Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A look back at my New Year's Resolutions

This is the time of the year when people stop and evaluate their lives. The look at the New Year's Resolution's they made last year, see if they accomplished what they set their minds to do. New Year's Resolutions....
I'm not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions... they seem somewhat petty, like you can't just do stuff during the year, you have to wait till January to start something right.  But last year I decided, why not. I'll just try anyway see what the big deal is. I made two resolutions; easy ones I figured wouldn't be too hard to keep.


#1 - Work on my relationship with God
#2 - Exercise


I figured the first would be a pretty much no-brainer, except I wanted to do it a lot.  I thought I would work towards the place where you are;
 "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; " - Ephesians 6:18
Well, I didn't get there, but all throughout this past year, I kept thinking about the resolution I had made to
"...press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:14 and it would spur me on in God.


The second resolution was a bit harder to keep.  I wanted to exercise more and not because I wanted to lose weight and look like a model, but because I knew I wasn't in the best physical shape and I knew exercising would be good for me.  Well... sometime early this year I almost herniated a disk in my back and was put on restrictions for several weeks.  So that x'd any thoughts for exercising for a while.  After that I was just busy and too lazy to try and exercise.  Then, when I was seriously trying to fit it back into my schedule, I locked my hip.  And yep, that x'd exercising for another few weeks.  After that I decided that was enough, I'm just going to do it.  I need to get my body back into shape so I'm not getting hurt!!  I bought a DVD so I could exercise at home and not have to go to a gym or try running (which I stink at).  I've started doing it a couple times a week.  And you know what, not only am I enjoying it, but I'm noticing a difference.  I feel better, I don't get winded as much and I walk taller, more confidently and I haven't hurt myself since the locked hip.  Plus, I'm not a big fan of the music on the DVD so I try to pray while I'm exercising. It's not bad music, just not my preferences.


So all in all, my resolution to have New Year's Resolutions turned out pretty well. I got somewhere with them.  My final thoughts on the subject. Am I a fan of resolutions?  Yes, and No.  Yes, as a person who enjoys rising to a challenge, absolutely; it spurred me to do something and keep with it.  No, I don't think they are for everyone and it depends on the resolution, don't just think of something; put thought into it, decide to do something you actually WANT to do. Ditch New Year's, start it NOW.  Make resolutions all the time to push on in God, to Do Hard Things and allow God to make a difference in your life and the lives around you.  Resolve to let God consume your life into His will.




Philippians 3:13-14  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

"I wish I'd never been born."

The familiar line from the classic Christmas movie "It's a Wonderful Life". Have you ever thought that? Wondered if you've made a difference in a life? Figured that you could never make as big of an impact as George Bailey did? But, did you ever stop and think about it, looked at your life through different eyes Have you ever tried to look at your life as God does?


My "It's a Wonderful Life" experience happened over a month ago and I'm afraid it's not nearly as entertaining as George Bailey's. But, it's certainly made me stop and assess my life. I was talking to mom about my life. Bemoaning the fact that I didn't feel like I had accomplished anything. That I didn't make much of a difference in the lives of the people around me. Mom of course had encouraging words, she started pointing out things that I did that make a difference, and some of them I agreed with. I might not see a huge difference, but there are the little ones here and there. Like going into work everyday. I'm not a nurse, I don't save lives everyday, I merely feed people, smile and say 'Have a nice day!'. One day there was a benefit in town for a man who has a rare form of cancer. We had donated a bunch of food for the benefit and I was on the phone talking to the lady in charge of the benefit. She had some questions about picking it up and such. Before hanging up she told me that we were just wonderful. I believe the word she used was angels. We had made a difference in her life just by a simple act. What about you? It is possible that your smile changed someone's life yesterday. Yes it's possible that your life touches just as many people as George Bailey's did.


Here's another thought; what if you'd never become a Christian? If just a smile makes a difference, changes someone's day, or maybe even their life, can you imagine what a difference having God in your life makes for other people? The gift of Jesus in your life makes the difference. If Jesus had never been born, or decided to not get on the cross and die for our sins, we would all be lost. Stop and think about it. Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Take a moment to thank God for the gift of His son. And take a moment to look at your life through God's eyes. It truly is a Wonderful Life.





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Thursday, December 24, 2009

While You Were Sleepin'

John 14:2-6 (ESV)

"In my Father's house are many rooms.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

"And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also.

"And you know the way to where I am going."
Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going.
How can we know the way?"

Jesus said to him,
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In the winter

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

Those lines are from Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Midwinter.” They’re so evocative of winter with its barrenness, its frozen landscape. I get cold quickly, so maybe it’s just me, but winter’s a hard time of year for me. I long for warmth and greenness and beauty: all the things that winter doesn’t have.

In short, I wish I were anywhere but here, in any time but this one.

And that’s how Rossetti starts her poem: with the earth hard as iron, water like a stone. It’s not where she ends, though. She goes on to say:

Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God incarnate,
Jesus Christ.

Into the midst of all of this barrenness, Christ came. Now, I know that the actual date of Christ’s birth is debated, but let’s lay aside that debate for the moment. Because the image of Christ coming into the midst of a world that is winter is true. He came and made all things full of life.

It’s kind of humbling, isn’t it? Here I am, complaining about my cold hands, and there’s Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, coming down and being born as a human, to save us all. Not just us, but all of creation. How awe-some is that?

So, maybe in this cold season I should stop complaining. Maybe I should start trying to make just a tiny bit of Christ’s warmth in this frozen world. Maybe I should do what Rossetti says: “Give my heart.”

