Wednesday, February 3, 2016

RENEW at 42!

For the past couple of years instead of making New Year's resolutions, I have instead chosen just one word to focus on throughout the year. (I got this great idea from my friend, Fran Dwelle of JOY International.) Last year my word was strength and my corresponding scripture was "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

This year, without even realizing it rhymed with the age I would be turning, I chose the word, "RENEW." The corresponding scripture the Lord gave me was this one: Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

First and foremost the one thing I wanted to renew was my relationship with the Lord. Not that I felt I had fallen away or anything but because I wanted to have a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him than ever. I have a strong desire to hear Him more clearly and to operate more in the realm of the supernatural. I also felt I need to renew my hope and my trust in Him after some discouraging things that happened toward the end of last year.

Yet another reason I felt this word was so important for me was because I wanted to "renew" my motivation to live a more healthy lifestyle. Every year I say I want to do this and I always start out well but never end well. By the time December rolled around in 2015 I was into a very bad habit of drinking too much caffeine and every time I had a cup of coffee I wanted something sweet to go with it. Not a good habit at all!

I confess I did have birthday cake today - but no coffee to go with it!
I am so grateful that I go to a church that dedicates the first part of the year to God by going on a 21-day fast! This forced me to give up some of my bad eating habits and once again, I am praying I never go back to them. I have learned that one way to stop a bad habit is to replace it with a new one.

During our fast, I began a Bible reading plan where I will end up reading the entire Bible this year. The plan I chose was a chronological one - which I have really been enjoying. I've also been reading a great devotional by Beth Moore called "Portraits of Devotion." One more book I've incorporated into my daily reading is a little book called, "God's Guide to Food, Fitness and Faith for Women." So instead of waking up wanting to drink coffee and sweets, I look forward to my daily reading!

Eventually I would like to start exercising and add that to my daily schedule each day. Like I mentioned earlier, my word last year was strength and this year I would like to RENEW my physical strength (and my energy) so I can better care for my daughter.

Thank goodness for Grandpa - he was the only one who could figure out how to blow up her inflatable guitar!
RENEW at 42 - that's my motto this year. What about you? 
Do you have a word for the year? I would love to hear about it! 

I'm so thankful for this guy who always supports me when I try to better myself!
I'm blessed to have such wonderful parents who made my day extra special!
Have a blessed 2016!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Joh to the Rescue - A Birthday Story

One of Faith's favorite things to do is call her Auntie Johanna (Joh for short) and listen to her cat, Ruby purr over the phone. (Faith also likes to hear stories about Joh's dog, Rosie). Sometimes getting Ruby to purr is more challenging than at other times but Joh usually succeeds in getting Ruby to purr at least once during our weekly phone call.

Faith and Auntie Joh during our last visit to Ontario in October 2014
You might not be too impressed by a purring cat but this cat purrs like none other (and I've had a lot of cats growing up!) Even over the phone her purring sounds like a small engine. Sometimes Joh will get Ruby to purr several times and the next day Faith will tell everyone, "Ruby purred a million times over the phone last night!" We are convinced we need to get her a cat of her own, or at least one of those stuffed cats that looks and sounds real!

Ruby the Purring Kitty Cat
Something else Faith loves to do is make up stories. We do something similar to Mad Libs where I write the outline and let Faith fill in the blanks. Faith wanted to make a special story for Joh's birthday (which is today!) So here it is...

JOH TO THE RESCUE!

Once upon a time there was a (adjective) nice  lady in Peterborough named Johanna. (Her niece Faith calls her Auntie Joh). She loved her (adjective) quick dog, Rosie and her (adjective) silly cat Ruby. One day at (time) 6:00, Rosie the Greyhound went up to Joh and started (noise) squeaking. Rosie started going crazy but Joh couldn't figure out what was wrong. Suddenly, Rosie grabbed Ruby's (noun) garbage with her (body part) legs. Joh realized Rosie was trying to tell her something about Ruby. 

Joh called, "Ruby! Ruby!" 

