Sunday, December 26, 2010


Last year my kids asked me if Santa was real.  Wanting to always tell them the truth, I let them know that he was pretend.  They decided they want to believe in Santa anyway!  Pretty funny.

Today, my 5 1/2 year old daughter said to me, "Mommy, I don't believe in Santa anymore.  Well, actually I do.  But when I turn six, I'll stop believing in him."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


It has been a frustrating day.  Did anyone else have one of those?  It was the kind of day where I was tired and in lots of pain.  The kids were fighting and misbehaving and I wasn't as patient as I should have been.  It left me frustrated with them, but much more frustrated with myself. 

I often become focused on all the good intentions that I have or have had, and how I've failed to follow through on so many of them.  It is frustrating.  And even more so when I think how that might impact my kids.  When I establish a rule or habit for them, follow through with it for a couple weeks, and then mostly forget about it, what am I teaching them?  When I set a goal for myself and fail to reach it, fail to even keep trying, what am I teaching them?

Part of the problem lies in my desire for perfection.  I tend to set my expectations too high.  The remainder of the problem comes from giving up completely when I realize I have run out of the energy needed to live up to my own expectations.

Dear Jesus,  Please help me to seek you and your will first.  Please give me wisdom to determine what goals you want me to set, which you want me to work on now, and which ones are for later.  Please forgive me for my impatience today with my kids and with myself.  Thank you for your patience with me.  Please help me to train my children in your ways, with love and grace.  Amen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

I have so, so much to be thankful for!  When I stop and consider the blessings in my life, I am humbled and amazed.  I often pause and wonder, why me?  Why am I so immensely blessed when others are struggling through such hard things in this life?  Praying daily that I will use my blessings to bless others.

Today I am thankful for Jesus Christ (His love and grace), God's amazing creation, my husband Joel, my children, and all the rest of my wonderful family and friends.  I am thankful for freedom, for the opportunity to be a stay home mom, for a home, for our yard and garden, for food to eat, clean water that is safe to drink and easy to access, electricity, books, and so much more!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A poem by George Elliot

"If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting find
One, self-denying deed,
one word
That eased the heart of him
who heard
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine
where it went -
Then you may count that day well spent.
But if, through all the livelong day,
You've cheered no heart, by yea or nay -
If, through it all
You've nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one's face -
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost -
Then count that day as worse than lost."
 - George Elliot

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Loving Homeschool!

The kids were begging for school today.  I explained that it is a Saturday and usually kids don't have school on Saturday.  They insisted they wanted school... we had a full and fun day of lessons.  Really, how can I say no to kids who are begging to learn!?  We enjoyed reading The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, "Tabby Cat" read a story to us, we did a couple math lessons, and a science study of trees.  Fortunately I had done all my lesson plans for Monday on Friday night!  Now to make new lesson plans for Monday.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another journal entry written while in Congo

From my Congo journal, July 17:

Today (we) went to visit Panzi Hospital in Bukavu.  We got to spend about half an hour talking with and listening to Dr. Denis Mukwege, the head gynecologist/surgeon for women needing medical care due to sexual violence.  He was very direct and clear as he explained his opinions of the change that needs to take place in Congo.

He said the financial assistance, food, medicine, etc. that is poured into Congo is causing more long term problems than it is solving.  He feels the Congolese people have become dependent upon it and are not standing up for themselves.  What Congo needs is peace.  He said the Congolese women are very strong and very resourceful.  If they had peace and an end to violence, they could solve the remaining problems on their own.  He said the Congolese church especially needs to speak out and support the Congolese people, to stand up against all that is wrong.

A break from the journal entry, some thoughts from today:

Dr. Mukwege acknowledged that if the aide from other countries was removed, lots of people would die initially.  But even now lots of people are dying due to the lack of peace in Congo, it has been that way for many years and will continue unless dramatic change happens. This was important, yet hard for me to hear.  This is a man who cares deeply for the people of Congo.  He is from Congo.  He has dedicated his life's work to serving the people of his country.  He is well-educated.  With my head, I understand what he is saying.  My heart does not like it!  I think of all the innocent children who would die if all external aide was actually withdrawn from Congo.  Dr. Mukwege is certainly right about at least one thing...  They are dying now.  I had to interrupt him and ask...  "So what can we do to help Congo without further adding to Congo's problems?"  His response...  Congo needs prayer and for people to speak up for them.  We need to encourage politicians to adopt policies that help put an end to the violence.

I must admit, I am not completely satisfied with that answer.  That can't really be all we can do!  It doesn't help the children who are dying as I type, or as you read this blog.  Prayer helps of course, but we are also to be Jesus' hands and feet in a hurting world.  So where do we find a balance in this?  I keep praying and asking for guidance in answering this question.

How do we help the children who are currently orphaned?  Yes they need food, shelter, and medicine; mostly they need loving families.  We traveled across the world to shower a few with love for a couple days.  Would my time have been better spent encouraging and training people in the village to regularly volunteer their time with the kids?  Would I spend time volunteering in an orphanage if it was in my town?  Would I do it if I didn't know how or if I would be able to feed my own children that day?  Am I called to adopt?  Are you?

What can we do to keep more children from becoming orphaned?  Check out "Run for Congo Women."  Have any of you sponsored a child from another country?  Month after month, year after year, you send money that you hope helps one child and his or her family to some extent.  Ever wondered if it really makes a difference?  I know I have.  I like the idea of this organization (Run for Congo Women) because the sponsorship helps train and get a woman started in her own business in just a year.  So while I've sponsored one child for the last 15 years, I could have helped 15 different women (each likely to have many children)!  And you can develop a relationship through letters.  Okay, I'll be quiet about it now... Just something to think about.

And now, back to that journal entry from July 17:

At Panzi Hospital, we were able to briefly meet some of the women who have experienced sexual violence.  Some were recovering from surgery and some were awaiting surgery.  It was so touching to look into their eyes and shake their hands.  One woman handed Cammie her baby to hold.  Behind the hospital there is a small forest area where some of the women rested, some were washing their clothing or preparing food.  (The hospital has no running water and does not provide food for the patients).  Many of the women had small children with them.  These women are strong, beautiful, and forgotten or rejected by many of their own family and country.  I wanted both to smile with them because of their strength and beauty, and to cry with them because of their pain.

Journal entries from my time in Congo

I wrote this while traveling to Congo, July 9:

My prayer is that I can be a source of encouragement to (my family in Congo), and all the staff at Kaziba Orphanage.  That I can help the children know that they are loved.  That I can be inspired, and inspire others to truly love and make a difference in the lives of those in need.  That I can listen and hear from God what His next step for me is.  That I can serve others without crying constantly!  That we can be safe and healthy.  That my family will be fine in my absence.  And so much more.

