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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap and Rant

I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Our family helped serve Thanksgiving meals to a few families who came to our church on Thursday for lunch.  We didn't have the crowd we expected or planned for, but we are praying that the ones we did have a chance to interact with were blessed with not only a meal, but also with the love of some folks who love the Lord!  Thank you Sean and Leslie for having the vision for this kinds of outreach and for getting others motivated to help.  I was so proud of how our family at Northside were willing to serve!

That evening we were invited to spend some time with a family in our church.  We are blessed with folks who love on us during the holiday season when we are away from our own families!  The kids played Apples to Apples and had a great time!

On Friday, Mike and I left the house about 8:30 a.m. and did a little Christmas shopping for the kids.  Cecily did an awesome job of watching the little peeps for us while we were gone.  We are really proud of her and appreciate how she helps out with her little brother and sister!

Now for the rant...
As Mike and I were out on Friday we were amazed at the crowds!!  As I said we didn't leave the house until about 9 o'clock and every store we went in was so crowded, I mean with masses of people.  We were in Toys R Us at about 10:30 and the checkout line was backed all the way from the registers to the very back of the store!

As I was looking at something for JennaBeth, a lady asked me to help her look for something on a higher shelf.  She was a grandmother out shopping for her grandkids.  I asked her what time she got started shopping and she answered, "I've been hard at it since midnight."  Now, this conversation was taking place at 10:30 a.m., which meant this dear lady had been shopping for 10 1/2 hours!  As Mike and I went from place to place and I observed the crowds of people with buggy loads and notebooks with the day's plans in hand, something occurred to me...

How many of these people know Jesus?

And of those who do, do they put this much effort into living for Jesus?

How many, including myself, would be as diligent with their prayer lives to get up at 4:00 a.m. to pray and read God's word and to plan our day according to what the Lord revealed to us? 

Are we as serious and diligent about chasing after Jesus as we are about chasing after the items on our shopping lists?

Do we put as much effort into teaching our children about Jesus as we are about making sure everything we want to get them for Christmas has been gotten?

More stuff...

The rant is over now, but those are just some things that came to my mind.

On Saturday I asked Mike to get all the Christmas things down from the attic and he sweetly obliged!  The kids were ready to put up the tree.  We had so much fun decorating!  I'm not finished yet, but plan to finish up on Monday.

While we were decorating we listened to the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas cd we own.  This has become somewhat of a tradition.  Plus, there is something to be said about decorating your tree while listening to the Oaks singing the Hallelujah Chorus!
We stayed in our pj's and wore silly hats and had the best time!

I can't wait to see how long out seven foot tree survives with a 9 month old speed crawler in the house!

Yep, this should be an interesting Christmas ;)!!!!!

Counting it all Joy,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give Thanks

Praying all of you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day with family and friends,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nine Months

Warning:  The following post has a ridiculous amount of pictures and may cause the eyes to cross!  So, if you don't like pictures of babies and kids, you may want to go on to the next blog on your reading list!!

Surely that's a typo!  JennaBeth is nine months old already?  Where in the world have I been?  We've had several "firsts" with this sweet girl this weekend.  Top of the list is her first haircut!

When JennaBeth was born, one of the first things I noticed right after her delivery was the long hair down the back of her neck.  It was the sweetest thing!  Over the past nine months that long piece of hair has gotten thinner and thinner.  I really didn't want to cut her hair this early, but I knew I wanted a little of that long piece to keep, so we went ahead and let Ms Jessi give her her first haircut this past Saturday.

I don't think Mike really wanted it cut, but I was able to convince him about me wanting to keep it!  I don't know what it is about men and long hair!

We also got the long stringy bangs trimmed while we were there.

I'm not sure why this picture with Ms Jessi turned out so blurry.  I tried to fix it in Picnik, but there was only so much I could do to sharpen it.

Here are some pictures before the haircut:

Isn't that the cutest little sheriff you have ever seen?  And the sheriff is certainly in town!  JennaBeth has developed a little personality the past few weeks with her new found crawling independence!  She is so fast now.  The big question you will hear the most in our home now is this:  "WHERE IS JENNABETH!?!?!?!?!?!?"

She has also gotten really good at sitting up on her own!

JennaBeth has 5 teeth now, with a sixth one on the way...

Another thing that had to happen this weekend was the great crib let down;however, as you will see in this next picture, I'm afraid daddy is gonna have to take it a little lower, because now someone stands up in her crib on her knees!

JennaBeth loves her big brother and he loves her.  Bentley calls her "cutie Beth" and "Jenny".  If you have ever seen the movie Forrest Gump and remember how Forrest said "Jenny", that's how Bentley says it.

