Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My New Year's Resolution

Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;

guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

~Psalm 25:4-5

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Selfish

A lot of my prayer life is spent asking God about me. You know the prayers: What is your plan for me? Help me be a better wife/mother. Financial provision. Direction for the family.

I have spent months years praying that God show me clearly how many children we should have. (Not specifically, as in - how many? - but when was the right time to stop.) Then, when it seemed He gave some direction, I spent many more months asking Him to help me feel "settled" with it.

Over the years, I cannot count the times that we have found ourselves with time left in the month and no money left in the account. Each of those times, my prayer life launched into all-day conversations with the Lord.

Basically, my prayers tend to be quite selfish in nature. Me, me, me. Answer my prayer. Show me. Tell me. Guide me. Help me. Speak to ME!

I wonder what would happen if I became selfish for God? If I asked Him what He needs, what He wants, what He's passionate about...And then I allowed His desires to be the driving force behind my prayers?

The only thing I can imagine the Holy God being "selfish" for, is us. (Another way I've heard it said is that He is jealous for us, for our affections and devotion.) He wants His people to know Him and love Him, to be in a relationship with Him. God's desire for US is so strong that He allowed the murder of His Son to make an easier way for us to know Him.

Just think on that for a moment - God is jealous for YOU.

If I look at each person I encounter in my day as someone that He is jealous for, how would that change me? Would I be cranky on the phone with the telemarketer if I were cognizant of the fact that God WANTS her? If I were reflecting on how God DESIRES him, would I step back in shame/fear/disgust/sadness at the sight of the disheveled man, smelling of alcohol, on the sidewalk downtown?

But what if I take it even deeper into my heart? What would happen if I allowed God's Spirit to fill me with His passion for people? I would WANT them to know Him. My heart's DESIRE would be for them to discover His love. Our prayers are filled with the stuff of our hearts, so it stands to reason that my prayer life would take a dramatic turn. No more me, me, me.

Lord, hear and answer the telemarketer's prayer, so that she will know You.

Father, show the homeless man Your plan for his life, so that he will find hope in You.

Holy One, tell them about Your Son.

Majesty, guide them in Your ways.

Saviour, help them live for You.

I wonder... In the grand scheme of eternity, which of my prayers would really matter?

Monday, December 29, 2008

My To Do List

I have this crazy bad habit of giving myself reams of projects to work on whenever the kids are on school holidays. I realize that this makes no sense. It would be much more sensible to work while at least a couple of them are at school - less kids means less distraction. So, I'm going to blame it all on Pat and tell you that when it's vacation time he gets motivated. I'm just going with the flow...

For the last few years, we have invited friends with kids over for New Year's Eve. This way, no one needs to get a sitter, kids can be put to bed if needed, and the basement is totally kiddo friendly. It's always a fun evening filled with board games, food, and noise. I would like to point out that NYE is Wednesday and today is Sunday Monday. The deadline for project completion looms dangerously close!

Pat suggested that we should finally refinish the kitchen cabinets. After all, we have lived here nearly three years now. And they are especially ugly. Since I am not willing to get in the way of my husband's motivation, we went for it. Pat is making the doors beautiful for me, by stapling a "frame" around the outside edges of the front. He has also (bless his heart) taken care of all the sanding. I am the painter of the house.

We would be right on track to completion before D-Day NYE, except for this pesky little thing called work. That Pat has to go to. All day today and tomorrow. Maybe even Wednesday. So here I am, major project on hand, five kids home from school, and a large social gathering in my home in just three days.

And you know what large gatherings mean, right? Cleaning, creating food trays, putting away Christmas decorations, organizing the kids' space, more cleaning, and um - of course - not having your entire kitchen cupboards strewn across the kitchen table and counters.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Randomness

First, a few questions...

How can it be possible, that no matter what time the children go to bed - whether 7:30pm or 10pm or somewhere in-between - they are fully capable of waking up just after 6am?

When did the word "holidays" become synonymous with the phrase "completely pig out until you're so full that you might throw up"?

No matter how simple I attempt to make the gift-giving aspect of Christmas for the kids, why do we end up needed to completely rearrange the house to fit their new haul?

Who knew that a completely gluten-free Christmas day could taste so good that I would "holidays"?

And now, a brief statement on my character...

For a girl who prides herself on being quite practical, I was surprised to realize that the thought of my husband buying me a brand new vacuum for Christmas wasn't all that exciting. I was relieved, overjoyed (and a bit embarrassed at seeing my true, completely non-practical side take over) when I opened my gift to find a gorgeous new family ring. Seven stones, two of them glimmery diamonds for our April babies. It's very "blingy" - I love it! Just a brief note to any men - this is a very important lesson - never. ever. buy your wife a vacuum as a gift. Seriously, don't do it! She really isn't nearly as practical as she thinks she is.

Another surprising bit of self-discovery: my vain side also made an appearance when I was holding out my hand to show off my gift (yes, if you're counting, it seems there are at least three sides to my personality). #1 - I need to get acrylic nails; my hands are ugly! #2 - It is really not attractive for a nearly 31-year-old woman to bite her nails down to the quick.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, try to sleep in a bit, and enjoy your gifts (even if there are far too many of them kicking around your house). The most important thing, though, is that you teach your kids to sleep in. Geeeeesh!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God in the Flesh

Our family has been on a new adventure lately. Together, we are trying to listen to the nudges of the Holy Spirit and act on what we hear. It all started a while back with one (of an awesome series) on Acts...

A few weeks ago at church, our pastor told a story about a pastor friend of his. This friend was going to be preaching a message that very morning where he would ask his congregation to leave their coats on their seats when the service was over; they would be given to the large homeless population in their area.

You could sense our congregation squirming in their seats. Much to our relief, no such request was made. Much to my chagrin, before the service ended Pat told me that he felt God calling our family to leave our coats.

Pat talked to all the kids about it, prayed with them, and coats were unzipped. Shea freely and willingly passed her winter coat to Daddy. Abbey was a bit reluctant (she was wearing a special coat that she didn't want to part with). As Meg removed her fantastically puffy winter coat, she reassured Abbey, "don't worry, Abs, God will give us new coats." Together, they tossed their parkas onto the stage (the sanctuary was empty by this time). I reluctantly put my one and only ski jacket on top of theirs, and even more reluctantly unzipped Kai's red Baby Gap coat (a treasured hand-me-down from cousins). Braeden wasn't sure about all this business, and he's the kinda guy who needs to think things over, so he wore his coat home and offered it up just moments following his baptism.

During the following service, an additional 32 coats were left. All were donated to the homeless in our town.

Pat and I talked about buying them new coats, to help them see how God (sometimes) rewards us tangibly when we obey him. But we just didn't feel settled about it. God did provide, though, because when we came home and checked our closet of extra winter gear we found a coat in the right size for each of the girls and Kai. They were last year's hand-me-downs, so not the best quality as far as warmth, but they would do...

Today, our children received brand new winter coats - good, thick, puffy, top quality parkas (in matching colours, teehee)! A gift from our church, inspired by the Executive Assistant. We talked with them about their obedience a few weeks ago...how God saw that and used our church family to return what they had freely offered.

As we were walking out the doors of the church, Pat overheard Shea tell some children, "God gave me this new coat!" Yes. He sure did.

Oh, the Anticipation!

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Do You Know What Causes It?

After seeing this video over at my friend Mary's (Not Before 7), who is expecting her fourth little miracle, I absolutely had to post it.

