Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lessons for a Pessimist

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Let’s just say that I am not an optimist.  I have tried to be, maybe even in the past I have passed for one, but these days I tend to be a glass half empty kind of gal.  In addition to not always being able to see the silver lining, I have a horrifically detailed imagination.  I assume the worst possible scenario, and I can visualize it in gruesome and disheartening detail.  This also means that I plan for it.  In short I am a hyper-organized pessimist, also know as Pollyanna’s worst nightmare. 

Since we are all currently stuck in the belly of the grey beast known as February, I can imagine that some of you might also be having trouble looking on the brighter side of things.  You might have noticed that as of late you are having some trouble feeling “happy”, that your glass also appears to be half empty, and that God, well, He just hasn’t been following you little hyper-organized schedule.  Am I speaking anybody’s language?   

Happiness is a concept we have come to worship in America, an idol of sorts.  We follow our bliss, seize the day, live for the moment…you get the idea.  We have become so consumed by the idea that our happiness is somehow reflective of the blessings God has given us.  It isn’t.  You see, happiness is not promised to us in scripture.  The promise we have in scripture is that we will have the Joy of the Lord.  Joy and happiness my dear readers are two very different things.

I’ve learned that my pessimism is crippling my faith.   If I, a believer in our resurrected Christ, cannot tell of the Joy in my life, then why would any non-believer want to have any part of my faith?  Who really wants to know my Savior when I get bent out of shape every time something doesn’t go according to plan?  Our faith in things unseen, in the promises of all thing new, should be the wellspring of our Joy.  We will not always walk around with a smile, and we will not cease struggling with the burden of pessimism, but we will have Joy in knowing that all things work for the good of those who love Him.  All things, including half empty glasses and the month of February.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tot School Week of 2/14

                             TotSchool2
What a busy week we had in tot school!  This week we concentrated on a couple of things.  We began concentrating on the letter A this week and its sound.  In addition we worked on the colors blue and green and counting from 1 to 4.  Here is a little bit of what we did this week.  
E loves Disney movies, so to help with our alphabet I created some coloring sheets that had Disney characters on them with letters.  This week we colored “A is for Ariel”  E REALLY liked coloring Ariel.  She’s been saying “A Ariel” around the house too, so I think  this method is a keeper.  I will try to get the sheet on-line so anyone who wants to can use it!
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We also did the A is for Alligator activity that you can find here.  126_0243126_0245
E liked gluing on the teeth, but she never really took to it like the Ariel activity.  Princesses are the way to go, I guess!
We worked on some snow activities too, since there was plenty of it hanging around early in the week.  E liked the Pom Pom Snowman a lot.  It helped us work on our colors, too.  126_0228126_0229
Keeping with the snow theme we worked on picking “snowballs” up with tongs, which E eventually got the hang of.  She used two hands at first, but then progressed to doing things one handed.  She wanted to do this activity everyday, so we did.                                                            
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Counting is not coming as easily to E as the alphabet, but after a disastrous first day activity I won’t even detail, (though it was all my glorious idea) I used the popularity of the cotton balls and glue to make a counting activity.  We lined up the numbers above the paper and made glue dots to correspond with the number.  E got to put the cotton balls in place on the glue, which she liked a lot.  It was really simple but we did it a couple of times just because she liked it so much.  
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To see what others did this week check out tot-school on 1+1+1=1   
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Tot School Week
        of 2/8