I wrote the following on July 14, while I was in Congo:

Yesterday we drove up to Kaziba.  It was a very long and bumpy ride.  We arrived at the orphanage in the late morning.  The older children (ages 3 to 5) sang to us.  It was very sweet and many of them are great singers.  We stayed for a short while and then went to see the mwamikazi(the acting "king" of the Kaziba area).  She invited us to stay for a wedding celebration for her daughter.  The Congolese food was very good.  I don't remember the names of the things we ate... rice, beans, sweet potato, cole slaw, chicken, etc.

After that we returned to the orphanage and of course spent more time holding the babies and playing with the kids.  We also did four small trainings: oral health, nutrition and medical information, play and stimulation for babies and toddlers, and play/interaction with the older children.  We gave the workers lotion, toothbrushes, and donuts.  For the babies and children we brought crib toys and other toys, bananas and cookies, toothpaste and toothbrushes, formula, cloth diapers, diaper covers, a baby sling, and a bumbo baby seat.  We spent quite a while there just interacting with all the kids.  Can you imagine getting about 30 kids ages 5 and under ready for bed?  It was pretty crazy!  We "helped" tuck the oldest children into bed.  We sang with them and they all laid down.  As we left, they were all standing on the bed and peeking out the window at us.

We spent the night at a nearby guest house and returned to the orphanage in the morning for a few more hours with the kids.  The biggest challenge for me at the orphanage was trying to give lots of attention to as many kids as possible.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Preparing to move... AGAIN

We are buying a house!  It should close tomorrow and we hope to move into our new home on Saturday!  I am so excited for our family to make this move.  We have been living in small spaces and without a yard for the kids for most of their lives.  Our new home has an extra room that will be our dedicated school room, plus a yard with lots of room for running, gardening, and hopefully chickens eventually.  And all this for about the same monthly expense as what we were paying for rent at our last condo.

As we were filling out all the papers for the house purchase, one document in particular was a little surprising.  We had to write all the addresses Joel has lived at in the last 10 years.  Can you guess how many?  Our list for him was 13 addresses; one of those was 2 years at the same military address, but in reality probably included 2 to 4 moves.  That makes at least 15 moves in 10 years for Joel.  Poor guy.   The count for me is 9 moves in 10 years.  And for the kids... Tabby Cat has lived in 7 different homes in her 5 years of life (this next one will make 8) and Baby Oliver has lived in 5 homes in his 3 years.  Ugh.  Hoping we can stay put a good long time and stop the moving insanity.

Friday, August 27, 2010

School has started!

Homeschool is in session at our house!  Little "Tabby Cat" is starting Kindergarten and "Baby Oliver" will be joining in with what he wants to do and doing some preschool work.  So far both kids are very excited about school each day.  They have been waking up at 6:30 and trying to talk me into starting the school day by 7:00 am!  Perhaps I should just dive in then, but I am not a morning person.  Our school day starts at 8:30; Tabby watches the clock and I can't be a minute late.  Pretty cute.  Hoping and praying for a wonderful school year with lots of fun and learning.

This is a picture of the kids dressed and ready for the first day of school.  I wish the picture captured their bare feet!  One time when I was about six, I forgot to put shoes on before getting in the car to go to school.  We were half way to school before I realized my error and asked my mom to turn around.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Imaginary Friends

My wonderfully creative children have developed some very detailed stories of their imaginary friends.  Their imaginary friends join them on the occasions when Tabby Cat and Baby Oliver stop being cats and turn into people.  My daughter becomes "mom" to my son (which in turn leaves me to be "grandma").  Yes, my son very frequently refers to me as Grandma.  They have blue friend dog, pink friend dog, yellow friend dog... a new color of dog for each new story they tell.

A few months ago my daughter added her friend "Baby" to her imaginary repertoire.  Baby is a 44 year old mother.  Baby has lots of kids, but the one we hear about most often is named Angel.  Angel has somehow become my daughter's alter-ego.  Today I heard a scream in the house.  We don't allow screaming in the house so I went to talk to my imaginative darling about it.  "Oh that," she quickly responded, "That was Angel screaming.  I can't do it in the house, but next time we are at the beach I'll show you how loud Angel can scream."  Wow.  She is quick.  And this is certainly not the first time that little "Angel" has been the culprit behind mischievous behavior.  Oh the irony.  How did my precious little Tabby Cat choose names like "Baby" for the 44 year old mom and "Angel" for the little girl who gets blamed for every misbehavior.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A world away

Traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo presented me with some challenges.  I knew God wanted me to go and I was very excited by the opportunity to go.  I didn't know how I was going to afford the trip, or have funds to help out Kaziba Orphanage... But God took care of that.  I got sick from both rounds of immunizations and was really sick on the way home and for a few days after...  But God took care of that.  Thinking about the horrible things the people of Congo face on a daily basis kept making me cry and I was worried that I would cry during my whole time with the kids at the orphanage... But God took care of that.  Congo continues to be a very dangerous place to go and I was kind of scared about my physical safety and health... But God took care of that.  I could go on, but I'm guessing you get the idea.

Being so far away from my kids was the hardest thing I had to face.  Would they be okay without me for two whole weeks?  Would I be okay without them?  Would they think they were somehow less important to me because I was leaving them in order to go and show love to other kids?  What would their lives be like if something happened to me while I was in Congo?  Like I said, Congo isn't exactly the safest travel destination in the world.  Let's just say I had a lot of fears about traveling so far from my precious and beloved babies...

But God took care of that!  My kids did great without me.  Yes, they missed me, but they had lots of fun with Joel (dad) and with Grandma, Grammie, and cousin Haleigh.  I didn't die after all, so I got to come back to them!  There were a few nights when I cried myself to sleep because I missed Joel and my kids so much, but all in all I was okay too.  And they didn't think they were less important to me.  Instead they learned a little bit about what it means to care for others in the world, what it means to share and do without some things (mom, in this case), and a tiny glimpse of the blessings we enjoy here in the United States compared to other places in the world.  They are even making plans for their futures that include mission trips and adoption!

My sweet kids,  "Baby Oliver" and "Tabby Cat" (ages 3 and 5)

Family in Congo

This is me at the airport in Ethiopia, after a day and a half of travel with only 3 hours of sleep.  My little blue buddy there is Henry the Hippo, who came from Japan to join us in Congo.
My human travel companion, the lovely Cammie:  she is my husband Joel's cousin (and my dear friend).  Thanks for jumping in and joining me on this adventure Cammie!

