Thursday, April 30, 2009


Wow, if you look at my monthly number of posts, April is pathetic in comparison. Blame it on Facebook, perhaps, and maybe not much to talk about.

I can't believe today is already Thursday - I have just not been able to get my act together this week. Laundry (clean) is still sitting in bins not yet put away since our coast trip, I seem to manage getting one room clean, only to have it and more messed up by the end of each day.

So, I do have some fun thoughts and stories to share, but I HAVE to get on top of my life before I divulge in the fun stuff of the computer......

Hope you all are having a great week!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today marks 13 years that I've been married to my man - what an amazing, splendid journey it's been.

We celebrated by taking the kids to PF Chang's for a delicious meal (been saving those gift certificates.....perfect occasion) and NBC helped out by topping off the evening with the very excellent season finale of "Chuck"..... That is definitely "our show"-

I just did a super complex drawing to determine the winner of the Sonic Gift card and it is......SARA! Yeah, a new friend! If you want to email me your address at, I'll send it on its way..... (Hope you like Sonic!)

Thanks for playing along all of you - and for my new visitors, welcome!

Pictures are being downloaded on Facebook of more of the College Spring Retreat so if you are curious or didn't get enough, you might want to go back and check the previous post. I'll probably get around to adding them tomorrow, but there is one in there of one of the guys hoisting Mikayla up in the air so high, it's crazy.... "Cyrus", the "hoister", just happens to currently hold the world record in the Javelin throw....., yeah, he's a celebrity - playing with my kids. Pretty awesome.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend at Winema

John and I are exhausted. And, maybe a little bummed - but exhausted and bummed for all of the right reasons. This afternoon we returned from the central Oregon coast where we spent Friday through today with 120 UofO college students. It was one of those experiences where you feel such fellowship and community, not to mention love for the Lord - that it's hard to come home from.

Winema (the name of the retreat center) holds very precious memories for us as it is the same retreat location where we used to go when we attended the college group. It's time now for a whole new set of memories......

As I've described before, this ministry is a total family effort. It's as if it was custom-designed to fit the Rileys. The kids will leave our side and run to one of the dozen (or more) comrades in mischief and hyperactivity they have within the group, while I'll be able to sit down among my security blanket friends and launch into conversation involving the others sitting around me, and soon make that much more "security blanket" amigas. John, of course, has no problem making friends - and we all have the opportunity to work off of each other to make that much more connections. When we attended the fall retreat, not knowing more than a couple of names, we wandered around- feeling pretty awkward and intimidated, almost like being the new (and out of place) kids at a new school. This time around, we started out "fitting in" and spring-boarded from there. Out of the 120 students attending, we probably know about half of them now (but don't ask me to prove it by having to recite names!).

Our accommodations were tiny, but cozy; offering a bed, a shower, a toilet and a heater- pretty much all the four of us needed. The food was fantastic, the speaker dynamic, the worship so inspiring, and of course, the energy level of 120 college students was quite unbelievable. (How are they possibly able to function after staying up until 3am talking and playing and then turning around to wake up at 7am - not to mention, several of them choosing to sleep on the actual sand of the coast?!)

The theme of the weekend was "Superhero Training Camp" - with celebrity superheroes hosting by the names of: "Blade Girl" (Rollerblades), "Commander Del Oso", and converted villian to hero "Dr. Devious". They were all such a hoot, and of course, entertained our kiddos tremendously with their antics at the beginning of each general session, and during the "training camp" that occurred (several beach/relay games) on Saturday afternoon. I think my only complaint would have been the weather. It was quite windy, a little drizzly, and pretty-darn cold. But, it certainly could have been worse.

This morning, a "first" occurred at Winema, as far as our college ministry's attendance there is concerned. The gal I hang with most often, "Kara" - asked Corey (the collegiate pastor) if he would consider baptizing her in the mini lake/pond on the retreat property. He agreed, and as it turned out a total of 7 college students "took the plunge" to outwardly demonstrate their walk of faith in Jesus Christ. It was incredible to witness and behold.

For me, the most pivotal moments of the weekend took place in those moments of intimacy with some of the friends I've made as well as intimacy with the Lord during the worship and speaker times. I was able to take a two hour walk with a very special lady early Saturday morning and laugh with a whole lot of new gals as I probably shared more than they ever expected to hear a 36 year old ramble on about....(I'm good at that!). Once again, it's one of those comfort level things - if I find myself having fun, knowing I've already made friends and have their support, it just kind of compounds from there.

