Thursday, December 31, 2009

Epic Fail Week...or something else?


When I look back at the last couple of weeks, I just have two words that come to my mind. EPIC FAIL. In the midst of it, my sweet girl and her dear friend, said "Nay, in a couple of days you are going to laugh at this." That didn't go over so well at the TIME, but I can honestly say, I am laughing now. This whole "Moving During the Holidays" should be made into a National Lampoon's movie. I'm just saying.

Let me give you an example. The morning of Christmas Eve we find out some amazing loser in California has stolen our debit card number and pin code, and is roaming around filling up his SUV at gas stations in Marina Del Rey. Nice, right? Epic Fail #1- we must have used some shady ATM and they got our info.

Christmas goes great, wonderful time, and the MINUTE the last guest's foot is out the door, I am packing like a mad woman. And I promptly break two family heirlooms from Steve great grannie. Epic Fail #2- don't hurry with the breakables.

Saturday, head to work, Steve and the kids are packing, day is mostly going well. Get off work early so I can help, and as I am going through a stack of mail, I notice a package from my work. I thought it was just the generic "Look what a great place you work at" magazine they put out a couple of times a year- but Oh NO- that is NOT what it is. It is the benefits enrollment package that I needed to fill out and sign by the deadline- TWO WEEKS AGO. Apparently, because it had been forwarded, the post office kindly stuck the yellow forwarding label over the part of the envelope that says "Time Sensitive Materials- Response Needed." Epic Fail #3- when you take a position SPECIFICALLY to get medical benefits for your family, make sure you fill out the paperwork immediately, or you lose until next year's enrollment.

Sunday morning starts off great. Co-worker agrees to take my shift so I can keep packing, go to church and God rocks my boat with the reminder of his love and the fact that, "No one can make a brand new START, friend, but everyone can make a brand new END." Steve and I say goodbye to our son as he heads to a youth retreat, and we start loading up the car and truck with odds and ends to move. Truck is stuffed with tons of stuff an hour or so later, car is ready, ignitions GO. Or not. Steve's truck won't start. EPIC FAIL #4- make sure when you beg your husband to sell his gorgeous sports car so you can have no more car payments, that he doesn't turn around and buy a beater that he is going to "restore". Push the truck down the driveway, get it jump started and away we go.

Now for the BEST day, Monday morning- pick up the UHaul with my two helpers, Jazz and her friend. I am a little nervous about backing up the 26foot monster into my teeny alley and driveway in Two Toned Land, where the HOA freaks out if you block the road, but I can't find anyone to drive it for me and Steve's at work, so here we go. I am doing great, manuevering the plants, electrical boxes, lining up with the garage post. Ooops. Forgot the roof eve hangs over a few feet from the post, and I have now successfully smashed the gutter and eve with the back of the UHaul truck. Epic Fail #5- yeah, I just suck.

Movers arrive and find me sitting on the front stoop in a daze. But they promptly start loading the truck...and terrify me the entire time that one of them is going to drop down the stairs in cardiac arrest and I am going to have to code him right there, and the other is going to have an asthma attack and I had already packed all the inhalers and nebulizer. They really tried their hardest, but were not physically or mentally capable of making this move happen in an efficient way. Epic Fail #6- don't go cheap and hire Craigslist movers, use the professionals.

After 3 hours of hardly anything getting done- I cut the movers short and tell them to just take the junk...I mean household goods...to the new house and we would do the rest ourselves. They agree, and continue to wheeze and turn purple as they tie things in and finish loading the UHaul. At the new house, have them unload everything in the garage and send them on their merry way. Take the UHaul back to the store, everything goes great. Turn in the keys- and realize I lhad my car keys in my jacket...and I am wearing a sweatershirt. Said jacket is on the chair at my house. Epic Fail #7- don't get stranded at the UHaul store on moving day, it will make you want to cry.

Call Stevo- he can leave work early and come give me his key. Great, the girls and I say "Hey, we need a break anyways, we will walk a couple blocks to Carls Jr, get some lunch while we wait." Great plan. As we are walking, God decided to remind me to be thankful for being a fertile woman of child bearing age, except I don't want any more kids and at that moment had no feminine hygiene products in my purse. Or anywhere for that matter, as all bathroom items were packed in boxes and buried in the nightmare of a garage the movers made. Epic Fail #8- being a chick can really stink sometimes...and ALWAYS keep some personal items in your purse. NO MATTER WHAT.

Steve saves the day, get the car, head to the new house to attack the mess. Moving, moving, moving, things are getting done, furniture in place after many frustrating moments as I try to fit 3000 sq ft of junk into an 1100 sq ft house. Family room mostly put together, sliding a rubbermaid tub across the beautiful, brand new cherry wood floor, SCRATCHHHHHHH. Apparently there was a tiny pebble, or crumb, or something- never did find it- that was lodged under the box and it left a beautiful, LONG scratch across the family room floor. Epic Fail # 9- don't be lazy, PICK UP ALL BOXES.

Day ends with a quiet tear, house is coming together, and at least no one has lost a limb or their sanity. Papers were filed at the court house towards our previous landlord and his Epic Fail of paying his mortgage, and we are moving on. Thank you, Lord. Steve kindly tries to set up the washer and dryer for me so I can wash clothes- the dryer hose won't reach and their is something wrong with the washer connections, they just squirt out water. Epic Fail #10- don't bother setting up the laundry room until you have gotten a good night's rest, it will send you over the edge.

Tuesday morning, head to work, freezing cold- but still breathing. Thank God for little miracles. Hospital is slow, my boss is wonderful and let's me head home early. Get back to unpacking, organizing and the general insanity of life. Steve is finishing up the last things at the old house, and the snow starts to fall. This was actually a wonderful blessing, and my mood started to improve. Our new home looks beautiful in the snow, and the yard was transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland. But my poor husband was freezing, so Epic Fail #11- don't try moving in December and then send the movers away early. You never know what the weather will do to your poor husband as he tries to move everything else on his own.

Did you like my story? I wish I was crafty and could tell it like a real National Lampoon's Movie, but you get the jist. It is pretty funny when you think about it, and in the midst of all the bad, God was incredibly good. When I woke up Sunday morning in tears, and laid there frustrated and feeling like a failure- God gave my husband such sweet words for me. Steve read me Psalm after Psalm of our Father's provision and love for us, it was such comfort to my heart. He reminded me that God hears my cries(Psalm 3:4), He listens to my prayers and I can watch Him work (Psalm5:3), God is my shield and will lift my head no matter what (Psalm 3;3), and as my shield, He FAVORS me (Psalm 5:12), and God protects me, loves me, saved me, and is ALWAYS ready to forgive...oh, Thank you, Lord for that (Psalm 3:5, 13:5, 145:8). Monday, Nick called us out of the blue and offered his much needed help, such a blessing- and he even gave us hours of free muscle Tuesday. What a great brother in law and friend. Sweet Karen came bearing delicious treats to lift my heart on Wednesday morning, and I was again reminded how wonderful it is to be a part of God's family. That no matter what a failure you are, there are some people who can truly love you anyways.

So, God be praised- we are officially moved. AGAIN. And since I jacked up the floor already, I guess we will have to stay here for the rest of our lives. :) As long as this new landlord remembers to pay his mortgage. Hahahahha.

Thank you, Lord for a good night's sleep and some fresh perspective. Thank you for giving me a roof over my head, food in the fridge, money in my pocket and clothes on my back. Thank you for good friends, great family, and the salvation of my soul. You, Lord, are a great God.
"I sleep and wake up refreshed, because you, LORD, protect me. "Psalm 3:5

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How could you be so heartless?

