Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nothing is Quite What it Seems

What appears to be Nolan practicing his piano lesson alone....

Is in fact Nolan practicing his piano lesson while being watched....

And I promise my children aren't half pig.  They're obviously smashing their faces against the screen for the 'cool effect' it makes, apparently...

I'll tell ya...never a dull moment.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Husband, My Valentine

Many years ago, my husband presented to me a most precious gift.   Unbeknownst to me, he had been journaling the highlights of our life together in a letter he titled "Memoirs of a Happy Man".  It entailed all the little just-between-the-two-of-us moments that made us 'us'.  Our trips to the beach where he gave me piggy-back rides so I wouldn't get sand between my toes...the scent of my perfume...the late night dinners we shared after the kids went to bed.  This tender and special letter went on for pages and didn't end at the last memory.  Every few years he updates his Memoir by including the most recent memories that remind us of our life well lived.

Somewhere in the middle of his chronological Memoir was written the most important memory of ours.  A moment in our lives that will never be superseded by something more important.  A moment that ensured we'd be spending eternity with the Father.   He wrote of the time that we, side by side and hand in hand, met and fell in love with Jesus.

Since that life-changing moment, our memories have more meaning.  They reflect eternity.  They show the Father's love and the Spirit's presence.  In essence, our memories are now all about Jesus.  They are either directly about Him, or are surrounded by His characteristics.  

Since today is Valentines Day (OK, it's actually the day after Valentines Day, but I began this post several days before Valentines Day, so that has to count for something), I thought I would publicly share some of my own personal highlights of my God-loving husband.  I'd like to introduce to you a man who loves Jesus and isn't afraid to make it known.  A man who uses Christ's example of loving the Church as his sole example of how to love me.  The man Jesus created my husband to be, and his willing and passionate response to that calling.  A few of the 'God-Things' in our lives.  A few of the outward actions of my husband that come from a heart that follows after the Lord.  Meet my valentine.

"Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs,
and He will give you all you need from day to day
if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern."
Matthew 7:32-33
In a current world where many people are faced with job loss, God has seen fit to bless my husband with continued financial security by not only keeping him in his career that he loves, but by giving him a 13% annual raise.  We completely acknowledge this is of the Lord.  I mention any of this because as the sole provider for our family, I know a large part of my husband's time and energy goes into his work schedule and that isn't something to be overlooked.  Because my husband finds his strength in Jesus, he is able to give to his career in such a way that doesn't take him away from us.  As my husband daily seeks direction and discernment from the Lord, he is in turn blessed with an abundant supply of time that can be shared between both career and home.  He's not only a financial provider to us, but more importantly a spiritual provider, continually bestowing respect and honor towards me and my role as full-time home manager.  I rejoice in the Lord for calling and equipping my husband to be a reflection of His provisions for us.  And I'm thankful for His meshing of our two hearts into one, as we share the same vision for what our roles are in our family.  Daily I'm given the opportunity to see God's heart through my husband as he comes home with wonderful spiritual stories of what took place that day at work.   The Lord provides all our needs, and as He shows me more and more His provision through my husband, the stronger my love is for him...and Him.

"For you have been called to live in freedom -
not freedom to satisfy your own sinful nature,
but freedom to serve one another in love."
Galatians 5:13
Outside of our precious Lord Jesus, my husband is the most impacting, sold-out, sincere example of a servant in my life.  Rarely, if ever, does he put himself first.  And because my husband is quick to listen and slow to speak, his words are chosen carefully with the intent to glorify God.  Just as Jesus bent down to wash the feet of sinners, my husband's servant heart usually shines through strongest in action.  (He may have taken the Lord a little too literally on the feet washing, as he does indeed wash my feet.  But he then goes on to polish my toenails, and I don't remember reading that in the bible, so....).  However, my husband continually works with a cheerful heart at allowing me to accomplish my schedule of events before his own.  He joyfully comes along side me in my ministries to help make them smoother and more meaningful.  He uses the love of Christ to reinforce his faithfulness to me and our marriage by working along side me in being an extreme hands-on dad, preparing dinner, accomplishing household chores, helping with church functions I'm involved in or praising and supporting the gift of painting for others I've been given.  Most importantly, he's always pointing out the spiritual purpose in them, giving Godly direction and council through the Spirit.

