Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weekend Gratitude Sunday Edition: Jacob's First Birthday Party

Dear friends,

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I split my Weekend Gratitude into two parts.  Here's the second half, covering Sunday!

I am always grateful to be at Lake Baldwin Church on a Sunday morning.  It is a blessing to be in what I would describe as a contemporary yet mellow, semi-liturgical setting with really friendly people and good preaching.  What's been really fun this summer is that about 140 students from Campus Outreach (mostly from Kentucky and Tennessee) are in town for 10 weeks, and about 100 of them have been joining our little congregation on Sunday mornings.  This is especially notable since our usual attendance is only about 175 to begin with!  Bring out the extra chairs, folks!

Another thing I appreciated about church on Sunday morning is that our friend Cathy got up during the prayer and praise time (which we have about once a month) and announced that she had set out a big teddy bear shaped plastic container for us to put our coins in each week to feed the hungry.  She will give the proceeds to Second Harvest, a local food bank, and hopes to recruit other churches to do the same. Within fifteen minutes of the service ending, the pile of coins -- and paper money! -- was mounting.  My kids have been scrounging around the house for spare change ever since then.  I found over a dollar helping one of my teens clean a bedroom!

Mike Tilley preached a great sermon on Colossians 1:23b-29 about the Richness of Serving: the servant's suffering (vs 24), the servant's riches (vs 25-27), and the servant's power (vs 28-29).  Here!  Read it for yourself and be blessed!
23b This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. 24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. 
Usually, I bring a folder with notebook paper for taking notes, but in the flurry of getting out the door with birthday presents, I left it behind.  So I was scribbling my notes on the back of the church announcements page instead.   Mike encouraged us to dream of ways to make a difference, just as our friend Cathy had. 

Our day wasn't over!  After a quick stop at a nearby McDonald's, we celebrated my grandson's first birthday party at a local park with about 30 family and friends.  I'll let the pictures tell most of the story...

Mommy and the birthday boy!

Jacob's aunts and uncles all adore him!  Here are the four youngest of them.  It seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating Melody's first birthday, and now she's almost six!

Yes, time sure flies! Mary has known Katie since she was nine, and Catie since they were in college.  Friends forever!

"Ben, are you eating a cupcake already?"  Oops!  The other Ben, Katie's husband, thought I was talking to him! I didn't mean you!  Honest!

Mary wanted to get some natural wood blocks for Jacob, but I had trouble finding them in at Walmart and Target.  We finally went to Lakeshore Learning, but a box of 50 cost $70.  No way!  I had a huge basket of all colors of blocks at home, so I just picked through it for  a good assortment of natural colored ones, embellished for the occasion with some alphabet blocks.  Yes, I had to tape them to stay in place! 

My other presents, also wood, are a puzzle that makes animal sounds, and an abacus. We had one of those when Mary was little -- and at least that was reasonably priced at Lakeshore!  I think I paid about $15 for it.

 Naomi isn't done with her alphabet book for Jacob yet, but here is one of the page spreads!

Cake for Jacob!

And cupcakes and Middle Eastern food for the rest of us!

Those dark balls are falafel, made from chick peas!  
My son-in-law made those!  
The tan stuff is pita bread with humus.  Yummus!

I hope you enjoyed these birthday pictures.  There are more here:  My Grandson's First Birthday.

By the time we arrived home in the early evening, we were exhausted, but I still managed to play a game of chess with my son Micah.  My husband had made dinner for us before we left for church in the morning.  That sure made things a lot easier -- and I'm grateful for it!

What am I grateful for?  My family, my friends, my church -- people who care!  I'm especially thankful for my sweet little grandson, who has brought so much joy to us this year.  And now let me borrow the Sunday morning benediction, and make it a prayer for Jacob as he grows older...

"Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen."  (Book of Common Prayer)

That goes for the rest of us, too!

Virginia Knowles

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend Gratitude: Lake Sybelia at Sunset, Lake Lily at Dusk

Dear friends,

I guess I've resurrected my Weekend Gratitude series, at least for a little while!  This weekend was a very special one for me.  So, I've split it into two posts -- one for Saturday and one for Sunday!  I'll try to do the second post tomorrow or the next day.

Early Saturday morning, my husband took our teenage son Andrew down to the church office so he could board the bus leaving for youth camp in Tennessee for the week.  I'm so thankful Andrew gets to do this!  

Then we decided to tackle organizing our storage room and getting rid of as much stuff as possible.  Our daughter Julia is getting married this fall, and we need room to store all of the great stuff she'll be collecting in preparation for that.  I loved working together with my husband; we made a great team of deciding what would go where, getting things for each other, holding the flashlight, etc.  I don't think there is any way either of could have done what we did by ourselves, no matter how much time we had.  I'm grateful that we can work together, and that we can make our home a nicer place to live, bit by bit.

