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Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell, 2012

On this, the last day of the year 2012, you may find yourself, as do I, pondering the events of the past year and perhaps making resolutions for the new one.  Every year I have made resolutions.

 I found myself frustrated, looking back at what I had wanted to get done over the past year.  The plans that I had for myself.  Life always got in the way.  For some reason, the resolutions that I set always seemed to somehow get sabotaged.  Why does it feel like I can't ever get anything done?!

That's where I'm wrong.  True, what I wanted to get done didn't get done.  What I planned didn't get accomplished.  But is it true that nothing got done?  Absolutely not. God had His own set of resolutions, plans, and projects for me to get done, and His plans were beautifully established.

No, I may not have written any books this year.  But through a good deal of self-study and further inspiration from the Lamplighter Guild, I learned about storytelling.  God knew that I wasn't ready yet. Will I be this next year?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

I could go into great detail about the various things that God had for me this year, but for the sake of time and space, I will leave you with this encouragement,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
~Proverbs 3:5-6

Not that we should avoid planning and setting goals for ourselves-- on the contrary, I believe that goals are very important.  But we must always make sure that we are trusting the Lord with those plans and goals, and that we are sensitive to His will in them. God's mission-- not our mission-- must be in the forefront of our minds.  And His priorities, however small or insignificant they may seem to us, must be our priorities, in that we simply trust Him and allow Him to use us, to use our open hearts and hands to accomplish His will.  Yes, set goals, set resolutions, plan!  But don't allow those plans to get in the way of God's plans.  Don't allow Satan to lie to you, to call you a failure if you aren't able to accomplish any of your plans-- you trusted God with those plans, and He will bring to pass what He wills.  And that will be what really matters.

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
~Proverbs 37:5

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

The little girl tossed and turned in the top of her twin bunk bed.  She had been waiting all year for this day to come!  Her blue eyes searched the clock, as they had on a cycle of just about every fifteen minutes earlier that night: 5:30am.  It was pitch black outside.  She was only nine, but she still knew that she should wait-- the rest of the house was desolate.  She was the only one awake.  But it was finally morning!  Not just any morning-- Christmas morning!

She sat up in bed.  She had to do something to kill time-- she wanted desperately to go downstairs-- but she didn't want to see her presents before she was allowed to open them, it would be so much harder to wait, and worse, she didn't want to guess what was in them-- they had to be a total surprise.

Yes, all this was worked out in the nine-year-old's mind as she groped around her bed for her latest "read".  There were always multiple chapter books in her bed that either she was reading, had read, or was planning on reading-- one might wonder where the room was for her to sleep up in that crowded bunk that contained so much literature...  She found it, sat back against her pillow and opened it up to where she last left off.  She couldn't concentrate!  She was too excited!

Back to the pile did she place her book, and down the ladder to the floor she climbed.  She sneaked into the hall and stood by the banister for the stairs, listening desperately for sounds of life-- well, namely, awakened life.  What was that?  She heard someone in the kitchen!  Her heart leaped, and she slowly tiptoed down the old, creaky wooden stairs.

Each stair made it's own distinct crrrreeeeeaaaak as it was pressed, signaling the arrival of the little girl on the first floor of the historic farmhouse.  The person awake appeared at the bottom of the stairs just as the little girl was about three steps away.  It was her daddy!

"Good morning,"  whispered his warm, kind voice.

The little girl grinned widely, revealing a set of overcrowded teeth, and giggled slightly, "Good morning, Daddy!"  Her long brown hair cascaded in various knots over the shoulders of her silky, pink nightgown.

Her daddy scooped her up in a big hug as they exchanged whispered, "Merry Christmas"s then proceeded to lead her by the hand to the kitchen.  "Don't look in the dining room!" he playfully warned. But he didn't have to tell the little girl twice-- she knew that in the dining room were the presents-- and she wanted to be surprised.