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Investing in Lives

 Last night we watched "It's a Wonderful Life."  I'm assuming most of you have seen this movie, so there will be spoilers in this post... just warning you.


I walked away from the movie and fell asleep comfy-cozy in my bed  while the temperatures outside dived below zero.  And I thought about it before I fell asleep and when I woke up this morning I was still thinking about George Bailey. 


The man gave everything away.  Not just his money, not just his time, but his dreams too.


I love the part when he's getting ready to leave on his honeymoon and he gets delayed because of the bank run.  As soon as his wife shows up with his life savings he runs to begin distributing it to people in need.  And not because they really NEED the money.  After all, as he's already informed them, they could walk into Potters office and get half their money in 5 minutes.  He does it to save his father's business (which he hates) and to save these people from making a bad investment with Potter. My sisters and I looked at each and asked "Do you think he ever got that money back?"  I don't think he did.  Maybe eventually... over time.  But, did he ever have that $2000 lump sum again?  I highly doubt it. 



Countless times he gives up what he wants or plans in order to do something that appears to be the best thing at the time... for everyone else.


I was struck for the first time with George Bailey's attitude.  He so obviously does NOT want to make a lot of the sacrifices that he makes.  But, he makes them in spite of himself.


And that brings me to Do Hard Things..  We've been reading this book in our Bible Study lately and I'm finding something inspiring in every chapter.  But, mostly I'm convicted by the entire of concept of those three words.  Do. Hard. Things.


In other words, Don't do the easy thing, when you have an option to do something harder.


George Bailey's hard things just kept piling up, making the hard things he did harder and harder.  But, every hard thing he did was an investment in another person's life.  Every hard thing HE did made someone else's life a little better and a little easier.  He was making investments in people's lives.  The kind of investments that aren't easily forgotten because they start as tiny seeds and grow and grow.  Little by little he bought the kind of friends that are just waiting and watching for an opportunity to give back.  So, ultimately, though everything he did was for others, HE was the mnost blessed in the end.


And as Clarence says: "No man is a failure who has friends."



What kind of investments are YOU making?

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas/Winter Craft

Remember that totally adorable Thanksgiving Craft that Rebecca did? Well here is a totally adorable Christmas/winter craft.

You can find the original directions and better pictures here. I was trying to help two children make snowflakes and take pictures at the same time.

It's pretty simple, you need 6 squares of paper, tape, scissors, stapler, and glitter (opt.)



For the smaller snowflake I cut a 8.5 piece of paper in half and then made the squares.


Fold the square into a triangle and cut into it 3 times on each side.  Make sure to leave a space at the top of the pyramid, don't cut all the way so the cuts meet.





Decorate (opt)




Unfold and roll center diamond, tape.









Roll next diamond opposite direction, tape



Continue with all 6 diamonds until you have the 6 "arms" of the snowflake.




Hold 3 of the "arms" together by one end and staple to make half of the snowflake.  Ditto with other 3.




Hold 2 halves together by stapled ends and staple together creating 1 complete snowflake.  Then staple the
arms together where they meet.




We did 8 squares and while it makes a dense more detailed snowflake it's hard to get your fingers and the stapler in there!


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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Peanut Butter Balls


PERFECT for the holidays!


1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup of butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
chocolate bark

Mix peanut butter, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar by hand to form a stiff dough.  Shape into balls.  Refrigerate.  Melt chocolate bark in microwave.  Dip balls in chocolate.  Refrigerate.  Serve.

YUMMY!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Do or Don't


Our Bible Study group has been reading through Do Hard Things.   Granted the study is mostly adults, there is actually only one of us who is still technically a "teen".  But we're reading it anyway, and applying it to life as an adult.  An Adult Rebellion Against Low Expectations :-)  I was working through the chapter for this week when I ran across this passage:

Lindsey is a "good girl" who seemingly never does anything wrong.  She won't watch R-rated movies, wears a promise ring her dad gave her on her thirteenth birthday, and won't even date (or "court," as she puts it) until she's ready to get married.  It doesn't make her highly popular among some of her peers, but she cares more about what the adults in her life think.  And they praise her constantly - usually while they bemoan all the "bad stuff" other teens today are involved in.
She loves it when she gets compliments for being such a "wonderful girl," but when Lindsey is honest, she knows she's become exceptional for what she doesn't do. She doesn't attend wild parties, cause trouble, or want a tattoo. But what does she do? Is the Christian life all about avoiding "bad stuff" or is it about doing "good, hard stuff" for God?  Deep down Lindsey knows the answer, but she's already praised for being such a godly girl. Isn't that enough?

The words jumped off the page and smacked me over the head.  I can completely relate.  I know the feeling all to well.  So here's the thoughts..

Are you (and me) known for the things we do or the things we don't do?
And what kind of things can you or we do to change that?

I'm going to leave you with one thing.  Just a little encouragement for all of us.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Tomorrow Promise

It is truly one of God's many mercies that He always promises us a fresh tomorrow morning.

[His mercies] are New
every morning: 
great is Thy faithfulness
-Lamentations 3:23


As I told a friend the other day "Sometimes when I've had a bad day or I'm lonely... I don't delay going to bed.  The sooner I can start tomorrow morning the better."


Because as Anne Shirley says:
"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is always new... with no mistakes in it."


Thank you God for Tomorrows. 

