Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Laughs

Christmas just keeps getting better as our kids get older.
You see, our favorite form of worship is laughter...and our kids just keep getting funnier.

Last night, we went to the extended family Christmas Eve party.
Lots of home cooking, praising our Savior, and children performing.
Yep, it's a family tradition that kids must entertain the crowd.
They sing, they dance, they perform skits or read poems.
This year, our boys decided to shake things up for the older crowd...and brought electric guitars and drums. In true Rassi style, they also made us laugh a little - so the song didn't seem so long.
*sidenote* Evan IS singing; but with his cold, the microphone being too low, and the drums blaring...Micah was a bit surprised to hear that this sounds a lot like a solo.


Christmas morning has been wonderful.
Due to colds and late nights, the family slept in.
Well, everyone but me.
I got to spend time in the quiet, praising God - for becoming man, conquering death, and showing us how to live in this world.
That quiet time was such a wonderful gift, and then this little blessing showed up.
Evan has been working on his "Christmas Outfit" for a couple of weeks.
For years, the Rassi family has told hopeful little children (ornery too, since they are Rassis) that all they are getting for Christmas is "A glass of milk and a spankin' machine."
This year, each boy independently decided to wrap a special present to surprise his brother.
Micah spent an hour building his gift out of Fishertechnics.
He was giggling to himself and couldn't wait to see the look on Evan's face.
The motorized "Spanking Machine".
Unbeknownst to him, Evan was also full of anticipation. He was bursting at the seems to see how Micah reacted when he unwrapped the following gift...
Yes, it's a glass of milk...and our "spanking spoon".
In our house, a successful surprise must be followed by a giggle, an emotional sigh (these come from ME, of course), or a scream.
I'm quite glad they chose giggles this year (because I am also the main screamer).

The boys started off the gift-giving with their pranks, and quickly moved on to the "real" presents.
(Something they want, something they need, something educational.)
In the middle of all it, Clay and I opened up our gifts as well.
By the reaction (more a hearty laugh than a giggle), I would say that THIS was Clay's favorite gift of the day.


If you don't understand why this is funny. Go ahead, yell across the room, "What's Updog?"
See what your friends and family say...it might help explain.
If not, then make a comment below, and I'll explain it to you.

Well, Christmas is not yet over.
I'm off to cook and eat and giggle some more.
I hope you are all taking time to worship Jesus in your own special ways.
(And I'd like to recommend laughter as method that is always enjoyed.)

Luke 2:10 
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people".

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Strokes of Genius

These are 10 favorite parenting tools which I've stolen stumbled upon over the years.

1. The "Oh No You Didn't!" Jar
If you break the rules in some way, pull a paper slip out of the jar. We don't call it a 'job jar' because it is MORE than simply chores. For instance, the paper slips might say: 

    • Sincerely apologize for your behavior, and thank God for grace. No consequence.
    • Rub Mom’s feet for 10 minutes.
    • Windex every mirror in the house while singing a song.
    • Clean your brother's room.
Caution: we learned that you need an opaque jar for children who can read - even if the slips are folded. We also learned to keep the completed tasks in a separate bag so the 'easy' ones don't keep finding their way back on top of the pile.

 2. Handwritten Letters from Mom
To teach cursive, or not to teach...THAT was the question. My solution was to teach them how to write without being crazy about it. They each write their memory verse in cursive once a week, but the rest of the time they can print or type. (Yes, they are always lobbying for short verses. "Mom, I think our verse this week should be John 11:35, 'Jesus wept.'")
I decided our boys need to READ cursive more than they need to write it. So I started writing them a personal letter each week. Sometimes it's a letter to both of them, sometimes they get individual letters. Sometimes I hand-write the letter, sometimes I use a funky cursive computer font or have a different family member write a letter. It's genius because it forces me to sit down and encourage my children, to challenge them, and to love them...in writing.
 If they want to keep these memories forever and ever...they can. If they don't keep them, I take the really good ones and keep them anyway.
3. Scripture Memorization Box
I may have already mentioned this...but this thing is marvelous! (I stole it from Charlotte Mason, you can find the video here.) The family learns one new verse at our own pace by reading it twice daily. We also read a few other verses that we have previously learned (just for review). It is very little work. A minute or two of reading...and we review EVERY VERSE WE HAVE EVER LEARNED each month.
It gets scripture flowing through our brains for the each day. LOVE IT. Seriously, check it out.
We read a daily verse, a verse for the even or odd day, a verse for the day of the week,
and one (or two) for the day of the month. 
4. The best way to get my kids to eat healthy is to go on a very strict diet myself.
If I have measured, weighed and done the math so that I know EXACTLY HOW MANY CALORIES I need to write down in my food journal, my children will want to eat some of what is in my bowl. Every. Single. Time. (I just keep saying to myself: "At least it's good for them, at least it's vegetables, at least it's fruit. Don't cry because you get to eat even less than you thought you would.") If I get "smart" and make a double batch...they won't want any of it.

5. Vegetables get eaten better if bacon is added to them.  
Bacon Brocolli Salad,  Bacon Spinach Salad, Bacon and Cauliflower. BACON!!! 'Nough said.

