Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Review

We had a lovely Christmas season at our home. It was hurried at times, as usual...and we didn't do half of the ideas I had in my head...but it was lovely just the same. For many reasons, it was a good year to stay home and have a relaxing Christmas. Today I am enjoying the remembering:

1) Christmas prep time was dominated at first by the Mary talk I gave on Dec. 13. While it has been good to have it behind me, it did rekindle my love for writing and forced extended times of creative reflecting--as well as sharing what I learn with others. The bonus is that remnants of the reflections have remained with me throughout the season...a blessing I hadn't thought of, but am so thankful for.

2) Holley from Heart to Heart with Holley gave away this cute tea set--and I won! It looked very happy on my counter. Thanks, Holley!

3) I'm not one for a lot of creativity and handmadeness--since I am all rush and busy and quick usually. This year, however...some folks got some Christmas potpourri from us and I managed to make my groupie-girls some crocheted flower brooches. I know, I'm out of control.

not a great picture...this is the first one I made

4) December 18 brought a Groupies Christmas gathering--and we enjoyed food and laughs and a couple of games. My favorite picture from the event captures the fun of the crazy game we played trying to unwrap a multi-layered gift with big ol' gloves on. Check out my hubby's intensity and the big laugh on the face of Camille in the background. Love it. Love them.

5) Christmas Eve brought a beautiful service at our church. As a part of the service, I got to share a sweet new Christmas story with the kids called "The Star of Christmas".

I may or may not have used all sorts of silly voices for the characters. :) Our new pastor gave the message and after the candlelit singing, we ended the night with hot cider and cookies for everyone. Lovely.

Christmas Eve at home

6) Christmas Eve at home included the annual reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas--and this year it was the giggly version as we took turns reading. The giggling started when I said "from his head to his boot" (rhymes with foot--the word I was trying to say) and continued when Bubba read his part guessing on the words he didn't know. He said " his clothes were all trashed (tarnished) with ashes and shoot". We laughed and Pickle over-corrected him to get rid of the "sh" sound, and came out with "a*ses and soot". That one put our over-tired family over the edge. Good memories.

7) Christmas day had us up before the kids (what?) and we enjoyed opening all of the gifts. We went to my mom and dad's for the afternoon with the rest of the family. More presents. And a Christmas first for me--I took a nap as the kids played a game with their grandparents. It was a relaxing, yummy day.

Christmas Day at Grandma's

8) Since Christmas day, we have enjoyed having some new friends over for dinner, and have been working our way through the Christmas toys, movies and leftovers. Taking it easy. It was needed. Here is Bubba and Hubby snuggling on the beanbags watching SpiderMan 3.

this must have been a scary part...

Today I spent some time reflecting and am feeling the pull to start organizing and planning for 2010. But I think I will wait and let Christmas hang here a little longer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hallelujah, Light Has Come!

a favorite ornament from Pickle's preschool days

It's Christmas Eve Day, and there is till much to do...but I am aware of my heart's pull to the more significant--the reason we celebrate. One of my favorite "newer" Christmas songs is by Barlowgirl and called Hallelujah (Light has come). I am so excited that my friend Becky will be singing this tonight at our Christmas Eve service. I just love the way this song causes my heart to rejoice. The verses are from Mary's voice (and I must say I'm a bit partial to Mary's story these days) but the chorus is from my heart.

My favorite part:

Hallelujah, we’ve been found
A Child is born to save us now
Jesus! Hallelulah, Light has come
A Savior set us free

So praise to God on high
He has heard our cry...

We feel the wait for Him. You feel it too. We all long for Him, even though some don't know Who they are longing for. We want, we NEED to be found in our lostness. We need Light in our darkness, we cry out for Hope.

He came! We are not alone. We are not doomed. He came Himself. He could have sent someone else I suppose (it was God's plan to alter if He wanted to, right?) but He came Himself. Man's cries have been heard. The waiting of hopelessness is over. It was over then and it's over in my here and now. He saves me NOW. Today. From myself. From the evil of this world that wants me to give in.

He came. And He will come again. We live in wait for that day. The promise is there...and we wait. But we don't wait without His presence. He came. Hallelujah! We've been found.

we'll work on the words another time

This made me so happy. Jason Mraz watch out!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Can't resist sharing...

...this short highlight video of Bubba's Christmas program at school. He does a bit of drumming and sings a solo. Indulge me. He's the super cute one sporting a light blue "dude dress" (his words). Love that boy.

How wonderful to have these sweet moments recorded. One day too soon he will be taller than me, and sing in a much deeper voice. Oh, little boy, don't grow up too fast!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mary's Story, Part Three, The End

This past Sunday at church I gave the "sermon" in the first person as Mary. Yup, costume and all. Many of you were praying for me, and I definitely felt your prayers. I am my own worst critic, and know I left parts out each service, but I am trusting that what God wanted said was said. The feedback has been very encouraging-what a blessing. Several of you asked if I would post my talk. So here it is over a few days. I hope it encourages you. Disclaimer--I had many sources that influenced my thoughts and word choices...if you would like a list of those...please contact me.

If you prefer to listen to the talk, it is posted here.

continued...the story starts here.

When I returned to Nazareth I knew it was time to tell my parents and Joseph (aah, good, kind Joseph) what God had done in me. The signs of pregnancy were beginning to show. Oh Lord, how would they ever believe me?

