Saturday, October 30, 2010

L.E.N.S. photo challenge: comfort

As soon as I saw this week's theme for the the photo challenge @ Home is Where You Start From was comfort I knew what my photo choice had to be...


Hot chocolate with little marshmallows...you're feeling better already, aren't you?  :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

an "A-ha!" moment

I would rather just all together fast forward through the end of October.  I dread having to see all the gore displayed everywhere you go.  Just not my cup of tea.  I've been searching for the reason I have such ill feelings toward Halloween...it lies deeper than the standard "philosophy" of Halloween.  If it didn't, then I wouldn't have a struggle every single year about what to do with it where my boys are concerned.
Do we do the activity at church?  Is it really necessary?  Do we carve pumpkins?  Am I being legalistic?  Oh, the questions are endless...and seemingly without answers.
Until yesterday.
I've been praying really long and hard to find out my biggest beef with Halloween.  And, praise God, I think I've found it!  Along with many prayers, I took some time yesterday afternoon and Googled "should Christians celebrate Halloween".  Note: This is coming off of the night before when I caved in and took my boys to the church for AWANA's trunk or treat event.  Only to come home and wonder why we went...AGAIN.  I've felt like this every year that we've gone.
Back to my search...I read several articles by Christian groups.  One can find support for and against Halloween without much ado.  You can find reasons to totally avoid it, Christmas, and Easter for that matter.  My issue isn't with those other two, so on I read and read and read.  The History Channel even did a show on the origins of Halloween that I watched some of to see what they said about how it has come to be such an event as it is.  (Seeing that made me want to avoid it even more, by the way.  Why?  I ask...why would a Christian who is called to be set apart want to associate with such activities?)
Anyway, as I read a blogger's views on Halloween, she struck a cord in my heart.  I have found my reason. 
It's the fact that I believed in the lie that my kids are "missing out" if I don't celebrate Halloween.
How many times have I believed that lie before even in my own life?  Too many.
"Just think what you'll miss out on if you don't..."
Fill in the blank with anything that I am convicted to be wrong, yet choose to do anyway and I'll find myself believing a lie straight from the pit of Hades.
Satan takes joy in deceiving me and getting me to rationalize myself into settling into something for the sake of not missing out.  Guilt is a very effective tool on me.
The simple fact that even though there are Fall Festivals and the like as an "alternate" to Halloween parties is proof that we're believing that we're missing out on something so we Christianize it (or try to) and justify being able to celebrate right along with the World.  
It's not the activities such as dressing up, getting candy, or even carving pumpkins...it's believing in my heart that I have to do these things or I'm depriving my children of something they need.  
No longer will I believe this lie. 
"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

"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

I'm now ready for next year's battle.  Bring it on! 
My God is bigger and stronger and by His grace I'll never forget what He's taught me about being complete in Him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday's Walk...Down Friendship Lane

"Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel."  Proverbs 27:9

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10



 
In April 2008, two friends and I had a wonderful reunion.  It had been many years since we three amigas had been together.  Becoming friends at Bible Memory Camp, we grew to love each other and have an absolute blast when we were together.  People couldn't help but laugh as they saw us together.  Now, whether it was with us, at us, or because of us, I don't know, but laughter was always present.
One summer, Christa and I traveled all summer with Bible Memory as camp counselors/staff.  Wow!  Six states were graced with our presence...many states for multiple weeks of camp.  How blessed were they. :)  The memories from that summer range from tree hugging to teaching some Illinois campers how to call frogs for easier gigging.  You just had to be there...you would have laughed.  Trust me. 
The following summer Christa and Jackie traveled all summer together.  I joined them for the last few weeks of camp once in Indiana.  Memories with Jackie involve eating sugar packets and making rhymes for/about other camp staff.  Funny thing is, I don't think we made rhymes for each other...if we did I put them out of my mind.  The rhymes were all to the tune of "Mary Had A Little Lamb".  Just thinking about them makes me laugh still now.  Here's one of them...for Steve, a cattle farmer by trade...
Steef (Steve) had a little calf
whose fleece was brown as beef.
And everywhere that Steef would go,
the calf was sure to "leef" (leave).
One other thing that was guaranteed when the three of us were together at camp was that there would be steam rolling happening when a group of people were found gathering around us.  Steam rolling involved lining people up, lying with stomachs to the ground.  The person on the end would yell out "Steam Roll!" and proceed to roll over the top of the line of people to the end.  Once at the end, you took your place on your stomach again, waiting to be rolled over...and over...and over.  As soon as the first person rolled over the next one in line, the next person would start rolling.  I think it ends whenever the line of people gets all out of whack and just can't take it any more.  Hilarious-ness ensues!
Oh, the joys of friendship!     
Once "all grown up", our lives would take us different places at different times.  Time and distance separated us for years, but once reunited in 2008 it was as if it only a little time had passed by.  Jackie and I are both in the Atlanta area now.  Who would have thought that two midwestern Mennonite gals would end up in Atlanta?!  I love when we can squeeze in a lunch or dinner.   Jackie's husband has become a wonderful new friend, too.
Christa was in my wedding and I in hers.  We've been staff at camp together in the recent years, again.  And, oh, the parents of campers, who went to camp with us make sure and let their kids know about us.  It's so funny, and yet so sweet.  I love catching up with Christa during down times at camp...and over the phone/skype when we have a chance.
What I love most about both of these ladies is their love of God, life, and others.  In their own ways, they love graciously, give abundantly, and live exuberantly.  They inspire me.  They encourage me.  They allow me to be me...and they love me anyway. :) 
Life is made better with wonderful friends like these!  Thank God for friends!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Great Expectations

