Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Past & Future

I often seem to get the post-holiday blahs. It's not yet New Year's Day, so I'm getting it earlier than usual. It does seem to be less severe than last year, though, and for that I am grateful. There just seems to be a huge buildup to Christmas, that it's supposed to be some magical day that makes all our problems go away and everyone is Hallmark Card happy. Unfortunately, that's how I remember Christmas not too many years back. I know it will never be like that again. I'm not complaining, really, it's just that I have grown up and it's different. I will cherish those memories forever and would never change those wonderful holidays.

This year seemed so different. The gift-giving was almost non-existent. We met with no family. We even postponed our usual Christmas Dinner with our friends due to work conflicts. So Christmas was literally just spent with Jesus. I didn't feel sad. It was a lovely day to remember the greatest Gift ever given. I almost felt free from all distractions to give Jesus the whole focus of the day. I say "almost free" because I would have loved to have been celebrating with my family, potential stresses and all.

Honestly, I don't stress about Christmas. I haven't for a few years now. Probably because I haven't been Outside for one in as many years. I have come to realize that if I want to give a gift to someone I will, and I will disregard the cost (it's usually not expensive!) or the issue of if I've been given a reciprocal gift. I don't stress about the receiver's response to my gift. If they are unthankful, that is not my problem. I simply wanted them to know I was thinking of them. I often think of how Mary received the somewhat impractical gifts of gold (ok, maybe not so impractical), frankincense and myrrh. Clearly, Mary and Joseph had no means of reciprocating in equal, neither did they feel compelled to show how they would use the gifts in the future. That wasn't the point. The gifts were given to show honor to the recipient: Jesus (God's ultimate Gift!), even in infant form. If this is what our Christmas gifts to each other represent, then the
heart attitudes behind the gifts should be the most important and the gift itself is rather secondary.

I also don't worry about time spent at certain locations. I refuse to allow the thought that I am in charge of keeping anything even. I have deeper relationships with certain family members and happen to have things in common with others. I will not feel guilty if someone feels slighted. I often feel that if a visit feels obligatory, then it will not be nearly as enjoyable and the desire for it to be repeated will certainly wane. Quality over quantity is not just a cliche, but true for us both. That said, there are definitely efforts to spend time with as many family and friends as possible, but I just don't stress over it. I am just happy to see them at all! It's a compliment, I think, to
have family or friends want to spend time with you. And we also understand when people
cannot. We never expect everyone to drop everything, just for us. If it works, great! If not, there will be another time!

Our decorations and all are cleaned up and gone, with only a few candy canes from our friend's house to tell of this Christmas past. We have few gifts to reign in, which is likely due to the fact that we have no kids! We have felt a particular need to let go of the material. Let me explain.

Throughout the holiday season, my husband has had some sparse work days. You are aware of our fundraising drive that he was able to lead in because of that lull. This lull has also jarred us to the feeling of enslavement to our banker. We have discovered that we have loved the
opportunity to raise money for someone other than our banker, and are feeling more and more led to change our lifestyle in order to allow this to happen more frequently. In a move that seems quite backwards, we are considering selling our beautiful and beloved home, and living on only that for which we can pay cash. This means using any profit from the sale of our home to
purchase land and build a home, likely a small cabin to start. Let me specify: we would not take out any loans to pay for anything. Our home would only consist of what we could pay for in cash. The plan allows for additions to be made, but only as our funds allow or as we choose for them to allow. We have a sneaking suspicion that as we have been made so acutely aware of the needs of people in this world, we may be led to forgo some of our comforts to feed a child, give water to a village, provide livestock for a family, or even to go and help those in need.

This concept is actually quite common up here, though not usually for the same reasons. I don't even know that my husband and my reason's are quite the same! I do know that this seems strange to me and even more strange that I'm so compelled to do it. My man is loving the idea of actually working for something as opposed to working off that same thing. This would give us the opportunity to own our home fully at all times, regardless of what is going on economically. We would not be enslaved to our banker, as nice as she is! It would free us up financially to travel when the work is slow, as well as allowing the opportunity to go on an extended mission trip if God leads. Financially it would be incredibly freeing. I can't imagine not having a mortgage or rent, and I absolutely LOVE to see numbers increasing in accounts. I love it so much that I'm
almost on the "hoarder" side of things, but I believe that I'll be fine when I get to see how it will be used.

