Saturday, February 25, 2012

God's Design

This post has been a long time coming. And even as I sit down to begin, I don't know how to say this in a way that doesn't take 10,457 words. When I started this blog, Chris and I were staring at a huge decision which could have meant changing almost every aspect of our life. As with so many possibilities and opportunities in the past seven years, that one didn't pan out and we were left to wonder, once again, what God had in store.

I've been a believer most of my life and a church-goer for all of it. Chris, not so much. He started to take Jesus seriously soon after we started dating and hasn't looked back. The first few years of our marriage, we looked like most other good-citizen, church-going, baby-having newlywed couple, and boy was I happy with that. I'll never forget the day that my adventure-craving husband told his pregnant wife that he felt God calling him to something more than the life he was living. After approximately 2.3 seconds of consideration, I declined and he agreed. With a second child on the way, this was no time to do something hair-brained, right?

Thus began our journey of surrender, disappointment, wondering, struggling, hoping, fearing, and growing. A couple years later, I felt that dark cloud of change...of the unknown...looming over us and I trembled with fear. I knew it was time to let go of all my plans and priorities and give myself completely to my Maker, but everything in me rose up in opposition and fear. Still, I knew this was it. The moment had come when I had to surrender to Jesus as Lord or go my own way. We tried to put our lives completely in God's hands, but we just didn't quite let go of all our own desires and expectations.

Through trying to move out of state and go to seminary, having a completely random and different job dropped in Chris's lap, exploring church planting options from one side of the country to the other, going on foreign mission trips, attending seminary locally, having two more babies, and finally considering a foreign mission assignment, the Lord has brought us to a place where we have let go of our plans and are seeking His...no longer begrudgingly, but with hearts eager to make an eternal impact. The Lord has freed me from the fear that used to choke the life out of me and freed Chris from the assumption that serving God has to look big and amazing and exciting on the outside. He has loosened our grip on our lives and bound our hearts more closely to His.

These last several years have been painful, confusing, and heart-wrenching at times. I've had to face so many fears and let go of so many things I was tied to here on earth. Chris has had to allow his vision to match up with God's vision and surrender his desire for grand adventure just for adventure's sake. I cannot even begin to recount to you all the things God has done and is doing in us as He is about the business of conforming us to Christ, but He has certainly been busy. We see plainly that we have miles and miles to go, but we celebrate how far we've come.

So here we are, yet again, with an opporunity and a possibility before us. But this time it seems different. This time, none of this was of our making. This time everything fits Chris's passions and giftedness. This time it's all about what God can and must do and not about what we want or don't want to do. This time it's something neither one of us could have ever imagined or planned. This time it's one of those things that just appeared and has taken on a life of its own. And, much to my delight and disbelief, this time the Lord has blessed us by fulfilling a desire of our hearts that I honestly never thought would happen. We're ministering alongside my brother and sister-in-law and we couldn't be more thrilled.

Now, let me point out that I've been using the word "we" a lot here, but it's really much more of "he" and "they." My focus lately has been on homemade real food, laundry, ministering to and loving on friends, homework, and changing diapers. But I like to think that somehow that's helping Chris, though he really helps me more than I help him. Chris and Matthew have spent countless hours planning, envisioning, working, thinking, building, organizing, meeting, and praying. Me, not so much.

So, what is this big thing? It just so happens that Chris and Matthew's college degrees, work experience, natural God-given talents, abilities, and gifts, spiritual passions and seminary training have all collided to become Designs for Hope. They have developed a thingy that goes on the back of a bike and charges a battery when you pedal. (There is a much better description here on their website, but I just thought I'd put it in layman's terms for you.) Then you (well, probably not you, but someone in a third world country without access to electricity) can use said battery to run these little lights, a radio, a cell phone charger, etc. More importantly, they want it to be used as a tool to take the Light of the World...well, to the world.

