Monday, November 28, 2011

Running On Empty ~ Filling Station Ahead


"Hey, Babe ~ the gas light is on," I casually mention from the passenger seat.

"What?  OK, well, I think there's an exit coming up," he replies.

He NEVER lets the gas light come on.  That's more my style. ;-)

I push the mode button on the digital screen that will give us our DTE ~ Distance-To-Empty.

8 miles.

We are hurrying home from an annual denominational meeting, in order to see our friend and fellow church member, Lynda, who has just tragically lost her son, Josh ~ another friend and sister-church member.  She called us the day before to let us know he was gone.  It was a bitter shock, but not totally unexpected. It had been hoped against, prayed against, but now was painful reality. The church had already rallied in our absence, but we wanted to be there, needed to lend a hand in the details.

"I think there is an exit just around this bend," Robert spoke confidently.

DTE ~ 6 miles.

We are on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and it is not known for its frequent exits. In fact, you are hard pressed to see anything that resembles civilization on this turnpike, because of the trees and mountains.  Twice I've had to drive almost all the way to the New York border, because I missed the Westfield exit and all the warning signs that there would not be another exit for 30 miles.  It's not like driving on I-35 in Texas where you can SEE the gas station signs and billboards shooting up from their locations, where you can just glance to the left or the right and easily observe all of your restaurant options and count the number of Starbucks'.  No, no visual reassurance that we are anywhere near fuel, just trees with the rusty fall colors that occur right before they are gone for the winter.  And no exit around this bend, just a big hill to climb looming in front of us.

DTE ~ 4 miles.

"Lord, please have mercy on us.  Don't let us run out of gas on the Masspike," Robert prays as he begins to experience more anxiety, because at this point we can SEE nearly 4 miles straight ahead of us on the highway lined with its hedge and barrier trees.  (Not that I'm complaining.  I'd rather have fall rusty colored trees and evergreens than billboards any day.  Well, except for today.)

DTE ~ 2 miles

Our hearts begin skipping beats, and Robert laments aloud, "Why didn't I sign up for AAA last week when their invitation came in the mail?  What do you do when you run out of gas on the turnpike?  Is there an emergency number to call or something?  We are NOT going to make it."

DTE ~ 0 miles

The approaching green exit sign says that the next exit is 2 miles away.  We hold our breath and brace for the sensation of a sputtering engine, as we climb yet another hill.  This is looking ominous, but at least 2 miles is a walk-able distance.

DTE ~ 0 miles

The monitor continues to read 0 miles for at least 2 more miles as we approach the exit.  We swirl around the exit loop and coast effortlessly into the Shell station and right up to the pump, our bundled nerves beginning to unwind.

"This is just like our life," I breathe out in frustrated relief, and almost in tears now that relief has been provided.  "We live like this ALL of the time ~ from one drama or trial or burden to another ~ never having time to refuel ~ fearing that we're 'not going to make it' because we're out of time, money, energy, compassion...."

"I know," he replies, "but this is going to be a wonderful illustration for the Leviticus sermon tomorrow."

Ugh.

And in spite of my not wanting to have stress for the sake of sermons, it was indeed a perfect illustration.  The sermon was about having an abundance mentality and not a scarcity mentality.  And we're not talking about the "name it-claim it ~ my-God-wants-me-to-drive-a-Lexus" mentality, but rather an outlook that doesn't fear being generous with what you may view as very limited resources.  "God doesn't give us a big pile of money, and a big pile of time, and a big pile of energy, and then ask us to go and serve and give generously," Robert explained to the congregation the next day, "He asks us to be generous by trusting in His abundance."

"Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger.  I am the Lord Your God."  
Leviticus 19: 9-10

We were obviously out of gas, but we were still able to drive the amount of miles it took to get to the Shell station and fill up again.  It was a picture of His provision for us when, by all appearances, it seemed like we had nothing left.

It is a fact that we have, indeed, been living this way for quite some time now, and we have come, several times, to the point where we did not think we were going to make it ~ emotionally, financially, physically.  I have thought often of the words of Paul...

"For even when we came to Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within..." 
2 Corinthians 7:5

Oh, it has not been so terrible!  There have been SO many joys, but it has also been constant and intense, and we've felt the effects of this rather acutely in the last 3 years ~ no rest for our flesh, conflicts, fears, and afflictions. 

