Thursday, December 24, 2009

Why I DO NOT Shop At W*nC* ...even though it's cheaper!

Today, against my better judgement, I decided to hit W*nC* for my last bit of Christmas dinner shopping, instead of the usual S*f*w*y or Fr*d M*y*r. I had just told my sister-in-law that I would never venture there because things always go wrong and the lay out really confuses me. Many times I just haven't been able to find my way to what I need. But, it was a last minute decision. I was right by W*nC*, stuck in traffic, thinking about how much cheaper it would be and maybe it's gotten better since the last time we were there and after all the kids were doing so great. Nevermind that it really was closing in on naptime and come to find out Eliza had actually already fallen asleep in her carseat. I pulled in and began navigating the parking lot traffic.

The trip actually started out pretty good. We got a great parking spot right next to the cart return so coming and going would be quick. Then, to help with the holiday spirit I had us all wear our Santa hats that I had brought. So far so good. I was inspired by a beautiful family with ten or so kids that entered the store before us, all color coordinated and behaving so nicely. I did note that the father was there, too, so I knew that despite their having more than double the amount of kids I had, my job would still be harder, but with our hats we'd win in the cute department.

And so we set off. I had Eliza in the sling so she could fall back asleep if she wanted, a good list to follow and let's not forget our great hats!! I felt kinda proud that I was so prepared for once. Of course the girls got confused on the Exit versus Entrance doors and at W*nC* there's no crossing over to go through. When you're on the wrong side you have to OBEY YOUR MOTHER and come back out and enter through the Entrance. It's ok, we made it in.

Unfortunately Sierra's hat wouldn't stay on right. She was just beside her self trying get it set right and she really wanted the Christmas bell that Santa gave her to stay on the end but that weighted it wrong and made it pull off. Of course her hopping up and down in anger really threw it for a loop but thankfully she chose to stop me right by the discounted green beans and those were on my list for green bean casserole. So I got the beans and adjusted the hat and thought, "All's well that ends well".

I allowed myself to get a little distracted by the huge box of fish crackers I saw on sale out of the corner of my eye. I sent Josiah to go get it, then sent him back when I realized there was no way I'd be spending $6 on fish crackers when we have plenty of regular crackers that everyone would enjoy. We pressed on. As we were approaching produce apparently Mia "inadvertently" stepped on the back of Josiah's shoe which was very annoying to him and he really wanted me to hear about it but I was in the middle of counting out the right number of cans of cream of mushroom soup, thinking about how many bananas we would need and responding to two older women who were just tickled at the sight of our family in the cute Christmas hats. Especially the baby... "where did you get that little hat!!"

List! Where's my list? I was beginning to shop a little "shoot from the hip"-ish and thought the list would solve everything. OK! I began to tell the kids what else we needed in hopes that would distract them from their bickering. No one was listening. A large Hispanic family smiled and laughed at our cute hats. They pointed at Eliza.... "so cute!" I smiled.

Sierra kept grabbing the cart and jumping on trying to get a ride. This throws off my direction because I really can only use one hand to drive between reading the list, getting what I need off the shelf and keeping a hand on Eliza in the sling. This is not a new issue and I guess I can be thankful that I'm not pregnant and having it bang into my tender tummy but still.... "DON'T TOUCH THE CART!!!" Lots of people looked at us. I smiled hoping they'd be distracted by our hats. Worse! They were distracted by Sierra's temper tantrum right in the middle of the tight W*nC* aisle. She desperately wanted a ride, her hat kept falling off, she bumped a water bottle off the shelf, and I was telling her "no, no, no" at every turn. For a four year old it was just the worst day ever and so she plopped herself down and began to sob and cry. Unfortunately for her there was just no time for this pity party so we continued on. "Oh, I don't want to hit your little girl" said a well meaning Christmas shopper since Sierra was partially blocking her road. I was thinking, "Just bump her a little it might motivate her to get up and OBEY HER MOTHER!!!" I gathered up my little puddle of a girl and told her to just put her hat in the cart and hold my hand (I would steer the cart with my hips and elbows). Off we go.

I hadn't decided if I was going to make cranberry sauce or just buy the can but seeing as we were right near the canned fruit aisle I made the decision to just go canned so we could get out of there quicker. "Turn left everyone." "Which way's left?" Oh honestly haven't we learned this? "Turn by the cans.... Look out for that cart! Sorry." It's like it's always our first time in a grocery store.

There was no cranberry sauce on the canned fruit aisle. I went down the canned soup aisle, maybe it's kind of off on it's own because it's not really a fruit once it's made into sauce, right? Nope. I tried the fruit aisle again. These aisle were packed and slow and Eliza had decided she didn't like her cute hat anymore and began pulling it off and throwing it down and squirming in her sling. Fine, no hat and you can sit in the cart now. Great, the cart has no belt. I tried to use the sling as a belt by putting it around her and hanging my purse in it to weigh it down. She wasn't going for that. Meanwhile Sierra decided that she did want her hat again and the issue had reached a new crisis point and her whining and crying had reached a new decibel. Josiah was still trying to tell me about all the annoying things Mia was doing and Mia was bouncing around in the aisles causing cart pile ups left and right. People around me were "tsk-tsking" and all I could think was "maybe the hats will help" so I put Sierra's hat back on and tried to distract Eliza enough to keep hers on. It actually helped for a while and at least we looked cute.

I decided we'd go for frozen cranberries and I'd make the sauce. It's easy to make and I needed ice cream and frozen juice anyway. I had Josiah go for some vanilla ice cream and I went in search of the frozen fruit. Veggies... potatoes... burritos... no frozen fruit. I went around again.

"WHAT KIND OF VANILLA?" a frustrated Josiah yelled across the frozen foods. I sent Mia to tell him he could choose. They both came back empty handed since apparently Mia said, "CHOOSE!" in a mean voice and Josiah was not going to respond to that. After circling the entire frozen foods department three times I knew I needed help so I asked two young WinCo staff members where I might find the frozen cranberries and they looked at me like I was wearing my festive hat in July! You know what... no cranberry sauce this Christmas. Oh the disappointed whining that followed this executive decision. I sent Josiah back for ice cream, "Just choose a vanilla, whatever kind you want, I don't care." *breathe*

As we headed to the check out we were passing the canned foods again and I couldn't help but feel like with one more trip through I could find the blasted cranberry sauce and save Christmas for everyone. Being the hero type, I tried one more time. I studied labels hard, not letting the bickering or whining distract my focus. There was definitely no cranberry sauce there. I left for check out mildly dejected at my failure.

It was about then I realized that I only had three kids. Mia, my independent, distracted child by nature, was missing. I sent Josiah back an aisle begging him to be kind in his pursuit of our lost girl. No Mia. He came back saying a man said, "Are you looking for your sister?" So obviously she'd been spotted. Several people passed us as we stood waiting for her to catch up, "Aren't you missing a one?" I guess we drew enough attention that people knew how many kiddos I was juggling that day. Unfortunately, just before she slipped away, she had taken off her Santa hat so now I had no identifiable clothing to mention to these observant people.

