Friday, June 28, 2013

Daughter of the King

Who is the daughter of the King?  The princess, right.  Did you know that you that you are a princess? That’s right, you’re a princess.  I know your dad probably isn’t a king.  Your heavenly father is the King of kings.  He is the King over all kings that ever will live, past, present and future.  God is also your daddy.  But he is even better than your earthly dad.  You can talk to him at any time.  He never needs sleep and is never too busy to listen to what you have to say.  No matter if it is something silly or you think that it is a teeny, tiny problem or even that you are mad and doubting him.  He still wants to hear what you have to say.  He will give you advice and even help when you need it. 

Now that you understand that your “heavenly daddy” is a King and that you are a princess, you might be wondering if there are any “princess rules” that you need to follow.  The answer is yes; there are tons.  First, all of you tomboys need to start wearing frilly dresses and going to balls and then you need to stay away from trees the rest of your life.  I’m joking. J  You don’t have to do any of that.  But there a lot of rules.  The Bible is a special princess guide book to royal life.  There are rules about everything in there, from how to love (Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:3-5) to who to love (Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31) and even how you should think (Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8). 

How many of you have read or heard a fairy tale? It doesn’t have to have a princess in it.  I would assume all of you have read at least one, but if not then you NEED to stop here and go read one. Then you can come back and finish this.  Ok, now that all of my audience has read or heard a fairy tale, there’s a one-question test.  Do all fairy tales have bad guys?  If you answer is no, then please tell me the story and then go back and read more fairy tales.  If your answer was yes, then you are right.  So just like in fairy tales, there is a bad guy in life.  Unfortunately this time I am not joking one bit.  You might not be able to see the enemy but he is real all right.  He has weapons that hurt bad.  They hurt more than guns.  He is the father of lies and sin.  You know that old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, well that is a lie. Your princess guide book (A.K.A. Bible) says “their words cut like swords and their cruel remarks sting like sharp arrows (Psalm 64:3).”  He offers lies about everything from thinking that God forgot you to teaching that you can think about hurting someone and that’s ok as long as you don’t actually do it.  Read you Bible.  Your father gives wisdom through it.  It says, “God has said, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” and “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28).”  The enemy also has lies that would work on some people and not on others.  Most men would not care about if they are beautiful or not. Some women wouldn’t either.  But there are women that do care.  He might tell you that you aren’t beautiful.  But Dad says something else.  He says, “The King [God] is charmed by your beauty. Honor him. He is now your master.” 

Since you now know that there is an enemy and that he has powerful weapons, you should also know that no knight in shining armor will come and rescue the princess from the enemy.  Instead you will need to put on the armor and fight.  Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” and continues to tell us about each piece of armor.  I am sure you have heard of the devil.  Some of you might even dress up as him on Halloween.  He is the enemy of God, our father.  “Be on your guard.  Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. (1 Peter 5:8).”   The enemy wanted to be God.  He wanted to be better than God.  As you could guess that didn’t turn out good for Satan.  He got kicked out of heaven.  So now he is God’s enemy.  If he is your dad’s enemy then do you think that he will treat you nice?  He might trick you into thinking that because your mom yelled and sent you to your room (disciplined you) for pushing your little pest A.K.A. brother.  He’ll also tell you that your friend who gave you candy that was stolen cares while your mom doesn’t.  You’re probably tired of me saying this, but get out your princess guide book and turn to Proverbs 27:6.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted. But an enemy kisses you many times.”  Even if it seems like he might be right, he is the father of lies.  He has always been and will always be the father of lies.  You can’t trust him.  Go back to your princess guide book!  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

I think I have given you enough to start traveling the narrow path to life.  But be warned: it is full of huge mountains and low valleys, blinding blizzards and the beautiful sunshine of God.  It is a very hard, difficult path and not many will understand why you would take this path. Your book says, “enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.   For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few”. (Mathew 7:13-14)  But at the end you will get rewarded for traveling with God.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.   Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Matthew 5:11-12

