Monday, November 30, 2009

Joseph: From Privilege to Suffering to Exaltation

The story of Joseph is one of my favorites in the Bible. It’s appropriate to consider for Advent for several reasons. First, it’s a story of innocent suffering followed by exaltation. Secondly, it’s one of the great stories of forgiveness in the Bible. And finally, the story of Joseph demonstrates the Providence of God, always at work in the circumstances of our lives. All of these point us to the coming of Christ and the salvation He brings us, so I’ll consider each briefly.

Joseph was his father Jacob’s favorite son. (Remember how Jacob loved Rachel and was tricked into marrying Leah? Well, Joseph was the oldest son of his favorite wife, Rachel.) As the favorite, he was a son of privilege. His father lavished gifts upon him like the famous coat of many colors. Joseph also knew he was destined to rule. He had everything going for him until that is he was sold into slavery by his brothers. In like manner, our Lord who existed in the “form of God” and had everything He could ever want, willingly made Himself of no reputation and took the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:7). Throughout his time of servitude Joseph, like Christ, remained obedient to God even through periods of great suffering. When Joseph is wrongfully imprisoned he is silent just as our Lord, “as a sheep before its shearers is silent, opened not his mouth,” when He was accused of blasphemy and then crucified for our sins. Both stories have a happy ending as well. Joseph is exalted by God and placed second in command to Pharoah in Egypt. His dream of ruling over his brothers comes true when they come to him for grain and bow to him. Christ conquers both sin and death in the resurrection and now sits at the right hand of God in heaven. We know every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).

The story of Joseph is also one of the great stories of forgiveness in the Bible. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and wicked in their dealings with Joseph, some of the brothers even wanting to murder him, before agreeing to sell him into slavery. What’s more they were deceitful and unloving to their father and younger brother Benjamin when they made it look like a wild animal had killed Joseph by smearing his coat of many colors with goat blood and tearing it and taking it to their father. If this happened today, these young men would deserve life sentences, would they not? They didn’t deserve Joseph’s forgiveness, not they ever thought they would need it. But, this is why the story of Joseph should point us toward the coming of Christ and the forgiveness of sins we can have through the shedding of His blood. None of us is deserving of the forgiveness God gives us, yet He is so merciful to us that He removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west! (Psalm 103:12) Joseph found it in his heart to forgive his brothers, not because they deserved it, but because he understood the Providence of God. My favorite quote in all of Genesis is at the very end of the book after Jacob dies and Joseph’s brothers are afraid Joseph will get his revenge on them now. They beg Joseph for his forgiveness and fall on their faces before him. Joseph says to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive”. (Genesis 50:19-20)

Joseph understood about the Providence of God, how God works in the circumstances of our lives to will and to do His good pleasure. He knew that nothing that had happened to him had happened by accident. He fully trusted God that He would work out His plan. This is evidenced by how he talks to his brothers about their guilt. “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Then again, “And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance, so now it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:4-7)

As we celebrate Advent, I hope the story of Joseph helps us look more clearly at Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Isaac as a Type of Christ

Isaac is a type of Christ meaning that his life in many ways foreshadows the coming of Christ. Following are some of the ways in which Isaac points us toward the coming of Christ.

Isaac was the son of promise. In Isaac all the promises God made to Abraham (innumerable descendants, becoming a great nation, blessing all the families of the earth) would be fulfilled, and without Isaac, none of the promises God made to Abraham could possibly come true. Jesus is THE Son of Promise, by whom our inheritance is made sure. Without Christ, God could not redeem a sinful people, and none of the redemptive promises in Scripture could be fulfilled. The miraculous way in which Isaac is conceived by a 90 year old barren woman, even hints that our Savior will not come to us by ordinary means. (I love though that while Sara laughed in her heart when she heard God’s plan that she would bear a child, Mary treasured it in hers.)

When God called Abraham, childless though he was, God promised Abraham that in him “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). How is it that in Abraham, all the families of the earth are blessed? Abraham’s son of promise, Isaac, points to THE Son of Promise, Jesus, who brought the blessing of salvation to all who would believe. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This is the blessing- that through the son of promise, Isaac, would someday come THE Son of Promise, Jesus, and with Him salvation for all who would believe. The angels say it this way when celebrating the birth of Christ, “glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Christ made it possible for us to have peace with God. Our sin puts us at enmity with God, and Christ’s humiliation, sacrifice, and resurrection buy us peace at an incredible price to Him, yet available to us for free. This is certainly cause to celebrate, is it not?

Then there’s the offering up of Isaac, the son of promise, by his father, which foreshadows the offering up of Christ, THE Son of Promise, by His Father. Isaac, continuing as a type of Christ is obedient to his father, willing to be the lamb offered on the altar that he built together with his father. There’s even the implication of the resurrection since Abraham believes God will keep His promise to make his descendants innumerable through Isaac even if it means raising him from the dead. “In Isaac your seed shall be called, concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Genesis 21:12, Hebrews 11:18-19). God was gracious to Abraham and spared Isaac, his son, providing a substitute at the last minute. But aren’t we blessed that, “He who did not spare His own son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Xmas and Christmas- exerpts from CS Lewis

My personal favorite essay on the Christmas season was written by C.S. Lewis and can be found in a collection of his essays entitled God in the Docks. I will reprint a portion of "Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus," in which Lewis plays the part of an outside observer who describes Exmas as celebrated by the people of Niatirb (Britain backwards hinting at what he thinks about how Christmas is celebrated there:).

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In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas, and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what they pictures have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the market-place is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send tohim so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as an Exmas gift. And although the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

...

This fifty days of perparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas rush. But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they will have spent on gifts and on the wine.

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If you enjoyed the portion of the essay above, check out the full-length version on pages 301-303 of God in the Dock.

And check back later for my post on Isaac as a type of Christ.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Abraham

Remember, advent means coming and in my advent series I’m going back through Old Testament Scriptures and examining them in the light of Christ. I love to look at how the Old Testament of the Bible points toward the coming of Christ, not just directly through prophecies, but also through typology. Really the entire Old Testament is a shadow or type of what’s to come in Christ. If you haven’t yet read my posts on the proto-evangelium or Noah and the flood, they’re a good place to start. Today’s post focuses on Abraham, our father of faith.

The Lord said to Abraham, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

First, notice how God calls or chooses Abraham and not the other way around. God chose Abraham, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). God asks him to leave behind his country, his family, and his home, in order to follow the Lord to a new land that God will show him. This reminds me of the way Christ calls His disciples and also of how Paul describes counting all things that were gain to him as loss that he may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-11).

Second, notice Abraham’s response to God’s call. Immediately after God told him to leave, Abraham “departed as the Lord had spoken to him.” (Genesis 12:4) So, he responded in obedience. Hebrews tells us that Abraham obeyed by faith (11:8). Remember that Abraham was 75 years old when God promised to make him into a great nation, childless, and Sara was not only old, but barren. When Abraham questioned God about this the Lord said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:5) And Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord accounted it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). So his response to God was belief and God saved him by his faith just as we are saved today by faith. Abraham proved his faith to be genuine by obeying and following the Lord.