After a long day of housework and errands, he wanted to get away with me for a little while.  I didn't know where we were going when we left the house, but I absolutely loved it when I found out!  My husband knows how much I adore taking pictures of nature, especially of the sun and clouds, so I cheered when we pulled up at Lake Sybelia.  What beauty!  I only wish I had my regular camera (which went with Andrew to camp) instead of just my iPod to take these pictures.  The ones here are just a few of the dozens I snapped.  At the end of this post, I'll give you a link to see more.

Our friends Dee and Jeff got married right here at the outdoor chapel area nearly 26 years ago.  What a sweet memory!

The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:1

Amen and amen to that!

Why is this tree glowing?  No, that is not a firefly on steroids.  No, there is not a light hanging from the tree.    It's just a lantern on a pole that happens to glow through the fork of the tree trunk from behind.  It's all in the angle, folks!

Not enough of lakes at dusk?  The sun is mostly down, but we're off to nearby Lake Lily, where you can walk all the way around.  It's one of our favorite spots for a stroll.  The fountain is so much prettier in real life.  I just couldn't seem to catch its true glory in a picture.

This looks like a Dr. Seuss style tree to me!  God has a sense of humor!
What a lovely way to unwind with my husband after a long day...  Oh, and we went to McDonald's for a hot fudge sundae and pie after that.  I'd call that quite a successful date!

I'm so grateful!

Where do you go that refreshes your spirit?

How do you cultivate gratitude in the little things?

You can see over 40 more pictures of our evening here:  Lake Sybelia at Sunset, Lake Lily at Dusk.

I'll post part 2 of this weekend's Weekend Gratitude soon!  (Hint: It's my grandson's 1st birthday party and more!)

Virginia Knowles

Friday, June 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Firstborn!

Dear friends,

On this day, 24 years ago, I gave birth to my very first baby, Mary Hannah Knowles.  What a precious blessing she still is to me!

When she was just a little girl, as cute and sweet as she was, I got frustrated with her one day.  I snapped, "You drive me bananas!"  To which she instantly replied, "Well, YOU drive ME strawberries!"  (While I am talking about bananas and strawberries, I may as well give links! We're Jamming with the Berries and Mom's Banana Cake.  Sorry, can't resist!)

Mary has always had a wonderful sense of humor, a love of learning, and a depth of insight that I truly admire.  Throughout her school years, she pushed herself hard to make the most of what she had.  While I was home schooling her, she often chose  more difficult academic assignments as a personal challenge. She interned in a law office during high school, as well as dual enrolling in college.

Mary's writing talents were quite apparent from early on.  This is a book she wrote and illustrated for a Reading Rainbow competition when she was in elementary school.

It is no wonder to me that Mary graduated with honors with a Journalism degree at age 20 and landed a prestigious Dow Jones summer internship at the Wall Street Journal.  She has worked for the Orlando Sentinel, and is now a writer for Wycliffe Bible Translators.

And now that she's all grown up, she's got a husband and a cute little guy of her own who just had his first birthday.   She's a terrific Mommy!  It just warms my heart to see how she loves this little boy.  I'm so glad we all live near each other so we get to see each other at least every week.

Here are some other blog posts, all from 2008, about my lovely Mary:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Weekend Gratitude All Over Again: Father's Day and More

Dear friends,

Earlier this year I did nine posts in a series called Weekend Gratitude. Well, it's time for the Perfect 10.  Or even just an imperfect one.  It has been a good weekend and I want to give a Father's Day shout out to the father of my 10 children, Mr. Thaddeus Knowles. 

The weekend started bright and early Saturday morning with a large home school used curriculum sale.  Two home school groups, Willow Creek and The Regent Academy, joined forces to present the biggest sale in the Orlando area this year, with over 200 people bringing books to be sold and/or given away.  (I brought 3 boxes.) The volunteers did an amazing job of organizing the thousands of books, helping customers find what they wanted, and running the pay stations.  I was truly impressed -- and grateful!  

I got a bunch of cool stuff, including four books I needed for assigned curriculum for the home school co-op program we are rejoining this year.  An Algebra 1 book for 5 bucks?  Sweet!  I had three of my kids with me (ages 10-14), and they were scouting around for educational CD-ROM games.  They grabbed several that we'd had before that had gotten broken.  Even my adult daughters were cheering at the sight of some of their old favorites like Jump Start and Amazon Trail. Our grand total was about $35, and I saved/earned more than that amount just by buying the four assigned books there and selling my old books.  I would say that was a successful deal.  I'm looking forward to sitting down and reading some of the "extras" I bought, like Kathy Peel's book The Family Manager Takes Charge: Getting on the Fast Track to a Happy Organized Home, or Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field,  or in preparation for teaching co-op English, Teaching Reading in Middle School by Laura Robb.  Call it continuing education for the home school mom.  I'm thankful to find some great books at great prices!

