Saturday, December 29, 2012

Making Life Change Stick

The New Year is quickly approaching and with that comes New Year’s resolutions, ugh! What is it about New Year’s resolutions that make them so hard to keep?  Why is it so hard to commit to a resolution that you know will make you a better person?  

Whether you want to lose 30 pounds, finally pay off your credit card debt, stop smoking, spend more time with the family, read the Bible in a year, or truly give your life to Christ; these aren’t just resolutions, each of these tasks will require a certain degree of life change.  But life change can be difficult and many people will fail at it.  Why? Why is it so hard?   What makes changing your habits, patterns and life style so difficult?  And if failing is inevitable why even try?  But try we do, so if we’re gonna try, how do we make it work?  How can you make life change stick?

Are you ready for the answer?  Are you ready for the 10 steps it will take for you to change your life forever? Say good bye to your old sinful selfish life and start new, lose the weight, pay off debt, say good bye to cigarettes forever, and open your heart and mind fully to God.  These steps are going to change your life forever!  Are you ready?  Let’s get started…

I think you know… I don’t have the answers for you.  There are no steps.  Life change isn’t easy, it CAN’T be easy, it isn’t supposed to be easy.  God never intended for it to be easy.  He told us in Mark 8:34 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” That’s a difficult challenge.  You have to DENY yourself.  This goes against what we innately want to do.  We need to cease to make ourselves the object of our own life and actions.  Deny ourselves the rewards and privileges we feel we deserve and follow Him.  That is not easy and not everyone can do it.  God tells us “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14).  Why?  Why is it so hard to live the life we want to live?

There are several reasons.  For one, our current culture tells us it’s OK, the life we have, we don’t need to change.  It’s OK to overeat, overindulge, over spend your budget.  It’s OK to spend all your down time in front of the TV, we all need to relax don’t we?  It’s OK to engage in sex outside of marriage, it’s OK to have a “me first” attitude because if you don’t look out for yourself who will?  Our current culture tears down contentment and it pushes us to want, grab and get more.  

But in your heart of hearts don’t you know better?  Don’t you know that all those things aren’t really satisfying?  Haven’t you felt it for awhile now?  And that’s why you make the resolution, the goal to change your life.  You want to live differently.  You want “more” out of life and you know you will get “more” by wanting “less”.  So you try to change your life.  And you make a goal.  But nothing changes, you don’t change, life doesn’t change, why?

I have this friend named Paul, you may have heard of him, he was an apostle, one of the greatest Christians (I think) to live since Christ walked this earth.  He’s the author of at least 7 of the New Testament books, and he puts it this way, in Romans 7  he says “ 14For we know that the Law (he’s talking about God’s law) is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

How many of us can identify with Paul here?  We know what we NEED to do, what we are SUPPOSED to do, but DOING it is so much harder and we find ourselves doing the very thing we are trying to avoid.  (overeating, being lazy,  not exercising, living life on credit cards, watching TV instead of reading the Bible, avoiding family time, focusing our mind on fantasy instead of the reality of life and the reality of Christ).  If a Christians as strong as Paul struggled with this, what are we to do?  How can we get away from this and is it even worth trying?

The answer is yes, it’s worth trying, you have to try.  God call us to try to live our lives differently.  He calls us to live our lives not for ourselves and our earthly desires but for Him and for eternal glory.  Whatever life change you are thinking about entering into, continually battling with, or forever failing, you need to know that God isn’t finished with you yet.  Whether you are 2, 12, 20 or 60 God isn’t finished with you yet and you still have a lot of growing to do.  It is God’s plan for us to continue growing to look more and more like his son.  Don’t give up.  God knows what the finished project is going to look like.  He already knows what we are going to conquer and what we will always struggle with.  All we can do is keep on trying.  Learning, growing, changing is hard, but God wants us to try.  Because every once in a while, we get it right, and we become, stronger, smarter, kinder, more like Christ.

So how do we do it? How do we get it right?  How do we change?  How do we make a resolution or a life change stick?  Well there are some practical tips that many experts: psychologists, counselors, life coaches all generally agree are helpful.  Things like 

  1. Chose something you really believe in:  If you aren’t emotionally invested in it you will rarely accomplish it.  Ask yourself whether you really want to change a habit or behavior pattern, or whether you feel obligated to do so. If your heart isn't in it, you won’t be successful. 
  2. Set realistic goals and write them down.  That last part is really important.  It makes it so much more concrete when it is written down on a piece of paper or in a journal that you can come back to.  And aim for gradual change. You are more likely to follow through on something that blends naturally into your current life. Don’t go out and say you are going to quit drinking caffeine and start cold turkey. I’ve tried it, it doesn’t work.  Instead, break it down into smaller steps.  
  3. Make your goals measurable. It is not enough to say “I’m going to spend more time with my family.”  Make it measurable “We will have 1 family night a month consisting of dinner, games, prayer.” Or “we will eat 1 meal together per week, no phone calls and no TV”.  Having a measurable goal will allow you to know when you have accomplished your goal and can make it easier to break that goal down into steps. 
  4. Don't expect perfection in your behavioral changes - but don't allow yourself too much leeway, either. If you expect perfection, you'll tend to give up after the first time you deviate from your plan. If you allow yourself too much leeway, you'll find yourself gradually reverting back to old habits.  If you set out to read the entire Bible in a year and you fallen off track by February don’t give up.  I’m guessing the real motivation behind your goal was to more fully understand God’s word so maybe you settle for studying 1 Book a month in detail.  Instead of the entire thing in a year.  Recognize and remember the motivation behind the goal.

