Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bringing proper closure to 2009


I was reading an ezine today by author Mike Robbins entitled, Completing the Year with Power.  You can listen to the audio of this article here.  Robbins talks about making sure we bring proper closure to this year before embarking on the next, and gives the following as one of several reasons:

"Completion allows us to bring things to a close with a sense of gratitude, authenticity, and peace. When we allow ourselves to experience a sense of true completion, we move into the next phase of life bringing with us the gifts, lessons, accomplishments, experiences, and more from what we've just been through. When we don't take the time to truly complete something, we end up carrying baggage, regrets, fear, and unresolved issues into our next experience. These things don't serve us and often end up undermining our success and fulfillment."

At the conclusion of the article, he offers the following questions we would do well to ask ourselves, and write our responses, to bring a sense of closure to 2009. 

1) What were my biggest lessons in 2009?
2) What am I most proud of from this past year?
3) What were my biggest disappointments in 2009?
4) What am I ready to let go of from this past year?
5) What else do I need to do or say to be totally complete with 2009?

I'm going to answer these questions for myself before moving into the new year and I hope you will too.  I believe we need to take a spiritual and emotional assessment before we can effectively move on. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Unashamedly blessed

There was a period of time here on my blog that I stopped talking about any of my blessings.

I now regret that.

Sometimes we make bad decisions and this was one.  It was in response to criticism about sharing (or bragging as it was referred to) about things I receive from others that I enjoy.  They deemed it hurtful that I write about getting my nails done, mentioning where we went on vacation and what we did while there, or showing pictures from our family activities.  Supposedly this was hurtful to those who don't have as much particularly in this economy, and it was cause to make them depressed. 

Not wanting to ever hurt anyone who is struggling, I decided in response to that criticism to stop talking about any of my blessings here.  It was hard, because I'll be honest with you -- I get excited over things I receive, large and small.  (No, I'm not referring simply to finances -- anyone who knows me knows that I get enthusiastic over a 50 cent pen, or a trip to Goodwill.)  

Perry Noble said something that really helped me with this.  He said that when you come back from a missions trip from a third world country you should not beat yourself up over the fact that you live in America and you are blessed.  Most people tend to do that.  I know I did.  The first time I came back from Africa I would sit and cry every time I was taking a bubble bath in my big tub.  I would look up at my plant shelves at the motivational "cut outs" that I've placed up there.  They say "LIVE"... "DREAM"..."ESCAPE"...and "HOPE" and as I relaxed in my tub I would think of my friends in the slums who have never had clean water let alone a bath -- those who LIVE in poverty, who DREAM of an ESCAPE, and feel like they have no HOPE.   There I sat in a Bath and Body Works Moonlight Path filled warm tub of clean water.  What did I do to deserve this?  Nothing.  But thank God I am blessed. 

I cried and felt guilty over my blessing until I heard Perry say that if you live in America you don't need to hide your blessings or beat yourself up over them -- you simply need to GIVE.  If you live here, just know that God has BLESSED YOU to be a BLESSING.   It's as simple as this -- just give!!!  As long as we are using our resources to bless and give to others who are in need, whether in Africa, America, our local community or anywhere else -- we do not have to feel ashamed about enjoying or talking about our blessings.  Only when we are stingy or we hoard our blessings should we feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit over this matter.

Anyone who knows me longer than a few minutes also knows I'm a giver.  I don't need to brag about that, so enough said there.  But back to talking about what I've received...

I realized I don't need to feel guilty over what I have received, or hide it to prevent others from being hurt.   So a few months ago, I decided to start sharing again about blessings on the blog.  It helps that this critical church member is now spending their time blessing another pastor with their presence.  

With that said, today I'm going to share a few recent blessings I have enjoyed.  Please note, if you gave me something for Christmas and I didn't list or post it here it doesn't mean I don't LOVE it or appreciate your generosity.  I'm just posting a few things here that gave me particular joy today.  And my friends, if you are reading my blog and are truly in need I am totally serious about the fact that if you need something and it's within my power to give it to you -- I will.  :)   On with the blessings:


This is my little navity made of dried banana leaves that I brought home from Africa on my last trip.  I couldn't wait to use it!


