Thursday, November 30, 2006

Birthday Girl: SUS!

I distinctly remember the first time I saw my friend, Susan. My cousin Tim was in the Canton High School production of "The Music Man," and Susan was playing the role of the young girl, Amaryllis. (They needed someone in grade school to play the part, and Susan's older sister, Amy, was in the play also.... so Susan was recruited.) By that time, I already loved the theatre and music so much, and I thought Susan was a star! I wish I could have been in that play too, and I couldn't wait to meet her.

You wouldn't believe my surprise when I found out that Susan was in my homeroom for 6th grade. That's the point where all 4 of the town grade schools (K-5) sent their 6th graders to Ingersoll Middle School. So, each of us were becoming acquainted with new friends that lived right across Canton but whom we had never met. I remember being kind of nervous and wanting her like me so much! I was so happy that Susan and I became fast friends. We were in most classes together from that point on, and we shared the love of the arts - especially music. It seemed right from the start we then began our super-busy involvement in school activities, and that was great when my best friend could be there through all of it with me. I can't even begin to count the number of times that I've been thankful for Susan. She and I have been through a lot together, and I so much wish we could have more time together. It's hard being so many miles apart for so long, but each day, I still think of things I wish I could talk to her about.

Stay tuned for pictures that will be posted of the two of us soon. A small walk down memory lane - which is sure to be a treat for the many of you who just love 80's hair and trends.

Somewhere along the line, I started yelling out SUUUUUUS! really loudly when I would see her approaching or walking down the hall. Soon after, she started yelling MIIIIICH! So, today, I'd like to yell - across the miles - a big "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SUUUUUUS!" and an "I MISS YOU!" Welcome to 33, my friend. (It's not so bad.)

What we looked like when we first met. Wow! Those are SOME glasses... not to mention the earrings. Susan was looking as cool as always!

Another flashback to Grandma's Feather Bed... with Susan (aka Eula Mae), our accompanist Piano Man, and Michelle (Billie Joe).

Even though it isn't clear here, this is one of my favorite pictures of Sus... at the wedding of her sister and brother-in-law, Shawna and Brett. Very beautiful!

Was it EVER cool to have yourself photographed with your band instrument? Probably not! But, we didn't care. We were (and still are, at heart) BAND GEEKS!

It was so nice being able to have our pictures taken together for graduation. Such good memories!

Heading Our Way

Hold tight, St. Louis. Bundle up, Edwardsville. Batten down the hatches, Canton.

But, remember...

Job 37:5 God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend. v. 6 For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength

Isa 55:10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater

Ps 147:1 Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.
2 The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.
3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.
4 He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
6 The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.
7 Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:
8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.
9 He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.
10 He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.
11 The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.
13 For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.
14 He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.
16 He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.
17 He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?
18 He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.
19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.
20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.

Missing Mitzi

Yesterday was an extremely sad day for our family. I know others have different views of animals, but our pets mean a lot to us. And, yesterday, we had to have our long-time cat, Mitzi, put to sleep.

Mitzi was given to me about 18 years ago as a Christmas present from my family. She was such a funny cat, sliding in and out of the "kitty condo" and playing with string we'd dangle before her. She'd go on adventures out in the woods with Aaron and me. She'd entertain Dad's piano students. She'd cuddle up and sleep with me each night (when she was inside the house)... even up to this past weekend when I was home for Thanksgiving.

This is the only picture I could find right away, but this is a photo of Mitzi from 3 years ago. Even in her later years, we thought she was a pretty kitty.

When I moved away to college, Mitzi, of course, stayed home with Mom and Dad, and she has been there ever since. But, I was always very happy to see her when I walked through the door when I came home for a visit. Mom has always thought that Mitzi knew it was me each time I visited. Maybe it was because I gave her a lot of attention. I always missed her when I was away.

It is uncommon for cats to live for 18 years, as long as Mitzi did. But, she was with us so long that it felt like she was a member of our family. Because of that, we miss her - and will continue to miss her - very much. And, we are very thankful for the blessing of having her.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I am flabbergasted by something I found out today. I have no idea why I was misinformed, but I was.

I'm sure you've all seen luffas (sometimes spelled loofahs... you know, that scratchy sponge-like item you might see in a shower or use to wash dishes? It looks like a super-sized shredded wheat.) Did all of you know that a luffa is a VEGETABLE... and NOT from the sea?

I don't know why I was so misguided. Maybe because they are often called luffa sponges. And, since natural sponges grow in the ocean, I thought that luffas did also.

Well, they don't! They grow in a cucumber-like or zucchini-like plant... on a vine. Here is a wonderful explanation of the process of preparing a luffa, and here's some information about how luffas grow. Here's another page of information and resources.

