Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Christmas Story

The Sunday after Christmas each year, my pastor (and husband) writes a story instead of a sermon. He gave it to me with a red pen to proof and it was so good I hardly had to mark it. So I thought I would share it with you.

The Day Santa Never Came


Thursday, December 25, 2008

A True Christmas Parable

Merry Christmas Everyone! We had a fun, chaotic day with our family and my extended family. When I was about to put the ham in the oven, I realized the oven was broken. So we grilled it and it turned out fine. I didn't even freak out over plan B. Now Maren is in bed and all the other kids are at the hotel with my parents and sister. I decided to stay home and "clean up".

It's so easy at this time of the year to get wrapped up in materialism. Everyone asks the kids what they want. We try to find things that will make them squeal with joy. In some ways, Christmas opens the door to greediness: things you want, things you didn't get, things you still want to buy.

So now that I am sitting in front of the fire I want to share a story with you. Actually, it's a western!

Out in the middle of nowhere, in ranching land, there lives a wealthy and successful rancher named Bob. He works hard and has acquired lots of land and lots of cattle.

There is another rancher named Charlie, he also works hard but has not acquired the amount of success and wealth as Bob.

One day, a large desirable piece of land came up for auction. It was good, rich pasture smack dab in the middle of Charlie and Bob's land. At the auction, the bidding came down to the two men, both of which desired the land. As the bidding continued, Bob stopped and walked away. People were shocked. Bob's father was mad. He knew his son could have easily doubled the bid and won the land. Most people knew that Bob didn't get outbid, he let the other man have it.

There are some lessons I'm trying to teach my kids:
Some things have higher value than material possesions.
Just because you CAN buy it, doesn't necessarily mean you should.

All of which I think are illustrated in this story. Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:13-14

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sticky Gunk

I was cleaning the top of my oven tonight and it's not just because my Mother is coming tomorrow. Okay, actually it is. Since I have very limited counter space and most of the space I do have is usually covered with junk, I tend to use the oven top for food prep. Plus, I let things boil over all the time.

The other day I made a can of tomato soup and it bubbled over. In my haste to feed everyone, I didn't take time to wipe it up. Then I spilled some rice on the same spot. So today, I spent 20 minutes scouring it off. Isn't that just the way it goes?

All those little messes that build up into one massive problem! Why don't I just take the 30 seconds to wipe it up when it's a little mess?

And it reminded me of keeping a short account with God. Dealing with sin daily and asking God for forgiveness before it builds up and becomes a major problem.

And keeping a tab on anger and bitterness that so easily builds up. It seems like in my life it happens little by little, a small offense or off-handed comment that I let fester into a big time grudge. After which every comment or gesture is cause for me to take offense.

Thinking about Christmas and all God has done for me makes me feel like a petty little brat for harboring these feelings. I've been trying to practice asking God for forgiveness daily and asking him to show me areas that need change that I don't even see yet. And asking Him daily to replace my feelings of bitterness, anger or resentment with His love.

The amazing this is that He does it!

Colossians 3:5-17

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I had the opportunity to go to a baby shower last weekend for one of my college friends. I hadn't seen most of the girls since the last baby shower two years ago. My crazy fun roommate was even there from San Diego.

Most of my friends didn't start having kids as early as I did or have as many. So it seems I'm a few years ahead of them in this journey. It was a really good reminder to me of the mission of mommy-hood. They are all in that stage of infant and toddlers running you weary all day. Their sentiments all echoed the same frustrations: You long for a shower, hope to leave the house, feel the need to provide constructive things for them to do, make play dates and actually play with them.

I remember how miserable some of my days were when we had 3 kids in diapers and lived in a little trailer house. I felt as if my life had somehow come to a screeching halt. All I did was change diapers, do dishes (yeah - no dishwasher), do laundry, make food, clean up messes and change diapers. People would tell me how they have such fond memories of those years and just wait until they are teenagers. I always figured at least teenagers leave sometimes!

Now that we have 3 kids in school it seems like I am past that stage. But when I got home I realized I am NOT past that stage. I guess I forgot on the two hour drive that I still have a toddler and preschooler at home. This week I have been literally running frantically between them. Maren wants to sit on the toilet and have me sing to her, she takes off her poopy diapers, she dumps all the stuff out of the pantry and opens some Christmas presents. Annie wants to watch a movie, have a piece of gum, have a story read to her, help me in the kitchen and so on.

I think why it feels different now is the perspective that comes from seeing how fast that time really does go. After getting through it three other times I can laugh more when things go wrong. I'm more laid back about schedule, outings and wearing clothes. I don't try to make things perfect. If they dump out all the flour it can be cleaned up. If they want me to play or be held or read to, I can put my other stuff on hold. It's still frustrating, but it's just not the end of the world.

I've learned that these precious little ones are ours for a short time.

When we go to school or get a job we learn to be outcome based people. What's the result? Where's the profit? It just doesn't happen like that in mothering. At the end of the day we won't necessarily feel like we've accomplished anything. That's hard to accept, especially if a year ago you were getting your masters and working at a challenging and satisfying career.

Teaching kids to love and live like Jesus takes time and relationship. That's what we are building day by day. I'm starting to see a few of the outcomes with my older kids. We have spiritual conversations. I see them being loving to their friends or helping me without being asked. There's a long way to go but now that I have a taste of the results of my painstaking effort, it makes all the little stuff a lot more manageable.

I want to encourage you, especially during this Christmas season, to forget all the hustle and bustle and enjoy the little ones God has given you. After all the whole story of Christmas is about relationship: God sent Jesus to earth so we could have a relationship with Him.

Take time to make cookies together, watch a Christmas special, and play in the snow. When I take time to step out of my "outcome based" mentality, I can truly find the joy in being a Mommy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Go Deep

We are knee deep in snow now after a good old Minnesota snow storm. But that's not the kind of deep I've been thinking about.

There are those times in life where you just feel ragged, on the edge and as one of my friends deftly described it "raw". A few weeks ago, dealing with a screaming 18 month old all day and night was leaving me ragged. Not enough sleep, too much to do, bills to pay all pile up to make me feel numb.

Then there are the friends going through hard times ( I talked to at least 10 people that were laid off last week alone), ministry stresses and trials. I can wake up in the morning and have a hard time finding the strength to pour a bowl of cereal. I sometimes wonder what the point is. All the time and energy we pour into ministry and people continue to walk away from church and turn their backs on Christ. It seems like I should be able to find a verse in the Bible that says "Put Christ first and life will be easy".

I picked up a book we've had on our shelf for a long time called "Reaching for the Invisible God" by Philip Yancey. It's really feeding that part of me that wonders about faith and if it's worth it. One of the stories he tells is about his pastor when he lived in Chicago named Bill Leslie. He felt like he had reached a place of Spiritual emptiness. He went on a weekend retreat and talked to his spiritual director, a nun.

"He expected her to offer soothing words about what a sacrificial, unselfish person he was, or perhaps recommend a sabbatical. Instead she said, 'Bill there's only one thing to do if your reservoir runs dry. You've got to go deeper.' He returned from that retreat convinced that his faith depended less on his outer journey of life and ministry than on his inner journey toward spiritual depth." (page 73)

Really? My faith might depend less on what I do and more on the journey towards Christ! What a shock. I've always thought I had good faith. That I would dutifully do all that God asks of me and He in turn would make everything good and comfortable.

But as I've found myself running dry at times in my life of faith, the choice is to either give up and stumble through or go deep and seek after God. A few weeks ago as some crises broke out in our ministry I was driven to work on my Bible study. I knew that I was in over my head and that the only way I could get through was to be with Him. And yet it did not make things easy. It's still messy and I still struggled with some things that directly related.

As I raise my children each day, I want to go beyond carting them to things, helping with homework and feeding them food. I want to disciple them so they can learn to go deep. Not that it is going to make everything easy. Actually it will probably mean a more difficult road in a lot of ways. If we truly want to follow Christ, there will be things we won't buy, shows we won't watch and places we won't go. There will be challenges and struggles along the way.

So I'm going to learn to go deeper. I want to know Him more intimately by studying the Bible, praying desperately, and seeking, not what I can do, but what He can and who He is.

