Favorite Fishing Buddy

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“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” —John Buchan

My dad fished professionally for many years, and earned sponsors and endorsements from boat and bait/tackle companies.  He was featured in magazine articles, and won many notable tournaments throughout his career.  As a matter of fact, when I tell people around here who my dad is, most (if into fishing) “ooh” and “ah” over my dad’s knowledge of the lakes and his seemingly instinctual ability to catch fish.

Before the adoption of our son, we took him to the lake often to visit his “Papa” and play around on the water.  Once our adoption was finalized, and my son had the ability to hold a fishing pole, my dad headed out on the water with him and started teaching him all that he knew.  He is now 6-years-old, and has been fishing pretty regularly since the age of 2 years.  He can name virtually every type of freshwater fish.  He can top-water fish, use a variety of baits and tackle, and even use a bait-caster.  I think he would fish just about every day if we let him.

During visits with my son’s biological mother while we were fostering him, she often asked me if someone would take him fishing.  She wanted her son to have the opportunity to learn how to fish.  I’m not sure if this is something she enjoyed as a child, but it seemed pretty important to her for him to be a boy who fished.

She was quite excited to hear that my dad past-time is fishing, and that her son would learn to fish from one of the best around this area.  When I get images like the one above from my dad while on the lake with my son, I can’t help but think of his birth mother, and how often she talked about taking him fishing.

My dad may have won tournaments, earned money, and made a name for himself through fishing, but the joy on my son’s face and the time spent with his favorite fishing buddy is by far the greatest award he has ever received.

 

Road Trip!

We took a short road trip on Wednesday to the small town of Jasper, Arkansas (population 458) to visit my husband’s family.  Jasper is tucked in a valley between the mountains of Northwest Arkansas.  I grew up in a small city in the Ozarks (and I still live here), but, places like Jasper and other small towns were just a “stone’s throw away” from where I lived.  Having grown up in the Missouri Ozarks and hearing all the jokes about “hillbillies”,  I used to dream about living in a big city with tall buildings, art galleries, and stores with huge windows filled with lots of man-made desires of the retail kind.

When I sneak off to places like Jasper and take in the scenery, I’m very appreciative of the hidden nuggets of wonder and scenes from a time-gone-by.  The hills become my skyscrapers, old rock and wood architecture becomes my art gallery, and the landscape becomes my window to the beauty of creation.  I guess it’s true….”Tis a pleasure to live in the Ozarks!”

If you enjoy camping, canoeing, hiking, and finding unique little towns, you should travel to Arkansas and Missouri.  Just make sure to bring your motion sickness medication for the curvy and hilly roads!

Here are just a few pics of our road trip.  The pictures were mostly taken from my moving vehicle with an iphone, so please excuse the lighting and any flaws!  Enjoy!

One more shot of the ghost of an old amusement park
One more shot of the ghost of an old amusement park
Remnants of an amusement park called "DogPatch USA".  I remember going as a child.
Remnants of an amusement park called “DogPatch USA”. I remember going as a child.
more images from the abandoned amusement park
more images from the abandoned amusement park
"DogPatch USA"
“DogPatch USA”
Yes, people still lives in log cabins :)
Yes, people still live in log cabins 🙂
Lots of people float the Buffalo during the summer season!
Lots of people float the Buffalo during the summer season!
another image of the square
another image of the square
They call this "Little Switzerland"
They call this “Little Switzerland”
Ozark Cafe - over 100 years old & definitely worth the drive to eat there!  We were sad it was closed yesterday.  You can find out more about it http://www.ozarkcafe.com
Ozark Cafe – over 100 years old & definitely worth the drive to eat there! We were sad it was closed yesterday. You can find out more about it on their website: http://www.ozarkcafe.com
historic landmark
historic landmark
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I wish this little store was open! No telling what kind of gems I could have found in there!

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cute little food truck!

I’ll Play My Drum for You

photo (42)One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy”.  There is something quite simplistic, yet deeply thoughtful (in my opinion) about this tune.  The lyrics tell the story of a boy whose only gift for the newborn King is the rhythmic tapping of his drum.