I was just telling Brother Tom and Sister Elaine last night that I have been wanting a garden for many years. And, I'm now finally feeling better settled to have one. However, even though my back yard is so large, I have very few sunny areas because of the huge trees each of my neighbors and I have. I have played around with the idea of just making a long, narrow strip of a garden down the west side of my house where there is little shade. (I will, of course, call the power company first so they can mark their lines before I start digging.) And, I thought I would start slowly with just a vegetable or two and add something new each year.

Well, I think I've definitely found my first item to grow. The luffa! I am very excited. I guess I'd better get going on building a trellis and finding some seeds so that I can be ready to start the growing process inside my house in early spring. I am continually amazed at the unique things God has created.

P.S. I think I'm also going to try this idea of growing potatoes in a tire. When you reach this page, please click on the link for the original post to receive the entire story. Odd, but fascinating.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I'm Now A Beta Blogger

I was putting it off for weeks now... but kept seeing different blogger friends writing pleas to have everyone switch to Beta. So, yesterday, I took the leap.

To be honest, so far, I have not seen many differences. The only thing that I've really noticed is that I go somewhere else to log in.... and many of my blog's comments which were once assigned to a name or a fellow blogger have mysteriously changed to "anonymous." I'm not very happy about that.

However, I have not yet gone to take the "Beta Blogger Tutorial" to see the abilities of which I am now capable... so, hopefully, after that, I will be able to do something fancy-shmancy. We'll see. I hear there are some nice "drag and drop features," and I hope to understand them better. Or, I'm sure my high school friend, Siren, will be willing to give me yet another tutorial on HTML and blogging.

So, to all of you who are still on "the dark side", I guess I would say, "Come on in. The water's warm. And, there's nothing to be scared of." (At least, I haven't found anything scary YET!)

Monday, November 27, 2006

You Sunk My Battleship!

Thanksgiving is always a nice time with our family. And, on extra-special years, my cousin and his wife, Tim and Angie, travel with their children from Alabama back to our hometown of Canton. I drive 3 + hours - as traffic is rough in St. Louis when I head home for Thanksgiving (or Christmas), and everyone else lives in central Illinois.

Because Tim, Angie and their children stay in Alabama for Christmas, Uncle Dick's family usually exchanges some gifts for Christmas during their Thanksgiving visit. It is always fun to see the kids open their presents with such excitement and anticipation, and this year was no different. To our surprise, however, Tim and Angie had some presents wrapped up for their siblings and for Aaron & Ketra and me. They did not need to do that, but it was very kind of them. We had no idea what the gifts were...just were supposed to pick one from the group based on the gift tag clues that Tim read aloud to us from across the room. One was labeled "MSBS", and since my initials are MS, I thought it was a pretty good choice for me. I think Aaron and Ketra picked one that was labeled "Mystery."

Well, we were thrilled when we realized that the gifts were all board games, and our family LOVES board games. Aaron and Ketra received the DVD version of CLUE, and immediately I wished I had picked that box! But, I was even more excited when I opened my box and found Advanced Mission Battleship!

When I was younger, I always loved going over to Uncle Dick's house so that I could play with Becky, Stephen, Tim and David. However, oftentimes, I was disappointed as the older kids had plans in mind other than playing with little ol' me. So, I would sometimes sit and watch whatever they were doing... or help Stephen pull up worms from the yard after dark so that they could be used for fish bait. But, I digress...

I don't know how many hours I spent watching Stephen, Tim, and David play Battleship at their kitchen table. This was the OLD kind... the one where you had to actually say, "You sunk my battleship!" - just like the boy used to yell out on the old commercials. I so badly wanted to join in on the fun. I would try to patiently wait for my turn - which would be promised to me, always right after the boys would finish their "tournament." But, sadly, I don't remember ever playing a full game with any of them - as my turn always came conveniently when Aunt Phyllis had a job for us to do, we were going somewhere, or the boys were just tired of playing. (Usually, the latter. I think they used to fight over who had to remain there to play with me... a girl... a young girl, no less.)

We have never had a Battleship game at our house. We always spent more time on Big Deal, Catch Phrase, Sorry, Aggravation, Chinese Checkers, Othello, Careers, Bonkers, Mousetrap, Trivial Pursuit, Axis & Allies, Chutes & Ladders, Operation, Trouble, Scrabble... I won't bore you with the long list. Just be assured, we like board games. But, Battleship is one I always wanted to play... and my wishes came to fruition on Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately, Ketra had plans to attend a shower for her soon-to-be sister-in-law, so she could not be with us. And, we missed her. But, Aaron came over to Mom and Dad's house for one of our family's favorite lunches: burritos. After dinner, Aaron and I set down to put the game together, apply the decals, install batteries, and try to understand the directions. I must admit there was too many directions to take in all at once, so we decided to try one of the less challenging versions of the game. But, it was fun! Aaron won by sinking all of my ships... and as most do, we spent half of the game just trying to search for each other's small two position boat. With the control center voice, explosions, and other sound affects, the game has had some major advances over the years. (It even has fighter jets that a player can send out to search for ships.) I look forward to many other battles with my brother....or maybe even with Stephen, Tim or David - if I allow them to play.