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bigger Pots

I am not much of a gardener.  Its not dirt that I mind so much, but I am not a worm person.  Every Spring though, I see all the flowers in the garden section and get the hankering to get my hands dirty.  I buy a couple of flats of pansies, some pots, and a bag or two of worm free dirt then head home to “garden”.  Most years my pansies, despite the name, end up being quite hardy, and I enjoy blooms for quite a few weeks.  Then, the novelty wears off, and I forget to water the little guys and they finally shrivel up and kick it.  
I don’t know what got into me last year, but I started “tending” my garden.  My two pots of pansies flourished, and they were watered daily.  They were getting HUGE.  Blooms would die, and I didn’t just leave them there like I usually would, I pruned them and got rid of the dead growth.  They grew and grew and then something happened.  They started dying.  I didn’t get it.  I thought there had to be some kind of bug eating them.  Nope.  Not enough water?  Nope.  Too much water?  Nope.  The culprit?  Their pot, my sweet little pansies pot, was suddenly just too small.  The pot was no longer able to meet their needs and if I didn’t move them, well then, they were all going to die.  At that point I knew that if they died all my work and effort to get them to that point would have been in vain.  In the end I realized that this was what I was growing them for though.  I was pouring into them so that one day they would be hearty, healthy, and beautiful enough to move on to bigger pots. 
                       pansies
Sometimes we figure out that we need bigger pots too.  If things are healthy and growing as they should they eventually outgrow where they are at.  These times of growth and change are good, and they are the way Christ intends us to be as His followers.  We should be growing all the time.  If we fight the growth, or don’t give it the room it needs, then like a flower, we start to die. 
There is a lesson here for those of us entrusted to oversee the growth of others. Whether as Mommies, Daddies, friends, or ministers, we need to know that when our little flowers are ready for bigger pots we have to give what they need.  Sometimes we get to grow with them, and other times, we have to give them away to someone who has the right things in place to keep them growing.  Regardless, our job as gardeners is too feed our little flowers and pour into them with everything we have.   It might be sad for us if we don’t get to grow with them, but we need to rejoice in the fact that if we do our jobs the way we should then we will have grown flowers that will be hearty, healthy, and beautiful enough to move on to bigger pots.       

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kryptonite

We had some good friends over yesterday evening.  They, like my husband and I, are in the ministry.  Ministry, like Christianity itself, is a daily transition.  At times it seems like you’ve had you’re Miranda Rights read to you, and everything you say or do can and will be used against you, or like you’re a super-hero whose revealed their true identity.  Some, not all, seem to think that you shouldn’t have struggles, or should be constantly righteous and upstanding.  No matter how committed and content you are in your calling, the simple fact of the matter is this side of Heaven, that ain’t the case. 

Now, you don’t have to be in full time ministry to be seen as a super-hero.  The moment those around know that you’re a Christian, you’re viewed in a different light.  Its almost like you’ve ducked into the nearest phone booth and pulled on your spandex.

You’re watched more closely.  You’re judged more harshly.  You’re bashed more bitterly.  From the school yard to the office cubicle, you have a different set of expectations placed on you, and the moment you don’t live up to those expectations, well, then you face your kryptonite Glory Girl and Righteous Boy.
The threat of kryptonite lurking in places unknown is enough to scare some of us into silence, or worse.  Some of us turn into what I call “guardian angel” Christians where the only thing that let’s people know we believe in Jesus Christ are our chain e-mails 0r status updates.  This is not how we are to live.  Not as Christians, not as believers in a Savior who conquered death and the powers of hell.  Surely, HE wants more for us than fear, timidity, and blessing that requires 10 or more forwards. 

We have hope in things unseen, and to the fallen world that appears foolish.  No one wants to sign on willingly to a life of ridicule, trial, and struggle.  But, we did.

We did, and it is in those times of ridicule, trial and struggle that we find out not what we are made of, but what HE has made in us.  We begin to see what HE is doing through us, for us, and by us.  Through him there is nothing we cannot do.  So chin up Glory Girl and Righteous Boy, the battle is already won.  Go out there today and face your kryptonite. 
                          super_g

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tot School Week of Feb 8th

                                           E is 24 Months Old
                         TotSchool2 
We, like many of you other Tot School mom’s, focused our lessons on Valentine’s Day.   My favorite activity from this week { E’s too I think} was one I found on the internet.  Some other creative mom came up with this, and in my searching I have forgotten where I found it.  I took a silicone heart shaped muffin pan I found at Target and put tempra paint in the bottom of each heart.  I filled the rest of each heart with water and stirred the mixture together with a toothpick.  Freeze the muffin pan with your paint hearts (I used a cookie sheet to stabilize mine) and, ta-da-you have heart shape ice paint. 
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I gave E a pink sheet of construction paper and let her go at it. As the hearts melt they leave behind a stream of color like so….                                                                                                                                                          126_0147
E’s end product looked like this:
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We also had a tea party this week.  E loves tea parties, and I let her use her little cups and dishes and pour the tea for us.  It helps her with motor skills and she loves to do it.  We also talked about virtues, and about being a servant.  She “served” Mr. Lion and we practiced using a napkin and saying “please” and “thank you”.  She LOVED it.
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We used this sorting activity to work on colors this week  too.  E knows her colors, but she isn’t 100% on verbalizing the names.  She points to the right color when cued, but she doesn’t always name them right when asked.  We worked on saying color names and sorting them together.  These are pipe cleaners I cut up and some dip cups I had in the cabinet.  She likes the game.  Again, I don’t remember where I found it, but its another mom’s idea.  :)
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As a side note, E did not like pants this week.  She kept taking them off.  :)  Well, one step closer to potty training.  We made Valentines too, but alas, I forgot to get pics of the finished product.  Oh, well!
Want more ideas?  Check out what others are doing at 1+1+1=1

