Sunday, November 29, 2009

Birthday wishes for Christopher ...

Christopher James is six today ... SIX! We took lots of pictures of him this past September when we were in El Paso for a visit. We had a great time playing with him for the five days we were there.
Here he is getting off his school bus in the afternoon. I think he was glad to see us!
I love this shot of Christopher. This is a completely characteristic picture of him. He is a very pleasant little fellow, very quick to laugh and have a good time with us ... even though we hardly get to see him!
Grandpa Jones took this picture of Christopher perched to DIVE off this duck at the splash pond at Ft Bliss ... I'm glad I didn't see it while it was happening! Thankfully, he jumped and did NOT dive ... there was only a few inches of water below him.
And Christopher loves to play at any playground anywhere. We played for hours at the "red" playground just across the street and down the block from his house. He enjoys searching for treasures there. In just about 10-11 days, I'm going to see this beautiful boy!
Christopher is good at entertaining everyone and doesn't seem to be afraid of anything at all ... which can be scary to watch! I love looking back at these pictures and remembering the fun we had together ...
We do a lot of art work when we are together. Christopher was really proud of these pictures he colored. I think he did a fabulous job.
We hope you have a very happy sixth birthday, Christopher. We love and miss you very much. We'll try to call you this afternoon and have a little chat. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A time of thanks ...

All of my family here in Grand Rapids were invited over to Ruthanne and Terry's in Detroit yesterday to celebrate Thanksgiving. So Grandpa Jones and I met Dylan and Kelly over at Shane's apartment yesterday morning, and then we all went over to pick up Nana and Roy. We arrived just before noon and had such a nice time with everyone.
This is Esme' Arabella, who had her first birthday in mid-August. I'm not sure whose gigantic tennis shoe she has procured, although it looks remarkably like Dylan's ... I'm pretty confident her little foot will never quite grow into this size. Esme' is my great niece. She belongs to Mark and Shari who live in Knoxville and are expecting their second (a boy!) near the end of April. I have lots more pictures of Esme' to show you ...
This is Nolan Oliver, my great nephew, who will celebrate his #1 birthday next week! This is only the second time I have ever seen him ~ isn't he precious? Nolan is Shelley and Bob's baby boy. Matthew Owen is his big brother.
I was trying to get a shot of Esme's darling outfit, complete with tights and fancy dress shoes. She was a bit shy of my camera ... but then so many of us were shooting her picture at once, I think she thought we were all rather obnoxious!
This was Kelly's introduction to "the family." We thought it was amusing that she shares the same last name as Ruthanne and Terry. Kelly fit right in with my nieces ~ but I knew that would happen. :)
This is Mark, my nephew-in-law ... and it is the ONLY shot I have of him from the entire day. I searched in all of the pictures I took and he and Shari were always blocked out by someone else! Mostly I was trying to get cute pictures of Esme' and the little boys ... so I completely forgot about the grown ups! I did not take ONE single picture of Shari ~ but if you squint a bit, there is a framed picture of Shari and Mark on the shelf behind where Mark is crouching down here ...
A few weeks ago I was looking around at Meijer, digging through the clearance section for some special purchases and found this tube of dinosaurs ... perfect for Matthew, since he studies them all the time and can correctly pronounce their names and put them into categories. His whole face lit up when he saw them, and then he announced that "these were his very favorite!" Ah, so worth the $2.49!
I asked Matthew all kinds of questions about different dinosaurs and I never stumped him even once! He is very serious about his dinosaurs!
And doesn't Kelly look so pretty in RED? I think it must be her color!
Being a first granddaughter has definite advantages ... wee Esme' was center stage throughout most of our day ... she is SO sweet and so much fun.
This is Bob. He is married to my niece, Shelley. He is reading some tiny books to Matthew ... could they be about dinosaurs?!
And I love this photo of Shelley and Esme' ... aunt and niece ... and I am aunt to BOTH! How special is that?
My sister, Ruthanne, knocked herself out again with an amazing meal of turkey with every fixing imaginable, as well as a spiral glazed ham that practically melted in your mouth ... she worked so hard she completely forgot she had her apron on all day! But I remember where the two of us were when she purchased that apron this summer on our retreat on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan! Esme' is Ruthanne's first granddaughter ... it's very hard that Esme' lives in Tennessee ... my heart knows exactly what that's like!
And here is Esme' having a cuddle with her grandpa (Terry) ... she is such a little doll!
I didn't get any nice pictures of Nana and Grandpa Roy together. I meant to do it, but then got distracted. Here is Nana, though, enjoying time with her great granddaughter. This was also Nana's very first time meeting little Nolan ~ so it was a special day for her!
The five or six hours we were at my sister's house just flew by way too quickly. It was so great to see everyone again and hear about the good things God is doing in their lives.
Ruthanne and I were cleaning up the kitchen and just caught the end of this game of Bananagrams ... I think Dylan won, but I'm not sure ...
And look at Grandpa Jones's beard! YOW. He looks like a mountain man! Our church Festival of Lights begins in just a week, so his beard is just about perfect for being a first century character in that production. He says he will keep his beard just long enough to show our granddaughter, Karis, when she arrives on December 21 and then ~ OFF it goes!
Too soon it was time to get ourselves ready to drive back to Grand Rapids. What a nice day! How kind of God to give us family to love and spend time with! We had been concerned about perhaps running into some bad weather going to and coming back from Detroit, but none of that happened. We drove through some rain (but no snow!) on the way home until we got into Kent County and then all was clear. Thanks, Lord, for Thanksgiving 2009!
"Let your lives overflow
with thanksgiving for all God has done!"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dylan's LEGO's help us worship ...

