Friday, October 31, 2008

Last Night Was Fun

We went to a fundraiser.

I know that might not sound like "fun" off the cuff, but it was.

We got dressed up, left the kids with Aunt Leslie, ate a good meal, laughed and heard a great speaker.

AND, I got to meet two bloggy friends face-to-face. Girlie Girl who I only knew through her blog (but wanted to know in real life) and Abby who I knew, but barely. Abby and I sat at the same table. It felt like we had been friends a long time. I love that about blogging - the connections it breeds.

Good times.

The fundraiser was for SpreadTruth ministries. This is an organization to get excited about.

I was struck at how God gives passion to his children in different ways. I thought of three men in our area in whom God placed a desire to pursue kingdom purposes, resulting in three exciting ministries.

Lifesong for Orphans, Midwest Food Bank and SpreadTruth ministries all came about because God's children obeyed the call on their lives. God is using these ministries (and many, many others) to further the gospel in very different ways.

It is the body of Christ in action. It is EXCITING!

Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, was the featured speaker.

I wish he would have spoken longer.

I left encouraged. Encouraged to seek God more. Encouraged to see people the way God sees them and love them the way God loves them. Encouraged to pursue the passions God has placed in my heart.

I can't do any of this on my own. But I serve a BIG God who can use me if I obey.

I really want to obey.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Listening In

The family has congregated on the sofa as Ty and ABC build another family's dream house. Bedtime is just around the corner. Daddy makes the following suggestion...

Daddy: How about after the kids are in bed we have a p - i - z - z - a? (spelling the word so the kids won't know what they are missing)

Mya: Are you going to make a pizza when we're in bed?

Ooh, we are so BUSTED!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Something to think about...

I heard a story on the radio the other day.

A guy mailed 500 Christmas cards to complete strangers.

They said: "Thinking of You this Holiday Season - Love, The Smiths"

He received Christmas cards back from 70% of those complete strangers.

The guy on the radio said it was because you reap what you sow. In other words, send out a little kindness, receive a little kindness.

That may be. Or...

Maybe the card receivers didn't want to look like jerks. Maybe they thought the cards came from a long lost classmate they had forgotten about. Maybe when they sent the Christmas card back they were really looking out for their own self-image. Maybe it had nothing to do with kindness.

Is that cynical of me?

Would you have sent a Christmas card back?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pumpkins, Gourds and Leaves Oh My!

I mentioned in my last post that I love decorating my house with pumpkins, gourds and leaves (oh my). Then I thought, why not show you where the aforementioned pumpkins, gourds and leaves garnish my home in the fall.

So, I snapped a few pictures of my autumn decorations to share with you. But that is not all, oh no that is not all.

I am curious, how do you decorate for fall?

I know this has been done on other places around the Internet, but I don't think it has been done in my little corner of the world wide web. So, I am setting up Mr. Linky at the end of this post so that you can share your fall decorations with all of us. Don't be shy, we really want to see!

I decorated our mantel this year. The picture doesn't do it justice, but I love how it turned out. The green squash on the far left (hard to see, I know) is my favorite fall decoration. I heart it so much!
Christmastime is not the only time to decorate the banisters! If you watch the sales, you can get leave garlands 50% off at Hobby Lobby which makes them a very inexpensive (and fun) way to add a little autumn to your home.
Every home needs a pumpkin or two on their doorstep. The arrangement on mine is not really an arrangement, but it works.
Nothing says welcome like a leaf wreath (say that 5 times fast), or something like that...
Every autumn, we take a trip to my cousin's pumpkin farm. My kids love it. They will grab pumpkins and gourds by the handfuls and pile them in our van. It takes strapping them back in their car seats to stop the madness and cut them off. Then I get to sort out the pumpkins I really want to take home from the ones that little hands grabbed for the sheer pleasure of it.

Regardless, we come home with plenty of little pumpkins and gourds to spread throughout our house. I love it!
Now its your turn. Post a few pictures of your favorite fall decorations - then paste a link to your post into Mr. Linky below. I promise, we really want to see!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Colder Days Mean Soup!

I love cool days.

I love leaves changing from vibrant green to orange, yellow and red.

I love decorating my house with pumpkins, gourds and leaves.

And I LOVE the return of soup to my meal plans.

There is nothing quite so cozy as a meal of hot soup on a cold fall (or winter) day.

(Do you see where this is heading?)

I am perfectly happy to fix a pot of soup (there are so many to choose from) at least once a week when the days turn colder. I have my favorites that make their way to our table with regularity (one I am sharing below), BUT I also love to try new concoctions.

So, What is your favorite soup? Would you share the recipe with me (please, please, please)?
(I'm also looking for a really good Chili recipe - any thoughts? Amber did you discover any good ones from your blog post?)

