Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Big Is God?

I don't know how old I was when I prayed to let God into my life. I know where I was, and that I was young. It wasn't made into a big deal. I was already in love with God.

The God I fell in love with I learned about in my home, by way of the radio. He was huge. He gave me goosebumps.  However, while dusting and sweeping, I would hear stories of divine protection and provision. Huge miracles and blessings, taken place in the modern day. One I remember in particular was a missionary family was surrounded by enemies, and they were for sure to be overtaken. Suddenly, they turned and ran away. Later the family had found out that their enemies had seen a much greater army surrounding their house. But the family knew no army was there, except something unseen to them.

The God I fell in love with was mighty, powerful, able to do anything. But what I saw were Christians that complained, worried, feared, compared themselves to others, and made me feel very small. Some of them. Others were kind. Very few lived what they said they believed. If that was the only God I ever saw, I would never have wanted to be a part of Him. The God I fell in love with and the God I saw in those around me were very different. I was confused. I stumbled my way through life, my nose in the Bible and my feet in the world, but not going the same direction. Trying to live up to the religious and worldly standards all at once, and trying to make sense of how God fit in to all of it.

I saw God at work once and a while. Mediocre prayers were answered. I was left thinking there has to be more to this. If God sent Jesus to Earth to die on a cross, there has to be something much bigger behind all of this. Fed up with my life, I was determined to live every day for a year learning as much as I could about what the Bible says, and trusting it as law. I wanted to determine: Do I believe this or not?

That was a year and a half ago. At times, I've failed. Worried. Became discouraged. And angry. But even in my failures I have learned so much about God I just can't let him go. He is whom I fell in love with and more. He uses the weak to do mighty things. He answers my prayers. My sins have been made void. Through Him, I am a conqueror in all things. All things. Even the things I haven't had the guts to do until now, or even now.

And I take a look at my own life and think, which God to people see in me?

I want others to see the big God. I want to set no limits.

Have you read 58:Fast Living yet?
Have you read Isaiah 58 lately?

In the book, the author describes what first century Christians did to take care of the poor. Unbelievable. Some of the church today continues this sacrifice, but it isn't the norm. What if it was?

What does unconditional love look like? What does it mean?

What does no limits look like?

What does reckless abandonment look like?

What does the completion of God's promises look like?

What did Jesus's sacrifice actually benefit me? How can I use it to make a difference?

Does anyone else get excited about this? Do we just dream about heaven or do we take advantage of the favor we have right here, right now.

Do we really believe what we say we believe?

God doesn't fit in the worldly world or religion. He is way bigger than those things. He uses prostitutes and kings. He values shepherds and priests, so long as they trust Him. He has a plan for me. So excuse me if my choices seem odd. My sights are not on fitting in.

All this makes me giddy.

My goal is to find out how big God really is. I might not attain it in my lifetime, but I'm going to enjoy trying.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Bits

I told Mom that this year's Christmas was anti-climactic for me. And that's a good thing because it was good. But my life is good. Good is good.

We did our advent envelopes. It was definitely a positive thing. We are already talking about what to do next year. Maybe it's a start of a new tradition?

Christmas Eve was my Mennonite family Christmas. Christmas Eve service, followed by a family celebration....kid's songs, birthday cake, presents and food! Peppernuts, sugar cookies, chex mix, puppy chow, slushy punch, pinwheels, cheese dip, and deer jerky. It's always the same. And that's how we like it.

I'm pretty sure every single present was perfect for my family. Although I felt a little guilty for not getting the kids toys. But then when I think about how I am the one who gets to manage these toys, I don't feel anymore guilt. I got them Rosetta Stone. They'll thank me some day.

Actually, they are pretty excited. France, here we come!

Christmas day was the Lao Christmas. Family is good, no matter the food or language. It was a very nice day. They had deer jerky, too. Only it was Asian flavored. I'm guessing with fish sauce.

And there was even snow on the ground!

I sat in a very large, loud room with Lao music blaring and Pad Thai and Coronas lined up on the tables. And it hit me. It's Christmas Day. God bless America.

My third Christmas was with my extended family. Those I get to see every once and a while- but this year seemed to be more than most. Maybe even more next year?  Traditions are fun. People are a blessing.

Max keeps asking me, "sing baby Jesus?" (aka Away in the Manger). He sings along- none of the words he sings are words. Then I say, "Jesus loves Max."

"Jesus loves Max." he repeats and smiles.

And Savannah asked what a virgin is. ummmmmm.......

It was good. Mostly because God is good. And God is the reason why I have it good. And why I celebrate this season.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wrappings

When I entered into motherhood, I didn't know what I was getting into. It has affected everything. I found out early that we can't just have kids and expect them to adapt to our lives.

On the contrary, we have adapted to them. We have allowed this to happen because we want a life together, including them in what we do. If I kept my personal expectations, I would need to exclude them because they would not meet them. They're kids.

Some days I miss my Independence. Then I remind myself that I'll have it again someday- but I'll never have these years back.

And that is why I let my kids wrap my packages.

If I wasn't so tired, I'd post a picture. But I'm sure you can imagine. It almost looks like they just crumpled a bunch of paper around a box and held it in place with a half a roll of tape. But I enjoyed watching them work.

They had to estimate the amount of paper.

"Let's cut it and then test it", Summer said.

Too big.  Too small.

Fold the angles for the sides.

Figure out how to cover the entire box.

Decorate.

Label.

Problem solving at it's best. Fun Christmas memories. Skill building. Teamwork. Achievement. I will take advantage of these times, even if recipients of our gifts may look at me funny.

So just for the record, if you are getting a gift from me this year and it looks like Mr. Noodle wrapped it, it wasn't me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This Week

I pulled in the driveway as we returned from a weekend at Grandma's and Summer announced that she left a few of her stuffed animals.

I said, "That's okay. We'll be back in a week so we can pick up whatever we forgot. Like Brooke."

The girls burst out laughing (so did Max- but I'm sure he didn't get it).

"We forgot Brooke!!!" they yelled.

That's okay, though. Brooke has been playing in the snow and swimming and making cookies and shopping with Grandma and Ellie. She is quite happy there.

And it's very quite here. At least half of the decibels that ring through these walls come from her. I love her. But I love quiet too.

And I have these snowflakes to remind me of her. I think fondly of the time she enthusiastically created them.



And the girls have been excited to be with Dad this week as I work. In their own words:

"We like being with Daddy because he lets us do whatever we want."

And I spend a large portion of my day comparing sodium nutritionals. And loved it.

I saw my husband for three minutes before he left. But I have these flowers he gave me to remind me how blessed I am.

 And I have reminders of this Christmas week all around.





And I am enjoying it.


Lookie here. Toby Mac and Adam Young. My heart just fluttered a little. :)

Sit down. Enjoy with me!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Strange Sight

When Sook and I first met, I noticed stares. I don't know if it was my imagination or if there was something that interesting about us. Like that we were so good looking.......or we didn't share the same skin color. Probably the latter. (My husband would say the former. Fruitcake.)

I don't notice stares anymore. Maybe I don't because there aren't any- or maybe I just don't care .

Sometimes I forget I'm in the middle of a mixed marriage. I've become the minority in my house with my blue eyes and light brown hair, but I truly don't see it. And though I marvel at my children's cute chubby cheeks and Asian eyes, I see something else much more important. I can't see it with my eyes, but it's there. I see their spirit. I see sweetness, spunkiness, curiosity, and compassion.

