Thankful Thursdays - We Serve A God Of Change

Oh how true is that title! I spent many months fighting Him on that one and then when I realized that no amount of fighting would make it easier - or make the changes stop - I learned to stop fighting so hard. The only thing I haven't quite figured out is how to change gracefully. No matter what is going on and no matter how much I want to make sure I don't "get in the way" or say hurtful (and usually REALLY stupid) things in the process, it never fails I put my foot in it somehow.

One thing is for sure - in that last paragraph, I am REALLY thankful God doesn't just drop me, telling me I'm just too much trouble. No matter how lost or foolish I get, He is right there - welcoming me with open and loving arms. Always.

Another aspect of change I am incredibly grateful for is the opportunity to "clean house." Have I started considering the unimportant important? Have I lost sight of what truly matters in life? Am I focused on "things" instead of God? Have I begun to take the people He has placed in my life for granted? Am I treating them the way I should? Am I loving, patient and kind or am I impatient, pushy and short-tempered? How am I handling the stress - am I handing it to God or am I stewing in it, allowing it to handle me?

The last couple of weeks have seen some major upheaval in my life. Indirectly, though. I am not the one diagnosed with cancer, my mother is. I am not the person fighting a life-threatening infection, my co-worker/friend is. The effect on my life, though, is direct and how have I been handling it? Not as well as I could, for sure, however...better than I've handled things in the past. My reaction is go to prayer - not to anger (most of the time - I've slipped once so far...). My reaction is to go to prayer - not frustration and despair because I "just can't do it all." My reaction is to just let things go and realize if they don't happen or get done, it's not the end of the world.

The small changes that come with everyday life can be considered gifts - preparation for the big changes because the big changes will come. Today I am thankful that God has refined me, pushed me, challenged me to live that as truth, not just theory. I am also thankful that He's not done with me yet and will continue to refine me, push me and challenge me.

What changes are you thankful for? Share them over at Spiritually Unequal Marriage.


Life Threatening

A friend of ours is fighting a life-threatening infection right now. He has an epidural abscess. Everything that I've read online does not look good. Bruce is not a believer (as far as I know) and is pretty scared (I would be, too and I am a believer). How hard it is to be a believer and watch a non-believer brush death's hand, knowing that if death grabs hold... The heart ache, the heartbreak. The reason why I won't stop sharing the gift of the cross until I draw my last breath.

Even if he beats the infection, he has a good chance of having to deal with permanent nerve damage. He may survive the infection to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

Right now I'm grateful for this small box which allows me to send this information out to many, many people at one time. It means a lot of people praying over Bruce very quickly.

If you happen to think of Bruce in the next several days, could you please ask God to send him a miracle? Or two. Or three. We're all feeling a bit nervous right now.


Oregon Weekend

We had such a wonderful time last weekend. We celebrated Aaron's Aunt Grace's 90th birthday and about 35 family members, many of whom haven't seen each other for decades, were together under one roof. I actually left my camera in my purse on Saturday. There were so many photographers floating around it felt a bit papparazzi-ish. I left myself out of the fray.

I do, however, have a few shots we took "out the van window" as we traveled south. I love fall - there is so much in the way of bright, beautiful colors - even along the freeway.

It rained like no tomorrow all the way south. You can get a general idea of the wind we enjoyed from this picture.

After Aunt Grace's party, we hopped in the van and headed down to my brother's place and spent Saturday night and Sunday visting him and his family. How I love spending time with them! I wish they lived closer and I could visit with them more often. My sister-in-law and I took my nephew out to a farm so he could take pictures with his photography class. On the way back, I snapped a couple of farm shots (I'm not a very good photographer - sorry about that!).

Finally, I have to share the bounty of our trip to the pumpkin farm. When my brother suggested my sister-in-law stop and check out the "big pumpkins" at a farm they'd passed on one of their rides, my ears perked, my interest was piqued... I was all for it. When we arrived, I think I was shocked - I didn't think in terms of "blog photography" and didn't take a single picture at the farm. Next year... Here, however are the results of that trip....

The first pumpkin was 108 lbs. Weighed more than that dog (she's there for 'perspective'). The darker pumpkin is mine, she only weighs 80 lbs. Never thought I would be able to say I was the skinnier of the two...
Our trip was full of fun, family and awesome memory-making moments. I can't wait to get back!


Sunday Strength

You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

He humbles those who dwell on high,
he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground
and casts it down to the dust.

Feet trample it down—
the feet of the oppressed,
the footsteps of the poor.

The path of the righteous is level;
O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.

Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts.

