THE BIRTHDAY TRAIL — a family tradition

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My cousin, Paula, made & put this sign at the end of the driveway for Lena to drive through on her 17th birthday–the whole family pitches in to get Birthday Trails done!

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Liza at the end of her 8th Birthday Trail in Canada, 2000–hence the parka:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apartment living with kids stinks.  Crowded, temporary-limbo-land living.  Our no-job, no-paycheck journey hit the one year mark as of these journal entries below.  And like old fish, the five of us living together in a little apartment with our most promising job prospect dashed, the whole situation just stunk.

I realize that our test of faith at this time wasn’t drastic or dire.  No one was ill, injured, or imprisoned–praise God.  But for a mom with three elementary-aged kids, providing basic school supplies and clothes, along with dance lessons and some kind of birthday & holiday celebrations was an ongoing mental battle that required much prayer journaling over heaping cups of coffee.

To look back on my journals I am reminded of the day-to-day struggles, as you’ll read below.  Thank You Jesus for pulling me through everyday & for letting me vent and rant.  But when my husband and I or my now college-aged kids look back on our year in the apartment without a job, we only remember the good times.

Like the game Greg and Cody played incessantly in the apartment–Greg throwing a palm-sized nerf football from the master bedroom to Cody on the living room couch, most with splayed-out diving catches.  Or our ‘cartoon Christmas’ as I call it.  Our big faux Christmas tree and decorations were in permanent storage and we didn’t have a fireplace.  A friend lent us a tiny fake tree that we placed in the corner of the living room.  We made preschool classic paper chain garland and sugar cookies to adorn the tree and used found fabric for a skirt.  I taped shiny wrapping paper on the wall next to the tree for a fireplace and cut out logs and fire from construction paper.  We push-pinned Dollar Store stockings onto the ‘mantle’ and called her done.  Santa now had a place to visit–whew!

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Our favorite memories while living in the apartment are 1)  bringing our little malte-poo puppy, Lucy, home for the first time while living in the apartment–she now snores to my left under our shared blanket as I blog to you this morning.  Lucy is so adorable, cunning and human-like that she requires her own blog, books, and game app–coming to a store/smart phone near you in the near future–she says in jest with a hint of seriousness.  And 2) Birthday Trails.

Let me explain the Birthday Trail.  I came up with the Birthday Trail concept when Lena was three.  I needed a way to celebrate her birthday in the morning before Greg went to work and give her something to keep her busy and feeling birthday-girl special throughout the day before we had the big celebration that night and/or later that weekend with family.  On her third birthday Lena woke up in her long, pink ballerina nightgown to a paper plate on the floor outside her bedroom door with a note that read: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY LENA!!  FOLLOW THE ARROWS.  She peered down the hall and saw four more paper plates, each with an arrow pointing forward.  Lena tip-toed onto each plate with excited curiosity in her eye.  She followed a trail of arrow-scribbled paper plates through several rooms in the house, climbing over the kitchen counter and under the coffee table (with help, of course).  At the end of the trail was a present–a toy of some sort.  And thus the Birthday Trails became an annual event for each child until they turned 18–yep, three trails a year times 18 (minus 2 since I started when Lena was three) and I conjured and created 52 birthday trails from 1993-2013!!

Through the years, I’ve had to get darn creative–the simple paper plate arrows weren’t clever enough as the kids grew so the trail turned into a trail/treasure hunt with elaborate riddles.  When you do so many trails and are coordinating parties and presents on a strict budget, you use what you have on hand.  Let’s see, I’ve used a bevy of Barbies perched in peculiar places; we’ve created an indoor putting range trail while living in Canada, with the most ingenious hole going from the second floor into a plastic cup on the first floor (Cody got a hole too!); we’ve turned our entire living room in Lucas into Fenway Park, complete with the green monster (we used painter’s tape on the floor & up the walls to define the space, pinned green fabric to the wall & taped several yellow wiffle bats end to end for Penske’s pole)–Cody flipped baseball cards and played wiffleball in the house to earn his way around the bases and receive his gift.

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In 2002, we had just moved into the apartment the week of Lena’s birthday, so we tore up pieces of the moving boxes, wrote on ’em, tucked them all over the place and hid her new boom box in a maze of brown moving boxes.   On Cody’s 18th, the last birthday trail in our Lucas home, the girls helped me to put together a shooting range with a nerf gun for Cody.

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The other pictures are a few more examples of the craziness we create for early a.m. we-love-you wake up calls.  Feel free to copy the Birthday Trail Wilk phenomenon.  My sister called me one year and said, ‘Thanks a lot!  Now I have to stay up all hours making birthday trails for my 3 kids!”  And my kids, nieces and nephews wouldn’t have had it any other way.  I do believe my niece, Sara, who just had the first baby of their generation this year, will be continuing the Birthday Trail with little Wade.

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Wade, the newest member to our extended family; son of my niece, Sara. He says, “I can’t wait for my next 18 birthday trails!”

