Monday, December 26, 2011

Foster Girl

Another day, another place. Strange smells, strange sounds. New faces, new rules. Of course they’re happy to have me. Excited, even, at the prospect of something new.

I’m not. I’ve run out of faith. I’m too tired to be excited, and I don’t have the strength to hope. Some would say I’m too young to be this old. I’m thirteen.

I can remember being excited like they are now. Hoping, believing that somehow this place would be different. That this would be the one. I’ve lived in 25 houses in the last 6 years. One time it was different, and I was happy. My strength to hope was renewed. That stay lasted 8 months, and when I left I cried more than I did leaving home for the first time.

There are two types of people that make up ninety-nine percent of all foster parents. The one type of parent opens their home and heart to do a good deed. They want to be good people, and they figure if they take care of one of us “unfortunate children” it somehow secures them a spot in heaven. Being classified as unfortunate before I even enter the house doesn’t help my attitude.

Sure, I have a rotten lot in life, but I do still have my pride! (Which in all honesty is the cause of many short stays in my past.) All any kid ever wanted is to be normal. I’m a foster kid, for goodness sakes! I'm not wounded, maimed, handicapped or made of china!

The other parent is almost more tolerable, because at least they’re honest with me about why I’m there. My stay pays their rent check. And their grocery bill. And anything else they need, or think they need.

I can hardly remember my mom. I’m told I haven’t seen her since I was 4. That doesn’t mean I don’t wonder about her everyday. I can't tell if my memories are my own or things I've been told. Some days I think she must be a phantom of my imagination. I close my eyes and try to remember what she smelled like. Rose perfume, stale cigarettes and something else... something I can't identify.

My Dad was in prison when I was born. I’ve never met him. I lived with my Aunt until I was 7, and was taken away. Since then I’ve been in and out of group homes and 25 other houses. My shortest stay was 8 hours. With the exception of that one place I stayed for 8 months, every one was a bad memory. You’d think that after 6 years they’d all start running together, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Well, that’s neither here nor there (I don’t remember where I picked up that line, but I kinda like it.) and the social worker is here to pick me up.

I forgot to tell you. I’m in a group home again. I’ve been here for a week waiting for another placement. My last foster family was all picked up by the police during one late night party.

Ms Casey walks up to me with the same tired smile, the same faded suit, the same scuffed heels. I can see in her eyes that she’s too tired too hope either.

“Ready to go?”

When I don’t respond, she gets down on the cracked tile floor and takes my chin in her hands.

“What’s the matter, honey?”

Most people don’t get away with calling me that, but Ms Casey is a good soul. I know she truly cares. She would adopt all of us if she could.

“What’s the use, Ms Casey? Why even bother going? I’ll be back here in a couple weeks anyways!”

“Aw, cheer up! Maybe this time it’s gonna be different.”

I look in her face and I know she believes it as much as I do. But there’s nothing else to do, so I pick up my backpack and follow her out.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I was huddled at my desk in the sub-freezing morning, trying to stay warm, trying to stay happy, trying to be positive.

I try to do things all the time. Try to build relationships, try to eat healthy, try to honor my parents, try to get along with my sister, try to be responsible... I need to stop trying and start doing.

Pulling out my journal I started counting the good things about this morning. It didn't come easy, but I forced myself to do it.

#488. A piping hot shower this morning.
#489. Sparkling clear mornings.
#490. Sleeping like a baby.
#491. Clean laundry.

The more gifts I wrote down and thanked God for, the more gifts I noticed. My pen started to flow with gratefulness and awe. God is so good to me all the time, I just hadn't taken time to realize it this morning.

#503. Psalm 16:2 I said to the Lord, "You are my God, apart from You I have no good thing."

What? I've written five hundred and three good things in my journal so far, and each one of them is from God! From the grandiose to the trivial.

#104. No guilt in life!

#243. Cranberry Apple Tea with honey

#473. Early morning sun reflecting on the waves.

My heavenly Father loves to lavish me with gifts each day and each day should be one overflowing with gratefulness, inexpressible and glorious joy, worship, admiration and awe. But I don't take time to realize it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Excuse Me?"

My fingers are too cold to type I tell myself while debating whether I should work on that story I'm working on or browse facebook.

Sleep is better for me than that workout would be... (This one is both over-used and self-explanatory.)

Running could damage my knees.
I can eat healthy tomorrow.
It's too dark to run now.
My sister would probably rather I don't get underfoot in the kitchen.
I didn't mess up the kitchen, so I don't need to clean it up.
I did make that mess, but I did it for other people, so I don't need to clean it up.

I've known for awhile that I'm the queen of excuses, but I realized this morning (as I was driving to work on the later side of on time) that I've also developed quite a nasty habit excusing myself.

All my life I've always held to the belief that what happens to you is not your fault, but what you make of it is. (Keep in mind, I don't in anyway excuse those people who commit horrendous acts against other people, but I've read enough stories of real life survivors to believe that the power to change a bad situation into a good one lies within the individual.)

Merging on to the freeway I found myself rationalizing in my mind. It's not my fault if I'm late to work. I didn't load up all the bikes into the truck at the beach yesterday and leave them there. I don't even own a bike. The guys should have unloaded them before they left this morning. It's their fault I'm late.

I realized at the same time that while I didn't load the bikes into the truck, I also didn't UNLOAD them when I got home last night like I should have.

No longer having a valid excuse for being late I stepped on the gas, pushed through that yellow light and made it to work right on time. Yep. I'm convinced. The power to change a bad situation into a good... it's on me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I'm pulling the plug on my weekend.

Literally. As soon as 5 o'clock hits, I'm shutting down the computer and turning off my phone. I'll hop into my brother's truck and drive until I get to the beach. I'll hug my little sisters, and kiss my niece and nephew. We'll do dishes by lantern light and watch the campfire burn out, and then we'll run and jump into our sleeping bags before our feet get cold.

I'm gonna watch the sunrise over the marina and take a walk down the beach. Grab a coffee with my brother, chat with my mom, read God's word on paper, hang out with my dad, ride a bike, write in my journal (on paper), play volleyball, cook, laugh, sing, play card games and sleep under the stars.

I want to live in the moment, relish every fresh breath of air, every smile, every inside joke. I want to snap photos in my mind of every ounce of beauty from the whole weekend. I don't want to take one minute for granted.

I'm not unplugging because I have a religious conviction against electronics or anything. I don't think it's going to give me a or more peaceful or spiritual experience. I just don't have enough time to do everything I want to do.

And I'll be checking my messages on Monday.

(P.S. In case of emergency, my brothers and sisters are still plugged in.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Things that go bump in the night...

The wind is always a little spooky at night when it starts blowing, but not nearly as spooky as when it's both foggy and windy, and I'm home alone.

I got home from work and the house was all shut up, the gate closed and it was dark out. I took a deep breath and jumped out of the car, locking it behind me. Walking to the house to open the gate I heard music coming from my parents room.

"Maybe Dad left it playing so it would seem like someone was home" I mentally applauded my dad. He takes such good care of all of us, even going as far as to call me while I was at work to let me know he had left his handgun loaded and in the safe.

My family is going camping for a week. Without me.

I skirted around the house to the back door and tried the handle. It was unlocked.

So, I wasn't coming home to an empty house after all. My parents hadn't left yet.

Thank you, Lord! It's much nicer to be able to ease into this home alone thing instead of jumping in cold turkey!

By the time I went to bed the wind had picked up to the howling level. Unidentified objects scurried past the windows, something set the alarm off a couple times and the heater kept blowing out and starting back up with a whoosh. The wind chimes were ringing like you would expect, and the wooden "Give Thanks" sign on the back porch was adding it's own drumming to the sound track.

I curled up in my bed only to get up and shut off the alarm 2 minutes later. Sheepishly I pulled out Dad's handgun and put it in a more accessible place.

I crawled back in bed before I could get cold. Lord, I'm trusting you to keep me safe tonight

Rolling over, I slept like a baby.

