Operation Christmas Child

Now that Thanksgiving is passed, I consider it officially the Christmas season!

Over these last few months, our family has had the wonderful privilege of participating in a project hosted by Samaritan’s Purse, called Operation Christmas Child. Each year, organizations and individuals have the chance to collect items to pack into a shoe box. The idea is to fill it with toiletries, toys, and trinkets for kids of different age ranges. These boxes will have the gospel message of God’s love enclosed, and then go out to kids around the world who would otherwise never receive a Christmas gift. Take a look at this official promo video from Samaritan’s Purse to see the amazing smiles of the youngsters who receive a box. It brings tears to my eyes! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6VQLYfPDbE

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Can I tell you? It was such a joyful project to join in on! River Run Christian Church did a super job of encouraging a collection of items to pack into the shoe boxes since July — flip flops, toothpaste and brushes, pencils and markers, notebooks, toys and more. The older kids had contests each week with their small groups over who could bring in the most items. One night the 3 of them took in 42 washcloths and 65 bars of soap! The younger 2 got to bring home an empty box and choose all the items that went into it themselves. We had a family night out at the store choosing items to go into these boxes. What a special time it was to put care and thought into what a five year old boy or a 3 year old girl in a third world country would be receiving as their (probably only) Christmas gift.

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To top it all off, we joined numerous others on a Sunday afternoon and took over the gym at River Run for a “box-packing” party. Over 800 boxes were packed up that day! Each box was carefully chosen and prayed over and stacked up to be shipped out later that week. Our kids loved it. Ken and I loved it. We were blessed by the time. And I pray it will have a profound affect on our kiddos for a lifetime.

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Merry Christmas! Let the countdown begin! 😉

–Beth

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I’m thankful for . . . Part 3

**I’m going to take a little time to write a “featurette” about each of the kids this Thanksgiving season. Because, well – I’m thankful for them! And I love ‘em. How unique they are! We are blessed by them being a part of our family and we enjoy watching each unfold into the person God has created him or her to be, and we are grateful.** If you missed the first part about Jake, you can read it here; for part 2 (about Cole), click here.

I realize that this is going out to the public on Thanksgiving Day, so before I go forward — Happy Thanksgiving! We miss so many of you, our dear family and friends. We pray today is a blessed one.

Moving right along, in no particular order, I’m sharing today about one of our sweet daughters, Halia. She was born into our family as the 3rd child. Before she was born, we were sure she was going to be a boy. Most Maucks had been boys — for generations! We were so wildly excited to welcome a daughter and sister into our little brood. And 11.4 years later, she’s still a joy (most of the time!) 🙂

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Lately, these days, recently, she’s been very crafty. But then, that’s not just recent. She’s always been crafty. This week she was rather secretive about something including Mod-Podge and tin cans. I can’t wait to see what she’s come up with! (I hear Christmas is right around the corner, and have a hunch I may find out then what she’s made!) I just love ModPodge. So does she. And she uses it better than I do.

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Speaking of using things, Halia is a sort-of “techie”. I actually ask her questions about how to use technology around the house. She navigates the smart TV and gets Pandora running on it, no problem. She created a couple collages online at PicMonkey (have you heard of it? It’s pretty cool!) She set contact photos for most of you on my phone. 🙂 She just picks that stuff up so easily. If she doesn’t know what to do, she clicks around and figures it out. She’s sharp.

Speaking of sharp, Halia is a natural learner. She moves through her school assignments with ease. She absorbs information throughout the day. She’s good with numbers. She’s good with words. She’s got a terrific memory, and quickly masters her weekly Bible verse from youth group. She’ll remember what artist sings which song, or what someone was wearing at a particular function.

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Speaking of clothes, Halia is showing a wonderful ability to put together an outfit. We’re enjoying shopping together even more than we have in the past and she’s a great help at choosing clothing. I’ve begun to let her choose many of Marissa’s outfits out as well, because I just love what she combines. So much so, I check with her after I’ve put something on. She can assess quickly how it looks.

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Speaking of quick, Halia is not. I mean to say, her brain is quick, but her body isn’t. She likes to take her time. Getting out the door, cleaning up her room, sweeping the porch, washing the dishes. She is laid back and relaxed–which I love about her–so she brings that approach to most of what she does. It’s a good balance for me. She’s creative, people. She needs time for those juices to flow!

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Speaking of creative, Halia loves to make things. Her project over the last month was making a section of the barn into a play house for her and Marissa. And then they surprised Dean by creating one for him right next door to them. 🙂 She is artistic and loves to draw. She’s pretty amazing with a pen. Or marker. Could be pencil. She has even done Sharpie pictures, with big, bold lines that turn into beautiful coloring pages for Marissa. Marissa has a collection of them that she loves.

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Speaking of collection, Halia is getting into photography as of late, and is racking up a nice collection of lovely flower photos. We think she’s got a good eye for it. She’s now convinced she wants to be a photographer someday. Along with some graphic design. And some singing/song-writing (she also has started writing songs and has sweetly decorated a notebook to house what she pens). 🙂

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Speaking of sweet, she’s become quite a baker. Of cupcakes from scratch! Oh my, they’re delicious! My hips are not thrilled. Great baking combined with artistic ability, and she’s a force to be reckoned with! She has blessed neighbors with them. She’s blessed her dad’s colleagues. She’s blessed her small group. She’s blessed a group dinner at church. Generally, anyone who has tasted one has been blessed.

