Happy Martin Luther Day!!

October 31. It isn’t just Halloween–a very odd candy holiday in which perfectly happy, normal people throw skeleton decorations in their front yards. I don’t mean to be the Halloween Scrooge, but Halloween gets on my nerves. I passed a house yesterday with three fake tomb stones in the front yard. On the stones, the family had written the names of their children (living children).  Weird, ya’ll. I don’t care what holiday that is. It’s weird.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a day where my children eat too much sugar and ask me to spend a bunch of money on costumes. Then we attempt trick-or-treating, until some neighbor takes it all too seriously and comes running out with a hockey mask and a chain saw. One of my children always gets scared and wants to come home.

Or, the funny thing is, they are so excited to have six pieces of candy in their bag, they say, “Yes!  Let’s go home and eat all this candy!!!”

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I’m much more intrigued by a whole other event that took place on October 31, 1517. Yes, THAT Martin Luther: the one that started the whole Protestant Reformation. I mean, it had to be done. In those days, the Church was selling “forgiveness for sins” in exchange for money. What! Martin Luther was a highly dedicated Augustinian friar, with a doctorate in Bible, so he knew his Word backwards and forwards. He wrote down every single way in which the selling of indulgences was unBiblical and an exploitation of the poor. He sent this letter to his bishop. Some say he even nailed it to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.

Now you know I’m on board with someone who takes that kind of stand.

This is not to say anything against the Catholic Church nowadays, but in Martin Luther’s time, reform desperately needed to happen. As for the church now?

Psst….When it comes to Christianity, being a follower of Christ does not depend on what denomination of church you go to. All churches consist of lost and saved people alike, I am convinced.

What matters is the heart. That’s what God looks at. Is your heart right with God? How does one even get “right with God”?

Well, the Bible says that we can’t really, on our own. None of us are righteous, no not one. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The Bible states that we are all in need of a Savior, and that savior is Jesus.

In 1517, the Church (not God’s Word), also taught that we needed a Savior, but not just that–we also needed enough good deeds, and we could just buy the good deed part by giving money to the church.

Wrong.

A clean heart cannot be bought.

I think John describes salvation best, in the verses that we always teach our children first:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16

To be right with God, we need to come to a place where we see our sins for what they are–sins. We need to confess that, ask for forgiveness, believing that we can get that through Jesus. Why Jesus? Because he lived this life as a person, even though he is God, and he never sinned. However, he took OUR punishment for sin upon himself, simply because God loved us.

Jesus reconciled us to God.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2: 8-10

It’s a choice we all must make: to believe or not to believe, but if you choose not to believe, I hope you have well researched that decision. Life is so much better with Jesus in it.

Don’t you love a man who stands up for what he believes is right? Martin Luther didn’t turn his back on the church because of all the hypocrisy. Instead, he tried to change it. He educated, he persuaded, he was bold, and he was brave.

Eventually, change did happen, but at first all Martin Luther got for that was……excommunicated from the church. As it turns out,  choosing to stand up for what’s right isn’t always popular.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

A few facts you may not know about Martin Luther

1. Martin Luther taught other reformers to not resort to violence in their quest for church reform since that is not Biblical. That reminds me of how Martin Luther King, Jr. also sought non-violent means to promote Civil Rights. There’s the connection.

2. Martin Luther wrote catechisms to teach the basics of Christianity to the people.

3. He also wrote a new Mass in German so that the common people could understand it, and he omitted everything that “smacks of sacrifice.” Luther preached that Mass was a gift, not a sacrifice.

4. Luther wrote gobs of hymns.

5. Luther translated the New Testament into German, but they say it was slanted towards his interpretations.

6. Luther always took the firm stance that communion was literal, not symbolic, as many reformers believed.

Happy Martin Luther Day! Have a great weekend.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  1 Corinthians 16:13

Kayaking Monterey Bay and Chillaxin with the Sea Otters

Yes, I was wearing two pairs of glasses. Contacts and sea water don't mix.

Yes, I was wearing two pairs of glasses. Contacts and sea water don’t mix.