While these are all concrete and practical advice I would be greatly impressed and a little surprised if they were enough to bring about significant life change.  I don’t think we as humans are strong enough to do it on our own and I believe that if we want to make a difference in our life.  If we want to change what we do and how we do it we can only do it with God’s help.  

If I wrote my own steps to “Meeting your New Year Resolutions” step one would be “Take it to God.”  Talk to God about the change you want to make in your life and turn it over to Him.  Let Him be the influence in your life to make the changes you know you need to make. Life involves a series of choices that you are in charge of making.  But when those choice get too hard for you, God can help.   He is right here and he is willing to help you make good choices.  He asks us to lay all our burdens and cares upon Him and to seek His wisdom in our lives.  When you are entering into a time of life change, you may often find yourself overwhelmed with “choices” you have to make every minute of the day.  Moment by moment you must to decide if you are going to follow your new goal and desire in life or are you going to go back to your old ways.  And when that decision gets to difficult for you to make I suggest you ask God to help you make it.  There are 4 things you can specifically ask Him for…

  1. Ask Him to show you what resources you have.  What or who has He put in your life to help you overcome this battle right here and right now?  He doesn’t intend for you to change all by yourself.  He has given you all the resources you need.
  2. Ask Him what your alternatives are right now in your given situation.  You could eat the cake, be full, feel guilty.  Or you could not eat the cake, be hungry, a little grouchy, but tomorrow feel stronger.  You could watch TV or read the Bible.  You could smoke the cigarette, spend the money, say the angry words, sit on the couch… or you could not.
  3. Ask God to guide you to the best option and to show you WHY you should chose that option.
  4. Ask God to show you what to do next.  What is the next step in your life change.

These can seem like a lot of steps to take each and every time you need to make a choice.  And I’m not saying you have to do this for every choice you make.  My point is God wants to be a part of that choice, he wants the chance to win out over the sin.  He want to be victorious and He wants you to be victiorious.  God tells us that “all things are possible through Christ who strengthens me.”

There are no magic steps to life change.  There are times you will fail and there are times you will succeed.  And through it all God is with you.  Waiting to give you the help you need to make significant life changes.  Turning to Him in times of weakness may just be the step you’ve been missing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Who's on First?

There are a lot of names in our house, perhaps too many.  There is Tami, also known as "T", mom, momma, or mommy.  There is Erik, dad, daddy, honey or hon and on rare occasions Erik Jason.  There is Isabella, Bella, Bell, sweet pea, or sweetie.  There is Nate, Nathaniel Erik Jason when he is in trouble, Bud or Buddy when he's not.  And of course JT, James Terrell Lundgren, or more often then not, Na-JT, when I've forgotten who I am yelling at!  But we can't forget the animals.  There is Hank, who is also affectionately called "the old man" or puppy dog (I know could his nick names be more different?), and Hercules the cat, he is also called mouser, you can probably guess why!

And just in case that wasn't confusing enough it got even more difficult last night!.  Earlier this fall my oldest two kids learned a song in church that listed all the books of the Bible.  So they have taken it upon themselves to teach this song or really just the books of the Bible to their dad!  With no prompting from me (I swear!) each night at dinner they quiz Erik on how many he knows.  I am proud to report that he has learned them all up to Daniel.  JT, age 5, knows pretty much the Old Testament and the New Testament until Philippians.  Isabella and Nate pretty much know them all except for maybe one or two.  I am very proud!

Well, as we were going over these at dinner last night, it was pointed out that the New Testament names were a lot easier to say than the Old Testament names.  We know people named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  But who has ever heard of someone called Deuteronomy, or Leviticus, or Haggai?  Why don't people name use any of those names when naming their kids? (Remember this is coming from a 5, 8, and 10 year old mind set!)

So the Lundgren's decided to rename themselves after a book of the bible.  JT immediately chose Deuteronomy (it's his favorite).  Isabella thought she should be Genesis because she is the first!  I decided I would be Esther, after all, she was a queen (are you really surprised?).  The kids pointed out that Erik should then be 1 Kings, naturally.  And Nate jumped in that he would then have to be 2 Kings.  So for the rest of the night each person was referred to as the respective "Bible" names.  Perhaps you had to be there, but it did create a lot of laughs, and some significant confusion, and we were entertained for the rest of the night.

So I gotta ask, what book of the Bible would you be?

Thursday, December 27, 2012


The hustle and bustle is over.  

Christmas has come and gone.  

As we struggle to put the house back in order, find new spots for all our treasures, and somehow fit into the pants that weren't tight a month ago, our feelings can be mixed.  

Some are sad to see the time go so fast.  Some are relieved that the endless lists are done.  Others find themselves disappointed in the whole thing.  The gift they wanted so bad wasn't under the tree.  The time with family was more stressful than fun.  The loneliness of the season was worse this year than in years past.  Whatever the case may, wherever you find your emotions it's important to remember what christmas is supposed to be about.  