I remember watching the animated movie when I was younger.  The description of the movie is, “An orphan drummer boy who hated humanity finds his life changed forever when he meets three wise men on route to Bethlehem.” (www.imdb.com)  I would argue that his life changed more when he met the newborn King.  Much like those of us who claim Christ as our Savior, the people along the way certainly influenced our journey, but ultimately, meeting the Lord and reveling in His glory is what changed our lives.

The thought that our Savior was born in a lowly manger surrounded by very few people is quite humbling.  His worth values more than any riches.  He could have been born in the most glorious of places, and could have commanded the Earth to move.  And yet, the song of “The Little Drummer Boy” reminds me of the pureness of children and how their gifts, though small and often hand-made, carry far greater value than the store-bought gifts we often receive.  The words also speak of meeting the Lord where we are at; poor, with not much to offer.

I believe He doesn’t expect us to put out our finest wares for Him.  I believe He wants our gifts to be used and given in humility, kindness, and with sincere generosity.  I believe we are to use what we have been given to the best of our ability, and with the heart of a child.  These gifts of our time, service to others, loving acceptance, and consolation of each other are of value that will never fade.

What “drum” will you play to honor Him?  What will the rhythm of your life sound like?  The sounds may fade, and the act may be just one moment in time, but, the impact on others can be eternal.

Yes, Lord, I’ll play my drum for You.

Raising Royal Kids

My son's version of a kid wearing a crown!
My son’s version of a kid wearing a crown!

Walking by the magazine aisle in the grocery story, I noticed a headline that claimed “Raising a Royal Baby”.  The article was apparently about the expectant royal couple William and Kate.  I thought how interesting, exciting, yet difficult it would be to raise a “royal” child.

All the eyes of the world would be on you.  If your children struggled with behavioral problems or other issues, what kind of attention would that draw?  The initial thought of being someone of royalty sounds quite intriguing, but, to be under the constant scrutiny would be tough.  Parenting is a hard enough job without having the eyes of the world watching your every move.

Tonight would not have been a good “parenting through the lens of the camera” moment for me.  Busy streets, long lines, and two very hyper, and slightly defiant, children pushing every boundary possible in the store, was enough to diminish the “merry-ness” of the last-minute Christmas shopping trip.  Thoughts of “I’m gonna wring their little necks!” ran through my mind all while I was smiling through my pseudo-calm words of “If you continue this behavior, we will have to leave the store.”

Reflecting back on the magazine cover I saw, it hit me that we are all raising royal children.  As a believer in Christ the King, I know my children are His.  This means that I am raising royal children!  What a wonderful, and challenging thought!

The next time I get a little….um….frustrated with my little ones while out and about, I need to remind myself that I am raising children of the King.  Now that should humble and refine me a bit!  That should remind me of the importance of striving to always grow as a parent, to learn more about what works and doesn’t work, and to remember that I too am a child of the King.

Give You the World – (re-posted with relevance)

The post I wrote earlier titled Yearning for Change was out of anger and anguish over what happened this past weekend in Connecticut.  It was also out of frustration as a professional in the field of social work who knows that those most often affected by cuts in budget are children and families.  After writing it, I was gently reminded that true change really does start at home.  Fathers and Mothers need to love their children.  Grandparents should, if possible, wrap their love around their families and provide support.  Parents should be building their children up, instead of tearing them down.  Parents just need to be parents.

I decided to re-post a piece I wrote for my children back in June.  Children are always on my mind – not just my children, but children of the world.  No child should ever go to bed wondering if he or she matters to this world.  Earlier in the week, I prayed to the Lord and cried out, “What are we doing to Your children, Father?!?”  I realized, though, that He who holds the stars, also holds our children.

This piece I wrote about in the post linked below is not just for my children, but for yours as well.  After this week, my desire penned months ago seems to have even more relevance.  If you wish, click on the link and read it.  Blessings to you and yours!

GIVE YOU THE WORLD

Yearning for Change

I have to admit that I was anxious about taking my son to school today.  I just wanted to grab him and run back out of the building, or stay with him all day.  I prolonged our usual walk to the cafeteria where he goes before school starts.  I hugged him once, went back for a second and third hug, and then turned around and hugged him for the fourth time while whispering in his ear that I love him.