Monday, February 15, 2010

Make Me Lie Down

I have never been the graceful sort.  When I was growing up I am sure that my parents thanked the Lord they had good insurance.  I was always falling, and since I was a calcium deficient, moose of a girl that normally resulted in broken bones.  This trend of grace, or lack there of, continued into my years as a teen.  I still kept falling down.  I fell so frequently that when my parents heard several moderate bumps in succession they just yelled “Amber, are you ok?” 

You can imagine my parents worry when I went to them and told them that at the clumsy age of 20, I was ready to move out of the house.  They were obviously concerned that I had been seduced by the idea of living away from home and the freedom it offered.  They were right, but I wasn’t ready to admit it.  So, despite their objections I secured a spot with a roommate in this shady little apartment close to my college campus.  I was enchanted.  They were horrified.  God was prepared to hold both of us through it.

Two weeks before I was to move out I decided to shoot a little basketball in our broken and uneven driveway.  To match my athletic ability I chose the appropriate footwear: a pair of clunky gladiator sandals.  I might have gotten off a couple of shots before I fell, I don’t really know, all I know is that my sandal caught the lip of the pavement during a jump shot.  Down I went, in a writhing blaze of glory, and landed squarely on my elbow.  I ended up with a hairline fracture and an arm length cast.  My sentence?  Two weeks.


My injury did more than just tear the heck out of my elbow, it also severely wounded my pride.  My parents and I had been barely speaking over our differences.  Now, with an arm length and the complete inability to take care of things, I had to start asking for help.  A friend of mine saw the symphony of chaos in my life and lovingly suggested God might be the conductor. 

“You ever read Psalm 23?” she asked. 

I told her yes, but in a snippy “I’ve got a broken elbow” kind of way.  She went on to tell me that in Psalm 23 David writes that the good shepherd “makes” him lie down in green pastures.  The wording suggests that David isn’t really keen on the idea of lying down, yet God, being the good shepherd he is, MAKES David take a seat, because the green pasture is for his own good.  She suggested that maybe God, knowing what was best for me and my parents, was making me lie down for the next two weeks. 

That lesson didn’t make the two weeks any easier.  God didn’t magically give me the ability to brush my hair, or write my name legibly, but knowing God might being using it helped.  It gave me hope.  It let me know that sometimes when God puts circumstances in our paths, at what seem to be the most inopportune times, he might just be making us lie down, and for our own good at that.
                  rother3

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Camper

This post is celebrating the fact that I have finally figured out Windows Live Writer.  It was a long and tedious process, but well worth it.  Here’s to writing with flair.  Flair you say? Why yes, because I can now add pictures.  Its the little things that make me happy folks! :)

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Running on Empty

The “brown bomber”, was a 1984 brown Buick Century, and had become a member of our family days after it rolled off the assembly line. It had taken us on family road trips, to and from holiday gatherings, and to school each morning. After years of faithful service my mom and dad got an upgrade, and I, a poor college freshman, was blessed with a free mode of transportation. MY FIRST CAR!!! I liked the bomber, but it had to be personalized. He was mine after all. I dubbed him Hadji, primarily because I am an avid Jonny Quest fan, and this car, much like the character, seemed wise and all knowing. He had an AM radio, no cassette or CD player, and a transmission that would take you from 0 to 45 in about 6 minutes. The headliner had been torn out after years of sagging, so the roof of the interior was reduced to nothing more than metal and foam insulation. This car let me tell you, was a looker.

