Friday, February 29, 2008

He knows the plans...

In Jeremiah 29 we get to read a letter sent from the prophet Jeremiah to the exiles from Jerusalem, who were currently living in Babylon. Jeremiah conveys to the people what God says. While in exile, not in their home land or comfort zone, he tells them to thrive, grow, seek peace and prosperity. He promises to take them out of this place but for now... this is it, and make the best of it. And then this is what God says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."
Over the past 3 or 4 years of my life I have often felt like I was in exile. We faced some significant financial trials and made some pretty big lifestyle changes in order to manage. At the same time we added a baby and moved into a house that needed a lot of work. There were times where I felt so burdened that I just couldn't be myself. My instinct was to hunker down and survive, not thrive. When life threw those curve balls, as it always does, I found it hard to look beyond the moment to moment times. These verses reminded me that there is hope and a future, beyond the current struggle or set back. And that God has not abandoned me in the place where I'm at. He reminds me that He has a good plan for me and encourages me to find ways to thrive, to celebrate, to live and not just wait for the better times to come. I would have missed quite a few special experiences if I had continued on waiting for things to get better first.
The picture above is of some tulips in our yard. I think they are the perfect example of thriving despite the circumstances. Two years ago, right after we bought our house, we dismantled the chimney and threw down hundreds of bricks into the yard. We placed them in a pile on what we thought was an empty planting bed. The next spring I noticed bits of green poking through the bricks and within a few weeks there were actual tulips blooming in that pile of old chimney bricks! Not only that, they survived that hard spring, only to come up again the following spring, after the pile had been removed, and bloom just as brightly.
Whether your struggle is physical or emotional, or maybe you're in a spiritual drought, trust in the Lord. Read his word to remember how faithful he has been in the past. He has a plan for you, and this time will pass, but for now you can thrive right where you're at!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Happy Birthday Gramma Linda

Here is Gramma at her house, with her sister Patti, hanging out with Momma, Mackenzie, Sierra and Mia. It's always fun to go to Gramma's house, she treats us like royalty! We've got special little chairs to sit in and she's stocked on fun kid movies. She even has toys for us and gives us yummy food to eat!
And here is Gramma at Josiah's kindergarten graduation. Despite the fact that she works full time, she always takes the time to come to our special events and school programs and she cheers us on at our games. She even makes it fun for those of us who are watching too by treating us with snacks.

Gramma Linda goes over the top at Christmas and birthdays, always finding the coolest gifts and just the right things that we would like. She also takes very good care of us when we have owies and boo boos.
We love you Gramma Linda. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fighting ALS - Lou Gerig's Disease

This is a picture looking up in our backyard. I always thought it was so beautiful how four different trees grew to such great heights. There is a Flowering Plum, a Black Walnut, an Evergreen, and an Oak. The Plum has the sweet spring flowers. The Walnut feeds the squirrels and has gorgeous lines, the Evergreen provides year round shelter for many critters, and the Oak, by far, has the greatest reach, spanning 4 yards. All different, unique, useful and beautiful in their own way. It reminds me of how we are all created by God with different gifts and talents. How we have something special to bring to our own backyards, a way to be used for God's glory.
Last February a business friend of ours, a mentor for many years, was diagnosed with ALS, which stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis but most people know it as Lou Gehrig's disease. When you hear news like this it kind of takes the wind out you. I remember feeling powerless when I found out. It's not very comfortable to think about some one you care about suffering and not be able to fix it for them. We've not seen Jim since the diagnosis but have kept in contact, mostly through email. I wanted to share Jim's story with you because he didn't just let out a big sigh and make himself comfortable waiting for what seems to be the inevitable in most ALS cases. He is a fighter and is choosing to lead an effort to find a cure for this disease. He reminds me of that Oak tree. Because of his long time role as a business mentor, he has helped a lot of small businesses reach their goals and he knows a lot of people. In honor of him I wanted to do my part to spread his reach even further and share with as many people as possible the opportunity he's created to be apart of finding a cure to ALS. Check out his website, donate if you feel led, and pray for a cure. Wouldn't it be awesome to be apart of the solution to a terrible problem?!

There is another solution that I am compelled to share as well because, really, we all have a terrible problem, we are all "terminal cases". There is only one end to this life and that is death. We don't know the form it will take for us, whether we will have warning that it's coming or whether it will be sudden. But be assured, it will come. So to be prepared for death we need to know the facts and for the facts I go to the proven Word of God. The Bible explains to us our present state, the solution, and then out come.

Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." No one is perfect, I think we all know that one! :)

Romans 3:10-18 "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes." We know our limitations, our failings, both personally and as a whole culture. Think of all the ways we try and try to fill our lives with the "right" things. It's just never enough. And aren't we all searching for peace?

Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." So there is a price for sin - eternal spiritual death. But, because Jesus died on the cross, the gift of grace is available to us. A way out of this punishment.

Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." He didn't wait for us to get our act together. God prepared the way of salvation for us, because he knows us, failings and all, and He loves us.
Romans 10:9, "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." This verse tells us how to accept the gift that God, our creator, offers us.

Romans 10:13 "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Further explanation to us of our necessary response to God. One way or another we choose what our relationship to him will be.

Romans 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Peace with God. Peace regarding death and our future. The price for our sin had to be paid and Jesus paid it on the cross. How could I not accept a gift like that?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Dog

This little cutie is my dog Cheetah. She's a good dog but she has the terrible habit of having puppies just about everyday. I've never seen the puppies actually grow up, and it's not like we've got 101 dalmatians running around, but still, every day, I hear from Cheetah, "Good news mom! We've got puppies." Besides having puppies, Cheetah's days are spent fighting grizzly bears, being a helper dog, and generally protecting the homestead.
It tickles my funny bone the depth of Mia's imagination but this isn't my first experience with a human obsessed with dogs. I used to try to get my little brother to play house with me as a child. He'd always agree under one condition... he wanted to be the dog. I hated that. He'd just sit outside my room "guarding" the place and I could feed him if I wanted but that was it. Sometimes I feel those old feelings of frustration rise up when yet again I hear, "Good news mom!" But mostly it's just funny. So I pat Mia's head and rub her belly and say, "That is good news Cheetah. Go find a soft place to lay down. You're gonna be a great Mom dog." Her tank is full! Check.
Thank you Lord for the creativity I see in my children. It brings joy to my heart. I see your creativity in the beautiful world around me as all the bulbs begin to pop up and the breeze smells so fresh. All the birds are out singing their special songs and I can sense your handiwork. Spring reminds me that Easter is coming and Easter reminds me that you died on the cross on my behalf. Thank you Jesus. Amen.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Our travels at Bush Park

Today Sierra, our 2 1/2 year old, and I took a 1 hour walk. It all started when she wandered out the front door by herself but as I chased after her I realized what a nice day it was and decided she really had a great idea! So, she packed up Violet and Meredith, her babies, into her little purple stroller and off we went. We only live two blocks from the park but as we got closer and closer I knew we'd be in for a really long walk if we actually entered it. There is so much to see and do there; three areas of play equipment, squirrels, dogs, people, leaves, bugs... So, in the interest of time, I tried to persuade her take the next turn and head back home. I told her I was getting cold and that probably the babies were, too. She pulled the little blanket over her babies and then looked up at me and reached up her hand. "I can hold your hand and keep you warm, then we don't have to go home." Wow! With that sweet little girl voice and innocent look she stole my heart... again. So I put my hand in hers and there we were walking hand in hand through the park. Thank you Lord, I love those moments and I could never have planned it. I'm so thankful I was there to catch it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Blue Ribbon Day

What a day we had. Dad, Good Amos for those of you who read the earlier post, won a blue ribbon in his division. We're so proud! His tank is full. Check.

Josiah decided to set two goals for his game. First, to get a steal. Second, to do his best. Great goals, definitely achievable for him yet still something to strive for. I arrived to the game a little late because I wanted to let the girls sleep for as long as possible. Grandpa Davis said he already had a steal and had even picked up a foul he was so focused on getting that ball! A chip off the ol' block in the foul department. Shortly into the second half though he stole the ball again and I was there with the video camera.

Yes, can you believe it? I didn't have the camera ready to get the whole thing!! Still, a steal, full court dribbling, and SCORE! His tank is full. Check.

Another busy Saturday

Andrew is cowboy shooting today. Boy is he in heaven. Here's a picture of him at one of his first competitions. His outfit or costume or whatever they call their dress up clothes, has improved since then.

