Friday, December 20, 2013

Do Not Be Afraid....

A few days after Anonymous left me her note asking that I update the blog, I walked into Sophia's class to drop her off.  Up on the board her teacher had a verse she wanted the kids to copy.  I had been praying for Anonymous that morning, struck by one word in her message more than any other:  Scared.  Her fear has weighed on me since I read her comment.  This was the verse on the board:

... “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

Luke 2:10

I stopped short and thought how I have read that verse as long as my memory serves.  I have always read it in context of a conversation the angels had with the shepherds on Christmas night.  For those of you not familiar with the story, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a barn.  They were stuck in those accommodations because they were traveling and every inn was full in which they tried to find a room.  Mary gave birth in a barn with no other help or witness than Joseph and some filthy livestock.  However, Christ's birth was not going to go without a tremendous announcement. God wanted His son to be known!  Angels appeared to the shepherds in the nearby hills.  They were overwhelmed by a chorus of angels announcing His arrival.  Because of the unfathomable entrance the angels made, the first thing they told the simple men was "Do not be afraid."  Makes sense.  They didn't want the men to panic.  They needed them to pay attention so they wouldn't miss the message.  They were told to go find the baby, lying in a manger, wrapped in cloth.  They heard the message and obeyed (now you know why in the nativity scene there is some random guy with a sheep slung over his shoulder).

Anyway, when I read those words this time, they struck me different.  Simply reading "Do not be afraid" brought on a  different meaning.  While this was a conversation the angels had with the shepherds, the message conveyed more to me when I read it.  Quite simply, we aren't made for fear.  God didn't send His son, Jesus, for us to be scared.  He came for us to free from that fear.  He came to free us from this ugly, evil, sad world.   He came to fulfill a promise.  To give us hope.  That hope should give us courage.   I think sometimes our fear prevents us from hearing His message.   He has so much to say....so many good things that He wants for us.  But, we are distracted with all of our perceived needs, wants, and emotions, that we miss all of His tremendous blessings.    When we are afraid it paralyzes us.  It affects everything.  Relationships suffer when we are afraid.  We aren't generous when we are scared.  We don't trust others. We don't extend ourselves and invest in others or situations that would benefit from our giftings.  Our insecurities cripple us.  And when we are in this state, we feel forsaken, alone, and the fear compounds.  We panic.

On top of where our fear leaves us emotionally...and physically...it also prevents us from hearing His message.  So many have asked me over the years if my God is so great, where is He?  You need only look as far as your heart.  If He's not there, I'm betting something else is.   Likely it's filled with other stuff that you are clinging to:  anger, resentment, old hurts, memories, grief, pain, selfishness, pride, a lie or two, regrets, guilt, jealousy....fear.  The list likely goes on.  Try replacing those things with Christ.  Jesus will free us from those things that cripple us.   He loved us enough to come here and save each and every one of us.   If our hearts are filled with Him there isn't room for the other junk. 

Faith can seem so overwhelming and complicated sometimes.  I've talked with many this year that just don't know where to start.  I'm not going to go on and on...even though I could.  For now... this Christmas, my prayer is that we would all take the first step and cling to hope in Christ.   Try to "not be afraid"  and hear His message.   All of it.

With love and Gratitude.....
Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:9-11

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tiding of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
 



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I received your comment today regarding my last post in....ahem...July.   I have to tell you that you were an answer to prayer today.  Last night my stepdaughter, Kami, reminded me (again) that I have not updated the blog and that she is tired of looking at the same post.  I confess.  I am an irresponsible blogger.  It's been a full year and my time seems to get gobbled up with other responsibilities.  I do have moments when I am able to reflect and think.  I come up with some really good ideas.  Unfortunately, the only times I have to myself lately are in the car, on the lawn mower, or on the toilet.  None of those situations is conducive for actually writing down what I am thinking.  And, so, this place has gone neglected.  I digress.

As I said, you were an answer to prayer and an encouragement to me today.  Last night I really felt guilty about not keeping up the blog.  I'm never quite sure what to do with it and I tend to forget that it's even here.  It started out as one thing and ended up being something else.  Other than communicating with others the events in our lives, I didn't really see the point.  I figured most people have moved on from our drama and that I had little of significance to share.  Last night I just asked God what He would have me do with it.  Does this place really matter any longer?  Should I try to carve out time from a full schedule to work on it?  Should I take down the site permanently?   I needed direction.

So, here you are today, Anonymous! You gave me the answer and direction I needed.  I have very few gifts.  I make a pretty good pie crust, I tend to be reliable, I like fixing stuff, and I can write pretty well (according to my audience).  God uses our gifts....whatever they may be.  My collection isn't glamorous, but it's what God gave me to work with.  If telling others about what God is doing in my life and being transparent about my walk with Him gives you hope and lifts your spirits then I will continue.  Because at the end of the day that's what it's all about -- using what little gifts and abilities we have to build each other up and encourage each other.  It's being transparent and honest.  It's sharing God's goodness in our lives and how he redeems each and every one of us.  It's doing His work here....while we're here...and not wasting the life He gave us.