Our friends the Currie's gave us this for Christmas and I love it!  It's an electric candle warmer.  Candle wax goes in the top and melts from the bulb.  This is keeping my kitchen smelling awesome all the time and is a cute little night light.  I LOVE IT! 


My dear friend Sue Flint gave me this pen for Christmas.  It's leopard print and it LIGHTS UP!!  Is this the coolest thing EV-ER or WHAT?  (Sorry if I've made anyone feel depressed by the fact that my nails look so amazing in this photo.)

Godiva Chocolate Covered Almonds, also from my dear friend Sue Flint.  They are Uh-Ma-Zing.  I have disciplined myself to only eat one or two so far so I can savor them.  I am going to try to make them last at least a month.   If any of you are honestly going without food and this post has made you hungry, call me and I'll make you some chicken and dumplings.


Becca got me this (and a candle) for Christmas...what every women should be for her husband... "Pure Seduction" by Victoria's Secret.  :)   Yum, yum. 


Friends Eddie and Candy Rivera got this for Larry for Christmas...a box filled with boxes of Little Debbie's Zebra Cakes.  He loves them, as most people know.  And, he hates it when the kids eat all of them up.  The Riveras wanted him to have an abundance so this was their gift.  I told him to enjoy now because after the holidays we are getting serious about eating healthy.  If you are truly starving I hate to say it but Larry will probably not give you even one of these Little Debbie's and will hoard them.

And last but not least...

Our sweet Maddie, today.  Oh how she blesses my life every day.  She is our Christmas miracle!


Her last scar is healing well, as you can see here -- it is getting smaller and white hair is growing in.  Her tongue is sticking out as usual.  :)

Thank you for sharing in the joy of my blessings.  God is good. 
 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Don't lose focus


“If we fill our hours with regrets over the failures of yesterday, and with worries over the problems of tomorrow, we have no today in which to be thankful” ~ Unknown 


So I've been worrying over something the last 24 hours and I'm reminded of something Joyce Meyer says -- something to the effect of the fact that we have only one thought at a time (although sometimes rapidly in succession) and it's impossible to think about two things at once.  Therefore, we have to always utilize self control and make sure to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  (II Corinthians 10:5)  This way, victory is assurred.

It's my desire to be thankful today.  I can't let this day slip away without acknowledging the goodness of God in my life.  I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.  Nothing is guaranteed but what He says, so that's all I can go on.  I have seen miracle after miracle after miracle occur and well -- I have to believe for this one.  Would you believe that at the moment I began to face a great potential challenge yesterday, Rita Springer's "I Have to Believe" came on the radio?  No kidding.  At the very moment I received some potentially bad news, "bam!" there it was, playing over the radio just for me.  I know God planned it that way and nobody could ever talk me out of it.

I'm so thankful for today.  God is so good to me!

I'm thankful for my family.  Yesterday we're riding down the road to take Savanna to spend some of her Christmas money, and Larry said something to me, but Savanna wasn't sure what he said or who it was to.  So she said, "What Daddy?  Were you talking to me?"  And Larry said, "oh no honey, I was just talking to the love of my life...that's all."  I'm married to a man who still calls me his "bride" after 22 years.  A man who got me a Kindle for Christmas although it's way too expensive IMHO.   A man who is very faithful. I'm thankful.

I'm thankful for my kids.  How many 20 year old sons will walk down the street with their Mom holding their hand and not get a little uncomfortable or hope their friends aren't around?   Not many...if any, and no my son is not a wimp.  He's just a boy who loves his Momma and when I show him affection he doesn't care who's around.  Actually I'm twice blessed because Jordan's the same way.  How many 18 year old boys will come lay a hand on their Mom's head and start praying for them when they don't feel good?  (And see a healing happen many times.)  Not many, but mine does.  How many Moms can say they have twelve year old daughters who talk about going on the mission field, or are so self assurred they have absolutely NO care as to what the kids think of what they wear to school?  (She's a trend setter, not a follower.)  Not many, but I can. I'm so thankful.

How many people can say that they have not just one but two jobs they love?  I've got the best boss in the world at both jobs!  Amazing.  And, I fully believe in both organizations I work for.  I don't just get a paycheck.  I am completely sold out to the mission, vision and core values of both places.  How many people can say that about their job?  Trust me, not many and that's a crying shame.  I'm so thankful for my jobs, and this year oh so thankful for God blessing me with Kathryn.