So far, things have been going smashingly! God has been gracious enough to let them find favor with many people, provide financial support, send the people and connections they've needed, and even give little confirmations along the way. We all acknowledge that it is God Himself who will have to take this little idea and make it something big. We can be diligent to do our part, but it's really when God does His that things will get exciting. In just a few days, we hope to see that begin to happen. We covet your prayers as we take this idea to a missions conference where there will be lots of people involved in ministry in Africa who we hope will be interested in using this as a ministry tool.

As we stand and stare down this new and exciting road, we acknowledge that we really have no idea where it leads. We hope it's not another seeming dead end, though we know we've hit all those dead ends for a purpose, but we know the Lord rarely takes us somewhere we expect. This is an exhilarating, yet scary, place to find ourselves but we know enough now to realize that God has us here for His purposes and that His plans are the right ones. We just hope and pray that He'll use us, empty vessels that we are, for His purposes, because we now know that that's what life is about. He has moved our hearts from the earthly to the heavenly. This life is not about us or our dreams or our stuff. It's about Him and His glory. We're just along for the ride.

For more information, check out the Designs for Hope website.













And just because he's cute...


Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Weekend

Oh, how the weekends fly by! For once, we had a Friday and Saturday with no major plans. Jack and his basketball crew had one last walloping to take. Once again, we lost by over 20 points. The great thing about being a kid: Jack announced the day before the game that this was the National Championship game and they were going to win! Now that's positive thinking...or a firm belief in miracles. Sadly, no miracle occurred but Jack didn't seem to care. We were all quite relieved when the final buzzer sounded and we could call an end to a very brutal season. And then we went straight to soccer registration. Gluttons for punishment.

We spent a quiet rainy afternoon at home doing very exciting things like baking bread, cooking a chicken in the crockpot, and playing Star Wars Operation. The force was with me, so my bread turned out once again. Maddie made snickerdoodle bars and can I say that she did it pretty much on her own and they were yummy! I was a little bit proud. Now why I think you care about this, I don't know.

All I've got is one cute Lukeyism to leave you with. Yesterday, Luke announced that he wanted to get "bathtized." When we asked him why he wanted to be bathtized, he answered, "So I can have that little cracker and that little juice." I'm thinking that's not the right reason, but it sure was cute.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Round Here

As usual, there are many exciting things going on at our house. To battle the bulge that comes with leftover birthday cake, I've come up with a new exercise plan. The one requirement is that you have access to kids and their stuff. You could borrow someone else's, I suppose, but no need for that here. I have my own supply. Jillian and her 30 Day Shred have nothing on my crunches with a toddler on your abdomen, my cardio routine on the kids' mini-trampoline, or my stretches while balancing against a Cozy Coupe. I'm gonna make millions. I can feel it.

When I'm not getting shredded, I'm baking things to get unshredded. My homemade hamburger buns were a bit of a flop, but we ate them anyway. At the end of many days, I'm ready to throw in the towel, stock up on Tombstone pizza, and call it a day. But then I get up again and have just enough energy to bake, roast, and stir for another three meals. Pretty soon I'll be ready to present my complete healthy lifestyle regimen...NOT! Did I mention the birthday cake?

Being the well-rounded people we are, Maddie has taken up horse riding lessons. Actually, she received three lessons as a Christmas gift and we're just now getting around to scheduling them. She loved, loved, LOVED it. And I loved watching her. Don't get me wrong. Having to sign my child's life away and stand next to the big sign where they claim no liability in the event of her injury or death wasn't so fun. But seeing her sit up so straight and pretty on top of a giant of a horse and watching her quiet confidence was special. When we left, she quietly asked, "Do you have to pay to go there?" When I answered, "Yes," her soft "Oh" made me a little sad. But she didn't complain...just enjoyed every second.

I must mention that, while I was enjoying seeing my little girl do a very big girl thing, my life was in jeopardy. I was left alone with a demon-possessed cat who would not even let me sit in a chair. I'm not kidding. Everywhere I went and tried to get comfortable, that cat would leap at me, chase me off, and take possession of that spot. Chair. Mini-fridge I tried to lean on. Papers that I had to write on. The cat was after me. He'd give me this evil death stare and make a very unfriendly sound which I'm pretty sure meant, "Back off, sister. This place is mine." So, like any brave, much-larger human, I stood in the back of the room and watched Maddie out the window. I've never like cats, but now the deal is sealed.

