Long story shorter, in February Bro. Jeff was closing up the office at his work and a man drove up. He came in looking for a wrench. Jeff was a little peeved because he does not work at a mechanic's shop, but there are 4 or 5 others on the road this man took to get to his office. They chatted a little and Jeff found out that this man is a church assessor and teaches people to desciple as Christ told us to. Jeff knew this must have been a divine appointment as this is a guidance we need so much. He called our pastor right away and they all sat at church eating pizza and talking about corn for hours. The man ended up staying that night with Jeff and left the next morning to go home to Minnesota. Craziness factor #2: Jeff's wife and her family are from not very far away at all from where this man (Bob) calls home. Obviously they all hit it off right away!
They all decided that Bob would come back in December and assess/teach our church. They all kept in touch and as time went by, Bob said he felt the Lord was leading him here. We offered up the guest house to him and decided we'd feed him while he was here and it turned out to be the most amazing week! (I'll admit I had my doubts to begin with, but this man just oozes love and kindness from his soul) He got us started on Navigator training and assessed the church. It was so hard to be there as everyone finally openly spilled their issues with our church, but it was cathartic and by the end of the weekend we had all come together to create a vision and mission that the whole church believes in and stands behind.
So what do I love most about all this teaching? Turns out that we're not supposed to be bible thumpers, (those of you who know me understand this is not at all like me...I may go on my rants from time to time, but I don't believe the Bible is for the lost...they don't understand it.), we're just called to PRAY for them and LOVE them and then they will come to us. It boils down to something I learned by watching my sis-in-law years ago...if you have an attitude worth envying, people will wonder what you have that they don't. This is, of course, Christ! Because if He stands for us, who can stand against us?
I'm not saying we never have a bad day, but even in the bad times people who have faith that God will pull them through stand out in a crowd. You might think they are crazy, but they have a peace and calm about them that is unexplainable. I hope I have this same peace and calm in others' eyes.
So we've been thinking of ways to love on people and therefore desciple them. Last night someone descipled us and what an amazing Blessing...Bob took us to Chick-fil-A for dinner so the kids could play and we could sit and enjoy a meal together. Allan was wearing shorts and his "Iraq-been there, done that, got the t-shirt" shirt. As we were cleaning up the table and getting ready to leave, a beautiful woman with long black hair approached us. She handed Allan a gift card and said, "this is for the next time you want to take your family to dinner. Thank you for your service." I looked up at her and she added, "I'm a military wife of 15 years, through 9 deployments." So I said the only thing that could be said at that point: "thank YOU for YOUR service!"
Allan feels undeserving and of course the rest of us know better, but that woman had such a calm and resolve about her that I recognized her as a sister pretty quickly. There was a conversation that ensued as we were leaving a while later that proved that assumption true, but it was so simple. A person noticing, a person caring, a person going out of her way. I want to be that person! Maybe we won't always have money to hand someone a gift card, but we can offer our neighbors a small plate of cookies when we bake some with the kids or help mow the lawn of an elderly person in town. We can gather around a grieving family and offer words of consolation. And we can pray. Through prayer God will show us how and when we can be servant leaders so that our actions are smooth and natural rather than appearing forced out of obligation. Through prayer God will make it so that we never have to "cold-call" anyone about Christ...they will naturally gravitate toward our warmth and ask for themselves.
I know that not everyone who reads my blog believes in Christ as their savior, or even in God. Let me say to you that I love you. No matter what. I chose you to be invited to read my blog because you mean a lot to me and I feel comfortable enough to share personal things with you. You may never speak to me about Christ, and that's okay. You may never read the things I post about Him and that's okay, too. My prayer is just that you see a little bit of who He is supposed to be in me. I pray it comes across as natural and sincere, because that is how it feels to me. I love because He first loved me.
Love and miss you all!
You know as well as I do how perfect our day was. It was so evident that God really was Blessing our union. I didn't know it then but I do now and I am so grateful.
Allan, you were a Daddy when I met you and though we had our fair share of issues back then and I swore I'd never ever be involved with anyone who already had kids, it was watching you with Rhiya that Christmas nearly 7 years ago that made me fall totally head over heels in love with you and made me realize I never wanted to be apart from you. You are the most amazing father!