Baby girl has long since out grown the bouncy seat, but I can't bring myself to part with it!  I really guess it is time to though!

JennaBeth, Bentley, and I went "window shopping" at Target yesterday.  Bentley is working on his Christmas wish list, which grows longer and longer by the second.  He loves going to the "big red ball store".

I think Bentley and JennaBeth (I know I am) will be glad to have big sister Cecily home with them the rest of this week!  She has Wednesday thru Friday off for Thanksgiving.

The McIlwains pray you all have a blessed Thanksgiving this year!

Counting it all Joy,

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Blind Side

I can not wait to go see "The Blind Side"!  I have heard so many good things about it.  My husband and I had a date night several weeks ago and saw the trailer to this movie and I knew then I wanted to see it!

Mike gets "World" magazine and Michael Oher is on the cover of the November 21st issue.  In the article is this quote from Sandra Bullock (she plays Oher's adoptive mother, Leigh Anne):
"One of my biggest issues has always been people who use their faith and their religion as a banner but don't do the right things, yet still go, 'I'm a good Christian and I go to church and this is the way you should live your life.'  And I'm like, you know, do not give me a lexture about how to live my life when you go to church every week but I know you are still sneaking around on your wife.  And I told Leigh Anne in a live interview, one of my largest concerns getting involved with this project was that whole banner-waving thing because it scares me, and I've had experiences that haven't been great with people like that.  I don't buy a lot of people who use that banner as their shield.  But she was so open and honest and forthright with me I thought, wow, I've finally met someone who practices but doesn't preach.  I finally met people who walk the walk."

Very good food for thought!

What do you think about what Ms Bullock said?

Counting it all Joy,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh the deep, deep love...

Mike has been rehearsing with our choir at church for the upcoming Christmas program for some weeks now.  Rather than purchase an already put together musical or contada, he chose to put his own together.  Another gentleman from our church has written the drama to accompany the musical pieces

I usually sing in the choir, but for this year I have sat out due to needing to be available for JennaBeth.  So, I have had the awesome opportunity of sitting back and observing choir practice each Sunday afternoon.  I can't tell you the blessing this has been!  Not just because he's my husband (although I do think he's pretty smart when it comes to these kinds of things!), I believe this is going to be one of the best if not the best Christmas programs I have witnessed in some time!

He's not using all the traditional Christmas songs or hymns you might expect to hear in a program like this.  Often the baby Jesus is focused on at Christmas and we forget to think enough about why He came.  Mike and Steve, I think, have done an awesome job of presenting a very clear picture of why Jesus came in "Grace Became Amazing:  From a Blue Christmas to a True Christmas".

One of the songs in the program is "Oh the Deep, Deep Love".  Here are the lyrics:

 Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above
Oh the deep, deep love
All I need and trust
Is the deep, deep love of Jesus

 Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom
Through the saving cross He bore
How He watches o’er His loved ones
Those He died to make His own
How for them He’s interceding
Pleading now before the throne

 Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end

Original Words by Samuel Trevor Francis (1834-1925). Music, chorus, and alternate words by Bob Kauflin. © 2008 

I hope you soaked in those lyrics.

Every time the choir practices this song, I cry like a baby!  I had to get up this past Sunday afternoon and wipe the tears that were streaming down my face!  I know they all think I've lost it!  But that's the thing, I haven't lost it!  I've found it!!  I have found the deep, deep love of Jesus and sometimes it absolutely overwhelms me.

I have learned, and am learning that there is nothing sweeter, nothing more satisfying or secure than trusting in Jesus.  In His abundant grace, Jesus has overwhelmed me with His love in recent days.  I am learning all over again what it means to trust in Him alone and rest in His deep, deep love regarding some "stuff".  

My prayer is that if you've come across this blog post today and you need to  know or be reminded of the Lord's deep, deep love for you that you will.  Ask Him to overwhelm you with His love today!

"For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom His whole family in heaven
and on earth derives its name.
I pray that out of His glorious riches
He may strengthen you with power
through His Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts
through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established
in love,
may have power, together with all the saints,
to grasp how wide
and long
and high
and deep
is the love of Christ, 
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness
of God."
Ephesians 3:14-19

Counting it all Joy,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pizza, Pipes, and Playing

Our family had a really good weekend!

On Saturday, we went with a group of Senior Adults from our church to Ellenton, Florida to visit here...

This place was a lot of fun!  While we ate our pizza we got to listen to this...