As we drove away, it was hard to not feel like the weekend could have gone any better. The whole thing is such a win-win experience for us all - how thankful we are that this is a place we felt God calling us to - and said "Yes" to Him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Yup, you read that right, this is post #1000! While I think that sounds kind of impressive, really it's probably a sad reflection of just how wordy I am. I've known this "magic number" has been coming for a couple of months, and have tried to think of something really special to do in celebration....and even what to post about. However, I haven't come up with much. So, here's a bit of a Q&A that is going to have to cut it.

Q: What do I get if I come to your blog, comment, and help celebrate your #1000?
A: Good question! Well, I just happen to have a $5 Sonic Gift Card sitting around waiting to be given out. Seems like Sonic's a favorite among you bloggers, and very easy to send. I'll do a random drawing, request your snail-mail address, and sent it on its way......

Q: Who originally inspired you to blog?
A: I remember the days when "blog" was such an abstract word that I didn't even like to say it aloud. My friend, Jodi (Literarygirl) was the first person I knew who was courageous enough to share her life online. I read it steadily, but recognized, "I could never do that". I was too afraid that someone would disagree with me and judge me from what I wrote about. But, time has a way of softening concerns, and so does "other people doing it". When I found out that my friend, Lisa, had started a blog (I believe it is now extinct), I tried to comment and found myself creating a blog in order to do so. On a whim, I wrote a post - and there you go - back in August of 2005, THE COZY CORNER was born.

Q: What is the motivating force behind your blog?
A: This is big for me, and I try to put the answer to this out there often so people know what they are getting themselves into. ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, the number one reason I blog is to record family memories. I did a terrible job keeping track of things when the kids were babies, and while I did a decent job with about 5 scrapbooks, even that fell behind the cracks in this age of online photo storage and digital photography. Not to mention the sheer overwhelming feeling of not being creative enough, and constantly wanting to purchase new and more "accent" items. Then, I did a short stint at "Heritage Makers" and through my experience with that discovered "Blurb" - which will allow me to convert my blogs into books - it pulls any or all posts and pictures directly into it's "Booksmart Application" and then I just "place" how I want to format each page. It's been the BEST discovery for me - and these books are some of my biggest "prides" - just because they are historical evidence of the adventures our family has had and what our family represents.

So, there you go. You log onto "The Cozy Corner" and you are going to get a lot of stories, pictures, and details about our family. I try to mix things up a bit with questions or commentaries now and then, but for the most part, I really try to keep controversey out of the mix because I'm not super comfortable with it. Yes, I have my opinions, and certainly respect those blogs that offer them (and comment accordingly), but that's not the focal point and I really don't need a book full of my opinions and why I think I'm right to mull over years to come!

Q: What's your favorite post?
A: Not sure, however, the Easter post is the only one I've ever repeated, probably because it details the most important value I have in life. Some of the Disneyland, Sunriver, or other adventures are my happiest memory posts.

Q: Do you ever dread blogging or plan to stop?
A: Actually, no. It is rare that I am "stuck" with nothing to write about, and since I can pop a post out pretty quickly, it's not that big of a time issue. Mostly, there's this huge feeling of "relief" (for lack of a better word) when I've posted about family activities that it is recorded and preserved for future memory retrieval. Also, I've found blogging can be very good therapy for me!

So, there you go. Enough about me - how about a question for you, as a starting ground to inspire commenting (c'mon, Sonic would be fun, wouldn't it?!). I'll do the drawing this Sunday evening......


(My answer would be to learn how to really sing and really dance.....and oh, by the way, thanks Nancy for the question!)

Thanks for stopping by and celebrating with me!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Some Classic Quotes

The other day, Brayden suggested that he might be his teacher's favorite because she gave him a hug, which is something she apparently hasn't done a lot this year. I asked why she gave him a hug and he told me that it was because he made her laugh. (Uh oh!) I asked him what he said and this was it.... (and yes, it made me laugh too...)

(Randomly he approached her) "Can we settle this over a cappuccino?" - No, there's no purpose in the statement - just random.....sigh, that's my boy.......

And then today, he proclaimed as we got in the car, after school - completely out of the blue...."Mom, I'm not going to have another girlfriend until I think it's a girl I think I would really want to spend the rest of my life with, that I would want to marry. Because, what's the point, otherwise? I wouldn't want to waste my time with someone who I didn't think I could be with and then get my heart broken, you know?"....... (Yeah, I do know, son, but can't believe you've grasped this so early, Wow!)

