Saturday, December 31, 2011

Put His Kingdom First (by Luke)

I had read Luke 12:31 in connection group one week. It states: “But seek first his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.” I had been doing a spotty job having a quality quiet time every day. Then, the week before Thanksgiving, God gave me grace to read my Bible and pray every day. That week could have been one of the most stressful of my life, as previous weeks had ended up being. I had so much to do and so much going on. But, this week was strangely serene. Amidst my tiredness, I met more Chinese people than I have ever met in a week before. I remember it being a Tuesday night and having met nine different Chinese students since Monday morning. It was such a little thing, the time I gave to God in the morning, but it has the power to change the trajectory of every day of my life.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Zach (by Luke)

One night after The Salt Company, I walked out into the foyer of the Englert Theatre. There was Lance with Zach M. Lance tried to introduce me to him, but Zach was my Spanish partner in High School, so we started talking. He said he wanted to come to our connection group. He did come to our connection group about a week later. He was very open sharing about what God had done in his life this past summer. His story was obviously very powerful; Zach was shaking as he told us just a little bit of his story.

I went out for lunch with Zach later that week. I just asked him to tell rest of his story. It went something like this: Zach had a really rough freshman year; he started hanging out with some not so good people and got into drugs. Then this past summer, he had a crazy manic breakdown that couldn’t really be explained (except by God). It was so bad that his mom blackmailed him into checking into a mental hospital. Zach said that he had never really prayed before, but because of his circumstances, he started to. He started to feel peace amidst craziness. Even though his internal situation had started to get better, Zach was still sharing a room with a Schizophrenic patient. Zach asked to be moved to a different room because he couldn’t stand it anymore. Zach did eventually get moved to a room, shared with a very ill man. Then, one night as Zach was just about falling asleep; he became very sure he was supposed to pray for the man he was sharing the room with. After a few minutes, a nurse came in to administer some drugs to the man, but he said that he didn’t need them and that he was feeling better than he had in month. Immediately, a shudder ran down Zach’s spine, and he knew he had to talk to this man. Zach did, and they ended up talking for much of the night. The man was a very strong believer and Zach accepted a faith in Christ that he had never had before.

Because of his circumstances, Zach’s doctor recommended that Zach not take any classes for the fall semester, he decided he could handle one, but he told me that God had provided the room and the time for Zach to pursue him.

My senior year of high school, I had really wanted God to work at Ames High. I prayed for revival, for a movement of people to come to know Him. I was slightly disappointed at the end of my senior year, and felt like I could have done more.

This summer, I went to Salt Company in Ames. I saw Josh, who I played offensive line with in high school. He was not a Christian when I knew him, but that night, I joined the connection group that he was leading.

Hearing stories like Zach’s and Josh’s, I am convinced that God was at work during my senior year, but his timing was not my own. I am constantly amazed; it is not that Zach or Josh was so far from Christ, or that their lives were so sinful, but that their lives were so normal, that both of them seemed to have their lives pulled together. The fact that Christ impacted both of their lives makes me excited at how God works.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stories of Life…

Well, Luke gave me my favorite thing again this Christmas—the gift of words.  Just like last Christmas, he wrote down pieces of his life for me to read and discover and enjoy.  I love reading what God is doing in his life and the life of his friends.  God is definitely on the move in Iowa City.  In the next few posts, you too, can experience a gift from my first born.  Prepare to be amazed…

Thanks Luke!

 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

3 John 4

Monday, December 26, 2011

‘member that time?

‘member that Christmas that Tanya and I got the racetrack that we had been wanting for sooooo long?  And member how we set it up in my room and played with it until the wee hours of the morning?  And member how Tasha twisted her little kitty head around to watch the little speeding cars as we raced them? 

That was pure delight. Probably the best Christmas present ever.  Either that or the black Baby Alive I got when I was 7.  I thought it was cool when she pooped the applesauce I fed her.  Pooping wasn’t nearly as fun when I had real babies though. Neither was changing diapers.  Now I have neither the black Baby Alive nor real live babies, so it’s all good.

Merry Day after Christmas!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

THE BELL
I KNOW WHO I AM
I am God's child (John 1:12)
I am Christ's friend (John 15:15 )
I am united with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17)
I am bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ.  (Acts 1:8)
I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt 5:13-14)
I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
I am free forever from condemnation ( Rom. 8: 1-2)
I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil 3 :20)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8:31 -34)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39)
I am established, anointed, sealed by God  (2 Cor 1:21-22 )
I am assured all things work together for good  (Rom. 8:28 )
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16 )
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph.. 3: 12 )
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13 )
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5)
I am God's temple (1 Cor.. 3: 16).   I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).  I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am God's co-worker (1 Cor.. 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1). I am God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10)
I am confident that the good works God has begun in me will be perfected. (Phil. 1: 5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven ( Col 1:14). I have been adopted as God's child (Eph 1:5) 

Keep this bell ringing. Pass it on.
May the LORD bless you and keep you.
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you.
The LORD turn His face toward you,
And give you peace.'
Numbers 6:24-26

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Right Hand Reminder

Shelli is determined to lose weight.  Shelli has a number written on her hand.  This number reminds Shelli of the weight she wants to be next week.  Because the number stares back at Shelli every time she opens the fridge, or sits down to eat, or writes her grocery list, she is reminded of her goal to eat healthfully.  She keeps this number always before her to remind her what she is to be about.  Because of this visual reminder and the remembrance of her purpose (losing weight), Shelli is enabled to keep herself in check.  The reminder is what keeps Shelli focused on her goal.

Here’s what we can learn from that:  As Christ-followers, much of our spiritual laziness or neglect occurs in our lives because we forget what we are to be about.  We forget to remember to be holy.  This is why, in the Old Testament, God told his people to set up altars—or memorials—to help them remember their roles and His faithfulness.  God knows we are naturally forgetful which is why He wrote His Word down for us in the Bible.  If we don’t know what is in the Bible, or if we haven’t spent much time lately in the presence of God, we will have trouble capturing our thoughts and making them obedient to Him.  But, if we start each day by filling our lives with Truth from the Bible, if we pray for direction from the Creator of the world, if we consciously choose to give up our “rights” for His glory, if we hide Scripture in our minds and in our hearts, our lives “will be hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3) as they should be. And our days will be all about Him…not about us. This daily re-focusing reminder will keep us focused on Heaven, not on earth, and help us remember why we are here—to glorify the One True God.

What will you do today

to help you not forget

to remember

to be holy?

 

Thanks Shelli!

 

I have set the LORD always before me.
   Because he is at my right hand,
   I will not be shaken.

Psalm 16:8

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Grand Experiment---a follow up

My experiment is working!

So…many of you have asked if I have stuck to my “To Not Do” list and the answer is YES I have!  And it has been truly wonderful!  I have probably enjoyed this Christmas season more than any other since childhood.  After I got over my initial bitterness at Panera for not having their annual gingerbread bagels, I have reveled in the joy I feel this Christmas.

Here’s why I think I’ve been joyful:

1)  I have evaluated my motivation for doing lots of the Christmas stuff that I do, and I have found that I do much of it to please people.  But, if my goal in this life is supposed to be pleasing God, then I can just go with that because God really doesn’t care if I use Pillsbury premade peanut butter cookie dough to make my cookies or not.  He does not consider me of less worth if my baked goods are not homemade.  And by the way, I did make those peanut butter/Hershey kiss cookies with premade dough and they are in my freezer, but I only made them because I wanted to--not because I felt compelled to have them there.  In fact, since I gave myself permission not to do several things, I have actually wanted to do them because they were not mandatory—does this make sense to anyone else?

2)  Since Brent and I scaled back and decided to buy only one gift for each kid---and since I was only in charge of the girl’s gifts—and since I ordered them online, I have not had to do any Christmas shopping in busy stores with crazy people.  I did, however, buy a few stocking stuffers for the kids, but I really enjoyed it because I just picked up things here and there and didn’t worry about stocking equality (it’s on the list).

