Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Good List 7-31-13

10. The Albany, NY airport for being one of the few who still provides free wifi. Thanks, Albany! 
9. Good warranties when you need them. It's always slightly frustrating to spend that extra $20 or $40 bucks knowing you probably won't need it, but when you DO have to use it, doesn't it always feel well worth the money?
8. Starbucks in my hand for the first time in months. Always a nice little treat.
7. My favorite way to enjoy homemade guacamole without consuming so many chips I completely negate the health benefits of the avocado. ;-)

6. Grace's very efficient packing skills. This is a small, carry-on sized suitcase, and this is the amount of space she used to pack clothes for 5 days (some of which require 2 outfits plus a swimsuit). Very efficient indeed. :-D

5. Social media. I totally get all of the negative vibes about it, and certainly it can be terribly misused, but when you need to reach lots of people quickly who are spread all across the world (like for instance for help with out of state adoption details), it is a priceless resource.
4. Last weekend we got to spend time with the Rahns, the Sathianathans, and Elder Dale and Mrs. Elder Dale. Wonderful, special people that we love more with each interaction. So grateful for their friendship.

3. We are leaving today for a family camp where Jared will be the guest speaker. So grateful that our entire family gets to enjoy this opportunity together.
2. An adoption is underway even as I type. Friends here in Vermont are on their way to Arkansas to adopt their first child. Amazing in itself, and gorgeous to see how the body of Christ came together to provide for them. (Although they've been preparing for a long time, the final details of the adoption were incredibly last minute due to the birth mother's quick decision.) Huge prayers today and ongoing for Gabe and Amanda and the baby boy they are hoping to bring home to Vermont after a couple weeks in Arkansas. Also, let's remember to pray for the birth mother and any others in her life who will be affected by this beautiful sacrifice.
1. On Sunday, our church welcomed 9 new members and celebrated 5 baptisms. And then a former member of our church, John Blanch, who pastors his own church now, baptized several as well. Sad that I had to miss it to be home with a sick kiddo, but what an amazing day!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Open Letter to (Some) Introverts

I'm not sure what has caused the recent outcry from introverts across the world, but I am seeing multiple posts every single week--almost daily--from many who seem very unhappy with pretty much all extroverts. Some of it is quite caustic.

It's confusing to me, most significantly in the way it lumps all extroverts into the same category of those who would lump all introverts into the same category (which, of course, is pointed out as wrong, because it IS wrong, but it's wrong on both sides of the argument).

Most of them are annoyed by how they are categorized as anti-social or dysfunctional in some way since "normal society" demands that you behave as an extrovert to have any level of success in life. First, I think that's an unfair assessment. I could list hundreds of highly successful introverts who I don't believe would feel violated in their introversion (just from my personal list of friends and family). Did they get a little more tired in their efforts to meet with people and communicate in whatever ways were necessary to achieve success? Probably. But they're not angry about it. That would be no more justified than extroverts who have to be alone from time to time getting angry at everyone who isn't sitting right next to them and cheering them on.

Extroverts are not your enemy. At least, not all extroverts. And just like you don't like being lumped into whatever category you assume we all put you in (anti-social, loner, dysfunctional, etc.), we don't appreciate being viewed as obnoxious, in-your-face, over-the-top, pushy, etc. Is it fair to say we're not all like that just because we're extroverts? Just like you, God designed us the way he designed us. We didn't ask for our unique personalities any more than you did. We were born with it. But some many of us know how to be respectful of introverts. (I'm married to one!) Just keep in mind that there is no blinking light above your head indicating that you are one, so if we happen to speak to you, it isn't meant as an attack. We just didn't know. For most of us, if you give us a sign that you aren't interested in talking, we'll back off. But that doesn't mean a friendly hello or a necessary interaction for the purpose of accomplishing something that requires communication makes us evil.

I'm certain there are plenty of incredibly annoying, even hateful extroverts in the world, but let's not make their extroversion the crime. There are introverts who hide in their mother's basement and prey on children. That doesn't make you one of them. 

