Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

There was a week last April that Daddy joined us for several outings. Daddy makes everything a little bit more fun. The only problem was that Savannah was at Grandma's taking swimming lessons- but she was having at least as much fun, so it worked out. The week ended with a camping trip with friends. That was a fantastic week.

Kaw point

Deanna Rose Farmstead

Carousel in Leavenworth


2012 was a great year for our family, even though there were some hard times. I love a New Year. I have full expectation that it will be equally or exceedingly fantastic.

May yours be as well!

Best of 2012

I should have started this sooner. I don't know what to pick.

Maybe the hidden treasures of central Kansas.

Rock City

Tall Grass Prairie, Strong City

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of 2012

Oklahoma spring break trip...

Standing Bear Park, Ponca City. Wonderful history, lots of Braums. Good times.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012

In no particular order, I thought I'd post my best days of 2012

Chang Dao tour, Thailand. Oh, yes. Another one tomorrow...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

6 Reasons for Compassion... and Audio Adrenaline

Compassion wants to spread the word about their campaign to raise $20,000 this Christmas season.

I can't sell anything, and I have to work up a lot of nerve to ask for a favor. I'm not trying to do either. But I am passionate about the act of giving and about the work that Compassion and other organizations like them do. So I'm asking you to read with an open mind, pray about it, and respond as you are led with joy.

1. A fiction children's story that I heard on the radio about a year ago sums it up well. A boy recounted the story he had heard to a doubtful older man:

A church in South America had acted on faith to build, but needed to borrow money to start. The day came that the money was due, but the pastor did not have it, and he was facing serious jail time as the penalty. Miraculously, a missionary happened to visit that church on the very same day, and happened to have the money needed to pay off the loan.

The man responded to the story: That isn't very wise to walk around in the jungle with thousands of dollars in your pocket.

The boy replied: The amount due was $50.

If I could take you to the villages and homes of those that benefit from Compassion, and if we were standing there and you knew that you could change someone's life with the money in your pocket, you would do it. And you can do it.

2. This is a true story from Hero Tales by Dave and Nita Jackson.

Abigail Townsend was a friend of the Muller family. She was a little girl that had grown to like George Muller, a pastor who had started an orphange in Bristol, England in 1836. George believed that he did not need to ask for anything, but trusted that God would supply all of his needs.

    One morning, Muller took Abbie by the hand and said, "Come see what our Father in heaven will do for us today."
     He led her into the long dining room, where bowls and cups were on the table, but there was no food. But the orphan children were standing behind their seats, respectfully waiting for breakfast to begin.
     "Children," said Muller, "it will soon be time for school, so let's pray. Dear Father, we thank you for what you are going to give us to eat."
    Just then a knock sounded at the door, and there stood the local baker. "Mr. Muller," he said, "I couldn't sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn't have bread for breakfast, and the Lord wanted me to send you some. So I got up and two o'clock and baked some fresh bread for you."
    Muller thanked the baker and praised God for His care. "Children," he said, "we not only have bread to eat, but God has given us the rare treat of fresh bread."
    Right away there came a second knock at the door. This time it was the milkman, who announced that his cart had broken down outside the orphanage. "I must empty my wagon before I can repair it. Could the children use my cans of fresh milk?"
     There, before her very eyes, little Abbie saw God provide fresh bread and milk for the children.
     "I wish God would answer my prayers like He does yours, Mr. Muller," said Abigail.
     "Oh, He will," said George Muller. "All you have to do is ask Him. Now, what is it that you want?"
     "Some wool yarn," said Abbie, grinning.
     "Well, let's pray, then." And Muller helped her to say a short prayer.
     Some time later, Abbie came running back to Muller. "I want to pray again," she said.
     "God heard you the first time, child." You don't need to pester Him."
     "But I forgot to tell Him what color I want," said Abbie.
     Taking her up on his knee, he said, " You are right, you should tell God exactly what you want."
     "Please, God, " prayed Abbie, "send mixed colors." Then she jumped down and ran to play.
     The next morning, a package arrived for Abigail. Her Sunday school teacher had forgotten her birthday and sent a late gift... of mixed colors of yarn!

