Thursday, April 23, 2009

Meaningful Beauty?

Beauty is not in the face, beauty is a light in the heart.- Kilhil Gabron

A lovely castle containing no love is just a crumbling shack. But a lovely castle brimming over with the light of love is a kingdom that will stand forever.-Ange Cogburn

What is meaningful beauty? Earlier today, I glanced at a commercial and saw those exact words. Immediately I thought,"Wow, sounds like a great blog title!" Then as I stared a little longer, I saw super model Cindy Crawford gently rubbing a concoction on her beautiful face. The beauty treatment was made to slow the aging process and help eliminate wrinkles. Again I thought to myself,"One more product to sell to women and get her focus on the outside rather than the inside."

Thirty bucks a shot and you can erase age!! Wouldn't we women love for that to be true? I admit that at times I look at the lines on my 44 year old face and wonder where the years went. However, I always try to remind myself that the ways and promotions of the world will pull at a woman's heart strings. If we are not careful, we will become frustrated and pressured to buy products and pay large prices to keep the outside up to par with the views of what the world calls "true beauty".

According to the world, beauty means doing everything you can....tuck it, cut it, stuff it,puff it, enlarge it, eliminate it, erase it and suck it out!! Spend whatever moola you got so you can hear everyone say, "You've come a long way baby!" Or,"Wow, you look hot now." The world is so starved for love, many will do anything it takes to feel accepted even if it means spending mega bucks and putting lives at risk.

Someone has a quote on Cindy Crawford's website that states, "Remember your future, your face will change as you age." I am not knocking the importance of taking care of the outer appearance. However, I get so frustrated when that becomes the focus and the most important thing. How about we change the quote above to: "Remember your future, your heart will change as you age."

Your heart is what will change and either bring change for the good or bad of future generations. Instead of worrying so much about lines and wrinkles, sags and bumps of the body, maybe we should be more concerned about the inward being of the heart.

If I am kind, then kindness will multiply. I think about the times when someone did kind and selfless things for me. It stirred my heart to notice true beauty and inspired me to do something kind for someone else. You it forward!

If I am peaceful and patient, then it affects those I apply those toward and gives an example for them to follow.

If I choose humility even when I know I am being wronged, then I do not give bitterness room to take root. Bitterness is one of the worst "wrinkle diggers". If I am bitter, then why bother to fight grooves on my face with lotion when the crevices will grow deeper around my eyes as my heart grows harder and harder? Seems pointless to me.

On my next blog, I will share what the best potions are for meaningful beauty. Meaningful beauty is loveliness that is worked within the heart that brings change and influence to those around us. It is unconditional. It is costly....much more expensive than anything money can buy. Check back soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Kerry!

Happy 15th Birthday Kerry.
I cannot believe it. You are 15! Just seems like yesterday you were 7 years old. You were having trouble learning to read. With tears in your eyes, you prayed and asked God to help you learn to read. Within 3 months you were reading very well!
You are such a special young man! I am so happy you were born!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Staying Cool

Some of you folks back East may not know that is is already getting hot here in Arizona. It is April 21st and the grand high today is 100 degrees. So we are inside with the blinds pulled and every ceiling fan is on. We will probably not be going out today. Normally the three digits do not hit until mid-May. However, we are having a hot blast this week. Here is what the kids did Sunday. We set up a little water park in the back yard.
The long blue one is a surfer. However the little ones used rafts to slide across their bellies.

Here is Tommy surfing!
Heather is having a try at it. She has not quite caught on to getting a good running start. However, she had a great time!
The smaller more colorful one is the Slip and Slide racer. It has 3 runways. The kids line up, run, land on their bellies and see who reaches the finish line first. The little guys had a ball with this and were wiped out that night and the following day.

I am still trying to wrack my brain for things to do this summer. We do not have a pool. However, that is fine by me. I heard that by July, all the pools are too hot to swim in anyway!

Here are some ideas I have come up with so far for indoor things to do once the triple digits hit everyday here.They are all planned around a box or storage container and I am calling it:


Day One: ART DAY

Fill a box or large plastic container with art supplies. Now is a good time to start. Gather and save anything that could be used for a project such as, crayons, colored pencils, stickers, scrap paper, old greeting cards, coloring books, old magazines, glue, water color paints, brushes, old toothbrushes, sponges, glitter, empty paper towel toilet tissue rolls, empty soap boxes.


Use chairs and large blankets to form a tent. Use cardboard boxes for a table, TV set, and other furniture. Allow children to bring some of their own toys into the tent to set up a house. This will entertain them for hours. On one of the Art Days, have the kids decorate the boxes with the art supplies.


Store plastic bath tub toys (can be found at dollar store), plastic scoops,margarine tubs, and anything that can be safely used in the water in a plastic storage box or container. Fill the tub with warm water and bubbles. Sit with the children as they play in the tub.


