Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Access Granted


Way back before David and I were officially dating...back when we were just friends, but on the cusp of becoming more than that, I had a very interesting experience that I thought about again yesterday and decided to share with you.

You see, David had just helped me pick out my then-new car (which is now almost 9 years old). I wanted to give him a thank-you note, but didn't know his address - or for that matter, even his phone number. What I did know was where he worked (and still works today). He works in a very exclusive gated community where every homeowner is a multi-millionaire and some very well-known public figures live. So, as you can imagine, security is at a premium!

At the time, I worked for a realtor who was with a very prestigious real estate firm. I was used to driving up to any gated community in town and just giving my name and the company I worked for in order to gain access into the gate. So, I figured I could do the same with the gated community where David worked...this is how it went down:

Me: I'm Kara Jansen with Premier Properties (big smile)

Guard: And????

Me: (a little confused that he didn't just open the gate) And I'm here to see David Jansen? (yes, there was a question in my voice - all confidence I had driving up to the gate was quickly vanishing!)

Guard: Do you have an appointment?

Me: Uh...no. But I have this card I want to give him. (feeling a bit sheepish now & quite embarrassed)

Guard: Then I suggest you go home, make an appointment, and then come back and try again.

The guard wasn't rude, and he wasn't trying to be mean, he was just doing his job...following orders. I tried asking him if he would give my card to David, but that didn't fly either. So, I sheepishly backed out and went about my business.

Later, when I had the opportunity to actually give David my card, I told him what had happened. He chuckled & said,

"Oh...I can fix that! I'll just put you on the list!"

From that moment on, all I had to do was give my name and tell them I wanted to see David...then I was met with, "Have a nice day!" and an open gate! Access Granted! :)

The realtor I worked for at the time was jealous! She said, "I can't even get in there unless I have a listing in there!" All I could do was smile. :)

Today, all I have to do when I go to David's work is roll down my window and make a little small talk with the guard (if it's one that knows me) or just let them know I'm David Jansen's wife (if it's a new guard) and I'm in! ACCESS GRANTED!!!

Yesterday, it dawned on me how Heaven is a lot like that gated community. Heaven is a wonderful place with lots of mansions...and lots of well-known people live there! However, the gate is locked and the guard is just doing his job by making sure only those who are "on the list" get in. However, there's no going back to make an appointment...you only get one chance to approach the gates of Heaven. So, the sooner you get on the list, the better...because you never know when it will be your time to approach that gate!

How do you get on the list? Well, that's as simple as how I got on the list for the gated community. You just have to know someone who can put you on the list. Jesus is that someone! He gave up His throne in Heaven to be born as a baby in a stable, to teach us what Heaven is like and how to get there, and then stretched out His arms and died so that our name could be on the list! The only thing we have to do, is accept His free gift of salvation!

Just as any gift doesn't belong to the receiver until they accept it, the gift of salvation that Jesus offers ALL of us only belongs to those who willingly accept it! And by accepting it, your name is written in The Book Of Life...you are ON THE LIST!

If you have never accepted Christ as your savior, I urge you to contact me or find a friend or Bible-believing church to tell you all about Him and how you can be on the list!

Then, someday, when your time here on earth is done, you can let the guard at Heaven's gate know that Jesus put your name on the list. And he will reply,

"ACCESS GRANTED!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is Santa Real?


When Christopher was little, David and I talked about, among other parenting issues, how we would handle it SOMEDAY when Christopher asked if Santa's real. We didn't want to lie to him, but we didn't want to ruin the fun, either. In theory, we were comfortable with our decision. We decided that we would do the Santa thing, but would never make a big issue about it or use him as a behavior management tool (as in, "If you don't behave, Santa won't bring you any toys."). We had pictures made with Santa at the mall in the beginning, but when he refused, we decided it wasn't worth it and have simply asked him each year if he wanted to do so...then went with whatever he decided. For several years, the answer was no. Every so often (especially if the Santa in question had candy to offer), the answer was yes. We decided that when he asked us THE question about Santa, we'd tell him the truth. Yeah...in theory, that all sounds great! In reality, not so much!!!
Here's how it happened...we were driving home from lunch after our Homeschool Science Co-op today. We'd had lunch with Emily (Christopher's buddy) and her mommy (my buddy), where Emily's birthday (which occurs this month) was discussed. About half way home, Christopher pipes up from the back seat with the question I'd been dreading for six and a half years:
"Mommy, Is Santa real?"
Such an innocent question...and yet, it instantly caused a huge amount of turmoil in my mind as I struggled with how I would answer my precious only child. I had hoped that by the time he thought to ask this question, siblings would be in the picture and he could be Santa's Helper . . . which would extend the fun. But, that was not the case on this day. So, I tried the answer-a-question-with-a-question tactic:
"What do YOU think?"
You know what his precious response was?
"I don't know, Mommy...that's why I asked YOU!"
Oh boy...now I was really on the spot! Do I tell him the truth and ruin the fantasy and the fun? If I do, will he later feel that he missed out on something in his childhood? If I don't, and I try to play it off, will he doubt me later because I lied to him? Or worse yet, will he doubt that God is real? These are the moral delimas swirling around in my brain while my child patiently waits in the backseat for an answer to his simingly simple question. At this moment, I'm secretly wishing I could freeze time, call David to talk over what we're going to do, and then re-enter the scenario once I've got it all figured out. Unfortunately, such an option did not exist...and an answer was being waited on! So, I tried this...
"Why do you want to know?"
You know what I got?
"I just want to know."
OK...no letting me off the hook on this one. After a few more cat-and-mouse type of questions, I finally realized that he was trying to figure out the legistics of how in the world this chubby guy with only a sleigh and 8 tiny reindeer could possibly get presents to all the children in the world in one night! Seriously? Why does he have to be such a deep thinker at such a young age??? Well, at least I had some sort of an answer for this one..."The Mommies and Daddies help." And I left it at that. He asked how...I changed the subject. Does that make me a bad mommy?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Precious Cousin Karen

