Sunday, December 28, 2014

22 Years

Today I celebrate 22 years of marriage to my wonderful husband!
December 28, 1992 Mount Hermon, California
 22 years of love
22 years of struggle
22 years of laughs
22 years of tears
22 years of "for worse"
22 years of "for better"
22 years of learning and growing
22 years of blessing
22 years of AMAZING!
22 years of "existing"
22 years of embracing each other
22 years of choosing Christ
22 years of right choices, wrong choices, togetherness, isolation, reconciliation, affection, prayer, miracles, seeking and finding.

Marriage is not what is portrayed in movies.  It is not Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth or Emma and Mr. Knightly.  It is not "once upon a time" or "happily every after".  Marriage is a roller coaster, a steep path, a chaotic mess of stress, emotions and experiences.  It is a "walk in the park" on a perfect day, a welcome comfort and peaceful respite. Marriage is a covenant.  It is a sacrament! 

My marriage has been full of choices.  Before we got married we decided we did not believe in divorce (a statement that had been made by my grandparents).  That word has never been part of our arsenal when things get heated.  For us that has meant that we have to figure out how to keep walking when things are hard.  I know that divorce is not always avoidable, but in our marriage, keeping that word out of our vocabulary has meant we have had to learn to humble ourselves and climb mountains even when there didn't seem to be any strength left to climb.  This has allowed us to see the Lord do mighty things and bring us to crystal streams to drink from that we didn't know existed...and we have been refreshed. 

I am so thankful my husband has loved me all these years.  I am thankful for the blessing of children along the way.  22 years ago I said "I do" with all my heart and I am SO thankful I still mean it today.
May God grant us many many years!

Bonnie Johnstone's photo.
22 Years has grown us as lovers, parents and individuals.  Thanks be to God for all things!

Traditional Prayer for a Married Couple

O Merciful God, we beseech You ever to remind us that the married state is holy, and that we must keep it so. Grant us Your grace, that we may continue in faithfulness and love. Increase in us the spirit of mutual understanding and trust, that no quarrel or strife may come between us. Grant us Your blessings, that we may stand before our fellows and in Your sight as an ideal family. And finally, by Your mercy, account us worthy of everlasting life: For You are our sanctification, and to You we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Prayer by Archimandrite Nicodim (Mandita)
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, our Sweet Savior, who taught us to pray always for each other, so that by thus fulfilling the holy law we will be made worthy of Your mercy: look down with compassion on our married life and keep from all perilous falls, from enemies both visible and invisible, my husband/wife whom You have granted me, that we may pass our time together until the end with oneness of mind. Grant him/her health, strength, and fullness of wisdom enlightened from above, so that he/she may be able to fulfill his/her duties all the days of this life according to Your will and commandments. Protect and keep him/her from temptations, and may he/she be able to bear and conquer those temptations that come upon him/her. Strengthen him/her in right faith, strong hope, and perfect love, so that together we may do good deeds and that we may order all our life according to Your divine ordinances and commandments.

O Greatly-Merciful Lord, hear us who humbly pray to You, and send Your divine blessing in truth on our married life and on all our good deeds, for it is Yours to hear and have mercy on us, O our God, and to You we ascribe glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Prayer for a Husband
O Christ our God, thank You for my husband. Thank You for the talents and skills You have placed in Him. Help me to love him unconditionally and to be an encouragement to him. When challenges come, allow us to face them together with mutual respect. Let my help to him be as an offering to You, O Lord, and let him love me as You love Your Church. Grant us protection from any external or internal attack that would compromise the covenant we made. Help me to be quick to forgive any shortcomings, remembering that we are both in need of Your salvation. Grant us the strength to endure any trial or temptation, drawing closer together and closer to You. For You are our Light and Salvation, and to You we ascribe glory, to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Least of These

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’  -Matthew 25:40 (NKJV)
This is the time of year most people are more aware of the plight of the poor and needy and more willing to offer financial or physical relief.    The Salvation Army bell can be heard ringing from the moment you open your car door at many stores.  Gift receptacles are arranged near store exits to collect toys or food to be distributed to struggling families near Christmas.  We are reminded that Christ is the center of this holiday, or if not Christ then at least "the spirit of giving". I've read the above verse many times and it is easy to look out at a homeless or struggling man, woman or family and feel compassion.  It is easy to pray for them or offer a small token of hope.  It is even easy to keep from passing judgment on them for how they ended up in their current situation.  Where I struggle is having this same way of thinking toward my own family.  I know their history.  I am aware of their struggles.  I see the face behind the social mask they hold up when they're with friends.  I am supposed to love, train, discipline.  But isn't the Lord instructing us to be a servant to all mankind for His sake?  And doesn't "all mankind" include our children?