Here is one of my favorite soups (I shared this on Jami's blog a few weeks ago, but it is THAT good):

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients: 1 (6 oz) pkg. chicken and wild rice mix; 5 cups water; 2 medium carrots, shredded; 2 tsp. dried minced onion; 1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, cubed; 1 can cream of chicken soup; 2 c. cooked cubed chicken

Directions: In a large saucepan, combine rice, contents of seasoning packet. and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the carrots and onion. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Stir in soup and chicken and cook until heated through. Yields 6 servings.

So, what is your favorite?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why We Should NOT Adopt

A lot of people are adopting these days (at least a lot of people I know). Our church currently has children from Guatemala, China, Ethiopia and Korea. It is exciting!

Kory and I have always felt a desire to adopt someday. But it is a lot easier to commit to the elusive "someday" than to actually take a step forward and begin the process.

Over the past several months we have been feeling that "someday" might be closer than we originally thought.

That thought is more than a little scary, prompting me to come up with a list of reasons why someday is NOT today.

Reason #1: We already have 4 kids ages 5 and under.

Reason #2: We cannot afford an adoption right now. Throw in the current economic conditions and add up what is in our savings account and many people would consider us foolish to take on the cost of adoption right now.

Reason #3: Adoption sounds scary. What if I don't love our adopted child enough? What if our personalities clash? What if she doesn't fit in with our family?

But here is the bottom line...

Every time I hold and love on my baby boy, I think of the 143 million children who have NO ONE to hold and love on them. I read posts like this. I am exposed to organizations like Compassion and Lifesong. We feel a call to do more.

So last week we filled out and mailed our application to an adoption agency. Yesterday the agency called. We were approved! Which means, we have officially started the process.

We hope to adopt a little girl from China.

It will be a very long process. Currently it is taking over 3 years to adopt a healthy child from China. We are okay with the wait - for now.

As for the three reasons why we should not adopt, I'll get back to those in later posts. God has made it obvious to my heart that regardless of those reasons, He has called us TO adopt.

And that reason trumps all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - Talking about Poverty

Sorry friends, no Wordless Wednesday today.

Today I am participating in Blog Action Day. The topic is poverty.

Where I live, poverty is hard to imagine. I realize that poverty exists in America, but I don't see it in my day-to-day life.

The current state of the economy is making everyone fearful. It is getting harder and harder to make ends meet. Rising food and gas prices are something to be concerned about. They stress me out as I look at our budget.

However, at the end of the day we have food to eat, shelter (of the four-bedroom variety), closets full of clothes, and floors strewn with toys.

I do not know poverty. Poverty is hard for me to imagine.

In his book Soul Survivor, Philip Yancey writes, "I belong to a privileged minority. Everyone reading this sentence belongs, in fact, for only a small percentage of the world's people has the ability and leisure to read and the resources to buy a book."

Yancey raises the question, "How do we, the 'privileged ones,' act as stewards of the grace we have received? We can begin by finding a community that nourishes compassion for the weak, an instinct that privilege tends to suppress. We can begin with humility and gratitude and reverence, and then move on to pray without ceasing for the greater gift of love."

Prayer. That is the first place to go when looking for a solution of any kind.

But what are some other ways we can "act as stewards of the grace we have received?" as Yancey so eloquently put it?

I have two thoughts.

The first one came from the Beth Moore Bible Study I am participating in.

Don't lose touch with the poor.

This is easy to do in America where we are surrounded by affluence. But how can we help the majority in our world living in poverty if we ignore them and pretend they don't exist.

I think we should take the advice Daniel gave to King Nebuchadnezzar, "Make a clean break with your sins and start living for others. Quit your wicked life and look after the needs of the down-and-out."

The second thought, I heard in a talk by Andy Stanley years ago. According to Andy, the antidote to Greed (a symptom of materialism and an enemy of poverty) is...

Write a Big Check.

I know our country is experiencing economic stress right now. Families are experiencing economic stress right now. But there are millions of people in our world who have it so much worse than we do. We need to be writing checks. Big checks.

I feel hypocritical as I stand here on my soapbox because I struggle with materialism and greed. I fail to write the big checks because I spend too much money on myself.

And yet, I want to do something even though I fail miserably in so many ways. Maybe putting my thoughts in print will give me greater accountability to follow my own advice! One can hope...
If you are looking for a trustworthy place to write your big check as well as one that will help you stay in touch with the poor, I can think of two great organizations.

Compassion International is an organization that strives to release children from poverty. Through Compassion, you can sponsor a child and have a direct impact on a life.

Lifesong for Orphans is an organization whose mission is to bring joy and purpose to orphans. By supporting this ministry you will have a direct impact on orphans living in Ukraine, Zambia and India.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Thanks for "listening" to mine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Protecting what is "Mine"

"Mom, Did they eat my cereal?" my three-year old asked as I helped him finish up in the bathroom.

"No, they have their own cereal, I'm sure they didn't take yours." I replied.

Wanting a little more reassurance he asked, "Did you tell them not to eat my cereal?"