Time to get it off my chest, and people are going to get mad. But ya know what? As Jack Nicholson would say, "YOU can't handle the TRUTH!" :)I realized yesterday how often I get my philosophies from scenes in movies. It's like I have a movie reel in my head, and life is little clips...I just wish I could find a way to dub incredible musical themes over the lows and highs, then it would be just about perfect.

This post is about the Middle East. More than that, it is about apathy. It is for my children, so when I am dead and gone they might happen upon this little note, and if they are being apathetic losers who care only for themselves and their own relations, they might be SHAMED into understanding. I hope, they see me right up in their grill, talking as fast as ever, eyes on fire.

Obviously, I am more than frustrated at the conversations I hear in the wonderful, liberal Northwest. Could there be any more selfish people on the planet? I am sorry- I want to not resort to name calling, but if you have said to me "We need to get our troops out of the Middle East...those are our boys over there...we are killing civilians...it's all about OIL (OH! That one sends me over the top!)...it's not our job to police the world...it's a conspiracy"- if you have uttered those ridiculous falsities in my presence and gotten the resulting onslaught of my mouth, I can't say that you didn't earn the names I called you. :) I am working on that filter between my brain and my mouth, but I can't say I regret reaming you. God still teaching me patience. :)

I watched the movie Hotel Rwanda yesterday while wrapping presents. ACK. If you have seen that movie, you can imagine how few presents got wrapped. Why I thought that would be a "nice, comfortable" movie to accompany my American gluttony of materialism, I have no idea. But I don't believe in accidents, so God ordained it for a reason. My heart sank as I watched Tutsi children and families be massacred on the screen, all for the reason that the Hutu's DIDN'T LIKE them. Almost a million deaths before the Rwandan soldiers got it under control. This movie was based on the true stories of many Rwandans, and the devastating murders and atrocities that happened during that particular genocide in 1994. Horrible, horrible time- but due to the conversations I had this week- the part that stood out to me the most was the UN and the foreigners. I can't re-state everything that happened in the movie, but you can wikipedia "Rwandan Genocide", or watch the movie for yourself and see the reality of what happens when "Good people do nothing". Now, the main characters are amazingly noble and self-sacrificing. But the UN, the Americans, the Belgians are all slow to respond, and slow to care. It was heart breaking, because it is truly as though we are doing the exact same thing in the Middle East. Who cares if there aren't weapons of mass destruction? Who cares if there's oil under their feet? There were-and probably still are- civilian families being terrorized, raped, murdered and re-educated while we worry about our bottom line.

I am trying to believe that the opposition to the war is really out of concern for our soldiers, but I ask you, just like Pippin asked the Ents during LOTR, "but you are a part of this world!" (Again- movies sometimes have the best themes!)

Our soldiers are trained, military personnel who signed up to "protect and serve". If they don't like DOING THEIR JOB, then they shouldn't have joined the military for a free college education. The men and women who joined to "be a soldier" are never the ones complaining. The ones that love humanity, and protecting the weak from the bullies...they are right where they know they are needed most.
Can you honestly say, that when they see the mothers sheltering their children from terrorist gunfire, when they drag the innocent, dead men out of the streets after another bombing- can you honestly say that all those soldiers believe that things would be better if they weren't there? We hear all the time that the violence is escalated because of the peace keeping forces. Really? Learn from Rwanda, you fools! The minute the peace keepers pulled out, the terrorists, dictators and rebel idiots shut down all unauthorized, outside communications and instead of bombing a building hoping for casualities, they just walk right into the "infidels/traitors" homes and slit their throats...along with their children. And you just didn't have to hear about it anymore because all the cameramen were sent home.

Now, why we are helping in the Middle East while Africa continues to kill itself...that's for another opinionated day. :)I am not foolish enough to believe all our leaders are these caring, crusaders. But I do believe that God uses those selfish leaders to sometimes put things in motion to save those who love Him. And I can tell you from first hand stories I have heard and read...to those mothers who can sleep at night now, to those children who get to go to school again, to those fathers who can work and provide for their families without fear because there are American soldiers right outside the gates...to those people- the war in the Middle East is a blessing, not a curse. They want to be protected by anyone who cares enough to give them a voice.

Watch Hotel Rwanda with new eyes for this generation- and see if you can keep yourself from seeing history repeating itself. Don't NOT care about the world around us, friends. To keep it real, picture the man in the photo below- he is the real Paul from the movie. The simple, ordinary hero who shelter over a thousand people and saved their lives...because he cared.

Father God, bring us to our knees in intercession for these hurting peoples all over the world. We have to live our lives here, and count our blessings for the freedoms and luxuries we have- and thank you for that, Lord- but help us not to forget those who weren't born American. Help us remember...and not grow weary in doing good.

"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Psalm 82:3-4

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Ode to Cyber Friends...


What a wonderful day off yesterday was! I almost think working 6 days a week is worth it, because I appreciate the days off so much more. I didn't get even half of my to-do list done, but I did have my spirit renewed and my laughter bank filled up- so I would say the day was a success. Christmas Concert, High School event, pedicure, good friends- what a great day.

I had the wonderful opportunity to not only get a pedicure, but to sit for two hours and talk with a dear friend- who I have seen face to face all of one time. Sounds so weird, doesn't it? I always ask Steve if it is strange that I feel so connected to some people through my computer, and he keeps saying no- but I don't know. :) From Slovenia, to Georgia, to California, and back to the Northwest again, I have dear sisters that I pray for all the time, laugh and love with, and yet- it is all through technology. Whether it is blogging, emailing or texting- our lives don't allow us to sit down and have a real cup of tea together, but our computers and gadgets let us grow in Christ as friends. How weird is that?

Well, today- I don't much care, because my dear Cyber friend blessed my socks off yesterday. In the very literal sense. Bahahaha! How did she know I would need time to sit, have a nice foot massage and get pretty toes for Christmas? If she had not pushed for it and asked to set a date to get together, yesterday would have been filled with bill paying, moving boxes, scrubbing floors and toilets, and general sweat and tears. (Not that all that still doesn't need to be done, any volunteers?) Instead, God gave me the physical rest, and my buddy brought a spiritual reminder. She is such a gracious, patient lady. Listening to her talk about her life, her kids, and her hope for the future- I was reminded how much God is working all around me. Being with her quiet heart was so good for me, and I am just praying that I don't have to wait until I am 60 too to get that. She even gently reminded me not to hate my nasty landlord and give him the benefit of the doubt. :)

All in all, I am a thankful girl today. As I head to work to see my patients, I can do it with a bounce in my step. Thank you, Lord, for the friends who help us, and a world that needs us.
"Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel." Proverbs 27:9

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fiction, facts, and grace...

Ever wake up and just know that today is the day? Today is the day that you finally admit the truth about yourself? That you are FINALLY willing to admit, to verbalize, to announce out loud (even if just to yourself in the bathroom mirror)....that you are....Fill in the blank. Mornings that stay in your memory for the rest of your life. I don't know about you, but I have had about 5 mornings like that in my short life, and today was one of them.

I had been struggling with my failures this last couple of weeks...as usual. Letting down kind friends, being too busy to breathe, missing physically the feeling of robustness that comes with good diet and exercise, wanting to know if I was ruining my children, failing my husband and all in all, doubting the reason for taking up space on the planet. Now, in my right conscious mind I had the answers that I should and haven't been necessarily crotchety or depressed. But in the quiet of my mind, when I toss and turn in bed, I wondered...I wondered if maybe, just maybe...I was the exception to God's "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jer 29:11 Just maybe God didn't mean that for me, because, in the word's of my son, I "fail at life". (He says that jokingly, don't worry- I would have him in counseling if he told me that for real.)