Something happens when you get to know and love a person so well. The lens of vision focuses on a part you cannot see. The other is still there, it's just a little blurred.

That is how God see me. He looks past my glasses and split ends. He is blind to my scattered brain. He does not define me based on my cooking or driving skills. He doesn't even think less of me when I am a horrible brat. Because He has paid for my sins and shortcomings, I look to Him as if sin had no effect. He sees me as I was made to be. Beautiful and successful, just like all of us humans. I receive that. I love that. I love God for that, because I know how I look otherwise.

But what I have seen now is astonishing. God is showing me how He sees others, too. How He sees the children in the foster care system at my work, with all the potential in the world. How He sees bullies, filled with His compassion. How He sees my sister without Fragile X. Intelligent and stunning. How He looks past all of our insecurities and absurd behavior. They are still there. But they are not who we are.

Race, disease, mistakes, popularity, status, and flaws do not define those who choose to take on the image of Christ. We can reject the negative definitions people put on us, and embrace the lovely, kind, true, and noble.

What would our world look like if we saw each other this way, and treated each other accordingly?

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Early Christmans Present

There are two kind of people in this world...

givers and takers.

Givers love to give, not acknowledging a loss. Not acknowledging their holiness. Not acknowledging anything- except maybe the need and the joy of obedience.

Not to say that givers don't get. They don't take. They receive. They have to because you can't give with joy until you learn that there is more where that came from.

Takers have excuses. They compare. They fear. And, if I am correct, they are the victims of their own doubt tinted glasses. Takers are lacking in joy.

In my innocence, I think I was a giver in my younger days. But then I gained responsibility, drew up a limited budget, and I held on tight to what I had, all in the name of gain. It didn't work. It didn't produce joy. I wouldn't necessarily say I was greedy or a thief, I was just fearful. I was fearful of being poor. Lack of money is a terrible thought, especially if you have experienced it. I was fearful of what my husband would say. I was fearful of what others would think. And I hated it.

So I started planting. I started giving above tithe- a dollar here or there, then ten or twenty, and giving started to grow, fear started to fade. Joy began to bloom.

Last week I shyly asked my husband for a gift. He makes the money. We are a team. I needed his blessing. I was almost certain of what he would say. And it appeared that I was right. So I worked up the words to ask again, hoping to be more persuasive. His response was more than I could have asked for.

This is my present:



My sponsored child, whom we have both fallen in love with. Both of us. There was nothing to fear. And the joy we have, knowing a small portion of our budget can make the world of difference for someone else. Someone we consider part of our family in a matter of a week.

The best part, though, is my dear friend is going to Ethiopia to give her a hug for us! I feel already as though we have received much more than we have given. A void has been filled. And I believe that we have only begun this journey of being givers.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child, click here for more information. And here for other ways to help these children.

Or help in your community, or in Asia, or India, or Mexico....wherever you are led, whatever you can give. It gives a whole new meaning to Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Esther and Christmas

As my mind was wandering today, as it often does, I began to think about how this Christmas is abundantly more meaningful to me than those past. This is because I've learned something this year that I had not know before about what Jesus came to earth for.

I think there is so much about God to learn that we'll never understand it all. And if you feel like there is more to know, I dare you to search for it, and don't give up until you are satisfied. But you won't be, because once you begin to understand, you will always yearn for more. God is good.

So I was thinking of a picture of what this means for me, and this is what came to mind to describe what I know thus far:

The book of Esther has always been intriguing to me. If you haven't read it, I hope you will. It is exciting. It does not say a thing about God, but it shows God. It shows God in a real life, very secular situation. I won't go through the entire story, but the part that spoke to me today. Here is some background.

Esther was picked queen after Vashti was booted. A remnant of the Jews lived in Persia, and they had enemies. There is history here, and true hate. Haman is the King's second in charge and had a driving passion to annihilate the Jews. Esther was a Jew, but no one knew it. Mordecai was her uncle.

Haman finally found a way to get his wish. The King gave him the signet ring and his blessing to order all Jews to be destroyed. It was made law. It could not be revoked.

Esther found the courage to stand up to Haman and reveal to the King his wicked plan. Haman perished. Mordecai took his place. The order still stood. The King could not undo it. However, he told Mordecai and Esther they had his signet ring to write a new order concerning the Jews.

The order was that the Jews had the right to protect themselves and destroy anyone whom dared assault them.

"The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people. And all the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and all those doing the king's work, helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king's palace, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for this man Mordecai became increasingly prominent. Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, the slaughter of destruction, and did what they pleased with those who hated them." -Esther 9:2-5


To be clear, I am not comparing King Ahasuerus with God, nor what he did with what God did. However, what I see is that God first gave man the garden of Eden. Perfection. Perfect bodies, a perfect environment, a perfect purpose. Our enemies are not people, but our enemy is Evil. Evil thoughts, spirits, actions, hate, depression, lies, pride, gossip, envy, murder, etc. Evil entered in our lives and perfection became a memory.

What Jesus did by coming as a humble baby and becoming the sacrifice to end all sacrifices was not taking away the Evil at this time, but providing the means with which to fight against it, with the goal to be once more restored to perfection. And that should be our goal. Even though we will not see it come to complete fruition at this time because free will remains, I think we can do a lot better than we are doing.


"The Christians gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the world to destroy the Evil who sought their harm. And no Evil could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all Evil. And all the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and all those doing the king's work, helped the Christians, because the fear of God fell upon them. For God's work was great in the king's palace, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for God's work became increasingly prominent. Thus the Christians defeated all their Evil enemies with the word of the Lord, the slaughter of destruction, and those who hated them had no effect on them." 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ten Things To Be Happy About

I started out the day kinda feeling sorry for myself. I think it was because I wrote about how blessed I was last night.

I got the chance to battle this in alone time with God this afternoon. I'm better now.

So I have ten things that have made me happy today:

1) My camera works again!! I knew I had to give it one last try, and it came through. My pictures were even still on it. That makes me happy!

2) My husband is fun. Once and a while I have flashbacks from a few years ago when I was ready to leave at any given afternoon because he was so miserable to be around. I just does not happen anymore. It makes me love him so much more when he's fun!

3) Chocolate.

4) Max has requested to do math the past few days. He is so proud of himself because he can do math like his sisters. And I am proud to say that my son knows what his shapes are.

5) Poinsettias. Especially the glittery ones.

6) The fact that I am preparing Christmas cards to send. They are glittery too. I have gotten out of that habit since....probably since I had kids. I just hope they actually get sent.

7) The Internet that has dozen or so resources (that I know and trust) I can go to when I need a good word. Or a song.

8) My three little angels that are a part of Christmas plays and talent shows. I'm so glad we're free to celebrate Christmas!

9) My niece, who has been on my mind since I saw her last Sunday. People have choices to make that will make all the difference. I'm thankful that she is learning that she does have a choice, and I'm seeing it change her each time we meet.

10) Hope in the promise that there is more to come, bigger tasks to accomplish, better lives to live.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Receiving

I teach my girls that they are princesses in the kingdom of God. I tell them how beautiful God made them and how many wonderful gifts they have to be used for good. I tell them these things in order for them to know everything they have because of Jesus, and use a princess picture so they can imagine their value, and imagine who they are simply because of their relation to the King of Kings.