There were also certain rules about taking care of Hadji. The latch that held the hood of the car in place had broken. Once Hadj reached maximum speed of about 55 mph the hood would pop up, so you had to watch it. The radio only worked when the headlights were on. The transmission, still kicking after 15 years, slipped, and when it did you had to back your foot off the gas and stomp back down again. Last, but not least, Hadji needed A LOT of oil. Every morning before I took him out I would raise the hood, which was already popped courtesy of the broken latch, and put in a quart of 10W 30. You had to do this, because if you didn’t Hadji would throw a bearing rod and the engine would be shot, or least that’s what my daddy told me. Now I didn’t know a bearing rod from a hole in the ground, but I did know enough about cars to know that the engine kept things going. No oil, no engine, no driving. PERIOD.

I took care of Hadji, and gave him oil every day. We were together for two happy and mile filled years. Then, tragedy. Someone stole Hadji from outside of my college apartment. They, unlike me, didn’t know all of Hadji’s quirks. They didn’t get the memo about the oil, and when we finally got to Hadj he was running on empty and had thrown a bearing rod. Kaput. No oil, no engine, no driving.

Now, I know what happens to an engine when it’s all tapped out, but are we any different? As Christians we need a fill up every now and then, something to keep us from breaking down. Maintenance for the Christian doesn’t come from Valvoline, but we still need daily maintenance. Through prayer and study we should not only be checking our oil levels, we should be making sure we have enough to keep us driving. Maybe, like me, you’ve been in a period of life where it always seems like SOMETHING is pulling you away from checking your oil levels. There are a lot of things in this life that can steal our souls and leave us broken down and waiting for a tow. We are literally moments away from throwing a bearing rod. Are you with me? Today I encourage you to take a moment and check under your engine. Maybe you’re doing ok, and you just need a tune up. Maybe you’re running low on oil, so it’s time to fill up. In either case God is waiting for you, and he will be there, oil in hand, ready to make sure you’re not running on empty.

Verse of the Day: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” Psalm 45:7

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New and Improved

It’s getting to close to one of the most dreaded days of the year…Valentine’s Day. Now, I am not a cynic, but even I cringe at all the saccharine sweet messages of love and affection this time of year. Eww, gross. That being said, the only thing that ever really redeemed the holiday in my eyes was the candy, specifically Necco Conversation Hearts. For as long as I can remember I have bought myself a great big ole’ bag of hearts, popped in a romantic comedy, and set about purposely picking out the white ones. Yummy. This year, like every other before it, I took myself down to the local Walgreens and sought out my familiar little candy tradition. Somewhere between the heart shaped Mylar and the Easter bunnies (which are a whole other issue) I found my beloved candy in a new and updated package. Ooooo, pretty. I made my purchase and took myself home. I didn’t immediately eat my treasure, no, with traditions, timing is everything. I waited until E’s nap, popped in a movie, setteled on the couch, and opened my candy. I was, to say the least, unpleasantly surprised. What the fart were these? These weren’t conversation hearts! These tasted like, well, grape flavored pooh! Obviously I must have grabbed a bag of those horrible smoothie flavored hearts.

After a little investigation I discovered that it wasn’t buyer’s error that had led me to this bag full of fruit flavored feces, no, this was the “New and Improved” conversation heart. I scoured the internet to comfort myself with the knowledge that I was not the only one disgusted. Sure enough, there are many faithful Sweetheart connoisseurs out there who are land blasting Necco for fiddling with a good thing. Necco however has said that this update was done after marketing research indicated this is what consumers wanted. In other words, somebody told them to.

Necco isn’t the first one to listen, and be lead in to, being something other then what they are. Anybody remember New Coke? How about Pepsi Clear? It isn’t the first time someone has tried to improve on something that was good just the way it was. As a matter of a fact we don’t even have to look to corporate America to see someone messing with what is good enough all because they want to make more people happy. Anyone remember high school?

Somehow human nature is inclined not to leave good enough alone. A lot of us look at ourselves and we see something that could be improved upon. If only my hips weren’t so big. My teeth are crooked, aren’t they? Should my eyes be this close together? Blondes have more fun; I should dye my hair. On and on it goes. Too often our attempts to improve upon what God has made perfect end up like grape flavored pooh. The fact of the matter is, we just don’t see the truth, or if we see it, we’re ignoring it. We are made in the image of God. We are just the way he intended us. Those giant hips, crooked teeth, and beady little eyes are all in the image of a loving father who made you just the way you should be. You aren’t something that needs to be “New and Improved”; you’ve already been purchased just the way you are. That’s good to know isn’t it?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Sacrifice of Doubt

It has been a crazy couple of days in our household. My husband, Jeff, has been confined to the couch because of a bad back. This has meant that I have been doing double duty as mommy and daddy to our toddler, and praying Jeff makes a speedy recovery. Tonight, as Jeff slept off his pain meds, I got Elisabeth ready for bed. We played in the tub, brushed our teeth, and put on our jammies. As part of our nighttime ritual we also read a bed time story, and our story for the evening was that of Abraham and Isaac.