Long story short- this morning was that morning. I finally looked in the mirror, and couldn't pretend anymore. I admitted to myself "Renee, you just don't GET grace." Ugh. Those that know me, know how much I struggle with this, and how much MORE I struggle with not understanding something!:) Give me the rule book, let me pay you back, don't say Happy birthday or give me presents, because then I will owe you. Being a Christian, I love the sound of grace and it's a pretty doctrine to have on the shelf, and I KNOW that I can't be with God without it, but in the closets of my mind, I hope that I can EARN something, PAY BACK something for all that God does. That was my revelation- I just don't GET IT and I MUST if I want to be effective in this life. Not only must I understand grace, but I WANT to understand it and embrace it. I am so hoping that realization is truly the first step to recovery. :)

I finally realized: FICTION: You are a Christian and an adult, a free born American with more blessings than you can count- you should have it together by now, Loser. FACT: You do "fail at life", Renee. And that isn't necessarily going to change the harder you try. You will always make mistakes because of your natural bent towards self gratifying, "Center of the Universe" thinking. Someday you might not do it in such big and bold ways, but even when you are 85- you will still mess up.

All week God has been throwing GRACE in my face. From the book review I have been trying to write, the scriptures I have been reading, even when a good friend was telling me the best way to witness to a Mormon- grace, grace, grace. I flipped out over a facebook comment today- why? Because it reminded me of the crappy person I was before Christ, and I didn't want to deal with this GRACE issue. Bah! When God starts slinging, it does no use dodging right? I think, though, that He finally brought it home- with a nice coconut cream pie to the nose tonight.

Now, for the best part: GRACE makes the fiction disappear, and the FACT easier to swallow. If the God who has "determined the number of the stars and calls them each by name", the God who is "mighty in power (and) His understanding has no limit" (Psalm 147:4-5), if that God was willing to come down here, to live and walk around in a finite body for the sake of saving my neck, the very best and only thing I can do is say "Thank You". Grace was defined once as "God's Riches At Christ's Expense". So true, and so perfect. I am praying that you feel that grace right now with me, and know that no matter what you might THINK about yourself and your record, God isn't going to give you what you deserve- He is going to give you what Christ earned for you...life everlasting. I still don't totally understand it, don't totally know what to do with it besides smile and praise God for His goodness, but Isaiah 54 reminds me a little of how great knowing God's grace really is:
"Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach...

For your Maker is...the LORD Almighty...
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth." (Verses 4-5)

Right now...God's grace is more than sufficient for me...for the first time in weeks. :)
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4-5
Mmmmmm...hang out in Ephesians 2 a little while tonight, it is DELICIOUS.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ahhh...to gain some perspective.


It is truly AMAZING what a day off can do for your heart. I was blessed with the first day off from the nursing gig I had had in over a week, and the first day off in over a month to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Not to say I did nothing, but there was nothing I HAD to do. What a glorious freedom that brings. :)

I think that is one of the things I like best about December. The holiday season almost forces you to reflect on the things that normally blow right by your mind. Thanksgiving makes you "call to mind" all the things you are thankful for, everywhere you turn a Christmas Carol is playing or a sign reminds you that Jesus ADORES you so much He came to earth to save you, and even New Years is a time where most people look to the future and decide to be intentional about some good "resolution" they want to make in the next year. I love it. I am a firm believer that nothing good ever happens accidentally (it's hard to believe in a sovereign Lord and believe in accidents at the same time:)...we have to prepare, take aim, and TRY to nail our target. So our target better be worth it, right?

Remembering all that God does every day is the best way to stay intentional- His ways and His very being should always be our target. To remember the ways He has been merciful, to remember His strength and power, and to REMEMBER the way He provides for all our needs...oh, how can we not want to stand up and cheer for Him!
I think Mary, Jesus's earthly mother said it best:
"His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. " Luke 1:50-53

God bless each of you today. I am glad to go to my church this morning and worship the God of the Universe with my family, I am blessed to have a home to move to finally and a job to work hard at. And I am SO happy that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I wish I was an elf!

My favorite part about this...whoever made it- is these are the EXACT people I would love to have a fun snowball fight with! I love you guys!
(Don't forget to pause the music on the right before you start the video.)
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Any Advent traditions?


I think that sometimes God gives you those weeks from "H-E-Double Hockey Sticks"...just so that you hear Him a little louder. :)When I can't sleep and the fears come, I have to say...that is when I feel His arms around me the best.

Tonight we started our Advent celebration like we have for the last 7 or 8 years. I thought for sure this would be the year the kids wouldn't want to do it, as they are getting older and it is kind of a cheesy thing- but to my pleasant surprise, they both asked ME if we could. And it was just what I needed. God is so amazing like that.

We spend every night of the weeks of Advent with a prayer, reading one of three books by Arnold Ytreeide, and going to bed by candlelight with a Christmas carol on our lips. The series started out with Jotham's Journey, then went to Bartholemew's Passage, and concluded (unfortunately) with Tabitha's Travels. We rotate the stories each year, and this year we are chillin' with Tabitha.

I can't say enough about how neat these books are (there is a blog post from last year regarding it too). The first week you light one candle on your advent wreath and follow these ordinary Hebrew children through some extraordinary situations. Each night leaves you on a cliff hanger, and the collective groan from my 6 and 7 year olds (and now my 14 year old)was always my favorite part. The story ends abruptly each night and the book goes in to the devotional. They literally COULD NOT WAIT for the next installment the following night. This continues, with each Sunday before Christmas letting you light one more candle, so by Christmas Eve, 4 candles are blazing and the mood and atmosphere has gone from dreary, dark and scary to full of expectation and excitement. Then, Christmas morning- you get to light the last candle and conclude the story...and SPOILER WARNING...all three books concluding in a manger in Bethlehem. So cool! Our kids never complained or wanted to open presents first thing Christmas morning, they hurry out to the coffee table to light the candles and see what happened to their "story" friends. It makes Christmas morning so much more fun.

The author does a fantastic job of bringing in the culture and lifestyles of Hebrews during the time of Jesus's birth with humor, tradition, and excitement. Lots of sword fighting, jackals and near misses for your boys, and family love and tears for your girls. I don't want to give anymore away, but if you have never heard of these books- consider borrowing one from me or buying Jotham's Journey on Amazon and trying it out this year. Steve and I love them as much as the kids do. (It specifically tells the adults not to read ahead the first year, and let the excitement build...I of course, failed at patience and read all the books through the minute the kids got to bed! Muahahahaha!)

Tonight we had a couple of guests, as two daughters of a friend of mine are staying with us...and as I watched them bow their heads to pray, listen to the story, and then walk to bed by candlelight singing "We Three Kings" and "Silent Night", I couldn't help but smile. God is so faithful to us...in all our darkness and sin, He brought a single, burning, bright Light into our world that will never dull or go out. Oh, thank you, Father for that.

The ending devotion from the book tonight said it best, and this is my prayer for you, friends- "Advent is a time for us to focus on the real Jesus of Scripture, a time to get rid of our own ideas about who He is and what He should do for us. It's a time to learn from Him how to be servants, to be humble, to love." (Arnold Ytreeide, Tabitha's Travels, page 15) No matter how much worse this week gets...I am not going to forget the blessing of Advent,I won't forget the excitement that comes with the expectation and celebration of the birth of my Savior and Friend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


"Know that the LORD is God.
It is He who made us, and we are his;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.

For the LORD is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations."
Psalm 100:3-5

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I think John the Baptist "got" us...