After several minutes we headed towards check out looking up and down every aisle as we went. Then I saw her, up with a clerk in the front, standing with her fists doubled up, arms laced tightly against her chest, face set in the bravest way she could. Our eyes met and you could see the relief. First she slinked side ways towards us then she fully ran. As she got closer the tears she'd held at bay came streaming down her face and I held her right there in the middle of all the chaos and carts and I cried a little, too. The lesson I'd been telling her all these years had hit her heart so there was no need for reminders. I pulled our group into the juice aisle for a little recovery time. Finally everyone was quiet, there was no bickering or whining, our festive hats lay in the cart. So we headed for W*nC* check out... the one where you bag your own stuff. *sigh*

Things went really well actually. The man behind me was so chatty with the clerk that I didn't feel as pressured while I directed the kids and bagged up our stuff. As we pulled away from the check out stand I said, "Hey, let's put our hats back on so we'll be warm outside and we'll look so festive!!" Everyone did and then I noticed the girls were chewing on something. Apparently while I was distributing the groceries between bags they had gathered up all the spilled candies around the candy machine and helped themselves. What a treat!

W*nC* was a trial again to say the least. I can't help but think bad thoughts about it. But, at least it's over and we're set for Christmas dinner.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again

Ya know, Christmas just isn't my favorite time of year. It seems like it carries so many expectations, mostly my own, and the pressure just ruins any "Christmas spirit" for me. It's also a time where Andrew works so much that whatever is going to happen depends fully on me to accomplish, it limits our ability to plan any travel, as well as the extra work around the house and sometimes it's just plain overwhelming. This year I decided I want to change my heart regardless of what happens with my circumstances. So here's some glimpses into what I'm doing...

The last several years I've been paring down the expense of Christmas and that has helped. This year I decided ease up the schedule, too. As I took so many things away I've been able to look at what I do want Christmas to be for us. What traditions do I want to create for my kids? What do I love about Christmas and how can I do those things well?

We're keeping the gingerbread house tradition. You know I've never decorated my own house, I've only ever done these with the kids. I like that the kids work together and getting to see what they come up with. I hope through the years our creations get more beautiful but for now we're doing fine with the $10 store bought kit and tons of candy piled on.

I also decided that I want to be a Christmas baker. I had a neighbor once that always made bread and jam and that was what she gave out each year. First of all it was yummy. But also, her delivery meant we had a little time to chat and connect. I love it! I want to give gifts of myself to people like she did. So this year we made cinnamon spice nuts, a very special dark chocolate fudge, and some Christmas monster cookies. It's been fun deliverying these to neighbors, old and current, and to Andrew's employees. Next year I plan to get a jump on things and stock up the freezer. I only need to figure out how to have an annual baking day with family or friends. I love the idea of doing all this together. What fun!!

This year we started something new. The kids saved money for several months and were able to bless families in need by purchasing a goat and a chicken through World Vision. I haven't given them the thoughtful thank you card that they sent us, it will be a part of their Christmas presents. It was thrilling to see how much these guys could pull together in only a few short months and I hope that this coming year we're able to be even more creative in finding ways to raise more money for this annual gift.

In lieu of an all out gift buying burnout season, we decided to have the kids buy for each other this year. That was fun. I thought they did a good job picking appropriate gifts for each other. We've done little gift exchanges in the past but this year that's all they're getting, so they got a little more to spend. We also got them a few little stocking stuffers and some clothes. I think Andrew's got something for Josiah that's more of a "right of passage" type gift. The goal of all this is to shift the focus from presents to memories. What can we do together that we'll always remember when the things have long since worn out.

One tradition I remember growing up was the St. Lucia Bride, a Swedish practice where the oldest daughter prepares breakfast for the family wearing the Christmas wreath with candles on her head. Having three girls I'm having to modify a bit but I still have special Lucia Bride memories from my own childhood so we will keep this alive!

I've also decided our Christmas dinner tradition will be the Swedish meatballs. My grandmother told me once that this was an old family tradition from way back and since IKEA came into my life and introduced me to those yummy meatballs it was an easy tradition to re-adopt.

Next year I'd like to look deeper at Advent. We've dabbled in it in the past but I'd like to really embrace it. I also think exploring more of Hanukkah would be very educational. The Women's Holiday Dinner really wet my appetite for it this year but I wasn't prepared enough to pull anything together.
I love being with family and if I could have everybody together every year with time to cook age old recipes, take long walks all bundled up, play Scrabble games until we can't think, do craft projects with the kids, sing together and no video games or constant movies being played.... ahhh, I would love it!

I suppose this post is mostly for myself, to help me remember where I'm at and where I'm going. But what are some of your traditions? What matters to you this time of year? How do you balance your own Christmas intentions with all the outside demands? What gifts do you like to give? Inspire me people! :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Great Transformations

Many of us in our family had big changes in the hair department lately. Here's some before and afters.

I went first. My hair had been over grown and bothering me for going on 6 months. It's hard to decide what to do when you're ready for a big change, and then to have the money to spend on it, and to make the time to do it with sitters and all. But finally I made it happen! Unfortunately the hair dresser didn't understand what I wanted even though I brought 3 pictures and gave a very clear verbal explanation. So I ended up with something totally different. After giving it a couple of days I decided that I really didn't like it and got my money back. So, I guess I can't complain much about a free haircut and lucky for me my hair grows pretty fast. In no time I'll have the look I was going for, a medium length slight wedge cut. But here I am with my REALLY short hair (he shaved my neck).
Ironically when Sierra saw my haircut she wanted to get hers cut the same way. I have trimmed it several times but this time we were going for a whole new look so she got to go to the corner family hair place. Here's the before:
And here's the after:
Funny, that was the look I was going for myself! Totally cute and it fits her so well. She loves it!
But the biggest change was Josiah's! He'd been growing his hair out all year. I decided even before kids that I did not want hair to be an issue and would let the kids decide what styles they wanted as long as they kept it clean and groomed. Josiah actually has very nice hair and long hair is 'in' right now. He did have to endure lots of flack from other adults in his life though. This didn't bother him at all. But, when Grandpa Nordstrom offered him a few incentives to get it cut and keep it short he found it a no brainer and we went for it. He also incorporated it in to his Halloween costume and had it cut like High King Peter of Chronicles of Narnia. So, here's his before:
And his after:
What a handsome guy! I have to admit, I'm loving seeing his gorgeous face again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Prayer and "This Kind" of Problem

Yesterday I read this interesting passage in the Bible: Mark 9:14-29 (New International Version). I'm just going to post the story it tells right here and get on to my own story at the end.

The Healing of a Boy with an Evil Spirit
14When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16"What are you arguing with them about?" he asked.

17A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."

19"O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."

20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"

"From childhood," he answered. 22"It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

23" 'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

24Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

25When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again."

26The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead." 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"

29He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."

