Category Archives: Faith First

In 30 min or less – purpose, life, struggle with agenda

I set the timer and put aside my slave driver hat. Both for my benefit and my kids’. Life is just to short to stress, drive, push, argue, finagle, (you know the drill). I am such a task oriented personality that it is one of the hardest things for me to remember life is not about a list! Life is not about chores! Life is not about meeting a goal or even completing everything on the homeschool agenda.

Our created purpose is to be an ambassador of Christ. Christian or little Christ.

Often times I put that hat on at church or Bible study. When I get in the car to go home I rip it off and stuff back on my slave hat. Slave to the agenda of raising an all American family. Slave to my ideas, dreams and many times, with a large family, the necessities.

I struggled with this last week praying, pleading and trying to get my priorities into perspective. I had to pep talk myself into remembering that there are seasons where we are more capable than others. Pregnancy is not a particularly capable season. Neither is raising a two-year old, nor a three-year old. When I decided to homeschool my kids I knew I’d need to set aside more of the “necessities” to do that. Yet, I never lowered my standard. I never let myself be truly okay with the extra chaos of school deadlines, potty training and plain ol’ tired mom, necessitate.

I blew it. I told myself I could and SHOULD still do it all.

Why? Because I value accomplishment and follow through. I despise laziness and things left undone.

But then I found myself pondering, what does God value?

Dishes done? Kids on pace with the local school? Floors mopped? Dinner on?

Above all, God created us for relationship. He created us to reflect his nature. And He, all powerful, having everything, knowing everything, desired US!

The more I have on my list, the less I am in meaningful relationships with others. Sadly, this always begins with God, then I alienate my husband and fight with my kids to “get it done” (whatever IT is for the moment) and of course when the house is out of order and my list is getting longer I don’t have time for others.

So after a real live baby fit and a horrendous melt down which I won’t even try to explain. YUCK! I came to the conclusion that I NEED to stop robbing my friends of the blessing of helping me. I need to lay off my husband because he cannot right all wrongs or be expected to “fix” me. And I want to enjoy my kids even if it means putting school aside, inviting them all up to my bed and spending a day reading and coloring. With an overactive personality like mine we are not in danger of living in filth and becoming illiterate. But if I don’t slow down, invite some girls over to fold laundry and drink tea while our kids play and just revel in the simpler things of life I AM in danger of being too overwhelmed, sick or blinded to the purpose of this blessed life I’ve been granted.

Purpose to do what is lasting.

Passion to see the hope in my future without a selfish agenda.

Strength to cling to the promises of the Father and raise my children to fight this same battle in the future with weapons of faith and love.

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The grumps, free graphics for collague, homework, mom woes

I’m so grumpy today. What a way to start a post huh? I can’t figure if it is simply the weather (rainy and overcast) but what bothers me about that possibility is that I don’t NOT like the weather. What a mouthful! It is refreshing, smells so clean, great for the garden etc. How could I protest that? Yet, is my body protesting against my will?

Is it business? Stress? Baby blues? I’ve been much better lately about being in the Word first and foremost in my day. That helps. I used to do it before bed but now days that time is best used doing chores and I listen better to the Lord when my mind is slow (quiet might be a better choice of words) and moldable. Once the day gets going I am off to a hundred different agenda’s from homeschool to potty training to finding some sanity as a person. Am I a person anymore? Have any of you felt like that before? Like your life, kids, projects, whatever, rob you of your personality, strip the creativity and humor from your usual self? I feel like that lately. I’m humorless and just plain grumpy.

Well, one thing I do know is that the Lord wouldn’t have me dwell  on those thoughts so even though that’s where I want to wallow I think I’d better move on to another topic and see if I can’t get a better perspective.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)

True – Hmmm, well this is random and probably not what Paul was talking about but I found a free graphics site for collage projects. I’m excited because I’m still trying to get a little bit of art into my days. I love to journal and it is great fun to journal with art mediums; paint, collage, markers, colored pencils etc. I’ve been wanting to post some more pics of various pages but… so much to do so little time! I know what’s true about it… it is true there are places to find free graphics but really the thing I love about journaling is the conversations that go on between my soul and Christ. Sometimes while I’m praying I write down the thoughts, other times I am in a certain mood and I will paste various things to a page and leave it for months then along comes a sermon topic that fits exactly with that page/mood and I’m able to complete the thought as a sort of conversation between me and my Maker. He speaks gently and deliberately, taking as much time as needed and through the art journal I am able to visualize that communication. It’s neat! I keep track of prayer requests and answers, topics I am struggling with and answers, precious moments with my children and husband or the difficult ones but always there is my Jesus, listening and teaching. That’s TRUE.

Noble – Webster’s includes these definitions;

  1. of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence; lofty: a noble thought.
  2. admirable in dignity of conception, manner of expression, execution, or composition: a noble poem.

