Monday, 31 December 2012

What is Known

As the sun sets on this year 2012
and fear can sometimes
 threaten to overwhelm
with the unknown
lets look into and start with
 what is known, dear ones.

Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler[a]
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”
Psalm 91 NKJV

Saturday, 29 December 2012

FridayFavs on Saturday :)

Late again...late again...for no particular reason.
Just enjoying some rest and time "off" from school and the running and the going.
It's sweet and good.
We are blessed.
Here is to finding joy
in the big and small,
and all those good gifts

This boy.
With the imagination
as wide and far as
the east is from the west.
Love, love, love him.

Not-so little boy blue.

Bought this boy Adventures in Odyssey
He LOVES them.
It's the same idea as the Magic Tree House books
(which he's read most of) 
but with a Biblical Worldview.
He says these are better.
What a history buff.
This is Koen's "special gift" so he says.
Thank you Grandmommy!
Pasting sugary products
on top of gingerbread
shaped like a choo-choo train.
Doesn't get much better than this.
Well, other than eating sugary products
on top of gingerbread.

This reminder.
Of Who we are celebrating during Christmas
And all that points us to Him.
In the Book of Life.
Where life is lost and
found again
in Christ.
friday favorite things | finding joy

Monday, 24 December 2012

Gifts hard to Receive: Merry Christmas!

When asked, "If ever was there a gift given or received that meant much to you" a friend e-mails back and says:

"I must have been in kindergarten when this occurred.,,,,,,my family lived way out in the country, and I went to a country school, so to speak. There was a little girl from a very poor family who had little of everything which included not having her very own doll. I remember thinking, that I wanted to give her my doll that I had and loved. I must have asked my parents and they gave me the okay, because I do remember giving it to her, and she quietly accepted it. I think, she was very surprised and did not really know how to react, but deep down in my little heart, I knew she was pleased and thankful."

Another shares this:
"I wanted a horse for as long as I could remember. My grandparents gave her to me for my 13th birthday. She was 1 1/2 years old and for the most part, we kept her and then a family friend kept her until her death at age 32. All of my children had opportunity to ride her, and even after not seeing her for many, many years, she responded to my whistle and remembered the tricks I had taught her. She was the gift that meant the most to me. Growing up, she heard all about my frustrations, relationships, etc., and I spent more time with her than with any thing or person before I met Vince. I was always devising new things to do together or to try to teach her. In addition, I learned responsibility, patience, and perseverance as I trained her, and she provided excellent exercise for me."
Still another good gift story:
"I bought my parents a used car when I first got a job and they were living in CA and working for a Christian school. I knew they needed it and at first when I mentioned it they were like, "no, we could never take that its took much. But I said this is what family is for, to care and love each other. I drove it from OH to CA and again it was deeply appreciated. It was never weird between us, they took care of me and I wanted to help them."
And sometimes good gifts are the hardest to receive aren't they?
 Good gifts, they are almost too good to be true!
Some of the best gifts I have received have been of the unexpected sort.
Extended grace from a soon-to-be Mother-in-law who did not offer condemnation but rather open arms wide with grace as she hugged and cried and prayed for me is probably one of the best gifts, if not the best gift I was ever given. Yes, unexpected it was. I knew it was unequivocally undeserved. I didn't even want to, nor thought I could receive it at the time.
A friend brings me a kitchen-aid mixer (with a handle!!!!) because I happen to mention to her that it would be in my wildest dreams to have one of those. She brings it to me and quietly mentions who I can give my "old" one to. And that girl, she cries and hugs my husband when he gives it to her. She was blessed and I was blessed. So this friend, she blessed us both! And for that week she takes the challenge and prays for me.
And prayer. What a gift!
Another friend, she adds this wisdom:
"Our culture wants us to believe that there is joy in their specific physical gift.  You don't see commercials telling you to pray for the friend considering divorce, but wouldn't that be nice!  You see buy this ________ it will make you happy and give your life meaning and joy. but the truth is it won't if it's a physical thing."  She adds this truth,  "Every good gift is from above.  Amen."
Yes, these friends, they are gifts.
Surly sent from above. 
Thank you for sharing your heart, your time and wisdom.

And on this very Eve of Christmas,
may you, yes all of you readers,
find Him,
who came certainly and unexpectedly,
and can be hard to receive
because grace of this magnitude almost always is.

Joy, Peace, Hope.
They can only be found in the one
who you will find...
  "wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Luke 2:12

Merry Christmas dear ones!


Friday, 21 December 2012

Weighty Gifts

I've done it. Taken the plunge. And it's even before the New Year. :) You see, every year I say I'm going to read through the Bible. And then I don't. Every. Single. Year. Well, for the last few years anyway.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe with you though, it's working out your physical body. No, I don't usually have a problem with that. It's my spiritual body that lacks. Every. Year. And what good is a physical body if the spiritual body is a wreck? Not any, really, as I've learned....and relearned. And as important as I say the Word is to our lives here, just about every time I sit down to plink on my keyboard, I have been convicted that the things that I say here.....they are words to live by, not just nice things to say. Pointing people to Christ and living as Christ live together well just as do grace and truth.