Because Aaron was heading off to a "guys' night" with his brothers-in-law, I gave him Battleship - as I thought all of them would have fun playing it. And, Aaron gave me the Clue DVD game to check out... so I'm excited I'll be trying it out this week! I always love to hear of the games that other families play. Do you have some that your family returns to year after year?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Magnify Him With Thanksgiving

Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Several of us have been soaking in the blessing of having the "scripture songs" CD that was originally recorded on audio tape many years ago at Harmony Hill Singing School. It seems not a day goes by where I don't catch myself singing these verses aloud while I do my work. What a blessing it is stay focused on scripture throughout the day! I have been trying to read along with scriptures as I hear the music each evening, and this has been wonderful - especially when I am able to join other brothers and sisters in singing these scriptures after worship services on Sunday afternoons. But, I have been anxious to find out if the attendees at the singing school long ago were reading music from a published hymnal. I have written to the Harmony Hill Singing School web site to inquire, and I will post the answer as soon as it is revealed.

I have many like-minded "email friends" across the country, and several times, I have heard them speak of the "musical Serven family." I have also heard of the Genevan Foundation for Cultural Renewal many times. Little did I know that foundation was created by the Serven clan and that this family resides very near us! It has been wonderful to discover that they share a love of Sacred Harp singing and of singing scriptures - specifically the psalms. If you're interested in learning about psalm singing, please check out their FAQs page about psalters.

Do you have a favorite Sacred Harp, hymn, or scripture song CD to which you often listen? Please share the group, singing school, or producer who has created the recording, where one might purchase it, and why you like it so much.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Relationship Between Submission & Protection

I was talking to one of my dearest friends a few nights ago, and we were pondering some difficult situations in which we each know we have to submit to authority but are having a difficult time while doing so. With frustration, we reviewed lists and lists of reasons why the particular roles, positions, and scenarios we were pondering are so difficult, and frustration and anger kept building. I thought steam was going to burst from either (or both) sets of our ears at any time. Before parting, however, we confirmed - as in so many situations in our lives - no matter what is happening to me, I must do what I am biblically commanded by God to do. And, in each of these scenarios, I must find some way (the best way) to submit. I must submit.

I cannot adequately describe the sorrow I felt while leaving our meeting place. I was at a low point with my own reality, but I was even more concerned about my friend, wishing I could do something, anything, to ease such heartache. I couldn't. I knew the best "advice" I could offer was scriptural support for the conclusion we already knew: SUBMIT. But, in the long, rainy drive home, it gave me time to zero in on the lists we shouted out in infuriation. While idling at a stoplight, it hit me... hit me that the frustration and anger was really disguised discouragement and sorrow - not over having to submit to authority - but having to submit to authority who had neglected the important companion responsibility of protection.

There are many who refuse the roles that are set up in the bible. The women's liberation movement has probably provided some blessings, but most of its efforts have gone directly against the relationships that God designed for his children. "But, women submitting? Now that goes too far!!! Take a back seat to a man who doesn't care about my well-being? No way!!! Sit and follow the demands of an abusive husband? You've got to be kidding me with this bible stuff!!!" Anyone who feels this way just doesn't understand what God intended or commanded (still commands) us to be and do. Our roles are different, but we each have responsibilities that are essential to the plan. Husbands must love their wives, and wives must respect their husbands. These responsibilities are difficult, may seem against our nature, may make us want to pull out our hair at times... but they are necessary and are provided directly to us in scripture. The problems come when individuals and institutions don't follow the rules for their roles.

"My wife won't submit. Women are too headstrong. They don't know how to follow authority! I can't carry out my responsibilities if she can't respect me enough to carry out hers." I hear the cries from godly men in their blogs, newspaper articles, radio shows, discussions, and even in their actions. In fact, I even hear it from men who are not striving to be Christ-like. We should not be blind to the fact that God did put men in most of the positions that he created as an authority. But, let us please understand that this struggle isn't exclusive to the relationship that God created between husband and wife.

In my recent studies, I have tried to discover the roles which God gave authority. And, in each of these roles, in addition to leading, making decisions, and standing responsible, I have found several verses which also command the subject to provide protection to those over whom it has dominion. If you are a person in authority or are part of an institution that is in authority and you are struggling with the question, "Why won't so-and-so submit?", I respectfully ask you to reflect on the question, "Am I providing the protection that God has charged me to provide?"

