Monday, January 30, 2012

My weekend

I'm joining with Instagram Monday even though I don't have Instagram.  Enjoy!

Using my cool new photo apps on my phone with my favorite subject

I found it on Pinterest and made it for the youth movie night at our house.
Cookie dough and Oreos

Brownie Topping

  Ready for the oven

 Side view ready for the oven

Topped with ice cream.  YUM!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Good Stuff Saturday 1-28

It seems God was teaching to believe in how big he really is this week and have some fun along the way.  I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did.

Compassion - When God give us his Spirit, it is recognizable  “I was taken to a small hut. The man inside the hut saw me and told the women that his spirits did not like the Holy Spirit inside me. He said that the women should go and bring another child to sacrifice.”

The Rantings of a Dad - A different side of love   However, to marry my car is absurd and to eat my wife is cannibalism, not to mention the last time I drove a Big Mac I just got special sauce all over my hands.

101 Books- Was Jane Austen poisoned?   Because of crime research Ashford has done for her crime novels, she says those symptoms were consistent with arsenic poisoning. But, keep in mind, that doesn’t necessarily mean murder.

Jaime, the Very Worst Missionary - This is not a Food Blog!  But...  We agreed that a lemon cake with a blackberry pie sounded pretty darn delicious. So using every bit of culinary prowess I could muster, I set about my work, determined to complete the monstrous task of impregnating a cake with a pie.

The Handwritten- Your Fragrance  My fears had become desperation/but/ then you showed up.

World Vision - The State of America's Children  In a report by UNICEF (pdf), the United States was ranked 20th out of 21 countries for child well-being. The groundbreaking report — which explores factors of material well-being, health and safety, education, family and peer relationships, behaviors and risks — exposes some stark realities for American children. It confirms that we are losing gains we’ve made around child well-being — and the outlook is not good.

A Deeper Story - What it means not to judge  One day I wrote, “It makes me sad to say this, but today I feel like God is a God of Grudges, and I know that is not truth.” So I wrote out the truth and realized my habit of shame-carrying, and worse, my habit of putting shame on my own children.

Pictures of Poverty - Tenderness, Indonesia   A beautiful and heartwarming photo.

The View from Here - My Gaurdian Angel  He manifests himself as a middle age man with dark skin, salt and pepper hair and a mustache.  He always wears shorts, a worn t-shirt and tennis shoes.  He uses crutches to get around because his right leg is mangled beyond recognition.  It looks as if it was run over by a tractor, shoved into a wood chipper and then chewed on by wolves. 

The Arizona Russums - Flowers Fade Friday: Choose ONE  I beg of you, choose a church. Stop skipping church, double-dipping, or hopping around. Of course, it’s okay to search for a church for a while when you move to a new town or whatnot, but the search has to end. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Worrying about creativity

This has been a short work week because of the start of the new semester.  It has been relaxing to not have a pile of papers to grade, so many lessons to plan, etc., etc.  So I should be feeling relaxed on this Friday.  However, I am not feeling that way.  I am worrying.  Of course there are any number of things I could worry about.  Drew is a little under the weather.  The 30 hour famine is quickly approaching and we can't convince our teens to go raise some money.  I volunteered to facilitate a Bible study with the women's group.  Ben's sleep schedule is off and I'm out of ideas to fix it.  I could worry about all of those things, but I'm not.  So what am I worried about?

I'm feeling creative and I'm worried about that.  That may seem like a really odd thing to worry about.  If you are feeling creative, express yourself in the way most natural to you and enjoy it.  That's all there is to it right?  Wrong!  I feel increasingly like I have a story to tell, a fictional one.  I'm getting pretty good at writing a little story about my life and I've even started work on a couple compilations of true stories.  I can handle all that, but fiction.  That is so daunting.  The time and effort to get the words out and get the characters right.  There are so many characters and situations running around in my head, but how do I get that on paper?  Admittedly, it would probably help if I wasn't reading Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art and Untitled: Thoughts on the Creative Process.  Then I read this post from Jeff Goins today.  It makes me start to realize that writing a little here and there for fun isn't all there is to it.  There is something God has put inside me that wants to read stories and also create them.  To dream of characters and places that don't exist and then make them real through my words.  And maybe this isn't something I just want to do.  Maybe it is something I was meant to do.  That means that God has given me some kind of message to get out in the world.  And that is a lot to worry about.

I have always written romantic fiction.  That may seem a little odd when my favorite reading genre is mystery.  Agatha Christie and Jessica Fletcher are good friends.  I like the Harry Potter series, The Historian, and The Book Thief.  Those are great reads and so it seems like I would want to write about fantasy or mystery or some life of great beauty and tragedy.  I don't though.  I want to write like Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, or Ernest Hemmingway in A Farewell to Arms.  I want to write because I have disliked The Hunger Games and Twlight.  I want to write because I hated the 'romance' between Penny and Leonard on The Big Bang Theory.  Romance is so misunderstood and misused today.  It is hinted at, but not explored in novels.  Big grand events happen, but character motivation is absent.  People are thrown together and act the way society tells them too, but they don't understand what they are doing or why.  They can't talk about why with their romantic interest.  They don't even explore it in themselves.  We have degenerated the genre of romance to a simply a few hot scenes and 'fate'.  There is so much more to it than that.  Austen, Brontë, and Hemmingway understood that there is more.  They wrote about those deep places in the heart where romance lives.  They wrote about those painful reflections that one has to have to decide the direction of their life based on their romantic interests.  And yes life happens along the way in these stories, but their characters don't leave it up to life to decide on their romance.  The characters explore romance in themselves and in others to make a conscious decision about it.

How do I put all of that into a story?  What if I don't get it right?  What if no one wants to read it?  How can it make a difference if no one reads it?  What if I say the wrong things or create the wrong characters?  How do I stay motivated to write a whole story when I have so much other stuff going on in my life?  And my biggest worry, how do I trust God to work through me to create the right story?

Thanks for listening today.  Any thoughts or advice would be welcome.

