21 December 2012

Christmas/Winter Decorations

My little tree, as decorated at my home in Vero Beach.
Historically, I have had a mish-mosh style of Christmas decorations. Most of my decorations were gleaned from my parents' collection, or varying other gifts/re-uses. This year, I knew we were buying a new tree (to replace the one I had purchased right out of college that was small enough to work in little apartments), so I knew I wanted to re-think how I decorated the house.

Our new tree!
We also have mostly completed the interior of the house (except the kitchen - yick!), and I wanted our Christmas decorations to look like they belonged with the rest of our home.

Aside from the bathrooms and kitchen, the entire house has wood floors, and we've done the main portion of it in 2 shades of the same gray, with white trim. (Gray is neutral, and much prettier than beiges and creams, as well as less clinical/stark than straight white. I hate, hate, hate beige. It looks dirty. It's depressing. I refuse to do beige in anything. Blechth!) Most of our accents throughout the house are purples and greens, which is partially borne of our wedding which was pewter gray, silver and purple. We've been able to use a lot of the wedding decorations in the house, and it looks like we meant to do it!

Jingle bell ornaments on our kitchen
cabinet doors are from the dollar
store. I call that a win. :)
 All of that adds up to mean that our new Christmas decor was going to be tied together with silver and purple. Beyond that, I like to decorate and have my decor be seasonal, rather than based on a holiday. I went mostly with a snow/snowflake theme, so that even when the "Christmas" decor comes down (trees, ornaments, etc), the winter decor can remain until it's time to usher in spring.

Cute, huh?
I started early. I wanted the decorations to be mostly in place before Thanksgiving, so that we could enjoy them when my parents were in town. I also wanted to take my time and not just rush to put things up. We bought our new tree in October, and thus it began.

I went to the dollar store, and they had all kinds of purple decorations, so that helped me begin to incorporate the color scheme I wanted into the decor throughout the house.  My kitchen cabinet doors are festooned with cheerful jingle bell ornaments from the dollar store, and these pretty purple tinsel trees (above) were there, too. I made a little snowy vignette with them on top of the living room shelves.

We have this monstrous kitchen, of which we seldom make adequate use, so I decided it was a good place for my little tree to live, since the new one is now in the living room. I wrapped the pictures hanging on the walls on either side of the tree to make them look like presents, and it really made the kitchen feel like it was supposed to be part of the house, for the first time.
Our front door always has
a wreath, with a cross in
the center.
Having been inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, I had been contemplating making a snow-flake tulle wreath, but I couldn't figure out how to do it in a sturdy enough way to put it on the front door, so I went with our regular evergreen wreath on the front door. At the orders of 2 of my friends (our teen-aged neighbor girls), I needed a wreath for the wall inside the front entry, so that's where the snowflake wreath was destined to be. I'm still making adjustments to it, and now that I look at the pictures I took, I see more that I want to do. Here it is at it's current point (below). My darling husband is gracious enough to allow me to put girly-looking decorations right in the front entry where everyone sees them. That's a man who is secure in his manhood, let me tell ya. Smile.

One of the things that I've been giving a lot of serious thought in the last months is the reality of the eternal spiritual world and what impact it has on my day-to-day life. (Some of this will be in another post.) You know, the just day-in and day-out living? What impact does eternity make on how I take care of my body? Washing my face, brushing my teeth, fixing my hair, getting dressed? What impact does it make in how I decorate my home? Present myself? Act in public and in private? How much am I willing to cede to the world, as opposed to living peculiarly in this world? (Titus 2:7-15)

New cross that will remain
out all year.
When it came to Christmas decorations, I had to consider how much of my home I'm willing to cede to frivolity, not that frivolity is entirely bad, in itself. It's just that if I'm living a life that's eternal, shouldn't my home show that? So, I very carefully considered what we kept from prior years' decorations. I gave thought to each Santa/Father Christmas or Frosty themed item, each instance of secular folklore, and was careful to weigh them against what we really celebrate in the Christmas season.

A Christmas gift 2 years ago,
from my godparents. 
For that reason, things that might be considered "seasonal" didn't make the cut this year. Things that didn't have sentimental value or a reason for being displayed were taken out of consideration. That helped me to severely curtail the clutter, too, and it left me with a much clearer picture of why we believe that this world is better because of the coming of Christ, and why we celebrate it every year.

This year, there are more crosses, because that was the point of His birth-- His redeeming death and resurrection. This year, there are at least 5 nativity scenes, drawing our eyes and minds to that ineffable moment when God became a little, helpless child, entrusted to the humans who were created in His image, so that He might experience life as we know it, live it fully in submission to the Holy Spirit, as we're called to, and ultimately take my place in a brutal death to pay the price for my sin.

This nativity scene is a year-round decoration in our living room book case. My dad had it carved for me in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and gave it to me some years ago. I love the image in my mind that he described of the little old man with his carving knife creating his view of the birth of my savior. It makes me smile, that He was here for all of us!
Great gift!! Wish the picture was
A dear friend of ours dropped by to bring me a birthday gift, this year, not knowing that these were the thoughts I was mulling. She brought me another reminder that, yet again, the Holy Spirit was doing His mysterious work and tying together the thoughts of two of His girls, without aid of our communication with one another. She brought me this lovely silver cross, with the nativity scene in it. How perfect is that!?!

I am working on finding the perfect place to hang it for year-round display in our home. It's so loaded with imagery that I don't think I could bear to put it away for most of the year. For now, it's lying on our coffee table, as a focal point in our living room. I love it!