It seems that after the third one arrives, we all encounter the lovely stranger commentary.

Don't forget to pause the music in my sidebar to hear the video.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Think Generous

Phew. I am all done doing housework. Three hours of scouring and scrubbing, spraying and wiping. Worked my buns off, and it looks great! I won't be enjoying the freshness, though, because it wasn't my house.

There's a woman in our church family struggling with post-partum depression. She and her hubby have six kids. She's maxed out. It's hard to think of how to help someone in her shoes.

Because I've been there, as have some of my friends, we knew right away. The hardest parts of coping with the day-to-day are cooking and cleaning. When you're emotionally drained, the last thing you can muster up the energy for is housekeeping.

So we rallied up a small group of gals (thanks for joining in Frieda, Lynne, and Lindsey), brought our cleaning supplies, gave the family some coupons for swimming and McDonald's, and set to work.

I don't tell you this story to "toot my own horn." I assure you, there are many opportunities I've had to bless others that I have not taken. Many friends and family whom I haven't helped in their time of need. This is just one small thing.

I tell you because it's such a small thing to make someone's life feel cope-able (I made that one up, do you like it?). As women, we see other women who are stressed out and overwhelmed all the time (sure, we often try to hide it from one another, but there comes a point when the truth starts to peek through). What do we do? How do we respond to the needs of our sisters? A ready-to-cook meal, a couple hours of babysitting, a few bags of groceries, a gift card for a meal out, a bouquet of flowers, an invitation for coffee or a play date, help with folding laundry, a big hug, a cleaning bee...just a few of the small things that hold BIG meaning.

I remember after Shea was born, Braeden came home on the school bus and his bus driver waves me over. He handed me two huge boxes. Unpacking them on my kitchen table, I found a freezer meal from each of his teachers and aides (total of five in that class) with recipes included, an adorable baby girl outfit, a stuffed toy for Braeden, and fancy hairbands for the girls. I had never before received the gift of food, and I was amazed. The way that blessed me and made life easier for me in those first weeks after a new baby - words cannot describe.

I want to be more in touch with the needs of the women around me. I want to really listen, so that I don't miss any more opportunities to make someone's day-to-day a bit easier. A little bit of my time can change the landscape of someone else's week (or month). How about you? I encourage you to try it - just once - and you'll be hooked. Come on, think generous!

The sad part of the story is, I still have to clean my own house on Monday. Sigh.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Keep Keepin' On

My heart is burdened...

In the past several months, I personally know at least six couples who are divorcing. In all of these couples, at least one partner is a believer; in most of them, both are Christians (a couple of them missionaries).

I feel so helpless to support and encourage them. All I want to do (and have done) is cry and pray.

I know that God's heart absolutely breaks at the very thought of divorce. I also know that sometimes a marriage is abusive in many ways and is not a safe place to be.

I only know one side of the story in most of these cases, but my understanding is that emotional and verbal abuse were rife in several of these marriages...there have been some hints of physical abuse as well...infidelity, lies, and betrayal.

The enemy is at work here. He is insidiously and systematically destroying what God has brought together. Why? Your guess is as good as mine - havoc, chaos, destruction...anything to get in the way of God's Kingdom coming here on earth (Matthew 6:10). Among the shock and sorrow that echo in my mind, one question resounds - how has the evil one infiltrated our churches? What have we done, as a Church (not my church, specifically, but the Church that is the Bride of Christ), to allow the darkness and destruction to enter?

I don't know what to do, besides weep and pray...pray and weep.

Here are some random Scriptures that I've been rolling over in my heart and mind...
Luke 21:5-36 - Yay! All this mess means Jesus is ever closer to coming back to earth.
James 1:27 - We - other women, families, the Church - need to be caring for those who are broken and bruised among us.
Ephesians 6:10-20 - The key to stopping the destruction of marriages in the Church really is prayer!

If you are in a strong, committed, Godly marriage, please take a moment to thank the Lord for that blessing. Don't take it for granted. And ask God's protection over it daily.

If you are in the broken place, where life as you've known it has fallen apart, please don't turn away form the One who loves you. He will always love you. He can restore what has been broken in your soul. He can give you so much more than what you have lost. He can restore the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:24-26). And please, don't give up on us - your friends. Sometimes we don't know what to say or how to help - don't take that to mean that we don't care. In reality, we care so much that your hurt becomes our own.

I have been in that broken place, so please know that my words are not spoken casually. Someday, with Pat's permission, I will share what God has done in our marriage...the wicked that He has redeemed and now uses for His purposes.

In the words of a very wise song from the Seeker play (if you'd like to listen to the song, click the link below the lyrics):

I'm gonna keep on prayin'. (x4)
Pray, pray, every day,
And my prayers will accomplish much!

Look out dragons 'cause you're gonna go down;
We're gonna stomp you into the ground.
Look out dragons, can't you hear that sound?
I don't think you better stick around.

Put on your running shoes,
We're here with the Good News.
Light is pushing darkness away!

The prayer of the righteous is a powerful thing.
You are fighting evil forces that you can and cannot see.
But there's strength and there's help when you call upon the King.
So be strong, keep keepin' on!

Keep on praying and don't give up.
Resist the dragons and they will run.
Shout out praises to the King of Kings.
Keep believing and keep. on. prayin'.

Listen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Losing Big Time

I tend to have a case of ADD when TV watching, so bear with the incomplete details...

I spent one hour of my time last night flipping channels back and forth between NCIS and The Biggest Loser (grand finale).

There's something about TBL that just inspires a girl! I mean, those folks made me really believe I could do it! Eat right, work out HARD, and get back down the slender 130 lbs of my dreams.

So I sat, watching a man who had been dead renew relationship with his family (NCIS) and people who had been dangerously obese gain new life (TBL), and I cried. Not just an "awwww how sweet I'm getting a little choked up" sorta cry. More like an "all out sobbing and hiccuping and snot dripping from my nose" kinda cry. The only explanation I have for this behaviour is hormones.

Seriously, who SOBS with joy seeing people lose 135 lbs in six months? Something had to be done to stop my absurd display of, well, sobbing.

So as I watched an alive-again man hug his granddaughter and a woman win $250,000 for losing nearly 50% of her body weight, I self-medicated with a most wonderful and gigantic piece of chocolate cake soaked in canned evaporated milk. (Don't knock it till you try it, people. It's sheer yummy heaven. Heaven, I tell you!)

Yeah, I'll be inspired after Christmas...

Monday, December 15, 2008

But Have Not Love...

My mom sent me this email today...

1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family - I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family - I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family - It profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure

© By Sharon Jaynes

Posted by Annette Jennings

Friday, December 12, 2008

Excuse Me, I Seem to Have a Little Something in My Eye

You know what I love about Christmas? The craziness.

Yep, you heard me. I LOVE CRAZY!!! (Like you didn't already know that.)

That first weekend of December, when Pat drags out the boxes of decorations and the tree so I can "deck the halls" around this place - that is just about my favourite day of the year (it's definitely in the running, right after Christmas day, my birthday, the last day of school, and the first day of school).

There is something so deeply satisfying in taking a day (or six) of shopping and reaching the point of being able to say, "I'm done!"

I especially enjoy the anticipation in the children's eyes as they admire the wrapped gifts under the tree.