And this is what came to mind. I’ve been urging the women in my Bible study to pray about and seek earnestly a “verse to live by” that they can learn, dwell on and cling to throughout our next study. I have yet to do MY homework. 🙂 But the following verse keeps coming up so I think the Lord has revealed the verse I am supposed to work on.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NCV)

 

Right – Again, trusty Websters: that which is in accord with fact, reason, propriety, the correct way of thinking, etc

 

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Well, I don’t know about FACT but I took the Emma Adaptations quiz and my results were a reasonable description of me. This is what they said…

 “You are Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice! You are intelligent, witty, and tremendously attractive. You have a good head on your shoulders, and oftentimes find yourself the lone beacon of reason in a sea of ridiculousness. You take great pleasure in many things. You are proficient in nearly all of them, though you will never own it. Lest you seem too perfect, you have a tendency toward prejudgement that serves you very ill indeed.”

Pure – Peewee was in pure bliss this morning when she discovered the boys had left the sugar tin out on the counter. She scooped a good cup full out onto the table, licked her plump little fingers and went to town scooping and licking until I caught her! Even though she was in trouble the look on her face was absolutely heaven.

Lovely – My cozy, grass green sweater, a cup of coffee and a fire in the stove.

Admirable – How my husband puts up with my grumpy moods and no matter what I throw at him he says “I’ll pray for you” and usually has an idea of something I could do or think about that would help my perspective.

Praiseworthy – My children playing happily together in spite of the fact that I’ve holed up in the basement (where that fire is) with the computer and my sweater. They even made PB & J for everyone for lunch. I’m not going to say anything about the jumping on the couch they are doing because they don’t think I know.

Okay, well I have to say I do feel better and I think I might go have a PB&J

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Balance, perspective, priorities, desires…

Balance, perspective, priorities, desires and that dog gone knowledge thing I can’t talk about.

These are always a struggle for me so as I learn more about photography (and have such great subjects, 4 crazy Thinglets) it’s hard not to spend hours editing, sharing, creating. I need to put myself on photo editing restriction or something.

I do the same thing with anything I’m enjoying. Writing is another project I have to keep “under wraps”. I’d love to fall into the page and forget my surroundings, learn new things and talk to God through my writing. If I could divide my time between writing and being on a horse with occasional picture taking, I’d have it made.

Or would I?

Last night was one of those nights. I think Pee Wee might be cutting her last eye tooth and so she cried off and on all night until, somewhere in the wee hours Matt got her up and sat with her in the living room. Not ten minutes later Loud Kiddington started howling and crying in his bed. Then of course the big boys tried shushing him. Everyone was up and hollering.

What a night. But still, the patience I need for my children is drained on days when I seek only to please myself. When I go to bed with an agenda for the next day and wake up with a list of desires (not just chores) I feel nothing but frustration toward the four little one’s who constantly derail my plan. But when I plan only to enjoy my children I find I have more debth of character, more passion and joy to pour out when able or simply enjoy.

After the crazy night all the kids woke up happy. Little Pee Wee came toddling into the living room, plucked her paci out of her mouth, threw it on the ground and and hollered “Where Daddy?”

So precious. I do have to say though, the thought did cross my mind that her big blue eyes and emphatic expression would have made an incredible picture. I was quickly re routed upon smelling what eminated from her diaper.

How could I miss these times?

Easily.

With very little sleep this morning, I dragged myself out of bed and poured a cup of coffee. I’ve been reading in 1 Corinthians. I found a quote from Isaiah 64:4 which is quoted in 1 Cor. 2:9 – However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

So all this to say. I have plenty of my own plans. Tons of ambitions. Long lists of good things to do but it all requires me to KNOW! This verse points out that no one has known. I’m off the hook. I don’t need to know anything because if I could gain all the wisdom of the world it amounts to nothing next to God.

1 Corinthians 1:25 – For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

I need only to rest in Him, wait on His timing and pour myself out for my family. If anything interferes with that I’ve got my priorities upside down. If anything tempts me to put that off, that thing can wait because this innocence that my children now have, doesn’t wait. Before I know it they will be balancing their own lives and my job as advisor, counselor, late night rocker will be over and I’ll have days and weeks and months and years to pursue my desires.

Hopefully by then I will have learned the lessons and my days will be filled with living for Christ. For only he is wisdom. Only he is knowledge.

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When I first visited Japan

I went to Japan at age 16 (Setagaya – I think – it’s Tokyo area, not far from Shibuya) to visit a girl who had come as a host student to our house the year prior. Her name is Erica. Her dad worked for a company that had work for him in the states for a while so she has excellent English. We were great friends and good pen pals so it was only natural to visit.
My first impression upon arriving was how oppressed it felt. Though I didn’t know a lot about the country nor was I that mature in my faith but I could feel the loneliness. God started to plant the seed in my heart for Japan not just my one friend.
I experienced my first earthquake within hours of arriving. It was a mini one but left a lasting impression. I felt so small. The earth literally swelled like a boat on the ocean.
While I was there I spent time in downtown Shibuya and met a tall white man who spoke only Japanese. I was so naive!
I visited Tokyo Towers where it felt like I could see the world. Mt. Fuji was beautiful that day and we could see Meiji Jingu Shrine (which we visited later). They tell me that we rode the worlds fastest elevator.
I was blessed to be in Tokyo during the time of the cherry blossoms. For almost the entire trip the trees were budding out, ready to flower. People were everywhere with picnic lunches and lawn chairs. The city we were in had a huge cemetery called Aoyama and the park was full of the beautiful trees. Here is a picture on a Japanese site. To this day the Cherry is one of my favorite trees. I was told that a strong wind or rain can ruin the buds so people wait for days to see the flowers.
I love Japan and someday I’d like to go back again.
Next time I’ll tell you about being a bridesmaid in a Japanese wedding. Maybe I can even dig out some old pictures. 🙂
Check out this blog by a wonderful Christian family living in Japan
And this website by some friends of ours planting churches in Japan

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My littlest boy sings opera.