I deeply want them to know their worth, to be a conqueror, and never be a victim. I believe this is possible.

It's easy for me to say these things to, in my own eyes, the most lovely creatures I know, for they are my children.

As for myself, this is much more difficult. So as it will happen, one day after I blessed each of my children and put them to bed, I was convicted of this hypocrisy. I wasn't a very good receiver.

Once I understood my offense, it was clear that almost everything that I either complained about or pitied myself over was a matter of my own doing. It could have been because I was too prideful or that I thought I had to earn everything but never settled the tab. It could be that my own picture of my worth was less than worthy. Most likely, it was a combination of them all. Everything I needed was already available to me. I just didn't accept them.

Since then, I have been much better at receiving- whether it be a compliment or a gift, or maybe a blessing from God. My thanksgivings have multiplied and my peace has snuffed out discontent. And my hope as grown like a weed.

I am looking forward to this Christmas more than ever because I am giddy over Christmas cards, blinking lights, my children's crafts, and gifts wrapped with special thoughts. I have many people in my life that I love dearly, and they have been very generous to me, but the love of my Father God far outshines these. Though I don't fully understand the sacrifice Jesus made for all of humanity, I know it is better than a lottery winning or fame or any other wild dream I can think up. And it is here. It never expires, and the more I do know about it, the more wonderful it becomes.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

15 Things

1. I just decided that I love being in my 30's. I don't know if it actually has to do with my age or just my place in life. I'm comfortable. I gave up impressing anyone, because I am so overwhelmed it is too much work to impress.

2. I like me. I've never been able to say that before. And I do believe that God made me this way because He likes what He put in me. He likes me too. And so does my husband. And I don't feel like I have to do something to maintain my likability with us. (By the way- God likes you too. I'm not bragging.)

3. Christmas lights make driving to the grocery store more fun.

4. I have not found a house yet that I want to move to. I thought I'd settle for one, but never felt peace. So I'm back to plan A. Build. Maybe rent then build.

5. Sook wants to take our family to France to visit relatives very soon.

6. I am dying to go to a friend's wedding in Thailand next year. Then hopping over to Laos to see where my love was when I was a toddler.

7a. I have no idea how this will all happen. Yet. But how cool would that be?
7b. Maybe we should start taking vacations in the country before we venture half way across the world?

8. Recently I've been convicted that I don't really see God as a person that I can have a real conversation with. I've been more like just sending up a prayer and hope an angel catches it with a butterfly net, dumps it in a big bin of prayer requests, and some day it will be found. But I am learning every day. How do you visualize your relationship with God, a person you can't see? (If you have a good answer, please let me know!)

9. Brooke told me she didn't know how to pray the other night. At that very moment, the K-Love DJ started his prayer with, "Lord, help me know how to pray for this person." Her eyes lit up and she said, "I know! Maybe I can ask God to help me pray!" She did. I thought she'd never end it.

10. Even afterward, she kept talking. I told her I had to go but she could keep talking to God. She said, "But I don't even know what He looks like!" I told her to ask God what He looks like so she can imagine Him when she talks to Him. "I think He has a mustache." she responded.

11. There is a part of me that never wants to not have children around. As long as there is someone who is willing to babysit.

12. I was playing around with the family, acting like I was mad about something when Max stomped up to me and said, "MOM! Top yeing!" authoritatively. It'll be fun to see how this one turns out. He does have personality.

13. I taught him the color orange today and he was very confused. He loves to eat oranges. I wonder what was going through his mind. Eventually he accepted the color name.

14. Brooke fell asleep early so I told the girls to be extremely quiet when they got ready for bed. Summer then, standing in the hallway wearing next to nothing, proceeded to tell me that she had elephant's feet. Followed by a long explanation of her analogy. I'm thankful that she knows about elephant's feet but.....not really an appropriate time to elaborate. Just go to bed already! Yet- really? I didn't know elephant could walk that quietly.

15. I am blessed. And I am wanting to take responsibility for that blessing. One of my favorite ministers has said that when we get to heaven and God is going to wipe away our tears, our tears will not be a result of the hardship of this life. He believes that our tears will be a result of a realization of what we do have here and now, and how we missed out on it. I know I've missed out thus far. I'd like to increase my percentage from here on out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crafty.




I saw an idea for a modge podge Christmas tree on some crafty blog that I would love to link here, but I can't seem to remember which one it was.

I don't do too many crafts because I don't usually know what to do with them after they are done! But homemade Christmas ornaments I can handle. They go on the tree.

I modified this craft so I didn't have to go to the store.

1. Styrofoam balls
2. Pipe cleaners
3. Scrap paper
4. Modge Podge (or Elmer's glue mixed with water)
5. Paint brushes
6. Any other magical supplies your craft drawer holds.

First, make a loop with a 3-4" pipe cleaner. Stick it into the syrofoam ball.

Then, tear small pieces of scrap paper or magazine pages, glue on with Modge Podge, and paint over the paper again with Modge Podge.

Do this until the ball is covered.

Let dry.

Add gems or glitter or puffy paint for the finishing touches.


This was our advent activity for Dec. 6







Monday, December 5, 2011

Priorities

Finally! I get to blog about my priorities. My girls promised me they weren't coming back out of their rooms after 456 kisses and 58 hugs, drinks of water, 101 questions, prayers and final tucking in, they knew they were pushing it.

I sat down and browsed through new posts from my blog list. I admit, I envied some. Arrgh! I want a new camera. Then, I want to know how to use it and take fantastic pictures and post them here. I had a descent camera and left it to be rained on. But I really want a NICE camera. I thought it might be the Christmas to go buy myself something (along with a complete makeover- but I was going to excuse that away by saying it was for my husband).  However, I talk big but could never do it. Somewhere along the line I stopped spending money on myself.

I wish I could be the person that did and never felt an ounce of guilt. But if I was, I would have never married Sook. I think he'll agree- he wouldn't have married me either.

A few days ago I was telling my parents how I tried Max out on a bicycle in Wal-Mart. He didn't want the bicycle. He wanted the Gator right next to the bicycle. Then his eyes wandered further down the isle to a Cars car and said, "I wan dat!" Coincidentally, it was the most expensive item in the isle. Mom turned to Dad and said, "Does that remind you of his mother?"

Apparently I never had a problem with spending my parent's money.

And as I snuck MY snack (mini snickers) out of the kitchen I thought, "you know what really sounds good? Truffles." I don't have any at the moment since last time I was given the opportunity the Snickers was a few bucks cheaper. But my thoughts continued, " I don't really want store bought ones, though. I want homemade truffles made by me from my very large kitchen that is always used because I'm dishing up all fresh from scratch gourmet organic foods that are also very good for you. And I'd be wearing a very vintage apron and cute little homemaker/hottie dress with makeup and hair all done up." oh, "and my house would always smell good.".

Ohmygosh. Did I just say that out loud?

What was I blogging about again? Oh. Priorities.

OK. This week's advent play we did was about preparing for Christmas. It's theme was evaluating priorities and re-committing our lives to line up with Christ's purpose for us.

One of our favorite quotes is from "Curious George: Follow That Monkey" where the man in the yellow hat has an important presentation and he ends up on a train with George and an elephant. And when he is looking for his pie charts, he finds them crumpled and stained.

"MY PRIORITIES! MY BEAUTIFUL PRIORITIES!"

I asked the girls what their priorities were.
1. A stuffed dalmatian.
2 A stuffed wolf.
3 Spending money.