My heart swells to watch you with the kids and evenmoreso when we lay at night and dream of what we'd like to see for them in their lives and do for them. Thank you for being the kind of dad who spends his free time planning tree-houses, (you are an amazing visionary and artist!) and then actually putting his plans into action. Your children are so very Blessed to have you.
Several Thursdays ago there were tornado warnings out. The sky looked REALLY bad and there were tornados touching down and doing damage no further than 15 miles from here. It was around the time GraceAnne gets off of school, so I figured they'd keep her there. I called the school around 2:45 to see what was going on and they said they had allowed the children to board the buses as normal. At around 3:10 she was late, so I called the bus barn. They told me that they had ordered all buses to stop at the nearest school and get all the children off of the bus and into the hallways to follow tornado procedure. They weren't sure where GraceAnne was, but assured me she was safe and would be home as soon as the storms blew over.
Of course this worried me, but I was also busy putting things in the closet under our stairs so that if I needed to take the babies to shelter I could. I spent the next hour and a half staring out the front window, watching the storm swirl in between spurts of getting things together and taking care of Violet & Corbin. During this time I noticed that there was a red truck parked in front of the neighbor's house. The driver had been talking to the neighbor, so while I thought it was strange he was out there in such a bad storm, I figured he knew the neighbor.
GraceAnne finally got home at about 10 minutes till 5 and by this time the storm had cleared up and I was starting dinner. I wasn't waiting for her specifically because I had no idea when she'd be home. When she came in, the bus had already gone, (not supposed to happen, they're not allowed to leave Kindergartners without seeing the parent.), but I figured she had been in a hurry to drop all the kids off since it was so late. Then GraceAnne said, "Mom, this really nice guy walked me to the door and let me use his umbrella!" The thought of someone walking my daughter to the door and not saying anything to me unnerved me a tad, but I let it go. I figured it was the neighbor's friend. I looked out the door to see if anyone was still around, but no one was and the red truck was gone.
Friday I opened the door for GraceAnne when her bus came and noticed the red truck in front of the neighbor's house again. I made a mental note to myself that he must know the neighbor if he was parked in front of her house 2 days in a row and shut the door.
Monday I went to check the mail and Violet followed me outside. She wanted to play with sidewalk chalk, so I sat with Corbin on the porch swing while she colored on the front sidewalk. I noticed the red truck again and thought it strange that he was there everyday. GraceAnne got off the bus and we all began to walk in and I noticed that the red truck sped off after the bus left. No one got in his truck and he hadn't spoken to the neighbor the entire time he was there. Now the man was starting to scare me. I took all the kids inside and called the neighbor. I asked her if she knew that man and she said that before Thursday she had never seen him in her life. She said he told her that he was waiting on his daughter to get off the bus.
This is where I completely freaked. No one else gets off in front of our house because it's not a real stop. The only reason GraceAnne was allowed to get off here was because when I had the baby I had pulled her off the bus and told them it was too cold for me to stand outside with a 19-mo-old and a newborn. The bus driver made a deal with me that she would drop GraceAnne off in front of the house instead of taking her down the block. Of course at this point the comment about the man walking her to the door comes back to me. I called the school, I called the bus barn and I called the police department. Of course I also called my husband, to see if I was flipping out for no real reason. He agreed something was very wrong and encouraged me to move forward.
Let me pause here to say, I do have reason to be overly protective and a little too sensitive in this arena. I've been through the trauma of child molestation and been a victim to other sexual crimes in the past, so I know sometimes I jump into the deep end feet first. I've spent a lot of time and effort to become the more balanced person I am now. I am not terrified to let my children play at a park, but I do watch them a little more closely and cautiously than a lot of moms I know. I have made a great effort to not be a total spazz and they do have certain amounts of freedom, but because of my history, caution will always be in the back of my mind.
The police told me that they could do nothing without a license plate number, so I made a plan to have GraceAnne ride the bus the following day and I would attempt to get the information I needed. He never came back. When I couldn't move forward in the way I felt I needed to in order to protect my child, the downward spiral began. For 2 weeks the kids did not get out of my sight. I shut down my Facebook page, my MySpace page and my blog was temporarily shut down, as well. GraceAnne wasn't allowed to get on the bus in the afternoons anymore, (and she didn't want to, anyway, so it was alright) and she was given a new description of "stranger." I started to turn the security system on while I was home during the day. I wouldn't leave the kids in the car, even if all I was doing was running from the driveway to the door and back to get the mail. I turned back into the scared little girl from so long ago and all in the name of saving my daughter. From my view point, there was someone who had been stalking my daughter out there and if he had gone so far as he had, what would stop him from finding a way around my defenses?