My parents did their best to be supportive, but I am not sure if they believed me. If this baby was not God’s own (and who ever heard of that?) then their daughter (who was betrothed!) had committed a wicked sin and dishonored the entire family. Yet, they wondered how I could ever make up such a story. They summoned Joseph and when I told him—he was disgusted and heartbroken. He didn’t say so…but I could see it on his face. He left without a word. That night I cried myself into a fitful sleep. I knew Joseph would likely divorce me…oh what would I do? I waited for word from him. I tried to be strong and take heart. God was in this. He gave me the strength to cooperate with his plans.

I was so relieved when a few days later Joseph returned to say that He believed me. He had thought to divorce me quietly without accusation (such a dear man), but God revealed to him that I was telling the truth. He took me as his wife and promised to care for this holy child as his own.

I remember the day that Joseph and I went to my parents and told them we needed to go to Bethlehem, the city of our ancestor David, for the census. My mother strongly objected. She said my time was near. She was right. I knew it too. But, it was law. God would sustain me. He hadn’t forgotten the baby inside of me. And now I see that God was fulfilling the words of the prophet Micah that said the messiah would come out of Bethlehem…. God was working through the Emperor of Rome to fulfill his prophecy. There’s something to ponder, huh?

Joseph didn’t have much in the way of travel comforts—but he put me and a few belongings, and food for the journey on a donkey and we set off after a tearful goodbye with my family. It was a journey that took over a week. It felt like a year. I was SO uncomfortable, and had to stop often to stretch my cramping muscles and rest my aching back. Any of you who have been heavy with child can relate to how I was feeling. Joseph was kind to me…but also was hurrying us along. He wanted to get there—I think it’s something about the way God created man—always wanting to get there. So, I did my best not to slow us down too much.

It seemed like the longest journey ever. Not just physically, but emotionally. I battled thoughts of inadequacy, and worries about what would happen when we arrived. How was this all going to work out? I felt like these were crazy circumstances. I asked God once again to help me be strong and take heart and wait on him. The pains were coming on and off…and I began to pray we would at least make it to town to find the services of a midwife and a place to have this child. Would Joseph be delivering this baby on the side of the road to Bethlehem? “Oh God, rescue me!” I prayed.

We did make it in time…but we weren’t in town long when my water broke and the pains came quicker. The place was swarming with people, every last corner of folks homes were taken with relatives and travelers, and we had to bed down in a stable-- the place where animals were kept at night. At that point I didn’t care…I just wanted to have a place off the street to have this baby. A midwife was found and some distant female relatives attended me. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy—ah, you should have seen him—right there in the stable. Without my mother at my side. Without the comfort of home and the celebration of my family.

It wasn’t how I thought my first child’s birth would be. Certainly not. I had dreamed, as most girls did, of marrying a kind man and having lots of children. I never dreamed of this. I have to confess that I wondered if God had forgotten--in all of his Messiah-plans--to secure us a proper place for His arrival. Nothing is impossible with God. The messenger told me that. Why didn’t He remember to take care of securing someone’s guest room for us? A stable? Really? Is that where a king should be born??

But God granted me peace and my heart was filled with joy. He was here. My baby. The Messiah. God with us. And somehow that was more than enough. And He was born in a stable.

I have since come to know that there was a purpose in the stable. God wanted the world to see that this was a very different Messiah than the political king they expected. A messiah who would hang out with the lowly of society. (In fact, some of Jesus’s first visitors where a stinky, dirty group of shepherds—who weren’t intimidated to come visit us in the stable. Their story encouraged us so.) No this Messiah was not going to fit their expectations, but instead cause them to rethink most things they thought they knew. The stable was part of God’s plan from the beginning—regardless of whether I understood at the time.

I wonder if any of you are in your own stable of sorts. Circumstances that are unexpected, don’t make sense and make you wonder if God Almighty has forgotten about you? Maybe He seems silent. Your stable might be a season of heartache, or of discontent or of pain. How will you wait on the Lord? Will you trust that He is Good? That there is purpose in the stable? That there is something bigger going on? Will you ask God what it looks like in your life to be strong and take heart and wait on him?

Remember, God came to earth. As a baby. My baby. For all of us. He is with us. God with us. Immanuel. Praise be to God!

I hope this reflection on Mary encouraged you. Special thanks to Missy at It's Almost Naptime for her influence on this part of my talk.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mary's Story, Part Two

This past Sunday at church I gave the "sermon" in the first person as Mary. Yup, costume and all. Many of you were praying for me, and I definitely felt your prayers. I am my own worst critic, and know I left parts out each service, but I am trusting that what God wanted said was said. The feedback has been very encouraging-what a blessing. Several of you asked if I would post my talk. So here it is over a few days. I hope it encourages you. Disclaimer--I had many sources that influenced my thoughts and word choices...if you would like a list of those...please contact me.

If you prefer to listen to the talk, it is posted here.

(continued--the story starts here)

I knew what all this meant in my life. When my pregnancy was discovered it would appear as adultery. I would be labeled a sotah and as was our way, be asked to drink the bitter waters to determine if I was guilty or not. I had seen it happen to others—their clothes ripped to expose their skin, publicy scorned and made to be an example to others. If when she drank the bitter waters made her sick, she would be found guilty—and she would be condemned to death by stoning. Even if I was spared death, at the very least, Joseph would be legally bound to divorce me. My child would be an outsider and scorned by the villagers He would not be permitted in public assemblies. My reputation would never recover—I knew well the wagging tongues of the women in my village--and I would never marry. My child and I would be alone in the world. I would be breaking my parents hearts if they didn’t believe me…and I would be destroying Joseph’s reputation as well. If I was to defend myself and share that the child was God’s and not a man’s…I would be labeled blasphemous—perhaps the worst accusation of all.

