Saturday, December 22, 2007
One of the practical things that I do, and have been pretty successful this year, is that I try to have the majority of shopping and planning done by December 1. When Advent begins, I want to start calming my spirit toward what is coming. For the most part, gifts were bought, wrapped and boxed for mailing by the first week of December, Christmas cards were designed and printed and my shopping list was made (and even pre-ordered for delivery via computer grocery shopping). That just left sitting back and enjoying the season. The last minute “needs” have not stressed me.
Another thing I began last year with the girls and continued this year was a Jesse Tree and advent calendar. It is amazing how just a few minutes each day talking with the girls about Jesus’ heritage and family tree has helped me keep perspective. They are so excited about the Bible verse each day, they have long-forgotten they were supposed to get a chocolate with each window we opened. That excites me—that my children get that the holiday is about Jesus. I have tried to be diligent about doing a quiet time or having a concentrated prayer time as well. I don’t want my personal relationship with the King of my life get overshadowed by the celebration of His birth. I admit, that is often easier to say than to do. Many of our activities are crowded into my normal me-time. I’m having to be creative in searching for those minutes. But they are priceless in reminding me of the season.
Christmas music plays almost constantly from Thanksgiving to Christmas. But not just any Christmas music. WOW praise and other Christian artists fill my home with the constant reminder that it is about Jesus. This helps focus my mind on what is most important. And I find that makes it easier to filter my conversation. For example, we traditionally bake cookies and decorate them for Christmas. We decorated Christmas trees and little girls and stars this year. Trees because Flower chose them, girls because Jewel chose them and Stars because the Star marked Jesus’ birth place. While we decorated we talked about the Christmas story. To some it might have seemed like normal conversation, but for my soul it was nourishment.
We only give 3 gifts to the girls at Christmas—representing the three gifts that Jesus received. We are able to tell and retell the story. I call it educating my girls, but I know deep down it is re-educating me. I don’t have to buy the hype, I need to adore the Savior. And I look for reasons to adore Him. As I receive Christmas cards, I pray for the person who sent it and thank God for bringing them into my life. I allow God to bring to mind the reasons they are special to me. And I am thankful. As I wrap and send gifts or cards, I pray God’s blessings into those lives. As I step into a frost-covered world, I marvel at His creativity. I find that at Christmas it is so much easier for me to see Him and be grateful to Him, because it is all about Him. I cannot comprehend Christmas without Christ at the center. I pray that I never can.
Bless you all this Holiday Season!
Friday, December 21, 2007
Three more sleeps until my Daddy and his lovely wife arrive to celebrate Christmas with us! I am sooooo excited! He has not been here in four years, and she has never been. YAY!! I am so grateful to family for allowing us to have her for Christmas. Wish you all could come! (**waving**)
Monday, I wrote on Jewel's calendar "Grandad and D come". She read it. Read it again. And then a huge smile spread over her face and she ran to tell Flower they were coming. We've been talking about it for weeks, but she had not caught on.
So, anyway. They will be here the week commencing Christmas Eve. I plan to be busy and not blogging. (I will stop by tomorrow to post one more, then you'll have to wait until New Years when I post meditations and a review of 2007).
Until then, Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
They sang three songs---"Away in a Manger" "Days of Elijah" and "It's a Mystery." She learned every word! I was so pleased with her. She loved every minute of it.
What you can't see in the picture is that baby Jesus is in a cradle, and she rocked the cradle with her foot the entire show. Then she would lean over and pat the baby and kiss his forehead. Such a little mom!
The girls attended the wedding, then we took them home to a babysitter and left for the reception. Beautiful! It was a lovely evening and meal. Each of the tables were set up with a Scottish word. Our table was the "drookits" which apparently means that we were all wet (or totally drenched). It was almost a prophecy in itself as the waiter spilled gravy on one of the guests and dessert on another. When he came out with the hot coffee we lined our cups in one spot and those two people stood up while he poured--weren't taking any chances, lol.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Setting: I had just sat dinner on the table which included some sliced cheese
Flower: What kind of cheese is that Mum?
Me: It's Edam
Flower: Mum you're funny!
Me: Why am I funny?
Flower: Edam not cheese. Edam was in the garden with Eve!
Me: No baby, Adam was in the garden with Eve. Edam is a town in Holland where they make cheese.
Bible and geography lesson in one. How fun!
Setting: Sitting on the bed reading "The Night Before Christmas" story.
Flower: Why they call him St. Nick? That not St. Nick, that Santa Claus!
Me: Remember, the character of Santa Claus came from the legend of St. Nicholas. Some people use the name of St. Nick for Santa Claus.
Flower: Well that's just wrong!
Me: Why is it wrong?
Flower: Because St. Nicholas was real and Santa Claus isn't real and the story isn't real so it's Santa Claus not St. Nick.
So now you know....
They gave us the largest suite because, well he's the boss and is paying for it all. Plus it was our room that was going to be babysitting central for 5 kids, so the space was nice. The room itself was huge. It housed our 4 poster bed, a chaise lounge, a table large enough for 4 to easily eat around it, 2 extra single bed cots and there was plenty of room to walk around everything. It was perfect for what was needed.
Then there was the bathroom. And it was supposed luxury.
That's right, you are seeing two claw-foot tubs in the middle of the room. They each have a hand-held shower attached. No way to use the shower without getting water everywhere, but oh well. And when was the last time you needed two baths sitting next to one another?
But at least they were pretty and you could take a nice bubble bath in them (they even provided the bubbles). This on the other hand just made me go hmmmm.
That's the towel rack. You are probably thinking, but MiPa every bathroom needs a towel rack. And you are right. But let me give you some perspective of the placement of said towel rack.
That's Flower, all 3 feet of her, standing below it. See the problem? Yeah, I thought so.