Just in case I haven't impressed you yet with all the productivity and excitement around here, let me leave you with the latest music video we've produced. Jack-of-all-trades is the phrase you're looking for. If you're wondering if an iPad would be a worthwhile investment (not that we bought the one in our possession), just take a look at what you can do with it. This will certainly lay all your reservations to rest.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's Romance Galore

We're not super-duper celebrators of Valentine's Day around here, but we did do a few fun things today. All of my pictures are backwards and since it's late and I'm going on very little sleep, we'll just go with it.

I'm usually very anti-Valentine's. There is usually some major fallout over the nightmarish task of my children taking 17-25 little pieces of cardstock and writing their friends' names on them. I'm not sure what makes the whole process so stressful, but we're all usually close to tears. I'm happy to announce that all that went off without a hitch and we even had them done a week ahead of time. Another drawback to this holiday is all the junk lovely items the kids come home with that I have to find some way to sneakily dispose of. They did both come home with a sack of crapola adorable Valentine treats, but I've ignored them up to this point. So far, so good.

But this year, I tried to be a good sport and come up with something a little special. Sam's contribution to the whole occassion was a little snot followed by some tears and loud screaming. Par for the course at dinner time around here, but the fact that he's sick doesn't help. We love him and his mullet anyway.
Luke had a "Pajama Day," which he was very upset about when Maddie, Jack, and Chris came home after school fully dressed in non-sleepwear. He had a mini-meltdown because he wanted to get dressed at 6pm, which is frankly ridiculous from the point of view of the local laundress, but he did manage to enjoy the giant lip lollipop his sweet Aunt Emily gave him.




Here is my Valentine. What did he get me to commemorate this special Day of Love and Romance? He gave me the priceless gift of his presence and assistance at 3:30am when I had to clean up the second and larger round of vomit which landed Sam in the bathtub and me doing laundry at 4am. Nothing says love like forgoing sleep on a work night to help you clean up puke. Really, I'd rather have had that than five dozen roses because there's nothing lonelier and more miserable than cleaning up puke by yourself. I love you, My Sweet Valentine. Aren't you glad we finally got the Valentine's Day we always dreamed of?


He also finished off our Valentine's Day pizza (with a different, and even yummier, homemade crust recipe) while I sat in the bathroom floor trying not to pass out after almost slicing my thumb off. Blood and vomit. Nothing more festive than that.





Okay, here's a weird picture of Maddie and Jack pretending to kiss with their giant lip candy.




Is it weird that I kept wanting to tell them to smile before I snapped the pictures? But then I'd realize they were using big, fake lips that couldn't smile. For some reason, the whole thing felt strange.




And here, at the end, is the beginning. We started off the day with a special breakfast. If you can't tell, the strawberries are shaped like hearts. I would not want you to miss that very important detail. This whole meal thrilled me because it was easy, the kids loved it, and it used up two items in my kitchen that were about to go bad.


I just sliced up some of our almost-stale homemade wheat bread, buttered it, and lightly sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar. I stuck it in the oven to toast while I put half a block of softened cream cheese, maybe about six strawberries, and a drizzle of maple syrup in the food processor. When the toast came out, I spread some pink fluffy topping on it and plopped on a few strawberries. Easy breezy, but the kids were impressed...and maybe I was a little bit, too. :)



Well, I just missed Valentine's Day by five minutes, but I hope you had a good one. I'm going to bed and praying for lots of sleep and no puke. XOXO


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jack Attack

Today is my sweet Lukey's fourth birthday! Am I the only mom who wants to burst into tears after a statement like that? Oh, I love that boy. But for some strange reason, I've actually put a little post together about another boy in my house. Maybe I'm just trying to keep everybody confused since most people get them mixed up anyway. They look so much alike, but my two biggest boys are really pretty different. They keep us smiling (and sometimes crying) in their own little ways.




