Look at the Stars and Remember

So everyone knows I love October. I would say up there with chocolate and Harry Potter, October is one of the things I mention most on this blog! I love the leaves in the streets, the cool weather, the pumpkins and scarecrows. But something I haven't thought about much are October nights. I love them just as much as October days! The chill in the air when we crack the window, the lights on the porches as the days grow shorter, the warm pjs and slippers (to be fair , that's an all day thing in my house...). And the stars. With the earlier nights, it's easier to step outside and look up before you would normally tumble into bed. And maybe I should start taking the time to notice.

Because for some reason, a stars theme keeps popping up in my life.

A few nights ago,I received a beautiful voice message of my niece singing "Consider the Stars" (by Keith and Kristyn Getty) and I just started crying. Hearing her sing "Consider the stars in the sky; When it is darkest they shine out the brightest, Consider the stars in the sky, In every anguish, Oh, child take courage." Something about the juxtaposition of her sweet childish voice and the great truths of Heaven spoke to me at the very heart of my being.

Then in my small group, we talked about Abraham. In Genesis 15:5, God says, "Look up at the sky and count the stars" and Abraham will be reminded of God's amazing - and seemingly impossible! - promise to him. But whenever Abraham doubts or forgets, all he has to do is look up and be reminded!

Even in the Mops theme for the year: We are the Starry Eyed! I love this picture of motherhood, because too often I feel like my eyes just look tired. But there's more to life than that, even a stay-at-home mom's life! Their website says, "Starry Eyed means looking for the light even when darkness is enveloping. It is an opportunity to hope recklessly and to witness God’s presence guiding things seen and unseen, comfortable and uncomfortable." Looking up at the sky and sensing the wonder, even in the ordinary. I love this theme because it reminds me that life is never just ordinary, never just mundane, never just hard. There is beauty and wonder and hope amidst it all!

Finally, I have been memorizing Psalm 8, "When I consider the heavens, the moon and the stars that you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?" God is so majestic and beautiful and magnificent, why does He even bother with me? But he does. He sees me. Truly sees me, more than anyone ever has.

And isn't that what we all really want? Just to be truly seen. As an introvert and a person who will always choose being home over going out, sometimes I don't feel seen. People notice the fun people, the outgoing people, the beautiful people (or at least it feels that way to me). And I feel invisible.

But I can look at the stars and know the the Creator is actually looking back at me. And as I gaze out, I can remember these beautiful messages from Him: that He keeps His promises, that He has given me life and wants me to live it in wonder and awe, that He sees me.

So this October, don't just enjoy the days. Enjoy the nights. Look up and remember:

Do not be afraid

He who made all of this,

says “You're worth more than this,”

And holds you in his hands.*

 

 

 

*If you haven't listened to this song, go listen now! So sweet and poignant. Then teach a nearby child, because hearing a child sing it makes it all the more powerful. Consider the Stars, by Keith and Kristyn Getty.

This Old House

Ryan has mentioned moving again, and I feel his pain. His commute is over an hour each way and I know that's two hours a day that he is away from me and the kids. But I struggle with the thought of moving because I've grown to love our little house. I tell him if it weren't for his commute, I'd live in this house forever. You see, I look at it and see it's potential. Yes, it's sweet and comfortable and even attractive in some ways as it is now. But there are so many possibilities as to what this house could become! We could dormer out the upstairs back and/or front. We could add to the back. We could convert the garage to a great room and move the driveway behind the house. It could be roomier, cozier, and even more attractive with just a little work.

I was explaining all this to my dear friend, and telling her how grateful to God I am for the contentment I find in this house. It's so easy to see bigger and more beautiful houses and wish they were mine, but instead, I am grateful for what I have.

And then I had a flash of analogy: this is how God loves us! He sees our imperfections and our potential. He looks at us and sees what we could be with a little work. And He isn't going to move on to another project before finishing the work He has put into us. There are some things that need fixing or a little coat of paint and there are some things that need to be completely gutted and rebuilt. And He will do it all, lovingly, one step at a time. As long as we let Him.

Of course, the analogy is imperfect because while I whine and moan when I have to move the oldest dishwasher in the world to the sink to plug in the water or when I have to trudge down into the darkest parts of the basement with piles and piles of laundry, God doesn't complain about all the work He has to do in us when we are so stubborn. But it still gave me pause, and helped me to remember His great love for me.

And His continual work in me, especially in learning to stop whining about dishes and laundry.