That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.  ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
God is teaching me to rely solely upon Him.  It's a long, hard lesson.  Probably so because of my stubbornness to die to myself and pick up my cross daily.  Did you ever realize what lies at the heart of obedience?  Look again....obedience.  I do not think this is accidental.  I think it's a God thing.  He knew one of His daughters would need a visual help in getting the point of what He means when asking for obedience in all areas of her life.
I've been in a Bible study covering the life of David.  I've found that it has focused on two main parts: David's annointing and Bathsheba.  Often, it refers to being at a crossroads in life.  David stood at many crossroads.  At times he chose the correct direction.  Others he did not.  Yet, God chose to let him live...with consequences.  Always with consequences.
As I was reading a passage along with our Bible study speaker, the words leapt off the page at me.  It was as if I was reading them for the very first time...but I wasn't, so it gave me far greater God bumps (aka goosebumps) knowing it was God speaking directly to my heart from His Word for this very moment in my life.  My Ramah word.  Praise Him for His goodness!
This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 
2 Samuel 12:7b-8 (italics mine)
How many times have I wanted...hoped...wished...for something more than what I already had.  Do I not believe that my God will provide all that I need.  Do I not trust Him to give me what's best for me?  Have I misplaced human expectations on a great and powerful God? 
God knows my heart.  He knew me before I was conceived.  He knows that I require alot of affirming words for me to believe someone is genuine.  He knows that I think actions speak much louder than words.  Yet, He allows me to hear silence.  He allows me to go on without feedback or follow through. 
I hurt.  I stand at a crossroad...doubt or trust...plow on through or wait patiently.  Oh, the agony of it all...
Then, again, I hear softly in my heart, "And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more."   I can expect the greatest from my God.  He has my back.  I need not let the desire of...affirmation, belonging, acceptance, acknowlegement, whatever...take precedence over what my God has for me.  Whenever I get low on something I need, He will provide.  How much sweeter it will be knowing it came from Him at just the right time!  How much more will His glory shine!  How much greater will be the testimony of His goodness!
My prayer today is to get through each moment until I reach my next milestone, being obedient and completely surrendered to Him and His timing, believing His way is what is best for me.

"This is what the LORD says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'"
Jeremiah 6:16

Monday, October 25, 2010

afternoon on the lake

"Fishing gives you a sense of where you fit in the scheme of things - Your place in the universe...I mean, here I am, one small guy with a fishing rod, on this vast sea, and out there in the vast expanse of the ocean are these hundreds of millions of fish...laughing at me."  ~Author Unknown

After church and a quick lunch, we headed for the lake.  It was a beautiful day with warm weather, slight breezes, and nothing better to do than spend some time out on a boat. 
My expectations for catching fish were low...have fished this lake numerous times with little to tell about.  Today was different.  I was the first to catch a fish and the only one of us who caught more than one...two and a half.  The half was the one that never made it into the boat.  It was a little fella who I think got snagged accidentally by the lure as we trolled by; he jumped into the air and slipped right off the hook as I started reeling him in.  The official catches were a pickerel and a bass.  Alex caught a bass, too, and was pretty excited about it.  He's also excited to be moving up to a bigger pole these days.  We've almost worn the little poles out after 6 years of use.
(Yes, since the camera is insured, I took it along for the ride.  We all made it off the water just fine...for which I am really thankful. :) )  







Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

L.E.N.S. photo challenge: shadows

When we went to Savannah, GA, it was a bright, summer's day.  This meant it was also very hot!  Touring the city, the boys did great, but were looking for any way possible to get cool. 
Alex found relief in the shadow of a little tree by the fountain. Tim played in the water.  Such sweet joy in both boys' choices.
You can find the L.E.N.S. photo challenge at "Home is Where You Start From".