I remember the weight of the realization that this would be costly. But when Almighty God asks you to do something…you say yes. I knew God’s faithfulness to our people in years gone by…and knew He was good. He had a plan and had somehow chosen me to play a big part in it. And I believed that He would be faithful to me.

And then came the waiting. There would be months til the child came. Days until I could know for sure this was really happening in my body. Weeks until I knew how Joseph and my family would respond.

We were no strangers to waiting—my people. We were God’s chosen people, awaiting a messiah, yet we lived under Roman rule. We were taught early on to fear the soldiers…my mom told me that whenever I heard the yells or hoofprints of Roman soldiers, I was to run and hide…cause it wasn’t unheard of for them to take a young women as their own. They did whatever they wanted and we were the ones to pay. We were oppressed and we were waiting for the messiah. Some had given up hope…it had been 400 years since God had made contact with His people and we waited to hear from Him again. I often dreamed of being one of those freed from Egypt—able to see God in the pillar of smoke and fire. At least they could see Him, and knew He was leading them and doing something. My people were waiting in silence—and nothing around us pointed to the long-awaited messiah. So we waited.

You see, waiting sounds passive. Yet it isn’t. Have you had to wait for something? Are you waiting now? Then you know…It’s active. It takes energy and perserverance. I was on a journey that I needed to be actively engaged in. I have even heard it said that waiting on God is the very work of the people of God.

So the question came to my heart—how will I wait? I remember my father quoting the scriptures. “Wait on the Lord, be strong and take heart, and wait on the Lord. So that’s how I wait…be strong and take heart. I asked God to give me strength for the journey ahead, and Hope that He was in control. I asked Him over and over again in coming months…and He was faithful. My hope was in Him.

After the initial shock wore off—I knew I needed to see my cousin Elizabeth. She is the only person who would understand what it was to be pregnant with a miracle baby. It was a five day journey. I hoped she would receive me and I would find her well. It was hard to wait to reach her and see that she truly was with child as the messenger said she was.

When I arrived… I saw her. My old, tender-hearted cousin, obviously with child. What the messenger said was true! I happily called to her and before I even had a chance to tell her what had happened… she grasped her belly and gasped. I was afraid, “ohno! Elizabeth are you OK?” And she said with a huge smile on her weathered face, “When you greeted me, the baby in my womb leaped with joy!” She went on to proclaim that I was blessed among women and so was the baby I bore. She asked why she should be so favored that the mother of her Lord would come to her. She said I was blessed because I believed that what the Lord said to me would be accomplished. Oh Lord, thank you for this sign that nothing is impossible! My heart rejoiced and I sang out in praise to God. Elizabeth was such an encouragement to me, I decided to stay with her for the remainder of her pregnancy—about three months to help until her baby was born. Then, I’d return to Nazareth.

It wasn’t long before it was obvious to me I was pregnant. I was so very tired, and my stomach was unsettled all the time. It was true. God had given me a baby.

to continue reading click here...

Company Girl Coffee 12.18

On Fridays I link up with the Company Girls for our weekly blog-chat.

Well, it was a late night. The diet coke is in hand early today. It was the type of night that is typical around the holidays. Bet you've had a few as well. Gifts to wrap and get in the mail. Friend/neighbor gifts to assemble and make. Teacher gifts to wrap. All needing to be done by the next day.

And in our case...finally get the outside decorations up. It's a long story why they aren't up yet...but since we have our groupies Christmas party at our house tonight, we wanted to finish the decorating. Right now we look like the scrooge on the block. Our outdoor decorations are not elaborate...lighted garland and wreaths mostly. We pulled the garland out of the box and then remembered that we threw away our lighted wreaths last year cause they had taken a beating. Stink. We ran out to the store to buy more. Target was out. Double stink. As we stood there figuring out what to do--a woman I know from Bible Study came over to say hi and chat. When we told her what we were up to--she said she had three brand new wreaths that she didn't want. They were out in her car. She gave them to us! What a neat blessing. We only needed one more and walmart came through.

However, as the night projects went on...the real late night culprit was Pickle. She had schoolwork that kept her up until 1 am! No...there was no procrastination involved. (wink, wink) We weren't frustrated with her. (wink, wink) We had NO idea she had so much left to do. Overall, God allowed us to have much grace and encouragement instead of our typical lecture. We had left an awful lot to do that night too... I waited up with her and helped her wrap her friends' gifts before we hit the sack. Can someone PLEASE point me to the caffiene IV??

Today, I have a L.O.N.G. list to accomplish to be get gifts off in the mail and be ready for our friends tonight. It's all fun stuff...just a lot. I'm happy to do it all--just hope it all fits in! I'm looking forward to celebrating with the groupies tonight.

Our life has been busy and full since last Friday. The funeral for our church friend was sad, but lovely. We got the church reset to dessert theater in record time. My kids did a great job in the performances Friday and Saturday night. Sunday morning our kids choir did a great job in spite of their swearing. Monday night Pickle rocked a baritone solo at her band concert.

But best of all for me--my Mary talk is DONE. Thank you SO much for your prayers...I really felt them. I didn't have much time to memorize, but God was faithful and allowed it to go pretty well. I mean, I know I messed up some--but no one else could really tell. I left different parts out both services (accidentally), and am choosing to believe that God was tailoring the message to each group. :o) I am posting my talk for those of you who asked. You can start reading here. Or you can listen here. (it's 24 minutes). The feedback has been more than I deserve, and appreciate people going out of their way to encourage me. God gave me words that many needed. He's SO cool like that.