My beautiful sister-in-law Holly and her daughters, Mia and Ellie, our newest nieces!
Me, Holly, Isla and Natalie (my other 2 sweet and adorable "Congolese" nieces).
Somehow I did not take any pictures of my brother-in-law, Mike.  (Sorry Mike, nothing personal I promise!)  He was there too!  Mike is Holly's husband, the father of these 4 sweet girls, and the director of Food for the Hungry in DR Congo.  It was wonderful to have the added benefit of spending quality time with my amazing family members who have been living and working in Congo for the past 3 1/2 years.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kaziba Orphanage in Pictures

Kaziba Orphanage in the Democratic Republic of Congo
July 2010


Lots of laundry, all washed by hand.

Trying to figure out just how many kids I can fit on my lap at once.  The time felt so limited and each child needed to soak up so much love and attention.

We did some basic trainings on oral hygiene, medical and health, and ways to interact and play with the infants and toddlers and with the preschool age children.

Sweet faces: Some of the babies and children at the orphanage.

Dinner time for the "big" kids.
Dinner time for the smaller kids.
Bottles for a few of the babies.
Views on the drive back toward Bukavu.

Looking out the back window.  It is dry season in Congo right now and everything is very dusty.

I keep thinking I will develop a better ability to put into words my experience and thoughts from my time spent in Congo.  So far that really hasn't happened.  I still don't have the words to describe the needs, the reality, any of it really.  Kaziba Orphanage is "home" to about 30 small children.  Many, many more have spent years there since it opened in the 1950's.  Much has improved at the orphanage since my sister-in-law Holly first "discovered" the orphanage and started helping them out earlier this year.  They have more workers, better nutrition, formula for the babies, some training for the workers, etc.  Much more is still needed.  And this is just one orphanage of thousands around the world.  Most of all, these children are in need of love and family.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What to say?

It is hard to believe I've been back in the United States for a little over a week now. It seems that a blog post is long overdue! That first week back was a crazy one: I was really sick the first two days I was home, followed by a few hectic days of packing and moving. I was SO blessed by friends who helped us move, let us borrow trucks and hand trucks, took care of our kids one day, and made us dinners! Thank you! Now we are starting to settle back into life and have had a couple days of just being a family again. The kids and I have been spending lots of time with Legos, Playdough, and books.

Now, I imagine that anyone who might be reading this is interested in hearing about my trip to DR Congo. What to say? What do I write about such an experience? I haven't quite figured that out yet. The total length of my trip was 14 days. It took 2 days to get there, and 2 days to get back. One day was spent in an exhausted, travel-weary stupor. That leaves 9 days worth of events that I should have lots to write about.

We spent 2 days at Kaziba orphanage with all the sweet little ones. They currently have about 30 kids there, all under 6 years old. We were able to spend lots of time holding the babies and playing with the little kids. We provided some basic training for the "mamas" at the orphanage: dental care, health and nutrition, and ways to interact with all the children to help their development. We were also able to donate cloth diapers and plastic diaper covers, formula, toothbrushes, toys, crib toys, and a Bumbo seat. We also gave a contribution to help build a wall around the orphanage that will help to keep the kids much safer.

It was hard to be there face to face with the reality of the kids' lives, and even harder to leave. The staff at the orphanage work so hard and truly care about the kids, but their tasks are enormous and make it very challenging to provide the kids with all the love and attention they need. I was torn between giving a few kids lots of time and attention, or treating them assembly line style and allotting each child a ten minute slot before moving on to the next child. To be honest, I did some of both. And I found that I could fit 3 kids at a time on my lap!

We spent one day visiting Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. This is a well known hospital for treating women who are the victims of sexual violence. Dr. Denis Mukwege, a recent Nobel Peace Prize nominee, spent half an hour talking to us about his work at the hospital, what he has witnessed in Congo, and his opinions about what needs to happen in Congo. That conversation warrants its own post (a topic for another day). We then toured the hospital wards of women recovering from surgery and those awaiting surgery. With tears in my eyes, I smiled and shook hands with many beautiful, strong, and heartbroken women.

Another day we were able to go to a small church and meet dozens of orphaned children who are in an unofficial foster care program organized by Mama Dorcas (the pastor's wife). Hundreds of Congolese people donate what they can, most often the equivalent of 50 cents per month, to help provide some food (2 or 3 meals a week) and school fees if possible for the kids in the program. The children and volunteers sang some songs for us, Mama Dorcas told us a little more about the program, and then they fed the children from a large pot of maize porridge. Many of the kids walk for miles to receive this simple meal.

This is a brief overview of a few of my days in the Congo. I'll try to add more as I have time to process. And eventually I'll take the time to figure out how to add pictures = )

Mostly I am reflecting on the amazing blessings in my life that are often so easy to take for granted, and wondering exactly how I am to best use these blessings to impact our hurting world. I am so thankful for my husband, my kids, our health, safe drinking water, electricity, great roads, education, my home, my country, safety, etc, etc, etc.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Today is the day!

Today is the day I begin my journey to Democratic Republic of the Congo! My first flight takes off at 10:30 tonight from San Diego. I will meet up with Cammie in Washington D.C. Then we're off to Ethiopia, then Rwanda, and finally to Congo. We are scheduled to arrive in Bukavu, DR Congo on Sunday morning. It all adds up to 2 days of travel, about 24 hours of actual flying time. Not looking forward to that part of the trip! But I'm sure God has plans for that time, too.

I can't wait to give hugs to my wonderful family in Congo and to hold and play with the babies and children at the orphanage. The biggest bags I've ever seen are packed full of cloth diapers, plastic diaper covers, formula, and toys for Kaziba Orphanage. 2 bags, 50 pounds each, plus a small suitcase and a backpack for me. My luggage is bigger than me and weighs as much as I do!

I am so blessed to have a wonderful husband who is supportive of my trip and able to help me get all this to the airport. Thanks Joel; I love you! How I will miss him and my sweet daughter and son while I am traveling. I love you my little "Tabby Cat" and "Baby Oliver"! A huge thank you also to everyone who is praying for me and this trip, all who have given donations and financial support, and to the kids' grandmas who are coming to take care of them when Joel is working. I love and appreciate you all!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The overflow of my heart

Just three days until I leave for DR Congo! I am nervous, excited, and a little overwhelmed too.

My heart has been very full lately. My thoughts and feelings keep overflowing. Unfortunately I haven't seemed to have words to express the emotions and changes going on in my heart. Instead this overflow keeps coming from my eyes. Oh how I hate to cry! Especially in front of people.

As I think of and pray for the orphaned children throughout the world, and especially in Congo, tears come to my eyes... As I think about the 2 weeks I'll be away from my own children and husband, tears come to my eyes... Helping in Vacation Bible School last week, I cried with the kids when they cried because their moms were leaving, and tears slid down my cheeks as I told a sweet little girl about how much Jesus loves her... As I talked to my kids about how blessed we are to live in the United States and celebrate our amazing freedoms, more tears...

