Saturday, May 31, 2008

Worries and Cares

Tim and I have recently (within the last couple of days) been victims of Identity Theft.... oh boy... what a headache it has been. There are so many steps and things that you must do in order to straighten out the damage that has been done. The biggest fear is that there is "un-known" damage. The last 48 hours have been a true test for me. It's so easy to let the stres and worry take over and for the pressures of the situation to consume your thought prcoess and attitudes.
I tend to be a worrier naturally and on top of that, stress and I do not mix well. My first reaction was to just step back and say "Tim you deal with it, I just can't handle this." but I knew this was my responsibility too. I wanted to just avoid the situation, but that's not what I'm called to do.

We don't always get to choose the way things play out or the way that life comes at us, but it's how we handle the stresses and times of worry that determine how smoothly we are going to go through life. We all have problems, it's a part of life, we all face illness or death in the family. We all face financial decisions and pressures. Yes, they're different, but they're problems nonetheless.

I want to encourage ALL OF US, stay fixed on the Lord, casting your worries on the Lord. When our eyes are on Him, the cares of this world stay where they are supposed to be, in the background.

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers." Phillipians 4:6 TLB

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You." Isaiaha 26:3 NKJV

Monday, May 26, 2008

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The Love of God

There is a part of all of us that is seeking, constantly seeking, for something, something that we probably can't even put into words. As Christians, we know that the "big hole" in our heart cannot be filled with anything but God, but now, even as Christians, though we are saved, often times we still feel like something is missing. We are unfulfilled and empty.... still.
In part that feeling comes from the fact that we were not designed for this world, we were designed for so much more, and because of that it creates in us "gaps" and desires that we cannot fill. We are here but for a time, and we will one day go to our heavenly home - a place of perfection where all our desires will be met (even the ones we're unable to describe), we will never again feel a need or a want - only fulfillment, Love, peace, grace & mercy. (deep breath... to think of Heaven is comforting and calming for me... give me a moment).

There is more than just an ache of "displacement" that we are living with. When we fell into sin, it caused some lies to take root in our hearts, most of which we have accepted and lived with - unaware of the fact that they are lies because they have "always been there".
One of the deepest lies we have accepted is in regards to the Love of God. We have been blinded to and misinformed about the Love of God - we're not "getting it"!! We have been decieved that God is somehow holding out on us, that He is unsatisfied with us, that we will never be enough (or good enough) for Him, that He is disappointed with us.

It is true, God hates sin, and there are times that he commands us to change or to be holy (set apart), but when we fail (and we will at times) He doesn't give up on us, and His love for us certainly doesn't change. Karol Ladd used the analogy during a conference I attended, of a parent who is holding out their arms for their young toddler who is learning how to walk. When that toddler falls, do we get mad? Do we give up on them? Do we yell and decide that our precious child is not worth loving? Absolutely not, in fact even thinking that seems absurd. ASs parents we pick up our child, get them settled and reach out our arms for them again (and again, and again) So if that's the case with failed human love - how much more is the Love of God?

I wish that all of us could grasp even a portion of the passion and vulnerability that God has towards us, if we could, things would be so different. I am praying that somehow you can begin to understand the depth and unconditional value of His love for you.
God is constantly trying to communicate His love to you, have you been able to hear it? What are some of the things that you Love? (the smell of rain, the view of the ocean, the sound of a newborn baby breathing, the laugh of your child, a clear night where you can see the milky way?) What are the things that takes your breath away and causes your heart to skip a beat? God knows these things, and He uses these things to whisper in your heart that He loves you - he desires you and He is pursuing you. He created these things for you - and at times he will send you personal love letters through His creation, through other people or just moments of peace in your spirit. Open up your heart to these things, look for them, they are there.

We were called for and created for so much more, even on this earth, that we are unable to experience without first understanding the Lord's Love for us.
The first and greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God" but how can we love an inpersonal King? Beloved, we MUST change our view of our Heavenly Father, it is a crucial part of our journey - and the difference will be life changing!

