Just a list of things I’m thankful for today…

a reminder of how quickly the time goes…

Listening to Mattie read her short little reading lessons fluently… at long last!
Seeing Jacob understand some of his grammar concepts… also at long last!
Watching our freshly reinstalled bird feeders get busier and busier with our favorite feathered friends.
Healing after ten months for my cracked tailbone and sacral vertebrae.
Finding an old video of Jacob reading a book out loud when he was little.  Such sweetness in that little voice!
Healing via surgery and recovery for Robert’s leg and back.
The joy the kittens have brought to our family.
Hearing Mattie play upstairs with a friend her own age she clicks perfectly with!
Watching Robert find enjoyment in books as he recovers.
Jacob having fun at his first sleepover. ūüôā
Our free art class at Carson-Newman.
Robert’s presence at home while he recovers from surgery: company, friendship, understanding in the craziness, help with schooling, family Bible lessons from his perspective, kids’ laughter that he causes.
Planning our nature study fun!
Re-doing fun 6 year old things with Mattie.
Hoodie weather.
Looking through old photos and remembering the memories of Jacob’s six year old year.
My new job. The way it fits me perfectly. The way it can fit our family perfectly. The way God handed it to me.
And my favorite: God truly opening my eyes and heart to a deep-seated understanding of His grace in spite of me… an answer to prayers prayed for many years.

Coming Home

I was gone for the weekend on a (fantastic!) women’s retreat, and this sweet picture is what I saw at the bottom of the driveway when I drove in.¬† ūüôā¬† She was so excited to share about her weekend with Daddy and Grandmama, she was jumping up and down.¬† It brought me joy to drive in and be greeted – in the rain – by my sweet girl’s smiling face!¬† And the Lord gave me a small glimpse of the joy He feels when He sees me.

Moments of Joy 17

Has it really been since May that I posted a list? ¬†I formulate these lists in my head often, but I apparently don’t get here often enough to share them.

There have been many, many calmer moments around here lately and I’m very thankful for them! ¬†The implementation of a very structured behavior/chore/consequence/privilege system has encouraged the kids to change some things up… some¬†things¬†that desperately needed changing up! ¬†Everyone is happier, Mama is¬†happier!!!, we have more time to enjoy each other since we’re not struggling over power and control all. day. long, school is getting done in half the time, and chores are done more consistently and diligently. ¬†But mostly, I think we realized we actually like each other!

Some of my favorite moments of late:

~ enjoying advent with the kids… we chose to keep it slow and I’m really thankful we did
~ listening to Jacob sight read a song on the piano and be really proud of himself at how well it went
~ watching my kids enjoy their Christmas presents (and not being let down when the last present was over!)
~ spending time with my growing up family over Christmas. ¬†I’m so thankful for the foundation, security and identity God gave me in them.

~ going in to Target to get snuggly jammie pants after Christmas (I chose to walk away ūüėČ before Christmas because I really didn’t need them). There was one pair in the store. ¬†It¬†just¬†“happened” to fit perfectly, be a print I love and be $6. ¬†God didn’t have to do¬†that¬†for me.
~ wondering why Mattie’s closet was so void of non-play dresses, remembering that I loaned them to someone thinking I’d have them back in time for her to need them, then getting handed down a bag of dresses that are perfect (and a lot nicer than what we had to begin with!)
~ Mattie coming to me to ask if we¬†could¬†pray for the man going in the ambulance on the¬†stretcher. ¬†“I already prayed for him, but can we pray for him again? He needs God to heal him.”
~ hearing all my kids are really learning and internalizing from their Sunday School teachers

~ getting my love tank filled up by my man in ways I was hoping and praying for
~ listening to Jacob and Robert play a piano/guitar duet and Jacob planning another practice session for tomorrow
~ reading Mattie’s first chapter book (a Christmas present) with her and her begging to read more
~ dancing and doing wii fit games with the kids to get us all moving… hilarity is more¬†appropriate¬†than joy, I think!

Do you like it?