She could already begin to smell the beginnings of the canned cinnamon rolls-- a rare treat, and a tradition that would last up until this very day.  The kitchen was dark, but warm and cozy.  As she sat at the bar, her daddy poured her a steaming mug of hot chocolate.  She shivered in the drafty kitchen, but the hot chocolate was good.  Mmmm... it was good.  "Thank you, Daddy."  There was that overcrowded grin again.


  You may have already guessed, but yes, the little girl in my little story was indeed me.  This is a memory that I pray that I will never forget-- it is the epitome of life.  The whole story is a lesson to me.  

What is the lesson that I am presenting here?  I remember my daddy, up before the crack of dawn, and how he nurtured his relationship with me.  I remember his mischievous attitude, and his servant's heart,  how he was on top of making everyone's breakfast (how did he know that I would be up so early?).  He made me hot chocolate.  

Reminds me of Russel in Pixar's Up, "Sometimes it's the little stuff that matters most..."  

Yes.  You may have thought that I have been elaborating on this point entirely to much recently, but it is such an important lesson to learn-- especially in light of Christmas.  

I don't remember any of my presents that year.  Frankly, I don't remember really anything else about that year's Christmas.  It's all about our relationships, how we nurture them-- through the little stuff.  My brothers and sisters love it when I give them gifts-- but I think they may even like it even better when I read aloud to them, or let them help me bake cookies in the kitchen.  The other day, I made a pot of coffee while I was busy working on the computer.  The coffee had been ready for a while, but I hadn't had any time yet to get up and prepare it.  My fourteen year old sister, Melody, came and placed a fully dressed cup on my desk.  I looked up and my heart melted.  I didn't ask her to do that-- it meant more to me than any gift that anyone had given me in a long time.  

What does this have to do with Christmas-- apart from my story?  God could have sent Jesus down in a whirlwind.  He could have appeared on a white horse, terrific, and awesome.  God didn't have to send Jesus as a tiny, helpless baby.  But He chose a tiny thing to conquer the big.  He chose a foolish thing to shame the wise.  He sent Himself as a baby-- a little thing that would change history, and conquer death, and pave the way for mankind to once again be in right relationship with the Father.

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
~Luke 2:11-12

"For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
~Isaiah 9:6

Embrace the little things.  You never know what they may become.

Merry Christmas to my lovely readers- all the best from our family, in the name of our Lord Jesus- King of the Universe!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Joyful Family: A Lesson in Contentment {part two}

My dear readers, please forgive my prolonged absence from this little blog as I promised you all a sequel to my previous post!  I apologize for leaving you hanging :-)

If you have not yet read my previous post you can do so by clicking here.

Now, as you all probably already know, I have a large family.  I am the eldest of soon to be 10 children.  One of my favorite things that people ask me about living in a large family is the question, "So, you guys must have a pretty big house, huh?"  When people say this I nearly fall on the floor laughing.  The irony.

Our home is 1800 square feet.  Make of it what you will.  Some people would consider that average, some would consider it small, some would even consider it large.  But in America's culture, a family of 12 living in 1800 square feet is pretty squeezy. We've been living in this house for 7 years, since there were only 6 of us children.  We originally intended on only living here for a year or so--5 maximum-- but God had other plans.

When I read the story in my previous post, my thoughts immediately went to our house.  The family in the story was so joyful, so content, that they did not even consider that they might be the poor family that the pastor was talking about.  The three forks that they shared were enough.  They weren't poor, they had enough.

It was because of this contentment that they were able to joyfully give.  They didn't see that they were in need.  They knew God would continue to sustain them with enough as they saved money to help others in need.

As the story continues, the family is broken when they realize that the church had recognized them as poor and in need.  They were ashamed.  What broke this shame and gave them joy again?  When they surrendered all that cash over to the missionary to help fund the building of roofs in a foreign country.  They gave all the excess that they had, believing that their daily bread was enough.

