Wednesday, December 29, 2010

If I Was an Undercover Missionary...

I would get people hurt. Not on purpose, but out of plain stupidity, the results would be disastrous.

I had an experience not too long ago that illustrates this point precisely. We were eating with some missionary friends and some of their local friends, who were unaware of the missionaries' full vocation. I was so nervous about not saying the word, "missionary," that I ended up saying one of the acrostics for a particular meeting where I met these friends. It was certainly not an obvious reference to anything Christian or missions-related, but my friend didn't acknowledge my statement. (It would have required some tricky explanation, had the local friends heard it.) So I said it again. Her face glowed with nervous annoyance, so I decided that the story was worth passing over.

On the way home, I made a preposterous comment about how happy I was that I didn't say the M-word. It wasn't until I was in bed that night that I realized my mistake. Oops! is an understatement. (It should be noted that my friends were nothing but kind. They have a great deal of patience with foolish non-missionaries like myself.)

Thank you, missionaries, for walking the tight rope of guarded vulnerability that bridges the gap between healthy transparency and cautious wisdom. I thank God for the privilege to give to you, pray for you, and love you from my American couch. There's still a large chunk of me that wishes that I could be counted among you, but it is obvious that God knows what He's doing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Weekend

Well, Christmas is just about over. The girls have one gift left, which is going to require some serious attention from Daddy. My grandfather has a saying that Christmas isn't over until you open your last present, so the girls have a little more Christmas coming.

They have thoroughly enjoyed the gift-opening experience. Obviously, we want them to understand that Christmas is about more than stuff, but it is msot definitely about a gift, the free gift of salvation available to everyone who places faith in Christ.

We went for a Christmas Day sleigh ride this year. Edwin's mom and step-dad were with us this year, and it is a very Northern New York experience to go on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snowy woods. It was a great day for it, and we thoroughly enjoyed the tour of a snowy wonderland.

DeLaynie sang in church for the first time this Sunday! Mom and Dad were much more excited about it than she was, but once the song began, she warmed up to it. The crossed arms may lead you to believe that she was unhappy, but she actually seemed pretty enthusiastic about it.

Yesterday was our seven year anniversary! I like being married. I definitely plan to keep going. Seven years is nice and all, but 70 sounds a lot better. Tonight is our date night to celebrate, and I'm really looking forward to a few hours alone with my man.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kids With Questions?

If your kids are starting to ask questions about things like Santa Clause and Christmas celebrations, this is a great little source of information! Phil Vischer (creator of VeggieTales) has begun writing other, and I believe more accurate, curriculum and videos. These short videos provide explanations for some of the more historically based questions children ask. I learned several little tid-bits myself.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Photos

My mom had some photos taken of the girls while we were in Alabama. I thought that I'd share three of my faves. Consider it a Christmas present from me to you. :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hebrews Have the Best Christmas

I was listening to a new Christmas album from Beckah Shae while in Alabama. I had this inkling that she is of Jewish heritage because she uses quite a bit of Hebrew in her music, but I wasn't sure. (Edwin disagreed. He didn't think she looked "Jewish enough". Very politically correct, I know.) Anyway, her mom is a Messianic Jewish woman, so I was right. He was wrong.

In thinking about all of that, this idea occurred to me: How awesome would it be to be Jewish, realize Christ is, in fact, the Messiah, and then celebrate Christmas without any preconceived traditions. It's just about Jesus, not cookies, not Santa, nothing but the promised Messiah! I got a little jealous at the thought. Can you imagine growing up with the belief that a Savior is coming, growing constantly in the anticipation of His arrival, and then realizing that He is here? How cool would that be?

I've always been annoyed by the way that we have removed the Judaism from Christ. (Just try to find a Jewish looking nativity set. You would think that Jews for Jesus would have a set, but I can't find it.) He was Jewish, and that matters. It makes the entire Old Testament make sense. Without a Jewish Christ, there is very little meaning in the majority of Scripture. We have robbed ourselves of the significance of a Savior by forgetting the crescendo leading to Him.

I'm pretty sure that it's impossible to un-do the last two thousand years and return to a more complete understanding of Jesus and the Old Testament. But I can choose to think on the idea of a truly Messianic Christmas, and I believe that I shall.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Worth It!