Fill a sturdy plastic storage container with rice. Collect old plastic containers, spoons, measuring cups, small plastic cups, etc. Spread an old table cloth or sheet over table. Have children sit at table and play in the rice. You will have to sweep when finished. However, the fun for the kids will make it worthwhile!


Fill a box with various puzzles, activity books with mazes and connect the dots, cardboard and yarn for sewing, etc. some of these things can be found at the dollar store. I have made homemade puzzles from old cereal boxes.

The key is to only get out one box per day to prevent boredom. I am going to do some more brainstorming and research and will post more ideas soon to prepare you for summer. And don't forget to make trips to the library and READ, READ, READ!

Stay cool!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Blessing of Wrestling

What is "wrestling"? No, it is not just turning on the television to watch a couple of beefed up men in their underwear act out a fight. I am talking about the everyday struggles we face in family and relationships. It is about internal struggles we deal within our own hearts.

Today, I am considering this very thing. The blessing of wrestling. No matter who we are or what our lot in life may be, we all face these struggles. As parents we face many of them as we guide our children through the different stages of life they have to encounter. And the way we deal with this it is all about perspective.

We have currently been having some struggles with one of our children. I have wavered between frustration, aggravation, hope and anticipation! And all of these are good. I find that the struggles force me to look at my own heart first. God uses our family members as mirrors for ourselves. He is changing us into His likeness and one of the main tools He uses are those who are closest to us. Family! Oh the joys and the pains!

It amazes me how easy it is to get caught up in the mindsets of the world....thinking that our goals in life should be to work as hard as we can to make life easier. However, I am learning as time passes, that hardship is truly the blessing, not the easy life.

Another thought I have had is that if I stay on my knees for my children, I can trust Him with them. I cannot provide everything for my children. I am not supposed to provide everything for them. Now this does not get me off the hook, but it does take a lot of the pressure off of me in thinking that it is all up to me to determine the outcome of my children's lives.

Another thing I am learning is that I am not to judge my children for the way they are now. They may be struggling through some things. But I have to remind myself to keep looking through the lenses of the Father. He sees the full picture. He is not finished with their lives. They are a work in progress just as I am. We are all growing up into Christ in God's plan and design for our individual lives.

It is interesting how those on the outside may be quick to notice a negative trait in your child. I have been guilty of doing this very thing in other people's children. But I was wrong. If I noticed a negative trait, I should have seen it with a different perspective. For example, a strong willed child is a leader yet to be revealed. A quiet and reserved child may be a great listener and a merciful person.

I must learn to see others through destiny rather than a critical spirit.Why can't we all look learn to look for destiny in others rather than the flaws? I long for the day when encouragement overcomes critical opinions. I hope some of it can start with me. There is not enough encouragement in the world. Maybe that is why so many kids grow up feeling rejected, thinking they are losers.

So today, I choose to look through the eyes of Hope. It will make a difference in the way I perceive every struggle of life. Bring on the wrestling match! For I know that Hope wins in the end!

No tree grows strong without the wind of the storm.
No flower blooms without the rain from the cloud.
No crop is fruitful without the drenching downfalls.
And no person is lovely without the weather of hardship and struggle.
Welcome the rain.
Embrace the pain of unsettling winds.
For there is always beauty
Formed in the end..

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Daniel

Happy 8th Birthday Daniel! You are such a strong little boy with a big heart! This mother is blessed to have you in her life. Thank you for all the hugs you give everyday!! I love you!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Beauty

Today was the first Easter in about 20 years in which we did not attend church. It was strange. But I have to say it was one of the most peaceful and special Easters. We did something different this year and I believe our family will remember it for many years to come. First I put ham and macaroni and cheese in crock pots. I made green beans as well and set them on warm. Lunch was ready! We dressed the children in casual clothes. John grabbed the Message Bible and we headed out to the desert park. It was a coolish 70 degrees with blue skies and a light breeze.
My son Tommy took these beautiful photos of cacti blooms. The colors are unbelievably vibrant. It is amazing how such beauty can spring out of such "thorny" surroundings! Reminds me of Jesus and His sacrifice for us. Our sins are the thorns. His life is the beauty that blossoms out of our sin as He lives in our hearts.! The Easter message awaited us for sure this morning!
After catching a few shots of the gorgeous blooms, we all sat in the morning sun and listened to John read out of the bible. He read from John 20.

