Sunday, December 30, 2012

So much to do in so little time, but God is good all the time.

The last few weeks, I have not been able to blog very much, but that will all change the next few weeks.  Two weeks ago I found out that I will have to have surgery this coming week.  While I always knew this problem could occur at sometime, I quite honestly expected it to be in my later 30s (not the year I turned 30).  Because this came at an unexpected time and is happening very quickly, I have been very busy getting things in order around my house, on top of the normal business of family and church Christmas celebration and other activities that fill this time of year. 

While I should be home within two days of having surgery, I will be on a very strict lifting and pushing/pulling restrictions and I am likely to have a significant amount of pain at least for the first few weeks.  So, every extra bit of time since receiving the news, I have been trying to do all of the main house cleaning (scrubbing the shower and bathtub, mopping the floors, etc.) and stocked up the house with groceries so my husband can make simple meals for the kids if I'm not feeling up to it.  I am also blessed with great friends and family!  My husband is always a big help about keeping the house in order, so I know that he will be more than willing to pick up the slack in housekeeping duties, many of my friends have already called to see what would be "safe foods" to make due to my food allergies for our family, I've had offers for people to keep the baby for the first few days so I can get some rest, and my mother-in-law has offered to come do my vacuuming and any other tasks I'm not able to.  

While I have spent the last few weeks preparing for this, God has been working things out for the past few months to make this an easier time for our family.  If you read my previous post, you know that I truly believe that God works things out for our good, even when we can't see them.  Let me share with you just a few ways God was looking to take care of us.   

1.  I currently teach for two schools and was planning to give up teaching for one of them.  I received an email the week before Thanksgiving from the coordinator asking if I was planning to teach again for winter semester.  I sent her an email back the next day with my intention to give up my position, but somehow, she never received it.  The first week of December, she sent me another email asking me if I had received the first one and requested an answer from me.  I immediately sent her back another email apologizing for the inconvenience of the missing email and again informed her that I was not planning to teach during winter semester.  She replied with a message that said that would be fine.  Then, a few days later another email followed that asked if I would consider teaching for one more semester since the switch to the new curriculum would be happening starting in the fall and it would help them not have to train someone for just one semester.  I talked it over with my husband, prayed about it, and decided that I could in fact commit to one more semester.  I signed my contract just a few days before I found out I would have to have surgery.  My class to teach for the other school that I prefer teaching for was only a 6 week assignment this coming semester, so in order to be off for my recovery, I had to give up that job entirely.  If it weren't for the job that I was trying so hard to quit, I wouldn't have any income at all while I am on my surgical leave of absence from all of my jobs.

2.  My transmission in my vehicle that was just replaced in August began acting up again a few weeks ago.  We had borrowed my grandparents' vehicle for me to get back in forth to work, but we only had that until December 21st.  That also was my husband's last day of work until he had 10 days off over Christmas.  I worked the day after Christmas, and I work New Years Eve and January 2nd.  What we thought would be a transmission rebuild and take about a week, has now become us needing a completely new transmission, which will cost quite a bit more money, and means it will be a few more weeks until I have my vehicle back.  There is no way that I would be able to commit to teaching 3 days a week without a vehicle, and I am not even allowed to drive for 2 weeks anyways, so as much as this is not going well, it is still probably the best time for it to happen.

3.  My daughter is a very busy 18-month-old who loves to climb and jump on everything, including me.  Especially for the first two weeks, the doctor said that I need to be extra careful about her so that my internal stitches don't get torn.  In the middle of December, my mother-in-law, who works part-time, switched from a position on afternoon shift to day shift.  She had had many opportunities to do so in the past and had passed them up but had decided that now might be a good time.  With it, her schedule of which days she works was re-arranged.  She works every Monday and Friday and every other weekend, but with the exception of one day each week has most week days off.  My mother also works part-time and her days off each week are Mondays and Fridays.  Since they both live within 5 miles, the only days I would have no help available with baby if I needed it would be the one day mid-week that my mother-in-law works each week and friends have offered to watch her on those days.  

These are just a few examples of the many interesting ways I have seen God intervening in our lives recently.  What about you?  Do you have any personal stories to share about how awesome our God is?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Don't worry! I have a plan! Love, God

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" -Matthew 6:25-34: 

This afternoon a flock of birds landed in our yard after flying around the neighborhood looking for food. I had put aside some breadcrumbs from an overdone loaf of bread just a few days ago, thinking even thought it's winter, we might get a chance to feed some birds.  As soon as I saw them land, my daughter and I went out to feed them some, but as soon as we got on the porch, they flew away and hid in the large tree in our yard.  Eventually they made their way back down, and we enjoyed watching and listening to them for quite some time.

While we were sitting there, enjoying the time, this verse came to my mind.  It made me think of how we can behave the same way in our lives.  We are so busy worrying about the small things, that we sometimes miss the big pictures.  Like the birds, we see differences or changes as scary, unable to see how we may gain something from being open to it.  No matter what our current circumstances might be, God is in control and has a plan for our lives. Sometimes life takes turns we didn't see coming, but that's because God has something in store for us just around the bend.  