I've been slowly reading my way through the book of Mark. I do all personal study slowly these days. I've gotten to follow along with Jesus as he's done so many healings and miracles. It's been spectacular! There is a ton of great stuff in this passage, too, but the part that stood out to me was the disciples little question at the end. Jesus had given them the power to heal yet this little boy stumped them. "Why couldn't we drive it out?" Essentially, "Why couldn't we take care of it ourselves? We've done it before!" Jesus enlightens them to the ways of the world he created, "This kind can come out only by prayer." This problem is for me, bring it to me, let me show you how easily I can handle it.
I'm almost ashamed to admit my personal application here but I hope it encourages you! When Josiah was a baby and we were dealing with that awful fatigue that first time parents have to adjust to, I noticed that every night Andrew and I would plead with the Lord, "Please let him sleep through the night so we can get some rest." What happened instead was we adjusted to less sleep and learned to train him to sleep through the night. There was no miracle sleep that happened but eventually we learned how to get through that time. Things worked the same for every baby that came along. I noticed we didn't pray for sleeping babies anymore and I began to laugh at myself and those silly "new parent prayers". I had even begun telling new parents that there was no point in praying for your baby to sleep through the night, God's given us tactics and your body will adjust.
Eliza was born a great sleeper. What a blessing! But she was also born an early riser and it's really worn on this night owl! I did everything I could to train her out of it and adjusted as far as I could. I'd fallen into the routine of pulling her into bed with us, nursing her, and then we'd try to catch some sleep while she wiggled around between us and played with whatever safe objects I could find nearby. Putting her back in bed after nursing usually ended with her crying and it would often wake Sierra up, so the problem would be multiplied. We're only talking a couple hours extra sleep that I needed and surely she would begin to sleep later eventually, right? Still, I needed those extra hours sleep. I realized this morning, as I was again nursing her so early, that perhaps this one required prayer. So, I presented the problem to the Lord and requested the moon!
"Lord, give Eliza a quieted spirit, remove from her the spirit of restlessness
and discontent. Calm her so that when I put her back in her bed she will
stay asleep and sleep past 7:30am and when she wakes give her a cheerful
demeanor."

This morning I woke at 8:00am to sweet babbling! I knew that God was revealing himself to me and reminding me that He is in control of EVERYTHING. He cares for me, but the world is so much bigger that ME. I felt so encouraged to continue to bring everything before him in prayer because "this kind" may find it's solution "only through prayer" despite all my previous best efforts.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mosaic

We are apart of a shepherding group at our Church called Mosaic. I was drawn to this group initially because of the name. I imagined a diverse group of individuals pursuing God and serving others together in a cool "mosaic" kind of way. The year that we finally got connected, service really was the focus and I loved it, though I found my total hours of service were shamefully low. This summer, and as I head into this next year, my desire is to really put feet to my thoughts of service and fulfill my part. I've been struck recently by the importance of the meaning of mosaic and how it fits perfectly the picture of the Church in service.

Google's web definitions has these things to say about the word MOSAIC:

- art consisting of a design made of small pieces of colored stone or glass
- arrangement of aerial photographs forming a composite picture

(OK, there were a few other definitions but these fit my analogy!)

Small pieces... I saw this at work the other night as the Church provided respite for foster parents for several hours. This is a monthly service that is offered. Some months have tons of kids and some months have fewer. As I went about the evening I found that my role was so small. I served the kids and volunteers their dinner and snacks and then I helped clean up. That's it! But, over and over I was appreciated for what I was doing. I looked at some of the volunteers I was serving, some of them held tiny babies for the entire 3 1/2 hours, some were drenched with sweat from actively playing dodge ball with the older kids, and I thought WOW! what great service. Their reply: "What? I'm just playing with some kids!" From each person's perspective their role was so small, but when you stood back and looked at it, each tiny piece pulled together and created a wonderful event that deeply blessed the foster parents and the children attending. A mosaic.

Together we can form a composite picture of Christ. The more each of us brings our gifts, our personalities, our experiences, our strengths, our ideas to the group, the more the group can reflect the detailed image of Christ. Like a mosaic, the more tiny pieces you bring together the better and more defined the picture is. If you have just a few very large pieces, the overall image is flat and monotoned and what stands out are the individual pieces not the work of art. Many variations, even between two very similar pieces, add to the dimension of the overall picture.
So, for me, this means I must actively bring my piece to the table, to be set in my special place in a mosaic that creates an image of Christ that others can see.

Most things that I might do to be apart of the mosaic take very little skill, and usually just a little extra time... I can make dinner for a family of a newborn or one who's recovering from illness or surgery. I can help a busy friend with yard work, laundry or housekeeping. I can join in the garage sale someone is hosting. I can help pack lunches for the homeless once a week. I can pick up people with no transportation who want to go to Church or Bible study. I can work hard to remember people's names. I can ask where they live, where they work, what they're up to this next week, so they know that they are cared about. I can send a note to cheer someone who looked down. I can host a dessert for a missionary to help them raise support and increase the perspective of those who attend. I can paint the nails of women who've been battered and abused as a part of a night of pampering. I can meet my neighbors and look for ways to help out when needs arise. I can park further away so older people, pregnant ladies, and people who have disabilities can more easily get to Church. I can smile at the homeless beggars at the exit and pray for them. I can actively seek to understand a missionaries daily life so that I can best pray for them. I can spend less so I can give more. I can sub in the children's departments. I can give blood. I can be friendly to the checker's and barista's I encounter and allow the Holy Spirit to direct my conversations.

These things are very small but sometimes I even forget or overlook doing them. My plan this year is to start with a mindset of "Yes!" and then to carry my calendar with me to Church or randomly when I'm out and about so when opportunities come up I can quickly save the date. This means I will either have to switch to a portable planner or carry a larger bag that will fit the calendar I have on my fridge. It also means I will have to give up some of my own plans in order to fit into a larger plan. And, in order to keep my tank full, I will also have to schedule time for myself so that I have more to give.

As a group, my hope is that as a few people in Mosaic begin to set themselves out to be used in the bigger picture, others will begin to see the beauty of what is forming, and as more and more join in it will become a work of art that others desire to be apart of.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Grandma: These Are For You!

Summer is winding down but I still need to post some more pictures of our fun times.
Sierra turned 4 this summer! We had a nice afternoon with friends and family and she chose a Dora theme again. It's so fun as they get older and can do more activities, so we had some little games (bean bag toss, water balloon game, and musical chairs) that they had to do as they followed the map back to the cake!
Even baby sister Eliza got into the party mode. (6 1/2 mo. old)

Josiah and Mia went to Canyonview Camp again and both were thrilled to have great friends along this year. Here's Josiah with his best friend Boston.
And Mia with her kindred spirit Olivia.
Eliza and I attended the wedding of a friend and I got this great picture of her meeting herself in the mirror. Mia lost her first tooth this summer. Actually at this posting she's lost two and has another wiggly one! What a milestone. And, just to keep the tooth count balanced out, Eliza got her first two teeth. Look closely!
The races at Bush Park were a lot more convenient the last couple of years but we made the trip in and really enjoyed the time. Mia had to run quick and then head to choir practice but she's a great "roll-with-it" kinda girl and was glad to get to do both activities. Here she is finishing the race.

Josiah loves to run and has found some success in it, too. I love that he still runs with a smile! Here he is getting a ribbon.

Apparently Sierra loves to run, too. After running her race for 6 and under, she took off after Josiah and the 12 to 7 year olds, and finished the mile run, too. The first time Dad didn't notice for a little while and had to go running after her as she was already out of earshot. Every other time she asked to run the long race so we were ready for it. What a little runner!
I decided to make the trek to Silver Creek Falls with the kids. I was longing to just be in nature and this was the perfect antidote. Eliza and I got lots of comments about her luxury ride.

Here's the kids under the waterfall in the cave area.

