Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I started thinking tonight about all the gifts I received for Christmas this year. Two of my favorite were given to me by my parents because after all, who really would know more what I'd want or like than the ones who have spent most of my life with me? Here are two of the gifts they gave me that I absolutely adore:

Coasters cut from birch wood

You may not be able to tell from this picture but these are about 2.5 inches tall. Most darling little glass bottles I've ever seen. I love 'em.

My mind then wandered to my favorite intangible gifts of this know, experiences that happen during the season of Christmas. These I treasure in my mind's eye as I can't touch or hold them; things such as an impromptu visit with friends who recently moved back into town, enjoying a nearby neighbor's Christmas lights synced to music, or participating in my brother-in-law's church's "LED light" service Christmas Eve (yes, it was an LED service vs. candlelight; welcome to 2011~).

Gifts. There are the ones we look forward to and delight to open and the ones we will never touch or feel but nevertheless enjoy. But there is a third group of gifts I thought of in my random run of thoughts tonight. It's those gifts that seem to have been overlooked on our wish list, the one or maybe two things we REALLY WANTED. We fight the disappointment we feel when all has been unwrapped except that for which we had dreamed. We battle to be grateful.

Or perhaps it wasn't something you longed to unwrap but rather an experience: a peaceful family gathering, that special someone to have given some indication that he thinks of you and cares for you, or a boss's pat on the back and reassurance that you've had a productive year and are an asset to the team.

Your expectation was not met.

Your longing went unfulfilled

Your wish was not granted.

May I remind you as God reminded me tonight at the end of this random stream of thoughts of something He says to those who have longings unfulfilled and wishes not granted?

Psalm 84:11b says, "no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless."

and what about

Luke 11:13, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

You say you have asked. But, for what are you asking? When God says He doesn't withhold any good thing from you, He doesn't mean that "puppy in the window." Rather, He intends and will give us every good thing we need for life and godliness. He will give us His Holy Spirit through which we can receive all else He gives and withholds with peace and gratitude, with contentment and joy.

And sometimes, many times I've known God to mercifully give us that "puppy in the window", too.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Christmas at our house

Welcome to Christmas at our house. As a self proclaimed collector of nothing, I do nevertheless have quite an affinity for nativities, especially ones from around the world. Notice in my pictures this year a very special and new nativity scene brought to me all the way from Tanzania, Africa! Remembering how much I adore unique nativity scenes, my baby sister thoughtfully purchased this for me before returning to the States despite being deathly ill during her stay in Africa. Thank you, Kara! It is and YOU being home safely are the best Christmas gifts this year for me.

In case you care, a little more information about my Christmas decor this year...

The live Christmas tree is a very serious thing for me each year. I am a diehard live tree girl, though I still sincerely love all my friends and family who put up those awful artificial ones. ;)
My children graciously bear with me each year as I pass over many a tree to find the "perfect" one. Remembering last year's meltdowns, I decided I would turn the decision over to my children. They were grateful, quick, and did a GREAT job! Our tree this year may be the most beautiful one we've ever had.

The fabric garland hanging through my pass thru window was my momma's idea and Judah's execution. I love it's festiveness.

In one of my manger scenes, you may notice the baby Jesus missing from his cradle. That's on purpose. ;) I take Jesus out of his cradle and include an empty manger (a simple box w/ hay inside) under our Christmas tree each year. On Christmas morning, however, Jesus appears in his manger "wrapped in swaddling" clothes. Looking on the empty mangers throughout the month of December is a daily reminder of what this season is about: waiting for Jesus to come.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What shall I render?

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. Psalm 116:12-14

I have felt compelled to write this post of thanksgiving many times but have put it off and put it off. This morning after reading the above passage, I can put it off no longer. It's not a refined, edited recalling of our recent trip to Judah's laser doctor, but I pray it will bless you nonetheless and honor God as I recount His faithfulness to me and my family:
  • Judah mentioned that he wasn't as scared today as he's been in the past. Thank you for your prayers
  • God gave me the idea to write Judah a note to encourage him and give him scriptures to read. That seemed to really bless him. He took it with him to the appointment and stuck it in his bible for the next visit.
  • In that note, I included Isaiah 41:10 which a friend wrote in her email to me that a.m. Judah also heard that verse on our trip back from Hopkins in the Adventure in Odyssey story he was listening to at the time.
  • God gave me strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other despite my weariness, physically and emotionally.
  • God's grace caused me to look outside myself by cheerfully greeting the admin.staff at Hopkins, our nurse, doctor and students observing the treatment.
  • God also gave me eyes to notice another mom's pain and offer a hug, draw her out and assure her of our prayers.
  • God made me aware that even in the midst of my emotional outbursts toward my children (impatience, anger, selfishness) that God does NOT grow tired or weary. ever. His understanding no one can fathom.
  • I was able to have a conversation w/ Judah in the car about how we don't always understand God's ways, His choices for us...for Judah that is having a PWS and SWS and having to endure laser tx's when no one else in his world does. I was able to share w/ him about my experience with losing my dad to cancer when I was 12 and about his friend, Rudy, who only has one kidney. We don't always see God's goodness and wisdom behind the choices He makes for us, but we trust that He is wise and good in all He does when we remember how He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins.
  • A dear friend watched my other two kiddos while I took Judah to Hopkins and we were able to enjoy sweet, unexpected fellowship when I picked them up.
For this and more, I am grateful to God who is always merciful and gracious.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple... Psalm 116:5, 6a

