Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year's Day Tradition: Pork and Sauerkraut

Growing up, we always ate the same meal New Year's Day, pork roast and sauerkraut. I can't say I really appreciated the flavor of that meal as a child, but I look forward to it all through the holidays now. My mom gave me some pointers when I made my first roast for Charlie a few years ago, but I've since tweaked my recipe to suit our taste buds a bit better. I know many families enjoy a pork roast on New Year's Day. Thought I would share my own recipe with anyone looking for a tasty and easy first dish for 2008...Enjoy!

On New Year's Eve, sometime before you head to bed, place a thawed pork roast in your crock pot. Add 1/2 cup of water to keep the roast from sticking to the bottom. Slow cook on low through the night. When you wake in the morning (or maybe the afternoon!), the roast should be completely cooked and very tender. Cut open a bag of fresh sauerkraut and drain most of the liquid from the bag. Place kraut around and over roast. Slice 1-2 apples and mix them into the kraut (the apples take the bite out of the kraut so if you prefer the bite, skip the apples!). Replace cover and continue to cook until apples are tender--low: 2 hours, high: 1 hour. Serve with mashed potatoes and a salad. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Toy Clean-Up

As a mother of three toddler/pre-school/kindergarten age children, cleaning up toys is always an issue at our house. This year, I seem to have stumbled on a method that is working rather well, so I though I would share. It's so simple, really, and allows the children to have some autonomy with their belongings.

First, I went to our local Wal-Mart and purchased 2 large, see-through, plastic tubs with lids ( about $5 each). I had an idea of how I was going to categorize the toys and had already collected containers from around the house that would work for my project. I then took pictures of each category of toys...Barbies, ponies, dress-up clothes, blocks, etc... and taped them to the outside of each container. Then, we made a game out of sorting the toys. It took a couple of hours to sort through each and every toy, but the end result was great. Now, when it's clean-up time, the girls can clearly see where their toys are supposed to go.
Second, after sorting all the toys, I put half the toys in the guest room closet. This initially met with some resistance, but after a few minutes, my girls got the idea that those toys weren't available for play time and occupied themselves with the toys that were. In 3-4 weeks, we'll swap toys, putting the other half of the toys in temporary storage. They will be thrilled to see the "new" things, and the "old" ones will be neatly put away, ready for the next exchange. This little trick serves two purposes: 1) less toys to clean up 2) a better appreciation of the toys they actually have access to.

Lastly, we instituted a new "toy time-out" rule. Each night, the girls are responsible for putting all their toys away where they belong (within reason, according to their ages). If they don't put them away or put them away with a poor disposition or don't take the time to put things where they belong, the toys go into "toy time-out." Depending on the situation, the toy remains in time-out for 1 day to 1 week. This teaches them to care for the things they have been given and understand that everyone in the family participates in the care of our home. This particular aspect requires steadfastness on our part as parents. It's easy to feel tired and want to just put the toys away for them. Like many issues in parenting, sometimes the best thing for our kids is also the hardest thing.

Okay, hope that helps someone else out there in blog-world! It's made our lives so much simpler and peaceful. Be blessed and a blessing today!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Best Gift Of All...

Yesterday, our entire family was under our roof for a Christmas celebration. Charlie's brother flew in from Boston Friday evening, my parents drove in from Ohio to celebrate my birthday with us Friday afternoon, Charlie's folks arrived Saturday around noon followed shortly after by his sister; and my brother, sister-in-law and sweet niece, Lilly Marie, showed up around 3:30 PM. Our house was brimming with people we love and who have loved us all our lives. Our girls were radiant with expectation and excitement. They adored having so many people shower them with love, attention and affection...oh, and the gifts that accompanied those people as well!

