Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Family of God

I have thought about my earlier post a lot today. Knowing how much it grieves me when my children squabble and fight, and realizing how much joy it brings me when they serve each other in love, I have been pondering how much it must hurt the heart of God when his children are separated by contentions and divisions and when they fail to live out His love and forgiveness.

As we drove the peaceful 25-minute drive to our little country church this morning, past fattening cows and ripening crops, I pondered the fact that our church is anything but peaceful right now. We are in the midst of a crisis, that has pushed our pastor out of the pulpit, and left us with a body divided by offenses, bitterness, and pride. It hurts to see the family of God separated by strife, and lining up according to family loyalties. I've heard folks say a dozen times that "blood is thicker than water," to explain why things are happening the way they are. But, what struck me today is the realization that we are all bought by the precious blood of Jesus. That means every true Christian in the church is our "blood relative," and shouldn't that be a stronger tie than any family blood line??

It reminds me of this song that we used to sing every Sunday at our church back in SC:

"I'm so glad I'm a part
Of the family of God.
I've been washed in the fountain,
Cleansed by His blood.
Joint-heirs with Jesus
As we travel this sod.
For I'm part of the family,
The Family of God."

by William and Gloria Gaither

A Blessing in the Night

During the night I had an unexpected blessing.

I wish I could say that my children always treat each other with the utmost kindness and respect. But, that is not always the case. In fact, two of my sons really struggle to be civil to one another. I think part of the problem is the normal competitiveness that exists between brothers close in age. Then, there are "irreconcilable differences" that arise from having vastly different personalities and from being total opposites in most every way. All of this is compounded by the fact that they must live in close quarters, since we have six boys squished into one small bedroom!

So, last night when one of these sons stumbled downstairs in the wee hours of the morning holding his head and crying with a TERRIBLE headache, it was a Tremendous Blessing to me to discover that his older brother had been attending to him, giving him Advil, finding him a blanket and covering him up on the couch. I was quite frankly, shocked, to observe the compassionate way he was treating him, even when his own sleep had been interrupted by his brother's moaning and groaning.

This incident ignited in me a spark of Hope for their relationship and a Joy that I don't have words to describe. My heart overflowed with just this one simple act of kindness. There must be no greater joy for a mom than to see her children serving each other in love!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Memorial Day Fun

We had our Memorial Day Picnic last Sunday, which was actually the day before Memorial Day. We like to rearrange the calendar like that! ;)

Alan's sister, Janet, and her husband, Ralph, and their sons arrived at our house that afternoon on their way back north after a week long Caribbean cruise. After being on the world's largest cruise ship for a week, I'm sure it was a let down to be at our humble abode!!

Then, some friends of Ashlyn's came down from Atlanta to visit us, so we ended up having quite a crowd at our house!!! We really could have used the world's largest cruise ship to bunk everyone down for the night! :) Fortunately, boys seem to be able to sleep just about anywhere, and since we had thirteen boys at our house (including six of our own), there seemed to be boys sleeping everywhere! :)

The afternoon was stormy, which was a repeat of the previous ten days, but, the storms broke just in time for the boys to burn off some testosterone in the pool, while Alan grilled the "burgs" and "dogs." Then, everyone grabbed a plate and found a spot to eat. Fortunately, we were able to spill over onto the back porch, so there was plenty of room for everyone. After dinner, the kids used the last moments of daylight for a pretty competitive backyard volleyball game. Then, we enjoyed some ice cream sandwich "cake" and a rousing game of Catchphrase. I tried to capture some highlights of our fun, which you can see below.

The next day, we squeezed in some swimming and kayaking in between storms, and enjoyed a delicious meal of homemade pizza, which was a little unconventional for Memorial Day, but a big hit, nonetheless. By early afternoon, all of our guests were on their way back to their homes, and we spent a quiet evening together.

I admit to being so busy with our company and our celebration, that I forgot to take time to think about the reason why we celebrate Memorial Day until it was all over. I know many have made the ultimate sacrifice, and because of that, we have the freedom to spend Memorial Day, and every other day, any way we like, and with hardly a thought to our safety and freedom. It is just so easy to take that for granted. I think my sister did an amazing job of exploring the significance of Memorial Day, so please take the time to check out her blog!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Taylor!