Great. Time to re-align priorities. "Uh, what do you think God wants our priorities to be?"

Family! Jesus! Christmas! Friends! the Bible! Church!

Well, at least they had an idea as to how to answer this. Today I had them write a list of priorities so that later we would pray about them. The wolf still made it on to the list. At least it wasn't the only item.

After asking Savannah 12 times to complete this task, raising my voice a little each time, she handed me a well wrapped package (drawing paper folded and taped tightly). On it said, "To: my priority".

Inside was placed a single Tic Tac mint.

Sigh. My priorities spend all of my money and mess up my perfect homemaker dream. My priorities tug at my heart when I am convicted to give to someone in need. They beckon me home when part of me wants to escape to an exotic holiday. They fill my heart with more grace to give. They direct me to more unselfish acts when the other me is dragging her feet, longing for new shoes.

I still want nice things. I still want to be pampered and to relax. And laugh with someone older than eight. And I don't think there is anything wrong with it. I believe God will give me these things and more. Abundantly more. I am so grateful that God instills in us what are truly priorities and promises to bless us so that there is no need to sacrifice what is really important.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Trees

I woke up today not wanting to get out of bed. And I didn't. I kid you not. It was 1:00 before I even had glasses on.


Isn't it great to have older kids? There was enough food available. The movies kept streaming in. I feel awful still. And I knew what was in that #2 envelope, waiting. There was not way around it.

So I slept all day to get enough energy for this.

We cleaned half of the living room- just to mess it up again.

There were no lights- at least that I know of since I have packed up half my things thinking that I would have moved by now.

So I went to CVS to find some lights. Mind you, I looked like I've been sick in bed all day. I thought there was a stocking cap in the car that I could use to mask part of my disgustingness. But there wasn't. I'm pretty sure the checkout lady was avoiding looking at me.

But we did it. We have a tree.




At least I have a happy family.

Yes, there is at least one forced smile in this photo.

Yes, I'm still using my phone as my camera.

Yes, that is a  hands and foot reindeer on my tree leftover from last year.

Yes, the reindeer brought some squeals of joy.

Yes, they are in pj's- the same ones they wore all day long.

And yes. I am glad we did it. And so are they. And maybe even Sook.

And I am wiped out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Waiting


As we shopped in the used book store the other day, Mom and I rummaged through old play scripts. She picked up a book of advent plays. A perfect touch to our advent envelopes.

The first advent play, and our activity for today, was themed "waiting"

Waiting for the prophecy to come true.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light as dawned. Isaiah 9:2

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

People waited for hundreds of years before it came true. And then it did.
Do you think they just gave up?
How many kept the faith?



Mama has been sick once, twice, three times. Today was hard. Yesterday in my journal I wrote: "Tomorrow I will bless your socks off. It has already been commanded."

I looked around in my kitchen, which was a disaster due to painting the cabinets, and stayed that way due to feeling sick.

"Will this ever look clean again?"
"Will we ever have the chance to move?"
"Will we ever see financial peace?"
"Will my prayers ever be answered?"

And a faint but very real reply said, "It has already been commanded. It is done."


The kids enthusiastically decorated construction paper trees.

More messes were made.

Max was introduced to his first coloring book.

He just wanted to line up the crayons.

Mom and Dad are tired.

Deep in thought while washing a load of dishes, Savannah came up behind me to share one of her many stories. I caught a glimpse of her smile.

So many prayers have been answered.




And until the realizations of my answered prayers show themselves to me, I shall wait. In hope and expectation, not giving up.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent Envelopes




I was going to buy fancy dancy Christmas envelopes for our advent envelopes.

But my Mennonite mother had a stash of various envelopes that she decided she wouldn't be using and voila! A little artwork from the kiddos and stickers and they were officially Christmas envelopes.


And way more special than anything store bought.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Today.

A while back I left my camera outside and it got rained on. Now it doesn't work. So excuse my phone pics...

There was a moment today I had to capture from my seat on the couch.


Summer did great on math- so I told her to do more. She was less than thrilled.


Max was very busy lining up blocks.

Brookie was rough housing with Daddy.


And then she kicked over Max's blocks. This is her in time out trying to look ticked.


Not very convincing.


Savannah was playing with this...............whatever it is.

For a looooooooooooong time.


These moments all together. Relatively happy. Comfortable. In the presence of those that love us.

I love that feeling.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What if Christmas Lasted All Year Long?

Yes, my title is cheesy. It's cheesy because everyone knows that it won't happen. A nice, quaint phrase that goes really well in a song. Maybe. I think it might depend on what your definition of Christmas is.

I am once again I am debating how to celebrate. I love, love, love the holidays. And I hate the holidays.

I know most people get excited with Christmas and children, how magical it all is to bring so much joy to their little hearts. I love bringing joy to my children's little hearts. Just not necessarily in the form of Christmas packages.

It is exciting to get so many presents, but after the ripping of paper and squeals are over, it's just another day. Maybe even a downer.

Last year, all the girls wanted Baby Alive. And since they each get $20 to spend on a name drawing, Baby Alive was gotten. I kid you not. One month later, they loathed Baby Alive. I don't believe that this is Christmas Magic.

January is often a very depressing month: 1) because it's winter and there is not enough sunshine to keep our spirits up and 2) It follows the holidays. If Christmas is that great, why does it make us feel all cheery just for one month?

The spirit of Christmas that brings joy to our hearts, at the risk of sounding cliche', is not in presents. It is tradition, family and friends, loving, forgetting everything else to put your effort into being jolly. And it's really about giving.

Christmas has been blown up to unreasonable hype for one reason: money. Greed. Good advertising. That has nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas.

So this year, I'd like to do something a little different. I want to embrace the things about this holiday season I love, but eliminate the things I hate. Because just because something is the way it is, it doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

And I do think that there is a huge potential for a wonderful holiday season. It's Jesus's birthday! And I love Jesus.

Here is my plan:

1) Advent envelopes that will include one gift or activity each day in December until Christmas. Here are some ideas:

  • make Christmas ornaments
  • make a gingerbread house
  • look at Christmas lights
  • write a Christmas story together
  • draw/paint a nativity poster
  • act out a play
  • send Christmas cards
  • donate used clothes to someone in need
  • Christmas movie night
  • (gift) fancy socks
  • put up mistletoe
  • bake sugar cookies (or peppernuts!)

2) The children always draw names. We usually go to Wal-Mart to shop since I only give them $20, there is quite a selection, and because any change goes directly into the Salvation Army buckets. Wal-Mart still allows the bell ringers (at least as far as I know).

3) They will get one gift that will be shared- some electrical device that most everyone else already has :) It will be small, not messy, and will be shared! And well used, I believe. As for the rest of my gift list, I like to buy gifts that also benefit someone else. Here are some ideas.

Bead for Life helps Ugandan women
Ergon helps women in India
Water for Christmas etsy shop helps supply clean water around the world
Fair Trade helps provide a living for people all around the world
This bracelet is gorgeous! From the World Vision catalog.

4) Since we don't believe in Santa Claus, on Christmas morning we will read the real story of St. Nicholas and look in our stockings, where they will see what has been given in their name. Maybe a duck, sheep, clean water, or fruit trees? And probably some candy. Here are some gift catalogs:

World Vision
Samaritan's Purse
Amazima Ministries

5) Otherwise, we will continue our family traditions. We will exchange gifts with extended family. We will soak up the joy. But I think that if we want it to be truly meaninful, giving will bless us and others much longer than one month. I'm really excited about this. And I am thankful that we have the resources to be givers.


