Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Worry" About Worry

"Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Supposing it didn't," said Pooh.
After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this."
-A. A. Milne
Who knew Piglet and Pooh from the Hundred Acre Woods were so wise?

How many times have I found myself asking what if this or that happened? Sometimes I wish I had Pooh there to counter my thinking with a "what if it didn't".

Stress (worry). Fear (worry). Anxiety (worry). It can consume. It can overwhelm us. Call it whatever you want, but we're all a bunch of worry warts.

Awesome sermon this Sunday by our Pastor, Tony. He was talking about what it means to "fear the Lord" or not "fear the Lord" for that matter. It doesn't mean to be afraid of Him. It needs to be taken within context, but most often it means to love Him or be in relationship with Him.

So why use wording like "fear the Lord"? Well, you might not like this. I know I was really convicted over it.

Think about the things you fear (I know you have some). Fear has a tendency to consume us. Fears take over. We make our fears the thing we focus on. So maybe you don't think you fear much. Well then, what do you worry about? What do you need to be in control of? What in this world do you need to have or fear losing? Whether it's approval from others, a faithful spouse, kids that stay out of trouble, losing a loved one, or not having enough money (and there are many more examples)...the truth is we all worry about something.

But is losing your relationship with God something you fear? Is walking away from Him? Not having Him in your life?

Because whatever you fear and worry about is what you live for, is what your heart is most after. It is the thing you are making your God or idol. (Big gulp over here. And I don't mean the slurpee.)

I hope Pastor Tony doesn't mind me giving you the two big questions he asked us at the end of the sermon. Something to ask yourself as you contemplate worry in your life.
Are you willing to do whatever God wants you to do whether you agree or not? (in every area of your life)

Are you willing to accept anything God says, in any area, whether you understand it or not?

So while in the "quiet" of my day I let my mind wander to all the things that are happening in my life, could be happening in my life, should be happening in my life, I hope WON'T happen in my life, I am overwhelmed by my ignorance. That worrying about any of these things might actually change anything. The things out of my control are not worth the wasted brain space.

So "what if _______________ happens?"

So "what if ______________ doesn't?"

God's in control of it either way.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Adventures of a Stay-At-Home Mom with Both Children in School Full Day

Welcome to the prequel to "Adventures of a Stay-At-Home Mom with Both Children In School Full Day". Phewww...that's a mouthful.

So my kids have not actually started back to school. That happens next week. But being the week before, it is not far from my mind.

My son is going into 3rd grade, so we're getting pretty used to him being at school. But my youngest, my little girl, is starting full day kindergarten leaving this Momma home alone. The question of the day is "What are you going to do with both kids at school all day?". Hmmmm...sitting on the couch eating bon-bons comes to mind, but I quickly return to reality. Answering this question has been 2 years in the making. The realization that my hour to hour caregiving is coming to an end has made me wonder, "what now?"

I'd like to preface all of this by saying I still have a very important, sacrificial role to both of my children. Just because they are going off to school does not mean, to me anyway, that they need any less of me. I want to be here when they are sick, have a day off, a snow day...as well as available for field trips, class parties, and helping in the school classroom.

I don't know what it is going to be like. I don't know if the peace and quiet is going to drive me insane or if I'll enjoy it. I'm kind of looking forward to more of a balance, between wearing the "Mom" hat (which let's face it never comes off) and the "Christy" hat (which I still need to figure out what that looks like). So I'm thinking the first week will be great...Peace At Last! And then I'm thinking a month into it I may start to feel lonely. I guess I'll soon see.

I should also say that God has been working in my life over the last few years, preparing me and making a way for me to use some of my gifts and talents for Him and for me. So although I don't know what this school year will look like for Mom, I'm hopeful that it will open the door for a little more Christy and a chance to create, give back, and remember what a little peace and quiet looks like.

So stay tuned for more adventures of a stay at home Mom with both children in school full day (I'm going to need to think of a shorter title) to see if I survive…da, da, daaaaaa (that's mysterious cliff hanger music if you didn't know).

Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 of Adventures of a Stay-At-Home Mom with Both Children In School Full Day.

And here's a favorite post looking back from a few years down the road to encourage you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

GUEST POST from my friend, Matt

A couple of months ago, an old friend from high school emailed me to ask if he could post something on my blog. He was feeling a burden to share his heart for Christ with others and I decided I didn't want to stand in the way of God's leading. So today's post is from Matt. We graduated from high school together in 1994. Matt went on to graduate from Temple University in 1998 and the University of Phoenix in 2007 (MBA). He sings in the choir and plays in the bell choir at Christ's Lutheran Church (PA). He's had the opportunity to give 4 sermons over the last 5 years at the church, and is prayerfully considering attending classes at either Lancaster Bible College or Westminster Theological Seminary with the hopes of becoming a worship leader/pastor. I hope you will enjoy reading his words and be encouraged by how God took a hold of his life.

About 20 years ago, I came to believe that Christ was my Savior – specifically, I became born again in my faith when I began to pray to God for the first time and felt God’s comfort after my grandfather had passed away in the summer of 1992. But just after I graduated college, the passion for His redeeming message was missing in my life. Sprinkle in a few wayward missteps along the way, and my faith in Christ became more of an accessory.

This all changed for me during the summer of 2008. During that time, I started meeting people that had clearly believed in God’s message (one person believed since the tender age of five), and had consequently lived a life of true love and happiness for God. Another person that I met through my workplace had a clear “born again” moment in his life when he started to read the Bible and suddenly realized that his former lifestyle was not giving glory to God daily.

For me, though, the defining moment was when I returned to Camp Innabah later that year and saw the site where I gave my first testimony to a group of friends 16 years earlier. Being there, I started to suddenly realize what a complete fool I was whenever I mistreated someone or if I couldn’t forgive someone for foolish reasons. It clearly struck me that I had been forgiven through Christ’s death and resurrection all along. But thanks be to God! This new found revelation (along with the additions of my new friends) has motivated me to confidently proclaim that Christ is my Savior and to share with others how He died to destroy our sins in order to make us into “new creations”.

One of my heroes is the apostle Paul. I believe he wrote the greatest motivational writings that anyone has ever produced. In 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11, Paul shares with us what is the matter of first importance: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” And again, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

What has held you back from fully trusting God and making Him the matter of first importance in your life? I would encourage you to open a dialogue with God through prayer, asking Him to reveal and defeat any roadblocks that are keeping you from having a close relationship with Him. The psalmist writes, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). Most importantly, meditate on the cross --Jesus loved you so much, my friends, that He bore God’s wrath for your sins on the cross so that you will live again. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's a Torpedo, No Wait It's a Booby

Adam and I had the joy of snorkeling off the red sandy beach at Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island in the Galapagos. We visited with the fish and sea turtles and marveled at the sea stars and sea cucumbers. The water was cold and once we made our way around the rock I decided it was time to head back to shore before my arms turned into popsicles. So we began our U-turn back to shore. All of the sudden I hear this loud noise next to me. It actually scared me and I screamed. I didn't know what it was and I was more then a little nervous to find out. So I turned...and did what most normal people do (NOT!). I got my underwater camera ready and started shooting. This was what I found...

So if you turn my blog background music off (pause it at the bottom of the blog) you might actually hear the surprise squeals from both Adam and I as we figured out it was a blue footed booby bird torpedo diving into the water next to us to catch a fish. I obviously did not get him diving head first into the water, but loving that I actually had proof that we swam with a bird. Amazing! I have no idea if he caught his fish or not. But it is definitely an experience we were excited to have had.