Hopefully soon I'll be able to express more of these emotions, and the things God is teaching me, through words and actions, and not quite so much with my tears!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Too Much!

This summer is turning into an insane time for me and my family. In the midst of preparing for my 2 week trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we decided that now was the right time to look for a house to buy. Our current landlord is not interested in letting us rent on a month to month basis when our lease ends in July, which means we have to move one week after I get back from Congo. And before all this came up, I volunteered myself to help at Vacation Bible School every day this coming week. Oh yes, plus planning a meaningful birthday celebration for my soon to be 3 year old son!

Put it all together and it basically means that I have one week to get all my supplies and pack for my trip, find an apartment to rent, plan and shop for a birthday party while simultaneously helping at VBS every day, looking at properties and trying to make a wise choice on a home, and spending lots of quality time with my family before I leave for Africa. Am I forgetting anything? I'm sure I am!

All this to say quite simply that I AM FEELING STRESSED. Would you be? I'm trying to remind myself to breath and trust God for the results. If I live to tell about it, I'll be sure to write about God's faithfulness through it all = )

Philippians 4:13 "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Hard Heart

I remember quite a few details from my childhood, and many of them put me in a pretty bad light. I remember so often obeying my parents outwardly, but with a very defiant inward attitude. I remember following all the rules when adults were around to see me, but doing my own thing when no one was there to hold me accountable. I remember very clearly telling God no when I sensed Him asking me to do something. And I remember very clearly telling God that I would do what I wanted despite knowing he was saying no. These things are all blaring signs of the very hard heart I had. These memories also play a strong role in urging me in my adult life to say yes to God and to obey what He lays on my heart. Those days and years of saying no to God were very unhappy and uncomfortable ones that I do not want to repeat!

It is interesting to me that I rarely rebelled outwardly to my parents or other adults in authority. I was afraid of the consequences, and I liked "looking good" in the eyes of the world. But I found it so easy to directly tell God that I was going to do things my way, even though I knew without a doubt what He wanted me to do. I think that wanting to look "good" or "normal" to the people around me is still a struggle for me. But I'm daily striving to keep it from controlling my choices any longer. I'd much rather be weird for God than focused on following others expectations of how I am to live my life.

Here is what God has been laying on my heart recently, and it requires some obedience that is likely to be a little uncomfortable.

Luke 12:32-34 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

With this passage, some things have been clear to me. One of my possessions that God has asked me to get rid of is my car. My first response was, "Seriously God? That is my key to partial sanity when my kids and I are going crazy being cooped up in the house together!" But now I'm saying yes to God and goodbye to my car. The rest God and I are working on and I have a lot of questions for Him. "Do you really want me to sell these things God? Or is it okay if I just give things away? Selling things takes so much time and effort." I am also not sure how this verse applies to my kids' abundance of things. Should I be selling some of their belongings, or waiting for God to touch their hearts with a desire to give? I've been praying about these things and waiting for clear answers from God. But I wonder, has He already given me a clear answer and I'm just not listening well? Am I being disobedient by taking time to respond?

Here is a passage that stood out to me this evening while doing devotions with my daughter. Matthew 21:28-31 (Jesus said) "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?" 'The first,' they (the chief priests and elders of the temple) answered. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you."

I'm done telling God no; I also want to be sure I'm not the daughter that says "I will" but doesn't follow through.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What and why?

Recently I read through the book of I Peter in the Bible. It contains so many words of truth and wisdom that require further study, contemplation, and most of all ACTION!

The verse that stood out most to me as I read was I Peter 3:15.
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."

The book of I Peter mentions multiple times the importance of, and a command to, show respect for others. I pray that my children will have this respect in their hearts, and outwardly in their behavior. How are they to learn this? By God working in their hearts, by me teaching them, and by the model I show them.

Dear Jesus, please continue to teach me how to respect everyone I interact with. Please soften my heart and keep it soft and pliable to your ways. Please open my eyes to see you and your will; my ears to hear you; my heart to obey you. Show me how to respect authority, my family, and every person I encounter. Thank you Jesus for speaking to me through scripture! Amen.

Back to the middle portion of I Peter 3:15. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." Reading this reminds me that I need to take the time to put into words the reasons for my faith in Jesus Christ. I must have a ready response describing what I believe and why I believe. Also, what am I doing in my life, how do I come across to others in a way that leaves them wondering and compelled to ask about the reason for my hope?

I find that I'm able to give a reason for the hope that I have. Jesus Christ loves me, He has forgiven me, He is my daily hope! But what if someone needs or wants to know more than that? I don't necessarily have a succinct answer prepared to describe exactly why I believe and what I believe. What I have in my brain is more a jumbled mass of decades of Sunday School lessons,sermons, and Bible reading that I've never taken time to put into a coherent message to share with others.

Ephesians 6:19-20 "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel... Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

It is time for me to take specific, determined action and put into words my belief in Jesus Christ... what I believe and why. I need to look up and memorize Bible passages that will help me share my faith. This is my goal for this week.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Missions Trip to Democratic Republic of the Congo

I will be traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo July 8th to July 22nd.  My husband's cousin will be joining me and we will be staying with my sister-in-law and her family.  They have been living and working in the Congo for the past 3 years.

As I was praying about this trip, and how little I really have to offer compared to the extreme levels of poverty and hurt in the Congo, God led me to this passage in the Bible:  Luke 9: 10-17.  The disciples wanted to send all the hungry people away, but Jesus used one little boy's lunch to feed over 5,000 people!  With this scripture in mind, I will be going to the Congo in trust and obedience to God.  I will go with the little I have to give, and trust God to multiply it to provide for many.

My hope and prayer for this short-term mission is that it will lead to continued opportunities, and increased awareness and desire, for all of us to give generously of our time and resources to those in need.

Things we will be doing:

1.  Taking formula, cloth diapers, and diaper covers to Kaziba Orphanage.

2.  If funding permits, have a wall built around the orphanage to help protect the kids and provide them with a place to play.  The estimated cost for this project is $4800.  There are a variety of other projects that need attention if we are not able to accomplish this one.

3.  And of course... Hold, feed, play with, and love the babies and children!

4.  Also, when I first began planning this trip, my sister-in-law and her family were planning to return to the United States this summer.  They will now be staying in the Congo an additional year.  They are making a huge difference there, but it is often so hard and draining for them in every way.  I am hoping that we can truly be an encouragement to them.

Things I am praising God for (and thanking many of you for)!

1.  Joel's wonderful cousin, will be joining me on the trip.  I don't have to travel alone!

2.  Our flights are scheduled and paid for.  We will be going July 8th (and arriving in Congo on July 11th).  I will be back in San Diego on July 22nd.

