Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holly Jolly Christmas

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Joyeux Noel! Have a Holly Jolly Christmas! God Jul!

Do you use any of those expressions this time of year? For years now the "War on Christmas" has been raging. Stores call their special items, like trees on which you put lights and decorations to celebrate on Dec. 25, Holiday items. Employees have been told they can say "Happy Holidays!" but not "Merry Christmas!" I agree with those who believe this is wrong and that it is an infringement of freedom of religion and free speech. However, that's not what this post is about. Not really, at least.

I am probably in the minority here. I am a Christian. I do believe people should have the right to say "Merry Christmas" if they choose to do so. I do believe that we celebrate Christmas as the Mass of Christ---a celebration and worship of the Lord's coming to earth as a baby so long ago. That's not what puts me in the minority, of course.

What does put me in the minority are these things. First, we chose not to "do" Santa Claus. We never told our kids that a fat man with a white beard, a red suit & deer would be bringing gifts. Which is really funny, because as long as my parents lived at Canyon Lake, my dad CLEARLY fit that description. He grows out a little mustache & beard just for Christmas. It's white. He has red shirts & a Santa hat. At the lake they always had deer in the yard (not reindeer, but deer still). And he is definitely a good physical copy of the "Dude in the Cherry Red Suit." We just didn't tell them that a MYTHICAL character was bringing gifts. Phil & I both loved Santa growing up, but he really wanted Christmas to focus on the Truth of Jesus' birth. As they got old enough to know about Santa, we did teach them about St. Nick, that many families chose to pretend that Santa was real, and not to bring that up to others. Of course, that led to problems because if Santa DID come up, they were honest. If someone asked, "Do you believe in Santa?" They said no. Which got translated into, "Your kids told my kids Santa isn't real." Both girls have said that they are glad we didn't do Santa (I've asked them several times), Natalie has a real disdain for the guy for a LONG time because she was always getting in trouble with others for not believing in him.

Next, you'd think that would mean we are the kind of family who bars all things remotely related to the frivolity of the season. That is the farthest thing from us! We (okay, the girls & I) LOVE the festive part of Christmas. Each girl has a little tree with ornaments she's been collecting through the years. With pink lights. Then we have a big (artificial---we have allergies) tree full of decorations. Yes, even some Santa ornaments. We love watching Christmas movies. I think Natalie has seen every Hallmark Christmas movie produced this season alone! We love a Charlie Brown Christmas & even Rudolph. Who wouldn't love a show about an elf who wants to be a dentist? LOL! Not "doing Santa" has in now way diminished the fun of the season!

That brings me to the third way I am probably in the minority: I really don't have an issue with Happy Holidays. I say Merry Christmas, but I don't mind signs that say Happy Holidays or people saying that. I DO mind "Holiday trees" and "Holiday ornaments" and such. That's just plain stupid. No one puts up a Kwanzaa tree or a Hanukkah tree! A Yule tree, perhaps, but not the others. No large chain store closes for the other holidays, either. They close on December 25th. Even so, the words Happy Holidays doesn't bother me. If you think about it, the word Holiday means Holy Day. So, those wishing you Happy Holidays are wishing you multiple Holy Days!

Finally, I really like Christmas music, and not just carols. I LOVE Christmas Carols. I love singing of the birth of my Savior and thinking what it was like for Mary and Joseph that night. What it was like for the Shepherds nearby. What it was like for the Wise Men who visited the child in his home later (you do know they didn't go to the manger, right?). But I also love hearing Burl Ives burst out Holly Jolly Christmas. Or Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I even like some of the newer songs, but you can keep "Last Christmas I gave you my heart." That has to be one of my least favorite EVER songs. I love thinking that somewhere someone is having a White Christmas or is going home for Christmas, if only in their dreams. And I laugh at "Mom & Dad can hardly wait for school to start again" since I homeschool my kids! This music brings back memories of Christmases past. We'll never have a Hallmark Christmas. We will probably never have snow in San Antonio in December. And only once every 20 years or so do we even get flurries that stick for an hour. But, I still like the music about such things! I don't think this makes me a hypocrite since the Lord created snow and families!

