Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I have said it a million times in my life: "I'm not good at goodbyes." It seems like every time I am faced with a situation where I have to tell somebody goodbye, I freeze up. I suppose the reason I hate goodbyes so much is that I finally have to face reality - I will be separated from this person. I can vividly remember telling my parents goodbye as I hugged them for the millionth time and then boarded the plane headed to Chicago. I was going to college. Life was changing forever and I was being forced to face it. It all seemed unreal..... until I had to say goodbye. A few years passed, and it was time for my husband and I to head to China. What an adventure! We packed our suitcases, arranged our passports and visas, and headed for the airport. As we pulled up to the departure terminal, I whipped out my phone and called Mom and Dad.
"Hello?" I heard from my Daddy.
I couldn't answer. A lump had formed in my throat which prevented me from speaking. Finally, I mustered up enough courage to say, "I was just calling to say goodbye. Next time we talk, I will be in China." Even as I write this, I choke up. It was another difficult goodbye.
Since my husband is a youth pastor, it seems like all I ever do is say goodbye. Every year a few amazing people graduate high school and leave our youth group. It is hard. We have to watch wonderful teenagers that we gave our hearts to grow up. They graduate, get married, and move away. It is such a painfully sweet thing to see. As hard as it is to let them go, I know that they have such great things in store. They have so much life to live. Over the last 2 weeks we have watched 3 of our best teenagers graduate. My heart breaks a little with each graduation service as I realize that I will not get to spend time with these teenagers like I used to. Goodbyes have not gotten any easier over the years. I am still "not good" at them. I still struggle with them. However, I know that with each goodbye I say, I will get the joy of a reunion later on. I am excited to see what God has in store for all of our amazing teenagers! We are so proud of you, Mike, Rosa, and Greg!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Our Redneck Vacation

Last week I decided that we needed a vacation. The only problem was that it was basically impossible for us to do so at that time. It is a busy time of year, and taking time off simply was not feasible. Then I got my idea.... we could camp in the backyard! I would find a tent, sleeping bags, and a lantern... it would be awesome! I was going to price a tent at Walmart and then decided to see if perhaps Goodwill had one. Guess what!!! A brand new, $179.00 tent was for sale. It even has a light fixture that is remote controlled! (God knows that I really am not much of a camper, so the light was pretty cool to me!) Quickly I snagged it up and rushed to the checkout line. I couldn't wait to get home and put it up! With borrowed sleeping bags and a lantern, I set up camp in the backyard. That night, we grilled out for dinner. FINALLY it was time for us all to snuggle together in our little sleeping bags and go to sleep. Josh told us all a goodnight story as I turned out the lantern. We could hear the crickets chirping and it actually felt like we were miles away. The warmth of the evening carried over throughout the night, and we didn't even need the extra blankets we brought out. Five a.m. came all too quickly, and it was time to head inside and get ready for the day.... Josh still had still had to go to work. What a great mini-vacation! I can't wait till we do it again!

Update on the munchkins

Everyone keeps asking me what is new with our two little pumpkins.....

Kyndra just turned two years old last month. She is very articulate and talks constantly. Every night when we put her to bed, she recites a Bible verse, prays on her own, and then proceeds to tell her sister and Elmo about Jesus. (We taught her the plan of salvation) She is bright and FULL of energy. If she had it her way, she would spend every minute of the day outside playing. She loves her swingset and sandbox. About a million times a day she asks to watch Little Einsteins. Because of the show, she knows the difference between eagles and other birds, she can distinguish the difference between a violin and a flute, she is familiar with composers like Beethoven and Tchaikovski, and can count to twelve. She is ADDICTED to chocolate. (I wonder who she got that from!) I thought that she would be very jealous of the new baby, but suprisingly, she is a GREAT big sister. I have caught her trying to change Kayla's diaper and trying to feed her from a sippy cup though!

Kayla is really getting some personality now! She is three months old and scoots all over her crib. She is docile, calm, and very good natured. Basically the only times she cries is when she is hungry or her tummy hurts. I prayed for a snuggler because Kyndra is always too busy to snuggle. I got what I asked for. Kayla is content sitting on your lap all day, and she never tires of being held. She giggles and laughs and makes all sort of silly baby faces. She is the chunkier of the two. Her arms and legs look like they have rubber bands on them because of the rolls! She doesn't have multiple chins.... she has multiple NECKS! Bathtime is her favorite time of day, and she loves to kick in the water. She sleeps through the night better than Kyndra does! (I guess she doesn't have bad dreams like her sissy!) Against her mommy's wishes, she prefers to suck her thumb over her pacifier. If she loses the pacifier in the night, she always wakes up with a thumb in her mouth. Her middle name is Joy, and it fits her perfectly.

