Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

(Disclaimer: I had typed this New Year's Eve, but forgot to post it. Oh Well!)

As we head out to the home of some friends to celebrate New Year's Eve, I just wanted to take a few moments to thank you for reading this quirky, little, random blog of mine. This is post number 97, so I am thinking of something I could share for my 100th blog post. Perhaps I should post a hundred thank you's to all of you who have shared this portion of the journey with me. Maybe I could post a hundred things I could be doing other than posting on this blog. :-D I might want to post a hundred random facts about myself, or I could post a hundred random facts about my husband (now that could be fun!). Perhaps I won't post anything special at all because if I were to count actual posts (including the drafts I have) I'm already over 100 entries, so I could just save myself some trouble. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, as this year comes to a close, here are a few of my thoughts:
1) I am forever grateful that the Lord has met all of my needs, be it physical, financial, spiritual, relational, or emotional. Yes, indeed, he has supplied all of my needs.
2) I am thankful for another year to love my husband and my children. I count it a privilege to be a part of their lives; it is an awesome thing to be a part in helping others become all that they can be in Christ Jesus! They also provide that very same thing for me.
3) I praise God for his ministry of reconciliation. He reconciles us to himself and to one another.
4) I would like to trust God in even bigger ways in 2008.
5) I have much to learn about in regards to being ready for the new things God wants to do in me, my family, and our church family in 2008. Remember, new wine does not go in old wineskins. Oh may we be ready for the new wine!
6) I need to work at providing healthier meals for my family. This takes time and energy, but I see it as a way to worship the Lord by caring for those He's placed in my care.
7) Let's see. I want to live my life in greater alignment with God's priorities for my life. God is already at work in this area of my life, and I thank Him for His leading and His provision.
8) I want to grow in His love and grace, and I long to pass that love and grace on to others.

I know there's more I can list, but the above is pretty all inclusive. I don't want to run the risk of being redundant! :-)

So....what are your thoughts as we bid good bye to 2007, and we welcome in 2008? I do pray that your heart is expectant as you look at the new year before you. Remember, faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.

Festive Fridays - Lessons Learned

Do they look like Christmas trees? I didn't think so! :-)

More Christmas trees! Can you guess our theme for the day?

Snack/Craft: Christmas trees made out of sugar cones, frosting, and candies.

Who's monitoring all this madness?

As promised, I will be sharing a few of the things I learned through my little Christmas project called Festive Fridays.

First of all, I must say a big thank you to my wonderful husband, Dave, for jumping on board with this idea. He and I work so well together, and I love when we are able to tackle something new like this as a team. One idea will springboard into another as we talk about what we can do. As you may have noticed, he is a great "up front" person, and I do quite well in the background making sure things are done and flowing smoothly. I was grateful for his ability to play the guitar and lead our Christmas carol singing time. I am also thankful that Dave is so open with our resources as this venture did cost us in finances, times, and our home. Dave also jumped in and helped with crafts, games, and story reading.

I am also thankful to my two older children, Hannah and Eric, for their willingness to give of their time to help with anything that needed doing. They organized games, picked up after craft time, read stories, helped with snacks, and generally, just did whatever needed to be done.

That being said, here are a couple of things I learned during Festive Fridays:

1) I needed better resources for tying it all together. It would have been nice to have the resources all in one place, but as it was, I was picking and choosing stories, games, scripture, crafts, snacks, etc... from a wide variety of sources. It all worked out great, but I have a greater appreciation for good curriculum! :-) The good news is that now I have my own curriculum of sorts to draw from for next year.

2) When it's raining outside, 18 people in my house playing a relay game is a tad too many! :-)

3) In reference to item #2, always check the weather forecast!

4) When it comes to crafts with children of various ages and abilities, easier is definitely better. :0 Also, any craft involving glue should not be done on my dining room table!

5) Speaking of crafts, using food products (or candy) in the creation of a craft calls for having extras on hand just for eating. We made advent calendars using Hershey's Kisses our first Friday together, and I overestimated a young child's ability to understand delayed gratification! Ha!

6)  This lesson I know from having children of my own, but I forgot since they are now older:  Pray fast!  Little bodies need to move!

7) I think we could have done more to focus on reaching out to others. We did collect money towards feeding hungry children, but I didn't want the children to feel pressured to give towards that as our time together was our ministry to them. However, I do think that the children would participate more fully and compassionately if we were able to help another neighbor with a project, gift, food, or money.

So there you have it - lessons I learned in putting on Festive Fridays for the kids in my neighborhood.  I'm sure if Dave were to share, he'd have more, different, lessons that I should have learned, but this isn't his blog, now, is it?!  

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Festive Fridays

I mentioned a few posts back that I had asked God to bless a humble little project that I was working on.  Now that it is over and I've learned a few things, I thought today I'd share what I felt God leading me to do this holiday season. Tomorrow, I will share what I learned. :-)

For quite a few years now, I have wanted to host a backyard VBS during the summer for our neighborhood kids.  It just makes sense to me to have a VBS in our own backyard when we have neighbor children who would come.  Why must I ask our neighbors to travel somewhere else to drop their kids off to be in a huge group of other kids they don't know when I could just have them here and we could share Christ with them and build bonds between our neighbors and their kids all at the same time?  For whatever reason, I haven't felt the time has been exactly right to try the summertime backyard VBS yet, but this fall I had what I felt to be a God-led desire to do something around the Christmas holiday.  

What grew out of that desire was a Friday afternoon event held at my house called "Festive Fridays." We invited all the neighborhood children between the ages of K - 6th grade by passing out flyers the last week of November with the following information:

Festive Fridays!
Who? Neighborhood kids ages K-6th grade 
(Jr/Sr High kids are welcome to come to help.)

What? A fun time of songs, stories, games, and crafts.

When? Fridays (11/30, 12/7, 12/14, and 12/21)
4:00 to 5:30 PM

Where? The Larson Home – XXXX Our Street

Why? To enjoy the Christmas season with our friends and to celebrate the reason for the season.

Need more info? Call Gena at XXX-XXXX or XXX-XXX

Kids, just show up and have some fun with us!

We planned each Friday around a different theme, creating games and crafts around that theme. We also read a book having to do with the theme for the day, and we sang Christmas carols, practicing for the last Friday when we would go caroling at the homes of some of our older neighbors. (I called the neighbors first, asking if it would be okay for us to come by. They were thrilled to have the kids come by to carol, many having fond memories of caroling themselves).   The children also made gifts for their parents that we wrapped the last day in hand-decorated gift bags.  

We had a blast as we built some new friendships, blessed some neighbors with carols and a gift, raised money to feed hungry children, made crafts, shared the real meaning of CHRISTmas, played some outrageous games, and basically just laughed and celebrated the season with our neighbors.

