Monday, December 31, 2007

The Last Rant of 2007

I'm the first one to admit that I don't have a whole whack of fashion savvy. Never did, prolly never will. Now that we have that confession out of the way, let's have a good ole fashioned end of the year rant about stupid trends, shall we?

In my world, there are a few basic fashion no-no's. At the very top of that list, is anything that was trendy in the 80's. I do mean anything. Clothing, hair, make-up, music, dancing, eating, breathing and/or anything else that was popular in the 80's. It was a bad scene that should never be repeated and possibly even blotted out of the halls of human history for all time.

So yesterday after church I had to make a stop before heading home. Going out in public is always a sure way to find a fashion nightmare that makes one go "oh man, what is THAT!?" but I generally try to just keep my opinionated opinions to myself and mind my own business. Except for when I see people wearing their pajama pants in public (oh man I hate that) and or when someone goes full scale 80's and actually goes out in public in such attire. At those times I have to at least say something to Kevin and ask "is it me, or is that THE dumbest/ugliest/most insane thing you've ever seen?". He assures me it's not me.

if this is fashion, I'll die barefootSo yesterday I saw a young lady that (I'm not making this up, kids) looked like this, with her highly fashionable leg warmers. Oh yes, did I forget to tell you leg warmers were back in style? You betcha they are, but the fashion report says they're not the big ole bulky ones like Jennifer Beals wore in Flashdance (and like the ones I got for Christmas in the 9th grade - what was I thinking!?). Instead, they're sleek and stylish, in your choice of stripes, sparklies, or argyle, or what have you. According to the fashion smarty pants know it all folks, the deal is... you are never supposed to wear them with a.) long skirts or b.) high heels. The young lady I saw violated both leg warmer protocols and I could not help but immediately think of the legs of the witch sticking out from under Dorothy's house in The Wizard of Oz.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for stripey socks. I have AND wear stripey socks. They're cool, they're funky and they're for interior wear only. I do not wear or flaunt my stripes in public, since that would only draw attention (and numerous laughs) to myself and I'm not about standing in a crowd with a fashion sign that says "look at me! slave to fashion that I am".

What it all really boils down to I guess is the desire to be so trendy, so fashionable and the one to beat, is that you'll throw on anything, no matter how ridiculous it looks, and wear it in public. Like your pajama pants (and yes, we all know they're pajama pants, we have them too and we see them on sale at WalMart, Zellers & Target), or the ugliest leg warmers on the planet. That's the thing about fashion trends that I simply do not get. It's one of the most shallow goals there could possibly be. I mean, at the end of the day do these folks sit smugly and content that X amount of people said to them that day "oh that is so cute! where did you get that!??" or do they remove the offensive garb and think "well that was dumb, people just laughed at me today and tried to drop houses on me"? I honestly don't know, because I don't get it.

Okay rant over, I feel much better now.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Reason for Chasing Cars

It happens every year at Christmas, with a big family like ours. You really try to pay attention to the neat things the kids are opening but sooner or later you miss something and don't even realize it until days later. Its not nearly as hectic now as it was when the kids were all smaller and needed adult supervision, but its still pretty crazy at our place Christmas morning with all of us. This year it was only 11 of us, but that's two less than it usually is with some family that has moved away.

This year Kevin's mom bought a gift for Jessica I knew she'd really love, but I never got to see her open it or see her reaction because I'm sure I was far too busy adoring my angelically cute grand-daughter in her pink fairy nightgown. In any case, the gift...

Essentially it's a karaoke type game for the PS2. Its not really a game per se, although you can hold competitions with other singers for higher points and that sort of thing. More than anything it's just plain fun. The video of the song is on the screen along with the words and even the notes, and you sing along. With each line you get a little bubble type notice that pops up that tells you if you did awful, fair, good, cool, etc., for that particular line. When the song is over it gives you your score and tells you if you're all the way at the bottom of the charts (tone deaf) or at the top (superstar) or somewhere in the middle. You can also play it back to hear yourself sing along with the song. The cartridge comes pre-loaded with something like 20-30 songs, and since it's a popular, contemporary 'game', there were only about 5 songs on it that Kev or I knew, but Jessica knows them all. She's 17, I think it's an unwritten code that at 17 you must know these things.

So anyway, she took it upstairs and hooked it up and started to play around with it. I didn't know how much fun it really was until she brought it to the game room the other night and we all took a stab at it. As it turns out, I'm a superstar on the song The Reason by Hoobestank (that's not really a real name, is it? I'm fairly sure I used to call messy diapers something like that, years ago) and Kev's a superstar on a song called Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. Until this week, I'd never heard of either group, although I had heard The Reason about a year ago and really liked the song. Now I also like the song Chasing Cars and hope to eventually knock Kev out of the top scoring spot for that song, if Jessica ever lets me play with her new toy again.

The thing is, I'm one of those people I used to make fun of when I was young and obnoxious. I'm rather out of touch with contemporary secular music, and I honestly don't care. It doesn't enrich my existance in any way to know the names of bands, or songs, or who's touring where and/or how much the tickets are (and let me tell you, the ticket prices today blow me away compared to what they were when I was 17!). There was a time in my unsaved life when I knew all that information, but that was then and this is now. Priorities have changed and what's important now is what I didn't realize should have been important then.

As we were goofing around with this game however, Kev and I agreed that it would exceptionally cool to have something like this with Christian songs on it. (We even looked for one online, but found nothing of course). Not the sappy type of "Jesus is my Boyfriend songs", but the great classic hymns and some of the incredible modern Christian contemporary music out there. Of course they'd have to redesign the "scoring" system since no one really cares (and if you do, shame on you) if they're a "superstar" or not while singing along, the fun part is the singing & enjoying it. I know I know, it's a silly idea and the market is too small for anyone with the know-how to actually come up with something like that, but it would still be pretty cool.

Until then, I'll just have to keep practicing Chasing Cars until I knock Kev into the #2 spot. Who would have ever guessed I'd be doing such a thing? At least the lyrics of these two songs I've mentioned are decent enough to sing along to.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

you need to read this book
I mentioned here on the blog not too long ago that Kevin received this book for his birthday. Well he's finished it so now its my turn to read it, and I started it night before last.

I'm only into chapter two, but when I was reading something really stood out to me (which happens often when I hear James speak or read his works). Here's the quote:
"The Christian is to seek actively to think in a manner that is pleasing to God. Believers are described as having the mind of Christ (1Corinthians 2:16), not a mind that is conformed to the world (Romans 12:2). So there is a clash between the way the Word would lead us to think - with Christ as the sum and substance of God's wisdom, the centerpiece of all our thought and action (Colossians 2:3-9) - and the constant pressure of the world to place ourselves at the center of all things. The more we expose ourselves to the influence of the Spirit of God through worship, prayer, and study, the more our thinking is conformed to standards of godliness. But many Christians today will admit that the time they spend in such pursuits is miniscule in comparison with the time spent under the influence of the world. The result is not surprising: the influence of the world overpowers the influence of Scripture, and the gospel is transformed into a message that does not challenge or convict but instead affirms." (pg.29-30)
While this book is about coming to a deeper and Biblical understanding about justification, this section in chapter one stood out to me for another reason. We've probably all heard the old saying that someone is so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good. Likewise, we probably all know that what that means is that a person is so consumed with the life to come, that the life being lived here on earth is being neglected. I've known someone like this and he had a very disturbing fatalistic kind of attitude toward sanctification, evangelism, and pretty much anything else you could come up with. Indeed he read his Bible constantly, prayed constantly, spent ample time in church, but somehow the message of being busy about the Lord's business ON EARTH while here, went right over his head. This extreme is just as much in error as the opposite extreme in which a person claims a profession of faith but has no need for being in a local church, doesn't read their Bible, doesn't pray, and doesn't see any need for their own personal growth to desire these things. Clearly the goal should be a balance between the two - to have a deep desire to know the Bible and be a growing Christian, but to also be a willing vessel to be used by God, for God's glory, right in your own home, community, workplace, school or church.

