Monday, March 14, 2011

Lindsay - 3 Biggest Pet Peeves

March 14, 2011

"My 3 biggest pet peeves are..."

1. People who don't use their turning signal while driving.

2. People who text when you're trying to have a conversation with them.

3. When the person who previously used the bathroom has left the toilet paper roll EMPTY!!!

These are very minimal offenses, but all the same, very annoying. Oh, and I'm sure I have done every single one of them! Ha! So my little loves, just know that mommy will have grace on you if you commit any of these. I love you forever.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jen - 3 Biggest Weaknesses

"What do you think are your 3 biggest weaknesses in your life?"

Wow. Glad this question only said "3"...cause we could be here all night. ;-)

My three biggest weaknesses...

The very first one that comes to mind is being a BIG people pleaser. If I can't make people happy or please them, I get frustrated at myself and all beside myself. I need peace wherever I go, so if I can't help provide that to someone or to a certain situation I get really down on myself. I struggle with boundaries in this area. It's hard for me to say "no" or state my own opinion, especially if it's contrary to the group or what I think people expect of me. I've really grown in this area, but in this an area of my life I will always need to watch because of the high value I place on relationships.

The second biggest weakness I see in me is being a fearful person. I have been ever since I was child. I was very close to being kidnapped when we lived in the apartment complex. A big brown van with a big scary looking guy was trying to get kids to come inside by handing them candy. I remember it was red candy, and he singled me out with his finger. After jumping on my bike and pedaling as fast as I could back home, I tried to tell what just happened to my parents. I was hyperventilating so bad that I couldn't even get a word out. Finally, after much calming down, I was able to describe the event in detail. My mom called the police, and it just so happened that they were looking for a man in a big brown van who was kidnapping children. Ugh. How I looked at people and the world changed from that day on. Fear always was "lurking." I've had weird fears. Fear of not having enough saliva to swallow, so I always had to carry gum with me. Ask my sister about that one. We were at a water park. I shoved gum up the side of my bathing suit so I would have it "just in case." Well, you know what happens at water parks. You get wet and go down slides! I lost my gum! I started to literally freak out!! I couldn't swallow!! Not enough saliva ya know. I made my parents buy my a slushy to hold me over, but long story short, we all had to LEAVE the water park. My family was NOT happy with me needless to say. Fear of throwing up in front the class (which I did in 2nd grade, hence why the fear). Fear that my heart was not beating correctly so I always had to feel my pulse to make sure my heart was still beating. I would not go into Turkey Hill or any other gas station alone for a long time for fear of those "weird" looking people that might do something to you. THANK GOD, I've outgrown ALL those fears, unfortunately now I have new ones. I thought THOSE fears were big, but now, I fear having seizures every time I go to bed (since all my seizures happen in my sleep). Fear of never being able to have children of my own (since it's been well over a 1 year), fear of losing my husband because i simply can't imagine my life without him. We've been through SO much together and I love him so much! I could go on, but i think you get the point. I continue to need to trust God to help me overcome my fears. ~Perfect love casts out Fear (1Jn 4:18)

And lastly, although there are many, I seem to put high expectations on people. When they don't meet them, I get really disappointed and upset. For example, I'm an extrovert, for the most part. I love sharing my heart with people. I pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve. When I'm trying to get into someone's world and they aren't opening up, I feel like I don't know how how else to get to know them besides talking. I guess because that 's what I know how to do best. ;-) I can tend to get frustrated when I feel like I can only get to a certain level with someone and then I just get cut off. I of course can not expect them to be like me...someone who will freely offer their whole life story to anyone who wants to listen, so that's where I need to lower my expectations and just let me be me and let them be who God made them to be.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Holly - Tell about a favorite family vacation.

When I was a kid, we didn't go on a lot of vacations. We usually  made it to the beach maybe once a year for a week, but that was about it.  My parents, however, did try to get away by themselves, or with friends, once a year.  They have traveled to many different places in the world together.  When I was in 4th grade, they started taking Uncle Jarred and I along with them to Myrtle Beach every spring, and we continued this tradition until I was a senior in high school. Although these trips were a lot of fun, my favorite family vacation was when we went to Grand Cayman Island for the first time when I was a sophomore in high school.  My parents decided they would let Jarred and I tag along for their yearly "winter vacation", and I couldn't have been more happy. I mean, who doesn't want to go to a tropical caribbean island in the middle of winter!  The Cayman Islands are 3 small islands in the western caribbean, below Cuba.  Grand Cayman is the largest of the 3 islands, and that is where we stayed.  I remember flying over the caribbean for the first time, and being so amazed at the water.  It is pretty hard to describe it, but I hope that one day you will get to see it for yourselves girls!  It is NOTHING like that ocean at Ocean City, trust me =)

We flew to the Caymans in March, rented a little jeep tracker thing, and I had my first experience with driving on the different side of the road!  The Caymans is a British owned island, so they drive on the opposite side of the road that we do here in USA.  My parents rented this wonderful 3 bedroom condo right on the beach. It was in a private condo complex, so it wasn't a crowded hotel, or really anything extravagant- but it was pretty much perfect.  It was called The Cayman Reef Resort, and I loved everything about it the moment we arrived!  Here are a few pictures of it....
Here is a view from the ocean looking up at the condos.

Here is a view from the bottom of our condo out to the ocean.

We did many special things as family, but by far the 2 neatest things I was able to experience was to be able to swim with stingrays, and go parasailing.  We took a private catamaran out to a special sandbar in the middle of the caribbean sea and literally swam with, fed, and held live stingrays!  It was such a neat experience, one that I actually did AGAIN 2 years later when my wonderful parents took me and a bunch of my friends on a cruise, and we stopped at the Caymans for a day!

Here's Mommy, Deedle, and Uncle Jarred getting ready to get on the catamaran to go to stingray city.

Uncle Jarred wasn't so sure about all this, but he did it!  The fine specimen to the right was captain dexter, he owned the private boat we took. He was quite the character!!

I mentioned that I also went parasailing. You have seen this done many times at Ocean City...but I promise, there is maybe not anywhere else in the world that could be a more perfect spot to parasail than the Caymans!  You are about 300 or more feet above the water, and you can STILL see down to the bottom. I saw all kinds of fish, and huge sea turtles. It was such a neat experience!!
Here I go heading up into the sky!!

When we weren't doing fun adventure as a family, we spent the day being lazy on the beach and going snorkeling! The water is just so perfect!

I think this was my favorite family vacation (with my family growing up) because I realized how fortunate I was to be able to experience such an amazing place and such unique experiences!  I realized how much my parents loved my brother and I to take us along with them.  I am so grateful to them for all they have always done for Jarred and I, but I realized on this trip, what a true blessing it is to have such a close family.  I hope that Daddy and I will be able to allow you girls some fun traveling experiences, also, as you get older!   I am still trying to convince Nana and Deedle to take us back to the Caymans for would both love it!!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Danielle - 3 Things You Couldn't Live Without

"What are 3 things you have now, that you didn't have growing up, that you couldn't see yourself living without?"

