Monday, August 31, 2009

Missing Him

My husband, Keith, was out of town last week in New Orleans, Louisiana. We both grew up in Cajun Country so it was like returning home for him. I would LOVE to have gone, but with school and football season back in full swing, it was just impossible. Besides, I was excited about attending Lysa TerKeurst's book launch this weekend at Southbrook Church in Weddington, NC.

Keith would call several times a day and tell me what great meal he was having, at one of our favorite restaurants. It was driving my taste buds absolutely crazy! New Orleans is known for their delectable dishes and delicious desserts. My mouth would actually water while he described the sauteed jumbo shrimp with lumped crab meat stuffing or the homemade bread pudding with butter sauce and whipped cream on top.

He mentioned about all the friends and family members he was getting to see. How the aunts and uncles were appearing older and acting feistier than ever before. How the nieces and nephews were barely recognizable because they had grown so much.

As we talked, he would say something hilarious and I would laugh until tears were streaming down my face. When it was time to say good-bye, I'd hang up the phone and instantly feel an emptiness inside which accompanied a twinge of sadness. It was then that I realized...

I missed hearing his voice.

While Keith was gone, I didn't sleep very well, at all! I kept waking up at night, hearing little sounds that would startle or frighten me. I'd check the doors several times at night, making sure they were locked. One morning as I was coming out of a deep sleep, and reached my hand over to the other side of our bed, expecting to touch his arm, but then realized he wasn't there.

When Keith is home, I feel safe and secure. I know that if anything goes wrong, he will handle it. I don't worry about the doors being locked or the strange sounds that I hear at night. While Keith was away, I realized ...

I missed his protection.

Saturday night, Carson had his first scrimmage game of the football season. He was really nervous and had a mini meltdown while getting dressed for the game. I tried calling Keith so he could encourage Carson and calm him down. I was doing my best to pump Carson up with "you can do it" cheers but he wasn't buying it. I knew that if Keith was home, he would be able to motivate Carson in a way that I couldn't.

By the time we arrived at the field, the stadium was packed with people. I saw several friends and met new ones during the two hour scrimmage. But, with all those people around me and with all the great conversations, I still felt lonely inside. I wasn't sure why but it finally dawned on me that I missed Keith.

He wasn't there with me to cheer Carson on to victory. He wasn't there to answer one of my numerous ditzy football questions (after four years, I'm still trying to learn the rules of this game called football). On the ride home, I thought about all the great tackles that Carson had. Tackles that Keith didn't get to see. It was at that moment I realized....

I missed his presence.

Keith returned home this morning and I was so glad to finally see him. Although it was really nice to have a break from cooking those big meals, washing those extra loads of laundry, and
not having to share the t.v. remote with anyone, I'd much rather have Keith back home with us.

I'm so thankful that he's returned safely and our family is complete again. I really missed him while he was away and so did the boys. I know he missed us too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Would You Rather?

Our youngest son, Carson, doesn't like to read. If fact, I'd go as far to say that he actually hates reading. As a mom, this breaks my heart because I know how important fundamental reading is when it comes to Carson's educational development.

I read once that children who read a lot are more likely to score higher on tests and have higher grade point averages than children who don't. This really concerned me so I needed to take action and get real creative on ways to make reading fun.

Just last week, I found a new game at my local Target store called, "You Gotta Be Kidding!, The Crazy Game of Would You Rather..?" It's made by Zobmondo and looked like a great family game. After reading through the brief description on the back of the box, I decided it would be a fun way for Carson to practice his reading, plus, it would create a special interaction time for our family.

Here's how the game works:

Each person picks a card, reads aloud one of the four choices available, then gives time for each player to make their own selection as to which answer they would choose. I'll give you an example below. This was one of the cards Carson picked last night while we were playing.

Would you rather...
Choice #1. Be stuck on an island for 2 years with 20 friends of your choice.
Choice #2. Be stuck on an island for 2 years with 20 famous people of your choice.

My choice was #1 and Carson's choice was #2. When I asked him to name three famous people that he'd like to be stuck on an island with he said:

" the famous chef, Emeril, so he can cook my meals."
" Lebron James, so he can play basketball with me"
" Beyonce, because she can dance really good"

Let me tell you what, you can learn a lot about what your kids are thinking by playing this game!
After the game was over, we headed up to Carson's room, and I tucked him into bed. We talked about how fun the game was and Carson said he couldn't wait to play it again, but next time he wanted Keith and Brody to play too.