Now...there's where I lost half of you. You think I just went nutso cuz of my past. That's alright, you're allowed to think so, but I want to challenge you to understand something...these people will find something they "need" just like an addict. They see a photo of a little girl on a website somewhere; they search for the mother's name on the net and find she has a blog, over the course of time they collect small bits of information, such as what town they live in, what things the child likes to do, and they wait. They may wait for a year or more until finally a picture is posted of the family in front of their home. They do a little zooming and find the house number. It doesn't take long to put the whole puzzle together once you've got the edges done.
Or maybe they see a little girl getting on the bus. They follow the bus until they see the little girl get off. They know where she lives and they watch parental habits. In my case, about 1 time out of 10 I would not be right at the door when she got home because I was doing something with the little ones or going to the bathroom, etc. Suddenly there is an opportunity to become a "friend" instead of a stranger. They offer the little girl help to the door with an umbrella on a rainy day. If you ask a 5-year-old if someone who helped them once was a stranger, they will tell you no. Even if mom and dad have no idea who they are. This is called "conditioning." It sets the stage for one time going to the child and saying, "honey, your mommy is in the hospital and asked me to pick you up and take you to her" at which point the child is worried about mommy and that overshadows the worry that they shouldn't get into this man's truck--besides, he was nice that one time...
So now as much info as I could get off the net is gone and my blog is open to only people I know care about us and as for the rest, I'll just pray that the good Lord takes care of us and that if, God forbid, something ever happens, He'll carry us through it. But it won't be because I didn't do the smart thing.
So now we move on to about a week ago. I was at church cleaning up after dinner and Allan took the girls home with him. I decided to sit down and chat with some of the other ladies. During the course of our conversation, a girl from the youth group walks in. We tell her that the youth are gone and she says she will sit with us until they get back. A little while later I decide that I should go. Corbin was getting fussy and I was tired, so I stood up to leave. A friend I had not talked to about the situation, (by this point almost everyone knew, so I didn't realize she didn't know) asked me if I had seen a picture she posted on Facebook. I said no, that I had deleted my page. She looked at me funny and then I realized I had not told her. I explained it all to her and at the end all the women were asking me to describe the man and the truck and I did. The girl from the youth group looks up at me and says, "are you sure that truck was as red as you think it is?" I told her I was pretty sure and she looked at me strangely. I said, "please, ease my mind if you know who this is, because I've been freaking out for 2 weeks that someone is stalking my daughter." She looked down and said, "my dad is ____ & _____" (matched the description I gave.) My stomach fell to the floor, I think. She asked me what neighborhood I live in and I told her. She informed me that her sister rides the bus with GraceAnne.
I cannot begin to describe the mixture of relief and anguish I felt at this point. Relieved that my fear was unfounded and that my daughter hadn't barely escaped with her innocence or her life. Anguished because can you imagine hearing something like that about someone you know and love?? The poor girl kept saying over and over again, "I swear my dad's not like that."
The next few minutes liked to have lasted an eternity, but we managed to discover that the younger daughter had been getting off the bus at the wrong stop. She would then walk home with her friends and her dad was tired of it. Even though no one else gets off at our stop, he told the bus driver to ONLY let his daughter off in front of our house. This never happened, (hence the speeding off when the bus left). Why he wanted to pick her up in front of our house I'll never know. Why he walked my daughter to the door and said nothing to me is a mystery, but the seed was planted and though I'm relieved, I'm also not stupid. It could have as easily been something not right. That girl was at our church that night for a reason and my friend asked me that question for a reason and it was all entirely too coincidental to have not been divine.
The biggest thing here and what sealed my Facebook page and blog for good is that before all this happened I KNEW these things. I know about freaks and perverts, I know how they stalk and find people on the internet, I know how they use your habits and your conveniences against you. I kept everything fairly private...my FB page has only ever been viewable by friends only. I am constantly checking the security of things like that and being sure nothing has changed or leaked. I was, for all intents and purposes, being smart. And then after the whole church thing went down a friend said, "at least you can get back on Facebook now." But no...I can't. It was taking up way too much of my time anyway and not only could my children have suffered physically because of my little hobby, they were suffering mentally because time spent there would have been better spent with them. The day after I logged back in, (by the way, when you "delete" your Facebook account you don't really delete it...it's just suspended out there in the internet somewhere) I realized just how ridiculous it was. If a man wasn't really stalking GraceAnne, then shouldn't I have learned something else from it?
