Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Squirrel Face-Off

I have the funniest story to tell and if you want to copy and share, that's fine, just give credit where you got it...

My dad is a handyman. I'm not giving him a compliment here; people pay him money to do odd jobs. Last week, he and Ty ran electrical conduit and wire at a house on the river. (my dad's also an electrician) This week, Dad called and explained the job they were going to do. I haven't laughed that hard in a while.

It seems there's an older couple he knows that he does odd jobs for periodically. A few days ago, they called because there was a squirrel in the wall of their den. Dad went over and removed the squirrel and put up mesh in the attic to keep it from getting back in. What they didn't know was that there was another squirrel in the wall. Who was now trapped.

The old man heard scratching and clawing in the wall and was very concerned. He sat in his chair and stared at the wall. Soon he noticed a small hole developing where the squirrel was gnawing at the sheetrock. He started to panic, so as a defense, he put a piece of duct tape over the hole. (well played...)

When the persistent animal started chewing through the duct tape (or what dad called "gray squirrel imprisonment tape"), the old man really panicked. The only logical course of action he could come up with was a .22. Yes, he ran to the closet, grabbed his gun, and shot several holes in the wall where the squirrel was.

Result: dead squirrel.

Dad and Ty's job:

1. cut a hole in the wall
2. remove dead squirrel
3. patch hole
4. patch bullet holes
5. extend the mesh in the attic
6. go outside and patch the bullet holes in the exterior siding
7. commiserate with the poor guy's wife who was gardening at the time of the incident and was almost SHOT!

I'm still laughing. Dad said if you take this guy's natural instincts, turn the 180` around, you get the right decision.

Moral of the story:
Duct tape cannot conquer squirrels. Guns can.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

A few people have asked me for the recipe I use for laundry soap. It's a lot cheaper (about $6 per year!) and cleans just as well. I make mine in a five gallon bucket and only have to make it about twice a year. It's really, really quick and easy to make. I promise!!!

All you need:
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda (Arm and Hammer)
A Bar of Bath Soap
A 5 Gal. Bucket

Grate 2/3 of a bar of soap. Add slowly to simmering water on the stove top until melted. Add the Borax and Washing Soda slowly, stirring until dissolved.

In the bucket, add some hot water from the tap, then pour in the soap mixture. Stir. Add lukewarm water until the bucket has about 4 gallons of water in it. Put the lid on it and let it set for 24 hours. It will gel and end up looking sort of like white egg drop soup. :o) The whole process takes only about twenty minutes. Not bad, right?

*Don't use moisturizing soap.

This soap is low sudsing and I use it in my HE front loader but it can be used in a top loader too.

Church Planting

It's a really beautiful day outside. 68 degrees and sunny. Perfection. Chris has the day off. My dad is here just to hang out and there are 7 extra kids at my house. The two neighbor boys walked up and are playing catch in the front yard. Kristine spent the night with Gracie and the Hill kids are here while Kim and Quinn go to Virginia's dad's funeral.

Darrin, Brandon, Steven and Nate came up this morning and met Chris and I at the church plant's building. We made a list of things that need to be done and then they stayed to cut the grass. It looks so much better already. I'm so thankful for these guys!

Church planting has been described as "intense" and I would have to agree. To a certain extent, all ministry is intense. Any time you take your family into a situation where you are attempting to bring the gospel into an area where it has been absent is fraught with danger. People are suspicious and resistant. Churches get competitive. And your own heart gets frightened. I've heard planters talk about the frustration, the fear and the attacks. I've talked with one godly woman, who I thought was already so humble, who talked about the process of being broken. During one period of time, I looked around and asked what in the world we were doing. Why would I stay in a place where God is pealing back the layers of my flesh. That hurts.

I have an artist friend, Michelle. She painted this one particular canvas that has become God's word picture to my heart. The painting is of a girl with a jeweled tiara. The words on the canvas are, "Like any good princess, she laid down her life for the kingdom." My superficial happiness is distinctly unimportant. This short life is not what I'm living for. There is a King and a kingdom, and I am His princess and I lay down my life for him. He already gave his life for me. It's a beautiful truth. He died so I could live. He gave everything so I could have fellowship.

