Thursday, December 31, 2009

In the Making...

December 31st--as I sit on the brink of a new year and ponder what has been and what's to be, I have determined that my life does not fit squarely into the confines of an earthly calendar.

In some ways I long for a clean slate, a fresh start, a new vision.

But in other ways, the new year feels like a bit of an interruption. I am undone. Incomplete. In process. Like a fresh batch of bread dough that has already endured being punched down and is eagerly anticipating rising again, I don't want to start all over.

I want to move forward from right where I am, and I am willing to take a chalky slate, a messy middle, and an evolving vision with me.

2009 has been a year of Transition, Turmoil, and Trust--and if you think I write those words with anything but delight, you don't know me very well. The forecast for 2010 is much of the same. I realize I was beaten up and exhausted by the three Ts from August until October--my "punched-down" period for sure. Those who read my autumnal blog posts know how I struggled. But I no longer feel attacked by the three Ts, I now embrace them as dear old friends.

I am the same lump of dough, but further along in the process. Resting in the Transition. Rising through the Turmoil. Reveling in the Trust.

French Bread. Yes. That is what the Lord is making out of me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

White Christmas

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you! Isaiah 60:1


Early Christmas morning we arose, and headed up Blacktail Mountain in western Montana to celebrate the birth of Jesus by skiing and snowboarding. Though temperatures hovered in the single digits, our hearts were warmed by the presence of family and the exhilaration of tearing down the slopes at break-neck speeds. Thankfully, despite some pretty awesome wipe-outs, no necks were actually broken in the process.

"Who is that masked man?" you ask? That is Chandler in his new ski mask. Fashion-conscious he is not. Toasty-warm he remained. I, on the other hand, though decked out in my snow-bunny camo, am sporting ice-crystals in my hair. An angelic look for sure, but my face was actually frozen in that cheesy grin.

The ever-cool Graham took advantage of the absence of lift-lines by sprawling out on a chair of his own. Do not be fooled by his calm exterior, with Skillet blaring through his iPod, Graham won the award for the best crash of the day. Landing a jump with the right side of his face was definitely one for the record books. If only I had it on video....

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

Christmas Carols are some of my favorite things. I love the traditional ones, the spiritual ones, and even many of the secular ones. But since we have been listening to Christmas music ever since the Thanksgiving dishes were done (thanks for the idea, BG), I have recently become a bit of a Carol Critic. I am not the least bit burned out on Christmas, but the music is starting to get on my nerves! First of all, why do all the American Idol losers make Christmas albums? Not that I don't enjoy Kimberly Locke's rendition of "Up on the Housetop," but I'm not sure the demand for Yuletide Yodeling can support the careers of all the AI rejects.

Even more mind-boggling is the number of Jewish artists (Babs, Barry, and Neil Diamond come to mind) who are crooning carols on every station. Then again, if the Good News is being preached I guess it really matters not who the speaker is. Nevertheless, someone might want to share the Good News with Neil Diamond, who, instead of proclaiming the birth of Christ, has skillfully worked the titles of all of his songs into the "carol" (I now use the word VERY loosely) "A Very Merry Cherry Cherry Christmas." WHAT???? "A Cherry Christmas?" I don't even know what that means! Most disturbing of all is that I actually like that stupid song.

My beloved husband is annoyed by the songs that are played AS IF they are carols when in fact they have NOTHING at all to do with Christmas--i.e. "A Few of my Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music is NOT a Christmas Carol. Never has been, never will be.

And now we have arrived at the point of this post...which is NOT to wax on about the deteriorating condition of the Christmas Carol; but rather, to share with you a FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS that are displayed in my house in honor of the season. Yeah, I know, almost as sneaky as Neil Diamond managing to fit the words "Sweet Caroline" and "Song Sung Blue" into the lyrics of his "Cherry Christmas" song.

These are my boys' stockings--which I made back when both were babies. I crafted them from felt--the fabric for the sewing-challenged-seamstress, and stitched their names on by hand. Since I do not know how to embroider, the stitching is nothing great, full of imperfections, and barely legible. Still, these stockings have hung cheerily by my fireplace for the past 13 Christmases, and they always make me smile!

In the great flood of 2006, I lost most of my Christmas ornaments. So over this past Thanksgiving, my mom (who is a GIFTED seamstress) helped me make these ornaments for my tree. Yes, they are felt. Because GLUE works on felt. And while I am a klutz with a needle, I am a whiz with a glue gun. I LOVE them!

Finally, let me share with you my Nutcracker collection! Each year my dear sister-in-law has added to the grouping, and every year I think I have a new favorite. Each of our parents (Dennis and Williamson) have passed along a Nutcracker of their own, adding a bit of heritage to the grouping. Could you imagine a a more charming army?

What are your favorite THINGS at Christmas?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are You Content?

A sermon entitled The Freedom of Enough had just ended when Graham turned to me and asked, "Mom, do you think I am content?"

content /kuhn tent/ -adj. 1. satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.

Graham's greatest thrill this Christmas season has been going through the World Vision Gift Catalog and helping us to choose "gift" donations for some of our loved ones. He has not asked for a single thing for himself. Not one thing.

Back when our boys were just preschoolers, we adopted a Christmas gift-giving idea that I read about in Family Fun magazine. The author of the article suggested that each family member receive just three gifts--to represent the three gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus.
  1. The "gold" is an item that the recipient wants (something he or she would greatly treasure, such as a toy or gadget!);
  2. The "myrrh" is an item that the recipient needs (something he or she would greatly use, such as snow boots or a back pack);
  3. And, the "frankincense" is something for the whole family to enjoy together (something in which everyone can participate, such as a board game or movie tickets).
Three gifts. Period. We have been doing this for years and it brings such a wonderful simplicity to our holiday season. Before we started the "three gifts" tradition, I NEVER felt like my shopping was finished. Back in those days I still used credit cards, and I didn't have a clue about the concept of "enough." Now I must be very careful about what I choose for each of my boys. Intentional. Deliberate. Thoughtful. And the boys are truly grateful for whatever they get. They are content.

But then about 6 years ago we added another twist. We decided that every third year we would skip the gifts altogether and take a trip instead. This year-2009-is a travel year, and we will be spending our Christmas in Montana, skiing and visiting family. The travel Christmases are the ones that we enjoy the most! We still put up a tree, watch Christmas movies, bake goodies, and sing carols. None of us feel like we have skipped Christmas when we skip the gifts. It is every bit as joy-filled and fun! Can you imagine a Christmas without the stress of shopping? A Christmas without wish-lists? A Christmas that is focused on memory-making adventures and eternal relationships instead of stuff? Stuff, that--no matter how cherished--will one day end up in a land-fill.

Giving is a wonderful thing. Please do not think that I am against giving in any way. Our Jesus is a lavish gift giver, and as His spirit lives in us, we can't help but love to give good gifts to others. But I want our family to spend the Christmas season with an attitude of gratitude. I want Christmas to be a time of thankfulness for Jesus--whose grace is sufficient for me. HE is enough. HE is my portion. HE satisfies all my desires.

"Mom, do you think I am content?"

"Yes, Graham. I think you are very content."

I hope the same could be said for me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Far to Go

As I mentioned in the previous post, I spent 14 hours at church last Saturday as the staff support to a team of women who had planned an outreach dessert. Actually, there were two desserts....identical programs, but one seating at 1 p.m. and another at 7 p.m., so as to reach as many people as possible. Both were sold out, with over 200 women at each.

My role(s) were pretty simple. I had the keys to the church, so I was needed to open all the doors that needed opening. And I was the speaker at the event. Actually, the speaking piece was rather minimal, as the main portions of the program were a drama sketch and a 20 minute video in which a dear friend of mine shared her very powerful testimony about the faithfulness of God.
I welcomed the women at the beginning, and then gave them the opportunity to begin a relationship with Jesus at the end.

I arrived at church at 7:45 a.m., after rolling out of bed, brushing my teeth, and throwing on a baseball cap. My plan was to use the shower at church to get dressed and primped for the desserts. Bad plan. A freezing cold shower, no outlets for hair-dryers and flattening irons, and knowing that new security cameras had been installed all throughout the building and NOT knowing exactly WHERE they were all contributed to the distress of that whole experience.
Nevertheless, I made myself presentable in time for the 1 p.m. dessert.

