Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August Rush

I’ve been struggling to post this month.  Here’s why:

I got a new cat and took it to the vet for rabies shots in the same week that I took my old cat to the vet to be put to sleep. I replaced Shay’s light in her closet while she was counseling at kids’ camp because it had been burnt out for 3 months and she couldn’t see what she was wearing. I bought chocolate milk and fruit snacks and Gatorade for Tess and Shay who were doing 2-a-day cross country practices and nuts and apple juice for Shay who was doing band camp between these two practices.  During this time, I also brought Shay her instrument which she forgot when she was going to band camp.  You can read about that here. I also purchased fudgesicles for the littlest mountain goat (that’s what we call Cole since the hiking trip) to eat after his day-long mowing jobs (our yard and the neighbor’s).  I had breakfast in the park with my parents, my sister, my niece and my family.  After that, my sister and I got our groupon manicure/pedicures.  But before that, Brent and I had to go to Target on our date night because I had to buy a fake toenail because my toenail on my right foot fell off (again!) and while we were there, Brent said, “They actually sell those?”  And I said, “Yes.”  And to work off that breakfast and the fudgesicles, I have been going to boot camp at 5 am, except the one morning that I went at 9:30 am so that I could be on TV for some feature on the news.  The reporter that worked out beside me at 9:30 that day said, “Holy Cow!” a lot in kind of disgusted sort of way.  We had a bonfire with the neighbors and instead of s’mores, we had these things called popovers where you take a marshmallow and you put a Reese’s PB cup in it, then you wrap biscuit dough around that.  Then you cook this concoction over the open fire until it looks done.  We all ate them and said, “mmm, these are so much neater than s’mores.”  I designed 4 D6 programs for the book of Judges and you gotta love it when the children’s program is about Jael pounding a tent peg through Sisera’s skull.  I also wrote 12 chapters of a study guide for a 36 chapter book that we will be teaching for women’s Bible study this year.  I wasn’t aware that the book had 36 chapters when I eagerly offered to produce said study guide. I accompanied Tess to our backyard for her senior picture session.  I visited Wheatsfield and bought some hard red wheat berries for $.99/lb and I ground these up in my fancy blender until I had flour then I baked homemade bread from this and it was gooooood.  I packed up my firstborn son’s possessions in my suburban and followed him in his green buick to Iowa City where he started his 2nd year of college.  Soon, he will be 20.  20!  wow, I must be getting old.  I attended D6 teacher’s training, TSC coaches training, women’s ministry planning meetings,  and ate at El Azteka with my friends a few times.  I went to a super duper fun craft/social/hang-out day at another dear friend’s house and made these little tile blackboard things that I am supposed to put up on my fridge so everyone will know the menu during the week, but I haven’t put them up yet because I don’t have magnets and if I put them up, it would require me to have a menu in advance.  I made lots of yogurt, ate lots of ice cream and went to Tropical snow, but only once.  I also bought my littlest son size 13 sneakers and measured him because he was looking as tall as me.  Oh, and the kids also started school…and homework…and full time sports.  I watched THE HELP, TRUE GRIT, and part of LETTERS TO GOD and we cleaned our garages and went to Orange Leaf to tell ourselves good job.  But I didn’t get a nap on the hammock on any of these beautiful evenings…but I want to.  Maybe tomorrow.

I’m glad September is almost here.  Maybe I’ll get busy and write more regularly while I am waiting for my toenail to grow in.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stop, drop, and rest

From my journal today:

Well, I’m at it again, God—this constant fight over productivity.  Sometimes productivity becomes my idol.  I am always trying to do more and more and do it earlier in the week--so I can relax?  No, so I can produce more later in the week.  What is my real purpose for You?  What am I to be doing for you NOW?  This lack of knowing worries me, and I think I mask that insecurity with doing. I am so afraid of wasting time. My productivity trap makes me focus on no one but me and my stuff and how much I can get done.  Help me break free from this, Lord.  Allow me freedom in You.

Freedom to be…freedom to pray…freedom to visit…freedom to read…freedom to create…freedom to enjoy.  Now, teach me and set me straight, God.