*Joining with Casey today

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Renewing my mind

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I shouldnt compare myself to others. (Now you are thinking, "Wow!  Way to state the obvious." Stick with me though.)  I know that and have known that for a long time.  However when I actually stopped doing that amazing things happened.  I have pitched 2 story compilation ideas.  1 to my pastor and 1 to some friends.  They all loved it and I've started the process of gathering stories.  I even started the preface of one.  I am getting up earlier.  I am getting more creative with clothes and putting on make up.  I am generally feeling better about myself.  I'm even getting ahead on blog posts.  I started looking less at myself and more at others.  I gave more grace and love out.

When I stopped looking at me, then I saw others more clearly.  After all when I was doing all that comparing, I kept looking back at myself.  I couldn't enjoy the beauty of Casey's heart and liveliness of Jen's space.  I couldn't enjoy the life updates of my parents.  Those even somehow became negative in the light of my self centered focus.  So I stopped thinking about me and started doing something about the stuff I didn't like.  I downloaded an app to my Blackberry that makes pictures all pretty.  So now my plain looking photos can be spiffed up.

I'm changing my internal script and some pretty amazing stuff is happening.  God made me special with who I am and I need to focus more on that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Where to give: Part 3

Friday (the 6th), I wrote this post.  However, my usual link to social media sending thing wasn't working.  So ONE person read it!  Normally, I would be all upset about that, but I'm not.  I am taking that as a sign, that I do need to talk more about these companies and a few others.  So I'm going to do a short series on Wednesdays about where you can give to make a big difference. 

If you know of a company or organization that I need to feature, please comment or email me.
Earlier in the series:  Missionaries
                               Child Sponsorship

Products that give back!

The following is a list of wonderful products you can buy that give something back.  More specifically, they give back jobs to the people in the area.  There are some pretty famous companies out there that give a product when you buy one.  However, my issue with that style is that does not create jobs in those places.  In fact, it can harm jobs in the area because that kid doesn't need _______ anymore.  So his family won't buy them and the guy making those for a living is now making less products and less money.  Does that make sense?

Having said that, ALL of these products provide jobs in these countries.  So when you buy you are helping the person making them and the country as a whole because you are providing jobs which is a long term solution.  So go check out these products.  Buy one or two or 12.  Wear them with pride and tell everyone who compliments you about the product and the people.

1. fashionABLE  Africa.  Scarves are my new favorite fashion item.  (Yes, I'm late to the scarf party.)  I have one of these already and I'm looking to buy a second one.  Super amazing!  The women in Africa are making these scarves.  They are getting off the street and out of undesirable situations.  They have stable jobs and skills that are needed.  Their children benefit from this income by having food, shelter, and education.  When you receive your scarf you will get a tag with it that is written by the woman who made the scarf.

Meselu  This is the second one I want, except in white.

2. FreeSet  India  FreeSet employs and trains women from the largest sex district in Kolkata to sew bags for export.  That's you!  You buy the bags and they pay the women a salary that includes health insurance and a pension plan.  They also have an organization called, FreeSet Trust that provides literacy classes, budgeting, and child care classes.  The more bags they sell, the more women they employ.  So go buy one OR custom design your own bag.

3. Tukula Uganda  Tukula invests in Ugandan entrepreneurs.  They give these women an above average wage and sell the products internationally.  The money these women make can then be invested in their families and their business.  You can read the story of each woman on Tukula's website.  There are clutches, bags, headscarves, and coming soon a children's line.

   I want these headwraps!  A set of 3 with a variety of African prints.

4. Land of 1000 Hills  Rawanda, Haiti, Thailand, etc.  Land of 1000 Hills originally started in Rawanda.  It is a coffee company that pays fair wage to the workers and helps them meet their basic needs.  It was a chance for previously warring countrymen to work together toward a common goal of rebuilding their country and their lives.  The company has now expanded into other countries as well.  They produce many different specialty blends and different grind options.  Whether you buy coffee here or elsewhere, PLEASE make sure it is FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED!

Do Good Blend

5. Timbali Crafts  Swaziland  The women who make these products are volunteer cooks at orphanages in Swaziland.  Most of them are widowed or abandoned.  They are single mothers or grandmothers raising these vulnerable children and giving to other children.  The company began a Bible study to see to the spiritual needs of these women as well.  The women $70 to $100 a month, which is two to three times the average salary for women in Swaziland.  The money helps them provide an food, shelter, health, and an education for their children.  It also allows them to serve other children in the orphanages.  Tote bags, placemates, wristlets, aprons, and table runners are available.


6. Forgive, Don't forget  United States.  When you buy a shirt from Prison Fellowship, they use the money to buy a dress shirt and tie for an ex-prisoner to wear at a job interview.  These people provide support both physical and spiritual for the men and women inside and outside of the prison to ensure their success upon release.  They work with local churches and organizations to provide support for these people.


7.  Hello Somebody  Rawanda  Hello Somebody is primarily known for their watches, but they have other products like t-shirts, hats, etc.  The money from these products goes back to Rawanda to help feed and educate children.  This isn't exactly like the other ones, but it does work with local schools and feeding centers that employ locals and buys local products etc.
Image of Watches          Image of Original Thumbprint T-Shirt

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Finding My Story: My Great-Grandparents

Family Group Photo Credit: anyjazz65

Today has been a crazy busy day and nothing has gone on time, so here it is 11:30 and I'm just starting.  Everything has gone longer than expected, so it makes sense that this is the post I had planned today.  When I posted a story about my parents last June, I didn't really intend to start a series and I certainly didn't intend to start a series that took this long.  After planning this out, I have 4 more posts in this series and I will post 1 every 2 weeks until it is done.  Sorry this is all running so long.  I'm working on planning posts ahead so they don't come in so late.  Thanks for your patience.

