Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'm a millionaire!

I took my youth to a church service tonight...and I almost walked out.  I realized quickly that we had entered a "how to witness to strangers" class.  For an hour and a half we learned the "correct" method to slyly get a sinner picked off the street to admit their own impending eternal damnation.  It's known as "The Way of the Master" method and was made famous by Kirk Cameron (formerly and better known from his "Growing Pains" days).  You can check out a cute animated version here:

Unfortunately, the version we encountered was not so cute.  It involved an overly zealous adult shouting at kids about how they should be concerned about how they and everyone would be going to hell because God is just.  It was set-up with specific questions that they would be using as they encountered real strangers on the streets of downtown Roanoke and witnessed to them about the "good news"...which according to this speaker, was that we are on our way to hell, but God sent Jesus to take our punishment for us.  At this point, I'm confused...God sent Jesus to hell??  The good news is that we're hell-bound??  God's justice sends us to the fiery pit??  And somehow telling others this (strangers, at that) is going to make them want to believe us and choose to follow this vengeful deity??

Perhaps the problem is mine.  I've always been a reluctant evangelist, even as I grew up in an evangelical church and went as a volunteer youth leader to "Go Tell" camp at Liberty University, where we were forced to go door to door in Lynchburg and hand out tracts and witness "to the lost", hoping to "lead people to the Lord".  It just lead to a near ulcer for me (but ironically, also to me accepting my calling to ministry).  I just don't get trying to convince people to follow Christ via scare tactics, or emotion, or rational point by point discussions.  I've seen these fail too many times, and I don't remember Jesus doing any of those things.  I read about him making friends, including the excluded, building relationships, telling stories, and offering grace and healing.  I don't remember reading one story of him damning anyone to hell or saying that his Father would either.  Perhaps he understood that some of those people were already living in a figurative hell of sorrow, pain, and brokenness.  To his disciples, he didn't explain his mission, he simply said, "Follow me."  And something about him intrigued them enough for them to drop what they were doing, leave life as they knew it, and enter into a journey that would forever change them.

I don't have a dramatic testimony.  I was practically born and raised in church and was baptized at age six.  What I do have is the abiding faith that my loving God created us all with a purpose.  I know without a doubt that it was God's presence and guidance that's gotten me through the most difficult parts of my life.  I know that God loves me enough to care about my life NOW and how I'm living as a Christian than just about whether I will end up in the smoking or non-smoking section of eternity.  I know that God loves all and invites all and gives us all the hearts and minds to accept the love and grace that are offered.  I believe that only God can heal us of the brokenness and loneliness that we all carry because of our mistakes (sins) and that God is more than willing to do so if we accept God's love and learn to forgive ourselves and others.  I believe that following Christ is the way to have a life of meaning and purpose.

And my love for Christ makes me desire for all to have this same gift.  I'd love to talk to you about it...and I promise I won't use any tricks or special tactics.  Just one sinner honestly sharing her journey with another.

Friday, July 22, 2011

It was a good day.  And that's a big thing in our household, where attitudes have ranged from bad to worse lately.  John and I are tired and frustrated and knew something had to give (and hopefully not our precious sanity!)  We've been dealing with bad behavior to the point that it has affected our behavior as well.  When I heard Maryn ask Brady for help with something the other day and he sighed and said, "I'm so tired of this" (a familiar phrase...from me), I knew I had to change my ways.  Knowing that I was taking a day off from paid work today so that John could do some things for his new job, I made a plan.  The kids are much better when they are busy, so we did a "water" theme day.  We started by building a boat:

And then there was pirate fun.  We did a treasure hunt with a treasure map:

 and treasure where "X" marked the spot (I love how Maryn dug it up with her pirate hook).
 There was "ocean blue Jello" as a snack.

But my favorite part of the day is when the kids went off to create adventures on their own, making forts and bridges in the living room and playing "Three Billy Goats Gruff" (we've been reading the book recently).  I love that they're starting to play together with less direction (and intervention) from us.  I love their creativity.  And I love to catch them playing Mommy/Daddy and baby and seeing how they emulate or better us in their role play. 

