Monday, November 21, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Do Something - For the Little Ones

Great article on adopting through foster care.

Gives you some great information and statistics.

You might not be interested in adopting yourself, but as believers we are ALL called to care for orphans and widows. It doesn't mean adoption. I have not adopted. We may not adopt. We have thought about it and might at some point. But, until then, I still need to advocate however I can for orphans.

God commands it. It is not optional or the calling of only some.

I'm tired of hearing people say "I'm not called to that" when confronted with a need. Bull! You are if you are called to salvation by God! You are called to care. You were created to care. And, you are disobedient if you aren't doing something.

That something looks different for different people. Maybe you should sponsor a Bridge of Hope child through Gospel For Asia or sponsor a Compassion child or adopt a child from Angel Tree (or organize an angel tree for your local church) or become a CASA volunteer or become a foster parent or love on the kids in your neighborhood whose parents aren't around and don't seem to care much.

Do something.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wave of Distress

For much of the last year I've been walking through a time of struggle. Deep internal struggle. Not overwhelming me or causing me to doubt the deep basics, but enough to make me question some things I thought I solidly believed and understood.

It's been frustrating on one hand and somewhat ignored by me on the other.

Obviously, during this same time, I gave birth to our fourth child and have added another dimension to our already busy-with-normal-stuff life. I don't like the term "busy" because I don't think we should be "busy" in the sense of how we understand the word "busy" in our culture, but the reality is that the life of a wife and mom to four who serves in ministry is full. So, my word is full. But, i digress...

My point is in sharing this "deeper" struggle thing.

I'm not sure how much I will share in this very open forum, but I'll try not to be too vague because that frustrates me as a reader and would make it worthless for you to read this.

I will go back and talk about specific things I've struggled with...hearing God speak, the whole idea of being "called", God's will for our lives, biblical community, and choices...that's what it's all about.

So, I've really turned a corner, so to speak, in the last six weeks or so. Part of the corner-turning happened as I participated in a good Bible study this fall. But, even more has happened since that study has wrapped up and I've been left to try and sort it all out with the Lord in my quiet times.

They have been good. Rich. Honest. Refreshing.

Just recently, a friend wrote a statement that captured how I think I'm feeling as I emerge from this year-long struggle in my heart. Here's what she said:
Some struggles aren't problems that need to be solved. They're just reality. And reality is often much less daunting when we openly face it.
My wise friend Beth was struggle with something she was trying to overcome and then realized that the struggle just was. It wasn't something to necessarily get through or over or solve, but to just realize she was struggling in the first place and face the struggle square on.

I needed to hear that. I needed to realize that my struggle wasn't an obstacle to overcome but just a reality.

Then, today, my friend Sarah forwarded me some Scripture and quotes. Amongst them was tucked this Oswald Chambers quote:
The [wave] that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider the super-joy of going clean through it. Apply that to our own circumstances, these very things--tribulation, distress, persecution, produce in us the super-joy; they are not things to fight. We are more than conquerors... super-victors, with a joy we would not have but for the very things which look as if they are going to overwhelm us... The saint knows the joy of the Lord not in spite of tribulation, but because of it.
Oh how I can heartily say that because of this "tribulation" of my heart, I know more of the joy of the Lord!!!

What marvelous depths of His grace and mercy. I'm swimming in them.

The waves that were once threatening to knock me over as they crashed upon my body are now supporting me as I surf through and get a glorious high.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Penny for My Thoughts :: Musings

Before I get to the real task that brought me to this chair, namely balancing my computer-based envelope system budget, I thought I'd share a few random musings.

Musing: to be absorbed in thought (that's the definition on my computer; i have a Mac; it helps me be smart)

I included the definition because that's what good bloggers do. Right?

So, what was I absorbed in thought about? Oh yeah, I was thinking about a recent dialogue I had on email. Then, I thought about another dialogue via email. Seems I've had lots of little dialogues by email lately.

