Monday, March 31, 2008

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico

We began the 7 hour or so drive to New Mexico from Ft. Worth on Monday morning. This was a very interesting drive as I had never been west of Abilene on the interstate. We have visited Arizona and California, so I've been further west, but that was by airplane. We enjoyed seeing all the oil wells and the HUGE windmills, which looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. Outside of that, we mostly saw nothing. Now I know why a desert is called a desert. I think it was a wonderful idea for God to put oil in the desert, as the oil wells definitely don't harm the look of the landscape since it's barren land anyway and you can't do much else with it.

We drove past Midland, Texas, where we saw a huge sign that said "Hometown of George and Laura Bush." Sometime after that, we exited off the interstate and headed north to New Mexico. A lot of what we saw looked like a ghost town...

We finally made it to Carlsbad in the early evening and visited the caverns the next morning.

Here's the opening where you begin the descent into the caverns:

From March until October, bats fly out of this opening at dusk. They say there are thousands of them, and it takes around 30 minutes for them all to fly out. They were on their way back from Mexico and had not yet arrived while we were there. I'm usually terrified of bats, but I think that would have been neat to see.

It was a very windy and cold day, but once we entered the caverns, the temperature was perfect.

It was a 1.5 mile hike down into the cavern, and we were 750 feet underground when we reached what they call the Big Room where there were elevators to take us back to the top.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sunday in Texas

We got up Sunday morning, the 16th, and had to make a decision about where we wanted to go to church. After doing some research on Vision Forum's list of churches, we chose a church that was listed on there. We chose poorly.... It was the strangest thing I've ever been a part of, and I felt worse when I left church than I did when I got there! Actually, I had felt pretty good before entering. I can't really explain it, but I just didn't have a good feeling about it for even two or three days afterwards. Everything was so scripted. In fact, we were given a bulletin when we walked in that laid out everything that was taking place - almost word for word, and I could have taken that home and read it and experienced the whole church service. Except for the pastor's sermon - which I totally didn't get. I never knew what passage he was preaching/speaking from. I may as well have been listening to the State of the Union Address. I may have. Not sure. Well, I do know it wasn't George Bush, so I guess I wasn't. Anyway.....I don't blame Vision Forum. I'm sure it's not possible for them to find out every single detail of every church listed on there. (NOTE: IT IS NOW MARCH 22, 2010, AND AS I AM GOING BACK AND READING THIS, I REALIZE HOW FOOLISH SOME OF THE ABOVE STATEMENTS ARE. I WILL BE BLOGGING SOON ABOUT HOW GOD HAS CHANGED MY HEART ON THIS.)

We were listening to talk radio the other day on our way home, and I don't know who we were listening to, but he made a good point. He had been a Methodist but had converted to Catholicism. One of his reasons was that whether you go to a Catholic church on the West Coast, the East Coast, up North, down South or even another country, you are pretty much going to experience the same service no matter where you go. I would never convert to Catholicism as there is just way too much I disagree with, but I do have to say that I appreciate that quality. I guess we're pretty much what you call Reformed Baptist in doctrine, but even when you visit a church that says they believe in that manner, you have no idea what is awaiting you when you walk through the door into the sanctuary - whether it's a church down the road or across the country.

I believe that the tons of Bible versions have contributed to this. Years ago, before making different Bible versions became such a tremendous money-making project, it just wasn't that way. If you were Baptist, you could visit almost any Baptist church around, and you would have basically the same type of service. With all the new versions, it's too easy to find the particular one that fits your beliefs and then build your church around that philosophy.

We were still in Texas this past Sunday, Easter Sunday, and thankfully we visited another church that was much better. In fact, Brad and I kept exchanging glances during the pastor's sermon. He seemed to be preaching on everything we've been studying this past year. After the sermon, I told Brad that he and this pastor were definitely kindred spirits!

We know so many people who are looking for a church home right now. They've been to church after church and have experienced exactly what we did. Fellowshipping with like-minded believers is so important for the Christian. In fact, we're commanded to assemble together - it's for our good, and it's our opportunity to set aside everything else and worship our Creator! Even though it may be difficult to find a place to worship in this day and time, I pray they will continue to search. As we discovered, there are definitely still some good ones out there, and it's too important to miss!