I read your comment from this morning and I can't figure out who you might be.  I wish I knew.  Until I can figure it out I will continue to pray for you, Anonymous.  It sounds like you might be a bit road weary....in need of hope and having your spirits lifted.  There is little I can do about that from where I sit, but what I can tell you is that God used you today.  For whatever reason that prayer from last night was answered swiftly this morning.  For whatever reason I will continue writing in this place.  I haven't figured out how that will happen or where I will find the time, but I'm pretty sure if I pray about it I will get my answer....

With love and gratitude.....

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Comfort

I stole a few quiet minutes for myself this evening.  Life has been heavy and hectic lately and I needed a break.  People find comfort in different things -- some shop, some eat ice cream, some go for a run. The options for stress release are endless.  For me...well...I found comfort tonight in watching the sun set with a quiet companion.  Summer doesn't get much better than this....

 
 
What restores your soul?
 
With love and gratitude.....

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

No Words

I have no words anymore for the constant havoc that cancer causes.  It is a monster that continuously attacks those that we love.  These last few weeks has us on our knees praying for those that supported us in our hour of need.  Please join me in praying for my friends Jen and Sheila.  You know them as the Gift of The Obvious and the Gift of Hospitality

Sheila's updates can be found on Caringbridge HERE.

Jen's story is HERE.

My hope is that I can be the friend to them that they were to me in my darkest hours.  I love these women.  I am so proud of them and their families.  Like I said...there are no more words.  Just pray.

With love and gratitude.....

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Shout Out To My Girl...

My lovely stepdaughter, Kami, reminded me this weekend that I haven't updated the blog in awhile.  She's checked.  She said that looking at the same posting is getting a little old.  Ahem...Sniff.  She suggested I update it and include a shout-out to her....my girl, Kami.  I can call her my girl.  Anything I love is mine and she is much loved.  I digress.

I pondered what to update.  Much of what goes on around here doesn't seem newsworthy.  I did have surgery last week.  It went well and I am up and about.  For those of you hoping that Brian and I will have more kids, you can now give up that nightmare...er....I mean idea.  As perfect as our seven kids are and despite our award winning parenting skills (nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize are forthcoming), we figured we need to enjoy the next phase of life and step out of the limelight.  Babies are now a thing of the past. We are content with what we have and delight in all of our kids.  Refer to paragraph 1.

We have acquired a few new residents in the last three weeks.   We have a couple of new horses, which I'm looking forward to riding if my doctor will ever release me from this forsaken couch.  I digress again.   The boys got their very homely puppy -- her name is Hazel and though she is not very attractive she has won me over.  She is a pistol and shows great promise as a hunting dog.  Until that time she will continue to content herself with tormenting the other dogs, urinating on the patio, and stealing items to hide in her kennel.   My nephew has also come to live with us.  He came to Oregon from California to try out a slower (and I mean much slower) lifestyle.  He is looking for work and a new life up here.  Amongst other goals he wants a pet monkey.  We told him no.  We told him he can't bring anything in the house that eats or poops.  He wanted to know if he could have a girlfriend.  As she would break the eating and pooping rule, we are still deliberating. 

 
Hazel Nut

 
Hazel bluffs Hurley...and wins

 
Luke isn't sure what to think about his ball being stolen

 
All tuckered out....

There always seems to be a lot going on around here -- new stuff, new activities, chores, projects, social stuff.  It can all get really hectic, but our focus is to keep priorities straight.  We don't want to get so distracted with all the world stuff that we miss the important stuff.   Important stuff to me these days is sitting in church with my husband.  We hold hands and soak in the fact that we get to be with our kids, our niece, our nephew, and a huge community of amazing friends.  We get to come home and cook together and visit -- nothing exciting for the kids, but special for Brian and me.  It is such a treat to tease and joke, discuss, and simply hang out.  It's a time to be real and I think I love that most of all.   Important to me is sitting and drinking tea with Kami on the porch,  laughing with Tawny, brushing horses with Julia, reading with Sophie, or talking to Chris about his world views.   It's having good conversations with Adam and Ben.  They just turned 13 and I am so proud of them.  Sure, they are at an awkward junior high age, but I love their hearts and their character.  I'm excited to see them grow up.  Important to me is remembering to tell them those things.    I think most important is being grateful to God every day for the abundance of relationships with which he has blessed us.  I am so grateful for each and every one.