2 Corinthians 5:7
We live by faith, not by sight.

Ephesians 6:16
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hold on . . .

I just found the sheet music for the song "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips. I don't really want to talk about why I bought it years ago - it's a long story. Or why I still have it 20 years later! But the lyrics go something like this, "I know that there is pain but you hold on for one more day and you break free from the pain." I think I know why this song was kind of a hit. There is a lot of pain in life and it's natural to want to break free. But what is freedom and what on earth are we supposed to hold on to?

There have only been a handful of times in my life where I felt truly desperate. It's not really the best place to be. When you come to a place of desperation it must mean that things are so bad there doesn't seem to be a way out. It's obvious there is desperation over loss and grief, health problems and financial crisis.

Some painful situations seethe below the surface. They are too painful, humiliating or dangerous to talk about. On the surface things seem fine or even great! Dealing with spiritual temptations and sin are the unseen deal breakers for Christians. And it's a lonely place because you don't really want to stand up in church and ask for prayer for your porn addiction or the feelings you have for someone at work. And it seems that the church doesn't really want you to either. We have such a hear no evil, see no evil mentality that just wants to pat you on the back, say good morning and wish you a good week. The statistics of Christians dealing with pornography and affairs are staggering and we think it's not going on in our churches?

So why does God allow times that are so bad and staggering? I have never prayed more passionately than when I am desperate or someone I know is. I cry and plead for the Lord to be near and change my stinky, sinful heat. I beg for his strength and comfort for someone going through a battery of tests which might result in a cancer diagnosis. Sometimes I just ask why or sit in the presence of Jesus.

There are also times when I just want to walk away from Christ. It seems too hard and he feels so distant.

I've never really considered myself a doubter. I haven't felt the need to read "Evidence that Demands a Verdict". Faith has just always come naturally to me. But sometimes it just isn't that simple. I'm reading a book by Philip Yancey called "Reaching for the Invisible God." It's one of the best books I've read in a long time. Here are a few of his quotes about faith:

"Perhaps that's what faith is: trusting God's goodness despite any apparent evidence against it" (page 69)

"Faith requires obedience without full knowledge" (page 90)

"Faith that does not count for such complexities can not last" (page 93)

"Hope emerges as a result of the struggle" (page 95)

There is so much about God that we don't know and will never know on earth. And a faith that says only "all things work together for good" is not that helpful when your life is in ruins or your heart is completely ripped to shreds. There's more to this faith thing than God is good as long as he makes me happy and gives me what I want. Then I'll love Him.

If we're not desperately clinging to Jesus and holding on for dear life - what kind of faith do we have?

There is a choice to be made in desperate times: cling to Christ or try to stumble through in darkness. If we cling to Christ and pray desperately for Him and His work in our life, then hope will emerge. Those don't seem to be lyrics of a future pop hit, but then again, how long did Wilson Philips last?

Hebrews 11:1
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. "

Colossians 2:1-3
1I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Monday, December 08, 2008

As long as God provides . . .

Several years ago, we started a tradition. We buy Bibles for every couple Mike marries. We even have their name and wedding date engraved on the front. It has been fun over the years to give them. We truly hope and pray that even those who do not follow Christ or even attend church will look to it for answers when they need help. It's probably more than we need to do, but it's something we love to do and want to do.

Someone in our church commented on what a great ministry that was to which I piously replied, "As long as God provides the money, we'll keep doing it." And why wouldn't God provide the cash for such a noble endeavor?

Well, much to my shock and dismay God has not been providing the money. The last few weddings we did we just couldn't swing it. I thought we could use the money that they paid us to get the Bibles after the fact, only they didn't pay us. We still payed for babysitters for the rehearsal and the wedding ceremony.

So why would God not provide money to buy people Bibles? I can see why there might not be the cash for a Hummer or a jacuzzi or a trip to Hawaii - but a Bible?

In the book Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancey, he writes about God's provision.

"Christians often read the Bible in such a way that exaggerates God's promises, setting themselves up for later disillusionment. "Look at the birds of the air," Jesus once said; "they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them . . . .See how the lilies of the field grow. The do not labor or spin." From such verses, readers infer that God will always provide, which then brings about a major crisis of faith when drought and famine arrive.

The lilies of the field may grow without labor, but their growth also depends on the regular systems that produce weather. In years of severe drought, they neither labor nor spin nor survive."

His conclusion is that God's interventions are less like lightning bolts and more like a river.

"His presence sustains all creation at every moment: "in him [Christ] all things hold together," said Paul . His presence also flows into individuals who align themselves with him; God's Spirit, and invisible companion, works from within to wrest good from bad."
It seems like I have been conditioned to believe in my "USA" self-centered theology that God will provide what I think is best. It's not even a vending machine mentality as much as a prideful, of course God would concur attitude.

The thing is that most people in the US have a Bible somewhere. Most people have access to the internet and the library where the text is readily available. And although it's nice to start them off with a momento of their special day it certainly is not the only way they can experience God's grace.

We usually have the couples over to our house for dinner during the premarital sessions. (It can also be a good reminder on the importance of birth control!) They can experience God through their contact with us and our friendship comes for free. We have cases of paperback Bibles at the church office that we keep on hand to give to anyone who needs one.

Maybe I was feeling a little too good about myself and our leather, engraved Bible ministry. God is showing me that whatever the provisions or rations are at the time, the most important thing for me to recognize is that He's THERE. No matter what I have or don't have in wealth or health he's always with me. And I want to be there for him, continuing the work he has for me no matter what the price .

Philippians 4:11-13
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I went out Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving with my Dad and my sister. She picked us up at 3:45 a.m. I was already awake with a crying kid anyway. I'm not really sure how the news media can report that we are in a recession. The lines were crazy long! People were in line outside, in the cold, in the dark, in Minnesota for hours.

I was kind of enjoying watching it all. I didn't buy anything. I didn't have any money to buy anything. Usually, when I am shopping and I don't have money (which seems to happen a lot) I feel so bummed about all the great stuff that is out there that I can't get. This year, I couldn't find one thing I wanted to buy. Nothing made me feel happy or excited or in the Christmas spirit at all. All I could think about was crazy people trying to buy as much as they could in as little time possible. I'm not sure some people were even looking at what they were dumping in their carts!

I was talking to a friend about the small Christmas budget we seem to have this year. And I realized that I'm not sad about it. I haven't spent one minute shopping (except for black Friday) or fretting about what to get people. I haven't been stressed or crabby. I haven't been running all over town. I've just been listening to Christmas music and hoping we can get our tree up this week.

I know some people who really hate Christmas and trying to think of things to buy for their adult siblings who need nothing and trying to find the money to pay for it. All they do is complain about it. It seems like we don't have to live that way. I think I can change things now and not waste 25 perfectly good Christmases by stressing over sweaters and gift cards.

There are always those moments when I start to feel bad or jealous though. When I hear about someone buying the latest gaming systems or fancy expensive dolls. But even if I had $10,000 extra dollars laying around I still don't think I'd do it. There are so many more important things going on around me. There are people who lost their jobs and can't buy groceries, marriages that are falling apart, people who are trying to celebrate Christmas without a loved one, friends whose kids are receiving treatment at facilities and may not be home for Christmas.

I can give some money to the Salvation Army, I can bake stuff for my neighbors, I can make crafts with my kids and I can forget stores and materialism and just enjoy Christmas.

Check out The Advent Conspiracy

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's The Heart!

I was over at someone's house who was bubbling over about their child's recent ACT scores. They were good enough to receive an academic scholarship to college, along with a probable music scholarship too. That's great! The young person studied hard and did well in both academics and music. I loved college and am always excited when I hear about those plans in the works. I was happy for them.

While we were visiting that day, there was a burning, smoky smell coming from the kitchen. The mother nicely called out to the aforementioned child to please go check the pot. She didn't respond so the mother went and knocked on the door to prompt immediate attention. The young person immediately stomped out of the room and yelled in an indignant tone, "If you walked all this way to get my attention, why didn't you just check it yourself!"

It was kind of awkward and I didn't know what to say! I kind of tried to ignore the situation as I usually do when I'm uncomfortable. I know that exchanges like this aren't out of the ordinary for a teenager and their mother. I remember enjoying a good slamming of the door to make my point!