On behalf of extroverts everywhere, I apologize if you have been mistreated, but may I humbly suggest that your experience may have had much less to do with introversion/extroversion and much more to do with someone maybe just being a jerk? And just for the sake of argument, may I add that some of the most vile and painful words I've ever had directed at me have come from introverts who like to sit alone and attack people through their keyboards? But I know that doesn't mean you're all like them. Let's not dismiss entire categories of people from our lives based on assumption. God made us different on purpose. I don't know why--maybe just to give us more opportunities to practice grace. Just a thought.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Good List 7-24-13

10. Baking soda. After a week's worth of summer camp laundry followed by a week's worth of sweaty Honduras laundry. . .  yeah, baking soda. Just sayin'. ;-)
9. The 3 NFL games that live permanently on our DVR for when we have to have a "fix" between seasons. (Like last Sunday.)
8. The $200 1600-thread-count sheets that I got on sale for $29. Like butter.
7. The massive table and chairs right on the side of the road on our way to Elfin Lake. Very amusing indeed. :-D

6. My tiny but growing collection of Honduras woodwork. Last year, Jared brought me the bowl. This year, the vase. One day, I hope to pick out my own piece (because that means I will be there in person to meet all those amazing people.)

5. Meal planning for our upcoming vacation. I'm such a nerd that this is one of my favorite parts of the experience.
4. Those rare months (the ones with 5 Mondays) when Jared gets a Monday night off. A nice treat.
3. Crafty kiddos. Lots of rainy days this summer. No worries. Let the creativity flow! 

A polar bear pillow by Macy:

And now Macy is working on a blanket while Grace makes hats for everyone she can think of. ;-)

2. Gracie's Christmas list spreadsheet. She has created a chart listing each person and gift she plans to purchase. There is a column for name, gift, cost of gift, whether or not the gift has been acquired or ordered, what chore she plans to do to earn money for the gift, etc. I'm impressed with her organization and planning skills, but I'm even more enamored with her heart for giving.
1. Looking forward to our annual church baptism event/picnic on Sunday. Last year, we saw 6 adults baptized, including 2 couples whose husbands baptized their own wives. That's a special kind of awesome to me. The year before that, Jared baptized our very own Gracie among others. This yearly event is easily one of my favorite things about being a pastor's wife (not that you have to be a pastor's wife to enjoy such things). The family of God grows! Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Let's Pray for Each Other, Shall We?

It is my increasingly firm belief that what we do impacts our children far more significantly than what we say. 

As a mother of pre-teen daughters (and an aunt/friend/mentor to countless others), this thought terrifies me.

But also, it is this very thought--awareness of my utter inadequacy in this role--that sends me consistently fleeing to the cross for help. I've never found disappointment at the foot of the cross. Never shame. Never hopelessness. Only the sweet, refreshing reminder that somewhere in the wreck of all my humanness, there is Christ. And then I pray with all my heart that my children will see Him when they look at me.

Do you have children? If not, are there any children in your life paying more attention to your behavior than your words? (Hint: If you ever spend any time with any children anywhere ever, this applies to you.)

Let's pray for each other then, shall we?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Good List 7-17-13

10. The tiniest frog I've ever seen. That's my fingernail he's sitting on. I KNOW, RIGHT?!?

9. Macy and Grace's favorite swimming hole. So much fun!

8. Letters from camp. Because of the holiday right in the middle of the week and the fact that we were away from home the last 2 days of the week, I didn't get Macy's letters until she was home. Still, they were no less sweet to read. She wrote one every day except the last day. Precious to me.
7. Over the last couple months, I've had the joy of discovering new routes all throughout Vermont and upstate New York. Driving to Lake Placid and back, taking 2 different routes to Speculator, NY and back, and several others. So many beautiful things to see driving around up here. Now I need to have Jared drive me through all of these little journeys again so I can look at the surroundings instead of paying attention to the road. :-P
6. Honduran coffee. I'm no connoisseur. I only know what tastes good to me. This is easily one of my favorite coffees ever.

5. Cherry pickin' at Dave and Barby's. Fun! And I made a cheesecake topping with the bounty, which was quite delicious indeed!