Despite this non-shalant look he really loves it. His cowboy name is Good Amos and Josiah is Lil' Poke. Lil' Poke likes going along to the competitions because between matches he gets a chance to shoot at the targets. Not to mention he loves dressing up like a cowboy. Andrew has been recruiting his friends and family since he first heard of this hobby. I've even joined him on a couple of occasions. It reminds me of our early dating days when his favorite thing to do was take me on a motorcycle ride. Now, as a woman, I have to say, "What's the point of that!!!" There's no talking or any interaction. It could really be anyone or even a robot behind him and the experience would still be the same. Ahhh, that's where we differ. For him, this is the ultimate connection between two people and the fact that he knows it's me there is what matters. Not to mention, he says I made his point for him... there's no talking. So, yes, I will continue to join him at a few cowboy shoots from time to time (I don't think those urban cowboys appreciate my name for their competition. It makes people wonder what exactly these guys are shooting!). I will allow him to call me September Joy on those days and I will do my best to load the guns and hit the targets and even hold it more on my shoulder and not on my arm so it looks right. Who knows maybe it will grow on me. I just wish they would let us talk about how we feel about our shooting after each stage. I'm guessing my suggestion won't make it past this blog!

Today, though, I'm watching Josiah's basketball game. He's been playing with Upward basketball and I highly recommend this program. He came in with no experience and very few skills and has left with the love of the sport. Every week after the games the kids get awards for what they were best at: Best Offensive, Best Defensive, Best Overall, Most Christ-like, etc. It's nice to have the coach say something positive about each player. This is the last game of the season and despite how great it's been, given our schedule these days, I'm actually glad we won't have to get to practices and games again until next year.

I also showed the house this morning but didn't get any really good vibes. There are several houses in the neighborhood that are now for sale. Hopefully the competition is helpful in just bringing more people by. I know our house will sell better once we're moved out. Andrew plans to come back and finish painting and doing little projects once all our stuff is out. It's the perfect house for someone.

"Lord, in Your time as You will."

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Road to Bear Paw, part 1

9 months ago we decided to follow up on what seemed like a pie in the sky opportunity. We discovered a privately owned, Christian camp for sale in NE Washington, not too far from where my husband grew up. It looked like it needed a little TLC but was obviously well cared for over the years and had a good client base. Still, we had to overcome very large obstacles in order to actually purchase the camp and move our family with three young kids up there. But, none of that seemed to phase us. We've just kept putting one foot in front of the other and waiting for God to move and direct us. On one hand, it's been a very long process but in the scheme of life, it's really been very quick. One year we're running an embroidery and screen printing business, manufacturing letterman jackets, and growing like crazy! The next we're planning to be running Bear Paw Camp and serving the Lord through full time ministry! On the radar screen the move has been "sometime next year", then "next spring", then "sometime in March" and now we're closing in on a specific final move date which makes us all very excited. It is finally starting to feel real and like all our prep work (selling our house, selling our business, refinancing a building, preparing the kids, packing, etc. etc.) will be worth it. With all the joy we're experiencing as we prepare to move, there is also the sadness of all the wonderful people we're leaving behind. Family and friends that are gold to us, they know us and love us, and will be desperately missed. I believe, as our relationships change and, instead of seeing each other often for shorter times we will spend extended times together less often, we'll be blessed by a new depth. Not to mention we live in the age of technology!! Praise the Lord.

So how does life look right now? We've been working on finishing up some of our remodel projects on our 100 year old house, so we're still surrounded by tools and supplies for that. We're 2 1/2 years into what we planned as a 4 year project. The house if really starting to look nice. I love old houses but, boy has it been a challenging adventure! In addition to the construction clutter, we've added the boxes that I've been filling with less essential things that I won't need in the next 6-8 weeks. Not to mention we've got three kids so there's plenty of kid clutter around, too. Needless to say, showing the house in order to sell it has been more than humbling.

I'm trying to keep our schedules as normal as possible so the transition for the kids goes as smoothly as it can but I feel like the quintessential duck, semi-graceful on the surface but paddling like mad under the surface. Oh who am I kidding, I'm no where near graceful, but the paddling like mad part is dead on. As much as I want to buckle down and just do what we need to do to move, I realize these are our last moments here in Salem and I want to make the most of them and take advantage of every opportunity. So, the importance of balance reaches a new level for me.

We're still waiting for the final OK but we plan to head up to the camp the weekend of March 8th to help get it ready for the season. I think this will be wonderful for the kids to have what they're looking forward to fresh in their minds and yet still have time left to say goodbye. Hopefully we'll be allowed to bring a load of our stuff up so we can get a head start on the actual move.

"Lord Jesus, I'm peacefully waiting for your timing in this. I await your unfolding plan. I know it is perfect. Help me to fulfill my part in it. In Jesus name, AMEN!"
Lord, lift me above my own narrow horizons, that I might fulfill your true vision for me. - B.J. Hoff