Friday, June 27, 2008

My Cool Idea for Summertime



Our local library has a really neat summer reading program to encourage kids to read over the summer. The problem is that with their limited budgets and the number of kids they are trying to reach, their rewards consist of little plastic trinkets. Not wanting to accumulate stuff that we just don't need, and will very soon find it's way into the local landfill, I brainstormed for a way to devise my own 'summer reading program' for my girls. I ran it by them, and they are jumping up and down, absolutely thrilled with our new program. In fact, they have both almost finished reading the four books each they picked out at the library yesterday!

They are keeping a log of the books they have read - title, author, number of chapters, number of pages, and the date they completed it. They reach a new reward level for every 15 books read (books of their own choosing, of course). The first 15 book level is going to be a trip to the movies (yup, even popcorn and a drink). At the 30 book level they are going to get to participate in a soap making craft day. The adorable little guys pictured at the top of the page are made using a soap making kit available through Bramble Berry. We will (hopefully soon) be moving into our new home and I thought it would give the girls an opportunity to participate in creating their own special bathroom. And, as some of you know, I have a wee bit of a passion for soap making.

If you want to order your own, and I know you do, you can order it through http://www.brambleberry.com/. For less than $20 you will receive the very adorable amphibian mold ( with two cavities each of the salamander and the frog), orange mica, blue-green mica, iridescent glitter, white melt and pour soap base, clear melt and pour soap base, pearberry fragrance oil, and watermelon fragrance oil. There is enough to make soap for your kids, for mom and dad, and even for your kid's best friends. Ooooh, how about a slumber party craft?! Or a summer craft for you homeschoolers?! Whatever the occasion, pick one up and enjoy!

As for our 45 and 60 book levels, I haven't decided. They will have to be big to follow this. Maybe supper at Mr. Gatti's with a few tokens to play the games. But, with cute little critter soaps that they made themselves in their own bathroom, who cares?

Thought for the day....


Look for art in everyday objects.

Think about the thought God put into all that He created. He created so much with our enjoyment in mind. He could have found a way for the leaves to fall to the ground in the Autumn without infusing them with color. He could have found a way for the birds and animals to attract a mate using something other than their melodious calls and vivid colors.

He is an artist. Our world is his canvas. He creates his masterpieces for our enjoyment as well as his own. Praise him for it!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thought for the day....

Be still and know that I am God
Psalm 46:10

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Off to the Mountains

We are off to the mountains for the next three days. Alea is participating in GUIDANCE (God U and I Dance) for the first time this year with Arts Evangelica. They will be performing at Cherokee Cove in Mountain City, TN (coincidentally during the Christian Songwriters Camp there). Then they will be performing at Shelter Rock, as well as distributing clothing and food. GUIDANCE is a wonderful program that provides these girls not only with top notch dance training and opportunities to perform at multiple venues, but also an opportunity to be missionaries. Check out Arts Evangelica at http://www.artsevangelica.org/.

My husband and mother are going to be travelling with me, my two daughters, and several other dancers and their families (20 carloads in all!). It is destined to be a miraculous experience. Please join us in prayer for safety, favor, and above all else, that multitudes of people will witness the love of Jesus Christ through these young ladies.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thought for the day....


Take

Time

To

Smell


The Flowers.

Updates on Community

Well, we are moving right along on building a community. Our real estate agent has spoken with the land owner of the gorgeous land we want to purchase. She has told him of our plans for the land, and he loves the idea. Yeah! He is on board for working with us on making it happen. We should have a contract within a week. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thought for the day...



Smile!

Time for a change...and a new look!

I require change. After all, variety is the spice of life. And I like my life spicy. It was time that this blog underwent some visual changes. What do you think? Love? Like? Hate?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Koinonia Community

Take this test!
No cause for alarm! Your cooking counterpart doesn't sauté, simmer, or season in his birthday suit. It's just his take on food prep that's naked. Like Jamie Oliver, you've probably got a low-key, no-frills approach to cuisine — and maybe to life, too!