The above picture was taken a little over 6 years ago at Christopher's baby dedication at church. For those of you who don't know her, Karen is the one in the red shirt next to me. God has used her in a mighty way in my life! Here's our story:

When I was 5, Karen and her sisters became my cousins when my mother married their uncle. Since they lived in Florida and I lived in Alabama, we didn't get to see much of each other growing up - mainly at Christmas and a few family get-togethers. But when I was about 12 or 13, I rode the Grayhound bus down to Florida with our shared grandmother Maw (my dad's & her mom's mother) to spend a week with Karen's family. Karen and her sisters were at the later end of their teens and were more into boys and dating than hanging out with a cousin they barely knew. However, Karen took a special interest in me and would take me with her when she worked at the roller skating rink. She even taught me to rollerskate backwards (no, I can't still do this...I can barely rollerskate forwards anymore)! :)

Little did either of us know, many years later, God would use her to bring me to the place where I would meet my husband and raise our family. I was just finishing my teaching degree and during my time alone with God one morning, I felt that He was going to move me away from Montgomery, AL, where I lived at the time. I promised God that I would go anywhere He wanted me to go, and only asked that He allow me to have family in town. I thought that He would take me to someplace closer to my maternal grandmother, quite possibly to the town where I grew up. But, God had bigger plans! He must have whispered in Karen's heart that I needed to be in Florida, because around the same time, the school at the church where her husband works needed two teachers and she told the principal about me. When the principal made the phone call, all I could remember was the city, the only family I knew who lived there (Karen & her precious family), and my promise to God. That settled it. I knew where He was sending me.

For the first year I lived here, I lived with Karen, Forrest and their three precious little boys (who are not so little anymore)! I saw first-hand how they interacted with each other and with their children. I saw their faith and dedication to God and their church. God used this time to grow my faith by leaps and bounds...and grow me as a person! I learned so much by watching them live their daily life...and many of the things I learned from them that year, I have brought into my own marriage and family!

The following year, their guest house opened up and I moved to their back yard. This gave me the independence I needed, and yet still close. The joke had become that everyone who lives in their guest house gets married...but me being in my 30's and still single, I had almost given up hope! But, God granted me the desires of my heart and during that year, David and I (who had been friends for about two years) began to see each other as more than just friends and began courting.

When David asked me to be his wife, Forrest & Karen conducted our pre-marital counseling required by the church. They each guided us to be the husband and wife that God wanted us to be, and our marriage is better because of it! :)

Karen threw my wedding shower...and later when we found out we had been identified as Christopher's adoptive parents, she threw a baby shower for us! And when we brought Christopher home from the hospital, Karen and her family were the first to visit at our home!

Three years ago, my precious cousin found out she had colon cancer. Twice, God has healed her. And twice the cancer has returned. This third battle has been the hardest. She has indeed fought the good fight. Unfortunately, it looks like the cancer is winning this time. But in Karen's case, the victory will indeed be short-lived! Death has lost its sting! Jesus Christ as overcome the grave - and because of her trust and faith in Him, when Karen has breathed her last breath on earth, she will be immediately in His presence, spending eternity in Heaven with all of our loved ones who have gone before us! And because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we have the assurance that one day, we will see her and our other loved ones again when we join her in Heaven!

The Bible says, "For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) - which means that NONE of us are worth to enter Heaven on our own. We can never be good enough because we were born with a sin nature. The Bible also says "The wages of sin is [eternal] death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23) and "For God so LOVED the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have enternal life." Sin separates us from God, but God loves us so much that He sent his only son to pay the penalty for our sins. Because Jesus died on the cross as payment for our sins, the ONLY thing we need to do in order to spend eternity in Heaven is to accept Him as our Lord and Savior. It's a FREE GIFT. There's nothing we can do to earn it, but the only way we can receive it is by accepting it."But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11)

Karen accepted that free gift long ago, and by doing so, sealed her name into the Book of Life. When she passes from this life, she will receive her reward in Glory! "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)

Many have prayed for her healing...and as long as she has breath in her lungs, we will continue to pray for a miracle! The doctors have run out of options to help her - but God never runs out of options! The Bible reminds us, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

At the same time, we recognize that God sees the big picture we cannot see and knows what is best. "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." (Jeremiah 29:11). God loves Karen even more than we do and He still has a plan for her life. What that plan is, we do not know. He could choose to heal her here on earth (which we all hope for) or He could choose to heal her in Heaven (which may be best for her). Though we cannot trace His hand and see exactly what He's doing in all this, we can certainly trust His heart and know that He is working everything out for the best!