So I know there’s really no point in having a cute blog if one never posts on it, but just humor me!¬† I have several things to post about, but they will be big, long posts that require a lot of focus and energy, and I haven’t had the time to put into them.¬† But there are great things happening in our house, and I can’t wait to share them!¬† They are affording me a lot more free time and¬†emotional energy!¬† But I digress… So in June I got this Scrapbooking software with high hopes, but have only done two small projects for a friend so far.¬† I realized I could make my own perfectly unique collage for our Christmas card this year!¬† So like a terribly irresponsible parent, I stayed up until almost 3:00 last night playing with it and ended up with this really cute card, but couldn’t find any place that would print it for less than 80 cents per print.¬† (I thought all of the sites that had 4×8 cards would print it with no problem, but that’s not the case, apparently.)¬† So that’s just more than I’m going to spend on Christmas cards.¬† I found a different¬†site where I could upload my own creation, re-did it and then realized this one is¬†the perfect size for a happy header!¬† So here it is!¬† (If you’re on a feed reader you’ve got to come see it.)¬† I’ve so enjoyed playing with this software and making this.¬† Almost as much as I’ve enjoyed decorating my house this week for Christmas!¬†

I love going through my boxes of familiar things.¬† Christmas decorations have always been a favorite of mine, I think because with all of our moving, they were consistent.¬† The red eyelet tree skirt has always been the same, the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas cassette,¬†the angel at the top of the tree (and a really funny had-to-be-there story about the year her lights died and we rigged her up to work), our¬†stockings¬†that¬†our grandmother made, the ceramic nativity set, the cardboard my grandpa used to wrap the Christmas lights around…¬† I don’t even use it anymore but it’s in the bottom of my box because it has his handwriting on it, and I can’t bear to pitch it.¬† All of those things remind me that tradition offers us¬†security and identity.¬†I love that my kids already have these things that they look forward to.¬† We are keeping some of the traditions I¬†want to savor, shaping them into a good fit for our family,¬†and beginning some new traditions of our own.¬† And I hope I’m building a solid foundation of love and security in my¬†children that they will want to relish each December.

I’m thankful for the changes around here.¬† They have come none too soon and have enabled us to slow down and enjoy this season of waiting.¬† For school each day we’re doing math, language arts, piano practice, a creative activity¬†and then just reading together on the couch.¬† We have so needed this time!¬†¬† Some intentional reconnection¬†opportunities and moments for the kids and I to like each other again after a hard season, and God is giving us those in abundance.¬† I’m so thankful.

Joni and Friends Camp 2010

Well, I had another fantastic year at camp! ¬†This whole post is just 5 days¬†worth¬†of ¬†my “moments of joy.”
This time was very different, as you know. ¬†I was teaching in the children’s program, so I did not have one person as a buddy. ¬†This¬†made it different of course. ¬†I spent a lot of time in leadership meetings and doing planning and decorating where I¬†would¬†have otherwise been out involved with a¬†family. ¬†So I kind of felt like I missed a lot. ¬†But there were two plusses: 1) not having a buddy enabled me to take Jacob along so I could fix his food at each meal, and 2) I was able to sit wherever I chose at most meals, so I could visit with all the families from our church (there were about 40 people all together this year!) and build some relationships that I’d take home with me. ¬†They already asked me if I’d do it again next year, and I have in mind to take Mattie as well, so I guess I’m “stuck” teaching. ¬†ūüôā ¬†(I do love the actual teaching part.) ¬†

Here are a whole bunch of random photos that will help you have the feel of camp. ¬†But you know, you really ought to just be there with me!! ¬†Just for some background, we were “traveling” in a hot air balloon around the world, with the theme being basically that God could do more than we ever can imagine in our lives.
This is our hilarious entertainment, JJ…J and Heinrich von Hindenburg, a balloonist in training and a professional balloonist now educating. ¬†At this moment they are singing a song designed to teach us the parts of a hot air balloon (to the tune of head, shoulders, knees and toes), sung with a bad German accent:
Baaasket, burner, envelope, envelope.  
Baaasket, burner, envelope, envelope.
When you land you tie off with a rope,
Baaasket, burner, envelope, envelope!
(Now I’m not the only one with that song stuck in my head.)
Heinrich was also the guy who did children’s music and recreation, so we had more than a few good laughs through the weekend!
Here I am¬†teaching¬†something about China, though I haven’t a clue what it is! ¬†(Isn’t that background beautiful?)
Jacob LOVED camp! ¬†It was fun to see him come out of his shell in this environment. ¬†I know some of you didn’t realize he had a shell, but he really does in large group settings, especially if he’s in a group where there is a lot of noise and chaos or where he doesn’t feel “safe” to make mistakes.

But here he had a great group of little boys to hang out with, and he did really well with it!

Here is the¬†only¬†five minutes Jacob and I spent just the two of us at camp. ¬†ūüôā

This little guy is Matthew.  Matthew goes to our church, and his mom is a great friend of mine, so I know him well.  I had to show you this pic so you can see the look of utter joy on his face at taking off during this dress-up relay!  Matthew has only had this power chair for several months now, but he is a pro at driving it and loves the independence it gives him!
Matthew’s mom is also great about letting him do whatever he wants to, while providing however little or much assistance he needs. ¬†Of course, he chose 3:00 on a ninety-five degree afternoon to want to climb on the jungle gym!

