Friday, June 29, 2012

Heaven in a Bowl of Jello

Photo credit
Ever wonder what heaven will be like?

There seems to be a vast array of opinions out there.   Even with what we are told of heaven in Scripture, it is hard to imagine with our finite minds what it actually is going to be like.  Was John literal when he said that the streets were paved in gold, or did it just look like that?  What about this mansion thing?  Will it be streets of castles, or will it look remarkably similar to Whittington Creek subdivision?  What will heaven really be like?

I wanted a horse when I was a little girl more than I wanted anything.  I even had a little booklet I put together when I was 7 with pages outlining what all a horse needed and how much it all cost and what I could do to raise money so I could have one (because even at that age I was extremely type-A and had to plan out everything).  I remember my parents telling me that maybe God would give me a horse in heaven.  I think they were trying to gently urge me to give up my dream of owning a horse in this lifetime, because they knew it wouldn't happen.  Heaven at that point seemed like it was a great big Santa's Land, where earthly dreams came true once you got there.

I remember sharing with a Sunday School teacher that maybe I would have a horse in heaven and she totally shot me down and said absolutely not, that there are no horses in heaven, it's just Jesus and us singing to him.  (Side note:  What is it about little old Baptist ladies that makes them such killjoys?)  Anyways, I remember when she told me that how I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach.  Was God not good?  Was He so about rules and decorum that He would deny me my dream?  I told the incident to my mom, who told me that of course there are animals in heaven.  She told me where it says that Jesus will come back to get us and He will be riding a white horse, and then she said if He didn't give me one of my own, maybe He would let me help take care of His.  Immediately, my heart was encouraged and my spirits lifted.  There would at least be one horse in heaven, and I had every confidence that God would recognize my desire and fulfill it, one way or the other.

I used to get sick a lot as a kid.  As in, I had scarlet fever no less than 7 times before first grade.  Every time I got sick my mom would make me cherry jello.  She always would make it in this white dish that she had, and she would let me check to see if it was ready.  There were fewer things as a child that gave me more joy than poking the jello and watching it bounce right back up again.  I loved that feeling! (Perhaps that speaks to the fact that I grew up in a small town and there wasn't much going on, considering jamming my finger in jello was one of the highlights of my childhood?).

Every time I would test that jello with my finger I would wonder what it would be like to have a trampoline made of jello.  How cool would that be?  You could bounce on it all you wanted, and then eat it!  I was smart enough to know that it wouldn't actually be possible to have a trampoline made of jello, so I added it to my "maybe in heaven I'll have one" list.  To be fair, it was the only thing on my list.  I loved the idea of some day seeing the impossible made possible in a place where all will be as it should be.

I shared my jello trampoline story with a friend in college who immediately scoffed at my idea and berated me for being so spiritually immature as to actually think that's what heaven was for.  Of course, by that point, I didn't really expect to die and see a crew of angels in hardhats installing my jello trampoline out behind my mansion.  But I defended my idea; not because I thought it plausible, but because, my goodness, if you can't dream of having a jello trampoline in heaven, where can you?  I don't believe that Jesus is a fairy godmother who exists to wave his wand around and give us fancy dresses and glass slippers.  But even at that point in life I had found out that my faith in God required a certain bit of audacity of faith.  And what I mean by that is that sometimes, you have to throw the wildest, craziest hopes at Jesus--you believe in that jello trampoline; you believe in pregnancy even after years of fruitless trying; you believe in healing even when doctors tell you that the person you love is going to die, and soon; you believe that Jesus is abundantly and outlandishly good, even when life is throwing crap at you from every angle.

There is something to be said for reality and practicality.  They have places in our lives.  But so do jello trampolines, and dreams of riding on a horse in heaven, given to you by the lover of your soul.  The skeptics may laugh.  But they'll still get invited over to my jello trampoline party.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In the Good Ole Summertime

I absolutely love summer.  Do you have a favorite season?  I have found that everyone has their favorite and will defend that season with a passion usually only seen when discussing political topics or SEC football.

