Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I See What You're Saying

The lovely Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee is hosting "I See What you're Saying" today.
Since I am the procrastinator extrordinaire, I did not do a video ahead of time, (and today I don't feel so hot..or look it). Instead, I was inspired to put up a snippit of my darling 3 yr old.

Let me explain, Linda blogged about her dislike for musicals sometime back (I know!) and introduced my family to the Food Court Musical by Improv Everywhere. I laugh every single time I see it...with out fail. All my children know all the words and sing them at odd and random times, which also causes me to laugh. But the best is my daughters anti-napkin song...

Maybe next time I'll put myself in the video. But for today, just trust me, she's way cuter. =)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Miracle...alternatively titled, God always provides.

It was December, 2004. I'm sure of the date because I was pregnant with our fourth child. I tend to catagorize major life events around where we lived or which children were/were not born yet. I'll have to amend this dating system, because barring a miracle, we are done having kids. Regardless, I will always remember this moment in time with crystal clarity.

We lived in Central Florida, a part of Florida that had scoffed at hurricanes because "we're so far inland." Perhaps those scoffers needed to study a map a bit closer as the state isn't really all that wide and is surrounded by water! This year, all of Florida got a wake up call to the destruction and far reaching effects of hurricanes...even to inland counties. Four storms crossed the state that year, all of them crossing with in miles of one another and with in the short time frame of 2 months. It was the only time in history that four storms affected the same state.

The finances at the small church we were serving at were greatly effected. In order to give them the stability they needed, my husband volunteered to work gratis for a time until the financial footing of the congregation could be restored. We were serving in a support role (Family Pastors) and the Senior Pastor gratefully agreed to this arrangement. Two months later, we had burned through what little saving we had and my husbands free-lance design work was not enough to feed the family and pay the bills and we still were not back on payroll. Clearly, something had to give. Either he needed to be released from the position so that he could pursue full-time free lance or he needed to be paid for his time at the church.

After meeting with the pastor, we found the finances just were not there for us to continue in full-time ministry at the church. He agreed to a severance package of what we understood to be two months of pay (Nov/Dec) and we set a date for our last Sunday sometime in November.

The first week of December rolled around and I pulled into the parking lot to pick up what would be the third of four checks (two months, paid twice monthly). I walked into the office of the book-keeper and she tearfully told me that she made out the check, but the pastor told her that we had agreed to TWO PAY PERIODS severance pay, not TWO MONTHS and would not sign the check. I assured her that this misunderstanding did not take God by surprise and we would be fine. I walked out to my van and bawled my eyes out.

Knowing that the church was indeed dire financial shape, my husband chose not to push the issue or seek clarification, rather to trust God to provide. Easy for him, he did not manage the money every month!! I knew the mortgage payment was already past due by a few days, we had no groceries and only $60 in the bank. It was the first week of DECEMBER and I had three little boys to make Christmas happen for. Although we only purchase three gifts for them anyways, it still wouldn't happen at all without some money from somewhere.

On top of the stress and pressure this would naturally put upon a mama, I was 5 months pregnant. Talk about weepy and emotional! I remembered all the phrases and verses about how God provides and sustains and tried very hard to meditate on them, but circumstances kept choking out what little hope I could scrape together. I shared our situation with a few friends in our homeschool support group, not hoping they could take up an offering, rather sincerely desiring prayer for my doubting spirit.

A few days went by and although we'd recieved a few bags of groceries, the mortgage was still unpaid and there didn't seem to be any hope that my husband would pick up enough work on such short notice to make ends meet. I was desperately trying to hold myself together in spite of our bank account. Peace eluded me, I couldn't sleep, I was nervous, restless and irritable. With a deep need to find some solace, I picked up a book I had purchased over the summer and headed to the bathroom (the only room in the house that little boys can NOT follow thier momma into). The book, "Praying God's Word" by the lovely Beth Moore.

It fell open to the chapter on Unbelief and as I read her devotional opening to the chapter, I identified with her story. She talked about how when God wants to get your attention, it seems that you will hear the same message in several different ways. The Sunday morning sermon, the scripture reading on the radio station, an encouraging card from a friend...I have had that happen several times to me. She shared a particular time in her own life when the message seemed to be on "Believing God" and how she was offended that God would continually prompt her spirit with such a message. After all, she had grown up in church! Of course she believed in God! I understood her indignation, as I grew up in church myself. The Holy Spirit checked her and said, "I didn't ask if you believed IN me, I wonder if you BELIEVE ME. Do you believe I will do what I say I will do? Am I able to deliver on the promises found in the word?"

