Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas!



Each Christmas I send out a letter and a picture to our friends and family. It's actually pretty high on my priority list because one of my favorite parts about this season is hearing from friends and family through their cards. It's a joy to do. It's a little bit of a project, but I think it's worth it. So, I decided to wait a few days after I sent the cards out before I posted it here, but it's Friday now, and Mike will be off for the next two weeks...I wanted to make sure I did it! So, to those of you who have left me comments and feel like friends, this is for you and for those of you who found me while blog-surfin' and liked me enough to keep coming back...it's for you too. I pray you all have a very Merry Christmas.

Love,
Ali


Merry Christmas to our Dear Friends and Family!

One shattered glass ball, four ornaments in need of superglue, one string of lights out, and I was so edgy by bedtime I could barely pray. Ah, the wonderful preparations of Christmas. We needed to go ahead and decorate. Great attitude, huh? “Mike, just get the tree down and we’ll go from there.” It’s an absolute mess. I wanted the house to be perfect before we made another mess. I wanted the floors to be clean and all the little random “things” that find their way into our living room to just disappear. Then Christmas could be just perfect. Not so.

As I was looking at the magnet that had joined the dust bunnies in the corner and the drawer of hair accessories on the bathroom floor I just sort of threw up my hands like, “It’s just not perfect. I’m just not perfect.” Then I thought of Mary and Joseph. A super long donkey ride and then natural childbirth in a barn are not necessarily the perfect conditions for the first Christmas EVER. There is really not a comparison to my little mess of Rubbermaid bins and ornaments.

I love it that Jesus invaded an imperfect world. I love it that His start here was so humble, making Him approachable and real. I’m so thankful that the only thing perfect about that first Christmas was Him. You know why I’m thankful for that? Because the only thing perfect about this Christmas is Him. The pressure is off, the perspective is ON. It’s not about anything but Him. That, my friends, is great news.

Here’s some more great news:
Our kids are super! Anson is 6, Julia is 4 and Ella is 2. I will not go on and on about how smart, good-looking, kind, compassionate, funny, well-mannered, and AWESOME they are. You’ve heard it all before. I will say that we are thoroughly enjoying the challenges and the blessings of homeschool and we are all thriving. It’s our first and very informal year, but I anticipate great things as we trust God with every aspect of this journey.

Mike and I are doing well. We’ve grown a lot this year and the best thing is that we’ve grown together! We went to our first homeschool conference with some of our best friends and we were so encouraged by the information we received from the conference and the fellowship we enjoyed.

It was a rough year for the family. We spent some time in the ICU with my sister, Alex, and now watch in awe at how she has been rebuilt from the inside out. (She was diagnosed with Lupus) We welcomed a nephew and a niece and have battled in prayer for our loved ones as they have endured some darkness. In every circumstance we have lifted our eyes up, up to the heavens, where our help comes from. It’s been very imperfect, just like us.

So, are you struggling with not being perfect? Worried someone might find out? Don’t worry, the secret is out. Christ has made a way for us and as we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world we can also celebrate that we are not it. From one mess to another…I wish you all the messiest, merriest, happiest, most jubilant celebration ever and a very imperfect, but blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blogellas

I have had several ideas for posts lately, and simply cannot spend my time on the computer. Not posting super long anyway. So, the other day I got the idea of just posting some "blogellas" you know, like little blogs. I guess it would properly be called a postella since it's a post on my blog, not a blog on my blog, but I loved the way blogella sounded. It also made me giggle because I thought of a contestant on a certain popular show where people sing and become idols, and this girl said that she wrote "novellas" and was currently writing one about one of the judges. It was creepy funny. Speaking of Novellas, (am I spelling that correctly? I just spell checked it...seems to be fine...anyway)if you are looking for some good ones, you should check out Francine Rivers and her novellas that she wrote about the women in Jesus' blood line. They are very well done. Okay, to my first blogella

Blogella #1
I love a fountain coke. There is something about drinking a coke from a restaurant fountain machine that tastes so much better than a can I crack open after a long day. It's just fresher. I'm not sure if it's the ice, the cup, the straw, the fact that someone else fixed it for me, whatever the reason, I LOVE it!

I've been trying to shed just a few pounds and one of the ways I can usually do that is to avoid Coke. Now, I don't drink it all the time, simply exchanging it for water while I'm out is all I need to do. I don't buy it and only have it in the house if there is company. So, on Monday I was driving to my sister's house and thought, "I would so LOVE a Coke right now." Well, lucky for me (unlucky for my waist) there is "Golden Arches" on the way. I couldn't wait. I was thinking about that first sip, YUM (I almost want one right now!). Then it hit me...my first blogella. I wish I longed for Jesus the way I long for a Coke. I don't mean to trivialize it, I'm serious. I will go out of my way for a Coke, if I really want one. I was thinking about it, planning on it, anticipating with great joy sipping my Coke on the way to Ashley's house.

To say I've avoided the Lord lately would be an understatement. I've enjoyed just layin' in bed for a few extra minutes (like 30!). I would rather check a blog, or Survivor behind the scenes or fold clothes, than be with Jesus. That just happens to me. It's because I had sin in my heart, I won't go into all that, but that is the reason.

I want to be like the Psalmist that says, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." Psalm 63:1 That is what a want, sadly, that is not where I am. I believe the only way to get there, is to be with Him so much that my soul longs for Him. It craves Him. It not only needs Him, it wants Him. Oh that He would do that in me.

Blogella #2
The other day the kids were just hangin' out in my room with their new Highlights magazines and all of a sudden Anson goes, "Mom, can I have a piece of candy?" I asked, "For what?" His very honest answer, "Just because I want it." So what do you say to that? "Sure." So, he scaled my closet to reach the Halloween candy that is at the top and of course pulled several things down on his head until he had the precious bag in his possession. Well, Julia isn't going to go without, and neither am I, so we were all looking for our candy. Mike and I have our stash of the good stuff that we choose from. I chose a Milky Way and had eaten it and Anson was still in the closet searching. "Bud, what are you doing? Just get a piece of candy and put it away." Without really thinking he responded, "I'm just looking for something that will last." Immediately my heart replied, "Aren't we all?"

How long will we search? What was so sweet about Anson is that he was being so careful in his search. He was considering it. He didn't just want a quick fix, he wanted his candy to last a little bit. He wanted to enjoy it.

I've been walking with God for almost 12 years and I know there is nothing that will last the way He does. There is not one thing that will satisfy the way He does. Nothing.

"Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you." Psalm 63:3

Blogella #3
Sometimes I feel like everyone else got a more important mission from God. Now, I do believe that what I'm doing matters (or I wouldn't do it) but sometimes I believe the lies that God is using everyone else and is making me sit the bench. Well, I started reading Galatians (it's about freedom in Christ and freedom from the law...hooray!) and I came upon this passage. It's in Galatians 2:7-8 "On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles." As you probably know, I am a homeschooling mother. We are not taking it one year at a time, we believe without a shadow of a doubt that God has put us in this for the long haul. My time is different, my priorities are different. This verse set me free. I do believe that God is at work in this ministry. I just want to stop looking at the ministries of others and believing that theirs is more or less important. We are all members of the same body...all with a very important job to do, which leads me to our science experiment.

We love Highlights, the other day Anson said, "Mom, can we do this?" It was an experiment that involved soaking one penny in liquid soap and another in vinegar and then guessing which would clean the penny. It only made sense that the liquid soap would do the job. Soap cleans, right? Wrong, not pennies. The vinegar is what was necessary to get the job done. Having already read Galatians I asked the kids if this proved that the soap was worthless. They of course said that it didn't prove that at all. We went on to discuss how certain things have certain jobs that they are used for, just like people. Some of us have gifts and talents that can be used for somethings, but not for others. Just because one person isn't used by God in one circumstance doesn't mean they are less useful or loved, it just means there is another job for them. Perfectly designed for them. Vinegar isn't always used, but we all have it on the shelf, don't we? Let's be available to be used by God and thankful that He would include us in His work.

Blogella #4
If you had to guess how old the "Proverbs 31" woman was, what would you guess? You know what I would guess? Early to mid-forties. You know why I say that? She is WISE! She has probably made some mistakes. She probably forgot to mend the clothes one year and made a mental note to be prepared next time! I thought about this while considering the stamps I would be purchasing for my Christmas letters (I'll post it soon). I thought, you know, it's a good idea to just buy a book of stamps a month, and by the end of the year, TADOW...I'm prepared! Instead of dropping a significant amount of money on stamps, in December, an already sort of "tight" month. So, as we compare ourselves to the Bible's picture of perfection, I feel like we should all just remember that we are in process. We are becoming those things. I am on a slower track than most, but I'm encouraged by the little bit of progress that I have made over the last 12 years. I'm especially excited about having stamps next year!