So, if you see me and want to say Happy Holidays, go ahead. I'll tell you Merry Christmas back, but I won't be offended. And if you want to tell me to have a Holly Jolly Christmas and to have a cup of cheer, I'll listen. Just don't try to hang Holiday ornaments on my Holiday Tree. THAT is a crime punishable by....something!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Does Every Vote Count?

While I'm waiting for some more guest bloggers, here's a political/government question that might be asked in a class. During the elections we hear the phrase, "every vote counts." It seems that in most elections this is true. I wonder, though, how that works with our electoral college. In our homeschool co-op last spring we taught a short government course. It was the first time I understood how the electoral college works. However, I'm still trying to figure out why we have it. Why is popular vote not enough? If we have a certain number of voters who make that final vote based on popular vote, is it truly effective? What happens if the popular vote is divided equally among 3 candidates, but your state has 10 people in the electoral college? Does every vote truly count then?

I don't know but I'm hoping someone who speaks peoplese (vs. legalese) can answer this for me!

Any volunteers?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Christians and Politics: Guest Blogger 3, Beth

Welcome to my third Guest Blogger, Beth! She's a dear online friend and a fellow "dork sister" (a group of us who admit to doing really silly things on a daily basis). Enjoy reading her take on this topic!

Should Christians be involved in politics? If so, in what ways? 

 Yes, I believe so.  I think we should do our best to make our voices heard. I think we need to stand by our Christian principals and faith when we are involved.  For me, I can't check my faith and beliefs at the door of my house when I leave to go elsewhere. My faith is a core part of who I am, how I respond to life, and my outlook and world view.  I can't check it at the door and go and be someone else when involved in politics or community events.  I think our biggest way to be invovled is to PRAY.  God promises he will hear the prayers of the righteous and all of us can be involved in prayer for our nation, our leaders at the local levels and national levels. 
Does God's Word, the Bible, have anything to say about politics?  

I think we need to remember the fruits of the spirit when dealing in, joy, peace,patience, kindness, goodness,  mercy, etc.  If we respond and interact this way in  our political dealings, I think God will be blessed and we will show others what true Christians really look like. The verse about rendering to Cesear what is Cesear's comes to mind too. I think we do need to be faithful, tax paying, law abiding citizens.  The issue for me is if the laws change in such a way to where they are not meeting my biblical standard...what then? Will we be forced to abide by laws that go against our religious beliefs?? That's a problem and I think at that point my religious beliefs should overtake the laws of the land. But, hum.....not sure I have all the answers for this one.
Should pastors share political ideas from the pulpit? Why or why not? If yes, in what ways

 I'm not sure about this one.  Our minster has been pretty quiet about it lately. He's not really touched on the subject.  I agree that you don't want your church to be divisive over political issues but truth needs to be told as well. I know our church has biblical voter guides available out in the hall for people to take and look over, but that's about as far as they have gone to say anything about the elections to the congregations.  I guess that's how it should be. Provide the info and let the people decide but don't make a big deal about it from the pulpit. People do have differing views...for very good reasons...on both sides of the isle and many do come from christian perspectives.
(Optional) How are your personal political views influenced by the Bible? 

 I do vote my biblical views as best as I can and as long as there is a candidate that is somewhat influenced by faith and their religion.  I will always vote prolife.  I feel that is one area where the Bible speaks loud and clear about not killing or murdering. I consider abortion murder.  Other's don't feel that way and don't have an isssue with the topic.  That being said, people will bring up the topic of capital punishment and war.  I do beleive God told his people to go to war on several occasions to follow his will, protect the nation of Isreal, etc.  So, I do feel that if war is warrented for the safety and protection of our country and allies, then our nation should consider it as an option.  God bless the men and women who stand up and fight for our nation by being in the armed forces.  There is not enough gratitude in my heart for what many have done on our behalf.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Politics and Faith: Guest Blogger 2, Becky Kiser

My sweet niece is today's guest blogger on the topic of politics and Christians. Enjoy reading!

