Tuesday, December 21, 2010

5 Quacking Ducks, Part of a Cow, 2 Baby Chicks, and a Pig in a Pear Tree

Merry Christmas, my little cuties! This is your gift. Sorry, no refunds.

Last year, our family decided to use the money we would have spent on Christmas cards and buy some animals for people who wouldn't want to return them.

We did this through World Vision, and we were happy we did. It felt good and Christmasy. So, we did it again this year. We let the kids shop through the catalog and pick the gift they want to give, so it's fun for them, too. Waaay more fun and easy than trying to pull off a family photo. I love getting other people's family photos, but I would rather lick a metal pole in the winter than do a photo of our own. So, this is perfect for us!

Just look how happy this little one is with her Christmas gift! How sweet.

So, consider this your Christmas card from our family to yours. We love you and are so thankful for you. You have blessed me through this bloggy avenue and a hundred other ways. Have a beautiful, Christ-filled, joyful Christmas!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I Think I Got Snot on His Shoulder

Forgiveness is such a big deal! I kind of want to soak in it for awhile. You can read about it here. Without forgiveness, we're pretty much sunk. Lost. Hopeless. Bitter. Wandering. The kids and I were just reading about India today in our "Window on the World" book.
We love this book! It's like...like...a window on the world! Yeah, that's it. Did you know that millions of people in India travel to the Ganges River to wash themselves, hoping to receive forgiveness in this way? That's so sad. They are never really sure if it works. Never really confident that the gods are pleased. Oh, that the whole world would know the forgiving power of the blood of Jesus!

Chatterwell Stories McLoughlin Brothers publications
Okay, it's story time now. My story is about the impossibility of forgiving someone purely out of the goodness of my heart. It is only by the grace of God that I can walk in love and forgiveness with my fellow man and woman.

This little story starts in 2002, in a 5,000 watt radio station in Fresno, California. (Name that television show for 1,000 points.) Actually, I was in the doctor's office in Kansas where I worked as a nurse. I had just poked my last victim of the day, and being 7 months pregnant with my first child, had propped up my swollen legs to return some patient calls. It was in that office in the quiet of the end of the day that I received word that my mom had re-married.

Being completely unprepared for this news and hormonally fragile besides, it is perfectly reasonable that I bawled my head off right there at the desk. Right? The doctor, who was the only one left in the office, sprang from his chair to see what was the matter. When what to his wondering eyes should appear, but a big, pregnant lady, soaking wet with her tears. Just trying to keep it Christmasy around here.

I did not get snot on the doctor's shoulder! Nope. When I went home and cried with Bob about the news, I didn't get snot on his shoulder either. Just so we're clear about it.
So, here's the thing. I was still not recovered from the divorce. Far from it. So this new husband was just too much. I decided before I ever met him that I did not like him and had no obligations toward him. My heart was like a block of ice.

In fact, I was in such denial, that it was quite some time before I realized that some people (everybody) considered this man my step-dad. What? No. I don't do step-dads. Nope. Not for me. I decided that Ray would forever be "my mother's husband" and in that way, his relationship to me was irrelevant. This worked out just fine for awhile, but things started to get messy when my kids were old enough to call him grandpa. Grandpa? How did this sneak in? I did not ask for this man to be in our lives, doggone it! 

It was around this time that I faced the possibility that my heart was two sizes too small!

So, I prayed about it. I didn't want to feel this way forever. Remember in my last post about forgiveness how I wrote that asking God for help with anything He tells us to do is an automatic yes? The Bible tells us to "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."~Ephesians 4:32. I prayed for this. I wanted to be kind and compassionate to Ray. My answer took awhile to come, but it came! 

Fast forward to January, 2008. Another phone call, this time while I was sleeping in my bed. "Dad's gone. Come over here." This time, I did not bawl my head off. Numb, I drove over to my dad's house in a fog. Earlier that day, we had moved him into a hospital bed in the living room. None of us knew he would leave us that night. I hadn't said goodbye.

I spent that night looking at my dad, watching my sister and my step-mom cry, waiting for someone to come and make this official. My chest felt tight, but my eyes were dry. I knew I couldn't cry, because that would make it real. I wouldn't cry. After he was taken away, I drove back home, and unsure of what to do, I put on one of his shirts and went back to bed.