6. Speaking of spinach, spinach can also be hidden quite effectively in yummy foods 
Especially in fruit smoothies. Can't. Even. Taste. It.

7. The best way to get our kids to do creative, educational activities (rather than play video games) is to do them ourselves...for enjoyment. 
My husband plays instruments, so my children play instruments. If I start to do artwork, my children tend to join me. *Don't get too excited. Most of the time, this does NOT work with chores. Believe me, we've tried. It's hard to make chores seem fun no matter how much you smile.

8. When my kids ask, "Can I have a pop?" or "Can I have a treat?" my answer has become, "How many waters, fruits and vegetables have you had today? Gotta balance it all out." 
They can't even argue with that. They know if they make healthy choices throughout the day, they get more freedom. If they don't...not so much. Isn't life that way? If I saved my money, I get to go on vacation! If I bought a $4 coffee everyday, I get to watch everyone else go on vacation. Now I just need a Mom to ask ME how many waters/fruits/veggies I have had in a day before I get a treat.

9 & 10. Facebook. 
While it may actually be the most frequent way I end up shirking my parenting responsibilities, it is also the only way I will remember all the funny things that happened in my house during these precious years. I counted this as two strokes of genius because it not only keeps me seeing the funny in everyday life (which helps me really like my kids); but it provides a way that my youngest son (the non-reader) might actually READ about his childhood someday. It is a record of short, funny blurbs that are entertaining...kind of like the Calvin and Hobbes comic books that he reads VOLUNTARILY on occasion. 
For example:

December 2009
Overheard this conversation...
Evan: Micah, remember the time we ate kleenex?
Micah: Yah, but I've eaten worse things than kleenex.
Clay: Really? What?
Micah: Broccoli

March 2010
I asked my 7 year old to list some of the rules at the elementary school. His first answer?
"You can't wear capes to school."

June 2010 
I am at the stage in child rearing where I can't ask the question, "You know what?" without someone saying, "Chicken butt".

April 2012 
My two VERY different little boys had to finish a simile: Reading is as enjoyable as _______. One boy said, "video games!" and the other said, "pooping out an anchor." *sigh*

Linked up to Top Ten Tuesday

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I'm a Christian...which means nothing?

If I announce, "I am female", you are told that I am not a man.
*Clay just said, "It's true. I checked." *
Anyhoo...
You could base all kinds of assumptions on that one little word (some of them beautiful, some of them ugly), but you would know very little actual truth pertaining to my world.

If I say, "I'm a 39-year-old wife and homeschooling mother of two boys", the picture becomes a bit more clear. Actually, it could also become a bit more skewed since I do not, in fact, wear denim jumpers/grow my own food/hate public school/have insanely backward kids or drive a van that says "Find Jesus today or burn in Hell forever"- all of which could pop into someone's mind when they hear 'homeschooling mother'.

My point is that there is a very broad spectrum to most descriptions; so unless people crawl into each other's worlds, they know nothing.

One of the primary words used to describe me REALLY makes me squirm when I think of the conclusions that people might jump too. (They can make even the homeschooling mom assumptions seem mild).
The word is "Christian".
Sure, people will assume that Christ and the Bible are part of my belief system; but other than that, they know nothing unless they take the time to sit a spell...and have a conversation.
Even while being a Christian, I try not to assume what people are thinking when they use that word to describe themselves. Its connotations are just too far-reaching:
  • Some Christians seem to have sentimental attachments to Christianity and wear the title with pride without living out (or even knowing) what they profess to believe.  (It's kind of like me living in Indiana and wearing my Ohio State Buckeye sweatshirt with pride. I was raised in Ohio. I grew up KNOWING that Michigan is "bad" and that the Buckeyes are "good". Even though I can't list one member on the team or even name the coach, I still call myself a fan. I'm not a fan. I'm clueless, but I have sentimental attachments to Ohio.)
  • Some Christians seem to wield their faith as a weapon. These believers tend to focus on the 'right and wrong' they have been taught. Sometimes these are good-hearted people with loving intentions, but things get a bit twisted as they focus on rules rather than hearts. Sometimes, they are not so good-hearted. They have an agenda and plan to use faith to accomplish it. Society sees this group (both sides) pulling out their big, heavy Bibles to smack people over the head until they agree with them. They come across as trying to dictate and legislate lives. People don't tend to respond well to that.
    *sidenote* This type of Christian often glosses over the Biblical Jesus who gave others the freedom to disagree with Him and even deny Him. Jesus was gracious with unbelievers, focusing on their hearts more than their actions. (He did get harsh at times...but it was generally directed toward church leaders who proclaimed their own righteousness while condemning others.)
  • Some Christians seem to have genuine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:5) Their humble, Christ-centered beliefs are evident to all who spend time with them. They stand out because they serve. They invite others into their homes. They have conversations. They allow others to disagree with them...and still keep hanging out with them.
*Oh Lord, PLEASE let me be a Christian that fits into that last category (even though words like "humble" are a real struggle.) I have spent time in the other two camps during points of my journey. I'm sure I've done my fair share of damage as I perpetuated the uglier stereotypes that cling to Christianity like a burr on a dog. Help me to be filled with your Holy Spirit so others see that fruit in my life.*

Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason...and this is just the surface that I've scratched.
It appears to me that loving, Spirit-filled neighbors and servant-hearted, peace-filled coworkers are not the Christian "norm." If you disagree, you may want to watch more TV or check out my Facebook page (especially during the most recent political race - ouch). It seems that not enough LOVE has been spread by Christians to counteract the twisted faith that is so often represented in the media.
How awesome would it be if we would change that?