Whether you're cooking for company or for yourself, you're keen on creating succulent flavors that make your taste buds do summersaults — without spending the whole day slaving over a hot stove. After all, you've got other things to do and places to be. And your knack for keeping up with culinary trends and stripping cooking down to the basics will make your cooking a winning welcome at any meal.

Mind-Healing Time


I was reflecting on the 'thought of the day'. One of the things we did on our vacation was try to wake up while it was still dark, walk to the beach and enjoy the sunrise. My husband made it every day, but I confess I missed a couple.

The problem is that we, as women, rise thinking about all we have to get accomplished during the day. We don't take the time to enjoy quiet reflection. I don't mean taking out that hour to watch Oprah or your favorite soap. That is not mind-healing time. We all need time every day to sit and reflect on the blessings of the natural world, and the blessings that exist in our own lives.

Honestly, when I get rushed and don't take the time to consciously think about them, and to look for them in the world around me, I forget they are there. I think of all the things I need to do with my children as items to check off my TO DO LIST. But I don't take the time to think about how rich and exciting they keep my life. I look at the yard and recognize it not for the vibrant colors, or the scent of the trees and flowers, but as mowing and weed pulling. Or worse, as sneezing and running eyes. If I'm not careful, I will view the sunrise with dread, already anticipating the heat of the day.

I truly believe that the only way to combat this thought pattern is to rise early enough to avoid rushing, and to sit and pray, and really look for the blessings around me. In Hawaii, we woke one morning to trek down to the beach. As we walked across the beach in the dark, we could hear whales calling. We still couldn't even see them, but what a glorious sound to hear first thing in the morning. If we had stayed in bed, we would have missed it all.

I have found that when I don't take this time in the morning, my attitude suffers the whole day. Not only that, but my energy drains more rapidly. I need the mind-healing time or I will rush through the day frazzled and exhausted, sharing my highly contagious negative attitude with everyone I see.

Avoid the morning rush. Wake early. Enjoy some 'alone time'. Look around you. Enjoy the natural world you see, even if it is a patio plant and a couple of pigeons. Reflect on your family, and see them for what they bring to your life. Train yourself to focus on the positive. Talk to your maker, and thank Him for all these blessings that He chose to place in your life. Then enjoy your day. I know that this time will prove to be more valuable than an extra 30 minutes or so of shut-eye. You may not see yourself as a 'morning person'. Try it for a few weeks and see if that changes. This is mind-healing time.

Thought for the day....



Wake up early to enjoy the sun rise.




Monday, June 16, 2008

Bonita High School Class of 1988

I graduated from Bonita High School in La Verne, CA on June 16, 1988. 20 years! Are you kidding me?! Here are a few of the things that have happened in the last 20 years.....





I have moved about 14 times. I graduated from Cal State University, San Bernardino with a BA. I hopped a train and moved across the continent. I have learned to ride a motorcycle, a tractor, a bus, and a boat (okay, so I still can't get a boat on a trailer :>). I have been a waitress, a bartender, a secretary, a cycle counter, a production scheduler, a warranty hot line operator (yuk!), a telemarketer, a sub maker, a counselor, a prison guard, a one-on-one teaching assistant, a receptionist, and a teacher. I drank and smoked too much, then quit drinking and smoking. I learned new things and started a business. I've been a winner, and I've been a loser. I got married to the coolest guy in the world and learned a lot about farming, gave birth to two fabulous and wacky girls, quit work to home school, made 7,823 bad choices (give or take a few), and about 9 good choices, was born again and started anew.

It has been a busy 20 years. I hope I learn as much and experience as much joy over the next 20....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thought for the day....


Look for the silver lining in every cloud!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thoughts and Pics


You may have noticed my new feature...Thoughts of the Day. My family doesn't take alot of vacations. We get a little excited when we do get an opportunity. This last trip was the first time that my husband has taken 7 days off work.....ever! So we were extra-excited. As a result, we returned from our week long trip to Hawaii with over a thousand pictures. And I wanted to share them with you! I tried thinking of a format that would not bore you to death with run-ons of my vacation pics and would still fulfill the purpose of making Koinonia Community a God-honoring site. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope they inspire you.

