Saturday, June 25, 2011


TA DA!!!!

This is a post about my blog neglected child...a mystery to you, bloggy world...hidden in the shadows of my blog...but now brought out to the bloggy light.................CASSANDRA!!!  ; )

I don't talk a whole lot about our oldest girl, but not because she is not ever present in our lives.  She is just not around as much as the others, I suppose, because she is busy in many ways as most big girls are.  But Cassandra is a very special young lady.  And when I say that, I don't mean it in a "everyone is special" kind of way, a la the Barney song that Sarah loves to sing.  She is really and truly special in the truest sense of that word.  With her permission, I would love to share some of her story with you.

Cassandra grew up in the inner city.  The church we were members of ran buses to bring kids in her area to our church on Sunday mornings.  I taught the 3-4th grade "bus" girls' Sunday school class, and Scott taught the children's church service for all the "bus kids."  It was a special ministry set up so that we could help meet those kids' unique needs.  Their prayer requests were different...I remember listening to their stories of gunshots outside their homes, and gangs and drugs in their neighborhoods.  It was a sometimes difficult but rewarding ministry to be involved with, and we really loved those kids.  Cassandra was in my Sunday school class.  We could tell something was different about her from those early days.  She really wanted to learn and grow. 

Cassandra grew up with a single mom (and a stepdad for a time), and two half brothers.  Those were the siblings who grew up with her in her house.  But all together she has a lot of half siblings-- several on her mom's side, and several more on her dad's.  She hardly saw her dad growing up, since he was in prison until she was around 13.  I won't go into a whole lot about her family.  Suffice it to say that her mom had a rough life, and did what she could.  We have gotten to know her well over the years, and we love her and Cassandra's brothers and sisters that we know.  Most of Cassandra's family, immediate and extended, still live in the same area.  Most of them struggle to get along in the world for various reasons, and we wish we could help them all.  We wish many of them would realize their need for help and their need for a Savior.

Anyway....Cassandra moved in with us when she was seventeen.  We already loved her like part of our family at that point, and when the need arose, we were happy to add her to our family--while sharing her with her first family. 

Cassandra is 23 now, and God has done and continues to do amazing things in this precious girl's life.  From a young age, she has had a special love for children and orphans, and decided long ago that she wanted to devote her life to working with them in an orphanage somewhere someday.  She is in the process now of praying and preparing for when and where that will be.  She loves her family--her adopted one and her biological one!  She has a very special place in her heart for her nieces and nephews that she grew up with (they are only a bit younger than her), and her little half sister.  She often goes out of her way to spend time with them and help them in any way she can.  Her mom has been sick after battling cancer and a surgery that didn't turn out well, and she often spends time with her. She takes time out for her younger siblings here, too, and does special little outings with them that she calls "sister days." 

 Cassandra at her high school open house in our backyard with her mom, brothers (left and front) and uncle.  (Paul is the one on the left.  He was such a wonderful brother to her growing up, and is such a great guy.)  As you can see, Cassandra doesn't really look like she fits in in her family!  They are Mexican, but Cassandra's blue eyes and pale skin kind of set her apart, don't you think?

 A recent picture of Cassandra and her little sister on her dad's side.  We think they look a lot alike!  (Their dad is half African American.  But you can't tell by looking at them!  We love Cassandra's diverse family background!)

Cassandra and her niece, Brittney, at her high school graduation last month.  She loves Brittney like a sister.

Doing what she loves best--holding a baby.  : )  This is one of her baby cousins.

 In Ch*na in the foster-type home where she worked with special needs babies last year

Lovin' life with a precious bunch of babies.  : )
 Our boys love their big sister. : ) 

 This is an old picture now, but I've always liked it. 

 Up at camp, ready to climb the rock wall/high ropes course. She is fearless about almost everything!

 In her dorm at New Tribes Bible Institute

She loves to climb trees! This was as far as she could get up in this one! ; )

Cassandra loves Sarah and the feeling is mutual.  She is honestly the best big sister Sarah could have hoped for.
 They're twins! 

 Ben loves a good hug now and then, too!

 Family fun!

She loves Grandma and Grandpa too.  (Of course she would be impossible not to.)  She is so thankful to have them in her life!

We have often said over the years that we know that God has a great plan for Cassandra.  Her unique start in life has prepared and equipped her, and given her a unique perspective that most of us simply don't have.  We cannot wait to see what will be in store for our girl. 