3)   My non-participation in the commercial aspect of the Christmas holiday has really opened my eyes to how Americans are very unbalanced  when it comes to celebrating Jesus’ birth.  It’s not that I think that gift buying or Santa is all wrong, it’s just that we way overdo this “fun” part of the celebration.  Christmas in America becomes a frantic-paced mess of materialism and excess. We let our Christmas joy come from the “Christmas” we create with presents, and events, and food when it really should come from our wonder of the Baby who came to save us.

4)  As an adult, I have always understood the true meaning of the season.  And if you would have asked me, I would have told you that I thought Jesus’ birth was the most important part, but what I would be thinking in the back of my mind was, “I need to get one more thing for that kid to make all the kids’ presents equal” or “ I wonder if I can fit a cookie exchange in that weekend” because I have been very distracted by Christmas preparations in the past.  This year, though, maybe because of my grand experiment of the “Not To Do” list, or maybe because I have been able to sit back and “people watch” since I haven’t been as busy shopping, I really understand what it means to FOCUS on Jesus.  And I really really love it.  Christmas has been so much more meaningful for me!  Yesterday, I sang along to “Away in the Manger” on the radio with tears streaming down my face because God sent Jesus as a baby to save me.  And it is just SO incredible—the birth, the baby, the angels, God’s idea to save His people. And it really happened; Mary was a real girl—just like my daughters, Joseph was a real guy—and I’m sure the whole virgin birth thing seemed a little weird for him—as it does for us. Baby Jesus was a real baby; a real baby just like the babies that I had---a baby that had dry newborn skin and tiny little feet and a piercing cry.  It all happened—for real—just like it says in the Bible!  No wonder we celebrate—this baby came to bring us back to our Father!

5) So much of what we do at Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus’ birth and everything to do with our self-focus and our drive to create “perfect memories”.  I’m not sure why I am just now realizing that.  I’m not sure why I based my joy on so many external things in years previous.  But now, it’s as if God has flicked on a light switch in my mind.  Things that were cloudy or hidden are now so crystal clear.  I like this new way of seeing and understanding and experiencing Christmas.   And I love the joy that this new understanding creates.  It makes me so grateful to God and so anxious to celebrate—really celebrate--his appearance in history.  It also makes me understand that my joy at Christmas should not be dependent on how all MY plans work out because Christmas is not all about me.  It’s all about Jesus.

And Jesus being born beats a gingerbread bagel any day.  It’s true.

Amen and amen!

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
   and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Proverbs 9:10

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

25 Christmas Sanity Savers

I wrote this little number when I had littl’ns myself. Now I have bigg’ns and I get a lot more done. But I remember Christmas with “helpers”, so here’s my little Christmas gift to you.

25 SANITY SAVERS

Instead of sitting the kids in front of the TV to watch The Polar Express (again) while you finish up those holiday projects, check this list…and put your little “helpers” to work!

Have the kids…

1. Make Christmas cards for friends and family.

2. Make a paper chain out of construction paper to hang on the Christmas tree.

3. Make a garland of ribbon and pretzels to hang on the Christmas tree.

4. Play a board game with their siblings.

5. Play in the snow…or in our case, the grass!

6. Make Christmas cookies with play-dough.

7. Dance to Christmas music.

8. Do homework… “How many balls are on the tree?” How many cans are in the pantry?”

9. Have a tea party with water and animal crackers.

10. Pretend they’re a grown-up and plan their family’s Christmas or vacation.

11. Look at the Christmas catalog and circle all the toys they like.

12. Make up actions to Christmas songs.

13. Color Christmas pictures and deliver them to elderly neighbors or to a nursing home.

14. Play in the bathtub in swimsuits.

15. Make stuff from boxes—a bus, a sleigh, a castle, a washer, a doll bed.

16. Make a fort under the card table.

17. Look at old photo albums or at photos on the computer.

18. Pretend it’s Easter and hide plastic eggs. Remember your basket!

19. Put on a Christmas puppet show.

20. Play Post Office with an old box, paper, stickers, and some envelopes.

21. Wash and dry dishes for your Mom.

22. Make up and perform a skit. Record it with a camcorder if Mom says yes.

23. Watch and do an exercise video.

24. Play fix-it shop with an old clock or radio (ask Mom first).

25. String beads or macaroni to make a necklace for Mom for Christmas!

 

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
   and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They will be a garland to grace your head
   and a chain to adorn your neck.

Proverbs 1:8-9

Monday, December 12, 2011

‘member that time?

‘member when I was little and we lived in a town of 600 people in Minnesota?  And member how every Christmastime we would go to the American Legion and watch old Laurel and Hardy movies on a big screen?  and then member how we would play games like Bingo and win prizes and one time Tanya won a turkey?  member that?

And member how when we left, they always handed everyone a little brown lunch sack filled with peanuts in the shell, tiny candy canes, and an orange?  And member how happy that little gift made me? 

When I left that place and walked home in the snowiness, everything was right with the world.  And I was completely content…and I hadn’t even opened any presents yet.

And I think maybe that is a key to Christmas joy—contentment and gratefulness.  Contentment for what we have…and gratefulness for what we have been given—namely Jesus—because we need nothing else—not even peanuts or presents or turkeys. 

And that’s worth remembering.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tele-transport

I have plenty of insightful things I could be writing about…and I will write about them, but now I just want to ramble.  OK?

I’m starting to think about the cruise that my mother-in-law is taking our whole extended family on during the Christmas holiday.  How cool is that'?  Pretty cool.  Anyway, during vacations, I always really like being at wherever we are, I just don’t like getting there.  In short, I don’t like transportation.  I don’t like flying.  I don’t like driving.  I don’t like being on a bus.  I guess a train would be alright, but I have only ridden one once, and I got so cold when I was sleeping that my Dad covered me up with newspapers because we had no blankets.  And a bike is just not practical in most situations.  I do like walking, though, which is also impractical in most situations regarding travel, but this is probably why I think hiking is so great.  You know what I think would be super neat?  Remember that teleportation thing in Acts 8 where Philip is suddenly taken from Gaza or someplace like that and set down on the road beside the moving chariot of an Ethiopian eunuch?  Member how he just suddenly “appeared” without the necessity of traveling? Yeah, well, I wish I could go on trips like that too.  The “just appearing” thing would make the whole trip thing O so much better. 

I just thought of something.  I never mentioned a boat.  The boat that I will be cruising on is my destination, so I’m hoping I like it since it is transportation and all. I don’t think I will be able to feel it moving which will help.  Or maybe, I’ll just pretend I’m hiking—on the boat—and then I’ll like it.  Or I’ll just sleep while it’s moving and I when I awaken, I will have been teleported to a new and sunny location--minus the eunuch. 

All in all, I’m very thankful that I am going on a Christmas trip.  And I’m very thankful to be spending that trip time with such a great family.  But traveling is still on my bad list.

And teleportation is on my good list.  And my impossible list.

And no, I don’t like sky diving.  And I will never do it.  And if you make me, I will be dead from fear when I get to the ground and you will feel horrible.

That’s all folks. Thanks for listening.

