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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Update: God's gift to me (and the surfers) this morning

The dolphins came back while I was brushing my teeth.  I thought I'd seen four fins by the pier before, but I only saw three going to and from the pier.  This time I saw three go to the pier but four go back.  I also got a good view of the dolphins (more than just the dorsal fins), and I discovered that they were Common Dolphins.  I got a couple pictures showing the light markings on their sides.  This is probably the best, though I admit it's still not that good.  :o)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

God's gift to me (and the surfers) this morning

I woke up early and couldn't fall back asleep.  I looked out and saw a lifeguard vessel hanging out by the pier, and I worried they were looking for someone, so then I really couldn't sleep.  I got out of bed with my camera and started to take pictures of the pier, the ocean and the many other sights that define the character of Oceanside.

The lifeguards, as it turns out, were getting in place for a triathlon.  I've never seen the swimming part before, so it was fun to watch all the green-capped swimmers jump in and fight the waves.  It was even more fun to watch the stragglers decide if they really wanted to do that to themselves (it's a bit chilly this morning).  I spent a good hour outside, taking pictures, feeling like a slug next to the swimmers, giggling at the beachcombers with their metal detectors, and smiling the children.

After an hour outside, and more time sitting inside looking out, I was not in a hurry to go back outside when Mikey got up and started asking.  He finally begged, very sweetly and manipulatively, and I couldn't resist.  We went out, and I took a couple of pictures of Mikey and then I saw it: a black dorsal fin arching out of the water, not 200 yards from shore.  I got my camera ready and, for about 20 minutes, I captured the dorsal fins of three happy dolphins, leisurely swimming along shore and playfully catching fish by the pier.  (Sadly, I missed the one fluke slap.)  The surfers all stopped and watch along with me.  I was sad about how many people just walked by not noticing these rare visitors.

God gave us a great gift this morning.  We got to see some of the world's most magnificent creatures right where we surf and swim and boat and play every day without happening.  If Mikey hadn't been so insistent, I would have missed it.  I thank God for small wonder that leads us to discover great wonders.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I am a sheep

Over the years I have been guilty of impersonalizing the cross, the death of Christ.  When I remember that Christ died for me, some small voice inside (probably not from me, if you know what I mean) points out that He didn't die JUST for me but for everyone.  Thankfully, another small voice has started to speak up and say, “But if it had been just you, He still would have died for you.”  I know that voice is not my own, either, and that’s the voice that is welcome.

At our wonderful new church (well, the Spirit flowing through it), we are doing a church-wide Bible study on revival: Seeking Him.  Our inspired worship leader spoke one day about His reflection on the study to date.  He said he was going to ask his small-group study mates when they felt closest to God.  Evidently his wife made some unfiltered commentary about the question, and they agreed it was a silly question because they’ve never felt closer to God than during this study.  Well, I have to argue that it’s not a silly question.

I’m sure I’m not alone.  This may become the time in my life so far that I draw nearest to God, but it’s not that time yet.  The truth is I’ve been pretty far from God of late.  In fact, I’ve been asking myself over and over why I can’t seem to find that relationship I had before.  Here’s a hint: I’ve been asking myself.  I’ve been relying on myself, what I do, what I make time for.  You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and in the relationship between you and God, you will ALWAYS be the weakest link, so remove yourself from the equation.  Give yourself entirely to God.

So when was I closest to God?

Most of you are not surprised to hear that time was Mikey’s first year of life.  I wrote time and time again of the lessons God was teaching me about giving everything to Him, leaning not on my understanding and most definitely not relying on my own strength.  What was different between then and now?  I had no choice but to lean on God.  Isn’t that when many of us realize what the cross was all about?

James MacDonald, from Walk in the Word, thinks so.  He thinks we are sheep, and, in his words, sheep are “stubborn, stupid and selfish.”  I know I am.  Rarely is a person more stubborn, stupid and selfish than after they overcome a huge crisis and forget what (or Who) got them through.  Yep, I actually patted myself on the back after getting through all that.  Wow.  That confession leads perfectly to my next point.  God is busy in my heart and mind today.