So.....we're going take some time for intentional rest and refueling soon. Our church has really come together on our behalf, and is sending us off on a 3 month sabbatical.  We are so overwhelmed with gratitude, and SO ready to "unplug" for a time.  And it seems to have come at just in time, as the last 2 months have been fraught with griefs and burdens we did not see coming and wondered how we would have the stamina to walk through, especially in our anticipation of rest. I hope I don't sound too whiny when I tell you that we are just plain weary. 
We leave in 10 days ~ hurray!

So eager, so grateful for yet another abundant provision by a generous God.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Eucharisteo ~ He Gave Thanks

Gregory and Kory share a laugh over a Trivial Pursuit question.
         I've been following Ann Voskamp's blog for a little while now ~ beautiful photos, kind and gracious tone, homeschool mom of six, farmer's wife, Compassion International blogger and traveler. When I learned she was writing a book about gratitude I was so intrigued, as I have been on my own gratitude-is-the-key-to-joy-in-Jesus journey.  I put the book on my Amazon wishlist several months ago, and then two weeks ago it appeared in my mailbox, and not because I ordered it, but because a friend in Pennsylvania was compelled to send it to me.  She had no idea it was on my wishlist. We aren't even in regular contact. Hmmmmm....                                               
The GIRLS' table!
I had already been reading verses like this, and taking heart in the wording. Thanksgiving is being offered as a sacrifice.  It is a choice.  It is not usually easy ~ sacrifices are typically painful ~ to give thanks in all things, but it is a good thing to do.

Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.
Psalm 54:6

It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.
Psalm 92:1

To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord.
Psalm 116:17

The dining room crew.
 I was also praying things like this in my journal:

June 2, 2011
Lord, forgive my grumblings ~ all of which your Word says are against You and You only.  As I pray and ask You to speak to me in my times with You and and in Your Word, this is the theme I see lately:  Be thankful.  Even if it must be offered as a painful sacrifice.  Food and water seem like very legitimate things for the Israelites to be grumbling about when they once lived in plenty and then lived in the desert.  Still you called what they did grumbling ~ and not against Moses, but against You....Sometimes it feels like meaningless restrictions You've placed on me, and yet I know You are good and I take heart in the fact that Your Word calls the giving of thanks a sacrifice.  You acknowledge that it is not always easy or natural, but that it is good for me and it honors You. Strengthen me to be obedient and let my giving of thanks not always feel like a painful sacrifice, but rather a natural response.
Time to feast!
The living room crew.
 And this:

June 3, 2011
"I will render thank offerings to You.  For You have delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the light of the living." Psalm 56: 12-13

Lord, the above is more teaching from you on being thankful.  Help me to do this, to be this.  Open my eyes to your many gifts and blessings.  Move my heart to gratitude.  Help me move quickly to having this perspective:  the fact that you have "delivered my soul from death" is ALWAYS something to be thankful for when I can't seem to see anything else, and really, that fact alone should always suffice.  It should overwhelm me, actually.

Coffee, pie, and games.
 So, I open Ann's book, One Thousand Gifts, which begins with the story of the tragic, childhood death of her little sister, and the adult musings of whether or not her heart will ever have full joy...

"And my life knew how elusive that that slippery three-letter word, joy, can be....I longed for more life, for more holy joy." p. 32

So do I, Ann.  Tell me how to have this holy joy, my kindred sister.  And I turn the pages as fast as I can, but still slow enough to follow her story.
Some special ladies and sweet friends ~ Kristina & Christie.
Then, just four pages later, I read this:

" 'On the night when Jesus was betrayed, the Lord took some bread and gave thanks (eucharisteo) to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces...' (1 Corinthians 11: 23-24) Jesus, on the night before the driving hammer and iron piercing through ligament and sinew, receives what God offers as grace (charis), the germ of His thanksgiving (eucharistia)?  Oh.  Facing the abandonment of God Himself (does it get any worse than this?), Jesus offers thanksgiving for even that which will break Him and crush Him and wound him and yield a bounty of joy (chara).  The mystery always contains more mysteries. Do I really want this way?" p. 36
Letting the food digest.
Do I really want this way?  This choosing to offer thanks in ALL circumstances?  Even in betrayal?  Even in physical pain? In weary despair?

Yes, because there is really no other path to joy. The Lord has been faithful to teach me the exact same things He taught Ann. There is no other avenue to intimacy with and joy in Christ than this offering of thanks.

