Saturday, July 30, 2016

Chris Tomlin Worship Night In America 2016

It angers and saddens me that our current state of affairs reduced my child to sobs of anguish and fear over going to large public places.  I never once had this fear as a child and now an entire generation will know fear.  We were in Manhattan Saturday, July 23rd for Chris Tomlin’s Worship Night in America.  But let me back up....

Months ago Grace came to love Chris Tomlin’s song Good Good Father when Fusion (youth group) played it.  She bought the lead sheet for the piano and with her piano teacher, Rob, she mastered this challenging song.  It sparked a love of Christian music.  Now it is all we listen to.  I am convinced that when you start to fill yourself up with the love of God and you make the decision to follow him wholeheartedly and trust in Him and Him alone, you begin to turn out the negative pooh that the world is filled with.  I don’t want to listen to songs about drinking, partying, heartbreak and illicit love.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my old Coldplay, but most of their songs are positive and meaningful.  Now, no matter what kind of day I am having, I can worship God and all is well.  So when Grace came to us and asked if we could go to his “concert” we said yes.  We try to do something big in New York once a year and we had not been in quite some time.  

Little did I know that this was no ordinary concert.  My friend told me that it was a worship night with special guests.  She attended the one in 2015 and said I was in for quite an experience.  When I got the email reminder with information for the show I was blown away.  Matt Maher!  Matt Redman! (Grace is learning his song, 10,000 Reasons now), Tasha Cobbs, Kim Walker Smith, Max Lucado, Phil Wickham, and Louie Giglio.  If you haven’t heard Louie speak about the 20 inch journey we need to take, YouTube it. Please.  

My excitement about this event was marred by the severe anxiety my child had about a large group of Christians gathering at a public place in New York City.  She felt like a target and was fearful for our safety.  I assured her that we would be safe.  For every person trying to do harm there are dozens who are protecting us from that harm.  I felt confident that God would keep us safe as well as the men and women in uniform.   So we went, all of us.  And we worshiped God. 

Being in a venue this large that in an instant became the largest church service we have ever attended was awesome.  Awe-some.  Thousands and thousands of Christ followers of every denomination gathered together with differences set aside and our uniting purpose front and center, Jesus.  We gathered to pray to Jesus.  To ask him to come to us and heal our country.  Prayer > Politics.  Washington will not heal us.  Wall Street will not heal us.  Hollywood will not heal us.  We have strayed so far from what God intended for his people.  We were literally on our knees sandwiched in between rows and in the aisles praying.  Madison Square Garden has 18,200 seats and most of those were sold (excluding the seats unavailable behind the stage).  Since I could not find an accurate number, let’s say there were 15,000 people there.  15,000 voices singing.  15,000 voices praising.  15,000 voices praying The Lord’s Prayer at - the - same - time.  Words cannot convey how powerful this moment was. 

I bought a shirt.  Prayer > Politics.  When we as a nation put aside our differences and turn our eyes toward Heaven and begin to pray, then perhaps we will see the change we so desperately need.  I know it will not be found in the man who proclaims to be “the only one” who can save this country nor will it be found in the woman who helped in 8 short years to bring it to it’s current state.  But perhaps they will be remembered for bringing us to our knees.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


What if we took the scripture from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NAS) and replaced the word Love with Friendship for after all, friendship, true friendship, is a form of love.  

Friendship is patient, friendship is kind and is not jealous; friendship does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; friendship does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; friendship bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

When I think of friendship in this light, I realize that sometimes what we think is friendship is not, and what we want in a friend, we may already have.  When I think of friendship in Biblical terms, I realize we are blessed with friends and I am so grateful.  

We had the opportunity to spend a day with friends at Prospect Lake in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.   This is a huge family gathering for our friends and to be welcomed in, if only for a few hours, brings us such joy.  To sit and watch the girls swim and kayak, paddle board and roast hotdogs over an open fire brings me peace.  Despite the crazy heat, there was a breeze blowing and a quick downpour to cool everyone off.  When the rain passed and the hazy heat returned, it was time for us to say our goodbyes and take the 2 hour journey home.  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Rock Climbing

Part of our reason for switching churches was that our family was desperate for community.  We wanted to do more than show up at church for an hour and go home.  We tried and tried over and over to connect but our church (and every other church in town that we tried) did not have the community and fellowship we wanted.  