Finally, I want to focus on this great nation that God has promised to Abraham. When Abraham gets to Canaan, the Lord appears to him and says, “To your descendants I will give this land.” Certainly Joshua would someday lead the Israelites into Canaan and under David the Israelites would unite into a strong nation, but is that all God has in mind here? He explains a little more in Genesis 17:8, “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” An everlasting possession? Hmmm. The book of Hebrews sheds a little more light on this inheritance. “By faith Abraham dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:9) The city whose builder and maker is God. Then the clincher and here’s where we expectantly join with them in waiting. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16) As Christian puts it in Pilgrim’s Progress, “There is an endless kingdom to be inhabited, and everlasting life to be given us, that we may inhabit that kingdom forever.” Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3) Is this starting to sound more like the everlasting possession God promised Abraham? And again this brings us back to expectantly waiting for Christ to come again, but until then we, like the patriarchs are strangers and foreigners on earth. This world is not our home, so this Christmas season let’s try to keep an eternal perspective and focus on our homecoming which will coincide with Christ’s second advent.

Advent series part 2: Noah and the flood

If you haven't read my first post on the proto-evangelium, it's a good place to start. I know this is not your typical Advent series, but bear with me and I’ll get us up to the birth of Christ by, well, by Christmas. I just couldn’t skip over this most well-known of narratives in the Bible- that of Noah and the flood.

Genesis 6:5 says that “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So, the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

The story of the flood is also a picture of the gospel. Man sins. God hates sin and must punish it because of His perfect holiness and because He is a just God. Yet, we see not only the wrath of God against wickedness in the flood, but also His mercy and grace. Genesis 6:9 calls Noah “a just man, perfect in all his generations.” I was reading something recently that suggested that Noah is called perfect because the law had not yet been given. I would like to offer another interpretation. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and Romans 3:10 says, “there is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” I do not believe Noah was perfect, as in sinless, for this would contradict the above passages. Rather, Noah was a man who “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9) meaning he loved the Lord and sought to obey him in every area of his life. Noah was like the righteous man described in the Proverbs who “walks in his integrity” (20:7) and who “follows righteousness and mercy, finds life, righteousness, and honor” (21:21). In case there’s still any question about the righteousness of Noah, Genesis 9:21 settles it. “Then he drank of the wine and was drunk and became uncovered in his tent.” Noah was not completely without sin, but he stood out in the midst of his perverse generation as one who loved the Lord and wanted to please Him.

Now on to the Advent portion of this narrative. God could have destroyed the whole world, all of His creation and every living thing, but He didn’t. "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord". The Lord had mercy upon Noah and his family and didn’t destroy them, even though He certainly could have and would have been within His right to do so. God chose to provide one way of salvation, the ark. God didn’t carry Noah and his family up on a cloud to hover above the earth during the flood, and He didn’t put a force field around them to protect them where they were. Certainly, He could have just caused it to flood over most of the world, but preserved Noah and his family. God didn’t choose any of these methods for salvation. Noah was saved by faith- he believed God, and this faith saved him from the flood. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Hebrews 11:7). Noah’s salvation required that he believe God and that he respond to God in faith (building the ark).

So the Lord provided one means of salvation, the ark, and Noah was saved by faith. Even though it had most likely never rained before, Noah believed God over peer pressure, God over the culture, God over science. I also love that there was just one door in the ark. The ark was huge, why not put multiple doors on every deck? Why have just one door? I think again this points us to Christ. There is only one way to salvation, not many.

I also can’t help but notice that God instructed Noah to bring both clean and unclean animals aboard the ark (Genesis 7:2). This suggests to me two things. First, it indicates that God had indeed already conveyed His law to the people during Noah’s time despite the fact that we are not told specifically about it. Obviously the distinction of clean versus unclean meant something to Noah, so God had given them the dietary laws and instruction as to which animals were to be used for sacrificial sin offerings. (This puts the final nail in the coffin of the theory that Noah was righteous because there had been no law given and thus no standard to break.) The second thing this tells me is that God already had a plan to save Gentiles, as well as Jews. Ok, you may be thinking this is a bit of a stretch, but remember the dream Peter has with the food and God’s telling him to eat and he’s saying, but it’s not clean? God was telling Peter, not that there is no unclean food, but that He wanted Peter to go and take the gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile. The Lord tells him firmly, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” (Acts 10:15) In this vision from the Lord, clean animals represent Jews and unclean ones, Gentiles. So in including clean and unclean animals in the ark, we have a picture of the breadth of God’s love, that salvation will not just be for the Jews, but that He will redeem for Himself a people that will come from all the nations of the earth.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The first post in my Advent series: the proto-evangelium

Maybe it’s the scientist in me, but I always have to start at the beginning. After Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, God pronounced the curse that would be over creation now as a result of their sin. To the serpent specifically, the Lord says that he will be cursed more than any beast of the field, he’ll crawl on his belly eating dust all his life, and then God tells him something very interesting. In verse 15 the Lord says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This first hint of God’s plan to redeem His people is called the proto-evangelium, or first gospel. It’s a bit obscure, to be sure, but the gist of it is there. That the Messiah would be born a man (from the seed or offspring of Eve) is certainly clear. It may not be totally clear at this point that Christ would also be God, but I think it is implied. Certainly Adam and Eve understood that they could not redeem themselves, because they were now cursed or fallen, how then could another mere mortal also born under the curse save them? Adam and Eve no longer had that intimate relationship they had enjoyed with the Lord before and they could not close the gap of their sin.

God must have explained all this to them. For in verse 21, “the Lord God made tunics of skin and clothed them.” This is significant. Adam and Eve did not wear fig leaves as many would have us believe. The Bible says they were naked until they sinned and then the Lord clothed them from animal skins. Again, we’re assuming some of this, but I think these assumptions are supported by overwhelming evidence. Since death came as a result of sin (v.19 and Romans 5:12 and 6:23, etc.), we assume that there was no death, not even of animals, prior to the fall. And since the Lord brought skins to cover Adam and Eve, we also assume He explained to them that these animals had to die because sin requires the shedding of blood (death) to atone for it. That Messiah referred to in Genesis 3:15 would come one day, but until then Adam and Eve were to begin the ritual of animal sacrifice to keep their sins always before them as a reminder of the great gulf between them and God that they had made when they sinned. More evidence that God explained all this to them comes in the next chapter of Genesis.

Cain murders his brother Abel in Genesis chapter 4 because he was angry that, “the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.” (v4&5) It is true that only God can see the heart and perhaps it was the heart of Cain that was lacking in true worship, but I see something else here as well. Normally, our heart determines our actions, and we see two different kinds of sacrifices offered to the Lord from Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer and he offered from the “fruit of the ground” while Abel was a shepherd and offered the “firstborn of his flock and of their fat.” Hebrews 11:4 says, Abel offered “a more excellent sacrifice” than Cain. Some have also pointed out that Cain did not offer “first” fruits like Abel did, but I think the type of offering is more important. What had God clothed Adam and Eve with after they sinned? Animal skins showing the penalty for sin is death and that the shedding of blood is required to atone for sins. What did Abel offer? Firstborn sheep- blood sacrifice showing he understood the gravity and penalty for his sins. What did Cain offer? Grain- or at any rate something grown, so not a blood sacrifice.