You don't need a large savings in order to give. You give, God provides. In giving, you let go of your own resources and power, and you allow God to be the provider. This is the begining of a very exciting adventure, because God's resources are vastly greater than any one person's.

3. A reoccurring theme in my daily spiritual learning recently is that I don't have the be doing something huge in order to be doing something important. What is important is to do my best at whatever God has placed before me at that time. It could be the daily routines: going to work, doing the dishes, paying to bills, etc. It could be stopping to talk to an elderly person in the grocery store. I may be worshiping at church. You don't have to be on a billion committees or fostering special needs children or adopting from the other side of the world (but if you are, bless you a million times!) If folding laundry is the thing which is set before you, do your best and that is the most important thing you could do at that time. Anything else is nowhere near as valuable.

If you feel a tug at your heart right now, maybe that important thing is to take a few minutes to give a little money to make a big difference.... the one thing set before you at this moment.

4.  If you are reading this in America, the very place from where I write, we are in the middle of a spending frenzy. Five days till Christmas and we have or are spending on gifts, parties, candy, ugly sweaters, and traveling. We spend a lot of money at Christmas. I don't know the numbers, but it's a lot. We give our kids gifts that they don't need - they might not even want after a week of owning them. We, (as a whole- not you, unless it is you) don't know how not to consume. Millions of dollars every year are spent on Halloween candy and plastic Easter eggs because we think that we have to. (I'm really not trying to make anyone feel guilty here, this is simply something that gets my fingers typing rapidly)

The fact is that many times more of the children that are waking up to a pile of gifts and wearing new Christmas clothes for exactly four Sundays and one Christmas Eve program, are the children that go on living as usual. Maybe they have not heard of Christmas, or maybe they have heard of it but have not witnessed one string of tinsel to signify that this is Christmas time. Some are even literally slaving over cocoa beans that make up the chocolate you are eating, and they have never had a bite of chocolate in their lives.

We have it good. After a wave of big expenses, I have less money in my account than I have in years, and I still have it good. Money given to buy gifts from the Compassion catalog give a different gift: a gift of change, a gift of hope. Gifts like food and water, learning a profession, livestock for income, or mosquito nets. These are gifts that are not taken for granted.

Giving through Compassion is a chance to really make a difference. It will put a smile on someone's face for more than two seconds. We've spent a whole lot more on things that matter a whole lot less.

5. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Do you want to do something for yourself? Give. Are you sad? Give. Depressed? Scared? Give.

Your heart will be filled with joy unspeakable. 

6. They are people. They have emotions, they get hurt, they look at their children and long to give them something better. Recently, Compassion challenged sponsors to pray for their children. One of the requests was that the sponsored children would be generous with what they were blessed with. That is what I want for my own children! Yes! We don't just want them to take, we want them to thrive. We want them to know God has made them for a special purpose, God has placed them in the care of Compassion, has given them opportunities to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually for a purpose! As I pray with my children at night, my biggest burden is to bring them up to know why they are here at this time, and that they would fulfill their reason for being. This requires health and safety, teaching and opportunity; the freedom to thrive. Oh, that Si (my sponsored child) would have the same blessings as my own children to fulfull his purpose, along with other children and families touched by Compassion.

People investing in people makes for a better world.

Here is the deal: I have been challenged to raise $100 through my blog. Now, I don't have a big following and I don't advertize or do giveaways to motivate, but I figure that at the least four people could give $25.

This is not, by any means the only amount avaliable. Please give what you feel led to give. I would appreciate it if you respond and let me know by commenting (annonomys if you prefer) or by e-mail. Also, if you would share my blog or the link to the catalog to let other's know, what a blessing that would be. Let's do this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peace On Earth

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you the say in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"-Luke 2:10-14

I wonder what went through the minds of the shepherds some amount of time after seeing a multitude of angels proclaim peace on earth, only to witness Herod's men come and slaughter all of the baby boys in Bethlehem. I also wonder if they connected the dots that the reason why these young babies- possibly children or grandchildren of the very same shepherds- were violently killed was because the baby they worshiped was born in their town.

Did it make them doubt God?

I just wonder, because I might have. Since then, terrible wars have been fought. Thousands have been martyred, babies are thrown into fire pits and people groups have been kidnapped and treated with unimaginable disrespect for their precious human lives.

