Tuesday, August 6, 2013

VBS Kingdom Chronicles and NDFH

 Once upon a time. a long-long time ago ...
last week ...
there was a summer Vacation Bible School
that was planned in a kingdom far away ...
at our church up the road ...

Coming from a small rural church, we really appreciate help from ANYONE in the congregation who shows an interest in helping in their Spiritual-gifted area. And pretty much once you've helped with VBS or Sunday School and you're a Believer, you're on the list going forward as someone who will hopefully serve in coming years! :-)
{and isn't that the way it should be? I actually rue the day that I don't have children in the program and I'm not a first thought of someone who might help!}

This year we lost several of our normal "go-to" folks due to people moving away and also a transition in leadership on the Pastoral level that has shaken things up a bit. It really was one of those seasons of faith for those of us involved with the VBS planning. Who would fill all the vacant spots in preparation, leading and serving? And who would be coming for children?

Here is where things ramped up for me. I'm a graphic designer/artist by design. Paper, pencil, paints, computer, things on small scale, hand-held--that's kinda my arena. But this year ... I was called to do the drama set design and general decorations for the church.
That pretty much sets the tone for the entire visual aspect right from the get-go. Yes, the message of God's word is the MEAT of the VBS ... but capturing the eyes and mind of the child to open their heart through the theme and stories leads up to that MEAT meeting their hearts.

This is where I really shouldn't have worried.
God had it covered.
But me, being the ever-worrier ... worried.
Even despite the rainbow that God put in the WEST over the church on the morning that I was first meeting the VBS director, Julia, for our first prep meeting on what our first plan of attack would be.

And the SECOND rainbow, that was a DOUBLE rainbow btw, that He sent just a few days later in the week as I found myself neck deep in kids and surprise out-of-state guests that gave me AN HOUR'S notice before arriving (but don't get me wrong, we were tickled to have them stop! And really, any more than an hour and nothing more probably would have gotten done without getting undone before they arrived, right?) It's just so crazy, we never have guests ... then it all kinda came at one point in a very hot, busy week.

But I really shouldn't have worried. The church deacons came to my rescue with only one day's notice to help me build the wooden supports behind the cardboard set that I had painted (in 98 degree weather btw.) The Elders let us assemble it onstage as it was created instead of leaving it until the day before Bible School as had become the norm in years past. (I can only imagine how crazy that set-up day could have been!)

Julia made over 30 incredible castle banners for the walls of our sanctuary space (a very difficult space to decorate as it is so large and plain.)
Jeff found a website with incredible suggestions on making castle decorations out of things like curled black poster board and tissue paper and solo cups for "wrought-iron" lanterns.

and I was also able to fashion some duct-tape iron gates--complete with a drawbridge (that Julia just happened to have in her garage (aka: a patio fence panel) needing a new home!)
In fact I got to know duct tape pretty well by the time I made a couple of sets for the dragon lair on stage and the entries that the kids LOVED to go through.

The stage really turned out great!
Complete with a Knight in Shining Armor {made from Jeff's hockey helmet, elbow, shin, chest pads and hockey pants over his fishing waders and my garden boots all wraped in aluminum foil and suspended on our entryway coat tree!}

In addition to supper that the women of the church served to the kids and staff nightly, the food ministry team had great themed SNACKS for later in the evening including these super cool "dragon tongues" and "dragon scales" made from long fruit roll ups and Doritos!

And the kids came! 
Just under 50 in number, all soaking in God's Word!

 Playing Games




And our VBS Mission Project was to raise money to sponsor a child at New Day Foster Home in Beijing, China
It truly was a wonderful VBS that flowed so well, the kids came, the people served and helped, God's Word was taught. It was perhaps the best drama plays done for the VBS yet and kids couldn't get enough and were on the edge of their seats until the next day!
Our VBS spokesperson, Ryan, volunteered a challenge to the kids that IF the boys raised more money in Christopher's donation bucket then his WIFE, Tara, would receive a pie in the face ...
IF the girls raised more money in Annabel's donation bucket then HE would SHAVE off his hair!
Well ...
Not only did it "miraculously" end in a tie between Christopher and Annabel's buckets (thanks to some generous adult hearts) ... the kids raised not only enough to sponsor Annabel ... But they raised enough to also sponsor Christopher too for one year!
That's a lot of money folks.

And what I truly loved BEST? ...
Was that the bulk was given in change.
Quarters and pennies, nickels and dimes. (OVER $200 in COINage!)

The children gave from their hearts and their own pockets. True, we needed the help of some generous ADULT hearts to make it happen in full ... but God loves a joyful giver, no matter the age. 
And I think there was so much JOY in this project! It's no wonder it was overflowing.