"When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet" Proverbs 3:24

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Mornings

I sincerely love Mondays. Most the time when I tell people that, they chuckle at my sarcasm, but I'm not being sarcastic. Mondays are awesome. Sure they're filled with challenges and have an uncanny knack for having things go differently than planned, but they're also a fresh start. They set the tone for the whole week. They're a challenge and a chance for growth.

If I start my Monday early, diligently, rested, cheerfully and enthusiastically I can already tell it's going to be a great week. (Maybe it's easier for me to say that knowing there are only 3 work days this week) But if I start my week grudgingly, tired, depressed... well, what would you expect?

When I woke up this morning and it was still dark, and cold and foggy, I decided to go with the rested part, and skip the early and diligently. But hey, there's always tomorrow!

My sister really challenged me while we were getting ready for church yesterday. "Don't get so caught up pursuing your goals that you miss your ministry."

I was a little confused with that exhortation, not being sure what she was talking about. "I don't really have a ministry right now."

"Your life ministry, Merrie. Don't ever get too busy for that."

Not 30 minutes later we were sitting in church listening to a guest speaker share about what God has taught him about ministry. I was entertaining his 5 year old with one half of my brain while listening with the other.

"...And I finally figured it out! When the car breaks down on the way to an appointment with a big client, I've realized that he's not the one I have an appointment with, it's the guy next to me! So when my customer was an hour late to a meeting, I got all excited! 'God, who do YOU want me to meet with?''

My sister was right. I don't ever want to get too caught up with life that I miss.... life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Call it what you will, Irin Cameron. It doesn't change reality.

The innocent Jews in Germany were declared to be a lower life form by their government and therefore by exterminating them the Nazi's were doing no wrong. Or were they?

In the same way, innocent babies in America were declared to be a lower life form by their government and therefore by exterminating them the mothers do no wrong. Or do they?

You implied that such a comparison was preposterous. I think your exact words were "the comparison is wildly offensive beyond any specter of attempted conversion or co-opting of Jewish tragedy."

Okay, obviously I can't say what is or isn't offensive to you, but is the comparison so far out as you seem to think?

You know what part of your article stuck out to me the most? It was the hostile attitude you take towards the makers of 180movie who are getting out there and doing something about what they believe. They're not holding roast sessions, writing inflammatory articles, making personal jabs or calling you names.

This respectful approach, this carefully thought out and well backed up message, the way they encourage their audience to examine their own hearts and consciences' instead of judging the next guy, maybe this is the reason for 180movie's 1,574,475 views on Youtube and the increasing positive response it's being received with.

"I gave my history teacher a 180 movie card and a couple days later he showed the video to the class. He introduced the video as a video [comparing] the holocaust and abortion. After watching the video, we had a class discussion on how it changes your perspective on both the holocaust and abortion."

-11th Grade Student at Northridge Academy High School

Thank you, Irin, for taking an interest in this hot topic, but while your piece was well written and highly entertaining, it was hardly convicting.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A fabulous day, and how it's made.

I don't know if this is the case for everybody but coming home to a full house after a long day at work always makes me happy. Walking into the kitchen where my sisters are preparing dinner, passing through to the bedroom to take off my coat and put down my purse (if I was embellishing here, I would've said "hang up my coat and put away my purse...") where two or more of my sisters are playing an imaginary game, reading a book or surfing the internet... just being home with my family gives me a high. It's almost like a drug or something.

After goofing around with the girls in the kitchen for about ten minutes I wandered into my parents room to greet my Dad.

"Hi! How was your day?"

"It was..." pausing to find the right word, "...fabulous!" I finished, enthusiastically.

"Really? What made it fabulous?" Dad asked.

I had to think about it. There were so many contributing factors, like coming home to a house full of family or a sister who bought me a bar of dark chocolate just because. A profitable day at work with no customers yelling at me on the phone factored in. An encouraging word from a friend definitely made the list as did sitting in the sunshine to eat a yummy healthy lunch. Then there was an eggnog latte, (first of the season) and a trip to the music store...

"Well..." I began, trying to decide what one thing changed my day from great to fabulous. "Uhm...well, God, really. Just how much He loves me."

Every one of the things I had thought of had been orchestrated by God just for me.

I read on a facebook status yesterday that you can never over emphasize grace. Whoever said that was right.

My morning started early today. 5:30, actually. By 6:30 I had a batch of muffins in the oven, another one ready to bake, I'd been greeted by several smiling faces, had a sister helping me with dishes and had been given two free coffees.

What's the word for better than fabulous?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sleep and Spiders

It all started last night. Not wanting the party to end, I stayed up later than I should, but still went to bed earlier than the rest of the six girls I share a room with. Ask anyone who knows me, the best way to get under my skin is to keep me up when I'm trying to sleep. If I've already fallen asleep and you wake me up....well... my sisters recommend you have a good life insurance policy.

Things that are normally funny and cute are suddenly not funny to me at all. Even my precious little sister failed to make me laugh when she brought me back from the edge of blissful sleep to ask if it would keep me awake if she talked in her sleep. Yes it was ironic, but I didn't find it funny at the time.

All in all, not a great way to start a work week. Rushing out the door in the morning on the verge of being terribly late, finding a black widow in my office, sitting at my desk freezing, all of these were contributing factors.

Feeling very sorry for myself I picked up my phone and started to compose a text message to drum up some sympathy.

"Icy cold fingers and a black widow in my office. Yep, apparently it's Monday!"

Instantly I was convicted. My attitude did a 180 before I finished the text.

"A mug of hot water to warm my fingers on and an Uncle to kill the spider. Yep, apparently God still loves me!"

It's funny how a little bit of perspective can change your whole day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Suffering...

The apprentice added the final touch to the mural on the wall of the chapel and stepped back to admire his work. The scaffolding creaked and shook under his weight, but as absorbed as he was, he noticed nothing. The first 4 years of his apprenticeship were spent washing brushes, setting up scaffolds, mixing paints, washing brushes, taking down scaffolds and washing brushes. This was his first opportunity to prove himself, and he’d done it.

He examined his masterpiece with a practiced critical eye, turning his head this way and that to find any imperfection, any room for improvement.

The Artist watched his student with pride. It’d been a long 4 years, but he’d trained the apprentice for this very moment.

The feeling of pride turn to one of alarm as the apprentice took another step back and then another. The end of the precarious platform was inches away from his heels and in that split second the Artist realized that to cry out a caution would only startle the young man, and probably send him to his death on the marble floor, twenty feet below.

The Artist took the brush from the paint pot in his hand and in one swift movement, flung it up at the fresh mural. Blue paint splattered and streaked down the perfect depiction of Christ washing the disciples feet, dribbled down the wall and dripped on the floor.

The young painter ran forward in shock towards his masterpiece. It was destroyed!
He turned angry eyes full of hurt and betrayal towards his Master, never realizing how close he’d come to plummeting to his death.

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”

Suffering is a gift for us! I want to be able to see it that way and thank God for it in faith, knowing that I can’t see the whole picture.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

About my relationship status...

"Ahh.. This is the life. I could stay right here forever," curled up on the couch with my cute aqua/brown Bible, my journal and a cup of tea. Dress clothes are out and sweats are in. Conversation flows around me about different events. Not enough to distract me, but just enough to remind me who and where I am. Its comforting. I'm at home, and home is good.

You want the truth? I haven't opened that Bible yet. Actually, until I brought it to the couch, I hadn't picked it up since last Sunday. I could give you a million excuses but the truth still remains. The only scripture I've read this week was texted to me by a precious friend.

I've found time to peruse facebook and watch Pan Am, but I wasn't able to get into the word of God. Out of the 24 hours in the day 10 1/2 go to my job, (including driving there and back, and getting ready) 8 of them are spent sleeping, 2 or 3 visiting with my family and the other 2 1/2 killing off brain cells.

I haven't dedicated any time to feeding myself spiritually and here I am, wondering why I've felt so drained.