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Psalm 63:7, a meditation

...You have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

I am in your shadow-
You cover me,
protect me,
hide me,
see me,
are with me.

I am not on my own,
without coverage,
laid bare.

You are above me; I am below.
You are Creator; I, the created.
You are Great; I am small.
You are consuming; I am consumed.

He who covers me is FOR me, is good, all powerful, THE mighty Conqueror, over all.
He who covers me loves me with an everlasting love, has drawn me with loving kindness.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Our July 4th weekend

family.friends.West Virginia.
trail mix.Turbo Fire.White's Woods.
1st service.tears.BBQ.
late nights.Elias.the Brewers.
Ryers.Will & Lori.catching up.
"Aunt Mo".granny sister's Bella & Sadie.cousins.
Kids'Cove.curricula chats.Indiana.
old friends.God's been faithful.
Getty Heights.exhaustion.head colds.
swings.Mia & Ainsley's.playground.
down pour.icecream.juice boxes.
not enough napping.quirky circuits.upstairs playroom.
Tom & Jerry.Jeff Gaffigan.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Stay-cation 2011

Can I go on my own vacation now that our family "stay-cation" is over? It was fun, memorable, full and tiring.

We stayed with my brother, Brad, and sister-in-law, Jen, and my three nephews, Josh, Ben & Ryan, over the Memorial Day weekend. To and from Grandma's house several times over the weekend, we thoroughly enjoyed our long weekend with family, including a Clemmer reunion on Sunday.

Tuesday, we drove north to Knoebel's where we battled the heat riding amusement park rides and eating icecream.

Driving home Tuesday night, we stopped for a late dinner at Chic-Fil-A, a family favorite.

From roller coasters to rolling waves, we headed to the beach on Wednesday. Sandy Point Park was our mid-week destination. Kid-sized waves, beaming sunshine, a cooling breeze, and a sparse crowd made for a relaxing day on the beach followed by Pizza Hut for dinner and icecream for dessert.

We bounced the morning away at a local bouncy place, cooled off in an air-conditioned movie theater to watch "Kung Fu Panda 2", and topped off our day with a "keeping in theme" dinner at a hibachi grill where Bella attempted to catch food thrown at her by the chef. After dinner, we enjoyed a nice stroll down the White Marsh Avenue and bought the boys summer flip flops.

Highlight of the day on Friday was strawberries. We picked at Brad's produce, enjoyed them over icecream and angel food cake later that evening.

Saturday, we scored a free kids' fishing event in Havre de Grace complete with free lunch, icecream, face painting, moon bounce, balloon art and more (even a live, wild turkey!). We hurried home to watch 2 of the kids' babysitters, Sandra and Cheri, along with 6 other friends from church graduate from high school. Ending the evening once again in a moon bounce our neighbors had rented for their girls' 4th birthday seemed quite fitting for the week of many moon bounces!

For my own mental reference for possible future vacationing:
1. Go away from home. There's something very stress relieving being away from my own home and something stress inducing about trying to vacation while remaining in my home.

2. Map out all expenses before vacation so as to not be distracted the entire time by how much we're spending and wondering what the grand total will be.

3. Plan for a babysitter near the end of vacation week so as to get some kid-free time with hubby.

4. Figure out how to factor in vegetables even on vacation. ;) Oh, did I miss my veggies.

Enjoy some photos of our week together:


Monday, March 28, 2011

Calendar Dates

March 17th
July 4th
December 25th

Dates that are meaningful to most of us.

But what about:

February 12th
August 3rd
October 27th

These are dates meaningful to me and just a few others.
On February 12th, my beautiful girlie was born.
My boys entered the world on August 3rd.
And, Lawrence made my day and my life by proposing to me on October 27th!

But, then there's March 16th. At the start of 2002, I anticipated that date on the calendar with great excitement and joy. It couldn't come soon enough. It was my wedding day. And, every March 16th since then has been looked forward to with joy.