Before I answer the questions, I wanted to share with all of you that I feel in process about all of this. This is my fourth election to vote in and I feel like each experience has been totally different for me. I've voted from different motives (and often wrong motives) each time. So none of this is me sharing as an expert at all but simply from a woman, like you, wanting to honor God in all areas of my life whether that's voting or grocery shopping. :)
Should Christians be involved in politics? If so, in what ways?
Absolutely Christians NEED to be involved in politics... and in every way they personally feel called. If you are over 18, then clearly voting is a huge part of it. But before voting even occurs (or you turn voting age) you have to become educated. My first election I voted straight ticket out of total ignorance. I had heard that the Christian way to vote was Republican, so that first year I did straight republican. I hate that I voted with such ignorance and naivety (note: because of how I voted, not who I voted for). Since then I have really study each issue and compared it to the current times. I have looked at each candidate and looked at not just their character or religious beliefs but how they have done their jobs in years past. I've studied and continue to study ALL the issues not just abortion and marriage and see how they line up with the Word and our world. One thing that I feel like should be addressed is ways we should NOT be involved in politics. But I'll address that in the next section too. :)
Does God's Word, the Bible, have anything to say about politics?
Sadly all I've heard about from the majority of Christians when it comes to politics is really disheartening. I want to remind all of us of to things the Word says for sure to us as Christians (there's no room for interpretation):
1. Love God and Love Others (Matt 22:37-38). I think we need to be VERY cautious in how we share about politics. Unfortunately social media has removed the filter for a lot of people. They've posted things too quickly that can do a lot of harm. I've been so saddened after debates to hear so many make fun of the other party/candidate and cry victory (this goes for both parties). How we speak of each candidate (president, congress, etc.) matters. The same rules the Bible gives us about slander, gossip, hate, etc. all still apply. Because they've put themselves in the public eye doesn't mean we all of a sudden have permission to speak poorly of them. We are still called to respect our authority, and whether we like it or not, the government is our authority. Parents especially should be modeling kind and gracious words and behavior for their kids. In all our opinions, actions and words we should be very intentional to be loving towards others and God.

2. GO and be a disciple (Matt 28:19).  Remember that not everyone you share your opinion with shares your same belief in Christianity. I have heard from so many who don't share my faith how annoying Christians are during the political season. Before you speak or tweet or status update, ask yourself how this is winning others over for Jesus.

3. Be peace loving-- James 3:17-18 syas, "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness."

Along with those two challenges from the Word, I think it is important to search out the Word for your own on all the issues. Ask the Lord what needs to be a law for the whole nation NOT just what is my personal belief? What are commands just for Christians NOT just what I want my world to look like so I am more comfortable. 

And remember, from what I've studied comprehensively anyway, WE as Christians are the ones called to go and be the church. Somethings I think we put too much pressure on the government to change things. We live in the world, it will always disappoint us. We live with other humans, and they are not a holy God we can put our full trust in.  All that to say, be the church to the world we live in. We may not be able to pass into law all the things we believe most in and that's OK. :) Because that doesn't change how you can still live. You can still have a strong marriage and model how the Word says it should be (while loving your gay neighbors). You can still pray at school (while doing it respectfully for your Muslim classmate). You can still chose life in your pregnancy (and pray and support pregnancy centers and adoption and whatever else you can do to help eliminate abortion). You can live within the means you are given (even if you are taxed even more this next year because you have been given all you need). You can still reach out the poor because that's what Jesus did (even if the government doesn't help them). You can still pray for healing for the sick (regardless of how healthcare works out). You can model faith in a God that can be trusted (not fear in the god of government).