Our Sunday preschool worship class begins at 8:10 in the morning. The workers arrive about a half hour earlier so that they can set up their rooms and get ready for the children. Last week I met a young Calvin college student who was born in Taiwan ~ she was my "helper" for the morning. Her name is Joy and she is just wonderful with children. However, her grandma died last week and so she flew to Taiwan to be with her family. So this week my "helper" was Amy, who also is great with kids. It's so much fun meeting all of these new people while volunteering ~ just one of the very many blessings I've received along the way!
We have our very own separate classroom that has been stocked with toys and art supplies ... just for us! The first half hour of our time is ... playing! How fun!The kids made stencil pictures today and did such a great job! The little boy in the picture above brings his grandma to class with him ... he absolutely refuses to come without her! And one of the other little boys in class consistently refers to me as "Grandma" ... so much for hoping perhaps I didn't look OLD enough to actually BE a grandma!
I don't have a picture to show you of how we clean-up and get ready for songs and story ... but we do eventually line up chairs to make a pretend train, while Mrs. Carol (me) puts on her train hat, gets out her train whistle, hands out tickets for the train, punches the tickets, and then we all chug-a-chug-a-choo-choo together over hills and valleys, across rivers and streams, to the land of the Bible! I know. It's corny ... but these are 3 and 4-year-old children and they really love it!
Our story today was about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the book of Daniel. I had studied this beautiful story and taught it to the MOPS kids two weeks ago. I had wanted to use a book that our family had when I was a kid called "I See 4" but in my searching for it, I discovered it has been out of print for years and years. I could get a copy of it from Amazon but the cheapest one I found was somewhere in the range of $68! I loved this book as a kid. It told the entire story in rhyme with great illustrations. But I'm kind of glad I couldn't get a copy of the book, because then I was forced to study and do the story in my own words. God used this story so much in my life over the past few weeks. I even dreamed about it!
In my search to find a visual for the children, I decided to just build an idol using the DUPLO blocks at my house ~ and then I remembered that Dylan had left all of his LEGO's! So I found a bunch of LEGO people and lined them up in front of the idol to show how King Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone to bow down and worship his golden statue ... but I left three guys standing brave and strong ... Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! The children this morning listened for 20 solid minutes (quietly!) to this wonderful story of God's amazing greatness ... and we even sang a song that told the entire story! You can't believe HOW MUCH FUN I am having being a teacher of preschool children ... and how thankful that God can use me. It's almost like I've never felt this ALIVE before in my whole life. Thank-you, God.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Getting started ...

Just a few days from now I am going to mail a very large box filled with Christmas gifts and other goodies to Ft. Bliss, Texas ~ so that hopefully when I arrive at Jesse and Diana's on December 10, it will be there waiting for me. Every gift has been searched for and purchased with JOY.