In verse 7 the Lord confronts Cain about his anger and jealousy and says, “if you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” In other words, God wasn’t arbitrary in accepting Abel’s sacrifice, although that’s certainly His prerogative, Abel “did well”, whereas Cain “did not do well”. There was something about Abel’s sacrifice that pleased the Lord and about Cain’s that did not. I think it was that Abel was agreeing with God about his sin (this is confession) and offering a blood sacrifice to show he understood there is no atoning for sins without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). In other words, Abel believed God and his faith was credited to him as righteousness (Hebrews 11:4).

So, right here in the first book of the Bible that records our beginnings, we have a first glimpse of the gospel, that sin brings death and a Seed of Eve will come one day who will bruise the head of the serpent, the one who introduced sin. This is symbolic of Christ conquering sin. “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” (Romans 5:18) So, we have evidence that Adam’s family understood the necessity for offering animal sacrifices to the Lord to serve as a reminder of their sins and to cause them to come to the Lord in repentance often. Surely this proto-evangelium provided hope for Adam and Eve and their offspring and caused them to wait expectantly for the coming Redeemer who would save them from their sins so that they could once again enjoy that close fellowship with God that they had first enjoyed in the garden, but was now closed to them (and guarded by cherubim)!

The Winner is.... and a new series on Advent

I'm so excited to announce the winner of my $25 Lowe's gift card giveaway is JenT! Yay- your 5 entries paid off!! Thank you to all of you who entered and check back often because I have two more giftcard giveaways coming up in December.

I really enjoy posting series and I've decided in honor of the Christmas season that I'm going to post on the Advent this month. Our word advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means "coming". Adventus in turn comes from the Greek word parousia which is commonly used in reference to the second coming of Christ. So, for Christians the Advent season before Christmas each year serves the dual purpose of looking back to the original waiting for our coming Messiah and also our current expectation of his imminent return.

You might be wondering why I chose this topic. First, like many Christians I get frustrated when I look around and see that Christmas has become largely a State holiday wrapped up in reviving the economy through rampant spending (whether we can afford to or not). My mom got a quote for putting up Christmas lights the other day- $700. They won't be putting up lights this year. Not that they can't afford it, but come on isn't this getting a little bit ridiculous? C.S. Lewis wrote an essay on the difference between Christmas and X-mas that was a warning for Christians in his time and has become even more true in our day.

The other reason I want to post on Advent this month is that I just love looking at Old Testament Scriptures in the light of the first coming of Christ our Saviour. In other words, I love reading Messianic prophesies in the OT that are satisfied in the NT. Verses that didn't even completely make sense until Christ's coming fulfilled them. We use the Desiring God Sunday School materials for our kids in church. The study that the 3rd graders and I are going through right now is called "In the beginning... Jesus". It has been such a blessing to be able to teach our children that Christ's coming was not a plan B for God, but that the entire Old Testament of the Bible points to the coming Messiah.

So, I hope you'll enjoy my little series on Advent and that together we'll put Christ back in Christmas, as if anyone can take Him out of it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Give thanks to the Lord

I am not crafty AT ALL, but when I saw this awesome thankful tree at Raising Olives I knew I had to give it a try. Kimberly provided the link to the leaf printables at Robin's Heart of Wisdom blog, so I simply printed them last night. This morning the kids had fun cutting out the leaves and then writing what they are thankful for on the leaves. It was easy and fun. The hard part was wielding a plastic golf club in one hand at the ferocious Jack Russell terrier guarding the tree I was trying to cut the branches from. Once that was accomplished, the kids did the rest in no time. How do you like our thankful tree? I absolutely love it! Thank you so much Kimberly for the idea and the link! Are you wondering what our kids are thankful for? I saw God, church, mom, dad, nana, grandfather, grandma, grandpa, granny, aunt jane, cousins, Bible, family, and siblings. I expected to see that the children are thankful for all these things because we talked about them. I was a little surprised, but amused to see ...

This is Measle's creative way to spell "conscience". I think it's sweet that she thanks God for her conscience. We've been working through ATI character booklets and they talk quite a bit about the conscience. It's nice to see something has stuck with the Measle! (Now if she'll just listen to it!!) I was also amused to see...

I didn't have to ask who in my bunch is thankful for food. American Boy (3) dictated this one to an older sibling. He is soooooo into food, real and fake. American Boy started out his life in an orphanage and I can't help but wonder if being hungry the first year of his life might contribute to his great love for food. How precious that he is grateful to the Lord for his food.

I've mentioned to you before that we use Truth and Grace booklets in our home and church to help us teach our children Scripture and theology. The one we're using now contains a beginning catechism and about 50 Bible passages, along with a few great hymns. One of the first Psalms they memorized is Psalm 100 and we say it often. Since it's a Psalm of thanksgiving, I thought it especially appropriate to post tonight.

"Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations." Psalm 100

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! And don't forget to enter to win a $25 Lowe's gift card from me on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I wear 'em into the ground!

Big D says when he met me he knew I was a diamond in the rough. We're talking REAL ROUGH. I had been living in Southern California for 5 years before moving to Dallas and was accustomed to wearing cut-offs and birkenstocks. I was into running, biking, and swimming, but not shaving my legs. And I NEVER wore lipstick. I don't think I even owned any. (I still have make-up from high school. I know they say it gets germs in it and stuff, but mine is like museum quality. I wonder if I could get anything for it on ebay?) Anyway, so with love I began to "paint the barn" so to speak, to borrow an illustration from J. Vernon McGee. I started shaving my legs, wearing lip stick and even started buying some really nice clothes. Fast forward 11 years and I'm back to me.

Big D told me later that when he met my mom for the first time, he knew he wanted to marry me. My mom is a wonderful cook and homemaker, but mainly she always looks great. I learned a few years ago when my mom went to work part-time for Talbots, that she is a Talbots woman. A Talbots woman, I learned, has a look that is pulled together and is always accessorized. You know, they wear scarves and jewelry, stuff like that. Well, I should have told Big D at the time that I didn't inherit that gene from my mom. I did get her loves-to-move furniture gene (which Big D has become painfully familiar with), but not the look pulled-together gene. Big D never knew my Dad's mom. I thought it was funny when she wore her outdated raccoon hat to my soccer games (was raccoon EVER "in"??) and she always wore elastic around one of her shoes to keep it on. My granny had lots of money, she just didn't spend it on her wardrobe. I have only recently become aware that I am my granny, at least in this department.

I put on this shirt the other day and you know what I realized? My mom bought me this shirt in 1992! Yes, my friends, I have had this shirt for 17 years and I'm still wearing it. It's probably also the last piece of Ralph Lauren I've owned. My plaid pajama pants given to me at Christmas last year didn't fare so well. They have a huge rip across one knee. And yes, I know that means I spend WAY too much time in my pajamas. I also wear the heck out of shoes. Now running shoes I have to replace a couple of times a year. But church shoes last me years and years. I still wear shoes on Sunday that I bought 12 years ago in Dallas. In fact, I think I've only been shoe shopping (other than for running shoes) once since I've lived here (10 yrs).

