As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2: 4-5

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reaching the Lost....with Ice Cream

Our church has a small children's ministry. There aren't a lot of children that are members of our church, ours plus a few others, making up the entire children's program. We do, however, have a large group of children who come to our Wednesday night program, courtesy of our bus ministry. This week we had an ice cream social at the end of our time together.
Hannah and her friends from Cubbies

The Sparks One of the Big Four
Hannah and her "boyfriend" Shelton
Some more faces of the "Big Four"

Hannah and her Janice
And of course, we couldn't leave Charlotte out of the fun!
There are so many cons to a bus ministry like the one we operate out of our church. The children are a challenge, and many of them come from unchurched families. Discipline is a major issue each and every Wednesday, which makes for weary workers. The fruits of our labors are often unseen, and few, if any parents, are touched that we know of.

But if just one...just one...child comes to know Jesus, then it is all worth it. We may not see the fruit, but we have planted a seed. We have provided for some of these children the only glimpse of Jesus that they will ever see. The kindest word. The only gentle touch.

I worried for a while involving my children in such a ministry where they are surrounded by children that in normal circumstances, I would not want them to be friends with. Not because their skin is different or because they are poor--tho so often this is true--but because of the choices that these children make on a daily basis, and the things that they are exposed to are not the things I wish my kids to learn.

But my children, my sweet compassionate children, have shown me what it means to look beyond the surface and love as Jesus did. They are often beacons of light in a dark world. They give chances and grace when often none would be given. Sure, they long for a large youth group full of children that love the Lord. I yearn for that too. But they realize that God has planted them where they need to grow. And watching them "bloom" in this fertile soil has been such a blessing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

So it isn't Friday. But we're going to pretend, because I just can't find the energy to do much of anything on Friday nights. This week's topic: Waking up Go. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ As I thought about this topic, many questions raced through my mind. Should I write about waking up in the literal sense, or the metaphorical? Physical waking, emotional waking, spiritual waking? I pondered this all day today....really defeating the piont of five minute Friday, I think, but still came up with nothing. Until I put Charlotte to bed. I hate putting Charlotte to bed on Sunday nights, because I know that when she wakes up in the morning, the weekend is over. And thus will begin five days where we have precious little time together. Where she will see more of Kay Kay than of me. Where I miss her all day, and as soon as I pick her up I am pulled in 50 different directions. Waking up on weekends is always too early, but I love it, when her little voice calls me toward consciousness through the baby monitor. We have our time together, Charlotte and I, me with my coffee and her with her "ba." Barney on the television. Sweet fuzzy head on my chest. Just me and my baby girl. Makes waking up worth it.
Oh how I love a Saturday with nothing to do but hang out at home with the family and get caught up on life. This, however, was not that kind of Saturday. This Saturday was a get up and get going and keep going until you fall exhausted into bed kind of Saturday. But I got to spend it with my very favorite people, so I'm not complaining. It was track meet time again for Maddy. With the first track meet, she was so excited she couldn't sleep. With the next one, she was looking forward to it....til she got there, and then she wanted to go home. This one? She prayed for rain so she'd be able to stay home in her comfy bed. God answered half her prayers. It rained alright, but she still had to get up and run in it. Her coach put her in the 300 hurdles, which she was not happy about. Not sure why she wasn't happy about it, as at all the other meets, she'd practiced with the other hurdlers. Still, she did it, albeit begrudgingly.
Her coach also put her in the mile run (seen below) and the 800 (which we have no pictures of because it had started really raining and I am a wimp and didn't have an umbrella) The little girls had to come to this one, partly because my built in babysitter was spending the night with a friend (how dare she? doesn't she know I need her?) and partly because Hannah had a birthday party to go to afterward.

In the end, she was happy with her races, and even happier that Daryl and Josh came to watch her.
And, despite the fact that I was out of the house for almost 7 hours today, I was super productive, and I even read an entire book (Heaven is For Real--a quick read and rather thought provoking)
Count down on now.

5 days til Spring Break!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It appears that spring time also means track season, and this year, I have a reason to enjoy track. Meet my favorite discus thrower (tosser?)/runner/hurdler:

Getting the roster and rules from the official.

"in the hole"

preparing to throw--this part is pretty impressive

After the discus, she had to run to her next event, the 400m. Here she is running to the starting blocks.

See that little speck second from the front? That would be Maddy.
(And this would be me, thinking a different lens might be a good investment)

Go, Maddy, Go!!!
(Yes, I did really yell that, along with something like, "You can do it, baby" or something equally humiliating)

The eighth grade 400m runners.