Well, God is faithful, and set me straight He did.  This is the very first verse He showed me:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

The minute I read it, I knew He was right and I cried. 

I get myself all worked up about so many things that, in the big picture, really don’t matter at all.  I make myself accomplish things that no one has asked me to do.  I put strict parameters on the ways I use my time because I am so afraid of being accused of laziness.  Do you notice how this forced discipline and productivity seeking makes me focus inward…instead of upward and sideward? (this is a word my nephew and niece, Ryan and Miranda made up when they were little.  It means going side to side—you know—like “frontwards, backwards…and sidewards”).  Instead of looking inward, I need to simplify and look upward to God to meet my need for purpose.  And if I am looking upward, I will develop eyes like Christ that see “sidewards” to those around me and a mouth that speaks the words of God—not the words of Tori.

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 4:11

I know this predicament stems partially from choosing to be a homemaker at this season in my life.  I actually really like being at home and doing domestic, housewifely things, but I always worry about how others perceive this stay-at-home gig.  So, I figure, since my kids are at school all day, I better stay really busy and stay really productive, or I might lose favor with man.  However, when I speak truth to myself, I know that I am complete in Christ and I should not fear the opinion of people.  I know this, but I often forget it…and that’s when I slide into this whole productivity mess.  Productivity, in balance, is a wonderful thing.  Productivity, in excess, kills joy.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

So how do I stop this cycle of doing?  I learn, like Martha in Luke 10, to see value in sitting…and listening…and drinking in…the words of my Father.  I remember that when I look to Jesus—not my list--at the beginning of the day—my vision is clearer.  And I can rest.

If Jesus thought it better for Martha to sit at His feet—to put Him first—to stop working for the moment, then it’s probably Ok for me too.  If I do this, He will give me the desires of my heart.  It’s a promise.

I’m counting on it.

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

Monday, August 22, 2011

‘member that time?

‘member when I was little and we didn’t have any cup-holders in the car?  And member how I would always beg Mom for a chocolate shake when we would stop at the hamburger place?  And how she let me get one EVERY SINGLE TIME…and how I kept it between my feet on the floor and spilled it  EVERY SINGLE TIME…and how she got mad EVERY SINGLE TIME?

Well, Mom, I can think of some solutions for this problem:

1.  Don’t let your kid get the shake.

2.  If she does get the shake, drink it OUTSIDE of the car

3.  If she does get the shake and she gets in the car, make her hold it in her lap.  Ignore any whining about being cold.

4.  Put a TOP on the cup. What a great idea!

5.  Do what I did with my kids when they ate anything messy: put her in the bathtub naked when you arrive at home…then, give her the shake and spray her off when she is done.

6.  Or, just get her water.  Water is not sticky and does not stain.  She will not like this solution until you tell her it is the only way to keep you from yelling.

So, there you have it; a ‘member that time and an advice column all in one.  And, by the way, Mom, I have at least 8 cup-holders in my car now and my kids still manage to spill their shakes on the floor.

I think it’s genetic.

It’s ‘member that time Monday! (Carefully hold your drink in one hand and check out Paige’s blog with the with the other.) http://teamvanvoorst.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Forget to Remember

“When we are afraid, the least we can do is pray to God. But our Lord has a right to expect that those who name His name have an underlying confidence in Him. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the ones who are reliable. Yet our trust is only in God up to a certain point, then we turn back to the elementary panic-stricken prayers of those people who do not even know God. We come to our wits’ end, showing that we don’t have even the slightest amount of confidence in Him or in His sovereign control of the world. To us He seems to be asleep, and we can see nothing but giant, breaking waves on the sea ahead of us.”

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, August 12

Isn’t it true?  Sometimes this “trust” thing only goes so far.  Lately, I have found myself running ahead of God and leaving Him out of my thoughts when I am worried…or angry…or stressed.  It is so easy for me just to go with what comes naturally, and then when things have calmed down to say, “oh, yeah.  I’m a Christ-follower.  I didn’t even consider my actions, or my words, or my thoughts in that situation.  I didn’t even consider what would bring God glory in that.” 

I simply did what seemed right at the time. Scary, huh?