I finally figured out why I am so anti- fall/winter season. Not only am I cold to the bone ALL THE TIME, but when the hard stuff of life happens, during this season there is no EXTERNAL distractions to remind me that "tomorrow is a new day". No beautiful peonies, no breathtaking roses or friendly petunias. No bluer than blue skies or sun light through the tree canopy. Everything is either dead or dying. Nice, right?

I have been struggling to not go to the negative- but it wasn't until the other day that God really gave me a smack. A good smack. It's so hard to forget that your stinkin' landlord is a compulsive liar, hard to forget that you are going to have to move again for the umpteenth time because of his bad choices. Hard to stop missing all the things you once held dear if you are horse crazy and living in "Two Tone Land" suburbia with no horses or dogs for comfort, just your gossipy retired neighbors two feet away on the left, and the neighbors who refuse to speak two feet on the right.

But to tell you about the smack- We had come off this amazing weekend where we took the teens to an "all girl" Christian conference. Awesome, encouraging, amazing time of connecting and seeing God work. But I still felt kind of bummed out. Like "Is this really all the Christian life is suppose to be, Lord? Did I miss the email saying misery was part of your plan?" Nothing but messing up and fighting just to stay afloat?

Then I heard a guy named Ron Merrell talk about John the Baptist and Jesus (www.cschandler.com- he use to preach at our church in AZ but has since moved to California. Amazing lover of Jesus, and always so biblically sound). And God reminded me what his purpose for me is. Smack! :)

What was so wonderful was to realize that my questions didn't mean I lacked a love for God, which is sometimes how I feel. My questions didn't mean I was a loser and a failure to God. My questions just meant I was in good company. You see, Johnny boy- the Master of the Desert, the Preacher of Truth, the WILD man, and the person who baptized GOD- wondered at God's plan sometimes too. Luke chapter 7 shows us a place God brought John that no one would ever want to be. He was in a dark, dank cell...waiting for his head to roll. I think he was just saying to himself over and over, "don't give up, don't give up". But in verse 19 you see it, you see Johnny be real, and ask Jesus- "Why aren't you rescuing me?" Now- it doesn't say it exactly like that, he actually says "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Luke 7:19 But the Bible tells us that John KNEW Jesus was the one, he was THERE when he dunked the Lord of the Universe in the river and heard the voice of GOD speak down, claiming Jesus as His son...the savior of the world. (Matthew 3)I think John was really asking "Is my pain and DEATH really part of your plan?"

My favorite part is how Jesus answered:
Blind dudes- check! Lame walkers dancing- check!
Creepy skin diseases not grossin' us out anymore- check!
People SAVED- check check check!

Ron Merrell is so bold (and right) to paraphrase and say that maybe Jesus was saying "I didn't come to save you from pain and suffering, John. I came to save you from MEANINGLESSNESS." It is a blessing if this fact doesn't cause you to fall away."

Can I trust Jesus to come through for me? You bet I can! And it doesn't have to look the way I think it should look, and it doesn't have to be at the time that I most want it. I can't see the BIG picture, so I need to see the BIG God. This good and faithful pastor said "The Christian walk is SUPPOSE to be a dangerous, scary adventure." And as I read John's story again, and felt a small taste of what he might have felt, I realized how totally right that was. I shouldn't settle for less than a dangerous, thrilling, scary and AWESOME adventure in this life- because if I don't quit now- I just might get the chance to do something amazing for my King.

I hope this makes you want to read Luke again like it did for me. Dig deep, friends- and see what God has for you. Now I can even look at this dreary, gray season with a smile and see that "tomorrow is a new day".

(In my survey of my sad, dying garden- I did find this little treasure! I spent the whole summer fighting to get this begonia to behave...with little success. And with no attention and freezing temps- look at it! So vibrant and pretty. Thank you God for the little God Stops that make us smile.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Veteran's Return Desks". True Story- Such a fantastic school lesson...

Snopes.com verified this really happened- Mike Huckabee spoke on it in 2007. What a lesson. Thanks, Jody, for passing it along! :)

"Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks from her classroom.

When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks. 'Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?'
She replied, 'You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.'

They thought, 'Well, maybe it's our grades.'
'No,' she said.
'Maybe it's our behavior.'
She told them, 'No, it's not even your behavior..'
And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.

By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk less classroom, Martha Cothren said,
'Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.'
At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.

Twenty-seven (27) U..S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand along-side the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.
Martha said, 'You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever
forget it.'
By the way, this is a true story. Martha Cothren is the daughter of a
WWII POW."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Veteran's Day Parade in the Northwest...great idea.


I was severely traumatized this morning as I tried to use my favorite body lotion. It is the brand I first discovered in Arizona, a wonderful blend of coco-butter, aloe, coconut and something else. But the SMELL. Oh, the smell makes me think of sunshine and warmth, suntans and tank tops. Nearly brought me to tears...considering the 50 degree temperature out my door and the raindrops splattering on the windows. :) A season for everything...This is a day that I just knew I should have stayed in bed.

But, now that I am done whining I will admit that I had a great God Stop today. Jordan's band was scheduled to march in the Veteran's Day Parade (Veteran's Day is this Wednesday if you didn't remember)so we all bundled up and met my family in downtown to show our support. Not only did I get to cheer for my sweet boy and see him rock his solo- but I also had the privilege to cheer and wave at men and woman who have blessed our country with their service. From the little Young Marines who were marching out of respect; to the crinkled, bow- backed old men who rode in the decorated vans...there wasn't one that went past that didn't remind me of my Dad. My whole life, Dad wore a green flight suit and leather bomber when he went to work, and I remember being a little in awe of this big man who shouldered all my worries. As I grew older, I learned that my big Dad was just a man, who was learning and making his way through this crazy life just like the rest of us. But I never stopped being amazed by him. By his stories and the look on his face sometimes...knowing that he had seen and done things that I could only imagine. It's strange to look at your parents and know they had a whole other life before you became the center of it. :) My dad was 31 when I was born, and sometimes I wonder what kind of man he was before that. I still feel the same way I did when I was six. My Daddy is the biggest, bravest, kindest and strongest daddy in the whole world.

Thank you to all the Dads out there that have put on the uniform and fought the good fight to give us an America we can be proud of. A land of the free, and the home of the brave. God bless America. (And most importantly, thank you for protecting us so well that I can be traumatized by my wonderful lotion on a cold Saturday morning. There is a whole lot worse that could of happened to me.:)

(This is the way we celebrate a parade in the rainy Northwest...)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween...Celtic New Year...All Saints Eve...or something else?


Whoooweee. What an email fest the last couple of weeks have been. Between the homeschool groups I still follow and the blogs, I can't believe the battles I read regarding Halloween. To celebrate, to avoid, to substitute? Apparently, that was the question.

I read a quote from one columist who stated "There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries." I have tended to agree with that over the years, knowing it would do no good to pretend there was no such thing as Halloween, but also not wanting to glorify all that was evil about it. Now that my kids are older and scary movies seem to be the new cool thing- how do I allow them room to make their own choices, and yet still teach them to avoid the very real, very terrible spiritual world of Satan and his demons? Our TAG group is studying the lies we believe about Satan this week, and as I watched 6 year olds walk up to my door with bloody knives and horrific, scary masks- I realized how prevalent the belief that "the boogieman isn't real" is in America. Now, I don't really believe in the "boogieman", but the Bible makes it very clear that there is a spiritual force in this world trying to SUCK our eternal lives away, and for Christians, destroy our faith and relationship with Jesus. So, do we avoid Halloween because of it's meaning and origins, or can we make it something else?

