Friday, October 1, 2010

The Fortune Cookie Game

Have you ever eaten a fortune cookie? Have you ever eagerly anticipated the laugh you were going to get when you opened it up and read the ridiculous “fortune” that lies inside? I happen to love fortune cookies, not so much for the sentiment, but for the sugary goodness that wraps itself around that tiny slip of paper. I love devouring ½ of it quickly, before reading the fortune, because if you read the fortune first, it won’t come true. OK, so that is just superstition, but it makes for a fun end to a delicious meal if you pretend to put faith in the fortune cookie. However, the absolute best part of reading the fortune, even better than making fun of how ridiculous it is, is to add two simple words to the end of the fortune. The words??

In bed.

Allow me to illustrate. Your cookie says, “You will find honor and respect”…in bed! “All of your cares will be washed away”…in bed. “Your decisions today will earn applause”…in bed. Depending on the cookie, those two words, in bed, can have a big impact!

Now let’s take this irreverent concept to another level. Let’s look at the fortunes that really do come true. The fortunes that add meaning to our lives. The fortunes that we actually can put our faith in. Let’s look at the Bible.

Most of you that read this blog, I think, believe in God, trust in His Son to be your personal Savior, and, although perhaps without the regularity we may all desire, you may even read your Bible at least a little bit. (If you don't know Jesus, I am glad you are reading, and please, let me help.) I'm going to make an assumption that most--if not all--of us consider ourselves a “work in progress” and at times, certain passages of the Bible are our lifelines. I praise God that He is not finished with me yet, that I still have the privilege of growing more mature in Him...and in my times of trial, mistake, failure, disappointment, defeat, discouragement, or questioning, I cling to the hope of scripture...
Phil 1:18a&19 Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through our prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
Phil 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
1st Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.
Proverbs 11:18 The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.
Matthew 7:11 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!

It’s kind of like opening a fortune cookie, you know, when we open our Bibles and land on a lifeline nugget like one of those. God will meet all your needs. Sow righteousness to reap a sure reward. Suffering is a blessing. And on, and on, and on.

But what about the times that reading something that reassuring actually sounds as absurd as the fortune in the middle of a cookie? What about the days that suffering is notsoverymuch a blessing? What about the days that the wicked man’s wages are so plentiful they nearly bury him alive, while your reward is, shall we say, meager at best? What about the times you ask and do not receive? What do we do when the promises of scripture do not line up with what we are going through. When the promises seem like they are for everyone else but us. Do we laugh at His Word, chalk it up to the nonsense worth a fortune cookie, and walk away??

As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts, declares the Lord in Isaiah 55 verse 9. You see, nowhere in the Bible does God ever promise that it will all make sense to us. Nowhere does He say, this is the magic trick. Do this. Quite the contrary, He purposely, by His great design, leaves gaps that only faith can fill in. It's what do we do with that, when challenged, that is up to us. And I have found, in the questioning moments of my life, that if I just play the fortune cookie game, it all makes sense. Of course, I don’t’ say ‘in bed’. I say “in Heaven”. Two little words, in Heaven.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. In Heaven.

The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward. In Heaven.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through our prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. In Heaven.

Just adding those two words reminds me that no matter what is happening, God will redeem it. That no matter how little sense my life makes to me sometimes, God is working. That even when the promises in scripture do not match up to my reality of my requests, I can choose faith in my Savior or I can choose defeat. He may not make everything beautiful today, but He will—eventually—make all things new. In Heaven.

1st Thessalonians 5:24…The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I hate moose keetos!

One day last week, out of the clear blue, in the middle of the kitchen as I prepared a meal, my three-year-old daughter says to me, "Mom, I hate moose keetos!"
I'm sorry, what was that?
"I hate moose quitos!"
Honey, I have no idea what you are talking about. We are having hamburgers for supper. What is a moose keeto?
Looking incredibly sheepish at this point, and a little afraid of the fact that for the third time she was about to use the word "hate", a word generally frowned upon in this house, especially out of the mouths of babes, she says to me, "I hate moose keetos. They bite you."
Aaaaahhh! Now I get it! Mosquitoes! She hates mosquitoes!

As she walked away I pondered the humor of such an outburst from the mouth of a little girl. Truthfully, we really do not allow our children to throw around the word hate, and her comment, and the accompanying look of fear on her face, told me she was playing the ohsovery fun game of 'polly the parrot'. She was repeating the adults in her life. After a weekend of camping in a wind-still, bottom-ground, wooded campsite during the wettest Nebraska summer anyone can remember, I am just sure she heard more than one of her dearly loved adult relatives proclaim that sentiment with gusto.

And why wouldn't we?? The mosquito is truly one of God's most annoying and aggravating creations (meaning You no disrespect, Lord), and is best known for causing one to ponder just what may be the reason for its existence at all. Yes, they are sure good at blood-sucking, but more often than that, I think we just wonder what value do they have? What good and true purpose could they possibly have? Why, Lord, why??

And the only possible thought I have, the only logical explanation I can come up with, is that God just wants to remind us that we are not truly masters of it all. As great as human accomplishment, technology, and innovation are, we are still subject to the laws of creation. As arrogant as mankind can get, the mosquito is here to keep us humble. Think about it...we build houses on hillsides and are shocked when they slide down with the mud, we build cities below sea level and watch the levy break to destroy it all, we dig for oil in the ocean and spill a bunch of it all over the sea creatures, we build houses on the sand and the rains come a tumblin' down. Pride and arrogance. We nuke our food, instant message our friends a 1/2 a world away, inject poison into our lips for the sake of beauty, air condition our homes, GPS our cars, and cover ourselves in chemicals to avoid bug bites. But you know what? We get bitten anyway. Humility. We cannot control the mosquito any more than we can control the weather , the aging process, or our futures. Only God has total control, and I believe He made mosquitoes so we would not forget to trust Him not just with the unanswered questions, but with our lives.

Pass the moose keetos, please.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The paper license

In the state of Nebraska, when you get a new driver's license, they issue you a paper copy of your permanent license, which then comes in the mail ten or so days later. This temporary piece of paper looks just like your license will, only slightly smaller and is, as I said, made out of paper. I had my birthday in July, and so I was very recently the proud bearer of one of these artful masterpieces of the State of Nebraska. Lucky me.

It was with this lovely paper license that I embarked on my journey to the great state of North Carolina a few weeks ago. At the Omaha airport, I breezed through security like a champ, living as I do in a state that recognizes the integrity of the paper license. In Charlotte's much larger airport, however, the paper license was notsoverymuch my ticket to freedom, and I was halted at airport security faster than I could say "paper license".

"Is this your license?" she says to me with raised eyebrows, as if I had colored it myself at home with the kids' crayons.

"Yes, ma'am, it is. You see, in Nebraska, when you renew....{blah blah blah}....and so my permanent one has not yet come in the mail" was my reply.

"I'm going to have to flag this." Of course you are. She radios for backup.

After a few minutes, a dude with another badge comes over and asks for details of what is going on. "Well, you see, sir, in Nebraska, when you renew.....................and so my permanent one has not yet come in the mail."

"I see. Well, do you have any other forms of ID?" he asks.

"You bet I do!" and so I whip out my debit card.

"Anything else?"

"Um, an insurance card with my husband's name on it. And another insurance card with my kids' names on it. And a portrait club card that I signed. And a 'Take $10' card from Maurice's with no name on it. Will any of that work?"

"How about a credit card?" he asks, looking slightly annoyed, but still being nice to the dork from the State of Paper Licenses.

"No, we gave up using credit and my card is at home on the shelf." (Yes, I am that dork, but Dave Ramsey would be proud that even when traveling out of state, I left it at home!)

"I see. Well, then, we're going to have to do a more thorough inspection of you." Of course you are. He radios for more backup.

And so began my wait. I was told to sit in the "red chair" right in the middle of all the security lines at this ohsovery busy airport, while the officer called for a female officer to come help. Within moments, an extremely skinny and heavily pierced Frenchman was flagged as well, and was told to stand by me. He spoke to me briefly in his thick French accent, but was soon invited to pass through security to the next checkpoint. While I sat there alone and yet on full display, I had the chance to watch people's reactions to the screening process. Some looked arrogantly bored. Others looked visibly annoyed. Some were rushing, practically dancing in place, trying futilely to will the lines to move faster. Still others looked confused and were not sure where to step once they had placed their belongings on the conveyors, until a lady in a red chair (me) pointed to where to go. After a few minutes, another woman was flagged at this checkpoint, apparently for wearing a metal bra, and was told to stand by me. She stood near me, but not right next to me, as if feeling uncomfortable being on display next to the red chair. (OK, so her bra itself was probably not metal, but she did tell me that this happens every time due to her Victoria's Secret underwire bra. Must be a pretty hefty underwire. A person endowed like me shall never know such woes.)