If you asked me, I would say, “You bet! I’m all in!…sold out!…doing this God thing one hundred percent!.  But is that really true?  When God impresses things like ‘trust’ and ‘obedience’ and ‘honor’ on my soul, I say with great enthusiasm, “I want that!”  However, when life gets a little messy and my schedule gets slightly altered, when the doctor calls and says a test was abnormal or when my child keeps having headaches over and over, It is often me I run to. My natural, strong, anxious tendencies go into tooverdrive, and I forget to remember to trust in God. I forget to think before acting because I believe I am in control.  I believe I can solve it. 

I can’t.

How long it is going to take me before running to God becomes my natural default? How long it is going to take to remember He’s got my back?  I want to have full confidence in my Lord and in His sovereign control when the waves start coming at me.  I want my first reaction to be, “How can I bring God glory in this situation?” not “How can I get my way?”

When I’m sitting in church listening, or when I am reading my Bible and letting Him teach, things seem so crystal clear; I am ready to obey.  But when I get out of that pew, or up from my polka-dotted chair, when I start out the door and into the world to begin my day, all those clear things start to blur. My initiative towards devotion becomes an afterthought.

I don’t want it to be like this. 

I want to be one of His reliable ones…one that remembers to trust.  All the time.  Not just when it comes easily. I think my trust probably pleases Him most when it is difficult.

I guess that means I need to keep sitting. and reading. and listening. and practicing with my renewed mind.  I guess that means He isn’t finished with me yet. I guess the realization that I continue to mess up keeps me humble. and helps me to learn patience.  I guess I need to put more of God’s word in my mind and less of my word in my mind.

Maybe then, with lots of practice, I will no longer forget to remember.

In the night I remember your name, O LORD,
   and I will keep your law.

Psalm 119:55

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Confession in the Chaos

So…am I complaining when I say I was a little miffed when my 15 year old daughter—who has a school permit and who drove to school for BAND CAMP—called me after she got there and said she forgot her instrument?  Come on, folks, it is band camp!  If you can’t remember the only thing you need to bring, write it on a sticky note and wear it on your shirt!  And is it wrong of me to be upset when I had to leave another child at Middle School Orientation by himself so I could go and get the forgotten instrument and deliver it because the unnamed child’s car wouldn’t start?  And am I crazy when I say that after I got to the high school and delivered the instrument, I tried out the “broken” car and it started just fine?  Well, call me a complainer and a crazy woman then, because that was my afternoon!  Good thing this unnamed 15 year old girl is cute and sweet and repentant because that was not what I wanted to do with my day. 

Ok.  Now that I got that off my chest, and now that I remembered that I want to be a willing, humble servant, I am amazed how much my circumstances can make me focus on myself and my perceived inconveniences.  Throughout all of the driving back and forth across town during this fiasco, I chose to be angry and feel rushed.  I didn’t have to be like this. I chose myself today, but I wish I had chosen Jesus. When I respond like Jesus, I see difficulties as opportunities to show the sweetness of his nature, not mine.  When I choose calmness rather than chaos, I show that I know God is in control of all things.  When I see drudgery and inconvenience as an opportunity to serve, I overflow with gladness—not madness.  When I think of where my natural human responses and attitudes will lead me, I can remember that I have chosen to be a servant of Christ—not myself—and I can think with truth instead of lies.

Instead of complaints, I want to give thanksgiving.

Instead of venting, I want to praise.

Instead of craziness, I want holiness.

Instead of bitterness, I want forgiveness.

Lead on, Lord Jesus.  Lead on.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 5:8-10

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Could I?

