Thursday, December 30, 2010

1000 gifts: Christmas edition

The 1000 gifts is a list of all the gifts God has given me that I'm thankful for. December is always the busiest but most wonderful month. So many blessings.

115. A cowboy version of the Nutcracker
Thursday Dec. 2nd: went to see the Nutcracker ballet, a local performance by the University of Wyoming and Laramie dancers. This was Dreamer's first ballet and she was so excited. Blaze saw the Nutcracker four years ago but didn't remember much. The choreographer added some unique western touches to the ballet, which Mom and I loved! For instance, Clara's family lived at the Ivinson Mansion, the beautiful old Victorian mansion here in Laramie. Herr Drosselmeyer was decked out in the traditional cape, but he also had a cowboy hat and cowboy boots! For the scene of the fight between the Nutcracker's soldiers and the mice, the soldiers were costumed as the US Cavalry and the mice were decked out as cattle rustlers. Fun!

116. 3-D glasses
Friday Dec 3: Celebrating the twins' 4th birthday. I took all four girls to the movie theater to see Disney's latest: "Tangled" (a retelling of the Rapunzel story). It was the twins' first time in a movie theater, and they behaved themselves beautifully. It was fun to see all four girls staring up in awe at the screen with their 3-D glasses on.

117. Balloons in the bathtub.
After the movie, we celebrated with my parents. The twins love balloons so much, I got them a bunch of the fancy mylar balloons (plus their real gifts, of course, but the balloons were the biggest hit). For the next couple days, the twins played with those balloons nonstop. I would even find them in their beds, fast asleep, with their hands still clutching the balloon strings. The ultimate though was when I started a bath for the twins, and came back a couple minutes later to find them in the tub with all of their balloons crammed into the tub with them. I wish I'd gotten a picture!

118. Rotating Christmas trees.
Saturday Dec. 4: Took the girls to the Christmas festival at the University Art Museum where they have a Christmas tree auction and Christmas music and singing every year. We love to look at all the trees up for auction, each is decorated with a different theme. This year I was particularly captivated by a a beautiful rotating Christmas tree. A rotating tree! I actually put a bid down on it, but was thankful that I didn't win it because we really couldn't afford it.

119. Two skinny trees wired togehter = beautiful Christmas tree
When we got back from the tree auction, I planned to buy a Christmas tree as I usually do at the store that sells them here in town. But B. wanted to go up into the mountains and cut one down. It's an awful lot of work, because you have to plow through deep snow in the forest. But he talked me into it by offering to hook up the trailer so we could take the horses up and have them plow through the snow for us! The girls loved this idea. Blaze rode Spring, I rode Ally, and B. rode Folly pulling the three younger girls behind him in the sled. Unfortunately, we ran out of daylight and ended up having to pick trees (one for us, one for mom and dad) by flashlight. When we got them home into some proper light, I realized they were both so skinny and sparse we'd only be able to hang half our ornaments on them. Which gave me an idea: why not wire the trees together? B. thought I was crazy, but he knows better than to argue with me when I'm in Christmas-decorating mode. So we wired those trees together and the result was a beautiful Christmas tree - you can't even tell it's actually two trees unless you look really closely! (only problem was now I'd have to find another tree for mom and dad).

120. New variations on old Christmas songs
Sunday Dec. 5: went to the annual University Christmas concert with Mom. This is another tradition we absolutely love and never get tired of. They always manage to find some new Christmas song to add to the repertoire or to find or variations on old beloved classics.

121. Surviving the first few months of violin lessons
Dec 8: Blaze's violin concert. She started taking lessons this fall, but she's not to the stage where its enjoyable to listen to yet! However, with all the other first year students combined, plus a few experienced teachers, they managed to sound okay!

122. Surfing in the car
Blaze tells me that she's getting really good at "surfboarding." What? We live in Wyoming, no where near the ocean. She grins and explains that surfboarding is what she calls it when we get into the mini-van to go somewhere, and I ask her to help the twins get their seatbelts on. A lot of times she's still standing when I start pulling out, so she has to keep her balance!

123. Finally a good Italian restaurant in Laramie
Dec 10: We celebrated B's birthday a week early with his family after Thanksgiving, and then a week late with his friends here in Laramie. I got a babysitter for the girls and took him out to the new Italian restaurant that opened up downtown. I told him it was just the two of us, but when he got to the restaurant two of his good friends, Jonlee and Bob and their wives were there waiting for us.

124. Coveting nutcrackers while Christmas shopping
Dec 11: Shopping down in Ft. Collins with Mom, helping her pick out her Christmas tree. I found some nutcrackers I just couldn't resist adding to my collection. This years additions: a bear nutcracker, a jester nutcracker, and a dandy nutcracker (decked out in velvet and lace with a feather in his cap). Mom also saved me from a potentially distressing incident - I won't go into details - but just wanted to say, thank you Mom.

125. Drinks in fancy hotel lobbies
Dec 12: Mom and Dad wanted to celebrate B's birthday too so we had a third "party" for him - they took us out to dinner at the Hilton. The best part though was after dinner, sitting by the fireplace in the lobby, Mom and I drinking tea and B. and Dad drinking Black Russians. I could tell my Dad was completely enjoying himself, which is very rare these days. We brought the twins along for a change (it's impossible to eat out with all four kids and not feel like a freak show, but just two of them is fun). The twins had a ball running around the lobby, re-arranging the magazines and charming the ladies at the registration desk into giving them cookies.

126. Cowboy bubble baths
Dec 14: My office's annual dinner and white elephant gift exchange - we got a chance to unload a couple unused presents from last year (in fact, I recycled a cutting board from a party two years ago that I never used). This year I traded for a Santa filled with chocolate, and poor B. got stuck with a wicker vase. Unfortunately, our church white-elephant exchange was the same night, and we showed up a bit too late to join in. However I did get to check out some of the gifts. My favorite was a jar of beans with a home-made tag attached to it: "directions for a cowboy bubble bath: cook the beans, eat the beans, get in the tub, relax and.... let go." !!!!

127. The Last Straw: a Christmas story
Dec 18: I finally finished my home-made advent calendar for the girls (yes, only 18 days late). But that worked out okay because each girl got to pick out an advent piece from the pockets and hang it in or around the manger. Each day came with its own Bible verse, and Blaze and I took turns reading them. We also read a wonderful little Christmas story called the "Last Straw" which reminded us all about the true spirit of Christmas - doing things for each other and for Jesus.

128. Going crazy at outlet stores
Dec 22: we drive down to Denver to pick up Stars for Christmas. We took her to the huge Colorado Mills mall, where there was a Guess factory outlet store - her favorite store. She went crazy in there and came out with four different tops but fortunately they were all on sale. It was fun to see her excitement - I remember being the same way at that age. It's all about the clothes! An extra bonus: there was real carousel in the food court at the mall. Blaze and Dreamer love riding carousels, and I do too!

129. Watching your stepdaughter pick out special jewelry for her 16th birthday
Dec 24: Stars' 16th birthday. I had a credit at Alexander's Fine Jewelry store, and so I took Stars there and let her pick out some high-quality jewelry. She had to text pictures of her top two choices to her friends to get their input (grin), then finally picked a beautiful silver key necklace (I've been noticing lately that keys are the latest in necklace fashions). Then we did some other last minute Christmas shopping. At home I made her a triple chocolate birthday cake and we sang her happy birthday and she blew out her candles. Annie tried to blow out the candles too!