The first one was with my kids' school. I wanted to find out from someone in authority how they thought we, as parents, were expected to handle all the plethora of requests we get for financial contributions. Recently it's been a school field trip, teacher appreciation items, a Thanksgiving lunch, a canned food drive, and money for supplies for a reward day. Honestly, that's after several other things...and we're only on week 12 of school. And, I have three kids at the school. I just wanted to let them know I was feeling squeezed.

I was re-reading the dialogue and saw that my first email ended with me saying "I'm guessing I'm not alone in this struggle, though I have to say it took me pushing my pride aside to even email you this note. Therefore, I imagine not many other parents are willing to just say "this is not working for us"." (extra emphasis added)

That single statement got me musing. We are so afraid to talk about money. We are so hush-hush about it. We're afraid other people will see how we spend our money, will know how much we make (or don't make), will scrutinize our decisions with our money, will ask for money, .... It's crazy! We know we will be judged.

Yet, Jesus understood this so much. He talked more about money than he did about heaven and hell! So, money must be pretty important.

Money represents so much. For me, it has a way of unearthing the ugly things in my heart.

For the sake of being real, let me explain something and then share something.

First, explain...I wrote at the beginning of the year about moving to a cash envelope system. You can read that post here. We have kept up with it fairly well. We lasted through May, then went off cash for our trip to the east coast in June. I didn't get us back on track with cash until August. That's also when we started getting our paychecks directly deposited. So, I've had a hard time getting a system in place to be "on" with it again, but I've been trying. Can I say here that having a baby throws a whole new dimension into my life? What ever was I thinking when I thought one more would just join the rest in our routine? Not so! The boy needs to nap all the time and I can't get nearly as much done anymore! Okay, so back to money. We have been sluggish with discipline lately.

Second, share...we have $24 cash to last us until Tuesday (next payday). Now, when I say that, please don't think I mean we have no money in our account and just $24 cash. What I mean is that between all my envelopes of "spending" money, we have $24 left. I didn't use cash at the grocery store this week (two stores in two trips) and spent more than I probably would have had I used cash. In addition, I was a little loose with my card because I didn't have cash and bought a pair of shoes for myself and one for Jett, along with some clearance costumes and candy. I "needed" the shoes (in other words, I don't have any brown shoes I can wear with khakis, so I could "justify" "needing" the shoes) and then got amazing deals on the costumes and candy (like less than $10 total). BUT...if I had opened an envelope of cash and saw a limited amount of funds, I don't know that I would have bought those items. Maybe, but I'm not sure. BUT, I did. It's done. So, now we have $24.

What's my point? Just to tell you. Whoever is reading. We struggle with money. We struggle with decisions. We make dumb choices and regret it. We want things we can't afford. Sometimes we buy them and then have to forgo other things to cover our tracks. One good thing, we are committed to no debt. So, I always pay off our card balances. It's not an option and hasn't been for years. So, we don't lack complete discipline. But, we still struggle.

We were going to go out for lunch today because Joel gets a free meal (Veteran's Day! hooray for amazing men and women who serve our country). But, with just $24 cash in hand, we aren't. We decided to change our plans.

As my email said (excerpt above), I'm guessing I'm not alone in this struggle, though I have to say it took me pushing my pride aside to even email you this note. write this blog post. Therefore, I imagine not many other parents of you are willing to just say "this is not working for us."

[I just saw this cute comic on XKCD about money and savings.]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Four Years Ago Today...

we got up very, very early in an empty house. The air mattress we were sleeping on wouldn't inflate, so we slept on the floor. The kids were sleeping in pack 'n plays (the twins -- 18 months old at the time) and an inflatable toddler bed (that would be Rylee, who was 3).

All our possessions were packed in an ABF truck sitting out in front of our townhouse or in our van. Well, all except the cookies sheets, pizza stone, and bar pan that had been tucked back in the drawer under my stove, unbeknownst to me, and would be discovered as 'missing' two weeks later.

We made sure the house was completely empty, then woke up the kids and loaded into our van.

We drove away from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I remember Rylee saying "Bye, bye Harrisburg" as we circled the ramp to get on the interstate.

And I cried.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Discussions on Parenting

I love talking about parenting.

I love hearing about the experiences of others -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I love hearing what others think.