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

George Mueller's Faith

"If God fails me at this time, 
it will be 
the first time."
-George Mueller

This from the man who:


  • Began his ministry caring for orphans with 2 shillings in his pocket. 
  • Built 5 large orphanages.
  • Cared for over 10,000 orphans in his lifetime
  • In 1834 there were accomadations for only 3,600 orphans in England and twice that many orphans under the age of eight were in prison.  50 years later, through George Mueller's hard work and dedication England was able to care for over 100,000 orphans.
  • Became a travelling missionary (a lifelong dream of his) at the age of 70 and continued for the next 17 years.
  • Travelled to 42 countries preaching on average once a day often to crowds of 5,000.
  • Read his Bible cover to cover more than 200 times.  
  • Took in donations for several million dollars for the orphans without once asking anyone for money.
  • Gave up his small salary when he discovered it was paid for by the rental of church pews and didn't  take a salary for the next 68 years.
  • Never took out a loan or went into debt.
  • The orphans never went hungry although several times they prayed over empty plates, only to have food arrive at the last moment.
  • Founded 117 schools.
  "The beginning of anxiety is 
the end of faith, 
and the beginning of 
true faith
is the end of anxiety."
-George Mueller

"Now faith is the 
substance of things 
hoped for, 
the evidence of 
things not seen."
-Hebrews 11:1

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Psalm 95:1-7

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.





Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.


For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.



In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.


The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.




O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.



For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand...



 Psalm 95












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Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Good Day to Give Thanks


Up, down,up, down.

The corn beneath my hands seemed to sing as I worked the new wooden grinder my father had made last week. With each thrust of the heavy pole my excitement mounted.

Today was the special one. The last meal of thanksgiving. And the brown men and women were coming again.

Never in my ten years had I witnessed such a bounty of harvest.
Never had I joined with my friends and family in a whole week of feasting.
It was a day to remember, a day to celebrate the goodness of our God, Mother said.

Our God who preserved us through the long journey from England.
Our God who saved some from certain death in the winter months.
Our God who blessed us with wonderful provision.

"Mercy!! Be the samp done yet?"

The mention of my name pulled my mind back to its proper place, and I responded to Mother that no, it was not done yet, but soon. I knew of a truth that soon better not be far away. Mother was not of a mind to tolerate foolishness with so much to do. I was her only daughter, therefore she depended on me. I must finish this corn.

The smell of roast duck permeated our small thatched house, and out the window I saw my elder brother preparing the fish he caught that morning. My hunger grew stronger, and I worked quickly to complete my task.

I gathered the samp, the ground corn, into my apron and took it to Mother. Our bread was so different here in the New World. Unlike our bread of wheat, this bread of corn was thicker, and heavier. Sustaining for the days of hard work in the colony.

The villagers came forth from their houses, carrying food to make ready for our guests. Squash and corn lined the tables, next to the onions and beside the fish my brother and his friends had caught. From a distance our friends, the natives, came to enjoy this last meal of thanks with us. They carried with them deer, something I had never tasted before. It was a good day. A good day for giving thanks.

I carried the roast ducks out to the tables, first one duck, then the other. The bread was placed beside the fowl, and soon both native and colonist sat down to eat and rejoice in surviving a harsh winter, and receiving a successful harvest.

I glanced over at the head table,where the village leaders and the Indian chiefs sat. Such strange head coverings the chief wore. Strange, yet beautiful, with their many feathers. There was the one called Squanto sitting there too. Father said Squanto taught us to plant corn, so we could eat. I was glad, for I knew enough of dire hunger from the winter. I did not want to know it again.

Our heads were bowed as a prayer of thankfulness was offered to God. We ate and talked, and prayed, and ate. The deer meat was better than I supposed it could be. I hoped we would have it more often.

Later that day as my friends and I played games with the Indian children, my mind reflected on the hour upon hour of merriment and brotherhood of knowing dependence on each other and God. It was a day I would never forget.
I knew that. The last day of the feast.

A good day to give thanks.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Craft

Here's a fun, super easy craft we did here last week.

First trace a wreath shape onto a piece of cardoboard or heavy cardstock.
I just used a dinner plate and desert plate to make the proper sized circles.  One inside the other.



Cut the circle out with scissors.


Next trace handprints onto colored paper.  It helps to have a variety of different sized hands to trace. :)


 



Next: DECORATE!  We used glitter-y glue to outline the handprints, but you could use anything you like.  Be creative!



After the glue dries, cut out the hand shapes.

Now, the fun part.  :)  Make a list of things you (or your helpers :) ) are thankful for and label the handprints.


Glue the handprints around the cardboard ring to create a colorful wreath!


Decorate to your tastes.  We used ribbon and leaves from our garden.

Enjoy!  and

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Psalm 17:6-8

I call upon You, for You will answer me, O God;
incline Your ear to me; hear my words.

Wondrously show Your steadfast love, O Savior of those who
seek refuge from their adversaries at Your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings...

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Solving the Rubik's Cube, My Journey

I can't tell you exactly when it was that my fascination with Mr. Rubik's Magic Cube began.  I remember we had one once when I was little.  I regarded it as one of those things that everyone has but no one knows what to do with.  I grew up in the 80s when the Rubik's Cube was first born and was at the height of its fame.  The Cube, in my eyes was an unsolved mystery and would remain that way.  Forever.  And that was ok.  I didn't know anyone that could solve it.  I still don't know anyone that can solve it. 

The next phase in my Rubik's Cube obsession started when I saw The Pursuit of Happyness.  Chris Gardner claims to be able to solve the cube (even though he never has) and in one suspenseful taxi-ride with his entire future weighing in the balance... he solves it.  The solving of that "magic" cube has an impact on the rest of his life.  If you were to say that if Chris Gardner hadn't solved that puzzle he wouldn't be where he is today and there wouldn't be a movie about him... I'd probably agree with you.




