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