Why Did I Think We Needed a Puppy?

dsc_0077

I have always been anti-dog.  My house is already full of loud, messy, needy creatures.  What do I need a dog for?

“It would be so good for the children,” my husband would argue the pro-dog position.

“They are so cute!  And it would be fun,” the children would chime in.

“Don’t worry, we will get one…someday…when we have a lot of land and the dog can be an outside dog,” I would always answer.

I had no intention of sharing my home with a stinky, hairy animal that may or may not destroy the furniture and pee on the rug.  God, however, had different ideas.

I drive to a farm once a week to purchase raw milk and pastured eggs.  A few years ago, beagles began showing up on the farm until there were three beagles in three separate pens.  Soon there was a litter of the cutest little balls of fur in one of the pens.  The children would “ooohhhh” and “ahhhhh” over them and try to pet them through the chain link fence.  The puppies would trample over each other to get to the children, wild with excitement.

The children would come home with tales of the adorable puppies.

“Just call and find out how much they are,” Chris urged me.

“We don’t need a puppy right now.  I don’t WANT a puppy right now,” was my reply.

“Just call,” he said.

After I called and found out that each puppy would require a sum of $450, the talk of getting a puppy ceased.  The puppies grew up and were all adopted.  Then six months later another batch of puppies would appear wobbling out of their little dog house and into the penned-in yard.  I let the children have fun talking to them and petting them, but my heart was unmoved.  I never thought that beagles were that cute anyway.

This September, there was a new litter of seven puppies.  The farmer invited me and my children to peek into the dog house.  We saw the tiniest black bundles snuggled up to their mother. They seemed different somehow.  They were black and white.  Had any of the other beagle puppies been black and white?  I couldn’t exactly remember.

Soon they grew enough to venture into their yard.  I felt strangely drawn to these tiny creatures.  They were so adorable.  Areli took a pictures of them with her phone.  Cute, right?

The farmer let the children hold one, and they were in love.

“So how many of them are you going to take home?” the farmer asked.

I just laughed!

The next week there was a new sign at the farm that read, “Border Collie Beagle Puppies $100.”  I started thinking, “Hey, we could afford $100!  If all the children would pitch in, they could cover all the costs and help to take care of a puppy.”

Yet my thoughts scared me!  What was I thinking, even considering this?  We didn’t need a puppy!

I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.  The children would be overjoyed to have a puppy, and I would love to fulfill their heart’s desire.  I told Chris my thoughts and he said, “If YOU want to get a puppy that is all the confirmation I need!  Call them and ask if we can pick one out.  You better hurry before they sell them all!”

I called the owner, who was the wife of the farmer’s brother.  She told me the funny story about these $100 puppies.  She and the farmer’s brother were planning their wedding and decided not to breed the beagles this season since the puppies would arrive right around the wedding date, early September.  Well nature, the dogs, or God himself had different plans.  When the female beagle was in heat, the Border Collie who lives on the farm chewed into her cage.

I laughed about the unplanned pregnancy that had produced such adorable pups.  I set up a time to bring the entire family to the farm that Friday evening.

On Friday morning I was feeling very nervous about this rather impulsive, impractical, and life changing decision…to go PICK OUT A PUPPY!  What was I thinking?!  I asked God to give me a scripture to confirm that this was a good decision for our family.

He gave me Psalm 34.  I read the beloved verses such as:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him and be radiant so your faces shall never be ashamed.

The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Peace began to flood my soul and I thought, “A puppy must be a good thing that God wants to give to us.”

Later that day, all 11 of us crowded into a room in the barn.  The floor was wet since all the puppies had just been given a bath. They were so little and cute and active!  They would run around wagging their tails rapidly; licking, chewing, and jumping the entire time.  I had prayed that the Holy Spirit would highlight the perfect puppy for our family, yet I couldn’t even tell them apart!  I finally settled on one puppy that seemed to like Ashlyn. I always had thought that a dog would be good for Ashlyn since she loves animals. Cooper and Cadin picked another puppy with distinctive brown eye brows who was identified by the owner as the most active puppy of the bunch.  Areli and Cole had bonded with a shy little girl who had been so scared by the bath, she spent the first half of the visit in her owner’s arms.  Once she was let down to the floor, Cole scooped her up and she fell asleep. photo-10Areli took a turn cradling the sleeping pup.  Cole and Areli were in love.

After much discussion and debate, we finally settled on the sleeping pup.  A sweet and docile dog would be a good complement to our overactive boys.  She was the only puppy that the owner had already named because she was the favorite.  Her name was “Happy” due to her constantly wagging tail.

It was a good thing we went to the farm that night because the very next day, all six of Happy’s brothers and sisters were adopted!  We decided to keep her name “Happy” because we couldn’t all agree on a name.

Chris wanted to name her “Dog.”

Cadin wanted, “Gigi.”

Cooper thought something like, “Skullcrusher” would be more appropriate.

Areli and I preferred a sweet name like, “Ellie”.

Cole suggested, “Gonorrhea,” for the entertaining shock value.

Mercifully, the named had already been chosen!!  Now we just had to wait until Oct 8th when we could take Happy home.

After the exciting trip to the farm, I sat down to read through Psalm 34 again.  When I got to verse 8, it was like a revelation from God.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good;

HAPPY are those who take refuge in him.”

God knew that Happy was the puppy for us.  I felt that He knew it all along, and that He had planned all of us to bless us.

When October 8th came, we were all very excited!  The children held a rather apprehensive Happy on the van ride home.  She had already gotten bigger!photo-4  She seemed uncertain about her new home and finally found her happy place, snuggled in Ashlyn’s lap.

Neither Chris nor I had ever had a dog.  We knew very little about being dog owners.  I had gotten all kinds of books and DVDs from the library which the children and I had been studying.  I was preparing myself for a lot of work initially.  Areli said she would take Happy out during the night.  Cole said he would train her.  The other boys said they would take her out for walks and play time.

I had a vision in my head inspired by the many books and movies I had seen about dogs.  The children and the dog would be best friends, almost inseparable.  She would look up at them with adoration in her eyes, longing to please.  She would join them on their adventures in the woods.  They would become responsible pet owners and grow in maturity.

Three days after we brought her home we noticed something in her fur.  Fleas!!!  Just two of them, but I had never had fleas in my house before.  The internet said that one flea could turn into hundreds, maybe thousands in just a week.  My skin started to crawl and I was officially freaking out.  How do I naturally deal with fleas?  We gave her bathes in flea shampoo and vacuumed every day.

After a few weeks, we were all worn out and it seemed as though Happy hadn’t learned anything.  She hadn’t learned to sleep through the night and Areli was walking through her day like a zombie.  Cole hadn’t trained her to do anything.  Someone was assigned to watch her at every moment and take her outside every half an hour.  Still, dog pee and poop on the carpet was the new normal.

I thanked God that our carpet was so old that it really should be replaced anyway, but the smell and the extra cleaning was frustrating.  Just to make it interesting, Happy barfed and had diarrhea a few times as well.

I began to realize that I really knew nothing about dogs.  Is this all normal?  Is she ok, or is she sick?  What would I do if she got sick?  I know all about taking care of children and babies.  I know exactly how to treat all of the childhood maladies, but a dog I had no clue about.  How could we afford vet bills?  What vaccines does she need and which ones are unnecessary?  Should we get her spayed and how?

I reminded myself that Happy was a BLESSING from God and He would work all this out.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I would remind myself over and over again.  My happiness was not in the circumstances but in His unchanging love and goodness.

More weeks passed and Happy continued to chew on EVERYTHING!  We had to keep the floor cleaner than if we had a baby crawling around.  When she got something that could be dangerous, it became a game of, “who can catch the puppy and pry this thing out of her mouth.”

The most distressing reality to me was the fact that she like to chew on PEOPLE!  My people!  My little defenseless people!  Annalise was afraid of Happy because Happy could knock her down.  I would have to hold Annalise or put her in her highchair when Happy was around, and this was incredibly inconvenient.  Courage wasn’t much better, but at least he could run away and climb up on the furniture to escape her reach.

Courage took to hitting and kicking the puppy.  I thought he was just being naughty, until I realized that he was really angry at this new “baby” for hurting him and scaring him.  The truth was, I was angry too and couldn’t blame Courage for his emotions.  I tried to teach him how to play with her nicely, but it ended up more like refereeing a mixed martial arts fight.  Happy just thought they were her brother and sister and wanted to play.

