The Best…Worst…Most INTERESTING Christmas Program EVER!

This is the post I wanted to write in December but didn’t have time… Enjoy! 🙂

This year I’m prepared! No scrambling around at the last minute writing scripts and searching for the perfect song with mere weeks before  the performance. No, sir! Not this year! I wrote this year’s program back in August. I decided to hit the easy button and write a script to go along with a pre-written choir cantata. That should cut down on a lot of confusion and work… at least in theory. Do you know how hard it is to write a story to go along with someone else’s playlist? Yikes! The mental gymnastics I had to undertake in order to string two songs together in some sort of logical way was worthy of an Olympic gold medal! After weeks of wrestling with the songs and storylines the Christmas program was finished. I wasn’t extremely happy with it, but it would do… I guess.

Fast forward to the beginning of November…I pull out my lack-luster script and read it again. Blah. What a dumb, cheesy, sappy story! I don’t even wanna WATCH a program like this one…much less DIRECT it and have to listen to these lines multiple times a week. My eyes are liable to get stuck they’ve rolled so far back in my head! What was I thinking writing such a thing?! There’s no way I can get motivated to do this Christmas program. Lord? What do I do? Then it hit me: I had tried to write something on my own that would work with any church without considering what God wanted me to write specifically for my church… Ooops… sorry, Lord… So, the week before Christmas program practice was supposed to start, I asked God for a script and He gave me one… and it was everything that other pitiful attempt was not. It fit perfectly with our people and we even had fun practicing together! Thank you, LORD!!!

The manger from the animals' perspective

The manger from the animals’ perspective

Little mice singing for Jesus

Little mice singing for Jesus

Practices…whew! What a crazy time we had practicing for this Christmas program! Right before we started rehearsals God brought 16 children into our church through a new van ministry…and they ALL wanted to be in the program! Wouldn’t you know it…the story God gave me was extremely flexible and we were able to add 16 children to the program without any trouble at all. That is a miracle! The program was set to tell the story of Jesus’ birth from the animals’ perspective. We had a donkey, a mother hen, a dog, several sheep, and 16 mice. 🙂

Oh, what fun! We filled the stage with 10 large bales of hay…only to discover that many of us are allergic. The praise team was not amused… 🙂 One little mouse decided it would be fun to roll around in they hay on the night of the program but then he started itching. He was so desperate to get to the itch that he just about had his pants down around his ankles! One little girl wore sweater tights and a skirt (even though I had instructed the children to wear jeans) and ended up with severe static cling and hay covered legs. A couple of kids began poking one another right in the middle of the program. They were on the verge of a knock-down, drag-out and no one knew what to do with them. I was sitting on the front pew running lights and directing the singers when I heard the commotion. I calmly turned the spotlight down, lay my script on the seat beside me and walked on to the stage. I knelt down in front of the two offenders, placed my hands on their fists, turned on my teacher glare, and in my most formidable whisper threatened to end whatever they had just started. Their faces must have told the story as I turned around, smiled sweetly at the audience, sat back down, and went on with the rest of the program. 🙂 I am happy to report that no more skirmishes erupted in the manger scene. We did, have one more small incident… a young fella flipped off the back of one of the hay bales. He was not hurt, though, and thought it was so fun he would continue to flip off the hay bale until one of the men got a hold of him. I was not bothered by that though… it was better than him flipping off the audience…which is what the little fella did during our last program: flipped off the audience… twice… with both hands. Yeah… it could’a been worse.

My daughter (on the left) appointed herself as the "black sheep" :)

My daughter (on the left) appointed herself as the “black sheep” 🙂

It was definitely a crazy experience. And it was definitely from God! Those little mice/children were so thrilled to be in a “real” program with “real” costumes and lines. Their parents stepped inside the church- possibly for the first time ever- to watch their babies and hear the Gospel. Our creative team laughed more at practice than we have in a long time, drawing us closer together and uniting us in our ministry. Our community felt the love and genuine affection we have for them, their kids, and each other. And our church people were thrilled with the uniqueness of our presentation…something I had been worried about, since “uniqueness” could also mean “weirdness.” But one of our older ladies approached me afterwards with a true compliment. She said she had been to many programs over the years. She had heard beautiful choirs with orchestras and professional dramas with classy decorations and  yet she still liked ours the very best of all because it was REAL. Praise the Lord! It was definitely the bestworst…most INTERESTING Christmas program EVER! 🙂 And… here’s a link to the script in case you need a crazy script for your next Christmas program! 🙂“What If It Were Today” Script by Stephanie Shouse 2013

