Saturday, June 30, 2007

Kids, Kids Everywhere!

I've got kids spread all over the house this evening! My kids are blessed to have some cousins over for the weekend, so I've got Kari and my two neices downstairs, Eric and a cousin in his room, Hannah in her room, and Peter in his room. Now, it really feels like summer! My two youngest finished their last day of school yesterday, so we are now all officially done with another school year! That makes me happy in one sense, but it also makes me sad that the years are passing so quickly. My youngest in now going into fourth grade! Unbelievable! I find I sometimes want time to stand still when I find myself in an incredibly pure and sweet moment with my kids. And then.....there are other times when I think I can't wait until some attitudes are outgrown or brought under control, and that time can't come soon enough! Am I alone in that? :) I think that's the push and pull of mothering. Sometimes we just want to push our kids (their attitudes, behavior, and needs) away, and other times we long to pull them close to us and keep them there.

Tomorrow evening we will host the block party for our street like we do every year. This is our 13th year of hosting this event, and WE LOVE DOING IT! We invite everyone on all five blocks and also neighbors that have moved away, and we always have a blast! The neighbors know to set aside the Sunday evening before the 4th of July for the Block Party. We've got the bounce house rented, flyers passed out, lawns mowed, barricades rented, and supplies purchased. Now, we just have to set it all up, and guess what? I've got extra kids to help! :-) They didn't know they would be roped into working at Aunt Gigi's house, but I figure that's payback for the dominoe, Whoonu, and Moose games I've played this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Food for Thought

From my devotional time today: "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.... I can do everything through HIM who gives me strength." Philippians 4:5-8,13

How many of us really live out these verses?

"Let your gentleness by evident to all." Sadly, gentleness isn't always what we Christ-followers project to those around us. I see a lot of Christians "pushing" their viewpoints, seeking retaliation for hurts suffered, speaking maliciously of others........I ask, is that being gentle? I think gentleness is a forgotten and misunderstood trait in the body of Christ today. Too many people see gentleness as weakness, willingness to be a doormat, permission to be abused, or acceptance of sinful practices.

Truth...."The Lord is near." Thank you for this promise, Lord!

"...the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I am definitely grateful that although I don't understand it fully, the peace of God is guarding my heart and my mind.

".....think about such things." If anything enters my mind that does not fall into the categories of: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, I should NOT be thinking about it. Wow, I think we'd all have a lot more mental free space if we stopped spending our time thinking about things that don't fit the above criteria. I know this is a growth area for me, and I praise God that I am catching my faulty thinking much more quickly as I mature in Him.

"I can do all things through HIM who gives me strength." It is only through HIM and his grace, but I can do ALL things HE has for me to do. So much of what I think I need to do is not what God is asking of me, so I must live in vital union with HIM so that I clearly sense what is from HIM and what is from my own expectations for myself. My standards for myself are so high that I often feel as if I'm failing, but when I wait on Him and obey HIS voice, He promises that I can do all He has for me through HIM and HIS strength. Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Apologies

"I'm sorry. I'm a little too overwhelmed with a church situation today to get back to you. No, you don't know anything about it, and I'm not at liberty to share it. Yes, I've prayed about it and given it to the Lord, but still it occupies my thoughts, and my spirit is heavy. Emails that require more detailed responses are too much for me today. Phone messages seem too difficult for me to return. My heart is with this situation and those involved, and I hope you can understand if I don't respond immediately. It's not that I don't desire to respond, it's just that I don't have it in me today. I can't handle that and still be the wife and mother I need to be. I know I am not meeting your expectations or desires, but I am assured that God knows and approves of what I am, and am not, doing today, even if you might not."

I guess that's what I want to say today. I sometimes feel that people think they know what my life is like (isn't it peaceful, pretty, and perfect?), but unless you are a ministry wife, you don't. Even if you've been in church a long time, although you might be more aware of some of the requirements/expectations of vocational ministry, you still can't fully understand what I (and my husband, like all pastoral couples) have to carry at times. We do it gladly because that's what the Lord has called us to, but that doesn't mean that weight is something that is easily thrown off or forgotten. That burden is carried with us throughout the day as we pray and listen. That weight makes us feel isolated; this knowledge that we have been trusted with separates us from others because we cannot share it.