For the first time today, I gave second glances to people I have not seen before in the school.  I noticed how many doors there were, and wondered if they were locked.  I imagined where my little boy would hide if he needed to.  I wanted to ask about school security, evacuation plans, etc, but, I could tell the principal and teachers were all probably preoccupied with the same emotional anxiety that I was feeling.

I’m not the only one who felt this way today.  Most of the mom’s I spoke to were ready for the hour to come when school was let out.  I was anxious to pick him up, embrace him, and get him in my car.  I kept up a quick pace from my car to the door, and just couldn’t wait to lay my eyes on him.  After seeing him sitting there in line waiting for me to get him, my pace quickened, I called his name, and wrapped my arms around his shoulders while walking him out.  He sort of gave me that “uh..mom…?” look, but I didn’t care.  I wanted him out of the building, and back in the warm secure place that we call home.

I’m struggling a bit to not write about the shooting tragedy, or to keep it out of my mind.  This shooting is no less tragic or no more tragic than any other violent act in our country, but this one…this one cuts right into the heart of us all.  Perhaps, it is the age of the sweet babies killed, the way it happened, the lack of security in our school systems, or the lack of professional, affordable mental health services.  Or, perhaps, and I say this with caution, it is the plethora of available weaponry on our streets.  Maybe, it is all of these things combined.

As a professional in the field of social work, I have worked with mentally ill adults and children.  I have worked with at-risk youth, adolescent sexual perpetrators, and drug addicts.  I have tracked down homeless people, or those with-whom society doesn’t care about.  I have been cursed at and threatened by angry clients.  I even had a somewhat mentally unstable man, high on pain killers, pull a handgun from behind his back and show it to me while I was doing a routine well-being check on him.

When I was a new case worker, I was told that I should step aside when I knocked on the door of a potentially angry client so that if the person shot at me, he or she would miss.  I was also told to always know where my exits are, and to never turn my back on someone.  Just last week I read an article about a young social worker who was chased down after a home visit, and brutally stabbed to death by a mentally unstable client.

I keep hearing all this talk about “changing the way things are done”.  If politicians really want to understand persons with mental health problems, at-risk youth, or the desperate struggles of parents and the “system” trying to heal and help these folks, then I think they should join us in the field sometime.  I think they should have to listen to the screaming and cussing phone messages of angry clients left on voice machines.  I think they should have to assist in finding a home for a youth who has severe mental health issues with violent tendencies.  I think they should have to accompany parents who struggle to get their children the help they need because of lack of funding.

I say all of this to not lay blame for what occurred, or to turn this into a political issue.  I don’t want to believe that this is only a gun issue either.  It is an issue of a young man who may or may not have gotten the help he needed.  It is an issue of a  mother who most likely desperately struggled raising a troubled son.  It is an issue of young persons slipping through the cracks, and desperately needed funding being slashed.  It is an issue of safety in our schools.  This is also an issue of the heart, and the lack of empathy or understanding for those on the outside of what is deemed as socially acceptable.

I think those in charge of writing policies, adding or cutting funding, and lobbying so passionately for what they believe in, should join social workers, teachers, counselors, and parents as they work tirelessly to fix the most complicated of problems.  I’m certainly not an expert on mental health, gun laws, and politics.  I’m just a mom who fears that my children are growing up in a less safe and more complicated world that I grew up in.  I’m a mom who wants people that need help to get help.  I’m a mom who yearns for real change, the kind that creates a world that is more loving, and accepting of others, to happen.  The ones who lost their lives last week deserve for us all to ponder carefully on these issues with sensitive hearts and open minds.

Our children, and our children’s children, deserve it as well.

The Gift of This Day

photo (36)Following a day that has shaken most of us, my husband and I decided to get the kids out of the house and visit the local nature center. We are trying to keep the news channels off our television, and to shield the little ears in our home from hearing about the tragedy that took place in Connecticut.  To be honest, we both can barely keep it together when thinking about the precious six and seven-year-old boys and girls whose lives were taken.  All of the children who died were born in 2005 and 2006.