I know I started with one Sunday and jumped to the next, leaving out an entire week of sight seeing and fun. I'll start filling in those blanks next time!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Visiting one of our favorite restaurants in Ft. Worth

When we arrived on Saturday morning, we pretty much rested/napped until around lunchtime. We then got ready later that afternoon to go eat at Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant in Ft. Worth, Texas. This is one of our favorite restaurants, and the atmosphere is as wonderful as the food. You have the choice of eating inside or outside, and we always prefer outside. Thankfully, the weather has always cooperated. There are beautiful fountains, flowers, shrubs, statues, and even a swimming pool to eat around! This is also one of those restaurants that has been featured on The Food Network. You have to get their early unless you enjoy waiting in a line the size of a Wal-Mart day-after-Thanksgiving-at-5 a.m. line! The food is served family style, and you only have two choices. If they had a menu, there's no way they could move people through the way they have to! The choices are enchiladas or fajitas. We went with the enchiladas. But first, they bring you tostadas covered in cheese and peppers along with chips and salsa. A few minutes later, here they come with the beans, rice, tacos, and enchiladas. YUMMY!!!! And, there is always a ton of food. There were eight of us, and we brought home two bags of leftovers!
After eating, we always go and take pictures around the gardens. I'll post some of those below. I sure could go for some of their chips and salsa right now!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2,800 Miles Later......

and we're back home! We had a great time on our trip, but it's always nice to get back home. All the suitcases are unpacked, clean clothes are put away, and the washer and dryer are working overtime! I had a little break, so I thought I would blog while I had a chance. We left on Friday the 14th to go visit the in-laws in Ft. Worth, Texas. We stayed there for a couple of days and then traveled to New Mexico where we visited Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument. There were no mishaps on this trip, and we were blessed with safety the entire 10 days. We had planned to leave Saturday the 15th around 3:30 a.m., but when Brad got home from work on Friday, he suggested we go ahead and leave. The girls were thrilled with that suggestion, so we kicked things into high gear and left within an hour or two around 8:00 p.m. We completely missed the storms that came through Georgia on Friday and Saturday, so that was a tremendous blessing. We drove all night and made it to his parents' home around 7:30 a.m. Well, Brad drove all night. I did all the driving through Alabama and about an hour or two in Texas. The rest of the time I was snoozing. He was exhausted when we made it to Texas, so I did everything I could to stay awake so he could get some sleep for a while (chewing gum was very helpful!). I was quite thankful when he woke up and felt rested enough to continue the drive on in. It's really a time saver to drive all night if you can stand it. We didn't have to stop and eat (which saved some money). We took some snacks, and those sufficed our middle of the night hunger needs. We only had to stop for gas for the vehicle and a few bathroom breaks. The girls slept most of the way, so they were amazed at how "quickly" we got there. We slept the morning away when we did get there, but we were glad everything worked out the way it did.

I'll post some pictures from the trip over the next few days.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Our Little Sheep Dog

I wish I had time to take a picture, but I'll just have to describe what happened to our puppy yesterday.

First of all, we're going out of town for a few days, and a very, very kind friend of our's has offered to keep Major for us while we're gone. I wanted to take him to the doggy salon before dropping him off at her home this evening so he'd smell nice and look pretty.

I called our normal groomer, and she didn't have anything available until Saturday, which was too late. She does a great job, and he looks like a show dog when he leaves there. Oh well, I decided I'd have to be brave and find someone else.

I remembered my friend, Terri, telling me about a lady she used, but I didn't remember the name of her business. I called Terri, but she wasn't home. I thought Bonnie had used this person, too, so I gave her a call at work, but she was in a meeting. Sigh.....

It was now up to me and the yellow pages. I called the first one on the list as it wasn't too far away, and I needed to go that direction anyway. They sounded really nice on the phone and said I could bring him right away. I realized where it was as they have a hugh 60 foot iguana painted on the side of their building, but I had never been inside. So, I told them I'd be there in about an hour.

I was in for a bit of a surprise. Have you seen those stores in the mall that are basically black, everything they sell is black, and the sales people are covered in piercings and tattoos? I usually try to walk on the other side of the mall to avoid such places. Little did I know I would be walking into the gothic pet shop!

Very quickly I was reminded of a sermon I heard a few weeks ago at that family-integrated church we visited two hours away. He encouraged us in not being so judgmental about what we see on the outside, and how we need to try find ways to be witnesses for Christ when we encounter people that may not know Jesus. (I specifically remember him saying something about piercings and tattoos as an example.) Not that people can't be Christians and have piercings and tattoos - albeit strange, but usually you can tell the difference - for example, what the tattoos "are" and "say" often reveal the difference.

Anyway, I had a choice. I could grab Major and run out the door, or I could try to smile and be nice without showing my fears as I left him in their hands. I chose the latter. I went out the door assuming I would be picking up a dog with a belly ring and kitty cat tattoo when I returned, but I knew it was what I needed to do.

Even as we left, the girls were asking to go back in there and get him. I assured them he would be fine as this was a place of business, and we'd just be sure and pray over him when we got him back!