Subject of my own experiment

Starting the week after Labor Day, I am going to conduct an experiment and I will be my own subject.  You know those "Lose inches and pounds in 6 weeks with no dieting" headlines?  Well, I am going to give it a try and you are my witnesses.  I will not "diet" per se, but this article just says I need a "slight change in diet".  While it does not indicate what that means, I will assume it means to eat slightly healthier, which I will try to do while trying their exercise routine.  Specifically, it claims I will shave inches off my waist and lose 10 to 12 pounds, so I'll give it a go and find out once and for all if these articles are telling the truth!  I'll keep you posted.

True Beauty

She is sweet; she is charming; she’s delicate and tough. She truly cares for people, and yet can have a sense of humor about them.

People don’t know it by her smile and her laugh, but she can be hurt, and hurt deeply.

She is the perfect paradox of sensitivity and humor.

She makes me laugh, and yet always humbles me with her wisdom.

She pours herself out for people, always giving.  Sometimes she forgets to take care of herself too.

She is beautiful, in every aspect of the word.

Her creativity is astounding, she can take almost nothing and turn it into beauty.

Her eye for color, design, and fashion are breathtaking, but still can’t compare to the loveliness within.

She is everything I want to be.

And the sad thing is, she may not even realize this is about her, because sometimes she just can’t see what everyone else can.

Grace, A Children's Story

It was a week before Christmas and Amy and her mommy had just finished visiting some newly born puppies at a friend’s house. The puppies were so small, but were practically bursting with energy. One in particular had caught Amy’s eye: a beautiful black Yorkshire terrier who always had its tongue out, ready to kiss at the slightest human touch. Amy had held it close, even as it squirmed to lick her face, and had fallen in love. “If he were mine, I would name him Kisses, because that is what he loves to do,” she had said. Amy’s mommy loved the puppy too, but knew that Daddy would take more convincing. “Daddy, I want a puppy,” Amy declared at dinner that night. “You’re too young to have a puppy of your own, honey.” Daddy said, as if he had had this conversation hundreds of times before. “Nu-uh, I would take care of it all by myself. I would Daddy!” “Mommy and I will talk about it later,” he said and Amy knew not to say anything more. She did, however, look imploringly at her mother, hoping maybe this time her daddy could be convinced.

Later that night when Amy was in bed asleep, her mommy and daddy decided to have a talk. “Maybe it is time to get a puppy, Bill,” Amy’s mommy said. “They were so cute, I wouldn’t mind having one myself!” “But Amy needs to learn responsibility. If it were to be her puppy, she would have to take care of it. I don’t want to have to always be the one taking it out or feeding it or paying all the vet’s bills.” Amy’s daddy was trying to teach her how to be a responsible person and he knew this would be an excellent way for her to learn, but he wanted to make sure she would take it seriously. “Maybe I’ll write up a contract that we could have her sign. It could list all the tasks that she would need to do in order to get and keep the puppy.” Amy’s mommy looked at him skeptically.

A couple days later, Amy and her parents sat in the family room to talk about the puppy. Amy was so excited and it burst out as smiles and laughter. Maybe she would finally get the puppy! Maybe tomorrow she and little Kisses would be playing together on the floor of this very room! “Amy, I know how much you’ve been wanting to have a puppy, and your mother and I think you may finally be ready to take care of one. But before you get too excited,” Amy’s daddy added quickly as he saw his daughter giggling in her chair, “you must agree to some chores that I have already written down. We will talk about them now, and then if you agree, you can sign this paper.” Although she was still excited at the prospect of a new puppy, Amy’s smile faded a bit. She was confused by what her daddy was saying to her, but could tell that he was very serious. “Number one, you must train the dog to only go potty outside and clean up any mistakes he might make around the house. Number two, you must give the dog a bath at least once a week. Number three, you will pay for one-half of all doctor’s visits including any medication the dog may need.” Amy sat listening as the list went on and on and her heart sank. Her daddy had compiled a list of chores so very long she knew she would never be able to accomplish them all. There was still one hope. If she could just get the puppy in the house, maybe her daddy would forget about the list and allow it to stay anyway. But suddenly her daddy read the last sentence of the contract. “If Amy is not willing or able to accomplish all the above chores, then the puppy will be sold or given away, and will not be allowed to stay in the house any longer!”