...this is where I inserted the cool video that wouldn't load correctly, so follow the link instead...

I love knowing I'm not alone in this thing.

What part of the video made you say "yep"?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gossip take

In a recent post I asked where the line is drawn between sharing and gossip. It's a fine line that I think we/I overstep many times.

I got great feedback. Thank you for your thoughts on the topic.

Here's what I think about talk and when it's deemed as gossip...

Simply put: If the comments and thoughts do not build up the listener or inform them of something they can/should act on, then it's gossip.

Using the scenarios I mentioned in my previous post, if I begin to talk to a friend about another friend and her kids without the intention of reconciliation, then I'm promoting gossip. If, however, I listen to my friend's complaint and then begin to challenge her and encourage her thereby promoting unity amongst my sisters, I think it's serving as an encourager. If I sense that my friend doesn't really want counsel or encouragement but is looking for an ally or is looking to turn me against another friend and/or her kids, then I should lovingly call her on it and encourage her as best I can.

As for more trivial things, like someone's hair or weight or clothing...guilty! I'm a people watcher. I like clothes and hairstyles and decorating and colors and such (not that I'm very stylish myself). But, I notice things. I don't think it's necessarily wrong or gossip to comment on these types of things so long as you aren't being mean. For example, I don't see anything wrong with saying "Wow! Debra looks so good. I love her new hair cut." Or "Maggie has lost weight. I need to find out what she's been doing." To tear someone down...duh, that would be gossip and wrong. As for those ladies that think saying anything to do with these purely physical things is gossip...I'd disagree. Those things just don't matter to some people. But, just because I comment on such things wouldn't make me petty or a gossip. Graciously saying "Oh, I hadn't noticed" (like Deanna mentioned in her comment) is probably a great tactic for many who could care less about these types of things.

Okay, my third example had to do with a trio of friends and social media. When someone is using social media to talk through an issue on any level, I think they are inviting others to talk about it as well. The general "rules" of not running someone down or talking excessively about something that doesn't involve you still apply. But, it's easy to pick up bits of information and need clarification when it's mentioned on social media (especially with the new screwed up feeds on Facebook...but that's a whole other post!). I think a wise person would encourage direct communication whenever possible, though.

Gossip doesn't foster closeness. Sometimes we throw out gossip in order to bait the affections of the listener. In other words, I tell my friend a secret thing so she will feel close to me. But, in order to gain closeness with her, I have to betray another person. That's fake closeness!

As Christians, we are called to unity. We are called to help reconcile others with God. And, I believe that Jesus taught us how to handle conflict in a way that promotes reconciliation with one another. United we stand, divided we fall.

We are warned against being a gossip throughout Scripture. We are told that we (as women) should be busy with our responsibilities, not having too much time for idle chatter. For me, gossip is hard to entertain when I'm busy doing what I should be doing.

Let's be a people who promote unity and honor others with all the words of our mouth whether they hear them or not!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween - a little Tricky

I originally wrote this at the bottom of my post with our Halloween pictures. But, it's a bit long, so I decided to make it a separate entry.

Since Halloween can be controversial amongst believers, here's my take on it.

As of right now, we obviously think it's okay to dress up and go trick or treating.

When I was a youth pastor (in Arizona), we chose to host a party and we showed a video about the reality of the evil that's done on Halloween amongst some people. It was appropriate because we were working with teenagers. The reality is that some people use that day to promote evil. We talked about the occult and the dangers of dabbling in spiritually dark things (Ouija boards, black magic, horoscopes, etc). Teenagers are typically exploring their faith and are making it their own. Therefore, we talked a lot about what their "options" were and showed them Truth. We spent time praying and then had times of worship.

However, my life right now finds me as a mama to four little ones. We have made several choices that have led us to allow our kids to participate in the "fun" of dressing up in costumes and getting candy on Halloween. We choose to send our kids to a public (charter) school. Therefore, our kids are exposed to Halloween and hear lots of talk about costumes. Trick or Treating for us is strictly the fun of costumes and candy so we allow our kids to participate.