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

It's interesting to me that our momentous occasions sometimes lump themselves together.  I didn't think much about this until I met Millie.  She was a sweet old lady whom we took to church for years.  Every March, she begin her grumbling... "It's almost April.  April is a terrible month.  My husband's birthday is in April.  He would have been so old this year.  April is also the month he died so many years ago.  Oh, and my mom and dad died in April so many more years before my husband died."  Every year.  To make it worse, her husband died on my birthday.  We had this conversation every Sunday and Wednesday on the way to and from church.  My usual reply was something about being thankful for the memories we have.  It usually did nothing to get her out of her funk and I'd just let her get it out of her system.

Our family has seasons of special days as well.  For example, our oldest daughter was born the day before my husband's birthday and our younger girls celebrate birthdays two weeks apart.  We find it funny that my mom and her siblings all married people born in November.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming to have so many celebrations back-to-back, but generally I enjoy these seasons. 

One of my favorite days is June 30th.  My grandparents wed on June 30, 1953.  Of course I don't have any memories of that date, but the legacy that began that day impacts me in a big way.  They stuck together through some very tough times to raise their children and help raise me.  Nothing thrilled me more than to be able to call them on June 30, 1999 to tell them "happy anniversary" and share some big news with them - I had just returned from the doctor where I found out that I was pregnant with our first child!  This made the day doubly special.  Four years later, our family had a huge celebration to celebrate my grandparent's 50th anniversary.  It was especially special to me because it reminded me of my childhood when our whole family would gather for holidays.  We hadn't done that in years because of busy schedules and cross-country moves.  Even though I was super-pregnant and on bedrest, I cheated and played in the yard with the kids, knowing that the memories would last a lifetime.

Out of nowhere, June 30th struck again two years ago.  I was thankful for the surprise because it had become a sad day since my grandma passed away the previous year (in June, no less).  On June 30th, 2011, we received an email that would turn our family upside down.  It was from a friend who knew of a boy in an orphanage who needed a home quickly.  This friend felt that our family would be a good fit, so he was asking us to consider adoption.  Then came the pictures.  As if I could say no to that smile!  Six months later, we celebrated again with our son, thinking back to June 30th when he entered our hearts.

It reminds me of Paul Baloche's lyrics from "Rise Up and Praise Him" that say

Everyone in the valley
Come and lift your voice
All those on the mountaintop be glad

Whether we are in a season of celebration or a quiet time, we are to praise God.  I am thankful that He gives us seasons for big celebrations and embrace them with open arms, especially anniversaries!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blessing Our Daughters

Shortly after our oldest daughter turned 13, I came across Melanie Young's article about bar chanon celebrations for their sons.    It was something I knew we should also do for our daughters, so I hunted for such a thing.  I came across a couple of references to blessing teas, but nothing that really explained what the families did during the tea.  Armed with very little, I set out to plan this milestone for our daughter.

Planning the Party

We set the date in June, several months after her 13th birthday.  We don't want this event to be tied to the birth date in case we feel the need to hold off for one of other girls.  I then planned out the event.  Before we told our daughter what we were planning, I asked her to make a list of the women she looked up to.  Many were from history, but it was a good list and I wanted to incorporate it into her party somehow.  As I made my list of invitations, I realized that several of the women whom I would want to share with our daughter would be unable to attend.  Also,  I wanted it to be more than a tea party that she could look back on fondly.  To deal with all of these concerns, I chose to create a scrapbook for her.  When I sent out the invitations, I asked ladies to mail their notes so I could place them in the book before the party (I left blank space for the stragglers).   In the meantime, I compiled quotes from my daughter's list of historical women and scriptures that would be significant.  These would be scattered throughout the book.  With the elements in motion, we told our kids a little about what we were doing one night at dinner.  We asked them to not ask questions because we wanted it to be something special for them as they reach that age.