Blogella #5
My house is a mess and my in-laws are coming the day after Christmas. It's not like, a super mess, but it's not in "entertaining" order. The other day as I was looking at my table, I thought it was the perfect picture of my heart. We have been reading a super book called Jotham's Journey, as we have celebrated Advent, and our wreath is on the kitchen table. Well, everything lands on the kitchen table and it has been a bit off center and sort of cluttered. Sort of like Christmas. We try so hard to keep Christ as the center, but stuff just crowds Him out. The Christmas letters, snack bowls from today at 10:00, junk mail, an empty purse, the book I bought today and some random train tin. My heart has been cluttered, too. I know He's the Lord, but sometimes I just allow life to creep in and it makes a mess.

So, check your focus. Is it cluttered? Jesus entered a dirty world, He won't be surprised if there are crumbs on the floor. He won't care either. Praise Him.

Alright, that's all I've got for today. I hope you enjoyed my little blogellas. Please forgive any typos, I've been typing quickly and have had a few interruptions.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'm a Fan.

So, I didn't come from a family of athletes. I had a reputation for stinking at sports that even my charming personality couldn't counter. I swore I wouldn't marry an athlete. I graduated from Georgia College & State Universtity and we didn't even have a football team. I guess what I'm saying is that I never had the opportunity to be a fan, I didn't even know I wanted to be a fan. Then I married Mike.

The first time I saw Mike coach a soccer game I thought I was marrying a man with split personalities. His passion on the field shocked me. He paced up and down the field yelling and screaming. Seriously, I was shocked. I was also shocked when football season rolled around and my husband watched alot of T.V. We just didn't do that growing up. I guess I didn't notice until later that he was also wearing the same shirts each time "his team" played. Weird.

As the years went by our lives changed dramatically. Babies stir everything up, yet there was a constant. Football, college football, specifically Georgia Tech football. Every Saturday I wore myself out cleaning up and taking care of the kids and there he would sit, king of the house in MY chair in front of the TV. Now, it would be one thing if we had a man-cave where he could disappear and I wouldn't have to look at his reclined tail while I slaved away being the dutiful wife that I am. (that would also be a whitewashed tomb!) If the T.V. is on it's on in the entire house. There is no escaping the noise. However...

About two years ago I was getting ready for my workday and the Lord just spoke right into my selfish little heart. These are not necessarily God's words (like from the Bible) but this is what went through my head, "If you can't beat em'" I flipped up (I was drying my hair upside down) looked at myself in the mirror and said, "I'm going to watch that game, and I'm gonna like it!" I didn't just watch it. We all watched it. I went out and bought snacky food and put on one of Mike's t-shirts. I joined him in his passion. Not because I went to Georgia Tech (the thought of me being smart enough to attend that school just made me laugh out loud...seriously...there's no way!) but because it mattered to my husband, and he matters to me.

You see, as I have come to love Mike more and more, those things that interest him have started to interest me as well. They are not little inconveniences or things that I tolerate, I really want to enjoy them with him. He's my love, my best friend, it only makes sense, right? This post was sparked a couple of weeks ago when I wanted my own t-shirt. I still carry a little bit of the kids with me wherever I go, but I'm not a "Large" anymore. I don't want to wear oversized T-shirts unless I'm going to bed. So, Tech was playing and we were heading to my Mom's house and I asked if we could stop on the way and pick up my very own "game day" shirt. Of course he was thrilled. I love my t-shirt. It matches Mike's of course. Yes, we are those people. I love it. I loved showing my team spirit. I love being supportive, I love being a fan...of Mike's.

It got me to thinking. Since coming to faith almost 12 years ago, my desires have changed in crazy ways. The more I fell in love with Jesus, the more I wanted to enjoy what He enjoys. I wanted to love the things that He loves and hate what He hates. (the way I'm never supposed to cheer for UGA) I want to be close enough to Jesus that when His heart beats, I can hear it and mine beats faster if His beats faster. I want to be about what He's about. If He's going someplace, well, I want to be there too! I want to identify with those things that He is passionate about.

Over Thanksgiving we visited our family in Pennsylvania. My Dad and Pam, my sisters and Mike's entire family. On Thursday we were with the Wessner's. It was really overwhelming for me to be in a room full of people that have my same name...that are really family. I really love those folks and I only know them because they are Mike's family. They love him too, and in turn, I love them. As I continue to walk with God I am constantly meeting new family members. Like it or not...they are my family. Those of us who have called on Christ to rescue us from the mud and mire...we're family. We may be the weird uncle, crazy aunt or deaf Grandma...but we're kinfolk as far as Christ goes. We must love one another because of that. Let us not forget that they will know we are Christians by our love. John 13:35

Another thing that I love is to hear stories about Mike. It just gives me a little more insight into who he is and where he has come from. We went to a video store while we were in PA and he took awhile to make his way out, said he'd met one of "his crew." I just giggled. He's so cute. We were having dinner with his sister and her husband and we were teasing that "his crew" would have been giving the tutoring while I would be, with a few of my crew members, receiving it. We were nothing alike. Marrying him changed me...in every good way.

Coming to Christ has done the same thing. Outside of Jesus Christ I am one wicked soul in desperate need of a Savior. I think only of myself and look out for number one. As I am s-l-o-w-l-y being refined and holding on to less of me and more of Him, I'm changing...and I like it.

Just like I like the way I look in my new game day t-shirt. Now, sure it's not the team of your choice, heck, most of Georgia isn't a Tech fan (I can think of 4 that I know of...Sheryl, Heather(also by marriage) and a lady that Mike works with I could be missing someone) That isn't the point. The point is that when you love someone, I mean really love someone, their desires and their passions become your desires and your passions. You don't mind taking a backseat for their sake, in fact, you love it.

So, where are you? Are His desires your desires? Are the things that bless God's heart the things you are pursuing? Go ahead, buy the shirt, be a fan...rumor has it that in the end...we are The Winners.

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:3-4

I studied this verse in college and realized that I only receive the desires of my heart because His desires become my desires. Pretty awesome, huh?

P.S.
As a new fan, I think it's important to mention that we did beat UGA. I'll just mention that...as a new fan.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Still Not a Post

Whew...Friday came a went didn't it? We were going out of town, but I'm paranoid to write that sort of thing because I don't want someone to break into my house and steal all my wonderful possessions. I just couldn't pull off a blog. Now, it's 10:30and I got sucked into blog world, and just wanted to touch base with those of you who may have checked in and found nothing. I am excited to get back to bloggin'...I just feel like I should unpack something before 11:00. We'll see. I almost hate to post this because it still isn't a real post like you were expecting...but I just want to say that I'm home, and I look forward to writing...soon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This Just In...

Did you know that you can get a box of "Just Bunches" of Honey Bunches of Oats? My husband came home today with a box of it that he paid $.11 for and I must say that it is delicious. It's sweet and crunchy and just so yummy. We even went out with a second coupon in hand to get two more boxes! This time they were out of Honey Roasted so we got two Caramels instead. Guess what? They are just as tasty! So, if you are a fan of Honey Bunches of Oats, you will love Just Bunches. It's a delicious snack for any time of day!

P.S.
I did not get paid for that

P.S.S.
I will be blogging about what my husband, a Georgia Tech T-shirt, and Jesus all have in common. I have to post it by Friday so check back...in the meantime put that cereal on your list...you'll be so glad you did!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Public Service Announcement (a rant)

I have seen a commercial two times and each time it makes me want to scream! I just want to say, to someone other than my husband, that a toy that reads books to your children will not instill a love for reading in your child. Our culture is so battery operated that even reading to our children can be passed on to something else...not even someone else...something else.

To be honest, it just makes me sad. We have a chair. We have met a number of people that we have grown to love, and we have gone to some of the sweetest and faraway locations via our chair and quality literature. I understand that people are busy, I understand that not everyone has a chair...but I'm up to my ears with advertising that is preaching to parents that a battery operated, noisy TOY can do more for children than the very people that God has entrusted the child with.

Julia wants her hair in braids like Betsy (from our favorite series Betsy-Tacy) and Anson's first friends when he learned how to read were none other than Frog and Toad. Ella chooses the Bible and I just want something that we can enjoy together.

Maybe you would love to read to your children, but you don't know where to start. There is a book called Honey for a Child's Heart, it's a book list. It's a wonderful collection of quality literature that will ignite a love for reading. We've met Stuart Little, Charlotte, Wilbur, and Louis the Swan, all E.B. White's genius. My kids love them and still talk about them.

So, I do not wish to be condemning or arrogant. I just want to say that holiday advertising is selling us a lot of worthless crap that doesn't do near what a library card and a cozy spot will do. And it's free. Avoid the batteries, buy a book...you'll be so glad you did.

