Day 17: Luke 2:1-20

IMG_4340

Every year in our Christmas program the 1st – 8th graders recite in unison Luke 2:1-20.  I love that my kids know it by heart and can say the Christmas story word by word.  I, too, memorized it in elementary school and it has stayed with me ever since.

Advertisements

Thanksgiving!

I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to.  When my child care business grew two years ago, I knew my time to write would be limited. I also have been limiting my time on social networking sites. I don’t read as many blogs as I used to.

As my kids have grown older, their need for privacy has increased.  I am not one of these moms who wants to share on Facebook about every single activity my kids are doing or what emotions they are experiencing or our daily schedule.  In the past couple months I have felt this need for living life outside of Facebook posts.  Sometimes I feel like we might over post because we are looking for attention and/or validation we are not getting elsewhere.  I have to embrace the relationships and real live friendships in front of me to find the joy of living life’s moments.

With that being said, the holidays is a time I like to blog.  I have done the December photo project the last three years (one year I did not complete it) because it helps me focus on the day to day joys of Advent and Christmas.

This Christmas is unique as we will be seeing the husband’s parents here in Oregon a week before Christmas.  Then we will be spending a good part of the holiday break on the Atlantic coast in Virginia with my family. There have been many Christmases since we moved to Oregon when we have seen no extended family.  So this is a real treat for all of us. There will be plenty of Christmas programs, holiday parties, gift wrapping, baking and Christmas crafting sessions.

For now I want to focus on Thanksgiving weekend.

For the past three years I have run in the Keizer Turkey Dash 5K on Thanksgiving morning.  This year my eight year old and I ran it together.  We began training shortly after school started.  Due to my full schedule I could only run with him about one to two times a week. I figured with PE at school and the fact he is active when he plays in the backyard–that would be enough.  I was impressed when he could run two miles without stopping and then three!

His final time was 35:56 which is about ten minutes fast than last year.  Although last year he was sick and insisted on running it anyway.  And he had not trained as much.  Still ten whole minutes!  I wish I could shave ten minutes off my marathon time–I might be able to qualify for Boston.

We had perfect weather.  No rain in sight.  It was a little colder than normal, but we bundled up.

IMG_4169.JPG

He says he is going to miss our weekly runs and wants to do another race soon.  We’re looking at a Christmas or MLK King Day run. The problem with Oregon is we can get very nasty rain that time of year.  I ran a 1/2 marathon last year in December and nasty, windy, pouring rain.  It took hours for my body temperature to get back to normal.

IMG_4178.JPGEvery Thanksgiving since we moved to Oregon, we have celebrated with friends.  This year we celebrated with the same friends we celebrated with last year.  It was fun to have an established tradition of a big meal, game, and dessert.  It was a nice relaxing day spent with people we enjoy.

IMG_4174The kids even got to play outside for a bit in my friend’s big front yard.

IMG_4173

They can see the best sunsets from their front porch as well as the coastal range mountains.

IMG_4180 In the early evening we noticed black smoke in the distance and heard fire trucks.  My husband has an app on his phone that has all the police and fire calls for our city.  There was a house on fire only a few streets over that quickly escalated into a three alarm fire.  The smoke got thick and black and we could start to see the orange glow of flames.  As we left to go home there were fire trucks lining up and down the road and we saw how bad the fire was.  It made our news and the house was a total loss.  Thankfully no one was killed or hurt.

It was only a few weeks ago I lead a devotional for our seniors group.  I shared about storing up treasures in heaven and not on earth.  Our true treasure is the hope of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior who paid the price for our sins.  This treasure brings us peace in times of trial like house fires, floods, terrorist attacks, ill health, depression, family dysfunction, etc.  Nothing or no one can take away that treasure from us.  I was reminded again as we saw this family’s dream home dissipate into flames.

When I was seven years old we had a small fire in our house that only destroyed a lamp, part of the couch, and part of the wall.  By God’s grace, my parents discovered it the moment the lamp sparked and put it out before the fire department arrived.  When I was a sophomore in college, my floor in my dormitory caught on fire from a cigarette thrown in the trash can.  When I exited my room flames were shooting up to the ceiling in the hallway.  In both those situations you don’t think about grabbing everything you own.  You just go and get out of there.  You remember what is most important in your life.