 

 

Random Thankfulness- Part 1

I’ve been struggling to get back to writing on my blog. It’s been busy and my creativeness (and free time) has gone towards writing programs, planning outreach events, and keeping a good connection with my girls as they grow & mature. However, I miss writing! So, I’m easing back into the blog thing by focusing on my 30 days of thankfulness that some friends and I have been doing on Facebook. I’ve participated in this online “event” for several years now, and thoroughly enjoy it. It’s where you take each day of the month of November to post one thing you’re thankful for on your Facebook status. It’s a great way to focus on the positive and publicly draw attention to the people and things you are most thankful for. But…being the perfectionist that I tend to be…I turned my days of thankfulness into a stressful project. “Who should I be thankful for today? Who should come first? Did I mention God enough or should I make sure people know I’m thankful for God every day? If I mention my oldest child before my youngest, will her feelings be hurt? If I mention being thankful for my current church people will my former church people be offended? If I talk about being thankful for material things will people think I have my priorities wrong?” All those thoughts running through my head every morning as I stare at my Facebook page makes me feel…well…not very thankful. 🙂

So this year I changed it up. This year I’m assuming that everyone knows that I am thankful for God, my salvation, my husband, my kids, my parents/siblings/in-laws/friends/church etc. Since all the “big” categories are under the umbrella of “These-things-are-super-important-and-I’m-always-thankful-for-them-so-I’m-not-gonna-list-them-this-year” it frees me up to give thanks for all the small, random things that pop in my head….and it takes away the stress of wondering what people think of my status on Facebook…’cause we all know how vitally important to the spiritual state of the world a person’s FB status is! 🙂

So, for the next few days I would like to share with you some of my Random Things I’m Thankful For…in no particular order:

  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day #1: Music- waking up to “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” is much more pleasant than waking to a buzzing alarm!
  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day #2: I’m thankful for Fridays! Knowing that Jeff and I get to spend the day together doing what we want… no meetings, no laundry, no “shop talk”, no stress… helps me get through even the busiest of weeks! And breakfast with my in-laws makes it extra good! 🙂
  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day #3: I’m thankful for a small town school where my daughter can play basketball even though she wasn’t a professional ball player at age 10 and even though we don’t have thousands of dollars for fancy equipment. I’m thankful for a great group of girls and parents who make up her team, always supporting and encouraging each other. AND I’m especially thankful for great coaches who patiently guide & teach our girls…and who don’t yell at them…even when they want to! 🙂 Thanks Coach Chad & Coach Wilson!
  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day 4: Really thankful for the extra hour we were given last night! I had to stay up late finishing writing the Christmas program (since practice starts today…nothing like waiting til the last minute), but even staying up as late as I did, I’m not exhausted! Woke up feeling refreshed and ready to worship & serve our Lord with all I am today!
  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day 5: I’m thankful for Sundays~ a whole day dedicated to worship & rest! Yesterday was certainly full…but full of GOOD things! Good SS discussion, lots of help during children’s church, a fabulously fun time at the Secret Sister party & more laughs that I can recount at Christmas program practice! What a GREAT day! 🙂
  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day #6: Thankful for technology which makes the world smaller! I can call my mom & sisters on their cell phone and talk for hours without worrying about drastic long distance charges. I can text people about random thoughts no matter what time it is or how far away they are. And I can count as friends many other women in ministry across the world! Thank You, Lord, for making people smart & creative enough to invent the things we need to keep in touch and stay connected to the people we love! 🙂
  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day 7: Late Start Wednesdays at HCHS. I love getting to spend the morning eating donuts, drinking YooHoos, and discussing life with my girl before she goes to school! What a precious gift of time from an unexpected source 🙂
  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day 8: $0.99 milk at Rulers Food Store! It’s almost the end of the week and we still have enough milk in the fridge to justify my drinking an entire (medium-sized) glass of milk with my breakfast today without concern for making it stretch until Sunday cereal night! Even better? It’s whole milk so it totally feels like Christmas morning! 🙂
  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day 9: I’m thankful my mom has learned how to post pics on Facebook so I can keep up with how much the new babies are growing! 🙂 Such cuties!
  • Random Things I’m Thankful For- Day 10: Thankful for the beautiful sunshine! Even though I’m currently enjoying it through my window as I do my work…it still is brightening my day! 🙂
    This list will be continued soon…but in the meantime…what random things are you thankful for?

