29 March 2014

"You are... You will be..."

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:43)



Is it just me, or does this seems like an anti-climatic "confirmation of/or call" to ministry? 

After all, this is Peter we're talking about.

You know... the guy who would
  • walk on water...
  • only to then sink dismally;
  • recognize Jesus as the Son of God...
  • only to turn around and tempt Him to walk a different path;
  • be chosen to keep watch and pray
  • only to repeatedly end up snoring instead;
  • bravely and loyally step forward with sword to defend Jesus
  • only to deny even knowing him when confronted later;
  • give up on himself and go back to fishing fish
  • only to become an impassioned preacher, gifted with words and a heart for souls that could only come from one mightily forgiven.
...Paul's conversion and call to ministry was nothing short of miraculous and amazing. I guess, if I didn't already know the story, I would have expected something similar for Peter. Fireworks exploding or the like!

That just isn't the case....

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To read the rest of this edited & from the archives post,  
head on over to Missionary Moms Companion, where I'm posting today.

And go ahead and answer the questions I've thrown out... even if you AREN'T a missionary!

24 March 2014

Home Assignment Blues

I remember when I used to think that teachers had the best job in the world BECAUSE they had a whole summer vacation.
Many of my Nigerien friends think that that distinction actually belongs to missionaries on home assignment BECAUSE they have a whole YEAR vacation.
Halfway through our home assignment year, halfway through our fourth home assignment year, halfway through my first home assignment year with a parcel of teenagers, my response is “UGH!”
Eloquent, I know.
I also know that “vacation” is a definite misnomer, even if the blog, Facebook and prayer letter photos sometimes seem to contradict that statement.
2014031220140119_170850
We’ve been on the road almost every weekend of the last three months. We’ve been in or traveled through nine different states. We’ve visited over ten of our partnering churches and have also caught up with some of our individual supporters. And our kids have mostly been back to school on time by Monday morning, every week.
Most of our traveling happens on the weekends. Friday evenings, after school lets out, are usually filled with high school games, school activities or visiting – sometimes just for fun but not always. Saturdays are times to clean the house, catch up on laundry, make sure homework is mostly done, tournaments and other competitions take place, big girls work their jobs, more visits with more people. Sometimes we need to leave on Saturday to get to where we need to be on Sunday. Sometimes we leave before the sun’s even up on a Sunday morning and the only life at our home church is the snow crew shoveling and salting in preparation for their Sunday morning services. Sometimes, not even the snow crew is out and about....
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If you wanna read the rest, please head on over to a life overseas: the missions conversation ~
I'm up for any ideas and suggestions you might care to add to this conversation!

21 March 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ Of Joy and Sleigh Bells

It happened on a cold, windy Michigan Sunday winter afternoon ~

We'd spent all morning and early afternoon with one of our partnering churches ~ an hour + drive on snowy roads with lots of drifting snow, Sunday School, the service, a yummy potluck followed by an immediate afternoon service. Our big girls were excited about being home in time for the evening service at our home church, except ~

Earlier the preceding week, the pastor had called my hubby and said he wanted to arrange a little afternoon surprise for our family... and detailed the for Tim. Tim grinned really big, readily agreed and then decided that he wanted to really keep this as a surprise for the girls and so other than telling them to take some warm clothes to change in to, we told them nothing about what to expect... just that there would be a surprise.


And it had something to do with horses.


Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing
Ring ting tingle-ing too
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you

Outside the snow is falling
And friends are calling "Yoo Hoo"
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you

Giddy-yap giddy-yap giddy-yap
let's go
Let's look at the snow
We're riding in a wonderland of snow



Our very own, personal right through a winter wonderland sleigh ride.

With a sled attached to the back of the sleigh where the kids took turns riding.
  


Jonathan and Elsie were taking their second turn riding in the back - Jonathan was riding in the back when the sleigh dragging the sled went around a corner and up and over a rise at the same time...

...and Jonathan rolled right off the back of the sled.