It got really really cold between this event and the next, and really, the 800m and the 400m pretty much look the same in pictures.
She did well--even though she thinks she didn't.
We got home earlier than expected, just in time to get some good cuddle time with Charlotte and Barbie computer time with Hannah.
Loved the time with my girl...not often we get time alone together.
My runner rocks!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring is....

*yellow air, yellow car, yellow driveway, yellow house, yellow "rain" outside my window

*sneezes, sniffles, headaches, coughing, sore throats, itchy eyes (see above)

*starting new allergy medicine that makes you just about comatose after 8:30pm (see above again)

* sweet dimpled knees - isn't it funny how dimpled knees are only cute on a toddler?

*lots of flowers from my babies

*screaming 4 year olds and the occasional screaming 16 year old running into the house after school because a wasp/bee/hornet/yellow jacket is within 10 feet

*standardized testing - yuck

*six year olds who forget everything they ever learned while completing said standardized testing

*grouchy teacher who notices that said six year olds seemingly forget everything they ever learn on standardized test and envision being canned when results return in May

*six year olds who do such things as these (therefore annoying grouchy teacher even more, often to a level she thought not possible):
~spit showers-yeah. It is as gross as it sounds.
~pick their noses (while their hand is oh so inconspicuously over their nose) and then
nonchalantly rub it on the carpet
~follow you into the bathroom, stick their head under the stall and say, "Is that you Mrs.
Stone?" "Hey Natalie, come's Mrs. Stone!"
~fight with their best friend/reading partner/ table mate 354 times about such things as who
should pick up the green scrap of paper, who the double sharpened pencil really belongs to,
looking at/touching/breathing on each other
~tattle about best friend/reading partner/table mate 354 times even though the rule is no
tattling unless someone is hurt, bleeding, on fire, or breaking one of God's rules

*The light at the end of the tunnel

And best of all.....


Only 8 more days!!

Not that I'm counting or anything....

Monday, March 21, 2011

How do you play leap frog when your mom is old, your big sisters aren't home, and your baby sister doesn't understand?

The pictures say it all!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Welcome Spring!

Tomorrow is the first official day of Spring, but I didn't know if I would get a chance to blog tomorrow, so I thought I would share today. We are all ready for spring, to dig out the summer clothes and shoes, put away the heavy sweaters, corduroys, tights, and boots.
and best of all...sandals!
I never realized how much my winter wardrobe matches my winter mood until this weekend when I packed it all up and put it away. Gray, gray, black, gray, darker gray, purple gray, more black. Big, bulky, shapeless. Blah, blah, blah.

And that is what I felt this winter. Blah.
I have never really been a big believer in SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)--I always it's cold. It's dreary. It's life. Get over it.
(Really, I am known for my compassion....really)

Then this winter hit. And I wasn't really sad, as much as numb. After the excitement of the holidays was over, I just couldn't muster much excitement for anything else. I was tired, devoid of energy, unable to sleep well, yet all I wanted to do was sleep. Things I once enjoyed now I couldn't be bothered to even do. I found satisfaction in nothing. I didn't want to cook, clean, do laundry, go to work, exercise, go anywhere, do anything. I ate with no regard to nutritional value and gained weight. I felt blah and looked blah.
To be honest, I thought I was losing it.

And then last week, the weather turned warmer. I spent last Saturday at a track meet, sitting in the sun. It was long. It was hot. It was boring except when Maddy was running. And I felt myself getting happy. The fog clearing. The weight lifting.

This weekend I have had lots of extra energy. Still didn't particularly want to clean, cook, or do laundry, but I willingly did them all. Cleaned out a closet or two. Played with my little girls instead of laying on the couch watching them play.

Spring has sprung. And life is good again.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sunny Saturday

What do you do on a beautiful sunny Saturday? Well, first you get up at 5:45 am (yes, that is am, thank you Charlotte), drink coffee, and then once everyone else is up and at 'em, you clean out your closet, boxing up everything that even remotely belongs in the fall/winter category, and your get out your flip flops (woooohoooo!). Then, when you've stayed inside for just as long as you can stand it, you sneak out of the house when your little girls aren't looking to get your daily dose of vitamin D. Oh how I do love a tan. It was a heavenly hour, that time I spent unashamedly sitting in my driveway in a stadium chair (In my defense, there were four cars there blocking anyone from seeing me, and I was fully clothed). The only "blip" was when Hannah and Charlotte found me through the living room window and stood with their faces pressed up against the glass, crying. Then my wonderful husband (who I appreciate so very much...ahem) came to my rescue and took them in the backyard to play.

It was also Family Day in the Stone house. For Christmas, Daryl declared every third Saturday of the month Family Day, where everyone is here to eat and watch a movie/play a game/have a fun family activity. It's usually a night time thing, but with Josh's work schedule, we opted for lunch instead.