As the night closes in and we turn on our lights, I'm reminded of the Light that came to this world, and of the light I'm supposed to be in it. As I walk through a lovely home that was entrusted to us for our care and keeping, I think of all the little miracles that I've witnessed in the creation of this story woven around my life and marriage, and I pray that God will give us opportunities to extend His hospitality and love to those around us. As I survey the decorations, I think of the purple robe of the Eternal High King of Heaven, and the precious metals that show the abundance of His wealth and generosity to us. As I go from piece to piece, I remember the people whose lives have touched mine, however much or long, and the places that they occupy in my heart and the Heart of their Creator.

Our entry table (under the snow-flake wreath)
When this Christmas has passed, and the trees come down and the ornaments get packed away, I will leave the snowflake decorations up until spring to remind me that God creates us to be unique expressions of His Image, and the "Christmas"decorations that remain around our home will remind me, as we move through the next year of the inscrutable mystery of the birth of God, when the Eternal Creator became a normal guy and got dirty and had to trim his toenails and lived and breathed and died and rose again to save our souls from eternal death.

May the breath of God be on your face. May you see His hand at work around you. May you marvel at things that are too great for us to ever wrap our minds around. May you be blessed by the simple faith of little children experiencing the joys of this season for the first few times. May you learn to know Him, grow to be like Him, and become holy as He is holy.

With love and Christmas blessings,

01 December 2012

Stroke Indicators

So, this isn't a fun topic, per se, but it's important. If, like ours, stroke runs in your family, you may need to know this at some point. I received this in an email from a friend, and thought I should post it here. Both my grandfather and aunt suffered massive strokes, leaving them in a semi-vegetative state with numerous medical issues until their deaths, a few short years later.

One day, when I was in high school, my dad sat me down and told me to look for these things. He also told me that if he suffered a stroke, that I was to load him in the car (not call an ambulance) and take him to a specific hospital. (At the time we lived in the Kansas City area, and St. John's had a state-of-the-art Stroke treatment facility.) He said that an ambulance would have to take him to the nearest hospital, not the one that could do the most good, and that if he got to St. John's in time, they could reverse the effects and keep him from landing in the same condition his dad had been in. Fortunately, I never had to follow his instructions.

If stroke runs in your family, it might not be a bad idea to check out the medical facilities in your area to find one that has specialists in this area. It could make the difference between a few remaining years of being a vegetable and resuming your regularly scheduled life.

Much love,

STROKE: Remember the 1st Three Letters
S. T. R.

During a BBQ, a woman stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics). She said she had just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes. They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food. While she appeared a bit shaken up, Jane went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening.

Jane's husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital - at 6:00 PM Jane passed away. She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ. Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps Jane would be with us today. Some don't die. They end up in a helpless, hopeless condition instead.

If a neurologist can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he may be able to totally reverse the effects of a stroke. The trick is getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough.


Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
S *Ask the individual to SMILE.
T *Ask the person to TALK and speak a simple sentence or statement, coherently (i.e. Chicken Soup)
R *Ask him or her to RAISE both arms.

If he or she has trouble with any ONE of these tasks, call emergency number immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

Additionally, recently they've added a fourth indicator.
Ask the person to stick out his tongue. If the tongue is crooked, if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke.

30 November 2012

A Tiny Little Life

This is the story of a life. It was a tiny little life, though not as tiny as some others. To some of us, it was a very important one. This is the story of Zoe, my precious sweet-faced baby girl. She had lots of other nicknames, but those are the things that describe her in my mind, more than anything else. She died, Saturday morning.  (11/3  -- I've been having a hard time finishing this post.) Zoe means life, and that's why she had that name. She was so FULL of life and energy, just bursting to explore and snuggle, and run, and popcorn, and play. (Piggies popcorn-- they hop straight up in the air, just for the fun of it, when they're happy.)

Zoe, as a baby.

I say it was tiny, because it was short, and because it belonged to a little animal, not because it didn't have value. It did. It mattered. She mattered. She still does. To me, anyway. 

L-R Zoe, Zelma, Zephyr
In the spring of 2010, I decided that I needed a little animal to keep me company. I lived alone and telecommuted, so my interactions with others were fairly minimal. I visited a local pet store, which was advertising a free guinea pig with the purchase of a cage. (I think.. Maybe vice versa.) 

I picked the one that made me smile most, because of a full-body mohawk and white rear end, and took "him" home. They told me at a store that this piggy was a boy. He turned out to be a pregnant girl. Smile.

Babies were so little that they sat in the food dish. :)

On 7/22/10, I was in my office about 3 feet away when my precious little mama pig gave birth to 4 babies, one of whom didn't make it. One of the remaining pups was a boy, and the following Thanksgiving, he went to live with his cousin in Kansas, the boar who belonged to my niece. He still lives there, fat and healthy, today. (Though, sadly, his cage-mate has died.)

The two little girls and their mother stayed with me, and they all got names: Zelma (mama pig), Zoe (brown baby), and Zephyr (pink baby). They were so stinking cute, and I watched them grow up and turn into fat, healthy piggies with individual personalities and tastes. It's kind of funny, because there are times when I forget that all kinds of critters have personalities. These three are very different. 

