Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My 10 Favorite Photos of 2015

At the end of the year, I usually do a "Year in Review." This year, however I decided to do something a little bit different. After poring over photos for the annual Lawlar family calendar and also the one I do for Rob's parents and sister, I've realized there have been some great photos taken in the year 2015. I tried hard to narrow it down to ten of my favorites!

Me with my parents cheering on the NDSU Bison as they beat Illinois state by 2 points for their 4th consecutive National Championship! Photo taken by Deone Lawlar   

Faith, Rob and I celebrating my birthday at our downtown office. Photo taken by Andy Hill
Faith was so excited to have a party for her dad on his birthday! Photo taken by me.
Fun with family (me with my aunt Gail, mom Deone, niece Justine and sister-in-law Barbara) at the annual JOY Breakfast! Photo taken by Alicia Green
Rob and Faith are always sure to bless me on Mothers Day! Photo taken by Robert Bousfield
Faith spending quality time with her daddy on Father's Day. Photo taken by me.
Having fun with our friends, the Hill family during one of their many bonfires this past summer. Photo taken by me.
Faith celebrates her 12th birthday with Grandma and lots of balloons! Photo taken by me.
Family photo time following Thanksgiving dinner. Photo taken by Skye.
Christmas cheer with my siblings. Photo taken by Barbara Lawlar.

We certainly had our share of fun times this past year and although we've had some challenges too, through it all God has been faithful. I pray you have a blessed New Year and that 2016 brings you many answered prayers, dreams fulfilled and most importantly, that you experience the goodness of God each and every day.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Faith's Thankful List 2015

To continue with our little Thanksgiving tradition, I asked Faith to list all of the things she is especially thankful for this year. Once again, as I looked over her list, I realized it's mostly the people in her life for which she is the most grateful. Since she is such a homebody, she especially loves it when people come to our place to visit. However, the three of us did venture to Grandma and Grandpa's for Thanksgiving Dinner where she had a blast!

Here are some of the people she is most thankful for, along with a few other activities she enjoys doing.
"My Whole Family" - One time when I spoke at New Life's Redefinition Cafe service, her grandma, grandpa, uncle and aunt showed up. Afterwards she commented, "I can't believe the whole family came to church." So when she says her whole family, she is talking about her extended family. She especially loves having visits with Grandma and calling Grandmother, Grandfather, and Auntie Joh on the telephone.

Faith with many members of her whole family on Thanksgiving Day
Going to Church - Faith continues to be thankful for New Life's Redefinition service and it is one of the highlights of her week. She is especially grateful that Pastor Marc takes time to pray for her before he races off to the Celebration service (which is held in a different facility). She also enjoys hearing the different speakers (especially Andy Hill) and listening to the worship music, which leads me to the next activity on her thankful list.

Worship Music - Faith has become more interested in worship music this year more than any other. I believe part of it has to do with her music integration sessions but also because we have been attending an Immersed Night of Worship at church held once a month. It's led by one of her favorite worship singers of all time - Monica. We've also been listening to more worship music at home as a family, especially right before bed time. Her absolute favorite singer is Michael W. Smith!

Below is a video I happened to record when New Life's worship team did the music at the Healing Festival held in October. Faith loves watching it over and over again!

Stories with Mom - Not only is Faith thankful that her mom loves reading her stories, she is thankful she gets to make up her own stories. This is something we just started and I'm realizing it's a great way for her to learn what an adjective, noun, verb, and other parts of speech are.

Basically, I write an outline of a story and have her fill in the blanks - sort of like "Mad Libs" (which I loved doing when I was younger and which Rob has never heard of!) I was inspired to make up our own one night after reading one of her favorite Arthur books, "The Mystery Babysitter." The book contained a fill-in-the-blank story on the back and she loved it!

Here's an example of a story we made up about her dad:

My dad is very (adjective) happy. He likes to eat (flavor) chocolate cookies. He likes to drink (liquid) water, apple juice, and vinegar. One day my dad took a nap on the (piece of furniture) TV. He didn't wake up until (time) 6:30. He wanted to play his game when he woke up but his (body part) head was still asleep. My dad is (adjective) silly. I love him and he loves me.