The Party

This was not an elaborate party in any way.  The tables were decorated with candles, flowers, and stones.  I was careful to choose light finger foods that required no utensils and lemonade and iced tea were available to drink.  Each place had a plate, napkin and cup.  Tied to the cups were tags that said "we are so blessed" and a small goody box containing a Hershey kiss was in each cup.  After the ladies arrived, I explained the purpose of the party and each one shared scripture and words of wisdom with us.  Our daughter received three gifts at the blessing tea.  One gift was her scrapbook so she could go back to that moment and those words whenever she needed encouragement.  The second gift was the book Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Malley.  This book is an excellent tool to guide girls in preparing their hearts and minds for the life God has before them (whether that includes Prince Charming or not).  The third gift was a Bright Lights kit to encourage our oldest daughter in her leadership of girls younger than herself. 

After the Party

Our daughter seemed to enjoy her party, but was unusually quiet afterwards.  Later that evening, she asked if she could give two of the three flower arrangements to her younger sisters.  She has spent a considerable amount of time looking at her album and is still receiving some notes and letters in the mail to include in the book.  We are looking forward to doing our next blessing tea in three years or so with our middle daughter. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Girl's Best Friend

A lot of people say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but not this girl.  My sister is my best friend.  

I have grown up without many girls my age around.  Even though I shared a room with both of my sisters, I would often play by myself and then find myself wishing that I had a girl my age to play with.  Sleepovers and constant companionship were things I dreamed of sharing with her.  The loneliness got even harder after we moved.  At first I thought that it would be great having my own room, but I desperately missed my roommates.   Because my sisters shared a room, they got closer and I felt much farther from the people I hung out with the most.  I am glad that God only made me go through that for a few months.  He saved me by bringing my brother into our family.  To give him a bedroom, all three of us girls had to share a bed room again.  It was a small bedroom so my middle sister got the top bunk and I got the loft bed.  With six family members in a small house, that was our hiding place.  As the two of us retreated there more often around the same times, we grew much closer.  We learned more about each other and learned that we think alike and enjoy the same thing in many areas of our lives.  Then we moved again.  Everyone kept talking about how good it would be for us in a bigger house.  My middle sister and I had a different idea about this bigger house.  We just got closer and didn’t want to have our own rooms.  So both of us went to our parents and asked to share a room with the other.  We were surprised when they said yes!  Through all this we grew closer but I also started taking our friendship for granted.  I started thinking that she couldn’t be my best friend because she was my sister and so much younger than me (three years can feel like a big gap).  I’d have to find someone else.  Sometimes she was an annoying little sister, but she just happened to grab me at just the right time so I could see her as a friend.  

          I was starting to realize that maybe she could be my best friend recently, but the defining moment was when Cece had her seizure. I was so scared because I thought she would die.  For the next few days, I was very upset and would cry almost every hour. I would not go to our room and I couldn’t do my homework.  Mom and dad lectured everyone about seizures – symptoms to look for, what to do if we saw one, and how to handle things after it was over.  Over that time, I learned that she probably would not have died.  But I also started thinking about if it was something else and she did die, how would I feel?  I know I would feel guilty that I spent 24/7 with her and didn’t think of her as a friend.  Who could know me better than the person that I talk with face to face over half the day and understands what I’m feeling.  Besides that, there’s so much we enjoy doing together.  What more could you want in a friend?

I have been praying for a little while for someone.  And to think while I was begging God for a girl, my answer was in the same room as me, doing something I love.  I know of girls that have friends outside their homes, but sometimes the BFF of your dreams is the same girl that has a bed next to you and she's worth far more than diamonds.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Father's Day: A Celebration of Simplicity

My grandma disliked holidays, especially days like Christmas when people got so wrapped up in the day that they forgot the people.  I, on the other hand, love holidays.  They give me an outlet for my craftiness and creativity.  Place cards, banners, creative cakes and themed d├ęcor fill my Pinterest page and craft room leading up to any big day.