Surprise Eliza!Josiah climbing around!We celebrated Grandpa's birthday a little late so that we could share it with Aunt Linda. Roaring River here we come!!
Here's the birthday Grandpa with Josiah enjoying the cool waters. Josiah was all over and in the creek.
And here's Dad being the safety guy for crazy Mia as she balances her way across the stream on the branch.
And there was sweet cousin time for Sierra, as she and Mackenzie enjoyed wading and just generally playing around.Even Eliza got to dip her toes in the creek!
It has been a great summer and I'll post a few more pictures soon. The nice thing about home schooling is that summer isn't over for us. We already have several great outings planned... educational of course!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Choose Peace

We are approaching our 1 year anniversary in this house. When we were looking for a home after our house sold we chose this place because we would not have to sign a lease. The house was for sale and this meant we would be living on a month to month basis. We trusted God would have us here as long has he needed us here, and then he would move us on. In the meantime I was 7 months pregnant with three young kids to care for, and pack for! At that time I consciously made the decision not to worry about how long we would live here or where we would go next if it sold. Those things I would deal with as they came up. Instead, I chose peace. Being one who prefers a good, solid plan this was definitely not a natural response - though each time I choose this it gets easier! I just felt a strong prompting that I would miss out on a lot of joy if I spent my time worrying.

I recently came across some old notes from one of the "planning/dreaming" sessions Andrew and I had together several years ago. Year after year when we would talk about our ideal living situation, we always wrote the same things: a few acres for some farm animals, room to host people, in the country but not far from people. I can't believe we are living that dream right now and at a time when we couldn't have achieved this for ourselves. I have also learned that, for now, it's good to be renting because it reminds me that this is not mine, it is a gift, for a time.

So today I just want to praise the Lord for a year of worry-free blessing.

Thank you for the large house where so many people have been able to come and
stay with us. Thank you for the fruit trees that we've enjoyed.
Thank you for the space to enjoy farm animals and for the kids to be kids.
Thank you for the layout of the house which fully matches our family.
Thank you for the view, which is just a cherry on top.

I also want to pray for the future.

Lord, only you know how long we'll be here and what comes next. In the meantime, help us to use this place for purposes more than just our own enjoyment. May people be blessed when they come here! AMEN!

Monday, August 24, 2009

This Makes No Sense

Sometimes we are called to do things that look VERY contrary to "good", common sense. There is no earthly defense of such behavior. There is only the feeble confidence that my wobbly little step of faith honors my heavenly Father whose good opinion should be the only one that matters. I desperately want to experience walking in faith and seeing what sweet gifts that God will provide. It is nearly impossible in my current, comfortable state of American life. There are safety nets everywhere! I suppose it is a continuing of the "test me in this" that I'm taking God up on, but I am fully aware of why it is so hard for the rich man to do this, like getting a camel through the eye of a needle. Choosing to deny resources is hard and seems foolish.
Recently the Church created a beautiful visual display of how blessed I am. With grains of rice standing for individuals around the world they showed simple things like how many people watched the Super Bowl last year versus how many attended the game, how many students are enrolled in our local public school system, how many of those get free or reduced lunches, how many in our city are currently unemployed, etc. Then the rice got heartbreaking. A huge pile of rice showed how many people eat at McDonalds in a given day (my father-in-law might find that heartbreaking in and of itself!) and right beside that there was a huge pile of rice signifying the number of people who died from malnutrition last year. There was a pile for the number of slaves in the world, children in the sex trade, those who died from curable diseases... the list went on. I couldn't help but leave and wonder why I was given such luxury to live in America. Why are my kids so safe? Why do we eat three meals and snacks every day?
I've been asking God to break my heart for the things that break his heart and this rice display is what I was met with. He is slowly loosening my grip on the things of this earth, something I've been praying for. I want to gain his perspective. Two years ago this meant going to Mongolia, this week it meant the Church provided a visual that I connected with. Tomorrow... who knows, but I love that the world around me is beginning to say to me, "This makes no sense." I'll take that as a sign that I might be doing something right! And when my own heart says the same thing, I'm trusting that the Holy Spirit will meet me there again and urge me onward in this journey.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Fun!

Ok, it's been a little deep lately so here are some pic's to capture some of the great times we've had this summer. I think I'll do two posts as there's a lot to catch up on!

Family reunion time again!! The kids had fun cousin time and it was great remembering Uncle Ed this year. I guess the boys were moving around too much, I really didn't have any pictures of them. Sierra, Grace, Victoria, Eliza and Mia at the Rainforest Cafe in Seattle. Yummy but expensive! Phew!!

Sierra and Victoria by the little creek at the park we were at for the family reunion as we did our photo scavenger hunt. Come to think of it, I never turned in those pictures!

4th of July!! My favorite holiday. Grandma Linda joined us at the Oregon Gardens, our family tradition.

What luck, we also ran into our old babysitter, Wendy!

Everyone had a lap!
I love this picture of Mia, she looks so grown up!

Then Andrew and I celebrated 13 years of marriage.He arranged for a horse drawn carriage ride in the country and dinner out to a wonderful Italian restaurant. It was a perfect evening! Here's a video clip of some "friends" of the horse that pulled our carriage. I guess they were just saying, "Hello!" They ran along side for the whole length of the field, whinnying, trotting, and kicking up their heels. It was really fun to witness.

Sadly, back home, 8 of the 9 chicks that a hen was caring for all disappeared one night so Andrew got a Havahart trap and trapped then killed the predator. So much for "having a heart"!
For some reason everyone wanted to be in a picture with it. Seems a little redneck-ish to me! The skunk was huge and he made a huge smell, too! They trapped and disposed of 2 more skunks after this one. Then we saw it, a little bundle of black and white fur, just down our hill and since nobody "had the heart" to kill a little baby, we rescued it. Josiah thought that we could rehabilitate it and teach it that it shouldn't eat chicks but we finally decided to take it to the animal rescue center. Shortly after that it went into skunk foster care. Here's little Pepe eating cat food.

We still have plenty of chickens but through the course of the summer we have downsized to 60 birds all together.
Mia with a banty chick.
Josiah impersonating his polish hen Abigail.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Yes Day! part 3

Malachi 3:6-17 Robbing God

6 "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?' 8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty. 13 "You have said harsh things against me," says the LORD. "Yet you ask, 'What have we said against you?' 14 "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.' " 16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. 17 "They will be mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

This was the passage that prompted me to follow through with what I felt the Holy Spirit had been calling me to. I promised to share with you how our storehouses were flooded today. You know, to begin with, I'm embarrassed to say that our storehouses are already overflowing. I live in America. I have freedom, if I had no food the welfare system would provide food for me and there are countless organizations around to shelter us if we had no place to live. We have a military that protects us, good health care, and a fair judicial system. I can vote for our leaders! And let's not get into how many freedoms I enjoy. Personally, I have friends and family that love and care for us, eggs every day, chicken we could eat, and fruiting trees and vines. I live in a fertile valley where we could grow almost anything. Currently I live in a huge house where people can come and stay with me. I have healthy children and can teach them at home. But I don't want to fill this post with all these obvious blessings... today God gave us samples of blueberry muffins, free cookies, rolls of bright pink tape to play with, Cheezits crackers, and then a great rest time in the afternoon! Why are these things significant? Because it was the kids who needed to see God's gifts overflowing and most of these gifts were spoken in a love language they could understand: food and fun. The good rest time was just for me, a pause in the midst of a busy day and a huge gift to me. I love when the house is quiet in the afternoon, I can relax and unwind and prepare for the rest of the day. What a gift! As soon as Andrew got home Josiah rattled off the list of blessings God gave us today. He saw God's promise fulfilled in a personally meaningful way. This was also a gift to me.
So I have experienced, in this little baby step of obedience, that it is not futile to serve the Lord and I hope that as God continues to change me the world will look at my life and they will see a distinction and know that it is Him that makes the difference. And, when it is all said and done, what joy I have in knowing that He considers me his treasured possession.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Yes Day! part 2