Husbands: Are you providing the necessities within your role so that your wife may focus on the biblical examples that God has provided for her? Have you resolved conflicts or ended pressures that your wife may be feeling by trying to meet both God's and the world's expectations as a wife, mother, and woman? Are you stepping in to stop scenarios that may harm your spouse physically or emotionally? Does she see you as her defender? Do your decisions advance the walk in following Christ for both of you?

Fathers: Are you providing the necessities for your family? Have you equipped your family with biblical instruction so each member is able to turn to God's word to navigate through life? Have you taken great care to set boundaries through discipline, preventing harm in the future? Are you regularly defending your children - especially daughters - in scenarios in which they need support? Are you or your wife taking care of situations which adults should handle? Have you rid your home of influences which contradict God's teachings? Do your decisions advance the walk in following Christ for your entire family?

Supervisors: Are you concerned with development as much as you are concerned with output? Do you intervene to guide negotiations when employees are at odds? Do you show concern for the staff members that report to you by offering constructive feedback and coaching even when it might be uncomfortable? Are you recognized as a "follower of God" through your efforts of peace-making?

Churches: Do you provide a safe haven and place of rest away from the world? Are you committed to lovingly guiding weaker brothers and sisters for the cause of Christ even though it may cause short-term discomfort? Are you providing a shelter for young men who have been called into the ministry? Are members in constant prayer for one another and assisting when trials appear? Are members moved to keep focus on worship instead of viewing church as merely a body of rules, regulations and standards?

There are so many others that God has given authority (and the responsibility of protection) in certain situations: pastors, mothers, elder sisters in the church, elder brothers in the church, government leaders, individuals stronger in the faith...

And, there are many who are called to subjection (while provided protection): church members, children, younger sisters in the church, younger brothers in the church, citizens, individuals weaker in the faith...

My post here is about one-quarter the size of the original document I created last week... mostly a dumping of thoughts onto the page at the time. I've re-written it and re-written it, only to drastically cut most of it today. So, you will have to forgive me if some of this seems disjointed. I was finding myself censoring what I had written, for various reasons. And, I want to be cautious to do the right thing.

My imagination floats to what I think some will ask me... "Do you truly believe that speaking with someone at church or at work and rebuking them is some sort of protection? What kind of help is THAT? Wouldn't that be more harm than help? I reply, "Not when done in love, as God's Word instructs us." Yes, it seems our churches, our families, our pastors, our church members, and our society has fallen into the habit of thinking, "This isn't my business. I shouldn't get involved. I wouldn't want to hurt that individual's feelings..." (as if one's feelings is the most precious attribute at stake.) It is important, however, that we understand there is protection and a saving grace in following God's Word that should not be underestimated, and we have been given roles and responsibilities in labouring - again, in love - with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot allow our minds to kid ourselves... to think that we can pick and choose our responsibilities as if walking down the line of a smorgasboard - just as those in authority cannot pick and choose the other types of protection they are commanded to provide. We cannot fool ourselves in thinking there is a better way than the way God has provided or that we'll be just as blessed by following a different path. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking there is anything more important - even our "feelings!" - than following the divine scriptures left for us. I pray that each of us may more deeply study the scriptures to know exactly what is being asked of us in our roles, especially so that we may assist our brothers and sisters along the troublesome way of life.

And, especially to those on whom God has given authority, I humbly ask you to reflect on the question, "Am I providing the protection that God has charged me to provide?"

Will you join with me in identifying scriptures that refer to this responsibility of protection? Please feel free to identify to whom the scripture commands, over whom, and any other revelations you've found while studying. (And, please pray for me while I work on submitting in the way God would have me to do.)

Folklore Village Photos

If you haven't already mosied on over to Lydia's blog, be sure to check out this post. Great pictures of some of the trip aspects to which I was referring in earlier posts! The snow covered everything in early morning, but as you can see, a good portion of snow on the lawns had melted by noon.

Chris ...your pictures? ...anytime soon?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Math

Benefits Open Enrollment + 3 Pension & Retirement Meetings (1 per each shift) + 1 Supervisor Discipline Procedures Meeting + Visiting HR Manager + 1:00 a.m. bedtime + 4:30 a.m. wake-up time = very tired

I have already worked over 30 hours this week, and I am hoping I will be able to go home early this afternoon. I need a happy nappy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Folklore Village, Dodgeville, WI

I just can't say enough about the location of the shape-note singing that we attended this past weekend. Folklore Village is a wonderful place, with a wonderful staff. And, if you ever have a chance to visit or attend one of the many cultural events that are held there, I would highly recommend that you go!

