Today we celebrated Thanksgiving, rather on a whim. One of the challenges of divorce is the division of time on the holidays. We swap Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday time on a rotating basis. It's a challenge for me on the odd years, when the kids are with their dad for Thanksgiving. It's my favorite time of the year, bar none. I love the cooking, the cleaning, the prep time and the general attitude of the entire season. I find it very difficult when I am not with the kids.
So, I got creative this year and decided to celebrate the holiday - particularly the food part - on Wednesday, prior to the kids' travel to their dad's place Thursday morning. They had a half day of school today, so I got busy as soon as they left. When they walked in the door, the table was set, the cherry pie was on the side table and the delicious aroma of turkey wafted through the house.
They were surprised - and quite pleased! I was happy, having an opportunity to cook all morning. All in all, it was a terrific day, followed up by a visit to the theatre to see Enchanted, which was a wonderful family movie. No cussing, no nudity - just a mean dragon and evil step-mother and a sweet story. It's rare that we encounter a movie that all the kids enjoy, from ages 8 to 17. This definitely fit the bill.
Tonight, on the eve of the 'official' Thanksgiving, my heart is filled with gratitude, thankful to be surrounded by my incredible kids, amazing friends and the ability to appreciate and enjoy it all.
Getting ready; the menu included sweet potatoe souffle, mashed potatoes with cream cheese, deviled eggs, hot rolls, lima beans and the standard turkey and stuffing. The kids always ask for sparkling grape juice, so we polished off two bottles today. Yum.
Our friend Katie is almost finished with her first semester at VCU. She came home today and headed to our house to visit. Lucky her, she was in time for dinner!
The cat slept through the days' events. Looks comfy out there on the deck...
I am grateful, as well, for any of you who read these words. I pray God's richest blessings upon you, along with a heart and home full of gratitude. Thank you for the ways in which you enrich my life.
It started with David, last Saturday. Six hours of throwing up, plus a bonus round when he tried to get up on Sunday. He slept all day Monday and headed back to school on Tuesday...
...while big sister Shannon started throwing up Monday, 1:30 a.m. She carried on through most of the night and slept all day Tuesday...
...while the mom (that's me!) started on Tuesday night, at about 3:00 a.m....I slept all day Wednesday, though I ventured out to band rehearsal last night because life just couldn't go on without me there...
...while Daniel woke up at 4:00 this morning with an achy stomach. He didn't meet the toilet bowl until about 6:30 a.m. Now he's home to sleep all day.
Four down, two to go. I guess I prefer one at a time, rather than simultaneous sickness. I try to tend to each one and hold their hair back while they throw up. Just seems like something a mother ought to do.
So, I have spent this entire week at home. Reminds me of the days I was actually a stay-at-home-mom. Aside from the sickness, it's not all that bad. I thought about trying to find an appropriate photo to illustrate this post, but...right. Not a good idea.
On a cheerier note, yesterday I found out that one of my co-workers - the kids' youth minister and her associate pastor husband - are expecting their first baby. It's wonderfully exciting for all of us. I also got a call from one of my best friends, telling me that the guy that she met through our church small group had proposed to her yesterday, after a three-month courtship. They are happy with each other and I think it's a really good match. It's quick, but they're mature adults, both with teenaged boys at home, and - as Shannon said - "old people get married quick". I'm thrilled about this, because I secretly picked them for one another when we first started our bible study together. I'm glad it worked out the way I thought!
What a day. We kicked off something called "REACH: One Life At A Time" today with an energy-packed morning worship service followed by an afternoon ground-breaking on our church property. It was a stunning day - perfect weather, excited crowd, and a continuation of the vision that propels us. Challenging for our family, because David started heave-ho-ing with a stomach bug yesterday afternoon, continuing through the morning. Shannon stayed home from church with him, which was a sacrifice for her. I was leading worship; Sarah led vocals and sang a song that she and I wrote specifically for this day, and Syd played trombone in a brass trio on that same song. About 10:00 a.m., I started feeling the rumblings of the more unpleasant effects of the stomach flu myself - but managed to make it through the morning and the afternoon as well.
Our church is just five years old, an accidental birth. No long-range plans, no teams of church planters - it all happened after a fracture in an established church that led to a two-week frenzy of activity, resulting in a rag-tag group meeting in a local school. The vision caught and followed then has remained and proven solid: To reach those unaffected or untouched by traditional churches, and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Christ. We have stayed true to that vision and been privileged to see the fruits in 200+ baptisms and numerical growth, along with powerfully changed lives, renewed relationships and some deep discipleship.
So now it's time to build, not because we want a big building (we're in a state of the art high school with amazing facilities), and not because we're tired of being mobile (though we are). We are convinced that having a facility of our own will help us to better live out the vision God has set before us.
We are going to 'reach' in an effort to touch 'one life at a time' and really make a difference in our community. Today, we kicked it all off.
The weather was perfect; Daniel said that he figures God checked the calendar five years ago and made a note to give sunny skies on this day, since He knew we'd be celebrating outside. Temperatures were frigid yesterday for soccer, but couldn't have been more perfect today - especially for a day in November. Sarah took this shot as folks began to trickle into the 'hole' that will house the foundation.