First off, if you ever get to travel to California, Monterey Bay is a unique place to visit. There is this huge canyon underwater, right off the coast. This thing is even bigger than the Grand Canyon, only it’s underwater. Monterey Bay is also a sea otter sanctuary, and when they say that, they aren’t kidding. You cannot hang out on the beach in Monterey Bay and not see some sort of sea mammal, with your naked eye. There are sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions GALORE here.

See, Monterey Bay has a kelp forrest, and the sea otters live in it. They even sleep in it. When we were kayaking, we’d see their little noses, asleep, poking out of the water. I was so nervous I was going to not see one and whack it with my paddle. (Don’t worry. I didn’t.)

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The quality of these photos isn’t great. We took them with Alan’s cell phone.  We did zoom in on these, so we weren’t as close as it appears in the photos…most of the time.

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This one is my favorite. The sea otters are very social, so you find them in groups, or “rafts.” Did you know that these guys are one of the few animals in the world that use objects as tools? They will get a stone and use it as a tool to break open the shells of their yummy sea food.

The sea gulls know what good little fisher-otters they are, so they sometimes harass them for their scraps. We humans know how you feel, dear fuzzy little otters.

There are laws. We aren’t supposed to come within 100 feet of the wildlife. That’s impossible if you are on a kayak. They will come to you. If you sit still too long, they might even hop up and join you! No, that did not happen to us. I would have FREAKED out. I LOVE them, but I respect them.

Actually, I spent a whole lot of my kayaking adventure a little freaked out, and yet I loved it so much. It was thrilling. You are just paddling along, and suddenly *splash* up pops a seal, staring at you. There was one that I’m telling you, was definitely stalking us!

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It’s hard to see it in this photo, but look closely in the middle, you might see a little nose poking out of the water. Actually, it’s more like a big face with the nose pointing up. Do you see it? Gray blob. In the middle. We saw several sleeping faces on our adventure.

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closeseaotter

Monterey also has this long rock wharf that sea lions LIVE on. We paddled over there to get a look, but being close to that many sea lions kind of scared me, and we paddled away.

I did feel like we were invading their privacy. At one point, two of the sea otters began mating, an activity which took the pair almost all the way to the sand, with the mother sea otter’s previous baby following them all the way, screaming at the top of his lungs…It was all a little unsettling and embarrassing–a real life discovery channel special.

otter

If getting this close doesn’t sound like something you want to do, but you would love to watch the otters and seals, I have another discovery to share: The Fish Hopper Restaurant in Monterey.  It has huge windows overlooking the bay. I saw sea otters, seals, and sea lions all while eating my clam chowder. So much fun!!!

Thank you, Alan, for taking me out to do this! I can’t wait to do it again!!

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I love pelicans too!

We were stretching our necks up at each other. They seem to be just as interested in us as we are in them!

A few other photos of Monterey Bay:

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My dad took this one. His cell phone camera is way better than Alan’s! Plus: no fog. There’s a fog that hangs around here off and on, every day, especially in the morning and evening.

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Daniel and the cutest little wetsuit ever

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2 humpbacks whale tail

whales!

otter close up sunset over moss landing dogonthebeach IMG_3753_Fotor IMG_3920_Fotor

Ninja John David wishes you all a wonderful rest of the week:

I guess turtles are his favorite. Haven’t seen any of those around here yet…

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Henry Cowell State Park: Hiking the Redwoods…with Kids…

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My whole life I have heard of these trees and wanted to see them. I was stoked, a couple of weekends ago, when we finally got to go hiking among them! There’s a state park in Santa Cruz called Henry Cowell State Park that has mega redwoods galore. Did you know that there would be even more of them in this area, but beginning in 1850, an estimated 95% of these sequoias were cut down?  It takes hundreds of years for them to become the size you can drive a car through, though. Those are found on the Avenue of the Giants, further to the north.

The trees here were still enormous, so I feel like I can happily check that off my list. There was one historical, and seriously gigantic, tree that we all climbed into and stood around inside. Apparently, there was an explorer who spent the night in said tree and wrote about it in a book. Caleb was so excited about getting to go inside a redwood. He kept trying to go into the tree with all the other hiking groups. He also kept asking to “be the one to hold the flashlight.” That boy has zero inhibitions whatsoever.