She looked all around the house for her. She looked under the (piece of furniture) TV and even by the (furniture) pantry. Joh was trying hard not to get (emotion) mad. Finally, Joh took Rosie outside. The sky was (color) blue and it was (weather) cloudy

"Where could Ruby be?" She asked Rosie.  

Joh looked up and noticed one of her upstairs windows was open. She had opened it to get some fresh air inside while she was (verb) playing golf

"Ruby must have gotten out the window," she told Rosie. 

Rosie the Greyhound
Rosie barked and then (verb) kicked Joh. Together they walked all around calling for Ruby. Finally, they heard a (type of noise) big loud siren. Joh looked over and there was Ruby in the neighbor's (noun) grass

Rosie started barking again and Joh saw that Ruby was in danger. A great big (color) brown and white (animal) frog with (number) 0 legs was going to snatch Ruby in its mouth. Joh acted like (superhero) Super Woman and in a flash (verb) turned on the lights in front of the animal and scared it away. She scooped Ruby up with her (body part) head and went back home. 

Just as they reached the front door, Grandmother and Grandfather arrived to celebrate Joh's birthday. Everyone went inside and when Joh told them about Ruby, Grandmother exclaimed, "Wow! It was Joh to the rescue!' 

 It had been the most (adjective) crazy birthday ever for Joh. They all celebrated with (flavor) chocolate cake with (color) brown frosting. There was lots of (drink) apple juice too. Rosie got (number) 3 extra treats and Ruby got to have (number) 18 scoops of food. That evening, Ruby was so happy Joh had rescued her, she purred (number) 19 times into the phone when Faith called. 

They all lived happily ever after. 

THE END 

We really do hope you have a wonderful birthday, Auntie Joh. We love you! Here is Faith singing Happy Birthday - although she was being more of a goofball than anything! 


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My 10 Favorite Photos of 2015

At the end of the year, I usually do a "Year in Review." This year, however I decided to do something a little bit different. After poring over photos for the annual Lawlar family calendar and also the one I do for Rob's parents and sister, I've realized there have been some great photos taken in the year 2015. I tried hard to narrow it down to ten of my favorites!

Me with my parents cheering on the NDSU Bison as they beat Illinois state by 2 points for their 4th consecutive National Championship! Photo taken by Deone Lawlar   

Faith, Rob and I celebrating my birthday at our downtown office. Photo taken by Andy Hill
Faith was so excited to have a party for her dad on his birthday! Photo taken by me.
Fun with family (me with my aunt Gail, mom Deone, niece Justine and sister-in-law Barbara) at the annual JOY Breakfast! Photo taken by Alicia Green
Rob and Faith are always sure to bless me on Mothers Day! Photo taken by Robert Bousfield
Faith spending quality time with her daddy on Father's Day. Photo taken by me.
Having fun with our friends, the Hill family during one of their many bonfires this past summer. Photo taken by me.
Faith celebrates her 12th birthday with Grandma and lots of balloons! Photo taken by me.
Family photo time following Thanksgiving dinner. Photo taken by Skye.
Christmas cheer with my siblings. Photo taken by Barbara Lawlar.

We certainly had our share of fun times this past year and although we've had some challenges too, through it all God has been faithful. I pray you have a blessed New Year and that 2016 brings you many answered prayers, dreams fulfilled and most importantly, that you experience the goodness of God each and every day.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Faith's Thankful List 2015

To continue with our little Thanksgiving tradition, I asked Faith to list all of the things she is especially thankful for this year. Once again, as I looked over her list, I realized it's mostly the people in her life for which she is the most grateful. Since she is such a homebody, she especially loves it when people come to our place to visit. However, the three of us did venture to Grandma and Grandpa's for Thanksgiving Dinner where she had a blast!

Here are some of the people she is most thankful for, along with a few other activities she enjoys doing.
  
"My Whole Family" - One time when I spoke at New Life's Redefinition Cafe service, her grandma, grandpa, uncle and aunt showed up. Afterwards she commented, "I can't believe the whole family came to church." So when she says her whole family, she is talking about her extended family. She especially loves having visits with Grandma and calling Grandmother, Grandfather, and Auntie Joh on the telephone.