Was it a busy time? Yes! Did it get hectic at times? Yes! Did the kids have fun? Yes! Were we glad we did it? Yes! Will we do it again next year? YES! We did, however, learn a few things that we will do differently next time, and I'll be back tomorrow with lessons learned.

For now, here are a few pictures from two of our times together. Enjoy!  

By the way, pictured above is my son, Peter, whose spiritual birthday is today!  :-)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Blog Giveaway

Click on the photo below to enter a fun blog giveaway sponsored by Laced with Grace. The giveaway includes a Women of Faith study Bible (NIV/Hardcover); Lisa Whelchel’s Bible study tool for busy moms; a coffee mug from “Mugs of Truth“; the DVD “The Nativity Story“; the book “Love and Respect“; and a music CD by Becky Knight, who just released her first CD. Fun Stuff!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all! Posting will be sporadic as I enjoy some time with my family the next few days, and I pray you are enjoying time with your loved ones as well. In honor of Christmas, I'm posting this prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Christmas Prayer
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Loving Heavenly Father,
Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. May Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake.

In Thy Name We Pray,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Food for Thought for Parents

Consider your child's request to tell him a story
or read him a book, not as an interruption, but as
the most honored invitation you will ever receive.

Robert Schuller

Full House

Well, we've just celebrated the first of our Christmases!  My dad and stepmom came to our home, along with my sisters, their husbands, and families.  We had a blast together;  the laughs, food, Wii tournaments, animal sounds, and celebrating were such a blessing to me!  I LOVE MY FAMILY!!!  Between my two sisters and myself, we have ten (count 'em, TEN) children, so it's always noisy, busy, and fun when we're together.  I am so blessed!  Dave took some pictures, so if I can get them on my computer, I'll share them.

I was able to sit down and address envelopes for my Christmas cards last night, but since I don't send Christmas cards to most of you at church (simply because it would cost WAY too much for us to send to everyone), I thought I would post our family picture that we are sending to family this year.  I'm also including the snippet of information we have included on the back of our family picture.  So, since I can't send a card to all of you, here's what your are (or are not) missing!  :-)

Lar-son – (collective noun) –David, still pastoring at New Life Christian Center where God continues to build His kingdom in powerful ways; Gena, still teaching 7th & 8th grade English and trying to manage her home and family schedules; Hannah, a senior at Turlock Christian, co-chaplain at her school and a bass-playing, harmony-singing girl; Eric, a sophomore at Turlock High School, running in cross-country and doing high and long jump in track, quite social and always good for a laugh; Peter, in sixth grade at a new visual and performing arts magnet school, an encourager by nature with a beautiful voice and musical ear; Kari, in a fourth grade G.A.T.E. class, an organizer extraordinaire with an artistic streak and a big vocabulary. (2007)

May you be blessed in the New Year
and may the miracle and gift of Christmas be your joy.

Merry Christmas!
Dave, Gena, Hannah, Eric, Peter, and Kari Larson

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 
Luke 2:12

That baby would grow up to save me from my sins so that I could be wrapped in His forgiveness and love. His birth was the greatest of gifts; a gift that would be sacrificed to meet my greatest of needs. That little cute and cuddly baby held the hope of all mankind, and he was approachable and available to all.  

Some thoughts running around in my mind:
1)  Is it possible for me to truly understand the Christmas story?
2)  Would I have surrendered to the will of God as Mary did, or would I have cared too much about my reputation?  
3)  Would the risk of losing my fiance have kept me from God's purposes for all mankind?
4)  I love the fact that Joseph was an honorable man in spite of the rumors that were certainly circulating around the village.
5)  How do you parent the son of God?  Did his wisdom as a man surpass that of his parents?  How did his parents feel about that?  Did Jesus always get to do what he wanted because Mary and Joseph knew he was the son of God?  Since he was fully human, did Jesus "push" his parents to the breaking point like my children have?

And, oh so many others!  Don't even get me started about Jesus as a man and his view/interactions with women!  That would have to be another post when I have time to actually delve into the deep questions I have asked and had answered through the years.  Just ask my husband, I am not afraid to ask some pretty hard questions in this area!  I've asked some questions Dave has never even thought of, and to be honest, he hasn't always had the answers.  I must stop myself here, or I could go on and on about my thoughts in this area.  

Do you have any questions in this area?  Are you afraid to ask them?  Have you wrestled through your questions and the hurt, anger, confusion you have experienced at the hands of less-than-godly men in your life?  I will have to start writing down some of the process I have gone through with the Lord in this area, and perhaps it will be something the Lord would allow me to share at some point.

Anyway, back to the baby this post was meant to remind us of.  I pray that you will reflect on what that newborn babe meant to the world, and what he means to you.  
Blessings at Christmas to all of you.

As a very heartfelt side note, dear friends, please know that this post about the baby Jesus is not meant to hurt those of you who have had no babies of your own, or who have struggled with infertility and/or miscarriages. I don't want to remind you of your loss or hurt you, and I want to acknowledge and honor the pain you bear. I know that in this season so many people cavalierly make comments about the baby who was born, and you can only think of the babies you haven't been blessed to hold. I, too, have known those feelings, and for those of you I know personally, I remember you and stand with you in prayer.  My love to you! 

The Angels Cried

Tonight I thought I'd share a beautiful Christmas song with you. Not having much spare time these days, I am unable to post as often as I'd like to, but I have been keeping a running list of things I'd like to post about when I have some time. I am not a fast writer (just as I'm not a fast reader), so it takes me longer than the average person to get a post written. So, I post this to keep some of you checking back in to my blog! :-)

I think this is a beautiful song, however, I do issue a warning if you don't like country music. This is a song by Alan Jackson and Allison Krauss.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Cost of Christmas

I ran across this table this morning in an email sent to me by DebtBusters. I thought it was thought provoking, and I have tried to get my children to see the real cost of things they want by translating the cost into the number of hours or the number of jobs that they would have to "work" for me to earn enough for whatever it is that they want. This really comes in handy when speaking about the cost of "designer" clothing items versus a non-designer item. :-) To be honest, brand-name clothing isn't much of an issue in my home, thank goodness, but there are items (video games, CDs, etc...) that the kids want now and again, and I think it's good if they know the real cost in time and energy it takes to earn that item. So, here's something for you to ponder:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Say What?