    Favorite

    I was just scrolling through my blog and realized that I've been talking a lot about Summer lately.

    You would think she is my favorite.

    Well, she is.

    She is my favorite to go shopping with. She is my favorite to get hugs from. To kiss on the cheek, to cook with, and to dress up real pretty.

    But then there's Max, my baby boy. He's my favorite, too. I mean, he's my baby! And he's a boy! He loves to cuddle while watching music videos. He is very opinionated, which is stinkin' cute for a two year old. He really loves having me around. He steals my heart.

    Who can top your first-born, though? Savannah is definitely my favorite. Her mind is always churning, thinking of how she will do everything. She wants to learn- we learn together! We are a great team. I could not home school without her. She is a self learner and is turning out to be a great teacher as well. I dread the day she will grow up and leave me.

    My heart aches for my niece, Ellie. I long for the day that I can be only 10 minutes away from her instead of 2.5 hours. She remembers everything! She loves to serve, and she remembers the important details for each individual. It's so fun to see her take all her random thoughts and put them together into a meaningful conclusion. Watching her grow is exciting for me. She is my favorite.

    However, my life would not be complete without my Brookie Boo. She is the one who cuddles up so nicely on the couch each morning. She gets my day started with her reports about which of her songs were played on Klove during the night. She is off the wall spunk that might just annoy some people. But I am her mother so I find it pure joy. I cherish the look on her face when I say, "Brooke, you are my favorite."

    When I consider how much I love each of my children, I am aware that they are not special. Each child is so unique and beautiful. They are treasures, that when allowed, will bless all kinds of different hearts. But it must be allowed and reflected back in order for them to know this about themselves.

    I once heard it said that when an adult encounters a child, the child needs to see that adult face light up. Yet it is so easy for me appear unaffected at times. How do my children and other children see themselves through me?

    And how often I need to be reminded that we are God's children. Even the people that tick me off, annoy me or hurt me. They are their Father's favorite. You are His favorite. Everyone has value, but it is sometimes hard to see if they are not treated valued. What a tragedy for them not to know. What a crime it is when I make other's feel worthless.

    During my oxymoron struggle between mercy and prophesy, love and judgement, I see that people may once and a while be open to loving correction, but judgement mostly turns people away. This is especially true since I am far from perfect myself. An attitude of love, mercy, and grace is the best way to positively influence people- my children, other children, annoying co-workers, and discouraged friends. For they are all God's favorite.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Thanksgiving 2011

    At the beginning of the week, we were sick.

    Decided not to go home until the weekend.

    Worked a little on Tuesday.

    Finished my kitchen cabinets (yaaaaayyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    Worked the nursery Wednesday night.

    Went to bed feeling achy and chilly.

    Slept in. Way way in.

    I feel good now, with the exception of a few sniffles.

    Savannah's working on a construction paper turkey.

    Max is getting into whatever he can find.

    Brooke and Summer and playing with stuffed animals.

    We don't really have food. Is anything open today?

    None the less, I am thankful.

    For my beautiful, healthy family.

    For a nice day outside.

    For a house to live in.

    For work to be done.

    For what people have done in order to build a nation I can call home.

    For extended family and their values that have shaped us.

    For the good that I get to see and rejoice for in my circle of acquaintances.

    For the hope that there is more to come.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Thanking For...........And Meaning It

    I am sure of the fact that I could not be truly usable (not in a superficial I have to do this kind of way) until I have collapsed, relaxed my muscles, loosened my grip, and become mold able for the exact use I was created for.

    This leaves me vulnerable. It's scary. It's also scary when I have charge, so I might as well let go.

    Afterward, or maybe just before, there is a time of horror visions flashing in front of me of what might happen. I wonder why I take thing for granted yet worry so much at the same time?

    But my spirit it there, trying to get my attention. And once I manage to turn my mind over to the peaceful promises of God, the horror visions fade to black. It is all a lie.

    It is then, panting in the refuge of these promises (promises that are actually promises), then and only then I can clearly see what I might be without them. This is where my thanksgivings turn into glorious sounds to my Father, due to the pureness of this offering. I see what I have in Him and through Him. I see how I can trust Him, and that He only wants good for me. A good that is as spotless as Jesus Himself.

    Half hearted thanksgivings are a muffled clamoring, even if they are belted out in the most beautiful song. God's senses cannot be compared to ours.

    But I have to let go and be helped, be vulnerable, and receive before anything beautiful can come from me.

    When I am there, in the glory of His promises, I cannot go against the character of God. I have no cares for worldly things. I have no time to look around at what everyone else is doing wrong, because my eyes are fixed on Him. I cannot act for selfish greed because I am completely satisfied.

    That is why some "radicals" cannot stop talking about their love, Jesus. That is why some would like everyone to hear their joy. That is why their interests and actions seem odd to those around them. It is all in or not, and the only secure place is "in".

    Dear God, Your gifts are more precious than silver, than fine gold. What you have already given me is sweeter than the finest clothes and most luxurious house. Thank you for giving them to me. My prayer is that I will live and stay in these promises, and that I would understand them more and more every day.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Summer Love

    Summer, my middle daughter, reluctantly complied with my direction to work on her English.

    "I think I have to memorize something next." she grumbled. "I hate to memorize.
    "Well, you are not going to make a very good movie star if you can't memorize." I responded.

    "Wait. You thought that I am going to be a movie star?"
    "Well, I thought so until now when you told me that you don't like to memorize."

    She paused, twirled around a few times, and said, "I guess that sounds like fun." and walked off to work on her English.

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

    It was her turn to go to the store with me. After a year and a half of construction, we are now privilaged to go to the grocery store via the new overpass. This is not just any overpass, though. It has colorful lights that change colors every few seconds. Red, Purple, Blue, Green. It reminds me of the horse on The Wizard of Oz.

    But to Summer, it is magical. That trip across the highway was like a magic flying carriage with white flying horses surrounded by ever changing colors. Even though the actual trip only takes a few seconds, time seems to go in slow motion amidst the awe of the experience. Could anything be more beautiful? I know, because I saw it in her imagination, through her huge brown wondering eyes. Oh, the thrill of going over that overpass.

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

    Turning into our subdivision, I said, "Summer, I like you."

    "You tell me that all the time", she answered.

    "Are you tired of hearing it?"

    "No, I am not."

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

    She knows life is cruel. She gets her tender heart broken. She doesn't always get her way. And she still has to do school (which she says she doesn't like but I think she might be fibbing a little). And sometimes she has quite a temper.

    But there is a huge burst of pure joy in that soul. I am so thankful for my Summer.

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Redeeming Moment By Moment

    My husband has been very busy lately (good thing). This has reminded me how much I rely on him to help me. "I couldn't reach the insurance agent to cancel our meeting, and I have to leave for work." He said in passing this morning.

    I hate it when strangers come into my house. I don't like appointments. And I really dislike being put on the spot.

    "You could trust me to handle it for you." was a thought from God.
    I said a prayer.

    "When is he supposed to be here?"
    "Now."

    I looked at the clock. 9:00. I looked out the window. A small red car pulled up to my curb. My house looked like a bomb had gone off in it. I ran to brush my teeth. After a bit of confusion, we had to tell him that we needed to reschedule. He graciously agreed.