Well to conquer the day with high hopes of enjoying all the busy-nuttiness.

I wish you all the most blessed of Christmases. Starting to blog and getting to "know" all my bloggie friends has been a highlight of 2009! Let's try together to be present in all the moments of this week.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mary's Story, Part One

This past Sunday at church I gave the "sermon" in the first person as Mary. Yup, costume and all. Many of you were praying for me, and I definitely felt your prayers. I am my own worst critic, and know I left parts out each service, but I am trusting that what God wanted said was said. The feedback has been very encouraging-what a blessing. Several of you asked if I would post my talk. So here it is over a few days. I hope it encourages you. Disclaimer--I had many sources that influenced my thoughts and word choices...if you would like a list of those...please contact me.

If you prefer to listen to the talk, there is one posted here.

I am so humbled and thankful for this opportunity to share the story of the birth of my first -born son, Jesus with you. It is my favorite story of all. Of course, all mothers love to tell of their experiences of bringing their children into the world…I’m no exception. But this birth story is so un-ordinary. And it doesn’t belong just to me—but to all of us. I’ve treasured these things and pondered them in my heart and am so happy to be sharing them with you.

Even after all of these years I still can’t believe this happened to me. I was just a poor, jewish girl from an obscure village of 400 called Nazareth. I’ll never understand why God chose me to be the one.

Let me start at the beginning. I hadn’t been of marrying age very long…but was already pledged to be married to Joseph, a local carpenter. This was the first stage of marriage, and meant that although I still lived with my folks, I was legally Joseph’s wife. My parents had arranged the marriage, as was our custom. I was relatively pleased with their choice. I didn’t know him well, but I knew he was from our tribe, and from the royal line of David, and that he observed the Torah and loved God. He had a trade that would provide us a sufficient living. What more could I ask for? I knew I would easily grow to love him…just like my mother learned to love my father…and was anticipating the day when he would take me to his home and I would live as his wife.

One day during that time of betrothal--the day that forever changed my life--as I took a break from my daily chores to rest, I felt a disturbance in the air. It’s hard to describe—but the hair on my arms stood up on end and my skin tingled. I looked up and before me was a figure unlike any person I had ever seen before. He was glowing so bright I could not make out his face. He said, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you”.

To say I was startled and afraid was an understatement…my heart was racing, my breath was caught in my throat. Could he mean me? Favored? Then he told me not to be afraid and called me by name, Mary. When he said my name, a peace came over me—for which I’m very thankful. I’m not sure I would have been able to hear what he said next because of the pounding of my heart in my ears! But God calmed me. The messenger went on to tell me that I would be with child, and give birth to a son, and give him the name Jesus. (I remember hoping he meant eventually…but somehow knew he meant soon.)

He then went on to tell me the most overwhelming news of all—that this son will be great and will be called Son of the Most High! He will have David’s throne! And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever…His kingdom would have no end!

My mind swirled with the implications of what he was saying. I knew promises of the scriptures well enough to know he was saying that I would be giving birth to the long-awaited Messiah!

I asked him how this could be that I would be with child when I hadn’t been with any man? And then he told me I would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit! I had never heard of that before…and didn’t understand…but he spoke with such authority that I knew that what he was telling me must be true. As if this wasn’t enough for me to take in…He went on to tell me that my cousin Elizabeth was pregnant as well! Let me tell you, this was just as impossible as me being pregnant—as she was well past child-bearing age and had never even been able to have a child. Elizabeth had long ago given up hope on ever having a child. He said nothing is impossible with God.

In my opinion, the most surprising thing of all was yet to come. The most surprising thing was that I consented! I said, “I am the lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” God gave me the strength to muster some courage and agree to this plan. As soon as I did, the messenger left me.

To keep reading, click here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Christmas Carol Dilemma

I get to work with kids. Great kids. And I love them. The joy they give me is the gift I'm unwrapping today as part of Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky.

I work as a Children's Ministry Director at our church. We are not a huge church, so I am able to know all of the kids personally--all of their names and most of their personalities. I have known many of these kids for a long while, some since they were born. What a privilege.

This past Sunday I was the speaker in the services--doing first person talks as Mary. The kids choir also prepared a song as part of the service. They knew they were singing on the same day I was speaking...and it was part of their rehearsals to pray for me. Kid's prayers are precious and they warmed my heart. It was an honor to have them lifting me in prayer as I prepared.

Well this Sunday came, and I couldn't have been prouder of them as they sang. We don't normally have a kids choir--they just assembled for this song. They did such a great job singing "Waiting for Christmas". A last minute decision was made that the kiddos would stay up front for the singing time--it was a few Christmas Carols. They didn't practice any of these...but the words would be projected on the screens and they were told to just follow along.

I was backstage getting into Mary garb as they sang, so I didn't see what happened. But when I went to see some of them in their 5th and 6th grade classroom during Sunday School, I was bombarded. First, I was bombarded with "Good job" and "I liked your talk" and "You were a great Mary". How awesome is that? They were totally engaged with it. How sweet of them to encourage me. It was the most meaningful feedback of the day.

But then, the encouragement switched to--"Miss Dawn, did you hear what happened to us???" (imagine this being said in different voices and word choices all at the same time). I wondered what might have happened. I found out soon enough. "Miss Dawn--they made us sing a bad word!!" "I didn't know what to do!" " I just closed my mouth." "Me too!" "I got the giggles". "I couldn't finish the song." 'I never say bad words." Again...all at once.