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). That verse does not promise that all things WILL be good, but that they will WORK TOGETHER for good. Cancer is certainly NOT good...but the things God has done through Karen's cancer have been! So many people have accepted Christ as a result of this cancer journey Karen's been on. All these people will one day spend eternity in Heaven. Had Karen not crossed their paths through this journey, she would not have had the opportunity to share her faith with them. These people will avoid spending eternity in a place of darkness and pain because Karen kept her eyes on God through her struggle with cancer.

When I started writing this blog, I only planned it to be a tribute to my cousin. I hadn't planned to share verses or talk about God's faithfulness, but how can I not? He is faithful. Even in suffering, He is faithful. Even in celebration, He is faithful. Great is His faithfulness! On that note, I'll close with a precious hymn...

GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS


Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.


Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!


Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Great is Thy Faithfulness!
Great is Thy Fathfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


If you don't know God's faithfulness and you haven't accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, please send me a message or talk with me personally. I would love to introduce you to the One who is holding all of us up through this difficult situation! Without Him, I would have no hope! And I don't want you to be without Him, either. I want us to all be together in Heaven someday! God has given each of us a free will - He wants us all in Heaven, but only if we choose to go. He will not force even one of us to go against our will. And he's made it so easy to "make the list" - all we have to do is trust in Jesus as our Savior and make Him the Lord of our lives. Doing so won't make your life easy, but it will make the burden lighter. God will never allow you to go through anything that He won't be there walking beside you ever step of the way...carrying you, if He has to! I've felt His loving arms around me in many times of trial. It's the most comforting place to be...especially when facing something I know I could never face in my own strength!


"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).


*Edited Note: Karen graduated to Glory on Tuesday, November 2nd. I am thankful that she was able to read this blog before her Homegoing and know how thankful I am for the way God used her in my life and how much I love her. Her text message to me after reading the blog was this: "Thanks so much Kara for your kind words...I love that it lead to the plan of salvation...God is so good!" Right up to the very end, Karen was sharing her faith with everyone who crossed her path...trying to take as many with her to Heaven as she could! She is no longer in any pain...she is face to face with her Heavenly Father and dancing on His streets of Gold. I am so thankful for the assurance that someday, I'll dance right alongside her...because HE (Jesus) lives!!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Happy 90th Birthday, Grandaddy!

On October 24, 1920, Clarence Ray Till came into this world. Though I don't know all the details of Grandaddy's childhood, I do know that he played a very important role in mine! As the oldest (and for over 8 years, the only) grandchild, I had the benefit of having his full attention growing up...we were buddies!

My grandfather loved to tell the story of how he came to be the pastor of Northside Baptist Church. In 1943, his brother Holmes Till had resigned his position as pastor of the church in order to find a place to live where his daughter, who had severe allergies, could breathe better. My grandfather came in view of a call, and when the votes were cast, there was only one nay vote. One woman in the church voted against my grandfather for the simple reason that he wasn't yet married and she didn't see how he could minister to families without one of his own. Two years later, my grandfather married her daughter, Mary Kathryn Wells. They were married on September 27, 1945.

Almost two years later, in July of 1947, Rev. C. Ray & Mary Kathryn Till gave birth to my mother, Kathryn Annette. In January 1949, they had thier only son, Alan Wayne. And about 10 years later, my aunt, Carolyn Raye was born. Eventually, four grandchildren were born - me, my brother Josh, and my cousins Katie & Whitney.

My grandfather retired from the only church he ever pastored - Northside Baptist Church in Anniston, AL in 1986 - after 43 years of service. He touched the lives of many people in Anniston during that time and was more affectionately called "Brother Ray" by just about everyone who knew him but didn't have the privilege of being related to him!

Grandaddy loved the deal. He often went to sales and auctions with his buddy Oscar Cotton. He also loved working on cars. And I loved working on cars with him! I don't think I was really any help - but I was company and I adored everything my Grandaddy did...and he adored me! He adored each and every one of his children and grandchildren. I think we all thought we were his favorite...he never compared one of us to the other, so we were all certain we were the one he loved most!

Many times, Grandaddy would pick me up and take me out for what I used to call "cherwy pie and coffee." What it was in reality was Shoney's Big Boy strawberry pie. Grandaddy did have coffee...but mine was more a cup of milk and sugar with just a hint of coffee...or maybe sometimes hot chocolate. Every time I eat strawberry pie or drink coffee, I always think of my Grandaddy!

Alzheimer's robbed Grandaddy of his memory, and eventually, of his life. I can remember the day that the family was meeting to decide what was the best care plan for Grandaddy when the Alzheimer's had stolen so much of him from us that my grandmother could no longer care for him. Not wanting Grandaddy to be upset by the conversation, they decided to meet away from my grandparents home. I had the privilege of staying with Grandaddy while they met. On my way to their home, I stopped at Shoney's and picked up a strawberry pie for us to share. While we were eating together, Grandaddy said, "You know, I used to pick up this little girl and take her out for pie like this." He didn't recognize me as being that little girl so long ago and when I desperately tried to make the connection for him, he gently said, "Yes, she called me Grandaddy."

Grandaddy loved to tease. He was never mean, but he could often be the slightest bit aggrivating. :) I remember many times when he was in his bedroom, either preparing for his sermon or watching TV, if I passed by his bedroom door, he would call out, "Darrrrrrrrrrlin!" I don't know why it aggrivated me so, but he knew it did and would therefore do it every time. What I wouldn't give just to hear him say that just one more time! I wouldn't pout and say, "Oh Grandaddy, stop it!" Instead, I'd smile, run in his room and give him a great big ole' hug!