How do we train and discipline our children while treating them as the "least of these"?  My first challenge is to apply this verse to my life, James 1:19  "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;  for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God."

It's so hard as a mama to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.  Often we are trying to "put out fires", behavioral and emotional "fires", in our homes.  What I'm finding is sometimes we must respond quickly but most of the time we can step back and take some time to determine the best course of action.  Sometimes it requires days of prayer and contemplation, the counsel of a trusted mentor or spiritual father or mother.  It is true that sometimes our actions must be swift.  If my children are in a physical fight I would not take the time to ponder the best way to address the situation just like I would not watch my young child walk into the path of an oncoming car.  I would snatch them out of the way and address the danger once they were no longer in harms way. I'm talking about all the other times when contemplation and prayer would allow me the time necessary to really speak to the heart need.

Last night was an example of when I DIDN'T step back or seek the Lord.  We had watched a new Christian comedy video and the boys got to stay up an hour past bedtime.  It was a time of bonding as months of stress melted away into laughter.  When the video was over I instructed my boys to head off to bed.  They didn't comply.  FIVE TIMES I told them to go to bed and they ignored me as they relived and laughed over moments from the comedy show.  They finally went down and I thought the "episode" was over, but a moment later two of my boys come running up the stairs, waking up the baby, because the younger decided to throw a pen at the face of the older.  You know that "DONE" moment?  The moment when you decide the "calm mama" thing just isn't working and you unleash the angry mama.  Well you may not do that, but I do...and did.  You see, I expected them to be thankful for the extra hour on a school night.  I wanted them to rise up and call me blessed for letting them have hot chocolate with a candy cane stir stick.  Essentially, I wanted to be recognized for my goodness (with humility of course...).  I knocked them down, verbally, as I laid the guilt on as thickly as I could.  Were they repentant?  No.  You can't force repentance, but that's exactly what I wanted.

What I SHOULD have done is wait until morning to discuss the situation with them and sought the Lord for His wisdom in the meantime.  You see, our #1 goal is to help our children seek the Lord for their lives.  They don't get there by us "guilting" them into submission.  So does this mean we don't teach and train our children?  And if we're supposed to train and discipline, how do we treat them as "one of the least of these"?

1. Change your point of view - When we have children we tend to see the only the charge to train our children in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  Our starting point needs to go back a little ways.  We need to see the fact that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.  We need to embrace the fact that they are made in the image and likeness of God.  They are icons. 

2. Remember the purpose of "training and admonition" - Discipline means, "To instruct or educate; to inform the mind; to prepare by instructing in correct principles and habits; as, to discipline youth for a profession, or for future usefulness." Websters 1828 edition.  Our goal as parents is to teach our children, to inform them, to prepare them not only for a profession and future usefulness but as active, useful participants in the body of Christ and the life of the Church.  "For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." If we can keep this idea at the forefront of our training regime, we can "be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath".

3. Have compassion for where they are in the working out of their salvation - I have children in my home who are adopted and are experiencing great struggles because of the lives they had before they came to us.  But my biological children have gone through very challenging times as well.  They are experiencing life for the first time.  They don't have years of life experience to help them understand what is going on.  They are washed over with hormones that can feel SO overwhelming.  They are just beginning to learn what it means to bring their passions into the submission of Christ. 

4.  Embrace the job you've been given - If you are a mother then you have been called to pour yourself into the lives of your children.  You have been called to be Christ to them and to serve the Christ IN them.