Wow. Immediately upon reading those words, I was deeply convicted. I had such familiararity with God and his promises that I was cavalier about how much he truly cared for my little family! I found as I reflected on where I placed my trust, I was very dependent on those paychecks for provision instead of realizing who was ultimately in charge of making sure my husband got paid!

In Beth's story, she too was convicted and prayed the prayer of the man in Mark 9:24, "Lord I believe, Help my unbelief!" I began to weep and seek repentance for not trusting God to take care of us and our needs. But then in an impatient moment of humanity, I said, "I want to trust you, I do! I know you will take care of us, I do! But could you just give me little sign right NOW, that would help me know it so much better."

God is so sweet with us and our childish ways. Speaking of children, mine were clamoring outside the bathroom door with important, life altering questions like, "Mom, can you come out and fix us some lunch?" "I hear you crying in there, are you hurt?" "Can you make him give me back that toy!?" Reality crept in on my stolen moments with the Lord and I began to close the book to come out and take care of thier little crises when a small, yet thick and heavy, business sized envelope slipped out of the book into my lap. On the front was scrawled our family's name in blue ink. While I wondered what this was, I also was trying to think when I might have slipped it in the book. You know...when someone hands you something and you slip it in your Bible or purse to open later? I couldn't remember ever being anywhere with that book, in fact, I hadn't even looked at that book almost since I first had purchased it. It had been on a bookcase in my bedroom. I hadn't loaned it out, so it was a real mystery where the envelope came from.

While I pondered the questions of where did this come from, who had my book, and what was inside, I opened the envelope.

Oh my friends, God is so sweet. Remember my asking for a sign? Inside that envelope was a STACK. OF. CASH. As I counted it out, I began to simultaneously weep with greater repentance and yelp with shock and surprise. I remember getting to $300 and thinking, "There's still more in my other hand!!" It was $500 in cash. We have never figured out the earthly person that placed it there, for all I know, it could have been supernaturally planted there by angels at my point of need. What I do know is that God provided for us the most miraculous month ever.

I love how the Body of Christ responds to needs. God began to prompt friends and aquaintances to minister to us in ways as simple as bags of groceries and as marvelous as money in Christmas cards. Black garbage bags showed up on our doorstep full of gifts for the boys. We came home one evening and there was a tree propped in the corner of the porch. Over the course of the month, we received over $2500 in cash, gift cards, and checks. About $1700 of that was anonymously given, including that first very miraculous $500.

God seriously showed up and helped me overcome my doubts and unbeliefs in the area of provision that year. What is truly astounding to me is how patient God is with me. Would you believe I STILL struggle sometimes with trusting God to supply our needs?! When this happens, I not only take the time to reflect on scriptures and promises to the contrary, but I take the time to remember how incredibly he met our need in December of 2004. It always builds my faith and blesses me to remember. I pray that it has blessed you too. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Tour of Homes

Merry Christmas friends! Today the fabulous BooMama is hosting her annual tour of homes and I quickly snapped some pics to upload to the blog. This sounds simple and fun, but that would only be if you are not technologically challenged. Of course, I have nearly lost all Christmas cheer just snapping these photos because my husband loves to change the settings on the camera and I prefer to point and shoot. I did manage to get a few decent photos...so for your holiday perusing, welcome to our home.

My sweet and simple nativity scene on the coffee table in my front room. I try to keep the main thing the main thing.

The stocking were hung by the chimney with care. Next year, I plan to do up my mantle with a lovely garland, a la The Nester. I found LOADS of pine garland at the Salvation Army thrift store this weekend for 25 cents a bunch. I bought it all!! Two garbage bags full.

I love this little piece of decor. I was in a knock down, drag out Dirty Santa ornament exchange a few years ago and I emerged victorious. It was worth fighting over because I think it is just precious. =)

Because Christmas Classics are a favorite of mine, Rudolph and Clarice score a special spot of the mantle. I wanted to start a whole collection of this village, but you know, I decided to use that money to feed the kids instead.

This is our little chalkboard countdown calendar. My kids love keeping up and counting down. Except the three year old, she just asks everyday if Santa brought her a dollhouse yet. I hope he comes through or she is going to be very disillusioned. My resident artist drew some additional pictures on the chalkboard, because it wasn't festive enough for his taste.

