Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Light in the Darkness

The White Witch's rein has ended in Narnia...at least it felt like we lived in Narnia those many days of ice and snow, with the trees covered in layers of ice while all was still and cold and quiet. But now Aslan must be on the move, for all has melted and the sun shines.

During those days of ice, we had one full day without electricity. It was amazing to see how much I take it for granted until it's no longer there. It was especially difficult when the darkness descended early that evening, as I had been struggling with my own inner darkness of fears and frustrations that weekend. Yet the Light of the World pierced through as my family sang praise and worship songs and my brother played guitar. There was beauty in the darkness. Without distractions, I was able to focus on the lyrics even more. With full heart, I sang "Blessed Be Your Name," making the words my own honest prayer to God: "When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say 'Blessed be Your Name.'"

That's all He asks. That we trust Him in the dark. That we bless His name and praise Him in good and bad. That we believe He is not only with us in the dark, but that He is bringing us through it to the light.

I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas, celebrating the coming of the Light of the World. I also pray you have a wonderful New Year. Life is beautiful, isn't it?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Life Lessons Happen Even In Grocery Stores

Somehow this year I forgot how busy the stores can be the week before Christmas...until I walked into Meijer to get some groceries for the cozy Christmas party I was having the Saturday before Christmas. Shoppers were everywhere. My blood pressure rose instantly.

All I wanted were a few ingredients and I could already see it was going to take me double the time it normally would. That in itself irritated me, as well as the secularism all around me. The atmosphere of rushing, spending, hurrying, and buying smothered me as I pushed my cart through the swarms of people. It was like a never-ending maze. I plastered a smile on my face as I said "excuse me" countless times with forced politeness.

Finally, I was making progress with a few items in my cart. I turned a corner at the end of the aisle and found myself behind the slowest cart yet. Seeing no way around it, silent grumbling began to form in my mind. Then my eyes took in the rest of the scene. A older gentleman was pulling the shopping cart behind him as he pushed his wife ahead of him in a wheelchair. Slowly. Calmly. Patiently.

Emotions swelled in my heart as the complaining thoughts disappeared. I felt guilt for the impatience I had shown while this man's patience so clearly surpassed all those around him. I was ashamed that I had joined in the hurried mentality of other shoppers while he slowly and gently guided his wife and their items throughout the store.

My to-do list seemed trivial as I watched this display of true love-- sacrificial, unconditional, and absolutely beautiful. Much like the love of the Son of God who came to us that first Christmas. Sacrificial, unconditional love that would hang on a cross to save sinners. Absolutely beautiful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This Cross...Again

This cross, Lord, it's here again.
I thought I'd left it far behind.
The pain and all the heartache
They were memories in my mind.

Yet once again they grip my heart
The fears, the pain, the ache
I'm not ready to carry it again
But it's here for me to take.

You were faithful through the first time
And I know right now you're here.
Please send me grace and strength I need
And catch these streaming tears.

I'm not the only one with pain
Greater crosses others bear
So through these blinding tears
Help me see their needs with care.

Although my arms are tired
And with this to hold feel weak
Give them strength to reach to others
Sharing comfort that they seek.

My voice, it oftens falters
When I speak of this ache and fear
Instead, in good or bad, I ask
Let it praise You, strong and clear.

For You are ever faithful
I've seen it times before
You walk with me on this journey
To show Your love once more.

I thank You for Your love
For the help You always send
I thank You for Your care
And how aching hearts you mend.

Your plan for us is perfect
I'm convinced that it is true
So with strengthened heart, I'm ready
To carry this cross for You.

-Laura Anne, December 2008

I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow to learn the Creighton Model of charting for NFP so that eventually, tests can be done to evaluate my hormones and see if there are any abnormalities. I knew it was coming up, but for some reason it didn't sink in until yesterday when the doctor called to confirm the appointment and discuss some things with me.

And then the fears and the pain of this spring washed over me once again. The familiar questions, the familiar frustrations, the familiar heartache-- once again pressing on every side. I thought my time of carrying this cross was finished, and to take it up again is so difficult.

