Thursday, August 9, 2012

Life without Camp Sychar

Like so many of my friends, I grew up attending church camp every summer. While most of my friends are Round Lake alumni, I grew up Wesleyan, so I went to a family camp called Camp Sychar.  It’s a completely different dynamic, but still life changing. And one of the great things about it is that everyone comes back year after year, no matter their age, to fellowship and grow together for 10 days. It’s incredibly special to me.

The summer of 1997, at Camp Sychar, I decided to give my life to Christ completely. And it came at just the right time, as I watched my family disintegrate over the next two years. When my life fell apart, I clung to Christ, and managed to come out of the horrors of the next few years intact, and even managed to bring my siblings with me. God is so good! I shudder to think what would have happened without his intervention.

As you can imagine, Sychar became my favorite place and time in the world. There was a time when I would rather be there than anywhere else, surrounded by my camp family, recharging for 10 days without the stress of life that was awaiting me back home.

I dreaded the thought of returning to everyday life. I knew the hurdles that were ahead of me and just the thought of facing them was exhausting.

It’s easy to get back to real life and just wish that you were back at camp. Things are so much easier there. And it’s easy to collapse under the tidal wave of it all. To give up. To go to bed at night disappointed, broken and wishing for the summer when you’re sleeping in a smelly bunk and sweating through the night.

But here the thing, that smelly bunk doesn’t hold salvation. There’s nothing special about the altar where I dedicated my life to Christ. It’s just a piece of wood.

I didn’t always think that way. I don’t know, maybe it has to do with so many people telling me that those grounds are sacred, they are holy. It made me think that all I had to do was go there and I could be recharged.  The thought of missing camp was unfathomable. To me, God was there, at some campground in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

The first year I missed camp, I learned an incredible lesson. God isn’t there. Believe it or not, He does not reside in Mount Vernon. I know, shocker. It’s something I always knew in my head, but it was more difficult to learn it with my heart.

I saw my little brother say something similar a few weeks ago on facebook. And over the past two weeks as camp was unfolding, I saw many more similar posts. But at the end of the day, there is nothing special about that place. It's not the place, it's the person we encountered, who is special.

Yes, camp is special. The decisions we make there change us forever. But God doesn’t stay there. He goes with us. If the earth swallowed up Camp Sychar or Round Lake or any of the other life changing Christian campgrounds, we would still serve an awesome God. Nothing about our relationship would change. If I never set foot at Sychar again, my faith will remain steady and true. God will not lessen in power. The ability to “recharge” is always available to us.

God promised to never leave us or forsake us. We are his bride. He is committed to us, through good and bad, with or without Camp Sychar, with the whole world on our side and standing completely alone.

I pray that I continue to learn this in my heart. I pray that others are reminded of this. I pray that I pass this truth on to my children, that they may never doubt God’s presence in their lives.
Well, there’s my two cents. I guess I’ll just leave you with this.

Good night, our God is watching o’er you.
Good night, His mercies go before you.
Good night, and we’ll be praying for you.
So good night, may God bless you.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Big ONE!

Can you believe Reuben is already one year old? 'Cause I can't. It's hard to believe that my baby boy is so big already. I don't know how it's possible, but I swear, time moves faster the more children you have. Before I blink he'll be graduating high school. But that's a problem for future Amanda.

For now, we celebrated the occasion in grand style! His birthday was themed around the book Rainbow Fish, one of his favorites. I had a lot of fun putting everything together for it!

We were so glad to have good friends and family who were able to be there. Even MaMaw and PaPaw were here to celebrate the big day!

Reuben's Rainbow Fish shirt. This is probably the most adorable thing I've ever made!

His undersea party decorations. It was really neat when the air came on and it blew the streamers to make it look like the waves were moving. Completely unintentional and totally cool.

Rainbow Fish birthday banner!

Reuben is 1!

Rainbow Fish hanging out under the waves with his other fishy friends.

One of Reuben's best reactions was to the book we got for him. He just loves that Elephant, Elmer.

Being pulled around the house in his wagon by PaPaw. He loves sitting in this and S loves pulling him in it, so it's definitely a winner!

Daddy pushing him on his pirate ship scooter that MaMaw and PaPaw got him.

Rainbow fish cupcakes!

Handmade cupcakes, handmade cupcake stand and the party theme inspiration!

Getting ready for his first taste of sugar!

He was a bit skeptical at first. "What is this mom?"

But, just like every other baby, he soon discovered the joys of birthday cake! "You guys have been holding out on me!"

The day after, enjoying his work truck. He is so happy to finally have some "boy" toys to play with. No more princess ponies for me Mommy!

Happy Birthday sweet boy!

Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The crazy life!

I know it has been FOREVER since I've posted. I'm sorry. The kiddos keep me busy and when I do have free time I'm too lazy to actually blog. Still, I need to get back into it. For those of you who keep up with us via the blog because you're one of the 10 people on the planet without facebook... my sincere apologies!