Ashlyn, who loved to play with Happy, would mess with the puppy endlessly.  This resulted in many bites and scratches.  The saddest moments for me would be when one of the middle boys would be playing with the puppy.  Happy would get over excited and bite hard.  The boys would end up bleeding and crying.  My idyllic vision of pet ownership was crushed.

I became very upset over the entire situation.  My day was much more difficult and messy and sad and frustrating.  Why did I think we needed a puppy?  I began to wish that I never had this stupid idea!

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I tried to remind myself.

dsc_0093The children began to fight with me about taking Happy outside and cleaning up after her.  When I talked to Chris about all of these things at supper time, his response was very simple.

“This is just a dog.  All of you promised to help with her.  If you don’t help, or if you give Mama a hard time about it, I will get rid of the dog.  I have no problem posting on Facebook, ‘Free Puppy.’”

Chris was very serious.  I actually wanted to take him up on his offer!  What a load would be lifted!  Yet, I felt that God had brought us this specific puppy, and it wouldn’t be right to give her up.  I felt that eventually she would be a great blessing to our family, although in the moment I couldn’t quite imagine how.

Dealing with the inconveniences of a new puppy is a rather small trial.  Yet God was using this to teach me lessons I needed to navigate through the real trial in my life; the heartrending trial that is just too deep and personal to write about yet.  I was dealing with a situation that I had always hoped and earnestly prayed that I would NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH.  And now that I was in the middle of it, I just wanted to retreat.  To be done, to give up, to admit defeat.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I remind myself every time I look at our puppy. Just like this puppy, I know that God will use this horrible situation for my good and bring a blessing out of it.   I can’t imagine what the blessing will be, but I am trying to believe that there is ALWAYS a blessing to everything that God allows to enter our lives.

J.R. Miller expressed it perfectly when he wrote:

“Every difficult task that comes across your path – every one that you would rather not do, that will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle – brings a blessing with it.  And refusing to do it regardless of the personal cost is to miss the blessing…

“Every battle field you encounter, where you are required to draw your sword and fight the enemy, has the possibility of victory that will prove to be a rich blessing to your life.  And every heavy burden you are called upon to lift hides within itself a miraculous secret of strength.”

Now the puppy has become less of a trial.  The children had a real attitude adjustment and began helping more willingly.  They began to have fun playing outside with her and taking her to the park.  She began to sleep through the night!  She started to calm down with the chewing and biting.  She actually became very gentle with Annalise and better with the other children as well.  She started to obey some commands!

We take pleasure in petting her silky fur and scratching her belly as her tail thumps on the floor.  We love to snuggle with her on the sofa when she curls up to take a nap.

photo-12 She has stopped using our house as a toilet (most of the time) and her schedule has become more predictable.  The flea infestation that I had worried about never manifested.  Whenever I look at her I can’t help but think that she is the prettiest puppy in the entire world, and I am glad that she is ours!

dsc_0440

Happy is a constant reminder that Happy are those to take refuge in Him and every trial holds the promise of a blessing whether we can see it or not.

The Death of Signarama

It would be in the cool of the evening when Chris and I would slip out to walk together, by ourselves.  This was a special treat.  It is hard to get time alone to talk and even harder to leave the house without some tag-alongs when you have 9 children.  I hadn’t been up to walking much in the past year, being pregnant and then recovering from having a C-section.  In the weeks following my surgery, Chris had encouraged me to walk with him.  It was spring and the weather was so lovely…but I wasn’t feeling up to it, and the truth was…I was afraid.  Afraid that I would be too tired to make it very far, afraid that my large incision would hurt and feel like it was busting open. The truth was, I was fighting the sorrow of having a C-section rather than the natural birth I had dreamed of, and I was still so very tired.

Chris kept pushing me out of my comfort zone (like he always does) and practically forced me to start walking.

“We will just go around the block and we can always stop and go back if you get too tired,” he wisely coaxed me.

So it began.  First just a short walk up the street and back, then around the block, then to the elementary school, and the all around the neighborhood.  The children got used to our nightly outings after supper, and older ones took care of the younger ones back at the house.

Chris and I got the glorious opportunity to clear our minds in the cool evening air. We would talk about our day and the children.  We were drawing closer to each other, and I could feel the depression lifting off of me.  I also thought I saw it lifting off of Chris as well.  He had been struggling the past 3 and a half years.  Almost four years ago was when we had purchased Signarama, a small sign shop down the street from our house.

We didn’t have experience in the sign industry, and we didn’t have a lot of start-up capital, nor was anyone willing to give us a loan or a decent line of credit. This was one of Chris’ big dreams, and we were crazy enough to take the leap into the unknown, believing that God had led us.

Being a business owner had taken a toll on Chris.  I had watched him begin with excitement and work hard.  I had watched that excitement diminish as he faced challenge after challenge.  He continued to fight and work hard month after month, but many days he had to fight through depression just to keep going.

In the midst of the struggle, we saw that God was working.  He saved us from having to close the doors three times.  We would get to the point where we had no more money to continue, could see no way out, and then God would do something miraculous. Singarama would remain to make signs for another day…and Chris would keep on fighting.

All through my pregnancy, time in the hospital for the C-section, and my slow recovery; Chris and I were both worn out, battling depression, and weary of fighting.  The business was failing again.

Yet when we took our walks together, we discussed all of these things and the weariness would lift a bit.  We enjoyed walking down the tree-lined streets and looking at the beautiful older homes in our neighborhood, each one unique and full of character.  Then we would follow a path through green rolling hills and marvel at the colors that the sunset had painted onto a perfect sky.

dsc_0128

The fact that all this majesty was found in a cemetery didn’t diminish it, but rather added to it.  The headstones had their own sublime beauty in the light of the setting sun.  Some were old and others were very recent.  Some had statues of angels…

dsc_0102

others were without any embellishment at all.  But all of them represented a life that had been celebrated by those who were left behind.  They were a memorial of the death of one who was loved.

dsc_0002-2

How fitting for us to be walking among these gravestones as we discussed the death of Signarama.

dsc_0122

During the long days of fighting for Signarama, having to close the shop had felt like the worst possible thing that could happen.

Yet as we discussed the inevitability of shutting down the business for good, we realized that this was not the worst possible thing.  We had lived alongside others who had endured much worse.  One guy had to sell his business because he and his wife were getting a divorce.  Another man was watching his fiancé slowly die of cancer.  Three marriages close to us had been shaken because of unthinkable betrayals.  Even in these tragic circumstances, there was always the hope of Christ.

dsc_0131-2

Thankfully, all we were facing was the loss of money.  Our marriage had been strengthened through the trials.  Our children were healthy and happy.  Our baby had not died but lived because of the C-section.  We were so blessed!!!!

Of course we weren’t just discussing the loss of money and the loss of our livelihood.  We were discussing the loss of a dream.  The loss of a big dream that we were hoping would lead to the fulfillment of many other dreams.  A big dream in which we had invested everything we had for the past four years!

Admitting that this dream really was dying was also admitting that we had heard God wrong. That He really hadn’t wanted us to buy Signarama in the first place.  Perhaps we had made a huge mistake and had gone woefully off course, wasting our time and money, moving backwards rather than forwards.

dsc_0063-2

Or perhaps God really did speak to us, but we just misinterpreted what He was saying.  Wow, we had seriously misinterpreted!  In fact, we had no idea what He was doing right now, or what He was going to do!  We admitted to each other that we didn’t know much of anything anymore.

How incredibly freeing that was!  We could surrender to God’s will, even if that meant losing everything we had wanted and worked for…because we knew that He was still good and that He still loved us.  We could surrender our “knowledge” and trust in God’s superior wisdom.

The possibility of Signarama being lifted off of Chris’ shoulders gave him a hope that he hadn’t had in a long time.  Perhaps he could finally be free of all the responsibility and the hassles and the long hours.

There was so much sorrow in the defeat and failure, yet there was so much hope as well.  The death of something always means the birth of something new, and new was exciting.

I began reading Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Visher (the creator of Veggie Tales) during this time, and what a comfort it was to me!  Phil had a big dream like we did.  He had a huge success, and then the most colossal failure!  The grand scale of his failure sure made me feel better about our own.  But what was really striking about his book was the fact that he was actually THANKFUL for his failure because it brought him closer to God.