This was one of my favorite moments of camp, and honestly, what it’s all about.
Matthew talks very slowly and is very difficult to understand. ¬†Kids in large group setting often get restless when Matthew is trying to say something, but he is so involved, he often has things to share. ¬†One of the¬†things¬†we did is gave rewards to kids who could tell us what the colors of their gospel bracelets meant (hoping¬†they’ll tell a friend one day!) and we had most of them do this in front of the entire children’s group. ¬†For a whole lot of reasons, Matthew’s turn kept getting pushed off, but I didn’t want him to be the only kid who didn’t get a turn. ¬†(Matthew is very smart and knows he often gets pushed aside because of his speech.) ¬†So while we were on the playground, I asked the¬†kids¬†I had to gather around Matthew and let him share his gospel bracelet colors. ¬†Ethan was wearing his bracelet, so I asked if he¬†would¬†hold it out so Matthew could see it. ¬†But not only did he hold it out, he waited patiently while he talked and gave him clues (not the answer!) when Matthew needed them so Matthew could share all of the answers all by himself. ¬†His patience and tenderness was so sweet to watch. ¬†
As an aside, Ethan is one of 34 children adopted by his family. ¬†Yes, thirty-four. ¬†He has more than 15 siblings with¬†significant¬†special needs (whose stories are nothing short of amazing), a mother and father who love them all individually and fiercely, and a tender heart because of what the Lord has done for him. ¬†(And just because it’s cool to share, he has a sibling group of 6 boys on their way to their home from Liberia! ¬†This will be the last adoption for this 61 year old dad and his wife.)
Though a really odd face, Jacob was very excited about his crazy hair!  
Jacob has a need for¬†things¬†to be “just so” and if he gets an idea in his head that does not come to pass, it can be a very long time, or never,¬†before¬†he forgets it. ¬†He’s legitimately disappointed, not just being a baby. ¬†So on crazy hair day, my color-loving child was very excited to get his done for the first time! ¬†But one of the older boys did not listen to Jacob’s desires and sprayed black, blue and gold on his hair, and way too much of all of them! ¬†It wasn’t at all what Jacob wanted, and he was very disappointed. ¬†Because I know how hard it is for him to let¬†things¬†go, and how disappointed he was, I tried to find some red to spray his hair, but all of the spray was gone. ¬†My mama’s heart was sad for him. ¬†(I share a little bit of this personality trait, so I understand how disappointing it can be when something unexpected happens.)
So the next day we were set up to do an art project the next day, and someone had brought the colored hair spray with the face painting supplies so the kids could do art on themselves!  I was so relieved for him!  I made sure to spray his hair myself and listen very carefully to his color requests.  He was so happy at how it turned out.  And I was thankful God gave Him another opportunity to do it.
Here I am doing a “volcano or not” quiz on Hawaii day.
Thank you for praying for me.  The lessons I planned fit well with out theme, the kids seemed interested and responsive, and I apparently did a power point that was much more than expected.  Go figure!  But God did what He wanted to and taught me quite a bit through it.
Here’s our¬†children’s¬†group performing our song for the talent show. ¬†They did a great job! and I was quite impressed, as Jacob did motions in public for the very first time ever.
I do not even know this young lady’s name, but she was the happiest of all¬†the¬†campers, I believe. ¬†She loved every minute of any large group program we had, and she knew the words – every. one – to hymns I’d never even heard of! and sang them loudly. ¬†She was a delight!

Jacob and I got to go on a tethered hot air balloon ride!  
It was a sweet memory to make with him. ¬†ūüôā
Of course he had to call Daddy right away to tell him all about it!
All in all, camp was fantastic. Again. ¬†It is one of my favorite weeks of the year. ¬†And I believe it is¬†just¬†a little bit of what heaven will be like. ¬†The love and acceptance, I mean. ¬†People are hurting, and life is hard. ¬†But for just a few days camp is safe, it provides rest, and it offers much laughter. ¬†Most importantly, we get to participate in the body of Christ worshiping with a purity unseen just about¬†anywhere else. ¬†You’ve¬†just¬†got to be there.

Moments of Joy 16

It’s been a while!¬† But not because the moments of joy have been few.¬† Here are some sweet times of late:
Indulging the kids at Red Lobster for Robert’s birthday.¬† We let them get whatever they wanted, regardless of their food sensitivities!¬† (Mattie had macaroni and cheese for her first time ever, Jacob had broiled shrimp and a salad and they both enjoyed a biscuit.¬† And yes.¬† We paid pretty dearly for indulging Mattie – bed wetting and severe crankiness for three days.)
A new hobby – digital scrap booking!
Getting in a good chore routine with the kids.¬† We’ve not really done that since we moved a year ago.
Using that same routine to begin our school day with Bible reading time in bedrooms – this means I get a turn too!
Expecting trouble, but watching Jacob do remarkably well with the first three days of long division!