I don't know what to say about this. It is what it is. I just thought I'd share this little bit of who I am. I'm not particularly happy or unhappy about it. I dress up on Sundays, meaning I do wear Sunday shoes and clothes. I usually wear the same thing. It's my Sunday uniform. (This is also related to the fact that I'm not pregnant or nursing, but I'm not my old running size 4. I'm in limbo hovering around size 6 and I refuse to go out and buy new clothes.) I would say I dress up when Big D and I go out and I do, but that's once a year for our anniversary. I'm just not much for dressing up. I like being comfortable and I like being me. I admire women who look pulled together and accessorized, but I don't envy them. I love my life. I live a life perfect for running shoes, jeans, and hoodie jackets. Who knows. In another 30 years I may be using an elastic band to hold my shoes together. When my grandkids laugh at me I'll chuckle to myself about it.


Oh and don't forget to comment to enter my $25 Lowe's gift card giveaway! I'll be drawing the winner on Friday. Just think of it, an extra $25 deal on the biggest shopping day of the year. And you don't even have to leave your house.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Heroes


Heroes. We all have them. They're those super-human men and women that inspire us with their virtue, zeal, and fortitude. Borrowing from As Good As It Gets, they make us want to be a better version of ourselves.
My 10 yr old son, who incidentally just broke 2 more 10-u swim team records (now he has 3) was at the gym the other day with his grandfather who was working out with a trainer. The trainer, knowing that Mr. Monk was on the swim team, asked him who his swimming hero was. I guess she expected him to say Michael Phelps. That's probably a pretty common answer. Not my kid. He told me later about this conversation as we were driving along in the car and when I asked him who he said his swimming hero was he looked at me kind of funny and said, "You Mom. Who else?" So I saw the trainer the next day and asked her to relate the conversation to me. Sure enough, he really did say that I'm his swimming hero. Pretty hard to believe, huh? I'm nowhere near the swimmer Michael Phelps is, but I'll take the admiration of my son over a million gold medals! That made my day!
Who's your hero? We Christian ladies are always aspiring to be the ideal Proverbs 31 woman, aren't we? She just seems too good to be true sometimes, doesn't she? You know the chapter so I'll only quote my favorite part. "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." (vv26-28) Oh how I long for those verses to describe me. Isn't God gracious that my sweet son calls me blessed even though I've failed so many times at being the Proverbs 31 woman? I so want to be that wife and that mother, well minus the spindle part.
What about you homeschooling moms? Who's your hero? Mine's Kimberly at Raising Olives. She's been successfully multi-level homeschooling with Sonlight, the same curriculum we're using, for over 4 years and teaches her kids Greek and has pre-schoolers and toddlers in the mix. Oh, and did I mention she has 9 kids (and one on the way!!)? She has helped me so much this year and I know that it's no accident that our virtual paths have crossed. The Lord sends us the nudge in the right direction that we need just when we need it. (If I had "met" Kimberly last year while nursing a new baby I wouldn't have been ready.)
Heroes. They inspire us because they show us it can be done. I'm so glad my son's swimming hero is not a pot smoking Olympic gold medalist, but his mom who loves her kids and also can still whoop him in the pool.
I'm grateful for all the women in my life like my mom and the Kimberlys of the world who show me that the Proverbs 31 woman is not some unattainable ideal, but a real woman who loves the Lord and willingly submits herself to His will and to her family.
Who's your hero?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Tour of our Play Room

My friend Tara at Too Many Kids in the Bathtub recently shared her lovely family room with her blog friends and The Gap Girl showed us her little red kitchen. And I absolutely loved sneaking a peek inside homeschool headquarters at Raising Olives when Kimberly gave us a tour of her homeschool room. So in the spirit of these tours of homes, I decided to give you a more proper look at our upstairs addition play room. Remember, this was NOT here, AT ALL, when we bought this house almost 7 years ago. This was my husband's dreaming, planning, and doing. He had some help, but did LOTS of the work himself- even cutting the dormer, building the sub-floor, framing, heat and air, you name it. It took over 4 years to finish and there was a whole year that I had a big hole in my living room ceiling with no stairs and nothing at the top of them! But... it was all worth it!

Here you see the built-in shelves that Big D built for me. I wanted something that would grow with our family. Right now we need lots of toy space, but when our kids are older we could use the storage for books, multi-media, etc. Of course, I'm secretly hoping we never outgrow the need for toys:) I found the baskets at Hobby Lobby and the two sizes fit perfectly in the selves. Each basket holds toys in a particular category like action figures, matchbox cars, blocks, paper dolls, etc. This way it's easier to keep everything in its place. American Boy and I built some train track today, but he mostly loves playing Playmobile on his table. That antique toy drum belonged to my dad when he was a little boy. It's filled to the brim with legos.

OK, here's the familiar arts and crafts area. Twinkle Toes cleaned it up and got it all organized last night. She has the drawers looking so neat now. I think this is my favorite part of our house. I only have 2 stools at the counter, but it would fit lots more. When friends are over the girls pull over the chairs from the little table. Also notice the curvy laminate/carpet border that was Big D's idea.

You may notice we've moved some shelves around. I think I inherited the loves-to-move-furniture gene from my mom. When the girls played with Barbie they used that little house bookshelf as their Barbie mansion. Now we're using it for Fisher Price Little People. The girls have asked for doll houses for Christmas and I have no idea where we'll put those. I'm sure Twinkle Toes has it all planned out. The door to the left of the shelf is the bathroom I showed you all last week.
Let's sneak a peak inside the little playhouse. There's Baby Lu with baby in hand. She grabbed the baby off the changing station and started patting its back. It was really sweet.

Now I'm not proud of what you see in this picture, but I felt it would be misleading if I left it out. Our 10 year old son spends many happy hours on the weekend playing his Wii. We do have an unplugged rule during the school week, but he makes up for lost time on the weekend. The door to the left is Mr. Monk's bedroom and the closed door leads to the bathroom I showed you last week when it was clean.
This is another room upstairs. It will probably serve as American Boy's bedroom in the future, but for now he's happy downstairs with all the girls. The plan is for him to join his big brother upstairs in a couple of years. By the way, Big D designed and built those built-ins, too. I'll have to show you those in detail another time. He even decorated the top with Texas stars. A man after my own heart! (Big D wasn't born in Texas, but he's a Texan through and through now, except when he's dreaming of Indiana.)
Oh and don't forget to enter for your chance to win the $25 Lowe's gift card I'm giving away this Friday!!

"G" is for Goggles

Baby Lu turned 1 a few weeks ago and has really been trying to talk. As I tried to wrench a pair of goggles from her chubby little hands the other day I was surprised when she said, "gah guh". Let's see, Mama, Dada, baba, Nana, and goggles. Perfectly natural, I guess, considering she lives in a house full of swimmers with lots and lots of goggles around. It's not uncommon when she fusses for someone to hand her a pair of goggles. They are relatively baby-proof. I say relatively because she has been known on occasion to strip the foam from around the eye pieces.