"Eucharisteo, the Greek word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live ~ this is the only way from empty to full." p. 41

So yes, Lord, I will strive to quiet my grumblings and instead offer sacrifices of thanksgiving to You.  I want to know you in the fullness of your joy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gluten Free Friday ~ Super Easy Sausage Stew


It's not exactly Thanksgiving leftovers, but I suppose you could substitute turkey for the sausage!  And it's not original, but just another naturally gluten free dish I discovered in Real Simple magazine. (Have I mentioned that I like that magazine a little bit?) Anyway, this is a really easy recipe ~ very little prep, and a slow cooker dish at that. I threw all of the ingredients in the crock pot last Sunday morning before church, and the house smelled wonderful once we got back home.  I made some corn bread in a hot, buttered cast-iron skillet to go with it, and everyone loved it.

It's actually called....


White Bean and Kielbasa Stew


1 pound dry white dry beans (I used navy beans)
1lb kielbasa, halved lengthwise & sliced (or any favorite sausage OR turkey!)
4 cups GF chicken broth
1 cup water
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
5 oz baby spinach (I used frozen)


In your crockpot (4-6qt sized) add all ingredients.  Stir to combine, and cook on high for 5-6 hours or low 7 to 8 hours.


That's it!  Super easy, super scrumptious!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Thanksgiving Elves & Menu

 One thing I'm thankful for these days is having BIG kids who can do BIG chores around here!  I really don't know what I would have done without them the last couple of weeks.  Last week we hosted a reception here after the burial of a dear one, Josh.  I don't think there have EVER been that many people in my tiny house.  Robert was out of town, and so I depended on my kiddos to do a lot of the cleaning and preparing.  They were SO helpful.  Katie and Taylor, two sweet friends, also came over for the morning and helped me pull off all of the food.  
Could. Not. Have. Done. It. Without. Them.  Whew!
 Well, my helpers are back at it today in preparation for another houseful of guests tomorrow for Thanksgiving.  They don't even really mind working, because Thanksgiving is one of their favorite holidays.  When, in a moment of weariness, I suggested that we go to someone else's house for Thanksgiving this year, they all but staged a revolt!  

So, they've been working all morning.  Cooper cleaned 2 bathrooms, vacuumed the stairway, and cleaned the windows on our mudroom doors.  Kayla made 2 pumpkin pies all by herself, peeled several bags of carrots, made the cider glaze for the turkey, cornbread for dressing, and ran loads of laundry in between!  (Oh ~ and she also had a piano lesson somewhere in there!) Kayla invited Cooper to join her in peeling bags of carrots, and a few moments into the job he declared, "This is so satisfying!"  And no, he wasn't joking, so guess what his new all-time kitchen chore will be?  Kory set up our second dining room table in the living room, arranged chairs, and brought extras up from the basement.  He also dusted some of the wood blinds, and helped Robert get the window unit air conditioners back up to the attic for the winter.
 And Robert's annual Thanksgiving chore is to iron all of the tablecloths and cloth napkins. (We get out the white tablecloths and use the real china on this special day.) He actually likes to iron, so this gives him a little bliss for a good hour or more ~ in the basement with his iTunes cranked up.
 
I'm sure I've mentioned my love for Real Simple magazine before.  Well, the November issue had a full Thanksgiving menu, recipes, shopping list, and timeline for preparation.  It looked like things we typically serve with a few new things that looked delicious, and nothing that seemed too complicated, so I basically did almost everything that they suggested.  Here's our almost exclusively Real Simple inspired menu, and it's all gluten free, of course:

Appetizers:
Crudités & Roasted Onion Dip
Cheese & Apple Platter ~ Brie, Goat, and Gouda
Rice & Lentil Crackers
Olive Plate

Main Course:
(Don't tell my dad, but I'm trying a new cornbread dressing recipe from Eating Well magazine!)
Praline Sweet Potatoes
Popovers

My dear friend Christie is also bringing:
Brisket
Ham
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Cornbread Dressing

Drinks:
Sparkling Cider ~ Apple, Blueberry, Cranberry
Iced Tea
Apple Cider
Mineral Water & Assorted Juices
Champagne
(for the grownups!)

Desserts:
Pecan Pie
(Ruth Rowland's famous!)
Cherry Pie
Popsicles
(Requested by Christie's daughter, 6 year old Mikiah)

Coffee & Tea

Well, there you have it! What about you? What are you making this year?


OK ~ Time to go help Kayla finish peeling potatoes! Hope you and your have a wonderful time celebrating all of your good gifts and blessings together tomorrow...


What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
I shall lift up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord...


To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving...