So here I am. Learning one more time how to balance the part of me that wants to dig a hole and live in it with my family so no one can ever get to us and being a lonely stay-at-home mom who wants desperately to be known and to have social interaction. Both sides are going to have to sacrifice a little, but I trust we'll find a happy-medium.
If you read this far you probably have a lot of other things piled up to attend to. Haha. Love and miss you all!
I won't get into details here, but suffice it to say we were worried someone was stalking GraceAnne. It has turned out to be not the case, so we are relieved, but the seed has been planted. Anything you put on the net is public. Even when I close this, I know it will not be inpenetrable if someone is that desperate. But I'll leave that part to the Lord. I will not live my life in fear, but because of the things I've been through, I will also not ignore warnings when they go out. I learned long ago to trust my gut because it's usually right. God gave us women a 6th sense for a reason and as most of you women can attest, when you ignore it things go terribly wrong.
Well, that's it for me for now. I hope to see emails soon! Thanks :)
-Deuteronomy 31:6: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
I wish that you will learn and lean-on your strengths early and never wrestle with "who you are" because you are secure in that in the Lord. He knows how amazing you are and as crazy as I am about you, (and as perfect as I think you are!), He knows your depths and the great things you are capable of and loves you more than we could ever fathom.
-Ephesians 2:10: For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
I wish that you will grow up with a broad world-view. That you will know that although we struggle with wanting a new car or the latest video game, there are bigger struggles in the world--like the battle against the soul of humanity. This wish comes with a sub-wish, in that I wish that you will KNOW in your heart-of-hearts that you CAN and WILL change the world. You absolutely can impact the world for the better at your young age. I pray you always have the ability to see beyond yourself.
-1 Timothy 4:12: Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
I wish that you will always keep your joy for life, even when others might try to bog you down. You have such a happiness resonating from deep within yourself and it is so very enviable.
I wish that you will always be strong to stand up to people who would tear you down...even me. You cannot know how proud I am when I am so grumpy and puking nastiness all around the house and you simply ask, "Mom, why are you so angry today?" I may not initially enjoy the humbling, but it is necessary and good. Please don't ever cease to do this! Always know that other people's issues are not your own and that you do not have to take them on.
I wish that you will always pray when you feel alone and scared. You are truly an inspiration when you pray for the people in the ambulance that passes or when you hear a scary news report about an earthquake. Your Father in heaven will Bless you greatly for leaning on Him always.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-23: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject whatever is harmful. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When you were still in my womb, I didn't know Christ, but I have a truth for you that will give you hope...He knew me and loved me and Blessed me greatly even though I would have thrown His Blessing away. He gave me your Daddy and He gave me you. Through the 2 of you He gave me a secure, loving marriage and a beautiful family of 6. When I was still pregnant I had a dream that your Aunt Trish and I climbed a cliff together at sunset. She left my side at the top, where the sun was blindingly beautiful and there were great waterfalls all around. I gave birth to you and handed you, swaddled to an old Native American woman who was sitting on the top of the cliff. She unwrapped the blanket from your tiny face and said, "One day, she will lead many people." I know this was God's prophecy to me for you. I know my purpose on this earth is to be a humble mother to these children I've been Blessed to serve. I know one day He will fulfill His promise to me and you will lead thousands. My wish is that you will grab that promise and hold it tight and never let it go.
I love you, my sweet girl. You are part of the best gift I never knew to ask for. Happy Birthday, my love!
href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3h9dBWzIK3k/TBaNjxH4JoI/AAAAAAAABvU/YQaNuMKlWDg/s1600/graceanne+on+plane.jpg"> First she gets on a plane...all day long. GraceAnne and Aunt Trish travelled the better part of yesterday and will be gone for 1 week. My baby is not with me on her birthday, and yes, that bothers me slightly, but this opportunity is absolutely amazing for her and I couldn't deny her.
Then she sleeps on the plane because it's been a LONG trip already. Standby is brutal sometimes, but they really did get lucky with the flights!
Then she got on the SAILBOAT! This will be her home for a few days. HOW COOL!? Yes, I'm completely jealous.
What a perfect day! Love to you all!