Sunday, October 19, 2008

Once upon a time...

I'm on a mission this weekend to reconnect with my long neglected internet "friends" and a few writing projects. 

WRITING? what's writing??? 

Yes it has seemed like a distant memory or foggy dream, lately. Did I really used to write, or did I just "dream" about writing and it seemed like I did? Well, you can't imagine how thankful I am to have a small token of proof lying here in cyberspace to remind me that I haven't lost my mind (yet). That once upon a time... in a land far away... writing really WAS the order of the day! Ok, well that's corny, but hey, I'm a little rusty and drifting here. 

Oh, and then there was reading, that always fought in line. 
READING? what's reading??? I've been dawdling through the stack on my bedside table, for some time now, no matter how loud they seem to call. 

In fact, the only call I've been able to answer lately might be termed the CALL of the WILD. The WILDERNESS that is. OK, so I'm sounding sappy again, but you know those places in life that take you far away from everything you recognize as familiar? Well, that's where I've been. It's isolated and lonely, beautiful, serene, rugged, exhausting, ruthless, and constantly lashing at my innermost core. 

I live in the country, near the edge of "wild" areas of land. They're wonderful to admire from a civilized distance. Yet tucked safe inside my warm and cozy, every-amenity home, I've learned plenty about life in the wilderness. It can burst right in at times and simply carry you away... the loss of a job, a suffering child, volatile relationships, death, irrevocable change, illness, fear, frailty, fatigue, disappointment, mere oversight, or natural disaster. 

Though I'm currently living in the "outback" of prolonged circumstances that still threaten the destruction of a beloved way of life, others I hold dear are suffering much worse conditions. And yet they inspire me. They breathe gently on the embers that glow and keep me warm. Shaken out of a stupor, I kneel to do the same. Chill gone, I venture into the night and replenish the store of kindling. The fire grows. The wilderness shrinks. Flames crackle and dance, reaching up toward the stars. Familiarity surrounds me in the dark, and a new and crazy way of life becomes yet another adventure. 

Enough pent up symbolism? Alright, well you get the idea of where I've been lately...little reading... less writing... fairly active imagination... challenging, yet enriching time in life.

Anyhow, here I am. Just warming up the keyboard. Happy to put a few words on the screen. Beginning, again...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: “Generation NeXt Marriage”

By Tricia Goyer

I was thrilled when I heard the guidelines for this Blog Tour from Trish.
“…we’d like you to take one chapter of the book and share how that chapter, or the principles in the chapter, have helped you in your marriage.”

Cool, I thought. T and I have been studying some new parenting books lately, but it’s been awhile since we’ve looked at one on marriage. I’m a definite Gen X-er, and he is on the cusp, so it should relate to us. What a great way for us to draw closer while I prepare for the blog!

...Well, since that original thought: I began a new full-time job, one of our older daughters moved home, T took over my gourmet cooking class this semester, we're homeschooling both twins, and he's trying to get a new business started!

At a time when we probably need it the most, there just hasn’t been time in our schedule for basic communication let alone something that will draw us “closer” as a couple. The more I thought about it and poured through Trish’s book, I laughed and thought
YEAH, well that’s what she’s talking about here isn’t it?!!

SO which chapter really hit home for me???

Chapter 8: “Sweet Child o’ Mine

Why? Because if there’s one thing my husband and I ALWAYS agree on it’s loving, nurturing and raising our kids to be healthy, happy, productive, faith-filled young people.

Well then why aren’t you blogging on
“Generation Next Parenting” instead you say? It’s simple. Marriage and Parenting aren’t separate issues as our friend Tricia points out here!

“Children Redefine ‘Marriage Partnership’” she opens the chapter with. In discussing marriage as a purposeful relationship, she quotes Gary Chapman in the Four Seasons of Marriage “All research indicates that an intimate marriage provides the safest and most productive climate for raising children.”

Though I DO see our parenting partnership lately as one of the biggest strengths in our marriage, one of the closing points Trish makes went to my core.

“Additionally the way John and I interact serves as our children’s model for marriage. In fact, the type of marriage I have with John is most likely the kind my kids will have too. That’s huge.”

UM yeaah, that’s HUGE!

It reminded me once more that even in the midst of understandable hard times; when it’s difficult to find the time and way to connect, our marriage STILL has to take precedence. During these times, we are modeling for our kids how to handle their own future marriages under similar circumstances.