I thought I'd share a few of our goggle pictures in honor of Baby's new word.


OK, so not much of a goggle shot, but Mr. Monk is wearing goggles and I love this picture. Big D was experimenting with his action settings on his new camera. Mr. Monk is the one in focus who's diving in with a nice straight body.


Here's Twinkle Toes getting ready for her race.

The Measle at her first swim meet. I think she actually chickened out of this one and waited a couple of months until the switch to short-course.


American Boy found these in the stroller during our walk, so naturally he put them on.



And here's Baby Lu playing with goggles even though she has a whole drawer full of toys to choose from. A true treasure, indeed.




This is the funny shot of Baby Lu that I used for my blog button. We were eating at my mom and dad's house and all of a sudden I heard loud laughter coming from down the hall. One of the kids had put these blue goggles on her and she didn't seem to mind one bit.

So "G" may be for goose or grasshopper or garden in some homes, but "g" is definitely for goggles at our house!



And don't forget to comment on my home improvement project post for a chance to win a
$25 Lowe's gift card next Friday.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Our arts and crafts area

I promised to blog about our favorite past house project and this is it. But read my $25 Lowe's gift card giveaway post first if you haven't already entered to win that next week.

When Big D started talking about building an upstairs on our house we each had our must-haves. At the top of my list was an arts and crafts area. (And yes, tiny beads and markers and scraps of paper STILL end up around the bar and in the girls' room, but not to the extent they used to.)

(Sorry about the blurry picture- this was taken last summer- back in our Barbie days. I would have just run upstairs and snapped another, but alas it's not quite so clean today:)

Anyway, I flipped through scores of magazines trying to get ideas for our arts and crafts area and we finally decided to buy a pre-cut laminate countertop at Lowe's that we would mount across a 9 ft wall. (When I say "we", you know I mean Big D.) He secured the counter top to the wall by screwing and glueing it all around and using a large bracket under the counter screwed into the stud so that it wouldn't sag. (Actually I don't really know how he did it, but that's what it looks like to me and he's not around for me to ask.)


I didn't want the counter top to be totally cluttered with art supplies, so I bought 3 magazine racks and 2 mini-bucket shelves from Pottery Barn that were meant to be used with their peg board system, but Big D fastened them to the wall. He used wood glue on the magazine racks. Next I filled the magazine racks with coloring books and drawing books. My oldest son loves to trace, so I bought sketch pads and tracing paper and put them in the magazine racks, too. I found a couple of perfect little stools at an unfurnished furniture store and always intended to paint them (again, I mean for Big D to paint them), but never did. We also have a little table and chairs that we normally keep in the arts and crafts area as well.


About the flooring, Big D and I had to compromise. I was detemined that we would have a laminate perfect for cleaning up spills and Big D was set on carpet. The only problem with our both getting what we wanted is that the upstairs playroom is one big open area. How would it look to just go from carpet to laminate? Ever the artist, Big D decided we would go with a curved edge (he's just not a straight lines kind of guy) running from the entrance of the play house to the end of the play room shelves. It almost looks like a sidewalk leading away from the play house. This way we have laminate floor inside the play house, in the arts and crafts area, in the area around the shelves, and in the bathroom, but carpet everywhere else.

About the laminate floor- we went with the kind that looks like wood and is laid down in "planks". This way when we get a gash in our floor we don't have to replace a huge area, but just that plank. Actually, we've had the floor in for 3 years now and haven't had to replace any of the planks. I'm wondering what we could use all that extra flooring for!

And the little playhouse you see, was actually a terrible corner of two sloping walls meeting. Big D couldn't stand to see that in his upstairs addition so he was going to just create some extra storage there. I suggested we make it into a little playhouse. The girls really enjoyed it for a couple of years, but lately it's been American Boy who loves playing chef in his play house. Baby Lu will be next, I'm sure.

An extremely talented friend of ours from church painted the playhouse to look like a little European cottage. I love it! And notice the O'Keeffe flowers above the grocery and snack carts. Another example of my kids' art. (They were only 7 and 5 when they did them, so you might have to squint to see the resemblence to O'Keeffe's work.)


Hey, what's this doing in here? I actually took most of these pictures last summer. Every family needs their own militia, right? American Boy didn't get the look-seriously-menacing memo.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Share about the home project on your Christmas list for a chance to win a $25 Lowe's gift card


I wanted to do this last month, but when I sat down to write the post I couldn't find the gift card where I had left it. Frantic I called my husband at work and said, "Honey, you haven't seen my Lowe's gift card have you?" "Oh," he said, "It's in my wallet. I thought it was for me. Do you need it?" "No, that's ok," came my disappointed reply. However, you saw that he did put it to good use. I'm confident that there's no money better spent on a home than that spent on paint!

Now I know $25 doesn't go very far when it comes to home improvement, but maybe this is the little nudge your husband (or you if you're the do-it-yourselfer in your family) needs to get the ball rolling.

To enter to win the gift card simply comment below about the big home project on your to-do list this Holiday season. I don't know about you, but the parties and get-togethers always remind me of all those things we said we'd do on the house this year, but haven't.

You can earn additional entries by...

1. Following my blog.

2. Linking to my blog from yours.

3. Copying my button to your blog (let me know if you have trouble, sometimes it acts up.)

4. Blogging about your project, even if you haven't started it yet, and linking to this post.

So, that's 5 possible chances to win each entered by leaving a separate comment. I can't wait to hear about your projects! I'll draw the winner on next Friday so you have a week to come up with a project if you don't already have one (like that's possible!)
Now let me share with you my honey-do list. I'm really wanting my husband to paint my kitchen and bathroom cabinets. This is a big job. He has to take all the doors off sand them, spray them, sand them again, spray them again, and again, replace hinges, and reinstall them. It's not as simple as just painting them (which is what I would do and he doesn't like the end result:) I'm blessed to have such a conscientious husband!
I'm also going to post about a past favorite project of ours. Look for that this weekend.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Adopting from Kazakhstan

For those of you interested in adopting in the near future, but not sure about whether to go international or which country, I wanted to share a bit about our son's birthplace.

The following is copied from the Little Miracles website.

The Kazakhs, for whom the country is named, constitute about 46% of the population (compared to 32% in 1970). Russians, who came to live in large numbers during the Soviet period, constitute 35%, Ukrainians, 5%, and ethnic Germans, 3%; the remaining 11% consists of smaller numbers of other European and Asian peoples. The culture and food reflect this and most people are bilingual in Kazakh and Russian or another language.The educational and health-care systems, developed under the USSR, follows Soviet model, although some changes were introduced since independence in 1991. Restrictions on religion, for example, have been relaxed. The traditional Kazakh was nomadic and pastoral, but today their way of life and cultural expressions show strong Russian influences.Kazakhstan, a land of nomadic mystical culture is expressed in oral epics, legends, ritual songs, and from the 19th century, in a written literature strongly influenced by Russian traditions. Today most Kazakhs are rural dwellers, but a few remain shepherds and in former traditional work roles. Racially of Mongolian descent and Muslim tradition, they give the impression of classic Mongol warriors when mounted on horseback and garbed in their native clothing. Their way of life, the least Islamized of any of the Central Asian Turks, is richly infused with customs, painting a tapestry of an ancient Asian culture with Soviet suppression and influence. Kazakhstan's economy is still closely tied to Russia's, but Kazakhstan is promoting investment to improve their social conditions. Infant mortality rate is 64 per 1000 births as compared to Russia's 25/1000. Life is hard in Kazakhstan. Many Russians live in the North part of Kazakhstan, where our program places infants into their forever families!