Apparently the non-luxury suites had proper showers and towel racks you could use. Now I know the definition of luxury. Who knew?
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
German is an account executive. He works onsite with the customer. He was invited this year to attend the Chief Operations Officer's party for his direct reports. It was an overnight affair, to be held at this castle (day and night shots)!
To say I was nervous was an understatement. This is the next-to-the-top man and the party is at a castle! Plus, we had never left the girls overnight, so I was being an anxious mommy. "Grandma" Phyllis came to stay with the girls. They could not push us out the door fast enough, they were soooo excited. We drove up to the castle, checked in our room and then got dressed. (did not take a single picture of ourselves, ugh) It was a cocktail dresses and coats/ties optional affair. We headed over to the castle and champagne or orange juice while everyone gathered. Then we toured the castle. Lovely! As we made our way on the tour I happened to see the seating chart for the dinner. I was sitting next to the COO for the entire dinner. Now I was even more nervous! But it was a great evening. The meal was spectacular and the company was sterling. I don't think I have been that at ease visiting with someone in ages. It was incredible how many things we had in common--including faith, which is not something that he would have discussed at work. We managed to get back to our room around 145 a.m. We felt blessed to be invited, and doubly blessed to be given a place of honor. What a great evening!
The next morning we hurried home and were greeted with "You're home already?" Nice to be missed. But I had to unpack and repack for us to head up to Leeds for our black-tie party for German's direct reports. We were staying in a small hotel. One of his colleagues was bringing his 3 teenage girls and they were keeping our girls in the room during the dinner. Another lovely meal and great fun. This time we got back to the room around 130! (note to self, 2 late nights in a row are no longer easy!) This is the only picture we got of us!
Tomorrow I'll do a post about the "luxury suite" we had at the hotel. Our whirlwind social life is about to wind down. One more event to tell you about. Then back to boring for another eleven months, lol. Thank you for indulging me.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
"Don't blame suffering in the world on the anger of God. He's not mad; he didn't mess up. Follow our troubles to their headwaters, and you won't find any angry or befuddled God. But you will find a sovereign God.
Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end -- the glory of God."
~Max Lucado, It's Not About Me~
Christmas is a hard time of the year for so many people. My neighbour is entering his 5th Christmas without his dear wife, who lost a valiant fight to cancer 5 years and one week ago. He has done a great job raising their two teenagers--but it's been hard. She was faithful to the God she knew would heal her, one way or another, until the moment she woke in eternity.
Last May one of the sweetest men I've ever known lost a battle to throat and tongue cancer. He lost his ability to speak, but just before he died he wrote a note to our pastor. "It's okay...I know where I'm going." Testifying in his darkest days.
Last week friends at church lost their grandfather. At 13, she and her little sisters are more shell-shocked than anything. But the morning after he died, she was at the church serving in the creche--because that is where she belonged.
Suffering. Being sick and hurt. Standing by and watching someone you love in pain and dying. Never easy. This time of year, can be even harder. But suffering is part of this fallen world.
Not one of these people consider the things they suffered or their family suffered to be punishment. In fact, all of them have pointed to the gracious God who carried them, honored them, comforted them and loved them through the suffering. Mother praising God that she saw her teenagers come to know a Savior before He took her home. Gentleman thanking God for almost 50 years with his lovely wife before he would go ahead of her to heaven. Granddaughter praying that this event would bring her own father closer to belief. They saw the bigger picture. They prayed others would see the bigger picture. They may not have wanted the outcome or the suffering, but they want to honor God more.
The testimony of someone who is able to see the hand of God in their suffering is great. The world expects moaning and complaining about all that afflict us. When we can point to a bigger picture they notice. (This does not mean that the pain and sorrow is not there and is not real. In each of the cases I mentioned, the pain is immeasurable--but their hope is measured in the One who loves and created them.) In a small way, we see these verses played out:
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed."
Accepting suffering with the hope of God in our lives demonstrates the knowledge that this world is temporary--and what is to come is so much more. The glory to come is worth what happens here. I believe others see that--and if they do not have the hope of the future, they begin to want it. I have seen hard heart after hard heart softened and touched while watching someone bear their burdens in hope and grace. Suffering is not about God punishing, it is about God revealing Himself not only to the person bearing the burden but to all those around that person.
Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
Sovereign Lord, help me to be slow to judge others as they suffer. When suffering comes my way, help me to reflect hope in You and You alone. May my attitude never detract from You. Father hold those who are suffering this holiday season close to your heart. May your glory shine in their lives and in their situations. And allow me to hands of compassion and words of mercy to those who need Your encouragement during difficult and trying times. Let me see the suffering with Your eyes and act accordingly. Help me to never forget, no matter the circumstances, You are still God and You still hold the plan to draw others to You. Amen.
Our hostess for In Other Words this week is On the Horizon. Please join us with your reflection on this quote, or just to read others' reflections. Bless you!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Every year his company has a ball called the National Excellence Awards. It is by special invitation only, and for achievement. This year German's VP invited us to sit at his table! It is an overnight event at this hotel in London.
We were invited to bring the girls down with us, although they were not able to attend the ball. They had a blast...a babysitter (through an agency the hotel recommends, and a story in itself) and room service and a train ride.
The ball itself was amazing. Champagne reception and a lovely meal. Incredible atmosphere. Great company.
They had a professional photographer to take our photos, and delivered them to our table before the meal was finished.
Then, the *surprise* guest speaker was announced. It was Richard Hammond from BBC's Top Gear. If you know anything about my husband, you know that he is an over-the-top car guy. We watch Top Gear every week. In fact, German had just listened to Richard Hammond read his latest book on tape that very week. He was over the moon! And Hammond is a very good speaker. After the meal, there was a live band for dancing until the wee hours of the morning. A wonderful evening.
