Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How we celebrate being 11 months old

As of Saturday, Caroline is 11 months old. Unbelievable. My little baby will be one in one month! She is a joy--loves her sister, loves climbing on things, and loves pointing at objects(especially photos) and saying "Da."

So, in honor of her cuteness, we went to Chuck E. Cheese on Friday night for dinner. Okay, so not really for Caroline (as you can see in the picture, she was not amused), but fun nevertheless. I loved Chuck E. Cheese as a kid (until I almost drowned in the ball pit at my brother's birthday party, but that's a story for another day). I hadn't been to Chuck E. Cheese since then (except for the time we went there for Homecoming in high school, super-fun). I had vague memories of the pizza being pretty decent, but I went on Friday with very low expectations. The pizza actually wasn't too bad! I think I ate most of ours! Here's a pic from the night as well as a video of the 11 month old Caroline.

video

Monday, February 22, 2010

Friends

Have you seen those gratitude posts on blogs lately? Like my sweet friend Tara's? Or Maggie's? I love these posts and am encouraged by them, but I must confess that they also make me feel guilty for not being as disciplined in the practice of thankfulness as I need to be. I need to incorporate such a practice into my life and hope to do so soon. As a start...

Recently, I have found myself incredibly grateful lately for friends. I mean, real friends...the ones you can spill your guts to without fear that they will judge you or misunderstand you or think less of you. As I think back through each season of my life, the memories that give me the greatest joy all revolve around remembering who my friends were during that time. In preschool there were Peter and Brad and Jack. In elementary school there were Kathleen and Ethan, Mark and Ann. In middle school Susan, Kathryn, and Marni. In high school, Sandy, Veronica, Kathryn, Susan, Sallie, Rob, Shannon. In college there were dozens, but especially Jenny, Jaclyn, and Hannah. In China there was my whole team. And now, one of the joys of being married is that I get to live with my best friend without ever fearing that one of us will have to move away. In Louisville God has provided Cari, Melanie, Cindy, Laurel, Lisa, Emily, Megan, and Ashley. Even as I write these names, I'm sure I'm inadvertently leaving many out whom the Lord used profoundly in my life to love me, support me, encourage me, and (maybe the best part of friendship) to actually like me! How would I have ever made it through life without friends?

Reflecting upon sweet friendships makes Christ's statement in John 15:15 that more meaningful: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

I can't help but think of Lewis' chapter on Friendship in The Four Loves. Here are two of my favorite parts that have come to mind recently:

"In a perfect Friendship this Appreciative love is, I think, so great and so firmly based that each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before all the rest. Sometimes he wonders what he is doing there among his betters. He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together, each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others. Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day’s walking have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out towards the blaze and our drinks at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life—natural life—has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it?"

"In Friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say to every group of Christian friends, 'You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.' The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him, and then, in a good Friendship, increased by Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests. It is He, we may dare to hope, who sometimes does, and always should, preside. Let us not reckon without our Host."

So, thank you, Father, for my friends.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Testimony

I just had to share this sweet testimony from one of my dearest friends on the planet. Hannah, I love you, I am so thankful for what God has done in your life, and I count it one of my highest privileges to be your friend.

Ten years ago tonight I was in my dorm room (Little 202) with Ashley, Lauren, and Sheila. I was overwhelmed by this sense that God was doing something new in my life. All week I had been praying that He would change me but knowing that those prayers were meaningless as I looked toward another weekend of carousing and shenanigans. What does Tuesday's devotion mean next to Friday's delinquency?

But Friday didn't bring the delinquency I expected. Out of nowhere, I woke up with a deep peace and an empowered desire to follow God, leaving behind anything that would hinder that pursuit. I had tried it before, and I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. As I poured a few bottles of liquor down the drain, I thought aloud, "If this is just another season of piety, I'm really wasting some good booze."

As it turns out, it wasn't a season. It was a new life. Some call it "conversion," turning from one thing to another. Others (including Jesus in John 3) call it "born again," referring to a spiritual birth. Still others describe it as "becoming a Christian," "giving your life to Jesus," or "accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior." Whatever it was, it started that night in Little 202, even without my understanding what was going on. I wouldn't claim today that I understand it either, but ten years down the road, I can at least put some words to the experience that has shaped the last decade of my life.

Most of all I know it had to do with giving up. I had tried so many times to be "good enough" for God and fallen flat on my face again and again. It just seemed that I didn't have enough self-control. The reason this time was different was that I stopped trying. I spent all week bemoaning to God that I wasn't good enough and never could be. That's where He stepped in

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law, we become conscious of sin. But now, a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ." Romans 3:20-24

For the first time I realized that Jesus thought of me on the cross, and that if I had been the only person ever to exist, He still would have done it. That central act of Christianity became personal for me. That's what "faith in Jesus" and "believe" are about. I didn't believe the Bible was true, I didn't care about Christian political "hot topics," and I sure didn't know much about righteousness, but I knew that Jesus's death saved me. That was enough.

