Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mix it ALL Up!

Well, after such an inspirational gathering of leaders a few weeks back I have had to think and evaluate what am I doing here and am I really here for God? I've had some time to reflect and truly repent and I'd like to share that with you.

The idea of repenting can be taken very seriously or it can be taken very frivolously. As one who attempts to imitate Christ, I lean toward the level of serious. I had a real self-evaluation recently and many conversations with God to figure out what did I need to repent of exactly. For I believed that because we weren't getting quite the desired result (grown kingdom) out of our work for God that I must have lead others astray somehow. I've been confused and eager to discover my pitfalls and shortcomings in hopes that this process is less maddening ;-)

So after talking with my husband and reading (the bible!) and praying I've come to the conclusion that I need to repent for not treating the children as I believe I should be treating them. I mean to say that I believe they are the most important task God hands to us. I believe children are vital to the growth of the kingdom and I believe they are too often overlooked, put aside or seen as a group of 'not yets'. I have dreams and visions of adults and children living as a unified species. Enjoying, learning and leaning on each other as a way of life. All my dreams and desires, my thoughts and blogs, my conversations and yet I am not living it to the fullest.

Sure our family has the blessing of my being able to stay home with our children, I home school them, we work to teach them about life lessons of work, responsibility, goal setting and achievement, financial direction, good and bad decision making, the reality of consequences and so many other things. But I'm not living this dream and I'm pretty sure because I'm not doing it, that if anyone else (in this house) is trying to live the dream, I'm squashing it.

I must then, acknowledge my repentance isn't just for the children I come in contact with and the adults I come in contact with through my ministries, (though they all benefit as well) no, it is for my own children. God has given me three amazing people to help shape and safely guide to adulthood where they will be released into the "Wilds of America" (and beyond?) and I have taken them for granted. I have failed to allow them to be the joy to myself (and maybe even to others) that God has created them to be. I've allowed my hurts, frustrations and exhaustion to affect how I see them. I've allowed Satan to distract me, and in some ways use me to torment them. And I am SO ready to repent now that I recognize what has been going on.

See someone said in our group of leaders that they are always told they are doing a wonderful job and receive lots of praise (too much maybe) from others in how they parent and stay involved in their children's lives. But this person said they need me to encourage them and to challenge them to do it even better. I see that and I think, "wow! yeah, we can do it better!" ...we may be doing it good, maybe even better than others, but we certainly have leaps and bounds to reach our potential. I mean, what kind of mother does God want me to be??!! I've never asked myself that question before. (!!)

More than a week ago we did this really cool lesson as a group during our worship gathering where I measured out a group of ingredients and put them in separate bowls. I then took each bowl, identified the contents and sent the bowl around the room for everyone to taste. Some things like sugar and chocolate chips tasted great! Other things likes vanilla extract and baking soda tasted awful!!! When we tasted the contents of the bowl we were to draw a parallel of something in our lives that is similar to that (we used a list or a drawing). At the end of tasting everything we had a page full of great and not so great things. Alone, some of these things we can handle (or eat pounds of!) and others we can't even bear to put into our mouths (eggs!!!). But if we rely on God and allow Him to take ALL of the ingredients and work his magic (dump all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a large wooden spoon) we get something that is wonderfully irresistible... COOKIE DOUGH!!!

I see this lesson and how it applies to my ministry, my dream and my reality and I see how if I allow God to be in control and mix up ALL the ingredients, even the ones I think are too gross to include (butter or baking powder anyone?) then He can do something amazing, but only if I give Him EVERYTHING! See cookie dough won't work if any one of the ingredients is missing. It might still be edible and may even taste pretty good, but it won't have all the perfect wonderfulness that is cookie dough. Only if I let Him work with me and through me is there then cookie dough, and not just a tiny bit of dough but enough for everyone. It is then I can live my dream which fulfills my ministry and is my reality.

What an awesome God we have!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Worshiping with Children

Well friends,

Our gathering went well. It was smaller than originally expected but wonderful none-the-less.

After our dinner, I had markers and poster boards available and gave a very nonsensical explanation of my previous post and then had the crowd break into three groups that included both adults and children and watched the fun unfold!