Tuesday was Taylor's 19th birthday. We've just been so busy, that I haven't had a chance to blog about it! With two family birthdays, our anniversary, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, and one or more graduations to celebrate, May is always a marathon month for us!!

Since Taylor had to work on his birthday, and because we had feasted the two days prior, his actual birthday was pretty understated this year. However, I did make him his favorite cheese cake, which made him very happy, and explains the "cheesy" grin below! :)

This is really an incredible cheese cake recipe! I've never had any other cheese cake that comes close to it! So, I've decided to post the recipe! It is a little more involved, and it may sound intimidating, but it is not really that hard. In fact, I had the recipe for several years before I got up the courage to try making it. My mom encouraged me to give it a try, and I discovered it really isn't that difficult, and the results are definitely worth the effort!


1 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened

1 2/3 cup sugar
3 pounds cream cheese, softened to room temp
9 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup rum (I never put this in!!!)
1 TBSP lemon juice, or orange or almond extract (I always use almond)
1 1/2 cup sour cream


Mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Lightly butter a round cake pan that is 10" in diameter and 3" deep. (Do not use a spring form pan!!!)


With electric mixer, beat cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after addition of each egg. Add vanilla, rum (if you choose to use it), flavoring (almond extract for me), and sour cream, beating until mixture is smooth. Pour cream cheese mixture over crust in pan.

Place cake pan into another larger, deeper pan. Pour water around the cake pan to a depth of about 1 1/2". Bake at 300 degrees F for two hours or until center is set.

*Cool at least 3 hours before placing in the refrigerator to chill.*

*When cake is cooled, chill several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.*

*To remove cake from pan, place cake on a burner (that has been heated and turned off) for 1 minute. Gently run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake. Carefully, turn out onto a 10" plate; then invert onto serving plate.*

If desired, serve individual pieces topped with canned cherry or blueberry pie filling.

Store leftover cake in refrigerator or freezer.

Note: I have used light cream cheese for 1/2 the cream cheese to reduce the fat without affecting the flavor or texture. It might be possible to use all light cream cheese, but I haven't been brave enough to try it yet.

OK, so that is the special cheese cake recipe. Guaranteed to be delicious!! Don't you wish there were a "guaranteed recipe" for raising sons??

Always Be Ready

We have really enjoyed having our daughter, Ashlyn, home the last ten days; but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. She left early this morning to return to SC, where she will be working full time at a Christian pediatrician's office. I am struggling with her departure into this new season of life, even though I am comforted to know that she has a good job in a great working environment, will be living at the Bible school where she attended, and will be involved in the ministry of a solid, Bible-based church. She will be surrounded by many incredible friends who are also seeking the Lord. I have to admit that this is all more than we can offer her here. But, it is still a challenge to my mother's heart to watch her turn this page of her life and start a new chapter. I know that in the chapters that lay ahead, I will be less and less of a main character, as the story line revolves around her and the life God has planned for her. This is all normal and right, but no less painful for those left behind, especially dedicated mothers and adoring little sisters. It was hard to watch Bethany tell her good-bye without letting some tears slip from my eyes.

Last night, Ashlyn and I went to a coffee shop to "chill" and spend our last night together talking without the many interruptions that are an unavoidable part of living in a large family.

It is obvious from the picture below that Ashlyn needed to unwind!!! ;)

Seriously, we enjoyed the time together before today's inevitable separation. While sipping our coffees and chatting, an elderly man unexpectedly struck up a conversation with us, which he turned to spiritual matters. He was obviously concerned about death, and his eternal destiny. Ashlyn confidently put her Bible training to good use in answering his questions, and correcting his faulty thinking about God, forgiveness from sin, and eternal salvation. Finally, he left, promising to go home and read the book of 1 John, as she had directed him.

I love this picture I snapped of Ashlyn as she patiently listened to this dear man, who was uncertain of his eternal destiny.

I was reminded of the following verse: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." -- 1 Peter 3:15

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weight Loss Wednesday

Is losing good or bad?

Well, when it comes to weight loss, and if you have a surplus, like I do, losing is a good thing! So, it is good news that I lost 2 pounds this past week!

However, for my son, Luke, losing is bad news. His baseball team lost his play off game last night, 8-7. It was a big disappointment for him and his team.
How about you? How did you do this week?

Monday, May 18, 2009

And the Winner is . . . .

The winner of my first blog giveaway and the Fireproof DVD is . . . .