Charlie has to be on call for his office Christmas day, so we knew months ago that we wouldn't be able to travel to see either side of the family over the holidays. I have long dreamed of hosting a Christmas weekend, filled with festive foods, Christian fellowship, music, games, laughter, and general merry-making. I seized the opportunity to invite everyone to gather here. I scoured every back issue of Fine Cooking I own, searched through recipes online and poured over my own recipe box. We scurried to finish the downstairs portion of our remodeling projects and spent days cleaning and organizing closets, drawers, cabinets and the guest room. We shopped and chopped, cooked and cleaned and wore ourselves out thoroughly--all before one guest ever arrived! Two days before our first guest was to arrive, I found myself with a list too long to possibly complete and barely enough energy to put one foot in front of another. Instead of being energized about our Christmas extravaganza, I was wondering if I was going to survive!
Friday morning (which happened to be my birthday, as well!), while the kids were playing at a friend's house, I took a break from my final cleaning marathon and found this gem at Ann V.'s:

Christmas 1 Corinthians 13
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,
strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
but do not show love to my family,
I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen,
baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and
arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime:
but do not show love to my family,
I'm just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen,
carol in the nursing home,
and give all that I have to charity;
but do not show love to my family,
it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes,
attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata
but do not focus on Christ,
I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love does not envy another's home
that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way,
but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return;
but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
and endures all things.
Love never fails.

Video games will break,
pearl necklaces will be lost,
golf clubs will rust,
but giving the gift of love will endure.
--Author Unknown

I started thinking about why I wanted everyone at my table in the first share the tremendous love with which Christ has overwhelmed me; to minister to those who have made my way smoother and easier; to soothe secret aches and pains, too tender to disclose; to bless my children with the memory of their childhood home filled with love and joy; to allow the humble beginnings of Christ to be center-most in our celebration. The list went on and on...I was reduced to grateful tears as I remembered all that my Jesus has laid on my heart these last few months and the middle-of-the-night longings I have poured out to Him concerning our families. I felt the Holy Spirit lifting me out of the dreary valley of "doing" to the vista of "being." Being His daughter, His beloved, His chosen and anointed. There is so much freedom in relationship.

Soon, my tired feet were eager to complete the task of bringing the gospel of peace to those who would cross our threshold. My aching arms were now aching to hold the hearts and cares of those who were in need of the love of Christ. My dishpan hands were ready to be immersed in Living Water that would quench thirsty souls. My heart, which once was numbed by a relentless pursuit of perfection, was covered in the precious, life-giving blood of He who is perfect. My lips began to make gutturals of praise instead of complaint. Love's hope was re-born...

Yesterday was a blessed day for us all. The food was delicious, the house was shining, the gifts were appreciated, and merriness was made by all. My children went to bed rejoicing over the birth of Jesus and the love they had been able to share with family through the day. But, the best gift of all was God's reminder to us that He came to show us His love. He afforded Charlie and I the opportunity to be used as instruments of His love. He allowed us to express His love in our lives and allowed that love to overflow into the lives of our family. His love, His precious love, is the best gift of all.

Thank You, God, for Your love...thank You for always drawing back into the center of it. Thank You for loving through me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Christmas Wish List

Remember making those Christmas lists for Santa, or your folks, or the grandparent who always spoiled you? This is my Christmas wish list...

Peace...not on earth, just in our house. For one entire hour. All my girls loving each other, sharing their toys, putting each other first, smiling, joyful, obedient.
(I'd settle for no temper tantrums today.)

Self-cleaning do they get dirty the moment I put the cleaning bucket away?! If a little fairy could magically wave her wand and make the wet sinks, dirty towels, unflushed toilets, spotty mirrors, and overflowing trashcans disappear each time someone used them, that would be wonderful!
(I'd actually settle for flushed toilets.)

Self-folding laundry...I don't mind washing it, drying it, ironing it, or even putting it away. I just don't like folding it. If they invented a laundry folding machine, I'd be first in line for purchases!
(Today, I'd take laundry that ends up in the hamper and not on the bedroom floor.)

A backyard with a micro-climate...I like looking at snow and the way it blankets the earth, covering up things that are normally ugly. I even enjoy a snowball fight once every decade, or so. What I would enjoy, though, is a little tropical micro-climate in the backyard, where I could enjoy sunshine and tropical weather and a small beach front all year 'round. Snow suit at the front door, swim suit at the back door!
(I'd settle for sunshine and melting snow.)

