Birthday wishes for me and my boy

Today’s the birthday of  my favorite 7 yr old, Mr. Braylon Emmanuel Russ! After just returning from Oregon & lettin’ both sides of the fam dote on him w/2july 09 039 parties, we caved & let him have one here w/his 4 closest friends ~ Abigail Llanas (who lives behind/right of us), Andre’ (who lives 3 houses down & across Orgain St. from us), Chaney & Brady (who he met in Kinder. @ Nadine Johnson Elementary & never lost touch with). A strange bunch, but I love them all.

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This mornin’ I got lots of party goodies @ the Dollar Tree and then came home and baked a strawberry cake, frosted and decorated it. Cut some watermelon, put up streamers & a few helium balloons – let’s p-a-r-t-…why? because who said you can’t have three stinkin’ birthday parties in 8 days?! Right now, they’re at the theater watching “Aliens in the Attic” w/Ricky. After they come home, it’s pizza, cake, & presents – speaking of which, Bray is really into spy stuff this year – and tricking people (so a lil birdie told me Chaney got him some fake poop!) He also got an Mp3 player w/$ from Aunt Kim & Uncle Jeremy, and “Horton Hears a Who” from Papa Rick & Granny. There was more, but let’s keep this post simple, yeah?

Update: After gifts, there was one more thing ~ a little competition &  a lot of good, clean fun for just $1.89: the egg toss / egg launch (where we all threw eggs as high as we could throw eggs into the sky and still have them land in our yard). Too bad I was busy officiating & didn’t catch it on film. At bedtime, Ricky asked B. what his favorite part of the day was…and this was it. It doesn’t take much for a 7 yr old!

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(Above is the moment when Ricky presented our gift to him, an artist’s easel, to which he was exclaiming with full force, “YES!!!!”)

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(Princess Angel stuffing her pizza hole)

Even though we have to move out cause our home’s owner wants to sell this place vacant, we are only moving about a mile away (if that)! We just want Bray to feel secure and familiar with his surroundings…not to mention still close to those 4 crazy friends of his.  For 2nd grade, it looks like he may get to return to NJES where he spent Kinder.

God has given us wisdom, steady income, great health and a close-knit family, even the ability to fly to Oregon now & then. He has been so faithful.

I’m sure Bray could come up with a list of things he wishes for today, but as for me, I’m good. I’m trusting God to provide every lil need & not afraid to throw in some wants.  I hope & believe that my trust in him will stay strong when life throws us a curve…cause it will.  But until it does, I’m dancin’ in his unmerited favor…and I’m making the most of this time I get to spend with my babies. It’s been a long Saturday. I’m going to bed now.

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Making memories and ministry a “priority”

This weekend I had the privilege of attending a reunion for my youth choir, “Priority”.  It was a celebration of the choir & its director & youth leaders, since its inception 20 years ago. 20 years of former & current members were represented as we all met for lunch & practice Saturday, May 23rd. I was in choir (as far as my memory serves me) from ’92-’97 when I was booted out because that was the year I married Ricky (& you were not allowed to be married & tour around the west coast with a youth choir)!

So I have about 6 years of singing & touring with Priority, that kind of blur into one sweet memory. Thanks to Michele (Smith) Swee who invited me to join in, and to Ron Cochran who directed this bunch of kids (about 50-100 per year), I was exposed to what fruitful ministry & doing what God created you to do…was all about. At first it was just for fun. But then I unexpectedly started learning stuff! Like…

What Alto vs. Soprano vs. Tenor was & how they sounded so great together. How music & lyrics can change your mood, even your week. How important discipline & practice & structure is. How friends 001you continually meet with year-round & then live with for 10 days in June can dramatically impact your sense of belonging. All the tour stories had me in joyful tears this weekend! …And how God can use you (more than you think) to make a difference for his name’s sake, if you lean into & develop the gifts he’s given you.

Ron was (& is) a really, really great teacher of music. I have so much respect for this man. I think when he let me try out for Amy Grant’s “Where Do I Go?” in ’92, it was my first real solo opportunity. To this day (& even Sunday morning when I sang it again) I get a case of the butterflies until I’m about a quarter though a song. But I haven’t put down the mic since.