Little Miracles offered a referral program on a limited basis at the time we adopted, but I'm not sure if they're still doing it. The preferred method of matching children is "travel to select" in which you are referred to a particular region and shown a child that meets your criteria (such as age range and possibly gender or race, although they ask you to be flexible.)

The region we adopted from in Kazakhstan is Semipalatinsk at the far north of the country, almost to the border with Siberia. We were there in December so it was very cold. Kazakhstan is a study in contrasts. On the one hand Kazakhstan is an extremely wealthy country because of its vast oil resources, but on the other hand the people of the middle class we got to know all seemed to work multiple jobs and most of them couldn't afford a car, much less a house. Almaty was beautifully modern like any European city complete with a shopping mall and overly priced real estate. On the other hand, the airport where we landed in Semey didn't even have a ceiling over much of it. On the one hand people there seem excited about their newfound freedom and prosperity and the women dress to the nines to prove it, on the other hand the old Soviet Union hangs thick in the air when you look from dilapidated utilitarian concrete building to building and see how most people still live. I was surprised to learn that tenants do not control their own thermostats, the heat comes on when the powers-that-be decide it will come on. The garbage is burned right outside the apartment buildings, too. Ice hockey is their big sport and its no wonder. Children play outside in the snow and ice constantly and it's a common sight to see mothers pulling their little ones on sleds.

Of course, we were there to meet and bond with our son, but it was such a blessing to also have the opportunity to meet and worship with a small group of Christians while we were there. They didn't have a pastor, so they were happy to have Big D teach. They even wanted to meet an extra time each week to take advantage of Big D's being there. This is the first time I had insight into the blessed life of being missionaries. Although it was a physically and emotionally difficult trip for many reasons, mostly due to leaving our other 3 kids at home for 3 weeks, we experienced such encouragement and joy when we were with the little church in Semey.

Kazakhstan requires a 2 week bonding period during which time you visit your child at appointed times and spend quality time getting to know one another. I thought it was difficult and felt like I was babysitting for someone else. It didn't seem natural to me since I didn't have him all the time, I wasn't bathing him, dressing him, feeding him. Anyway, we did appreciate getting to watch our son blossom before our eyes (we just would have liked watching him blossom round the clock better:). He went from not sitting up or smiling, to crawling, sitting up, smiling, following along as I read him books, and even turning pages. Our son was 8 months old when we met him, 9 months old when we adopted him, and 11 months old when he was escorted home to us. Not every agency provides an escort option, but Little Miracles does and the precious young lady who flew all those hours with him was just a saint. She arrived like she'd been traveling for 2 hrs instead of 20!

Our son is so wonderful and such a blessing to us! For those of you considering adoption I urge you to pray and wait on the Lord. Big D and I had talked about adoption when we first got married, but then started having children one after another so it didn't come up again for 7 years. But when it was right, it was right and we just knew it. We moved forward quickly and had our son home less than 11 months after starting our paperwork. I highly recommend that if you do decide to adopt from Kazakhstan that you use Little Miracles. They are a wonderful agency full of people with a heart to place orphans into forever families.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why Kazakhstan?

When we tell people we adopted our son from Kazakhstan we get lots of blank stares. I didn't know where Kazakhstan was either until researching our adoption options. Kazakhstan is a large, mineral-rich country in Central Asia. It's west of China and south of Russia. Now are you starting to picture it? Many people wonder how in the world we decided to adopt from there so I thought I'd devote a post to it.


First we had to decide whether we wanted to adopt locally or internationally. Big D and I both decided we liked the idea of international adoption for several reasons. We knew we were probably not a domestic birthmother's dream family since we already had 3 kids, we didn't want to have to settle in for an indefinite wait since we really wanted our son to have a brother and they were already going to be 7 years apart, and we were both fearful of an open adoption and fostering a child to adopt that might not become available. These are all wonderful ways to adopt, but we felt at that time they weren't for us. Also, I have always loved adventure and was excited at the thought of traveling far away to find a son to complete our family.


The next factors that helped determine the country we would adopt from were gender and race. Since we already had two daughters and only one son, we wanted to even the battle of the sexes by adopting another son. Concerning race, Big D and I felt that we needed to commit to adopting more than one child if we adopted a child of a different race, and at that time I was a career woman who had just finished her doctorate and felt 4 was the absolute maximum number of kids I could handle. So, wanting to adopt a Caucasian male further narrowed our search. Russia had been a popular country to adopt from and met our criteria, but at the time we were proceding, Russia's adoptions were coming to a screeching halt over re-certification issues and other stuff I don't understand.


In the midst of my internet search I came across an adoption agency that I almost immediately felt was the one for us. Of the myriads agencies that handle international adoptions there was something about this one that made it stick out to me. Little Miracles specializes in adopting from Kazakhstan (they also facilitate adoptions from China, Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Ethiopia) and this is where I first read about the country that would be our son's birthplace. After going back to the agency website time and again and reading testimonials and program descriptions and seeing pictures of the precious ones brought home by their families, I knew they were the agency for us. Imagine my surprise when I went to contact them and saw Little Miracles is in my home town. Big D and I don't live in a huge city. I think we have a population of around 160,000 people. I couldn't believe that the agency I wanted to use was right here in our very own city! Isn't God good? (This certainly is NOT necessary, but since I was working full-time and had 3 kids to keep up with it was a wonderful help to us.)


I can't say enough about Little Miracles, from our social worker to the office staff to our facilitators in country, they were all fabulous! We felt totally prepared for everything we would face in country and everything proceeded according to plan. From start to finish our adoption took less than a year from the time we signed on until we had our son home, and it would have gone more quickly had it not been for the hold-up we experienced with US immigration services. I might not have known how remarkable this smooth adoption journey was except that I began following other people's adoption journeys online who were also adopting from Kazakhstan, but using different agencies. I read some heartbreaking stories. I read about one family that bonded with two little boys over a period of a couple of months and both times they were denied the adoption in the end because first one then the other little boy became unavailable at the last second. Little Miracles has an excellent reputation both with the families that use them and with the U.S. Embassy in Almaty for their continued support and work on official and regional levels in the Kazakhstani Government.


I'll write more about Kazakhstan in an upcoming post, but for now you can read a little more about our adoption journey in my post Counting my Blessings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Be Still

My friends and I started a new Bible study tonight, Becoming a Woman of Simplicity by Cynthia Heald. We had a wonderful time of discussion tonight about what it means to "Be still and know that I am God" from Psalm 46:10. One of my friends pointed out that the next two lines, "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" often get left off, but are important clues to the meaning. God will work His will, He will triumph, He will glorify Himself. So, since He has everything under His control, and nothing is happening outside of its appointed time, we have no cause to fear or worry. That knowledge, and it takes faith to believe it, leads to peace. Not the kind of peace where you're on a deserted island with no cell phones or internet (I know, I couldn't stand it either), but peace amidst the busy circumstances of our lives. God's not telling us to literally stand still, but He's trying to get our attention and remind us that He is in complete control and for us to rest in that knowledge.