It was so easy to quickly come up with two things that I didn't have growing up that I couldn't see living without now - cell phones and internet. Cell phones are the norm for everyone - kids, adults, and grandparents. When I was little, there weren't any cell phones. Around the time that I was in Middle School they started putting cell phones in cars. By the time I was 16 I had a cell phone but it wasn't small at all like the phones now and it had to stay in my car's glove compartment and was only to be used for emergencies. I got my first cell phone to use when I wanted when I went off to college. Cell phones have come a long way since I was young and I am sure they will continue to change. We now use our cell phones many many times a day. Your dad and I decided not to put in a landline, which is a telephone at the house that has to stay at the house, at our current house because we can use our cell phones for any calls we need to make. You can make calls any time, wherever you are. You can also text messages to each other instead of making calls. It is an easy way to have tell a friend something quick without having to bother them with a call. You can browse the internet on cell phones, pay bills, take pictures, and it all fits into your pocket. It is hard to think of a time when I had to wait to get home to make a call and had to make sure that person was home as well. Now I can call anyone, no matter where I am and no matter where they are. And cell phones are the new norm for you as well. You love to play with our cell phones and also talk to your favorite friends. Oh and ps - you are not going to have a cell phone when you are 5. Kids are getting cell phones younger and younger but they are a responsbility and something you will have to earn. We love you but don't think you will be a 5 year old running around with a cell phone. :) 

The second thing that it is hard to imagine life without is the internet. The internet started becoming popular in high school. I set up my own email address my senior year. Too bad I couldn't check it very often since my parents (Pappy and Grammy) didn't get the internet until my freshman year of college. Now I can't imaging living my life without it. If I need to look up a recipe, directions, or a coupon for a local store it is all within a click on my computer. Email is so often a normal way to communicate with others not only personally but in the professional world as well. Facebook has become the latest craze with everyone having a facebook account. It does help to stay in contact with people you haven't seen in forever or are so far away from. And then there are blogs (like the one that I am posting on) that help people share their lives, their ideas, and their heart. I am amazed at how much you can already do on the internet. (Camden is 3 and Jaxsen is 1) You know how to get to YouTube to watch videos from movies, your favorite singers, or even our personal videos. You can play games on the Sesame Street site and you know how to scroll through pictures on the Facebook pages. The internet has made a lot of things easier and more convenient. 

The last thing that I thought of after contemplating for a little while was digital cameras. When I grew up all the cameras used film so you had no idea what your picture would actually turn out like and you had to wait until you went through an entire roll of film before you could get your pictures printed. Even printing pictures took more time than it does now. You had to take the film to a store, drop it off, and wait until it was shipped out, processed, and returned before you could pick it up. It was such an exciting time when you got to pick up the pictures and slowly go through them one by one looking at what you captured weeks or even months ago on your camera. The sad part was that a lot of the pictures never turned out as well as you had hoped they would. Digital cameras became less expensive late in college. Digital cameras completely changed taking pictures. You could take the picture and see right away what it would look like when you printed it. If you didn't like it, no problem. Click delete and try again. There was no more wasted film on pictures that you had hoped would turn out. Digital cameras also allowed you to print your pictures whenever you wanted. If you only wanted to print 1 picture than that was fine. Along with the digital cameras came editing software for your computer. You could take your okay picture to great by clicking on a few editing options. I love our camera because it allows us to capture you in your different stages. And if I missed the moment or you closed your eyes, no problem - delete - and we try once again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meghan: Tell about your first real date.

Tell about your first real date. Who was it with? Where did you go? How old were you?

I would have to say my first "real" date as far as I can remember was with my friend Lucas from church. I think it was the summer going into my freshman year of high school and I was 14. I guess this was what I considered my first date as it was the first time I went anywhere with a boy. We went to a circus with his parents. Quite honestly I don't remember much else from this so called date.
I believe my first date alone with a guy was with Jeremy. Jeremy also went to church with me when I was younger but then his family moved away to Colorado. His grandparents stayed in Lancaster and every so often Jeremy and his family came to visit. One year I believe when I was 16, so at some point during my sophomore year of high school, he noticed me and wanted to take me to dinner. Since I had not yet really gone anywhere alone with a boy I had to ask my parents. They must have said yes, because we went to dinner at Haydn Zugs in East Petersburg. I remember being nervous for many reasons. One I really didn't know Jeremy all to well, two I never went to a nice restaurant with a guy, and three what do we talk about! The night as far as I remember went great I was rather nervous though about the prices of the food, so I only ordered shrimp cocktail and that was it! We remained in contact for awhile by letters but just remained friends.
I'm a little short on details on this because it has been a long time. My biggest prayer for my children and dating is that their experiences would be positive and their choices be wise. As far as rules well we aren't there yet so that'll be answered in time:)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lauren: A Book About My Life

If you were to publish a book about your life what would the title be? And why?

I love this question. And the answer came quite easily to me because I have considered writing a book about my life, or aspects of my life, and already had a title in mind.

If I were to write a book about my life I would title it Pull Yourself Together.

Aside from the fact that I often use the phrase "pull yourself together" when speaking to myself and even to you, my children, the title does have a deeper meaning.

My life thus far has been filled with some pretty intense heartbreaks. Of course, pain is relative and I know that comparatively, in this world full of tragedy, the hurts that I have endured are minimal. But, nonetheless, I have experienced my share of disappointments, abandonments, losses and broken relationships and those things shaped me. They are still shaping me, in one way or another.

On my life's journey I have found this to be true: when pain crosses your path you can either pull yourself together, dust yourself off and move forward, stepping out of that place of hurt and into forgiveness, hope and peace - OR - you can just stay where you are, fall apart and let the pain swallow you up until it becomes your identity.

I can confidently say that I have chosen, always, to PULL MYSELF TOGETHER and thankfully I have a Savior who laid down His life for me, to make a way out of the despair and hurts of this world. I certainly could not have pulled myself together without Christ. He is the peace I have, the hope I have, and the faith I have to MOVE ON. He keeps me going and does not allow me to wallow in self pity, regret, shame or hurt. Because of Him, I forgive. He is my rock and my firm foundation when the world shakes.

Pull Yourself Together. That's the title of the book of me, at least the first 28 years worth. Prayerfully, the title will remain for the next 28 years too.

