Sunday, November 30, 2008

Me... A Product of Daily Decisions and Choices

“Life is a long journey, made up of millions of daily decisions. A person’s path can be altered at any time, but the longer he goes on in one particular direction, the more inclined he will be to continue in it….

Every person alive today – whether young or old – is on some course in life and is a product of a lifetime of daily decision making. People are in a constant state of transition: always changing by small degrees in some particular direction….

A.W. Tozer put it this way:

‘Men and women are being molded by their affinities, shaped by their affections and powerfully transformed by the artistry of their loves. In the unregenerate world of Adam this produces day-by-day tragedies of cosmic proportions. Think of the power that turned an innocent pink-cheeked boy into a Nero or a Himmler. And was Jezebel always the “cursed woman” whose head and hands the very dogs, with poetic justice, refused to eat? No; she dreamed her pure girlish dreams and blushed at the thoughts of womanly love; but soon she became interested in evil things, admired them and went on at last to love them. There the law of moral affinity took over and Jezebel, like clay in the hand of the potter, was turned into the deformed and hateful thing that the chamberlains threw down from the window.’ “

Steve Gallagher, Irresistible to God

Liz, The Mighty Hunter!

Twas the night before Thanksgiving, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The pies were all baked and set away with care,
In hopes that dinner would all go smoothly there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of turkey and pie danced in their heads.
And Liz in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out in the hen house there arose such a clatter,
Liz sprang from her bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the door she flew like a flash,
Tore out into the darkness with a dash.

The moon on the side of the hen house
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to her wondering eyes should appear,
But a great, fat opossum in the chicken nesting box.

Liz screamed for Sam, so lively and quick,
We knew in a moment he needed his gun.
Rapidly, Sam sprang from bed,
And he shouted "I'm coming!" and loaded his gun!

The rest, the sad story of the fat, greedy opossum
Is for you to imagine, and us to celebrate.
No more dead hens in the morning,
No more missing eggs and now peace at night!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Deliberate Gratitude

I had hoped for a chance to write a post of my own for Thanksgiving Day.
After all, I have more than is imaginable to be thankful for today.
And I am grateful, so grateful for what God has given me and for what
He has chosen not to give me.

But after cooking and feasting and visiting with company and washing the dishes several times over, I guess my post will have to wait for another day to be written.

In the mean time, though, Ann Voskamp has once again so eloquently reminded us of the need to deliberately pour the oil of joy and gratitude out in our lives:
Always Enough for Joy

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Presidential Debate in Our Home!

Joanna (13) has had the opportunity of doing her schoolwork with our homeschooling neighbors this year. Being the sociable creature that she is, she's always wanted to do school with other people in more of a group setting, so we are all happy for her chance to work together with a couple other girls around her age.
The other girls' mother, Julianna, does a great job of teaching them together and making school interesting. Back in October (yes, I'm a little late posting pictures!), she decided that they would have a presidential debate at our house. She assigned them each girl to be one of the presidential candidates and then the girls spent hours researching the platforms of the candidates and studying their mannerisms and pet words. Then (with some help from several speech writers) they wrote up their speeches and delivered them. Afterwards they took questions from the audience and attempted to out-do one another with their answers!

Joanna as Barack Obama, Azarina as Ralph Nader, and Julia as John McCain

Nader gets a bit of help from his presidential speechwriter.
Obama appears to be busy with his Blackberry in the background!

John McCain (left) is stumped for a minute on the economy and gets a bit of advice
from his chief policy adviser on how to answer the question.
Obama (right) appears to be confident of his next answer.

We didn't always agree with their positions on issues, but applauded when possible! : )

My Lovely Little Sisters

Aren't they cute? : )
Joanna (13), Ruth (16) and their friend, Christy (12) in the Wal-Mart shoe aisle!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ramblings Over Coffee

Liz with some of "her" little people...
Little people too young to do anything but just be themselves!

For once, I have more time than I have things to say here...

I'm sitting in Panera Bread, waiting for my doula client's labor to pick up enough for her to want anybody with her. I guess I could just go home, but that's a long way away if I have to turn around and come back soon. I ended up skipping out on a really fun family dinner at some friends' house tonight because I was told that I would be needed soon... Now I'm wishing I had gone to the dinner, because nothing has happened after all. Oh, well. Such is the wonderful life of anyone who works with pregnant women!

But while I sit here, I'm thinking of the many wonderful ways I've been blessed recently.

As I type, I'm using my "new" laptop. I'd been needing another one for quite awhile since my ancient laptop finally bit the dust and decided to entirely quit working. I really couldn't afford another one. But I really, really needed one. I smiled to myself and thought, "It wouldn't be hard for God to give me one, if He thinks I need it."

But as a few days went by, I wanted to DO something about... let somebody know that I was looking for one... You know, it didn't look like God was busy laptop shopping for me.

But I kept my mouth shut and prayed and waited. And two weeks later, the Lord provided one for me - better than I would have eventually bought myself, all at no cost to me! It seemed as though God was once again grinning and saying, "Prove Me now..."