One of the first steps to change could be to stop wasting time with our own assumptions.
It is probably much more beneficial to focus our energy seeking out truth.
If we assume, let us assume that we have more to learn from each other, further to travel on our own journeys, and that we don't know NEARLY as much as we think we do.
That might be a good start.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pinterest Ruined My Stinkin' Blog

Heather: So...I was on Pinterest the other day....
Me: Mmhmm...
Heather: I happened to click on a link about slushies... and next thing I know, I'm looking at YOUR BLOG!!!
......................................

That silly do-it-yourself-slushie post has had over 225,000 visits.
If you don't know which post I'm talking about, I'm not even going to give you the link.
It doesn't need any more attention than it's already gotten.

You see, I thought getting a post on Pinterest was a great idea for sparking interest in my blog...at the time.
(sidenote: It's amazing how many of our family train-wreck-moments end with, "I thought it was a great idea...at the time.")

Anyhoo...
I came to a point where I began to hate that popular little slushie post.
All those visits to my blog took the wind right out of my sails.
Sounds backwards, doesn't it?
You'd think I would be HAPPY that all those people came to my blog, but I wasn't (after the first 50,000 hits). I came to realize that very few of those Pinterest followers read my slushie post and thought, "I wonder what else this lovely gal has to say."
I noticed that most of my visitors were content to USE me for my slushie knowledge.
Yep, I said it...I felt used. (OK, so maybe that is a bit melodramatic, but I never said that my kids get their flare for dramatic effect from their dad.)
The reality that "slushie interest" did NOT translate to "blog interest" became a dark mist that crept up around me. So many Pinterest people visiting, so few people actually READING anything I have to say. "What's the point?" I would think.

So that is what I've started processing. What IS the point to charliebrownteacher.blogspot.com?
For me, it's not about blog traffic. Thank you, Pinterest, for teaching me that lesson.
It's not about approval. Oh, don't get me wrong, I still want you all to think I'm funny and likable...and godly...and a good mom...(and all kinds of other things which will only be satisfied when I look to God INSTEAD of you.)

I've decided that the point is:
  • To remember funny things that happen to my family...because I will forget them.
  • To share the lessons God is teaching me. I need an easy way to remember God's movement in my life. If I write the lessons down, maybe I can have the added bonus of my boys reading them when they are ready to hear the wisdom that sounds like "Wah Wah Wah" right now. Maybe they will learn from my lessons too...someday.
  • To share my history. I spend all day with my kids and still haven't shared half of the stories I have from my childhood or from courtship with their father. My history made me...and it has played a major role in making them who they are. It is also full of humor...and I think others can stroll down their own memory lane as they laugh at mine.
  • To count my daily blessings rather than focus on the negative. I ALWAYS want to remember how much I enjoy my marriage and being a mom. I want this blog to be an account of that in 40 years...as well as tomorrow or next week if I have a day when I struggle.
I think it's time to clear the mist away and start writing again.
Thanks for sticking around to see what happens.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Family Photos


Look at their cute little shoes!

I don't take family photos.
It drives my extended family nuts. It really does.
I would LOVE to have a family photo shoot every year...
But that takes time to coordinate.
AND I'm cheap...so I don't want to pay for them.
AND it just doesn't occur to me until everyone else is handing out THEIR photos and I think, "That would have been a good idea. Maybe in the spring..."

You see, family photos also mean that I have to get in front of a camera (which I am not as willing to do when the scale (and photos, and my pants) tell me that I have packed on a few pounds). There is always hope for spring...

Within this past year, my extended family has seemed to get a bit more, um, insistent...
***flashback to last Christmas and my brother, Dave, saying, "The picture I have hanging on my wall is OLD. Your boys are like 6 years old. I need a new one...and I don't want some stupid snapshot. I want a REAL picture."***
Ahem.
It made me laugh at the time (and determined to take a snapshot for him).

So now, another Christmas is nearing...and it's time.
I'm still cheap...but I'm in the 'I can tolerate myself' range on the scale...and my father has thrown his hat in the 'pressuring Becky for a picture' ring.
Can you just hear him saying, "The picture on my desk at work has your kids looking as young as their little cousins." *sigh*

So, I started coordinating.
I grabbed my digital camera, my family, and my artistic niece, Juli, and we headed for the park.
Having an adult niece who is willing to artistically collaborate and snap photos (even though she has never done a photo shoot before) is REALLY a blessing.
Everyone should have one. She's awesome.
I plan to pay her in love and coffee...and maybe lunches. (I told you she is awesome.)