Those of us on the sleigh quietly talked, asking questions about the horses, finding out about those amazingly beautiful and HUGE work animals that are a part of our host's livelihood. We enjoyed the sound of nothing but the runners over the snow and bells jingling through the silence of the woods... when all of a sudden, Elsie Mae began to laugh. A smile provoking soon deteriorating into giggles, belling busting cackle that rang out loud and clear joy that shattering the silence of a snowy silva. Turning around, we saw Jonathan running to recapture his spot on the sled, stumbling through knee deep snow and laughing almost as hard as his sister.

You know that both yawns and laughter are contagious, don't you? Laughter is a lot more fun, however... Have you seen this video? Needless to say, pretty soon we all had caught the bug and everyone had cracked up: chuckling, tittering, snorting, howling, guffawing... it all ensued. Even Tucker the dog was standing at the back of the sleigh amusedly watching Jon try to run and catch up and barking encouragement.

Jon did eventually catch up and all of the laughter did eventually settle down. Thankfully he's a great sport most of the time and he found the whole situation hilarious, too. Gotta love that about little boys! He did insist that Elsie Mae hang on to the back for the rest of the ride, however.

Everyone settled except for Elsie Mae, that is. All evening long, at odd moments, her joy in the memory bubbled out and spilled over into more contagious giggles and laughter... even in her sleep that night.


(Yeah... In case you were wondering, this was about a 7 minute Friday... 
I just had to finish the story!)

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Head on over to Lisa-Jo's and join us, if you feel like spilling some joy out on pen and paper... or computer screen. Hope to see you there.


20 March 2014

of butterflies, brothers, spring breaks and sisters

Mary Michelle had a field trip to the Butterfly House at Dow Gardens this week.

I'd hoped to go with her. She'd been begging me to tag along for at least ONE of her field trips this year.

But Jonathan woke up with a fever and a super sore throat... I was stuck at home and biggest brother got drafted... although he didn't know it yet because like most college students home on break, he was sleeping in.


Honestly he wasn't super excited about the idea either... but he's a softie when it comes to his baby sis... so he didn't fuss too much.

He reluctantly got himself ready and headed over to the school, with my newly repaired camera shoved in his coat pocket.








In the end, big bro was glad he went... and actually has been talking about going back.

Mary Michelle later informed me, "Mama, I'm glad you couldn't go with me and that Brendan got to instead. He's fun!"

Hummmppphhh!

19 March 2014

Better LATE than NEVER ~ Photos from CBA's Spirit Week, Day TWO ~

Thankfully Tuesday and Thursday of Spirit Week only includes the high school dressing up.
Even at that, getting everyone out the door and to school on time that week
equaled a huge challenge...

EVERY SINGLE DAY!

So here we are, at Day TWO...

Can you guess the theme for the day?
And what in the world each of my girlies was impersonating?



This right here, Rebekah's costume, 
just might have been my favorite costume of the week!



Unfortunately, I didn't actually catch Nadia for a photo until she'd partially removed her costume... in the interest of actually engaging academics for at least a few hours.



We forgot that Anna had a dentist appointment this morning.
She went just like this.
The ladies at the dentist's office found this quite humorous...
And Anna? She just smiled and rolled with it!

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Correctly guess the costume/theme for each Wrightling... or be the closest to doing so... and we've got a gift for you! 

We'll even mail it overseas!

(PS This contest is not open to CBA folks... 'cause as my Wrightlings say, "That would be cheating!")

18 March 2014

Daddy spoils his teenage daughters...

It had been a hard night...



Daddy had to make a run to the grocery store.






He came back with


MmmURGENCY CHOCOLATE

For immediate relief of: Chocolate Cravings, Lovesickness, Exam Pressure, Mild Anxiety and Extreme Hunger.
Directions for use: Tear open wrapper, break off desired dosage, and consume. Alternately massage into the affected area. Repeat dosage as required until finished. If symptoms persist, consult your local confectioner.

It should contain a warning:
Instantly and immediately addictive. Patients will repeatedly and persistently beg for another dose. May even lead to temper tantrums or extreme behavior. Use with caution.

17 March 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ Believed isn't always the same as believing

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, [then] you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?"
Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. "I know that you are Abraham's descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. "I speak the things which I have seen with [My] Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from [your] father."
They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham. "But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. "You are doing the deeds of your father." They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. "Why do you not understand what I am saying? [It is] because you cannot hear My word. "You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature], for he is a liar and the father of lies. "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear [them], because you are not of God."
The Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?" Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. "But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death." The Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets [also]; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.' "Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out [to be]?" Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God'; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw [it] and was glad." So the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. 
We do our children... we do ourselves... we do others... a disservice when we insist that "once I believed" is all and enough. 

