Monday, December 20, 2010

Gifts of Grace Taken for Granted

The begining of this list is from the week of December 20th. I just never got around to hitting publish.

33. health insurance
34. encouragement for my husband
35. a full refrigerator
36. no more lease payments
37. friends who understand when it's one of those days
38. my "nieces" and the joy they bring us
39. singing the Hallelujah Chorus
40. mornings when the Father knows best
41. a Friday night with my hubby, candles, the Christmas tree, and card writing
42. a willing, obedient Savior

The second half of this post is in response to the reading I've been doing the past couple of days. I'm about halfway through "When Helping Hurts: How to Allieviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself" by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. I'm really enjoying the book as it's a biblical perspective on my social work training. I'm also surprised by how much the authors emphasize that the Lord created us to be stewards, he created us to work. Adam and Eve weren't just to hang out in the garden, but they were there to tend to the garden. I currently work in workforce development, helping people find and retain jobs but I hadn't given much thought to the God given purpose of my work. Needless to say, this book has been an inspiring and enjoyable read for me the last couple of days.

It has also brought me to a humbled place of realization today, recognizing many gifts that I have been given throughout my lifetime that I have completely taken for granted. Here's the second part of my grace gift list for this post.

43. Never having to wonder if I would eat today
44. Never wondering if I would go to college, but rather where
45. Never lacking for a shower, soap, shampoo, toothpaste
46. Access to huge grocery stores and the means to buy most anything I wanted
47. A pantry and two refridgerators filled with (mostly) healthy food
48. Clean water that I can drink right from the tap
49. The ability to wash and dry my clothes with machines
50. Never having to choose between medication and food
51. Never worrying about having to live on the street
52. Heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer
53. Electricity that's on all day
54. Access to information
55. The ability to read and enjoy it
56. A solid support system
57. Never worrying about if my baby will be loved and accepted by our family
58. A bed to sleep on and a pillow under my head
59. Hot water when I want it
60. Shoes on my feet and pairs to spare in my closet
61. Laundry detergent, dog food, a hair dryer, paid vacation days
62. So much more than I need or deserve
63. The appreciation for what I've been given
64. The desire to share it with others

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gifts of Grace

Starting this week, I'm going to try and actually write down one thing each day as opposed to trying to come up with a list on Monday night. Maybe I could fill a few pages of one of my mostly empty journals.

Gifts of grace I'm grateful for this week
24. the blank pages of a new calendar
25. a just-in-time, hand-me-down snow blower
26. Sam's snow day dance
27. a husband who gets up to scrape and start my car
28. ministry through baked goods for our neighbors and my boys
29. Christmas movies that make me cry (granted lots of things make me cry right now, but Elf gets me every year)
30. an album that tells not only the story of Christmas, but of creation and the cross
31. "Little Lambs" climbing in my lap on Sunday morning
32. clean sheets

Monday, December 6, 2010

An intentional, creative, and trashy Christmas wreath

I've been convicted this year to really be intentional about how we budget for Christmas. The hope is to give more to others who have real needs rather than just overindulging for ourselves.

In order to keep things in check, we've limited gifts for each other to one from each of the following categories: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. (I totally stole this from someone else in blogland. Can't remember who, but thanks!) It's made shopping much more fun for me this year, as it's forced me to be more creative as well as intentional.

I also decided that I didn't want to spend money on additional Christmas decor. We've pretty much filled our green and red tubs with things we'd brought into marriage from childhood, hand-me-downs and items purchased in years past. The one thing that was missing was a wreath for the front door. Last year I bought a fresh one from a friend at work whose son was selling them for a fundraiser. That wasn't an option this year, so I headed to the craft store to find something cute. I was hopeful that I wouldn't have to spend much, especially since Christmas decor was 50% off. But to my surprise, the cheapest wreath was going to run me at least $30 at half off. Thirty dollars is not an huge amount, but I could not justify needing what was at one point a $60 wreath.

Over the weekend, my husband had hung an old wreath that I made in elementary school on the front door. It's made out of a wire coat hanger and white plastic trash bags. It's not fresh or new but it looks pretty good from the street with a big red bow on it. Most importantly, it fits our convictions to spend less and give more. So we're having an intentional, creative, and a little trashy Christmas this year.

In case anyone wants to recreate the wreath, here's a quick how to. It was always special to me to have this wreath hanging on my bedroom door as a child.

