Monday, November 10, 2014

An Autumn Ball of a Bygone Era

I contemplated naming this post "A Ball in the Fall" but somehow it didn't seem elegant enough. Anyway...

Once again, my dear friend Libby hosted another Civil War Ball! Valerie, Stephanie, Laura, and I all went up to visit for the weekend, and had a wonderful time.

Thanks to Hannah (and Noah, for filming) for this video of the square dancing we did at the end. Lincoln and Jed are calling. I can't believe how good they are getting! Hannah also has two other videos uploaded: another one of the square dancing, and a contra.
Most of the dances were contras, but occasionally Mr. S. would put on a waltz or a polka.

 Valerie and Laura doing a polka 

Andrew and Amanda, Libby and Jed

"Wagon-wheeling" (when several squares merge into one big circle)

That's the fun way to do an allemande left!

 Valerie and I - we didn't know we were being photographed!

Lexi and Laura
Valerie, Amanda, and I
Hannah and Libby
~ the four sisters ~
Amanda, Libby, Hannah, Lexi, Jed, Lincoln, Paris
Little Dagny - at the last ball she was just a baby and Shelby was the one sitting at the piano!

~And a few bonus pictures from the farm~
Sunset - see the old school bus?

 Visiting with "North" Dakota (not to be confused with the IL horse we know named Dakota)
Aurora smiled for the camera

Laura and Stephanie reading in the living room
Aurora and Sierra in the store
 Baby Elizabeth

Monday, April 21, 2014

Church is like an onion patch

For my writing class, I had to write two similes to describe "church". Last night I had a fit of inspiration and stayed up till midnight writing. This was the better of the two. Enjoy!

 (Not my picture)

There’s a plant in my garden known as a walking onion. Where we got the first one, I have no idea, but that one plant has become a patch measuring several square feet. Walking onions are used in cooking like other green onions. Its narrow, hollow stalks resemble large chives. Whenever I desire to use some in the kitchen, I simply step outside and pick whatever I need. 

It seemed to me that the church is rather like these walking onions. It grows in clumps, each bulb sending up several poking fronds. Seeing this reminded me of a family, and seeing all these “families” growing alongside each other reminded me of the church. The reason for the name “walking onion” is because when the plant comes to maturity, it bears fruit, in this case, onion bulbs. These bulbs are not like the big Vidalias you buy at the store, nor do they grow in the ground like those. These grow as a cluster of thumb-sized bulbs at the very top of the stalk. Eventually, the bulb cluster grows too heavy for the stalk to support. Whomp! The bulb pulls the stalk to the ground, taking a “step”, claiming new territory for the cause of onions. The newly fallen bulb plants itself in the ground, and will become a new plant the following year. 

Do you see how we are sort of like those onion plants? Not only are we growing alongside each other, but as our lives bear fruit, we are step by step gaining ground for the kingdom of God. Our usefulness is accomplished by bending, humbly accepting the will of our Lord. We are available as His servants whenever He needs us, even if that means being consumed. Like the onions’ distinct aroma, we bear the aroma of Christ. We are stronger (smelling) together! To some the aroma is pleasing, to others completely unappealing. Although we may spend our whole lives rooted in one spot, serving in the same region our parents did, we also may be transplanted by the Gardener to spread our kind in new and distant soil. As we grow, it’s not due to our own power and self-sufficiency. We are dependent on the One who gives sun, rain, and all increase. (1 Cor. 3:7)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thankful Thursday: A Spoonful of Sugar

Sometimes it's just nice to have someone to tie up the loose ends. This morning, David was making Orange Stuff for Michael's birthday dinner, but didn't have time to finish it before homeschool co-op. I agreed to finish making it for him. After they left, I found this on the table:

 Can you read it? It says: liz for makeing orange stuff
Made me smile!

PS: At age 11, David is one of our best cookie dough makers.

7 Home Alone 2

We had one week to pull it off, and I have to say it was only by the grace of God that we did. Considering that we did the last one in 24 hours, you'd think it would've been a breeze, but no. Drama, you know. Still, it was a lot of fun. Love these people! Anyway, enjoy our sequel...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Can I brag on my clubbers?

I love these people.