It's not about the gifts under the tree.  I know, try telling that to an 8 year old (or me for that matter!).  And It's not a surprise that there can be tension with a houseful of people all with different expectations, desires and opinions.  But that's not what it's about either.  There was just as much sadness, relief and disappointment in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago and there will be next year as well.  

The point of Christmas, and every other day of the year is this... we are lost and without that baby born in a stable in the middle of sadness, dismay and disappointment, we will remain lost.  He is our hope, yesterday, today and forever.  He is our hope on Christmas day and every other day of the year.  The magic of Christmas doesn't mean that there won't be sadness, pain and disappointment, but that in spite of these things there is hope.  Hope for more than this, hope for a time and place where tears fall no more, harsh words are never spoken, and to-do lists don't exist.  That place isn't here, it isn't now, but it is coming and it is coming to those who look for it every day of the year, not just Christmas.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Light

"God rest ye merry Gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.  Remember Christ our Savior was born on upon this day, to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray."

As I sat at the table cutting out felt scarves for the snowman craft at the kids "holiday party" and making reindeer donuts for the snack.  I listened to my Christmas playlist.  Song after song reminding me that this isn't a season of snowmen or reindeer or holiday parties.  This is the season when Christ was born.

He was born in time of darkness, a time of oppression for God's chosen people.  A time when they wanted to know where God was and why he had been so silent for so long.  Nearly 400 hundred years passed between the last prophet from the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus.  400 years.  That's a long time.  They wanted, they needed someone to deliver them.   Just as we do today.  

Jesus wasn't welcomed into this world as a king should be with the sound of trumpets and celebration.  But in a dark and dirty place.  In a time of trouble.  From the very beginning people wanted to silence him.  Herod tried and he failed.  The Jewish leaders tried, they failed too.  Still today, people try to silence Jesus.  They try to hide him in a dark and dirty place but it doesn't work.  

That's why he came.  He came to save us from Satan's power.  He came to save us from the darkness he was very purposefully born into.  Darkness that he has defeated, he continues to defeat and he always will defeat.  He came as a baby in the darkness of night and sin to redeem us all.  This baby boy has the power to save us all.

Remember this Christmas exactly why it was that Jesus came, and rejoice.  Rejoice in the light that shines through the darkness.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

When Your Bubble Pop

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..."

I'm not a highly political person.  You are unlikely to discern any strong political opinion from reading any of my blogs, most likely because I don't really have them.  

The outcome of the last election didn't cause me to stock pile food or gnash my teeth.  In fact, I'm not a hundred percent convinced that the man (or woman) who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue really has any direct impact on my life at all.  I know LOTS of you disagree with me and I am OK with that, I hope you are too.

That being said, you cannot discount the state of our nation right now.  I do not blame it on any one individual, any political party, any law or lack of law.  The state of a nation, specifically THIS nation, the one built on freedom, is a direct result of the people living in it.  It is a result of what we  are willing to say yes to, what we are willing to say no to, and what we are willing to let slide because it's not up to us to say anything at all.  We as individuals each have a choice, every day and in every hour.  And those choices we make, they make our nation what it is.  

It might be pretty appealing right about now to put your family into a bubble and protect them from the world.  But I have to warn you, bubbles pop.  Every single one of them I have ever seen, has popped.  

Now don't get me wrong, I live in the middle of the bible belt.  Toto and Dorothy are right next door.  This is about as close to a bubble as you can get!   I have surrounded myself and my family with people who agree with our morals, values, and religious views.  Yes, my kids have friends that don't go to church every Sunday, as do I.  But those friends know where we stand and respect our views.  I feel safe where we live.  When I leave the house for the day it's pretty likely my front door is unlocked, my car usually is too.  I have had 2 things stolen from me in my life and both times the police called me to let me know about it.  Both items were returned to me completely undamaged.  My husband has had a steady job for the past 8 years, when many people faced lay offs and economic trials.  My children came home from school last Friday.  My bubble is intact.  But many aren't.  Bubbles all over the country popped last week.

What do you do when your bubble pops?  You walk through the valley of the shadow of death and you fear no evil.  

It is so much easier said then done, I know that.  But when we choose a bubble over the world we are telling God that we don't trust him, we don't think He is enough.  He's not enough to keep us safe and not enough to get us through when go wrong.   I don't know about you but I will not live in fear.  As a Christian, I may not be OF this world but I am certainly IN this world, and I will do what it takes to spread his light, even in the darkest corners.  Evil is out there, but so is Jesus.  And he is with us.  And each and every time one of us makes the choice to live for Jesus, like Jesus, in Jesus, this nation becomes a better place. 

It's OK if your bubble popped, they tend to do that.  Maybe that's why we were never called to live in one.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I want to turn off the news.  I don't want to watch.

It seems like it would be so much easier to ignore the fact that people's lives have been torn apart today.

I would rather stay in the Christmas spirit, happily writing out addresses on my Christmas cards.  But somewhere, not far enough away, lives were shattered today.  

I need to acknowledge that.  I need to let the tears fall even when I don't want to.  Because the moment when we choose to ignore it, we condone it.  When we sweep it under the rug because it is too painful to deal with, it's like saying it OK.  And ITS NOT OK!!  Its not OK to go into a school and shoot up innocent children!  


