The Royal Podcast

No joke. The Queen of England delivered a podcast this year for her annual Christmas message. You can download it at http://clients.westminster-digital.co.uk/royal/podcast. In an article I read, it said that her grandchildren keep her up to date on current technology, but it could not be confirmed whether or not she actually owned an iPod.


Protecting Our Children

One of my biggest fears in life is not being able to protect my daughter from harm - physical or emotional. I understand that I cannot possibly protect her from everything (only God can do that), but I still worry about how I would react if something happened to her.

Then, one week ago today, she knocked over a cup of steeping tea and sustained first and second degree burns on her arm and stomach. She wept for over an hour straight. I was horrified and miserable and oh, so sad. But as a result, I have pondered a few things.

1) We always say that Jesus understands what we're going through because he experienced everything we could ever experience (and more) since he became human. I'm not exactly sure where in the Bible it says that. I know it says "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man..." so I do believe he has experienced and overcome every temptation. But I can't find any place in the Bible where it talks about Jesus having a child and experiencing the emotions and fears related to parenting. However, I do know that God the Father has experienced them. He sent his only son to this Earth, knowing that he would be mistreated and unloved; abused, beaten and crucified. Parents want to protect their children from harm, not allow them to go into a situation where we realize harm is inevitable. And yet God the Father allowed it because of his great love for us and his desire for his glory to be made known throughout the earth. I've never really pondered much on the fact that God the Father understands what I fear. I've always just thought about Jesus' sympathy for what I face. Realizing this has brought me a little closer to Him.

2) Mary deserves a medal. I'm not saying I think she deserves an equal spot next to Jesus, but wow! what a woman. Every mother desires that her child is liked and accepted. I can't imagine what it must have been like for her to have a son who was not just disliked, but hated. How hard to have your child be the one discussed as rebellious, sacrilegious and crazy! I imagine the other mothers in town whispered about Mary and tried to decide how much of Jesus's antics were a result of bad parenting. And of course, the ultimate - grieving the inhumane execution of your son as a criminal. God doesn't give us more than we can bear. Mary bore way more than I ever could. I have a new found respect for this often overlooked, under appreciated woman of the Bible.

3) I've gained greater depth into the verse "All things work for the good...". When this verse is often offered in situations, it feels trite and superficial. But in the face of my fear, and the thoughts I was pondering, I realized its truth. Sending my son to live as a human, be rejected by humanity and die a miserable death seems like it could have no positive outcome. Giving birth in a manager to a child who I thought was going to save Israel as a warrior, and yet died the death of a criminal might seem to be hopeless. Sending my daughter into a world where I can't protect her from harm - and where she might even get hurt - seems cruel, scary and unfair. But I can see now how it all brings God glory and it does work for the good of those who love Him.

It's been seven full days and M's wounds are healing beautifully. I am so thankful to God for his faithfulness - to protect my daughter, and to teach me.

Photo: M in her boat, 2006


Kids sleep with the darndest things...(updated 12-31-06)

My daughter has gone to sleep with (actually refused to put them down) the following items in the past month:

1. Her stuffed dog. Sometimes more than one of them.

2. The Fishes and Loaves. It's a foam puzzle piece from a book that she has. Sometimes she wants to sleep with a dog and the fishes and loaves. Sometimes just the fishes and loaves.

3. A Plastic Snack cup with lid. Who knows why. She was playing with it right before bed and then refused to put it down.

4. Her cup of water. Maybe she's afraid she will get thirsty in the middle of the night and wants it handy. What stinks is when she holds it upside down and it slowly drips water out all over the place.

5. A puffin on a stick. A wooden push toy that has about a 3 foot long stick attached to an awkard hunk of wood shaped like a sea bird. She actually fell asleep holding onto it and released her grip. I gently eased it out of her hand. She woke a few minutes later and screamed bloody murder until she got it back. She then clutched it with an iron grip. Fortunately, I was able to wiggle it out of her hand before putting her in the crib.

6. Her baby. It's a soft, sweet, cuddly baby doll. Only problem is, it rattles.

7. Jesus. My husband informed me that she has also gone to sleep with Jesus. Not the real Jesus. Well, of course, the real Jesus every night, but I'm referring to another foam piece from the book. I think she prefers the fishes and loaves, though.

8. The letters "M" and "U". Added to the list today. She was playing with her Fridgephonics letters and decided to hold onto those two for nap time. I can assume M for M, but I'm not quite sure where the U comes in.

What about your kids?