I saw a video that someone posted on Facebook recently, and I can't get it out of my head. The video showed an American or British woman arriving at a secluded African village. She was looking for the orphans often left alone in these primitive settings because a parent(s) has died of AIDS or starvation or other disease. As she comes upon this little village, she encounters two tiny, skinny, naked children laying on the dirt--not really moving at all, but moaning quietly. It is only because of the moaning that one knows they are still alive. They are starving to death. It is at this point that the woman, so moved by pity, cries out in anguish. Then you see another little girl enter the scene. This little girl--tiny herself--is dressed only in a dirty, and very much too big for her, men's dress shirt. She is the 8 year old sister of the others. She is carrying a large tub of water which she sits down by the children. She then picks up her less -than- 20- pounds 7 year old brother--who can't walk because he was afflicted with Polio--and carries him to a blanket where she begins to bath him from head to toe--all the while looking shyly at the camera. This 8 year old has had to walk miles to get this clean water, and miles to get back, and yet here she is, taking care of her siblings. After she is done bathing her brother, she carries him to a clean blanket and carefully puts him down. Now she goes to her sister, carries her tiny body to the water and bathes her just as she did her brother. This is not an easy job as this younger sister's legs are also useless--affected also by Polio. She repeats the same process again and lays her clean sister beside the brother. This 8 year old girl has become the only 'parent' these children have--what amazing commitment and love she shows them.

Knowing that the children are starving and wanting to help at least a bit, the cameraman reaches into his bag and pulls out three packages of peanut butter crackers and gives them to the little parent-girl. She opens one of these packs eagerly--she, too, is starving--but still she serves; she offers the first one to her brother, and the second to her sister. After each of the little ones start nibbling, she gets a cracker herself and begins to eat. After just that minute amount of sustenance, the younger children are able to sit up and pay attention to their sibling parent.

The video then cuts out and script on the screen tells the viewers that because of this American/English woman's efforts, these children were taken to hospitals to rehabilitate them. They were then placed in loving foster care. Their sister was also placed in a foster home where she could once again enjoy being a child--not a little adult.

As I watched this video with tears, all I could think was, "I can go and get food anytime I want it...and even when I don't want it. I have never truly been hungry." Yet, they had no food to nourish their small bodies. They eagerly accepted what someone had thrown in a backpack for an afternoon snack. We, in America, have so much. We don't often think of people dying because they have nothing to eat. In fact, food is so accessible to us, many are grossly overweight.

I wasn't sure what to do with this video. It made me feel ashamed to be living in America--where the livin' is truly easy. It made me feel guilty to eat three meals and still want more. It made me realize how insulated I am in my cushy world. I don't think God allowed me to see it, though, so I would condemn my lifestyle and curse my lot in life. I think he showed it to me to help me see more clearly beyond my near-sighted world.

So, what can I do personally for these starving children and others like them?

Am I supposed to adopt? I don't think so, but God will make it clear if that's what He wants. Should I give more money to alleviate this poverty? this hunger? this hopelessness? Maybe so. Should I go? and see? Probably--maybe to the Zambia Hope Center where we already have a start. I can go...and see...and experience another life than my own...another culture unlike my own...with people that God loves as much as me because they are His own. But these are all eventual things--concrete things that I can accomplish by doing paperwork, writing a check, hopping on a plane.

What if God wants to do something else in me right now? Like change my view of drudgery--and see it as service to Him? And change my view of imperfect--and see it as beautiful? What if He wants me to shun attention to my tasks of honor with only a shy smile and a continuation of my service? What if I am supposed to be second, or sixth, or last? What if He wants to use those children to make me more like Him? And what if He wants me to be more like those children--humble, helpless, dependent on His judgment call?

What if?

Could I? Would I?

What would You have me do, Dear Lord?

Enable me to do it.

Here Am I. Send me.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

To view the video, click here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3v7ZQUzr0yo

Monday, August 8, 2011

‘member that time?

‘Member that time when Luke was carefully studying the back of the whey protein powder and he said, “ I don’t think I am a strength athlete anymore.  I’m more like a health-conscious active adult.”

And member how Tess and I laughed out loud?  And member how Luke just kept drinking his shake and thought we were weird?  When really he was the weird one?

That was so funny.  I’m laughing right now just thinking about it.

And for all you other health-conscious adults out there, it’s ‘member that time Monday  at http://teamvanvoorst.blogspot.com/ !

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I’d Rather be Packin’…

A lot of folks have asked me why our family likes to go backpacking.  I’ve been pondering that, and I think my answer is “because it makes life simple.”

When I go backpacking, there is no 12 step Mary Kay skin scrubbing/ rinsing/repairing/preserving routine with a lotion for daytime, a lotion for nighttime, a lotion for putting over the daytime and nighttime lotions, and a special lotion to erase those little pesky lines around your eyes—Oh and don’t forget the lip balm for those dry and cracking lips.  No, when I go backpacking, I bring no lotion because lotion is not completely necessary.  When I go backpacking, my skin is lucky if it gets a quick splash from the 45 degree lake before I sink into my sleeping bag.