Check out my little Pavarotti. Yes, he dressed himself for the “concert”.

Loud Kiddington sings Jesus Loves Me opera style.

http://www.myfamily.com/share?s=PJYPWDjoCrTlylVH5nVj5Q

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My Doctor Friend – Trusting God

The Lord commands us to love as He loved us.

I promised updates on reading to the doctor. The problem is I haven’t been able to see him lately.

My Doctor friend developed pnumonia a few weeks ago and has been in the hospital. I’ve not been able to visit him because, until recently, they were very selective with who he could see. The hope is that he will be back home within the week.

God has brought other blessing from the friendships made through this trajedy. His three kids love having me visit and his wife and I have become great friends. Sometimes when she returns from running kids to and fro, we stay up talking until midnight. There is so much to talk about; blessings, trials, the challenges of the week. For each of us it has become a sweet reminder that someone cares, someone else is praying and someone close by will drop everything and head over at the drop of the hat.

Do you have a dear friend like that? Is there someone God wants you to reach out to?

I never imagined I would get so much blessing out of reading to a neighbor.

What is God asking you to do? I’d love to hear about your triumphs in trusting God and reaching beyond your borders to help a friend, neighbor, coworker… in need! Even if you haven’t done it yet, tell us what’s on your heart.

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FAB Friday – helping Haiti

Here’s what I want to do today.

Visit Beth Moore at the Living Proof Ministries Blog and read her post Cries For Mercy 

We could all use a little perspective in the Haiti crisis. Beth outlines some practical ways we can help in a seemingly hopeless situation.

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I’m a Reading Rainbow

I did finally get to read to my neighbor.  It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

My friend whom I met with in regard to God’s harebrained plan about reading to her husband the doctor, was glad to see me and optimistic about our arrangement.  Unfortunately her husband had fallen asleep and she was not able to readily wake him so instead of introducing us she left me with her eleven year old daughter while taking her other kids to youth group.

Waiting made my anxiety worse.  My husband had asked earlier in the day if I was nervous and at that time I was not, even when I showed up I was not but sitting there I began to entertain my reservations.

What will he think of this crazy plan?  Will he think I intend to evangelize him without compassion.  I bet he is wondering if whatever I have planned will allow him yet another chance to sleep or let his thoughts wander.

I chatted with my heart in my throat, nervous about what to do if he woke.  At last we heard him coughing in the other room and that darling little girl got up and ran into his room exclaiming, “Good morning, sleeping beauty!”

It was actually six at night!

“Do you wanna meet a new friend?” she exclaimed and beckoned with her hand for me to enter.

Thank you Lord! 

I had been so nervous about how to approach him and yet this lovely little girl had taking away all tension with her plucky introduction.

Lord, help me not to talk down to him, help my conversation to be comfortable and respectful.  Lord give me the right words so that I don’t pity him but that your love shows through me and your hope is evident without my having to preach at him.  Jane and I want so badly for him to learn to trust you, help me to understand your timing.

She left us alone and I sat beside his bed and began to explain why I had chosen the book that I did.  Despite the fact that God clearly directed me to read House, by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, I had many other reasons for agreeing with Him and I shared those. 🙂

As I spoke I took in a couple quick glances at the pictures above the bed, they were of healthier times for the doctor and I was shocked at the stark difference.  Though he had thick cotton white hair even then, it was silky and bright .  Now his hair was a coarse gray mat against his head.  He had been a big man with a broad inviting smile.  Now, emaciated and limp, his smile ghoulish, his head appearing too large on his skeleton frame.  My heart ached.

I opened my book and read stopping now and again to take a sip of water and allow him to cough.

We finished one chapter and I paused to talk a little about myself.  I told him briefly about each of my kids and that I felt blessed to know his family.  His daughter came in to check on us and I took another drink of my water while conversing with her.

I read another chapter and twice I made major mistakes that sent us both into laughter.  His eyes sparkled and he tried to laugh but it caused a coughing fit.  I winced at the pain it seemed to cause him as he gagged and sputtered.  I could not believe that I was sitting there, next to a man who was so incapacitated and yet the Lord was allowing us to fellowship.  I was not disturbed by the monitors and wheelchair.  My mind was filled with compassion and my heart longed only for him to know my Jesus and accept the promise of complete healing whether on earth or in heaven.

I read a total of three chapters and in the third had another laugh fumbling around with my voice attempting to recreate a “booming” male voice.