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my faith in Jesus Christ and how God has led me on this incredible journey with its own twists and turns.  I am thankful for my family, my extended family, my church family, my friends, my jobs, and this beautiful part of the country we call home.  I pray that throughout this conclusion of Thanksgiving as we move into Advent, I will continue to focus on that true treasure of Christ’s coming into the world.

Unlocking the truths of anxiety

If you have been reading this blog long enough or know me well enough, you know I struggle with anxiety.  I will never be cured from it.  It will always as my husband says, “be my crutch.”  We all have some sort of crutch we walk through life with.  If anxiety is yours, then you understand the racing thoughts, the sweaty hands, the jumpiness, the extreme emotions, going through your day in fight or flight mode etc.  You may experience deep fear that might even paralyze you.

Many of us will still fall into pits of anxiety from time to time even if we have fought for our mental health through counseling, medication, natural treatments, exercise, etc. We are broken, but God loves us anyway.  He cares for us. These are some of my favorite Scripture verses I read through whenever I feel like I am in one of those pits.

God’s plan for our lives is not one that will harm us or destroy us.  His PROMISES are to give us life so we can honor and glorify Him.

1-Recently Updated1

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20

The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life.  The Lord will watch over you coming and going both now and forevermore.  – Psalm 121:7&8

We all go through difficult times.  It is inevitable.  If you claim to know Christ you will endure suffering.  But God’s plan is PERFECT and it’s good.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

Everyone quotes this verse when they think about anxiety, but don’t forget that key little phrase “with thanksgiving.”

“You thank God before you make the request because you’re saying, “Lord, whatever you do in response to this request is GOOD.” – Tim Keller

Seeking the Lord is a day by day sometimes hour by hour process.  

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,…- 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

“Peace comes from the same thing that joy comes from–the assurance of your salvation.” – Tim Keller

Nothing or no one can overpower you.  God is ALWAYS on your side.  He is NEVER against you.

 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

– from Our God by Chris Tomlin

God is ALWAYS with you.  You need not walk alone.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you – Isaiah 43:2

God offers help.  Seek him for direction in your anxiety.

I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. – Psalm 40:1 & 2

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1&2

Your faith in Jesus Christ is worth more than gold.  It is WHO YOU ARE.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ – 1 Peter 1: 7 & 8

You are a CHILD OF GOD and it’s not because of all the nice things you do or the ladder of success you are trying to climb.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.…- Ephesians 2:8

 

The Duggars: The Cost of Being On TV

I remember watching the Duggars before they even had a show.  They were a large conservative family with kids dressed in red and white outfits (most of which looked handmade) traveling the country in a motor home.  Their lives looked happy and simple.  They had TV specials on once in awhile highlighting what life is like with 14 to 15 kids (not sure how many they actually had at that time).  It was feel-good TV and better than some of the reality garbage on the other networks.  Who can argue with living debt free, frugal living, shopping at thrift stores, good wholesome family values?  Apart from homeschooling and strict fundamentalist Christian principles, I find myself adhering to many of the Duggar’s lifestyle choices.

Then the Duggars became TV stars. I was watching an episode years ago from Season Three:  Duggars New Addition where the Duggars layed concrete on their basketball court and the younger kids were forced to play inside.  They were struggling to find things to occupy their time.  I remember thinking, “This is so boring.  There is no depth or meaning to this.  But why am I still watching it? And why do I want to watch the episode that follows it?”

In a later episode from Season 5, Duggar In Danger, young Jason Duggar falls twelve feet into an orchestra pit and an ambulance is called.  In a later interview Michelle Duggar says, “Now we have so many adult children that they have a phone with a camera on it.  So everyone was getting this on their cameras.”  I asked myself, “Is this normal to pull out your camera and start videotaping when your little brother gets hurt?”  Of course it is if you are a reality star.  This makes for great TV!  You cross that line from living your life as a simple family to being a performer or TV star basking in the perks TLC has to offer.

What family of 21 can realistically travel the world?  Jill Duggar had 1,000 people at her wedding including media reporters–this is not normal!  Jessa Duggar took a honeymoon to France. Josiah Duggar invited 400 guests to his graduation party. The Duggars have a barred fence around their home to keep fans out–this is not normal living either.

