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. =)


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mixed emotions...

"Wisdom"

"Compassion"

"Love"

"Gratefulness"

These were the answers to the question, "If you could increase/excel in any one thing, what would it be?" We were all sitting on the balcony soaking in evening breeze, discussing all sorts of things from "the scariest moment of your life" stories to "who's the best driver in your family?" All the stories had been heard before, and we knew all the answers to every question, but conversation is easier than silence.

The little girls were hyper after the chocolate milk and their giggles filled the pauses, along with the sound of crickets, frogs and sirens. Summer evenings have some kind of effect on me. Its the, "I don't want this moment to end" effect.

The moment does end, though. You can't stop the clock. Time marches on, and then you have to say goodbye, and I really don't like goodbye's.

Part of gratefulness is thanking God for the things we don't like, as in, saying goodbyes. I'm grateful that saying goodbye is sad. I'm grateful that I have people that I care about enough that I would miss them. I'm glad that I'm sad to say goodbye.

Monday, August 1, 2011

People are like Elephants...

It's hard to change who you are, and even harder to leave who you've been behind. The ugly face of ones past attitudes and actions tends to pop up unexpectedly to drag one back down with it. Or, not so unexpectedly, as people are like elephants, and tend to remember things longer than we'd like.

Family, as much as we love them, are the best at this. They've seen you at your worst, and know your full potential for evil. A bad reputation is the fastest thing one can earn, and along the way they must hurt or disappoint a lot of people. (In my case, mostly family members). Trust, on the other hand is the hardest thing I know of to build. It takes a lifetime and patience isn't my strong suit.

Maybe I'm not grieving over my sin enough? When I'm convicted, I take my shame to Jesus and He buries it. He casts it as far as the east is from the west! And then we get in the van to go to church, and somehow my little sister finds it and brings it up. Accusations fly, things heat up, defenses and walls are built and before you know it, I have more shame to carry to the cross. It's vicious. My siblings must be world travelers to find these things that Jesus has taken so far away!

Am I damaging my relationships with my siblings by believing that I'm free from my sin? Does it hurt them more? I could walk around with my head hung low in shame all day, but wouldn't that be a dis on God's forgiveness and cleansing power?

It's by grace I've been saved, not of myself. Not of works. If I walk around with my head held in shame, what does that say about God? I've been created for the praise of the glory of His grace. (Eph 1:6) The only way I can see of praising His grace is to believe it, and act in kind.

I don't know. Well, I do know, but I don' t know what to do, or how to heal the breach between me and (fill-in-the-blank). I love them and want to be loved and trusted by them, but my relationship with Jesus comes first and foremost.

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold." - Proverbs 22:1

I just wish I had realized the value of a good reputation before I built my bad one.