The part of the above quote that really lept off the page for me was this "The result is not surprising: the influence of the world overpowers the influence of Scripture". As someone who stands firm on the sovereignty of God (and so does James White) this is not to say that the pull of the world and all the sinful things in it are stronger and/or can overpower the influence of the written word of God. I believe that what happens when we do this (allow the influence of the world into our thinking) that God simply allows it, and also allows the consequences that follow. In some cases the consequences are quite disturbing and should be enough to teach us a valuable lesson.

I know that for myself personally, I would much rather allow my thoughts to dwell on the things of God than the things of the world. As it pertains to not only the gospel and how man is reconciled to God (and why man needed this reconciliation to begin with), but in every aspect of my life. As a wife, a mother, a lover of music and nature, when I teach, when I mediate arguments between my kids, or when I do our household budget or even such mundane and annoying things as gather mountains of laundry from the far flung corners of the house. In all those things, the world has all kinds of advice for me on how to accomplish success or how to think of them. Most of the ways the world has to offer gives God no glory whatsoever, and tells me to place ME at the center of all that I do and think.

If I were to be completely honest, I would have to say that at times it's a real struggle not to place myself at the center of things, especially when I'm secretly grumbling about how much laundry I have to do. It's at those times that I have to purposely shift my thinking back to such critical verses like "Do all things without murmurings and disputings" (Philippians 2:14). The consequence of neglecting what the Scripture has to say even in everyday things, is to begin to sense this feeling of incredible self-centeredness and "I deserve" this, that or the other. The consequence of neglecting what the Scripture has to say as it pertains to justification, is to miss the boat completely in understanding how truly undone we should all be, before a holy and righteous God.

Resolved

As much as I really did want to avoid a sort of "end of the year post" here, it's nearly impossible since that's the sort of thing on my mind.

For most people, the end if December brings them around to this kind of thinking about newness and fresh starts and the like. I actually have three seasons in a year's time that I feel this way, and that's January, June and September. January of course being the new year, June being the time formal schooling is over and summer projects and fun begins, and September we get back to the books for a new year of new adventures in learning.

At this time of the year though, I look back and see where I was last year at this time, what I accomplished that I wanted to over the year, where I veered off track and where I want to go in the new year. In other words, I do pretty much the same thing everyone else does as the new year approaches. So with that in mind, here are some of the things that I really want to see to completion in the new year (in no particular order)

• Make time to read more
• Lose 10 pounds
• Launch a new project I've had in mind for a while (no hints until it's done, assuming it will be done)
• Finish 3 books I've started writing and have them all done by the end of August (that's a monumentally huge dream)
• Become completely debt free (almost there, one more year should do it!)
• Sew more (the quilt I started from my gma's material, and more outfits for the girls, and me too)
• Be online less (I've already started that one)
• Get every outdoors project on my list done
• Remember God's grace more
• Complain much less

I could make that list lots longer, but those are the material things I want to see myself start, and finish. I'm not a horribly well-disciplined person so I thought maybe posting my list publicly like this might help keep me at least a little more accountable, in case someone comes along and says "hey, how's that quilt coming along, fatty?"

Okay I don't think anyone's really going to say that, but you get the idea.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday Photo

I haven't participated in the Friday Photo group on flickr in quite a while, so I thought I'd do that today since I just uploaded some Christmas pics. I didn't get nearly as many as I usually do since I don't have a media card for my camera (insert big pouty face here). In any event, I did get some fun shots (and Jessica did too with her camera), and here are two of them:



funky sistahs

Click for a larger view of funkiness.

iced cherry tree
The very top of my cherry tree. Click for a closeup of the cool icy crystals.
The rest of the newest shots are here.

Scattered Patterns

I had in mind to post about the book I started last night (and I still plan to do that, maybe later) but then I read Kim's blog first this morning. If you're a parent of children of any age, you should go read it too.

Being a parent is by far the hardest thing I've ever done (am doing), and the most rewarding all the same time. Being a parent to a group of people that range from babies in diapers to young adults (all at the same time, mind you), is also the hardest thing I've ever done, because it requires a completely different approach with each one. I don't have any in diapers anymore, but we're not that far out of that phase since our youngest is 4 and oldest is 25 next month. I know and do not say this lightly, that is is purely by the grace of God that I do not crumble from sheer emotional exhaustion in running my house and being a mom. At the same time that this is a demanding, exhausting, draining thing that is expected of me, I take a great deal of joy at listening to their conversations (sometimes they're just hilarious), hearing about their own personal successes, and answering their serious questions about things that matter.

I've had a lot of people ask me over the years "how do you do it!?" The truth is, it's not me doing anything, except depending on God's direction, wisdom, guidance, mercy and grace, to get through the difficult times and the trying times of various ages and phases of raising kids (and to be perfectly honest, there are times when I miss the boat on this). It is my daily prayer that I be a vessel of grace for their sakes, and a good and Godly example to them.

Right now we're on Christmas break so the routine around here is somewhat non-routine. It's already starting to get on my nerves after two weeks of vacation that things aren't getting done in a scheduled, timely manner. So much so that on Christmas eve when everything was settled down and all the kids were asleep, Kev and I stood in the kitchen and folded laundry. Who does laundry on Christmas eve? We do, if we want the household to run smoothly.

One more weekend of seasonal celebrations, then we start back to school on Wednesday. I'm very much looking forward to being back on a normal routine, a normal pattern of getting things done. I don't do well when I'm scattered.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bible Promises: Wisdom

(Part of the Bible Promises series found here)

When I was a little girl, I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, that in order of most wise in the universe God was #1 and my gpa was #2. Those who know me well, have heard me say this I'm sure.

My gpa was a man who not only retained information on just about any subject you could think of, but he was also a man with sharp insight and quite practical. He always seemed to have the right answer, and always knew what to say, how and when to say it, and what to do, in just about any situation. It was a goal of mine as a child to grow up and be as wise as my gpa.

I did inherit one thing from him, and that's the sharp memory, or ability to recall information or details about past events or materials read. I probably learned also how to be practical, from the example he set, and then taught to my own mother. However, the one thing I lacked was what I believe to be the core of wisdom, and thats the discernment of any given situation and the ability to give the right and true answers or response. To me, that's the real sign of wisdom in a person, and this is something I believe can only come from God. While it's entirely possible for an unbeliever to display worldly wisdom and give practical advise, to have Godly wisdom is to obtain irrefutable insight and discernment in matters that are a step above worldly wisdom, and in matters that are of eternal significance.

As a mother, having wisdom in raising my children well is something I long for. As a wife, wisdom in being a good and Godly wife is yet another goal. In every role I have whether it's a close, personal relationship with someone or whether it's "blogger", "writer", "tenant" or any other hat I wear, my desire is to have wisdom. To have the right answers, to give the right answers, and not only have sharp discernment in any given situation but be able to put it into practice for the benefit of myself and those involved, and ultimately for the glory of God. To some this might seem like an unattainable goal but the Bible promises that it most certainly is available.

Here are some verses that show us all where this wisdom comes from, and how to have it:

• For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. (Proverbs 2:6-7)

• If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)

• Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6)


In each of these verses there is a common theme of humility and trust on the part of man. In the first example sound wisdom is layed up for the righteous; those who have been humbled before God and understand their own weakness and complete dependancy on Him. In the second example verse 6 of this passage reminds us that asking for this wisdom must be done in faith without any doubt that God will do exactly as this verse says. It goes on to say that such a man is unsable in all his ways and that he wont receive the wisdom he asks for. In the third example, the entire chapter's context is complete humility and desire to live a life pleasing to God.

Put another way, obtaining the wisdom we seek is dependant on the attitude in which we ask. While our Heavenly Father is more than able to give wisdom to anyone, those that He does give it to are those who are of a humble and contrite heart, trusting in Him completely.

While this information may be rather to simple to write about, actually putting it into practice is another matter. It's easy to say, but not always so easy to do, since we each battle our own doubts, our own attitudes and our own pride. There are numerous "Christian phrases" that come to mind here. Such as, walking the talk, feet to your faith or faith in action. While those phrases may be a bit corny, they really do sum up how we attain the wisdom we seek.