One more thing I'd give anything for is to walk down the church aisle and shake hands with his congregation. During the closing prayer of every service, Grandaddy would make his way up the aisle so he could shake hands with the congregation as they left the sanctuary. From the time I was a little girl until I was in my early teens and thought myself too old to do so, I would always step out in the aisle as I heard the familiar jingle of Grandaddy's keys in his pocket as he walked past my pew. Then I would proudly stand by his side and shake hands right alongside him! At his final service, just before he retired, I heard that familiar jingle coming up the aisle and I debated about stepping out as I'd done in my childhood...but pride took over and I stayed put. I opened my eyes as the sound of his keys told me he was near my pew...and saw that he still moved over as if I were still stepping out next to him! I kick myself now for being such a prideful teenager that I didn't step out that one last time!

Even though Grandaddy never met a single one of his great-grandchildren, he named my son. I was about 10 - 12 years old when I made the declaration to Grandaddy that I was going to name my first little boy after him. He immediately made me promise not to put "Clarence" on a child. Sensing how much Grandaddy hated his own first name, I agreed with the stipulation that my son's first name would have to start with a C because Grandaddy signed his name "C. Ray Till." Together, we came up with the name Christopher and the matter was settled until Christopher Ray Till Jansen was born some twenty-something years later! The interesting thing is that even though Christopher never met his great-grandfather, he also prefers to go by C. Ray!

Today, Grandaddy is spending his 90th birthday in a wonderful place called Heaven. He's celebrating with his wife, who joined him in eternity almost two years ago. And some day, by our faith in Jesus Christ, our family has the hope of seeing him again someday! My precious Grandaddy was a very important part of my life - my friend, my confidant, my advisor, my grandfather!

Happy 90th Birthday, Grandaddy! I love you!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Homeschooling 1st Grade - Week 1


Our first week of homeschooling is behind us and it was great! The first day just flew by! We started the day off with swimming lessons (more on that later), a MOPS playdate at Gymnastics World (we counted that as PE), and lunch with some friends. Then we headed home for some Reading, 'Riting, & 'Rithmatic! I was surprised how quickly we got everything done! The second day, not so much. Christopher was more interested in playing his computer than any of his regular work, so it took a little more effort to get the curriculum done. But now, he knows this is our regular routine and the rest of the week went much better!

The picture above shows some of his handwriting practice. This is "copywork" from the Sonlight curriculum - it's from a story he read. Later, we circled the capital letters at the beginning and underlined who each sentence was about (in this case, Pat). The reading is actually below his level at this point, but it's building some much needed confidence for my little boy who wants to be perfect the first time he tries something & would rather not do it at all than risk making a mistake!

We took our spelling lesson outside, where he wrote all his spelling words on the driveway in sidewalk chalk. He loved it...and he spelled every single word correctly! Later in the week, he got 100% on his spelling test...and no, I didn't grade on the curve! :)

The book he's working in above is called "Explode the Code" - it's a phonics program...again, too easy for his current level of ability, but coordinates with his reading book and is building some valuable confidence that will help him tackle the harder work later!

The book above is Horizons Math for 1st Grade. Right now, he's breezing through most of it, but the first week or so of school is always review of the previous year. The best part is that it's doing wonders for his self-confidence and he looks forward to doing school every day!

Along with the workbooks, we're also reading a variety of books about history & science - including some missionary stories. We're also reading through the Book of Mark in the Bible and memorizing Psalm 1. Last week, we memorized Psalm 1:1 - this week, we'll add the second verse, and so on. By the end of six weeks, we'll have the whole first Psalm memorized! I'm memorizing it right along with him - so it's helping us both!

I absolutely LOVE homeschooling! I was a little worried about how it would all work out, and I must admit, some of my fears were realized on our 2nd day - but once I got a schedule and a routine going, it just started falling into place! If you're looking for an email, text, or facebook status update/reply from me, you probably won't get one until the afternoon on the days we are doing school - but it's so worth every moment!

As promised...here's the update on swimming lessons. We completed our first two-week round of lessons and signed up for another round. Since he was still hesitant about putting his face in the water, we decided to sign him up for Level 1 again. On the computer, it looked like there was an 8-8:30am class and a 9:30-10am class for Level 1 - so we chose the 8-8:30am class so we could get going with our homeschool day.

We showed up Tuesday morning and there was no class for him. There was a Level 2 and a Level 3 Preschool class. His teacher from the last round of lessons was there and said she'd be teaching a Level 1 preschool class at 8:45am if we wanted to stay for that. I gave Christopher the option of either doing the preschool class with the teacher he already knew or the 9:30 class with kids his own age & a different teacher. He chose to stay with the teacher he knew.

This actually turned out to be a good thing! Since Christopher's the oldest in the class (the others are 3, 4, & 5) and Christopher's already done Level 1, he got to be Teacher's Helper for this class. Since he was showing off for the "little kids," he was doing far more than he had in the whole two prior weeks of Level 1 at his age level! He put his face in the water...WITHOUT his goggles! And as you can see above, he's stretching out more and swimming with the kickboard. Giving him a little authority has really boosted his confidence, and as a result, he's doing so much more! YAY!!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Day with the Ohio Jansens

David's brother Bob and his family live in Ohio, so we don't get to see them as much as we would like. Bob and his wife Betsy have three sweet girls - Jenny, Ali, & Abby - a.k.a. our nieces & Christopher's "girl cousins" (my brother has only boys, so those are the "boy cousins"). :)

This summer, the Ohio Jansens decided to make a trip down to Florida to visit...and we are so glad they did! The last time they were here, Christopher was only 4 months old...so needless to say, he's done a little growing since they were here last...and so have his "girl cousins" - they were 13, 9, & 6 when they were here last, I believe - now they are all grown up at 20, 16, & 13! Whew...time sure flies! :)

Anyway, we spent the Friday of the week they were here with them. We started out with a trip to the beach for a little sun and fun.

