Saturday, June 30, 2012

1000 gifts: verses on the sidewalk

Continuing my list of gifts, blessings that I write down to remember all the wonderful things that God gives me along life's journey. These blessings are from June, 2012.

 464. New laptop box
 I got a new laptop via work, which makes me very happy, but not as much as the way my kids played with the box the laptop came in. Starlet* actually fit entirely inside the box! (pretty impressive for a 5 year old).

465. Bible verses in sidewalk chalk
Earlier I blogged about what a wonderful experience VBS was this year, as we participated as a family (instead of me just dropping the kids off). Dreamer took her memory verses very seriously, even writing them on our front steps with sidewalk chalk! The kids all have a new appreciation for dinosaurs after Dino Day at VBS, learning that dinos lived at the same time as humans, according to the Creation timeline.

466.  A nice looking GPA
Stars had a tough semester but was absolutely thrilled that her final GPA was a 3.2 (esp. since it mean she got to keep driving! smile)

466. Fighting over who gets to mow the lawn
When I got the mower out and started mowing for the first time this year (we haven't had to mow much because it's been so dry), Blaze came bounding over and wanted to take over. Well, I was enjoying myself and didn't want to stop mowing! I did the front lawn and she did the back, which is pretty impressive since our back lawn is huge, over a half acre. I was boasting about her mowing prowess over dinner when Stars said, "don't let this change anything, but I've never mowed a lawn."  (she really doesn't know what she's missing out on, my poor stepdaughter) (smile)

467.  Being able to walk again
My Dad broke a bone just below his knee a couple months ago, and what a relief for all of us (esp. him!) when he could finally walk again!

468. Modern heart catheters
Twenty years ago my mom had to have open heart surgery as a result of three blocked arteries. This year, two of her arteries clogged up again - but thanks to advances in health procedures she was able to have the blockage fixed by two catheters (one in January, one this June) and be home from the hospital the very next day!

469. Targeted cancer radiation 
My mother-in-law has been fighting a very aggressive breast cancer since last Sept, with discouraging news each time she gets another scan done (after chemo and three surgeries it was still spreading!) But finally some encouraging news from the Mayo Clinic: they believe they can eradicate the cancer with some specially targeted radiation. She is staying in a hope house in Rochester, MN for six weeks, with family taking turns the whole time with her. 2 weeks into treatments now, and she is holding up really well and in great spirits.

470. Trusting God to pay the hospital bill
We had a misunderstanding about what our insurance covers, which meant we got a $800 bill for 4 stitches for one of my daughters at the hospital emergency room. We are on a tight budget, and even paying $100 a month toward this bill would strain us. A friend of ours recently went through the same thing with her son's oral surgery. She gathered her four children and they prayed together for God to provide the means to pay the bill, or have the insurance cover it after resubmitting. When the insurance paid in full, my friend was able to share the good news with the kids and show them how God answers prayers! So, I did the same thing. I told my girls how we were going to pray to see how God would provide for the rest of the money for this big bill.  A few weeks later we learned we had to file an ammended tax return to account for some of B's side work/extra income. After submitting his expenses for the side work, we got an extra $2000 return, in addition to the return we'd already gotten this year. Not only enough to pay the hospital bill, but several other bills as well! I was so excited to share this with the kids and I hope it increase their faith in God, He really does provide all our needs, sometimes in the most surprising ways. 

471. Flowers and butterflies
Every year the perennial flowers we planted a few years ago come back even bigger and prettier than the year before, and one of the nice extras with having flowers around the house is that we've been getting lots of hummingbirds and butterflies (and bees, but they are so busy they don't bother us). Here's one of our more unusual visitors, only wish my camera could have captured all its beautiful colors:

472. Kids and camping
I confess, camping is more work than enjoyment sometimes, esp. with four little kids. But my kids love it so much - when we left our campsite and the other families we'd shared it with - all my kids started crying. We weren't even able to have a campfire this year because of high danger level for fire, but they were just as happy roasting marshmallows over a camp stove! 

473. A home for Jewel
This year has been so dry that hay for our horses is going to cost a fortune. I've been thinking for a while about selling my horse, Jewel, since we have 5 horses and don't really need that many. Jewel was the logical choice to go since she isn't "kid safe" - she's much too smart and will take advantage of any rider who isn't experienced. But that's also what I love about her, her playful and tricky personality - so it was a hard choice. Fortunately, we found a family with two teenage girls who fell in love with her. They are experienced enough to handle her, and plan to show her at fair this summer. Also, they let us borrow her for trail rides, so I can still get to enjoy her once in a while.

474. A "Lord Festival"
Dreamer was playing with her friend Tiffany when they came up with an idea for a "Lord Festival."  This means running around outside singing Bible songs as loud as possible - the B I B L E song,  Pharoah Pharoah, Awesome God, etc. Love it! 

475. Accountability partner
For several months I have been praying for an accountability partner, someone else who is really serious about losing weight, eating healthier and exercising more. Most of my friends are already thin, so it never occurred to me to ask them. But when I mentioned this as a prayer request to one of my thin friends, Kerry, she said she needed an accountability partner, too (staying thin isn't easy, either). We've been calling each other twice a week (she lives in Montana). The encouragement is a help- I've lost 4 pounds (and gained back one), but hey, it's a start. Praying we can keep encouraging each other regularly instead of slacking off after time...

476. New branches on family trees 
Found out (via a cousin-removed I didn't know I had till recently) that my family tree on my father's side goes back 12 generations to an Indian chief in the 1600's! He sent us all the details by connecting us to his family tree on Then I dig some quick digging on B.'s side of the family, and discovered his great-great-great-grandfather born in 1813 through Find-A-Grave. Amazing what you can find on the internet these days.