VERSES FOR REFLECTION:
Hosea 2:19-20
Ephesians 1:4-5
1 John 4:9-10, 19
Romans 5:8
Isaiah 40:11
Isaiah 43:4
Isaiah 63:9

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prayer Life

Prayer, what a tough topic. Maybe it's just me, but most days I really struggle to have a "good" prayer life.
I try extremely hard to always keep my promise when I tell someone "I'll pray for you" and if need be, I'll write it down so that I won't forget. I don't think there is much worse than telling someone you'll pray for them and not... what a disappointment. The area that I mostly struggle in is the "relational area" - I don't do so well with the relational part. I long to be able to talk to God like I would my husband or close friend, no barriers, no walls between us - just me and God. I want to tell Him "Hey God, I'm scared" or "Lord, I am so crabby today - not for any good reason, just not feeling much reason to be happy".
I can get the words out for my prayer pretty easily, but to turn it into a time of connection, power and encouragement.... generally, not so much. It doesn't feel like a duty to me. I think of prayer as a privilege and I actually do enjoy praying, but most of the time I still walk away thinking that somehow I'm "doing it wrong".
I know obviously, how to say the words, but applying relational connection and power to my prayer life has been a little bit more of a challenge. I want to (and know that I need to) take charge of my prayer life - claiming things with confidence and rebuking things without a second thought. I know it can be done, I've seen & heard it and have even done so myself at times, but it seems like in no time at all I forget how or lose my confidence.
I remember reading a good book on prayer a while back "Intercessory Prayer" by Dutch Sheets, but now for whatever reason I forget most of it's content. (I wonder if the enemy had anything to do with that....)
So how bout it guys.... any advise? How do you keep your prayer life active and exciting? Do you set aside a specific time - if so when? Do you use worship music or not?
If any of you have any good books (or even website articles) to read on the topic I would love to hear about them. I plan on going back and taking a look at my "Intercessory Prayer" book, but any other books would be great as well.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Recommended Websites & Articles

As most of you can probably tell by now, I have an internet/researching problem. Anyhow, I have been reading some pretty fun and interesting articles lately and I thought I would pass some of them along if you are interested. Take what you like, leave what you don't.

PARENTING

Car Travel Activities for Kids article filled with road-trip and car activity ideas for parents with kids

Along with the Traveling theme - go to Mom's Minivan for 101 car travel games and road trip ideas for kids (including some free printables)


Does the Birth Control Pill cause Abortions? Written by Randy Alcorn (popular Christian author), regarding the Birth Control pill and the three main mechanisms of the pill, there are some parts of the article that are techinical but keep reading, it's very informative.

Mommy Time An article on scheduling in that precious, much needed mommy time and some ideas of what to do with it once you got it!!

HOMESCHOOLING

Are Parents Really Necessary a guide to preschool education, discusses what the governement is pushing for as well as what studies show to be the most effective teaching approaches for Pre - 1st grade. A must read for any parent homeschooling or otherwise.

ABC News Report: Stupid in America 20/20 reports on how having a lack of school options actually hurts our school system. The article includes many comparisons between the american education system to third-world countries school systems and how we're measuring up. You may be surprised with what you read.

How long to teach in a day? How much time are kids actually spending "learning" in the public school system and how much time should homeschoolers try to spend teaching in a day?

CHRISTIAN LIVING


The Secret of Happiness This is an article from the Making Home Blog that someone recommended to me and I absolutely LOVE!!

Christian Hedonism What is it?


Are You Sinking? Karol Ladd, the "Positive Woman" writes on the moments in our lives where the storm(s) hit hard, but we needn't forget, Jesus is in the boat with us.


The Weakness of Will-Powered Living an article written by Curtis Jones (son-in-law of Beth Moore) regarding the impossibility of making and succeeding at our Christian commitments on our own.


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MARRIAGE

Romance and Lifelong Intimacy written by Dr. Dobson, what is romance to a man and to a woman? How do you keep that alive - or reignite it?


QUOTE

"If we see God as He really is, and ourselves as we really are, there's only one appropriate response: to worship Him. I once heard someone say, "Only the humble are sane." I have to agree. Humility isn't pretending that we're unworthy because it's the spiritual thing to do; it's recognizing that we're unworthy because it's true." Randy Alcorn

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More Family Pictures

I didn't intend to put so many updates on here, but we have been so busy and taken even more pictures than normal lately, and I can't NOT put cute pictures on here... right? I hope that I'm not updating too much and losing my "audience".
Today we went to the arboretum in Appleton and took pictures. We have done this every may for the last three years and always gotten cute pictures. I love going! It's also really neat to go back and compare all three years worth of pictures and the difference between them.
This picture (above), which is our favorite one from this year, was actually an "accident" Treyton decided he needed a break - so he put his head down, I saw the picture and luckily my camera is fast so... snap! And WE LOVE IT! My little man smelling the flowers, it's funny to see, because some moments he is so gentle with the flowers and the next... they no longer have petals....

