...............The Hellwig Family

Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Thanksgiving Tree

by Mama H.

This year, I thought we'd do something a little different to display our gratitude to the Lord for all His kindnesses to us.

I asked the younger boys to run outside and gather a bundle of sticks.  Boys? Outside? Sticks?  How much better could it get?  They were very obliging (gross understatement) and gleefully presented me with an armful of perfect  "branches" for our "tree."

Tobias adding some thanks

As the children remarked, while the tree leaves were dropping outside, leaves were appearing inside on our "tree."

Every time someone thinks of something he is thankful for, he writes it on a paper leaf, and ties it to a "tree" branch.  After only one day, we have quite a few. 

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?  What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Elliot is a Red Belt!

by Mama H.

Today Elliot had another Tae Kwon Do belt test.  He passed, earning his red belt!
We are all proud of him and of his dedication and hard work!

Elliot gets the red

Benaiah loves to watch

Bad photo:  Elliot breaking a board with  a flying kick (he leaped over a friend's back!)

Tobias watching

Elliot with one of his instructors, at left
Good work, Elliot!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The National Bible Bee - Part 3

by Mama H.

Friday the 31st of October arrived, with a feeling of freedom and lightness of heart, as there would be no more competing for us, no wondering, just engaging our hearts with the semifinalists as they competed for the finals.

At breakfast, Christianna and I were seated at a lovely table in a breakfast/lunch restaurant, enjoying a hearty breakfast buffet (a special treat for her birthday) when I remembered I'd received an email the day before informing us that the Fall Festival held at a church family's farm had been postponed a day.  It had originally been scheduled for Saturday night (while we were in Orlando), but because of inclement weather, they would hold it the next day.  Christie had been a bit sad to have to miss it, as the hosting family does such a lovely job of putting it all together, and it is such a sweet time of fellowship.  So, I thought I'd bring it up and give Christie the good news that, as we would be arriving home a couple of hours before the festival, we could attend!(Thank you Lord!)

Well, one could have heard her squeal of delight and her loud "Yes!" from Dan to Beersheba, had it not been for her even louder slap on the glass table-top!  As it was, all the other patrons around us looked up and grinned (they must have been used to us by this time) as Christie turned a sweet shade of fuschia and obviously felt like slipping under the table!  Had it been covered with a cloth, she very well may have done so.  ;-)

Portending of things to come, we giggled together like schoolgirls and thoroughly enjoyed our time of talking and planning the day.

Christie watched all the semifinal rounds, as I wandered in and out for most of them.  Sitting for long periods of time is not in my repertoire of things I can do anymore.

In my wanderings, I decided to visit the vendor tables.  At one, I had the privilege of meeting Timothy Botts (http://www.timbotts.com/) and his business manager, and spent quite a bit of time poring over his work (http://www.inkwellgreetings.com/) and learning about both of them.  How they both blessed me and the many people who stopped by! (Yet another gift from God!)

Then I went to the Bible Bee table and thought I would get some Bible Bee shirts for the boys at home, maybe to inspire them!

As I looked around, one design caught my eye, and I began looking for all the sizes I'd need.  I found 2 out of the 4 that I needed, and was sorry to see I might not be able to get all 4 in the same pattern.  I was just about to ask the lady behind the table, when alongside me, another contestant mother came up and asked the vendor if she could return 2 shirts she had ordered online and had picked up at the Bee.
 Her boys didn't care for them and she was wondering if she could get her money back some how.  As the vendor lady left to ask her superior if they could take returns on internet orders, I sensed an uncanny nudge: "Excuse me!  If they can't take the return and if the sizes are right, I'll buy them from you."  Yes, they were the very same pattern I was looking at!  Now, what are the chances that they would be the exact sizes I needed?  With 8 sizes to choose from, the Lord chose just the very two I needed to complete my set!  The mother was thrilled, I was thrilled, and the vendor was thrilled, and all of us went away praising God for this kind providence! (Yet another praise!)

The semifinal rounds were very exciting, and tense!  After much anticipation, the senior rounds were over and we knew all the finalists who would compete on Saturday!

In front of our hotel

An exciting and very entertaining and inspirational evening concert/family fun night was planned for 7:00, so we had a little bit of time to have dinner before it started.  As it was Christianna's 18th birthday, I thought we'd do something a little unusual and dine at Benihana.  We did not have reservations, so we had to wait at a table for more people to join us.  An older couple joined us, after a while, who turned out to be with the Bible Bee as well.  They were vendors at the competition, and we had such a warm and heartening conversation over a very unusual dining experience.  As they learned more about us, such as how it was Christie's 18th birthday, and we learned many things about them, shared many common interests, favorite authors, and ideas regarding Biblical counseling, we felt our hearts knitting together with this couple who felt to me like my long lost Christian parents!  Isn't it marvelous how God gives the spiritual orphan parents/aunts/uncles/brothers and sisters in the faith?  And we recognize each other as such!