*Just for fun...please share some of the books that you have enjoyed with your children that you would recommend.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cheap Imitations

I'm currently going on week 2 of using my broken hair dryer. Several weeks ago my very old hairdryer served me one last time, and needed to be replaced. I didn't want to spend too much, so I went ahead and bought the store brand (guess what store I was in!) and was happy with my $10.00 "Simply Basic" hairdryer. Happy, that is, until two weeks ago. I was mid dry and my hairdryer just quit. I plugged it it, checked the red button, changed outlets, flipped it on and off and came to the sad reality that my hairdryer had just, as my brother-in-law would put it, "crapped out." I was beyond irritated as my hair doesn't look fabulous when it air dries, and I'm growing it out (that's another story) and so I like it to be thoroughly dry. What I have discovered is that it just gets tired. It will work each day, but it won't really do a great job because it only lasts so long. Cheap stuff breaks.

As you all should know by now, my husband is a teacher and I am a stay-at-home mom who is also educating our children. We have gotten out of debt, and God has helped us to adjust to our income, and I feel like we do well. However, I will buy the generic brand. Growing up we couldn't stand the yellow "Cost Cutter" boxes of cereal, but my kids also eat "Toasty O's" instead of the brand. It just saves money. There are several items I don't mind going generic on. I'll name a few for fun...cheese, cereal, milk, juice, some crackers, peanut butter and jelly. There are a few items that are NOT the same as the brand! Potato chips for one. I buy a brand bread, and I NEVER buy generic Oreos. I have found that the generic cookies simply do not take to my glass of milk in the same manner as Oreos. Another thing I don't buy (anymore) hairdryers. It just stinks.

I've been thinking about generics for a while and you know what else just isn't the same as the real thing? A Savior. Acts 4:12 tells us that, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." There is no cheap alternative for a way out. There is nothing we can do or buy or be that will dig us out of the pit that Adam has put us in. I've seen cheap imitations that have done exactly what they set out to do; steal, kill and destroy. I've seen cheap imitations wreck families and claim souls. There is nothing, do you hear me, NOTHING but Christ alone that will satisfy our hungry souls. Psalm 103 says this of the Lord, take this in with me, "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits---who fogives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Who else can promise those things and actually fulfill them? We are living in a world that is promising champagne and caviar and only delivers toilet water on ice with moldy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There is only ONE NAME that will rescue us from our mud and mire. There is only One True God that will satisfy us in the morning with His unfailing love. (Psalm 90:14)

My husband makes a lousy Savior. There are times when I put Messiah-like expectations on a mere man. My children and their pursuits will not save me, or satisfy me. There is nothing, nothing, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

So, this Monday morning some of you will head off to work. Some of you will stay in your jammies and struggle through a day with toddlers, some of you will have a successful day of home school. Some of us will grieve losses, celebrate victories, and anticipate great things for our future. In all of this, let us remember that we have but One Savior. There is no option, there is no other. Praise Him that He will not allow us to be satisfied by cheap imitations.


Side Note: The longer I use my broken hairdryer the more irritated I become with it. It will never do the job properly. Yesterday I was frustrated beyond measure getting ready for church. Our cheap "saviors" will only frustrate and disappoint us, pretty much on a daily basis...until we get rid of them.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Alexander and the...

terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Elementary Education. We read lots of books while in the program and I loved all of them. One of my personal favorites, since childhood, is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The story is silly, this little guy is making much about nothing, but in his world the sky really is falling in and he thinks it would be better if he just moved to Australia. The reader can see how benign his trials are, here are a few: he sits in the middle in carpool which makes him carsick, he can't get the shoes that he wants, lima beans are for dinner, they kiss on TV, he hates his pajamas...I used it one time to teach adjectives. This morning I felt like I was heading that direction.

Here was the conversation (how my story started) Ella woke me up in the middle of the night and now she's waking me up again before the alarm! My shower isn't hot enough and I have to shave my legs. I nicked my ankle and the water is lukewarm. My hairdryer crapped out...again and I can't find my sneakers. This is going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Julia wouldn't let me do her hair and she isn't ready for breakfast. I hate it when they eat in shifts. My bed isn't made and Mike's late for work so I have to make it myself. Ella got mad and spit on the table and then she flipped over her bowl. She's cranky and is going to ruin everything, this really is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I caught it. I could see where this was going. I had even gone so far to ask Mike if I could get a hotel room one night so that I could finally sleep through the night. Then I changed my mind and said that I would sleep at Mom's instead. I do not wish to have that kind of day and God's word tells me that "this is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it!" I also remembered little Dorcas, our Compassion child, who probably has never had a hot shower in her life. (and never will) I thought of how nice it was to have a new razor, my favorite kind, that my mother-in-law sent me because she knows how much I love them. They are expensive, and she buys them for me and that is a great thing. I also thought of how sweet it was to have girls with hair to do and I do enjoy their spunk. I'm also glad that my children spend their days with me, and eating in shifts will not effect carpool or tardiness. Julia and I will just eat together.

I remembered that the kids and I are trying to "Choose Joy." That is absolutely impossible without Jesus. I told Him that in the shower. "I can't choose joy, Jesus. Please just do it for me." Now I'm the Little Engine that Could, "I think I can, I think I can."

There are some days that really are terrible. My family has had a few of them this year. We've had more than any of us really care to remember. However, even when the matters were life threatening. Even when we felt like the sky was falling in, God remained good. He is worth celebrating every day. I will indeed set out to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth because He is worthy of the best I have.

A funny little side note is that last night I smacked a bug on my computer screen and left it there (I know... why didn't I wipe it off?...I just wanted to go to bed!) When I opened the doors to the computer to write this there it was...now THAT is a terrible day. Getting smacked on a computer screen and being left for dead!!! HA!

So, I'll let Alexander move to Australia...I'm livin' right in the middle of God's best for me.

Today, right now, I'm choosing joy and I hope you are too!



Note: I've linked you to Compassion International's site. We adopted Dorcas about 3 or 4 years ago, and I have never questioned that decision. The amount we send for Christmas is humbling. It's so little, and it does so much. Our monthly sponsorship is really changing her life and the life of her family. If you feel so inclined, check it out. Thank you.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lessons From Zumba Part...I don't know...

So, I'm still shakin' it! You must know how absolutely not sexy I am when it comes to this. I do it because it is a super great work-out. I must be honest, I do not love working-out for an hour. I enjoy it, yes. However, there are other things I could do for an hour that would bring me far greater joy. You know what I love about that hour? I sweat. I work my abs. I move my entire body. I am alone. There is always cool down. Sometimes I can feel a blog coming on. Seriously. If I am having a hard time liking something, or something is funny or strange...there is a blog lurking in there somewhere. Throughout my shaking (BTW everything shakes at Zumba!)I was thinking what it was. I kept looking at my watch, I looked at the clock. I was looking forward to the cool down. I kept working as hard as I could, but I knew that before long the lights would turn out, the music would change and I'd be inhaling and exhaling. What is the blog? Let me make just one more point.

I am not a physical trainer. I am not even physically fit, for that matter! However, the people I know, that are, would agree when I say that the stretching before and the cool down after are just as important as the hard core sweat. The cool down matters. If I were to just leave after working out and skip that, I would be receiving an incomplete work-out.

Over the last year I have been struggling with what a "Sabbath" is. Does that mean that I can't go out to eat? Does that mean that everyone has to take a nap and if they don't we are all in sin? (No, but it feels like sin sometimes when we don't!) I've read and studied it a bit and feel like I am in process, but my recent study with Anson helped me tremendously. (I will, again, urge you to study Kay Arthur's kids studies with your children). We are studying the first two chapters of Genesis and we learned about the Sabbath a couple of weeks ago. Do you know what the word "rested" means? This is as in Genesis 2:2, "By the seventh day God completed His work which he had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all of His work which He had done." Rested: shabat or shabath or shavath (shaw-bath') means to cease, desist, rest, leave off, to bring to an end. (That came straight out of the book) When I read that for the first time it totally changed the way I thought of God and the Sabbath. I had been thinking that God was just pooped. Of course He rested, He had been quite busy! We learned that those were real 24 hour days, and He got alot accomplished. He did way more than wash, dry, fold, and put all of the laundry away! (Although, let's all give ourselves a pat on the back if that gets done in a 24 hour day!) God was NOT tired. God was finished. He had provided for everyone and everything. The needs of creation had been met. We see that God blessed and sanctified that day while He also rested. God set that day apart.

So, I learned that God was not really tired, He was finished. The other part that changed the way I view that day is that all of the needs had been met. There was no reason to continue. God provided for everything. My needs have been met. Do you realize the order in which Creation was created? Even the stars had a place before they were made. Man was created last because God was getting everything prepared for him. From the very beginning He has been my provider (I think I have a post about that...Jehovah Jireh maybe). I can rest, because He did.

So, what is my principle? God worked all week long. The work was complete. I must work hard (Colossians 3:17) during the week with the prize in mind...the cool down. I can struggle throughout the week. I can wash, dry, fold, scrub, prepare, teach, train, discipline, plan, shop...work...work...work...all because God has designed a day for me to be finished. He has planned, in His infinite wisdom a day for me to observe Him as my Maker, my Redeemer, my Provider. By stopping on that day, I am recognizing that He is my God and I am His child. My needs are met, in Him and Him alone. There is a day for me to sit with Him. To be with Him. To adore Him for being everything that I cannot be.