Though I had seen the sparkle in his eye and thought I made him laugh it was hard to be sure how he was taking it until his daughter ran to her mother the minute she arrived and exclaimed “He was so into it, I haven’t seen him that alert!”

My reservations were wiped away and the Lord graciously confirmed that His thoughts are completely different from ours…and His ways are far beyond anything we can imagine.

I read again soon and will be sure to keep you updated.

“My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your way and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They cause the grain to grow producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.  It is the same with my word.  I send it out and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to and it will prosper everywhere I send it.  You will live in joy and peace.  The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!  Where once briers grew, myrtles will sprout up.  This miracle will bring great honor to the Lord’s name; it will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”

Isaiah 55:8-13

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The Doctor’s Doctor

It wasn’t even Sunday and I got that feeling in my stomach that happens when you know you are supposed to go up during the altar call.  The very same butterflies that urge you to speak out on something important.  The unrest that does not settle until you take action.  I’m sure you’ve felt the same feeling in one situation or another.  But this was the middle of the week.  No pastor preaching, nobody challenging my ideals just me driving my car down the road in peace and quiet!  Maybe that was the trouble, I’m usually unable to think, let alone pray with my Thinglets poking each other and Pee Wee squealing along with them, my radio blaring to try to drowned out the noise.

I knew what it meant. We have a new neighbor in the valley whose house I pass each time I go to town.  The  family had moved into the single level home six months after the man of the house had suffered a major frontal lobe stroke that put him in a nursing home and made it unable for him to return to their multi level house only a few miles away.

Matt and I had stopped by one day and offered our assistance when we saw them moving in.  Jane told us the whole story about her husbands stroke and how he was unable to return home to her and the kids until they moved into a house that was better suited to a wheelchair.

When we left I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could serve them better.  What could I do to help out? 

Drop off a meal?  Ugh!  No offense to any kind soul who serves meals in love but I always cringe at the Christian cliche, “Just serve them a meal!”  Although this common practice is how I was introduced to one of my favorite meals to date (so I had better not frown too obviously) it’s just not my cup of soup.

I could babysit the kids but anyone who knows me IRL knows that I am not the gal for that job! While I love my kids and have an absolute blast with each and every one of them I’m not the little kid type. Please send me all your teenagers but not your babies!  Only one of Jane’s children would fit my category so I didn’t think that would be my job either.

“How then Lord, how can I help?”

Have you ever asked a question and promptly found you regret the resulting answer?

I did get a clear answer.  Not in the form of actual words but a vivid and real epiphany complete with the thought process behind it, none of which I came up with on my own.

For months the Lord has been preparing me to stop and present His harebrained plan of which I am supposed to happily facilitate.  I’ve prayed many times since then, ” let me know when it is time Lord,”   and yet even when he made it distinctly evident, I didn’t want to go through with it.

***************

Imagine an intelligent and mature man who had spent a lifetime pursuing a successful career as a doctor, a family practitioner.  He has a beautiful wife many years younger than himself, loving and devoted to him, his three darling children and his time consuming  job and passion.  They live in a grand custom home on a private lake and lead a life of ease.  The family entertains many friends and attends church every holiday.  They are the ideal American family.

Now imagine you are that man and one night after you lay your head to rest you awake to the bright lights of the ER.   The smells and sounds as familiar as your  jobplace. 

Wait… you can not turn your head, you can’t sit up and reach over to turn off the monitor beeping in your ear.  Your heart begins to race, your eyes dart from the lights on the ceiling to the IV in your hand.  The blue coats rushing around are not your nurses, but you’ve seen them before while attending surgery at the local hospital.  Why can’t you speak?  You want to ask “Why am I laying here?”

***************

I thought about these things and I imagined myself in Dr. Smith’s position.  I feared the inability to move myself, to express myself, to learn.  When I climbed into his shoes I was terrified and lonely.

It’s been a year since his stroke but mobility has not returned, speech continues to allude him.  People come to the new house to wish him speedy recovery but most of them don’t know what to say, they talk to him like a child.  He can’t lift his hand to shake theirs, he can not assure them he is still as sharp as ever in thought.  He can only sit alone with his  thoughts hoping to either get well or die.

If I were in his shoes I can only imagine the struggle I would have pondering the apparent either/or.

Armed with compassion I would not have mustered on my own and the harebrained plan that made me blush each time I explained it to those who were praying, I drove up the driveway to the new house and parked reluctantly at the barn.

I was really hoping this was another practice run since I’d parked there once before (another time when the butterflies made me do it) only to find that Jane was not home.    This time she slipped out the back door almost immediately and strode confidently toward my Suburban.  A lump formed in my throat.  I conjured up a front for my visit and began to converse about our kids, 4-H, the Mariners (not really) until finally the swirling, fluttering, shaky feeling could no longer be ignored.

“Jane, uh er, I uh…,” I took a deep breath then spit it all out, “the real reason for my visit is to see if your husband would like if I was to read to him on a regular basis.” 

I didn’t look for her reaction before I continued, “I have a book in mind that I have not read yet, it’s a supernatural thriller that honestly sounds a little scary.”

Then I took another breath and tried to blur the next sentence into an unrecognizable muddle, “It has a faith based component, so I believe it ends well.”