Today. TODAY Children are smothered by their own parents if born the wrong gender, sold into sex slavery for the parent's benefit, some are left to starve while the wealthy steal from the poor, families live in fear that they will be shot for saying the wrong things. The number of martyrs increase for the name of that baby that the shepherds believed would bring peace on earth.

Even American children, who most likely come from loving families, cannot be promised security from the disturbed.

This world is beautiful. This world is a huge, terrifying mess.

I will say what many other Christians are saying, It's pure evil. But it's free will.

Jesus didn't bring world peace. He brought peace on earth. He brought the opportunity to have peace on this earth, even when it is a huge, terrifying mess. I'm so glad that He did.

While I was in Thailand about a month ago, I sat, basking in the tropical sun without any children to ask (demand) a favor.... very conflicted. I knew that not very far outside the walls of my comfortable resort were women that relied on prostitution for their income. They were most likely mistreated by men, and at the very least lacking in self respect. Some may have come through the sex slavery, some may even be children yet. (Dear God, even my own children's ages) How many were without hope? How many cried themselves to sleep? And this city was my paradise for the moment. I admit, I had a very nice time.

In my journal that I wrote in next to the pool, I wrote the verse that God gave me to meditate on:

Search me, O God and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in your everlasting way.
Underneath, I wrote:
  "anxious thoughts and wicked ways are in the same breath."
Next page:
 "I don't want "peace" to blind my eyes from the hurting. I don't want the trials of those hurting to blind my heart from peace."
Some say the recent wave of shootings and natural disasters are proof that there is no God. Although I disagree, I sympathize with that conclusion. However, I have seen far more great and wonderful things to solidify my stance that there is a God, and He is personal and loving. Loving beyond our wildest imagination. It takes some effort to see the evidence. The media does not report it. Our minds even can deceive us by pessimistic thoughts. But oh, it is there.

On the contrary to the initial state of panic, the Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. So I believe the biggest weapon we have against this terrifying mess is joy. We may not feel it right now, but it will return. Hold on to it when you see it, look for it's opportunities, and bring it to other people's lives.

I love God's Word.

Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord- that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful- James 5:11
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13

Friday, December 14, 2012

Real Giving

My father gave my shoulder a pat and explained what he did to my car this time. I gave a weak smile, said thanks, and proceeded to pack up the car. Mom noticed the expression on my face; she knows my temperament well.

"Don't be mad that he helps you. He loves you."

I nodded my head and explained how tired I was, but deep down I knew I was having trouble receiving again. It has always been a challenge for me. Maybe it's because of pride. I'm well into my 30's and my parents still save the day more often than I'd like to admit. Maybe it's that I could never believe that someone helped me out of simply loving me. I've often thought there might be a sense of obligation or ulterior motive. I'm speaking from raw thoughts here- I'm not really that likable.

For some reason, my mother's comment hit me different than usual. My father loves me. I thought of the love I have for my own children- a love that is so strong I can't go a day without smothering them with kisses and "I love you's". I would mess up schedules, break my budgets, lose sleep over, and put myself in various discomforts for anything that would improve their lives. It is possible that my own parents feel the same way toward me, I suppose.

I don't have to be likable, and I don't need to deserve it. They just like loving me.

More than dozens of times, I have received with half hearted thanksgiving, only to realize the thought behind the gift or the sacrifice involved after the fact. It is then that I am overwhelmed with gratitude yet unable to express it or return favors, and I am nothing but humbled.

My father is great, but my Father is far more loving, compassionate, and generous than any human could be.

I have to admit, it is more than I can wrap my mind around.

Dealing with the concept of real giving during Christmas is difficult because as much as I love tradition, some tradition ruins purpose. Giving and receiving gifts for the sake of the season of giving are, at times, not really giving at all. As entitlement plagues our nation, my heart has hardened a little at the flippant phrases cute customs tossed around in such a time as Christmas. Children are taught to be "good" in order to feed their greed. Neighbors pay large sums of money to hang white lights that match everyon'e in the neighborhood. People complain about the Christmas shopping they have to do in order to give. Those in search of a heart warming story throw a few coins in a homeless man's cup, and sing their own praises.

