Thursday, January 31, 2008

About All This Lying

At a meeting yesterday morning, I described myself as "fun-loving" for an ice-breaker. We had to pick one of four descriptors, and explain why we thought we were the one we chose. I said fun-loving because I do love fun. I never want to miss out on anything. I think I was speaking truthfully, but now I wonder....

I have trouble with Santa and the Tooth Fairy. I feel like I am lying, well, because, I am lying, and I can't seem to just roll along with the fun.

Of course the Tooth Fairy had to visit our house last night. And I have so far successfully dodged some pointed questions from the six year-old I'm going to have borrow money from soon....She asks, "Are you the tooth fairy?" and I say, "do I look like a fairy?" and then distract her with whatever I can.

Santa sort of makes an appearance here at our house, but it's very low-key, and he brings all the stuff from the Christian bookstore, beacuse of course, he knows that Jesus's birth is the most important part of all our celebrating. I think I've taken the fun out of it for my kids. Maybe not, I haven't asked, because these are topics I avoid. I don't want to lie, and I don't want to be the spoiler.

This is supposed to be fun, these childhood things, why can't I have fun with it?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Now our sweet girl is missing THREE front teeth!


Oh, how I was hoping to get an email today from the Emergency School Closing Center. That would mean a late start or a snow day. But I got nothing. So, we'll have to carry on. I guess it's best.
As I lay in bed last night listening to the 45 mph wind gusts whipping snow around, I couldn't help but feel so blessed to be born here, at this time, with this really wonderful life. I have so much.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Good Question, My Stab at an Answer

I was asked by a friend this morning, "what is distinctive about being a 'follower of Christ?' Does it tell us any more than the blogger in Iraq who says he is a follower of Islam?"

My first reaction is to say that in following Christ, I know that I am following THE One, THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life. To me there is a piece of head knowledge, knowing that it is the truth, and there is a piece of faith, believing in the things that I cannot see. But that might be the same answer you would get from the blogger in Iraq, the follower of Islam. So that doesn't distinguish me from the Iraqi.

What does make me different, I think, is that my faith is not about how I live or behave. My salvation is secure. I don't have to live a certain way in order to earn it or keep it. Jesus died for me, I accept the gift of His salvation, and it is complete. And I could leave it there. For my salvation, I am not required to do anything more than accept it. It is that amazing grace everyone talks/sings about; salvation offered to us even though we don't deserve it.

But there is more offered, and I want it. He promises an abundant life. (John 10:9&10) The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians of experiencing the love of Christ that is so great we will never fully understand it, and being filled with a fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now that sounds good, and I want some of that. How do I get that? Here is where the way I live my life comes into play, here is where I need to surrender my self, here is where I need to make Jesus's two greatest commandments my compass, here is where I want to see the fruit of the Spirit pouring out of me (or, maybe growing? fruit doesn't really pour, does it?).
(I love the whole passage, Ephesians 3:14-19 in the New Living Translation, it just makes can look up Bible passages in a gazillion different translations at if you don't have the NLT)

Despite being married to a man who teaches History and has taught many classes on comparitive religions, etc., I don't have a great grasp on what others believe. So I don't know for sure if this makes me different. But it is what I hope to be all about, not just a Christian, but a follower of Christ.

Our small group has been reading "God is Closer than You Think," by John Ortberg. He exlpains how disciples in the New Testament times would follow their traveling rabbi from town to town and learn from him. Not just the scriptures, but how to live life. They would want to follow so close that they would get the dust of their rabbi on their own clothes. And I want to be that kind of follower. Except I'm not wild about dirty feet.....

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lessons From the Kitties

Our cats are goofy. All cats are, actually, but these two, Thora and Greta (they're Swedish, you know) cannot stand to see the bottom of thier food dish. In the 4 years we've had them, I don't think they've ever eaten all of their food. As soon as the bottom begins to make an appearance, they are underfoot and nervous. They look at the dish, and look up at me, then look at the dish again. "Houston, we have a problem! What if we never get fed again! We are perilously close to starvation!"

Today, they might have legitimate reason for concern. What's in the dish there is all that's left in the house. Cat food is on the list, I'll take care of the poor creatures.

How often do I do that with God? Get my undies all in a bunch waayyy earlier than I need to? I circle around his feet, looking at Him imploringly, asking Him to show me what He wants me to do next, when I haven't even finished what He's already given me.