Our son was born in 2006.  He thoroughly enjoys Kindergarten, and is learning so much.  He doesn’t know a stranger and says “hi” to every student and teacher he passes by.  Our walk in to the school building every day has become a ritual of sorts.  I thought about stopping this and letting him off at the door to save time, but after yesterday, I will continue to walk him into the classroom, say hello to his teachers and friends, hug him, tell him that I love him and to have a “blue” day (color card incentive for good choices), and walk back out greeting people along the way.

My husband and I cannot really talk about the school shooting without getting tearful.  The thought of losing a child; especially in such a violent way, is so unbearable.  The lesson that I was reminded of yesterday is not to take any moment for granted and to love our children for the incredible gifts that they are.

photo (40)As the day turned into evening, we baked up a batch of gingerbread cookies for the kids to decorate.  The smell of sugary comfort filled our home while our children gleefully awaited for the cookies to be done.  During this time, I was reminded again of the stark difference between what my day involved and what this day must have been like for the grieving parents, siblings, friends, and grandparents who all lost loved ones, and the sense of security they once had.

I know as the days go on, our family will go about our business of staying busy, gearing up for Christmas, and creating new memories.  I also know that we will get to a place where we can talk about the school shooting without getting tearful.  We will be able to discuss rationally (at least in our home) the pro’s and con’s of gun laws in our country.  I know we will return to a sense of normal.  For today though, I’m choosing to cherish the laughter I hear from the living room, the off-key singing of a boy in a bathtub, and the gift of this day with my children.

Every good and perfect gift is from above… – James 1:17

Days like Today

Tonight I had the incredible blessing of watching my 4-year-old daughter perform in a Christmas dance recital.  I helped her get ready by putting on her glittery leotard and pulling her hair back in bun.  I smiled as she gingerly walked onto the big stage, and giggled as she twirled in her fluffy white tutu.  As the evening went on and I watched the children dance, my mind escaped off to that place of sadness for the mom’s and dad’s of the little princes and princess’s who were not tucked into their beds tonight.  The shooting tragedy in Connecticut today has invaded my thoughts, and it was hard to get the families whose lives were abruptly interrupted off of my mind.

Christmas presents will be left unopened, family pictures will not happen, visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house will be filled with tremendous heartache, and parents will forever feel the silent emptiness of loss.  Gingerbread houses will go unmade, Christmas stockings will mournfully hang by chimneys, Santa will not be visited, and the sounds of laughter will not ring out on Christmas morning.  It is absolutely heart-wrenching to think of the precious lives lost today.  These children were just going about their day handing in homework, counting down the days until Santa visits, and telling their teachers their big plans for the weekend when darkness entered their lives.

The sad truth is that violence against children occurs year round and all over this world on a daily basis.  We discard them as if they don’t matter.  We ignore them as if they are not important.  We use and abuse them as if their little hearts and bodies will just “get over it”.  Scripture speaks of children being a reward, and yet, we take our time with them for granted.  I absolutely believe that we will not escape the Lord’s passionate and protective love for His children.

It is days like today that I hugged my Kindergartner and ballerina a little tighter.  It is days like today that I repeated the words “I Love You” to them often.  It is days like today that I am reminded that our children are not ours.  We are gifted with them for a while.  Some stay longer than others, but ultimately, they are the Lord’s children.

It is days like today that I long for His return.

Letter of Love

photo (33)I’ve known my husband since we were in our early to mid twenties.  We’ve been a couple for about 19 of the 21 years we’ve known each other.  He’s traversed the valley of infertility with me, jumped right in to foster parenting classes, stayed up late at night to feed the babies, and drove our car with extra care while on our way to our adoption hearings.  We’ve basically grown up together in many ways, and parenting continues to grow us.

It was about 4 years ago when we went through a difficult time with employment.  My husband lost a job just a few weeks before our adoption hearing.  I was quite shocked that a company would let someone go right before an adoption, but never-the-less, our adoption happened.  Several months passed by with no potential employment doors opening for my husband.