Zoe was a people person. She always wanted to know what the people were up to. If I was working at my desk and it had been awhile since I'd said anything or interacted with the girls, she would come over to the side of the cage closest to me and watch me until I noticed her and spoke to her, or came to pet her. She was very naturally curious and always wanted to know what was going on. 

She seemed to really enjoy being held, and was always curious about whatever the holder was wearing, smelled like, or was doing. She didn't care about watching movies or TV (the mama pig is a movie watcher), but she'd snuggle right in under my jawbone and nuzzle my neck. She always licked and tasted everything, and the first thing you'd see of her, most of the time, was her little pointy nose, up in the air, checking out her surroundings. 

She liked cucumbers. (Zephyr always chokes on cucumbers.) She was the vocal one of the group, and if she thought it had been too long and they needed weggies (that's piggy speak for vegetables), she would speak right up and send me after them. (Now Zelma asks, sometimes.) She was the first of the babies to figure out how to use the water bottle. (Something Zephyr still makes harder than it needs to be.)

I called her my punkin pig, because she looked like a piece of pumpkin pie. The reddish brown looked like pumpkin. The dark brown looked like spices-- nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice. And the little wedge of white on her side looked like a dollop of whipped cream. 

Little noses, sniffing out weggies.
When she got sick, I may not have noticed right away. I kick myself for that. It was a weekend. I spend all week in the office, ordinarily, which is where the pigs live to keep me company, and especially during my busy season (Sept-Nov) I don't even want to SEE the office when I'm not working. I take care of the pigs, and I'll go get them to hold them, but I don't spend time in the office on the weekends, if I can help it. I didn't notice her being unwell until Sunday night, but she could have been struggling for awhile, by then. 

You see, guinea pigs are prey animals in the wild. Being weak or unwell is a strategic disadvantage, if a predator is anywhere nearby. If one gets sick, it masks the symptoms until whatever illness it has kills it or goes away. Most piggy illnesses are fatal, unless they're treated quickly. I tend to be around them enough that I would notice if one was in any way acting unusual. 

Last fall, Zephyr got sick. We got her to the vet, put her on medication, quarantined her, and a week later, she was well enough to return to the herd. 

Not so with Zoe-pig. Zoe wasn't eating at all by the time I knew she wasn't well. I should have immediately started her on the critical care food, but I waited until I got her to the vet the next morning. I kick myself for that, too. The vet gave her shots of vitamins and an antibiotic, put her on oral medications, told me to feed her the critical care food (which I already had from Zephyr's illness), took an x-ray and sent us home with a plan to get her well. 

Piggies nap a lot.
She should have gotten better. She didn't. She got weaker. I fed her every hour or so. I gave her one medication twice a day and another 3 times a day. I had alarms set on my phone to remind me what time she needed which treatment. We went back to the doctor, and she was very concerned. Zoe should have gotten better. We added a pro-biotic and an anti-inflammatory. She seemed to get worse, every time I gave her medicine. I finally decided that I wasn't going to give her more medicine. I would just feed her. 

I went online to see what I could find out. I should have done that sooner. I kick myself for that, too. One link led me to a forum string that said that a few guinea pigs have an intolerance for the main antibiotic administered to guinea pigs. That was what she was on. That day, Friday, she had developed the symptoms of that intolerance, continuing to weaken, and had gotten to the point that she couldn't walk. She was barely moving at all. She had started having muscle spasms, which eventually seemed to be brief seizures. 

I know it's a stupid look on my face. I think I was
frustrated with my phone camera at the time...
I went to bed Friday night, sick to my stomach. I couldn't sleep. She was barely even lifting her head. With my husband sleeping soundly, I sneaked back in and carried her back into the living room with me. I tried to feed her. I gave her some water. I held her. I napped with her. I cried when she twitched and seized. I prayed for this precious little life. I asked God to show me how I could help her. 

It got cold. In our living room, we have several large windows, and it got very cold on the couch next to those windows. I wrapped us in a blanket, then covered us with a down-filled throw. I kept her warm. I held her. I kept praying, as I dozed in and out. 

Forgive the poops & the red eyes. This was the last picture
I took of the three of them, before I found out Zoe was sick.
It was taken 10/26/12.
She was so soft, so weak. My heart ached for the little body resting on my chest. Finally, she had a massive seizure that seemed to just go on and on. I cried and prayed for God to save her, to make it stop. It did, eventually, and she took her last couple of breaths, then died. It was about 2:30 in the morning. 

I went in and woke my husband. My poor little punkin pig who had been so sick wasn't sick anymore. I went to bed, broken and sick at heart.

After I woke, my husband built her a little coffin, and we wrote on it. It says:

Blessed be the Name of
the Lord.
The Lord gives, and the 
takes away. 
She was a precious gift.

Sweet faced li'l bown baby girl.
We buried her in the corner of our back yard, in the mum bed. We went out and found a new mum to look over her grave. It's darker-than-blood red. Almost black, in some lights. It was covered with buds, when we bought it, but only a few had opened into blooms. Now, it's mostly covered with flowers, and they stand guard over that little lifeless body buried in a box that was built with love.

Very few days have gone by, since then, that I haven't gone out and spent at least a few moments in that quiet place. Few days have gone by that I haven't cried at least a few tears for the loss of this precious little animal.

I kick myself in circles that I didn't do more, do better by her, treat her sooner, have the vet change her medications, or just appreciate what a gift she was quite as much when she was alive.  I don't know how many times I've said I'm sorry. To her grave, to her mother, to God. The truth of the matter is, she was my responsibility. While I didn't succeed in helping her get well and live, I hope that I wasn't such a horrible steward of her life and care.