Then I pretty much crashed on a couch in the church Commons. I felt exhausted in every way--probably from the trauma of trying to dry my hair in a preschool bathroom. It was the ONLY bathroom in the entire church with a mirror AND an outlet, but I had to contort my still shivering body to see myself in the mirror because it was designed for use by a three year old, and only came up to my neck.

ANYWAY, it was in this wiped out moment between the two dessert seatings that a man wandered in to the church and asked if there was a staff member around with whom he could leave a letter for the Missions Committee. There were about 5 of us sacked out in the Commons, but I was the only staff member present. Due to an overwhelming case of utter selfishness and an unwillingness to move, I remained silent, avoiding eye contact.

Finally, the guy who was directing the drama sketch for the event kindly jumped up and said, "I can take care of that for you!"

None of us wanted to move, but someone had to DENY himself and get up to help the nice man who had wandered into our church building on a worthy quest.

I was certainly not the someone.

A few hours later, I was on a quest of my own. It seems the main women's bathroom was completely depleted of toilet paper after the first dessert, so I had to use my trusty keys to get into the custodians' closet to find some more T.P. I was struggling to find what I needed, when a pastor from a different department willingly stopped what he was doing to help me. He was no less busy than I (probably more), he had been at church about as long as I had that day (and he does that ALL the time, not just one Saturday a year), and he was in the middle of a task of his own.

Conviction hit my heart like a cast iron skillet. As this pastor handed me rolls of toilet paper, I had to look away so he wouldn't see my tears. His helpfulness was given freely, without even being asked. I, when asked, had refused to be helpful. Man, I have SUCH a long way to go.

I don't think Santa can bring me a six-pack of unselfishness for Christmas, but I am looking to Jesus to help me learn to see beyond myself. I am asking Him to open my eyes to the needs of others and to fill me with an eagerness to serve them--even when I don't feel like it; even when it is inconvenient; even when it costs me something; even if someone else could do it.

He left the luxuries of heaven to save my sorry soul, and I couldn't be bothered to get off the couch to deliver a letter. Forgive me, Jesus. Please, oh please, make me more like you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Note to Self

Dear Jenn,

Based on your experiences from the past week, here is a list of dos and don'ts to tuck away in that blond brain of yours:

DO trust your husband in all matters of importance, he always takes good care of you.

DON'T ask your husband to buy you tights. Even if you carefully delineate the differences between pantyhose and tights, the finer points of women's hosiery are completely lost on the male mind.

DO agree to teach at the Thursday night women's Bible study at your church. You will always be blessed by those amazing women.

DON'T eat two bean tacos before you go to teach--EVER.

DO budget carefully at all times, but especially at Christmas.

DON'T be surprised when said budget is blown (pun intended) by the need to purchase new snow tires.

DO be thankful for a husband and son who changed a completely flat tire in 10 degree weather in the church parking lot--without getting frost bite on their fingers.

DON'T forget that during Spokane winters a family ought to keep warm clothing with them in the car...just in case someone needs to change a flat tire in 10 degree weather.

DO keep a close watch on the grey tabby cat who thinks your Christmas tree is catnip and the orange tabby cat who likes to use electrical cords as dental floss.

DON'T turn your back on the dog who loves chocolate when almond roca is in anywhere in the house. That nose of hers can smell through a gift bag, tissue paper, and plastic wrap. And she doesn't mind if she gobbles up a little packaging in the process.

DO give the dog Pepto Bismol.

DON'T be alarmed when 20 minutes later she eats Chandler's unattended pancakes.

DO listen to your child's dreams.

DON'T be shocked if those dreams include becoming a rock star, making piles of money, and using it to solve global poverty. ("By the way, mom I'll be needing another guitar, and how do you feel about learning to play the drums?")

DO make the living room the center for all sorts of family activities.

DON'T be dismayed by the constant presence of legos, guitars, amps, bouncy balls, computers, animals, crumbs, books, and homework.

DO hand address 388 Christmas cards.

DON'T plan on having any finger function for 48 hours.

DO spend 14 hours at church helping out at the women's Christmas Dessert.

DON'T plan on using the shower in the Adult Ministries wing bathroom. Besides the fact that the water is FREEZING, it is just plain weird to be naked in church.

DO listen to Christmas music and watch as many Christmas movies as possible.

DON'T be surprised if you start to think and talk like Buddy the Elf.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weather Forecast

According to the Spangle mailman, the Inland Northwest is going to have a cold but dry winter. He knows this because his wife told him. She knows this because the caterpillars were a different color this year. And now that I know this, I could hardly keep it to myself. The Spangle post office is always the hub for hot news. Remember, you heard it here first.

We're still praying for snow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

10 Totally Honest Truths

I was tagged in my niece Sarah's blog to participate in the "ten totally honest truths about me" game. In an effort to make it interesting, I will attempt to list 10 totally true things that most of you do not already know about me. Since my life is pretty much an open book, this will, indeed, be a challenge.

  1. I was born in Pontiac, Michigan, but I secretly wish I was a Native Texan, because native Texans are some of the coolest people I know. Since I spent my formative years in San Antonio, I remain an avid Cowboys fan, a collector of James Avery Jewelry, and a lover of the symbolic lone star.
  2. I drove my car at 100 miles per hour just to see if I could. It was about three years ago when driving to Montana with my kids. The boys had to blab to David about it, so he took the car to 110 on the same stretch of road during a different trip--just to beat me. I would try to reach 115, but David doesn't let me drive to Montana anymore. He's just scared I'll beat his record.
  3. I once saw an angel. He looked a lot like Shrek--only he wasn't green and he didn't have horns.
  4. When our house flooded, there were two things that I lost that made me cry: my piano and a cross-stitched nativity with a felt board that my mother-in-law made for the boys when they were babies.
  5. I am adventurous in all things, save one: the selection of ice cream at Baskin Robbins. I always, always, ALWAYS get mint chocolate chip. I sometimes consider getting something different, but I just can't bring myself to do it.
  6. I don't like watermelon. It's has practically no flavor and a totally disgusting texture. It is the only food I don't like. Except raisins. And raw celery. But that's it.
  7. I haven't been to a dentist in 8 years. I brush like a maniac. I floss daily. I hate dentists. BTW, I take my kids faithfully every 6 months. And yes, they are aware of the hypocrisy.
  8. Sometimes (when I am home alone) I eat Nutella directly out of the jar. Othertimes, I eat peanut butter--Jif. Or Mrs. Richardson's Butterscotch Caramel. Or marshmallow cream. And then, of course, I brush my teeth. Well, not really. That was a lie I made up to prevent any of you from suggesting that I see a dentist.
  9. David says I snore. I'll have to take his word for it. But I do find it strangely disappointing to know this about myself. I don't want to be a snorer. On the bright side, I really don't sleep very often, and since I only snore when I sleep (I think), it can't be all that bothersome.
  10. My hips pop.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Don't I Know You?

Last Tuesday we went to the Salvation Army to help distribute Thanksgiving meals. I worked with some friends from church handing out the food. Each family received a frozen turkey, a sack of potatoes, and a grocery bag filled with stuffing, cranberries, etc. David and the boys helped people carry the heavy items to their cars. If they had cars, that is. Many were on foot.

As he helped a woman to her car, David overheard an exchange that went like this:

woman: "Don't I know you?"

man: "No, ma'am, I don't think so."

woman: "Yes, I am sure I know you!"

man: "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I'm sure we've never met."

woman: "But I am certain I know you! Are you a child of God?"

man: "Well, yes, I am."

woman: "I knew you looked familiar!"

Don't you love the family of God? I agree with that woman, you know. Those who are in God's family share a certain resemblance. We all look a little like Jesus. In fact, the word "Christian" literally means "little Christ." This season, I pray that we all live up to that name.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Therapy

I am not sure which I prefer:

Thanksgiving with a psychologist who actually issued me a diagnosis by the end of the meal (I wonder if he'll send me a bill)...