Neither one of us is a big spender in general. We are not in debt, other than our property. We do not misuse credit cards or other means of credit, and we pay our bills on time or early. We know that mortgages have come to be an acceptable form of debt, but we feel God is pushing us away from this idea. I will not say this is for everyone, because I don't know what God is telling others. I do know that He is clear in His Word about debt and that it should be avoided if possible. We feel that it is possible for us, though it will mean a major change in our lifestyle.
I truly love our home, but I don't love it more than being obedient. I can only imagine what God will place in our hands if we open them to let go of this home. Imagine the possibilities! Pray for us as we continue to seek His direction and Praise Him for providing our Daily Bread!
Yes, this Christmas has much less of the blah's and much more anticipation! As I strive to give Jesus the whole of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, I just wonder what He'll do with it next.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain by Paul Meier, MD & David L. Henderson, MD - Book Review

Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain, Uncovering the hidden potential in life's most common struggles is a look into the issues of: Injustice, Rejection, Loneliness, Loss, Discipline, Failure, and Death. The authors define the pain associated with each struggle, going into the deeper issues, and then go on to provide tools to process it in light of God's Word.
The authors of this book were skilled in defining the deep realities of our pain that result from each struggle. I was impressed that they seemed to legitimize the initial feelings that can arise, but then move the reader to the hope that God's Word delivers. Rethinking pain into potential is in itself a powerful tool to process life's struggles. The other tools presented by the authors are helpful for not only the reader, but for anyone who deals with those who hurt. I would recommend this to leaders and teachers as well as those who need a lift in today's trials.

A revolutionary approach to dealing with life's challenges that guides readers in how to face them and to recognize them as gifts from God.

At one time or another everyone finds themselves questioning, "Does God still love me? Is there a purpose for all this pain?" Drs. Meier and Henderson teach readers how to face painful struggles head-on in a way that allows them to grow and mature emotionally and spiritually. In this timely book they explore the seven most common life challenges:

* Injustice * Rejection * Loneliness * Loss * Discipline * Failure * Death 

In addition they offer the three reasons we often miss the gifts these challenges can be. This unique approach to an age-old problem will encourage and challenge readers to grow through their struggles instead of wasting energy trying to avoid them altogether.

Friday, December 25, 2009

I've noticed this season that my favorite Christmas Carol has been "O Come All Ye Faithful." I have teared up more than once singing the chorus of "O Come Let Us Adore Him" hearing the congregation in unity coming to Adore Him! I'm so thankful that He is what we celebrate, not a pagan solstice or commercialism.
I've also gotten one of the best Christmas gifts! These are 3 of my N&N's that have shared some singing and dancing with me! I just couldn't keep it to myself! They are so special to me and made my Christmas happy! I hope you all have a very special Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Monday!

God has been going overboard on the decorating! The sunsets have given better colors than any collection of Christmas lights, baubles, or tinsel.
I have to admit, I've been more excited this Christmas over the gift to Jesus than to any other gift I have given to any other person. My Christmas gift to Jesus was not my idea. I wish it had been, but since it was my hubby's, I'm extra proud! His idea to make use of our time of little to provide for those who have greater needs has been profoundly meaningful to me. People all over the country have helped to provide as well. I can't help but feel that this is the kind of gift-giving that Jesus wants.
I have been privileged to enter into a family who is also living this idea of gift-giving out this year. I am so excited to be a part of giving to KIVA this year as a family. Instead of fancy gifts for us adults, we are giving as a family to the microloan organization to help others work their way out of poverty. My family is also forgoing adult gifts this year, partly out of necessity, and partly out of a desire for stress-reduction! When did gift giving become obligatory? I have to admit, that there are many in both families that don't feel this way at all. I hope that a year with a renewed focus will allow for gift giving as desired in the future, with no strings attached, no record-keeping, no price-minimum expectations. Giving from the heart. Giving to Jesus.
On a totally non-spiritual note, I finally made the world's best Gluten-Free chocolate chip cookie! I tried a flour mix that is really expensive, but after this experiment, the hubby said it was worth it! I knew you were wondering how I'd fare on the cookie front!
My Christmas decorations are somewhat minimal. I don't go all out on decorating the entire house. Mostly, to be honest, because our home is small and with our gigantic tv that was purchased at a garage sale for $50, I don't have much room. I'm not bitter or anything. I know you'll love the Alaskana Christmas look we don for the season. (Alaskana is not usually a great compliment!) I don't think it's too much, but I did neglect to include the bear skull with the santa hat on it. Some things are best left to the family blog!
As Christmas is fast approaching, and God has been moving in both my husband and my hearts, I have a sense that this may just be the start of something new. I pray that Jesus' birthday will renew a right spirit in all of you and He will stir joy in your hearts this year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Majestic Monday