My husband assures me that I treat them well. He says that it wasn't my fault, that I couldn't have known or done anything better, that I tried everything I knew to do to save her. He says, "You're not a vet, and you were treating her the way the vet said to treat her. You couldn't have known. You did the best you could." And I just keep kicking myself. And missing her.

The grave, the day she was
buried. 11/3/12
I try to pay more attention to the two remaining pigglies, now, though truth be told, I have given them lots of attention all along. They remind me how much she loved people, just by being less interested. The first time I held Zephyr after Zoe's death, when I took her back to the cage, she spent several minutes looking in all the tunnels, making the mama pig move so she could see behind her, and basically asking, "Where's my sister?" it was heartbreaking. I broke down and wept.

When I feed them, I still subconsciously look for that little nose, then sadden when it's not there. She used to sit in this almost perfectly round ball with her hair puffed up when she'd eat. If you'd pet her while she was eating, she'd scoot straight backwards really fast to get away. It was ridiculously cute. No one does that anymore.

Sometimes, when I'm working, I look over, half-expecting to see her little face pointed my direction, wanting to know what I'm doing. It's not there. I wish I had a picture of that.

Maybe it's ridiculous for an adult to have little pets like these. Maybe I'm a little too crazy about them. Maybe I should be less emotionally attached to animals, who have such short life spans. Maybe. 

Maybe my grief should be easing now. Maybe it is. Maybe she has become a bit of a symbol of more regrets than just my care for her. Maybe the fact that this was my first close experience with death as an adult has made it all hit harder. Maybe.

Here are some things I know. I understand more about how God feels about me because I have little, helpless animals. I know that eternity is real and that death is unnatural. I know that my husband is the kind, caring, considerate man that I thought he was when I married him, because he has treated my grief and love with such gentleness and respect. I know that God understands my grief, probably better than I do.

And one final thing I know is true. 
Tiny little lives matter. 

Much love and many tears, 

14 October 2012


Drinking wine is so much more satisfying out of a glass this size.

60+ Hour Work Weeks Make It Hard to Blog

Sorry about that.

We went to Fall For Greenville today after church. It was nice. Good food. I wanted my friend, Full Time Wife, to be one of the ones doing the cooking demonstrations. I have become a firm believer in the idea that if you are responsible for making arrangements for portapotties at a public event, YOU MUST ALSO PROVIDE HANDWASHING STATIONS. They have those. Portable handwashing stations so people don't have to smear filth all over their hands with antibacterial hand sanitizer. Gross. Apparently, they arranged for handwashing stations, just not at the portapotty that I used-- only for the ones at the opposite end of the festival.

I feel like I've been a slug about a lot of the things that are important to me, lately, while I spend most of my energy doing something that's not important to me, but sadly, temporarily necessary.

Why are people so goofy? Why do otherwise purportedly intelligent people have such a difficult time following very basic instructions?


I got to make a birthday cake for a friend this week. That was fun.

I get to be a facilitator for the Ezer: Biblical Femininity study, during this fall session right now. That's pretty neat. Unfortunately, I don't have nearly as much time to devote to it as I'd like, and that kinda stinks.

I'm sorry I'm not keeping up with my blog better. Unfortunately, I don't think there are any readers left to care. :(

I'll be back. Soon, I hope.

Much love,

28 September 2012

On the Road again...

My darling husband and I are on the road to Washington DC for a business conference this weekend. We took today and Monday off, but I've spent nearly 7 hours working from the car instead of just enjoying the drive. Such is life, when you're employed. Those hours of work probably saved me multiple hours more of timecard corrections, so I'm not too bothered by it. Just a preamble to the government's new fiscal year, which starts Monday.

In the mean time, we will be attending a business conference that is all about what makes this country the "land of opportunity"-- our Free Enterprise system. You know, it is my belief that there are a lot of great countries in this old world, and that this USA has been one of the greatest. It is my opinion that it will only remain great as long as long as there remains opportunity for people of all ilks to build something of their own.

I have little to say against huge corporations, until they begin to choke out entrepreneurship. Frankly, entrepreneurship is by its very nature a fairly difficult thing to destroy, and for that I'm thankful. As long as people have that drive to take responsibility for their own lives and futures, there's still hope. Hope, not just for this country, but for humanity, as well.

What I do have something to say against is the big-government mentality that asserts some poorly-developed opinion that the government is responsible for the people, that the government owes everybody something, and that the government shall provide for all manner of privilege. The government of this country is by the people, and for the people, and that means that the people have a responsibility over the government, not the other way around. If you want to eat out and carry a smartphone and drive a whichever-brand vehicle, then by all means, go out and do the work and earn it. Don't go into debt for it, and don't expect someone to hand it to you. Those things aren't rights. They're privileges.

Health care isn't a right that the government must provide. Anything the government gets its hands on winds up in a mess. While the healthcare system isn't in spectacular shape now, one thing that's sure is that the more government gets involved, the worse it'll be.

As varying internet memes state, if you're sporting an iphone, fake nails, cigarettes, or drugs, you're clearly not in need of welfare or food stamps. Those things aren't rights. You're not entitled. No one is. Just because you think something doesn't make it so. Reality check, people. You are responsible for you, and to some degree, those around you. No one else is responsible to make sure your life is everything you think it should be. If you want it, go earn it.