During some of his darkest hours, Phil was listening to a recording of a sermon and the preacher said, “What does it mean when God gives you a dream, and he shows up in it and the dream comes to life, and then without warning, the dream dies?  What does that mean?…It may mean that God wants to see what is more important to you – the dream or Him.”

This set Phil on a path to find God, to walk with Him as the men of old did.  Noah was able to fulfill the dream of building an ark after 500 years of walking with God.  Phil realized that during the frenzied years of “Veggie Tales”, his life was about working hard to meet deadlines and putting out new shows and new products.  He had spent very little time listening or seeking the voice of God.  It took failure for him to realize that, “the Christian life wasn’t about running like a maniac; it was about walking with God.  It wasn’t about impact; it was about obedience.  It wasn’t about making stuff up; it was about listening.”

Phil also said, “God has taught me to focus not on results, but on obedience.  Not on the destination but on the journey.  He loves you even when you aren’t doing anything at all.  We really shouldn’t attempt to do anything for God until we have learned to find our worth in Him alone…and God is enough for you.  But you can’t discover the truth of that statement while you’re clutching at your dreams.  You need to let them go.  Let yourself fall…and falling into God’s arms – relying solely on His power and will for your life – that’s where the fun starts.  That’s where you’ll find the ‘abundant life’ Jesus promised – the abundant life that doesn’t look anything like evangelical overload.  The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact.  It occurs when we’re pursuing God.”

“Let it go.  Give it up.  Let it die.”

I heard of the voice of God speaking to me through those words.

Chris and I still prayed for a miracle for Signarama.

No miracle came.

So we let it go.

We gave it up.

We let it die.

dsc_0017-2

We gave up on all we had been working and fighting for, and decided that God was enough for us.  If all of this time and struggle had no other purpose than to bring us closer to God…than it had been worth it.

It was still hard to walk through the process and navigate through all the questions.

How will we tell our employees, our investors, our creditors?

What will Chris do for work?

What will we do for money?

How will be pay our bills?

(Here  is a beautiful song that described what we were feeling; The Unmaking by Nicole Nordeman.)

We had been stripped down to the essentials and these truths became clear –

Our lives are about knowing God.

The only dream that matters right now is knowing God more.

When we seek Him, we will find Him.

So the death of Signarama became the beginning of a new life of walking with God.

 

Oh Nards!

You know when something unexpectedly horrible happens and your immediate response is to let out a loud expletive?  Well, mine is, “Holy CRAP!”

I don’t mean to say it.  It just comes out.  My teenage son is quite offended by it and constantly reminds me that, “crap is NOT holy, Mom!”  I heard Bill Johnson say that if we really understood the holiness of God, we would never pair the word “holy” with the word, “crap.”

My young children sometimes exclaim, “Holy Crap!” when they are upset about something, and I admit that it sounds very uncouth and disrespectful…and they learned it from listening to me!

Ok, point taken!  This is not what should be slipping out of my mouth at inopportune times.  I should have better sentiments in my heart to express.

That same teenage son began to say, “Oh nards!” He would say it very loudly with a smile on his face because it is such a humorous phrase.

I adopted “nards!” as my “swear” word of choice.  Whenever something annoying or dreadful happened, I would exclaim, “OH NARDS!”  It was so fun to say and so funny to hear that I would burst out laughing.  I would amuse myself to the point that the disaster no longer seemed so disastrous.  (As Joseph Garlington says, “If it’s going to be funny later, it’s funny now.”) The children would begin laughing as well.  My husband would chuckle at me and shake his head, wondering what had gotten in to me.

I continued this, “Oh nards!” business for months before I thought, “Perhaps there is some significance to this word that God would want to speak to me about.”

I looked up “nards” on Google and found that it is short for spikenard, a plant used for medicinal purposes.  It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory.

capture

It is also the star of that beautiful Bible story in John 12 when Mary pours the pure nard on the feet of Jesus and the entire house was filled the fragrance of the perfume. The story (or perhaps a very similar but separate story) is also told in Matt 26.

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.  But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste?  For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me.  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

It was clear that Mary loved Jesus deeply and wanted to demonstrate her gratitude and worship.  Perhaps she had planned this act, weighing what it would cost her to do so and judging that the cost was worth it.  Or perhaps she was so overcome with emotion that she impulsively grabbed her most precious possession and poured it out.  Either way, she deeply touched Jesus and ministered to Him just days before His crucifixion.  She had made a choice to lavish her love on Him despite what it cost her.

When the unexpected happens in my life and I shout out, “OH NARDS!” it is not quite the same as Mary.  When the child drops dinner on the floor or the teenager leaves the bathroom a mess or UPS has Chris work his 3rd 14 hour day, this is not my choice.  These circumstances have been forced upon me, and I have the right to be angry!

Don’t I?

What if I would make the choice to accept the circumstances with joy and worship God anyway?  Then perhaps my, “OH NARDS!” could be turned into the alabaster jar of Mary, ministering to Jesus with my love.

I read one article on the internet that spoke about the extravagant amount of nard that was poured out, probably 11 oz.  Anyone who uses essential oils knows how strong they are.  A few drops is all you need.  The fragrance of 11 oz. would have been enough to be noticed for quite a distance around the house.  If Jesus was to wash in a pool right afterwards, a thousand people could wash after him and leave with the expensive aroma.

Imagine all of that nard being absorbed into Jesus’ skin.  He must have smelled like spikenard for days!  Jesus did say that Mary was preparing him for his burial.  I always thought he was just speaking about the symbolic of the use of herbs in burial customs.  Days later when he was betrayed, arrested, abandoned, beaten, put on trial, ridiculed, whipped, and crucified…

I bet Jesus still carried the aroma of spikenard!  In His darkness hours, He smelled like perfume.  All who came in contact with this simple, poor man from Nazareth would catch a whiff of this very expensive oil.  As the people watched Him take the accusations without fear or anger, they could smell Him.  As they watched Him patiently endure suffering, they noticed the unusual aroma.  It was the fragrance of a King, not a common man.  It was a heavenly smell in the midst of tragic circumstances.

This smell of pure nard would forever be imprinted on their brains as the smell of the most unusual trial and execution they had ever seen.  For the rest of their lives, whenever they would catch a whiff of it, they would remember.  Maybe God could even bring them to the place of faith, recognizing the King and Savior Jesus in the form of a beaten and bloodied criminal.

When I encounter trials that make me want to cry out in disgust, “Why all this waste?!!”  perhaps I should worship instead.

When my husband is suffering with an excruciating headache for a week, unable to work or participate in much of normal life, my mind starts to say;

“Why couldn’t this have been a vacation from work to enjoy camping as a family?  We won’t get to take that vacation now.  Our budget only works if Chris is working.  How long will it be before he can start working again…days, weeks, months?  We are not even sure what is causing the pain or how to get rid of it.  I hate to see him suffering! What a waste!”

I have come to know God better than that.  Nothing is wasted in His kingdom.  He can use any circumstance for our good and for our promotion.  I can trust Him and worship Him in this.

For all of us, this pure nard should remind us that in the midst of suffering, we can love and worship.  And when we worship we release the distinctive aroma of our King…and the atmosphere of heaven.

OH NARDS!

How I Feel About Donald Trump

In my junior high and High School years, I knew Donald Trump as the rich guy with the weird hair.  I honestly didn’t know what he had done to get so rich, and I didn’t care.  When his TV show, The Apprentice came on in 2004, I still wasn’t totally clear on what Trump actually did other than fire and hire people, but it was one of the few reality shows that I actually liked.

I have never spent a lot of time following the news or getting into politics…too many more important things consumed my life, like a new baby roughly every two years or so.  Still, I wanted to be a good American and a good citizen, so I always tried to vote and pray for whoever was in power at the time.

Around 2012 I saw a new book from Rick Joyner, I See A New America.  I purchased it on the spot (and I never do that!) because his previous books had been so powerful in my life.  I thought this was a book of new prophetic revelations and visions about our country, and I could sure use the encouragement.  I couldn’t help but notice that my nation was turning away from Christianity, one of my main reasons for homeschooling.