So, enough with the social media for me. (Well, tonight anyways.) I've got to catch up on a relationship way more important than facebook.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

So, being real about who I am for a minute....

I was filing a 3.5 inch stack of completed orders when my boss walked into the office.

"Well that was interesting. I just did an estimate for a lady who is buying her husband a house..."

As ashamed as I am to admit it, I smirked to myself, judging her.

"Doesn't that seem a little backwards?" was my smug response. In my defense, I was still hashing over an ongoing discussion about women in the work force and their place in this world, and how it affects marriage dynamics and men's egos. I type-casted and judged her. Instantly. Just like that.

It turns out she's setting up this new house to bring her husband home from the hospital. He was hit by a car while riding a bike. He hasn't spoken since, and is just now learning to write. He can't even sit up in a chair which is why she's buying a new house that she can set up to accommodate his rolling bed. She's excited about spending the rest of her life taking care of her invalid husband.

I judged her instantly, and I was so wrong. What a jerk.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stuck

Every muscle was straining, my toes were almost numb. Sweat began to drip into my eyes. I had as far to go as I had already come, and I was stuck. My fingers were starting to hurt, gripping the narrow ledge. My feet were planted on mere nubs of rock, and I wasn't moving.

Above me to the right there was a crack that I could fit my whole fist into and a little higher than that on the left was a beautiful bucket hold. Beautiful and worthless. They might as well have been a mile away for all the good they were doing me. To reach either of them I'd have to let go.

Let go of the safe, secure and solid. Let go of the familiar and reach out of my comfort zone. Where I was at was good, but it wasn't getting me anywhere.

My climbing buddy called up to me, "Reach up with your right hand and follow that crack to the top!"

The breeze sweeping through the canyon was drying the sweat on my back and freezing my ears. I wondered how cold it would get spending the night up here, since I obviously wouldn't be moving anytime soon.

Let go? Are you kidding me? What if I can't find this safe postition again? What if I can't reach the bucket hold? And what if I FALL!?

"I can see the grass growing! Wake me up if you decide to move!"

Yeah, thanks for the encouragement..

Out loud I said something like, "Just let me enjoy the view for a little while!"

I'm above the tree tops. I'm sure the valley behind me looks spectacular
. (I wouldn't know. If I looked over my shoulder I'd probably wrench myself off of my precarious perch)

"Seriously, what's the worse that could happen?"

"Um, I could FALL, duh!"

"Then I would catch you. I'm not gonna let you hit the ground."

Oh yeah, duh.

One finger at a time I released the ledge from the death grip I held on it and moved my right hand up, slowly shifting my weight, slowly stretching, reaching and balancing until finally, I wasn't stuck anymore.

I've learned a lot of things while rock climbing. That day I learned that sometimes when I'm not going anywhere I just need to let go.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Moment....

The little girls are running in and out, hopping over my feet each time they pass by. Snippets of lively conversations waft through the house along with three different songs being sung as my family is getting ready for church. One sister cooks up eggs and wise relationship advice for a brother simultaneously.

The adventures of yesterday are being discussed in the living room along with plans for today, happenings over the past week and politics are coming from a bedroom. I'm tuning into each conversation as much as I can, I love just being here. In this moment, in this place. This is where I was meant to be, where I want to be... right here, right now.

"What other people think of you shouldn't matter at all! Why are you trying to get approval? You know what you did, and that should be enough."

"The straw poll in Iowa...Ron Paul....."

"What's the percentage... one and a quarter....fifteen....calculator"

"What? Oh, I know... that's a good question.."

Two sisters caught up with each other and are now singing the same Bruno Mars song.

"You can count on me like one, two, three...I'll be there!"

I don't want to leave this moment. I don' t want it to end. Of course it will though. Everything has to have an end, except... an attitude. A spirit of thanksgiving. Peace and joy, a spirit of blessedness... The moment will end maybe already has, but I realize that I can take these with me always.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The girl in 651 B

I did it. I stopped the car. Driving through the alley behind our shop after office hours, I stopped for the barefoot girl crouched against the wall, tears streaking her face.

I can count on one hand the times I've stopped the car to help someone, and I'm ashamed at the countless time's I've just kept driving. I don't know how this girl was any different. Maybe I stopped because I'd just come from Papa's funeral and wanted to be more like him, always helping people, always loving people and always serving God.

She told me that she was okay, but thanks for asking. She was just arguing with her boyfriend. Her face was bleeding and raw, but she convinced me that it was a chemical burn from a faulty skin care product.

And she thanked me for caring, for being different. "People just don't stop anymore. They don't care about other people. Thank you for caring."

That hit so deep. She treated me like I was a saint or a guardian angel or something, but I only stopped on an impulse. I couldn't look her in the eye and mumbled something to the effect of, "Of course I care!"

After visiting for about 5 minutes, she told me that she lived in the shop with her boyfriend, said she was there all the time and urged me to stop by anytime.

I don't deserve her invitation, her regard. I don't deserve her friendship.

Lord, thank you for the girl in 651B. Thank you for using her to show me what I snob I am. Help me to listen to Your promptings and be willing to step out of my comfort zone, to stop the car and get involved. And help me to do it for You or for the people You created, but never to for myself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flat line

My walk is filled with a lot of highs and lows and a lot more of plateaus and I think I fear the plateaus the most, because when I'm in a spiritual low at least I know where I am. One good thing about being at rock bottom is that the only place to look is up, but my plateaus last for weeks at a time, when I'm not stumbling, falling, crashing and burning, but I'm not growing and stretching upward either. For weeks at a time I'm just sort of existing in these plateaus. I despise them.

Life is so short. How can I dare to waste it away like I do? If my soul is flat lined, I'm dead. My heart is still beating, but I'm not living at all.

10,000 feet in the air and climbing. The clouds rush by and the seat-belt light is still on. No wonder I'm thinking about the mortality of man in comparison to the immortality of God.

I've seen God this week. I've seen His love, reaching out, pouring over His people, saturating them and flowing out of their hands and hearts. I've seen His handiwork, beautiful sunrises, all manner of creatures, the miracle of life, magnificent landscapes and the ugly beautiful. I've seen His heart while reading through His word. His incredible mercy, unfailing love, unsearchable works.

I've broken through the plateau. My soul is soaring, climbing, leaping and rejoicing. I've taken the dare to life life to it's fullest, whatever that may involve.

I've been feasting my soul. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled!" I've been filled. What an amazing feeling.

I've been filled, yet I thirst for more. To know Him more, to love Him more, to serve Him in everything that I do. It's a paradox, really, being filled and hungry at the same time. I love it.

When I consider what I deserve in comparison to what I have I stand in awe. My gifts journal is filling up fast. I'm well on my way to 1000, and I won't be able to stop there.

"When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His, doesn't all become a gift?"

- Ann Vooskamp

My life is a gift. Every moment I'm alive is grace. What can I do but praise You?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday afternoon

So its time for a nap. Today's my last day on the farm, and I'm sad to be leaving, but happy to be going home. I miss my family like crazy.

I miss my dad's wisdom and insight. I miss sharing things I'm discovering in the Word with him. I miss listening to him talk, sing, play the guitar or whatever.

I miss my mom's counsel and advice. I miss cooking with her, talking with her, listening to her, working out with her and hugging her.

I haven't seen my oldest sister in months! I miss her family like crazy! My nephew is talking now, I've been told.

I miss the other married siblings, but I'm used to missing them. I can't wait to see them all when I get home!

I miss my oldest brother and his passion and dedication. I miss his piano playing too!

My sisters at home are my very best friends, and I miss them so much. I miss waking up and seeing their beautiful faces. I miss working with them, playing with them, talking with them, drinking coffee with them, and fighting with them.

The three little girls are such precious jewels! I miss their antics, their giggles and watching them grow up and discover life. They keep smiles on all our faces.

My manly, exuberant brothers, my pals, protectors and friends. They're all taller than me now. Even the youngest one. I miss looking up to see their faces. =) I miss their jokes.

I miss them all!