Some other things that made this year's thankful list include:
  • Wheel of Fortune
  • Daniel Tiger 
  • Apple juice
  • Cheetos
  • Prayer at the Healing Rooms
  • Her doll, Baby Allie (whom she just started calling her baby sister)
Faith certainly has much to be thankful for and I am glad she recognizes her many blessings. I pray that you, too, take time to thank the Lord for all of your blessings. For those who are going through challenging times this holiday season, I pray you will find true peace and joy in the midst of your struggles - the kind that is only possible with Jesus.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Faith Celebrates Turning 12 with the "Best Birthday Party Ever"

For the past couple of weeks I've been asking Faith what she has wanted to do for her birthday. The only two things she requested was a cake with dinosaurs and a party with family only. When I asked if she was sure she didn't want cupcakes, she said, "I want a cake with Buddy, Tiny, and Shiny on it." (Characters from the show Dinosaur Train). The only way I could get those particular characters was to order an edible image from Amazon. Because this was like five days before her birthday, I had to get expedited shipping. I prayed it would arrive in time.

In keeping with the train theme, I thought it would be neat to have her party at the zoo so we could ride the train on her birthday. It took some coaxing but I did manage to talk her into the zoo idea. Unfortunately, the forecast looked a little chilly so I decided to try to reserve a space at the zoo's Discovery Center so we could be indoors for the actual party. If it ended up being nice enough, we could still do a train ride. I thought I had come up with a perfect plan.

I hit my first roadblock when the zoo said the Discovery Center had already been reserved. I decided to go with my backup plan of having the party either at my mom and dad's or downstairs in our lobby. If the weather cooperated, we could still make it to the zoo.

Another part of her day was going to be church. She loves going to church and I was so happy she could go there on her actual birthday. I had even offered to bring pumpkin muffins as treats. But on Friday when her respite care provider came over, all birthday plans came to a screeching halt. She told me she had to take the stairs because the elevator was out of order. I knew there would be no way they would fix it before Sunday. (The last time this happened, it took about 5 days to get repaired).

The good news was that when I went downstairs to get the mail, the cake image had arrived so I was able to drop it off at the bakery. I messaged my mom who told me there was only going to be five out of the nine family members we had invited that would be able to make it to Faith's party due to conflicting work schedules. This made things easier and it would work out to have the party in our apartment.

Faith ended up sleeping in since she wasn't able to get to church. Rob went solo taking the pumpkin muffins with him. Around noon, Grandma and Grandpa arrived with auntie Lisa. Uncle Todd and auntie Barbara showed up shortly afterward. Faith was a little anxious at first about having so many people in her space. She was pretty tense in her chair but as soon as we took her out and I sat on the couch with her to open presents, she began to relax.

Even though our original plans had fallen flat, we had all that really mattered right here in our small third floor apartment, broken elevator and all. Faith echoed this sentiment by declaring, "that was the best birthday party ever," after everyone had left.

Her special day continued when her Canadian grandparents called. She had been waiting all week to talk to them. Auntie Joh called too and Faith was especially happy to hear Joh's cat, Ruby purr over the phone. It was a great 12th birthday and I am already bracing myself for having a teenager this time next year! 

Grandma and Daddy help Faith blow out her candles
A close up of Faith's cool cake
Faith was blessed with many gifts (especially clothes from Grandma!)
Fun with 12 birthday balloons!
Our little family
Faith takes a quick pic with Todd and Barbara before they leave
Auntie Lisa and I being photo bombed by Grandpa

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Times of Transition

To me, the cooler months of fall seem more like a season of newness than do the cold winter months of January. Maybe it's because that's when school, Bible studies, and small groups all start up again and we have to transition from our lax summer schedules to busier days that are filled with a flurry of activities. (I also realize that part of the busyness is that we have so much to get in before the snow flies).

Another reason fall is a great time to get a fresh start is because according to God's calendar, the New Year actually takes place in either September or October during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Whether it's on purpose or not, it seems as though our family always experiences major transitions in the fall with this year being no exception.

Spending a perfect fall day at the park
Burning documents - it's much faster than shredding plus this way we get S'mores!
Hanging out in our crowded apartment/office
We kicked off September by moving our office into our apartment. (And yes, it is a little crowded in here). We did this for a few different reasons all which seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, however, my husband is really missing having an office. He's discovered he is not a work-from-home kind of guy. While I can work from home, I have discovered that not having an office is a really good excuse to go to a coffee shop. The library works well too, which by the way, has a coffee shop inside so it is a win-win.

Another transition we have made is that my husband has decided to join my brother's tree crew. This means when my husband is out all day doing tree work, I am the sole caretaker for Faith, not to mention her homeschooling teacher. Thankfully, we get respite care three or four afternoons a week which is when I try to get my work done and run errands. (Or get some rest if we've had a particularly rough night).

Faith's first day of school at home (she seems happy about it!)
Last week, Faith and I began a new adventure called Inspired Collective where we meet with other homeschooling families once a week at a local church. Together, we learn Spanish, science, history, and practice for an upcoming Christmas program.