As I waited to pay my tab, Christianna informed me she would run up to the room to get our tickets to the concert, and freshen up  as it was growing late, and we still had to wait a bit for the waiter to get back to us.  While she was gone, our lady companion informed me that the Lord wanted them to do something unusual:  they felt led to pay for our dinner, as a way of wishing Christie a happy birthday and of being a blessing to us as we were without our family on this trip!
Through tears and covered with goosebumps, I stammered some incredulous remark, after which they assured me that the Holy Spirit was really prompting their hearts to do this.  I could only thank them again and again... I was still shaking when Christie returned and I informed her of what had transpired.  We were both a bit dumbstruck, and giddy with thankfulness.  They told us to run along and they'd see us at the concert!  (His lovingkindness is over-the-top!)

Coming off that experience, C and I were walking a little above the ground as we handed our tickets to the gentleman at the door to the Grand Ballroom where the concert had just begun.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The National Bible Bee - Part 2

by Mama H.

The next morning found Christianna's headache gone (thank you Lord!) and excitement high.

After a good walk outside, a time of singing and reading of God's word and prayer, and a good high fat/protein breakfast, Christie and I proceeded to do some more memory work.  The written exam was coming up first.

After she and the other senior division contestants disappeared into the testing room, I ran into a friend from several years ago.  We'd had her family over for dinner when they were visiting the area, and had prayed with them, heard their story, shared ours, etc.  But, we had lost contact for some time.

I surely wished to renew the friendship, not realizing how amazing this time together would become!
As this mother and I began to unfold our stories, we found the Lord had led us and our families down parallel paths, where we had experienced many of the same trials, some so identical it seemed uncanny.  Obviously God had set up a divine appointment.

I can only offer God all the glory for what He did in that meeting.... there was sweetness of shared experiences of grace, shared pain, troubles of such similarity only of somewhat different flavors that she and I could only conclude that the God of all comfort had indeed sovereignly ordained our meeting, the words which passed between us, the tears appointed to both of us, the growth that came over the years of trial which we were able to identify as mercies and blessings from His hand to grow us into His likeness.

 I thank Him profoundly for that time together.  It affirmed for me a principle that I had known and seen in action before: God does not give trials for nothing, but to the degree we trust in Him and allow ourselves to be comforted by Him, to that degree we will emerge as gold and will be a comfort to others undergoing similar straits.  It is very humbling to see oneself being used as an instrument of comfort in the Hand of God.  I left the conversation changed and more thankful than ever.

The seniors then emerged from the testing room - such a buzz and flurry of 120 students all talking at once, relating their experiences.

By then, a quick lunch was in order, after which we headed over to the oral recitation room, where all the students were divided into groups of about 8-10 to recite in smaller rooms before a judge a set of 10 passages in the 7 minute time allotted.

Christianna and friend Rachel from the Cary, NC Bee site

Please permit a bit of motherly pride to shine through here, as I must proclaim to all how much I appreciate Christianna's spirit and spunk with regards to God's Word.  She disdains the monotone, rote repetition of mere words into a microphone, eyes closed, head bent and face screwed up in concentration.  Instead, she feels that the scripture is not merely a string of sounds to be uttered at quickly as one can remember them, but the living word, from the heart of Almighty God, meant to be shared with all one's heart, soul, mind and strength, and with a love for God and others that showcases the Gospel in all the Scriptures.

Well, she did her best!  She was such a joy up there on stage when it came her turn.  She spoke beautifully, though, unfortunately, her recitations were not quite word-perfect, which is what the judges are looking for.  She ran over -time, but out of reverence for God's word, the judges allowed students to finish the passage they were reciting.  She finished.  And there was much applause for her.  Several other parents present with their students approached me and remarked to me how her recitations had particularly blessed them, and how they wished all the students would recite with such warmth!

I felt a bit like Mary, pondering these things in my heart.  I could only weep tears of joy and thankfulness to the Lord, for, here, again, He fulfilled Christianna's main desire for the Bible Bee:
to touch people with the Word, to recite with power and life the Word that gives life, that , perhaps, someone listening might be blessed.  That was her prime objective.  God answered her: "Yes!"