So please, don't take my failure to respond right away personally or read something into it that isn't there. And sometimes, one more thing to deal with in a day, is one more thing too much on top of what we are already carrying. I need to set up certain boundaries so that I can retain enough energy to be there for my husband and my children. I need boundaries so that I can simply get my laundry done and the dishes put away. Sometimes, I need to circle the wagons so that our family can feel safe, protected, and loved. So.....thank you for honoring and respecting our need today.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Family Reunion

Today was the family reunion at our home. We had a tremendous time connecting with some family that we have not seen in a very long time, and we honored those who have gone before us. Family came from Texas, Connecticut, Utah, Southern California, the Bay Area, and the Clear Lake Area. We BBQ'd for lunch, took a tour of all the important Turlock places that have meaning for the family, swam, had a delicious, catered (yeah!) dinner, watched a DVD picture slide show and a silent film that starred Dave's uncle. Everyone's now gone home, or to their hotel rooms, and we'll meet up again tomorrow for some more reminiscing, catching up, and celebrating.

It has been a lot of work to get our place and our yard ready, but it was well worth the time and energy to see generations interacting and bonding. Dave has a very godly heritage, and I am grateful that my children have that legacy propping them up. I pray that they will walk in the Lord's ways always and carry on that heritage.

I'm exhausted, and we have church in the morning, so I should be going. We'll all sleep well tonight! :-)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

PW (That's what Lyna calls me! :)

Being a pastor's wife is a unique position. I'm not saying it's better or worse than any other role, but it is unique, and it comes with it's own particular blessings and challenges. I read the following on a blog that I check each day, and I think she speaks for many of us. I thought I would give you a glimpse into what it's like to be a pastor's wife. You can click here to see the actual blog. Below is her text:

It Really Is a Lonely Life. Really.
Juloyes Today, 07:31 AM

For those of you who aren't pastor's wives, there are some things you should know about how to encourage your pastor's wife.

1. She's not perfect either.
2. There are things that go on in the life of the church that you know nothing about but are huge burdens for her to bear.
3. She'd like friends, too.
4. So maybe you should call her for a play-date or over for dinner.
5. Pray for her that she would not get bitter or resentful.
6. You don't have to act "all spiritual" around her.
7. She does a lot that no one sees and she certainly isn't getting paid for it.
8. Unless she's in a mega-church, her family doesn't have a lot of money, probably less than you make.
9. She has times of spiritual dryness, too.
10. Sometimes she wonders if it's worth all the hassle, worth the toil it can take on her husband and children.

So the next time she does something that bugs you, remember these things and pray for her instead of complaining.

Me again: I will be honest and say that I have definitely had times that I've said it just isn't worth it. My selfishness will kick in when we are paying a price with our reputations, our marriage, our family, our emotions, our relationships. Oh, but then I get a glimpse of how worthy HE is, and I can do nothing less than to continue on where He has placed me.

Pastors and their spouses often feel lonely, also. I know that may sound strange because we are always around people, but believe it or not, it is difficult to form authentic relationships with people because many times they act differently around us simply because we are pastors. Many times, pastor's wives have to sit alone in church, at funerals, and at weddings. They often have to handle the children all by themselves because their husbands are speaking, or talking with people after services.

But....pastors and their spouses also get the blessing of being present at the most holy of moments in people's lives: births, salvation moments, baptisms, crisis, graduations, weddings, surgeries, and deaths. To be invited into a family's most holy moments is an honor that I don't take lightly. If our presence can bring any measure of hope, blessing, comfort, or peace, we are gladly there.

There are other facets of my life as a pastor's wife that I will share as we continue on this journey, but for now, I need to get off the computer and tuck the kids in bed! And by the way, their dad is home tonight to tuck them in with me! :-)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Can I Do?