Now the girls are part of a thriving youth program.  It meets during the school year and takes a break during the summer.  Occasionally events pop up and now that Lilah is in high school, they can go together.  This week they went rock climbing.  

Only a few kids were available, which at first seemed like a bummer, but turned out to be a blessing.  Lilah had the opportunity to get to know one of the leaders in a small group, her favorite setting.  The leaders were belaying the climbers so they each had more climb time and the two hours flew by.  Due to traffic, I hung out in the waiting area, finished up the Book of Hebrews (oh much goodness in this book), and worked on some tasks for an event I am helping to plan, Unshaken 2017 with Moms in Prayer.

Summer is flying by and we are trying to pack it with good things.  Things we will remember.  Things that make us smile.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A good day

If you flip back through this blog throughout the years one constant is our annual pool party at my Aunt’s house in Massachusetts.  My mother’s extended family is huge and she has dozens of cousins and they have dozens of kids who now have kids and even some of those kids have kids!  Depending on the year and people’s availability, the gatherings have ranged from pretty huge to more intimate, like this year.  

This year was just our family, my first cousins, four of the five.  I am the oldest of the crew at 44.  My sister and I have grown children.  I saw "grown" because while they are not technically grown, they are teenagers, and there is no need for me to prepare meals, change diapers, wipe noses, put on sunscreen, worry about floatation devices, sippy cups or naps.  So I can relax and play with the little people who do need all these things.  We played hard.

Imagine a tranquil setting, families watching children swim around the pool deck sipping coffee, eating burgers and potato salad, when suddenly a large stream of water is shot out of the pool and hits your father square in the chest.  Oh my.  This could have gone two ways.  This is the way it went.

It was a very very good day!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Yale University Art Gallery

I am so grateful for the homeschooling parents who spend a great deal of time and emotional energy coordinating classes that are open to the homeschooling community.   

Grace and Lilah participate in art appreciation classes held at Yale University Art Gallery, home to some amazing pieces and collections.  Led by docents who are art students at Yale’s School of Art, they explore a room/gallery a month.  They missed the first tour, but attended the second, which was held in the African Art gallery.  

There were a wide range of ages in this group but enough teens to make the girls feel comfortable and the teaching truly appealed to all age groups, even the adults.  I hung back from this group, not to be anti-social, but because I want my girls to be independent in their studies.  They would both be in high school if they attended traditional school and I most certainly would not be following them around all day!

I believe that parents should not be present in the classes offered to teens, no matter how appealing the class or the subject is to us.  Often parents have a way of hijacking a class or a lesson, asking questions and interjecting with commentary which makes the children question whose class it really is.  When this happens, the students shut down because who really wants to compete for attention with a parent?  Thankfully this did not happen in this group but still, I hung back and let the girls take the lead.

They had time to really inspect art.  The drew a piece that they choose and then they drew a piece that their partner chose for them.  They were not allowed to look at the piece but could only draw according to the directions given to them by their partner.  They did surprisingly well.  

Our next tour will focus on European Art.  I’m eager to see how this may tie into our history studies....

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Yada Yada

A friend told me about The Yada Yada Prayer Group Series by Neta Jackson, when we were discussing the Selection series.  Book 1 arrived the weekend I was away at the Fair Warrior Retreat and book 5 should arrive from Amazon today. 

The timing was simply perfect.  My small group at the retreat was made up of women of different ages, countries and cultures and I love them all.  What seemed to be a random matching was actually a decision that was prayed over and given careful consideration.  God knew what He was doing when He placed us together! When Fair Warrior concluded Sunday morning, we agreed to stay in touch via email and continue our relationships.  

These women will always hold a special place in my heart because I let myself be me in front of them, something I never do.  I went into this retreat with my guard up, the emotional scars I carry from past friendships hidden deep behind the protective boundary I now carry when meeting new women.  I was honest about my boundaries during our very first small group meeting.  However, I let them crash to the ground when I got real and I got emotional during a small group breakout session when I realized that I Am Enough.  I learned Psalm 139 and for the first time I really understood it.  I may have cried, not the sweet, weepy cry where just a few tears are shed from glistening eyes, but the ugly cry where your soul is rocked and you can’t carry on your story through the tears.  After this, this moment where I was raw and real, this small group of women prayed over me and I let their words wash away my tears.  It was beautiful and honest and authentic and will never ever be forgotten.