PS.  If you are a Bible scholar, you will realize, as have I, (now that I have actually read the real account in Acts), that Philip was actually teletransported after his encounter with the Eithopian, not before.  But either way, it’s pretty awesome, don’t ya think?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Grand Experiment

With all the hullabaloo at this time of year, and the pressure to achieve that “perfect Christmas”, I have decided to rebel. Buying presents, decorating the house, making goodies, and entertaining others are all good things, but sometimes my December “To Do” list can get very long…and stressful.  And if you remember correctly, I am not getting stressed this year.  So, here’s my rogue (that’s rogue—as in Sarah Palin, not rouge—as in color for my cheeks) plan:  I  have decided to write myself a “To Not Do” list. Nothing on this list is bad, but the experiences that I am choosing instead, like watching old family movies or reading Christmas stories to my kids, are better.  In fact, this year, I’m going to bypass some really great things so that I have time to do the best things.  Here goes:

TO NOT DO

  • I will not stress myself out to make Lefse. I will just go to Story City, where all Lefse-makers live, and buy it.
  • I will not worry about making the contents of the children’s stockings equal.
  • I will not host holiday parties when I don’t enjoy it.
  • I will not stay up all hours of the night creating something complex and homemade in my sewing room just so I can say “I made it.”
  • I will not force myself to put the decoration boxes in the storage room when no one can see them in the porch.
  • I will not feel compelled to write numerous blog posts explaining the true meaning of Christmas.
  • I will not write something personal on each and every Christmas card.
  • I will not feel compelled to send an extra Christmas card to those people to whom we didn’t send one when I get their card in the mail.
  • I will not feel compelled to have homemade peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses on top in my freezer.
  • I will not make a gingerbread house.
  • I will not use holiday placemats.
  • I will not go out and buy more Christmas paper if ours runs out.  I will just use the ugly peach stuff I bought for the school fundraiser.
  • I will not clean my house every Monday if I want to do Christmas stuff.
  • I will not force my family to listen to “Read Aloud Family Christmas” every night after dinner.
  • I will not grieve that no one in my house wants to do the count-to-Christmas calendar anymore.
  • I will not force myself to learn Spanish or learn how to knit.
  • I will not get mad at myself if I want to sit in my polka-dotted chair and drink tea and read other people’s blogs.
  • I will not force my children or any other member of my family to unnecessarily clean their rooms, or their closets, or the kitchen, or the cat’s house, or the porch, or the garage. Even if I have company coming over who I don’t really need to impress with my immaculate cleanliness anyways.
  • Actually, Tess hacked my blog and wrote that last one, but I will abide by it.

Ahhhhh.  I feel so relaxed.  Isn’t Christmas grand?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stress-less

I have decided not to get stressed during this holiday season.  So…if you come on over for a visit and the bathroom’s not clean, sorry, I didn’t get to that.   And if my meal is less than perfect, have grace (after you say grace).  And if my tree doesn’t look like something out of a magazine, that’s Ok--every time I look at it, I laugh because Luke always creates an aviary by putting all of his bird ornaments on one side.  It’s alright if all my kids get is oranges and toothbrushes and lighters (for Cole--he’s a pyromaniac) in their stockings this year.  They won’t even remember next year (unless Cole burns the house down).  What they will remember, though, is the time spent at the table eating and playing games and talking and laughing; and the experiences of cutting the tree, baking goodies, and hanging out as a family. 

I’m choosing to enjoy the holiday season this year by not expecting everything to be perfect.  I will get done what I get done…and what I don’t, oh well.  Life is so much more than presents and decorations and perfectly cooked meals—and well-thought out blog posts (although I do hope to have some time to write those).

God has already shown us perfection when He sent His Son as a tiny baby--and when that same Son died on a cross for our imperfections and our unholiness.  Now we are His children! His heirs! His ambassadors! Meditate on that for awhile.

Thanksgiving is what we should feel at this time of year—not stress—so, I’m going to go with that.  And I think you should too.

Relax.  Enjoy.  Count your blessings. Get some sleep.

Can I hear an Amen?

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give Thanks

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.                                    

His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,

His love endures forever.

who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

to the One who remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies,
His love endures forever.
and who gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1-9; 23-26

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hairitage

Spoiler warning:  If you get easily grossed out or if you have just eaten a very big meal, do not read the following post:

Ok, so it’s depressing when the vacuum has more hair than you. 

The other day, as I was cleaning my house, I noticed that the vacuum was not working very well;  the suction seemed to work, but the spinning part of the power head was not functioning.  So, being the mechanical genius that I am, I flipped over this piece to check it out.  And I found the problem:  hair—lots and lots of hair—was wound round the cylinder of the beater bar. As I got the scissors from the kitchen and began to cut hair—thick hair—thicker hair than is on my head—from the bottom of the vacuum, and as I began to pull out handful after handful of this thick hair and set it in a pile on the floor, I realized that; 1) I need to clean my vacuum more often, and 2) I really got shorted in the hair department.  I’ve already lamented that issue in this post—check it out. I mean, really, I’m jealous of an appliance because of its hair.  That’s sad.  But, I’ve also decided that maybe it’s good, cause it’s just one more thing that makes me look forward to Heaven (where I will have great hair—or everyone will be bald—either way, I won’t have to worry about it anymore).

Oh, and by the way, I washed the scissors before I used them to cut up the chicken that I used in the soup, and I threw away the pile of hair on the ground even though I was tempted to try to weave it into my own.

So, with those pleasant thoughts swimming in your brain, I wish you and yours a great hair day today and a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Monday, November 21, 2011

‘member that time?

Member that time when we lived in Montevideo and we would go eat lunch at the Bungalow on Saturdays?  where they had maid-rites with only mustard and no ketchup?  And member how mom always let me order a grape pop to go with my maid-rite but I always threw up when I drank it?  member that?

It probably would have been a better idea for me to drink water, don’t you think?  I guess mom never figured that out.  Either that or she really loved cleaning up bathrooms at restaurants.

Anyway, I never drink grape pop now unless I have a bucket nearby.  But mostly, I just drink Diet Coke because it never makes me throw up.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Living for Jesus

When the children were babies and Brent would rock them to sleep, he always sang the same song. Brent is not a singer (and I think maybe this is the only song he knew all the words to. He learned it in Cadets as a child) but his slightly off-key voice always sounded so sweet as he sang this to our sleepy babies lying in his arms.

Last night, I was sad and my sweet husband sang this same song to me. As I listened to the words coming out of his mouth, I was struck by the solidity of the truth they contained. So…I decided to share them with you. Here they are:

"Living for Jesus”

Living for Jesus, a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;

Yielding allegiance, glad hearted and free,

This is the pathway of blessing for me.

O Jesus Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee,

For Thou, in Thy atonement, didst give Thyself for me.

I own no other Master, my heart shall be Thy throne.

My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.

Living for Jesus can be so simple.

And we make it so hard.

When we yield allegiance to ourselves and make Him our only Master, we truly will be glad hearted and free.

Let’s try it, shall we?

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Invisible Woman

“It’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us…to do even the most humbling tasks to the glory of God takes the Almighty God Incarnate working in us.  To be utterly unnoticeable requires God’s Spirit in us making us absolutely humanly His.” 

~Oswald Chambers

 

I had an epiphany today; I must be the invisible woman. 

Really, this is what God wants for me—to reflect Him, not myself--to strive more and more to hide in Him so that people see Jesus when they look at Tori. 

That sounds all proper and holy when I write it on here; but real life happens.  In my real life, I love the appreciation, the praise, the atta-girl’s I get from others.  I love it when I am noticed for my special abilities, my hard work, or my insight.   I love all of these things because I think they give me favor with people.  I love all of these things because I think they make me successful.  And every one needs a pat on the back every now and then, right? 

Right…and wrong.  If I receive affirmation for something others see in me, and if immediately give credit to God in my heart, and I instantly turn my focus to Him and His blessings, then praise and accolades can be good; they increase my respect for my Creator.  But, If I constantly crave this encouragement as a way to feel good about myself, and if I focus on it more than I focus on God’s truth, then this yearning for kind words becomes an idol and it makes me focus inward on myself instead of upward on God. This view skews my understanding of true “success”.

It’s OK for me to want to do well.  It’s even OK for me to want to achieve a measure of worldly success.  But if I am doing these things in order to bring glory to Tori, they all become wrong.  Whatever [I] do, whether in word or deed, [I must] do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17). If I hide myself in Christ and His purposes, and if I truly believe what He says about me in the Bible, that huge need to be noticed will be completely filled by Him.  Then when others praise me, it will be a welcome surprise and joy for my soul—kind of like icing on the cake—not completely necessary, but wonderfully fulfilling!

So, every day, I must fade a little more.  And my devotion to MY success, and MY accomplishments, and MY ego must turn into dedication to HIS glory, and HIS honor, and HIS renown.

He must become greater. I must become less. (John 3:30)

I must be the invisible woman.

 

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” 

Colossians 3:3

Monday, November 14, 2011

‘member that time? Guest Blogger—my Mom!

It was my Mom’s birthday last Monday (and I wasn’t on the ball), so I asked her to give me a ‘member that time? for this Monday and she did!  Here it is! 