The next day, we went shopping at Harrod's, where Alvin the chipmunk happened to be appearing.
We also played in Hyde Park, visited the Diana memorial fountain, and walked through the "German Christmas market" before taking the train home. I was exhausted...I'm not as young as I used to be and partying all night is not as easy as it once was, lol.
But what an amazing weekend. What an amazing honor. What an amazing God to have led us to this and blessed us through it!
The highlight of my social calendar is without a doubt Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday as a child, and I've not lost it. As a kid, it centered around my maternal grandmother's house as her sisters and their kids all came to celebrate--sometimes more than three dozen gathering around the tables. The cooking started early. If harvest had gone well, and was finished, the men would probably go hunting sometime during the day. There were lots of cousins dashing in and out of the house and laughter filled the air. I miss my grandmother most on Thanksgiving day. She was an amazing cook, and many of her recipes died with her. She would say that she couldn't write them down but she could show me. This year as I cooked I took pictures of the steps along the way. I plan to make a Thanksgiving cookbook for my girls, showing them how to prepare the meal, in her honor.
Since moving to the United Kingdom, Thanksgiving is different. It is not a holiday and most people here don't understand any of the history. So, we like to invite a few friends to share with us each year to give them a taste of what would be happening in the States. This year we had three families who could come--a couple who serves on the diaconate with German and have been among our closest friends since we arrived, a couple who just moved to our church (their daughter is Jewel's age) and a young Scottish couple who are moving in the coming week down South where his new Army posting is located. We started the evening off with a little quiz about Thanksgiving history--complete with a prize. Then we enjoyed the traditional feast.
It was so much fun getting to know everyone better and laughing and just being together. The girls had a blast playing with their new friend. Makes me thankful (no pun intended) to see how God has blessed us with a church family to share with and a home to open up and friendships that can last into eternity. If I didn't have another social event all year, this one would make it worth it.
btw...Jewel took this picture, didn't she do well?
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
"Be such a person and live such a life,
that if every person was a person like you,
and every life a life like yours,
This Earth would be God's Paradise."
Being the literalist that I can be, I'm having a little trouble with this quote. Since God has demonstrated His absolute creativity in all of His creation, I cannot fathom His Paradise being filled with people who are all alike. That is the literalist in me.
But, I am going to set aside that literalist bent today, because I do understand the intention of this quote, and agree with its essence. My paternal grandmother used to remind me, "Be the kind of friend you want to have." People are attracted to friendships based on common interests and common expectations. Our actions and our lives should reflect the One who has called us.
God's Paradise does not begin when we get to heaven, it begins the moment we allow the King of Kings to enter our lives and rule. We become a part of His paradise. As He changes me, and makes me more like Him, that should draw people to Him. I want my life to be a reflection of what paradise will be like--worshiping God, trusting Him, living a life of service and devotion. I know I love being around people who are devoted to living for Christ--so I should hope that others love being around me for the same reason.
In this busy, crazy season of trying to do all things festive while still remembering the heart of the holiday--a Savior come to earth--I pray that you and are able to be the kind of people who are living God's Paradise today. Bless you!
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31
For other reflections on this quote, please visit Lori at All You Have to Give.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."
~ Mark 12:41-44 ~ NIV
I love giving. I love gift giving. I love volunteering and giving my time. I love sharing my talents. I have been blessed with a temperment that enjoys giving. And, I am married to someone whose spiritual gift is giving. So, in our household, there is no question about bringing our tithes and our offerings. The question is "how much?" And, just as God poured into us a spirit of giving, He has also poured upon us blessing that we are able to share with others. Although our hearts are to serve God and give Him glory, I often wonder if we are more like the rich people in this story and less like the widow.
Let's face it, compared to the rest of the world we are rich. We cannot deny it. I have more spare change that has been collected over the past year in the basket to be taken to the bank than much of the third world will see this year. Even in the months that I am holding my breath between paychecks or seeing more bills that month than I am comfortable with, I know that the resources are there and I have options that many people do not have. So, however generous I may be, I am not giving at a point of sacrifice. I am not the widow, giving all that I have.
But, I pray, that I am also not the rich person giving to be seen, or out of habit, or without thought. I don't want to be a careless giver. I want to be diligent and thoughtful as I give. I want to give privately--where it is between me and God and no one else.
I believe that God has gifted me with the ability and willingess to give. But I believe that it is also taught. I was blessed to grow up in a home where giving the tithe was the norm and sharing any abundance was done discreetly and reverently. I learned it by watching it. I also learned it because I was expected to tithe my allowance from the time I began to receive one. And, as I pray for the persons my girls will become, one thing I pray is that they will have hearts that are tender to sharing with others. But, I'm also trying to teach them by example that we give out of love for God.
We don't give allowances in our house. But every Sunday morning my husband hands Jewel a coin to put in the offering bag. (The couple who sit behind us always laugh as she claps and says, "it's time to give money to God"). She gleams with joy as she drops it into the bag. She is the epitome of a cheerful giver. Tears fill my eyes as I watch her develop into the girl God is calling her to be. She gives from a grateful heart, and that is all God asks for.
I may not be the widow, giving it all. But I'm also not the rich man giving for prestige or habit. I'm the person God is calling me to be---giving out of the abundance He gives me with a grateful heart. And that is all that He asks of me...obedience and thankfulness.
Our hostess this week is Beloved Mama. Please join us there to read other meditations on these verses.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
"One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy."
~ Elisabeth Elliott ~
I have been challenged the last few weeks to order my priorities in the things of God, and see Him bless my time. I have always known in my head that we make time for the things that are important to us and that are activities speak loudly about what or Who ranks first in our lives. Knowing it in my head and determining to act it from the heart, are two different matters. So, I have been challenged.
