10 Magical Years

This year my husband planned a wonderful surprise for me. In January he told me he was planning something, but not to expect too much. He asked me to save every penny I could in the grocery budget and give it to him for the "surprise". Of course I did all I could to save a little here and there. It was actually fun to try to save and think of even more things we could do without. It amazes me again how much we think we need. Again, the Lord abundantly met our needs and in this case He even allowed a little extra for my husband to show me just how much he cherishes and treasures me. The thing that made our anniversary so special was the thought that went into it on Jonathan's part. He planned all of it, including child care. That was huge! I would not have cared what else we did to celebrate, just the knowledge that he did something special for just me was enough.

 It all began on Monday of the week of our anniversary. He told me to be dressed up and ready at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday night. I almost had to ask again because he said "dressed up"! I found out that his parents would be coming on Thursday afternoon to take care of the kids for our evening out. It was amazing picking out a dress and fixing my hair and make-up - I felt like a princess getting ready for her first ball. It was so much fun and so completely foreign to my normal run after 3 kids all day, clean, laundry, fix meals, grocery shopping oh and did I mention laundry - yes it is the bane of my existence. Anyway, my handsome prince arrived home and swept me off my feet at 5:30 and took me to dinner at The Skies. It was where we enjoyed our first meal as husband and wife and the view was as breath-taking then as it was 10 years ago. While we were waiting for dinner he took my hand and pulled a little tissue wrapped gift from his pocket. It was my wedding ring! In January the previous year I gave it to him for the prongs to be replaced so the diamond would not fall out and told him I would not ask about it but would trust that when he could find a way to fix it he would. Let me tell you that was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do, to not ask when I could get my ring back. Oh, I couldn't believe it. It was so pretty and sparkled so much - oh maybe that was the tears in my eyes. :-)  I really thought that was going to be the extent of our celebration and then he pulled out the camera to start taking pictures and had something else to show me. Earlier that day he checked us in for a two night stay at Cheatue Avalon in the Castaway Isle suite. He told me he couldn't take me back to Hawaii so he did the next best thing and brought the feel of Hawaii to me. We ran back home after finishing our delicious dinner and I gave last minute instructions to Grandma and Grandpa, kissed the kids good night, packed up what we would need for the weeend and headed off for our second honeymoon!!!! It was so romantic and wonderful. We ate out and didn't have to cut up food, clean up spills or get after little people! Oh to be able to talk and reconnect. We spent some time pouring over our old journals from marriage counseling. It was a chance to look back at how God led us and an opportunity to thank Him for the amazing blessings He has carried us through. We had a chance to look forward and talk about the next 10 years and get excited about the wonderous things God is yet to do in our lives. If the next 10 are anywhere near as amazing as the last 10 I can hardly wait! May God form us more into His image each day so there is less of me and so much more of Him.

Thank you, my precious husband, for giving me a weekend to remember. Thank you for being my spiritual leader, my friend. I praise God that He blessed me beyond all comprehension when He put you in my life.


Magic Moments

I wish I could package up the little magic moments in life and hold on to them forever.  Children grow up fast I've been told.  Tonight Emily leaped into my arms and and wrapped her tiny body around me like a monkey.  I relished in it.  When I came home from work and they ran to greet me at the door with hugs and kisses, I basked in the warmth of it.  Courtney snuggled up in my lap and tickled my cheek with your little blond curls.  I clung to it.  But, try as I might, I can't capture it.  These "magic moments" are fleeting.  Perhaps that's so there'll always be room for more.

It's all in the details

I didn't realize how "in tune" Benjamin was to details until we had the following exchange the other night at dinner:

Me:  "How much chicken did you eat tonight?"

Benjamin:  "I ate like 10 bites."

Noticing a pile of chicken still on his plate and questioning his counting skills I replied:  "You ate 10 bites?

Benjamin:  "No, I said 'like'."

Me:  "So, how many bites DID you eat?"

Benjamin:  "4, 5, 6, or 7."

I never cease to be amazed at the way his mind works.  Am I going to be able to keep up with him when he gets to be a teenager?!