To my surprise my lovely neighbor whom I barely know anything about latched onto the whole idea like I was sent by God to help ease her burden.  Imagine that! 😉

Before blurting out the whole plan I had thoroughly convinced myself of the stupidity of reading to an intelligent man, like I was Mr Rogers.  The Lord told me clearly to read  to a scholarly doctor who despite his medical condition I was convinced  could certainly read on his own.

After I had settled my fluttering friends, I confided in Jane as to how stupid I felt for even suggesting the idea.  The only read aloud forums I would let myself imagine were juvenile gatherings; the library story hour, Saturday nights as a kid listing to my dad read “Little House on the Prairie” and visions of my own children nestled around reading “The Indian in the Cupboard.”  What in the world would a full grown man think of me READING to him.  “I’m sure he can read on his own, maybe he would prefer to borrow my book!”  I explained.

“Oh, no,” Jane grew solemn “He would not be able to hold the book.”

The stroke had been severe enough that even a year later the doctor is still unable to sit fully on his own or steady his hands for anything other than a squeeze or a meager wave.  His speech is nearly non existent and if he stands at all it is only with the help of a strong adult.  Most of the time she said he doesn’t even lift his head to watch the TV.  “He just listens,” she assumed aloud.

At the mention of faith (a word I had used hoping to avoid the subject of Jesus all together) a whole new conversation emerged and I spent the next hour sharing a spiritual connection with Jane.  I learned that she is a believer herself and concerned about her husbands salvation.  Before the stroke, he had been successful and preoccupied, not the one to persue Christian gatherings but never in the way of her endeavor to educate the children on “religious” matters.  She told me about how more and more people have been pursuing him and telling him that Christ wants to be a part of his life.

She told me, with an embarrased but mischievous glint in her eye that she had been reading her Bible to him and dragging him out to church every Sunday. 

As she described it, they had recently had a discussion where she told him that he needed to give his burdens to the Lord and allow Christ into his life.  Things that day had been really bad, he was weak and unhelpful when she tried to get him up, she had struggled to lift while he resisted and in the end he had fallen.  She knew that her prayers could only go so far since the Lord will not make a person believe so she urged him to pray and ask God for assistance.  The next day his strength was back and his face a little less ashen.  

The Lord hears and the doctor is beginning to ask!

There was an urgency in Jane’s mind in regard to her husband knowing the Lord’s healing.  We talked about the possibility of the Great Physician bringing total healing and she insisted it won’t happen until Dr. Smith allows it.

I invited them to a bible study at our house and she said they would be sure to come.

Through obedience to the Lord, I have made a new friend, been given a new prayer, and am a participant in the healing process of the doctor in heart and health!  I am confident this won’t be the end of the story.

Click here to read what happened next.

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What I learned in 2009 – Change is Necessary

Cherish my marriage, change my perspective.  These are hard lessons: humility, peace… some of the things I learned (am still learning) this year.  This is a post I published earlier in the year but it is timely and appropriate.

Happy 2010!

CHANGE:

I was convicted this week that I need to change my perspective on change.

I am a lover of all things old and have a constant longing for “the good ol’ days” which we all know never really existed.

We found old pictures in our storage unit and I was looking through them with this “Aw man, where has all the time gone” sort of lament when I realized all that has changed! All the wonderful blessings we have been given, all the new things I’ve learned and just how far we have come. Matt and I have grown so much in our marriage. We are no longer the insecure, suspicious and frightened kids we once were trying to figure out how to get along with someone in such close proximity. We are now more of a team, a united front, not afraid to disagree or share our disappointments. I know that his love is safe not contingent and not tied to a number of flower pedals or dollars spent.

I am still alive even though I lived in a state I claimed I would only live in “over my dead body” and yet I learned things there, made friends and enjoyed many parts of living there. Beyond that it has given me a greater appreciation for why I didn’t want to live there and makes me appreciate the differences, not taking for granted the place I had always known.

I am older now, not always wiser but I see in both Matt and I a quieter peacefulness that comes with time. We are more contended. I am still always striving but I dont’ have to be running around from this game to that, finding out where all the “cool kids” are. I can spend days at home with my family and be happy. We are also more compassionate and though I didn’t understand this before, passion has become a deeper shade of purple. It’s not a blinking, fleeting obsession it is a strong and solid force that drives our pursuit to be more like Christ and therefore able to love deeper and more fully!

I’m beginning to embrace change. Ask me again next week and I will be back struggling with the facets of change that challenge me and make me uncomfortable but today I am happy for the leaves on the trees and the tall tall pines that are a visible product of change.

As I drove around the lake yesterday with the windows down I could breathe. I could suck in deep breaths of glittering water and cut grass, I could even smell the sun on the bark of the evergreens.

Change- my enemy, my friend!

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Three of my Favorite Christmas Traditions:

Christmas, ideas, budget savy, creative, crafts, handmade, charity, adopt a family, different kind of tradition

Three of my favorite Christmas Traditions:

I’ve never been accused of being too prissy (unless you count 3rd grade).  Never been one to overdress for the occasion (unless you count Jr. High).  And I’ve definitely not been one to spend exorbitant amounts of money on Christmas for anyone but I’d venture to say I make up for it in creativity.