I excitedly dove into this new book only to be disappointed.  It wasn’t about visions at all, but observations of what was wrong with our country and the government and how we could fix it.  I read about halfway through this 300 page book before I could read no longer.  I was shocked and overwhelmed by how bad things really were, yet felt powerless to change anything.  What could I do, a housewife, to affect politics?  Perhaps one of my children would grow up with the honor, integrity, and self-sacrificing character to go into the government, but I certainly couldn’t.

What I did take away from the book was that the power had to shift from lawyers and professional politicians to real business men.  Only then could the noble purpose for government (serving and protecting the citizens) actually be accomplished, and done so efficiently.  If our government was a business, it would have gone under long ago.  If politicians lived by the same rules as the rest of us, most of them would have been put in jail.

I laid the book aside, but began praying more for our nation.  I also encountered more teaching (from folks like Lance Wallnau and Bill Johnson) that Christians had laid down their God given influence in the seven spheres of culture, government included, and it was time to take it back!  We couldn’t just hide and wait for the rapture! We had to use our gifts and talents to make heaven manifest on earth.  Our lives and our children’s lives depended on it.

I heard Launce during the 2015 Firestorm conference say something that changed the way I looked at voting.

“When Christians look at elections, they want to know, is the guy a believer?  That is really not the intelligent question.  What you want to know is; who is anointed for the assignment.  Now this is controversial because I wouldn’t think that God would actually be working with secular people and anoint them.  But I had to reconsider this for the simple fact that I am reading Daniel, and Daniel has an archangel that comes to him and says, ‘As you have been praying Daniel, in the 2nd year of Darius, I stood by to confirm and stabilize his reign.’ Which means that Darius is a heathen ruler, Darius and the Medes, they’re over the Jewish people; but God knows which heathen is going to be open to the kingdom and which one isn’t.  And archangels go to war to make sure that the right heathen gets elected.

“So you go back in American history, most Christians, they just don’t talk about this stuff – Lincoln was God’s chosen man for the complexity of the hour.  In retrospect, we look back at him and say – there was the right man for that crucible; but honestly, Charles Finney didn’t think he was, the revivalists in his day didn’t, because he didn’t make a significant enough profession of faith.  Now the people who made the great profession of faith were knuckleheads.  Because you can follow Salmon Chase and McClellan and see the arrogance and the ego in the guys who actually were evangelical.  But then you got a gifted heathen who discovers Christ in the crisis of the White House…

“The fact is, you have to know who God has anointed for the job, not who passes your Sunday School litmus test.

“Churchill falls into the same category.  Neville Chamberlain was a great evangelical.  Nevil Chamberlain, ‘Peace in our time,’ he totally goofed up.  He was trying to be a sheep dealing with a wolf.  Churchill from the beginning knew what Nazi Germany was.  Churchill was the guy who was anointed.”

That really got me thinking.  Lincoln is considered to be one of, if not THE greatest president this nation has ever had. Yet during his time in office, he was disliked, hated, and ridiculed by so many people.  I had learned a lot about Lincoln because we studied the Civil War for three years in homeschool.  I never planned it that way, but I think God was teaching our family something about the time we are now living in.

Abortion is the modern-day civil rights issue that has become socially acceptable just as slavery was in Lincoln’s time.  The Civil War was the terrible result of the sin of slavery.  Abortion takes away the rights of those who are considered subhuman to bring wealth to the few.  What will be the consequences of this heinous crime?  Lincoln fought for the humanity of the slaves without demonizing the slave holders and the south.  He knew that after the war, they all had to be united again.

I started asking God to show me who he had anointed for these very difficult and dangerous days.  Soon the new presidential hopefuls were all over the news.

I must admit, whenever I saw Donald Trump on TV, I would cringe a little bit inside.  Why does he have to seem so prideful and silly?  But most of what I saw were just small clips taken out of whole speeches which were then ridiculed by whatever media was showing them.  He didn’t look like the leader I had been hoping for, and I felt discouraged.

I heard Lance Wallau at our church again, and he spoke about a meeting that he been in with Donald Trump.  His view of the man was so different from what had been portrayed in the media.  Lance talked about a man who believed in the Bible, brought his Bible to the meeting, and listened and respected all of the Christians leaders present.  This started to give me hope.

DSC_0001 (4)

I decided to get Trump’s book, Crippled America from the Library to hear about the views and beliefs of this man straight from his own mouth, so to speak.  I really enjoyed reading this book and learned so much that I didn’t know.  Most importantly, it gave me hope.  Hope that someone actually understood what was ailing this country and had a plan to start to fix it.  His views were all truly conservative, and I didn’t find a thing that I disagreed with.  I did not find anything racist or sexist in the book.  Just the opposite.  Trump was putting women and minorities in leadership positions in his businesses long before it was politically correct to do so.

I had this book for six weeks, and no one else put it on hold.  I find it hard to believe that there is no one else out there wondering what Donald Trump really stands for and is willing to take the time to delve into this book rather than just take the media’s word for it.

Chris and I were business owners for almost four years and realized how hard it really is – not just because it is hard to take risks and strike out on your own – but also because the government seems to be trying to hinder you at every single turn.  Our business failed despite our best efforts.  I can’t convey to you how much respect I have for Donald; that he has been able to be so successful in so many different businesses when it is so difficult to do so.  Being in the business world and meeting so many other owners and entrepreneurs, we saw that it is difficult for everyone.

I can’t describe how amazing it was to read his book and realize that he understands how hard it is and how damaging the government has become for businesses, especially small businesses. He has a plan to change that.  Finally a person in politics who has been in the real world and who has had real world success.

In his own words, “The basic difference between the politicians’ way and my way is that I’ve actually had to do the things that politicians only talk about doing.

“I’ve hired thousands of employees.  I’ve had to negotiate with contractors and unions.  I’ve had to provide health care coverage for my workers.  I know what the real costs are, I know what the problems are.  I know what works and what doesn’t work.”

Trump has a great track record of taking over historic buildings that have been allowed to become rundown and revitalizing them under time and under budget.  You can’t mess around when you want to make a profit.  If the government were run like a business, oh how different things would be!

In conclusion, Trump says, “We can take a crippled country and make it great again.  Our country has been allowed to languish and become tarnished, second-class place in the eyes of the world…I have a vision and I understand the process by which we’re going to accomplish our goals, We need to strengthen our military, help our vets, stand up to our enemies, deter illegal immigration, rebuild our infrastructure, revamp our tax code and education system, and rip apart the ridiculous policies of the past, including Obamacare and the Iran nuclear ‘agreement.’

“Most important, we need to reinvigorate the American dream and give our country back to the millions of people who have labored so hard for so little…We are at a critical turning point in our history…Our time has not passed, it is here, and the potential is amazing.”

I began a second time to read Rick Joyner’s, I See A New America and this time I finished it!  This time I understood more of what he was writing about, having more experiences with government agencies and government regulations and taxes.  I also had more hope!  The amazing thing was that this book written in 2011 said many of the same things that Trump wrote in his book in 2015.  Some statements were almost identical, such as the fact that the government could be run with 20% of its present size.  With this type of efficiency, they could actually cut taxes, balance the budget, and strengthen the economy rather than incur more debt.

Rick writes, “The U.S. government was created to serve the people, not to be served by them.  It was created to protect our wealth and resources, not consume them.  Government workers, from the President down, were to be public servants, not the privileged class they have set themselves up to be…we must resolve to never again elect professional politicians, and determine it is one species we will make extinct in our country.  We, the people, must resolve that every elected office in government should be filled with leaders and managers who have a mission and know how to accomplish it…”

Is Donald Trump such a leader?  He says that he is.  Many people believe that he is.

So how do I feel about Donald Trump?  I think he may just have the very rare driven personality (that is willing to take risks and make people mad) that we need to lead us into something different, something better.  It may look like a wrecking ball making a big mess of things, but appearances can be deceiving.  The more I find out about “business as usual” in Washington, the more I think that unless it all comes tumbling down, we can no longer survive as a nation.  It may not be pretty, it may come in a way that none of us expected, but I know that God is doing something wonderful in our nation and in our government.

When I think about Donald Trump, I feel more hope rising with in me than I have ever felt when thinking about politics.  I am praying for him, for his safety, for his relationship with God, for his vision for this nation and his ability to carry it out.

But it really doesn’t matter how I feel about Donald Trump.  What really matters is who has God anointed for this hour.  If Christians could just seek Him for the answer to that question, we could shape the future of our nation.