This group is a huge blessing as homeschooling an only child can get a little lonely for both of us. While she gets to interact with other kids, I get to socialize with other moms. One of the best parts is that all the parents are there with their kids and I get to wheel Faith from room to room and help her with writing, eating, etc. As Rob says, "Faith has the best aide ever this year!"

Our impromptu field trip to Papa's Pumpkin Patch
She certainly is getting taller!
Fall fun with Grandma and Grandpa
Just being silly!
I am still doing some freelance writing but I have also become a published author! My book, Having Faith is finally available for purchase. So far, most of the feedback has been very positive. This is definitely a new season for me and I hope and pray that my book can be a source of encouragement to others.

Because of so much going on, I made the tough decision to step down from serving as JOY International's Java JOY coordinator. I still enjoy getting together every month with my fellow JOY bloggers all of whom have been such a blessing to me. These ladies are true prayer warriors and are always ready to offer advice, friendship, and the love of Christ. 

As you can tell from the pictures, Faith is blossoming into a beautiful young lady. She is definitely a preteen and has the emotions to prove it! We've certainly had some challenges with some of these changes but God gives us the grace and the strength to get through them.

Through it all, I am thankful to God for new opportunities and family and friends who have encouraged me along the way. I look forward to all that He has in store during this New Season!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Summer Recap

It's almost the last day of August and I think pretty much everyone I know is asking, "What in the world happened to summer?" It seems like summer whizzes by faster and faster every year. And at the end of every summer, I find myself feeling sad about not doing the things I had wanted to do once the warmer weather approached. But now as I think about it, there were some very hot days that I was content to stay inside! I think on our hottest day it reached 106 degrees.

Meanwhile, as summer passes us by and my favorite season quickly approaches, here are some fun things we did over the short summer. 

We kicked off the summer celebrating my niece Justine's graduation from high school
We saw an unusual number of rainbows this summer after some very crazy storms
While we didn't go on the Riverboat this year, we at least made it to the river to enjoy the scenery!
Faith was so happy to go to the 4th of July parade this year in Mandan with Grandpa!
Having fun with my friend Kristi and her kids at the parade
We of course made our weekly trips to one of our favorite places - the library
We were so happy to discover our swing was back at Magical Moments playground!
Faith couldn't wait to show Grandma - who we had a lot of fun hanging out with this summer!
That about sums up our summer. One more thing my husband and I have been working hard on all summer long is completing my book, Having Faith. I'm happy to say it will be coming out next month! I invite you to follow my book's Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.

We hope you got a chance to relax during this season and were able to get out and enjoy the summer weather. Here in North Dakota, it's not something we take for granted!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Stormy Father's Day Weekend

This Father's Day weekend here in North Dakota started off a little rough with a major storm that swept across the state on Friday night. Faith and I were home alone when it reached Bismarck around 9:00 p.m. Rob was still at the office working and I was on the computer finishing up a few articles.

I decided to check Facebook and the first thing I saw was a picture my aunt in Arnegard (8 miles west of Watford City) had posted. Her garage had just gotten demolished in a storm that had passed through. The storm was quickly heading east towards Bismarck. One weather warning I saw stated a possibility of wind gusts up to 80 mph.

This tree went down a block from our office in downtown Bismarck

It's hard to see but this is a traffic light that also went down
I figured Rob wasn't paying attention to the weather so I called him at the office to warn him. I'm thankful he didn't try to come home because the storm hit very quickly. One minute it was still light outside then the next it had gone completely black and torrential rains were pouring down from the sky. The trees around our apartment building were bowed over like I had never seen before. I could even feel our apartment shaking from the intensity of the wind. Faith was completely oblivious until our power started blinking on and off and the show she had been watching was interrupted by a black television screen.

Rob didn't get home until close to midnight because he wanted to wait for the water on the streets to recede before setting out. (We had gotten a couple of inches of rain in a matter of minutes causing flash flooding.) He said driving home was a bit scary because all the street lights were out, none of the traffic lights worked, and trees were down everywhere blocking both lanes of some streets. There was a firetruck on one street which was completely blocked off due to downed power lines.


The next day was beautiful and peaceful so Faith and I went to the library, and then to the park where tree branches were scattered everywhere. The park we went to no longer had its wheelchair swing so I decided to try something different. I took Faith out of her chair and set her next to me on one of the bench swings in the park. She loved it! She lauged and giggled and kept saying, "Faster mommy!"

Faith having fun swinging with me

Faith swinging with the best daddy in the world!
Today, on Father's Day, the three of us went to church. After a brunch of French toast and bacon, Faith wanted to take her dad to the park to show him the swing. We made a pit stop on the way at Tutti Frutti where dads got a free treat! (Rob also scored ice cream at church where all the dads were given a coupon for a free "Love It" at Stone Cold Creamery). After gobbling up our frozen yogurt topped with fruit, candy and even a mini scotcheroo, we headed to the park so Faith could swing with her daddy.