‘Member that time when I was in like 1st or 2nd grade and I came home from school feeling exhausted?  And member how I lay down on the couch and fell asleep for a few hours?  And then member when I woke up and it was dark, my Mom and Dad and sister, Peggy, told me it was morning time and that I should start getting ready for school?  So I did?  Member that?

Well, guess what, it WAS NOT morning.  And they didn’t tell me until I was almost out the door.  I hadn’t even eaten supper yet—let alone breakfast!

I’ll bet they had a good laugh about that one.  Meanies.

Good thing my watch has AM and PM on it now because sometimes we have breakfast for supper. But most of the time, I’m fixing it, so that helps.

 

Friday, November 11, 2011

30 things your child needs to know…continued

16. How to be discerning when considering books, films, music, friends:  When your child is picking entertainment or company, teach them how to be prudent and wise.  Tell them to ask themselves, “Is this wholesome?” “Will it be good for my mind?”  “Do these friends make me better?” For media review, we love the site www.pluggedin.com

17. How to write a proper thank you note: These should be written (not emailed) and sent in the mail within one month of receiving the gift.  They should be written neatly and be heartfelt and authentic—expressing sincere gratefulness.

18. How to run a 5K or something similar:  You may  or may not include this on your list.  I think it is important because it’s important to me.  Teaching my kids to train for, and run, a race produces in them mental toughness and perseverance.

19. How to take care of pets:  As a child, I always had pets and felt they taught me compassion and responsibility.  My children now have pets to feed, clean, train, and love.

20. How to write lists/goals and complete them:  Teach your kids the importance of writing down the things that need to be done.  Challenge them to write goals for themselves and discover ways to achieve these dreams.

21. Basic Medical knowledge:  Every Haverkamp child had to learn basic first aid, CPR, and the Heimlich maneuver.  I made them learn these because I allowed them all to babysit other children and I felt these skills were necessary. This knowledge has also come in handy on our annual backpacking trips—especially when their mother falls and sprains her ankle.

22. How to ride public transportation by themselves:  Riding a bus or taxi can be daunting if you have never done it before.  Teach your child to check out the bus schedule for appropriate routes and times or call the taxi service and request a car. Then have them walk or ride their bike to the bus/taxi stop.

23. How to speak to old people:  Some kids are intimidated by the very old.  When your children are young, take them to nursing homes and hospitals and allow them to converse with the elderly.  Tell them to speak slowly and clearly and to treat the person with honor.

24. How to take care of children:  I alluded to this in the basic medical care section.  Babysitting younger children is an important skill your kids need to gain.  Not only does this prepare them for parenthood, but it gives them the opportunity to learn how to change a dirty diaper, rock a sleepy baby, and make supper with one hand.

25. How to Swim:  Every kid needs to know how to swim—it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to save their lives.

26. How to be a good guest:  Teach your kids respect for property—yours and everyone else’s.  If your kids stay at another’s home, babysit, or rent an apartment, the rule should always be: “Leave it cleaner than you found it.”

27. How to remember birthdays and special days of family/friends: Teach your kids how to be a good friend.  Good friends invest in others and acknowledge their special days with a note, a gift, or a simple email.

28. How to give a meaningful gift:  Giving good gifts takes skill and observation of other’s preferences.  Teach your kids to think about what will make others feel special or loved.

29. How to make and keep their own appointments:  If you, as the parent, always make and transport your child to their doctor’s, dentists, and optometrist appointments, when are they ever going to learn this skill themselves?  Have your kids plug those important phone numbers into their phones and guide them in this task.

30.  How to call their mom and tell her they love her.  Moms need this.  And they need it often.  Tell your kids to call Dad too.  Even a text is good—anything will do when your baby is far away.

 

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
   children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
   are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
   whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
   when they contend with their enemies in the gate.”

Psalm 127:3-5

 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

30 things your child needs to know…

Haverkamp child #2 is just about ready to fly.  It’s in this season that I always evaluate whether I have taught them everything I want them to know before they enter the big world of adulthood.  I’ve never made a list of the things my kids need to master before they leave the nest; I have a mental tally.  But today and tomorrow, I’ve decided to share that previously unspoken list with all of you—15 skills today and 15 tomorrow!  Aren’t you lucky?!  Here goes…

30 Things your child needs to know before they leave your home:

1. How to use and wake to an alarm clock: Believe it or not, some kids are awakened by their parents into their teen years. Teach your kids to use an alarm clock and to manage their own sleeping schedule. Let them be late if they choose to push snooze.

2.  How to clean well:  Every kid should know how to scrub a toilet, shake a rug, and properly make up a bed with clean sheets.  Parent inspection must follow these clean up jobs to ensure excellence.

3. How to do their own laundry—well: This not only includes the washing of clothes, but the drying, folding, and occasional ironing of them.

4. How to properly set a table: Would you know how to set the table if the queen was to dine at your house? Make sure your kids know where the knife, spoon, fork and napkin go, along with the plate, bowl and cup.

5. How to plan a meal: This includes everything from finding recipes and following them, presenting the food, and cleaning up the entire mess.

6. Manners! Social manners, table manners, phone manners—just general respectfulness! Make sure your kids are noticed for their great social graces.

7. How to sew at least one basic item on the sewing machine: In the Haverkamp house, sewing is not a female-only activity. My boys are fairly adept on the sewing machine. At the very least, your kids must know how to mend torn clothing and sew on a button well by hand.

8.  How to handle money: In order for kids to learn about money, they must have some money.  Before they are able to get a job to earn this money themselves, give them an allowance.  As they get older teach them to how to count change, write a check, balance a checkbook, and make investments to allow that money to grow. Teach them how to give, to spend wisely, and to save.

9. How to shake hands with confidence: This is a skill that is lacking in young people today. Teach your kids to confidently look another in the eye, extend their hand, and ask others their names. If your child is uncomfortable looking others in the eye, have them look at the bridge of the other’s nose.

10. How to inquire about, interview for, and maintain a job: This will also include how to work hard at that job even when they don’t feel like it or it is boring.

11. How to plan a route to a destination and get there without using GPS:  With the advent of Google maps and the Tom Tom, our kids have become directionally challenged.  Before your child leaves, make them plan, and successfully execute, a route to a chosen spot using only a map and a compass.

12. Basic auto mechanics:  Every boy and girl that drives a car needs to know basic auto mechanics—changing a tire, checking the oil, filling the tires with air, filling the tank with gas, knowing what to do when the “check engine” light goes on.

13. How to drive a car with a manual transmission: Every kid that drives should also know the basics of driving a stick-shift.  This skill comes in handy when the company car (that goes with the new job) does not have an automatic transmission.

14. How to educate themselves: Even if you are not a great reader, teach your progeny the value of a good book.  Teach them how to experiment with different genres—classics, sci-fi, biographies.  Show them how to go to the Library and look at the research items there in addition to researching topics on the internet. 

15. How to establish a quiet time with God:  This can be done mostly by example.  Kids need to know that it takes time and energy to establish an intimate relationship with the Creator of the world.  They also need to know that it’s easy to put this on the back burner in favor or more “urgent” items.  Show them how important it is to put God first everyday.

 

To be continued…stay tuned for more necessary life skills in tomorrow’s post!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

21 Hours…

This is what one does when they are home in their own house for 21 hours alone:

Read the entire newspaper, peruse Facebook, catch up on email, write some blog entries, catch up on everyone else’s blogs, go to Orange Leaf and get all different flavors and top it off with Reese’s, eat in in the car listening to talk radio, come home, take a long warm bath, put on sweats, love on the cat with the injured foot, send the college boy a really funny news story, spend some time shopping online at Old Navy, check out books on Amazon, spend some time reading about the Civil War, spend some time reading The Help, go to bed whenever you want--which is 10:30 pm.  Sleep a long time in flannel sheets and stay very warm, get up when you want—which is 8:00 am and put on sweats again and don’t take a shower right away.  Go feed the hungry dog and uninjured cats and notice what a beautiful day God created and give the limping cat her medicine, turn on the fireplace so it will be warm when you have your breakfast fixed, then put bunches of vegetables and some berries in the blender so you can drink a green smoothie for breakfast.  Curl up in your polka dotted chair while the fireplace puffs warmness and drink up goodness and read your Bible as long as you want and be amazed by the stories in Revelation.  Get up and eat a few saltines with chunky peanut butter then take a long hot shower and shave your legs so your partner during boot camp doesn’t have to look at your hairiness on Monday.  Put on old jeans and furry sweatshirt. Then get kind of serious and get down to business and send a query letter to someone who might want to publish your 36 page study guide, and also to someone who might want to publish your Freedom Fence essay.  Make these letters sound confident and shiny-like so these people think you are a professional instead of someone who’s trying to break into the business.  Unload the dishwasher (only because you have to) and do a load of laundry (only because you must), then run back to your cozy chair with some peppermint tea and read some more of The Help.  Greet your husband and your son as they arrive and revel in the fact that most of the time you are not alone.

