Tuesday, January 26, 2010

American Girl Trip - Chicago 2010

Grace and I took the train and went to the American Girl Doll Store in Chicago on Sunday (Jan 24). The day started off crazy as I set our tickets down to fill out some paperwork for leaving the car in the parking lot. When the train got there and we were standing outside waiting to get on, one of the guys told us to get our tickets ready. I started looking for them and when I could not find them I became frantic. I tore apart my bag and then ran into the station, with Grace trailing me, and (thankfully) found them on the counter. We were able to get on the train and let our adventure begin. But, what an awful start!

Grace in the train station in Bloomington

On the train to Chicago (with Brynn - her American Girl)

Playing cards in the dining car

Outside Union Station - Chicago

With the "Just Like You" American Girls

Brynn's new dress - she just HAD to have it!

By the Felicity dolls (BTW Felicity and Elizabeth are my favorites!)

Lunch at the American Girl Cafe

MY "American Girl"

Sharing some tea - isn't the seat cute?

Just the 3 of us

Having dessert

ENJOYING dessert

At the Navy Pier - Chicago

Downtown Chicago with my cousin, Oliver

It was great to get to spend some time with Oliver too! The trip was ended with Grace making 2 new friends on the train-ride home. The girls started talking in the train station, of course about American Girl stuff, and we all ended up sitting next to each other on the train. Grace and I played cards with one of the girls and her mom - it was so much fun! I hope that Grace can play with them soon! All in all, it was a great day! I had a wonderful time just hanging out with my girl. I love her so much and feel blessed to have been able to take this trip with her. Praise the Lord for special blessings like this!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Will we hear "Well done, good and faithful servant"?

It has taken me a couple of days to digest all this. Sunday, our church handed out 260 envelopes, containing anywhere from $5 to $100 (totalling $5000), one to each person in church (kids included). This was after a message entitled "Make all you can" on Matthew 25 (the Parable of the Talents) and on the heels of the disastrous earthquake in the nation of Haiti. What we were then charged to do was take our "loan from God" (what that we have is not on loan from God anyway?) and "increase" it - be a "good and faithful servant". On January 31, we are having a message on "Give all you can" and that is when we are to return the money we were "loaned" and all that we earned from it. All of this money is going to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Haiti Relief Fund, through our church. Our family received a total of $50. Oh.....what to do.... The first thing I did was rush home and blast out an email to everyone in my contact list. Part of this was good and part of this was not. The part that was not was that I did not have all the pertinent information, such as where exactly all the money was going, through whom, and whether or not people who donated could receive a tax-deductible receipt. So, a bit hasty. The good part about it was (maybe) that I sent it to everybody, not really realizing who everybody included. Those it included were people I had contacted once via Craig's List, Greg's current and former bosses, and other selected individuals that if I had taken the time to review the list I would have removed. But I think that maybe God used my hastiness to spread the word of what He is doing. All glory to Him forever and ever!!! Following my blatant solicitation of everyone I knew (and some I did not know), I was challenged with the thought that I should ACTUALLY earn some money. But what could I do? I am a stay-at-home mom with no significant talents, other than caring for my children. As I was showering, God told me what I should do. I think I really half-showered because I was in such a hurry to get out of the shower and to my email to put this plan into action. The plan was this....wait, I will just paste here my email....hold on.....

I was going to present this to you on Thursday when we meet, but I can not wait! Yesterday, my church (Bloomington First Church of the Nazarene) handed out $5000 (260 envelopes containing anywhere from $5 to $100) to everyone at church - kids included. This was after we heard a message on Matthew 25 (the parable of the talents) and were challenged to "make all we can", so that we can "give all we can" (sermon to be preached on Jan 31). Our family received, collectively, $50 and we are trying to think of ways to earn interest on the loan God gave us (the original $50 and anything we "earn" will be given to the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Haiti Relief Fund through our church on January 31).

This is a link to the news story. Check it out.

So here's my idea:

I will offer nearly free ($1 per kid per hour) babysitting services to all of you for the next 2 weeks. Why not treat yourself to some free time? Grocery shopping without distractions, coffee or lunch with a friend, a nap, maybe take in a movie, or you might just want to sit in quiet with the Lord for a few moments. Whatever your luxury might be, I would be so honored to help you achieve it, while you are blessing our obedience to God and helping us to "earn" more for Him. We want to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant!" and would certainly appreciate your coming alongside of us.