We sang in Plum Grove Church, a building that was established in 1882. However, after years of wear, the church was restored and moved to Folklore Village in 1993. In 1995, the church was listed in the National Register and State Register of Historic Places. It reminded me of many Primitive Baptist church buildings in which I've attended meetings. Simple, but beautiful - with great acoustics. Perfect for Sacred Harp singing.

Here are a few pictures that have been taken of Folklore Village and its surrounding grounds for a fiddle association. Hopefully, we'll have some pictures from our trip posted soon. (Did I mention that it SNOWED?!?!?)

Open Enrollment Time

In my role as the Human Resources Coordinator, I receive a lot of interesting questions from my co-workers around this time of year. You see, it's open enrollment time for our benefits, and we're making the ever-important decisions about medical coverage, dental programs, vision plans, life insurance, and tax savings accounts for 2007.

I'm thankful that our company provides credits toward our plans so that the cost isn't as expensive as if we were buying insurance on our own. And, I've been very pleased since our company switched to our new carriers 3 years ago. I've had no complaints, and all of my previous doctors are members of the plans we picked up.

However, this time of year - no matter how great the coverage is - becomes kind of stressful for some. "What if something happens to me this year? Will my family be OK if I'm no longer here? Have I left enough money for them? What if I am injured sometime this next year and I cannot work? Will I have enough money to survive while I am recuperating? Should I buy life insurance for my spouse? Should I even think about buying life insurance for my children?" Some employees set up appointments so that I can guide them through the internet enrollment form, but sometimes these meetings end up more like counseling sessions than online tutorials.

Of course, I don't have a spouse or children. So, my situation is a little different than 95% of the people here. However, this does make me think about what would happen if I do become ill and can't work... or how I am setting things up for my parents or brother if something were to happen to me. I know, it's seems kind of morbid to think about these types of things as a 33 year old, but I also realize it is important to be wise and carefully think out these choices.

Besides the more deep discussions about topics noted above, there have been some humorous situations with a few co-workers in the last week:

When feeling a little flustered about trying to compare two dental plans, a co-worker looked at me with wide eyes and seriously asked, "What do you think? Do you think I'll need a lot of dental work this year?" (I couldn't help but laugh. I know this co-worker well, but not that well. I have not inspected his teeth.)

I had one co-worker call me 4 times (each voicemail message over 3 minutes long) to tell me 1) that she thinks she lost her personal identification number to log into the enrollment system and she has looked all over her office for it; 2) that she definitely did lose her PIN and wondered how she could receive a new one; 3) that she was profusely apologetic that she lost the PIN and that she's never done that at any other job before; and finally 4) that her letter with her PIN was found right in the middle of her desk, turned over, when she realized that she was writing notes on it while making phone calls.

One co-worker was very mad after recently receiving a letter that his doctor would be leaving the area and closing his practice. So, he used the online medical plan site to look up new doctors in his vicinity. It seems that there are over 130 doctors within a 10 mile radius of his home, but he was very angry that these were all "terrible doctors." Well, after a half hour of listening to his venting, I finally got it out of him that he was looking for two doctors in particular and he was angry that they were not members of our medical plan. Of course, when I looked them up, the system showed that both doctors actually ARE in the plan. He was sure embarrassed, and he apologized that it had been a bad day and that he had taken his anger out on me.

One co-worker came into my office back in October on the day that notices were sent out that enrollment would begin on November 1. He made an appointment for the afternoon of November 15 (the closing day for enrollment) because - in his own words - "Let's be honest. I'm not even going to look at the enrollment before then, and I will put it off until the last minute like I do year after year. So, let's just plan for the last day." Guess there's nothing like being an organized procrastinator!

My thoughts are with all of you who are going through benefits enrollment and especially with the Human Resources staff who are helping employees enroll.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Heading North

Our small group of Sacred Harp singers will be starting our drive north to the Southern Wisconsin Shape-Note Singing within moments. Please be praying that we - along with our other St. Louis Shape Note Singers friends - have a safe trip there and back. We'll hope to have some great pictures and good memories to share next week.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thanksgiving Traditions

Over the past few days, I've been having a discussion with some friends over email about Thanksgiving traditions. The families are changing, some of the siblings or children are visiting in-laws, grandparents have passed away, and the holiday just doesn't feel like the holiday anymore. So, I started thinking of some ways that a family could institute some new (or revive some old) traditions to help Thanksgiving feel more like Thanksgiving year after year.

1) At the mealtime, move around the table and ask everyone to list a few things for which we are most thankful. This would lead to some good discussions....a great time of worshipping our Lord together.

2) Each year, a new person could be assigned to write down a few "thankful" verses and hand them out to different individuals to read aloud. A family could do all sorts of different things with them: see if the familiy members know where they are found in the Bible, try to remember the context of the verses around them, and try to help each other memorize those particular verses throughout the weekend, reciting them together several times a day.