And as for Ryan?
He's such a sport that he let them dye his locks 2 colors before they lopped it off. 
(No worries, the blue and fuscia came off his scalp before he attended a WEDDING the next evening and a big work shin-dig the following day after that.)

AND his wife ducked and HE got the pie in the face!

My prayer over VBS this year was that God would be glorified in our efforts. I was so excited to have New Day Foster Home as our mission project focus ... to see the set come together and that it was exciting to SEE and feel like you were in a Kingdom far, far away ... to see the kids, including my own 3 boys, come and soak in God's Word ... and give from their hearts and to be excited about sponsoring one of God's special little ones that we'll probably never meet on this side of Heaven ... but hopefully will on the other side.
God's goodness abounds and He is ever faithful in His plan!
I'm so blessed that He made me a part of this one.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Nolan "Clarke-Kent"

Nolan: "Mom ... I think I'm getting whiskers on my arms!" (said in the van on the way to his brother's baseball practice yesterday while looking at his little arms in the sunlight.)
Me: "Well, you must be ready for Kindergarten then."
Nolan: "You get whiskers on your arms when you're ready for Kindergarten?" followed by a really loud: "Wooo Whooo!"

Last week Nolan suddenly decided to wear 3D glasses ... as in all.the.time.
Clarke Kent Disease?

I think it may have been because I mentioned that I cannot really see without MY glasses. (blush, could it be he wants to be like me? Nah. Probably not ... but the timing did coincide.)

Luckily we had a pair without the lenses in them.
He's still pretty stinkin' cute!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Blessing ... after the Thankfulness

"The blessing always comes after the thankfulness."

I remember this line from the book by AnnVoscamp that I recently read for a women's book study. I have to admit that that particular book was hard for me to get through.
It wasn't the pretty flowers and happy-you-can-do-this kinda book that I thought it was going to be. Instead it was hard ... and painful ... and honest ... all the while being true and searching and beautiful. There were moments in her honest words that I could see pages from my very own life and other parts that I pray are NEVER part of my life. And the book just happened to come at a point this winter when everything just kinda felt all tangled up. I really just wanted a sweet read to escape into! A nice warm fuzzy ...
Instead I got a challenge to appreciate the hardness in all it's reality and the crazy idea to simply SEE the beautiful even in the littlest and sometimes hardest moments.

I'm still chewing on it all. I did come away from the book study with a profound realization of how UNthankful I am. Which really stinks.
Who wants to find out that ... or should I say ... admit this ... I think I already knew all along.
Sometimes the truth is just not very nice.
But I'm glad to have the opportunity to SEE and to learn to intentionally be more thankful especially in the little things all the time, all around me.

In January I saw a beautiful post by my friend Kelly at, "My Over Thinking," and she challenged her readers to write a blog post for a chance to win a charm from Jiayin Designs! The charge was to simply write telling about what your Jiayin Design charm means to you.
{Jiayin Designs: Sterling silver charms to celebrate good and beautiful news.}
Oh ... have you seen these beautiful silver charms?

Many times these special charms carry the Chinese name of an adopted child or the promise of one that is to come and I will admit that I did put the idea of the charms in the "hopeful chamber" of my heart that maybe someday I'd have a perfect name to carve into the silver ...
but since I didn't exactly fit the perimeters of the giveaway, as I did not have a Jiayin Design charm, I winced a "wow, wish I could share a story," comment to the post. But instead of condolences, Kelly reminded me, "we all have a story Valerie."
And she was right. We all do ...
So I composed a post and I was thankful that I did. It was cathartic. Typing down the words brought to my eyes that even though my dream of adopting hasn't become reality ... there still is a beautiful story that is being written in the other ways that God is working. And SEEing that in a new way helped me to see it in a thankful light instead of a pining one. Which is a good thing.

I didn't win the contest. But the other entries were so deserving I really wasn't all that surprised or disappointed. It was good to read the words and hopes of others and to share their joy of God's faithfulness evident in their lives!

So life went on and I can't say that I forgot about the post. I've gone back a few times to reread it ... fearful that maybe I shouldn't have made it public ... but by the end I'm always glad that I did. I never get through it all without getting a few tears welling up. I was glad that I wrote it down. To remember. And to be thankful.

About a month ago (April 2nd) I received a yellow padded envelope in the mail. Yes, out of the blue. I happened to pick up the mail on the way out of the driveway on the way to a late night hockey tryout for my oldest son. I am amazed at the perfect timing of especially the littlest things. I know in my heart I wasn't being very thankful right then. Sitting at a cold arena at 9 at night (a school night none the less!) just kinda being the driver who wished it was a piano recital or something that was more my dream that I had held for so long for my children ...
But in that moment when I was exhaling and embracing the dreams that my child has, I thought I'd escape into the mail.
Not usually one to receive mail other than things I don't want like bills or receipts to be filed, I was intrigued by this package with a hand written address. And when the silky draw-string indigo bag slid out of the envelope I know my heart just beat a few extra beats knowing that this was surely no small thing. In fact, I'm starting to think that the "extra" heartbeat that plagues me now and again and sent me to the cardiologist last year is actually because of this "extra chamber"in my heart ... my hopeful chamber.