...or Thanksgiving with my parents, my in-laws, and my gynecologist and his wife all around the same table (may I note that a roasted Turkey with its feet in the air takes on a whole new look when sitting across the table from one's OB/GYN).

I have now officially had both.

I guess you could say that Thanksgiving at my house is never boring; but, the food certainly doesn't get top billing when my mental and/or ovarian health are out there for everyone to chew on.

Actually, I think I enjoy hosting Thanksgiving more than any other event of the year. I love setting the table, cooking the food, lighting the candles, lingering over a long meal with dear friends, and enjoying lively conversation. Oh, and learning that I have a deeply held phobia that originated in childhood. That's always fun, too.

Well, the dishes are done, the left-overs are in the fridge, and the Christmas music is playing. I am now ready to embrace the season of holly, stockings, and eggnog.

And no, I am not going to tell you what my newly named neurosis is. Not yet, anyway.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!

Okay, so I have been notified by more than one source that I was wrong in my assertion that Thanksgiving does not have a Charlie Brown Special. My own children inform me that I have, indeed, seen said special. My apologies to Snoopy and the gang!

Other things I have been wrong about in my life include (but are not limited to):
  • the lyrics to innumerable songs
  • believing that syrup could be added to spaghetti sauce without detection
  • the idea that an interpretive dance would be a good thing to include in a Christmas Dessert program
  • thinking I would live in my remodeled Spangle farmhouse for the rest of my life
  • that everything is not a race (with two boys, everything IS a race)
  • calling the tall gold robot in Star Wars CP3O
  • the distinction between ENOCH and a EUNUCH in the Bible
  • my ability to play football with the big boys
  • countless dates and times
  • thinking that dish washing liquid could be substituted for dishwasher detergent

I am thankful for the ability to laugh at myself, for gracious friends and family, and for the love of a forgiving God!

Friday, November 20, 2009

This and That

It's that time of year when I am trying to determine if there is a family photo saved in our files that will suffice for our Christmas Card or if I have to beg, bribe, and bully the boys into having one specifically taken for the occasion. 'Tis the season.

Speaking of the season, does it seem to you that an unusual number of people are already listening to Christmas Carols and putting up trees? I am most certainly NOT a scrooge, but I am rather disturbed by the premature decking of the halls. Thanksgiving deserves its due! Crunchy leaves, pumpkin pie, and bulky sweaters must be fully enjoyed before the transition to snowflakes, peppermint, and parkas. Let's hear it for the turkey! I bet if Thanksgiving had a Charlie Brown Special it would get the respect it deserves.

This week we rented the newly released Star Trek Prequel--a totally awesome movie! At one point in the movie a Star Fleet Captain asked the young and rebellious James T. Kirk if he was proud to be the only genius in the county with a criminal record. I was strangely comforted by the realization that smart guys have a certain talent for trouble. You know, because I live with a couple of brilliant boys..., and well, they do have certain talents....

But on another note, have you noticed the fundraising thermometer on the side bar? We are fast approaching the 75% mark, and as of this week , we have exactly 100 donors! We continue to meet with people regularly, and each opportunity that we have to share our story reminds us of the call that God has on our lives and the hope that we have to be in France.

And just in case you haven't seen me in a while, I should let you know that I am now sporting bangs. Not a drastic change, but a change, nonetheless. The day I had it done the boys said to me in total shock, "Mom, what is wrong with your hair?" Not exactly high praise. Oh well. At least they noticed!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wanna have a hot date on Saturday night?

Dear Friends,
You are cordially invited to
a Black Tie Worship Night
on Saturday, November 21
from 6-8 p.m.
at the Black Tie Coffee Company
2910 East 29th
Spokane, WA

The Williamson FOUR for FRANCE will be featured participants in Black Tie's monthly worship night. David will be helping to lead worship, and we will be sharing about our call to France. Black Tie is the Coffee Shop that I blogged about here, and you can visit their blog by clicking here. You will LOVE their yummy drinks and scones, so come hungry! Feel free to bring your friends, particularly those who would like to hear our story.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 16, 2009

World Vision Weekend at Life Center

Our church has been going through a sermon series that has focused on poverty, and what, according to scripture, we should do about it.

The series culminated this past weekend, when Rich Stearns and his wife came to Spokane to speak at Life Center Foursquare. Rich is the CEO of World Vision and the author of the book The Hole in Our Gospel. He spoke at all three of our Sunday services, and afterwards, the members of our congregation "adopted" a total of 1,492 children from Swaziland through World Vision sponsorships. We ourselves chose a little girl, Nosipho Marry, who just turned seven years old.



But the excitement of the weekend actually began for me on Saturday. Working with an amazing team, we set 15 tables to host an event for women leaders at our church. Our keynote speaker would be Renee' Stearns, author, advocate for women and children, and beloved wife of Rich. She is also an attorney, a mother of 5, a lover of Krispy Kremes, and a knitter.

I am delighted to say that we exceeded the expected number of participants by almost DOUBLE...we had planed for 120, and we had 225 women attend the event. After a scramble to gather tables and chairs from throughout the church, it was my great privilege to intoduce Renee'.

She was a wonderful speaker: Informed, warm, humble, candid, inspiring, realistic, understanding, hopeful, and passionate. She spoke of personal experiences, shared multiple ways for us to become involved in the war on global poverty, and cautioned us: "Do not to fail to do something just because you cannot do everything." She concluded with the story about the woman who bathed Jesus' feet in perfume. Scripture tells us that this woman would be remembered because she "did what she could." That is all Jesus asks of us. To do what we can.

To conclude the evening, I invited those who attended to engage in a brainstorming session. I introduced the session with these words:

Now, friends, it is our turn to get in the game. I was recently struck by some verses from James chapter 1. James writes this:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25

For four weeks we have listened to what God has to say about the poor. Hopefully we have begun to examine ourselves as the mirror of compassion has been held to our eyes. Now the question is, will we merely listen to the Word, or will we do what it says?

If you turn your note sheet over, you will see two columns. The first says, “What can I do?” This is where we are going to start. If we are not willing to use our own personal time, talents, and money to solve the problem of poverty around the world, then we will not be in the position to lead others in that direction. We must first ask the question, “Lord, what do you want ME to do” before we can begin to answer the question, “Lord, what do you want us to do?”

Most dangerous of all is deciding what everyone else should do. After the first sermon that Pastor Joe preached on poverty, I was in the car with my older son, Graham. I had planned to stop on the way home from church and buy him an i-tunes gift card, which he had been asking for for quite some time—just to bless my kid. On the way out of the church parking lot, we were stuck behind a rather large luxury vehicle. My thirteen year old boy, who truly has a heart for the poor, began a very inappropriate tirade about the selfishness of people who drive such cars when there are children starving in the world. He was quite sure that he knew what THEY should be doing with their money. I reminded him that it is best to leave church asking, “God, how would you like for ME to respond to that message?” instead of, “God, how would you like THEM to respond?” He was quiet for a few moments. As we worked our way out to the main road, he asked if I could take the $15 that I was going to spend on his i-tunes card and donate it to World Vision for vaccinations instead. We went home and did just that. At that point, he had not only asked the right question: “Lord, what would you like ME to do?” but, he had also decided to respond in obedience to the answer that he heard.

And so now it is your turn. What is God asking YOU to do? Think locally and globally. Share ideas. Inspire each other. Make real plans. What will YOU do?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

$700.00

Did you just hear that horrible flushing sound? It was the sound of $700 going down the tubes so that my car can have new rear calipers. I don't even know what a rear caliper is or what it does, but I know that it is stinking expensive.

I can think of about 700 things on which I would rather spend $700! That money could sponsor a child in a third world country for almost 2 years. It could buy a plane ticket to Hawaii. With $700 I could get David the new electric guitar he wants, or fly to Amarillo to visit my sister, or redecorate my bedroom. Think of the shoes I could buy! How many homeless people could that feed? How many Bibles could it translate? How many wigs for cancer patients would it purchase?

But alas, my Diva of a six-year-old car will get her rear calipers.

