Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving: Sunrise School Style

If you've read my other posts, you may have noticed that Thanksgiving is my favorite.  Sadly, it is the forgotten holiday.  In fact, I believe it is America's middle child holiday.  All of you first borns and babies are shaking your heads right now, but us middle children know what I am talking about.

Halloween is the oldest child.  The one everyone has been waiting for.  As soon as the school supplies are up, costumes and candy come out.  People decorate their homes, plan parties, carve Jack-O-Lanterns.  Pumpkins ooze out of every store.

When middle child Thanksgiving comes around, no one notices.  Looking for Turkey day shirts or decorations, I find either discounted Halloween items or Christmas paraphernalia.  I sigh in disgust.  I complain to employees.  I am met with blank stares.

Then comes the baby - Christmas.  Everyone goes wild.  Lights.  Trees.  Decorations.  Presents.  The stores lay out their Xmas day wares before the turkey is even carved!  And now stores are opening on Thanksgiving night for Black Friday!!  I do not have enough exclamation points to express my disdain.

I say, "No more!"  Thanksgiving may be the middle child, but November still has two more days.  Thus, it is still Thanksgiving season.  In light of this declaration, I present to you Sunrise School's Thanksgiving.

We had so much fun at Sunrise School the weeks before the Big Day.  We made Indian headdresses, played Pin the Top Hat on the Turkey, and read a million Thanksgiving books.  Thanksgiving at the Tappletons' is my favorite.  Honorable mention goes to The Relatives Came and Thanksgiving is Here.  There was the much anticipated watching of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  Turkeys were made out of hands and feet.  Drumsticks were dressed up as Indians and Pilgrims.  I loved every minute of it.

But the best part of Thanksgiving at Sunrise School was the video we made.  It starts off with a November song that involves the kids bowing their heads.  At this point they are so wrapped up in eucharisteo that they forget the lines for the rest of the song.

Next, our wonderful videographer, Gigi, interviews individual kids to get their perspective on Thanksgiving.  Their comments are sweet, genuine, and hilarious.  Personal favorites:  Tori's pronunciation of Thanksgiving, and all shots containing the littlest Sunrise School student, Josiah.

Our video concludes with a rousing play about 5 fat turkeys and two Indian hunters.  There was much debate/arguing about who would play what part.  In the end, all were happy with their roles of hunting or dying.  Here is the almost critically acclaimed Sunrise School Thanksgiving Video.

And this is the old news from Sunrise School for those of you keeping track of the scintillating lives of preschoolers.  To update you:  Abigail STILL has not eaten all of her candy, Jaycee loved the carnival at her other school, Gideon is a born bookie, Tori's foot is better, and Ashlyn loves Gnomeo & Juliet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving - Thursday

The best day of the year is almost here.  A holiday devoted to family, food, and giving thanks to God.  What could possibly be better?  I rise with the sun to morning taquitos and homemade salsa.  The adults and children come in early.  The teenage cousins straggle in late.

Games and talking and singing mingle with the smells and sounds of cooking.  Everyone is preparing their dishes.  This food has become a part of us.  A part of the love we share together.  Aunt Carol's dressing.  Aunt June and Aunt Dee's pies.  Aunt Eva's giblet gravy.  My Momma's fudge.  The list is long.

We stand around the kitchen helping with the dumplings.  There are dumpling makers.  Dumpling droppers.  Dumpling stirrers.  Some years we even have dumpling fanners.  There is talk about the right way to do things and, of course, the wrong. 

In my mind's eye I see Mammaw making them on the counter at Uncle Kenny's house.  I am young and full of questions.  She answers and keeps on working.  Old hands that know their task well.  I am fascinated.  But there are games to be played, a creek to explore, cousins to see.  How I wish I had stayed longer.  Memorized her movements.

Sighing, I close my eyes, and I can see her, years later, in her chair.  Too old, too tired to make them herself, but still directing.  Still ruling the roost.  Then, I recall her last year with pain.  Remembering her frailty, I am relieved she is now strong once more.

As we remember, we work and cook and make new memories until the feast is finally ready.  Cooks proudly lay their food out on the serving table.  Mommas call their kids inside.  Grandmas count their grandchildren.  We circle around the room - a circle so full of love and memories and faith.  Everyone is here.  Almost.