130. My daughters' very own Christmas stories
Christmas! B. got up early to help me finish wrapping presents. Mom and Dad showed up at 9 am with bags and bags of more gifts and the fun began! A few highlights: Mom and Dad bought the girls an "adventure play tent" complete with a tunnel the girls could wiggle through. I got them a deluxe Thomas the Train set of tracks with all sorts of gadgets on it. B. got me a beautiful Breyer horse. Blaze and Dreamer each gave Grandma and Grandpa a homemade "book" they'd made - Blaze wrote and illustrated her own story, called the "Christmas Horse" and I helped Dreamer write her story, "The Nutrcacker and the Zebra." I gave Mom and Dad a calendar that I made with picture collages of the girls from 2001 to present, along with some of the cute things they'd said and done.

131. Sledding with horses
After we all recovered from gift-opening, B. got the horses out and pulled the girls on the sled behind the horses for fun. Stars and Dreamer really got a kick out this, trying to hang on while B. takes sharp turns to see if he can toss them!

132. Personal love letters from God
Sunday, the day after Christmas - B. makes me mad by going hunting instead of going to church. But Stars surprises me by actually getting up in time for church. A wonderful message. I especially liked the analogy Pastor used when he talks about how the Bible doesn't make any sense until we receive the Holy Spirit, and then it's like a love letter from God. Until then though, it's like "opening someone else's mail" - perfect description! I remember trying to read the Bible before I got saved, and I was so frustrated by it!

133. Getting a secure job.
B. starts his new job on Monday morning! Yay he finally has a job and we are both very excited about it. Hopefully we won't have as much financial stress now. He is working for the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation, doing snow plowing and highway maintenance, and calling in road conditions. He thinks it will suit him well and there is opportunity for advancement (and also lots of overtime during snow storms). He will work three weeks on the early shift, from 5 am to 1pm, then three weeks on the regular shift, from 8 am to 4pm, then back to the early shift.

134. B said his first day on the job went very well - though he was rather amused when his alarm went off at 4 am and he came downstairs only to find that Stars was still up - texting and Facebooking with her friends. She claimed that she'd gotten up early to wish him well for his first day of work, but he knew better! She's been up late every night and sleeping in until 10 or 11 every morning. We have also enjoyed giving her a "hard time" about her first boyfriend.

135. When your four year old is a charmer and a diva
Stars and Starlet really hit it off – Starlet is such a charmer. She brought Stars a hairbrush and ask her to braid her hair. We were commenting on how Starlet was such a charmer and Starlet overheard and got all dramatic, heaving a big sigh and covering her face like she was "above it all" – just more proof what a little diva she is!

136. Tragedy can bring you closer
Some very sad news, but even in sadness it possible to find a blessing. Stars' Granny (her mom's mom) has been fighting cancer for over a year and half, and finally came to the end of her battle. Stars' mom really wanted her to come home when she realized that time was getting short, so Stars ended up heading back Tuesday morning (she was originally supposed to go back January 1st). Her Granny died Wednesday morning. It was a blessing that she passed away peacefully, at home surrounded by her family. I also thought it was neat that Stars wanted to be there for her mom, because she knew how hard it was for her. It also gave us an opportunity for us to pray together as a family before Stars left.

137. The Three Sweet-tooth Gnomes
This wonderful week off from work between Christmas and New Year's has given me lots of time to relax and catch up on my journal/blog and my writing. I wrote a short story for a writing contest (about the gnomes that haunt my building at work - how else can you explain the odd behavior of our elevator?) and also started working on my NaNoWriMo project again - I wrote over 2000 words yesterday! But more importantly, I have been spending time in the Word everyday, something I had really slacked off on during the busy-ness before Christmas. I am doing Beth Moore's Breaking Free study, and getting some wonderful spiritual insights out of it.

My WT (wonderful thing) this week is Isaiah 43:10:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1000 gifts: Thanksgiving edition

The 1000 gifts is a list of all the gifts God has given me that I'm thankful for.

105. the Buzz Lightyear Spanish Button
After watching Toy Story 3, I posted on Facebook: "ladies, wouldn't it be nice if our husbands had a "Spanish mode" button like Buzz Lightyear? When Buzz got switched to Spanish mode, he suddenly turned into a sweet-talking Latin-dancing romantic fool! A friend on Facebook replied: "Personally I think they should come with GPS locators so when they wonder off when you are out with them, it's easier to find them!" Another friend posted: "I would love the French button too!" I added another comment: "while we are at it, how about an Italian button" (why not have a guy that can speak all the romantic languages? ;)

106. Amy Grant's song "Better Than A Hallelujah"
The video made me cry. I love this song! It's worth watching on YouTube.

107.  Horses trained to dance with bulls
Beautiful and heartbreaking in an entirely different way is this video of a famous horse trained to fight bulls in these Portuguese fashion. It is basically torturing the bull, but you can see why people love it: the action of the horse is absolutely breathtaking. I love this horse's name: "De Orpheo a Merlin de Rafi a Pablo"

108. Dogs aren't the only ones who mark car tires
At my friend Treva's birthday party, I ran into some old friends I hadn't seen for a while: Pete and Debbie. Somehow I got Pete to talking about how and Debbie got together. He said the reason why she went out with him is because he scared all the other interested parties away. In fact, he "marked her car" so that everyone would know she was his girl. I about died laughing.

109. Dragons on Facebook
My friend Jim posted this on my Facebook page: "Please put this as your status if you know someone who has been eaten by dragons. Dragons are nearly unstoppable and, in case you didn't know, they can breathe fire. 60% of people won't copy and paste this because they have already been eaten by dragons. 38% of people are sitting in the shower armed with fire extinguishers, and the remaining 2% are awesome and will repost this. Happy Gobble Day!" He knows I have a great love of dragons... but its also a spoof on those earnest Facebook requests to re-post some dramatic fact or event that we think everyone should know about it!

110. "Just beat them with your cane"
We drove to South Dakota to spend Thanksgiving with B's parents and his brother and sister's families. My sister and brother-in-law, Monica and Tyler, helped me plan a surprise 40th birthday for B. We bought a bunch of gag gifts and "Over the Hill" balloons. But the best decorations were the posters that my nieces Taryn and Breanna made, with sayings like "if they tease you about your age, just beat them with your cane."

111. Exploding birthday cakes
And the birthday cake - oh, the birthday cake! Tyler set four rat traps in a cake pan and then covered them with cake batter and baked them. Then we made B. cut the cake, of course. He sliced into the cake with a funny look ("doesn't feel like it got baked all the way, or something") He had it all sliced up, and still nothing had happened. Then Monica gave it a few more probes with a knife, trying to get it go off. Finally after we'd pretty much given it up as a failure, the traps started going off and flinging cake across the room. B. didn't get hit, but he was surprised!

112. A pinochle "consultant"
One of my husband's family traditions when we all get together is to play partner pinochle, but this year I refused to play because the game just gets too cutthroat for me. Of course everyone harassed me all weekend about not playing! Tyler even kidnapped my laptop and held it hostage to try to force me to play. So I kidnapped his laptop in return. I assured everyone that I was more than happy to be a pinochle "consultant" instead of playing myself. A "consultant" of course looks at every body's cards and then drops hints about what they might be holding.

113. Finishing NaNoWriMo right before the deadline on November 30
...for my third win. I'm so excited about this novel. It's a love story that I got the idea for over12 years ago. It's finally coming together now that I found a historical setting for it at the end of the Roman Empire.

