Tag Archives: faith

Who influences you?

Influence. Be it beneficial or not so edifying. Who and what influence you?

When I take a good hard look at the topic I find it a bit of a surprise what I am actually influenced by. I’d like to think it is by godly principles, right living, and an entirely independent way of thinking that doesn’t include worldly voices but is that what really influences us?

Cultural bias. I’m a reader and though I don’t subscribe to any I find that I have plenty of women’s magazines to select from in my house. I decorate, plan and even shop on the recommendations of magazines.

Adds. Aren’t we swayed to veer to an out of the way store often because of a mailer we received touting a sale that can’t be passed up? That reminds me of sales! Is it really a sale if I SPEND where I wouldn’t have spent?

Media. Have you ever spent a day moping simply because of  the depressing things you saw or read on the news? I know I have.

Past  baggage, influential people on TV, family….

Would you take a moment to really think honestly and if you are comfortable sharing, please respond to this question. Who and what most affect how you go about your life?

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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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Perspective, business, keeping house

I thought this would be a good week for me to practice perspective. I know in my head that I always have 400 times more tasks laid out than anyone can possibly accomplish in a lifetime. I caught myself grumbling at my husband about some of the things that are left undone and nagging on me. But in the same hour wanting him to be around just to talk, hang out with me and the kids and maybe even help the boys with math.

Well, hon, I had to remind myself there are only 24 hrs in a day you know!

I’ve been trying to learn the lessons of pacing and picking my battles. What really matters? That the kitchen is clean or that the kids learn and grow and my husband and I still love each other at the end of the day?

Maybe some months or some years those don’t have to be mutually exclusive but this month, this week we can’t do it all!

I’ve been picking one thing at a time that is nagging on me and tackling it, taking as many days as it takes to completion. The first task was our room. I’ve always wanted Matt and my bedroom to be a place of refuge. A sanctuary from the craziness of a busy family. It had gotten out of control with baby stuff, my projects, laundry… You know!

I am proud to say I am very close to done.

But each day has it’s own problems too. Today I woke up early, too early ;), to a load of dog doodo on the laundry room floor, a kitchen that had been overworked the night before and lay in shambles, and then a little gal with terrible diarreah from getting crackers at church this weekend. I hadn’t even had breakfast and company was coming at eleven.

Thank the Lord, the women who were coming are the kind who would have cleared their own spot to sit, swept the floor for me or fed me lunch if it was really that bad. So I had nothing to worry from them. It’s ME!

In Matthew it says to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I can sure attest to that.

I actually took a little break from untangling several skeins of yarn to write this post. Someone decided my yarn bag would be great fun.

I’m trying not to be so hard on myself and my kids. Trying to start my days in the Word or maybe I need to consider a different appointment with the Lord like naptime or bedtime. I love doing devotions in a multi media art journal. I wrote a funny post about that on another crazy mom day. It helps me not be so rigid, keeps me going and not self edit etc. The organic nature of art, crayons, paint, ripped up magazines or whatever get my creativity going and help stop the voice of doubt that says I haven’t read long enough or gone deep enough.

Anyway I am rambling. Just needed to do something without doing something while I “rest”! Haha!

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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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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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Legend of the Three Trees

Please join me at my new web home JessieGunderson.com and don’t forget to like the Blog Schmog Facebook community HERE.

Some of you were wondering what this mosaic on my kitchen floor is all about.

The Legend of the Three Trees is a folklore story of unknown origin. My favorite picture book version is HERE.

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale

The story is retold by Angela Elwell Hunt and beautifully illustrated by Tim Jonke. It is a Christmas classic but we keep it out year round.

Below is Thing One’s retelling of the legend un-edited.

A long time ago there was three trees. The first tree wanted to be a treasure chest and hold the greatest treasure. The second tree wanted to be a ship and made for just kings. And the third tree wanted to stay on the top of the hill and point up to God.

Many years had passed by. Then after a few days three woodcutters came and the first woodcutter cut down the first little tree. The second woodcutter cut down the second tree. The thrid woodcutter said, “I will cut down whatever tree I want to. This is the one I’m going to cut.”

The first tree got tooken to a carpenter. The carpenter turned the tree into a manger for animals to eat out of.

The second tree was tooken to a ship yard and no big ships were getting made that day. Instead tiny fishing boats. Every day he brought in loads of dead smelly fish across the lake.

The third tree was confused when she got cut into straight square logs. She stayed there for a very long time. Then she got carried by a man and she felt ugly when they nailed his  hands to her.