And I am thankful.

Five years ago we would have had to put this car repair on a credit card. But thanks to Dave Ramsey, the money is sitting in an "emergency fund" for an occassion such as this. An unexpected car repair is not a crisis, just an inconvenience.

We are blessed to have a car, and even more so to have the funds to pay for its upkeep! Did you know that only 7% of the global population owns a car? And we have two.

Want to feel really rich? Then let me share this little known fact that I read in the book The Hole in Our Gospel, by World Vision president, Rich Stearns. Half of the world...50% of the people living TODAY live on less than $2 a day. That, friends, is an annual income that is about equal to the amount of money it will take to fix my car.

$700.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Recapturing the Wonder

After the opening worship song, Pastor Joe asked us to greet one another before sitting down. I turned behind me to see a weary looking father with three rag-a-muffin little girls. The girls were eagerly shaking hands with my two handsome sons, while the father extended his hand shyly to me. Our eyes never met, but we mumbled perfunctory "good morning"s to each other.


As we sat down a young couple carefully ascended the stairs to the stage to dedicate their baby.


"Ooooohh look at the baby" the whispering began behind me.


"They adopted the baby, Daddy? Is that what he said?"

"No, he said they adopted this baby and now they're going to have another baby," answered the authoritative voice of an older sister.


"Kamayah is her name? That's a pretty name."


"Yes, it's a nice name. I've never heard it before"


"When will they have the other baby?"


"Her tummy isn't even fat yet, it must not be coming soon"


The happy couple returned to their seats, and Pastor Joe began to explain that it was time for communion.

As the band began to play, the whispering behind me continued.

"Daddy, what's communion?"

"Can I take one? What is it? Can we keep the cups?"

"Why do we have to wait to drink it? Can I have your cup, too?"

On and on they kibitzed, to the point of total distraction for me. Not a frustrated distraction, but a wonder-filled distraction. I was having an awakening. I had not realized how completely routine the whole church experience had become for me: Sing a song. Check. Dedicate a baby. Check. Take communion. Check.

But as the excited narrative continued behind me, my eyes began to see the service in a whole new light. Each of these events is holy. Each one has eternal ramifications. And each is beautifully unique to the Christian church. Somehow, I had lost the wonder of it all.

Those girls, whispering in delight over each little piece of the service, HEIGHTENED my appreciation of the weekly worship experience. Not a single detail escaped their notice. Every song was enjoyed. Every spoken word was analyzed. Everything...down to the disposable plastic communion cups, had value in their eyes.

There is an old adage that says "familiarity breeds contempt." As believers we are commanded NOT to give up the habit of meeting together. How can I engage in the "habit" of worship without giving in to the comtempt that comes from familiarity? I don't want a flashier service, or louder music, or more eloquent sermons. But I do want to enter each week with fresh eyes, fresh ears, and heart that expects to be amazed. By God.

Thank you, Lord, for the gracious disturbance that you gave me in those little girls. Help me to become like them.

At that time Jesus said, "I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Matthew 11:25-26

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pedaling as Fast as I Can

A few weeks ago I decided to quit grumbling about NOT being in France just yet.

The whining came to a screeching halt, and I changed my nagging question from:

"God, when will we get there?!?!"
to
"What do you have for me today, Lord?"

The answer has been a beautiful buffet of people, programs, and projects. I have embraced the fact that until I am THERE, He wants to use me HERE. When I finally gave up my perpetual pout, He began to show me a purpose in this place. Now, rather than pacing to pass the time while we await our departure, I am pedaling as fast as I can to keep up with all that God has called me to do.

Here are just a few of the opportunities He has given me:

  • I have the JOY of planning an event that could have rippling effects long after I am gone: Renee' Stearns (the wife of World Vision President, Rich Stearns) is going to speak to the women of my church about practical ways that they can engage in the fight against global poverty. I fully expect the evening of this event to be a pivotal moment for the women of Life Center.
  • I have the JOY of co-teaching at a women's Bible Study for a series called "The Frazzled Female." God typically calls me to teach out of my weaknesses, and that will certainly be the case for this study, given that fact that I feel more frazzled than ever! I look forward to learning (while teaching others) how I can "find peace in the midst of everyday life" just like the subtitle promises.
  • I have the JOY of being asked to speak at an outreach Christmas Dessert, where I will give unsaved women the opportunity to make a first-time decision for Christ. Oh to stand on the brink of eternity, reach out a hand, and introduce a lost soul to the love of a gracious Savior! There is nothing sweeter!

So perhaps God did not make a mistake in keeping us here beyond our desired departure date. Perhaps He has even held back supporters from jumping on board until we have completed all that He ordained for us in this place. Perhaps...perhaps...the waiting is every bit as purposeful as the going.

Remind me of this later, will you?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Making Cookies with God

We are a family of recovering perfectionists. Unfortunately, we are not driven to perfectionism in the same domains; ergo, we drive each other perfectly crazy!


Chandler is a perfectionist when it comes to games to grades. Anything less than first place or 100% and he might as well have failed completely.

Graham is a perfectionist when it comes to music and art. Almost nothing he produces meets his own expectations.

David is a perfectionist when it comes to scheduling, banking, and alphabetize-able items being in alphabetical order (i.e. DVDs, CDs, and books (by author first, then by title))--a system I continuously disrupt.

I struggle with perfectionism when it comes to the proper use of prepositions and adverbs, the cleanliness of the kitchen counter top, and the immediate removal of garbage from my car. And a few other minor areas that really aren't worth mentioning.

I believed myself to be furthest along in recovering from my perfectionist tendencies...until yesterday--when I made cookies with Chandler.

Together we made gingersnaps. Sort of. I say, "sort of" because:
  1. We were out of ground ginger (a key ingredient in GINGERsnaps)

  2. Chandler accidentally added double the prescribed amount of ground cloves.

  3. I prefer chewy cookies, so I take measures to ensure that my gingersnaps are not actually snappy (a key feature of the gingerSNAP).

But the fact that our gingersnaps could more accurately be called cloverchews did not bother me in the least. I'm all for adventuresome cooking, and to tell you the truth, the cookies taste delicious!

My perfectionist tendency reared its ugly head over a much more trivial issue.


In our division of labor, I shaped the dough in to one inch balls, and then Chandler rolled the balls in sugar and placed them on the pan. Each time he placed a cookie on the cookie sheet, I was tempted to move it (mere millimeters) so that the spacing of the cookies was exactly even. Chandler's spacing may not have been perfect, but it was without a doubt sufficient for the cookies to bake without touching each other.

In a small victory over the perfectionist monster, I successfully resisted the urge. I did not move a single cookie. I left every one where Chandler put it. But may I confess that it caused a knot in my stomach to put imperfectly spaced cookies in the oven? Why in the world would such a menial thing have the power to cause a physical reaction in me?

Perfectionism is a tool of the enemy. It drives us to selfish pursuits and distracts us from God's purposes. Though the Lord is perfect in every way, He accepts us in our imperfection. He is all about relationship, and demand for perfection from ourselves or others often interferes with true loving relationships.

I think the cookie-making incident is a great analogy. Everyday my Jesus invites me into the kitchen of His kingdom work. He is fully able to do all things without my "help;" nevertheless, He lovingly involves me in His purposes on earth. By allowing me to "help" mistakes abound! Key ingredients go missing, unimportant side ingredients get over-emphasized, and cookies end up all willy-nilly on the pan. And yet, for the sake of RELATIONSHIP--not PERFECT cookies--God lets me work in His eternal kitchen.

Because of His great love, and in spite of my missteps, the result is always sweet. What a joy to make cookies with God.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Like Water to a Thirsty Soul

I am still living in Spangle--squarely situated on American soil.

But my heart longs for Europe, where God has called me to serve Him.

I am especially "homesick" for France today, since we were THERE at this time last year.

But just when I was becoming parched in my waiting, God sent a gentle rain in the most unexpected way. This week I was asked by an associate with GEM to review two grants that she was writing for programs in Kosovo.

I cannot tell you how thrilling it was to participate in God's kingdom work in Europe from my cozy home in Spangle.