Yesterday the sun came out! Isn't that just like the Lord? Feeling a little bummed and mention the lack of sunshine, and God just brings it out just for you! It was stunning. The fog has brought an incredibly thick hoarfrost and made everything glisten! Hoarfrost is what happens when the moisture from fog freezes on whatever is colder than the air. Our temps have been in the single digits, which is normal this time of year, but the fog was warmer! Those gloomy days were necessary to create this magnificent image. It's just hard to see it until the light illuminates the scene.
I do feel a bit uplifted, even though its cloudy again today! I just needed that little touch of Light.
My perspective had been a bit cloudy as well. It's time that those that discipline becomes so important. I didn't feel like being joyful, but I chose to find things to think on that honors the One who has complete access to my mind. I was trying to fix my mind on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise! It's not something that comes easily, but practice make perfect!
God invented flocking, and he is really the only one who does it justice. The fake flocking is just not the same, don't you think?
This is the way Jesus decorates His trees. I heard something today on Christian radio that makes me rethink Christmas gifts. A gal said that she puts up a stocking for Jesus and on Christmas morning they pull out the "gifts" that they have specifically and especially chosen to give to Jesus. I've heard of the birthday cake for Jesus, but do we give Him gifts? Not just the "usual" things we do throughout the year, but something special that He would like just for His birthday? I don't think I have. He's given me so much. I have a couple ideas...!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ups and Downs

It was best of times, it was the worst of times.
It's been a weird time, these last couple weeks.
The great news, is that our fundraising for my sister's adoption is going well! If you are interested in helping support their adoption expenses and receive a gorgeous piece of iron art made from my extremely talented husband, just leave a comment! He is continually expanding and creating! I'm so incredibly excited to pass this blessing on to my sister and her family.
The very disappointing news, is that their referral has still not come. It has been heartbreaking to see more and more people receive their referral only to have my sister not receive hers. I am thrilled for the other people, and I know that my sister's wait is not nearly as long as others, but that doesn't diminish the difficulty. I don't know exactly how it works, but I think my heart hurts almost as much as hers. It's a bit different, as I want to know who this little boy is, but I also hurt for her. All I do know is that there is a little boy who is very specifically chosen by God to be their son, and it's taking a little longer to connect those dots by those here on earth. We just have to rest in knowing that God is indeed working!
On the positive side, our dog has had her puppies and has 9 healthy little ones! They are almost cute, but you may know, newborn puppies are rarely cute. They tend to be a little rodent-like. In a couple weeks when their eyes are open, they will be much cuter!
On the negative, I have not been getting much sleep. I have been awakened by puppy sounds about every 2-3 hours. Do I need to get up every time? Well, we have lost a puppy due to being laid on, so yes, I do. I do not want to go through that again. It was sad. I felt like I'd let it happen. Oh, and it also smells. Puppies don't always smell good - just like babies. They have the same bodily functions that are apparently quite healthy and regular. They also don't avoid it, so it ends up being all over, well, all over. Yes, icky. I'm doing much laundry. Have I mentioned that having puppies has never been my favorite? Yes, that doesn't help my negative emotions about having to get up multiple times at night, cleaning up poo, and getting all the paperwork ready for the impending sales blitz. Fortunately, they are labs which are so stinking cute, they practically sell themselves.
My fabulous esposo is still not on a regular work schedule, but he is definitely working. God has provided for our daily bread and also provided a way to help others. We have had such a period of growth learning to trust God for our provisions and not rely on our own ways. It has also given us more perspective on what is really ours (roughly nothing) and how we can use what we've been given, to honor Him. What could have been a real negative has become an amazing positive.
On a funny note, last week when my man was out working in another town (on a boat, no less), was when a nasty storm hit. It snowed 6 inches and then began to rain. Not a good combo with overhead power lines and trees. Our electricity went out and long story short, I was without power or heat (wood or electric) all day. The candles against the mirror was my lighting for the evening since our sun sets at 3:30. It was lovely, but chilly. I hadn't been more thankful for electricity! Fascinating that these things happen when "alone!" Fortunately, that was before the puppies came, also when I was alone.
I have to admit, in conjunction with the lack of meaningful sleep, I'm being hit with the "winter blues." It happens up here. The "Land of the Midnight Sun" also is the "land of the mid-day sunset." The latter much less exciting, though less obnoxious than the former! I love winter and the snow and crystallized trees today were breathtaking. Literally. It was too cold to yawn or breathe deeply! It's a tough couple months, December and January, with the lack of sunlight for me. I have a Happy Lite, so I hope it will be an effective tool! That and sleep!
A random up and down post, I know. Just a little opening up, just in case your days aren't all up and cheery either. But I hope to keep remembering all the positives and keep the blessings God has given in the forefront of my "thought closet!"