4. It's a long story that I won't bore you with, but the hood of our Suburban was up for a couple hours one morning last week awaiting a jump-start. During that time, no less than 4 people from my church either called or stopped by to make sure I didn't need help. I'm so grateful for my family.
3. Before leaving for Honduras, Jared arranged for flowers to be sent to each of "his girls" during the week. Mine came Tuesday, which was just as much a treat for Macy and Grace as it was for me, but then they each got a box addressed to them on Wednesday, and they were over the moon! Small gesture, HUGE statement, lifelong memory. So blessed.

2. We finally got a copy of Jared's newest book (releasing at the end of this month), The Pastor's Justification. Macy was the one who collected it from the UPS guy, and the kids were so excited, you would have thought he had just handed them lifetime free passes to Disneyworld. It was a sweet moment.

1. Jared's recent mission trip to Honduras. Such a blessing for so many reasons. He traveled with 3 other men from our church. They met up with his Dad's church team there. They built a church, established a soccer field, provided meals and resources to families throughout a nearby shantytown and shared the Gospel with everyone who would hear. So grateful for this opportunity. Hoping to bring our whole family some day.

The MSCC team:

The whole team:

One of the recipients of Gracie's carefully selected puppies:

Pastor Jorge prays a blessing over the completed church building:

Food for the shantytown:

Thunder and Lightning indeed ;-) :


Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Grace!

Where do I even begin, my Gracie? You are such joy to me, I could write for days. (but I promise I won't. . .) ;-)

I've never met anyone who lives in such a loving way. Truly you desire for everyone around you and everyone you know to be happy and having a good time, and you will do whatever you must to get them to that point. It is one of the sweetest things I've ever witnessed. And they don't even have to be human. ;-) Certainly if you see a sad *person*, you will do your best to cheer them up. But 4-legged friends get just as much attention when they need it, actually maybe more. You are always thinking of things you can make or do for people to make them happy. Crafts to make and send, special chores to do for your sister or your Dad, little gifts that you see that would be "just the right thing" for someone you know who needs to be uplifted. You won't stop until you see them smile. And if you can't cheer them up and see the evidence of it in their face, it makes you sad. This is true compassion, and it flows from you unfettered.

I'll never forget the night I went into your room to tuck you in one last time (it was probably my 4th time for the night ;-), 'cause I just can't lay my head down unless the very last thing I've done for the night is to check on you and your sister.) This one night you were clinging to your "Memaw" blanket and crying. When I asked you why, you said you just missed her and wanted to know she was ok. We had one of my favorite talks that night, during which I suggested you pray and ask God to speak to your heart and let you know that Memaw was safe with him and happier than anyone on earth. :-D This is what I found under your pillow the next morning:

It made me cry. A little bit because I miss Memaw too, but mostly because I am so overwhelmed with joy to know that you are learning to talk to God in ways that really matter to you. I hope He spoke to your heart in such a special way that night, and I hope you will continue to listen for His voice.

You are one of the most carefree and joyful little girls I think I've ever known. I could never begin to count how many times you've said to me, "Mom, I think this is the best day ever!" And you mean it sincerely. This is not because you are having extravagant experiences. It's just because you find joy in just about everything you do! With you, there is always a reason to celebrate, always a reason to get excited, always cause for happiness. What a gift to live with someone like you, Grace!

I love the way you love your sister. She would probably never admit this, but I'm pretty sure you are her best friend (and she has some really good friends!) But you are so encouraging to her, telling her often what good ideas she has, asking her for help or advice (and valuing her opinion when she offers it), and spending time together playing and laughing. You two have your less harmonious moments just like any siblings do, but more often than not these days, I hear you giggling instead of arguing and collaborating instead of competing. Such a blessing to me!

One of my favorite things about you is how much you LOVE family time! We were having a talk about this in the car just the other day. I don't recall exactly why we were discussing it, but you were going on and on about all the fun family time we would have once Macy was home from camp and Dad was home from Honduras. I expressed how happy it made me that you loved family time so much, and you were utterly confused as to why anyone *wouldn't* love family time. I didn't expound much :-D, but suffice it to say that you are pretty unique for a 10-year-old these days. And I love it!