First, you should know that sitting and coloring and talking about Jesus in this brainstorming session where young and old were intermingled was definitely a worship experience! Second, you should know that the children taught the adults SO much about being joyful. The joy of childhood, the happiness of being together, it was truly amazing to watch.... never before have I seen grown ups giggle and be so incredibly impressed and emotionally touched when sitting in a circle and worshiping. The children brought an awesomeness that none of us were fully prepared for. Third, the list of ideas for how to worship is long and exciting. I hope our participants and our at home readers are ready to try some of these things.

How can we worship God?
  • Obey our parents (and authority figures)
  • Be with our family
  • Love others
  • Sing
  • Show kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, love, joy, patience and peace
  • Pray to God
  • Help the Poor
  • Read the Bible
  • Be enthusiastic about Jesus and others
  • Share things like food
  • Encourage others
  • Be a friend
  • Be generous
  • Stay joyful
  • Talk to God
  • Imagine things that God does and has (like God having a pool to go swimming in). 
  • Being creative and telling stories about worshiping God (having mom in a space ship on her way to see God, having the child in the family bow down to God, having our family members who haven't decided to follow Jesus with all of their being asking questions and being curious about Christ, etc.)  
  • Stay Determined to follow Christ
  • Help other people
  • Give something God has given you to someone else
  • When we work together without fighting we worship God
  • When we show others love
  • Doing what God says
  • Letting the Lord lead you through
  • Giving thanks to God
  • Forgiving others
WOW! This is a great list and is SO diverse and flexible that almost anything you do, with the right intentions and focused heart is considered worship! So get working, see how much of your life (the whole thing???) can turn into a worship experience. Wouldn't that just be an awesome thing to share with others and an amazing legacy to leave behind??

A life of worship, that's powerful, that's obedience, that's WORSHIP!

P.S. Just because you don't have young children around you doesn't mean you can't implement these ideas into your worship experience!

Friday, November 2, 2012

What Does it Mean to Worship?

What Does it Mean to Worship? What About to Worship as a family?

The term worship is a heavy and complicated word. It has so many definitions and uses that when someone tries to sum it up or identify it there is usually great debate on whether the example is thorough enough to include all the variations and interpretations of the word. Famous theologians have argued and debated about the meaning and the proper forms and uses of the word worship and modern day bloggers whose education and discipling status is unknown offer a multitude of explanations and/or examples. All of this information however, just complicates the the question, 'What does it mean to worship as a family'?

To save everyone some heart ache, I'm going to define worship in the simplest of terms that I (a non-theologian) is capable of. I believe that worshiping is when you show people you love Jesus with your words and actions, affecting the world around us for the better. And to do that as a family means we do that together. We do not exclude anyone (especially the children).

We've been reading Mark the last two weeks as a church and as a family and in Mark 10:13-16 my bible says this:

The Little Children and Jesus

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

So I look at this and I think a few things. First, I've heard this before, in most of the gospels I believe (of which our church and family has read all of in the last 4 or 5 months). Second, the familiarity of this passage doesn't make it less puzzling. I've always felt, when reading this passage, we are missing something... but I've never been able to put my finger on what. Was it a call to be child-like? That is an easy desire to fall into, but that has just never seemed quite right.

No, today when I read this passage I noticed this:

The Little Children and Jesus

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

 WHOA!!! There it is. The thing that I've been looking for in this passage. The answer to my question, "what am I missing here, I don't get it?" Well, now I get it.

Us, the grown ups, the ones in charge, the dignified people, with our rules and expectations and our outstanding ability to complicate everything... we are to get out of the way! Stop hindering the children and allow them to come to Jesus. Allow His blessings to flow and be abundant in their lives.

Of course, this is another one of those easier said, than done type of things, but I personally think that phrase is a cop-out. It's an excuse to not change or improve. A reason to feel good about being convicted but do nothing different and let's just all hope that the arrow of guidance we shoot in the dark rooms in which these children live, growing up in this world, hits them. The statistical chances of success in that scenario probably justifies the decline of Christ like disciple making individuals in our world today.