The busy-ness of running from Christmas concerts to work parties to friend's houses is a joyful kind of insane. It's even worth the tired and cranky little ones who've been allowed to stay up a wee bit late a time or two.

The best part of the craziness, though, is the family. For a couple weeks of the year I can count on everyone available to make an appearance. Weddings, funerals, and Christmas - those special times that really bring people together. If only for a couple days...

You see, my brother and sister are technically my "step" siblings. Our families merged when I was about 12 years old. This often leaves me as "odd man out" when it comes to sibling stuff. It doesn't help that I have a pack of five kids, and they are both child-free at this time in their lives. (Not only does it mean that we don't have a lot in common as far as what we do in our free time, who we hang with, etc.; I am, quite frankly, not very available for just hanging out kinda stuff.)

This divide is often just what I accept as life. Embrace what time we do get together, but try not to get hung up on the loss of my dream (you know, the Cleavers...laughter, love, connection, being the best of friends). Every now and then, though, it makes me a little sad. But this season - this month - for just a short bit of time, wipes that divide away. We're all together, crammed into small loud places, celebrating as a family. It's crazy, it's busy, but it is oh-so-beautiful.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Update, More Heavenly Partying

Relating to my post earlier today...

I planned to just leave it alone, let Braeden come to me. I didn't want to push or pressure him in any way. Baptism needs to be a decision made of your own will, with no convincing or cajoling.

I believed that God had put it on Braeden's heart to be baptised, but fear overcame obedience. Regardless of that belief, I still wasn't about to "suggest" anything.

Before climbing in the tub tonight, he told me again, "Mom, I want to get baptised. Tonight. In the bathtub." (If you know Braeden, it really sounded more like, "Mom, Ina get 'tised. 'Night. Buhtub.") I told him to get clean while Pat and I talked.

The conversation went a little like this...

In the bathtub? Really? Can we do that?

Um, well, I don't know if it's technically how it's typically done. But should we really say no?

Hmmm. Yeah. Okay. Let me look in my Bible.

Okay. Let me go scrub the tub for pictures.


Braeden's earthly Abba sharing some words from the heart of his Heavenly Daddy.

Triple yay, King Jesus!

A couple notes:
- I do not believe you need to have someone "official" to make a baptism real, true, or meaningful. (It's nice, but not necessary. I also can't find anywhere in the Bible that says it must be a Pastor/Reverend.)
- I do believe that when God tells us to act we need to do so immediately. But for those times when we let fear get in the way of our obedience (like Braeden did yesterday), He is faithful to give us another chance. Braeden told me that God TOLD him last night, "Braeden, you need to get baptised TOMORROW." Who am I to question what the Almighty Lord commanded my son to do.
- I could not be more proud of both Braeden and Abbey for taking a bold step of faith, moving forward in their walk with the Lord.

And a weird side-note... If you were wondering what the heck that thing is that Abbey was baptised in, but were too polite to ask, I'll answer (because I just realized it looks like a big metal garbage can). It's a horse trough. Our baptismal tank is under our stage and is about 4.5' deep - a fair bit deeper than most of yesterdays' baptisees are tall. Our children's pastor improvised!

There's a Party in Heaven

We have had the privilege of celebrating a couple of exciting milestones in our family this week.

#1 - Meg sang in the chorus for a play called "Seeker: The Armor of Light." The plays (and books that they're based on, and songs) are a great ministry that share the Truth of God's Love through allegory. Seeker and his friends live in the Kingdom with the King, and they are part of His army. They fight off dragons (the dragons in this particular story were Anger and Abuse) and bring people out of the darkness and into the Light, where the King gives each of them a new name.

(Meg's at the front right. I apologize for the quality of the photo - forgot my camera and don't really know how to work the camera on my Blackberry yet.)

I can't say enough great things about the plays and the songs. They minister to me, bringing home God's Truths in a new way. As their "creator," Dian Layton says, they are most definitely "divine downloads!" I think I may just need to have a giveaway relating to Seeker in the new year...

Anyway, at the end of each performance, the audience is told that there is a Real King who loves them. The Good News is shared and an invitation is offered. On Saturday, while watching the play with my parents (I was backstage helping), Shea decided that she wanted to go pray and ask Jesus into her heart! Yay, King Jesus!

#2 - Sunday afternoon was a special occasion in our Church, called the "Big Birthday Bash." The reason - celebrating new life for 16 children. Two of mine were included in the sixteen children who chose to be baptised!

Unfortunately, Braeden was intimidated by the crowds of people (there were at least 150 in attendance), and he decided not to be baptised right then. Apparently, he wants to be baptised in the bathtub tonight. If so, we'll put on some trunks and take pictures to document the special moment.

Abbey, though, pushed through her fears and acted in obedience to what God had called her to do! Double yay, King Jesus! (I should mention that all the kids being baptised were given invitations to hand out. Abbey's teacher and principal came. Man, do I ever love our school!)

(As you can see - on the left - Abbey's Daddy had the honour of assisting in the baptism. Go Pat!)

After the baptism, while we were enjoying our birthday cake, I was telling Abbey how very proud I was of her. She was giggling and grinning and bouncing up and down. She said to me, "I'm so happy, Mommy!" I told her that maybe she felt so happy because Jesus was smiling. With the confidence of a child, she replied, "Of course He is! There's a party in Heaven right now!"

(There I am crouching with the towel, clapping and cheering. You can see our family and other guests gathered behind us - Pastor Mike asked everyone who was invested in these children's lives to come up and be a witness, as well as offer their commitment to encourage each child in their walk with God.)

Precious.

I ask that you pray for protection over our family during the next couple of weeks, that the children's faith decisions will settle deep within their spirits, and that the enemy will not be able to mess with God's work in them (or in our family). As a family, we have been strapping on our Armor of Light at bedtime and in the morning...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Getting Into the Spirit of Christmas

Ever struggle with your faith? With understanding how God has it all figured out? All taken care of? Worried about finances this Christmas? Read this awesome post!

The Generosity Project is celebrating advent daily. Read this post first; if you're like me you'll be unable to resist taking 10 minutes to read through the archives. Consider creating your own experiment in generosity.

Here are two scriptures shared at The Generosity Project that spoke to me:

Matthew 5:42 (NIV, UK version) Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Romans 12:13 (unknown version, perhaps her own paraphrase - but I like it) Get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Clearly, Too Much Time on my Hands

In my vast boredom (read: when I should have been folding laundry, but chose to sit on the computer instead), I decided it was time to add a playlist to my blog.

I am aware that the jury is hung as to whether the playlist is fun or annoying. Personally, it depends on my mood that day (and the time of month *wink*).

I just feel as though there are so many aspects of a person's personality that can't come through in writing. For example, knowing that I LOVE country music might completely alter your opinion of me. Maybe you'll think I'm more fun-loving than you assumed. Or wonder if I'm a bit of a dork in real life. (Both are accurate.) So here - get to know me a little better through my song picks.

If you are from the camp of "I hate stupid playlists; they are so annoying," well, the strategic placement of my playlist RIGHT AT THE TOP OF THE FIRST SIDEBAR is just for you. Hitting the little pause button is oh-so-simple. You don't need to hate me or leave me forever - just pause my tunes. I don't mind, honest.

What I do want to know, though, is if this playlist thingie causes any trouble with page loading. So definitely let me know if my page has now turned into one of those that takes eeee-tern-it-eeee to load. Because, obviously, that is not a problem I want to have. (I already have enough issues going on with this silly bit of technology.)