By this small opportunity to engage in a very practical effort abroad, my soul is refreshed, re-inspired, and reminded that God has not forgotten I am here--and wanting to be there.

Oh how He loves me!

The really funny thing is, I have been recently asking God to show Himself to me. You know, not in a "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" general way; but in a "His Eye is on the Sparrow" personal way. I wanted (needed?) to know that He was aware of ME.

Yes, I know He has a universe to control. Meteors, raging wars, and people in genuine dire straits are just a few of the larger issues that should clearly trump my self-centered little demand for attention.

But my Father in heaven is big enough, and loving enough, and God enough to manage the big stuff AND hear the whimper of my small heart. A small heart that, though weak and inconsistent, beats for my Father.

He is, indeed, The God Who Sees Me. (Gen. 16:13)

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'd Rather Have Jesus Have Me

I have Jesus. I invited Him in to my life when I was about six or seven years old, and just as He promises in His word, He came and made my heart His home (Eph 3:17).

But this week, the Holy Spirit has been whispering a gentle question to my heart. It goes something like this:

"Yes, you have me. But do I have you?"

Does Jesus have me?

I have been trying to figure out the difference, and the more I think about it, the more I am realizing that the difference is huge.

If I HAVE Jesus, He is with me wherever I go, helping me, guiding me, directing me, and providing for my needs. Sort of like a GPS. Or my purse. I have my purse with me most of the time--it's the feminine version of a tool-kit. But I carry my purse to serve MY needs, and sometimes to serve the needs of others. That's why I HAVE a purse.

Is that why I have Jesus? To serve MY needs?

I don't really want to answer that question. I thought I had matured past the "genie" mentality with Jesus, but perhaps I have not. Perhaps I still cling to Him because of what He can do for me. And if I were to be candid here, I would have to say, "OF COURSE I have Jesus for what He can do for me!" After all, scripture is quite clear that I cannot save myself. I need a Savior, and Jesus is just that. Thank you, Hallelujah, and Amen.

Years ago, when I was tiny little underweight tadpole of a girl, my family went inner tubing down the rapids of some river in San Antonio, Texas. Though only six years old at the time, I was an avid swimmer in a tube all my own. Still, my parents were cautious. Whenever we hit white water, my dad would reach his big hand out and hold the edge of my tube, keeping me close to him. One time, though, we went bouncing over a series of rapids, and when Dad looked over to my tube, which he faithfully held, I was missing from it. He immediately stood (the water was only waist-deep to him) and began frantically searching under the rushing water for his little girl. Finally feeling some skin, he held firmly and pulled me out of the water--by an ankle! He had me.

HE had ME.

For so many years I have looked at my salvation as a function of me having Jesus in my life. But the better option, clearly, is for Jesus to have me in His life. Like my father rescuing me from white water, Jesus can rescue me from any depth.

If Jesus has me, He is in control--and I am not. If Jesus has me, I will no longer treat Him like a GPS system that I can turn off when it leads me in a direction that I don't want to go. If He has me, then He is the driver of the car, and I am His passenger.

And by passenger, I mean like my dog, Libby, is sometimes my passenger. Libby never asks, "Where are we going?" She just hops in the car because she wants to be with me! She doesn't try to tell me how to drive or suggest alternate routes. She never asks, "Are we there yet?" She trusts me without question. She is just happy that I have her along for the ride.

And I am happy that Jesus has me.

The answer to His question, is, "Yes, Lord, of course You have me. Forgive me for living like I have You along to do my will. Help me remember what a great honor it is that You have chosen to have me along to do YOUR will."

From now on I want to live like my dog, nose in the wind, delighting in the adventure, happy to had by my Master. Only I'll pass on the drooling.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to Enjoy Where I am When I am Not Where I Want to Be, and Other Lessons From Having to Wait, Part 2

I was raised by a mom who spent a lot of time waiting on five daughters, and she often passed the time with some sort of craft. Whether knitting, needle-pointing, crocheting, or hemming a dress, mom knew how how to make the most of a doctor's office waiting room, a road-trip, or an afternoon at the DMV. She created innumerable things during minutes and hours that many might have lost to fretting or impatient clock-watching. My mom seemed to have figured out something wonderful about waiting:

WAITING is a great time for CREATING!

Our God is a creative God, and I am so thankful that He put a creative part of His spirit in us. I cannot paint or draw. I am not a visual artist of any kind. I can't even make something recognizable with play-dough.

Despite my lack of artistic gifting, a desire to create continuously stirs within me; so, as I wait to go to France, I do what I can with my creative energy.

I can follow a pattern and create something with yarn. I can follow a recipe and create something with food. And I can read notes, and create music with voice or instruments.

Creating is LIFE-giving to me. It redeems times that could otherwise be lost...in the waiting.

This week I crocheted a curly red scarf:



I baked some peanut-butter blossom cookies:


And as you saw in the previous post, much music has been made in our house over the past few days.


Whether making scarves, cookies, or music, my spirit finds joy in creating. I may never be a Monet, a Mozart, or a Martha Stewart, but I am thankful for the ability to create. It truly is a gift--and it is a great way to wait.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Guitar-Playing Boys...

...in the form of husband...


...father...

...or sons...


...make me VERY happy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blessed

Today I am thankful.

I am blessed by many who are standing with us...holding us up...loving us. Thanks for reminding me that you ARE out there! And forgive me for ever forgetting it in the first place!

I am blessed to have just celebrated my father's 75th birthday with him.

I am blessed to have new yarn, a scarf pattern I can't wait to try, and an outlet for creativity. Maybe I'll put the project button back on he sidebar...

I am blessed to have a job that I love at a church that I love doing things that I love with people that I love.

I am blessed to have found a pair of pants that fit my body. I bought 2 pair!

I am blessed to have a friend who opens her home every couple of months for an afternoon coffee. Being with girlfriends restores my soul--and just in the nick of time! Thanks P.B.

I am blessed to have book club tonight, where we will discuss a wonderful memoir.

I am blessed to be the mother of two of the best boys in the whole wide world.

I am blessed to have a husband who follows Jesus with all his heart.

I am blessed to serve a God who promises to work all things together for good. I am thankful to be His child...a daughter of the King.

I am blessed to be in the position of waiting on the Lord. He has, indeed, renewed my strength.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Is Anybody Out There?

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus 17:10-13

Whenever I blog about raising support, the crickets start chirping, and no one comments. I suppose it just isn't right to talk about money in our culture, since it feels highly personal and it makes people uncomfortable. Perhaps blog readers are scared that if they say anything ( or leave a comment), they will be the next person on our list to call. Well, you just might be...would that be so awful?

And just so you know--raising support isn't exactly my favorite topic either. But whether we like it or not, fundraising is what we have to do right now. And boy are we doing it--at least our part, God is really doing the work.

But nevertheless, I am tired.

I feel like Moses in the story above. I know that when I am vigilant in prayer and in seeking God's face, it feels like we are winning this fundraising "battle." After all, we are at about 73% of our needed monthly support, and that is so awesome!

But we are not at 100%--the battle is not won--and quite frankly, I just can't "keep my hands up" anymore. Moses needed Aaron and Hur to stand boldly by his side. They held up his hands when his strength was gone.

My strength is gone.

I need an Aaron. I need a Hur. I need people who will pray with great faith when my faith is weak. I need people who will shout words of encouragement when my courage is waning. I need people who will have hope when I am feeling beset with despair.

This is a cry for help!

Anybody?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Something Special about Sisters

I recently had the joy of helping to plan a dear friend's surprise 40th birthday party. Her husband, who was throwing the party, gave me a ton of room to do whatever I wanted with the decorating; however, he had one request: "I DON'T want it to be an 'over-the-hill' party!"

Well naturally, I couldn't agree with him more. So when I discovered that the venue we chose only had black table cloths--the signature color for an "over-the hill" party--I decided I needed to find a way to minimize the impact of the black.