3) After dinner, you could read a short story about the first settlers of our nation or discuss historical facts about their trip to the new world.

4) A different person is assigned each year to think of a craft project for the entire group to create after the Thanksgiving noon meal throughout the evening. This could be clay ornaments to paint, fleece blankets to tie, potholders on looms, shrinky dinks, papercrafts, decorating wreaths, snowmen out of clay pots, etc. Then, these can be kept or taken to a nearby elderly care facility.

5) We play some of the same games each year. And, a family could build this into something known as the "Thanksgiving Tournament." The same game could be played year after year...or a new challenge (cards or a board game) could be introduced each year to highlight everyone's strengths. You could have "friendly competition", but it would be fun to see who wins every year and possibly pass a traveling trophy.

6) We have some friends who always watch the same movie on Thanksgiving night - an epic that everyone loves. We don't watch the SAME movie...but we usually watch a movie. It would be fun for some to spend the afternoon making special snacks for the movie night. You could create some red and white popcorn boxes....along with raisins and peanuts dipped in chocolate. You could even open up the kitchen to see who could make the most creative and tasty snack.

Are there any traditions that your family has for this time of year?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Home For The Holidays (Already?)

It just dawned on me that the week after next is my favorite holiday. That means I'll start making plans for going home to spend some time with my family and that I'll soon see some of my cousins that I miss so much throughout the rest of the year. I can't wait for Thanksgiving.

But, it's usually about this time of year when I try to start thinking about...(and I can't believe I'm writing a post about this because seeing the decorations in the stores so soon kind of bugs me)...purchasing on-line gifts so that I allow enough time for their delivery before the holidays.

I know many families who don't celebrate Christmas as my family does. At the same time, many do exchange small presents or stuff stockings near the end of the year. This is one of my favorite things to do: finding UNIQUE stocking stuffers. And, even though my budget is small, I also try to find small items I can give to my friends at work! And do you know one of my favorite places to find them? The Oriental Trading Company.

No matter how you celebrate, there are many great, INEXPENSIVE stocking-stuffer-type items or anytime-gifts that you may order from their web site. Just remember that most of these items are listed and sold in bulk (usually one dozen), so you may buy a large number of them for a low price and give them to several friends and family members. The following are just a FEW of the MANY that stood out to me as possibilities. (I tried to provide direct links to the items...but the links kept changing. So, please click on the Oriental Trading Company link, and type in the corresponding item number or item name for the item you'd like to view in the site search window.)

For Teens and Adults:
Snowflake Sticky Notes JK-4/3698 (maybe complete the set with Snowflake Pens With Bouncing Putty JK-4/3563)
Pop-Up 2007 Calendar Notepad JK-4/3774
Foam Antenna Balls Snowman JK-4/2729 or Reindeer JK-4/4038 (maybe you could place one on each of your friends' cars at work or school)
Cast-Iron Muffin Pans Gingerbread JK-95/96 or Snowman JK-95/1203
Snowman Shaped Playing Cards JK-4/3000
Old-Fashioned Candy Sticks JK-K79
Tricot Snowman Chair Covers JK-4/2687
Swirled Peppermint Tealight Candles JK-4/3727

For the Crafty:
Flowerpot Polar Bear Kit JK-48/4076 (maybe for a small gathering of women at the church)
Craft Glue Dots Mini JK-48/3312 or Regular JK-48/3313 (good for so many crafts)
Animal Paper Puppet Kits Regular JK-48/245 or Zoo JK-48/576 (great to keep & make throughout the year)
Ceramic "Paint Your Own" Ornaments JK-4/2379 (need a project for when the family is together?)
Fleece Tied Pillow Craft Kit JK-48/4054

For the Kids:
Foam Gliders JK-5/723 (all shapes, sizes, and patterns...and safe around the house)
Hand Puppets Plush Animals JK-6/537, Cloth Animals JK-6/1298, People Professions JK-6/1023 , Multicultural JK-6/1156, or Fairy Tales JK-6/858
Wooden Friendship Club Kids JK-27/229
Holiday Card Game Assortment JK-4/2036
Snowflake Kaleidoscopes JK-4/242
Sports Ball Fleece Throw JK-26/2040
Denim Pocket Tote Bags JK-14/146 or Bright Color Tote Bags JK-14/69
Wooden Peg Game Assortment JK-27/568

If you're a person who shops for wrapping paper & holiday bags, please consider the huge assortment that this company has to offer. They are so much cheaper than our local stores, and they are UNIQUE! Just remember - as with all of these items - to not wait too long to order!

Be sure to check back at the site as each season changes.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

2006 Fall Meeting

If you would like to view some photos from our fall meeting that was just held at Little Flock Primitive Baptist Church this past weekend, please visit our picture page.