Obsession phase three.  Somehow, somewhere I heard of someone who could solve the cube because, get this, they watched a tutorial on YouTube.  Yeah.  Really.  And when I heard that I got a crazy idea.  I thought "If it's on YouTube... I could watch that tutorial.  I could solve the cube, too."  I don't know what came over me.  On my way home that night I stopped at the drugstore down the street and picked up a Rubik's Cube. 

My family looked at me like I was nuts.  Perhaps I should explain.  I'm not what you'd call... smart.  Book smart maybe.  Math smart?  Tech-y smart?  Geometry smart?  Puzzle smart?  NO.  I don't even do jigsaw puzzles.  Two of my sisters and my dad LOVE jigsaw puzzles.  I don't have the patience.  I was never into solitaire.  I never got higher in math than Algebra 1.  But there was something about the Rubik's Cube.  Something about the idea that if I, REBECCA could solve a Rubik's Cube...  I would never feel dumb again.  Or so I thought.  Honestly, I don't know what possesed me.

So, the YouTube tutorials were not a myth.  They exist.  I started out watching the one that I had heard about.  Some guy made a video on how to solve the Cube.  He had, like, 12 million views on his tutorial.  12 MILLION.  And almost as many comments from people who were thanking him for explaining it so well.  These people had evidently solved the Cube.  I watched the tutorial.  And promptly got lost.  Very very lost.  Confused.  Distorted.  WHICH WAY IS UP?  My Cube was perpetually scrambled.  Frustration mounted.  I decided to give up. It seemed the logical thing to do. 

But then I saw something else.  Another tutorial.  A 9 STEP tutorial.  I went to this other guy's YouTube channel and read the sidebar.  He claimed that his method was "beginner friendly."  Of course, at this point I'm assuming I'm not even a beginner since I couldn't make heads or tails out of tutorial number one.  Is there a level below beginner?  Basement level?  Sub-basement level?  If you're even lower than the sub-basement level do the smart people just say to you "Go home, sell your Cube on E-bay.  You're not smart enough to own it."  I DID spend $5 on the cube... I decided to give it another shot.  I'd try the "beginner's method." 

Right away trial #2 went much better.  I actually solved one side of the cube.  WOW.  I mean...  that's something right?  But, how do you move on to solving another side without messing the first side up?  And if you solve another side then you have two solved sides and you still have to solve 4 more sides without messing up the first two. 

But the tutorial I was watching had a strange effect on me.  The guy explaining it was doing such a good job.  He kept saying things like "Don't worry."  and "I'll show you that again" and drawing diagrams and explaining things over and over and showing every single possibility and what to do with every single possibility.  Something about it gave me courage to keep trying.  And trying.  And trying.  And trying.... Maybe it was the Pursuit of Happyness that kept me going.  Maybe, I thought, somehow deep down being able to solve the Cube would change my future. 

That was a VERY long weekend.  I worked on the cube Friday night.  All day Saturday.  My family went from giving me amused glances to concerned ones.  "Um, Rebecca?  Maybe you should take a break?"  I knew they were thinking the same thing I was thinking.  The smartest people I knew couldn't solve the cube.  What made me think I could?  Saturday night I kept hitting the same wall over and over again. I could get the puzzle to a certain place.  Almost solved.  Only the top layer to go.  And every time I messed it up.  Majorly.  My eyes burned.  I had to start over again.  I would get to the top layer... and screw it up.  Start over again.  Again, I messed it up.  Just when I would think I had it... It would be scrambled beyond fixing... and I'd have to start over. 

Frustration came and sat on my shoulders.  I started breathing shortly.  A huge lump settled in my throat.  You're not smart.  You've never been smart.  Why are you even trying?  You shouldn't even try doing this smart stuff, you're just proving to yourself that you can't do it.  Give up. Give up. Give up.  Why did I keep going?  My sisters tried to help "Um, Rebecca?  Do you think you're being a little obsessive?  I think you need to take a break?"  They threatened to take it away from me.  Saturday night at midnight I slammed it down.  "I can't do it.  I don't know why I tried."  I ignored my sister's tortured gazes, swallowed down the painful lump  in my throat, stalked into my bedroom and closed the door on my tears.  I flopped into bed.  And I knew that I had just proved to myself how stupid I really was. 

Have you ever been in that place?  When everything you do and think just shows you all your imperfections?  I started affixing all sorts of meaning to my inability to solve that silly game.  As if not being able to solve the Rubik's Cube was the final straw.  I was now, officially Not Going Anywhere In Life.  I was doomed to live a simple, poverty stricken life.  I mean, obviously I couldn't solve the Rubik's Cube, so what good could I possibly do myself or anyone else?  Chris Gardner solved the Cube and changed his life for the better.  I didn't solve the Cube.  'Nough said. 

Sunday morning I woke up and walked into the living room.  Only to see that colorful scrambled cube sitting there mocking me.  Or, was it challenging me? 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

I couldn't solve the cube.  But, God could.  That guy on YouTube could.  That guy on YouTube was TELLING me how to solve the Cube.  I decided to give it one more shot.  Why?  I don't know.  I guess deep down I believe God has good things in store for me.  And that belief is stronger than my unbelief. Even when I don't see it myself and even when I tell myself I don't believe it.  I realized that if my future really depended on solving the Cube I would never give up so easily.  And I realized that even if I tell myself I'm a quitter, I'm not.  
  