Congratulations Kristilea!!! :)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Milestones Celebrated

Friday night was a milestone moment for our family. We now have our first high school graduate from a school other than our homeschool.

The graduation service was really neat. There were stirring speeches by the co-Valedictorians and an inspiring presentation by the headmaster, warning the graduates of the dangers of Comparison, Competition, and Ladder Climbing. Instead of trying to out climb others in life, he encouraged these young adults to follow Jesus' example of descending the ladder, by humbling themselves and being willing to serve others. He also challenged the graduates to surrender their lives to Christ, while also encouraging the parents to take the difficult step of surrendering their graduates to God.

Then came the presentation of the diplomas. As each graduate's name was announced, a video of that student was played, where he or she thanked family members, friends, teachers and administrators for his or her education, memories and special times. Some of these videos were serious, while some were hilarious! It was a neat way to personalize the graduation ceremony.

Here are some pictures from the reception. Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures of our son before he had taken off his graduation gown and turned it in, which was a disappointment. We also didn't get any pictures of him with my parents, as they left as soon as they were able to navigate my mom's wheelchair through the thick crowd.

"What? You got your diploma??"

Saturday morning, Luke had his first play-off game. His team fell behind 8-2, and it looked hopeless, but they actually came back to win it 10-9! During the last inning, Luke hit a double, stole to third, and then ran home to score the winning run! That was a pretty exciting moment!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Anniversary Giveaway!!!

Alan and I have been married 26 years today! That is quite an accomplishment in this day and age of "easy-come-easy-go marriages."

No, it hasn't always been easy, but I have such a great husband, that it hasn't been terribly hard either. However, marriage does require give and take, compromise and commitment. Few young couples enter into marriage with any idea of what they are getting into!

One of the "secrets" to our success is that we have always looked at our marriage as a life-long commitment to each other and to God. We don't see divorce as an option, so if we encounter trials and differences, we know we have to work through them, because we have entered into a "building" without an exit! I think that having that perspective goes a long way in divorce-proofing a marriage.

Having fun together doesn't hurt either! :)

I love the movie Fireproof and think that it has some great ideas for "fireproofing" your marriage. So, in honor of our anniversary, I am excited to host my first Blogger Giveaway, in which I'm going to send the winner a DVD of the movie Fireproof.

To enter, please leave a comment on my blog describing one way that you work to Fireproof your marriage. To enter a second time, blog about the giveaway, and then leave another comment with the link to your blog.

I will do this the old-fashioned way -- I plan to put all names in a "hat" and let one of my children randomly draw a name, and that person will be the winner of the brand new Fireproof DVD! The deadline to enter is Sunday, May17th at midnight Eastern Standard Time. I will announce the winner on my blog on Monday, May 18th.

I thought I would conclude this post with a "stroll down memory lane." These are pictures of Alan and me taken exactly 26 years ago today -- back when we were young, thin, and had hair!!! ;)

Edit: These just arrived! Aren't they pretty?? :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Weight Loss Wednesday

My life has been so hectic lately that I have not written a Weight Loss Wednesday post in a few weeks. I have not been paying close attention to my diet either, and have enjoyed several family celebrations that introduced extra calories on the scene. Although, I was very diligent to exercise at first, I have let that fall by the wayside too. Today I stepped on the scale and was shocked to see I had gained 4 pounds!!! :o I keep thinking, Surely that can't be right!!!

It is so hard trying to stay focused on weight loss, in addition to trying to keep up with the housework and laundry, the meal prep and clean up, the education of the children at home, the oversight of the education of those who are in school, the chauffering to various activities, the attending of athletic events, the counseling, the celebrating of special events, and everything else that comes with being a mother of a large family. But, this is proof that I can't let up!!

So, I am recomitting myself to fight this "battle of the bulge."

One thing I am going to do is to write down every bite I put in my mouth. I have started keeping a food journal many times, but have not kept it up. So, I'm trying again.

I am also going to enter the T Tapp 60 Day Challenge, which starts on May 15th. My role model is definitely Charlotte, who was the 2007 60 Day Challenge winner in the More to Lose category and the 2008 60 Day Challenge winner in the Less to Lose category. She is my inspiration that this quest is possible for a mom of many!!

How about you? How are you doing if you are with me in this battle? What works for you? Are you willing to join me for the 60 Day Challenge??