That's another thing about the cool-down. I'm not nearly as haphazard when it comes to that. I have to focus. We are slower and we have to make sure that we are stretching certain parts of our body. We have to keep our back flat, our head above our heart. I'm not just bouncing around trying to work up a sweat. I'm focused. I'm cooling down.

So, how about you? When was the last time you cooled down? I know you need one because 1. God ordained it. 2. I've heard us all say, "I just need a break." Take advantage of God on the day that He has blessed and sanctified. Then be prepared to work as though working for the Lord the rest of the week knowing the cool down is coming, and a cool down always feels better after a hard work-out.

Note: I have not arrived, but I feel like I am getting closer to understanding. Right now our Sabbath is a day of worship. We have Sunday School, Morning Worship, and Evening Worship. We do not "go" all day long and then just head back to church. We do not do any of the normal work. I do not pick up the house, or prepare for the week. I prepare my heart. I use Monday to get things in order for the week, not Sunday. A few weeks ago, our lead Pastor was sharing about the Sabbath and he said, "Sunday is not a day for us to remind God that He is God. It is a day for us to be reminded that He is God and we are His children." I sure need a cool-down. I look forward to it, and I hope you do as well.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dad's Voice


This is "The Boy." Because Anson is our first (only) boy, we thought that was a suitable name. It should come as no surprise when our next child was born, she was cleverly called, "The Girl." When we had our third baby, and second girl, we called her "The Smell." So, this is Anson. He shares my passion for a good book, a cozy chair, and people. I almost cried the other day because I realized that anything good that I have or am, he inherited. (I say that humbly...I just couldn't believe it!) (I'm not deceived, he also inherited Adam's sin...)

So, we decided that we would allow Anson to play T-ball again this Fall. He loved it last year, and two of his favorite friends were playing, and we wanted to nurture those friendships. So, GO REDS! Now, I mentioned the things that Anson inherited from me. Mike is an athlete. A good one. Anson is still young and a bit awkward, I'm not sure how much of Mike he got in that way. Mike and I sort of giggle about it because we don't care what he does. We know that he will be used in great ways by God. In any event, he's got heart. If you want a good sport, someone who will make it to every game and not complain when he's the only one in short sleeves (oops), you should pick him first. He doesn't fight over the ball (Mike wouldn't mind if he did every once and a while), isn't a ball hog, and will still love the game win or lose. He's got heart. If you want to win, well, it's not always about winning is it?

The other night we were watching him run on out to first base and Mike yelled "Cover the bag!" Anson never turned around, he just gave Mike a thumbs up from the field. My heart beat a bit faster. The coaches were closer than Mike was. The other boys were running and carrying on. In all the chaos on the field, Anson heard his Dad's voice. He acknowledged it and kept moving forward. Mike has been talking to Anson ever since the Baby Center told us he had ears. He would read the Bible, sing songs, and just talk. When Anson was born, and we had cell phones, Mike would call on his way home and Anson would smile when he heard Mike's voice. It was precious. As soon as Mike got inside he would say, "Hi Boy!" and Anson would light up like a Christmas tree.

He still does light up. Anson adores Mike, he listens and he respects Mike. The reason he does is that Mike has been a constant. Mike is trustworthy. Up to this point, Anson doesn't have any reason to distrust his father. Mike has been kind, and loving. He has been just and merciful. He governs the kids with mercy and wisdom. In short, he's a good father.

So is God. I have mentioned several times (or at least once)John 10 in which Jesus shares with the Pharisees concerning the Good Shepherd. He makes it clear that the Good Shepherd knows the sheep by name and the sheep know His voice. I am just as guilty as the next struggling beggar of looking for "open doors" in order to know "God's will." or be certain that God really said what I think He said. When we don't see an open door, maybe it's just cracked, or perhaps we start praying that God will open a window that we can climb through and open the door. Surely that would be O.K. Right? Do you know what Jeremiah 33:3 says? We used to have it hanging up in our dorm room, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." I'm thinking that's an answer. Now, every time someone mentions this, we think, "Is it audible? Am I missing it? Do I need my hearing checked?" Now, I'm no theologian, but I believe that God uses His word and His Spirit.

Several weeks ago in a Sunday night service at church the Pastor read from Psalm 68, "God sets the lonely in families." I knew exactly what He was saying to me. My Spirit had been prepared by worship and the hearing of His word, and I knew of a friend that I needed to include more deeply in my life.

I knew that I knew that I knew it was the Lord. Maybe you are new to the faith, maybe you are skeptical of "hearing from God." Anson only knows Mike's voice, and is attuned to it because of the massive amount of time he has spent with him. He knows that sometimes he sounds like someone from Pennsylvania, sometimes he gets anxiously loud, and that his laugh is hysterical! Spend time in God's word. Make it a point to study, to memorize. Make Bible Study with others a non-negotiable part of your week. Honor the Sabbath and keep it Holy. I guarantee that you will begin to "hear" from God. You will not need to trust in "signs and wonders" as much because your Spirit will be sensitive to the answers that God gives you. Just listen, be aware, and before you know it, His will be the only voice that you hear even when the rest of the world is loud and chaotic.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just Say "NO"

I choose battles. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. Sometimes my desire to fight is determined by how dangerous the behavior/circumstance is to my child. Sometimes I guess socks with sandals will not kill them. Although, I do want EVERYONE to know that I am well aware of the fact that it is after Labor Day and socks should NEVER be worn with sandals…now you all know that I know that, so don’t look at me funny! I suppose it can never hurt someone to have a lollipop before dinner if you are at a restaurant and it will allow for pleasant conversation. I can handle that. I’m even OK every now and then if my children would rather sleep on the extremely hard floor instead of their bed…just go to sleep already! These are a few examples of battles that I will wave the white flag to. Go ahead, you win. It’s done. Put a fork in me, I’m done. So, what battles will I stand firm in? Some days it varies. There are always variables in parenting, aren’t there? There is the sleep variable. The “I have a new baby 7 hours of television will not kill you” variable. There is also the, “You can have Coke with lunch, you’re spending the night with Grandma.” These are only a few.

This morning I guess I was just looking for a fight. Julia has been asking for a while if she can recycle. I know that I need to do something to save the planet, but it’s overwhelming how much everyone is pushing. So, I decided that our “one thing” would be to recycle our grocery bags. You have to return them inside out, so we were turning all of our bags inside out. Anson was working on Thank You notes, so the girls and I were bag flipping. Well, Ella thought it would be a good idea to put a bag on her head. Because I am not 2 years old, I knew this was a really bad idea. Not only was it a bad idea, it was deadly. I immediately took the bag from her (duh) and said, “Ella I don’t have to let you put a bag on your head. It’ll kill you.” She was furious! In that second I thought of all of the times that God took the bag out of my hands. Ella wasn’t mad because she couldn’t suffocate. She was mad because I refused to give her what she wanted...her will be done. The ONLY reason I refused was because her decision would have resulted in certain death. Scream all you want, I’m not going to allow that. You can terrorize me all day long about gum and eventually I’ll give it to you. You can beg for popcorn with a movie and I’ll budge. I will not, however, allow my children to participate in activities that I know will, without a doubt, kill them. Physically or spiritually. That’s my job.

You know who else has that job? God. Do you know that the Psalms teaches us that God never sleeps nor slumbers? My husband is guilty of “dozing” while a game is on. I’ll tell him to turn it off and go to bed and he says that he was watching it. God doesn’t watch me like Mike watches the game. Do you know that God rejoices over you with singing? That’s right. He adores us in amounts we will never know. He is a good parent. He will not allow us to put a bag over our head. Scream all you want. He will not do it.

So, as we kick and scream and demand things that we think will be fun and good for us, perhaps He withholds because He knows what we need and what will kill us…or at the very least, send us to the ER.

Things are hard these days. I find that this is not as easy as I thought or maybe as I make it look. HA! Being a parent is so stinkin’ hard and I never turn off. Even now the girls are calling for me because like a moron I let them have a little bit of Coke with lunch and they were NOT spending the night with Grandma. Please, please, PLEASE GO TO SLEEP! What I derive so much security from is that I am a child, too. I have a good parent who is keeping watch. Jesus is interceding without ceasing on my behalf. He is not going to allow me to have anything in my life that is dangerous. He will take any bags that I am playing with. He'll do that because He loves me and because He is good.

“He will not let your foot slip---he who watches over Israel will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:3-4

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

NOTE: After reading this again after posting I feel a little uncomfortable. I know that we live in a fallen world and there are things all around me that are harmful. The point here is that God is a good parent. He has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him, and is constantly keeping watch over us. I feel that it is very important that this be Biblically sound, and sometimes I just get nervous. So, please read your Bible daily...and I'll do the same.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

When will I see you again?