I have already told you all about my parents and about my grandparents.  Today I'm going to try to tell you a few stories about my great-grandparents.  I have been supremely blessed by longevity in my family.  I had 6 of 9 great-grandparents in my life until I was 15 years old.  The great-grandparents that I didn't meet in person were available to me via those boxes of family mementos.  My great-grandfather James wrote letters back to his young bride, Grace, while he was building the home for her and their infant son.  The letters were simple updates on the house, but you can feel the love and longing in them.  He knew he was doing something important for them, but that didn't keep him from missing them.  This man who sacrificed for his family is my lasting image of him.  He passed away when my grandfather was a young child.  My great-grandmother soldiered on and raised their young son on her own for a while.  I don't have any letters from her in those boxes, but I have the letters she kept; letters from her husband and later letters from her son serving his country in WWII.  Those speak to me of a woman who loved her family deeply and didn't want to forget anything about them, even if that meant reliving some heart wrenching moments.  She did remarry a wonderful man.  He was hard working and honorable.  He loved my grandfather as his own son.  In his letters home, Grandpa L always asked his step-father about the St. Louis Cardinals season.  I think that is one of my favorite parts of those letters.  They are evidence of the family tradition.  The love and genuine desire to share life with the recipient spoke to me then as they do now.  This is who I want to be.

My Grandpa and Grandma T lived on a farm.  I vaguely remember something about gathering eggs when I was little.  I'm not sure if they had moved into town or not by then.  I'm guessing they hadn't because they were gathering eggs, but you never know.  For most of my life they did live in town and by town I mean the gigantic town of about 650.  What I remember most about them is how cool I thought their house was and my Grandma T's cinnamon rolls.  They are still legendary in my family.  I didn't really know them that well as a child.  When I got older, I learned a few stories about them and they really came alive for me.  Grandpa was actually a twin, but his brother died as a baby.  They never really were sure whether it was Ray or Roy that died.  I can't believe he lived with that knowledge his whole life.  Grandma found out her father was living a double life and had a whole separate family.  To top it off that family lived right near them and she had known them most of her life.  How do you live with that knowledge?  I don't know, but she managed to do so and with a good amount of success.  Neither of them were perfect, but they raised hard working faith filled children.  I hope I can do that no matter the circumstance.

My Grandpa and Grandma F lived in town or near it as far as I know.  Grandpa was a minster.  He started a small church in the area.  I actually pass that church every time I visit my grandparents.  They attend that church.  By the time I knew him he was retired, so I never heard a sermon of his.  I have heard stories about  my grandpa and his brother visiting people with Grandpa.  He traveled around quite a bit helping people out when they needed something.  It's the kind of thing a minister does, but somehow it seems so much more epic when you have to do it with a horse and wagon.  What I remember most about Grandpa was his stories about his mobster friend and his love for professional wrestling.  You know back before it was all one wrestling league (or whatever the correct terminology is.)  I remember watching some matches on TV with him that had no fancy lighting or special effects.  It was just a couple guys in the ring going at it.  I thought it was kinda boring, but I never told him that!  Grandma always seemed to be in the kitchen.  I don't know if she actually was or not, but in my memory that's where she is.  She was always making food for us and it was always good.  From stories I've heard, I get the impression that she was not your average pastor's wife.  Of course, a pastor who is friends with a mobster isn't normal either.  Incidentally, that mobster was related to my step-great-grandfather mentioned above.  I don't mean to suggest that Grandpa compromised his stance on God for any man or that he was corrupted in any way.  Grandpa always said, "He was a nice guy, just don't get on his bad side."  I always got the sense that Grandpa and Grandma met people where they were at.  They didn't demand they were better before they befriended them or helped them.  They served people where they were at.  I want to do that.

Mamaw and Grandaddy are the most well known to me of my great grandparents.  I spent many idyllic weeks at their house.  They took me out to eat at the diner in town or the fancy hotel restaurant the next town over.  Mamaw carried half and half creamer in her purse and Grandaddy didn't eat cheese.  Although he always made the same face and laughed when I asked if he wanted some.  They never scolded me for spinning all the bar stools at the diner counter.  They let me and my brother have a shot of half and half before our meal.  We also got to use it on our cereal.  Mamaw didn't believe in making anything out of a box.  That's why we had homemade breakfast every morning with toast.  Biscuits took too long, at least that's my opinion.  He wasn't her only husband, but he was her only love.  His family began in the oil industry and expanded into other areas because they were amazing business men.  He had 7 brothers and 2 sisters.  She was the oldest of 5, adopted at least in his heart by her stepdad because she never knew her real dad.  He did things like jump over rattle snakes, start a fur trading business at 10, and use a whole week's worth of flour on a cake.  She did things like stay with my mom for a month after my brother and I were born.  He went to college and played football against Bear Bryant before he had that nickname.  She lived as a divorced woman and single mother in the 20's or 30's.  He and his family accepted her and loved her no matter her past.  They were a powerhouse couple who loved fiercely and conquered whatever they set their minds to do.  They owned several successful businesses and greatly contributed to their church and the town they lived in. Just this past Christmas a family member commented that they heard Mamaw in Ben's phrases.  His laughter and her love shaped my life in very powerful ways.  I genuinely hope to be half of what they were.

In the coming weeks, you will hear about a few other relatives, my friends, my in-laws, and finally my story.  Stop back in here to learn a little more about my family and share your stories.

Did you know your great-grandparents?  What did you learn from them?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Good Stuff Saturday 1-21

I'm trying something new for Good Stuff Saturday.  Rather than me trying to tell you to go over to this site, I'm going to quote from the post, so you can see how wonderful it is for yourself.  Once again, none of these words are mine.  They come directly from the pen of the blog author.  I encourage you to read their blogs and see all the other words they used.

The Jackson's Journey - 1000 days of marriage -
"In our culture, we throw around phrases like "soulmate" when we talk about the search for our future spouse. We explain that we'll know they are "the one" when we find the person "perfect for us". But those are dangerous things to believe. As a matter of fact - mine and Rusty's relationship almost ended during a trip to Africa in 2008 because of that very belief!" 

The Rabbit Room - A dreamer, A drawer, and a lollygagger
 “Well, I stayed in bed even though I was wide awake. And I drew a lot — I had this dream that I lived in a village by the sea where the streets all ran right into the water!"

Shawn Smucker - If you are kind only to your friends
"He took the man back to the address on the license and opened the door with the key he found in the man’s pocket. He lowered him on to the sofa. He dried the man off. He went back out and caught another cab to his car."
Was this the pastor or the bartender?  Which one are you in this story?