But every once in awhile, it’s really nice to have 21 hours…

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Plane Truth

My husband, Brent, is a private pilot.

He owns a small plane.

I don’t like to fly.

I don’t like to fly because I am afraid the plane is going to fall out of the sky.  It never has yet…but I’m just waiting. 

So…when I do acquiesce to the occasional time-saving flight over the earth, I am always rather tense.  This anxiety does not a pleasant flight make.  In fact, because I am on edge while in the airplane, every little bump or dip scares the living daylights out of me.  Brent, the ever calm and confident super pilot, always reaches over to my rigid leg when this bumpiness occurs and says, “Relax.  Turbulence is not dangerous.”

And you know what? He’s right.  Turbulence is not dangerous.  It is just the wind currents jostling the plane—just like gentle waves rock a boat or gravel makes your car tires bounce.  Turbulence, like it or not, is a pretty normal happening when you are speeding through the air in a small fiberglass vehicle. 

Turbulence feels dangerous to me. Turbulence makes me feel like the plane is out of control.  It makes me doubt the power of the mighty engines…or the speedy propeller…or even the natural lift of the air beneath the craft.  I have not made peace with turbulence yet because I don’t really believe in the power of the airplane and the physics of flight—but I’m working on it.

Turbulence in my life feels dangerous too.  When things get beyond the point that I can comprehend; when I feel like the earth might drop out from under me, I begin to get tense.  I get anxious because it’s hard for me to believe that God has everything under control.  It’s difficult for me to comprehend that this uncomfortable rocking could be achieving God’s purposes.  I can’t relax because I don’t really believe that God is good—(whoa, do I dare say that?!) but I’m working on it. 

Here’s what I know;  the more time I spend soaking in God’s word and basking in His presence, the more I trust Him when turbulence hits.  The more I learn about His character from books, and sermons, and faithful followers, the more honored He becomes  in my eyes.  And the greater awareness that I gain about my Father, the more awed I am that He saved me. 

He is trust-worthy. 

I am His child. 

And…turbulence is not dangerous.

Believe it.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

2 Corinthians 4:17

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lullaby

When I was little and I would go to bed, it was always comforting for me to hear my mom in the kitchen washing dishes, or in the bedroom using the sewing machine…just generally being up and being busy as I was falling asleep.  I’m not sure why this made me feel safe, but it did.  Maybe it was because as I was alone and in my bed, I knew that she was there.  I could “hear” her presence.  And her presence gave me a sense of security.  In fact, the realness of her presence gave me such a sense of peace that I was able to rest easily.

I think now, as an adult, if I really tried, I could probably “hear” God’s presence and see Him on the move.  I think if I really looked for where He was working, and if I really listened intently to His children, I would sense His nearness.  And I think if I did this, it would bring a sense of rest…and child-like security to my life…to know that He is busy and working.

I think I would like that.

I think I’ll start looking…and listening…and resting right now.


“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety".”

Psalm 4:8

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Noise Pollution

The other day as I was driving, Brent called me.  I couldn’t hear him very well and I absentmindedly reached for the volume knob on the radio to try to turn up the volume on my phone.  Needless to say, this didn’t make Brent’s voice any easier to understand and the unexpected noise of the radio drowned out any possibility of  communication between us.

But this silly foible made me think about how I communicate with my Father.

Sometimes I go to God in prayer, really wanting to hear His voice, but while I am waiting on His answer, I turn up the volume of the world by looking to people, circumstances, and my own feelings for affirmation.  This misdirection only serves to drown out any possibility of my hearing the still, small voice of my Creator and allows a lot of unnecessary distraction. And I end up being confused.

When I pray, I need to trust that God is listening and acting. He is taking care of my petition. I need not step ahead.  I need not  “arrange” circumstances to my advantage. I must sit and listen and trust, and when He speaks, do what He requires. I must resist the temptation to ask the world’s advice when my answer is not immediate. I need to remember that it is God I am trying to please, not man.

The volume of the masses don’t have a chance when I choose to tune in to the all-knowing, ever-present, gentle voice of God. It’s a choice I must make every time.

I must train myself to reach for the right knob…and the real Truth. 

God will be faithful. The world will disappoint.

Choose wisely.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

John 10:27

 

Monday, October 31, 2011

‘member that time? Guest blogger

This Halloween memory of old was told to me by my husband, Brent.  Enjoy!

‘member that time when I was really too old to trick or treat, and I knew it was probably my last year of going out, so my buddy Jeff and I decided to go for the mother load? 

‘member how we didn’t have costumes so we just put on masks and we decided to hit every house in the big metropolis of Sibley?  Yeah, well, we went out early and stayed out late and we probably each got about 12 pounds of candy in our brown paper bags. 

And then member how after Jeff went to his house and I was still about two blocks from mine, a souped-up car of big high school boys started to follow me…and I started to get nervous…and I started walking faster and faster…and then how they finally jumped out of their car and tried to get my candy?

Well, I had worked long and hard to get that much loot, and since I knew I couldn’t outrun them, I decided that it was my candy or my life. And I chose my candy. So, with fierce determination, I dropped to the ground , put a cradle hold on the bag, and rolled over into a ball while the big boys pummeled and kicked me.  Finally the headlights of another car exposed the evil deeds of these boys and I ran home bruised but triumphant.

I ate candy for a very long time that year.  And the high schoolers didn’t.

And I never went trick or treating again.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Southern charm

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, and yes, I am busier than I would like to be, but I have one big hallelujah: I finished the 36 chapter study guide (for a book we are studying at church) that I had been working on since August.  Boy, is it nice to have that finished! 

Anyway, that is where I have been, y’all.

And now I ‘m here, y’all.

And God’s been talking.  And I’ve been listening.

But right now, I’m too tired to think, y’all.

So y’all are just gonna have to wait until I sleep, cause my mind is percolating with stories. 

And I have to find the ideas I scribbled on napkins and sticky notes and church programs and the backs of Theisen’s receipts.

And I’m gonna write ‘em all down after a good night (or 5) of snuggling down in my happy-feelin’ flannel sheets.

So, there ya have it.  Just be patient.  The creativity is getting’ warm, but it’s the simmering that makes it tasty. 

Can I hear an “Amen”?!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?!

For I know the plans I have for y’all,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper y’all and not to harm y’all, plans to give y’all hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 TSV (Tori’s Southern Version)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Be at Peace

I found this little poem which I love, love, love.  I think I need to read it everyday—or at least until I believe it.

Be at Peace

Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life;

rather look to them with full hope as they arise.

God, whose very own you are,

will deliver you from out of them.

He has kept you hitherto,

and He will lead you safely through all things;

and when you cannot stand it,

God will bury you in his arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;

the same everlasting Father who cares for you today

will take care of you then and everyday.

He will either shield you from suffering,

or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace,

and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.

 

St. Francis de Sales 1567-1622

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sonbeam

I promised myself some writing time if I got my house cleaned today and now that the upstairs is clean, I am indulging in my reward.  I still have to clean the apartment since someone is moving in tomorrow, but I must take a break, so here I am.  I know that I normally post a ‘member that time?’ on Mondays, but I couldn’t remember anything (see the reason here), so I decided just to write something else.