One of the reasons that we have the ability to earn our futures is the willing sacrifice of some ordinary men and women who stood up to fight for something better than whatever someone told them they could have. Be one of those people. Fight for something better. Don't just curl in on yourself and trade a few hours for a few bucks and suck your thumb while you bemoan the "fact" that you can't do this or that. Go live! Be! Excel! That's what this country was founded on, and that's what will be required if we are to keep it worth keeping.

Do something great, and the great will join you.

Much love,

26 September 2012

My Best Friend(s): Daddy

Daddy officiating my wedding.
This was the moment when my husband placed my wedding ring on my hand. This was the moment when my daddy willingly surrendered my care and keeping to someone else. This was a moment for which I'd been waiting a long time. It was the culmination of a lot of things in my life, and the first stone laid on a foundation that my parents started more than 31 years before.

(Random side note: I just realized how the not-quite-profile in this picture makes my nose look HUGE. Weird. Anyhoo...)

Dad on DJ
My parents raised us in a Christian home. Mom and Dad each came from a different brand of dysfunction in their homes of origin. Mom grew up in a Southern Baptist home. Dad had been given a Bible at the age of 6, and had learned a lot about who he wanted to be from it, but as I understand the history, it wasn't until they were married that they truly began their relationships with the Lord. When they married at the tender ages of 17 & 18, they moved across the country, then across an ocean from those homes, and they started a new life together. In many ways, they grew up together, and learned as they went. In the course of some desperate days, they turned to the Lord for help, and God brought an Army Chaplain into their lives, who pastored them and helped them to grow in understanding and pursuit of the Lord.

By the time my older brother was born, they had matured quite a lot in their faith. We were in church every time the doors were opened, and attended Christian schools from Kindergarten all the way through college. Dad was the provider for the family, sometimes working exceedingly long hours and traveling extensively during some seasons of our family life. He has always been a firm believer in working hard, with excellence, and playing just as hard, with excellence, when there was time to do so.
Daddy/Daughter ski trip to El Dora, CO

The greatest thing I ever learned from my dad was how to learn. He's a learner, a study-er. (OK, yes I know it should be "student," grammatically, but I'm trying to say something different, here.)

One of my favorite mental images of my daddy is this. In our home in St. Charles, MO, the living room and dining room flanked either side of the front door entry. Just inside the living room was a window, and just past that was the fireplace. Under that window lived my dad's recliner, with a reading lamp and small end table next to it. In my mind's eye, I can see my dad, sitting in that chair, Bible open in his lap, Matthew Henry commentary open on the arm of the chair, and a lined, yellow legal pad under the pen poised in his hand. I can clearly see this picture in my mind, because it was something he did often.

Daddy with my sister Maria
My dad taught Adult Sunday School for most of my growing up years. At that time of our lives, he was the Sunday School Superintendent at the church we attended, as well as being on the church board.

(Mom was the World Missions committee chair, so when I say we were at church every time the doors opened, I really mean it. I can't even begin to tell you the number of times my brother and I would be finding ways to keep occupied in that building late into the night during board meetings. That's how I learned how to slide down banisters.)

Dad was always studying. He was always preparing, weeks in advance, for the lessons that he would teach. He never went into a Sunday School class not knowing what the lessons were about or unprepared. He could never learn enough. He may have stuck with the denominational quarterly Sunday School curriculum, but he always learned all he could about the Scripture passage, and took it as deep as God would lead him. As a result, his classes were always PACKED. People flocked to his class, not just because he truly taught, but because he taught with energy, with excitement! For my dad, the Scriptures live and breathe, and he lives IN them and shares them every chance he gets.

Daddy with his first grandchild, Anna.
Now, before you start thinking that Daddy is some kind of spiritual oddity who knows everything and has it all figured out, here's the truth. He has had struggles. He has had things that God has had to teach him, and some of those lessons, he's had to learn many times in many ways over the years. In those days, he was learning and growing at a crazy fast rate, and still had areas where he didn't always succeed. I can tell you that we saw flaws in him, as kids growing up, but we also saw how hard he worked on those flaws. We saw the softness of his heart to the will of God. We saw him apologize and seek forgiveness when he messed up. We saw him learning and growing, studying and trying. We saw him counseling with others, either in person or through the written word. We saw him pursuing the heart of God.

If there was a time when he was frustrated or stressed out, there were a thousand times when he was on his knees, praying for guidance and wisdom. If there was a time when his temper was short with mom, there were a thousand times that he did something amazing for her. If there was a time when he was working 80 hour weeks to provide for our family, then there were hundreds of times that he would play 80 hour weeks on vacation with us, take time off to attend EVERY game, recital, play, or important event in our lives.

Daddy with the bulldog.
I can't remember a single piano recital that Daddy didn't attend. I can't remember anything that was important to me that he wasn't a part of. I can remember his presence in my life. I can remember daddy/daughter date nights, trips, and dance lessons. But most of all, I remember Daddy reading the Bible in our daily family devotions. I remember him praying over us, with us, and for us. I remember him leading us, providing for us, protecting us, and teaching us.

For these reasons, when I had pitifully navigated the time of my life that I was in total rebellion against God and His appointed authorities in my life, there was a time that came that the Wild Goose chased me in relentless pursuit of my heart. My parents were, to some degree, responsible for that via their intercessory prayers. When the time came that God was teaching me about submission to authority, He directed me back to my earthly daddy, who was His appointed authority in my life*, until my husband came along. Though I lived across the country from my parents, I began to seek the counsel of my dad, to be not quite so independent in my thinking, and to submit my will.

