I Remember Leah

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And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. ~ 1 Samuel 18:1

On October 9, my very first best friend died. Just like that, she has gone into eternity. We met when were three years old in Sunday school at Hot Springs Baptist Temple in Hot Springs, Arkansas. My mother was our teacher. Mother has often recounted over the years how surprised she was at the bond Leah and I forged at such a young age. She would refer to the passage above, remarking that Leah and I were like David and Jonathan, our hearts were “knit”. When I was five years old, we changed church membership. When I was seven, we moved from Hot Springs, and with that move, Leah and I were separated.

Even though we drifted apart so many years ago, I can still recall with clarity many of our conversations. I remember our sleepovers, the gift I brought her from our trip to Six Flags over Texas, and the time she dressed up as a mummy (wrapped in toilet paper) to a Halloween themed birthday party. I remember church dinners and activities where we sat together. I remember her laugh and the way she sucked her thumb. I remember what a comfort it was to know that she would be starting school with me, I wouldn’t be alone! We weren’t allowed to sit by each other in school because the teacher said something about us talking too much. But we enjoyed recess together and lunch time!

What I remember most was that I didn’t have to work to gain Leah’s approval, nor she, mine. We instantly accepted one another just as we were. I didn’t worry about offending her. I didn’t fret over whether or not she liked me – she did, and I knew it. It was the purest and sweetest friendship I had in my childhood. I’m sure we would have had disagreements over things if had we grown up together, but I know it wouldn’t have lasted very long.

I just can’t wrap my brain completely around the fact that she is gone. I suppose in the back of my mind I imagined that we would one day cross paths and we would pick up where we left off.

Leah gave me the greatest gift on Earth: she gave me herself. She showed me early on that life is full of beautiful people and you know what?

You don’t have to look very far to find them.

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I remember Leah. . .and I miss her.

With love,

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A Special Christmas Blessing

Christmas started very early for me this year! Last Thursday, I got a small package from my friend, Ava. Inside was the most unique Christmas ornament I’ve ever received! It also holds special meaning for me. Here’s a picture:

It’s an ornament made from an illustration in the book Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder! This one is a picture of Royal and Almanzo drinking apple cider and eating popcorn by the fire in the chapter “Winter Night”. 

On the other side is the more of that same picture. Father Wilder is scraping a new ax handle and Eliza Jane is reading the newspaper aloud. 
This ornament is so special because my family and I were able to visit the Farmer Boy home in Malone, New York, last September! After we returned, I read the book, Farmer Boy, aloud to our children. This gift is one I will treasure each and every year as long as I live.
Here is the package it was wrapped in. It’s two pages of a Little House book, sewn together and tied at top with this multicolored ribbon. It was made by a Laura Ingalls Wilder enthusiast that Ava knows. The padding in the box was a page from the De Smet News, of De Smet, South Dakota. This is where the book, Little Town on the Prairie, takes place! What a cute touch!
Thank you, Ava, for starting my Christmas season off in such a special way! It’s been a long year, and part of me has been dreading the upcoming season. What a special blessing for the Lord to give me a gift on His birthday! But, that’s what Christmas is all about – His gift of love on the cross. What a blessing to be loved.

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Hodge-Podge

Sometimes, blogging is the last thing I feel like doing. I’m not crafty. I’m not witty. I’m definitely not smart. At my best, I’m just a sinner saved by grace. At my worst…well, we won’t go there. This past week was one of those weeks where I just needed to be offline. While I wasn’t blogging, I was most assuredly living. I enjoyed being with my family, taking a quick trip away with my sweetheart (and getting to visit a friend on the way), and reading some good books.

To catch up, I’m writing this “hodge-podge” post. The dictionary defines this word ( these words?) as the following: heterogeneous mixture : jumble “hodgepodge of styles”. That about sums it up! Here are some photos of life around my hacienda and beyond during the last week. I only hope it all makes sense. Thanks for reading. 

 Lauren making her selection from the kids’ cookbook last week. 
Here’s the finished product: Striped Pudding Parfait! It is chocolate pudding, Cool Whip, strawberries and bananas. It was very tasty! 🙂

 Hard at work. 
While the others do school each day, this guy gets to look cute. And he does that so.very.well.

Laci took a break between outfit changes to watch Tangled. We all took a break to sing “the work song” with Rupunzel. We love that movie.

A helping hand? Uh-uh. A helping body! Matthew was about to fall in the dryer trying to reach a wash cloth for me! 

I enjoyed getting to see my friend Ava, and her sweet Gracie last week! We were passing through and had to stop, even though it was quite early. 🙂 Hello, Ava and Gracie!! Ava is definitely a kindred spirit and I’m blessed to know her. A true friend takes you in before breakfast, and that’s what Ava did. 🙂

A game of checkers. Matthew was lying on his stomach watching them, but I missed the photo op!

Leslie gave Matthew a piggy-back ride. That girl is the biggest helper, all of my kids are, but Leslie has a very sweet and sacrificial spirit. She loves taking care of others. I hope and pray she keeps that servant spirit forever. 