And so, a friend of mine texts me from far away. She says she's been thinking about me. And me? I've been convicted because ever since my study in Philippians that ended a couple of weeks ago, I have not really been digging in anywhere. So I kind of offer up a "whoa is me" kind of a prayer and asked the Lord to help. Guess what? He did. And this friend, she calls, well the 2012 version of a call. :) She says she wants to study the Bible. She wants to study the Bible with me. And I smile. And nod. And praise the Lord.  And thank her for texting, and mean it (though it's necessary for me to mention that I have a flip phone and hate texting.)

Then I had another thought: I am a much better sprinter than I am marathon runner. I'm not sure how good this is in life since life, it's more like a marathon (whew!) than a sprint, but this insight did help me decide to do this 90 Day Bible Plan and not the read the Bible in a year plan. That and my friend said she was up for the challenge too. And doesn't fellowship always help?

So here I am, on the 4th day and the worry that I wouldn't understand and what could the Lord teach me if I don't understand? And the so-n-so begot so-n-so and...ugh, really how is that name even pronounced? And why, oh why does this even matter, kind of questions are dissipating because the Lord, He is teaching. Already. And why am I surprised?

As I ponder gifts and giving this Christmas season. I realised right there at the beginning of Genesis that God delights in giving good gifts. Yes, I know he says so other places too (see Matt. 7:11), but I see it here in the book of beginnings. And that is exciting! That having things is a blessing from the Lord. I look at the story of Adam and Eve. That the Lord gave them everything....everything (well, cept that one thing.) I see, then, the patriarchs starting with Abram, that the Lord blessed them greatly with spiritual and physical blessings. I also realise that He was starting a nation and yes, there was going to be many, many of them, so all those physical blessings could sustain them and help them and not a person had to go with out their needs being met. I really hope they were good at sharing!

And I was encouraged because sometimes I begin to think that all this stuff is just weighty baggage only helping to drag me down ever more into the pit of ease and comfort. I ask myself this: if all of it were taken away...all the gifts.... would I really say that I have everything still because I have Jesus alone? If I had, physically nothing, would I still say I had my Jesus, everything? And would he be enough? This is a question that convicts, I know.

But there are all over this dusty ball, people, big and small, and they do live with nothing or as close as you can get to it. Our David writes and says that he lives in a "straw covered mud hut, wants to be a farmer like his dad so as to help provide their daily bread, and that he washes their clothes in a basin." And my 10 year old asks, "what is a basin?" And you see why sometimes I struggle with how all this stuff can be a blessing. And Ernstia, she wants to know, "Do we have a car?" She wants to know what it is like to live in America. I'm sure that she has seen more in Haiti, than our boy living in the mud hut in Kenya has.

And the weight, it still is there as I ask myself if all this stuff just masks my spiritual poverty and if it was all taken away would I like what I see? As long as I can cling to my things and give only to those who are able to give in return and feel comfortable, I don't have to see my spiritual poverty. I can go on living, but not living out what I type here. And is that really living? That is when the stuff becomes a weight. When I trust in it rather than the One who knit me together in my mother's womb.

Giving is never an obligation, even for the believer. Everything, yes everything, that we are given is Gods, anyway isn't it? And it is in our giving to our church, to those in desperate need, and even our friends and family that God is glorified. Our giving is really, then, just an extension of what God has given to us, by his grace. It is not a guilt-ridden, tight fisted thing that we do. It is a matter of the heart. And our hearts, this is what God cares for really....that our hearts may be pure, even in our efforts to give.

When we give like this, we show that we trust in Him, not in our things. We trust Him to provide, not only in our bank accounts. We trust that He will meet our every need even if all is taken away and Jesus is the only thing that we have. Because Jesus is the gift that everyone needs whether they have plenty or little.

He is the one good gift that Compassion goes about sharing with the world because the physical and spiritual, they too go hand in hand.  "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:36. And this is what I love about in Jesus' name. Because he was a gift, we are able to, by His grace, be a gift this Christmas and give in His name.

One way to do that is to give through Compassion's Christmas Catalog or some other organisation that I have highlighted in weeks past. Pray about it would you? Gifts range from $4 to $500. They are gifts that will not soon be left behind un-played with...these good gifts will last a lifetime. So gather up the kiddos around the computer this Christmas morning and start a new tradition by giving a gift in Jesus' name through Compassion.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Gift that Breeds Freedom

Keeping our kids at home to school them was a decision that came with much prayer and was not made in haste. It was and is not a negative pronouncement on the public school system, it's teachers or the parents that choose to send their most precious possessions there. We started for only a couple of reasons and really, it has become a way of life for us and those reasons continue to change as the seasons in our life change and it is a way of life that we have come to love. It's that simple. A way of life. It's not better or worse, just different. Really, it IS that simple. :)

It's one of those "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12) kind of things for a family of believers. I think that many people, myself included (before I started schooling my kids at home), assume that those crazy people just want to shelter their children from the world and keep them "safe"!! Nope. Well, nope for many of us anyway. It's kind of a bonus many days that their little innocence is still a bit in tact, but it isn't the reason that we home school...not by a long shot. We would be in total denial, our heads stuck in the sand, if we believed by keeping them home that we were keeping evil out.