But my very favorite thing about you is your walk with Jesus. You just love him, Grace! It's so awesome and amazing to experience as a Mom. Certainly there is a great deal you don't understand yet about your faith. Honestly, there is a great deal you will never understand. But you embrace what you do know with all of your heart, and you're never afraid to ask tough questions that will help you learn and grow.

I'm so proud of the young lady you are becoming, the way you love your family and others, the way you invest in others so naturally, and most of all the way you continue to deepen your relationship with God. You are more of a blessing to me than I could ever fully express, and I am so very grateful that God allowed me to be your Mom. It is one of my very favorite things to be! I love you so much!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Good List 7-3-13

10. Strawberries. They are pretty much perfect.
9. The way a rainy day smells in Vermont. I'm sure it's different everywhere, maybe even better in some places depending on the mixture of trees and flowers in the area. But as long as it smells like nature, I love it.
8. So You Think You Can Dance. I absolutely love watching the strength and talent that oozes out of those dancers. Gorgeous.
7. Waking up to this preciousness yesterday. I wanted to squeeze them both, but I decided to let them sleep a little longer instead. ;-)

6. My helper for preparing little gifts for the kids in Honduras. She literally counted every single one of the hundreds of foam stickers we bought to make sure each package was equal and everything was fair. 

5. Two more completed manuscripts off to publishers this week. One fiction, one non-fiction. I keep saying I don't know how he does it, and it is becoming no more clear to me with practice. ;-) I really don't know how he does it, but I'm so grateful that he does.
4. The messages I've gotten from several sweet friends in the last few days letting me know they're sending Macy cards and letters and other fun stuff. Precious to me.
3. George. Grace took such great care and patience finding him, and when everything else was sorted and in the bags ready for Honduras, she was still snuggling him and talking about the little girl she knows will be so happy to get him. It has been such a sweet reminder to me to pray for that little girl, whomever she may be. We will probably never know where that puppy ends up, but I bet he will be a very special friend to someone, and I'm praying he will be delivered with a message of God's Grace and serve as a reminder of that Grace throughout his new owner's life.

2. Camp Tapawingo. The more I read about and hear about this place, the more I am enamored with the entire ministry. This week I've heard from friends literally all over America who have had only the highest praise for this place. People who have attended there, worked there, even one who says she feels like she grew up there (and is eternally grateful for having done so). As much as I whine about being away from my girls ;-), I am so eager to incorporate this into our yearly schedule and see all the ways my girls will grow and mature and blossom under the love and guidance of such a wonderful, Christ-focused ministry.

1. The striking reminder of redemption God gave me yesterday. Over dinner last night, Jared was telling me that earlier in the day, he had written about our miscarriage in the manuscript he was completing. He didn't even realize that yesterday was Angel's "birthday." It gave me chills to think about how God continues to use that experience for his glory and remind us of the many ways he redeems our brokenness. In the words of my sweet friend Hannah, "God doesn't waste a thing. He uses every bit of it." Indeed he does, and I'm so grateful.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Prayer for My Camper

I promised Macy I would pray for her every single day while she was gone. And so, I hope to utter this prayer and many others like it throughout the week. Please join me in praying this prayer (or a better one of your own) for my camper or your camper or any other campers throughout the world who need our prayer support.

Lord, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the gift of a Christian camp for my daughter. In continuing to read about Tapawingo this morning, and specifically some of the staff there, I am overwhelmed with joy to think of the experience Macy will have there this week. What a blessing and privilege to be surrounded by so many people whose primary purpose in life is to know you, serve you, and love others as you commanded!

I pray this morning for each and every staff member, volunteer, and worker of any kind associated with this camp this summer. Lord, infuse them through and through with your strength and grace. Give them supernatural amounts of energy and patience. Surround them with love and encouragement, and prepare them well for whatever interactions they might have with the young ladies in their care. By your grace, may the fruits of the spirit spill out of them all day every day as they seek to represent Christ well. BUT, oh Lord, may they cling tightly to you in full understanding that the ability to do any of these things comes only from you. Help them not to find themselves exhausted and striving under their own strength, but to continue to rush to you for refreshment and uplifting.

