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!"