Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

I was just thinking about some of my favorite things for this year & thought I'd share them. I figure if Oprah can do it, then I can, too...even if I'm not a fan of hers & even though my "readership" is far less than her viewership! You may find you like some of them, too.

Favorite Things:

     *Revlon blackhead remover: This cleans pores out better than anything I've ever used, including the pore strips.  Kind of a gross thing to post, but it needed to be said.

     *The Regimen from I've always had issues with acne & this is the best thing I've ever found. I use the cleanser, treatment, & moisturizer (the moisturizer only at night, replacing it with Oil of Olay's moisturizer for the daytime), & as long as I use it twice a day, every day, I never break out anymore!

     *Portable dishwasher: We don't have room in our kitchen for a built-in dishwasher, & washing dishes by hand can be overwhelming, so this thing has been wonderful! Now, instead of spending hours cleaning the kitchen, I can be done in a fraction of the time!

     *Adirondack chairs: Sturdy, comfortable, beachy...must I say more?

Favorite Events:

     *Starting the adoption process: We are so excited to be going through the process to adopt 2 children from Ethiopia. You can see our progress on the side of this blog & read our reasons for adopting in our 2 adoption posts from September (here & here).

     *Getting Jake: I love this dog! He's got a wonderful disposition & personality, & is just so darn cute! I think he's been good for Ginger, too.
     *Ginger going into remission: We got the diagnosis of cancer for my baby girl last Christmas Eve, found an excellent vet who started her on chemo in January, & she went into remission. Her lymph nodes swelled up again in the summer & we did another round of chemo, & she's still in remission! Praise God!
     *Camping in TN: Michael took me camping in TN the first time in '07 & we went back this past year in late October again. I LOVE The Smoky Mountains & Cade's Cove!  The picture below shows a view from a remote backwoods trail overlooking the Cove.  I literally cried when I saw it because of how God's creation reflects His glory.  This picture doesn't do it justice!
     *Seeing the beach for the 1st time: Yep, I'm now 32 & only saw the beach for the first time this past summer. I was so awed by God's majesty that I cried (yes, I do that a lot) - I mean, if the ocean is that big, & He cups all the waters of the entire world in the palm of His hand, how big & awesome must He be?!
Favorite Books:
     *There's No Me Without You: This is my number 1 favorite book of this year, which struck Michael as odd since I cried & raged my way through it. That's because of the truth regarding the injustice in this world done to those who are helpless by those who are corrupted by power. Seeing the devastation especially to the children - devastation that could be prevented & corrected even now - was horrifying.  But as emotionally drained as it left me, I will read it again & again & I recommend it to each & every person I know.
     *Desiring God: Anyone who knows me, knows John Piper is my favorite preacher. I can have a difficult time reading him, though; he's much more intellectual than I, so I have to put in some effort to follow him. But because of the time he's spent in God's Word & the exposition that follows, he's SO worth that effort! This book was an excellent work in showing that our greatest joy should be found in Christ. Another book that I think everyone should read.

     *Keeping Holiday: This one is going to be a Christmas tradition for me. I read it last year, & loved it so much that I just had to read it again this year. It is a fictional story, quite short, about a boy & his cousin trying to find the "real Holiday". At first, it's symbolic of the differences between the trappings of the secular Christmas & the real meaning behind Christmas that so few of us truly seek out. The story quickly turns to symbolize the journey of salvation. It's charming, biblical, & simply wonderful!

     *Broken-Down House: I'm only a few chapters into this one, but I simply love it! I was gripped from page 1. This is a book about how we all live in a "broken-down house" (this sin-filled world) that doesn't work like the "builder" (God) created it to work. We have to live here, though, & we're called to live our lives in the power of God & His Word. It's an awesome book filled with excellent illustrations.  I can hardly put it down...even at 5 in the morning!

     *A Wife After God's Own Heart: I've only just started this one, too (I've picked up Michael's penchant for reading more than one book at a time), but my highlighter's already thrown up all over it! In just 1 chapter, I've highlighted & starred quite a bit! I've taken a pause to work on the applications/homework at the end of the chapter, & am really looking forward to doing them! I definitely want to be "a wife after God's own heart", & I'm excited about the challenge this book will be to me!