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to Stay Cool this Summer

Can you believe it is the middle of May already??

Summer will be here before we know it, and I plan to spend as much time as possible in the pool, in an attempt to survive the suffocating south Georgia heat! To really be "cool" this summer, I'd love to have one of those coveted Lands End swimsuits. They offer some more modest styles to choose from, plus, they now have a line of slenderizing suits that promise to make you look a size smaller!

Unfortunately, there are two problems with my plan. First of all, I need to be more than one size smaller to actually look decent in a bathing suit, and that's why I plan to not just sit by the pool this summer, but to jump in and swim laps a few times a week in hopes of actually losing a size or two!

The second problem is that those Lands End swimsuits are out of my price range, but I have a plan to solve that problem too! I have just entered an enticing blog give-away, and I am very hopeful of winning a Land's End bathing suit of my very own! Interested? Check it out here!

Happy Birthday to my Honey!

Yesterday was my hubby's birthday! So, while he was at work, the younger children made him special cards. I made him a chocolate pound cake -- that didn't get done in the middle and fell when I tried to transfer it to a cake plate!!! :( Can you believe it??? Everyone kept "snitching" pieces of it, so that by the time he got home, there was nothing left but crumbs! Oh well, it was the thought that counted, right?

Josh took the truck and picked up a load of mulch and he and the other kids spread it in one of the beds in our front lawn, so that was their surprise for their Dad.

Alan met me at Luke's baseball game about 6 pm, where we cheered his team to victory. But that meant that by the time we got home and got supper on the table, it was after 8 pm!!! I tried a new recipe, and it was really good, so I will have to share the recipe later. I will definitely make it again.

After supper, Alan opened his cards and presents and then we presented him with his favorite dessert - a huge bowl of Publix Premium Vanilla ice cream, topped with fresh strawberries, smothered in chocolate sauce, and topped with whipped cream! He savored every bite while watching his favorite TV show -- Andy Griffith! :)

Here are some pictures of his celebration:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Encouragement for Mothers

I had a wonderful Mother's Day yesterday! How about you? I took a bunch of pictures -- but I forgot that I didn't have the memory card in my camera, so I won't be able to share any of them with you. :(

My daughter, Ashlyn, was home for the weekend, so that was a nice treat!

Because of some issues which I won't go into, we decided to do something different this year, and we had church at home with just our family! We watched Charles Stanley on TV, and he had a great sermon on a mother's influence on her children and the need to impart spiritual values to your children before they are indoctrinated by the world. We followed it with some good family discussion and then the children thanked me for the ways I had sacrificed for them and invested in their lives and taught them all at home, giving them a good spiritual and academic foundation for life. Of course, that was the highlight of my day! :)

Then, the older kids worked together and made a fabulous dinner, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed! Josh grilled terriyaki salmon, which was served with parmesan orzo pasta, baked sweet potatoes, and a huge tossed salad full of lots of delicious veggies! For dessert, we had pound cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream and some hazlenut coffee! Yum!! Then, I opened my gifts and home made cards, which is always fun!

After that, the children cleaned up the kitchen! Hooray! Then, Ashlyn got on the road headed back to Atlanta for the second week of her photography course; Alan headed to our room for his regular Sunday afternoon siesta; Josh and Joe made plans with friends; and the rest of us went swimming! It was my first time in the water this year -- the water finally warmed up enough for me to give it a try! It was 85 degrees == refreshing and perfect! Tiffany and I swam some laps, so hopefully we burned off some of the calories we consumed!

Being a mother certainly has its rewards, but the day-in-day-out responsibilities and never-ending work can be draining and exhausting. Sometimes we mothers give and give and give of ourselves, until we have nothing left to give. I want to bless every mother reading this blog with a refreshing drink of encouragement in the form of a beautiful poem written by Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies. If you have never visited her website, please do!! You will be so encouraged and inspired!!!

His Compassions Fail Not

Dear manager of the home, beloved of the Lord,
Your power as a mother cannot be ignored,
You are the heart and the Queen of your home,
Making a haven of love so your children won't roam.

As you nurture and teach your children each day,
Train them, discipline them, and oversee their play,
May you be filled with joy and overflowing with love
That God has given you these "gifts" from above.

Each precious child is a special blessing from the Lord.
You will no longer ever have time to be bored!
You have the greatest career in all of the land,
As you teach your children to follow God's command.