It turns out one of the songs that was sung was What Child is This. There is a line in that song that says "Where ox and ass are sleeping." They don't say that a-word. So the poor dears were left with a quick decision to make--do we sing that word in front of the whole church? Is this some sort of test? Or do we not sing the word and look like we don't know what we are doing?

Most of them chose the latter--and I heard stories of wide eyes, shocked faces and mouths slammed shut during that word.

I don't know about you, but I think that is HY.STER.I.CAL. Wish I could have seen it. But I think the 15 different versions told in 15 different voices all at the same time might have been even better.

And then when the chattering died lone kid said... "I just sang the word." I love it!

Aaah, kids. I love them. Their joy is contagious and their perspective refreshing. And they are SO funny. What a gift to know these kids.

Friday, December 11, 2009

uh oh--the theme is "over"

Well bloggies--can we just say that it's crazy insane these days! I can't really even blame it on Christmas like it's so easy to do this time of year--cause this week has had very little Christmas prep in it for me. (does thinking about it count??) All I can manage for my weekly company girls post is a list...that's the only way my brain can organize it's thoughts right now.

1) This Sunday is my talk/sermon on Christmas from Mary's perspective, so that has been a focus of my week. (well, in theory, not so much in's been squished out of my days for the most part.) I finished writing my thoughts on Tuesday (thanks for praying!!) and now just need to learn it so I can present it as Mary without notes. (keep praying!) I am definitely looking forward to it...but in all honesty, bloggies...I'm looking forward to Sunday afternoon when it's over even more. :0)

2) Oh the weather outside is frightful! Below zero wind chills all week--snow days and delayed starts--and all of us so bundled up that getting in and out of the car seems difficult. We are supposed to be above freezing today--so thankful the cold streak is over!!

3) This has been a rough week for Pickle. She has been experiencing stomach pain on and off since last Friday. It goes away, so we think it's over, just to have it return. It was the worst in the mornings before school--which made us think it was emotional or that she was avoiding something. She didn't think she was..but we were getting pretty suspicious of her, which didn't feel good. We tried everything. I finally took her to the doctor yesterday morning who was able to have a clear diagnosis of reflux. So she is on a bland diet and meds for 6 weeks (no chocolate at Christmas--boohoo) and hopefully that will take care of it. We are so relieved to have a diagnosis, cause it has been emotionally draining and confusing for all of us...and hard to see her doubled over in pain. Another rough morning today...can't wait til the meds start kicking in and this ordeal is over.

4) Tonight and tomorrow night we have a dessert theater at our church and my kids both have small parts. Hubby is on the sound board. It's a fun night of comedy sketches and drama...and we always enjoy it. The church is transformed and it's great fun. However...getting to that point has been a push, with Pickle's pain and Hubby's work deadlines, and cancelled rehearsals due to weather. On top of that we lost a dear woman from our church and her funeral is we need to transform the church from funeral to dessert theater in record time. Normally, there is a group that spends several days over the week working on it. We'll do it--but I'll be relieved when it's set up, looking good, and my kiddos remember their lines!

5) If you saw my post on Tuesday--you know I had tire issues this week. We haven't had a chance to get it fixed, so I am driving around on snowy roads on the donut, with the real tire banging around in the back of my car. Look forward to getting that fixed this weekend and putting that whole thing behind me.

6) My dear hubby has been under serious stress at work--and he carries that stress around with him all of the time. The reasons for the stress are real...he is not worrying about nothing. I am trying hard to have hope that some resolution comes soon. At least the deadlines he faced this week will be over by tonight.

7) Bubba--poor bubba. I have nothing to say about him...he just keeps going, keeps a smile on his face, and is low maintenance enough that I could almost forget about him at times. (yikes!) Do you have one of those?? I hope that when the craziness of this weekend is over--I get some serious snuggle time with my favorite little man.

I'm realizing as I write that the common denominator in my list is how much I want things to be talk, the performances this weekend, the theater set up, my daughter's illness, hubby's stress, the weather. Isn't that terrible? Living life wishing things away. Man, I need to stop and be in the moment. Enjoy what the moments bring. Be present at the funeral today, and celebrate Michelle's life, without thinking about all the table decorations that need to happen right afterwards. Be present and enjoy my kids performances tonight and tomorrow night, without worrying about the Mary talk on Sunday. Grab a few minutes of quality time with Bubba and Hubby.

Even the "crafty" (heehee) stuff--Pickle's pain, Hubby's stress, the car issues, the weather...I think I need to be present in those things too. What is there to embrace, to give thanks for, to learn in the midst of it all?

As usual, rattling off my list-o-life has given me some insight...stop wishing things were over!
Be present in each moment, in each season. Embrace the things that come my way. As we learn from Mary, God has a plan. He is in control, and nothing is impossible with Him.

Monday, December 7, 2009

home warm home

confession: not my fireplace. my camera is broken and this one's way prettier anyway.

So, it's freezing outside. Like, wind-chills-well-below-zero freezing. There is packed snow on the roads, the sky is gray and tiny flakes blow through the sky.