I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still
I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do.
-- Helen Keller (1880-1968) American Writer

I collect quotes and keep them in a file on my computer. I have lots of them, and every so often, I go through them to be inspired, or challenged, or reminded of important truths. Tonight I came upon this quote by Helen Keller and needed this reminder. At this moment in my life, I am not free to go to Africa, but my broken heart inspires me to pray because that is the something that I CAN do. What is the "something" that you can do? So many times we are blinded to the possibilities because we are going through life in fast forward mode, failing to take time to listen, look, and really notice. Tonight I can pray for Africa and know that I have done something. I also pray for what God's will is in regard to giving me such a heart for a country I have never been to. I do hope to be able to go to Africa someday, but in many ways, I am afraid to go because I truly wonder if I would be able to come back after being there.

Another Helen Keller quote from my file: "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." (I think this especially applies to moms who care for their families and their households! :-)

On to other things.......please join me tomorrow in fasting and praying for our church. We are seeking the Lord with our whole hearts and asking that we would be ready for the new work He is doing among us. We must seek to be right with Him and walking in obedience to His word, and we must be on the lookout for where He is already working and be willing to join Him.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Yeah God!

I know today is Father's Day, but that isn't the main thought on my mind. Don't get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for my Dad, Dad-in-law, and my stepdad; I am truly blessed. I'm also grateful for the great husband I've been blessed with because he is a wonderful, fun, and loving father to our kids. I knew he would be! :-)

But, I am still reveling in the stories I heard this morning at the baptism service at church. There is no doubt that God is at work, and I stood in awe of the nineteen people who were willing to share their testimonies and be baptized at our outdoor service. Now if you know me, you know that I ALWAYS cry during the baptisms, and today was no exception. I was able to be "up close and personal" with each person today as I was needed to hold the microphone so we could hear their testimonies (this was so no one would get electrocuted! :). I was able to lay my hand on them as Dave prayed over them; I was able to see their faces as they came up out of the water; I was able to pat or hug them in celebration. There were those who accepted Christ as children in Sunday School, or at home with their parents. There were those who were saved from a life of addiction. There were those who accepted Christ as an adult when they finally learned that their way wasn't working for them.

God is in the business of changing lives, redeeming lost and confused souls, imparting worth on people who feel like they are not "enough." I know because that is what He did for me, and I am excited to see what God's got in store for us as a church. This is only the beginning! Remember, SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Books on My Nightstand

Well, I thought I should clean my room today, VBS being over and all, so I came in here to find a place to start. Cleaning off my glider rocker (a depository for clothes that have been worn, but aren't quite ready for the laundry basket) was quick and easy. However, my nightstand looks overwhelming at the moment.

I thought I'd give you a glimpse at the books on my nightstand that I am currently (or would like to be) reading:
Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado
Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness by Jerry Cook (I've read this book at least five times.)
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (adolescent literature, 2001 Newbery Medal winner)
Scale Down by Danna Demetre
Selected Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe (for school)
Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire
3 Cooking Light Magazines (why did I subscribe? :-)
2 Lands' End catalogs
Better Homes and Garden magazine
Teaching k-8 magazine
Creative Home magazine
I keep thinking I'll have time to look through the magazines and catalogs, but that never seems to happen!

Yes, VBS is over as of last night, and I had a great time helping out. It is always a busy week, but I tell you what.....seeing little ones worship with their whole hearts and with such joy on their faces is a priceless treasure! I was blessed to be a part of it. I thank Pastor Leon and Sherri Fox and the whole VBS team for all of their hard work and sacrifice to make such a memorable time for our little ones. You guys are great!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fasting and Praying

First and foremost today, I need to let you know that it is Peter David Larson's 11th birthday! Peter, you are a precious gift from God and your sweet spirit is a true gift to this world! We love you!

Well, it's Wednesday, and as my husband has requested of our family at New Life, I am fasting and praying that we would all be ready to receive the new things that God is doing, and wants to do, among us.

