Monday, December 12, 2011

100 Joys: 10-18

10 - Spent a couple of hours catching up with my best friend last Thursday while we treated ourselves to manis and pedis.

11 - Date night with my hubby. Yummy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and some power shopping for Christmas gifts. As a bonus, we didn't have to pay a babysitter since all three girls were at a friend's birthday sleepover!

12 - Finally managed to get the house clean. That's no small feat when you have three messy children!

13 - Mark decided to stay home instead of going hunting!! we took the kids on our annual Christmas trip to the Bass Pro Santa Shop. The girls wrote letters to Santa {so sweet}. My youngest asked Santa for "snow outside." {Wonder if he'll deliver on that one?!} After the BPS, we ate dinner at Cracker of the girls' favorite places to eat...then visited my great niece for her birthday. While we were at my niece's house, we watched a little bit of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation {the greatest Christmas movie my opinion}.

14 - We found three strands of clear lights that we'd been searching for all over town! {Read more about it here.}

15 - I sat in the audience of my church choir's Christmas program this year instead of singing. It was great to be reminded of what the audience experiences when the hope of Jesus is shared through song.

16 - We hosted our Sunday School class Christmas party. {Read more about it here.}

17 - Listening to my girls sing Christmas songs along with the radio. During our afternoon running around, I had to stop and enjoy the season {and the Christmas carols} instead of rushing through it. Sometimes I want to rush through the busyness so I can enjoy times of rest. This afternoon I took time to enjoy the busyness of the season.

18 - Seeing my baby's smile with yet another missing tooth. She's missing three! I told her we might have to start feeding her applesauce if she lost more teeth.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

God's In the Details Of A Party

Back before our lives changed so much, Mark and I used to host a lot of social activities and parties in our home. One of my favorite times was to host our core group of friends at Christmas. It was an annual gathering of our friends and kids.

But we haven't hosted other couples in our home in six years. We've had friends over occasionally, and I've had several girlfriends over at one time; but, we've not hosted a gathering of couples. Until tonight.

In November we volunteered to host our Sunday School's Christmas party. We're a small group, and honestly, Mark and I don't know our classmates all that well outside of one hour on Sunday mornings. So we decided we'd have the party in our home.

We've spent the last week cleaning our house like mad people. In fact, Mark said to me, I like having people over. It gets the house clean. {me smiling} But last night we were trying to find three boxes of clear lights as two strands had burned out on two of our trees, and we needed a third strand for our outside tree. We'd already looked at several different stores, and they were all sold out of clear lights.

We stopped at one last store for a last-ditch effort. Just before I jumped out of the car, I said to Mark, Say a little prayer that they have some lights. I found the seasonal section and looked all around. There were a lot of boxes of multi-colored lights, but I wasn't seeing any clear ones. I'd about given up and decided that we'd just have branches without lights on our trees for the party when I shoved aside a box of multi-colored, and there sat three boxes of clear lights. I grabbed all three and made a beeline for the checkout. I told the cashier that they must've been the only store in town that still had clear lights. The bagger overheard me and said that they hadn't had any clear lights, but those three boxes had just been a return. There were no more clear lights.

I was excited, and when we got home, grabbed a strand to put on the outside tree first. Without really even paying attention to the strand, I put it on the tree, called it a success, and headed inside to replace the two strands on the other two trees. As I picked up the box off the table, I realized the strand I'd just put on the outside tree had a white wire. I panicked as I realized that white wires would stick out like a sore thumb on the indoor trees. I grabbed the other two boxes and was relieved to see that they both had green wires. They'd match perfectly!

In that second, I thought how much God cares about our lives...the details. I forget sometimes. He had not only provided three strands of clear lights, but also the exact color wires I needed and the order in which I put them on. Had I put on a strand with a green wire on the outside tree first, I would've had to take them off and redo them once I opened the package with a white wire.

I know it was just a small party, and in the grand scheme of life, was no huge deal; but, it was important to me to have everything look nice since I was already nervous about hosting the first party we'd had in six years. God knew that and provided peace of mind. The party was a success, and we're starting to feel like we could do this again. The fear of the first time is over, and maybe we'll open our home a little more often now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Don't Be Afraid

Sometimes I live in and act out of fear. Like when I walk in my daughters' rooms to check on them at night after they've gone to sleep, and a thought hits me...

What if they wake up sick? What if they don't wake up at all? What if???

Or when my husband leaves for work in the mornings:

I hope he's okay today. What if he has a wreck? What if he has an accident with one of his tools?

Or when I'm faced with heights:

What if I fall off the cliff? What if the pier beneath me buckles? What if the railing breaks and I fall of the balcony?


And, especially, lately...the fear that probably tops all fears: the fear of lost people seeing me as just another religious, self-righteous, super-spiritual "Christian." I tell you, it's enough to make me shut my mouth.

I see and hear of so many Christians living out the extremes of man-made rules and traditions. I'm not sure they're concerned with what the Bible actually says. I wonder if they even think of how Jesus lived. I'm guessing they do, but maybe they only select the parts that fit their agenda.

They're the people who want us to fear missing a day of Bible study, to fear befriending the lost, to fear missing a church service. They want people to live under the Law, which they disguise as being an obedient Christian.