Well, my family's prayers have finally been answered! I have laryngitis, so I can't yell at them anymore! Actually, I'm not a yeller, but I have come to realize how much I use my voice to direct, question, guide, instruct, and make my desires known. It was really a challenge tonight at the final performance of "Behold the Lamb of God," at church. Even this morning at church, I didn't realize how often I try to "carry" conversations so that people feel at ease. When I sense people don't know what to say, or when there is an awkward silence, I will step in to make things seem more comfortable or flow more smoothly. I just couldn't do that today. Anyway, although I don't have a sore throat or much of a cough, I feel like I'm dragging. It should really be interesting at school tomorrow - a tired teacher with no voice! :-)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Behold the Lamb of God

I was blessed beyond measure tonight and felt like I was given a few holy moments to wonder anew at the story of Christ's birth. We mostly think of the birth of Christ and the events surrounding it in such a sanitized way, but the reality of these events, the holy and the raw, were beautifully portrayed this evening in this wonderful event put on by many talented and gifted individuals from our church. It was simply wonderful, and you must make plans to attend one of the last two performances (Sat. 12/15 at 7:00 PM, or Sun. 12/16 at 6:00 PM).

I sat praising God that He has given such wonderful talents to people I am privileged to be walking on this journey with. Everything I experienced tonight was a gift to me. I could never have designed or built the set; I would not be able to paint the beautiful canvases; I am unable to play any of the instruments that were used tonight; I am definitely not someone others would want to hear sing; I am not able to run a sound board or handle the audio/visual aspects of a production, BUT my great God has placed people around me that have used their abilities and gifts to bless me! It's okay that I can't do any of those things, but my life would be so much emptier if these individuals did not use their gifts to serve the Lord and the rest of us. The people that were involved in the production of "Behold the Lamb of God" sacrificed many hours and evenings to enable me to catch a new glimpse at the wonder of the birth of Christ.

Thank you to all of you that put such effort and time in to providing such a wonderful experience for the rest of our family at New Life. You used your gifts for His glory tonight, and you were a blessing to me.

The First Ornament of Christmas!

Some of you have heard of our silly little tradition of hanging the first ornament on the Christmas tree together. It was so easy when there were only a couple of us to hang onto it, but with the six of us now, it's a little more difficult. We each place our hand on the blue lamb and hang it together on the tree, and then we step back, raise our hands over our heads and say together, 'The first ornament of Christmas!" Yes, it's a little hokey, but you know what? My two teenagers still do it with us, and they even smile while they're doing it! We then take hands and pray over our Christmas season, thanking God for the gift of His son and asking Him to help us focus on Him and others instead of ourselves. Then the children get busy hanging their individual ornaments on the tree while Christmas carols play in the background.

We're a little later than usual getting our tree decorated this year, but all in good time, right? I've already had two Christmas gatherings at our home, and believe it or not, they went off just fine without a Christmas tree being up! So many times, I (like many others, I'm sure), put so many expectations on myself to have things perfect in the house, all the while sacrificing what's really important. I am making progress however, because this year it didn't bother me at all to not have our tree in and decorated before the Christmas parties we hosted. So, in one small area of my life, there is slight progress! Hey, I'll celebrate even the littlest of victories!

Anyway, this all reminded me of a poem I received a couple of years ago from my friend, Dawn Davis, in an email. Let's all just agree to give up the perfect Christmas in exchange for a love-filled Christmas; there is so much more freedom that way. I believe we so often choose to make ourselves slaves to some standard just to feel like we're good enough, rich enough, stylish enough, whatever enough, that we are not choosing God's better gifts of love and peace.

May we all have a 1 Corinthians Style Christmas!

Christmas 1 Corinthians 13 Style

- author unknown

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust ... but giving the gift of love will endure.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! :-)

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas

For you, it's all about sharing times with family.
Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Precious and True

This was sent to me by a friend; perhaps you've seen it already, but if not, it's worth a couple of minutes.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Different Seat

I sat in church this morning and felt a little disoriented for a while.  You see, a friend that I worked with some 20+ years ago showed up by herself, so I sat with her in the center section, three rows back.  As you know, I always sit in the first row with Dave, but it's not my first choice of where I would want to sit if my husband wasn't the pastor.  When we first came to New Life, Dave would play the piano with the worship team besides speaking on Sunday mornings, so that meant he was on stage the whole morning.  This was great for me in some respects because I was free to sit anywhere I wanted.  I would sit in a different place each service, and I was able to meet and connect with different people each week.  Once David wasn't needed on the worship team any longer (which took quite a load off of him), he began sitting in the front row on the left hand side of the main auditorium.  I didn't even think to sit with him at first, but I began to realize that it might look like we were in an argument or something if we didn't sit together.  So began my front row sitting days.  :-)

So, when sitting in the third row with my friend today, I experienced the worship service from a slightly different angle, and I LOVED IT!  I think everyone should sit at different places around the auditorium every once in while just for a change of pace.  I sat looking at the wonderful Christmas set, praising God for all of the talented and selfless people who gave of their time and energy to put it all together.  I loved the rustic, natural, and simplistic look of the set filled with plenty of lit pine trees and a rough-hewn stable of sorts, along with the beautifully painted canvases of a night sky spotlighted with blue lights.   I am blessed to be a part of such a creative church body.

This afternoon, David and I visited for a few hours with a woman from our church who has just lost her husband.  We had a wonderful time listening to her memories and learning more about her life.  I have always had a special place in my heart for this fun, feisty, and God-filled woman, and after learning a few new things about her, I admire her even more.  It will be a hard adjustment for her to learn to navigate life without her lifelong love, but she knows that even though it won't be easy, God will be with her.

David and I also had our board members and their spouses over for dessert this evening to let them know how very thankful we are for their faithful service and Godly example.  Although there were some that were not able to make it, we had a fantastic time of visiting, praying, and celebrating God's provision and vision for us at New Life.  We were so very grateful God has allowed us to serve under such Godly leadership; we are blessed.

It's been a busy day, but I sit here this evening filled with gratitude for all that God has done and is doing.  I loved the verse of a song we sang this morning which said, "Not to us, but to Your name be the glory."  Yes, all glory belongs to Him!

(The photo used in today's blog post is not of our church, so don't get confused; it's just a representative photo.  GL)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fabulous Fall!

It's been a beautiful fall day, and the kids and their neighborhood friends have been running in and out of the house. They've chased our dog down the street, played football in the front yard, put together a "band," and played "Heart and Soul" on the piano more times than should be allowed in a busy, crazy household! :-) It's really fun when our dog decides to bark along with the playing. Fun times, for sure!

I'm in the middle of working on a little project that has been on my heart for years. I am praying that the Lord will bless my humble efforts and that He will be glorified through this little endeavor.

What little projects are you working on this holiday season? Are you baking goodies for the neighbors? Are you helping someone who is housebound with their Christmas shopping? Are you taking a meal to someone who is ill? Have you chosen an Angel Tree child or two to bless? Are you sending a little something extra for your World Vision children? I don't know about you, but I think it's fun to truly try to be purposeful in looking for ways to bless others. So much of the time we're all focused on ourselves, and the beauty of Christmas is that God taught us that it is looking at the needs of others that motivates our giving. He saw our need, and He gave His son. How beautiful. How precious. How simple. How holy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Good Laugh!