We had a wonderful Father's Day! I just hope the weather forecast for tonight is wrong and that we won't be getting another severe storm!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Since they moved to Bismarck three years ago, Faith has gotten to spend more time than ever with her grandparents and has especially enjoyed the times she gets to spend with her Grandma. She loves her Grandpa too but he can be a little unpredictable with his sudden sneezes or coughs. Plus, he tends to talk a little loudly due to his slight loss of hearing from being around so many trucks and machinery throughout the years! Grandma is much more predictable and quiet!

Faith with one of her favorite people in the world - Grandma!
Faith really likes having Grandma come over on Saturday afternoons to hang out with us. Usually Grandma will bring a pizza and we'll have lunch (although Faith has already said this weekend when we see Grandma she wants to go to Perkins instead). Then we'll hop in the van and take Grandma to the library with us then hit Target or the grocery store. Once, Grandma even stayed with Faith for about 20 minutes while I went to get Rob at the office. 

Faith likes the comfort of being in her own place so it's a little harder getting her to go over to Grandma's. We're taking baby steps. Last weekend when Grandma was here, Faith decided we should go somewhere and get some pie. Grandma said she had some pumpkin pie at her house so we drove to her place to get it. Grandpa happened to be outside tooling around in the yard when we arrived.

Grandma and Grandpa's place
Faith with Grandma and Grandpa
I rolled down the window and he had this squirt bottle of soap and water and he squirted me with it. Faith didn't know what to think about that and afterwards kept asking why Grandpa had squirted me. I tried to tell her it was just Grandpa teasing me. (See, he can be quite unpredictable!) Needless to say, Grandma grabbed the pumpkin pie and Cool Whip and we high-tailed it out of there back to safer quarters!

We're hoping this summer to have many more adventures with both of them but for now we'd just like to say:

Happy Birthday Grandma we hope your day is as special as you are to us!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Our Super Spring Weekend!

Normally around this time of year, North Dakotans are nearly dying for spring to come. This was the case early last week when the temperature dipped to six degrees below zero. But then a small miracle took place - temperatures soared to over 70 degrees! My only complaint was that our apartment, which is warm anyway, became a heat box. There was even one day I came home and my husband had turned on the air conditioner - in March!

The nice weather was the answer to many prayers though, as many ladies involved in JOY International had been praying for weeks that the weather would cooperate for their annual event, the JOY Breakfast.

Jennifer Beckham
This year's speaker, Jennifer Beckham had come to Bismarck from her home in Jacksonville, Florida. She said she had been amazed to find when flying into Bismarck there was absolutely no snow on the ground.

She wondered if the two states had swapped climates because when she left Florida it was only 30 degrees. Seriously, this is the first JOY Breakfast I can recall where the weather wasn't cold, windy or snowy.

I had so much fun spending the morning with my mom, niece, sister-in-law, one of my aunts and a couple of friends who sat at the table I hosted. I also loved seeing and being able to hug all the amazing and beautiful women I have met by being involved in JOY International through the years.

I really loved everything about the JOY Breakfast this year, from laughing during the skit, to crying during a local mom's testimony to feeling encouraged and empowered by the keynote speaker. The wonderful weather was icing on the cake!

Me with my aunt Gail, Mom, niece Justine and sister-in-law Barbara
This morning after church, I asked Faith if she wanted to go curling again today which she did last week. I was a little relieved when she said she would rather do something else. If she had wanted to go I would have taken her but honestly I didn't really want to be inside a building where it was 32 degrees when we could be outside in 70-degree weather!

Faith on the ice last weekend 
She opted to go to the park and I joyfully drove her to the park with the accessible swing. I was so disappointed to see it was no longer there. I had to try to hold back the tears. All I could think was that my daughter simply wanted to go to the park on a beautiful sunny day and swing like all the other kids but she couldn't.

We decided to take a walk by the river instead. As we walked down the cemented path, she called out, "Hi!" to everyone we passed. It seemed the weather had made everyone in a good mood because people cheerily called out back to her, "HI!" Some even gave a little wave and one couple stopped to talk to us. Needless to say, my disappointment didn't last long because she was obviously having a great time!

It's hard to believe we're hanging out by river in March in North Dakota!
We did find some ice still lurking around!
While the weather the rest of the week is going to be a little cooler, it is still going to remain above average with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. But I, like many North Dakotans, know better than to hope that Spring is here to stay. It's not uncommon to have a blizzard in April or snow in May. This weekend, though, we are all rejoicing and thanking God for the beautiful weather He gave us!