When I heard Dave say that we would fast and pray on Wednesdays, it took me back to 1989 when we, as a couple, first chose Wednesdays as the day we would fast and pray that we would be blessed with a child. For those of you who only know us as the parents of four children, it may be hard for you to believe that we struggled to become parents. We had been longing for a child for quite some time when we saw a infertility specialist. We continued to fast and pray, and we began using the miracles of modern medicine to try and conceive. I quickly, and unexpectedly, was pregnant, and we excitedly told our parents and a few close friends, only to have to call them later to let them know that we had lost our baby. I can't describe the utter devastation that I felt with that news; we were so incredibly sad and confused.

We continued to fast, pray, and try to conceive. We eventually were blessed with Hannah Joy, just as we were deciding whether or not we should pursue adoption. Not long after we had Hannah, we decided to begin trying to have another baby right away because we weren't sure how many years it would take us to have another child. Along came Eric Barrington! :) And then, after a longer period of trying to have our third child, we were blessed with Peter David.

I thank God that through medical intervention, we were able to have our family because I know so many others that tried that route and were not blessed in that way; my heart breaks.

Now you may be wondering why I've only mentioned three of my children. Well, they were the only ones conceived by medical intervention. Our fourth child, Kari Elisabeth, was truly a miracle baby because we conceived her while I was on birth control pills for a medical problem I was experiencing. Just think, all those thousands of dollars on infertility treatments, and perhaps all I needed was to be on the pill! :-)

So, I'm sure most people who see us as a family with four children have no clue that we struggled with infertility and worked so hard to have them. We fasted and prayed through some hard and questioning times. We asked God some hard questions. We, or at least I, told God off a few times, and I pouted that He wasn't fair about things. I resented women who were able to get pregnant with no problem, or worse yet, when girls who didn't even want babies got pregnant. After losing our first child, I was bitter against women who had their babies to hold.

BUT....through it all, God said, "I do love you, Gena and David. I know all about the longings and desires in your hearts. I know your anger, and I understand it. I have a bigger plan for you that you cannot see at this moment. This is all a part of your story that I will use for MY glory. TRUST IN ME!"

So, long story short, this Wednesday of fasting and praying reminds me of the miracle of my children!

(Now please, don't comment on the ethical questions of using medical interventions or medications if you have not walked in an infertile woman's shoes. In the same vein, I do not want to imply that my pain is worse than any other woman's pain. Remember, we are all traveling together, and pain is pain, so let's look for ways to support one another. Let's fast and pray for one another; it is an honor to do so!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Healthy Churches

Okay, just another thought on the article I read about characteristics of healthy churches. This article was written by a man who decided to visit a variety of churches from all denominations and take notes on his observations and interviews with members and attenders. He found that those churches deemed to be the healthiest by the above observations had people who sang out heartily during worship/singing time. How loudly are we singing? :-)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Food for Thought

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." James 1:26

"Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." James 3:5-10

"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:21

Everything we say either brings life, or it brings death. Now, there's more I could add to this (a lot more), but I think I'll just let the above verses be our instruction.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Staff Time

We had the staff families over for dinner tonight, and we hung out together. Most were able to make it, and it was a busy time with all of the kids present. With just the staff that came, there were 15 kids - that's right, 15! Just imagine, when the entire pastoral and administrative staff get together, there are 23 kids! Wow! It reminds me of a statistic I read recently that said one of the common characteristics of healthy churches is that the many of the staff have young children, or children on the way. Now that doesn't seem to compute because those with young children are more limited (or should be more limited) in what they can give to the church and still fulfill their role as a parent. An interesting tidbit in my mind.

I feel incredibly blessed that the Lord has given us such great people to serve with. I can say that each couple truly loves the Lord, feels called by Him to serve His people, and lives out their faith in even the smallest of things. To me, this is where it really matters. Lots of people can be faithful in the big things that everyone can see and judge (when there is public approval or reward), but it is the truly faithful that live with integrity in even the smallest of things. Each staff person and staff family is a blessing to me, personally, and to all of us at New Life.