Summer is my favorite for several reasons.  I abhor cold (and by cold, I mean 75 degrees;  I would not fare well as a missionary to the Eskimos).  I also have a love/hate relationship with shoes.  What I mean by that is that I love a cute pair of shoes, but I hate having to wear them.  If I had my way I'd go barefoot all the time except when in parking lots and public bathrooms.  Lastly, some of my best memories are attached to summer.  Swimming in the lake.  Going to camp.  Chasing lightning bugs at my Grandma;s with my cousins (I was in fourth grade when I first heard that lightning bugs were actually called fireflies, and I will be honest and tell you I really didn't know how to process it).

Even as an adult, I love the things that summer offers.  Sitting outside on the porch and enjoying the sunshine.  Getting tan (my skin right now is still white as skim milk; I need to remedy that).   Fresh produce (I really could live off of fruit and nothing else.  Ok, maybe peanut butter, too).  Going out for ice cream (somehow I must think that the extra sweating I do in the summer burns calories because I never feel bad in the summer about devouring a large Chick-fil-a milkshake).  Daylight that lasts and lasts.  The drive-in.

I love going to the drive-in.  Dave and I have been twice so far this summer.  I love movies and would watch them anywhere, but there is something so fun about being at the drive in.  Maybe cause you're in your own car and not in a stuffy movie theater and you can talk if you want and not irritate anyone.  Plus, the food is way better and so much cheaper.  And, instead of fishing out my largest purse from the back of my closet in order to smuggle in a couple of cans of Dr. Pepper like I do when we go to the regular theater, at the drive in we just fill out cooler, pack a bag of snacks, and we don't have to worry about sneaking it past the gate attendant.  We used to bring lawn chairs but now just take the backseat out of the jeep and sit atop a big plush comforter and all the pillows we own.  It's a sweet set up I must say. 

Here's to some more summer days.  It's almost July already!  How time flies when you're having fun!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Have you heard of this?

 I read a number of money saving/couponing blogs, and frequently hear of deal a day online sites (plum district, zulily, rue la la, etc.)  I came across one about a month ago called One Kings Lane.  It was free to sign up and when you did you got a $15 credit to your account.  They sale all sorts of really cool home furnishings, cookware, dishes, rugs...all that jazz. Products are available for only a certain amount of time and there are limited quantities, so if you want something you better snag it fast!  And the prices are really good!  We burnt out the motor on our blender a few weeks back and were looking for a new one.  At the time I signed up, One Kings Lane had a nice Waring Pro one for $42, making it only $26 with the $15 credit (which is a great deal!)  They send you daily emails about the new products they have available.  We aren't at a place where we can buy new home stuff other than what is needed (like our blender), but I definitely will keep up with this site for the future.

If you are looking for some fun home furnishings or gifts, or just want to browse a fun site, go to their website and sign up! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Piece of the Puzzle

 Ever get put in a situation where you suddenly realize you're not the same person that you used to be?  It seems to be happening to me a lot lately.

One such example happened last night.  My church doesn't do a traditional VBS for our own kids, but instead we bus kids from low income neighborhoods to our church and do a VBS for them.  I signed up to help and noticed throughout the night that my involvement looked a whole lot different than it would have a few years ago.  I had a great time and enjoyed working with the kids (I was with the 3-5 year olds so I got lots of little kid love all night!), but I felt almost awkward because I was interacting and approaching things so differently I used to.