Now... before you begin to stone me with words, hear me out... first.



This passage starts with Jesus saying, "If you continue..." to those Jews who "believed" and ends with those very same Jews ready to stone the Savior.

And it isn't like the word translated "believed" means some sort of half-hearted, emotional in-the-moment response. It can mean either "persuading oneself" or it can have a "sacred significance of being persuaded by the Lord." In fact, according to the concordance, it is "only the context..." that reveals if faith "is self-serving (without sacred meaning), or it is the kind of believing that leads to/proceeds from God's inbirthing of faith.


One comment I'd make here is that it in this instance, it was the LORD, in person, doing the persuading... the talking... the teaching... in the previous passage that resulted in Jews who "had believed." So in once sense, that criteria of sacred significance.

So what do I think this means?

While I'm not trying to say that I think faith in Christ, salvation, can be lost... I am pretty sure that belief must grow with increasing knowledge and experience of God; it must not become static.

Because when kids grow up and begin to see the realities of life in a fallen world, live the realities of life with a fallen body, try and fight daily against the realities of a fallen nature, someone who just believed once... if I don't keep on believin'... one of these days, I just might find myself with a stone in my hand... ready to hurl it at the One I used to call Savior.

The thing is... believing is work. It involves trusting God, choosing His Word, studying to understand His ways, obeying even when I don't understand, tying that metaphorical knot and hanging on for all I'm worth when it seems like giving up and letting go would be so much less confrontational... so much less work.

How can that be? 
Yes. Salvation is a gift simply to be received. 
On the other hand, 
believing day in and day out is hard work, grace-enabled work, that isn't blink-or-the-eye achieved.



What are you having to work at today... to keep on believin'? 
So that you can keep on believin'?

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4470 - 4500)

Gammie and Gampy up for the weekend

Nadia made homemade pizza

my boy is home for Spring Break

he even made his super early in the morning shuttle ride to the airport and all flight connections went smoothly

finished reading a really good book

kids getting closer to healthy again

harmonica player at one of our partnering churches that made me smile

field trip to see the butterflies

butterfly landing on little hand

looking forward to seeing a movie... soon

fun with Google translate

writing ideas starting to flow again

finishing studying through acts

continuing to study through the book of John

a week of work

potatoes, leeks, mushrooms and the yumminess you can make when you mix that all together

sunshine

melting snow

seeing the grass again

to do list done

Monday at home with my sick little guy

puzzle games and challenges

sleeping so sound that I didn't wake up

having them run home for lunch for breathing treatments seems a pain, but it does mean I get to see them during the day

friendly youth group guys in a church we visited

last week of upwards basketball

baskets made, screens set, rebounds made and lots of learning happening

Aunt Carol up for the basketball games on Friday night

ibuprofen for fevers and really sore throats

salt to make salt water to gargle with

enjoying the current seasons of Amazing Race and Survivor!


  
Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

15 March 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ Crowd ~



I've been spending lots of time sitting among a crowd of spectators watching elementary kiddos learn to play basketball lately. 

It's fun!

It's hilarious, actually!

The first and second grade girls, Elsie Mae's group, are probably the most amusing... although the difference between their games this week and their games the first week is pretty amazing.



But first the back story...

A few weeks ago, Elsie Mae was at church. She was walking out of the bathroom, heading for the drinking fountain. Another little guy was headed down the hall. Both were possibly moving at speeds greater than necessary and not looking out for others. The result was a collision where both ended up on the floor and Elsie Mae ended up with a nose bleed... that took nearly 40 minutes to stop and left her with a nice swollen place on the bridge of her nose as well as a headache.

We talked with her pediatrician and he wanted us to go and get an x-ray, just to be sure her nose wasn't broken. We did. It wasn't. She was, however pretty sore and prone to nosebleeds for the next several days. 

Boy have we found out just how prone...

Fast forward to her next basketball game. The players run in as their name is announced for every game... Harlem Globetrotters music playing in the background. Elsie Mae rounds the corner, promptly slips, falls and her nose starts to bleed, again.