1. Homemade/Handmade Gifts: 
The boys’ cousins wanted “Noah’s Ark” for Christmas and though I looked I couldn’t find something reasonably priced.  When I mentioned it to my husband he decided that would be the “guy” project for the week.  It took Noah years to build the Ark but it only took three boys and a lot of creativity to build this replica in a day.  I am so proud of their effort.  My boys were excited to create something with their own hands!  Pictures here!

Pee Wee got a crochet humanoid last year that I spent hours on.  An incredibly talented crochet “guru” I found online made a similar doll  (but much better) and I love the blue color.  My mom happened to have just the right shade!   During that creative endeavor the boys had many opportunities to peruse online pictures of amigurumi animals.  Each of them picked out a favorite of which I promptly forgot.  THIS year I overheard them describing to their grandma what they were hoping to get for Christmas.  Each of the older boys outlined the details of an alleged animal Mom was making for them.  OOPS!  So I made the boys crochet creatures.  Thing One requested a Polar Bear.  Pictures here!  A cute little robot for Thing Two, see him here.  If I can crank it out in lightning speed, a frog for the Bubba.

2. The Greatest Weirdest Christmas Ornaments Ever:
My first Christmas with Matt I believe he was a little surprised when I pulled out my box of Christmas ornaments.  Why?  Where most people have an annual ornament exchange with the family, quaint things like a globe with the year or another teddy bear bell I had things like a perfect miniature replica of a container of granola, an Odyssey of the Mind mini trophy, a red pickup truck (for the year I hoped my parents would buy me wheels for Christmas – they did, it was about 2 inches long).  

In my family’s tradition the token ornament had to signify the most significant, strange or memorable event of that year for the person.  We have continued on that tradition by including some of the strangest things you’ll see on a Christmas tree.  See pictures here.  A potty, a circular saw, a nice plump pig, an outhouse, a tooth, motorcycle, a surfing alien; all with equally strange explinations.  But none that are “just because”.

3.  Adopt a Christmas Family:
The most fun by far is our annual game of Ding-dong Ditchem”.  After much prayer and consideration, sometimes accompanied by a little kick in the pants also known as divine intervention, someone identifies a needy family.  On the sly we learn all we can about the needs, wants and desires of that particular family and then our family divide and conquer to get gifts chosen especially with the children in mind.  

It is a blast when four or five families pool their meager resources to buy something big, fun and completely unexpected for kids who are likely to get only a small toy and a pair of socks for Christmas.  If possible we choose a complete outfit for each child and fill another box with a feast for the Holiday!  Many times we include gift certificates for food and gas as well.  We always include a letter of explination where we share the meaning of Christmas and that Christ is behind our tradition.

This year the resources were quite slim and we feared a gift giving recess but the Lord came through!  One of the family members received a “pay it forward” bonus from work and were challenged to spend it on someone needy.  Someone else went through hand me down clothing that is still in great shape and filled a box with that.  When all else fails we still have plenty of pork to share! 🙂

Nowdays The Drop doesn’t look quite like it used to.  As kids we could drive up in the dark, deliver the bounty and run.  Not so in the post terrorism era.  This year we elected an outside party from our church to call and let them know there was someone who would like to bless them this Christmas.  Yet another person is sent with a pickup load of presents and in this way even the “delivery” person is blessed and able contribute. 🙂  We remain anonimous and God gets the glory!

This post is linked at Extravagant Grace, Bringing Holy Back!  Join the movement.

Bringing Holy Back

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God With Us

short story, adoption, christian perspective, children, christianity, emmanuel, quote, john macarthur

“If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a Baby in the manger is the truth that this promised Baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”

by ~ John F. MacArthur, Jr.

“From now on your name will be June.” The little girl with silky black hair stood still, arms in the air above her head while Mother slipped her into a new plaid dress.  Her little stomach rumbled.  I’m so hungry. She dared not speak it out loud, Mother would think she was ungrateful.

The woman smoothed June’s dress and set to work on a neat french braid tied with a matching red ribbon.  Red was the color of prosperity.

“Mother, where am I going?”

“Jiao-jie- June.  Don’t speak.”

Why are Mother’s eyes glistening?  Why do I have a new dress? June stared at her toes, little butterflies began to dance around in her stomach like the day she had left the orphanage to come live with this kind woman, Mother as the other children called her.  She knew something was about to happen and she didn’t like the little creatures upsetting her tummy, her security.  Since I left the orphanage I’ve been happy and safe.

She was glad she had been allowed to keep the handkerchief sized piece of fabric that was a scrap left of the blanket she had been wrapped in as an infant.  She’d been told she was found on the steps outside of a local hospital only hours old.  It didn’t matter, she was safe now.  Wasn’t she?  Thrusting her hand into her dress pocket she rubbed the thin fabric between her fingers, a shiver crept up her spine.  She remembered being so cold in her little cot at night in the brick building she lived at before.

That was before Mother took her in.  “Mother, when will I come back?”