Have fun listening! And we'll change it up a bit after Christmas...maybe some good ol' hoe-down music for ya'll.

P.S. You may notice that you cannot read the artist's names. This is due to my greed in needing two sidebars...resulting in smaller space for putting cool stuff in. If you really want to know the artist of a particular song, just let me know.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jude 17-23 (Msg)

But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: "In the last days there will be people who don't take these things seriously anymore. They'll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts." These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There's nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!

But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God's love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!

Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Duck - There's a Snowball Coming Your Way!

I was tagged by Hope at Pink-a-Doodle-Doo for this fun Christmas post.

The rules:
1. Post the rules on your blog.
2. Fill out the questions below
3. Tag 5-7 people at the end of your post.
4. Pass on the tag. Have FUN!!

1.Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Both. But only very occasionally.

2.Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? He likes to fill up stockings with unwrapped gifts (such as toothbrushes and underwear), but he also usually gives one gift to the whole family that is unwrapped (last year, we got Tinkerbell - farewell, Tink).

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? This year, I finally had a bit of money to buy my own lights (rather than using my parents' cast-offs). We have blue LED lights outside, with silvery-white on our posts. Those same silvery-white (did you know you can buy lights with different shades of white?) on the tree.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, but I've always thought I should. It would be great fun to make the kids go stand under the mistletoe when they're arguing.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Usually right around December 1st.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? I am VERY fond of stuffing...I like to mix it up with my mashed potatoes and pour gravy all over it. (Anyone still wondering why I'm having weight "issues?")

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child. We used to go to Manitoba and have Christmas with my Grandparents and Aunties and Uncles. Someone (Grandpa, I think) invented an excuse to give all the kids money - we put on a "show" and the relatives tossed dollar bills our way (I know, I'm dating myself with the dollar bill thing). One year my cousin, Nick, and I did a lip sync to Kenny Rogers' & Dolly Parton's "I'll Be There with Bells on." I can still see the tears streaming down my Grandma's face as I pulled the 14 pairs of rolled-up socks out of my shirt.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I'm sad to say that some mean kids at school ruined it for me! They were running around and blabbing about how smart they were and how dumb the rest of us were. I went home to ask my Mom, and she told me the story of Saint Nicholas. I was very relieved that she agreed to continue filling a stocking for me on his behalf.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We do - the kids always get pyjamas. Pat and I, in our early days, bought each other several gifts and would open one daily for about a week before Christmas. Not so much now.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Much to my stress, we let the kids decorate it (and I fight my inner urges all month to keep from making it more symmetrical).

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Dread it - ugh. I'm perfectly happy having a brown Christmas.

12. Can you ice skate? Not anymore, my ankles are weaker than an eighty-year-old woman's.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Honestly, I can't remember a single gift that I didn't love. I pretty much always get what I want! (I think often because the list isn't very long - this year it includes some new pots and pans. LOL.)

14. What is the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Definitely that my kids know and understand the first Christmas and why we celebrate - Jesus coming to earth to save us.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Pumpkin pie. Or banana cream pie. Or raisin butter tarts. Maybe marshmallow peanut butter squares. Caramel popcorn. (Mom - you better get to baking! Mmmmmm.)

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? I enjoy a new tradition we started just a couple of years ago... Our kids each fill a shoebox for a child of the same age and gender, and they get sent off for Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan's Purse. It's the perfect way to begin the season where God gave more than we can ever imagine or understand - by giving of ourselves.

17. What tops your tree? Currently (and in years past), an angel. But I have several requests in to find a great big star for this year. I'm working on it...

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? I love giving - love planning, shopping, wrapping, and watching the gifts being opened. But I'd be lying if I said I don't enjoy the receiving as well. Opening presents is so much fun! (I especially love being surprised.)

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I'm going to reveal my age again, my childhood favourite (and still today) is "Mary's Boy Child" as sung by Boney-M (video embedded below for your listening enjoyment).

20. Candy​ Canes​!​ Yuck or Yum? One is yum (one per year, that is).

21. What do you want for Christmas? I mentioned pots and pans earlier (all my non-stick surfaces are getting sticky). Maybe jewelry, or a purse (I've been desperately searching for a red purse that is divided into two compartments - impossible!).

22. Do you attend an annual Christmas Party? Pat's work usually has a party - this year it's dinner and a dance at the local Legion. We often have a women's ministry party, as well (which I attend and plan) - this year we'll be bowling in January.

23. Do you dress up on Christmas or wear PJs? I usually dress up slightly from my pjs - yoga pants are nice and stretchy for overeating.

24. Do you own a Santa hat? I don't, but I believe the four older kids each have one.

25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with? We go over to my parents' place, and my brother and sister and their spouses come, too.



In the spirit of winter tag, imagine me tossing a snowball at each of the following bloggers (I am trying to hit people whom I've never tagged or linked to before):

Joy @ Joy in the Journey,
Stacy @ my simple walk,
Starr @ Threshold Moments,
Christy @ Life as a Mom, and
Moi @ Life as Moi (sorry, I know her real name, but I don't know if she wants everyone to know, lol).
If I haven't tagged you, but you want to play anyway - feel free! It's fun for everyone. :) (Cheesy, I know.) Just leave a comment telling me and everyone else that you're playing, too. And if you don't have a blog, go ahead and leave a super-duper long comment. (I LOVE comments!)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Appreciation

Do you ever wonder, "what the heck should I be giving all those teachers for Christmas?"

Maybe you don't bother with this - I understand. There's a part of me that cries out against the senseless guilt-driven tradition of gifting the bus driver, Sunday school teacher, et al. But there's this other part of me - the part that has learned that people do better when encouraged - that tells me I must. Not because I'm obligated, but because I'm called. If I don't take the time to let all these people know how much I value the time and effort they put into building up my children, who will? And truly, there are many who invest much more in my children than what they are paid to! (Have a special needs child - you know what I'm talking about. These people are gifted!)

The difficult thing of giving to a whole bunch of people I really don't know is, well, figuring out what to give! Sometimes, the season gets ahead of me and I'm left on December 15 madly rushing through WalMart to purchase a bunch of chocolates. But when I'm thinking ahead, it's nice to offer something that requires a little more effort (maybe even some kid participation).

This year, our offering will be homemade Saskatoon berry jam, a la Grandma! I'm not really sure the kids helped her at all along the way, but who doesn't love homemade jam?! For next year, though, I just may have found the perfect project - not too difficult for mom AND good for kiddo participation.

Now, you know that crafts hate me. I've grown to accept this aspect of myself. But who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? (Not that I'm an old dog - I'm still young, and more cat-like, if anything.) But seriously - I think I could do this one. Cool, eh? It's simply cutting and gluing. I'm pretty sure I can cut and glue, as can the kids.

But for this year, we'll rely on Grandma (aka Suzie Homemaker) and her homemade jam. Yummy! At least she's related to the kids...that makes it better than buying chocolates, right?!

P.S. I just want to give a shout out to any of you who are employed or volunteer in a position that impacts the lives of kids. Words simply cannot express how precious your work is. Just in case you don't hear it from anyone else this Christmas - THANK-YOU!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Apparently Tiger Stripes are Fun to Draw

This is what happens when Mom turns her back for a couple minutes.


Here's a bit of info on the new look:
- this marvelous makeover was given courtesy of Megan, in conjunction with Fine Tip Sharpie;
- apparently it's my fault because "there was no paper;"
- this new look can be described as "tiger baby."