No real biggie. We get it stopped and she's back out to play in a few minutes.

Next week, same story... The shoes she's wearing have a cloth covering on the sole and that cloth covering mixed with little seven year old girl clumsiness seem to be her recipe for sliding, slipping ad falling.

Someone get that girls some shoes that won't slip! Right?


Except she already does have some.

They are just forgotten, every week at both practice and game time, in her locker at school... in a modular  unit that we can't access after academic hours.

I guess we could have bought her another pair. 

Except that would be rescuing.

There are times as mamas and daddies that we rescue our children.

There are also times that we don't. 

Instead, we love and support them through the consequences... Even if that means the heart-ouch of watching her slip and fall and be embarrassed because it happened again... Even if it means risking another nosebleed... Even if it means being that parent running to the bathroom again to grab something to stop another nosebleed prompted by the latest slip and fall.


But?

She remembered to bring her shoes home for both practice and her games this week... all on her own. She was super pleased with herself. She played better, too.

Maybe she's learning? Maybe she's figuring out about consequences and how our choices tend to have those and they aren't always ones we like?

I know I am.

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Linking up with Lisa-Jo for another Five Minute Friday - five fun minutes of writing every week - one of my blogging highlights every week!

Would love for you to join us as well!

Thanks to Gammie and Gampie (Captured Memories Photography) &
Coach/Aunt Sonja, for the photos in this post!

13 March 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ and His traumatic love

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid." 
Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” 
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.  
Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

“Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted upa the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many believed in him. (John 8.12-30)
A Florida sunset... taken from our van as we are speeding (at the speed limit) down the highway... 

The picture above doesn't do the actual scene justice.

Just like it is hard to do these words any justice at all in thinking... meditating... writing... on them:
Whoever follows me will NEVER walk in darkness, 
but WILL HAVE the LIGHT of life.

I don't need to walk in darkness... although I sometimes do... for if and when I'm following Jesus, He uses the words NEVER, and WILL HAVE LIGHT.

The word translated "never" here is really a double negative - no + not. The word translated "have" is first modified by a modal auxiliary verb. (yeah ~ I find grammar kinda cool and definitely fascinating) That essentially means that the word "will" gives us more information about the meaning and function of the word "have." Generally, modals communicate information ranging from possibility to a necessity. In other words, they are concerned with ~
  1.  a possibility (i.e. the likelihood or the certitude) that an action is true or not;
  2. a possibility focused more on the distinction between freedom to act (i.e. permission) or necessity (i.e. obligation/requirement); and
  3. a possibility, again focusing on the distinction between freedom and necessity but this time the mitigating or conditioning factors come from within - meaning the subject's ability or desire to act.
In nongrammar infused English, here's the way I understand these words from Scripture ~

When I'm following Jesus - I can count on the fact that I'll never be walking in total darkness. That guarantee isn't there when I take off on my own and the guarantee isn't that it won't be dark or shadowy or obscure... just that the darkness won't be complete. But that when caveat can be huge. I will have light because we're talking about Jesus as the provider, the source, of that light. It is true because Jesus is true and never lies. Jesus cannot be less than Who He is. His very nature will never allow Him to do less than what He has promised. This truth depends on His desire and ability to act, and that is unquestionable as He's proven it so over and over and over and... It depends on the fact that He loves, that He IS... love ~ 

But, as RC Sproul wrote in The Holiness of God:  "No man was ever more loving than Jesus Christ. Yet even His love made people angry. His love was a perfect love, a transcendent and holy love, but His very love brought trauma to people. This kind of love is so majestic we can't stand it." The Pharisees run headlong into this reality in this Jesus encounter.

His love seeks always and only the best for its recipients. 

That means His love is often incomprehensible, confusing, painful, frustrating, and even terrifying.

I can try to reduce it to something I can understand - as the Pharisees did in this encounter - a witness that makes sense to me in my limited finiteness. 

THAT, ultimately, is what makes no sense. After all, how can a finite creature expect to grasp infinite love lavished upon it by its infinite Creator?

I can lose my temper when He reminds me that my strategy won't... can't... work; I can be insulted and take offense when through His Word, His world and His people, He clues me in once again to the immensity of the difference between Him and me. He is divine and One with the Father. I'm His creation to do with as He sees fit.