"Mary Magdelene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been moved away from the entrance. She ran to John and Peter breathlessly panting, "They took the Master from the tomb. We don't know where they have taken Him. They all ran to the tomb and found that Mary's report was correct. But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. How hopeless she was. She knelt as she wept to look within the tomb and noticed two angels sitting there dressed in white. They said to the woman, "Why do you weep?" "They took my Master'" She said, "and I do not know where they have taken him."
After she said this, she turned away. She saw Jesus but she did not reconize Him. (Isn't it amazing that we can be in such grief or disappointment that we often do not recongnize that He is standing right with us? Hopelessness will do this to us at times.)

Jesus asked, "Woman why do you weep? Who are you looking for?" She thinking He was the gardener, said, "Mister, if you took him, tell me where so I may care for him."

Jesus said, "Mary."
Turning to Him she said, "Teacher!"

Jesus said, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.Go to my brothers and tell them, "I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God."

Mary Magdelene went, telling the news to the disciples."I saw the Master!" And she told them everything He had said to her."
John shared with us that we need to believe God more than ever in our lives. He also exhorted us that the enemy is very busy trying to keep us from believing God everyday.

There are seasons we go through when we may feel there is nothing to look forward to. We can fall into hopelessness because we all want to have the anticipation of good things happening. We look forward to visits from friends and family. We look forward to fun activities and favorite TV shows. We all are created to carry hope. So when we go through times when we feel we do not have much to look forward to , we need to remember this is a fleeting emotion. The Hope of Glory resides within all those who know Him. And we can rest assured that we are never without hope even if our emotions are telling us otherwise. Listen to Hope and believe in Him.
After we arrived home from the service in the desert, we had a warm, hearty lunch awaiting. We topped it off with Peanut Butter Passion pie for dessert. We gave the children their bags of Easter Candy and bottles of bubbles. Here are some photos of them playing in the back yard after lunch.

The children had a blast running off all that sugar.

I had to post this picture of Kerry. He is going to be 15 soon and this is the shortest I have seen his hair in a long time! Doesn't he look handsome?
To close, I wanted to post these close up shots of the youngest children. Look at Timmy's eyelashes!
I love this pretty profile shot of Heather Rose!
And Joshua is always smiling and such a joyful child!

We have had a wonderful blessed day in the Lord! I cannot thank Him enough!!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Great is His Faithfulness, Great is My Gratefulness

Great is the faithfulness of our God. And great is my gratefulness. This is my heart and it is brimming over with appreciation.

Every night when I go to bed, I talk to God. I tell Him thank you. Thank you Lord for all you have given today! Thank you for being so patient with me. Thank you for keeping our family and for providing for us in so many ways. Thank you Lord for our family and for faithful friends!

This morning I awoke to such sweet reminders of the goodness of God and the appreciation for all of His blessings. There was an email awaiting me from a dear friend who lives in Michigan. She just wrote to say hello and to tell me she misses me. I am blessed. Thank you Lord!

Right after I read the sweet email, the phone rang and it was another precious friend who lives in Atlanta calling to say hello and that she misses me! She just had surgery , but is hoping she and her daughter can come out to visit us this summer. Now that is love. Anyone who would be willing to travel to Phoenix in the dead of the summer is a true friend!

I am blessed to have such beautiful friends in many places...California, Michigan, Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. I love you all! Thank you for staying in touch and for all the phone calls, emails and notes to say you have not forgotten us!

I am truly blessed!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Stability in the Midst of Instabilty

I just wanted to stop in again real quick and add some thoughts. We just received an email from our landlord that they are trying to decide whether to sell this home or lease it again for another year. We have been here for almost 7 months. There are a lot of unknowns once again for our family. Yikes!

The housing market here is terrible. The foreclosure rate here is very high. So for those who are in a position to buy a home can purchase a house for at least 20% below the market value. If buyers purchase homes in 2009, they will also benefit from the stimulus package. So the owners of the home we are currently renting are considering selling when our lease is up.

The thought of possibly having to pack again and move is really making me weary. However, it is just a reminder that there is really only one sure stability in this world of instability. And that is the One True God who never changes.

Sometimes John and I feel bad because of all the instabilities our family has faced over the years with job losses,moves, financial crisis, and a home foreclosure. These are only a few of the instabilities we have faced. However, I am sitting here thinking as I write that God is the unchangeable and only security we have. And we have been able to have that in our family. My husband and I have stuck together in the tough times and our children have seen that. We will be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year.

So what I am expressing here is that our children have lived through a lot of uncertainties already in their short lives. But they are watching the eternal things endure the flames of hardship.

My hope and prayer is that they will look back and see the handiwork of God in our family and in their personal lives. That they will realize that the natural things of this world do not, houses, fads and fashions, etc. I realize that we are blessed when others may look at us and point out that we have raised our kids in a lot of instability! Well Praise God! May all of the rubbish of the world pass away and may the things that really matter shine like pure, transparent gold.