It's been an amazing week learning to be a farm girl. I've done things I never thought I would do, from milking a cow by hand to driving a tractor. I'm so grateful for the opportunity and the experience! (besides the fact that it was a ton of fun!)

Tomorrow I'll be boarding an airplane to fly home. I'm excited about that, because I love flying. Even by myself.

I'm excited to spend a week with all my brothers and sisters at home, because that doesn't happen very often!

I'm excited to see what the future holds, because I know the One who holds the future.

Oh, and I'm excited to see the 180Movie which is coming out tomorrow on their website, www.180movie.com. Check it out if you get a chance!

"Let no man despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."

That verse has been talking to me all day. =) Alright. Nap time is over. I'm gonna go wash milk buckets.

Sunrises
Hymns
Pete and Re-Pete
Sunday mornings
Guitars
Family
The legacy that Papa left
Grace that is greater than all my sin
Raw Milk
Rainy mornings
The heart of God
Learning more about Him
Tall trees
Warmth
The smell of clean laundry

These are a few of my favorite things.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"we can cry with hope, say goodbye with hope..."

So many thoughts are tumbling through my mind right now. My "Papa" passed from life into glory yesterday.

He was a story-book type of grandpa. I'll never forget the way he would make time to play with us, to chase us around the yard, to let us "climb -the-mountain" and then swing us down.

He'd mow his lawn with an old fashioned push-mower, letting us "help" push it up the hill, and then share his diet coke with us, as a treat. To this day, diet coke is one of the only sodas I like.

I'll never forget the way his beard tickled my ear when he'd whisper secrets. Sometimes it was a silly tongue twister, but often it was, "Never forget, Papa loves you very very much."

When I was 3 we moved into the house next-door to Papa and Grandma. Those twelve years were such a gift! I got to know my grandparents for who they really were. Whenever Papa would go anywhere we'd wait in anticipation for his return. We'd run down the street and flag down his car, which he would then let us "drive" home. (Until we were too big to sit on his lap and squeeze beneath the steering wheel.

In Papa and Grandma's house there's a sign over the dining-room. It says "All because two people fell in love..." Eleven children, forty-five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. The last time I saw Papa, he pointed out that sign to me, (he was so proud of it, and pointed it out at least once per visit) and said, "Look what the Lord did!"

His last few weeks were spent in and out of the hospital. He declined really fast. The last few days his speech was so garbled nobody could understand him, but he continued to tell story after story, to beam with joy when his kids and grand-kids were around, and to tell us that he loved us.

I've been so privileged, so blessed, so joy-filled! Without hope, there can't be any joy, but I have hope. More than hope, I have faith. I know I will see him again.

Papa, I'll never forget. And I love you too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Jesus is the Rock of my salvation, His banner over me is love!"

7:45 am, and this song is playing over and over in my head. All I wanna do is snuggle down into the blankets where its warm, but it's time to wake up, get up, get dressed and start my first day as a real farm girl.

See, I'm a total city girl, born and bred. But when my brother married a girl from Central Oregon and her 8 year old friend knew more about everything there is to know than I did, I decided it was time to expand my horizons. That's the nutshell version, and here I am, spending ten days with my sister-in-law's family on their farm.

It's a beautiful day today. 9:45 am, and the cows are milked, the calf bottle fed, (yep, that was me) the milking barn scrubbed down and breakfast cleaned up. The dishwasher is humming in the background, and the sun is shining. There's still a lot more work to be done today, and even more before the week is out.

Life is beautiful. God is all powerful, perfectly just, and full of mercy. His goodness is more than I can imagine. Jesus IS the Rock of my salvation, His banner over me is love. Yep, life is beautiful. You know that saying, "stop and smell the roses?" Well, sometimes I just need to stop and smell life.

We've gotta sort and clean the garlic harvest, but first I get to finish my coffee. =)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just for fun....

I was sitting in at the school table yesterday, studying on my own while my sister was teaching. She started passing out plot cards for a writing assignment, and it looked like fun! I asked her if I could have some,

My character was "sea horse", the characteristic was "moody". The setting was "in the toy box", and my plot was, "a secret tunnel". I had ten minutes, and this is what I came up with. =)

It was 9pm, toy box time when Danny, the moody little sea horse finished his tea and laid down his book.

"Ahh!!" he sighed, stretching out his tail. "Maybe I should go to bed. Or maybe I should stay up later. Who knows? I might miss something exciting if I go to bed! But I might wanna get up early if I stay up late!"

Too many choices and decisions clouded his rubber mind until he kicked over the Barbie chair he had been sitting in.

"UGH! Why'd I do that? Now I have to pick it back up or Barbie will know I was using her chair, and Ken will come beat me up. And I don't even have any hands to pick it up with!"

Life is tough for sea horses. They're the bottom of the food chain in the underwater world they were meant to live in, and even lower down in the toy box. Life is even tougher for moody little sea horses. Most the sea horses in the toy box had already accepted the fact that life was hard and moved on. Instead of dwelling on the fact that their lives were harder than some, they chose to be thankful that they had lives to start with. They were happy little rubber creatures. All except Danny, who had yet to learn this valuable lesson.

As he stood next to the overturned chair he remembered something the wise old jack-in-the box used to tell him. He could almost hear the old guy's voice reminding him, "Danny, you can't see the bigger picture, so just enjoy the moment."

"Man, I miss that guy! I wish he hadn't gone to the Children's hospital!" All of the sudden he caught himself. "...but I bet the kids there need him more than we do!"

"What a difference that makes! jack-in-the box was right! So... living in the moment...my moment right now involves this upside-down chair, and one hand-less sea-horse. (that would be me!)"

Being a moody sea horse had left Danny with a lonely sort of life, and he had gotten in the habit of talking to himself lately.

"No use staring at it! That won't help one bit. Neither will getting frustrated, obviously, since that's what got me into this mess in the first place."

He lowered his nose to the floor, sliding it gently under the back of the chair, and slowly started to lift. "What in the world? What's this on the floor!?"

After righting the chair, he bent back down for a closer look. Sure enough! It a button. Slowly, he pressed it with his nose, and a section of the floor slid away reavealing a secret tunnel....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wisdom from a Cherokee

An old Cherokee told his grandson, "My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, & ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, & truth."

The boy thought about it then asked, "Grandfather, which wolf wins?"

The old man quietly replied, "The one you feed.




"Since, then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God... Put to death, therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry."

I've been so careful lately about what I've been feeding my body, and dieting has been really good for me, but what about the things I'm feeding my soul?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Who we are...

My family is made up of fourteen children, three in-laws, two grand-kids and of course, Mom and Dad. We're a total of 21 souls making up one unit, living in four different households, pursuing fifty-eight different dreams.

We're all individually unique, and similar at the same time, but no two of us are the same. We each have different tastes, likes and dislikes, passions, beliefs and drives.

One brother loves politics, while another obsesses about sports, and another family member strongly dislikes both subjects. We don't always get along, but we always love each other. Truly, we do.

One thing we all have in common, is that we all like to do things with each other. Anything, whether it's work or play, becomes a fun adventure when you add a couple brothers and sisters to the mix! I'm not exaggerating on this one. We've had some of the best times doing dishes together, or scrubbing 2500sq ft of old hardwood floors, or camping in the rain, or getting stranded when the bus broke down. (yes, we have a bus)

On any given day at our house you're bound to find a couple of us surfing, swimming, scuba diving, skateboarding, singing, snoring, snacking, doing sit-ups, sacrificing, sauteing, scolding, scheduling, shopping, scheming, scrutinizing, self-destructing, sewing, shouting, studying or shuffling. Some of us will be doing two or three of these at the same time

We are a family, just like any other. There's no magic formula that made us who we are, just blood, sweat and lots of tears. (and lots more spankings) My parents deserve all the credit for anything positive that any of us do, and take no responsibility for the stupid things. (Unless the stupid ones are under 18)

I've done nothing to deserve this beautiful gift God has blessed me with. I take it all for granted every day, and I wanna change that.