Lindsay - First Car

"Describe your first car and learning how to drive."
February 21. 2011

My first car was a 1991 Mazda 626, white exterior with navy blue fabric on the interior. The seat belts were automatic and would cut off your head if you weren't sitting straight in your seat. I don't think that's safe anymore, so you probably won't ever experience fearing a seat belt. I really liked this car, honest. Your great-grandpa Lanas gave it to me, and like most 16 year old kids who have their own car, I washed and cleaned it religiously. I also wasn't a fan of the interior for some reason, so I went through a phase of zebra everything. Seat covers, steering wheel cover, stuffed animal zebras in my car, zebra key lanyard, and I think that's all I zebra attire I could buy for the car. I don't know what inspired me to do such a thing, but when you're 16, you do a lot of things that are unexplainable. I have many memories in that car, and I wish it was still around. I sold it when I was in college because it was starting to rust in a lot of places. Here's a picture of mommy in her beloved zebra mobile on the morning of homecoming. The cheerleaders would go to the homecoming court's homes and decorate their cars. Below that is a picture of what my car looked like.

notice the zebra seat covers

Unlike your dad who could get his license the day after his getting his permit, I had to wait 6 months! Daddy's grade was the last one who could get their licenses right at 16. I was 3 years younger and had to follow the new law and wait until 6 months after I received my permit. So with my birthday in January, I got my license the summer of my junior year of high school. My car was automatic and Gigi taught me how to drive. She was VERY patient with me, because I had a few close calls. So yes, I will be patient with you too. Even though I wasn't supposed to drive by myself until July, I did make a few illegal drives to friends' houses. I even passed my driving instructor the one afternoon...oops! Driving is a privilege and I hope you will see it as that. Aunt Maddie just got her license two weeks ago. She's a really good driver, so maybe you should talk to her before you go for your test. I can't imagine that 15 years from now i'll be teaching Chase how to drive. I'm sure you'll do great buddy. I love you forever.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Holly- Tell about a time you had to forgive.

Tell about a time you had to forgive someone.
February 18th, 2011
I usually write my posts to a “general audience” but this one is directed to my daughters specifically.

“When people say things that bring you to your knees, I’ll catch you. A time is going to come when you’re so mad you could cry, but I’ll hold you through the night until you smile.” Taylor Swift
Eden & Kaiah -
Mommy has been very fortunate that I have not had too many things in my life that have been really traumatic, or hurtful. When I look back over my life I have been extremely blessed in just about every way possible. When I pulled this journal prompt of having to tell about a time I had to forgive someone, it took me about a week to even come up with a scenario in which I could share with you. This might not be a typical story about forgiveness, but I promise you that at some point growing up, you are going to have to follow Mama’s example and forgive the way I did, and that’s why I decided to share this situation with you.
The summer before my senior year of high school was just like any other summer. I hung out with friends, I swam a lot in our pool, I went to the beach a few times, I went to birthday parties and summer get togethers. The only difference about this summer and all the others was that the internet was finally getting pretty popular. I know this seems funny for you to be reading now, since I am sure you basically rely on the internet for almost everything, but back then, it wasn’t such a big deal. If we wanted to talk to our friends, we called on a regular telephone, or we wrote them a note, or at this point, perhaps an email or maybe an instant message on the computer. But somewhere near the beginning or middle of August I learned the hard way, that sometimes the internet isn’t nearly as cool as we all started to think it was. That sometimes people use the internet for things and reasons that are not kind. Sometimes people use the internet to hurt your feelings.
Late one night I got a forwarded email message, from who, I can’t even remember at this point, and it really isn’t relevant to the story. I wish I could remember what the title of the email message was, but I think it was something along the lines of “who does this remind you of??” In it was a link that you could go to view the picture that was in discussion. I don’t think I could have been more shocked at what popped up once my internet page finally loaded up. There staring back at me from the computer screen was a very, very scantily clad (basically meaning she had no clothing on at all) girl that pretty much looked exactly like me. It was actually rather frightening. I assure you both that it was most certainly NOT me, but it did look a lot like your Mama. I immediately didn’t think it could get much worse, until I realized how many people must have seen this (remember it was a forwarded email message), and then to my horror I realized that it was posted on a boy I went to school with’s website. There weren’t blogs back then to my knowledge, but this was something very similar to a blog. So here is this horrific and embarrassing picture that looks just like me, and then all kinds of rude and cruel comments posted from others to go along with it. Most of them revolved around the fact that it did in fact look just like me, only she had much bigger (insert inappropriate word for boobs here). I sat there with tears in my eyes and wondered only one thing - WHY??
In general, your mommy was a pretty nice girl in school - I had all different kinds of friends, of all different ages and backgrounds and values. I never considered myself above anyone else. (this is a good time for me to interject that I hope YOU BOTH are following this example and treating everyone you meet with kindness!!!) When I finally realized who “the boy” was who had created this page, I tried desperately to think of anything that I could have done EVER to have made him do such a terrible thing. He was 2 grades behind me, and I had briefly “went out” with one of his good friends that year for about 3 months - and ironically he was always very nice to me then. I didn’t even break up with his friend, he broke up with me. So why on earth did he all of a sudden think it was appropriate to create a page in which others could publicly bash me just for fun?
I started going through his “website” and found that he had a section called something like “Likes and Gripes”. Under his Gripes sections for that week or month was an entire post dedicated to me. I just couldn’t believe it. So do you want to know what I did, what was so horrible that it provoked an entire post and pornographic photo look a like contest?? Well, here it is - I was a yearbook photographer, and he apparently had been holding a grudge against me since the yearbooks were distributed that spring at the end of the year. Yes - yearbooks are a big deal. Did you girls figure that out by now? They cause all sorts of drama and excitement and even heartbreak. Apparently, they also cause some outrage in others.
(Here is a little background information )
My junior year I was accepted as part of the yearbook class, and was a photographer (see I have always loved photography!) I want you to understand something before I go any further - I was only assigned to take the pictures. I was given assignments just like everyone else on staff. Some people had to write stories, or captions, some had to design the way the page looked like, some people had to raise money through advertising...I had to TAKE the pictures. When all the pictures would get developed and come back (yes, this was still in the days of film, wow, I feel soo old now!) The layout staff and copy staff (the people who wrote the stories/captions for the pages) would work together to choose the pictures that worked best for that page. Sure, they might ask my opinion once in awhile, but I was never the one to choose which pictures went where. Unfortunately, everyone had to get credit right, so under each of my pictures that was chosen, my name was printed “photo by Holly Texter”.
Back to my original story. So this boy wrote an entire post about how terrible it was for the seniors that year, who got ripped off because of a junior photographer (that would be me) who only took pictures of her friends, who was selfish, who thought she was too good for the rest of the school etc etc etc.... As to not just completely bash me (although that was 90% of the post) he also went on to complain in general about the yearbook, and all it’s flaws. And I think he even included his two cents about how much better it would be if he was in charge. After reading this I immediately grabbed my yearbook and very carefully paged through each page and looked even more carefully at the photos. I was over critical, over analyzing, and basically over emotional by this point. I was extremely angry, and even more so, extremely hurt. I read and reread his comments and thoughts, I read what others wrote until my eyes hurt as much as my heart. I think he invited me to respond in some sort of way at the end of his ranting, to which I immediately did, but then realized I was just too angry to even write anything rational at that point. I gave it a few days, and basically didn’t say anything much about it to anyone. I worried constantly though at who all had seen this, and especially the picture. I finally worked up enough courage to respond,and to ask him to please remove the embarrassing picture. I wish I still had what I wrote, but I don’t. I do remember that I was not angry, I was not spiteful, I did not retaliate in anger. I did my best to explain my side of the story, and to ask others to please not be so quickly to judge someone else (as most of the comments I was reading were from people who maybe knew who I was, but definitely didn’t KNOW ME or what I was all about). I apologized for anything I may have done unintentionally, I apologized on behalf of the yearbook to the seniors who may have felt “slighted” by this publication (even though I never heard any of those comments first hand). I tried to be the “bigger person” and take the high road, and I think I did.
The boy (I really should have just given him a pretend name?) Anyways - he did eventually remove the photo, and he posted my response on his page. I don’t know that anyone else ever commented on what I wrote, and truthfully, I don’t think I ever went back to his website again after school started. So are you wondering yet when we get to the part about forgiveness, since that was what this post was supposed to be all about....well here it is. I had to come to forgive him on my own. He never once said he was sorry, never asked for forgiveness, never regretted the things he said or the pictures he posted. I definitely expected that after I responded so maturely, and out of love, that he would have at least said he was sorry. I had no such luck. At first, this made me just as angry. I mean the nerve of some people!!! I started my senior year that year under a constant cloud of insecurity. I would see “the boy” with his group of friends (who also happened to be my friends at one point too, or so I thought) and think - are they talking about me, or they bringing up the picture, are they comparing me right now?? I would look at the faces of freshmen who were new to the school and think, did they see it too, is that the first impression they have of me? I struggled as a yearbook editor at first, because now I had an even bigger responsibility, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I finally realized that all the stress wasn’t worth it. I knew in my heart that I didn’t do anything wrong, I had apologized, I had acted in love, and now I had to just forgive and move on. And so that is what I did. I didn’t even tell him I did so, but I can tell you that after I made that decision to just forgive, I felt so much better. I no longer fretted over the thoughts of others, and even though this boy and I never were on friendly terms again, I didn’t hold a grudge or anything against him.
So my beautiful little girls, sometime someone is going to do or say something that is hurtful to you, for no other reason than to just be plain old mean. I am so sorry that you will have to experience this. I dread to think about the ways the internet will be used during your adolescent years to cause hurt and pain. Just know that your Mom and Dad will always be there for you. The Lord will be there for you. I pray you have friends, true friends, around you that will hold you up and encourage you. And I truly hope that after reading this, you will choose in your heart to forgive! There is truly freedom in forgiveness. Even if the person continues to hurt, even if they never say they are sorry, even if they have no idea they even did anything wrong, just forgive. I hope that you would come to me or Dad and tell us if anything is bothering you, or if something like this ever happens to you. I also hope that you would come and tell us that you made the choice to forgive. Remember that while we were still in sin, Jesus died for us - the most radical act of forgiveness. Surely you can find it in you to forgive others for their offenses. I hope you learn from my experience - both in the way of how to handle when someone wrongs you, and how NOT to treat others. I pray that whether you have 2 friends or 200, you would treat them all, and everyone for that matter, with respect and kindness. I love you both with all of my heart.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lindsay - Favorite game/toy growing up