That was really neat, but it was super dark inside the tree, so I didn’t get any pictures of that one.

Do you see the pure glee on Caleb’s face? These trees can be found from Monterey County on up into Oregon.

A sweet park tour guide saw our struggle to take photos and helped us out. After she took our picture, she talked to us for a while. Alan said to her, “Oh,you’ll like our boys’ names: Joshua, Caleb, Daniel, and John David!”

I was thinking, “Huh? Why in the world would she care about that?” Then I noticed that she was, indeed, wearing a menorah necklace. “Oh,” I thought, but I don’t really know if she appreciated that reference to her faith/heritage or not. She didn’t really make much reply to Alan’s comment, but she was extremely helpful. So thank you, tour guide!

Do you see all those bush -like trees growing off the base of the trunk? This is how the redwood trees reproduce.

Because of the strong bark of these trees, they can survive forrest fires and lightning!

This is my kind of man.

John David gets the award for “grumpiest hiker,” but then, does that really surprise anyone? Next time, we’ll take the jogging stroller.

This is a vertical panoramic shot of the candelabra tree, taken by Alan. It was much taller than it appears here.

JD *said*, “My mama. My cup. Must reach past Daddy and get to my mama and my cup.”

This is what it’s typically like when we try to take a family photo.

What hiking with 4 little boys was really like:

It was fun, but it was work. That applies to pretty much everything we do, though. Hopefully, we’ll get to do this again soon. A stroller-friendly hiking trail is a rare find!

The park also has a Thomas the Train ride that goes around the perimeter. We were trying to avoid the hassle and expense of the train and food vendors. We wanted to just make it about hiking. That wasn’t easy.

We fielded quite a few “Aren’t we going to ride the train? Can we ride the train now?” questions. Why didn’t we? 1. We are….um…thrifty.  We didn’t even check to see how much the train costs.  #2. We didn’t have all the time in the world. Alan has enough homework to fill up the entire weekend and then some.

The kids handled the no train thing way better than I thought they would.

So that only left a couple of hitches. The tour guide told us not to let the boys behind the fence because the poison oak leaves have fallen off and the woods are eaten up in it, so you can be standing in poison oak twigs and not know it. : ( She also told us not to let them sit on the fence because they have splinters that burn.

I guess I’m glad she told us because I would not have thought of splinters or poison oak. I’m not really a big worrier. However, with those worries introduced, we were like the Caleb police.

To say Caleb has ants in his pants and a great sense of adventure is putting it lightly.

“Caleb! Don’t go behind the fence!”

“Caleb! Remember! Don’t go behind the fence!”

“Boys, don’t sent on the fence. Remember the splinters.”

The fence. The poison oak. The fence. The splinters. The poison oak. The train tracks.

There are also signs, letting you know that climbing the trees is prohibited.  So many rules.

“Caleb! No! They don’t want you to climb the trees here.”

“Yeah, I know, but he’s a grown up, and he isn’t supposed to either…..” or as the grown- man- that-was- trying- to- climb- the redwood’s friend said, “Yeah, but honey, he’s crazy.”

“Caleb, get down.”

“Don’t go behind the fence.”

“Alan, we’d better keep moving.”  Babies in backpacks cry less if you keep walking. This we know well.

The boys also tend to run way ahead of us, but we are pretty laid back and that doesn’t really bother us anymore. They stop periodically and wait for us to catch up.

At least if they were running ON the trail, that meant we didn’t have to remind Caleb to stay inside the fence.

Poor kid. He’s just not a beaten path kind of guy.

Lesson of the day: If you take a Caleb-type person to Henry Cowell, make sure they wear pants. :) And no, none of us got poison oak.

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Calendar Making Part II

Every year I go to snapfish.com and make my parents, Alan’s parents, and myself a photo calendar, including all of my most calendar-worthy pics from that year. I love this time-consuming tradition because it’s a craft that I think everyone enjoys, and sometimes it’s the only photos we actually print out all year.

This year I don’t have to make the one for Alan’s parents because my sister-in-law is doing it for me.  Awesomeness!

Amy, here are a few more photos I found that you might want to include. Leave out whatever you want. Use whatever you want.  It won’t matter at all to me.