I truly don't have an answer as of yet. I am always going to do everything I can to bring glory to God, and I think my "Candy Corn Princess" and my "Super Mario" aren't promoting the Wiccan religion by dressing up for Halloween. But I can't say that the "holiday" is very comfortable for me, and in all honesty...I am glad it is over. Maybe God will reveal a more clear option to me by next October 31st.

On a side note- I love how our Christian brother and sister in Slovenia celebrated Halloween. Read their blog for the full story (www.teamwynnfamilyblog.blogspot.com), but since Halloween isn't a big deal in that country...they chose to celebrate Reformation Day! It marks the anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses being nailed to the door...and the beginning of Protestantism (I love making up words). They dressed their toddler up as Martin Luther and taught him how to "ding dong ditch" as they left little presents on the doormats of friends. I love it!

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

What am I whining about!?!


Busy, busy time...I have been watching the crazy squirrels and realized this fall season really is a time to get ready for hibernation. Because if things don't slow down- I am taking the winter off, and will re-emerge in April, ok?

We have literally been going non-stop, so I apologize I haven't had the energy to update the way I want to. I hit the pillow and pass out, then wake up running. But with all of that, God has been good! We at least are not homeless yet, and have seen how awesome God has been in so many ways. I still look at my kids with a little bit of amazement- how they can be so totally cool I have no idea. They have jumped in with both feet into their new school lives and living in town and are doing great. I love it!

There have been moments that I try to be melancholy, but whenever I start whining and feeling sorry for myself, He reminds me I have absolutely no right. :) I read a story last week that gave me the good slap in the face I needed. It was written by Gracia Burnham, a woman who was serving the people of Mindanao, Philippines when she was kidnapped and held for more than a year. During that time, she was terrified, hopeless, and at times- just wanting to die. She also lost her husband, as he was killed during a rescue attempt. In all of this grief and fear, she still knew that as soon as " my release came, I would return to my life of relative ease. Now here I sit in America with a beautiful home, plenty to eat, and a support group- while...women continue to endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ...So when I'm taking a nice hot bath, I pray. When I am putting on make-up and fixing my hair to get ready to go speak, I pray. When I'm running errands for my kids, I pray. When I pass an encouraging sign outside a church, I pray for those who don't have the 'infrastructure' I have. For those who are suffering because they believe in Jesus. For those who think they are all alone, yet remain true to their faith.
I pray for them the same thing I prayed for myself in the jungle: 'Lord, let them feel you close to them. Help them remain faithful as this situation just keeps going from bad to worse. Show them a glimpse of your goodness so they know they are not alone. And at the end, I know You'll be there." Gracia Burnham, foreword in the book, Hearts on Fire by VOM.

How blessed we are...to know that we are never alone and in the end, He will be there.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rain, rain, go away...


It's been a crazy week with family affairs to care for, busy days at the hospital and the clinic, and too many appointments with too few hours. But the kids have enjoyed the end of a first trimester in school, volleyball season is over and Jordan played for his first Homecoming game. Parent/teacher conferences went great and nobody is sick...miracles are real!

But now I know why God has been working me so much at both my jobs. Today is my first real day off in weeks, and all I can think of is... I really miss my horses. I just want to bundle up and spend the whole day grooming and cleaning, scrubbing tack and hugging horse necks. I would love to take any of my sweet horses for a nice cruise. Just moseying along where ever we can. I could let Chester walk along in a dry wash bed with mesquite trees and cactus all around, stirring up dust and watching out for those nasty Emus...or wrestle with Stetson as he sprouts wings and thinks he can fly as he runs up the hill behind our house in Yacolt.
Too bad all I can do is sit in my suburban house and watch the Hannah Montana movie. There is nothing left to clean, the kids are hanging with friends... maybe I will take up the trombone.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What an amazing woman- what an amazing story.

Would I have the courage...the guts, to do such a thing? Oh God- I hope so. Thank you for the life of this little lady, who's legacy still lives on.

And thanks to my new Facebook friend for posting this!

(Be sure to pause the music on the right before starting the video.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I am so doing this next time I go to Target and see a whiner.

Be sure to pause the playlist of music on the right before you start the video.

What Every Girl Wants by Lisa Harper

One wonderful thing about being stuck at home with sick kids is the amount of STUFF a person can get done. Organized my closet, caught up on the laundry thanks to my Stev-o, updated resumes, cleaned the office, made delicious chicken noodle soup, worked on the budget, wrote some curriculum, caught up on good reading, cuddled my sweet girl, and watched tons of Little House on the Praire. If women didn't have to work outside the home- look what we could do! :)

So, picked up a couple books at Women of Faith. Cindy tried to stop me, she blocked the booth with her body and shouted scriptures about self control, frugality, and false idols- but I still succumbed and was too much for her. Both books were written by Lisa Harper, a woman I had not read or heard of before, but her concluding speech at the conference stirred my interest and I wanted to see what she was about. She has a very decorated and impressive resume, but that can be misleading.

This particular book, What Every Girl Wants is "a portrait of perfect love and intimacy in the Song of Solomon" and I thought that sounded interesting. My TAG girls jokingly say they want to do a study on this feisty piece of scripture all the time...and let's be honest, we all know they aren't joking! So I have been looking for material that might work for us, and Ms. Harper's book looked promising. The premise of it being how Song of Solomon can be a revelation of the "level of intimacy God desires with US."

The first chapter I could feel myself bristling as she used quotes from "fluffy" writers like John Eldredge and pop culture references. I had to ask God to give me "unity not uniformity" feelings as I tried to keep an open mind, and He was kind enough to provide me with more references she used that I liked better. Dr. John Murray and C.S.Lewis brought me comfort. :)I know, I am working on my ultra-dogmatic ideals, but I am who I am, right?

The second chapter is what won me over. This isn't a scholarly text or commentary on Song of Solomon, and once I decided to read it as it was intended- just something to remind us of how crazy in love God is for us- I loved it. Lisa Harper reminds us that God passionately pursues us, thinks we are beautiful, seeks us out and wants us not to grow stagnant in our walk with Him. All wonderful things. One of my favorite images she gave was in regards to how God views us. As women, we often are so dissatisfied with ourselves that when someone offers a compliment we say things like "You must need glasses." How often do we let our failures and insecurities cause us to do the same thing to God when He whispers how much He loves us in spite of our flaws?
Here is what Lisa said: "One of the greatest truths we can glean from this (Song of Solomon) ancient, colorful prose is that God is wearing glasses. Rose-colored glasses tinted with the blood of Christ. And through those glasses our Beholder finds us beautiful." (page 20)

She goes on to draw a parallel to Solomon's bride's cold shoulder in 5:2-3 to our apathy and indifference to the Spirit's movement in our lives in a chapter called "When Delight Turns to Drudgery". This is the chapter that held my favorite quote from her because it paints a clear 'Plan of Care' in nursing terms as to the best way to a healthy walk: "Apathy is a dangerous disease that hardens spiritual arteries and causes heart failure. The most effective prescription for it is a dose of repentance, swallowed with humility. And gratitude has been found to be very effective in preventing it". (page 79)

Through out the book she sprinkles related passages and concepts from the Scriptures, and questions or opportunities for the reader to jot down thoughts or feelings. Would I use this book for a small group study? Probably not. Would I pass it on to a girlfriend for a lonely Friday night reading? Most definitely. I think Lisa Harper accomplished her purpose for this book- to remind Christians that the Bible isn't something to snore through, and that God is totally in love with His children. I know it got me reading passages I hadn't read in a long time, and studying the Old Testament with a new vigor.