And we have random dance parties in the kitchen on a regular basis.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

School starts...

School will be in session this morning at our house, for the first time since spring. The anticipation zings through the air like an electrical current, affecting each in different ways. Some light up like light bulbs, others snap like static charged socks.

Oh yeah... this is home. Where I belong.

I was always thrilled about school starting for the first couple of weeks. It gave me a sense of purpose and belonging. A responsibility that was all my own. I'm sitting here wishing I could be a part of that again.

Somehow it's different now, being on the outside, just observing. My younger sister has charge of the household, and for me to butt my head in and try to take part would just undermine her authority that she works so hard to maintain.

While I miss being a part of the yearly ritual of "school", the chance to impart my small bit of knowledge on to my younger siblings, to watch them grow and mature every day, I have some separate responsibilities all my own. I'm grateful for the trust my parents have bestowed on me with the responsibility they gave me, and I hope to do my very best with it.

So why is it that what someone else has always looks better? Maybe I just like the thought of staying home every day. =)

Oh well. =) I'll trust that God's plan for my life is better than mine, and go get ready for work.

"Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, Your justice like the great deep... For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light." - Psalm 36

Monday, September 5, 2011

These things make me smile...

"I am grateful for what I am and have.
My thanksgiving is perpetual...
O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches.
No run on my bank can drain it
for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment."

-Henry David Thoreau

#202. Smelling coffee, even if I'm not drinking it.
#203. Foreign languages
#204. Waking up to a magnificent thunderstorm
#205. Smelling the rain
#206. Listening to my sister tell a story
#207. Visiting Papa and Grandma last night
#208. Family, who are "forever" friends
#209. Cozy mornings, curled up on the couch
#210. Dreaming.
#211. Earl grey tea.

"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy."

- Brother David Steindl-Rast

Friday, September 2, 2011

So I'm senile...

There's so much to be learned from elderly people. So many life lessons, bits of wisdom, awesome stories and tips of the trade. Lets face it. They've been around a lot longer than us, and have so much to teach the next generations, if only we would take the time to wait for them to get the words out.

We've been going to an assisted living facility every week for the past 15 years and while the names and faces have changed through the years, the people are the same.

From the scary looking grouchy old man who melts into smiles at a hug from a little one, to the embittered old lady who is rotting in a pool of misery, to the flirting, giggling, bouncy gal who's lipstick is always just a touch too bright.

There's always the sweet grandmotherly types, the few whose children still come around at least once a week, the one's who've completely lost their memory's, but are just as happy as could be, and the one's whose minds are sharp as a whip and you wonder why they live there at all.

Some love the feeling of independence, some have no other place to go. All have lived through the Great Depression and most through two world wars. All have lost many loved ones. Some have outlived their entire families, including their children. Yet, the prevailing attitude is a positive one. What do they have to smile about? Oh yeah. They're STILL HERE!

I can learn so much from them.

I was visiting my sister-in-law last week, and we had each other rolling on the floor laughing, relating silly stories some of the residents at Villa Colima had told us, often three times in a row.

There's one dear lady who asks me every 4 minutes if I'm married, and when I tell her I'm not, she recommends that I go to Deadwood, South Dakota because back in the day in Deadwood there were 200 men to every woman. One Sunday, as soon as the church service was over, I turned to her and beat her to the punch, asking her if she was married. She wasn't, and I gave her the same advice. She was shocked!

"How did you know?!"
"Oh, it's the word on the street!"

Not more than two minutes later, she interrupted herself to ask me yet again if I was married. =)

I'm kind of senile too. Especially about the lessons I learn. And the mistakes I make. Over and over again. Some days it frustrates me. I feel like I'm beating my head against a wall, and getting nowhere. (Well, that would be obvious... Beating my head against a wall really would get me nowhere)

But seriously, I hope I can learn from my friends at Villa Colima, and be cheerful about my limitations. 'Cause my attitude is the only thing I have control over, and it makes all the difference in the world. =)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Keepers of the Faith.

Thursday nights were hot-dog nights at our house. Because hot-dogs were quick and easy to clean up. By 7pm, the vans would start rolling up our street and the families piling out. It was a diversified group, not all being homeschooled, not all being big families, different ethnic backgrounds, different walks of life. The common denominator being that all loved Jesus.

"Keepers of the Faith" was a huge part of my childhood. It was like a homeschoolers version of boy-scouts. Partially for socialization, partially for the purpose of learning valuable skills.

The families would all gather in our living room for a quick devotion and we'd sing our song as a group before splitting up to work on whatever skill we were learning that month.

We learned about all kinds of things from decoupage to baking to camping, knot tying and embroidery. (The 'knots' badge was meant for the boys, so even though we learned it, Mom wouldn't let us girls get it. She didn't let my brother get an 'embroidery' badge either.)

It was more than 12 years ago, but I still remember every word of the club song. It was playing through my head when I woke up this morning.

I want to be faithful! I want to be true!
I want to be faithful, in all that I do!
I want to be faithful through every test.
I want to be faithful. I'll give Him my best.

I think I've been depending on His faithfulness too much lately. I've done things I know I shouldn't, knowing that He's faithful to forgive me. When I'm claiming His forgiveness before I do something, you'd think that would be a red flag. And it is a red flag, but I've ignored it more than I'd like to admit.

Who knew that a song I learned as a kid could come back and convict me?

I ought to be faithful to Him. I don't deserve His goodness, His faithfulness or His love, yet He continues to give it. The only way I can repay it is to give Him my life.

I want to live for Jesus,
I want to please God's Son.
If He has found me faithful
I'll hear Him say 'Well done!'

I want to be faithful...I want to be true.

I'm praying that same prayer this morning that I prayed 100 times when I was a kid.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm starting over today.

"It's your life, whatcha gonna do?
The world is watching you!
Every day the choices you make
Are telling what you are and who your heart beats for..."

It started much like every morning starts... The gentle buzz of my alarm. Sharing a bedroom with six sisters causes me to use my cell-phone alarm, set only on vibrate. Using my cell phone alarm set only on vibrate is way too convenient. It barely wakes me up, and I can turn it off without opening my eyes.

"Every day the choices you make..."

"But it's been a long weekend, and I was up late.. It's okay to sleep a couple more minutes."

Or hours... By the time I woke up again, the morning was gone. There was no reason to get out of bed. Eventually I did. Eventually you just have to.

Making the choice that was convenient and felt good at the time quickly became the theme of my day. I'd already slept through my quiet time time, and at our house that hour of quiet only comes once a day.

Frustrated with myself and determined to make good, I wrote a list to work off of while I ate my breakfast, and started prioritizing the items on the list.

"Yep, I can turn a lazy day into a productive one! Just watch!"

Yeah right! I think that resolve lasted two hours. Choice after choice came up, and I continued to make the convenient-for-the-moment choices.

"Hmm.. Get up and clean the kitchen? Or continue to chill on facebook? Well.. I didn't mess up the kitchen.... that was someone else."


All day, the choices I made proved who I was, and who my heart beat for. I was serving myself the whole entire day. The funny thing is, there was no feeling of satisfaction. The more I served myself, the more I felt the need to do more things for me. When ten o'clock rolled around I went to bed disappointed in myself and unfulfilled.

My life is not my own, and I know that this morning. Today I'm thankful for His mercies, renewed with every sunrise. My life is what He's given to me, and I want to give it back to Him. I tried the alternative, and hoarding it for myself didn't work out to well.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A picture is worth a thousand words. =)

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What if I lived in Pakistan?

What if I lived in a place where I needed God's intervention just to survive through the day? What if I was forced to search for him like a dying man in a desert searches for water? What if I could recognize that He is my rock, my fortress and deliverer? What if my way of life constantly reminded me that everything I am and everything I have is only because He gives it to me?

Would I fret about the same sort of things? Would I worry about anything? Would anything matter to me?

What if my faith was put to the test like it is for Christians on the other side of the globe? What would happen? How would I respond?