As a parent it’s pretty easy to analyze and even critique our own children’s behavior, after all that’s part of our job! Well picturing my child as a future marriage partner, handling particular situations the way we typically do, was inspiration. Not only to
try to do better, but my need to aim daily for the BEST relationship possible, no matter what the situation may be.

Now this doesn’t mean we’ll ever become the “perfect” husband/wife, during our lifetime. Rather that in each and EVERY season, we must dedicate precious time and energy toward a future of continuous improvement.

One of my favorite things in this chapter is that Trish shares her
TOP 12 list of the best things a married couple can do together for their kids.
I focused in on just a few to share:

“5. Have daily ‘couch time’ where your kids see the two of you talking about your day. It will give them security to see their parents communicate. They will know all is well in their world.

7. Be loyal to one another and stand by each other, even when you don’t think the other person has handled the situation correctly. It’s better to work it out afterward, in private.

8. Let loose once in awhile. Life doesn’t always have to be serious.

9. Pray together as a family. AND...

11. Let the kids see you handle disagreements and resolutions respectfully."

To learn more about other bloggers’ favorite chapters in this book follow the tour here!

Trish Goyer is the award winning author of nine books, has written more than 250 published articles, and is a sought after speaker and presenter for women’s groups. She makes her home in northwest Montana with her husband and three children.

Click here for an opportunity to win a “dinner for 2” courtesy of Trish herself!

Friday, March 21, 2008


there was "Clumsy" Jason Castro, singing from the heart, at church.

Well, the news is all good so far!!

Jason's made it to the top 10, securing a position on the AI performance tour this year. Simon Cowell was quoted on Oprah this week as saying he expects him to be in the "top 4". Leonard Cohen has "Dreads" to thank for a revitalized career, Jeff Buckley's version of "Hallelujah" hit #1 on Itunes in memorium, and J's 1.5 minute version was the first AI contestant download to break the top 100...

I love this video though, because it's at the core of the "real" Jason. Behind all of the Hollywood glamour, the fan threads, the magazine articles and Ford commercials is a cool, humble, easy-going, goofy, God-honoring young man.

If you're so inclined, please keep up the prayers as he travels this wild pop-culture journey. Check out a new blog dedicated just to that, it's called:

Tune in Tuesday nights on FOX (at 8/7c), to enjoy his next performance (award winning smile included)...then VOTE him back again!!!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Speaking of adoption issues...

A couple of weeks ago T and I were asked at the last minute to help out with an adoption “hot topics” class at church for families that are considering adoption.

The topic of the week: "Bonding and Attachment” is one that has been intimately woven through our lives the past 10 years. In fact, truth be known, we are only speaking about it now, because of God’s faithfulness to us. I wish I could say it was the other way around, but we haven’t always been full of faith in our parenting. Thank goodness for his perfection in using “broken tools” to create priceless works of art from individual lives.

Attachment and Bonding are basic components of human life--

an art medium in which God is the Master Creator. He designed us as free beings and set us in motion as reflections of his own image. With "the fall” our relationships were broken and disconnected. Life became less than the “ideal plan”. Separated from our source of life, we became fearful, self-centered creatures, craving some sort of control over the situation. 

Then he came along…offering unconditional love and “adoption”.

It wasn’t long after our first adoption that the connection between the relationship dynamics I had with my adoptive children and my own relationship with God was revealed. It just about knocked me off my feet! 

Me?? Attachment disorder with God? But I "LOVE” God! 
Do you trust him? 
I try. 
Do you give him control or make a mess of things on your own? Hmmm. Good point. 

Typical attachment begins at birth and the process unfolds throughout a child’s first few years. This unique period where an infant learns to trust and rely and relate to a “primary caregiver” is integral. In order to be healthy, an infant must internalize that initial relationship at the core of their being. 

The way a child learns to deal with everything else in life is based on that initial reassurance of love, security, safety, and well-being.

It can be broken though, just as ours was when sin entered in. According to Dr. Walter D. Buenning:

“…bonding is a two step process. First, the parents must give the child love. Secondly, the child must accept it. The problem arises in the second step or phase. Because of past loss, some children are unable to trust.... It is difficult for most parents and many clinicians to believe that this could happen with children and even infants. In adoptive homes, love is like a gift given to the child. The core problem is that the child does not, indeed cannot, accept the gift. In the end, the result is that the child looks and acts as if he has not been loved.”

