Monday, July 25, 2016

20+ Years of Friendship

Friendship. It's one of those hard things to define.  I even looked to Webster for help, but he gave me nothing, simply defining it as "the state of being friends".  It's easier to describe what friendship is by how it affects me and makes me feel.  Over twenty-five years ago (how can that be?) I began friendships with several girls with whom I still have the privilege of them being involved in my life on a fairly regular basis.   They are girls who knew me as a young child who grew with me into junior-highers, high-schoolers and eventually going off to college with most of them.  We've been in each others weddings; been there for each other during two of our spouses deployments; and hosted many baby showers (as you will see in the group picture).  We've been through the ups and downs of job changes, moves, parenting trials and just dealing with the struggles of real life stuff.  So, to me, friendship should be defined as any person who knows you well, who has walked with you through difficult days, who encourages you to pursue your dreams, who pushes you to be better even when it might not be what you want to hear and who is willing to lend a helping hand whenever it's needed. Two verses epitomize what friendship is, Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another" and Proverbs 17:17 "A friend loves at all times."  These ladies have been both of these things to me, helping to knock off my sharp edges as they have loved me through thick and thin.  Lindsey coined the phrase "kidney friends" meaning, we are all friends who would donate a kidney if need be and that pretty much sums up "friendship".

So this past weekend we had a little mini reunion with all of our families.   Most of us now live back in Little Rock but Lindsey's family had to make the three hour trek from NWA.  Thanks so much for making the effort!  It was a pleasure to all be back together under one roof even if just for a few hours.  Here is the whole crew, we have sufficiently been fruitful and multiplied!
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The kids kept busy with an all out water balloon fight, I'm pretty sure we went through 400 plus balloons.
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They also enjoyed playing games and just running around outside, thanks Christy for hosting!
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The girls preferred to be inside and playing with the animals.
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These are the women who have been in my life for quite some time now.  I'm thankful for each one of you and grateful to be able to walk together through this journey called life.
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It's also such a blessing when your spouse enjoys being around your friends husbands too! I loved hearing the laughter coming from their direction cause it made my heart smile!   Life-long friendships are a treasure, one I don't take for granted!  I love each of you and am oh so grateful for the time we got to spend together! (Now lets not wait so long to do this next time, or some of us will have teenagers, yikes!!)
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Changes Are Happening: Kid Snacks

As a mom to four kids who seem to constantly be hungry, even just moments after finishing any one of our three meals a day, I struggle to have healthy, go-to snacks on hand for when those growling bellies start to roar.  For so long I went to the regular, normal processed kid snacks.  We had a loaded up pantry full of Goldfish, Wheat Thins, chips of all varieties and always a Little Debbie dessert to throw in their lunch boxes for school.  This summer however, I've been trying to make changes in the way my kids and I eat and snack, so today I thought I'd share some kid snack ideas that I've found and follow it up with what I've been trying to do lately.

Here are a few of our favorites kid snacks so far.  My friend Carol introduced me to the bottomless pit of popsicle ideas that are out on Pinterest.  I took her lead and ordered popsicle molds off Amazon and have really loved it.  At first I was cynical and thought it would be too time consuming but literally it only takes a few minutes.  All you need are popsicle molds, whatever fruit you like best (we've done sliced strawberries, kiwi and blueberries), and some Coconut water.   So just three to five ingredients and you're ready to go.  Here's my kiddos enjoying their healthy popsicle treats while dressed as a pirate and a storm trooper.
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I followed Double The Batch's tips on how to do this.
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One of the snacks that I have really enjoyed eating, which I also got off Double The Batch's website were these delicious sliced apples slathered in peanut butter and sprinkled with granola.   I switched her mini chocolate chips to raisins --I'm sure that the chocolate would be a hit too, but we've not done that so far.  These don't sit out on our counter too long, because they get scarfed up!
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Another great cold snack treat that my kids have enjoyed are these quick and easy yogurt drops.   I found this idea over at A Healthy Slice of Life.  These were truly simple, easy and fast to make.  All you need is some Greek yogurt (any flavor will work).  Other then that all you need is a piping bag (a ziplock with a corner snipped off will work too) a cookie sheet and some sprinkles for fun.  All you do is pipe out little dollops on your cookie sheet, add a dash of sprinkles then pop them in the freezer for an hour or so and they're ready to go.  My kids have eaten the entire container of these in the last day so I'll have to get another round into the freezer and ready for consumption.
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So there's a quick look at some of our favorite kid snacks this summer.  I'm always looking for tasty yet healthy treats so drop me your ideas in the comment section below.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Splash Pad and Trolley Ride

One of the activities on my summertime "bucket list" was to take the kids and do the Farmers Market down in the River Market, do the Peabody splash pad and take the trolley ride across the river over into North Little Rock.  I'd told Carol it was something I was wanting to do, so we decided to give it a go.

