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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Final Rehearsals

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The final week of musical rehearsals is stressful, but full of wonderful memories.  The intense practice schedule really gives the cast a chance to bond and make lasting friendships–and this year that was particularly true for the Prairie Family.

It’s amazing how shows pull the pieces together in that last week. Lines are cemented (hopefully!), scenes become tighter, and the show starts resembling a real musical.  It’s an amazing transformation to observe!  There are lots of funny moments as well when props malfunction, people miss entrances, lines are ad libbed, etc., but those moments turn into precious memories.

Once that last rehearsal is finished, it’s time to give the performances to the Lord, and ask for His blessing on them.  And He did bless!  More to come…..

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This Saturday, the barbershop group that the Prairie Family guys have joined is having their big concert for this season.  The concert is entitled “Harmony in Conflict: Civil War” and will feature several barbershop groups performing traditional barbershop songs and Civil War-era songs.  There are two performances, so they will be busy most of the day, but they enjoy it, and they certainly have learned a lot about singing, harmonizing, and blending through their work with this group.

John’s Civil War hat has an interesting story.  When the group’s hats came in, all of them were teeny tiny little hats.  The hats fit Luke pretty well, but are tight on Dan and Brock, and WAY too small for John.  His crazy hat looked so silly sitting on top of his head–he almost needed a string to tie it on!  :)  I was talking about it with a lady from our church, and she said that she thought she might be able to make it work better.  I told her if she could, she would be a very-much-appreciated miracle worker!  She took the hat home with John’s head measurement, and after having it only for a few hours, she had that hat fixed so it fits!  Yes, indeed:  a much-appreciated miracle worker!  I know I have mentioned this several times recently, but I must say it again:  we are truly blessed with wonderful friends.  I don’t know what we would do without them!

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Joni Eareckson Tada has been a life-long inspiration to me.  This beautiful song that she recorded for the movie “Alone, Yet Not Alone”  has just been nominated for an Oscar.

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Christmas Dinner CollageOne of our very special Christmas memories for 2013 was our family Christmas dinner.  We’ve always done a nice holiday dinner, but this year we decided to invite other special friends to join us–we always have plenty of food, so why not?  The more the merrier!  :)

Our little house doesn’t work very well for group gatherings–especially those that involve food. Our kitchen is small, but our table is really too small even just for our own family let alone any guests.  So, rather than let this become a limiting factor, we decided to move our family dinner to the basement of our church, and that worked out very well.  There’s plenty of seats and table space, so we’ll definitely keep that as an option in the future.  And, yes, I do want this to become another Prairie Family tradition.  Christmas is for loving and sharing, and even though this was a lot of work, it was one of the most joyful parts of our celebration.

God has been teaching me a lot over the past few months, and this dinner was part of that.  By nature, I am a quiet, selfish person who is perfectly happy to keep to myself and do my own thing.  Earlier this year–even going back to this past summer–God began to impress on me that it was time to work on that.  I needed to get out of my comfort zone and reach out to others.  Others includes everyone regardless of age, social class, or situation.  I can be so harsh and judgmental–God has to constantly remind me that He alone knows the heart.  It’s my job to love.  Yes, that’s it–my job is to love and serve others.

So, I have been acting on that.  And, you know what?  I am happy–truly, truly happy!  I heard it said just yesterday that you can never have too many people as friends, and that is so true.  I need people, and, yes, people need me.  I want to take advantage of every opportunity that God gives me to reach out to others with His hand of gracious care.  That is my resolution for 2014.

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The title for this entry is really not an exaggeration!  Christmas Eve 2013 was a wonderful and very special day! Because of the way our school schedule fell with finals, we did have to have school on December 24 just so exams wouldn’t carry over into January.  The kids weren’t too happy about that, but once we got through with that it was smooth sailing!

I had arranged with one of the local nursing homes to have our string ensemble come play Christmas carols in the afternoon.  That was such a great experience, and I think it should become a Prairie Family Christmas Eve tradition!  We go to this particular home quite often to help with church services, so we know several of the residents and love performing there.  We had an unexpected fan club on Christmas Eve, though.  I think they wanted our autographs!  Here is a picture of the O’Brien Keys and Strings Fan Club 2013:

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Well, I guess our fan club has room for new members!  :)  Anyway, there are several of these nice aviaries in the nursing home, and this particular one was right across the hallway from where we were playing.  Every time we’d start playing, the birds would pipe right in there with their beautiful obligatos, and it added to the festivities!