Spending Mother’s Day with my Mom!

Watching my kids’ delight as they play on the neighbor’s water slide for hours. and hours. and hours.
Two nights of uninterrupted sleep (meaning Mattie stayed in her bed all night long). Doesn’t happen very often.
Seeing Jacob’s utter joy as he came home to a newly rearranged bedroom!
A sore back.  But a good sore, because it came from planting flowers and vegetable seeds.
My first attempt at a vegetable garden going well!
A spontaneous trip to a home school conference with my older sister and aunt!
A younger sister, brother-in-law, mom and dad who are willing to watch my kids so I can go to said conference guilt free!
Answered prayers.
A science program that looks just perfect.  And a family with boys to do it with.
A husband who gives me feedback (when I beg for it!) that gives me clarity I’ve been lacking.
Watching Mattie tan as if she’s Native American.¬† ūüôā
I could so easily go on and on.  God is good no matter how many moments of joy I can list, but I believe it brings Him joy to ascribe all good things to Him!

Moments of Joy 15

There have been many moments of joy around here lately!  Join me in enjoying them!

Many, many hours enjoying the long-awaited warm, sunny days!
The sweetness of the first of the season sun-kissed cheeks and noses.
Highlights in dirty, sweaty hair – both evidence of enjoying Spring!
Flowers growing in our indoor greenhouse, soon ready to face the big world in the garden.

A family nature walk this morning at a local state park.

Robert feeling better and making us all LaUGh again!¬† I didn’t realize how much we were all missing this and how much laughter he gave us all!

A tag-along-vacation with Robert while he was working out of town. 
The kids enjoying the hot tub and swimming pool!
Sitting by the fire as we roast hot dogs and marshmallows.

God’s faithfulness to help me take every thought captive, and the noticeable absence of thoughts I previously struggled with.¬†
God caring about the little details as we plan our annual Luke 14 County Fair on schedule for one week from tomorrow!

Mattie’s delightful contentment at pretending non-preferred foods are ones she really wants (but can’t have).¬† Bread was an English Muffin, strawberries were macaroni and cheese, water was soda, and tennis shoes were glass slippers, etc.¬† This is new, but has been a welcome addition to our mealtimes!

Good time with Jacob.
Good school with Jacob.
Smaller medicine doses for Jacob.
Mattie.  Just Mattie in her own, unique, take life by the horns and make it into what you want sort of way.

God is so good to me in so many ways.  He gives me so much!  More than I deserve.  More than I thank Him for.  More than I could ever think to ask for.  And just because He delights in blessing me.

Moments of Joy – 14

Since I wrote this post I’ve been pondering a new name for this kind of thing, these simple things that bring me pleasure, sweet somethings I notice amid chaos, bits of¬†brightness¬†in my days. ¬†As I was thanking the Lord for them just today and not knowing how to really put it into words even for Him who already knows my mind, He made it clear to me. ¬†These are my Moments of Joy. ¬†Just occasions, some longer than others, that bring me complete and utter joy because I know He is the One who has given them to me.

These days there are too many to share them all with you, which is a testimony in itself as there was a time when I was writing them down in an effort to notice them. ¬†But God has given me a cup overflowing as I’ve asked Him to!

Here are some sweet moments of joy:

Hearing the sound of a¬†Thomas¬†the Train engine this morning in Jacob’s room! ¬†Oh, how I miss those sounds¬†that¬†used to FILL my every hour!
Getting yet another good laugh at Mattie’s remarkable sense of smell. ¬†We believe she is part hound dog!
Enjoying¬†peace and ¬† ¬†q u i e t¬†¬† ¬†as I’m alone in my home for only the fourth time since I became a mother.
Peace the Lord has brought as a result of searching the depths of my insecure heart and opening the doors for His Light to shine in there!
The smell of yummy homemade bread, the health and sustenance it symbolizes in our home, and the feeling that I can do at least ONE thing really well in our food allergy kitchen!
Ordering a new Bible and art supplies for Jacob for his birthday.
Food allergy healing through new technology and the fun of indulging Jacob without bracing for poor behavior.
A new vision to Make it Count with my children and good time with both of them already.  (Kristen, I appreciate your encouragement and wisdom!)
An actual feeling of physical fullness in my gut as I watch two kids run to greet their daddy after a week away!

Bring JOY to your servant’s life,
since I set my hope on You, Lord.  
Psalm 86:4  HCSB