Lift up your head; be proud of your calling,
It's an eternal work and totally enthralling.
Oh yes, I know you often feel tired and worn,
But keep confessing God's promises, His truth He has sworn.

"The joy of the Lord is your strength," God has stated,
And whatever He promises cannot be negated!
As you shine with His Joy, you'll be a testimony to all
That embracing children is God's perfect will and call!

Don't be intimidated by those who haven't embraced God's way,
And who limit their children and leave them each day,
As you receive God's "rewards" and at home with them stay,
You will be a beacon light to save others from going astray.

Your sweet, gentle spirit is very precious in God's sight,
As you serve in your home with all of your might.
You are revealing the spirit of Jesus the King
Who showed us an example by serving in everything.

May God bless you and strengthen you each new morning,
May you know His faithfulness each new dawning,
May God's presence be with you in a mighty measure,
As you train your "arrows" for God's purpose and pleasure.

Nancy Campbell

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Last Days

Yesterday was the last day.

The last day of having to wear a school uniform. The last day of rushing around trying to avoid a Tardy. The last day of being a high school student. The last day for holding onto any vestiges of childhood.

Taylor spent his final day as a senior going out to breakfast with his friends, attending a signing ceremony for himself and other recruited athletes in the school gym, enjoying a senior luncheon and attending graduation practice. Then, he and his best friend, Cameron, perfected their dives in our pool, splashed around with the little kids, and then Taylor packed away a bunch of Papa John's pizza to celebrate his big finish!

Now, he is packing for his senior trip. He will soon be on his way to Gatlinburg and when he returns, it will only be a few short weeks before he is headed off to LaGrange to begin the next phase of his life as a college student and member of the LaGrange College football team.

It is a time of celebrating endings and beginnings, accomplishments and aspirations. It is a time for fondly remembering the past and eagerly anticipating the future . . .

Anyway, here are some pictures from the signing:

This is Taylor with his friend and teammate, Cameron, who signed with Atlanta Christian to play basketball.

Joseph congratulates Taylor on a job well done!

The Towering Trio!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Finishing Well

Just a few more days of school left for the year . . . but we sure are dragging over here and struggling to finish. I don't know about you, but I find it much easier to start strong than to end well. That's why I love Galations 6:9 -- "And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."

I guess this thing of finishing well is a common problem. I recently heard a pastor say that only one out of ten people who start with the Lord finish strong. That is a very sobering statistic. I don't want to be disqualified, I want to finish well!

We currently have a high school senior in the house. He is discovering how difficult it is to finish well, because he has battled a severe case of Senioritis this semester, which is reflected in the fact that both his grades and his attitude have slipped some.

Nevertheless, by God's grace, he has finished strong.

I was totally amazed on Monday at his school's end of the year award ceremony when he received three awards.

First, he received the Student Government Student of the Year Award for his excellent performance as Student Body President. I was literally in tears after the Student Council Sponsor finished detailing what an outstanding job he had done this year and explained how he "stood head and shoulders above the rest." (her pun, not mine!) :)

Secondly, he was awarded the Leadership Award, which is presented to the senior boy and girl "who best demonstrate godly influence over others, set high standards and goals and strive to achieve them, and exemplify a Christ-like attitude by serving others."

Finally, he was honored with the Eagle Award, which is considered the most prestigious senior award. It is bestowed on the senior boy and girl "whose lives best reflect SCA's mission and core values, who maintain high academic standards, who participate and excel in SCA's extracurricular activities, and who demonstrate strong leadership abilities as well as strong Christian character."

Of course, I am very proud of Taylor and his accomplishments. But, to whom much is given, much is required. I pray that he will continue seeking the Lord, not relying on his own strength and abilities, and that he will finish strong in the race of life!

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are before, I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." -- Phillipians 3:13-14 KJV

A picture of those who are graduating with honors:

Here is a picture of Taylor with two great servant-leaders -- his headmaster and his father.

Taylor has run well the first leg of the race, but he is about to face a challenging section of the course, one that has tripped up many a runner before him. As he leaves the safety and comfort of home and becomes a college student/athlete, he will face many trials and temptations. He will discover only in the heat of the race if his training has adequately prepared him for the challenge. Life is not a 5K, but a grueling marathon, and my prayer for him, for myself, and for my entire family is that we may all finish well.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore, I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]. -- 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Amplified

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