Psalm 116: 12-17

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Celebrations & Sadnesses


  Been lots of ups and downs here lately.  One of the "ups" was the chance to celebrate not only Robert's birthday at the end of October, but also the end of his 20th year in ministry.  In September of 1991, he took a youth minister position at Manchaca Baptist Church near Austin, TX, began seminary, and was ordained shortly afterward.  We spent 4 years at that church, were married during that time, and had our first child ~ a very special time with lots of milestones and memories. Now lots of those teenagers we were driven crazy by worked with have been married for nearly 10 years and have multiple children!  A couple of them have even joined us in Massachusetts at one point or another.  (Lois! Austin! Chad! Steve! Josh!) Love keeping up with them via Facebook and through yearly visits to the church.
In 1995 he was asked to take a University minister position at University Heights Baptist Church in Stillwater, OK.  There, Robert was able to work alongside his former college minister, Tom Westbrook, who had become the pastor of that church after his ministry to college students at the University of Texas.  We spent another 4 years there, bought our first home, made special, lifelong friends, and had baby #2.   Some of those students and friends are also now with us here in Massachusetts or have come  to serve at various times over the years. (Ryan, Christie, Curtis, Brandy!) It was a trip to Student Week in Glorietta, NM in those Oklahoma years during which Robert heard a church planter speak, and was moved to tears.  He knew that the Lord was showing him in that moment that church planting was a possibility for the future.                 
    
Well, that possibility came WAY sooner than either of us expected it would (thanks to Curtis C. and John R.), and so in 1999 we loaded up our little white Stanza with a four year old Kory, and a 2 year old Cooper and headed to New England. (The blue truck and our other worldly belongings followed 2 weeks behind.)  
We've been here twelve and a half years now.
Baby #3 was born in that first year here, (that makes one Texan, one Okie, and one Yankee!) and she is a definite highlight of those years, but the other highlight for me has been the twice-a-year baptism services we've had every year since we arrived to start our church here.  What a privilege and honor to hear so many stories, see so many lives changed by the gospel of Christ ~ "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."
 
And so it was time to celebrate this honor and privilege ~ and this man whom I have watched passionately serve, teach, preach, pastor, and lead with humility and with the Spirit-enabled pure motive of seeing people come to know Christ and churches planted in a part of our country where The Great Awakenings happened, but have have long since been put to sleep.
So we had a BIG party in my LITTLE house!  Thankfully, it was a lovely fall day and not too cold.  The house was full and so was the yard. There were lots of faces, pulled pork sandwiches by Bill C. topping the day's menu,  notes of encouragement written to the pastor, hugs, and laughter ~ ALL of the exact things I prayed for.  I also LOVED having everyone at my house.  That was a big part of how we started the church, and it was so wonderful to have old and new faces all together here again.

The down side, though, of having a front row seat in the individual and personal lives of so many, of being so intimately involved with countless people is watching them suffer, and saying goodbyes ~ goodbyes that are temporary (summers, graduations, moves...) and goodbyes that are forever. 
Forever in the here and now, anyway.
We were devastated to hear about Josh's (with the knit cap) death last week.  He's been a dear one almost ever since we arrived in Massachusetts.  An incredibly gifted musician, a chef extraordinaire, and a faithful servant in and outside of the church, Josh was loved by all.  My favorite personal memories of Josh are watching him teach my boys to cook a delicious salmon dinner in my kitchen (aprons and fingers curled away from the knife!) and the amazing gourmet meals he used to cook for our spring church banquets. (Butter, anyone?)  I'll also miss passing his smiling face walking to work on my early morning runs through town.

Josh left our church to be a part of the first church our church planted.  He ministered there for the last three years and was also ministered to in his struggles.   If you skip to the 9 minute mark in this video made by fellow church member, Tommy, you can hear it in Josh's own words...


Oh, it is the end we sometimes feared, but not the end any of us were hoping and praying for, and so we look forward to our reunion with Josh in the not yet.  He was buried yesterday.  We will celebrate his life in a special service tomorrow morning.  It will be a celebration amidst the sadness.

Praising the Lord for 20 years of the joys and even the heartaches of walking with and serving Him and His church ~ an honor and a privilege.  Thanking the Lord for a husband who never wavers in his devotion to this call.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gluten Free Friday ~ Cross Country, Coconut & Red Lentil Curry

 Cooper completed his final cross country race by earning himself a new personal record.  He ran his 5K in 22:46 which is great for him!  His team swept the championship by taking 1st place in JV girls and boys, as well as Varsity boys and girls.  Coop had sort of a love-hate relationship with cross country, but he did it.  He completed the season and persevered through the daily practices, which were anything from a 2 mile run and track work to a 6-mile run all over town.