"What was a favorite game you enjoyed playing as a child? Did you have a favorite toy?"
February 14, 2011

Two specific, ok three, specific games stand out to me from my childhood. Tag (especially on summer nights with Gigi and Paw-Paw), marbles, and LIFE! Tag was just a super fun game that my parents played with me before bed to tire me out. We played freeze tag, flashlight tag, normal tag, you name it.

Marbles was a game I played at your great-grandpa and grandma Martin's house. We also ate ice cream with it, and played it until 10:00 at night! Then we would crash into bed and get up and go to church. We still have the board, so let me know when you want to learn. It looks lame, but really, it is fun, in a Mennonite sorta way. :)

The game of LIFE was awesome. I usually played that with Paw-Paw or your Uncle Chad. I always wanted to be the doctor and live in the mansion. I always got married too.

Real life doesn't work out the way you think it might, but it's always better than you imagined it would be. I love you forever!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lauren: Talk about Something You Just Can't Get Off Your Mind

Talk about something you just can't get off your mind lately.

Kids, as you grow up you will surely learn about Mommy's passion for LIFE and advocacy for the unborn. I pray that when you are old enough to read these letters the murderous act of abortion is no longer legal in our nation. But, right now while I write this letter - it is legal.

Today, pregnant women can walk into any number of "medical facilities" and end the life of the child in their womb. They can kill a baby because it inconveniences them, because it was conceived through unfortunate circumstances, because it may be sick, or for no reason at all. Our country calls this "women's rights" or "women's health." The feminist movement champions the cause purporting that to deny a woman the option to kill the little human growing inside of her is to control her and take away her freedom. Not many on the pro-abortion side of the issue seem to recognize or address at all the rights and freedoms of the child. Abortion is a sad, sad act that victimizes not only the unborn but the women who undergo the procedure and the men who are denied any rights to preserve the lives of their children. This nation is deceived and the results are gruesome.

Abortion is legal and even encouraged by our country that currently gives over 300 million dollars in taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood, an organization that hides behind women's health care services but makes the large majority of their money by providing abortions to as many women (and children) as they can. Planned Parenthood has been caught several times denying the laws in order to provide adults and minors (kids - even as young as 11 or 12) with abortions while not reporting cases of sexual abuse and statutory rape, and while denying laws that require a parent or guardian's consent. Planned Parenthood is victimizing women and children, lying to them about scientific facts, minimizing or all together neglecting the option of adoption for unplanned pregnancies, and even recently was caught aiding and abetting undercover journalists who were posing as sex traffickers of minor children. This "women's health organization" could care less about women and children. What they care about is making money, meeting their quotas, and terminating pregnancies. And they are closely linked to our current president and our government that supports them both verbally and financially.

The entire organization, that now boasts a noble cause, was originally created to destroy the African American race. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, thought that African Americans were inferior and wanted to wipe them out (the fancy term for this is eugenics) by exterminating their children. She called Blacks "weeds" and "senseless breeders." She took advantage of the poor social, economic and educational conditions of Black Americans and tried to convince them that their pregnancies and bringing children into the world would hold them down - all the while her intention was to hold them down anyway and purify the American gene pool. She placed her facilities in poor, black neighborhoods and committed to "taking care of the problem" as she saw it. Today, most abortion clinics are still located in minority neighborhoods and a disproportionate about of minority children are being murdered through abortion.