3.  Enough financial support has been received so far to cover the cost of my flight, with over $1000 left over to contribute to the orphanage.

4.  My mom and Joel's mom will each be coming to take care of my kids for a portion of the time I am gone.  With Joel, Grandma and Grammie here, my "babies" will get plenty of love in my absence.

5.  In the months that I've been planning and preparing for this trip, much has already been accomplished at Kaziba Orphanage!  My sister-in-law has been able to provide some training for the workers that has had a big impact.  A donation was given to the orphanage that allowed them to hire more staff and provide better nutrition for the children.

Please be in prayer about the following things:

1.  For wisdom in where to focus our time, energy, and resources.  For wisdom in what project(s) to support with the funds we raise.

2.  For health and safety while we are travelling and in Congo.

3.  For peace and freedom from fear.  So you can pray specifically, some of the fears I've been battling are:  that my kids won't be okay without me, lack of physical safety while there, that I will not be effective or that what I do will not be enough.

4.  That this trip will truly touch many lives both in the Congo and in the United States.  That God will prepare many hearts to be touched by the love and hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Many of you have already provided financial support for this trip, I ask only that you please continue to pray!

For anyone who is interested in contributing material or financial support, here is the information you will need:

Items that are needed (we will be taking these with us to give to the orphanage):  Other than the formula, none of these items need to be new!

 - cloth diapers
 - plastic diaper covers
 - powdered infant formula
 - small, safe toys that the babies can play with in their cribs.  Things like mirrored toys that are meant to be tied to the crib edge, and very soft easy to hold rattles, would be appropriate.

Please send any monetary donations (tax deductible) to New Hope Church, Attn: Lynne Newland, 10330 Carmel Mountain Road, San Diego CA 92129.  Checks may be written to New Hope Church:  please include a note saying the check is for Shauna Petracci's trip to Congo, but do not write any memos on the check itself.

I really encourage you to do some research regarding the Democratic Republic of Congo, and about orphans worldwide.  Below, I will include just a few of the heartbreaking statistics that I have found.

If you have any questions (I'm sure I forgot some important details) or would like to hear more about this journey, please post a comment and let me know how I can contact you.

Some Statistics regarding Democratic Republic of Congo:
 - 4 of every 10 babies born will die before age 1
 - 6 of every 10 children born will die before age 5
 - the sexual violence against women and female children is the worse in the DRC than anywhere in the world

A Worldwide Statistic:
 - There are 147 million orphaned children in the world

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Dream

About 2 1/2 years ago, I had a dream that I'll never forget.  I didn't understand it at the time.  My dreams are sometimes along the prophetic, but often in an exaggerated way.  For example, many years ago I had a dream that my younger brother got sick and died.  A couple days after my dream he ended up in the hospital, extremely sick and not too far from death.  Thankfully he lived!  But I spent the whole week he was in the hospital scared and certain that I was losing my brother.  My dream from 2 1/2 years ago had that same prophetic feel, but how could it possibly hold any reality?

In the dream, there was an armed group that was coming toward the city where my family lived.  It was known that this group of men would kill every person they saw who was over the age of 5.  All the small children and babies would be left to fend for themselves.  Everyone was running one direction away from these men, but we knew we would all be caught and killed.  I gave my son, then a small baby, to my husband so he could try to get away.  I started running, carrying my daughter (age 2 1/2) toward the murderous group.  I was looking for my daughter's 3 year old friend, who I thought might be able to help her survive when I was killed and there were no adults to take care of her.

It was an awful dream and I couldn't figure out why it felt so real and similar to how my "prophetic" dreams often feel.  A situation like this is so far removed from anything we can imagine happening here in the United States.  For the past couple years I've pushed this dream out of my mind, but lately it has been coming back to me.  I have 2 children at home, they have always known safety and a simple and carefree childhood.  I've "seen" them in this situation in my dream; but I can't really imagine them ever having to face it.  But I also have children in my heart.  I don't know how many, I don't know their names or ages or where they are from.  As I think about past events, and very recent events in some countries, I CAN picture my unknown children being faced by something like this.

It is purely heartbreaking.  In the dream I was fully there, knowing I would die and that my tiny children would be left with no one to take care of them.  As a parent, I care nothing about my life except in relation to my kids... what would happen to them if I was not able to care for them and protect them?  Would there be someone to feed them, protect them, hold them, love them?  I can think of so many people who probably could and would.

What about the parents and children around the world who don't have that same assurance?  What can I do to help meet the needs of the estimated 147 million orphaned children throughout the world?  What can I do to make a difference in countries that deal daily, or have dealt, with violence and instability like this?  What am I doing?  What are you doing?

It might be easier to turn our heads and look the other way.  It is easy to get overwhelmed and think there is no way we can have an impact.  But working together and with God's help, we can make a difference.  And I know some of you are!  Thank you for inspiring me and making me more aware.  I am not sure exactly what to do, but I do know that I'm done looking the other way.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Playground Woes

Last summer we moved, again.  Does anyone else think 6 moves in 6 years of marriage is too many?  Oh wait, that is not the point I want to make here!  Anyway, we chose our condo because our front door opens to a playground.  We thought that would make doing without a yard much easier on the kids.  This playground right outside my front door is providing me with lots of learning opportunities and hard choices to make.  And I always thought the playground was a place where kids live and learn...

Here is a summary of today's playground adventures.  A 3 year old neighbor boy knocked on our door (just like every day).  He is often out there playing for hours with no parents in sight.  They can see him most of the time, but at a distance.  Ugh!  "Can Tabby and Oliver come out to play?"  We all got our shoes on and went out.  His sister age 5, and 2 other neighbor boys (about 5 or 6) were playing as well.  Tabby and Oliver started playing with them and then one of the boys started calling Tabby names.  I waited a little while to see how she would respond, if she would know how to speak up for herself and tell him to stop.  She didn't, so I told him to stop calling her names, that he needed to be kind, etc.  I took the time to privately explain to Tabby what to do when someone is being unkind.

The kind and tenderhearted part of me feels very sorry for these kids who are often out there without the interaction of parents.  They always want to talk to me and the 3 year old repeatedly needs to be rescued from high places.  Some days I have the extra energy to pour lots of love into their little lives.  But I must admit, some days my own kids have swallowed almost every drop of energy I have.  And I find it challenging to answer the door day after day ready to provide playground duty for parents that I'm a bit frustrated with.

So, on with the story.  After a while, another mom came with her kids (age 3 and 1 1/2 years).  My kids play with her kids pretty often and they are very sweet and blessed by a mom who gives them lots of attention.  Today, Tabby was having a hard time sharing and was not being kind to "Fred" (age 3) who wanted to borrow her trike.  Tabby received more instruction on behavior and how to interact with others!  Then "Fred" went and asked the group of kids with no parents present if he could play with them.  These kids told him no and tried to show him something else to do so he wouldn't want to play with them.  He was so sad.  His mom was so sad, but did not say anything.  This time I did not confront the kids because I was unsure of my role since "Fred's" mom was there.