Pride.  Referring back to the study on revival, the first lesson is pride and its many innocent-looking forms.  I don’t think anyone in our congregation has not been convicted of some form of pride they didn’t even realize was pride.  I know I’m blind to pride because I see passion or information or something else valuable.  More often than not, God uses those around me to intellectually or emotionally bludgeon me when I make this error.  For a while, the lesson is learned.  Then the bruises go away and I (stubbornly, stupidly, often selfishly) act blindly out of pride again.  New bruises.

Only recently, with the power of God flowing through the Seeking Him study, have I put this all together.  Have I stopped acting out of pride?  No.  I still lie to myself (or something else lies to me) and post or speak without checking with God first, even when I have reservations.  Eh…we live, we learn.  When we know better, we do better.  I’m not perfect; I’m a sinner.  I’m okay with that, as long as I continue to draw closer to God and act accordingly.

So what do we do about being sheep?

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  (John 10:27 ESV)  How do I know His voice if I don’t listen to it on a regular basis, take it in, commit it to memory?  How can I follow Him if I don’t know His voice?  How can I learn His voice?

Guess what?  Nothing you haven’t heard before, even from me.  You have to talk to God and spend ‘real’ time in the Word, taking it to heart.  Actively committing a verse at a time to memory doesn’t hurt either (not that I take my own advice there…yet).

If this seems a little abrasive, know that I’m talking to myself and sharing that conversation with you.  I believe that sharing some of the ways God convicts me can help others.  God has certainly used others’ experiences to guide me.  As I type, I pray that these words are authorized by – if not authored by – Him.

I took quite the journey in this post, covering a number of areas of opportunity in my heart.  (Notice I say “opportunity” instead of “weakness.”  That’s a trick I learned in my Human Resource Management studies.  Doesn’t it change your emotional response?  I feel positive and motivated to improve rather than beaten down and powerless.)  My point was not to lecture anyone on those specific issues, though I always find it good practice to see if others’ opportunities might also be my own.  I want to point out that we have tools always available to us to improve ourselves and identify sin before we step in it.

Remember that we are all sheep.  We are all stubborn, stupid and selfish, but we have a Shepherd.  His name is Jesus.  If we learn His voice and listen for it (keep the lines of communication open and check in regularly), we will not be led astray.

How littles learn

Mikey found a dried leaf and set out to break it into as many pieces as possible

What experiments have your littles conducted?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Newton Family Update 9/21/11

I just posted Mikey's update.

I don't even know what to say about Ellie.  She is three and a half going on 15.  She is smart as a whip and painfully strong willed and asks about a thousand questions a day, though only about 400 of them are unique.  She loves pretty much anything nature and science and she loves to pretend to read.  She can finally run and climb and kick a ball.  Yeah...Mikey beat her to most of that.  She is my daughter for sure.  She is in swimming and loves it, though listening to the teacher sometimes proves to be a challenge.  Right now, though, listening to anyone is often a challenge.  These fall months are always rough thanks to her January birthday.

As most of you know, Mike and I are expecting our third child.  I am almost 17 weeks along (that's just under four months for those of you who prefer not to do math...and before you argue, there are 4.3 weeks in a month, not 4).  We are 'officially' due 3/3/12.  No, we don't know what it is, and no, I don't know if we'll find out.  We will have a fetal echo on 10/19 to find out if this one has any heart issues.  Pray s/he doesn't!

Mike and I have nothing else to report.  I'm finally getting the house organized for real, and Mike has made good progress on the wood floor.  Our priorities right now are finally not doctors and therapists - well, unless you count Bradley classes.  I have been doing a lot of projects with the kids (check the blog!) and cooking up a storm (the fetus' request).  I have been obsessed with Pinterest, so if you are on there, too, check me out!  As always, if you're reading this in an email I sent you, you can see the rest on my blog!


Mikey Update 9/21/11

Well, Mikey has come a long way.  Not only is he walking competently, he's running.  He's kicking a ball.  He's climbing everything.  His speech improved dramatically after only a few weeks of therapy.  He's eating like a champ most days (and like a typical picky toddler the rest).  We just decided to stop physical therapy, which puts an end to all therapy for him.  Yay!  The neurologist, urologist, ophthalmologist and cardiologist don't want to see him for a year!