Blue-footed Booby facts from Wikipedia:
The Blue-foot dives into the ocean, sometimes from a great height, and swims underwater in pursuit of its prey.
They will point their bodies down like an arrow and dive into the water.
Plunge diving can be done from heights of 33–100 ft (10–30.5 m) and even up to 330 ft (100 m).
These birds hit the water around 60 mph (97 km/h) and can go to depths of 82 ft (25 m) below the water surface.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Celebrating God's Creation - Galapagos Trip Part 3

Wanted to share with you a few more photographs from our trip to the Galapagos Islands. The beauty and uniqueness of the islands are a testament to the mighty power of our Creator God.
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." (ROMANS 1:20)

"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." (ISAIAH 40:26)

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." (COLOSSIANS 1:16)

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (REVELATION 4:11)

Monday, August 9, 2010

"The Downs" - Galapagos Trip Part 2

Our trip to the Galapagos Islands was full of surprises, not the least of which being how incredible the place really is. But just like life, our journey to Ecuador was full of ups and downs. And just like God, He showed up in the midst of them.

I feel like our trip was a journey about trusting God. Anyone who has been on an airplane recently can attest to the unsettledness of flight, especially when turbulence happens. My mind was set on praying my anxieties away and it more then helped. (I don't typically feel uneasy about flying, but when my entire family, including my husband & two children are sharing the plane, it's hard not to.) So thankful for the many prayers said on our behalf because we had very copacetic and uneventful plane rides to and from our vacation...and not a bag was lost (and there were eleven checked bags).

It's hard to describe anything on our trip as a "down", but I would be remiss if I didn't mention my lack of trust and feelings of powerlessness particularly when we first arrived in Ecuador. We stayed in Guayaquil, Ecuador for two nights, although the first night we arrived very late (on their Independence Day). Needless to say, our first experiences in a foreign country were early morning hours and an armed guard riding with us in our hotel shuttle. With our two young children with us, both Adam & I were feeling uneasy about our new surroundings. I was so taken back by my feelings of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear because we were out of our comfort zone. Fear of being in a third world country, of crime...even of my inability to communicate with them (none of us speak Spanish). How easy it was to let those fears turn into judgement. Of a dirty city. Of crazy driving (well, that part was totally true). Of people who were different.

So every cloud has a silver lining. Very thankfully that morning we took a four hour driving tour of the city of Guayaquil with a local named Victor. He was great! Getting out of our hotel, beyond those "safe" walls...slowly my fears began to recede and I was able to appreciate Guayaquil, their lifestyles, their culture, their home. We had a wonderful time and even came away with a restaurant suggestion four blocks walk from our hotel. It just goes to show you that half of fighting the fear of the unknown is just getting out there and experiencing that which you fear. Amazing!

Down number two came in the form of our "cruise yacht", the Letty. It was really nice, slept 20 guests and 11 crew members. It was comfortable, accommodating, clean. The crew was amazing and so friendly. This time fear came in the form of rough seas at night. Not sure there would have been a peaceful place to sleep on that boat. Let me be clear, we traveled in July which is winter in Ecuador (clearly not winter as we know it). Winter in the Galapagos means the winds are up and the water is cold. Winds mean rougher seas (by the way, the crew told us the ideal time of year to make this trip is March). So the seas tossed us about several of the nights. People who don't get seasick got seasick, including me. We slept in the bottom of the boat, closest to the water. It was difficult to sleep soundly (atleast for me). The sounds and movements made a rollercoaster seem tame. Definitely unexpected. Definitely a test to keep my fears in check. Adam and I were in different rooms (each of us with one of our children) so I struggled with the insecurity of being "alone" in my room. Not used to all the banging and clanging noises associated with riding in a boat that size in rough seas.

I want to make it clear that the unexpected sleeping issues truly did not overshadow the awesomeness of our trip. We had to get from point A to point B. So most of us wound up taking some Bonine for seasickness, but it didn't stop us from enjoying each excursion and appreciating the incredible things we were able to experience each day.

The third down (this is a trilogy) happened after one of our excursions on the panga (or zodiak). Upon arriving back to the main boat in the panga my grandmother, without warning, passed out. So at first I asked myself, why is this happening? And then I realized, whether or not this was happening, God was still there and in control. That was His amazing lesson to us that day. She did revive and was carried onto the main boat. We were anchored in a small cove and our crew happened to be friends with another boat that happened to be anchored in the same cove. The other boat happened to have a doctor on board, who they promptly zodiaked over to our boat. Turned out she was just dehydrated. A little rest and a lot of water and she was absolutely and completely fine the next day. I love God's timing. She could have passed out during the panga ride, when we were far from our boat. It could have happened when our boat was not near any other boats, especially with a doctor on board. By the way, I never saw that other boat the whole rest of our trip. So very thankful that my grandmother was okay and we could all enjoy the rest of our trip together.

