January 25, 2012

You Are Special

Max Lucado's book, You Are Special, has always been one of my favorites. I remember my dad reading it to me as a kid, and trying hard to be like the Wemmick who didn't let the stars or dots stick (read it to understand).

While I was teaching preschool yesterday Geoff came in as a surprise visitor to tell the kids how special they are and how much God loves them.  As the kids gathered around him to listen he asked them if they were special. I was amazed at how they replied in full confidence, "Yes!" One of the boys went on to say, "I know I'm special, and I know God thinks so too!"

I couldn't help but reflect on how that question would be answered if Geoff had asked a room full of adults. "Do you know how special you are?" We wouldn't argue, probably, but may admit we don't feel special or don't want to appear arrogant by even thinking we might be.  As we age there are many things that tell us we are not special, that we aren't good enough, and we forget to find our identity in the Lord and listen to the world more often instead.

As we grow older our feelings are hurt by those we trust and the world sells us false identities that we struggle to maintain.  For some it is even worse. As the Superbowl nears the evil epidemic of sex slave trafficking becomes even more apparent. Kids, 12-14 years old or younger are being brought into the United States to meet the evil demand that large sporting events like this create.  This is a world wide evil and one that breaks my heart more than any other. That industry will shatter the "You Are Special" reality faster than any. When children and adults are subjected to rape dozens of times a day, how can the true message of the gospel break through, that they are special, that they are loved? It can, and it does.

When I first started pondering this "special" concept, I thought it was just a sad reality that we were unable to feel special as we aged. The more I've considered it the more I see why satan is so intent on attacking this identity. If we forget who we are in Christ, that He loves us and we are special because He made us, our entire purpose in life has changed. We meet the expectations of our identity, whether in the Lord, or in the world.  We are created in the very IMAGE of GOD, why would we try to look like the world?  We are not to find our identity in this world.  It is not about us, but about what God is doing through us. By forgetting that God can work through us, and feeling like we have to perform to meet God's demands, satan finds a stronghold.  How can I be special? I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!  When I ask that I still believe it is about what I do, about being saved by works. It's not about the value the world places on me or how I meet or don't meet its expectations. It's about remembering who we are in Christ and allowing His love to pour through me. It's about remembering to live in accordance with the Spirit.

"Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace...For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God...The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.  NOw if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, in indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." 
 Romans 8:5&6;14;16&17

January 7, 2012

Happy New Year!

I'm pretty sure there is no better way to end one year and start another than the way we were able to!  We headed to Abilene on New Years Eve to celebrate with some of my favorite people on earth. All of my best friends have scattered to the four corners of the United States but on this day almost everyone was back together! Friends came from Monterey, CA, Chicago, IL, Boston, MA, and of course, Abilene. It helps that their families all live in Abilene, but I think this party would be more than worth the travel even without that minor detail. :)

I am so thankful for these friends, their families, and the love and support they have shown me for so many years. In a world where I often feel encouraged to be content with living a mediocre life and meeting the status quo, I praise God for these righteous friends who inspire me to push beyond these expectations and encourage me to respond to the calls the Lord has placed on my heart no matter how crazy they seem.

2011 was a tough year. A lot of goals we set were accomplished, but so many others seemed to remain just behind a tall wall we could not scale.  In prayer I would involuntarily find myself whispering, "I miss you, Lord."  It wasn't that I felt He had left us, I just couldn't hear or feel His presence as clearly as I have, and I longed for it.  However, I am very thankful for the time, not limited to just this last year, that we have had to seek God without feeling a clear leading. Times like that are necessary.

As the year drew to a close, a familiar excitement began to fill my heart again as Geoff and I began to dream together in a way we never had before.  More than ever in our marriage Geoff and I can feel the presence of the Lord returning in a clear and tangible way. Our eyes have been opened to possibilities we would not have dreamed of only a year ago, and we are excited about where the Spirit is leading. Though there is so much unknown, even in my fears I feel a comforting presence of peace.  It's going to be a great year!

Thanks to all the friends and family who surrounded us this season. I could not be more thankful for ALL of you. May His blessings pour out on us this year to bring HIS Kingdom to earth, as it is in Heaven! In Jesus name.