Yada Yada is a work of fiction based on real events that transpired in the author’s prayer groups over the years and in stories shared with her from other’s prayer groups.  We all have the opportunity to have connections like this in our lives if we answer God’s call to serve others.  I want this in my life.  I want real relationships not based on my children’s educational choice, or friendships, but on my own.  I want relationships that I choose, that I nurture, that I value.  I have a friend walking and praying her way through a valley and she was in need of help.  Grace offered to watch her daughter for 2 days so she could attend to family issues with undivided attention.  

We had a great two days.  There was sidewalk chalk and wolf painting.  There was swimming and splash pad playing.  There was bike riding and card games, and hide and seek.  There was story telling and VBS song singing.  Because my girls are perfectly capable of attending to a child, I was freed up to do some of the errands for my friend, easing her load just a bit.   What should have felt like a very busy week, did not.   

In Hebrew Yada one meaning of “yada” is to understand the needs of others and meet them.  I experienced a bit of my own Yada Yada sisterhood this week and I was left all the better because of it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Summer Studies: French 1

Back to school shopping in July seems crazy but it has been so long since we have been excited for new classes and opportunities that we are riding the wave of excitement all the way to Staples.  The syllabus for French class came through via our Google Group.  A separate binder with 5 tabs is required as well as two textbooks.  

Because the girls have never studied French before and some of the other students in class will already have had a semester of French, there is summer homework: watching FrenchPod101 on YouTube and learning the vocabulary, counting to 100, reading basic books (like Dr. Seuss) in French and watching cartoons and movies with French subtitles.  

Normally I am frugal when it comes to basic supplies but for this I let them splurge.  We stuck only to French.  No big binders yet.  No shiny new pencils.  Just the binders.  I adore the divider tabs they bought.  I also let them get a pack of 100 colored index cards, although they used up 25 on their first FrenchPod video (25 most common phrases).  But they are reviewing their cards daily and Lilah has taken an interest in mastering as many words and phrases as possible this summer.  Yeah Lilah!  She never loved sign language as much as Grace, so she is going to move from ASL to French exclusively.  Grace will continue with ASL because she is now conversational and with more instruction and practice could become fluent.  For this, she will study at The Sign Language Center which will make for a long, busy week for her.  Just the kind of week she loves.

Friday, July 8, 2016

VBS Part 2 - 300 Kids!

Monday came bright and sunny and over 300 children made their way through crafts.  Oh my!  300 children with 300 personalities, 300 needs, 300 temperaments.  So many kids.  But like all the other things we have been involved with, this too was run with amazing efficiency as the result of super organized people!  

Some of the crafts were painted votive holders, pipe cleaner octopuses (I did check the grammar on this!), prayer journals, jellyfish boo boo packs, underwater viewers and wobble divers that looked like little Minions.  Some were harder than others and we each had our favorites.  Mine was the votive holder that now sits on my dining room table next to the votive holder from my retreat.  

I never saw Grace during the day since she was outside having a blast with her friend Danielle.  It was hot, but not too hot and she loved every minute of her week.  Lilah and I enjoyed the cool air conditioning and she too, loved every minute of her week.    I loved it but to be honest, by Thursday I was a bit tired and when Friday came I was ready to call it a week.  I know for sure and certain we will do it again and we all tentatively agreed to re-up for crafts and begin planning early in the new year.  We heard the theme is outer space which brings to mind so many great ideas for decorations and crafts.

VBS Part 1: The Preparation

When we said yes to the call to switch churches, we were all in.  If we wanted community, we had to join in the plentiful offerings available to us.  When a call for volunteers went out the three of us signed up, Lilah and I for crafts, and Grace for outdoor games.  

The craft team met several times during the weeks leading up to VBS to plan the crafts, plan the decoration of the hall, order supplies, make samples and organize for each craft as much as was possible.  Never having been involved in something as grand as this, I had no idea what to expect.  300+ kids, 100 volunteers, a preschool program designed just for the children of volunteers, so they could be free to volunteer (how genius!)  