But, it wasn't always that way.

March 16th is also my late Father's birthday. Since his passing in 1989 until 2002, March 16th was a day I would approach with sadness or at times, anger. It was a day that reminded me of the first major tragedy in my life, my Father's death.

Many of us have calendar days like that. Days that are ordinary to everyone around us but extraordinary to us. Days that are sometimes anticipated with dread and despair. Days that can't come and go quick enough because they mark some pain filled experience in our life.

When choosing a wedding date, I was blessed beyond words to have March 16, 2002, fall on a Saturday. We chose that day to honor my dad. God chose that date to show me something about Himself:

The Keeper of time is the Redeemer of time.

Not all my calendar days that represent something sad in my life have taken on something happy or more celebratory in my life quite as nicely as March 16th. But, I can still come upon those dates and "re-write" them if I chose to view them through the lens of who God says He is and how He says He works in our lives.

Psalm 103:2-6 says,

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.

Romans 8:28 says,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

and Jeremiah 29:11 says,
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Dates exist for me that I still approach with a sense of sadness. But, I also approach those dates and the memories they hold armed with truth. God does and will redeem ALL events in my life and the lives of every one of His children. He will set all things right one day. And until then, I can trust that He is using those sad or grievous events for my good and often the good of others as well.

By faith, I will trust the Keeper of time to be the Redeemer of time, and I will love Him more as I see redemption unfold year after year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Need

I wake up nearly every morning with what can be an overwhelming sense of my need for help, for God's help. I wrote this prayer on one of those mornings recently...

I need you, Lord
to walk humbly and faithfully through my day
to be gentle and kind with my kids, respectful,
and the same with my husband
to serve gratefully at co op today
to endure a long day with the kids
to pray without ceasing
to not fear us all getting sick
to be about Your agenda rather than my own
to have self control in my eating, & speaking & computer use
to be content with the condition of my home and even joyful recognizing it & all you've given or withheld as more and better than I deserve
to purpose to encourage and edify those I interact with today rather than just go through the motions
to responsibly take care of things that need my attention
to say "no" when I need to say "no" and
to say "yes" when I need to say "yes"
to not fear anything that is frightening
to draw near to you
to have faith that You exist and reward those who seek You.

I need you even for my next breath

for safety on the roads
to remember all the items of priority today
to not be selfish but selfless
to not grow weary in doing good
to hate my sin and love righteousness
to deal with sin quickly
to live up to my commitments to others
to provide a home atmosphere that reflects You and Your character
to guide my children in wisdom and address their heart above & beyond their behavior
to love others
to love You
to not put any 'gods' before You
to be nice to my husband when he gets home after work
to save energy for him.

II Peter 1:3
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Busy Season Blessings

"Busy season". In our house, it means Christmas is over and January has begun. April 15th is a long time away. Winter has set in, and contagious illnesses of varying types along with it. It means longer periods of darkness and of single parenting as Lawrence spends more hours than usual at work.

We battle snow, ice, and illnesses along with our own hearts that our tempted to grumble and grow weary.

Yet every year, we experience God's blessings in the midst of busy season.

Being half way through our busy season, I'm already aware of many undeserved, unexpected gifts I've received from my Heavenly Father, who loves to lavish good gifts upon the objects of His affection. Why I am among them, I do not know. It will never be comprehended, only received and enjoyed.

Thank you, Lord, for making me an object of your love rather than your wrath.
Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to take Your wrath for my sin, many of which are committed during this busy season when I lose my footing so easily.
Thank you for being a good Father, a perfect Father who knows how to give good gifts.

Thank you for these precious gifts to me this busy season:
  • a mini road trip to Philly with dear friends to see my new favorite group, The Civil Wars, in concert. & a table right infront of the stage at which to sit and enjoy the beautiful and pitch perfect harmonies of Joy Williams and John Paul White.
  • a gold mine of a 'find' for me in my search for inexpensive organic food sources: an Amish run country store in Pennsylvania which affords me another good gift:
  • road trips to my home state to buy raw milk, fresh eggs and other such good food from my farmer friends
  • having a few moments while waiting for my milk to watch Abner plow his fields with his four horses and a metal plow. Row by row, he tills the soil, and this means Spring will soon be here!
  • my hubby putting in early work hours on a Saturday to surprise me by taking me to the Bel Air Chocolate Festival. I've never been able to go but have always wanted to. This year, I was taken and delighted.
  • a girl's night out with my sister-in-law, Yvette. Wine, dessert and some really good fellowship.
  • spending a Sunday afternoon with my older sister and her family when they kindly brought 1/4 cow's worth of meat for us to fill our freezer!
  • Celebrating Bella's 4th birthday for which my parents made a trip down from PA to see us.
  • 2nd row seats at a play of "Charlotte's Web" I took the kids to see
  • an unexpected, spontaneous lunch date with friends from church at which I ate the most amazing chocolate raspberry torte ever!
  • minimal illness; this is nothing short of a miracle!
  • a timely seminar that a friend attended from which I have been indirectly yet greatly encouraged and helped in growing in gentleness with my children.
  • holes that have been in my walls since we moved into our home in 2003 patched up and caulking that's needed to be done, taken care of. Every time I look around the toilet at that sparkling white caulk, I smile.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I think they are.