As Carson dosed off to sleep, I started to think about how my life is full of choices. Everyday I'm faced with situations where I need to make a decision when given two or more options.

Sometimes I'm faced with a really good vs. really bad option so the choice is obvious and easy to make. Other times, I'm faced with two good options or even two bad options so the process of choosing is much more difficult.

Sometimes, other people in my life make choices and then I'm forced to live out those choices, whether good or bad, which ultimately effect my reality, not to mention my already busy schedule.

In fact, just yesterday Brody's teacher made a choice to hold his class 20 extra minutes after school ended because the pick up line traffic was really bad. My son rides a transportation service van home each day. The van has 14 other students that were eager to leave (along with the driver) so the van left without him. Because of that teacher's choice, I was forced to leave work, go pick up my son, and bring him home which ended up taking over an hour and a half. I wasn't able to finish the project I was working on which really frustrated me.

Life has so many choices and my decisions to these choices impact not only my life but others around me.

The key is to choose wisely.

Even though I know this, I often find myself rushing through my decision making. I've learned the hard way that it's never good to make a decision in a hurry. Hasty decisions almost always result in not so good choices which leave me faced with unfavorable circumstances to deal with.

Sometimes my choices are based on pleasing others. Oh, this is a big one and I could write a week's worth of blog posts about being a people pleaser! A low self esteem and desire for others' approval can often times skew my thought process and result in bad choices that are based not on what's best for me and my situation but what I think will make other people happy.

If only I would pause, place, and pray.

Pause and really think through my choices. Ask myself what would be the best decision based on the facts, current circumstances, and how this decision will effect me and the people that I love.

Take my choices to God and place them before Him. Tell Him what I'm thinking and how I feel about the choices I have to make. Let Him know what I believe would be the best decision and why.

Then pray and ask God to reveal His will in my situation. He knows my past, present, and future. He knows my personality, weaknesses, and strengths. He knows what ultimately would be the best choice for me.

Yes, if only I would pause, place, and pray before making my choices. Then I believe that the God of the Universe would pause, even in the midst of all His creation, just for me, and place His desire, for me and my circumstances, in my heart. And, if I quiet myself and listen to His voice, then act on what He tells me to do, I can make the right choice with confidence.

What about you? Do you struggle like me? Do you have trouble when it comes to making the right choice? Do you hurry through your decision making then end up with messy circumstances that need to be dealt with? Do you make choices in hopes of getting someone's approval?

If only we would pause, place, and pray.

Monday, August 24, 2009

High School ... here we come!

So much has happened this weekend and I can't wait to tell you all the details but I'm dedicating today's post to our oldest son, Brody.

Today is a very special day in the DiPascal family. It's one of those milestone moments that you have to capture with photos and journaling. So, even though my to-do list is a mile long and people are requiring things of me today, I'm choosing to pause, reflect, write and memorize this special day.

Today is a milestone moment because it's Brody's first day of High School!

I can't believe my little boy is no longer little. I can't believe he's a Freshman this year. I can't believe he's starting to shave his slightly noticeable mustache. I just can't believe it!

We woke up extra early so Brody could organize his new school supplies and get his backpack ready. Plus, I had to allow plenty of time for taking photos. :) Brody bounced out of bed but I was moving rather slowing because I didn't get much sleep the night before.

Last night, I was abruptly awoken by a terrible lightning and thunderstorm. It passed though our area quickly but I couldn't fall back to sleep. After laying in bed, wide awake for 15 minutes, I decided to get up and check on the boys. It was in Brody's room where I decided to linger for a while. After checking his covers and picking up dirty clothes off the floor (yes, even in the middle of the night I'm doing chores), I felt a nudging to kneel down by his bedside and pray. I still remember to this day, my mom praying by my bedside when I was a little girl.

I prayed that God would bless Brody with an awesome first year of High School That He would surround Brody with Godly classmates and teachers. That He would protect Brody while he was on campus and in route to and from home. That He would give Brody favor with his teachers and administrators and that his freshmen days at Pine Lake Preparatory would be filled with wonderful and milestone memories.