An update about a situation we were made aware of yesterday (mentioned in the last entry): A person called us to give us more information, and this person is a Christian and had been praying about this very situation, even though she didn't know what the Lord had in store. Anyway, God has shown that He is present in every aspect of this situation, and I can trust that He will continue to be in control. I am so thankful for that.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

I'm baaaaaack.

Well, we just arrived home from southern California about two hours ago, and already we have the laundry started, everyone unpacked, the car cleaned out, and everything put away. We're getting better at working together as a team, especially since we gave all the kids instructions on what we were going to do while we were still in the car! :~) You know, kids really can come through when we take the time to explain our expectations and give clear instruction. So many times when I get frustrated with how my kids do something, the real culprit is me. I have failed to clearly define what I am requesting of them; I've failed to give instruction or to model what I want done, and I expect them to just know what I want and to do it without bothering me. How selfish is that?! So, tonight, we got it right for once!

We had a great time at Disneyland, California Adventure, and the La Brea Tar Pits/Page Museum. My mom and stepdad went with us, and I treasure that they were able to experience Disneyland through the eyes of their grandchildren. My kids are blessed to have good relationships with all of their grandparents, and I consider it a blessing that we are able to live near them. Dave and I always thought that we would live away from our families if we followed God's leading into ministry; so we truly count it a blessing from Him that He placed us near our families.

As we were headed back to Turlock, we sensed the spiritual warfare begin. We had just had such a relaxing, rejuvenating time as a couple and family, but the minute we hit the central valley, it began. First a phone call with some very disturbing news. Our thoughts centered on what it all meant the rest of the journey home. Then, when we had time to listen to the many messages on our answering machine, there were two could have caused distress or overwhelmed feelings. BUT.......I praise God for the growth that has taken place in David and me! We simply sat down, discussed the situations, prayed, and felt God say, "This does not have to overwhelm you, and you are not personally responsible for either of these situations. So step back, give it to Me, and be at peace." And you know what? I AM at peace!

God, I thank you for the gift of Your peace which passes all understanding!

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Well, we're off for a few days of vacation in Disneyland. Is it really a vacation when you travel with four children to Disneyland and spend three very long days traipsing through the two theme parks? :-) I'm sure we'll come back very tired, but since I'm out of school, I'll have the rest of summer to catch up. We are also visiting the La Brea Tar Pits while we are there, and I'm looking forward to that, also. My mom and her husband are joining us for the trip, and I think that will be a blast.

There are many things that God is stirring in my spirit. I'll try to share some of that when I get back. I'm not even sure what it all means yet, but I do know that I sense a great movement of God in the making. He wants me to know that He is bigger than whatever I can imagine, and although I say I believe that, I mostly live as if I don't. So, my faith needs to grow, and I am praying for that!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Good Stuff

I've had a great couple of days! Yesterday, I was able to go out to lunch with a friend and catch up with what's been going on in her life. The chicken gargonzola salad was good, too! :-)

In the afternoon, I handed fence boards to Dave as he was finishing up the new fencing around our pool equipment. It looks great; now I just need to get some plant planted around the outside so it doesn't look so barren!

Last night, I went with a friend, who happens to be a teacher, out to celebrate her last day of school. I had celebrated my last day of school last week, so since she was going to be home alone, I didn't feel like that was an appropriate way to end another school year. She came by to pick me up, and we caught up with one another while enjoying a diet rootbeer float at the park.

Today, I am getting things ready to leave for Disneyland in the morning, and I am headed out to a cousin's baby shower late this afternoon. I'm taking dinner to a friend who just had a baby (a sweet baby girl named Hailey Rose) this afternoon, so I'd best be going so that I can get everything together in time to make it to the shower.

When I look at all that I've been blessed to do the last two days, I realize just how many good things God gives into my life each and everyday. No, everything isn't perfect with myself, my family, or my friends, but the fact that I have those relationships in my life is a blessing in itself, no matter what all is going on around us. That realization ties back to the title of this blog; we're traveling together on this journey called Life, and there is joy in the process if we are not alone.

Thank you to my friends and family for being there for me, for loving me, teaching me, encouraging me, and strengthening me. You are at the top of the list of things that I thank God for.