Life Without Plastic

I didn't realize how accustomed I have become to the convenience of credit/debit cards until this week.  We separated ourselves from all credit cards a while ago after being inspired by Dave Ramsey to "live like no other so that one day you can live like no other."  We did, however, hold on to our debit card and mine somewhere, somehow disappeared from my wallet.  In an effort to protect our great wealth (tongue in cheek) I called the bank and disabled the card.  Unfortunately this also disabled Martha's card.  The new cards would arrive in the mail in 7 - 10 days.  No problem, right?  Think again.  We decided to end the week with a movie and a pizza.  I had a whopping $10 in my wallet but I was sure I could make it work.  The last thing I wanted to do was go out of my way and waste a lot of time in the bank drive through.  With my tank on empty, I drove to McDonald's first thinking I might be able to use my ATM card in the Red Box.  I came to my senses shortly after entering the building.  What kind of fool would try to use an ATM card in a Red Box?  And who wants to wait behind six people to rent a movie anyway!  I decided to focus on the pizza.  Surely $10 would get me eough pizza from Papa Murphy's to feed my family.  I drove the 3 miles to their nearest location.  The place was packed but it didn't matter.  The menu said I would need at least $11 and change for a single topping pie.  I could not longer avoid the ATM machine and my family was counting on me so I jumped back in the car drove 2 miles to the nearest ATM.  Fortunately no one was behind me because it took at least 15 mintes to get my wallet out of my pocket.  I'm sure I looked like an idiot twisting, turning, and contorting in my seat.  For some reason my pants pocket just wouldn't let go!  With a crisp new $20 bill I headed back to Papa Murphy's.  The place was still packed.  I waited while at least 5 customers placed and purchased their orders and forced a smile as I stepped up to the counter for my turn.  Unfortunately, this was only an exercise in patience becuase I had left my wallet in the car.  With a somewhat embarrased look on my face I headed back the car, retrieved the wallet, and entered Papa Murphy's for the third time.  After waiting behind at 5 customers AGAIN I finally got to place my order.  Wouldn't you know it.  The final cost after tax -- $9.86.


Sick Again?

There is a joke between my friends that the Slaven kids get sick in November and stay sick until March or April.  This year is proving to be no different and yet it has felt so much worse because they are all old enough to really complain about their infirmities.  Yet, they are still young enough that they feel the need to wake me up at night (my sweet Benjamin) to tell me that they need to go potty.  I have just about had my limit of illness, but my God, who meets all my needs, knows I have so much more to give.  It is at these moments that I cry out to God and beg for His mercy so that in my sleep deprived state I don't say or do the wrong thing to hurt his precious babies.  The amazing thing is that when I do cry out, surrender my will/desires to Him and rest in His strength I make it through the day without feeling like a failure.  The sad thing is that there are many days when I don't surrender to Him and as a result everything falls apart by the time Jonathan gets home from work. On those days,  I bet he takes one step in the house and wishes he could hightail it back to the office or anywhere but here.  Then he quietly takes over and sends me out the door for some quiet time and prayer (maybe I should say sometimes when he is not overwhelmed with work).  I am so blessed to have an understanding husband who is seeking to lead us in a godly direction.

There are blessings in the midst of these illnesses and sometimes I get so bogged down in the surviving that I forget to look for the moments of grace.  One of those moments was when I was having to torture Benjamin and Emily with their eye drops for pink eye.  These eye drops are extremely painful and it is so hard for a little one to understand that what hurts is sometimes good for them.  I was able to talk to Emily and Benjamin about God's great love for us and that there will be times in their lives that God will ask something of them that will be painful, but He sees a much bigger picture than we do.  His desire is to make us Holy and Christlike, not to make us happy.  Sometimes, the tools that God uses to get rid of the yuckies in our hearts are painful just as those eye drops are painful to get rid of the yuckies in their eyes.  I reminded them that if I didn't treat their eyes it would just get worse and they would not be able to see until we used the drops.  I wonder how often God wants to say to me, "Martha, it will hurt for a while, just trust that I know what is best for you."  The beauty is that when I relinquish my desire for ease and seek His face the pain is not that great because He comes along and bears my burdens for me.   His yoke truly is easy and His burden is light, because he caries it all for me - if only I remembered to leave my burdens at His feet.  He is a gracious and loving Father and only desires our best.  What a wonderful place to rest - in the loving arms of my Heavenly Father.