Should pastors share political ideas from the pulpit? Why or why not? If yes, in what ways?
I don't think they should. I think it is really inappropriate and divisive. Publicly endorsing certain parties or candidates from the pulpit seems out of place to me. I have NO problem with them doing so personally though. 
(Optional) How are your personal political views influenced by the Bible?
This has actually been what's made voting so hard for me, considering what is the most God honoring way to vote every two years. Considering ALL issues and also considering if they should be a law or if they should be something the church/Christians should be doing is a challenge. Often times what I believe personally is moral or Biblically acceptable is not the same as what I think the government should have authority over or in. Also, often times there are issues on each side that I feel strongly about as a Christian. At the end of the season when it comes time to vote, you just have to trust that you've come to the right choice for yourself. And more than all of that trust more in Christ then you do in the outcome of the vote! :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Guest Blogger 1: Politics and Religion

My first guest blogger asked to remain anonymous. Here is the info I received:

My feelings can best be expressed in the attached blog. Regardless of those who receive their “truth” from the NPR/MSNBC camp or the Fox News/Conservative Talk Radio camp there is only one Truth and it doesn’t involve politics or hating people because they believe something different than you. I will let my vote that I do in the privacy of the polling location do all my talking in the realm of politics. 
Here is the link to the blog:
Thanks to the contributor and thanks to you for stopping by to read! 

Talking about Politics and Religion

You've likely heard the saying that if you want a dinner party to go well, never discuss politics or religion. You also have likely been inundated with BOTH of those the past few months, and even more as the election date draws near! I decided to ask some fellow Christians for their take on our role as Christians in the realm of politics. I've heard enough of the "your candidate stinks" information to last a lifetime. I want to get to the issue that would effect all believers, not just those in the USA.

I asked several questions and am hoping to hear back so I can share these on my blog. Some will be anonymous and some might share their identities/backgrounds. Hope you will come back to see What's Cookin' with Chef Mama's friends! First order coming up shortly!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

What I Want to Know Is...

Several years ago Natalie & I read a series of books called "Life of Faith." There are actually several series within the Life of Faith book line based on some books written in the 1800's. In one of the sets, a young girl has an insatiable curiosity about life. She forever was saying, "What I want to know is..." and followed with her query.

What I want to know is something that is probably more complex than I want to dive into headfirst. It has to do with the topic of abortion, probably the number one most heated issue in the USA today. People fall into one of two camps in general: those who are pro-choice, meaning the pregnant woman should have the choice to or not to abort the pregnancy, or pro-life, meaning the baby developing inside of the woman has the right to live to full term. Usually the terms used to describe the growth inside of a woman's body is different in each camp. Pro-choice folks use terms such as "viability, embryo, and fetus." Pro-life folks use the terms "Baby, from conception, and heartbeat" more often.

I am part of the latter camp, and that is no shock to anyone who knows me. Please don't stop reading just because I said that, as my question goes deeper. I think often pro-life people and pro-choice people can be very harsh towards one another. This is a deep seated issue that is not likely to be swayed easily in any person. When something is that personal and that deep, it evokes emotional responses, and typically not pleasant ones towards someone who believes differently. I will ATTEMPT to not do that in this post.

While I am 100% pro-life (perhaps even more so that some other conservative folks), I want to say that I understand why a woman would choose an abortion. If a woman is single and finds herself pregnant, especially if the father is not ready to commit to a lifetime of raising a child, she would certainly be in a difficult spot. It took 2 to create that pregnancy, but she is the only one able to make a choice about it. Maybe she is a high school student who had wanted to stay "pure" until marriage but had a boyfriend who persuaded her to have sex. Yes, she agreed, but he also did. Now, if she continues the pregnancy, she will be ostracized, likely, by her peers. Even if she wants to place the baby in an adoptive home, she will have to spend the next 9 months caring for the new life inside of her by caring for her own body. Maybe her boyfriend is forcing her to have an abortion. Maybe her parents are forcing her to do this. Or, maybe the pregnant woman finds out that the baby might not survive. Or maybe the pregnant woman has 5 kids and no income. Sure, she should have "thought of that before," but she didn't and now she wonders what in the world she will do. Those pro-lifers aren't going to come swooping in to pay for her new baby, most likely. Obviously, the consequences of sex are much greater for the woman than for the man. I understand.

Next, I also understand that if someone believes that an embryo is not truly a baby until a certain point in pregnancy, then I would not expect them to find abortion wrong. Perhaps they see the removal of an embryo much like the removal of a tumor. Again, I disagree, but I understand it. If you see it this way, or maybe as a part of the woman's body, rather than a separate being, then I get how you would see how a woman could choose this route.