I know that you all might not know me very well, so as a reminder I am the one who recently moved here from Michigan . Also, I am including 2 references, just in case.

Lori Heil xxx-xxx-xxxx
Stephanie Hancock xxx-xxx-xxxx

Also, if you know of anyone else who may be interested in this service, please feel free to forward this.

Thank you! I look forward to serving you, while I serve my Master.

In His Mighty Name,
Michelle Pawlak

So there is my plan. I will do this. Then I started to worry, "what if no one takes me up on this offer?" My good friend, Julie, reminded me that all I had to do was be obedient to God and leave the rest to Him. What other people did with my obedience was between them and God. What wise advice! Thanks Julie. The other thing is that this has worked as a witnessing tool for me. Over the past couple of days I have talked to other moms and have offered my services and told them the story. It is neat to be a part of such an amazing adventure. So, if God chooses to fill my house with other people's children, I am willing and I will praise Him. If He chooses not to have anyone take me up on my offer, I will still praise Him! I am trying to listen and be obedient. Sometimes I can do it, other times I fail miserably. But one thing I know.....God loves me and has a plan for me (Jer 29:11).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More School Woes

We have had "issues" with Jacob and Grace's school from Day 1. Things like the kids not wanting to go, not making friends, cultural differences, administration problems (lack of communication), etc. The latest thing was that I received a letter home from someone (not the principal and not Grace's teacher) stating that based on some random test Grace "qualifies" to be in a special reading program. I fully understood what this meant because just a few short months ago I went through the same thing with Jacob. The first issue here is that there is NO communication from the teacher that the testing is being done and that if the teacher feels the child is having a problem - they do not tell the parent ANYTHING. So when I got this letter for Grace, I was shocked because not even a month earlier I was sitting across from Grace's teacher and listening to her tell me that Grace is doing excellent and if she had a class full of Grace's her job would be so easy. I had sent an email to the principal earlier in the week because of another ongoing issue (in Grace's class) - the lack of a class list. And as I am trying to help Grace find friends a class list would be helpful. So the principal called me to reiterate that it was against some privacy laws to give out class lists (kind of not the truth), and I decided to ask her about the letter I received regarding Grace and her reading. The principal said that Grace's test scores showed that she was in need of additional help with her reading. I did not agree with this and I told her so. She said she would send both Jacob and Grace's test scores home yesterday. Guess what came home? Nothing. So today I received a call from the reading teacher (who was very sweet for the record) telling me that they were "releasing Grace from the program" - does that sound like prison to you? They had re-tested Grace today and her test scores revealed that she was OFF THE CHART! The required test score AT THE END of first grade is 40 words per minute. Grace's score today - 65 WORDS PER MINUTE! Seriously? The teacher (reading teacher, not Grace's ACTUAL teacher) also told me that they were going to use Grace as an example of how their system was not working. Well....I guess some good did come out of this situation. When talking over the situation with my mom, she suggested to me that maybe THIS is why we are at this school to begin with - to help them fix their problems. I guess I never thought of it that way. Even if that is not the case, I can pretend that it is, right?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Some Highlights & More of God's Perfection

Here are some of the things that have been happening with us.

Greg was wrestling with the kids tonight. Somehow Grant managed to knock Grace's tooth out. She screamed bloody murder and was in fact really bloody, but the dang tooth needed to come out. It had been just hanging there for weeks.