Here is some food for thought:

Trump: God’s Chaos Candidate

What does the thoughtful Christian do in this election?

Review of Conversation with Trump and Ben Carson

Trump’s road to the White House: 1980-2

 

 

A Mini Mother’s Day Makeover

It all started with a suggestion I made to Chris.

“Maybe for mother’s day this year, you could paint our bedroom.”  I said to him.

We did have gallons of yellow paint in the basement, and our blue bedroom walls were peeling.  Chris liked the idea, except he applied it to the living room.  The cords hanging down from the flat screen TV had been bothering him for years.  We had never owned a flat screen TV until I had the bright idea to ask his friends and family to give Chris donations for a TV in honor of his 40th birthday.  They were all so generous (and Chris is so loved) that he was able to buy quite a big one.

Our living room does need an entire overhaul but Chris suggested because of lack of sufficient time and money, we just do a few walls – a mini makeover.  Any makeover is exciting to me, plus I had been wanting to paint a few accent walls…so I told him my idea.

BRIGHT RED!!!

I had been thinking about bright red ever since Christmas when I wanted to buy slip covers for our raggedy sofas.  I couldn’t imagine having guests coming over and sitting on those sofas.

DSCF0899

But Chris said, “Don’t waste money on slip covers.  We just need to buy new sofas.”

Those new sofas did not make it to our house in time for Christmas.  In fact it was April when we got them.  But what an awesome deal; one hundred bucks for a new looking sofa and love seat.  I was thrilled.  When we got them into our home, they turned out to be so close in color to the wall and carpet that they practically disappeared.  So a few good accent walls would do the trick!

When I was researching red pillows on the internet (back at Christmastime), I found these certain hand-made Pillows on Etsy that I just loved!  I couldn’t get the lovely pattern out of my mind.  I felt silly for being so obsessed with pillows, and $40 pillows at that.  I kept researching and found the fabric at Hancock Fabrics.  I put it on my wish list for my 40th birthday, and my mom was so wonderful to purchase 3 yards of the beautiful stuff!

All we had to do was pick the right red paint to match the fabric.  Chris could paint, and I could make pillows to my heart’s content.

Picking out paint is hard!  I chose two possibilities and put them on the wall.

DSCF0826

“No More Drama” and “Circus Red”  they were called.  I looked at the wall for days.  I asked the opinion of all the children.

DSCF0832

Finally it was decided that “No More Drama” was THE RED that we needed.

Chris couldn’t just paint it on the walls however.  First he had to strip the wall paper, patch the cracking walls, and skim coat everything.

DSCF0839

Then we had our carpenter friend over AGAIN…seems like he helps us with all our projects, and I hope we haven’t worn him out.  He and Chris built a box to insert into the wall.

DSCF0843

It would hold the cable box and blue ray player.  This worked great because there is a closet behind that wall.  They ran the power cords behind the wall, and Chris was as happy as a clam!

DSCF0845

Finally, on Mother’s day the big moment came.

BRIGHT RED PAINT ON THE WALLS!!!

DSCF0846

Once the walls were painted, I loved the look of it; bold and beautiful.  The couch didn’t disappear anymore and the beloved fabric would look great.  Yet…it wasn’t quite the red I had wanted.  In my experience, 100% of the time paint doesn’t look the same on the wall as it does on the card…or the way you had envisioned it in your head.  It looked more like “Circus Red” than “No more Drama”, and I was a bit disappointed.  I want my house to be peaceful without unnecessary drama.  I most certainly did not want to live in a circus!

To make matters worse, one day Chris sat down on the sofa and looked over the house.  From his vantage point he could see the bright yellow in the dining room, the deep blue of the entry way and the BRIGHT RED of our new accent wall.

DSC_0019 (3)

“It looks like Romper Room,” he said and stomped on my delicate heart just a little.

“Don’t let anyone make you doubt your vision,” I said to myself.  I had just read that in a magazine in a waiting room that very day.  It was a quote from an interior decorator.  Some rooms she had designed were featured in the magazine, and I must admit that I had serious doubts about them!

My vision was different.  It just had to work out!

Over the next week, I racked my brain for a way to break up all of the BRIGHT RED.  Perhaps if I put some of that lovely fabric on picture frames and hung them on the wall.  I looked up tutorials on YouTube and found something I wasn’t even looking for; how to make wall panels by stapling fabric on fabric stretchers.  That was it!  I ordered those fabric stretchers and stapled away.

photo (2)

I was very happy with how they turned out.

It took me a month to arrange the decorations in a way that I was happy with.  In that month I attempted to sew my dream pillows.  This scenario always happens when I start to sew, because it is kinda like having a baby.  Once I have those lovely curtains or pillows gracing my home, I forget about all the pain of making them.  Pretty soon I am planning another sewing project.  I start out with big dreams!  I get just the right fabric.  I have to wait until the children go to bed.  I only have a few hours before my bedtime, so I have to hurry.  I begin the process, making sure everything is clean and ironed and lined up correctly.  I begin to sew… and inevitably I mess it up somehow.  Either the stitching is all crocked or the hem is in the wrong place or I break the needle.

Then I become the ugly version on myself, cursing my machine and my materials (by cursing, I mean yelling at them and calling them stupid).  I chide myself for starting this project in the first place.

“Why did I think that I could actually sew?!”  I say.  My husband and sweet teenage daughter try to tell me that it will be OK.   Under all the frustration, I know that it will be OK…eventually…after a lot of hard work.

So I haven’t gotten all the pillows done yet, but they are on their way.  Oh, and I did purchase 4 red pillows at Costco for $30!

DSC_0012 (2)

I even have some fabric left over to make a cushion for the top of the beautiful wooden toy box that will double as a bench that we will certainly get one day.

The mini makeover is almost finished.  The living room still needs the ceiling fixed and new light fixtures put in.  The other walls still need the peeling wall paper stripped, then patched, then skim coated, then painted.  The carpet still needs to be replaced.  But we had already accomplished more than I thought we would this year, all for around $350 which included the sofas!

We are still unsure about all the BRIGHT RED.  What do you think?  Romper room or bold and beautiful?

DSC_0013 (2)

My eight year old son, Cooper suggested that we mix the two red colors together to create the perfect shade, “Circus Drama.”  That is all we need around here!  More Circus Drama!

 

Tell Me a Gummy Bear Sto-whee!

 

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 144Bed time is such an important time for young children.  Over the years, our good-night routine has evolved and changed.  I started by singing songs to Areli, Cole, and Cadin as they lay in their beds in their darkened room.  I think I enjoyed the peaceful melodies even more than they did.

Then I heard that if you read poetry to young children, they will grow up to be poets.  Who was I to hinder their writing careers, so poetry reading became the norm.  My favorites were always from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I must admit that none of them enjoy writing poetry now as teenagers, but perhaps someday they will hear one of those familiar rhymes and be taken back to a sweet childhood memory.

More babies came and Areli, Cole, and Cadin didn’t command as much of my attention at bed time anymore.  They would read to themselves in their beds, followed by music or books on CD.  Sometimes this was great!  Other times, not so much.  I would find out later that a particular child would be frightened by a certain story, usually something that I wouldn’t have expected.  Other times, Cole would be bothered by the noise while he was trying to sleep.  Areli was such a creature of habit, that she couldn’t fall asleep without the tape or CD on.  She would pull the tape player over to her bed, turn the volume down, and listen to it under her pillow.

Once Areli came to me late in the evening.  I had put a lullaby CD on for her at bedtime and thought she was sleeping.  She was crying and shaking and said that the songs made her sad.  She has no idea why, but she dislikes lullabies to this day.  I discontinued the practice of leaving them alone with a CD at night and favored listening to stories all together at lunchtime.  Then I could talk about the story with the children and understand how each one felt about each book.  We had some wonderful times listening to all the Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, and even Jane Eyre.

Areli, Cole, and Cadin grew big enough that they didn’t need someone to tuck them in at night.  It was now Ashlyn, Chai, Cooper, and Calvin’s turn. I found Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime stories published in 1951.  This book was full of short stories; each one was true and contained an important life lesson or moral.  I loved these stories!

Other times I would ask them to share what they enjoyed most about their day.  Then we would take turns praying.