This was my contribution. We played four songs and had a blast, crammed together on a flatbed trailer. Since we were down in a hole, we dubbed it the 'Red Dirt Ampitheatre'. Not exactly Red Rocks, but it'll do...
David was not feeling 100% but he did not want to miss this. He sat behind me for most of the 40 minute event, just taking it easy...
I love the diversity and welcoming atmosphere of our church. This fellow fell off a roof several years ago and was filled with bitterness and anger. He checked out our church and God has met him there, leading him into freedom and forgiveness and equipping him to minister to others in a powerful way, from his unique perspective in his chair.
Here's my Shannon, holding her flags. We handed these out at the morning service, encouraging everyone to take them home and write a name on the orange part. Later we staked the perimeter of the foundation with those flags, each one bearing the name of an individual who will be impacted by the investment we make in bricks and mortar. One of my friends wrote the name of her unborn baby, due later this year. She was overwhelmed with emotion.
This trio had their flags ready!
Eli is another individual with a unique perspective. At the age of two, this perfect, precocious little boy fell out of a window and suffered permanent brain damage. He has learned how to walk again. He can communicate verbally, with a few stops and starts. He is forever changed, but valiantly presses on toward the goal along with his parents, who are shining examples of grace and devotion to God, to one another and to their son.
He had his flag ready.
Macy is our friend and neighbor. She was PROUD of her flag!
Here's another shot of the crowd gathering. Josh, who is manning the video camera, has walked through his share of challenges and the consequences of his choices earlier in his young life. Now he is a commited, fearless disciple, friend, minister-in-training - and video operator. He's found a place at our church.
Our kids. Arm in arm, they sang and swayed and waved their flags. They love their church, too.
I was overwhelmed today, standing in the middle of this hole, surrounded by 700 other people who came out to stand and claim the ground for the future. On the hillside surrounding the scooped-out red dirt, little children ran and threw sticks and jumped on fallen trees. They whirled and swung and played in the November air, just like little children do. It occured to me that they didn't need stakes or prayers or songs to let them know that this was sacred ground. They just got it; they knew it was. They claimed it with their presence.
We adults went through a meaningful, ceremonial time dedicating the investment of our time and resources to an edifice that will cost several million dollars. It was powerful. For the children, it simply is as it should be: a place to play, and rejoice in the goodness of God, to be blessed and to be a blessing.
God has been so good to me, allowing me the privilege of something I've never experienced. Seeing this community of faith grow from the ground up, seeing a building rise where there once was nothing but clay - to be part of this process is an overwhelmingly precious gift. There are few words for me today, just photographs of people I have come to know and love intimately and truly, and a heart full of gratitude.
As we closed, Kevin sang this song:
What a good God you've been to me
Your goodness and your grace everyday I see
What else can I do but give thanks to you
What a good God you've been to me
What a faithful God you've been to me
You've provided far beyond everything I need
What else can I do but give thanks to you
What a good God you've been to me
What a loving God you've been to me
You shed your blood on the cross so that I could be made free
When the kids were little, we didn't do Halloween. Today, we participate in the candy part, but I refuse to drop good money on overpriced costumes. And I hate - really, really hate - spooky stuff. No gore for me - the spider is as creepy as we get!
Here's the way we do it: Come home after school on October 31 and figure out something fun to wear. Be creative. Dig through the closets. Go up in the attic. Look for some makeup. We might - just maybe - make one trip to the Dollar Store for supplies, but that's it. Use your imagination and come up with something fun.
So, that's what we did. It was really cool when John R. called and asked if he could come over; three years ago, he and his sister joined us to walk through the neighborhood, and it's become a tradition since then. This year, at 14, he didn't want to dress up ("I'm just being me, and I'm not asking for candy," he said) but he wanted to be here. Elijah came - he and Sarah had decided to go as ketchup, and his mom helped up with a pre-purchased t-shirt for each of them.
The rest of the kids dug around until they found something fun. Their dad came up to check it out and walk around a bit with them. I threw together some homemade chicken soup and we had a great time.
Here's Shannon as a conservative Daisy Duke, Elijah and Sarah as ketchup bottles (check out his 'cap', made from a potato salad tub and some dental floss...) and Syd as Marilyn Monroe.
The platinum wig was a hit. She started with 5-inch silver heels, but at the end of the driveway, as she staggered about bow-legged, she opted for flats instead.
David wore Syd's dance outfit, made his hair all crazy, let Sarah give him eyeliner and mascara and went as a dancer. Sort of.
Daniel was an emo guy. He wore all black, with a bandana hanging out of his back pocket. Here, I think he's emo with a touch of Dorito stains at the corners of his mouth...
Here's Marilyn and Hip Hop Dancing Boy getting ready to venture outside.
The big kids again, showing some attitude...
Syd often babysits Macy and her sister, who live across the street. See how Macy is looking at Syd's hair? As we started to walk away, I heard Macy's tiny, horrified voice, sounding completely stunned -"Mama, what happened to Sydni's beee-a-YOU-tee-full hair?????" Her Mom laughed and said, "I don't know! What happened to it?" Macy, still in shock, said, "It's all silver!!!!" She may be scarred for life.
Here's the crew. We'll probably remember these Halloween escapades long after other memories have faded. They didn't bring home much candy this year, but I know they had a great time.