The kids are, as always, growing up too fast! I mean, Reuben is coming up on his first birthday! He took his first steps last night and Saoirse started potty training today. Crazy, crazy, crazy! Anyway, here's a brief snapshot of our lives over the last month.

Reading in Saoirse's bed... one of our favorite activities. We LOVE books!

Twirling, complete with tutu, of course.

The twirling caused us all to get dizzy and fall down! Poor Reubs! He's always in the wrong place at the wrong time!

The warmer weather means days at the pool, the beach and just playing with some buckets of water on the porch.

Who knew a bowl full of water could provide hours worth of entertainment?

Saoirse's newest obsession: pirates! She's the only kid I've known to cheer for Captain Hook rather than Peter Pan. At the end of the movie, when Hook is trying to get Wendy and the boys to join his crew, Saoirse will grab her sword, point it in the air and loyally scream, "Hook!"

And, of course, we are dealing with the usual funny parts of toddler-dom. Saoirse thought the living room needed some extra decoration! I'm guessing she's right. I've never been a good interior decorator.

The hardest part of our last month was loosing Ms. LuAnn as a speech therapist :( She left the practice and we are so sad she's no longer there. She was so much fun!

Saoirse LOVED going to visit Ms. LuAnn! Sometimes I think she loved Ms. LuAnn more than mommy!

We will never forget the gift Ms. LuAnn gave our family! Communication!

We love you Ms. Luann! We already miss you!

We had lots of fun making Daddy's father's day gift. Both kids stood in his boots and wore his cover.

We put these copies in a three picture frame and in the middle space we wrote "With every step, I try so hard to walk in your shoes." Needless to say, it's currently residing proudly in Daddy's office!

Best of all, we got to go to a special ceremony for Daddy's promotion! He's now a full Lieutenant and we are so proud of him!

Thanks for visiting us!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Do you ever read about the woman in Proverbs 31 and just want to crawl into a dark closet and cry? I know I do. I mean, seriously, can you say "IMPOSSIBLE"? Honestly, take 3 minutes to go read that section in Proverbs 31 and then come back to me. Go on... I'll be right here.


Right? You add to this our obsession with Pinterest, the blogs of supermoms, and the facebook posts by those friends who are just too good to be true, and you end up feeling, well, not good enough. I don't clothe my family in silk, I don't buy only organic food, I don't think my kid could survive a day without watching an episode of Mickey Mouse, and heck, I don't even scrapbook. And on top of that, every now and then, I feed my kid McDonald's.

And while some of you are laughing, there are people who would seriously call me a bad mother for these "crimes". Some of them are my friends, your friends.

With all of these pressures from society, it's easy to read Proverbs 31 and feel defeated, intimidated, or even angry.

But God never called us to be the Pinterest mom. No where in scripture does God say we need to grow our own herb garden to be a Godly mother. What God does tell us to do is to follow him.

"Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no man may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

"Let us fix our eyes in Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

Maybe if we stop looking to Pinterest and start looking to Christ, our lives will reflect the Proverbs 31 woman more closely. And maybe this is one of those things like when Jesus told us to "Be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) It seems impossible, but it isn't, with Christ.

The moment we loose focus, we begin to stray from the path of the Proverbs 31 woman. It's not easy. I pretty much suck at it, but I'm going to keep trying because, well, that's what God has called me to do. He didn't tell me to give up, or crawl into that corner and cry. He called me to take on the task full force with the confidence that He will be there to help me. Once again, He's called me to have faith in him rather than myself.

I've been following a study online about the Proverbs 31 woman that prompted me to blog about it. It's not long or in depth, but it gives me a good starting point and usually one simple thought that hadn't crossed my mind. You can follow it here if you're interested.

All that being said, I promise to blog about the kids next. We finally have our camera back from the repair shop so be prepared!

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Too fast!

Yesterday I gave Reuben his first hair cut. And this morning my mom sent me a text to let me know my baby brother had finished his last final exam of high school. And all I could think was, it really does happen that fast.

I swear, it feels like yesterday that I was reading Bradley a bedtime story and tucking him in. One day I'm dressing him up as a ninja for the bazillionth time, the next he's graduating and going to college.

If I feel like this with Brad, then how am I going to feel when it's my own kids?  I already have a room filled with old baby items the kids have outgrown. A bouncy chair, a baby swing, a play may, an activity chair, and two small boxes of baby clothes I couldn't bear to part with.

Reuben get bored with toys if they don't have something that he can change (move a bead, open a door). Saoirse has pretty much stopped using crayons because she's in love with finger paint. I already get emotional about these things. I don't know how I'm ever going to prepare myself for high school graduation!

At least I have about 16 years to get there. 16 really fast years!

Until then, I'll snuggle with this bubba bear

 and I'll dance with my princess 

and I'll remind myself everyday how very blessed I am.

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thank you.

Last weekend we got the news that one of the members from our Chapel congregation (the one Bryan preaches at on base) was receiving hospice care. Wednesday morning, right when we woke up, we got the call that he had passed away.