We're in Alabama, having a great time! Thus, I have no desire to stay on the computer, blogging. I hope that you understand as I attend to real, live, breathing family members instead of staring at a computer screen.

I'll be back soon, friends!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All Things Fun...

require so much work that you begin to doubt if they're worth it. For instance, I went to Women of Faith in October with some wonderful ladies in our church. The house was in a wonderful working order at the time that I left. It certainly wasn't perfectly clean, but everything seemed to flow. Edwin did a great job keeping things straight and fairly clean, but I never explained all of the systems that were set into place. (Edwin wouldn't have had the time to use them if I had.) Our home and all of her systems haven't yet rebounded from the three days that I was gone.

We're about to head down to see my family for a few days. I can hardly wait to be in my parents' home, at their dinner table, and in my home church. On the other hand, I have to pack and prepare the house for our departure. I do not, in this case, doubt if my time with my parents and little brother will be worth it, but it is an awful lot of work.

So I should probably get to it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Decorating the Tree

 DeLaynie thoughtfully selecting the location of her ornament.

Ella not-so-thoughtfully licking an ornament. Please don't ask why. There is no answer to that question.

DeLaynie thoughtfully selecting a location for her ornament.

Ella looking awfully guilty after getting caught un-doing all of DeLaynie's thoughtful ornament hanging.

All DeLaynie wanted for Christmas was a Christmas tree. Her every wish has now come true!

That was easy. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Transportation to Narnia

Edwin and I re-watched The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian the other night. I was so impressed by some of the lines that I decided to read the book. Here's the kicker: I think that the movie did a better job of making theological connections. I was absolutely shocked to discover that many of my favorite lines and character development decisions were exclusive to the movie. Here are some of my favorite lines from the movie:
  • Lucy: "I wish you would all stop trying to act so grown up!" (There is a similar line in the book, but it doesn't quite capture the significance for the church, upon which I will now expound.) Lucy is the personification of child-like faith from the very beginning of the series. In this line, she challenges her brothers and sister to consider the fact that they have abandoned the childishness that enabled them to become Kings and Queens of Narnia. How often does that happen? How often do we take hold of God's gift of salvation through a child-like, dependent faith only to abandon it as we "mature" in the faith? How many churches have missed out on God's plan and God's blessing because it simply wasn't logical? If only we could remember the need for complete, total, shockingly childish faith!
  • Lucy to Peter:"Or have you forgotten who really defeated the White Witch? [Ka-da-boom!]" (That last bit was my own interjection.) Oh, how true it is! What a common misunderstanding. What a common roadblock to the abundant life we say that we desire. At the moment of salvation, we are so keenly aware of our own inability to save ourselves that it is hard to believe that we can forget so quickly. And yet, we do. We somehow shift our attention from the all-powerful Savior to our own, feeble selves. It didn't work well for Peter, and it won't work well for the Church, either.
  • Peter: "I think we've waited long enough for Aslan." I have this long-standing belief that whenever a church is trying to make a decision, anyone who starts their argument with, "Well, I just think..." should lose their turn. Who cares what you think?! Who cares what I think?! (Sorry, that is a rabbit-trail that eventually leads to a soap box.) Do we really think that He isn't going to show up? Do we really think that He is going to save us only to abandon us? When He takes a long time to answer, the best option is to focus on His character, which will always prove Him to be faithful.
  • (Context: Lucy and Aslan are discussing how Lucy knew that she saw Him, but her brothers and sister didn't believe her.) Aslan to Lucy: "Why did that stop you from coming to me?" Why on earth do we allow our obedience to be contingent on the faith of those around us?  No matter what those around us may be doing, when we have the privilege of knowing what God wants from us, we have the obligation to follow and seek after Him. Those who don't believe us may change their minds when we are obedient, but even if they don't, we must be faithful.
There were two amazing passages in the book as well. One made it to the movie. The other didn't.
  • Lucy: "Wouldn't it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you never knew which were which?" I can only imagine that there are a few explanations for this bit of dialogue. The context is that Lucy was almost attacked by a bear who had gone wild inside so that he could no longer talk or recognize a Daughter of Eve for anything more than a snack. One interpretation is that people have gone wild inside. We have abandoned the original intention of Creation, and it has led to a primal existence that leans on instinct instead of the eternal, supernatural intent of our Creator. Only those who are restored through the blood of Christ are able to reason according to the truth that set us free from our previously meaningless wanderings.
  • (This is the passage that made it into the movie.) I'm going to quote the whole conversation.
    "Aslan," said Lucy, "You're bigger."
    "That is because you are older, little one," answered He.
    "Not because you are?"
    "I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."
    The movie abbreviated this discussion to two lines. I like the extended version, personally. God cannot get any bigger than infinite. He can't grow beyond the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God that He is, but our understanding of Him should constantly grow. As it does, He will grow bigger in our minds until (oh God, let it be!) He is all-encompassing in our lives.
I'm starting to recognize how much I really enjoyed writing papers in college. I know. I'm pretty pathetic. But I can look forward to the next Narnia movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I'm reading the book to prepare. After comparing the movie to the book in regard to Prince Caspian, I'm actually looking forward to discovering the differences in The Dawn Treader.