My Greatest Accomplishment

I must admit that if I could somehow find a way to justify it, I would spend the entire day watching HGTV. I LOVE to watch home decorating shows! After watching a few episodes of one particular DIY show, I am confident that I could replace the tile in our bathroom all by myself it is ever needed! Recently I was watching a home design show where an inexperienced person gets to try their hand at being an interior designer. At the end of the show, they always do a big reveal and the homeowners get to see what the designer ended up doing with their living space. In this particular episode, the homeowners were delighted with the changes that took place. As the show drew to a close, the designer said through tearful eyes, "This is my greatest accomplishment! I have never been happier."
The whole day that phrase stuck in my head. I couldn't help but feel a little bit of pity for that poor woman.... that was her greatest accomplishment: choosing a nice paint color and couch. How sad!

Sometimes I like to watch the Biggest Loser. (I think it is because I feel skinny when I watch it!) In one episode a contestants said something that caught my attention: "This is my greatest accomplishment! I have lost so much weight!"

"Wow," I thought. "That man's greatest accomplishment in life is being able to fit into a smaller size."

Now I understand firsthand how difficult it is to lose weight. It is a huge battle that I am still fighting. However, I would be a little depressed if my greatest accomplishment was simply dropping those pesky pounds. I have bigger goals for myself. I have BIG dreams. I want to accomplish BIG things.

I thought I would just take a few minutes and list the things that I want to accomplish with my life. Here ya go, guys!

*I want to hear my Lord and Savior say, "Well done."
*I want to be the wife that God created me to be for my husband.
*I want to "train up my children in the way they should go..."
*I want to make a difference in the lives of the teens that God has called us to work with.
*I want to make my parents proud.
*I want to be a true friend to my friends. "If I have ever loved you, I will always love you." Dr. Jack Hyles
*I want to serve God until I die. I hope that I never go through a period in my life where I get seriously backslidden.
*I want to give my children and their children a "goodly heritage".
*I want to be loyal to my preacher and my church.
*I want somebody to be in the ministry because of my husband's and my influence.
*I want my children to see what a wonderful life serving God brings.
*I want to learn something new daily. I always want to grow.
*I want to REALLY know the Bible and what God thinks.
*I want to have a real life of prayer.
*I want to be somebody that can say, "Follow me as I follow Christ."

Wow! After making this list, I am thinking it might just be easier to lose 100 lbs and paint a room! I guess it is true that nothing worthwhile comes easy!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Attitude Adjustment

Ever have one of THOSE weeks? I am not talking about the kind of week where everything goes badly. I am talking about the kind of week where you mind can't stop thinking negatively. I am ashamed to say that for several days now I have really battled to keep a positive frame of mind. I was so busy feeling sorry for myself over the groceries that I wanted to get that I managed to overlook the cart full of groceries that I COULD get. Instead of telling my husband all of the cute things Kyndra did yesterday, I told him about the numerous times I wanted to lock her up so I wouldn't kill her. You could definitely say that the glass was half empty for me! Deep down inside I knew that this way of thinking is dangerous. It bothered me every time I would catch myself thinking negative thoughts, so I decided to take action. I needed an attitude adjustment!

This August we will hold our first annual youth conference at our church. Most youth conferences revolve around a fun theme, yet for some reason, God laid it on my husband's heart to choose a very unusual theme for this year: Martyrs. Teenagers want to be treated like adults, he said. I want them to have a serious theme that causes them to stand up for their faith in God. Because of this theme, I bought a book for my husband called "Tortured for Christ". It is the story of Richard Wormbrand, a pastor in Romania, that was tortured in a Communist prison for 14 years. Realizing my recent lack of appreciation for all of the great things God has given me, I picked up this book hoping to be changed. I was.