She sums it up best with her own concluding words: "Ultimately I pray these pages have revealed another facet of God's heart for you, one that reflects the shimmering beauty of His perfect love and the divine intimacy our all-too-human souls are longing for."

Borrow this one from me, or you can buy it from her website- www.lisaharper.net or amazon. Now I am off to hang out with her again in the book, A Perfect Mess by Lisa Harper. Just the title for a girl like me. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

"He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love." Song of Solomon 2:4

(All quotes taken from "What Every Girl Wants" by Lisa Harper, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2006)

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Grand New Day...

Today I have a poor, coughing little girl who needs me to stay home from work to take care of her. Oh, so sad. NOT!Woohoo! Jumping and dancing for joy...feeling guilty for being so happy when my girl is sick but I get to be with her all day! Yippee!

God was busy this weekend. Not only was yesterday a super fun day thanks to good friends who spent hours of their time taking school pictures for my kiddos, but Saturday I went to Women of Faith. Yeah, not my normal idea of a good time, but I am so glad I went! I went with my buddy, Cindy, and every time a speaker would get up and start to announce their topic- we would just look at each other and say "You have GOT to be kidding!" because it was so exactly what we both needed to hear. You know, everything is all about me, and the producers of Women of Faith must have read my journal and scripted this year's program just for me. :)

It was a great mountain top experience, and my prayer is that God would use this energy, this push I feel in my soul, all year long. I seriously wrote down 13 God Stops over the weekend, and maybe He gave those to me so I can "keep on, keepin' on" through whatever is coming. A little nerve wracking to think about, but also bearable- because God is more than big enough to handle it. :)

One of the best things about the weekend was a song that Nicole C. Mullen did called "One Touch". She had written this based on a story about a "Woman with an Issue". It's told in 3 of the gospels, but I especially like the way Mark tells it in chapter 5. His seems to be the most complete picture, and I think the one Nicole drew from. Now, we have already probably read this story a million times, but I am praying you read it again with new eyes, friend. Let it sink into your soul. :)

This woman had basically had a nonstop period for 12 years....ladies- TWELVE YEARS. Can you imagine? Anyways, she so desperately wanted to be healed, and been to doctor after doctor, spent every dime she had on treatments, and still...no cure. In fact, the story says her bleeding had gotten WORSE.

In those days, when a woman was bleeding, she was declared unclean until her time was up, then she would go offer a sacrifice at the temple and be allowed to return to her family. Well, this woman was never able to do that because the flow didn't stop. Anytime she needed to enter an area with people, she had to call out "Unclean! Unclean!" So everyone could get out of her way, and thus not be "defiled"- or morally impure, blemished, stained. Ugh, I can't even imagine.

So this woman bore the shame and isolation of her disease for 12 years, and then she heard of a teacher named, Jesus. And the Bible says she went and found Him amongst a crowd, and thought to herself, "If I just touch His garments, I will get well." Can you picture her? Veil around her, creeping through the people she shouldn't be touching, breaking their societal law by not announcing her condition. Terror at what she was about to do, fear at what could happen if the crowd noticed her, desperation for it to work. The words actually say she was "trembling". Yet, she had such faith that if ONLY she could touch His jacket, He could heal her. Oh, my heart breaks when I think of it. Imagine being 12 years without a hug from your father, brother, husband, son. Without the soft touch of a baby's hand because you didn't want to "dirty" them. No kiss, no physical contact from the ones who mean the very most to you.

Get this: she snuck up behind Him (rockin' brave girl!) and "Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction." Yeah, yeah- seriously, read that again!!! Now, working with the types of patients that I do- I know what someone looks like when they are chronically low on blood. I know what they FEEL like when they don't have enough red blood cells to oxygenate their organs. This woman had been pallid, cold, weak and exhausted, and probably in pain, for TWELVE years, and in one moment- she felt strength in her arms and legs, her breathing grew easier and she probably had rosy cheeks for the first time in over a decade! God be praised! Can you picture it? Oh, hallelujah!

You haven't even reached the best part! This all happens, she gets the lighting bolt of awe when she FEELS the change within her, and then- Jesus turns around and says, Who touched me? Hehehehe In a pushing, jostling crowd- He says, Who touched my coat? You see, he felt the "power" that was a part of Him go out, and knew someone had been healed. Remember- this chick snuck up on a Jewish rabbi and touched Him while she was still unclean, He could have had her imprisoned or killed. Now the dude was staring her down. Great. She was face to face with Her God...the One who rescued her from a lifetime of misery...hell on earth, so to speak. You have to hear it the way God said it: "But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the WHOLE TRUTH." Mark 5:33 Yet another great thing about knowing Jesus, you can be real with Him.

Looking into His face, fearing rejection but overjoyed with thanksgiving for being free of disease...oh, what did she feel like? What did her eyes say? I can't even picture it...but I know what God said. "Daughter, your faith has made you well..." He offered her complete and total healing, not only of her "issue", but of her heart. He was the first friendly face in years. These are the times I wish the Bible was longer. I wish it was a picture book, with an awesome Kodak snapshot of what Jesus's face looked like. I KNOW He was smiling at her and offering her his hand- his touch.

I've got issues...as you well know if you know me. Mine might be easier to cover up, but they are there. What an amazing promise to know that when I am at my most humiliated and terrified, God won't turn me away...and He will offer me complete healing. Mmmmmm...what an awesome God we serve.

To have a faith like that- believing the impossible, with more courage than a mother bear protecting her cubs, putting one foot in front of the other in spite of the world's opinion- and letting God change your whole life. Make it so, Father God, make us all just a little more like her. To come to you with nothing but our faith as a garment.

Check it out for yourself- Mark 5:25-34. And be amazed at the awesome One who adores you. (I also put the song on my playlist, so hope you enjoyed it.) God bless you today.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I miss Mayberry...


Busy, busy fall days- you would think I was a chipmunk trying to get ready for winter. (I am Theodore- the fat one) I can't even begin to tell you what all has transpired in the last month and a half, but I can tell you that we are all still alive. Which I suppose is a good thing. :)

School is all consuming, I am getting to teach more now than I did when we were homeschooling! Different ways, but still the same stuff. It is a good thing, because I get to be with my kids, but it is a bad thing too. Instead of having a whole day to do it in, I have to squeeze it into an already "bursting at the seams" evening. We have to cover the traditional curriculum, but also talk about right choices, boyfriends, girlfriends, alcohol, language, honesty...and the list goes on. Add to that the drama our negligent landlord has caused, normal marriage stuff, my crazy work schedule and Steve's new business- and you get a little part of the picture. I suppose this is what normal families have always felt, but for those of you homeschoolers- you can appreciate why I hate it. Life was a lot better ...I mean, life was simpler...then.

I suppose I am just being nostalgic again. God pointed that out to me very clearly today- through a Rascal Flatts song. (It's on my playlist now, just for your entertainment.) Go figure, I don't even particularly like that band, but it was on the radio and it struck me. I just miss Mayberry...I miss when the days were simpler, "sittin' on the porch drinking ice cold cherry Coke, where everything is black and white... watchin' the clouds roll by". I miss when my kids and I would take our school books out on the porch in AZ and learn algebra with the horses as our backdrop. I miss going to the zoo on a Tuesday afternoon while all the "normal kids" were sleeping through English. And I miss the other homeschool moms who wouldn't look at me like I was on another planet if I said I loved teaching my kids more than anything else on earth. OUR world really does "seem like it is spinning faster and faster", and I am not keeping up. I know that is just a feeling, so I am praying that God would help me find my balance again...but today...I just miss Mayberry.