If either Angel or Braylon have the desire to sing, I have no doubt I’ll be leading them in the same direction I went: to get involved in a choir ministry like Portland Christian Center’s Priority ~ with opportunity to grow in friendships & in the Lord, share silly stories, have fun & work hard, all for the glory & kingdom of a Great & Worthy God!

I May Not Have Much of a Following

…but that’s totally ok with me. Last year I wanted needed people to subscribe to this blog. I used to have a need for people to like me or my writing so much that they kept coming back for more…of me. I used to desire a following. But in the last 4 or 5 months, that desire has been slowly dying. Once in a while, it’ll take a random gasping breath (like in the movies when you think someone’s dead, but they’re not), but those are probably days I’m hungriest for attention, affirmation & assurance that people like me. Well, guess what;  it’s not about me. I guess (or really hope) that means I’m sort of dying to myself. 

I was never called to be liked. I was never whispered to by God to have a blog with a huge following or have tons of friends. I’m not much of a leader. I don’t even think I was whispered to by God to have a blog. I do know that what I’m called to do is follow Jesus, and if my living, singing, working, writing…  will help anyone else follow Him too, I’m doin’ what He wants of me.

I’ve been convicted this week of spending too much time & energy consumed with technology. Technology’s not a bad thing. I use it mostly to keep in contact with people I care about. But it dawned on me that I still must have this huge “need”, especially since moving 2k mi. away from family last yr., to KNOW and to BE KNOWN. Maybe it’s a girl thing. Maybe it’s a human thing. Yet I’m constantly thinking of how I’d love to get away by myself…well, with a good cup of joe & some quiet time with God.

I was thinking the other day, that I could seriously do some damage (in a good way) by using my time & energy to direct people to Jesus – with that same technology. Instead of feeding my own hunger for acceptance & contact, I will start redirecting…

…and maybe some who (by design) stumble on my sites in the future, may come into contact with and accept the God who created them – a God who is crazy about them.

Yeah, I may sound like Ms. Spiritual at first; my site rating might drop to like 4 million, but I don’t care. What people need (including me) is not another “friend” added to their contact list…or another shallow conversation.

what people need is grace. 

to hear the truth.

forgiveness.  

unconditional love.

a touch when you are hurting.

…all in the form of a Man & His Words.

all for a Christian rock concert tee shirt

the “kutless” concert was a few hours away. the boys were gettin’ excited. my hubs, ricky & his best friend, jason were biding their time watchin’ tv in our apartment. ricky was clipping his toenails, neatly placing them aside after each clip so they wouldn’t land on the carpet. after a good 10 minutes, there was a nice-sized pile sittin’ on the table. as they were chattin’, he stares at the pile with a twinkle of innovation in his eye, pauses & asks jason, “if i ate this whole pile of toenails, would you buy me a tee shirt of my choice tonight?” jason craked up…but wasn’t surprised. he knew ricky well. the same ricky that made up a church small-group game & called it ‘fellowship factor’, complete w/dares to eat mayonnaise, anchovies, jalapeños & dog bones…& shave entire limbs. the same ricky that surprised 20 church folk at a 4th of july party by casually stepping out onto the back porch in my 2-piece swimsuit, askin’, ‘anyone for a swim?’

well, the dare was on. he couldn’t spit them out. he had to crunch them up in his mouth at one time.

and crunch…

he

did.

thank God for that orange juice chaser. thirty seconds later, those pointy things were all swimmin’ around in his belly on their way to digestion city. and three years later, the two of them still text & ricky’s still wearin’ that faded black tee he so proudly earned.

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all these memories came a-floodin’ when i was biting off my little angel’s toenails & fingernails yesterday. see, i’ve discovered how to distract her & make it fun! my secret? gently biting one off, keeping it on the tip of my tongue & sticking it way out for her to quickly grab. she then ever-so-methodically places each nail on the top of her hand. instead of a battle of wills with a squirmy whiny wee one, it’s now a game we play ~ me & my smiley, engaged & yes, almost as goofy as her daddy, little girl.