Daddy escorting me at my
sister's wedding.
When my parents came to visit me over Mother's Day 2010, they brought with them a blessing. My daddy gave me his blessing, as only a father can give, and prayed that God would bring my husband to me. Daddy said that I was ready, that my heart was sure, and that I'd learned how to place myself under the protection of his authority. That was the time when he felt I could be a blessing to my husband, and God moved swiftly in answer to this prayer.

You see, God puts authorities in our lives so that we learn, in a very practical, earthly sense, how to submit to God. He gives us daddies to teach us about His Fatherhood of us. Just because some of those dads don't always show us God doesn't mean that the lessons God intends us to learn are irrelevant. He gives us authorities over us in churches, who are responsible for our spiritual well-being. He ordains positions of authority over us in government, via police or public officials, authority over us in schools, via teachers and administrators, and authorities in pretty much every area of life. Even those in authority over others are given authorities to whom they must answer. We have to learn that those authorities protect us, and they have a responsibility for us. They are the ones who have to answer for how they lead us and what they do with that authority, and we have to answer for how we submit to them, and ultimately to God. Not every individual in authority may have the quality character and spiritual development to fulfill those positions properly, but the lesson must be learned by us, nonetheless. We are God's creations, and He is ultimately the one who is responsible for our well-being. Aren't we glad that He is so good at taking care of us??
Dapper Dad, in front of our fireplace
in Raymore, MO.

So, I've watched my daddy learn and grow and be a man after God's own heart. When I married, I married a man who was learning and growing and becoming a man after God's own heart. Daddy felt comfortable handing over his authority and responsibility, because my darling husband was the man that God had appointed, ordained for the position of husband in my life.

Daddy and I have become friends. That friendship looks different than any other relationship that I have. I see him, even now, seeking God, wanting to learn more, to understand better. I see him dedicating my parents new home to God, posting the 10 commandments on the wall of their home, raising the Christian flag on the flagpole out front, staking a claim for the God who owns him. It inspires me to follow in his footsteps, to understand better what God requires of us. If he's still growing, then I must, too.

When we talk, we talk of what we're studying, what God is teaching us, where He's working in our lives. We talk as friends, as siblings in the Lord, as joint-heirs. While he'll always be my Daddy, in recent years he has become something more, and different, too. We're alike somewhere on the soul level, and the depth of understanding we have of each other is something I don't know how to explain. I'm so thankful for this man that God has put in my life as my dad, my first authority. I'm thankful for his heart, his friendship, and his example. I'm thankful that he used his influence to draw me closer to the heart of God, and I'm thankful that we'll have all of eternity to marvel over what God teaches us next.

Dad & I fishing off the dock of a lake in Canada.
Much love,

*I am very aware that not everyone has been blessed in their families of origin in the same way I have. I know there are dads out there that aren't safe to trust. I know that there are circumstances that don't allow for little girls to turn into women under the protection of a man of God, and I'm sorry for that. That we live in a broken world is readily obvious. But, God's ways are higher than man's ways, and His intent is clear in Scripture, that men will protect and provide for their wives and children. 

17 September 2012

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder?

Please forgive my absence lately. I've launched into my busy season at work, and with it being a full season in the rest of my life, too, it's been a little complex to try to fit in blogging as well. Today, I'm linking up with The Modest Mom, with my most recent post on modesty.


Thanks for being fans, friends, odds & ends. :)

Much love,

29 August 2012

Jeff Foxworthy's Favorite Story About the Bible

I just watched this and felt like sharing. :) Let's see if it works...

Much love,

27 August 2012

Fun Videos

Just some things I came across today. Please enjoy!

Good song, and cute piggy:

Goofy song, the truth about piggies:

Fun piggy adventure!

Fun piggy adventure 2.0!

Be happy.


Much love,

26 August 2012

Modesty Begins in the Heart: Part 2

See Part 1 here.

I have been brought to, God only knows how, blogs written by a couple of lovely ladies who have, in gentle loving-kindness given me much to consider. I say "God only knows" because I wasn't searching for these blogs, but just came across them while web-surfing. I couldn't tell you how I found them, only that God brought me to them because He wanted me to hear His heart in a way that each of them are excellent at communicating.

The two blogs in particular are The Modest Mom (Caroline) and Large Families on Purpose (Erika), though there are also others that have helped me think through these things. Both Caroline and Erika are homeschooling moms with multiple children. I can tell you from reading their blogs that they each love the Lord, and their hearts are all about their families, and the women that they can love and serve through their writing.

The thing that struck me about these two beautiful women was that, while they have strong, unwavering, unshakable beliefs, they are so loving and kind that they present their beliefs in ways that make you want to hug them and know them better, not in such a way that you want to punch them in their respective noses. That is, in my experience with "church people" over the years, a unique grace, and one that I hope someday will be true of me. These women are living examples of that old saying about tact. You know the one. Tact is getting your point across without stabbing someone with it.

I know, as I read their blogs, that no one will ever convince Erika or Caroline to change their minds on something that God has taught them. I also know that, when either of them is confronted by people who have convictions opinions that are contradictory to what God teaches in His word and through His spirit, that she will love that person well, and instruct her in righteousness with grace. I know this, because I've read it. You can hear their hearts in their words. Modesty's not just a rule they live by, it's an outpouring of their love for God and their desire to live as God's woman, regardless of what others may or may not think.