Several times over the past couple of months I had this almost startling reaction to situations where I realize how differently they fit me now.  I know that I've changed a lot over the past two years.  I went through some pretty difficult situations and came out of them so altered, but in the best way.  I'm quieter now than I used to be.  I tend to hang back more and not throw myself into situations with the brashness that I did before.  I think a lot of the changes have come about because I'm more at peace--with Christ, with life, with myself.  I think before this big life altering event that happened two years ago, I was loud and crazy and constantly (subconsciously) seeking out people who I thought needed me as a way of compensating for some deep rooted need inside of me.  I constantly thought I had to prove myself and my worth to everyone. I don't feel that way anymore.  And for whatever reason, I'm so much more reserved and less forceful because of it.  And while that is good, it's making it weird for me to find my place in ministry.

I still love kids and students, but I feel so out of place everywhere I go.  I suppose it doesn't really matter where I serve so long as I am serving, but at the same time I know that God equipped me with specific things for specific purposes.  And I have no idea where He wants me right now.  I would love to lead a small group again and am thinking about being a group leader for middle school girls this upcoming year.  Part of me is leery though because I wonder and worry if being a small group leader will feel so different as so many things have this past year that I don't enjoy it.  Of course, serving isn't to satisfy me, but if it's taxing and draining it leads me to believe it's not the place I should be.  I keep praying for wisdom and discernment; I think in my head that I should be serving in a place that seems familiar; but I'm so different now it begs the question of, "Is this still the place for me?"  I can't find my place in this body of Christ anymore!  It's as though I have gone from being a finger to being a kidney or a capillary.  And I don't know what to do with myself.  Combined with all of this is the fact that my health is still so precarious.  I had a long day yesterday because I volunteered for 3 hours after my work day and can I just tell you how much it has affected me physically today?  Am I a 65 year old woman?  Sometimes, it feels like I am.  May God grant me wisdom and patience to wait for it--I long to serve but don't know my place!  What's a girl to do in a situation like this?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On my heart lately

This song and its message has been resonating in my heart the past couple of months:

The farther along I go in life the more God develops and grows certain things within me.  Over the past few months He has been making my heart especially sensitive to the poor, the orphan, the sick, and the elderly.  

Jesus said they would know us by our love.  Does the world know me by mine?  It's easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we care more than we actually do.  We have been bred in American culture to love being comfortable.  And often, the poor and sick and hurting make us uncomfortable.  I have a Biblical command by my Savior to take care of widows and orphans--people who cannot take care of themselves.  And the version of the Bible I am reading doesn't seem to indicate that Jesus cares if they are employed, or if they drink, or if they smell.  He just says to do it.  I need to be obedient to my Father and mimic his heart. 

 This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. 
 (1 John 3:17-18)

Most days I want to run out and scoop up unwanted babies from all over and take them home with me.  More and more He keeps making my heart tender to vulnerable groups of people.  I pray He continues giving me His eyes for the hurting and entrusting me with the resources to help those in need.  People die every day from lack of clean water.  I eat out while a child goes hungry.  It startles me how much my daily life and that of fellow believers around me speaks of our unconcern for people who go without while we have plenty.  May it not be so.  I am rich in so many things.  I pray that God would make me a generous giver, and that I would be faithful to His commands and callings.  Provide the means Lord, and may my house and my family ever serve those in need!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review

I have been devouring books since I was a small child and am always looking for recommendations from people.  So, for the two or so people who read this blog (including my husband who stops by every now and then--hi honey!), I thought I would make mention occasionally of books I have enjoyed.