 

Road Trip Retreat Adventures- Part 2

I had a blast at my retreat! Lots of fun times and meaningful experiences, but the trip home is when the real adventure began! Even though the retreat theme was “road trip” there was very little driving involved…at least not at first. Through the generosity of the people of Owensboro, most of whom were willing to pay top dollar for my junk, God provided for me to purchase a plane ticket to the retreat in Oklahoma City. I found a great deal on Southwest and decided to fly with them…having my bags fly for free was definitely a bonus! I met some wonderful ladies from a church in Louisville who were on the same flight with me, and we were able to go through security together and hang out in the airport while waiting for our flight. I learned first-hand not to wear sequins when you have to go through the full-body scanner at the security checkpoint… It was great fun, though! 🙂 The flights were smooth and checking our bags made our travels so easy. I loved how Southwest Airlines has open seating so we were all able to sit together and chat the entire flight…much to the enjoyment of the man who shared our row.

Me and my traveling buddies from Louisville- so thankful for them!

As the retreat drew to a close I was anticipating another smooth flight filled with long chats, quick transfers and little sips of ginger ale. Guess we can rule out the gift of prophecy in my life… We arrived at the airport in Oklahoma City at about 1pm Thursday, giving us plenty of time to go through security (sans sequins) and eat a leisurely lunch before our 4pm flight. But while chatting about the retreat over Moe’s burritos (not the best thing to eat before squeezing into a packed airplane, I might add…) we began receiving text messages from the airline. “Your flight has been delayed…new departure time is 5:20pm)”… “Your flight has been delayed…new departure time is 6:05″…”Your flight has been delayed…new departure time is 6:30″…”Your flight has been delayed…new departure time is 7:20.” With each message my panic level rose. The four of us approached the ticket counter at our terminal, and explained to the lady working there that we had a problem. If our flight does not leave OKC until after 7pm how in the world are we supposed to make our connecting flight in St Louis which leaves for Louisville at 6:30pm? She stated the obvious: “You’re not going to make your connecting flight.” Can you get us on the next flight to Louisville? “There’s not another flight to Louisville today…but I can get you on the first flight out tomorrow.” TOMORROW?!? That’s when full-blown panic mode set it: WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE CAN’T FLY OUT TONIGHT? ARE YOU GOING TO PROVIDE A HOTEL ROOM? NO?!? I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW TO GET HOME- MY KIDS NEED ME! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!? Then we all took a breath and remembered that God is in control (plus I was wearing my Nacho Average PW shirt which, by this time, I was wishing said something else…like Nacho Average Arm Wrestler or something intimidating like that!)

As we walked away from the desk, my mind began frantically shooting prayers up to heaven…not the graceful “arrow prayers” of Nehemiah, but more like the frantic “Help, Lord!” prayers of Peter. What in the world am I gonna do? Then God provided again. Not by getting us an airplane to Louisville, but by giving me 3 good friends with wonderful abilities & resources that they shared with me. By the time we finally landed in St Louis, Amy’s amazing husband had booked us a rental car and taken care of everything so we could drive from St Louis to Louisville! We were picked up by the shuttle and taken straight to our car which was beautiful and had plenty of room for all of our luggage and books. By 10pm we were starting our adventure, not even guessing that our journey would lead us through the parking lot of Hustler’s, back to the rental car company, past the Arch, across  completely deserted  parts of 3 different states, in and out of a truck stop for a cheeseburger & fries at 1:00 in the morning, and finally to our own cars parked in the lot at the airport in Louisville shortly after 3am on Friday! I’m sure we would have been lost several times on the trip if it were not for Sarah’s super-phone-GPS skills. That would have made for more adventures to share…but we were all glad to be home by that time. After picking up my car in Louisville, I still had a 2 hour drive to get to my home. But when Crystal stepped in and offered me a bed to sleep in for a couple of hours I did not turn her down… I’d much rather sleep at 4am than drive some more!