I think it's good to have a big-picture perspective, and to be forward-thinking. But it's also good to remember the promises for today. He has begun a good work in me, and He wants to see it through to completion. (Philippians 1:6) He has the BIG PLAN, and I can trust in it. Sometimes I get all worried because I can see the bottom of the dish. Well of course I can! It's a dish, and there is a bottom, but I'm not starving, and he will take care of me, poor creature that I am without Him.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Follow the Leader

I am a follower of Christ. That means I want to go where He leads, and I want to let Him have the steering wheel of my life.

Jesus said, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose or forfeit your own soul in the process?" (Luke 9:23-25)

Even though I made a decision to accept Christ as my Savior many years ago, I still have daily assignments. And it's that old self thing again. I wish my self was a thing I could see and touch. I wish I could see how heavy and unattractive it is, then it would be no problem for me to say "beat it, self!"

Jesus also said that there's a better way to do it, that we don't need to carry around our big ugly selves. "Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:29&30)

As icky as it is, I am asking God to show me my self, to open my eyes so that my self is obvious to me. Jesus says we need to put aside our selfish ambitions daily. It's amazing how effortlessly I can slide right back into it, just moments after I've thought I surrendered it. I can wake up in the morning and invite God into my day, and go downstairs and start to make lists of what I'm going to do with "my" time, get crabby about other people interfering with "my" thoughts, time, ideas, work.....Umm, oh yeah, um, God? Ooops. How would You have me use this time that is a gift from You? sigh.

This is what being part of the body is all about, I think. We help each other on this thing, and we parise God together for the victories. I'm glad you're a part of the body.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Respect and Admiration

Kind of getting into this blogging thing, and I've been looking at other blogs, seeing what's out there.....
And I was reading a post on "Praise & Coffee" this morning. (here's the address if you want to check it out: don't even ask me how I found it. I just start clicking away, can hardly find my way back!)

She asks the question "who is your husband's biggest fan? Who gives him the most kudos? Who toots his horn the most?" And goes on to explain it should be you. I think most of the time I do ok with this. As a matter of fact, I think I do a great job of tooting Scott's horn. (hee hee) No, what I mean is, I love to talk about how great he is to others. But I'm not so good at telling him how great he is.

On this other blog she asked about how you greet your husband when he comes home, do you show respect for what he does, and admiration? And I have to admit that just last night, when he came home...took him a very long time to get home, traffic was awful...the kids went bananas when he walked in the door. Loving on him, truly showing admiration, so glad to see him. What do I do? I undo their doings!! The thing I always accuse them of! Not only did I bring the craziness down a few notches, but I turned it into being about me. I said, "no one ever does that when I come home."

Eww. Ugly. Pride is so icky, and it's just everywhere. Talk about the power of words....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Some random pieces of information that made it into my brain they all kind of tie together somehow?

I saw a video clip that led me to the blog of a mom of 6, very funny, just telling stories of the adventures in their household. She gets more than 40,000 hits a day, has some ads on her blog, so she makes around $4000 a month on the blog, just from people clicking, and has a book coming out, and is in talks for a movie. Crazy. How did it all start? She is the mom who put her kids Pokemon cards on ebay. Have you heard or read about that? When asked if people in her town know who she is, or if they know she has this huge following, she says she doesn't think they have any idea. The secretary at the kids' school, for example, doesn't know folks have read about this mom's encounter with her.

We watched Frontline last night on PBS, it was about teenagers and the internet....MySpace, Facebook, etc. Things that stuck with me: They show a 13 year old kid upstairs in his room on his myspace page, "talking" with his "friends" and then show the 7 year-old little brother downstairs, "getting a primer" in on-line social interaction on the Penguin Club website..... There was a story about some girls that started a fight on-line, but took it to the cafeteria at school, and ended up getting suspended. The one said she regrets it, thinks it may make it impossible for her to get into the college she wants, all just from some stupid MySpace comments..... And there was a story about a 13 year-old kid who committed suicide as a result of "cyber-bullying." His parents had no idea it was even happening. The mom talked about how it used to be that if you were having problems with another kid at school, you could at least have a safe haven at home. But this bullying was coming into their home, all hours of the day.

We hear about everything Britney Spears does or doesn't do, with pictures.....The actor Heath Ledger was found dead at 3:30pm yesterday in New York, and Scott heard about it on his ride home from work at 5:00pm. (6pm New York time, but still, I read this morning they removed his body from the apartment around 6:30pm....yet it was already all over the news.)

I've been thinking through the permanence of words in print. I talked with Lars about it when he opened his MySpace thing, and reminded him again when he got a cell phone with a texting package. I think of it everyday when I sit down to write for this blog (this isn't all that much different from having a myspace page), and when I send emails and the (very) occasional letter.