Ali (16) found a very cool sea creature! She actually found it by accidentally stepping on it (not too hard, though - no sea creatures were harmed in the making of this blog)! :) We all had to check it out and got to watch it moving ever so slowly! Great science lesson for Christopher!
After the beach, we went home to shower & change clothes - then we headed back to Grandma Jansen's house (David's mom) for dinner and fun. Christopher talked Ali & Abby into playing Payday with him. He shocked me when he read "Bonus" at the bottom of the board! The boy knows how to read more than he lets on, I think!

Later, Betsy, Ali, Abby, Christopher and I got involved in what turned out to be a marathon Uno game! Jenny joined us midway through and was our spectator/cheerleader! We were going to deal her in on the next game...but the game we had going lasted way too long! Every time one of us would get an Uno, it was followed by drawing half the deck! We'd been playing by the rule that if you didn't have a playable card, you had to draw until you got one. Finally, we decided to just draw one and keep moving - thus finally bringing the game to an end...as Christopher & I (team effort) placed our last card on the pile!


These are the Jansen brothers...David's the oldest, Bob (on the left) is the middle child, and Chuck (on the right) is the youngest.

Above is the "Jansen Women's Club" - (left to right) Abby, Jenny, me, Mom/Grandma Jansen, Betsy, Ali
Hopefully the next visit with them won't be so long in the making. We talked some of meeting half-way sometime in the near future. :)




Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Summer Full of Activities!

We've had lots going on this summer...and though I've posted some of these pictures on Facebook, I wanted to share an update blog of what we've been up to this summer! I can't believe I didn't take time to blog about our fun along the way...but honestly, it never crossed my mind! :)
Our summer began with Vacation Bible School at our church. I was a helper in Christopher's class, which may not have been the best choice. But, he brought along some friends and his buddy Mia was in his class, so he had fun. He just wasn't much for the singing and doing the motions part.

The next week, in late June, David had a conference to attend in Orlando, FL - so Christopher and I tagged along for fun. Our budget didn't have room for any theme park tickets, but we had fun finding out all the other stuff Orlando has to offer! Our friends, Joel, Sharyn, & Gabriella happened to planning their Disney vacation that week, so we met up with them for a little fun at Downtown Disney one of the days we were there. We found this restaurant there with a dinosaur theme - right up Christopher's ally!
The T-Rex restaurant is owned by the same people who own the Rainforest Cafe' - so it was quite a real experience! Unfortunately, I didn't get any great pictures inside to show how much fun we had! But, that night, Christopher and I took Daddy back to this restaurant for dinner! So, that should say something! ;)

After filling our bellies at lunchtime, we headed over to the Lego store in Downtown Disney for some playtime. While Gabriella and Christopher worked on their creations, Sharyn and I got some girl-time to chat and Joel got some quiet time alone.
Below is Christopher's finished masterpiece!
Other things that Christopher and I discovered in Orlando were a mall where Christopher had his first ever A&W Root Beer Float! Needless to say, mixing his two favorites (ice cream and root beer) was sheer heaven for him! On our last day in Orlando, Christopher and I hung out at the World's Largest McDonald's while Daddy attended his last conference. It's like McDonald's and Chuck E. Cheese all rolled into one. They have a huge play area that's free, as well as plenty of arcade games to drain your bank account, if you aren't careful!
The sad part of our summer was letting our friends Joel, Sharyn, and Gabriella go to where God was leading them. It had been on my friend Sharyn's heart for many years to be geographically closer to her parents and God provided that opportunity for them this year by opening jobs for both Joel & Sharyn at a school in Oklahoma near where Sharyn's family lives. As much as we knew this was God's plan for their life and we couldn't really argue with Him (believe me, we've tried!), it was still hard to let them go! Sharyn, Gabriella, Christopher, and I had one last playdate at the mall. We started with lunch in the food court and then headed to the playground until we couldn't delay saying goodbye any longer...well, sort of! We did have dinner with our hubbies/daddies, our friend Heather and her sweet baby Molly later that night. It's just so hard to say good-bye to such great friends...so, we decided to say "See ya later!" instead! ;)

While we were at the mall, Christopher decided he wanted to make a Build-A-Bear for his cousin Hannah Kate's first birthday (more on that later)! Below is a picture of him dressing the bear he made in a special "Happy Birthday" shirt.

After a week of Vacation Bible School at Grandma Jansen's church, we headed off to Alabama to visit my family! My brother's boys Jackson and Brody spent two nights with us at Gran & Pop's house. The boys had a blast playing together - and we even made a special craft together!
Later, Gran took all her grandsons, Stephanie (my SIL), David, and me to see Toy Story 3 in 3-D. It was a great movie and I think everyone enjoyed it! We later went to my mom's favorite Mexican restaurant for her birthday dinner. The next day, Gran decided she wanted to take the grandsons bowling...so, off we went! Everyone had a blast!