It's not OK to destroy an entire community in a single morning.  That community should be focused on the most beautiful time of the year right now, celebrating the birth of our savior, not planning 26 funerals (at least at last count).  


I don't what happened this morning, I have no words.  I can't make sense of it.  And I won't make a political statement about the state of our nation or anything else.  All I can say is that we can't ignore it.  We have to acknowledge it.  We have to grieve for those parents who lost a child and the families of all who perished.  And we have to lift them up in prayer because God DOES hear, he DOES care, and he WILL listen.  

Every single one of those children lost today are in the arms of their  heavenly father right now.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!  You will not convince me otherwise.  That doesn't make the pain of losing them any easier to bear, I know that.  But God is STILL in control! He REALLY is.  And he loves each and every one of those children with a love we cannot comprehend.  Rest in that.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Am I Even Growing

"Am I even growing mom?"  the words came out of my completely exasperated 5 year olds mouth.  He has been trying to catch up to his older sibling for, well, all his life.  And frankly, he doesn't feel like he's made much progress.  Every time he is FINALLY able to do something they have been doing for quite some time, something else comes along.  Something they can do, but he can't yet.  And he's frustrated, he feels like time is standing still and he's never going to catch up with them, he is never going to grow up as big as they are.  

The truth is, I can totally relate.  I had a similar conversation with God today.  "God, am I even growing?"  Yes I am a whole lot more book smart than I was 3 months ago.  I know things now I didn't even know I didn't know.  But have I grown?  Sometimes I'm not so sure. 

Erik and I had a doozy of a fight a couple of weeks ago, one of the biggest of our marriage.  So big, I even got flowers afterward (that's pretty remarkable!)  Needless to say I'm not proud of the way I handled myself.  I said things I shouldn't have.  And was slow to forgive.  I still lose my temper with my kids more than I (or they) would like.  Words come out of my mouth before I have a chance to stop them.  Wouldn't some of these stronghold in my life (anger, pride, uncontrolled mouth) start to go away if I was really growing?  

I told JT what I knew to be true.  Yes, he was growing!  He can now reach the sink all by himself, he no longer needs the step stool.  His clothes from last year no longer fit him, and we just had to buy him new shoes.  He didn't out grow them in a single day, but over time, without us evening noticing, he has grown.  

I have to trust that the same is true for me.  Yes I still make a lot of mistakes, I still have strongholds in my life and I am not the person I so desperately want to be, at least not yet.  But I am also not the person I used to be.  I have grown, not in one single day but over time. In the weeks, months and even years that have passed.  Yes, I am growing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why now?

1 class down...many, many more to go!  

I finished my very first graduate level seminary class this week.  50% of the class grade was do in the last 2 weeks so I still don't know how I did, but I feel pretty good about it.  I know I learned a ton!  It was challenging in ways I never expected it to be and a little more fun then I anticipated.  

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.  I'm still not exactly sure why God has called me to seminary.  And although I'm more confident now then I was 3 months ago that this is where I'm supposed to be, I'm still not sure why it had to be now.  I am only able to juggle one class at a time and juggle is absolutely the best word for it.

I have 3 young children, one of them not even in school yet.  He is around all the time, asking for my attention, wanting to play, needing me.  And I am busy, reading theology working on a paper or typing up notes.  There are times I feel like it is unfair to him, and to my other children.  I have been more stressed this semester than I have been in a long time.

I can remember a couple of years ago when my husband took a new job.  He was stressed. Big time.  I remember telling him that our family unit can only take so much stress and if he was going to carry all of it himself, then I couldn't do anything at all stressful, because it would exceed the amount of stress our family could take.  Needless to say I have carried my share of the stress and then some the past 3 months.  

So why now?  Why didn't God want me to wait a couple of years?  Why  not wait till the kids were all in school full time?  I don't know.  I don't pretend to understand God's timing.  There are certainly plenty of things in my life that he is telling me to wait on.  It seems like most things I think I am ready for God is telling me "no, not yet."  So why was this one a "yes, now"?  I don't know.  

I do know that God's timing is perfect.  I know that he has a plan and I know that he works for the good of those who love him.  And I do love him.  So I have to trust that in his infinite wisdom and his glorious plan it makes sense for me to be doing this, even now.  Juggling things beyond my capacity to juggle.  

Are you in the same boat?  Are there things God is telling you to do now, even though you think you are not ready?  Are there other things he is telling you "no, not yet" when it is all you want to do?  It's not for us to figure out, it's not for us to understand, it is only  for us to listen and obey.  That is what we are called to do.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Hot Chocolate War

This isn't my typical post, but here is a cute story I wrote for my kids school "winter" party last year.  Thought I would share...

The Hot Chocolate War

December, 2008, that was the year it all began.  December 16th, 2009 to be exact.  It’s hard to believe it was only 3 years ago, that dreaded day. Who knew that our lives would be changed forever?  You see it was exactly three years ago today that the Hot Chocolate War began.

It started out innocently enough.  There were only 9 days left until christmas, and everyone was drinking hot chocolate 24-7;  Santa, the elves, the reindeer, even the snowmen.  Everyone was in full christmas frenzy trying to get everything ready for the big day and they were ALL drinking the stuff like it was going out of style, who knew it really was?