The Bible promises Godly wisdom for those who are righteous and walk uprightly, those who ask in faith without any doubt, and those who's deepests heart's desire is to serve Him by every thought, every word and by every deed, all the days of their lives.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Toys for Big Kids

When I was a little girl, my gpa had this really neat telescope in his living room, aimed right out the big bay window. My gpa was very practical and us kids were never, under any circumstances allowed to touch the telescope. We could look through the eyepiece, and adjust the view of course, but beyond that it was just one of those things us kids weren't to fool around with (and to the best of my memory, none of us ever did).

I remember how powerful it was and I've often wondered if it was experiencing that, that lead me to enjoy watching the stars so much. I also remember as a little kid, wishing you could hook up a really good camera to your telescope and take pictures of what you were seeing (only to learn later in life that this is exactly how the professionals do it).

maybe I can even see YOU, if you wave at me!Well, imagine my surprise yesterday morning when Kev and I opened this gift from his mom. One of the first things we both noticed was that it has a universal digital camera attachment. We both went "whoa!" at the same time, I think.

We sat in the livingroom last night and put it together (in between fits of laughter over outrageously silly comments made - who knew telescope construction could be so fun?) and hope to find out very soon just how good this machine is. I did read a few reviews from other customers and they seemed like uber-telescope professionals that expected WAY too much out of the product.

I'm just looking forward to the next clear night, when it's not TOO cold outside! Yay, I feel like a little kid again, but this time I actually get to touch the telescope.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ahh...

Well let's see...

My house is a near complete mess, there are faeries and remote control cars, new slippers and plastic twist ties in every room, A Miracle on 34th Street is on the tv, the kids are all in new jammies and even the cats & dogs are stuffed with turkey & leftovers.

It was a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Here we were last night, being our right jolly old selves.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Thank You, Dear Ones

So here I am on Christmas eve morning, preparing myself for what is quite likely the busiest day of the whole year for me, and I couldn't sleep last night. I'm not sure what the primary culprit was, it's a toss up between the howling wind outside, and the nightmare riddled bouts of tossing and turning. Maybe the howling wind was the cause of the bad dreams? In any event, I begin my uber-busy day on less than 5 hours sleep. I can only hope to catch a break sometime before the turkey is done.

Since I'm up, and had no intentions of starting my food prep until 7 anyway, I wanted to take some time to say a few things that have really been top thoughts lately.

Really, it's just one thought with various facets, and that thought is:

PEOPLE WHO BLESS YOU

In anyone's life there are always that core group of folks that bless them in one way or another. Maybe it's their preaching, or their writing. Maybe it's someone gifted with extreme compassion and wisdom, or someone gifted in song. It might be someone with such a sharp sense of humor that you smile even before they say anything, because you know whatever it will be when they do say it, will be funny. It could be someone gifted in hospitality, or teaching. Maybe it's your dearest friend who is so much like you that sometimes it's almost spooky (right down to owning the exact same shirt, one you've never seen anyone else wear, and one you bought at least 10 years ago, thousands of miles away).

It could be any variety of the above things, or it may be all of the above. In any case, these are people in your life on a regular basis that you appreciate a great and not just for what they do for you, but simply because of who they are, what they do and that it also blesses you too.

Like everyone else, I have that core group of people in my life that I described above, and they are in fact all of the above. These are people in my church, people I've met online, people I've known offline for years, and some family members as well. Nope, I'm not going to name any of them because I know that would only make them feel awkward that I did so. These are people that don't seek the limelight for the sake of being in it, but in my book, these are people that should be in it for the sake of the kind of people they are. They're amazing examples and great encouragement to me, personally.

Whenever you read the daily news you're bound to see headlines screaming at you about the latest promiscuous romp of the hot "pop-tart" of the week, some sick and twisted thing a mother or father did to their child, a lying politician, a weather related disaster, or yet another missing child, or young woman.

Well I'll tell you what. If I ran a news media outfit, I'd never have any of that kind of junk on it. I'd feature great stories of inspired courage, selfless acts of giving, hilariously funny people, awesome preaching and teaching, and news items of such compassion and sound wisdom that it would make the readers sit back and just say "wow!" These are the kind of people that I'd like to see get the attention and be the examples set before a watching nation. Of course I know that's completely unrealistic, but I'm a big dreamer and this is my blog so I can dream it if I want to.

All that to say (for those on my list who do read my blog), thank you for doing what you do. You know who you are, you know how much I appreciate you, and if I ever get a chance to run the news media, you better believe I'm sending a camera crew to interview you (and you can't hide because I know where you all live, so there)!

I wish you all a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Tomorrow the busy time starts for our family, with all the kids here & the big dinner and all of that, so I wanted to take a moment and wish all my readers a most wonderful and blessed Christmas. So many of you have been such a tremendous blessing to me this year, and I'm sure glad you take the time to comment, email, and even send really nifty cards!

And now, the real Rolfe Family:

Caryn, Jennifer, Jessica, Jordan, Rachel, Samuel & Ruth

And finally... Me & Kev

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Taking Stock

These are the questions that matter.

Chicago?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
Philadelphia
The Midland
The South
Boston
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Oddly enough, I am from the west, not the northeast, and I do in fact call it pop.

Stop and smell the... stuffing?

a rose you can't smell
We've all heard it before, it's an old saying:


Stop and smell the roses


Even though we all know what it means, I wonder how often we actually do it? How often do we slow down in our busy days to appreciate the things that are right under our noses?

I know for myself, that's not easy to do, as much as I want to do it. In any given day I often feel so busy and so 'scheduled' that if I get distracted into some other direction my whole routine goes out the window, and I feel more frustrated than anything else with getting off track of my routine. I guess you'd say I'm a systematic person and I operate much better with schedules and lists, than just off the cuff.

During this time of year, for people like me, things can get even more intense. Everyone is so busy with shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, travelling, visiting, attending functions and the like, that it just adds so much more to the already busyness of a day.

I thought about this the other night as I stood over a pan browning sausage with some celery and onions, for my Christmas stuffing. I thought about how on any given day in this last week before Christmas, my kitchen has so many amazing smells to offer. From biscuits baking, to pumpkin pies, melted chocolate, crepes, quiche, lemon curd... and the list goes on. Each smell says "Christmas is coming!" since most of this stuff I only make once a year. Each of those smells sort of fuels this anxiousness that is so common this time of year. In some ways that's not a bad thing, since we all look so forward to all the family being together from Christmas eve until some time Christmas afternoon. The only way it can be a bad thing, is if I let the details rule over me and begin to get flustered if things don't happen lock-step with my plans. (Not that I've ever been known to do such a thing. Ahem.)
Due in large part to the kind of person I am, I do my best to plan ahead and then schedule things in advance so that everything that I want to get done, actually gets done. Most of the time it works out very well. It was my goal this last week before Christmas, to get all the mountains of laundry done (and I did) and schedule all my baking so that I wouldn't have too many things to bake on any given day. I've managed to achieve that goal too, and I only have 3 things left to prepare. Today it's the candied walnuts and cornbread for the stuffing, tomorrow it's the Christmas morning bacon quiche, and then I'm done. Done until Monday that is, when the potatos need to be peeled, table is set, gravy is made and all that good stuff that goes on before a big family meal. (Caryn, I know you're reading, and YOU miss girl, are in charge of the veggie tray this year, you always make it so pretty looking, where I just sorta flop everything on there pell mell).
While I stood there "stopping and smelling the stuffing" the other night, I thought about this passage of Scripture:

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. (James 4:13-15)
and this verse as well:
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matt 6:34)
In the first passage the message is remembering it's the Lord that holds all our days. In the second verse the message is not that we shouldn't plan anything, but that we shouldn't fret and worry about the plans that we do make.
It's that second part that I tend to have some problems with, at times. Fretting and worrying about things getting done the way I want them done, is something that I seem to be pretty good at. So, I'm glad these words of Scripture came to mind when they did, to remind me to quit doing that. I'm glad I was able to stop and smell the stuffing, and just be content with the moment. I'd like to be that way all the time.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Yearly Some of this, and a little of the other

You would think, that if you burn yourself in the same spot, on the same hand, on the same part of the inside of the furnace every year, that you'd build up enough scar tissue there so that every year it wouldn't hurt so much. This is in fact not the case. I know from personal experience.