On Thursday of that week, we had a low-key day. Jackson and Brody had gone back to their home. I had an Opportunity Meeting scheduled that day for anyone up there who might be interested in selling Avon. Once that was over, David, Christopher, and I headed out to check out some of my favorite places around town. Our first stop was the art museum where they have a hands-on area for kids. Christopher got to step into a painting.

Then we spent some time making lots of fun light art images. We made several, but here's one to give you an idea of how cool it is! This was Christopher - he moved and the lines followed him.
Then Christopher tried his hand at stamp art. Each stamp had a different color, and by the time you were done, you had a great image!

The picture below was taken at the entrance of the hands-on children's area of the art museum. Christopher is holding two prints he made with the stamps pictured above.
I decided I wanted to check out the "grown-up" art in the rest of the museum, but Christopher wasn't too interested in that...so he and Daddy wandered outside where they found this...
Knowing that my grandparents' last name is Till, they came and found me so they could show this to me. Turns out, Harry Jackson Till is my grandfather's first cousin. My grandfather's dad and Harry's dad were brothers. Very cool finding! Below is a picture of the fountain:

On Friday, on our way up to a family gathering in north Alabama, we stopped at my brother's house so Christopher could ride his horses. Josh walked him around for quite awhile and then his cousins Jackson & Brody took their turns. Jackson can ride the horse by himself!

Just look at this happy face...I think he LOVED it...how 'bout you?
We got to meet Wilson, my cousin Alison's little boy. He was born on Christopher's 5th birthday. Two special boys with one very special birthday!
My cousin Katie's little girl, Hannah Kate, turned 1 the week we were up there. We had a family gathering on Friday to celebrate this special event. I'd been looking at pictures of Hannah Kate and Wilson on facebook, even got to Skype with Hannah Kate once - but nothing compares to breathing in their sweetness in person! I think Hannah Kate loved her bear Christopher "made"!
Back home, Christopher decided he was a big boy now and asked Daddy to take his training wheels off his bike. I was doing an appointment at the time, so Daddy held him off until I could get home. Then we took his bike out for a spin - on 2 wheels! Christopher insisted Daddy hold on (so he got quite the workout), but David said he only held on enough to catch him if he went too far either way - Christopher was pretty much doing it on his own!
Christopher was invited to Vacation Bible School with his friend Emily at her church (yes, that's his 3rd VBS this summer)! Emily's church did High Sea Adventures like our church, which may have been a good thing! Christopher even decided he wanted to perform for the church on Sunday morning - a huge step for him! :) The picture below isn't the best - but it was the only one that was light enough to post!
I loved that Christopher went to VBS at Emily's church - because it meant I got to spend some time with her Mommy and my friend Maureen in the afternoons! Maureen and I used to hang out on the playground after school while our kiddos played...now, we'll be starting our homeschooling adventure together! :) Maureen's mommy loaned me the Sonlight Curriculm that her sister-in-law gave her. This was my choice curriculum for homeschooling Christopher, but the price tag put it out of reach for us...but God used Maureen and her sis-in-law to give me the desire of my heart (at least in this area)! :)
Right now, we are in the midst of swimming lessons again (not again this summer, but as in we're trying this again)! We've tried this just about every summer since Christopher was a few months old...and this is our first year without tears! Christopher actually got in on his own without any arguements! YAY!!! That alone is progress! His swimming teacher says that once he gets over his fear of putting his face in the water, he's going to be a great swimmer! She says he's very smart and follows directions well. That makes a momma proud! :)


OK...so, now you're caught up on our life. I would like to say I'll do better with blogging...but I've made that promise to myself before and I hate breaking promises...so, I'll just promise that when I can, I'll blog. In the meantime, check in with me on Facebook to get the most up-to-date info in our lives! :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Faith Of A Child


I am constantly amazed at the faith of a little child. Even with disappointments, they believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that if they ask God for something, He will come through for them!

Today, as I was doing an Avon appointment, Christopher announced to my new team member that he was going to have two brothers and two sisters. The lady looked at me expectantly and all I could say was, "He's an only child, but he would very much like not to be." She smiled understandingly and we moved on with the appointment.

His proclaimation did not completely catch me off guard - he's made similar ones before. Usually, it's only 1 brother and 2 sisters (so we even out with girls and boys) - but the faith is always the same. He believes with unshaking faith that God is going to bless him with siblings - and I am completely in awe of his faith!

The infertility journey we have been on together has been a tough one on all of us. We all long for and have been praying for God to bless our family with more children. We all believe that God can do that, but Christopher's the only one to consistantly believe that He will do it!

When you travel down infertility road, it doesn't matter how quickly or cautiously you travel, the wall of disappointment always hits hard. Fortunately, Christopher is blissfully unaware of how things work, so he doesn't hit that wall every month. He's hit it a time or two, and a few times, it's hit him hard. It broke my heart the day he very innocently said to me, "I keep praying and praying, but I'm not getting what I'm praying for." It was a great teachable moment about God's will, but it broke my heart all the same.

What amazes me is that it didn't, as it does in so many grown-ups, take away his faith. He questioned why his prayers hadn't yet been answered the way or when he thought they should be answered, he was satisfied with the answer I provided, and his faith remained firmly in tact! No tears, no holes, no blemish...if anything, it's stronger than before. His declarations of future siblings are becoming more frequent lately and they are always stated with as much certainty as if they were fact.