Here is what I DON'T understand. I am not trying to sound angry or hurtful. I just really don't understand this. If a  person believes that a SEPARATE life DOES start from conception, THEN I don't understand how that person would say it is okay for a woman to have an abortion. I think the biggest fallacy is the line, "I think it's wrong to have one, but I think a woman should have that choice." IF you think the baby is a separate life, then that line is no different from saying, "I think it's wrong to shoot my toddler, but if a woman wants to, then that's her choice." That is usually followed by the "viability" statement: "It's okay to abort a baby before they are viable" meaning can survive outside the womb. NO baby can survive outside the womb without help being fed. And we've all seen or heard of babies being born very prematurely who survive and thrive.

Here is part 2 of what I don't understand. If someone believes that the Bible is God's Holy Word, then I don't understand how he or she could say abortion is okay. The verse that comes to mind is:

Psalm 139:13-14

New International Version (NIV)
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

If God's Word tells us that He put that baby into his mother's womb, then I don't understand how, if you believe that part to be true, could also believe a woman should have a choice to end that life.

Because this is an election year, the last part of what I don't understand is this: If someone believes abortion is wrong and is murder in God's eyes, how can that person support a candidate who not only believes abortion should be a choice, but wants to use taxpayer money to pay for abortions? Like the character in the book, I just don't understand and really would like to know. I might disagree with you, but it will help me to understand where you are coming from.

If you have an answer to this and do not want to post it publicly, I would really like to hear from you. My e-mail is If you are in the same "camp" as I am, I ask that you respectfully do not say harsh things in your comments, but share a measure of grace for those who disagree. Thank you!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Do We Need a Welfare System?

This may be the most heated presidential election of all time in the United States. Lines are not only being drawn between parties, but within parties. Just hearing about the decision first to remove any reference to God out of the DNC's platform, then returning it to the "boos" of those opposed, tells me that we are a very diverse country.

A new word has come to light during the past nearly 4 years in which we've had our current president. It is a word that rouses cheers from some and pleas for change from others. The word is "Obamacare." While it is the dubbed title of the "Health Care Reform Plan," it seems to scream the very essence of what President Obama stands for and to many represents his views on welfare in general.

If you spend 5 minutes on facebook, you will see people fuming on both sides of this issue. Some things I've seen include, "It is wrong to tax a person nearly to the point of death in order to provide for someone who will not work." Or on the flip side, "You say feeding the poor and helping them is wrong? I thought you were a Christian." As we get closer to the election, this topic is certain to fuel more fire.

Do we need these kinds of programs? Do we need medicaid, food stamps, etc.? Do we need to help others who need food, medical care and clothing? Are these the same questions? I don't think so. My view is based on what I have found in Scripture. First, do we need to help others? Does God call Christians to help others? Yes. A resounding YES! Clearly, even just reading this one passage, we know that God expects His children to help others:

The Sheep and the Goats (NIV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
When Christians say they don't support Obamacare and don't support food stamps, they usually aren't saying they hate poor people. At least I don't THINK they are. No one I know feels that way. Instead, they are saying they don't think the GOVERNMENT should be taking money from those who work and giving it to those who will not work. Notice in the passage above, it never says, "When I was hungry, you sent me to the right offices so I could get signed up for food stamps. When I was thirsty, you had the president give you something to drink." I believe the first key ingredient is that God calls His children to serve others directly, or as directly as possible. I believe churches and Christians should be helping others in need.

The second issue is taking money from those who work hard to earn it and giving it to someone who won't work. Check out these words that Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

If you WILL not work you SHALL not eat. Pretty clear cut. 