I went to the fabric store to choose a fabric that I could cut in to squares to put on top of the black table cloths to brighten the atmosphere and make the room appear festive and fun. As you know, there are hundreds, probably thousands of fabrics in a fabric store. I spent an hour looking, and finally settled on this cute little polka-dot number:
When I took the fabric home, I went to find my fabric scissors to cut out the squares that I needed for all of the tables. I keep my good scissors in a knitting bag that my sister Keri made me last year for my birthday. I hadn't touched the bag in months, since my life has not had much time for crafting lately.

Imagine MY surprise when I opened my knitting bag, only to discover that the fabric that I had chosen for my friend's birthday party was EXACTLY the same fabric that my sister had chosen to line my knitting bag!


Coincidence? I think not. This kind of thing happens all of the time with my sisters. We live in different cities, none of us closer than 6 hours to another. Yet, we have often bought the same clothes, chosen the same patterns, cooked the same meals, switched to the same perfume, or read the same books without ever discussing any of it ahead of time.

Sisters. Man, I love 'em!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Under a Cloud

Grumpy.

Anxious.

Suddenly sad for no apparent reason.

Sleep alludes me.

Pout. Pout. Pout.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. Psalm 73:25

Cry during worship at Bible Study.

Cry during prayer at the end.

Should have joy.

Should have peace.

Beat self down for having neither.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

Look for Jesus.

Listen for His voice.

Depend on His goodness.

Believe in His faithfulness.

Gratitude, despite the cloud.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge. Psalm 73:28a

Sunday, October 11, 2009

S-t-r-e-t-c-h Marks

Everyday for the last four months of both of my pregnancies I slathered my belly in an aloe vera gel that was tauted to prevent stretch marks. Why I cared is beyond me, since I am not one who wears anything, ever, that would show my midriff. Nevertheless, my belly is free from the unsightly red marks that I worked so hard to avoid.

If only there were such a gel for my heart.

As my boys grow I am beginning to realize that their time in our home, as our children, is but another gestation period for their birth into adulthood. Now they are in the womb of our care, but someday they will leave us--men, ready to enter the world and do all that God has prepared for them to do. It is my heart instead of my tummy that now swells each time they grow, and while the stretching of my heart tells me that my boys are thriving and healthy, it also reminds me that eventually they will be too big for me to contain. And I do not want to contain them any more than a pregnant woman wants to stay pregnant forever. I am both eager to see the men of God that they will become and sad at the thought of no longer having them with me all the time.

But for now, they are still mine...or so I thought.

This week, in talking about some of the challenges that are before us as we plan to move to France, I found myself face to face with a hurdle that I had believed to be much further down the road. It seems that in looking over the schooling options, Graham thinks that he might prefer the highly acclaimed Black Forest Academy (a GEM missionary boarding school in Germany) over the public school option in France. Black Forest Academy is about 300 miles away from where we will be serving in France. Would God dare to ask me to live 300 miles from my boy? 300 miles from his thoughts? 300 miles from the possibility of a family dinner? 300 miles from his dry sense of humor? 300 miles from his rare, but occasional hug? 300 miles from his enormous appetite? 300 miles from his growing (but not grown!) spirit?

Can my heart bear a 300 mile stretch mark?

"And what about Chandler?" you ask. Yes. I am asking the same thing. Though only 16 months younger than Graham, he is still my baby. He doesn't even know what he wants. He will rely on David and I to decide. What a burden!

We have not made any decisions about this. There are other facets involved--like expenses that would have to be added to our support schedule to pay for boarding school--that will play in to the decision. Will you please pray for our family as we revisit all of the schooling options available for both boys?

GEM has an educational planning packet that we haven't even begun to work through. They also have staff members who are professional educators that will walk us through forming an educational plan for our kids. Perhaps God kept us from diving into this subject too deeply until now, when we are at least open to looking at all of the possibilities.

Graham is not in any way being rebellious. He is completely willing to go wherever God wants him to go, and he does believe himself to be a part of God's FOUR for France. I honor him for bringing this difficult subject to our attention in a very respectful and humble way.

We will keep you posted as we prayerfully ask God to reveal His highest and best for our boys. We know that His will is good, pleasing, and perfect, so as we discover His will for Graham and Chandler, we will walk in it with great confidence and peace.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Traveling Light

One of my favorite devotional times at CIT last summer was led by Peter Pikkert, who talked about three characteristics of a pilgrim. Lest you are concerned that I might don a bonnet and shoes with shiny buckles, rest assured, I am not talking about THAT kind of pilgrim.

The dictionary defines a pilgrim as a traveler or wanderer, esp. in a foreign place. By that definition, we are certainly going to be pilgrims in France; however, all of you who are my brothers and sisters in Christ are also pilgrims. Philippians 3:20 says, "But our citizenship is in heaven...." If our citizenship is in heaven, then we are pilgrims here on this earth--or at least we should be. As the old hymn says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through."

Do you want to live like a citizen of heaven? Do you want to be a traveler here on earth? I know I do. This is why for the past few months I have been pondering what it means to be a pilgrim. What, exactly, are the characteristics of a pilgrim? I am glad you asked. The first one (according to Peter Pikkert) is that pilgrims travel light.

A few years ago I flew to New York for a family reunion. My sister Keri and I arrived at our destination together, and my Uncle Daryl rushed out to help us with our bags. We each had only one small carry-on bag, and my uncle could hardly believe it. "That's all you brought?" he asked, genuinely shocked. My dad--a season traveler himself--beamed in the background, proud to have daughters that knew how to travel light.

Now that the airlines are charging for checked baggage, most of us are learning how to make some cutbacks when packing for a trip. I now ask myself two questions when determining what to take with me:

  1. What is essential? and

  2. What can I do without?

But lately I have been wondering what might change in my life if I asked myself those questions when I am not going on a trip. That is to say, if my life is indeed a journey, am I traveling light? Or have I forgotten that I am pilgrim, and begun to "feather my nest" here on earth.

There is a reason I must ask myself both questions. The first ensures that I have everything that I need. The second ensures that I don't have anything that I don't need.

Take shoes. (Yes, I know. Now I'm meddling.) I think that we would all agree that a person needs shoes. So the answer to the first question is, "Yes, shoes are essential." However, the second question addresses the quantity of shoes that I have. In other words, do I have shoes that I could do without? Before cleaning out my closet last week, I had three pairs of red shoes. Three. One pair is the amazing pair that I wrote about in this blog. I kept that pair. The second pair was a pair of red sandals that I wore exactly zero times last summer. I guess you might say that I could do without those. They went in the Goodwill pile. The third pair was pair of dated pumps that I stopped wearing the moment I acquired pair #1. Again, they were shoes that I could do without--Goodwill.

I believe David and I got a helping hand from the good Lord when our house flooded in 2006. We lost skis that hadn't been skied on in years, appliances that were wasting away in the garage, and filing cabinets full of papers that must have seemed important at one time or another, but have never even been missed. In many ways, our losses set us free. And I can honestly say I am thankful. Things tie a person down, and Jesus knew that He had places for us to go.

I am starting to believe that the inventor of the storage unit did not do us any favors. Don't get me wrong, storage units do a booming business. But they also give us permission to accumulate more stuff than we really need and then save it, cherish it, LOVE it--until our stuff owns us.

And so I have found it necessary to make a lasting commitment to vigilantly (maybe even relentlessly) eliminate excess from my life. It is the only way for me to remember my first love, to live daily in His grace, and to be free to do His will.

But Pilgrims not only eliminate excess, they minimize the acquisition of stuff in the first place. As I go through life I must continue to ask myself, "Is this essential?" and "Could I do without it?" I can't tell you how many times those simple questions have kept me from turning into a Starbucks, putting an item in my shopping cart, or even saving a piece of mail.

Peter Pikkert also suggested asking, "Does everything I own serve the purpose of service?"

This question takes the discussion to a whole new level. It addresses not only WHAT I have, but what I DO with what I have. Do I realize that anything I own only has value if it is used to further the kingdom of God? Keep in mind that really, it's all His anyways.

I have always been struck by the fact that almost everyone Jesus called left something behind to follow Him:

  • Peter and Andrew: "At once they left their nets and followed him." Matt. 4:20

  • Matthew(Levi): "After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him." Luke 5:27-28
  • The woman at the well: "Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?'" John 4:28-29

Apparently, Jesus likes empty-handed followers--Pilgrims who know how to travel light.