Monday, November 30, 2009

Metal Monday

My husband and I are having a fundraiser to help with my sister's adoption fund! My marvelous man is a whiz at welding and a master at metal, and created these crosses to sell for my sister! (amazing alliteration, eh?) We are calling this: Alaska to Africa!
If you are interested, there are several of the above smaller crosses that measure 7 3/4" x 5" and are $10.00 (plus shipping). The layered cross below is measured at 18" x 11 1/2" and is $40.00 (plus shipping). He is, at this very moment, crafting a smaller version of the layered cross and is open to custom orders.
So, why are we doing this? My husband had the idea and since he is not working much, he does have time to invest in this project. Why not keep the money ourselves, especially if we have a limited income right now? Because, this little boy needs to meet his parents as stress free as possible, and if you haven't noticed, when you help others, it keeps your needs in perspective! We have so much, and though we are in a slow time, we still have more than many. We are also hoping that this will take off and we can begin to use the profits to help other orphans in Africa. If you would like to participate in this fundraising and perhaps finish any Christmas shopping at the same time, please let us know!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday's Meme

I will partake in a meme about the ABC's of Thanksgiving! I simply cannot limit it to one word. I could probably go on and on, but I will spare you the excessive reading and try to stay relatively short:

A: Adam
B: Becky
C: Chris, Cambria
D: Dad
E: Existence of God
F: Fall
G: Grandma and Grandpa (missing Grandma B)
H: Hannah, Hudson
I: Internet
J: Julie, Jackson, Joshua, Josh, Jana, Jesus
K: Katy, Kaylee
L: Lesli, Linda
M: Marc, Mia, Makenna, Mom
N: Nativity
O: Orphans finding families
P: Pat, Phil
Q: Quiet
R: Raegan, Rusty
S: Sydney
T: Toby
U: Uggs
V: Very strong cheese!
W: Winter wonderland walks
X: Xeriscaping
Z: Zeal for Jesus

Do you see a theme? I am so thankful for the people I love. I could do this everyday for a year and never have the same words (except for those pesky letters!). I am blessed.
Happy Monday!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pick Me, So I can Give It Away!

Isn't this gorgeous?! As you may know by now, my sister's family has been waiting to hear word from their adoption agency as to who their little boy from Ethiopia will be. She may have thought originally that this was a journey that would change just their lives. She was wrong. It has changed at least my life as well. I've had experience inviting another nephew into the larger family who was born in China, but you have to know, it's just a bit different with a sister. Especially a sister who you love so deeply. My world has been rocked with the deepening knowledge of the world out there. Even my husband commented on how I've changed in the last 6 months. I am no longer anxious for a new kitchen, as I have a perfectly functioning one right now. I am aghast at the cost of new clothes when I have a closet FULL of things I don't seem to even need. I get a bit angry when I hear of how "stricken" people are when they can't get the luxury items they want, when it costs so little to help a child eat for a week and they don't even consider helping. Alright, I get a lot angry at that last one, especially when I see it in me.
In this whole change of perspective, I have begun to "stalk" a few blogs that pertain to adoption (thanks to my sister's links!) and came across this one: "Ethiopia or Bust! @ http://bottomlysandethiopia.blogspot.com/

She's doing a giveaway, and yes, I'm trying for it! How materialistic, you may think. Yes, and no. I would honestly love to have her necklace (above: it's Ethiopian Angel's Wings), but I most likely would not keep it. It would not belong to me. I would most definitely pass it along to my sweet sister who is waiting for her little angel! If it weren't for her, I'd not be enjoying this special road.
If nothing else, please check out the Bottomly's blog and "Don't excuse yourself by saying, 'Look, we didn't know.' For God understands all hearts, and He sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve." Proverbs 24:12 (NLT)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday's Mishap

I have never been able to make chocolate chip cookies.
Nope. Never.
What happens? Well, I don't know. They usually do not cook in the middle. Like these.

