O Holy Night!

| December 23, 2012

“The Manger Scene” drawn by my little kindergartener

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 

“O Holy Night” is my favorite Christmas song. Whenever I hear it, my heart grows within me. I think it’s that amazing final crescendo of “OH NIIIIIGHT DIVIIIIINE” that grips me, every time. And, when it’s sung with perfect pitch and power, it’s truly breathtaking. Today, my church‘s talented music team led us in praising God to this beautiful work of art. The lead singer was flawless in hitting those notes and her passion for Christ behind the lyrics was clearly evident.

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 

But, this morning at church, something new grabbed my attention as we sung this carol. I don’t remember ever hearing the version we proclaimed: “Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease”. The words surprised me, because although this has been my favorite Christmas song for many years, the purposes of God in my life for abolitionist work is fairly recent. So, with my eyes opened wider to the injustices of our modern world, my song rang out in praise to God… and also in prayer for those around our world who are captives. May God set them free! And, not just free from physical chains. But, may this prayer be for any who are bound with sin’s soul chains that trap them from the true freedom that can only be found in Christ! What a beautiful freedom He offers!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

I felt a little bit like this morning’s worship was a prelude to heaven. Wow. We get to praise this God, forever. The only God that came to us to draw us close to Himself.
No matter what your Christmas is turning out to be, I encourage you to look to Jesus.  The King that “In all our trials (was) born to be our friend. He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger.”  ”His power and glory ever more proclaim!” We truly have something wonderful to proclaim! The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ came just for us! Thank you, Lord!
John 3:16

Courage

| December 13, 2012

What is courage?
For over a month, we’ve been teaching our boys that courage isn’t the absence of fear. It is being scared and facing what you fear, anyway.

With three sidelined practices behind us, and another looming, we didn’t know if he’d be able to get through it. He’d gotten so scared being out there on the court with the coach yelling and a gym full of loud kids, dribbling, chasing balls and doing what seemed impossible for him:  Staying out there.
We simply asked him to make it through a night of practice and just TRY. He didn’t have to be good, keep the ball in control, make any baskets. He just had to stay out on the court. On the first night of practice, the coach didn’t teach them how to hold a ball. How to dribble. How to throw.  The coach simply told them to dribble 2 balls at once. To dribble, jumpstop, pivot, pass, all in quick succession to complete strangers. To make a layup -first thing- on the first night of shooting baskets.  For my little one, these feats seemed impossible. And, I couldn’t help feeling a bit frustrated with what was expected of him, myself. So, for three practices in a row that stretched over a month and a half, he started on the court and ended up sitting on the bench in defeat, watching his brother participate. And fearing the next practice when it would happen all over again.
This week, he left home and arrived to the practice parking lot already in a crying frustration.
Just to help him have the courage to get inside the building, his daddy told him something that must have stuck deep inside. And, I believe, God did miracles in that little heart. His dad told him, “There’s a long line of men in our family who have courage locked up, inside. When you use a little bit, it grows and becomes more.”  And, they went into the school with the understanding that our boy just had to sit on the bench and watch his brother.

I admit, after those three failed attempts, I was questioning if we should just let him stay home. I didn’t want to get through this whole basketball season, which would span 4 months, and have him live with the memories of sitting on the bench, each and every time, after an upsetting retreat from the court. But, I prayed! Oh, how I prayed! I really wanted him to feel proud of himself for facing his fear. I even prayed that if God could raise people from the dead, surely he could help my boy get through basketball practice. This mama was feeling desperate! Have you ever been there?

So, back to the gym. He must have felt some relief knowing he only had to get inside and sit on the bench with Dad. After a bit of just sitting, Dad asked him to play ball on the sidelines for a few minutes, and he lightheartedly agreed. And after a little while, Daddy asked if he might still want to give it a try on the court, adding that our bargain to go for ice cream if he could make it through the night would still be honored. To my husband’s surprise, our boy decided to go out on the court with all the other boys. My husband prayed like never before, and our boy stayed on the court. Then, my husband’s heart sank our son came to the side…. and asked to use the restroom. Would that be it for the night? NO! Upon returning to the gym, he returned to the floor with the other boys! The entire hour went by, and he continued with the practice! He stayed out there! He tried! He acted courageous! And, he was even caught smiling and laughing and having a good time.