"No, but I'm sure your cereal is safe."

Ah, Human nature is a lovely thing.

I can so relate with my son's fears. Desiring to protect what is "mine." Even when there is plenty to go around...

It reminds me of a story I heard recently. (I believe it comes from Randy Alcorn.)

A man prepared a package. Lovingly he wrapped all the items, covered them with bubble wrap and packed them safely in a box to be delivered to a loved one.

Once the package was ready, it was time to be delivered. The man handed the delivery man the package and watched as the delivery man carried the parcel to his truck, sat down, ripped open the package, threw it over on the passenger seat and prepared to drive off.

Shocked at the delivery man's actions, the sender ran out to the truck.

"What are you doing? Why did you open my package?"

"Well," the delivery man replied as he drove off, "you gave it to me."

Who am I in that story? I am the delivery man. God has given me many gifts. I like to think they are mine to keep. I try to protect them. Like my son, I worry that someone will take "mine" or I will run out.

I think about this story a lot as I sit in a nice house surrounded by stuff. It motivates me to spend less on myself so I have more to share with others.

But honestly, I can feel materialism's grip on me. It is so hard to resist the urge to buy more stuff. Stuff I really don't need (although I am very good at convincing myself otherwise). I give in to that urge way more than I'd like to admit.

I want to do better. I want to keep the eternal in mind. I want to spend less on myself so I have more to give. I want to be free of materialism's grip.

But it is so hard.

I don't think I am alone in this struggle.

How do you lessen materialism's hold on your life?

I would love to know your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Listening In

You know you've been married for awhile when...

You are driving in a car. Your kids complain of being cold.

You respond, "Hang on a minute, the heat is on and you will be warm soon."

A phrase tickles your brain and you are about to shout it out, when your husband beats you by mere nano-seconds (in official time) belting out a song from back in the day...

Yeah, we're that cool.

Or maybe we are just products of the 80s.

Come on, admit it, how many of you would have done the same thing?
(and how many of you young ens are still wondering what the song was?)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Lovely, Lovely Politics

Hey, did anyone else know we are voting for a new president this year?

In case you are wondering, that was a sad attempt at humor. It is that time of year (and the year, for that matter) when politics takes over everything media.

I can't help but notice how volatile the subject can be. I marvel at how easy it is to get mad at people I've never met because they think differently than me. Butterflies creep into my stomach when I think about what the future might hold.

I worry. I stew. I get bent out of shape.

People on TV make me angry.

Hmmm... I wonder how Jesus would behave during an election year?

Somehow I don't see him getting caught up in the debates and speeches. I don't see Him worrying about what the future might hold. I don't even see him getting irritated or angry with people who aren't on his "side."

Frankly, I don't see Jesus having a "side." I am pretty sure Jesus spent his time focusing on and loving individual souls regardless of how liberal or conservative they were.

The following quote from John Ortenberg puts things into perspective for me. It comes at the end of an article titled "Non-prophet Preaching" in which John discusses the church's roll in politics (the article appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Leadership magazine).

He concludes the article with these words:

There is a longing. But it is not really about Camelot, or King
Arthur, or Shangrila, or Constantine, or whomever your favorite candidate is.

The longing is for a carpenter-turned-rabbi, who once ran for Messiah, and got crucified.

So we read about the issues. We debate. We learn about
policy. We pray. We speak respectfully in the public square.
We vote at elections. We serve on councils and cabinets. We preach
about God's concern for peace and justice and generosity and

But we always remember: this is something we do while we're waiting.

(emphasis mine)

I love that line "while we're waiting." It is just the paradigm switch I need when politics gets my stomach tied in knots and my blood boiling.

And while I'm waiting, I'm going to try to worry a little less and love a little more. After all, I serve a big God who loves me no matter what side I'm on - I think he'd want me to return the favor.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I Give Up!

Sometimes it feels like I am in the midst of a losing battle. Okay a lot of times I feel that way.

For example...
  • I pick up toys, they come back.
  • I put away piles of paper, the paper comes back in larger more overwhelming stacks.
  • I empty (or almost empty my e-mail inbox), the e-mails flood in.
  • I do laundry, the laundry baskets fill up.
  • I clean the kitchen, people eat and mess it up.
I was sharing my woes with my husband last night and he had a thought...

He thought, instead of giving up, I should...
  • Be thankful for the toys on the floor because they are a product of the healthy, happy children who play with them.
  • Be thankful for the stacks of paper because they are the result of a working household and paid bills.
  • Be thankful for the flood of e-mails because they represent people who value my opinion.
  • Be thankful for the endless laundry and dirty kitchen because they are proof that we have clothes to wear and food to eat.
Yeah, okay, so maybe he's right.
Maybe I need to be thankful (Galatians 6:9 comes to mind as well) instead of hiding in my closet hoping that when I come out the laundry and e-mails and toys and piles will have magically taken care of themselves.
But a girl can still hope can't she...
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9