She is gone.

My heart has an empty space inside.  But I look around and see her face in so many of my siblings and cousins.  What was empty is once again full.

We join hands to pray.  It is beautiful.  We begin to sing:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

My cup overflows.  I hold my baby girls' hands and try to keep my tears from falling.  The blessings in my life are surrounding me.  They are these people.  These memories.  This love.  This faith.  I can barely sing.

Praise Him all creatures here below.

All of us think on who is not there.  Our Mother, our Mammaw who is now in heaven.  This great woman who began our Thanksgiving  tradition.  Our Father, our Pappaw.  This great man I never knew who shaped the lives of those older than me.  In my mind he is a legend who loved wide and deep.  I cannot wait to meet him.

Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.

The two now sing these same praises at the feet of Jesus.  Their voices ring out, joining the great cloud of witnesses that went on before them.  There, they wait for us.  Can their faith save us?  No.  They chose Jesus and wrote Him on their lives.  While here they prayed for us to embrace this faith in their Christ.  In Heaven they hope and pray for the day when they can look around the feast and see that none of theirs are missing.  I join them in this fervent prayer. 

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

I think about the day when I will join them.  To see Mammaw healthy and happy.  To introduce myself to Pappaw and hug him for the first time.  To embrace all Hattons there before me.  To wait with them for the rest to come.  Truly Heaven must be an eternal Thanksgiving.  I look ahead with longing.  We all sing:


There will be more.  More years and memories.  More babies.  More joy.  More Amens.  And when we get to Heaven the praise will be sweeter.  The feasting fuller.  And the love deeper.  Until then, dig in and happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving - Wednesday

Faith in Jesus and family were the most important things to my grandmother.  Fifty years ago she decreed Thanksgiving as her family holiday.  She had birthed six children and raised five.  The older children were getting married, and as her family grew she wanted a time for all of them to be together.  Thus was born a tradition that rings so sweet for me, I can hardly find the words to explain it.

We start preparing for Thanksgiving early.  When you have 60 plus people to feed and sleep, there has to be some planing.  In the early years, Mammaw hand wrote lists of food for people to bring.  These days we mail out a letter of assignments a month in advance.  Our family that used to fit in Uncle Kenny's log cabin in the woods now fills nine cabins at a retreat center. 

Since this picture we have added four babies and one fiance.

I spend the year waiting for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  That's when we come together.  I cannot get there fast enough.  I want to be there to see each and every face walk through the door.  To welcome everyone with a hug.  To help carry in the food.  To see how the children have grown.  To claim my first slice of Aunt June's chocolate pie.

"We're mirrors to the past, in a way...We look into each other's faces and remember what we know." - Beverly Lewis

I look at faces and remember.  My heart is full.

Wednesday night supper is our first meal together.  This meal has been many things.  In recent years, it has become a cook off.  One year chili, one year soup.  This year is dips.  We have teams and team names.  The "original five" siblings are the judges.  A not quite real gold turkey serves as our trophy.  We won in one year with our chili - Rotel it on the Mountain.

After dinner the games begin.  The room is filled with sounds of dominoes and children.  Kids and adults run outside playing flashlight tag.  People are talking in groups all around.  There is much to catch up on.  There are stories to be told.  Oh the stories.  There are great arguments just waiting to be started and not quite completed.

Then the singing starts.  Upon hearing my voice and hearing the voices in this room, one would wonder if I am truly a member of this family.  There are songs of old.  The hymns.  These songs that shaped the original fives' childhood and thereby all of us.  They sit at a table and sing songs of my memory. 

We watch and are moved.  But there are also new songs.  Our sweet Jessica, who has somehow grown up, has written a song of our family.  She plays and sings.  I remember her as a baby singing the Doxology at Uncle Kenny's.  As I listen to her I watch her grandmother, watching her.  Generations together.

We are up late.  No one wants to waste our time together sleeping.  But we know the Big Day is coming... 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Remember Them

They are stories that become part of me.  Images I can see so vividly.

Home and all the comfort that brings.  Family together, laughing, being, breathing.  Until a grenade is thrown into the house.  Peace becomes mourning in an instant.