It began a few weeks ago. A friend was having outpatient surgery. I felt led to offer to prepare a family meal for her two days after the surgery (knowing that day one she wouldn't want much and day two her daughter was not working). So I got up that Thursday morning and reviewed what needed to be done: cake baked, casserole made, salad made, carrots steamed, school for Jewel, laundry finished, Bible Study prepared for Friday, trip to bank, our own family meal planned and prepared. (Ironically, or not, the Bible Study I was preparing was on Martha not choosing the "best" thing.) I sat down and looked at what needed to be done, and prayed "God I believe everything on this list are tasks ordained by you in my ministry as a mother, wife and friend. But it won't all get done if you don't do it, so please help me." That was at 8:30. Jewel and I baked the cake as part of school. She sat down to do her handwriting while I made the casserole and put it in the fridge for later. I sliced the carrots while she did art. She read to me while the cake finished. She played while I prepared Bible Study and the cake cooled. In between I put in the last load of laundry and moved the clean clothes up to the bed to fold. I iced the cake--and realized that with the exception of heating the casserole just before taking it to my friend (after which I was going to the bank), everything was done. I looked at the clock. It was 10:45. I don't know if the sun stopped moving for a while, but I do know that God honored the fact that the tasks were His and they were all done. I even had time to enjoy the day with my girls. I sat down and cried just because of the goodness of God.
Elisabeth Elliott is right--when we concern ourselves with the tasks of today that the Lord has called us to do, there is always time to accomplish His will. I've seen it happen time and time again. So why then do I find myself harried and hurried? Most often it is because I have *volunteered* to do *good things* that God has never ordained for me to do. I add to the heaviness of serving God by saying *yes* when I should say *let me ask God about that*. I tend to forget that I am not a lone ranger having to do it all myself. The other reason I feel hurried is I let non-priority things come first. I enjoy my computer time, but it cannot take the majority of my time--and it is so easy to lose track of time while reading blogs or surfing the Internet looking for education helps. I relax with my hobbies, but if I start them before I start the care of the home, the home suffers. Non-priority good things usually get done, and with less guilt, when I keep the priority good things first. I know it in my head---I want to apply it in my heart.
Father, thank you for the being the source of my time and the keeper of my time. Thank you that you really don't call me to do more than You can do through me. Help me to seek your face first. Help me to arrange my priorities to be Your priorities. Help me to be discerning when to say yes and when to say not now. As people look into my life, I want them to see Your heart for people and not just an exhausted person trying to do good on her own. Make my life reflect You. And I will give You the glory for all that is done. In Jesus' name and for His sake...amen.
To read what others are saying this week about this quote, please visit Sarah at To Motherhood and Beyond. I know you will be blessed!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The purpose of Christianity is not to avoid difficulty, but to produce a character adequate to meet it when it comes. It does not make life easy; rather it tries to make us great enough for life."
~ James L. Christensen ~
And if I don't get back here before Thursday, I pray each of you will have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Friday, November 16, 2007
Being done early meant the girls and I could breathe a few minutes before heading off to catch the train. We were going up to where German works (1 1/2 hours away by train) to stay the night and go out to dinner with one of his co-workers and her family. The trip up was beautiful! The changing colors of fall were gloriously displayed in the trees across the Dales. We arrived at the hotel, went swimming and got ready for dinner. The entire evening was wonderful. At 1130 we crashed into bed. One of us made the mistake to say, now for a restful night's sleep because Saturday had a late night birthday party/ceidhl to attend. Famous last words.
At 230 a.m. we awoke to the klaxon of the the fire alarm going off in the hotel. We slipped shoes on, grabbed coats, slipped them on sleeping children, grabbed a security blanket and stuffed doll Flower sleeps with and scurried out the door. We made our way down the three flights of stairs with all the other sleepy guests. I especially felt sorry for the dad trying to keep the sleeping 6 month old baby still asleep! Seven minutes from hearing the alarm to being downstairs. We gathered around the front desk--because it was soooo cold outside. The night manager was calmly yet frenetically working the switchboard to get answers. He soon announced that he apologized for the rude awakening. The problem had been located and resolved and it was safe to return to our rooms. (The next morning there was a letter of apology stating the problem was in the main kitchen and quickly dealt with, whatever that meant). We were the first to the lift so we took our sleepy girls up that way instead of walking up three flights. German explained to Jewel what had happened and why we did what we did. Honestly at 300 a.m. I doubted she was really understanding. The girls immediately went back to sleep. It took my heart a good 40 minutes to stop pounding so loud the people in the next room could hear it. But we did manage to get some sleep. The next morning, the fire alarm was all the girls could talk about. We reiterated what you do in case of fire alarm.
(The rest of the weekend went smoothly--visit to an old mill, drive home, ceidhl until 1100 p.m., wonderful church service Sunday morning, NASCAR Sunday night.)
And all week, the favorite game around our house? Fire alarm in the hotel! They have practiced and practiced and practiced. They have found the smoke alarms in our house and talked about how to get out quickly. What's a few hours sleep lost for a (safe) lesson learned forever? I'll take it.
When was the last time you talked about an escape route in your house with your kids? As much as we hate to think about the possibility, it could save their lives. If you make it a game, they will learn the lesson quickly and thoroughly. Have a blessed weekend!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
She thinks I am the meanest mommy in the entire world.
Definitely a killjoy. Hampering her behavior.
It only takes two words to send her to a pouting, crying huddle in the corner as she tries to hide the behavior.
Those words? "No thumb!"