In fact the Book that we read together every morning that sort of starts out pretty grand: God creating the whole world and everything in it perfectly, only to end up in chapter 4 with this question from God, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground." (Genesis 4: 10) Yup, we're just four chapters into the whole thing and it was two chapters ago when it all fell apart... when sin and by sin death enters the beauty of God's perfect creation and now? Now we have murder. Cain murdered: His. Own. Brother. His very own, flesh in blood brother.

So no, we do not hide our children from the truth because it's the one thing that can set them free (John 8:32). We want them to KNOW that this world is full of lying, cheating, stealing, murderous, crooks and but for the Lord Jesus, that babe in the manger, we could and very well would be one of them! Point them to Jesus, that is what we want to do.

And so when, Monday morning, before we turned to God in prayer for our day, I told my older two what happened in Connecticut, just as we have talked about David stealing a wife not his own and killing off her husband methodically. Just as we have talked about Moses killing an Egyptian man in anger. And yes, how Cain killed Abel. And the many other stories that fill our daily lives through the Word that doesn't pretty things up to hide sin, and Yahoo! and World Magazine etc. Stories that we hear from dear loved ones, and missionary friends, and magazines, books and even our own family. Stories of suffering, grief, and despair. Stories that break your heart. Stories that make you cry out, "Where are you God?" "God! Aren't you Good???!!!"  Yes, those stories they know about those too... at least some of them.

The reality is that evil can walk right through the front door of your happy home, your church, and yes, your school. Right through the middle of a content community upending their lives and the lives of a country no matter where your kids go or do not go to learn. And while I don't wait around and try not to worry about that happening, it is a reality is it not?

Evil is not immune to a certain set of people groups.  The havoc that it reeks can be seen splashed daily across newspaper and magazines, on-line and in the eyes of broken mothers over the broken bodies of their babies. Evil stretches it's ugly, despicable hand from the east to the west and leaves no stone in no country unturned.  It has been around since the beginning when Lucifer decided that he deserved and wanted the glory that ALONE belongs to God and fell from his position (Ezekiel 28 starting in vs 11).

And before us, this is what we see. Maybe it's not every. single. day. like many. Maybe it's just poured out the airways via the Internet and television as it slaps us across the face, awakes us from this sleepy slumber of comfort and ease and causes us to wake to the reality of it all and ask those hard questions. And perhaps it is even in the questions where we are getting it wrong and maybe, just maybe we should be asking a different question. Not about how good this God is or where exactly is he, rather we need to ask: WHO is this God? WHO is He????

The answer? He comes to us in a gift that was given to us over 2,000 years. This gift?
It is one that breeds freedom.

A freedom from the bondage of sin and evil that lies within our own hearts now and freedom from every pain and suffering in the future (Revelation 21:4). A freedom that is not tied to the nation and the freedom that exists within it's borders...those borders that we so comfortably live in or the hue that colors your skin or the money in your bank account. This freedom is found in a Person....a king on high laid in a manger. This freedom, it was willingly given for all people who didn't deserve it and could never earn it. This freedom is real and it will last forever!

And this gift, the one that breeds freedom, gives us hope and peace and yes, joy even amidst terrible happenings because then and only then can we know that God is working in all of it to bring himself glory and goodness to the ones that call his Son Lord (Romans 8:28)!

Jesus. Immanuel. God with us. That is what the angel Gabriel told Mary to name her babe. God with us. Not, God so high above us that he is out of touch or out of reach. Not, an impersonal God. No, God with us. If ever there was a man who walked this dusty ball we call earth that knew suffering, it was Jesus. He knows it. He lived through it. There is nothing, NO nothing that you will ever face that he has not tasted himself first. He is the suffering servant and He knows you. And he came. Yes, he came the king baby born and laid in a manger where the animals are fed.

He is and always will be the answer, my dear friends.
781. Freedom, true freedom found only in Christ
782. helping carry a burden for a nation with prayer
783. children playing wagon these mornings together
784. the gift of family
785. hand made gifts by a special nephew, hanging in a few windows...lovely
786. boys, boys, boys
787. an unexpected text from a friend far away...made my heart smile
Linking up with Ann here today.
**Just as a side note, friends, the Compassion bloggers are trying to raise $2,000 and have only, so far raised just over $500 for kids and families in Jesus' name. I will be blogging later this week a little more about that, but wanted to ask if you would consider giving through the Compassion Catalog. Gifts range from $4.00 to $500 and everywhere in between. No, pressure, no obligation... I promise. Just your prayerful consideration of giving a good gift this year? Gather the kids around the computer this week and let them pick out something...this they will love.**