Here is a little history about the Wurlitzer Pipe Organ from the Roaring 20's website:
"During the early part  of the silent film era, motion picture theatres throughout the country engaged pit orchestras and pianists to provide background music and effects for their stage shows and motions pictures. 
About this time, an Englishman, Robert Hope-Jones, who was an electrical engineer by trade, developed a method of "electrifying" the pipe organ. This allowed the console of the organ to be placed at any position away from the pipes themselves. Hope-Jones envisioned an orchestral organ capable of all the sounds and percussions of the modern orchestra. This was quite unlike the customary voicing of the church organ. Upon arriving in the U.S., Hope-Jones convinced some investors to support his idea of the "Unit Orchestra." Later he joined with the Wurlitzer Company of North Tonawanda, New York, and the term the "Mighty Wurlitzer" became a household name.
During the late teens and early twenties, movie theaters both large and small installed theatre pipe organs. 
But the theatre organ of the Paramount Theatre in Oakland California was only beginning an increasingly exciting and long life story. Installed in 1931 at a price of $20,000 this Mighty Wurlitzer enjoyed only a brief period of glory before the theatre closed in 1932. By the late 1950's, the organ was sold and placed in storage. Around 1960 it was installed in its first restaurant venue, 'Ken Melody's Inn' in Los Altos, California, where it remained until purchased for the Paramount Music Palace in Indianapolis. At this point, it was greatly enlarged and rebuilt by the Crome Organ Company. Upon the Indianapolis restaurant's closure in 1995, it was purchased to be installed in a musical museum in Germany. When plans for this fell through, it was purchased for use in the Roaring 20s Pizza and Pipes."

The sound of the Wurlitzer was amazing.  The different instruments were hung from the ceiling and around the walls of the building.

The pipes in the above picture are the base pipes.  According to the website, the largest pipe is 16 feet and 14 inches in diameter and the smallest pipe is the size of a pencil!
Other organ specifications: 12,500 watts in 20 horsepower blower 3,000 cubic feet of air per minute.  Over 26 miles of wiring, Weight 31,250 lbs.300 controls, 278 tabs, and 3,000 pipes!  Also, there are 75 different instruments and sounds!

The kids loved it!  Bentley's eyes got really big when it was time for the organ to be played and the guy ascended from the pit sitting on the bench playing.  He looked at me like, "Where in the world did he come from?"

DeWayne was the organist's name and he played a bunch of really fun tunes all requests from the audience.  His last piece was "Ninety Bubbles" and bubbles came out from each side of the organ!  Really fun!

I couldn't get really good pictures of the kids because it was so dark, but as you can tell Cecily enjoyed her mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Bentley and JennaBeth were both mesmorized by the sound and the flashing lights.

It was an awesome first time experience that I'm thankful I got to enjoy with my family.

When we got home, it was so nice outside.  The kids had a good time enjoying the "coldness in the air" as Bentley describes it!

JennaBeth "riding" the bike


She was actually sitting in this and making it move!

Bentley is so proud he can "scoot" on the scooter now!

Even though she doesn't like to always admit it, Cecily likes to hang outside with her brother and sister and "play".

Poor baby!  She already has wild hair and the wind blowing wasn't doing her any favors!

I'm thankful that it was a nice "cool" Florida weekend and that we got to spend some quality time together.

What kind of fun did you and your family have this weekend? 

Counting it all Joy,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Charismatic Crawler

Well, the easy days with JennaBeth are officially over!  Check out what she has learned to do this week:

Not only has she learned to crawl, but she has developed quite the personality.  She's lets say a very verbal and animated little girl:
Today, I am thankful for healthy children who are developing and growing into special "big" people!
I am aware that there are many parents who are caring for either terminally ill children or children with disabilities or children with debilitating diseases.  I am praying for those moms and dads and those children today!
Counting it all Joy,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Persecuted Church

Today, I am thankful for the freedom I have to worship God, read the Bible and meet with other believers in safety and without fear.

I was a little embarrassed on Sunday that I was not aware that it was the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church.  There was a display set up with information regarding this special day at our church.