But as I was thinking about it I am remembering all the times that I have left messages that are not given, been rudely met at the door, and other unimpressive actions on the part of this person. And I started to wonder, is it really so great to have impressive test scores and musical accomplishments if you are acting totally unchristlike and rude to your parents and the people coming to your home?

And it made me think about my daughter who was there witnessing all this with me. I know she will be a normal teenager with outbursts and breakdowns - oh wait she already has those! I really hope she continues to do well in her studies and other activities. It's easy to let those "performance" issues become the most important thing and it can almost be made a "god".

But I do not care about any of that as much as I care about her heart. I care that she loves the Lord enough to act in a way that glorifies Him. I care that she treats others with respect and love. If she never goes to college or accomplishes a lot in music or sports, but has a love for the Lord that is a blessing to those around her then I will be a proud and happy Mom.

1 Peter 3:4
Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

1 Peter 3:8
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

Matthew 12:34
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sowing Seeds

I have been home with a sick kid for an entire week. I haven't been able to do a lot of the things I normally do. Today as I was folding my umpteenth load of laundry, putting a turkey in the oven, changing diapers, playing sweet streets and helping Mike outside, I started to feel trapped and discontented.

Why is it that I have to give everything up for everyone? I'm better than this, I need a life. I don't want to be beaten down by living the housewife life. It's so degrading!

Where on earth is this coming from? Just the other day I felt so blessed and thankful to be married and home with my kids. I was finding joy in meeting the many needs of my family. I realized I was under attack from (satan). I don't like to say that too loud because people might think I'm crazy. But seriously, it's the truth.

We've been dealing with a really painful marriage situation involving some people in our church. She is basically walking out on her family because she feels devalued and controlled. She wants friends and a life. Doesn't that sound familiar?

It's a natural reaction for women because all those things that "tie us down" go against our selfish nature. Society tells us we deserve better, it's not enough and we start to believe it. But it's a lie! He calls us to submit and be humble to the calling he's given us. When we surrender ourselves to Him for His purposes is when we will find true joy and peace. I've struggled over the years but I think I finally get it. Die to myself and my selfish desires.

I think it is seeping in from my hearing it talked about it. It is so easy to let those seeds be sown and grow in my heart. They are up and taking root before I even know it. Then I'm right back to being the bitter, angry woman no one wants as a wife or mom. I react angrily to simple questions, I stomp around and wallow in self pity. Mike mentions something I didn't do or forgot and I attack. Sometimes I'm not even mad at them, I'm just mad at the world and taking it out on whoever is available.

The problem with that attitude is that God asks us to serve others more, consider others better than ourselves, be humble and gentle. I think it is part of how He helps us be more like Him and bring Him glory.

Don't let those seeds grow up in your heart. Fill it up with scripture, Christ-like friends and prayer. It's hard to believe just how fast those nasty seeds grow and how damaging they are.

Ephesians 4:1-3
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

(Not so) Friendly Advice

Have you ever been blindsided by someone giving you a lecture of advice? We were at piano lessons today and I made the mistake of mentioning getting my kids a flu shot. Apparently the wrong thing to say. I was told about vitamins and how they build the immune system, how her kids never got sick or got cavities and something about eating natural foods. She also doesn't believe in fluoride, which our kids take in pills because we have well water and we want their teeth to last them past the age of 14.

This is not the first time this has happened. The last time it came up was when Maren was getting tubes in her ears. She had a long list of things we could do to help that too. At that point, after having a screaming child with ear infections I was in no mood to hear what I should or could be doing. I was instead counting the days until surgery!

I'm kind of hotheaded and emotional at times - ok a lot of times. But I stayed pretty cool and smiled and nodded. But when I got home I was furious! How dare someone who barely knows me lecture me on how to care for my children. Does she think I'm an idiot and haven't thought through and prayed about things? Does she know that I can't afford to buy the high priced vitamins she touts for my 5 kids? Does she know that we do eat a lot more whole foods these days?

After I ranted and raved to Mike for a while (you should pray for him - he bears the brunt of all my issues), I realized a few things. I need to be teachable and open to what other people are saying. Who knows she might have some good options that I might not have tried and is probably trying to help me. Although it might seem really rude and annoying to me.

Also, I need to think about this when I give advice to people or tell them what I have tried. Maybe it comes across in the same way without me meaning it to. I need to be careful to not assume I have all the answers or know where this person has been. Jesus is the only Way, our opinions are not. It's really easy when I feel passionate about something to preach it. I know it's hard to imagine that, but it's true! How many times have I made someone feel the same way I felt today?

It's apparent that humility needs to grow in my life.

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.

James 1:21
Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Things to Teach My Daughters

We have been going through 1 Corinthians in our Bible study. There is a lot of talk about immorality and marriage in the chapters we did this week. There is a lot of talk about marriage and immorality in our ministry right now too. We are watching a marriage completely implode before our eyes. When I look in the eyes of women in these situations I can't help but think about my girls. I never want them to be in a situation with that much hurt and pain.

Now, I know I can't control that. They will make mistakes and choices, but so much of the pain in people's lives revolve around the fact that they want to feel loved and important. I want my girls to be able to grasp God's great love for them. I know some girls that have been pure and married and never for a second doubted the love God or their husbands have for them. Following God's plan builds in that security.

But I know so many women that are continually falling into turmoil because they have this unfilled desire to be loved. Oh, they may be married and have great children, but still they do not feel loved. They may have a family that cares for them, but they still have to go looking for love. They may have a very fulfilling career and that is not enough. The emptiness inside them can only be filled with God. Without being secure in the love that God has for them they are treading on the road to danger.

Unfortunately, that dangerous path usually leads to sex. Yep, that's right! Women that are looking for love often try to substitute sex. This is not a topic I like discussing. And I think it's because I was raised baptist. Modesty, purity and abstinence were taught. All definitely things I want to teach my children to uphold. But I think there is a danger in the desire to promote those virtues that allows them to be distorted. It's easy for those things to come across as negative, old fashioned and heavy handed. A very strict, secretive approach to sexuality can easily be twisted into an abnormal view of sex.

It seems it could easily lead to a desire or curiosity for pornography and strip clubs. The numbers of people that are reportedly dealing with pornography in the church are astounding. It could lead to a desire for romance novels and soap operas. I think it could also go the opposite direction and lead to total sexual repression and destroy the ability to have a healthy, normal sex life as God intended it. It isn't possible to have a Christ-honoring marriage without enjoying sex. If you don't believe me read 1 Corinthians 7!

As my kids are being exposed to sexual content from a variety of sources - and there is no way to avoid that- I am even more convinced of the importance of teaching my kids a biblical, balanced, healthy view of sexuality with openness, dialogue and some humor.

I just got Family Life's Passport to Purity. It's a weekend you take your same sex child away and go through lessons dealing with the physical aspects, but also dating and purity. They encourage you to make it a big deal and a very special weekend. I like the idea of making it special and not a dirty, backroom type conversation. And it seems to teach from a very balanced perspective, openness does not supercede Biblical teaching. So I'm thinking I am going to try to do the first half of it with Jenna this winter. I want her to hear it from me, not her classmates!

I know that I need to teach my girls modesty but they need to know WHY. They need to know we aspire to modesty to glorify God and not to be legalists. They need to know that sex is created and sanctioned by God and is beautiful in marriage. They should know that purity is not just a plus in your heaven requirements or something you do to keep from shaming your parents, but it's a reflection of our devotion to God and His love for us. Most importantly, they need to know that they can come to me with any question they have. I want them to know that they are accepted and loved no matter what.

Chances are you have already begun teaching these things, and I suppose in a way I already have too. But I want to be purposeful and diligent about it. They need to know the love of their heavenly Father and the security that brings. I've seen first hand the results of a life lived looking for love in all the wrong places and it's not pretty.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Unlikely Places

We went trick or treating last week and did our usual thing. We went to a friends house for dinner and then drove around to all the people we know and the elderly people in our church who like to see our kids dressed up.