My kids. I think they're funny, which is good, because I spend A LOT of time with them. I'm beginning to wonder if it's an unhealthy amount of time with them. nah. They'll be up and out of my house before I blink, right?! That's what all the old ladies always tell me.
Inevitably, I will be the one with 3 grown adult children still living with me. Oh wait. That's MY mom. Sorry, mom! I wasn't one of them, though...just remember that when you change your will next. ;) children. They're funny.

Tonight I took them to Pizza Hut to redeem Book It coupons. LA works late on Tuesday nights right now, so it's nice to find something fun to look forward to during the day that will help pass the time in the evening when we're all missing Papi (Spanish for daddy & what my kids call LA).

Judah was needing his drink refilled and was being a bit less than patient with our server who was a bit less than quick.

Like any 6 year old, I presume, or at least any 6 year old that would share my dramatic genes, Judah began to whine a bit about being so thirsty, insisting he was going to die if he didn't get a drink promptly.

Tucker and I began to bust Judah's chops a bit about his drama. Go figure. Drama queen that I am does not tolerate drama from anyone else!

I ask Judah where he would like me to bury him when he dies.

Without skipping a beat, he replies, "In the backyard. under the swings. under MY swing. and put my name on the swing. 'Judah'."

"Okay. Will do."

Tucker chimes in, "And we'll write on your tombstone, 'If only we had gotten him a drink sooner.'"

And, I bust out in uproarious laughter. Have I spent too much time with my littles?

On another day, Tucker was lamenting the fact that he was being "forced" to eat his carrots. He protests on regular occasion (daily) that he doesn't prefer the taste of carrots. I tell him he can choose another veggie to eat, but he refuses to try anything else. Sorry, buddy...ya gotta eat some veggies to remain my son.
just kidding.

As he's choking down his carrots, we're listening to "The Last Battle" from the Chronicles of Narnia series where a picture of Heaven is being described through the allegory of a New Narnia in the story.

Trying to encourage my son, I tell Tucker that in Heaven, carrots will taste good, (even though I think carrots taste great already on earth)...

Tucker's quit witted reply comes before I can even finish my sentence, "There won't be carrots in Heaven, mom."

Guess we'll have to wait and see who's right on that one!

Before I even type this third funny from a day in the life of the Almengor children, I realize that all of them center around FOOD. hmm??? Does this need psycho-analyzed?

Dinner time can be a challenge in our home. Again, I'm hoping this is just the normal course of life for most parents of young kids. They don't like vegetables, but I'm one of those mean mommies who insists that they eat them.

When one of my children is actually eating his/her dinner without complaining or "accidentally" throwing it on the floor or taking F O R E V E R , I try to take notice and make a BIG deal about it.

So, I was commending Bella the other night on how well she was eating her dinner.
"Bella, you are doing such a good job eating your dinner tonight," to which she replied, "As are you, mom!"

That was just too stinkin cute hearing from a brand new 4 year old~!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A chair, a couple tables, rugs, fancy pillows, and some roman shades. That's all. Really.

That's all I want for my living room to be pulled together, fit for public consumption. Oh, and a fresh coat of paint. And, possibly some new wall decor. Then, we can move onto the kitchen where we need another fresh coat of paint, new appliances, counter tops, and recessed lighting installed...minimally.

That's just the main level of our home. I haven't even taken you downstairs to our basement or upstairs to our bedrooms and bathrooms.

Lately, I've become a bit preoccupied with outfitting our living room with new furniture, for starters. It's needed an uplift for quite some time, like since we moved into our home in 2003! ;)

Lawrence and I don't do home projects with gusto like some folk. We call it progress if empty soap dispensers get refilled and burned out light bulbs are changed with any regularity. Seriously.

Apart from our lack of know how, time and money, I think we over think things like house projects a bit, too, which typically ends up impeding any kind of progress.

Nevertheless, I grow impatient with the state of the union here on a rather frequent basis. I want change and I want it now. Actually, yesterday would have been better.