At this, Amy knew her desire would not be fulfilled. She would not get the puppy and Kisses would find a different home. Soon tears flooded her eyes, and she began to cry. Her daddy looked startled, but she managed to explain. “Daddy,” Amy sobbed, with tears pouring down her cheeks, “I can’t sign that list. I’d never be able to do all those chores!” With that, she ran out of the room, and headed for her bed. Amy’s mommy and daddy looked at each other. Her daddy looked shocked at his daughter’s response. “I thought for sure she would sign it. I thought she’d sign it without thinking and we’d have to give the puppy away. I thought it would be a valuable tool for teaching responsibility.” “Well, maybe you didn’t give your daughter enough credit,” said Amy’s mommy knowingly as she left to go comfort her daughter.

That night Amy’s daddy could not sleep. He kept picturing his little girl crying from something he had done. But the worst part was that he knew she had acted more responsibly than he had given her credit for. How could he fix this? He wondered. He wanted so much for his little girl to be happy, but he wanted her to understand his actions. Suddenly, he had an idea. The more he thought about the idea, the more he liked it. But in order for it to work, he had to get up right now and prepare. So he climbed out of bed, and got to work.

On Christmas Eve, Amy woke up early. It wasn’t because she had gone to bed so early the night before. And it wasn’t because she had fallen asleep crying over her lost puppy. It was because she heard a small knocking on the door. “Amy, wake up. Daddy wants to show you something,” came her mommy’s voice from behind the door. Crawling out of her bed, she took her mommy’s hand and was led downstairs to the Christmas tree. Stapled to the wall, Amy recognized the contract her daddy had written, and a sign above it that said “The Law” in large, bold letters. Next to that was another sign that said “Grace.” Amy looked below the sign and saw a tiny ornament that looked like a puppy. The puppy had a sign on it as well. It said “Kisses.” Amy could feel the excitement coming back, but she was confused. “What does it mean, Daddy?” “Come to me,” her daddy said, lifting her up to his lap. “Before Jesus came to earth, people who loved Him had to abide by every rule that He asked them to. It was quite clear to the people that they could not keep every single rule. It was just impossible for them. But when Jesus came to earth, everything changed. Because He came and took all of our sins and failures upon Himself, we did not need to follow every single rule anymore. In other words, we now live under grace. Under grace, we love Jesus joyfully, knowing that He freed us from our burdens so that we can enjoy everything He has given to us. That contract I wanted you to sign was like the Law that Jesus gave to his people. But we do not live under the Law anymore. Because of Jesus, we live under grace.” “But daddy, what does it mean to live under grace?” Amy asked. “It means,” her daddy paused and smiled at his daughter. “It means,” he said again, “we are getting a puppy.”

My Christmas Story

Merry Christmas and Ho! Ho! Ho! To Colorado we will go! But in Dallas we're stuck, Much to our bad luck, We couldn't leave 'cuz of the snow.

      

Yes, that brilliant little limerick sums up nearly half of my Christmas vacation time.  But for those of you who want the brutal details, I will put my flair for poetry aside, and enlighten you further with my prose.  It all began seven days ago.  I was nervous about traveling anyway for several reasons.  (1) It would be my first Christmas away from my family, and instead I would spend the holiday with my husband's family, some of whom I had only ever met briefly.  (2) The last time I was in Colorado, I became desperately sick (due to the altitude) and my future mother-in-law had the distinct pleasure of cleaning up all my lovely bodily functions.  And (3) we were bringing our puppy, Hugo, who would spend a total of 7 hours (with a brief stop in Dallas) in a little carrier, pushed under the seat in front of me.  But, despite my misgivings, I found myself at 32,000 feet, with Hugo sound asleep, and I soon followed him.  

     

We reached Dallas without incident.  Hugo hadn’t made a peep, and as soon as we got to the airport, I put a “wee-wee pad” down for him, and he went immediately.  “Good boy!” Ryan and I cheered.  This trip was going so smoothly, no bumps in the road.  I put Hugo on his leash, and we all walked toward our gate.  The next leg of the trip was the easy one.  It was much shorter and Ryan’s parents would pick us up at the other end.   

     

And then we saw it.  The word every air-traveler hates to see.  A word that brings doom to the hearts of anyone who wants to see their family on a holiday.  C-A-N-C-E-L-L-E-D.  It was with shock that we talked to the woman at the gate, who sent us to the ticketing line, who directed us to a phone number we needed to call, who told us to get back in the ticketing line.  So there we stood, and our options were bleak.  The next available flight was Christmas Eve, due to “The Storm of the Century” that was taking place in Colorado.  That was 4 days away, and we were flying back on Christmas Day anyway.  “No problem,” the helpful ticketing agent on the phone had said.  “We can change your return flight as well!”  Ryan had to kindly inform the man, who apparently had never heard of a job with a limited number of vacation days, that that was impossible.  Our other option was to get right back on the plane and fly back to LaGuardia in two hours.  Two hours later, however, we had moved 10 feet in the ticketing line, with still another 30 feet to go.  We weren’t going home that night.