Friday, October 22, 2010

inspiration

"We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction."  1 Thessalonians 1:4-5


" 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' "  Acts 26:16-18


"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service."  1 Timothy 1:12









"Come together, all of you, and listen: Which of the idols has foretold these things? The LORD's chosen ally will carry out his purpose against Babylon; his arm will be against the Babylonians. I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him. I will bring him, and he will succeed in his mission."  Isaiah 48:14-15






Monday, October 18, 2010

if you can...

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
"What are you arguing with them about?" he asked.
A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."
"O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."
So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"
"From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
" 'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil[a] spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again."            Mark 9:14-25
 So, I may not verbalize those words, but in my thoughts and my actions that's what I really mean.  "If you can, God..." is what my doubting equals.  Even if only for a few minutes, doubting opens the door for Satan to step in and throw a few more darts at an already feeble heart. 
I am the biggest target when my heart is exposed.  When it's something I really care about...just like this man concerning his son.  He probably didn't want to get his hopes to high for a cure.  Could he take one more disappointment?  Could his heart stand to see his son not healed?   
"If you can do anything..."  Can I accept "No." as my answer?  Can I give thanks in this?  Am I willing to wait and see what God does for His glory without murmuring and complaining?  How long, Lord?  
I was challenged just the other day by my son.  We were on the way home from church one night of our mission conference and from the back seat I hear, "I don't have to see to believe.  I just believe."  He went on to say, "I don't have to see Jesus to believe.  I just believe."  Right now I don't see how things are going to work out in one area of my life.  They just don't seem to add up.  I don't understand the convictions I have versus the reality that faces me.  Some days, it paralyzes me into doing nothing.  Other days, I'm convinced I will make a difference in this world no matter what.
I read in my Bible study workbook last week that sometimes the focus is on what God's doing instead of WHO He is.  Because His ways are higher than mine and because He is holy and we are not, I won't always understand the why's and how's of God's plan.  But through His Word I can understand WHO He is.  In these moments of doubt and confusion, I have to trust what I know about Him.

He is the great I AM.  (Exodus 3:1-17)
He is the Alpha and Omega.  (Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13)
He is Jehovah Jirah...my provider.  (Genesis 22:14)
He is my life.  (1 John 5:12)
He is good.  (Psalm 106)
He is able.  (Ephesians 3:20-21)
He is holy.  (1 Peter 1:13-16) 
He is just.  (Deuteronomy 32:4)
He is love.  (1 John 4:8)

The list is incomplete, but a good start on who the God I serve is and why I can believe in Him and His works in my life.  Even when I don't see it, I can believe it. 
I must fashion my prayers after Habakkuk's...
LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy...
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights.                                       Habakkuk 3:2, 17-19
The picture of the little yellow flowers melts my heart when I see it.  Tim has picked me flowers since he first could grab them with his tiny hands and hold them up to me.  About 3 times this fall, Tim has come running to me with flowers in his hand saying, "These are for you, Mom.  They might be the last ones of the summer."  When he handed me these two and saw I was then taking pictures of them, he asked if I could frame the picture.  He wanted us to remember them even after they were gone.
God's Word is a picture to remind me of who He is when I can't see what's going on and how it's all going to work out.  When, in His presence, I fumble around and say, "If you can..." I am reminded that He is at work and it is for my good.  I just need to focus on who He is and leave the how and what in His hands.
I do believe.  Help me overcome my unbelief!     

Happy Birthday, Alex!

Alex is 8 today!  Birthdays are a big thing and need special attention (I think so, anyway).  And, for Alex, this year meant a long weekend of celebrating. 
 
Thursday evening, a visit from Uncle Eric and Aunt Maria and his baby cousin.  Then we had a great weekend with my family down for a visit from Indiana.  Then we went and spent the afternoon at Stone Mountain.  Later today he'll get to go golfing after school with Pawpaw.  He has his golf clothes all picked out and ready to go.  He loves golf!







This is us after we hiked to the top of Stone Mountain.
Love you, Alex!














Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday's Walk....North to Alaska

My thoughts have been back in Alaska rather often this past week.  We had a little staff reunion of sorts last week at our mission conference.  So sweet to fellowship with those who share a love of Alaska with me.  They get it.
What do I love about Alaska?
...having great opportunities to share the Gospel with others.
...meeting wonderful people from all over the world.
...seeing the beauty of a land still somewhat "untouched" by man.
...experiencing God moments (You know, those moments you realize that only a great and mighty God could arrange so perfectly).
...being a part of something that is way bigger than myself.
My list could go on and on.  God has used my time in Alaska to reveal Himself to me in amazing ways.  I am as David was wondering in awe of all the things God has done for me.
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: 'Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?'  2 Samuel 7:18
I am reminded also of my favorite verse in Acts...
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.   Acts 4:13