~Isaiah 26:3-8


Thankful Thursdays - Things That Make You Go "Hmmmmm"

Spiritually Unequal Marriage is hosting Thankful Thursday again this week. Dineen has chosen the topic "things that make you go hmmmmm..." There are millions of things that make me go "hmmmm" but I'll try to keep it to just a few today and I am going to repeat Dineen's list just a little bit.

1. Jesus' death on the cross. I "get" the reasoning of it and the process but I get a bit overwhelmed when I try to grasp the "why" - especially if you add "does He love us that much" at the end of it.

2. God's grace. It's immeasurable. I mean, if I were God? We'd be toast by now. I have minute patience by human standards, let alone God-type standards.

3. Earth spinning - Seriously. Big, huge, massively heavy ball of rock and stuff just spinning around in circles day in and day out, year after year. It doesn't get tired, it doesn't go off its axis, the oceans don't go spinning out into space... How much power IS that????
4. Space travel. Actually? I think it's less space travel than it is the ability of man's brain. The gifts God has given us... Wow.

5. Cells divide. Babies grow. Each one of us different, each one of us unique. How much imagination does that take?

There are more, oh so many more but I'll avoid talking too much (it's a new habit I'm trying to form) and end with how thankful I am that while I may never know all of the answers, I was created by and for a God who does. I can accept the mysteries, revel in them, actually. They remind me I'm not in control and I don't have to be because Someone infinitely more qualifed than I am is. I can sleep well at night knowing that.

For more Thankfulness, head over to Spiritually Unequal Marriage today.

Be blessed!


In the Blink of an Eye

He's 9 now. He'll be 10 in January. He came into my life when he was 4 and his speech was so poor you could only understand one of every five or six words. He came with my husband - a package I can tell you right now I had NEVER expected to receive. God had allowed me to talk myself into believing I was to remain single for the rest of my days and just when I had truly accepted that it would be ok if that was the case, He sends this man to my doorstep. Literally.

When we started attending Sunday evening services at our church, the service would start with everyone, children included, in the sanctuary for worship. The kids would be dismissed before the sermon to go to Sunday School but we would all sing together. He was 8 then and I would watch him on occasion and he never, ever made the effort to sing with us. He could read so the words weren't an issue and most of the songs he knows anyway from what we listen to in the car all the time.

So I asked him - why don't you sing with us? God would love to hear your voice. His response? Singing "isn't really my thing." I had to laugh at that and I didn't push it beyond telling him that it would be ok if he ever decided he wanted to sing - God would love to hear him.

Last week we're headed out to the car when I pick him up from school and he asks me if he can join the choir. I almost stopped dead in my tracks. I looked at him and asked him to repeat himself. So... he did. And I said "Really? Choir? Really? But... I thought singing wasn't your thing..."

His response to me? "That was then... Now? Now I think I want to try to sing."

In that instant that four year old with a speech impediment so thick you couldn't understand him flashed back into my head. I hugged him and tried so hard to not cry. He still has a ways to go with his speech - it's not perfect by any means but there is a gift there. A little boy who couldn't talk now wants to sing. Wants to try. I don't care if cats start singing with him - he will have the most beautiful singing voice I will have ever heard.

I'm sharing this with Emily, Tuesdays Unwrapped, at Chatting at the Sky.


Nobody Knows The Troubles We Could See...

Someone once said to me that if I had the chance to throw all of my troubles into a big pot, along with everyone else's and then was able to pick and choose my troubles, I'd grab my own right back out of the pot.

It's articles like this one that remind me of just how true that statement can be...

He's In the Army Now


Sunday Strength

When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."

So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther's instructions.

~Esther 4:12-17


Green - Ted Dekker

Since the first time I read "Blink" I have been a Ted Dekker fan. His imagination boggles my mind and I know I'm going for a wild ride the moment I open one of his books.

In Green we have the continuation of his Circle series. Or is is the start of the Circle series? It is called "the beginning and the end" and he definitely brings you back to the beginning after weaving his story of "good vs. evil" to its climax... or is it?

Since I had already read Black, Red and White, its hard to know for sure but I don't think I would have enjoyed Green as much if I wasn't already familiar with the story. Dekker doesn't spend too much time developing characters and without the historical knowledge, the story can be confusing or seem incomplete in places.

Thomas of Hunter must somehow keep the Circle from fracturing as everyone begins to question just what they believe of Elyon (God). His oldest son, Samuel, leads the rebellion against Thomas (and ultimately Elyon), rallying those in the Circle to turn their backs on their faith and follow him in a plan to destroy the Horde. As evil makes its move to control earth, those who have followed Elyon wonder if he is actually going to save them. It looks like the story will culminate in an epic battle and I have to admit - some of what Dekker writes here was graphic enough to make me a bit squeamish - but the battle isn't the end of the story.