But first, Sarah enjoyed her new ukulele. She had been not so patiently waiting for it for an entire week, and she was beyond thrilled to see that it had arrived yesterday afternoon.
Hannah went on a bug hunt and found Wormie the earthworm. Wormie met an early, untimely death (I'll take this opportunity to mention that I found her in the bathroom trying to brush his teeth), and she was crushed to lose "the best friend she ever had." Never fear, though, Daddy came to the rescue again (did I mention how much I appreciate him?).

As part of our family day, we broke in the brand new table that Daryl made. The old one had gotten too small for us all, and the bench that Daryl had made when the kids were 13, 10, and 8, was a bit too small now that they are 19, 16, and 14.
Please excuse the floor underneath it. Daryl just recently tiled this part of the new addition and he's not had the time to grout it quite yet. But I do so appreciate that he worked so hard to do this for us!
Here's the clan(minus Charlotte who couldn't stay up one. more. minute) about to eat lunch.

And after lunch, we played one of the new games we got for Christmas, Imaginiff.
Fun game if you just so happen to not have a four year old sitting on your lap whining, and if your toddler doesn't wake up early from her nap, and sit on the table and cry and move all the pieces.
After our game was cut short, Daryl did his best Arab impression and got ready to burn. We had lots of construction materials around the yard/house/deck that we needed to get rid of.
The first thing to go was our old table and bench. I suppose it could have been donated, but it was in such bad shape. We were pretty hard on it over the years. It's had children, pets, countless boxes and bags of stuff, and an amazing amount of laundry piled on it. We announced two pregnancies at that table. We've done homework, schoolwork, science projects, and "craps" (crafts, people, in Hannahspeak). It's been chewed on, painted on, drawn on, spilled on.
So it was sorta sad to see it go.
Some people's idea of a great weekend is one filled with activity. My idea of a great weekend is one filled with plenty of time to get everything done, time to read and write, time to snuggle with my babies and enjoy my big kids, and time when my husband doesn't leave to go to work!

Friday, March 18, 2011

OK....Five Minute Friday, Take 2.
And this time, Charlotte is asleep in her bed, and Hannah is half naked asleep next to me on the couch, so there is no excuse. And the topic? Easy.


On Waiting...
I have always had a hard time waiting, a hard time with delayed gratification. (Hello weight problem, credit card debt) But God is working on me. I look back on the last ten years of my life and I see how God has made me wait and the blessings that have come with it.

Take Hannah for instance. When Daryl and I decided that we wanted to have a baby, I wanted that baby NOW. I had always gotten pregnant easily, even without really trying, so when after a year we were not pregnant, I was upset. Distraught. Obsessive even. I scoured the internet. Charted, temped, joined websites, saw doctors. Daryl told me..."I have no doubt it will happen." But I didn't listen. I went ahead and approached having a baby the same way that I did with anything I really wanted--with zeal. And after 3 years, we still were not pregnant. So in all my wisdom, and my limited experience with waiting, I took it as a "no" from God and gave up.

Lost weight, concentrated on my teaching career, went on a mission trip. And what do you know? Twelve positive pregnancy tests later...The best thing I've ever waited for.

Baby Fever....Quenched

It started on Sunday, the baby fever. We had a shower for one of my neices and the whole Stone clan was there. There were sweet little babies like this......
and sweet, rough and tumble little boys
and all of the sudden, I wanted another. Wouldn't it be nice to have just one more? Maybe a little boy this time? We could do it. It'd be hectic, loud, crazy, expensive, messy. My father would bug his eyes and sigh. Say something like, "Geez" Nanny would say, "Good heavens, more?" The kids would scream "NO! You promised no more!" And various friends, aquaintances, coworkers would come up with pithy comments like, "You know what causes that, you know," "You certainly have your hands full," and "Better you than me."

Oh, but sweet little clothes. Sweet little fuzzy heads asleep on my chest. Just one last time of feeling my child move inside of me.

(Insert record scratch sound effect here)

Fast forward to today. All since 4:15.
Maddy and Hannah fighting in the car.
Charlotte following me around yelling, "Mamamamamamamamama (big breath in) Mamamamamama!" --sweet the first ten or so times
Falling over the laundry on the steps
Trying to find something relatively healthy, easy, available, that everyone will eat for dinner after getting home at 5:15.
Charlotte pouring out the water bottle all over the end table
Tantrum over picking up the Barbies
Tantrum over only being able to get 4 Barbies out to play with
Picking up all the laundry around the house for the weekly ten load laundry marathon

What was I thinking!?!?