Well then, since the rest of this post is going to be all over the place, I thought I'd start it off with something abstract.

Every year we see news items for such all import things like "hottest celebrity meltdown" and "ugly dresses of the year", so I thought I'd do something similar. Only for me, it's more of a "where did the Lord teach me something this year" type of list.

In January I wrote about sarcastic Christians, and because I am one, it's one of those things that continues to hold my attention. I also wrote about leaving a lasting and important legacy, because that's another one of those things quite dear to my heart. I blogged about the now infamous Chan video and shared some thoughts about my friend Michael's homegoing. I sure miss him, but I'm so glad I know where he is.

February I spilled the beans on what's it's really like to be a mom. I also posted on why Kev is the bestest husband, checking the directory for doctrinal error, and how I celebrated my 1,500th blog post with a near death experience, and a household appliance. Oh, and the most important question I asked all year, went completely ignored by the only ones who can answer it.

In March we had some delicious humble pie, I gave proof as to why I am not Canadian, went a little charismatic, had a most hideous guest blogger, walked a bit with Enoch in the hall of faith, expressed a few thoughts from under the bus, went on an updated mission, commented on blogging commenters then commented again with highlighted comments.

In April I moved from the old blog, to this one. Nobody even threw me a housewarming party which might explain why I got all emotional. I vented a bit on modern culture and the family, thought about being a Martha, an apologist, becoming MORE balanced, ranted a bit on inconsiderate blabbermouths that use sleeze-bag language, and reposted an older post about the blood of our precious Lord and what it actually did, for His people.

The thing is, I was actually going to do the whole year of summaries like this, but I think I'll just stop there. Maybe I'll add more later after I get some more Christmas baking done.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Heathen Singing Praise

As Christians we have an almost endless list of reasons to be thankful, and grateful every day of the year. I know for myself at the close of each day in prayer I make a sort of mental assessment of the landscape of the day from morning until all the kids went to bed and thank the Lord for so many things, including His mercy for that day, provision, and all kinds of other things.

One of the biggest and most profound differences in a Christian worldview (as it pertains to our daily survival and provision), from the worldview of the unsaved, is that Christians know who holds every breath, every beat of our hearts, and who provides everything we need to get us through each day. The worldview of the unsaved can vary from numerous sources such as "fate" or destiny, evolution, chance or simply arrogant self-reliance. While Christians know the source and get to experience the wonderful process of being grateful and giving thanks, the unsaved chalk it all up to whatever fits their worldview at the time and never give thanks to God for keeping them safe, providing for their families or anything of the sort. They live in rejection of Him so they deny Him the credit that He's due.

What made me think of all that today was secular radio. More specifically, secular radio at Christmastime. While Christians already live their daily lives with an attitude of praise, there's something pretty incredible about Christmastime and secular radio. At no other time of the year can you flip through pop, classic, country or rock stations and on all of them, hear popular artists singing of the dawn of redeeming grace, the glorious birth of our Lord, and the honor and glory that is due Him. While I have no reason to believe most of them actually mean the words they're singing, I know that it blesses me a great deal to even hear the heathen give praise to my Lord, in song. While to most of these artists these are just "Christmas songs" that went on their Christmas album to make a buck or two, to Christians these are timeless and classic songs of wonderful praise to God for sending us His son. Even when their words carry no heart behind them, the words themelves reflect my heart, and it's a joy to hear them on practically every station on the radio.

Who knows, maybe the Lord will be pleased to someday convict their hearts by the words they sing, and bring them to the foot of the cross as a result. That would be even more cause to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

heh...

How did that get in there?

The other day, Rachel (9 next month) was looking for something in the concordance section in the back of her Bible and she came across something that she just could not believe was there. She brings the Bible to me and points out the words and says

"Queen of Heaven? QUEEN OF HEAVEN!? what is THAT doing in..."

(she slams the Bible closed and with her indignant 8 year old finger pounded on the cover printing that says Holy Bible)

"What is THAT doing in my Bible, the Holy Bible!?"

The look on her face was priceless. We did have a wee little discussion about false gods and she remembered some of the things we've learned about idolatry in Scripture.

I wonder if she'll ever become a blogger. :-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And All God's People Said... AMEN

YOU need to watch this, right now.

I stayed up far beyond my bedtime to allow this video clip to load, and watch.

David King is a dear brother in the Lord, a remarkable writer, and a fellow #pros regular (most #pros regulars are known as "channel rats" but I just can't bring myself to call him that).

Were it possible, I'd want to get saved again, after watching this. Don't skip by it, but watch and be edified.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tests We Fail

Not long ago I was having a conversation with my dearest friend about how God tests us. In particular, the way He does it when we seem to be comfortable with "where we are" in a certain area or on a certain topic. It's quite often those times when He orchestrates events that will allow us to see just how much more we have to learn, about the subject and/or about ourselves.

In a matter of less than 30 minutes today, several of those tests came flying at me with warp speed and I am sad to say I think I failed them all. With a sting in my eyes and a lump in my throat I can honestly say that I have so far to go toward becoming the Christian I read about in Holy Scripture.

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (1Cor.10:12)

That's a hard verse to get ahold of. You think you're okay, then find out you're not, and often it's in the finding out you're not, that's so humiliating. But that's where we grow, right?

As for me, I'll stick to doing laundry and baking. Two things I do a lot of, and do well. I hope typing that doesn't mean my cookies will burn and my washer will die.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December Storm

They say by the time it's over sometime tomorrow, we might be looking at nearly 2 feet. We've got about a foot now (I think) and much higher drifts. The brunt of the storm is actually over, but now we're getting snowsqualls from Lake Huron, which are expected to last through the night.

A few shots from inside the Winter Wonderland Compound:


This is the view, as it were, from my dining room. Yep, that's snow on the sill and snow covering the window.

Out the living room window.

And just because I love my glass reindeer.

GMAIL WENT INSANE

I'm trying hard to straighten this out, but please be advised:

I just received an email at my hotmail account FROM my gmail account to EVERY ADDRESS in my gmail account as well.

*Please disregard it and delete it immediately*

I did not send it and I have no idea what it is, or how it was sent. My apologies if anyone's email address was compromised.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It Means A Lot

I had to make a quick run today for an errand, and as I was headed to a popular store on a Saturday, 10 days before Christmas, just prior to a major winter storm predicted for Sunday (only crazy people and people with 7 kids make such a dangerous journey), I had Christmas music on the van radio. Tony Bennett, to be exact. I was never a Tony Bennett fan, but his Christmas music is just wonderful.

I love Christmas music. I love listening to Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole sing the Christmas songs I heard on the radio or on television Christmas specials, when I was a little girl. Something about that era just brings the sparkle and magic of Christmas.

So while I'm driving I'm thinking about what Christmas really means to me.

As a Christian, of course Christmas means so much to me. Although some will say that Christ really has nothing to do with Christmas, I disagree and say that of course He does. It's almost impossible to read the account of His birth and the news the shepherds received, without imagining myself there, and seeing the expression on their faces at such incredibly glorious news. First and foremost to me Christmas is the celebration of that event in human history. It's a time to deeply reflect on why He came, how He came, what He accomplished by taking on the form of man, and all that pertains to all of that. Ideally we would be doing that all year long, but at this time of year He IS the focus and I like that.