That brings me back to paragraph one -- The shout out.   I owe my girl, Kami, a thank you.  Often times this blog is more for me than anyone else.  It forces me to sit down and think and then organize those thoughts.  It helps me to process how I really feel about the hard things and the good things.  It reminds me of God's goodness and faithfulness in my life.  Face it, four years ago my life was not shaping up to be one of contentment and happiness.  From a world perspective it was sad and tragic.  I get to sit here today (on the forsaken couch) and rethink my blessings.  And, because she is responsible for this post and because she is one of my huge blessings, I get to spotlight Kami.  She needs to know how very proud her Dad and I are of her.  She works hard, she is a peacemaker, she is not selfish, and is generous.  These things do not go unnoticed.  A lot is asked of her...her plate is full...and yet she carries on with grace.  She asks for little, but she needs to know we are always here.  She is an amazing young lady and I'm proud to call her one of my own.

 
Kami and Tawny...so blessed to call them family!
 

With love and gratitude...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Happiest Place on Earth.....

 
We escaped from rainy Oregon this week and headed to....well...rainy California! It wasn't too bad, really. It was a bit cold and dreary the first few days, but the week ended up sunny and warm. We weren't complaining -- we were able to leave work and school behind and have some fun at Disneyland. It was a lot of fun to be together as a family. An added bonus was having John and Sheila join us with their kids. It really made the week special to be with good friends! We got home Saturday and I have to say it is nice to be back in our own beds and hitting the familiar routine. Some highlights of our trip....
 

Our whole crew on Tower of Terror.  The kids rode this thing 9 times!  Sophia went the very last time...quite reluctantly...only after Martin convinced her that it was okay.  Martin is an expert.  He's 5.    He told Sophie he would protect her.  As you can see he is sitting front and center looking as cool as ice while everyone else is in terror!

 
Some pretty fun kids!


 
A little bit of sugar, some face paint, and a bit of sleep deprivation, makes for some pretty wound up kiddos!
 


Sophia tormenting Adam with her driving.  He's trying to "help."
 


Sophie thought being escorted alone around the park by Dad was great.  Only he had the patience to wait in line to meet Minnie!  She thought that was grand!
 



Can't pass up a hug from Pluto....


Waiting...and waiting...and waiting.....for the new Cars ride....


The kids' favorite part of the trip....swimming!

 
The last night in the park did us in!  Too much fun....all done!
 
 
Well, that's about it.  Nothing too deep or profound!  I just have to say it's great being home with friends and family.
 
With love and gratitude....


Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Most Amazing Update

Every morning the kids and I pile in the car and head to school.  We always spend the first part of our drive praying.  This was something we started doing when the boys started kindergarten and it has gotten us through many a tough day over the years.  We pray about the upcoming day, concerns we have, things we are thankful for, and for friends and family that are struggling.

This is going to sound terrible, but I'm tired of praying.  Perhaps it's the weather -- the rain has me worn out and tired.  Maybe I'm just exhausted or catching a bug.  Whatever the lame excuse is, I haven't wanted to pray.  I'm tired of praying for our hurting world, tired of praying for friendships and marriages that are crumbling before our eyes, tired to the point of exasperation of praying for those of our family and friends that are sick and dying.  Tired, tired, tired.  The list never seems to get shorter and nothing ever seems to get better.  From a person that has seen prayers answered in the most miraculous ways, you would think I could have a better attitude, right?  Not so much.

It was with this attitude that we started praying on Tuesday.  The kids took their turns and prayed about those things concerning them most and then it was my turn to close.  For the next few minutes I would typically pray the names and the situations -- there are so many, but if I miss one the kids are sure to chime in and remind me of any situation I overlooked.  On Tuesday, the words just stuck in my throat.  "Hopeless" was all that came to mind.  "Lord," I thought to myself. "We pray earnestly every single day and yet nothing happens.  It's like we are stuck in slackwater and can't move."  I had, in my own mind, given up.  As I sat there silent in the car the kids reminded me it was my turn to pray.  I waffled between my hopeless attitude and the keen sense that my kids are always watching my faith lived out.  Was today they would see their mom give up and tell them it was simply hopeless to pray one more time?  I took a deep breath and dug deep.  I prayed the names and I prayed the situations, and I closed in Jesus's name.  The whole wrestling match left me drained and numb. 

Wednesday morning I got up and checked my email.  There was a Caringbride update from our friends, The Fosters.  We pray for their family daily...sometimes many times daily.  As I read their update the first thing that came to mind was, "Lord, forgive me."  I had lost hope in God...or had been angry with Him....and right before me was proof of his love and faithfulness...and His ability to answer prayers.  I am not going to retell all that happened here.  Anna's version is perfect and miraculous.  You can read their story HERE.

Take time to soak in all she wrote -- read through it a couple of times.  And, if you haven't heard the story before, go back and read the earlier posts on Caringbridge.  The gravity of the situation makes this miracle worth shouting from the rooftops!  After you have processed it all, think about the things you pray about.  Don't give up hope.  There is no hopeless situation.  God is in control....always.....even when we are empty and hopeless ourselves.  

Keep praying!  With love and gratitude....