I talked to Jesus last night about it and asked Him to help me find that strength and hope I found earlier this year. That trust in Him and that faith to wait patiently in the unknown. I know He is sending His grace and aid and that He will walk beside me every step.

Well, my spiritual muscles, you've had a long enough warm-up. It's time to get into the workout.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pre-Christmastime Confessions

I have a confession to make. I have listened to Christmas music already. (I'll give you time to gasp in shock and disappointment.) Now for an explanation...well...you see...I'm not sure I have one. But I happened to be in the library the other day and their shelf of Christmas CD's caught my eye...and I saw they had Steven Curtis Chapman's newest Christmas CD...and I love his song called "All I Really Want"...and the next thing I know I'm popping it into the CD player in my car.

That's where the real problem starts. I happily listen to my favourite songs and then when I'm finished I press the 'eject' button. Nothing happens. I try again. Same thing. Oh dear. Not good. To make a long story short, it has been about a week and I am still unable to get the CD out of my player. My dad (who knows just about everything there is to know about cars-- love you, Daddy!) took a look and thinks the whole player will need to be sent somewhere for them to fix. Oh joy. What do I tell the librarian?

I guess it serves me right for listening to Christmas music too early this year...

I have another confession. (Ah, this feels so good to get out in the open. Confession is good for the soul.) I have already watched a Christmas movie, too. This time I have a pretty good excuse. Well, I think so anyway. I had reserved it through our interlibrary loan system and it came in much earlier than I anticipated. What else could I do but watch it? I mean, come on, it would be due well before Thanksgiving even arrived. So one night I was alone in the house and I cozied up in my pajamas for a night with "The Christmas Card."

If you haven't seen this movie, do find it and watch it (during the real Christmastime, of course). It is a beautiful story of how a young woman's thoughtfulness in sending a card to a random soldier touched that soldier's life. And then when he returns from Afghanistan, he finds the woman who sent the card, meets her family, falls in love with them all, and there's a happy ending. I'm not good with short synopses, can you tell? Grant calls the movie a "cheesy Hallmark one," but hmmm, he also happens to have seen it twice. (I think he liked it.)

I have to admit that although the movie was great, the timing was not-so-great with Grant being in Iraq. I didn't realize how hard it would be. So many things in the movie reminded me of him and of the gap between us right now. But God is good and we know He has a plan for this year. We are trusting in Him to mold us and prune us in these difficult times. He is faithful. Knowing this and knowing Him make me smile through the tears.

And listening to my Christmas CD over and over and over again in the car makes me laugh.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Issue Above Them All

It's Election Day 2008! I've already made my way through the crowds, cast my vote for McCain/Palin (as well as others in my local elections), and am now praying throughout the day for a pro-life victory.

I suppose some would scornfully consider me a single-issue voter because of my focus on pro-life candidates. After all, editorials in my local paper have haughtily asserted that to center in on this one issue is narrow-minded and ignorant. One went so far as to say that a person can be pro-life by caring about world poverty and environmentalism and still maintain his pro-choice stance on abortion. What kind of logic is that? How can you disregard life at its earliest stages and call yourself pro-life? Well, they argue, it is too simplistic to focus on the issue of abortion alone when other complex issues are involved. Whatever. To me, that mixed-up view sounds like an excuse. The country’s problems wouldn’t be so complex in the first place if we focused first on the moral issues. Without morality, every secular effort to fix America is only a band-aid on a symptom rather than solving the cause of the sickness.

What if the reason we focus on one issue is because it encompasses all other issues? A candidate who values and respects life at all stages is a candidate we can trust to serve the American people—all of them. How can Obama's followers truly believe that he values and respects the life of each American if he does not value and respect the rights of the tiniest American?