Abortion is ALWAYS on my mind. The unborn victims of abortion are always on my mind. My passion for adoption is due in part to my loathe of abortion. Abortion denies life, love and value to children - Adoption demonstrates life, love and worth of children. To participate in adoption, to support it and to make it a part of your life is to walk in the opposite spirit of abortion. Plus, adoption is in our spiritual DNA - God adopted us into his family and we are now seated with Christ in heavenly places heirs to the throne of the Most High King. We were made to adopt because we ourselves were first adopted - and we are called to do those things that Our Father does. He is our example of LOVE and I know - through the gift of YOU, my kids- that the LOVE of a parent has nothing to do with blood and DNA. If it did, abortion would be non-existent.

Again, I hope that when you read these letters abortion has been outlawed. But right now- it is unfortunately and devastatingly legal and so Mommy is fighting through prayer, work with Pro Life organizations like Live Action, and through adoption to advocate for the unborn, be a voice for the defenseless and the vulnerable, and to parent the parentless. I hope that as you grow up you never allow our nation's values (or lack of values) to sway your own spiritual convictions about abortion and LIFE. The nation is deceived, the Prince of the Air (Satan) has designed and refined a system to destroy life in America and countless Americans are believing the lies of the system - not only believing but supporting. Do Not Be Deceived, My Loves. Fight for LIFE. Advocate for Those Who Cannot Advocate for Themselves. Speak Truth. Be a Light in the Darkness. Don't Give Up. I Won't.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jen: How are You and Your Spouse Alike/Different?

"How are you and your spouse alike? How are you different?"

What drew Ryan and I together was our heart for God and our heart for missions. Ryan and I both took a year off after high school and Ryan went into "YES" (Youth Evangelism Service) through EMM (who he works with now) ;-) and I went into YWAM (Youth With A Mission). These mission experiences vastly shaped who we are today as people. It gave us a deeper heart for God and a passion to extend ourselves for the sake of others around the world.

Other areas where we are alike:
*our LOVE for travel
*we like to try different foods
*we love the beach
*we like to experience unique things (getting dressed up and going to a nice dinner or simply going to "Central Market"
*we love coffee shops and a good discussion
*we both like to swim
*we have similar views of money and how we spend it
*we're both tall
*neither of us is a "bump on a log" (inside joke)
*we would both rather get things out in the open and talk through any issue before going to bed. We never go to bed angry.
*we both love dogs... but neither of us enough to actually get one. (..yet)
*we both like to eat healthy
*we like to take different streets and drive around and look at houses
*we like meeting new people
*we both like to cuddle
*we can be very spontaneous

Areas where we are different:
*Ryan is MAJORLY extroverted. I used to think I was...until I met him ;-)
*I like to sleep in
*Ryan goes to the gym more than I do
*Ryan washes dishes by hand, I use the dishwasher
*Ryan keeps up with world/current events via internet on a daily/minute-to-minute basis. I usually hear these events from him ;-)
*Ryan has a desire to learn in formal ways. I have a desire to learn in informal settings
*Ryan has expensive taste in clothing. I like bargain shopping. (Goodwill baby!!)
*our love languages are different. Ryan's are "acts of service" & "gifts" (and of course physical touch) ;-) And mine are "words of affirmation" & ""quality time"
*I prefer CHOCOLATE anything, where as Ryan prefers fresh fruit on top of vanilla ice cream
*I have snot (I blow my nose a lot), Ryan has boogies (rarely EVER blows his nose)
*Ryan keeps his clothes folded and kept a lot neater than I do. I seem to just quickly make a pile and deal with it later.
*I like cooking to be quick and simple, Ryan doesn't mind taking a Saturday at market and cooking from scratch with all fresh ingredients
*Ryan is very opinionated and will freely share his thoughts. I prefer to keep mine to myself.
*I am directionally challenged. Ryan is the best navigator around.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lindsay - Favorite Country

February 1, 2011
"What was your favorite country you have visited so far? Do you think you will ever go back?"

I've only visited three countries, and I've loved different things about each of them. Uzbekistan - I loved the people and culture. China - I loved the food, and that was clearly seen by the 30 pounds I gained while living there for two months. Bermuda (owned by the U.K.) - I loved the climate, people, and beauty. Out of all of them, the one I'd want to go back to the most is Bermuda, although Uzbekistan comes in at a close second!

CHINA 2004:

Yup, that's your mama in the midst of gaining 30 pounds in 2004. My close friend Grace is the one in the right corner in blue and black. This was their college art class. I took some know how talented your mom is at art. :)
Samarkand, Uzbekistan
They were beautiful and creative people!

Your Dad and I took a cruise to Bermuda the summer of 2009. It was pretty much raining 3 out of the 7 day cruise, but we made the best of it. The people of Bermuda were so polite and friendly. The island was really clean, and the architecture was so colorful and beautiful! We rented a moped and explored the island rain or shine. It was a super fun trip, and I hope we can go back there as a family some day. Here's some pictures of the different places we visited on the island:

Hamilton - great shopping and dining town

Horseshoe Bay - This is where I became a fried lobster.

This is the Royal Naval Dockyard where our ship docked.
Your dad accidentally deleted the few pictures we had of us in Bermuda. I forgave him, and I'm sure we'll take more pictures next time we're there, hopefully with you buggles! Love you forever!

Meghan: How are you and your spouse alike and different.

How are you and your spouse alike? How are you different?

The saying "Opposites attract" is so true for Dwayne and I. I'll start off with what I see are our differences, because I'll have to think about how or if we are alike. When we first met Dwayne and I learned quickly we really didn't have much in common. I grew up in a home with order and a schedule, I only moved once when I was 3(which happened to be just 2 houses down the street) and I had 1 brother. Dwayne on the other hand grew up in several different places and situations with just his mom and

3 other siblings, to a home that added 2 other step siblings to the mix when his mom remarried. One thing about our experiences growing up that is alike is that we both grew up going to church and learning about God. I am thankful for that. From the beginning I loved hearing Dwayne's stories as a child growing up from struggling on low income, to life with 5 siblings constantly joking with each other and having fun. These stories make me laugh and look at life outside the "bubble" I grew up in. My parents were able to travel, even if just to the beach, once a year with us. Going away as a family was something Dwayne had not done as a yearly vacation. Basically our childhoods were not similar in anyway other than our parents choose to raise us in a faith based home.

Our ideas and thoughts of fun, although they have conformed a little over the years of being together even differ some. I have always enjoyed being active, like going for a hike rather than lay around on a Saturday afternoon, or go swimming on a hot summer day. Also I enjoy working out and challenging myself physically. When it comes to being with friends, although I love being with them and laughing together, sometimes I would just rather stay at home and enjoy a movie with my hubby. I love going to the beach with a good book and soaking in the sun. I dream constantly about places I would love to go and see, since turning 18 I have traveled to 5 other countries and loved everyone! For Dwayne if he has to choose between an afternoon hike

or a nap on the couch, he would 90% of the time choose a nap. For a challenge he has chose to try skydiving or scuba after sitting through a 30 minute training session. He tends to be a funny guy and therefore loves the company of others especially if they are laughing at him. The beach for him is a great place also for napping and a quick dip every now and then. Reading is out of the question for him, even if it's something that interest him, he has never read a book cover to cover! Traveling is a favorite past time as well so we have 2 things alike so far! We often talk of the places we hope to take our kids someday and of the countries we would like to go back to.