Another one of my friends pointed out that "being still" is related to submission, like when you bit and bridle a horse. The horse can either buck and fight you, or just stand still and let you lead it where you will. Only we're the horse and God is our master. We can fight against Him and lead a miserable life in the process, or we can stand still and wait until He leads us where He wants us to go. Either way He's going to accomplish His purposes in us. We do not choose many of our circumstances, but we all do have a choice. We can choose to trust and obey the Lord or to rebel against Him.

I'm looking forward to the other lessons in this study on becoming a woman of simplicity. It couldn't have come at a better time now that we're all gearing up for our busy holiday schedules. Let's all try to "be still" during the upcoming weeks and rest in the knowledge that the Lord is sovereign over all so we have nothing to fear or worry about.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mr. Do-it-himself does it again


I've been so egocentric always posting about me and my thoughts, so tonight I want to post about Big D and how he did something for me. There I go again, oh well, it is my blog. Anyway, have I told you Big D can fix anything, build anything, paint anything, plumb anything? Have I told you he's a perfectionist? Well he can, and he is. The downside to having a do-it-yourselfer husband who's also a perfectionist is that it takes a loooooong time to complete projects. The upside is, well obvious. We bought a one-story ranch-style house 6.5 years ago with the intention of adding onto it. My husband noticed when we first looked at it that it had an especially steep pitched roof which made for a HUGE attic space. We dreamed and talked and he drew up some plans. Then we got our chance to take the plunge. A gigantic hail storm swept through our part of town 5 years ago and ruined most of the roofs in the neighborhood. We had a shake shingle roof, expensive to replace and expensive to insure. Our insurance company strongly encouraged us to go with a cheaper composite roof and left us with enough extra money to start on our upstairs addition. Five years later, we're still working on it!

Big D just finished painting the cabinets in the upstairs bathroom and IT IS DONE!!



One of the first things Big D did in order to make the bathroom functional was install this pedastal sink. It's a very small bathroom and is only used full-time by our oldest son. Since the kids all play upstairs though it gets used off and on by all the kids throughout the day.



One of the next projects for Big D was tiling the shower area. It was not his first tile job, but it was his first shower. Big D is so artistic and creative that he can't stand for anything to be run-of-the-mill. I asked for plain white and I got plain white with blue tile accents. There's also an accent on the ceiling.



Painting the cabinetry is what he finished up tonight. He did not make the cabinet doors, but bought them unfinished. He sanded them and primed them and painted multiple coats. Then put on the pulls. He makes everything look professional quality, I know I'm blessed!

Our 10 year old son painted this last summer and I thought I'd hang it over the toilet in his bathroom.


Well, there you have it. How do you like our upstairs bathroom? What do you think of Big D's handywork? He's not for hire, you can't have him- I have already requested re-painted kitchen cabinets and master bathroom cabinets for Christmas:)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Double Takes?

I took some pics of Baby Lu the other day. I think she's looking more like me now than she was for a while. What do you think? She's on the left and I'm on the right.





















































OK, now Lu is still on the left below and just for fun I threw in a similar pic on the right of someone else in our family. Who is it? Your only options are me, Twinkle Toes, or Measle. Hint, hint- see the date?


Unschooling?

I have to confess to you that I really don't even know what "unschooling" means, but I've always felt it wasn't for us. I thrive on structure and schedules and I've always been afraid of what might happen if we veer off too far from The Plan. We're using Sonlight and it's working wonderfully for my 10 and 8 year olds. But, my 6 year old is a little young, because we're doing core 6 which is designed for ages 9-12. She listens in on the read alouds, but has trouble following them. Also, we read aloud for an hour in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon. I know it's too much to expect a 6 yr old to focus for that long. She does so well with her Math and Handwriting and Vocabulary, which are all on her grade level. And I'm about to start Five in a Row with Measle and her little brother who's 3.


That was a longer introduction than I planned, but the point is this: lately I've realized that on her own Measle really does lots of learning. In the last few days she has written a recipe (Noodle Strap) that we'll be making for dinner on Monday, cracked a code from her big brother's Dragonology book (I did have to break it to her that it wasn't really written in Dragonscript), written and mailed lots of letters (she uses a file cabinet in the living room as her mailbox), worked on her email (fun with fonts and copywork using Microsoft Word), written posts on her blob (fun with shapes and colors on Microsoft Powerpoint), and choreographed a number of skits starring herself and her little brother (though we've prohibited her from dressing him up in tutus any longer). I've been concerned that my Measle would fall between the cracks this year, but now I'm convinced that a little "unschooling" may be just the thing for her. She has such a vivid imagination and thirst for knowledge. She really is my most eager learner and what a blessing that she's learning as she plays.


Whew! That's my sigh of relief that Measle is going to make it through first grade and NOT fall through the cracks! The funny thing is, she knew it all along.




My, how I've changed!!

There must be something about the number 5 when it comes to having kids. I know I never allowed my first 4 to eat chocolate before their first birthday, maybe not even until after their second birthday. What's happened to me?

We never let babies sleep with us either, but somehow all of a sudden we can't stand the sound of a baby crying. OK, I'm going to admit something here. Sometimes we just want her in our bed with us. And it's NOT just me, Big D has gone soft, too. The other day after one of our slumber parties, Baby Lu woke me up a little too early so I tried putting her back to sleep by rubbing her tummy. She got very quiet and still so I thought she was asleep again and stopped. In a second I felt this little hand grab mine and rub her tummy with it. Is that hysterical? She's so spoiled! What happened to following Babywise to the letter?


Well, look at her! I know all our adorable kids have been this cute at this age, but you forget. Look at that little face! You just want to reach out and pinch her cheeks, don't you?


Could you say no to her? Now do you understand? My mom says I spoil all my babies then whip them into shape when they're older. Oh good, then there's still time. For now I'm going to enjoy spoiling my baby!

A Family Portrait

This was the theme of the girls art class today. I have very artistic little girls, but sometimes I do wonder about their interpretations.





This is 8 yr old Twinkle Toe's portrait of our family. Notice she's holding Baby Lu, isn't that sweet? She also made certain to get each member of her family's hair color just right. Such attention to detail! Hmmm, why am I the biggest person in our family? Big D, who played football in high school and college is 6'3" 230+ lbs. I am NOT bigger than him. Even pregnant I'm not as big as he is!! It must be my larger than life personality or maybe that I'm such a great figure in her life! Ha! Also, notice that key in pencil next to my head. What does that mean? Mommy holds the key to happiness?







Now for Measle's (6 yrs) family portrait. It's a little more dark than her sister's. Everyone, but Baby Lu is looking quite mischevious. Of course, Lu would be an angel in her big sister's eyes (in reality Lu is the MOST mischevious of the bunch!) This time I'm holding Baby Lu (Measle is not supposed to pick up Lu without permission- for good reason- she has dropped her before) so I'm glad of that. And once again, I'm the biggest member of the family! My head is nowhere near the size of my husband's huge noggin in real life. Maybe she sees me as having a giant intellect! Ha ha ha!