You'll need:
A wire hanger
Lots of white trash bags cut into one inch wide, 6 inch long strips
Ribbon for a bow

It will probably require sharp scissors to cut the trash bags well. You can make your strips shorter or longer depending on the desired fluffiness for your wreath.

Bend the wire hanger into as best a circle as you can. It doesn't have to be perfect, but should be somewhat round. The hook of the hanger will become the hook that your wreath hangs from.

Simply tie the strips of trash bag around the wire hanger. I would recommend double knotting. Scrunch them together as you make your way around the hanger. The more trash bag strips you tie on, the fuller your wreath will be.

Add a pretty bow and you've got a beautiful white fluffy wreath to hang anywhere in the house.

A first hot chocolate

This week's gifts from my Abba...

11. a first hot chocolate warming cold hands
12. my boys
13. listening to father/"son" bonding time
14. chances to serve alongside our students
15. time to dream with my husband
16. keeping my snuggie in my cubicle
17. homemade stew
18. my photographer friend
19. pictures worthy of frames
20. honest conversation complete with tears
21. family room worship
22. hearing the gospel proclaimed through song at the mall
23. entering a season of growth

Friday, December 3, 2010

too much and not enough

i need to write more and read less
for the moment.
too much data swimming in my brain,
no time to process,
so little output.

i need filters
so that only what is true, noble and right,
finds its way inside.
So that the output might be
simply pure and lovely.

instead of constantly consuming
and feeling famished,
i want to give and find myself full.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Start of My Gift List

It's been a while. I felt kind of stifled in regards to writing because the one thing that I wanted to write most about, wasn't something to be shared yet. So I didn't write at all.

Anyway this is my first gratitude post of what will hopefully be many. I'm starting on a journey to uncover 1000 gifts. Perhaps you'll figure out the secret as I list the blessings I've been enjoying the past couple of days.

  1. The company and companionship of my husband after his safe return from Mexico.
  2. The anticipation that comes with advent.
  3. An understanding of Mary's anticipation of motherhood.
  4. An honest time of worship.
  5. Christmas music on Pandora.
  6. A clean car.
  7. A clean kitchen.
  8. A bag of maternity clothes that are just my size.
  9. A snuggly Schnauzer.
  10. A blanket that makes it finally feel real.

holy experience

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Admiring Obedience

Amy and I met over the internet. We were both going to grad school at a large university and looking for a Christian roommate. We lived in an apartment together for a year. When our lease was up, we still had a semester left of our program, so rather than lock in another year lease or pay higher month to month rent, we both moved in with my parents for 4 months and commuted to school. She's incredibly quiet until you get to know her. I remember the first time we met for lunch, I talked pretty much the entire time because Amy was so quiet. She taught me to be a better listener and to be comfortable with silence in order to make space for others to share. We learned to be social workers together and shared our lives with one another in the process.

A few months ago, Amy was laid off from her job. Today she got on an airplane and landed in Guatemala City. She'll be there for 6 months. It's been really neat to see her seek out God's will for her life while deciding what she would do next after being laid off. She doesn't know what the Lord has planned for her long term, but she knows he's called her to serve him and his people. And for now she's going to do that in Guatemala. I admire her obedience, her trust in the Lord and her courage, and I'm excited to see what God's going to do in her own heart through this experience as well. Please pray for Amy as she transitions to this new phase of life, for her protection, her sanctification, and for God's glory and amazing grace to shine through her.

She just started a blog to chronicle this adventure. You can read more here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Joy in New Beginnings

The room is painted and prayed over. God gave us two extra days to get ready in that Sam missed his original flight. But the Hubby picked him up from the airport this afternoon.

Now the boys are playing guitar together. I should say the Hubby is teaching Sam guitar. Can you imagine learning how to play in instrument from someone who's not speaking your native language? It's a bit crazy, this whole thing is a bit crazy, but it's making me laugh and smile and excited for the year to come.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Friday, August 27, 2010

I'm getting wiser

or lazier or cheaper or all of the above.

I painted for 5 hours last night. Hubby's been out of town, Sam arrives on Sunday and his room was still painted purple and white rag roll from the previous owner. Not the most manly place for a 17 year old guy to stay, so we're doing a whirlwind makeover. I kind of feel like I'm on Trading Spaces or something because I've never decorated a room this quickly before. I had a student over to help me paint on Wednesday night, but last night I was on my own.