I didn't know the Colonel very well. I know he was a Marine. I know he served in WWII at the Battle of Iwo Jima. I know he received a Purple Heart. I know he always complimented Bryan when he got a hair cut... he liked it high and tight. I know he believed in the power of Jesus, which causes me to rejoice knowing that we will see him again.

But I'm incredibly sad right now. I'm sad because he was such a nice man. He was a joy to speak with, even if I had to remind him of my name and that I was Bryan's wife whenever I saw him. He loved the kids... they made him smile.

What really makes me sad is that he was all alone in this world. He was in his nineties and didn't have any relatives or friends outside of the handful of retirees that attend chapel because, well, he had outlived everyone. It makes me sad that there was so much I didn't know about him, like that we both come from Ohio, which I found out when I read his obituary.

This man, who sacrificed so much for our country, for our freedoms, and when it comes time for his funeral, there will only be a few people there to tell him thank you. He was a good man. I wish there were more people who would be there to thank him and send him on his way.

Thankfully, the Colonel is in a much better place. He's no longer on morphine to fight the pain. He's no longer strapped to that wheelchair. But I bet he's still sporting a high and tight hair cut. I don't think even Jesus could talk him out of that one!

So, I just want to say thank you, Colonel, for all you've done for me. We will miss you, but we'll see you again one day.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I need a miracle.

Sometimes life can really get you down. You read about a mother being shot to death and her newborn kidnapped, about another school shooting, a suicide bomber, a young life taken by a drunk driver... it can be too much to bear. I love the things that technology can do to improve out lives, but one of the biggest downfalls of it is this non-stop bad news flowing in and out of my daily routine.

You put that on top of just a regularly crappy day and it's no wonder so many of us feel depressed. Sometimes you just need to hear a good story. Lottery winners who give their shares to help a friend in need, a soldier who sacrificed his life to save a little girl, neighbors who rally together to help a friend after their home was damaged in a storm. Those stories are heart warming. They're wonderful because in the midst of all the crap in this world, we still see the good in people.

And sometimes, you just need to see a miracle. Proof that prayer works. Proof that God is good, even in the worst circumstances. My baby sister is a miracle. She almost didn't make it when she was born. There were several months of waiting and praying and waiting some more. And she defied the odds and is now almost 10 years old, full of life, bright, sweet and kind hearted. She's a miracle.

Jonah is my best friend's first son. he was born early and has had all sorts of issues in his life. Seizures, severe speech and cognitive delays, and he wasn't able to walk. I actually remember when they told Amber he might never walk. Yet, with therapy and braces and a walker and lots of practice and prayer, when we moved home from Scotland, Jonah walked into my arms to give me a hug to welcome me home. I cried, and cried, and cried! This thing they said might never happen, happened. And he continues to make improvements! More importantly, he just has this amazing effect on people. You can't meet Jonah and not fall in love with him. Then you see how he loves others, his family, Jesus... you can't help but thank God for that little boy. Jonah is a miracle.

Tripp was a miracle. A little boy who suffered from EB, he died recently after living his short life in pain. Covered in sores that would rip open and bleed. Every time his skin was touched, a new sore would appear. But his mom loved him more fiercely than I could describe. She prayed for him as if that was her only purpose in life, sometimes praying that he would die in the night so he wouldn't be in pain anymore. I can't imagine uttering that prayer. What extreme faith! When Tripp died, I cried. I've never met him. I've never met his mom. She doesn't know I exist. But I prayed for them. And that connected us. I saw God use that little boy to bring people together, to highlight a disease that desperately needs a cure. Tripp is a miracle.

Right now, I friend of mine from college is asking for prayers for her best friend, Jillian and her baby boy, Judah. When she was pregnant they discovered some problems with Judah. His heart wasn't forming properly. They weren't sure if it would heal in the womb or if it would require surgery when he was born... it was a bombshell for Jillian. She had recently gone through two miscarriages, and now this. So I started praying for Judah and Jillian. Judah was just born and has had a rocky start, to say the least. My friend, has been posting several times throughout the day with specific requests, each one more impossible than the next, every time, with Judah's life hanging by a thread. And God has miraculously brought levels to where they should be, miraculously guided the hands of the surgeons to get results "even better than possibly expected", and has kept his brain functioning still. There are still MANY more hurdles for this little boy to jump, but God continues to take care of him. Judah is a miracle.

Moreover, Judah is my miracle. Sometimes, we struggle spiritually. We feel like we're in a rut. We just kinda, go through the motions. Praying, but maybe not believing as we should. Giving, but out of obligation rather than joyfully. And that's how I've felt lately... stuck. I've been praying for something to change, something to challenge me, something to get me out of this rut. Then came Judah, with his impossible situation and God saying to me, "just trust me". So I've been praying for Judah, trusting that God will heal him. Trusting that he will take care of this little boy who I will probably never meet. And He is. Judah is a miracle.

God is showing me, once again, just how good it is to just trust him. Miraculous.