Being with Jesus is everything.  It has to be first and foremost.  It's how He uses ordinary people such as myself for His purposes.  Alaska takes me out of my comfort zone for His name's sake...and I've come to love every minute of it! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

camping trip

Adventure is out there...and we found it in Chattanooga at Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground over the weekend. 
Had so much fun tent camping, cooking over the campfire, exploring a cave, stolling along the Riverwalk in Chatt, and fishing in the river. 
Full weekend, but an awesome one!






the boys' tent
outside Raccoon Caverns
the reflection pool inside Raccoon Caverns
the beauty of crisp fall mornings
my favorite color of mums
Riverwalk just below Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw (great food!)
fishing the river
biggest catch of the day
urban waterfall







Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Noodles!

With the days of summer heat behind us, I'm finding myself more and more in the kitchen.  I love the aromas that take me back to Grandma's or Mom's kitchens.  (You can read more about that here.)  It's also fun to see the boys enjoy helping me like I helped when I was younger.  Along with making the goodies, now that they are tall enough to reach over the stove without getting hurt, they get to help cook them, too.  Alex likes to flip things like pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Tim just helped take burgers off the grill last night.  (I'd say they were in training for short order cooking at Waffle House, but their futures jobs  include sweeping the parking lot and driving a forklift for CMS).  They will make their friends happy by being able to cook, though.
Just last week, my friend Jackie, who grew up in the Midwest and in the Mennonite church like I did, and her husband were coming for dinner.  I took this opportunity before me to cook a pretty typical Mennonite meal.  I don't cook like this much anymore, mainly because I have come to love a variety of tastes that even surprise me sometimes.  :)  However, this dinner called for food that gives "warm fuzzies" to those of us who have great memories of moments around the tables surrounded by our families and friends. 
Menu:  Baked chicken, homemade noodles, mashed potatoes, corn, red beets (these two items were from grandpa's garden) salad, and rolls with homemade applebutter.  For dessert, I made cheesecake and thickened blackberries that I had in the freezer from when I picked them earlier this year. 
It was such a fun day in the kitchen!  Aside from having to run out to get cornstarch to thicken my blackberries, everything was at hand's grasp.  I like days like this.  After the boys finished their schooling, they jumped in and helped make the noodles.  I must confess that my stand up mixer did most of the work for me...it came with a pasta hook and made making noodle dough a snap.  (Shhh!....this is our little secret).  The boys love cranking out the noodles.  I think it's funny that my noodle maker (aka a pasta maker) squeaks just like the one we used growing up at Grandma's house.  I can't believe I didn't get a picture of the table full of cut noodles laid out to dry...must have been too busy.  But this is very unlike me to forget that and to not take pictures with my friends.  What was I thinking???    
Everything came out perfectly and we had a very wonderful evening together, but next time I think we'll go out for pizza. :)           

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

He who has ears...

"The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught."  Isaiah 50:4



It was said tonight at church, "Having a word to share begins with hearing the Word."  Those words were spoken by a missionary visiting with us for our annual mission conference.  Those words resonate in my head, tying in with so many other thoughts I'm trying to process as God continues to stretch me and get me to think outside of the box.
I love the verse at the beginning of this post.  My instruction comes from the Lord.  The instruction includes words of life sustaining properties and proportions.  He is the One who inclines me to hear Him.  Everyday, He speaks.  I am to listen in expectation.
I was challenged already on Sunday when one of our missionary ladies was sharing about her trips to a country where it is illegal to have a Bible, share the Gospel, or even speak of believing in the One true God.  She is a missionary who does not carry a Bible.  She memorizes passages and speaks the Word to those she is witnessing to in a whisper, in fear that someone would hear and imprison her and those with her.  She indeed has to hear the Word in order to memorize it so that it can then be shared and heard by others who need to hear the Good News.  God used spoken words to create the world we live in...and He continues to use spoken words to give life to those lost in the darkness of sin.  He is so good.
So, as I continue on from here in my journey, striving to serve God with wholehearted devotion, I have no choice but to spend more time listening for God's Word to me.  Only upon hearing It, will I be able to effectively and obediently serve Him and share His good news with others.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.  Philippians 2:12-16

Monday, October 4, 2010

I gave in...



...and put on a sweatshirt and jeans for the first time this fall.

We had a fun Saturday going to a parade in the small town where our business is located, home for lunch, and then off to the fair.  After getting home from the fair, we had a bonfire in the backyard.
Tim was so sweet to get four "roasting sticks" and put little marshmallows on them for us all.  He came down to the fire, announcing in a big voice, "Free marshmallows!  Get your marshmallows!"  It was so comical to see little colored marshmallows stuck onto the ends of sticks, but so sweet of him to think of it and make enough for everyone to enjoy. 










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