So how do we worship as a family?? We work together to impact the world around us for the better. I believe that children are amazing at impacting the world, naturals! They can bring both joy and destruction in mere seconds and some have the special talent of going between the two extremes while making pit stops between the two in just a few minutes. The reality is, we have been told to get out of the way! So let's get them involved and take some cues from them, "because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Our exercise for the evening is to brainstorm (using markers and poster board). We will come up with ideas on how we as families can impact the world around us through the following avenues:

 Generosity       Thanksgiving         Encouragement                Enthusiasmm           Kindness         Obedience         Respect               Reliability 

p.s. for those of you that might be interested in our discoverings, i do in tend to post our findings.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hardly an Expert

Friday evening I am to present, or orchestrate rather, an evening of family worship time that is instructive and inspirational and though I've had more than two months to prepare, I'm two days away from said event and still have little clue of what will occur. Now I want to be hopeful and say the Holy Spirit will lead us and everything will be awesome but let's be realistic on my role of being prepared. I've felt very lost when it comes to the planning stages and though I've attempted to make an outline dozens of times I'm no closer to figuring it out, YIKES!

Let's take this back just a bit, just in case there are some new readers out there. My husband and I love Jesus with all of our beings. We strive to honor him in every aspect of our life (though we readily admit there are many aspects in which we struggle and do not yet honor Our Father). Almost 3 years ago we sat in our mansion, slaves to our bills with two tiny wild boys and the most perfect baby girl in the world and said, "...this doesn't feel right." Sure we were living the American dream and we've impacted people's lives, but we felt like our life was for SO much more. So we prayed and read and with great counsel we decided to be radical. We sold our dream home and moved into a diverse, working class neighborhood where we live as missionaries to our community. We've created several outreach ministries and facilitate several weekly gatherings in which people are encouraged, allowed and pushed to see Jesus in a whole new way. So far it is going very well (most days!) but I still feel like I'm not doing it right. 

See, my heart is for children. My children specifically, but all children I come into contact with as well. I have always loved children. As a teenager I loved teaching swim lessons, working as an after school counselor, a lifeguard and coaching. Whatever it was that allowed me to share my passions of activities with children was where I belonged. Of course I planned to be a teacher but when it came down to it, I wanted my own children to hold and mold. So we started our family instead of me pursuing a teaching career... how funny that I am now pursuing that teaching position in our home!

All this background to talk for a minute about what happens when I share my heart with others. Often we talk about our family's desire and willingness to obey God in all aspects of life. This doesn't just include parenting but especially parenting and I usually get responses of interest. Occasionally responses of excitement and always nods that agree our role as parents is confusing and therefore a very grey area of life that no one gets right. But I look around and see young adults (and some older ones too) and I think to myself... "no, some parents get it right."

 I inquire the parents about how they parented, I inquire the grown children about what they thought and perceived of their parents' parenting that makes them so different from the world. Of course we know the answer is Jesus, but it's not just Jesus. There is something different that makes these individuals stand out. I think to myself, I want my child (and those God has allowed me to reach) to have those qualities and not just a few of them but all of them! I desire for the fullness of Christ to be in their lives very much real and even tangible, for them to be open, artistic, expressive, confident, adventurous, skillful, intelligent, curious, courageous, honest and in short, GREAT!!

But I fear when we muddle the black and white that exists (and I believe greatly in black and white) and take comfort in the greyness of it all we forfeit those dreams.  I look at it all and think man, this is what I want to figure out. And sometimes other people are really excited and say, "Yeah!!! That's a great idea, let me know what you come up with!" Then I'm left feeling alone and unsure.

Yes this is important, yes this is my passion, but no I don't have a clue about what to do. I'm hardly an expert!

Monday, October 29, 2012

growing into adulthood

     Something you tend to figure out when you become a parent is that you had NO idea what you were talking about when you spoke to a parent whose children were going through a phase, giving them your advice or opinion. Parenting is a full time commitment. On top of your duties to provide for these small humans, you now are responsible for helping shape them into a productive, helpful, self-sufficient, God-loving adult. True we have years to do this so it's not necessarily as overwhelming as it seems. But really, this is a huge deal!

     As a child of God, that has been given the gift of children, I am responsible to teach these children how to learn, how to grow and how to mature in ways that God wants us to. This is a big task and sometimes makes me cry when I know I'm failing in a particular area or moment. These are the times I read Proverbs. The parents handbook!

     I learn SO much and gain a clarity that simplifies my role or lessens my importance when I read Proverbs. After all, I have given my children back to God. He is responsible for growing them into wonderful, Godly, mature adults. My biggest job is to help them find their way without getting too much in the way and teaching them what I know, encouraging them to learn more as they go.