114. Getting a friend to do NaNoWriMo with you
This year, my friend Nicole joined me for NaNoWriMo and finished her book about genies - I can't wait to read it! (I still have 1/3 of my book left to write, but then we will exchange manuscripts).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

1000 gifts: fall edition

The 1000 gifts is a list of all the gifts God has given me that I'm thankful for.

91. Stars falling in love with a new horse
Stars finally got her horse sold after trying for over a year (for twice as much her family originally paid for her - all the hard work with training paid off!) She needed a taller horse because she's gotten so tall, almost 5 foot 9 inches. We were able to contribute some money to help buy her new horse. Roy is a 16.2 hands tall Quarter Horse and he has an impressive show record in both English and Western pleasure and equitation - Stars is thrilled! Unfortunately show season is over for the year, but watch out for this pair next spring!

92. A palomino horse for the girls
To help purchase Star's horse, B. sold one of the horses he trained for a decent profit (though not quite as impressive as Star's profit). He started looking for a new "investment" horse and found a 7 year old palomino mare that the owner had been trying to sell for a long time. He got her for a mere $800 (registered name "Political Whistler"). B. gave her a what I thought was a wonderful stable name: "Spring" (a breath of fresh air). The mystery to us is why we got her so cheap; she was supposedly a problem horse but B. rode her several times and couldn't discover her problem. So he let Blaze start riding her, and she's turned out to be a great horse for her. The kids were so excited - they've been asking for a palomino ever since Stars brought her palomino horse to stay with us a couple years ago. The twins will still look out the window at the paddock and cry out "Palo-mino!" if they see Spring.

93. Top 10 things overheard at the dinner table that show your child is becoming a pirate
Found this at funny website, (thankyou, Jess Lawson)
#9 "I've buried me treasure in the mashed potatos"
#5 "I'll need another ration of grog if you expect me to eat these peas."
#4 "If I eat all my food, can I plunder the neighbors before I go to bed?"

94. Is that where the Indian shot you?
Gracie was flirting her very best and showing off her bellybutton to our friends and Danny says "oh, is that where the Indian shot you?" I've never heard that saying before, it must be a western thing but it still cracks me up!

95. J.K. Rowling's speech at Harvard's commencement
A great quote from J.K. Rowling: ‎"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default." From her speech at Harvard's 2008 commencement. This was an amazing inspirational speech, I have a whole new respect for J.K. Rowling as a person, instead of just as a bestselling author.

96. Hogwarts vs. Harvard
On the lighter side regarding Rowling and Harry Potter, I found a new quote to love: "you pick books over television, libraries to malls, e-books to PSPs and given the choice, YOU'D CHOOSE HOGWARTS OVER HARVARD EVERY SINGLE TIME." (This is from T.H. Mafi's blog,; she blogs the funniest analogies and stories about being a writer struggling to get published).

97. Building enough bookshelves
Yet another wonderful quote: “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” Anna Quindlen

98. A new kind of sibling: the "brother-sister"
Starlet tells her sitter that she has a brother. "Who's your brother?" Heather asks. "My sister! She's my brother-sister!"

99. When three year olds mix up names
Serious sometimes gets mixed up and calls my mom "Grandpa" and my dad "Grandma"

100. A new road sign featuring Gandalf
Road signs like these would make long trips so much more interesting:

101. the Bellagio fountain show
In early September, my work sent me to Vegas for training; I was amazed by the Bellagio fountain show. After the training, I was able to spend the evening and the next day with Dianna and her kids. They took me to see the Valley of Fire, fantastic sandstone formations.

102. Integrated remote polling devices
At the end of September, my work also sent me and a co-worker to Orlando for a conference. I didn't actually get off the hotel grounds, though. I was tempted to go see Harry Potter World, but it wouldn't have been much fun by myself. However I did enjoy a couple evenings relaxing by the elaborate pool and garden. A half-mile long lazy river snaked around the entire pool/garden area, complete with pretty arching bridges and misters. My co-worker Shawn and I gave a joint presentation on our project related to geospatial data standards. The fun things about this presentation was that we used powerpoint with integrated remote polling devices. We got to poll the audience just like in "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" and then the software would instantly produce a graph of the results in our powerpoint. So cool!

103. Fall colors at Kebler Pass, Colorado
 By the time I got back from Orlando, the fall colors had already reached their peak in Laramie. I was eager for our traditional fall-color drive. This year I mapped out a route for us in central Colorado (past years we've gone to Estes Park or Aspen Alley in Wyoming). I did some research on the web to find a new area to visit and found this amazing website, which listed the top five or six fall color drives in Colorado. We drove down to Steamboat Springs and spent the night in a hotel there. The next day we drove south to Paonia and then over Kebler Pass to Crested Butte. This pass goes through the biggest stand of aspen trees in Colorado, and even though we hit past peak color, it was still amazing. From Crested Butte, we took a beautiful little forest road that ran alongside the Taylor River. We stopped and had lunch right along the river, cooking steak and hotdogs over a small bonfire. Then we continued up the road to Cottonwood Pass, which is one of the highest passes in Colorado (12,119 ft). The views from this pass of the Sawatch Range (which include Mts Princeton, Harvard and Yale as well as the highest Colorado mountain, Mt Elbert) rival the amazing views from Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

104. A river baptism with bagpipes
Absolutely unheard of in Laramie: no snow for halloween. The girls loved trick or treating of course, but this is what I loved: after church, a young boy Blaze's age (9 years old) gave his testimony and got baptized in the Laramie river. Extra special: a bagpiper present to celebrate by playing Amazing Grace. I eagerly hope for the day when I see my girls get baptized, because that will mean they have a testimony of coming to know Jesus as their savior.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

1000 gifts: a VERY late summer edition

The 1000 gifts is a list of all the gifts God has given me that I'm thankful for, to live out the command "give thanks in all things" (1 Thess. 5:18) in my daily walk.

76. No snow in September
Up until just this week it still felt like summer, which is very unusual for high-altitude Wyoming. In fact, September and the first week of October were sunnier and warmer than June! For the first time in 15 years, we didn't get any snow in September. Usually we get a little hissy-fit of snow, not enough to frost anything to death, just enough to remind us all that Wyoming weather is fickle.

Here's a re-cap of some of my blessings from this summer:

77. Fireworks and French silk ice cream
I'm so lucky, I always get fireworks on my anniversary! (July 4th, 11 years) And oh, Dreyers must have had ME in mind when they came up with French Silk ice cream. Heavenly! (and it's light too)

78. Backyard pets
My youngest, Serious, told the ladies at daycare that she has lots of animals at home. Horses, ducks, Blazes and Dreamers (e.g. older sisters).

79. "These aren't the droids you're looking for"
Going to see the Sorcerer's Apprentice with my stepdaughter. Still laughing over "these aren't the droids you're looking for" - any movie that references Star Wars and choreographs lightning is way cool. We both love the song “Secrets” by One Republic. My stepdaughter also rode with us on one of our mountain trail-rides that I love so much, and she said she really enjoyed it, too. She's not a big fan of Wyoming (because of our fickle weather) but she was very impressed by our mountains.

80. My best friend dating my husband's best friend.
One of my best-friends has been dating one of my husband's best friends (and we totally didn't try to set this up). Once I got over the initial "wow, that's really weird, I just don't see them together", I was really pleased by this development, and sincerely hope it works out...