Notice the attention to detail in the tiny little paw prints.


"RAWR!!!!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Wow, did we ever have "a day."

Took a couple girls to the doctor. They were atrocious. I was embarrassed.

Later at home, all kids were hyper. I yelled.

Now, I'm tired and crying.

I'm sure it doesn't help that I have a severe case of PMS and my sweetheart is away all week.

If you see me tomorrow, don't hug me - you'll wreck my mascara. Am I ever looking forward to tomorrow morning...three at school, two in childcare, mommy having coffee with other mommies. Thank-you, Lord, for mornings of respite.

And now, to watch NCIS and House. Because that will make me happy (I hope - it would be mighty embarrassing to be caught crying while watching NCIS...but then, who will know?).

P.S. What do you do when your children sass off and completely disregard what you say? In public? All I could think of (in my frustration and hormones) was to send them to bed for naps.

Monday, November 24, 2008

She Does Dishes, Too

I had the pleasure of being the parent-helper today - this morning with the three-year-olds at playschool, this afternoon with a herd of kindergartners. (I am currently tossing back a couple of Tylenols with a white zinfandel chaser. I kid. Sort-of.)

My bestest friend ever, Christine, has blessed me by watching the little ones while I participate in this sadistic ritual, month after month after month. Nothing is better than knowing your kids are in the hands of someone who will parent them exactly as you wish, and in their own home, even, to keep nap time and such simple.

I was going to run and get some groceries between my helper gigs, but time got away from me...again. But did I mention that Christine is the BEST?! She offered to stick around and feed all of our kids supper (between us we have nine, but one of hers was at work) while I shopped. Naturally, I felt a wee bit guilty about leaving her in the cacophony of after school, so I assured everyone I'd be but an hour.

I went to Superstore (because we all know the diapers there are so much cheaper). The tricky thing about Superstore is that one must navigate through the entire section of women's clothing in order to make it to the diaper aisle. And I found myself in a bit of a predicament. After all, my need for a couple more pieces of clothing is DIRE. I hemmed and hawed for about...oh, one minute. Half an hour later I headed to the diaper aisle, cart laden with clothing. I should probably mention again how great Christine is...

I got home, we ate the supper Christine prepared, they headed home, I bathed my five little monkeys and tucked them in. Being out all day means that my entire evening will be spent doing laundry. Except... My laundry is done! Washed, dried, and folded. So I get to sit back, surf the web, and enjoy my wine. Thank-you, my friend!

Aren't best friends just great?!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Some Christmas Sillies

Disco:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards


Classic:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards


Charleston:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards


Country:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Good Morning

I seem to have hit another dry spell. I sit in front of my blog, begging inspiration to find me, and nothing.

So this is just me stopping in to say "hello."

Here's hoping my brain begins functioning again by tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Than Just a Diaper Box With a Bow on it

You know what I love? Christmas shopping! I know, it makes no sense - everyone else hates the stores and the line-ups and the cranky shoppers. But I just love it!

I'm not one of those people who does a lot of shopping in advance. My favourite thing to do is take a Saturday, get a sitter, and spend the entire day at the malls getting everything I need. (Granted, after the one year I went to Toys 'R Us without a list, I am very diligent about bringing a detailed list along these days.)

The past couple years, I have enjoyed doing some of my shopping through sites like freecycle and kijiji. Nothing makes me feel better than finding something my kids will love at a total discount rate! The nice thing with these sites is that their local - so I can pick up the item, and if it's not in the condition I want it in, I'm not stuck with it. (This is the reason ebay scares me.)

I have found some great things for Braeden (10) already, and I'm pretty much done shopping for him. The girls (Abbey - 6, Meg - 5, and Shea - 3) will be easy - they get excited about anything that comes in a pink box. But what do you buy for a baby who has four older siblings? Kai (1) simply doesn't need anything?! In fact, I insisted that someone buy him a bulk box of diapers for his first Christmas AND his first birthday. (Well, that is what he uses the most of!)

I need some help from you. It seems unfair for our youngest to get saddled with nothing but hand-me-down toys, especially at gift-giving times. So what can we make his ONE special gift this Christmas? Any ideas? Have you seen something lately that made you think, "this would be the perfect gift for a one-year-old little boy"?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Accountable for His Flock

Ezekiel 34: 1-10 (emphases mine)

The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them."

'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD : As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD : This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.

As I read this passage this morning, I reflected on the "flocks" God has called me to be shepherd to. First, to my children. Next, to other women. I had to ask myself these questions:
- Have I strengthened anyone lately?
- Have I offered words or prayers of healing?
- Will anyone say of me, "I was injured and she bound me up."?
- Do I diligently search for those who have lost their way?

The answer was not "yes" as often as it should have been.

I recall times when my children have acted badly...but instead of encouraging and strengthening I became frustrated and impatient. I think of women who have shared health concerns, and I simply told them, "I'll be praying for you," but didn't pray with them right then.

But then the Father reminds me of the many times my little ones have been sick in the night, where I comforted and cared for them, prayed over them. He brings to mind a couple women I know who have wandered away from His love, and the way that I pray for them and keep connected with them.

He tells me that I'm doing all right in some areas, but lets me know that I can still do better... Ever so gently through His Word, He speaks.

Who are you shepherd to in your life?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I don't know if you've experienced this, but I've noticed an interesting phenomenon...the more babies I have, the more certain I become about the "right" way of doing things.

Scheduled feedings versus feeding on demand - my philosophy has become "if a boob in the mouth keeps the babe quiet - do it!"

Night waking... Be tough. They can sleep through the night at about six months old if you just make them learn how. Get earplugs and let 'em go hard at it for a couple nights, then welcome to bliss!

Spit up. Use bibs, don't waste time changing clothes. In fact, why bother with actual clothes?! Sleepers are so much easier. The baby doesn't care what he/she is wearing.

Solids, whole milk, etc. - when should we start? Basically, tell the health nurses what you know they want to hear, and do what works for you.

To those who prefer to heat up the bottles under hot running water - use the microwave, people! It's sooooo much easier.

I am (gasp) becoming like my mother! (No offence, Mom - it's really a statement about all mothers in general. *smile*) It is less and less likely that I will keep my opinions to myself - after all, with all this experience I'm most certainly "right." Right?

Last week I buckled down. I had had enough of being bleary-eyed and just plain exhausted. NO MORE NIGHT BOTTLES! Go ahead and scroll up to the top of the post so you can double-check my opinions...Uh-huh, that's right, six months. Yes, yes, now you can scroll through old posts until you're certain - Malakai is, in fact, fourteen months old. And until last week he was waking up (count 'em) AT LEAST three times per night.

Anyway, you can now let out a cheer for me. We have slept through the night for a week! Yay! Well, not totally through the night, I do have to take him a bottle around 5am to get another hour or so out of him... But hey, it's much better than two weeks ago. :)

At Wal Mart last weekend, though, I made an interesting purchase. One that runs completely contrary to my baby-raising philosophy. Do you ever get to the point where the bottle nipples are sticky-ish and icky? Gross, eh? Most of Kai's bottles have achieved this state of loveliness. Fitting with my philosophy of "off the bottle at a year," the plan was to toss each bottle once the nipple had bit the dust.

Yeah, um, so I picked up a new six-pack of bottle nipples. Because we can only conquer so many key issues at a time, and mastery of the whole sleep thing took about as much energy as I could muster up for the next few months.