Photo: Snuggle time, 2006


ode to the wonderful facade

the world without great music
is like a mouth without its voice,
or cereal without milk,
or a bored toddler without toys.

the consequence would be as bad
as forgetting to tie loose ends
or suddenly realizing all i've missed
by deleting Tom from my friends.

so if you're needing a suggestion
i'm right behind you with a few
like the wonderful facade
coming to a coffee shop near you

and so your story goes on
and i've got one song left to name,
so i'll just say it for you, here it goes
it's driving through the rain.

all of my love,
TWF Fan Club 2006

Check out our friends at http://www.myspace.com/thewonderfulfacade

Photo: The Wonderful Facade at Starbucks, 2006


Headline Blogging

Michelle and I have started a new game: Headline Blogging. Basically, we are each picking a headline for the other to blog about once a week. You can check out our new blog at http://headlinegirls.blogspot.com/. I won't be posting my headling blogs here anymore.

Opening the Door for Opportunity

We recently had a meeting with our pastor about our focus for global missions at our church during 2007 (we head it up). We want to challenge our congregation to realize that we are all supposed to play some role in missions. The progression of our discussion (and the thoughts in my head) went something like this.

1. Challenge: Where is your heart? While we are not all called to sell everything we have and give it to the poor, it is still a good exercise to reflect upon whether or not we would be willing to do so. When my husband and I were considering becoming vocational missionaries, I realized that my heart was clutching quite a few material possessions. I kept asking God questions like "but do you really want me to give that up? It's been in the family for a long time. Maybe I could just store it somewhere." I realized I was much more materialistic than I ever thought, and drew closer to God as a result. Issuing this as a challenge may involve asking everyone to give something up for a short period of time - basically, fasting.

While this is a worthwhile challenge, it is somewhat negatively focused. And I feel like it's something done often enough that it may not have the impact on mindsets that we hope to have.

2. Challenge: Evalute your resources and consider how you can make the most of every opportunity. God has blessed all of us - particularly as Westerners - with so much. How can we see ourselves as stewards, rather than owners? As a result, we will view our possessions in a different light and hopefully consider how we can use them to spread God's glory.

I really liked this idea, but I walked away thinking about how we need to be on the lookout for opportunities and make the most of them when they occur. Kind of the idea of asking myself, is that opportunity knocking?

As I have pondered over this in the days since the meeting, I've begun to see it a little differently.

3. Challenge: How do I create opportunities with the possessions God has entrusted to me? Rather than being somewhat passive, and waiting for opportunity to knock, I need to be actively seeking opportunities.

Sometimes it will be as simple as being aware of the potential I have (the gifts, relationships and physical blessings God has given me) and seeking opportunities to use them. For example, a friend of ours was visiting with a couple in their church several years ago and sharing their heart for Africa. That couple knew of another couple involved in Africa, and rather than just saying "oh, you should meet so and so" or even "here's their contact information", they said "you need to meet our friends. we would like you to come over for dinner sometime and we'll invite them." They used their relationship and their home to make a connection that opened many doors.

Sometimes it may be more work in actually creating those opportunities. Like it may be realizing you have a big Suburban and finding out if there is anyone who wants to go to church but needs a ride. Or you have a nice camera and photo printer, and you volunteer to take family photos to go along with the Angel Tree gifts.

Anyway, I've just been pondering the fact that opening the door for opportunity doesn't just mean when it's already knocking. Sometimes it's more like opening the door when opportunity isn't there yet and leaving it open so it can just come right in.
Photo: Street children in Kigali, Rwanda, 2004


A Change in Focus

It's always a sign that I need to pay attention when God shows me the same thing through several different avenues. Lately, I've been reading a lot more and through that, conversations with people and meetings with my mom's groups, I think I'm finally getting the message.

God loves me. And the greatest commandment is to love Him with all my heart, soul and mind. But to truly accept that God loves me and to actually know Him and love Him is so hard. I have no idea why. But I do know that when I am focused on these two simple concepts, that everything else will fall into place.

So often we seem to focus on the “fruit” of our walk, as if that’s supposed to be what we’re trying to accomplish, rather than realize that it is the result. It was like a major revelation to me the recently to realize that the "fruit of the Spirit" is what I bear WHEN I abide in Him. I've been to so many conferences and Bible studies where the speaker or author encourages you to work on producing those fruits. That's the wrong way to go about it! I'm to focus on that which is my life support, that which enables me to even bear fruit...and then I don't do any of the fruit production. He produces the fruit in my life. When I realized this, I felt all at once completely free and at a total loss. I am used to accomplishing things: "producing fruit". Apart from Him, it's not really fruit at all, but an illusion of fruit. I am dependent on Him alone.