I'm thankful for my friends.  I have some of the most wonderfully supportive friends in the world.  I won't start listing them here because I don't want to leave somebody out and hurt anyone's feelings.  To be honest with you, many of those friends are in my church.  You are taught in Bible College never to have friends in the church if you are a pastor.  I decided a long time ago to not listen to that rule.  Some of my best friends are in the church.  I pity any pastor who doesn't have that, although I understand why many of them keep that rule in their lives, I'm not sorry for choosing otherwise.  I'm so thankful for my loving and supportive friends.

I am very blessed and very thankful of the life God has given me.  And I won't let even very real problems get in the way of my realization of that and cause my spiritual or emotional vision to blur.  I encourage you to be thankful too, despite whatever challenge or potential challenge you may be facing. 


Monday, December 28, 2009

I want to go in full time ministry because...

Blogger and church/ministry analyst   Steven Acosta at The Church in America has given me permission to re-print his excellent blog post,  "I want to go in full time ministry because..."

 There's a lot to think about in this post if you are someone who is considering full time ministry.   I couldn't wait to share it.  Thank you, Steven for allowing me to.  Here goes...

So you want to go into full time ministry. Are you qualified? Have you taken the assessment tests? Lets look at some reasons people give when asked, “why do you want to go into full time ministry?” I also have added questions you should be asking yourselves. They are blunt and to the point. Don’t ignore them.

I want to go into full time ministry because….

1. “I love the Lord” -

Yet what have I done the last two days to show it?  Is it just an emotional response or is there more to this?

2. “I want to see people come to Christ” -

Yet what did I do this week to help people come to Christ? If I’m not making a difference now with all the people that are around me, what makes me think I will in the future by getting on a church staff or becoming a pastor?

3. “It’s the career I would like to pursue’ (Yes, I hear this one a lot) -

Am I pursuing Jesus or going on a job search?  Anyways, I could make better career choices. I hear the pay is terrible and I’d always be on call.

4. “So I can serve the Lord full time” -

Am I a part time Christian now? What is it I’m trying to really say?

5. “I believe God is calling me into full time ministry” -

Do I really believe this or am I making a decision based on other factors?  Doesn’t it make more sense to work 24/7 among “the world” where people need Jesus the most , than to work 8 to 10 hours a day with believers who don’t?  Am I just being self centered?

6. “I’m unhappy where I am working now” - (Yes I hear this one often too.)

Is the grass greenest on the other side or where I cultivate it? Anyway, Talk about a bad day. I hear Peter died hanging upside down.

OK OK… I must admit. The opportunity of having the time and paycheck to do full time ministry does sound good. Well,.. unless your in a country where they chop your head off or torture you to death.

Can I be blunt here?  I’ve seen too many burn outs and disillusioned people leave the ministry for me to dance around the obvious.

The grass is not greener on the other side. Thinking we can do more for the kingdom of God if we were on staff at a local Church or ministry is a journey in futility.

Most of the time we are simply exchanging one job for another. At some point you will probably find yourself spending more time doing the opposite of what you originally got into ministry for.

Thinking the ministry title such as “Pastor or Teacher” gets us more credibility when we try to influence people is highly overrated. People follow leaders. Not titles. “Bosses tell people what they should do, leaders show people how its done.

I tell this to everyone who come to me wanting to pursue full time ministry.

“Are you doing full time ministry now?”. If you are effectively doing full time ministry in the environment you are in now, the sheer force of the task you are doing will move you to it’s desired course. You will have no choice in the matter of where to go. It will be as a natural flow of water in a stream. Not even the rocks and obstacles can stop it. It’s a rush and frightening at the same time because it will always be bigger than you.”

I hope this site can give you the tools to do effective ministry now. But don’t wait. The best place to start is where you live life. See where it takes you.


Deanna here again:   Welcome back to everyone who was gone from blog reading for the holidays.    I've been posting the whole time you were gone so go back and check out what you missed!  :)  xoxo

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The spice of life ~
not a problem, a privilege


This is my spice cabinet, and also where I keep the coffee and tea, which merits it's own shelf since we consume so much of it on a daily basis.