The reason I'm talking about that here is that it is foundational to what modesty is all about. As C.J. Mahaney discusses it, modesty is about three things: the attitude, the appearance, and the allegiance of the modest woman. A woman who is truly modest, is modest in her heart first, due to the transforming effect of the gospel. This affects her appearance, and it conveys her allegiance. What Caroline and Erika write on their blogs is evidence of this transforming effect. Their hearts, their attitudes, and their allegiance are all evident, and the love they share is poured out visibly in their modesty of dress and appearance.

Caroline from The Modest Mom and Amy from Raising Arrows did a series called She Wears Skirts that bounced back and forth between their blogs. The series talks about why they wear skirts, and not pants. It talks about the convictions that God had given them regarding the modesty of their appearance, and it goes into much more detail than I will here, about why they believe it's more modest and less distracting, more feminine and less lust-provoking to wear skirts.

The bottom line of these ladies' personal dress codes? They are motivated by love. They want to love their Christian brothers well, by not distracting them from what God has for them to do, and by not inspiring in them anything that would cause them to fight a battle with sin and lust.

As I began to say in the first part of this series, I have been realizing that my personal clothing choices are evidence of the state of my heart, and that has become a matter of great concern to me. I'll tell you this, it's hard to look attractive, and be modestly dressed, when you're busty. Even if the rest of me is appropriately attired, sheer volume in the chest area can be an issue. It's difficult to find shirts or dresses that fit properly in the chest and don't look like a sack of potatoes on the rest of me. I'm growing resigned to the fact that I fare better wearing skirts and blouses/shirts than dresses, in most cases, and many times more than one layer on top.

It's tough, for someone who is as warm-natured as I am, to wear multiple layers in the summer without overheating. I've learned that certain fabrics are more comfortable than others, and that tighter layers are often less breathable. Nobody wants to sweat all the time. Want to know something funny? I've found that wearing sleeveless or strappy shirts doesn't create as much of a wicking effect as wearing a couple of layers. I actually sweat less, and look (and feel) fresher if I'm wearing a shirt with sleeves, and more so with a cami or tank under it. All that moisture gets absorbed and dissipates faster. I don't know how it works, but it does.

My personal opinion on this is that when I make modesty a deciding factor in what I choose to wear, God honors that, and He takes care of my comfort, too. He knows when I'm doing right, when my heart is right, and He honors it. If it wasn't important, it wouldn't be addressed in the Bible. If it's important to God, then it should be important to me. If I seek always to please my heavenly Father, then why not do something He's already said is pleasing to Him?

Let's look at a little bit of Mahaney's sermon, taken from 1Timothy, chapter 2:
The 'women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel.' That would be her appearance. And her attitude is emphasized... 'with modesty and self-control.' All respectable apparel is the fruit of a godly heart. Ladies, your wardrobe is a public statement of your personal and private motivation. And if you profess godliness, your motivation is to be distinct from our culture... It is to be motivated by modesty and self-control... 
A modest heart always precedes modest dress. Modesty is humility expressed in dress, a desire to serve others, particularly men, and not promote or provoke sensuality or lust. Modesty, self-control... Moderation for the purpose of purity...
John MacArthur has written, 'How does a woman discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress and dressing to be the center of attention? The answer starts in the intent of the heart. A woman should examine her motives and goals for the way she dresses. Is her intent to show the grace and beauty of womanhood? Is it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshiping God? Or is it to call attention to herself and flaunt her beauty, or worse, to attempt to allure men sexually? A woman who focuses on worshiping God will consider carefully how she is dressed, because her heart will dictate her wardrobe and appearance.'
Whose attention do you desire, and whose approval do you crave?...
Is your wardrobe modest, evidencing self-control and respectable apparel? Every outfit, no exceptions?
...what is to be noticeable about a woman professing godliness is not her wardrobe, but her good works. There is to be this observable lifestyle of serving others. That is the appropriate... godly adornment for women who profess to be Christians. That is, in effect, the transforming effect of the gospel...
What is most eye catching about you-- your clothing, or your character?
See, Paul isn't simply advocating modesty in dress. He is insisting that more time be devoted, more energy be devoted to spiritual adornment in the form of good works. And he is warning about excessive attention devoted to appearance to the neglect of good works. 
Please, please do not misinterpret. Do not misunderstand. Do not misapply this message. Paul is not a conservative... This isn't some general appeal for morality. This, modesty, it is about the gospel... That is the transforming effect of the gospel. Modest hearts, respectable apparel, good works. The woman who loves the Savior avoids immodesty because she doesn't want at any time to distract from or reflect poorly upon the gospel.
That is the godly woman's concern-- that her attitude and her appearance reveal her allegiance to this Savior who was her substitute and provided her the ransom from her sin. And so, there is to be no contradiction between her profession of godliness and her practice of godliness. 
~Excerpted from "The Soul of Modesty"
C.J. Mahaney
29 January 2008 

Moderation for the purpose of purity. The fruit of a godly heart. A public statement of my personal and private motivation. Humility expressed in dress. There is to be no contradiction between my profession of godliness and my practice of godliness.

I can tell you, when I've ever thought about modesty, before now-- in all those high school conversations, in all the teaching I've heard-- it's always been about rules. It's always been about meeting some standard, measured in inches. Inches of length on skirts or shorts. Inches from the collarbone on the necklines of blouses, and heaven forfend you should even consider a halter top. Those are OUT. (Funny how some halter tops are more modest than some blouses with sleeves or tank-tops with the required one-inch width straps.)