I wish I could have that same faith. No wonder Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3). He wasn't saying we needed to become childish...but rather that we should have the faith of a child. As I see that faith displayed in my own child, I despirately long for just that kind of faith - a faith that isn't tarnished by "being reailistic."

We have no idea when God will bless us with children or even how He will choose to bless us, but today, I purpose in my heart to believe it will happen, just as my precious son does...because "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37)!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Getting Ready to Begin Our Homeschool Journey

Who knew when we made the decision to Homeschool, that so many other decisions lay ahead of us? Probably the most important one being which curriculum to use. After talking with other homeschool moms and friends & family of homeschool moms, the choices just keep getting more abundant. And after reading several books on the subject, my eyes are opened to all the various "styles" of homeschooling. Most of them, I can buy into...but the one that sends my teacher-radar into a tailspin is "Unschooling" - the idea that children will learn when they are ready to learn. I would say that this is more "Home From School" than Homeschooling...and not a style that you will not find in the Jansen Christian Academy! :)

I recently called one of my Avon downline members who has been homeschooling for several years and got her answering machine. I loved how she designated her school & work times by identifying herself as the Director of the Collinsworth Christian Academy and noting the school hours, as well as Avon hours. Collinsworth, as you may imagine, is their last name. And so, I borrowed her idea and made it my own...thus we'll be the Jansen Christian Academy!

Christopher seems as excited as I am about our homeschooling journey! Just days after graduating from Kindergarten, he requested to start 1st Grade! Needless to say, both the parent and the teacher in me were thrilled! I had already planned to work on Reading and Math with him through the summer...so that's what we did. One thing I've noticed already is Christopher's new-found love of reading. From the time he was old enough to hold a book, he has loved looking at books. Sometimes so much so, that someone who didn't know better would be sure he was reading! He would look at each page for an appropriate amount of time and then turn the page and repeat the process! But, as he began Kindergarten, that love quickly faded. Getting him to do his reading homework was like pulling teeth. It wasn't that he wasn't able to read the words on the page...he just had no desire to do so! When he did read something, his comprehension was amazing - so I knew there wasn't a problem there. However, with our new homeschool focus on books he's interested in reading, the reader in him has finally emerged! We went to the library a few days ago and he had more interest in reading books from the Easy Reader section than looking through the DVDs...a completely new experience!

I've been looking at several different curriculums, narrowing down my choices. As with all choices, I had to weigh the positive and the negative against what would be best for Christopher. Right now, though we haven't yet made a final decision, I'm leaning toward the Sunlight Curriculum. For one thing, everything is included that we'll need - manipulatives, science experiments, and all! Another thing I like is that the history (which is the core to the curriculum) is based on literature that I get to read aloud to Christopher. One of the things I enjoyed most about teaching was Read Aloud time. I loved reading chapter books to my students and getting into the story with them. Christopher has loved being read to since he was an infant, and requests that one of us read to him each night before he can go to sleep. We have now started reading chapter books at bedtime - a chapter a night. I have several Illustrated Classics that I had in my classroom library...right now, we're reading Oliver Twist at Christopher's request!

We are all very excited about our homeschool journey and look forward to all we will learn together in the process! :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Teaching At Home

For those of you who have been reading since this time last year, you may think this post as a little de ja vue...but it's just all in God's timing! I've noticed that God has a way of planting an idea in my heart, but then I have to wait...and once He places it on David's heart and we come into agreement, then I know the time is right. It was that way in the decision to adopt and in so many other areas of our married lives, too! Well, this decision is no different. God planted the idea of homeschooling on my heart a year ago, but the time was not right. I really wanted Christopher to experience Kindergarten at the school where he attended Pre-K (for many reasons), and we were blessed to learn his teacher is the one I'd taught with ten years prior and knew would be good for him. It was really a blessing for him to be in school with all that was going on in our lives this school year. He has a teacher who loves him and he absolutely adores her. So during the stress of a our move, my surgery, and everything else, Christopher had the constant of school to keep his world from completely spinning out of control!
As we looked toward 1st Grade, a decision needed to be made. The school is raising the tuition to almost $9,000, including registration and monthly fees. Due to the move and other issues, David didn't have time to complete our taxes before the financial aid deadline, which meant that we would need to foot the whole bill ourselves. We considered public school, home school, and of course, his current school. We prayed for God's direction and, as much as we were determined to keep our options open, it became obvious that God had only one direction in mind for our family...home school.
The more I think about it, the more excited I'm getting about it! I get the joy of teaching without the bureaucracy of the school system. More importantly, I get to spend more time with the child God blessed our family with six years ago...and I get to guide him in his learning journey! What a blessing!
As I look back on my life, I can see God has been preparing me for this moment for more years than I care to count...long before I even knew David! When I was single and lived in Alabama, God blessed me with two dear friends who home-schooled their children - Tina and Mona, who each had five children. Tina's husband was the youth pastor of my church at the time and Mona's oldest daughter was in my GA (Girls in Action) group and later I also had the joy of teaching Ariel in youth Sunday School. When Tina and her husband went out of town for youth trips, I had the blessing of babysitting for her younger children (their oldest was in the youth group). This was my first real experience with home-schooling! With a goal of being a teacher someday, I completely enjoyed this! These children, by the way, are now all grown - several with families of their own! :)
As I earned my teaching degree and moved down here to begin my teaching career, I had no idea the plans God had for me! God not only blessed me with a husband, and later a precious son...but he also blessed me with challenges that I didn't see as blessings at the time. During my years of teaching, God used the principals of the schools in which I taught to move me through all the grade levels of my certification. At some point in my career, I have taught every grade level in the elementary school! I resisted the change, at times even resented the change...but looking back, it was all preparation for what God had planned for our family!
So, even as we prepare for Christopher's Kindergarten graduation in a couple weeks, I am preparing to teach him the 1st Grade curriculum next year. I went to the library this weekend and looked at every book they had on the shelf regarding homeschooling and checked out the ones I thought would be most helpful in making the first preparations for our adventure! I also joined a Christian Homeschool Co-Op here so that I can connect with other Homeschool parents and Christopher can participate in their field trips and other events (including a PE class with the other homeschooled students). This group was highly recommended to me by my sweet friend Jennifer, who also homeschools her children. Interestingly, Jennifer and I began our teaching careers together at the same school where Christopher is now attending Kindergarten!
I love that I'll be able to coordinate Christopher's interests with the curriculum, thus keeping him authentically engaged in learning (a catch phrase that's very popular among the public school set)! ;) Most importantly, I can push him toward his God-given talents and abilities, while at the same time, gently encouraging him to strengthen his areas of weekness. We will be using the Awana program to guide our family scripture memorization and I will also be reviewing curriculum for the basics of Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic! ;)
If you homeschool your children, or have in the past, please feel free to share tips, ideas, and curriculum you found helpful. For everyone, I humbly ask for your prayers ande encouragement as we set voyage on this new adventure God had placed before us! :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Long Time, No Blog