Some of my body parts from my twenties...Namely, my joints and muscles. Oh, and maybe my waistline.
(Today, I'd take hips that don't scream when I run.)

An extra eight hours each night reserved only for sleeping...not cleaning or cooking or worrying or checking on the girls or the dogs or the thermostat or, or, or... Just sleeping.
(Okay, so I'd settle for just ONE night like that!)

Thanks, Lord, that You don't always give me what I want, but always what I need. All joking aside, I'm so grateful for the many ways you shower me with blessings day in and day out. I love You, In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Our Christmas Verse

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." Matthew 1:23

This is the verse the girls and I have memorized for Christmas this year. For a variety of reasons, this holiday season has been tough. We're hosting both sides of the the family over the weekend for a Christmas celebration, Charlie has had to work an inordinate amount of overtime hours, we've been racing to finish up the home improvement projects we started in July (yes, July!), and finances are low this year. It's hard not to focus on one (or all!) of those spirit dampners each day. It seems we are being bombarded with distractions and attention grabbers. One morning, I was on my knees in the bathroom, silently pleading to God for mercy and strength to get through the day, simply so I could crawl back into the safety and security of my bed. I felt Him whispering to my heart, "Emmanuel, Emmanuel. Don't forget, My name is Emmanuel." I grabbed a hold of that Helping Hand and drew strength from the knowledge that God is with me. He is with me. He is with me.

It has almost become my mantra.

Just before I answer the phone.
Before my hand reaches into the mailbox.
As I answer the doorbell or check my e-mail.
As I open the cabinets to search for dinner.
He is with me...He is with me...He is with me.
When my head hits the pillow at night.
When my eyes struggle to open in the morning.
As I crawl around on the floor, picking up toys and crayons and shoes.
As I scrub the toilet and take out the trash.
He is with me...He is with me...He is with me.
When the snow and ice fall, locking us inside for days.
When the harsh winds blow.
When the rain falls.
When the sun shines, if even for a moment.
He is with me...He is with me...He is with me.
When I can't see my way.
When I'm struggling with doubt.
When I fall into sin.
When I feel the warmth of His forgiveness and grace.
He is with me...He is with me...He is with me.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
His Name is called Emmanuel.
God with us
Revealed to us
His Name is called Emmanuel.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top Ten Tuesdays--Things You Can Give Without Spending Money

Okay, so it's Wednesday and I'm a day behind. Who cares, right? Thanks to Ann for starting the Top Ten idea...sorry I didn't get to it yesterday!

Since it's the season of giving, here are some things you can give that will probably mean more than something you could buy at a store:
10. An invitation to dinner. Invite your favorite friend, couple, neighbor, co-worker, or someone new to your church over for dinner. Make it a simple meal with creative touches. Play cards, go for a walk, go look at Christmas lights, make ornaments together, etc. Make it a memorable time for all.
9. Offer to babysit. Know anyone with little ones who doesn't have much in the way of help? Offer to babysit for them for an hour or two hours or an evening or a weekend...whatever is comfortable for you. I promise it will be a treasured gift!
8. Bake bread. Bread is one of those universally appreciated gifts. It's easy and extremely inexpensive to make. It just takes a bit of time as you wait for it to rise. If you're really adventurous, include a little flavored butter with the bread.
7. Give something living. No, not one of your children or the beloved family pet. Do you have any beautiful plants in your yard or home? Bulbs that can be divided and shared? Plants overflowing their pots? Bundle them up in a nice package along with care instructions and give them away. Add a pretty bow and an offer to come and help with the planting and you've got a winner!
6. Free Christmas clean-up! Offer to help someone take down, organize and put away their Christmas decorations. That task usually falls to one unfortunate soul per household, so why not give them the gift of help and company. Take a nice lunch and/or basket of goodies along to make a day of it. They'll remember your gift next year as they unpack their neatly stored items.
5. Give the gift of the Word. Write or print out words of encouragement or promises from the Word and frame them or organize them into a booklet. This is an especially good gift for someone who is struggling with grief, loss or depression.
4. Give fitness. So many people begin the New Year with fitness goals. Offer to be a fitness buddy and set up a work-out schedule you can accomplish together.
3. Got any great recipes? Copy some of your own tried and true recipes onto pretty recipe cards. You could also include the ingredients of one of the dishes for the recipient to try. This is a great gift for newlyweds or the college grad.
2. Time. Isn't it true that everyone is running helter-skelter these days? Give the gift of time by offering to serve someone else. Offer to do yard work or wash a car or clean house or cook meals or whatever you might be gifted to do. Make it a gift of service while also spending time with the person you care for. It's a win-win.
1. Prayer. This doesn't have to be an advertised gift, but rather a personal commitment to lift a specific person in prayer. If there's someone in your life who you especially want to come to know the Lord Jesus, gift that person with your prayers and lift them daily to God.