I love America with all my heart. I love my lieutenant in Iraq who is fighting for America. We both love America enough to admit she needs help. And the solution starts with the single issue of abortion. It’s really not that complicated.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New Doggie Game Invented By Border Collie

Now I know that I'm a little biased when I say my dog is the smartest in the world, but it is a fact that border collies are one of the most intelligent dog breeds.
This morning I decided to let the dogs inside with me while I walked on the treadmill. I feel sorry for them with the cooler weather and plus they're amusing to watch. Well, my Micah gets tired of playing with his yellow ball and brings it over to me on the treadmill. He knows I don't like tug-of-war, so he gently sets the ball on the belt of the treadmill for me to throw. You can guess what happened next. Well, he decided he liked this new game almost better than catch, so several times throughout my exercise time, he brought different toys to take a ride on the treadmill. It was so funny.
Never a dull moment with dogs...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oh, what news to share!

I'm home alone tonight. The cold wind and rain beat against the windows begging to come in. Yet here I sit, cozy in my pajamies with an avocado-honey-oatmeal face mask. Delightful. Well, maybe not delightful. My homemade face mask is a little chunky, so I have to stay very still so it doesn't start dropping on the keyboard. That definitely wouldn't be delightful.
Okay, onto the real news. JOHN MCCAIN IS COMING TO MY TOWN THIS WEEK! Sorry, I guess I shouldn't have been so loud about it, but I'm excited! (uh-oh, was that an avocado chunk that fell...) Unfortunately, the tickets are already gone (and they just started giving them out this morning) so I won't get to see him. Nonetheless, I'm thrilled he's visiting our little town and I hope he's able to persuade more of its inhabitants to vote for him and Sarah Palin.
And that's all for tonight, folks. My cozy evening has just begun but I don't plan to spend it on the computer. I have a whole stack of good books to keep me company.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ordinary Day, I'm glad to see you again

My poor little blog, I've neglected you so this month. But good news: the play is over. Now the sad news: the play is over. Looking back on the past two months, I see a lot of hard work. A lot of late nights. That crazy day I went to work with tightly-curled hair because that night I had to have my hair done for my character Elaine... Then I see the four shows this past weekend. I hear the laughter from the fantastic audiences. I remember the friendships formed as we actors worked towards a common goal. And the crazy-busy memories fade into the background as the sweet, special memories surface.
What am I going to do now that the play is over? Welllll, it doesn't take much time for me to answer that question. I'm so excited to have my weeknights back. Today was my day off work and what a delicious day it was. No commitments, nowhere to be all the delightful day. So-- I cooked and baked most of the afternoon. It looked like a tornado went through the kitchen, but I was a good girl and wiped counters and washed oodles and oodles of dishes. My bounty from all this effort, you ask? Apple butter, apple scones, coconut granola, and homemade deep-dish pizzas. The pizzas were from a Rachael Ray episode. The other three recipes are from the cutest cookbook ever, Fall, Family, & Friends-- it's one from the Gooseberry Patch series. I love those cookbooks. They are so cozy and homey and country-ish (I'm exhausted, so let me make up words if I want to, please).
Micah is hyper and happy as always, but I think he missed his walk with me this morning. If I can muster the energy, I'll take him out for an evening stroll. The colors are so beautiful, it will be worth it.
Last little tidbit before I become dutiful puppy-owner: I'm going to Kentucky!! Yay me! Three friends and I are going for a special horse farm tour going on this weekend. The tour will start out in Louisville and continue to Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. I'm really looking forward to a relaxing, enjoyable time with friends. Alright, it's 'mommy and Micah' time because I need to get back before dark.
Sorry this is rather boring and journalish (yeah, I know that's not a word either), but I'm feeling rather laid-back and lazy after my baking bonanza. Until next time...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Birds belong outside, not in public restrooms.