He forgave me, despite all I had done and the depths of sin in my heart. He filled me with His Spirit and empowered me to do the good I wanted to do but never could sustain. In the end, it was true that I wasn't able to live up to His standards on my own, but living in His strength, I felt a new power for holy living. Paul said it this way: "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14)

My experience was about surrender more than anything else. Honestly, it hinged on excessive drinking, as trite as that may sound. But the essence of my surrender was a lot deeper than that, and the results blew the top off my life. All of the sudden that "God feeling" that I had experienced before, His presence in a tangible way, was everywhere and all the time. My prayers were answered. I was filled with a new joy. My life had purpose.

I really expected it to go away after a month or so, but that milestone passed a long time ago. Somewhere along the way, I realized that it wasn't a season. It's a life. I still sense His presence here in the jungles of Peru and know that He will not leave me today, tomorrow, or ever. He answers my prayers. He fills me with joy. My life has purpose in Him. This is the first ten years of eternity.

"But now that you have been set free from sin, and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:22-23

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Valentine's Day Message

If you've ever wondered what love really is....

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:10

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Days!

I personally am very thankful to be a resident of Louisville and so to have missed most of the snow that hit many of our friends and family members back east (you have our sympathy!). But we have had a couple days of snowy fun...one back in January and the other earlier this week.

The snow day in January was a fun day...not only did the girls get to play in the snow (and yes, Caroline is in her pjs in these pictures), but we also had an "American Girls Day" in which we did several activities revolving around the American Girls Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly (remember them?). I had a Samantha doll growing up and was pretty into all the series of books. I was amazed recently when I started checking out the books for Katie from the library...there are about 10 different girls now! Katie's favorite girl changes with every different book she reads. It'll be interesting to see which one she settles on as she grows up.

Our American Girls Day started off with Kirsten's breakfast of rice porridge (I had retrieved the American girls' cookbook from my mom's house on my last visit home). I should've known before I devoted the hour it took to make it that it probably wouldn't be a hit with the 4 year old. *sigh* During Caroline's morning nap, Katie and I worked on a gingerbread house just like the one Samantha built with Mrs. Hawkins in Samantha's Surprise. Aldi had had gingerbread house kits on sale the week before, and I had picked it up in anticipation of needing snow day activities. "Molly's lunch" definitely went over better than Kirsten's breakfast....pb&j roll-ups and cut out sandwiches with carrot and celery twirls. We played in the snow after lunch and then drank hot cocoa and watched the Samantha movie together during Caroline's afternoon nap. Then came preparations for "Samantha's dinner"--cream of carrot soup with homemade croutons. Given how exhausted I was already from the day's nonstop activity, I should have aborted the mission upon seeing how many steps and dishes were involved with this recipe (no wonder my mom never seemed overly enthused about doing any of the recipes in this cookbook...they take forever!) But I persevered and made a delicious cream of carrot soup that no one else in my family ate (I loved it though). So that was Snow Day #1.

Snow Day #2, which was this past Tuesday, was much more my style. Preschool and seminary were both cancelled for the day, and so we rolled out around 8am to take advantage of Denny's Free Grand Slam Day!!! I love breakfast food, Denny's, and free things, so this was just about a perfect start to the day for me. All 4 of us got free Grand Slams and were totally stuffed when we got home. I made sure that the rest of this Snow Day was more lowkey than the first...we walked to the post office and back, built a snowman on our porch, and....well, that was about it. Just the right speed.
I'm definitely hoping we've seen the last of the winter weather around here. While I love watching the snow fall from inside a cozy house, I quickly grow weary of slush, layers, and scraping. I easily fall into discontentment and grumbling about the weather (and many other areas of my life) and often struggle to wage war on my negative attitude. Recently, the Lord has been using Katie's struggle with complaining to convict me of my own struggle. I often quote Philippians 4:8 to Katie and have realized that I need to apply that verse myself (can we say "plank in my eye?")! Oh, how lazy I have become in taking every thought captive and letting no unwholesome word come out of my mouth! The Lord knows that I need my child to challenge me to think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. I'm thankful for verses like Isaiah 1:18 and Job 37:6-7 that point to our experience of snow as a way to illustrate truths about our relationship with God. So even as I wait and long for springtime, I am striving to receive what God wants to teach me through this season of cold and ice.

video

Friday, February 5, 2010

Are you a perfect mother?

My dear friend Ashley directed me to this article. If you are a mom, this is a must-read.