Friday, November 18, 2011


For the next Three Weeks might we explore: The Practice of Preparing… What does it look like to prepare our hearts for God? How do we prepare our families and homes to encounter God afresh this holiday season? How do we intentionally, prayerfully prepare for holy-days? The whole community looks forward to your prayerful reflections stories, ideas….
From Ann Voskamp's post on Wednesday

That question caught me.  Arrested my attention.  Tugged at my heart.

Especially today. Today we received our packet from Compassion International about our child from Ecuador that we are newly sponsoring.  Not only has he been waiting for over 6 months for a sponsor and never had one before, we have never been sponsors before.  I have been waiting to BE a sponsor for over 6 months.

How do we prepare our family, our home to encounter God afresh this holiday season?  How do I?

Its something I struggle with, because with little kids, it becomes a "what can I get, what do I want, how much can I get..." type of season.

I don't want that.  More than ever, I don't want that.  I want them to be thankful for all they have.  Not yearning for the material things they don't.

I know someone else who is yearning for things they don't have.  Me. Dave. It seems to come so naturally for us.... why shouldn't the kids pick up on it too?  Its all over our culture, and I can lay blame at the feet of our consumerism culture.

But I am to blame too for they learn it in the home first.  They learn it from me when I buy whatever I want at the moment.  They learn it from me when they hear me talking about wanting something for the house we don't have.  They learn it from me when I tell them "no" when they ask for something, but when I want something (not need) I say "yes" to myself.

What kind of mixed message is that?

How do I prepare them to encounter Christ?  Not just this season, but always.

By taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

Last week, talking to Peter during the service when he opted to stay with me rather than go to childrens church.  Answering his questions.  Helping him understand what Communion means, allowing him to take it with me, to break the bread with me then and talk about it after.  Hearing the desire to do it again hidden in his voice as we talked.

This past week and a half as we have prayed for this one boy in Ecuador who needs someone so badly to love him and sponsor him, to pray for him.  Explaining what it means for him to live where he does, how he does, to the best of my ability.  Sharing pictures taken by the team of bloggers who were in Ecuador last week.

Teaching them somehow to let go of the tight grasp they have on their "things" to give away the good stuff, not just the old, ratty toys and stuffed animals they have, but the new.  The things they might want, but not need.  If they don't want it cause it's old, or dirty, or broken why would someone else want it?

I want Peter and Marina to learn what it means to be blessed with more grace and joy by God out of giving rather than receiving.

I want them to understand how blessed we are by God to have all the things that we scatter willy-nilly through the rooms of this house.  I want them to know the POWER behind giving thanks in everything.  The good and the bad.

These kids of ours.  They aren't extraordinarily selfish or out of balance. They are like any other kid their age.  But I want them to have hearts of compassion.  They are tender-hearted and I want them to be tender out of compassion for others to the point of wanting to DO something to help them.

They can learn more about God and encounter more of Jesus in the naming of the gifts we have been given. 

I am not really sure how to help them encounter Jesus this season.  But maybe showing them my heart in giving with help.  Allowing them to see my tears as I pray for this brother of theirs in Ecuador.  I hope that this year they can see Jesus more clearly. Not just from how this time of year seems to promote a "magical" quality in everything... but by really seeing Jesus, and what this season is for.

I struggle with it every year, but for some reason this year seems particularly hard for me.  We want to do so much for them, but really there is no way to "compete" with other things we know are going to be given.  And I don't want to compete. 

I would rather they didn't get anything at all, but instead gave things away.

I never learned that as a child.
Not how to let go easily.

I don't want them stuck in the mindset of getting and having to learn as an adult how to give.

Not that I don't want to gift them with presents and things, because I do.  I love seeing their faces when they open up something they really want.  I want to see them savor the moment. 


I want to see their faces when they see someone else open up something they really wanted, that Peter and Marina have given.  I want to see Peter and Marina savor the moment of giving.... and find really, true joy in that moment.  A joy that they will keep giving to receive more of.

Oh the joy that comes in the thanking God for everything.  The good, bad and ugly.

The bigger house.  The large yard.  Family close by.  The sun streaming in the livingroom window.

The mess of toys and art supplies on the floor that I keep tripping on cause the kids didn't put them away.  The mounds of laundry to be done - because we actually have clothes that need cleaning.  The spiders that make the cobwebs that drape our corners and ceilings no matter how often I sweep them and wipe them away - because we have an abundance of wood in our basement to put in our wood furnace to heat the house through the winter.  The dirty kitchen floor and counters - because we have a family to feed and food to do it with.

Fingerprinted windows to clean --- kids to print those windows up in their pointing and waving and pressing up to see out at birds and snowflakes.
Litterbox to change --- cats to curl up on our feet and laps when we settle down together.
Light bulbs to switch out --- we have electricity and the ability to light our house at night.
Carpet to vacuum --- people who are able to run in and out of the house to play or work and track in their day with them.
Beds to make --- loved ones to fill those beds, and somewhere warm and cozy to lie at night.