Christmas is also however, a family tradition. Getting a tree, seasonal baked goods, opening gifts and all that goes along with that. It struck me today though just how deeply personal and sentimental Christmas really is for just about everyone. It's personal in that even among those who celebrate it the same way we might, with family gatherings and opening gifts, the memories will be so different. The stories that are told and re-told every Christmas are personal to you and your family. Someone will comment about what they got when they were little, and someone older will talk about what Christmas was like when they were little, and someone else will chime in with that hilarious story that you've all heard before but still makes you laugh. All those memories and stories are exclusive to you and your family, and they just seem to be part of Christmas every year. In our family it's The Pink Snake Episode, gma & gpa's little silver tree, gma's homemade divinity candy, and the year Santa and and elf showed up at our house with a big red sack filled with presents. We wont discuss The Pink Snake episode, except for me to patently deny all allegations and say "I have no knowledge of any accusation". (I'm sure my mom will be along shortly to tell you all the truth, however).

my babiesTonight all my kids were here to celebrate my birthday with me. We had an early dinner, decorated the tree and had Christmas music playing in the background. Someone commented that the younger kids are looking less like kids and more grown up this year. Someone else commented about a Christmas event that happened 20 years ago. Someone else commented about what we did last year, or the year before that. Every year at Christmas, memories of Christmases gone by are brought up and make us all smile. Twenty years from now someone will remember the funky yellow jammie pants that mom had on, when they look at the pictures. It'll just keep going on like that, every year. (I do my best to wear extremely funky jammie pants every year, just to keep things fresh).

While Christ is the central purpose for Christmas, it's also a family tradition and family celebration that warms my heart to be able to have. All my kids are in one place, and there are smiles, elevated laughter, dogs running around, cats wanting to be let outside, snow, egg nog and those incredible strawberry crepes and bacon quiche on Christmas morning. It's a time of memories and magic and love.

That means a lot to me.

(If you are just dying to see the fantastically groovy yellow pants, go here).

Friday, December 14, 2007

That Pioneer Spirit?

We embarked on a pioneer journey today. At least that's what Kev said. He assured us that braving the elements to chop down your own tree is exactly what the pioneers did. He was adamant that they all wore stripey knit caps and drove their vans 45 minutes away to Christmas tree farms, too.



I'm not sure if pioneers stopped to say hello to the reindeer, or not.



I'm told that this is what pioneers looked like as they layed inside halved plastic barrels to cut down their trees.



I don't know for sure if pioneer kids stood around and laughed at their pioneer tree cutting dads, but these kids sure did.



He further assured us that after cutting down the tree, they gathered in gift shop/barns to drink hot apple pioneer cider and eat butter shortbread pioneer cookies.

Yep, that's what he said. I'm thinking he's one of those people into revised history. Either way, it was a fun pioneer journey.

Doing it Right

I've had a whole whack (I don't know for sure how much a 'whack' is, but I suppose it's a lot) of theological/doctrinal topics swirling about in my thoughts lately. This post is just the tip of where I am right now with this subject, and I don't pretend for a moment to have it all figured out.

CONTEXTUALIZING THE GOSPEL

Okay, so this means what, exactly? I know what it's supposed to mean (communicating a clear gospel message to the people around you in the surroundings and language they're familiar with, i.e. the very work that foreign missions workers do every day), but I also question if it really means that in the light of this new era we find evangelicism in. This week at fide-o I saw a post called Know Your Audience come through my bloglines with this definition:

"do you preach out of an English translation of the Bible, does your church have a men's ministry, does your church take your kids to summer camp? These are all ways that we contextualize the gospel."


Right before I read that, I read this at TeamPyro:

"The driving concept behind church growth and church marketing today begins with The idea that we need to find out what people want and adapt both our message and our delivery accordingly in order to reach them effectively. Pastors expend great amounts of energy taking opinion polls and canvassing their communities to find out people's tastes and preferences (especially with regard to style and subject matter). Then they make it their main object to reach those "felt needs."Now there's no question such an approach has sometimes been effective in drawing huge crowds. You can see it in several of the largest churches in the country. But can it be effective in the long-term? Is it more effective in reaching people for Christ, so that their lives are transformed and they truly live for him? The answer to that question is clearly no. It is not a biblical strategy. It is precisely the thing Paul says not to do."



On the one hand, I agree completely that we're to be missionaries in our own settings (work, school, community involvement, etc.) and that taking advantage of different types of ministry opportunities in our churches is a commendable thing, but on the other hand I also agree that we're to live a Christian life and proclaim a Christian message the way Paul did, without compromise and without watering down the message so much so as to blend in with the surrounding culture and be "relevent" to them. This reminds me of the idea that some call Friendship Evangelism. Essentially, you buddy up to folks (do what they do, go where they go, listen/watch/speak the same music, movies and language they use) and then you slip in gospel nuggets here and there when the opportunity comes up. I think that's the part where this whole contextualizing the gospel has become so messed up in our modern era of evangelicism. I think (and again, I could be wrong) that so many younger believers have latched onto this idea that you have to be this, wear that, watch this or play that - to be "relevent" to the lost culture, that they have completely forgotten (or never knew to begin with) that the focus is supposed to be the message, and not the method. Moreso, that the life changing power of that message should lay out in our conscience clear guidelines for the methods. The Bible says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and if we believe that, then we should have no issue whatsoever with proclaiming it simply and clearly. The alternative seems to be programs, seeker friendly sermons, knowing your audience, using popular books or movies (even R rated ones) as sermon outlines, and all kinds of other tricks, bells and whistles to get the attention of a lost crowd. This approach screams out "I do not believe in God's sovereignty in the salvation of man, I must do this, this, this and that, to set the whole deal up!"

Oddly enough, this is the very topic that launched my research into the whole emerging/missional church mess, just over three years ago. What set the fire under me was a pastor who told me flat out that the gospel itself is in fact NOT enough, and we must do other things to reach the lost. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I set out to understand this way of thinking and why it's so common among young believers (the 40 and under crowd) especially, and even among those who call themselves 'reformed'.

To me the answer seems so simplistic that it must be wrong. To me, you live your Christian life according to what the Bible says (an audience of One, to coin a phrase), share the gospel with whoever you can, whenever you can, pray for folks, and trust that the Lord will send His word where He wants it and do with it what He intends (Isaiah 55:11). Of course this doesn't allow for programs and functions and using sleeze bag R rated movies for sermon outlines, and effectively plops me straight into "you're such a Victorian-era prude!", so I'm not sure this will be a good enough answer for anyone.

Maybe I'm just too simple minded to really get ahold of all this. Then again, maybe being and living a Christian life isn't all that complicated to begin with, and it's others who've made it out to be that way?

Yesterday I had a brief discussion with a friend who suggested I read this and share my thoughts on evangelism and culture - and it seemed to fit here with my thoughts on reading culture and bringing the gospel into it. While I do agree that approaching someone from the place they're at (ie, having a good working knowledge of their worldview and being able to Biblically and apologetically show them why they're in error. This would apply to postmodernism, atheism, agnosticism and any and all religious views such as Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, etc.) is a commendable effort and one that some in the body are incredibly gifted at, I don't agree at all that we should have "compassion" for the culture. All it takes is 5 minutes of watching the local news or walking on a downtown street to see that our culture is happily wallowing in every imaginable sinful, anti-God activity. Compassion for people, yes indeed - but compassion for the culture - no. The seriousness of how sick and twisted and sinful the culture is that we live in should motivate us and break our hearts to the point that we eagerly and often speak against it.

oooh, shiney thing!The idea behind the above linked post, is that we (Christians) see this flick so we can better minister truth to those who've seen it, liked it, and don't know the Lord. Anyone that knows me already knows that I don't buy into that line of thinking at all. While I agree that we should have at least some knowledge of not only this movie (which anyone can obtain by simply reading the vast amounts of info on the backstory online) but any other shiney thing that comes rolling along in our culture and dazzles the masses, I don't agree that we have to watch it, read it, participate in it or listen to it, to be able to better minister to those involved in it, that don't know the Lord. I'm a firm believer in the idea that more Christians should have a better working knowledge of their own faith, before they try to "engage the culture" and deconstruct anyone else's non-Christian worldview.

As Christians, we're supposed to be in the world but not of the world. We're supposed to be working out our salvation with fear and trembling. We're supposed to be decidedly different than the lost in the culture around us. We're supposed be constantly transformed to be more like Christ, and less conformed to the things in the world. All of these things are Biblical goals that we're supposed to be aiming for, and yet almost every time I read anything about contextualizing the gospel what I discover is a lot of downplaying Biblical truths for a lot of hand-holding and participation in worldly, self-indulgent things.