Finally, after roughly ten minutes of waiting in the red chair, I was given the nod and was taken through the metal detector to the other side, where I was escorted to yet another area. I was greeted by a man and woman both wearing blue latex gloves, and while he meticulously but gently looked through every single inch of my carry-on bag and purse, a women as equally meticulous and gentle patted down nearly every inch of my body. I had no choice in this matter, not that I really minded, but I was indeed on full display in a crowded airport standing spread eagle while a generously built southern woman put her blue gloves all over my body. Much like the loss of dignity of childbirth, this was a new experience for me. I will say to you that because I am not a modest person whatsoever and because I had absolutely nothing to hide, this process did not alarm or embarrass me at all. They were just doing their jobs and I say, doing them well. But I could not help but imagine the emotional response of the very private, self-conscious, modest person who has to go through that process. Freaky. Anyway, after a thorough rearranging of my bags and a thorough feel of my body, I was cleared for take-off, handed back my boarding pass and paper license, and wished a safe flight home.

I cleared the checkpoint.

Now, for the eternal implications of my experience...while I could expound on all the analogies and parallels lying in this story, the real point is this: we are all on a journey to a final destination. We are all, at any given moment, somewhere in the process of reaching the end of our earthly life. Some of us are waiting with eager anticipation, some already have their bags packed and are merely waiting on confirmation that their ticket has come through, and many, I suspect, are trying hard to avoid even thinking about it at all. But, no matter how we are feeling about the finality of our lives, it is going to happen. It is out there. And what I'd like to know is, do you have your identification ready? How many forms of ID are you holding? Whose name is on your boarding pass?

Are you going to Heaven??

Without the trustworthy permanency of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, without a real faith in what matters, without a personal relationship with Jesus, we are all merely holding paper licenses. Oh sure, down here, where mankind can put his stamp of approval on our lives, any piece of paper will do. Paper birth certificate, paper diploma, paper title to a car, paper mortgage, paper marriage license, paper awards, paper money...down here on earth, all of those papers, well, they matter. In fact, they are a measure of our "worth". But I am telling you tonight, that when we pass out of this life and out of these bodies, all the papers in the the world will not matter one bit. Not one bit. All that will matter is that Jesus Christ recognizes us. We won't have the chance to wait in a red chair, have our papers inspected, have our physical bodies verified, or prove why we are worthy to enter. All that will matter is that Jesus Christ recognizes us.

Does Jesus recognize you? Have you accepted His gift of eternal salvation on the cross? If not, now is your chance. It is never too late. Now is your chance to get your permanent license with His picture on it. Nothing will be able to stop you then. Please contact me if I can help.

Enjoy your flight.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

God's bird-eye view

If you are like me, you have probably heard since you were a child that God is everywhere all the time, including in your heart and the heart of every other person who has accepted Him. We know from scripture that God sees all, knows all, loves all, created all, and that His ways are higher than our ways. He is before, behind, inside and outside, the beginning and the end, and in Him all things hold together. It is so encouraging and comforting to believe that truth and to trust that truth, but the truth is that there are times my infinitesimal brain just cannot truly conceive of the magnitude of that of that truth. Everywhere, all the time? All knowing, all powerful, all loving, all the time??

Whoa.

When I packed my bags for She Speaks two weeks ago and drove my car to the airport, my brain was all over God and what He was doing. I was swimming, basking, dare I say, bathing in a nearly constant state of prayer about the weekend. What is He going to do with me this weekend? What is His plan for me? What might He reveal to me? How amazingly may He show Himself to me? Me, me, ME.

God likes a girl in constant prayer. God prefers a girl who reflects more on Him than on herself. I'm just saying.

Anyway, it was in this near-constant state of prayer that I was gazing out the airplane window on our approach to Cincinnati (what else did I have to do when my neighbor in the next seat had buried her face in a book from the moment she sat down and never took it out) when an amazing thing happened. I looked at a house and thought God knows who is crying in there. I looked at a car and thought, God knows who is singing their heart out to the radio in there. I saw a delivery truck and thought God knows who is worrying about money in there. At another house, God knows who is fighting. At a building, God knows who is texting. At another house, God knows who is embracing, at another, God knows who overslept, at another, God knows...at another, God knows...at another, God knows.

God KNOWS.

As I sat there stunned, in that window sear over Cincinnati, I have never had a clearer understanding of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God, and all I could do was freeze with my mouth gaping, my prayers silenced, and tears in my eyes, basking in the truth that He knows. He knows. He sees it all. I, in my minuscule corner of the world, can see only what is in front of me. Even from a plane I can only see what my human and puny vision can take in. But God, well, He sees it all. Nothing escapes His watchful eye, nothing escapes His unfathominable mind, and nothing escapes His bottomless well of love. He knows.

A truth I've known since childhood was made more real to me that day than it has ever been before. I love it when God takes a moment of human self-absorption and sweeps in with a heaping dose of divine revelation, don't you? If for no other reason, my trip was worth it. And to Him be all the glory.

Reconstructed

I am nobody. Have you ever thought that?? I am nobody. Her hair is prettier than mine. His car is nicer than mine. She is a better singer/writer/cook/Mom (insert anything) than I am. He is stronger and better with tools than I am. I must be nobody.

I just read a blog post that made me feel that way. A lovely gal with a heart for God writes a blog that humbles me, and try though I may, every time I read her posts I feel less than great about myself. Why is that?? In this instance, I know full well that I am not the author of a completely shabby blog; in fact, I know many of you really like this blog, and while I may not yet have the following that she does, I know am doing what I believe God wants me to do. I know that full well. In my head...I know it. Soooooo, why, oh why, is that prowling lion gaining any access to me? Why, oh why, must he torment me with my full permission?

Arrgh.

This feels like a true confessions night, so here goes. One of my biggest downfalls, for my entire life long, is that I habitually compare myself to others. I have been doing it since I can remember. I measure myself against others, no matter who they may be, and I inevitably end up with a perception of my self-worth that based on that comparison. Every so often, I come out on top. Sometimes it is a wash. Most of the time, however, I lose. It is a habit ingrained in me, and try though I may, I have yet to shake it. It hate it that I do it, but day in and day out, I am a comparer. There, I said it.

Aaaaaaaahhhh.

Have you ever had an area of your life that you know God is forcing you to face? An area that God is not too pleased with, one that He wants you to correct or surrender to Him, one that fails to glorify Him? Have you ever been keenly aware that a pleasure, or a habit, or quality of your personality, or a worry, or heartache, or a hurt, is unexpectedly and repeatedly thrust in front of you eyes? Like God is holding your face in front of a mirror and making sure you look really long at it so that you will notice with Him that which He wants you to notice? Little reminders will come your way through comments from others, songs on the radio, sermons in church, scriptures you stumble upon, conversations with relatives, or plain old-fashioned "conviction in your spirit". Little reminders will blare in front of your mind's eye, reminders that force you to face who you really are and what you are really made of. It can be an annoying phenomenon to experience, to say the least, or a tortuous affair, depending on how hard God is working on your, ahem, shortcoming.

Years and years ago, the first time I recall experiencing this sort of "reconstruction", it was with regard to my sexual sin...and we got that one out of the way, PRAISE HIM. The next one I recall was alcohol consumption....and I have not been drunk in 7 1/2 years, nor shall I be again. Reconstructed. After He had me straight and self-controlled, God took issue with my white lies, also known as stretching the truth. I was never good at calculated, big, sordid lies, just the "little" ones that made me look better or got me out of an embarrassment. However, God does not like those any more than the "big" ones, and He made sure I knew it. Reconstructed. After lying it was self-righteousness. Apparently, the clean, straight, honest me thought that she had God all figured out, and that no one else did. HAH! God does not like self-righteousness. Reconstructed.

And now we are to present day, the summer of 2010. I am now confidently convinced that I our Lord is answering my earnest prayers for wisdom, by giving me some mega-dosing of humility, while at the same time forcing me to examine my past for the reasons I am a habitual comparer. He wants me to stop comparing myself to others and and undergo a humbling process, at the same time. In His power and might, God knows that I am, at every given moment of every day of my life, a wild blend of arrogance and complete insecurity. And He is now forcing me to face them both, at the same time. Their roots, their strongholds, their presence in my daily life...under scrutiny and in front of my face. In my mirror. At the same time. He got started with the humility piece some time ago, brought it to a full boil this summer, and has now thrown in the comparing piece. It is a strange and painful combination.

Ouch.

However, He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it, and I know that nothing I walk through with Him will go unwasted. As painful as the humblings are, as torn apart as I may feel when I have to face past hurts, and as broken as I may feel while my arrogance is stripped and my insecurities are patched, God will never leave me nor forsake me, and nothing will be able to separate me from His love. On the backside of this process, I will emerge from the refiner's fire reconstructed yet again, bearing just a little more of His reflection on my face, and made just a little more useful for His kingdom. The one who has promised is faithful, and He will do it!

To Him be all the glory.

When I sat down to blog tonight, I fully intended on talking about "God's bird-eye view". I had it all thought out. And now here we are instead, at the end of "true confessions with Shelly". He is a tricky one, that Lord of ours. I pray someone out there was reaffirmed by my honesty, because I sure had not intended on sharing it, but I have to believe that God wanted me to. May He bless you all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Perhaps I'm not that nutty after all!

Hello! Long time, no type! I have missed you, my dear blog, but--and please take no offense to this--I have found that my conscious decision to make the most of the last days of summer has been more than just a tad bit liberating. You see, I typically have "bloggy" thoughts nearly all day long...thoughts I want to share, thoughts that seem like I should be writing them down, thoughts of how to make the mundane of life interesting enough to put in a blog post...you name it, if it is a thought, it frequently draws me to blog-thinking. But, having just come home from the most fabulous of weekends at She Speaks 2010 in North Carolina, courtesy of the amazing women at Proverbs 31 Ministries, I have honestly felt pulled away from the blog. That's new and different! (And rather freeing, I may add!) It's as if despite the fact that God delivered four blog post ideas to me during the days of the conference, once I got home, He released me from the weight of obligation to immediately post them.