Favorite Music

     *"To Be Like Jesus": The new kids' CD from Sovereign Grace. I can't say enough good about this CD! Solidly biblical words, great music, applicable to children & adults's an all-around fabulous CD!

     *"Wake Thy Slumbering Children": The 5th volume of music from Indelible Grace. Michael & I listen to this one over & over! We both love how these folks put both well-known & sometimes forgotten hymns to new music. I didn't think I'd like the concept of this, but hearing a song with new music really makes you pay attention to the words.

     *Kate Rusby: I don't have any of her CDs, but a friend posted one of her songs on FB, & I was immediately hooked. She's an English folk singer, & I love the songs as well as her lilting voice. From what I can tell, she's got a really bubbly personality, too, which adds to her likability as far as I'm concerned.

     *Lecrae & Shai Linne: Yes, this is an odd entry for me, as I am no fan of rap/hip hop. Not in the least. Truthfully, I rather detest the stuff. However, I can't say enough about how much I love Lecrae's song "Don't Waste Your Life". Oh, my goodness, the thoroughly biblical words give me chills. Seriously. Chills. And Shai Linne? I haven't heard a song that isn't chock full of Scripture! These fellas singing rap music know more theology than a lot of seminary-trained pastors!  (And yes, I did mean to write that.)

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you try any of my favorite things, let me know what you think. I hope you like them as much as I do!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Blessed Life

I turned 32 today. I'm not sure how that happened...well, I am, but you know what I mean. One day I was 20, & then overnight it seems, I was able to say things like "I haven't seen so-&-so since we graduated 13 years ago." Regardless of what my brother says (who is a mere 2 years younger than I), I realize I'm not old. A fact that my sweet niece confirmed when she called today. But then I don't think you're truly old until you act like it. Sometimes, people who are in their late 80s who think & act younger aren't even old yet! So, anyways, looking back over my life, I see God's fingerprints everywhere. Of course, I see them in His choosing me before the foundation of the world as His child, to be saved from my sin & His wrath by His Son's atoning death. I see them in His blessing me with my family. I see them in His blessing me with my sweet Michael, our pets, & our home. I also see Him in the trying times:
     *My parents' divorce, which He used to drive me to His Word that shows me how to be a godly wife, what a godly husband will be like, & that marriage is from Him & I should rely on Him if hard times come.
     *My molestation, which He used to drive me to reliance on Him for forgiveness toward those who wounded me & gave me a righteously fierce protection over others, as well as intense empathy for others' pain. (As an aside, He also used Mark Driscoll's sermon on expiation to show me that not only did Jesus' death in my stead cleanse me of my own sin, but it cleansed me from the sins committed against me. How freeing!)
     *My infertility (although reversible), which He still uses to show me that He is enough, whether He gives me children or not.
     *The years-long rift between a loved one & me, which He used to show me that while others will fail me, He will not; that He has always been & will always be right there with me, loving me, guiding me, & sanctifying me until I reflect Christ perfectly.

That's the purpose of trials in the life of a child of God -- they are instruments lovingly used by our wise & sovereign heavenly Father to mold us into the image of Christ for His glory. Everywhere in my life, I see proof of God, proof of His love, proof of His guidance, proof that He will work out His plan for my good & His glory. He is an infinitely holy God who is infinitely worthy of all of my praise! Without Him, I am nothing. Because of Him, I've led - & continue to lead, regardless of what trials may come my way - a truly blessed life.

*My gracious Father in heaven, thank you. Thank you for my life & all of the blessings that you have bestowed upon me. Thank you for this wonderful birthday spent with my precious husband.  Thank you, most of all, for giving me You. For being my God, my Father. For saving me from my sin. You never fail me, You always love me & do what's best for me, even when it hurts. Please continue to draw me to You & sanctify me so that I reflect Your Son to the world. Glorify Yourself through my life. I love You, Lord; help me to love You supremely. In Christ's holy name, Amen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Packing an Umbrella