We can't deny it, it's true.

But in the midst of it all, real giving may be seen if you search for it. Or, it may be right in front of you and you may never know it. This is because real giving stems from real love, which is so accurately described in 1 Corinthians 13:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek it's own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Real giving may be caught in the act, but it's intentions are not meant to be seen. Real giving may look false, but the purest of intentions are the force behind it. No one really knows but God and possibly the giver.

I believe that God is so great that any form of giving can be a blessing. I have given for many reasons, like as a child when it was mandatory. Admittedly, there have been times of giving in order to look good, and times where I had a smile on my face while kicking and screaming inside.

I have given out of faith, knowing that it was an act of submission to God's perfect plan. I don't know how it was received, but my blessings were numerous. I have given out of hope, that kindness might make some one's life better. This kind of giving is also beneficial for the giver.

But the gift from love is simply supernatural. It hurts the giver, it tries her patience, it does not make sense. It may cause doubt over time, and it shows no trace of self interest. It is stubborn and certainly not logical. It takes faith, and it takes hope, but the driving force is love.

This love, the purest form of giving, only can come through the power of God Himself. He loves the unlovable and gives grace to the unworthy. He showers blessings on those that are least likely to give back.

And He uses us to do it, which in itself, is a gift of love.

This blog post is an assignment from Compassion International. To check out how you can bless someone in need with a Christmas gift, click here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Europe Rundown

I write many things about what I love about home school. My very favorite thing has nothing to do with any good reason for doing it, it is simply a benefit of it.

I get to see how things come together, especially when I feel out of control. It's thrilling, really.

We are studying European countries right now. Here is the rundown.

Brooke got up early a few weeks ago and pulled out an around-the-world cookbook, opened up to the recipe she had been talking about for months, pointed to it, and said, "I wanna make this."

Gingerbread waffles. Yay. It's Christmas season, we actually had time to make something from scratch, I actually had the ingredients, and the recipe came from Belgium, which we immediately had to look up on the map. Bonus- best waffles I've had, and I didn't even think I liked gingerbread.

While I was in Thailand, Mom took the kids to Lindsborg (aka "Little Sweden") to find dala horses. They were able to check off another "8 Wonder of Kansas" (Actually two- they stopped by Coronado Heights on the way). They brought home dala horses to paint, and suddenly we are familiar with Sweden.

I'm getting to unload many of my memories and pictures from my time in Spain, and they actually care. Their eyes widened as we discussed castles, flamenco dancers, and Gypsies. This may be the only chance I get- to share my love for Spain and have it received with such attentiveness.

The subject moved on to art. One of the favorite paintings was from Picasso's (born in Spain) blue era. As we talk about the wonderful artists from Europe, an art project was born. Van Gogh was the son of a Dutch minster.

It just seemed to come together. Last night we painted while sipping French hot chocolate.

France. Oh, I think we could spend a whole month or more on France. We are attempting to learn French, which has been deterred because our headphones keep breaking, but we do know a little. So many things come up about France out of the blue, like, "Did French fries come from France?"

Artists- My favorite, Monet. My kids know my favorites. Monet is special to everyone here. Crepes, croissants, France has wonderful foods. Even if French fries is not one of them. Fashion, Paris, the Eiffel Tower, phrases we've never thought to ponder that happen to be French. Next trip: France?? We have relatives there!

We were assigned to read about Menno Simons. Oh, yeah kids. You are half European descent, of an interesting group of people called Mennonites. It is all very confusing to them but they know that name "Mennonite" and "Anabaptist" means something to their heritage. So does borscht, zwieback, farming, and Nun ist Sie erschienen, which if I can find the words to, I would love to learn for once with the kids. Maybe while we roll out some peppernuts.

Last year around Christmas, I picked up a used book about Christmas trees around the world. Guess what? Most of the cultures featured, if not American, were European- so the girls studied them and decided that Austria's tree was indeed the most beautiful.

With my bank account nearly wiped out, Mom and I set out to thrift stores and found the perfect supplies- the only things bought new or full price were the styrofoam balls. Figurines and ribbons were second hand or 50% off. We even found miniature sporting ball ornaments for Max to enjoy.