As Christmas came around, I could tell that he was worried about what to get me.  It didn’t really matter to me anyway as I knew finances were tight, and I had been given the most amazing gift of my sweet boy through adoption.  I was so thankful to be a mother, and to be able to wake up each morning with the knowledge that my life had been drastically and blessedly changed by motherhood.

We really don’t make a big deal out of presents for each other.  Instead, we enjoy giving gifts to others, and that year, we were so excited to see our son’s expression when he woke up.  As the morning progressed, we headed into the hearth room where our stockings are hung by the chimney.

As I reached my hand into my stocking, I felt a piece of paper.  I pulled out a letter (the one pictured above), and had no idea what in the world it was.  As I unfolded it and started reading, I realized it was a love letter.  It was not one of those “I’ve got a crush on you” kind of notes one may get in high school.  No, this was a love letter from a man to a woman.  It was a letter from his heart to mine. It was a letter of one’s humble admission of loving someone else more than that person would ever know.

There I was sitting half-disheveled in my pajama’s with tears rolling down my cheeks clutching a letter.  All of this occurred while my curly-haired 2-year-old squealed with the delights of Christmas morning.  My husband sat there a little embarrassed and a little stoic.  This letter was the best Christmas present I ever received.  From time to time, I pull the letter out and read it as a reminder of how special marriage is, and how lucky I am to have married someone who is one of the most self-less persons that I know.

This morning while thinking about the gift of that letter on Christmas morning, I thought of the love letter that the Lord has written for us.  Scripture really is our love letter from Him.  It is the grounding wisdom of our history, the guide for our every day walk, and the revelation of our future.  It is His promise skillfully described.

The Word brings life, love, and meaning.  The Word transforms us, shapes us, comforts us, and humbles us.  The Word creates for us the ability to stand firm in our faithful knowledge of the Lord, and it confirms to us how incredibly passionate our Heavenly Father loves each of us.

The Word is Love.

The next  time you need to be reminded of how loved you are, open your Bible and read the Lord’s letter of love written for all of us.

Related Article: Letter to my Lord

Waiting on God

photo (32)I prayed today for concrete answers to multiple situations going on in my life of which I’m trying to keep my anxiety level to a minimal.  I asked told the Lord to let today be the day that I got ALL of the answers I needed to hear.  Quite selfish, I know, but I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately with all of the “stuff” going on in life.

The stuff I’m referring to consists of (1) wanting an answer for something I’ve been working on for years, and feeling so close to getting, and, (2) needing to hear with clarity what the Lord intends to do with a situation involving a family member.  In the middle of these things lies my normally busy life consisting of children, work, and a home to tend to.  If the truth were told, I would eliminate the work part and focus on the home and family; thus, leading me back to wanting answers!

Even as I write this, I’m daydreaming a little about it all.  As the day grew into evening, I did not receive that phone call or that email with an answer.  I did not receive a letter or phone call telling me what the next steps will be regarding a family member.  The Lord did not break through the clouds declaring the answers I am yearning to hear.  However, as the day went on, I started to realize that He has waited on me multiple times throughout my life, and will continue to as long as I am breathing Earthly air.

He’s waited on me to open the Word instead of opening my Facebook page. He’s waited on me to have a heart pursuing Him with the same passion that I have pursued others and things of this world.  He’s waited on me to write that check in full faith the He will use it for good; instead of writing a check for something temporary that I desired.

He’s waited on me to relinquish my fear of the unknown, and let Him lead my life. He’s waited on me to understand infertility as a part of my life story, so that He could unfold the script.  He’s waited on me to give the same amount of grace for the indiscretions of others that He’s given me.  He still waits on me to let His peace be the answer I need until He moves the mountain that seems insurmountable, or opens the door to the next step in my life.

Today I found myself thinking, “I’m just waiting on God for answers.”  In essence, though, the Lord answered my prayer today.  He answered it with the vision of those times where I’m sure He stood quietly waiting.  He answered it with the sobering remembrance of those moments in my life where I refused to listen.  He answered it with the knowledge that I know is true – He is the keeper of my past, the shepherd of my present, and the lantern for my future.

He answered it with, “Be still and know that I am God.”