Today, I'm directing you all to this post by Antique Mommy.  It is simply too hilarious to not share, and the comments are equally funny!   :<)   Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blessings to you!

I am wishing all of you a simple love-filled and thanks-filled Thanksgiving.  We are headed out of town to be with my family up in the mountains for a couple of days, but I did want to wish you all a "Happy Thanksgiving."  

There is much for us to be thankful for each and every day, but it is nice to have a day specifically set aside to focus on His goodness to us.  We can sometimes get so busy with "our" stuff that we forget to thank and praise Him, so I encourage you to take sometime the next few days to get alone with Him and give Him thanks.

Enter his gates with THANKSGIVING and his courts with praise; GIVE THANKS to him and praise his name.  Psalm 100:4

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Chuck Norris-ed"

If you've been to my house lately, you've no doubt been subject to my son Eric's latest Chuck Norris joke. These jokes have been all the rage with him and his cross country buds, and I have to admit, some of them make me smile. This has been going on for months now, and just today, I ran across the following video. Eric's shared these jokes with us, but I think it's a new day in politics when a candidate shows his sense of humor instead of smearing his opponent. Please note......I am not endorsing this candidate (I'm also not NOT endorsing him), but I will be showing this to my son this afternoon when he gets home from school. It's sure to make him smile.

Now that your appetite has been whetted, here's a couple more jokes(?) for you that I've learned from my son:

When the boogeyman goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
Some people wear Superman pajamas. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.
When Chuck Norris falls in water, Chuck Norris doesn't get wet. Water gets Chuck Norris.
There is no theory of evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.
Chuck Norris doesn't bowl strikes, he just knocks down one pin and the other nine faint.
It takes Chuck Norris 20 minutes to watch 60 Minutes.
Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Soccer

Boy, am I missing being at church! I missed last weekend because Dave had a Sunday off, and we attended church in another town. Then, I missed services this weekend because my daughter had a soccer tournament. Her team had their final two games today (Sunday), so I was with her. I wouldn't have wanted to have missed her games, but I truly miss it when I'm not able to get to service, especially when it's two weeks in a row!

Her team lost every game, but they made it into the playoffs by a coin toss. They were tied for fourth place (out of six teams), so the officials tossed a coin to see who would play, and Kari's team won the toss. Kari plays on a U9 team, and they have three players that are 9 years old and the rest are eight years old. Her team was the only U9 team that signed up for the tournament, so they were placed with the U10 girls which have ages ranging from 10 to 11, and even 12 in some cases. So, all in all, they did very well because only four goals total were scored against them in all four games. They held their own with scores of 0-0, 2-0, 1-0, 1-0. Being matched with older teams helped them to see where their weaknesses are though; that's for sure! :-)

I was rather domestic this evening (my friend, Sam, would be proud of me) as I baked four different pumpkin pies and two batches of Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins. My house smells wonderful, but I'm tired now. The kiddos are headed to bed, and I think I'll finish up so that I can join them. Good night!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just Breathe

............Title is not a reference to Faith Hill's song, "Breathe," or Anita Renfroe's parody of that song, "Don't Breathe."  :-)

I had an eye exam today because about a month ago, my right eye was noticeably blurry and felt different for a couple of days.  I had some friends (my faithful Bunko girlfriends) tell me that I had better make an appointment to figure our what was going on.

Well, it turns out that my right eye is swollen from years of constant contact lens wear.  My current brand of contacts are not as air-permeable as some other, newer brands, so it seems that because of lack of oxygen, the pressure in my eye has built up.  Fortunately, it looks as if switching contact brands may be enough to handle the situation, but as I drove away, I thought that this situation is strongly representative of how I go through life sometimes.

When I don't have time to breathe, the pressure builds up.  Eventually, it causes me to not see things clearly.  If I don't stop and take time to breathe, the pressure will continue to build until there truly is a big problem (and believe me, this has happened!). So, the challenge is for me to try to arrange my days, and therefore my life, in such a manner that breathing time is built in.  

This all reinforces what the book Margin is about.  Instead of arranging our days with enough margin around all the edges, most of us are just living our days on the go with the words (our lives) pouring off the page in all directions.  Where is our margin; where is our breathing space?  I don't get the Oprah magazine anymore, but I remember that there was a feature called, Breathing Space, in each issue.  It was a photograph covering a two-page spread that was supposed to help us settle down and breathe as we took in the beautiful nature image.  

To live with time to breathe is going to be counter-cultural and will require a great degree of being willing to sacrifice "things" in order to "be."  It is when I am "be"ing that I am able to breathe in the presence of God, to center myself in Him, and to not let the pressure build.  To be honest, even though I long to do this, it seems to be exceedingly difficult for me to figure out how to make this a reality.  I have been in prayer over this, and not coincidentally, I've asked a small group of women to pray for "clarity" for me.  Rather appropriate considering my eye ordeal, don't you think?

And, just to carry the analogy a little further......Just as the contact lens is centered on my eye and is what I see through, so my life must be centered in Him, and I must see through His lens. I must have time to breathe in His presence and peace to be able to keep the pressure from building and to see clearly.  A goal I will continue to pray and work towards.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Family Fun Sunday Update

It's 8:00 PM, and Dave is already in bed.  He's not been feeling well for a couple of days now, and I think he just needed to get some sleep tonight.  He and a couple of staff members will be going to a conference tomorrow, so it's probably good that he gets some rest.

If you read Dave's blog, you know that we went to Crossroads Grace Community Church in Manteca this last Sunday.  It was wonderful to sit in church as a family, but I have to admit.....I wasn't thrilled when Dave said he wanted to go to another church on his Sunday off.  I love just love being with everyone at New Life, so I'm never anxious to miss a Sunday.  However, it is good to go somewhere else, see what God's doing, and still be glad that He's placed us where we are.   

After going to church on Sunday, we headed to lunch and the "Bee Movie."  We then went to my mom and step-dad's house for Family Fun Sunday.  Since my sisters, mom, and I are so busy, we get all of our families together every third month for "Family Fun Sunday."  The kids (all ten of them) can play with their cousins, and we adults can have fun and visit.   This past Sunday, we ate together, drew names to form teams to create Thanksgiving posters from a plethora of various supplies, and then created two new teams to play Guesstures.  We also celebrated my step-dad's birthday and enjoyed some wonderful desserts (my mom is a great cook!).  I did get a good dose of laughter in, as always, and I was again thankful for my fun and loving family.  

Saturday, November 10, 2007

In the Moment

Excerpt from Anna Quindlen's All My Babies are Gone Now
"...But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less."

I think all mothers (parents) probably feel this way, but what if we could grab hold of this truth and really live it?  I don't know about you, but I need to be "in the moment," much more, and I do believe it will take the power of the Holy Spirit to transform my mind to truly grasp this concept and live it out.  I am praying for this, and tomorrow I have a chance to try living this out as we travel together to visit another church as a family and then spend some time with my mom, step-dad, sisters, brothers-in-law, and nieces and nephew, for "Family Time Sunday."   