We can communicate so quickly, the technology is amazing. But we need to take time to recognize that once it's out there, it's out. I guess this is true about spoken words, too. We never know what flip thing we said is being held onto by someone else....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Get Off the Bench

Heard a great phrase from Lars yesterday. I don't know if he came up with it himself, or if he heard it somewhere. I meant to ask him this morning, but since he's standing at the bus stop before the break of dawn, we don't always have coherent conversations in the mornings. I actually have to make a list during the day of things I want to talk with him about when he gets home.

Anyway, he said that Scott and I "threw" the message of Jesus to him. He said that he had to catch it himself, and he has to make his own touchdown, but that we made the throw. Have you ever heard it put that way before? I love that analogy. And I love that kid.

It goes to the title I chose for this blog, and the way I want to live as a Christian. I don't need to feel responsible for someone else's response, but I do need to "throw" the message to them. I need to tell people about the miracles I see God doing in my life, and I need to tell them about how much He loves them. But I don't have to make all the plays.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

I Mean It!

Four day weekend for the kids, starting today. Why, oh why, are they up this morning EARLIER than the time I always wake them from a deep slumber on a school day??!! We let them stay up an hour later than usual last night, and they're up early this morning.

Scott and I stayed up late last night, too, watching "She's Having a Baby." We had been quoting lines from it over Christmas Break, and it made me want to see it again, so I put it on our Netflix queue. (one of our favorite lines....when the mother-in-law describes the painful birth of her daughter who was a breech baby, the father-in-law says, "well you're all right now...") Man, I love that movie. It's funny, the music is great, and it teaches a great lesson.

Jake (the Kevin Bacon character) says in the end that he realizes he'd just been along for the ride in his life. He'd taken more than he'd given, had been loved more than he loved....Its a lesson about being intentional. Doing what we do on purpose. Meaning it. And I am all over that intentionality thing, or, let me rephrase that, I want to live a life that is all about intentionality.

I want to parent intentionally. But this morning, we're all home, and I had the kids clean their rooms, which helped them discover there are fun things to do. No school, no schedule, it's nice. So, everyone is doing their own thing, and I'm here at the computer doing my thing. It just kind of happened. And the whole day could slip away, with me never really connecting with anyone. Days, weekends, I guess even whole childhoods could slip away that way. It's fine for us all to do our own things, just as long as it's intentional, and as long as there is some time spent connecting somewhere along the way....

In the movie, Jake is explaining his revelation on top of a Kate Bush song, "This Woman's Work," that has lines in it saying, "Give me these moments back, give them back to me. All the things I should've done that I never did, all the things I should've said that I never said...." We don't get the moments back. That's why we gotta' use them on purpose. If we're purposely having a day of each doing their own thing, that's marvy. If all the days are like that, maybe not so much.

Here's to intentionally relating with the family over the course of this long weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Great Expectations

Ok, just one more thought on expectations. Really, I shouldn't promise just one, because then you'd have the expectation that I'll quit talking about this, and maybe I'll think of something else later.....

How many things do you do in a day that you think are expected of you, when in fact they are not? This is another thing that can lead to crabbiness on all sides. (you: "why doesn't he/she appreciate what I'm doing here? this is for him/her!" them: "why is he/she spending so much time/effort/on that? what's the big deal?") If you are shooting for the wrong bulls-eye, your efforts aren't apprceiated as much, and there might even be un-appreciation. Ask yourself why you're doing what you do. Is it beacuse someone expects it of you? Are you sure you are clear on their expectations?

In the workplace, there are systems in place, tools designed to make the expectations clear, and give you ideas about how you can meet or exceed them. This doesn't happen as much in relationships, but maybe it should. I'm not suggesting something so formal that it takes the fun out of being in relationship, but you know, getting some things on the table.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Big Sigh!

Just sharing some of our Italy lovliness. This is on the terrace of our B&B in Monterosso, in the Cinque Terre.

Say it Out Loud

Think about the last time you were angry. The last time I got angry, well, you don't want all the details, but what it boiled down to was unmet expectations. I had expected the day to go a certain way, and not only did it not turn out the way I pictured, but it went differently than Scott (my husband) had pictured, too. So he was crabby, I was crabby, I resented his crabbiness, and I'm sure he wasn't too pleased with mine.