My whispering prayers accidentally woke Brody up. He raised his head, looked at me, patted me on the forehead, smiled, and passed out again. He didn't ask what I was doing because he knew already. Ya see, Brody has found me several times, kneeling by his bedside, and praying. My heart's desire as a mom is that he too will remember these special moments just like I did with my mom. That one day he too will kneel by the bedside of his children and pray over them while they sleep.

God had taken what first seemed like an interrupted thunderstorm and turned it into a special milestone moment between a mom, her son, and her God.

When it was time for him to leave, I could tell that he was a little nervous but excited in a really good way. Instead of riding the bus, I let him ride to school with his best friend, Caleb. Caleb & Brody have known each other since they were two years old. As they stood together, laughing at each other, I couldn't help but remember them as little toddlers, playing with balls, Legos and Lincoln logs.

Yes, time has flown and my little boy has grown. Today is certainly a milestone moment that I will remember for a lifetime.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We'll miss you, David

This morning, our nephew, David, packed up his things and left for college. All year long we had been planning for him to spend the Summer with us and what a Summer it has been!

It seems like just yesterday when he pulled into our driveway with his brand new candy apple red Dodge Ram pickup truck. He would also want you to know that it is a dual cab, with standard drive, and has an rockin' stereo system.

David has been an amazing mentor for our two boys this Summer and some how has miraculously kept them from fighting with each other. He taught Brody how to wake board and Carson how to play spoons.

David has also been a great workout partner for my husband, Keith and finally got him motivated enough to return to the gym. I'm seeing muscles on Keith's arms and chest that I haven't seen in years!

David has been an awesome encourager for me. He loves to eat my home cooked meals and is always ready for left overs. Some of his favorite Summer dishes were cole slaw, brownies, and homemade guacamole with chips.

Although David stayed with us for a very short time, he has left his memorable fingerprints on one of us. Memories that will last a lifetime.

Get ready Louisiana Tech... here he comes!!!

We love you, David and miss you already.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's Official

It's official...

We received a contract on our home yesterday afternoon. Although I had been preparing myself for months, seeing the contract in black & white literally took my breath away.

Now it's time to pray, pick, purge, pack, place, and pleasure.

PRAY - Originally the buyer's agent requested that we be out of our home by September 1st. That would be 14 days from now.... not realistic at all. We've negotiated a date of October 1st. I'm asking God to help us through this very stressful time of transitioning from one home to another. I could spend my time worrying, over analysing, and second guessing the details or I can choose to rest in His plans, provision, promises, and presence. I'm purposefully choosing to rest in Him.

PICK - This will be our fifth home in the four years we've lived North Carolina. With all this moving experience, you would think finding a new home would be second nature to our family but it's not. It's still VERY stressful, especially when it has to be done in such a short period of time. Several of the homes we've looked at over the Summer are no longer on the market so we'll have to start from scratch. We need to find a home quickly in the midst of school starting, my traveling schedule in September, filing my 2008 tax returns (the extension we requested is up September 15th) and hurricane season (my husband is a Catastrophic Claims Adjuster and this is the busiest time of the year for him). I've questioned God's timing in all this but I really need to trust Him even though it makes absolutely no sense to me.

PURGE - Ahhh, the joy of cleaning through closets and drawers. This is when I'll find that cute little tennis jacket I've been looking for or my son's portable hard drive that he misplaced last year. Purging takes time and a lot of patience. However, when it's over with there's a wonderful feeling of freedom that follows. Having gotten rid of extra stuff make me feel a little lighter and much more organized.

PACK - We do all our packing & moving... ridiculous but true. I've given up on moving boxes a long time ago. Instead, I've purchased plastic bins from our local Target & Wal-Mart stores. I can reuse them over and over again. Plus, they stack and store so easily. The only good thing about not hiring a moving company and doing it ourselves is I'm always guaranteed to loose those extra pounds that have some how accumulated around my waistline. I lost 14 lbs during our last move and I still ate whatever I wanted.

PLACE - It's amazing how you can take your stuff, put it in a new spot, and it looks completely different. This is the fun part of moving for me. I like mixing up decorations and having new spots to hang pictures and paintings. It helps me to enjoy them in a whole new way.

PLEASURE - Once we've prayed about the move, picked a new house, purged our old things, packed our belongings and placed them in our new house, it's time to find pleasure. Finding pleasure in our new home will start with prayers of thanksgiving. Telling God how thankful we are that He's provided a new place for us to call home. Asking Him to fill every room with His presence and give us many wonderful new experiences that will be treasured for a life time.