Now I find myself frustrated that I did not speak up again and talk to the kids about treating everyone with kindness.  If I was not there to correct my own children, I would want someone else to insist that my kids showed kindness to others.  I think I felt intimidated because I don't know most of these kids' parents and I really don't know how they would respond to me telling their kids how to behave.  Plus they know exactly where I live!  Next time I will not be quiet and watch.  I will speak up!  This shy, introverted, conflict-avoiding girl is going to share her mind!  I just pray that I can do so with lots of love for these kids.  And I will try to shower them with lots of positive attention before it is necessary for me to provide any correction.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cheers for charts!

The kids and I have done most of our chores, most of the days, for the past 2 weeks!  Considering that I was pretty sick about half of that time, I think we did pretty good!  Tabby and Oliver are getting much better about doing their jobs without as much complaining.  Plus they really enjoy putting the little star magnets on their chore chart and getting rewarded for completing tasks.  They get a reward of some kind every 2 or 3 days, which seems to work pretty well for their ages.

I'm feeling much more confident in my ability to keep up with housework as a result of my own chore chart.  Funny, though, I think I'll need to be careful not to become too obsessive.  The more time I spend doing things like scrubbing all the walls, the more aware I am of the dirt and grime that I haven't yet cleaned.  Not all of my chores were accomplished on the exact day scheduled.  There were some I did a day or two late, and a couple I did a day early.  But the important part is that almost everything got done.  The one thing I skipped was cleaning one of the bathrooms.  The best part has been having a meal plan, knowing what I'm going to cook each day, and planning my grocery shopping accordingly.  Unfortunately I don't get rewarded this time around like the kids do.  At my age the expectations are much higher.  Or maybe I just have a mean task master!  At any rate, I think I'll wait to reward myself until I manage a two week stretch without skipping any of my jobs.

As I mentioned, I was sick quite a bit the last couple weeks... which brings us to a whole new topic.  I am going to the Democratic Republic of Congo in July!  It was getting the immunizations for this trip that made me so sick.  Hopefully it will all be worth it and I'll be healthy now while traveling.  While in the Congo, I will get to spend time with my sister-in-law and her family who have been living and working in the Congo for the past 3 years.  I will get to spend time with my nieces - 2 of whom have grown a bunch since I last saw them, and 2 I'll be meeting for the first time!  Plus we will be taking supplies to, and spending time doing what we can to help out at an orphanage.

I will miss my little Tabby and Oliver terribly while I am gone.  Two whole weeks.  But I am also excited to see what God has in store for this trip.  I pray that the supplies we take, the projects we do, and the love and attention we are able to give the babies and children will truly have a lasting impact on their lives.  I imagine my life will be forever changed by this experience.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cuteness and Compliments!

Tabby Cat, Baby Oliver, and I went to Balboa Park yesterday with friends.  We watched The Tortoise and the Hare at the puppet theater, rode the trolley, had a picnic in the grass, went in the Botanical Building and the Timken Museum of Art.   It was all lots of fun.  The best part of the day for me came as we were getting off the trolley after riding back to where we had parked.

Baby Oliver (i.e. my 2 1/2 year old son) paused by the young lady sitting in front of us.  He looked at her bright red and very curly hair and said, "Your hair is SO beautiful!  Can I smell it?"  She was absolutely beaming!  And she did bend over so he could smell her hair.  Baby Oliver sniffed her beautiful hair and said, "You smell like strawberries!'  Which is also quite a compliment; there isn't too much he loves more than strawberries.

It was a very sweet and funny moment that I will never forget.  It reminded me of a couple things.  Taking the time to say sincere compliments to others really can brighten up their day, week, or more!  Also, I really need to keep an eye on my little flirtatious son!  Imagine as he gets older...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Living in His Grace

I am embarrassed to put the following in writing, but I want to be honest about what God has been patiently teaching me.  For the past year or so I've been whining and feeling sorry for myself because we needed to move from a spacious house into a less spacious, but still nice home.  Admitting it makes me realize just how shallow I've been!  My sincere apologies to all of you who endured listening to me!

Here are the questions I am considering.  What are my true NEEDS vs. wants?  Have I ever been unable to feed my children multiple healthy meals each day?  No!  Have I had to wonder if we'd have a warm and safe place to sleep at night?  No!  Have we always had some clothing to wear and safe water to drink?  Yes!  I've been concerned by things like not having a private yard and having to park a bit of a distance from my front door.  I've complained about it.  I've whined about it.  I've been self-absorbed and worldly in my thinking.

Please don't misunderstand me on this.  God still has a lot of work to do!  I continue to have days when I really want unnecessary things.  I still hope to someday have a home with a yard for my kids.  One of the main things I've needed to learn is to be content and thankful no matter what my current situation is.  The biggest thing that is helping me change my attitude and focus is realizing that the more unnecessary things I do without, the more I am able to give to others who have true needs.

God, I am so sorry for this terrible attitude.  I apologize for my selfishness, my pride, my lack of trust in you.  I'm sorry for not having a thankful heart when I've been SO richly blessed.  I thank you Lord for your grace, patience, forgiveness, and abundant provision for me and my family.  Please help me to remember this lesson all the days of my life.  Please help me to continue to grow in the knowledge and understanding of your truth.  Thank you for my salvation that is so completely a free gift, a gift given with immense grace.  Thank you for making me a new creation and for continuing to mold and shape me.  Thank you for my daily bread!  Amen.

The following passage is what God spoke to me regarding this subject.  I don't think I'll type it out for you today.  Go get your Bible!  And if you are reading this and don't have a Bible, leave me a comment and I will send one to you.

Here is the passage - Luke 12: 22-34.  Does this speak to you too?  Read it again, and again if needed.  I sure have!  The topics in this scripture have been huge in my life lately.  It is likely they'll show up again in future blogs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

One of "those" days

This is taken from my journal in February, but could fairly easily describe a day like today or many others over the past five years.

I am in a bad mood this evening.  The day started off great.  I went to MOPS and we had a wonderful speaker, Sylvia Lange.  Her heart is focused on helping impoverished children worldwide; and sharing the truth, joy, and love that Christ offers us.  Her music and talk blessed me immensely... and then I came home with the kids.  They were being so naughty, mean to each other, and whiny.  And I've been so impatient and frustrated.

I feel like I have the worst behaved kids on the planet today.  Which must mean I'm doing things terribly wrong as a mother.  Why don't they listen and obey?  Why do they hurt each other?  Why are they so whiny?  I know in part it is because they are 2 and 4 years old.  And I know much of my emotional response and impatience today are caused by hormones.  Yuck!