As a Christian the story of Abraham and Isaac fascinates me. As a parent, it horrifies me. For those of you reading who may not be familiar with the Old Testament tale I will paraphrase it briefly. Abraham was chosen by God to be the father of the nation of Israel. He was an old man when God chose him, somewhere around the age of 100, and his wife, Sarah, was no spring chicken. God promised Abraham that Sarah would have a son, and that Abraham would be the father. This was to be the start of the nation of Israel, and God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be greater than the stars in the heavens. As God promised, Abraham and Sarah had a little boy and named him Isaac. Needless to say, Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac very much, for they had gone years without children and had given up any hope of becoming parents. I am sure that the miracle of Isaac’s birth dissolved any doubts they may have had about God and His divinity.

Now the story of Abraham and Isaac doesn’t end there, it’s really where it begins. God knew that Abraham trusted Him, but there was a lot that God was going to bless Abraham with. God had to make sure that Abe would be faithful and He asked Abraham to do the unthinkable. God told Abraham that He was going to have to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. Can you imagine Abraham’s reaction? Sacrifice his only son? The very boy God had given him and Sarah? This was their only son! How could God ask such a thing? I am sure that every thought you would have Abraham had, and as a mother, I am pretty sure God’s plan for Isaac was NOT run by Sarah. Even so, Abraham, faithful and trusting completely in God, took Isaac up on the mountain where sacrifices were made. He endured Isaacs’s questions about the lack of a sacrificial lamb, and even went so far as to tie his son down upon the altar. Isaac, trusting his father completely, didn’t even struggle. Abraham had raised his hand to strike Isaac dead when God finally said, “STOP!”

There are so many things that struck me about this testament of faith tonight that I genuinely don’t know where to begin. For one, Abraham didn’t know how the story would end. He didn’t see the parallels between the sacrifice of his only son and the sacrifice of Christ. His faith was a completely blind one. Abe just knew that this was what God had commanded, and he trusted that God wouldn’t ask him to do something that wasn’t for his own good.

In addition, I see now that God had to make sure that Abraham knew he could trust God, fully. Abraham, had he not done as commanded, would have missed seeing God come through in a miraculous way, and he also would have lost out on knowing that our God is a God that can be trusted. Trust is something you can command all day long, but only in practice does it become genuine. Abraham practiced that trust and benefited eternally from knowing that our God is a God who works for the good of His people in all circumstances.

Lastly, I saw that God didn’t jump in at the first sign of discomfort. He didn’t come to Abraham who was no doubt riddled with despair and grief that morning and say “Ahhh, never mind, I just wanted to see if you would do it you crazy old man!” Nor did he come as Isaac and Abraham climbed the mountain. No, God came right when it was apparent that Abraham trusted Him fully, right as Abe was about to go through with God’s command. God not only tested Abraham’s faith, He tested his obedience.

Sometimes we are so much like Abraham. We read things in the scriptures, or know through prayer what God is telling us to do, but we hesitate. It just doesn’t make sense. Move to another country? Sell my possessions? Go to that college? Marry that person? Serve at THAT church? Stay single? Not have children? The requests God lays before us can be so outlandish by human standards that we just can’t see a loving God making them. The thing that we can take from the story of Abraham is that God doesn’t ask us to do things that aren’t for our good. We must follow through on the act of obeying him; on the act of trusting Him. He might stop our hand just as it is raised and our very sacrifice lies before us. In following Him, and trusting Him in everything uncertain, we’ll find that there is only one thing we will end up sacrificing to Him…our doubt.

All Things New

Well, I sat out to revamp this blog, and this is the result.  I have high hopes and big dreams for what I will do with this space.  Now the goal is just to write on this thing daily.  I will posting about tot school activities with E, saving money and bargain hunting, and for those of you who want to read my thoughts and musings on Christian living, well, that will be here too.  Happy reading.