Now they have followed the demise of the reality stars who have gone before them.  Since Josh Duggar’s struggle with sexual molestation and most recently addiction to pornography and infidelity was made public. Should we even be all that surprised?  There is a cost of being on TV.  Allowing cameramen into your home documenting your daily life shrinking your privacy is exhausting.  The Duggars chose this, but unfortunately their young children did not.  They will have to deal with the consequences of these scandals the rest of their lives.  Even though it may not be ethical to conduct a witch hunt delving into police records violating somebody’s privacy etc., it is a dire consequence to choosing the reality star route.  Nothing is hidden anymore.

The Duggars feel they are different from other reality families.  They don’t watch TV and limit all their exposure to music, the Internet, movies etc.  They see their reason for being on TV as a family ministry.  Being a person in the ministry, I see “ministry” as sharing the gospel message of the saving grace God freely gives through Jesus Christ.  It really can all be summed up into that.

The Duggar’s share family moral values and living.  There is nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the heart of what ministry is.  If we have this attitude of “Look at the Duggars!  We want our family like the Duggars!” we are setting ourselves up to feel insecure, ashamed, and now severely disappointed.  They are not a perfect family and have their hidden sins (that have become not so hidden) and I don’t even think they are the best Christian example.  Psalm 146:3 says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save.”

Fame was not something Jesus Christ actively pursued.  He walked humbly on earth and lived His life with His ministry pointing to the one true God.  His sacrifice was not fame and fortune but rather his death which paid for our sins.  So let this Duggar scandal be a gentle reminder that even the perfect looking are far from perfect.

Why running is dangerous

Becoming a runner is dangerous.  I am not referring to barking unleashed dogs or dark streets without streetlights at 5 AM.  I am not referring to running your first marathon in Kmart shoes…which I in fact did and do not recommend.  I am not even referring to injured knees or plantar fasciitis.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Check out those Kmart shoes

Running changes you.  It is easy to get caught up in the inner transformation and make running or triathlon (or whatever sport that drives you) your religion.

You might be like me and discovered once upon a time that running gave you the confidence you never believed you truly had.  When you could hardly run a mile without huffing and puffing and your muscles were screaming, “Mercy!” you never dreamed you would be training for marathons let alone run a 5K.  And when you completed a race, you felt like you could do anything.  That it’s up to you and your willpower.  It’s up to YOUR ability to fight.

Another triathlon mom says:  “I challenge you to fight…face your issues head on. Look your challenges in the eye and put up your dukes.  Your life isn’t going to make itself.  No one is going to come to your rescue.”

What is dangerous?  It is easy to believe it is all about YOU.

But it can’t be.

It is about God.  God orchestrates your life.  And you cannot rescue yourself as much as you think you can.  But God can.

We run and we begin to feel better.  It helps with our anxiety and depression.  It helps us crave carrots and apples instead of Oreos.  We feel more motivated at work.  Tackling laundry does not seem as daunting of a task.  We long for the outside air.  We feel better about our bodies.  We find meaning in life and our joy returns.

amy half marathon

Better. Better.  Better.  It is a word I hear constantly.  Each year we want to become a better wife.  Or a better mom.  Or a better house cleaner.  Or a better (insert your own ambition here).

Although running makes us feel better…it doesn’t make us better.

Because you are like the rest of us.  You’ve screwed up and you will continue to do so.

Christ is better.

Not only is he better, but he is the BEST. As long as you try to make yourself better, you will keep making things like running your religion.  What happens when you can’t run anymore?

And even if you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you will be tempted many times in your running journey to believe it is about you.  You may need to remind yourself (or someone may gently remind you) that it is not.

The Bible verse that is painted on the wall plaque where my and my children’s medals hang from has the verse John 11:25 written on it.  It is also embroidered on my gym bag.  It says:

I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.

IMG_2644

Not a verse that makes you picture running.  However it was the text read at my Grandpa’s funeral back in 1989.  I have run a few races in memory of my Grandpa raising money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. My grandpa went to his heavenly home after a seven year battle with cancer that started in his prostate and spread to his spine and then his brain.  My dad is now a prostate cancer survivor.

IMG_2643

This text reminds me that the one who believes in me [Jesus] will LIVE.  It is through Christ we have life.  Not through running.  Not through swimming.  Not through biking.  Not through whatever it is that drives you.