The next morning, I wandered downstairs and sat down to pay the bills. Concerned, Bob said, "What are you doing? Your dad just died. You don't pay the bills right now." After Bob and the kids left to take care of some death-related matter, I took my zombie-self up to the shower. As the warm water beat down on my head, I slowly became real again. My tears came, flowing with the water right down the drain.

I cried for a long time. I got dressed, brushed my teeth, dried my hair, and laid on the floor, crying all the while. I couldn't stop. Then I heard a knock at the door, and I realized how much I needed someone at this time of uncontrollable sobbing. I just hoped it wasn't the mailman. When I opened the door, just guess who was standing there? Yep. Ray. My mother's husband. My...step-dad.  

He took one look at my swollen face and opened his arms. And without hesitation, I fell in.

He shuffled me over to the couch, and in his sweet, comfortable way, he let me cry. My head rested on his shoulder while his hand patted mine. "There, there," he said. What an unlikely consolation he was. I would never have chosen him to comfort me in that moment. But the Lord chose him specifically. He knew what He was doing. He knew! After six years of struggle, the Lord answered my prayers in an instant. All the ice melted, and my heart grew three sizes that day! I love my step-dad. And so do my kids. They are blessed to have him for a grandpa.
And I think I got snot on his shoulder.

The End.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's a Christmas Miracle!

According to my children, this white stuff in our yard is a miracle.

Sara is rejoicing. For her, Christmas has truly come now.

I would like to apologize to Jefferson City and the surrounding area for the screaming that you may have heard Sunday morning when my kids woke up to this. As for Bob and I, one moment we were peacefully sleeping, and the next, three wild children were bouncing on our bed, but we couldn't understand what they were saying. You see, we had gone temporarily deaf, due to the high decibels emitting from their little mouths. They kept pointing out the windows, so we eventually figured out what was causing all the ruckus.

Then, the three of them traipsed down to the kitchen to fix pancakes, bacon, coffee, and orange juice to bring to us in bed. Bob and I looked at each other, smiled, and said, "We have a perfect life!"

Then I realized I had dozed off again. The sad truth is, we all ran around like crazy people getting dressed, ate cold cereal for breakfast, and were ten minutes late for church.

Snow reminds me of some things:

1. We need to work on Ben's theology. He gave thanks to Santa for the snow.

2. I love birds at my feeder.

3. I love this verse: "'Come now, let us reason together', says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow...'"~Isaiah 1:18. Just as snow covers over the mole hills and ugly patches in my yard, so the blood of Jesus covers over my sin.

4. Snowmen are cute. This little dude is cheering up my kitchen.

5. I like this verse too: "When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet."~Proverbs 31:21. Although for me, it's more like, "When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for she finally made the trek up to the attic to drag down the winter clothes."

6. "I want to wash my hands, my face, and hair with snow." Not really. That sounds so uncomfortable. But apparently Rosemary Clooney loves it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do Not Be Overcome! The Power of Forgiveness


"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)

"...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (words of Jesus, John 16:33)

How do.
Here's a poem for you.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,
If anything is broken around here,
Ben did it.

The End.

Dear friend, beware! Be very, very ware. The three-year-old male is a creature quite beguiling. Baby lamb eyes, kisses, and words of endearment are common in this species. But, underneath it all lurks a contrariness so terrifying...
...the faint of heart cannot hope to survive it.

Then I think about this touching scene while I eat some mashed potatoes and suddenly everything's fine! Really. Also, bacon and chocolate cake don't hurt. And cookies. All kinds. Except gingersnaps with double ginger.

Now, do you understand what I'm trying to say here? You do? Good. This post was easy. I'm going to bed.

Wait. I can't just leave like this. My point is dangling all naked and cold. I didn't even make a point, did I? Okay, here's my point. My point is...forgiveness. Yeah, forgiveness. You've got to do alot of it when you're a mom. Also, if you are a person you will need to do alot of forgiving as well. Did I just make it sound like moms aren't people? That was no mistake!
 Moms are superheros. And don't forget it. Go give your mom a hug and then come right back and finish reading this, 'cause you might learn something.

Forgiveness isn't really that hard when the person you are forgiving is three feet tall and has a cheesy grin on his face. But when you have been hurt by a grown-up it's not so easy. At least that's my story. And I'm stickin' to it. I tell you, unforgiveness was like a rock in my shoe for years. It gave me a spiritual limp. And a blister. I couldn't go anywhere without being reminded of it. I couldn't have true peace with unforgiveness in my shoe. I mean, my heart. 