And, hey, if you have any other inspirational thoughts or quotes, please share them. Maybe I can find just the right photo to go with them.

Have a blessed weekend!

Thought for the Day....




Take Risks.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Community Update

Okay! We sold the house. We have moved out. We are staying with friends. Don't we have the coolest friends ever?! So....what's next? Are you on the edge of your seats? Are you just dying to see where we are going from here? Of course you are.

We have found some land...about 20 acres. It is absolutely beautiful. The location is perfect. It is set back from the road and surrounded by trees. In fact it is slightly elevated above the surrounding land, so as you look out around you, all you see is trees surrounding the gently rolling pasture. The present owner looked into developing it at one time, so some of the legwork has already been done for us. It was found capable of supporting a septic field for up to 18 houses. Perfect! There is even more land adjoining it that will become available down the road. One side of the land even runs to a large 'creek' that adjoins the lake. I'm thinking morning kayaking!

We have prayed and prayed about it, and it looks like the perfect place to build a community. The only thing standing in our way now is money down. We can afford the payments. However, it seems appears that if you are purchasing land without any existing structures, it is considered a farm loan, and they want you to be able to put 15-20 percent down. Well....we aren't very shy, but we are shy of the amount we would need. So, we are examining our options, and praying, and going to see if the owner would be willing to finance, and praying some more.

Did I mention we were praying? We truly believe that this is the location God has directed us toward. If it is, we can't fail. Something will come together and it will work toward the goal He has intended. We are expecting a miracle. Who knows? Maybe I'll stop to pick up the mail and find some kind of refund check for a few thousand dollars. It could happen! God can make anything happen!!

We could use some prayers though, folks. This is going to be amazing, and you will feel wonderful knowing you played a part in the prayer process that helped make it a reality. So please join us in prayer for protection, favor, and just plain old miracles.

Thanks friends!

Thought For the Day....



Enjoy the View.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Thought for the Day...

Help One Another.


You Get What You Pay For OR Why I Don't Shop at Wal Mart!

I don't shop at Wal Mart. Gasps from the readers. I know. It's unAmerican! People usually respond to that statement by telling me that they can't afford to shop elsewhere. They tell me that things cost more elsewhere. They are the LOW PRICE LEADER. They tell me they have the cheapest groceries, the lowest price prescriptions, the most affordable household items. To which I reply, 'you get what you pay for'.

I don't think I have ever gone into Wal Mart and walked out in a perky mood. Most of the times I previously shopped there I encountered unhappy employees, unhappy customers, unstocked shelves, aisles blocked with items that needed to be stocked, and dirty, out of order bathrooms (lacking soap and hot water).

Frequently, I would arrive at Wal Mart searching for a particular item and find a gaping empty spot on the shelf. I would return week after week to find the same shelves bare. Once, when a friend encountered the same problem, she called the manufacturer of the item to find out if Wal Mart still carried their product. The customer service rep explained the problem to her. Wal Mart purchases enormous quantities of a product at a time. They buy enough to send to all their stores. So they negotiate for a huge cost break. When they are ready to reorder, they often want an even greater deal. So they enter into negotiations with the manufacturer. Often, Wal Mart will not budge, and the manufacturer will be given the option of taking a loss in order to have Wal Mart carry their product, or losing the order. Wal Mart will gladly replace the product with one from a manufacturer who is willing to give in to their demands. This is how Wal Mart is able to keep their prices so low - by using their bulk to bully.