Thank you, Lord, my brain needed the rest.

And so, this past week, since having returned exactly 7 days and 1 hour ago from a truly incredible weekend, I have let the rest of life consume me. I have worked on the household budget, paid the bills, and balanced the checkbook. I have prayed my sister through a fresh heartache of saying goodbye to her husband as he deploys for his second tour in Afghanistan. I have played on facebook, and added new and dear sisters-in-Christ to my facebook friends. I have been humbled by the all-too-blunt comments of a loved one, and have had the joy of turning to God yet again for His assurance and comfort. (I am honestly learning to trust and appreciate a good humbling, no matter how painful in the moment. I mean that.) I have been assisted in picking over 1000 ears of corn (yes, I meant to type 1,000), and the collective of the Story women and men have packed over 110 quarts of corn into the freezers for winter. (But we are only 60% done, according to the Head Nut.) I have loved on my children who start school in just 10 days. I have mopped my kitchen for the first time in over a month. (I had to, after all that corn.) I have helped the kiddos get their fair projects ready. I have taken five children back-to-school shopping. All five. At once. I have enjoyed a fantabulous "taco night" with two of the finest Girlfriends (and our collective brood) that anyone could ask for. I have been poolside with the kiddos four days in a row. And I have praised God for my life.

The way I see it, I have once chance to finish this summer well. I have one chance to throw off the sel -imposed stress and pressure of having so many projects, and make sure my children know that they are my number one. I have one chance to make sure the corn gets picked at the peak of ripeness...but even that is much less important than making sure my baby girl is ready for kindergarten, and her big brothers are ready for the adjustment of going back to school. And I have once chance to praise my God right now, in this moment, for what He is doing right now in this moment. I have one chance to run with perseverance the race set out before me.

So, while it is frequently my heart's desire to type and talk and study and lead, God has reminded me that before any of those desires were burned daily into my brain, He made me a Mom. He planted me in my life, in this family of corn-loving misfits, and if I am to do anything else well, I must be doing that well.

However, before I go, can I share with you one of the most beautiful things I learned at She Speaks?? I learned that I am not that nutty after all! I am not that different! I am may be a Nut, but I am not completely nuts! Woo-hoo! Who knew?? You see, I spent an incredible three-day weekend with over 600 other women, all whom either already have, or who currently desire to, add one more thing to their life. Women with husbands and children and dirty floors and busy lives, who also desire to type and talk and teach and lead, just like me. Women with blogs and four kids. Women with book proposals and seven kids. Women with brand new novels and six kids. Women with speaking ministries and five kids. Women with broken pasts and bright futures. Women who, despite a full plate at home, cannot ignore the burning passions they believe are placed in them by God to do more, teach more, speak more, and add more to their lives. It was one of the most liberating and invigorating feelings I have had in a long time, to realize that I am not that different.

I learned up close and personal that if God is going to use me, all the evidence to the contrary all around me is really no excuse. If God has truly placed a desire or passion or talent in me to do something for His kingdom, He will make sure it gets done. Sure, I still have to wait for His time and His way, but He will make certain that His will--whatever that may be--is accomplished in and through me, despite whatever earthly "obstacles" may lie in my path. I love the expression, "God does not call the equipped, He equips the called". If He wants to use me, He will equip me. No matter how many kids I have, no matter how empty the bank accounts get, no matter how little help I have at home sometimes, no matter how busy the enemy strives to make me, God has placed desires and passions and (dare I say it?) talents in me, and He will use them. In His time, in His way, and for His glory. I am stunned. And perhaps I am really not that nutty after all.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The purse

This post is publishing while I am out of town. (I love technology!) It is one of the talks I am presenting at She Speaks over the weekend. I needed to write a three-minute testimony talk. This is what I came up with...

Once upon a time, a beautiful girl who lived on a budget and usually spent money on her children first, went shopping for a new purse, because the dingy, ravelin-infested excuse for handbag that hung from her shoulder simply would not suffice any more. Four years was long enough. "Practical, sensible, and durable" were her requirements, although the desires of her heart were "cute, pretty, and fun". Wondering if those qualities could possibly meet and mingle within her price range, she found the purse department at the local JC Penney department store and was elated to see the beloved Red Dot Clearance tags in full display. With dogged determination, the beautiful girl began to scour the racks for her perfect purse. And find it she did. It was the most wonderful blend of pretty and practical!

Her excitement was soon railroaded by reality, however, as she realized that her pretty and practical purse was not boasting red a dot, and was nearly full price. So, being the good girl that she is, she found another one. Boring and practical, yet adorned with a red dot, it seemed to be the purse of her fate, much to her disappointment.

Feeling discouraged but not dissuaded, the girl clutched the two contrasting purses and decided to pray. Right there, in the middle of JC Penney’s, she asked the Lord which purse should be hers. Within moments, two of her shopping mates passed by and instantly began to praise the pretty purse hanging from the girl’s shoulder, while turning up their noses and the boring bad dangling from her other hand. “It’s so you!” they squealed. Feeling bolstered and yet keenly aware of the guilt rising in her spirit for challenging the budget, the girl took a deep breath, decided on the pretty purse, and headed to the checkout counter.


“Can I interest you in a JC Penney credit card?” No, thank you.
“You can take 10% off that way…” Ooh , the temptation was almost too much to bear. No, thank you, we gave up using credit.
“Well, you could just get the discount now and pay it all off in a month…” No, sir, I have to stick to our rules. No credit.
“OK, well do you at least have a coupon?” {sigh} No, I am just shopping the sales.
“I see.” The cashier finally knew he was fighting a losing battle with the girl. However, with lightning-fast reflexes, a card was waved in front of the scanner and the register spewed out a total.
“There. I just gave you $15 off. Have a nice day.”

With her mouth gaping in disbelief, the girl walked away clutching her brand new, heart’s desire, pretty and practical purse. The best of both worlds had become her reality, for the price of a red dot bag. Praise the Lord.

Dear friends, you may have guessed, that girl is me and I absolutely love my new purse. I am typing here today to declare to you that our God loves us enough to give us the desires of our hearts. Nothing is going unnoticed by Him, and when we truly commit our ways, our choices, and our decisions to Him, He will honor that. Big time. Not that He has always given me exactly what I want, praise Him, He has not, but the truth remains that we worship the God of the details. We worship a God so big, so loving, so capable, and so true, that even purses and budgets are under His control.

How much more can I trust Him with in my life, if He responded so greatly over just a purse?

Psalm 103: 1-5…Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

And I thought it was just my purse making me feel younger!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One for the ladies

It's nearly here!! The conference I have been daydreaming about and wondering if I should to to for over a year, is finally nearly here. I leave in two days. Crazy. And the last two weeks have been all about, you guessed it, getting ready. Writing talks, shopping for clothes, deciding on which luggage to use, praying (yea, I know that should have been listed first), making lists, planning for the childcare and provisions in my absence, etc and yadda yadda, has been my overriding focus for days and days. But by far the aspect of preparation that has taken the most of my thought life lately is the aspect of appearance. We, as conference attendees, have been lovingly guided in the area of appearance, dress, shoes, and the like. I doubt that I am alone in "wigging out" over it just a little bit. As part of my experience at She Speaks, I was instructed to compose a five-minute "teaching talk". This is a modified version of that talk. If you are going to be in my evaluation group at the conference, stop reading now. You'll be hearing this live and in person on Saturday night! Everyone else, read on...

For example, getting back to my appearance, I’ve got a box of hair color that is going unused before this conference. Don’t get me wrong, I love to color my hair, but I decided that perhaps the completely natural hair color was a better compliment to my summer tan. I will, however, before packing my bag and getting on the plane, make certain that my eyebrows are under control, that I have picked just the right bra, that the razor has a sharp blade, that my makeup is new enough to wear well in fluorescent light, and that I have not forgotten my straightening iron and hairspray. Just to name a few beauty rituals to which I adhere. I’m no beauty queen, but I do like to look as good as I can.

And yet, somehow, when I look in the mirror, I often do not like the reflection looking back at me. I see the imprints of time on my face, I see stray eyebrow hairs that simply have no place, I see crooked teeth, and I see acne. And don’t even get me started on the post- 6 babies and 4 c-sections body issues I have going on below my neckline. That’s a whole ‘nother story all together. The point is, when I look in the mirror, I see everything I believe is wrong with my appearance, and I wonder if God was in His right mind when he created Shelly Story.

And I don’t think I am alone. I don’t believe that I am the only woman who still remembers getting passed over for the cute cheerleader at the junior high dance. I don’t think I am the only woman who secretly compares herself to the cover models of every magazine in the checkout lane, then walks away feeling like she looks like a dog, and immediately dives into the ice cream. I don’t believe I am the only woman influenced by her perception of earthly beauty, who wants to look as good as she believes everyone else does, but who never will.