But I also wonder if it could be largely a spiritual attack.  I want so desperately to make a difference in the lives of hurting children in the world.  I want to add to my family through adoption.  Then I have days like this.  And my mind screams at me, "You are not capable of that."  "You will always be a depressed and anxious mess."  "Who are you to think you can make a difference?"  "You can't even do a decent job raising your own children."

I want to be realistic.  But I also want to have faith, to be bold in Christ.  "God, what is your truth?  What is your plan for me?  Can you use me in this stage of life?  Or are my dreams and desires in place for sometime in the future?"  So tonight, instead of dwelling on my bad mood and doubts, I'm going to do my best to replace those thought with God's word and truth.  Here is where God is leading me this evening.

James 1 (all of it!)  The following passages in particular. 
James 1: 2-6  Consider it pure JOY, my (sisters), whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

This whole chapter, the whole book of James really, is SO applicable to me right now, I could write it all down.  I encourage you to take the time to read James!  That being said, just a couple more parts that stand out to me currently.

James 1: 19-22
(Shauna), take note of this: You should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for your anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourself.  Do what it says!

James 1: 26-27
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself ad his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Please God, work in my heart and mind.  Help me to serve you fully, despite my weaknesses and limitations.  Please give me wisdom as a wife, mother, friend, and as your hands and feet in this world.  Please help me to listen to your truth and not the lies of this world or my own emotions. Amen

Cleaning Schedule for Mom (me) and Meal Planning

As mentioned in the previous post, I made a chore chart for myself too.  If I knew how to put it in chart form here I would, but sadly I'm not willing to take the time to figure it out today.  So I'll just include a general list of what I'm planning to do.  The first week was a success!  I got a magnet for each day I did all my chores, just like the kids : )  Now I just need to determine what my reward will be.  Maybe just a much cleaner home...

Week One:
Monday- wash sheets & vacuum
Tuesday- clean master bathroom & sweep and mop all linoleum and tile floors
Wednesday - clean kitchen & vacuum
Thursday- dust living/dining areas & clear clutter
Friday- do a "spring cleaning" project & vacuum
Saturday- plan next week's menu & grocery shop
Sunday- a "day off" or finish any chores I missed during the week.  Today this involved 7 loads of laundry and 3 loads of dishes, plus putting away clutter and dusting that I hadn't done Thursday.  Oh yes, vacuuming AGAIN, having young kids and a dining area with carpet is really not a good idea!

Week Two
same as above except...
Tuesday- clean main bathroom & sweep and mop
Thursday- dust bedrooms and blinds & clear clutter

After that, I'll start again with week one and hopefully keep the cycle going.  Every day includes laundry, dishes, and cooking of course.  The spring cleaning tasks I did this week were cleaning the patio and washing the bathroom walls.  Other things on my "spring cleaning" list include washing the rest of the walls, washing windows, organizing the filing cabinet, steam-vacuuming the carpet, and selling or donating items we don't need.

The weekly meal planning on Saturdays is especially important for me.  I don't mind cooking, but always have a hard time deciding what to make, with dinner being the worst.  We also have been trying to cut back on our food budget as much as possible while still eating a healthy diet.  Having a plan really helps!  Plus I despise shopping, detest it, abhor it...  With a plan in place I know what we'll be eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a whole week.  I can do all the shopping just once a week, hopefully without kids.  And we're not so tempted to eat out or order in due to a lack of food in the fridge or ideas in the brain.

I'm wondering if I'm over-ambitious currently.  I feel like I need to be because I've been "under"-ambitious for so long.  Time will be my deciding factor.  For now, I'm glad to have accomplished this much this week.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tabby Cat, Baby Oliver, and Chore Charts

I've been trying to decide on internet privacy related matters, for now my children will have fictitious online names.  They have chosen the names themselves!  For the past 3 years, my daughter (5 years old) has referred to herself as "Tabby Cat" when she pretends to be a cat.  And for the past 1 1/2 years, my son (almost 3) has called himself "Baby Oliver," his kitten persona.  They commonly introduce themselves to new acquaintances this way.  The adults look at me like I'm crazy and don't know how to name my children.  At the mention of Tabby Cat and Baby Oliver, just remind yourself, 5 year old girl and 3 year old boy.

It was way past time to get more organized around here!  A year or two ago I read a book by the Duggars; you know the family with 19 kids?  Michelle, the mom, wrote about how hectic their household was when she ONLY had 3 or 4 kids.  Then she realized the importance of planning, scheduling, and organizing.  Yes, I thought, it would probably be a good idea, but it takes time to make a schedule.  Plus I might feel compelled to follow it, and I really like being flexible and stressed.  Wait, I like the idea of being flexible, I really hate being stressed and always behind on my chores with no energy to complete them.

I have two cats, um kids.  I want to adopt at least two more (yes, real children, not felines).  So now is the time to get organized and start training Tabby and Oliver how to follow a schedule and be responsible for the things they are old enough to do themselves.  Training myself, of course, is much harder than teaching them!

Last week was the start of a new chapter around here.  Here's hoping it lasts!  The kids got a new chore chart that allows them to put a magnet by each chore they complete, for each day of the week.  Here are the chores we started with: 

Make Bed
Brush Teeth (by themselves in the morning, Joel or I brush their teeth before bed)
Take Dishes to Kitchen Counter
Water Plants
Pick Up Toys (one magnet at the end of the day, not one each time it needs to be done)

This adds up to 5 chores per child each day.  Oliver needs help making his bed, and Tabby is usually glad to help as long as she gets to put his magnet on the chart for him.  Our first week with this went pretty well, the hardest thing for them is picking up their toys.  Oliver especially will sometimes choose to have many of his toys put in time out for a week or given away.  I think the sheer volume of his toys stresses him out because he never misses any toys when they are gone.

Due to the fact that they are young and just starting out, they are getting pretty big rewards to begin with.  They got to do a special craft after getting their first 10 magnets.  A trip to the zoo for 20 magnets.  And a gift for 30 magnets.  They were able to earn all of these this week which means they both did 30 of the 35 possible chores for the past 7 days!  I decided the gift will always be something consumable or something they need or could really benefit from.  This week I made them each a new hooded towel.

Of course, if the kids get a chore chart, so does mom!  I'm trying to decide if I should get rewards too.  It might be a good idea...  This post is plenty long, so more about my own chore schedule will come later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oh Pooh, you are so smart!

Can you believe so much can be learned from "the bear with very little brain?"