Always a Teachable Moment

I can't believe it, my baby is officially a 2 year old.  We celebrated Courtney's birthday on Friday the 19th with Grandma and Grandpa Slaven, Grandpa Barraclough and Aunt Jonalyn.  Uncle Mike couldn't make it because of his work schedule.  Courtney had a blast opening her presents and especially eating her cake.  Her brother and sister enjoyed the process almost just as much.  After all, at this age it is just as much fun to help open the gifts as it is to get the gifts themselves.  It provides a constant training opportunity to teach them to share and to think of others needs above their own... some days I grow weary of the training.  It is at those times that I think a recording would work the best.  "Ok, Benjamin, Emily, Courtney (whichever child needs to hear), go push play and listen very carefully.."  If only, (HUGE sigh) but then we would lose the personal touch of communicating to these little people that God has entrusted to our care.  There is something truly precious and intangible when I see the understanding dawn when looking into their eyes as I explain an important truth from God's Word.  It is even more precious when that child chooses to follow what God wants instead of what he/she wants.  Ahh, those are the moments to celebrate, especially since at this precocious age they are few and far between, and praise the Lord that He is using me a, a sinner saved by grace, to teach and train His priceless children.

What is your morning worth?

We had another God moment today.  Our van went back to the shop last night to hopefully fix the gas gauge once and for all.  This is the second time it has been in the shop for this problem... please, please let them fix it!  We took it in on Tuesday night so that I would not have to get up and get all the kids ready to leave in the morning in order for it to be at the shop by 8 a.m.  Yeah right!  I know some Mom's can do it, but this one can't... give me 2 cups of coffee and about an hour of awake time before I can navigate my own house!  Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.  I did find out from the dealership that we might get our van back tomorrow and then again maybe not... it all depends on if the new gas gauge makes it in on Thursday's shipment.  Thankfully, everything will be covered under warranty.  PTL!

Our God moment - actually our whole morning - was the sacrificial giving of one of the precious ladies in our church, Betty.  She had offered to take me to drop off the van, but since Jonathan and I were able to take it on Tuesday night I called to let her know we would not be needing her services.  In the course of our conversation I told her I was hoping to take Emily back to Children's Mercy Urgent Care to see if there was a reason why she was still acting sick.  She offered to help me out since I would not have transportation.  She had no idea her offer was going to take up her entire morning!  She picked us up at 9 a.m. and braved the hospital waiting room until 12:30 with my three busy children.  The kids did great and even got a number of compliments from the nursing staff and doctor on their behavior (thanks to Biblical training and God at work in their hearts).  After a not so pleasant experience of flushing Benjamin's and Emily's ears with warm water, the doctor announced that yes, Emily still has an ear infection.  Benjamin's are a little irritated, but that may be due to the trauma he just endured to his ear or the onset of another ear infection.  Let's hope and pray it's not getting infected again.  I must say that Benjamin was quite a trooper.  He was so brave while they were trying to pick out the ear wax that it about made me cry.  Emily, on the other hand, was so scared that the nurses had to wrap her in a sheet to keep her still, but once wrapped she quit fighting and just cried like her little heart was going to break.  After all was said and done, our dear friend, Betty, took the kids out for McDonald's to reward them for their bravery.  That was all it took to wipe the last tear from their faces.

I know I would have survived the Urgent Care experience with all three kids, but I was more thankful than words can express to have someone there to help me.  My Mom is already waiting for me in heaven, and I wouldn't want her anywhere else, but the times I miss her the most are when my babies are sick.  I think those are the only times that I fight the tears over not having Mom around, but God provides for me is such amazing and wonderful ways.  My mother-in-law is one of those wonderful ways that God has provided.  I can truly say, when I married Jonathan I didn't just gain a great husband, but a precious mother.  However, she is an hour away and not always accessible at a moments notice.  It is in those times that my loving, heavenly Father provides precious woman to hold me up and help me through the tough times.  Even in this small thing I can always trust that my Father will always take care of not just my physical needs, but my emotional needs as well.  My heart is safe in the everlasting arms of Jesus and I trust Him with all the most precious gifts He has given me - my husband and children.