     Over the years I've seen myself in many different lights and discovered huge holes in my own maturity or adultness that I had no clue was there. I look at myself and think, "Wow! How did I not learn that before I was 30??" Sometimes it's disturbing and other times it's embarrassing and still other times it's so, ... well, I don't have words to describe it. I wonder what I'll be learning when I'm 50 or 80??

    Then I wonder, "Who is responsible for teaching me if I didn't learn it while growing up? Where will my children learn to be adults if I, for some reason or other, fail to help them mature properly? Are they going to be 30 year old teenagers? Are they going to be drains on society? And more importantly, are they going to be surrounded by love and accountability to encourage the growth and maturity versus the enablement of childhood??"

    All these things I try not to worry about, even when they cross my mind =D

Thursday, August 16, 2012

And Lead Us Not Into Temptation

I was praying with my three year old daughter last night (we recite the Lord's Prayer with the kids), and I came to the following line of the prayer:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

This line contained new meaning for me.  In the past, I always recited this passively.  To me, it meant
"hey God, I'm just going about my life here, trying to follow you.  Please don't throw any curveballs my way and please keep Satan from messing things up."

Last night, I felt active when I prayed this line.  The meaning changed for me.  I thought,
"God, there is temptation all around me.  Please guide me and give me wisdom so that I am able to dodge and deal with those temptations."

I started asking God to move instead of asking him to stay back.

My focus changed last night in my prayer life.  The Lord's Prayer came alive for me in a new way.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Forgiveness and What I know About It

I do not intend this post to sound arrogant, so forgive me if you read it and it comes across that way. My intentions are merely to share my experience with forgiveness.

We all (at least that is the hope) know that God sent His son Jesus to die for us so that our sins will be forgiven. Generally speaking, amongst those who have faith in Christ, we accept this truth and live with it as a safety net. We don't always use it, feel like we need it, want it or understand the details of it. BUT! It is always there.

However, when we fall, and realize how important that safety net is, we learn to appreciate the net, taking in not only it's usefulness, but it's beauty and intricate detail as well. We are assured it works beyond our wildest imagination and then we are comforted and empowered to try again, maybe taking an even bigger risk.

I've had a few rough patches in my life, and a few not so rough patches, that left me hurt and broken. In many cases I was even unaware of the brokenness or hurt until I was confronted with a trigger that made me relive that particular event (not literally, I'm speaking about emotions and memories). It seems since I've known Christ as an adult and spent time intently seeking Him I discover wounds from my past all the time. When this first began happening I was confused as to my role in this journey. What was I to do about these feelings? How was I to heal? To move on? To rebuild? I thought following Christ meant that I was not defined by those events.

Well, I believe because I was seeking Him, I found people who were so full of passion, grace, mercy and a willingness to walk this path with me that I found my way in and through the path less traveled of forgiveness. I learned from these amazing individuals that forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Offering forgiveness doesn't mean that you no longer hurt or have negative feelings about the offense or offender. Offering forgiveness is simply freeing yourself of the burden of the ordeal and allowing yourself to move through the process of healing. Without forgiveness I don't believe you are truly capable of healing, no matter how much time has past.

Forgiveness, I believe, in our society is seen as something we offer to benefit the offender and so we choose very regularly to not offer this gift up. After all, it is socially acceptable to deny the one who hurt us no matter how deeply or insignificant the pain is. But this my friends, is where we miss the mark. In doing this we torture ourselves. Forcing our heart, mind and soul to continue to relive the moment of pain. We freely add baggage with heavy chains to our souls.

It's like picking at a scab every time it forms. It never allows the cut to heal properly. It can get infected, never heal, get staph or many other bad things. However, if you acknowledge the hurt and pain, allow the bleeding to stop, clean it with soap and water, bandage it and wait it'll get a little bit better everyday.

Forgiveness isn't a solution to problems either. It's not something we can earn. It is not for sell. It is not a one-step process. It is not weakness. It is not a one-way ticket. Forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card. Forgiveness is not ignoring or denying that you are broken. Forgiveness isn't a misjudgement or misunderstanding.

Forgiveness is Free. It offers Freedom. It is Powerful. It is life altering. It is amazing and wonderful and terrifying all at the same time. Forgiveness is Difficult. Forgiveness often requires many attempts. Forgiveness is good. Forgiveness is allowing God to be in control.