If I were writing this from Dwayne's point of view he would make sure to add "We are NOT alike at all." To tell a story, I add every detail even if it's not important or necessary. Dwayne gets right to the point with no messing around. Light a fire under his butt and he will put 100% into a project. He's a perfectionist, on the other hand although I like to get the job done well I am not a perfectionist at all. I don't have the patience it takes sometimes. To add to this he literally is a handy man when it comes to anything. He can watch a youtube video on "how to…" and DO IT! No second guessing, if he runs into a problem he figures

it out. I am timid to do a lot of things because I second guess my ability all the time.

I feel as parents, although we are still new at the whole parenting thing, we agree on how we want to discipline and raise our children. Our hopes and dreams might be a little different for them. I hope and pray for little accidents as they grow up and that they would be respectful of others and love the Lord! Dwayne on the other hand sees bumps and bruises(even broken bones) as a "learning experience", and also wants them to be respectful and kind. I hope that as we live the rest of our lives together and as parents we will continue to find balance in our likes and dislikes together and as a family. I pray I never hold one of my children back because it's not something I enjoy or want them to do. This is just a few ways in how we are alike and different, I'm sure as we continue to live life we'll come across others.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Holly - Nobody knows that I...

Finish the following... “Nobody knows that I....”
January 26th, 2011

Hmm...this is a super tough one. Is there really anything about me that truly NOBODY knows?? Even when I think I come close to thinking of something, I remember, “nope - so and so knows that...”  

Like the fact that I have  a TV crush on Jim Halpert of the office (even my husband knows this). Or that I can do this really weird thing with my toes where I can spread them all apart (lots of my close friends know this). Or that I really despise all kinds of animals, especially dogs - (I think everyone might know this by now). Or, that I would love to write a book someday, even though I am not a gifter writer, or even like writing so much, it's just that the more I have grown to love to read, the more I think it would be such an accomplishment to write something meaningful (and, many of my friends and husband also know this too)....

So, with that being said, the closest thing I could think of was that I am a daydreamer. I have always been a daydreamer...right down to the part where I would stare out windows during school, often times missing what the teacher said.  I still daydream, mostly when I am driving ( I don’t know if that is dangerous or not?) Or if you catch me staring off into space while biting my nails...might be a sure fire sign that I am daydreaming.  So, since I admitted that I daydream, you may be wondering exactly what all I am dreaming about....well, there are these wonderful lyrics by Future of Forestry, from the song “If You Find Her” that say “deep inside her dreams, is all the beauty that she keeps...”  Truth is - it’s really hard to say what all I daydream about, but, they are my dreams after all - the beauty that I will keep for myself =)

Jen: Rules Growing Up

Tell about specific rules you had, or didn't have growing up. Did you follow them? How were you disciplined if you broke the rules?"

I kind of had to chuckle at this question. I really didn't have too many rules growing up. I felt like my parents trusted me. I rarely did anything to break their trust. Guess you could say I was a "goodie goodie." ;-) I'd like to think it was the grace of God over my life. My personality, as a middle child, was a people-pleaser to the core. I would do anything and everything to please my parents. For example, washing the dishes night after night without being told. I never wanted to do anything that would hurt my parents. Just being scolded at something I did wrong would bring tears to my eyes. Guess you could say I have a sensitive personality as well. ;-)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lauren: What Did You Want to be When You Grew Up?

As a child, what did you most want to be when you grew up? Did you end up doing this? Why or why not?

There were quite a few professions that I dreamed of having when I was young. They ranged from neurosurgeon and writer to model and show girl (think Rockette not Vegas nudity).

I wanted to be a neurosurgeon because I loved science and, at the ripe old age of 6, I thought that money made the world go round. Neurosurgeons made lots of money. I had no idea that such a job would require a lifestyle with little room for friends, family or relaxation. Once I discovered the personal sacrifices this job entailed - the dream faded.

Good thing I had other dreams. I have always loved to write, won several contests throughout my school-age years and knew it was something that I could succeed in should I choose to make a career out of it. When I was younger - there were a few years when I was determined to grow up and be a journalist. But, as time went on I abandoned that aspiration because I realized that writing was an artform and like any true artist - I didn't want someone else (a boss, magazine editor, etc.) telling me how to "do" my art. I enjoyed writing what I wanted to write about, in a voice that was uniquely my own and I had no desire to be asked to conform to someone else's style or preferences.

There was a period of time (middle school years) that I wanted to be a model or a show girl. Not the naked, peep show sort of show girl but a New York City Rockette or dancer on Broadway. I was trained in all styles of dance and thought surely it was something that I could make a career out of. But, in 9th grade I gave up on that ambition too.

Finally, during my senior year of high school, when I made the bold (OK, it's true I just couldn't hack it) move to quit calculus class in exchange for accounting 101, I settled on the "job of my dreams" - accounting. I decided rather quickly that I wanted to work in public accounting for a national or international firm. Accounting was something that I could do and do well. It was basic and simple. Either the numbers matched up, the books balanced - or they didn't. When I did well - I knew it and so did everyone else - the financial statements were proof. To succeed in the profession of public accounting all you needed to know was principles, standards and financial rules, apply them, pass certain tests, and maybe have a few people skills (although the last qualification is debatable). There was no subjectivity to the process of accounting and so I determined that I would choose a job in this field. My writing would be left for personal use so that I could explore the talent under no pressure or opinion of anyone else. My parents were indeed shocked when I applied to college with a declared major of Accounting.

I sailed through the college courses with an A average - all but that one lonesome"B" that I got in Cost Accounting. I was offered a full-time job (and accepted) with a regional accounting firm before my senior year of college, passed my CPA exam (on the second try) and had a great career.

BUT - my heart was never in it. My heart - was to be a mommy. AND THAT IS WHAT I AM.

I may have talent in writing, speaking, baking, and accounting but the gifts that I desire to refine in my life are the gifts of patience, teaching, understanding, innovation, peace-making, communicating, creativity, nurturing, advocating, protecting, welcoming, providing, trusting, praising, encouraging and LOVING. And those gifts are best displayed in my lifelong career choice: to be a Mommy to as many little kiddos as I can.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lindsay - Book Title About Your Life

"If you were to publish a book about your life, what would the title be? Why?"
January 24, 2010

This was actually a really hard question to answer. I want a title that reflects how life is full of seasons. Seasons that are unpredictable, always changing, constant and surprising. When I was a little girl I never would have imagined the story that God has drawn out for my life so far. It's incredible how hindsight works! I can see how different people impacted my life and changed me for better or worse, and how I always seemed to be at the right place at the right time in order for God to fulfill His purpose and plan for my life. I can also see the times when I was far from God and how He was still so very present and at work in my life.