Like I have said before, God teaches me through the most ordinary things.  Yesterday, he taught me something with a sunbeam.  So…as I was sitting at the table contemplating how I could get out of running—which I actually needed to do because I am preparing for a race—I noticed how the sunbeams were shining in my windows exposing my very dusty furniture, pictures, appliances, etc.  I wondered why everything, all of a sudden, appeared so dusty—it must have something to do with the sun being lower in the sky earlier in the day—and then I realized that the dust had been there all the time.  At least it had been there since I last ran a Pledge-sprayed cloth over it. The dust wasn’t new.  I just hadn’t noticed it until the light showed me it was there.

I have lots of “dust” in my life, but it’s only when I spend time in the Light that I am aware of it.  When I take the opportunity to meditate on God’s truths, the false things that I believe suddenly show up.  When I ask God to reveal my sin to me, He is faithful to show me areas in my life that don’t glorify Him; these areas are not “new”, they are just habits, attitudes, and actions to which I have grown accustomed—“dusty” things that feel comfortable to me, but uncomfortable to the God who promises to make me white as snow.

Today, I dusted with a rag and cleaned off my tables…and I dusted with the Bible and cleaned up my heart.  It’s something I have to do again…and again…and again.  But He is faithful and continues to work on me—dust and all.

All because of a little sunbeam! 

He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.

1 Corinthians 4:5

 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reflections on getting older…

I guess I would be what they call '”middle aged” now because nobody ever asks for my ID anymore--like I buy lots of alcohol and cigarettes—and I’m too young for those senior discounts that you get at places like Movies 12 and Perkins. And though I look at myself in the mirror everyday and probably don’t really see how much I have aged in the last 20 years, there are a few things that I have observed about my middle-aged self.  Here they are:

  • The freshness doesn’t last.  Here’s what I mean by that:  After I shower in the morning and for about 4-6 hours afterward, I would say, I’m looking fairly decent for 44, but as I reach those afternoon and evening hours, I start to look remarkably similar to what one would term a “grease monkey”.  The bloom fades fast at my age, so,if you need to schedule an appointment with me, get me first thing in the morning while I still have a little freshness left.
  • My skin is starting to look slightly leopard-like.  I have dark age spots on my back and my hands and you know that age-spot fade cream they advertise in magazines?  You have to use that stuff like 35 times a day to be less spotted.  I think I will just have to accept my leopard skin as status quo. Maybe I will buy a leopard print purse to match.
  • When I go all out and get a pedicure, they have to get out the power tools just to get the callouses off my feet.  And the whole Ped-egg thing that I got at Target so my heels would be baby soft…it doesn’t work.
  • When I see pictures of myself with my beautiful teenage girls (or my handsome sons), they look colorful and vivacious, and I look tired and faded.  See the freshness observation above.
  • When people say that I look exhausted, I get really paranoid  because I think that the bags under my eyes must be getting even bigger and darker.  Most of the time when I hear this, I am not exhausted, I am just not as fresh as I was earlier in the day.
  • When I get up in the morning, I try not to look at myself because I am so pale and un-fresh looking.  For those of you in boot camp with me at 5 a.m., this is why I always wear a hat. I figure that the shadow of the hat creates the optimum disguise for the puffiness under my eyes and the splotchiness of my leopard-like skin.
  • When I wash my hair during my shower, I probably use double the shampoo I need because I can never remember if I already washed my hair or not, so I just wash it again. The same goes for laundry detergent.  I keep telling myself I need to come up with a system to help me remember if I added the soap already, but I keep forgetting to create this system.
  • I find myself using the terms “what’s-her-name” and “that thing” a lot because the whole recall mechanism takes much longer now. I’m getting pretty good at using descriptive terms lately and letting my teenagers think of the names/words for me.
  • I notice myself bragging to my family at the amount of vegetables I am able to fit in my smoothie in the mornings. I pride myself in my small accomplishments…it used to be how many miles I could run in the morning…now it’s whether I fit the edamame in the blender of not.
  • I stay up way past my bedtime (8:24) writing out my feelings about being on the door-step of death.

So there you go.  Unappetizing? yes. True? yes. Pitiful? Probably.  Finished with observations? Finally. 

Excuse me now…my rocking chair is waiting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

His Treasured Possession

A few weeks ago, my friend Kathy taught about being the “body of Christ.”  She told us that we are all necessary and that none of us should complain by saying, “I wish I was a different body part.”  During her teaching she distributed the following story.  I found it convicting because although the author of this essay could have done lots of grumbling about the “part” she was given, she instead learned to praise God for who He made her.  It’s long, but so worth the read.  Check it out:

I was born with Down syndrome 30 years ago. This makes some things very difficult for me. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time asking God, Why did you make me with Down Syndrome? Why can’t I be normal like other people?

I told Him all the time that I didn’t like having Down syndrome. I kept thinking that if only I didn’t have Down syndrome I would be happy. I thought that somehow God made a mistake when He made me. My Mom and Dad always told me they loved me so deeply, and that they could not love me any more, but somehow down deep in my heart I always wondered if they would love me more if I didn’t have Down Syndrome.

When I was in high school, the kids on the school bus were very mean to me. They laughed at me, and mocked me and they called me all kinds of bad names, and told me that even my parents couldn’t love me. That hurt me so deeply!

When I got off the school bus in the afternoon, I would be crying. My Mom met me at the door, and we would talk and pray every day. She told me that people used to say bad things about Jesus and call Him names too, so He understood exactly how I felt. She told me that real truth is only found in God’s Word, and not in what other people say about you. She told me that if I could find anywhere in the Bible where God calls me bad names, or said I was a mistake; she would pay me $5,000. I spent a lot of time reading in the Bible to find out what God said about me. All the Scriptures I found said just the opposite, so I never did get the $5,000!

Some of my favorite Scriptures are: Psalm 139:14 where God says,“I am fearfully and wonderfully made." God tells me in Psalm 17, "I am the apple of His eye." In Deuteronomy 7:6, God tells me that I am "His treasured possession." In Philippians 4:8, God tells me to think about whatever is "true, noble, right, pure, and lovely." I like to think about the truth that God tells me and spend my time thinking about what God says is true. The last Scripture I want to share is Psalm 119:114, “You are my refuge and my shield. I have put my hope in your Word.” My confidence and hope is in God. I know now that instead of being a mistake, I am the Lord’s treasured possession.

I like to memorize Scripture and fill my mind with the truth of who God says I am. This understanding has made all the difference in my life. Now I recognize that God has a plan for my life, and He created me just the way I am for His special purpose. I may still have Down syndrome, but now instead of saying “if only” I didn’t have Down syndrome, I say, “So what, I will glorify God just the way He made me." I know He loves me and cares for me with His whole heart.

The Lord showed me that I am not a mistake, but I am a precious gift…His treasured possession. We have a choice to believe and fill our minds with God’s truth, which will change our hearts, or listen to what other people say and be sad. It is a choice we must each make. In Exodus 4:10, Moses tells God that he can’t do what God told him to do because he was slow of speech and tongue. In verse 11, the Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go. I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” He made me just the way He made me for just the special purpose I was created for. There is special work He has for me to do that can only be done by me, just the way He created me. (See Ephesians 2:10)

If I spend my time wishing I was different, I will never get around to doing those things God wants me to do. If your heart is sad because you wish God had made you different, read in His Word the truth of what He says about you, believe it, and let Him change your heart. Nothing is impossible with God. He certainly did change my heart.

Lord, I pray for each person, that you will fill their heart with Your truth of who they really are and how much you love them. AMEN!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Understanding Obedience

I  had some attitude problems as a kid, and sometimes I was just downright naughty.  I always felt bad about disobedience when I was in it, but I felt powerless to act any differently.  Then, at 18, when I truly understood that I could have a relationship with Jesus—and that His good spirit could live inside my bad self—I was in…hook, line, and sinker!

The reason being born-again was so appealing to me then (and now) was because I, through this re-birth, could gain freedom from myself and my willful, but seemingly too-powerful-for-me emotions. I didn’t want to be naughty;  I wanted to be good.  I didn’t want to be the bad kid; I wanted to obey.  I guess this must be the reason that passages about obedience catch my eye and motivate me toward even greater devotion to my Freedom-Giver. 