From The House At Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne, chapter 8:
"Let's go and see everybody," said Pooh.  "Because when you've been walking in the wind for miles, and you suddenly go into somebody's house, and he says, "Hallo, Pooh, you're just in time for a little smackerel of something," and you are, then it's what I call a Friendly Day."
Piglet thought that they ought to have a Reason for going to see everybody, like Looking for Small or Organizing an Expotition, if Pooh could think of something.  Pooh could.
"We'll go because it's Thursday," he said, "and we'll go to wish everybody a Very Happy Thursday.  Come on, Piglet."

Here are today's Pooh Lessons; very fitting because today is a Thursday!
1.  I should always have a little smackerel of something to share when Pooh, or anyone else, stops by.  I would like to make each day a Friendly Day for others.
2.  I should visit others just because it is "Thursday" or any other day.  I should especially remember to visit Eeyore who is always so surprised that someone thought of him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Another journal entry from December

A question was posed to me regarding my faith and if I had any doubts in God's promises.  Answering truthfully, I know in my mind that God can do all things and heal all things.  But my heart hasn't trusted that He will choose to heal me from depression and anxiety.  I have long struggled with the fact that my times of severe depression keep me from serving others as God has purposed for me to do.  Depression has so often caused me to be miserable and ineffective in life.  The following is a bit of God's response to me regarding my doubts.

John 15: 1-17   "I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love.  I have told you this so my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his masters business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  This is my command:  Love each other."

Some of the things that stood out to me in this passage:
1.  God (the gardener) cuts off every branch that bears no fruit.  I believe that includes things like disabling depression.  And he prunes the other branches so they will be more fruitful.  God has been working on lots of pruning in my life this past year!  And there is lots still to be done.
2.  "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
3.  "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
4.  "I have told you this so my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete."  That one stood out a lot.  I view joy as the opposite of depression.

This is the prayer that followed as a result of meditating on this passage of scripture:
Dear God, you know my heart.  You know my desire to bear fruit, my desire to show your love to others.  You know my doubts, too.  Please forgive me for my lack of faith.  I claim Jesus' words in my life Lord.  I am clean in Jesus, with Jesus I can bear fruit, for God's glory I can ask for what I wish (healing), Jesus provides me with his complete joy, God chose me and appointed me to go and bear fruit - to love others.  I praise you God for your promises.  And I ask you, in Jesus' name to heal me from the disabling effects of depression.  Thank you God!  Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Governing Authorities

Romans 13: 1-2   Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

Wow!  Do you have a hard time wrapping your brain around that one?  I sure do.  The authority that exists is established by God.  Now, I must admit that I really don't trust the vast majority of government leaders.  But I do trust God.  Some of the world's leaders, past and present, are just plain awful.  They were put into place by God?  Yes, that is exactly what this passage says.  I am supposed to obey the governing authorities, unless of course the laws go against a command given by God.  He is the ultimate King.

So what do we do when those in leadership aren't acting according to God's will?  Speak of them with respect.  Pray for them and for the choices they make.  Do you have other ideas or thoughts on this topic?  I'd love to hear them!  The following is just one of many verses I looked up regarding prayer.

Philippians 4: 4-7   Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lessons from Pooh

An excerpt from The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, Chapter 6:

... (Pooh) tripped over something, and the fir-cone jerked out of his paw into the river.  "Bother," said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge, and he went to get another fir-cone which had a rhyme to it.  But then he thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day, so he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him... and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too.
"That's funny," said Pooh.  "I dropped it on the other side," said Pooh, "and it came out on this side!  I wonder if it would do it again?"  And he went back for some more fir-cones.  It did.  It kept on doing it.  Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn't know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one.  So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one...
And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play...

Lessons to be learned:
1.  Read the original Winnie the Pooh Books and poetry by A.A. Milne.  It is great!  Read it to your kids, too.  Read lots of great classic literature!
2.  Spend time enjoying nature.
3.  Experiment and let your creativity flow.  This is how we learn and grow and is especially important for kids.  Unstructured, relaxed time is so beneficial.
4.  Spend time playing with your friends!
5.  When frustrating things happen, just say "Bother!" and move on.

I'm probably missing some great lessons that can be pulled from this.  These are just a few that stood out to me.  My daughter just turned 5 and for the past year or so we have been reading many great chapter books for kids.  At first I was surprised by how long she was able to listen and how well she was able to narrate the story back to me.  Sometimes she was wiggly, sometimes she colored or cut paper while I read, but those things seem to aid in concentration for young kids rather than distract.  I was also surprised by how much I've enjoyed reading these books with her!  We've had lots of fun laughing together and we've learned together as well.

Some of our favorites:
1.  Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (we also enjoyed Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little)
2.  Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
3.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald (I edited the content a little as I read them, also if you have kids who like to try everything they hear you may want to avoid these!)
4.  Casey the Utterly Impossible Horse by Anita Feagles

This is just a brief list.  I'm sure I've forgotten some!  And these are just the "chapter books."  We've had so much fun with picture books, too.  That list might show up in another post.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My journal entry from December

Reading through my journal, I stumbled upon this today.

There is so much on my mind.  I have a great desire to educate my brain, to teach and train my children, to exercise my body, to do away with my bad habits, to reach out to others and make a positive difference in the world, and to draw closer to God and dive deeper into spiritual understanding.  I know I can't make all these great changes 100% effectively all at once.  Where should I begin?  I could spend all my spare time in any one of these areas.  In the meantime, my home is a dirty and messy area and is making me feel crazy!  Every day seems to require more energy than I have.  I long for more energy, more discipline of my time, more patience for how things are.  How do I balance between being joyful and content with life while continuing to strive for higher goals?

Dear God, please remind me to daily seek your will, your wisdom, your strength.  I am helpless on my own - overwhelmed by my desires for perfection.  You don't require "perfection" as I view it.  Instead, Lord, I give You my heart and will.  Thank you for being a gentle and patient God!  Amen.

The blog adventure begins!

Almost 5 years ago I felt compelled to start a blog. I’ve always been a writer at heart and was in need of a way to express myself. Had I actually started blogging back then, the content would have been so different than what it is likely to be now. My focus then was simply me and my baby girl. The posts would have been about my pregnancy and birth experience, my daughter’s habits and development, and the baby products I loved.

Today, my focus is on living in the love of Jesus Christ. He is my passion and every day I strive to learn and follow in the path Jesus has for me. And what an amazing and exciting journey He has in store for me! Who knows what this blog would contain if I waited 5 more years to start it…

But for now, I plan to write about some of the things Jesus has been patiently teaching me. It is amazing what God has to say when we pause and listen and open our hearts to saying “Yes” to what He has in store. Topics that are likely to show up here soon: orphans and adoption, homeschooling, learning to live with “less,” dealing with depression, and of course parenting (because that is what I do every day). I write because it is therapeutic for me, and also with the hope that somehow the lessons of my life will touch the hearts and lives of others.