trained, Bella figured out how to climb out of her crib. SO, again on her time table and not mine, she transitioned to her big girl bed. Again, she surprised me and did rather well with this transition. That said, we did have a bit of an "incident" just last night where she got out of her bed and scattered the contents under the bathroom sink and her closet all over the floor, vaseline and lotion included. (Pictures forthcoming)

The last "big" milestone for my girlie was giving up her "nukies" (pacifiers to everyone else). We have not allowed Bella to have her nuk during her wake time since she was about 2, but I just couldn't bring myself to taking them from her for her sleep time. It was definitely laziness on my part. I just didn't want to deal with a screaming baby at night again. That's what I anticipated would happen when we took her nuks away. BUT, yet again, she surprised us and has been without her nuks since her 3rd birthday without crying once for them.

Bella is difficult on a daily basis (what 2 or 3 year old isn't?). But, with these big transitions, she has proven to be such a big girl. It's where her fierce independent spirit has paid off for us, I guess.

SO, we are a diaper-less home once again. And, we no longer own a crib. No more bibs, baby seats at the table or bottles. Wow. It only took 5.5 years which is relatively a short time in comparison to many others I know. Maybe we'll be doing diapers again down the road. I wouldn't mind. No. There are is no other news, though we are in the process of researching adoption agencies. We'd love your prayers for us in this.