Like I said, I sure don't have it all figured out, but the more I read about Paul's life and ministry and the more I think about what a Paul would look like in our culture, the more convinced I become that too many of us in the evangelical camp have been overly dazzled by the shiney things (philosphy, "spirituality", entertainment, technology, etc.) in our day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's Christmastime... in the country

As of yesterday, we're officially on Christmas break from school. Contrary to what some folks might think homeschooling is like, we all actually look forward to this first break of the school year since homeschooling is rather demanding on our time, our attention and our energy. It's been a good year so far with the younger ones (Jessica's lessons are just more of the same, more or less - while the younger kids are making new discoveries all the time - I love teaching the younger grade levels, it's like being on a Brain Safari!), they're learning a lot and I see a lot of progress with all of them. This is Ruth's first year of real "book learning" and she's doing amazingly well. She can write her name now (although she struggles with the "u") and her "reading" is coming along quite well for a 4 year old with the attention span of a shoestring.

All that to say... SCHOOL'S OUT! (at least for now)

We had a Christmas party today and it went really well. We turned on the Christmas music on the stereo, whipped out the hot cocoa & festively colored-sprinkled cupcakes as the snow began to softly fall and then we got out the craft supplies to have a little fun.


Christmas plaques

Here is the almost finished product of craft time today. From top left to right these are the work of Samuel, Jordan, Rachel and Ruth. With the help of mom with the hot glue gun for the borders, and a few extras here and there. They're still drying (we believe in serious glitter glue around these parts!) and I hope to be able to hang them tomorrow. I'm very proud of their work, I think they did a super-fantastic job with these.

Tomorrow we go get our tree, then Saturday we decorate it. It finally feels like the Christmas season is here. Yay!

I meant to post this a few days ago and never got around to it but here is my kitchen porch:

Stairs? What stairs??

The first one to find the stairs, wins. It's a good thing we don't actually use that porch for regular coming and going, because the snow drifts constantly cover the stairs and the walkway.

Christmas Fudge

I really meant to try to include this in Rebecca's Recipe Roundup, but one thing after another kept popping up and I was too late. You be sure and get over there and check out her post with all the yummilicious contributions. You'll be glad (and 20 pounds heavier) you did!

Mummymac has requested my most foolproof fudge recipe. I have so many different kinds of fudge recipes, I scare myself. This is a variation of a more popular recipe - simply because I cannot ever leave well enough alone, and MUST tweak all recipes to make them better (but it's so easy that even if you've never made fudge before, you wont have any trouble with this one):

3 c. chocolate chips (dark, semi-sweet, milk, white, your choice)
1 300ml can condensed milk
1 t. flavoring (vanilla, almond, peppermint, maple, rum, orange, etc.)
(optional: 1/2 c. chopped nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, crushed candy cane pieces)

Melt chips & milk together, then quickly stir in the flavoring and any optional ingredient (it begins to thicken quickly) and press into a 8x8 wax paper lined pan. Let set, then cut into 1 inch squares. Keep stored in an airtight container.

Personal favorite blends:

dark chocolate & almond flavoring - no nuts
white chocolate, maple or rum flavoring & raisins
milk chocolate, orange flavoring & dried cranberries

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Face People

I was going to post a note on facebook but since everything I post here goes there anyway:

Thank you to all the Facebookians, emailers, and private messengerites who wished me a happy birthday today. Mummymac, I have several fudge recipes, which one would you like?

:-)

Audio Food

This week, pastor John MacArthur is speaking about The Best of Christmas, and you really ought to take some time out to listen to these messages.

Last week, his 2 week long series was on How to Get the Most from God's Word and you absolutely without question, will want to take the time out to download and listen very closely to each one of those messages.

The week prior, the topic was The Pillars of Christian Character. You don't want to miss that one either.

If you don't already make John MacArthur a daily listen, you'll want to do remedy that right away (after you listen to all the archives and get so encouraged, convicted, edified and challenged, that you simply can't stand it). This is good food, kids.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hired Guns at Church

UPDATED BELOW

I realize I'm not "up to date" on all the new trends & whatnot going on in the world. I don't have my finger on the pulse of pop culture and that sort of thing. I still can't figure out the fascination/obsession with Facebook to the point that 'facebook suicide' is an actual phrase. I don't have time to do that, what with 900 loads of laundry each day and homeschooling a small army, my time is spent elsewhere, and better spent elsewhere.

I do read the news though, and try to stay up to date on what's happening around the world, even though I may sit here and shake my head in sadness or disgust. Which is what happened when I read this story yesterday about the shooting tragedy in Colorado. No two ways about it, it's a horrible thing. What really caught my attention was this blurb in the article:


"The gunman was killed by a member of the church's armed security staff before police arrived, Myers said."

Okay. The gunman was stopped before he could hurt anyone else. That's a good thing, even though he had to be killed for that to happen. But let's back up this modern-era truck for a moment, shall we? Let's look at this part a little closer: "church's armed security staff".

I thought about this last night and had to admit to myself that I am so completely out of touch with the times we live in, because this surprised me. I'm sure it doesn't surprise a lot of people who live in big cities and may even have a security detail on staff at their own church. Maybe even an armed one, for that matter.



South entrance is secure - over... roger that!When I think of professions and types of businesses that need armed security staff, I immediately think of banking/financial institutions, top ranking government officials, mega-malls with armed security, and such things like that. It's a bit of a stretch to get my imagination around the idea that a church, a place where believers gather to hear the word preached, sing songs of praise to the Lord, and have wonderful fellowship with one another and eat fried chicken, lasagna and apple pie at monthly potluck lunches would need a security detail of Rockos and Vinnies positioned at strategic locations around the perimeter of the building with loaded weapons. I mean... I know it's not 1950 and we don't all attend church in a building that looks like this one, and we certainly don't all live in Mayberry - but growing up I did (attend a church that looks almost exact like this), and oddly enough the one I call home now, looks very much like this one as well. I just have a hard time picturing the need for armed security to secure such a location.

While I would agree and admit that my own personal and very subjective experience certainly shouldn't dictate the norm, I still have a bit of a rough go with the idea of armed guards at church.

So what do you say? Does your church employ a crew of Rockos and Vinnies? Are they armed? Do they attend services too or are they strictly on staff to guard the church? Am I completely out of touch with reality to think this sounds bizarre?
===================================

UPDATE:

Commenter GrammaMack left this link in the combox, to a Toronto Star article today regarding the aspect of church security, in the wake of this horrible tragedy in Colorado. I would encourage you to read it, and share your thoughts on this. I've also noticed a few folks coming in from the google search phrase "guns in church" so I would encourage your feedback as well. It's a new time we're living in, and it's not very encouraging.




December Babies

Yesterday I received a noticed from a private online community that I'm a part of. These little notices go out every day reminding members of upcoming events that other members have posted, new photos in the community, new notes, upcoming birthdays and things like that. In yesterday's notice there were three birthdays listed. Mine, this guy's and this guy's. We all share a birthday that falls within a week of each other - just before Christmas.

I got to thinking about December birthdays and how my mom and gma made mine special when I was growing up. It's sort of funny the giggly/excited feeling I still have whenever I think of how much I looked forward to my birthday every year, as a kid. We'd have dinner and gma & gpa's, and gma made my favorite meal (roast beef with potatos, carrots and gravy, with homemade biscuits), and my favorite cake (dark chocolate with dark chocolate frosting). After dinner I'd open presents, then we'd have cake & ice cream (peppermint stick, if the store had it). When all that was done we'd leave gma & gpa's house and drive down Candy Cane Lane, before we'd head home. Upon arriving home, it was time to get into our jammies and come watch Rudolph and Santa Claus is coming To Town. Those were the two that were usually on, on the night of my birthday. I always had a very Christmasy birthday, and I loved it. The traditions are different now as an adult but they're still very Christmasy, as that's the day we get and/or decorate the tree!

I've talked to a lot of people over the years with December birthdays and many of them have commented that they felt somewhat left out, or overlooked, because of the hustle & bustle associated with Christmas preparations. I'm sure there isn't a good parent out there that ever means to do this, but as a mother of seven, I can sure see how easily that can happen. None of mine have a December birthday, but if they did I know exactly how I'd celebrate it with them, even with the busy Christmas season just ahead.