So, I tried it one more time.  Maybe it was two more times.  I remember my sister walked out of her bedroom and looked at me trying to solve it again.  I heard her sigh as she walked into the next room.  I read the algorithums over and over.  I flipped the sides of the cube.  Red, Green, Blue, Yellow.  Right turn clockwise, Top counter-clockwise, Back 180 degrees, flip, turn, switch, line up the colors.  And then it came.  The final turn.  The turn that 50 times had stared me in the face saying "You did it wrong.  Again."  But, this time was different.  Left 180 degrees.  And I had it.  6 sides.  All of them a single color.  A beautiful Rubik's Cube, just the way it came in the package.  Solved. 

I don't know how to explain the emotions of that moment.  I can tell you that they were too much for me to deal with.  I didn't scream or shout or jump up and down or wake up my sister screaming "I SOLVED THE CUBE!!!!!"  Instead I set the solved cube on the coffee table and went into my bedroom.  And I just thanked God.  Maybe my whole future doesn't depend on solving the Cube.  I will probably never be in a taxi with a man who could give me everything I need if I could just impress him enough.  I doubt I will ever apply for a job where I can claim "Ability to solve a Rubik's Cube" as a job qualification.  But, who knows?  Maybe someday.  For now, I know that solving that cube gave me a self-confidence I've never had before.  Sure, discouragement still comes.  Solving the Cube didn't give me automatic knowledge in every subject that "smart people" excel in.  But, I learned something about myself and about God in me.  I learned that I'm not a quitter, because God didn't make me a quitter and doesn't intend for me to ever quit anything He sets in my path to do.  I learned that I can do things I think I can't do if I try, REALLY try, because I have God on my side, and He can give me the strength to do anything.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

*drumroll*

Congratulations to Hanna 'The Von Seven', winner of our basket give-away!

Hanna, to claim your prize, e-mail us (see side bar on the right) with your mailing address, and we will get the basket to you as soon as possible. :)

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Don't forget to enter!!

Today is the last day you can enter for our Gift Basket Giveaway!

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Little" Miracles


There's a song that says "God gives to all His children talents both great and small".

My talent seems to be getting lost in big cities.

Maybe I'm just too navigationally challenged. Maybe my farm girl roots just can't handle the city. For whatever reason, I always get lost. Always.

But that's not the amazing thing. The amazing thing is, I always find my way back around again.

Because of "little" miracles.

Such as God opening up a spot for me on the interstate when I pray for one, or guiding my eyes to the right sign at the right time, or keeping anyone from coming up behind me so I can switch lanes to make the correct turn and get back to where I'm supposed to be. And stretching my low gas to keep me from being stranded as I try to figure out where I am.
Over and over again I've witnessed God taking care of me, even in small things. Things that don't really seem important or noteworthy. Little miracles, you might say.

I'm convinced there is no such thing as a "little" miracle. I don't think we understand how many times but for the hand of God on us, something would have happened. How many car accidents further down the highway we've avoided because of that slow car in front who delayed our driving. How many times danger or tragedy lurked around the corner but God kept it away from us.

Little miracles that we barely notice. Yet had they been absent, our lives would not be the same.

We praise God for the "big" miracles, but do we praise Him for the "little" ones? Or do we take them for granted?

I believe part of praying without ceasing is thanking without ceasing. For the big miracles. But especially for the "little" ones.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poppies


The Dead

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width, a shining peace, under the night

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dr. Jak's November Sunday



What I wore to church last Sunday.

Gorgeous, GORGEOUS Indian Summer weather inspires me to wear 
Indian Summer colors.  

Rich browns and tans and a splash of something brighter.  :)

Sweater dresses are IN this fall. 
So are Big Belts and Cowboy Boots... :)


I'm wearing brown and silver earrings and brown tights to help with warmth and modesty. :)


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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gift basket give-away!














This time we are giving away a basket full of pampering goodies as a thank-you to all of our readers! Each of our blog readers has contributed something special, and this basket is full to overflowing with fun items!

Check it out:

  • "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young, a book of daily devotions.
  • Burt's Bees Hands and Feet kit containing a pumice stone, cuticle creme, small tins of hand creme, lip balm and a tube of foot lotion
  • Manicure set, including nail brush, clippers, metal file, cuticle pusher, tweezers and mini emery boards.
  •  4 oz.Vanilla Caramel scented candle (which smells AMAZING. I keep opening it to take a whiff as I type this up!)
  •  A bar of Kirk's Original Coco Castile body soap.
  •  Sheer Mauve Revlon nail polish.
  • Apple Cinnamon soap bar.
  •  Hand-made bracelet by ThinkVictorian (thinkvictorian.etsy.com yes, I'm taking this moment to shamelessly give my own store a shout-out ;-P )
  • The basket itself... embellished with bead bangles.
  • White exfoliating gloves.
  • Lavender Blosson bath gel. 
Is that everything??? *digs through basket* Well, I'll throw in some tissue paper and red
crinkly basket filler for no extra charge. Now, how does this work?

To enter, just leave us a comment! Tell us how you think we are doing with the blog, what you like/dislike about it, what kinds of things you like to see in future posts, or any questions you might have for us. Now, you are only allowed to enter once, unless you give us a shout-out on your own blog/LJ. Link back in another comment, and your name will be entered twice. I was going to say that for a third chance just drop me a check for $5 in the mail, but then my concience got to me. Maybe next time.

You have until next Friday to enter. The winner will be announced one week from today.



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Friday, November 6, 2009

The Vision and the Reality

We have seen what we are not, and what God wants us to be, but are we willing to be battered in to the shape of the vision to be used by God? The beatings will always come in the most common, everyday ways and through common, everyday people.