Monday I worked at the library for a while...I was kinda chilly there. Spent the afternoon at work...67 at the warmest point of our chilly there. I left about 4 pm to slide my way down the slippery roads to pick up my son from school (20 minutes away) and realized I was VERY low on gas. I decided I should fill 'er up since who knows what could happen on a snowy highway...don't want to be caught on empty! Drove (slowly--it was the only option) towards a gas station that apparently isn't in business anymore. Crept through a walmart parking lot and around a corner or two to another gas station. Open pump--yay. Fill the car and hop back in as fast as I could--it was stinkin' freezing!

When I started to pull out I heard a loud honk...and saw that a pickup was pulling up alongside of me. The driver rolled down the window and told me my rear tire was very flat and I was sitting on the rim. Ma-huh? I had just left work and it was fine. We think I punctured it somehow...and couldn't tell 'cause the driving in the snow masked all the signs of driving on a flat. He offered to fill it with air for me. What a nice guy. I took him up on it...but no air came out of the pump. Too cold? Who knows. He asks if I have a spare (I do) and he offered to change it for me. Again, I felt bad, but said yes. He said I could stay in the car...but since I didn't think my weight in the car would help...I stayed outside shivering and making conversation. After digging out the spare, and searching for the jack...and freezing our bottoms off...we could not get the lug nuts off of the wheel. Frozen on? Who knows. I thank him anyway.

His name was Drew and I pray that God blesses him for his kindness to me--trying to change my tire in the bitter cold with only a hoodie and a pair of my gloves to keep him warm.

Well, eventually hubby was able to rescue me...and AAA came and changed the tire...but not before I was ice cold and longing desperately for my home and my fireplace.

Made me think of earlier that day when I saw a bearded man sitting in the snow at a stop light with a cardboard sign asking for financial help. In the cold. In the snow. Sitting.

At least I knew I was headed home eventually.

Today I am unwrapping the gift of having a warm home to come home to. It doesn't matter that it's smaller than I'd like. It doesn't matter that I'm not done with the christmas decorating and there are boxes everywhere. It doesn't matter that my kids have left out every manner of trash and blankets and dishes. It's home. It's warm. And I have the key. And a heated mattress pad on my bed. And a flip-the-switch gas fireplace. Home warm Home.

How often I take for granted the simplest of things...and am thankful to Emily at Chatting at the Sky for reminding us to unwrap the gifts of the everyday each Tuesday.

Friday, December 4, 2009

someone's in charge!

My Bubba and me

This week has been full (which one isn't?). It's the end of my in-laws November visit--they leave today. Bubba had an awesome 3rd grade Christmas program last night--where he sang a solo! A friend's sweet 5 year old daughter has been battling pneumonia in the hospital. A young mother from church lost her battle with cancer. My kids are preparing small roles for a drama production at church next weekend. There was Christmas shopping and Christmas decorating and other busyness of the season. And oh yeah--work and school. Whew.

Pickle with a pickle

All that aside, probably the biggest event this week is that our new Sr. Pastor started on Tuesday! WAHOO! We have spent the last 11 months without a lead pastor or boss. We've done really well as a staff considering...but we were more than ready for him to be here. I can't tell you the relief it brings to have someone in charge! It has been a good week of beginning to learn each others' styles, and starting to dream and plan. There have been one or two tough things to deal with at church this week--and having an authoritative leader has made a huge difference. Whew.

In all of this, hanging over my head is that I am giving the message at church a week from Sunday in the first person as Mary...and I've done NOTHING but some reading. YIKES. I plan to do the whole thing without notes as well, so I will need to leave time to practice. I anticipated being able to prepare much more than I have. Now it feels down to the wire and this coming week is full too. The talk needs to be the main thing on my agenda today for my day off.

I think I could feel some panic about now. BUT, I am reminded Someone IS in charge! Not our new pastor, but my lifelong Leader--my Lord. Just as I am relaxing into and trusting our new leadership at church, I need to remind myself that all along Someone has been in charge. Of our church. Of my life. Of this Mary-message. None of my recent life has come as a surprise to Him. I can trust Him. As my mom says--if He calls you, then He makes you capable. So I am choosing to trust and lean on and count on Him. And do my part to work diligently to pull this off!

Please pray that I use my time efficiently today and in coming days. Please pray that God gives me His words for our congregation. Please pray that I can continue to remember that He is in charge. I am just His vessel. He can stretch time and use even me. WHEW!

Linking up with the Company Girls today.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

unwrapping the prayer of everyday

There was a time in our lives where I was so aware of how desperate I was for God's help to make it through every moment. Hubby was in a very dark time and unavailable to me emotionally, physically, spiritually. I had an infant and a five year old. I was still grieving the loss of our four month old a year and a half prior. I was lonely and scared and very, very tired in every way.

It was during that time that I learned the practice of falling on my knees at the side of my bed each and every morning--before I even attended to my kids. My head was down, my hands open to receive.

I prayed my everyday prayer. I confessed my sin. I emptied myself of any agenda I had for the day. I asked God to fill me with His Holy Spirit. I pictured Him filling me to the tips of my fingers and the bottom of my feet--and especially filling my mouth. I asked Him to allow me to exhibit the fruit of His Spirit indwelling me (not an easy task for the Holy Spirit in my pitiful state). I asked for His strength to show kindness and gentleness and patience to my kids. For joy as I changed diapers. I asked for His love to flow through me to my husband who had nothing to love me back with. I asked for His encouragement and guidance for the day, for the morning, for the next few minutes. He refreshed me in that quick everyday prayer. And by His strength alone, I got up and was mommy and wife and daughter and friend. In many ways that time was a blur...but I survived. And as far as I remember, I don't think I killed anyone.

Most importantly, I learned in a new way that His grace is sufficient for me.