Basketball Victory Cup

I cheerfully went out to meet my family for ice cream to celebrate this awesome victory! When I asked my boy about practice, he told me “It was easy!” When I asked if he wants to go back, next time, he said, “I will. But, when this is all done, I never want to do it again!” We agreed that was ok. We were just so happy he faced his fear and he was proud of himself for doing it.
And, when he drove home with me in my car, he told me, “Daddy told me that courage was locked up inside of me, and tonight I unlocked it.”
Yes, you did, my sweet boy. Yes, you did.

“CHANGE the World”

| December 11, 2012

Changing the world by collecting change? Yup!
It all started with a group of wonderful women who had been praying for orphan children in Myanmar (old Burma). Our pastor and some people from our congregation had visited an orphanage there and discovered that, due to great poverty, the children survive on only three rice balls a day. There is a cesspool much too near the orphanage. So land is needed along with updates to the facilities. When these ladies were asking God how they could help, God gave them the idea to collect change. It was that simple. But, after that handful of praying ladies had raised hundreds of dollars among themselves, they asked if the pastor could share the vision with the entire congregation. He agreed that it made good sense. (Yes, I was tempted to type in “cents”, there. Are you glad I didn’t?) So, the challenge for our entire church to collect change and help the orphanage in Myanmar was presented.

Changing the world by collecting change

Our family mission is “Live in Christ. Change the World.” So, we wrote down our purpose (Change the World) on our collection can and got started. That was one month ago. Our kids had a blast emptying every nook and cranny of our house and cling-clanging the change into the tin. Whenever I found change, one of the kids would happily run the change to the tin to help “Change the World”. It’s been such a great experience for all of us.
We exchanged the coins at the bank, today! Now have twenty three dollar bills plus some coins. In just one month! I encouraged our boys to pray about what God would have them add (from their allowances) and my husband and I will do the same. I think a whole church of families taking this challenge will truly be able to make a difference.
Going forward, we will continue to put change in our “CHANGE the World” tin and donate the funds toward another cause close to our hearts. We will donate our change to fight the terrible reality of human trafficking.
Most of us have change lying around, don’t we? In our purses. At our nightstands. In our cars. Anywhere we empty our pockets. Think for a moment: What cause do you care most about? Why not start a “Change the World” tin, glass or bucket of your own?
What an easy and awesome idea! And, all because of some praying ladies.
I have to say it. Prayer does CHANGE things! (hehehehe)

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

| December 6, 2012


I’m not the first girl to rave about “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. But, I’ll take my turn.
I heard references to this book, repeatedly, for over a year before actually purchasing a copy. It seemed it was coming up everywhere. Numerous women I admire referred to it… wherever I went, it seemed! Once, I heard Sarah Young on the radio and her message deeply touched my heart. So much so that I actually pulled it up online and printed out the excerpt that she had read on the radio.  For months, I kept it with me for daily encouragement. I still have it in my Bible.
It’s been since April of this year that I’ve been reading the devotional, each day. Since the Spring, I’ve purchased copies for numerous dear friends and family, hoping they will find the same encouragement, inspiration and daily drawing to Christ that I’ve experienced because of reading it. It’s become a common bond: “Oh! Did you read Jesus Calling, today?!”
I feel as though I am seeing a side of Christ that I hadn’t allowed myself to draw close to, before. Now, I read about the realities of His holiness, but it is through the amazing lens of GRACE and LOVE that leads to a joy-packed, adventure-filled life! Each day reads as if Jesus, Himself, sent me a love letter.  I am able to see the heart of God in a wonderfully open way.  I know. I know. This isn’t scripture and we can’t take every word literally. I’ve read the critics’ posts. But, I do believe that God has breathed all over these daily messages!
Another special thing about this book.  When I read the scriptures referenced, I see shiny new facets of God’s connected meaning strung all together, throughout the Bible. (*Flawed human alert here! Don’t read this next sentence unless you are willing to believe that this pastor’s wife is not so perfect that I get great glee and deep meaning out of EVERY reading of God’s word.)  In the past, I’ve found myself skipping over scripture references in some devotionals or Bible studies… i.e. not doing the extra digging.  It’s because they reference scriptures that say the exact same thing I just read in the exact same way or they seem to be “pulling at straws” in scripture to make a point. These references seem like time wasters and quickly lose my attention and therefore my ambition to page through books and chapters to find them. Not so with Jesus Calling!  I’ve found the scriptures listed are actually fun and exciting to read because they don’t just support the day’s reading, they build upon it. I admit, they also lead me to areas of scripture that I’ve personally highlighted in my Bible, before.  And, God has used those just as much to encourage me in this faith journey. In most instances, it seems like God is showing me one thing and then leaping to another that brings the first truth to an even deeper understanding. It’s totally worth looking them up!
For instance, today I read, “Stay ever so close to Me… What I search for in My children is an awakened soul that thrills to the Joy of My Presence! I created mankind to glorify Me and enjoy Me forever. I provide the Joy; your part is to glorify Me by living close to Me.” Oh, the beautiful, welcoming heart of God! Then, I got lost in Colossians, finding reminders on how to live a life worth living that can only take place out of a heart filled with Jesus! Wow! It seems most days I read exactly what I need to soak up and apply.
Thank you, Sarah Young, for writing this book that has affected so many lives in my own little world! I can only imagine how God has used it in personal and private ways that you will only find out about in heaven!
What about you, dear one? Have you read Jesus Calling? What did you glean from it?