Oh, I’m also including a few that I just thought were very authentic and funny because well, I just love that kind! (I don’t want a picture of me with my mouth open in the calendar though…..these are just for fun!)

Don’t include that one. I just thought it was funny–what I really look like all the time–bossing little boys around.  ;)

real life.

moving day

JD, 11 months old, June 7

May, 2014. JD was 10 months old.

Another amusing one…..me sitting in my van, in my carport while 3 of my boys napped.

finally crawling! 10 months

He just can’t take a bad picture. This was Dan, the Chuck E. Cheese Mastermind. Do you remember that? Genius.

date night in April: Love those DC Cherry blossoms!

December 2013.  This still counts because it was after the last calendar was already made, and it’s an unusually good picture of me. I don’t care if I don’t really look that good. This one’s my favorite. ;)

January.  JD was 7 months old.

flying to California

Grand Canyon

Funny!

Somewhere I have one of Joshua on the trampoline on a skateboard…

the first day of freedom!!!!!!

Love! I know he looks 9, but he was only 6!

Okay. That’s way too many for the calendar,  I know. It just gives you options. I have a ton of good Joshua ones in dropbox if you need them. I am really horrible at using dropbox, but if you need them I will figure it out. I have all of these professional photos I’ve never printed out because I’m a dropbox moron.

Oh, and I know I might have worried some of you with my last post, but please know that I am totally okay. I’m just a very uptight person that wants everything to run just as smoothly at my house now as it did before I had children. Cue the laughter. I also need to get way more sleep.

This week’s goal: Sleep enough to have a good attitude. Train the boys to do their chores better, and survive Joshua’s birthday.

Have a great week, ya’ll!

God provides, as always. Hallelujah!!

“Cheese.” Sweet deal: I eat some dirt. I get a bath. I knew I left my cow in here!

I’ve been struggling lately. It’s been a year of lots of change, it’s overwhelming, and Alan is so busy with his engineering classes. Some days I have been a borderline bitter/icky person. I didn’t realize just how gloomy I’d gotten until I was at Bible study Thursday night with some gals in my neighborhood, and I just HEARD MYSELF. Woah. I need to get it together!

This week I really hit a low point, and I just sat on my balcony (love that thing) and cried and prayed. I prayed something like, “God, I don’t know how or what, and I’m not even 100% sure what my problem is, but I need help.” And just like he ALWAYS does…..

God sent help. I didn’t have any ideas for Him on how He could help me. I just knew I needed help.

My patience has been tried and found wanting.

But God. But God.

God answers prayer. I remember in 2011, Daniel was a newborn, our third baby. The other boys were ages 5 and 3 1/2. Alan got orders:  Afghanistan for 6 months. There I was with three small boys, and no relatives nearby.

God provided. He always does. This wonderful mentor of mine, Deborah, sent me help in the form of her daughter and a couple of their friends. They took turns staying at my house from Sunday night through Wednesdays, every single week, just so I could have the help I needed. I was actually able to go to the grocery store by myself–and make dentist appointments. Such a luxury!!

Then when JD was born–I was such a pitiful c-section recovering, anemic, postpartum MESS. God was there. I just prayed, “God help.” He sent my mom. My neighbors brought food, constantly. It was such a blessing.

Dear God, I’m sorry you have to keep bailing me out of troubles!!!

I get the feeling he doesn’t mind doing it, though. I was just reading in the book of Jeremiah today. (Yes, I’m still in Jeremiah. I’m calling it the read-the-Bible-through-in-two-years plan this time.) I’m plugging away, but I’m also doing a new Bible study now.

Thursday nights I am now going to a Ladies’ Bible study group in my neighborhood. I’m excited about this, and it’s after 8pm, so I don’t have to feel guilty about leaving my husband, who desperately needs to be doing homework, alone with four little boys because they are all already in bed. This group is going to be a great blessing. I can see that already.

Then the very next night, Friday, I went to my homeschool moms’ group’s “Moms’ Night”. Lacy is uniquely talented at coming up with questions to get the group talking. When she announced the question this week, “How full is your tank right now, and what do you do to fill it back up when it’s low?”………..Oh, I knew I was in trouble. I knew I could not answer this question without crying.