Below is a short video of her giving Matthew a ride. I love Matthew’s expression in it!

Thanks, again, for reading. I hope my next post will be less… miscellaneous!
Happy Wednesday!

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End of a Long Week

We began the week last Saturday (Don’t worry, I know the week really begins on Sunday. Just giving you a little back story.) with a wonderful missionary family joining us for an informal meal of pizza and salad. The Karamitros family have been in China for ten years. They have five grown children. And they were such a blessing! Mrs. Karamitros was especially encouraging to me in the area of homeschooling. She was a mechanical engineer for Lockheed Martin before she and her husband began deputation. She commented that she has a personal mission of encouraging girls not to be intimidated by math and science. She gave me some sound advice regarding science curricula. It was so nice to chat with them. They were with us for the morning service at church, but had to scoot on over to another nearby church for the evening service.

Sunday afternoon, just as I was stumbling toward the coffee pot after a short nap, I noticed that a van was parked down at the church. Two very well dressed people, a man and a woman, were inside the building. I figured they were missionaries or passers-by who were looking for a church to attend while they were in town. I ran to where my husband was lying on the floor, reading. I whispered to him so as not to waken the girls sleeping nearby, “There’s someone at the CHURCH.” He hopped up, flipped on the light in the kitchen and stood in font of the window to see who it was. I was next to him. The two people were now beside their vehicle, they looked up at us! They saw us through the window! EEK! At this point, I was very embarrassed. They waved at us and Terry said, “That’s Brian and Dixie Wagahoff.” I ran out the door, down the sidewalk in my sock feet and embraced my childhood friend. I hadn’t laid eyes on her in almost three years! I hadn’t seen her kids in over nine! She had a daughter I’d never met (and the ones I had met were too young to remember me) and I’d had three children she’d never met. It was so wonderful to see her, to catch up, to meet her children. It had been too long.

They went to church with us that night and spent the night in our church’s missions house. They sang a special for us that blessed my heart. They ate supper at our house and we stayed up visiting – and the children playing – until the wee hours of the morning. We rose late on Monday morning and visited with them that day. We caught up on people we knew and most interestingly, they told us in vivid detail about the Joplin tornado. They survived it in the basement of their church. They showed us photos from their phones, described the wind, the fear, the noise, the damage…I just can’t thank the Lord enough for keeping my friends safe! It also helps me know how to pray for them as they heal emotionally, and they are still healing. It was devastating for them, especially for the kids. I have a new respect for tornadoes after hearing their story.

 They pulled away from our house to head back to Missouri at 4:30. I was sad to see them go, but so grateful at the same time. They had come down to see Dixie’s dying grandfather before he left this world of sorrow. They had to drive a bit further to see us; they had to go out of their way, and I’m so glad they did. Terry said after they left that their visit refreshed his soul. I agree. And the kids? Well, they had a marvelous time playing together! There aren’t many kids around here, so having four extra kids to play with was truly a gift from the Lord.

Here are a few photos I snapped right before they left.

 The boys: Mitchell, Brice & Bret
Carrie, Leslie & Laci 
 Brian and Terry
 The whole gang! L-R (back row) Brice, Carrie, Bret, Lauren, Mitchell, (front row) Leslie, Carrie & Laci. Matthew was asleep. 
 Courtney (who, by the way, was named after ME! My maiden name is Courtney!) and Lauren. These girls are less than a month apart in age! Dixie and I used to dream about our daughters playing together. I always pictured it being more than once, though. Oh well, I’m glad it at least happened once! Maybe the Lord will allow our paths to cross again.
Dixie and me. We’ve known each other since I was 4 and she was 5! We became very close friends when I was 11 and she was 12 and have been ever since. I am so blessed!

All of that was on Monday. It made the rest of the week rather dull. No surprise visits, nothing spectacular going on. In fact, we had to start school up this past week. We had intended to start back the week of New Year’s, but many of us were sick. Lauren had a cold, I was getting over one, and Mitchell had a cough. I just postponed everything for one more week.

We started back on Tuesday. Each day has been long, like walking in slow motion. None of us are too eager to start back on….math!!! I hate math. No, I despise math. Math is my nemesis, and I refuse to let it defeat me! But I still hate it. We trudged through each day, somehow, and came out alive at the end. I am hoping that now that we’re back in our school routine, next week will go smoother.

I hope.

Other than just dragging, the week was blissfully uneventful. We read books, we played, we worked. No injuries, no illnesses, no devastating news. For this, I’d like to praise the Lord. Each day we are in His hands and we need His help whether the sun is shining or a tornado is blowing.