Lest you think I have not tried every possible difference on the planet, I have. I have tried:
Butter, Margarine, Shortening, 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 1/4 cups flour, even more flour, Muscovado brown sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, different amounts of brown vs. white sugar, many different flour mixes (especially now since my hubby is Celiac and cannot have wheat), tried airbake pans, stones, cheap cookie sheets, all with no real success. I am not really asking for tips. I have given up on trying to make a chocolate chip cookie that looks any different than this:

Let me tell you why.
This crumbly, gooey, crispy mess of a cookie may look hideous, but it still tastes good! It is perfectly filling it's purpose in its life. It is making our taste buds happy. It does not need to look good to do it.
I was simply going to share my mishap, but then it hit me. How are we like these cookies? Oh, yes, I'll go there!
We may not look like something lovely to the world, but God made us and we can fulfill His purpose for us. Pretty cheesy, I know.
It sort-of related to what I randomly posted on my facebook page. I did one of those "pick the closest book, turn to page 56, type in the 5th sentence" thing. That sentence was profound to me. "God does not always use us for tasks the world would think spectacular, powerful, or significant." This is from the book I'm reading, FINDING PURPOSE BEYOND OUR PAIN, by Meier & Henderson, MD's. We may not end up winning the prize for most spectacular looking, but I hope I make my maker's taste buds happy! Well, you know what I mean!
Here's to more mishaps that lead me closer to my Lord!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Walking on Water

Today was the first day I walked across our small lake. It's a 5 acre lake for which I have discovered a deep affinity. I've never lived on waterfront, so I didn't know it was anything special when we bought our house 2 years ago. I love watching the changes occur and the wildlife that also enjoys the water.
I have been anticipating with joy the moment I could again walk across our water. It gives me and our dogs freedom to run around without the threat of motor vehicles surprising us. The water has actually been frozen for a while, but I was a bit nervous to walk too far out. The edges are the first to freeze and the first to thaw, so the middle is always the "iffy." About a week ago, I began to take a couple steps out on the frozen edge. There was no snow like above, and it was clear through to the lilies on the bottom. I could see frozen suspended bubbles at least 2 inches down, but still... I know that this is sufficient thickness to walk upon and the quality of clear ice is the best. Walking on clear ice that shows the lily pads down to 6 feet down is a bit unnerving. I couldn't go far. Fortunately, we now have a bit of snow on top, so I can't see the depths.
I wondered how Peter did it. He didn't even have ice. I wonder if it felt like ice? More like snow? I can't even walk across my clear iced pond, much less a moving piece of water.
I know I could do it if I just refrained from looking down. I may have even been able to walk across our frozen lake if I just kept my eyes up.
Recently, we have begun another lapse of income. It happens more than rarely up here. My incredibly wonderful providing husband works in the oilfield, and if you didn't know, the price of oil is not exactly where it was a year ago. As great as that is for the consumer, it really stinks for those who find work in that field. It's a strange industry that seems to work on the "feast or famine" premise. Right now it's "famine" time. This has happened before, but before it seemed that there was work going on elsewhere or right around the corner. This drought may be longer lasting. It may not be, but we don't hear too many positive short-term rumors.
I wonder if God is asking me to step out and walk on water. We plan and plan to prepare for such events, and I think that is wise, but I just wonder if we are going to be sent beyond our planning.
How will I respond?
Look Up!
But look how interesting it is when you look down! You need to know where to step, right?
Nope. I can trust Jesus to take us right where He wants us. He will give us firm footing. He will give us hinds' feet and place us on our high places. He will equip us to take the steps of faith, whether on steep slopes or on water. I have so much peace that He will provide. What freedom!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Momentous Monday!

This is one of my favorite girls in the whole wide world. Can't you see why?! I love this picture and I've shown it before, but I can't help it. She's been on my mind this week.
My sister told me that my little gal (really she's my sister's little gal, but I'll take her any day!) had asked Jesus to come into her heart! At that moment, my heart just burst! I'm a pretty emotionally proud Aunt! My sister, not wanting to dismiss this momentous occasion, but wanting to understand the depth, asked her why she wanted to do this. Her answer is the very best answer I have EVER heard: "I just love Him so much!"