Way to go, COOPER!
 
He never went to practice without his basketball in his backpack, though.  Before and after cross country practice, he could be found in the high school gym or on the outdoor court shooting hoops ~ his true passion.  He can hardly wait for basketball season, which we will be in Texas for.  He's been allowed a spot on the Austin, TX homeschool team which we hope will work out well for him.
In other news, have I mentioned that I really love coconut milk?  And lentils?  And Indian food?  Well, I do, and here's a really easy vegetarian, gluten free, and dairy free recipe that encompasses all of those loves.  It reminds me of something they serve on the hot prepared food bar at Whole Foods ~ so delicious.

Coconut & Red Lentil Curry

1 onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp ginger root, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
1 jalepeno or serrano pepper, finely chopped
2 cups water
1 1/2 cup dried red lentils
1 can coconut milk
1 zucchini
cilantro


Saute onion in olive oil about 6 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and saute 2 or 3 more minutes.  Add the cumin, coriander, tumeric, salt, jalepeno, and saute 2 more minutes.


Stir in the water, lentils, and coconut milk.  Simmer about 5 minutes.  Stir in zucchini and simmer until just tender.


Serve over rice.


Friday, November 4, 2011

The Race THAT IS set before us...

We completed another half-marathon about 3 weeks ago! It was Robert's second and my third.  He had to miss last year's because of foot and knee injuries, but thankfully, he has recovered almost completely, and was able to run again this year.  It was definitely an answered prayer, and we were so grateful, as it is something we have really enjoyed doing together in recent years.
Last year, my friend Jess, ran in Robert's place.  As we ran, Jess asked me how I was doing.  She knew that I had been through sort of a dark time of despair and weariness. I shared with her how the Lord had been using Hebrews 12: 1-3 to encourage me.  That was almost exactly one year ago.  Well, this year is no different in that those verses are still teaching and encouraging me.

I think I mentioned a while back that I have been participating in Beth Moore's Scripture Memory Challenge this year.  For it, you are required to memorize two verses per month and post them on her blog on the 1st and 15th.  Completion of the challenge allows you to go to a conference in January (in Houston, TX) just for those who participated ~ for free!  I'm already registered, and can hardly wait.  My friend Karla is even coming down to Texas from Massachusetts to go with me!  (Since I will be there for our sabbatical already.)
The verses I decided to memorize are Hebrews 11: 24 - Hebrews 12:3  and Psalm 71: 5-6 & 17-19.  As our half-marathon approached, the verses I was memorizing were Hebrews 12: 1-3...

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race THAT IS set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
A few days before the race, it had struck me that the words were not "the race set before us," (which I had always thought) but rather "the race THAT IS set before us."  I'm sure it doesn't sound like that big of a difference to you, and it probably has no "hermeneutical" bearing on the meaning, but to me it sounded more personal.  When I noticed the 
"THAT IS" as I was memorizing, it seemed like a more intentional setting of the race.  It sounded as if the race that was set before me was purposefully individual, and as if Jesus had specifically set THIS race before ME.  More like a calling; less like a cookie cutter.
Of course, Christians are all on "the race" of life and faith, being sanctified as we go.  It's just that the "THAT IS" helped me to understand that my sanctification is meant to come through the race that Christ has chosen for me, because to be honest, I'm not always thrilled with the race that He has set before me.  Sometimes, I wish I had someone else's race.  The "THAT IS" revelation helped me embrace my own.

Running a half-marathon together just always seems a great reminder and re-enactment of this race of life and faith "THAT IS" set before us. There is usually an eager start, and a victorious finish. There are many good miles, and then there may be some painful, agonizing ones.  There is a crowd (or a cloud!) of those who have already finished the race cheering you on, and even those who are non-running spectators will smile and cheer at your passing by.  
There were protesters along our route this year, too.

The "joy set before me" at the Hartford half-marathon was a big lunch at P.F. Chang's, a hot bubble bath, and a bowl of frozen yogurt with dark chocolate and raspberries on top!

I'm learning to be thankful for and surrender to the race that has been purposefully set before me as an avenue of sanctification.  It amazes me that the Lord knows me this intimately and arranges for a specific path that will be according to my personal need and to His ultimate glory.

