A Quiet Night Out

Last night I had one of the most uplifting and encouraging dinners with 3 dear friends. My husband and I have been learning sign language at our church and last night I spent almost 3 hours with Jenna, my deaf friend and two other hearing friends. It was so much fun to communicate in sign language. It is a very expressive and beautiful language. I "turned off" my ears for the evening and signed everything. It was a real stretch in my understanding and use of the language but it was so much fun. We laughed a lot and shared what was in our heats. We spent time encouraging each other and have a better understanding of how to pray for each other. It was a true meeting of the hearts. Oh how I praise the Lord for dear friends who are willing to be real and share what is hurting, encouraging, discouraging and just plain life with each other. Thank you Lord, for many ways to communicate and the ability to learn another language. And, thank you sooo much for precious friends who will help lighten the burden on this journey called life.

Back in the Saddle

After nearly six years of self-employment I am back in the game working as an employee for someone else.  Self-employment is a great thing but one can only survive so long without a paycheck.  The economy has been hard on everyone and software developers are no exception.  I missed paychecks from time to time and covered my bases with savings.  The business hit a low this year.  I went two and a half months without a paycheck and our financial resources finally dried up.  A wise person once said that "If what you are doing isn't working you have to do something else."  Although a project did come in after I put myself back on the market, I continued my search.  The temporary income took a lot of the pressure off during the job hunt.  I was offered and accepted a position at Geneva Roth Ventures in mid-June as a software engineer.  Looking back, I'm thankful for the lessons God taught me, the business knowledge I've gained, and the skills I've been able to hone.  One of the most remarkable and comforting exercises I like to do is to look back on my life and see how God has orchestrated ever detail of my life.  Every step of the way He has connected me with the right people in the right place at the right time so that I could assimilate the skills and knowledge needed for the next step.  My current employer is very entrepreneurial.  We often discuss business strategy and development.  It is a great fit for me right now.  I can't wait to see where God's going to take me next! 

The Miracle of Life

For such a time as this.

I have been amazed many times at the intircate working of God in our lives and this week was again a powerful reminder of God's awesome power. Last September we invited the Hanson's and Smith's over to watch the Amazing Race and have dinner together. Our kids enjoy playing with each other and it was a GREAT opportunity to have adult conversation. For us Mom's, adult conversation is something we crave since most of our day is filled with answering grade school and pre-schoolers. We had so much fun that first night we thought we would do it again, and again and again. Until one day, we decided to call oursevles the "Amazing Small Group". Though our only "Spiritual" content is praying before we eat, the relationships we have formed from our "Amazing Small Group" have been incredible. We have encouraged each other in parenting difficulties, prayed with each other and for each other for the struggles we face and created a bond of the heart. Even after the "Amazing Race" was finished we still continued to get together to share in each others lives. With the ages our kids are, a grand total of 11 kids among the three families, we have not delved into a Bible study because of the multitude of demands we already are facing. The time spent together with our "peeps" is full of laughter, sharing, and most importantly the bearing of one another's burdens. I praise the Lord for His perfect timing and in bringing these families into our lives for such a time as this.

This last week Ella, the newest memeber to our group, at 7 weeks spiked a really high fever that lasted over 3 days. She scared a lot of people and sent hundreds to their knees in prayer.  When Keith called to ask if I could watch Seth, Ian, and Claire because Ella was being checked into the hospital it was an easy answer. Of course I can watch them - for as long as you need. He couldn't get a hold of his Mom so called us. It was so wonderful because thier oldest three were thrilled to come to the Slaven's house. Carrie reminded the kids that it was not a party, but the kids didn't listen. :-) If they had not spent the last 9 months playing at our house they would not have been as excited or as comfortable at our house. As it was, the girls played mom to their baby dolls and the boys played with Lego's all day. When Grandma Hanson came to pick up the Hanson's, the boys told her "it's ok, Nonie, we can stay here and play". June quickly turned to me and asked me "what did you do to my grandchildren!" Then we both laughed. It was so cute.

Tuesday night her temperature spiked at 104.2 and had all of us a little on edge. Jennie and I were at the hospital when the nurse was checking her vitals and sitting there listening to Carrie say the numbers as it climbed was awful. As the numbers kept climbing the silence in the room got heavier. By the time her temperature reached 104 the tears were running down my cheeks. I was praying so hard for Ella and for Keith and Carrie - praying that God would be gracious and merciful, thanking Him for His tender mercies and knowing that we can trust Him completely to do what is best for us and to bring His name glory. His name has been glorified in this short time. The doctors don't know for certain what bacteria her body was fighting, but know it was a BAD one and have been treating her with antibiotics. On Friday we got the news that her fever had finally broken.  She has been fever free since then. Sunday night June and I went to the hospital to visit with Carrie and to see Ella and were amazed at the transformation she had made. She is alert, not in any pain and responding well to the treatment. She was smiling at Nonie, and trying to talk baby talk back. It was such a beautiful sight to behold. Praise the Lord for his work in their lives. They will be in the hospital for a total of 10 days of treatent.  They will be checking out of KU - their home away from home - on Saturday.

I remember when Jonathan was fighting for his life during his chemo treatment and being blown away at the outpouring of love and help we received. I remember just thanking God that there were people praying for us when I didn't know what I needed to pray for. I am still amazed at how He answered all of our prayers - in His time and in His perfect way - even when I didn't articulate them. He met our physical, emotional and spiritual needs often above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine. It was so humbling to realize that God was working through us to proclaim His name to so many others. I just remember praying that God would allow us the opportunity to minister to others just as we had been ministered too. Now, I would never ever want anyone to go through suffering.  It isn't fun in the process.  But, what an incredible blessing it was to be the ones to give and help bear the burden of a brother and sister in Christ. No pain is wasted when God is in it. There may be weeping for a night, but joy truly does come in the morning. He does make beauty out of our ashes. He is an AWESOME God.


Happy Birthday to Me!!!

Martha really surprised me on by birthday this year.  We had a joint birthday celebration for my Mom and I and my parent's house on the 13th since my Dad would be having surgery on the 17th and would be in no condition to celebrate on my actual birthday (24th).  When we loaded up the van to head to Adrian for the day I didn't notice that Martha had packed a few extra items for the kids.  I was totally surprised when I discovered that we not only had tickets for the Royals game Sunday afternoon but also for the Mercy Me concert immediately after the game.  I think the concert was better than the game even though the Royals whipped up on the Tigers.  There had to be at least 10,000 people that stayed for the concert.  It was a remarkable worship experience that one does not get to experience very often.  The kids spent the entire weekend with my parents so that gave us extra time to do some things we have been able to do in ages.  Jonalyn gave me a gift card for the AMC so we ended up going to the movies twice!  I wonder how she is going to top this next year...


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.


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