As I make my lists, the load of things to "do" becomes lighter and I can do it with a smile, because it is a joy to do these things because I have someone to do them for.

More and more blessings and gifts from God.
All becomes grace.
All is grace.

Oh that my kids will learn that. That is how they will be more prepared to encounter God this season. Naming the gifts. Thanking God for everything. 

Lord, teach me how to teach them out of what you have been teaching me!!!  Fill up the holes that I will leave, have left, the gaps, and reveal yourself to them.  Help them find the balance of enjoying what they have been given, and giving away to others. Help them learn their wants from their needs, and understand that it isn't wrong to have desires, or have those desires met, but not to worship anything or desire anything more than they worship You and desire You.

Show me the balance.  Fill up my holes.  Help me worship and bow down to You first and always and only.

God, sanctifly me through and through until I reflect only You.

Jesus, let this boy from Ecuador entering our lives right now, at this season help change us all and open our eyes to see all we have been blessed with, gifted with out of Your lavish grace, and help us lavish it on him, and others that cross our paths.

Prepare our hearts to see and receive You this season... and to respond back to you with joy and thanks.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gifts given

Yes, I know....

Yet again I want to apologize for being away from my blog for so long.  I have seen and heard and read time and again that it is bad for your blog when you aren't regular with your posting.

I agree.


I haven't been here.

I have wanted to write.  I have a desire to write.  I get thoughts and ideas come into my head.  They sound wonderful at the moment, but when it comes down to taking the time out to actually write?  It doesn't happen.

Life has been good.  It's been full.  Living in a bigger house, getting our other one ready to sell and listed, keeping up with the kids in school, trying to stay connected to Dave and them, well it hasn't left much time for other things.  By the time the kids are in bed for the night, Dave and I get ready for bed and collapse to read or talk or both for a little bit on our bed, and our lights are generally out pretty early.

That's big for me.  I used to be the one who would stay up until at least midnight.  That was when I was doing all my writing.  I needed that time alone.

But now, well yes, I do need time alone.  But I am spending a lot of it with God.  And when I'm not alone, I am spending it with my family.  I can't concentrate enough to write with them around.

As much as it bothers me not to be on here more, I feel like God is telling me its ok.  There was a time when I needed to write to process through things.  Now I am more healed than I've ever been, I am spending a majority of my time with my family and not getting too overwhelmed by them or by life in general. This is where I need to be right now.  I am learning to be ok with that.

I have some things stirring around in this head of mine.  Maybe they will eventually make it out onto the blog.  God is still at work in me, refining as always.  It good, hard at times, but good.

The main reason I am on here today though is to share my thanks.

I am learning the joy of gratitude.

I have been reading Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts."  Her encouragement to start counting the little things, from the sun streaming through the window, splashing on the carpet, to a quiet day at the church, to tickle fights with the kids, to quiet reading in bed with Dave has started a good work in me...

Honestly, it is transforming me.

Her book is amazing, but beyond that the TRUTH that I am hearing from God and what it is doing to me is nearly beyond description.  For now, just take a moment and look at the book.  Go to THIS SITE and take a look at the first chapter for free.  I did, and then just had to buy the book.  I am slowly working my way through it, but after reading the second chapter, I knew God was calling me to start my own list of gifts - working my way to one thousand and beyond.

Here is my contribution to the naming of gifts today.  Note, I am not starting at #1 because well, I am currently over 200 and that would make this into a loooooonngggg post!  :-)

I will spare you all of that....

But I will start where I was at on Saturday and give you my named gifts from then to now.  These weren't all the gifts, but many of them passed before I could record them.  I have to get more practiced at this!

#261.  The chance to sleep in a bit.
#262.  Making soft boiled eggs upon request from my son
#263.  Peter playing on the computer
#264.  He can play kids game on there BY HIMSELF now!
#265.  Sun in Marina's hair
#266.  Kids singing along to music
#267.  Conviction from God to sponsor a Compassion child
#268.  Pastor Casey (our new pastor of Children and Youth ministries) coming today.
#269.  Sun up before the kids has to go out to for the bus (because of daylight savings ending)
#270.  Apple butter on toast (need I say more?)
#271.  Marina learning and singing worship songs in church
#272.  Hearing her singing those same songs at home later.
#273.  Teaching Peter how to play checkers
#274.  Quiet, peaceful, God-filled day at church while I work

God is so good.  Take the time to notice the gifts He gives you.  Just your very next breath is a gift.  Name it.  Name every gift.  It brings a joy and a reminder of the deep grace we are given.

Check out Ann's most recent post as she prepares to go with her husband on a trip to Ecuador with Compassion International.