After snatching a couple hours of sleep I was ready to get home. I began the drive being thankful for a little bit of rest, a fresh cup of coffee, and buy-one-get-one-free pop tarts from the truck stop last night. As I drove along the Western Kentucky parkway I kept myself awake and alert by blasting the new Toby Mac cd that my sweet husband had bought for me right before my trip. There’s nothing like the combination of the MacDaddy & Lecrae belting out tunes together to keep a tired soul stirred up enough to drive a while! After about an hour I noticed my gas tank getting a little low. Note to self: stop and get gas at the next exit…too late. For the next 67 miles I drove without a single gas station in sight! My Jeep has a handy little light that comes on when the gas gets really low. I know once that light comes on I can go about 30 miles before I completely run dry. As I continued driving, desperately looking for gas…no matter the price… I began to recall the story of the widow with the jars of oil. Her little flask of oil never ran dry…and neither did my gas tank! I finally made it to Owensboro, pulled into the first gas station I saw, and looked at my odometer. I had gone 37 miles since my light came on! Thank you, Lord, for getting me home without yet another incident to write about in my blog! 🙂

What an adventure!

Summer!

So, I thought I could do everything this summer: church stuff, family travels, fun activities with my girls, housework, blog… What was I thinking? Obviously, the blog got left behind, and I don’t want to tell you what my house looks like right now… but we did accomplish a lot and had tons of fun just hanging out together this summer.

Here are a few things we did:

    • We had a great week of VBS at our church. In the past I’ve always enjoyed directing VBS- planning the schedule & emphasis, leading & supporting the leaders, and promoting all the fun details that help the kids and workers get excited about this event. But in the last few years I’ve had to take a step back from leading and be content with following. I must say, it’s not been easy. But I’m learning to enjoy simply doing my part and focusing on the things God has given me to work with. This year I was able to lead the music portion of VBS, one of my favorite parts, and had lots of fun doing it. I was not only able to teach the songs and lessons to the little kids each night, I was also able to train my youth girls to be leaders in the music area. It was really cool watching my oldest daughter, Mykaela, come into her own as she stepped up and taught music to her class. She’s really becoming a strong leader.
  • Group hug with 1st grade music class!

  • The week after VBS Mykaela went to youth camp in Missouri. They had a lot of fun and she bonded well with the others who went. As a mom, I was hoping this week at camp would be a life-changing event for her… you know, the kind of moment that she would look back on and see that God did something amazing in her life. That didn’t really happen as far as I could tell. It was a good week for her, though, and I’m thankful that God provided the funds for her to go on this trip!
  • In order to keep us from going crazy being at home together all these days of summer, we added a few regular activities to our schedule. Mykaela volunteered at the library in town twice a week, and Kianna participated in a reading program at the same library. Both girls also played coach-pitch softball at the Baskett Recreation League. So, two evenings a week were spent at the ball field watching our girls play. Neither of their teams did very well, but we were guaranteed to get a bag of popcorn and a Sunkist at every game (thanks, Papaw!) so we had fun anyway. 🙂
  • At the end of June we got to participate in the wedding of some friends of ours. I was the maid of honor and Jeff prayed a blessing over the couple. The wedding was long and included a full Catholic mass, so we were quite out of our element, but the experience was a good one overall and it let to some interesting conversations with our girls about what we believe and what makes Protestants and Catholics different. (It also led to some funny stories which I may have to share here later…but for now let’s just say it was…um…interesting!) 🙂

  • July 4th is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up we always celebrated with lots of family and fireworks at my Pawpaw’s lake house. Since we’ve lived away it’s been more difficult to celebrate, but I think we’ve finally found a good tradition for this important holiday. A couple in our church, who also happen to be our friends and neighbors, host a gigantic 4th of July celebration at their house every year. They make over 20 gallons of homemade ice cream and invite the entire church, the whole neighborhood, all of their family, friends, co-workers, every waitress at Cracker Barrel, the gas station attendants, the cashiers at Wal-Mart, the police & fire department, and anyone else who wants to come. Everyone brings their own yard chairs and piles into Ray & JoAnn’s yard to feast on homemade strawberry, chocolate, banana or pineapple ice cream. The highlight of the evening is when it finally gets dark and the men set up the trailer and set off the most beautiful fireworks in town. We all oooh & ahhh after every explosion because we know that Ray is taking notes as to which ones get the most positive feedback so that he can get them again next year. 🙂
  • One of my favorite events of the summer is when the World Changers come to town! Every year we supply our team with lunch every day while they are in town working on a construction or repair project. This year our team consisted of 16 high school students and 6 adults who came from Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana, and Texas to replace the roof of an elderly lady in a low-income part of town. Every day during World Changer week a group of us meet at the church to slice watermelon, apples & oranges; make sandwiches, hamburgers or walking tacos; and organize chips, crackers, and cookies for this great group of workers. We set up a tent in the yard where they are working and bring them lunch every day. We stay and serve them their food and provide as much sweet tea as they can drink. This year they drank 25 gallons of sweet tea! (I was in charge of making all the tea, so I kept track… they had me worried that I was gonna have to go out and buy another 20lb bag of sugar just to get through the week!) 🙂