What if I was stripped of everything I have, everything I surround myself with to make me comfortable? My family, my job, my lifestyle... Would I still be the same person?

I wish I could answer yes. The right answer is yes. "Who I am doesn't change depending on where I am or the things I surround myself with. I'm rooted and grounded in Christ, so circumstances don't matter." I wish I could answer yes.

I DO live in a place where I need God's intervention to survive. And I take it for granted. I AM a dying man, thirsting for Him. And I don't recognize the water when He gives it. He IS my rock, fortress and deliverer. And I don't run to Him. I don't hide in Him. I run out and try to fight my own battles, get myself slaughtered and then crawl back to Him so that He can patch me up. (Which of course, He does, over and over again.)

What if? I want my answer to be yes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Practicing Pro-activity

This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."

I'm no English major, (In keeping with my honest/full-disclosure policy, I'm really no anything major. The only reason I didn't flunk out of high-school is because I was the only one in my class) but it seems like there's a lot of verbs in that sentence. "Stand...look...ask...ask...walk... and you will find rest"

The Lord wants me to be active. Actively seeking. Active in my pursuit of knowledge of Him and my searching out the right way, and actively following it.

I grew up in a Christian home. My dad is a pastor. My parents routinely counsel other people in our home. My six older siblings are all pursuing a relationship with Christ. My Grandparents on both sides are Christians. I prayed the "sinner's prayer" by the time I was four years old, and rededicated my life to Christ when I was nine. If that doesn't make me a Christian, what does?

To me, "Christian" means "follower of Christ." (There's an action word again.)

That verse I typed at the beginning of this post? I didn't write the whole thing. There's a really sad part at the end. It says: "But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'"

Not, "We will not look," or "We can't see the good way." They knew the right paths to follow and wouldn't walk in them.

I'm in danger of doing that very same thing every day of my life. I know the right way. In my head I could tell you all the right answers without batting an eye. If you ask me what's the best part of my day, I can rattle off an answer like, "Grace!" or "God's unfailing love!" when in reality, your question (or rather, my thinking about the answer) was the first time God had crossed my mind all day.

Israel knew the right way. They continued to do the sacrifices and to send burnt offerings, but their hearts weren't tuned toward the Lord.

I know the right way. I continue to go to church and read my bible every morning, but throughout my day? My heart isn't tuned toward the Lord. Someone in tune with the Lord doesn't snap at their brother for leaving a mess in the kitchen.

I can pray, "Lord, help me seek you, help me live in your presence every moment of the day, help me see you in the little things as well as the big ones! Teach me to do these things" But what's the point if I'm not being proactive about it?

Ask anyone who's learned anything. The best way to learn is to start practicing. And keep practicing, even when you're not good at it.

I'm going to take action today.

I should probably start with that mile-long to-do list that Mom gave us last night... wash windows, pressure wash house, you name it, it needs to be cleaned. =)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Harsh words and the workplace. (This is not a rant)

I was getting a lot done on a Monday morning. Cruising along, being productive, checking things off my list. Don't quote me on this, but diligence is like exercise, producing happy endorphins. For me anyways.

By 10 in the morning, I had so much happiness flowing I didn't know what to do with it.... until I got to the office and opened my email. BAM. Happy endorphins gone.

See, just like Paul the apostle, I have a thorn in the flesh. It's this lady who works for a general contractor that we work under sometimes. (We're a sub of a sub of a sub, and therefore should never have to deal with the general)

She threatens me, badgers me, demands ridiculous amounts of paperwork, threatens some more and makes more demands, all without the courtesy of a please or a thank-you. She's basically mean.

I give her the run around every-time, and nothing makes me happier than telling her I won't be complying with her demands since my contract isn't with her.

(Okay, I know my attitude towards her isn't right, but I'm being honest here.)

Anyways, happy Monday! Here's another email to ruin my day. It was ugly, telling me that she was going to report me to the state (the job is at a public school) because I was late at sending her something I had promised to send.

I quick-fired off a reply.

(ENTER NAME HERE), I put the original letter in the mail personally. I don't know what else to do. I don't know why you play such a hard nose jerk with me. My contract is not with you. Go ahead and mail a non-compliant letter. I'm on good terms with the compliance company, so I'm not at all worried. But even if we get in trouble, it would be a relief. I'd rather not ever have to work with you or your company again.

Have a wonderful day.

My finger was itching on that send button, let me tell you.

I sent it to my brother instead, and tried again.

(ENTER NAME HERE), I was out of town for my brother's wedding when the letter came in, so I didn't get to it until a week later. My apologies. I should have sent you an email when I dropped it in the mail last week. And I should have responded to your last email so that you knew I wasn't ignoring you! Sorry about that!

Anyways. It is in route. You should see it in today's mail.

Proverbs 15:1 says that a soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up strife. Even if the other person has already started in with the harsh words, it takes two to fight. (That's what mom always told me anyways, when I gave her the "it's not my fault, he started it!" routine.)

Ten minutes later I got an email back from the lady.

Thank you so much! I totally understand. I hope you're having a great week!

Lesson learned. (Until next time, anyways)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why I dive..

Getting up early is hard to start with. Getting myself out of my cozy bed on a cold foggy Sunday morning to go to the beach? No way! When my alarm went off I was thinking up excuse after excuse, trying to find one viable enough to run by Dad. None of them were, so I ended up dragging myself out of bed.

"Diving dehydrated is dangerous" I reminded myself, looking longingly at the coffee pot as I passed through the kitchen. I fixed myself a shake instead and we headed out the door.

It was almost 7:30 by the time we got to the beach, and the 50 minute drive peppered with deep, thoughtful discussion had finally woke me up. (or else my internal clock had finally caught up?) Either way, by the time we hit the sand, I was ready to go. We scouted the surf for a few minutes, timing the sets, judging their size and strength to plan out entry accordingly before we headed back up the hill to the truck.

Getting in and out of the ocean through a shore-break isn't really a big deal. It's the 60+lbs of gear and the 1/2 inch thick neoprene suit we wear that makes it complicated. For me, anyways. I don't like being tossed around in the shore-break like some beach ball.

Wetsuit, booties, hood, gloves, buoyancy compensator, weights, tank, regulator, dive computer and dive knife on, mask and fins in hand, we hike back down to the beach, not stopping until we hit the water. The water feels so good by this point! (Here's the advantage of planning your entry ahead of time.) =)

Kicking out to the middle of the bay, we drop down and cruise over to the reef. Sometimes this is my favorite part of a dive. The sandy bottom is like a barren desert wasteland at first glance. You have to slow down and look again. A puff of sand, and I see a baby turbit burying itself. A set of eyes, part of a mouth, and I unearthed a ten inch halibut. A second glance at a little stick and it's a stingray's stinger. (I didn't try to get that guy to show itself)

It's been awhile since I've been diving, and even longer since I've been back to this spot. A year ago, the reef was dying off, if not already dead. I'm no marine biologist, but anyone could tell you that. Covered with empty shells, no plants, no fish, no coral and way too many sea urchins. Maybe what made this dive so fantastic was that I had low expectations. When we got to the reef, a horde of fish came out to greet us. Even before we started feeding them. Garibaldi, blacksmith, senorita's and surf perch. Looking up at the reef, I wasn't sure if we were in the right place. It was covered in live coral, teeming with life, decorated with beautiful flora and vivid color.

Did you know that sunlight can't filter all the way through water? You start to lose color and light the deeper you go. At 20 feet deep, you lose the color red, 30 feet, orange, 40 feet, yellow, 50 feet, green, etc.. until down at 80 feet where everything turns into a purplish gray color.

Being down here, cruising along at 30 feet, all of the sudden it's worth it. Worth getting up at 6 on a Sunday. Worth the back pain from hauling the gear. Worth losing sleep. Worth being tired all day. Worth all the work of getting ready, and later, cleaning up. All of creation truly testifies God's power, His goodness and order, His plans, His love. Even the tiny purple guys who live in the coral tubes with the many antennae, reaching them up toward the sunlight, toward heaven.