The two people in my life that were the hardest to forgive are also the ones I can't tell you anything about. They were my two broken relationships. I knew I needed to forgive them. I wanted to forgive them. But I couldn't. Not on my own. Not that I didn't try! But I know now that I was striving for a feeling. I wanted to feel like I had forgiven them. But I still felt really poopy about what they had done to me. I was still mad. And if I couldn't be mad anymore, what did I have left? My pain was hiding out under a protective shield of anger, avoiding exposure at all cost. 

Well, eventually I had to stop, take off my shoe, and dump the rock out. I had to forgive for my own well-being, and also because I love Jesus and He told me to. So, here are some things I learned on my journey of forgiveness:

Numero Uno: Forgiveness is NOT a feeling. It is an act of obedience toward God. This plain and simple girl appreciates this plain and simple truth. What a relief it is that I don't have to first be rid of all my yucky feelings about someone in order to forgive them. That can come later, with time and healing. Forgiveness is more about me and God than it is about me and the other person. Saying yes to forgiveness is saying yes to God and His ways. Obeying God allows His blessings to flow in our lives. So, practically speaking, Numero Uno sounds something like this: "Okay, God. I'm feeling really hurt and angry. Your Word says I am to forgive, so I want to obey You. I am choosing to forgive this person now."  

Part B: In God's economy, a little bit goes a long, long way! This is such a cool thing about God. When we make up our minds and hearts to obey Him, He takes our tiny little offerings and multiplies them. I like the story of the widow at Zarephath in I Kings 17. Elijah the prophet was hiding out during a famine. When his brook dried up, God told him to go to Zarephath. God said, "I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food."(v.9) Well, guess what? That widow had practically nothing. She had enough flour and oil to make a little cake of bread for herself and her son, and then she planned on kicking the bucket. Seriously. So, why would God command her to provide Elijah with food? Why would He ask her to do something she obviously couldn't do? Why didn't he ask the rich lady down the road to feed Elijah? Huh? I'll tell you why! Because God is so super cool, that's why! He loves it when we trust Him, obey Him, and partner with Him to accomplish His purposes. It wouldn't have been any fun to ask the rich lady down the road to feed Elijah. She could have done it all on her own, and then God wouldn't have had the joy of showing off another one of His totally cool miracles. This poor little widow got to be part of something amazing because she obeyed.
She did not feed her son and herself with her last piece of bread. She gave it to Elijah. And with that act of obedience, God's blessing poured in, and there was enough food in her jars every day to feed the three of them! 

We all have something in common with this widow. God commands us to give something we don't have. He commands us to forgive each other!(Colossians 3:13) We can't manufacture this stuff. It comes from God. But just like the widow, we can take what little we have--a willingness to obey Him--and watch Him supply all we need. I can tell you that this happened to me. I had nothing. I couldn't muster up a smidgen of forgiveness for O. U. Didmewrong. But when I prayed that prayer up in Numero Uno, God honored and blessed my obedience. He provided me with love and compassion for this person. And like the widow, I got to be part of something amazing, too! Seeing God take this relationship that I thought was forever broken, and restore it back to health, was something I never expected.

Section three:Asking for help is okay! Having trouble with Numero Uno? I was. I did not want to pray that obedient prayer for such a long time. But I wanted to want to obey. Does that make sense? Here's another cool thing about God. Anything that He commands us to do in Scripture, He will help us do! He doesn't ask us to do anything that He won't help us do. Any prayer asking for help to do something required of us gets an automatic "YES!" answer. So, if you cannot pray, "I choose to forgive O. U. Didmewrong," then pray, "Lord, please help me have the desire to obey You in forgiveness." And He will! This is an automatic yes. He wants this for you. He helped me. He will help you. 

Item D: I have been forgiven much! This is huge. This changes my perspective. When I stop focusing on what O. U. Didmewrong did to me, and think of how much Jesus has forgiven me, it softens my heart toward those I need to forgive. He has forgiven me everything! How can I not, then, forgive others? "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8) I have freely received forgiveness, and I want to freely give it. How freeing!