“We cannot know when we will meet again be brave and grateful for the opportunity you have been given.   Now, no more questions.”  The old woman looked quickly away.  June heard a sob escape her lips.

“Mother?”  As she reached for the hem of the woman’s wool coat, her bottom lip began to quiver, a lump formed in her throat.  Something is not right!

Crack, crack, crack.  The sound of the knocker at the door split through the questions.

The woman, pulled herself away from the frightened child and rushed to the door quickly wiping the tears from her face.  Straightening she took a deep breath and opened the door as Jaio-jie looked on.  Her name meant pure and lovely.  I wonder what June means? A woman and man stood in the threshold.  “Come in, come in!”

June stared.

The woman with the wide smile carefully approached the stunned little girl and patted her warmly on the head.  “Beautiful child, beautiful June, I’ve waited for you.”  Then she cupped her chin and lifted June’s face until their eyes met.  She too had eyes like the puddles that the little boys liked to stomp.  June never stomped puddles, she rather liked the look of the glistening water.  Her hair was a color unfamiliar to June.  Such a strange looking woman, but pretty she thought.

June could see the man kneeling on one knee behind the shoulder of the pretty lady.  He looked so proud.  His hair was a similar strange color,  his eyes full of beauty.  Why do they look at me so?

“It’s time to go June.”  The old woman broke in, adjusting the little girls braid and buttoning up her jacket.  June happily reached for her hand but Mother pulled it away.  Placing her hand on June’s back she pushed her toward the door.  What’s happening? The butterflies lept and dove faster and faster.

As soon as they reached the door the man scooped her up gently and cradled her in his arms.  He felt warm and he smelled sweet like candy.  June was hardly ever warm and she never got to eat candy.  She looked over his shoulder and beckoned the old woman.  “Come on Mother.”

Mother didn’t come.  The hunched old woman propped herself up at the door jam with her left arm, right hand in a ball at her stomach.  The woman’s jaw was clenched.

June had seen that look when the children misbehaved.  Did I do something wrong? She began to sob.  “Mother, please I’m not a bad girl, please don’t be angry.”

The man held her snugly and stroked her hair, whispering something she could not understand into her ear.

“No, no take me back!”  She kicked and beat him with her little fists sobbing, screaming, “MOTHER!”

He placed her gently into a seat in his warm new car and buckled her in.  The little girl clawed and reached for the clasps but could not undo the lock.  Get me out, help! Her insides screamed as loudly as she did.  Heaving for air she wretched.  “NO!”

***************

Oh how our Lord loves us. Oh how he wants to take us from our inadequate homes where hunger and uncertainty is commonplace, replace our rags with riches!

It is late, will you forgive me if I fail explain myself thoroughly.  Here goes.

This short story is inspired by the true story of a friend of mine picking up her adopted little girl in China.  Their precious little angel that they prayed for, saved for, loved before they even met didn’t understand why she had to leave the foster home she had become acustomed to.  My friend described it this way, “I’ve never seen a child so broken.”

The quote made me think of this story because we do the same thing in our relationship with Christ.  “Lord you seem nice, I like the comforts you represent, but please, please don’t take me away from what I know!”

If Christmas can be summed up “God with us” then in our hearts we must at least recognize that His purpose for us is far beyond what we can imagine.  We are like June, clinging to a life we know, not able to even imagine the life He offers.  Christ came to save all who are lost.  Many of us dont’ even know it yet.  If we cling to earthly posessions, expectations, plans we miss the greatest Joy; being at home in God’s Peace!

Tuesday’s In Other Words will take place on Jennifer’s blog, Scraps & Snippets.

Click the picture below to visit Writing Canvas to learn more about IOW and how to participate.

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Memory Verse

I want to share the scripture passage that I’m memorizing between now and the 15th of Dec.  I just love what Beth Moore shared about the image this verse conveys to her.  Check it out!  She talks about this particular verse toward the bottom of the post.

When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, With your other hand save me. Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now. Psalm 138:7-8, The Message.

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Word Filled Wednesday

Photobucket

I am a woman of many words and I’ve long lamented the fact that I cannot participate in Wordless Wednesday because of that fact!  Nevermore will I be disappointed because this meme is simply beautiful.  Wordfilled Wednesday is a photo sharing meme where the point is to tell a story using God’s own words.  I love it.
I took this picture off my deck about a week ago.  The sunsets here are simply breathtaking.
Link up with your own Word Filled post by visiting All You Have to Give
Host of this weeks meme

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In Other Words- Who did?

“Peace of Christ guards our heart when we pray with thanksgiving.A thankful heart is a guarded heart.”

Wayne Cordeiro

In Other Words hosted today by In Love W.I.T.H. Jesus visit her lovely blog for more thoughts on todays quote. 

WHO DID?

  

I wish I could say I don’t know how I got here, but I know.  In fact you could say I asked for it.

I cannot move my head to the right or left.  My arms are pinned to my side.  The stench is repulsive.  I have vomited repeatedly to the point that  there is nothing left to expel, yet each time I sip the air my stomach continues to heave in protest.  Yes, I’m in a terrible mess but I asked for it.