We choose to make it a fun event, and we talk about how emphasizing death and fear is not something God wants us to do. In fact, we have a policy to not have any of the "scary" stuff at all--no blood, ghosts, witches, spider webs, etc.* My kids have enough fears already! We inevitably see scary things while we're out at this time of year (decorations in our neighborhood, costumes in Target). I like the fact that these things open the door for real communication with my kids. We have had some great conversations.

We also carve pumpkins and talk about the Gospel. We used a book last year called "The Pumpkin Gospel" by Mary Manz Simon. This year, we just carved little pumpkins and talked about the Gospel. Asa was asking some good questions and was telling me about the glow stick he was given at church and how our light is supposed to shine. Awesome!

I see Halloween as an opportunity to get to know my neighbors, as well. This year, I waited until the last minute so nothing got planned. But, next year I will probably do better. I see the need, especially as my kids are a getting older. I would like to organize a block party of sorts. Lots of people had their lights off, and I think there might be two reasons. First, darkness breeds darkness. It's much easier if your neighbor keeps their light off to then keep yours turned off (and not have to spend money on candy). In the past, I think we've had fewer and fewer kids come through our neighborhood so people just stopped trying. Second, there are lots of churches hosting "fall fests" and people go there because it's easy. I think it would be great to have our street lit up and to have more interaction with our neighbors. I did a neighborhood party a few years ago for Easter and it went really well. [I could go on and on about how we've taken community away from the places where we're planted --our neighborhood-- and made safe havens at churches where we all shine our light together but rarely shine it to those who need to see it most. But, I won't go on and on about that now.]

Whether you think Christians should or shouldn't participate in trick or treating, you should at least be asking the question. As believers, we are called to honor God with our lives. I lump trick or treating in there with all the things our culture puts out -- Santa, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, pinching people on St. Patrick's Day. For each "holiday", we have to examine the focus, decide what we believe honors the Lord and glorifies Him in our lives, and then not judge those who might not hold the same convictions. [That whole "judging" thing is another post topic, too.]

While I'm at it, I just have to say I don't get it when Christians have a costume party and then call it an "unhalloween" party or the like (Hallelujah party, Fall Festival, etc) when it's on the same night as trick or treating! It doesn't make sense to me to lump trick or treating in costume into the "evils" of Halloween and then try to do something alternative to that. I think it just looks ridiculous to the rest of the world.

Now, you can forget about Halloween for another year and move on to how you celebrate (or don't) Thanksgiving and Christmas!

*When it comes to "scary" things to see at Halloween, skeletons are my exception. I guess I just see them from a scientific viewpoint so I'm okay with them. I mean, they ARE what's under our skin! I once heard that a famous Christian kept a skeleton head on his desk to remind him of the eternal reality that we all die and only get this one life to make a difference for Christ. Or maybe it was something to do with memento mori.

Trick or Treat

This year it seemed that the Halloween celebrations lasted for days. Various churches around the area had events Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday. We only went to one -- the outreach our church hosted at the apartment complex where we used to live.
Rylee went as a tired mom of a newborn (ha!), Jenna was Tinkerbell, and Asa was Shrek.They enjoyed the bounce houses and giant inflatable slide. They ate hotdogs, chips, and popcorn. They played games and got some candy and prizes.
I was taking pictures of the event. I couldn't commit to running an activity since I figured Joel would be home with Jett, who would be finishing his afternoon nap. I was right. But, after a bit, this cute thing strolled up!Seriously, adorable! And, he didn't seem to mind the hat at all.Then, on Monday we invited our friends, the Braleys, over to trick or treat with us. We got our crew decked out in their costumes again and went door to door. We only went to half our street because it was getting late and we still had plans.
Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures, but we returned home to roast marshmallows over our fire pit in the back yard and eat some smores. We made them using the candy the kids got trick or treating. A smores with a Milky Way....yum-o!
Our street doesn't get much traffic, so I just set our bowl of candy outside and left our light on while I went out back to enjoy the smores-making fun.
We wrapped up our evening, gave the kids a quick shower (they smelled like smoke from the fire), and got them into bed before 9. Success in my book!

Next post: My take on Halloween.