And the most amazing part of it all, for me, is that the more I let go of the things of this world, the more satisfied I am.

But it wasn't just things that people left to follow Jesus. They also left their homes, their professions, and even their families.

  • James and John: "Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him" Mark 1:20

I imagine these were the hardest. The closer we get to leaving for France, the more aware we have become of what and who we must leave. The following slide show represents the people, places, and things that we will leave behind. We love every single one of them.

video

Is Jesus asking you to leave something behind to follow Him?

Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"

"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life." Luke 18:28-30

Sunday, October 4, 2009

State of the Closet Address

Last weekend I had the sublime pleasure of shopping with my mom. My mom is a champion shopper. If shopping were a sport, she would be an Olympic Gold Medalist. She would score the highest possible points for both Style and Technique--she has amazing fashion sense AND a great nose for sales.
She is the perfect shopping partner for me, because I need a lot of help. I like to shop, but since I spend most of my time with boys, I don't have much opportunity. I have become the type of person who goes months--usually 10-14 months--without buying a single item of clothing. Then, about once a year, I do a major wardrobe overhaul. I find that I am a better and more satisfied shopper when I can buy whole outfits, as opposed to picking up individual items one at a time throughout the year. Since this has become my pattern, David and I plan for my annual shopping spree in our budget. We have discovered that even though I spend a nice chunk of change on clothes once a year, overall my clothing budget is quite modest.

According to Wikipediea, "The average American woman has an annual clothing budget of $1,729." I don't spend a QUARTER of that. Dave Ramsey (my hero!) believes it is reasonable to budget 2-7% of a family's income for clothing (or 1-1.5% per person for a family of four). I easily spend less than 1% of our annual income on clothing, but it might seem like a lot because I do it all at once!

That being said, my total Scores from the 2009 Mall Marathon were:
Tops: 4

Jackets: 2

Pants: 1 (I still need 2 more)

Shoes: 1 pair

Socks: 3 pair

Total: 11 pieces for $325.95 (74.05 remains in my budget)

Each year, after I purchase new duds for my closet, I get rid of bunches of clothes. I use several criteria to determine what to keep and what to give away.

First, I only keep clothes in my closet that fit my body. Today. There are no "fat" jeans in my closet. Neither are there "skinny" jeans. There are simply jeans that fit. And the same with every other piece of clothing. Clothes that are too big just give me permission to put on weight. Clothes that are too small give me cause to obsess about weight loss. Clothes that fit are the only friendly clothes in a closet.

Second, I only keep clothes in my closet that I wear. I do not keep clothes that I "might" wear someday. I do not keep clothes that I "hope" to wear. Research shows that most people only wear 41% of the clothes that they have in their closet. I don't want to have to fish through a closet where 59% of the clothes in there are just gathering dust. I do have seasonal items that only get worn a few months out of the year, but I try to eliminate everything that is NOT getting worn within it's appropriate season.

Finally, I only keep clothes that are in style. I may love my Twin Sets but they haven't been the height of fashion since 1999. Yes, I know every trend comes back eventually, but it takes a good 20 years, and I am definitely going to want a fresh start by then. And if I am not sure whether something is in or out, I ask a good friend--one with a sense of fashion integrity that is too strong to lead me astray. After all, friends don't let friends dress dowdily.


I will send the out-of-fashion clothes to Goodwill, where they can become pieces of halloween costumes! The stuff that is cute, but either no longer fits or no longer gets worn by me is going to be given to my nieces, who can take what they like, and then give the rest away.

Total Score for Fall 2009 Closet Clean-out:

Tops: 3

Jackets: 2

Pants: 10

Shoes: 3 pair

Socks: 4 pair

Total: 22 pieces.

Here is my happy closet. There is nothing in here that I would not want to wear in its proper season. Dresses on the left, then skirts, pants, tops, and jackets. This concludes my "State of the Closet Address." Today I have focused on WHAT I do to maintain my wardrobe. Tune in later this week, when I will blog about WHY I delight in keeping my STUFF to a minimum.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

They're Magically Delicious!

For those of you who have been wondering whether I officially filed complaints with Lucky Charms and TANG--the answer is, "You bet your itty bitty marshmallows I did!"

And I have already heard back from General Mills. Here is their response:

Dear Mrs. Williamson:

Thank you for contacting General Mills. Your comments regarding the recent change in the size of the marbits in Lucky Charms are important to us. This is a Limited Edition product event.

We are committed to making a difference in the lives of our consumers. Feedback such as yours is important to the nature of our business.

We appreciate your loyalty and the time you took to contact us. Please be assured that we will share your thoughts with the appropriate individuals.

Sincerely,

Leah Giovanni

Consumer Services

Marbits?

Marbits?

Yeah, we're still laughing.

At least it sounds like the mini-marbits won't be around forever.

Hallelujah!

P.S. to my scrabble playing friends--MARBITS is not in the dictionary, and will not be accepted as a valid word. Just so you know.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cheers and Jeers

Three Cheers for Compassion International! We just received our first hand-written letter from the boy we are sponsoring in Haiti, and I cannot tell you how amazingly COOL it was. I have a question for all of you people out there who have been sponsoring Compassion kids for years and years: WHY didn't you tell me how much FUN it is to sponsor a child? You should be ashamed of yourselves for keeping all of that good stuff a secret! Our family finally made the commitment because Graham was so convicted by the needs of children who live in poverty. And the needs are real. But I had no idea that I could feel such hope for a person I have never met. I had no idea that WE would be the ones who felt like we were on the receiving end of the deal. I had no idea how much joy could be bought--for ME--for only $38 a month. This sponsorship thing could be my newest addiction.

BOO (stomp one foot, huff and pout!) to Lucky Charms for switching to "mini-marshmallows." I want the BIG marshmallows back! While we were in North Carolina, the Lucky Charms had mini-marshmallows, and I thought it was just another deep south anomaly. However, when we returned home I was horrified to find that, indeed, it was a nation-wide change (for the worse) to the best cereal known to mankind. Lucky Charms are my favorite afternoon snack. I like to eat the crunchy parts first, and save the marshmallows for last. But with the itty, bitty, microscopic mini-marshmallows, I can't get the crunchies separated out and eaten fast enough, and so the crunchies cease to be crunchy and start to get soggy in the milk. No one likes soggy crunchies! By the time I get around to the marshmallows, they have practically dissolved into oblivion.

Three Cheers for a House Full of Boys! Graham and Chandler have four friends spending the night tonight. Have I ever told you how much I love their friends? We just prayed over dinner, and every one of them said, "Thanks for making pizza, Mr. Williamson." Now they are discussing what movie they want to watch and what games they want to play. David was definitely chiming in on the game discussion, counting himself among the players. I will be reading a book in my bedroom by then, happily hearing the sounds of the competition through the living room wall.

BOO to TANG for their "new great flavor!" How do I despise thee? Let me count the ways. I despise thee for doubling your packaging size, only to find that you have more than doubled the amount of powdered drink mix needed to make 8 ounces of Tang. I despise thee for changing from a formula that had 40 calories per serving to a formula that has 90 calories per serving. I despise thee because I bought TWO canisters without reading the label carefully and noting any change. But above all else, I despise thee for abandoning the original, spunky, tangy flavor of Tang and settling for a dull, ordinary, orange-ish drink mix. Tang WAS a staple in our house during flu season--a source of Vitamin C that we drank hot on cold mornings. Boo to Tang, for messing with one of my autumn delights!

Three Cheers for FLATTY. Flatty is my favorite pillow. Is it strange to name a pillow? Oh well, I did. Any guesses how Flatty got his name? He is the flattest pillow I have ever seen. Flat as a pancake. No fluff. No feathery fullness. Flat, flatter, flattest--that's my Flatty. And I LOVE him. He is not the pillow on which I lay my head. My head pillow is a nameless sack of synthetic down. Flatty is my cuddle-pillow. And I have slept (not very soundly) without Flatty for THREE months because I accidentally left him at my parents' house when we went to North Carolina. But last weekend, Flatty and I were reunited. HOORAY for Flatty! HOORAY for sleep!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My New Neurosis

I thought I was down to 2 neuroses:
  1. My irrational fear of squirrels, and
  2. My need for all sheets, blankets, comforters, and duvet covers to be arranged perfectly flat and square on the bed whenever I am in it. (However, the bed can be messy and unmade throughout the day, when I am NOT in it.)