81. Finding lost items you've been searching a long time for.
Found my glasses that were missing for 3 weeks. Even better, found a videotape of the twins first year that had been missing for nearly two years! (I cried over that one a few times). You know how it got found? The twins got into the pile of videos and dvds behind the TV and made a huge mess. And in the process, unearthed the missing tape. So sometimes huge messes are blessing!

82. Debating lordship salvation vs. Free Grace
I got into a rather deep and potentially explosive theological discussion with another dear friend of mine (maid of honor at my wedding). If you are familiar with opposing Free Grace and Lordship Salvation points of view, you'll know that this was a very heart-felt and emotional debate, but I'm happy to say our friendship survived and I feel like I learned some good things out of it. At some point I may try to blog about it, but it's not an easy subject. In fact, I'm not even going to state which side of the debate that I'm on. I'm not extremist about anything; I'm always open to other people's points of view.

83. Avatar in 3-D
My daughters Blaze (9) and Dreamer (6) wanted to see the Avatar Special Edition so bad that they paid for their own movie tickets out their allowances. Blaze loves this movie so much she asked for a bow and arrow set for her birthday. Some people might read this and gasp "she's listing this as a blessing??" Should I be worried that my kids love a violent science fiction movie with strong pantheistic themes? I would be, except the movie has been a source of great discussion with my daughters. A great teaching tool, actually. They actually know the C.S. Lewis arguments that show the strengths of Christianity versus pantheism.

84. My "Give it to God" list from 2006/2007
I found my journal from the months before and after the twins were born. I had started a list called "Give it to God List" and there were some major things on that list: first, my fear - would I be able to love these originally unwanted twins, esp. when I found out they were girls and we were hoping for at least one boy; then when they were so premature and Gracie had some issues and worrying for her health and development; then the insurance not paying for my ambulance flight and the twins' ambulance back to Laramie... and others. All answered. All taken care of. God is so good.

85. Tofu = Toad Food
As I'm teasing my husband about how he should try tofu, he comes up with a great alternative name: toad food. I loved the look on his face as he exclaims, "my roping buddies would never respect me again if I ate that stuff."

86. Queen of Quickbooks
The Lord knows I hate doing the books for my husband's business and He mercifully gave me five years off from doing them. This summer I finally came to terms with His calling back into this part of being a helpmeet to my husband. And, surprise - surprise! Once I got started, I found I actually enjoyed being the Queen of Quickbooks again. Sort of.

87. Horny toad lizards
Blaze went with me on one of my early morning walks and we discovered a baby horny toad (which is actually a lizard). Blaze was so excited and I have always thought lizards were cute, even before the Geico Gecko became popular. We put it in a tank with some grass and water and kept it for a couple days before letting it go again.

88. Building a rock garden
My husband helped me re-landscape our front yard, collect rocks for a rock-garden, and lay sod. It was fun to watch his expertise with his backhoe, and to hear his compliments after I finished setting the rocks and planting the flowers. The picture above is of our four beautiful little women in front of my new rock garden.

89. Hoping for healing in relationships
We had a couple very touch-and-go situations develop this summer - situations that could have turned into real family disasters. But we took them to prayer, and God took care of the situations. We are still praying for healing in relationships between certain extended family members, but there have been little drops of hope along the way.

90. "Love Like Crazy" by Lee Brice
My husband asked me if I could look up this song on YouTube This is one of his favorite songs and he wanted me to hear it. I really can't go into the details of our relationship as to explain why I list this as a blessing, but I will say that I have seen some remarkable developments in my husband this summer that I am still amazed by.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Life goals and laundry

I came across another writer's website where she posted about her goals for the summer and what she'd accomplished.

Which made me sigh. First of all, because I guess I have to admit summer is over, now that school has started again. And second of all, because my goals seem to have all slipped away. (But please don't think this is a gloomy post. I did have a wonderful summer. And it still feels like summer, despite the school buses causing traffic jams again).

I set myself a bunch of goals at the beginning of the year. Really good goals. Like spending more time with God and spending more time sharing what I've learned about God with my kids. And losing weight and writing more and not always showing up 10 minutes late to everything.

I should know better! When have I ever kept working on my new year's resolutions past February? Why would this year be different? Why would INCREASING my number of goals actually make think I had a better chance of accomplishing them?

I came across another post, Goals are Dumb, and I think this guy had the right idea (if may be not the best title). Hope he doesn't mind me quoting:

I know goals help people and are probably not at all bad. In fact they might be necessary in some situations.

I just don’t think Jesus really had goals in the sense of accomplishment. That’s what I mean when I say goals here. I feel like usually when we talk about goals its some new accomplishment to strive for. Now there’s nothing wrong with living like that. I mean I do every day probably.

I just think that Jesus lived differently.

Not that surprising to think that he lived differently. But even now I know some of you are totally disagreeing with a lot of what I’m saying.

Before you do that though, take a second and just think are you making Jesus out to be who you want him to be, or who He was and is.

Jesus lived a life completely led by the Spirit, at least thats what it seems like to me. I hear pastors and speakers say this some times too.

Jesus didn’t come and say by the time I die I want to feed five thousand people. Maybe he did. But I think He just listened to what God was telling him to do.

I want a life like that.

Contradictory huh? My goal is be completely led by the Spirit and thus having no goals because I am too busy doing what God is asking me to do.

The great thing about this is I know that when I let this happen, that a lot of the goals I have now will probably just come to pass.

A couple weeks ago, I came to the same conclusion myself. No, I didn't cross out my nine original goals. In fact I printed them out and hung them on my bathroom mirror. But this time what I did was circle the first one.

Spend more time with God.

That's the only one I'm working on right now. Trying to listen to God more about what He wants me to do.

And oh, I should mention the laundry part of it. Here's another great post, Striving Laundry, on kind of the same idea.

What do you think about setting goals?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

1000 gifts - wonderful books edition

Warning, this a ridiculously long post! I really don't expect anyone to read it in entirety. Just skim my list of wonderful books, and check out a few of my many links if anything looks intriguing. I haven't posted in a while, so I just got a little carried away.

Can't believe it's almost July! Here in Wyoming, at 7200 ft, summer has only just found us, but the good part of that is it never gets miserably hot and humid here. It's a gorgeous summer, but too quickly flying by. As result I don't post as much because I'm so busy outside trying to soak up every delicious bit of summer. This picture is of my two older girls with their dear friend Lori, daughter of my dear friend Karen. It's taken at the beautiful gardens at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs.

But I don't want to neglect my 1000 gifts list, because it's such a blessing compiling it and sharing it. The 1000 gifts is a list of all the gifts God has given me that I'm thankful for, to live out the command "give thanks in all things" (1 Thess. 5:18) in my daily walk. I've been reading so many good books lately, I thought it would be a good theme for this part of the list. Especially since I just won my first book (at a writer's/reader's website), was given my first two books to review, and got my first two signed books!

61. Lighting a fire again in marriage can be more than you bargain for
At the Christian writers' workshop at Glen Eyrie I was at earlier in June, I met Megan DiMaria, an author with two newly published books. She was working on the plot for her third book, which is a about time-travel - right up my alleys since the story I'm writing has a time-twist in it. She gave me her first published book, as long as I promised to tell people about it. Which I am glad to do! It's called Searching for Spice and it's beautifully written, a down home story about rediscovering love in marriage. I highly recommend it. I will devote an entire post to this book here soon, but wanted to include it here as part of my 1000 gifts.