Flower is a thumb-sucker. She has been from the womb. But what is cute at 3 days is not cute at almost 3 years. Especially when it can do damage to an otherwise adorable smile. So, because I love her and know that it will be easier to break the habit now than later, I am encouraging her to stop. But she does not see it as loving. She sees it as restricting and mean. And she kicks and screams (sometimes literally) to not change. Seeing the bigger picture, I have to persevere. Even though it breaks my heart to see her unhappy, love knows the outcome will be worth the hurt.
And this mirrors my spiritual walk. There are times that I struggle to not see the restrictions of God as mean. I am comfortable in my behavior. Then God says, "Don't take pride in that!" and I go off to the corner to pout. Or He says, "let go of that possession," and I hold on tighter. He sees the bigger picture and knows that the momentary disappointment and hurt will lead to greater gains.
"Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible--terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved."
~ Hannah Hurnard ~
~Hinds' Feet on High Places~
Sometimes, the terrible love of God is to ask us to walk through serious pain and suffering. Sometimes it is the not-so-simple releasing and refining in our lives. But it is the love of God that calls us to those times and sustains us through them. Whether it is the breaking of a habit, the demolishing of a not-pretty character trait or the endurance of a long and painful trial, we are able to survive those times because of His love. I pray that I can recognize the hand of love in the things I must walk through.
"For my own name's sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another. " Isaiah 48:9-11 (italics added)
Our hostess this week is Bonnie at Ink it Blog. Please come and be blessed by other interpretations of this quote.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
1. Finish Kell’s Neighbourhood RR
2. Start and finish ornament for exchange
3. Choose ornaments for the girls and kit them (stitch if possible)
4. Get 10 hours stitching on Flag Sampler
5. Finish binding Flower’s quilt
6. Bind Christmas table runner
7. Have a successful meeting with LEA regarding Jewel’s education
8. Continue with homeschool program as scheduled
9. Create, write, print and address 300 Christmas cards
10. Wrap and mail Christmas presents to family and friends in US
That should keep me plenty busy for the next 29 days.
SBQ’s from last two weeks:
Do you railroad?
The permalink to this post is: http://blog.blondelibrarian.net/archives/2007/10/sbq-working-on-the-railroad/
I do occasionally railroad top stitches. I think it makes a difference, especially when stitching with light colors (e.g. ecru, white) and on darker fabrics.
Today's SBQ was suggested by Ternezia (http://loreleicrafts.wordpress.com/) and is:
If you were a cross stitch designer, what would your design style be?
The permalink to this post is: http://blog.blondelibrarian.net/archives/2007/10/sbq-designing/
Any designing I do is currently situation specific—for round robins or small gifts. I can’t imagine designing on a more prolific scale. The things I would like are already being done by La De Da and My Big Toe, lol. Samplers and verses are my current faves, so I guess that is what I would design.
As I stated before, Turkey was never on my “list” of places to see. To be honest, I imagined it to be similar to what we encountered in Egypt—the only place I have ever been to visit that I can unequivocally say I have no desire to ever return. Ever. Period. (Lisa, the pyramids are amazing, it was just the rest ...). I expected to be on edge and not feel safe. I expected begging and poverty to be prevalent. Yes, the poverty was there—but not in a way that was hard to see. The people had an incredible dignity, even in their need. I can’t really explain it, but it was a place that hurt my heart but did not make me uncomfortable or tired.
If you know much about the major religion of the area, and the time of year that we chose to visit, you will know that we were there in the middle of a month long time of prayer, fasting (and then feasting). [Forgive me for not being explicit, I am aware of web searches on those words—if you can’t figure out what I am talking about, email me.] I was concerned what it would be like vacationing there during this time. I expected to be confronted with the fast and the religion. I expected people to be unavailable or inconvenienced. I expected closures in food-related businesses. I expected to see people observing the rituals. I was wrong. Except for the nightly *call* at sunset that the fast was ending and the *call* to evening prayers, I would never have known there was a religious belief present at all. I never witnessed any one local person acknowledge the calls. I never witnessed a reaction of any type. I saw locals in cafes during the day—whether they were drinking water or just talking, I do not know but they were there. I saw an occasional head covering on a woman. But the only reactions to the calls from the m**que was from my girls announcing, “now it’s time to pray.” In many ways I was relieved—the holiday was easy and without issue. But in other ways, it made me sad. This is supposedly a sacred time, and there was no evidence of it.
That in itself led me to reflect on how the outside world sees me celebrate sacred times. In the lead-up to Christmas do they see me reflecting on my Savior or frantically shopping and cooking. Is Holy Week a time of reflecting and preparing my heart for Easter, or is it just another week before a church service, perhaps with a new dress? What about any given Sunday morning? Would anyone notice the sacred? Or is it business as usual? It is a wake-up call for me, a reminder that the world is watching and I should be reflecting what Christ has done! On Sunday morning as we leave for church, we are one of a handful of people in our neighbourhood heading out. But there are people out walking dogs, gardening, etc. What do they think when they see us leave? Do they then watch us during the week to see if any of it makes a difference? Would my life say that it made a difference?
I sat on the balcony one afternoon, watching that amazing view of the Mediterranean. The I-pod was playing one of my husband’s playlists. The Mercy Me song came on—“Word of God Speak.”
Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak
As I thought about the lost land I was admiring, I found myself praying those words. The Word of God needs to be heard in that land. And I pray for the missionaries who are risking a lot to be there and speak that word. And, I thought of the lost land that I live in. Once a proud Christian nation sending out missionaries, it stands in a postmodernistic world with so many believing that the notion of God is a quaint, but out-dated, idea. Now other countries send missionaries to them.! Again, the word of God needs to speak. This time, it is through me that He may choose to speak. I need to remember that He is indeed in this place, and live like it. May I be found faithful. Finally, I thought of the country of my birth and my heart’s love. So quickly moving away from a Christian heritage. So much in need of the Word of God to speak! My prayers turned to the men and women of God I know that are faithfully living lives for Christ and proclaiming the Word. May the Word of God speak clearly through them.