The first tree got to be a manger and hold the greatest treasure of all. That was Jesus.

The second tree got to be a sailboat and hold the greatest king of all that was powerful. He got to see Jesus stop the storm when he woke up.

The third tree got to be carried by Jesus and forever remind people of God. That was better than staying on the mountain.

THE END

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Filed under Book Blab, Children & Kids at Heart, From the Mouth of Babes

The doctor served me lemonade.

The doctor, my neighbor and friend who’se been trapped inside his own body over a year now, spoke volumes to me yesterday when I visited. Reading to him weekly has been my custom since the day of God’s harebrained plan about reading. If you’ve missed the two posts explaining what has happened so far be sure to read up.  The link takes you to the first post and from there you can read the second.

I showed up a little late after wolfing down my dinner. Every day I’ve visited before I have relied on my chatty nature to get us through the evening. Jane takes her daughter to youth group while the Doctor watches me talk and eventually read. Many times he tires, whether from my droning 🙂 or the mental taxation of keeping active when everything you once knew is so unattainable.

The extent of his movement has been one uncooperative arm and occasionally fidgeting of his feet. He rarely has moved his head though he can when being deliberate. I’ve received one goulish smile and during the first ever visit he attempted to whisper “Hi”.

Setting down my bag I walked over to the 60yr old Doctor’s wheelchair to say hello. It shocked me when he began to talk. Labored and extremely quiet, but talking none the less!  I shook my head and laughed. “You’re talking! Just a minute let me get my jacket off.”

I had to lean in close to hear what he was saying but the short conversation that ensued left me baffled, feeling blessed and encouraged.  “How are you?” He smiled broad and beconed me closer.

“I’m great. You don’t know how excited I am to hear you talk! I’ve been praying for you.”

He shook his head yes and smiled again. I couldn’t help myself, my heart bubbled over, elated and a little scared. I leaned in and gave him a huge hug! He wrapped both arms around me and hugged me back!

I pulled back and looked into his eyes now sparkling with new life. “You look great. Is this hard for you to talk. What I mean is, is it physically taxing?”

Shaking his head vigorously yes he scrunched up his face as if to protest the work! He made a FACE! Do you know how huge this is? The man had a massive stroke over a ago. Doctors say that after a year a person’s progress is pretty much stunted and yet each time I visit, he gets better and better.

I never read to him last night instead we visited. Sometimes pointing, sometimes with whispered words from him and a waterfall of words from me. Sometimes he made faces that explained his meaning. At one point while talking about the difficulties of breaking through the barrier that the mind imposes on him he mouthed to me, “We all need to slow down.”

In other words, life it so short. This is a man who had everything the world could ask for… success, financial stability, a beautiful family. One moment in the middle of the night took it all away and he was forced to slow down. Yet, he says “We all need to slow down.”

Forced into his situation I have a hard time believing I would have that perspective. I fear I would beg God to let me die and become bitter with time. Please Lord, let it not be so!

My Bible Study this morning reiterated that message with this passage…

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough touble of its own” Matt. 6:33-34

I am witnessing a miracle!

God, change my perspective as I seek to let go of my tomorrow’s.

How will you slow down?

This post is featured at Blog Schmog’s Fuget ABout it Carnival. Read how others make lemonade out of lemons HERE!

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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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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

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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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Weeping Skies

 

“Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled,
nor let it be fearful.”

John 14:27 NASB

 

Have you ever seen the sky weep?

My memory verses this past couple weeks are in the Psalms. 

Psalm 19 1-4

The Heavens declare the glory of God; The skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; Night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth; Their words to the ends of the world.

As I sit in my window seat I have a good view of the sky and valley below.  The sky has been turbulent, soggy and gray.  The more I look, the worse it gets.  Clouds roll in, wind rips at the trees.  What’s with that?

Lord, where is your “speech” where is your magnificent glory and peace? I look out again at the pummeling rain and my brow furrows in frustration, loneliness, fear.

Am I forgotten? Lord are you listening?

I feel no comfort in the verses because my answer does not look the way I expect it to look.  I expect the King on his throne evidenced by glimmering stars by night and grand billowing clouds amid brilliant blue skies by day.  Sound familiar?  Others have expected Jesus to take his throne, deliver them from trials and conquer the world.  Instead this is what I see.

Weeping Skies

Slowly the rippled gray clouds creep across the furrowed sky.

They speak of sorrow, they speak of pain.