Top of the Page - On Crying
"While I was crying, I had this visual in my head of Jesus smiling at me - no, He was gently laughing - not at me, but in undeniable endearment."

True Beggars - Celebrating God and Race
"No matter what the skin color or facial features or hair texture or other genetic traits, every human being in every ethnic group has an immortal soul in the image of God"

DisciplUS - No disciple is an island
"There is nothing as special and uplifting as sharing a cup of coffee (or your favorite drink) and praying together, studying together, seeking together, and helping one another. This is what makes discipleship possible and powerful."

A Deeper Story - The Pharisees are not dead
"To insist so hard
On the message of grace,
That I ignore
The One who gives it."

A Deeper Story - The Streets full of Hungry People
“cool, man, i love perogies!” and he looked stunned and happy, and i thought about saying something like “God loves you” but instead i said, “i love your necklace,” because that is something i think Jesus would have said.

The Handwritten - Scrapes and Bruises
"I'm getting used to the scraped 
knees and bruised elbows. In fact, I 
appreciate them."

DRGT: Just Wondering - Primary Verb- Follow

"If I can just keep Jesus inside,
where we can have tea once a day,
and talk about life -
well, that's the kind of following that seems doable."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry

Today I feel rushed!  I got up normal time, but I had to take a shower.  So that made me run a little late.  So I was late for duty this morning.  Also, today is the end of the semester.  That means there are worksheets and projects to finish in every class.  Actually there are multiple worksheets and projects.  That also means several students have realized today they have A LOT to do in just a few minutes.  Other students have finished everything and have nothing to do today.  So my classroom has been absolutely crazy!  There is paper everywhere and chairs not near the desks.  There are pencils and markers on the floor.  There is even a lunch bag on the floor.  I don't have the energy to deal with it.

You also might have noticed that there was a blog post this morning.  That was because I was too tired last night to post one.  So I had three blog posts to prepare today.  Even as I'm typing this one, I'm hurrying because I don't want to cheat Drew and Ben out of time with me.

All of that to say, I am running to much I can't even think about what I feel.  Sorry for the quick, messy post today, but that has been my life today.  My solution is go to home, put on comfy clothes, and play trains with my son and husband.  I will come in early on Monday and clean my classroom before meetings get started.  I will return on Monday with some fabulous post.

Linking up with Casey Leigh today.

It's all about Jesus

This was supposed to be posted on Thursday.  However by the time I got Ben to bed I was so tired that I completely forgot to post this.  So you guys get to TWO posts today!

neon home Photo credit: Dan4th

Today was not an easy day.  I found out that a comment I had made to a student was taken personally by another student.  In the end everything was cleared up and everyone was okay with it.  Well, everyone but me. It has bothered me all day.  After I spoke with all parties involved and got it cleared up, my heart was heavy.  I spoke with my husband and that helped a little.  Then I turned to place I should have turned first, God's Word. Even opening the book, I felt the entrance of an answer.  It was still far away and a little fuzzy, but the answer was coming.

Currently I am reading in the book of Isaiah.  The first thing I came upon was Isaiah 51:16.  "I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand."  I need to let him put the words in my mouth and let him cover me with his shadow.  Only then will I have the right words and the right attitude.  Then I came to Isaiah 52:6.  "Therefore my people will know my name."  I am one of his and I know his name.  I need to call on that name and not on my own.  Then I came to the big huge neon sign flashing, Isaiah 53.  "He had no beauty or majesty."  "He took up our pain."  "The punishment that brought us peace was upon him."  "The LORD makes his life an offering for sin."  "For he... made intercession for the transgressor."

There it is.  That is the answer.  Jesus.  It's always about Jesus.

*By the way, I'm totally new to the photo from Flickr thing.  Is this the right way to give credit to someone?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where to give: Part 2

Note the black screen when you arrived.  Today I am participating in SOPA Blackout to protest the new proposed SOPA laws based on the broad and encompassing language of the bills that could cause more damage than good.  If you want to know more about it, read here.

However, I couldn't not post this today because I thought it was pretty important.

Friday (the 6th), I wrote this post.  However, my usual link to social media sending thing wasn't working.  So ONE person read it!  Normally, I would be all upset about that, but I'm not.  I am taking that as a sign, that I do need to talk more about these companies and a few others.  So I'm going to do a short series on Wednesdays about where you can give to make a big difference. 

If you know of a company or organization that I need to feature, please comment or email me.
Earlier in the series:  Child Sponsorship


In Part 1, we discussed child sponsorship.  This is a pretty direct way to have a big impact on the lives of children.  However it is not the only one.  There are tons of missionaries around the world serving in many different countries.  They are impacting the lives of these people for Jesus and they need your help!  Part of the amazing impact these people have is their ability to focus their entire lives on these people they are serving.  How do they do that?  By YOU providing their salary.  By YOU praying for them.  By YOU gifting things to them.  By YOU encouraging them.  So below is a list of some missionaries that I know, where they serve, and what they do.  (There is every possibility that I am wrong about some of what they do.  So double check whatever I said and go ask them.  PLEASE go read their blogs because I really suck at trying to explain it.)

Anna Smith - Taiwan.  Anna is teaching English, leading Bible studies, and discipling the people of Taiwan.  You can read about her work here.

The Parker Family - Thailand.  Matt and Laura direct a short term missions agency, fight human trafficking, and work with a children's home.  You can read about it here.  They also have 2 girls and 1 boy.  

Jaime and Steve Wright - Costa Rica.  Steve is a coach and a player on a Costa Rican football team.  Jaime is a pretty popular blogger who will hopefully soon get a book deal.  Their main job is with International Teams.  They are also parents to 3 boys.  The original amount of time they signed up for is coming to a close and are searching for God's will about what to do next.  Read Steve's post here and see how you can help.  Read Jaime's post here.

Nicole Schara - Nicole is serving with Katie in Albania.  She is discipling young women and starting an anti-trafficking program.  See what she had to say about it.