A Baby no More

Our baby, Courtney, is no longer a little baby.  In the last month she has decided to grow up right before my eyes.  One night while getting her ready for bed she told me very clearly that she wanted to sleep in her big girl bed.  The conversation went something like this:

Courtney: "Piwow (pillow) here, Mommy." (pointing to her big girl bed)

Mommy: "Are you sure you don't want to sleep in your crib?"

Courtney: "No, Mommy. Piwow here." (like duh I already told you where I want to sleep)

Mommy: "Courtney, do you want to sleep in your crib and not your big girl bed?"   (thinking, I am not ready for you to grow up yet... really she doesn't want to sleep in her big bed.)

Courtney: "No, Mommy, sweep here." (once again pointing to her big bed)

Needless to say, I decided to put her to sleep in her big girl bed thinking, "yea right, this is going to last all of 5 minutes."  Well, she had me fooled and within 2 minutes I opened her door to check on her and she was sound asleep and looking so precious that it took my breath away.  As a result of saying good-bye to my baby in the crib, I spent the next hour in tears or fighting them, and praying constantly.  She has done wonderfully in her big girl bed and I am so thankful there were no tears on her part in saying good-bye to her crib.  Now, if only Mommy could get on board.   The next step in this natural process is the removing of the baby crib.  I really thought I had a handle on my emotions and was to the point of rejoicing that we were past midnight feedings, sleepless nights from crying infants, spit up and all the wonderful things that go hand in hand with a new baby.  And then the act of taking apart the crib... lets just say it was a miracle Niagra Falls did not commence.   After six years of having a crib up in our house it is gone.

As if moving from the crib to the big girl bed wasn't enough, she decided that it was time to potty train.  In less than 2 weeks Courtney was completely potty trained and only uses a diaper at night.  And this was one milestone that I didn't shed a single tear over.  No sireee, I was rejoicing to no longer have to be spending money on diapers and having that poop in the potty and not on her cute little bottom.  Now that was a day of great rejoicing!  Yippee... do a little jig... She loves to use the potty and is very good about announcing to the world that she needs to go potty.  It is pretty cute if I do say so myself.

While watching these mile stones take place, my eyes have shed many a tear because it is the end of such a precious time of my life, and yet, it is a time of rejoicing becuase it is the beginning of a new and wonderful chapter in our lives as a family.  There is something so precious and intangible in "casting all your cares on Him (the Lord) for He cares for you" because the Lord truly did wrap His arms around my heart and hold me up in my greiving and rejoicing.  Talk about a mixture of emotions, but all so true.  I can't wait to see what God has in store for us in the next 5 years of our marriage and parenting.  In the last 8 years He has sustained us, taught us to surrender all to Him, helped us to have complete reliance in His perfect timing and provision - if it is this wonderful now, I can't WAIT to see what more He has in store for us.

For those of you who are wondering why I am greiving this so much God has given us a new path as a result of Jonathan's cancer.  The surgery and everything that we have gone through to destroy the cancer has made it so we will not be able to have children unless we adopt... and who knows it may be in our future, only the Lord knows that for sure.    I am thankful and rejoicing in our three energetic wonderful children and praise the Lord that he chose to bless us with three - and at this time in my life, only three.  Once again, He does know what is best for us, equips us for what He has called us to, and does not give us more than we can handle.  We give God all the glory for anything good in us, because of our own selves we are sinners in need of a Saviour.  I praise God, that through the death of Jesus, who was sinless/perfect, that in accepting the precious gift of His salvation we can be saved from our destructive sinful natures.  That is the hope that lies within us. because we have the Holy Spirit living in us we are more than conquerors in our battles - even something as little (in God's eyes) as cancer.


Life is moving far to fast...