January 4, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Geoff and I enjoyed a great Christmas season! We were able to do Breakfast with Santa at the church building which was really fun, but took a lot of prep time! We decorated the auditorium this year so had a lot more space...and decorating! I really enjoyed working together with Geoff. I grew up doing this with my parents in charge, and it's so fun to make it our own a little bit in the Legacy Version, as my dad calls it. :)  On December 17 we had a fun day of breakfast, Santa's Workshop, Mrs. Claus, and of course - SANTA!
My parents brought Santa and Mrs. Claus again this year and everyone loved them. Mrs. Claus even made it into the newspaper! We collected lots of toys through the toy drive and enjoyed lots of happy kids which made all the hours of planning and decorating more than worth it.
Since Christmas fell on a Sunday, and we would not be home that day, Geoff and I decided to move the Christmas events a day early.  I almost had to print out a false calender to justify it with myself...but managed to find enough imagination to make it right. Geoff asked what time he was allowed to wake up Christmas morning, and referenced some ridiculous notion of not before 4 a.m. No kidding. Why on earth would we be waking up before such an hour - my plan was to get to sleep at least by then. He wasn't kidding. At 4:07 a.m. "Christmas" morning Geoff was up.  After coffee and lots of pleading his excitement finally got me up. I was not thrilled about being awake right then, but I adore his joy and excitement, so I got over it pretty quick. He wrapped all my presents with great effort, putting ribbons and everything on...it was so sweet...I love pretty packages.
We had so much fun opening the stockings we filled for each other, and Geoff was very generous to be ultra excited about every item of clothing he got for Christmas. His only real fun gift, Vibram five fingers, didn't fit. Poor guy. His birthday will be more fun, but he had a blast anyway! I got a new DSLR Camera for Christmas which was pretty exciting. I am fairly certain I've taken over 4,000 pictures in the last week and a half. Reyah got a new frisbee which has been great for photo practice! We had fun visiting people in the church later that day, and took several some homemade Baklava which I really enjoyed making. That evening we went to some dear friends house, the Shero's, for some great food, fellowship, and games. It was a great day.

Christmas came again on Sunday! We served breakfast refreshments at the back of the auditorium on Christmas morning and it was my favorite Sunday ever at the church! Lots of visitors, all obviously excited by the hospitality, and a wonderful time of worship made for a great morning.

We headed to Geoff's parents house immediately after service and had a great time seeing everyone for a couple days. Geoff's grandma and uncle even came down for a bit, and of course we got a family photo (Geoff's dad not in this one though). Geoff has quite a few siblings, so we (thankfully) draw names at Christmas for gifts, and Geoff's dad drew my name which I thought was pretty fun. I got a great camera case!
One of the best things we got to do was to go look at the horses that the children's home has. They. Are. Gorgeous. I could have stayed there all week, just staring at them. Reyah was very curious about these gentle giants and was equally intimidated! She would approach with a wagging tale, and a pitiful whimper that I'm sure would have translated, "Please let me sniff you, but please, please don't step on me!"

We really enjoyed our time with family, making graham cracker gingerbread houses, playing games, and of course enjoying Geoff's sisters kids. Ruby is just so much fun, and way too smart for her own good (seems to run in the family), and I loved being with her over the weekend. My only nephew, Stephen, is pretty wonderful too...his smile just completely melts my heart.

We headed back to Early late Monday night, caught up with stuff there, and left Wednesday night after service for Pittenger Christmas in Belton.
My dad, of course, went all out on decorating in the yard, and my mom went all out on the inside of the house. It was so refreshing to spend time with them, and to enjoy all the festive Christmas activities. For our first gift of Christmas, matching pajamas made an appearance again this year!  We agreed not to post those pics on facebook...but this is not on facebook...this is my blog...so it's officially okay. :) That, and I have withheld the more embarrassing ones...these of the boys are just cute.

For sibling gifts this year, which my parents also participated in, we decided to give a donation to a charity of choice, and present it in a unique way. It was great to see how everyone gave such incredibly thoughtful gifts, so many of them so well suited for the passions of those the gift was in honor of.  For example, my sister and her husband donated to the March of Dimes in honor of my brother and his wife. That one brought tears to everyone as we watched their beautiful girls, once tiny and premature, run with joy and energy around the living room.
We had a lot of fun events, and my parents went overboard in the best of ways on creativity with their giving and made it a lot of fun for all of us. Instead of just a clothing gift card, we got ugly, ugly, shirts from good will....and then found the gift card under that. Very shocking till we figured out the method to the madness. When Geoff opened a VHS tape with Richard Simmons on the front we were REALLY getting concerned....but thankfully there was a movie gift card with that as well.
Don't even ask about the Spam, canned oysters, or sardines...eeeeeewwwwww. One of our last big events together was building gingerbread houses. We do that with Geoff's family but it was a first for mine, and Geoff and I had a lot of fun building a home together (insert romantic "awwwww"). :)

Reyah had a great Christmas too!
We had a fantastic week and I could write a book on every part of it but wanted to at least fill you in on some of the pieces. I was so thankful for every moment with family, and soaked it up more than I probably ever have before. For some reason this year, more than any other, the unique gift being able to experience joy and love at this time of the year was overwhelming to me. I feel so blessed and thankful to have been surrounded by such love. I know there are people on earth who may not find so much love or encouragement in their entire lives as we did in one week. I am so thankful for our families, and friends.

Now I must go, I have a date with the gym. We haven't seen each other since after the half marathon. I've been cheating on it with lots of yummy holiday foods! I have a feeling payback is coming...