A MacBook Air with an Orange Cover

| November 30, 2012

Here’s the picture I would post if only I had a MacBook Air

I’m dreaming of a MacBook Air. I dream that I bring my little laptop with me wherever I go. In my dreams, I pull it out of it’s cute case and type out all my thoughts and ideas that will make a fine novel, someday. It has an orange cover, because orange is happy and it inspires me. It is the first computer that I’ve ever owned that wasn’t a hand-me-down. It is personalized to fit my needs. It has apps (a long-standing item on my wish list!). I strongly believe in apps. I don’t get to use them, much, yet. But, someday I will. Someday I will use my twitter account and tweet to my 48 followers who have never once received a tweet from me or a hashtag or anything, yet they are still following me. (How sweet are they?!) Someday I will have apps that help me do my crafts more creatively and write my sentences more acceptably and shop at the grocery store more healthily and go places more efficiently and learn about so many things that I’m just sure I could only know about if I had apps. And, my friend Mindy would rejoice with me because she knows about this longstanding desire. When I go to bed at night and I think of those most important thoughts that have filtered down to the end of my day and I wish I could reach over to my orange covered MacBook Air and type them in, I can’t help but believe that someday my wish will come true. I’ve been praying for God to spoil me with a MacBook Air. I’ve had 2 amazing friends offer me their used non-Mac laptops, which I truly appreciate. I’m embarrassed to admit I feel very snooty about not using them because I really, super-bad am praying that my Father will bless me with what I can truly use-a MacBook Air. You see, my entire photo library and all my previous notes and documents and newsletters and flyers and everything I use for ministry and Altered Story and my blog and anything techy is Mac-related. My smart husband doesn’t think I should attempt to make a short-term change to one of those computers and then try to make it all transfer back perfectly on that special, golden day when I do get my very own MacBook Air. And, I agree with him because in my dreams I am united with my hubby in all his apple-loving bliss. We can email each other documents that don’t need to be exported. That’s how marriage should be. And, there’s the apps to consider. So, I continue to dream. Because using his MacBook Pro late at night, like this, when I’m tired from my computer-less day of writing with pen and paper and jotting down ideas that I just might definitely make something amazing out of, if only I had a MacBook Air available to me during the sane hours of my day, makes me wonder if I’m looking a bit silly to the world in this blog post.

Old Journal Entries

| October 19, 2012

Ha! I just found this journal entry written almost a year ago, when my little one had just started preschool. I think I’m getting the message!
09/13/11
“Being a writer?
I sit here in the cafe and I wonder, “Could my life really be like this? And I answer, “It is!” I have an amazing cup of coffee. I’m eating a blueberry muffin puffed way too high for good health. I’m surrounded by a spontaneous arrangement of music, sounds of chatter and laugher all around. What could be better? I’m so thankful for this year that will allow me a couple of free hours per day to pursue this possibility of a passion. I’m afraid I won’t be any good at it. I’m afraid the dream is going to be better than the actuality. I’m afraid I won’t keep trying through the hard, empty, silent moments. But, I believe that God’s destiny is greater than any of my dreams. And, I trust that if I will obey Him by moving in this direction then He will be faithful to direct my paths. I can end up in just the right spots along the way that He desires for me to be. And, I will grow and develop and mature and continue in this adventure of giving Him all of me. So, I say “Thank you, Lord for this opportunity. I’m yours. Speak through me. Develop my style. Give me content. Fill me up so I can pour it all out through these words. Make me a writer, please, Lord?”
I need to read stuff like that for motivation to really go for it!
Do you keep a journal? I encourage you to look back at what dreams have been brewing inside you for too long! It might be time to move forward.