On the way to deliver God's money to our special friends, I instructed the kids that we were looking for people to show God's love to. Anything goes! We prayed for God to provide opportunities and committed ourselves to saying, "YES!" when we saw them.
The first person we encountered was an older gentleman walking along the road just as it was starting to rain. Perfect! I felt safe offering him a ride because he was old enough I didn't feel he posed a threat, plus we were in a public place. I also felt this was a great gift of love because he was obviously shuffling along and didn't have an umbrella. So we pulled around. "Can I give you a ride?!" I called out. He looked at me, scowled, waved his hand toward Walmart and through some other mumbles said, "No." Then he kept on walking. Now I wanted to get out grab him and force him to receive some love but, you'll be proud to know, I held myself back. On to the next victim, err I mean...
Deciding I needed some caffeine to continue on this journey, we pulled into Starbucks. (I had in hand one of the two gift cards I had received over the last couple of weeks!) What do you know, they were doing a water bottle drive for the Union Gospel Mission! So we donated $1.85 of the $3 I had, enough for one bottle. Normally I never give to these things because I'd rather donate directly, but today I said I would say, "Yes."
So we went on an delivered the main gift of the day and as we were on the way home for lunch I saw the Red Cross blood mobile in Roth's parking lot. This is usually something I would never do with the kids. Four littles and needles, lots of waiting, small spaces... these just don't match. But, I said I would say, "Yes." So I signed my name on the waiting list.
"Alright, we'll call your name in about 45 minutes."
45 minutes?!! And that was just to begin the process. The cost is too great! The kids will be bored stiff and causing problems, not to mention hungry. This will never work.
Hey, the details are God's to work out.
"We'll see you in 45 minutes then."
45 minutes gave us just enough time to get free Roth's cookies and go to the bathroom. Then we filled out all the forms and headed to the bus. Sierra said, "Mom, is it time for your blood surgery now?" I guess I had a little more explaining to do for her.
We all stepped into the big bus which felt surprisingly small with the kids clambering around trying to see.
"Um, your kids will have to wait in the front while we do your intake paperwork."
My mind raced. WHAT?!! You want my kids, alone, in the front of a bus filled with needles and other people's blood, not to mention a few strangers? It's already been 45 minutes and they just had cookies! This spells disaster!
Even when things are out of my control, they are under your control Lord.
"Ok, I'll bring them up there and be right back."
Needless to say it was hard to answer intake questions through my prayers, but, after about a half an hour, I made it through this portion, too, and the kids were fine.
The last phase of this blood giving journey was the needle part. The needles don't bother me, though I do experience some pain, but having to lay still while my kids are just yards away is almost unbearable. At this point the kids had been waiting nearly 2 hours for this big event. It was an hour past lunch time, the whole bus was very tight quarters, several people were having vein problems and taking forever, and I wanted to back out of my commitment. But, I said I would say "yes" and I didn't want my "yes" to be a shallow, meaningless gift that I quickly took back from the Lord when tough times came, so we stayed. After a little trouble locating the vein, my blood came quickly; 4 minutes 36 seconds. I asked him if that was a record! (I am sure it came fast because my heart was beating so quickly worrying that the kids, who were now beginning to bicker and fight, were going to really esscillate!). Then, after praying for the recipient of that blood, that was it. We survived.

I never would have done any of these little things because of inconvienence or personal bent, but today I got to experience how much God can do with a bunch of little "yes's". One day the "yes" may be more costly. One day the impact may be bigger. But today, we practiced, oh, and we tested the Lord. Remember it was Malachi 3 that prompted this follow through. How did He throw open the floodgates of heaven? I'll have to get to that... tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Yes Day! part 1

Last week we had two great days of keeping our eyes on Jesus. First we went on a wonderful worship walk. As we walked we allowed everything to prompt praise to God. It was fun to hear what the kids came up with, sometimes following my train of thought, sometimes having simple, yet profound gratefulness, but mostly focused on praising God for all the animals we saw! Hey, whatever, it was all a gift to Him. The next morning I thought, "How can we follow up on that day?" I decided we needed to go on a love journey.
For over a week I had been feeling the Holy Spirit prompting the thought of a dear, Godly family that I know. First it was just joy over their anniversary, then it was a desire to honor their 25 year commitment... but how? The thought popped into my head, $25. I scoffed, why would God want me to give a measly little gift for such a great celebration, but over and over that thought kept pursuing me. Finally one night as I was praying myself to sleep and enjoying some ice water I just had to ask God, "Why $25? It seems ridiculous." Clear as day I heard my answer, "It's not $25, it's $250." In my sleepy state, I felt myself simply respond in my heart, "Ok God." The next morning, when faced with the reality of our financial situation, I felt some strong questioning, "Did that really happen? Surely He doesn't want me to do that much." In true God fashion, what verse do you think I should read that morning?!


Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

TEST ME IN THIS. So there I was, at the edge of a decision; take the leap, risk the consequences, and really trust God's promise, or, turn away and follow a more travelled path, one that made a lot more sense on paper, and one that, I must say, was a whole lot wider. So, with tears of complete joy and a heart so full I was about to burst, I gathered God's money and prepared myself to be the deliverer of His gift.

Monday, August 3, 2009

An Interesting McDay

Somehow I ended up with a gift card to McDonald's in my purse, so I decided to treat the kids to lunch. The gift card was for $15 so I only had to fork over 13 cents in the deal!! Plus, it was Teeny Beanie Baby days, so the girls each got another beloved "pet". While we were eating I noticed an older lady come in and sit down behind me. In an obvious, matted wig and with a very masculine looking face, I was pretty sure this "woman" had a story. I began praying for an opportunity to talk with her. I eagerly waiting to sense what the Holy Spirit would lead me into. Meanwhile I noticed that the conversations coming from the kids were obviously Christian topics, following up on things we'd been discussing at home or that they'd learned at Church. Let me tell you, even as I was praying for my dining neighbor I was bombarded by the urgent needs of my own circumstances. When I'm with the kids there aren't a lot of free moments if you know what I mean. Shortly Josiah was done eating so he tucked himself under the table and hurried off to play in the play area. Right then a decidedly male voice came from behind me saying, "You sure have your hands full. I remember when mine were that age." Ahhhh, my instincts were right, and this was my moment! I turned to my new McFriend and smiled.
I wanted something miraculous to come out of my mouth. It didn't. I prayed again, "Lord, you have me here for a reason. Please use me to bless this person. If you need me for anything, here I am."
So we talked. Well, mostly he talked. He told me about his situation, that his wife died a few years back and his relationships with his kids is very strained now, obviously in part because of all that's going on with his body. (I'm always confused with what gender to refer to in these situations but when I looked into his eyes I saw a man so, even though outwardly he was looking more and more like a woman, I will refer to him as a man still.) He told me they discovered his abnormality not to long ago and it really explained a lot of things in his life. The big irony here is that I just watched a show about the XXY chromosome disorder, also known as Klinefelter's syndrome. This didn't make me an expert by any means but I felt like I was prepared with some thoughts about how children or spouses might be affected or how similar or dissimilar this might be from Faith's extra 18th chromosome.
Well, long story short, after he told me quite a bit about his life and his family, he started to gather up his trash and was saying his goodbyes. By this time the girls were off playing as well and it was only Eliza and I. I scooted Eliza over and slid into his booth. There had been many prayers sent up by this point. I smiled at him and said as honestly as I could, "You know, I've been trying to respond to God and listen to the Holy Spirit in my life and I was wondering if I could pray with you right now?" "Oh," he said, "I prayed this morning." "Well could we pray together right now? I wanted to pray for your family and your relationship with them." "Well, you know," he boldly said, "I'm a Captist." My little hamster wheel began spinning in my head, "A what?" "You know, a Catholic/Baptist." "Oh." I'm thinking what does that have to do with anything and what does it even mean? So I said, "Well, would you be comfortable praying with me real quick?" "No, not really." So there I was, denied in McDonalds. Ahh, but I will not be thwarted. After thanking him for spending some time talking with me I reminded him that I would be praying for him today.
So, wherever you are right now, Mr. Humanbeing-on-a-hard-journey-through-life, I am praying for you. I'm praying for rest and consistency in your body, for healing in your relationships with your family, and for the eternal hope that Jesus Christ offers to be truly known in your heart. I don't know why bright lights didn't flash and direct revelation didn't happen today but I hope that somehow through our interrupted, distraction filled conversation that you felt the love of God and remembered that you are his beloved child.