We are currently developing our web site and our pictures, so please bear with us until these are finalized and better organized. Also, please forgive some of our blurry photos from the weekend - as we were experiencing technical difficulties with the cameras.

We were greatly blessed by God... not only by the preaching by Elder Steven Bloyd and Elder Clayton Nowell... but also by the wonderful support from and fellowship with our visiting brothers and sisters. We were thankful to have visitors from churches in Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Illinois.

Sit Still, My Daughter

This poem was on my mind as I awoke this morning, and it seemed especially important that I review it today- and keep reviewing it. I thought others would enjoy it and benefit from it also.

Sit Still, My Daughter
by J. Danson Smith

Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
Nor deem these days--these waiting days--as ill.
The One who loves thee best, Who plans thy way,
Hath not forgotten thy great need today!
And, if He waits, 'tis sure He waits to prove
To thee, His tender child, His heart's deep love.

Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
Thou longest much to know thy dear Lord's will.
While anxious thoughts would almost steal their way
Corroding within, because of His delay--
Persuade thyself in simple faith to rest
That He, who knows and loves, will do the best.

Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
Nor move one step, not even one, until
His way hath opened. Then, ah then, how sweet!
How glad thy heart, and then how swift thy feet
Thy inner being then, ah then, how strong!
And waiting days not counted then too long.

Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
What higher service could'st thou for Him fill?
'Tis hard! ah yes! But choicest things must cost!
For lack of losing all how much is lost!
'Tis hard, 'tis true! But then--He giveth grace
To count the hardest spot the sweetest place.

This poem is based on a verse within one of my favorite books of the bible, Ruth. When Ruth returns from visiting Boaz and seems anxious to know if he will redeem her from the nearer kinsman and accept her as his wife, mother-in-law Naomi provides her counsel.
Ruth 3:18 Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.

Please see this site if you would like to know more about J. Danson Smith (sometimes noted as J. Danson-Smith) and the Christian publishing company for which he worked. Here are a few others of his poems that you might enjoy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Delaying Marriage

***Because it has been misunderstood by several, I feel I need to make a disclaimer and stress that the statements below are NOT MY OPINIONS - just my attempt to regurgitate several of the statements that have been printed within the books I have read on the subject. Please stay tuned for my reflections.***

For quite some time, I have been reading a group of books about single Christian adults, pondering the question of why so many of them remain single. The writers (men and women) put the responsibility on the shoulders of both men and women. (In short, women have held on to women's lib, have put career before godly womanhood, and have unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly) sent the message that they don't need or want men. Men have shrugged off the responsibilities of initiating and taking the lead while favoring their "single time" compared to marriage.) These are, of course, generalizations.

Almost all of these particular books place more "blame" for this delay on the men, however... and specifically cite the changes within church culture as one of the main reasons. Many claim that the current elder men of the church were better instructed (in their youth, by the elder men of the church of their time) to follow the biblical commandment of marriage - unless they were one of the very few who were given the gift of singleness. It seems men of the past were almost made fun of (instead of praised, which is common in current times) for placing their love of guy vacations and expensive toys as a higher priority than dealing with the marriage obstacles in their lives. In addition, the men have become hesitant in accepting their roles and initiating interactions with women in many arenas of life.

Beyond these, there are so many other "reasons" that are often cited: the invention of the group date, the church's acceptance of the worldview on gender rules, applying the reason of "gift of singleness" to a much larger group than God intended (or Paul described), super-fast changes within the cultures of generations (that usually took multiple generations to occur), women's confusion over pressure "to be all that life can offer", etc.

One man who is continually cited in these books is Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also writes a popular daily commentary on moral, cultural and theological issues. (I just want to point out that Mr. Mohler does not necessarily believe all of the ideas stated above. He is, however, quoted often for his strong concern about singles abandoning the biblical commandment to be married and "be fruitful and multiply.") For those who have time, I would like you to consider reading this transcript from a radio program that featured Dr. Mohler's address to a Christian singles conference.

(Ed. The transcript (or media presentation) link has been corrected. Sorry for the confusion.)

Christian friends and family, what do you think about the comments posted above or the radio show transcript?

(P.S. If you are reading this blog and you are hesitant to comment because you think I don't know who you are, please do comment and join in the discussions. It is very likely that I DO know exactly who you are...or that we have many mutual friends...or - most likely- that I read YOUR blog each day. If none of these apply, I am always happy to make a new friend!)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Health Challenge

Piano Man and I are heading into a 21-week, intense HEALTH CHALLENGE in an attempt to get down the pounds, get up off the couch, increase our activity, decrease our cholesterol, lower our heart rates, raise our spirits, eliminate our excuses, develop our muscles, attack our BMIs, surrender to good common sense, lose bad habits, find new paths, and gain good healthy lives.