Is this reminiscent at all, of your own Christian walk?? I know it has been of mine. There are varying degrees to everything, but our own adoption parenting reminds me again and again to fully accept God’s grace in my life. Accepting the love he has for me is the freedom and security I need to survive. Continuously placing him at the center of my being, allows me to reflect his image once more.

What a work of art our adoptions have been in his hands. Any obvious flaws, were our own unskilled additions to the canvas. Many, he has even graciously touched up. 

Last week, at a particularly strained period in life, he brought us together with a request to serve others, only to remind us of his continual presence and goodness. As we shared our experiences and lessons, a sense of his faithfulness filled me. 

Unaware of my own need for refreshment until that very moment, I marveled "Here he is, drawing us near, even as he sets us to doing his work!"

Sunday, February 24, 2008

the Barlow Girl's Valentine's Day Adventure...

I have to hand it to our twins for courageously journeying through another surgery on their feet last week! Each girl has a left foot abnormality, that many never notice, since it's hidden pretty well beneath the cover of their shoes. 

They've had surgery before, but it's been quite awhile, so it was a new experience for them. This was also the first time they were able to go through surgery together! 

Though they may have had second thoughts when it came to the day of their grand ordeal, they rolled into pre-op like pro's! Emma was the entertainment for the day in the OR, on her standard dose of Versed! She doesn't remember it, but gave me permission to impersonate her funny antics while waiting to begin, with most of her visitors afterward. Olivia's the lightweight we've found out with meds, so she just got very sleepy.

Afterward was not such a fun day for either, but things slowly got better and they were discharged after a couple of days. 

Here are our teenaged "little grannies" ready to leave with walkers, wheelchairs and even a shower chair in tow!!:

What was their first wheelchair bound outing?? 

Dinner for their sister's 21st Birthday...,then Joining our friends Tuesday night at a big LOCAL event to support their favorite AI contestant: JASON CASTRO of course!! 

And they were'nt disappointed! His television performance debut "Daydream"(click here to see it on YouTube)---got fantastic comments from the judges--ESPECIALLY Simon--amazing!! Way to go!!!! 

Their message to you--"Pleeaase VOTE for Jason, so we can watch him some more!!!!! oh yeah, and say a prayer for him, he's got the flu this week, has to be well by tomorrow for taping, and TUNE IN on Tuesday night for his 70's week performance!! "

Monday, February 4, 2008

Another unfortunate event


Tolkein ("little bear") Barlow
April 2007-February 2008

"Lord, you have embraced a good friend and loving companion.
While we mourn what we have lost, we do celebrate what we had...and in saying goodbye, we renew our pledge to love and care 
for any creature you entrust to us for its time of life.

Thank you, Lord,  for the joy this loved one gave us and for making it
 possible for us to have made this friend's life a good one."

At 4 months old this little guy was sickly and malnourished, weighing in at less than a pound. 

No matter what we did, he didn't seem to gain weight.

Finally after months of tender care, he turned the corner!
From then on he grew, and grew, and grew, and grew, and grew...

These photos were taken in September, to celebrate how he was finally catching up with the others.

He ended up being the healthiest, friendliest, cuddliest, chubbiest teddy-bear of a cat, with a deliciously plush, silky fur coat replacing his old, thin, straggly one.

Tolkien seemed to greet each day with an attitude of confidence and joy in life. We'll miss him dearly! Having shared in the miracle of his life,we only wish it wasn't such a short one.

His loss has taught us how important it is to bring joy into each other's lives on a daily basis, the way he always did into ours!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Back to Work

Ever feel like your world is turning a little bit upside down? Well ours is, and I’m starting to feel a little bit dizzy lately! And I don’t really “DO” those upside-down, spin-you-all-around rides at the amusement park anymore. (It’s one the few flaws in my otherwise adventurous nature.)

Anyhow, I’ve shared how things have been kind of out of sorts here the past several months. Well, the latest in our change of events is putting my equilibrium to the test.