Today was a good day, and I realize how much of it is due to planning and my own attitude.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Catching up

I feel like I haven't posted in forever.  I've been in a bit of a social media overload, with trying to figure out and incorporate Google+.  I'm also noticing a disturbing trend that since I got my iPhone I'm online much of the time, but not doing anything substantial.  I'm surfing and noting what my friends are up to, but it's limiting my abilities (and time) to actually connect.  I'm taking in a lot of info and ideas, but not really processing or using any of it. 

There's also been a lot going on in life:

-my car was rear-ended, costing $1200 in damages that I have to pay as the woman who hit me gave me incorrect information and I can't track her down

-the next day, we found out my husband's company is shutting down

-Fortunately, (thanks be to God, friends with connections, and my husband's determination) he had a job offer within a day and has started a new job he loves

-Unfortunately, our health insurance costs have risen to $782 a month (fortunately, we have good health and insurance). 

-Our beloved babysitter of over two years found a new job and left us on little notice.  We are all quite attached and I consider her part of the family.  Tears were shed, but we are blessed that she will still be in our lives and will still be able to watch the kids for some occasional date nights.  We think we have found a replacement, but she has big shoes to fill!

-several friends have had babies in the past few weeks and it's been a joy to share in their excitement.  It's also been a gift to realize the completeness of our own family!

-New opportunities are hopefully on the horizon, which leads to both excitement and anxiety.

-Brady starts kindergarten in about a month!  Maryn will be going to preschool full-time as well, which is more of a concern.

-Finished the Harry Potter saga with a date night screening of the final movie.  What a bittersweet moment.  He's been part of our lives as long as John and I have been together, and we've enjoyed sharing the books and movies.

Harry Potter offered me a chance to reflect on my own journey through the past few years.  There have been so many ups and downs, mostly one following another.  In a sense it's been a good reminder of God's provision and of the uselessness of worrying (not that I can help it).  The past couple of years have been good lessons in opening my heart to gratitude and opening my eyes to the beauty surrounding me.  Perhaps it was preparing me all along for a time such as this.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A finished project!

Maryn's desk with her new magnet board.  Framed prints by Suzanne L. Vinson
I'm incredibly blessed to have in-laws that will watch our kids for the weekend once a month or so in order for John and I to have a break.  This past weekend, John was off to Vegas, celebrating his birthday by taking in a UFC fight and visiting the pawn shop site where the TV show "Pawn Stars" is taped.  The lure of a quiet, empty house was too great for me to ignore, so I passed on the trip and enjoyed some time at home.  It's amazing how much I can get done without having to attend to the needs of others, and I blew through a lingering to-do list, doing laundry, a little cleaning, and a lot of cooking.  I got an estimate on my car, which unfortunately got rear-ended last week, and spent some down time taking walks, seeing a movie, and enjoying good food.  But most surprising to me, I actually completed a craft project.  I am usually a "wanna be" crafter.  I peruse artsy craftsy blogs daily, and have files of projects I'd love to do, both with the kids and by myself.  I've written about my desire to open a cafe where parents can come and do crafts with their kids.  Lately, Pinterest has been a great time sucker as it is a great compiled online pinboard of all sorts of inspiration.  But mostly my creative ideas just gather dust.  So I'm so proud of my completed magnet board for Maryn.  She had asked for one recently as we have one in Brady's room.  We actually spent a lot of money for his a couple Christmases ago after a failed attempt (epic fail) to make one.  He was determined to learn how to read at the age of 3 1/2 and pretty much taught himself over the course of the year, arranging and re-arranging magnetic letters on his board to form words, then phrases and sentences.  Now, watching Brady read, Maryn is starting to become interested as well.
When I saw this

 on Pinterest, I felt it was attainable and appropriate.  Even better, I had a cookie sheet with burned on food that I was ready to toss and contact paper leftover from the failed magnetic board project.  I just had to purchase some spray paint and a picture stand to bring it all together.

It was a nice surprise for her homecoming, although I think I'm enjoying it more than her!