Sadly, I grow discontent and air my grumblings to my husband and friends. Or I scour the internet looking for the right chair at the right price thinking that if I just landed a great steal like that, I could assuage the churning discontent that resides within my heart for at least a week or two.

Where do I go with this daily temptation? How do I respond in a "gospel centered" way to these circumstances?

I first remind myself of the facts of the gospel, namely that because God is a Holy God and fully just and because I am a rebel, one who has turned away from the worship of my Creator to the worship of the created, I deserve God's wrath. I do not deserve God's mercy. I do not deserve God's blessings or favor. I deserve hell.

But, because of God's love, He sent His Son, Jesus, who lived a perfect life and died in my place on the cross taking the penalty of God's wrath upon Himself for my sin. He then rose again from the dead, conquering the power of death, making everlasting life and freedom from sin available to me, too.

But, how do these facts connect with my desire to have a nice looking living room?
Well, I consider specific implications these facts have for this circumstance. Stay with me.

I consider that if I deserved hell for my sins, then I definitely don't deserve a nicely furnished living room. But, that doesn't really bring joy to my heart to ponder too long because I still really want nice, new furniture.

Then, I remind myself that God loved me enough to crush His only Son. If he loved me enough to do that in order that I would have eternal life and freedom from sin, can't I trust Him to provide all that I really need for a joy filled life? That may or may not include nice living room furniture.

Reminding myself of these truths doesn't automatically cause me to abandon my desire for new furniture and leap for joy at the absence of it. Over time, however, as I rehearse these truths in my mind, it does begin to have an effect on my affections. I DO really experience a change in my attitude regarding the condition of my home.

I cannot remain sullen and discontent when I consider, truly consider what God has done for me.
I could go out and buy a new chair and experience a sense of release from that churning discontent. But the contentment would fade faster than the fabric on my chair, and I would have to buy something else.

When I take the time to remember the facts of the gospel and consider the implications those facts have on my particular circumstances, my heart is moved. It may take some time, but it does soften. It does change. I do begin to experience that abundant life Christ died for, no matter what abundance or lack thereof in material possessions I own.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday to my girlie

I was smitten from the moment I saw her.

After a long labor and 2 hours of pushing, my first and only girlie made her entrance into our world with just one final thrust from my body.

Beautiful but not breathing as she should, Bella remained in a special care nursery for a couple days until she was flown to Hopkins' NICU where she puzzled her doctors and enamored her nurses. She appeared a giant in that NICU amidst all the preemies. No preemie, Bella was born 4 days past her due date and 2 days before Valentine's Day at 8 lbs. 5 oz.~

She came in the inconvenience of Lawrence's busy season and a rather big snow/ice storm.
But, she was a dream come true, and we willingly embrace all the inconveniences this little gift from God has since brought us.

Fierce independence likely served her that first week of life when she fought for breath and life. I must remember that when that same independence stands to drive its wedge between her and me. When filled with faith, I pray her independence will serve her in whatever God may call her to face, that it will drive her to persevere in hardships and challenges, that it will cause her to not give up when others throw in the towel, that it will win for her many mountain top experiences in this life for her good and God's glory.

From 2010_10 Fall fun

Determined silliness. The girl loves to laugh, and she's got a great one. Mouth opens big when she has been delighted with life. Rather than feeling tortured when tickled, she LOVES it and nearly begs for more. "Squeeze me hard, mom" she'll say to me and then giggle long and hard when I do.

Basketballs, Barnie, shoes, swimming suits, purses, 'footie pajamas', dresses, 'footie tights', treats, pizza, pasta and princesses are a few of her favorite things.

From Father's Day, 2009

Born with natural rhythm, Bella is nearly compelled to move her body whenever she hears a beat of any kind. She loves to dance and wear her leotard and tutu.
She adores when Grandma paints her nails, and there's a special twinkle in her eye when she sees her Abuelo.

From Bella's First Birthday Party

My sweet Bella girl, your name means beautiful. I pray you will grow into a beautiful woman on the inside as much as you already are on the outside. Just as you wooed my heart from the moment I met you, I pray God will woo your heart and that you would know Him as your greatest treasure, better than fashion, food, friends or fun. He is worth loving with all your heart, soul, mind and strength for He has loved you with an everlasting love.

Love you, baby girl!

Monday, February 07, 2011

She Grew Up

She grew up with a mom, dad, sisters, and brother,
Two sets of grandparents who dearly loved her.

She grew up with a roof over her head and food to eat,
Living in a yellow house on Bridge Street.

She grew up knowing Jesus and memorizing His Word,
At the age of eight, making God her Lord.

She grew up not knowing how blessed she was,
Not knowing what she had not everybody does.