And, my favorite quote of the day didn't come from my kids. I overheard it while standing in line at Target (man, that place is TOO happy of a place for me - I literally have to avoid it most of the time.....) . Anyway, there was a woman with two boys that looked about the same age, I'm guessing about 5. They were arguing a lot, and all over the place within the cart. The mom was very harried, visibly at her last straw. She was trying to be patient, actually begging them not to make a scene, trying to say the "politically correct things" that one would say when obviously being watched by others. But, the boys would have none of that. They were beating on each other, leaning out of the cart, getting in her way - it was a mess. Then, I heard one of the boys say, "Mom, I'll give you two choices, I can either bite him or pinch him"..........

I couldn't help but laugh and in a quiet voice repeat the proposition to my own cashier as it cracked me up so much. With all that I struggle with in my kids, talking back has yet to become an issue....Thank God. HOWEVER, when my son was almost 6, I remember him totally breaking down in Target because he wanted a "Whack-a-Mole" game and I wouldn't pick it up for him. (Amy was with me and I had a good idea she was planning on getting it for him for his birthday, not that that was a necessity in the first place....) Apparently, as he was wailing in the toy section, and I let him throw his fit, attempting to ignore him, a lady came up to Amy and smugly suggested "Now THAT lady needs 'Supernanny'!" While it was offensive to me, I actually thought it was kind of funny in a shocked sort of way because of the judgmental audacity of such a stranger to approach my friend with such an attitude.

I noticed on Facebook today that Nancy is again requesting prayer for Megan. Not that she's ever wanted us to stop, but based on the simplicity of the statement, I'm guessing things are getting worse. Her liver isn't so much the issue as her blood now - they believe she has a condition that can sometimes occur after such an attack on the liver - one that usually requires a bone marrow transplant. This picture was taken at about the same time as I first mentioned her on the blog. Megan is on the left, Nancy's daughter, Madison is on the right. And, no, Madison is not abnormally pale....that's a result of the liver issue.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Little Disappointing

Yesterday the temps reached 76 degrees here. Yeehah! The grand plan was to take our boat out with Travis, the kids, and three of the college students we've befriended.

We managed to get out of the house (delayed a bit by the first of the year "Oh yeah, did you remember to pack...." issues), arrived at Cottage Grove Lake where the sky was deep blue, successfully backed the trailer/boat into the water, and then.........the boat did not start.

Grrrrr! Fortunately, all of our company were "cool with whatever". While I'm sure they were very disappointed as well, Julie, Micah, and I did our best to make the best of it by laying out on the dock while the guys tinkered with the motor.

We did give up - John and Travis felt like they'd do more harm than good by taking apart things that they didn't know what they did, so we headed home. By the time we got the boat pulled back in to the garage, we had pretty much come to the conclusion that the problem was not getting gas to the engine. The culprit - oh, that would be the new gasoline mixture Oregon now requires stations to sell - that includes more Ethanol. As a result, when left in the tank for an extended time, it turns the gasoline into a sludge - which clogged in the fuel lines. I guess that means we'll be spending money to have the tank emptied, system flushed etc. - but overall, it sounds like a pretty reasonable explanation - and not too costly of a fix.

It sounds like we'll be reaching the 80's today - with a couple more days of warm weather to follow - and then back into the 50's with the rain - right in time for the weekend and our college spring retreat to the beach. Also disappointing, but for now, I'll postpone my frustration and embrace the sunshine out the door. Hope you all had a great weekend yourselves.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

ABC's of Me

This has been going around Facebook and I recently saw it on another blog, so I thought I'd post it myself. I actually tweaked several of the letters to make it more applicable to me. Feel free to cut and paste and post!

A - Age: 36
B - Birthday: July 22nd
C - Chore you hate: Cleaning blinds, particularly the one over the sink in the kitchen
D - Dad's Name: Paul
E - Essential start your day item: Russian tea
F - Favorite food: Most foods including sugar and carbs....
G - Gift (favorite): Eternal life through Jesus
H - Height: 5' 6"
I - Instruments you play(ed): the recorder? =)
J - Job title: Stay at home mom, formerly elementary teacher
K - Kid(s): A boy who just turned 10 and a daughter who is 7
L - Love language: Acts of service (because my husband does so well on all the rest!)
M - Mom's name : Sherry
N - Nicknames: Stephie, Stephers
O - Overnight hospital stay: Both kids' birth, a tracheotomy when I was 18 months old, and a broken ankle when I was 16
P - Pet Peeve: Arrogance and those with a superiority complex
Q - Quote you love: Zephaniah 3:17: "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
R - Right or left handed: Right
S - Siblings: Twin sister, Michele
T - Time you wake up: Around 6am
U - Unfulfilled goal in life: Swimming with dolphins
V - Vacation Destination I most love: Maui
W - Ways you spend spare time: Blogging, hanging with friends, reality tv, playing with kids
X- X-rays you've had: teeth, ankle/leg
Y - Yummy food you make: Most baked goodies, particularly cookies: chocolate chip, molasses, oatmeal raisin, monster
Z - Zoo animal I most enjoy seeing: As of last visit, the polar bears