So, I'm not Super-Mommy after all. Sorry to disappoint. (But I do give totally great advice about how to do things right. Seriously.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Do Your Pages Read?

This is a re-post from my long-forgotten bebo page.

Reflecting....

Some things I read this morning (thank-you Shannon Ethridge) that struck me...

"So many people will never read a Bible to discover God themselves. Instead, they read the believer. (emphasis mine) If somone were to read your life, what would they learn about God? about the Christian faith? Would they want to become like you? Would they want to get to know God better because of what they see in you? ... How can we show others how much God's love changes a person for the better if others don't see us as the recipients of His lavish love? Does a woman who knows she is deeply loved by God continuously walk around moping, stressed, depressed, and complaining about life? Not if the love of God has entered her heart and penetrated her soul."

So I am asking myself these questions, and I'm disappointed in my pathetic reflection of God. How will anyone know I have the love of Jesus in my heart when they hear me complain about fighting children, or grumble about doing housework? Would other women really look at me and say "wow, I want what she's got" if they walked by my house and heard me hollering at the children about their bad behaviour?

God has called us (me) to do a big thing for Him - to reconcile His children to Him. It doesn't matter where we work or play or attend services, as long as in each of those places we are fulfilling (or at least doing our best) this purpose. He has called us to bring others to know Him - His peace, His joy, His love. This calling is impossible to fulfill unless those qualities are a permeating aspect of my countenance. Is it evident to others that I know Jesus personally? Do I reflect His peace, joy, and love in my own life? Even in tough circumstances?

These are good questions to return to nearly a year later. I will resist the urge to get down on myself for the ways I have failed to change, and am still failing to show other who Christ is through my actions. The mantle of condemnation is not from the Lord, and I will refuse to wear it! Rather, I will try to focus on the improvements I have made since the original writing - and I will praise God for His life-changing work in me. As for those stumbling blocks, once again I'm giving them over. (Maybe I'll come back in a year from now and assess the progress.)

So, if the people around you are reading you to see who Christ is, what kind of story are you telling?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Family Pictures

As you can tell, right from the beginning, Malakai was not very pleased with this situation. (Overall, though, I think this one turned out pretty darn good.)

And he sure as heck wasn't going to be holding anyone's hand.

With many bribes (and threats) we were able to convince Braeden (10) that smiling for his photo was the best idea.

Abbey (6) is a natural.

No matter how I tried, I could not convince Meg (5) that she should trade in her "posed" look for a natural and relaxed smile.

Ditto that for Shea (3). LOL!

This was, literally, the only moment Kai (1) was not crying.

A bit of family monkey-pile fun!

What do you think - colour or black and white? I just can't choose!

These fabulous family pictures were taken by the talented (and patient), Kai Smyth of kaismythphotography.com. Click on her blog to see previews from her shoots.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Politics and Religion

Yes, I'm Canadian, and I did not post anything on our recent federal election. I honestly didn't feel there was much to say about it. Sorry.

But how can we not have been impacted by the US presidential election? The fact is that the US is a super-power, and what happens down there influences our lives up here. Rather than reiterate all the great posts I've been reading about it, I will send you to check them out yourself. Both of these posts have captured perfectly what I'm feeling.

Lysa says, "Now is the time for Christians to live the message of Christ. Maybe, more than ever before, we will be invited outside our comfort zones where living what we believe won't be easy. And dare I say, that may be the best thing that has happened to Christians in a very long time." I agree, getting us out of our comfy little places may very well be exactly where God needs us...

Cindy shares the very real joys and sorrows that this momentous election have brought. I wept those same tears, and celebrated those same milestones.

All I can say is pray, pray, pray. Do not forget, not for a moment - not when the state of the economy is getting you down, not when our leaders (in Canada and the US) make decisions that break our hearts - that God is in control. He has already won the battle!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Earth, As It Is In Heaven

Do you hear it?

God is speaking...

We're learning our way through the book of Acts on Sunday mornings. Our family has been profoundly blessed in an unexpected way. Everywhere I turn there is a message about "radical obedience."

God is speaking to me...

Oh my, I have been rocked to my core by reading this post and listening to this song.

God is speaking to me, and I'm a little bit scared of what he might be saying...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Where Have all the People Gone?

Two weeks ago - lotsa comments, me so happy.

Last week - not very many comments, me a little bit sad...but trying not to over-analyze, or internalize, or whatever.

Where are you all? I miss you!

Okay, pity party over.

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Here is a thought for today, inspired by my deep-thinking (and handsome) husband.

Why does God give us a nature to rebel against Him if He wants to have a relationship with us?

Now that oughtta get some comments....

Friday, October 31, 2008

Back in Black

We invited our nephew and a couple of his friends over to watch movies last weekend. In case you haven't noticed, the new trend for teens involves a lot of black, interesting make-up (even on boys), chains and piercings, dangerously tight jeans... At least, they tell me this is what all the cool kids are wearing.

Our own kids were having a 'campout' upstairs in Shea's room, so they wouldn't be kept awake. At one point, my mom went in and gave the kids trouble for peeking out of the room. The girls were giggling over the one friend's appearance. Apparently, he had a lot of "chains and stuff" which made him interesting (I believe it was his metal-studded pleather jacket that got their attention).

Shea commented that he looked silly. Meg, on the other hand, was quite certain that "he looked cool!" (Spoken with awe and admiration in her little five-year-old voice.) Oh dear.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

This Settles It!

I've always said that girls are way tougher than boys.

For example, child-bearing. Need I say more? Well, for those who seem to think this isn't evidence enough - here's further proof.

This week our family was stuck by a stomach virus. Pat went down first, Tuesday night around midnight. Braeden was calling for me by 2:30am. Kai was next in the wee hours of the morning. Pat and Braeden spent the entire day sleeping it off; Kai wanted to be held constantly. It was a long day...

Today, Braeden is still home, whining and moaning as in the throes of death. Pat headed off to work, clearly in a weakened state with some achy bones. Kai - well, he's a baby - so he's just running and playing, then collapsing into tears.

Last night at bedtime (Wednesday), Abbey informed me she was beginning to feel sick. I gave her a bucket for 'just in case.' This morning, she comes upstairs and informs me that she "threw up" in the night. She brings me the bucket full of evidence (ick!) and I ask her how she's feeling now (thinking she'd be needing some rest and probably stay home from school).

Abbey says, "Well, I think I'll go to school. I'm done throwing up now." She proceeded to get ready and headed off for the bus, smile upon her face with a spring in her step. (Okay, okay, she never actually leaves the house that cheerfully.)

Lest there be any further debate about who is tougher - six-year-old girl versus thirty-year-old man. 'Nough said.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WFMW - Storing Clothing


Is it just me, or do you all have massive piles of clothing that don't belong in your dresser year-round? I've got summer clothes, skinny clothes, fat clothes (with five babies, you can imagine my size has fluctuated a wee bit over the years). My kids have summer clothes, next size up clothes (from an older sibling), and clothes to grow into (handed down from friends with older kids). Obviously, all this clothing needs to be stored!

Here's what I do...