She grew up mostly immune to suffering
Except for the occasional spanking.

She grew up thinking all would remain the same
Until that day when everything changed.

Her dad got sick and died from cancer.
Why did God allow it? No one could give an answer.

She grew up learning God controlled all things.
The Creator of life became the One who made it sting.

She grew up learning that God was also good.
Who else did we have to thank for all our food?

She grew up wondering how both could be true:
God be good & in control when this suffering she knew.

The answer came when she saw what God had done.
To atone for her sins, He crushed His only Son.

She grew up knowing for her sins Jesus died.
But now it was God's love for her she could not deny.

She grew up knowing truth in her head not her heart,
But over time the Word washed & God's Spirit did impart.

She grew up from her suffering in more ways than one,
Receiving love from God the Father & not just the Son.

And for all who question God's love in their suffering she does pray
They'll come to see God's love for them in much the same way.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ever feel like a failure?

I do. a lot.
Recently, I succumbed to self pity as I allowed my focus to shift toward my many failures. Parenting, marriage, friendships, evangelism, keeping home--all contexts where I am painfully aware of my inadequacies.

Yet, with the help of God's Spirit, I picked up something good for my soul and began to read, allowing it to sink in and shift my focus.

The following are quotes from "The Gospel Primer".

The section I read from was entitled "Liberation from self love". "Self love? I thought we were talking about self pity," you might be thinking. Well, self pity is really just an inverted form of self love and so these thoughts were indeed most helpful.

One of the leading causes of my natural tendency to self love is fear--I fear that if I do not love myself there would be no one to love me quite so well as I do.

...the gospel assures me that the love of God is infinitely superior to any love that I could ever give to myself. 'Greater love has no one than this.'

His astonishing love for me renders self absorption moot and frees me up to move on to causes and interests far greater than myself.

Preaching the gospel to myself everday reminds me of God's astounding love for me and also of His infinite worthiness to be loved by me above all else.

John 15: 13
Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.

Romans 8:32
He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

II Corinthians 5:14,15
For the love of Christ controls us having concluded this that one died for all, therefore all died and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Philippians 3:7,8
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things in the heavens and things on the earth.

An addition to this post, a poem from John Piper:

With mercy make me free

O Jesus, take my bent away
For thinking much of me,
And kill my pride, and from this day
With mercy make me free.

O Jesus, grant the gift to see
The treasure that you are,
And as the night eclipses me,
O be my Morning Star.

And now if I should serve, or lead,
Or give, or mercy show,
O Jesus, let my love be freed,
And like a river flow.

O Jesus, be the treasure of
My heart and all I do,
And may the river of my love
Alone make much of you.

— John Piper"Using Our Gifts in Proportion to Our Faith, Part 2"(Minneapolis, Minn.: Desiring God Ministries, Nov. 7, 2004)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why He Answers Prayers

Last week, Judah saw his opthamologist at Hopkins, Dr. Jampel, who has always done his exams on Judah in the OR which, of course, requires anesthesia. However, at the visit before this more recent one, Dr. Jampel said that he acquired a new tool that he thought Judah would tolerate him using in the office. So, we scheduled an office visit rather than what we have done for the last 6 years, an EUA (evaluation under anesthesia).

Judah did indeed tolerate the new "tonometer" which didn't require any numbing drops! He still had a gun shaped object tapping on his eyeball, but hey, no numbing drops! So, I guess that worked for Judah. Whatever. I was happy and so was Judah not to have to endure anesthesia.

Checking for infection in Judah's eyes is always a part of Dr. Jampel's exam because Judah had a type of glaucoma surgery in the 2nd year of his life that is prone to infection. After Dr. Jampel determined that all looked good, and Judah's eyes were "quiet and stable", he communicated that the kind of surgery Judah had as a toddler doesn't typically work for the SWS kids, so much so that Dr. Jampel doesn't even do it! Dr. Jampel further remarked that the doctor who did Judah's surgery must have had the "Midas touch".

I have a bit of a different opinion about this.

You see, from the day Judah was born and we learned of his Sturge Weber and all that this syndrome entails for many children, we have been praying along with many, many others to a God who listens to and answers our prayers. He doesn't always answer according to our will, but He always answers according to our good.

Because I trust in Jesus who shed His blood for all my sin, I can now gain an audience with the Creator God anytime over anything, and He will listen to my prayer! Had Jesus not come and taken the punishment of God that I deserved for my sins, I would pray to a God who would not and could not listen to my prayers. Maybe I would still pray to make myself feel better, but my prayers would be in vain.

I'm grateful that my prayers and the prayers of others on Judah's behalf are not in vain. They are directed to the One who created Judah, who sustains Judah and who will answer our prayers on Judah's behalf with mercy.