On Father's Day, we make cards and t-shirts for the dads and grandpas in our family.  That's where the craftiness stops for Father's Day and I like the holiday for just that reason.  After all of the craziness of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve (our son's gotcha celebration), our anniversary, Easter, and a multitude of birthdays that carry us up to Father's Day, I'm ready for the low-key event that my husband and step-dad crave.  All they want on Father's Day is a day of rest and we can do that well.  Generally, we find ourselves fishing at a pond on the farm or picnicking at the park.  It's an enjoyable day when they can connect with the kids and we can all find pleasure in the simplicity of the afternoon breeze, the laughter of the kids and a quiet conversation.

Here are some other fun, simple activities for Father's Day (many can be done at home):

  • host a mini-golf tournament
  • take Dad to a sporting event
  • attend a car show
  • watch a movie or five (at home or the theatre)
  • give Dad the day off and do his chores while he rests
  • make breakfast in bed for Dad
  • go swimming
  • take a walk or bike ride down a local trail
Whatever you choose, make sure Dad (or Grandpa) knows that you love and care about him!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Our New Dog

We had a dog that was a member of our family for over 8 years. In January we lost him to an illness. He was a beautiful 120 pound black lab. Duke was a rescue animal that and quickly became my husband’s farming and hunting partner.  He was a very well behaved gentle giant. Duke and my husband were connected at the hip. The only place Duke did not go with us was to doctor visits and grocery shopping. Our hearts were broken when we lost Duke. The one thing we were glad about was when the vet told us how serious his medical condition was but assured us he was not in pain. We decided not to put him down. We brought him home and set the alarm so we could give him his medication 4 times a day. We feed him by using a tube and he loved being outdoors so my husband would pick him up and carry him outside several times a day to lay under his favorite tree.

When Duke peacefully passed at home, we used the backhoe and dug a place under his favorite tree, in our front yard, and laid Duke to rest. Duke loved peanut butter wafer bars and we put two of them in with him before saying good bye. It was a very sad and difficult day for us. My husband missed Duke’s company so much. In April we talked about maybe looking at some of the shelters for a new friend. We have a 3 pound Pomeranian that we rescued the same day we rescued Duke. We needed to make sure that whoever we added to our family that Missy would accept as well.

In April and May we passively looked, asking a few friends of ours that were vets if they knew of anyone that knew of a dog. Everyone told us they would keep a look out for someone that had a litter of pups that they were not expecting.  Last week one of our vet friends called and said that someone had dumped off what appeared to be a 1 year old full blooded healthy Siberian Husky. We took Missy and went to meet this guy. He took to my husband right away and after a smelling game, Missy seemed to think he was okay as well. So Wednesday June 5th we brought him home to our farm.

We have done a lot of reading up on his breed and have spent the last few days getting to know him.  It seems he has been kept outside on a chain and was surprised that he could come in the house and that he has his own bed. He seems very smart and full of energy. We have spent time taking him for walks around the farm on a lead and working with him to sit, lay and come to us. My husband decided to let him out to go for a run yesterday and boy did he run. We looked for him for well over an hour and thought he was gone for good. When we returned home he was laying at the front door waiting for us.

It is clear that we have a lot of work with him ahead of us but we are looking forward to him having the run of the farm. It is the start of a new chapter in our lives and his. He seems happy and at home here and we are happy that he is now a member of our family. We look forward to the day when he can go farming and hunting without being on a lead. I feel in my heart that he is looking forward to that day as well. We have tried a few names with him and the only thing he seems to respond to is Boy and Good Boy. So for now that is what we call him and that makes him wag his tail, which make us know we made a great choice for all of us.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Busy Silence

Our recent silence is in direct correlation of our busyness in our home this week.  Last weekend found us in Omaha at a homeschool convention with a crashed computer.  We had a wonderful, mostly technology-free weekend which I'm sure we'll share with you soon.  We came home to a grandma who had been very sick all weekend and spent all day Monday at the doctor.  Before you feel too bad for her, the day ended with a massage to ease her pain.  As our family headed to bed, we experienced one of those life-altering, character-defining moments.  Our oldest daughter (the one who blogs here) found our middle daughter in bed having a seizure.  This is the first we know of and it scared us all greatly, except for the one having the seizure who remembers very little from the entire night.  I'm sure we will blog about that event also, but let me just share today that it has turned an already over-scheduled week upside down and we are still trying to overcome the exhaustion from all of the events.  Thank you for your patience as we get back on track next week.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Springtime In The Mid-West