I don’t say all of this to illustrate how incredibly holy I have become now, because I still struggle—every day.  I’ve had lots of victories and many defeats, but I am equipped with the Godliness that I need to make the decisions for obedience.  And this obedience is what makes me keep struggling on.  It’s when I obey that I learn more about God.  It’s when I obey that He gives wisdom. 

Here’s what Oswald Chambers had to say about obedience yesterday in My Upmost for His Highest,

If you obey God in the first thing He shows you, then He instantly opens up the next truth to you. You could read volumes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when five minutes of total, uncompromising obedience would make things as clear as sunlight. Don’t say, “I suppose I will understand these things someday!” You can understand them now. And it is not study that brings understanding to you, but obedience. Even the smallest bit of obedience opens heaven, and the deepest truths of God immediately become yours. Yet God will never reveal more truth about Himself to you, until you have obeyed what you know already.

How’s that for motivation?  I want Heaven to open up to me!  I want the deepest truths of God to be mine!  I want God to reveal more about Himself to me! 

Lord, help me get beyond myself so I can run straight to You. 

Lord, help me to obey.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 1:3

Monday, October 10, 2011

‘member that time?

‘member that time when I found whole chickens for $.85/lb. at Aldi’s?   And member how I bought two, but I froze one and cooked the other one in the crock pot all day so I could make chicken and black bean burritos with the meat? 

And then member how I took it out of the crock pot when it was all cooked and put it in a Tupperware outside on the porch swing to cool?  And how I completely forgot about it when the whole family decided to go to the movie Courageous

Then member the next afternoon, when I saw Shay go onto the porch and saw her wordlessly pointing at the swing in horror?  Yeah, well, she found the chicken.  And I didn’t make burritos.

Let’s just say Neo was a very happy dog that night.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Race Worthy

So, in all seriousness now, I am going to tell you something that God showed me. and it has nothing to do with dead rabbits.

Yesterday at boot camp, for one of the stations, we had to run around the building…outside…in the dark.  Remember, it’s 5 in the morning here.  Normally, running around the building wouldn’t be a big deal—it wouldn’t thrill me—but it wouldn’t terrify me either.

Yesterday, it terrified me.  It terrified me because as we came out the door of the building—in the light—we swiftly rounded the corner—and were immersed in complete darkness.  This darkness was not the kind of thing where you can kind of see your feet moving or sense that there might be danger near;  It was the kind of darkness where everything is unseen.  Now remember, I was RUNNING in this darkness…unable to see where I was going…or even if anyone was in front of me…unable to see if there was an obstacle ahead that I was going to run into, fall over and break my head open.  But I kept running because I figured that Jeff (the head honcho) had checked out the pathway in the light and found it safe.  I also trusted that he wouldn’t place anything in the path to purposely trip me up.  He was trying to get me in shape, not put me in the hospital.  I trusted that Jeff had my best in mind, so I ran in the dark even though I was scared.

Sometimes in my life, I feel like I am running in the dark.  And sometimes I want to stop and walk or even turn around and go back because I don’t know what is ahead.  But I think God showed me this whole thing to say, “Hey, Tori, you can trust Me too—even when you can’t see your future.  I am Reliable.” 

Why do I find it so much easier to trust a fallible man with skin on rather than a perfect God whom I cannot see? Because sometimes I struggle believing that God is good all the time.  but He is.  And sometimes I tremble when I see the waves of life coming at me; I think He must have forgotten me. but He hasn’t.  And sometimes, I’m scared of the dark, dark stuff that this world serves up and I think that Satan is the victor.  but he’s not.

God’s purposes will prevail.  I want to be a part of those purposes. That means I have to run in the dark sometimes—even when I don’t like it or I don’t understand.

I place my confidence in His promises;

For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Ps 91:11-12)

I place my trust in His victory;

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:37-39)

And I hide my life in the life of His Son;

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:2-3)

If God is for me, who can be against me?

Even in the dark.

I’ll trust Him. Will you?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Appropriate

Since I have talked about dead bunnies all week, I thought it only appropriate to post a picture from the Book of Bunny Suicides.

I also thought this fitting because I detest ironing. 

I guess it must be hard to be a bunny at times like these.

Enjoy.

 

2 08 Bunny Suicides | 75 Cartoon Strips

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Flat Rabbits

Not sure why my mind is obsessed with dead rabbits lately, but so be it. Here’s your weekly “Lessons God Taught Me through Animals” post. Sorry I couldn’t think of a catchier name.  I’m open for suggestions…and a jingle if you are so inclined.

As I was driving to boot camp this morning at 4:48, I noticed a rabbit (and two raccoons and three white-tailed deer) trying to avoid certain death as my car zoomed by. This rabbit was different than the other wildlife that I observed on my short commute; while the maybe-somewhat-smarter raccoon and deer ducked for cover in the nearby forest of trees, the rabbit, being a city dweller, ran under another car—albeit stationary. And the first thought that came to mind was, “he thinks he’s safe there.”

Sometimes, I think we are like that. Our lives start getting uncomfortable, or painful, or out of control, and we think our protection lies somewhere in this world. We think if we can just find a way out of this suffocating circumstance, these painful memories, or these dizzying demands on our time, that we will feel safe and relaxed. But we’re wrong—just like that rabbit was wrong. In the same way that we know that eventually that car will start up again…and eventually it will back over that creature that looked for protection behind its wheel…when we run to anything but the one true God for comfort, that false protector will eventually pull us away from the real one—and maybe even crush us.

As Christians, we know where our Real Security lies; it is not in ease or comfort or wealth. It’s not in education, or influence, or beauty or other relationships. We only have real safety when we hide ourselves with Christ in God—He is truly our Rock and our Refuge--all other things will disappoint.

Just like the car disappointed that flat rabbit.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
   my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior…

2 Samuel 22:2-3

Monday, October 3, 2011

‘member that time?

This ‘member that time is for my foster brother, Bruce, whose birthday is tomorrow.  Happy Birthday Bruce! 

‘member that time when Bruce got me a brown fuzzy rabbit for my birthday and member how I named it Tarzan?  And member how one lazy summer day I went out to feed my beloved pet and his head had been ripped off by a dog or some other ferocious beast?  member that?  That was an unpleasant experience for an 8 year old.  Not to mention gross. No more swinging in the jungle for that Tarzan. Not that rabbits do a lot of swinging on vines…but you know what I mean. 

Pretty sad stuff, huh?  But I have recovered by now and developed into a normal human being even after that horrific experience.

And I even have more pets and all of them still have their heads.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Sweet Wisdom

One time, long ago, when my older children were very young, my friend, Tara, and I decided that it would be fun to let our kids decorate sugar cookies with colored frosting and sprinkles.  We baked the cookies while the children destroyed everything in sight played happily nearby; we prepared multiple bowls of colorful icing and placed the sugar sprinkles on the table—all while envisioning the delightful scene which was to take place: a childhood memory was about to be birthed for our wee ones. I had remembered decorating cookies with my mom and I was tickled to be creating this opportunity for my own family. 

Because I was a fairly new mom and still wet behind the ears, I was trying to do this whole childhood thing correctly.  I had read that “children need traditions”,  so I called Tara and asked her to bring over her boys to help me start creating “something my kids could look forward to year after year”.

Guess how this whole scene played out?   It was an EPIC FAIL  (I can use those words because I have been a mother for a lot longer now and those are the kinds of things my teenagers say, so I say them too just to try to be cool…or rad…or sick…or phat…or whatever words mean groovy now).  It did not turn out the way I had envisioned.  In fact, it was supremely stressful, amazingly messy and really just not that much fun.  And the cookies were really ugly.

Why did my vision of cherubic rapture dissipate so quickly?  It fell to pieces for several reasons, and here they are: 

1.  Kids at age 3 and 1 are not ready to decorate sugar cookies.  When the children are not coordinated enough to stay on their chairs without falling off, they are not coordinated enough to spread frosting on Santa.

2.  I couldn’t force tradition.  Traditions develop over years of shared—and enjoyed (this being the key word) activities.  Traditions don’t normally involve unpleasant words such as “If you put any more frosting in your sister’s hair, I’m getting out the spankin’ paddle!”