It’s all wrong, but we still do it. We are modern, 21st century American women, living in a society that puts a stamp of worth on our physical appearance, and we compare, cream, wax, tweeze, suck it in, pull on our faces in the mirror, and doubt our beauty. And in doubting our beauty, we doubt our worth.

We’ve all heard the quote “God don’t make no junk!” but I like to say it a little differently to my children. I nearly daily remind them that God made you the way He wants you. And I am saying it to you right now. He made you the way He wants you. There are no accidents in God’s creation. There are no imperfections in His design. Oh, sure, He may have given us all our fair share of human imperfections, but I believe that is only because without them, we would not need Him. We cannot follow and reflect God’s son if we are not humble enough to need Him. Our imperfections are perfect gifts, and are part of a perfect design.

Psalm 139 verses 13-16 are verses we have all heard before, but I’d ask you to read with fresh eyes the message of self-worth contained within…For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers’ womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

My dear sisters, God knows you. He watched your creation. He tended to your design. He chose your eye color, your height, your complexion, your bra size, and your waistline. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And so am I. Jesus Himself tells us in Luke 12 verse 7 that, Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

No matter what we look like, no matter how we dress, no matter how we think we size up against the gal next to us, our worth is precious to God. We are His design, created in His image and under His watchful eye, and nothing can take that away from us. Trust Him with that truth today. Look into the mirror and examine afresh the handiwork of God. Recognize yourself as His creation, uniquely made, perfectly imperfect, and loved by Him. God made you the way He wants you. To Him be all the glory.

Dear Father, we know that we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, and we know that there are no imperfections in your design. Thank you for loving us so much to attend to our creation. Help us to see our worth in Your sight, not the sight of our times. May we rest in your truths today. Amen

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Going public and asking for prayers

NO I AM NOT PREGNANT.

Every time I say something like "going public" or "asking for prayers", or even both in the same sentence, inevitably someone comes back at me with a "you're not pregnant are you?!" No, I am not. Not since June 15, 2007 have I been pregnant, and God willing, never again will I be pregnant. I love what I have and I am trulytrulytruly blessed far beyond worth when it comes to the reproductive side of life, but I don't think I could handle any more blessing. (No, Lord, that is not an invitation to prove me wrong. I know I never ever dreamed that I could handle all that I do currently handle, but I don't need another lesson here. {smiling})

Anyway, now that we have that straight, I would like to share with you all what I will be doing one week from now, and ask you to pray for me. I will be attending She Speaks, a conference for women who are or who desire to be equipped for speaking, writing, or women's ministry! It is put on by Proverbs 31 Ministries in North Carolina. I am super pumped.

My desire to attend something like this began over seven years ago, although I did not actually know this conference even existed until 18 months ago. In November of 2002, I attended a weekend seminar on the Holy Spirit and had a physical experience with Him. Praise God I was willing to go to that seminar, that He met me where I was, and that while I was there at that seminar He graciously catapulted me light years ahead in my weak and self-effort-driven faith walk. Praise Him praise Him praise Him. I have not and never will be the same again!

Anyway, about 4 months after my physical encounter with the Holy Spirit, Dan and I attended Family Life's "Weekend to Remember" marriage seminar, and while I was there, I kid you not, I envisioned myself up on stage speaking. Yes, in front of hundreds--if not thousands--of people, I could picture myself speaking! Weird. (To really hear that the way I meant it, you would see "weird" typed "weeeeeeeeeeeird")

Little things like started happening from them on out. I'd be in church, and catch myself composing a sermon. (A lot of sermons.) I joined Bible studies and had things to say. (Good things, not just dead-air fillers; things that were good enough that wise people I respected would say to me, "you should write that down".) I started reading a particular blog with regularity, and found myself blogging in my head while I did dishes. (So I started a blog, but did not trust myself enough, and let it stay dormant for almost 2 years.)

Over and over and over again, for the past 7+ years, I have envisioned myself speaking or writing in some capacity, no matter the venue. Again, I say, weeeeeeeeeeeird.

What changed all of it for me from "weird" to "OK I'll try it" occurred in September 2008 at Great Plains Presbyterian Pilgrimage. Dan and I had attended as guests on the Pilgrimage weekend in March of that year, and this was my first time to serve as Team for the Pilgrimage weekend. And on this, my very first time on the Team, the leader asked me to give one of the talks. Unbeknownst to her, this was the moment I had been waiting for! I embraced the call, I prayed, I sweated and poured over composing a talk, I practiced, prayed, and practiced some more, and then the time came for me to give it.......and the Lord knocked it out of the park. I mean that to say that any ounce of nervousness I might have felt, any lack of confidence in myself, any fear that my talk sucked, any negative anything, was replaced by excitement, empowerment, fun, and the sense in my spirit that this had to be just the beginning. I had the time of my life standing in the podium and I was sad when it was over! God. is. good.

But wait--there's more! Also, on that same weekend, a dear friend, a man whom my husband and I both greatly respect, a man so full of wisdom one cannot help but admire him, came to me and said that the Lord had been speaking to him about me, and that I "would be in ministry to women". Me. The topic of conversation between the Lord and my friend. Me, the 6-kid Mom. Me. Useful to God for other women. Me.

Fast forward nearly two years, and that one talk became a spring-board for taking the Lay Speaking classes offered through my denomination, and I am now doing pulpit supply in our local area. I have preached in 5 different parishes, at the invitation of their pastors, a total of seven times, and will do so again this Sunday. (I should probably be writing that sermon!) In addition to the pulpit setting, I have spoken at an additional three Pilgrimage weekends, and have been the MC for a women's one day retreat hosted by Wausa Women's Ministry. Lastly, I have resurrected the blog and have found extreme pleasure in posting to it, despite some very late hours typing into the night.

Through all of this, 18 months ago, I heard of She Speaks. I began to drool. I began to pray. I left it to God, and the details (aka, money) did not magically appear, so last year I did not go. I was totally OK with that. Then last January, I again saw that She Speaks was gearing up for their 2010 conference. I began to drool. I began to pray. I left it to God, and the details (aka, money) magically appeared. Miraculously appeared. (Did I mention lately that God is good?? Well, He is. Don't you ever forget that.) Holding the money in my hand, I prayed some more, I asked Dan for his blessing and my oldest friend for her opinion. The rest is history.

I AM GOING TO THE SHE SPEAKS CONFERENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can honestly say that I have no idea where--if anywhere at all--I hope this will take me. I am not sure why I am feeling compelled to go. I am not sure why God gave us money just when I needed it to register for the conference and again just when I needed to get a plane ticket. I am not sure why my husband is so excited to see his wife (the mother of his six high-energy children) get on a plane and follow a dream. I am not sure what that dream is. All I can be sure of is that I have to go and see. I have to force myself to think outside the box a little bit (ok, a LOT) and see if God is trying to use me for something else besides just motherhood and local church duties. Those are so very wonderful, and if God merely wants to better equip me for those tasks, then I will praise Him for it. But, I have to go and see why my brain never rests, why I dream of traveling and speaking, and my childhood fantasy of writing has been resurrected.

My request, if you have read to the end of this very long post, is that you would say a prayer for me. The last thing I want to do is chase after wind against God's plan for me. Please pray that I feel Him strongly while I am there, and that He will give me a conviction in my spirit that this is either totally right or totally wrong. Thank you sooo much.

I leave Thursday the 29th and return Sunday the 1st. Posting may get a little scarce for the next week or two. I still have to finish my two talks for the conference and write that sermon. But it has been fun being here tonight!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shelly Story 102: Motherhood Begins

Back in May I posted Shelly Story 101 with the promise that one day soon you would get the current events. Here is some of it. If you want to get the whole perspective, go back and read the first post again. Or not. Whatever you want is cool. I am not sure how on earth to tell all the stories of my married years, the years that have most made me who I am in the Lord, and do them justice, but since God is God, and He usually gets His way with me, I am trusting that whatever He wants told shall be told.

To give the recap, I was born in Ohio, moved to Denver at age four, lived through a divorce, was blessed with a new Mom and instant sibs, grew into a quirky adolescent who loved youth group more than anything in her life, moved to Omaha, survived the rest of high school without that youth group, went to college at U of N, made a lot of mistakes, made a best friend for life, met the love of my life, graduated, got married, and moved to a farm. Phew! 23 years, done.

After getting married, I choked on a huge, heaping helping of culture shock, but my loving hubby never left my side. (Our magnificent Lord never did either, but I was not really paying Him much attention yet at that time.) I've never regretted marrying Dan, but let's just say, adjusting to the rural life was not the easiest thing I have ever done. I missed fast food, the smell of asphalt, the sounds of traffic, familiar radio stations, familiar faces, nice restaurants...pretty much all that I had ever known had "urban" stamped upon it, and my new digs were so very much the total opposite. I was not used to cooking every single meal, the smell of dirt and cow poop, the sound of cattle and hogs and bugs, new radio stations, the curious (but kind, nevetheless) gazes of everyone wondering who the new girl in town was, small-town cafes...and having no one but a farmer with a pliers holster on his belt for companionship. It was all very strange for me at first.