When the beginning of this school year came into view, I was flourishing knee-deep in family life, writing, word counts, reading, studying my craft, and teaching some fun classes at the local co-op and private school. Since then, however…Emma was brought home for school, our tumultuous series of unfortunate events began, T and I surfed through the holidays applying for new jobs, Olivia began home schooling again too, and NOW apparently I’m the one going back to the 40-hour-a-week working world!!

A few jobs have finally come along--on God’s timing, of course--making sure we didn’t miss another sound lesson on trusting completely in Him! He’s been beside us through the struggles this far. So,
I’m reminding myself daily that I won’t step out of the comforts of home and back into the great wide working world alone.

Who would have dreamed a short time ago that my darling husband would take over my Gourmet Cooking class, that we’d be “Team Homeschooling” the twins, starting a family business, considering a little cattle ranching on the side, and that I’d be breathlessly anticipating the offer of a full-time RN “office job”??

Yeah, well—me neither!!
I’ve been drawn to this soothing familiar scripture lately…

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven….

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

...and, I'm bracing myself with that thought until the ride is either OVER and I can get off, or I miraculously acclimate to the centrifugal force!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's NOT just another season…

…of American Idol. It’s the 7th season of what has been named America’s #1 television show.

I honestly can’t attest to that because last night is the first time our family has ever watched an entire episode. Anyone who hangs around here knows that when it comes to Movies-- "ask the Barlows" we KNOW those--blockbuster, indie, foreign, you name it!; Sports (at least Ted's up on them)--we're cool; Music (between the lot of us)--it's covered; but TV shows??--I admit it-- with very few exceptions, we're pretty much total NERDS!!

Some of you who have watched it can imagine then, our initiation episode was quite an experience! WOW, what a curious menagerie of talent and painful experiences, we thought. NOT really #1 in our opinion, but we won’t judge it as harshly as Simon Cowell might. It’s obvious we’re a little “wet behind the ears” still, as my 15 year old son’s initial reaction was, “I don’t know if I can keep watching that show every week. I mean I KNOW they were REALLY, really, really, bad, but I felt just terrible for some of those auditioners!” (Hmmm, think that’s what the producers are trying to get at??)

You now ask, “WHYee??...then are the Barlow’s suddenly deciding to spend Tuesdays nights watching 'Idol' this season?” OR perhaps blurt this out instead, “Umm, I know you guys are adventurous, and all, but this is a new one for the record--are you getting THAT desperate from lack of travel this year, or excitement around the house?”  nope! The answer is simple…we can’t help ourselves.

We are thrilled with excitement, and on our knees in prayer for some friends of ours, whose son is competing this year!!! Tania Grace our oldest who has spent a little time with him, says, "mom...he is such an amazing guy." Knowing him to be a very talented and godly young man at only 20 years of age, we are anxious to see what God does in and through him during this experience.

Saturday night he was leading worship...

Wednesday night on our tv screen, yellow ticket tight in hand!

So, IF you’re a FAN, and perhaps a little more seasoned in American Idol than we are, then please join us in praying and cheering for our one and only reason for
suffering through, oops, I mean watching an entire season of American Idol this year!! (Yes, that’s right we plan on watching it right up until he wins!)

Adventure, fun and blessings Jason!!

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

-Ephesians 2:10

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New Book Review: Chill Out, Josey! by Susan May Warren

Since attending my first writer’s conference this past fall, I have had an enormous stack of books sitting by my bedside waiting to be read. The wealth of talent, challenge, encouragement and fun was put in to them by many of the “dear” authors that I met!

Overwhelming stack or not, I jumped at the opportunity to blog on this new book by Susan! I didn’t know anything about the story, but Susan is one of those endearing writers that I actually had a chance to learn from. Ok, so we only met briefly and chatted, while she signed my fresh copy of “Reclaiming Nick”, but I came to appreciate Susan and her talent by attending a couple of her writing skill seminars.

The seminars were rich and witty, and full of vivid detail. So, I was excited to see if her books would match.
Chill Out, Josey--does just that!!

Josey Anderson is a newly wed, happily intent on becoming the Proverbs 31 woman in this new role. Ideals set in place, Josey is sure she is on her way to “surpassing” as a wife. At least until the first wrinkle sets in—her husband accepts a job in Moscow, Russia. After all, that’s where she was working as a missionary when he up and followed her to proclaim his love! Josey isn’t so sure about going back. She’s ready to settle in to her dream house, with 2 kids and white picket fence. Didn’t her biblical mentor have all that?