We arrived early, parked our cars and unloaded our nine kids.  We got many, many looks and had several people comment that "we had our hands full"...but as she always says, "hands full heart fuller" and I totally concur!  We decided to bring strollers to help carry the food we were looking forward to purchasing in the market, the beach towels, the picnic lunches as well as all the other necessities; we looked a bit like pack mules, but that's ok.
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The River Market wasn't huge but there were several booths to buy from and Ava Jane helped me pick out some squash, zucchini, cucumbers and blueberries.
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We didn't spend a ton of time picking out food, we pretty much got what we wanted and headed to the splash pad which is just a few steps away from the River Market.  The kids had a great time running through the water and climbing on all the rocks.
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A bus load of kids arrived and as they filed in, I quickly started gathering my kids because it would be way too difficult to keep track of them in the midst of that crowd.  Carol caught the chaos of the moment in the below picture.  Before the school arrived we pretty much had the park to ourselves.
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We decided to grab a picnic table and eat a little bit early then head to the trolley stop.  I was sweating so badly that my entire shirt was soaked through as you can see in this oh so lovely picture!  Eek!
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We headed back to the cars to put our strollers and other items away so that we could more easily board the trolley.  We laughed along the way as people watched and commented on us having a lot of children in our care.  I jokingly said to a gentleman we encountered that we were like a small preschool class.  We stood outside Cache restaurant for quite some time waiting and sweating in the sun, unfortunately there's not an exact time listed as to when the trolley will arrive, all we knew was that it ran every 15 to 20 minutes...but that's a long time for nine hot little people and there Momma's to wait with the sun bearing down on us.
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We were all thrilled when the yellow trolley made its way to our stop.
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The view from the street car was pretty, it really was such a lovely day to be outside.   The kids enjoyed seeing the bridge and being up high in the air over the water.  Us Momma's were just thrilled to be sitting in the air-conditioning.
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We did have fun with our kids, but let there be no mistake, it.was.super-de-duper.hot!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ready To Fight

This summer I've been doing a Bible study on the armor of God.  When a friend of mine said she was going to lead Priscilla Shirer's seven week study throughout the summer, I definitely was on board. After the way things were going for me and my family late winter into early spring, I really felt like I needed the armor of God.  It has been a really difficult season, one in which I can't openly share in this public forum, but none the less, it has been a real trial to walk through and observe.  It's been gut wrenching and heart breaking and has left me over and over again saying, "come Lord Jesus, come." All last year I was doing Bible Study Fellowship's study of Revelation and "come Lord Jesus, come" was a regular statement that echoed in my heart and mind, and continues to do so, as I walk through life, experiencing heart break and watching unimaginable things play out in the lives of those I love. As I walk with friends and family through gut wrenching hardships maybe "come Lord Jesus, come" resonates with me because the ache is similar to what God must feel when He looks down on this sin cursed world and longs for what will one day, come to be.

The entire study is centered around Ephesians 6:10-19 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm.  Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray."

Shirer states this about the belt of truth: "many people who call themselves Christians today don't have a strong core belief system to govern their lives.  They don't frame their decisions around the truth of God's Word, aren't stable and sturdy in their convictions, are too easily injured and wounded by others and buckle under pressure rather than standing tough and persevering.  Truth is our core support.  It provides the essential backing we need when we're in the midst of spiritual war."  What I've been learning about truth, is that it's God's opinion on any matter, its what God says about any subject.  So my prayer for myself is that I will begin letting Gods word, that I've memorized or am studying, echo in my heart and mind so loudly that I act and respond in a right manner more often. John 8:31-32 says, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  If I hold fast, hanging on every word of Jesus Christ and then try to live accordingly, that is how I will "abide", "hold fast to", "remain faithful in" as stated in John 8:31-32.  Shirer says, "Excessive or accurate information has never set anyone free.  Knowing things about God doesn't equal honoring Him (Roman 1:21).  In fact, it's quite possible to be very smart and yet become fools.  Freedom comes to us when we unapologetically follow the truth that we discover in Him and in His Word.   Walking in it, abiding in it, ordering our steps and decisions according to it--that's what makes the difference. That's what disarms the enemy's influence and his impact in our lives."  Knowing the truth of God's word and being able to "gather" or "gird" myself up into my belt of truth, "tucking it in for safe keeping" (when impatience arises, when anger boils, when temptations come) is truly freeing.  It serves as my reminder of what God's word says and is what actually holds me together through the fight against the arrows satan wants to throw at me.