I'm posting photos here because at his own initiative Larry re-organized this cabinet for me yesterday, after getting me a spice rack/organizer for Christmas.  Now I can see all of the spices better without sorting through them all just to find one thing.  (Thanks, babe!) 



I love cooking and entertaining, as most anyone who has known me for longer than 2 seconds knows!  In fact right now early this morning I'm preparing to have a crew of people over this afternoon after church.  There will be fourteen people here for Sunday lunch/dinner.  We've decided to take the ham bone and some leftover ham and do a roaster full of cabbage, potatoes and carrots, and some bread and  desserts.


I am passionate about hospitality, and I believe there is no excuse for Christians to not practice it.  I will come back to the subject of excuses in a moment, but just wanted to give a few Biblical references about hospitality:

In Genesis 18:1-8, Abraham is shown caring for his guests.

In Genesis 14:31-33, Laban is seen welcoming Abraham's servant.

2 Kings 4:8-10 gives us the example of the Shunamite woman who opened her home to Elisha.

In Matthew 10:9-15, Jesus commanded His disciples to shun any home which did not show them hospitality and equated hospitable treatment of others with treatment of Himself.

Now, let's talk about excuses I frequently  hear:

"My home isn't nice enough or big enough to have anyone over."

No problem.  It's not about how big your home is or what it's furnished with.  It means so much to people that you've invited them over, and hospitality is simply giving the best of what you already have.  God never expects us to give what we don't have -- only what we DO have.  Larry and I have been entertaining since we first got married and lived in an efficiency apartment.  Seriously!  We always invited people in our congregations who had much nicer homes or furnishings that we did, but they always appreciated us inviting them in and I have never felt that anyone looked down on us for not having an equal amount of stuff in life.  Keep in mind some people with very large homes and a lot of money still don't entertain and would be really grateful to have an invitation, most times.  A lot of those people who have a lot of material things in life still have lonely hearts and will be so grateful for your invitation.  Hospitality is about giving from your heart and welcoming people in.

"I'm not into setting out the china like you are, and I don't even know if I have even four dishes of any kind that match, or silverware." 

No problem -- use paper plates and plastic ware.  In fact, that's what I'm doing today, believe it or not!  I am tired from setting out all the fancy stuff on Christmas day and want something simpler today.  So that's what we're doing.  Our conversation will be the centerpiece anyway, not the plates we eat off of. 

"I don't have the money to have anyone over.  Providing food for my family is all I can manage right now let alone buying more for someone else."   

No problem -- invite friends to bring a dish and share.  We do it all the time, whether we have the money or not.  It's fun to collaborate on a dinner, together anyway.

"I hate to cook.  And, I usually don't.  Most nights after work I eat Easy Mac from the microwave."

No problem.  Your local supermarket has made it easier than ever to entertain.  Most of them have a whole frozen food section dedicated to people just like yourself.  Let me give you a tip for dessert...Marie Callander's Razzleberry pie from the frozen food section is absolutely out of this world.  Bake that in the oven, put on a pot of coffee and invite a few friends over.   It's the best right after it's come out of the oven. 

I can give you an answer for any excuse you might give about hospitality but one thing I want you to notice is that every solution I gave started with the words "no problem."  Hospitality is not a problem, it's a privilege.  They say variety is the spice of life, and a great way to spice up your life is to invite a variety of friends over and share good food and conversation.   Hospitality is a wonderful way to strengthen your relationship with friends and family ~ spend time growing in your walk with other believers ~ and love unbelievers right on into the Kingdom of God.   Many people that I have personally brought to Jesus started by an invitation to come over and share dinner or coffee.  "It's just another way we can be a light to everyone around us.  It's a privilege to be a light, not a problem.  

It's such a privilege to...
love people
spend time with them
grow with them
sit at the table with them
laugh with them
and do life together.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Yesterday


We had a great day yesterday!  After sleeping in  (my kids are older now and hate waking up early, even for Christmas) we ate sweet rolls for breakfast.   We opened our gifts and then it was time to finish preparations on the dinner.  We had an amazing array of food and even better conversation.  Right as we were sitting down to dinner and the bread was coming out of the oven fresh, I had Savanna take some of the homemade yeast rolls over to our neighbors.  It's been my tradition for five years ever since we moved here -- every time I make bread, rolls or biscuits -- which is usually at least once a month --  we take a basket of it over to them.  One of the neighbors is an atheist and it's my prayer that they will feel God's love through this "ministry of bread".   God is at work there...I am believing for great things for them.  Sometimes it just takes time for people to come around...in this case more than five years, but who's counting?  (Not me, I'll keep making bread whether they ever respond or not.)  The wife of this family was really sick a while back -- for months time.  Anyone who knows me knows that I always ask if I can pray for people who are sick.  She said it would be fine for me to pray so I prayed for her and a little while later I saw her outside and asked how she was and she said, "you know, it's strange, but I'm better..." and she thanked me for the prayer.