Painting should always be a team sport in my book. We've painted 3 other rooms in our house so far and have a pretty good system where I cut in and do the edging while hubby rolls. So doing it all by myself last night was a bit overwhelming and quite time consuming.

However, being by myself allowed me to develop my own painting system. This is where the wiser, lazier, cheaper part comes in. Normally, if hubby was around we would tape off the entire room. That means the floor, the trim, the ceiling, E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I wasn't feeling that patient last night (am I ever really feeling patient? God's still working on that) so I decided I was going to try cutting in by hand. I learned a couple of important lessons along the way.

One... painting the trim last makes so much sense. Who cares if you get the wall paint on the trim if you're going to sand, prime and paint over it anyway? I will tape off around the trim when I get to painting it though, because I learned I'm not as steady with the brush as I wish I was. But why do this step twice wasting precious time and tape?

Two...there are so many places around windows and doors that I would have spent in exorbitant amount of time taping off with the old method where no one will ever look. I'm going to put window treatments over the tops of the windows, so no one will ever see up there. And if someone is going to get down on the floor to check how well I edged under my window sills and then judge me for it, I don't want them in my house (or on my floor for that matter) to begin with.

Three... it IS important to tape off the ceiling. I tried doing this without tape and it was an epic fail. I'm pretty bad with straight lines: drawing them, cutting them, painting them. So tape is very worthwhile when it comes to the ceiling. Especially when you've already used up all the ceiling paint and don't have any left over for touch ups. Oops. Guess I'll be making another trip to the hardware store.

Even though this makeover is a major undertaking, I feel like it's giving my heart time to prepare and pray for Sam, much like a nesting new mom. I've had time this week to focus on how the Lord will have us serve Him by serving one of his children. And for that bit of grace, I'm extremely grateful.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Answered Prayer

We've been praying for God to give us a way to use the blessing of our four-bedroom house to bless others. Our guest bedroom has been used two nights this week and will be used on Saturday as well.

But the ultimate answer to that prayer will be moving into one of our other bedrooms come Sunday. We have decided to host a foreign exchange student from South Korea for this upcoming school year. Sam arrives on Sunday evening and starts school on Tuesday morning taking us from being DINKs (Dual Income No Kids) to the youngest "parents" at the Christian high school in less than 48 hours.

God gave us so many opportunities to accept an exchange student into our home, and after much prayer and consideration we're excited to start on this new adventure. Even though we're not set on Christian school for our own kids when they come along someday, we thought that was the best option for this experience. We have a great support network there of families from our church, whereas we would be so lost with a student in the large public school district where we live.

We're excited for the opportunity to share our lives with another person. I've come to a new understanding of parenthood as the ultimate opportunity for discipleship and see this temporary parenthood as a chance to practice that. We're excited for how the Lord will use this experience to stretch us and sanctify us as we learn to be more selfless.

Please be in prayer for Sam as he travels half-way across the world and for his jet-lag as he starts school. Pray that I will cast all my anxieties on the Lord because He cares for me, when it comes to last minute details. And please pray for our new family as we open up our home, our lives, and our hearts for the Lord to do an amazing work full of love and grace.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Fruits of His Labors

This week we're enjoying the bounty of our backyard garden. I'm amazed by how big our plants have grown and how much produce has come from those tiny seeds we started with. We've made pickles, zucchini bread, pesto, along with numerous salads and sides of grilled veggies.

One of the reasons I enjoy gardening so much, perhaps because God's still working on my patience, is that with gardening in a short period of time, my efforts pay off, produce fruit, and bring me and others joy.

In ministry, we find things look both similar and different compared with gardening. Similar in that God uses us to plant seeds of truth in people's lives, to provide nourishment and nurturing as people grow in their faith, and to water people's souls with encouragement and fellowship. These spiritual seeds are different from the plants in my garden in that it often takes much longer to see the fruit in people's lives, sometimes years, and sometimes we don't even get to see it at all. Sometimes God only uses us to plant, or to nourish, or to water and we don't get to see the complete process. And sometimes impatient people like me get frustrated when we're asked to wait until heaven to see and enjoy the fruits of the labor God gives us.