In this book, I read the story of a man who was taken from his family just for preaching the Gospel. He was beaten, starved, frozen, burned, abused, brainwashed, and tortured, and yet he loved and prayed for his captors. As I read this book, I was so ashamed of myself. Wormbrand was given ONE slice of bread A WEEK! Oh, poor me! I can't buy every food item that I want at Kroger! Wormbrand was stripped to near nakedness and put in a freezer until he almost died, only to be thawed out and put back in again. Poor me! I can't seem to find an outfit that looks great on me! That saint of God spent 14 years away from his family, and I was complaining to myself because my husband was working a little later than usual!

I have only read 62 pages of the book so far, and already I am stirred. Sometimes it takes somebody else having to endure a tragedy for you to appreciate the lack thereof in your life. God has been so good to me! I am thankful to Richard Wormbrand for suffering so that I could see that I am not suffering at all.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thank God for a Messy House!

The title of this post is probably a little confusing. Why in the world would I ever be glad that my house is messy? Well let me start out by saying that it is clean at the moment. I REALLY cleaned it yesterday, so it shouldn't be dirty for a few more hours! I must admit that it really was embarrassingly dirty.... let me share with you why...

The last time I cleaned my house was on Thursday, April 16th! You see, my dear friend, Kina Fink, was getting married. I wouldn't have missed that occasion for the anything in the world! She has been through some difficult situations, and I am sooooo thankful that God brought Jonathan into her life! It was such a beautiful wedding. Needless to say, my house was not cleaned at all while we were away for this special day. We got home Saturday and busily got things in order for Sunday.

Sundays are always hectic (in a good way)! There are lessons to be taught in Sunday school, singing practices, activities to be planned for teen time, Junior Church preparations..... there is little "rest" on Sundays. If my kids get a bath I feel like I am Super Mom! The dishes making it into the dishwasher is the closest I am able to come to cleaning on Sunday.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty exciting for us. Dr. Cox came and really helped us through his preaching. He comes every year and convicts us, pushes us, and encourages us. No cleaning done those nights!

Wednesdays are a favorite for me. Soulwinning is such a great time to spend time with our awesome teens. We lead souls to Christ, eat at McDonalds, and have a wonderful time. All the while, the dust on my shelves collects....

Thursday morning we left for my favorite conference of the year, "Our Time". This is an amazing youth conference that challenges our teens in an amazing way. Decisions for God are made and lives are changed. Instead of catching up on laundry, I was having my heart touched by some AMAZING preaching. We got home at 3:30 AM on Saturday morning. SOOOOO tired. Not a whole lot of housework was accomplished on Saturday - I was just exhausted!

Another Sunday rolls around. This one busier than most! A bridal shower for a sweet girl was held in the afternoon. She is a bus kid who grew up at our church... so exciting to see her living for God and marrying such a nice guy! They are the cutest couple! My poor house! It just keeps getting dirtier and dirtier!

FINALLY it is Monday. No conferences, weddings, or bridal showers! I spent hours cleaning and it felt soooo good! Did I feel guilty about the state of my home? No way! The only way I would have been able to have a neater house this week would have been to:
*Miss my best friend's wedding
*Skip the conference with Bro. Cox where my heart was stirred to love God more
*Ignore lost souls and skip soulwinning
*Stay home from "Our Time" and miss this important time with our teens
*Miss the bridal shower for one of the sweetest girls in our church

Do I think it is important to have a clean home? ABSOLUTELY! However, sometimes I am willing to let the dust collect in order to be in my place for God. A teen girl surrendered to full-time Christian service at the conference this week. I guess that is worth a little bit of dirt!

I have to admit though, it sure felt good to REALLY clean my home yesterday!

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Very Merry Christmas!

Well, I have to say that we (Josh and I) really dropped the ball this year. We bought hundreds of lights to decorate the exterior of our house - they are all still in the box! Even though we celebrated Christmas THREE TIMES by the time we opened presents with all of our different family, we probably only have 3 pics of Kyndra this Christmas. This year Christmas seemed to come and go more quickly than ever before. It is probably due to the fact that I feel like I am ready to pop (only about a month till my due date!!) I would rather sleep than bake, and the thought of all the holiday crafting and decorating just didn't really appeal too much to me this year. We did manage to get a tree up, but half of the lights went out and we never got around to fixing them. Our house is the farthest thing from a winter wonderland that your could imagine.

And yet....

We had a WONDERFUL time with my whole family together this year. It has been so long since we have been able to all get together for a holiday, so this was a very memorable Christmas.

We had a ton of fun watching Kyndra play with the styrofoam peanuts just as much as she played with the elmo doll that Aunt Bev and Uncle Les sent.