Remember that the movie comes out on December 10th. Also keep in mind that just because I dissect every single line and moment, that doesn't mean that you have to. Just enjoy what I hope to be a great movie!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Playing Hookie

DeLaynie is one smart girl. At the age of four, she has learned that she can tell the teachers that her ears and tummy hurt, and they'll send her to the nurse. From there, the nurse will discover a .7 degree fever, and will call me. I will be left with no other option except to bring her home. The next day, when she doesn't want to go to school for some bizarre reason, she will complain about her tummy again. I will debate whether it's a good idea to send her, eventually deciding to keep her home because I don't want her to go to school and complain to the teachers, go to the nurse, and eventually come back home, leaving in her wake a path of people who think I'm a terrible mother.

It's just a little game we like to call "Hookie," and DeLaynie has won the first round.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Church Family

We are so grateful for our church family. We don't have any family within a 12 hour drive. This is a good thing because it means that we have to depend on our church family. There is very little talk of how beneficial such dependence is to the ministry, but I have found it extremely helpful for the church to know that you need them. A lot of times, it seems like pastors try to make the church aware of how badly they need him, but in missionary training we were told about the importance of being vulnerable to those whom you serve. It was such a helpful insight to our domestic ministry!

I'm not sure why we expect our church families to be perfect even though we would never expect such from our biological families, but it may be due to the fact that we can choose our church family. That freedom of choice has led to a consumeristic attitude toward church. We can pick and choose, so we should look for a church that makes us happy. When the leadership (or follow-ship) does something we don't like, we hold them hostage by threatening to leave. I don't see that anywhere in the book of Acts!

I have found such joy in knowing and leaning on our church family. It's not that I have faith in people as much as I have faith that God uses His people to provide. I know that they'll fail. I know that I'll fail, but by God's grace, I pray that in those moments of weakness, the Holy Spirit will intervene and provide more than enough for a supernatural forgiveness. Grace is perfected in weakness, a truth we are more than happy to look to in our own weakness, but waver in our application toward the weaknesses of others.

I want relationships defined by the strength of God and His love, not by my own limitations or the limitations of others. It's a scary thing to rely on God by relying on others, but the value is indescribable. Let's leave some room for the Holy Spirit to work and embrace the slightly illogical joy of dependency. I'm not talking about co-dependency, just a healthy understanding of biblical relationships and God's desire to use them to grow us toward Him.

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."  (1Peter 4:8 ESV)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Congrats to Susan!

We drew for the photo book giveaway from Mixbook, and Susan was our happy winner!

Remember all of my readers can use coupn code JULYMIX20 to receive a 20% discount on your order from Mixbook. In addition to beautiful, high quality photo books, they also sell calendars and photocards, so there are many options for marking friends and family off of  your Christmas shopping list and let them know you love them.

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"And If Our God is for Us"

As a Zumba instructor, it's my goal to make the steps simple enough and repetitive enough that new students can follow along and join in without losing the interest of the regulars. Praise music is similar in that it isn't a performance, but an encouragement to participate. Praise music is supposed to draw your mind upwards and encourage your heart to worship by thinking on the Object of your affection. Chris Tomlin has been proving his giftedness in this area for years.

This summer, my husband came in and said, "I put a new song on your iPod. You're going to like it." I'm generally territorial over my iPod. There aren't many things that are just mine, after all. Still, I trust my husband enough to know that if he says I'll like it, he's probably right. During that day's walk, I listened to a new praise song by Chris Tomlin. "Our God" swept me up immediately. The words were brilliantly woven into a song of worship that did a beautiful job of concentrating on Who it is we serve. I listened to it over and over, and decided that it was one of my favorite songs.