Happy birthday, Cassandra!  WE LOVE YOU!!!!!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

We love Dad!!

Yesterday was a special day.  Yes, it was Father's Day, and it was my hubby's birthday!!

I interviewed all the kids and put their answers in a big card.  Here are some high-lites:

If I could get or do anything for Dad for Father's Day, it would be...  "a 71" flat screen LCD TV."  --Jacob

Dad's a great dad because...  "he wrestles with us, and he lets me mow the lawn."  --Josh

Dad is funny when he...  "is around Uncle Greg."  --Cassandra   (They are brothers, and she is right.  They are something else when they get together.)

Dad's a great dad because...  "he buys us, like, the Wii, and he lets us go in the pool, and he swims in the pool with us, and he made us our log cabin room."  --Ben

If I could get or do anything for Dad for Father's Day, it would be...  "a phone, and a briefcase." --Ben

Dad's a great dad because... "he's great because he's great!"  --Sarah

What do you like to do with Daddy?  "I like to Dad tickle me." --Sarah

When is Daddy funny?  "That's so crazy, Daddy.  He's crazy."  --Sarah

What would you like to get Daddy for a present?  "Hmmmm,  hmmmmm,  how 'bout a present?"

What kind of present?  "A purple present."

I am so thankful for my wonderful husband!  A man who loves the Lord and strives to live for Him.. Who makes me laugh...Who can work on the engine, paint a picture, plant a garden, fix stuff that breaks, program a computer, teach science, and bake a cake!  One who prays with our kids and plays with our kids, and teaches our boys what it means to be a man.  Happy birthday and Father's Day, Man of Mine.  I love you!!!

 He's great at Nerf fights...even though he kind of cheats...

 He makes cool stuff like working, hospital  "light fingers!"

 He doesn't mind a rubber band fight--3 against one.

 He's a great story teller.

 He knows how to program robots!

 He's great at wrestling.

 Don't ask. ; )

 He makes stuff with us.

 He's good at snuggling.

 He spends time with us.

 He plays video games.

 He teaches us how to plant things,

 And use our hands to make things...

 He plays with us.

And swims with us.

And lets us help.

We love you, Dad!!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thoughts about peonies...and little surprises from God

I do not have a green thumb.  I don't even have a kind-of green thumb.  I really just can't grow flowers.  Well, to be honest, I don't really try that hard, even though I truly love them.  I wish I had a yard full of them, but I know they would probably die a sad death of dehydration, or nutrient starvation, or just simply bug-devouration.

Anyway, that said, you can probably guess that we don't have many flowers in our yard.  None, really, except a couple straggly looking perrenials in the front that try their best to survive my neglectfulness each year, and a couple of hanging baskets given to me by my sweet hubby because he knows I love them...that typically last a good half of the summer.  Almost.

And we also have peony bushes. 

And this beautiful flower actually grows in our backyard!  This is a real, honest-to-goodness picture of one of our own peonies! 

Late May to early June is peak peony season in our yard.  They truly are gorgeous.  I enjoy them outside, and I love the vases full of them that we bring in the house.  You see, the reason why we have such beautiful peonies is because you pretty much cannot kill them.  They are perfect for me!  Bushes full of vibrant color, and they take very little care.......for about 2 or 3 weeks.  After that, they droop, and then they are done for the summer.  No more blooms.  Just green bushes.  Which are nice, but not very colorful.

We have lived here in this house for 6 summers now, and the peonies came with the house.  Every year I debate over whether or not I really want to keep our beloved flowers, or if we should pull them up and replant something that would give me more joy for the entire summer.  That is, if I could keep something alive. 

Well, I consider those choices every year, and I honestly had been leaning toward saying good-bye to our peonies.  Until we traveled to China when we went to get Sarah.  That is where I learned something special about peonies, and it made me see again how God delights in surprising us in big and small ways.

I learned that the peony is China's most loved flower--widely considered its national flower.  It is known as the queen of flowers, and the flower of riches and honor.  Not only is it special to the Chinese people, but it is most highly revered in Henan Province, where the city of Luoyang is famous for them and  hosts a grand peony festival every spring. 

It just so happens that our daughter is not only from China, but hails from Henan Province as well. 