Our theme was Submerged so all decorations had a nautical, underwater feel.  I asked my Dad for a large piece of cardboard since he sells tools and he gave me the largest piece he could find to construct our anchor.  The corrugated box was so thick Greg used his jigsaw to cut it out for me when he got home from work.  It was covered in aluminum foil and the chain was made from spray painted plastic plates.  It was fun to make and a great addition to the super huge room that crafts was held in.  

Once the decorations were hung, the sixteen tables covered, chairs put out, supply tables lined up, and craft supplies gathered we just had to wait for Monday morning to arrive!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Greg's birthday at Mohegan Sun

Our family has its share of faults. Dust bunnies hold wild dance parties under our couches and Irish Lace can be found in the corners hanging from the crown moulding.  Don’t you just love “Irish Lace”?  That’s what my Gram used to call cobwebs.  "Oh, that’s just Irish Lace." thing our family does well is birthdays.  We try to find something that is interesting to the person whose birthday is being celebrated.  Last year Grace went to the Grand Prix horse show for her 15th birthday.  Lilah partied in Hoboken at Carlo’s Bakery for her 10th.  Last year we took Greg to the horse races in Monmouth Park, NJ for his 45th birthday and this year we helped him celebrate 46 at Mohegan Sun Casino’s Barbecue Festival.  

The rain and severe storms couldn’t bring us down.  Not when there is pulled pork and brisket to eat and hard core smokers to chat with about rubs and smoke time. When the storms rolled through we just headed inside to what Lilah termed the “adult arcade” to walk around the mall portion of the casino until the rain passed and the event reopened.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fair Warrior, Women's Retreat June 2016

The past few posts have been about church because as I get this old blog caught up, church is where we have been spending a significant amount of time.  Something huge happened for me and to me the first weekend in June, I attended my first retreat, ever.

I am not one to venture away from home alone.  I attended cheerleading camp in high school and I guess that was okay but I didn’t love it.  I didn’t do many sleep overs at friends and I don’t do mom’s vacations.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have slept alone in my house and I have only left my family once when I went to New York with my mother, sister and cousin ages ago.  So when this retreat, Fair Warrior, was announced, I was intrigued and I stuck the save the date card on my wall and I thought about going but I was not that committed to the idea.  When the details were released and I realized a retreat is not like a resort and single housing was not available, I promptly threw away the save the date card.  No way, no how, was I sharing a bedroom, sleeping on a top bunk and sharing a bathroom with women I did not know.  

Greg pushed me to go.  He told me to go talk to the woman at the registration desk in church, ask questions, and take a leap of faith.  He assured me he and the girls would be just fine without me for two days.  I took this leap of faith and registered but told him I would drive myself up.  He laughed at me and because he knows me so well, he realized this was my escape plan.  Have car, can leave.  A few days before the retreat one of the women I do know, a mom of Grace’s friend, called me to ask for a ride.  Bam!  Escape route blocked.  God chuckled and I fretted.  But I said yes and we drove up and had a lovely dinner in Brattleboro, VT before checking into Camp Spofford on Spofford Lake in New Hampshire where I did indeed get the top bunk in a dorm style room I shared with my new friend and two other women.  The funny part is we were all set in another room we thought we were assigned to but had to move all of our belongings at 10pm Friday night when we realized our mistake.  After setting up again, I called home to say goodnight and wasn’t that surprised when the wave of homesickness washed over me and I just wanted to jump in my car and drive myself home.  Home to my girls.  Home to Greg and my bed.  Home to where I was comfortable.  Home to where I was content.  But I did not.  I pushed through and went inside, said goodnight to my bunkmates and did manage to catch a bit of sleep through my tossing and turning on that top bunk.

The rest of the weekend was filled with worship, small group discussions, a few tears, many laughs, new discoveries of places nearby and places within myself, a deeper understanding of my faith and my purpose and friendship.  Oh the friendship.  I came away from this retreat deeply connected to church and the women in it.  My votive holder given as a reminder that God takes broken pieces, puts them together into something beautiful and lets his light shine through, sits on my dining room table as a reminder not to forget the lessons I learned this weekend but to reflect on them often as I continue to grow and learn.  

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...