I started reading Beverly Lewis when I was in middle school.  Young adult fiction wasn't the booming genre that it is today when I was growing up so it was hard finding stuff to read once I grew out of little girl books.  I loved Christian fiction and one of the series I found was Beverly Lewis' Summerhill Secrets series for tween readers.  Beverly Lewis writes Christian fiction about Amish people.  Sounds dull, huh?  They are so good though!  She's not Amish herself but grew up in Lancaster County and has done extensive research on the Amish people.  A lot of people don't realize that most Amish aren't Evangelical Christians; many Amish order people are not allowed to study Scripture on their own and it is considered a huge sin to claim salvation (they see it as pride).  All of her books center on an Amish character and some sort of struggle.  This particular series--"Annie's People"--was a great read.  There are three books in the series and I think what I enjoyed most was that there was a mystery part to this series (there's always a dose of romance in them but the added mystery element and figuring out things as it went along was really intriguing).  The romance in these books isn't sappy and fake; everything doesn't just start out crummy but turn out well in the end with the protagonist coming to know Jesus and getting married within the final pages (don't so many cheesy Christian romance books end like that?)  There are several lead characters in this series, each dealing with a pretty weighty issue--a lot of people eager for healing from their past and some heavy burdens they've carried for years.  I would recommend any of Beverly Lewis' work but this series in particular was really great.  You can read more about Beverly Lewis and her works on her website.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

how not being preggers makes you invisible

Ever feel like you don't fit in?

A few years ago, I worked full time as a nanny to an adorable little guy named Jack.  Jack was four months old when I first started working for his family and we went everywhere together; reading time at the library, Kindermusik, Little Gym.  Sometimes his mom or dad (or both) took him, sometimes I did, depending on their work schedule.  I remember several times when I would be chatting with another mom and somehow in the conversation it would come out that I was Jack's nanny, and not his mom.  I kid you not, there were more than a couple of distinct occasions where as soon as I was discovered not to be his flesh and blood mom, the lady or ladies I was speaking to would turn away from me and act as though I didn't exist.  Evidently to them being a nanny was tantamount to being a leper or a convicted felon. 

Mommy status is very highly coveted and cherished from what I can gather.  At this stage in life, I have more friends who are moms than I do those who aren't.  I am finding that there is nothing that separates groups of women like motherhood.  I remember times in my singleness when awkwardness would arise and lines were drawn so to speak between girls who had boyfriends or were engaged, and those who weren't.  Distance gets further between marrieds and non-marrieds.  But nothing makes me feel more awkward and out of place than being around a group of moms. 

Now, don't get me wrong.  I have a lot of friends who are moms who still treat me the same; women I still go to lunch with and talk to the same as always.  There are others though who look at me as though I have sprouted a third arm just because I don't have children and am not pregnant.  They are moms and are therefore cool; and my lack of a pregnant belly makes me uncool.  Maybe I'm oversensitive to it and imagine more is there than what really is, but it feels as though some even treat me with--dare I say it??--disdain.  I am unworthy of their notice because I am not cool enough to be in their club. 

Last night I went to a women's Bible study at church.  I arrived alone and wasn't sure if I would know anyone else who would be there so as the room began filling up and friends found each other I was still sitting by myself.  A group of moms I know came in and I waved and said hi.  I got no response.  They sat a few chairs down from me but never once said hello.  It was as if I wasn't even there. I could have moved over to them and said hello, but honestly I felt like it would have been even more awkward to try to make conversation with people who obviously didn't want to talk to me than it would have been to continue sitting there alone.  So yes, I continued to act like I was 8 and expect friends to come to me.  Luckily, someone I do know who hasn't crossed over to the mom club showed up and sat with me.  Yay for friends :)

If this were an isolated event it wouldn't be a big deal.  And maybe it had more to do with my acquaintance like status with these women and not the fact that they are moms.  But more and more frequently I am getting snubbed by moms I know.  It's like they think I have nothing in common with them because I don't have a baby.  And they would be right.  I have nannied and cared for loads of kids but have never given life to one.  I don't know what morning sickness is like and I don't know how having a baby changes your body or your day or your marriage.  Some of them seem to get their status and sense of worth from their mom status.  And I don't know why that excludes me from their life, but for whatever reason, it does.  All my friends who are moms get together with their other friends who are moms and they don't seem to ever think to include me.  And as vulnerable and even silly it makes me feel to even say this, it really hurts.  I think what makes it even worse is that I so badly want to be a mom.  I have baby fever in the worst way.  I browse Craigslist for baby furniture that I am not buying yet.  We have names picked out.  So much of the ebb and flow between my Savior and I lately is about relinquishing to Him my desire for children and all the fears tied to it.  It's just not time yet.  And it's hard to watch everyone around you get pregnant and enter into that stage--and yes, that clique--of motherhood. 