Yes, It's official... we are moving. Although I've dreaded this day and prayed that it would never come, I have to constantly remind myself of the passage God gave me several weeks ago. It was on that very unusual day, when this particular couple, who is now purchasing our home, knocked on our door unexpectedly and asked to see our house. After they left, I sat in my favorite chair, feeling all alone, and questioning God's plan for our future. During those few moments, God brought me to an unfamiliar place in scripture but revealed a very powerful and personal truth to my heart. A truth that I needed to hear then and would tightly hold onto for the weeks and months to come. Yes, He is so faithful!

The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you.
2 Samuel 7: 11

Monday, August 17, 2009

See-Saw Summer

One week from today our Summer break will be officially over. By 6:00am my children will be tumbling out of bed, my husband will be getting dressed to take them to the bus stop, and I'll be in the kitchen making breakfast and packing lunches. Just thinking about it makes me a little sad. The last three months have gone by so fast and as I take time to reflect, the best words to describe our Summer break would be a wild seesaw ride.

When I first think of the word seesaw, I instantly imagine two children alternately riding up and down while seated on opposite ends of a plank that is balanced in the middle but Webster's dictionary has some other definitions for seesaw:

1. an up and down, back and forth movement or procedure.

2. to keep changing one's decision, opinion, or attitude; vacillate

Our family has experienced moments this Summer that have been exciting, joy-filled, and left us with wonderful lasting memories. I call these our see-saw Ups. We have also had some situations and circumstances that have been extremely difficult and challenging. Ones that have left us discouraged, fearful and questioning God's plan for our lives. I call these our see-saw Downs.

Here are just a few...

Up: Our nephew, David, decided to come live with us during his college break. He's been such a joy. Somehow he has this amazing way of keeping Brody and Carson from getting on each others' last nerve.

Down: Two days before school let out, I hurt myself playing tennis and tore a bunch of ligaments in my foot. I spent the first four weeks of our Summer break on complete bed rest, crutches and visits to my physical therapist.

Up: Our oldest son, Brody, went on a mission trip with Testify (a city wide youth choir). While on tour, he had some incredible life changing experiences and spiritually grew closer in his relationship with God.

Down: My husband, Keith, didn't get the big construction project he had worked so hard on. The potential client picked someone else which meant no income for us.... again.

Up: Our son, Carson, went on his very first away camp to Look Up Lodge. Although he was very hesitant about being away from us, he returned home with a huge smile on his face and says he wants to go back next year.

Down: We have a couple from California interested in buying our home. Now I know that your thinking "this is an Up not a Down" but not really. This was our dream home and secretly I prayed that we would be able to stay here for many, many years. Our family has so many wonderful memories living on the lake. The thought of leaving instantly brings me to tears.

Up: My sister is flying in today for a week long visit. I'm really excited and looking forward the time we'll have together.

Down: We had to cancel our family trip to Washington D.C. because I wouldn't be able to walk around on my injured foot. This decision left me with serious mommy guilt that I've had to work through.

Up: We rented a mountain cabin with friends and went to the Biltmore Estate instead. We had a fantastic time, relaxed with friends, and saved a LOT of money too.

Yep, I can honestly say it has been a see-saw summer for our family. We have certainly had our Ups and Downs experiences. We have gone back and forth on many big decisions that will drastically effect our future. We have been guilty of changing our opinion about certain people and certain things. We've had good and bad attitudes and vacillated multiple times on what direction we should go.

Yet something wonderful has come out of this See-Saw Summer. Through all the Ups and Downs, I can honestly say that we did see the hand of God move in our lives this Summer. We have watched as He has orchestrated our circumstances for good. In the center of this crazy ride, we saw doors open and situations unfold which confirmed His love for us. God's daily provision has guided us through some very rough waters.

Although we changed our opinions about people, went back and forth with our attitudes and emotions, and vacillated a lot; God never changed His opinion about us and never vacillated about he plan for our future.

Yes, it certainly has been a See-Saw Summer.

One that has brought our family closer together.

One that has strengthened our marriage.

One that has drawn us to a place of dependence.

One that has lead us to the feet of Jesus where we have found rest, renewal, and strength.

One that our family will never forget.

Lord, who am I am what is my family that you would have brought us this far?
2 Samuel 7:18