- buy lots of giant rubber tubs with lids (and wheels)

- wash, dry, and fold clothing

- sort according to season, then by size --- for example, there is a bin labelled "Spring/Summer '09" containing all the children's clothes for next summer; there is another bin labelled "Fall/Winter, size 10-12 girl" filled with warm weather clothing in sizes that are a couple years away; and of course there's the bin labelled "Mommy's skinny clothes"

- add a scented dryer sheet before sealing the lid

- store



We have a cold room under our stairs, and since I don't take part in domestic activities like canning, it has become a wonderful storage space. It is a bit damp, but that's not a problem because the bins are sealed and airtight. You could also store these in your garage or your bedroom closet. If you bought some smaller bins, you could even slide them under your bed!

Have fun organizing!

For more WFMW tips, go to Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spiritual Warfare (part 2 of 2)

Go here for part 1.

Now that we've set the groundwork, let's talk about doing battle.

God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere at once), and omnipotent (all-powerful). Satan is NOT.

We can pray to God in our minds and hearts and He hears us; He knows our every thought. Satan, on the other hand, only knows what he learns through our words and actions. Therefore, if you feel like the enemy of our souls is attempting to wreak havoc in your life, you cannot simply "think him away." In order to get rid of the enemy, you need to tell him to leave in an audible voice. This is one of the reasons we should invest our time in memorizing Scripture - nothing holds more power than the Word of God spoken aloud. On a side note, all the words we speak hold great power - the power to build up or the power to destroy - so be careful what you say! (Proverbs 18:21)

God is with us - each one of us - wherever we are, all the time. Satan can only be in one place at a time. So if you're feeling attacked, and I'm feeling attacked, at least one of us is being harangued by a being that "works for" the enemy - a demon. Okay, I can sense some of my friends cringing right now. But think about it - God has angels that He sends to deliver messages of hope and peace, and sometimes He asks them to step in and intervene in situations. Don't you think the one who wishes to be like God would copy His model and get servants of his own? So, when renouncing evil, it is important to tell both Satan and demon powers to "get behind me!" (Matthew 16:23)

God has all the power of the world (and more) in His hands! We have His Spirit living in us, which means we also have this power. We are NOT powerless against the schemes of the enemy! If we speak in the Name of Jesus (which is, in essence, putting His signature at the bottom of our page), we can have victory over evil. In fact, God has assured us that the battle has already been won - all we need to do is believe it (and speak up about it). (I Corinthians 15:57)

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I want to thank my friend, Mary, for inspiring my mini-series on spiritual warfare. :)

I cannot take credit for any of the ideas shared in this two-part series. My teachers were:
Dean Sherman through his book "Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian: How to live in victory and retake the land,"
Donna Jordan through her personal teaching and manual on "Listening to God,"
Beth Moore though her DVD teaching and study guide "Believing God: Experiencing a fresh explosion of faith,"
and Pastor Dan Cochrane of my very own CrossRoads Church.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Spiritual Warfare (part 1 of 2)

When it comes to struggles of the spiritual nature, people tend to sway from one extreme to the next... Some believe all things have spiritual "roots" (that is, their causes are good or evil, blessing or attack). Others simply refuse to acknowledge the existence of any type of supernatural powers. I'd like to suggest that somewhere in the middle is probably closest to correct.

I believe that spiritual warfare does happen. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ~Ephesians 6:12

But I do not believe that every "bad thing" in our lives is caused by Satan. Sometimes, bad things occur as a result of our choices (Deuteronomy 8:5, Job 5:17). Sometimes bad things are allowed in our lives so that God can refine us (Psalm 66:10). Sometimes, though, bad things are from the enemy. I think this is especially true of those areas we struggle in, where we're weak - these are the places that it is easiest for him to come against us (and come against Christ in us).

For example, one of my greatest struggles is my desire to be accepted. (According to my personality profile, this is typical of us highly-organized, be-the-boss, OCD types.) Put simply, I want people to like me. But as a leader in ministry, there are times I need to do or say things and make certain decisions that will result in others being unhappy. And some people (particularly women, and especially during certain times of the month) can get quite bent out of shape, often questioning my leadership and attacking my character. (Don't get me wrong here, I am soooooo not perfect, and there have been times where I've done or said the WRONG thing - but I'm not talking about those times.)

In these situations, I am plagued with doubts. Am I really supposed to be leading women's ministry? This person is so hurt/angry - did I really do the right thing? If I'm really called by God to do this, shouldn't others affirm that? Maybe I'm not hearing God at all...

Over time and with experience, I have come to discover that the desire to be accepted is one of my big fleshly struggles. The enemy has picked up on this, and he tries to use it to his advantage whenever possible. He stirs up dissension, which causes me to feel like someone doesn't like me, and feelings of self-pity keep me too busy to do anything useful for God's Kingdom...

Do you have any areas of struggle like that? Ones that seem to keep cropping up, going round and round, that you never seem to be able to get out of? Chances are that the enemy is messing around, doing his darndest to keep you from the works God is calling you to.

Now, what to do when the enemy is picking and prodding at you? Coming up tomorrow...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Neighbours from Heck

Anyone have one of those neighbours?

When we moved in almost three years ago, we found our older neighbours to be very friendly. Warning bells should have gone off in my head when, only a couple weeks later, they spent a good half hour telling us about their neighbours on the other side - and every activity said neighbours had participated in that contributed to "bringing down the entire block." No, not warning bells about their other neighbours - about them!

In my entire life of renting and owning, never have I encountered so many complaints.

Here is the short list of what we have done so far to ruin their living experience for them (in no particular order):

- allow our children to drive their Power Wheels vehicles on the road (we live in a close, with a large green space in the middle, and no one drives around it if they don't live here...and we never let the kids do this at "busy" times like after work on weekdays)

- take too long to mow the lawn (we've been known to let it go a whole week in the summer)

- have visitors over who, ever so rudely, park their vehicles - on the public street - in front of their house

- spray the weeds in our yard with products that are safe for children and dogs, but according the odour they send into the neighbours window they are clearly toxic

- park our old pickup truck in front

- park our old pickup truck in back

- sit around our firepit with our kids

- have exterminators in to deal with our problem with carpenter ants

- have a particularly loud gathering in our yard, around that dratted fire pit, until (*gasp) midnight (the one and only of these types of gatherings we've ever had at this house) --- the story of how their adult son "retaliated" for our noise is a whole post on its own!

- and many, many other small but irritating/ annoying/ dangerous/ discourteous things we do over the course of just being alive

Most recently, though, is the problem with our puppy. When we got her, we worked hard to train Daisy to relieve herself only in one section of the yard - it's a little patch of grass at the side of the house that the kids don't play on. I have been told that "the smell is just horrible!" and informed, under no uncertain terms, that I "just have to train her to go somewhere else. [I] have a big yard, and the dog just CANNOT 'go' near the fence right next to [their] yard anymore!" (I really should mention that our dining room window overlooks this patch of grass, and we have never noticed an unpleasant odour while dining.) Being the good neighbour that I am, I apologized for not cleaning up as often as I should. Since then, I have made an effort to ensure all is cleaned up every second day or so. Unfortunately, this is not good enough. I received a letter from the City, informing that we have seven days to get it cleaned up or we will be subject to a $200 fine. Next time, $400.

I am thinking that it is best for me to just bite my tongue and comply. So in exactly seven days I will go out and clean up all the dog poop. Ha! (Totally kidding, we're now trying to clean it up daily.)

And I thought the party-ers we lived next to a few years back were bad...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Linkin' Up

I love this list of advice that Bobbie posted.

My fave is #35.

Don't you agree?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Called?