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Bunnies (A Little Late)

First of all, these aren't Mikayla's bunnies. They are her buddy, Kenady's bunnies. Actually, the solid colored one is Kenady's - her name is "Sarah", and Mikayla helped to pick her out. The other one is her brother, Luke's - her name is "Alien X".

It was Monday that the girls went to pick the bunnies out, and yesterday, when I dropped off Kenady after a playdate, I got to visit with the sweet little things, and snapped a few pictures. Makes me almost want one for ourselves.... I'm glad John will always say "No" to these sorts of things, otherwise we'd probably end up with a petting zoo inside our home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Get that Dog!

Aren't those purty? Linda brought those over for me right before we went on a walk. I know, it sounds like I'm bragging because so many of y'all would love to get the chance to go for a walk with Linda (not to mention, have her bring you pretty flowers!). I'm hoping she feels the same way I did that our brisk adventure in the outdoors, chatting it up, was awesome therapy for both of us.

We debated bringing the dogs - she would have taken Bogey (Wednesday playdate day), and I would have taken Syd, but since we walked a ways along a country road, I chose to pass. While we were in the house, I took off Bogey's bark collar, you could hear him baying two houses down due to his displeasure of being left behind.

When we got back, just as Linda was trying to squeeze out the door without the dogs, I warned, "Be careful, she'll bolt" - and sure enough, Syd bullied her way through the door, and Bogey promptly followed. Combine freedom with a bit of an attitude for being left behind and I've got a problem on my hands. To his credit, Bogey isn't that hard to catch, but Sydney is a nightmare. It's all a big game to her, this delightful game of chase which usually ends (at her choosing) with some treat to lure her back into the house. The "game" makes me feel like the worst kind of dog owner, where she calls all the shots. But, I have yet to come up with a better way. If you put a shock collar on her, she's perfect. But, without it, she's a handful.

So, this picture was taken around the corner from our house, where she and Bogey had wandered. I had decided I'd just open the car door and have them both hop in. I had a few errands that I'd planned to do sans dogs, but it seemed an acceptable sacrifice to take them with me to be able to capture them. But, oh no, Syd wasn't ready - she was still having fun. This picture is taken with my cell phone (as was the above shot), sitting in the back seat of the van, waiting for Syd to hop in and eat the last of the granola bar I'd tried to tempt her with that was sitting on the way back seat. I was back there trying to hold on to Bogey who wanted to bolt again, or eat the granola bar himself. Notice Syd's expression - the power is all hers!!!

It eventually worked, we ran our errands, and I drug Sydney by her collar all the way to the front door when we returned. Good thing our kids don't run over me as bad as our dog does!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm Tired Of......

-gray skies and rain. Today there was actually snow mixed in.
-laundry. As soon as it gets cleaned, it needs to put away - and then the process begins again.
-the 10 pound spare tire circling my waist.
-dieting because of that spare tire.
-being sore because of working out to rid myself of that spare tire.
-this economy.
-headaches, and shoulders/neck that feel like concrete that contribute to those headaches.
-waiting for answers.
-my own sinful nature that has me saying and doing things I know aren't right (but, yet, I do them anyway).
-Mikayla's endless cold/allergies - that poor girl hasn't breathed out of her nose in I can't remember when...
-Brayden's inability to focus. Going in to help in his classroom felt like walking into a playground.....which makes me so discouraged.
-school. While districts all around us cut back on end of the year days, we stick with our June 17th, which means our kids will be at school nearly a week and a half longer than our buddies at Springfield or Dallas.....
-my vehicle having "issues" - the latest occurring at the school today when it just won't allow the key to turn over. John and Travis will go take a look at it tonite. Fortunately, Mike (Koda's owner and Kyle's dad and Linda's neighbor and Brayden's basketball coach) was able to give us a ride home (we were preparing to walk).