I found a job at a daycare 25 miles away and put my Early Childhood Ed degree to some use, although, admittedly, not as much use as I could have with a Bachelor's degree. But, it was something to do, it afforded me adult companionship, and I made some money. Some. A tiny bit. And I got to hug babies all day. Next, although I had not regularly attended church since high school, and Dan even less, we found a nice church home in town and committed to attending every week, cause, you know, that is what married folks do. It was ultra-comforting to return to the familiar routine of Sunday worship, and I quickly found the desire to get involved. I joined the choir and started helping with VBS. I then branched into civic volunteerism as well, and joined Community Club (kinda like a Chamber) and enrolled in an EMT class to be a volunteer EMT on our volunteer Fire Department. Job, church, volunteerism. Within six months of graduating college and becoming a farmer's wife, I was all growed up!

Somewhere in there, I started to realize how very much I missed a personal relationship with Christ, and yearned to know Him better. Too bad I was still so comfortable with being comfortable. I needed some wake-up calls.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we had started on the emotional roller coaster of infertility, in the attempts to overpower my defective ovaries and have a baby. (This would be a VERY long post if I give you every detail, so I won't. I'll try to nutshell it for you, and maybe I'll post on it again another time.) I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and needed injections in the thigh to ovulate. Since infertility is not an exact science, my ovaries went from barren to bursting quite quickly, and we conceived triplets on our second attempt. I'll never, ever forget the moment in the ultrasound room when that news came down. Ho.leeee.cats.

I had the privilege of carrying those three baby boys for 25 weeks, but then it was over. They came into the world rather suddenly, all weighing under two pounds, and today our two survivors are 12 years old. Joshua, our precious "Baby B", is the lucky Angel of our family, and we really look forward to meeting him someday. Tyler and Ben spent three and four months, respectively, in the NICU before being healthy enough to come home, and when when they finally did so, it was not without a little equipment. Both boys had apnea monitors, and Ben also had oxygen and a feeding tube. Praise the Lord, He spared both their intellects and physical function, but the next few years were not without a constant barrage of doctor's appointments, medical procedures, helmet therapies, surgeries, worries, anxieties, questions, stress, grief, rude stares, late nights, tube feedings, in-home therapies, and exhaustion.

It was all so totally worth it.

Through the triplets, the funeral, the NICU, the grief, the self-blame, the uncertainty, and the stress, I learned faster than I ever would have any other way to leave it all for God to carry. For example, I'll never forget being asked, as I lay flat on my back in the hospital on bed pan duty with a ruptured membrane, to decide if we should deliver only Baby A, whose membrane had ruptured, or do a C-section and take all three babies. In the human experience, one does not often have to make a literal life-and-death decision like that. Potentially sacrifice one child to buy the other two more womb time, or rip them all out of their comfy womb to fight the real world?? Choose one. Without our faith, no matter how weak by comparison to today it may have been, I have literally no idea how we could have decided that and ever lived with our decision. I mean, really, do you potentially martyr one baby or put all three in harm's way? I am not God. I could not play God. It took no more than a short time for Dan and I to decide, together, that those boys were conceived on the same day, and they should be born on the same day. It was totally and absolutely God's decision who would live or die, not ours. (If anyone reading this has ever experienced something similar and decided on an interval delivery, pleasepleaseplease know that I am not casting stones at you. I knew--and God knew--that I, Shelly Story, needed to leave it to Him so I could live with myself. That was the right decision for us, not anyone else.) As it turned out, we did lose one baby as a result of our decision, but we did not lose Baby A. And as badly as it all hurt, we know that we left the decision to God, He called home whom He meant to call home, and no one else, and I will always take comfort in that.

My friends, no matter how distant we get from God, no matter how far we run, no matter how many poor choices we make, no matter what we do...God does not lose anyone who belongs to Him and He never forgets His promises. I committed my life to Him in Jr. High...then I wandered in a desert of sin and a drought of worship for years...but as soon as the instant I realized something was missing, He began to work on me and in my life. He allowed trial and heartache, just to prove that He was truly in control. He comforted me and rallied an entire church family around us during the hardest thing I had ever faced. He stripped me to nothingness so that I would cling to Him. I had failed him 1000 times over, for most of a decade, and yet He stood tall as my Rock just when I needed Him most.

Our Lord is stunning. Don't you ever forget that.

I have so much more to say to effectively recap 15 years of marriage, but I am realizing as I compose this tonight that to condense it all into one post would be to completely diminish what and how God has worked in our lives. To breeze through car accidents, funerals, miscarriage, defeats, victories, births, hopes, dreams, and joys would be so "surface". And God does not work on the surface. He is a deep well of sustenance who has proven that apart from Him we are nothing. So, my dear readers, I shall stop here. In the timeline of my life, I have become a Mom the hard way, and 12 years later, I can honestly say, "to Him be the glory".

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Head Nut

Allow me to introduce you to the man of my life. The love of my life. The guy who melts me, sustains me, encourages me, uplifts me, supports me, and make me laugh more than any other soul on this earth. Dan Story. {sigh} I love that name.

If you will archive back to this post, you'll get a glimpse of how we fell in love. It's a typical story of someone seeing the very best in another person, a story of looking beyond physical shortcomings and character flaws to the untapped source of unconditional love that lies inside. It's a story of two misfits who are a perfect fit. I praise God for that story, for my Story.

Dan is a farmer/rancher by day and a machinist by night. He works harder, or shall I say, sleeps less, than any person I know. I worry about that nearly daily, but have trained myself to leave it up to God. He is extremely committed to keeping me at home to mother our six children, and so I do, while he does more than a lion's share of work to make that possible. No words can express my gratitude for that quality in him.

Standing 6'4", with the physical strength to make my knees weak, Dan is incredibly witty, funny, and intelligent, yet he remains humble. His integrity and honor run deep. He does not need the approval of other people to feel important, and has never concerned himself much with what other people think of him. He is independent and a non-conformist to the core, yet he has a heart for God and desires to be used by God for God's people. It is a wonderful, quirky blend that I often envy.

Dan is the perfect father for our six children, and although he is not always perfect, I do believe with all of my heart that he is perfect for us. He loves very deeply and very loyally. And, as any Daddy of two little girls, he has somehow managed to get that hulking frame of his around their little fingers. Having once upon a time been able to make my sister laugh so hard she would cry, I used to think I was pretty funny. Next to Dan, I am notsomuch the funniest person around this house. He cracks me up daily, and knows it, so that "muscle" of his gets a lot of exercise. (Speaking of muscles, after 17 years his forearms and biceps still float my boat!) I could go on and on about all the wonderful aspects of Dan that cause me to love him more and more each passing year, but he's going to kill me already for what I have said. Instead, I'll give you a brief glimpse of what I am talking about...




There is nothing like a "Daddy nap" on a Sunday afternoon.

Usually sporting a dirty tee shirt, dirty Levi's, a grease rag in his back pocket, pliers on his belt, and well-worn cowboy boots, when THIS Dan shows up I can hardly contain myself. Hubba hubba.

So, you know by now that I call this blog His Nut Speaking. What you don't know is that I actually started it 18 months ago or so, but then lacked total direction and only posted to it 3 times before letting it sit dormant. What I had done, however, was to give this blog a different name in the beginning. I used to call it "Head Nut Speaking", because as you will see from my profile, we live at Story's Nut House. (Growing up, that was my Dad's favorite way to answer the phone, proclaiming himself as the Head of our Nut House. I always loved that about him, and sorta adopted the habit, I guess you would say.) Because of my background in early childhood ed, the lion's share of child rearing has always fallen to me, including discipline, and because Dan had something other than proper discipline modeled for him while growing up, we've both been OK with that. For many many years, "ask Mommy" was a common phrase in this house. Another reason that "Head Nut" was a natural fit for me. However, as is the case when we go deeper and deeper into relationship with Christ, I have since been convicted about calling myself the "Head", even merely in jest.

I am not the Head Nut.

I recently read a book called Created To Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl, and I am not afraid to admit I have a deep love-hate relationship with the book and its author. I love what she has to say. I hate how she said it. I love the Biblical truths contained inside its pages. I hate being convicted. I love the challenge to this post-feminist-era gal to conform to a Biblical standard as to my role as wife. I hate that I often fail so miserably. I love it that God designed for all men to lead. I hate it that society today has stripped them of that honor and ability. I love letting Dan lead. I hate myself for getting in the way sometimes.

I am going to whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who wants to check herself against Biblical truth, and see just how well she is doing. However, it is not for the faint of heart, or the woman who is unteachable. I am also going to caution you to focus on the message behind the author, and do not focus on how she is saying it. Allow the Holy Spirit to convict you, not Debi Pearl. Don't stop reading just because of her. Keep reading because of God and His design.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18

Now, I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:3

It is a tough call for us gals these days, even counter-cultural, to get out of the way and let our men truly be MEN. I proclaim this truth not because I am doing so well at it, but because God is not finished with me yet, and He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it. I started posting tonight to merely brag up my hubby and flash some pics of him. But, as is the case with every post, I prayed first. And this is where we ended up. Hmmmmm. I think I may have been falling short lately, and needed the reminder. Praise the Lord.










Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I should have but I didn't...

I should have turned off the TV this morning and made all the kids help me unpack from camping. Instead, I let them lay around in their jammies eating dry cereal from the boxes, watching TV until 11:30am. Camping recovery is hard, you know.

I should have called my little sister on her birthday, but I didn't. Instead, I texted with another sister who was having a stress moment. I have something new on my prayer list now.