Katie Hawkins - Katie is serving Albania and Europe as a media specialist.  She is helping the missionaries in Europe get their story back to their supporters in the US in a new and modern way.  She is also discipling  young women in Albania.  Hear what she has to say about it.

Kristen Paulick - Cambodia.  She has a beautiful heart for the people of Cambodia, ALL of them.  She wants to see the women freed from sex trafficking.  She wants to see the children in a loving family.  She wants to see the men free from the addiction that is destroying them.  Read about it here.

Jeff McQueary - Costa Rica.  He works with youth groups from the United States that come to Costa Rica and then the group from Costa Rica goes with the US group to another place to serve.  I'm doing a really bad job of explaining it.  He will explain it better.  Read this.  He and his wife have 3 boys as well.

I know there are lots more than the ones I have listed.  However, these are the ones who have a blog that I follow.  Maybe there is a missionary or missionaries that your church supports.  Find out and you can follow some of the suggestions I'm going to give you for that person or persons.

1.  Obviously, you can give money.  That always helps.  It may not seem like you have much to give and maybe it doesn't seem like that will impact people much, but it will.  Read this post by Jeff for a better explanation than I am giving you.

2.  You can pray for them.  Now you are thinking, "Yeah that is what they always say."  But I mean really everyday pray for them.  Pray for the country they are serving.  Ask them if there is a newsletter or any specific people to pray for.  Nicole and Katie have a weekly prayer list they send me of specific people to pray for and why.  It makes such a difference having a name to pray for.  Pray for them to have the right opportunities.  Pray for their language ability.  Pray for them to connect to the people they meet.  The list can go on and on.

3.  An amazing thing that my blogger friend, Kim, gave some missionaries is to send gift boxes to their kids.  If they don't have kids or even if they do, send them a box of goodies.  Contact them, find out what they like, and send them that stuff.  Everyone loves getting mail and I imagine that getting mail as a missionary is really exciting!

4.  Encourage them!!!  Follow their blogs and comment on them.  Follow them on Twitter and encourage them.  Get their address and send them cards or letters of encouragement.  Pray for them and then tell them you are praying for them.  They do hard work and don't get a lot of feedback from it.  They deserve your encouragement.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christmas with a 2 year old

I realized yesterday that I haven't talked about Ben much recently, so today I will rectify that.  After all a big part of my life is my life here at home with my boys, so I have a few little stories about Ben and Christmas 2011

We left North Carolina on Wednesday, December 21st and headed west toward Illinois in a rented car.  Ben fell back asleep and slept until we got out of North Carolina, like 2 hours.  In Tennessee, he started coughing a little.  Drew and I were a little worried and we should have been.  Somewhere on the road in Tennessee Ben threw up all over his car seat and himself.  As I mentioned above, we were in a rented car, so I did everything I could to keep the mess from getting on the car.  That wasn't too hard because we had so much stuff on either side of his car sear there wasn't really much of the rental car seat left to be seen.

Drew quickly found a gas station and pulled in.  Praise the Lord that we found the friendliest gas station in Tennessee.  I got Ben out and Drew started cleaning up the car seat.  As I walked my very messy and slightly grouchy son through the gas station, the lady at the counter gave me a plastic bag to put the yucky clothes in.  We got to the bathroom and there was no changing table, so we sat on the floor.  Being a rather small bathroom, everyone who walked in saw us and they were all very sympathetic and super polite.  I got Ben changed and washed what I could in the sink.  We got out and put the messy stuff in the car.  Drew was still cleaning with the supplies given by the other lady working.  She gave Drew some cleaner in a spray bottle they use in the convenience store.  She also gave Drew an air freshener can to spray in the car.  She also gave us some paper towels to dry things off.

After all the clean-up we got back on the road, but not for too long.  We quickly realized that Ben would need some medicine to make it through the other 3 states.  So I pulled out my phone and used my GPS for the first time.  (Our GPS we normally use was in our car.)  I found out that the town we were coming up to had a hospital, so it made sense that it would have a pharmacy or Wal-Mart or grocery store or something.  We pulled off the interstate and drove into town and kept driving.  After what seemed like a long time, we saw an IGA.  We pulled into the parking lot and realized it was closed.  Next to it was a Family Dollar.  We didn't expect them to have much, but we thought we would try.  We pulled into that parking lot and I looked across the street.  What did I see?  An old fashioned main street pharmacy.  Praise God for the other cars at Family Dollar that forced us to park facing the street.  I never would have thought to look on the store front windows for a pharmacy.  I went in and of course they had too much to choose from.  I got what looked best and came back to force the medicine into my son.  Ben does NOT like taking medicine.  It normally takes Drew and I to give him medicine.  So one of us holds his hands back and the other one gives him medicine.  He didn't like it, but he got over it pretty quick because he gets over just about everything pretty quick.  After a stop for lunch in Southern Kentucky, we drove the rest of the way uneventfully.

Ben being sick the whole time made things a little more difficult.  For instance when Santa visited us on Christmas Eve morning, Ben really didn't care about the presents because he just wanted to go back to sleep.  I think he did end up opening a couple presents.  I don't think he too excited about any of them that morning.  One night I dressed him to warmly for the room he was sleeping in and when I checked on him at 1, he was SOOO hot.  We stripped him down and went to the living room to rock him.  We were up for about 3 hours, but he got cooled off and back to sleep.  Of course, Drew and I had to debate on taking him to the doctor or not when we were out of state.  (We decided not to and by the time we got back to NC it was a sinus infection and he needed more medicine.)

He did feel good enough to play with my family.  He explored my grandparents yard and ran over the bridge over their creek.  He climbed the stairs (the 1 step up into the kitchen) with my mom.  He played with my dad in the recliner.  He played with Uncle Jon and Aunt Misa (Samantha).  He ate and ate and ate on Christmas Eve at my aunt's house.  He also climbed all over my cousin's new boyfriend.  Thankfully, her new guy is like the coolest teenage guy EVER.  He was cool with Ben climbing on him.  He chuckled and smiled at him, so of course Ben loved him.  