Your mileage may vary, but in our house birthdays are a big deal. There are streamers and balloons, cake and ice cream, presents and a special dinner. That day is a day to celebrate that special person coming into our lives and we enjoy doing that. If you're like us in that regard, or even if you're looking for some specific ideas for a December birthday, I hope this helps:

• Buy your gift or gifts earlier in the year. Don't let the Christmas shopping season be the time you buy a birthday gift for a December birthday. There are great sales all year long, so plan well in advance.

• Don't wrap your birthday gift in Christmas wrapping paper (or in a Christmas gift bag). It may seem like a small thing, and it may seem handy if that's all you have, but for kids especially it's sort of a big deal. Kids notice wrapping paper, and many would much rather see brightly colored birthday paper on their special day, than Christmas themed paper. When you buy your gift(s) earlier in the year, be sure to buy birthday wrapping paper as well.

• If you're exceptionally busy with Christmas baking and other preparations, try to make a list in a planner format for the days before and after the birthday, so that you can divide your plans among those days, and set that birthday aside for just the birthday celebration.

These may seem like small things, but to kids they're really not. They see how other kid's birthdays are celebrated at different times of the year, and they know the difference between that, and the 'hurried-up-December-birthday'. Granted, some kids (and even adults) like to have their gifts wrapped in Christmas paper, and some kids like to do "Christmasy" things for their birthdays, but the important thing is that you make it their day, rather than letting a December birthday be an "add-on" to your Christmas planning.

I know for myself this year, all my kids will be here and if one them doesn't bring peppermint stick ice cream for me, they're getting firewood in their stocking.

:-)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

From There to Here

(If you've already read Kim's blog today you'll see something similar here. I was going to write this last night but got sidetracked with other things, and she beat me to the parallel life punch, as she often does.)

Quite often while I'm out running errands I have the radio in the van on. I have a tendency to flip back and forth between channels quite frequently, especially for a commercial break or if a song comes on I can't stand. There are lots of those on every station, so I'm flicking the "seek" button quite a bit. It's the only time I can listen to music or talk radio without being interrupted so I enjoy it.

While doing this yesterday I landed on the classic rock station at just the point of the broadcast where the DJ asked "...where were you on that day, and what were you doing? Do you remember it?" That caught my attention so I listened on. The station was having a memorial of sorts for John Lennon and was taking calls from folks who wanted to tell the story about where they were and how they reacted when they heard the news that he was dead. I hadn't thought about how long ago it's been, so I was a little surprised when the DJ mentioned that it was 27 years ago.

I wasn't about to call the radio station, but I did immediately remember exactly where I was and what I was doing.

I was the fill-in babysitter for a friend of mine and the mom called me that night. My friend was supposed to be babysitting but she was sick (or so she said) so the mom called me. My mom drove me across town and the parents left for wherever it was they were going for the night. Before long my "sick" friend called me at my babysitting job and wanted to come over. The truth was, she had a date with a boy she was just nuts about and didn't want to cancel it. I don't know why she lied about being sick, but she did and I got the job for the night. That was fine with me, my birthday was coming in a few days and that meant I'd have some money to spend. I told her that after the kids went to bed she could come over, since that was the rule with the parents and I didn't want to lose that job by breaking the rules. Good babysitting jobs were hard to find in those days.

So, after a while the kids were in bed and my friend arrived. With her date, and his friend. She forgot to mention that her date's friend was coming and that it happened to be a boy that I was nuts about myself, and had dated a couple of times. None of us would have guessed in a million years, that five years later that boy and I would marry and spend the next nine years together.

In any event, the four of us sat there listening to the radio and talking, my friend and I likely giggling the way 15 year old girls do, and drinking pop & eating chips. A perfectly normal evening, until the DJ interrupted the broadcast with a breaking news story. His voice was shakey and we all knew something really horrible had happened by the way he sounded when he first began to speak. Then he broke the news that Lennon had been shot, and had died that night in NY. I'm still not sure if he had the details accurate at the time of broadcast, but that's what he reported and while he said the words he was crying. The air went silent for a minute or so and so did the conversation in the room while we all just sat there looking at each other.

None of us were big Lennon or Beattles fans, but we all understood what a pop icon he and they were, growing up in the era that we did, and we understood how the pop/rock music world (and their fans) would be affected. It was eery to hear that someone larger than life like Lennon, was gone in such a violent withdrawl from the human race. Not long after hearing this, my friends left, the parents came home and I called my mom to come get me. I don't recall having much conversation about it with anyone after that night, but I do remember how it seemed to be a season of a series of events where I would have to process my own thoughts of death and dying, eternity, our purpose in life, why we're here and all that this means in the larger context. In just a few short months, one of the girls in my highschool died from toxic shock syndrome, another was killed instantly in a car accident, and another was diagnosed with some form of cancer and died within weeks of getting the news. Somewhere in there as well, John Lennon died. I was almost 16 and it was a strange, mixed up time for all of us that knew these girls and saw them everyday. Not long after this Ben and I had a horrible fight over a monumental misunderstanding , split up and he moved 1500 miles away. I wouldn't see him again for nearly five years.

It was at this time in my life that I used to purposely go for long walks in the cold, rainy streets of my western Washington town. I'd leave my hood off so my head would get soaked and I'd feel as miserable physically as I did emtionally. I'd sing popular rock & roll power ballads as loud as I could when the rain poured down hard (I'd do it that way so no one could hear me). I'd walk and walk and cry and cry. Letting the rain mix with my tears so no one knew I was crying. I cried for myself, I cried for John Lennon's kids, the families of the girls who died that year, and for all the pain that all of it brought with it. Those were the days of writing deep, dark, abstract poetry in the middle of the night, and writing heartwrenching music on the organ that sat in our dining room. Those were the days of coming to a realization that life was precious but also painful, and that there was something more that was the underpinning of it all.

It was at this time I started going to my brother's church youth group. He was saved, I was not, but he had something I wanted and even though I didn't know what it was, really, I knew it would be found in the gospel, in the Bible, and I wanted it. He and I both grew up hearing the gospel and we always both knew the truth but he had made it his own and taken it to heart, and I had not. Of course I didn't understand seeing myself as a sinner, or godly repentance, or holy living, or anything that comes with genuine inward change, but I knew there was something I was missing.

The whole youth group thing didn't work out for me (I've never been able to blend in well with cliques, and teenage ones are even trickier), but even years later after Ben and I were married I knew what I was missing. I was missing a genuine Christian life and a solid direction and a sure answer to that question I'd wonder about as a teenager walking and crying in the rain. The answer to the question "what are we here for?" is to serve God, and I knew it. Intellectually I knew it, but my heart would still not be changed for many years to come, and that time of having head knowledge and a heart-longing for something deeper, something real, something tangible was always a big part of my thought process.

When the DJ asked yesterday if the listening audience remembered where they were that night, I immediately thought of all of this, and how it was that season of life that the Lord purposely orchestrated in my life, to eventually bring me to literally being my face in repentance, coming before Him in true humility and seeking grace and mercy. It was a very long road getting there (I was not saved until I was 29), there were many deaths to deal with, much pain, and more tears than I ever thought possible for one person to cry. So yes, I do remember, and I chose to remember because in doing that, I am so incredibly grateful that the Lord didn't give me over, and let me go.

I'm pretty sure the local classic rock DJ wouldn't be much interested in that story of "where were you?" but I wanted to share it all the same.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Humor Wear

I have a theory about humor and it goes something like this:

Funny people are even more funny, when they purposely avoid interjecting the profane, the vulgar and the obscene into their humor.


I know it's not very earth-shattering but if you're someone who 1. loves the Lord and 2. likes to be around funny people, you already agree with me. You just appreciate cleverness and clean cleverness, all the more.