Read Shafia's Story taken from some of the information given by The Voice of the Martyrs
"They were Christians in a place where Chirst followers are considered profane.  Islamic law ways these traitors to the Muslim faith can be killed.  Shafia and her family were known for their Christian faith.  In 2004, her brother, Rafi, stood up for Christian girls in their village.  He was murdered for his courage.  His killers were never brought to justice.  With Rafi's death, the family lost their spiritual leader.  Life only got worse.  A Muslim man in Shafia's village tried to trick her into marrying.  When she refused, he kidnapped her at gunpoint.  For four months, Shafia was locked in a small, upstairs room.  Each night the man raped her.  He tried to force her to accept Islam.  She refused, and he beat her.  Every night the cycle repeated.  Shafia's only solace was the memorized psalms she repeated as she was beaten."
We are blessed in the United States of America as believers to be able to go to church and worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ without the fear of "getting caught".  I think sometimes we take this freedom for granted.  Sure we may have acquaintances or even friends who may make fun of us for the stand we take for Christ or for our devotion to meeting with other believers.  But we have not gotten to the point of having to fear for our very lives as some of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world do.

Like Shafia and her family does:
"Shafia's kidnapping nightmare ended when she found the door to her crude prison unlocked.  She immediately ran home to her family.  She thought she was finally safe.  But just as the nightmare ended another one began.  Her family had borrowed money from a local businessman to file charges against the kidnapper.  To pay back their debt, they were forced to work as slave labor in a brick kiln.  Shafia and 11 family members shared a tiny mud room at the brick kiln with no kitchen and no bathroom.  Every day the family made mud bricks for 12 hours a day. They earned just $3 for every 1,000 bricks.  Only faith in God sustained Shafia.  Each evening she prayed with her family and read Scripture.  Each Thursday night, they attended a nearby prayer meeting."

What sacrifice do we really make?  Or do we treat the Lord's Day like any other day and really make no sacrifice at all?  What message are we sending our kids about reverence for God on the Lord's Day?  Are we really making any sacrifices at all?

Shafia's story continues:
"The Voice of the Martyrs heard about the family and paid their debt to teh brick kiln owner.  'Surely this is answer to our prayers', said Shafia.  Now her family operates a taxi business with a rickshaw purchased through VOM's Families of Martyrs fund.  Each year VOM assists hundreds of families like Shafia's, to encourage them when they suffer and to enable them to continue to live out their faith in a hostile world.  Shafia's family now hosts a prayer meeting for friends and neighbors in their home.  They continue to let their faith in Jesus Christ shine in Pakistan.  The risks have not changed.  But neither has God.  Shafia does not hold a grudge against those who killed her brother or against the man who tortured her.  Despite her difficulties, Shafia told us, 'I have forgiven those who persecuted me.'" 

I am humbled and yes I am thankful.

What are you thankful for today.

Counting it all Joy,

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holiday House '09

I love being involved in ministry with other women!  So, when our family moved to Florida almost 3 years ago and began serving with the folks at Northside Baptist Church, I was excited to learn about the Holiday House event that took place every year in November.

The Holiday House is an annual event that the Women's Ministry Team hosts.   Tables are set up and different ladies volunteer to decorate a table.  Usually the tables are decorated in a Christmas theme.  What makes it so unique is that each table is completely different.  Look at the tables from this year:

That last picture is the table where the daughters of some of the women sit a.k.a. "the kids' table".  Although I'm not sure they appreciate it being referred to as that.  You know they are all so grown!  My sweet 11 year old, Cecily, decorated that table.  She takes items provided to her by another lady in our church, Ms Jill, and she puts the table together.  She has done this table for the past three years now and loves doing it.

Getting her picture taken...not so much!

Take a look at the beautiful place settings at each table...

We meet together around these beautifully arranged tables and enjoy a meal of baked ham and a plethora of side dishes and desserts prepared and brought by each lady attending.
These are our kids, oops, young ladies!


But not before enjoying some appetizers and punch provided by our Senior Pastor's wife, Mamie...

You have not had punch until you've had Mamie's punch!  She's told some of us the recipe, but we never get it to taste like her's!  I pick on her and tell her she sneaks a secret ingredient into it when none of us are looking or something.  It is so yummy!

And the ham...

was so good!

Now we don't just get together and eat.  The most enjoyable part of the evening is being involved in this...

Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse and Franklin Graham.  You have not seen a group of ladies any more excited than the ladies at Northside when the packing begins...

Our young girls even jump right in and seem really happy and excited about packing the boxes, which encourages me so much!

I was able to catch a couple of sets of mamas and daughters packing boxes together, which delighted my heart to no end!!

I am thrilled that at the last count I am aware of we have 111 boxes we will be sending off to children over seas!!!

Heavenly Father,
I praise you for the ministry of Samaritan's Purse and the impact it is making around the world with the gospel of Your Son.  May the 111 children receiving the boxes from Northside Baptist Church be blessed not only with the material gift, but may they be drawn into a saving knowledge of Jesus through this simple expression of love.  Meet their every need and draw them to Yourself.
Counting it all Joy,