But there is one house that I would never think of going to. It is a dumpy old house. It looks kind of uninhabitable, but since there is usually a beat up car in the driveway and some dogs running around I assumed someone lived there. It turns out that house belongs to the brother of some people that go to our church. It is the house they all grew up in. They've always told us to to Trick or Treating there and I always thought they were crazy! Do they think I would actually drive in, unload my family and walk right up to the door? Maybe they don't know me as well as they think they do!

Well, last year we followed some other relatives of his there (ok so everyone is related in Wrenshall!). Here's what we've been missing: He has big storage tubs full of candy. He takes an ice cream bucket and scoops it full and dumps it in every child's bag. He'll even give you a new bag if yours isn't big enough! I'm not sure I've ever seen a look of such intense surprise and delight on my children's faces! So this year, of course, the big question was "Are we going to Warren's?"

I didn't get to go with them this year due to Maren's intense dislike of trick or treating and getting in and out of her car seat. But they did go and they got a bundle of candy! I drove by there the next day and thought isn't it crazy how there could be treasure in such an unlikely place?

We went to check out Holyoke Park a few weeks ago. I wasn't excited to go, there is nothing in Holyoke! But I was amazed at how beautiful and fun it was. There is a flowing river (I put in a picture - pretty hi tech!), lots of trees, a baseball field and trails. We went back this weekend and had our family pictures taken there.

It seems like I often overlook someone or something because of outward appearances. I try not to make eye contact with scruffy looking people. I avoid places that don't seem to be up to my high level of approval or might have a funky smell.

On an even more personal level, how many times have I dismissed some trait or talent that one of my kids has because it seemed odd or silly or embarrasing? Maybe I've contributed to them not reaching their full potential in an area or freeing them to use their abilities for God.

I'm especially convicted with regards to Jenna. Unfortunately for her, she is a lot like me in personality which makes us butt heads alot. She is rough and tumble, tomboyish, and very messy. Today she was eating a sandwich and had lettuce and mayo all over her face and crumbs all over her shirt and pants. She doesn't like to brush her hair or wear nice or clean clothes. She spits in the dirt! And I often try to help and guide her in the direction of being a young lady and needless to say she doesn't appreciate it too much!

In my desire to give her the needed direction, I often overlook her zest for life. She loves every minute of everything she does - except practicing the piano. She is fun-loving, energetic, fast-paced, friendly and driven. I know I need to appreciate the unique personality and talents that God has given her. It's hard to find the balance between training her and stomping all over her personality.

All of a sudden, God reminded me that I need to look at things through His eyes. He has given bunches of treasures that may look like a ramshackle house, but it holds the motherload of candy. And it might be a sleepy little nowhere town, but it possesses amazing natural beauty.

Are there things in your life and the lives of those you love that you've overlooked or shunned? Are there people in your life that seem weird or worthless at first glance? Jesus made a point to reach out to those that society shut out and bring out the best in people he came into contact with. The woman at the well, the adultress woman, Zaccheus, the criples and crazies are all people no good "religious" person would touch with a ten foot pole! But Jesus could see that every person was created by God and made for His glory. He went right after their hearts and brought them straight to Love.

I want to follow Jesus' example of finding treasures in unlikely places. Oh that I would be able to do that for my family and those around me.

Luke 19:7-9
"All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner".

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possesions to the poor, and if I have cheated anyobody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, becaue this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to sek and sae what was lost."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Do We Worship Walt?

Well, if you have a daughter or live on the planet earth, you probably know that High School Musical 3 came out in theaters this weekend. We own the first two videos. I don't think they are the worst movies and I agree that they are fun. I haven't seen the new one yet, but Jenna saw it with a friend today. The girls really have not been excited about seeing the movie. They haven't watched or talked about it for months. I think part of the reason is they haven't been watching TV enough to see the previews and ads for it.

I am starting to wonder how much we should allow our kids to be exposed to the media. Can we really raise kids that are lovers of Jesus and the things of him if they are constantly bombarded with the images of this world?

Saturday morning cartoons are filled with commercials for all the latest Christmas toys. The Disney Channel is basically one big advertisement for Disney products. It glorifies dating and physical contact between kids. As Christians is that what we want our kids filling their minds and hearts with? Is it feeding their need for God or their need for self?

I keep thinking of Philippians 4:8 which says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."

There are few things that fit into that category that I've seen in a movie theater or a TV Show.
There's a Christian organization that gives the new High School Musical movie a very good rating because it's wholesome. I was pretty surprised by the positive review. One of my sister's friends that is nowhere near a Christian said she didn't think she needed to take her girls to see all that kissy face stuff! Hearing her say that challenges me all the more to think through what we watch and not just go because they want to or everyone else is. Because clearly everyone else is not!

I don't think the answer is to forbid my kids from ever watching another movie or TV show. I want it to be clear to my kids that we are God-worshippers not Walt-Worshippers! It seems the less they are exposed to it the better. They are already naturally selfish and materialistic anyway. I've noticed as our family has watched less and less TV and movies that our kids' (and my) contentment has grown. They don't have the desire to get things as much. They haven't begged to go get a new Happy Meal Toy for a while (well, a week anyway!)

My friend Jenn commented on my last entry and mentioned that during a High School musical song her husband hit pause and talked to the kids about how we don't make our dreams come true by looking inside ourselves, but we look to Jesus for answers. I think that is the best way to handle it. If we are engaged with what they are watching, listening to and reading we can use it to teach our own values and discuss issues with them.

On top of being engaged and informed is keeping limits on their media exposure. Maybe it's kind of like their exposure to pop and candy. It's not too harmful in limited quantities. But with junk food and media I'm finding less and less is definitely best.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Something's Missing

I had the chance to go to Girl Scout camp this summer. It was a beautiful camp with a lot of big tall pines and a pretty lake. But I felt like there was something missing or empty about it. It wasn't until we went to family camp a few months later that I realized what it was: It's Christ! I've never been at a camp that wasn't centered around God and the Bible.

The same thought hit me last week while I was at our Early Childhood Family Education parenting time. The issues that they are bringing up and discussing are all good, but they miss the mark if you don't connect it to Christ and his plan for us as parents.

I was reading an article in the magazine they give out free from class called Scholastic's Parent and Child. The article is "Toned Inside Out" by Sara Holliday and its in the October 2008 issue. It says you need to take time out for yourself - you deserve it! Here are some suggestions she offers. First, "visualize your best self". Hmmmmm. She encourages the readers to find a photo from a time when you looked and felt your best. Before going to bed, look at this special photo and close your eyes to visualize yourself in that place again. Also, be positive! Make statements like "I am beautiful" or "I am smart and intelligent". Repeat these statements every morning and night 5 times.

Seriously that is the craziest stuff I've heard in a long, long time. If I wanted to envision myself at some other happier stage, would that really help me feel better? I think I might just want to run back to my skinny, independent days. Why not seek Christ's contentment in what I have and where I am right now? I'm thankful for the things God has taught me over the years and wold never want to go back to being the selfish brat I used to be.What if you were never happy? I'd like to suggest before going to bed, I should close my eyes and thank God for the privilege and opportunity to have these precious kids. I should ask him for strength, wisdom and grace. Trying to parent with this new age, I'm good enough mentality is just a disaster!

If we are saved through Christ, we don't need to repeat how great we are, we just need to worship how great God is! All my self worth comes from his love and grace for me and he gives it to me freely and talks to me about it in his word. I don't have to convince myself through mind tricks that I'm smart or beautiful.

The article goes on to talk about exercising, eating right, and getting in some me-time which are important. However, my focus as a Christian Mom is to do those things so I can be healthy and used of God for His glory, not so I can focus more on me. I cringe when I read this stuff. And a lot of parents I know actually have to resort to this madness because they don't have Christ.

The truth is that it can be tempting to try this even when we do have Christ. It's so easy to let the ways of Oprah and other influences push into our world. We have to get our worth and encouragement from Christ alone. Don't let these fake and pathetic replacements in. I want to pass on a God-filled legacy to my kids, not the Stuart Smalley "you're good enough, you're smart enough and doggone it people like me". (that's an old Saturday Night Live sketch FYI for you young 'uns out there)

I Corinthians 1:30-31
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Do It Yourself!