Needless to say, our sweet peony flowers are a little more precious to us these days, as year after year they grace our yard with beauty (and they are the only thing that does...).  Just to think years ago when someone was planting those bushes, they would have had no idea that God was going to use them to bless someone in a special way.  A little reminder that He always has a plan, and His plan was for a little girl from Henan to come and be our daughter. 

I think we'll keep them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

All we need is a parade!

Here is what Josh does when school is done...

He was out there a long time rigging up this 4th of July float!  (Don't worry, he had that chair secured pretty well, and I was always within reach when someone was sitting in it!)

 Cutest little passenger!

 Everyone gets a turn around the driveway!

Mr. Red in the back there is made of a cardboard box and pvc pipe, and a balloon tied in place somehow.  Josh is available to construct your float as well, if you would like.  Just meet us on our street on the 4th of July, since I am pretty sure there will be a parade........and we kinda need more floats.  : )

Friday, June 10, 2011

How beautiful Heaven must be...

Ed Kosten liked to wear bow ties.  : )  He blessed us with his amazing saxophone playing.  He had a twinkle in his eye and a seemingly permanent smile.  He was quick to laugh and tease, and always had an encouraging word to say.  He loved the Lord.  And I mean he truly loved the Lord with all his heart.  He praised God with everything he had in him.  He lived for Him, and loved to tell others about Him.  Ed was one of those people.   You know--the real deal.  I didn't know him that well, but I KNEW him.  He walked with the Lord. 

And today, I sang at his funeral. 

This past Sunday evening at church, the sermon was about Heaven.  I was in the nursery, so I didn't get to hear it, but our pastor told us that after the service that night, Ed came up to him and proclaimed, "Sounds great!  Let's go!"  The next day he had a heart attack, and on Tuesday, that is exactly what he did.  He went to Heaven to walk with Jesus in Person. 

Ed left behind a wife, a daughter, and something like 5 married sons, and they are all grieving today, as well as our church family... but Ed is home.  Doesn't that sound wonderful?  Finally HOME....

Do you ever stop and really think about what happens after we leave this earth?  Sometimes I look around me and pay attention to the people passing by.  Everyone going about their business.  We are all busy with something--running to Little League, helping the kids with homework, work issues, endless cleaning, honey-do lists and bill paying....busy, busy, dreadfully busy.  But sometimes we need to stop--
and realize that this is not all there is.  We are only on our path to eternity.  What is that going to look like?  How can we be sure of WHERE we will spend it?  Can we really know? 

Well, I have good news.  We really can know!  1 John 5:13 says,  "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; THAT YE MAY KNOW that ye have eternal life."  We don't have to hope we have it.  The Bible says we can know for sure.  : ) 

You see, it all comes down to one thing, and that is our problem with sin.  We all do it because we were born into it.  We are all guilty of sin, which keeps us apart from God in His holiness.   And according to the Bible in Romans 6:23, "the wages of sin (our payment for sin) is death."  (Meaning eternal separation from God.  Other passages explain it to be a place of torment eternally.)  "But the gift of God is eternal life!"  Did you catch that?  The GIFT of God.  It is a gift, not something we earn.  Once you do something to earn a gift, it ceases to be one.  It can't be a gift if you work for it!  God loves us.  He loves YOU.  He made the ultimate sacrifice out of His great love, and that was sending His beloved Son, Jesus, to take the punishment for our sins as He died the death of crucifixion on a Roman cross.  And then he defeated death three days later as He came to life again.  He died for everyone's sins who ever lived, but each one of us has to decide if we will accept the gift of His salvation. or not. 

I love John chapter 10.  Here is some of it:  v.9-11, 27-30--"I am the door:  by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.  The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  I am the good shepherd:  the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep...My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them to me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.  I and my Father are one."  How awesome is that??  Do you want to go back and read it again?  Go ahead. :)

Someday, those of us who know Him will spend forever with Him.  I don't know exactly what Heaven will be like, but I do know it will be good!  Imagine a place with no tears, pain or fear.  1 Corinthians 2:9 says,  "But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."  So we have no earthly idea what is in store for us...but our friend Ed is experiencing it now.  I am so happy for him!

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!  If you have any questions about all of this, or just want to know more, you can go here for a start.  : )

How beautiful Heaven must be...  See you soon, Ed...

Enjoy your weekend,  friends!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Filling up the pool...

Ice cold out of the hose...

She does not mind the arctic chill...not one bit.

 Brave?  Or crazy?

Bellies in the water...1-2-3!