After we finished playing our last carol, we went home so the kids could open their Christmas stocking gifts.  I realized long ago that the actual stockings couldn’t really hold anything–not even a pencil really.  So, we have used substitute gift bags for several years in a row.  Believe me, the kids don’t mind being able to fit more in the bags!  I thought the pictures came out good this year because the kids still had on their black outfits from their afternoon performance.  Made them look all fancy!

Christmas Eve Collage

Now I must say that I don’t have any idea what the girls are doing in the bottom left picture–it’s kind of crazy!  :)

Our church decided to have Christmas Eve services this year, so we loaded our instruments back into the van and played a couple more carols there. My kids hadn’t been to a candlelight service since they were very little, so that made for a special time that I also hope becomes a tradition.  The service still ended early enough for the Prairie Family to enjoy their annual Christmas movie:  The Nativity Story.

Christmas Eve has become such a special day to me–sometimes I enjoy it more than Christmas Day!  I know the years are quickly approaching when maybe not all of us will be together, so these days are precious.

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Genesis Collage

I am just finishing my second year on the board for our county’s food bank.  It is truly a blessing for our family to be involved with this great organization.  We have met amazing people and have learned a lot about love.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The food bank operates year-around and has several special projects.  Our biggest project, by far, is the annual Christmas basket distribution.  We plan and work on it for months, so it is a rewarding day when those baskets go out the door to families.  This year the board decided to break the project up into committees, and I think dividing it up helped ease the load on everyone–and helped us all to understand and appreciate the processes involved.  I was a little hesitant when I found out I was on the volunteer/contacts committee.  I am not one who likes to make phone calls and ask people to do something, but since this was the task given me, I decided to do my very best.  I was in for a wonderful surprise!  Finding volunteers was probably the easiest part of this project!  I had a calling list of people who had helped in the past, and, believe it or not, of those who were still in the area, I had 100% willingness to help again!  Isn’t that incredible?!  Not one person said no!  And that’s how the whole project went:  everytime I needed people to help with this or that, everyone was eager and willing to jump right in!  What a blessing–I couldn’t believe it!  I had never experienced anything like that!

I can’t begin to express how happy I was when the community volunteers came and served with such joy.  It was a moving experience–something I will treasure for the rest of my life. And it didn’t end there!  Many members of the community lined up to help fill those boxes.  They gave time in a busy, busy season to help others, and it was wonderful.

We were blessed to be able to give out around 200 boxes this year–we have such a giving community.  Everything–the food, the money, and the work–is all donated.  It was very cool to see families walking out the door with toys, bikes, and food for their families for Christmas.  It was definitely a precious highlight of my holiday season.

One of the greatest parts of being involved with the Genesis food bank is being able to get to know and work with the other board members.  Those people are amazing–truly amazing.  They give, and give, and give.  And not just at Christmas, but all year around.  They volunteer to work several times a week, and yet they do it happily, willingly, and with true servant hearts.  In many ways, they are like family to me, and I love them all.  They have each taught me so much about the joy of serving others, and I owe them so much.

So, I thank God for Thomas County Genesis, and praise Him for how He so greatly blesses the work there.  He is good–all of the time–and my life is so rich!

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Violin Collage

Several months ago a friend of mine who works at our local Sunflower Bank branch asked me if our string ensemble would consider providing the entertainment for a Christmas party that they hold each year for a special group of ladies.  Even though it was a little overwhelming, I told her that we were honored to be asked and would do our best to do a good job for them.  So, I bought some Christmas quartet music, and we started working towards this party pretty regularly beginning this summer!

As the months went by, we learned many songs, but we definitely had our favorites and some songs that just went better than others, so our program began to come together.  We added some violin ensemble pieces to our quartet selections.  These had piano accompaniments that I recorded and stored on my mp3 player.  I was a little concerned that we might not have access to a sound system that would work with my player, so I also burned a CD.  As the time got closer, I went to the hotel that was hosting the event and was pleased to find out that my recorded accompaniments could be plugged directly into the sound system.

The day of the party arrived, and it was a busy hustle!  We arrived about an hour early to set up and rehearse.  I got the sound working well, and we were all set…we thought!  There was a lady who came to the microphone to begin the festivities, and, sure enough, the sound went kablooey!  There was feedback of some kind, and whatever happened made it so my accompaniments would not play.  In fact, we never got it working again!  That was a bit troubling!  I was proud of the kids, though.  They did not get upset or rattled, and we just went on a capella, and I don’t think the audience ever even noticed the difference.