So when I was given the opportunity to listen to the newest studio album from Chris Tomlin (available today), I jumped on it. Chris Tomlin has never failed to create consistently biblical and emotionally balanced music that takes the listener and encourages him or her to become a worshiper. The most addictive song on And If Our God Is For Us (well, for me, anyway) is "I Will Follow." This declaration of surrender and loyalty has been stuck in my head since I first heard it. "No Chains on Me" is a fun celebration of the freedom we have received in Christ. I could go through each song and tell you all the things that I like about them, but that would take a while. I recommend listening to it for yourself.

The entire album is full of good, biblical, trustworthy music that will quickly draw you into participation. Although it isn't musically surprising or overwhelmingly impressive in performance, And If Our God Is For Us accomplishes the higher goal of worship music. Every song encourages worship by concentrating on the truth of our God.

I have my opinions, which are not available for purchase. I received no compensation for this review. I was given a cd so I could actually listen to it, but that's it. I enjoy letting you know when I find something that is beneficial, and I wouldn't lie to you for money. Period.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ella is Hilarious

My Ella has a plethora of facial expressions and tones of voice. She has become somewhat famous for them among the members of our church. I told her the other night that she was hilarious, and she responded in typical Ella fashion with, "No, Mommy. You're hilarious!"

She is most famous for her scowl. Although she is a pretty happy gal, it does seem to grace her face pretty often. She has plenty of other expressions, however. The following is certainly not an extensive collection, but it is a taste of the many faces of Ella.

Ella, no matter how much you argue with me on the matter, you are hilarious!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Don't See the Connection

Dearest Veterans and Military Personnel,

Thank you so very much for all that you gave, are giving, and will give in order to protect my family and our freedom. Thank you for putting your life on the line for people whom you will never meet. Thank you for enduring ungrateful people and governments, here and abroad. Thank you for giving up your freedom in order to ensure mine. Inadequate though it is, thank you.

There is just one thing. Do you really feel more appreciated when the schools close and the mail doesn't run? I mean, if you do, then it is completely worth it. But on the off-chance that my kids being at home in the middle of the week doesn't make you feel appreciated, please inform the government so they will take my kids back.

I think that we (being Americans) have chosen a really poor method for expressing our appreciation. It makes more sense to celebrate Veteran's Day by making it illegal for veterans to work on that day, no matter what job they have. A paid day off for all veterans. Yep. That sounds much better. Just a thought.

Gratefully in your debt,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Our First Giveaway!

When creating our gift list for friends and family, there was one gift that was at the top. Okay, okay. It's the only gift I have figured out. It's the perfect gift from the narcissistic mother who wants the world to see the beauty that her genes have spawned. The photo book!

That creates a whole new world of decisions. There are dozens of options for creating and purchasing a collection of precious photos of precious moments. Or mediocre photos of stressful moments. Whichever you have on your hard drive. If you're a scrapbooker (former or current), there is a fabulous option for creating and publishing a treasury of photographic beauty. You don't have to scrapbook to enjoy all of the options and customization. You just need to enjoy turning your pictures into an anthology of memories. (I so ought to write greeting cards!) Mixbook offers fully customizable photo books for you to create and give (or keep for yourself). And you have the opportunity to win one!

If you would like the chance to win a beautiful 8.5x11 Mixbook, leave your name and email (name at server dot com) in the comment section. For an additional chance, post a blurb about this giveaway on your own blog. (Just make sure that you leave a comment for each chance.) I will randomly select someone on Monday, November 15th and notify them by email that they have won. All entries must be received by 12:01 a.m. (Yes. I am that exact.)

Even if you miss out on the free book, you can save 20% on any order from Mixbook by applying coupon code JULYMIX20 at checkout. This deal expires at the end of the year, so get your pictures ready!

Good luck!

I have not been compensated for this entry. I am happy to offer such giveaways to my readers without financial gain. I'm just that good a person.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why Were You Born?

I saw it on Facebook this week. It's a quiz that will tell you why you were born. The answers are always deeply profound, such as, "You were born to be in love." Well, thank you, random Facebook application. All of my questions are now answered. (No. I didn't take the quiz to discover that I was born to be in love. I saw it on a friend's profile.)