There are so many times I've forgiven those that have hurt me and yet, I regularly am reminded to continue to forgive. For me, it's difficult to remember when those memories creep up and the emotions take over that I have already forgiven for that. So I must get on my knees and forgive again. Asking God to be in control, help me to let it go, heal my heart and soul back to wholeness and show me how this pain will benefit others around me.

God uses all things for good. Even those bad, nasty, ugly things we don't like to talk about or deal with. Forgiveness has to be the first step on the road to healing so that you can change lives through your misfortune. It's symbolic of the cross and how Christ died for us, because of us. He was wonderful and perfect as a human, just as we see all new babies. And some people with evil in their hearts came along and messed it all up. Then He was forced to walk a road so painful He couldn't even do it alone. He relied on God to get through the rough patch and the healing began even before the hurt was over. Forgiveness was requested and offered and then given. And our Saviour rose so that we all may receive this remarkable gift and then follow in His footsteps.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

40 Days

40 Days is a really long time!

But then again, 40 Days isn't really that long at all...

We are abundantly blessed that our ministry is blooming right now. We are seeing some of the first fruits and beginning growth of our last 2 years of dedication on this journey. I think it is fit timing that we are experiencing this awesomeness during the 40 days of Lent. This is a time we spend focused on Him and what He has given us. There is a huge opportunity as our mission explodes for us to step into the flesh and try harder to make this all work, but this time of year we try SO hard to do the opposite. We desire to let Him step into our flesh and do His work with and through us.

So needless to say, even though me the person, now on day two without chocolate (that's my sacrifice to honor His sacrifice) and a to-do list of about 372,914 things I should be overwhelmed. But I find myself peaceful. My house is mostly tidy, (Big shout out to the FLY lady!) My chores are mostly kept up with. I'm on track with my health and fitness goals. I'm staying upbeat with my children, fulfilling my roles of Mommy, Teacher & Friend. I'm building new bridges, strengthening old ones and enjoying the ride! My stress is low most of the time and I'm spending lots of time reading!

I want to say life is spectacular right now. But then when I think about it and all the requirements and opportunities at my door I begin to panic. NO way on Earth can I do this!!! (That is a fact.) Sometimes the panic is paralyzing.

Let's hope I can remember, for the next 40 days (and beyond) that He is in charge. That seems like a really long time to learn this lesson, but then again, if I think about it I can spend each day worrying that 40 days is not nearly long enough for me to actually learn and change. Then where will I be?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Answered Prayers

Hello Readers!

Today I've come to tell you that our one of our prayers has been answered! We have been asking the Lord for workers for His harvest and partners in this mission field and after three years of daily prayer as a family our prayer has been answered.

The Lord has brought a wonderful family back into our lives that we knew years ago. Over the years He has given us both things to over come and rejoice and He has prepared us to unite and share the Greatness of our Saviour to the mission field we pledged ourselves to about 2 years ago.

We are SO pleased with this blessing and look so forward to growing together, challenging one another to Love and be more like Christ. To hold us accountable to our calling and partner with us as we grow the Kingdom in Richardson, Texas.

This is offering a revival to our house and on the cusp of Lent! I believe God will be moving in BIG ways over the coming days, weeks and months.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I think I need a new word for a group of Christians that gather. Lately, the use of the word "church" has been getting to me.

So many times, it feels like we use the word in ways that divide instead of unite "The Church," the Body of Christ.

For example, we have different types of churches - organic church, emergent church, Catholic Church, protestant church, etc.

Or we describe church as a specific place or group of people - "my church," the church on the corner of..., etc.

Isn't Church supposed to be uniting? We are one Body, with Christ as the head. We are His Church.

What are some other ways to describe the people of Christ in their unique environments? I'd like to try using them and be more selective in my use of "Church."

I know it's semantics, but I wonder if it will help me speak my heart more clearly to those around me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Middle of the Night Phone Call

Most of us dread hearing the phone ring in the wee hours of the night. Not just because it is disturbing our beauty sleep but because there is usually difficult to hear news on the other end. Occasionally, you'll get the phone call because a child has arrived during the night (as was the case with our two younger children). Either way your nerves are set on edge.

Moments like these, when the one in need is feeling desperate and alone, and the one trying to help is feeling desperate and alone there is only one presence that can calm all nerves; removing all anxiety and allow order to be restored. Sometimes order is restored very quickly and other times order takes years to appear.