Judah has baffled his doctors on more than one occasion, but we are not baffled. We know the One who established the natural order of things and who can also supersede that order should He choose. We want to humbly receive all the answers God gives us to our prayers on Judah's behalf even when they are "No; I'm not going to sustain or heal in the ways you are asking," trusting that He who did not spare His only Son but gave Him up for us will graciously give us all that we really need! (Romans 8:32)

*For 2 excellent posts on prayer, visit The Blazing Center here:
and here

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On Neumann Pond

Sunday and Monday, we took some time to enjoy the blessing of our cold, winter weather by playing around on some friends' frozen pond. We met up with a plethora of other families to enjoy this winter treat.

Thank you, Neumanns, for being among the most generous, fun, loving friends we know! We love you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gospel Centered Moments

My 2nd born (by two minutes), Tucker, has been having a flare of his reflux the past two weeks. He's been treated with Prevacid for more than a year now, and that has worked well to keep the reflux under control. However, soon after Christmas, he began complaining of pain in his throat again. It flared quickly as it will, and we have now increased his dose of medicine and prayerfully may need to add another medication to get it under better control.

It's been difficult to watch my son in pain. He becomes anxious about eating because he knows it'll cause pain. When he does eat, he's only able to eat little bits of food at a time. As a momma, it's hard to watch. Something in every mom just wants to be able to, at bare minimum, feed her babies.

Together, Lawrence and I pray for wisdom, talk about how to best care for our son and seek to both encourage him and lead him through this trial. One "plan of attack" that my husband recently encouraged me to take with Tucker was two fold:
  • provide a lot of reassuring touches. Draw near to Tucker physically, hugging, patting his back, rubbing his back which he loves, etc.
  • teach Tucker and remind him often that while he is indeed suffering, he is not suffering to the full extent that he deserves.

I know some may say, "What kind of parents are you? How is that supposed to encourage your son?"

Here's how. Tucker and all of us were created by a Holy Creator God who requires and expects perfect holiness from His creation. We obviously do not live up to that expectation. In fact, we fall short, woefully short of perfection everyday, some of us (me) many, many times a day. The Bible calls that sin. My beautiful children are sinners. I am a sinner. I have not met the demands of God's law. For this, we all deserve God's wrath to be poured out on us. We all deserve to pay the penalty for our sin.

But, God, who is rich in mercy and love toward His creation, sent a Savior, His Son, Jesus who came to earth in human form yet fully God. He lived a perfect life and died an unjust death on our behalf to pay with His own blood a ransom for our sins. HE took the punishment that we deserved so that we could know God's mercy, so that we could experience just forgiveness from God and have eternal fellowship with Him here on earth and one day in Heaven.

So, in light of these truths, we know that while Tucker is suffering with his reflux, he is not suffering as much as he deserves. We know and we tell our children the truth that any suffering we experience here on earth is pale in comparison to the suffering of the punishment of hell that we deserve for our sins. This may sound too deep or ethereal, but it is true hope and peace for those who are willing to embrace it.

We pray daily that our children will embrace these truths. God is providing an opportunity for Tucker to know of His mercy through suffering. It's painful to watch Tucker endure the pains of reflux, but as parents we are grateful for the opportunity it affords for us to point him to the truth: that he is being mercifully treated better than he deserves.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Close your eyes and imagine

Tonight, as I brushed the kids teeth, I noticed Tucker was waiting to be brushed with his eyes closed.
When I asked why he was standing there with his eyes closed, he responded, "I'm imagining that I'm at Grandma's. I love Grandma's; I miss her."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Around the breakfast table

A topic of discussion in our home rather frequently is the nutritional value or lack thereof in certain foods or long lists of ingredients passed off as food.

In our home, we are trying to avoid some specific, common ingredients for the sake of our health, especially for my boys who have always had allergies, excema and asthma.

This morning, Judah implored me to buy the grape jelly from Aldi's rather than the "small jar" I usually buy. (That would be the Polaner brand which contains no high fructose corn syrup). I explained to him why I choose what I choose for them to which Tucker replied, "Many things that are not good for us taste really good."

I nodded my head. What could I say? It's true.
After a moment to think, I tried to encourage them that after eating real food for a length of time, our tastes begin to change and we'll start to prefer "real food" over foods that are composed of many chemicals. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Tucker's apt reply, "But we like the taste of chemicals."

And so, the battle continues. :)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Three dates all in one day

Yesterday, I had the privilege of taking my three kiddos out on momma/kid dates, or they might say they took me out on a date. ;)
Either way, I had such an enjoyable time spending one on one time with each of my children.