But running is a gift.  And I don’t want to forget that it is a gift from God.  Because every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

14 years ago I ran my first ever 5K on the campus of Calvin College.  I thought it would be a one time thing. I never believed that it was the beginning of an amazing spiritual/mental/physical journey.  And now in only 33 days I will run my fourth marathon and this time I get to share the experience with my sister.  I am forever grateful for this journey.

Lent Day #1: Prone to sin

lent

I was talking with one of my children last night and he/she was saying how he/she is good all day long at school and rarely gets his/her name on the board anymore.  He/she gets his/her work done on time and does not distract others.  This child was saying how difficult it is to come home and “keep being good.”  It is hard to follow the rules all day long, sit still, listen, and be kind to others and then come home without falling apart.

It made me think how much easier it is to sin at home.  It is easier to take my anger out on my husband or the kids at home versus places like the grocery store or church.  It is easier to complain at home in front of the captive audience of my family who I know will continue to love me versus friends who may come in and out of my life.  It is easier to harbor anger towards those I am close to and act like they owe me something instead of choosing to forgive and move on.

I am grateful for the Lenten season because I am reminded that I can’t earn my way into good standing by following all the rules of the Christian life.  We tell one another not to be so hard on ourselves and now wallow in our mistakes.  Yet we also need to ponder how EASY it is to sin.  In our more natural setting like home, it is our tendency to choose grumbling instead of gratefulness or resentment instead of forgiveness.

It is the season of Lent.  May our hearts be humbled.

My Child Care Journey…

DSC09085If there is anything I have learned in life, it is that you should not say, “I will never do that.”  OK maybe if it is something crazy like bungee jumping off a bridge…but don’t put that one past me.  I am the type who might actually do that.

We make our plans, of course.  God often has a better one that leads us through twists and turns, mountain and valleys, and to places we swore we would never go to.  Child care was one of those for me.

I was a child care sub in a public school district in 2002.  It was a second job and “my real job” was youth director at a local church.  Child care was secondary in my life.  So when I lost control of a group of 20 preschoolers, I knew this was job was temporary.  The following year I took a job as an after school care leader in a small Christian school.  This job was a better fit and I worked it for two years.  However, my passions were with the youth in my church and it was always a “second job” to supplement my part time income.

The following year we moved to Indiana and I had a brief stint of working in an actual day care center located in a business park.  I felt claustrophobic in the small classrooms with twenty four year olds.  The playground was a quarter of the size of the school playground where I worked previously.  When I lost control of a group of four year olds, I knew I could go longer work there.

I was a little too preachy about child care after that year, yet I was also confused about my calling.  I took on some traditional values even though I am not your typical stay-at-home mom.  I was never one of these college girls who wanted a “Mrs. Degree” and be a stay at home mom.  I wanted a career of some type and wanted to work outside of the home.  My desires and my values were all conflicted with one another and it is something I struggled with for years.

I stayed home for several years after having children.  I felt like it never came naturally to me, but I found my style eventually.  Two years ago a friend of mine wanted to send her daughter to our little Christian school we send our kids to.  Kindergarten dismissed an hour and a half before the time she finished work.  With no after care program at the time, I offered to watch her daughter until she finished work.  I only did child care about six hours a week, but I learned quickly that 1)  I loved having extra children in the house.  2)  I grew up on a neighborhood where there were always children to play with.  My kids do not.  This would be a way for them to develop friendships.  3)  God does not call everyone to be a  full time stay-at-home mom.  My friend was doing amazing work in God’s kingdom.  God was using me to help her do her work.

So come that spring I had a few families ask if I wanted to watch their kids the following school year.  I knew it was from the Lord.  Last year I had four regular child care kids.  This year I doubled that to eight.

Yes, now I am your typical stay-at-home mom.  I hang up my laundry on the clothesline outside.  I do crafts with my kids.  I bake muffins.  I sweep the floor at least four times a day.  I am OK with it.  Because I am supporting some amazing moms out there doing kingdom work.

I don’t think in terms of “real job,” “real career,” etc.  anymore.  And by the way I still do lots of youth ministry…mostly volunteer.

But this is me right now.  I love owning my own business.  I love having a loud chaotic house full of kids.  I love having a baby in the house.  I love watching my three kids love on these babies and toddlers.  So it’s a win win for everyone.

So my friends, never say “never.”  Your “never” might be your next adventure.