When you're down at 80+ feet where everything turns into an ugly purplish gray color and you turn on a flashlight, all the brilliance returns. All those colors, those beautiful designs, those perfect formations, all down there where no one can see them.

"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
Revelations 4:11

Well, almost no one, anyways.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Counting...

I started a new list of gifts a couple days ago, after losing my first one. I was tired of being bummed out about losing my phone, and decided it was time to move on.

Seriously, I'd forgotten how much fun gratefulness is! The more I list the God-gifts I'd been given, the more I could see more gifts.

I don't know if it necessarily changed my life, this list thing, but it's definitely changed my perspective of my life.

#28. Running and working out with my friends
#29. Siblings who are my friends
#30. Water-sports with Dad.
#31. Balsamic vinegar and sharp cheddar cheese.
#32. Michael's smile

I've taken too much for granted in my life and I'm ready to change that. I'm up to 53 after two days of counting, and the number just keeps climbing higher.

"Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in every-thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just ask.

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

The four of us were huddled around a dying campfire, singing, talking, laughing and trying to keep the wet firewood burning. A drippy wet fog was rolling in off the ocean, enveloping the campground, dressing the whole coast in a shroud. It had been an amazing, almost unreal day, and we had seen God answer a simple prayer so powerfully. We were discussing it between bouts of coughing from playing human bellows, pinching ourselves to make sure we weren't dreaming, and singing His praise in four part harmonies.

"If faith as big as a mustard seed can move mountains, my faith must be minuscule."

"Is that talking about literal mountains?"

"Maybe the reason we don't see mountains move is because we don't ask. Scripture says that we have not because we ask not."

"Why don't I ask for things more?"

Our faith was so small, we were so small, but our God so big. I think we were starting to grasp that on some level. Isn't there a saying about 'the more you seek the more you find'? I'm not sure.

It's hard to describe the feeling of wonder, watching the sunset over the ocean where brilliant colors are painted across the sky and the water as far as the eye can see, knowing that it was created by the Master, wondering who were are that He visits us and cares for us, realizing that He has made us a little lower than the angels.

And there we were, around the sad excuse for a fire, our souls warmed and fed to overflowing, our bodies just fed, our minds trying hard to catch up and process what our eyes had seen.

Why don't I ask for things more?

"So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you...If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Contentment or laziness?

I've been mulling over the difference between contentment and laziness a lot lately. There's definitely a difference, but I think I confuse the two. Or use contentment as an excuse for laziness. Not just in my work, but in my life, in my walk with God and in my relationships.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."

I was driving around town today in my brother's truck, relishing how familiar everything seemed after being out of town for a week, singing along to the song running through my head. "Yeah, this is home! And I'm finally where I belong..."

The thought struck me that wherever I am, I can call it home. I can be grounded and rooted anywhere because I'm grounded and rooted in Christ. If this place is where God has me at the moment, this is home, and I'm happy to be here.

That's what contentment is. It's recognizing that this here-and-now is what God has for me, and thanking Him for it. Unfortunately I tend to underestimate God. I decide that the here-and-now is all there is, because I'm too lazy to look for more, and then I tell myself I'm doing a good thing by being content.

God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, and sadly I haven't been very diligent. Even still, He continues to bless my socks off! He's so good to me.

But I have to ask myself, are my attempts being content crippling me from living to my full potential in Christ?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Change is a gift.

These are the moments I don't ever want to end. I'm sitting next to my brother two days before his wedding. We're working, side by side. Some things will never change, and some have already changed. He'll still be my brother, my co-worker and my boss. But it won't be the same. As to where his focus is, that's been gone for a long time now. I guess the only thing that changes this weekend is his legal marital status.

Change is a gift, and I need to realize it. Sometimes change is painful and scary. I still wish things would go on the same, even while I'm reaping in the blessings of 'Change'. I've seen it first hand and personal. It's scarred me, made me stronger, and brought me some of my greatest joys in life. Its made me laugh, and made me cry. The thing is, I can't know which its going to do, so I just resist all of it.

God brings about change in my life to benefit me and bless me and also to wear me down and mold me into something usable and something beautiful. Obviously the Artist (God) can't cut the diamond (me) without causing discomfort, but if He doesn't use the grinder, I'll never become a beautiful gem.

I can't expect to say a prayer and be a sparkling jewel. The Master saw me in the rough, chose me in the rough and loves me in the rough. As He teaches me how to love Him, I'll become more and more like Him. In His time. If I become antsy and jump ahead of the Master all I'll end up with are some chips and bruises that He'll heal and restore and start beautifying me all over again.

There's two ways for each story to end. One with me kicking and screaming all the way, fighting God and His plan because I'm afraid of the future, and one with me trusting Him, resting in Him and delighting in Him. Either way, the change still happens.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What a wonderful day.

My family got here at 4am. It's so happy with them here! The happiness level was already over the top.. It's off the charts now.

What a wonderful morning this has been! Making muffins with my soon-to-be sister, drinking coffee with her mom, reading Psalms, being thankful. Funny thing, this thankfulness.. the more thankful I am, the happier I am.. The happier I am, the more I have to be thankful for. What a vicious never ending cycle, huh?

We're going white-water rafting today. I'm sorta apprehensive.. I've never been before. But this is the week of trying new things for me, and anyways, I'll be thankful for the experience. =)

God is so good. I'm overwhelmed with His goodness to me right now. I just may cry. Or burst out singing. Either one.

"Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." Psalms 107

Okay, I'm going to go bring the cows in. And get ready to go.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Back to School

It was late in the morning at the my house. All the kids were working on their schoolwork, the volume level down to a dull roar. My little sisters working on reading aloud, the older little sisters working quietly on other subjects. I had the privilege and opportunity of teaching my younger brother about multiplying fractions. Again. For the third time that week, and it was only Tuesday.

My patience was really wearing thin. I began to wonder if he was hitting his head every night when he went to bed, causing his memory from the day to be erased. Or maybe he had some phenomenal mental condition that caused his memory to reset when he slept. (That idea may or may not have come from a movie.)

I explained it the same way I had yesterday that caused the light to click on for him and nothing happened. I tried over and over again, coming up with different ways every time, still nothing. Eventually I got frustrated, he reflected my attitude, and we were done for the day. There was no chance of getting anything else done. The moment I ran out of patience, school was over.

So yesterday I was thinking how neat it was that each morning God has given me something different to write about, until I read over the titles and headlines of my posts. I end up learning the same lessons over and over again. I'm like so much like my little brother in that way. Maybe it's genetic.

The difference is, my Teacher is full of grace. His patience never wears thin and He doesn't get frustrated with me. I walk away from my devotions, (the school table) and forget everything I learned as soon as I get a chance to put it into practice. He doesn't throw a fit, (not to say that I threw fits at my brother, of course) =) or give up on me.

His mercies are new every morning. I think that's my favorite promise from God's word. I hope I can remember this if I get the opportunity to teach my little brother again. (Who is now taller than me, and probably doing more advanced math than I could ever keep up with) =)

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's a good day.


The earliest risers were getting a start on their day, making coffee, planning and talking, some softly, some not so much. I woke up to the bustle of another busy morning. It's a risk you have to take when sleeping on the couch. (Which sure beats trying to share a single bed, by the way!) =)

I'm a newly converted morning person, and part of that agreement with myself involved getting up before the rest of my family and enjoying an hour or so of peace and quiet with just my coffee, my bible and journal. (hmm.. and my laptop, and my blanket, and my cell phone.. I guess I'm not as low maintenance as I thought)

Everyone has their one thing that they need to have a good day though... whether it's a shower, a good night's sleep, a work out routine, breakfast, coffee, a uninterrupted quiet time. Whatever it is, the morning just isn't complete without it.

So I sit down at the table in the middle of the morning melee, pour a coffee, pull out my bible and hope my focused studious look says, "do not disturb".

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet."