Ultimately, Green kept pulling me back and I would give it "4 stars." I couldn't wait to sit down and read it even though there were parts I could have lived without. A great story and some incredible imagery but my recommendation would be to read the other three first and finish with Green.

For more information on Green and other books from the same publisher, check out Thomas Nelson Publishing. Have a blog? You can also become a book reviewer for TNB, just click here for more information.


Thankful Thursdays - Entitlement or Riches?

Oh man... the ladies over a Spiritually Unequal Marriage really make me think. Wait - let me re-word that... God is making me think and He's using the ladies over at Spiritually Unequal Marriage to do it. Hop over there and read Lynn's Thankful Thursday post. When that's done, scroll on down and read more. You'll see what I mean.

This week's Thankful Thursday topic is entitlement or riches and nothing like an arrow straight to the heart. I started wandering down that entitlement road this week. I KNEW that's how I was thinking and my brain was doing the split talk. You know what I mean: "I KNOW, God. I KNOW I'm not supposed to be thinking this and I'm sorry for thinking it but man oh man..." and I kept thinking it anyway. Before too long, as I let myself keep walking on that road, a pity pot bigger than life blocking my path showed up. I chose not to figure out how to get around it and then all sorts of stuff just started going downhill from there.

But.... Oh how grateful I am I serve a God of truth, a God who does not leave me blocked in with no way out and provides the way around. Blessings start revealing themselves from all over the place and He starts putting my mind back in order again, simply by focusing me on the truth of who He is and how He provides. All I have to do is listen and it's as if the path lights up in front of me - just like the Psalmist states. (Psalm 119:105 - Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.)

His blessings for me come at me, one mind picture after another. Then the phone calls begin and another blessing is brought to light - God knows when I need to hear from a friend and He brings her (this week it was actually "them") at the exact perfect moment.

What am I entitled to? Not a thing. I'm such a wretch on my own that I'm not even sure I'm entitled to hell. However - through Christ? I am offered so much. I need to keep myself in humble prayer before He who provides it or I allow pride to creep in and then I take Him for granted. He owes me nothing but has given me eternal life through the offering of a gift of such incredible value, I can NEVER understand its cost.

What am I thankful for this week? So much... but I am, most of all, incredibly thankful that God is never content to leave me where I am. If I plop myself in one place because I'm too tired or just don't feel like moving on, He provides the strength and the way forward. He is amazing, He is brilliant, He is dazzling and overwhelming and I am so grateful that He loves me and allows me to love Him back. And He never lets me forget who He is.

What are you thankful for today?


Grouch Day

My Most Official Hoops & Yo-Yo calendar states that tomorrow is Grouch Day. I'm not 100% sure how you celebrate that but I think... if you know a Grouch, do something out of the ordinary. Shock 'em. Make 'em smile. You know...something silly. A troll doll and chocolate. Ohhh... who can stay grouchy with free chocolate?

The possibilities are endless.... Celebrate tomorrow and make it your mission to change Grouch Day to "Make A Grouch Smile" Day....

I triple dog dare ya'.


The Difference A Week Can Make

Have you ever had one of those days when you were pretty sure someone took the world-shaped rug you've been standing on forever and yanked it out from under your feet?

That was Thursday, October 1st, for my family. Words and sentences and sympathy came flying at us and while we tried not to drown under the news, it was a bit tough gasping for air. I can't speak for anyone else but I know all I could think - over and over and over again - was God has NOT stepped off of His throne, this was not a surprise to Him and He is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be the same tomorrow... next week.... and on and on.

Yes - I thought all of that in just that run-on kind of sentence way. I repeated it to myself and to the main subject of the devastating news. Over and over and over... It was an intense, emotional relief to realize I believed it, too. It helped the days pass by, sleep come and made eating possible. The sun rose every day and God remained on His throne. Our news had not thrown Him for a looop.

A couple of whirlwind days, an appointment and major surgery later, suddenly the news is MUCH better than expected. The spectre of death has been returned to its normal "there but not really" place in all of our lives. There will be treatment, there will be interrupted schedules but the disease will not win the war. It was barely allowed to show up for the battle.

The amazing thing is that while God sat on His throne, He took the time to reach down to our pitiful little family and remind us just how great a God He is. Miracle after miracle came on the heal of our devastation and... well...things feel MUCH different from the initial news to the post-op news. The sun is brighter, birds sing prettier, traffic isn't quite as irritating... ok... wait... that last one hasn't really changed... People are friendlier, though - or maybe, perhaps, we have been able to climb out of our shells and notice.

