Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Today is Ash Wednesday. We had our Paczkis yesterday to celebrate Fat Tuesday. I thought about being good and not having any, especially since I haven't been able to walk in over a week due to the bronchitis, but I just didn't have the willpower. Chocolate with custard. Yum. It was delightful. I went to chapel this morning and thought the Pastor did a nice job of explaining Ash Wednesday to the kids. Gretchen always comes and sits with me. I love that she still sits on my lap for chapel. Even Aislin and Taryn came to say hi to me today. It was a nice surprise. I was able to get to Curves and get a walk in, so I am back to a routine- except I didn't have Crossways because of the Ash Wednesday service. I like Ash Wednesday. I like having ashes on my forehead when I pick up the girls from school. It always starts great discussions. I love hearing what the girls are thinking about and how their minds are working as they get older. I also want them to know that my faith is important to me, and that my days are spent doing things with God, just like they do in Religion class. I don't want them to think that you ever get too old for God. I want them to see life as a journey with God, one that grows and grows over time, and that only ends in Heaven. I want to lead by example for my children. I don't want to have expectations for them that I don't have for myself. I think that I may like Ash Wednesday so much because it is a day that reminds us to repent. It is a day that reminds us that we fail each and every day to live the lives that we could. It is a day that reminds us that our Lord and Savior went to the cross out of love for us. It is a day that reminds us that no matter what we have done, are doing, or will do, our Savior loves us and forgives us each and every time we repent. Our family does "give up" something for Lent. We discuss it each year and let the girls decide if they want to participate. We use it as a tool for the girls to see how difficult it can be to sacrifice something they like. It is by no means any comparison to the sacrifice Christ made, but it does give them a glimpse into the depth of His love. He didn't have to go through with it. He chose to go to the tree. His love was that strong, that true. Ash Wednesday is the start of the build-up to Easter when we can sing Lift High the Cross and I Know My Redeemer Lives. It is a somber day, but it is also the start of the party. It is reverent, but I think I love it because I know how the story ends. I can feel the excitement building, and I want to share the story. I want everyone to know that it doesn't end with the ashes, it doesn't end with the "giving up", it doesn't even end at the cross. It ends at the empty tomb! It ends when My Redeemer Lives! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!!!!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
A family member made a life altering decision recently. I am in awe of the strength it took to do so. I am so proud of her. It is quite possibly the hardest decision she will ever have to make, and she did it with grace and dignity. I talked with her shortly after wards to offer support and encouragement and she was telling me that she was surprised at how she felt. She thought she was going to be a mess, but she really was doing much better than she had thought. She is a planner, and for the first time in her life, she had no plan. Everything she had thought was going to be happening in her life was now up for grabs. The direction her life was taking had all of a sudden taken a huge change. She said she was really ok. It was so reassuring to hear her say that. I told her that she needed to remember that Jesus lives inside of each of us, and when we feel that sense of peace it is because it is coming from Him. I am just blown away by the maturity and faith that is being exhibited. I don't know that I would have been able to do the same thing at her age. She was so concerned that she was setting a good example for my girls- she didn't want to disappoint me or them. I let her know that I was nothing but proud of her and that she is amazing example for my girls. She made a difficult decision- and one that most definitely goes against the tide of society- but she stayed true to herself, she stayed true to her faith, and she stayed true to what she believed to be the best decision in the long run. I believe God gave her the strength to do what was right, even though it was very very difficult. I am so proud of her for doing it, and for relying on His strength to get her through. She is an amazing young woman, and I am honored to be in her family.
Monday, February 23, 2009
It is funny how our perspective changes through the years. Awhile back my small group was discussing persecution and I just didn't see how people in the US were being persecuted for religion. Now that my children are older, I see it differently. It is difficult to have different standards than other families- even in small things. There are so many television shows, movies, music, that are just not good choices for adolescents. It is a lot of work to research it all. Jim and I fail miserably at being as thorough as we should. However, we are apparently much more strict than our children would like us to be. Many times I feel like an island in a raging storm. I have become the Funsucker. I just don't want my children to be forced into growing up before they should. Once the images are in the brain, they cannot leave. There will be plenty of time for the content of PG-13 movies- I don't see the need for the children to start seeing them at young ages. I do feel like I am standing up to amazing pressure to just let the children do what they want and not check out any of the shows they are watching, movies they are seeing, music they are listening to, games they are playing. We gave in and allowed wii to enter our house this Christmas. I am still not sure it was a good idea. It was nice not having any video games in the house. The positive is that the girls play the games together and we control what games we have in the house. I know the persecution is nothing compared to worrying about losing your life for your faith, but I have changed my mind about persecution. It is just a different kind of pressure. I tell my girls all the time that life is about choices, and that sometimes it is not always good and bad choices. Sometimes it is about good and better choices, and we need to think about what choice is the best choice for us, and what choice is the choice that glorifies God. What choice draws us closer to our Savior. We always want to be walking closer to God. I want them to think about everything that happens in their day in that context. I want God to be the center of their day, not the afterthought. Unfortunately, I don't think that is happening in the majority of the daily lives. I think that is the issue with the world today (but that is another post). I want them to get comfortable with that so they can handle the pressure that comes with it- people aren't used to a God first perspective. It catches them off guard. It changes the way things happen. It is a good thing, but it isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be easy. I am thankful that God has provided the strength for us to be able to stand by our decisions on some very difficult things. Hopefully we are making a difference. We don't know yet, and we may not know, but we feel we are doing the right thing. We'll just keep asking for wisdom and discernment and keep believing that God will provide them!