For me to give up temporary pleasure or my idols of comfort can feel like a huge sacrifice sometimes. But looking at it from the other side, it is NO sacrifice.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

There is always a cross we are to take up. For some, it is to be a martyr. For others, it is to raise their children, day in and day out, in the way they should go, even when they fear their children will not like them. In the face of fear and anger, or misunderstanding and condemnation, to follow Christ takes on a very different tone.

A friend asked me this week, in utter defeat, what to do about a child who throws tantrums all day long. What does she do to "fix" that problem? Another friend talked to me about the pain of never seeing her husband because he's ministering to other people. How does she get his attention? I could go on and on. The common thread there seems to be wanting to make the problem go away. Surely if we're following God, things will go well for us.

But maybe God has something else in mind. Maybe he's bigger and more complicated than that. Maybe his primary goal is NOT our comfort and happiness. Maybe he wants us to trust him, no matter what. Even when we are misunderstood, or judged, or reviled, or ignored. That may mean that we hold our ground with a stubborn child and discipline ten times a day for years before we see a heart change. It may mean that we continue to tell our spouse what our heart needs over and over again, feeling the hurt of that until they finally understand, no matter how long it takes. It may mean keeping our hearts soft towards someone who hurts us even when everything in us screams to cover up, give up, harden ourselves.

God is so good to us. He strips us bare so that we can finally behold him as he really is, not as we want him to be. He speaks the truth into our hearts, even though it hurts, because he knows the truth will set us free. He loves us with a furious, relentless love. Oh how I pray for love to be able to love him back.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cold Feet and Scratching

The first thing on my mind right now is that my feet are cold. No, not cold... freezing. I think I'll go find my ski socks. Be right back...

Better. Now... the second thing on my mind is much more complicated and less easily fixed. Place and Story.

Chris has been listening to a sermon series on the theology of place. It's complicated and more than I can explain in a paragraph, but very simply put, it means live WHERE YOU ARE. It means if you live in a town, minister in that town. If you work someplace, minister in that place. Shop in your own town from stores that are local. Put your money into your local economy. Stop looking into the distance and living for a theoretical future. Live now, where you are.

Story. God has been gently pulling me to a place where I can confront my own story. There are things in my childhood I have never faced. Things that scare me. Things I ignore. When asked if there were any traumatic events in my childhood, I used to always say no, it was normal, happy even. When Gordon (my Christian counselor) asked me, the Holy Spirit brought several things to mind. Not good things.

Why now? Why can't I keep ignoring it? I dunno. The sermon Sunday night provoked a thought about my childhood. I heard someone, just this week, bring up the title of a Dan Allender book that Gordon recommended two years. I decided to pick up the new Bible study Chris got me for the wives of church-planters. First chapter: The Myths of Story. *sigh*

To quote: "It is our belief that the more we know and become familiar with our own stories, developing self-awareness and healthy critical thinking, the more we have the capacity to know God and his story. When we truly see our pasts for what they are, then we can begin to understand how we have sought to bring peace into our lives apart from relying on Christ. We begin to see where we have created idols to give us a false sense of hope and comfort. We being to see how we relate to others apart from relying on Christ. ... The more we open doors to our past, the more freedom we encounter. It is this freedom that draws others to the life-giving hope we possess."

*sigh*

I started a Word doc to track my memories. Some of the things I have recorded are messed up. Some are happy. But I get the distinct feeling that I am scratching at a rough patch of skin that could rupture at any time. That maybe there's some really f'ed up stuff under there. Stuff I am afraid that I'll never be able to make sense of. Is that really better than ignoring it?