When I go backpacking, I don’t fix my hair.  There are no electrical outlets in the forest, so I put a hat on the sparse hair that I have and I call it good—not pretty—you are never pretty when you are backpacking—but good.

When I go backpacking, I wear no make-up.  Like I said, you are never pretty when you are backpacking…nor do you need to be—the other hikers, and the bears you hope that you will not see, do not care.

When I go backpacking, I bring two sets of clothes.  You got it, two sets—one for wearing during the day and getting stinky in, and one for putting on at night after you attempt to wash up with an old Winnie the Pooh washcloth in the 45 degree lake.  These night clothes are never worn during the day because then they would become stinky nighttime clothes, and no one wants to share a tiny two-man tent with a stinker.

When I go backpacking, I only do my  laundry—no one else’s—the daytime set—and I wash it in the freezing cold water while slugs affix themselves to my skin.  I then hang these clothes on our clothesline and hope they dry by morning.  They usually don’t dry, so I wear them wet the next day—nothing like wet underwear to get you going!  They always dry on my body by mile 3. Unless it’s raining—then they never dry.

When I go backpacking, I don’t have to clean the bathroom.  There really are no bathrooms—unless you count those disgusting biffys we occasionally find on the more travelled routes. Lands sake!  The whole forest’s a bathroom—who needs a biffy?  Nuff said. 

When I go backpacking, I can eat a Snickers bar at 7:30 in the morning and feel good about it.  Snickers really satisfies.  And I need to be satisfied if I am going 14 miles with a pack on my back.

When I go backpacking, I know exactly what I am supposed to do.  I am supposed to put on a pack filled with food, a sleeping bag and pad, camp stove and fuel, and maybe a copy of a year old Reader’s Digest, and I am supposed to walk and walk and walk until I get to my next chosen campsite.  I am supposed to arrive at this campsite without spraining my ankle or getting eaten by wildlife.  When I get to this location, I am to set up my tent and sleeping supplies, eat the meal that my husband and daughter have prepared, and then wash the dirty supper dishes in lake water—exactly 200 feet from the lake (soap kills the fishes!).  After drying these dishes by waving them in the air like a crazy person, I put them in their mesh pouch and carry them camp-ward.  There are exactly six plates, six cups, and six sporks (combo spoon/fork/knife—clever, huh?) in the bag. Bedtime directly follows supper—even if it’s only 6:45 pm.  We do this every day…and night.  You can set your watch by it—if you actually bring a watch—and you probably won’t because it’s not completely necessary.

When I go backpacking, I can’t check my email or scroll down Facebook checking out everyone’s weekend plans.  I can’t make a phone call or watch a movie to relax. But I can talk to my family as we trek the trails together and make up new words to the song “These are a Few of my Favorite Things” because we can’t remember the real ones.  And I can laugh for the hundredth time at yet another “leaking bladder” joke as we fill our camel-back water bladders with filtered lake water. 

And I can listen to the symphony of bugs and birds and wolves that howl as I look at  obscenely bright stars shining in the sky.

When I go backpacking, life is simpler and purer and better.  As one weathered and dirty thru-hiker told us as he passed our group on a warm Colorado day, “Nature heals, man.”

                                                    I tend to agree.


                                         isle royale 2011 039

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Strength Training

I’ve been spending some time learning how to make my blog look pretty.  Luke is helping me.  Actually Luke is the one doing it and I am watching.  Anyway, since I am updating my look, I haven’t been posting, but I promise to put my nose to the grindstone very soon. 

Here’s something I thought excellent from today’s Upmost for His Highest.  Check it out:

God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome. The strain of life is what builds our strength. If there is no strain, there will be no strength. Are you asking God to give you life, liberty, and joy? He cannot, unless you are willing to accept the strain. And once you face the strain, you will immediately get the strength.

In your straining, reach for your strong God.  In doing this, you will become strong in Him.


And all the people said, “Amen!”

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10