Friday, 14 December 2012

Christmas Photo Cards: FridayFavs

A little early to be posting this, perhaps, but for once I might be on top of something, well kind of anyway. I do, I do, I do love receiving and giving Christmas photo cards in the mail and I'm pretty sure we've done it once or twice, but I'm also certain that was before baby #3. I must also admit, I do try to save a buck or two hundred, and hate to think of all those Christmas card photos I ordered in someones photo box (or in the trash....yeah, you don't have me fooled ;) )  'til next year when you place new one on the fridge, hang them around the door way or on some other wall that isn't already cluttered with photos and then that photo will too... then replace the other one in a box (or, like I said in the trash...ha!) I did see once that someone had made place mats out of all of her photos and Christmas cards to use the next Christmas. I always think I'll do this and then....I forget. I know you're super surprised! So call me cheap if ya want, but Smilebox is free and I get to add more than a couple photos. Here are just a few of our first year up in the U.P. I tried to keep it short and sweet. Enjoy!

                        Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook

                           Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
                         Scrapbook design generated with Smilebox

Oh, and PS don't quit sending me those photos of yours I do love them and my fridge and photo box do need to have a purpose you know?!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Take a Moment

In this season of hurry, hurry, hurry and hustle and bustle would you just take a moment to worship with me Who it is that we are celebrating? Because really, this is the season of waiting isn't it? And waiting, as we've discovered, is hard, but SO worth it! Waiting for the One who was promised so long ago to us. This gift of a babe in a manger who would one day go on to conquer sin and death! Yes, this...sit with me, it takes a few but moments....

Find this song on Casting Crowns' Christmas CD

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Hardest Part

Maybe, just maybe the hardest part about giving is not so much in the giving. It's not buying or making this thing we call a gift. It's not the money or time spent. Though a sacrifice, I usually believe it's somehow worth it. I mean, really I love to give and I think that is true of most people. Here's the hang up though (at least for me anyway): I especially like to give to those who I think deserve it AND I (if I'm being really honest with you) want something in return....even if it's just a nice thank you e-mail.

Micheal Flaherty, president of Walden Media, while speaking to Marvin Olasky of World Magazine about some of the scarier scenes in the film, The Dawn Treader, explains it this way. Flaherty tells Olasky, "So we’re talking with the screenwriter and director and someone says, “Before Eustace gets un-dragoned, let’s have him fight another dragon, and as a reward for him fighting that other dragon and beating him, Aslan will un-dragon him.” I knew there was no way we could talk these guys out of having another dragon in the movie, so I said, “Why don’t we do it another way? Why don’t we have that fight and have Eustace do something incredibly cowardly—retreat, leave everyone in danger—and then Aslan will un-dragon him.” They looked at me as if I had said the craziest thing in the world, and they asked, “Why would anybody give somebody something they didn’t deserve?" (emphasis mine)

The guys that Flaherty is referring to are not unlike me or the rest of the world are they? We want to be rewarded for good behaviour and to reward others for their good.  But that isn't exactly what grace is.  Being rewarded for being good, hard work, responsibility etc. is nice and sometimes necessary, but is not a gift of grace. 

Grace: a gift of unmerited favour.

In fact there is nothing that a person can do to earn it and there is nothing a person can do to repay it. In the scene that Flaherty describes above becomes one of the most powerful scenes in the movie because it forces Eustace to see his utter failure only to be returned, in grace, by Aslan changing him back into a boy. What a backwards God we serve...extending grace while we fail and sin even in our best efforts.

And so when we extend grace this Christmas season....when we give to mirror the best gift of all let us remember that giving and grace go hand in hand.

 I heard over and over this very thing about giving from some of my dearest friends this week. It is one of those things that sounds lovely off the lips, but is hard to live....hard to walk a life giving the same gift of grace to others that has been extended to us.

Maybe there is someone that needs to be forgiven by you...that has hurt and harmed you on numerous occasions and you choose the gift of forgiveness. Perhaps, instead of giving a lecture you can give the gift of listening and helping.  You might be a mom, just like me, learning that it is not a gift to expect perfection, but grace to help those sweets see their need for a Savior and that is the only place perfection is found. Maybe there is a particularly hard relative and you choose to extend grace instead of bitterness.  It really could just be having a hard conversation with someone who needs you to be salt and light to them in this hard, dark world of ours. Praying for someone who is in a desperate situation...what a gift of grace. Maybe you gift the unexpected gift from the Compassion Christmas catalog even to those who don't understand why you're always talking about half starved kids around the world...grace! Because giving and grace isn't really about you and me is it? At least not if I'm giving in the way of grace it isn't.

Giving: it's about Jesus....the God-man who came in baby flesh, lived a sinless life, and died in our place only to rise again that third day. Yes, it is really about him isn't it?