477. God's measure
This is from my devotional this year, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.
I am King of kings and Lord of lords, dwelling in unapproachable light. 1 Tim 6:16
"As My presence envelopes you, you may feel overwhelmed by My power and glory. This is a form of worship, sensing your smallness in comparison to My Greatness. Man has tended to make himself the measure of all things. But man's measure is too tiny to comprehend My majestic vastness. That is why most people do not see Me at all, even though they live and move and have their being in Me"

I never thought of it that way before: we do not see God because he is invisible, but because He is so great that we simply don't have the eyes to comprehend Him yet. Yet! Someday, we will!
* Starlet, Serious, Dreamer and Blaze are screen names for my daughters, and Stars is my stepdaughter's screen name.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Angry and afraid

A few frustrated words I spoke on Friday have snowballed and turned into a battlefield. I'm trying to keep the battle in my mind and not let it spill out on other people around me. All Friday and Saturday, almost every minute, frustration would hit me again and again. If I let it, it would take me down dark paths of anger and vengefulness. "If ____ does this, then I'll do that. I can't put up with this anymore." Two possible paths lie before me: one looks exhausting and frustrating, the other looks laden with guilt and regret. When I'm not fretting with anger, I'm fretting with fear.

Then I would realize I didn't want to go down those dark paths, not even in my mind. Come on, Lord, rescue me from this anger and fear. Help me take my thoughts captive to obedience in Christ. Help me pray about this situation instead of fretting over it. "Pray hardest when it is hardest to pray." This saying is so true!!!

Even when I would pick up a really good book to read to distract myself, little pieces of frustration would still pop up like weeds between the words I was reading. I would find myself arguing (with myself) about all the reasons why I was right, why I had to Do something to CONTROL the situation before I ended up even more miserable.

Then this saying by Abraham Lincoln reminded me that MY definition of "right" is not what matters. It's doesn't help to keep thinking of reasons to justify your side of the argument. I need to put God first, for He knows much more than I, He can see the big picture that I can't see in my own narrow sight.

This is exactly what happened: I lost patience with someone, which resulted in angry words, followed by her angry reaction and then refusal to talk anymore, resulting in more hurt and anger on my side.

Remembering how patient God has been with me through my stubborn times put it back into perspective.

"In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them, anyway."

 I found these images on Pinterest this morning, and never was there a more timely discovery. I have no doubt that God put them there for me to find. Reading them was like having a sudden cool rain fall in the midst of a burning desert.

So I know there is still a long battle ahead of me. This problem isn't going to just go away (unless I am completely awful and drive someone far enough away I don't have to deal with it directly but I'll still have to deal with guilt and long-term repercussions).  But with many battles  we face - hurt feelings, meanness, unfairness at work or other situations, etc - how much relief it would be if we just stood still and let God take over and fight for us?? So often I don't do this because I can't see God fighting for me. I live by sight instead of by faith.

2 Corinthians 5:7 We live by faith, not by sight.

Friday, June 8, 2012

You might not finish this chapter

... that's the title of the second chapter of Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. I read this book last year and it keeps coming back to mind. There were important points that I didn't want to forget, that I wanted to think about more, put into practice more...

My plan is to address a chapter at a time in a blog post, and how it impacted me (and more importantly, what I'm doing about it). Here was the post for Chapter One: Stop Praying (?!?) from last month.

Why is it called "You might not finish this chapter" ? We really shouldn't have any delusions about our future - we are NOT in control of it. We can make plans, but the outcome - we could die tomorrow in a freak accident. Or, before finishing a chapter of a book. Jesus gave a very specific example of this in a parable of a rich man who died without warning in the midst of all his grand plans. 
In about fifty years (give or take a couple of decades) no one will remember you. Everyone you know will be dead. Certainly no one will care what job you had, what car you drove, what school you attended, or what clothes you wore.
What are we living our lives for? I had to ask myself that question the past week. I volunteered to help teach at our church's vacation bible school, which included a lot of prep work for a week's worth of lessons for two classes, putting together props and crafts and decorations, thinking of ways to make the lesson engaging and interactive and personal - and meaningful. At the same time, I had a looming deadline at work. I knew the two commitments were going to conflict and add stress. In the midst of this week I was questioning why I had taken on too much.

But at the end of the week (whew), I have no doubts. Everyday my four kids went with me to VBS. We were in some classes and activities together. The older girls helped me paint and hang decorations. We talked about everything going on. My daughter Dreamer wrote her memory verse on our front steps with sidewalk chalk. Because the theme was Creation, we talked about all the cool animals they'd learned about that God made, and how He made them special in so many ways.
"A thrill ride through God's creation"
Even more, I saw many other families volunteering together at church, working and playing together for a whole week, teenagers helping with all sorts of things from crafts to skits. Teenagers!! (Gives me hope!) Not to mention the kids who participated who maybe heard the gospel for the first time. (I love that our VBS leaders asked us from the very moment we committed to this plan to pray for the kids. I am glad this post has also reminded me to pray for them, now that it is over. That they would remember, and the seed planted would grow.)

These are things we should live our lives for. Not necessarily "churchy" things but things we do together, with friends and family, volunteering for a bigger effort than our own personal achievement, and doing something where God is the center, the reason for it all.
Sadly, many people die while living selfishly. Their funerals are filled up by individuals who stretch the truth in order to create a semblance of a meaningful life. Nobody would dare say an unkind word at the funeral; there is an unspoken obligation to come up with something nice to say about the person who died.... When we face the holy God, "nice" isn't what we will be concerned with, and it definitely isn't what He will be thinking about. Any compliments you received on earth with gone; all that will be left for you is truth.