Sometimes you just have to let kids suffer through and wrestle with an issue. Take Grant. It's a minor one to be sure. He doesn't like jeans. He wants me to find the kind with a snap on it because it's just too much work to actually button his pants! I told him they don't sell big boy jeans with snaps. Did I mention he's in 4th grade? If he was my only kid, who knows what I would still be doing for him. I may possibly still be spoon feeding him his meals.

Last week I was at school with the little girls. I was watching Abby play on the playground through the window of the room I was in. She was jumping rope, running around and smiling. When we were leaving she was still outside, but was crying. She said she didn't feel good. I was suspicious. I walked her back in to her classroom and when her teacher asked her what was wrong she told her she didn't feel good. Her teacher asked her if it had anything to do with the paper on her desk that needed to be fixed. While I was helping her get settled down (with Maren and Annie in tow!) she told me that she accidentally threw away a paper that she needed. Did she ask the teacher for a new one? No, she was worried that she might get yelled at. She has the nicest, kindest teacher ever. I told her she needed to tell her teacher the problem. She was crying and I really wanted to jump in and just take care of it. But really, it was only coincidence that I was even there! I realized that I need to let her deal with this herself. So, with a nod from the teacher, I left her crying her little eyes out. That feels really great as a mom!

A few hours later, I got an email from the teacher that it all came out and was fine. Several other children had done the same thing and she told them where to get a new paper. Pretty simple solution!

Those growing up problems are so hard. I don't want to diminish that she really felt she had a crisis on her hands. But they have to start handling the little things on their own or they will never be able to handle anything. And that can have disastrous consequences when they are facing big challenges and crisis!

Even if the problems are as small as pants or a first grade paper.

Proverbs 22:6
Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Are There Limits?

I've been going on and on about reaching out a lot lately. I especially have a burden to reach out to my kids' friends and their families. But is there a limit? The kids had a long weekend from school because there is some state wide teachers conference that no teachers I know go to, but we still get two days off.

Some friends of the girls called to see if they could come over for a sleep over. I don't know this family too well, but what I do know is a little iffy. The step-dad has a questionable reputation and their supervision of their kids leaves a lot to be desired. I was unsure what to do. I declined the sleepover and suggested we start with just a few hours of playing. When I saw Mike later and mentioned it to him, he was like no way - not at that house. I guess I kind of felt the same way but wasn't sure how to back out gracefully. Well, it worked out that we had plans that night anyway and couldn't do it.

So what's the right way to respond in those situations. It wasn't even an issue of pleasing or disappointing my girls because they didn't seem to care much either way. But I didn't want to be rude or come across like we are too good for them. I don't want to be overprotective but watching out for and protecting my kids is one of the most important things I need to do. It's more important than offending someone. Duh!

We got some advice from a couple in our church whose parenting we greatly respect. Their son, who is older now, had a lot of kids from rough homes in his class. They handled it by always having the kids over their house. They were able to develop a relationship with the friends and their families while protecting their son from a sinful and dangerous environment. Even though it's a pain, you know where they are and what they are doing. It seems like that is a way to strike a balance between wanting to reach out to them and at the same time protecting my own kids.

It's going to take extra work and personal sacrifice to show the love of Jesus to others. And I guess it will take a lot of prayer and wisdom to do the best thing for my kids.

Proverbs 27:12
The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who Do You Know?

Sometimes there are things about Christian culture that are quirky! We just returned from the annual Pastor's Appreciation Banquet with the Gideons - you know, the ones that hand out all the Bibles. It was a great evening and a guy shared a very cool testimony about how he found Christ through one of the bibles in prison. But there is something different about those meetings.

I had the same feeling when we were at the conference last month. It was a great conference and I learned a ton! But there is something funny about all of us Christians going to a conference with our coffee and our bibles and milling about in the bookstore buying Christian books. Maybe we stand out and do things differently because of our devotion to Christ. I hope that's it and it's not our devotion to "Christianness".

So, for us who are followers of Christ we are comfortable at a Gideon's banquet or a bible conference. The real question is do you know anybody who wouldn't be? Mike had read in a book somewhere that a non-Christian coming to one of our churches would be about as comfortable as me going to a gay bar. And I can tell you that would be pretty uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to make me want to run away and never go back!

Think about it! Do you know any non-Christians? It's so easy to get wrapped up in the "Christianness" of Christian culture that we never venture out. We don't talk to people who aren't like us. We aren't friends with people that don't have the same doctrinal theology as us.

Here are a few example from my life this past week that pointed out to me the opportunities I have to share Christ with others.

Have you ever gone to a high school football game and visited with someone you know who was already obviously sauced (that's drunk)?

Have you ever had someone at your kitchen table who sees no problem with bringing her daughter along to spend the weekend at her boyfriends house? Oh and that's why they can't make it to church right now.

Have you ever talked to a friend that believes in the Big Bang Theory? And assumes that you do too!

Have you ever listened to someone talk politics and realized you are on the opposite end of the spectrum?

If things like this never happen, then maybe we need to go to less Christian banquets and more gay bars. Ok, not literally, but we need to get out there in the world. We can't tell the lost about Jesus if we never talk to them, go to the same places as them, or listen to their talk (as crazy as it may seem). Jesus spent his time with the lowest people in society. He went places the religous establishment didn't approve of because as Mark 2:17 says: On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

I'm all for fellowship and feeding! I love worshipping with my church family and being with them is like a little taste of heaven on earth. But if we keep to ourselves we are falling down on the job God has for us here, to evangelize the lost.

So who do you know? If you can't think of anyone outside of your Christian circle, maybe it's time to get out there! Neighbors, co-workers, your kids' friends and their families, the guy at the coffee shop - the world is full of hurting people looking for hope. We have the Hope and it's not very "Christian" not to share it.

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to bey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 5:14-16
"You ar the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Luke 15:2
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

Is God Bigger Than Elections?

I am soooo very tired of all the political ads on the radio, TV, the lawn signs and the arguing. I have a good idea! I think that the candidates should take all the millions of dollars they are spending on advertising and donate it to the bailout plan. Really are they changing any minds?

I plan to vote. But I get worried about a lot of Christians and Christian groups that are making politics their religion. A while ago I was reading some parts of the Old Testament. I noticed that there were good, Godly Kings and bad, evil Kings and God worked out His divine plan through it all. And I thought, is God not in control of all this no matter what the outcome? Are we trying to change people's political persuasions or their hearts?

As I was ranting about this to Mike, he emailed me this clip out of one of the commentaries he was reading.

This is from Peter Enns (NIV Application Commentary) which ties with your thoughts in recent days.
" election years in particular, it seems that there are many in the church today who do not see the behind-the-scenes God of the Exodus.
"For some, the very fate of the country depends on whether the right people are elected into office. The Spiritual character of our county (if there even is such a thing) seems to be determined more by the character of the 'new pharaoh' we elect rather than by the character of the ever-present God by whose command rulers rise and fall.
"...the reality of God's presence in the lives of Americans, Germans, Mexican, Koreans, and whomever, does not depend on politics (56)."

I never thought I would have the same thoughts as a Bible scholar! But I think maybe some of the modern Evangelical movement has its priorities in the wrong place and has lost sight of the Powerful God we serve. Nothing is out of his control!

Exodus 9:13-16
The the Lord said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues agains you and against your officials and your peope, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could ha stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

2 Kings 15:8-9
In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned six months. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his fathers had done.

2 Kings 15:17-18
In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.

2 Kings 15:23
In the fifieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah son of Menahem became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned two years. Pekehiah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.

Keep reading, it goes on and on!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Trials

I'm going to post something that my friend Jenn Johnson wrote on her Caring Bridge site. Her 9 year old son has Epilepsy and a host of other health and behavioral concerns. I was very moved and appreciative of her honesty and insight on her last update and she gave me permission to share it. I'm feeling pretty sappy tonight, Love to you all!

