Friday, December 9, 2011

Let it Snow!

This morning it was -1 degree outside on my (Amy's) way to work. The lake was entirely frozen over, as was a good section of the river that flows into it. Yet we have almost no snow. On my way to get the office mail, I looked out the window and thought it appeared to be a lovely October day. Then I realized it was December 9th. In Minnesota. So weird. I really hope we have snow for Christmas!
Despite the lack of snow, December is off to a good start. This month is going to be busy for us, but not too busy. We're looking forward to Christmas get-togethers and seeing friends home from college. I'm hoping to read a couple of books for pleasure over break, as I'm beyond sick of textbooks. I really like listening to Dave Ramsey, so I'd like to read one of his books. Any suggestions?
I've finished two finals so far. Two down, two to go! I am so looking forward to a break from homework, and to new classes next semester.
I hope you all are enjoying your Decembers and that your Christmas seasons will be full of time with family and friends as you celebrate Jesus' birth.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

For My Family

This week, I (Amy) have been thinking back over the happenings of the past year. Last fall, my mom made the difficult decision to stop doing part-time childcare due to her health challenges and resulting lack of energy. Then in November, on the day before Thanksgiving, my dad and his business partner had to shut down their lumberyard. Since Julie was working for them at the time, she and my dad both became unemployed. Throughout the year, my mom's doctors have prescribed several treatments and procedures in an attempt to ease her ongoing back and abdominal pain. Most of them have just made her nauseous or induced headaches, and she has spent many days sick in bed, as well as a few days in the hospital.
Our family has shed its share of tears and endured some sleepless nights this year. Together, we've walked through some of the darkest and scariest days we've ever faced. And God has walked with us every step of the way. He provided for us financially when we had no consistent income, and then He provided new jobs for my dad, Julie, and I.
But most precious of all, He provided a family of believers to surround us with tangible expressions of His love and mercy. Our extended family, friends, and church body have blessed us in countless ways. Some gave generous financial gifts when they knew money was tight, while others shared "extra" groceries. Some volunteered to go to doctor appointments with my mom so we wouldn't have to take work days off, or visited her in the hospital to show they cared. Some have sat with us while we talked through our tears, and wrapped us in hugs when words weren't enough. Many have called just to see how we're doing or sent emails and cards to offer encouraging words. Even more have lifted us to the Lord in prayer and pleaded for God's provision and healing.
I said before that this year has held some dark days. But because of the love of this precious family of ours, this year has also held some of the most joyful and peaceful days we've ever experienced. At times, we have been absolutely overwhelmed with the blessings the Lord has poured out on us through His people. I wish that I could tell each one of these beloved family members just how much their kindness has meant, but that would take an eternity. I know that many of you reading this post have blessed us through your love, and I am forever grateful. You've rejoiced with those who rejoice and mourned with those who mourn as you've shared life with us this year, and you have reflected the compassion of Christ so accurately.
Overall, this year has been messy. It's been raw. It's been real. It's been painful. But at the same time, it's been beautiful. It's been good. And we have much to be grateful for.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Hoarding and the Power of Words

Hello friends! It's been a long time, hasn't it? I think I'm losing the enthusiasm for blogging that I once had. Bet you hadn't guessed ;-). I still love reading other people's blogs, and I often think of things I'd like to write about on our blog. Yet, I rarely feel like setting other activities aside to record those things here. Maybe it's just because I'm in the final month of a busy semester. Maybe over Christmas Break, I'll post a novel. Time will tell, I suppose ;-).
Today I checked my personal email account. There were nearly 400 messages in my inbox. No, they weren't all new. I'm not that popular! Many of them have been in my inbox for years. Some have only been read once, but there are others I've read over and over again. As I read through the subject lines in my inbox, I started wondering if anyone's ever been diagnosed as an email hoarder. Maybe I'll be the first. What a claim to fame that would be!
On a broader scale, though, since I seem to save just as many cards, letters, notes, and text messages, maybe I could be diagnosed as a word hoarder. I just LOVE words. I save words of affirmation, words of encouragement, words of honesty and openness. I even save words of criticism, hurtful and confusing words, and words I wish had never been written. Is that weird? Probably. Am I the only one? I'd love to find out! Leave a comment and let me know. (If there is enough interest, we could start the first chapter of Word Hoarders Anonymous ;-).
From time to time, I sort through emails and cards and get rid of the ones that are no longer important to me. (You'll be happy to hear that I've done some deep cleaning and there are now only 232 messages in my inbox :-). As I sort, I read through the messages. Some bring smiles to my face, and others bring tears to my eyes. All of them remind me of the power of words. They bring to mind times when I was scared to death, and a word from a friend gave me the courage I needed to step out in faith anyway. They remind me of times when I hurt someone I loved, and they had the guts to tell me and to give me the chance to repent. They tell stories of people who have stood beside me through thick and thin, faithfully urging me to press further into a life of righteousness.
When I read them, I get to thinking about my words. Proverbs 15:4 says that "the words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Have my words brought pain or healing lately? I'm afraid that in all honesty, they have brought some of each. I have been blessed with opportunities to speak encouraging words to some deeply hurting people this month. But at other times, I've recklessly let my anger and emotions get the better of me, and have pierced others with my words. I've got some things to work on. Thankfully, I've also got the power of the Holy Spirit at work within me.
Every mouth is like a fountain, spewing out words every day. Is your mouth spewing out hot lava, burning the hearts of people around you and suffocating your relationships? Or is it overflowing with the waters of life, washing over those around you with truth and love?
"The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life" Proverbs 10:11
Go ye, therefore, and flood the nations with words of life! What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Joyfully At Home?