I am a natural storyteller, so it is funny that it took me 17 years into my mothering career before I started telling bedtime stories.  In fact, storytelling is in my blood.  My Papa used to delight my brother and I with his bedtime stories about a tiny but feisty girl named Squeegee.  She was so little that she could crawl through a Cheerio.  She had a pet mosquito name Quito who she rode like a horse.  I always begged Papa for Indian stories. His voice would transport us to a remote Indian village where I was transformed into an Indian princess and my brother, Jason was a young brave.  Of course, Squeegee was always there too.

I loved those stories, and we still have some of them preserved on cassette tapes.  It is strange that I never thought of telling bedtime stories of my own…until now.

It was Courage Justice who started it.

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 140

He wanted a bedtime story, so I began a yarn about the first thing that popped into my head…gummy bears.  More and more details spilled out of my mouth until I had a whole cast of characters (four special gummy bears and their friends, Cooper, Calvin, and Courage).  The adventures would be something little boys would enjoy, and I received plenty of suggestions and help from the three young boys themselves.

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 149

They would take trips to Venice in a rocket ship.  They would visit their grandparents in Colorado where they splashed in Uncle Wilber (those of you from Colorado Springs will understand), climb mountains, and parachute from planes.  The gummy bears found tiny sombreros and toured the southwest with a Mariachi band.  This led to an appearance on Good Morning America and a trip to Walt Disney World where the gummy bears and the boys dressed up as dwarfs and took part in a parade.

We just finished talking about the summer they all spent in Texas on Hank’s Cattle Ranch learning to be Cowboys.  The four gummy bears spent most of their time enjoying the view from Courage’s cowboy hat.  Sometimes they had to take it easy UNDER Courage’s cowboy hat because they realized that too much sun made them squishy and too much rain made them melt.

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 151

The five-day cattle drive was hard, but they met a lot of new friends along the way.  Who could forget the turquoise lizard that wanted to travel along in Cooper’s saddle bag or the dragonfly, Zip who became Calvin’s pet? They also enjoyed a pow-wow at an Indian village and had quite a shopping spree with all the money they earned after the cattle were auctioned off.  Each boy had to buy their mom a special present, of course.  I must admit, I was hoping for some Native American jewelry or maybe even my own horse.  Courage was quite proud when he announced that he had purchased for me… a toothbrush.  Oh well!  I do love to brush my teeth!

Courage enjoyed these nighttime stories so much, that he began coming to me many times a day.

“Tell me a gummy bear sto-whee!” he would say.

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 152

I wasn’t always available to snuggle with him and tell a story, so the older children would begin to continue the adventure with their own stories.

It is amazing how these stories take on a life of their own and transport all who listen to a magical place.  I enjoy all the adventures that I have had with Cooper, Calvin, Courage, and the gummy bears.

I do not recommend that you allow your children to eat gummy bears. They are bad for you in about 10 different ways.  But they are also our friends, and we do not eat our friends, do we?

I do highly recommend them as traveling companions into the imagination of a child…and then into peaceful landscape of dreamland.  If all the gummy bears are unavailable, you could try looking up a tiny woman who is known for her courageous spirit.  She is in her 40s now, but still young at heart and up for a good bedtime adventure!

 

A Photo Shoot with All Boys

I had gotten a lovely picture of my girls for our Christmas card.  Each girl had a sweet, picture-perfect smile.  All I needed was an equally good picture of my six boys.  I could imagine the stunning photo in my mind.  Six fine boys, all with distinct features yet all with the similar Brandenburg look – a winning smile and handsome eyes.  They would look like an ad for some designer label.

I put my daughter, Areli, on the job with high expectations.  Then  reality hit!  Here is the adventure that she had, trying to get that perfect shot.

“Ok, let’s get all the boys into bright, simple shirts and line them up together on the porch.”

“Boys, you have to get closer together.  Smoosh!  Good, now smile!”

The boys-november 2015 014

“Boys, nice smiles!!!”

The boys-november 2015 017

“Look at the camera BOYS!!”

The boys-november 2015 027

“I see that your collective attention span has reached its limit.  Let’s take a walk in the woods and look for a scenic spot to take a picture.”

“Alright, this place is nice.  Now all get together and smile.  Look handsome! “

(You think you have the perfect shot and then, in the blink of an eye – a squirrel up in a tree becomes quite fascinating!)

The boys-november 2015 062

“Look at the camera boys!”

The boys-november 2015 052

Well, this is getting better!  This is a good one…wait…where is the little cutie?  The star of any photo shoot is always the littlest one with the cubby cheeks, but WHERE IS HE?

The boys-november 2015 057

Courage was mad that he couldn’t have a “nola” bar, and decided that he was done with pictures.

“Courage, Come Back Here!!!”

The boys-november 2015 058

There it is, little Courage making his way in the lonely wilderness.

We might as well take a break for a little fun.

The boys-november 2015 108

That photo shoot turned out to be less than what I was envisioning and the boys gave Areli such a hard time!  I was not yet defeated, so I got the boys dressed up again in special, matching outfits.  We all tromped outside to try again.

“Ok, boys.  Lay down in the grass and put your heads together in the middle.”

november-december 033

Pandemonium ensued.  Apparently boys consider it very uncool to lay down in the grass, especially with EACH OTHER.

Areli and I tried to get some pictures amidst the arguing, complaining, rough housing, and shrieking…but alas.  Every single picture showed Courage’s once handsome face contoured into a grimace.  He cried the entire photo shoot.

november-december 048

That was the end!  The boys were free from their torture and I was mad!  Where was my perfect picture of my dashing young men for my epic Christmas card?

This is a lot like life.  We have expectations of perfection. We make excellent plans.  Give straightforward instructions. Yet everything happens except perfection.  Disappointment is guaranteed. What is a mom to do?

I looked through the photos to see what I could salvage.  I actually found a few good ones mixed in.

The boys-november 2015 003There are my handsome boys!  The moment was so fleeting, I almost missed it.

The boys-november 2015 060

This photo was my favorite.  They don’t all have perfect smiles but I can appreciate each boy in his uniqueness and I LOVE them each so much!

Life never gives us what we expect and it is never our version of perfect.  But if you pay attention and look closely enough, you can find the gems hidden in the dirt.

november-december 052

Or in this case, the little boy smiling in the tree. (Smiling because the photo shoot was over and he was free to climb!)

Sweet and patient Areli has become quite the photographer! She has just launched her own website and offers photo shoots and prints for sale.  Please check it out!

Areli Endura Photography

 

 

 

A Kitchen Remodel and the Unreasonable Goodness of God

Sometimes we are expecting to see the favor of God.  We have prayed very specific prayers and fully expect them to be answered in marvelous ways.  The answers don’t come right away, so we strain our eyes to the horizon, looking for his goodness.  Yet the rain of his blessing doesn’t come.  Instead, a nasty storm blows in.  We are knocked down by one thunderclap after another.

We believed for goodness, yet found ourselves soaked to the bone and laying in a muddy heap on the ground.  After all of this, we conclude that our expectations were just too high.  We should be content with the mud puddle and avoid all this needless disappointment.  This is when his unexpected goodness takes us by surprise, like a lovely flower blooming in the mire!

Chris and I had to close our business, Signarama.  We lost a lot of money and our good name; but what was worse, we had lost our dreams. We had lost our confidence in God’s voice and his goodness.  Our bills had increased, yet our income had significantly decreased.  Here we were in the place we had strived so hard to avoid: utterly absorbed each day in the excruciating work of survival.

To top it all off, our dishwasher started leaking; a slow, steady leak under the floor.  Pretty soon we had water seeping out from all the floor tiles.  The tiles were old, ugly PVC stick tiles and now they were wet, coming up, and probably growing mold.  It took a week to get the dishwasher fixed.

“Oh well,” I thought.  “It doesn’t make much difference.  Our kitchen is so awful anyway.

august 2015 019

The cabinets keep falling apart and are so dirty; we just can’t get them clean.

august 2015 026

The sink is stained and scratched.  The floor is just gross.

august 2015 027

We trip over ourselves in this tiny space.

august 2015 021

But there is nothing we can do about it.”

Enter the Unreasonable Goodness of God!