Donate Rice from Your Own Home Computer!

I was able to expand my vocabulary, and at the same time, donate 500 grains of rice here.  You should try it; it's fun, and you can help the United Nations Food Program distribute rice around the world.  Just something fun for a Saturday morning.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Brrrr! Fall's here!

I've just arrived home from a football game, and I am freezing!  I left during the third quarter because Peter has school in the morning, and I needed to get him home and in bed.  Dave can fill me in on the final score when he gets home (our high school team was losing when I left); I'm just glad to be home where it's warm.  The wind was blowing and even with my jacket and blanket, it was chilly!  It truly feels like fall as I sit here with my cup of wonderfully hot tea, catching up with a few emails and some blogs that I read.   

Dave just arrived home to let me know that the football team turned the game around and ended up winning 32-30!  Mind you, all those points came during the last half of the third quarter and the fourth quarter.  So, the first Monte Vista Bowl (both schools are on Monte Vista Avenue) ended with Turlock Christian winning the coveted wagon wheel that has been dedicated as the "trophy" that the winning school will keep until the next year's match-up.  The winning team, score, and date will be inscribed on the plaque attached to the wagon wheel to commemorate the winners.  A fun and friendly rivalry, indeed.

A highlight (or rather I would say a "low" light) of the evening was the "Bovine Bingo" that took place beginning at the half-time.  People were able to purchase plots in a grid that had been chalked on the ground, and then a cow was walked back and forth, back and forth, on the grid, and you guessed it.......whatever plot the above-mentioned bovine pooped in, that person was the winner of two luxury box tickets for the 49er's game against the Vikings.  Wow, I really feel like I live in a rural area when I get to watch something like that for entertainment!  :-) 

Monday, November 5, 2007

"Logged On and Tuned Out"

I recently read a book called, "Logged On and Tuned Out," and I recommend that every parent with children on the internet get this book and read it. My oldest two children are on the computer for school assignments and email pretty regularly (not to mention myspace and facebook), and I have two smaller ones that have yahoo email accounts and like to look up information about their favorite cartoon characters or what have you.

I'm one of those moms that has a myspace just so I can keep up with what my kids are up to. In fact, if you check my myspace (which Hannah originally filled in for me), it says that everything (such as my favorite music, etc...) is "Whatever Hannah and Eric like." Where it says, "My reason for being on myspace," Hannah wrote...."To make sure none of Hannah's and Eric's friends are stalkers." :-) I will have my kids log in under their names so that I can check their emails (incoming and sent) and I check their spaces every couple of weeks. I also check their friends myspaces.

However, I learned A LOT from reading this new book by Vicky Courtney, "Logged On and Tuned Out." When I first saw the title, I thought she must be talking about our children who are oblivious to everything else when they are logged on, but the title actually refers to the parents that are tuned out to what their kids are doing, or are exposed to, on the internet. And believe me, most parents don't even know the half of it! Even though I have been a parent who checks things, I learned so much through the chapters of this easy-to-read Christian book filled with valuable and insightful information.

If you have children on the internet (or computer), I recommend you get this book or borrow it from me. We live in a different world, and although we would like to shield our children from the computer or internet because of our concerns, they will leave our homes and have to make their way in a world where the internet/computer is an integral part of their lives. I would like to try to train them about wise usage while they are still in my home under my teaching and example.

You can also check out Vicky's website by clicking here.

Just some food for thought tonight.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Beauty of a Wedding

Hannah and I were able to go to an outdoor wedding this afternoon in Mariposa for two of her former teachers and my colleagues. These two individuals have been faithful to the Lord in their single lives, and it is a beautiful thing to see the purity with which they entered their marriage relationship today. It truly is a joyous occasion when two people, following the Lord's idea for their relationship, finally get married with the blessing of their parents and friends. We were able to celebrate the good gift that each one is for the other, and I know their marriage will bring glory to God as they live out what His will is for a marriage relationship.

I am in prayer already for our services together tomorrow. I know God wants to work a new thing in our hearts as He's calling us to not just believe, but to live out our faith in action! Wow, I can't wait to see what's coming up as all of us take some radical steps to live out our faith in each and every relationship and situation in our lives. Remember, He can do more than we can ask or imagine, so that's got to be some pretty awesome stuff. I don't want to miss any of it, do you? I know He's at work in my heart, convicting me of things that He needs me to repent of so that I can be a clean vessel for His use. I also pray that our entire body of believers is obedient to the Lord and ready for Him to work through them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hugo is here!

Welcome to the World!

I'd like to announce the arrival of my new nephew, Hugo Larson Matthias!

He was born to Dave's sister, Nancy, and her husband, Todd, on Friday, October 26, 2007! He weighed in at 8 lbs. 6 oz. and was 21 inches long.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

It's All Because of Jesus I'm Alive!

It's all because of Jesus I'm alive
It's all because the blood of Jesus Christ
That covers me and raised this dead (wo)man's life
It's all because of Jesus I'm alive
-Casting Crown Song

This is how I truly feel about my life. I look back at some of the things I've done or at the things that have happened to me, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it's only because of Jesus that I'm alive. I mean that in both the literal sense and the spiritual sense.

Yes, I am alive because Jesus willingly made the sacrifice of His innocent blood in order to cover my shame and my sin. That truth brings me to tears frequently; there are simply no words to express my gratitude for what He has given and done for me. He loves me, and He has provided the way for me to live with Him eternally.

But, I also feel that I am only alive in the literal sense because of the protecting hand of Jesus Christ on my life even while I was still far from Him. He has protected me from accident and death on more than one occasion. Sometimes those occasions were my choices, and other times they were due to the sinful actions of others. When I was still far from Him, He protected me so I would be around to fulfill His purposes for me. I wasn't even wise enough to know that there would ever be a purpose for me, but my loving Father had His hand on me. To be honest, the wonder of that can be hard to accept. I couldn't see further than the hurt I felt and the needs I had during those years (sometimes I still can't), but God had ordained all of my days, and He was lovingly waiting for me to realize His presence in my life and to turn to Him. Then He knew that He would have to do a purifying work in me by exposing my heart, my sin, my failure, my hurts, my violations, and my fears. Do I need to say that I'm still in process?! :-)

Yes, I thank my Heavenly Father for giving me physical and spiritual life, and I praise Him that He is the one who sustains me! It's all because of Jesus I'm alive!

Me, too!