How's that for a "Debbie Downer" post? I'm in one of those moods where that's what I'm dwelling on. Bummer, huh? However, because I know it is what God would want me to do, I'll try and turn each of these complaints into a new perspective....

I'm thankful.....
- for a weather forecast that calls for temps in the seventies this weekend.
- that we have plenty of clothes and a great washer and dryer.
- that I have had plenty of food to eat to be able to have a spare tire.
- that I have the knowledge to know how to eat right and resources to purchase proper food.
- that my body is healthy enough to work out - and with each of these sore muscles, it means they are growing and I'm gaining more metabolism.
- that we still have a job and paycheck in this economy (Oregon's unemployment is at 12% now!)
- that I have good medication for these headaches and a mom that is able to help me so much.
- for answers that have already come.
- for the Holy Spirit who makes me aware of things I need to change and work on.
- that allergies are all we need to worry about with Mikayla (please keep praying for Megan, her body is not producing [enough?] red blood cells now, she is very sick)
- for the playful spirit of my son and that next year he'll be better matched with a different teacher.
- that the kids have a school to go to - and a good one.
- that my vehicle has hung on as long as it has - and for a husband and friend who take care of me so well.

How about you? Anything you feel like complaining about right now? You don't even have to turn it around if you want to.....sometimes it just feels good to vent.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! The above picture will end up modified a bit, we took three pics, and of course each one has a different person look their John will end up working with it to achieve a family portrait we're all happy with. (So, I'll end up swapping it out when John's done doctoring...)

We all just finished a delicious, eclectic Easter dinner - and are grazing through the kids' multiple Easter baskets (shh....don't tell the kids). Easter service was fantastic - a special shout out to Scott Coleman - he did an amazing job on his solo of "He's Alive" - I had tears in my eyes at the end - I'm so proud of him!!!!

The kids are already hopping on the trampoline, we plan on doing a little Wii Fit and DDR, but need to wait until the food settles a bit. Eventually, we'll hide the Easter eggs, because those kids definitely need even more candy.

These fuzzy pics were taken from my cell phone. I've discovered it's fantastic in bright or outdoor settings, but apparently has little to offer in low light scenarios. But, I felt it was a special moment to capture Michael giving Mikayla a pedicure (he'd made a special promise to Ellie to paint her nails, and Mikayla got in on the service as well). The other picture is our family while we were waiting for service to begin.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My Thoughts on Easter

This is post is "recycled" from last year. Sometimes on my blog, it's a fine line I feel like I'm walking on just how much to share - especially when it comes to very personal things. It took a lot for me to write this out last year, but, as a result I feel like it expresses a whole lot of who I am. So, once again, in honor of you go.

I have been re-reading a book that has a huge revelation that comes at the end, that I never saw coming the first time around. The book is a bit allegorical, so I should have known, but long story short, a character that is unorthodox, bucks the system, is generally disregarded for having heretical thoughts, pretty much a character that you just aren't sure you can believe is "the good guy" - turns out to be the one to sacrifice for the good of all in the end. He becomes Jesus in this story. As I'm reading it the second time around, I can not believe that I never saw it coming the first time- that I didn't connect the dots much earlier on in the story to recognize Him for who He really was. But, then again, why would I presume myself to be that much smarter than everyone else was 2000 years ago?

Back then, very few saw Him for who really was either. Some people turned to Him to solve their problems, to perform miracles. Others dared to ask His advice, but of those, only a handful were willing to follow it (Him). No one saw the big picture, and even Jesus asked in the last moments that God would choose another way. But, it was the way God set it out to be.

I think that most people who believe in an afterlife, generally accept the notion that there is a God who created it - and us, for that matter. With that in mind, sometimes I wonder why people think that God would then not have any plan for who would spend that afterlife with Him. If I did the creating, I know I would want a plan. But, I get the feeling that people don't like that idea - it's too limiting. But, here's the deal - the way I see it - God originally planned for all of His creation to enjoy it forever. But, in making His creation, He knew that He could never demand this desire to spend time with Him - this "relationship" - so free will became a part of it. And, with free will came the choice to do wrong - and there you go, that dreaded un-politically correct word "sin". The core of my beliefs rests in the fact that we chose this path - not God. In His pre-ordained vision, He of course, "saw it coming", but with free will in the picture - that's what we get. And there you go, a world that is full of pain, division, and full of people exerting their choices in every fashion imaginable.