It seems to me that when these Christians work so hard to separate themselves from the world, they're not even in the world. So then, how do they reach the lost? Because if I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus walked in the world, attended celebrations, visited with the worst of sinners. And man-made rules and traditions angered Him. He came to earth to do the will of His Father alone...not to impress other religious people with His appearance or isolate Himself from the wicked. He didn't live in a cocoon for 33 years.

I think of these things, yet I fear being the one that might cause a non-Christian to say, If she's what a Christian looks like, I don't want to be one.

Where to go from here?

Do not fear.

Don't be afraid of the what-ifs. Don't be afraid to share the redemptive love of Jesus. Don't be afraid to live life. Don't be afraid to love. Don't be afraid of the people who would put you in shackles if they could. Don't be afraid.

100 Joys: 6-9

6 - The last week or so has been jam-packed, getting up early and going to bed late. I took advantage of a couple of spare hours today and cozied up on the couch with my fuzzy blanket and slept. I love naps!

7 - I love everything about summer: hot weather, swimming, flip-flops, tans, watermelon. But at Christmastime, I love cold, gray days. That's exactly what today was in Alabama. It felt like Christmas today {if Christmas weather has a feeling..}.

8 - On Wednesday nights I teach 2nd grade children's choir. They're a large group of sweet, rowdy children. Tonight we rehearsed the two songs they'll be singing at the Candlelight service, then we had a mini-Christmas party complete with lots of sugar and prizes. I love how excited they get over cookies, popcorn, juice and a few treats.

9 - My best friend sent me an email with a link to a website that made me laugh til I nearly...well, I laughed really, really hard...til my stomach hurt. And so did my hubby. And since Wednesday nights seem to be the most stressful night of the week when putting kids to bed, the laughter was much needed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

100 Joys - December 2011

I looked back tonight at the 100 Joys I participated in last December via Sarah Markley. In reading through them I remembered how fun it was to write those joys. And what a great way it was to remember the wonderful details of an otherwise busy and stressful time of year! And since this entire year has been somewhat difficult, I could stand to focus on some joy. So without wasting another day, here's the first of 100 Joys, December 2011.

1 - My man helped me fold about four loads of laundry today. {And since I hate doing laundry, that was a huge joy!}

2 - Spontaneous dinner with a good friend, her mom and kids.

3 - The family attended my 6th grader's Christmas choir concert. They sang Infant Holy and I Saw Three Ships. They did an outstanding job on both songs! In addition, we heard the 7th and 8th grade choirs {also fabulous} and the high school Madrigal! I think what amazed me the most was hearing the Gospel shared through Christmas songs in a public school setting. Joy!

4 - I spent an hour talking with my counselor. She always makes a point to incorporate God's grace into our conversations. In learning so much about grace this year, I'm still amazed at how much more there is to learn and experience.

5 - Running barefoot in my pjs in the rain to the bus to give my daughter her water bottle that she dropped. If that doesn't make me {and you} smile, I don't know what will!

I Am...

My counselor asked me today if I was finding myself.


Maybe a little.

When I think about who I am, I think about what I do, what I like, how I react in certain situations. And I think about Whose I am. But it's a challenge for me to define who I am.

I have little sense of self because for so long, like a chameleon, I've changed to blend in with my surroundings. I'm finding it difficult to sit amidst a situation and just be...and be okay.

But I'm also finding that I'm stronger than I thought. I'm a survivor. And for today, that's enough.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Celebrating Life

I read an article in a popular devotional magazine several months ago that I think about every so often. The author shared how she was on a plane one day and as the stewardess was going through the instructions, she announced to the passengers that the pilot's girlfriend had just found out she was pregnant with twins. The passengers clapped and shouted their congratulations to the pilot. The author wrote that she clapped, but she also said she couldn't believe she and the others were clapping for the pregnancy of an unwed mother. She said she felt that they were condoning a sin that's become commonplace.

Every time I think about that article, I am unsettled. It didn't settle with me when I first read it, and it still doesn't. I guess it bothers me because that's exactly the attitude I had up until several years ago. Until I was the one needing grace. Since reading that article, this post has been in the recesses of my brain.

I'd like to offer up a different perspective:

I'd like to think the passengers, with the exception of the author, were celebrating new lives. No matter the circumstances surrounding a pregnancy, the truth is that babies are God's creation. He knew before the foundation of the world that those twins would be conceived. He knew the plans He had for those babies. He planned the miracle of their lives. And while the passengers may or may not have considered those thoughts at all, that's the essence of what they were celebrating. New life. New creation. I hope that the author was the only person on that plane who was judging the pilot and his girlfriend behind her plastered smile and clanging cymbals.

So often we Christians miss out on so much of life because we fear we may appear to be condoning sin. We miss so many opportunities to share Jesus because we're too busy condemning someone else's actions. We miss chances to celebrate because we don't want to be caught participating in what is We don't enjoy a wedding reception because we're too busy condemning the alcohol and dancing, yet do we remember Jesus' first miracle? We don't befriend people with a "reputation," yet who were the people Jesus hung out with most? I dare say that Christians often don't represent Jesus as well as we'd like to think we do. It's time for us to really celebrate life!