Forgiveness is a necessary tool in our overcoming backpack. See Bob? He's pointing to our destination, Overcomer's Peak. There's not really an overcoming backpack. I just now made that up. But you get my point, now, right? Be encouraged! Forgiveness is not impossible. It is within your reach. Ask Him for help. Decide to take a step of obedience and faith. Get that rock out of your shoe. My heart longs for you to walk freely in forgiveness! 

This post is so long, I must bid you farewell. But I do have a forgiveness story that I have permission to share with you. So, I will do that next time. 

I'm praying for you!          

Friday, December 3, 2010

The December Battle

I'm interrupting myself after only one installment of overcoming to bring you this special word:
If December makes you feel like this poor lady, you are not the only one. Every November, I promise myself that this Christmas will be different. I cheerfully declare that I will be organized, efficient, and full of expectant joy. And every December, despite my good intentions, I find a war wages within my breast. Two sides battle within me. Oh, the ferocity! The blood! The guts!

The exhaustion.

The side I root for is the one that gets goosebumps at the thought of Christ, flesh and blood, a precious baby, yet fully God, come to this earth to save all mankind. Oh, the thrill! The wonder! But the other side! Oh, the other side is in such a state. It is in a panic about all that must be accomplished before December 25th. It's almost enough to make me want to sleep the month of December away. It might be kind of fun to wake up in January and say, "So, how did December go?" 

There are moments that shine through the cookies and wrapping paper and blood and guts, though. This morning, the words of Job stilled the battle within, if only for a time. As Job sat in his poor little ash heap, having lost everything, he lamented bitterly, cursing the day he had been born. And then, speaking of himself and God, he said in chapter 9, "If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God's rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more."  

Poor Job! If only...if only. I can almost hear the longing in his voice and feel the pain in his soul! Job's deepest longing is our reality! This is what Christmas is.
The Nativity Story
Sweet Jesus. He is our mediator. He brings God and man together. We can approach God without terror. This is a most precious gift. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time." (1Timothy 2:5-6)

Be still within me, December battle.

 Zion's Daughter, weep no more,
though thy troubled heart be sore;
he of whom the Psalmist sung,
he who woke the Prophet's tongue,
Christ, the Mediator Blest,
brings thee everlasting rest.

In a garden man became
heir of sin, and death, and shame;
Jesus in a garden wins
life, and pardon for our sins;
through his hour of agony
praying in Gethsemane.

There for us he intercedes;
there with God the Father pleads;
willing there for us to drain
to the dregs the cup of pain,
that in everlasting day
he may wipe our tears away.

Therefore to his Name be given
glory both in earth and heaven;
to the Father, and the Son,
and the Spirit, Three in One,
honour, praise, and glory be
now and through eternity.

(from the Oremus Hymnal)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Do Not Be Overcome! The Power of Receiving Love

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)

"...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (words of Jesus, John 16:33)

It is no secret that life is hard. We can get pretty beat up living down here. I've shared my disappointments, and I know you've had yours, too. My turning point came when I decided not to take it lying down any more. I was ready to trade in my self-pity and victim mentality. If the Bible teaches me to overcome evil with good, then I want to fill my arsenal with all the good that He will give me. I know for certain God does not want me to fight evil all by my lonesome with my own makeshift weapons. Rubber bands and balls of paper aren't going to cut it. I need the real deal.
 I need a Barrett M107 Sniper Rifle. This baby makes an AK-47 look like a popgun. Just trust me on this. I have sources.

So what exactly are these weapons of good--these overcomers of evil? And how do we get them? I'm so glad you asked! God has been teaching me some things I can do to overcome evil. They are not your typical weapons, but I'm learning that's par for the course when you follow Jesus. I love how His words and ways always seemed to perplex those who were trying desperately to catch Him in some misdeed. His answers to our toughest questions are not always what we want or expect them to be, but they are always so perfectly fitting to our situations.

I know there are more than seven weapons available to us, but these just happen to be the ones He has been talking to me about. These are the ones that have moved me to the offensive side. And they are helping to release His healing in my mind, my emotions, and my relationships. I am an overcomer with these weapons! 

Love is the first weapon Jesus gave me. It is really the foundation for everything else He has given. Receiving love from God must happen first for any of the other weapons to work right.
Love doesn't sound like much of a weapon, does it? It sounds warm and fuzzy and cute. It sounds like a bunch of bunnies hopping around a meadow full of buttercups. But real love--the God kind of love--is strong and powerful. And learning how to receive His love is changing everything for me. It is a most powerful weapon for overcoming adversity.