Every time I think of this, my eyes well up and I just about loose it. It's a similar reaction to when I learned of each of my N&N's decisions to give their hearts to Jesus. I just don't know if I've heard such a perfect motivation. I know mine wasn't! I was a little concerned about my level of fire resistance. Jesus knew it was also that I trusted Him to keep me safe. But really? I just love Him so much!? How absolutely perfect is that? I don't think I can add anything. My 4-year-old niece has just surpassed all my knowledge and study with the simplicity to which God calls us. It's really all He wants of us. I hope I can be like my niece when I grow up and be able to say about the things I do: "I just love Him so much!"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's My Birthday, and I'll Post When I Want To!

Yes, it is my birthday today. I am a whopping 33 years old. Some of you still may call me a "baby." I'm O.K. with that. I still feel like one.
A friend of mine who also recently turned 33, pointed out a fact that I had also been mulling; that this was the age of Jesus when He died. And resurrected!
This was a little sobering, but it made me think a bit. I don't find myself remotely close to Jesus' level of maturity. Then I remembered that He is, after all, God. I decided to cut myself a little slack.
My birthday is usually my time to reflect on the past year and evaluate myself. I'm not typically critical, but can sometimes use constructive criticism to point out my areas that need improvement. I don't make New Year's Resolutions, but sometimes give myself goals on my birthday.
I am very excited for this, my 33rd year! I will get to meet two new nephews someday! That will bring my grand total of N&N's to 13. That is a lot of love, and I love each one of them. I wish I could spend more time with each one, but God has us here for a reason, so I wouldn't change it. I am going to learn how to snowshoe. I have never done it, but it looks simple enough and I am out in the snow everyday anyway (that is, when it does snow - when is that stuff going to get here?!). I am hoping to finish a couple of projects: finish hanging drapes in our living room that have been in storage for a year and a half, knit myself a matching hat and scarf which have not been started but yarn has been purchased, and to complete all the books that I have started and not finished. I also plan to read through my new New Living Translation Bible that I bought yesterday. I hope that I can build up some business for my landscape design in order to donate my profits to Amazima (on my side bar). I also hope that God will continue to develop the Thursday night group and deepen friendships that have been formed. I would love to be able to get birthday/Christmas/other event cards in the mail on time this year, though I'm not too expectant of that one. I'm wanting to continue my 1st and 15th memorizing with Beth Moore, and might suggest that practice to anyone else who has struggled to memorize Scripture!
I am thankful for 7 1/2 years of amazing marital life! God has blessed this relationship more than I ever thought possible. I love the 11 little N&N that I have and so thankful for the times I get to spend with them. I adore my sister and can't believe how far our friendship has come. I'm so thankful God provided her with such a great husband! I am so proud of my brothers. They both have incredible (and gorgeous) wives that are clearly God's helpmate for them. I am more aware now of how special it is that we all not only get along, but all love each other. I'm also thankful for our parents. They gave us a pretty spectacular childhood and taught us to love Jesus from our birth. I have been incredibly blessed by my husbands family. His parents have given us support and lots of shared laughter! His sisters and their families have loved me and made me part of their family instantly. God has provided for our needs and much more. I've had more fun experiences and learning opportunities than I could possibly list. I've had an amazing 33 years.
So, yes, I have a collage of meaningful and less than meaningful goals that I have shared. I know this next year of mine will hold some very difficult challenges, much of the mundane, and some incredibly special moments. Throughout them all, I hope I can "Rejoice always. Pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for ME in Christ Jesus." 1 Thess. 5:16-18 (new international Meli version).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mushy Monday!