Now I need to quit my whining and put on my thinking cap, pick up my shield of faith- and say "Bring it". Because no matter how much I might wish for a different stage of life, this is the stage we are in now, and it is filled with glorious moments too. I have been so blessed to watch my kids growing and learning through this experience. God gave me a dear sister this morning to encourage my heart through her honesty and trust in me- she reminded me that I never have to feel alone, and sometimes...it isn't all about me. (Shocking...I know) I have a fantabulous husband who humors me with ballroom dancing classes when I feel unloved and slaps me around, figuratively of course, when I need it. He knows me better than anyone and won't let me get away with my pity parties. The God Stops are endless, if I remember to stop and look for them.

I may be homeless, totally screwing up my kids, and feel like I dropped the ball in a million ways- but truth be told...GOD will NEVER fail me. He will never drop the ball, and everything I go through will bring me back to where He wants me...right in the center of His embrace.

"I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you." Joshua 1:5

Monday, October 5, 2009

Too fast...


Yesterday reminded me of how quickly life is flying by and how GLAD I am that I get to be a part of it. Life is hard, and sad, and beautiful, and fun, and worth it- all at the same time.
Our little niece, Chloe turns 5 today, and it feels like yesterday and she was just a little newborn. Last month, Jasmine turned thirteen- officially a teenager, and yet I feel like I can remember just a month ago holding her hand as we walking into Family of Christ Preschool with tears in both our eyes. I have had my Jordan for 14 years, and they went SOOO fast- now I realized I have only another 4, and as a friend of mine pointed out- how fast do you think those 4 years are going to fly by?

Thinking about all that we have done, experienced and felt as parents is overwhelming, and we have just had a little TASTE. I am so proud of my kiddos for the way they handle life and disappointments, and I feel exhilarated when I see them overjoyed about the blessings God has given.

This last week, we got bad news- and at first, their frustration and anger was tangible. But so quickly they perked back up, and just went on with their business. We found out that our landlord hasn't paid the mortgage since we have been here- 6 months of rent- and now is being foreclosed on. I watched our whole family struggle with the reality of this mess, and then start trusting God to work a miracle, and knowing no matter what we would be together. That made everything else o.k. It was so cool to hear them say that, to sit next to their beds praying together and feeling the peace that transcends all understanding. They handle stress so much better than I do, I hope I can grow up to be just like them. :)

This year has been yet another crazy one, but really- would I want it any other way? To be blessed enough to have two teenagers who make me laugh every day, accept hugs and kisses every night, and still want to sit on the couch and chat with me- no matter where I live, how much I miss my horses and dogs, or how many hours I have to work- it is all so worth it to be able to call these guys...my family.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Don't be a camel.


"As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42:1-2

I can feel my parched throat every time I read this passage, how dorky is that? I know this is suppose to be kind of a metaphor- we are the deer, while God is the water we desperately desire- but it still makes me thirsty.

I had read somewhere awhile back that American Christians are more like camels than deer. Hehehehe Wait, let me explain. Camels are designed to be able to go for MONTHS at a time without drinking, because they are able to store the liquid they need and consume less metabolically. Deer, on the other hand, must drink multiple times DAILY to sustain life. They have no reservoir to satisfy them. Now think about us. Do we on a daily basis, run to the stream of "living water" and satisfy our thirst..for all that He is, and that He desires us to be? Or do we get a fill once a week, or even more likely- once a month, and try to live on that- packing His words into our "camel hump" and pretending that we can live as well and as closely with God that way?

I just keep thinking about how much God designed us to WANT Him daily, He didn't build us with a reservoir. How funny would that passage read if it said "As the camel pants for water every month or so, so my soul pants for you"? Doesn't quite have the same poetic ring to it. With all the crazy things that have happened this last week, I find myself trying to be a camel. Too tired, anxious, busy, whatever- to make the time to meet with my God as much as I usually do, and I can feel the danger of that. I can see the crisis of self-sufficiency that wants to make me believe if I just plan better, work harder, and negotiate more it will be fine, rather than putting all my trust in the one who MADE the plan, WORKS for my good, and doesn't need to negotiate because He MADE the rules. I don't want to try and do it on my own, because...well, I am thirsty. :) I want to drink in all that God has for me and enjoy knowing Him like nobody else. I know that when I believe Him to be great, and I run to the "stream" of living water I feel truly satisfied.

So, drink deeply today and leave that stinky camel behind! Know that God is waiting for you to come meet with Him so He can satisfy your needs. Run fast- it really is so much better.
(I just had the most ridiculous urge to bound around, leaping and prancing like Bambi. Ummmm...yeah. I need some caffeine. Bahahahahaha!)

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:11

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Covenant- THANK YOU!


What a whirlwind month September has been. I feel like I haven't had a chance to catch my breath in weeks. And yesterday, we got another bombshell dropped. Good times.

I keep waiting for my life to look like a Little House on the Praire episode. You know, crisis that the family pulls together through, and is resolved in 1 hour with commercial breaks. Hmmm. Can't figure out why I never get my wish. :)

In truth, though, life is good and God is better. There is no doubt in my mind that we can handle whatever comes next because He is with us, and has blessed us so greatly with a family that loves each other and sticks together. Steve just keeps reminding me of all the ways God has already show himself wonderful, and it is so good. Right when my OCD/planning machine mind starts to panic- I remember that MY Lord is with me, and won't ever let me go. He has established a new covenant with me- a binding contract that is stronger than anything on earth, because it goes down to the soul. Not a strict legalistic "10 Commandment" kind of life, but a law that He has made for my good and He has so graciously put the desire to obey in my HEART. Oh, how I love that! The freedom I have is because HE is so totally awesome, and even at the worst times, I can trust that. :)I was reminded last week of something I truly cherish- Moses and the Israelites had the parting of the Red Sea, but Jesus said "Come walk on the water with me, baby!"

Here's to believing God to be big!

"THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," He then says,
"AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE." Hebrews 10:16-17

Sunday, September 20, 2009

For my dear cyclist friends- don't hitch a ride!

A man decided that he was going to ride a 10-speed bike from Phoenix to Flagstaff. He got as far as Black Canyon City before the mountains just became too much and he could go no farther.

He stuck his thumb out, but after 3 hours he hadn't gotten a single person to stop. Finally a guy in a Corvette pulled over and offered him a ride. Of course, the bike wouldn't fit in the car. The owner of the Corvette found a piece of rope lying by the highway and tied it to his bumper. He tied the other end to the bike and told the man that if he got to going too fast to honk the horn on his bike and he would slow down.

Everything went fine for the first 30 miles. Suddenly, another Corvette blew past them. Not to be outdone, the Corvette pulling the bike took off after the other. A short distance down the road, the Corvettes--both going well over 120 mph--blew through a speed trap. The police officer noted the speeds from his radar gun and radioed to the other officer that he had 2 Corvettes headed his way at over 120 mph. He then relayed, "And you're not going to believe this, but there's guy on a 10-speed bike honking to pass".

Friday, September 18, 2009

It sure makes everything else seem small....

I just figured out why I love country music...and don't start laughing. Truly, the lyrics are WISE. Really. Now, not the "She thinks my Tractor's Sexy" or "Friends in Low Places" kind of songs. But there are some, that just make sense.