The above biblical passage shows one reaction by those confronted with this painful, humbling reality.

What other responses are there?

I can believe and trust.

Or, I can trust and believe. The order probably doesn't really matter as long as I do both.

I can also cry out in prayer, "Help Thou my unbelief!" and keep seeking to know and grow in my understanding of One so ultimately unknowable (outside of His revelations).

Or like the Pharisees in this encounter, I can seek to seize, not with the goal of better knowing but rather with the goal of silencing....

Today, which will it be?

Tomorrow? 

...and every next day thereafter... each day that He gives?

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4440 - 4469)
walking pneumonia seems to be healing

a History Day finalist

100% on a math quiz... finally... and the attack that class light back in her eyes

heart aches because I've so many dear ones far away to miss

my boy will be home, before this weekend

meeting people I've only known up till now via Facebook

children's Tylenol to help when the aches and pains of illness make little girls too sad

three weeks in a row of ladies' Bible study with some of the sweetest women in the world

science fair over

Winter Sports Banquet over

Spring Break looming large on the horizon

days warm enough to melt the frozen sidewalk, thus increasing the probability of getting to school without wiping out

watching squirrels in the tree outside the picture window

fresh covering of snow to cover up the ugly brown/black stuff

being sick, forcing me to rest and taking the time to do some reading of some really great books

being accountable to my boy as we both work on a habit we want to change

over halfway through a marathon season of visiting our wonderful supporting churches and ministry partners

safety as we travel so many miles

that our illnesses this term (so far) have been relatively mild, if persistent

little girls watching The Aristocrats with bemused smiles

cough drops and benedryl... and sometimes sleep even with the coughs

orange juice so readily available

listening to piano, sax and violin practice

anticipating hearing those flutes twittering away in just a few days

the testimony of a life lived well

hoping to visit with my nana in not too many days

pastors willing to think outside of the box when it comes to reporting to their churches... which will save my munchkins some hours on the road

looking forward to a weekend with Gammie and Gampy

sunshine and fluffy white clouds floating across the sky

increased financial support as we work towards Québec 2015...


  
Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

12 March 2014

Answering Spirit Day Questions ~ from last week!

Day 1 for the biggers was "Hero/Villain Day."
Do you know who they are?


Rebekah dressed up as Astrid... from How to Train Your Dragon.
That movie and the Saturday morning episodes you can buy on DVD - well, our kids are a little obsessive about them and that's putting it mildly!


Nadia looked very blue as Smurfette - and those blue pants are now her favorite lounge-around-the-house-jammie pants!

Her face did retain that blue-ish tint for the next couple of days, too.


Anna self-transformed into Malificent, from Sleeping Beauty fame - and I was so glad she won because that girl thought hard, came up with creative solutions using what we had around the house, planned lots and spent much time working on her costume.

She wanted to win... and she did.
Gotta love her determination!


The elementary kiddos' classes worked off of a class color theme.

Tori's class colors were black and white... and we discovered that these days, duct tape is no longer just a boring silver grey. 
Instead, it comes in all sorts of fun, wild and crazy colors and patterns.

Who would've guessed?


Jonathan just about had a melt-down when we pulled out a bright, neon pink shirt for him to wear with his green camo pants.

His class colors were pink and green.

He was okay with it afterwards, though... when he saw that most of the other boys in his class were wearing pink too... and when he saw from the tag that the pink shirt actually did come from the boys' department at Walmart.


Last, but certainly not least, Elsie Mae's first grade class chose light blue and white for their class colors. How's that? About the most perfect choice for winter! They made the hats in class and then it was pretty easy to figure out the rest, especially since she has that gorgeous snowflake covered and super warm sweatshirt and her blue and white flowered snow boots (which she loves) and which were a gift from Missionary Christmas last year..

She had to throw in a Niger scarf, tied and draped around her waist!

And there you have it!
Thanks to those of you who responded via FB, email or commenting!

The winner is cousin Kim Wright... she didn't get them ALL right... but she was purty doggone close!

Stay tuned... next week will bring more photos and more guessing, if you're game!

DO TELL!
Which costume was your favorite from day one... and why?

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