Yes, Kelly gifted me with my charm ... even though I wasn't the winner of her contest!
Just because.
{insert tears here}
Kelly, thank you so much for your dear heart and your generous gift!
I treasure my charm.

What do the characters mean, you might ask?
In my post I concluded that the charm that I would like someday would say "God's Love Endures Forever" ...
which I have come to learn translated into Chinese becomes even more powerful. The way they speak of this enduring love that only God has translates into:
"A Persistent Love."
Yes, God has a persistent love with me. With us.

I will remember ...
And be thankful!

Jiayin Designs has many, many wonderful items! Be sure to stop over and check them out!

Jiayin Designs' website (www.jiayindesigns.com) 
Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jiayindesigns). 

And be sure to check out Kelly's blog My Overthinking. Her posts are always enlightening ... like the one today. It brought tears in her truthful words on raising children.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blessed Owls: The Plan Has Hatched

So I had this crazy idea about a month ago. {It's probably a reaction to my very logical, math-brained, engineer husband. He brings out the creative side of me as I run the other way from anything numerical.} And quite honestly I have my best ideas when trudging through tax preparation time! So, out came the drawing paper ... and the fabric ... and some rough drafts on what I was envisioning. My first idea was a holder for my sons' ipod touches ... they are forever ending up on the seat of the car or the floor between the couch and the lamp table ... I was thinking maybe a pocketed thing might keep them from getting lost or squashed. The owl seemed like a good non-gender specific animal ... wise, hooty ... and I just love the story by P.D. Eastman with the owl and the firefly, Sam and the Firefly, ... I'm sure those lines, "Who ... Who ... Who wants to play?" from that story's text were key to my owl taking shape.

So here they are,
Blessed Owls
Size when they are seated (without their wings measured): 6"x8"
Size when they are "standing" on their toes wings spread: 11x12"
Stuffed somewhere around 2-2.5" thick

With the pocket on the back they make great holders of little things ... like markers, a small pad of paper, an ipod ... or other small electronic device/earbuds ... even Scripture verse cards (say you like to review them right before going to bed and want to keep them together in a handy spot!) I have no doubt kids will come up with all kinds of ideas of stuff they can hold!

So my idea first started as something for my boys ... and then I thought, hmmm ... maybe I could sell these on etsy? (that always scares me) Maybe they should help fundraise for someone's adoption? Hmmm, I didn't know if they were really something anyone else would even like, so I prayed about it, looking for some direction and decided to wait for a bit and just see what would come ... 

And I'm so glad I did wait.
This week during my Sunday School preparation (which I unfortunately had left until Friday night) revealed to me a story that was to be my focus that week. A story that I had never fully read--(since I've read through the Bible, I've had to have read it ... but it didn't impact me apparently as it was like it was speaking at that very moment right to my heart and to what I love to do most.)

The Story is that of a woman named Dorcas (or Tabitha in Arameic) who did good and loved to sew for those who were unable and for the poor. She made beautiful things. One day she became sick ... in fact, so sick that she died! The people were so sad. They prepared her body for burial, took out the things that she had made for them ... appreciated the gifts that she had shared so freely with them and mourned her loss. But it didn't end there, one of her friends did not give up hope. She remembered that one of Jesus' disciples was in a nearby town and hadn't Jesus brought people back to life? She didn't wait, she didn't question ... she went in FAITH and asked him to restore her friend's life and generous heart to them. Peter knew that he was not able to bring this woman back to life on his own ... but in FAITH he went to see Dorcas and saw all the people who loved Dorcas and the gifts that she had glorified God with. And before God in prayer, Peter asked that He might restore this woman's life if it was His will ... and He did. So it's not just  a story of a woman's generous heart for others, for her sharing her talents of sewing, for the appreciation of her life by her friends ... but it is an example of her friends walking in FAITH that God can use each of us in such beautiful and specific ways ... and when we aren't there with our gifts for Him ... we are missed ... It was through FAITH that these friends asked and received a miracle.--Acts 9:36-42
Hmmm, I love to sew ... especially for adoptions and orphan care ... and here I had this project sitting on the shelf ... something that would bring God's word right into the hands little ones. Something that they would hopefully keep longer than the glued on cotton ball handouts that they usually bring home from class.
So off I went to make owls for my Sunday School class, with only one day to do it! 4 boy owls, 4 girl owls ... not knowing who might show up ... And with one son sick on the couch

There not only is a pocket on the back of the owls, but also a verse patch.