 ~ Oswald Chambers

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Empty or full?

Sometimes I feel empty. How could I possibly sit here and write something moving? How could I hope to teach what I don’t know? The questions just keep piling up until I feel like I have nothing, like I am nothing.

But then I remember one of my favorite poems (I will admit that I have a great many). It’s called “A Better Resurrection” and it was written by a Victorian woman named Christina Rossetti.


I have no wit, no words, no tears;

My heart within me like a stone

Is numbed too much for hopes or fears;

Look right, look left, I dwell alone;

I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief

No everlasting hills I see;

My life is in the falling leaf:

O Jesus, quicken me.


My life is like a faded leaf,

My harvest dwindled to a husk;

Truly my life is void and brief

And tedious in the barren dusk;

My life is like a frozen thing,

No bud nor greenness can I see:

Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;


O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,

A broken bowl that cannot hold

One drop of water for my soul

Or cordial in the searching cold;

Cast in the fire the perished thing,

Melt and remold it, till it be

A royal cup for Him my King:

O Jesus, drink of me.


We will feel empty. We will feel “dimmed with grief.” We live in a fallen world. But we also have the greatest gift we could possibly be given: the love of God and the promise of his mercy and healing.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Review: The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis

"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done."


The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis is essentially built on this premise.


The author takes a trip to heaven, by way of a bus that picked up him and his fellow travelers at a bus stop in hell.  Once there he and his fellow travelers have conversations with Spirits.  Men and women that have died and live in heaven.

I found this book very insightful and eye-opening. 

I have always loved Lewis' views on heaven.  As a place infinitely more REAL than the place we are in, so much more real that we realize the place we have been in all along is simply a shadowland.

I was captivated and somehow quickened at the same time when he described the difference between the passion of pity and the action of pity. 
The passion being "The pity we merely suffer, the ache that draw men to concede what should not be conceded and to flatter when they should speak truth...  a weapon by bad men against good ones..." 
And the action being "...a weapon on the other side.  It leaps quicker than light from the highest place to the lowest to bring healing and joy, whatever the cost to itself..."

I really can't even begin to describe how many things I learned from it, because I know there are so many more things I will learn as I continue to think about this book and read it over and over. 

As Lewis says:
"Thirst was made for water, inquiry for truth."


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Friday, October 30, 2009

Prayer

I've been searching for a topic to write about.  Something to inspire me to get my non-writer-fingers moving.  I couldn't land on anything, at all.  But, while I was doing dishes, a thought dropped in my brain.  I've been working my way through a series of books.  They are very intriguing.  The thing that got me was the way the main character is with God.  He trusts completely.  There is one place in the books where he goes, kneels down to pray, and stays there, pleading for an answer.  He didn't move until he got a audible answer.  Which got me thinking, what do I ask God for?  And truly trust that he will answer? I've never gotten down on my knees and stayed there till I got an answer. Never.  Do I even trust him to actually give me a audible answer?  He can.  So here is my question to myself, and to you. 

When you pray do you trust? Are you doing lip service or are you seeking an answer?


"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
Matthew 21:22

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hello Mr. Wrong

 Before we begin I want to point out something that you will probably realize as you read on.  I am not a believer in the idea that Courtship can save you from a broken heart.  Neither do I believe that "Dating With a Purpose" or for that matter ANY kind of relationship method can prevent broken hearts.  Broken hearts happen.  In fact, God ALLOWS hearts to break.  And if He does than it's all for our own good.  To "bring us to an expected end."  I believe that God has the perfect person out there for each of us.  I believe that God will bring two people together.  I believe that if a couple places their relationship in God's hands He will direct the relationship so that it remains pure and God-honoring.


    There are many, many, many, many, many "Successful Courtship" Stories out there.  Every couple has one.  And they're all sweet and inspiring and encouraging.  What we don't see as often are the "Failed Courtship" stories.  I'm convinced it's not because they're not out there.  There are obvious reasons for not sharing this kind of thing.  It's a personal matter, and I'm certainly not saying that everyone should publish their "Failed Courtship" stories.  But, it's good for us to understand that this kind of thing does and can happen.  (Incidentally, I don't actually believe in "failed" relationships.  If two people enter a relationship toward marriage with the idea that God will direct them and show them how/if they should get married, and it ends up not working, it wasn't meant to work.  In that case, I would have to call it a "successful relationship."  We certainly wouldn't want two people to get married just because they started a courtship/relationship if they discover it's not meant to be.  In these cases God has a much better match for each of them.) 

  
    The other thing that we never hear of but I believe MUST happen more than we think is the relationship that fails before it even gets off the ground.  Before it progresses to the "Courtship/Dating/Dorting/RELATIONSHIP" stage.  I'll be up front and honest here.  It's happened to me.  Twice.  It's happened to some of my friends. It's important to know we're not immune to this sort of thing just because we've committed ourselves to a higher standard of purity. 

   

    I'll be honest.  It's hard.  For those of us who believe in "Courtship", "Dating-With-A-Purpose", "Dorting" or whatever you choose to call it there's a seriousness of thought that comes with all potential relationships.  When I was in my teens and early 20s I never thought of any scenario except a perfect one.  I imagined a guy approaching me about starting a relationship.... Of course I said yes!  I was already in love with him!  Or, I imagined getting to know a guy as a friend and gradually falling in love, and when we both realize what is happening it's obvious we're destined to be together forever.  Or, my dad comes to me "Rebecca, 'So-and-so' has asked to start a relationship with you.  What do you think?"  And I take it to prayer and recieve a resounding "YES!" from God, and a "YES!" from my parents and fall madly in love and live happily ever after.  *sigh*  It seemed impossible to me that all the right components could be there without adding up to the right answer.  I never once imagined that a Godly, nice guy would approach me about starting a relationship and the train would come jerking to a halt.  And yet, that's exactly what happened. 