A thick haze collects atop a once prominent mountain peak,

Her glory disguised, her magnificence squelched.

How then does splendor give such power to a small vapor?

Slowly gray clouds grow heavy and being to tear.

They speak not for the pain they bear,

Yet they speak volumes of the sorrow they share.

Shreds rip free from beneath that billowing mass.

No mountain now, her head is covered in grief.

Proud trees stand aghast.

Her glory disguised under torrents let loose the weeping skies.

 It finally hit me… 

Jesus wept. 

Now I see the sky’s conversation.  I remember Adonai Yireh “the One who sees” and I begin to understand.  He felt the crushing power of grief,  He knew the awesome power sorrow holds.  Jesus, Adonai Yireh.  As I speak the name aloud a cold shudder creeps from my toes to the top of my head then an overwhelming warmth follows.  I know that he knows.  Today my mountain is still disguised but now I realize she still stands beneath the rain.

That is peace, not of the world.  Its knowing that the crushing power of life cannot wash away the mountain when you stand in Christ alone.

Today’s In Other Words hosted by Typing One Handed!

Please visit her lovely blog for more inspiration on true Peace.

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I am What I Eat in My Window Seat

“If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary’s love, for a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.”

by  Amy Carmichael

 

Huddled over a hot cup of coffee I stare out the window and sigh.  The children took turns in the rocker last night, each struggling to sleep through the cough we so generously passed from person to person.   I blink the sleep from my eyes, stretch out my feet and lean back on the pillows propped up in the window seat, to nestle in with a good book on my favorite perch. 

It’s a huge north east facing window that I gravitate to each morning, often hoping to get a few minutes to enjoy the sunrise and listen to nothing in particular before the kids get out of bed.  There is a stack of books on the sill including my Bible, a memory verse spiral and my journal.  I try rubbing the tension from my neck as I fumble for a good book, accidentally pushing the stack on the floor.  Crash!   

“Just swell!” I grumble aloud and grab the real life crime drama I have been reading. 

Drama, crime, intrigue… much better than any of the other options, I surmise silently. 

Just as I begin to settle in the rumble of little feet begins.  First two pairs then a third and the screaming commences,  “Don’t touch my car!”

“Dat MINES!”

“IS NOT!!”

“Dat MINES!” 

A shrill squeal and I know the fourth is awake.

Bringing my knees to my chest I prop my book on my legs and try to appear invisible in the corner of the kitchen nook, with my nose in the text.  No luck, the minute the boys stumble down from their loft they demand to know what’s for breakfast.  They can get their own cereal but the squeal of little Pee Wee from the confines of her crib is increasing since the disappearance of her brothers.

Slamming my ‘good book’ down I huff, “So much for peace and quiet!”

Sound familiar?  Many of my days go on like this often each minute that ticks by increases the tension.  It seems no matter how early I wake up or how late I stay up the things that I plan to get done stay piled up and I dive further and further into that little pool of self pity.

memory verse spiralA very small but meaningful success I have had lately is in starting  a memory verse spiral.  When all I’ve got is three minutes while the coffee brews I can still “seek first the Kingdom of God,” giving me the strength to face the day and patience to survive the many blunders of motherhood.

For weeks I read the same verse.  I write it, decorate it and then read it over and over.  I have a large art spiral with blank white pages and it sits on that same window sill that houses a slew of other books but when I reach for that spiral first, if I have extra time I often find myself back in God’s word searching for the next memory verse candidate or reading about the many adventures of God’s knucklehead followers.

Ever heard the expression, “you are what you eat?”  Amy Carmichael’s quote reminds me that the word of God is the bread of life. I know, grumble, grumble!  God’s word is also living and active.  When I’m in the word I’m in the game and that little pool of self pity I mentioned drains away leaving only the water of life!

Need drama, intrigue and suspense? 

Ever read about the harlot who saved her family from ruin by hiding enemy spies in her home and smuggling them out of a fortified city under the noses of the many guards?

How about the woman whose lover was a mighty politician who snuck her into his quarters while her husband was doing service for the nation.  The woman conceived from that one night stand and couldn’t bear to tell her husband. Instead her lover had her husband killed in battle and married her.  And that’s just the beginning of the story.

Both of these women are in the lineage of Christ!  Do you know who they are?

Put down your good book and reach for the good book, you won’t be disappointed.

This weeks In Other Words Meme hosted at Miriam Pauline’s Monologue.  Visit the other entries to be encouraged and challenged.

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