The Rainbow Cake

We made this rainbow cake (thanks April) for a friend and invited her over for dinner tonight. She was so surprised to see the inside. In fact, I think we were all amazed that it turned out so well. And get this.....as the kids and I were laying in the girl's bed getting ready to do devotions (a new book I found under the bed) we asked Jesus to tell us where He wanted us to go in the book. Jadyn started to flip the pages and Grace said "no! let Jesus pick". I had to tell her that I did not think He was going to actually flip the page - but hey - with God anything IS possible. So we let Jadyn pick. And guess what she turned to? Yep, you guessed. The story of Noah (and God's promise in the RAINBOW)! How totally awesome of our AMAZING God to lead us right there. So very cool! And then the devotion.....oh my. It asked some good questions....like "how would you feel if you were on the ark with Noah?" Of course, my kids all said they would be excited because they could be with the animals. Then they asked me how I would feel. I said at first I would feel glad because I was ON the ark and not outside of it, but then I would feel very sad about all the people outside that were crying out to be saved and who were not saved. How hard that would be. This then turned to Jacob asking me, "If Jesus came back now, what would happen to us who are alive?" Wow. I explained that when Jesus comes back the dead in Christ will rise first and those who are still alive and believe in Christ and have a personal relationship with Him will meet Jesus and the others in the air. Almost instantly, Grace was bawling. I asked her what was wrong and she said, through her tears, "what about Jadyn and Grant? I want them to come with us." Oh my sweetness. You see, Jacob and Grace have prayed and given their hearts to the Lord and Grace knows that Jadyn and Grant have not yet done this. I told her that God will take care of the "babies", that they are not yet ready to handle this kind of decision and the day will come when they are and that this is their choice, but we pray they will choose Jesus. But, this also led us to a conversation about the sadness she felt. I told her that there are still a lot of people who have not made decisions for Christ, some of them even in our family, and that we need to feel this grief for them and continue to lift them up to the Lord and pray that their hearts will be softened to Jesus. We can't choose for anyone, but we can pray and we can live our lives as an example for Christ. How awesome is God? To provide all this from a simple rainbow cake? We truly serve an infinitely, marvellously wonderful King of Kings. Praise His Holy Name!!!!

Jacob started playing Upwards basketball. These are some pics from his first game.

Calling his name as he ran out to the court

Caught in the action

After the game, sweaty, but with his snack

Friday, January 8, 2010

If I am Silent.....

....the rocks WILL cry out! Of praise the Name of the Lord God Almighty, who IS always on! This morning I came downstairs for my quiet time with the Lord and about 10 minutes in Grace came down. I was trying not to be bummed because I want that time alone, but I asked her if she wanted to sit with me and pray by herself. She said she would sit with me. So I finished my devotion and started praying and had an amazing time of prayer. As I finished I was crying a bit and Grace asked me why. I told her that when I came downstairs my heart was heavy with concerns and worries about things I have no control over and I just prayed them away and gave them to the Lord and HIS peace just engulfed me. So we had a very nice talk about how God is ALWAYS there and we can go to Him with anything at anytime (how blessed are we?). She eventually started into her "sickness" that comes each morning. We even talked about this and how I think that part of her problem is my fault because when we first moved here I HATED IT and had no qualms about saying so (smart, Michelle). But I told her that I am rejoicing because even though I had to come to a place I did not want, God is moving mountains in my life. I am so growing in Him - all glory and praise to HIM alone! I prayed out loud over and for Grace and part of my prayer was Philippians 4:6-7:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

This is also the Scripture I wrote out on a notecard and taped to her mirror by her bed.

Fast forward an hour or so....we had a bit of time before the bus, so I decided to pull out an old Keys for Kids. I opened it (willy-nilly) to April 5, Vol. VIII, Number 2. The devotion is entitled "The Broken Train". I looked at the corresponding Scripture and guess what it was? Praise Jesus - Philippians 4:4-7. How amazing is the MIGHTY GOD I serve? I think my kids thought I was a little crazy because I was praising God like I have never praised before. TOTALLY AWESOME! Then we read the Scripture and the beginning part was for....me! Man, God really spoke to the Pawlak family this morning. Could we be any more blessed?

Philippians 4:4-5
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near."

Well, how can I not rejoice? Aaaaannnnnnddddd....I just prayed this morning for God's help in making be more gentle. Oh praise His Holy Name!!! And for something that I want and yet struggle with, to know "the Lord is near" and there to help me....seriously I think I am going to bust!

The devotion was about a boy who wanted his grandpa to fix his broken train, and when the grandpa started fixing the train the way it needed to be fixed, the boy squawked and told him he was doing it all wrong and finally took the train back. The grandpa then had a discussion with the sister about how we often give our broken things (troubles) to God and when He starts to fix them the RIGHT way, we take them back because they are not being fixed the way we think they should be fixed. What a great illustration of our own ignorance. God is the Creator of everything. Who are we to think we know better than Him? But I even think of my situation - where God is working amazing things for His glory and I was telling Him a few weeks ago that this was not the plan I had for my life.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

God's ways are always better than ours and PRAISE BE TO THE LORD that He is allowing me to actually see that. Oh, how I love Him!!!!