I should have fixed lunch for my kids. Instead, I continued teaching the 12-year-olds to make grilled cheese sandwiches. They had to use the turner and flip the sandwiches themselves this time.

I should have cooked a fabulous supper, but I didn't. Instead, we took the kids out to the Italian bufet. Mmmmmmm.

I should have ignored the last cinnamon roll off my son's abandoned plate at the buffet, but I didn't. Instead, I found it highly delicious.

I should have folded laundry tonight, but I didn't. Instead, I talked about bucket calves with the neighbor who stopped by.

I should have walked away from Facebook sooner, but I didn't. Instead, my kids had a minor brawl and a tooth was knocked out. A baby tooth, praise the Lord, and a loose one at that, but I still had to put on my Mommy mad and send kids to bed.

I should have typed a new blog post all about campfire smoke, but I didn't. Instead, my blog got a makeover.

I should have but I didn't. Shoulda coulda woulda. What a boring day this would have been if I had.

For we know in all things the Lord works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Heading out for a camp out!

Full of excitement and packed to the gills,
tomorrow's the day we shall head for the hills.
In a ramshackle Bucket and the brown toaster van
we'll drive over to Ponca just as fast as we can.
The kids will be howling, the sweat will be dripping,
the dogs will be grilling, the skeets will be sipping.
We'll douse in the bug spray and spread out the tent,
and say, "Now this is how summer is meant to be spent!"

And as fireflies dance and flames fill the sky,
I am sure all at once I shall let out a sigh.
No vacuum, no laundry, no mopping or drying,
no computer, no email, no whining or crying.
(OK, that's a lie, we all know they will cry,
but with the trees as our canopy, I'm sure I will try
to keep my heart calm and, likewise, keep theirs,
as I gently remind them that everyone shares.)

With my Bible in my lap and the Spirit in the flames
I'll quietly watch while the kids play their games.
Not a care in the world except the next meal,
it's God's loving presence I am planning to feel.
He'll be found in the trees, in the breeze, in the dirt,
in the laughs, in the smore's, and the smoke on Dan's shirt.
He is ahead and behind, before and the end,
He is always and constant, and my very best friend.

What an honor to camp amidst God's creation
and to relish the wonderful gift of salvation.
I can think of no better way to pass summertime
than to give glory to God, Creator Divine!
No one is left out, the fun is for all,
family camping is designed for the big and the small!
So look not for posts until Sunday has past,
I am going camping, and it's gonna be a BLAST!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Who is this, really?

I grew up in the 7o's and 80's, when musical technology and availability were notsoverymuch as advanced as they are today. We owned your typical aging record collection, some 8-tracks, a blossoming collection of cassette tapes, and (you guessed it) a tape deck recorder. To pass the time in the summers when we were somewhere around 7th or 8th grade, my sister and I would sit right next to the stereo speakers, trying for hours to catch the perfect song with that tape deck recorder. I can vividly remember holding my breath waiting for the first notes of a song, hoping and praying that the next song would be the right song, and that with our lightning-fast reflexes, we'd somehow, someway, get the button pushed without missing more than the first two notes. It was a thing of beauty: two blossoming teens in the fetal position with their faces pressed to a tape recorder next to a three-foot tall cloth-covered stereo speaker.

Today we'd just download it. (Sometimes I miss the old days when you had to actually work for your music.)

On days when the right song just did not come along, and the minutes turned into long frustrated hours, we would surrender the tape recorder and listen to albums instead. One of our favorites, believe it or not, was Bill Cosby. I used to (OK, I still do) love a good laugh with one of America's all-time great funny men, although these days I have to just listen to him on You Tube. Anyway, Bill has a routine about Noah on the album "Bill Cosby is a very funny fellow Right!", that once upon a time I had nearly memorized. In this routine, Bill gives an extremely humorous account of how old Noah may have reacted when he was first called by the Lord to do something as major as build an ark. As Noah is working away in his shop, the Lord pops into the silence and starts talking. Noah answers, albeit somewhat baffled. The dialogue goes back and forth in the humorous style of Bill Cosby's storytelling, until finally, in utter confusion, Noah calls out "Who is this, really?!"

Who is this, really?

Are you like me? Do you have a lot of voices in your head, giving you a bevy of thoughts all day long? Do some thoughts make perfect sense? Do some encourage you and bolster your confidence? Are some merely amusing? And are still others the negative kind of thoughts that weigh you down as soon as they race through your brain?

Who is this, really?

Are you wondering if God is talking to you? To whom are you listening? To whose voice in your head are you tuning your ears? What are you choosing to believe?

I have rarely had the Lord burst into my head or my silence or my presence with His booming and clear voice. I admit that there are many a day that I beg God to speak in a way that I would understand exactly what He is saying, and although I envy those with the gift for hearing Him so clearly, I am usually not one of them. I have other gifts, and I am grateful for them. But many times, I wish--I just wish--I could filter out exactly which voice is God's voice, and which voice is just noise to be ignored. He has never led me astray, He has never failed to guide me when I am really asking and willingly following, but He is also not using Instant Messenger or Skype to make sure I hear him loud and clear. He wants to make sure I am really, really trying. That I am earnestly seeking Him. That I am turning on the filter of my heart and asking, "Who is this, really?"

Even so, no matter how feeble my ears or how out of tune my own listening skills, God has promised his voice to me! I will hear his voice!

Isaiah 31:19-21...O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. Although the Lord gives the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

John 10:2-5..."The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognized a stranger's voice."

Oh, that is so comforting. No matter what lies the enemy is feeding me, no matter what society would have me believe, no matter what I try to convince myself, the Lord will talk to me. He is talking to me. I don't have to have a super power or a super gift, I don't need to hold my breath in the fetal position at the base of a three-foot tall cloth-covered speaker ...all I need is to be His little sheep, and I will recognize His voice.

Who is this, really?? It is the Lord. To Him be the praise and the glory!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Carpet Cleaning for Dummies

The grunts and groans could be heard throughout the house as she wrestled the heavy vacuum down the stairs to her basement bedroom with the bright pink walls. After having just spent the better part of an hour picking up her room, all the while grumbling under her breath for having to clean her room on a Saturday, even though this Saturday was no different than every other single Saturday she had spent for the past few years of her life, she was now indeed ready to vacuum. She knew her mom would not stand for cutting corners. The room simply must be vacuumed, and there was no way to avoid it. As much as she had originally dreaded it, now that she had indeed lugged that awkward machine down the steps, it was time for the easy part. She plugged it in, she grabbed her tool, and she began to brush. Working furiously on her hands and knees while the vacuum whirred beside her in it's soldier-like pose, she used her hair brush to carefully and systematically brush that pink shag. Feeling that enough time had passed, and enough pink shag had been brushed to give the illusion of a freshly vacuumed floor, she turned off the vacuum, wound the cord, and cleaned the carpet fibers out of her hairbrush. In similar fashion to the previous wrestling match, she managed to get the machine back up the stairs and into its closet. Upon hearing the closet door shut, her mom called out, "Did you get your room finished?" Quick with her reply, the girl proudly answered, "Yep! I even vacuumed it!" And off she went about her day, knowing full well that brushed shag looks just like vacuumed shag.

Yes, I am she. Yes, that is a true story. Yes, I did that multiple times as a 12-ish-year-old child. (Sorry, Mom. I lied to you. I was only brushing my carpet.) Yes, I am a dork. I know.

I was reminded of that old, long-buried (thankfully temporary) bad habit of mine today, when talking to my mother-in-law about a radio sermon she had heard on the subject of parenting. I'm not even sure now why I brought it up and actually admitted to it while we were on the phone, but needless to say, she had a pretty good chuckle over it. And really, who wouldn't?? Seriously, even at age 12-ish, did I really think that was less work than just vacuuming? Did I really think that was a good idea? Could I have possibly been that lazy, arrogant, conniving, and stupid? Really??

Then it hit me...isn't that what we are all doing much of the time in this earthly lifetime? Aren't we pretty much just looking for the easy way out while doing more work than we need to?

Take women, for example...we color our hair, tweeze our eyebrows, get facials, paint our toenails, shop for the perfect necklace to match our new shirt, put on makeup, take diet pills, ask for the salad instead of cheesecake, curl our hair, straighten our hair...when the Lord really says to us, Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 1st Peter 3:3&4 Aren't the beauty treatments more work than just being quiet and gentle? Why must we do all that extra work?

Or take men, for example...they polish their cars, drive fast, drive loud, buy a new boat, trim their lawns, suck in their guts, puff up their chests, pass out cigars, practice their swings, check their stocks...when the Lord really says to them, Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1st Thessalonians 4:11&12 Isn't keeping up with the Joneses more work that just leading a quiet life and working with your hands? Why must they do all that extra work?

Or take most of us, at some given point in life, for example...we doubt the Lord, we worry, we whine, we strive, we run from His will, we complain, we beg for our own way, we try to lead, we object, we ignore His voice, we grow impatient...when the Lord is really saying to us,
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; Psalm 37:5-7a
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. John 14:1
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Wouldn't it just be easier to trust Him in the first place? To stop lying, to stop competing, to stop cutting corners, to stop crouching down next to a whirring vacuum with a hair brush in our hands, and just do the simple task in front of us? God has called us to live victoriously, to live joyfully, to live simply, to live humbly. He has called us to honesty and realness. He has called us to do the hard job of following His commands and His will, without making it harder on ourselves by falling into the traps of laziness, arrogance, conniving, and stupidity. And the beautiful thing is that if we would simply simplify and trust Him, He promises peace, power, unfading beauty, and the respect of outsiders! (Just to name a few.)