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

How do I know that I am moving ahead in the right direction? Am I following the plans God has for me? What if I heard things wrong?

We all ask ourselves (and others) these questions at times. We feel that God has given us a vision, a dream for the future. But then we wonder and doubt and second-guess. Perhaps we are actually allowing our dreams to be guided by our own desires.

Paul gives us a foolproof "check stop" for us to assess our motivations with in Philippians 2.

Imagine for a moment the fulfillment of the dream in your heart - maybe you envision being an author, a mother, a missionary - let the entirety of that dream take over your imagination. Now, where are you? How do you feel? What are others around you doing?

Are you at the front of the crowd, admired and praised by all? Do you feel like a super-hero? If so, chances are that what's on your heart is not where God is calling you to go.

We are commanded to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. These are tough words. No one wants to admit to selfishness. But pride is one of the enemy's greatest tricks. The evil one whispers lies in our ears, convincing us that we need to be (deserve to be) recognized for the work that we do. But first Peter 5:5 tells us that God opposes the proud. Ouch! If we move forward with our own agendas and wrong motivations, GOD WILL OPPOSE US.

If, on the other hand, when you envision the pursuit of your dream, the picture you see has less to do with you personally, and more to do with Christ, His Kingdom, and lives changed...you're probably headed on the right track. Don't get me wrong here, this is not to say that God calls us to anonymity and ambiguity, forever serving without joy.

Simply because something excites us, stirs up our passion, and fulfills a life-long dream does not mean it can't be from God. This is another one of those lies fed to us by the enemy of our souls - he tells us that "if it's fun and brings us pleasure, it must be based in selfishness. Serving God should be a sacrifice." The truth of the matter can be found in Psalm 37:4, delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. We have His blessing to be passionate and completely fulfilled in our service!

If you are unsure whether your dream is of God or not, ask Him to reveal to you the motivations behind that vision.

Is the song of your heart to adopt dozens of children from all across the globe? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your motives. Supermom = wrong motives. Pouring out Christ's love and raising Christ-followers = His motivations. Do you have a passion for speaking and teaching in front of large groups? Be like Beth = wrong motives. Be a part of something beautiful in changing lives for Christ = His motives.

Do not allow yourselves to be confused! Saturate your minds with God's Truth, and the enemy will not be able to trip you up. Don't go to others to find out if your desire comes from self or God - go to Him! God already knows the vision He has placed in our hearts. We don't need to "figure it out." He created us, He predestined us, and He will reveal Himself to us through His Word.

In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. ~Ephesians 1:11

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kleenex, Anyone?

As I mentioned, I was away (in town, but away from home) all day Friday and Saturday. After Church on Sunday I discovered the most beautiful card on the counter...
"Dad remember your speshule. You are own of God's Pepule."
"Deer Dad Jesus is God's Son. Jesus dide on the crost to forgive our sins. God's son is Jesus." ("God" is at the top - which Abbey said was intentional, because He should be at the top of everything.)
I read the card through, turned to Pat, and said something along the lines of, "Aw, what a speshule card you received." He smiled and brought me one of my own...
"Welcome back home mom. God loves you. remeber God."
That's tough to read - here's a close-up.
"Deer Mom You are my best frend. God Loves You. You are speshul. Love The lord Your God with ole your sol and with ole your hrte and with ole your stracth. Deuteronomy 6:5." (This was her memory verse from 2 weeks ago...)
Pat watched me read it, then made some comment about me getting teary-eyed. Uhm - ahem - no, no, I'm fine, just give me a moment to clear my throat and get this dratted eyelash out of my eye.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Honoured and Blessed (*edited)

I have been very blessed by a fellow blogger with two awards. Julie's blog is private, so at this time I won't post a link up for you.

I debated about posting and even accepting the awards, because I so often just blather on about nothing and I just don't feel that I've done anything special to earn these awards. But then I got to thinking how I would feel if I offered a gift that was refused. And basically, that's what these are - a gift from a friend. Just because.

I would like to pass them along to a couple other bloggers, simply because I like you and I am blessed when I read about your lives.

It is so amazing that we have this tool to communicate and build relationships! I love the women I have "met" these past months, and I learn so much from them! Because I have made new and wonderful friends whom I may never know in real life, I want to pass along this BFF award to them:

Bobbie - If I had time and money, I would definitely spend it on getting down south to meet this amazing woman! We have such different lives, yet so much in common. Bobbie has even been trying to help me (maybe others, too, but whatever) plan kids' lunches in her Monday meal plans. I'm trying to convince her to meet me at She Speaks next summer.

Hope - She lives in a world overflowing with pink and is loving every minute of it! I am particularly inspired by her creative kid's chore ideas. Hope loves women's ministry and "Lost," just like me. All the important stuff in common. :)

Mary - This girl is a super-hero! She has - count them - ten kids (from three countries). She has a big honkin' garden that produces way more produce (heehee) than I would know what to do with. And I have been enjoying reading her love story.



I especially enjoy reading thought-provoking writing...and looking at astounding photography. Getting a sense of other peoples' style helps me to better understand my own. So I'd like to pass along this award to the following "kreative" and inspiring bloggers:

Shauna - I have the pleasure of knowing Shauna in real life, though not well...yet! Her photographic ability is indescribable. I love looking in as she documents life with her boys (her sweet hubby and the "A team").

Jenni - This woman has a way of expressing thoughts and feelings that can shake me to the core. Jenni's life is also inspiring - she's a mom to twelve, and soon-to-be a grandma!

Brenda - My friend, Brenda, is just stepping out into a battle for her life. She has cancer...in her breast, in some lymph tissue, in her bones. She is a beautiful, strong woman of God, and the impact of watching her go through this journey clinging to the cross leaves me weeping with joy and pain.

* If you choose to accept your award, you can write a post about it and pass the award along to other bloggers you love. (Let them know by commenting on their blog, so they can come and receive it.) You can also put the award in your sidebar (kinda like up on the mantle). :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Earth is Square

It must be, because I have definitely fallen over the edge!

An explanation of my absence, in short version...

A group had booked our Church facility for their large women's conference. Twenty (or so) volunteers were needed to keep things clean and running smoothly. Those volunteers needed someone to coordinate what to do, when to do it, and the like. That was me. :)

It was a great blessing to serve, and the team of volunteers connected and had a lot of fun together. But man, my legs and feet ache. I am currently propping my eyelids open with toothpicks.

While I was gone, my man did dishes, made meals, and (drumroll, please) did laundry! (He even put it all away.) His homemaking skills totally trumped mine, and I'd like to offer him a new job with a much lower pay scale than he's used to. Thanks, honey! You rule!

Anyway, I figured you'd all be awaiting the big announcement. The winner of the 10,000 hits giveaway is (another drumroll, please).....

Lori from Panic! at the Refrigerator. Go visit her and say hello.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:14
Timestamp: 2008-10-20 19:29:33 UTC
© 1998-2008


Because I knew it would be way to difficult to choose a winner, I went with the tried and true Random Integer Generator. I asked it to choose one number between the values of 1 and 17, and it chose 14. (I debated making it only out of 16 comments, because comment #17 was entered at hit #10,001. But I always tell my kids that if they tell the truth above all else, the consequence I would normally give will be less, or not at all. So my cheating (but honest) Tante still got to play. LOL!)

Lori, I will email you for your address. Give me a week to read your blog so I can attempt to pick a prize you'll love.