It was the elves who noticed it first, probably because they are the ones who are in charge of distribution.  But the truth of the matter is a cup of hot chocolate will pass through a lot of hands before it reaches its ultimate destination.  There are of course the elves who are in charge of making it, getting it into containers and distributing it in a timely manner.  But I bet you didn’t know that Santa is in charge of tasting and sampling every batch of hot chocolate that is made.  And when Santa is too busy with all his other Santa stuff to do the taste testing, production can fall behind schedule.  The reindeer (when they’re not playing reindeer games) are the ones who are tasked with taking the hot chocolate from its distribution center to the manufacturer or the middleman.  That middleman is the snowmen.  Now snowmen, I’m sure you know, are notoriously good businessmen.  No one can wheel and deal like a snowman. The next time you run into a snowman, go ahead and try to negotiate with him.  It’s impossible!  They just stand there and act like they can’t hear you until you finally give them what they want. Oh well, what are you gonna do, they’re snowmen. But I digress, you want to know about the Hot Chocolate War.

So it was December 16, 2008.  Only 9 days until Christmas and Santa ordered an elf to bring him another cup of hot chocolate. So all the usually malay ensued, Santa’s helper elf got on the miniphone (it’s kind of like a megaphone, only elf-size) and hollered to the waiter elf to bring Santa a hot chocolate.  The waiter elf grabbed the nearest reindeer and hightailed it to the kitchen where the kitchen elf was busy haggling with a snowman.  The waiter elf ordered up a hot chocolate for Santa, and one for himself while he was at it, and one for his friend the reindeer who had brought him all the way to the kitchen.    And while the kitchen elf was fixing Santa, the waiter elf, and the reindeer a hot chocolate, he decided to fix one for himself, oh and the snowman, after all it was almost christmas.  And then he remembered that he had promised Rudolph (you know Rudolph, the most famous reindeer of all?) that he would bring him and his buddies some hot chocolate right before the snowman had arrived.  So the elf poured out 15 cups of hot chocolate in all.  And then it happened, never in all the years of Christmas’s had this happened before! 

The Hot Chocolate Reserve Meter (the HCRM for short) dropped to the dangerously low level!  Santa Claus was almost out of hot chocolate!!  This was a catastrophe!  Well, the kitchen elves immediately got on the phone with the elves in production and demanded to know what was going on!  The elves in production blamed it on the reindeer and said they were taking too long in transit to get the hot chocolate to the snowmen.  The reindeer said it was the snowmen’s fault, they were taking too long haggling about the transportation prices. The snowmen decided it was Santa’s fault, he drank more hot chocolate than all the snowmen combined!     
Meanwhile Santa was still screaming for his hot chocolate.  So the elves delivered the hot chocolate, and the bad news. 
“We are almost out sir!”
“Out of what?” Santa asked.
“Hot Chocolate, sir.  We are almost out of hot chocolate!”
“WHAT!!!” Santa exclaimed, an edge of panic in his voice. 

As soon as the news of a Hot Chocolate shortage spread, chaos ensued.  Every elf, reindeer and snowman at the north pole ordered up some hot chocolate, hoping to get some before it ran out!  Well that dropped the HCRM to the critically low level and now people really started to panic! 

The kitchen elves were near exhaustion and decided they weren’t going to make one more cup of hot chocolate.  At almost the exact same time the snowmen tripled their prices, thinking they could really cash in on the demand.  The reindeer stopped ALL their reindeer games and instead of transporting the hot chocolate they started hoarding it away!!  Santa was so busy trying to maintain control that he had no time to do all the taste testing and production came to a standstill!

No hot chocolate was going out and the last few batches that had been sent for shipment the reindeer stashed away.  Any hot chocolate the snowmen had left on their shelves now cost way too much, even for Santa to afford, and the hot chocolate that was left in the reserve the elves refused to make for anyone.  The Hot Chocolate War had begun.

As the days got closer to the Christmas, the tension mounted.  The elves started throwing all their extra marshmallows at the snowmen.  They certainly didn’t need them for hot chocolate anymore since they could no longer afford to pay the high prices.  The snowmen went around breaking all the peppermint sticks that the reindeer had used to stir their hot chocolate and the reindeer were calling all the elves inappropriate names. Santa was at a loss, he really couldn’t function without hot chocolate.  The North Pole was in chaos, not the typical HO-HO-HO christmas chaos; but the everyone-is-getting-themselves-on-the-naughty-list kind of chaos.  It really was a miracle that christmas happened at all that year what with all the marshmallow throwing and name calling that was going on and NO HOT CHOCOLATE  to speak of!!

It’s been 3 years now and the Hot Chocolate War is still going on.  Production is almost non existent, the elves make only enough for themselves.  When Santa demands they make more, the reindeer stash it away instead of transporting it like they are supposed to. And when Santa cracks the whip at them, the snowmen still charge an arm and a leg for the stuff.  The Hot Chocolate Reserve Meter has remained at the critically low level for 3 years.  Santa finally had to ration every one to only 1 cup of Hot Chocolate a day.  THAT”S IT!! ONLY ONE!!!  No one can survive long term on only one cup of hot chocolate a day!  So I have decided to do something about it!