So I'm trying my best to give over control, and spend my energy focusing on Him and how amazing it is to be in relationship with the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world.


Becoming Older

My friend, Michelle, recently wrote a blog about becoming older (which you can read about here).

Sadly, I totally agree. We have truly entered the stage of being middle aged with kids, real jobs, real bills and real life. As if I didn't feel old enough being out of college and in my first real job. But to realize that I worked at that job for seven years...I mean, I have friends now who are real doctors practicing medicine and lawyers prosecuting criminals and brokers managing real people's actual money. Seems like just yesterday they were young, single and partying like crazy. Now we're married, have kids, have real jobs which affect people's lives - and I guess a lot older.

My husband and I talk about that sometimes when we go to restaurants. We wonder how the little high school or college aged hostess or waiter mentally categorizes us. For a long time (probably too long) we just assumed they associated us with college students - or maybe those who just graduated. But now, they probably just lump us in with people their parent's age. Their parent's age! Or there was the time that we were visiting with some college freshman, and it turned out some of them went to the same high school that my husband graduated from. They asked what year he graduated, and they responded to his answer with "Whoa!" and eyes opened wide. Man, you would've thought he'd said he graduated in the 1600's.

I can't believe we're actually at that place. Looking around our Christmas party the other day, I realized that almost everyone had kids - some had more than one, or a second on the way. Used to be that it was couples and their dogs.

It's not that I would trade this stage for anything; I love where we are. It's just a little scary to realize that now we are a part of the "grown ups". I guess time really does fly when you're having fun.


A Year in Review

I was thinking today about all that has transpired in this past year, and I'm amazed at how long of a year it has been.

A year ago M was just 3 months old, almost sitting up. Now she is running all over the place, climbing on everything.

Then she was just smiling and cooing. Now I love to watch her say "Dance, dance!" as she does her little dance. Or say "Pwane" and point to the sky every time she hears a plane fly overhead. Or say "woof woof" every time (and I mean EVERY time) she hears a dog.

She has always loved the dog, but then she just laughed at her (her first real, big laugh). Now she flops on top of the dog, tries to ride her and loves to feed her.

At the beginning of the year, she hadn't even started reaching for me. Now she gives me the BEST huge hugs and even doles out some kisses. I love that.

For the majority of this year, I had a job. And I was stressed out trying to balance being a mom and having a job and being a wife and...now I have time to actually focus part of my brain. And I have some time to read again.

Earlier in the year I wasn't consistent in writing blogs. Now, I'm really starting to try to focus on my writing.

Then I wasn't sleeping through the night because M wasn't. Now, well, wait, that hasn't really changed.

My husband and I are a lot closer to each other. We've fought more, but we've learned how to be patient with each other, to give up control and to love each other better.

I have new friends that are so dear to me that I didn't really have at the beginning of the year.

I'm in an awesome mentoring relationship, and I wasn't thinking I would be a mentor this year. I'm so grateful for the privilige and am learning so much.

I think I'm a lot closer to God, and have had some revolutionary revelations about my relationship with Him - what I believe He intends for me to focus on, what He has called me to do this next year, and what that looks like when you're a busy mom with a demanding child.

What an amazing year. I am so blessed.
Photos: Baby M, 2005 and Cool Girl, 2006


Christmas Pranks

It all started last year when we hosted a white elephant exchange at our house for all of the small groups in our lifestage. Everyone had a great time, laughing and talking. After the last guest left, we were picking up the house and commenting on what an enjoyable party it was when we began to find the white elephant gifts the two couples in our small group had "won". Lo and behold, all four gifts were hidden in various places in our house - the freezer, the kitchen cabinet, outside on the porch...turns out they had made a pact with each other that no one was leaving with their gift.

So we were smarter this year. We didn't host a white elephant exchange. And we weren't going to host our small group Christmas party. But we did plan a Christmas party (like we usually do), and we did invite our small group. Our mistake. We should've known to keep an eye on their every move. Fortunately, only one of the couples came. But they came armed - with about 8 nutcracker men, 1 funny santa and 2 of those silly Christmas flags that people hang outside their houses (and that's at least what we've found so far). I actually started noticing them before they even left and tried to give some back. I'm not sure how many they actually took home with them and how many were re-hidden. Those crazy kids. I actually love it that we have that type of relationship. But you do know we have to get them back...

So for all of you creative pranksters out there, I need your help! What are your suggestions for getting them back?