My life is so busy of late.  Right after Jonathan's surgery I was able to keep everyone posted on his progress almost every night.  Now that Jonathan is about back to 90% I have been focusing on getting our lives back on track.  It was amazing how much everything in our house fell apart because of the extra demands on me in caring for a very sick spouse.  Needless to say, I have not been able to write like I would have liked to.

Jonathan is doing great!  He started back to work full days the Monday after Thanksgiving and was back into the swing of things pretty quickly after that.  It probably took him about 2 weeks after going back to full days before he was able to do anything in the evenings other than sit on the couch.  The kids are starting to see that Daddy is in charge - not Mommy. WHEW!!!! And Daddy is taking time to play with them again.  They have really missed having play time with Jonathan, and it does my heart good to see them interacting.  It is so true, we don't know what we have until it is gone - I am just so thankful ours was not gone just postponed for a time.  We are so blessed.

Jonathan is scheduled for his first follow-up appointment on January 18th.  He will have a chest x-ray, lab work and a chance to see our doctor again.  Be praying that we will be a testimony to those we meet and especially to our doctor and nurse.  I can't wait to see how He is going to continue to work.


Where is my couch?

I just love being a part of the little things that God does for us.  It continues to amaze me that He chose to use us to be a blessing and a testimony of His amazing grace, mercy and provision.  We experienced His hand of provision in a mighty way involving our problem couches.  I decided to have a garage sale on the spur of the moment two weeks ago and pulled it together in one day. It ended up being quite a success. Our couch and love seat were sold before they were even set down on the drive way along with a lot of other "treasures".  When Jonathan came home he was a bit surprised to see that we no longer had anything to sit on in the family room.  Oops...  Needless to say we started praying about how to go about replacing at least one of the couches.  Should we use the funds from the garage sale to buy a couch or wait and use those funds for other needs.

On Saturday night I took the girls to Nebraska Furniture Mart to look for fun at the couches available in their clearance section - mainly to give Jonathan a break from the noise.  I really did not think there would be anything there for the amount we made at the garage sale.  Well, let me tell you my surprise when I found this beautiful chocolate brown Broyhill couch for $330 when the regular price was $1300.  I quickly called Jonathan and asked him if it would be a wise purchase.  We both felt like it was a great price and something that we actually needed; so I puchased it.  We made a few phone calls to see if one of the guys in our church could deliver it for us.  One of the couples in our church were able to and would be delivering it on Tuesday.  Yippee!!!  On Sunday morning, after praying about it we could not get peace about our purchase.  So, I took the receipt and all three kids back to Neberaska Furniter Mart and prayed that they would accept the return.  Praise the Lord, they did accept it and gave me a check back for the full amount.  I was praying all the way to the store that they would accept the return since they have posted in severel locations in the clearance section that all purchases are final and if they do return it, they assess a 10% restocking fee.  It was such a huge answer to prayer for us.

Now the exciting time came, waiting on God to see what He was going to do.  We didn't have long to wait.  On Monday night, I was talking with another friend and she had heard that we were getting a new couch.  I told her the story and conveyed our excitement about waiting to see how God was going to work.  She told me that her Dad's couch was in perfect condition and since he was moving to a nursing home it would be available if we were interested.  By the end of the week we had a couch - given to meet our need.  The same guy that was going to bring us our brand new one was able to deliver the second couch.  He was so excited to be a blessing to us and even more excited about how God worked in our hearts.  The whole thing was such a blessing.  Now, every time I look at our couch, I am reminded of the incredible blessings we receive when we submit to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and wait on His perfect timing.  I may not always choose to follow His leading but the rewads are amazing when I do.  Even if we had gone months without a couch, there still would have been a great reward in the peace of knowing that we did what God wanted us to do.  The first couch was beautiful and a great price, but I kept thinking if we ended up not being able to return it, what blessing would we miss out on because it was too good a deal to pass up.  It was a great deal, but the blessing far outnumbered the price.

I must say I love the couch the Lord provided for us. It looks perfect in our family room, and it even reclines on each end.  It was so much more than I dreamed of getting and the best part was how God worked.


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