I was asked this question in a grad class one time, and I think my title had something to do with a quilt. A true quilt is one that has many threads and colors and patches and patterns that work together to make a beautiful masterpiece. It's very hard to find two quilts that are the same. I think that was my title A Beautiful Masterpiece. Anyway, I'm not having any real breakthroughs for a title. So I'll just go with something like, oh, I don't know, Constant Grace in Uncertain Seasons.

Why? Well God has been The Constant, no matter what I've done, His grace is sufficient for me. No matter how selfish I am or undeserving of love, His love is unfailing. Life is full of uncertainties, and unsteady times, but having the hope in a God who can't be removed or shaken is all I need to walk through those uncertainties.

Life won't be easy guys, but with "the Word as a lamp unto your feet, and a light unto your path" (Psalm 119:105 and a song you'll hear mommy sing to you a lot), you will be able to face many storms. Remember to "trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, but in ALL you ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path" Proverbs 3:5-6. I love you forever!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Danielle - Favorite Family Vacation

Talk about a favorite family vacation. Where did you go, what do you remember about it?

**Pictures to come soon when I can figure out how to scan them in.**
Growing up our family did not take many family vacations. Pappy bought and then ran his own business. Most of the time it was just him and one other guy. Since he was the majority provider of our family and leaving meant that the doors were closed on his shop which meant no pay, we didn't take lots of vacations. We did go away once a year to Camp Hebron as a family. This started when I was about 8 years old and continued until I was around 13. This was a highlight of our summer. Camp Hebron was located in Halifax, PA. It was a campground that had a pool, a lake, horses, basketball courts, and lots of other activities to do. Each year we would take the 2 hour trip up to Halifax, PA. The drive seemed like it took forever. Our good family friends, the Davis Family, also went along. There were a few families that were always there the same time each year but there were also other families that would come and go.

During the week, the parents would meet for sessions with speakers that helped them grow in their faith while the kids were split into age groups and got to enjoy lessons, games, and activities with each other. Until now, I never went back and thought about how my parents gave their week of vacation to grow closer to God and to give us the opportunity to grow closer to Him too. We could have went to the beach or any other place by ourselves but instead my parents dedicated usually the only vacation we took to take us as a family to a Christian run camp to sit in on sessions with friends to learn more about the Lord.

We stayed in Silvan View which had "hotel" type rooms that each family would sleep in. Meals were provided in a cafeteria type dining area. One night during the week, the families would head to the lake for a picnic type dinner followed by water games such as relays and races.

My favorite part of our week was getting to ride the horses. When we first started out I was only allowed to go for the horse rides where a person would lead the horse around a fenced in area. As I got older, I was able to go on the breakfast rides and trail rides. These were group activities but you controlled your horse which was AWESOME! I loved horses and this was one thing I always looked forward too.

A lot of our afternoons were spent at the pool. One specific memory I remember from our pool days was the day that Aunt Amber had to get stitches. She was jumping in backwards into the pool. She ended up jumping too close to the wall and caught her chin on the way down. Sure enough she had to go and get stitches.

Another memory that I have from one of our weeks at Camp Hebron was that the one night my class had planned to go for a hike on Peter's Mountain and camp out. We headed up the mountain shortly after dinner. We reached the top just as it was getting dark out and a little bit later a storm had rolled in. We were on the top of this mountain and lightning was everywhere. I just remember hiding under a large rock while we waited for the rain to slow down. The thunder was so loud and the lightning felt like it could strike right next to you. Needless to say, we were all soaked and were not going to be staying on top of the mountain that night. We headed down after the storm had slowed and ended up getting back to the Hotel late at night.

I am sure there are so many other memories from our weeks spent at Camp Hebron that I could share including talent shows that we participated in, games we played, trips to the icecream truck for a treat. It was always a great time to enjoy as a family and with friends.

Danielle - Hardest and Best Part of Becoming A Christian

What was the hardest part about becoming a Christian? What was the best part?

I think the hardest part about becoming a Christian is something that I deal with every is trying to do away with thinking about myself and having my own selfish desires and motives. Instead I have to surrender to the Lord and let Him direct my steps. This world pushes you - what will make YOU happy, what is best for YOU, what do YOU want, what do YOU deserve..YOU YOU YOU!! That is all that is ingrained in us from the media and the world around us. It is easy to get wrapped up in yourself and it is part of our sinful nature to worry about ourselves more than we worry about the people around us.  It is a daily choice to choose the Lord and to choose the things that He cares about, the things that He sees, and the things that He wants. Daily I have to lay down my life to gain life in Him. Laying down my life for the Lord will make me look different. I may not be able to do the things that my friends do or say what others say. I may choose to do things differently than what the "world" accepts, but I do it all for the Lord and that is who I need to seek my approval from. All of this is something that I have struggled with growing up and even now as an adult. It is not easy to go against the norm and to stand up for what you believe but I do believe it is RIGHT! I desire to be liked by people so not agreeing with something or not participating in things is hard for me but it is the best at the same time.

Laying down my life for the Lord brings joy. It brings hope. And it brings peace! You can not gain joy by having all the things in the world (even though every commercial will try to tell you those things can). There is no hope without the Lord and peace can only come from Him. Peace, joy, and hope are 3 of the best things about Christianity. When things in this world get hard, I have peace that the Lord is with me and that He is in control. I have joy in the Lord for He is my father and the one that I can depend on no matter what. And I have hope for the future. There is no certainty in this world but there is certainty that having a relationship with my Father will lead to Heaven. Heaven - a place that  will surpass all of our expectations. A place where we can be reunited with the one who created us and where we can spend the rest of our days glorifying Him and giving Him praise. I am grateful for my life on this earth but I am also hopeful for my life in heaven and what it will be like.

Kids, being a Christian is not choosing to live the easy life. Look at Jesus - his life was not easy but look at what an impact he made and how much glory he brought the Lord. My prayer is that each of you will come to know the Father and experience His love and I pray that when you make the decision to follow Jesus that you will be ready for the hard road but the road that is the BEST OF ALL! Being a Christian is a journey but it is worth it all. Love you forever!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Holly -3 favorite things about being a Mom

What are your 3 favorite things about being a mother?
January 20th, 2011

  1. I love seeing the world again through my daughters’ eyes. I love watching them grow and learn and experience new things. I love seeing their reaction when the lightbulb goes on, and the finally GET it. I love being able to be the one who helps them learn and experience these new things. I was their first teacher, and I will forever be grateful for that.