62. Meeting an author and buying her book
At the same writers' workshop, I spent most of my time workshopping with another Christian author, Kathryn Mackel, and she had lots of writing wisdom for our wonderful group of about 15 ladies. I had never read anything by her before, so I picked one of her books for sale (hard to choose, but this one had a horse on the cover): the Hidden. And Kathy signed it for me. I think I would call it a suspense novel (there are several mysterious deaths and a lot of mystery and tension) with a bit of supernatural wonder in it, not to mention several beautiful Arabian horses. The quality of writing was excellent. I highly recommend this book too and will be definitely be getting more of Kathy's books.

63. Brainstorming ideas a writers' retreat
Which reminds me, another gift are those same ladies mentioned above, my fellow writers/dreamers and followers of Christ. They had some absolutely amazing writing projects and ideas. It was so neat to hear excerpts and brainstorm with them. I have all their emails, and hope to stay in touch.

64. Discovering the Fire in Fiction
Picked up another book at the workshop, the Fire in Fiction, by Donald Maass. The author wasn't present to sign it, but so many people were talking about this book I'm excited to read it.

65. Discovering how to win books
I won a book at Steena Holmes's blog, Chocolate Reality, (don't you love that name?) another fellow writer and member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) - which I will be joining shortly after hearing so many good things about this organization at the workshop. There are so many blogs where you can win books and other goodies, all you have to do is leave a comment and you are entered! I won The One That I Want, by Allison Winn Scotch. Okay, I haven't even gotten it yet in the mail, but I'm still so excited!

66. Harry & David Moose Munch chocolate bar
This isn't a book, but I also won a gift box of fancy chocolates from another blog, YA Highway (a blog for Young Adult writers). The chocolate showed up a couple days ago, and it's almost gone already. I've never tried Harry & David's chocolates because they are so expensive, but I must say now that they are WORTH EVERY PENNY. Well, it was prize - I didn't pay anything, but WOW. The Moose Munch chocolate bar was the most amazing, silky, delicious chocolate I ever tried. And I had tried A LOT of fancy chocolate.

67. Books that get your kids to think about Jesus
My first book that I received free to review is a darling little children's picture book called Our Home is like a Little Church, by Lindsey Blair and Bobby Gilles. This book is being promoted by Ministry-To-Children, a wonderful site with TONS of resources for teaching children about the Gospel and God's Word. Okay, this book doesn't get requested as often by my girls as the Big Red Barn (Margaret Wise Brown), but it always starts some good talk with my two older girls. The book is beautifully written in simple verse, presents the Gospel clearly and the importance of walking with God, and takes less than five minutes to read.

68. Another personally signed book from Karen
Another signed book I'm in the process of reading now is Two Days Longer, by Beth Lueders - "discovering more of God as you wait for Him". My friend Karen down in Colorado Springs, whom I stayed with while attending the workshop, gave me this book for my birthday - she met the author through a Bible study and got it signed for me. This will be another book I plan to devote a full post too. Let's just say pretty much every book in this list will get a post. If I ever find time.

69. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Knowing God, by J.I. Packer. My friend Heather gave this to me for my birthday (my friends know how much I love books!) What a classic! Yup, this one is also on the list for a post of its own. Oh, and I just remembered that I meant to post more about another amazing book from Heather, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller. This book inspired me to set some pretty lofty goals/resolutions for this year. The year is half over now, and I need to do an update on my goals soon.

70. CS Lewis on the The Weight of Glory
Heather lent me this collection of essays by my FAVORITE AUTHOR - believe it or not I still haven't read all of his books! I loved it so much I bought the book as a gift for another book-loving friend, Nicole. I need to buy a copy for myself so I can give Heather's copy back to her! This book is SO GOOD and I planning on devoting at least TWO POSTS to it, one about the essay "Transposition" and another on the essay "Weight of Glory." I've already mentioned the book in another post about why myths appeal to us so much, using a quote from the essay "Is Theology Poetry?" All of the essays in this book are beautiful, unique, and thought-provoking as only C.S. Lewis can be.

71. Still Life, by Mary Jenson.
I heard on Chip MacGregor's blog that Mary was one of best Christian writers he'd ever encountered, and the description of her writing so intrigued me that I looked her up on-line and found this book for $.01 (plus S&H of course... but still, who could resist?) "One freckled apple on a china plate. A chipped white pitcher. A blue cloth draped in a graceful swirl. Like a still-life painting, a women's soul longs for tranquility in a busy world." That back-cover blurb was such a mix of poetry and longing that I knew at once I would love this book. It'll get it's own post, absolutely.

72. Evidence Not Seen, by Darlene Deibler Rose.
Nicole has raved about this book for years, and I finally tied her down until she promised to lend it to me (kidding). Your heart will break for this idealistic young woman as she sets off for Indonesia and Papau New Guinea with her new husband, to share the light of the Gospel - only to have World War II intervene in their plans. She spends five years in Japanese prison camps, separated from her husband, who eventually dies in prison. But her strong faith in God eventually wins over the prison camp commander. He becomes a believer! Everything about this story amazed me. Just a short snippet to give you an idea of the love and beautiful expression of Darlene:

Anyone can babble along in Pasar (market) Malay after a few week's study, but proper Indonesian is beautiful, without harsh gutturals. To hear the language well-spoken is like listening to symphony played upon the instrument of words - like enjoying a Renoir painted with a brush of fluency, a masterpiece of lights and shadows.

73. The first book my daughter locked herself in room to read.
Okay, I lied. More about books, but I'm lumping them together here as part of the gift that has been a summer reading program for my girls. Restricting the girls to just one movie a week and making them keep up with the library’s summer reading program was really hard at first. Dreamer is always quick to grab a book – but Blaze grumbles and rolls her eyes. However, three weeks into our new reading/no movie policy, I think she is finally getting used to the idea and starting to have fun. She read 54 pages of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" today, in 50 minutes!!!! A new record! She has also discovered read-a-long audio books at the library and really loves those, where she can listen to the story and read at the same time. I stopped reading out-loud to the girls for a while this spring - depression and stress got the better of me! - but I have started this special time with my kids again this summer with reading the Bible one night, and a chapter from the Lightning Thief (by Rick Riordan) the next night... then back to the Bible the following night.

74. Library fairies, talking wishing wells and teacup sail boats
 I have also been charmed by some of the picture books the girls have picked out at the library. When I’m Sleepy by Jane R Howard is about a little girl who likes to imagine curling up to sleep, cat-sized, with her kitty, or baby-bird sized in a downy nest; in a hollow log hugged by a raccoon, or tucked into a bear hug in a bear den; sleeping standing up like a giraffe or drifting through the ocean like a sleeping whale. Claire and the Unicorn by B.G. Hennessy is a story about a girl whose stuffed unicorn turns into a real unicorn and carries her into a whimsical fairytale world with a teacup sail boat, a tower sitting in the clouds, lollipop trees, a library fairy that lives in a wood with bookshelves carved in tree trunks, frogs and swans with crowns, a fairy godmother that practices magic in a pumpkin patch (making pumpkin tea pots, dresses, umbrellas, and a half-pumpkin frog, and last but not least, a talking wishing well. Oh, the imagination! The library fairy reminds me of something else...