After the arboretum we went to the park where dad met us for lunch - it was a pretty day (though it was a little windy during lunch), and Treyton had a BLAST swinging. Aren't my boys so handsome?
This is Treyton and mom swinging together - I love those big chair swings, you don't even have to do anything!! Yeah - I'm 8 months pregnant - leave me alone :)
We had a fun day, we hope you enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

God's Heart for Relationship

As I am going through the Captivating book, I am once again reminded of God's Heart for Relationship.
As women, we don't often express in words our desire to have strong dependable relationships, but it's true, we very much do. One of our deepest desires is to be needed and wanted, and to fulfill and find fulfilment in others. This is something that I really never understood about myself, but the older I get, the more I see how deeply ingrained this desire is. To learn this about myself is so eye-opening and life-changing. I love how understanding myself better, helps me to accept these things about me and to even like myself for being this way.
The truly awesome thing, though, is that as I continue to learn more about myself, I am also learning so much about God, my creator. The Bible tells us that we were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28) male and female he created us. By taking on the image of God we each (individually and as a gender) possess qualities & desires that are reflections of HIM. One of these desires is God's heart for relationship.
Just as a mother longs to be with her child, and a wife longs to spend quality time with her husband, so does God long to be with us. Over and over throughout the history of human kind the Lord has made a way to have an open-relationship with us.
The Word tells us in Deuteronomy 4:24 (and in several other places) that our God is a Jealous God. As humans we can't fully understand what this means because our jealousy is often tainted with a selfish or human tendancy. I love how the commentary in my Nelson Study Bible reads
"His jealousy is not controlling it is releasing" "it speaks of His passionate commitment to us. It underscorse the truth that God does not just love us because he has to, but because he wants to. He is not moved to love us merely to maintain His own moral excellence, but because He desires us. His jealousy is an absolute intolerance of anything that would divide our affection."
I hope that you can take this heart and grasp (if only a little piece, like me) the desire and vulnerability of our Lord's heart to fellowship with you. I encourage you to take the steps necessary to strengthen your relationship with God - it's the most important one any of us have.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Baby Shower, Family & Friends

This weekend we went back to Portage to celebrate my sister (Tami) & brother-in-law (Tom)and their baby (on the way). We had a baby shower Saturday afternoon at the park and it was awesome!! It was a really great time. I'm attaching some of my favorite pictures from the day.

This one is of me and Tami (who are due a week apart) fitting together like puzzle pieces (yes, I am the shortest on that side of the family).
An adorable moment was when my son, kissed his cousin, Shayla at the park - this picture is priceless and will definetly be one that's shown throughout history in our family!! Tami and I are not the only two that are pregnant, our other sister in law is also pregnant due 3 weeks after me (a month after tami) we got some cute pictures with her and Toni (my OTHER sister-in-law, I know try to keep up!!) Big families are the best (in my opinion) but sometimes it's a little hard to explain them to others.... I'm doing my best!! Treyton also spent alot of his time playing with his cousin Trent and the trucks... these two have a lot in common, including energetic personalities, we don't get to see them as often as we would like, so it's always really fun to see them together. Then to keep up our usual busy schedule, I also had a reunion planned with some girls from high school the night of the shower. We hadn't all gotten together in.... a LONG time, at least 5 years (or more). It was a fun night and we did alot of "remember whens" one of the girls even brought some of our old highschool pictures and letters, it was hilarious!!

Overall, we had an awesome weekend and got to see alot of family and friends. We had a great time and made some awesome memories!!
Thanks to everyone who planned and put things together to make this weekend possible!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Overwhelmed

As I sit here this morning, listening to my son sing while he paints I am feeling at peace. Which is nice, because this isn't always the case. The last few months I have really questioned myself in all areas of my life and I have gone through a season of re-grouping, and re-organizing my priorities.... what is it that I am supposed to be doing?
It's easy to get distracted. I feel myself constantly questioning not only my priorities but also my gifts and areas of service. Questions of doubt swarm my head, and if I'm not careful they quickly take over. In order to take back my thoughts and peace of mind, I must remind myself (and do a self-check) that my desire is not to make myself look good or to make myself appear to be something I'm not ("the woman who has it all together"), my desire must be to serve the Lord.