It reminds me of a couple of scenes from my favorite book, Stepping Heavenward ~ especially one in which Katy is having a conversation (or possibly receiving a gentle rebuke!) about sanctification with one of her husband's older, godly patients:

"But if God chooses quite another lot for you, you may be sure that He sees that you need something totally different from what you want. You said just now that you would gladly go through any trial in order to attain a personal love for Christ that should become the ruling principle of your life.  Now, as soon as God sees this desire in you, is He not King, is He not wise in appointing such trials as He knows will lead to this end?"

and another in which she (an older, wiser Katy) is talking about submission to Christ with her sister-in-law:

"...but to receive every tiresome visitor as sent expressly and directly 
to weary me by the Master Himself; 
to meet every negligence on the part of the servants as His choice for me at the moment; to be satisfied and patient when Ernest gets particularly absorbed in his books, because my Father sees that little discipline suitable for me at the time; all this I have not fully learned."

I have not fully learned this immediate submission to His chosen circumstances for me either, but I take heart in the truth that they were set before me by my Lord and lovingly intended to grow our relationship in intimacy.

P.S.  We beat our best times by about 10 minutes this year!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

You Can Blame Your October Snowstorm & Power Outages on Kayla!

 Look at that smile.  She has been the happiest girl in the world, because her current two biggest desires and prayer requests came true all in one weekend:

1. That we would get a lot of snow before we leave for our sabbatical in Texas. ("I love snow, Mom.  I don't want to be in a place where's there's no snow in winter!!!")

2.  That our whole family would all watch a movie together in front of the fire, and then all sleep together in the living room. (Mom never wants to do the sleeping-together-in-the-living-room-thing.  She likes her bed too much.)
Kayla had some special friends over for Saturday afternoon and evening!

 Well, on Saturday, October 29 it started raining, and eventually snowing BIG, HUGE FLAKES.  And it did not stop until the next morning.  And did I mention that it was October?

Robert was out of town (his flight home from a funeral in Texas was canceled), so the kids and I made some preparations in case of a power outage, which we kept being warned of via news shows, automated calls from our town manager, and flashing signs on the major highways.  Kory split some wood for kindling, we brought in a stack of logs to keep by the fireplace, rounded up all of our candles, matches, and flashlights, and then hunkered down while watching Elf.  Even though it was October, it certainly felt like Christmas with the winter wonderland being created outside our window!
That small tree had already snapped and fallen down over our backyard swing.
After the movie was over, the power finally went out.  We lit candles, stoked the fire, and gathered bedding so that we could all sleep in front of the fireplace that night, as it was expected to get to as low as 22 degrees.  There was over 6 inches of snow on the ground at this point ~ in OCTOBER.
After our beds were made the kids (well, two of them) asked for story time, so I read a little of Where the Red Fern Grows, which is Cooper's novel for school this week, and a little of a Max Lucado storybook.  It was after midnight when we stopped reading and tried to sleep.  Kory is certain he did not sleep at all, but was tending the fire all night. I, on the other hand, am sure I witnessed some heavy breathing on his part,as I got up to put logs on the fire several times throughout the night!
This is what our street looked like the next morning after about a foot of snow had fallen.  Can you see all of those power lines sagging under the weight of the snow that lines them as well as the branches that hang on them?  Well, today is Thursday and there are still power lines and branches and entire trees down everywhere!
The town declared a state of emergency.  The public schools have been closed all week.  Radio stations are broadcasting which gas stations are open, and the Red Cross and National Guard have been called in.  It still looks like a war zone almost one week later.  We were fortunate to receive power back about 24 hours after it went out, but we also live on the main highway through town, and I think the streetlamps, stoplights, and businesses were a priority.
The kids have enjoyed the new scenery and adventures that were created in our backyard because of the storm.  A large tree in our yard that was literally uprooted has now become a fun bridge and fort for airsoft gun battles. Unfortunately, it has also been impetus for manly adventures with knives, and Kory landed in the emergency room yesterday after he lacerated a tendon while whittling a fallen branch.  He's doing all right today, but will have to have a minor surgery to repair the tendon on Friday. Sigh.  Yesterday contained FAR more drama than I was prepared for, to say the least!
The morning after we lost power and were roasting bagels  and muffins in the fireplace for breakfast, Kayla said joyfully, "God answered my prayer!  I prayed that we would get a lot of snow before we left for Texas, and that our whole family could sleep together in the living room ~ and we did!"  (Well, Robert was missing, but she was still satisfied.)

So, there you have it.  It's all Kayla's fault, and she's loved every minute of it.  The prayers of a righteous 11 year old availeth MUCH!
It WAS October, remember?