The ideal answer would be that individuals would help others. I have a friend who has different political views than I do, but she takes this to heart and helps a group of refugees who have fled their country due to persecution. They are here legally, but that brings up the 3rd big issue: should we be granting medical care, food, and more to those who have come to this country illegally? In Scripture, there were clearly countries and territories established. However, many that exist today weren't around back then. Should we let our country's borders keep us from helping others? It seems like the straight forward answer would be that we help all people. However, it's not straight forward. There is an underlying theme throughout Scripture calling for us to "obey the rules." We aren't saved through following rules, but through accepting Jesus' death and resurrection to pay for our sins, thus being "born again." But we are called to follow His rules, which means follow the rules of your country unless they go against His word. Remember, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's?" My ancestors came to this country over 100 years ago. They left all they knew to come here. They had to have all kinds of paperwork to get here. Have you ever heard of Ellis Island? While my ancestors came before the Island was a port of entry, the rules were the same. When you arrived at the Island, if you were ill or hurt, you were not allowed in. It seems harsh, but the reality was then, and is now, that our country cannot care for every one in the world. And we seem to be the only country that thinks we need to do this. Maybe it would be better to help Mexico build some better hospitals than have people risk their lives to get here and then give them free medical care. I have a good friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer and had no insurance. Obamacare became available around the time of her diagnosis. She discovered it was not free and her out of pocket cost would be outrageous. By going in as an uninsured patient, she received discounts from doctors and hospitals. She will be paying for her treatment for some time, but how to you place a value on a life? My husband had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor this year. Though we have insurance, we will also be paying bills for at least a year. 

I ask you this: Is it right for my husband to work hard to earn money to provide for his family, while I teach my children at home, including an mildly autistic child, and do part time work when I can to help us pay for our basic needs, then expect us to give money to the government for someone who comes to this country illegally and does not have permits to legally work here? 

Back to the subject: Do we need a welfare system? I think the bottom line is that yes, we do. In fact, there were times when we used the system to help provide basic needs. When I had our 2nd child, we used Medicaid and for a few years also used the WIC program. Were we sitting around idly while someone else paid for us? No. My husband was working full time. I was caring for our firstborn, then 2 young children rather than putting them into a free state supported preschool program (meaning, the government was not spending money to babysit my children). We also have had individuals help us over the years. Our parents have been very gracious and helped when they could. Friends have offered us help in a variety of ways (even giving us a second car to use until it died a sad death recently).  There are times when a person is in a tough spot and sometimes other individuals can't provide the help that is needed. Do I think our health care system in general needed an overhaul? Yes, yes, yes. Did you read what I said above that we will be paying bills for a year & my friend for years? One of my friend's medications was in the 10's of thousands. That is for ONE drug! Do I think we need reform? Yes. Is it the insurance companies that are making the money? Is it the pharmaceutical companies? Are doctors making a fortune? A friend of mine who happens to be our pediatrician makes an okay living, but she works long days, has to pay rent on the office building, pay her staff, pay for insurance for the clinic, and takes mostly medicaid and CHIP patients. Does she make a fortune? Well, she is also a co-Pampered Chef consultant to make extra money. Does that answer the question? 

In essence, yes, we need a welfare system of sorts, yes we need healthcare reform, and no, I don't have the answers. I find it tragic that some of the things this new program includes are considered "women's rights," even when it steps over the boundaries of what a religious institute believes. So much for that beloved phrase "separation of church and state," one of the most overused and incorrectly used quotes of all time. This is a springboard for a different post a different day. Now it is time to go to sleep for the welfare of my family!

Monday, May 28, 2012

And then came Cancer

Wayne Watson wrote a song in the 80's (maybe early 90's) called "Home Free." I'll post the lyrics at the end of this blog post, but want to share with you one line to begin:

You know pain has little mercy
And suffering's no respecter of age, of race or position

Every person I know has had their life impacted by cancer. Our first close encounter with cancer was when a friend was diagnosed not long after we were married. Don and Nancy Hollis had been the teaching leaders at Bible Study Fellowship and something of a second set of parents (you know those folks who are like an aunt & uncle but no blood relation) to Phil before I met him. They soon became as dear to me as to Phil. Don lost his fight with cancer in the early 90's. While we were living in Africa in 95-96, my Grammie was diagnosed with oral cancer (never smoked and rarely drank) and lost her battle in 96 just days after we'd arrived back in the US. I was able to speak with her once before she went to be with Jesus. 