772. unexpected grace
773. journey mercies: to WI and back
774. late nights and new friends
775. turkey, ham, potato casserole, stuffing, corn and lots of sweets
776. piles of snow
777. being reminded just how important teaching is
778. snow tires
779. Christmas carols and the message of Jesus sung off tune by our sweet AWANA group to those who might have needed a special pick me up
780. unexpected Christmas packages

Friday, 7 December 2012

Signs of the Season: FridayFavs

Just a quiet note here up, up in the U.P. amidst flurries, Christmas carols sung loudly and off tune, good Advent Stories, special time spent together though it is later at night than usual, thoughts about giving and what it means and looks like to give as a believer, a sick daughter (yes, again), and readying to go out of town...this Friday favourite is the quiet times in the early morning and chats (via cell phone...yes, I love and hate them with a passion) with that man I call Love....and these....

 Just this wreath, made with love and the hands of of a dear friend.

Sweet signs of the season on our front table
Brown bags filled with bits of happiness and Words of Truth for the soul.
friday favorite things | finding joy

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Good Gifts Worth Waiting For

Many times as a little girl a magazine from the American Girl Doll Company would come in the mail. I remember it usually being around Christmas, but it could have been any time during the year. Oh, this magizine, it was wonderful! And I don't remember wanting a whole lot as a little girl, but yes, oh yes! I wanted an American Girl Doll. Samantha, to be exact.

I would spend many a minute with that coveted magazine, circling little items, imagining, wondering what it would be like to have her...just her. The bed, the clothes, all the accessories, those were, I knew, just pie in the sky dreams, but the doll....that was possible....though she was ever so expensive, it was possible.

Christmas' came and they went. I did get the doll that had the hair that would grow when you touched her hand to a plastic butterfly in her hair. Santa even left me a note that said I would have to wait for the rest of the accessories. One day poof! everything was there on my bed.

 And that bike I got for my birthday one year. My first one with brakes on the front. Yeah, that was pretty cool.

And for some holiday, or birthday, or maybe it was because my mom wanted to get me to stop asking about Samantha, I recieved a look-alike Samantha doll. And really, she was good enough.  She was enough to make my heart sing a little. Her hand did fall off once which may or may not have caused a major dramatic episode in my little life and heart. But you know, my mom, she just sewed it right back on and that doll, she was as good as new.

Then came the days where basketball dreams filled my life and heart and dolls, well they were left far behind. I'm not even sure what happened to that longed for doll.

And it seemed that I blinked my eyes and I was newly married with two month old baby and her first Christmas. Just this young girl, I was, a babe really with a newly birthed babe celebrating the God-fleshed babe lying in a manger for the first time with her new Love as husband and wife. Us, the two of us, sitting on the floor of my Grandparent's little home with my mother looking on as I unwrapped the gift that I felt I had waited my entire life for: my Samantha doll. She was the real deal this time. From her perfectly perfect skin to those little black loafers on her feet. Oh, and that dress and bow. Could she be any more adorible?! She was real. And I was stunned.

"You can give that to your daughter, when you feel she is ready for it," said my mother with tears in her eyes.

I told Jordynn when she learned to read she could have Samantha.
She recieved her on her 6th birthday.

You see, I'm not very good at waiting. Maybe terrible would be a more fitting word here. But that gift, that moment, was everything that I had hoped and waited for.

And isn't that true of all gifts? The good ones...they are worth waiting for??

We wait nine months for a baby. We wait for a delicious meal to be cooked. We wait for our children to grow (though that waiting doesn't seem to take as long.) Maybe we wait, for the one that God is going to send, that someone that we will marry...someday. We wait to be healed. We wait for that someone we love dearly to be saved. We wait and we pray though we are not very good at it. We wait for Christmas to come. We wait for these gifts and much more don't we?!

We wait and sometimes the news is not good, but we KNOW, yes, we know that the LORD, whom we waited on....and have waited since the dawn of creation... since Eve and Adam bit of the fruit in the garden, we have waited for the promised Savior to be born a babe.

And though he is not exactly what we thought he would or should be: He is God. Coming to this dusy round earth ball flinging through the sky....leaving his place on high. There wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. That, my dear ones, is the good gift worth waiting for!

766. an inspiring conversation on giving via Facebook of all places
767. gifts already given
768. good gifts given and remembered always
769. the gift I call mother
770. the ladies in my life that I love and see God working with in. It's inspiring!
771. a message about pressing on....and on...


And to help inspire you to give good gifts this year. You know the ones that last? Here is the good gift list from last week...right here...just a click away. Would you take a peek? Each organization has a Christmas catalog and each are committed, first to sharing the Gospel as they know that healing the spiritual and physicial go hand in hand. You'll be amazed just how far a dollar can stretch!
I'm sure there are more. I know there are, but these are ones that I can suggest as we have delt with, read extensivly about and given to personally (or have a close friend or family member that has.)

Friday, 30 November 2012

YaY for FridayFavs!