Sunday, February 22, 2009
We sang two of my favorite hymns in church today. It was really nice. It made me grateful. I don't think I ever give my parents enough credit. I had the privilege of attending a parochial school. I remember going to chapel every week and loving it when we sang Beautiful Savior. I loved the old hymnals. I loved the familiar words and tunes. It was comforting. That is perhaps why it is now one of my favorite hymns. The words are not only beautiful, but the tune is as well. It is comforting, and I know it by heart, and it reminds me of my childhood. It takes me back to the beautiful church of my youth and the "carefree days of old". As we sang it this morning, I was sitting in the pew with my children, and I had a friend's child on my lap, and my husband to my left, my pastors in front of me, surrounded by my church family. It was almost a surreal feeling. I had the past and present meeting and the future was there as well. It was very comforting and peaceful. It was an unusual feeling for me. Things are slowing down at all for me, and yet it just feels different. This morning was a great reminder for me of my history. I have been born and raised in the church, and I am so thankful for the roots my parents have given to me. There was never any question that Jim and I would send our children to a Lutheran school- that was what you do. I am blessed to have the background that I do. I didn't take full advantage of it at the time, but some things did sink in, and I am so glad they did. The hymns, the Bible verses, the creeds, the liturgies- all the things that are just part of who I am because I heard them, sang them, said them, read them, over and over again until they became natural to me. That is my ultimate goal- that each day there is a little more of Jesus in me and a little less of me. I want my character to be more Christ like each day. I want to surrender myself. When Jim's grandpa married us, he told us to "Aim for perfection" since we will not achieve it this side of Heaven. So that is my journey- to keep aiming, to take the good, godly things that have become natural to me and add to them. I want to have more moments of peace and comfort and fewer moments of chaos. I know that is God's plan as well. I just keep getting in the way of His plan. This morning, though, I stayed out of His way, and I was rewarded. He truly is a Beautiful Savior.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Yesterday I was sitting in the house and all of a sudden I realized it was completely silent. Not just quiet, but silent. No noise at all. I stopped what I was doing and just listened to the silence. I couldn't remember the last time I had heard silence. It was comforting. It was nice. It didn't last long- the furnace went on or something- but for a few glorious moments I was basking in pure silence. It was really peaceful. It would have been the perfect time for a booming voice to come down from Heaven saying "STEFF, MY PLAN FOR YOU TODAY IS........" but no voice. It was a gift though. I live in a very loud world. Six people in one house makes it noisy, but the six people who live in my home happen to be loud people. Boisterous. We enjoy life. We don't hold back. I don't think anyone would describe us as quiet, shy, introverted, or reserved. My girls are not the soft feminine dainty girls. We are more of the tornado kind of a family. You know when we have been around. It is always noisy in our house. Someone is always talking and usually someone is playing piano, somebody else is singing to whatever song is playing on the ipod, and there is music on the wii. Quiet doesn't happen, let alone silence. So I am still just so grateful for the gift of silence that was given to me yesterday. It was just a passing moment in the middle of the day, and yet it focused me and centered me. It reminded me that there can be moments of silence in the midst of chaos, and that God is always in the middle of whatever is going in our lives. He is there, and He knows what we need. He is in the chaos, and He is in the silence. There was a time in my life when I didn't think I was ever going to get all of my kids in school all day, and here I am in the second year of it. Although I wouldn't want to go back to the days of infants, I do miss it now and then. Yet, I am done with that time, and am grateful that I survived it. 4 kids 6 and under was nuts. I loved my babies; I loved my toddlers; I look back and have no idea how I managed to do it. So- I guess God gave me moments of silence back then as well. Just enough moments to get me through. I do believe that God gives us glimpses of Heaven on earth- because we cannot physically handle the joy/love/goodness that is Heaven on earth in their entirety. Therefore we get glimpses. In the same way, I guess He could give us glimpses of whatever we need to keep us sane while we are here. I use the term sane loosely. I just have to laugh because I really enjoyed the silence, and yet it really is not something I can count on to happen on a regular basis. The life God has given me ( and I do believe my life is a gift from God) prohibits it. I cannot be married to the man I am married to, mother to the children I birthed, and have regular periods of silence. I cannot be me and be silent. I am not wired that way. Isn't that ironic. I guess I will go ponder some more as I go help with homework as the natives are restless.... (and you know that means it is no longer quiet in my house).........