75. Home libraries and cozy reading nooks
Writers often post pictures of libraries on their blogs. Their own libraries, or libraries they dream of! I can so relate! My ultimate dream house would have a room with high ceilings, wall-to-ceiling bookshelves made out of dark, glossy wood and full of books. There would be a ladder to reach the high shelves, a fire place, a big bay window overlooking an English-style garden with a fish pond and a fountain, and several beautiful reading nooks (plan to post more about dream reading/writing nooks and library rooms more)

I had more on this list, but this is getting ridiculously long! I'll save the rest for July's continuation of 1000 gifts. Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A writers' retreat at Glen Eyrie Castle

I had the wonderful blessing of a retreat last week that was both a writers' retreat and a spiritual retreat - a perfect combination, in my opinion! And it couldn't have been in a more beautiful location (click on the pictures to see them full-sized). Glen Eyrie Castle is situated right next to Garden of the Gods, in the foothills beneath Pikes Peak. As if the natural scenery isn't beautiful enough, we were surrounded by gardens, hummingbirds, wild turkeys, and a herd of bighorn sheep.

Colorado Springs is a four hour drive south of Laramie, Wyoming, and the home of one of my dearest friends (who was my maid of honor). I could never have afforded four nights at the Glen Eyrie Castle (their rates are pretty reasonable, but still, four nights adds up!) if not for K.A.'s hospitality. Not only did she provide hospitality - but the ultimate - kid-sitting! She offered to have my daughters Blaze & Dreamer stay too so they could get lots of play time with her daughter, Lori. Truly an amazing friend to take on two of my kids in addition to three of her own, for three and a half days.

It ended up being more of a writers' workshop than a retreat, though we did get two hours every afternoon to either write, pray, or hike one of the many amazing trails. I spent one afternoon with my laptop in the rose garden (starting with prayer for God to bless my writing. Which He always does, when I remember to ask), one afternoon stream-walking up Queens Canyon to Dorothy Falls (I can never resist the opportunity to see a waterfall), and the last afternoon strolling around the grounds with Karen and the kids taking pictures.

The workshop part of the retreat was both inspiring, but also hard. The truths of the publishing world are never easy to deal with. The workshop was led by four amazing Christian authors: Nancy Rue, Kathyrn Mackel, Angela Hunt (author of the Tale of the Three Trees, one of my kids' favorite books), and James Scott Bell. I've read dozens of books on writing and publishing, have been to two writers' conferences, and I regularly follow most of the major writing, editing and publishing blogs - but I was surprised at how much I still had to learn.

Here are some quotes from the authors that caught my attention:

We write a novel to evoke emotion - Angela Hunt

Creating art is an interaction between you and God - James Scott Bell

Good writing is where precision meets passion - Nancy Rue

If even your writing never sees the light of day (publication), you can make it see the light of life. - Kathryn Mackel

They all stressed how to the road to publication is like an apprenticeship - you have to work hard and follow the rules for years, without any compensation. And there is still no guarantee. Even if you do finally get something published, the road doesn't get easier. I saw first-hand how stressful and difficult it is for a recently published author: all the work you have to put into marketing in addition to writing on strict deadlines, plus dealing with the disappointment of meager sales. God was definitely showing me that even if my writing is nearing a publishable quality, I am still not ready for publication at this time in my life: with four small children, the amount of work I would have to put into marketing, promotion and travel, in addition to writing, would be prohibitive. But at the same time, I felt like I had several significant "breakthroughs" in my story. So I came away feeling God was still directing me to keep writing faithfully and to keep honing my craft.

God had some other important things to teach me, outside of Glen Eyrie. I met one of Karen and Ed's good friends, Double D. Ed has joined a biker club called Men of Praise and his biker name is FedEx (long story) and Double D is one of his closest friends. I learned all the details of biker lifestyle ("ride it like you stole it"), what biker church is like, and and the complexities of club interactions, including the especially tricky interactions between Christian bikers and hardcore groups like the Sons of Silence! But I also learned some spiritual wisdom from Double D. We got to talking one evening and I could tell this guy had an amazing story behind his life, so I asked him to share his testimony. It was both heart-breaking and amazing. He didn't stop with himself, either. He looked at me straight in the eye and asked me if I was carrying any baggage.

Oh yes have I been carrying baggage! Anyone who has read any of my posts so far in 2010 has seen some of my baggage - financial stress and depression. There's other burdens that I haven't shared, too. Insecurities that I started to recognize via Beth Moore's excellent book So Long Insecurity - things she helped me recognize, but I hadn't come to complete terms with yet. At times I do give my baggage over to God (and sometimes I even manage to leave it with him for a few days), but somehow I keep picking it up and carrying it again. Double D told me to envision giving my suitcase of baggage to Jesus, and then to envision Jesus throwing your suitcase into the fires of hell – it’s gone. Permanently gone. Not something you can pick up again. He told me, with genuine seriousness, "it's really gone now. As of this moment. Do you believe what Jesus has done?"

His directness and earnestness took me off guard. Envisioning something does not make it so; but Double D doesn't think that way. For him, it's real. His earnest faith really made look with eyes of faith - "we live by faith, not by sight." I'm not saying I'm cured of depression or that all my financial problems will just melt away. God will never completely take away our problems because they are necessary to help us grow and become more Christ-like. But something happened that evening. Jesus did take some of my baggage and burned it so I can't take it back. Double D is going through some painful trials of his own right now, and I am praying for him. The Lord has put him through a furnace and turned him into an amazing man, and I will never forget him.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Walking by the Spirit

The following quote is the topic of discussion this week In Other Words. Please visit this week's host, Tami @ the Next Step for other writers' takes on this quote.

“Our view of the Holy Spirit is too small. The Holy Spirit is the One who changes the church, but we have to remember that the Holy Spirit lives in us. It is individual people living Spirit-filled lives that will change the church.”
~ Francis Chan, Crazy Love

I haven't read Crazy Love yet, but I do have a wonderful book about the Holy Spirit, The Silent Shepherd by John MacArthur. So when I saw this week's quote related to the Holy Spirit, I looked back through The Silent Shepherd for an overview of how the Spirit works in our lives, especially in relation to the church.

The Spirit is our helper (John 14:6-7), our guarantor of eternal life (Eph. 1:13-14), our teacher (John 14:26). The Spirit regenerates us (gives us new life), (John 3:5,6,8), santicifies us (enables us to become more Christ-like), (Romans 15:16, 1 Cor. 6:11), produces spiritual fruit in our lives (Gal 5:22) - including the ability to love unconditionally and the amazing "peace that surpasses all understanding" that carries us through our struggles and hardships.

The Spirit also gives us gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11), and verse 7 tells us specifically why we are given gifts: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." In several different letters, Paul uses the analogy of the human body to describe how relationships within the church, Christ's body, are designed to work.

Romans 12:4-5 "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us."

The church is all about using our spiritual gifts and insights to help others. Unfortunately, I often show up at church with the attitude that the church is there to minister to me. MacArthur writes:

It is often hard in our isolated, individualized culture for us to appreciate the need we have for one another. It is easy for us... to get entrenched in such individual patterns that we do not get close enough to others to discover their needs. The real problem with such a lifestyle is that it often spills over into the church and affects the way we minister - or don't minster - to others.... God never intended for our spiritual walk to be an end in itself. Instead, He wants us to walk in a way that will have a positive influence on other believers and help purify and build up the church.

We must walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16) in order to use our spiritual gifts to minister to others.

Instead of blaming the church for not fulfilling its intended role, we should strive instead to fulfill our intended role - living a Spirit-filled life.