OK, that's my list. Happy gift-giving to you all!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Santa Claus, Air Conditioning and Heaven

It's been a bit hectic around here, what with last minute shopping, massive baking, errands, snow storms, and the usual chaos of three kids! Here are a few cute quotes from our little tribe:

Concerning Santa Claus...
Ruthie: Look! There's Santa Claus! In the white beard and the red pants!
Olivia: Santa Claus!
Emma: Guys! That Santa isn't real. That's just a man dressed up in a suit pretending to be Santa!

Ruthie: (thinking) Well, Santa might not be real, but the man inside the suit is real. Maybe he thinks he really is Santa so be quiet or you'll hurt his feelings!

"Air" Conditioning...
As we were getting ready for a wedding this past weekend, the girls and I were having a "beauty day," meaning they were allowed to use the off-limits master bathroom to get ready. We had clothes, shoes, make-up and what-not strewn all over the place. They took turns showering in our tub and I let them use my special shampoo and soaps--a special treat indeed! While I was helping Emma dress and fix her hair, Ruthie was in the shower washing her hair. She kept saying over and over, "Mommy, I just love air conditioning! I love air conditioning!" It took me a few minutes to realize what she meant was, "Mommy, I just love hair conditioner!"

On Heaven...
This morning, I could here the girls arguing in another room. Everyone was fighting over the same Barbie doll. I walked in and confiscated the Barbie and used the opportunity to pray with each of them and remind them that above all, we show love for each other. After everyone calmed down and was emotionally stable, Ruthie started telling us how she hoped there were lots and lots of beautiful Barbies to play with in heaven. Emma smirked and said, "That's a messed up kind of heaven, Ruthie." With tears in her eyes, Ruthie said, "Okay. I don't want there to be any Barbies in heaven." I pulled her on my lap and asked her, "Why did you change your mind, sweet pea?" With her big, beautiful, teary blue eyes, she looked at me and said, "If that's a messed up heaven then I know it's really hell so I don't want to go there."

From the mouths of babes...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Where I'm From

I am from cars with bucket seats; from Big Wheels and Aqua Net; jelly shoes and leg warmers.
I am from government apartments.
I am from bird nests on the window sill and raccoons in the chimney.
I am from biting your tongue while stewing inside and curly hair;
from Russell and Rosellen and Luke and Ruby.
I am from the overly sensitive and “the glass is half empty.”
From “do it right the first time,” “try, try again” and
“everything has a place and everything in it’s place.”
I am from “we don’t believe in Bible thumping”, the frozen chosen and
“God helps those who help themselves.”
I’m from Springfield, Heugonots, and Terre Haute; Hamburger Helper and powdered milk.
From the dad who was never there, the mom who always was and the basketball star brother.
I am from divorce and never feeling like we had enough;
I am from a mom who gave everything she could.
I am from vacations on lakes and in deserts;
bumping around the country in beat-up cars and old RVs;
from a family, who despite all my many faults, still loves me, loves me, loves…and I them.
Thanks to JAN at Midsummer Meanderings for posting her own "Where I'm From" as well as the link to the site where you can download the form to make your own poem. I, too, would love to read anyone else's!