I guess we'll find out. I think I'll go scratch at it a little while longer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Sunny Irish Day

Is it a stretch to combine trebuchets and St. Patrick's Day? I hope not because that's what we did today.
In my co-op class we have been talking about the history of weapons and warfare. So far we've learned about the Tang dynasty and the invention of gunpowder, the Mongol invasion, Vikings, the Mayans and Aztecs, the spread of Islam and Werner von Braun's V-2 rockets. Diverse, I know. Anything to keep me from having to study guns. Blah. Boring.
This week we are studying Medieval Britain and Ireland. (thus, the trebuchet) I found the pattern here. It was not hard or expensive. Chris precut all the wood and he and I assembled one yesterday just to make sure we knew what to do. This morning he helped the kids and it only took about an hour.
Missy's geography class was on Ireland and St. Patrick's Day since that is day after tomorrow. They had a handout this week about it and today we had an Irish feast. Roasted chicken and carrots with Roasties. Roasties are roasted potatoes.
Recipe:
Peel and quarter several potatoes.
Boil for 5 minutes with a little salt.
Drain and let dry out for an hour or so.
Put them back in the cook pot with the lid and shake!
Put some duck fat (or olive oil) in the roasting pan and let preheat 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes. Top with salt, pepper and herbs (rosemary from the garden).
Cook 22 minutes on 350.
Take them out, flip them over, add a little more oil and herbs, put them back in.
Cook another 22 minutes.
DELICIOUS!!!
After we ate, we skyped with Laura, AJ and Bella Morgan for over an hour. The kids asked lots of questions. What are the toilets like? What do you eat for breakfast? Do they have beef jerky in Ireland? What kind of sports do you play? How is St Patrick's Day celebrated? Do you have stores like WalMart? etc. etc. etc.
AJ told us about hurling and showed us his hurler and slither. Super cool! Bella told us how to ask to use the bathroom in Irish. She showed us what their cereal boxes look like. We got a grand tour of the house. Steve and Eli popped into frame long enough to make us laugh. And Laura and I kept on talking while Kim was teaching Science.
The kids had a great day learning today. I love watching them laugh and experiment. I love when they get excited about learning. It puts all the days when school is an exercise in discipline into perspective.
Now, the sun is shining and Titan and I are swinging on the porch swing. The boys are in the woods looking for the perfect stick to use as the firing mechanism for their seige machine. The girls are running around in the yard doing who knows what. Kim is asleep on the sofa. It's been a really lovely day. I am very thankful!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A Sword Will Pierce Your Soul

I shall preface this post with a comment on perception. Perception is a funny thing. The way a person perceives information is dependant on their experience or life state, at the time. So two people can listen to the same set of instructions or the same sermon and perceive two different things. Today's sermon spoke LOADS to me. It might have spoken to other people as well, but what they gleaned from it would be different from myself. Confused? I am. Whatev... on with the point of this post.


Our home church is planting a sister church in the town where we live. My husband is the elder for this plant. We have come to the stage in the process where it is time for us to make the transition from our home church to our new church. Why am I telling you this? Background is needed and I'll try to keep it brief.

My parents were vaguely unhappy most of my childhood. Okay. More than vaguely, if you count the suicide attempts. So we bounced from church to church. I don't blame them for this, seeing as how they were trying the best the could. By the time I was 17, I was ready to grow some roots. I was tired of the gossip and the chaos of the churches we had been to, and the Lord led me to a PCA church. (This in no way implies that only PCA churches are valid. This is just my experience.) I was comforted by the church government. It made me feel safe to know that the preacher couldn't run the church like a dictatorial regime and the "leadership" couldn't run him off if they didn't like the way he parted his hair. There was structure and safety in having a session of elders.

I joined Community when I was 17. I was in the youth group. I graduated and moved into the singles group. I met my husband there. I was discipled. I had my babies. I was shown how to mother. I was introduced to grace. I was taught. I was trained to lead. I grew up. I participated in Women's Ministry. I was comforted when my parents divorced. I saw what unity looked like when there was no gossip about it. I was supported through tragedies.

When Chris mentioned church planting, my answer was a simple but emphatic, "No." I could not even contemplate leaving my volitional family. But God worked in my heart and gave me a desire to move into my own community and share the gospel.

Now, it is time to make the move. It is time to leave my safe, wonderful, happy, comfortable, precious nest. It is time to say a goodbye to that family and give my heart to another family. I will, of course, never truly leave Community. They are my history. They are my heart.

Today was our last regular Sunday there. My children's hearts are broken.

(now to the perception part. Here is my take on Burt's sermon)

This morning, Burt preached out of John 19, when Mary was standing at the foot of the cross, watching her son be brutally murdered. Jesus told her to take John as her son and John to take Mary as his mother. Burt took us back to Luke 2, when Simeon blessed Jesus in the temple and told Mary that "a sword will pierce through you own soul also".