Some are better than others at not treating you different.  Most are devoured by the mom group and leave you hanging on the peripheral, in that awkward place of being married yet without children.  Who knew it could be such a lonely place friendship wise?  Do you ever feel left out because you haven't obtained that next life stage yet?  Dave and I have tried so hard in our marriage to not just have couple friends and do couple things--we intentionally seek out our single friends because they are still important to us, and we're not going to stop hanging out with people just because we are married.  We intend on doing the same once we have kids.  In no way do I want to snub a friend of mine who doesn't have kids, or who isn't married, or anything else.  I think it's one reason why MOPS and mom groups kindof make me leery.  Why can't I just be friends with women and not women of a certain life stage?  I want people in my life who are fun and encouraging--whether they are 24 and single, 45 with kids, or 60 year old empty-nesters.  Why are we (especially the church) shoving people into life stage boxes?  One the one hand I get it because there is something great about living life with people who are going through the same life experiences as you.  But there is something to be said about excluding people from each other because of a lack of marriage or a lack of children.  Dave and I were glancing over our church bulletin the other day and noticed how all but a handful of the adult community groups at our church are defined by how old your children are.  So what if a couple is infertile and doesn't have kids?  Do they get pushed out?  Maybe they don't get an official boot letter from the church saying they can't come anymore, but you better believe they are affected by the way we do things. 

And the older I get --and the more mom snubbed I get--the more it bothers me.  Thoughts?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Spin a good yarn

I have always loved making gifts for people; it combines my love for craftiness and my love for giving gifts.  Being on the tight next to nothing budget that we are on, I don't give gifts as much as I would like simply because we don't have the money.  For my friend Sarah, though, I had to get her something!  She is one of my besties and her birthday is coming up at the end of this month so I had to think of something I could make for her.  Sarah is a huge Auburn fan--War Eagle!--so when I saw this idea on Pinterest I knew I had to whip up something similar for her. Enter, the Auburn Yarn Wreath:

Step One:  Wrap yarn around wreath frame.  I wanted navy yarn, but as I was on a budget and was shopping at the Dollar Tree, and all they had was this color blue, that's what I went with.  Some of the tutorials I read before doing this said it took people 4+ hours to wrap their wreath, to which I say either they were using their feet instead of their fingers, or their frame was the diameter of a small planet, because wrapping mine took me about one and a half episodes of "Two and a Half Men".  

The finished project.

Next step was turning 4 pieces of felt (one of the cheapest wonders ever sold at a craft store) into flowers.  I used the tutorial here  and it was oh so easy.

Who knew you could get a cute little rose out of a rectangle of felt?

Next I took my handy hot glue gun and glued the flowers on.  Easy peesy!

Ta-Da!  Hope she likes it!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Currently Loving

This adorable print, which sums up my marriage in a nutshell :)

I have gotten into the habit of line-drying most of our clothes to help prolong their life.  We have a clothesline out on our back porch but it tends to get really cruddy with the rain, etc. and I didn't want to hang things out there.  I took to throwing most things over the shower but then that got to be a pain whenever one of us needed to shower and we scrounged for a place to put all the still wet clothes.  Enter this handy little gem. 
A friend got me a Target gift card for my birthday and nerd that I am, I chose to buy this little guy.  So handy!  I can hang 24 hangers from the top and then the drying rack at the bottom is handy for things that need to dry flat, or for things you can just fling over the little wires and not bother to hang :).  Two thumbs up for this little ditty!