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Speaking of blessed, we are — by Halia being a part of our family. Not because she can bake yummy quiche for dinner. Or because each day she wakes with a smile. Or shares her hugs freely. Or writes sweet notes of encouragement. Or plays great games with her younger brother. Or gives her younger sister a helping hand so very often. We just plain love her for the beautiful young lady she was created by God to be on the outside, and the beauty she’s choosing in her heart as she seeks to honor God with her life. She’s growing up fast and we know she’ll be spreading her wings someday. But for right now, this moment, she’s just a precious 11. And we’re grateful.

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–Beth

I’m thankful for . . . Part 2

**I’m going to take a little time to write a “featurette” about each of the kids this Thanksgiving season. Because, well – I’m thankful for them! And I love ‘em. How unique they are! We are blessed by them being a part of our family and we enjoy watching each unfold into the person God has created him or her to be, and we are grateful.** If you missed the first part about Jake, you can read it here.

Today we’re featuring our 2nd born son, Cole — This guy is laid back. But hyper. He’s quiet. Yet talkative. Contradictory? Not really. Cole *is* laid back, until you feed him sugar. Then he’s hyper. And he’s quiet, until he’s really warmed up to you and has something on his mind. Then he’s very talkative.

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He’s also very busy. These days, you can find him tearing through his school work. Not because he loves it. No; he’s almost always got a project on his mind and knows that getting school done will then allow him to get his chores done which will free him up to getting on with the things in life that matter most to him. Hunting. Fishing. Exploring. Creating. Building. Trapping. Making smoke bombs and fireworks. He’s got numerous hobbies and interests. Like rabbit hunting. He skinned it, cooked it, and then ate it.

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“Cole??!!” I call this morning. “Yes?” He answers from the dining room table where he’s tackling grammar. Or was it signing up online for the FL boater’s licensing course? Or –is it possible– both?? Yep, I told you he’s got numerous interests. 🙂

Cole is a great student. I enjoy teaching this kid. We learn similarly so it makes homeschooling him pretty simple. He’s focused and independent. He likes a list so he knows what’s required of him. He can sit down in the middle of a crowded room, with all sorts of noise happening, and get his work done.

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I just love how great he is at entertaining younger kids. He has a knack for including them in what he’s doing. He’s playful and fun and little ones are drawn to him. He’s patient with them, including his younger siblings. Dean loves to tag along with Cole and join in on all the fun adventures that are sure to be had! But it might just be tinkering in the garage. And that’s ok, because with Cole around, of course it’ll be fun. At some point, there’ll be a ‘possum in the trap or a fish in the skillet, or knee-boarding behind a golf cart (don’t ask!).

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One of his latest endeavors is gardening. He began with saving pumpkin seeds to plant. Next thing I know, he’s got a garden plot in the back field. Of course that means a fence has got to go up — we have deer back there. No worries, he’s got that covered. He checks in with dad along the way, asking about using this board or that. “Who put these posts in?” I ask. (Silly question). “I did,” he answers. “What did you use?” (Another silly question.) “Those,” pointing to a digging bar and post-hole digger. He’s a man of few words when it comes to his work. The posts don’t wobble; I’m impressed, but shouldn’t be. It just surprises me that a 13 year old boy spends his free time building a fence for his garden. For fun! And to think I brought home a “surprise” for him from the hardware store: garden plants! Broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes and onions. How many kids would think that’s great??!

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He can work alongside Ken on a job site and keep up. He’s got a way of thinking ahead just enough to grab that tool when Ken needs it, or hustle to the trailer for a saw. He’s strong and hardworking. He’s determined and focused and yet still has creativity running wild in his brain . . . like his latest idea of raising pigs.

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Cole has a refreshingly black and white outlook on life. And sometimes annoyingly so. You know, things are not always so cut and dry. So he’s got to learn to bend a little with the gray areas of life. And realize that technology isn’t all bad! He’s sassy and sarcastic, and is learning to reign in his tongue (which happens to be my struggle too — poor kid!!) However, we love his “off the cuff” style which shows he’s not overly concerned with what others think of him.

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We’re so thankful for this young man — this boy who is filling out through the shoulders and arms. Which reminds me that he’ll not be a boy much longer. I want to hang on to him. Keep him right where he’s at. He’s fun. He’s energetic. He’s uncomplicated. He’s brave. He’s deep. But I don’t think those aspects will change. I think he’ll keep those traits long into adulthood. I pray he does. God’s got something special planned for this adventurous guy! And I can’t wait to see what it is.

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–Beth

P.S. To all family members: any thoughts on who he remind you of?? 😉

Craigslist Blessing.

It’s so easy to get our eyes off all the blessings God bestows. Most of them we probably missed the first time around! But sometimes something comes along that one just can’t deny is a tremendous act of God’s outpouring of love in a tangible way. We celebrate those moments and thank the Lord for them. Inevitably, life continues and can soon choke out that gratefulness we feel about said blessing.