Springtime in the Mid-West is one of the most beautiful yet scariest places on earth.  All of the trees, shrubs and grass turn a lush green. Spring is full of magnificently colorful flowers, baby farm animals, baby wildlife and birds chirping. Just as beautiful are the nights. Because there are so few lights in the countryside the sky is pitch black with a billion sparkling stars while here on earth there are fireflies, glow worms and an orchestra of frogs, crickets and owls. It is the most gorgeous happenstance that anyone could dream up and everyone should experience.

But with all that beauty comes a very real threat, tornado season. As the cold air tries to move out and the warm air tries to move in, the two collide. In the springtime our storm radio seems to sound off several times a week. There’s no alarm that will make you jump out of bed any faster than a storm radio. As an extra layer of protection we have the National Weather Service phone alerts. That means when everything starts to alarm, sound off and ring, one could say it gets just a little crazy around here. The storm radio alarms screams, the outdoor storm siren blasts while our home phone and each of our cell phones ring different tones. If we happen to have out of state company, they are paralyzed with fear during the entire process.

It is good to try to always be ready. We keep items in our storm shelter so that we are not running around at the last second. We have a basic wall jack landline phone (handhelds will not work without electrical power). A solar charger for our cell phones and laptop, bottled water, canned foods with a manual can opener, a few days’ worth of medications, a first aid kit, a pry bar, hammer and a few other tools. We also bought some of those cheap eye glasses at the dollar store and keep spare ones with our supplies. They are not our exact prescriptions, but they work in a pinch. A deck of cards, a few board games, a solar charged flashlight, a battery operated flashlight, matches, tennis shoes, socks tee-shirts and jeans, a 5 gallon bucket with plastic bags to line it and toilet paper, dog food, a battery operated radio, pillows and blankets that we keep stored in one of those air tight bags, an air mattress with a manual pump along with a few other miscellaneous items. It may sound like a lot, but it all fits in four plastic tot bins which takes up very little room.

At the end of every winter, I go thought the supplies to check expiration dates and to put in fresh batteries. Then when we receive a weather alert we grab our pets, cell phones, wallets and can be settled into the storm shelter in a minute or two. Most all the time we know well in advance if we are going to have bad weather. With few exceptions, we get about 5-10 minutes warning that our area is threatened.  The problem is that we get complacent and sometimes do not act on the alerts as we should. It took me a few years to even learn the difference between a watch and a warning. Warnings are more sever and my husband taught me a saying that reminds me the differences between the two, “Watch for the Warning to take cover.” A watch means there is a chance so stay on guard. A warning means take shelter now.

For those people that do not have shelters, when a watch is issued it is a good idea to go to the place where a shelter is located. If a warning is issued it is best to stay put, even if you do not have a shelter because you do not want to be caught outside traveling where you could get hit by flying debris, or worse. If you do not have a shelter and you are indoors they say to find the smallest room, on the lowest level, in the middle of the house and take cover there. It is like all other emergencies, having a plan in place helps to keep you calm and take action instead of reacting.

As soon as you have made sure the danger has passed and you and your family are safe then it is time to help others. I have lived in Michigan, California, Missouri and vacationed every summer in Idaho. I have witnessed firsthand how people respond to emergencies across the country. It is my opinion that when an emergency hits the people in the mid-west are at their best. There are no strangers or neighbors. We are all one  big family that would give the shirts off our back, the last dollar in our wallets and work days on end without rest to do everything in our ability to help anyone in need. Yes it is great to see help come in from across the country, but after all the help has returned home, we know our community is still there and that we will recover because we are surrounded by love and compassion.