    I'll walk you through the emotional rollercoaster that is a potential relationship. 
            A) Guy approaches you/your father/however you think it should go

            B) Hope ignites.  At this point I think to myself "This could be it! I've been waiting my whole life for this to happen, and now it's happening!  Could this really be it?"  Not to mention the heart-warming "He LIKES me!"  Wow.  I mean, surely he wouldn't be attracted to me if it wasn't God's will.  Right?  Um, wrong.  Guys can struggle with crushes and attractions just like us girls. 

            C) You take it to prayer.  At this point you become aware that you do NOT already have feelings for this guy.  The place in your heart that supposed to be going "ZING!" is rather... empty. 

            D) Then the questions you ask yourself.  Is this guy really the one for me, but I'm immune to falling in love with him?  Am I destined to be married to someone I don't love?  Or, am I supposed to marry him because all the lights are green (except my heart) and eventually I'll "grow to love him"... maybe. 
      I remember a time when my Dad asked me how it was going with a certain guy.  This guy was interested in starting a relationship with me.  I wasn't so sure...  I looked at my dad while trying to sort my thoughts into a coherent sentence that would somehow communicate every question, concern, uncertainty, fear, hope, dread and depression that I felt all swirling around in my heart and Dad interpreted it all into one brief fragment of a sentence. "No spark, huh?"  Wow.  Relief.  "Yeah, no spark."  He just nodded and walked away.  As if to say "Well, that's that.  No spark."  Yeah.  No spark.  What a relief to understand that there is SUPPOSED to be a spark.  If there's not, Red Light. 
            Of course, no spark isn't the only reason you should nip a relationship in the bud.  There are MANY other things to consider.  Do you agree with this guy on all important subjects?  Doctrine, Child-raising, are you compatible?  I could write another whole article on these subjects but these issues have mostly already been addressed by more qualified people than myself. 

            E) The dread.  The doubt.  This could really be it.  The last train for marriage-ville.  I'm not getting any younger.  This guy is attracted to me.  He'd probably take good care of me.  If I don't agree to go with him...  there's a good chance no one else will ever ask me.  I could be doomed to spinster-hood!!!!!  In the infamous words of Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice fame "...You should take it into further consideration that, in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made to you."

            F) The decision.  The "breaking it off."  Is it really breaking it off if it never even starts? 

            G) Then the guilt.  I probably really hurt this guy's feelings.  Now I feel like an ice queen.  Am I incapable of love? 

            H) Back to the single life.  Except now I feel even more single than ever.   

            I) Then the self questioning. "God, why did You allow this to happen?"  For me, this is one of the hardest parts.  As Jessie Brown says in Cranford "It's not the despair that hurts, but the hope."  Even if your hope never materializes into the feelings you hope it will... the disappointed hope can still leave a bruise that may take a long time to heal. 

   A friend said to me the other day "God will allow our desires (even good ones) to be tested."  This is so true!  False start relationships can be discouraging, believe me I know!  But, it's always better to look on the bright side.  Be thankful for the experience!  Be thankful that God is working in you!  Be thankful that you made the right decision!  Know that God doesn't walk us through darkness for no reason.  He tests us because He loves us.  Every test and trial we go through is one more test or trial behind us.  Don't give up!  
          
If there's three things I want you to understand they would be these:


  •     Just because a guy wants to start a relationship with you doesn't mean he's the one.  I consider marriage a very serious decision to be made.  A possible relationship should be seriously considered.  But, don't fall into the way of thinking that a possible relationship is automatically THE relationship.  If there's a perfect man out there for you, there are no rules saying he has to be the first to ask.
  •    Trust your gut instincts.  God will not ask you to marry someone you don't love or feel right about.  If he really is the one for you God will make it clear to BOTH of you.
  •    Don't allow yourself to doubt.  There's nothing wrong with you.  Everything in our lives should contribute to our growth.  And God will use any situation to draw you closer to Him.  And there IS a perfect someone for you somewhere out there.  Don't get discouraged.

I know many girls will never have to deal with this sort of thing.  But, I also know that some of us will.  Please don't give up hope or feel alone. 

I believe in happy endings.  If it's not happy... it's not the end.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Thyme Is In His Hands


I've never had a green thumb. Blue and black on occasion from missing the nail head with the hammer I'm swinging, but not green. I don't think I even have green blood in me--a grave dilemma for a flower lover.

My sister bought me pansies for my birthday when I was probably 9 or 10, which I tried oh so carefully to care for--they died.

A few years later I purchased some seeds for some lovely blue morning glories,which I planted at the right time and faithfully nurtured--they died.

People have given me plants off and on through the years, plants I've tried everything and anything to keep their little hearts ticking away--they died.

So it's with a sigh of acceptance (or resignation, take your pick) that I admit I am no gardener. Vegetable gardens I seem to be capable of--but flowers dislike living with me, so much that it literally kills them.

Thus my attempts have turned to herbs, for I could not give up--my mother has a green thumb, so surely, SURELY some of her greenness transferred to my genes. It's a small hope, but a live one nonetheless.

I brought home some chives & thyme from the nursery 3 miles away. It's a nice little place,with a decent plant selection and prices. I purchased planting soil, and some darling little flowered flower pots I found at the dollar store. I read the instructions carefully (yes, I have to read instructions when I plant) and set them in the proper place to get just the right amount of sunlight and watered them as often as the instructions said. The chives grew beautifully!