That's when I have to stop and praise the Creator for his unending patience with me, his patience to tend to my heart and trim back the sinfulness and selfishness inside me. He's the perfect gardener, things ripen in his perfect timing and he prunes out of love with grace.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A month of adventures

I've been too busy living this past month to do a whole lot of blogging. One would think that youth ministry would slow down in summer like the rest of the world does, but rather just the opposite happens. I'm not complaining, we love our students and enjoy the extra time with them that summer allows.

I love adventures, like all of these that have happened in the past month...
  • Celebrated a quarter century with family, friends, 11 innings and fireworks.
  • Feathered the nest of a dear family friend.
  • Flipped a kayak.
  • Relaxed in one of my favorite places.
  • Traveled around and across Lake Michigan.
  • Rode through 4 states in one week. Drove in 0.
  • Yes my husband is a driving saint.
  • Witnessed two lives joined together as one.
  • Explored Chicago with my sister on her birthday.
  • Got too much sun at the beach.
  • Roasted marshmallows. Reese's smores = amazing.
  • Harvested more zucchini and cucumber than I know what to do with.
  • Finished a number of little house projects.
  • Figured out how to use my sewing machine.
  • Hosted two college students who shared their music ministry with us.
  • Took a bike tour of our city's community gardens.
We still have two more weddings and a mission trip to go before Labor Day. I used to think that I would get it together when life settled down and felt normal. But I've come to realize that this craziness is my normal and that is part of what makes my life a grand adventure.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Stuff Summer's Made Of

In the summer we're blessed to have families in the church host us in their homes for youth group during the week and bonfires on Sunday nights.

These families feed us,

And invite us into their homes.

We get to hang out, play games and build relationships with our students,

And God is glorified through their hospitality and grace.

I'm unwrapping this gift today at Tuesday's Unwrapped.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Recipe for a Yard Sale

Here's all you need for a successful yard sale...

A clean garage,

Good helpers who will get up early just to scrub the trashcan you want to sell,

Lots of treasures waiting to be discovered,

Coffee and grace to keep you going,

And a good friend to laugh with.

(If you really want info on how to host a successful yard sale, check out this posting over at The Nesting Place.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sick of Playing Games

I've started playing the game again.
The one where I tell the world how great you are,
and then try to do it all on my own.
The one where I profess how much I love you with my words,
but hurt you with my actions.
The one where I claim you as my best friend,
but neglect to spend any time with you.
The one where I try to act like I have it all together
when it's really all falling apart.

It's way to easy to start this game and so hard to stop.
And I never win.

I end up a cheater, a liar, full of pride, and far from you.

Thank you for the mercy that draws me near again.
Thank you for the freedom that is offered in your victory over my silly games, my sin.
Thank you for opening my eyes to the lies. Keep them fixed on you instead.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Time for Rest?

Having a garage sale is hard work! I'm wiped out, but I made a serious contribution to my new camera fund. Hubby actually bought me my new Nikon D5000 as an early birthday present this week. He wanted me to have the camera to be able to document the birthday festivities that are coming up this next weekend.

I'll put up some garage sale pictures later this week after I catch up on some sleep and housework. Hubby's throwing me a birthday party this Friday so there's lots of cleaning to do, I'm throwing a bridal shower on Saturday so there's lots of cooking to do, we're driving down to the airport to pick up the college mission team that's returning from Bangladesh, I have plans with some of the other pastors' wives this week, the list goes on and on. There's a Barenaked Ladies song called Who Needs Sleep? that keeps popping into my head lately, when I'm trying to do too much and cutting sleep short as a result.

Who needs sleep?
Well you're never gonna get it.
Who needs sleep?
Tell me what's that for.
Who needs sleep?
Be happy with what you're getting.
There's a guy who's been awake since the second World War.

I need to add time for quiet and rest to the list of things to do or I'll just never get to it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Who vacuums their garage?

My mom does. And now I do too apparently. Do you ever have moments where you know you are your mother's daughter? I had one of those yesterday while helping my bridesmaid (or bff if you prefer, hubby and I were in her wedding and vice versa) clean out her garage.

Bridesmaid and I are partnering together to participate in her neighborhood's annual yard sale which is coming up in 10 days. She's moving out of a four bedroom house into a two bedroom apartment and needs to downsize. I started on this because I felt we had too much stuff and needed to simplify. In the meantime, my parents have put their house on the market, so I now have all their old junk, excuse me, treasures to sell.