I have been having my pity party all week: sick body, sick kid, heart broken over dogs and praying for hurting unborn babies...and my husband has been incredible. Marriage is the ultimate test of love and sacrifice. And I think sometimes of faith and hope too. There have been lots of times over the last 15 years when I have felt hopeless in this marriage, but when I am honest- more often I have taken this man God gave me for granted. And I don't want to anymore. I could hear it in his voice last night- his desire to give me everything I want, against his desire to give me what I need. He sees me sad about my pups, and he wants to fix it- even though he already has made up his mind. He was on the verge of saying I could keep Duke, and he was there again today. As much as he doesn't want to, thinks it is too much for us, etc etc- he would rather go back on what he knows than to see me sad. It made me think of another story like that, and so I read Genesis 16 today. I realized where Abram went wrong..."Abram agreed to what Sarai said." Hehehehehe Hear the feminists roar! Now, by definition, I would be called a feminist, but I am also a realist. I know how easily I can manipulate my husband using his basic desire to love and please me. It's sad, but true. How do you think I have gotten so many horses, dogs, debt and treats? :)Last night I realized that I have the greatest husband in the world. He really would walk through hot coals for me. Steve understands me like no one else, and wants me to be happy more than anyone else. And when I think about that, it makes all the other issues in our life pale in comparison. The "mountain" really does turn in to a "grain of sand". That brings us back to why I love country music. Check out these lyrics, I have also kindly posted the song on my playlist so you can listen to them now:
"While you’re sitting around thinking ‘bout what you can’t change
And worrying about all the wrong things
Time’s flying by, moving so fast
You better make it count ‘cause you can’t get it back

Sometimes that mountain you’ve been climbing
Is just a grain of sand
And what you’ve been out there searching for forever
Is in your hands

Oh, and when you figure out
Love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else
Seem so small!" Carrie Underwood

Now, this doesn't mean I can't use all my manipulative genius to get Steve to bungee jump with me next spring, does it?

God be with you married people tonight- don't take one second for granted. You don't know when it might be your last here.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

This is my honey in all his burly-ness. Gotta love this guy. :)

Incredible testimony...Gotta love the power of God.

So- Randy Alcorn makes my jaw drop. If only I loved and believed God like that. Suffering in America takes on a whole different meaning- and they don't even seem to mind.
Check out this link:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/april/7.90.html

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I still believe...

"Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." Psalm 25:4-5

With illness and sadness that has drained me so fully this week, it is amazing to me that God still has a way up His sleeve to make me smile. I truly haven't been able to find a thing to say this week- good or bad. I know...amazing for motor mouth, Renee. But getting through the "motions" of each day was the best I could do. Then Jo and I came down with these cruddy colds, and I found I couldn't push through anymore. That's when God brought me a smile.

He brought it in the form of a stranger really. You see, we put our dogs up for new homes this week. LONG STORY, and I can't give details just yet without bawling again. So briefly, after 6 months of battles between Steve and I over the pros and cons of having country dogs in a ridiculously small neighborhood with no yard, he finally decided we could not fight about it another day. So this week we gave Samson to a homeschooling family with 5 children and tons of love to share. I knew that it was the right decision, felt that God provided the family, but couldn't control my tears and grief. It seems ridiculous to love your pets so much- but I have literally watched my home, my horses, and now my dogs disappear, and no matter how much I try to keep my focus on the reasons, it still breaks my heart. The only one I get to keep is the rat chihuahua and he is the one I would gladly part with!

But now I want to share with you why I can smile. Check out this excerpt from the email I got this afternoon, as I was wandering around my house feeling sorry for myself and nursing my sick kiddo:
"I wanted to thank you through our Lord Jesus Christ--something I wish I would have known before I had come down--the fact that He is OUR Lord. His ways are not our ways! I had prayed and asked for another dog and to be honest the way He brought Samson was so providential (the strings of His sovereignty). I have a feeling it was more about meeting you, and hopefully someday, your family too. Someday I will go through the story with you Renee--truly God is good--and to see His hands work in even the seemingly small things as a dog is amazing and so full of grace and mercy. May we give Him the glory and praise he is due--if that is possible this side of heaven? May His great name be magnified in my heart, may our love for Him grow and bubble forth in great praise.
This is just a quick email though--I will email pictures soon too. I look forward to many more conversations or emails with you Renee."

Wow! Who talks like that? Not a faker Christian, I can assure you! Oh, I truly jumped for joy when I read that, and haven't stopped grinning. I don't know how she figured out we shared the same Lord, but I am so glad to have found another sister in Christ, and know I can rest assured that she was honest with me about her intentions for Samson, and she will love him and care for him not because she is a PETA lover but because she is a JESUS lover. It gave us all such peace, we have read the email over again and again, relishing the fact that God used the situation to bless both families, them with a wonderful, SWEET dog, and us with the knowledge that even in the tough stuff- God is on His throne and in control. Oh, thank you, Father for that!

Maybe I will actually be able to make it through tomorrow without tears if I can remember my new friend's truthful words: :"Truly God is good-to see His hands work...is AMAZING... May His great name be magnified in my heart, may our love for Him grow and bubble forth in great praise."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

If only we alway saw things the way He does.


Quite a week. After a whirlwind first day of school, Esther Short Park show, football game Friday night, and working yesterday- I want to just curl up on my sofa for at least a week in jammies and with a good book. I haven't felt this "bone tired", as Laura Ingalls would say, in a long time. I suppose it didn't help to stay up until 2 am last night with Arnold Schwarzenegger and my dear friend Nicole. :) But it was so worth it!

Thinking about all that transpired this week, and the way my kids are adjusting to new schools and new people, I thought about how courageous they are and how much I desperately want them to live totally in love with God. I don't want any of us to be content with being a church going Christian, I want us to laugh, love and learn more about our Jesus every day. How to teach that, I have no idea. But I can pray that God finds a way.

I read Luke 7 and it hit me how much more I could do if I was just brave enough. This woman had SUCH a heart for Jesus.
"Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them." Luke 36- 38
This woman knew she was trash. All the biblical scholars agree that she was most likely a prostitute and had no business coming to dinner at a Pharisee's house (that would be like a hooker showing up uninvited to a wealthy, well known Pastor's dinner party.) She knew that she had no right to want Jesus so much, no good deeds to offer Him, not even one example of charity or religious purity to show Him. Yet she truly couldn't keep herself away. She couldn't know that He was within walking distance of her brothel and NOT run to Him. She brought the only gift she could, but most importantly, she brought the offering of a repentant heart and a love for Him that wouldn't be scared away.

What do you think that Pharisee was thinking? Self righteous garbage is what the Scripture says. And Jesus had an amazing response. Listen:

"Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said.
"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said. Luke 7:40-43

Jesus then goes on to compare the welcome He got from the "sinful woman" and the Pharisee. She gave Him the welcome and service of a King, where the best commentaries say Simon the Pharisee had invited Jesus there only to trap Him and catch Him saying something wrong. He didn't offer any of the customary welcomes for guests, which were common at the time- no washing of Jesus's feet, no welcome kiss, no oil for his head. Yet she gave them all, in such a beautiful way.

It took guts for that woman to go in front of the "cool crowd", to see all the wealth and outward "goodness" they had, and put herself out there. But she did it because she kept her eyes on Jesus. She focused on the only one who's opinion she cared about, and ran into the arms that she KNEW would never turn her away. She BELIEVED that God's grace would be enough, in spite of all her inadequacies.

Oh, how do I show my kiddos that? How do I encourage Jazz to be confident in spite of the "mean girls"? To show them kindness and love even when they spit in her face? How do I explain to Jordan how important it is to stand up for what is right? To have courage when everyone else gives in? To teach them NEVER to become a "Pharisee", to know and experience how wonderful it is to be totally forgiven and free...at the feet of Jesus.

Do an amazing work in all our hearts today, Father. Help us to be honest and faithful to You, and to keep our eyes on Jesus- the author and perfecter of our faith.

"Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much...
Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." Luke 7:47,50