Shock is a funny thing. Concern is an all-encompassing emotion. Life throws some doozy curve balls.

Despite it all... God is still on His throne and none of this is a surprise to Him. All Praise be to God!

I'm linking this to Emily's place today. She hosts Tuesdays Unwrapped and asks us to share that small, special gift we might not normally notice. It's my first time participating and the gifts are most definitely not small but there were a million small gifts wrapped up with the big ones. I'd sing it from the mountaintops if I could but... since I can't, I'll link-sing.


Sunday Strength

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His holy name.

Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits-

who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known His ways to Moses,
His deeds to the people of Israel:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,
nor will He harbor His anger forever;

He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His love for those who fear Him;

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on His children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him;

for He knows how we are formed,
He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear Him,
and His righteousness with their children's children-

with those who keep His covenant
and remember to obey His precepts.

The LORD has established His throne in heaven,
and His kingdom rules over all.

Praise the LORD, you His angels,
you mighty ones who do His bidding,
who obey his word.

Praise the LORD, all His heavenly hosts,
you His servants who do His will.

Praise the LORD, all His works
everywhere in His dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.

~Psalm 103


Thankful Thursdays - I'm Counting

Lynn at Spiritually Unequal Marriage is hosting Thankful Thursday this week and yes - I know - it's Friday. I have been a bit preoccupied this last week and well...last night I figured I'd missed Thankful Thursday again, maybe next week but then I read the topic and I thought if there was ever a time when I should list out my blessings, now might be a pretty good one. So, I'm participating. A day late but... in no particular order... here are those things that I am so blessed by God that He provides for me:

1. One husband, two sons, one mother, one father, one sister, one brother, two sisters-in-law, two brothers-in-law, one mother-in-law, 3 nieces and one nephew. Those are the immediates. There are aunts, uncles and cousins galore... Families might be tough at times but oh the blessing of having one!

2. My job and my husband's job. Neither of us have had to take a cut in pay (praying that doesn't change, either), cut in hours or other stress-inducing factors.

3. My co-workers. I work with my mom and as we go through this latest crisis, they have been right there - covering the office when I've had to be gone, concerned and praying for Mom as she goes through all of this. I work with some amazing people.

4. My Lifegroup. That small group from my church who comes to our house once a week to study the word of God. They aren't just study partners, they are amazing friends, willing to do whatever is needed whenever it's needed.

5. My church. A pastor who teaches the Word, people who worship God with their whole hearts and a place to go and worship communally with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
6. My dog. Yup - my dog. He is unconditional love on four legs. I always know someone is going to be happy to see me when I come home - no matter when that is.

7. My health. It's not perfect but my legs work, my arms work, I can see, hear, taste, smell & feel things when I touch them. My voice works, my mind works and I am not ill.

8. My home. It's beautiful. It's small and comfortable and cozy and I am not closing the door to the idea that God might have something better for us and might ask us to move, I hope His intention is to leave us in this house until we head to our final home. It's practically perfect in every way.

9. My friends. So many of them from one coast to another. So many... so wonderful, each one of them.

10. Clothes to wear. Shoes on my feet.

11. Food on my table.

12. Money in the bank to pay the bills.

13. My women at the Everett Gospel Mission and my time there doing devotions.

14. Serving on the Board of Proverbs 31:20 Ministries.

15. Working with the Western Washington Coalition to Combat Human Trafficking.

16. Hair to brush.

17. Sweaters to pull out now that the weather is turning cold.

18. A bathroom - where I can take a shower. How many don't even have that simple luxury?

19. Choices. So many options.

20. A car to drive.

21. A Bible to read. How many countries is the Bible illegal to own? I not only am allowed to read it, I can read it in public, own multiple copies, talk about it with whomever I choose without fear of imprisonment.

22. Pens, pencils, paper and the ability to read & write.

23. Time away from work - there are an estimated 27 million people enslaved globally. I am treated fairly at work, paid fairly and I am given time off. My job doesn't ask me to do anything degrading, immoral or illegal. It also doesn't force me to.

24. My parents have been married for 43 years. Some pretty rough years but 43 years together.

25. When I flip a switch, power runs to the light and it works. Rain does not get in my roof. I have the ability to hire exterminators if my house is inhabited by any unwelcome pest guests.

26. I have furniture.

27. I have a stove, refrigerator and kitchen sink with running water. I do not have to walk up to 5 miles carrying a jug on my head, searching and hoping for water in a dirty, dried up river.