    We needed to be at the dentist at 11:00. I scrambled to get my sleepyheads ready. French toast with a sprinkle of powdered sugar for my children who were forced to eat wherever they could find a place. Max's was on the floor- like a dog. My table was cluttered with paint, brushes, and hardware.

    Max started to dance on top of a folded up metal chair I reached down to swat him, and in realizing he was clueless, I powered down to a pat. None the less, he cried.

    "Don't take frustrations out on them. Believe that I'll handle it for you."

     I realized Max only had clean purple sweat pants to go with his blue and red shirt. Brooke's outfit was interesting. No one could find matching socks, including me.

    "If we had eight legs it would be much harder to find socks." offered Summer.
    Very true. At least I only had two feet per person to cover.

    We were ready to strap into the car when Max whines to tell me he's pooped. I gave him a mad look and said, "Why do you poop?"

    He laughed. "Why do you poop?" he mimicked.
    At least he did it before we left, and not during the appointment.

    My keys were not in my purse so I ran back upstairs to look for them. Realizing that I'd left my eggs out, I opened the refrigerator door. As I placed the eggs on the shelf I said aloud, "God I need my keys." I shut the door, focused my eyes on the desk across the room and directly on my set of keys.

    I got 20 minutes of Klove love on the way to the dentist.

    Savannah was incredibly anxious to arrive at the dentist on time. And we did, right on time. There were no cavities, which is very good, especially since I hate appointments. (And it's good that she has healthy teeth.) We had accomplished one thing today. Good.

    I needed to be home by 1:00 for another appointment scheduled with people to give me a quote for the bathroom. The line in the Taco Bell drive through was extra slow. We made it home at 1:00. I sent the kids downstairs to eat in the basement and scrambled to clean the bathroom. No one showed up. I checked my phone, and I saw there was a missed call at 11:00. I'm now 99% sure the appointment was 11:00 and I wrote down 1:00.  Another missed appointment.

    As the children were eating tacos off the basement floor since the rest of my house left no available spot and I wanted to hide them from the appointment that I thought was going to happen, the bug man came to spray the inside of my house. Including my basement. I didn't know he was coming at all.

    This dear man always seems to keep an iron face when my children embarrass me with questions about him within his ear shot. Again, no double takes or raised eyebrows. He treated me like I was normal when I was absolutely convinced I was the worst mother/wife/citizen in the Midwest.

    It was about all I could handle. I had to grab ahold of anything good to maintain, at the very least, a moderate temperament in the house.

    "I need help, God"
    Immediately my eyes fell on these red letters: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

    "Believe me when I say I can make it right."

    My husband knew my frustration, and obliged to my mysterious requests.

    My girlfriend called with good news and refreshing encouragement.

    The kids watched a movie.

    Sook cleaned the kitchen. He's really good at cleaning.

    I didn't lose it. My failures are redeemed. God does that, sometimes through people, sometimes through other stuff. I wouldn't have even written this in order to avoid recalling this painful day except for the fact that I appreciate others sharing their shortcomings so I know I am actually normal. I was starting to pity myself again when I read this blog.

    And also to praise God, for he addressed each of my failures and frustrations today. That is what a personal, loving God does, and He doesn't get tired of doing it.

    Siestas and Tapas

    The summer before my senior year in college, I was privileged to spend eight weeks in Spain. It was a Spanish 4 class trip. I am surprised they let me go. When I told my Spanish 3 teacher that I was going, she said, "Good. You need the practice." Ha.

    I can't speak Spanish- and I never really could. I have many stories of the stupid American girl trying to make her way through Granada. But I got a B in the class!

    I have a secret. I didn't really go for the class.

    Oh, it was worth whatever it took to get there. The food, the wine, the flowers, the cobblestone street I walked on to have a high carb breakfast and coffee, it was divine. I learned much more than what the class taught me.

    I noticed that overall they didn't have as much as I was used to. Most families lived in apartments, they walked or took the bus- but didn't drive a car, and had no air conditioning. And they were okay with that. I don't remember grumbling (unless it was about stupid Americans).  People were friendly, relaxed, and content.

    All of the shops closed from 2-6 for "siesta time" which included a large lunch that would last over an hour because of lively talk and a few glasses of wine. Next, there was time for a siesta (a nap), and then refreshed and back to work they go.

    Often times, our evening meals were tapas: small meals that went well with a drink or two. There was dancing, sometimes in the town plaza, random guitar players, and wonderful music.

    I have wondered if the reason why, in a country where most meals include bread dipped in olive oil and wine as their water, the people are so much thinner and healthier? Could it be due to their attitudes and priorities? Siestas and tapas?

    I have heard it said several times in one way or another that God is not so interested in our goals, but in the process. Do we value the process? Are we wishing for the goal so that our lives will be better, or are we interested in having a better life as is- right now?

    What would that look like here? Siestas really are not an option- but chillin' with my kiddos next to dozens of reminders of what needs to be done provides some rest. What about a coming together at a meal to talk, engage in people, laugh? Is it possible in our culture? I think so, but it may seem a little weird to people around us. But I'm already weird, so who cares?!

    We work so hard so that we can relax. Please, don't get me wrong. I value hard work. But maybe our hard work is for the wrong reasons. Maybe there is a better way. Maybe we need to enjoy the process, see God at work in every day little things. Value people more than money. Learn to put up our feet when work is staring you in the face. Stay healthy and happy. Hear from God - and tell Him what we think. Thank Him for what we see now that we've actually looked. Rest in His promises.

    Summer and I have agreed that Tuesdays are her night to say up a little later with me. She insists that it is with me, and I'm glad that she does.

    This week we played Angry Animals, cuddled, and made this picture together:


    I said, "Summer, you look like a princess singing next to the river."
    And she said, "Well, yes but I'm a princess eating a hamburger."


    I'd much rather be looking at a princess singing by the river eating a hamburger.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Mysterious Love

    This has been the theme today. Really. From at least three sources. Maybe I should pay attention.

    I have been a very angry person. And I could convince you that at least 85% of it is warranted. Most of my anger was a result of experiences with Christians. Even though I was one, I didn't like the majority of them very much.

    Something kept telling me that my life can't be that bad. Then something told me it was very bad. I should get more mad.

    But getting mad is death and destruction. Love is life.

    We sang this song tonight.

    In Christ Alone (listen here)

    In Christ alone my hope is found,
    He is my light, my strength, my song.
    This cornerstone, this solid ground,
    Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

    What heights of love, what depths of peace,
    When fears are stilled, when striving ceased.
    My Comforter, my All in All,
    Here in the love of Christ I stand.

    There in the ground His body lay,
    Light of the World by darkness slain.
    Then bursting forth in glorious day,
    Up from the grave He rose again.

    And as He stands in victory,
    Sins curse has lost it's grip on me.
    For I am His and He is mine,
    Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

    No guilt in life, no fear in death.
    This is the power of Christ in me.
    From life's first cry to final breath,
    Jesus commands my destiny.

    No power of hell, no scheme of man,
    Could ever pluck me from His hand.
    Till He returns or calls me home,
    Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

    Such a beautiful promise. God will be there.
    I have been mad because of the failure from others to show me and those I love Christ's love.
    I used to think that these lyrics were promises of strength to overcome those that were hurting me.