But why is love so powerful?

One reason is because it is the number one cure for fear. There simply is no better remedy around. Remember my run-in with this old enemy? I hate fear's guts. It has kept me awake at night. It has stolen my joy. It has made me dread my future. It has rendered me useless to accomplish much of anything.

 "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."(1John 4:18). Love drives out fear! That sounds like a weapon to me. So, I cannot be both full of love and full of fear. This simple little fact is very comforting to me. If I focus on being full of God's love, I don't need to even give fear another thought. You are simply not worth my time, fear. You are not a friend to me, and I am done with you.

Another winning attribute of love is that it covers. You know the rock, paper, scissors game? Paper beats rock because it covers and smothers it, right? In this game, we could pretend that the rock is our sin and pain; love is the paper. Proverbs 12:12 says, "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." Love beats all the bad stuff! This is completely wonderful. God's love is expressed to us in His son, Jesus, and this love covers over all my sins and failures. And all the wrongs done to me? Covered. He's got it covered. Nothing is too horrible to be touched by His love. Do you think this is as fabulous as I do? His love thrills me. 

So, how do we go about receiving His love in our daily lives? I'm glad you asked. One morning as I was wrestling with my list of disappointments, trying to pin it to the floor once again without success, I felt the Lord speaking to my spirit, "Look at it from My point of view." And in that moment I saw how sad it makes Him when I turn my back on his open hands.

I want to be careful not to humanize God, because He is perfect, but He is not without emotion! The Bible is full of evidence of His emotions toward us. This particular morning I imagined what it would be like to give a gift to someone I loved. The gift was a great sacrifice to me, but I offered it willingly because I loved this person so much. But she wouldn't take the gift. She looked at my outstretched arms, the gift in my hands, the love in my eyes, and she turned around and went back to what she was doing. What sorrow I would feel if this really happened! 
The Passion of the Christ
This sorrow is real for the Lord and is multiplied many times over when we reject His love for us. We may even think we are being noble or humble in turning Him down. We may think we can save Him from wasting His love on us, so unworthy are we to receive it. But this simply isn't true! Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. It's too late for us to escape God's love. He already did it. He already loved us. Too late! Try as I might, I just can't make Him not love me. But I can choose not to receive His love. 

The flip side of this, is that you and I can be active receivers of His love. I decided in that moment that I didn't want to be a passive lover anymore. It's no fun being in a relationship with a passive lover. When we love someone, the give and take makes it exciting. My husband loves it when I respond to him. And that's all I will say about that, because this blog is rated G. But God loves it when we respond to His love! And He responds to our responding. And so it goes. Giving and receiving. Back and forth. And this is a called a relationship. Duh, Rachelle! It's so simple, it almost sounds stupid to write it out like this.

By: earl53 at morguefile.com
But I realized how little time I had actually spent just loving and being loved by Him. So here's how I do it. This is my big secret to receiving God's love: I tell Him that I do. That's it. I wake up in the morning and I say, "Lord, You have so much love for me today, and I'm taking it. Go ahead and fill me up. It's mine, so I'll have it. And I'm so thankful. And Lord...I love you back. With the love you give me, I love you right back. Let Your love spill out of me onto the people you put in my path today." And do you know, He loves this! He just wants us to believe Him. When we tell Him that we'll take the love He has for us, it shows Him that we believe His love for us is really real. This is faith! Faith pleases Him. And He responds to our faith with even more goodness. It's overwhelming, I tell you.

So that's it. It all seems too simple to be true. But it is true. I certainly don't want to simplify or minimize any problems you may be facing right now. I know how tangled up things can get. But when I am feeling overwhelmed by life, I find the simplicity of Jesus refreshing and so comforting. Do you remember what Jesus said to Jairus when some people told him his daughter was dead? Mark 5 says that Jesus ignored them and said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe." Just five little words, and yet aren't they powerful?

If you have been struggling with something that has you feeling overwhelmed or afraid, I want to encourage you to believe that your Creator loves you. Don't be afraid. Just believe. Get active in receiving His love for you. Tell Him that you want it. Tell Him you'll take it and thank Him for it. It's yours! It's free! Ask Him to fill you to overflowing with His love. Say, "I am full of the perfect love of God," and pretty soon you're not gonna know what to do with all the love.

Watch out evil. We're overcoming! Weapon number 2 is coming soon.

avandia recall