We've all heard the old adage "If you pray for rain, you'd better pack an umbrella". Mama sent me an email just this morning with a story about a couple married 5 years who prayed for children & proved this adage true as God blessed them with 4 children in as many years. At the top, she told me that this would be me in a couple of years, realizing my heart's desire in a house full of children. I pray so. My heart has really been aching the last few days for my children. My arms have felt so empty. I asked Michael today through tears, "How can I miss someone so much that I've never met?" We were standing in Costco, looking at the children's clothes, which I was affectionately stroking, wishing for the babies that I'm trusting God to give us. I decided then to "pack an umbrella". So, in faith that God is working to bring our children to us, Michael & I bought 6 outfits -- 3 girls' & 3 boys'.  These are closeup shots of the coordinating bibs that came with the outfits.  They're so cute!
We know that God has called us to this adoption, & because that's true, we also know that He will complete the adoption & unite us with our babies when the time is right. Sometimes it can be hard to hold on to this assurance, though, especially as more time goes by & we still don't have the funds to move on. Although I have these weak moments (thankfully few) where I wonder how it's all going to happen - if it's all going to happen - knowing that it will happen in God's time is comforting to me in my waiting. It's also comforting to know that our family & friends who love us are supporting & praying with us for peace, patience, & for the safety & well-being of our babies until God brings them to us. So, as we wait, we also prepare for God to bring the rain. I hope it's a deluge!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jesus is the reason for the season...or is He?

"Jesus is the reason for the season". At least, that's what we say. But - like my mama always taught me - actions speak louder than words. Lately, I've been looking around - at others & at myself - & wondering how true this sentiment really is. Is Jesus really "the reason for the season"?

I've always loved Christmas, always been a bit of a fanatic, in fact. There was a time when I started playing Christmas music in July. (Seriously, you can ask my mama.) When I was growing up, I decorated my room, complete with my own little Christmas tree. Santas & snowmen, colored lights & snowglobes...the whole deal. I've always loved the idyllic Christmas. You know, the one with old-fashioned dresses, sleigh rides, church bells, snow. Of course, growing up in Louisiana, I never got that. Except the year we went to Wisconsin for Christmas, but I digress.

Do you see what's missing here? I (& I would suspect, a lot of other people, possibly even you) have thrown out the little rhyme above, along with a sprinkling of "Happy birthday, Jesus" throughout the years, but the main event involved the tree & the food & the company & the presents & looking at lights & get the idea. Oh, I would have never said that, but my actions did. We all, Christians & unbelievers alike, scurry around all in a flutter about what we're going to buy for our spouse & children, extended family, & friends. Where's dinner going to be? Are we going to have turkey or ham, dressing or stuffing? After Christmas, the customary query is "What did you get?" I could go on, but surely you see where I'm going. If Jesus is really "the reason for the season", then why don't we focus more on Him? Why is it that we can go even to Christian homes & see Santa & Frosty displayed prominently en masse & one little nativity scene set on the mantle or coffee table? And I'm not just pointing fingers here; I've been guilty of the very same thing for years! It seems to me that this sends a mixed message. Especially to children & unbelievers. If Christmas is about Jesus, then why does Santa have such a prominent role? How does opening presents for ourselves celebrate Jesus' birth? I mean, be honest, as you take your children to see Santa, are you thinking about how much Christ is glorified in that? As you shop for & open presents, are you thinking, "This is for You, Jesus!"? Hardly.

Christmas is not about presents or any of the other things that we, along with the world, strive so hard to make it about. Christmas is about Jesus. He came down from heaven & became incarnate for our sake. Think about this! He, the Lord of glory, chose to be born to an unwed teenage mother in a stable filled with animals...for us! So that He could live the one & only perfect life & die the one & only sin-atoning death in our place to save us from the deserved wrath of God! How could we, who claim to love Him & be His disciples, possibly make Christmas about anything less than this? Does this mean we throw out all of our Santas & snowmen, don't decorate a tree or the house, & don't buy presents? I can't answer that for you, because it's a heart issue. I think the question we need to ask ourselves is, "How does this make me focus on & glorify Christ?" If it doesn't, it should go. And again, we should ask, "How does this show others that I value Christ supremely?" As much of a kick as I get out of my "Jingle Bell Rock" Santa, for the life of me, I can't figure how he helps me glorify Christ or how he shows others that I love Christ supremely.

I guess the main question I'm asking myself this year is, what are my actions saying about my heart? What are yours?