Here's the deal, I don't want to spend eternity in this world, not the way it looks now. And yet, if everyone is meant to be able to go on to an afterlife, without having a "change of heart or attitude"- that's right back to where we're at now. I want to spend an afterlife in the world God created before we messed it all up. Before Satan got a hold of it, and us, and deceived us all into believing that we're better off all by ourselves. That we don't need or want a Creator, a God in our lives.

Here's some other lies I think Satan's put out there:

- Why would I want to spend eternity in Heaven anyway? It sounds incredibly boring and lifeless.... - I can relate to this one, but why wouldn't I be tempted to believe this, I imagine it has to be top on the list for Satan to have us misunderstand. He certainly doesn't want us longing for such a place. However, I have to come back to this vast world and everything we have in it - and who created it all? The water-colored sunrise, the roaring waterfalls, rain forests so vast and dense there's wildlife within them we've never even discovered, the miracle of a brand new baby, the body's ability to reach the pinnacle of physical intimacy - the God-given passions and desires to laugh, to smile, to feel so deeply we cry.... If He can do all this for this world, how much more amazing will Heaven be? He created us - He knows us - Heaven will not be a let-down! And, though it's so hard to fathom - the love behind all this creation will be the One we are spending it with - a love so deep, so strong, so unconditional, it's just too hard to comprehend. Pretty much for me, I imagine the greatest joy I ever experienced here on Earth - that moment that life could never get better than this - and then I imagine it being even better than that - and lasting------

- That the only ones meant for Heaven will be the ones who follow all the rules - and judge everyone else for all of the ways they've messed up. - I think that is the OPPOSITE of what it will be like. If a person thinks they have it all together, better than everyone else, then I believe they are the most messed up of us all. Jesus was constantly attacked by the Pharisees, recorded time and time again in the New Testament, the Pharisees that believed they were superior to everyone else, because they supposedly followed all of the Laws - and hence looked down on all, including Jesus. They were responsible for his death. They couldn't handle the idea that God wanted ALL to come to Him, not just the law-following Jews. And yet, Jesus' message was aimed to everyone, all who were crippled, outcast, and scorned. He spent time with what society viewed as the bottom of the barrel. It's those with a humble heart that God wants - not those who perceive themselves as the best.

- Why would I want to spend time in an afterlife, if it's filled with the "bottom of the barrel"? - Once again, I think it comes back to who of us can say we are better than anyone else? Only God knows our hearts. Yes, I struggle with the idea of a Ted Bundy who can make a "last breath" confession of faith, but I don't think any of us can grasp the possession Satan can have on a heart - and in the total opposite what can happen when Jesus fills and restores a heart to what God hoped for all along. I think only the creator, God, is capable of seeing what kind of hearts we have. In addition, what if I did believe there are some who are too far gone for God to accept? This is not my belief, first, because I believe the promises of the Bible, but second, what kind of world would this be without that hope? All deserve hope.

- Who says that there is sin in the first place? Are there really any absolutes in this world? - Now, this one, while a popular belief, just doesn't hold water for me. The whole idea of no absolutes is an absolute in and of itself! If one says there is no sin, perhaps no creator - just a constant evolution of humanity - why are things getting worse? Evolution demands that things improve and the best and strongest move on, but, it appears to me - our very own acts (that I would label "sin") would eliminate that very theory.

- Based on what I know about Christians - and all of the awful acts that they've done throughout history (as well as now) - why would I ever want to be a part of that group? - That's easy - it's not about the "Christians" - it's about what God first desired - and what Jesus brought to reality. Being a Christian does not mean you become perfect - and simply having that label doesn't necessarily mean that one is truly following Jesus. But, if being a Christian means we ARE followers of Jesus - look at Him, not us - we're the flawed followers - He's the true leader. Look at Him, read about Him, if you want to really get what it's all about. Remember, Jesus didn't hang out with what would have been labeled the "God followers" at the time because they had completely distorted the truth. Don't lose out on the gift of Jesus because of poor examples of "followers" here on earth (and throughout history).

- Why does it all have to be through Jesus? Why so limiting? - That is the operative question, now isn't it? Here's my take, though - Why not? When I grew up, I had a huge fear of both God and Heaven. I was so worried I wouldn't make the right choices, I would mess up and not confess those sins in time before I got struck by a bus! But most significantly, I would pick the wrong "religion", denomination, or church that would keep me from getting to Heaven in the first place. So many people believe that, no wonder the world is disillusioned against Christianity in general! I may be a member of First Baptist Church but I would really prefer not to be labeled in that way. Even labeled as a Christian leads most people to believing I am judgmental and rigid. if you are going to go anywhere with a label - the only thing that accurately defines me is that I aim to follow Jesus. I recognize that I've screwed up, I'm not the person God first desired for His creation - but through Jesus, that's how God sees me.