Now, our Christmas tree does not look Austrian. It looks like a thrown together heap of pinks, blues, greens and yellows. Cheap, sparkly balls and ornaments made by little hands is the "theme", if you please. I think it's crooked, and one string of lights does not work. But the Austrian inspired ornaments are my very favorite. Max's too- he especially likes the plastic apples. (Yes! We found plastic apple ornaments at a thrift store!)

A viewing of "The Sound of Music" may be very near in our future.

I have not yet mentioned the stories read from various countries- ones that we actually know where they are on the map! I love it when things connect in those little brains. And mine as well.

Most of this learning came from simply going with the flow, along with a bit of a zealous teacher, who happens to be very disorganized presently. These are the things that thrill me about our school.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's All About Giving

The seed was planted early in life...

"It's better to give than to receive" somehow was forever planted in my memory verse bank. Possibly from a Precious Moments poster, or possibly from a Sunday School lesson.

As in many poster slogans and Sunday School lessons, however, it seemed like a nice idea that was unrealistic. It goes against common sense. You have to take care of yourself first, and if you have anything extra you can give that. But I never had extra. I always had wants that were not met, therefore, there was not extra.

And that seed went through seasons as simply a seed. A small, hard, fruitless seed with enormous potential.

During one of those fruitless seasons, I pondered how it was that others seemed to be free to give to me, but I felt like I was always on the receiving end. Even though there was the thought of how blessed I was that when I was in need someone thought of me, I so desperately wanted to be on the giving end. At this point, I had so little money to hand out. Conviction and desperation for a change gave me the strength to reach out a little at a time, one way or another. Sometimes is was free babysitting, providing a meal, and sometimes all I had to give was a prayer, which is no small gift.

The seed began to sprout. I was blessed by giving. It was hard, though. Some people did not care, maybe they did not appreciate my help, maybe they took me for granted. I mean, this was a huge deal for me to actually be doing something. HUGE. You'd think others would take notice and show a little gratitude.

This caused a bit of a setback, but the desire lingered. Opportunities opened up, resources were sufficient, and suddenly I didn't need a lot of things that I thought I did. Blessings came, some by others, and some by a joyful spirit. And somewhere along the line, I began to realize that giving is life- for life is not simply breathing and growing, but it is meaning.

Giving brings meaning. In direct opposition to my desire to lock myself inside my house and pity yours truly, my desire was to forget about myself and look at all the wonders that are people outside my door and across the ocean. Roots deepened, branches spread, and began to intertwine between other branches, in crevices, through windows, and even sometimes into hearts. Unspeakable joy. Giving is life.

After realizing this, the Lord took the time to tap me on the shoulder and whisper- "I'm glad that you discovered the joy of giving, but it was written in my Word all along." What a shock. God's word is truth, it demands giving of yourself so that life may be full. This happens to be the very thing we want, but have the impression that it will hand us the opposite.

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tounge but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion  before God and the Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." - James 1:22-27
Giving starts as a baby step and then becomes a lifestyle. It becomes the realization that the result of your giving is not your business. Sometimes we have the luxury of seeing it's effects, and sometimes not. It does not matter, though. A friend of mine kindly shared her story in giving:

"The offering out of ones needs is about giving. Years ago as I watched a gal pacing outside my then business I approached her and asked if I could do anything to help her. I could call someone or give her a seat to rest on. I had only hot dogs in my fridge. She was there the entire day, and never said a word. The police came as I was closing my business took her away. Later she returned to the home across from me asking for me. I was gone but she recalled the long day attempts I made to reach her. I prayed for her. No one else noticed her needs, only loitering. We can only try to help and our Abba Father notices all we do."
When the giving becomes a way of life, what we used to think was impossible is not given a second thought, and new and greater challenges beckon our attention. We begin to use creativity, and most exciting of all, faith. This is the time we realize that it has gotten out of our control and there is no where to go but to trust God or turn back. I don't want to turn back. The life I've left I hope to never see again. We can only go forward, so I hold fast onto God's promises of provision and protection. I search for those that have gone ahead of me in their giving journeys and draw strength from testimonies- some only a few years ago and some from the scriptures... and anywhere in between.