Wouldn't you, if you were in that family, have been grateful for the money and sometime that week before Sunday, at least gone and gotten a couple more forks so that everyone could have one at suppertime?   No, the family was mortified.  Why do you think this was?  Do you think it was because they were afraid that they had given the appearance of discontentment?  They didn't want to show up at school or even church because they knew everyone there knew that they were poor.  How come they didn't know or realize it before?  They weren't ashamed until they were compared with the world's standards of richness and found to be poor.

This is the problem.  We define richness and poverty based on the world's economy.  When we are caught up in looking at the world around us, what other people have, what other people think of us, how we should dress and act, all according to the world's standards, we are going to find ourselves majorly discontent.  For two reasons:

1.) "Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied." (Proverbs 27:20)  You will never have enough.  You can be the richest man or woman on the planet and still never be satisfied with all of your wealth.  You can have the biggest house, nicest car, most expensive clothes and still be miserable and discontent.  Because there will always be something else that you want, there will always be something new to covet.  This is the common state of man; sinful, always desiring more.  When we are without Christ, our eyes, hearts, minds, will never be satisfied-- greed will take over, always taking, but nothing is ever enough.

2.) And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a) As humans, we all crave sufficiency, satisfaction, contentment--we are sinful creatures; broken, longing to be whole again. God ingrained this desire so that we might seek Him to find it-- because in Him is the only place that it might be found.  The only place.  God's grace is sufficient.   It's enough. When we receive God's grace, repent of our sinful ways and surrender our lives to Him, He promises to watch over us, to never leave us or forsake us.  This is the essence of contentment, to be found in Jesus, trusting in Him.  The world will pull us away from Jesus, away from trusting in His provision.  Teasing us with, "What about this?  Or this?  What will you do if this happens?"  Borrowing trouble, and causing anxiety instead of just resting and being still in the fact that God is enough.

The world tells me that an 1800 square foot home is too small for a family our size.  God tells me that it's enough.  It's what He has given us, now how are we going to be joyful and use it to His glory?

In God's economy, I am rich.  If I only had Jesus; if I lived under a bridge, I would still be rich.
His grace is enough.

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."

Colossians 3:1-2

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Joyful Family: A Lesson in Contentment {part one}

It had been a long morning; I had been up since 3:30am baking bread for the farmer's market that was to take place later that day.  Exhausted and needing a break from swirling cinnamon into whole wheat,  I sunk into the lazyboy sitting next to the family computer desk and grabbed the wireless mouse.  My sister's blogger account was up, so I proceeded to browse the latest posts.  I clicked on one, and there I read a story that nearly made me cry...

It was a story that had been shared by a friend of mine, Michael Schroeder, on his blog.  I was so blessed by this story, so encouraged and challenged, that I wanted to share it with you all.

There were several children in the family, but the father had died, and they lost their main source of income.  Yet, they were always joyful.  They lived in a small house, and did not have much, but what they did have, they appreciated.  There were only three forks to split amongst seven people, so they made it a game to see who would get a fork each night.  One Sunday at church, the pastor announced that the church would be collecting money for a poor family in the congregation.  The pastor told the congregation to be generous and sacrificial since this family really needed their help.
  When the family left the church, they talked over what they could do to help the family.  They did not have a lot of money, but perhaps if they cut their food bill, and only had potatoes for supper for the next month, and did not use lights at night, or listen to the radio, to save money on electricity, they could donate the saved money to the poor family.  That month was one of the happiest times the family had.  They kept thinking of ways to get more money for the poor family, and imagining how excited the family would be to receive it.  The Sunday the money was to be given to the poor family, this family walked to church, singing and talking excitedly.  It was raining, but they hardly noticed.  Joyfully, they put the money in the offering plate.  They had saved 80 dollars.
            At home, when they were talking, the doorbell rang...

Click here to visit Michael's blog and read the rest!

What did you think?  There are a couple different aspects of this story that teach a couple different lessons-- feel free to comment, I would love to hear your perspective...

Coming up, I am hoping to comment what I learned and took away from this story in a later post-- so stay tuned!  ;-)