     

After another hour of discussion and frustration, any option looked better than standing in line another minute!  We decided to rent a car and drive the 10 hours to Colorado Springs.  Why we thought driving into a blizzard was a good idea, I don't know.  Our minds had been fuzzied by the airport bureaucracy.

     

At first the trip was exciting.  Hugo is good in the car, and I enjoyed that we had more freedom than in an airplane.  But after driving the first 10 hours in Texas, then into New Mexico, then back into Texas, then detoured off main roads because of snow and ice, then driving on roads full of snow and ice anyway, then finally onto the interstate that brought us through the mountains and into Colorado, I had seen more of southwestern America than I ever want to again, or indeed ever did in the first place.

  

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By the time we reached New Mexico for the second time, Hugo was going crazy.  You know how you look when you start hearing voices in your head?  You know how it's hard to hear one because they are all shouting at you at the same time?  Well, that's how Hugo was looking.  I could practically hear the voices myself!  We couldn't take him out, because, being only 3 pounds, he would be toppled into the snow by the wind.  And he was tired of sleeping.  Ryan was stressed, and I was miserable.  But finally, after a grueling 18 hours, we made it.

    

The relief and joy of seeing Ryan's family was magnified in my mind, because of the harrowing journey we experienced.  The snow then seemed a blessing, instead of a curse, as I gazed out their windows at it and at the majesty of the mountains beyond.  Then I remembered the reason we had travelled all this way to spend Christmas with our loved ones.  The Reason all this majesty graced the land before me, and the Reason all the gifts were piled beneath the tree.  And I was overjoyed.

  

 

"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed."

Matthew 2:10

I do what I can.

It’s October, do you feel it?  Even if I weren’t looking at my calendar at this very moment and seeing “October”, I would feel it.  Even apart from the weather, and the earlier fading skies, I think I would know.  Apart from the colorful leaves falling from the tress and the sound they make as the wind rushes them along the pavement, apart from the cool air and the smells of wood-burning fireplaces, apart from sitting in my warm home, clad in snuggly pajamas, sipping hot cocoa and reading, while the light dwindles outside, I would still know.  Though all these wonderful things make up the month that is October, there is more to it than that.  Can’t you feel it?  When I walk outside and realize what month it is, I recognize a warmth and a humility growing in me.  It isn’t joy or happiness, but neither is it depression or sorrow.  There is only one possible explanation.  It’s magic.

 

Now I know some of you recoiled at the word.  “Oh no,” you thought.  “Is this more of her Harry Potter nonsense?”  Most certainly it is not.  It is my love for the Season and I am telling you, that through my many years of experiencing this powerful emotion that only occurs at this time of year, “magic” is the only word I have come across that adequately describes it. 

 

From the colorful leaves falling from the tress and the sound they make as the wind rushes them along the pavement, from the cool air and the smells of wood-burning fireplaces, from sitting in my warm home, clad in snuggly pajamas, sipping hot cocoa and reading, while the light dwindles outside, there’s magic in the air this time of year. 

 

It’s a time that causes people to dive into their homes, close their doors and turn on the heat.  Yet by no means can we stay inside.  There are holidays to prepare for, families to see, and presents to be bought.  But isn’t that the best part?  We come out of our hibernation, all of us bundled up so tightly it no longer matters how we look.  We’re all buying presents, shopping for turkeys, enjoying decorations, singing holiday songs; the holidays bring people together.  In doing so, however, there is sadness, remembering those who have passed, remembering loved ones who cannot be there with us.  It is a time when emotions are raw and exposed.  There is great joy, but there also is grief magnified. 

 

All these emotions pass through me, causing a deep introspection as I pass into the cool air.  For many years, I have felt this glee and anticipation rising in me when the months turned cold and I have long wondered why.  Is it because I will no longer have to deal with the sweat filled months of summer?  Is it because I am a night person and have more energy when it turns dark?  I eventually discovered the only thing that makes sense.  It is in anticipation of the Holiday.  Something in me stirs that I only feel once a year.  Something that tells me this Season means something.  This is real and I should pay attention.  The chill in the air, the holiday decorations, the shoppers filling parking lots and malls – it all reminds me that we are somehow in this together, we are all doing the same things and put here for the same purpose.  This realization brings a sense of urgency and humility in my life.  “There’s not much I can do,” I think.  He’s not calling you to change the world, is the answer. 