*** *** ***

While I was sitting here, I got into a conversation with a friend on Facebook who was telling me about her sometimes uncomfortable social situation, dating a man from an impressive social circle. "All the other wives have it so together," she said. "Their lives seem so perfect."

It made me think of something another friend of mine said recently after moving to another state. She was lamenting the lack of friends to celebrate her birthday with. "It's not that I don't have friends here. It's that they are all fake." I asked her what she meant by that. She clarified, "Well, they just aren't real. Everybody has it together, and they all lead such fake lives. Maybe they aren't fake, but their lives are so fake." I've thought about what she said... a lot.

We all know that as much as people may look like it at times, they don't have it all together. Beneath the tinsel and glitter and merry laugh and impressive schedule, there are hurts and tears and frustrations and for some of them, the nagging question of why they even exist.

The more I get to know people, the more I realize that people are crying out for someone who is real. Christians and non-Christians. Smart people, simple people, pretty people, ugly people, slender people, fat people, talented people, people that lead boring lives, people that are in-between. Underneath our facades and smiles and "I'm fine's", we all long to just be real sometimes.

I'm learning more and more to value people who are real, even if real isn't impressive in some ways. It's just good and wholesome and lovable when people are honest. And I'm trying to learn to be more real. Sometimes I really can't explain everything in my life to them, but I can be real.

I remember going off to the Capitol so many early mornings when Mom would gently say, "Just be yourself, Mary. Don't try to impress anybody. Just be real. That's so much more valuable than being impressive."

At first, I would think, "Well, of course..." and then hustle on with my busy day. But as I spent more and more time in the world of politics and began to see that it is all one facade of very little substance and very few people who are real or honest, her words began to ring in my ears more and more every day.

I found myself walking down the halls, trying to lobby. But above the din one thought ran incessantly through my head. "Just be real. They are trying impress. You don't have to be fake. Just be your real self..."

It was some of the best advice Mom ever gave me when I was there, and it seems more true than ever today.

Just be real. Fake lives don't help anybody. People are drawn to real people. The truth is, none of us are real impressive. We're most impressive when we tell the truth about ourselves.

*** *** ***

I think I'll go home now... and hope I get some sleep before my cell phone rings again. :) Or that the call comes before I get all the way home...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good Reading on Other Blogs

Ann Voskamp has an excellent post over on her Holy Experience blog -
No Missed Calls

And Natalie Nyquist has posted an update on the Young Ladies Christian Fellowship Blog which starts with a most excellent quote: "Don't waste your life trying to look good. Spend your life making God look good." - John Piper

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Fresh Coat of Paint

Our house has been in need of a fresh coat of paint for a long time... years to be exact. Most of us were rather tired of the boring, dingy gray it has been for so long. Ruth and Sam decided we needed something bright and fresh... and experimented with changing the house colors on a computer program. They finally even sold Mom and Dad on his choice of color - Silver Moss, with white accents.

And while I was gone for a few days this week (hosting a doula workshop) the family decided it was time to spruce things up. I came back home to a newly painted house!

Sam on the front porch roof - painting the trim.

Ruth touching up the window frames.

* * * *

We no longer have any family members who are younger than 13, but that certainly doesn't mean that the house is empty of little ones. Quite the contrary. There are almost always at least 1 or 2 babies or toddlers around, and frequently an assortment of other children. Thus, we had a lot of little helpers on painting day.

Gwen and Elisebeth - two little girls who wanted to help

Liz helps Thor paint the side of the porch.

And the girls hung up Maddox's swing in the nearby tree so he could watch, too.
We have him at our house on weekday mornings...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

When Rough Seems the Path...

Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.
- C. H. Spurgeon

If we will look back upon the past, many of us will find that the very time our Heavenly Father has chosen to do the kindest things for us, and given us the richest blessings, has been the time we were strained and shut in on every side. God's jewels are often sent us in rough packages and by dark liveried servants, but within we find the very treasures of the King's palace and the Bridegroom's love.
- A. B. Simpson

Do not pray for easy lives! Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.
- Phillip Brooks

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tracy and Abigail's Wedding

It was cold, sooo cold, but beautiful!

"The work is hard, but the tips are good," the cellist quipped dryly.

Tracy and Abby didn't want anyone taking pictures during the ceremony,
so we had to restrain ourselves and keep the camera on our laps!

Goodbye to her favorite girls...


Congratulations, Abigail and Tracy!

Updates from Africa

As many of you know, two of my brothers, Isaiah and Abraham, are currently on a missions trip in Guinea-Bissau, Africa till early December.
For those of you who know them and want to keep up with their trip, you won't find them writing long, newsy updates... But our friend, Quinn went along on this trip and has been posting updates to his blog. We are so thankful for his updates since their chances to call home are few and far between.
Check out Quinn's Blog.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The God Who Is Enough

This past month has brought many challenges, struggles and questions in my life, which I cannot detail on a public blog, some of which simply raged privately in my own heart.

Some of the situations were ones that I had never imagined having to deal with. But here I was - things, people, decisions, situations staring me in the face.