I Am The Dog

This afternoon was my first foray into outdoor running. Yes, it’s December. Yes, it gets dark at 5:00 PM here. And, yes, it’s hovering around 35 degrees. But, I was cooped up all day and thought I would give it a try. Actually, I was planning to just take a brisk walk to give my legs a bit of a rest. As we rounded the corner at the end of the block, though, clear, even sidewalks beckoned me to give them a good lashing with my feet. My lungs were practically begging me to force the cold, crisp air deeper into them. So, off we went. We? Oh, yeah. Me and the dog.

We have a mutt for a dog, Elvis. His talents include barking, eating, pooping, and scaring anyone and everyone who dares to cast a sideways glance in his general direction. He’s actually pretty tame with our family, but the yard is his turf and he protects it with vengeance. When I decided to go for what I thought would be a walk, I knew it would be hard to just jet past him. He knows what it means when he sees us take off down the alley—we’re going somewhere and he’s not. I took pity on him and grabbed his leash as I cranked up my music. Upon site of the beloved leash, he broke out into his doggy smile. He started prancing around the yard, running back and forth between me and the gate. I was going somewhere and he was going with me.

Elvis is a strong, muscular dog. He weighs close to 55 pounds, so he can be a handful. He knows the leash means he gets to go somewhere, but getting him to mind the leash…well, that’s a life long battle for him. It’s a love-hate relationship: he loves to walk; hates to be told where to walk. As soon as I started running, I knew bringing Elvis might cause some problems. He was all over the place; sniffing this bush, licking that snow drift, running back and for across the sidewalk in front of me. He “did his business” several times along the way, forcing me to break my rhythm each time and wait for him. At one point, I jerked on his leash and got down in his face and said, “Listen, dog! We need to come to an understanding. You are running with me. I am not chasing after you. Pick a side and stick to it!” He just gave me that doggy grin again and licked my face.

I ran to a nearby cemetery, thinking it might be easier to run the paths that wind through there. At least we wouldn’t be contending with other people, or “walking, talking snacks,” as Elvis thinks of them. Every headstone needed a good sniff and some were “baptized,” I’m sorry to say! As we turned to head for home, I found myself getting more and more frustrated. How was I supposed to pay attention to what I was doing while wrangling this beast all over the place? As we approached the street that leads to home, Elvis started to slow down. Apparently, he was getting over the newness of being outside his regular domain and was settling down next to me. “Great.” I thought, “Just as I’m ready to quit, he decides to behave.” That’s the exact moment I heard this in my head:

You are the dog.

What? I am the dog? What does that mean? I started thinking about the past half hour and how my dog had been behaving. If it hadn’t been for some strong discipline, we would have surely ended up in the freezing creek or down a muddy embankment or crashing through the woods after some poor little rabbit. I am the dog?

Oh. I AM the dog.

I’m all over the place, spiritually speaking. If it weren’t for the leash of His Word and the Holy Spirit, as well as other believers placed strategically in my life, I too would be crashing through the woods, chasing after anything that looked enticing. I would be constantly wandering too close to the edge, slipping off into certain spiritual danger.

I’d like to think that I’m a bit more disciplined than my dog. I mean, sure, I still need a leash. I’m still tempted to go places I shouldn’t in my mind; to chase after goals that aren’t His; to wander around with people who won’t lead me any closer to Him. Hopefully, though, it only takes a gentle check of the leash to rein me back to the path. Hopefully, I’m growing to a place where He can trust me to just walk beside Him; always glancing to see where He is leading, striving to please Him. I’m not there, yet, but I hope that’s where I’m headed.

One more thing about my dog…and me, I think. When we got within sight of the house, his ears perked up and he gave me a longing look. I knew what he wanted. “Let’s go, boy,” I said and we raced up the street to the house. We both wanted the same thing: home. He wanted a drink. I wanted to wipe the sweat off my forehead and warm up my legs, but there was no need for me to tell him where we were going. He knew. The same is true for me. When my day comes, when heaven is within site, Jesus and I will be running together, racing towards the goal—eternity together.

Until then, though…I am the dog.