I’ve choked and sputtering on salty brine for hours.  Many times today I’ve thought I’d die from suffocation but when I think I’ve breathed my last, air sneaks into my lungs again and I am revived if only to be reminded of one more offense.

It seems ironic.  I thought death would be an easy out but here I am on the edge of death and my life, I can not take though I tried.

Splash!

I could have fought to stay above water but I didn’t.  I figured this was the simplest plan.

Sinking,

                 Sinking,

                                       Sinking.

As I spun and swirled in the brink I caught glimpses of the light above, wiggling in the wake.  The spot closest to the hope of life shrinking fast as I sunk to the depths of the sea.  The smaller that circle of light became the more  apparent it was that my choice was fatal.  Deeper and deeper I fell.  There was no way out and so I relaxed, knowing I’d breathed my last.

Who did this?

My captivity began not here in my living tomb, not as I sunk and the seaweed wrapped around me like shackles and chords. No my captivity began when I said “No, no, no.” 

I furthered my fate when I chose to run and was found out.   In that moment of guilt I exclaimed, “I would rather die than admit my wrong!”

And yet, even now though my flesh stings as the acid eats away at the pigment in my skin and all the hair has burned off of my scalp, I cannot die.  My lungs are heavy and restricted, any moment threatening to give out all together, yet He will not let me die.

Who did this?  I suppose I did. I accept my fault, I now see the error of my ways.  Can God forgive me?

Jonah 2:7-10
 7 “When my life had almost gone,
       I remembered the Lord.
    I prayed to you,
       and you heard my prayers in your Holy Temple.

 8 “People who worship useless idols
       give up their loyalty to you.
 9 But I will praise and thank you
       while I give sacrifices to you,
       and I will keep my promises to you.
    Salvation comes from the Lord!” 10 

Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and the fish threw up Jonah onto the dry land.

**********************

Am I crazy to equate Jonah’s experience in the fish to that of a thankful and a guarded heart? 

Maybe.

I have to admit, I was stumped on this one thinking, “What is a guarded heart anyway?”

The Lord brought me around full circle to the fact that I don’t understand thankfulness either and I don’t believe Jonah did at first.

Jonah ran from God, he attempted to ignore God’s call on his life.  When he got in the boat in the opposite direction from where God had told him to go, the Bible makes it clear that he told the sailors from the start he was running from God.  The storm that slammed into their corner of the ocean was violent enough to make seasoned sailors pray.  They don’t call it having “mouth like a sailor” for nothing.  These men were tough, corrupt and not afraid.  But this experience literally put the fear of God in them.  Jonah’s heart was so hardened, so un-guarded if you will, that even his conscious was uneffected.  He slept as the storm raged.

When the men brought him on deck and drew lots, he was not surprised when his straw revealed that he was the cause.  He then admitted that it was his God who would not rest unless they threw him overboard.  I surmise that Jonah thought it better to die than repent and change his ways.  Once a heart has gone down a certain path to the point of callous it is infinitely difficult to change course.  Jonah had been doing things his way and even though he recognized the error of those ways he was not ready or able to change, using his methods.  When he told the men to throw him overboard I belive he was saying “I’d rather be dead and face my fate than try in my own power to rectify this situation.” In other words my heart is too hard and I’ve stopped listening to God.

As he was sinking to the bottom of the sea, figuring he had done the right thing by ridding the world of such a hardened heart as his, God sent the fish (god of the Ninevites) to carry him safely (ha ha) to his original destination.  Once he expressed his thankfulness to God, while in the belly of the fish and probably still expecting to meet Him momentarily in the clouds, he was miraculously propelled back out of his living tomb to get another chance.

I’ve never put much thought into the last chapters of Jonah but this time it struck me just how deep Jonah’s anger went.  The Ninevites repented and acknowledged God’s sovereignty.  Having just seen the God of Jonah use their fish god as a vessel for His own profit, they turned from their ways and believed.  Jonah, however was not please. In fact he told God, as he sulked under a vine that God provided, if he had known they would repent he would not have given the message.  He hated the Ninevites.

God let a worm kill the vine that sheltered Jonah and asked, “Didn’t you enjoy that vine? Wasn’t it nice until I wiped it out?”

Of course Jonah loved the vine that kept him from direct encounter with the scorching desert sun. I’m sure he was especially grateful after his harrowing near death experience in the sea.

God then reprimanded him in verse nine, “Why then do you think you have the right to be angry at what is good in my eyes?” 

If I’m not crazy, well even if I am, I think this whole thing stems from a heart that was unguarded and thankfulness that was not fully grasped.  Jonah harbored anger in his heart, resentment toward man and it caused him to have the audacity to say no to God and pride that nearly sent him to an early grave. 

God displayed his absolute control by orchestrating Jonah’s elaborate redemption from himself into the ocean, from the ocean into the fish, from the fish into repentance and from a repentant “guarded” heart back into God’s will.

So as the song goes, “who did swallow Jonah”?  Well, you could say God did, the fish did or even hold that Jonah did it to himself but in the end does it really matter?  Unless we repent and stop rebelling against God we will be as living dead with hardened unthankful hearts.. 

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

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