 

It’s almost November and I feel it even more.  There’s magic in the air.  And I do what I can.

Screwtape rip-off

My Dear Wormwood,

By your last letter, I can see that you are making slow, but steady process.  That, indeed, is the best kind!  If you had sent me a letter that delighted in your recent conquests, I would know that her repentance must not be far behind.  You need to make sure your charge does not see her slow descent towards hell.  I noticed many areas where you should concentrate your efforts, but I will begin enlightening you with only a few. The first and most important is her love of food, specifically chocolate.  You may think that this is more to satisfy her disgusting physical desires, but this can be more spiritual than you realize.  I hope that you realized that many times when she sits down to eat, it is not out of “hunger” but for a different need.  You must feed these desires!  Any time you see her feel anxious or lonely, convince her that all she needs is a little morsel; just a small treat and she will feel better.  Don’t you see?  In this way, she will never feel the need to sit down and pray, as long as she has a physical taste to soothe her.

Another wonderful aspect of your charge is her want of striking out when she is feeling hurt or insecure.  What an easy job you have ahead of you, Wormwood!  Find out who is in charge of her husband and coordinate.  When her husband says anything, however small, convince her that she is the victim and therefore has the right to lash out at him.  It won’t take much work because she is already very insecure, yet quick to rise in anger.  Don’t even worry when you see her think “I must control my temper.  It is something I need to work on.”  It is so much in her nature she will not be able to change it.  As we all know, the road leading here is paved with “good” intentions.

Now for areas where you must get her to change.  Number one: Do not let her write on her so-called “blog”.  This is dangerous in many ways.  It causes her to become introspective and think about deeper things.  You might say that mainly she tries to write humor, but any type of writing will cause a person to think – and that they must not do!  That is when the Enemy will whisper to them, and they will hear it more easily.  Fill her head with distractions!  Don’t give her time to write!  Have her husband watch TV or play loud music.  Anything so she cannot hear the whispering.  The “blog” is also dangerous because it is something she actually takes pleasure in working on.  How disgusting is this “pleasure” that the Enemy created!  Never let her take pleasure in anything she is doing.  Whenever she is happy, or moved, or enjoying something simply for enjoyments sake - that is dangerous territory.  We must take her pleasure and distort it.  Make her feel obligated to write.  Make her feel that there are certain things she should and should not write about, which will take her pleasure away.  Do you not see how she cries when she hears beautiful music?  Do you not see how she laughs with her friends and giggles with her husband?  Do not allow these things because they are gifts from the Enemy!  Any pleasure that the Enemy allows in the lives of these horrid creatures is only useful to us if we can distort it.  If you allow her to experience pleasure in its purest form (ie. before we have gotten to it), she will feel closer to the Enemy.  It is then that you must watch out, because she may move into praise and prayer.  At those points, you will have no access to her at all.

So you see, my dear Wormwood, you have a lot to learn.  Continue to work on her slowly, do not let her sense your presence.  Update me regularly and I will be able to help you.  But remember, if you fail, I will have nothing to do with you.

Sincerely, Screwtape

Soccer Games

I played soccer through my junior high and high school years. Regrettably, I was not very good, although I really think I could have been better if I had started playing at a younger age. I only ever started a game once - my senior year - and sometimes I didn't even play. But that didn't matter to my dad. He was always there to cheer me on. My dad was a very busy man. He travelled a lot for his work - mostly overseas. There was one year he was literally commuting to Madrid, Spain and was home on the weekends. This had its advantages, as many times he could take my mother and I along with him. Through this I gained some international experience I never would have otherwise. But it also had its downsides. He worked long hours and was very busy. As I grew into a teenager, it didn't seem to matter as much though. In fact, as I went to my soccer games, I would have preferred that he didn't go! But more often than not, he was there, embarrassing me by cheering loudly on the sidelines, in his expensive suit.

Now, as I look back on those times, I feel the opposite of what I was feeling then. I feel special that he made those games a priority, even though I wasn't very good. It was one of his ways of showing me how special I was to him. So many times I conveyed to him, through rolling my eyes and sarcastic remarks, my annoyance at his showing up, but it never deterred him. He recognized that someday I would look back and appreciate that he was there. And by george, he was right! =)

I love you, Daddy.