A young girl.  Ten years old.  Killed by the blast.  Winnie.  Daughter.  Sister.

A man.  Twenty-five years old.  Younger than me.  Killed.  John.

Two brothers forced to see their kindred dying in front of them.  They are, themselves, severely burned.  Samuel.  Peter.  Witnesses too young to understand.

Their grandmother watches in horror.  Bone of her bones.  Flesh of her flesh.  Unable to save.  Unable to comfort.  She, too, is badly burned.  Rachel

This is the reality of many around the world.  Chased out of their homes.  Churches burned down.  Bibles confiscated.  Women raped.  Grenades rocking houses.  Children taken away.  Banished.  Prison.  Beatings.

This is happening now.  Right now.  As I type, warm and safe.

Their crime?  Claiming Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Jesus knew this was to come.  What?  In fact, He told his disciples to expect it.  Hard to fathom here in safe America.  (John 15:19-21)

In this safe America, I remember learning years ago that Christians were being persecuted daily.  I was shocked.  Why has no one told me this before?  I thought persecution was rare.  A thing of the past, mostly.  Very rare, isolated instances, at the most.

My eyes were opened and I have never been the same.  I began getting weekly email updates on persecution around the world.  Names flowed.  Countries swirled in my head.  What am I to do?  I cannot save these people.  I do not even have a frame of reference for their suffering.  And the stories keep coming.  Every week.  What am I to do?

Pray.  Remember.  (Hebrews 13:3)

Pray for physical healing.  Pray for emotional well-being.  Pray for further protection.  Pray for those in chains to feel the presence of God.  For God to call to their minds scriptures and songs to bring them comfort.

That prayer flows freely from me.  Compassion for the persecuted wells in my heart and overflows.  I feel like this is it, but God gives me a not-so-little nudge.

What about the persecutors?

No way.  God's answer to the persecutors seems all wrong.

He does not call for vengeance.  This is hard for me.  I crave justice.  I love when the bad guy dies in movies.  Books that bring the evil to their ruin seem...right.  I want these persecutors brought to their punishment.  I want to watch it and revel in it.  But then I hear God.

What right have you?  What sins have you?  I do not require you to bring about my righteous judgment.

So I reluctantly get on board with not craving vengeance.  It is liberating.

Then God speaks again.  (That guy sure has a lot to say.)

On top of this God adds love.  Love?  Really?  I wrestle.  I argue in my mind with God.  I list out my reasons.  God does not change His mind.  (He rarely does.)  So I pray for the love.  (Matt 5:44)

It comes and I am changed.  I see the persecutors as children themselves.  I wonder how I would have reacted if I had been raised to hate.  It is a powerful thing.  Could I rise above it?  Would I become a persecutor?  I feel compassion.  I love them.

Once I have made this giant step, the last is much easier:  Pray for them.  I do.  The love increases.

Today is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church.  Open your eyes.  Open your hearts.  Pray.  Diligently.  Fervently.  Make it part of who you are and what you do.  You will see the change in you.

To receive weekly email updates on persecution around the world, you can go to http://www.persecution.com/ or http://www.persecution.net/.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunrise School News Part 1

Sunrise School is what I call our preschool homeschool.  I teach six girls and two boys.  Some cousins, some friends.  Everyday we pick a new leader for the day.  The leader gets to share their Daily News with the class.  As you can imagine, this is an exciting time for the kids and an enlightening time for me.

Note the difference between the news of the girls and the news of the boys.

Girl news:  feathers
Boy news: alligators

Girl news:  Belle, mom, Tiana, pumpkin patch
Boy news: alligators, hitting

In all fairness I must admit that Gideon had non alligator news for this week.  His news was, "My mommy says bad words."  I encouraged him to perhaps pick a new topic.  He then reverted back to alligator news.

Those of you ready to call the bad parent police, have no fear.  I asked him what these "bad words" were.  Stupid and idiot.  He must have not been listening very carefully.

Girl news:  princess, computer, CHoP
Boy news: alligators
It may be time to broaden the horizons of the boys at Sunrise School.  Though, their devotion to their beloved alligator is quite touching.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

He Protects Us

Standard adult bedtime procedure at our house:
brush teeth
take medicine
Momma climbs into bed
Daddy checks the doors
Daddy checks on the girls
Daddy climbs into bed

This is the way things have worked at our house since our oldest was born.  I did not find out until recently that when he was checking on the girls, he was praying for them.  One night I snuck in with the camera to capture this precious moment.  I was not prepared for just how special this sight would become to me.

