Monday, January 7, 2013

You know you're a Jackson if...

While sitting in the living room over Christmas break the kids came up with this list and are insisting I add it to the blog. Enjoy!

You know you are a Jackson if...

  • you have ever gone to your front porch to make 'Squatch' calls
  • you come as a thug and leave as a cowboy
  • you are told you're loved too much to argue
  • you have piles of boxes of Cheese It crackers in your laundry room
  • when new kids come and ask us old kids if we are staff kids
  • you look at the Christmas tree cross-eyed to get a cool effect of the lights
  • you hear a scream and you instantly think, "There must be a mouse!"
  • you see an elf in the Christmas cookies and don't think anything of it
  • you get excited about bagel sandwiches
  • you've ever had to "Webster" an unknown word (while other's are chanting, "Webster, Webster, Webster...")
  • you ask for someone to pass you a roll and it literally gets passed to you
  • at least 4 people seem to touch your food before you do
  • you've ever asked for "all that jazz" at the table and ended up with EVERYTHING in front of you
  • you've ever played "patty feet"
  • Makayla has lost something of yours and you find it because Uncle Denny is wearing/using it  and my personal favorite...
  • you have ever made the mistake of giving mom a 'wet willy' and then had to clean her ear (she's not kidding)
Hope you all had a great holiday season enjoying the gift of Jesus! (Melissa)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Beef Jerky

Here at Cookson Hills we are so very blessed with many churches and individuals from all over the country who give so much of their hard earned money and time to donate to our ministry.  I could sit here and write about story after story of needs that have been met through donations from people that are perhaps just like you.  People that have a little extra and decide they want to be a blessing.  Tonight, I will tell you of our most recent story.

This week we were blessed to add another addition to our ever growing family. Brandon and this gentleman were making their way to the campus “food store” for his first trip to help stock up on food for the week. On the way there Brandon is telling him what it’s like…

“Basically people donate food to Cookson and we get to take what we need for the week for our family. Everything is free to us and you never know what you will get.”

“Do they ever have beef jerky?”

“Well, we have been here over a year and a half and I can honestly say we have never got beef jerky, so I highly doubt it.”

As they get the basket that is prepared for us, what’s on the top?  You guessed it, Beef Jerky.

Later that night I said, “Well, it looks like God is telling you He will take care of you and He has you right where He wants you.”  He smiled largely and said, “I think you are right on that one.”

Whoever you are, wherever you are, thank you for donating that beef jerky.  God used you to provide peace and certainty during a rather difficult time for a young man who needed just that.  May we all listen to the Holy Spirit and provide a little “beef jerky” as we love on those who aren’t as fortunate.  Thank you Jesus. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

July 2012

The month of July started off with a bang as our family joined in the Independence Day celebration in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The town has the event at their small local airport and included guys jumping out of planes and parachuting into the crowd and a great fireworks display. It was a great time to hang with other Cookson families!

The following Sunday brought wilderness camp week. “Wilderness” is a chance for the high schoolers to get away from everything (including electricity, plumbing, and the opposite sex) and experience nature and hopefully encounter God. Melissa stayed at home with Kaylee and our middle school kids, but I got the chance to go out and lead a group of teenage guys. The boy’s camp was held at the beautiful Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas.

The location of base camp was a remote location on the bank of the river. On Sunday afternoon my boys and I were dropped off at a trailhead and then we had to make our way on foot for 2-3 miles before arriving at camp and that is when the fun starts. It hadn’t rained in a couple of weeks but it decided to start halfway through our hike! Once at camp we had to set up our own shelters using the materials we brought with us. It was interesting to see what the boys were able to come up with using branches, twine, and a couple tarps. The evening was capped off with dinner over the campfire and more rain.

Because of the remote location, we had to hike to get our water from a local spring and to pick up food that was delivered daily. On Monday my group was responsible for getting food and water for the whole camp. It was quite a challenge for my boys. We hiked a total of 10 miles and half of that was while we were carrying five gallon jugs of water and coolers full of food. It was a good exercise in learning how to work together and how to push through the hard things that come up in life. The whole camp was depending on us to come through and succeed in our task; giving up was not an option. Even though it was hard there was a great since of accomplishment that the boys and I felt upon completing our task.

The following days included hikes to Hemmed in Hallow, Big Bluff, and out of the park to make a short drive to do some rock climbing. On Thursday in was time to pack up camp and make the hike back to civilization. On the way home we stopped and made one more hike out to Hawk’s Bill Crag to wrap up the trip. We returned home to a pizza party in the gym where the boys and girls got to share with everyone about their camp experience. Wilderness was physically and spiritually challenging for my boys and is an event I look forward to being apart of next year.