“Maybe no one will notice if I slip under the radar and don’t take a turn at answering the question,” I thought.

hahahahaha Well, that didn’t work. So of course, I bawled like a baby, in front of a whole group of women that I only met less than two months ago. What else could I do? Say, “Oh, I’m great. My tank is so full. I love getting lost all the time, missing all my friends and family, and never getting to just hang out with my husband.”  Don’t get me wrong. Alan faithfully comes home everyday, in time for dinner, and he even manages putting the boys to bed. Usually, he tucks in all the boys and I do the baby. But once that is done, Alan stays up until at least midnight doing homework, just to keep up. We rarely ever get to just chill.

So there you go. These are not the easiest of times for us. I don’t know many people. It’s not perfect.

However, I totally think God put me in this position on purpose. I think God wants me to focus more on my own house and children right now. He knows I need as few distractions as possible to survive this FIRST year of home schooling.

The only hitch is that I tend to fill my tank by hanging out with friends. I hardly even get to hang out with my best friend, Alan, much less others, so it’s hard to keep my tank running.

This isn’t all bad either. It has forced me to depend more on God, to pray more, to humble myself more. I needed this, whether I like it or not.

Well, I told the Friday group some of this, through the crying, which probably made it impossible to understand anything I said. So embarrassing. They were wonderfully understanding though.

I even got the BEST compliment ever:  One of these sweet, sweet women said to me, “You remind me so much of Anne of Green Gables.”

YA’LL!!!  Best compliment.

I told you that God has answered my prayers again, right? He did. First, I got to go to the Bible study on Thursday and the Ladies’ Night on Friday. Both nights were so helpful.

Then today, two of these women invited me to two different things. I had to turn down both invitations because of Alan’s studies, but it felt so good to be invited.

THEN, and this is really exciting, Alan’s mother called and said that they are coming in just a few weeks for a help visit!!!  They want to come and help us!!  They want to take care of our children while we tend to the jobs we can’t get to. They want to be here on Saturday so Alan can actually work at the library.

Now we have this beacon of hope to look forward to! Help is coming, and we need it. I can’t even explain why we need it so much, but we just do.

I love my job. I love teaching the boys. I love holding my babies. I love getting to watch Daniel go from baby to big boy. I love writing my blog and growing it into something that more people will want to read. I love cooking. I love keeping a house that looks nice–haven’t actually managed that last one in a while. I love it all, but I just can’t DO it all lately.

My prayers have been answered. I feel so full of hope today. God is a gentleman. God will not force his blessings upon you. Just think how many atheists would be disappointed if he did!! It’d be like those women that get angry at men that hold doors. He will gladly help those who ask him to, though. He only asks that you obey his commands, but he does not force us.

Jesus summed up God’s commands in two things, in Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

That brings me back to what I was saying earlier about reading in Jeremiah. In today’s reading, Babylon had taken over Judah, and the remaining remnant went to Jeremiah and said, “Pray to God for us, and ask him what we should do, and we will do whatever he asks us to do.”

Jeremiah prayed on their behalf, and God told him that if the people would obey Him and stay in Judah through this time of Babylonian rule, there would be no famine or hardship. God promised to look over this remnant of people, if they would only trust him and not flee to Egypt. If they left for Egypt, all of these horrible things would happen to them as a result of their disobedience.

This should have been a true comfort to these people. Just trust God! He will take care of you! The prophet Jeremiah said it, and he had a spotless record!!! He’d been warning them that the Babylonians were coming if they didn’t cut out their evil ways for YEARS!

Well, in true faithless “do what we wanna do” form, the people ran off to Egypt. Of course, Nebuchadnezzar crushed Egypt too, so that turned out to be the wrong decision, just as God had said. If only they had listened. The thing is, God will not make us listen. He only asks us to. He is a gentleman.

I don’t want to be like the remnants of Judah. I want God in my life. God is always FAITHFUL. I know I can follow him anywhere, and so far he has brought us to such wonderful places, given us a precious family, and overwhelming peace in the midst of all storms. We know this too will pass, and we are seeing our God carrying us through already.

sweet moments

So today I’m praising him, and nothing else is going to get me down.

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