Chris decided to make an insurance claim, and they gave us a good chunk of money!!  We gave the money to a friend who is a contractor, and he got us an amazing deal on new cabinets, a new countertop, and a new sink!  Chris organized his hardworking boys and his skilled and generous friends. They ripped out the old cabinets and the old floor.  After tearing out the PVC tiles, vinyl linoleum, a very old layer of real linoleum, plus a layer of paper and glue…beautiful original hardwood was revealed.  I had always dreamed about having this type of hardwood in my kitchen; thick, dark wood that reminded me of an old farmhouse. Chris worked hard to make my dream a reality.  He and the boys pulled out several hundred screws and nails.  He sanded 6 times to get rid of all the old glue and water stains.  He tried a couple times before he found the stain color that reflected what I had imagined.

Chris rearranged the entire kitchen and created a pass-through so that the kitchen became more spacious and open.

020016

I could finally cook in the kitchen while being able to see and hear what was happening in the dining room, sitting room, and living room.  This completely unreasonable goodness of God came at a time when we didn’t know how we were going to pay our bills! Why didn’t God cause our business to flourish, or give Chris a new job that paid all our bills, or miraculously pay off all our debts?  Why a new kitchen?  God’s goodness is unpredictable and unreasonable! We just have to enjoy it.

God’s great goodness always comes to us in the midst of a mess.  The perfect God works out his perfect plan with flawed people in a messed up world with imperfect conditions all around.  How and why does he do this?  It is a mystery, but I think it has something to do with the building and purifying of our faith.  Faith can see that imperfections are just part of this life and recognize the goodness of God anyway.

It is easy to lose sight of the goodness.  This kitchen remodel was no exception.  I almost lost my faith in the midst of the junk.  It is easy to look at the end product and see the goodness of God, but in the process, it is so challenging!  Here is a list of everything that went wrong.

  1. It took months to even be able to start the remodeling because the countertop I had chosen took so long to arrive.
  2. As the demolition started, I found myself in panic mode. The dust found its way into every crack and crevice of the first floor.  The mess was almost too much for me to handle.  (The boys loved it and thought it was the best!)  I was losing faith that my house would ever be clean and functional again!

photo 2 photo 33. We had to block off the kitchen, so we set up a temporary kitchen in the basement.

photo 4

The only way to get to the basement was to walk out the front door, go around the outside of the house and enter again at the back door.  Once the food was prepared, we had to walk it outside around the house again.  Once the meal was finished, we had to carry all the dirty dishes outside and around the house again…you get the idea.  All this work was to allow Chris to demo and then finish those hardwood floors.  Sometimes when I was cooking on the electric skillet in the dark basement, I would notice a little face looking down at me from the top of the basement stairs.  I realized that a little person had gotten through the barricade, and I felt like it was all for nothing and those floors were forever ruined!

4. We were getting close to the end. Chris had stayed up until 1am to put polyurethane on the newly sanded wood floors.  I got up at 5am with my nursing baby.  As I sat in the living room, I heard an unusual sound.  I finally identified the sound of water dripping.  But from where?  I found water falling from the ceiling onto the loveseat.  I went upstairs to discover that a radiator was leaking.  A few hours later I entered the basement to make breakfast and found three streams of water all running into the drain in the center of the floor.  Pipes were leaking everywhere!  This turned out to be an unrelated problem with our heating system that was resolved within a few days.  Yet, we were wondering what new damages and expenses were being incurred!

5. The new countertop had been made incorrectly so the cabinets had to all be changed and moved around. The result was an awkward corner cabinet, a drawer that could only open while scraping against the dishwasher, and a dishwasher door that could just barely squeak past the refrigerator.

6. A friend got our new-to-us gas stove hooked up on Thanksgiving morning so I didn’t have to cook the festive meal in a crockpot. Glorious!  However, I kept smelling gas for the next two weeks until that same gracious friend went through the process of hooking it all up again just so I wouldn’t freak out.  No more gas smell!

7. The ceiling in our dining room is so sloped that the brand new pass-through that was beautiful and perfectly level, looked completely crooked!

8. After we finally moved our refrigerator back in, it started dripping water all over the lovely, new floors. A month later, the pipes under new sink started leaking on the new cabinets and floors, threatening to begin this process all over again.  What was it with all the water leaks!!!???

Chris and I thought we had ruined our new floors about 5 times in the process, because we had never refinished wood floors before and didn’t know what we were doing.  It was so discouraging to get my dream floors only to sand them unevenly, sand too much, sand to little, put on the wrong stain, do the patching wrong, and so on.  Finally we just decided that this was a RUSTIC kitchen, and that all the imperfections just added charm.

photo 5Our lives are not as messed up as we think.

They are just works in progress, rustic and full of character, and always being invaded by God’s great goodness.

 

 

The Gifts of Christmas are made of the Little Things

006

1. My mom brought some crafts over for the children.  The colors of the tissue paper were just so pretty, I had to sit down and make a star myself.  I love to create all kinds of arts and crafts, but I have so little time for that these days.  I gained the joy of being crafty and a brilliant sun-catcher at the same time.

0022. Chris had gotten me some socks at Costco which turned out to be the most wonderful socks I have ever owned!  Chris bought me more colors of the same kind, just because he loves me.  An added bonus is that they actually match my clothes.  I love to match!

 

023

3. Our church receives donations of food quite often.  Sometimes we check to see what is available.  We found bottles and bottle of kombucha.  I just love kombucha, but I rarely buy it at the store because it is so expensive.  Maybe no one else took it because they don’t know how wonderful it is or what it is.  Are you in that boat?  Click here to learn more about it.

024

4. I took some greens from our tree, winter berries from my mom’s yard, and this burlap star she found, and I got a rustic wreath.

040

5. I love receiving Christmas cards in the mail.  I love to see the pictures and think about the person who sent it.

december 2015 002

6. My mom found these magnetic picture frames.  Now I can see my friends and remember to pray for them all year long without  the mess of little magnets that keep falling off the fridge and the smudges of little hands.

047

7. Because I picked Ireland to learn about this Christmas, I have a whole new country full of recipes to discover!

december 2015 0078. Little boys who are eager to go Christmas shopping for their family make very diligent workers around the house.  Our house gets so clean around Christmas time with the incentive of earning dollars.  I love a clean house and I love to see my children considering how to purchase gifts that will bless others.

photo 2

9. I asked my daughter to find some Christmas music to play and she found Michael Buble’s entire Christmas album on YouTube.  I received the gift of wonderful music filling the kitchen thanks to my daughter, my phone, a purple cable, and our stereo.

12309906_926914934010545_7703797407530596160_o

10. My mom discovered my little, wooden rocking chair and brought it over.  I received the joy of seeing my two youngest sitting in the chair that I used to sit in when I was their age.

photo 2

11. So many of these gifts originated from my mom.  (Thank you, Mom!)She is a wonderful gift and being at the women’s breakfast at church with her this Christmas was icing on the cake.

12391021_1264313516927831_5991653773648274750_n

12. Caroling with friends and their children around the neighborhood and signing about the joy of Jesus!

13. My children keep reminding me that Christmas is not about the presents but THE PRESENCE.  How thankful I am for the wonderful children’s ministry at our church and the fact that my children listen, remember, and take it to heart.  How thankful I am for God with us, Emmanuel!  I love his presence and in his presence is fullness of joy!  I am realizing that at any moment I can enter into his presence and feel that joy and begin to see all the gifts that are always around me.

 

 

She was Bald, Toothless, Covered with Scabs…and She was Indescribably Beautiful.

DSCF9893

I had developed quite an affection for my neighbor across the street, Sandy.  I had met her eight years ago when we moved into our house.  She was small and looked older than her years.  We invited her to neighborhood get-togethers, but she never came.  In her own words, she was “backwards, shy, and didn’t go out of her house much.”

Pretty soon her habit of being a hermit became a necessity.  Her heart started to fail because of years of smoking.   She had to get a pacemaker and could hardly walk across the street without becoming winded.  On those rare occasions that we saw each other outside, I was struck by the beauty and sweetness of her heart, buried beneath a wrinkled and toothless exterior.

I was amazed by how she was able to quit smoking cold turkey after 30 years of the habit.  I was touched when she called me on the phone because she had seen a rainbow outside that she thought my children would love to see.

Once I visited her in her cute little home that had been in her family for 100 years.  She showed me every Christmas card we had ever sent out, and I got the impression that she treasured them and considered us more than acquaintances.  We were good friends.  She could observe our comings and goings through her front window.   She noticed when the boys were playing outside and how much they were growing.  I realized that I should make the effort to visit her more often.