OK, so it's not "professional"...but it's the closest brother Dave is going to get.
I was determined to make it a snapshot, after all.
(I'll see if I can edit them in Photoshop and make them look even better once I get them narrowed down.)

This is where you all come in.
HELP! I have too many family photos to choose from.

I need ONE kid photo and ONE family photo to hand out to the grandmas.
I like candid shots, but I know grandma's like posed shots.
I sent this photo in an email to my family...but Grandma responded that it didn't count and that we looked like we saw something TERRIBLE.
Fam Pic #1

My dad actually said he would use it. I think his words were, "At least it's a RECENT photo."
Yah, I come by my snarky attitude honestly.

So...
If you could do me a favor and vote on the photos...it would help.
I may have to make an album. Of course, that may be weird. My kids will have 5 pictures that represent their lives in 2012...and a whole album that we took on ONE October day. Ah well, I guess they can take what they can get.


Feel free to suggest changing colors to black and white or sepia tone...or even if a background needs cropped or blurred.

And off we go...
(You can click on a picture to view all the photos larger, but keep in mind you'll miss out on all my little comments if you ONLY look at them that way.)
Kid Pic #1
Evan's smile only looks natural when he's being ornery, so I like photos when he's ornery.

Kid Pic #2 (see, Evan is missing the ever-present twinkle in his eye)

Kid Pic #3 - Candid, my kids in their element

Kid Pic #4

Kid Pic #5 (with instruments, but actually looking at camera)

OK, now for the family...
Fam Pic #2

Fam Pic #3
 (We are all smiling! I can crop this in, but I like how Evan is standing, so I left it. It's so him.)

Fam Pic #4
I probably need to brighten our faces on this and mess with contrast if we pick it.


Fam Pic #5
It takes OH SO MANY photos to get us all smiling somewhat naturally.

Fam Pic # 6
I like the hand holding, but will have to get some advice on how to make our faces show up on such a bright background.
 The next few pictures aren't really in contention...but I had to include them for you all to see.
(I mean, most of you won't be in my living room looking at our "One Fine Day in October" family album.)
If you've ever tried to take a picture of Clay, you know he favors the "JCPenney  Pose". He, of course, insisted we  all play along. Can't you just picture us in a catalog?

Love Evan's face and Micah's sweet gaze.  :)

Love this pic...but LOOK AT THE SIZE OF CLAY'S HEAD! (I look like a giant sitting on a  child.)

I just think I look skinny in this picture, so I included it.

Grandma should be happy I didn't send her THIS one. Clay's head will never be the same.


Or THIS one. (We discovered it gets quite "buggy" in the middle of a flower garden.)


And finally, another one of Clay's favorites: The Album Cover
A bunch of people looking 'too cool' for the camera.
Of course, our little band needs to come up with a proper name.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Good Day, Bad Day

On a good day, I REALLY appreciate it when my husband takes the time to sweep up all the crumbs under the kitchen table.
On a bad day, I REALLY get annoyed that he leaves all the crumbs in a pile next to the table so I can sweep them up to sweep up "later".

On a good day, school is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my boys and learn about God's great world while doing hands-on activities and ENJOYING ourselves.
On a bad day, school is a burdensome chore that I don't feel equipped to handle (involving ungrateful, complaining little people - whom I could easily send away to public school...)

On a good day, it's funny when my 4th grader has a quirky comment for every situation.
On a bad day, "that boy ain't right...and it's all Clay's fault".

Sadly, I can go from a good day to a bad day in a fraction of a second.
I forget that any day that I have life... is a good day.
I forget that every difficult moment can be used for my benefit and God's glory.
I forget to count my blessings.

Thankfully, I can also go from a bad day to a good day quite quickly.
I remember all the past trials which I have gotten through...that have strengthened me.
I remember that God not only changed my life, but He can change my moment.
I remember to count my blessings.

  • Healthy, intelligent children who make me laugh
  • Coffee with cream in my cup...and more where that came from
  • A hard-working husband who is faithful and funny
  • A rainy, cool day which makes hot soup more enjoyable
  • Friends who pray with me and encourage me and live life with me
  • A powerful, sovereign God whose promises never fail
That's a darn good start to a very long list...
What are your blessings? 

Is today going to be a good day or a bad day? 
We each have a choice to make.

As for me and my house, I think we'll play some uplifting music, then go out on the back porch and eat some soup while we watch the animals play (and listen to a history cd). 
I'll attempt to do my part in making the next few moments good. It's the choice I want to make.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The blogs I haven't written...

I've started 16 different blog drafts.
Some of them have a sentence written down to spark words at a later time.
Some actually include a few paragraphs that I've been meaning to expound upon.
Some of them have been drafts for a very, very long time.

Since purging unused clutter is cathartic to me, I'm getting rid of all those individual posts.
It's time.
But since a few of them make me giggle...I've decided to share their "beginnings" with all of you.