And that's the end of the story. Was that time wasted, a failed attempt at responding to the Holy Spirit? Was I only responding to my own thoughts?
Matthew 22:36-40 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the
second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the
Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Someday I may have a miracle story to share, someday I may be used to lead someone to Christ, but I know that I love God with my whole heart and today I loved my neighbor in the booth next to mine at McDonalds. Everything else is up to Him.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

What a Journey

The "training time" in our lives has really intensified recently. The books I've been reading, groups we're involved with, Church services and events I've attended, even my home school curriculum choices have consistently drawn my attention to Jesus so much more lately. I have been consistently led into places that require my continued faith in God, and I have been cared for every time. I have been asked to obey the Lord's commands, despite what seems acceptable to the world around me, and have been blessed every time. The way that the world is doing things is wrong! It may feel right at first. It can be talked through and justified and made to sound so sweet but it is a bitter fruit my friend, a temporary indulgence that leaves you unsatisfied.

Sometimes I feel so compelled to share the true, good fruit, the good news, to be a messenger of truth and hope, that I feel like I might burst. I have often chuckled to myself, feeling sorry for the poor soul that I might run into, all this pent up evangelistic energy might make me come across a little crazy! (Perhaps you might think I sound a little crazy right now, too.) But mostly I find that it is my children that I'm sharing this enthusiasm with. This isn't a bad thing by any means. Josiah said the other night, "Mom, I feel like God is calling me to China." Then, the next day he added, "I think I'd like to preach the gospel to orphanages using lots of animals." We recently saw Reptile Man at the library and afterwards we talked about what a platform he has because of his knowledge and love of reptiles. God creates each of us with unique gifts, talents and desires and all of these can be used to uniquely share the gospel in a way that no one else would.

So, what is it I want to share? I feel strongly that there are many lies that we've accepted, even as Christians, that leave us feeling dry and unsatisfied. When truth seeps in it is like cool, fresh water in the parched, dry mouth of life. I've been guzzling this water this year and it is changing my life. I can't help but look around at the dry mouths that surround me and feel compelled to share some of this endless supply of sweet relief.

It's been very hot recently, record breaking actually, and the most refreshing beverage has been ice water. If I was standing in this heat with a crowd of thirsty people and I had a bottomless water bottle that constantly refilled, how could I not share it? That's how I'm beginning to feel about sharing the good news. I'm really starting to understand what a precious gift I have. And, knowing I have such a precious gift, how could I sit in church each week simply as a part of my routine while I mouth half hearted worship songs to the One who gave me this gift? Or how could I just check tithing off my list each month as part of my to-dos? Or dutifully force myself to read passages of scripture, or pray repetitive, safe prayers to the King of Kings, Creator of everything, my personal Savior, God Almighty?

If I really believe He is God and that the Bible is true, then this changes everything! I operate under a new set of rules, the old worldly game is not the game being played, those rules do not apply. Not only that but my attendance at Church is no longer out of duty, it's out of a desire to learn more, and worship with other believers. My worship is not just singing songs, it is an offering to God, an opportunity to sit at his feet and say, "Thank you", to be in his presence and be overwhelmed by him. Tithing becomes an opportunity to be apart of ministry locally and around the world! I can do so much more than just my little bubble of influence by supporting someone or an organization that God is using to spread the good news. I read the Bible to gain understanding because I long to know God more. My prayers have become a conversation with my Heavenly Father, a connection to him. My sin has become more of an abomination to me and it makes me appreciate Jesus' death on the cross so much more.

How I want you to experience this, too! I think some steps that help lead us into this perspective are this:

1. Ask God to reveal himself to you in a new way. The Bible says in both Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9 (hmmm, wonder if it's important?!), "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." We can not find truth on our own, we need God to reveal it to us.

2. Look around you and realize the awesomeness and intricacies of all that God created, including you. Really take the time to appreciate this and let it change how you think of God our Creator.

3. Examine Jesus' death on the cross. We can not appreciate how great a sacrifice his suffering was unless we fully look at the temptations he conquered and the pain he endured for us. Understanding the gravity of his death causes an explosion of celebration at his resurrection. It completes the promise to us. HE'S ALIVE! What he said was true. I'M FORGIVEN!!

4. With these two views of God in proper perspective, what's left is to abandon everything and follow him, which is no longer a sacrifice to be made or anything scary or tedious to partake in but instead an exciting journey and an opportunity to know him more and even be used by him! (Believe me, I'm hoopin' and hollarin' right now!!)

Steps 2 & 3 are where good commentaries and books, Biblestudies, movies and testimonies of others can help you see more clearly. This is why we as Christians do these things... to gain clearer vision not because we should.

I believe step 4 is only possible with the first three steps. I can not give up everything I'm comfortable with unless I really know my Creator and Savior because, when I do, He is easy to trust. This is why my whole life I will seek to know more and more of who he is so that I am more pliable in his hands and able to be used however he desires, without fear.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cousin Visit


We had the privilege of hosting Victoria for a few days as she was on her way home from summer camp. It seemed like we were so busy that I didn't remember to take pictures of all the great things the kids got to do with her. But, just before she left I caught some flicks of her "in her element". I love that God has given us this farm for the time being. It is so fun to share it with other people.

Victoria is a natural farm girl and took to training Stormy and helping round up chickens right away.
As you can see Stormy had the chance to practice getting comfortable in his saddle while she was here, something that hasn't happened probably since Victoria was here last.

She also grew fond of one of the duck's, named Darkie. (Don't you just love the red headband and denim?!! Total farm girl!)


I do have to say that besides being a farm girl she is also a Lord of the Rings expert. She gave me a scene by scene description of the movie which took just over an hour! We joked that we should have just watched the movie. But, at least now I do have a general understanding of it and would probably enjoy watching it if the chance ever came along.

Her parents came yesterday to take her back home. However short the visit was, it was still a good bonding time (for Stormy and for us!!).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Help! Lord, get me out of this mess.

I'm very tired after two evenings of 4th of July celebrations. 4th of July is my favorite holiday!! But I feel like I need to blog about this thought I've had right away. So, perhaps I'll have to come back and edit my writing, but for now I'll just get it down!!