Tonight, I am thankful to have a wonderful neighbor, comfortable enough to call on me in her time of need. Lord I pray that her heart is well and that when she calls on me again that I have been thoroughly prepared by your Word to assist her and any others that you've brought for me to love.

What Celebraties Name their Babies

Does it matter?

Well, it matters to a lot of people. I love to hear about babies being born and the details of names and birth stats, the significance of it all and the awesomeness of the experience. Do I think it odd when a baby is given a name like Apple, Blue or Exton? Well, yeah, a little I guess. But I also think it odd when regular people name their babies things like Braxton or Bella. Not that I don't like those names, but for all names listed I wouldn't name my children that.

But let's think for a second. What does the hottest, most popular, fashion forward, muilt-millionaire couple name their baby?? Like one reporter said, "Come on! You'd be disappointed if they named her Lisa" haha!

I think the problem people really have about what, especially famous and rich entertainers name their babies is that those individuals are showing the world that the rules don't apply to them. They are special! They don't have to name their babies John, Mary, Jennifer, Elizabeth, Kaitlyn, Matthew or any other 'normal people' names because they are not normal people.

So the question is, what 'rules' are you conforming to that you don't have to? You are a Christian, special on those terms and there are LOTS of rules that you shouldn't be applying to your life. Unfortunately it's been my experience that Christianity has only opened the door on rules that you should be conforming to.

Really people??

"O, you love God? Well, then you can't dance like this, be friends with people like that, or talk like this or do things like that" (Yes, I'm purposefully fague, you fill in the details).

Instead of focusing on what we can't do legally as Christians, let's focus on what we can do. We CAN offer the path to Forgiveness, Grace, Peace, Unconditional Love, Eternal Life, Acceptance and the list can go on.

After all, "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love." Psalm 103:8

Let's celebrate that and allow it to be a gift of freedom, not chains of enslavement. The societal rules of this world don't apply to us.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Kingdom has grown!!

Alexander and Daniel decided this week that they want to live for Christ! What an awesome experience to see our children want to accept the gift God has given us in Jesus' sacrifice. We are ecstatic about their decision!!! These children have come to Christ and though they have many years ahead of them we hope their faith, love and trust in our Saviour will get them through it all and offer them a sense of peace in times of war, a sense of urgency in the stillness, a sense of passion among the dull. For God offers so much to each of us, both those that suffer physically, emotionally or not at all. The God of the universe and the angels are rejoicing this week as the Kingdom has grown by two!

Daniel also chose to be baptized today and here are some photos of that wonderful event! (I'm sure you're wondering why Alexander did not also get baptized and it's because he didn't want to. We'll let you know when he changes his mind.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Until Inconvenienced, Do You Part?

Well, it was about this time, six years ago I was preparing to get on a plane and leave the gorgeous weather of California (and lots of other really important things!) for Texas.

In the years since moving to Texas we've had many friends bring cases of divorce across our paths, for advice, support or healing. It's been a very difficult learning curve as most couples we encountered had been married longer than us. Often the pleas were for actions or inaction's and deep down the individual wanting the divorce felt that their spouse not fulfilling a particular task, was somehow saying, "I don't love you."

So the couples would bicker and fight and in the end, they would give up and their inconveniences would come before their promises and they would part ways. In search of something.

Well, we all know what they were searching for, they were searching for unconditional love. Just in all the wrong places. There is only one place that unconditional love can be found. Christ. He and He alone (with the Father and the Spirit, so I guess He's not totally alone!) can provide us with that. No human can fill that void. The void can be caused by many things, but only He is vast enough to fill it completely.

More recently, I've wondered about the other side of the story for all those divorced couples. The ones that eventually gave up, but didn't want the separation, the ones that did not realize their actions, or lack there of was sending the message of "I don't love you". How is it that the arrangement is fair for them? They lose everything, the house, the children, a large portion of their paycheck. They were under the impression that it would only be death that would separate them and now it's their spouse's inconvenience. OUCH! (True this might be a sexist, over generalization of divorce, but it is none the less, what I have encountered more often than not).

So why am I bringing this topic up as we approach the "hallmark" holiday of love? Well, because I don't think it's just a hallmark holiday. Yes, I think you can show your loved ones just how special they are everyday of the week. But you can also take extra care to lavish them with your maximum capacity of love once a year (and no that doesn't just mean spending money). Something that is far more valuable than money is your time and your heart.