Girly Version

Sporty Version
I'm planning on making more (pricing to come) ... if you're interested in one (or two or three) leave me a comment or email me ... at this time I have these:
Two Sisters in need of a home
(the one on the right has a little bit bigger eyes and a bird on the back pocket too)

Thursday, April 11, 2013


The day I have been dreading will come tomorrow.
Kindergarten Roundup for my youngest child.

Especially because this was thrown at me 3 weeks ago out of the blue and I was pretty much told I had no choice but to send him to school due to a change in state laws (which I'm not sure is totally true--with his summer birthday we had planned to start him in preschool next year and then kdg. the following year and I have heard from reliable sources that these school rules stem from the money the school receives for Kdg. being more than what they receive for PreK students.) So I'm more than a bit resentful on several levels.

I will admit that being in a structured setting with academic expectations will grow Nolan. And I will admit also that he is ready. Ready in the sense that he's on fire about learning. We've cranked up the school expectations here at home lately and he's risen to the challenge no question. But he by far is the most  non-sitting child that we have. It will be a learning adventure for him (and the teacher) to have to sit all day at a desk. It would have been nice to have known earlier in the year these regulation changes so he could have eased into the situation with a few days of preschool a week. But oh well. That ship has sailed.

I am confident that Nolan will love school and especially the friends he will make there. He's VERY social. I am sad to know the change in him that will come when he is out of our bubble. It's inevitable when he's around kids who have seen and lived the rougher side of life.

I am not so confident that I'm ready to surrender this "season of my life" either. Oh I hate that phrase "season." In fact all catch phrases really stink. Maybe I just don't embrace change well. But maybe I'm truly not ready to have it be over. There's really not much exciting waiting on the other side of "this season" after all. I've submitted, I've surrendered, I've emptied ... so much into motherhood and I am now not sure where that leaves me.

I feel a bit bitter and I don't want that to take root.
So I'm trying to keep my hand open ... and my heart there too. Being thankful in all things.
Sasha the dog, Nolan and his little stuffed deer at the barn in the morning helping me feed the horses.

Friday, April 5, 2013

'Nerf Said

I was forced recently to search out some additional pairs of Nerf safety glasses.
(Thank you ebay) I would think it would be obvious not to shoot your brother in the eye with a nerf bullet ... but I assumed too much.

And seriously ... all I wanted was a nice photo of the boys with their new safety wear ...
and I think I captured the real crux of the issue quite well ...
(Brayden's sly look as he elbows his brother Easton ... Easton's immediate jab back ... all over Nolan's sweet head in the split second that I hit the shutter on the camera.) 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter 2013 Unwrapped

I finally have found a pattern that I could not resist ... FOR BOYS! It may have taken me three boys to get here, but I've finally grabbed these fleeting moments of opportunity with my last boy (before he gets overly picky) and sewed up these cute pants and matching tie just in time for Easter. (Okay, I think they're cute anyway)

I wasn't going to push it in having him try it all on together before Easter morning for fear he'd not like them and refuse to wear them, so I was going on faith that it would all work out.

And thankfully it did!
 And since Nolan often (as in daily) tends to dress himself with his pants backwards, never mind that the pockets don't end up in front, I kinda thought the fancy pockets on the BACK were perfect since they will look just as good if they someday end up on the front.

Easter Morning Boys 
(notice how DARK it is outside the window at 6:20am before the Sunrise Service.) 
Ya, I've really gotten relaxed in my photo taking of the boys. If I get them in the picture frame together looking all at once it's considered success.
{Ages: Brayden 9.9999, Easton 7.75 and Nolan 4.8888)

We celebrated Easter Dinner at my mom's with my brother and sister's families after morning services.
You'd almost believe these guys were angels ...

But there is definitely a snips-n-snails-n-puppy-dog-tail side to them
{they are "fighting" over a pink bunny.}
the bunny (nor any of the glasswear behind them) was not injured in the playful scuffle.

We outted the Easter Bunny this year just being straight with the kids that there is NO Bunny, but that Easter is about Jesus in case there was ever any confusion. They didn't really seemed fazed by it and just were happy about the basket which contained a respectable amount of candy, a shirt and pj pants for the older 2 and some markers, a motorcycle, kite and duck for Nolan. And you know what?
Easter candy works great for counting and sorting activities the next day!

The kite Nolan got his Easter Basket we flew yesterday.
{It was really cold outside!}

If it's been awhile since YOU'VE flown a kite ... drop everything, go to the store and grab one for a little over a buck. It is absolute JOY to feel like you're steering the wind. And you might even feel like you're four again.
 And of course, he let go of it {it was really cold outside and his hands got cold} ... here it is sailing off over the horses. LUCKILY it caught hold of a fence (non-electric part) on the other side of the property and I was able to retrieve it! What are the chances of that?

The family

The family