I've been reading the book Crazy Love by Frances Chan (of Simi Valley California no less!). So far I've been encouraged to step back and appreciate my Creator who is also the creator of the entire universe around me and to remember that this earth is only my temporary home and to let that knowledge change my life. I've been led to read Revelation from the position of one receiving a description from someone who had just seen a glimpse into heaven. Wow! Revelation came alive to me. I have never enjoyed reading it before because I felt like I had to figure it all out. This time I realized how hard it would be for someone to describe, in human terms, spiritual things like heaven, God, and angels. I gave the author the same margin that I would an excited friend and I felt like my heart was able to better receive the information. I also considered that he was using the best descriptions he could find in comparing the unknown things to things we would be familiar with. I read and enjoyed every minute of it.

In this last chapter the author challenged us to evaluate our spiritual temperature remembering that God spits out the lukewarm. He suggested reading through the gospels, which are the account of Jesus' life directly from the disciples. Instead of analyzing it we took the perspective of a young person reading it for the first time. For some reason John was the book I chose to read. So, with wide eyes and ears hearing from a first person account, I found this book also just came alive. Here are some of the things from my first reading that I wanted to share:

John 3:30 He must become greater; I must become less.


John the Baptist said that. Isn't that a central truth of the Christian walk?! More of you Lord, less of me!

John 4:15 The woman (an adulteress Samaritan woman, married 5 different times
and living with her boyfriend) said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I
won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

What hit me this time was a heavy heart saying, here I am again, I hate my position, my struggle, my pain. Take it away! I don't want to keep coming here to this place of pain. Haven't we all felt that way?! Get me out of this!! Of course she would still have to get water everyday, they all did back then, but I believe she's tired of doing it the hard way, in the middle of the day to avoid the stigma of her failures.

John 4:25 The woman (same woman) said, "I know that Messiah" (called
Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to
us."

I love her huge amount of faith! Huge!! Jesus had just tried to describe to her a fairly abstract thought of what he could offer: living water. She doesn't understand what he's saying for sure but she is faithfully waiting for Messiah who will explain everything. Oh, I want that same faith and expectancy! What a great thrill for her to discover that this man, Jesus, was the Messiah she was waiting for.
John 4:39 Many of the Samaritans from town believed in him because of the
woman's (yep, same woman!) testimony, "He told me everything I ever did."


I'm guessing the towns folk had gossiped enough that they pretty much already knew everything she ever did. But, instead of continuing to try to hide these things, she uses her secrets directly as a tool of communicating the truth. I can just see her going into town, oh the stares... at least she has their attention, then her boldness in saying, "Listen guys... he told me EVERYTHING I EVER DID." Finally, it's out there, the reality and truth of it all. The irony is that she no longer needs to try to sneak away for water in the middle of the day, she has freed herself through her faith, she has nothing to hide, it's out there. She has given up her heavy yoke and has been given a light one. Then because of her honesty, many believed in Jesus. How many years were wasted with crazy efforts to try to keep up or redeem her image, trying to avoid the fact that she had failed.
John 4:42 They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you
said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the
Savior of the world."

So, what happened in those couple of days the townspeople spent with Jesus? Did he tell them everything they had ever done, too? The reality is we all have failed and fall way short of God's glory. Instead of looking for ways to cover it up, let God redeem you and use it for his glory and to draw other people to himself. Step out in faith and honesty. What you will find is that you are not alone.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Things Hoped For

Hebrews 11:1, 39 & 40 Now faith is being sure of things hoped for and
certain of things unseen. This is what the ancients were commended
for. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received
what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only
together with us would they be made perfect.


In honor of Faith Petra Joy I re-read this chapter in Hebrews today. It was such a blessing to me at the time I was carrying her. It still is a blessing, but more than that, it's an inspiration. Oh, to be included in what some call the "hall of faith". Men and women who believed God enough that they let go of what the world values and obeyed him regardless. They required no road map, not even a destination. There was no earthly plan, but they didn't need an earthly plan for they understood the heavenly plan and fully trusted the Planner.

I heard a woman pray just weeks ago, "Thank you Father for entrusting us with this suffering." That pierced to the core of my heart. What a privilege to be chosen to suffer for Christ. I used to think that suffering for Christ meant direct martyrdom. In this moment I'm coming to understand that all suffering can be for Christ. Everyone has the opportunity to see Christ in you when you suffer or face hardships, if you allow Him to be seen. In suffering you are powerless, weak.
1 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more
gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is
why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in
persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Ten years ago I hoped for a healed and healthy baby to raise here on earth. Shortly after I delivered her stillborn I realized that she had been made perfect and that I will meet her in heaven one day when I am made perfect as well. With a clear, eternal perspective I am at peace with the understanding that I'm just living here on earth for a short while but we'll be together, forever one day. That is the time that counts, and that is covered for me. The price was paid for my sin when Jesus Christ died on the cross.

Lord Jesus, God my Father, continue to loosen my grip on the things that this world values. I desire to be a woman that keeps her gaze fixed on you. Thank you for holding Faith for me all these years until I can see her again. Thank you for the suffering you allowed me to bear and the dependence on you that it caused me to experience. You did not fail me. Each tiny step of faith landed on solid, trustworthy ground. I know I can trust you completely. I appreciate the glimpse of how great a sacrifice your beloved son's death on the cross was. Thank you for your perfect plan and that because of Jesus I can approach the throne of grace with confidence. In Jesus name I pray! AMEN!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ten Years

The phrase, "ten years" has been repeating in my head over and over again recently. Like a mantra, taunting me, telling me that I've aged, things have changed, life went on, and she's not hear. On Tuesday it will be ten years since I received my answer from God, that Faith would not be healed and we would have to go on without her. I'm remember that time right now, and for some reason, this year, ten years later, emotions are running very high. Oddly there's been a lot of reminders this year: I've supported a friend through a similar situation and met with her and another friend who also experienced the loss of a baby. I've run into the doctor who delivered Faith and some gals who were in our original Baby Loss group, and just yesterday I bumped into a nurse who was a particular blessing all those years ago. Ten years later, the grief has a different feel, but there's a piece of it still there. I've had days of many tears after years of no tears at all.
Because of my friend's situation I've been pouring over old emails and letters I typed up at the time. It's been wonderful to look back and remember the insights God gave me and how blessed and loved we were. To hear myself share from the perspective of a 23 year old I can't help but feel proud of what God did through me, how I was used, and how my faith grew at such a young age.
I've also had anxiety over how to honor Faith this year. It feels like a significant anniversary date and that I should experience it as that. I've thought of buying 10 bouquets of flowers to give away, releasing 10 balloons, hosting an evening of worship, ordering a headstone so that when I die hers will be all ready to be beside me and I will have picked it out. For some reason I've been putting off actually putting these ideas into action. I hope that by Tuesday I will have at least some wheels in motion.
Recently I was reading a blog from a man that is suffering and praying for God's healing touch. The thought crossed my mind that I didn't get God's healing touch, but I know I caught his eye. He knew my pain ten years ago, he knows what I'm feeling now, he loves me!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Camera Fun

Just thought I'd post some pictures of the kids and I playing around. I discovered the "self portrait" feature on my camera which allows you to capture yourself at a close distance (arms length) clearly. A big part of me didn't want to share them because of all the CLUTTER in the background. But, believe me, it could have been worse and how often do I actually get pictures of myself with the kids.
So, here's my boy and I. I love Josiah so much. I'm glad he's had this year of homeschooling to allow him to really get a good sense of who he is. It's been so fun to see glimpses of him becoming a man. He is really getting some convictions that are his own and he sticks by them. He is very at home in the country as he reminds me constantly.