The drive back to North Carolina on Christmas day was uneventful, which is really good because we were going a different way than normal.  We didn't miss any roads or anything and we go to through Nashville.  I haven't been there in long time, so that was exciting.  I want to back again soon.  We got back and went to Nana's for dinner and presents.  Then we went to PawPaw's for more presents.  Ben wasn't too excited about any of them, but he liked seeing Nana, PawPaw, and Uncle Alex again.  Also the rental car company didn't charge us any extra, so Drew must have cleaned well.

So my lesson from this Christmas: Having a sick kid away from home is no fun.  It is stressful and causes sleep loss.  You begin to doubt your decision and wonder if you are screwing up Christmas.  Then he climbs on a stranger and makes him laugh and you think it's all okay.

Guest posters wanted!

If you would be interested in sharing a relational story on here, I would love to share it with the world.  If you are a blogger or not a blogger, it doesn't matter.  I am interested in hearing from you all about what you have learned!  I really only have 2 requirements:

1.  I would like 600-800 words
2. A story-ish thing about yourself learning something that made you a better ________ (insert relationship word here.)

Whether I know you personally or not, I would love to hear from you.  Whether you have ever commented or not I would love to hear from you.  Whether you have a blog or not, I would love to hear from you.  Are you sensing a pattern yet?  I would love to hear from you!

Respond here, email me, or tweet at me!

I would like to start once a week in February until I run out of guest posts.  It could be a story or a list of things you learned or even a paragraph about 1 thing you learned that I can put with other paragraphs.  I will take anything at all related to you learning to be a better __________(insert relationship word here.)

I would love, love, love to have a few other voices on here!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Good Stuff Saturday 1-14

Much of this weeks reading seems to be talking to me about redefining church.  I guess God is saying something to me.  Maybe he is to you too.  Read some of these and see what you think.

Shawn Smucker - A boy finds God in an empty church  A beautifully written piece about the way God speaks to different people.  Sometimes the silence is louder than when the church is full.

World Vision - Photo blog: Two Year Anniversary of Haiti Earthquake and A different kind of day  Both of these World Vision blogs were super encouraging to me this week.  It is wonderful to hear success stories about things being accomplished.

This Time Around - Maintaining Proper Focus  I needed to hear this Monday.  Stop dwelling on what went wrong.  Fix what you can and move on.  Michelle said it much better, read what she said.

Compassion - Here's to the heroes helping rebuild Haiti and Brokenness before God  The first post is another wonderful success story from this amazing company.  Read it and be encouraged.  This is a quote from the second post: "Brokenness is the antidote to our self-centered nature."  When we are going through hard times, it is easy to forget that God might be working on us even in that moment.  This was an encouraging read as well.

I'd laugh, but this all happened to me - Bad Theology  Two of the quotes from this great post are below.  Read those and then go read the rest of the post.  This is another piece to the redefining church puzzle.
"You don't go the gym to get muscles (salvation), you go the gym to improve them, to make them all they can be. "
"It's not how much a leader knows about leadership that sets them apart; it's what they know about FOLLOWING."

A Deeper Story - I thought church was where we sat down and stood up and sung songs together  One more post about redefining church.  A beautifully written piece that touched my heart when I read it.  When we are loving people, we are being the church.

New Ways Theology - Om Holmes and Watson  We should all strive to be a little more like Watson and a little less like Holmes.  Read what Mason had to say and see if you agree.

Stuff Christians Like - The God you least expect  Our expectations shape our experience, so when you expect God to be one way it shapes your experience of him.  Stop expecting and start experiencing.

Casey Leigh - What if - A beautiful post full of positive what ifs.  We would all be a little better if we did one or two of these.

DRGT: Just Wondering - It's time: The water is ready Water is so much more than something to drink or something to clean us.  God speaks to us and tells important things through it.  Read Diana's poetically written thoughts and see what it means for you.

Nicodemus @ Nite - You're not valuable  If you are not reading this blog, you should be.  I am constantly amazed at the truth and reality of what Charlie talks about.  Valuable is a loaded word and we don't even realize that.  So read on and realize you are not valuable.  You are important.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is this enough?

I have been struggling all day with this post.  I have done just about everything I can to not sit down and write this.  I have started writing it multiple times in my head and that all sounds good.  I just can't make myself sit down and start writing it.  This week is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  Wednesday of this week was Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  One of the blogs I follow talked about a website where you can go and see how many slaves work for you based on your consumption of various items.  I went to the survey and began to take it.  Even as I was doing it, I told myself I shouldn't be.  I knew the answer would bother me, but I felt like I had to know.  The issue of Human Trafficking is something about which I'm rather passionate.  You can pretty regularly hear me lecturing my students about this reality in other parts of the world.  I have begun to actively seek out products and organizations that help free people from this life.  I started my Where to Give series to inform you guys about things you can do to make a difference.  After reading 31 Days to your Blogging Mojo, I consciously decided to include charities like this in my blog regularly.  (I know this is about relationships and these charities make other relationships for other people around the world better.)

Anwyay, so I took the survey.  As I took it, I was never sure if I should answer about us as a family or about me individually.  So I think I mixed the answers and guessed a little bit.  I was also not sure if I should really count hand me down clothes and what about gifts.  Can I really say that they are working for me when I didn't buy the items?  So after wrestling with these questions and answering them with the worst possible answer.  I got my score.  It was 61!  SIXTY-ONE people are working in bondage for me to have my stuff.  SIXTY-ONE SLAVES are working for me.  That is totally unacceptable, but I'm stymied as to how to change it.  Most of the numbers came from underwear and electronics.  However, my husband and I just by Wal-Mart type underwear and only when we are desperate.  My son has several pair of underwear, but they are ALL hand-me-downs.  What else could I do to ensure that I am getting fair trade underwear that I can afford?  And as for the electronics, we do have lots.  However, most of them are gifts or several years old.  The laptops were for work and school we have.  The game systems are gifts as is the e-reader.  And even if they weren't how do we get fair trade for these items?  Does that exist?