I never go on holiday that I don’t return more appreciative of what we have. This is especially true when we holiday where people are less fortunate materially and financially than we are. But this holiday has changed me spiritually. To walk in Biblical places and yet see no Christian church, to look on the faces of beautiful children and lovely friendly men and women knowing that they face an eternity without God, and to return to a place of freedom to worship and still see lost neighbours who do not even recognize their need to seek Him touched me. I don’t know where to put some of these feelings. I am unsure how the changes will be seen. But God is working at my heart.
And that is what made Turkey an amazing holiday! A beautiful country, yes. Wonderful people, yes. Fascinating sites, yes. Delicious food, yes. But most importantly, God met me there and renewed a fire in me. And that is amazing. Where was the last time God drew you into the sacred? How did it change you? Is it still changing you? I pray if you ask me that question in the next few weeks I will respond that He is still changing me.
Now I am off to work on Christmas preparation. My goal is to finish all my preparation prior to December, so that December is all about reflecting the sacredness of the season.
Thank you for sharing my holiday reflections.
photo of Bible on beach can be found at www.morguefile.com The artist is mercucio.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
"The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian."
~ A.W. Tozer ~
I think I will bake a cake today. But in perusing the recipe, I am not impressed with the list of ingredients. I think I'll make some changes.
*Eggs aren't that good for you, so I'll just leave them out
*I'm really fond of salt, even if it is unhealthy, so maybe I'll add some extra
*There is so little baking powder in the recipe, it's probably not important so I'll skip that as well
*Flour is so boring. I think I'll stop after 2 cups. 3 cups is too much to measure
*Waiting for 45 minutes before my cake is ready? No way! I want instant results. I'll take it out of the oven after 20 minutes--because that is actually a long time!
What do you think my cake will look like? How will it taste? No binding element of eggs, no leavening element of baking powder, too much salt, not enough bulk of flour, not cooked long enough--it will be a sad mess of a cake with all the wrong flavor. Silly, huh?
But isn't that how we often approach Scripture.
*I really like the Proverbs, so I'll spend all of my time there
*Lamentations is soooo depressing, think I'll skip that
*Those rules in Leviticus, so outdated; no reason to read that part
*Paul is so judgemental to women--I'll skip him too.
*Revelation is too hard to understand, so no reading there either
*A regular, quiet time? Emphasis on the time? I'm too busy...I'll give God 20 minutes and no more
And then we wonder why our lives are a mess!
But Tozer saw a bigger picture. Now before you get caught up in "spiritual perfection" note that Tozer does not use that word as "never doing anything wrong" but in the idea of "perfection = wholeness". We become the people that God created us to be, wholly put together, by spending time in God's Word. But reading it is not enough. We must "religiously obey" it. Again, I don't think that this is about legalism. It is about actively applying the Word to the situations of our life. And we can't pick and choose what parts are the most appealing--God ordained all of Scripture for our use.
Paul says it like this,
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
It's all good! And, it all has a purpose! The more we study it, the more God is able to illuminate our eyes to the purpose. I don't know about you, but I long for spiritual wholeness--to be the woman that God created me to be. I know that it is a life-long process of being. But I'm willing to take the shortest path. And that path involves the hard work of truly studying and seeking to know God. Just like I want my cake to be completely cooked with the right ingredients, I want my life to be flavored with the ingredients of God's Word and brought to fruition in His timing. I guess that means it's time to dust off some of the passages that I tend to pass over because they seem irrelevant or difficult.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates...
Father, God, you are the God of wholeness and perfection. I long to know you in perfection. Teach me your ways Father. Draw me to the whole of Scripture. Guide my heart to desire to read it all, to know it all. But Father I pray that reading Scripture does not become an academic effort to know. Help me to apply what I read, to obey what I learn. Use my Scripture study to develop me into the person You desire me to be. Amen.
The hostess this week for In Other Words is Debbie at Chocolate and Coffee. Come and be blessed!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
"We women must realize how visual men are, and because of that we should wear modest clothes. Not because we don't have the right to wear what we want, but for the benefit of the spiritual life of our brothers in Christ."
~ Heather Arnel Paulsen ~
Emotional Purity: An Affair of the Heart
If I'm being perfectly honest, this quote does not inspire me. Perhaps it is because dressing modestly is not an issue for me--for years I didn't want anyone to see any part of my body so I happily covered it up and in the past few years I have concentrated on pleasing my husband in my dress, and his preference is attractive but modest. I do live in a culture that celebrates the immodest (even more so than the US). Many a discussion takes place between my husband and myself about how inappropriately people were dressed at different functions (work parties, cafes, even church). But since it is not an issue I struggle with, I find it hard to seriously address.
But Emotional Purity, the topic of the book that the quote came from, now that is something that interests me. How do we keep ourselves emotionally pure in our relationships with other men? How do we not lead them on in such a way that they lose their emotional purity? Those are tough questions that we should consider at some point in our Christian walk.
My closest friends have always been male. In high school and college, if I was going to turn to someone with the deep questions in my heart, it would be a male friend. They were more apt to tell me the truth than empathize with me and I like that quality. When we were all single, this issue was not nearly as difficult. We would meet for coffee, get ice cream, go for a walk, or sit in our mothers' living rooms and share our hearts. When we lived apart, we would spend hours on the phone sharing our prayer needs and praying together. We even, at times, talked about the "what if" this relationship could be more than friendship, but we always came to the conclusion that it wasn't what God intended. Everyone around us probably saw us as people out on a date--emotional connectedness looks like physical connectedness in many ways. But we remained emotionally pure by always being honest about what the relationship was...and what it was not.