As hard as it is for us to grasp - because we chose our own path, we destroyed our opportunity to commune with God. He's perfect, we're not. And, once again, it comes back to our own choices - and the ultimate desire to restore us back to what He ultimately desired for us to experience. An eternal relationship with Him. So, the only way to fix the problem is to use that free will of ours to make another choice - a choice to bridge that gap by accepting that sacrifice Jesus made for us. To my knowledge, no other belief system offers such an answer to such a problem. Instead, it's all about the good that you may or may not be able to accomplish to try to get there on your own. When you think about it - any loving parent, while desiring for their children to do good works and be successful, would so much rather have a relationship with them - able to talk to them, meet with them, love on them - rather than see them go off on their own to try to prove something. As it is with God, He just wants our fellowship - a fellowship that can be achieved by coming to Jesus, the One who who sacrificed for us.

It is that very sacrifice that we honor and, yes, celebrate, on Easter. Part God, part man, saying, 'I'm doing this for you - for my beloved, for my children - I will take on all of those choices you have made from the past, the present, and the future - all of those choices that have separated you from Me (God) - because I love you that much'.

I know, such a long post. And, quite a bit of preaching from me. But, I haven't always "got" this holiday. Ultimately, I'll never fully grasp it until eternity - which I now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I'll be a part of in Heaven. However, now that I have a bit of an understanding, I just can't help sharing what I've figured out. Just like that book I'm re-reading - the message is so simple, but yet, so hard to grasp. I just don't want anyone to miss out because they are caught up in beliefs that are quite literally designed by the devil. The last thing Satan would ever want is for you to realize that it really is that simple - or for you to grasp the depth of love that Easter really represents.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

An Issue No More

THANK GOD!!!!! See anything missing in that smile? How about three front teeth!!! Today was our semi-annual visit to the dentist and I was determined not to leave until they took those top teeth out - the ones that had been cracked when she was 2 and a half, and consequently a full hospital visit was required to "cap them" and save those baby teeth. The end result is not what we'd been led to believe it would be, so the last five years Mikayla's had to deal with two (quite obvious) front teeth that are thicker than they should be and quite gray. Those stubborn little teeth have literally been loose for over a year and a half, in fact, each dentist visit the doctor tells us "it won't be long now". Grrrrr..... and then they say it again 6 months later.

While they have been "loose" they have not budged, despite every trick in the book we've tried (well, not EVERY trick, but you know what I mean). One of our concerns was that she would just lose one of the teeth which would make the "dark backside" of the other damaged tooth more visible. So, we were hoping they'd go close to the same time.

I truly believe this whole thing has bothered me over the years much more than my daughter. But, when (ironically) she came home just this week telling us of how another girl in a different class had stated "Mikayla's ugly because of her two gray teeth", I felt like I had all the ammunition I needed to plead my request to "yank 'em" at the dentist. While the exchange was a bummer for Mikayla, she displayed amazing composure about it all, almost feeling bad for the girl who was obviously so shallow.....(I'm proud of my little girl!). But, Mikayla has had enough of the oddity too - and has been excited for today for quite a while to get rid of them.

Fortunately, the x-rays showed that the adult teeth are "right there", ready to come in. So, the dentist offered to pull them "whenever we'd like to come back in". Um, how about today? I'd already told myself I'd sit in that dentist office all day to be available.....sure enough, he worked us in 40 minutes later. (But don't tell Mikayla's teacher that - we celebrated through the rest of the school day by running errands together....)

Can I just say we have the greatest dentist in the world?! For the record, it was his previous business partner that did the original work on Mikayla's teeth, and I'm so glad we stuck with our gut and went with the older, not-as-good-of-looking partner and not the guy we'd originally chosen. Dr. Barta has such a kind heart and did not charge me a dime for giving her the "calming fruity flavored stuff" they give to kids, nor for using stuff to numb the area, nor for the time to yank the three teeth (there was another loose tooth next to those two that was ready to go as well). It's not the first time he's not-charged for something he should have either. I love that guy - and even more for the care he gives my kiddos. (For the record, I did pay for the normal cleaning and x-rays, which was ouchy enough as we don't have insurance).