Our team ready to serve the World Changers

  • Since Jeff has been training for the Ironman (more about that later), we knew we would not be able to take a “real” vacation this summer. All our extra time and money had to go towards the Ironman. But God provided rest for us anyway. A couple in our church offered our family the use of their lake house for several days. It was the most peaceful, relaxing, stress-free couple of days that we’ve had in a while. We swam, kayaked, jumped off the cliff, played board games, swung on the swing, and drank our coffee on the deck. It was such a blessing to us!

Happy Summer from the Shouse House!

Looking back on it, I’d say we had a pretty great summer…even if it might be considered “uneventful” according to our standards. 🙂

The girls are now back in school (5th & 9th grades), the Ironman is over, and things are starting to get back into a groove at church. I’m looking forward to several exciting experiences in the next couple of weeks and trying to get my house in order so I can handle all the busyness without being too disorganized. I’m also excited about getting back into writing on this blog again. There’s so much I want to talk to you about! See you again soon!

PS: I would love to hear how your summer went! Anything exciting or relaxing happen these last couple of months?

Up For An Adventure?

A couple of years ago Jeff and I took a road trip on Route 66. In planning for this adventure I began to research all the interesting things we could see and do. My plan was to map out our route with highlighter, planning how far we would travel each day, where we would stay, what we would eat, and all the activities we would experience on the trip. It was quite the list. When I proudly told Jeff what I had begun to do, he was appalled! What is the point of setting off on an adventure if you already know what’s going to happen? Good point. So we compromised. I made of list of things I thought were interesting and where they were located but we didn’t plan every stop. We would just decide along the way. This was the beginning of quite the adventure!

General Store in Eric, OK

Our journey lead us to Eric, Oklahoma. Someone we had met along the way had suggested that we stop at the general store there because it would be a memorable experience. Boy, were they right! As we entered the store a man greeted us at the door and asked if we were there for the show. Always up for an adventure, Jeff answered with a resounding OF COURSE! They offered us a bologna sandwich and a cold beer and pointed us to a seat. The tiny room was crowded with a motorcycle group from England. We squeezed into a corner just as the main attraction made his appearance.   An energetic man with long white hair and beard, wearing nothing but red and white striped overalls, jumped on to a makeshift stage and began to sing while his wife, similarly attired, joined him on guitar. As the music filled the room, the man apparently was not satisfied with the amount of audience participation. So in an effort to loosen us all up, he passed around a large jug of Jack Daniels, encouraging everyone to take a couple swigs before passing it on. As the jug was passed to us, my husband, the pastor of a tee-totaling Baptist church noticed the video camera panning the audience… Great. This is totally going to end up on Facebook. Our fellow traveler was right: this was definitely a memorable experience!

A few days down the road we were feeling up for another adventure. I had noticed a sign for a place called “Pie Town.” Sounds like a place I’d like to visit! I looked on the map and it appeared to be about 20 minutes off the main road. The internet had mentioned Pie Town as a historical place where ranchers and cowboys would stop for rest during their cattle drives. The whole place was famous for (you guessed it) their homemade pies. Yum! Definitely sounds like an adventure worth going a few minutes out of the way! Two and a half hours later, after driving through the longest stretch of desert wasteland I’ve ever seen, we were hot and miserable and desperate to see civilization. Our water bottles had been emptied more than an hour earlier and our gas tank was running dry as we finally approached the infamous Pie Town. We stopped at the first café we saw and dragged our weary bodies up the steps, only to discover that they were closed…and they weren’t the only ones. Apparently, every restaurant and store in Pie Town closes at 4pm…it was 4:15. Wa-wa-waa… 😦

Part of what makes an experience an adventure is the risk involved. Sometimes you get Jack Daniels and a show and sometimes you get Pie Town. But if you never take the risk, you never experience either one. 🙂

The Show in Eric, OK 🙂

PS… Jeff & I have had many great adventures over the years! This summer I’m taking a break from serious writing in order to write about all of our fun experiences on the road. Check out my new Road Trip blog at View From The Jeep !