This is my new bandwagon, and some of you have heard me talk about it, because I'm really beating this drum lately. We have to verbalize our expectations. And, we have to ask others to do it, too. I think unmet expectations, or unreasonable expectations are at the root of most conflicts. And I think this goes for big lofty dreamy types of expectations, and even everyday piddly things.

Here's why I need to verbalize my expectations:
1. It helps me identify what I'm hoping for. Sometimes I don't even know until I force myself to really think it through, and that's an important step. How can you get what you want if you dont even know what that is? Making myself figure it out and say it out loud will get me closer to getting what I want. A piddly kind of example: If everyone in the house knows I am hoping (and working) to keep the living room clean, I'm less likely to have my doings un-done. If no one knows this is a goal for me, they might just keep on living in that living room (the nerve!) and I will come along after and get all huffy and feel unappreciated.

2. It helps me recognize which expectations are reasonable and which aren't. I might come to that realization on my own, or it might take someone else (Scott, for example) to say, "that's not going to happen." Sometimes as I am putting words to my expectations, I can see how ridiculous they are.

3. It helps those around me encourage me, and understand my motivations. We can all be on the same team, and know what we're all shooting for. An example: Scott and I took a fabulous, and I mean it was incredibly fabulous, trip to Italy this summer with two other couples. We did a lot of planning, and one of the things that I think helped make the trip great was that all six of us thought about and put down on paper three things that we really wanted to see or do on the trip. We tried to make sure everyone got what they wanted. Did we all want to do the same things? No. Did we mind doing something for one of the others? No, because we all were getting what we wanted. (another thing that made the trip great was that the other Julie was a mad-woman on the internet. She spent countless hours researching places to stay, things to do and see. We are truly indebted to her.)

So, something I'm working on. Boy, did this get long. Sorry. It's probably time for you to get off the computer now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MOPS Rocks

Our boys, 11 and 9 years old now, had their first Upward basketball games this past weekend. Their practices and games are held at the church where I used to attend MOPS, starting back when Lars, the oldest, was 18 months old. Going to their games was fun, and we saw all kinds of people that we haven't seen in years. Seeing the faces that I hadn't seen since those fuzzy, sleep-deprived, difficult and yet full-of-growth MOPS years got me to thinking. How did we do it? How did we get here, with everyone in school, and new adventures like cell phones and My Space?

I really think MOPS was one of the ways God provided for me, and ultimately our whole family. (cuz when momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy) I knew I appreciated MOPS at the time. It gave me a chance to breathe deeply, and have some thoughts of my own beyond diapers and nap times. And it gave me some incredibly valuable friendships. You hear about how there are friendships for different places in life, some lasting a lifetime, others just for a season. It is so true, and MOPS gave me all the different kinds of friends. God used that time, that place, those people to minister to me. I'm struck again today, at my gratefulness for the MOPS ministry.

We've outgrown MOPS, but I hope I never outgrow the need for God's provisions. Because what He gave me through that ministry was indeed just what He promises, "infinitely more than I could have asked for or hoped...." (Ephesians 3:20) I want to guard against thinking I've got it all figured out now, and stay in a place of recognizing His glorious power, and my smallness.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Where's the Fruit?

Good message at church of the questions our pastor asked was what are signs of spiritual maturity? What does that look like? And he suggested that when you see people following the two commandments that Jesus said were the most important (Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as you love yourself), that can be a good indicator. I'm gonna' take it a step further. With maturity comes fruit. I'm no gardener, but a tree won't produce fruit until it's mature, right?

I always used to think that fruit would be like a list of names, people who I've witnessed to, and who have accepted Christ. And, yes, I guess that would be an example of fruit, but it says in Galatians that there's fruit of the, peace, joy, patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control, etc.....these qualities come from the Spirit, I can't manufacture them on my own. And they just come out of me, pop up on my branches when I'm healthy and growing in my faith. When I'm letting Him transform me into the person He has planned for me to be. And, when those yummy fruits are oozing out of me, I am a reflection of what God has to offer.

Or, for another fruity metaphor, I've also heard it said that we all produce something, some kind of fruit. And what kind is it? Either way, when wondering about my own spiritual maturity, or another's, I think we gotta' look at the fruit.

And, speaking of fruit, Lily left for school today a little unhappy for the first time this year. My kids are my fruit, too, yes? Her teacher just called and wondered what the crying was all about, because Lily won't tell her. So, some of my fruit is a little sad this morning.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jumping In

This is my first go at the blogging thing. I hope for it to be a way for friends to keep up with me, and I hope it forces me to be disciplined about writing...about anything, just writing!...on a regular basis. So, welcome, and come on back!