  1. I love the spontaneous hugs and kisses and “I love you’s” that come from my girls. Nothing will melt a Mommy’s’ heart more than when their child crawls up in their lap, wraps their arms around you, and says “i wub you mama”. Seriously - it doesn’t get too much better than that!
  1. I love that each time I look at my girls, I am reminded of what a privilege and honor it is to be their Mommy - how blessed I am to be able to have carried them inside of me. And even though being a Mommy is probably one of the hardest jobs out there, I don’t think there are ANY that are more rewarding.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lauren: Middle School Years - Challenges, Struggles, Temptations

Tell about middle school years. What were some challenges, temptations or struggles you had?

me in middle school

Middle school was, for the most part, a wonderful season in my life. I enjoyed the experience of leaving elementary school behind and learning in a new place, with a new schedule, new teachers and new classmates. I have always loved meeting people so I enjoyed the process of making new friends.

On my first day of 7th grade I did not know anyone in my "section" (that is what my middle school called the group of 20-some kids that I had classes with) except a tiny little blond girl who was practically half my size. I recognized her from the 6th grade, district-wide spelling bee where she was eliminated on the word "restaurant" and I was shut down with the word "dense." Once we were knocked out of the competition we briefly shot the breeze and built up our bruised egos while the other dorks duked it out with spelling power. Then we did not see each other again until that fateful day in middle school.

She remembered me from the spelling bee too - and that is really all it took. We became inseparable, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER. We laughed together often and made big plans to grow up, own houses right next to each other, find handsome husbands, raise our kids together in a warm state like Georgia or South Carolina, and grow old side by side. Nearly 18 years later, God has made most of those plans a reality (all except the location and the growing old stuff). You kiddos know that "tiny little blond girl" as your AUNTIE HOLLY. She is still "half my size" and she is by far the BEST PART OF MY MIDDLE SCHOOL YEARS.

Holly and Me (8th grade)

I had several great friends in middle school but my best friends were Holly, Lisa (who was my BFF since first grade) and Lauren.

I think the biggest problem I see with my middle school self was my judgement of other people. Sure, I had my first kiss in 7th grade (WAY TOO YOUNG AND IF YOU FOLLOW IN THESE FOOTSTEPS I WILL HURT YOU - or ground you - OR SOMETHING) and was rarely "boyfriend-less" until my senior year of high school (again, ridiculously inappropriate - STAY TUNED FOR MY FIRST DATE POST FOR MORE INFO) but the most pervasive problem, and one that I didn't even recognize as a problem at the time, was making fun of and judging others. I laughed at the unfortunate circumstances of others and though most of my classmates would say that I was kind and friendly, it was my thought life and my inside jokes that were dangerously unloving and without-a-doubt unnecessary.

I really was a good kid. I have always had a big heart and a sensitive spirit. But, I have not always had a relationship with Jesus and He makes all the difference. He gives us compassion. Holly and I were some of the "regulars" (along with our friends Jon and Doug) to help with our special needs classmates (Alex and John). We were usually kind and hard working. We were great students. The teachers loved us. We were funny, happy kids. But, we also found humor in poking fun of other people - so much so that we created a book dedicated mainly to that purpose. It was called the "B&B Book of Laughs." It actually breaks my heart to think about it now. For the most part, we did not share our observations with others and certainly not the person who was the butt of our jokes. We were not outwardly critical or cruel. But, our focus in the book and in our humor was judgement rather than LOVE - and whether hidden or exposed our words sowed seeds of hurt and oppression.

That is really the ONE THING that I wish I could take back. Since my middle school years, nearly two decades ago, God has given me a heart that seeks justice and defends the weak. He has placed in me a passion to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. He has blessed me with a compassionate heart. (And if you know anything about Auntie Holly then you know he has done the same for her!) I am thankful. I am thankful for Jesus.

If you learn anything from this middle school post learn this -

  • Friendships really can last (and grow stronger) FOREVER.

  • ALWAYS choose compassion over judgement. (clothe yourself in compassion - Col 3:12, be compassionate and humble - 1 Peter 3:8, do not judge - Matt 7:1, Luke 6:37)

Meghan: Tell your engagement story.

Tell the story of how you and your spouse got engaged.

We dated for 3 years prior to our engagement and I can honestly say that I knew almost immediately that one day I would marry Dwayne. We mentioned marriage a few times( I probably more so then he), but for
the most part we didn't have a date or year as to when it might work best for us.
Halfway through my second year of college, I started to get the itch to do missions. I ended up leaving to complete my DTS in Makapala, HI. with YWAM in July 2002. I was gone for 5 months. During that time Dwayne and I continued our relationship long distance. Nearing the end of my time in Hawaii(about a week before I came home), I remember having a conversation with Dwayne about our friends Holly and Anthony. Dwayne was telling me how Anthony was proposing to Holly that weekend. He then started asking me what kind of ring I liked. That should have been hint #1, but I'm oblivious to a lot of things and this was one of them. Sure I knew it was going to happen but when I was completely in the dark.
My flight came in on the friday night before Christmas if I remember correctly. Of course having not seen each other for 5 months we spent every waking minute together for the next few days. At church that weekend, during a conversation with Linsday, Dwayne asks me if I like Christmas Eve or New Years Eve better? This should have been hint #2, but again I missed it completely! On Christmas Eve we always go to my parents church for the service. That year Christmas Eve was a tuesday. I remember getting ready then heading to Dwayne's house. He made me dinner, which I think was just spaghetti, but up to that date I'm pretty sure he had never done that before. So that should have been hint #3. I remember his sister Dawn was there and she got mad at Dwayne for something and threatened to tell me something. Hint #4! Of course, luckily for Dwayne, I am oblivious!!! So we ate then Dwayne mentioned that he wanted to take me to see the Christmas lights at the Steinman mansion on Marietta Ave before church. Hint #5, I love Christmas lights, but in our years of dating we had yet to do such a thing. As we are driving there Dwayne remains quiet and a little nervous (although really I didn't see that until after he proposed then i put it together). When we got to the mansion, he wanted me to get of the car and SNEAK onto the grounds(which is no trespassing). Me, not a dare devil, locked my self in the car and was refusing! I can't believe he didn't change his mind then! With some coaxing he finally got me out of the car. We got in and he was acting like we were sneaking so of course I went along with it. In the back there is a tower that overlooks the grounds and he headed up to it. Of course I was following close behind because I wasn't about to be left behind by myself. Then he mentions that he has to go to the bathroom and he'd be right back, ha, that was not flying with me. Oh and by this point it also started to snow flurry! So he skipped his secret mission to turn on the video camera and we went to the tower where we stopped to look at the
lights. He looked down and saw that two plugs were laying there unplugged. After trying to talk me into plugging them in, he gave in and did it himself. I was scared thinking we were going to get caught if they messed something up. As I was standing there, he plugs them in and instantly lights light up on the ground we are overlooking. I stood there and read them, "Will you marry me", and honestly my first thought was how sweet that someone did that! I turned to look at Dwayne and realized he was down on his knee. At that moment, I realized he did this for me!!! He asked and of course I said "YES"!