 We were joined for dinner by our friends the Currie's.  After dinner we sat around and talked and just rested for a while.  We made a fire on the patio, and sat out there sipping coffee while we talked.  Later at night we headed to the movies to see Sherlock Holmes.  It was not my favorite kind of movie however I just enjoyed being with everyone.

 I got a Kindle for Christmas!  I have wanted one ever since the first one came out years ago.  I thought it was way too expensive  (luxury) item and never bothered to ask for it.  But I was really surprised to get one for Christmas yesterday.  So far I know how to look up words in the dictionary and download sample chapters in books.  When I first saw the Kindle years ago my thought was that I really would have wanted it on my Africa trips for those 25-30 hours of travel  both to and from.  My first trip I took about 10 books in my carry on luggage, to keep me busy.  It was so heavy!!  That was the year my suitcases got lost for the first five days I was in Africa.  I had plenty of books, but little clothes or other items with me.  I regretted it and didn't do it on the next trip but missed having my books.  I thought, "if I had a Kindle, this wouldn't be an issue."  Well, I will have one for this year when I go.  By the way,  my Kindle holds 1500 books.  Pretty cool, huh?
 
Today is a day of rest.  I need one.  Good day to read my books.  In addition to my Kindle, I also have a stack of books given to me for Christmas.  Aside from getting a few last minute things in order for church, I'll be taking it easy today, barring any emergencies.  (Pray with me that there aren't any.)  Enjoy this week between Christmas and New Year, my friends. 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas day at our house



Perfectly browned -- recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole that I shared on the blog this past week.


Maddie got a snuggie but it was too tight.  She is a lot larger than what I thought with the chart that was on the box.  Oh well...the best laid plans...
  


She also got a new chew toy which when she opened it, began to play with it with Savanna immediately.  She was running around so excited and seemed to be well aware that this was a special day.


Jordan got a hoodie from Tilly's from his sister, also a Zune from  us among other things.  He was a happy young man this morning.

 
Dustin got a computer.  He was pretty much freaking...very excited.


Savanna opens up her gift and is just a little shocked too..."no way!  for real?" she says.  So excited.


The past few days Maddie has kept running underneath the Christmas tree and laying underneath there.  She's so funny.  Had to take her picture doing this.



We were joined by our good friends Lisa...


and Bernie and their girls.


Larry cuts the ham -- Lisa putting finishing touches on casseroles and things.


The kids playing games, listening to music, doing their thing...while we cook Christmas dinner.







Christmas Eve

Last night was Christmas Eve Communion at the church.  At our church we have a tradition of opening the church from 5-8 pm on Christmas Eve.  It is not a service but a time when we personally serve each person/family communion and pray a prayer of blessing over them. 

The staff members gather to be served last and and afterwards it's our family's tradition to go out for Chinese food.  We always invite the staff members to go along as well as a few other friends at times as well.  The following are some photos from Christmas Eve Communion as well as our time at the Chinese Restaurant.  We took up one whole section.  We also exchanged gifts as we normally do and had a lot of fun.  Most of these photos are self explanatory but for the ones that are not I'll put a caption.  I'm sure I'll be posting more on Christmas Evening of the day's events, so for those who are having a relaxing Christmas day and actually reading blogs ...enjoy.  :)    I hope you are having the most amazing Christmas ever!  xo




Last year we took a goofy photo of Cathy and Tom, Larry and I, and Pastor T and Misty looking up at the lights.  It ended up being our favoritre photo last year and I said, "hey let's take that goofy pose again" so we did...for no particular reason.





We took up this whole section plus two more tables.

We got this "air gun" for Pastor T and he LOVED it.  
My husband just HAD to shoot it.  [sigh]