The customers and employees both seem unhappy. Wal Mart doesn't have the best track record of employee satisfaction. They bully their employees the same way they bully their suppliers. They treat their employees as if they don't have any options. I spoke to a cashier who was getting married in a week from the time of my last visit. She had only been an employee for a couple of months, but was working her last day. She informed me that when she had applied for the job she had informed her new employer of the date of her wedding, and told them she would need to not work that day. They scheduled her to work that day. When she spoke to them about it, they told her that she could either work that day or find another job. So she quit to attend her wedding. I have listened to employees of Wal Mart complain about customers to other employees while I am waiting for service. I was standing with my (then 5 year old) daughter, waiting for a dressing room while three employees were engaged in trash talking about a customer they had just let into a dressing room. I stood there for a minute or so, and one employee turned to another and told her that she had a customer waiting. That would be me! She loudly proclaimed "I see her. But did you see the look that other one gave me?" And she continued to make me and my daughter wait while she loudly swore about the other customer.

But, really, how high are they going to rate the importance of customer satisfaction if their employer doesn't value employee satisfaction? You can't blame them for being unhappy. You can't blame them for treating customers as if they are disposable and easily replaced.

In Wal Mart's defense, they don't promote themselves as the CUSTOMER SERVICE LEADER. The are the LOW PRICE LEADER. Customer service is not their priority. Low prices are. And you get what you pay for.

Daily, I hear people complain about how customer service and common courtesy are extinct. They aren't extinct. They are merely endangered. We are not willing to pay for them. There are few full service gas stations anymore, and those that are, are priced much more expensively. Most grocery stores don't take your groceries out of your basket anymore, and only a few of them bag them. We have self check out, so we can spare stores from having to provide any customer service. We find these changes acceptable if it means we can purchase things for less money. We want stuff cheap so we can have more of it. And stores like Wal Mart know that we are willing to trade customer service for a low price. They know they can get away with it. They know that no matter how upset and frustrated people become at their stores, they will keep coming back....because they can get more stuff for less money. I have gone to the 'customer service' department with valid complaints. I have received no customer service from that department. They are indifferent to complaints. I think they believe that for every customer that leaves, two will come.

So I don't shop at Wal Mart. I choose where I shop based on the service I receive. I choose where I shop based on the quality of the product I receive. Some of you are thinking "Must be nice to have that much money". I assure you that I'm not rolling in money. I am a stay at home home school mom of two who is married to a farmer! We aren't exactly making the big bucks. So how do I do it? How do we shop at the upscale Harris Teeter where the average price is higher, but they get your groceries out of your cart, ring them up, run to get you a replacement for a damaged product, bag your groceries, and politely load them into your car for you?

I will tell you my big secrets! Drum roll please! We buy less. We only buy what we need and a couple of reasonable wants. We don't binge shop, and we rarely buy something that we don't really need just because it is a good deal. We don't have a closet full of clothes we don't wear. We have a few good quality items, and we replace them as needed. And we shop carefully. We shop the sales, not our desires. Those few quality items in our closet, just like those in our freezer were bought on sale. And we spend less than your average shopper.

But we pay for quality, and we pay for customer service. We pay for smiles. And we pay to walk out of the store in a happy mood, having enjoyed our shopping experience. We are happy knowing that we are contributing our money to companies that care for their employees and suppliers as much as they do their customers. We are happy to know that we are contributing our money toward companies that give to their communities. We are willing to support such causes. And we are happy knowing that we have less in quantity, but more in quality. After all, you get what you pay for. So....where do you shop?

Friday, June 6, 2008

What I Learned in Hawaii


I learned a huge lesson in Hawaii. I know, I should have been relaxing, basking in the sun under the gentle caress of the trade winds, focusing my mind on nothing but the steady drum of the waves. But alas, I am a get-up-and-go kind of gal.

Isn't that what we are taught to be? Don't we equate relaxing with laziness? Aren't we taught that unless we are accomplishing something, we are being wasteful with our time? We take time-management courses to teach us how to cram more into our already busy lives. We opt for more 'convenience' meals to take food preparation out of the equation. We take the freeway instead of the rural highway to shave precious minutes off our travel time. We face the hassle and stress of running into Wal Mart for supplies because we can accomplish it in one stop. And when we do have a moment's peace, we use it to organize our thoughts so we can operate more effectively when we once again approach the start gate.