I pray that I am able willing to follow God's leading and that I am open to seeing what God is trying to teach me through all circumstances.  Currently my husband and I are experiencing something that we were not prepared for, and it is a bit upsetting and originally caused us some stress, but I am trying to see in the months leading up to this, how God was paving the way and working things out despite our best efforts to go in a different direction.  While it isn't always easy, I seek to live out my personal life verse each and every day.

"Do not worry about anything, but in everything, with praise and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guide your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  - Phillipians 4:6&7

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'Tis The Season

Christmas: it's a single word that means so many things to so many different people.  For some it's all about the gifts, spending hours of time and large amounts of money to find just the right ones, while others prefer a more simple holiday celebration.  For some, it's about all the get-togethers and time with family and friends, cooking elaborate meals or doing marathon baking sessions.  Some volunteer their time or donate money this time of year.  Some have extensive outdoor lights displays.  Others make it a point to attend Christmas Eve church service.  Life is full of choices that we make everyday, and those choices are made based on our values and beliefs.

As for me, I want my December to be a time of focusing on God's gift to us, and sharing that with our children, extended families, and friends.  CHRIST is the true reason we celebrate CHRISTmas!  Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to come to this earth, leaving heaven behind, to live a simple, humble existence.  He know the day of his birth that he would eventually have to die for our sins, and yet he still did it.  He loved each and every one of us that much!  All year long, not just during the moth of December, I try to share the love of Jesus with those around me.  There are many ways that my family and I choose to do that.  Sometimes we donate money to a need at church or to purchase groceries or other needed items for a struggling family.  We try to take meals to new parents.  We offer our time when something needs to be done in the community or at our church.  The young adults from church know that our home is always open to them (and a few have shown us what always means), and we take the time to mentor a young married couple.  I send notes of encouragement and Jeremy chats with friends who are struggling on a regular basis.  

For us, December may have a few more events, but our day-to-day lives aren't that different.  We prefer to celebrate Christmas in a simple way, while still enjoying the festivities of this time of year.  Here are a few of the ways that we celebrate:
  • We take an annual trip to Bronner's (The World's Largest Christmas Store) and each person in our family selects a new ornament for our tree.  It's quickly filling up though, so we may have to thing about getting a bigger tree.  I know sorting out the ornaments would be an option (I truly love to declutter!), but at this point in our lives while the kids are still little, I don't want to part with any of them just yet.
  • We take gift tags off of the angel tree at church to help make someone else's Christmas better.  Each person in our family chooses a tag of someone close to their own age and gender to make it seem a bit more personal, and then we shop as a family for those items.
  • We have the young adults group over for a fun night of white elephant (recycled/used) gift exchange, Christmas movies, and snacks.
  • We make handmade gifts for all of our children's grandparents.  This year we had pictures of all of them with at least one of our children easily available, so we made photo frames with those inside.  In previous years, we have passed out candle holders painted like peppermints with a note that said "You're worth more than a 'mint' to us!", a copy of the book The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever and a note about why it was one of our family favorites, and whisks filled with Hershey's hugs and kisses candies with a note that said "We 'whisk' you a Merry Christmas full of hugs and kisses".
  • We fill Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes filled with small toys, candy, school supplies, basic clothing and hygiene products
  • We attend Christmas Eve service at our church each year and invite our extended friends and families.
  • We set a gift budget and stick to it for the most part.  For us, Christmas isn't about the amount of money spent on the gift, but the thought that the giver puts into it.  This year, we are trying something new with our children's gifts.  Each child is getting something to wear, something to read, something they want, and something they need.  They will also be getting 1 small gift from Santa each.  We don't make a big deal about Santa in our house, but we do let them celebrate the fun of it.  They also each get one special gift from my husband each year, since even our 7-year-old knows that I do the majority of our shopping.  For our parents and our siblings along with their significant others, we try to get them couples gifts that our something they can go enjoy together such as tickets to a sporting event or a movie night basket. 
  • We attend the local Christmas lights parade.
  • When we are out and about, we are always on the lookout for nativity scenes to point out to each other.
  • We spend Christmas Day at home as a family, instead of running all over the place and everyone becoming stressed and overwhelmed.
  • We try to have all of our Christmas shopping done by December 1st so that we don't have to fight our way through the stores with all of the other stressed out people.
  • We have family movie night at least once a week.  We turn off all of the lights in our house, except the Christmas tree, eat popcorn and other treats, all cuddle up on the couch, and watch movies we all enjoy together.  
  • We read the Christmas story to our children.  While our daughter isn't quite old enough to understand just yet, we still want her to be a part of it so that as she gets older, she will come to realize the importance.  
What about all of you?  What are some of your family's favorite ways to keep your Christmas celebration focused on Jesus?  I'm always looking for new ideas for my own family.