The week following wilderness had two big events. First, we had another child placed in with us, making our home full again. We have enjoyed having this young man in our home and helping him get acclimated to life at Cookson. The second big event was the beginning of school. Cookson Hills school runs on a year-round calendar, which means that the kids only get 5 weeks off in the summer; however the plus is that those “missed weeks” get spread out through the year. The kids love the schedule because they only go to school six weeks at a time and then get two weeks off.

So July wrapped up with the kids going to school, getting used to homework (again), and sports practices. We are looking forward to the upcoming football games, volleyball games, and rodeo events as we have several kids who compete. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

June 2012

It has been quite a summer! It was so full that we haven’t had a chance to update the blog. So here is the start of a two-part blog post. Enjoy!

June began with the kids scrambling to get their projects and papers done to wrap up the school year. Of course, the end of the school year means graduation and saying goodbye to the seniors. The graduation ceremony was very well done. The small size of the graduating class allowed for a lot of personal touches to make the ceremony special for the graduates. This was a far cry from my graduation experience at one of the bigger high schools in Indianapolis! It was exciting to see and hear about the growth the graduates achieved while at Cookson.

After graduation it was all about our Cookson Family Vacation. Every year we are given the go ahead to plan and take a vacation as a Cookson family. As Melissa and I began planning our trip, we tried to think about what the kids would like to do. Like most teenagers, many of our kids are into music. So I came up with a crazy idea—to pack up the family in the van and drive to Kentucky for a four-day music festival. When we suggested the idea to the kids they were really excited about it. Well, mostly excited; several of them were concerned about the twelve-hour drive to get there but I guess we couldn’t blame them for that!

The festival we attended was the Ichthus Music Festival in Wilmore, Kentucky. Ichthus is a Christian music festival that has been going on since the 70s. Several Christian bands come out including big names like Chris Tomlin, Switchfoot, and the seemingly ageless Toby Mac.

To say that this was a big undertaking would be putting it mildly, but here’s how we pulled it off. We were able to load all our gear in a trailer that we pulled behind the 12-passenger van. We left early on a Tuesday morning and started the ten-hour drive to Louisville, KY. We had to stop in Louisville for the night because we couldn’t get into the festival till Wednesday. Thankfully our friends at Southeast Christian Church allowed us to stay the night in their mission’s house. Melissa’s parents met us in Louisville and took us out for a meal and picked up Kaylee, our 3 year old, who was going to spend her time with them in Ohio.

Wednesday we finished the drive to the festival and set up camp where we lived for the next four days. We camped in tents in a field and cooked over the gas grill we brought. The concerts started at noon and went nonstop till midnight. Despite the high heat and little shade it was a lot of fun; some of our favorite concerts included Switchfoot, Red, Chris Tomlin, Emery, Family Force 5, and The Almost.

Sunday morning we began making our trip back, but we made a swing up to Ohio to pick up Kaylee from Melissa’s parents and to stay the night before making the big trip back on Monday. To break the trip up, we stopped in St. Louis for the night at a hotel with a pool and let the kids have one last fling before getting back to Oklahoma. We made the final leg of the trip on Tuesday and we all survived!

Several parts of our vacation trip stick out to me. The first being the opportunity to share the concert/festival experience with them, which is something I really enjoy. Another bright moment for me was to see their excitement about going to new places. Several hadn’t been past the Mississippi river and a couple hadn’t been out of Oklahoma; so traveling that far was quite a new experience for them. They got to travel through 5 states, 4 major cities, and see national landmarks like the Mississippi and the St. Louis Arch. Melissa and I also enjoyed getting a chance to show the kids where we were from. Staying with Melissa’s parents gave them a glimpse into her childhood and a chance to see lots of embarrassing pictures! We also got to drive through Indianapolis, so they got to see some of my old hangouts (Skyline Chili!) including where Melissa and I lived and went to church in Danville before we moved to Cookson.

June ended with unpacking from our vacation and some days off to help us gear up for July; which you’ll hear about in our next post.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mother's Day