When I decided to open a "just for fun" section at my Christian t-shirt shop, I did it because I like funny sayings & graphics on t-shirts, just like millions of other people. When I did a bit of market research on funny t-shirts, I was rather discouraged by what I found. Now it's not as if I have never been in the world and of the world, and don't know what the unsaved find humorous. I have been there, and while I was there even then I recall seeing some of the most offensive junk plastered on the front of t-shirts. When I did the research on this subject, I was once again reminded of what the world finds "funny". To which I say: GACK. They can have it. As for me and my store, we wanted t-shirts and hoodies that you could wear to Grandma's house without her grabbing you by the ear and dragging you to the bathroom to wash your mouth out with soap. T-shirts that you could wear in front of your kids, your wife, your husband, your pastor, and even if they didn't get the particular genre of humor, they'd certainly never be offended by it.

From time to time I do this same type of market research again (what sells, who buys it, buying for self or others, etc.) and the vast majority of the time, the top selling "funny t-shirts" have some of the most repulsive, obscene trash on them, that you can imagine. It should come as no surprise to anyone, since we live in society where the moral fabric that holds us together is quite literally unravelling at the seems.

The reason I bring this up is because over the last few weeks I've been working on a new line for the Just 4 Fun department at the store. The thing is, I know my market is a niche shop which is already small (Christians) and I know that I make it even smaller by offering t-shirt and gift ideas in the "humor" category that Christians would enjoy. I don't care that my market is small, I care that my market has conservative, clever, non-offensive options - that's the important part for me. I am a Christian (and a wife and mother), and I want to be able to have those options myself, so I know it matters to others like me.

The funny thing is (no pun intended, I've only had 1 cup of coffee, I don't do puns on less than 2 cups), the top selling item in my store for the last 3+ weeks has been one of the new "Scrabble t-shirts" that I've created. It's a bit ironic that I have three times as many exclusively Christian designs but that it's the just for fun shop that gets more of the traffic. Point being, people are looking for funny sayings & graphics on t-shirts and they're finding them at Reflections. I like that. What I like even more, is that doing a bit of research a few days ago on the "funny" category at one search engine for funny t-shirts, it netted almost 16 million products. The first page of products had a mix of odd, offensive, VERY offensive, and tame but clever designs. Imagine my shock and surprise when I saw my very own Scrabble t-shirt designs ranked at #2, and #4 out of 16 million products.

On at least one popular search engine for funny t-shirts, out of 16 million choices, people are coming into a Christian t-shirt shop to find what they're looking for. Oh yes, I like that very much!

Now Grandma can finally put the soap down. (Not that the trashy junk isn't still selling and selling well, but at least now it's got a contender that folks LIKE). I'm thrilled to be able to make this contribution to this genre of apparel. (It helps that I surround myself with incredibly funny people that inspire me!)

If you've got a funny saying or graphic idea that you'd like to see on a t-shirt, mug or ballcap, just give me a shout and I'll do my best to bring it to life. The more non-offensive humor wear out there, the better!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lest We Forget

Maybe it's the romantic in me, but for some reason when I think about children of believers in the Old Testatment, I imagine them growing up hearing stories of their grandfathers and great grandfathers, and where they came from and the faith they had. I envision the children being so familiar with these stories of family history that when they grow up they in turn hand them down to their children with a new chapter added with each passing generation. Stories of great faith, and stories of trials. Stories of captivity and liberation, great persecution and victorious providence. Like I said, maybe it's just the romantic in me thinking that it was like that for children of believers in the OT. When I look at my own kids and remind myself that children act like children no matter what era they grew up in, I have to put the romantic away and pull out the realist. Although I may not be too far off the mark, since it's only within the last 100 years or so in human history that kids (and adults) have had electronic storytellers (aka televisions, radios, stereos, cd players, ipods, computers, etc. - or as we like to call such things, "brain suckers"), and prior to that, families did spend a lot more time actually talking to one another and listening to one another. I would venture to guess a 10 year old child in 1907 probably knew a lot more about his own family history, than a 10 year old child in 2007 does. There were simply less distractions in a family in those days.

This came to mind today as I was considering the importance of the Bible lesson we had in school. One of the reasons I love homeschooling is that their entire curriculum (except for math) is Christ-centered. Obviously we have a Bible lesson, then there is math, phonics, spelling, history, science and finally handwriting. Aside from the math books, their textbooks are written with a Biblical worldview and use Christian concepts and themes to teach the actual lessons. For example, in any given week in spelling, there will be words such as 'savior' or 'pastor', along with examples of how those words are used in a sentence. Their phonics workbooks are the same way - they teach the kids the proper phonics rules using everyday language as well as Biblical language. Handwriting lessons are the same way, and our science course is from a Biblical creation worldview. History this year is a great book of fictional stories based on real life events of many of the first families to travel across the oceans and settle in North America. Many of those settler families were devout Christians, and the stories recount the way their faith sustained them in very difficult pioneer times.

What I love about this, is that they are getting (to the very best of our ability to teach it) a solid education in all the foundational concepts, and at the same time they are being taught daily how Christianity and the foundations of Christianity are so important. It's a great balance of practical and spiritual education. Christian living is something we do each and every day, not just for 1 hour every morning during Sunday School at church (with take home sheets that are usually left in the car and long forgotten before they ever even get home). When I teach these lessons I have often wished that I would have had these kinds of books when I was a little girl, so I would have had this foundation from my own childhood.

The last few weeks in Bible, they've been learning about the ten plagues God sent to Egypt, how Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, and how the Israelites began to grumble after all that they had witnessed God do for them.

What struck me today about the lesson in Bible was first how timely it is. There are days we skip "book learning" and do some verbal lessons while we do work around the house. There have been days we've cancelled school all together when we've had out of town family visiting, or someone has been sick. Had we been following the lessons to the letter and staying on schedule, we would be about two lessons ahead right now at this time of year. However, due to God's absolute sovereign plan, the lesson we're working on this week (right before we break for Christmas at the end of next week) is a lesson in why we ought to be grateful (and this is the second thing that really struck me today) for all that God has given us, and never grumble or complain about what we don't have, or lament over those things we want - and don't get. What a great time to be studying this when every commercial break on tv is peddling every toy you can imagine, and even a few that you're not even sure what in the world they actually do.

Yesterday we had a really good discussion about manna. We talked about how much of it was needed each day to feed all the people. We discussed how it was gathered, what it tasted like (and then I had a dream last night about making cookies that tasted like manna, so I'll have to see if I can actually do that), how long the manna fell, and eventually how dissatisfied the Israelites became with God's provision. While we were discussing this Rachel (8) commented on how she would be "so sick of it!" eating it day after day, for so long. I told her that yes, most of us would be, and it would quite likely be hard to maintain an attitude of gratefulness in that situation. That right there, was the key. Keeping our hearts and minds focused on God's grace and mercy, and not letting our flesh get in the way.

I've been in countless discussions with fellow believers when the "grumbling Israelites" have come up and folks will say things like "how could they be so ungrateful after all they'd witnessed!?" Truth be told (and this is what I reminded the kids yesterday) we are no different than they were. While we haven't witnessed the kind of larger than life events that they did, we certainly do have daily evidence in our lives that the Lord is faithful to His people and provides for us each and every day. And yet, we still grumble too. Or we fret and worry about tomorrow, and forget that He holds our very tomorrows. Maybe we're in the same situation year after year after year, and we get so sick of it like the Israelites were sick of manna. We want more, we want better, we want something different - just like they did. Rather than humbling ourselves before Him with a thankful heart, we yearn for what we don't have and neglect to be grateful to Him for what He's given us. Oh yes, we are exactly like the Israelites in the wilderness.

This morning before school I was chatting online with a friend who commented that "the Lord has not forgotten us!" (The family was pleasantly surprised with a most timely gift that came in the mail). No indeed, the Lord never forgets us, it's we who forget where our blessings really are sometimes, and where they're coming from.

One more thing I love about homeschooling, is that I'm learning (and being reminded of) valuable lessons right along with the kids, each and every day. As I teach the Bible lessons in particular, sometimes my heart is so convicted that the discussions go a little longer than they're designed to. But that's a very good thing. Maybe when they grow up they'll remember these conversations and have them with their own kids, adding their own chapters with each passing generation. I sincerely hope that is indeed the case.