Faith with many members of her whole family on Thanksgiving Day
Going to Church - Faith continues to be thankful for New Life's Redefinition service and it is one of the highlights of her week. She is especially grateful that Pastor Marc takes time to pray for her before he races off to the Celebration service (which is held in a different facility). She also enjoys hearing the different speakers (especially Andy Hill) and listening to the worship music, which leads me to the next activity on her thankful list.

Worship Music - Faith has become more interested in worship music this year more than any other. I believe part of it has to do with her music integration sessions but also because we have been attending an Immersed Night of Worship at church held once a month. It's led by one of her favorite worship singers of all time - Monica. We've also been listening to more worship music at home as a family, especially right before bed time. Her absolute favorite singer is Michael W. Smith!

Below is a video I happened to record when New Life's worship team did the music at the Healing Festival held in October. Faith loves watching it over and over again!


Stories with Mom - Not only is Faith thankful that her mom loves reading her stories, she is thankful she gets to make up her own stories. This is something we just started and I'm realizing it's a great way for her to learn what an adjective, noun, verb, and other parts of speech are.

Basically, I write an outline of a story and have her fill in the blanks - sort of like "Mad Libs" (which I loved doing when I was younger and which Rob has never heard of!) I was inspired to make up our own one night after reading one of her favorite Arthur books, "The Mystery Babysitter." The book contained a fill-in-the-blank story on the back and she loved it!

Here's an example of a story we made up about her dad:

My dad is very (adjective) happy. He likes to eat (flavor) chocolate cookies. He likes to drink (liquid) water, apple juice, and vinegar. One day my dad took a nap on the (piece of furniture) TV. He didn't wake up until (time) 6:30. He wanted to play his game when he woke up but his (body part) head was still asleep. My dad is (adjective) silly. I love him and he loves me.

Some other things that made this year's thankful list include:
  • Wheel of Fortune
  • Daniel Tiger 
  • Apple juice
  • Cheetos
  • Prayer at the Healing Rooms
  • Her doll, Baby Allie (whom she just started calling her baby sister)
Faith certainly has much to be thankful for and I am glad she recognizes her many blessings. I pray that you, too, take time to thank the Lord for all of your blessings. For those who are going through challenging times this holiday season, I pray you will find true peace and joy in the midst of your struggles - the kind that is only possible with Jesus.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Faith Celebrates Turning 12 with the "Best Birthday Party Ever"

For the past couple of weeks I've been asking Faith what she has wanted to do for her birthday. The only two things she requested was a cake with dinosaurs and a party with family only. When I asked if she was sure she didn't want cupcakes, she said, "I want a cake with Buddy, Tiny, and Shiny on it." (Characters from the show Dinosaur Train). The only way I could get those particular characters was to order an edible image from Amazon. Because this was like five days before her birthday, I had to get expedited shipping. I prayed it would arrive in time.

In keeping with the train theme, I thought it would be neat to have her party at the zoo so we could ride the train on her birthday. It took some coaxing but I did manage to talk her into the zoo idea. Unfortunately, the forecast looked a little chilly so I decided to try to reserve a space at the zoo's Discovery Center so we could be indoors for the actual party. If it ended up being nice enough, we could still do a train ride. I thought I had come up with a perfect plan.

I hit my first roadblock when the zoo said the Discovery Center had already been reserved. I decided to go with my backup plan of having the party either at my mom and dad's or downstairs in our lobby. If the weather cooperated, we could still make it to the zoo.

Another part of her day was going to be church. She loves going to church and I was so happy she could go there on her actual birthday. I had even offered to bring pumpkin muffins as treats. But on Friday when her respite care provider came over, all birthday plans came to a screeching halt. She told me she had to take the stairs because the elevator was out of order. I knew there would be no way they would fix it before Sunday. (The last time this happened, it took about 5 days to get repaired).

The good news was that when I went downstairs to get the mail, the cake image had arrived so I was able to drop it off at the bakery. I messaged my mom who told me there was only going to be five out of the nine family members we had invited that would be able to make it to Faith's party due to conflicting work schedules. This made things easier and it would work out to have the party in our apartment.