They called a few hours later, and we went and picked him up. He didn't look too bad, although it wasn't nearly as good of a job as our normal groomer. But at least he didn't have any holes or drawings on him. Whew!

We got to looking at him a little closer when we got home, and they obviously shaved his legs and left his body poofy. He looks just like a little sheep.

All in all, I feel like this happened for a reason and that we were supposed to end up there yesterday. Earlier in the week, I sent an email to everyone I could think of to see if anyone was interested in buying him or if they knew of someone who was. We just didn't think we wanted the responsibility of an indoor animal anymore. My next step was to put an ad in the local paper, but I've definitely decided against that. If he can't go to someone we know, then I'd rather keep him. Also, I think the girls may have realized that maybe they really do like having him around after the way they worried about him yesterday. We'll see.......

And that's the story of how our Bichon Frise became a temporary sheep dog.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Church, Funerals, and Testimonies

Sunday was truly an enjoyable day. We had a great first service with a fellowship of 30 people. We'll be meeting again in a few weeks, and I'm already looking forward to it.

After our worship service and wonderful time of sharing lunch and fellowship, we went home for a few minutes, and then we got ready to leave for a baby shower in Alabama. We were able to see our friends from the church we just left, and it was so nice to see everyone.

We'll be seeing them all again today, but unfortunately, it won't be in celebration of a new life. Our dear friend, Brenda, passed away on Monday after struggling through all sorts of issues since last September. After surgery to remove a mass that turned out to be cancerous, she had kidney failure and was later determined to have multiple myeloma. She was a sweet lady with a dry sense of humor. Even during her sickness, whenever I saw her, that humor was still shining through. I have some distinct memories of her that I'm sure I'll always remember. Before I found out that I was going to be having our third child, she came to me one Sunday morning and told me she had dreamed that I was going to have a baby. Just a few short weeks later, she was one of the first people I told when I was able to tell her that her dream had come true. Another time, she gave me a picture of a girl from a magazine, and she told me that this was what Cari was going to look like when she gets older. I still have it somewhere as I see it from time to time when I'm going through pictures, and I held on to it just to see. We still have a few more years before I will know the outcome on that one. Another time, I spoke at one of our women's Bible studies on healthy eating. Her dry sense of humor really came out during that time as at that point in her life she just didn't think she would want to change any of her current habits, but she did show her support for me by bringing me organic food coupons! She often complained about having "granddogs" and how she wanted a "grandchild." Thankfully, her grandson is now a little over a year old, so she was able to meet him and enjoy him for a time.

Brad will be doing the service today, and I know it's going to be hard. Please be in prayer for him and especially her husband and her daughter and son-in-law. Both of her parents are still living also, so I know they need your prayers, too.

I know you've probably seen that poem about how on a tombstone, it's not the numbers that count but the dash in the middle. The question is asked, "what are you doing with your dash?" Two men in a local community recently passed away, and I believe these men made the most of their "dash." They both attended the same church where a friend of ours attended for many years when he was growing up.

Big John was the name of one of the men. I knew him before he got saved, and later when I saw him in church one day, I was amazed at the difference. This man had a tremendous testimony, and 20+ years later, he was still sharing it. They said the line at the funeral home for him went out the door, down the street, and around the building. Sounds like he left an awesome testimony.

The other man's name was Clarence, and he passed away a week before. I think he may have been the happiest man I've ever seen in my life. My dad made the comment the other day that you knew when Clarence was in church. I replied, "you knew when Clarence was in Wal-Mart!" The same friend that went to church with these two men said about Clarence, "I've never seen anybody who wanted to go to heaven as much as Clarence did."

I was immediately hit with conviction like a ton of bricks falling on my heart. Would anyone ever say that about me? My conviction tells the answer on that one. Sounds like Clarence read and understood Colossians 3:2 "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." What a testimony........

Saturday, March 8, 2008

No Greater Joy Article

Michael Pearl's daughter, Shalom, has written an excellent article that can be found in their most recent publication. If you didn't receive one, you can read it here. It's about building your house on the rock in regards to how you raise your children. Lots of insight in this one....

Friday, March 7, 2008

Waste Not!

I have a confession. We have been a wasteful family at times when it comes to food, but once again, the Lord is teaching me in this area and showing me how to not be so wasteful. I'm going to give examples from the past couple of weeks showing what normally would have happened and what actually did happen. Believe me, I didn't come up with this realization on my own because none of these were intentional.

#1 - A few weeks ago we had Northern Beans with Mexican cornbread, baked sweet potatoes, and baked macaroni. Everything was eaten except for the beans.

Normally, these beans would have sat in the refrigerator for a week or two and then would have gone in the trash.