How many of you remember that song by Babyface? "When will I see you again...when will my heart beat again..." My brother and sisters and I say that to each other when we leave each other. I love that song. I can still see Babyface singing it on
VH-1, back when they played music! Well, I just wanted to say that is how I feel about this blog. I am in the process of decluttering our home and my time in order that I may become, fully, the woman that God has intended me to be. I was telling my rather organized friend that though it is not in me to spend hours finding the perfect place for things, it is in me to want to write letters and call friends. The very Spirit that was given to me as a seal, setting me apart as God's, has raised dead people. Surely, surely, I can order a few things that I might free my time up to minister to my family and friends as God has intended. So, I'm thinking about all of my dear friends that I do and don't know out there sayin', "When will I see you again?"

Just to give you an update and a few things that I've been thinking about. It is birthday season around here. We celebrated Julia's birthday on September 27th, then yesterday was Anson's birthday (his actual birthday is this Wednesday) and Ella's is this Saturday! Whew. We also took down the crib that's been up for 6 years, certainly the end of an era. Here's a little thought about that...

Ella has been out of the crib for about a month. We just had the bed sort of shoved up against the crib so that if things didn't work out we could just put her behind bars again. Needless to say, it worked out. The weird thing is that my children like to play in it. They throw pillows in there and ask me to throw blankets over the top to make forts...it's a real blast! The other day I was teasing the older kids when they asked to get in the crib to play and I grabbed them like babies and rocked them and talked to them like babies. They laughed and I asked them how old they are and when the last time they needed the crib. They sort of looked at me funny and I told them (still in baby talk) if they were babies they could get in there, otherwise, no.

1 Corinthians 13:11 "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."

What if you walked into my house and all of my children were still sleeping in cribs? Better yet, what if my husband and I were still cramming ourselves in cribs? You'd probably decline the next invite, thinking we were whackos and then you'd tell all of your friends how silly it looked. It is silly. My kids are too big for cribs. I'm too big for a crib. I'm a big girl. I think there are times in our lives when we want to crawl back into the crib. We want the safety of the bars, the lovey, the blankie. Paul teaches us that when he became a man, he put childish ways behind him. I'd say he took the crib down. That was no longer an option. I feel like I am growing up. I bought new bedding and I'm going to hang curtains. I want to be the woman, not the girl, the woman that God has called me to be. I cannot do that if I'm lookin' for my lovey and stuck in a crib. Emotionally, spiritually...I want to grow up. I want to see the issues that make me long for the safety of my crib and then I want to run as hard and as fast as I can to the arms of my Savior. Proverbs 18:10 says, "The name of the LORD is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe." So, if you are looking for someplace to go when you are scared and you realize that you are a bit too big for a crib, you can run to the LORD. Your strongtower. Your ever present help in time of need. I can't find scripture to back this up, but I'd venture to say that He wouldn't mind if we treated Him like our lovey. You know, couldn't calm down, or function without Him.

The other little snip-it comes from Wal-Mart. Now, a couple of years ago I did everythang (that is not a typo...it's to be read just like that)at The Wal-Mart. Now, something you must know if you do not live in the south is that Wal-Mart may be the name where you are, but round these parts we call it The Wal-Mart. "I need to get to The Wal-Mart." It's in a class all it's own. Okay, cultural differences aside, I was at The Wal-Mart...late. We were doing a Lego birthday party for Anson and I needed some cheap crap. Where else is a girl to go? So, it was probably 10:45 and there I was, at The Wal-Mart. As I walked up I thought, "Lord, e'rybody's out tonight. Whew, what bunch! Look at these folks. What is so important that they have to be out at The Wal-Mart at 11:00? Mercy." It was then that my sweet, sweet, Savior whispered ever so gently in my ear, "Ali, honey, YOU are at the Wal-Mart too. Just wanted you to know that, suga." I smiled. Jesus was right, again.

I try to keep this honest. Passing judgement is a serious issue of mine. My friend, Hadassah, has written some fabulous posts on this subject that have been extremely helpful. I look at people like I'm not right there in the middle of it. I forget that I was born of Adam's seed and have also received the curse of sin. I forget that I fall short. It's foul and disgusting, but it happens. For a good example of what I mean, I will tell you a quick story of my Grandma.

Grandma was a beautiful woman. The last 2 years of her life she spent in a nursing home, and fortunately I was in town and could go sit with her and visit. To hear her talk about the other people in the home was ridiculous. She had names for all "those people" and couldn't understand how some of them could be how they are, where they are. I found it comical because Grandma was there, too. She may not have been bedridden, or need someone else to feed her, but she was also in their situation. My Grandma has been gone for 3 years, but I still smile and giggle when I think of her. Grandma was in denial. That is why she was able to look at the others and separate herself. She was such a beautiful, well traveled woman, that to think that she was "in" with these folks was just too much for her to bear.

Much like my Grandma, I often live in denial and that is why I feel it appropriate to pass judgement. It is not appropriate to believe that there was any redeeming value in Alison Pyle (that is who I was when I was saved) that would cause God to rescue me from my mud and mire. It was His kindness. It was His mercy. It was His sufficient grace. He saved me, and He sustains me. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jehovah Jireh

How many of you know that the Lord provides? How many of you have ever had groceries show up on your front porch? How many of you have found 5 bucks in your pants pocket when you needed just that? Escrow check anyone? Around here I call that "random money." Now, I know that God is sovereign over all, I don't want to be flippant when I call it that, but that's what it is. Just that random stuff that meets those special needs...right when we need it.

Anson and I have been studying (and really enjoying) a Bible Study called "God's Amazing Creation: Genesis 1-2" written by Kay Arthur for children. This is our second study and we have both really enjoyed the time studying together. So, we have been slowly making our way through the first chapter in Genesis. That is creation. The other day I had an AHA moment. When we wrote the days down in his "field journal" I saw the days laid out so logically. Then the questions that were asked, 1. Do you see a design to God's creation? 2. Did God create the world and the things in it in a logical way? 3. Is there order in God's creation? Those questions caused a light to go off in my head and a truth to descend on my heart. This may be elementary to some of you...it is elementary, but this was huge to me. God didn't create anything until He had provided for it. The heavens were created before the sun, moon and stars. The seas and the land were created before the fish and the land animals. There were plants and animals and air and water...sunshine...THEN He created man. Do you see that? Before we were even CREATED we were PROVIDED for. Every need was met before man ever came to be.

The truth that descended upon my heart was that God is not going to provide...HE HAS PROVIDED. Now, we see him provide (present tense) because that is how we live, but God is not bound by time and He goes before us. Even when Jesus left He told the people that He was going to go before them (us) and prepare a place for them (us). God is proactive. In my pea brain I have believed Him to be shocked by my needs and maybe even caught off guard. "Oh no...Ali needs size 6's for Anson! How did I miss that. Man is that boy growing like a weed! Julia wants a dress to spin? Ella has wide feet and needs church shoes? I better get busy!" Not anymore...I do not believe that. My God is a great God. He is adequate, sufficient, all-knowing and all-powerful. My needs do not go unknown, as petty as I think they are.

So, tonight it was time to pull the clothes out of attic and sort through them to prepare the great switch! We have two seasons here, HOT and cool, but I still have to pull clothes down. Let me tell you what...I'm always shocked. Why is that? We always have what we need and there are always at least 2 dresses that I would have never been able to afford...in perfect condition. God knows my heart. I have beautiful girls and I love to see them in beautiful dresses. He is so good.

I can trust God as my provider because from the very beginning that is what He was. Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The God who was and is and is to come. So, that was my AHA. I pray that it will meet you where you are, that you will be able to trust the good hand of your good Father. It may not always be in the manner you think it will come, but I think all of us can look back over the course of our lives and name many situations when we had no idea how certain needs would be met, yet we have great testimonies of God's faithfulness. I would love to hear your stories...and we'll magnify God together.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Got Gas?

By now you all know that I am not super savvy when it comes to the pictures and links and whatnot. The truth is...I'm just not and don't really want to be. However, I would like a picture of the gas stations here in my neck of the woods. The picture would have 2-3 police cars parked in front with lines wrapped around the station and backed up into the road. Then there would be another picture of a vacant station with yellow or white bags on all of the nozzles indicating that the well is dry. So, there is your picture...now I'll start my blog...

As you can see from my picture (hee hee hee) the gas stations around here are crazy. The other night I was headed to a jewelry party and I couldn't figure out why the traffic was so slow and why there were police officers at Kroger. Then I saw the gas station...good grief...the line was wrapped all the way around and was flowing over into the parking lot, and into the road...it was insane. Immediately I checked our gauge...full...imagine that. Then I passed Wal-Mart, same thing. What on earth? Of course I said what I say when things seem odd, or funny, or whatever, "I'm gonna blog about this." Upon my arrival, I immediately asked the ladies what was up with the gas and they just said that we were running out and people didn't want to be left high and dry.

I wasn't sure of what angle I was going to take until it hit me while I was on my way home. I had just met with my sweet friend and we had a chance to read and pray through Psalm 121, then we could just sit back and be satisfied in who God is and how He loves His children. While I was passing the now deserted stations I thought, "That's it! God's grace!"