28. I have the means to sponsor two children. One in Indonesia and the other in Kenya.

29. My husband and I together make enough money that we don't just have to "survive." We can give a lot of it away.

30. My oldest son survived his addictions and is now thriving, living on his own and dating a wonderful young woman.

31. My husband cooks dinner!

32. I have more friends than I can count with two hands. To me, that's a huge number of friends.

33. I live in a country where I can openly worship God.

34. My family is headed to Oregon in a few weeks to celebrate my husband's great-aunt's 90th birthday. A party is in my future! :)

35. Perhaps the most important right now - In my mother, what we were thinking was going to be Stage 3 ovarian cancer with, possibly, uterine cancer as well has turned out to be what looks like Stage 1 ovarian cancer. The final pathology and the definitive diagnosis comes October 19th but the surgery on Wednesday went so well and the doctor feels confident she got all of the disease out of my mother's body. All that's left is the microscopic stuff. Mom will need chemo, yes but it looks like one round and that's it.... I don't think I can yell my praise and gratitude loud enough...

36. I'd like to make my list longer but I really need to get back to work. My last blessing for this list - there are people counting on me and miss me when I can't show up.

There are so many more.... so many I could type for hours.

God is good. All the time. All the time, God is good....

Be blessed.


Economy anyone?

There are plenty who will tell me I'm incorrect in what I'm about to say but... WE NEED TO BRING MANUFACTURING BACK TO THE UNITED STATES.

When we begin making things, buying and maybe at this point in time more importantly SELLING our own products - we MIGHT be able to recover as an economic power.

Why shouldn't people be nervous about us?


Mad Hatter Day

I was once again consulting with my incredibly official Hoops & Yo Yo calendar for October and lo & behold... October 6th is Mad Hatter Day. Are you an Alice in Wonderland fan? I have to confess here, I am not. I prefer Wizard of Oz although I'm honestly not super familiar with either one of them. Perhaps I should read the book and decide from there.

However - all of that aside, in honor of Mad Hatter Day, I hopped online and consulted with the mighty Wikipedia and learned the following facts:

1. The Hatter is a fictional character (in case anyone wasn't sure)

2. He is first encountered at a tea party in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and again as "Hatta" in the story's sequel, Through the Looking Glass.

3. He is never called "The Mad Hatter" in the book, the closest he comes is being called "mad" by the Cheshire Cat, displaying eccentric behavior and the chapter in which he first appears is titled "A Mad Tea-Party" (although it is often called "The Mad Hatter's Tea Party").

4. He has been portrayed on film by: Edward Everett Horton, Sir Robert Helpmann, Martin Short, Peter Cook, Anthony Newley, Ed Wynn and Johnny Depp. In music videos he has been portrayed by Tom Petty and Steven Tyler.

5. He was sentenced to death by the Queen of Hearts when he tried to sing for her and she accused him of "murdering the time." Apparently his vocality was not to her liking...

6. Out of anger at the Hatter's attempted murder of Time (referred to as "Him" in the book), Time has halted himself for the Hatter - keeping him and the March Hare at 6:00 forever.

7. Quoted directly from Wikipedia: The card (or label) on the Hatter's hat reads "In this style 10/6". "10/6" means ten shillings and six pence (or half a guinea), the price of a hat in the pre-decimalised British money and acts as a visual indication of the hatter's trade. (There were 20 shillings to the pound, 12 pence to a shilling...thus 10/6 = 126 pence.) With inflation analysis up to 1974, 126 pence equals about $23.83 in 1974 U.S. dollars, around $105 in October, 2008 spending power.

8. In Through The Looking Glass, he was named, along with the March Hare (Haigha), as one of the White King's two messengers (he apparently needed two - "one to come, and one to go").

9. The Mad Hatter asks his famous riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" and apparently doesn't know the answer (this is in the chapter "A Mad Tea Party"). With so many inquiries into the answer, Caroll wrote a paragraph to it in the preface of the 1896 edition. Can you think of any possible answers to the riddle?

10. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat, a poem recited by the Mad Hatter, is a parody of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

So.. now that you know more about the Mad Hatter than you probably ever wanted to know, head out and do something in honor of his day. A non-birthday celebration, perhaps? A tea party? All in all a rather important day... just don't be late for your date!


Sunday Strength

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from Him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in Him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge.

~Psalm 62:5-8


Today is...

Ahhhhh.... I love Hoops & Yo-Yo. They are such fun.

Today is World Smile Day.

So get out there & flash your pearly whites!

My husband is never going to smile for me again when I'm holding my camera after he sees this post... Something about that makes me giggle. ;)