I am no longer on the floors with a hairbrush in my hands. But all too often, I am still arrogantly cutting corners. I need to grab the vacuum and just do the job. Will you join me?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Confessions of a Drama Queen

"FINE!! Then I am never coming out of the garage again!!" The emotional torrent rained from my daugter's mouth as she stood in gritted defiance at the doorway, watching me take her sister's favorite toy back into the house. "Then I'll never have any fun again!!" she declared as I calmly shut the door in her angry face and walked away. Dare I say she is a Drama Queen? There's just no pleasing her, was my thought as I chuckled at her futile attempt to control her own way, knowing all the while that I did indeed know what was best that day.

As the all-powerful Mom raising an emotionally dramatic daughter, I see the futility of it all. I see the big picture, I see the waste of energy, I see that the reality to which she is responding every time she acts that way is truly for her own good. I am teaching her something important every time I calmly walk away from her attempts to control what is best for her without her possibly understanding enough to even know what is truly best for her. I love her so much despite the tyrades and tears. Her failure to trust my wisdom and guidance do no diminish at all the deep love I feel for her. It makes perfect sense to me, even though it may make no sense to her at the time. And I have never failed to see her come back inside the house, or eat again, or drink again, or have fun again, despite whatever desperate threat she may have made. I have the privilege at smiling at what she thinks is hopeless and terminal. Her red-faced frustration. Her helpless feelings. Her frustration. The futility of it all. It is all so very five-year-old.

Or is it?

I spent from June 2001 through June 2008 either pregnant or breastfeeding. Literally, I was pregnant, gave birth, nursed, weaned, got pregnant, gave birth, nursed, got pregnant, weaned, gave birth, nursed, weaned, got pregnant, gave birth, had my tubes tied, nursed, and then finally weaned baby #6. I have spent a total of 43 months lactating for my babes over my lifetime as a mother, and even longer getting up in the night for a child. Even when the most recent babe had been weaned and was finally sleeping, I would be so pregant again that I could hardly buy a decent night's rest. Let's just say that I, like many Moms before and yet to come, I was tired. Dog tired.

"That's it! I'm never going to feel rested again! I'll never have a decent night's sleep again! I'm going to die exhausted!!" I may have said that once or twice....or a thousand times. I may have stood in gritted defiance spilling an emotional torrent in my bedroom doorway as the current dependant babe had awoken me again. Maybe I did that.

OK, I so totally did that. I am a Drama Queen too.

Now that my youngest is three years old and has been weaned for two years, she sleeps like a champ, and I sleep like a log. I would venture to guess that I am only wakened in the night an average of once month, maybe even less. Sure, my Mommy Radar is tuned so well that if my bedroom door even sweeps across the carpet my eyes pop open, but I have learned to otherwise sleep so soundly and peacefully that I oftentimes will sleep right through a thunderstorm. It is delicious.

And I now fully understand that when I would throw my immature, sleep-deprived fits in the middle of the night, the Lord was just sitting up there smiling down on me, in all His wise glory, calmly seeing the futility of it all. He saw the big picture, He saw the waste of energy, He saw that the reality to which I was responding every time I acted that way, was truly for my own good and the good of my babies. He was teaching me something important every time He calmly and quietly sat by me during my attempts to control what was best for my family, without me possibly understanding enough to even know what is truly best for me. He loves me so much despite the tyrades and tears. My failure to trust His wisdom and guidance do not diminish at all the deep love He feels for me. It all makes perfect sense to Him, even though my trials may make no sense to me at the time. He has the privilege at smiling at what I think is hopeless and terminal. My red-faced frustration. My helpless feelings. My frustration. The futility of it all.

For we know in all things the Lord works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

I praise God that I am at least smart enough to worship a Father who loves me despite me, and who is always working my life's details out for my good. He is so glorious that way. I pray you know that as well. Have a blesssed day, fully trusting Him, and no tantrums allowed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Returning to the roadside

Remember when I said that there was so much more to be learned from our new friend Baritmaeus? Let's return to his roadside...

I live in the wealthiest nation in the world in a time when acceptance of others runs rampant. I have a husband who loves me, six healthy children, an air-conditioned home, an adequate wardrobe that includes 3 pairs of flip-flops, and a decent face to look at (or so I have been told). I am fortunate beyond worth. But sitting in stark contrast to my incredible health, wealth, and family, is the blind man Bartimaeus, whom we just encountered in my last post. Allow me to refresh your memory. Mark 10:46...Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.

Was Bartimaeus blind from birth? We don't know. Was he a young man, or was he going grey? Again, we don't know. What we do know is that Bartimaeus was born in a time when physical defect was a thing of shame. In his day, being blind was a source of perpetual rejection, a cause to call into question the role of sin in his life, and was a curse that had driven our buddy Bart into a lifetime of begging. He could not work. There were no government programs to help him, unlike our modern times today. Bartimaeus was forced to sit by a roadside, a man of perpetual rags and filth, and beg for any ounce of kindness or mercy that may be offered from the very members of society who daily rejected him. I am sure it was not a pretty picture.

At the very minimum, reading even one verse about Bartimeaus should cause us all to stop and thank the Lord for the abundant blessings in our lives. Do you have health enough to work? Praise the Lord! Are you well fed, even perhaps too well fed, are you warm at night, and do you feel safe in your home? To God be the glory! Do you have family and friends who love you? Then say hallelujah! Even if you can only answer yes to just one of those questions, you are more fortunate than our new friend Bart.

Praise. the. Lord.

Let's go one step further on this journey with Bartimaeus, and see what else we can learn from this encounter between a social reject and our Living Lord. Mark 10:47 & 48...When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Did you catch that?! He began to shout! I imagine Bartimaeus waving wildly in his total blindness, perhaps in a complete frenzy, not even knowing the exact place where Jesus was, but knowing that He was there. Bartimaeus was shouting Jesus' name in passion and desperation. He would have been causing quite a scene.

When was the last time you shouted to the Lord? When were you so desperate for Him that you took no heed of your self-consciousness or of who might hear you, and shouted to the Lord? Was it yesterday? Last month? Once a really long time ago? Have you ever done that? It would be easy to blame our lack of passionate desperation for the Lord on things like modern society, political correctness, and personal inhibition. We're conditioned to keep our desperation to ourselves, to keep our faith quiet, to keep our weaknesses tidy. (I've been doing it recently, for weeks, in fact.) But what we all have to remember is that Christ wants to hear us shout His name. He wants you and I to turn to Him in our weaknesses, our desperations, and our heartaches. He wants us to shout out to Him without fear of rebuke or embarrassment. And I'll prove it. Continuing in Mark 10, verse 49a...Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."

Bartimaeus shouted, Jesus responded. It's that simple.

Continuing with verses 49 & 50...So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

I love that response!! Bartimaeus threw his cloak and jumped up at the invitation by Christ! He was ready! He probably ran right to Jesus. Now, I asked you already when you last shouted at Christ, but how about this...when was the last time you ran to Christ? Was it yesterday, last month, ever? Have you ever literally jumped up, throwing aside whatever you were holding onto at the time, and ran to your Savior when He called? My friends, Jesus Christ is calling to each of us every day. At the minimum, He is calling us all to know Him better, calling us to repentance, calling us to obedience, calling us to more joy, calling us to love others just a little better than we do on our own, calling calling calling. And for some, He may be calling in a very specific way, like calling you to take on a new challenge at church. Or you may be being called to change jobs. Or to follow Him into ministry. Or to forgive someone who wronged you. Maybe you've heard that little voice in your head and pushed it aside, pretending it was nothing, rationalizing all the reasons why you can't possibly do that. Wrong.

If Jesus is calling you, you must jump up and answer Him. Today. Now. Right now.

I know I am like Bart, in that I have been calling, not always shouting but definitely calling out to Jesus, but in some ways I have not fully jumped up and ran to Him because He is not yet fully answering me. Anyone relate to that?? I think God actually likes to do that to us, you know; to bring delays to our questions. Like He wants to see just how badly we really want it, or how loudly we'll actually shout to get it, while He makes us wait until we are truly ready for it. He is so very wise that way. But taking our lesson from Baritimaeus, we are supposed to shout all the more! Bartimaeus knew Christ was there, even though he did not have eyes to see Him. He knew Christ had the power, even though he could not feel it yet. He had faith. He had the faith that Christ could remove his blindness, and he had the persistence to go after it.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
Bartimaeus could not see, but he was certain.
Bartimaeus lived a life totally void of hope, but he was sure.

Mark 10: 51 & 52..."What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

I cannot pretend that God will heal every problem if we ask, or that He will fix our ailments, or make us perfect, just by our shouting. What I can state with confidence, however, is that our faith is our key to true healing. Our faith is Christ's desire for us. Sometimes, our faith is all we have. Even though we cannot predict the will of God and the outcome of our requests, we must take a lesson from Bartimaeus and ask anyway. In fact, we must be willing to shout. We must be willing to wave blindly toward the spot we know Christ is standing, even though we cannot see Him. We must open our ears to Christ's voice, and we must throw our cloaks aside and jump to our feet if He calls. We must follow Him along the road.