"Be glad for all God is planning for you.
Be patient in trouble,
and always be prayerful."
Roman 12:12
Our marriage is no different from others in that it is continually under spiritual attack.  Being aware of this, my husband makes it his top priority to cover me in prayer.  As the leader of this home, he knows it falls to him to be the chief intercessor on my behalf.  It is not uncommon for me to awaken to his opened bible on the counter top right next to his love note he leaves me every morning.  Nor is it uncommon for him to wake me up by laying hands on me and speaking to our Father about my upcoming day.  One of the greatest areas of growth in my husband since giving his life to the Lord has been his protection of us in the spiritual realm.  He pleads with Jesus about all topics and areas, so whether my husband has a great day and all his actions prove as such, or he's having a hard day and seems to be lacking in many areas, ultimately I have the constant reassurance that he is seeking the Father daily.  He prays alone, he prays with me, he prays with our children, he prays with co-workers....he prays because he has an appointment to do so, he prays on the spot....he prays for life and death situations, he prays for the smallest of detail.  This is one of my favorite qualities of my husband as it's such a strong reflection of the Lord.  Jesus spent much time in prayer, and not only do I feel more connected to my husband through our prayer time, but I feel closer to the Lord as we pray as one-flesh.  As is the case with all areas in our walk with Him, our Lord isn't allowing my husband to grow stagnant in his prayer life, but is bringing him to a deeper understanding of it by asking him to begin leading us in prayer and fasting.  How amazing this chapter will surely be in our marriage.  To see the excitement in his eyes and the trembling in his voice as he proceeds to tell me the great things our God has shown him through this is one of my favorite things.  It's such sweet fellowship with both Father God and my husband.  Indeed, the best of both worlds.

"You must warn each other every day,
as long as it is called 'today', so that none of you
will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.
For if we are faithful to the end,
trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed,
we will share in all that belongs to Christ."
Hebrews 3:13-14
Just as Jesus is our primary source of purity in this world of perverted...everything, the Lord is more and more equipping my husband to fill the earthly role of moral compass in our marriage.  With his new life in Christ, my husband has been given new eyes to see and a new heart to discern with.  I believe my husbands leading, praying, serving, and other Christ-like qualities wouldn't hold much weight if he wasn't willing to also exercise an unfailing stand against the impurities of this world.  Setting the standard in a house full of mini-men is not an easy responsibility, but nothings impossible with our Father.  The Lord daily fills my husband to over-flowing with zero tolerance to unclean language of any kind, monitoring with high expectations our television or movie watching.  It isn't uncommon for him to turn a movie off in the first 3 minutes if something is deemed inappropriate to the Lord's standards.  Also in the line of Jesus' will is his zero tolerance to any kind of representation of women in a jaded light.  Jesus has an open invitation to come mingle in our midst whenever He feels He'd like to, so if it's not something we would watch, talk about or associate with while the Lord is in our presence, then it's deemed inappropriate, and rightfully so.  My husband seeks to exhort us in this area and I have come to expect nothing short of a narrow path of acceptance from him, gladly.  Some might believe this leaves us to live in a small world, but just the opposite, our world has broadened and reached such beautiful views by living within God's boundaries.  Jesus loves us and wants His best for us, and my husband strives for us to meet Him in this area.  

"The person who wishes to boast
should boast only of what the Lord has done"
2 Corinthians 10:17
As much as the Lord has blessed me with the ability to love my husband with His heart and see my husband through His eyes, I should probably keep the remaining thousands of things I love about him between the two of us.  But bringing to light these few areas is just one way of honoring the work the Lord is doing in him.  It truly is all about Him.  We both know that, and we both love that.  

I love you, Valentine!!  :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Joke or No Joke: That is the Question

Many moons ago (OK, more like this past spring), I had the opportunity to spend some time on a fun website that allows you to design and create original ideas using your own personal pictures.

It was one of those rare days where I actually had the time to lounge on this site, not just rush in and rush out of it. So I was able to browse all the shirts, posters, mugs and the like this site promised to turn into masterpieces of personality simply by adding my very own picture images, unique wording and chosen fonts.

Mind you, this was real lounging, as I had no intention of actually purchasing any of my creations, and I certainly didn't need any of them. I was simply creating them for the joy of lounging. Yes, that's correct. The joy of lounging. Because quite frankly, when a person such as myself is in a season of life where giving, giving and more giving is the norm, there is a certain amount of excitement to be found in browsing a website with no goal other than providing a tad bit of "me" time.