Here is the tree in all its festive glory. Some folks like a themed tree, I prefer a more simple tree with lots of memories and special ornaments on it.

Like these special personalized ones purchased from Bronners Christmas Wonderland by my sister-in-law for the kids one year. Good thing that they are hand-painted (which means you can retro-date them), because we have needed to replace one almost every year since she first bought them. Their lovely, handblown very fragile nature lends themselves to very careful handling. Clearly a conspiracy for repeat business.

I hope you have enjoyed a little peek into my home. I wish you all a very blessed and Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I clean up pretty good.

Here we are all ready to go to the corporate holiday gig. I love this time of year, so many fun parties to go to and all kinds of reasons to get dressed up. =) We are standing in front of our bargain tree from Walmart. You just can't beat $20 for a live Fraser Fir!!

What kinds of holiday events are you going to this year??

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Some thoughts for Holiday Cheer

We all know the story about Santa. He lives on North Pole along with his wife, elves and reindeers. Elves help him to process requests of millions of children who write letters to Santa every year requesting for toys and other wishes, to help him determine whether these children have been good or bad, to fulfill the wishes of all good children and make requested toys for them. On Christmas Eve, Santa wears his famous red suit with white snow-white trimmings, puts all the toys on his sleigh and nine reindeers are attached to the sleigh to pull it. The bright red nose of Rudolph the Reindeer acts as an indicator to tell the direction.

Santa parks his sleigh on the roof of the household, climbs down the sleigh, look for the right gifts, climbs down the chimney of each household, laugh in his famous way 'Ho! Ho! Ho!', drink and eat the milk and cookies kept for him by the children and keep the requested gifts for them under the tree, fill the stockings, come back up and sit in his sleigh. He is to do all this and more in one night! There are some things which make us doubt, whether Santa Claus really exists or if he does, whether he is really alive or is he dead already. Here are some reasons why we have our doubts:
  • No one has ever seen flying reindeers, except Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves, of course. However, since there are over 300,000 species of living organisms that are unclassified (though they are mostly insects and germs), we can give them benefit of doubt.
  • According to the Populations Reference Bureau, there are about 2 billion children (defined as under 15) in the world. Assuming that Santa caters to Christian children only and do not bother himself about children of other religion, he still has 15% of the above children population to think about.
  • 15% of 2 billion means 300 million children, which is certain an enormous workload, even for benevolent and kindly Santa.
  • Let's assume that there are about three children in each household and at least one of them is good. Thus, Santa has to visit 100 million homes during Christmas Eve.
  • Let's assume Santa starts distributing gifts, starting from 5 pm to midnight (which makes 7 hours). Since earth rotates and there is a difference of full 24 hours overall due to different time zones, we can say that Santa has 31 hours to finish his work. We can also assume that Santa works from East to West to use this time difference to his full advantage.
  • Visiting 100 million homes in 31 hours means that Santa has to visit 896 homes per second.
  • Thus, he has about 1/1000th of a second to do everything mentioned above such as parking his sleigh, looking for the right gifts, climbing down the sleigh and chimney, binge on snacks, fill the stockings, come up again and rush to his next stop.
  • Even if we assume that all households are distributed evenly throughout the earth for convenience of Santa and Santa Claus works non-stop for 31 hours (both of which are very big assumptions that are almost impossible!), Santa has to travel about 75.5 million miles in 31 hours and 650 miles per second.
  • Now the fastest man-made vehicle moves at 27.4 miles per second and normally reindeers can run at the speed of 15 miles per hour. 650 miles per second is 3000 times faster than the speed of sound.
  • On an average, each toy for a child weighs about 2 pounds; the sleigh has to carry over 321,000 tons plus the Santa with his big belly and his reindeers.
  • Known reindeers can only pull 300 pounds at once. If flying reindeers can pull up to 3000 pounds, about 214,000 reindeers will be needed to pull Santa's sleigh, which means sleigh must carry over 353,000 tons.
  • 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second in the air will create enormous friction and Santa, his reindeers and his sleigh will instantly burn to death, just like meteors that occasionally enter earth's atmosphere.
Thus, we can safely conclude that if Santa ever existed, he was dead when he attempted his seemingly impossible project for the first time and is no more alive.

I found this little gem during my frustrating search for Christmas trivia games for play at my upcoming cookie swap. It was a bright spot in an otherwise fruitless search. (O Google, why are you letting folks promote sites now??! Searching is all wonky. ) Too good not to share. Thanks World of Christmas for a good giggle.