I enter the room, and I fall more in love with him.  He sits on the floor between their beds.  One hand on the oldest's leg.  One hand holding the youngest's hand.  Head bowed.  Praying for our children.  Praying protection.  Praying blessings.  Prayers that come from the heart of a father who knows the Father.  I am forever changed by this image.
The oldest sleeps with her huge Children's Storybook Bible.  The Bible that is almost too big for her to pick up.  The Bible that belonged to my sisters and me.  The Bible my father read to us when we were little girls.  The Bible that makes me want to cry when I see her with it.  Her sleep is deep.  She knows she is loved.  She knows she is safe.
The youngest sleeps with her Hugsie.  The elephant who used to be pink and is now gray.  She sleeps all wrapped up in her blankie.  The blankie that is a requirement for sleep.  I try not to think of the days when she will no longer need these two comforts to rest.  Her sleep is peaceful.  She knows she is loved.  She knows she is protected.

I startle my husband with the flash of the camera.  He looks.  I smile.  He continues praying.  I stay for a moment longer, wanting to burn this image into my memory.  I quietly return to bed and snuggle under the covers.  I know I am loved.  I know I am protected.  I know I am safe.  And I know he prays for me, too.  I feel humbled by this gift of a man God gave to me.

Some people have problems seeing God as a loving Father.  Their own father did not show to them true love.  True protection.  Grateful these girls will not have that problem.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Mommy, Can I Have a Bra?"

That is what the youngest asked today.  And then the oldest asked if she could get one for Christmas.  I'm not sure why I was surprised.  The father just shook his head.

Our girls (4 years and 2 years) are insanely girlie.  We live in a sea of tutus, dolls, purses, and make-up.   A closet full of dress up clothes.  A trunk full of princess shoes and accessories.

They chose this.  I did not want to push pink on them.  Their nursery was yellow with jungle animals.  I bought them blocks, legos, and dolls.  As soon as they were old enough to choose on their own, them wanted pink or purple.  They wanted dresses.  They wanted tutus.  I have to force them to wear pants when it is cold.

Could these children really be mine?  In my friend Candra's blog (http://curiousgeorgi.blogspot.com/ ) she wonders, "how someone so pink ended up with so much blue."  I feel the opposite.  How did someone so blue end up with so much pink?

"Mommy, why don't you wear make-up?"

"Mommy, can you please wear more dresses?"

Seriously?!?  I think God gave me my pink girls so He could have a good chuckle.  Nature vs. Nurture?  In our house, Nature wins.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

To Blog or not to Blog?

One of my good friends recently lamented on Facebook that her kids were the only ones without a blog.  Many women responded, as did I, that they do not blog, either.  But, I had been thinking about possibly blogging since the school year started. 

I had been an elementary teacher and a mother for the past four years.  For those of you unfamiliar with either, they are both full-time jobs.  I recently quit the one that was quitable.  Now I stay home and teach my girls and several other wonderful children.  Before, I was hanging on by a thread.  I couldn't have found time to blog to save my life.  Now I find myself having time to think.  But....

Should a person like me have a blog? 

Blog?  I am not the best writer.  In fact I am often saying the wrong thing on Facebook or, more often, in real life.  I do not feel like I always express what I truly mean in my heart very well.  Maybe practicing writing with a blog will teach me to measure my words more carefully.  (I can hear some of you laughing already.)

Blog?  I do not have the most thrilling life to say the least.  Don't get me wrong, I love the life I have been given and all the amazing ways God blesses my family and me.  But does the world really want to know about the way I got sharpie off my couch or the things that I am thankful for or how I serve the Lord here in Texas?  Perhaps not.

Blog?  Finally glad to have time, why would I add something else to my plate?  Hmmm....But I would love to get on "paper" some of these thoughts roaming around in my head.

Therefore, you are witnessing the birth of a blog:  Patches of Me.

Will this blog survive?  I have heard whisper of many a blog.  Most die very young.  Will this one last?  Well, we shall soon see.