Here goes:
------------------
I just walked by a hotel mirror (naked, because that happens when you are getting ready to take a shower), and I thought, "Wow! I actually like this mirror." Really?! Oh yes.
How did THAT even happen? I generally can't stand to see myself *ahem* in that condition.
It made me think of this ecard I saw on Pinterest.

someecards.com - I think it's weird how somedays I feel skinny and somedays I feel like a busted can of biscuits.

Biscuit days definitely tend to outweigh skinny days lately (pun intended). Maybe it's because of all the biscuits I've been eating?
Oh well, it was such a nice moment to walk by the mirror and accept myself as I am. It was a rare moment...but I gotta say, it was a nice one.
------------------

I didn't plant a single flower this summer. Not one.
I have five empty pots of dirt sitting around the perimeter of my home which have weeds growing in them. (Two of them right by the front door announcing to the world that my INTENTION was to have flowers.)

Ironically, I smile a little when I look at them because I've been "set free".
(Free from jumping through that particular hoop anyway.)
I just couldn't justify it this year.
The money to buy the plants, the time to plant them, and the energy to water them twice a day in the 100 degree heat...not this year.
They will come again when the "why?" of their existence trumps the "why not?".
Maybe when my kids are grown and I need SOMETHING to take care of? We'll see.

This little scenario represents a bit of the journey I've been on with God.
A constant questioning, a consistent undoing, a continual releasing...
Clarity comes as I let go of my own expectations and the expectations of others.
Peace comes as I ask God the "why?" and "why not?".
-----------------

Wow, I need to grow up.
I was so brainwashed by my 1985 middle school classmates that the after-effects are still felt today.
(at least I'm blaming them since only a handful of them read my blog. Don't worry friends, you PERSONALLY aren't the cause of my immaturity...well, probably.)

So anyway, my 11 year old son just leaned over and kissed me and then cuddled with me - RIGHT IN FRONT OF OTHER KIDS!! 
Shocked? Me too! 
But here's the rub...this warped mother of his, internally cringed. Yep, I said it.
I kept hoping that the other kids wouldn't notice him actually LOVING his mother. 
I didn't want those junior high kids to turn on him! 
Plus, what if the other adults start to think he's a wuss? (He's not wuss. Not by a longshot. In fact, this act actually demonstrates his strength; but I know that most people are just as immature as me and they'd miss that.)

*Sigh* Maybe someday I'll grow up and be more like my 6th grader, but maybe I shouldn't hold my breath until that happens. Or worse, maybe he'll "grow up" and decide it's no longer OK to hug his Mama in public. *shudder* Let's not even go there.
-----------------

I force my opinions about food on others. I do.
For instance:

I don't want my friends to be close-minded about any food. 
Don't tell me you hate vegetables, you just THINK you do.
(Don't worry - I got your back. We'll make this work.)
Don't tell me you don't eat venison, I'll just hide it in your stew...OK, maybe I won't hide it. Probably I won't hide it...
Simply put, when I find out that someone has "issues" with a food or a food genre, I make it my mission to change their opinion. It's a sickness. I know.

Along that note, I have a personal goal to make sure that all my friends have tasted a raw turnip.
(Ah, c'mon...even my KIDS will eat these things!) 
Raw and with a bit of salt, turnips are a tasty little addition to a vegetable tray. 
I had never even tasted one until I was married...and I realized that I was missing out!
You see, my dad always said he didn't like turnips, so my mom never made them. 

(They had both only ever had them cooked.) 
Then, Clay opened my eyes to the flavor of a raw turnip.
I'm not a fan of "old" turnips, they get hot like a radish, but a "good" turnip is a real treat.
Trust me, you just need to come over so I can force help you to try one.
Turnips are similar to kohlrabi, but less sweet.
(Wait, don't tell me you've never had raw Kohlrabi! Maybe we need to eat those when you come over too?) 
I just don't want any of you to miss out on these healthy choices...even if you hate vegetables. 


My husband and I drag invite friends to restaurants which serve (good*) sushi rolls. We let them order whatever food they want, but we order sushi rolls (which coordinate with their taste preferences) and then we threaten to make a scene if they don't try one. 
We've got some pretty adventurous friends (or friends that bow to peer pressure as they imagine the names that we WILL call them for the rest of their lives if they wimp out choose not to partake) so all of them have given in and tried one.
(I should add: EVERY ONE OF THEM has actually liked it - so far.)
*Warning: Not all sushi rolls are equal, go with someone who has had it before. Go with someone who knows your tastes. DO NOT JUST ORDER A CALI ROLL BECAUSE THE WAITRESS TELLS YOU TO (like my friend Woody), because Cali rolls can really suck be a let down if you like flavorful food.

I drag my friends onto my diet bandwagons. It's a fact, I don't like to diet alone. It's so much easier to be excited when I have someone to be excited WITH. I'm not even sure it's possible for me to be faithful to a diet unless I feel like I'm cheating on a PERSON, and not just my waistline when I pick up a cookie. I've got self-control in SPADES when it comes to resisting sweet yummy treats for a friend...but none when it comes down to just me and my little taste buds. (It's part of my spiritual journey I'm still working on. Just imagine how much glory God will get when I finally conquer my infatuation with chocolate chip cookie dough!)
I've been eating "no sugar, no starch" this week...anyone want to join me?