It's all good.

Just after deciding I had probably spent enough "me" time doing, well, basically nothing, I spotted an option that allowed me to create my very own bumper a cost close to nothing (remember now, this was many moons ago, so quoting an exact price is a toughie). I chose one of their blank options and quickly downloaded the first picture of me and my husband that appeared from my chosen picture file.

I typed out a pretty generic statement, albeit very true: I love my wife - I love my husband, and took the short cut of opting for the first font the site suggested. Considering I took very little time in producing this sticker, the result was actually really cute, so I splurged and purchased it with the intention of giving it to my husband once it arrived. I was sure he would get a kick out of it just as I had.

As the days passed, naturally the bumper sticker was to eventually be forgotten about. Which made it even more of a surprise when it finally did arrive. I opened the envelope at our kitchen table with my family and passed my masterpiece around. Boy, I had no idea Mom would score so high on the "cool scale" because of it.

Lots of "Whoa!"'s, "That's so cool!"'s and "How'd you do that?"'s later, I proudly announced it was for Dad to keep and do with as he pleased. He was pretty stinkin' thrilled. A big smile grew on his face and he disappeared. Within minutes, I caught him outside washing off the perfect spot on his bumper for his treasured gift.

Once the bumper sticker found its permanent home on the back of his car, it was quite the site to see as he would drive off into the distance. Imagine if you will: One of our favorite pictures of ourselves displayed right there on the tail of his car, coupled with a proclamation of love towards each other, for the whole wide world to see! How cool!

But reality set in a few days later. Apparently, some people don't think it's so cool. In fact, those same people not only think it's 'not so cool', they actually think it's funny. Or worse yet: A joke.

That's right. A joke. Really. A joke? Hhhmmm...well, we didn't get it.

Hubby came home from work that day and proceeded to share his unexpected encounter.

As he was walking out to his car, heading home after a long day at work, he was met by a few men huddled around taking in the site of his bumper. Once within ear shot, they held their bellies and shared with great laughter, "Boy, someone got you GOOD, huh??!!", pointing to the declaration on his car.

Someone got you good??? Huh?

Needless to say, my husband explained in no uncertain terms that it was certainly not a joke. The fact was, it was very true. He was then able to spend some time sharing with these uninformed men the joys of marriage. Especially the joys of a Christ-centered marriage.

You see, sometimes it can't be contained. Sometimes you want to scream it from the rooftops. Sometimes you can't help but want the world to know that with Christ as your center, husband's truly can love their wives, and wives truly can love their husbands.

It's an opportunity to mimic Christ. A reason to desire for Him to take away all your bad in exchange for all His good, and then give it to your spouse. A journey with your one-flesh that can't be bought with any amount of money, or improved upon with any status of fame or reputation. A relationship like non other, designed by God and intended to be used for His glory.

A covenant that, apart from Christ, is only a mere counterfeit of what was established with Adam and Eve. Marriage is no joke indeed.

Since this bumper sticker made its big debut, its brought out many an opportunity to point others to the Lord. It's been met with appreciation and has encouraged other couples to share about their own marriage. Its evoked sparkles in the eyes of spouses as they share an "Awwww!", grabbing each others hands lovingly and walking on their way. Its reminded our own children to take clearer notice of the value of a strong, healthy marriage. One that uses Christ to strengthen and build each other up. One not ashamed to follow after God's standards set forth in the Garden of Eden, to love and submit to the Lord and favor each other.

One that is overflowing with the love of Jesus and a love for Jesus that it may filter into as crazy a thing as a bumper sticker.

Lord, thank You, thank You, thank You for Your gift of marriage! Thank You for Your design, creating man in Your image, to honor and obey, love and follow after You! Thank You for coupling man with Your plan of woman, to be help-meets to their husbands and in glorifying them, we glorify You! Thank You for designing children in such a way that brings joy to us as their earthly parents and joy to You as their heavenly Father. Thank You that there is no monetary value to be put on a husband and wife that love You first, and each other second, and the treasure that order is to the family. It all makes sense and it's all from You and You desire to give it all to us! Lord, my family is so richly covered in Your blood and we know, that because of that, we have the authority to proclaim, even in the form of a bumper sticker, how good You are!! We love You, Lord, because You first loved us. Oh, how undeserving we are, Lord.