I had two different people tell me this week that they had put me "on a pedestal." I find that so funny because if people know anything about me and my life, there is no question about my not belonging on a pedestal. And I seriously wonder what I do that makes people feel like I don't struggle with the things others struggle with. I don't understand the thinking that because I'm married to a pastor, I'm somehow different as a woman than every other woman. And...when someone makes the effort to tell you that they HAD placed you on a pedestal, that means they no longer think you belong there! It means that somehow I failed in some area that they noticed, so they rethought their opinion of me. I am choosing to take that in the most positive light, because it can seem negative if thought about too long. :-) (Both times this week, I believe the women were being positive in their remarks, stating that it gave them comfort to know I'm just like them.)

I'm not sure how to keep people from placing me in a position I don't belong. It is not appropriate (or safe, or possible, or wise) for me to share all of my past sin, hurts, and current struggles with each new person I meet, but it seems that unless I do that, I look like I'm trying to show that I have it all together and have a perfect life. I never try to purposely present an image that is not who I really am, and I sometimes even look for ways to present how NOT perfect I am so that others will sense a bond with me and feel safe to not be perfect themselves.

I listened to a woman speak the other day and she said, "The two most comforting words in the English language are, 'Me, too." Don't you just love that?!

I am calling for all women to be real and to let others know, "Me, too." Remember, we are all on this journey together, and I think, "Me, too," is the motto that will bind us together in unity as we strive to walk in His ways and to fulfill His purposes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

All or Nothing

I had a great time today helping a friend organize some files at her house. What might have seemed a confusing mess to someone else, seemed like a great challenge to me.

You see, I can't keep my desk cleaned off at my house (I'm a great pile maker!), and I find it depressing to clean my house only to have it messed up again so quickly by my busy and lively family. But....put me in someone else's house, and I find great peace in organizing and cleaning things and being able to walk out knowing I am leaving something ordered and clean. It may seem strange, but this truly energizes me! I get great joy out of finding ways to streamline processes and organize systems to be more efficient. I love having things lined up and in their place, yet in my own home,when I know it won't stay that way, I have a hard time wanting to do anything.

Those of you who know me know that I have struggled with "all or nothing" thinking. Are you with me in this? I either have to have time to completely clean every nook, cranny, cupboard, drawer, baseboard, of a room, or I feel like I can't do it at all. I don't like to start anything if I'm not sure I'll have time to actually finish it. I'm sure you can understand why I don't get as much done as I'd like because with my busy and full household (there were seven kids here today at one point), there is rarely time enough to do anything all at one time. God has been at work in me in this area of my life, and some days.....I'm making progress; other days.....well, not so much.

All or nothing thinking even tries to translate into keeping this blog. I feel like I should be able to post often with well-written entries, or I shouldn't be blogging at all. I am working to be okay with only posting when it doesn't interfere with my primary responsibilities of being a wife, mom, and teacher. With all that is going on with my family and my job, posting on this blog just doesn't need to take time away from those more important areas. So, I'm sorry it is so long between posts, but that's just the way it's got to be right now. I've got to be okay with doing little bits when I can. Just because I can't blog everyday doesn't mean that I have to give it up all together. It doesn't have to be all or nothing; sometimes life just is what it is, and we need to do the best we can to simply manage it and be in the moment.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Every American Must See This! (video at bottom of blog)

When Dave and I had only been married a year and a half, we moved to Fresno so that he could finish his Master's degree. We moved there with no jobs, no friends, no safety net, but we moved out of obedience to what we felt called to do. I got a job working for some wonderful people who have become lifelong friends. They treated their employees so well, and one Christmas, we were the recipients of their giving hearts.

With very little money, and knowing that no one outside of our youth group students would be coming over to our apartment, we decided to not get a Christmas tree. To be honest, there was a part of me that was very sad about that because no matter how hard Christmases had been in my single-parent home when growing up, we had always had a Christmas tree. It was part of the magic of the season when we could sit in a darkened living room and gaze at the beautiful lights; it provided a sense of peace, comfort, and wonder.

Well, that particular Christmas season, being so strapped for money and having made the decision to not get the tree, made us look at the whole Christmas tree issue in a little different light. There was a thought that came to me one evening as I drove by one of the many white, ply-wood huts on a corner lot filled with trees. It was a small thought, but it was as if a whole new revelation opened up to me. I thought, "What if every American gave up getting a Christmas tree for one year? If everyone would donate that money instead, how much money would that add up to? What could we do for the poor in our communities, or in other parts of the world, if we gave up this one thing for one year?" I never found out an answer to that question, because of course, it hasn't happened, and it won't happen anytime soon, I suppose. Really, I don't want to rob people of their trees and traditions, but does that come before giving to the poor?

That particular Christmas back in 1989, we did end up with a tree after all. My boss and his wife bought one and left it for us on our doorstep. For them, it was in their spirit of giving to others that they gave to us. That tree represented so much to me; it represented the fact that God does bless us through others, that he sees our wants, not just our needs, and that I need to be looking for ways to bless others. Their thoughtful and generous gift is still remembered, and it still prompts me to look for ways to bless others, especially if it is unexpected.

We always adopt Angel Tree children, or more recently a set of three siblings God has placed in our lives, to bless at the Christmas season and throughout the year. If it came between buying a tree for our home or being able to give to these kids, I'd skip the tree. Sure, my kids would miss the fun of hanging the blue lamb all together as the first ornament of Christmas, but I know God would use it to help show them the true meaning of what His gift to us was all about. We have been blessed enough to have a Christmas tree each year, but our tree always reminds me to make sure I'm giving to others outside of our home.

God has blessed us beyond measure, but when I saw this video this morning, it resonated with my soul. This is the same thought that I carry with me about giving up a Christmas tree for one year, but said it in a way that I think every American can understand. Please feel free to share this wherever you can. God is turning the tide of consumerism in our country, and sadly, the younger generation is grabbing on to this thought much faster than the older generations. What is God speaking to YOUR heart?

God, give us YOUR eyes and YOUR heart. We confess that we have been a self-centered and egotistical nation that has cared more for our own comfort and excess than for all of our brothers and sisters in need throughout this world, our nation, and our very own communities. O God, forgive us of this sin, and help us to live out your word that says that we "should also excel in this grace of giving." Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fabulous Friday and a Winner

Even though I've just completed two in-service days at my school site, today has been a great day! I was able to complete the work assigned to us much more quickly than I thought possible. We are revising and updating our course of study curriculum guides for each class, and of course, English covers a lot of territory in different areas: literature, writing, grammar, and vocabulary development. After finishing my course of study guides, I realized again just how much we cover in one year. Sometimes I feel as if we're not making much progress, but over time, we continue to add to our base of knowledge in many areas. I am continually praying that the Lord will miraculously fill in all the gaps, as it is impossible to accommodate all the various learning levels when there are 32 students in a class.