Soon I was cooking with them, eating them in salads, and finally getting the satisfaction of knowing I wasn't permanently doomed to silk leaves and buds. But the thyme........it grew slowly. Barely. Not dying--which I was relieved over--but not growing like I'd hoped. I tried and tried to get it grow. I tried to manage it to produce the results I wanted. I'd been told not to water it a whole lot, so I didn't.

Still it didn't work.

Finally, I got tired of trying. I left it out in the heavy rains and just forgot about it. I didn't care at that point if it lived or died. It was eminent--my thumb was not and never would be green.

I went about my business day after day, not thinking about it until I happened to glance over at it and wow, it was growing like never before--tall, strong, big. I couldn't believe it. I let go of my thyme, and it grew!

You're all probably guessing where I'm going with this. The fact is, my mom and I often make little puns about "my thyme" meaning "my time". Mostly because we're both goofballs and we're glad to have someone else who understands. But the Lord has often used that little lesson of letting go of my thyme to teach me a lesson about letting go of the other kind.

You see, I don't like to be interrupted very much. My time is MINE.

Or so my selfish human nature wants to think. The truth is, God is very good at constantly bringing someone into my day who needs me to pray for or with them, or help them with something, or just listen as they pour out their heart, or just talk with them so they have someone to talk to, or a myriad of other reasons why I must give up my time for someone else. Even something as simple as setting aside the paperwork I need to do, for a few minutes, to play with my niece. Time is precious, yes--but people matter more.
And if Jesus is Lord of my life--isn't He Lord of my time as well?

It's His to use as He wishes--to give to whom He wishes. It amazes me how whenever I let go of my time for someone else, and put it back in His hands, He flourishes it, and somehow I'm able to still do what I need to do along with giving that time to others.

Maybe some day I'll grow a green thumb. Even then, I'm leaving my thyme--and time--in the hands of the One who created it all for His glory.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wodehouse Day

What ho!

Tomorrow is October 15th. One might say, indeed. And the day after will be October 16th. This is true. And yet, October 15th is a special day, one which will forever shine...or perhaps live in infamy. You see, old sports/beans/comrades, October 15th is P.G. Wodehouse's birthday.

P.G. Wodehouse, if you don't happen to know, is the English author responsible for the creation of characters such as Jeeves, Bertie Wooster, R. Psmith, Baxter, Freddie Threepwood, Aunt Agatha...the list goes on and on.

For the Wodehouse fans amongst us, October 15th ought to mark a day of wearing lemon colored pajamas, singing "Minnie the Moocher," and humming the theme music to the Jeeves and Wooster TV series.

Here are a few ideas:
+ Wear a chrysanthemum in your button-hole
+ Start sentences with, "Oh, I say!" and "What ho!"
+ Call your friends "sport," "bean," or, if you wish to be Psmith-y, "comrade"
+ Throw flower pots. Do try to avoid actually hitting anyone, though
+ Find a stuffed moose and stick it in your hallway

I personally plan to eat pshrimp, re-read Leave it to Psmith, my favorite of all Wodehouse's novels, and watch as many of the Jeeves and Wooster series as possible.

Further information:
Wodehouse on Wikipedia
Hugh Laurie (played Bertie Wooster) on Wodehouse

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rebelution!

 Since the publication of their book Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris have toured the country to present conferences. A small group from my church, with the support of our church leaders, was able to go down near Washington D.C. in September to take part in one. What an amazing thing for me, being from a small town where most the believer I know are the people in my church, to see this huge auditorium full of (mostly) other Christians, ready to get going and Do Hard Things.









 When I got home, people asked me what I learned, what my favorite parts of the conference were. Here are a couple of things I took away.

 The day was broken up into sessions, Brett and Alex taking turns speaking. One session though, they gave to their dad, Gregg Harris. He spoke about parenting and raising Rebelutionaries, but eventually he worked carefully up to an invitation. Most of us have been in churches of conferences where they give an invitation at the end of the service. "With all heads bowed and no one looking around... please raise your hands really quick if you said that prayer..." Well, this was not a typical invitation. With all heads up, and everyone looking boldly around, those who had prayed stood and declaired Jusus Christ as their Lord. His point in this was "If you can't to stand and declair Jesus as your Lord in a building full of other Christians overwhelmed with joy and ready to recieve you into the family, how are you going to go home to your friends and familiy and be able to tell them?" I hope I don't come across as bashing churches who do give the typical invitation, but my personal view was that this is much more in the way of not being ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.

Alex and Brett giving away books by way of a rocket launcher.

Another thing that I came away with was this; the Harris boys are well aware that many conferences and church events give youth a spiritual high that they loose as soon as they go home. They have the same friends, same family, same routine, same good and bad habits, same good and bad influences in their lives, and so they go home and become the same again. The whole point of the conference is to encourage people (of all ages, really) to let God use them to be the best they can be, and how can they do this if they forget the whole thing a week later? Well, they have a very profound saying. "If you want to change something in your life... you have to change something in your life." Profound, isn't it? Just think about it for a minute. They are right. It does us no good to decide we are going to be stranger for the Lord, live in a better way, make a difference in the community or our homes, then just sit there wondering why you can't seem to make anything better. You seriously, literally have to CHANGE SOMETHING. Realize the bad influences in your life and get rid of them, challenge yourself to overcome procrastination, become an active part of your church family, there are so many things you could change if you just CHANGE.

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