Then we were getting ready to go to the bus and I asked my kids if they wanted me to drive them there or if they wanted to walk. Jacob said he wanted to walk and Grace said she wanted to ride. Before a fight ensued, Jacob suggested they flip a coin and quickly claimed "heads" for himself. So I went to get a coin and grabbed a half dollar, flipped it to the floor and it ended up "tails". Jacob complained, saying that it was "tails" because I picked the half dollar. So I reached in and grabbed a penny, flipped it to the floor and again it turned up "tails". What a great teaching moment. God knew it was in our best interest to ride (as it is FREEZING outside) and I suspect that no matter how many different coins I flipped, they would have all come out "tails". God's way is always the BEST! I am so grateful to know and belong to the ONE AND ONLY TRUE LORD OF THE UNIVERSE. I am so glad that God is real and living and not some made up wickity-wok. He is real and so wants each and every one of us to come to the saving knowledge of Him and His precious Son, Jesus - who died for you. Oh - turn to Him and see what He has in store for you. IT WILL BE WORTH EVERY MOMENT!!!!!

Let the rocks cry out. I have not even done Him nearly enough justice. PRAISE THE NAME OF THE LORD FOREVER!!!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Christmas Season

I have just returned from "home", where we have been for the last 17 days - give or take a day. Our time there was fraught with much activity, yet I have never felt lazier. My precious mother waited on me hand and foot.....wait......it almost sounds like a fairy tale, doesn't it? While my mom is precious and took great care of us (but not as good as if we were Scott :) ), our time home was also bittersweet. We had a slight detour up north for a "Life Celebration" of a wonderful man, who we lovingly refer to as "another grandpa" - he was my cousin's grandpa. While death is never a happy thing, there is an amazing thrill at knowing that the grave is not the end. Dawson was saved by the blood of Jesus and is in heaven - I know this without a doubt. This is why, despite the sadness of losing someone we love, we can rejoice to know that we who are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ will one day see him again. But during this funeral I had time to think deeply about this....I have much family that I am not sure if they have a relationship with Christ and THAT deeply saddens me. Actually the fact that anyone would turn their back on the grace and mercy given to us (completely undeserving as we are) by our Lord Jesus Christ makes me weep. It is a free gift - I mean, really....what do you have to lose? Trusting in God is the easiest thing to do (and yet can sometimes be the hardest thing - but we are called to trust). God loves us....no matter what or where we have come from or been......all He wants is for us to turn from our selfish, self-serving ways and turn to Him. What greater gift could you possibly give yourself? The choice is yours.

While we were travelling up north, we stopped at a rest stop. We were getting back in the suburban and I was reaching across Jadyn to buckle her in, when all of a sudden she sneezed. Not just a little sneeze, but a huge blow chunks out of her mouth sneeze. Guess what was right in front of her face when she sneezed? You guessed it - my face, open mouth and all. She spit junk from the side of my face to the corner of my very open mouth. In fact, some even landed on my neck. This was not runny, drippy snot. It was so thick it just stuck. Are you getting the picture yet? I was totally stunned. I just kind of stood there and then my dad quickly handed me a kleenex. Completely disgusting, but totally hilarious.

My girls were fighting in the back of the van on the way back here today. Finally Grace asked me if Jesus and God were the same. I explained it to her and she then told Jadyn that Jesus was God's son, just like Jacob was Greg and my son. Good analogy. But Jadyn would have nothing to do with it. She didn't care who was whose son and so on, she just proclaimed VERY loudly, "I love Jesus! I love God! I can love them both and you can't say anything." Ok then. Feisty....she gets that from her dad! ;) Isn't is great though how in the midst of the crappy trip home on completely snow covered roads with a death grip on the steering wheel, God can bless me through the mouths of the children I was just telling to shut up? God is so good!!!

So we are now home, despite the weeping and wailing that has taken place. Clearly no one is really happy about us living out-of-state but this is getting a bit ridiculous. As we were leaving, my mom was weeping, Grace was hysterical, my dad was trying to hide and I was not going to cry. Of course I am still stone cold, my dad is probably secretly crying, my mom is still publicly weeping off and on and Grace....well...she is still beyond hysterical. I mean the girl has the hugest heart ever. She is so sensitive and loving and sweet, but I can't change the fact that we now live here. Tonight she made 8 calls to grandma (all weeping of course). After the last call she came up to me and hugged me. As she was hugging me she said "I have to hug you because you are grandma's kid and that is as close as I can get to grandma." So sweet but I was laughing so hysterically inside because my sweet princess is such a HUGE drama queen. I so love her for it though. She makes my life so very happy - I love that girl!