So when life feels like it is spinning out of control I must go back to the basics and build from there. I KNOW (without a doubt) that He has called me to be a wife to Tim and a mother to Treyton and Lexie. Those are my first goals and priorities, on top of these things I feel called to do other things, like serve in a ministry at my church, write Reflections (including this blog), and to work in the direction of homeschooling my son.

So, no, it's not bad to scrapbook, make homemade cards, write a newsletter & a blog, get involved in ministries at church, be in a Bible Study, to make meals for families in need, etc. but if I (we) allow these things to get in between us and our first priorities of what we were called to do, that's when they become a problem and things MUST be eliminated. When we start to feel overwhelmed and like we have too much on our plates, we probably do, so start with the basics, regroup and prioritize and then learn to say "no".

Sadly, it can feel like a juggling game at times, making sure we get done what needs to get done AND keeping it in order of importance, seems like hard work. But I believe the sacrifice/cost of doing things the right way will be worth the blessing in the end.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Mall of America

This weekend our family took a trip to the Mall of America. We left early Friday morning and arrived home this afternoon at 4:00. It was a 5 hour drive there, which was obviously not the "funnest" but we were amazed with how well Treyton did (ecspecially considering we didn't have his DVD player)!

After meeting up with my parents and my niece, Shayla, who joined us on the trip, we got to our hotel and checked in. Treyton had been asking about the pool the entire ride there so of course we had to do the pool first! So after a refreshing dip, we got to the mall and enjoyed a nice dinner at the Rainforest Cafe' - I think the kids loved it - ecspecially the big fish tanks and monkeys that danced throughout our meal. It was slightly over-stimulating but the food was great and the atmosphere really was alot of fun!

Saturday morning we got up nice and early and headed to the mall. We did the Underwater Aquarium which was AWESOME - I really loved it. Though I am glad children under three are free because they get distracted pretty easily. However, they still saw lots of sharks and big turtles and tons of fish (pretty red, yellow and purples) - and I think they got a lot out of it. They also got to feed some Koi, pose with a beaver, dig in a sand pit and then touch several sting rays and sharks!! (I chose to take photos during this time - too scary for me)

Next I went shopping with my mom while Tim took Treyton on some rides at the Nickelodeon Universe and Luke pushed Shayla around trying to get her to nap. I got a few shirts and a pair of pants so I consider it a VERY successful shopping trip. We did lunch at "Bubba Gump Shrimp" which Shayla napped right through. It was good food and I actually ate my entire Shrimp Scampi!! (I'm the man!) After that we headed back to the hotel, where we took naps (it was about 3:00), went swimming, read, relaxed and ate dinner across the street from the hotel. It was the relaxing part of the trip.

Overall, the trip was great and we had a lot of fun. If I could do it over, I would schedule in another day, just because with naps and schedules it's hard to get a lot of time in at the mall and I would have wanted to spend more time there if we could. In spite of that, it was a great trip - one that Treyton didn't want to come home from. As we pulled up to the house he started yelling (after a 5 hour trip) "No Home, go bye-bye!! No Home, go bye-bye!!" So for us, even though we had to convince him we had to come home, that means he had a good time!!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What Could Have Happened?

Okay, I fear that tragedy may have struck my favorite little family of birds!! I need some bird expertise!!
Yesterday I noticed that I hadn't seen mama bird for a while (when I started thinking about it, I think it was two mornings ago that I saw her last). So I got my chair (so that I could see) and took a peek into the nest. One of the eggs were still there, I'm assuming for whatever reason it didn't hatch. However, the other three baby birds are GONE!! Totally gone!!
At first I thought maybe something ate them (I know I shudder at the thought), but there are no "signs" of anything that tragic happening... I mean NOTHING! It looks the exact same except there are no birds.
So now I'm hoping that maybe the mama and daddy bird moved the living birds away from the egg that didn't hatch to prevent any type of "contamination" or something.... but wouldn't it have been easier to just move the egg?
Oh man.... my heart is just breaking thinking about something bad happening literally right under our noses for our little baby birds.

Anyhow, despite what the answer may be, I must know....
Maybe there is hope!

AMBER