Being on the boat for 9 days with our Ecuadorian crew was amazing. It is hard not to draw close to people you share precious time with. I love the fact that when I think of Ecuador or the Galapagos Islands, the names of those men come to mind and I can pray for them and their families. Going to the Galapagos was more then just seeing breathtaking scenery, turquoise blue water, and unique animals up close. It was also meeting the people and extending our little circle to include some wonderful people we had the privilege of getting to know in Ecuador. We returned to Guayaquil after our trip to the Galapagos. And we stayed in the same hotel. But 9 days later, there was not a trace of the fear we experienced upon our arrival. There was a new found comfort. When I write that I actually feel bad about it. I'm frustrated that I felt that way in the beginning. Trust in God keeps fears at bay. And I'm so glad for another lesson learned and a reinforcement of why it is so important to trust God in all things.

Gracias, to the crew of the Letty for a wonderful experience in the Galapagos!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"The Ups" - Our Galapagos Trip Part 1

What comes to your mind when you hear about the Galapagos Islands?

If I were to guess I would say Darwin or evolution. It was in fact Darwin that made the islands famous and basically "put them on the map". But after having been there I can say it is SO MUCH MORE! I didn't necessarily know what to expect. Like most of you, I didn't know a lot about the Galapagos, aside from giant tortoises and finches. Since my experiences there I can say that it is the most unique, beautiful, pristine places on earth. Certainly there is no place like it.

The Galapagos Islands are located off the coast of Ecuador, South America in the Pacific Ocean. The Galapagos is made up of a series of volcanic islands, similar to Hawaii. There is one airport on the island of San Cristobal. The only way to travel from island to island is by boat. We had the pleasure of traveling with a company called Ecoventura. In a weeks time we visited many of the islands including Genovesa, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, North Seymour, Santa Cruz, Bartolome, and Espanola.

The uniqueness of this place can be summarized in the variety of animals you can see on each island. Some animals are unique to one island. Some can be found on different islands, but with small physical differences. For example, the marine iguanas on one of the islands are very large. On another island the marine iguanas are black and small. On another island the marine iguanas have red and green coloring on their skin. Most of the subtle differences within a species comes from food and food supply. The large marine iguanas have a vast supply of food so they grow larger. The small marine iguanas live on an island where food is scarce so they cannot grow as big. The red & green (or Christmas) iguanas eat red & green plankton which gives them their unique coloring. Most of the animals are effected by food and island environment and God gave them the ability to adapt to their surroundings.

The Galapagos Islands are isolated. It may be one of the few places on this earth where the world doesn't encroach. People do live on some of the islands, but the National Park Service has put into place very strict guidelines for usage. Even the boats that bring tourists to visit are carefully monitored and tracked by satellite. There are restrictions on where you can swim, kayak, and snorkel. There is a cap on the number of visitors on each island area at a time. There are no trash receptacles on any of the islands (except in the residential areas). The water is clean and clear. The animals are not afraid of people. You may not touch any animals or take anything like seashells or coral. You must stay within 6 ft of the animals, which is actually very difficult since you are walking among the iguanas, blue footed boobies, and sea lions. It's like nothing you have ever experienced.

It really is paradise. The waters are amazing colors...cobalt blue, turquoise, aqua...indescribable! It is peaceful and quiet, except for the sound of birds squawking and sea lions "arfing". The truth is we could have stayed longer. We weren't ready to leave. And our lives are different, changed even, by being in that place, experiencing the majesty and wonder of God's creation together as a family. It was truly a blessing to be there, to meet and know the people of the Galapagos, and to bring home the memories of our short time spent there.
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