1 Timothy 1:9 says that "the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate." In all those debates about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law, we somehow missed this point. Modesty of dress is outward evidence of the state of our hearts. Immodesty is an expression of arrogance. Modesty is an expression of humility and love. It's not about the rules defining modesty as certain length or width. It's about being humble and loving, as Jesus is.

As I continue to pursue holiness, as the Holy Spirit brings to mind things that He wants me to address, I pray for humility. Pride has always been an issue for me. I believe it's the most ubiquitous and insidious of sins for all of us. It's what Lucifer embraced and got him kicked out of God's presence, and it was there in the garden of Eden. It's the seed of nearly every kind of sin I can imagine. As God continues to work in me to purge me of this, I have to keep addressing different areas. Now, modesty is the main one that God's working on in me.

I put a yellow sticky note in my closet where I can see it each time I dress. It says, "Immodesty is an expression of arrogance." I pray, when I see it, or when I think of it, that God would kill the root of pride in my heart. That He would overcome my arrogance and give me humility. I try to dress in ways that reflect the character that God is developing in me. I don't always succeed completely, but I'm learning as I go. God is faithful to teach me, each day. He is producing holiness, His holiness, in me. I pray that He would make me pure so that I can bring glory to His name.

Much love,

"This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth... that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works."  ~1Timothy 2:3-4, 9-10 (NKJV)~

17 August 2012

Modesty Begins in the Heart: Part 1

(Created here)
I just finished taking 5 pages of notes on the sermon "The Soul of Modesty" by Pastor C.J. Mahaney (sermon audio and transcript available at the link), which is excerpted in the video I embedded in this post. (Video found, courtesy of The Modest Mom.) I hadn't realized that the link to the entire sermon was in the description on the video's youtube page. I'm SO glad I found it and was able to hear the entire sermon.

I grew up in a Christian home. My parents sent my brother and I to Christian schools. We were at church every time the door opened. We learned to volunteer, to serve, to have manners, and to live differently than those around us. 

I developed early, probably linked to my Polycystic Ovarian Disease. I was wearing a bra (not a training bra, mind you, the real thing) by third grade. I remember wearing a sun dress to my brother's baseball game one evening, right after getting bras. My mom looked at me, at the field, and said, "How come you're not wearing your new bra?" My response was, "I could see it through my dress." The dress was pretty, and girly, soft sunshine yellow and the front of it had white eyelet lace on it. She replied that if I could see my bra through the dress, then it was also possible to see my body through my dress. I think that was the first time that modesty, in an adult body sense ever dawned on my brain. 

At some point around the time of junior high, I suppose, I became aware more fully of the issue. My parents were always careful with my appearance. They made sure what I wore was modest, and I vaguely recall that being something discussed with clothing choices. 

In High School, I remember conversations about legalism in relation to modesty. Whole class periods were sometimes devoted to "discussions"  about the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law, legalism, what an appropriate standard should take into consideration, exceptions to the rules, etc. Sometimes I wonder what the teachers were thinking, letting this stuff rage on and never addressing the heart of the issue.

Our school had a policy that skirts (which were worn every day) must touch the floor when you kneel. Another school had a policy of 3" longer than fingertip length (which I thought was really odd, because especially during puberty when bodies are changing, arm-length doesn't always change at the same speed as height & leg-length...). Kneeling-length made sense to me. The rule even applied to our cheerleading skirts (which were actually skorts), and some people tried to play the "That's dangerous! They'll get tangled up when they do stunts!" card. (Which is ludicrous, I might add. We were never endangered by the length of our uniforms. Besides, if a stunt couldn't be done safely, we wouldn't have been permitted to do it.)

Having slogged our way through these murky waters, and having conformed to the touches-the-floor-while-kneeling standard, I (and probably most of the girls from my school) thought I had a pretty basic understanding of modesty. Got it. I'm good. I know it when I see it. No, really. That is, until God started bringing it to my attention, just this year.

I'm thirty-two years old. I'm a very visually-stimulated person. I have to be very cautious with shows that I watch, pictures I see, books I read, because I get mental images in my mind that I can't get rid of. 

That creepy scene from that movie? Yeah, it may not give me a nightmare tonight, but 6 years from now, I might have one. It stays in there. I've learned that if the preview is creepy or seems dark or twisted, it's better that I don't see it at all. I've learned that it's safer for me to avert my eyes when I see a guy jogging down the street shirtless, because I don't ever want to compare my husband to him, or have that image of him pop up at a time when my focus should be on something else. I've learned that my mind will construct images to go with things I read, so I need to restrict my reading habits to things that are going to give me good mental images, not sinful ones.

In this way, my brain is wired much more like a man's than like most women's. Part of that is probably due to the over-production of testosterone and androgen in a woman with polycystic ovaries, but whatever the cause, the end result is the same. It makes me more aware of what men deal with on a daily basis. So I've become very protective of my mind and my imagination over the last few years. 

Yet, I still thought I didn't have any misunderstandings about modesty, even while wearing clothing that showcased my cleavage, my hourglass shape, or was simply too tight. God has been systematically revealing to me, over recent months, that the things I know I have to guard my mind from and avoid are the same things that I have exposed my brothers in Christ to, and that they must guard their minds, eyes, and hearts from me. Whoa. 

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Much love,