I wanted to take just a moment to write of such a blessing, not so much for telling all of you, but to force me to slow down and concretely commemorate God’s tender provisions by putting it into writing. It’s a way of re-celebrating how intimately involved God wants to be in even little aspects of our daily lives – areas we think may be “off limits” or out of His realm of caring.

Go back with me a few weeks. Surely you remember the {dining room table} that I’ve mentioned more than once. You may recall that it came with six chairs, 2 of which were {arm chairs} that I painted and am currently using at the ends of the table. I was left with 4 side chairs that I began to refinish for use at the kitchen table. The legs got painted. I began to staple fabric onto the chairs, fabric that began as an extra Ikea curtain panel I had on hand. I struggled. I tried. I wanted to like how it was turning out and told myself this would fabulous in the end.

My sweet husband saw my struggle and noticed my frustration. He kindly encouraged me to just get rid of the chairs and we’d do something else in the kitchen. Whew! Relief. So I listed them on Craigslist with sad little pictures. Solid chairs, good “bones”, in a sad state, a perfect project for an ambitious person: $15 each.

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In an hour I got an email from one woman who wanted them. The next day she was to come out, so I told another woman who emailed that they were spoken for. However, first woman emailed me the next morning to say that her husband wanted her to wait since they were in the middle of a remodel. I understood. Boy, did I understand!! I respected that she respected her, probably respectable, husband. Still with me??

I emailed second woman and told her the chairs were once again available. She was thrilled and planned to drive out the next day, double checking on my asking price. She arrived the next morning with her son. She took a look at the chairs, oohed and ahhed that they were just was she was needing. She already had the fabric she would be using to complete them and looked forward to putting them into her French Country kitchen. We chatted about big moves, major changes, following Christ, and, as she was a few years ahead in her journey through life, she encouraged me to keep believing God has big things in store for our family! She was a breath of fresh air to my soul and I was so refreshed by this woman God brought to our home through Craigslist.

As she pulled her money out of her pocket, she talked about how God laid on her heart to pay more. She handed me the roll of 20’s and insisted I take $100 for them rather than the $60 I had asked for. Wow!! That has never happened to me in the history of selling on Craigslist! I refused but her son said, “She wants to do this. Please take it.” I humbly thanked her and received the blessing she wanted to bestow.

I have begun reading One Thousand Gifts Devotional (by Ann Voskamp) after receiving it as a birthday gift from a dear friend. I pray my eyes will be more and more opened to the “manna” we are fed from God; the daily food from His hand – the food needed for just today. You see, it wasn’t just the money. It was everything about the exchange. It was the encouragement one lover of Christ can offer another. The hug one older mamma can give a younger one, as if pumping just a little more stamina into her for the day. It’s the proof that God does not give up. That He doesn’t lead you to or into something and then let you go it on your own. It’s a little sign that He will provide fellowship and communion in places least expected.

Thank the Lord with me for Darlene, my Craigslist “buddy”, and her family, and pray that they will be richly blessed by the hands of God, as she has blessed our family by her encouragement and unnecessary generosity. And pray my simple eyes will be more opened to less obvious ways God provides, though still provisions and acts of love, nonetheless.

–Beth

Missing Steve.

Moment of truth: I’ve been struggling. So many emotions are flooding my life right now. And I’m sad.

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Lately, again and again, I’ve thought of the brother I said goodbye to way too soon last October. I guess with the anniversary of his death right around the corner, He’s very fore-front in my mind in so many ways. Like when the first week of August rolled around, and I remembered spending an afternoon with him and the kids at the fair just one short year ago. And then there was his birthday, the day I felt so crippled that I didn’t do one thing to reach out to any others I knew would be hurting also. Or when I read through some old emails and laugh about the “conversation” going back and forth between us. And knowing my birthday is right around the corner, so I pull out the card I received from him last year, never realizing it would be his last to me. Oh, how I’ll cherish it.

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But here’s the thing: as precious as that card, a picture, or even a beloved heirloom is to us, it doesn’t bring them back. It helps to remind of us of the great love we shared with them. It can even help bring tears that were dormant for a while to the surface and give us an outlet for emotional release. But the hope I cling to the most, the deepest comfort I have is knowing that we’ll be together again, reunited in the presence of our precious Lord and Savior. No memento I have can do that.

Just this week, a song played on the radio as our youngest son and I were in the suburban. I sat and listened and drove and cried. Emotions flooding my soul. Sweet release of them in a safe place. A reminder of a conversation once had but long forgotten. Steve telling me of the song most requested for him to sing at funerals. I Can Only Imagine. At one time, he sang those words and they were true. He could only imagine. But now – NOW – he truly knows. No imagination required. I wonder what he’s found? He always had a good imagination. Yet I know he’s found so much more!

I miss him. For now, I’ll be the one imagining. What a grand reunion it will be someday!

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You don’t want to miss listening to Steve sing all about it! If you can’t click on the link, copy and paste it into your browser: https://vimeo.com/106111845 .