I have found myself in a place of desperation over and over, my heart pounding, my stomach in knot. What if I make the wrong decision? What if I fail? What if I respond wrongly to this situation? What if I mistake God's will? Have I got myself in this place because of my own selfish or prideful choices? What will God do with this situation? How? What if I have foolishly ruined my testimony?

Time and again I have found myself in a place where I didn't know what to do. I couldn't fix it. I couldn't even walk on till I knew which way to walk.

Time and again, I have cried out to God in desperation... for answers, solutions, wisdom.

And I have found in Him just what I need. I have watched him turn situations around that I thought only had a couple of bad options. Instead He came through with a glorious miracle. And I have stood back in utter amazement that God truly can create beauty from ashes, not only in my life and heart, but in those around me. I have been shocked to see the work of God in the hearts of people that seemed impossible to reach.

A few weeks ago, I was begging God to deal with a situation and give me answers. And it dawned on me, that God might fix it in a way that would be more painful that I would ever want to imagine. I finally came to a place of surrendering it to God, and asking him to fix it no matter what the cost. I thought of David's response in II Samuel Chapter 24 when God offered him a choice of three punishments for his disobedience in numbering the people of Israel. David asked God to choose, saying that he knew that God was merciful. I, too, chose to fall on God's mercy and asked him to resolve it however He must, only to show me what to do. And God solved the seemingly gigantic problem with such a simple and beautiful solution that I was stunned. Again, the goodness of God, evident in my life.

A couple days ago, I received a shocking and horrible phone call in a very public place. Once again, my stomach in a knot, fighting tears, I could do nothing but cry out silently to my Heavenly Father once again. He has been my Rock. He has been Enough all of my life. I felt anything but peace about what the future could bring. But as my wild emotions churned inside, God gently whispered, "Have you forgotten what I have done for you already this month? Can I not solve this as easily as the other problems you have faced?"

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Ps. 23: 1-3

Though cold, dark winds are blowing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I fear no evil. I have never been in greener pastures than these. Never before have I seen my Shepherd's Hand on my life so keenly. I will walk on where He leads.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Camels and Needles on Election Day

This past month it seems that God has been trying to show me that He specializes in impossibilities....

It was Election Day. I was driving across town, praying for the souls of two men who I have come to care about deeply. This year they were running against each other for a top state government position. Their character left much to be desired. But in getting to know them, I had become more and more convicted of their need for a Savior -- far greater than my need for either one of them win or loose in the election. Sure, their election would affect my temporary, earthly life in some small way. But what about their never-dying souls?

They were both people in "high places" who I felt would be less likely to humble themselves before a Holy God than for "a camel to go through the eye of a needle." I prayed for it daily, but I really couldn't picture it happening.

This day their names were on every ballot across the state. I didn't even know anymore who should win that position. The whole situation was a confusing mess.

"God," I cried out, "They seem impossible to reach. Will they ever come to the end of themselves and cry out for mercy? Will they ever see what wretched souls they are before You? Will they ever see their desperate need for God?"

These men have flippantly joked about "Christian fanatics" and about people who get too serious about religion, the one making it especially clear that he thinks that religion and prayer and God are for grannies, not intelligent, educated, powerful men like him.

So, as my heart was heavy for him, I prayed, feeling useless and senseless and without any direction of what to even pray for him.

And then I got a text... from him. It said (among other things), "If you have any spare moments today, would you stop and pray for me?"

Pray for me?!

That was a weird statement, to be made by a man who doesn't believe in prayer. Why would he bother on the biggest day of his life to ask me to pray for him if he didn't think it would do some good?

Maybe he was starting to believe that God really does rule over the affairs of men. I remembered with gratefulness how this man had a few months earlier heard a powerful and moving testimony of an answer to prayer. I had thought that he couldn't have possibly forgot the story he heard, and I had prayed for months that God would use that story in his heart to remind him again and again of the greatness, justice, and holiness of God.

I replied that I was praying for him, and would continue to do so. But I didn't pray that he would win or loose the election. I prayed that God would use whatever it would take in his life and that of his opponent - winning or loosing (for both of them), to bring them both to an awareness of their need for a Saviour. It was hard not to tell God which one I wanted to win for my own comfort. Instead I asked God to use the election in the lives of these politicians to bring them to Himself. And then I left the results up to God.

The day after the election, the same man (who ended up winning) sent me another message. He sounded so different... humble... not like himself. "Thank you," it said, "For continuing to pray for me. I can't tell you what it means to me."

Wow. The man who didn't believe in prayer was now acknowledging his need for prayer. He has a lot of friends who are powerful and rich and pompous and clever . But he seemed to think that a little nobody like me might have a connection to the God he ought to know? I smiled. There was a glimmer of hope. Maybe a camel would go through the eye of a needle after all!

Once again, I was reminded that God is not limited by the limits of MY imagination or human possibilities.

I'm still praying for him, and asking God to continue bring the Truth of the Gospel before this man who lives in a world of the false pretense of politics. But his sincere requests for prayer have left me with a glimmer of hope that, yes, God can change the hearts of kings and rulers and He can bring them to their knees.

My only job is to be faithful to speak the truth and pray and let God work in their hearts. God can do what I can't imagine, and that is my prayer for both of these men.