 I watch the snow fall out my picture I pretty much do each day, I thought it would be fun to share with you some advice I got about living in the UP from a dear, and funny friend via Facebook. Keep in mind that Justin and I may or may not have dressed quite appropriately for trick or treating with the kids (and when I say Justin and I...I might mean mostly mean me) and this may or may not have been a note of encouragement to do so among other winterly advice.

Hi friend,
On the eve of your first full winter here in "God's Country" (because, you know, God's preference is for places where frostbite is common and no food can grow) and after watching you and your family valiantly shiver your way through our less than stellar attempt at trick or treating, I've decided to share with you my top secret top 6 ways to prepare yourself, mentally and physically, for the long U.P. winters
1. Despite what you were taught in school, there are not 4 seasons. There are five. "The Holidays" are indeed their own season. They start around the first of November and last until the Christmas clearance sales are done. WINTER doesn't start until at least the second week of January. The sooner you mentally adjust to this "fact" the happier all 5 of your seasons will be.
2. Turn the heat up - a bit controversial perhaps, but I'm committed to saving the planet from April through September only. After that I figure the winters are just too long to be cold all the time and so I choose a comfortable 68-71 degrees.
3. And speaking of being warm enough - long johns...all the time.
4. In February, change the light bulbs in at least one of your rooms to the kind that resemble sunlight. It's really neat to go into the "sunshine" room and get a pick me up.
5. The best way to make the winter go faster is to make a long list of ridiculously ambitious goals that you hope to accomplish before Spring (i.e. this winter I'm for sure gonna finish writing that novel/organizing my pictures/potty training my youngest). It is best if they are winter weather dependant ("this winter the whole family is going to become experts at the luge!"), however anything that completes the sentence "I can't believe that winter is almost over and we have hardly spent any time________" will work just fine.
6. Finally, to truly enjoy the U.P. winters, you pretty much have to plan to skip town for almost the entire month of March. You do that and you'll probably be just fine. ;-)
Thank you, Karen.
You always make me laugh
You are one of my very favorites!
First sledding adventure of the year.
Keep this wagon train a movin'!
I think they were on their way out west.
There was some arguement about that
I'm not sure it was ever resolved.
These two.
They said they wanted a "real" old timey photo.
Ya know the ones where no one is smiling?
And it looks "kinda brown"?
The coveted Cub Scout Uniform.
Finally came in the mail.
And was laid out on Monday.
Though the meeting was Thursday...
Our Boy Scout.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Giving Good Gifts

"Why is it that we give gifts at Christmas?" This, the first line of the Christmas story board book that we received shortly after Hunter arrived in late Dec., 2008. It is this story that I read to him while he lay, all 5 lbs. of him, a blindfold covering his sensitive eyes, in a wondrous gift of an incubator. I read. He slept. I prayed. And he worked hard to breathe. And what a gift it was, that incubator. Surly, by God's grace. incredible nurses and this little incubator we have our first son healthy and happy (well, mostly :) )

Not unlike that incubator that kept our little man so safe and warm, free from the world he was not very ready to enter, sometimes gifts can be the saving kind. And as we celebrate the greatest gift ever given, Jesus Christ, I wanted to share with you some places that you can go to share the same kinds of gifts: life giving and changing gifts, in the name of Christ, with children and families across the world who are in desperate need of them.
Operation Christmas Child is something that we do every year. I've mentioned it before here and shared the link. If you have never participated in Operation Christmas Child, it can be a wonderful tradition to starting off the Christmas season right by giving gifts to those who may have never received a gift in their life.
Instead of our kiddos receiving gifts under the tree from us this year (they will have stockings stuffed full of small and needed items) our family has decided to give the gift of clean water.
Compassion also offers a Christmas Gift Catalog that includes many different ways of helping families in need. There are gifts big and small and every one counts. Every. Single. One. And of course there are always children waiting for a sponsor. What a Christmas gift that would be!!
Did you know you can help feed a family for a month with just $12.00 a month?? Unbelievable right?! But it's true. Children's Hunger fund does that for hundreds of families each month. They also offer a Christmas Catalog. And right now if you give a gift from the Catalog from now until the 30th you will receive Mark Swayze's song No Matter How Far for free! You can listen to his beautiful song in the video below.

And one last but not least....though K.P. Yohannan might say that he does serve the least of these in Asia, sharing the Gospel and loving those forgotten. He is president and founder of Gospel for Asia. His mission group offers a Christmas Catalog and you are sure to find something there to make a difference in the lives of the children in Asia.

Our children, in years past, have enjoyed us giving them some money to "spend" in one of these Christmas Catalogs. As they browse they shout and holler (yes, in a good way) about how little everything is. And how excited they are to be giving. They can't believe so little can go such a long way. And really, neither can Justin and I!