We had Mikey in swimming this summer.  He enjoyed it, but the actual swimming part is a challenge because of his spine.  (It's hard for him to hold up his head.)  He'll always have to compensate for his spine/neck issue, but he doesn't even know there's a problem.  Now we're entering the world of "normal" toddlerdom: Mikey's potty training!  Ack!

We thank God for how well he's doing.  We are also grateful for all the well wishes and prayers.  I often forget how far we've come until I write one of these updates, so thanks for nagging me.  :o)

Crayon Art Canvas

Thanks to my latest obsession, Pinterest, and my ruthless muse, Jen, I have hundreds of new craft ideas I must produce. Among them are - well, were - these wonderful crayon creations:

The rainbow is totally Jen's fault.  It's one of the first things she showed me on Pinterest and something she's already done, thus propelling me forward.  The flowers are Andrea's fault, again with the help of Pinterest.

Here's the tutorial for the rainbow.  You can see where Ellie started talking to me while I was gluing the last of the crayons to the canvas (on the right).

The flowers were a for-sale item on Etsy, so it was up to me to create this one.  I attached the crayons with hot glue and melted them with a hair dryer, ensuring I had both long and short drips.  I created a template for my flowers, but you could use silk flowers or whatever means of flower making you prefer.  In case you are completely without ideas or just in love with my flowers, here's how I made them.

First, I cut them out, being sure to vary the shape a little for each one.  Be sure to cut the slit to the middle.  I folded the longer side of the slit over the shorter side and used tacky glue to close it, holding it for a minute or so with my fingers until I knew it wouldn't slip.  This way your flowers pop out of the canvas.

Finally, I put a dot of gold glitter glue in the center of each one to add dimension.  I deposited a generous dollop of hot glue on the canvas and put the point of the flower in it.  It dried in no time.

The rainbow will go in Mikey's room, and Ellie requested the flowers go in hers.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Under the Sea

Inspired by my BFF, as I so often am, I spent a few days working with the kids on this under the sea piece of artwork.

I couldn't find the watercolors anywhere, so I had the kids finger paint on card stock.  The Crayola washable finger paint is translucent, so it has a similar look to watercolors.

I shopped the clearance sections of a couple JOANN stores and had the luck of finding some perfect punches: a crab, a seahorse, a snail and a dragonfly.  I used the punches on the painted card stock.

After starting another under the sea project, on canvas, which I will show you when it's complete, I let Ellie go to town with the paints and brushes I had out.  I gave her a dark-blue piece of card stock, hoping the light paint colors would pop on the dark blue.  They did!

Tonight I helped Ellie glue the animals on the background.  Ellie's response: "There's crabs everywhere!"

Hand- and Footprint Owls

I wanted to do something with the kids' prints for Grandparents' Day cards.  No doubt because our family has been obsessed with owls for the last year, an owl came to mind.  I had to make three: one for each set of grandparents and one for me!  Here's how these cute feathered friends came to be.  I apologize for forgetting to take pictures of each step.

First, I painted Ellie's feet with brown paint.  (I did one foot at a time, assembly-line fashion, to keep the mess at bay.)  I pressed her feet on the paper with her toes toward the bottom of the paper.  I had the toes, or tail feathers, overlap so the owl's head had enough width, and the blank spot left by the arch of her feet had paint all the way around.  You could fill in the blank spot with a brush if you want, but I like multicolored owls.  :o)

Next, I painted Mikey's hands with the same brown paint, though you could use a lighter brown for more color.  (Again, I did one hand at a time.)  I wanted his fingers together to make more wing-like wings, but he's 22 months old and doesn't like paint on his hands.  I pressed his hands down with the palms overlapping the owl's body.

The next part could be done by an older child, but neither my 3.5 year old nor my 22 month old would have done well with this.  I put white paint just on half the edge of a round sponge brush.

I pressed the sponge into the owl's body to create U-shaped feather accents from neck to feet.  Then I pressed it into each wing feather (finger) with the bottom of the U facing the tip of the finger.

Finally, I cut triangles and trapezoids out of card stock for the beaks and feet.  I glued on those and googly eyes.  I would have had Ellie do the gluing, but she was napping.  Oh, and I used gold glitter glue because I couldn't find my craft glue, but I don't think it looks bad.

  I finished off the cards with recent photos of the kids.