But what actually happened was... I used the beans to make white chicken chili the following week, which we were able to eat for a supper meal and a lunch meal the following day!

#2 - Tuesday evening, I made vegetable/beef lasagna and made a huge salad to go with it with bell peppers, onions, celery, carrots, and zucchini. All the lettuce was gone, but I had a lot of the raw vegs left over.

Normally, I would have thrown all this in the trash thinking that it would be ruined before I was able to get back to the store and buy lettuce to go with it.

But what actually happened was... I saved the vegetables for the next night. I had some brown rice and some boneless chicken, so I cooked up a little stir fry for supper! My vegs were already chopped, so it didn't take long at all to fix this meal.

#3 - When I make homemade bread, I immediately slice it up when it's finished cooking.

Normally, I throw the hard-crust end pieces in the trash or give the birds a treat if it's not raining.

But what actually happened this time is... I am drying out the pieces and then using them for homemade bread crumbs!

#4 - My husband loves pimento cheese sandwiches, and that is normally what he takes for lunch every day. I decided this week to try to make it homemade instead of buying the pre-made stuff at the store with all the unneeded extra ingredients. But, (and this sounds just like me), I bought everything to make it except for pimentos!

Normally, I would have given up on the whole idea and told him to eat out until I made it back to the store (I did sort of give up on Tuesday and sneaked a turkey sandwich in his lunchbox.)

But what actually happened was... After giving it some thought, I realized I had a jar of olives in the fridge. For a few seconds, I contemplated squeezing the pimentos out of the olives - yeah, right - but then I realized that he really loves olives. Olives and pimentos obviously go well together, so I threw a handful of olives stuffed with pimentos in the mixture, and it actually tasted pretty good!

I know some of this is "no brainer" stuff, but either I've been too lazy in the past or just really didn't give much thought to what I was doing. Like I said, this really wasn't my doing as, for instance, stir fry was not on my supper list this week. With a little thought and help from Above, I'm hopeful I can continue to come up with meals that can work together and alleviate waste. (I also realize I should utilize my freezer more and put things in there that are left over that I don't have an immediate use for.) The lesson to be learned here is to never throw good food in the trash without thinking first if there is something else it can be used for, and if you're cooking and realize you're missing an ingredient, see if there is something you can use in its place. There are many alternatives for certain ingredients that work just as well as the originals.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Weekend of "Firsts"

We had a really nice weekend and enjoyed some new experiences - some of them anyway.

When I was purchasing all of my healthfood supplies last week, my oldest saw some of those ear candles that remove junk from your ears and wanted to give them a try. So, we purchased some and experimented with them on Saturday afternoon. She didn't really notice much of a difference, and I'm still not sure if what was in the candles afterwards was ear stuff or candle stuff. I had read that this could take the pressure off of your sinuses, and sure enough, she did wake up Sunday morning with her sinuses draining. That's not necessarily a good thing as she was left with the typical sore throat and ear popping that you get from such. I don't know if we're going to use those again.

Saturday evening, I had another first. My family and I went to a see a girls college basketball team play at a local university. We really enjoyed seeing the game - not too mention the super cheap tickets and concessions! I did find myself hoping the Alabama Huntsville team would win, but that didn't happen. Not that I really cared either way. The West Georgia Wolves had a pretty good team - I think they've only lost two games this season?

Then yesterday, we did not have a typical Sunday. My husband had been speaking with a pastor of a family-integrated church about two hours northeast of where we live. (This is the closest Baptist family-integrated church that we know of.) We are going to be meeting with some families in our area this Sunday, so we really wanted to see how this particular church functioned - just to feel more comfortable with what we're doing and to see how they do things. Their service did not start until 4:00 in the afternoon, so we slept late on Sunday, and then slowly got up and ate breakfast. I then fixed a real meal for lunch and then made a couple of other things to take to the fellowship meal that we'd be having afterwards. We left for church around 2:00 and arrived there at exactly 4:00. We had a wonderful time and absolutely loved fellowshipping and worshiping with these people. I got to experience singing the Psalms in a congregation setting, and the pastor preached a wonderful message. His message was a charge to families to spread their faith throughout their community, and many wonderful examples were given in how to do this. I was so blessed to see these families sitting together in the services and worshiping together. The children participated as much as the adults did - believe me, they were not left out. The pastor delivered his message in a way that made it easy for the children to understand, yet he was still able to give the adults what they needed to hear also.
It was truly a great day. Now we're even more excited about this Sunday!!

Now, I have another first I have to go experience. We haven't had dessert around here for a while, so my daughters were about to bust. I allowed Madison to make some homemade doughnuts, which we've never made before, so I'm going to go enjoy a delicious snack!