Right now it feels as though my soul is being pierced through.

Burt went on to point out that when Mary was in that agonizing place, Jesus saw her and provided a comfort for her. He saw her pain and met her in that place. When I am in grief and sorrow, Jesus sees me. He sees me from heaven and gives me himself. He doesn't ignore it. He comforts me.

When I took communion today, I could hear the Spirit reminding me, "Christ's body broken for you. He sees you. He knows." I couldn't stop crying. It was beautiful.

The rest of the sermon pointed out Christ's reconciliation with John who had abandoned him in the garden and the creation of a new family. John took care of Mary. She came to live with him.

God is moving us away from our true family, but he will not abandon us. He will not turn us out into the desert. He is providing another family for us. It will take a while for the relationships to be built and it may never be the same as Community, but there is no doubt that God is sending us.

I ask you to pray for my teenagers. This move is hardest on them, I think. Pray for Chris and I as we parent them through this. I think my biggest fear is that they will hate God and hate Chris and I for doing this to them. I long for them to see God's goodness in this. Pray for us as we actively and deliberately seek out relationships in Springville. Pray for Maggie and I as we trust God with our fears of being forgotten by the ones we love most.

Who knew that God would lead us into church planting? Yowza. Not me. I think moving to Peru would have been easier in some ways.

Someone else listening to this sermon may have perceived something completely different, but that's where I was today and I don't think I'll ever forget it. God spoke straight into my heart. Thank you, Burt for bringing it today. Have you been reading my mail???

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Let's Rediscover over a Cuppa...

I was resistant to joining Facebook for a long time. I loved blogging and I adored my Blog Community. I think I had almost 25 or 30 blog links on my page. Most of these were people I knew but there were some of people who were either inspiring or just plain fascinating. I would log on every night after the kids went to bed and check in on my people.

My friend, Jawan, introduced me to the blogosphere. She started one and I followed her religiously. Once I started my own, it seemed like more and more people jumped in with me. My sister kept hers light-hearted. My pastor and brother-of-my-heart, G, varied. Sometimes his were frenetically hilarious; other times, heart-wrenchingly honest and moving. Another blog was from a guy named Nate who lived up north somewhere. His posts were fascinating as he navigated his new married life and teaching jr high.

And then Facebook came along. I didn't want to leave my sweet little nest. I was talked into it. There were some things I loved about it. I found friends from ages ago and we could chat like we were once again sitting in Economics class passing notes. What's not to love about that? I found my Algebra teacher and my high school mentor. I found kids (now adults) that I used to babysit. I found my best friend from third grade. This was awesome!

But somewhere along the way, something changed. All the depth was sucked out of the connections. Blogging allowed me to make a statement or a claim and then spend 500 words explaining it. On FB I became very cautious of my status updates, because I just didn't know who might be reading it. I didn't want my family to misunderstand a snarky comment or my high school friends to misinterpret me and think I was still the same self-righteous prig I used to be.

Facebook makes me rise back to the surface of myself and be pleasant. Admit it. You don't put deep feelings on a status. You don't want to post, "Cried myself to sleep last night. I don't think I want to be a mother any more." What?!?! DHR will be knocking any minute. Or how about posting, "My sin overwhelms me. I long for heaven." My aunt would have the suicide hotline make a house call.

But blogging... ahhh, that quiet little bubble where only people who WANT to know me come. That still place where I can think through my thoughts and send the results out into the void, not knowing who, if anyone, will read it.

I used to blog two or three times a week. I haven't blogged with any substance in almost a year. Maybe more. I don't like that. I like thinking and typing. I miss sending things out into the great unknown and waving as it goes. I like to be poetic sometimes. And I really like you... whoever you may be, who is reading this right now. I'm waving at you. Wave back with a review if you want. You don't have to; it's not required.

Facebook will continue to be in my life. I have the app after all. But my blog will be my dear, old friend that I sit down with and drink a cuppa and tell all my problems, joys and fears... You're invited too. Come on in. Do you like cream and sugar with your coffee?