I am a firm believer in that. Especially based on my experience last night at play practice...
We were setting up the stage and preparing to begin running the show. I slipped out to *ahem* use the ladies' room in the back of the theatre. It's a charming restroom-- with a little primping area before you go back to the restrooms. So I open the large wooden door to the aforesaid primping area and step in. The next thing that occurs makes me feel like I'm in Alfred Hitchcock's film "The Birds." THe wooden door slams behind me and SWOOSH! Something flies in front of my face, flapping its wings wildly. Acting on impulse I race out of the restroom. Be still, my heart. I quickly glance around for the other actors, who thankfully are still busy with the stage. I gingerly open the door once more and peek my head in. There, on the table below the mirror, a little sparrow innocently tips his head to the side-- quite obviously confused at my fear. He blinks his little eyes at me and looks rather sweet. I determine he is harmless (plus I really need to use the restroom) so I oh-so-stealthily slip through the primping room. Fast forward to me exiting the restroom. Composed, I walk calmly back to the stage and inform everyone of the feathered visitor. They say they will take care of it. End of story.
Almost. One of the girls comes late to practice and before we realize it, she too has made her way to the back to use the restroom. You guessed it. She does the same thing I did. Enter bathroom. Exit bathroom. All within one second. Now being on the other side, I have to admit it was very funny.
I'm not sure what happened to the bird. I hope he found his way outside through the window, poor dear. After all, that is where birds belong. Outside in the trees and the sky-- not in public restrooms.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

So I Can Be Filled

"Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord, empty me of me so I can be filled with you"

-"Empty Me," by Chris Sligh

I love it when this song comes up on the radio. I'll recognize it as I'm checking channels and then turn up the volume as I pray to the Lord through this song. It echoes my heart as I seek to weed out things that have selfishly occupied my time. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm going through a season of learning and stretching. I hope to simplify my life so that my purpose of living for God does not get overtaken by distractions and busyness. I am realizing I had heaped my plate full of activites that were fine in and of themselves, yet all together they stole my time and energy and focus.

There were the voice lessons, the barbershop quartet, the community theatre play, teaching CCD, Civil War reenacting, riding horses, being a youth leader...not to mention my dog, my family, my Grant, my outings with friends, my job as a nurse, and my relationship with the Lord. I had very little time for reflection and stillness. My relationship with the Lord was still there, but it lacked some of the depth it had previously had. My friends and family-- the living, breathing people in my life-- became secondary to my "vain ambitions." Although I sought these pursuits for personal enjoyment and to improve myself, I see now that my ideas of self-improvement were tinged with a worldly view and pride. I felt that my time was well-spent with this rich variety of activities. In a way, I began to define myself by what I did rather than who I was. The interesting thing is that most of this problem was within myself and not noticed by others (except my wise parents). Many people today are busy like I was and we all just shrug it off, not realizing we have a choice.

Praise the Lord for gently beckoning us from dangerous paths.

Somehow in the midst of my busyness, I began to crave quietness and heartfelt prayer. I believe God was calling me to draw closer to Him and my soul was aching for the peace that comes with it. He spoke through my conversations with my parents when I was stressed and they would encourage me to cut back on activities. It took me awhile to see it, but after I saw who I was becoming, I began to drop my actitivies, one by one. Sure, I miss a few of them, but giving more quality time to my original commitments and responsiblities-- being a daughter, a sister, a friend, a child of God-- brings a peace and joy that those activities could not. When I look at the precious relationships in my life, I am reminded that the sweetest, most beautiful times in the world are times spent with those we love. Being involved in less, I'm able to give more. Life is slower, richer, and more peaceful.

I'm still learning, though. I still have days where I feel too busy. I look forward to having my evenings back when the play I'm in is finished next month. Yet no matter what my schedule is, the main part of this change is in my heart, in my attitude. I know I'm on the right path now and that the Lord is leading me back to the truly important things in life. He is helping "empty me of me" so I can be filled with Him.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Of Mice and Memories