To God be the glory.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shouting at Jesus

At the end of an extremely long day at a baseball tournament yesterday, I came home to face my cluttered house. Between VBS and baseball games and the pool and six kids being home from school, I am, to say the least, a tad behind on housework. The little boys' bedroom looks like ground zero for WWIII, and the kitchen counter is all-too-often made to match. It was in this array of messy-ness that I found my husband's Bible laying on the counter last night, and decided to stop what I was doing, carry it to our bedroom, flop on our bed, pick up my own Bible, and have a fast 3-minute read. Lacking any specific source of direction, I turned haphazardly to the Gospels and landed in Mark 10, and found myself reading about Blind Bartimaeus. I once preached on this passage and it was a real refreshment to read it again. I love the way Bartimaeus "shouted all the more"...

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more [emphasis mine], "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:46-52

Smiling at the refreshing of this story in my memory bank, I flipped haphazardly and randomly forward, and landed in Luke 18. I was stunned. Laying there, right in front of me, was the story of the blind beggar (unnamed in Luke) that reads like this...

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. Luke 18:36-43.

As I sat on my bed in stunned silence, all I could do was start laughing. He is so funny! In my oh-so-very-human experience, there are moments when God feels unreachable, distant, and like He may not be anywhere in my zip code, let alone my bedroom. Of course I know He is always right there, that He never moves, and that the distance is either my own fault or His own purposeful and trustworthy silence. But then there are times when He makes Himself so known to me, it is as if He were sitting right on the bed beside me, flipping the pages of my Good Book with something other than my careless randomness. That was last night for me. So, as I sat on my bed and laughed, I knew, I just knew, that accidents like this do not happen. Jesus Himself was trying to tell me something. I looked at the cross that hangs on my wall, and said, outloud, "What are you trying to teach me, Lord?"

I have been in a tremendous funk lately. Lately being something like a few weeks. Tremendous being, well, tremendous. So great that I allowed a over full week to pass without reading my Bible (perhaps more), I have been yelling at my children far too much, I have been on the brink of tears much of the time, and I have felt the Lord nowhere on my radar map. And I have been hiding all of it, so if anyone reading this is a friend of mine and you are now surprised to read it, sorry. I have been burying my funk, putting on a happy face, and going home to cry. And the whole thing has me totally blindsided, since I am a summer girl and I should be in a wildy summery good mood. Wierd, I know. Anyway, I've been searching my mind and heart for the root cause for my funk, coming up with nothing short of a bevy of reasons. Perhaps it is the adjustment to summer schedules and the near-constant demands on my patience by my children. Perhaps it is that when I have a big project going, my house turns into a mess far greater than my ability to tolerate. Perhaps, for some reason I cannot necessarily explain, I miss (make that ache for) the companionship and comfort of my nightjob husband more than I have in a very, very long time. Perhaps it is all the mud from all the spring rains here in NE Nebraska. Perpahs I am just tired of waiting on things to be "better" or "easier". Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Whatever the cause of my odd-timed depressed state, the end result has been distance from God. I have moved. Changed my zip code. Fairly well believed that the Lord must have forgotten me and my plight. How dumb is that?? Has anyone else ever done that??

So, when He met me in my bedroom last night, and so unexpectedly and undeservedly surprised me with a coincidence of supernatural magnificence, I was stunned. I don't deserve His special attention! I don't deserve a personal message! I've done nothing other than whine, complain, and beg for rescue from Him for weeks, and I deserve nothing other than a time-out for my childish behavior. But, as only our loving and gracious Lord could do, He showed up anyway. Praise Him.

My friends, I think I have said it before, but God is not failing to notice what we are going through. He knows what is getting the best of us. He knows what we are waiting and longing for. He knows what is breaking our hearts and tormenting our emotions. Just like He knew Bartimaeus before one word between them was spoken, He knows our names and knows our pains. The lesson that is ringing in me from the passages He gave me to read last night is this: Shout all the more. Be persistent. Even when others around you, or your worst enemy, or your own mind are rebuking you and telling you to be quiet, keep shouting at Jesus. He will hear you above the crowd. Be willing to throw off your cloak and run to Jesus when He calls your name. Tell Him what you want and in faith, allow Him to do whatever it is He wants to do for you. But never, ever, ever stop shouting.

I feel that there is so much more to say about this coincidence, that there are so many other deeper lessons laying in these passages, but, for now, I am going to stop there, and just say it again...shout all the more. Don't be silent. Shout at Jesus.

He will stun you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

putting me to the test

I just spent 90 mintues typing what I thought was a fairly good and entertaining enough post on choices and focusing on the positive. I had a story about my irrational Drama Queen daughter. I liked the post.

It failed when I tried to publish.

Is God testing me, asking me to put my money where my mouth is, or is the enemy messing with my joy?? Arrgh.

Focus on the positive. Focus on the positive. Focus on the positive. (say it with me...) I guess a new post will have to wait. Good night! (The time stamp will say something like 9:00 but it is actually 12:21 am.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy campers, the signs of summer, and the high seas!

So, it has been over a week since my last posting, and I must admit, I am a little stressed about that. I don't know why. Maybe I am living with the fear that my readers (how many or few there are) will abandon the habit of checking the blog if they believe I have given up posting. Or maybe I am uncomfortable with silence. Or maybe I am still adjusting to having six kids home from school for summer vacation, and all the work that goes into patiently tending to them while driving a van to every town in a 60 mile radius for baseball games and planning a VBS for 100 children. All at the same time. Maybe that is it.

Nah, I am just uncomfortable with silence.
Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a whiner, I have, admittedly, been a tad busy these past three weeks, and so, unfortunately, posting on a regular basis has fallen by the wayside. Tonight, however, I am dusting off the blog for a little show and tell to share some photos with you, until I can fully catch my breath after VBS and finally formulate a cohesive thought. So, while my brain recharges, enjoy a slice of my life...


The faces of five happy campers (and one tag-a-long little sister/cousin) as I was dropping off two of my kiddos for their first time at Bible camp. From the left, my daughter Emma age 5, my daughter Kendall age 2 (jealous), my nephew Eli age 5, my nephew Thomas age 7, my son Cole age 6, and my nephew Nathan age 6. Lord help those counselors, they had Cole, Nathan, and Eli all in the same place.


God lovingly reminding us of His promise in my front yard earlier this month. Lord, please help all the flood victims around the nation this past week!



Now for a itty-bitty taste of Wausa's recent "High Seas Expedition" Vacation Bible School of which I happened to be the Director...
See that dork up on stage, er, I mean, on board the ship, dancing and twirling like she is somebody special?? Yea, that would be me. Remember me?? I am that dork. And as she, I am one of the few people in Wausa who is dorky enough to stand up in front of 100 children, a few dozen teens, and a couple dozen adults, to lead all the music for VBS. I may have said it before, but I wear my dorky-ness with pride. (And, no, I am not pregnant. It is a poofy shirt.)




This is my son Jonah age 8, waiting with eager anticipation for the permission to DIVE IN to his pony bead whale key chain craft. Sweet-ness.

All kidding around aside, our VBS this week was stunning, and I was reminded yet again what an absolute privilege it is to lead another person, no matter their age, in their faith walk. And yet, I know for certain that in the months and weeks leading up to VBS this year I did more than my fair share of complaining about the work load that comes with Directing. It was tedious. It was stressful. It was dominating the lion's share of my thoughts and time, all while my hubby, my children, my home, my sons' baseball games, my garden, my yard, my...you name it...all of those were clamoring for attention as well. And so how did I handle it?? Like any die-hard whiner, I whined. As ashamed as I am to admit it, the Lord heard a decent dose of complaints and whines from me, especially on the day I was doing computer prep-work and my daughter decided that was the day to have a potty accident, tromp through the mud, and dump a box of cereal on the kitchen floor. "Seriously, Lord?! You can't bind the enemy for even two hours while I work on your Bible School?!"
Yes, I actually said that to Him. It was a proud moment for me.
The great and glorious news is that, in spite of this World-Class Whiner and Captain of the Dork Squad, our Lord once again proved faithful and worked out every detail with nothing but His splendor and grace. The kids came smiling. No one bled, not even once. The committee and fellow teachers pitched in and helped not only me but each other. The music rocked. The decorations rocked. The teachers rocked. The whole week rocked.
GOD'S WORD IS TRUE!
GOD'S WORD IS COMFORTING!
GOD'S WORD IS SURPRISING!
GOD'S WORD IS LIFE-CHANGING!
GOD'S WORD IS FOR EVERYONE!
And as I sit back, still catching my breath and attempting to catch up on housework, the only solid feeling I can really put my finger on is privileged. I am privileged to be in service to the Lord's children, young or old. I am privileged to be just dorky enough to be willing to stand on a stage every day and lead music, and by the end of the week listen to 100 exuberant children, 3 dozen teens, and more than 2 dozen adults praising the Lord with their hands in the air. Its' a thing of beauty, and I am truly privileged. (And I am ashamed of all the whining. When will I ever learn??)
Thanks to everyone who trusted me with this job yet again, and who helped me along the way. I apologize to anyone who heard me whine.
Ahoy, Matey!!