One of the books I bought for Melody, The Rhyming Bible, is one I had read to my older girls when they were little.  I'm not sure what ever happened to that copy!  Mel'y is still learning to read, and she loves to put on Mommy's glasses to look more studious.  I'm thankful that my kids like to learn, each in their own way.

I sure didn't have much chance to read after the sale, because as soon as we got home, we had to scramble around to get ready for a poolside picnic with some of Thad's relatives who are in town. It was really hot out, but we had a good time. I am thankful for our aunts, uncles, cousins who like to visit with us whenever they can.

I was totally exhausted in the evening when we were trying to get the house cleaned up, but my boys called me outside to see the oddly colored sky with dramatic clouds.  These pictures don't do it justice.   I am always grateful for the beauty of God's creation.

This morning, I got up early to make sausage quiche and "puffin mumpkins", blueberry muffins, and fruit salad for Father's Day breakfast.  As I prepared it, I thought about how a good brunch includes (at the very least) a protein dish, baked goods, and fresh fruit.  Works for me!  See Friday Favorites #10: On Puffin Mumpkins and Pringles (And Being Broken and Real)  I'm thankful for good food to eat, and family to serve.

Our daughter Julia had told us that her engagement to Alex would be officially announced this morning at their church, Metro Life, where we had attended for several years as a family.  It is a sweet tradition for the members of the happy couple's Bible study home group to march down the aisle with either helium balloons or flowers, and then for a pastor to pray for them as their friends and family gather around.  

We hadn't been to Metro Life on a Sunday morning for about 11 months, so it felt a little awkward at first.  However, we try to keep in touch with our friends there and we were very warmly welcomed.  As a side note, I was delighted to find out this morning that our family is going to be able to register under Metro Life's home school Regent Academy enrollment program this year, even though we are no longer members of the church.  This option (for folks who are not MLC members) is only open to families in the Providence home school co-op since they are doing an administrative partnership.  So this morning, I made sure to express my gratitude to at least two of the pastors of Metro Life for their kindness to these families.  Keeping official records and figuring out high school credits and Bright Futures scholarship requirements is a bit of a headache, so this makes a real difference to me personally.

Next up, our older daughters planned an elaborate Father's Day lunch for Thad.  They bought and prepared everything!  Yes!  The menu: steak stuffed with cheese and topped with a cream cheese & serrano peppers mixture, spicy roasted red potatoes, rolls, asparagus wrapped in bacon, and strawberry lemonade.  Those are some of the potatoes in that picture.  I'm told that the seasonings are rosemary, thyme, oregano, parmesan cheese, onions, and minced garlic. They were roasted in the oven for a while, then slowly sauteed a bit more in our big electric skillet.  Delicious!  I am thankful for daughters who are excellent cooks and who wanted to serve their dad!

Time for presents next!  I gave him a T-shirt that reads "Commander and Chef" with pictures of a spatula and fork on the official federal seal.  Thad is wonderful in the kitchen and fixes dinner for us at least one night a week.  In small print, "Daddius Maximus."  Daddius rhymes with Thaddeus, does it not?

As I gave it to him, I noticed he was wearing a T-shirt we gave him for Father's Day several years ago, one that reads "Authentic Dad of Dads - King of Kings was Already Taken" and "I am Loved This Much XXL."  And we are much loved by our Heavenly Father, who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  (Can I get an AMEN to that?)

Since Thad has often talked about the four o'clock tea times he remembers from his year in a British boarding school, the girls also bought Earl Grey tea and an assortment of pastries to serve at the appropriate time.  All four of our adult daughters, my son-in-law, Julia's fiance, and Thad and I have traveled fairly extensively overseas (mostly on missions trips) so much of our conversation centered on the adventures and hazards in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.   Always fascinating when our family gets on this subject!  Melody is oblivious to most of it as she is sipping (or shall I say unceremoniously guzzling) her Earl Grey heavily spiked with milk and sugar.  The dainty pansy tea cup is a treasure from my trip to Scotland in 1979.  I am grateful that I've had a chance to get out and see the world, not only in my travels, but also via the World Wide Web.

The kids also took the time to tell Thad the things they appreciate about him as a father -- everything from drawing maps for them so they wouldn't get lost, to playing basketball, to helping them with college admissions details.

The weekend is almost over.  I'm on my laptop typing a blog post while Thad is at a youth meeting at Lake Baldwin Church (our mellow little Presbyterian congregation) to get the last details for the summer camp that Andrew is going to for several days in Tennessee.  I envy him the white water rafting! I am thankful that we've settled into a sweet little church and that my teenage son has something exciting and inspirational to do with his friends.

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Thad just got home from his meeting and said, "Virginia, I think this is the best Father's Day I've ever had!"  Yay!  Thank you, God!

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