All kidding aside, I'm glad my girls are so happy with their family and take pride in their work. Oh and I just asked Twinkle Toes about the meaning of the key and she said, "Huh? Oh, I was just doodling." Hmmm. Maybe her subconscious mind at work?

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Spirit of Adoption

I posted previously on how cool it is to think about how Christians are adopted by God into His family. Scripture gives a beautiful picture of God the Father choosing a people to adopt and Christ the Son ransoming them with His perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection. However, I left out the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a mystery to me, always working in the background and never taking credit. It’s almost as if the Spirit doesn’t want to be noticed, but wants all glory to go Christ and God. Anyway, I want to post tonight about the Spirit’s role in our adoption.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8:14-16

So God gives His Spirit only to His children and somehow the Spirit testifies along with our spirit that we are indeed legitimate. I love Charles Spurgeon’s explanation of the role of the Spirit. The following exerpts are taken from his sermon "Sons of God", preached in 1860.

“The chief witness of God the Holy Spirit lies in this—the Holy Spirit has written this book which contains an account of what a Christian should be, and of the feelings which believers in Christ must have.” So the primary testimony of the Spirit is inexorably linked with the Word of God. The Bible shows us what God is like and therefore what His children will be like. Spurgeon goes on to ask, “Does your spirit say to-day ‘I am God's child.’ Do you feel the longings, the loves, the confidences of a child?” (I hate to break in on Spurgeon's beautiful English, but want to share my husband's favorite saying along these lines. "If there ain't no fruit, there must be something wrong with the root." OK, now back to Spurgeon.)

“When at any time then the Holy Spirit comforts you—sheds a sweet calm over your disturbed spirit; when at any period he instructs you, opens to you a mystery you did not understand before; when at some special period he inspires you with an unwonted affection, an unusual faith in Christ; when you experience a hatred of sin, a faith in Jesus, a death to the world, and a life to God, these are the works of the Spirit.”

When most people find out our son is adopted they are surprised. I often hear comments like, "You'd never know he isn't your biological child. He looks and acts just like the rest of you guys." Sure, each of our kids has his own personality, but they all share character traits, too. They all like to swim (this shows they're my kids:), they all love books (we're book people), and they all look forward to having hot cocoa and popcorn on Friday night movie night. Though our 3 year old son didn't come from my body, there is no question that he is our son.

We have in our filing cabinet an adoption certificate with all the official seals and signatures of the court in Kazakhstan certifying that our son is indeed our son. We have also in our possession our son’s U.S. citizenship certificate with all the authority of our country stating that our son is now a U.S. citizen. In the same way that these documents testify that our son is a legitimate member of our family and is a citizen of the United States of America, believers are sealed by the Spirit which testifies that we are indeed children of God and that our citizenship is in heaven.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Our Adoption Blessing


I've been posting this month on adoption in honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month. Thus far I've mostly talked about general topics such as the theology of adoption, God's compassion for the fatherless, and the Christian's responsibility to care for orphans. But tonight I want to post specifically on the great joy that our 3 year old adoption blessing is to us.

I have a 10 year old son and a 3 year old son with girls in between. I've been working hard for several years to train my 10 year old to run ahead and open doors for me and the other kids. Well, our 3 year old has noticed this and he, too runs to get doors for us. The gym where my kids swim has two sets of heavy doors right in a row, so Monk usually gets the first and American Boy struggles to get the second. It's really adorable to see him pushing so hard to get that heavy door open. So last night American Boy also held the door for a man who was walking out behind us. On Wednesdays we go straight from swimming to church and my 3 year old is always excited to go to church, so he turned to the man and said, "I'm going to church. Are you going to church?" The man was kind of taken off guard and muttered something like, "Uh, no." Unphased my bold preschooler fired back with, "Well, I am!" Then just on the other side of the door stood a man taking a cigarette break. Our boy went right up to him as we walked by and said, "Hey, give me five!" The other kids really got a kick out of that. We've been going through The Way of the Master at church on Wednesdays and we decided God's going to use our zealous and bold guy to share the gospel with others. What a blessing to have him for a son!

I mentioned that our adoption blessing loves church- he's really learning about the Lord there and at Community Bible Study, too. His Sunday School teacher was bragging on him the other night that he can tell her what the lessons were about the previous two weeks. He is very attentive! Sunday during the sermon he was listening so carefully that when the preacher asked a rhetorical question, our boy yelled out the answer. Everyone chuckled. Our church remembers praying for our son before we even traveled to Kazakhstan to adopt him, so they've loved him a long time.

Lately he's been asking us to adopt another baby boy from Kazakhstan and I usually tell him that we'd like to do that someday and he should pray about it. He always responds with, "OK, right now, Mom. Let's pray." I haven't let his dad in on this, yet, so we'll have to see how God answers his prayers. Today I was a little unnerved that he asked for two baby boys from Kazakhstan! I corrected him right away that the Lord knows Mommy can only handle one baby at a time:)

Our adoption journey to bring our precious boy home had its share of emotional ups and downs. There was lots of fear on my part, but God had us in His hands the whole time. Big D and I didn't think it was right to pray that he'd be smart, so we didn't. We did pray, however, that he would have lots of personality, like our other kids. Oh boy. He has that in spades! God is so good! (And he's smart as a whip and so compassionate, too.) I want to encourage those of you who are interested in adopting, but fear of the unknown is holding you back. Take a risk. There might be someone missing in your family and you don't even realize it, yet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Adopt?

Psalm 127:3 says that "children are a heritage from the Lord." I have shared with you all in a previous series about my quiverfull convictions and I won't repeat those here, except to reiterate that I believe the Bible teaches that children are a gift from the Lord to be greatly desired and appreciated. We know that God is the giver of every good gift (James 1:17) and what gift, apart from salvation, should be more desired than children? You've heard it said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there." (Job 1:21) Ecclesiastes adds that man "shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand." (5:15b) Timothy summarizes both of these verses when he states that, "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out." (1 Tim 6:7)


While it is true that we will carry nothing out of this world, it's not true that we can take nothing with us. According to the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn, which is a very well researched treatise on everything heaven from the Bible, we will take our memories, skills, personality, and relationships. In light of the knowledge that we will know one another in heaven, what better use of time is there on earth than investing our lives in people? There are certainly many ways to do this. Teachers have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the children they teach. Pastors and friends are there when folks go through the dark times in life. But it's hard to think of a relationship in which you have greater ministry opportunity than that of the parent-child relationship. So, if the Bible tells us children are a blessing and that every good gift is from God and that we should invest ourselves in others, why not adopt?


I read a beautiful blog post today by Shonni at Nations Around our Table which answers the question "Why adopt again?" and hope you have time to read it. What a wonderful testimony of a love for others, faith that God will work out all the details (finances, sibling adjustment, etc.), and hope that raising these little ones up in the Lord will not be in vain.

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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.