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 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 ( 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... 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

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