Recently, my mom took some photos of my super-man and me. I just got them emailed to me and I absolutely LOVE them! I must admit, I'm not all gussied up and can probably clean up a little more, but isn't he just the most handsome?! He makes me feel all giddy!
I am madly, completely, head-over-heels in love with my husband. I know I mentioned this a little last week. In the relatively short time I have known him, I have behaved quite differently than I had pre-Pat. I would like to say all of that was for the better, and most of it has been, but a few times, I have chosen my beloved over others in a perhaps less than ideal way.
One way that sticks out in my mind, which I will forever regret and continually seek forgiveness for, was on my 25th birthday. I had been dreading this particular birthday, not because of the age, but mostly because of what I had not accomplished by this milestone. It did sound very adult, and I felt completely alien to myself. I was still learning who I was and who God was making me. Well, as a fabulously loving gesture, my mom got my sister and me tickets to go to a Women of Faith weekend in OKC over my birthday weekend! I was looking forward to it as a wonderful distraction and possible direction revealing weekend. This was until I discovered that our church was having it's annual Barn Dance that same Saturday. The love of my life and I had just begun dating, again, and it was to the point where we were beginning to have some pretty deep discussions. I was actually torn.
Looking back, I am truly horrified that I would have been so selfish to have even given this a thought, much less actually decided to forgo the WoF weekend, long planned, for a dance. Yes, I chose the dance. And Pat. I sought out some council, and was advised to do what I desired most. Really? I don't believe it was wise council.
I did have a good time at the dance, though I can't imagine what I missed. I know I missed the opportunity to bond with my mom and sister. I know I missed the chance to hear God speak truth into my life through some amazing speakers. I know I missed a fun girls-only weekend! Those are only the broad strokes. I'll never know the fine details of what I could have had, this side of heaven.
Now, I'm not saying that my husband should come after others in my life, especially not now that we are married! What I have been thinking on, however, is how determined I am to spend my life pursuing God. I gave up some wonderful times to pursue my husband, right or wrong. Do I throw all abandon and pursue my God? Would I be willing to give up some wonderful things to develop deeper relationship with Him? Am I choosing something I think is more desirable right now and missing the real opportunities for closeness?
Basically, I am asking myself if I love the Lord as much as I love my husband. More, even. Is that possible?! I have to confess that I have a hard time feeling the flutters when I sit down to read His love letters to me. I don't anticipate with watching the clock to when I get to spend time with Him. I am not as excited when I have done something specifically and secretly for Him. I have to admit, though, that it is awful hard to prepare a surprise for the Lord. That one is just for us humans to receive!
Don't misunderstand, I am far from dreading my alone time with God. I enjoy it immensely! It is one of the pleasures of life for me. I wish I could go to seminary and pursue the more intricate details of His Word. I love to discuss difficult passages and discover new applications in my life. I have no earthy idea of how people get along without God. I don't know why they would want to. Life is so much richer with my relationship with Christ.
So why the former lamenting? Well, as much as I am humanly able, I want to duplicate the love I feel towards my husband to my Lord. I never want to diminish the affection for my husband, and I firmly believe it is the way God intended marital love to be, but I just want more for my relationship with Jesus! I want to eagerly anticipate every moment I get to spend with Him - even though I know it is every second of every day! I want to present myself in my best mind, body, and spirit to the One who made me. I want to make Him happy with me by doing the things that He has asked of me, even seeking those opportunities out. I want to be madly, completely, head-over-heels in love with my Jesus.
I am so incredibly blessed to have been given a husband who lives out the Biblical principles of marriage. He shows me a glimpse of what Jesus feels for me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Makin' a Name, Monday

When we first moved to Alaska, I began to rethink my goals in life. Instead of my high school dreams of becoming a corporate big-wig and financially successful, I began to think that my new God-given title was to be "World's Best Wife." As corny as sappy as that sounds, I'm incredibly serious. I began to really have moments (albeit short-lived) of putting my desires and needs below another's. I tried so many new things and determined to enjoy them! Unbeknownst to me, I actually did enjoy many of the crazy adventures. I discovered that I like to canoe, and really, can it be more beautiful?!I also discovered that, although I don't love the hard work per se, I love reaching a goal of ascending a new height on a hike. I can't wait to get snowshoes. I enjoyed snowmachining (riding a snowmobile for you "outsiders"), and I discovered that I don't like it enough to keep the machine. I love walking the dogs in the woods. I love being able to see mountains. I love catching Silver Salmon on the second day of the Swanson River Canoe trip. I love seeing all the bears. I mostly love the joy my husband has when he gets to participate in all his enjoyments! I love making him proud of me when I accomplish something that he's taught me.