I sponsor 2 children through Compassion.  I donate to The Sound of Hope.  I bought products from FreeSet, Hello Somebody, and fashionABLE.  I'm going to be buying some products from Tukula.  I want another scarf from fashionABLE and another watch from Hello Somebody.  I also would love to have a custom back from FreeSet.  Doesn't that count toward lowering my score?  I realize this is a just so you know survey and it isn't an exact number.  However, I still don't like that number and I want to do something about it.  My question is this:  Are those things above enough?  What else could I do on a limited budget?  How can I make a bigger difference?  Am I making enough of a difference?

Sorry for the rambling, but I had to get that off my chest.  Thanks for listening.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tried of trying

This week I have had a cold.  Nothing like I can't get out of bed horrible, but something that just makes each day a little harder.  I have been extremely tired and very sniffly all week.  Because of that, I have been a little more relaxed about my coffee stance.  I have been trying to go with mostly decaf.  I have some decaf at home and I have the one cup coffee maker, so I make my coffee there and bring it to school.  Sleeping in this week has caused me to need coffee more and not have time to make it at home. (Plus I need to replace the filter in my Britta pitcher, so the water that I am using isn't good for the coffee maker.)  And even if I did make it at home, it wouldn't be what I needed, caffeine, to keep me awake.  So I have had 3 cups of coffee at work this week, instead of 0 or 1 that I have been working toward.  On top of that we bought a 2 gallon jug of sweet tea as a refreshment for our small group Sunday.  For it to be bought from the store it is pretty good.  So I've been drinking that as well.  Partly to get it out of the house and partly because it is good.

At first, I felt like a bit of a failure.  I have been trying so hard to drink more water and eat less in an effort to get healthy.  I have been working really hard on getting rid of caffeine from my diet.  And now this week I have ruined all my progress.  I didn't stay with that thought long because on top of being sick, this is a testing week at school and I have had 4 extra meetings.  So this is a bit of an aberration and I'll get back on track next week.  So when that thought left, the one that replaced it is why am I working so hard at this.  I could say that it is because I want to treat my body better.  I could say that it is because I want to have more energy.  I could say that it is my New Year's resolution.  All of that would be untrue.  The real reason I have been trying to be healthier is to have another a baby.

There I said it out loud, so you all can start with the myriad of questions and knowing looks and whatever else is coming.  Drew and I are not trying to have another baby, but we aren't trying not to either.  We do not have a plan for when we might start trying.  I do want to have another baby.  I want Ben to have a little brother or sister.  I am terrified when I think of paying for another child or caring for another child.  I feel totally incapable of doing it well, but I know in my heart I want another one.  So in my wanting to have another one, but not wanting to manipulate God's timing.  I'm trying to get healthy.  That sounds good right, but the truth is I'm still manipulating him.  Because I'm trying in my own effort to have a baby.  As if I drink enough water and cut out this and that, then God will have to give me another one.  As if I complete X,Y, and Z, then he'll have to give me what I want.  That is manipulating God.  Even worse, it is selfishly trying to do it on my own and claiming I'm giving it to him.

So today I am tired of trying to do it on my own.  I'm tired of trying to figure it out on my own.  I'm tired of expecting my life to go one certain way.  I'm tired of manipulating God.  I'm tired of acting like I don't care about this.  I'm tired of playing games with myself.  I'm tired of playing games with God.  So starting today, I'm going to stop trying to do it my way.  I'm going to start asking God what he thinks and what he wants me  to do.  I'm going to stop listening to me and start listening to him.  I'm going to stop wanting it my way and start wanting it his way.

What are you trying to do on your own?  Do you need to give it to God?  Can I pray for you about that?  Let's do this together.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Where to give: Part 1

Friday, I wrote this post.  However, my usual link to social media sending thing wasn't working.  So ONE person read it!  Normally, I would be all upset about that, but I'm not.  I am taking that as a sign, that I do need to talk more about these companies and a few others.  So I'm going to do a short series on Wednesdays about where you can give to make a big difference.

If you know of a company or organization that I need to feature, please comment or email me.

Today I'm going to briefly talk about 4 companies.  I am no expert on any of them.  I don't work for any of them.  I have read about what they do and seen it via Mission In Action TV.  So here is my imperfect summary of child sponsorship.

Now you are thinking of all those sad commercials we have all seen more times than we can count.  While the truth is yes these children need you to help them get out of desperate poverty, the story doesn't stop there like the commercials do.  These children that have been sponsored often go on to become successful adults that give back to their community.  By sponsoring one child you are lifting the burden of feeding, clothing, and educating these children from a family with very limited finances.  Your monthly gift will help the child, the family, and the community to become better and stronger people.  I can safely say that all of these companies have a desire to see these people and communities become self sufficient.

1.  My family sponsors 2 children through Compassion International.  Compassion has various programs to help children.  They have a program (whose name I have forgotten) to ensure that pregnant women have a healthy pregnancy and that their babies are healthy as well.  They have the Child Development Centers, which have the sponsored children, that teach parents how to care for their kids better, teach the kids about God and other educational necessities, and feed the children.  They also have leadership development to provide higher education for these young adults from poverty.  There are so many success stories with these programs that I couldn't even begin to list them.  For $38 dollars a month you can sponsor a child.  They also offer trips for the sponsors to the various countries they serve, so you can meet your sponsored child.

2.  Another child sponsorship company is World Vision.  They work to provide help and relief within the US and internationally.  You can sponsor a child from various countries for $35 a month.  They also have specific relief efforts to provide malaria nets, to provide food to the famine in the Horn of Africa, small business loans for women, and much more.  They also work within the US to fight poverty in the US as well.  If you would like to help families in lots of ways, check out World Vision and see what they can do.

3. Number 3 is Child Fund.  For $28 a month, you can sponsor a child through Child Fund.  You can also help fund specific projects all over the world, like cleaning supplies for flood victims in Mississippi, school rehabilitation in Angola, hand tractors in Timor Leste.  They also have a gift catalog with various items at various prices.  I am very impressed with this companies desire to support the entire family financially.

4.  Number 4 is Only Believe.  For $24 dollars a month, you can sponsor an orphan.  For $42 a month, you can sponsor a widow.  This company takes very seriously the call to feed and clothe the orphan and the widow.  They also have a gift catalog that has items specific for elderly widows, young widows, pastors, orphans, and village families.  I am personally in love with their gift catalog.