As I think back to all of those Christmases ago (7 of them to be exact), sitting, reading, praying for that little one I hate to think what life would be like with out that incubator. Again, I remember it as one of the blessings of living here in America, in our nation of impressive technology. It was a gift. It is a gift. No bigger or smaller than the ones highlighted above. Simply, a good gift.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Made Humble

As I hold and rock our two year old for a must-have-or-I'll-fall-asleep-at-five-and-not-go-to-bed-'til-11 nap, we listen to quiet Christmas music. As I hold and rock this littlest one of mine, I think about Mary, rocking her God-in-flesh baby. It is sweet. And again I am made humble as I think about this Word becoming flesh.

You see, almost every time I want to rise up, to gain something in and of myself, to want a high accolade, it is then I am reminded things like this: that the God of the universe, He who made all things, came as a baby first. No, not as a King. No, not as a ruler, but as a babe in a manger whose every need had to be met first by his own mother.

And so in this life of bending low to be lifted up, I find myself battling against always wanting a pat on the back, recognition for things done well....given well. Just this morning here I am standing in the kitchen crying out for grace to love a friend when I really want, and think I deserve, to be shown the kind of love that I am asked to give freely and with out expectation of return.  And it is hard. Isn't it? And the tears fall.

If there is anything good in me, it is because of you, Christ.
Thank you for coming as a mere babe.
For your life here was lived humbled.
From the first to it's last.
756. rocking quietly with sweet Gideon
757. remembering what humility looks like
758. free Christmas printables (I do love free things)
759. lovely Christmas music
760. new possibilities
761. blessing another
762. antibiotics for ear infections
763. knitting gifts for friends
764. Skyping with family
765. remembering Who I write for

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday Favs: Thanksgiving Style

We have this wonderful life in the Air Force that the Lord has given. Yes, we do! We love living off yonder (I stole this word from my mother) here and there. There are these times that come around once a year, namly the holiday season, and there in my heart...all our hearts really....this pang. A little twinge of saddness that we are not sharing turkey (or pizza if you live in our home), dressing, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and just about every dessert you can think of that you can put in a can of pumpkin into with all those around the world, friends and family alike, that we love so dearly.

I once was told by a dear friend who is a missionary to military families and has see her fare share of people coming and going in her life that, "Oh, how I do wish I could gather all those that I love in one special place and live together....forever." No more good-bys or hellos for that matter. Just together. Sounds lovely. And a bit like heaven, which certainly isn't going to happen on this ball of dust. It was a bit like heaven yesterday, though, Skyping with my mom and dad, and Justin's mom and grandmother. Then chatting a bit with each my brother and two sisters once during the day, it was almost like having them here. It was special. I do hope you're time together was enjoyable, even if it was hard because sometimes they are, those holidays, the best and worst of times for many of us.

And here is a little dose of the special time we had this week together.
Operation Chirstmas Child is the kick of to Christmas for us.
If you have never participated check out their website mark the calandar
for next year.
Becasue it is SO worth it!
This boy.
I love him!
All those tears have been well worth all the fun.
This book.
Sent, with love, to us by my mom
after her visit.
It's lovely.
And I love to walk by, and smile a bit remembering our
time together.
Busted pinjata and all. :)
This one too.
It has wonderful, simple, kid (and mom) friendly knits.
After sitting in Jordynn's room for over a year,
we're finally using it.
Just this.
Looked and looked for something sweet like this.
Thank you St. Vinies.
Aren't thrift shops the best?!!
Christmas crafting with our only sweet girl.
So thankful for her.

Our Thanksgiving tree.
Want to make one.
Find the free printable here.
And scroll down to Ann's post entitled,
A (Christian) Family Thanksgiving Activity:
The Thanksgiving Tree (free printable) 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Hebrews 11 is known as the "Hall of Faith" for every Christian. In it we see clearly that faith is how a person is saved. Every believer mentioned in Hebrews 11 is from the Old Testament which means that Jesus was not born on earth yet. What we also see clearly, is also what the Lord has been teaching me these last couple of weeks:

"These (Abraham and Sarah) all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them,embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Recently Jordynn said absentmindedly, and more to the window in the car, than to me,  "I can't WAIT to be in heaven with Jesus." It's always convicting. I usually say, "Oh, I know sweetie won't that just be wonderful?!" Insert weak smile here. I say this all the while my life says surely that I think that this earth is quite wonderful actually and really there is no place else I'd rather be.
I do not want to admit that I am a stranger or a pilgrim (we've read about those recently and their journey was rough!). I don't even want people to think I'm different. I want to blend in. I want people to think I'm one of them. My eyes are clearly focused on here. Just here. This country. The one I've grown up in and grown to love. Apparently, too much at that ,for this is what my journal read but a few days ago:
"I have for too long clung desperately to this world. I have for far too long
been complacent because life here in America is easy. And, Oh,
how I long for it to be just as easy for my children! Yes, there are time I feel as an alien, but most of the time I am content to just blend in. I know my hope is in You
(Jesus), yet I live as if I care more about the cares of the world.
I want my children to live in a country that honours you,
but at what cost?"
Experience is a funny thing isn't it? I don't pretend to base all things on experience, but she can be a very good teacher. The Lord has used her many times in my life to show me sin that I was missing. And so as I looked back even further into my first scribblings about Philippians 1, beyond a few days ago and on into the beginning of August I see it was there that I learned (at least in my head) of Paul longing to be at home with Christ, but knowing that the church needed him also. Tension is found there, in verses 21-27 of Philippians, but for sure if Paul could have it his way, he would already be at home with the Lord.
It often happens this way. I read. I scribble away. I look up meanings of words. I pray. And pray a little more. My mind wanders. I learn a little in my little brain. There is a twinge of conviction here and there. I confess. And then WHAM life hits me over the head and that lesson is pounded deep into the reservoir of my heart, settles in a bit and it is then, and was in this experience that I realised that my hope, as much as I would have liked to protest to the contrary, had been in America.
Now hear me right please? I'm no fanatic. Of course we can and should enjoy our lives here as much as possible. We are so blessed to live in a country that freedom still rings. And I can relate to Paul, in that, I believe my children need me somewhat like those baby churches needed his teaching. That is a high a holy calling for any woman, and I want to delight and find joy in serving Christ in that capacity.  I want to live each day with those around me that I love, wondering this wispy life together to it's fullest. I want to treasure the time with these 4 and the one I call Love.  I want to travel and see all that I can...all that the Lord made and spoke into existence. Yes, I want all of this and probably more....lots more. 
These things that I want, they are not bad nor wrong in and of themselves. The problem is they had transformed into desires and grown into longings and then morphed into demands as if I deserved to have all of them. And though the world tells me that I do deserve every, single one of them, the hard- to-swallow truth is that I don't. They are a bonus, those things I want. I know this because I look around, I read and see what the rest of the world faces each day as they rise early in the morning and come face to face with the magnitude of the blessings that have been granted to all of us that call ourselves American.
Blessings they are! Though they are not worthy of my trust. It is only the One who has bestowed the blessings on us that is worthy of that kind of trust. It is only he who will never fail or forsake me. He is patient and long suffering and kind, always showing me my weakness and forgiving my sin. Thank you, Lord Jesus...I am humbled.
These Thanksgivings courtesy of our 4 as I yelled out some word prompts:
small things....
739. books
740. Koen (which he was not happy that sister thought he was still small)
741. cups for measuring medicine
big things....
742. big turkey
744. chairs
745. pillows
yellow things....
746. sunshine
747. Jesus (as in he will be bright in heaven??? so says Jordynn)
things that smell good....
749. coffee brewing
750. deodorant (and the people that wear it, I might add)
751. flowers
things that taste good....
752. candy (of course!)
753. clean water
754. pizza, clean air, biscuits
755. pumpkin and chocolate pie

Friday, 16 November 2012

Gratitude: FridayFavs

I'll be sharing our home with you today
in all it's messy glory.
I'm asking for grace, please,
and for one more thing too
But more about that in a bit.
This Country.
I'm thankful we live here.
No, not perfect.
Not even close.
Still, freedom rings and I am thankful.
These People.
The Pilgrims.
Who endured and persevered at great cost and suffering.
Again, not perfect.
Their yearning for freedom: unquenchable.
Their hope in Christ: unshakable.
Messy boys, lots of toys.
Comfy beds to lay our heads.
Lots of shoes of which to choose.
Always enough.
And really, even more than that.
It's was in the looking through the lens today that I really could see. The more pictures I took of the beds and lights and running water and the washer and the dryer and toilets and toilet paper and dinner and the dishwasher and a girl making a sweet treat in the blender, the more I was reminded of the blessings surrounding us and just how much I take advantage of it. After shooting, I asked myself, the same question I remember asking myself in Mrs. Harris' class in 6th grade, "What would it be like if I were born somewhere else?" Somewhere else that didn't have electricity or running water or closets full of shoes. Somewhere in which bellies were not full, but growling all day and all night....mothers and fathers not knowing when and how their children will be fed. Somewhere the clothes are pounded hard against rocks to get clean and though the water is not clean they still dip their jugs in to haul home to drink. Somewhere else is most of this big wide world that we live in isn't it?
And often, when I receive a Compassion Blogger assignment, I don't know of what to write. All I have ever known is an affluent life in America. I know nothing of poverty, no not the kind our David and Ernstia know and will know all of their lives, very probably.  So it is hard to relate. It is hard to communicate with out sounding like the mom or dad doling out a guilt trip (or a "lecture" as Jordynn calls them.) But that is not what it this about. Instead today, every day can be a day of...
Yes, gratitude.
Being so thankful for what you have been given that you want to extend a little,
and  make a sacrifice for another.
Because if you think about it: their needs are so great, but what most of us has been given is FAR greater isn't it? Take a look would you? Would you pray? See for yourself. And truly, these two, David and Ernstia, that we have the honoured privilege of helping are more a gift to us then we could ever be to them.


Follow the Compassion Bloggers in Peru
**If you would like to follow a few of the Compassion Bloggers in Peru,
 go ahead and click here. You're sure to be blessed!**

friday favorite things | finding joy