I think prior to last night's cleaning we both felt a bit overwhelmed with what we've gotten ourselves into. But there's something about seeing tangible progress, as leaves and dirt are swept away, that makes a task seem more manageable. Bridesmaid and I both work in the human services, so often the work we do in people's lives isn't tangible for a long time, and quite often we don't get to see it for ourselves. So it's nice to take on something where we can see progress and results.

I'm trying to not have overly high expectations that will leave me disappointed, but my hope is that from this yard sale and my birthday that's coming up, I'll be able to purchase a digital SLR camera. I'd love to have some pretty pictures for my blog and to be able to take pictures of family, friends, and our students. I'm still trying to decide between Nikon or Canon and whether or not the video feature is really necessary. But I'm also holding my plans loosely and trying to pay attention should the Lord show me that he has another desire for that money.

On a totally separate note, I harvested the first salad from our garden tonight. We had lettuce with fresh basil and green onions chopped up in it. With a little dressing, croutons, and cheese, it was fabulous. I can't wait to add tomatoes and cucumbers to the mix as the summer goes on.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

There are no weeds...

just plants in the wrong place. That's what my landscape architect friend says anyway. So yesterday, in the rain, I dug up some daisies that were in the wrong place and brought them home with me. My parents' neighbors probably thought I was crazy out there in the empty lot, in my raincoat and flip flops, digging up the "weeds" and putting them in plastic grocery bags. I'm finding lots of joy in gardening this year, especially when the plants are free. I'm finding that I connect with my creator when I'm tending his creation.

On another note, hubby and I made some new friends tonight with our neighbors across the street. We've been very blessed with friendly and kind neighbors and have been wanting to use our home more often to serve others with hospitality. We had this couple and their daughter over for a nice relaxing dinner and really enjoyed getting to know them. I'm excited to see what the Lord is going to do with this new relationship.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Friday, May 28, 2010

Excited to Serve

I've been convicted that we need to use our big empty house to serve others with hospitality. (It's more empty than big ;-) So we're having visitors tonight. A sleepover with three adorable little kiddos so that our friends can have a night out for their anniversary.

I'm exhausted from the week behind me and overwhelmed looking at the week before me. But I'm thrilled to be able to serve our friends tonight and love on their little ones.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Finding Freedom

I love the idea of journaling. I love the idea of being able to open one of those old notebooks and relive years of my life gone by. I love the idea of being able to look back on what the Lord has brought me through, how he's answered prayers and shown himself faithful.

But there's something about a new journal that intimidates me. Much like this blogging business intimidates me. There are so many pages, and I'm supposed to fill them all? With what? What if I write the wrong thing, what if I feel stupid when I read it later in life, what if my hand writing is too sloppy? Should I date each page? Is it important to record the time of day? Should I sign off in a certain way?

I have too many expectations of what a journal is supposed to be. As I was looking through my old ones, I noticed most of them started with intention. They started with a page of what this journal was going to be about. I started multiple journals in which I was going to keep a record of just the highlight of each day; I started one journal just before starting college with hopes of recording that part of my life; I started prayer journals; I always started with expectations.

That's how I've accumulated a pile of blank pages; a pile of mostly empty journals. With too many expectations of what a journal is supposed to be and not enough freedom to just be.

But freedom comes packaged with grace, tucked inside with the newspaper and bubble wrap. I just need to take the freedom out of the box and put it to good use.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sissy's Graduation

My little sissy graduated from college this past Saturday. It was a day filled with great memories and lots of proud moments. My hubby graduated from the same university three years ago, I graduated from there four years ago, and my parents graduated as Spartans 35 years ago. It was fun to remember our days on the banks of the Red Cedar and to celebrate my sister joining the fold of MSU alumni. She'll tell you that she's always lived in my shadow, but as she graduated with high honors, a job lined up, and a bright smile ready to be shared with the world, she's shining so brightly nothing could overshadow her. And I could not be more proud.

We didn't always have a good relationship. We fought often when we were young. Over toys, who got to sit in the front seat, who got to play on the computer, eventually clothes, but thankfully never boys. I pulled her hair and bossed her around. I showed her sinfulness at its worst. And over time she's shown me forgiveness. Now I call her not only my sissy, but my best friend.

And that's GRACE.

Friday, May 7, 2010

More Questions than Answers

I have more questions than answers.

What am I going to write about? Will anybody read what I write? Does it matter if anyone reads it or not?

One thing I know is that GRACE is something I can't live without and it's something that I want to share.