Monday, February 16, 2009
I am perplexed. I just got through a very interesting week. To say it was busy is an understatement. I had 3 very important events happening. I was very excited and looking forward to all of the events. On Tuesday, I was out walking and got a call that Meghan was in the office not feeling well. She had a temp of 99.4. Normally I would tell her to see if she can just make it through the day, but I needed her to be well for an event thursday night, and I was informed that Meg was the 3rd 4th grader in the office that day. I finished my walk and picked her up from school. I then decided that I was going to keep the rest of the girls home from their activities that night as well. I am so glad I did, because I started feeling cold clammy, and then I was hot, and then cold. It was awful. I ended up going to bed at 8. Looking back, I just have to thank God. He gave me just enough energy to get through each day. I should have been in bed, but I just didn't have that luxury, and God provided everything I needed to get through. I was fighting a fever each day, I was hacking up alternating lungs, but I was able to get things accomplished through His grace and mercy. I made it through all 3 events and I am positive that God met us at all 3. It was awesome. One of the events was a gala for school. My girls sang. I know I am biased, but they sounded like angels. It was beautiful. The other 2 events were on friday- Gretchen's birthday and Valentine's party. Friday night Gretchen told me the best part of her birthday was her party, so I guess I did alright there. The moms did a great job running the party, so I am thankful for them. I had plenty of people praying for me ( I know I sounded terrible, and I must have looked terrible as well) and it truly got me through the week. On saturday morning, I got up and went to the doctor. I actually had a fever at the office, so that was nice-you know as opposed to showing up at the doctor's and looking great and telling them you have spent the last week feeling miserable and having them give you that look like you are the biggest hypochondriac they have ever seen. It was determined that I have bronchitis. I was told to go home and rest. I spent saturday and sunday on the oversized chair. I had no energy. Walking up the stairs made me wheeze. I have no idea how I made it through the week other than prayers and the grace of God. I am seriously perplexed. It blows me away. God is good. I count this last week as a miracle. There is no other explanation.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
My life is chaos. Complete chaos. It is a great life. I have an amazing husband, beautiful children, friends who would do anything for me, a great family, a huge extended family who drives me crazy, and yet who I couldn't imagine getting through life without, and yet my life is in an extreme state of disorder. I look around my house and wonder what I have done wrong to live in such a state of mess. My husband and I often talk of selling our house and moving to a smaller house in an effort to have a smaller mortgage. I am beginning to believe that God is telling us that is not the answer simply because putting our house on the market would put me in a pure state of panic. I think my anxiety would go through the roof. My family is just not meant to be the family who lives in a state of model home living. We really live. Things get messy. Our house looks lived in. I want to walk in to my home and have it look completely neat and orderly. I want everything to have a place and everything to be in that place. I want it to look like Alice lives here. However, I am slowly beginning to realize that what I want and what is realistic are 2 very different things. When I started praying for complete surrender a few years back, I really had no idea of the depths of what I was asking for. I also am just beginning to realize how far I have to go in the prayer, and it is a bit daunting. Prayer is painful. I know it is entirely worth it, and I am excited for the changes that have happened, are happening, and are yet to come, but it is not easy. I am not always skipping and jumping along gleefully with this plan that Jesus has for me. More often than not, I am dragging my feet as He pulls me along, doing only what I have begged Him to do in the first place. As the parent of a teen, I am beginning to see the difficult job he has of dealing with children who think they know it all but really know oh so little of the world. I wonder how many times a day He shakes His head at me and "Oh my precious child, You have no idea what you are doing. Please just listen to me. I do know what I am doing. I can help you with this. Do what I say, and life will be so much easier. Do what is say, and the chaos will cease. Just listen, my child. Just listen."
Thursday, February 5, 2009
I have been thinking about Job a lot lately. I just want to know how he stood so firm in his joy and faith. I want to be content in my circumstances. I want to praise God in all things. I have an amazing life. I have been abundantly blessed. I seem to continually struggle with the same "thorns in my flesh". I make the same mistakes. Over. and over. and over. and over. It is tiring. I don't know how God puts up with me. I want to change my behavior pattern, and yet I fall into the same rut. I have begged God to help me. I had a revelation the other day that perhaps things hadn't change because I was always trying to come up with the solutions on how to best "fix" the problems. I realized I needed to just let God do his thing. That is easier said then done though, when bills need to be paid and money has to come from somewhere. I look at some of the things I struggle with on a daily basis and I just have to shake my head. I don't know how I arrived at this place. I don't know how to leave. I am stuck in a moment and I can't get out of it. I have been praying for surrender for quite some time, and it has been a painful process, but I still have along way to go. I don't feel much closer to the destination, and that is disheartening. However, I do know that God is walking beside me, and oftentimes, He is carrying me. He is the only way I am making it through each day. He is the only way I will be able to continue to shine. He is the reason why someday I will understand how Job was able to be content. He is the way I will someday be content myself. I am just waiting for that day to arrive.