Let me just say that by the end of the day I have used up all my good works, my kind words and my happy heart is just plain tired. I begin to see more of "me" and less of Jesus...and sometimes I'm just discouraged. I really see it at bedtime. I kiss the kids, tell them I love them and enjoyed the day with them. We breathe a sigh of relief and then the door opens. I try to be kind (usally I'm not) and say, "Go to bed." This happens at least 2 or 80 more times and finally I'm just like...a crazy person. My voice changes, my face changes...by the looks on their faces I morph into a raging lunatic with 2 heads...both screaming! I run out. I just can't do it all. I don't want to, either. Are you laughing? Nodding your head? If not...you haven't put your kids to bed yet!

One of my favorite verses (I say that alot!!!)can be found in the book of Lamentations. "Because of the LORD'S great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" Lam. 3:22-24That is such good news for me. Because I am easily exhausted, I tend to believe that God is as well. Now, we can read through the Old Testament and see that He is pretty patient! The Israelites were brutal to God. They moaned and groaned. They argued and complained. They even worshipped a golden calf that they crafted themselves. We would never do that would we? Well, this isn't about us worshipping our idols, so I won't go into that...but the point is that He is patient. He remains fully Holy and fully God when we are completely depleted of everything good that we have in us (which there are several verses that would tell us we ain't all that). God's grace is sufficient. God's grace doesn't run out. God's goodness is part of who He is. He cannot forsake Himself, which means He cannot just stop being what or who He is. Think about those empty gas stations. That is US. We run out. We run dry. Then we freak out! One thing that will never be in short supply is His grace. Now, I will not get into the arguments of the book of Romans, but I say with Paul that we shouldn't continue sinning so that grace might increase!

Sometimes I start a new paragraph to stop rambling...I don't need to try to fill up on grace the night before so that I can be sure I'll have enough to get me through the next day. I don't need to "top off" my tank in case the well is dry. His mercies are new every morning. I cannot tell you how much of a relief that is for a woman like me. I love it that there is grace enough for me. I'm not stealing from you, and you are not stealing from me. God is sufficient. (If you are friends with me, this is where we say, "Praise Him" or "Amen")

I don't want to keep going...I just want that to be enough. I want Him to be enough for me. I want Him to be enough for you.

As you pass gas stations whether they are full, empty, or uneffected by Ike...just spend some time thanking God that He is abounding in love and faithfulness. He does not change like shifing shadows. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? Ladies...He is full, and because of Christ...so are we.

Also:
Let us remember to pray for those people who are missing more than gas due to Ike. There is still alot of work to be done.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hornworms and Caterpillars

I do not garden. I think that gardening is a noble thing, a very eco-friendly way to get your veggies and what not. Some people say that it is therapeutic, others say it's just their way of life. I say, "I'm just not there yet!" My friend Kelli, is totally there. This year Kelli started making her own bread, and they planted a square foot garden. The bread is delicious and the vegetables are full of flavor. She has done an amazing job.

This week we went over to Kelli's house to just hang out. I hope some of you have at least one friend like that. The girls baked cookies, the boys played whatever they made up, it was just fun. However, they were all getting a little rowdy and it was finally in the 80's here (my kids keep saying that it's freezing!) so we went outside. Kelli's garden is always the first place the kids go. It is neat. It's so full of great stuff and this time we found some not so great stuff. I always ask Kelli to tell me what everything is and she, with great joy and pride in their hardwork, shows me. As we were looking at her cherry tomatoes she said, "Dang it, look at that. Those caterpillars keep eating my cherry tomatoes. I picked about 7 off already and now there are two more." I just giggled because she was so serious about her frustration, to me they were merely caterpillars. I asked her what she was going to do when she picked them off, "Kill em'." She replied without hesitation. "Kill em'?" I questioned. "Kelli, they're just caterpillars. Can't you just toss em' over the fence?" "NO!" Was her emphatic reply. "They'll just come back and they are eating my plants!" So, she squashed them, just like that. I was sort of sad, we had a caterpillar garden a year or two ago, and I loved watching them change and grow. They seemed rather harmless. I looked at another plant and said, "Man, what's that?" There was this big, fat, green thing sitting on the stem. "Look at that!" Kelli was getting fired up, "that is a hornworm and it has stripped that entire stem of it's leaves. Look at that! That makes me so angry." Now, I must tell you that Kelli was really mad. It makes me laugh out loud...what we have to remember is that it is HER garden. These little pests were destroying HER work. This is HER crop.

"What are you going to do with it?" I questioned curiously. "I have to get it off and kill it!" Kelli was on a mission now. "Well, how you gonna get it off?" "I don't know. I don't want to touch it." She tried scraping it off with a newspaper, but that bad boy was on there to stay. It had already made that plant breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and was hanging around for a little snacky-poo. I grabbed a bat, half joking, and said, "We could knock it off." "Try it." Kelli said with a determined tone in her voice. "I think it might break the stalk off." "I don't care, it already ate everything on it. See if you can hit it off." Now, I must stop there to say that Kelli and I are in our thirties. This hornworm was not going to like, jump off and eat our faces. We are not covered in leaves and should not have felt threatened by its 2 inches of nasty. That being said, I whacked it. I had to whack it two or three times before I finally broke the stalk where it was. Now what? Who was going to pick it up? I did (I picked up the stalk that it was on...not the actual pest...gross), but I was squealing and so was she. We called the boys because we figured it was a teachable moment, and they thought it was awesome. It really was beautifully made. It had these amazing designs...but it was a worm nonetheless. So, of course Kelli is ready to kill it. I told her she shouldn't kill it on the pavement because what if it splattered. Who wants a splattered hornworm on their sidewalk? Not me. So, she took it futher down in the grass and squashed it with her shoe. I was far back (avoiding the spray) and she said that it just sort of flattened out. It was just empty. Hm. Empty. All that fuss over an empty hornworm.

I've been thinking about that for a few days and today at Zumba it did form into a blog. Here's what I've got...

Many times people talk about the garden of our heart and how God pulls the weeds so that the flowers don't get choked out and we are able to live blameless lives by His grace. But, riddle me this. What if we pulled the weeds and fed the flowers/veggies and didn't do one thing about the pests? What if we just said, "Well, you've just got to expect that. It is, afterall a garden. Just let them be." We would NEVER produce a harvest. What if my friend just said, "Well, I'm just glad that I can help those little pests out. Give them a little something to munch on." That was not her response at all. She was angry because these little buggers were destroying her crop. They were actually eating and enjoying that which was meant for her family and friends. They were not welcome. She was legitimately angry and wanted them not just over the fence, she wanted them dead...never to return.

Ladies, sin is sin. Before I say that we are all sinners and it's just something that we need to live with, let me remind us all of Psalm 103:12, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Jesus not only died for our sin, He did with our sin. It is defeated. It has no dominion over us. "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." Romans 6:14 and "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." Romans 6:18. Having that said, we live in a fallen world. We are fallen people. There are little pests in this world that can cling to our lives and nibble away until we have been stripped of our leaves first, and then our fruit. We will still belong to the Father (Kelli's garden is hers with our without the pests)but our lives are no longer healthy and life giving. They have been invaded. That's bad news. As I watched how Kelli really got angry at these little nasty things I thought, "I want to be that angry about my little pests." I want to be furious at the little things that crawl into my life almost undetected and nibble away until I am an impatient, merciless, and aggravated mess. I want to be able to recognize them, pick them off, and put them to death. That sounds pretty aggressive doesn't it? The enemy is aggressive. Let me remind us all what John 10:10 tells us about the thief, "The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Those bugs are not offering Kelli squat. They are not paying rent or leaving tips. They are there for themselves and themselves only. How is Jesus different? He comes to give life to the full.

Let me remind you how beautiful that thing was. It was a lovely color of green and had these really neat black zig zags all the way down it's body. I have things in my life that are pretty. I have friendships, gifts and talents...but used outside of God's goodness and enjoyed without His grace, they are dangerous. I must be aggressive with the pests that creep in. They might be in this world, but I do not have to let them munch on me. Not my time, not my energy and not my mind. I belong to Christ. All that I have is His. Anything that threatens that should be put to death. Just like that. I shouldn't just dismiss these things (gossip, laziness in lovng God with my mind, being short-tempered with my family...my list goes on)as natural. They are natural, but Christ has overcome the world. In Him, I do not have to live like that. I do not have to allow these things to choke out the fruit that God is bringing forth in my life. I know that I will struggle until Glory, but perhaps I should allow a little fire to well up in my belly. Maybe I should get angry at these things. Let me remind you that the hornworm was empty inside. Empty. So is the sin that we pursue willingly and that pursues us with a vengeance. It has nothing to offer. It only takes. It gives no nourishment. It leaves no tips. It comes, with it's master's permission, to steal, kill, and destroy.