We had a great visit with Josh's family. Uncle Jonny bribed Kyndra with Barbie tents and Oreos the whole time, and I am sure that he is her favorite person now.

We had a safe drive home from Schererville, IN, in the midst of a blizzard.... even though the 4 hr. trip took over 7 hours!!!

This year, I felt like I really didn't prepare for the holiday like I should have. However, maybe my lack of Christmas fever allowed us to slow down and really remember the whole reason that we celebrate this holiday in the first place. Being pregnant, I find myself thinking about Mary a lot this year. That poor girl had to travel so far while being great with child... makes my 7 hour trip in my parents' AMAZING Kia seem kinda trivial. She didn't get to deliver her child in a birthing suite, but instead, a dirty animal dwelling. She didn't even have a cute outfit to put on her sweet little child. She had to wrap him in rags just to keep him warm. As amazing as it was that Mary was willing to go through all of this, it is even more amazing that Jesus was willing to humble himself in this way. He knew exactly what he was getting into when he left Heaven to be born in the manger. So maybe my neighbors didn't get a Christmas card... but at least we took time to reflect on the whole reason that we send our cards at all.

Thank you, Jesus, for being born!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ahhhh, Birthday Week!!!

We have a tradition in the Graham household: BIRTHDAY WEEK!!! Instead of only celebrating on your birthday, we celebrate the WHOLE WEEK LONG! Each day, we eat the birthday person's favorite meals, go to his favorite places, and do his favorite things. Since my bday is the 17th, I am now enjoying my birthday week. Today I decided that I was going to have a nice, relaxing day and only do things that sounded fun. Housework can wait a day! I started out by grocery shopping. I know that some people dread grocery shopping, but I really look forward to it each week. Croissants were on clearance... it really IS birthday week! I then went to the gym and worked out, which I do enjoy if I am in the right mood. My energy is non-existent if I don't work out, and I wanted to have energy to enjoy my day. After coming home, I put Kyndra down for a nap, ate a yummy lunch, and took a quick nap myself. The best part of the day was that I didn't change out of my jammies when my nap was over. If it were possible, I would live in jammies... they are just sooooo comfy! Kyndra woke up, and we gave ourselves makeovers. (See the pics below!) I made myself a deluxe cup of joe (decafe with pumpkin spice creamer, and even cool whip on top!) Now Kyndra and I are going to start working on dinner. Cooking is one of my favorite things in the world to do.

What a WONDERFUL day!

.... and yes... I am still in my jammies!!!

"I want pretty eyes!"

As I was doing my make-up this morning, Kyndra told me that she wanted "pretty eyes". I usually do everything I can to keep her out of my make-up, but today I felt adventurous! Quickly I set Kynny on the bathroom counter and gave her free reign of my make-up bag. I was laughing the whole time.... this girl LOVES make-up.

A Video to Amuse You

Here is some random video of my crazy daughter. She was being particularly silly this night. She seemed to tone it down as soon as the camera was rolling, but I still thought Gigi might want to see it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What is your Motto this Holiday Season?

At our Christmas Tea, my amazing preacher's wife, Robin Ogle, said something that really caught my attention. She said that she always picks a Bible verse for the holiday season. As I mulled this over in my mind, I thought of several verses that could be my motto for this year. Finally, I decided that a statement my preacher made in a sermon recently would be my theme. He said,

"Everything you get is so that you can give."

At Christmas time, we get so much. It is so much fun to try to figure out how to give with each get that comes our way. I am not suggesting that you should give away every gift you receive... that would be insulting to the person who gave it to you! I am saying that we should try to use everything God allows into our lives to enrich somebody's life.

Here is an example. I was given a Starbucks gift card. (my FAVORITE, by the way!) Normally, I would hang onto that little card and look forward to whatever coffee drink I decide to get. Trying to implement my holiday theme, I decided that I am going to use the card to take a teen girl who is going through a hard time out for coffee. It is much more fun to share a cup of chai with someone else anyway!

This Christmas, why not make a game of it? How many things can you use for others? It really makes the holidays fun and keeps you unstressed. Best of all, it keeps your heart from becoming greedy. I don't know about you, but I tend to really have to fight greediness this time of year. It is human nature to want everything. By always trying to figure out a way to give to somebody, you are fighting selfishness.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Acts 20:35b