The next time I'm given a moment to casually lounge in cyberspace, I'll remember it does not have to be in vain. When even those moments of "me" time are given over to Him, He'll find a way to use them for His glory.

Its all good.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Love Preserved.

My husband and I have been married for 13 years. 13 years! What amazing grace from the Lord! What a blessing! What a gift!

The world says opposites attract...indeed my husband Darren and I attract each other..and indeed we are opposites.

Groom: "Honey, come try the salsa I just made. I think it's my best batch yet!"
Bride: "Um...I think I'll pass. You know I don't like salsa, but it sure smells fresh!"

Bride: "Yyyyuuummm! The black olives on this pizza are delicious!"
Groom: "Kris, keep those things away from me. Black olives taste like dirt...literally."

Groom: "The boys have been asking to go swimming in the river, hon. I'm thinking we can take 'um on Saturday?"
Bride: "Ah, I don't think so. Our children are irreplacable, and wild rivers aren't to be trusted. But Bi-Mart's having a sale on blow-up, plastic baby pools...can we take the kids swimming in that?"

Last Saturday, my girlfriend Kellie and I had a garage sale. As she was thanking a customer for a purchase, she noticed on my tally sheet that I had made $6 on 2 'bibs'. She was pretty wowed by the fact that I owned such elaborate baby bibs that I was able to sell them at $3 a piece. I knew I wasn't selling any baby bibs, because, well, frankly, by your fourth child, you don't use bibs any more. That's when my husband chimed in and very proudly announced that he had sold our 2 snow-skiing overalls for a whopping $3 a piece. You know...the really big, bulky, warm, expensive outfits you put on to have fun in the snow with? I had to laugh! That customer sure got a deal...they were in really good condition! Point being, I chuckled and said to Kellie, "What would I do without my husband? Just getting to witness how his mind thinks really adds spice to my life." He made a huge profit selling the 'bibs' at $3 each? I love it!

13 years ago during our wedding ceremony, the pastor read a scripture that I believe was spoken as a vision of faith over us as we were becoming one-flesh and beginning a beautiful, life-long covenant with our Father.

He read Psalm 121:7-8
"The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore."

The Lord has preserved us. He has preserved us! He has preserved our time together, He has preserved our likings for one another, He has preserved our patience and forgiving towards each other, He has preserved our laughter together, He has preserved our listening and sharing together, He has preserved our intimacy and our child-like romance, He has preserved our vision for a family. He has taken our disagreements and arguments, our disappointments and short-comings, He has taken the 'wastelands' of our marriage, restored them to fertile ground in Him, and is preserving that wonderful newness for us! Jesus has and will continue forevermore to preserve our marriage. What peace.

He has preserved it for 13 years, and standing on His promise, we rest in the faithfulness of our Lord that He will continue to preserve it throughout our life-long marriage covenant.

So, as far as the world's saying goes, yes, in our case opposites attracted. Some of the 'opposites' have been easy to live with, some have been an adventure to live with, some have been fun to live with. Some have been the 'spice' in each others life, as we discover and see clearer the awesome uniqueness of one another. Some have been a lesson in patience and forgiveness, grace and acceptance. And that's OK! It's better than OK, it's God's perfect will and love for us, His children. He desires to preserve everything in us that is of Him, and change everything in us that is of this world. He's preserving our love for Him and for each other.
And we love that we never have to question what He's doing. He's in the business of restoring and preserving families. He certainly continues to preserve ours!

13 years after saying 'I do' husband still wakes me up in the morning by praying over me, kissing me goodbye as he leaves oh-so-early for work, and bends down as I lay in bed, just to hold my face in his hands and whisper, "Did you get more beautiful as you slept?"

That's the perfect love of Jesus! And He's preserving it.

For this entire flock of His.

Thank You, Lord...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hidden Opportunities.

My kids crack me up...

We have 4, and the last 2 have had this very distinct trait.

Beginning with the older of the last 2, when he was the baby of the family, we noticed he had this tendency to be very particular about doing things "right". And by "right", I mean forever doing things the way he was taught or shown the very first time.

Of course, we weren't aware of this until we were in over our heads.

Doing simple things that shouldn't require much thought or things you just do without realizing you're doing, became things we had to pay super close attention to. Because the way it was done in front of the baby (this trait first showed itself at about 1 year of age) was the way we would have to do it for a long time.

Case in Point: Reading him a bedtime story.