It’s the last day of May and I have been reflecting on the month. In just one month we sang “Happy Birthday” at least four times, celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary, swam in the Illinois River for the first time this summer, and went bowling as a family for the first time. Honestly, that barely touches on what we have done this month. With all these fun times were also some very hard times as you can imagine. But the day that will forever be etched into my heart was my first Mother’s Day as a house mom. Sure, I’ve had other mother’s days that were special, but this day was different on so many levels. It started with me having a hard time dealing with my emotions. How could God call me to fill such big shoes in so many lives? I felt so insignificant and Satan was attacking at my mind in so many ways. Mother’s Day brings out many emotions for many of my kids because of what it means – and to all of them it means something entirely different. On top of that, my mom, who means the world to me, is 1,000 miles away. I kept praying, “God get me through this day!” This is supposed to be my day to relax and enjoy my family but it was so hard for me to do. I just kept praying. “God, get me through this day.” I woke up to many loving hugs and “Happy Mother’s Day” comments. We went to church together, I didn’t have to cook or clean anything all day, and I got thoughtful cards. We watched, “Princess and the Frog” which was a gift from one of my high school boys who saved his allowance. I got beat at “horse” quite a few times on the basketball court, as some of the others were inside making dinner. I got to Skype with my mom. Then I got called in for dinner. I knew they had something up their sleeves and I was honestly a little nervous. As I went inside I had a vase on my dinner plate with flowers inside (from the yard down the street) with tons of pieces of paper also inside and around it. On each piece of paper my kids each wrote things that they loved or appreciated about me. The first one I read said, “I love how it’s the little things that make you the happiest.” I couldn’t even read another. It broke my heart into so many pieces. I never dreamed in a million years that I would be spending this Mother’s Day with so many emotions and feeling so very blessed to be where I am. I am more convinced now more than ever that these kids and families are not just at Cookson to get help, hope and healing, but in turn they are providing that for me as well, much more than they will ever know. My oldest daughter decided last week to take all the pieces and glue them on canvas so I will always have them to look at. She said she isn’t finished and wants to paint something on the sides but this is what it looks like now, and as you can imagine, I love it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Saying Goodbye

It’s springtime. Tulips, sunshine, mowing, campfires... Summer is just around the corner and our winter blues are dwindling. Everyone enjoys spring, right? I am quickly learning that spring also brings graduation and with that comes mixed emotions as many students complete their time here at Cookson. It is very bitter sweet in a way. You watch a child come into our care confused and looking for answers in all the wrong places and over time watch them grow to become a young adult with tools in their belt to help prepare them for the world. You just pray that something clicked and as they venture out into the world that they are able to use some of the tools they have learned to help them make Christ-like choices.

Last fall we had some students join our family from other homes on campus, some of which were well into their plan of care. Which means that, even though we’ve been at Cookson a relatively short time, earlier in February and again in a few short weeks we will say goodbye to a member of our family.

It comes with a lot of mixed emotions. We are very happy for what they have accomplished. We celebrate their success and are excited that they achieved the goals that they had set when they first arrived here. However we are also sad that we are losing a member of our family. Each child brings something to the house and everyone’s personalities mix to create our family “vibe”, so to speak. The young man that will be leaving in a few weeks is a leader in our home and is always willing to help out when needed. He has a smile and a sense of humor that will not be forgotten. He is very respectful and expects the same for those around him. He has big plans and we look forward to seeing them blossom. With a sad but proud heart, we will all say goodbye to a great big brother.

We aren’t the only ones saying goodbye to someone we love. Many goodbyes will be said in the next few months throughout campus. Through the tears, smiles, and well wishes my prayer is that they are able to move forward knowing they are loved by someone much greater than us. Someone who will stay with them no matter how many miles they are from Kansas, Oklahoma. The Creator of all things bright and beautiful desires them to draw closer today, tomorrow, and forever. (Melissa)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christian College Classic

After we rang in the New Year it was time for our family to get ready for the Christian College Classic. The classic is an annual event that brings basketball teams (men and women) from various Christian colleges to play each other in a 3-day college basketball bonanza. This year, teams from seven colleges arrived on campus including: Dallas Christian College, Ozark Christian College, Nebraska Christian College, St. Louis Christian College, Kentucky Christian University, Lincoln Christian University, and Manhattan Christian College.

We had the privilege of hosting the women’s basketball team from our alma mater, Kentucky Christian University (KCU). When I say we hosted them, I mean we hosted them (all 18 of them!) in our home during the classic. You may think that it’s crazy to have 28 people in your house and to be honest I did too before they arrived. However, I think it is safe to say that having KCU in our home for the classic was one of the most enjoyable things we’ve been apart of in our time at Cookson.

I cannot praise the KCU Lady Knights enough. Our kids really enjoyed getting to know the team especially Kaylee; she melted quite a few of their hearts! One of our kids said that it was fun to meet college students that were a good influence and that they could look up to. Melissa and I knew coach Arnett from our days at KCU so seeing him again was a pleasure. He has done a fantastic job coaching up his team of girls both on and off the court. The girls were very respectful and fun to have in our home and they were ferocious ball players on the court. They won all three of their games with impressive performances. Our family had a blast cheering for KCU!

Our kids are already talking about next year’s Christian Classic and asking if we can host the Lady Knights again next year. We too are looking forward to next year and hope that KCU will be able to return to our home.

To read what the KCU Lady Knights had to say about the Christian College Classic click here.