I want you to be encouraged that freedom from any sin that has attached itself to you is fogiveable. If you are struggling to live in the freedom that Christ has provided, pray that God would give you grace to repent and the ability to walk in freedom. Ask a trusted friend to pray with you and for you so that you can live the life that God desires for you.

I feel like I could go on and on. I want to be understood (an idol of mine). I want you all to know that we will struggle with sin, but that we are no longer ruled by it. We can be set free from it. We have been set free from it...through Christ's death and resurrection.

We do not have to live with hornworms and caterpillars. They might be pretty, but they are dangerous and they have no place in the garden of our heart. Get angry. Pick them off and put them to death. I'll be doing the same.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will."

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and od not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1


Note:
How can we be aggressive? Memorize scripture so that when you find yourselves struggling with sin, you can fight with God's word. Surround yourself with people that can love you and help you. When we bring things into the light...they tend to lose their hold...do this in a safe and trusted environment. Declare that the victory is yours. Pray. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Follow Me...

I don't often say, "I need a break." I have periodic "breaks" as I attend Bible Study, Sunday School, dinner with friends etc. However, that doesn't mean that sometimes I don't look at Mike and say, "I am going to the store...ALONE!!!" This past week I needed a break. Ella was getting molars (or something) I think I am allergic to my house, I wanted to be back at the beach...I just wanted to be Ali. Thankfully I had a baby shower to attend in Atlanta and by the power of God I would also be meeting some of my favorite friends for lunch.

I actually thought twice about leaving on Friday night. I still needed to plan math and history and thought maybe a Friday night at home would be good for me. I called my friend to tell her I may not make it, but upon hearing her voice, I began grabbing my stuff and getting ready to have a mini road trip. I got all of my directions printed and my phone numbers written down and stapled together and I was ready to go. The kids began melting. You would think that I never see them the way they began carrying on. I peeled everyone off, and hit the road.

I'm trying to get to the point, I just like setting these up...so I sat in a little bit of traffic where I was able to pluck my eyebrows and read a book. I had some wonderful prayer time with my good friends Watermark.

Now would be a good time to tell you that I do not enjoy driving on large interstates. I do not see well in the dark and I do not do well with directions. Having that said, it was getting dark. Have you ever tried to navigate in the dark? I was a nervous wreck! I had to keep turning on the light to know what I was looking for next. "Alright 285 to 85, 285 to 85 was that north or south? Rats, why can't I turn the light on? North, right, that would make sense Atlanta is north of Augusta, right? 85 in 1 1/2 miles...will I need to be in the right lane? Am I merging? What's this idiot doing? Oh, that's me..." I had to turn the radio down and really concentrate. I didn't enjoy the ride. It made me nervous and I wondered if Mike would remarry if I got into an accident and would his new wife Classically Homeschool my children. Seriously, I go there. I decided that it would be much easier to have someone with me that either knew where they were going and would drive, or could at least tell me where to turn. My mind started thinking of the "God is my co-pilot" signs. That leads me to believe that people are still in charge, but at least God is telling them where to go...but the Lord refined this picture for me.

My friend is expecting her first baby, so she had a good bit of family in town and I was going to spend the night with her friend. I met at Jenny's house and got to visit with her for a while before I headed to Elise's house. The drive to Elise's was much different from the drive to Jenny's.

There were several similarities; it was dark, I was alone and I didn't know where I was going. The differences were that I didn't have directions, but I was following someone who knew where they were going. I had the radio up and was singing along. This time I was enjoying the ride. Elise knew where she was going. She has travled that route probably hundreds of times. I could depend on her sense of direction, I could trust her. Now, wouldn't it have been silly of me to flash my lights and pull over and tell her that she missed her turn, or that I knew of a shortcut? She would probably laugh at me and tell me to keep following. What if I insisted that I knew more? That although I had never seen her house, and had certainly never traveled this route, I knew of a better, more efficient way. Now, all of you would say that is just plain foolish. It is. You know what, you are just as guilty as I am of doing this on a regular basis. Did I say regular basis? I meant to say daily.

As I thought about that drive to Elise's house, this thought came to mind, "Following someone who knows where they are going is way easier than navigating myself." The Lord was like, "BINGO!" Now, I could go in several directions, different twists...having God in my car, He is in control of the steering wheel...but for the purpose of this post, He is the car in front of me. I didn't take my eyes off of that car. If I would have lost Elise I wouldn't have known where to go. I would have just parked my car until she came to find me. (Jesus leaves the 99, that's another post, though) I enjoyed the ride. I sang my music, but I didn't take my eyes off that car. I didn't look at the scenery. I didn't allow people to get in between us. I was following, and following closely. Without her I was lost. In the night. Without a map. Without directions even. Without my husband. Lost.

My favorite verse to study, especially with new believers is Matthew 6:33, " 'Come, follow me', Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.'" Almost everytime Jesus called His disciples the next verse is usually, "Immediately they dropped their nets and followed him." No questions. There were no negotiations. They weren't asking about insurance packets or the safety aspect. They knew Him, they had heard Him, they were honored to be called by name. They did the only thing they could do, drop everything and follow.

I followed two other people to various places while I was there and I never had to turn around once. I got home quickly and was glad to be home. Every time I followed someone I kept thinking of that passage and what blind faith really is. I totally believed that the people I was following were going to get me where I needed to be. I wasn't anxious. I didn't question whether we had missed a turn or if we were going the long way. I didn't ask them to explain the route. I just stayed close. I didn't stop and shop or look around. I followed. I put my blinker on when they put their blinker on. When they got over, I got over. When they arrived, so did I.

We are following Jesus somewhere. For now He is navigating us through this life, but our ultimate goal is Home. We've never been there, but He has gone before us. He actually tells us that He is preparing a place for us. Take that in. Jesus is preparing a place for us.

Just like it is foolish for us to flash our lights at the lead car and declare they are going the wrong way, it is foolish of us to tell Him that He doesn't know where He is going and He should get behind us. Oh please, Father, never allow us to get ahead of you. While I was traveling I thought of the passage in Exodus where the Israelites have been freed, and Moses is questioning who is going to help him lead the people. Come with me... "'If you are pleaed with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.' The LORD replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I wil give you rest.' Then Moses said to him, 'If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?' And the LORD said to Moses, 'I will do the very thing you asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.'" Exodus 33:13-17 I love the first part of that, "If your Presence isn't going...neither are we."

Following God, being led by His Presence, is what sets us apart. Moses knew without being led by Him, all was lost. They might as well stay put.

As I followed those people around Atlanta I decided that I really want to enjoy following God. I want to be as confident in God to get me where I am supposed to be, as I was with the near stranger (a dear friend of my dear friend) that got me back to I-85. I want to rest in the Truth that the Maker of Heaven and Earth can get me safely home...whatever that looks like. It does not mean we sit idly by. We fix our eyes, like glue, on the Hand of God. We listen to His heartbeat and go where we hear it beat loudest. We don't stop to shop...or ask directions from someone else. No, we follow, and in following we will not only arrive at our destination, we'll maybe bring a few others with us.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1-2 (3 is awesome too!)

Well, now I'm late for church...how's that for following close?! I enjoyed that, I hope you did too. I'm easily distracted as a follower. I must remember that without keeping my eyes FIXED ON HIM I am absolutely alone. Lost. In the night. Without a map. Just lost.

Follow close. I'll see you there.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I interrupt this blog...to brag!













I'm still not good at arranging pictures and making things look neat. I just wanted to give some of you and idea of what I am like...who I am. I let my son spell as a pirate...maybe I would have to walk the gang plank (is that what it's called?) if I didn't. Sometimes, my kids watch T.V...together...while I do whatever! We are studying the Story of the World with Mike and we built a tent as we pretended to be the nomad family from the story. We took a very last minute trip to the beach last week. We love funnel cake, but recognize that one is enough for the entire family. I have several ideas in my head that I look forward to getting out some time soon. My sisters teased me while we were at the beach. Ashley wants me to blog about her because she is looking like "Post Pardom Barbie" HA! I want to blog about how Ashley played in the band, but she never really played when it mattered. She pretended to play on Friday nights so that she wouldn't be ridiculed for messing up. I wish to blog regarding the discipline of the Olympic Athletes. I want to blog about my brother-in-law who told Ashley that running 26 miles with 80 pounds on his back saved his life while fighting in the war. That's just to name a few. So, keep checking back, you never know what you are going to get.

For Christian's family...I will get a Bear blog up soon...

Thanks for checking in. I hope you enjoyed your little peek into my world.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fun Friday?

Alright ladies, this is just a day in the life of Ali Wessner. I just want to keep it real...and to share motherhood. So, last Friday night we decided to go to the beach for a week...pictures to come...so we packed up our clean clothes, school work, and headed out. We arrived home yesterday and got unpacked and enjoyed Daddy since he couldn't be with us all week...I probably will not do that again...although I had a great time with my sisters.