His first memory of us reading him a bedtime story must have been a time when I did it, and I happened to be all snuggled up next to him, and I happened to use a variety of different voices, and I happened to sing half the sentences, and so on. In other words, I happened to do stuff you just do on a whim without planning or thinking about.

Little did I know, from that memory on, he would always require me to do the exact routine the exact same way. The same book, the same snuggly position, the same voices, the same tune, etc. And if it wasn't that way, it was "wrong".

"No, that's wrong! Daaaad! You can't read me that book! Mom reads that book!"

So I would come in on that particular night and take over for Dad. But if I didn't or couldn't, and Dad continued with the nighttime tucking in, then boy was there a story to tell afterwards when I went in to give him his final kiss goodnight.

"Moooooom? Dad did it all wrong. He didn't even put his arm around me like he's suppossed to, and he didn't use the right voices, and he didn't even know the right part to sing...."

And you know when your small kids do something that you KNOW is going to cause trouble if they continue to do it, but it's the first time they're doing it, so it's actually CUTE? Well, this character habit was cute to me at first because I loved seeing my little boy take notice of things. Or be so immaculate about a situation. I mean, this trait came in reeeeeeal handy when he watched us clean a room or put something away because it meant he would continue to do THAT forever more (or at least for the next several years). But situations like the bedtime story got a little challenging sooner than later.

At first I would sympathize with him, "Oooohhhh, I'm sorry. Here, Mommy'll come in and do it right...."

But over time, it became real clear that I was planting seeds of allowing him to believe "Dad was wrong", when in fact he wasn't at all. So it's become an opportunity for me not to just correct my son that stories can be read all sorts of ways, but that "the way Dad decides he's going to read a story is Dad's decision and we're going to follow it."

I love declaring that! Because not only do I have the opportunity to declare it over "little" things, but over BIG things. And I especially love it when I can declare it and top it off by saying, "...Daddy listens to Jesus and we listen to Daddy. So if Daddy made this decision, then he talked to Jesus about it first."


OK, well, all this to say...we now have a new baby of the family, and I just noticed for the first time yesterday that we'll potentially be put to the same test with him, as I'm getting ready in front of the bathroom mirror and watching him reeeeeaaaaach for a small bathtub toy that was placed on the lid of the toilet by someone without thinking.

He reached it, pulled it down, played with it, and then when he was done, my heart broke as I watched him practically risk his life by reeeeeeaaaaaching again to put it back on the toilet lid. Because that's were it goes since that's were he found it for the first time....just like his older brother.

I bent over to save my son's life and grab the toy to put it were it really goes, in a bin in the bathroom closet.

This DID NOT sit well with my baby, and quite frankly, confused him I think. Because he proceeded to attempt to literally pull his hair out. He got really mad, fetching the toy out of the bin and trying to place it back on the toilet. And when I tried explaining to him that it doesn't go there and that it's OK if that's where he found it and it goes back somewhere else, he physically dropped everything. The toy and himself. He dropped to the ground, screaming his small, little scream, face turning red, legs kicking, arms above his head with fists full of hair, pulling and clawing. I immediatly reconized these symptoms and knew right away I would be given the same daily opportunity to gently correct this child God trusted to put in our care, build up my husband, submit to his role in this family and glorify the Lord all at once.

Thank You, Lord, for pointing out Your opportunities to me in my everyday life to follow after you and build up this family!

But that mini-tantrum from the baby was SO. STINKING. CUTE. ...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ummm...why not?

So, I'm talking to my girlfriend this morning about possibly starting a blog, and she made a comment that pretty much confirmed what I had already been thinking.

I comment on her blog almost every time she posts, and during my last comment, I started thinking, "I sorta feel like I'm writing out my own post here. This is probably too long and detailed to be considered a 'comment'!" Hhhmmm, should I just start a blog?

So, as I was saying, during our talk this morning while on the subject of blogs, she said out of nowhere, "Well, ya know, a lot of your comments are like the beginnings of posts themselves...".

Fast forward: here I am. I took the plunge. Why not, right? I'll post when the Lord gives me time, and I won't when the Lord has me elsewhere (which will probably be the majority).

So much crazy stuff goes on under this roof! Maybe this way I can jot down a situation or two, share our days, some thoughts, some pictures, glorify Jesus...who knows. All I know is: this is an experiment.

Wonder how it'll turn out?