We cleaned out the attic above my dad's work building yesterday. My sister and I used to play house up there and so there were all sorts of dolls and doll clothing and homemade creations. Normally I would have been rather sentimental having to sort through it and give away or throw away items that hold such precious memories. Fortunately--or unfortunately, I'm really not sure which one-- I was distracted. You see, there has been a rumor lately of mice in the attic. I imagine I'm not the only girl with a fear of mice. There's just something creepy about them...they're fast and sneaky and they have teeth...So I climbed the attic stairs preoccupied with thoughts of the furry creatures rather than my childhood memories.
Thankfully, my mom took the worst job. She would pull out boxes from the deep, dark spaces for me and my brother to carry downstairs. I eyed each box or item carefully before touching it and oh-so-gingerly carried it downstairs, then dropped it at the base like it was on fire. I got a case of the shivers when what looked like a chewed-out hole in the bottom of the box. Nonetheless, we completed our task victoriously without any intruders. Insert sigh of relief here. I love happy endings.
Speaking of animals, this morning after church I was in my bedroom when I heard a faint meow. It sounded like it was coming from my room yet sounded far away. I called for my Maggie, thinking maybe she was under the bed. There it came again-- a tiny "help me" meow. I opened my closet, but no Maggie there. Finally, I looked at the wardrobe in front of me and opened the doors. My little pumpkin peeked her head out of one of the shelves and gave me a happy meow. I have no idea how she got in there without my knowing. Poor thing. She was there all during church! Hopefully she slept most of the time. She looked quite comfortable on my once folded and now wrinkled clothes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Friendship? Yes, please!"

"Friendship? Yes, please!" said Charles Dickens. And I quite agree with him. My friends and I got together on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of our dear Evangeline. Lots of delicious food, oodles of giggling and chatter, and several hilarious party games. I think I laughed enough to add several years onto my life. It was a great memory, even more special because of our shared love for Christ.

Girlfriends are such a precious gift from the Lord. Yet like with all His amazing gifts, I sometimes take them for granted. I get busy with my own commitments and forget to call this friend or send an email to that one. As we bowed our heads while Alexandra led us in prayer before we ate, my heart glowed with gratitude for the girls God has placed in my life. I sometimes don't realize how much I need them until nights like that. I leave feeling refreshed and encouraged...and very full of sugar cookies and lemon bars.

Thank you, Lord, for my girlfriends.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Life is beautiful when...

- Grant will be calling on Saturday from Kuwait.
- my CCD teens rock the class with their attentiveness and enthusiasm.
- I have peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
- my patient at work squeezes my hand for support during an IV needle poke.
- my friends are meeting me for Mexican food tomorrow night.
- the Lord speaks to me through my devotionals on my lunch hour.
-my dog greets me every day after work with unconditional love (and a slobbery tennis ball).
- the trees begin to change colors and my soul dances at their beauty.
- I got a "40% off" coupon for the crafts store.
- the wind blows my hair driving down a country road in the convertible.
- my pumpkin spice candle burns cheerily on my nightstand.
- I feel wrapped in the love of my family and my friends and my Creator.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Am Woman, See Me Cook

I have that womanly pride thing going on right now because I made a quite tasty (if I may say so) supper this evening. I don't cook very often in this season of my life with work and play practice and the church kids and other commitments. But today I had the desire within to take up the spatula and try my culinary skills once again. So I dusted off my apron and got to work. The goal: crispy parmesan chicken, steamed broccoli, fresh pears, and pumpkin spice cake. Score one for me because everything turned out delicious and it was all ready at the same time-- and right on time. (Trust me, I only allow myself these bragging rights because it doesn't often happen.) I should have taken a picture to post.
I did get a picture of how I spent some of the afternoon. It was a rainy day and I was alone in the house. (Sounds like I'm beginning a scary story...) I turned on some music and got out my crafty stuff. There was a sale at JoAnn Fabrics this week and I got some really cute goodies for making cards. Little quote stickers and pretty background paper and pink ribbon with tiny white dots. It was delightful. I think I need to spend more weekends at home like this. Maybe it's the coming of fall and winter. I get excited about staying indoors and working on projects. So anyway, the cards turned out kind of sweet.
Speaking of fall, my sister and her husband had some friends over last night for a bonfire. I just love bonfires. Fall would not be the same without them. We played a game of volleyball and I tragically ripped one of my favorite pairs of flip-flops trying to make a save. Unfortunately, I did not even come close to the volleyball at the time. It's one thing to sacrifice a pair of flip-flops if you feel victorious for your team. It's another matter entirely to make a fool of yourself and come out of it with damaged dignity and flip-flops. Oh well. Life is beautiful.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Thousand Words x 2