That was very important as we all got married. Actually, the two guys I spent the most time with at college got married first. One of them even said that it was so great that he could reassure his fiance that nothing had ever happened physically in our friendship because we had always talked about why nothing was going to happen. Unfortunately, that friendship wasted away after he got married. His new wife had never had a "just male friend" and was threatened by it. One of the bases of an honest male-female friendship is that you willingly walk away if it is threatening the greater relationship of marriage. It is hard--but it is what keeps it pure. If we had continued a relationship (all by phone at this point due to distance) against her wishes we would have both been emotionally unfaithful--him to his wife and me to our friendship. Choosing emotional purity often means we can't take the easy road.
I am thankful that in the other friendship he married a good friend of mine. In fact, she was my friend before either of us met him (and no, I didn't set them up). Since she already knew my heart, she was less threatened. And we occassionally talk on the phone and catch up and share our deepest prayer requests. More often, we correspond in emails that our spouses are allowed to see. And the few times we have met since getting married, one of our spouses has been present. Some people say that we are overly cautious--but we would rather err on the side of caution than for there ever to be a hint to ourselves, our spouses, or anyone looking in that the relationship is anything but pure.
Commitment to emotional purity in relationships is for our sake, but it is also for the sake of others. Spouses want to trust--but we hear stories everyday of good Christian people succombing to an affair, and often those affairs start in a relationship to talk about problems or finding someone to share hurts and get advice. If we have talked about the boundaries with our spouse and with the other party, that kind of temptation is less likely. I love my husband and never want to give him a reason to doubt his trust in me. I love the fact that he is someone other people, men and women, trust with their problems. But I don't ever want to have to worry that someone is blurring the line with him. Boundaries of emotional purity enable us to share with others without worry. But they are also for the sake of others. Two last examples, because I think that they are important.
When Jewel was a baby, German was participating in the Christmas program at church and Jewel was going to be baby Jesus. So she and I attended most of the practices. At one practice I had a migraine. I asked the director's husband (a good friend) to give me a lift home so German would not have to leave rehearsal. Since he and his wife have a pact not to be alone with the opposite gender, he asked the boyfriend of another participant to come along. That boyfriend was a seeker, but not yet a believer. After they dropped me at home, my friend was able to share why he needed a "chaperone" and about Biblical pureness. It made an impression. Now the boyfriend is a Christian and a husband and I have heard him admonish others on pureness. Others are impacted when we take a stand for pureness.
My final story shows the sadness that the stand can take--and why it is so important. For years we spent, as a couple, lots of time with another couple. The husband in that relationship and I have a lot in common and became quite close. We never allowed ourselves to be alone together--one of our spouses, other friends or his teenage children were always present. Their marriage hit some very rough waters and lots of accusations flew. Some of those accusations were made to my husband about me and his friend. We knew they were not true, but it is hard to defend yourself in the face of total ugliness. But my husband had no doubt about the verity of the statements because he knew that we were never alone together. No doubt. Total trust. Because we have stood for emotional purity. Sadly, due to this situation, our friend is even more vulnerable. We (husband, friend, and myself) all decided it would be best if he and I were not together except in the presence of both spouses--an absolute impossibility with his wife's refusal to be with us. So, I lose a relationship. But purity wins. (added note...my husband is still friends with him and we pray that his marriage will one day be restored and our friendship as couples can be repaired).
Some people say that I am too legalistic in expecting boundaries in relationships. I believe that God calls us to honesty and fullness in relationships. Those things cannot happen if we are forever wondering "how far is too far." The world sees us when we take a stand for purity. They notice when we dress and act differently than culture allows. I want to give myself fully in relationships. And in order to do that with male friends, I need boundaries. I don't want a Christian brother to ever get the wrong idea. I don't want their wives to ever question our relationship. Purity matters. And I choose to stand for it.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes. Psalm 19:8
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.
Father, God, we thank you that you have created us relational beings. We thank you that you can knit our hearts and our minds together with others. We ask that you keep our relationships pure. We ask for honesty in sharing but in sharing that honesty that we never imply that there is something else in the relationship. We thank you for spouses who trust us and that you guard our hearts and our minds against anything that could tarnish that trust. And, we ask for strength to draw boundary lines and walk away if anything should enter our relationships with friends that would dishonor you. Father use us to touch other people, but in that keep our hearts pure and focused on You. In Jesus' loving name, Amen.
Our hostess for In Other Words this week is Loni at Joy in the Morning. Come, read, share and be blessed.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Sorry to tease about another excursion and then not post for 3 days. Life conspired against me and my phone and internet lines went haywire on Friday, when I was planning to post. They were working by 7 pm but then we had an impromptu night out with the family and I rarely post on the weekends. So here it is Monday morning, and I am sure you have been hanging onto the edge of your seat. Or not. Whatever.
Our next to the last day in Turkey we had decided to drive up to Laodicea and Pammukale. It was a 4 hour drive each direction, and across mountains that we were not too sure how tall or difficult to drive they would be. But our pastor has been doing a series of sermons on "letters to the young churches" and we really wanted to go. So plans are made. And then...
During dinner the night before, Jewel gets sick--three times before we ever leave the restaraunt. Since she had only eaten a couple of bites of bread, we didn't blame the food. We get her home. She gets sick again. We put her to bed. I'm beginning to believe we are destined to not go. German says after a good night's sleep she'll be fine. We go to bed. At 3a.m. German is up--sicker than I have ever known him to be sick in the 13 years we have known each other. We all collapse back in bed about six. I'm sure we are not going to go. At 8:30, German says, "I still want to go." I tried to talk him out of that kind of drive since he was wiped out. He said he believed it was a spiritual and physical attack to keep us from a blessing, and the attack was not going to win. Jewel was tired but said she felt fine. We got ready to go.