And here's Mia and I with her latest puppy. I love her so much. She has a wonderful "get 'er done" attitude that will serve her well. She's a fun person and is definitely "farm hearted". I don't think there is anything she can't do... unless she doesn't want to, in which case I have my job cut out for me.

And then we have Sierra and I with one of her babies, Meredith. I love her so much. Sierra is my only child that has ever declared, "I'm an inside girl." Josiah and Mia both tell me all the time they're outside kids. She is very mothering both to her babies and her baby sister. She's a cuddler and a cryer. Many times she'll come up to me, completely broken hearted, eyes all full of tears, and say she misses her long lost toy pup "Ruff". He's been gone for months, we've since replaced him, but she remembers, and it breaks her heart.

And finally, Eliza and I. I love her so much. Eliza is so full of spunk. She's learning to crawl and sit and is ready to take on the world. I can't believe how quickly she's growing up. She's got a great, infectious laugh and beautiful, gummy smile. I am, however, considering a shorter hairstyle as the ponytails, buns and braids are not staying in these days. OUCH!

Finally, here is a video I made of her "crawling". You'll have to excuse the screaming, roaring siblings in the background and the constant coaxing from me. I suppose it's just a glimpse of how some days go. *sigh*


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Doing Hard Things

** WARNING **
This post may be inappropriate for young people or anyone with a tender heart.

Today I had to do the hardest thing (in my opinion) that you have to do on a farm. I had to put down a baby duck. I have avoided this responsibility for several months as we've had several animals that have had to be put out of their misery. They may have been sick or injured or, like this little duck, were just born with a defect that made it impossible for them to thrive. Rather than prolong their suffering, I believe it's better to end their lives as quickly as possible. I believe that, but I can not do it, that is, until today. The little duck was given a few days to see if any thing would improve. (Improvement has never happened but I think it's in our nature to give things a chance.) Apparently Andrew thought the little duck had died last night so this morning he tossed him in the burn barrel. Unfortunately, this afternoon, Josiah heard him peeping out there. Now this was a bad situation turned awful. Not only were his little feet deformed and his body lacking nutrition and water since he couldn't move right to get to the feeder and waterer, now he was covered in soot. The solution to his dilemma was obvious, I had to "take care of it". That's how I term it when we're discussing the mercenary killing of sick or inured animals. I knew I couldn't bear to watch it die and I wanted to make sure whatever action I took was thorough so the poor dear wouldn't have to suffer any longer. So, I took care of it.

I wonder if there was animal death in the garden of Eden, I mean before the Deceiver embodied a serpent and lied to Eve. Did God intend there to be a cycle of life and death for the animals? Did accidents, injuries, and malformations happen back then? Did anyone have to "take care of it"? It's easy for me to relate our human sufferings (accidents, injuries, malformations, sicknesses, pain in general) to the fall in the garden but I'm not clear on the animal and plant world. Did flowers fade? or fruit rot? One day I'll know these things for sure.

The bottom line is I hate "taking care of it". I hate the thought of "taking care of it". But, I did it. I did the right thing, here on earth, in our fallen state, where things are hard and imperfect and this little duck needed to be put out of it's misery. Even so, I'm sad and I'm sure it will take me a while to recover from this. It's still traumatic. I cried so hard I dripped snot. I even decided to write this post in order to workout some of my feelings. I also tried a bowl of ice cream, that didn't really help, which I knew it wouldn't but at least it was a nice distraction for a few minutes. I know farmers do this type of thing all the time. "Things happen" they say, "things" being death. I call that type of person "farm hearted," they do hard things enough that it doesn't disrupt their day or require a bowl of ice cream. Maybe one day I'll be a little more farm hearted but for now I'm still sad.

Just Do It

I've touched on this topic before but it's come up again in an interesting analogy. A friend of ours has been competing in longer distance races through high school, college and even now as an adult. He's never completed a marathon though. Being a marathon lover, I found that hard to believe. My husband on the other hand, who never runs unless it's just for fun chasing the kids around, did complete the Portland Marathon... barely, but still.

Let's say completing a marathon was the call of God on people's lives. Despite all the talent, ability, and previously logged miles in the world if a person is unwilling to sign up and put one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles, the marathon will never be completed. But, despite the lack of "natural ability" or even preparedness, a willing and determined person can complete a marathon. Sign up, show up, persevere. Just seems like there's a lesson there. I can also attest to the fact that if you add "train" to the equation the whole experience is a lot more pleasant!!

Just some thoughts... had to share.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

There are some bobble head quail that have been spotted near our house. Well, we call them bobble heads, someone told us they were California quail or Northern quail. At any rate, they have the little bobbley thing that faces forward that bobs when they scurry around in their little groups. So, since we don't have enough fowl around our place, the crew decided it was time to capture some of these wild birds.

Here they are, quail hunting, complete with long sticks for rousing them out of their nests, fishing nets for large group grabs, and boots so that they were prepared for the all terrain chase.Sierra, Eliza and I were the spooking squad. We were to try and spook the quail out in the open by being noisy while everyone else was sneaky and quiet (sort of). We took our job very seriously.
Sierra did get distracted by the neighbors' horses at one point.


After an unsuccessful hunt Eliza thought we should read up a little on these quail and their habits and perhaps reconsider our strategy. She's so wise.
I was happy with just hunting and was glad not to have to deal with an actual capture.
Good times people... good times! You can't buy memories like these.



Friday, May 15, 2009

Lessons From the Past

A dear friend is walking a path similar to one I walked myself 10 years ago. So I was reading through some of the emails that I wrote during that time in order to remember where I was at and hopefully find something to encourage her. I came across this insight:

I guess the point of it all is, you put everything in God's hands: your
healthy child, your unhealthy child, your future, etc. Nothing is too big
for Him. You know the people in Hebrews where they talk about the great
faith that they had. A lot of them didn't have faith for just a few
months, it was the long, really long haul. Also, God didn't spare Daniel
from the lions den, but he did spare him from being eaten alive. Or
Shadrak, Meshak, and Abendigo (don't do a spell check). They weren't
spared from the fire, but the fire didn't burn them and when people looked at
them they saw Jesus too. Wow!!


Sometimes our trials are smaller and tedious, like things that come up in relationships, marriage and parenting. Sometimes they're big, life changing trials like job loss or financial ruin. And sometimes trials are huge like dealing with death. The common thread is that all trials change us and require trusting the process or, even more, the Processor, God.

I watched the kids working with clay this past week and thought about how we are clay and the way God works us into his ultimate design masterpiece. Sometimes the instrument for change is gentle pressure and cool water sometimes it's a sharp knife. Trusting our Creator and Savior seems like such an obvious choice for a long time Christian but following through with trust... faith... that's tough. The fact that I have examples of faith before me makes it doable. Jesus hung on the cross and suffered immeasuably, he bore the sins of humanity, and paid our debt. Now that's a trial! But then he rose from the dead, just as he said he would, and now he's at the right hand of God preparing a place for me! The Bible and the Church are filled with testimonies of God's goodness and the critical importance of having a long term, eternal perspective. May we trust God in the short term, immediate trials, however big or small, and may other people see God as we stand in those trials and wait on the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness
of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be
strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Lord, lift me above my own narrow horizons, that I might fulfill your true vision for me. - B.J. Hoff