We each have our own goals, methods, dietary needs, dietary restrictions, and plans set in place. And, the "winner" receives a big monetary benefit toward the vacation we hope to take together this coming summer. But, we're in this together.


Wherever we go, whatever we do,
we're gonna go through it together.
We may not go far (YES WE WILL!), but sure as a star,
wherever we are, it's together.

Wherever I go I know he goes.
Wherever I go I know she goes.
No fits, no fights, no feuds (USUALLY?!)
and no egos, Amigos, together!

Through thick and through THIN!
all out or all in.
And whether it's win, place or show.
With you for me and me for you,
we'll muddle through whatever we do.
Together, wherever we go!

We probably never will post our weights here.....but from time to time, you may just see reports about how much weight we've lost or the percentage of the goal we've reached. Would you like to join us in becoming healthy? Feel free to jump on our team, and check in from time to time. (I'll even send you little motivational emails and helpful tips like I am sending Dad!)

Either way, we hope you will encourage us, provide gentle reminders, comment if you notice any good results, and...most of all...pray for us during this very important time.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


As you know, I wrote that I needed to start keeping track of the pumpkin signs with "creative spelling" around this area. And, in the last week, I have seen MANY... but spelled in the following ways:

pumpkins (YAY!)

Makes one want to rip up the signs and just chuck them.

Buy, hey! Instead of chucking the signs, have you ever thought of chucking the pumpkins?

That's what my brother does with his physics class each year at the Morton Pumpkin Festival "Punkin Chuckin' Competition." Be sure to check out the photos of the trebuchet, the physics students from Illini Bluffs High School, and my brother. Congratulations to the class for beating its previous record!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Déjà Vu (...Déjà Vu...)

While sitting at the church lunch tables on Sunday, my father started telling Lydia a story about his college days, his major, his trombone and low brass courses, and receiving an A from his professor. As much as Lydia HAD to be amused by the extremely interesting tale, someone else at the table was much more keenly aware of what Piano Man was saying. That listener was Brother Alan.

Now, those of you who know Piano Man are well aware of the fact that he's known for telling a story and repeating it and and then repeating it again - ensuring that everyone in the surrounding area has been able to fully appreciate the humor or interesting point of the story (if there is one.) However, that tendency still can't explain why Brother Alan felt the oddest sense of déjà vu while listening to Dad reminisce about his classes. Dad has never spoken to Alan about his college days. And, believe it or not, I don't think even I have witnessed the telling of that particular college memory. But, Alan - after reporting to work on Monday evening - still had goose bumps when remembering the Sunday event and told me he could have asked Dad to stop and taken over telling the story because the details were that clear in his "memory."

Since then, déjà vu (a.k.a. paramnesia) has been on my mind (when not thinking about heteronyms, that is.) And, I wonder if the preoccupation with the subject has caused me to fool myself because last night, when entering my house to prepare for the trick-or-treaters, I experienced the same type of chills that Alan experienced two days prior. (I almost always enter my house in the same way...but it was the feeling that I was entering in the EXACT SAME WAY...with the same purpose, with the same thoughts, with the same items on my steps, with the same items in my hands.)

I've discovered that the term "déjà vu" was coined by French psychic researcher Émile Boirac in his book, The Future of Psychic Sciences. It's translated as 'already seen', and it's that strange and eerie feeling that you've seen the exact same picture or situation before. And, scientific studies show that a little over 70% of the population have experienced it. (What's more fascinating is that almost 30% have not...or that many have experienced it only once!!)

Little did I know that there are three specific types of déjà vu:

Déjà vécu (translated 'already lived through'): the experience of déjà vu with more senses than mere sight, sensing great amounts of matching details from a "previous experience" (This is what most of us describe as deja vu.)

Déjà senti (translated 'already felt'): the experience of déjà vu as primarily a mental happening with very little memory or recognition of it afterward, with a trigger that will bring a recollection of familiarity to an individual

Déjà visité (translated 'already visited'): the less common experience of knowing a new place while knowing that there should be no prior geographical or spatial knowledge (This might happen when you are on vacation and have the feeling that you'll surely find a small church down the road on the left hand side.)

Here are a few other related terms that I thought were fascinating:

Jamais vu (translated 'never seen'): the experience of being in a situation that one rationally knows she or he has been in before while eerily sensing being in the situation for the first time

Presque vu (translated 'almost seen'): the sensation of being on the brink of an epiphany, often feeling like something is "on the tip of one's tongue."

L'esprit de l'escalier or l'esprit des escaliers (translated 'staircase wit', as in what you think of while on the stairs leaving a party): remembering something when it's too late, such as a clever come-back to a rude remark. (It seems I experience this even more often than déjà vécu!) :)

Have you had any occurrences with these phenomena that are still memorable to this day?