The last few years, I have attempted to carry on my Grandma Mary's wonderful tradition of baking beautiful Christmas cookies. When I was a young girl, I looked forward to her cookies almost as much as I enjoyed opening presents! However, last year, my battery-powered cookie press began giving me problems and I was dreading trying to figure it out again this year. But in order to make butter spritz cookies, a cookie press is a MUST! Mr. Jones has a MANUAL cookie press ~ and it is the very same kind my grandma used with amazing success ~ but I was barely successful with a battery-powered one: the batteries ran out too quickly, the cookie dough was tricky, the entire contraption was a pain to assemble, some of the plastic parts had broken ... !

My shopping last week took me to Bed, Bath & Beyond (definitely one of my favorite stores) and I stumbled upon (quite by accident!) a new fangled Cuisinart ELECTRIC cookie press! I did need help (aka Mr. Jones) with the assembly of it ~ but only on the very last step! It makes beautiful little cookies. I am so pleased. I will bake dozens of several different kinds of cookies and then pick and choose which ones go into which decorated tins ... such lovely little presents! :)

Christmas is just around the corner ... 34 days to be exact! It is my favorite time of year. I began shopping early this year to avoid the stress of shopping with crowds. I've received everyone's "Wish List" (almost) and have practically finished ALL shopping! I designed our Christmas card a month ago and have assembled almost half of them. Mr. Jones has designed a very pretty mailing label for us so that I do not have to hand address all of them this year. Mr. Jones has grown a very substantial beard (I promise to snap a picture of him very soon to show you) for Festival of Lights this year, and he has been listening to his practice choir CD in the afternoons. And next week (after Thanksgiving) it will be time to decorate our house ... but then I'm going to TRY to sit back and really really soak in the true JOY and beauty of this holy season!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This morning at MOPS ...

Something has happened in my life during the last 5 to 6 weeks ... something unexpected ... but very nice. It's a terribly long story that I want to tell you about ~ how can I shorten it down so that it doesn't BORE everyone to pieces in the process!?

When I retired from work 2+ years ago, I asked about volunteering at church. I met with a young woman who heads up our preschool ministries. She said they very badly needed a "teacher" for the 3's on Sunday mornings. I told her I was NOT a teacher, but that I would very willingly help any teacher they could find! I would be there every single week! I would wipe noses, take kids to the potty, help with the crafts, etc. But they needed a TEACHER. So I gave an all-out effort at that job for about 4-6 months (and failed terribly!). There was such a complicated curriculum with a "key" thought, a Bible story, a separate verse, a puppet story, a craft ... I just failed miserably at it and ... fired myself! I went back to being a helper, but had the opportunity then to watch and observe some really good teachers.

So this year, when asked to rotate with two other women at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) every other Thursday morning in a teaching role, I accepted (very reluctantly!). We were assigned a Bible story, without an agenda, and asked to present that story to a group of 4's and 5's. Two weeks ago was my very first attempt at teaching. I had studied the story of Daniel and his three friends for over a month and I learned so much! I had such a great time teaching it to this group of 11 children in our little class. What's better, every one of those kids seemed SO engaged in the story ~ it was a brand new (and happy) experience for me! The other teachers in the class told me I was "born" to teach!
This morning, our Bible story was on the healing of the paralytic in Capernaum. The picture above is of our flannel graph illustration of Jesus in the crowded house. The young paralyzed man is being let down by ropes through a hole in the roof of the house ... so that he could meet Jesus face to face! And what did Jesus do first? He told him that his sins were forgiven! And then Jesus healed his body so that he got up off his mat, jumped up, and praised God!

How could I make this story come alive to small children?! We talked about what it is like to be sick ~ are we happy or sad when we are sick? We talked about the meaning of paralysis, and I briefly told them the story of my sister's nephew who could run and play when he was a little boy ~ but then then there was a car accident that left him paralyzed. Watching their little faces, I could see how sad they were to hear about this!

But then we also talked about our hearts. What does SIN do to us? It causes our hearts to become hard as stone. I brought in a rock and passed it around the circle. Can a rock see? Can a rock hear? Can a stone move? Is a stone alive? No!

"I will give you a NEW HEART with RIGHT DESIRES, and I will put a NEW SPIRIT in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart." Ezekiel 36.26 We talked about how Jesus healed the young man's heart of sin, as well as his body of the paralysis. We had such a great time talking about all of this and the children asked such great questions! Aren't little kids so interesting?