Jack is a wealth of information and will gladly share it with you whether you’re interested or not. So, I’ll gladly pass some little tidbits along to you, whether you’re interested or not. But I’m sure you are.

A while back, Jack got all worked up about aliens and UFOs. I’m not really sure where all of this came from, but it must have been school because there’s not usually a whole lot of alien talk around our house. Well, now that I think about it, Chris did turn them onto ALF reruns a while back. Wherever it originated, he was frequently worried about the possibility of alien abduction or attack. No matter how many times we assured him they don’t exist, he would not believe us. He would show up at our bedside at all hours of the night unable to sleep because the alien fear was too much for him.

So, one day, Chris is riding down the road with Jack when he brings up aliens again. Once again, Chris tells him, in no uncertain terms, to let go of the whole thing. Jack replies, “Then why are all these signs everywhere that say we should Keep Alien Fur?” Chris looks out the window and sees a campaign sign encouraging voters to “Keep Alan Furr.” After Chris read the sign to Jack correctly, we haven’t heard much about aliens around here.

A couple nights ago, Jack shared a more useful tidbit of info with us that I will pass along to you out of the goodness of my heart and my concern for your safety. He said, “Mama and Daddy, if you hear somebody knocking on the door in the middle of the night, don’t answer it. That’s when the robbers come.”

To which I replied, “Jack, I don’t think robbers usually knock.”

He looked at me like I’d lost my mind and said, “Then how do they get in if the door’s locked?”

Later that same night, we were riding down the road. Jack had been quiet, which I can assure you is unusual. Suddenly, he asked, “Mama, do you want to know what I’m always thinking about in the front of my brain? I think about everything else in the back, but there’s always this same thing in the front.”

Me: “What, Jack?”

He answered, “God. He’s always what’s in the front of my brain. And everything else just stays in the back.”

“Me too, Jack!”

Hard to believe he’s losing top teeth, spending the night with friends and reading like a champ. The thought of the day when all these cute things stop coming out of his mouth makes me sad.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Ride of My Life

Do you ever have one of those days when you feel quite certain that if you were to pay a little visit to a psychiatrist they might not let you go home because you’ve completely lost it and my in fact be a threat to yourself and others? Or, at the very least, they’d give you some frightening diagnosis and send you home with some doozy of a prescription? Or how about this question…do you ever NOT have one of those days?

Can I tell you that you are blessed to not be a part of my brain? It is one crazy, stressed-out, wildly distracted place to be most of the time. I feel like I’m on a runaway roller coaster with no emergency break and the prospect of jumping off doesn’t seem like a good option. And so, in the midst of what I know are piddly little trials compared to most, I fight the temptation to think, “If only I could get away for a little while. I just need a break.”

Sweep crumbs. Make phone calls. Run errands. What’s for dinner? Nothing artificially flavored or preserved or overly processed or that takes less than 5 ½ hours to cook, please. I need more milk. Make it chocolate. Fix your hair, or at least wash it. Answer emails. Fight off the laundry monster with a huge bottle of detergent. Keep your temper after days on end of fighting children. Sweep crumbs. Honey, can I possibly get a little attention, too? NO! How dare you ask? Schedule appointments. Register for soccer. Sweep the crumbs. Throw together some lunch. Wipe the lunch off grimy faces. Another poop? Seriously? Have you read your Bible? Get the homework done. Sign 15,000 sheets of paper. Write more checks, but check the account first. Give some hugs. Share some wisdom. Clean the tub. Sweep that God-forsaken floor.

You get the idea.

A break from life sounds so refreshing that I can’t think of an analogy relaxing and refreshing enough to describe it. I imagine sitting on a couch, surrounded by silence, with a good book in my hands and nothing on my schedule. And it sounds like absolute bliss. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be pretty nice for however long it lasted, but it would not last. Life is waiting. The crazy runaway coaster will catch up with me and I’ll find myself right back where I started.