5. Be gentle with yourself - It is hard to live a life of humility and repentance WHILE being an authority in the lives of our children.  When we "fail"...and we will...we need to acknowledge our weakness, repent (before the Lord and our children if necessary) and take the hand Christ offers as He picks us up and sets us back on the path.  He doesn't want us to become depressed or discouraged with our failures but to turn our eyes from ourselves back to Him.  Oh and He has such compassion for us mamas!
Understand two thoughts, and fear them. One says, "You are a saint," the other, "You won't be saved." Both of these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them. But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins. –St. Silouan the Athonite
Let us be the hands of Christ to those in need, whether we are related to them or not.  Let us give them drink and food in His name and let us give them the training and correction they require in His name as well.  He will give us the strength and love we need to accomplish that which He has called us to!

Dearest Lord Jesus, show me how to be a loving mother to my children. You know the desire of my heart is to mother my children in a way that will draw them to You. Forgive my shortcomings and help me not to sink into despair, but to rise up in faith with the knowledge that Your holy power is strong enough to sustain me and guide me to be the mother my children need. Help me to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and quick to forgive my children of their faults. Grant me Your vision for my children that I may know how to train, encourage, and pray for them. For You are holy, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Calm Without a Storm...

Usually, when things are going well, we see it as the calm before the storm.  That's the way it tends to be at my house.  A sea of emotions going up and down.  Ominous clouds usually lurk in the distance, or right overhead, threatening rain.  I am generally without a boat just bobbing up and down clinging to a bit of debris from the last wreck.  Sounds bleak doesn't it?  Sometimes mamas go through seasons like this.  The season of GO GO GO GO GO...  The season of, "but mom!" or "No!" or "it wasn't me."  These season can be very stormy and unpredictable.  But have you ever noticed how beautiful things look after a storm? 

My 10 year old son goes to a "Waldorf inspired" school.  We really didn't know if he would make it.  This is the longest he's been in any kind of program.  It was beginning to look like this wonderful opportunity was going to be coming to an end.  The poor teacher had her hands full with several challenging students, but mine was almost a daily landmine waiting to go off.  She received emails from concerned parents and had to listen to students sharing their frustration, sadness or fear about what my son had done.  But last week was different.

A little over two weeks ago, my guy started a new medication.  This wasn't a big deal.  We have tried years of natural alternatives (herbs, essential oils, minerals, etc), which would work for maybe a week and then we were back to the raging sea of behavior.  Then, we started exploring the world of medication.  I cried when we made the decision, but my guy has some physiological issues that herbs, diet and exercise just weren't addressing.  The medications he started with followed the same pattern as the herbs.  They worked for a few weeks and then back to square one...or perhaps two.  Finally we found a combination that took the tiniest bit of the edge off my little landmine.  It made him sleepy in the morning, but then he was just as busy and anxious in his own skin.  But, two weeks ago we started something new AND IT'S WORKING!  He had a good week at school.  Did you hear me?!  He had a good WEEK at school.  Not just a good morning or a good day.  Not just a moment of focus.  He had a GOOD WEEK!  Perhaps it was just a fluke.

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of going to the Winter Faire held and my son's school.  It was delightful and very crowded.  Normally, the crowd would start revving up my son's engine.  Normally, seeing familiar faces and being in his school for an activity would make him more determined to show off...usually by saying or doing something inappropriate.  But he didn't!  He was calm.  He was focused and a joy to be around.  He had gotten a few treats, so I was sure our calm time would be over within the hour.  It stayed!  That night was busy and I was still waiting for the storm, but it never came.  In fact, looking up at the sky I actually saw stars!  I'd almost forgotten they were there behind the clouds. 

                                       (French knitter made out of toilet paper roll and popsicle sticks)

When it was almost time for bed, my guy started working on a spool knitter he had made as a craft at the faire.  My older sons were intrigued and asked him how to make one and allowed him to instruct them!  This never happens!  It was so peaceful!  I wondered if this was how other households lived.  It doesn't really matter, I am enjoying the calm.  I am enjoying being able to see the sun rise and set over the sea.  I know there will be other storms, or that the clouds I'm so used to may return, but calm moments like these allow me to remember that God will keep me afloat,  and that's the most important thing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Through the Icon Launch

This is just a short blurb to let people know that our audio drama production, Adventure to Advent, is with the duplication company and due in December 11th.  Our digital download is available RIGHT NOW! I also have my books available and if anyone wants them personalized just let me know. 