Yes, I am still alive, and I apologize for my severe lack of blogging inspiration as of late. Okay, got the disclaimer out of the way, now to what's really been on my mind lately. Our dear friend Katelyn recently loaned us this book, and lest you think from the title of this post that I disagree with it in any way, let me just say now that I am thoroughly enjoying it and find it honest, truthful, and inspiring. Any stay at home daughter, any parent of a stay at home daughter, anyone who's wondering what being a stay at home daughter is like, anyone who dreams of being a stay at home daughter, anyone who thinks being a stay at home daughter is about the most ludicrous idea some dimwitted person ever came up with, and probably many other people I've failed to include, should read this book. In a nutshell, this book discusses the Biblical basis for being a stay at home daughter, how daughters should view their unmarried years, what to say to people who look at you like you've gone off the deep-end when you say you've decided to stay home instead of going to college, and many other aspects of the whole concept of stay-at-home daughterhood. Because I feel like I've covered the reasons why I chose to stay home in plenty of depth in the past, I won't go through them again. They all still apply, though I will say I understand them much better now then when I made the decision in the first place (I can honestly say I had no clue what I was getting myself into). Instead, I want to discuss a question that came to me almost from the moment I started reading the book. For the first time since my high school graduation, I had to ask, "Can I still consider myself a stay at home daughter?" When I first started working at Kal's, I was very frustrated because I had visions of myself being busy at home, cooking, cleaning, hosting, ministering. But I found that being gone all day left me with little energy or time for everything I had been looking forward to. As God began to open my eyes to the opportunity He had given me, I began to cherish every moment I had to be with my Dad, to further his business, to grow in the presence of many Godly men. No, I wasn't at home full-time, but I felt very much like I could call myself a stay at home daughter. When Kal's closed last November, it was obvious that lots of things were going to change. And change they have. After the whirlwind of my job situations this spring ended with me getting a job at TransCanada, the dust has settled and here I am now, asking myself this question. After 30 hours a week at TransCanada and the hockey/event season starting up at the Sanford Center, meaning one and often two nights a weekend (and sometimes a night or two during the week) there, can I legally call myself a stay at home daughter? Wrestling with this has not been easy. Because here's the thing. When people ask me that wonderful question everyone my age has heard more times that any of us would like to count, "So, where are you going to school?" (or a host of variations all getting at the same thing), it's a lot easier to say that I'm a clerk for the TransCanada Pipeline Corporation than that I choose to stay home because ____________(fill in the blank with whatever one of my reasons will either get the person to stop asking me questions. or get them really riled up, depending on the mood I'm in). But in my heart, I still think of myself first as a stay at home daughter, then as the clerk at the TransCanada Pipeline Corporation. So can I still call myself a stay at home daughter? Without flowering it up any more than it needs to be, the answer God has put in my heart is YES!! Because more than anything, it's a mindset. A mindset that says, I am going to use my single years, be they 2 or 15 or 70 to bring glory to God through devoting time to my family, church, and community. My job title has changed and I might not be physically in my home for as many hours during the day as I was before, but many things have not changed. I believe God has given me the job opportunities He has because He had things He wanted to teach me. He has placed me among many unbelievers so that I would learn how vital it is that I stay in step with the Holy Spirit at all times in order that He might use my frail life to shine the light of Christ. He has placed me in a family that is not perfect because He knows that there are many things in my character that need to be put to death and living in close quarters with anyone for any length of time will bring those flaws to the surface lickity-split. I still desire very much to be married and have a family. Lord willing (and I don't say that lightly), He will bring a visionary, courageous, honorable man into my life who will see our marriage as first and foremost a tool to bring glory to our Father. Yes, sometimes I daydream about him, I'll admit it. But not nearly as much as I used to. Jesus, the man who gave up His life, His holy life, as a sacrifice to bring me into communion with God, He is my first love. (As a side note, I recently discovered John Waller's song "The Marriage Prayer," which puts this idea that God is to be first in our hearts and marriage beautifully. I have decided I will be playing this at my wedding, so there, I claimed it, no one getting married any time close to me better take it. And I hope you all realize that last part was completely facetious.) Being a stay at home daughter says that I willingly place myself under my parents guidance, protection, and authority because it will teach me how to better put myself under God's guidance, protection, and authority, and someday perhaps, my husband's. Being a stay at home daughter says that I realize there are many hurting people around the world, and it breaks my heart, it really does, and I am thankful that God has called certain people to physically go to them, but for the time being, God has led me to reach out to the many hurting people within the reach of my family. Being a stay at home daughter sees that our churches need believers of all ages working together to bring glory to God. Being a stay at home daughter who chose not to go to college means that I choose to pour my energy into learning things I will use throughout my life, rather than paying large sums for a piece of paper that I would hopefully (again, Lord willing) put away someday to minister full time to my husband and children at home. Most of the points Jasmine makes in her book are things I have heard before, read many times, and preached to myself when I was so weary of explaining my choice to stay at home. I am thankful for God's leading in her life to write them into a book, but I am most thankful for the thinking it's made me do in reevaluating what I am doing and how I view it. Sometimes I just get to comfortable and I need something like this to ask me an uncomfortable question. The marvelous thing is that those questions that jar my mind for days never catch God off guard, and He's just waiting for me to see the answer He has prepared.