I am old.
The pregnancy with Charlotte brought about an amazing amount of health problems.
I get fat pregnant. Really really fat.
I can't keep up with the laundry, dishes, messes of the kids we have.
We can't afford another day care bill.
I like my laying on the couch after Charlotte and Hannah's bedtime time.
I like sleeping through the night.

It brings to mind one of Hannah's very favorite songs lately. One of those lessons that it took me a while to learn, and that obviously, I am still struggling with.
You may have heard it--by the Rolling Stones.

You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try some times,
You just might find
You get what you need

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Called to Pray

So do not fear, for I am with you
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God
I will strengthen you and help you
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
Isaiah 41:10
All around me, it seems, there is trouble. Family members struggling with betrayal, disappointment, upheaval, and heartache. Family members dealing with life threatening illnesses. Friends whose children and husbands are fighting for their health, for their normal, for their lives. Students whose parents have died, are dying, or have left. Friends that are longing for children that they cannot have, that have opened their hearts and homes to a child to come, only to have the door closed, God's answer...not yet. Entire countries being rocked to their foundation by disasters natural and man made.
There have always been hard times. There have always been people struggling. There have always been natural disasters. Perhaps I have been too wrapped up in my own little world of "not enough time, money, patience, talent, energy" to notice. Or perhaps God has in the past called me to focus my energy, my prayer, my service to my family.
Yet this morning, and every morning this week, I have been awoken at 4:00 am. This in and of itself is not unusual. Sleep and I have never been friends, and I find myself up throughout the night. What is unusual is my deep longing for fellowship with the Lord at 4:00, when usually the only fellowship I crave at that hour is with my pillow. The overwhelming desire to pray.
I will admit a bit sheepishly that I end every night with prayer, and more often than not, the prayer ends when my mind and body succumb to sleep. At 4:00 this morning, though, sleep was not coming. My mind was not wandering, except to the prayer list I keep in my Bible. Need after need after need running through my mind, my heart, my prayers. Romans 8:28. But why? But how?
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of Him. 1 John 5: 14-15

Friday, March 11, 2011

OK. So this is the deal. I've been reading this incredible blog,, for a while now. And every Friday, she writes. She takes 5 minutes and just writes. Then she invites others to take 5 minutes and write about the same topic and link their sites back to hers for others to read. And these people, the people that link their blogs, write amazing things and not so amazing things. Silly and funny. Inspirational and thought provoking. So I thought...why not? And even though I have no idea how to link it back, I think I like it that way. Not sure that anyone other than the 12 of you who read this would want to hear what I have to say. Not sure I want a bigger audience. And to be quite honest, don't know if I could figure out how to link anyways. So here it goes. Five minutes. This weeks topic: I feel most loved when...


(Seven minutes have passed since I wrote that single word above. In that seven minutes, I've had an argument with Hannah about why she can't wrap a present for Charlotte, watched 2 minutes of Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses while comforting Hannah, tried to explain tic tac toe to Hannah, and taken trash away from the dog. Hmmm.....not going as expected.)

Let's try again....for real this time....


(As it turns out, when you teach a four year old to play tic tac toe, you must play with her. "But you really really have to!" And you must at least, once, let her win, or she pouts. and when you have a sixteen year old that has all of the sudden decided that she has to have a ukelele, and she wants to talk pros and cons of new and used, she doesn't appreciate you typing while she talks.)

OK...third time's a charm.



When do I feel most loved? I don't think I've ever really thought about this before. But in the starts and stops of this post (the five minute Friday post actually started getting written 34 mintues ago) I've had time to ponder.

I think I feel most loved on the rare nights when all seven of us sit around the dinner table. This is truly a time of joy for me. Not because the food is so good, because so often it isn't. Not because it's nice and neat and Norman Rockwell-y, because there are often spills. But because all of the people that I love most in the world are there.

I look around the table and see the faces of my children. Some of them still babies, yes, and all of them at one time my babies. Growing children that Daryl and I have molded together. Young children that Daryl and I have created together.

And before we eat, as we all hold hands and say the blessing, and I consider all that God has blessed me with, I feel loved. My true love's hand in mine on one side, my baby's hand in mine on the other, and my Father's hand holding me up.

Can we rename this Forty Five Minute Friday?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book Character Day

Ahhh....Book Character Day. One of those fun Fridays that is an ELCA tradition. The kids choose a book, write a book report about it, and then donate to the library for the chance to come dressed as the main character from the book. There is a parade, starting at 8:15, and the rest of the day? Pretty much a wash. They're cute though and oh so excited. This year, I was The Grouchy Ladybug.

This year we had Cat in the Hat
Junie B. Jones



The Lego Man

and Fly Guy, to name a few.
But, the cutest, by far, was not from my classroom.
I present to you the main character from Goldilicious.

and of course, her little sister...who, ahem, is getting HAIR!