My friends husband does the whole website/web design thing for a living.  I tried to do it all myself and boy was it hard for me.  My brain doesn't think that way.  I spent hours on the phone with tech support and working on putting together the website.  I have to give my friend's husband a cyber high five because it's hard AND he has to deal with people like me who don't know anything about computers, web my voice travels through a phone and someone can hear it on the other end :) 

Come on by, take a look and tell me what you think! 

Visit us at

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Baby #31 will be leaving in two weeks for what will most likely be her forever home.  We've cared for this baby since she was released from the hospital.  We have invested much love and time into her care.  We have had to learn all sorts of new terms and methods of caring for such a medically fragile little one.  We've had to think outside the box when choosing toys for her as texture is much more important since she is visually impaired.  When we've held a little one like this so close it can be very hard to let go.

I've had people tell me they have no idea how I do what I do.  While they can imagine caring for the "littles" they can't imagine having to let them go.  It can be painful to say goodbye.  There have certainly been the ones we were relieved to have leave our home.  We will of course pray for all of them but some just seem to make a little nest in our hearts for the duration of their stay.  Because it could be overwhelmingly painful to say goodbye to little bit babies who are taking a piece of my heart with them, I've had to come up with an explanation my mind understands and my heart believes.

I have given birth to three beautiful daughters.  If one of them was born with some life threatening illness and didn't live more than a few years, months, days or even minutes, I wouldn't trade the opportunity to be their mama for anything!  I wouldn't refuse to love the next child that came along. I'd love, possibly more fiercely, because of the loss.  It is the same with our little bit babies.  Some we have loved so much and longed for after they've gone.  Some have made us feel like our home will always be missing "a little something" because of their absence.  But each time I receive a new little one in my home the Lord miraculously allows love and compassion to flow again allowing me to welcome each child into my heart. 

We will certainly miss our little rosebud.  We are SO thankful she is going to a kind and loving family!  As we go through the transition of her leaving our home, over the next week and a half, I will grieve, I will probably weep, I will smile and, Lord willing, I will allow the Lord to prepare my heart for the next blessing He allows into our home. 

No it's not easy, pain and suffering never are.  But just because it's hard doesn't mean it's bad.

May Christ open our hearts to receive His blessings, His mercy and His healing. Glory to God for all things!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Gift of "NO"

Right now, sleeping in a basement bedroom, looking all cute and innocent, lies a very intense four year old. While he is asleep he is relaxed and peaceful, but when he is awake LOOK OUT WORLD!  When awake, my four year old imagines himself king of our home and is completely taken aback when his subjects, Dad and Mom, tell him...wait for it..."no".  It isn't always a big NO!  Often there's not even an exclamation point.  Often times we are just redirecting him or even telling him, "hold on just a moment."  This is too much for his highness to handle. His eyes get big, he tenses his whole body and may even hit himself in the head and growl to show the intensity of his emotions.  It may be too much for him to handle, but thankfully it is not too much for those who are REALLY in charge of the kingdom of home to handle. 

Tim Hawkins (one of our FAVORITE comedians) does a wonderful routine on giving your kids "the gift of 'no'."  When we watch him we all laugh because good comedy is good because it takes real life moments, puts them under a microscope and then lets us view them without the tension, aggravation and frustration usually present when we encounter those situations in real life.  But "no" can be a gift.  "No" helps to establish boundaries and reminds our little princes and princesses that they are not, in fact, masters of the universe.  "No" give us an opportunity to teach our children about patience and how to handle disappointment correctly.  "No" lets our children know that while we love them without limit, that love helps them to learn to limit themselves and how to avoid major issues in the future.  But let us not forget "yes".

I am so guilty of being quick to say "no" and then I forget to say "yes".  "No" sets limits but "yes" give hope.  "Yes" is like a refreshment and a reminder that while there are boundaries, there are also opportunities.  "Yes" rewards patience and the proper handling of disappointment.  "Yes" reinforces the love we have for our children and helps to establish trust and an opportunity to develop discernment.  "Yes" lets our kids know that while they are NOT the center of the universe, they ARE valuable and important members of the "kingdom" of home, but most importantly, the kingdom of God.

May the Lord bless us as we strive to teach our children and encourage them in His ways.  And may we give our children the gift of "no" and sprinkle them with the blessings of "yes".