But today I have adopted a new one. Or realized one that already existed, I am not sure which.

I went down to the women's bathroom at work today, and was suddenly aware of my strong preference for the third stall. I began to analyze this affinity, and determined that the third stall door opens out (towards the sinks), while the rest of the doors open in (towards the toilet).

I don't like being in a stall where the door opens in towards the toilet. Is that weird?

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Mom

I published my first piece of writing when I was eight. At my father's urging, I had entered a Mother's Day poetry contest that was put on by the San Antonio, TX newspaper. I won an honorable mention and two tickets to see the Black Stallion movie for the poem the I wrote about my mother.

But I am certain it wasn't the lyric and beauty of my prose that won the award; rather, the lyric and beauty of the woman who is my mom. She is, indeed, a rare gem.

If you don't look carefully, you might miss her. She does her best to hide behind the husband she adores, never seeking the spotlight for herself. She is quiet in crowds, humble beyond measure, and completely unaware of her own brilliance.

I have only recently learned how unusual it was to have had a mother who did not seek to mold me into her own image of who she wanted me to be. Instead, she thanked God for how He made me, and did her best to help me to become everything that HE wanted me to be. And then she cheered me on in the process.

She and I are about as different as two people could be. She likes to gather and save things. I like to get rid of things. She likes to be in the background. I like to be in the spotlight. She likes bright colors and busy patterns. I like dark colors and simplicity. She reads mysteries. I read everything but mysteries. She studied nursing. I faint at the sight of blood. She likes background noise. I like silence. She had five girls. I have two boys. Her house is cluttered, but sterilized within an inch of it's life. My house is neat, but probably more germ infested than I would care to know. Her heart is beautiful, but her words are clumsy. My words are beautiful, but my heart is clumsy.

And yet, there is one thing I most definitely inherited from my mother...whether through nature or nurture: We are both transparent. Our feelings are genuine, and often on display. Our beliefs are certain, and evident in how we live. My mom will be her exact, true self whether you meet her in church, at the symphony, at the grocery store, or in a courtroom. She does not change based on the company she keeps. She does not change based on her environment. This does not mean that she is not growing and becoming more like Jesus, it just means that no one is ever shocked by her changes because she has been transparent about them throughout her process. She celebrates transparently. She grieves transparently. She transparently confronts her faults. She transparently uses her gifts.

And in this way, I think (I hope), I am my mother's daughter.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Garbage Eggs

On Saturday mornings when I was a kid my Dad used to dice up leftovers from the fridge and scramble them in eggs. He dubbed this concoction--which was never the same twice, but always quite yummy--Garbage Eggs.

This post is just a scrambled mix of "leftovers" from our week. I hope its yummy!

Wild West Day
As part of their American History class, Graham and Chandler had to research a famous person from the late 1800s, make a presentation board, and then become that person for a Wild West Day. They dressed in costume and gave monologues in character for younger grades.

Here you see Graham as Poncho Villa--the Robin Hood of Mexico, and Chandler as Buffalo Bill--the expert marksman and showman.

I LOVE their school, and the many creative ways that learning happens there.

Black Tie
Just down the street from the boys' school is a little family-owned espresso bar called Black Tie. Black Tie is our favorite place to hang out and meet friends because 1.) they make GREAT coffee, and 2.) the owners are Christians who view their business as a ministry.

Black Tie is a beacon of hope on the South Hill of Spokane, proclaiming the goodness of God in everything from their premiere level of customer service to their excellence in baking scones to their lending library of Christian books.

The owners of Black Tie recently started a blog, and on it they want to feature a Missionary of the Month. Guess what? We were asked to be the first missionaries that they feature! How cool is that? So click here to visit the Black Tie Blog, and you'll see a familiar face on the sidebar.

SparkPeople
In January of 2008 I had my thyroid removed. It took over a year for my endocrinologist to pinpoint the dosage of Synthroid that I needed to compensate for no longer having a thyroid gland, during which time I gained a very unwanted 10 pounds. The weight came on because my thyroid levels were so horribly low, but when my thyroid levels finally reached the "normal" range, the weight did not automatically come off. So when I returned home from CIT at the end of July, I was convicted (gently, of course) that it was time to wave goodbye to the extra pounds.

First of all, let me say that I do not really believe in dieting. I believe in healthy living because my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is not about a size or a shape or a look. For me, healthy living is about being a good steward. I have never been one who could eat anything and not gain weight. Since I was 18 years old I have had to be mindful of what I eat and how often I exercise. And even though bad habits did not cause me to gain this weight--it was really the result of low thyroid levels--I did have to make some changes to shed those unwanted pounds and get back to what I believe to be my ideal body weight.

So I used a website called SparkPeople to help me on my way. SparkPeople is a totally free web-based tool that allows one to track calorie intake and exercise. It will calculate, based on age, sex, and height, an ideal body-weight range, and then figure the amount of calories one must consume to move from a starting weight to an ideal weight over a reasonable period of time. It took me 8 weeks to lose 10 pounds, eating between 1200 and 1400 calories a day. I did input my consumption and exercise every day during that time, because for me, the accountability of having to "write it down" is very helpful.

This week I reached my goal weight! Hooray! I would highly recommend SparkPeople for anyone who feels called to lose weight, but know this: unless God is prompting and empowering the change, your efforts will probably be futile. It worked for me because I was responding to a nudge from the Holy Spirit, and He is the one who made it possible for me to succeed. Apart from Him I can do nothing.

David's "NEW" Job
This week David took his first stipend from GEM, which means that we are in full-time missionary mode. His job, for now, is to finish up our fundraising. To that end, David is networking, facebooking, phone-calling, and e-mailing to set up appointments with individuals and churches that the Lord might lead to become a part of our support team.

He is doing an awesome job, and we are continually blessed by the people with whom we have the privilege of sharing the vision for France.

In this picture David is speaking to an adult Sunday School class as St. John's Lutheran Church--an amazing fellowship of believers that is currently building a new church in the Latah Valley. With each meeting and speaking opportunity we are reminded of how God called us to France, and re-inspired for the mission ahead of us. There is truly joy in this journey!

Sunday night at 7 p.m. we will be one of five missionary families speaking at Eastpoint Church in the Spokane Valley. Feel free to stop by if you want to hear more or see us in person. We'd love to give you a hug!

Well, that about sums up our week. I hope yours was just as chocked full of delicious moments and savory tidbits.

Friday, September 18, 2009

By the Numbers

2
The number of light bulbs that were changed in my house this week.
39
The number of Bible verses I have memorized so far this year.
4
The number of books I am reading right now.
6
The number of books I currently have checked out from the library.
70
The percent of monthly support that is pledged for Four For France!
100
The percent of monthly support that we need to have pledged in order to leave for France.
2043
The number of minutes we used on our cell phones last month.
435
The number of minutes that David spent on the phone with the Washington State Unemployment office.
0
The total amount of money David has received from Unemployment.
0
What we have lacked because of not receiving money from Unemployment.
180
The degrees Fahrenheit at which I enjoy my coffee.
3
The number of grants I need to write this weekend.
46
The number of items on my Costco list.
2
The number of rubber ducks that Chandler has suctioned to his cheeks at the moment.
5
The number of jalapeno slices that make Bob very angry. If you do not understand this one, trust me, you do not want to know.
132
My current weight, and 3 pounds less than it says on my driver's license (happy dance).
1200
The number of calories I had to eat every day for 8 weeks to reach that weight.
90
The number of individuals, families, and churches that support Four For France, and for whom we pray regularly.
17
The number of years that I have had the joy of being married to the man of my dreams.
365
The number of days this year that I want to live for Jesus.
 
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