Unexpected events, well kept secrets, and seductive co-workers keep Josey on her feet once they arrive. As her hopes and dreams seem to fly right back home to Minnesota with out her, panic begins to set in. “What’s the perfect wife to do?”

I invite you to enjoy this entertaining and delightful story. It made me giggle, as I recalled being intimidated myself, as a new bride, by the perfect Proverbs 31 woman! Yes, I finally got over that!! So, it was fun watching Josey mature into the woman God created her to be here, too! Nope, not her perfect plan…because His is even better. There’s a message here for all of us.

Susan is adept at teaching and encouraging you in a Christ honoring life, while you simply curl up for a fun read.

Having spent over 6 weeks in Russia for our various adoptions, I can attest to the description and humor that she brings on the life of an American in Russia. 

Susan talks about her experience behind writing the series, “I laugh that finally, I got to write about all the fallacies, all the frustrations, and all the foolishness of being a freshman missionary. Mostly, I got to write about the one thing that God taught me – that He’d been at work in my life to bring me to this place, and the places beyond, all my life. And that I didn’t have to be perfect. I just had to surrender and trust.”

Click here, to
read more about Susan May Warren, and use THIS link or the one in my reading list to order Chill Out, Josey now!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Is it REALLY a NEW year?

2008. How did that happen so fast? 

I guess in the same way that my oldest is about to turn (gulp) 21?

With a year flying by so fast, I’m not sure why I can’t manage to keep a New Year Resolution for a full year. But at some blink of a moment in time, it finally hit me that was true! Being the truly "reformed-from-my-perfectionist-tendencies" woman that I am, I immediately resolved to give them up the next year! I haven't made one since. In
my book they're right up there with the Proverbs 31 woman. One of those things I'm just not ever going to achieve--this side of heaven!!

We have, however, been trying to use the first of each year to sketch out some plans. As a family we address the latest issues and upcoming events or ideas. 2007 has held quite a few “surprises” for us (more like our own little “series of unfortunate events”). SO, either we didn’t plan thoroughly for September on, last January, or we’re in need of a few “lessons”, and our Father decided that this was just the right time in life. ??

Our “planning” is minimal for 2008. We decided instead to focus our family goals on strengthening communication, relationships, unity, and each trying to seek the best for the others as a whole. We figure no matter what comes along in 2008 those are the things to carry us through in the long run!

All that said, our “luck” (or “lessons”) don’t seem to have come to an end (or is that a new beginning??) with the annual midnight toast.

We must be acclimating to this new way of life a bit, because now T & I just look at each other and shrug when something goes completely and unexpectedly wrong, or when an added expense or bill pops up from nowhere.

“Hmmm…wonder how that’s going to work out?”
“Not really sure.”
“Guess we should pray about it, huh?”
“Probably..., add it to the list!”

Others are isolated events, like the one on New Year’s Day that reassured us our lessons weren’t over.

It was freezing cold out that evening, so I threw our little dogs in the car for a ride around the corner to feed the horses. Relatives were over watching the game, but we planned to be back in a few minutes. I tossed a couple of flakes of hay over the fence while listening to Winston, who RARELY barks, yap like a fool at the “strange creatures” in the paddock. A split second later I realized that he was in the front seat, and simultaneously heard the a strangely familiar sound--sort of a mechanical “thunk”! "Oh no, is that what I think it is?" Uh, yeah, it was him-- stepping on the automatic car lock. OF COURSE the keys were hanging in the car ignition!!! Where else would they be?? The dogs were warm in the car for the next 45 minutes while my not too happy (but still darling) husband worked in the cold, to get the door open. The good news is we didn’t end up with a “double-time” bill for calling out a locksmith. T sprang the locks just as help arrived. We did have a good laugh afterward--once we warmed up!

Tonight’s "surprise" event was a little more sober. As we arrived to feed again, we found my filly was injured. Thankfully, she’ll make it, but the bill—yep, another one of those sweet surprises!

So you see, NEW seems to be relative for
us so far this YEAR!

One thing refreshingly remains the same. God is sovereign, He loves us just as much as he did in 2007, and we are grateful daily for His divine provision and protection.

Here’s to 2008! Cherish the ups AND the downs, ‘cause I’m sure that’s what it holds!