-----------------
Well crud, that was only FOUR of the blog drafts I was hoping to purge (and this post is already getting too long).
I deleted a few others, so now there are only 6 more  taunting me waiting to be finished...
That's ALMOST manageable. We'll see.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Storms

"When it rains, it pours...*sigh*
Those words slipped from my lips.  Then, I believe the Holy Spirit gave me a moment of clarity; and I was reminded of a video* I saw years ago:
_________________________
There was a man covered in grime. 
He was filthy and holding a holey umbrella.

Enter: thunder and lightening...
Irritation, and even fear, appeared on his face when the storms came. 
He fought to stay dry under his umbrella. 
He did everything in his power to avoid the downpour; but as the rain continued (and his coping mechanisms failed) the water finally reached him.

The cold shock and stinging of the rain. 
The frightening thunder and lightening. 
They were disturbing his perceived comfort, but as the storm pelted his sludge-covered body...the purifying water cleansed him.
_________________________

Too often we fight against the storms of life, but God is able to use them for our good - and His glory. We must rest in His promises. He is the calm in the midst if the storm.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
When you pass through the waters, 
    I will be with you; 
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, 
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze. 
For I am the Lord your God, 
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;"
Isaiah 43:1-3



*I've tried multiple times to find this video online so I could cite the makers of the video and give them props.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Should I eat Chick Fil A or crow?

People I respect stood in long lines to buy chicken and support Chick Fil A.
People I respect are currently boycotting Chick Fil A and calling them bigots.

I haven't shared much of an opinion in all of it.
I've probably even been a little self-righteous while "rising above" it all.
But then it happened...and I got taken down a few pegs.

Clay hurt my feelings on Saturday afternoon.
I felt that he stepped on my "rights".
I knew he was WRONG (I'm telling you, even God would think so)...and I told him so.
I made it clear  - through my body language, my tone, and my words - that He treated me unfairly.
After my little fit, I stormed away and went to take a shower.

God talks to me a lot in the shower. (Maybe it has something to do with being totally exposed, but I tend to listen better in there.)

As I angrily lathered my hair and grumbled about Clay, all the thoughts I've had toward BOTH sides of the Chick Fil A/Gay rights debate came FLOODING back to me.
All week I kept thinking, "People are much more likely to process a differing opinion (or actually change their mind) when spoken to with love, face-to-face (and perhaps while drinking a mocha). I definitely wouldn't change MY mind if I was busy defending myself because I felt attacked and people were calling me names."
Although I didn't call Clay names (out loud), I surely didn't give him a mocha and speak kind words out of a loving and humble spirit.

All week, I kept thinking, "The 'issues' are NEVER more important than the person with whom we are speaking. The person God made in His image. The person that needs to see God as much as we need to see God."
Except Clay (apparently). I decided that my issue was more important than respecting him in that moment. My feelings were more important than humbly showing Christ's love to Clay (even if he WAS wrong). *sigh*

I hate feeling this need to prove I'm right and get my way.
I don't even like my compulsion to prove that God is 'right'.
(Like He needs me to prove anything for Him.)

The Holy Spirit reveals truth to those who seek Him. (John 16:13-15)
I want to help others (even Clay) be inspired to seek Christ and hear God's voice for themselves. When God is the focus, He can change ALL parties involved...even me.

I need to let others have their own opinions - even if I think they are wrong or not biblical. 
God gave everyone the freedom to seek Him or deny Him.
I need to let them apply that freedom.

If I stop focusing on me and focus my eyes on God when I don't agree with someone, I might just reflect His joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control in such a powerful way that they would be drawn toward Him.
That sounds a lot better than being right.

The problem is, I'm spoiled.
In my marriage, I think I am supposed to be catered to heard because my husband loves me dearly. I assume I should have the freedom to whine (and maybe stomp my foot) if I don't get my way.
That's how it works, we tend to get a bit entitled when we have good things.
Since we have freedom, we expect freedom; but who says we "deserve" this freedom?
Who says that freedom REALLY matters?
Freedom to speak, freedom to marry whoever we want, freedom to believe whatever we want to believe...
This life isn't about our freedoms through the law; our freedom in Christ is much more important.

It is freeing to know that God can use ALL things for our good. (Romans 8:28)
It is freeing to know that God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

These promises provide peace...and freedom.
Sure, we can use our votes to express our beliefs, but we can't expect to legislate hearts.
If we lose the vote (regardless of the 'side' we are on), God can use it for His glory and others can be drawn to TRUE freedom.We need to focus on that and let God move through us instead of reacting to differing views out of fear.