Hello Friends and Family,
This is Jenn. Sorry it’s been a while since we’ve updated. We sort of left things on a discouraging note. To be honest… not much has changed. I have been struggling lately and didn’t feel that excited to update you all. A feeling of hopelessness overcame me for a while to the point that when someone would tell me that they were praying for Caleb or our family, etc. part of me would think, “Well, why bother?” Why bother. Caleb is still struggling with seizures. Doctors don’t have the answers. We now have to visit a cardiologist to learn about a new condition. Our family can barely spend time together because Caleb can’t function in the same room with his siblings for more than 10 minutes without causing major problems. It’s hard to have friends over because of Caleb. Joel and I feel trapped - it’s hard to leave Caleb with anyone. Homeschooling Caleb is going fine, but it makes me more aware of Caleb’s cognitive deficits. Our other three kids still have to come second to all the attention we have to spend on Caleb. Some of our dear friends and neighbors who are a huge support to us are moving to Oklahoma this week. We will miss them dearly. We don’t understand why Joel’s dad has to go through this battle with cancer. Why bother to pray about it all because nothing seems to change and in fact some new sad things have come along to rock our world even more?

So like I said this is where I was at. No huge event happened that brought me out of that sad state, but slowly, lovingly God whispered His truth to me. The first truth I clung to was that David, Job, and many other people in the Bible wrestled, struggled, and questioned God at times and God was okay with that. The second truth was that God does want us to come to Him, talk to Him, and give Him our burdens. He will give rest. So I became okay with other people praying for us, but I was still not sure that God should be trusted. Finally a whisper kept telling me that I was believing a lie. What lie? I think the core lie was that God is not trustworthy. How can I trust a God that isn’t taking better care of me and my family? I felt like I can clearly see what needs to be healed so why doesn’t God do that? Why doesn’t God do what I want? After thinking some about who else there is to trust with things of life like myself, other religions, or other people I came back to the fact that deep in my soul I do believe that God created the world, the sun, moon, and stars. He is in control and He does care. The God of the universe has precious thoughts about me - more than the grains of sand - not just the sand in my sandbox or the sand on one beach but the sand in the whole world. Precious thoughts - not cruel or judgmental thoughts. He created me and He knows my name. The God who created the universe and is infinite compared to my finite life can and should be trusted to step with me each and every step of my journey.

God may never choose in His infinite wisdom to reveal to me the reasons that He allowed certain pain and hurt in my life. Like the man in the Bible who said, “Lord I believe. Help me with my unbelief.” (paraphrased) I feel like saying to God, “Lord I trust you. Help me trust you more.”

Thanks again to all of you for praying and walking through this journey with us. We are always amazed at how many of you still check in on us and keep up with our updates.

Before I wrap this update up let me share that Caleb has an appointment on October 20th in Madison to see the cardiologist. We have been in a holding pattern with all meds until we can see him and get more information on the arrhythmia. As always… we’ll keep you posted. God Bless.
Jenn (and Joel)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Real Life Adventures

Who says being a Mom is dull? Last week Grant fell off his bike and got a concussion. This week after teaching the preschool Sunday School about the stoning of Stephen (How do you tell a bunch of 3 year olds about that one????) we tried to sit in church. Maren and Annie were trying to escape through the side door. When I brought them back, Maren made her displeasure known very loudly. We went out to the back. Maren found the cookies and dumped them all over the floor. While I was cleaning that up, Annie was climbing the stair railing, knocked over the missions display and set the globe sailing.

We left early to get ready for the Sunday School kids to come over for lunch and a trip to the Corn Maze next door. It was kind of crazy and there were a lot of people. The phone rang and it was the Sheriff's office asking if everything was ok. Well, apparently it was Fire Safety week in school and Abby decided to try calling 9-1-1. As I was profusely apologizing to the lady on the phone, the squad car pulled up. He told us when he saw all the cars he figured someone else would have called if there was really something wrong. He was really gracious and we offered him a hot dog, which he declined. What on earth was she thinking?

We walked to the Corn Maze and the kids ran around and had fun. They visited the sheep, goat and horses. The kids ate and went to bed.

We had a difficult confrontation situation later on that evening. I hate conflict and it makes me sick to my stomach but I know it had to be done. How was your day?

These are the adventures of a real life Mommy Missionary!

Does Wall Street Hold Your Treasure?

I'm sure everyone knows by now that we are in a financial crisis! I guess it's time to PANIC! I don't have any interests on Wall Street and it is good to see the price of gas coming down. But really when the economy is in trouble, nothing is good. If people don't have money in their pockets they are not happy. Truth be told, I'm not too happy when I don't have money in my pocket either! I'm trying to decide if this whole thing is bigger than maybe it would be if we weren't so close to a Presidential election.

Mike went to visit a guy who is in the "financial" business this week. He is just a wreck about what's going on, not only for his customers but because his income comes from what his customers make. I was thinking about that during church this week. We had a family that lost a two year old granddaughter last month, a man with four kids who lost their wife and mother to cancer last winter and a women who was widowed just last week worshiping with us. When you think about feeling hurt over the money you lost or don't have in comparison to that kind of hurt it just seems foolish!

I have a friend from my high school youth group whose parents house burned to the ground this week. They lost everything except what they had packed for a trip they were about to take. Her dad owned a successful business and was very generous in giving jobs. He helped a lot of people with what God gave him. They have a lot of earthly wealth and I'm sure they had a lovely home. But if that's all they were living for or cared about, their hearts and hope would be at the bottom of that fire.

Jesus has a lot to say in Matthew about being focused on earthly possessions. Matthew 6:19-21 says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I'm trying to make this point to my kids. They are normal and feel frustrated when we can't buy everything they want or go out and do things all the time. Just as I am learning the lessons of Matthew 6, so are they. Our kids can learn to rely on God and stay focused on Him, not things. I hope they are realizing there are a lot more important things in life and bigger problems than wanting a new stuffed animal or going to see the new movie that came out.

Sometimes it is frustrating to not have very much. But it sure makes it easier to weather financial storms when you don't have much to lose. I know that focusing on God and His daily provisions for us and on the mission he's given us on earth to tell others about His amazing grace and sacrifice for us pays more than the stock market ever could.

It also makes it easier to look forward to eternity and not hold on to the things of this world. I mean I might be sad to leave a Jaguar behind, but an old full-size van - not so much!

Matthew 6:33-34
"But seek fist his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Monday, October 06, 2008

They Are Weak, But He Is Strong!

I've been singing with Maren a lot. She loves singing and doing the actions and it is the best way to get her to sit still for a diaper change. We sing Jesus Loves Me the most. And I realized that the old song is true, even though I usually sing it without thinking about the words. He really is our strength in weakness.

I guess I have learned a lot from other Christians this summer, especially those that are suffering in various ways. We know of another Pastor that had a serious illness and surgery. He was sharing that he is weak and that when he was younger he would have run away from that. But now he is embracing it and accepting God's strength in its place. He has found himself really emotional in worship and just lets it come. All this was a shocking revelation to me. I always try to be strong and in control. If a tear somehow escaped during worship I would quickly wipe it away before anyone saw. After all, this is Northern Minnesota!

I don't want to be weak. I try really hard not to be a girl or wuss and do things on my own. For instance, I grill now. A variety of Pizza, hot dogs, chicken and I have watched BBQ University once or twice. We were having a church dinner this summer after church. I was trying to light our grill and it wouldn't light. I was very disturbed. I just got the tank filled the day before. What could be the problem? A nice man from church came by and informed me I didn't have the gas turned on. So much for being the grill master.

Obviously that is a petty example but still I want to have it all together and in control. Whether it is sickness, lack of money, injury, emotional tragedy or job loss we are put in the position of being needy. Americans don't like to be needy. But when we are we NEED Jesus and we need other believers.

When I am faced with a situation that I can't handle or change, it instantly brings me to my knees. I'm humbled and weak. And now I can see that it's a good place to be. Paul talked about that in 2 Corinthians. He pleaded with the Lord to take his thorn in the flesh. Jesus told him His power was revealed in Paul's weakness. And Paul didn't sulk or complain, He celebrated Christ's work in his life.

As a Mom, I am supposed to have all the answers. (However, they would say Dad knows it all!) I am teaching, correcting, directing the kids in their daily tasks. It isn't natural to let them see my weakness either. Maybe I cry when someone is hurting, when we are watching a TV show or feel like I'm not up to a task. Or maybe our family is persecuted or ridiculed for our beliefs. Or possibly we have some hardships living on a missionary budget with a large family. The truth is if I'm teaching them to love and follow Jesus they need to see my weakness. Because in our weakness we lean on Jesus and see His work.