For Macy--I don't think my heart has stopped praying since we first started packing. Scattered thoughts throughout each day of all the ways we need you, Father, to be close to both of our hearts while we are away from each other. Mainly, it seems like I keep coming back to these 6 overarching ideas:

SAFETY and HEALTH: Father, please put a hedge of protection around Macy all week long. Keep her safe as she tries all kinds of new adventures. Keep her healthy and hydrated and feeling energetic as her days will be filled with activity, and help her to rest well every night.

COMFORT and SECURITY: Lord, I know that I don't have to ask you to *be* near, because you already are, so instead, I am asking that you will help us to *feel* you near. Help Macy to sense your presence in a way that she has never before experienced. Bring her such a sweet comfort and such a solid security in your embrace that she will not have a single moment of homesickness. Lord, may she believe with all of her heart (maybe even in a way that she doesn't fully understand just yet) that she is right where she belongs and that you are holding her firmly in your arms all week long.

FUN and JOY: Father, boldly and without hesitation, I ask you to make this one of the most fun weeks of Macy's entire life. Help her heart to overflow with joy throughout each day, and help me to somehow feel her sweet giggle in my heart across the miles. Surround her with people who make her laugh enthusiastically and often, and enter her into experiences that flood her heart with sheer delight. And as she bounces through each day with joy and then grins and giggles herself to sleep each night, remind her, Lord, that these gifts come straight from you.

RELATIONSHIPS: Thank you so much, Lord, that Macy has one of her dearest friends (sweet Miss Rebekah) right there by her side this week. My heart worries so much less than if she were there "alone" for her very first camp experience. But I do pray, Father, for an abundance of new relationships, many of which will develop into lifelong friendships. What a brilliant and special grace to have friends across the globe who feel just like sisters because of our bond in Christ. I pray that you will begin to build many of those relationships for Macy and her fellow campers this week. May they find in each other great fun, companionship and encouragement immediately, but may these relationships blossom into sisterhoods of honesty and accountability--young ladies who will pray for each other and sharpen each other across miles and throughout their lives no matter how they might scatter geographically. Lord, build a support system that will last a lifetime.

A GRATEFUL HEART: Father, I ask that even as Macy's days are filled with activity, you would give her moments of stillness in her heart to embrace gratitude. Help her to see the grandeur of the mountains and the lake surrounding her and recognize you as Creator and Mighty El-Shaddai. Help her to sense your presence embracing her and recognize you as Comforter and tender Jehovah-Rohi. Help her to enjoy treats and activities throughout the week and recognize you as lavish Jehovah-Jireh. She may not know the terms, but certainly she can understand the concepts. Speak these truths directly to her heart, and help her to recognize them as your voice. Help all temptations toward selfishness or entitlement to fall away so that she might linger in a state of constant praise and thanksgiving for all that you have done, are doing, and will continue to do in her life.

A CLOSER WALK WITH YOU: More than anything else, I pray that this week will decidedly impact Macy's walk with you, Lord. Strengthen and deepen her commitment to you. Refresh her in ways a 12-year-old doesn't yet realize she needs refreshment. Help her to understand more clearly her utter need for you due to her brokenness and sinful nature, but engrave onto her heart deeply and permanently a striking confidence in your finished work on the cross, which repairs and re-creates to better than new. Father, may she learn to cling to you in ways she's never before experienced. Help her to understand the weight of her sin, but never to live under condemnation. Help her to know that Romans 7 applies to every single one of us, but help her to bask in the glow of Romans 8, knowing that we are free from the law because of Christ. Give her fresh understanding and new appreciation for her justification, and may all that she learns throughout the week stimulate her sanctification. Quicken her heart toward your truth several times each day, and help this week to inspire a love of Christ and the Gospel that will impact her for the rest of her life.

I pray all of these things with a confident and grateful heart. Thank you for the grace to do so. Amen.