In all of that self-awareness, I must confess that this selflessness is a hard fought fight every time. I am a second child that constantly wishes for acknowledgment. Since I can remember, I have been building my own bricks to make myself a tower for others to see and give me my acclaim. If not acclaim, at least acknowledgment. I wanted to make a individual name for myself, not connected to anyone else and better than anyone else.
I had never thought much about the tower of Babel story having much implication for my life. Oh, isn't God funny! I was truly struck in my Thursday Group when Jennifer talked about how we do the exact same thing. I have been so determined to carve out a name for myself that I didn't realized that God already named me. I am enough to be His. What could possibly be greater? Living Stones trump bricks any day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Morning

This is my sunrise this morning. I just stepped outside and took this picture from my back porch. It's really quite lovely. Living up here, I often feel in awe of the beauty of God's creation. I told my husband recently that I hoped heaven had a place outside of the New Jerusalem that had mountains, and that I wanted to be there instead of the "city." As ludicrous as that likely sounded to God, I think there's a reason why mountainous regions evoke heavenly awe. At least for me, they do! I realize there can be beauty in the desert, but the desolation quickly overcomes me. No hard feelings, desert-dwellers (literal ones)!

I'm reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan (Bloom book club), and finished chapter 5 recently. Chapters 4 and 5 are like a 1-2 punch. In the gut. I imagine, as I've no recollection of ever being punched in the gut. These chapters have made me really look at what I consider myself to be, as far as "Christian" goes.
To make matters "worse," I've also started the Me, Myself, and Lies Bible Study by Jennifer Rothschild with my Thursday night group. I honestly didn't think I was perpetually telling myself lies. Is there a 3-punch? Perhaps it was an uppercut. Anyway, I have begun to realize that my lie-telling self has been building up my pride with things like "I deserve to have that", "You are doing enough", "They are lucky to have you, and they don't even realize it." Then I have that false humility of realizing my pride and going the opposite: "You don't even have a bachelor's degree; what do you know?", "You made some serious lapses of judgment while you were a Christian. Your testimony is marred beyond repair."
So, how do these beat-down sessions connect? Well, I have realized how far I fall short in what I give to my Creator. I see everyday how much He has given to me, if only in the Creation He so perfectly gave. He made not only this amazing and complex world that the Discovery Channel so beautifully displays (though it's seriously flawed in it's interpretations), but He made me. He made me on purpose. For a purpose.
To put myself on a pedestal and elevate my needs above my Lords, is a seriously ridiculous action. I do it all the time. I pat my proverbial "god" on the head and tell him it's enough for now, and I'll get back to him later. After all, I've done a fair share. On the flip side, it's just as preposterous to tell the One who made me of all the flaws in His work, or what He made won't work like He wants.
Am I that puffed up? I don't think that's a lie. I think that's one truth in that "thought closet" that needs to clean out some of the garbage that's been collecting. My creator gave me everything I have. He has also given me the ability to give it all back. The strange thing is, if I do, I'll receive even greater gifts, though that is not the motivation. Jesus told us to give EVERYTHING if we truly love Him. Look what He gave. I am so lucky to have Him, and I don't even realize it.
Well, sometimes I do.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday with Mom

Tonight I was fortunate to find my mom a later flight back home that saves her 3 hours of waiting in an airport and $7! I'm cheating a bit and posting the same post that I put on my Alaskan Blog. I figure it may be interesting to you all, too!
The last two weeks have been a bit of a blur! It's been filled with activities and seeing things again for the first time!
Mom's visit highlights (since I think she took hundredS of pictures!) include:
Mount Redoubt is behind Mom, though my lighting wasn't showing it. I tried to get the beach and the puffing volcano in the shot. Oh well!
We then took a hike up to Russian River Falls. The Autumn leaves were brilliant in the sun and there were still a few salmon jumping up the falls. Despite all of Pat's longing, we did not see any bears that day!

Rowdy and Bella thoroughly enjoyed the walk!
We took a sunny day to drive down to Homer. It was a gorgeous day and we stopped first at the bluff at a friend's place to take in the views. Some of the clouds just enhanced the places the sun illuminated. In fact, I had never seen such distances before. It was amazing.

We walked the beach, found shells and glass, and continued on to some shops and a local winery for a wine tasting. The locally made Alaskan berry wines were quite yummy, though our server could have held back a little on our portions! The view outside of the winery was exquisite.

Pat can't bear to go without a shooting lesson! Check out that Pink Lady!
Yep! Tsunami's possible. We took a trip to Seward on another sunny day. The views were unbeatable.

We visited Exit Glacier and took the trail to view the glacier. We then took the trail to view the outwash and discovered we could walk around to the foot of the glacier! I was pretty excited and skipped up to the ice and began to play! In this first picture it seems I'm showing...
We had fun watching the ice melt and just feel how small we really are compared to such a sight. And yet God loves us so much more. You can't help but sense His presence in a place like that.