I want them to see their weakness as a good place to meet Jesus. I want them to embrace it and not run from it. I mean it's not just a song we sing, He really is strong!

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (ESV)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Life and Death

We've had a lot of conversations about death lately. I really want to shield my kids from hearing about it, talking about it and dealing with it. But I know that's silly because it's a reality of life.

We went to see a man from our church that is in hospice today. He is in a lot of pain and is barely recognizable as the spunky Jack we know from church. But yesterday when Mike was there he asked for me and the kids to come. So after lunch today we all loaded up and drove up there. It's a beautiful facility with lots of fancy family rooms to sit in. Jack really didn't know we were there. Mike sat there and held his hand for a long time and I chased the kids around trying to keep them from destroying the place. I really did want to go see him and at the same time I wanted to run away from the grim reality that he is dying. While we were waiting for Mike, I was reading the pamphlet about the hospice house. It talked about having time to reconnect and say thank you and good-bye. And it talked about moving from being a caregiver back to relationship. It spun it all in such a nice positive light you almost forgot about the dying part.

The other day Annie (our 3 year old) and I were in the car on our way to our little ECFE class. She asked me if she was going to die. She continued, "I don't want to die". I wanted to say no you're not going to die, but thought I better be honest. I told her that I didn't want to die either but we are all going to die someday. But she pressed, "not yet, right Mommy?". I wanted to agree, but after the tragedies of the summer I said we don't know. But I do know that we will get to be with Jesus in Heaven. To which she responded, " I will be safe and happy in heaven with Jesus. Can I bring my blankie and teddy bear?" I said I don't think we'll need those things because we'll have Jesus. To which she replied, " I love Jesus."

I thought that was a pretty deep conversation for a 3 year old. But it was also deep to me because I don't want to think about those things. I really, really don't! But the fact is that it is part of life and cannot be avoided. It is hard to explain things to my kids, when I haven't had the need, desire or courage to face them myself. I think earlier on in my parenting I put off those difficult questions when they wondered about sex or death or some other subject I didn't know how to deal with.

It seems more natural now to just honestly deal with the questions as they come instead of saving it all up for some mother-of-all parenting lectures that will include the complexities of life and death and the birds and the bees. I think they need to learn to deal with it little by little and step by step.

So I'm thankful we all went to see Jack. It seems to give more depth to the love Jesus has for us.

1 John 3:14-20
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Date Night

Did you know that you are supposed to have a date night with your husband every single week? That is the mandate of some Christian marriage organizations. No doubt it sounds good and our marriage should be a priority. But I have a problem.

The problem is we do not have the time or money to have a date night every week or even every month. Do you know how much it costs us to have a babysitter for the evening? I am tired of hearing the preaching on how important it is when in reality it is not practical. Not only should you have a date night each week, but it should be something special that you put thought into, like tickets to a concert or a play. Come on, obviously these people do not live in my world!

I know there are some people who find this very important. And if you want to do it and can, that's great. But I don't appreciate feeling like I have a sub-standard marriage just because we don't date. That's right - I'll say it again: We don't date! We would love to, but it's just very difficult right now.

We don't have family around to help us with our kids. We have 5 kids so it's not that easy to even get a babysitter (believe me, I've tried!) . Usually when we get a sitter, it is so we can go to a wedding, wedding rehearsal or funeral. It's not exactly a date, although we are in the car alone for at least ten minutes. And after a busy week of going in separate directions it doesn't always seem like the best thing for our family for us to take off again.

So do we have a bad marriage? I don't think so. We used to have a lot more time together and in a few years, we will again. This season in our parenting and ministry is high demand and we have to take advantage of the moments we have. We enjoy a campfire in the backyard with the kids or a walk through Jay Cooke State Park. We enjoy each other's company after the kids are in bed. Maybe we play Scrabble and drink coffee if we are still conscious or watch a movie. A lot of times we are cleaning up, but we can talk and connect.

I've been thinking about how the key to being a happy Mom is to be "organic". Be able to accomplish what you need to with your kids around. I have a new exercise routine that I do in my driveway. I look totally ridiculous but the kids can be right around me playing. They are happy to play and I'm glad to get it done. I have Bible Study and have people over for lunch with my kids underfoot. If I wait for a time when they are not around, it will never happen.

I think it is the same with marriage. Right now we have to find ways to connect and date that doesn't involve grandios evenings at the orchestra or long quiet dinners. Sometimes when Mike comes home for lunch the little girls are sleeping and we can talk over our lunch. Sometimes we take the whole family to Applebee's because we have a gift card and between the screams and the spilled drinks, we have an enriching evening because we're with our family and that's something we are both passionate about.

Last weekend, my parents watched the kids so we could go to a conference. Although we still came home at night, those times away are priceless. I know they are needed, I just don't think it happens as often as we would like. I'm not going to feel guilty about that. I'm just going to embrace the time we do have and sneak in as much "marraige" time as we can. We realized that in a few years, Grant and Jenna will be old enough to watch the kids for a little while. We will be able to go on a walk or a hospital visit much easier then. But for now, we'll have to settle for Scrabble or a movie or a I'm asleep on the couch as soon as we put the kids to bed night. That's just the kind of night we both need sometimes too.

These Are Days . . . To Remember?

Do you know the song? I'd like to have it as the soundtrack for my life. However, a lot of days these days don't seem worth remembering. Days where I don't leave the house and I wonder why I bother to shower. The only person I will probably see today outside my family is the guy pumping our septic tank!

I really wanted to go with Mike today to see a dear man from our church that is in hospice. I just love this couple! But of course, there is no one to watch our kids. So here I am stuck at my "job" again.

I am reading a book called "Everyday Talk" by John Younts. I have no idea who he is, but we got the book free at the conference we went to last weekend. It's main point is that we need to use everyday opportunities to share Christ with our kids. They aren't dressed up, out and about days. Just Saturdays at home in my running clothes - and I am not planning on going running! When I am playing with the kids or doing laundry are the times that I am able to teach and talk with my kids. And there are a lot of days like this in comparison to big events or special days.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again." (NLT)

I need to have my heart fixed on Jesus and his word. And I need to use all the many precious days God has given me with my kids for His glory. If I am always busy and out and about it is harder for these times to come.

So these ARE days to remember! I need to get my focus right and be thankful for days like today.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mrs. Flexibility

I am a former gymnast (kind of) but flexibility just isn't my thing! I had big plans for this weekend. Friday, the little girls and I had ECFE. I was planning to walk there and then have lunch with Mike afterward. Then Jenna woke up sick and stayed home from school. Scrap that plan! Today, Mike and Grant are going bird hunting and the girls and I were going to go shopping. Jenna is still sick and now Annie is too. Scrap that plan. We have to go to a wedding today and we were going to bring the kids with us. I guess I better try to find a babysitter and we'll bow out of the reception.

I'm not that organized of a person, but I really like to stick to the plans that are in place. It just doesn't settle well with me. Being flexible is the only way to survive life with kids or life at all for that matter.

More often than not things don't work out according to plan and I'm trying to learn not to let it get to me. Going with the flow is a way that I can serve my kids and husband by being willing to put my own agenda to the side to deal with theirs. I want them to know that they are more important than walks or shopping or schedule.

It seems like God is good at slowing us down through sickness and changes of plan. It reminds me of what is important in life. A lot of times ministering to those around us cause us to have to be flexible. The most important times to show God's love often come unexpectedly. The pastor that was Mike's mentor for our first year of ministry had a sign in his office that said "Ministry is the person standing in front of you". Not the next thing on your calendar or to do list.

So I'm trying to learn to embrace change in plans and serve, whether it's with my family, my church family or a stranger. It's also a really important lesson I want my kids to learn. I hope they see me going out of my way and even being inconvenienced for the needs of others. It may affect our families finances or holiday plans, but it allows us to slow down and show the love of Christ to those around us.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

Ephesians 6:7
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.

Galatians 5:13
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve on another in love.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A House Divided

When we were waiting during Maren's procedure on Monday, I happened to catch The Today Show which I never watch at home. They had a segment on debating The Mommy Wars, the age old showdown between working moms and stay at home moms. It seems that the nomination of Sarah Palin for VP has sparked a lot of debate in that area. This is not a political commentary, however I am realizing something in my own life as a Mom - A house divided can not stand.