So, that's it. No more mark of abnormality for Mikayla. She's a typical 7 year old girl missing her top teeth. Ironically, if you link to this post, you'll find Mikayla isn't the only one in our family who was wishing for her two front teeth to arrive in her Easter basket.... I'm so happy for Mikayla, and, ashamedly, for myself - who has always felt like this teeth issue is something I should have prevented if I were a good mom.....Oh, the ways we torment ourselves!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Glorious Day

The weather has turned cold and ugly again - gray and rainy. Yup, that's spring in Oregon. But, on Sunday, it was still beautiful, so we took a family bike ride. (On that ride, Mikayla was on the Trail-a-bike behind mine; good thing, as it was a very long ride).

We're very lucky in that the city we live in really values its bicyclists, runners, and outdoor enthusiasts in general. As a result, we have a beautiful trail that is accessible less than a mile from our house that follows both sides of the Willamette River for quite a ways. Each time I go, I marvel at the beauty of the river and wonder what little wildlife surprises will be waiting for me. This time, it was baby Canadian Geese and families of turtles. These pics were taken with John's cell phone, so they aren't super, but needless to say, it proved what a great family day we had on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

He Is a TEN Year Old Now!

I've been procrastinating getting this post up - I've been in denial and if I put it in cyberspace print, then it's official; and I have to accept the reality that my baby is a decade old now.

I think Brayden had a great day yesterday. We started out at Market of Choice for doughnuts for breakfast before school and ended with Red Robin and a free birthday kids' meal. In between, Daddy brought him Quizno's for lunch and he was being begged to be part of both of the teams choosing to be on their side for the football game during recess. (Which has to be a huge ego booster for a 4th grade boy).

Afterschool, we were asked to go for a bike ride with Kenady's family to Jamba Juice - can't turn that one down on a 71 degree day in Oregon (especially with the birthday gift card he just got). That was wonderful with the exception of poor Mikayla's bike tires being almost completely flat... she was working so hard, her dear face was so red!

On the way home, Brayden took the lead, and as I was at the rear of the pack with Mikayla, he soon got out of sight from me. The route home was basic and safe enough, but I've never permitted him to do that before. I yelled out to Johnna that "I guess this 'letting go' is what happens when he turns 10". She thought that was terribly sad, but I am comforted by the knowledge that my boy is just as much Brayden today as he was when he was nine......but sigh, this kids growing up thing is a hard reality indeed!

Sunday, April 05, 2009


Yesterday was a GREAT day! It took just a little bit longer for the sun to clear up over our house (a mile away it was crystal clear, the clouds just hung on the further north you were) - but that's about it in terms of anything I could complain about.

Yesterday was the day we planned for Brayden's party. Had we known it would have been one of Oregon's first true spring days, we might have planned something entirely different, but knowing Oregon's Aprils, we planned accordingly and planned to take Brayden and seven of his closest buddies to see MONSTERS VS. ALIENS at the theater.

When I heard the weather was supposed to be as great as it was, I suggested to John that we might want to consider cleaning the patio up (i.e. pressure washing). John sprung onto that idea and got the job done in amazing and efficient fashion (between that success and our attic organizing, we're feeling pretty good!). It feels great to have an outdoor space we are happy with again, vs. preferring to keep the blinds over the sliding door closed as it looks so icky out there.

The day only got better once the boys arrived. I just love these kids. They've all been faithful friends since kindergarten or first grade and they are very fun and very nice. Brayden's played on sports teams with all of them, we appreciate all of their parents, I'm just so thankful for a group of guys that I can trust Brayden to hang with. (In contrast to a new problem with a new student who moved in down the street - that's stuff for another post, but it has caused me considerable stress). The only bummer is that Tanner Z. couldn't attend as he has already begun his baseball games. We missed him.

At one point, in the theater, I remarked to the group of them, "You guys are such great friends to Brayden" and Carson responded, "Well, Brayden's pretty great himself". Ahhhh. The guys all LOVED the movie - we'd given them a heads-up of this plan about a month ago, so none of them had seen it prior. It's probably the best 3-D movie I've ever seen.

When we returned there was enough time for some trampolining, brownie consumption and opening of presents. I guess since these boys are all routine "playdate" buddies, I felt no need to try to occupy them like I have in parties past. I guess I can chalk it up to just the right size of group and just the right kids......(In the candle blowing pic: Andrew, Traig, Kyle, Carson, Brayden, Tanner S., and Jack).

Of course, having Michele there (hence the reason Ellie is in the first pic - Michele's girls and Mikayla were able to attend) and John be such an extraordinary dad made it even better. Yes, a day to celebrate indeed.