It’s so easy, when our life seems like one endless, frantic, out-of-control trial that we can’t possibly hope to come out of in one piece or with our sanity intact, to wish for, cry for, and pray for deliverance. We want what we call a blessing. We want the easy life, the selfish life, the high life. We want happiness and freedom from the endless demands on our time, talents, brainpower, finances, and energy. We want the hard stuff to just go away! And, when it does, we say we’ve been blessed.

But what if it’s all a lie? What if what we’re begging to be released from is the actual blessing? What if the Lord has given us the one thing or the set of things that will drive us to the ultimate blessing of living in the sufficiency of Christ and we’ve traded it in for trash?

This runaway roller coaster is the answer to my prayers, not the thing I should pray to be rid of. What has my prayer been these last weeks? Humility. The key to the Kingdom of Heaven. And how am I supposed to get there but by continually recognizing my own weakness and nothingness and hopelessness without Christ? If I were to receive the easy life I asked for, the easy life that I so often envy in others, would I ever be able to abide in a place where I constantly see my need for Jesus and cry out to Him for His presence, strength, power, and grace? How would He ever answer my prayer for more of Himself if I was never in a place where I needed Him?

So I am beginning to see that when I am my weakest, my most desperate, I should cry out in praise to the Lord because He is ready to show up and show His sufficiency. He is ready to give me all that I’ve asked for…more of Him. When I am truly a humble person, my first reaction to the trials of life, both big and small, will be to give thanks and praise to God because I actually believe what He says: That in my weakness, He is strong. That His grace IS enough for me. If I want to experience His strength, then it follows that I must continually be in a place of weakness.

My trial. My weakness. My need. My desperation. All the very answers to my prayers. For humility.

And so, when the roller coaster is flying out of control and your heart is overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, or weakness and you’re tempted to think you just want off, throw your hands up. Embrace the wild ride. Praise the Lord for the things that will draw you near to Him. Submit yourself to Him, trusting that His plans really are the best. Scream with wild abandon, knowing that the greatest danger is not in staying on the ride, but in getting off.

Monday, February 6, 2012

humility

Whew. I feel like I just got run over by a truck. I guess I did. It was being driven by four crazy kids and was loaded down with laundry and dirty dishes. Does it ever feel like your life is just one big lather, rinse, repeat? I know my life hasn’t always been consumed with washing and cleaning everything or body that can be cleaned and that it won’t always be. But it’s just hard to remember it or imagine it being anything else.

I’m just wondering if it’s normal for a 34-year-old body to ache as much as mine does right now. Maybe after three loads of laundry, five beds with clean sheets, one haircut given, one batch of bread baked, two baths given, one dinner of oh-so-delicious fajitas, salsa, and guacamole prepared, and one mound of dirty dishes washed it’s normal for one’s back to be screaming for a massage.

In a completely unrelated topic, the other day, Luke came running into the bathroom as I was getting ready for the day and started in with, “Mama, Jack was…”

I quickly interrupted him with a gentle reminder that “Luke, we don’t tattle on each other.”

“But, Mama, Jack-“

“Luke! Do not tattle on Jack. I don’t want to hear it.”

“Mama! I’m not gonna tattle. I’m just gonna tell on him.”

I can clearly see that we need to go over the definition of tattling again.

That’s what the Lord has been doing with me lately. You know that 2012 is the “Year of Humility” for me. (Please imagine a big, echoing voice saying that.) Humility is a common word and concept in the church world, but one I think is grossly misunderstood. Or maybe it’s just me who’s a dope, which is entirely possible. The Lord has been expanding my understanding of humility and completely redefining it for me in both theological and practical ways.

Humility really is the key to the Kingdom of God, yet we fail to grasp that key and unlock all the treasure that is available to us. In my treasure hunt for more of God, I feel that He’s slowly showing me the value and use of this precious key. We miss so much of what He has for us because we are wrapped up in ourselves, our happiness, our own ideas of what’s good and bad, right and wrong. We are consumed with our own reputations, our rights, and how others see us. When we fail, we beat ourselves mercilessly until we think maybe we’ve satisfied God’s requirement for punishment and then get up and try to do it right the next time, but still in our own strength. Our eyes are continually focused on ourselves.