Over the years my everyday prayer has changed a bit. I still confess and empty myself. I still ask for the Holy Spirit to fill me, and that I could exhibit His fruit. What has changed is that instead of praying for strength to make it through each moment, I pray for sensitivity to hear His leading. That He would control each part of my day--who I run into, conversations, what I accomplish or don't. That He would allow me to complete His agenda for me that day. I want to "keep in step with the Spirit".

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galations 5:25

I realized recently that I've gotten away from my everyday prayer. My mornings look different as we hit the ground running. I don't feel as desperate everyday. (I am, just not always as aware of it--yikes). And so, what do I accomplish during the day if I'm not careful? MY agenda. Seeking to fill my needs, my priorities--with my family, and even in ministry.

I do pray in the morning and throughout the day. I talk a lot, and I talk to God a lot. But I'm missing my everyday prayer.

Today I'm celebrating that each day is a new day, and that I can start again. I can pray the prayer of everyday. Have your way, Lord.

Unwrapping the small and sacred gifts of the everyday with Emily at Chatting at the Sky. Click here to read what other gifts are being unwrapped today.

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's big and shiny... is tradition in our family, Black Friday is a day to avoid the stores and put up the Christmas decorations! We put on the Christmas music, light the Christmas candles and make a big mess! We got the tree up and made decent progress on the rest...but hubby's shoulder was hurting and he had to take several breaks. During one of those breaks he perused the Black Friday ads. And he saw IT. The deal he couldn't pass up. The Christmas present that had been offered by his folks for our family...

A new TV.

See, we are (were) one of those families with the old school super deep box TVs--the HDless, Blue-Rayless, small-screened ugly type. We've had it forever, and it's saving grace was that it was hid away in a media cabinet whenever we weren't watching. Cause, in my humble opinion, TVs are U.G.L.Y. However, hubby had been hearing the siren's call of a flat screen TV for a while. I had many objections...but did finally acknowledge that it was getting hard to see/read things on the TV since everything seems to be made for the large TVs they assume we all have. And I stink at MarioKart on the Wii...cause I can hardly see the road in front of me. :o)

So I gave in. And it was announced pretty early on in my generous in-laws visit with us that if we wanted one, it would be our gift. And now we have a big (by my standards) TV. And a small room. And an awkward corner to put it in. And a cute piece of furniture from Target shoved back in that corner for it to sit on.

And hubby is putting it all together right now. I KNOW I'll enjoy it. We all will. And I'll get used to the way it looks. I'll get used to the fact that it is right out in the open--no cabinet to hide all of it's media-ness.

But all I can think right that it is BIG and SHINY. Two things our home isn't. I seriously want to weather its shiny base with a brillo pad.

Think that would fly? :o)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful Thanksgiving.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

My family. My job. My contour pillow. Forgiveness. Pickle's big smile. Bubba's freckles. Hubby's sense of humor. The kids at church. Diet Coke over ice. Having more than enough. My rice bag. Laughing. Our new pastor starting next week. Blogland. My son in heaven. My heated mattress pad. Jesus! Phase Ten. Our Bible Study on Covenant. My doggie. My hubby's job. Music that stirs my soul. The DVR. Our church family. Praying parents. The gift of faith. The Groupies. My sissies. Hope. Knowing I'm Loved.

These are just SOME of the reasons I'm thankful.

Oh. And for THIS!

Thanks to Melinda at Coming Clean: Confessions of an Imperfect Parent who has graciously awarded me with her Blog Award! Who...little ol' me? Thanks so much! Melinda writes a fun, insightful blog--where she helps us feel some company in our imperfect-ness. I have had fun following her blog--make sure to check it out!

Happy Thanksgiving all!

little kindnesses

The little kindnesses add up.

Today I am unwrapping the gift of my husband's care for me and kindness to me. He is a servant-hearted person by nature. Yet, life is full and busy and he gets tired. His job is stressful. It makes him REALLY tired. And I imagine (I know!) it takes that much more effort to be a servant.

Yet, most nights he scoops me some ice cream and brings it to our bedroom for me to eat before bed. He does lots of dropping kids off and picking kids up. He helps with the cleaning. And much, much more. It's love.
in South Dakota in 2008

We don't have a perfect marriage. I think it has to do with both of us being imperfect people...hmmm. But we have put some work in over the years, and we love each other with the kind of love and acceptance that is forged during trials.

Hawaii 2009

Last night, when Pickle and I returned from shopping around 6 pm, hubby was already looking pretty sleepy on the couch. He asked what was up for the night and I told him I still needed to go to Target to get juice for Bubba's class in the morning (why did I leave it until the night before???). I thought he might like to come, so he could check out a piece of furniture I had spotted there. He thought that sounded good...

Then--he fell asleep. Out cold. It was 6:30. Too early to go to bed (unless you are my friend Carly's kids who go to bed at that time every night!). So, at 8:00 I woke him up. I had just finished reading Bubba a story and he was getting ready for bed. After Bubba hit the sack, it was time for me to head out to target.

To my delight and surprise, hubby dragged his tired body out the door and drove me to Target. And shopped with me for way more than juice. After he had basically been asleep for the night. They say a good man is hard to find, but God gave me one. His kindness and care is a gift to unwrap for sure.

I'm sharing this with Emily at Chatting at the Sky--where each Tuesday we celebrate the everyday, messy, imperfect blessings in our lives.

Friday, November 20, 2009

slow down, you move too fast...