So, I apologized to Clay.
I ate my crow and admitted that my response to him was disrespectful and that he matters more to me than being "right". We didn't really settle the issue, but there is respect and love in our home while we trust God to guide our next steps.
I got down off my self-righteous box and realized that I am no different than all my friends who have been so vocal in all their emotions and 'rightness'. I just hope this lesson sticks. I don't like the taste of crow.
And I hope that my lesson can help others evaluate their own actions.
Trust me, I'll share my crow with you if you need to eat some too.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Intimacy

My eyes get big and I shoot a warning look at my dear husband. 
In my head I think, "Don't say it."
He slyly grins, raises his eyebrows and nods mischievously.
I purse my lips (trying not to smile at him, but it shows in my eyes) and he knows I'm thinking, "It's inappropriate, you are going to cross a line for some of these people."
He evaluates the situation...and sometimes it is enough that I know what he is thinking, so he gives in to my wishes and holds his tongue...sometimes.
________________________________
Without a word, we have conversations.
Funny how we can do this with our spouses, our children, our closest friends.
It's like telepathy. 

It is possible, because we know each other well. 
We have put in the time.
We have listened. 
We have been authentic.
This is intimacy.
Intimacy is being able to finish each other's sentences...because we've spent so much time interacting that we KNOW how the other will respond.

Intimacy is connection...and it is something I'm seeking more of in my spiritual life. 
I want to think the thoughts of God. 
I cannot finish His sentences - because I haven't spent nearly enough time with Him to know what He is going to say.

I've always dismissed this little matter of fact.
I mean, how am I supposed to be so close to GOD that I think his thoughts when He's not sitting next to me telling me jokes and laughing in a high-pitched cackle...or low, slow groan. 
SEE, I don't even know His laugh! 
If I don't know Jesus's favorite food, how He takes his coffee, or whether He thinks farts are funny or crude...how can I have "intimacy" with Him? So, I justify my lack of closeness.

For years, I vaguely loved God. 
What's NOT to love? He encompasses all things GOOD. 
Then, I got challenged that my devotion to God should be more than good "feelings" or heartfelt theories...so I started to look toward Christ.
How did He live? What does loving God look like when it's lived out?


That was a good step. 
I started to "get to know" my God by reading about Jesus and trying to live like him, but I was still constantly trying to "figure things out". 
I was gaining knowledge, but how was I supposed to apply it? 
There is just TOO MUCH good to do! How could I decide?
I wanted Jesus to show up as a man in my living room and TELL me, but He REFUSED.
There seemed to be so much guesswork in this faith thing. 
There is always MORE to do, more to learn, more, more, more...
It would be easy to just sink into apathy with my brain twisting up in knots, but years of foggy understanding had left me wanting. I wasn't ready to throw in the towel.

Matthew 7:7 says:
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." 

The more I seek, the less cloudy things keep getting.
My Sunday school class has been reading Francis Chan's book Forgotten God.
I also just finished listening to Corrie ten Boom's book Tramp for the Lord.
Both are very HOLY SPIRIT focused. I don't think it's a coincidence that the timing of both of these books coincided in my life. 
God must have decided I needed some help on my journey for "more".


As I read, both authors seemed to be saying "If you are a Christian, you SHOULD be hearing God...and if you aren't, you are doing it wrong."
I turned to scripture to see if I found the same message or if these Christians were off-base.

In seeking, I found a missing piece in my spiritual puzzle (more like a whole side of precious border pieces). Oh, I knew the pieces were supposed to be there. I knew that knowing the Holy Spirit was part of knowing God. I had searched and researched and looked high and low for those puzzle pieces on a number of occasions...but they must have fallen behind the heavy hutch in the dining room - because it took a supernatural moving team to expose them to me.


In John 16:7, Christ said, "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."
As I read the context around that verse, it's as if Christ is saying that living with the Holy Spirit is even better for us than having JESUS sitting on the couch next to us. 


The Bible says, God gives the Spirit to those who ask Him. (Luke 11:13)
The Spirit LIVES IN US. (1 Cor. 6:19)
If we ask, we can have GOD. IN. US. 
Wisdom, power, revelation, knowledge, truth, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control...all things GOD - pulsing through us. 
So, WHY are we not experiencing an intimacy where we finish His sentences and know God's thoughts?
*smack!*

Wow! That thought has changed me in the past month.
I've started acknowledging the Holy Spirit instead of squelching Him.
I've started asking Him questions and EXPECTING answers because it has been PROMISED to me in scriptures. He is a being that wants RELATIONSHIP with me.
I've started listening and ASKING God to make sure I know it's Him.
I've started memorizing truths about the Holy Spirit so when the world tells me that "hearing" from God seems a bit unrealistic, I can be reminded that those thoughts are OUTRIGHT LIES.

It's been a month of tears. I'm just not used to all these Jehovah Shemmah (God is there) moments. It's been overwhelming...and Beautiful. (with a capital B)

If you are seeking as well, I'd love for you to join me on this journey.
We can pray for each other - that God helps us move the heavy furniture that is keeping us from finding all the pieces of the puzzle.
It's a beautiful picture He has created, and I want to see it ALL.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Goose Bumps...

This morning I swapped some "Jehovah Shammah Moments" with a friend over coffee. (Actually, I had a sugar-free vanilla chai which tasted like CANDY).
But I digress...