The party went well.  It was really a neat feeling when we were finished knowing that we had put together a decent program and had added a little bit of holiday joy to the season.

So what’s next?  Well, we’re taking our program to one of our favorite audiences on Christmas Eve:  the residents of a local nursing home. We love playing there–the people are always so appreciative and enthusiastic regardless of how well we play!  Sometimes they even want to take our pictures and give us tips!  :)  Seriously, though, we do love playing at the nursing home; it is truly a joy, and I am thankful that we get to do this on such a special day.  After Christmas, we are going to switch gears a bit and work on some classical pieces as well as some pieces for church.  We’re also going to try some Celtic fiddle tunes arranged for quartet–that should be an interesting change, and we are hoping to have some unique and fun opportunities to perform those sometime down the road.

All of these experiences are so good for the kids.  They are learning the self-discipline of preparing a program, doing a good job, and fighting nerves with the goal of making others smile.  O’Brien Keys and Strings has certainly been a blessing to the Prairie Family!

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Thanksgiving 2013


The Prairie Family had a wonderful, wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this year!  In fact, I’d say that it was probably one of our best ever!  We have so much to be thankful for–I don’t ever want to take that for granted.

We had our traditional trip to Dan’s sister’s house in Valentine, Nebraska, to have a combo Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration with his family.  It’s always a good time!  Most years all of his siblings and their families are able to join his Mom for this holiday, and I think that is really cool.

We did all of our Prairie Family Thanksgiving traditional activities including eating at Pizza Hut, swimming at the hotel, and enjoying the hotel breakfasts.  For several years, we have enjoyed going to the wildlife refuge outside of Valentine to have our annual visit with the prairie dogs there.  Those are spoiled critters–very well fed!  LOL!  This year we added to that tradition in that we found some really nice walking areas.  I took advantage of the beautiful fall scenery to take some pictures of the kids.  Unfortunately, Luke wasn’t feeling very well, so I didn’t get very many of him.  :(  He did feel better later in the day.  Kara took the picture that I used for this entry.  She thought the waterfall with the ice cycles was very beautiful, and I have to agree with that!

We enjoyed catching up with all of Dan’s siblings and always treasure our time with his mom.  The nieces and nephews are all grown up enjoying college and careers, so it was interesting to hear how their lives are changing.  Dan’s sister brought some really nice jewelry to show us, and, of course, my girls thought that was pretty cool!  The beads were handmade in Africa out of recycled magazines.  The necklaces, earrings, and bracelets were being sold to help improve the lives of the people who made them, and since they were so beautiful, I did not mind letting the girls pick out their favorite item to buy.  My poor girls–they both adore stuff like that, but their Mom has no clue about fashion!  :)

Dan’s other sister showed my kids how to make her very tasty pretzel rod treats.  That was another neat highlight of this year’s trip.  They had so much fun with that that we made some within days of coming home!

So, we had a very nice get-away.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, our family is truly blessed.  We have so much to be thankful for–one day out of the year is not enough!  I want our lives to say Thank You to our blessed Lord every day for all He does for us!

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The Prairie Family has birthdays in pairs.  My birthday is close to Dan’s, John’s is close to Luke’s, and Brock’s is close to Kara’s.  Only Cosette gets a birthday that is all by itself, and I guess even it is shared with Christmas!  :)

So, November brought us Brock’s 15th birthday on the 5th and Kara’s 10th birthday on the 8th. Yes, all of my kids are now in the double digits!

Brock Birthday 2013

Brock had a very unique birthday, because his special day happened to fall on the same day as the college talent show.  Before the show, I told the MC of the program (who also happens to be named Brock!) about Brock’s birthday, and that Brock led the whole audience in singing Happy Birthday to my Brock!  That was pretty cool–and something that he will always remember!

Kara Birthday 2013

Kara also got to share her birthday with a special event.  We went shopping for Operation Christmas Child Shoebox gifts.  This is actually the second year in a row that we have done this on her birthday, and I think it’s a pretty good tradition to continue.  Of course, she chose her favorite Chinese restaurant for her special birthday lunch, and that is always a special treat.

I truly love seeing my kids growing up.  It is a blessing to see how God is molding and guiding them.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

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