A few more photos from the week:

 Mitchell said, “Look Mom, we’re gangsta brothers!”
Laci’s hair was in her eyes, so, *ahem* she fixed the problem. When Lauren did this, I hit the roof. I’ve either mellowed a lot since then, or grown in the Lord. I scolded her for this, but I didn’t hit the roof. Confucius say, “Hair grow back, but damage from high blood pressure is fo-eva.”
 The girls had fun with the water colors! 🙂 

As I was reading Thursday night, I heard Leslie say, “I’m being like Momma.” I turned to see her rocking her baby brother beside me. He willingly let her and she loved every minute. Ah, yes, I’m bronzing this moment for those quiet, empty nest days yet to come.
I hope you have all had a wonderful week, whether busy or not, eventful or boring, God is faithful and true. This, we can count on.

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Just Saying Thanks

I wanted to drop in and say thank you for praying for my friends, Donna and Audrey. They are recovering well so far. Donna has a long road to go, as her body adjusts to the new kidney. Please continue to pray that her body will not reject it in the future. Audrey posted on Facebook how grateful she is to be able to give part of herself to her sister. What a wonderful earthly demonstration of Christ’s love!

Also, thank you for the input regarding the photo of my youngest girl. I have ordered a print of the original photo, to see how it looks with the individual shots of my other kids. A friend of mine sent me an edited version. I will be getting it printed if the original looks too bad.

I am happy to report that my Christmas shopping is done! This the earliest this has ever happened. I usually end up doing a lot of shopping on Christmas Eve! I am now wrapping, cleaning and planning the menu for Christmas. My in-laws will be joining us, as well as my husband’s grandmother. We haven’t had company at Christmas in at least four years. I hope and pray your Christmas planning and celebrations are going well. May we not forget the Greatest Gift of all, the Lord Jesus Christ!

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Hugs from Heaven

I’ve always known that the Lord is the answer to everything. I’ve known it in my mind, but convincing a broken heart is often much harder. Stopping the flow of tears, laying aside the heavy weight within my chest cannot be done by just “knowing”. For instance, I know my husband loves me because he’s told me. But, I don’t want to simply hear the words once, I like hearing it often, especially during hard times.

I also enjoy hearing that my Father loves me. Sometimes, the journey seems long and all uphill. The answers to my prayers are “wait” or “no”. Discouragement lurks in the shadows, overwhelming me when I least expect it. What a blessing it is to my heart to see tangible proofs from my Father that He is with me in the darkness! Reminders that He is near when I am overwhelmed; He is my Rock.

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, 
when my heart is overwhelmed:
 lead me to the rock that is higher than I. ~ Psalm 61:2
My Lord owes me nothing; He’s already given me His all. I have eternal life through Calvary! But how wonderful it is when He sends me reminders of presence! In the last several weeks, I have received many “hugs” as a I call them, from my Savior. I wanted to publicly share them and praise Him for His love and goodness!
 My friend, Ava, sent me this surprise box! Her daughter, Gracie, drew me a picture. She also sent some homemade busy activities for Matthew, mechanical pencils for my older ones, candy and a scented candle for me. What a great surprise!!

The same day I received the surprise box, I got this handmade card with very encouraging words written inside by my friend, Stephanie, in Ohio. It was a wonderful day!
 Just yesterday, my sister-in-law, Christina, sent me this handmade necklace and earrings! It was a wonderful surprise! She has great talent and I am so honored to be a recipient of it. Now I need to go shopping to find just the right outfit to wear it with! 😉
 This past Thursday, I was blessed to have a visit from my friend, Amanda, and her family! My kids loved playing with her boys and Terry and I were blessed by the fellowship with her and her husband, Jeremy. I have known Amanda since I was 15 when we met at teen camp. I have corresponded with her either my mail or electronically for eighteen years now. She is on furlough for a few months and went out of their way to visit us. They go back to Brazil at the first of the year. I miss her, but am so grateful we can keep in touch via the Internet! 
This is a lovely necklace that Amanda brought me from Brazil! 
Obrigado, Amanda! It was so wonderful to see you!
…the LORD watch between me and thee,
 when we are absent one from another. ~ Genesis 31:49
I’m so grateful for the Lord’s demonstration of love for me in such real ways. He is so good. I am so unworthy, and so very grateful.

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Good Friends

The hardest part about ministry, in my opinion, are the good-byes. We’ve had people leave our church and those good-byes, or lack thereof, are very sad. Their spot is empty; their smiles are missed. We’ve also had to relocate ourselves, leaving precious saints of God to follow His call to a new work. Oh how hard that is!

Our first pastorate was in a small town about an hour northwest of Austin, Texas. We were there almost three years before the Lord moved us to southwest Arkansas. I was very happy there. We had the best people in the whole state of Texas! It was a thrill when a dear lady was passing through and wanted to stop by and say hello. Two of her sons offered to drive her to Indiana to visit family. They were only able to visit a short time, but it was a sweet time.

The kids hugged her neck and rode their bikes for her. She brought us cookies – all the way from central Texas! It was a great joy to our hearts.

Mitchell was riding his bike when I snapped this. I’m not sure why Laci is frowning, I think it was nap time! 🙂
I’m so grateful for the friends I have, all over the world! 

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