Humility is really, as John the Baptist said, when we decrease and Jesus increases. God is all; we are nothing. Our thoughts and desires are directed toward our Heavenly Father and not toward ourselves. We disappear until He is all that is seen. We are no longer focused on ourselves or our sin, but our gaze is fully placed on God. We finally get that, in ourselves, we can do nothing, but God can and will take care of everything in the best possible way. It's a life that screams, "Hey, folks, this ain't about me! It's all Him!"

This plays out in every aspect of our lives and our relationships with God and others. I’m still grasping and seeking to know how it will play out in mine. But I know that it isn’t something I can muster up or do better at or learn. It is something that God must give me, a prideful and selfish person. So I continue to ask, praying that I will accept the things that humble me with joy, thanking God for giving me the priceless key to things eternal.

I basically want to quote tons and tons of amazing stuff from Andrew Murray’s humility, but I’m not really sure it’s legal. But I’d completely recommend that you read it. Also, the Bible is a good go-to for a little insight on the topic. (Hee, hee.) The overarching characteristic of Jesus Christ is His humility. Take a look at Him and let God redefine humility in your life. I mean, who hasn't always wanted the key to a treasure box?

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Think Maybe It's Time for Bed

Oh, the agony! I'm so tired and my brain has turned off, but I still need to sweep and exercise. And if someone would please show up at my house with a meal plan for the next five years, including exactly when I need to cook everything or freeze everything to make my life flow so easily as it appears to for people with blogs full of pretty photos of food, recipes, and organization. But I also need someone to come and take all the food away when I just want to keep eating and eating even though I'm not hungry. Right now I want to go sit on the couch with a big huge bowl of something containing lots of sugar and read a book. But I'd fall asleep and wake up tomorrow morning feeling like a big, lazy blob of jiggly goo.

Okay, now that all of that junk is out of my system....hmmmm....seems that's all I've got. My broom is propped up next to me taunting me and sticking its tongue out at me. And I just made the mistake of asking Chris, "What's that?" about about an engineering thing. Why do I always forget that I either cannot or simply don't want the real answer when it comes to that stuff? I don't mean that in an ugly way at all. I just mean that when your eyelids are being held up by toothpicks while a household cleaning tool is being a jerk to you, your brain really isn't capable of handling complex explanations that involve words like thermodynamics. Okay, he didn't actually use that word just now, but I can't even remember the words he did use!

Have I mentioned that he is pursuing what could possibly be the answer to his calling from the Lord and that it's wonderful and exciting and impossible and scary? Have I? I can't remember if it's ever come up, but one day I'm going to do a wonderful post about the whole thing and it will make you ooh and aah and feel all happy inside. But not tonight because there is only mush inside my head. Obviously.

I'm happy to report that Luke has urinated exclusively inside the house in the last 48 hours, as far as I know, and no urine has made it above his waist. Plus, he is becoming a genius overnight thanks to the LeapFrog Letter Factory dvd. I'm a believer, people. I'm thinking we could just skip 4K and keep watching the $10 dvd and using the little LeapFrog writing toy we got him for Christmas. What do you think? I'm not ready to let those dimples out of my sight for three half-days a week!

I am going to end the torture that I just put you through for the last however long it took you to scan my drivel and see that it was worthless. Can I just recommend you read the chapter in Ezekiel about the dry bones? I would totally pick up the Bible that is sitting right next to me, but I'm afraid that Sword is the only thing holding my evil broom back from attacking me. It's somewhere in the 30's or something...I'm talking about the chapter in Ezekiel. But what an amazing picture of what the Lord has done for us! But for Him we'd be a bunch of dry bones lying lifeless in a valley of death. Okay, I do feel a little like a dried up old pile of bones right now, but that's nothing a little sleep and a good vacation won't fix. Or maybe just some time in the Word...if I dare remove the barrier between me and that broom. Oh, I guess I'll just go sweep.