Judah and I went out first to Pizza Hut where he redeemed one of his book it coupons for a personal pan pizza. I sought to commend Judah for the ways I see him growing in maturity, taking initiative each morning to get himself dressed and his bed made without having to be told. Many mornings he also completes his morning chores with no reminding.

When asked how I might become a better momma, he said that he'd like to see me where a certain dress more often. I found that rather odd but endearing. Hey, I can do that! I was bracing myself for something a bit more convicting, like not speaking so harshly to them as often as I do.

Date #2: Tucker and I went to Barnes & Noble where I ordered a strawberry cream for him to try. He was reluctant to order anything because he's been having a hard time with his reflux lately, and he was especially nervous about experiencing pain while away from home. But, this was a date, and I really wanted him to try this drink because I knew he would enjoy it. He did! Later that evening, Tucker was telling Lawrence about how he had a few sips of mommy's drink only to later confess to Lawrence the truth that he actually drank a lot of it. :) Guess he liked it.

Unfortunately, after reading two Berenstain Bears books (what is it with those books that my boys love them so?), Tucker started feeling the pangs of reflux in his throat and asked to be taken home. While my date with him was cut a little shorter than I had hoped it would be, I nevertheless had a most enjoyable time with my sweet 2nd born!

Last but most certainly NOT least, my girlie and I went to BJ's. Yes, BJ's. Do you know how inexpensive their snack bar items are? Bella chose a soft pretzel and blue slurpie. Though my girlie likes to do almost everything I do and mimics me in many things, I couldn't get her to enjoy eating her pretzel with mustard which is how I like it. :)

My generous girlie allowed me to share her pretzel with her which I gulped down with much too much diet pepsi. The multi-tasker that I am, I ran through the store to pick up some groceries I needed and since I only had one child with me, I took the opportunity to do a little "window shopping". As we strolled down one aisle, I spotted a white vanity with a pink cloth seat to go with it. No sooner had I thought, "Bella would probably love this" that she said, "Mom, can I have that?" I told her that it was called a vanity to which she replied, "Yes, it's a princess vanity."

My little girl loves to look at herself in the mirror, loves to look pretty and loves to have others comment on how she looks pretty. I'm hopeful this is simply a stage or a reflection that the girl has a great self image in place but one that will hopefully be tempered a bit with some humility down the road.

While we were at BJ's, a man noticed Bella and commented that she was adorable. Bella asked why the man said that about her. My response was to tell Bella that God blessed her with a beautiful face. I trust that one day she will indeed know and bow to the Giver of all good gifts!

What a blessing to have these special times with my three buddies.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Goals for 2011

I thought it might serve me in the long run to post some of my goals for this next year. Something written in black and white for all to see and for myself to be reminded.

Taking some cues from this helpful guide:, I will share a few of the "stars" I'm shootin' for this year.

Personal Growth:
  • continue canning/freezing/preserving fresh produce as it makes its way to me. I tried my hand at salsa and tomato soup this summer. It was A LOT OF WORK! But, I decided after my 2nd bowl of tomato soup that I think it's worth it. I just can't go back to condensed tomato soup.
  • Read "Food Matters"; Watch "King Corn" and other documentaries that will encourage conscientious, healthful eating habits in our home
Physical Health:
  • continue regimen at the Y and if my back allows me, begin training in May for a fall racing schedule.
  • Move away from refined sugars. I'm not eliminating sugar. We just like it too much and I'm too serious about many other things. So, we're eating sugar here...I'm just going to begin purchasing Sucanat and using Agave Nectar, Honey as substitutes for good ol' white sugar.
  • Eat less cheese. Might sound funny, but we eat A LOT of cheese. Cheese and chocolate. ;) We could get by fine with a little less. My hubby has high cholesterol and my son has reflux/excema/asthma. I want to see if cutting back on our dairy intake may help all of us.
  • Eliminate/Avoid all foods/drink with artificial colors/flavors in it. Again, this is mostly a push for my son who suffers from excema, but I think it'll be good for all of us.
Marriage & Family Life:
  • Be nice to my hubby. Some days it's really as simple as that. I just need someone (my mom would suffice) to stop me in my tracks at times and say, "Briana, be nice!" I speak too frankly, abruptly to him. It's really disrespect and I want to grow in this area!
  • I also want to make more of an effort to have treats around the house that my hubby enjoys like peanut butter cookies.
  • Show honor to my extended family (mom/dad/siblings) by acknowledging their birthdays and anniversaries.
Money Matters:
  • I'm putting myself on a "spending freeze" of sorts, challenging myself not to buy anything that isn't absolutely necessary. Defining what's necessary is going to be the challenge.
What are some of your aspirations for 2011?