3.  I was trying to create an experience for my children that I thought was a necessary ingredient to a happy childhood.  What I didn’t realize was that I had several more messy impressionable years in which to fit these childhood experiences into.  I did not have to introduce my children to all of my childhood experiences before they went to kindergarten.  If we do all these “kid things” with ours too early, they’ll never remember any of them. And you’ll be really crabby because of their immaturity.  Your kids are probably not exceptionally advanced even if they watch Baby Einstein every day and listen to Mozart at naptime.  Face the facts, they are CHILDREN.

And here is what I learned from this exhausting experience: 

1.  I just needed to relax and enjoy my kids by letting them set the pace.  At 3 and 1, even coloring together or picking up fallen leaves was a joy for them; It was a simple joy. Toddlers need simple.  Toddlers do not need Martha Stewart.

2.  Traditions evolve.  The traditions that you remember from your childhood may not be the traditions that you develop with your own kids—and that’s OK.  Your kids will ask you to do certain things that they associate with different seasons and you will do those things—no sense in forcing what no one enjoys or doing things that destroy your kitchen.

3.  If you let kids have enough time to just play—really play (not organized sports and activities), they will experience childhood in all of it’s innocent glory.  You can still think of things to do with them and create experiences to stimulate their sponge-like minds, but the happiest times will come to them when they feel the most free to be themselves.

So, here is my advice to all of you young moms out there feeling panicked about not “doing it right”.  RELAX. 

You ARE doing it right if you let your schedule and your planned itinerary disappear when your little one says, “Mommy, play?”. 

And you ARE excelling if, when in your exhausted state, you put your little one to bed at night and you appreciate her perfection and God’s provision for undeserved blessing and love.

RELAX.

ENJOY THEM.

SAY THANK YOU TO GOD EVERY DAY FOR THE PRIVELAGE OF RAISING HIS KIDS.

 

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
   children a reward from him.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
   are sons born in one’s youth.

Blessed is the man
   whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:3-5

Monday, September 26, 2011

Adolescent Adoration

82.  That’s how many teenagers I have fed in the last 10 days.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love it when my kids ask a few of their friends (or 50) to come hang out at the house.  And I love feeding them because they are so appreciative.  They may not express this appreciation with words, but a mother of teenagers can tell; this morning, one young man ate four large sticky buns and then took a picture of the rest of them with his phone.  I’m not sure if he did this to send it to his buddies to make them jealous or to remind him of his good fortune, but I knew it meant, “I love these sticky buns with all my heart”, and it blessed my heart that he adored my cooking.

So, if you are wondering why my posting has been so sporadic lately, or why I am not doing a ‘member that time today, I am probably loading or unloading my dishwasher, or, Heaven forbid, washing the too-large pots and pans by hand.

Or maybe I’m making more sticky buns and feeding them to teenage boys to get another ego boost.

But probably, I’m sleeping because it takes a bunch of energy to roll out dozens of sticky rolls at 4:20 in the morning.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Joy Personified

18 years ago today I didn’t know I could love a little girl as much as I loved my little boy…

18 years ago today, I didn’t know what sunshine would fill my house when she smiled…

18 years ago today, I didn’t know how much her happiness would infect the entire family…

18 years ago today, I didn’t know how infatuated I would become with her irresistible innocence…

18 years ago today, I didn’t know that this cute, funny little girl we were raising would become a beautiful, driven young woman that I love with my whole heart.

Happy 18th Birthday, Tess Michelle.  You are joy personified!

You will go out in joy
   and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
   will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
   will clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12

Monday, September 19, 2011

‘member that time?

‘member that time in Mrs. Justice’s 7th grade homeroom when I challenged all the boys to an arm wrestling competition?  And member how over the course of a week of homerooms, I beat every single one of them?

And member how proud I was of myself? 

What I dork I was.  I guess I wasn’t really into femininity at that point.  I guess I wasn’t very into boys either since they all stayed away from me after that.

Or maybe it was the whole cooties thing.  I guess I’ll never know.

Maybe Paige wants to arm wrestle me too.  We all know she’d likely win.  Check out her ‘member that time at  http://teamvanvoorst.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 17, 2011

He loves me!

Psalm 17:8 says,

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

After I read that verse today, my heart leapt as I realized He loves me—He really loves me!

And He loves you too.  He really does. Believe it.

 featherspic

He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

  Psalm 91:4

Friday, September 16, 2011

Security

Here’s something I stole from my friend Anna’s blog, Reckless Trust, because I thought it was so excellent.  Anna, thanks for the reminder that God has a plan for me and it is a GOOD plan.

"There’s good news today: He has a plan! And his plan is good and his plan isn’t one-dimensional and finite like yours because all you can really do with your plan is figure out your best days. You can only control the things you can control. So not only can you not control outside influences, you don’t have any sort of capacity to control evil. But God’s plan is a good plan. God’s plan takes the best shot from his archenemy, Satan, infiltrating the inner circle of Jesus, having Judas betray Jesus and hand him over for the purpose of the King being assassinated. And God doesn’t do evil, he uses evil. God has a plan. Jesus has a plan. My hope today is that you’ll change your perspective, you’ll reverse your default mode of looking at your plan, and you’ll begin to understand who you are in Jesus’ plan because he loves you. And his plan is good." - Dave Bruskas

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
   you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
   surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Psalm 16:5-6

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Butter Cat

My new cat eats the butter. 

He’s really not supposed to be in the house but we all bring him in occasionally because he is so dang cute.  Cute—and bratty—all at the same time;  cute because he looks like a miniature Lynx and he is super playful, and bratty because, even though he is the smallest of the three cats (and the youngest), he uses Alpha cat intimidation to get his own way—like taking over Molly’s house atop a loft that she has inhabited for about 10 years now.  She used to spend about 23 1/2 hours there each day, and now she lays under the car—scared and bitter.  Anyway, back to the butter; if I happen to leave the top off the  tray, Pitot (it’s pronounced Pito—like pita except with an o) licks the top of the butter until I catch him.  If the butter is covered, he just licks around the sides where the butter has been.

Needless to say, I think this is gross.  And Pito receives a scolding every time I see him doing it.  And I either cut off the licked section of the butter or wash the outside of the butter tray to remove his kitty germs.  But even though it’s disgusting (not to him, obviously) and even though I continue to swat him for his actions, he keeps right on jumping on the counter to taste this elicit snack.  He loves it that much.  He loves it so much that he is willing to suffer discipline to have it.

Sometimes, when I am angry…or tired…or sick, I just let my words fly out of my mouth because it feels good to say them.  I don’t capture my thoughts first and make them obedient.  I just do what I want because my will is stronger than my devotion to God.  When I do this, I am showing God who I love the most…and it’s me.

Sometimes, when I see another mom raising her kids in a way that is different in the way that I raise mine, I rush to judge her because I think the way I do things is the best way.  I forget to stop and see her with the eyes of Christ.  I forget to put my pride below my ego.  When I do this, I am showing God who I love the most…and it’s me.

When I do these things, I know that they are wrong, but doing the right thing, thinking the right way, is so much work and I am so tired.  In renting terms, I would just rather lose my deposit, than to spend time cleaning up my apartment myself—it’s too hard and it takes too much time—and look at the mess I’ve made.  I know that I will have to pay for it later (or forfeit my deposit—my blessing—my ability to create holy holes—to see God’s face more clearly), but right now, I think, God isn’t important enough to me to honor.

How do I get beyond this—this drive to satisfy my will--this lazy approach to my “real” life?  How do I set God’s ways as my default? 

I’m not sure what the answer is.  But I am encouraged that God isn’t finished with me yet.  Until I figure it out, I will try to train myself to love the Word instead of the world.  And I will continue to seek Him first thing every day.  Looking to Him is the way that I change into the new creation that He promises I will be.

Maybe next year, for the state fair, I will make a butter cat with all the contaminated stuff I cut off of the sticks Pitot licks.  Or maybe I will just put the butter in the fridge and save myself some work.

 

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6