Jehovah Shammah means "The Lord is there."
You KNOW it's a good story when you get goosebumps and tears in your eyes while listening. (Well, maybe your body doesn't respond to good things in that way...but mine just can't keep it all in, the energy has to find an outlet!)
She has such great stories! (Quick plug: you can read some of her stories here on her blog.)
After I wiped my nose and blotted my eyes, I got to thinking about the MANY times God has looked at my little family, watched us wrestle with some little thing; and made His presence known in a Big way.
As my girlfriend said this morning, "Those little nuggets of gold shouldn't be kept. They need to be shared." (or something along those lines.)
I agree - so I'm sharing. 


Goose Bump Moment #1
Eight years ago (ish), I lost my wedding rings. 
Both of them. The most expensive anythings that we owned outright.
Wedding Rings
Photo Credit
I had placed my rings on the nightstand by our bed (because I had gained a bit too much weight, but we don't need to remember that part of the story...)
I also had a child who was under the age of two (plus a three and a half year old who was GREAT at distracting keeping Mom's attention until it was "too late".)
Yah...you are way ahead of me already, aren't you?


By the time I realized my valuables were gone, they were no longer a thought in my little boy's mind. 
I asked him about them. 
He grinned big, nodded his head, and took me by the hand around the house...showing me toys and books and pieces of lint, but no rings.
I tore the house apart. I looked in couches, in vents, in trashcans. (I should add that my mom thinks that I threw HER wedding rings away when I was about the same age.) I knew this was history repeating itself. WHY had I not LEARNED from my mother's mistake?!


It had been almost a week. 
I was at the end of my rope. I had lifted frantic prayers in my search as I opened cupboards and sorted toy boxes. 
I finally resigned. I was NOT going to find them on my own.


Usually, sleep comes easy for me. (A trait my husband envies.)
But on one particular night, sleep eluded me.
I was lying there contemplating a Walmart run to find a simple stainless steel band I could wear. (I love being married and needed a ring to "tell the world.")
I started to talk to God. 
In the quiet.
In the still.
I prayed. Earnestly...and ready to hear an answer.


"Jesus, if those ring haven't gone out with the trash. If those rings are findable. Please reveal their location. If not, I'll accept that you can use this for your Glory. I did learn about the grace and love I can have toward my children...even if I want to STRANGLE them. And I learned about the grace and love Clay has for me...instead of strangling me."


As. Soon. As. I. finished. My. Prayer...
Pillows popped into my head.
Two ugly denim pillows sat next to the TV...they had zippers on them where they had been stuffed full of stuffing.
My toddler liked to unzip things. He would play with those pillows on occasion.
I jumped out of bed. My heart was racing. (Clay was completely befuddled.)
I nearly kicked the couch and stepped on 2 Hot Wheels cars as I stumbled in the dark to find those pillows.
I reached down, unzipped a pillow, put my hand in - and felt delicate metal...right on top, waiting for me.
Talk about tears and goosebumps.


God is ready to step in...when we ask.
And yet, I do not ask often enough.
And sometimes when I DO ask...I'm not ready to hear the answer, or I do not LOOK for his answer, or I do not see and ACKNOWLEDGE it.
"You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." James 4:2b-3
Lord, You are always there. 
Jehovah Shemmah.
I want to open my eyes to that reality.
I want my boys to witness your presence...even if it's through MY faith.
And I want to shout it to the world.




Linked up to Hip Homeschool HopLoving Our Children Tuesday, NOBH

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Qualifier

super hero
Photo Credit

When I speak about my husband, I tend to share about rainbows and lollipops and romantic gestures. According to my blog and many conversations I have with friends, you'd think I married Superman.

I once had a friend say, "You don't even know how to complain about your husband properly. You always preface your remark with 'Clay is such a good man, I don't know WHY I'm so frustrated with ______.'" 
(That's some tricky punctuation - a quote within a quote at the end of a sentence? Looked funny, but it's right - I Googled it.)

I digress...
I'm here to announce that...
Wait for it...
Clay.
Is.
Not.
Superman.

He irritates me, he "ruins" moments, and (on occasion) he has a nose hair try to escape his right nostril. The thing is, if I choose to focus on the imperfections, I KNOW my marriage will be difficult. So, even when I'm alone with my own thoughts and catch myself glaring holes into the back of a family member's head...I try to stop myself. I try to list the things I love about them. I try to focus on the greater good. I try to focus on the bigger picture. I try NOT to focus on ME.

Notice I said, "I try..."
I'm not Superman (or Supergirl, or Wonder Woman) either.

How is your thought-life? Do others see the good in your spouse because that is what you have shown them? Do you defend and protect the good in your spouse? He/she is made in the image of God. There IS good there...are you looking for it? And are you letting your spouse know that you see it - and are thankful for it?

Challenge:
Let's write down all the things that our spouses do - that we may take for granted. And let's make sure that we DON'T take them for granted...at least not today.

  • He went to work to earn money.
  • He shares that money with me and the kids.
  • He made more coffee than he needed so I would have some to drink too.
  • He snuggled my son when he woke up.
  • He called the bank. (I didn't have to!)
  • He kissed me goodbye.
  • He...
I bet this list will be pretty long. I think I might need to show him the list too.