Ever been in the position where you have a ton of stuff to do, but circumstances prevent you from doing them? Have you been house sitting for someone else? Have you ever been stuck in a waiting room? How about on a long flight? one leg to Hawaii was nearly ten hours - how's that for free time?! What do you do in those situations? Do you sit and enjoy the peace and rest? Or do you do like I do, and think about all the things you could be doing if you weren't stuck in that situation?

Do you ever stop by the side of the road to look at a field of wildflowers? Do you take time to smell the flowers? Or do you whiz on by, untouched by the scenery around you, thinking of what you will say, and what you will do, when you reach your destination?

When I would call my uncle and ask him what he was doing, the answer would always by the same. "I'm zooming", he would say. Aren't we all, I would think. But I wonder, why are we always zooming?

God put us on this earth to love Him, and glorify Him, and to Live life. Live it! Do we really Live our lives? Or do we just live Through our lives? And if we are merely living through our lives, how are we glorifying God?

On the island of Kauai, the locals lived a much slower pace. Most of the stores opened at ten, and several were closed by four. One such store had a note on the door that gave a phone number and stated that the store owner lived nearby, and that you could call if you needed something outside of normal business hours. Cool! Speed limits were lower, houses were smaller (*Locals houses that is - the average home size is 700-800 square feet. Homes for the tourists to rent, as tourism is at the center of their economy, are large and extravagant for the most part-just like we like 'em.)

We spoke with one young man who was a guide on one of our excursions. He has lived in both Hawaii and in California. He said his job paid $11 an hour, and that you couldn't live off $11 an hour in California, but that you could on Kauai. That may surprise some of you familiar with the cost of living in Hawaii. The cost of electricity is greater there than anywhere else in the United States. A trip to the grocery store for me was an eye opener. A dozen eggs was over $4, and a half pound of butter was over $6. Land and houses are very expensive, where small lots of land can easily run over a half million dollars. So...how do they live so much less expensively than on the mainland? The live with less! Our new friend told us that you don't need the clothes or shoes you do in California. Flip flops and a swim suit and a couple of pairs of shorts and T's and you are ready to go. They don't even need all the furniture for storing their stuff. They opt for smaller houses. They don't use alot of electricity. They use the very comfortable trade winds for natural air conditioning. The eat alot of the plentiful fresh fruit. They fish. They search for crabs. They hike and swim for entertainment. They fellowship with friends and family.

It is easy to fall into the slow lane if you live in such a place. But what about back here? Is it possible to slow down when you are surrounded by rushing? Just a couple of days home from vacation and we had a last minute dance meeting. Then we found we were scheduled to greet and usher at church, so we needed to arrive early. Next week my daughters and I are scheduled to do the nursery, and later in the month we are scheduled to take care of the preschool class. We suddenly have invitations for four different important events scheduled for the same time tomorrow. Someone is going to be disappointed. And try as we may to rest and enjoy our time of fellowship with family and friends, we will be zooming. Our calender for June already has over half it's squares marked with at least one thing. Most of the things on our calender are IMPORTANT. So, how can we slow the pace?

Try driving slower. I assure you you will incite rage in some over-stressed, over-rushed person. Try lessening your obligations. People will talk. Their words will be ugly! Try ignoring your children's 'gotta haves' and their 'wants' and spend more time at home with them and less at work. People really talk then. Trust me!

We have been trained to live this crazed, rushed way. We have been taught that what we do, what we accomplish and how much we have are a direct measure of our success. It is how we attach a value to our worth. We have to be reeducated to think and live differently. Until the time that it becomes second-nature, the very process of learning to live more simply will be Work, and it will be Hard. To attempt to live this way in a sea of people still accustomed to rushing is difficult at best. But the rewards will greatly outweigh the struggle to get there. God wants us to discover contentment, and in order for that to happen we need to take time to enjoy our surroundings. We need to take time to stop and smell the flowers.