You see, I am one of the elves from production and I have a plan.  But I needed some help so I called in Santa and Rudolph (he is the only reindeer I trust) and Frosty (he has ALL the snowmen under his thumb).  I have been working day and night for too long to count now and I have quite a stash of Hot Chocolate, I just need Santa to taste test it.  Then Rudolph and I are going to spend the whole night delivering the Hot Chocolate to every elf, reindeer and snowman at the North Pole.  When they all wake up in the morning they will have more Hot Chocolate then they know what to do with!  Frosty has promised the snowmen will lower their prices back to the 2008 range.  And with all the hot chocolate that has been made the HCRM should finally hit the almost full level.  The Hot Chocolate War will be over!  And I wouldn’t be surprise if no one even bothers putting it in the history books!

The End

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Children Grow Up, Right Before Your Eyes

Today I had the tear-jerking joy of watching my children grow up before my eyes.  You see, today I sat down to write our annual Christmas letter.  

It's one of the few things on my to-do list I truly adore doing.  (Yes I know I was supposed to give up to-do lists and focus more on relationships but this time of year that's just not gonna happen!) And so this morning I wrote out my list and started checking things off.  When I finally worked my way down to the Christmas letter I felt a smile deep down in my soul.  So I poured a cup of hot chocolate, put a movie on for JT and sat down at my computer fully expecting to enjoy the next hour.  And oh I did!

It is my own personal tradition to re-read each of our Christmas letters from the past years before I start on the current year.  I love this tradition.  Every year it makes me laugh and makes me cry as I watch my kids grow up right before my eyes.  And this year was no exception.  I once again wept when I read the letters from the year we lost my father-in-law and then my sister-in-law two short years later.  I laughed at the antics of my children reported each year.  My heart swelled with pride as I read year after year of how my husband has steadily provided for us, carefully balancing a demanding job while still putting family first.  It makes me smile as I realize how different and yet how similar each and every year is.  

Our house is still full of children and animals and chaos, I still breathe a sigh of relief (or exhaustion, I'm not sure which) once each child is tucked into bed at night.  But I am starting to see just how fast the time goes by.  My children are still young but they aren't as young as they used to be just a very short time ago.  As hard as it is to see them grow up I have loved watching the process.  Their questions and their conversations amaze me now and I love the people they are becoming.  But I do miss the little ones they used to be.  And each year when I re-read the Christmas letter I get to experience it all over again.  

One day the time will come when my house is quiet, too quiet.  The kids will leave, the cat and the dog will pass away, the chaos will cease.  I have tears in my eyes just thinking about that day.  I will sit at my computer, with my cup of hot chocolate and I will read about all the fun we had year after year.  And I will watch all over again, my children grow up right before my eyes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

SO Much to Be Thankful For

I remember driving around in the car with my college roommate.  I think maybe we were coming back from a class at one of the magnet schools because I can distinctly remember the road we were on and it wasn't our usual drive.  It was my sophomore year and this friend and I weren't particularly deep thinkers.  Most of our conversation consisted of what we were going to do that night, who we hoped to meet up with and what was on TV.  But on this occasion, out of the blue, she asked, "If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?"  

That was a deep question (at least for us), and it needed some clarifying.  Could I answer ANYTHING even if it wasn't actually possible or was I limited to what could be accomplished THAT day in Lawrence Kansas?  She opened the door wide open, "what is the one thing you want to accomplish before you die?"  Oh that's easy, "I would have a baby."  Not the typical answer for a soon to be college educated girl on a liberal campus.  But to me it was a no brainer.  It wasn't that I was just dying to be a mom.  I wasn't even seriously dating anyone at the time.  I had met the man I would some day marry, but we weren't "serious" yet.  To me having a child was a way to live forever so to speak, to pass on a legacy, maybe that sounds selfish, but at the age of 19 that's what I thought.

Having that child however didn't turn out be as easy as I thought it would be.  There were times early in our marriage that it seemed it would be that one dream I would never have.   There are many people who have no trouble getting pregnant and carrying perfectly healthy babies for 40 weeks.  That wasn't the case for us.   We lost our first two pregnancies.  No one knows why, there was no medical reason, just two unviable fetuses.  I really don't like those words.  

Last night I sat on the sofa next to the man I have loved for 18 years, surrounded by our 3 perfectly healthy children as we all watched a movie together.  It is moments like this, the everyday, nothing special moments that I treasure the most.  As I took a moment to look at each of the people God has given me to call my own, I thanked him for each and every one of them.   He answered that prayer I prayed back in college as a drove around with my roommate.  

This year, as every year, I am thankful for Erik, Isabella, Nate and JT.  They have given me a  joy that goes beyond words.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012


I get to speak in church this sunday!  I couldn't be more excited!  I treasure each and every opportunity I have to speak out in faith to people ready and willing to hear.  I am really, really excited for this opportunity and more nervous than I have been in a really, really long time.  Close to terrified in fact.

Did I mention I was speaking to middle schoolers?  YIKES!!

Now I have spent the last 15 years with kids.  Talking to them, playing with them and just hanging out.  I LOVE kids!  I have 3 of my own.  Even before I had kids I worked with kids.  I led a children's ministry for 4 years.  I worked in an urban school district for 5 years and then went into homes to work with special needs kids for 5 years after that.  But my focus, my experience, my expertise so to speak is with 3-5 year olds.  I have also logged a lot of hours with the 5-10 years olds. But middle schoolers, not so much!  