In 2007 cancer came calling in a big way and has not stopped knocking at the door. Phil's dad, Bill, was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Following a few rounds of chemo, the doctor performed surgery. Bill's body was not strong enough to handle this, it seems, as he developed pneumonia and within 3 weeks was gone: February 1, 2008. In late December of 2009 my dear friend Kathy felt a lump in her breast. After months of tests and struggling with insurance companies (then discovering she had NO coverage), she had a mastectomy in May of 2010, followed by months of chemotherapy, then radiation, and an entire year of herceptin treatment. Kathy is our survivor! Just a couple of weeks before Kathy's surgery our mutual dear friend Linda was diagnosed with stage 4 endometrial cancer. Same song next verse: Surgery, then months of chemo. Sadly, Linda developed an infection just days following her final chemo treatment. We said our goodbyes to her on Dec. 1, 2010. 

In December of 2010 an online friend, Katie, who had such a sweet spirit that no one felt like they knew her only on the internet, was diagnosed with stage 4 gastric cancer. She fought the odds for many months, but late in 2011 we also lost her to this dreaded disease. This year my friend Debra went through chemotherapy for a gastric type cancer and is now cancer free!

Cancer, like the suffering mentioned in the song I posted, is no respecter of age, race or position. It doesn't strike just the lower class. It doesn't hit just the old. It isn't a white man's disease or a middle eastern condition. Great leaders and tiny children have been diagnosed. I've been in the "friend chair" in the chemo room and see that the only connection these people have is cancer. While it is a murderer, for those who will allow it, cancer can be a means of drawing people together. Those how have been through cancer have been changed and can connect in a way that the rest of us can only sit back and view. 

Until about 2 months ago my little family of 4, while having been exposed to too much cancer for a lifetime, had not been diagnosed. Then, my husband Phil felt a funny spot on his tongue. He thought he had bit his tongue, but the spot did not go away. He saw his primary care doctor who didn't know what to think of it. Another doctor came in and could not diagnose it, but knew it did not look good. She sent him to an ENT to have it looked at. He saw the ENT on a Monday and had a biopsy. By Wednesday we had the news: this was cancer. On Friday we were in his office making plans. Phil had a PET/ct scan on May 9th. The results were negative, which, while not perfect method of diagnosis, gave an indication that the cancer had not spread. The biopsy had shown this was at stage 1, which means it was caught VERY early. Praise God for that!

On Tuesday, May 22nd, Phil had a section of tongue removed (a slice off the side) as well as a large incision in his neck to remove lymph nodes for pathology. We are now waiting on path reports to see if there is any cancer in the nodes. As the doctor told us in the hospital, "I do not have microscopic eyes so we will wait to see what the lab reports show."

I will write about how Phil is doing in a different post. For now I just wanted to let you be aware of what is happening. Interestingly, this is "Help Whip Cancer" month with Pampered Chef. I have done nothing with my business this month. I wanted this to be the year I raised a lot of money for the American Cancer Society. But then came our my husband. And we are trying to whip cancer here. Of course, the greatest weapon we have is the Lord and we beseech Him to heal Phil. We know that is long as there is life there is hope and we trust that He is still able to heal. I have an entire post in my head on this topic, but I will spare you the details for now! Suffice to say we are not "name in, claim it" people, but do believe the Lord is able to do what He wills. 

I GREATLY REJOICE that my friends Kathy and Debra have been given an extension on this life. I still grieve those whose lives were cut short by this disease. Yet, I have this hope: those who knew Jesus in this life are FREE OF PAIN and in His presence now. We grieve because we miss them. They are complete and healed in the greatest way ever! One day all who have trusted in Christ as their Savior will be healed of all pain and suffering! So I leave you with the words of the Wayne Watson song, "Home Free."

I'm trying hard not to think you unkind
But Heavenly Father
If you know my heart
Surely you can read my mind
Good people underneath the sea of grief
Some get up and walk away
Some will find ultimate relief

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing we will be Home Free
Home Free, oh Ive got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be Home Free

Out in the corridors we pray for life
A mother for her baby, A husband for his wife
Sometimes the good die young
It's sad but true
And while we pray for one more heartbeat
The real comfort is with you

You know pain has little mercy
And suffering's no respecter of age, of race or position
I know every prayer gets answered
But the hardest one to pray is slow to come
Oh Lord, not mine, but Thy will be done

Let it be...