I Am A Reader

| October 17, 2012

Since my youngest years of elementary education, I loved to read.  I checked out books from our school library over and over again. I felt that the world within the pages was a world I could make my home. A comfortable place where I felt safe. I could laugh. I could relate. I read about people that seemed a lot like me… or who I wished I could be.
I happily discovered the misadventures of Romona Quimby and was hooked! This little girl found herself in lighthearted, funny situations. I soon discovered that the author, Beverly Cleary, had many more books I could enjoy. I loved escaping to Klickitat Street and feeling a sense of community and friendship and family.
As I grew older, I discovered Judy Blume. She wrote about silly grade school episodes that actually dealt with real feelings and frustrations (“Superfudge”, “Otherwise known as Sheila the Great”) I read every one! As I got closer to the teen years, I read “Iggie’s House” and “Are you there God, It’s me, Margaret?” I learned things from Judy Blume that I could never actually speak with others about, in real life. As I read, I felt a part of something. Something secretive, even. Nobody else knew what I was reading. It was mine. And it was beautiful.
As the years went on, “Sweet Valley High” intrigued me more than I’d care to admit, now. Learning about dating and boys and popular kids… well, at least I could read about all that!
When high school hit, I guess I stopped reading fiction and focused on text books that would help me pass tests. College continued with more of the same… and the addition of Bible reading and devotionals as I was feeding my new faith. Christian nonfiction filled my young adult years. Home Decorating Magazines were the bulk of my reading content as a newly married woman. Parent Magazines and books about the stages of human growth were food for thought as I became a new mom. That continued for many years. Country Living, Mary Engelbreits Home Companion… these magazines provided all the light reading I could fit into my busy days. It wasn’t till 2008, when I first heard about human trafficking, that my reading preferences changed from topics relating to the inside of my home to those going on around the world. Gary Haugen and Nicholas Kristof became my new author “idols”.
In recent days, memories have brought me back to those early days of reading. Hoping to recapture what I experienced back then, I’m starting to read some young adult fiction. Dreams are brewing inside me. I’ve always been a reader. But, I’m beginning to believe it’s for a greater purpose than enjoyment or education. It’s about more than me finding myself within the pages of another writer’s work.
I am a reader. But, I am discovering that I am so much more. I’ll let YOU read about that… tomorrow!
What about you? Who are your favorite authors? And, what do you enjoy reading?

First Day of Kindergarten

| September 4, 2012

Since before college, I had my life planned out.
Vaguely.
I would graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology, get married to a handsome pastor, have two babies and stay at home raising them -just until the youngest went to kindergarten. THEN, I’d either go back to school for my master’s degree or begin a meaningful career. I love helping people… so counseling has always been a dream. But, I’d love to be a writer, and I thought maybe I could pursue that. Or, I would pursue a different kind of education and build on my art skills. No matter! I had lots of time to figure things out!


Life’s Check List
Marry handsome pastor – check!
Birth two beautiful kids – check!
Stay home to raise the wee ones – check!
Send off baby to first day of Kindergarten – check! (as of this morning)
Direction for what to do now – uhhhhhh?….

I don’t really have anything figured out.
My little boy is having the adventure of his life at his first full day of kindergarten. Gone from Mom. All new friends. Lots to take in and learn. I encouraged him to be brave. To have anticipation for the good in it all. To go in with a positive attitude and then just see what God can do! He has no idea what this day or this school year will bring. But, he’s pressing on and into all of it.
I’m all for God-adventures. I want the full life! I believe adventures can only be true adventures if they are a little scary, a little exciting and (at least) a little fun! I’m sure that’s what my kindergartener is experiencing on his first-day adventure.
Me? I’m at home with a lot of mixed emotions. I have a bunch of questions. I miss my boys but I’m excited for what’s to come. I have an adventure of my own to begin. Schooling & a full time career aren’t even on my radar. I’m a bit scared about life’s details, but I know I can trust God for every one.
To start, I think I’ll just take a little time to enjoy a quiet house. To rest. To seek after God’s heart and His real direction for me. To do some of the things I’ve had on the back-burner for a while. I think I’ll just give myself a teeny bit more time. I’m thankful for today and all the possibilities.
What about you? What does the start of this new school year mean for you?