Running With Endurance

Last week, I ran three days in a row. I know, I know, I learned the hard way that this is not the most effective (or wise) way to begin a running pattern. Thankfully (I think), I came down with a cold Thursday evening that kept me in bed for a few days, so I was off the treadmill for four days. When I got back on last night, I wondered if I would have the will power to actually run or if I would just do a brisk walk and call it quits. I have this history with running, you know. As I let my legs warm up and turned on my mP3 player, I actually started feeling excited about my run. I was so curious to see how my body would respond. It was fun! When I first started running, I was averaging--now bear in mind that I'm in my 30's and am completely out of shape. No smirks, please--a 15 minute mile and I could barely run that one mile. Last night, I ran 1.6 miles! And, my first mile took 14 minutes and my last .6 mi. only took 6 minutes! As a bonus, I cranked up the treadmill the last 2 minutes just to see if I could run faster, and I could! I actually enjoyed my run tremendously. My legs were still like jelly and I was sweating like, well, like someone who just ran a mile and a half, but I enjoyed the run. It got me thinking...

We're in this spiritual race. Hebrews says,
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1
While I was nursing my cold, my body was actually building and repairing its tissues and muscles, making me stronger. What appeared to be a time of physical inactivity was in reality a time of great improvement. When I returned to the dreaded treadmill, my body was capable of running faster, further and with more endurance. More endurance...hmmm.

Are you feeling, today, right now, in this moment, like you are not even in the race? Not because you choose not to be (that's another issue all together), but because the Lord has side-lined you? Do you feel like He has asked you to sit next to the foot path and wait? That can be so frustrating. Especially as you watch other runners sprinting ahead, getting so far ahead they seem to disappear.

Take heart! Jesus knows you and has prepared this race for you, so you can reach the goal, the finish line. It takes endurance, though. Running at full speed day in and day out may seem like the best way to accomplish the goal, but this often leads to spiritual burn-out. Instead, scheduled down time, to build and repair your spiritual muscles, will help increase your endurance. God is so loving and wise. He only lets us see a little bit of the path. If He showed us the deep, lonely valleys or the long stretches of desert or the rocky mountain paths, we would lose heart. He stops us along the way to give us rest, to let our spiritual muscles build, to increase our endurance so we will reach the goal. So we can travel the road ahead. He knows the way. He knows you. He knows what is best. Trust in that.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me strength to run physically and spiritually. Help me to appreciate the times you cause rest for me. Help me to truly rest, instead of railing against Your will. Help me to trust You more. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A "New Haircut"

Being a girl, I've had many haircuts in my life. Aren't we all looking for the "perfect" do? Anyway, I've given my blog a new "haircut", of sorts. Hope you all enjoy the new look! Your comments are always appreciated and so encouraging so keep them up. I've also provided my e-mail for those of you who have prayer requests or just want to say "hi!" Be blessed and a blessing today!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Birthday, Emma!

Dear, sweet Emma,
Today is your sixth's really been six whole years since God brought you into this world and my arms. He used you to make me a mother and it has been six years of absolute joy and privilege. Yesterday, you said, "Well, it's my last day being five. I better really enjoy it!" How true, sweetheart! That's exactly how I think of you--someone who is really just enjoying God's good pleasures. You always have great ideas of ways we can all enjoy Him. Right now, you have a real tenderness towards others who are less fortunate than you, especially children in other countries. Every spare penny you find goes into one of your "mission jars" for another country. I love that about you! I love that you are teaching me things about mission work!
I know you love your sisters but that they irritate you at times. I appreciate the way you love them anyway and always try to be fair with them. I especially love the way you try to protect them and are always teaching them about Jesus. Ruthie recently told me that she hoped she grows up to be your best friend. That says so much about the love you two share as sisters!
This has been our first year homeschooling and we've had ups and downs. I hope you will look back when you are older and only remember the "ups!" You are learning to read and are really great at math!. We've been working on your 100 Gifts List for Christmas and I'm really proud of the things you know are gifts from God. Really, I'm just so proud of you!
Emma, this was an awesome day with you today! Every day of your life has been a blessing to me and Daddy. We are so excited to see God's plan for your life unfold and for you to step out in it. God bless you today and each day of the coming year! I love you, sweetheart!

Run The Race...