Faith ended up sleeping in since she wasn't able to get to church. Rob went solo taking the pumpkin muffins with him. Around noon, Grandma and Grandpa arrived with auntie Lisa. Uncle Todd and auntie Barbara showed up shortly afterward. Faith was a little anxious at first about having so many people in her space. She was pretty tense in her chair but as soon as we took her out and I sat on the couch with her to open presents, she began to relax.

Even though our original plans had fallen flat, we had all that really mattered right here in our small third floor apartment, broken elevator and all. Faith echoed this sentiment by declaring, "that was the best birthday party ever," after everyone had left.

Her special day continued when her Canadian grandparents called. She had been waiting all week to talk to them. Auntie Joh called too and Faith was especially happy to hear Joh's cat, Ruby purr over the phone. It was a great 12th birthday and I am already bracing myself for having a teenager this time next year! 

Grandma and Daddy help Faith blow out her candles
A close up of Faith's cool cake
Faith was blessed with many gifts (especially clothes from Grandma!)
Fun with 12 birthday balloons!
Our little family
Faith takes a quick pic with Todd and Barbara before they leave
Auntie Lisa and I being photo bombed by Grandpa

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Times of Transition

To me, the cooler months of fall seem more like a season of newness than do the cold winter months of January. Maybe it's because that's when school, Bible studies, and small groups all start up again and we have to transition from our lax summer schedules to busier days that are filled with a flurry of activities. (I also realize that part of the busyness is that we have so much to get in before the snow flies).

Another reason fall is a great time to get a fresh start is because according to God's calendar, the New Year actually takes place in either September or October during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Whether it's on purpose or not, it seems as though our family always experiences major transitions in the fall with this year being no exception.

Spending a perfect fall day at the park
Burning documents - it's much faster than shredding plus this way we get S'mores!
Hanging out in our crowded apartment/office
We kicked off September by moving our office into our apartment. (And yes, it is a little crowded in here). We did this for a few different reasons all which seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, however, my husband is really missing having an office. He's discovered he is not a work-from-home kind of guy. While I can work from home, I have discovered that not having an office is a really good excuse to go to a coffee shop. The library works well too, which by the way, has a coffee shop inside so it is a win-win.

Another transition we have made is that my husband has decided to join my brother's tree crew. This means when my husband is out all day doing tree work, I am the sole caretaker for Faith, not to mention her homeschooling teacher. Thankfully, we get respite care three or four afternoons a week which is when I try to get my work done and run errands. (Or get some rest if we've had a particularly rough night).

Faith's first day of school at home (she seems happy about it!)
Last week, Faith and I began a new adventure called Inspired Collective where we meet with other homeschooling families once a week at a local church. Together, we learn Spanish, science, history, and practice for an upcoming Christmas program.

This group is a huge blessing as homeschooling an only child can get a little lonely for both of us. While she gets to interact with other kids, I get to socialize with other moms. One of the best parts is that all the parents are there with their kids and I get to wheel Faith from room to room and help her with writing, eating, etc. As Rob says, "Faith has the best aide ever this year!"

Our impromptu field trip to Papa's Pumpkin Patch
She certainly is getting taller!
Fall fun with Grandma and Grandpa
Just being silly!
I am still doing some freelance writing but I have also become a published author! My book, Having Faith is finally available for purchase. So far, most of the feedback has been very positive. This is definitely a new season for me and I hope and pray that my book can be a source of encouragement to others.

Because of so much going on, I made the tough decision to step down from serving as JOY International's Java JOY coordinator. I still enjoy getting together every month with my fellow JOY bloggers all of whom have been such a blessing to me. These ladies are true prayer warriors and are always ready to offer advice, friendship, and the love of Christ. 

As you can tell from the pictures, Faith is blossoming into a beautiful young lady. She is definitely a preteen and has the emotions to prove it! We've certainly had some challenges with some of these changes but God gives us the grace and the strength to get through them.

Through it all, I am thankful to God for new opportunities and family and friends who have encouraged me along the way. I look forward to all that He has in store during this New Season!