Food Fill-Up

| July 21, 2012

One cozy evening on the couch, my sons and I were watching an emotional episode of “The Secret Millionaire.” A secretly successful businessman volunteered with a food pantry. The line of those in need was too long for everyone to receive what they came for. The show ended with a HUGE, unexpected donation, enabling the organization to be more effective and continue feeding the hungry. The rich man also promised to continue giving of his time in this meaningful way. My boys and I discussed how we would love to volunteer if an opportunity like that ever became available. Within DAYS, we heard of a similar, first-time event to feed those in need in our own neighborhood.

First -Ever Food Fill Up at Evergreen Church in Stevens Point, WI

Evergreen Community Initiatives had been selected by Feeding America to distribute more than 10,000 pounds of food to Portage County residents, thanks to another man’s generous donation and Evergreen’s willingness to make it happen. As the registrations poured in, the amount was increased to 15,000 pounds. On Thursday, July 19, in Stevens Point, WI, over 17,000 pounds of food was given away to those in need!

Even as a pastor’s wife in a church family that I truly love – Highland Church – I jumped at this opportunity to join Evergreen Church to make an impact in our community for Christ!  I believe God loves to see His people, family members of different churches, acting as the united Body of Christ in the common purpose of shining the real gospel. Shouldn’t neighbors come together for great things?!

When my sons and I arrived at 9:30 am, there were already around 50-60 volunteers from Evergreen Church, Feeding America, college students from across the state along with local volunteers like ourselves. People were bagging items, directing traffic and organizing everyone for the job to be done. It was all performed with such efficiency that I overheard various Feeding America organizers share that this was one of the most organized events they’ve ever participated in. And, this was a first-time endeavor!

My sons worked together to bag up groceries for the Food Fill-Up

The event opened early, just before 10 am, and went until 7 pm. Guests could drive right up to the building to register -with absolutely no limitations based on income. Volunteers would then put an entire bag of dry goods into the recipients’ trunks, followed by a bag of meat, fresh bread, and fruit. People didn’t even have to get out of their cars! What was so touching was seeing people benefit from the optional “drive thru-prayer” before exiting the parking lot. My kids and I witnessed both recipients and prayer partners crying while they brought their needs to the Lord. What an amazing teaching moment for our children to learn how God’s people can help to meet both the spiritual AND physical needs of others! When we left at 1 pm, the leaders believed that over 1,200 people had already been fed and only 1/2 of the registered families had yet claimed their food. Food would be distributed for the rest of the day.

Here waits one of the prayer partners. Behind the truck is the long line of cars backed up for 2 blocks on the street, waiting to pull in the parking lot for food.

When the kids and I were driving home, I told them that the organizers were thinking about doing this, more, in the future. I asked if they’d want to help out again and both of them yelled out, “YEAH!”  We weren’t able to give a huge financial donation like the secret millionaire, but we felt like a million bucks after we gave of our time and energy to meet the needs of others. What a great experience for everyone!

I Love Mommy

| June 16, 2012

I Love Mommy

We’ve all had a mother. But, not everyone has had a MOMMY. If you have, then you are blessed!
I just found out that a very special person is (surprisingly!) expecting a baby! She is feeling a gamut of emotions. I know she will be a wonderful mommy! I also have other special friends who pray to be so blessed. Their hearts are all ready for the children they haven’t even conceived. They also feel emotional!  Then, there are those of us in the midst of mommy-hood! Do these emotions ever cease?!  Nope. Our hearts are no longer our own; they belong to our kids. That’s what it’s like, when it comes to motherhood.
And, it’s not just the emotions that are affected by these wee ones. I just learned that the DNA from each little baby stays, forever, inside the mama. (This, from my science-loving husband). Each baby will always be a part of that mother. Not to mention those outward changes we wish weren’t so apparent! Physically, mommies are different.
Spiritually, our world expands. We no longer pray mainly for ourselves or our man. We can’t help focusing our energies on praying for our baby. We understand the Father’s heart in a new way.
I have a Mommy, who’s loved me unconditionally my whole life. I’m so thankful for the ways she nourished me and taken care of me. To this day, she thinks I’m the greatest girl in the entire world. And, she tells me all the time. I’m blessed!
As I raise my two favorite boys in the whole world, I notice the ways I am like my mama. I even find myself acting like her. And, when I catch my image in the mirror, sometimes, I am shocked at the similarities between the two of us. We have SAME inside each of us. Mommies are a part of their babies.
I get so thankful when I think of what it means for me to be able to be a mommy. I’m so imperfect, but I truly want to be a great mommy! It’s an adventure doing my best. What could be more amazing?
I love mommies. Don’t you?