The hubs and I are really into personal health and fitness, and I thought this story was interesting.  This guy is a personal trainer who gained weight on purpose so that he could get a better understanding of his clients and what they go through.  He lost the weight as well.  It's interesting the mental and emotional changes he went through, and not just the physical.  Health affects quality of life!  That seems like a no-brainer but there are so many people who just don't get it!

Well this goes against personal health, but these yummy little guys are scrumptious!  Super easy to whip up and the lemon center makes them perfect for a summer treat. 

This website is freakin' hilarious! (although, be warned, some of these clips are not PG rated!).  I forget how I even stumbled across this site, but it provides good comic relief if you need some!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Birds of a Feather

Here are some pics from one of the little guys from nest #2.  We are getting a bit concerned about the nest in the Raisin Bran box because we haven't seen mom in a few days, and there is an egg inside.  We hope nothing happened to her! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

If You Looked

If you looked in my bedroom, you'd view an unmade bed with most of the blankets on my side.  Dave is nearly always warm.  I'm normally cold.  I also sleep on the side that has the air vent which blows ice cold air out, thus making the extra blankets necessary.  You would think that we would switch sides but the nightstand is on my side and besides being the alarm clock setter, I am also shamelessly addicted to chapstick which is kept there, plus there's a little fan on the nightstand I point at my face if I get too hot.  Didn't I just say that I am normally cold and have an abundance of extra covers?  Why yes, I did.  But in the rare event I get warm, I need my little fan.  Thus, switching sides cannot be done.

If you looked in my kitchen, you would find too many things for so small a space.  We tell people our house is meant for dwarves (not seven of them though, as they would not all fit).  We have appliances stored on the floor, extra canned food stacked in plastic crates, cookie cutters and cake platters stuffed in the space above our three (count 'em, three!) cabinets, and a vast array of supplements and vitamins taking over our 2 feet x 2 feet slither of counter space.  It drives me nuts that it's so tiny because there isn't room to put anything.  It's also the room you first walk into and seeing clutter when I first get home makes me break out in hives. 

If you look out our back door, you'd see that we have become a bird sanctuary this spring.  We had a mama bird build a next earlier this spring under the eave just to the right of the door.  We enjoyed watching the baby birds hatch and grow up.  Not 2 days after they had all flown away we noticed a 2nd nest being built under the eave on the left side.  Three more baby birds were born.  We actually got to watch one as it flew from the next for the very first time, which was sweet to see.  Those birds hadn't been gone 36 hours when yet another mama built a new nest under the right eave, on the same ledge as the first one (we had knocked that one down after all the birds vacated cause it looked kinda gross).  Mama bird is still there sitting on her eggs.  She flies off each time we open the door.  Then yesterday evening I opened the door to put something in the recycling which we keep in bins and baskets right outside the door.  Mama bird flew off when she saw me but I was startled by a 2nd bird flying away and that's when I noticed that nest #4 was being constructed in a raisin bran box stashed in our recycling.  I've had nests built on my porch before, but 4 in one season?  Evidently word spread around the bird community that we are not hungry giants who like to eat bird eggs.  The one in the raisin bran box was definitely a shocker.  Guess I won't be taking the recycling off for a few weeks...

If you looked in my purse, you'd probably wonder if it was a purse or a backpack ready for a 3 week trek around Europe.  It's interesting that the bigger my bag, the more "essential" stuff I can find to fill it.

If you looked in my gym bag, you'd find a stash of hand towels wrapped together with an elastic headband.  I used to just throw enough in there for the week but then when I got home I would forget which was clean and which was covered in my dried sweat, so to prevent re-using a sweat crusted towel, I learned to wrap the clean ones together in the same stack and let the dirty one be the floater.  You'd also find in my gym bag my hair straightener and hairspray though really for me, fixing my hair these days consists of brushing out most of the tangles and finding my part.  That's about it.  I'm in a rush to get out of the gym most mornings so taking the time to actually do something with my boring hair isn't high on the priority list.  Good thing I'm married and have snagged my man already :)