Enjoying the last of her waffle cone

Later that afternoon, after the congratulatory talk, visiting the vendor tables, and preparing for the opening ceremony later that evening, we had dinner, and then ice-cream eaten outside while walking the lovely hotel grounds.  Palm trees, fountains in the property ponds, egrets, beautiful tropical flowers unfamiliar to NC dwellers, and a warm gentle breeze all contributed to a lovely evening as we walked, talked, enjoyed waffle-cone ice-cream, and waved to other families driving back in from their dinner outings.

The fountain in front of our hotel

The opening ceremony was quite impressive.  Sober, yet expectant, serious, yet filled with joy at merely being together with the saints, the majestic processionals themselves inspired as each of the 360 students (120 from each age division) came up to stage, received his medal for qualifying and participating in the Nationals, and stood with his group for pictures.

After a few speeches, the semi-finalists were announced in each division.  Christie had only a few moments of disappointment when all 15 names were listed, but I witnessed that sadness quickly become replaced with relief and genuine delight for those who succeeded.  I was, again, very thankful for my girl's heart that felt real joy for others' victories.

What a glorious day it was, by God's grace!  His mercies flow continuously. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

The National Bible Bee - Part 1

We're home from Orlando.

There is so much to share about the National Bible Bee event that I anticipate several posts.
My heart is bursting with praise for our great and kind God who ordained our time there, and who so graciously allowed Christianna's dreams and desires to be fulfilled in unexpected ways.

No, she did not win any of the prizes, but she certainly did win the prize.

Please allow a little bit of motherly love and joy to bubble up through my words as I describe highlights from the trip, truly a journey of a lifetime.

Sunrise in Charlotte,NC
Our plane took off from Raleigh-Durham airport on Oct. 29.  This was the first time I'd flown since before 9/11, and Christianna's first ever flight.  So, not only did she get the prized window seat she'd hoped for, but she also flew into the sunrise(another desire), up through clouds (another wish fulfilled) and also experienced perfect clock-work-like timing with regards to making connecting flights, baggage claim, reserving airport transportation to and from the hotel (my desire fulfilled ;-)  ).

On the van ride to the Hilton Orlando (where the Bible Bee convened and where we were required to stay) we were joined by another Bible Bee family (father and son) and we had such a lovely and animated ride.  This certainly helped Christianna feel like she now had at least one new connection there.  There's nothing like an earnest conversation between two young people regarding the merits of one Bible interpretation vs. another to warm a mother's heart.  Christianna had a chance to do what she loves best: to talk about the Scriptures, to compare notes with others who seriously study God's word, and to share of her experiences as she worked so hard the last several months learning the Word and leaning into her Lord.  (another desire met!)

Checking in was easy and smooth, no surprises.   Being on the 4th floor allowed us to run up and down the stairs conveniently without having to rely on an elevator....  I was thankful we were not up on the 10th!  (Praise God!  Again!)

At registration that afternoon, not only did we get through it easily, but also with many hugs, lots of encounters with genuinely happy people.  At the end of the line, Christianna had another surprise waiting for her:  the people who make the Bee happen did not forget those who were celebrating a birthday over those 5 days.  There, waiting for her, was a HUGE gift bag, with birthday wishes from the sponsors of the National Bible Bee!  She was shocked, and I stood aside in quiet tears of gratitude.  (Praise God.... again!)

Later in the afternoon, Christianna and I were drilling some of her troublesome passages out in the lobby.  Now, when she's in a particularly spunky mood, when she recites something incorrectly and I call it, she will let out a peculiarly humorous groan, an "Oooh" of sorts that starts at a higher pitch and rapidly descends "to the pit," she might say, all at an unabashedly audible volume, complete with trademark Christianna-body language.
Suffice it to say, she was in said mood in the lobby that afternoon, and had just hit an incorrect recitation spot when, out came the groan, and who should be walking by but a Bee-mother and her son, who laughed knowingly, and an elderly grandfatherly man (attending with his grandchildren and family) who produced a huge grin, a wink of the eye, and a knowing nod and chuckle!  Christianna was a bit embarrassed, and ever after that gentleman would smile kindly and give her a chuckle!  We had made friends!  (Praise God, once more!)

The Cary,NC Bee group (Christie in back on right)
After greeting many families from our local Bee host site (in Apex, NC) and catching up with one another for a while, Christie and I went to dinner at the Italian restaurant in the hotel.  Again, everything was so perfect.... a quiet spot for us to speak alone, nourishing food (just what she needed for her headache) and a relaxed, unhurried experience to simply sink in and recount the blessings of the day.   (Thanks be to God for His perfect gifts and care!)

Early to bed, for the next day was the written test and the Preliminary oral rounds.

....continued in Part 2.....