My mom mentioned seeing herself on my blog and suddenly, I decided to go back and check my blog! To my utter amazement and embarrassment, I discovered I hadn't blogged all school year! Things have been crazy...and most of what I've been doing has been posted on facebook...but that's really no excuse for neglecting the blog. So...here's the Reader's Digest version of our lives...

Christopher's been doing very well in Kindergarten! He's already reading at a 1st Grade level and loves his teacher! His class has gone on lots of field trips - the fire station, the conservency, to the nursing home to sing Christmas Carols, to the Phil to see a production of Pinoccio, and oh so much more! It was almost like a Field Trip of the Month Club! :)

My parents came down and celebrated Christmas with us. Christopher got a new bike from Gran & Pop and a Leapster from Grandma Jansen. We had a great time with family!

We've been packing and unpacking boxes since the last time I blogged. The move finally took place in February. We love our new home. It's smaller than where we were...but now I have my own Avon office! Christopher loves having neighbors close by. He's made friends with the older gentleman who lives next door and his grandson, who visits occasionally.

Christopher had a big birthday bash at a local park with all his friends from school and church. He had a blast playing with all his friends on the playground. Everyone seemed to enjoy the cookie cake! Afterwards, we had lunch with our friends Mike, Kim, & Cole - they came all the way from Boynton Beach to celebrate Christopher's birthday! :)

I had my gallbladder removed a few weeks ago. I'd been having pains on and off for quite some time - but they never lasted very long. One morning, I woke up not feeling well at all. I tried to tuff it out because I had way too much to do to be sick...but my body would NOT cooperate. :( So, a doctor's visit and an ultrasound later, and a few days later, I was in the hospital! They only had to keep me in overnight (less than 24 hours). Christopher got to go to Wannado City with my cousins Karen & Kathy and their kids while I had surgery.

When I last wrote on this blog, Christopher was just beginning Kindergarten. Now, he's almost done. Just a few weeks and he'll be a Kindergarten Grad! We're still seeking God's will about his schooling next year, but there's a good possibility that I could be home-schooling him. The school where he goes now is raising their rates, so unless God makes a way that we can't yet forsee, then he won't be going there next year. No definate plans have been made...but I'm beginning to wonder if this might be why God kept moving me while I was teaching - which enabled me to teach every grade level PK4-5th grade at some point in my teaching career! :)

I've also been involved in a group at church called HOPE. It's a support group for infertility, miscarriage, and child loss. Through this group, I've met some wonderful new friends - and have watched at how God has worked in each of our lives. Several have conceived since we first began meeting, two became foster parents, and one adopted a newborn baby. God has worked in each of our hearts and I'm encouraged to see just what God will do through this group in the future.

We are still praying for God to expand our family - whether that be through conception, adoption, or fostering is completely in His hands. Right now, we're just seeking His will for our family. Christopher continues to desire siblings & often lets his wishes known. One night, he made the comment to us that he'd been praying and praying and God just wasn't answering his prayers. It gave me the opportunity to share with him that God doesn't always give us what we want or when we want it...but that His ways are always better than ours! I told him how I always wanted to marry a man with brown eyes...but that's not what God gave me. Instead, God knew David was my perfect mate...and He waited patiently until I gave up the desire for brown eyes. When I did, God opened our eyes to the plan He has for each of us all along. I was also able to share with Christopher that God knew the real reason I wanted to marry a man with brown eyes is because I wanted my child to have brown eyes...and so, God gave us Christopher (who DOES have brown eyes). I didn't share this part with Christopher, but while I'd never have chosen infertility, I also know that's what God used to give us Christopher...and I've received so many other blessings as a result. Now that I look back on it, I wouldn't trade our journey through infertility for anything...because by doing so would mean I'd have to give up all God brought into my life as a result! :)