If you have a particular country on your hearts, you might check all of these companies I am listing to see who is working in that country.  When you  decide to sponsor a child, they have various methods to search for children, by country, by age, by birthdate, etc.  Each one of these companies has a strong desire to help children and families in poverty to live better lives.  They all do amazing work here at home and around the world to see that happen.

You might be wondering about the difference in monthly payments.  The difference depends on the way they run the programs in the foreign country, the assistance they provide to the families and the communities.  Less money does not mean the program is worse.  More money does not mean the program is wasteful.  The companies are all simply different and in different places in the world.  They all allow you to write to your sponsored child, so you can get to know the child and their life.  It isn't just a money thing.  It is telling a child living in poverty that people see you and people care about you.  These are important ministries making a difference in the world.

If you want to make a difference in a child's life, in a family's life, in a community's life, consider sponsoring a child through one of these companies.

In upcoming weeks, supporting missionaries, products that give back, and much more.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Starting Anew

Today I wanted to write about how bad my morning was, how grumpy I was, and how poorly my classes were going.  However, I read a few other blog posts, like this one from Michelle, and realized that I needed to tell Satan, "Shut up and leave me alone!"  So I did that and things have gone better.  I'm still tired and a little under the weather.  I'm still not happy with how this quarter has played out, but I'm going to plan next quarter better.  I'm going to go to bed early tonight and I'm going to take some medicine when I get home.  Now that we have dispensed with my childish whining fit, we can get on to the good stuff.

Last night we started a new small group at our house.  While I love our church, it is woefully lacking in small groups.  So Drew and another friend of his started one.  We had 8 there including 2 kids.  Ben and a kindergarten daughter of another couple played together pretty well after he started sharing well.  The adults discussed things weighing heavy on our hearts presently, past victories, and future goals.  We got to know each other better and encouraged each other.  It just felt like the right group of people that night.  I am blown away at how God can orchestrate events.  He put those specific people together for that time and it just felt like a little slice of heaven.

As much as I enjoy my blogging community, I needed some tangible relationships.  I needed people that I can see face to face and discuss my problems.  I needed people who I can hear them tell their story.  I needed a smiling face at church that knows my victory for the week or a pat on the back of someone who knows my struggle.  I am so thankful that God has put these people together for this time.  It was really like comfy overstuffed chair.  I settled in for some relaxation and a good story.  Praise God because I got both of those things and so much more.

On a related note, I am not having caffeine that late again.  Seeing 2:30 and 6:30 in the same night has made for a long day!

How has your Monday been?  Did you get to spend time with people who know and who care?  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Good Stuff Saturday 1-7

So since I took a break for a couple weeks, I have a monstrously long list.  Happy reading!

Boo: Compelled to Love - Learning love  A great story that really challenged me.  I'm sure it will challenge you too.

The Rabbit Room - They had lots of good Advent meditations, but this one was my favorite.  Here is a sample.
            "We are in the middle of the story.  Jesus coming to save isn't the end.  His coming to bring us to his 
            house is the end.  We're still living out the story and will be until he comes again.  A celestial ray has 
            come to pierce the darkness, but it isn't the final celestial ray."

Laura Parker: Life Overseas - God is not a White Man  Great video.  Great story.  It really makes me think about myself and my motivations.

Red Letter Believers - David said a lot of good stuff the last couple weeks, so here are my favorites.   I never thought of the Wise Men this way or garbage men or rear view mirrors

Beta Christian - He was there, now he's here.  This is the best explanation of Christmas, I have heard.  Amazing!

Pictures of Poverty - I just love the wonderful photos they have.  Here are two.  Haiti and Philippines

World Vision - And speaking of photos. Here are 11 more for 2011 

The Rantings of a Dad - The effects of Mountain Dew and Peek-a-Boo   A funny kid story from a dad.  Good for a laugh.

My heart belongs to Jesus...citizen of the world - Kingdom 365:3  Something else I needed to hear.  Sometimes that little voice in our head, needs to shut up.

Top of the Page - Grace on a Thursday: Opening Gifts  I needed to hear this!  You probably do too.  Here is part of what I needed to hear.  "God doesn't need burnt out martyrs; He needs strong, healthy followers." Go read the rest of it.

I'd laugh...but all this happened to me - Come and Worship  I am SOOO excited about this series!  Read this, subscribe to this, do this.

True Beggars - How do you feel?  This is an amazing quote!  I can't agree more!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Giving Fills the Heart

Fridays - I will share what is on my heart.  Some real stuff I have been feeling this week.  Yes I got the idea from Casey Wiegand.  It is not my own, but I like the idea of reviewing where I am at on Fridays.  I hope you do as well

This week has been a pretty exciting week for me.  I ordered a few things with Christmas money and received them.  So I have gotten to use them and talk about the people these products support.  I got a scarf (pictured above) from fashionABLE.  I have worn it 2 or 3 times this week.  It is a beautiful yellow color and a perfect length. Absolutely lovely!  I got coffee from Land of a Thousand Hills.  The coffee is delicious, decaf, and helps people! (pictured above)  I drink it and think of the people who have stable, good paying jobs because of my coffee.  I got my amazingly awesome pretty and stylish watch from Hello Somebody.  (pictured above)  I needed a watch and I haven't had one in forever because I don't remember to wear it.  This one I can't forget because I love the look of it and I love the reason of it.  I will admit I don't remember that I have it on and I will look at a clock, but I'm getting there.  When I do look at it, I think of the other boys in school because of my watch. I also got my bag from FreeSet this week as well.  (pictured above)  This bag helps me from caring several little bags, has a great message, and sets women free.   The other picture above is from one of our sponsored children through Compassion International.  She drew it for us and sent it with our letter.  She is a lovely young girl in Thailand who has a sincere love for her family.

So this week I have felt excited to see the effect of my helping and I'm excited about the new stylish items I can incorporate into my wardrobe.  Once again, thanks to Casey Wiegand for the scarf inspiration and other fashion ideas for the new year.