 

My Red Journal continues…

Monday, March 3, 2003

Dear God~

Pour into me.  Overflow. Take over. Now!  There is nothing left!  You want all of me, You’ve got me!  But I’m angry.  I had it out yesterday.  Cry & scream in the car.  A song on the radio saying, “This is God…I see your attitude, it’s all about love…all I need is a change in you.”  I don’t get it?!  What more do You want?  I know we’re suppose to become like Jesus, but You made me human!  With faults!  I’ve improved!  I’m asking for more!  I’m dying daily & even moment to moment to put You before me!

This is as far as I can go!!!

You know my heart.  I walked on a ledge for You!  I did not sign up to be a missionary!  What is so wrong to want & need security, plans, excitement, a house with a little land!  I am not Job!  Stop having Your game with the devil and testing my faith!  You do not treat someone You love like this!

Enough!

I refuse to give up on Greg & his abilities and possibilities.  You made him a leader.  You’ve prepped him amazingly.  He could do so much for people & business & YOU!  He wants to work for You!  The marketplace is his mission field.

And me!  Why did You send me to LCA if we’re not to be here.  I’m working for nothing AGAIN!  We desperately need the money!  We look like fools.  We have chosen to do this for You so that we could let our faith in Your plan show us & our family that You are the answer!

Yes, yes, yes!  My faith is strong!  The devil has not advanced his piece on the board off  ‘start’ at all.

I also refuse to give up on Your plan for me, Greg & the kids.

If You didn’t let Perot happen, WOW, it will her immeasurable!  But when?  In one month, this journey will be one year without a paycheck.

Lessons I ‘ve learned:

1-It’s all about love

2-Only You can provide peace, sanity, stability (& You can take it away)

3-Patience & ultimately being frozen with few smiles is a process and product

4-I’m scared to death of rock climbing, but I’ve been doing it without the safety gear since we left Texas in 2000; my hands are bleeding & the top keeps getting higher (isn’t it within reach?!)

5-I love You!  No matter what I do.  Childlike faith & childlike tantrums as You watch me grow up.  You have a smile now, don’t You?  You’re pleased with me.  I’m fighting a good fight.

Oh, let me win today…in-my-face, obvious direction Lord.  Please.

Amen

*I am directed to the book of James–trials, taming the tongue, don’t boast about tomorrow.  Okay.

“Out of the mouth come praise & cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.”  James 3:10

My sword to fight temptation.  I’m so sorry for my flagrant mouth.  I pray for Your forgiveness.  At temptation, be with me to make the choice of reciting James 3:10 to keep from evil.

Thank You for Your Words.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

“‘Then you will call upon me & come & pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me & find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.  ‘And will bring you back from captivity.  I will gather you from the nations & places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.'”  Jeremiah 29:12-14

In Chip Ingram’s book, “Holy Ambition” he asks, “Have you repented of your consumer mindset?”  No, I haven’t.  It’s very difficult to not want the things of this world that would be comfortable for me & my family.  Especially, since I’ve been out of my comfort zone for so long–shouldn’t there be some kind of earthly reward?

The book also says to ask You for a ‘dislocated hart,’ a heart that years for Your desires for this world; to have the pain in my heart for others & to let You use me for Your plan.

My heart has ached, to an extent, for all that is going on in our world.  I wept uncontrollably for our country & the misguided terrorists on 9/11.  I knew the second the second plane hit the second tower that all would be changing forever.  Our great nation did not deserve such destruction & all the lives & affected families should not have died physically & emotionally.  But our country has sinned for too long.  The airwaves are demoralized more & more.  We need God more than ever.  You are not PC or allowed through separation of church and state, but You must be in.

I seems that with so many good people right now unemployed, without homes, but looking to You for help that we Christians are being prepared.  We’re being trained to take our country back.  We’ve let the unchurched tell us how & when things will be, but You have said ‘no more.’

Dislocate my heart to yearn for Your plan.  I am so tired of whining about me.  Take my heart & mind away from what I know You are preparing already & point them toward Your goals.

A praise.  Nan, Pap & Alyson all prayed for Greg & the opportunity at Perot.  You are awesome.  Please water those mustard seeds.  Bring them whole-heartedly back to You.

In Your Holy Name & seeking Your plan, Amen.

Friday, March 7, 2003

Dear Jesus~

Radical faith.  Am I there?  Have I truly given all to follow You?  Sometimes I don’t know.  I think that my ideas of security with a  home, etc. are keeping me from You.  Help me to give that up.  I’m trying to design Your plan.  Help me to let go & completely trust You.  “Trusting & believing God is the number one priority of God’s agenda for my life.” (“Holy Ambition”)

Trash everything else.  Just follow and trust.

Teach me not to question.  Jump off.  So what, we’re where we’re at.  So what we don’t know of tomorrow.  I’m excited of Your plan.  God I pray for a vision of Your plan.  I pray to be patient to hear from You.  Amen.