    Now, I don't think so. Now I think that the power this song is stating is the power not to get angry, prideful, fearful, or self-centered. The power to love.

    Anger, pride, fear, and self-centeredness is death. Love is life.

    God wants me to love in order to have a full life. And He died so that anger, pride, fear, and self-centeredness could not overtake me. This is what I am free of, not mean people.

    This does not necessarily give me the power to prove myself, even for Christ's sake.
    This does not give me the power to be right.
    This does not give me the power to fight.
    This does not give me the power to expose every evil and make it right.

    This incomprehensible sacrifice gives me the power to love. This love is mysterious to me. There is no pride in it. There is no counting offenses. Not even the use of love in order to prove a point.

    Because any other avenue to deal with Christians that dissapoint is not showing Christ's love either. And I am no different.

    It's just love. And it is very powerful.

    He has given me everything, so there is no reason to give in to death.

    My mind is blown.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Characters

    As I paint my kitchen cabinets, I chuckle. I could never make money doing this sort of thing because I mess up and then like it. It's character.

    Chipped paint.
    Worn hard wood floors.
    Dingy fabrics.
    Dusty books.
    Obvious brush strokes.
    Real. Usable. Personable.

    I love imperfection. If that is what you call it. Perhaps it's actually perfection.

    My body also has character. Scars, laugh lines (or mad lines), worn hands, evidence of childbearing. Clothing might accentuate individual beauty, but cannot take the place of it. Everyone has something beautiful to bless the world with. Living artwork.

    Grey hairs.
    Colorful eyes.
    Freckles.
    Dirty smiles.
    Proper salutations.
    Gut wrenching sobs.
    Priceless expressions.
    Real. Usable. Personable.

    Have you ever envied wrinkles? I have.

    But there is something to be seen that cannot be seen with a glance of the eye. Something that could never be faked. It is only produced when pushed, beaten, broken, swept away, restored, failed, renewed, chipped, scraped, pulled, tattered, stained, and washed. That is the most beautiful character of all. It can make the ugliest specimen breathtaking.

    Hope.
    Joy.
    Love.
    Wisdom.
    Gentleness.
    Inspiration.
    Real. Usable. Personable.

    I hope my children grow up to be characters. I mean that.

    How do you make characters? I'm pretty sure the best way is to fill them with God-inspired expectation. Big dreams, big responsibilities, big results and cheer lead to the very end. Life will then do the rest.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Today My Heart Did A Back Handspring

    Life gets hard sometimes.

    Parenting is hard.

    Work is hard.

    Loving is hard.

    And I have recently discovered that eight is hard.

    Life is hard: I am aware of this, at any age. I don't know if it was my particular circumstances. I doubt it. Growing up was hard for me. And I had a good family- so even with a good family, life is hard. So, I see homeschooling as an opportunity for me to try to help my angels figure some stuff out in a fairly safe environment before being slammed with it somewhere out there.

    Parenting is hard: Because I don't have all of the answers. And even if I did have the knowledge of what all the right answers, I probably wouldn't communicate them effectively at every opportunity. It's hard to see them crying, trying to figure out this life.

    Work is hard: If you stop, it only causes more work. Life is never ending work- with a few breaks here and there. Homeschool only causes double the work. I don't say this to attain sainthood. If you don't want to do it, don't. If you don't understand why I do it, don't try to. I just do. But there is no ignoring the fact that it is hard.

    Love is hard: I don't think I need to elaborate.

    Eight is hard: At least it is here and several parents have concurred, so to me it is a fact. Something is changing at eight and it is darn hard to figure out.

    We have had an increase of loud and painful fights thanks to my eight year old. My heart breaks because I remember (whether I was eight or not, I do not know) having emotions I had no idea what to do with. Most of her tantrums end up by eliminating the problem (her) by a time out. I usually get a long letter slipped under her bedroom door stating why it was everyone else's fault. My fantastic interventions seemed to be getting nowhere. I didn't know what to do.

    Today was no different at first. She went to her room. Several minutes later I notice her bedroom door was opened and sure enough, she was busy writing. This time, however, I took a double take because instead of yer usual "life sucks" note, she was writing a list of offenses and correlating consequences. These were fantastically appropriate. I don't know why I didn't think of this. But I'm glad I didn't.

    "I really like this, Savannah." I said, then cautiously continued, "You do realize that if we do this, you will get the same consequences, don't you?"

    "Yes. I just want a way to stop myself from being so mean."

    She was taking responsibility.

    I admit it. I cried. A little. I praised her. My heart was skipping and flipped around several times. I refrained from doing a happy dance.

    She administered a short meeting, a vote was taken, the list passed and very well received. (except once today when Summer had to vacuum a bedroom, otherwise it was a very pleasant day)

    I say all this to say that once and while, when you have to get up and drag yourself out of bed to do the same thing with the elusive hope that something you are doing is going to make a difference, you see one of them reach up and pull a string attached to a light bulb.

    Aha. Something is working.

    The continuous talk of character, love, and self control. The discipline that is far less fun than fun. The prayers said over each of them. The investment put into each of their lives. Sometimes we can see that something is working. So please, keep trying. Keep working. Keep hoping. I believe these efforts will have innumerable returns now and far into the future.

    I just so happened to stumble across this song tonight. Please listen here. Cause I just love it, but I can't figure out YouTube.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Learning To Be Less Grown Up

    My growing children love to test their Independence. It may be playing "mommy" in pretend play. Sometimes it's ignoring my instruction and trying it their own way. I've witness their buttons burst when they get a new privilege after proven mature enough. Whatever it may be, children long for the days of getting older, hence more freedoms, and more responsibility.

    Even so, whenever I leave the house, reassurance is needed that someone will be watching them. They still need a provider.


    Jesus never admonished children to be more grown-up. He did, however, exhort grownups to become more like children. ~Wess Stafford


    This was a Facebook post from Compassion International today.


    As I have grown in my faith, I am beginning to realize that "the ways of the world" that the Bible warns about has more to it than lying, stealing, drugs, and immorality. It also has to do with trusting in your abilities over in God's. It leads to ignoring to "little" but important things in order to know about everything, to do everything by the book, to invest perfectly, to fix everything yourself, to avoid asking for help, to make enough money to attain your American dream. Interestingly enough, this mindset may just lead you to lying, stealing, drugs, and immorality.

    This is where I find so much freedom in Christ. The world's way and the Bible's way are complete opposites.

    According to the Bible, I can strip myself from the responsibility of providing food and clothing for myself and my family (Matthew 6:25-34), and from the guilt of not measuring up to the gifts of others(Psalm 139:13-16), and I can tear down doubts and condemnation built by religious hypocrisy (Matthew 5:8).

    This frees me up to spend time doing productive work, dreaming limitlessly about how I can use my unique gifts to bless others, and trusting in God fully, whom is showing Himself to me constantly.

    I can spend the majority of my day building up my spirit with God, I can place people high on my list of  priorities, and then I can get twice as much done than the former circumstance.

    And I can trust that God will always, always take care of me- perfectly. Infinity times better than I could. Even when I mess up. Just like a child.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Is This Sad?

    So, Have you heard the news? Of course you have. The Duggar's are expecting their 20th child.