Truly, when I began to accept the idea of giving is when I really started living. My prayer is to see the full potential of that seed before I leave this earth, and I hope that the joy I have from the adventure of being a doer of the word would inspire a few others to challenge themselves in this as well.

It's all about giving.

This blog post is an assignment from Compassion International. To check out how you can bless someone with a Christmas gift, click here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December Reading

Last December, I read one book with each of the girls. I vowed to continue it all year long, but let that good intention slip away until this December, when I remembered it again.

Savannah chose "A Christmas Carol", Summer chose "James and the Giant Peach", and Brooke chose "Charlotte's Web", which I had started earlier but forgot about it until now.

My kids love to watch shows on the the computer and movies as well, but there is something different about a book. It is quoted over and over and giggled over and about, it's themes penetrate the entire day and new vocabulary slip out of children's mouths.

We have a sudden interest in spiders and spider web making.

They found a plastic spider ring. The wads of string are the spider's many insect meals. One web actually had "Some Pig" weaved into it, but Max got to it before my camera did. 

I have blessed in the knowledge that I get to do something so enjoyable with my children that profits all of us immeasurably. Yes, folks, this is my job. To read along, listen to their improved annunciations, rhythms, and expression, to answer a hundred questions, to laugh my head off until I cry.

To realize they are smarter than I am, or certainly smarter than I was at their age, and have satisfaction knowing that. To read about Ebenezer's vision of Ali Baba and have my nine year old tell me who Ali Baba is, to have my six year old spout off spider facts and ask me to search for a picture of some spinnerets, and to experience my stubborn eight year old asking me if she can read this time.

As for me, I love watching shows as well, but there is something about a good book that simply becomes a part of us that no movie can accomplish. Those are the books I have on my shelf simply because I love them too much to part with them. They have inserted a memory chip of their meaning into my mind to forever shape my thoughts. A kind spider, a changed heart.... and a centipede that will sing about a luscious peach.

I am blessed.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday Morning

It has been ten days since I returned from my long- awaited vacation. I knew that I needed on badly, to get away and find a fresh perspective, to spend alone time with my husband, to have a little fun, and to spend time with old friends and get to know some new ones. It has come and gone- the best two weeks I've had in a good while, and what I have gained is not completely what I expected.

Refreshed- yes, but came back to less money and more work.

Time alone with my husband- yes, and I learned that we can spend two weeks alone together and still like each other.

People- my love for people has only grown, and so has my heartache for reasons I don't think I should mention here nor do I think I could effectively communicate. My friends, I love the fact that I have friends all over the world that I believe will be friends until I die- and perhaps even after.

A new perspective- oh, my. I would say yes, but I cannot even tell you what it is. Currently, it is disillusionment.

I know nothing. Nothing makes sense to me, there is no easy answer to anything. I don't even want to write because I have nothing to say (but I did because it is therapeutic).

I still love Jesus. Possibly the only thing I can grasp hold of, that and the promise that God is my provider and my peace.

After I returned, God seemed to refresh my memory of all the ideas and dreams I've had, which seems cruel because I can't do them. I'm raising four kids on a shoestring. Homeschooling, none the less. And God, you keep telling me to care for the ones that can't care for themselves when I don't think there is an ounce of money or energy left to give.

One (or two) hand fulls of things around the house need significant attention, my kids need to be fed, the world is hurting, and I know nothing.

If there is something that I can recall from the various thoughts these last ten days, it is that the dreams and visions God has given me don't go away in hard times. I have learned so much about what was wrong about my character, work ethic, and theology, and I'm sure that He's not done with me yet. Until He says, I keep living and learning. Or more accurately, changing my character to match His. Then maybe he will fulfill what I thought should already be done.

And so this is what I know through my faith that God knows what He is doing:

Righteous living produces love (believing all things, hoping a things, enduring all things), joy (in any circumstance), peace (which can produce generosity), patience (Lord, help me), kindness (to those that turn your stomach because you have chosen righteousness), faithfulness (not fair-weather), gentleness (revenge is mine, saith the Lord), and self control (these two words have been most responsible for making me a hypocrite).

Anything else is not the right path.

This is what I painted over by bed yesterday, I thought it is a terrific reminder. And a great way to procrastinate from cleaning.

Praise the Lord.