I really did try to reach out to her, but my visits were few and far between.  Every time I looked out my front window, I would imagine her alone in her home except for her faithful dog. I would pray for her.  Pray for her to not be lonely but to feel God’s presence.  Pray for her to feel his love for her.  As I prayed, day after day, my love for her grew.  She became my mission field.  I could not go out and do things with the freedom that I wanted to, having to be with my children and nurse the baby frequently, but I could pray for Sandy.

One night I felt the urgency to call her.  I had almost never called her.  In fact, I don’t call other people very often because I am afraid of bothering them and being a pest.  Maybe that is how Sandy feels, I thought.  Despite the fact that I had offered to help her time and again, she had never called me for help.  Perhaps she was afraid.

October 2015 046

It was late at night, but I knew her health was failing.  What if I missed an opportunity?  What if she was at home but in trouble?  The urge was so strong, that I just had to call.

She answered and was just fine.  But I got the chance to tell her that I had been praying for her and that God loved her so much.

A few months later, in the sticky heat of summer, I finally got over to visit her.  Her home was messy and so dustly, it was hard for me to breath.  I felt a bit sick as I sat there and chatted cheerfully.  How must she feel, with her bad heart and a chronic respiratory infection?  She had no energy to clean!  Plus she was connected to a bulky oxygen tank by a long tube in her nose.  I asked if there was anything I could do to help.  At first she said no.  Finally she told me that she had groceries in her truck that she had been unable to carry in from the morning.

I was appalled!  It had been 90 degrees that day.  Surely her groceries were ruined.  But I kept a smile on my face and said, “Sure, the boys and I would love to carry them in.”

We got all the groceries in. Thankfully the perishable items had been put into the fridge earlier.  I dumped the huge bag of dog food into the dog food dispenser and tried to help with anything else I could.  All the while Sandy was muttering, “I hate to ask people for help.”

I pleaded with her to call me the next time she went shopping.  I did not receive a call, but sometime later, Sandy’s best friend knocked on my door.  She looked terribly agitated and asked if she could sit.  I offered her a chair, but she never sat.  She stood and paced and rubbed her hands on her legs as she explained the reason for her visit.

“Did you hear the sirens last night?  Well, Sandy was back in her room using the large oxygen tank.  I don’t know why she did this, but she lit a lighter and the oxygen caught on fire.  She was burned all over her face, and her bed was burned.  She was able to call 911, but she was unresponsive when they came.  She is in the burn unit, and I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Her friend was so distressed, and now I was too!   Sandy’s health was so bad, could she possible live through this?  Had I lost my opportunity to tell her about Jesus?

I really prayed for Sandy over the next few days.  Had I shown her God’s love the way he had asked me too?  God gave me this verse.

Ezekiel 33:7-9 “I have appointed you as a watchman for the people of Israel; therefore listen to what I say and warn them for me.  When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will die!’ and you don’t tell him what I say, so that he does not repent –that wicked person will die in his sins, but I will hold you responsible for his death.  But if you warn him to repent and he doesn’t, he will die in his sin, and you will not be responsible.”

I had always hesitated to lay out the gospel message when I thought that others couldn’t or wouldn’t receive it.  But here God was telling me that the outcome was not my responsibility.  I was simply responsible to do what he was asking me to do.

Amazingly, Sandy was back home within a few weeks.  I resolved to obey Jesus the best that I could.  I felt that he loved Sandy and just wanted me to introduce her to him.  I didn’t know if she knew him, if she believed in him at all.

I visited and called a few times a week, bringing her food and handmade cards and encouragement.  I wanted to make sure that I was there to help even if she couldn’t ask me for it.  I had some lovely times sitting in her cozy home (which was now bright and clean thanks to her very energetic best friend).  Sandy’s face was black with scabs.  Her head had been shaved.  Her body couldn’t get rid of all the fluids that they had pumped into her at the hospital, and she had blown up like a very uncomfortable balloon.  Her heart had gone from working at 25% to only 10%.  I wished that there was something I could do for her!  I asked her if I could pray for her and she let me.  Maybe Jesus would heal her to show her how much he loved her.  I tried to have faith that we could see a miracle!

“Jesus loves you so much, Sandy!” I told her.  “Do you know how much he loves you?”  I asked.  Here was my chance to introduce my friend Jesus to my friend Sandy.  I could tell her about how I met Jesus and ask if she had ever met him in that way.

“I don’t know if he loves me.  Things keep going wrong for me.  I am so sick.  I just want to be able to get out of the house and drive to the store or something.”

I felt the weight of her suffering.  I felt the power of her pain.  I had been going through a season of suffering as well, carrying many unanswered prayers and unanswered questions.  I wasn’t sure how to answer her because I wasn’t sure how to appease the sorrow of my own heart.  I knew that Jesus loved us, but I didn’t know how to explain how I knew.

October 2015 002

“That’s what I am praying for.  I pray you will feel better and better.”  That was all that I could think of to say.  Perhaps Jesus would heal her through the night and she would begin to see his goodness.  I would check back with her in a few days and try again to introduce her to Jesus.

Sadly, I never got the chance.  Some days later we saw an ambulance sitting in the street between our houses.  There were police all around.  My heart was heavy.  If she was truly having an emergency, the ambulance wouldn’t be sitting there like that.  The police wouldn’t talk to us about what was going on, but later that night we found out.

Sandy had simply collapsed and died.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had no more time to develop a friendship.  No more time to pray for her.  No more time to tell her my testimony and find out if she had one of her own.  I did not know the condition of her soul, if she trusted in Jesus and he carried her to heaven, or if she never knew him and she was separated from him forever.

All I knew was that I had not done what Jesus had asked me to.  I hadn’t introduced her to him.  I was distraught.  I felt like the most horrible evangelist there had ever been.  My mission field had been one person and I had failed.  I had failed Sandy and I had failed Jesus.

I talked to God about it.  How could I go through life knowing that there was something more that I could have done to save her?  How could I enjoy eternity if Sandy was not there?  How I longed to see her again.  How I longed to see her restored and renewed and healed.  I wanted to see her in all the glory and beauty that I KNEW was in her but could never be seen in this life.  I felt the value of her soul and grieved because the precious jewel that she was might be lost forever.

“Is she with you God?”

He hasn’t given me a clear answer yet.  I needed to feel the weight of my mistake and repent.  I needed it to push me closer to Jesus and closer to his heart.

I NEED to become a better evangelist!  I NEED to practice and be uncomfortable and try and try again.

What he did remind me of was this.  He knew that evangelism hasn’t been one of my gifts, normally being very shy myself.  He knew that this was my first big assignment (that I was aware of). He had factored in my weaknesses and failure into his plan.  He wanted me to learn from this and move on with more understanding and more confidence.  He did not want me to give up in guilt and despair.  He wanted me to move forward, being open to talk to anyone and everyone about him.

He reminded me of how far I had come.  Many places I have lived, I never gotten to know my neighbors at all!  Slowly I began to become more outgoing (with help from my husband).  In this neighborhood, I have a good friendship with most everyone on my block.

Over the years I had prayed and prayed and prayed again for Sandy’s salvation, for her comfort, for her healing.  The Great God, who loves Sandy infinitely more than I do, wouldn’t let those prayers go unanswered, would he?

All it would have taken from Sandy would have been one cry!

“Jesus!”

A cry in her heart or with her mouth and he would have been there, rushing in with his glorious presence, wrapping her with his love and immortality!  I am sure of it.

Whether she ever cried out to him, I do not know.  I do know that I miss my friend.  Instead of her white car with the American flag flying from the window; there is an ugly, rusted dumpster in front of her house, gathering the discarded pieces of a life. Instead of seeing the candles in her windows, all I see is darkness. I don’t know if I will ever see her again.

October 2015 065

What I do know is that our obedience matters.  It has eternal consequences that are too heavy for me to even understand.  Yet our obedience has the potential to bring more joy and glory and reward than we can even imagine!  And we can only be obedient if we are listening and watching what our Father is doing.

Do you know Jesus?  He is my friend and he has been the best friend I have ever known.  He has never left me and he never will.  He is with you right now and will be with you forever if you want him to.  Can I introduce you to him?