    I have not watched a second of the show, so I have no opinion about it. What I do know is: (1) that they had a miscarriage early in life and then decided to let God decide how many they should have. (2)Their oldest has already started a family, stating that he also is willing to let God decide how many, and even though I sincerely hope he consulted with his wife on that, he must not have thought his experience was all that bad. (3)The dad's name is Jim Bob. (4) A woman at my work "ran into" the Duggar's twice, in two different locations. She said each time they stopped to talk and take pictures. She said they were great, if two-five minute encounters mean anything (5) They are "excited" about their news. Hey! They wanted this person in their life! (6)Several people have made them out to be evil for one reason or another. But today, the comment that really got me was "it's so sad that the older children have to raise the younger ones.

    Really?

    Those poor Duggar children that live in a home where they are loved and provided for. This is sad to you? Because what is sad to me is the millions of children that are not wanted. What is sad to me is the scared to death pregnant teenager that has no one to turn to. Or children whose parents have both died from AIDS, knowing they are soon to follow. The ones that are 6 years old and weight 10 pounds because there is no food. That is sad. The beautiful children that have parents, but had to be given up because they could not provide for them. Can you imagine? The landscape of children digging through a dump to find a bit of food, feet bleeding from the lack of shoes. Are you sad yet? What about the welfare children that are neglected and abused, sometimes to the point of death. Must I go on?

    Do you think that any of these children I just mentioned wouldn't dream of living in a home like the Duggar's?

    I do not think that everyone should forget any form of birth control and have 20 kids. However, I do think God does lead some people to do this, and they should listen. Before I even heard about the Duggar's, one month after I was married, God told me the same thing.

    Yet, I had my tubes tied. I was so tired, I had lost hope, and I was listening to all the wrong people. Again, I am not saying there is anything wrong with preventing pregnancy. I am saying, I know I disobeyed God. And I am heartbroken.

    Because even when I want to pull my hair out and wish that I could just process one thought, even when I lose it and scream like a lunatic, I would love four more.

    I believe that God is not mad at me, and he heals and restores. His plan for my life has not stopped in it's tracks.

    I also believe that Jesus loves all the little children of the world, and millions of his children are not experiencing it. This Duggar family, however, is not in that category.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Failures

    I woke up this morning asking God what it is I should learn about today.

    "Failures." was the answer.

    Funny, because after a blissfully quiet day at work, a nice "hello" kiss from my husband, a short and sweet and successful school time, something in me turned for the worse.

    I started feeling failure. I felt not so wonderful as the people in the inspirational stories I try to surround myself with- you know, for inspiration.

    I ran to the grocery story because I had nothing for supper. I made tacos. What kid doesn't like tacos? Except I had forgotten the cheese- well, I did have cheese but it was Italian cheese. So we had tacos with ground beef and Italian cheese. And lettuce and Picante sauce if someone wanted it.

    1.5 of my children actually ate it.

    Savannah just didn't get her division.

    I was annoyed with the 151st sticker Brooke wanted to give me.

    Max told me he wanted to potty instantly after I had put his pj's on.

    And I know that Summer annoyed me, too. I just don't remember how.

    I was in full pity party mode. And when this happens, for me at least, I start remembering everything that steals my joy. Every failure, every unrealistic dream, every rotten circumstance. My failures were trying to make me fail again.

    But I have learned enough to know not to indulge myself in my failures. Mostly because what I really wanted was to shout them from the mountaintops so someone would feel sorry for me, but I knew no one would (at least genuinely) because we've all got crap of the bottom of our shoes. I cannot indulge. I am saved by grace through faith. What I need is faith.

    And then something turned again. I read the books, put the kids to bed two or three times each, gave extra hugs, and enjoyed it.

    I am convinced that the key to success is a graceful failure. Because, truth be told, we all fail. Therefore, how we handle it is the key to overcoming it. Perseverance, humility, and a sound mind is what I need.

    I have read before that God isn't so interested in our dreams as much as the journey to get there. Isn't that true? If we reach for something and finally get it, it doesn't solve our problems. Many times it makes things more complicated. What we learned on the way is more profitable than the prize itself. That gives me peace. If the prize isn't that important, then I don't really fail when I have not attained it.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Royal Living

    I have so many life thoughts in my head, one post will not cover all of it. I'm running the risk of someone possible taking me wrong- I'm all about balance. Most of the time. In some areas I'm crazy radical- at least compared to my surroundings. So today I'm just talking about one aspect of life. It's a lesson that I really needed to learn.

    Accepting gifts, favor, blessings.

    Somehow I got it in my head that living without was more righteous. At first, it seemed that I was more self sacrificing and content, because I could live anywhere, in any circumstance. I wasn't picky. This can be a good thing.

    However, as my dreams and my family grew, it turned into self pity, bitterness, and jealousy. I got in a huge rut that seemed as if it would never go away. I couldn't bless anyone because I was always in need. I was miserable.

    What I didn't know was how to receive blessings. But when I started to humble myself (yes, I need humbling. It takes humility to receive!) and to learn more about who God was and what He wanted to do in my life, I was looking at life through different glasses.

    As a follower of Christ, I am saved. I have received salvation.

    What is salvation? From my understanding, and according to various sermons and Bible footnotes, "salvation" in Hebrew and Greek means deliverance, safety, preservation, healing, and soundness of mind.

    Other words connected to salvation are: justification, redemption, grace, propitiation (the sacrifice of Christ that appeases divine wrath), imputation (transfer of Christ's righteousness to me), forgiveness, and sanctification (set apart, made holy).

    Whoa. I hadn't been living like I had all of that. This means, if I am worried about....anything (money, health, safety, my sins) I was not living as though I had received salvation. It's like a pretty gift sitting on a mantel containing value beyond imagination.....unused. Or if you had nothing and was handed an invitation to move into a royal palace and live as one of them. You show your friends and tell them about this wonderful opportunity for you. You carry it around with you wherever you go, put pictures of the Royal Family up on your wall, and collect all kinds of information about what it is like to live in royalty, yet you never actually go.

    Maybe you don't know the way. But then again, if you know the awesomeness of this invitation, wouldn't you do everything you can to get there?

    Maybe you are scared they won't like what they see. Maybe you don't really believe their guarantee that all un-royalness will be left at the door, and you will be adopted in as pure royalness. No questions asked.

    Maybe you are comfortable in your poverty and are scared of leaving it.

    Maybe you don't really understand what it means to be royalty.

    I am grafted in to God's family. I want to know all of the benefits that go along with that. But it doesn't stop here.

    I am finding that God knows me personally- he is the one who created me. He knows the things I love and he knows my shortcomings. He provides perfectly in a way that is tailored to me. My individual needs, loves, joys, gifts, and responsibilities- in accordance with His word. Sometimes it is circumstantial, many times he blesses me through other people.

    I am slowly learning what it means to be a part of God's family. Each perfect revelation reminds me that my heavenly father is the perfect provider, and I am more than happy to receive it.

    There is more to this story but I'd like to point out that God drew me in by his incredible love. He showed me where I was and then what was waiting for me, upon my acceptance. I pray that my children come to this realization earlier in life than I did.

    Here are some verses to ponder:

    Genesis 15:3 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

    2 Peter 1:2-4 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His given power as given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, but which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

    Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

    Ephesians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He mad us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.



    From: How He Loves (listen to it here)

    He is jealous for me.
    Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
    Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy

    When all of a sudden,
    I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
    And I realize just how beautiful you are
    And how great your affections are for me.

    Oh, How He loves us oh,
    Oh, How He loves us,
    How He loves us, oh