I'm not a runner. You know that old Biology theory that all creatures have a fight or flight instinct? I'm a fighter, not because I enjoy the fight, but because it requires less movement! Of all the P.E. activities in school and sports I participated in as a youth, whenever running was involved, my legs became heavy and I would groan in my spirit. I'm not a runner.

My 35th birthday is in a few weeks and I've started noticing more grey hairs, more mood swings, tighter pants, less energy...generally less overall healthfulness. It wasn't always like this. I used to enjoy working out and being fit, eating well and feeling better. Somewhere between gaining 55 lbs while pregnant with my first baby and chasing after 3 little ones 5 years later, I realized I had stopped taking care of myself, physically speaking. I retained an average of 6 pounds after each pregnancy times 3 kids...well, you can do the math! The weight isn't the biggest thing that bothers me; it's the lack of energy. Some days, I'm tired by 3:00 PM and I've got a good 8 hours of the day left!

With a history of high blood pressure and weight gain in my family, I decided this birthday was just the impetus I needed to kick things back into high gear. We own a treadmill so that has been the easiest place to start. I don't have a lot of time to spend on it, so running (shudder!) is the efficient use of my time. I think I can hear my high school gym teacher snickering around the corner...

As I was huffing and puffing through my 15 minute run today, I was thinking about how good it actually felt to get sweaty and feel my heart pounding. My legs were aching and my hips were begging to know why they were being treated so harshly, but overall, it felt pretty good. I know this new-found interest in being fit was born of the Lord, so I started asking Him about it. He began to show me so many spiritual analogies to the running I've been doing in. I don't have my thoughts collected yet, so I'll write about those when they are clearer...

When I jumped--no, crawled--off the treadmill, legs like jelly, dripping with sweat, Emma said,
"Mom, why are you running all the time?"
"Well, honey, I just want to be in better shape."
"What shape do you want to be?"
"No, not that kind of shape. I mean I want to be healthier and take care of the body God gave to me. He wants me to do the best I can with it and use it for Him."
"Oh." thinking.... "Does God want you to run a race with your body?"
"Well, in a way. He wants me to keep my muscles and heart and lungs strong and healthy so I can accomplish all that He wants me to. The Bible says we are supposed to "run the good race" which means we are supposed to stay strong in the Lord. Part of running God's good race and being strong in Jesus is taking care of my body and exercising."
"Mom, it's a good thing you started running 'cause I don't think you were in the race before!"

Oh, brother!

Thank You, Lord, for my body. Forgive me for taking it for granted and not taking care of the gift that it is to me. Thank You for each new breath. Thank You also, for Emma's words. If there are ways that I haven't been in the race and been strong for You, strengthen me and GET ME IN THE RACE! I'd rather be hurt running alongside You than comfortable in the grandstands. I choose You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Top Ten Tuesdays--Reasons We Are Homeschooling (well, trying, anyway!)

Thanks, again, to Ann of More Questions Than Answers for hosting Top Ten Tuesdays!
10. We can go to school in our jammies if we want.
9. I get to spend all day with my girls, watching God's world unfold in front of them.
8. I have hundreds of daily opportunities to weave the Word of God into my girls' lives.
7. No long bus rides, brown bag lunches, heavy back packs, or school yard bullies!
6. Each of my children can learn at their own pace. We can slow down or speed up whenever we want and explore topics of interest exhaustively.
5. My girls are learning moral values based on Biblical truth, not cultural norms.
4. We have lots of opportunities to serve others as a family through our school--babysitting, cooking, visiting the elderly, etc.
3. "Extras" like music, art, drama are always in the budget!
2. My kids can be kids much longer--not "mini-adults."
1. Homeschooling is an issue of obedience, and choosing to do so makes us obedient unto the Lord.

Lord, Thanks for this list. Most days, I really don't want to obey. I whine like a little child being forced to do something that is ultimately for my own good and the good of others. Give me the desire to be obedient. Help me to remember that this is YOUR plan and Your ways are not my ways, Your thoughts are high above my thoughts. Give me a peace that surpasses any feeble understanding I might have. Thank You for having a plan for me, a plan that will ultimately lead me and my family closer to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.