I've been tempted (and succumbed) many many times over the past months to let vulgar and unwholesome words come rushing out of my mouth, in regard to this particular situation and almost every time, Philippians 4:8 rolls around in my head reminding me of what God asks of me.  "Finally, brothers and sisters, what so ever things are true, what so ever things are noble, what so ever things are right, what so ever things are pure, what so ever things are lovely, what so ever things are admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."  I think the reason God tells us to "think about such things" has to do with taking up the helmet of salvation.  Shiver says, "God in His astounding graciousness has designed salvation to offer so much more then just when the moment of salvation occurs.  Salvation is a defensive, protective device that covers you, shields you, and protects you against the schemes of the devil.  It enables you to lead whole, healthy lives not fractured by the enemy's deceptive strategies.  As long as you don't apply salvation to your life, you'll still be vulnerable to his attacks every day for the rest of your life, even if you've gotten saved," Shirer says.   God's salvation, His helmet of salvation, not only saved me (at the moment I asked Him into my life) but also saves me each moment when pride rises up, when anger boils within, when impatience and unkind words threaten to spew out from my mouth.  I can be rescued (or "saved" again and again) from stepping off into the traps satan sets IF I'll take up the helmet of salvation and let God rescue and restore me moment by moment on a regular, daily basis, as His word washes over me and floods my mind with truth.

Studying the Armor of God has been so refreshing and encouraging.  God really did know what He was doing when He designed His plan of salvation, it wasn't just to save me and you from eternal separation from Him for eternity, it was to save me and rescue me in my daily life, in the tough, difficult, unfathomable moments that are hard to withstand.  It's been such an encouraging truth to let sink in over this summer.  My God is a good, good Father who has "plans to prosper and not harm, plans to give a future and a hope."  The armor of God is what enables me and you to go out and be salt and light in the world, to enter into hard circumstances and tough situations and shine the light of Christ into a dark, sin cursed world.   I haven't always felt sure footed and totally confident in my armor, and still don't always wear it correctly, but I do feel more prepared, more ready to engage in the fight.  I feel more steady knowing God "has given me everything I need for a godly life through my knowledge of Him who called me by His own glory and goodness" II Peter 1:3.  Now all I need to do is stand firm, "the LORD will fight for me (and you); we need only to be still" Exodus 14:14.

The last thing that I have come to realize this summer is that the armor of God isn't just physical weaponry, the very last thing that is stated in Ephesians 6:19 is the word "pray".  I love Priscilla's acronym for PRAYER: Prayer Release All Your Eternal Resources.   All I need to do is tap into those resources, we are commanded to pray, and to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). So, this is my goal, this is my hope, that I would practice "spiritual breathing" as I try to stand firm, as I resist satan and as I engage in the fight.  I don't do this perfectly (I never will) but with God's help and the Holy Spirit's reminders, I can stand firm and stay in the fight.
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Exploring Crystal Island

This past weekend we went to the lake with some friends, who like us, have three boys and a girl. On our way down we were a little concerned about the forecast, but other then raining on Saturday morning, we had clear blue skies and beautiful weather to enjoy. Our kids got along great and had a terrific time playing card games, watching movies and of course they had fun with hide and go seek in a new setting.
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We spent a lot of time out on Crystal Island with the kids skipping rocks and literally swimming around the small island that we hung out on all weekend long.  We laughed as the kids "explored" and found large rocks that they would pile up and move around on the shoreline; it was like they'd found real deal treasurers, which was a lot of fun for them and real entertainment for the adults.
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Mr. Sam was a major hit as he threw each boy way up high in the air and they came crashing down into the water. There were lots of squeals and laughs all weekend long.
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Both the Moore's as well as Adam and I have passed on the love of the lake to our kids; it was fun to be with people who enjoy time on the water as much as we do and whose kids are on board too.
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Memories were made, naps were taken and fun was had.
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Our view from the deck.
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The adults had fun relaxing in the condo at Mountain Harbor, eating lots of tasty food and visiting uninterrupted and laughing a lot after all the kids were tucked nicely in their beds each evening.  It really was such a fun weekend, Moore's we had a great time, we'll have to do it again!
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