What does walking in the Spirit mean? MacArthur writes:

The Greek word for "walk" in Galatians 5:16 could be translated literally "keep on continually walking." The basic idea is that the Christian life unfolds one day at a time. Walking is therefore a very picturesque metaphor that tells us we are to live one step at a time, as a matter of habit and routine. The Holy Spirit is already in us and working on our behalf. Our task is simply to respond and submit moment by moment, step by step, day by day according to His empowering and guiding [which we become aware of through hearing, reading and meditating on
the Scripture, through prayer, and through the ministries of other believers].

One last note about the gifts that the Spirit gives us. You cannot stop in 1 Corinthians 12 after reading about the gifts, not when chapter 12 ends with verse 31: "But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way." This most excellent way is love - 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter, set right in the middle of the section on spiritual gifts, gives us all the guidance we'll ever need as we allow the Spirit to use us in reaching out to others. We should all be familiar with verse 13: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." And here is a wonderful verse relating the Holy Spirit and love, that I discovered (or re-discovered) in the process of this study:

Romans 5:5 "...God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

I am praying for myself, for the other writers this week, and for our churches, that we would be renewed in our walk with the Spirit and inspired to a greater love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Who gets my best, my family or others?

A sentence from Psalm 101 has been both
challenging and convicting for me:
"I will walk in my house with blameless heart."
When God speaks to
me about being more loving,
this verse reminds me to make application in my
family first—and then to others.
It forces me to ask, Am I more spiritual,
More loving, or more fun somewhere else?

Who gets my best—my family or others?

from A Mother's Heart, by Jean Fleming

I have been failing miserably with my family. I try to keep it together at work, but when I get home I fall apart. Kids get snapped at for making noise. My husband doesn't get a "welcome home" or even a "hi, honey!" when he arrives.

I catch myself thinking peevishly, if I didn't have to work so much, I'd have more energy for my family. If the economy hadn't taken a nose-dive. If we hadn't made those poor financial decisions. If we'd stopped having kids at two instead four. So easy to make excuses, justifications, to say "if onlys."

I really think the Lord sent me a dream last night to wake me up to my wrong attitude. (Well, I'm pretty sure He used to give me the quote, above, too).

I was dreaming I was back at the beach, and the girls were playing in the surf. The twins - three years old - just loved dashing in and out of the water. I was laying on the sand, soaking up the sun. I didn't notice that the waves were gradually getting bigger in size. Suddenly a huge breaker crashed over the twins and they disappeared in the frothing water. They aren't old enough to right themselves, even in waist-deep water, if they get knocked over and disoriented. I searched for them frantically, swimming out and diving under, but the water was too murky to see anything. I knew even if I found one of the twins in time, chances are the other one would drowned before I could find her.

Then I woke up.

I have to stop making excuses and put my family first, no matter what trials the world is throwing at me right now. Let me rephrase that. I need to put God first, so then I have the strength to put my family next in priority, ahead of my worries, my exhaustion, my short temper.

My family deserves my best, and God can help me give them my best. I can't do it on my own.

Please link back to for other excellent insights into the quote from Jean Fleming's wonderful book (I really need to read this book again! It's one of those you can keep getting good stuff out of it, no matter how many times you read it)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

1000 gifts: my wonderful crazy kids edition

I'm keeping a list of all the gifts God has given me that I'm thankful for, to live out the command "give thanks in all things" (1 Thess. 5:18) in my daily walk.

This part of the list is focused on my kids. I have four girls, ages 8, 5, and 3 year old twins. They drive me crazy, but they are wonderful. I wouldn't have it any other way!

(note: I always use their nicknames on the blog)

46. Cowboy dress-up day at school.
Blaze and Dreamer's school had "Spirit" week and the kids got to dress for a theme each day. The first day was "cowboy day." Here's Dreamer in her outfit. Blaze had a field trip, so she had to wear the standard uniform.

47. Crazy hair day.
Dreamer was very patient as I put at least 30 hairbands in. When I finished her hairdo, I was running out of time so I had to do something fast for Blaze

48. Homemade recycle notes on all our cans
Also at school, the girls have been learning about recycling. Blaze takes this very seriously. She taped her own little homemade "recycle" symbols on all of the cans in our pantry, to remind us not to throw them away

49. Clash day (stripes and polka dots)
Oh, the frightful outfits kids can come up with.

50. Starlet's first prayer.
One night Blaze and Dreamer and I were taking turns praying at bed time. Starlet left her room (I had already put the twins to bed) and joined us - she wanted to pray, too. She said everyone's name in our family - and then "Amen!"

51. Picking your seat.
Grandpa picking on Dreamer- he asks her "are you going to the movies?" "No" she replies in confusion. Grandpa asks, "Well, why do you keep picking your seat?"

52. Three-year old concept of age
Once I asked Starlet how old she was. "I four!" she says. I laugh and say "no, you're three." "No!" she cries emphatically. "I four! I six!"

53. Sock hop day.
I had to borrow a dress for Dreamer - we only have at least two dozen dress-up dresses, but only one fifties-style one. All the rest are Princess style (or very scary 70's prom style)

54. If my older sisters get to dress up, I want to too
Seeing her older sisters getting dressed up, Starlet also wanted to play "dress up" each morning, too. Serious ever showed a bit of interest in dressing up she just wanted her picture taken. Therefore, the picture of her in pajamas.

55. Vampirates
Dreamer went through a stage where "vampirates" were frequent characters in her make-believe games. A cross between a vampire and a pirate?

56. Learning how to swing yourself
Dreamer was so excited to show me she didn't need to get a push anymore in the swing

57. Kids singing while doing chores
Blaze sang "Oh My Darling Clementine" while emptying the dishwasher. We all need a good tune to work to.

58. Homemade planters are not the best Mother's Day gift, but I still love them.
The twins painted some ceramic mugs for me for Mother's Day and planted little petunias in them. Only problem is, they don't realize the plants are for Mom; they think the plants are theirs. And of course they are very proud so they want to carry them around (even though Mom says no). Then they set them down in some random spot, start playing, and soon knock over the plants. Soil everywhere. Three times now I've had to clean up the mess. So even though it was supposed to be a sweet little Mother's Day gift, it's ending up causing me all sorts of extra work!

Here is a picture of the four girls with all the Mother's Day presents they made me (Dreamer also decorated a pot, Blaze made a Chinese lantern)

59. CS Lewis on books and tea.
I love to collect quotes, and I just discovered a new C.S. Lewis quote that I absolutely adore, because I love books, and I love tea:
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. - C.S. Lewis

60. Vinatge portraits of the twins.
Fifteen different poses!  my gift to my own wonderful mom on Mother's Day

Monday, May 3, 2010

Marriage, foxes and vineyards

I'll admit it right here up front: I don't want to write this post. In the past 3 years of blogging, I've only posted on marriage twice. I've written almost a whole novel on marriage, but that was fiction, -- in other words, it wasn't MY marriage, so it was fun to write about.

Now if you get me one-on-one in a coffee house with a big yummy cup of Hot Snow and a cheesecake, I'll spill the beans and talk marriage all night long. But there is something frightfully permanent about writing words down about your marriage on a public forum where any one can stop by and read. (I suppose I could change my privacy settings. But then I get to thinking, I really do appreciate when other ladies are honest about their marriages. I'll try to return the favor).

I've been married a few months shy of 12 years. I married my complete opposite, in everyway. The only two things we have in common is a love of Jesus and a love of horses. He's an extrovert, I'm an introvert. He's a risk taker, I'm cautious. I could list differences for hours but I don't want to bore you. Bottom line: it isn't easy. But I know God matched us up, that our differences strengthen each other. If I'd married a man with a similar personality as mine, we'd both be institutionalized now for severe clinical depression.