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing we will be Home Free
Home Free, oh Ive got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be Home Free

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing gonna be Home Free
Home Free, oh its more than a feeling
At the ultimate healing
Gonna be Home Free


Monday, April 23, 2012

Life with Us

Just a quick post with a few pictures to show what's been going on in our lives. I spent most of March making this:
So this could happen, in England:
While her parents were in England for the wedding, my children went from this:

to this:
 for 2 weeks.
While the parents were gone our co-op went to the zoo:

to see this and this:

The very wild animals we found:
Then I took the 4 girls to the LBJ State Park and we found more animals:

On April 11th we welcomed a new baby to our family. We got to see her on April 12th. My nephew & his wife had their 2nd girl!
Everyone wanted a closer look, even great Poppaw! Great-Mammaw is holding the baby.
This is how my girls looked when we saw the baby in the morning (above). Then we went to see my niece, nephew-in-law and their sweet little girl (modeling the dress I made for her AND her Daddy's shoes):
I left my babies with my niece and came back to find them all grown up looking like this:
And somewhere along the way we had Easter and I took ZERO pictures! WAAAAAHHHH!!! And homeschool, and co-op, and Girl Scouts, and church, and yes, I've even had some shows for my cooking business that I don't know if I'm allowed to mention now that I'm doing that again. It rhymes with Hampered Jeff.

Hope you enjoyed this little picture tour!

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's not Thanksgiving anymore

My dad reminded me that I hadn't posted on this blog since Thanksgiving. So, here I am. Since then Natalie turned 13, we had Christmas, New Year's, my dad & mom-in-law had birthdays & we've had Valentine's Day. Exciting, huh? Phil had a birthday yesterday, too. And mine is on Thursday (the 15th).

What have we been doing? Schoolwork, digging through piles of junk in the house, more schoolwork, more junk digging & tossing, sewing, more school, more digging. Oh, also cooking, washing dishes & clothes. Yep, all that! LOL! My allergies got the best of me this year and I ended up with a sinus infection that is finally responding to antibiotics. We also sold Girl Scout cookies in February---on the 2 coldest nights of the entire year! Having older girls now they can have booths from 8-10. Of course, it's a guess as to what the weather will be. 3 of them were VERY cold (2 the same day, an afternoon & night). One was very pleasant. Welcome to South Texas!

I've been sewing when I can to get some projects finished to list on Etsy as well as a BIG project: a wedding dress! I'm almost done with that but fitting this sweet bride has been a challenge as she's built a bit like Dolly Parton. She's 5'11". I think she may be taller than Dolly, and she may not be as tiny in the waist, but she's pretty close. So the bodice (top part) has been the major challenge to fit. She's a very down to earth girl who would prefer wearing jeans to her wedding. She is wearing her boots---the kind you might go walking in. It's pretty funny! No sparkles or lace, but there is a bit of shine in the cotton sateen we're using. I'll post pictures after the wedding.

I am also trying to restart my PC business, but with being sick & sewing, that's been slow going. I'm currently doing a special for March on my own & hope to book shows for April. I really need to get some shows going & get bookings from those!

Other than teaching my kids & our tiny co-op (I teach Literature), these are the things we've been doing. Glamorous, huh? I'll take non-glamour accompanied by NO hospital trips! For 2 years in a row we had one of us in the hospital on Valentine's Day. This year marks a new beginning! 2 1/2 months and NO ER trips! woo-hoo!

We are waiting for our next great niece to arrive. She is due on 4/17, her dad's birthday, but she keeps trying to arrive sooner. I've told my niece-in-law that 3/15 is a GREAT day if she DOES have to come early. LOL!

Now, I'm off to the drugstore. I know you are all jealous that I get to do that AND come home to cook, clean, and wash more dishes and clothes. ha, ha.