What I mean by that is the more things I get involved in outside of my home, the more divided my time and attention become. All the things are good things like teaching Sunday School, leading Bible Studies and Girl Scouts. I also try to exercise, keep up with my friends and family and have a little life - even if it only through the wonders of Facebook! But the more I do, the less time and attention I have to devote to what I think the Bible tells me is the most important job I have to do, which is minister to my family. And it is the very thing that I passionately want to do a great job at. So you might wonder why it gets the last of my time, energy and enthusiasm. I wonder too.

All the activity of 7 people in a house with things to do makes for a hectic and miserable life. Just tonight I begged Mike to try to leave football practice a little early so I could get to my meeting on time. I have to pick Grant up early from Karate so we can get right to piano lessons. We've had so many hand-offs this week it's amazing everyone got where they were supposed to be! It seems that a house that runs at this pace and with all this stuff going on is on the verge of collapse!

I'm not thinking about becoming a hermit or anything. But I know that I need to carefully weigh my activities with the needs of my family. And although even the esteemed Proverbs 31 women had business and humanitarian interests outside of the house, they were all for the benefit and enrichment of her family. A lot of times my interests are selfish or wasteful. Let's face it, I'd rather be out doing things than at home organizing and cleaning my cupboards or closets which would help our house to run smoother.

A lot of the arguments about Sarah Palin are focused on the fact that a women should be at home for her kids. It's weird because I kind of agree but at the same time it offends me to the core and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I think women are able to decide what they can handle and what they can't. But it's tough to argue that point when you look at what God's word has to say about it.

Proverbs 31:27 says, "She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."

Titus 2:3-5 says, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

I think God gives us brains and freedom to discern what he has for us and it is probably different for everyone in every season. But it's easy to fill my life up with activities that are feeding my need for things or recognition, especially because I feel like I get so little of it as a wife and mom. I even find that exercising at times is not just a way to keep my body in shape to be used of God and be healthier, but a desire for approval.

There is nothing I want more than to faithfully do God's calling in my life. Even though it's not politically correct or maybe it is now (who can keep track?) I know that right now His primary calling for me is at home and that deserves my undivided attention.

1 Peter 3:4
Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

Blame Game

I know a lot of Christians that continually struggle with doubt. I have never been a questioner or doubter when it comes to matters of faith. I'm not sure if that's because I was raised with it or if it's a personality thing. But recently my faith has been shaken.

This past summer I've known of several young children that died tragically: a drowning, a special needs boy who died due to complications from an infection and a baby who died at 4 months after a heart surgery. I don't know any of these families very well but it was still tough news.

Last week we got word that a young man who grew up in our church had lost their 2 year old daughter in a tragic accident. Although they don't live in Wrenshall, we know this family. Mike officiated their wedding, the Dad was in our youth group and on Mike's football team. Our kids are the same age and they visit our church when they are here with their family.

So the inevitable question is Where is God? If He's loving, how could he let this happen? If He is all-powerful, he could have stopped it.

At the funeral the Mom shared her testimony. Her earliest childhood memories are of being molested. She had two abusive marriages. Her oldest daughter was diagnosed with and survived cancer. She said she used to blame God but she realized that she couldn't. She recognized that God loved her and wanted what was best for her even on a tough road. She didn't want anyone to blame God for this death. There certainly are a lot of difficult days ahead for this family, but they celebrated her life and rejoiced that she was safe with her heavenly Father. I was so disturbed I hadn't really thought of that.

Now, I'm a good Christian, a Pastor's wife! I would never be angry at God or blame God or would I? The good news is that we have a God that allows us to air out our emotions: anger, grief, disappointment. In the Psalms, David lets it all out. He doesn't hold back on asking God the tough questions.

In Psalm 35:17 he says, "O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. " Later on in verse 22 he says O Lord, you have seen this; be not silent.

Psalm 43 starts with "Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nations; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men. You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?"

So even David, a man after God's own heart, had time where he questioned and wondered what God was doing. But he always comes back to the love and hope of our gracious Savior. The end of Psalm 43 says
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

I'm so thankful that this family showed that hope to me and everyone else around them. I need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus during tough times, not my circumstances. He is the Rock of my faith. Hard times, questions and emotions will come and go, but He will never change. Lesley has a blog with lots more on this. The address is

Job 2:9-10
His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!" He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Patience is . . . not my specialty!

On our way back from camp last week, our friend Denise rode with us. She offered to treat us to lunch at McDonalds which we of course took her up on! While we were trying to figure out what everyone wanted I was overly annoyed and hard on one of the kids. It wasn't that big of a deal, but after a week of camp, sick kids and no sleep it was just one of my usual natural bad reactions. I didn't scream and yell or anything but it wasn't the way I would choose to respond. Whenever that happens when we are out in public, I feel like everyone is looking at me. I know I do when I see other people in less than perfect parenting moments.

The thing that other people don't know, however, is where you've been. They haven't seen the 150,000 other times that day that you have patiently helped with shoes or answered the same question or dealt with the same behavior issues. They didn't see what it took to get everyone loaded up in the car to get a pack of diapers that you may or may not be able to afford or that you've been on the road with a bunch of little kids for a week. And more than likely no one saw the tears streaming down your face because you feel overwhelmed and stressed and you're not sure how to make it through the day.

I am usually pretty hard on myself when I am not patient. I want to be patient with the kids. I want to do the very best I can do as a parent. I want to be Mary Poppins or at least a well-dressed, cool, patient mom on a sit-com. But those are not real life. I'm not really good at being patient. I get irritated when there are long lines or a slow person in front of me. I tap my fingers on the counter when they have to call for a price check or fumble for a coupon. I tap my fingers on the steering wheel when someone is driving slow. Just get moving!

In real life, we are stretched and busy and tired. So I am going to work on being patient and Lord knows I pray for that everyday. But it's a work in progress. And those judgmental looks, however annoying or well-deserved aren't important. The only one I am accountable to at the end of the day is Jesus and thankfully he is a gracious and merciful God: slow to anger and abounding in love.

So when I am less than kind and loving on the 150,001st time I'm asked a question, I feel like I should be able to cut myself some slack. But the reality is that the Bible teaches we must be patient, not to mention gentle and loving, over and over again. I really do pray for patience, but I continually blow it. I know I'll never be perfect, but oh, I want to be more like Him!

James 5:7-11
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Psalm 86:15
But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Ephesians 4:2
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Decade and a Foot

I wrote this a while ago, but it came back to mind again just the other day as I was picking up. I put one of Grant's new sandals of my foot and it FIT ME! How did that happen? Time moves too fast and it's just another reminder to treasure what God has given me and these years with my kids. I guess God is trying to pound this stuff into my head!

Where does time go? This past winter we celebrated 10 years of ministry at our church and the church's 10th birthday. We had a great weekend of special events to commemorate all that God has done here. Our ministry has changed a lot. I hope we are improving each year as we bring Christ to those around us.

I've changed a lot too. Mike pointed out in his sermon that being here has made him a better man, husband and father. I feel the same way about myself. God has allowed us to grow and mature here. It hasn't all been easy either. There have been a lot of tough times along with the good times. We've had housing issues, marriage issues, depressing and discouraging times. The lessons I've learned have changed me and I wouldn't want to go back to the person I was.

Thinking about it all made me realize that it's too easy to focus on the negatives. And now in retrospect there were so many good times. We've developed friendships with unbelievable families. We've watched their kids grow up, get married, have babies! We've seen people come to our church bruised and broken and watched as God began to heal them. We've seen people turn their lives over to Christ. We've learned to call this little town home.

Throughout the service on Sunday, I missed a lot. Annie had to go potty, there were issues in the nursery, Maren's diaper leaked all over her clothes and so I missed a lot. But I guess that's part of the change, God's given me a more important ministry! I've got my own little congregation of 5 and they are needy like most congregations are. It may not feel as important as the things I used to do like helping on the worship team, setting up or doing the bulletin, but it's the greatest job God has given me to do in my life and I'm going to try to enjoy every minute - even with all the ups and downs!

1 Thessalonians 3:12
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.