It is believed that St. Valentine unlawfully married peoples when the king (or queen, I can't remember) outlawed marriage because single young men made better soldiers than young husbands. When Valentine's actions were discovered he was sentenced to death. While awaiting his execution he fell in love and before his death wrote his lovely lady a letter, signing it "From Your Valentine." The sadness of the story adds to the romanticism of it all and the remarkableness that is love. Even in the darkest hour, awaiting death, Love is there.

The bible says, "...Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people's wrongs. Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up.
Love never fails..."

Let's hope we all do a double take as we approach this time of love and make sure we are sending the right message to our loved ones. Take time to fill yourselves up on the unconditional love offered to each of us so you have enough to go around.

O, and it wouldn't kill you to buy her something sparkly or him something shiny=P

Monday, January 9, 2012

These Last Ten Years...

In the last ten years I've done a few things. Let's recap to see if I can complain about turning the big 3-0.

I swam and played water polo in college. I learned about country music. I married the perfect man. I went on my first grown up vacation. I forgave God and recommitted my life to Him. I was baptized. I achieved my life dream to run my own swim team. I coached future Olympic hopefuls. I graduated from college. I bought my first house. I had a baby. I learned a new level of forgiveness. I moved to Texas. I learned how to make friends again. I bought my dream home. I had another baby. I survived post-partum depression. I fell in love with my little family. I learned yet another level of forgiveness. I experienced a change of heart. I ran my first 5k. I learned to give grace. I learned to receive grace. I learned the power of God first hand. I went to New York and fell in love with Manhattan. I recommitted more of my life to Christ. I went to Seattle. I went to London. I shared my home with a homeless woman and her children. I had a baby girl. I sold my dream home to fulfill God's dream. I ran my first 10K. I found a new home. I found a new dream. I became a missionary. I went on a cruise. I ran a half marathon. I went to Montana. I made friends for life. I maintained life long friends. I did my first road trip (1700 miles!). I made it home from the road trip (another 1700!). I created new traditions. I kept old traditions alive. I taught my children. My children have taught me. I changed. I grew. I lived well. I loved better.

It appears to me that I did not waste my 20s and indeed they have created quite the expectation for my 30s. Let's just hope they can live up to the magic. But just in case it can't I'm going to pretend I'm 29 for the rest of my life ;-D

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy 2012!!

WOW! The first blog of the new year, is happening during the first week of the new year!! That's huge in the blogsphere (I think). Anyway, I've been thinking about the direction I wanted to head with this blog since I did my 30 Days of Gratitude. I contemplated lots of daily challenges and couldn't decide on just one to fulfill for 365 days (that's a really LONG time!). Plus, I'm not sure a regular basis blogging daily goal is right for me, I'm not nearly reliable enough!

Well, we find ourselves in 2012 and some of us are happy to just have made it through 2011, others are sad to see 2011 behind us, some are scared for the new year and others are excited about the future this year holds, some things secret, some things known. Either way I think we rang in the new year in great fashion.

In our house, I'm not really sure what this year holds for us. Most of our life seems to be status quo, but with lots of twists and surprises around every corner. So when I was standing in a group of friends after way too many hours of partying on new year's and listening to their hopes for the year ahead I became aware of my own hope. To be a family that happily gives sacrificially.

Sure we give. We even give a lot. Some would even say we give too much. But I look around and we are a full fridge family that has proper clothes, shoes and even toys for our children. As adults we have lots of "toys" we want too and we have a good amount of those. We drive reliable vehicles, afford trips and vacations to see our family and loved ones. We do not spend money frivolously if we can avoid it to make sure we have lots to give away. But I catch myself, spending a little here and a little there on little things that don't matter and it all adds up.

Our children were very loved at Christmas this year (as usual) and they got some neat things. They got money and gift cards for Christmas too. Well, I think that maybe we haven't done a great job showing our children about giving because they weren't really concerned with sharing their money. They didn't spend it all and I know that seems silly of them to tithe a gift or set aside an amount to send to St. Jude's or something, but that is what we (Jason & I) do and I would like our children to do the same.

My hope is that our children realize they are blessed and well cared for and have abundance, and with that abundance they can make the world a better place. So here's to 365 days of happily giving sacrificially as a family.

P.S. Step one is starting today with the lesson to learn this month: "You don't have to do what you want to do" I know my hopes are high, but let's face it, they can be high because I rely on God.