Now I have to admit that when I asked Alexandra to take a picture of me and Vange on our girlfriends boating adventure, I did not think she would get a shot of me climbing into the tube oh-so-gracefully:

There. This one is more what I pictured.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thoughts on My Teenagers

Tonight was the first CCD class of the school year. I went early so I could have some time with the Lord in church and clear my mind of distractions. We have a large class this year-- about 30-35 teens if they all come. We had the annual welcome bonfire afterwards. Between the giggles and hot dogs and football tossing and crazy stories, I was able to just sit quietly near the edge of the fire by myself at one point and watch the action around me.
I love these kids. They never cease to amaze me...and amuse me. I laughed as one boy boasted how many hot dogs he had eaten. I cheered when one girl showed me how far she can throw a football. I smiled at the schoolgirl chatter. I listened to another girl share how she is witnessing her faith.
It's funny when I compare myself now to myself at the beginning last year-- my first year of teaching and being a youth leader. This year I feel more humbled and inadequate. I am somewhat sobered by the thought of the responsibility of leading their souls closer to the Lord. Each one is unique and so precious to the One who created him or her. I pray that God sends me the grace and wisdom to share His teachings with these kids. I pray that He uses me as His vessel, however unworthy I may be. I pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out His gifts upon these kids and bring them ever closer to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Present Moment

I needed some fresh air and exercise this morning so I put a leash on Micah and we started down the country road. It was a beautiful, classic fall day. We had gone about a mile when I realized once again my mind had strayed from the present moment. Here was a gorgeous day-- just me, my dog, and God's wondrous creation-- yet my mind was dwelling on the past with frustration that I missed Grant's call last night from Kuwait, and the future with mulling over all there was to do and what needed done first.
I remember a quote from Jim Eliot, martyred missionary to Ecuador. He said "Wherever you are, be all there." It's such a small statement, but such a large task! I want to make that my goal, though. I watched Micah as we walked and thought about how well he fulfills that goal. He is full of love and excitement and awareness of his surroundings. He enjoys little things like grasshoppers and butterflies. He turns to me expectantly at the sound of my voice. He fully delights in the present moment, seemingly with no worries of the moments to come.
I continued on my walk with a fresh energy and awareness of the day. I saw the blue sky and fluffy clouds, the golden corn stalks and the waving soybeans, the changing colors of the trees in the woods. I felt the cool, caressing breeze. I heard the twittering of the insects. And once again I arrived at this conclusion: life is beautiful.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Whatever He's Doing

I had the radio on while I was driving home today from work and this song came on. As I listened to the lyrics, I felt a connection to the song to the point that I thought these could be my own words, my own prayer. Here are some of the words:

[Chorus]Whatever you're doing inside of me
It feels like chaos somehow there's peace
It's hard to surrender to what I can't see
but I'm giving in to something heavenly

Time for a milestone
Time to begin again
Revaluate who I really am
Am I doing everything to follow your will
or just climbing aimlessly over these hills
So show me what it is you want from me
I give everything I surrender...To...


Time to face up
Clean this old house
Time to breathe in and let everything out
That I've wanted to say for so many years
Time to to release all my held back tears
Whatever you're doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but I believe
You're up to something bigger than me
Larger than life something heavenly

-"Whatever You're Doing," by Sanctus Real

It's such a beautiful song in its humility-- admiting we sometimes don't know what God is doing in our lives, but we know He's there and He's working in us. At this time in my life, I'm stepping back to "reevaluate who I really am" so I don't just "climb aimlessly over these hills."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Joining the Happy Little Blogging World Again

I've decided to join the blogging world again. I've grown so busy in these past couple years since I graduated and I want to slow down to reflect. Hopefully a blog will encourage that, rather than becoming one more time-consuming pursuit. We shall see.
I'm in one of those seasons of stretching and learning. I feel like the Lord is gently pruning my life. I am beginning to see areas of my life that have become overgrown with business and activities. Even my parents have kindly suggested I cut back on commitments so as to give more fully to just a few. In my heart, I know they are right. And I think that is where the Lord is leading me. True, permanent changes take time. I'm happy to be in the process of this change and to know that the Lord has a plan.