So, today was "Fun Friday." We work on a 4 day schedule, so Fridays are reserved for movies, playdates, and planning. I figured we would go to the lending library (if you live in Augusta and you have not gotten a personal tour of this place, let me know!!) I figured we'd invite my friend because I knew she would love it, she did. The lending library is a place where you can check toys/books/games/puzzles/manipulatives out for a month. It's awesome. So, they ran around there and then it was time to go. We checked out and I looked at Mods and said, "I feel like a Cappucino Blast." For those of you who know me...those are a weakness. I actually fasted from them one time because they were becoming an issue, lame, I know. So, of course the kids want donuts...whole donuts. Usually we get 2 munchkins a piece, but it's D week...what the heck! Sprinkles and all. Of course my friend comes in and we have our blast (it's always a blast with Mariam, though!) The kids have their donuts and now we are creeping up on nap time. Actually, we were creeping past naptime. Do you ever do that? You just keep pushing. I have been in nap prison for 6 years. I am a firm believer that children need naps and that they need them for a long time. Today, I decided not to believe that! So, we left there at roughly 2:30 (did I mention I'm still in nap prison) and we still have to return our library books. I figured I should return them before Mike takes my library card because I keep running up ridiculous library fines due largely in part to my irresponsibility. So, guess what, Wal-Mart is just down from the library and I REALLY want to pick up a few things AND I have a gift card. I know I'm pushing it. Ella is screaming for everything. She has pulled her bow out and looks sort of like a street child. She has eaten an entire donut and is CRASHING. However...I WANT TO DO WHAT I WANT TO DO!

Do you know what I just HAD to go to Wal-Mart for? I'm sure you are dying to know...diapers, photo paper, page protectors and cassette tapes. We have stretched our diapers as far as we could. You know, rounding them all up and only changing the "necessary" ones. We found the diapers that were in Grandma's bag, the church bag, the van and my purse. I could have waited, but I didn't want to. I wanted cassette tapes because I borrowed a tape recorder from the Lending Library and I wanted the kids to be able to do their memory work on it. As I was standing waiting to know where they were, the ladies were talking about fancy phones. I felt like a cavewoman standing there gnawing on a turkey leg asking for cassette tapes! They do still make them! The page protectors were for my "week in review" that I do for my pictures and of course the picture paper was for the pictures. So, it wasn't a MUST it was a WANT. Somedays I just want to be first. Somedays I want my schedule to matter the most. Somedays I just want to prioritize me. It's pretty ugly...but I do it. I don't do it often, but I have to admit...I do it.

As we were leaving Wal-Mart there was an older couple loading their car and she was just smiling at me. Ella was, of course, HYSTERICAL! I said, "I pushed it. I knew I was pushing it and I didn't care. I wanted to come here!" She laughed and said she had 3 grandsons. I got in the van and thought, "Please, just get me home!!!"

So, now I'm home. The kids are unwrapping the tapes, and Ella is sleeping. I probably will not put myself first again for a long time...until I need some other really important items from Wal-Mart. Whew...it's hard bein' human!

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." Philippians 2:3

I'm not saying I should not be a priority. My time with God should be a priority, my time with Mike should be a priority...but in motherhood...on most days...they matter more. I'm sure there will be plenty of time to leisurely walk around stores and not say, "Alright, here's the deal...we're going in for these things and we're coming out with these things. Stay in the cart and don't ask questions." Maybe one day they'll even call me to shop with them. We'll maybe get lunch. We'll laugh. Hopefully we'll magnify the Lord together. So, until then...I'll be home by 1:30!!!

Enjoy this day and enjoy your children. Life is but a breath.

Blessings.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friendship Bread

Have you ever received a bag of goo that you need to nurture until it becomes bread? I have, and 4 of you will in the very near future! My friend dropped in for something that I cannot remember and dropped off my little batch of Amish Friendship Bread. She did alot of the work. In fact, we were already on day six when she gave it to me. She did a good bit of the work for me and even included the pudding. I have to be honest, I knew I wanted it, and I knew it would be yummy...but it had to sit on my counter! I'm trying really hard to keep my counters/house clean...so it was just something like, "Oh, yeah, the bread, that stays there." Well, today was the day to bake it. So, after dinner Julia, Ella and I headed into the kitchen to get this bread off of the counter and into the oven (and then into our bellies). While were were getting it together I started thinking about friendship in general and how it also needs to be nurtured. I wanted to hug some of my best friends...this is the best I can do.

You see, each day I had directions for what I was supposed to do with this bread. Squeeze it, add some stuff to it (Kelli did that for me) leave it on the counter, let the air out. Sort of take care of this mush so that I could enjoy the bread. There would be a reward.

I have some sweet, sweet friends. I think of my "teacher" friends all the time. I wish they could see me now. I'm not as scattered and I am a little more structured...they would be proud. I think about my college friends who watched me lay down some serious loves of my life. They watched me struggle with all His energy as I worked out my salvation with fear and trembling (and continue to work it out). I have High School friends who were my company for some pretty crazy times, that make for fun stories now, "GIRLS, IT'S TIME!!!" I have some friends that were patient with me as I warmed up to being a new wife and making new friends. I have some friends that were with me as I was a new mom in a new place. They assured me that everything would turn out alright and they confirmed that my son is, indeed, a genius. I've wept with my friends as they shared their deepest regrets, I've celebrated while they have overcome some intense obstacles and fears. I've watched marriages be reborn, and I've seen them disintegrate. I've welcomed new babies, mourned babies we never kissed, and hoped with some friends that they would be called, one day, "Mom." I have some incredible friends. I wish I could call them all by name. I wish that when my bread comes out of the oven I could cut up a piece for everyone of you and we could laugh and cry...we'd wear pajama bottoms and go back for seconds since we were wearing elastic!

I want to work at my friendships. I want to squeeze them, and add to them, and share them with others. I want to enjoy the reward of a friendship that is not only maintained, but is enjoyed and cultivated. I started to list some of my friends and what we would talk about, then I stopped. There is no way I could acknowledge all of the fabulous women who have contributed to me.

I wish you could smell my house. It's warm, and sweet...just like friendship. I'm not sure how to end this...I guess it would be appropriate to not end it, like so many of my friendships...it's just not over...

"A friend loves at all time." Proverbs 17:17

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mom, Close Your Eyes

My house is really not that big. In fact, it's getting smaller by the minute. So, I can see most of it from my bedroom. I can actually see the front door from inside my shower. There are not a lot of surprises, except when the children are trying to surprise us. We get what every other parent gets, "Come see what I did...close your eyes." This means it's going to be good. It's either a ridiculous mess, a semi-clean mess, something that requires the Magic Eraser, or something that you will say, um, something like, "Guys, I know that you were trying to surprise Mommy, but we don't paint on the walls unless you have Mommy's permission." It could go like that, or sometimes it is a good surprise. Today it was a reminder.

I was finishing up reading an e-mail and the kids found me (they do that alot!). "Mom, come here, you gotta come see this." So of course I finished what I was doing and allowed Julia to take me by the hand to lead me. Naturally she said, "You have to close your eyes. Don't look at all, O.K. Mommy? Don't look." Then my daughter that I have trusted with my eyes closed, let's go and tells me to continue following! Why do I have to have my eyes closed if you aren't going to lead me???

Immediately a hymn that we sang last night came to mind,
"He leadeth me, He leadeth me, By His own hand He leadeth me." That was a quick picture of the reality of that line. Sometimes it is blind faith, but our hands are still tucked inside the hand that fashioned the universe and created us in our mother's womb. It was a picture to me of how God says, "Come on, you are going to love this." Don't you feel like that? Like you just close your eyes and follow? Only, the hand can be trusted. My children will lead me into walls, I will trip over shoes, I could break something or someone if I don't keep one eye open when they aren't looking. This wonderful passage in Isaiah comes to mind, it's very familiar, as it should be, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10, or this one (I always have to sing it because that is how I memorized it) "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:2-3a That is some GREAT news!!!

God is not my 3 year old trying to surprise me with how clean her room is, or how big the fort is, or how messy her sister is. God is God and He is trying to show me how big He is, how massive His power is, and how deeply in love with me He is. So, I'll take his hand, I'll close my eyes and I will walk in confidence. Not because of what I know, but because of who I know, and I know that He is leading me.

Are you scared? Think He's leading you someplace and you aren't sure where? You can trust Him. The wind and the waves obey Him. He spoke the universe into exsistence. I'm sure He will hold you tight. Close your eyes...it's gonna be good.

Does anyone know who this person is???
She is such a kind, kind woman. She and her daughter co-authored the Well Trained Mind. That's right...this a picture of me with Kelli and Mrs. Jessi Wise! I wrote about her a couple of weeks ago. Some of you, this won't mean anything...some of you...that's right, THE Jessi Wise. She was everything you would expect. She was kind, wise, humble, helpful, and we thought it was just awesome that she would pose for a picture. If any of you are kicking the homeschool tires, her book is really a great place to start. Alright, I'm off to write something for everyone...