Dear Mr. Time,

I have a bone to pick with you. You move WAY too fast for my liking. Granted, there are instances where I'd like you to fly by--when I am sick, when I'm at the dentist, when I'm actually watching SoYouThinkYouCanDance or the Biggest Loser live--and the commercials are getting in the way of me finding out what happened... But mostly...I want you to hold up. S.L.O.W. D.O.W.N. for heaven's sakes!

Since I'm pretty sure it's impossible at some molecular level for you to slow down--can you at least, Mr. Time, install some sort of pause button? I have one on my DVR...and I can hit it whenever I need the show to wait for me. I would love a pause button for you, Time.

There would be so many helpful uses for a pause button. I would hit pause when I need to do just a bit more cleaning before company arrives. I would hit pause when I would like a little more time with my kiddos before their bedtime arrives. I would hit pause when I could do a much better job on something if the deadline wasn't so close...

Today, Mr. Time, I would hit pause for various reasons:

* We would be able to fit more visiting in with my in-laws before they leave in a few weeks.
* I would get my Christmas shopping done now, so I could enjoy the season without running around.
* I would sit for long whiles and ponder the presentation I need to do on Mary in church. I would read all the books and info I could get my hands on and really do the topic justice. 23 days away and I've barely started!
* I would hit pause so I could pick up Bubba in one direction, pick up Pickle in another, and pick up Patch from the groomer. All done at the same time today...yikes!
* I would compose wonderful blog posts and crochet lots of chemo caps.
* I would get the busy-stuff out of the way, so I could be more of the nurturer at home I want to be.
* I would make opportunities for our family to reflect on being grateful during this season of Thanksgiving...without feeling pressure to rush ahead to all of the Christmas stuff.
* I would get the house straightened before bedtime comes so I don't have to choose between sleeping and neatness.

More importantly, I would definitely hit pause right now so I could enjoy who each of my kids are at this point in their lives...before they grow and change once again. They keep doing that, Time, and I think it's your fault! I want to have a moment to emotionally take in the tall, delightful (not a kid anymore) young lady Pickle has become. I want more time to enjoy 9 year old jokes and hugs and imagination from Bubba.

Please. A pause button. Please.

But I must realize that you, Time, are not in control. You might limit me sometimes, but there is One bigger than you. So, into Him I lean my heart. It is He whom I trust in the midst of this life it only seems you are in charge of. I remember this:

"My times are in Your hands..." Psalm 31:15 NIV

So, Mr. Time, I guess I will just have to settle for a few extra weekends between now and Christmas...what do you say?

PS. Linking up with The Company Girls for our weekly catch up...

Monday, November 16, 2009

unwrapping perspective

Not long ago, a friend called my attention to a short article written by John Stumbo, a pastor who attended our church for a season. It was about life-shaping metaphors--mental pictures that can motivate or immobilize us. Some mental pictures do not inspire or motivate us, but actually drain our energy.

Hmmm. I knew I needed to think about this. Drained of energy sounded familiar. What mental images are shaping my life?

Trying my best to be honest with myself, I discovered I was viewing my role at home as a task-master. With a family that copes with ADD, busyness, and recessive slob-genes--on my good days I am focusing on staying on task and keeping the rest of us on task as well. When I let up--everyone seems to, and chaos ensues. We have a family manual (seriously. think what you want, you are probably right.) that has checklists of daily routines in it. A morning, afternoon and bedtime routine for each of us. Whether we like them or not, they really help us--we all acknowledge it. Also in the manual are our "Super Saturday Jobs" we each do over the weekend to pitch in on the general chores of keeping a home. Again, my job is to make sure noone "forgets" to do their part. A task-master.

Bubba tackling a Saturday job

And being brutally honest, not just any task master--but one whose unstated goal was to get everyone (including myself) doing their thing efficiently, so that more time would be left for me to pursue my own interests. Not really who I hope to be as a wife and mom.

So, what is a more empowering mental picture for my role in my family? Hmmm. Who do I really want to be, what do I see as my role particularly as a mom? The word that came to mind is nurturer. I want to nurture my family...encourage, support, and challenge them. Ensure they have nutritious meals, clean clothes and a good night's sleep most of the time. I want to nurture my kids to become faithful, thoughtful, considerate, relatively-disciplined individuals who are armed with all they need to affect the world in the name of Christ. I don't want them to be crippled by hyper-criticism in the name of "teaching", nor do I want them to be coddled to the point of becoming entitled and lazy. Where is that balance? Nurture.

Nurture is defined as:
–verb (used with object) feed and protect: to nurture one's offspring. support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster: to nurture promising musicians. bring up; train; educate.
4.rearing, upbringing, training, education, or the like.
5.development: the nurture of young artists.
6.something that nourishes; nourishment; food.


Yes, Nurture(r) is the right word. It contains both support and challenge. It's a much more positive way to view myself in my role. When I picture myself as a nurturer...I picture myself training, not enforcing; discussing more and commanding less; and giving lots of hugs and praise and care.

You might be thinking...who cares how you view yourself, it's how you act that affects others. You're right, but I find that changing my mental picture of my role results in acting accordingly. I'm more patient, more encouraging, less cranky and focused on my family instead of myself. And I find I read more with Bubba and giggle more with Pickle...among other things. :0) When I find myself slipping back into the selfish task-master is a pretty good indication that all is not right in my inner world. Time to slow down, reflect and refocus.

Because I can't nurture them if I don't allow myself to be nurtured by the One who nurtures me.

What mental picture is behind what you do? I'd love to hear your insight...
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