The drive across the mountains was glorious. God's creation in its glory.
Jewel slept the entire trip, and Flower happily talked and sang the whole way. It turned out to only be a 3 hour drive to Denzili (the big town near the ruins), so we were feeling incredibly blessed. The map showed a big intersection in Denzili. The Laodicean ruins were marked up the road to the left maybe ten miles. Pammukale was off the road to the right. We decided to go to Laodicea first. We drove about 15 miles reading every sign there was. No sign of Laodicea. We reached a town that was clearly past the ruins on the map. We turned around, and carefully read every sign possible. We turned off the road at the interesection that best looked like where it was. Still no Laodicea. Then German did the unheard of: he pulled into the carpark of an official looking building and said, "I'm going to go ask for help."
I sat in the car kind of stunned. He came back and said that the people didn't know where it was, and only one spoke English, but they were going to help if we would come in and have a cup of tea. I'm thinking two things: 1. will the girls be good in this official looking building? and 2. I wonder if we can also use the toilets--Flower has gone 3 hours without asking and I'm worried. We had a lovely cup of tea. The girls were given juice--a real treat for them. The guys in the office were buzzing around, using the internet, calling people on the phone, talking amongst themselves. German asked about toilets and they quickly showed him where. Just as he came back, they said they could show us where to go. I started to speak up, but German whispered that it wasn't a good idea. Okay...this was the toilet...
He didn't think a hole in the ground would be that helpful for very Western-minded Flower. I agreed. (ahh the joys of traveling)
They gave us directions, back to the big intersection and to the road to Pammukale where we would see the sign for Laodicea. If we had only gone to the other destination first, we would have found it. But then we wouldn't have met the nice people and had a cup of tea either.
We got there and the first thing I saw was the sign for toilets. Nice, big, modern, clean. Yay! And Flower had stayed dry! Double blessing. That taken care of, we set off on the ruins.
To the Church in Laodicea
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Revelation 3:14-22
Here is what is left of the church that would have received this letter.
The town, once prosperous, was laid to ruin by an earthquake in AD 494. Excavations have unearthed much of it and several of the columns have been set back up as they might have been along the columned road.
The two large amphitheaters can be seen. One was able to hold 20,000 people in its day.
I walked through the ruins singing the Steve Camp song, "Living in Laodicea".
Oh Lord, take Your plow to my battleground
Let Your blade dig down to the soil of my soul
For I've become dry and dusty, Lord I know there must be
Richer earth lying below
For I've been living in Laodicea
And the fire that once burned bright, I've let it grow dim
And the very Word I swore that I would die for all has been forgotten
As the world's become my friend
We have turned from Your Law to try to find a better way
Each man does today what is right in his own eyes
We will pay the price for our sinning
We can never know true living, we've exchanged His truth for lies
It is no small of a thing that He's done for you
By shutting the gates of hell upon the cross
We were sentenced once but now we are pardoned
And He chooses to use us though we fall
So while we're living in Laodicea
Keep the fire burning bright, don't let it grow dim
For the very Word we swore that we would die for, it must not be forgotten
Fear the world become a friend
For the very Word we swore that we would die for, it must not be forgotten
Fear the world become a friend
I thought about how easy it is for us to build our lives on things that are not substantial. We put up columns in our life representing things that have no eternal significance. And then, one major storm--one major earthquake--comes along and shakes our world.
The temporal falls. The unsubstantial cannot last. Sometimes those storms have nothing to do with us. They are the natural consequence of living in a fallen world--illness besets, disasters of flood or storm deluge. Sometimes they are storms of our own making--materialism leads to financial disaster, unhealthy eating leads to disease, selfishness leads to relationship breakups. And, sometimes, God uses the storm as discipline to wake us up and draw us back to Him. As I set in the ruins of that once great city, this was on my mind. Although painful, I pray that God will lay waste to the things in my life that keep me from serving Him with my whole heart. I'd rather Him do this out of love than to reap the consequences of the sin later.
Father, I want to serve you with my whole heart. I want to be hot and cold for you. I do not want to be lukewarm--ineffective and annoying. Father tear down the columns of self-sufficency that I have built up. Lay to waste the things that do not please you. I pray that my life never lays in ruins of disobedience, but is constantly being rebuilt by You to be stronger and a witness of Your faithfulness. In Your Son's Precious Name...Amen.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The trip across was uneventful. The girls wanted to see the castle ruins that were on the top of the hill. So we started up the steps.
Then wandered along the path.
Finally got to the castle and discovered this is the way in.
Did I mention I was not feeling well? And it was almost 90 degrees? And I'm trying hard to get hydrated and be a good sport? German knew I was in no shape to do it, so he offered to take the girls himself. And they loved it. But at the top there were no guard rails at all. And he spent most of the time scared he was going to lose one of them. But the pictures from the top are great!
We came down the hill to eat lunch. While we were eating a thunderstorm blew in. And the rain came down.
And we ended up being drenched rats. But, thankfully, by the time we had to run for the boat I was feeling much better. :) And now I can say I've been to Greece!
Our other excursion was to the town of Myra. The trip started out rather eventful, but they soon cleared the road.
Myra is the hometown of Nicholas (later St. Nicholas)where he was bishop. I got the coolest hand knotted rug of St. Nick to display in December. We don't do Santa Claus as a gift giver in our home, but we will talk about how the myth came to be and who the person behind it was. (gotta love homeschool rationalization for buying decorations). Myra was also a port town in Biblical days. According to Acts 27:5, Paul, as a prisoner, changed boats here on his way
I promise to stop boring you with holiday pictures soon (we only took 1300!), but I do have one more excursion to tell you about and some reflection. It'll be worth coming back for...I promise.