Why would anyone be born to be in love? What kind of an answer is that? That's essentially saying, "You were born to find emotional contentment by going from relationship to relationship, because unless you feel 'in love,' you are not accomplishing your purpose."

Here are my questions for the application:
  • By assuming that everyone has a purpose in being born, you are assuming that there is something or Someone who instilled that purpose. Why do you then ignore that something or Someone when it comes to the purpose itself?
  • Who are you to determine my purpose? Heck! Who are you at all?
  • How is it that you convinced people to hand over all of their profile information to get a fortune cookie answer to the largest question a person could possibly ask? (You have great con-man potential.)
Okay, ranting over. Allow me to present the best answer I have found to this question:

You were created for Him. (Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11)

Your Creator is your purpose. His pleasure is your highest calling. His service is your privilege. Everything else is His grace to you. Period. (Maybe I should make a Facebook app?)

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Fairy Tale Evening

This year, DeLaynie was a princess. She's thoroughly enamored with the idea, so it was a good fit for her. She absolutely loves getting dressed up.

Ella was a dragon. I thought that it was a good fit with the princess, and Ella loves to give a good, "Roar!"

As is our custom, we went to the community center early so Edwin could set up for the fall festival and the girls could get some alone time with the bounce houses. One of them has a giant slide. The girls wouldn't get off of it, so it's a good thing they had an extra hour with it.

We took off the girls' costumes so they could play as intensely as they desired. And they did.

Ella has recently discovered orange soda. She isn't aware of the fact that we could potentially buy it, and she could have it at home. I have no intention of telling her. For right now, it's just one of those things that she can have when we're out and about.

I'm not sure what it is, but the fishing game is always the most popular with my girls. They played it over and over (and over).

There was also a game that involved throwing a tennis ball into a bucket. It was surprisingly difficult, but DeLaynie enjoyed it.

Oh, and there was candy. They like candy, especially lolly-pops.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall Festivity Photographic Fun

One of our first fall projects was painting little pumpkins. Both girls really enjoyed it.

My biggest fall craft involved crocheting bazillions (okay, twenty) of four-inch long candy corns as goody bags for DeLaynie's class. It was my own idea, so I have no one to blame but myself for the sore fingers. But aren't they cute?

DeLaynie's first field trip was yesterday. The customary first field trip at her school is a trip to the local gardening center where they grow pumpkins, apples, corn, herbs, and every kind of flower. They also have bees that live in what they call an "observation hive." I'm not an expert, but it looked a lot like a kitchen cabinet with a glass door that was drilled shut. It was a very attractive and effective way to look at bees in their habitat, although I question how natural of a habitat it is.

There was a room full of hay. Most of it was arranged into a maze that they then draped a large black cloth over. I joined DeLaynie on her excursion to make sure she didn't get too nervous half-way through. It wasn't even a slight issue, though I got a little claustrophobic. I think that I may have accidentally insulted the very nice owner of the establishment when I finally exited the maze and announced, "I believe that the assertion that this maze is big enough for adults may be false." I wasn't insulting the maze so much as my own width, but the other adults didn't seem too amused. Oops!

At the end of the trip, each child got to choose a pumpkin. DeLaynie was really excited about her choice, but it was very windy and getting colder by the minute, so she wasn't able to get a great picture.

Tonight we made cookies. DeLaynie was pretty methodical.

Ella was more on the giddy side.

Then Mommy temporarily misplaced her common sense and decided to use glitter to decorate some plain-looking pumpkins. 

They had fun, but it wasn't very effective for the pumpkins. They aren't plain anymore, but they have a kind of Las Vegas look to them.

When Edwin got home (to a glittering house, I might add), he read Green Eggs and Ham to the girls. Being a drummer, he added some funk to the finale, which turned into a drum concert starring Edwin and Ella. She loves being loud with Daddy.

The next step in our series of fun is the fall festival on Sunday. DeLaynie is going to be a princess. Ella is going to be a dragon. Mommy is some sort of Peter Pan/ Little Jane (as in Little John from Robin Hood fame) character.  (I'm not sure who I am exactly, but who does?) Daddy is going to be a baseball player because that's what he always is. Ya gotta love a consistent man!