Our craft for this morning was to make get well cards! And since I am a card maker, this was SO fun for me to lead!
The children were each given an envelope with folded construction paper for the card itself, and pretty foam stickers to make a picture. They made such beautiful cards!
In recent weeks, I've been asked again to be a teacher of preschool children on Sunday mornings ~ with the stipulation that I would not have to use a fancy curriculum! My first little class was this past Sunday. We did the story of Jonah! And this coming Sunday, I'm going to re-teach the Daniel and his three friends story to this Sunday group of children using Dylan's LEGO's! But I'll tell you about that later!

The unexpected thing about all of this is the J O Y I have experienced while studying the story and trying to figure out the best way to teach it, simply enough so that a preschooler can understand it. I am surprised by how much fun I am having! Isn't God awesome?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

One last look ...

Steelhead on the north shore of Grand Haven

I have a friend (whom I used to work with at RVO) that I get together with every now and then ... but actually, it's been close to a year since we had seen each other. We e-mail each other occasionally and decided to get together and take a nice long walk this morning. And why not drive out to Grand Haven while we were at it?

This is what the Grand Haven lighthouse looks like from the tippy top of the dunes at North Park Beach. I loaded these pictures out of order and it absolutely will not let me move it to the right location!
I picked Cheryl up a little after 8:00 this morning and we drove down beautiful Lake Michigan Drive all the way to M-31 ... and came as close as I have ever come in my life to hitting a rather large deer ~ it darted out from a corn field right smack in front of my car ... my heart was in my throat for awhile after that as we drove. We both gave thanks to God that we didn't crash! We started at the North Shore and parked in what is usually an empty parking lot ... but today it was packed to the full with fishermen! They were fishing from the north pier, as well as all along the north beach ... and catching steelhead and some whitefish as well.
It was a gorgeous morning. The wind was up, the waves were nice, the air was brisk and the beach, lighthouse, dunes ... well ~ everything was perfect!
The fishermen were wearing waders and would go in the lake past the first sandbar to lay their bait (fish eggs) and then walk back in and cast way out. We walked north for a little while, talked to the fishermen, and then drove two miles north over to North Park Beach to hike up the dunes.
When Sabrina and her family were "home" this summer, this is where we came to swim and spend the day. We intended to climb these dunes, but we had taken such a long walk on the beach that we ran out of time ... and energy! But this morning, Cheryl and I climbed to the top.
There is a beautiful boardwalk the entire way with dense woods all along both edges ... what an amazing combination to see these fabulous trees with Lake Michigan as a background! I have often walked through the woods thinking how perfect it would be if ONLY Lake Michigan were just around the bend ...
And the morning light could not have been better. I just love those shadows.
These are pretty high dunes. You can see SO far from up there. I love heights. I was wondering what the view of the lighthouse would be from up here ... (and this is where that first picture of the lighthouse in the distance was supposed to be loaded). I took several pictures of the lighthouse from on top of these dunes and not a single one of them turned out ... but the lighthouse is more than two miles from this spot and I do not have a telephoto lens ... (!)
Cheryl had heard of another protected dune area south of Grand Haven called Rosy Mound Natural Area and heard it was good for hiking ... so since it was so close, we decided to check it out.
There were lots of folk out there enjoying this great place ... lots of families and little children. It is a 0.7 mile walk from the parking lot to a great hiking trail through high wooded dunes to the shoreline. There are 1,000 feet of up and down stairs to travel!
I took over 200 pictures today ... I couldn't help myself! We sat down on the beach and listened to the surf and watched the sunlight dance off the water ...
We had temperatures in the low 50's today, and it was real windy, but we were wearing lots of layers and the sun was wonderfully warm.
There are many trails you can take to and from the shoreline. We've decided to come back another time and do some exploring.
We drove north to just pass by the lighthouse one more time before heading back to Grand Rapids early this afternoon. We watched this wind surfer for a long time. He was actually taking the waves and using them to propel himself into the air to do flips and all sorts of tricks. He crashed a few times, but he kept at it!
What a view. In just a few weeks now the cold and winter snows will drastically change the landscape of this place. I turned back with my camera for one last look ... one more glance at beautiful Lake Michigan ...