The recession has been hard on our marriage. My husband has his own business, and the work has dwindled to the point that I make more than he does at my part-time job. That's hard on him. That's hard on me. I don't like being the provider - the money I earned was supposed to be "extra" - for savings and vacations or what not. He feels, at times, like a failure. I have to keep giving him pep-talks. It's not a situation that inspires romance. Most of the time I'm too tired with working and running after the kids (though he helps with the kids ALOT) to have any energy left over for him.

The reason why I'm writing this is because it was a way to remind myself that my marriage is IMPORTANT and if I don't keep putting energy into it and giving him attention (and we all know how men most like attention), then I know the little things that stress our marriage are only going to get more troublesome, just like Solomon says that little foxes can end up ruining a whole vineyard (Song of Solmon 2:15)

I'm thankful I ran across Marriage Monday and the verse, 1 Corinthians 7:4 "The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife." A good reminder for me. I also wanted to point out - who is it that appears first in this verse? The wife or the husband? I'm thinking there's probably a good reason why the wife is addressed FIRST. With our tendency to moodiness, we probably need that extra reminder. I know I do.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A famine of hearing the Word

This is Tuesday's "In Other Words" post. If you are interested in participating, you can write about the verses above and link to other posts about it at this week's host blog.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to do a study of famine in the Bible. A few facts about Biblical famine:

1) Famine appears 84 times in the Old Testament, most frequently found in Genesis, then Jeremiah

2) Famine appears 10 times in the New Testament, referring to past famines in the Old Testament or famines that will occur in the end times, one prediction of a famine during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius, and the following verse -

3) Believers in Christ have this promise in Romans 8:35 concerning famine: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors"

4) Famine is one of four ways that the Lord punishes the breakers of His covenant in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 26:12-25). The other punishments are disease/plagues, defeat by enemies, and wild animals (such as locusts). These are all repeated in Revelation as means of punishment, along with a fifth - natural disasters. The Lord causes these disasters so that people will repent and seek Him.

5) The verses in Amos are the only time this particular type of famine is ever mentioned; also it is the last mention of famine in the Old Testament.

Here's my conclusion based on my study. We know that there was a gap of about 400 years between the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first of the New Testament, John the Baptist. This gap very likely describes the famine of the hearing of the Word of the Lord predicted by Amos. For 400 years, the Israelites went without hearing anything from the Lord. Of course they still had the written prophecies; but the prophecies about the Messiah were still unfulfilled. This famine, God's silence, was a punishment for their continued disobedience as evidenced over and over again in the books of the major prophets and the minor prophets.

After such a long famine, when a prophet finally did appear proclaiming the word of the Lord, the coming of the Messiah, they should have been very eager to hear!

Some of the Jews were ready to hear and repent, but most of them weren't. Most of them rejected Jesus when he didn't fit their idea of what a Messiah should be. It wasn't until after his death, until the Lord sent the Holy Spirit, that they began to understand (in large numbers) that Jesus really was the Messiah and that his death provided for our salvation.

Jesus is the bread of life. Matt 4:4 "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Jesus is the Word. John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

It is certainly possible to experience a famine of hearing the Word, even today - by purposefully rejecting the message of the Gospel, rejecting Christ, by worshiping the creation instead of the Creator (Romans 1:25). Though a warning of famine such as the one in Amos is not repeated in the New Testament, there are some similar warnings: Luke 17:22 "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it." And again: John 7:34 "You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come."

Personally I've experienced a few famines of my own - when I get too busy for church, or to open my Bible on a regular basis. Eventually I get to the point where I am lonely, discouraged, feeling overwhelmed - and then I remember that I've been starving myself of the Bread of Life. I am so thankful that when I remember to seek the Word again, God does not make me stagger from sea to sea searching, and yet never finding. For believers, we have that marvelous promise in Romans 8:35-37. I am so thankful.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

More musings on Avatar, part 2

I had always felt life first as a story-and if there is a story there is a storyteller. ~ G.K. Chesterton

In Part 1, I talked about my theory that the Christian symbolism in Avatar contributes more to the movie's popularity than its pantheistic themes.

In Part 2, I'm looking at the mythic structure that you see in Avatar and in thousands of other movies and books. And relating that to the story of our own lives.

The Christian elements in Avatar are overshadowed by pantheism and deep ecology, but they are still there. In addition, the movie follows an archetypal story structure, the elements of the “hero’s journey”. We know that the great myths of almost every culture follow a very similar structure, as identified by Joesph Campbell in his "Hero with a Thousand Faces" - and that modern stories following this structure, such as Avatar, continue to be incredibly popular.

The mythic structure is all over the place. You see it mirrored in the plots of many movies and books, and not just science fiction and fantasy books. A hero is forced to leave his or her ordinary world (either physically or metaphorically) and go somewhere new and sometimes scary (Jake leaves earth and arrives on Pandora; he leaves his physical body and has to adjust to a new body and a new culture). On the way he encounters enemies and allies, and faces trials he must overcome. At some point he faces his darkest moment/greatest fear (he is imprisoned, the enemies destroy the Nav'ii home), gains important knowledge that helps him in his victory (he asks the Nav'ii goddess for help) which he is able to share with others to help them or even save them.

You find this basic structure in Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and almost all Disney movies (here's a funny post that shows how the synopsis of Disney's Pocahantas can be changed to Avatar just by substituting a few names). But if you look close enough you also find it in classic novels, like To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Gone with the Wind, or stories from the Bible (Abraham, Jacob, Joesph, Moses, David, just to name a few) or other myths (Greek, Norse, Eastern, etc)... there are variations of course but the basic structure still fits.

So why are these archetypal elements of being forced into new and scary things, facing your greatest fears, learning important knowledge and sharing it, so universal? Do these archetypal elements predate Christianity and other current and historic religions or did religion create this mythic structure and propagate it?

I suppose that's like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg. No way to prove it. But I think myth came first (no comment about the chicken and the egg).

I think myth came first because the hero's journey is something that resonates with us so deeply because it is a reflection of our own journey. We are constantly having to face trials in our life. We look the hero myths to see how they dealt with even bigger, scarier trials than we've had to face. We discover that they found help even in their darkest hour, and victory. C.S. Lewis, in his essay "Is Theology Poetry?" tackles the relation of religion and myths. He says myths are a sort of divine illumination vouchsafed to all men.

We should, therefore, expect to find in the imagination of great Pagan teachers and myth makers some glimpse of that theme which we believe to be the very plot of the whole cosmic story - the theme of incarnation, death, and rebirth - [another type of the hero's journey]. And the difference between the Pagan Christs (Balder, Osiris, etc) and the Christ Himself is much what we should expect to find... It is the difference between a real event [Christ's death and resurrection] on the one hand, and dim dreams or premonitions of that same event on the other. It is like watching something come gradually into focus; first it hangs in the clouds of myth and ritual, vast and vague, then it condenses... as an historical event in first century Palestine.

The hero's journey, as retold over and over again in different stories, condenses into our own lives, too. We can see our lives as a random mix of wonderful and awful events, which abruptly ends in our death -story over. Or we can see it as a journey through trials, where we receive help and learn things along the way, and ultimately we face our greatest enemy- death - and overcome it with the faith we learned - that there is an even better life waiting for us.

What do you think about the hero's journey?