This morning, I spoke with a colleague as we poured ourselves a cup of coffee (always a necessity on in-service days!). This humble young woman oozes the love and spirit of Jesus, and I find myself wanting to be more like Him when I am around her. It was just the two of us in the teacher's room, and as we were finishing up, she suggested we pray for one another. We shared such a sweet time of connecting with God and one another, and I was blessed. It can sometimes seem as if we are all working independently with no real support, but this morning we were supporting one another in prayer, and it made a difference in the rest of my work day. Thank you, dear one, for being a blessing in my life.

Well, my post about leaving a comment so I would know who is reading didn't go so well. There are those of you who have told me you are out there, but you don't want to leave a comment. That's fine, but you weren't entered in the drawing, thus making the odds better for those who did leave a comment. :-) (You know that's a joke, right?!) I wrote down everyone's name who emailed, left a comment, or sent a snail-mail card, and I had my daughter, Hannah, draw one for me. I know there are many fancy bloggers who use a random number generator for their drawings, but I'm not that technically savvy, so I used the old fashioned method of drawing out of a hat (well, make that a bowl).

And the winner is....................Cindi!!! :-)

Yes, she will be receiving a Starbucks gift card, and I think I'll surprise her by dropping it by her classroom today when I pick my youngest daughter up from school! That will be a delightful end to a Friday, don't you think?

Anyway, thanks for reading and responding. I still wonder why I feel the Lord is wanting me to do this. I've stayed away all week because I simply haven't had the time, and I realize I run the risk of losing those of you who get tired of there not being something new posted. But really, I'm doing this blog in response to the leading of the Lord, not because I need a huge readership kind of thing. If this blog helps me to connect with the few of you the Lord desires me to connect with, then that's enough for me. I don't have any desires for being well known in blogland or anywhere else for that matter. I read a few blogs regularly, and I click around to other blogs that I see listed on those sites, and really......I think some women (people) must have nothing other to do than sit around writing posts. Even if I wasn't working, I probably wouldn't post more often because I have a husband and four children who are higher on my priority list than blogging.

Well, I'm off to pick up Cindi's gift card! My blessings to each and every one of us on this beautiful fall day!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Women of Faith

I'm heading out to the Women of Faith conference, but please do respond to my last post. I will pick a winner next week! :-)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Stop By and Say, "Hi!"

I simply cannot count the number of people who have told me this week that they are reading this humble, questionable blog of mine. I knew that there were a few faithful ones who checked in now and again, but I was surprised (and humbled, scared, and awed) by some of those that said they stop by here. So, it got me to thinking, why don't I just ask those reading to leave a comment saying, "Hi!" so I know who's here (and also YOU would know who's here). It's not that I will change what I post based on who's reading, but to be honest, it is a little weird to post things not knowing who is actually reading them. There are a few points of etiquette in Blogland that I've discovered this last year, and one of those points is that it is nice to leave a comment on a blog that you have begun to read so that the blogger has an idea of who is reading and is able to check your blog/profile, also. That doesn't mean you have to leave a comment every time you check in, but it gives the blogger an idea of who is out there. So, I'm asking you to leave a comment after reading this post.

In case you wonder why I'm blogging, click here. The whole reason I titled this blog, "Traveling Together," is that I wanted this to be a way to interact with some of you great people that call New Life Christian Center home. An added blessing is that this blog has helped me connect to others outside of New Life, also. Some I have known, and others are new friends gathered through this modern mode of communication. However, this blog hasn't turned into the connecting point between us that I had hoped it would. It has seemed rather one way, a lecture if you will, rather than back and forth, or a discussion. I simply long for this blog to honor the Lord, and if it honors Him as is, I'm fine with that, but if He wants it to be something more, then that's what my heart desires also.

So, please stop by and leave a comment. To help motivate you, I'll do a drawing from the names of those who comment to win a yet-to-be-determined prize. (That means that I haven't thought this all the way through yet, and I'm just throwing it out there!) (:-)

Also, as something to draw from for future posts, please feel free to email me, or leave a comment, asking any questions that you may have for me that we can discuss.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

God Shows Up!

That title is theologically wrong, so please don't take that in a literal sense; I meant it in the figurative sense. I know that God is always here; it's just that some days it seems like He's shouting, and other days it can seem like He's silent. But today......He was not silent! I could hear Him in the enthusiastic worship of our church family, in the testimonies of the 30 people being baptized (yes, you read that right - 30!), in the cheers of all of us witnessing the baptisms, in the various conversations during our all-church outdoor BBQ, and in the remembrances of the Brazil Missions Team that met tonight to share a meal and to watch a DVD of their trip! Wow; what a day! I'm blown away by God's goodness and grace!

I must sincerely thank the huge group of servant-hearted people who showed up at 6:30 AM this morning to start cooking and setting up for our BBQs; they are just incredible! They had a full meal ready after both services, and it was so good: hamburgers, beans, chips, watermelon, and cantelope! So many people are willing to serve the Lord in large and small ways, and each one is vital to what God wants to do here.

Also, we had a small group connection time today with everyone encouraged to sign up to be a part of a small group. We have a lot of small groups that are just starting, so it's a great time to join a group that is just forming. Let me encourage you to take a risk and join a group; we will be going through a book that deeply affected Dave and me before we became pastors. In fact, when we read this book, we embraced it because we felt it put words to what our hearts had been dreaming the body of Christ could be. The book is called, "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness," and there is a part of me that wishes I could be involved in each and every small group so that I could be a part of all of those discussions. I truly think God will light some fires through these small group discussion times.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Fine Colleagues

Just thought you might enjoy seeing some of the fine men that I work with. Mr. Tim Tanis teaches Jr & Sr High Art, Design, and Photography. Mr. John Godfrey teaches Algebra I, Geometry, and Consumer Math. Mr. Fast teaches Advanced Algebra, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and AP Statistics; he is also the Academic Dean. And finally, Mr. Billy Hawes taught English 9 and 11. I'm sure you'll appreciate their professional demeanor.

This took place during a talent show at the end of the school year, and no, that's not their natural hair! I wish I had the video of my daughter, Hannah, singing "Taylor, the Latte Boy," because she did a great job and won the $25.00 prize. Here's the song she sang, performed by the fabulous Kristin Chenoweth, if you are interested. Have Fun!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Today, my great husband turns 45 years old, and I'm sure he's happy that I'm blurting out his age all over the place! This morning, he told his running buddies that they needed to run 4.5 miles in honor of his 45th birthday, but they ended up running 4.7 miles, so he figures he's good for two years now! :-) Feel free to stop by his blog and wish him a happy birthday!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Out of Alignment

I had a bad day last Friday, and just couldn't post about it until today. A couple of you have been "blessed" enough to know of it, but a thought from that day is hanging on and won't let go. It's weird; I feel it inside and know that it is something I am to do something about.