Wow. How can I NOT be having an awesome morning after reading that? It's one of my favorite scriptures to think about, and no matter how long I ponder, I still can't wrap my mind around it. Try it. Next time you're standing in awe of God's creation, next time you're looking at the majesty of the mountains or the splendor of the sunset, think about it.

Anyways.. back to this morning.. I was reading and realizing how silly I was being, needing an hour of quiet to have a good morning! Randomly I remembered a quote I read on a friends blog a couple weeks ago.

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it."

It rang so true! The right attitude can turn a negative situation into a positive one, and a wrong attitude can turn a positive situation into a negative one. Since the difference is all in the attitude, and my attitude is my choice, why am I not having a good day every day of my life!?

Today is a good day!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked." Psalms 97

This verse jumped off the page to me this morning... I'm not quite sure why. Have I blurred the line between loving evil-doers and hating evil? I wonder if the whole, "tolerance-so-as-not-to-offend-and-destroy-my-witness" idea is such a good method after all. It's caused me to accept evil as the norm, instead of judging everything to God's holy standard.

So how do I judge evil and not the person? How do I love the people and not accept the sin? Is this the way God loves me? I know that He knows my heart, (which is desperately wicked. It really is. I'm not just quoting scripture here.) And I know He loves me.

"Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts..." -Amos something..

Can I love a person for the good in them, and hate their sin? If I love God, I have to hate evil. Most the time I can't even see the good in people anyways.

I don't even know if any of this makes sense, but it's definitely something I will be thinking about today.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dumplings...

I walked up the street to our neighbors house one afternoon. My younger sister tutors their two kids every morning and teaches their two cousins to speak English in the afternoon. We were wanting to go to the mall to spend some quality sister time, but we had to return the English students before we left.

The girls skipped and ran all the way up the street, laughing and dancing, scooping up leaves to watch them flutter in the wind, and giggling like crazy at their own private jokes.

We got to the front door and it burst open, the kids who had been left at home ecstatic about more playmates. Their mom greeted us at the door with a huge smile and beckoned us in. So much for just dropping the kids off and running off to shop!

In broken English she explained that she was making dumplings and had already made enough to send home for our family. She brought us into the kitchen because my sister had mentioned wanting to learn how to make them, and we ended up spending our afternoon making dumplings.

I'd never really met this family, and they welcomed me into their home with open arms, feeding me (very strange foods), sharing family recipes, trying to talk with me and mostly just smiling the brightest smiles you've ever seen.

While the kids played and the house got louder and louder, the grandparents woke up from their afternoon naps and wandered into the kitchen. They were so pleased (or amused) to see two American girls cooking Asian food that they asked if they could take our pictures. The grandma even complimented me on my work. I was sorta proud of that. =)

It really hit me how welcoming they were, even though they had just met me, and how loved I was, even though we didn't speak the same language. I was reminded of 1 Peter 4:8-10:

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of shortcomings. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling, even when the kids wake you from your nap. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."

(So, I may have paraphrased that a little bit..)

Who knew that I could be taught a lesson by someone I couldn't communicate with? I hope to be like them someday. =)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Everyday decisions...

Dad wandered through the house, looking for a carpool buddy. He had to drive out to Orange county to get Q-cell from a surf shop so he could finish fixing his board. Most of us older kids had just gotten home from work or whatever errands we had been doing.

We (well, I should speak for myself....) I kinda turned away, and didn't make eye contact with him. I was tired. I didn't feel like going out again. There was 45 minutes before it was time to start dinner, and those 45 minutes were my own.. to relax, read, facebook, take a nap.. whatever it would be, fighting traffic wasn't part of the equation.

Needless to say, he didn't get a buddy. I felt so selfish and horrible all at once, dropped my laptop on my bed, mumbled a direction about dinner prep to my sister and ran out the door, slipping into my sandals on my way. He was about ready to drive away when I got to the passenger window of his truck.

If I was embellishing the story for dramatic effect, I would tell you that his face lit up, and the sadness and loneliness faded away as soon as he saw me, but that's not my dad. He's a happy guy already.. He was all prepared to listen to his iPod and fellowship with the Lord for the whole drive.

I'm not sure if my conversation was animated or interesting enough of a replacement to the iPod. That part doesn't even matter. What does matter is that I realized that I've really missed my dad! I've been going and going and going for three weeks now, and I hadn't given him more than three minutes. (And two of those three minutes were all about me, of course.)

We ended up driving all the way out to the beach, as the first surf-shop was gone, and the second one didn't have what he was looking for. There was a contest going on at the beach and the crowds were ridiculous. We had to park at least 5 blocks away, and then got to stroll main street together.

Side by side, (or sometimes single-file) I was savoring the moment. I'm so thankful that I have a dad that I can truly look up to, in more ways than one. (He's over six feet tall) A dad who I can laugh with, make jokes with, trust with my life, or my secrets, and most definitely my heart. A dad who is what he says he is. There's no shadow of hypocrisy in my dad. What you see is what you get. He never laughs at me, or judges me. He also never smoothed things over for me.

Funny thing. I never felt like my split second decision was an act of self-lessness. Martyrs end up suffering for what they choose. I ended up so blessed and encouraged and thankful. I mean, really... 4 hours of one-on-one with Dad? Unless I had a guilty conscience, it would be a dream come true for a girl with 13 siblings.

I wonder how many other opportunities I miss because I think there's something else I'd rather do?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Goodbye, childhood.

My curly-haired older brother is quite a guy. I counted him among my two "best friends" when I was in my late teens. Mom and Dad say that he spoiled me.. Maybe he did, (okay, I know he did.) but he also invested countless hours into my life, talking me down from the edge of whatever trouble I had brought on myself, whatever tantrum I was about to throw, smoothing over whatever hurt I imagined myself to be inflicted with.

I knew that he would always pick up the phone when I called, if it was at all possible for him, and talk to me for hours. He always had time to listen to me, and then offer wise counsel. He never said what I wanted to hear, but somehow, the way he would deliver his message of, "you know the right thing to do, now grow up and do it." kept me running back to him to hear it again and again.

While he may have been spoiling me, I'm still grateful for all he did, always pointing my fingers back at myself, causing me to see the error of my ways without judging me. Let's face it. Nobody wants to be judged. Instead of saying what would make me happy in that moment, he would always point me towards the one Joy-Giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Dad and Mom asked him to stop spoiling me, I thought that the world was over. It was a critical turning point in my life, one I thought I would never recover from. (Being in my teens, everything that happened had an eternal effect, in my mind) I cried, yelled at him, cried to him, yelled at him some more, begged him... all to no avail.. he never stopped loving me, but it had to be from a distance.

I'm so grateful for the wisdom of my parents. I grew up a lot that next year. (I'm still growing up... probably will be until I'm forty...or older) I had alienated the rest of my siblings and friends while getting closer to my "best friends" and I suddenly found myself all alone, forced to turn to the the Friend who is closer than a brother. I wouldn't trade this budding relationship with Christ for anything in the world. Not even having my best friends back.

Anyways.. My brother continued to be wise and awesome and sweet, and eventually I stopped being angry with him for "abandoning me," and was able to see how wise, awesome and sweet he actually was. He's still on my best friend list, but then, so is everybody. =)

My big brother is getting married in a little over a week.

I'm sitting here staring at the above sentence, letting the reality sink in. I'll probably bawl my eyes out at the wedding. (or afterward) I'm so thankful that they will be mostly tears of joy. God has provided a perfect match for each of my siblings who've gotten married. I couldn't be happier for him and his soon-to-be-wife, (who was my friend long before she was his girlfriend). I thank God for bringing her into our lives, and for FINALLY opening my brothers eyes to be able to see her. =) She's a total jewel, and I love her.

Some tears will be for saying goodbye to that part of childhood. So, without further ado, "Goodbye, childhood. I have better things to do now.."

"I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death... Not that I have already attained all this, or have arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me... one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

I'm quoting Paul on this, because he says it so much better than I can. =)