I have had the chance to speak on sunday mornings half a dozen times, but that has been to adults.  I know adults just about as much as I know 3-5 year olds.  They are respectful, they listen when you talk, they don't laugh unless you want them to, they don't play on their phone (usually) and they are fairly easy to entertain.  But middle schoolers?  They intimidate me.  

But I really desire to do this for God, to speak openly and publicly, to lead people to Christ.  So when the youth leader asked if I would do this I jumped at the chance.  And then he told me the sweet little topic I would be teaching on... The meaning of life.  Seriously?  Was he joking?  Not so much.

Apparently they are doing a series on simple answers to the big questions in life.  And no one had stepped up to do this topic yet.  Really? Shocking!

The question is "What is the meaning or purpose of Life?"  "Why are we here?"

It's a great question, one I'm sure kids ask.  I know adults do.  I know lots of adults who wonder why they are here, and what they are supposed to be doing.  It's a question I've asked myself a lot in the past few years.  

So what's the answer?  The Westminster Catechism says "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever."  That is the meaning of life.  Easy enough.

But what does that really mean?

In John 17 Christ is praying to the Father and he says, "I have brought you glory by completing the work you gave me to do."

That's how we bring glory to God, by completing the work he gave us to do.  Everyone, from the smallest child to the oldest adult, has something that God gave THAT person and THAT person ALONE to do.  No one else can do the thing that God wants YOU to do.  And you can not do the work God has already given someone else to do.  You glorify God by completing the work he gave YOU to do.  

So what is it God is asking you to do?  What is the work he desires for you to complete?

This sunday he has given me the work of speaking to a group of middle school kids, yikes!

Friday, November 9, 2012


There are lots of things I seem to be in denial about these days.

I am in denial about getting older (I thought they said you were as young as you think you are).

I am in denial about my natural hair color (I don't care what you say gray is not natural).

I am in denial about my new pant size (I'm pretty sure the entire industry changed their standards).

I am in denial about my upcoming term paper (how hard can 15 pages on righteousness, justification and salvation really be? it's not like people have spent their entire life trying to figure this stuff out...oh wait...)

I am in denial about fragility of life (I know horrible things happen and we are mortal people, but MY family, the dog included, is going to live forever.  My kids won't move away and we will all be together forever, and ever and ever and ever...)

There are lots of things I am in denial about.  

I recently read about Peter's denial.  Peter was a leader among the disciples, a rock and the pillar of the early Christian church.  He preached the first sermon after Jesus ascension on the day of Pentecost.  He led the church in Jerusalem.   He wrote 2 of the books of the New Testament and the Gospel of Mark came from Peter's preaching.  This was a man who KNEW and LOVED Christ, yet even he, in a dark moment, denied any knowledge of or relationship to Jesus, not once but 3 times!  Yes he more than made up for his mistake, yes Jesus forgave and Peter went on to do amazing things.  But if even THIS man denied Christ, I have to ask myself, have I?

I would like to say no,  I would never deny who I am in Christ.  I am a child of God, a daughter of the King.  I am fully devoted to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in all aspects of my life.  But if I'm being honest I have to ask, "Is that true?"

Webster's defines denial in a couple of different ways.  One the definitions says it is "the refusal of something requested or desired".  Have I ever refused to do something God has requested of me or desired for me to do? Absolutely.   Too often I choose NOT to listen to that voice inside of me asking me to reach out, go out of my comfort zone, do something that isn't "me".  WAY too often I deny God. It's yet one more thing I'm working on.  I am working on saying "yes" to those promptings instead of "no".  I am working on following instead of just going, hoping I am heading in the direction I am supposed to.  I am working on acting like a woman fully devoted to her Lord and Savior.  It's not easy.  But then again, he never said it would be, did he?  

I am still in a denial about a lot of things, but not this, not anymore.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Power of a Kind Word

For a "words of admiration" girl (that means kind words are my love language, they are how I feel affirmed and validated) there is nothing better than an unexpected compliment.  You may think I am bizarre but I can still remember a compliment I got 10 years ago from a simple acquaintance.  It was said in passing and I am sure she doesn't even remember saying it.  But it impacted me more than she will ever know.  I'm not saying I've thought about it constantly since then, but every once in a while it will come to mind and it ALWAYS makes me smile.  The idea that someone thinks "x" of me, has been fuel to a battered spirit more than once.

NEVER underestimate the power of a kind word.

And just as much as kind words fuel my spirit, harsh words devastate it.  It's not that I remember every harsh word ever spoken to me. God has blessed me with a memory that seems to favor only happy memories!  That being said, nothing ruins my day or my week more than hearing negative words.  Knowing I have let someone down, failed to meet their expectation or been talked about unkindly is a blow my sensitive ego has great trouble handling.  I know I shouldn't worry about what other's say and think, but it's still something I struggle with on a regular basis.  

NEVER underestimate the power of hurtful words.

Someone once told me it takes 10 positives to cancel out 1 negative.  We are programmed to focus on the bad things people say, rather than the good.  I don't know if that is true or not.  But I do know that THAT is a place where this girl would like to live!  A place where every time I feel beat down or under-appreciated there is someone waiting with 10 positive things to say!  I want to go there!