I was so tired that I crashed late Friday afternoon. It had been a horrendously busy week, and it didn't help that I wasn't feeling well; it seems that my cough which started at the end of July with my sinus infection just won't go away, and I am still struggling with sinus/ear issues. I had been up late (way too late) every night last week; I had to be at work extra days; we had something every night; blah, blah, blah..... :-)

So, I came home from my school's Junior High Fall Fling on Friday afternoon and fell into bed. I just could not go anymore! Believe it or not, I was in bed for four hours, drifting in and out of a restless, dreamlike sleep state. It was during one of those half lucid moments (I think:-) that the thought penetrated straight through the haze: "I'm not living my life in alignment with my priorities." It was crystal clear in that instant, and I knew it was truth!

I think I've pushed away those thoughts for so long now because there are so many needs to meet that I simply don't know what else to say, "No," to. I've said, "No," to lots of things already; how do I possibly simplify even further? Some things in my life just ARE because I am blessed with a husband, four kids, a home, a ministry with Dave, a job ( which is also a ministry), and all of my relationships. I can't change any of that, and I don't want to, but I do need to find a way to live in greater balance. I am currently not exercising like I should be because I have meetings on almost every morning I am not at work, and my evenings are either busy outside my home, or busy with homework, cleaning, dinner, laundry, etc... I'm not meeting my family's needs as I'd like to; I don't have time for relationships, and the relationships I do make time for turn out to feel like "meetings," because they are scheduled into time slots. I often feel like it must seem as if we're stuck up or something when someone calls to get together and we have to look six to eight weeks down the road. Something is just wrong about that, and I don't want to live that way. I do know that being pastors gives us the blessing of lots of relationships, and I count it a privilege to know (well, at least be acquainted with) so many great people. However, there is no way we can get together one on one with everyone we would like to. I feel a constant regret over that, and I have to be careful that it doesn't spill over into condemnation for all that I cannot do. It's frustrating, to be honest.

Anyway, on Sunday, I was at lunch with a couple of friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. After sharing about my piercing thought (my life is not in alignment) and my other feelings about it and my life, one friend wisely said, "It sounds like there's an awful lot of indicators (about what you should do)." It stopped me short. She was right, and it has me thinking and praying.

I have some friends praying for clarity for me, and I will continue to pray that for myself. I know God will give me what I need to do what He has for me to do, but sometimes that purpose seems foggy. I keep putting one foot in front of another and praying that it is the "right" next step. I remember that saying, "Just do the next right thing." That's how I'm getting through my days, and I have to trust that the Lord will clearly reveal when I am to do something different. For now, I'm praying and waiting, and I'm longing to obey what He speaks through His Word, His people, and my circumstances.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Hiding Place

"You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word...Hold me up, and I will be safe..." Psalm 119:114,117

In my 8th grade English class, we are just finishing The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. This is a powerful book about one Christian family from Holland who dared to risk their lives to harbor Jews during the Nazi reign of terror that had invaded their country. If you have areas of your life where you are struggling with forgiveness or with being grateful, this book will speak to your heart. Each time I read through the book, I am struck again by the miraculous journey that Corrie takes from hatred to forgiveness. She endured and witnessed such horrendous things, and her natural responses mirrored what most of ours would be. However, she is contrasted throughout the book with her sister, Betsie, who is able to keep God's perspective through all of the betrayal, punishment, torture, disease, and deadly circumstances. Corrie lost both her father and her sister, Betsie, while they were in the concentration camps. Corrie is eventually released because a clerk mistakenly recorded her number, 66730, on a list of women to be freed, instead of on the list of women her age to be executed.

She went on to establish a home in a vast estate in Holland for people who had either been held in concentration camps or hidden in attics, farmhouses, crawl spaces or back closets for two, three, or even four years. The 56-room home and land was donated to Corrie's work by a woman whose five sons worked with the resistance. Corrie also turned her family's home in Haarlem into a healing place for the Dutch men who had signed on with the Nazi's and betrayed their own countrymen; she saw the anguish they suffered because of their participation in persecuting their own. Corrie then began traveling to speak to groups about the power of God to save and to help heal their raw and broken hearts, and she found the greatest need to be in Germany itself. She helped to turn a former concentration camp into a place of healing for people who had been part of the atrocities committed against humanity. Churches in Germany stepped up and began to minister to their fellow countrymen. Those in the church helped to take away rolls and rolls of barbed wire; they painted the pale gray block buildings the green of new life in spring. They placed window boxes with flowers along the fronts of the buildings. The place of death and torture was redeemed to be a place of hope and healing. The name of Jesus was lifted up as thousands turned to Him in need of forgiveness and healing. Others needed the power of God to be able to forgive and move on with their lives. Corrie was God's instrument of grace, and she lived out her remaining years (until she was 91) sharing God's love all over the globe.

I have a Modesto Bee newspaper article from 1974 which details Corrie's visit to Turlock. She spoke in churches and at the War Memorial building for youth groups in the area. My sister-in-law heard her speak and saved the article all these years. What a treasure to share with my students!

Corrie liked to use props when she spoke, and one of those was a piece of material she called the "crown." She would begin by holding up what appeared to be nothing more than rough blue cloth with tangled knots of gold thread hanging from it. She would then recite this poem by the American hymnist Grant Colfaz Tullar:

"My Life Is Like a Weaving

My life is like a weaving
between my God and me.
I do not choose the colors
He works so steadily.
Sometimes He weaves sorrow
and I in foolish pride
forget he sees the upper,
and I the underside.
Not till the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
will God unroll the canvas
and explain the reason why
the dark threads are as needful
in the skillful weaver's hand
as the threads of gold and silver
in the pattern He has planned.

Corrie would then triumphantly flip the cloth over to show her audience what God sees: a golden crown on a field of blue! That is what the believer will eventually see of God's plan in heaven, Corrie insisted." (pages 239-240)

That reminds me of a line from an old Carol King song (yes, I know all her songs of old!) that says,
"My life has been a tapestry
Of rich and royal hue."

I'm sure we've heard the analogy before, but it is good to remember that in this life we see only the back side of the cloth. There are knots every where and colors that cross over one another in no particular order, but when we look at the other side, we see what all the mess makes possible - a beautiful tapestry, rich in color and texture. We must strive to remember that our earthly view is not God's eternal view.

There are dark threads in my life, and in the lives of every person I know, that I see no good reason for, but God sees the finished product. And you know what? It's beautiful! We must hold on and believe. We must ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us. We must surrender to the working of that dark thread through our lives, often into the very core of our hearts, in order for the picture on the other side to be complete.

Anyway, I'm not always so serious in my posts, but my focus has been on this novel and what it is speaking to me personally. If you get a chance, read the book or get the movie. It will strengthen your faith and teach you that love triumphs over all.

I believe that God is calling me and our church to a greater love for Him, for each other, and for those yet to know Him. This book has further stirred that conviction in my heart. I am asking you to step out in faith to follow Him in that path. True love will cost us something, but the returns will be eternal.