God is building His houses made of silver and gold...the things that do not perish and those houses are people. Those dwellings are breathing, living souls that God wants to reside in. I feel loved today. Loved in knowing that He delights to make His abode in me! I know He is providing and will keep lavishing His eternal blessings upon His children.

A Woman of Lists

It is another sunny beautiful morning in Arizona! The week ahead holds many things that need to be accomplished. So I am making a list. I do not make lists everyday. However, if I know that I have a lot to accomplish outside of my normal day to day tasks, I will make one. Next week, we have more family coming in for a visit. My oldest son who lives in GA will be flying in with my husband's sister and her family. I have not seen Bradley since Christmas. The photo above was taken Christmas morning. I cannot wait to see him and give him a big hug!

I am looking forward to having company. Friends are very few since we have been here, so I welcome all visitors! The family will be arriving next Tuesday so I have been thinking of something yummy to make this week that I can freeze. I have about decided on chicken enchiladas. I can make large pans full and pull them out to bake. STRESS FREE!!

These are very rich and a bit fattening so I do not make them often. However if you want some comfort food these are a big hit.

Chicken Enchiladas

6-8 cans enchilada sauce (I have used store brands and are just as good)
3-4 cups of cooked shredded chicken breast (prepare a day ahead to save time)
1 small package of cream cheese
1 small container of sour cream (8 oz)
2-4 cups Mexican cheese (grated) We always like extra cheese!
10 enchilada shells (I use the large ones)
2 9x13 pans

Place cooked chicken breasts, enchilada sauce (all but 2 cans), sour cream, and cream cheese into large sauce pan or pot. Heat and stir until all ingredients are blended and heated thoroughly.

Place about 1/4 cup of mixture into center of enchilada shell. Fold over both sides and place seam down into large and lightly greased pan. ( I use disposable pans for freezing.)

Continue assembling enchiladas.Pour any remaining sauce mixture over top with the remaining cans of sauce. Enchiladas should be well covered. Sprinkle Mexican cheese over top and cover with heavy duty foil.

Freeze for several days until company arrives! Pull out of freezer and bake at 350 for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until enchiladas are heated through.

Serve with salad, Mexican rice (I use Rice-a-Roni), chips and salsa.

Well I need to get to my list making before the rest of the little ones awake. They are sleeping late this morning! Talk to you later!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Genuine Me,"Weedy" Me

I did not put the title of this blog here to boast. I put it here because it is real. I am genuine and I do not pretend to be anyone other than who I am. And today, I am down. I feel really down. Now being down does not mean one is necessarily ungrateful. Sometimes we just get down and it is a okay as long as we do not stay that way too long.

Today I am down because I am lonely here. Arizona is a beautiful state. A friend helped me to see that God moved us here to show us another facet of His heart and His ways. The last 6 months has truly been interesting. I have found out much about myself, my family and my God during our time here so far. And it has been good.

But today I am a bit down in the dumps. Maybe it is a mixture of frustration and loneliness that hits from time to time. And yes a mother of nine children can suffer from loneliness.
Today, we were fined 25 dollars from our neighborhood association because we a have a few weeds sticking out of the granite in our front yard. And being a mother of a large family has taught me not to sweat the small stuff. But this is bothering me today. It must go deeper than the fine.

If you have never been to Arizona you need to know that most yards here are made of granite rocks. Our front yard has no grass. Just a few little shrubs and cacti. Thank goodness the back yard is nice and has a big plot of green grass for the children to run and play.

A couple of weeks ago we received a letter that we would be fined if we did not eliminate the weeds. So we sprayed them, pulled them and have continued to work on the problem. They really are not that bad. But today, we were actually fined the 25 dollars. I am not bummed about the 25 dollars. I guess I am hurt and frustrated that none of the neighbors have even cared to reach out and find out about us or who we are. People are more concerned about their property values than the value of human life.

And to be honest we have done things to reach out and we are the newcomers. If I could, I would pack my bags and move back East. However, I am grateful in the midst of my irritation. Last year, my husband was unemployed and we were going to a charity to get groceries. Now he has a good job. We can go to the doctor and the dentist. We can go to the grocery store. We have each other. There are 10 people who live in the same house. We do not have the fanciest furniture and the most expensive cars. In fact we have one 15 passenger van that is paid for. I am thankful we do not have a car payment. I am thankful that we have our family. And I have friends all over in other places that I know love me and care for me. They know we are good God loving folks who are not "white trash" with weeds in their front yard. So being grateful puts it all into perspective. The 25 dollars is not a big deal.

And I could understand if the weeds were really bad. But honestly they are not. I guess I am "weedy" today. I will not pretend that all is well all the time. I am having a tough day and I just wanted to share it. Thanks for letting me be real.

Now on a more positive note, please visit my art blog by clicking on Home and Heart Art on the right to see my newest sketch! I had a great time with it! Blessings!