 I am surrounded by people every day, every where I go.  Some are strangers, some are friends, and some are people I dearly love.  I have hundreds of opportunities to reach out on any given day, to feed someone the words that will carry them through.  Maybe my words will go in one ear and out the other, or maybe they will be appreciated in the moment then quickly forgotten.  Or, maybe, just maybe, my words will impact someone far greater than I could ever imagine.  Maybe they will be thinking about that kind thing I said 10 years from now!

NEVER underestimate the power of a kind word.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Joy Comes in the Morning

My list of things to do today didn't even fit on one page.  Just looking at it made me overwhelmed.  So I did the one thing some would argue I definitely didn't have time for.  I opened my bible and read.  There was no way I was going to make it through this day without a serious dose of strength and peace from the one who has an infinite supply.  So I read.  

I read of Jesus talking to his disciples about his upcoming death.  He didn't tell them exactly what was going to happen.  He was vague, as he had a tendency to be with them.  Of course WE know what he was talking about.  Things are infinitely more clear when looking backward aren't they?  There are so many times in my life when the knowledge I have gained in retrospect would have been immeasurably helpful if it would have been foreknowledge.  But that rarely happens.  Instead we live our life, hopefully, getting smarter with each experience, understanding more the longer we live.  

Jesus tells his disciples "Now is your time of grief, but I will se you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy."  After the pain, comes the joy.  We know this... but it is SO hard to remember when you are in the midst of pain, as many of us are.  It is so hard to recognize that the pain will ease, the hurt will soften and joy will come again.  It will.  

Think of all the times in your life when you have hurt in your life.  Let's put that retrospective knowledge to the test.  Remember when the pain was sharp, real, unbearable.  Now think of the times AFTER that, when you found joy again.  When the pain lessoned and the sun began to shine.  The joy comes in the morning, after the darkest part of the night has passed.  

We know this because Jesus says it is so.  We know this because we have experienced this.  We know this because it is true.  The pain you are feeling right now, is real, it is sharp, and it hurts.  But it is not all there is.  Perhaps you are in the darkest of night right now, but remember the joy comes in the morning.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Will You Get Back in the Saddle?

Isabella was in a horse show this weekend.  

It's only the second show she's ever been in.  And this time she was riding a horse, not a pony, a HORSE!  He is as gentle as gentle can be, but he is huge!  And my little girl looked SO small sitting on top of him.  She has been riding Cowboy, that's the horse, for awhile now so they were used to each other, but it still gets me every time I see her on him.

She was nervous, not to ride Cowboy, just to be in the show.  Cowboy was nervous, not because of Isabella, he just was.  It was a bad combination.  On a good day Cowboy doesn't like to go slow.  He will walk if he has to but he hates to trot, he would MUCH rather canter or better yet, gallop.  NOT a good idea for a show.  

The first time around they missed the very first jump.  They had to circle around and start again, her daddy and I cringed a little but she didn't give up.  She placed last in that class but she didn't let it get her down.  Her daddy and I thought maybe the nerves had worked themselves out and we were ready to cheer her on in the next class.  

The second time around they started out beautifully.  She looked great, Cowboy looked great, they cleared the first four jumps effortlessly.  Then, on the fifth jump something went wrong Cowboy took off for the jump too early (really this is up to the rider to control but I'm that rider's momma so I'm going to blame it on the horse!) and Isabella lost a stirrup, she landed rough. The last jump, jump number six comes right after jump five.  There is no chance to reorganize and just before the last jump Isabella was thrown from the horse.

I don't know exactly what happened.  I was recording and so focused on the picture on the camera that I heard the gasp of the crowd before I realized it was MY daughter that was thrown.  She popped right up, completely fine and uninjured, but had to walk off the course.  Needless to say she finished last in that class too.  

Now, honestly, how easy would it be at this point to just give up?  Isabella had NEVER fallen from a horse before.  She has been riding for over a year and never even come CLOSE to leaving the saddle.  This is was going to be the turning point.  Things had officially gotten hard.  Would she walk away or get back in the saddle?  

I know for a lot of people this wouldn't be an easy decision.  There are too many people who choose to walk away when things get hard.  Too many people who won't get back in the saddle once they've been thrown.  Too many people give up when the going gets tough.  What was my daughter going to do?  I had my suspicions, but I honestly didn't know.  I was on my way to check on her, to make sure she wasn't hurt when I saw it.  My daughter's head high above all the others, already sitting atop of Cowboy again.  I don't think my heart has ever swelled so big, I was that full of pride.  

She went right back out there, ready for her third class, and you know what?  She got first place in that class!  First place out of six.  First place when she had finished dead last the last two times.  First place when it would have been JUST as easy to walk away, to say this is too hard, to just give up.  

There are lots of silly things I keep, memories of different stages my kids have gone through, the blankies they loved, the pictures they painted.  Some would say I keep too much stuff.  There are other things I've gotten rid of, toys we loved but are done with, certificates representing who knows what, pictures they painted.  Some would say I have gotten rid of too much.  But that first place ribbon?  That is something I will NEVER get rid of! 

When things get hard, when you are thrown off the horse, will you get back in the saddle?