Yessiree, those are first-place ribbons for our first-time-ever first-place Sparkies. Yeah! I had so much fun being on the line as a coach with them. They are just precious.

And these people...
...did so well! 
The competition was so tight between all 4 teams, that even the 4th place team (us) won quite a few games. The girls did especially well. Look at Laura, halfway between clubber and leader. During practices she was gracefully coaching the younger players. She makes me proud.

And speaking of people I'm proud of, two weeks prior...
David, Maddie, and Emma knew their Bible quizzing material forward and backwards, and proved it! Second year in a row as 1st place winners!
Since we didn't have any other Book Four people for Laura to quiz with, she teamed up with two other girls from two other churches. They were the best of the best. Laura made family history by finishing out her fourth year of T&T with her fourth Bible Quiz medal! When she wore them all at once my dad nicknamed her Clackety. *smile*
All our Quiz teams. Brian also did very well, with a perfect paddle score.

A big thank-you to Commander Dave, Mrs. Cory H., Mrs. Peggy N., and all the other leaders and parents. Your support was invaluable!

This Saturday is our Grand Prix (Awana's version of a Pinewood Derby). It will be our 9th consecutive week of extra Awana stuff. Whew! The practices were worth it, though. Not only did the clubbers perform better, we got to develop deeper relationships with them. I'm happy to say I can now tell the twins apart (both sets). :)

And I didn't even write about Summit, which was right in between Quizzing and Games. Well, in case you were wondering, I'm very proud of Stephanie too. That deserves a whole 'nother post.

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Thursday, December 12, 2013

You Serve The Lord Christ

Until this moment, it had all seemed like a dream come true. Jana had longed for the day when she would finally see her beloved Savior face-to-face. Now, that day had come. Jesus! Here! He was more glorious than she could ever have imagined. Even the angels around him were eclipsed. It was the most thrilling day of Jana’s life, but now He was speaking to her. She could understand every word, but... it didn’t make sense. He was saying, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” His voice was rich, deep, and clear, like a mighty river. “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
A jolt of panic raced through Jana’s heart. This wasn’t right. She hadn’t done any of those things. This was the first time she had even seen Jesus, and she had definitely never given Him food or drink, or done any of the rest. When had He ever been sick, or in prison anyway? To contradict the King of Kings was unthinkable, but she had to understand. “When, Lord?” she asked. “When did I see you hungry, and feed you…?” He seemed to be expecting the question. There was a twinkle in His eye as He answered, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.

     Colossians 3:23-24 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” You and I, in our natural state without Christ, serve only one person: ourselves. A newborn baby, although adorable and precious, is thoroughly selfish. That baby will cry when she’s hungry, with no thought at all as to whether it is inconvenient to the people around her. Of course babies grow up, but the selfishness persists. It is the easiest thing in the world to focus on my needs, my wants, and whatever floats my boat. Even when we do things that are good and benefit others, it is still often with a selfish motive, such as to avoid punishment, or gain social approval. Jesus turns this on its head. Galatians 5:24 says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  Two thousand years ago, when Christ died, we -- if you are in Christ -- died with Him. That “old man”, who sinned against God by living for self, is dead, nailed to the cross, alive no more. Romans 6 says it all. Now, to live is Christ. Christ’s pattern is the complete opposite. He came to serve, and to give His life as a ransom. He gave freely of all that He had, despite the cost to His time, comfort, and reputation. He humbly did everything His Father asked of Him, even dying. When we “put off the old man” and “put on the new man which was created according to God” (Ephesians 4:24), that is our new pattern. We start caring for others, and valuing their needs above our own. That is the core of kindness. It’s recognizing that we are all the same “kind”, and doing to others as you would have them do to you. But more than that, it’s realizing that if Jesus loves this person, then I will too, from the heart. I’m able to do that because I'm a new creation in Christ, with a new Spirit in me.

     Practically, that means that if we see a need, or an opportunity to bless, then we take it. There are millions of hungry people in the world, including some in your own home, I’m sure. Just think, when you pour your sister a glass of water, it’s like you’re doing it for Jesus himself! Would you like some ice with that? Kindness goes far beyond the basic physical needs. It might mean honoring your mom by cheerfully helping her with chores. Or by being a more generous giver -- you belong to God after all, and so does your money. Or by extending graciousness when someone inconveniences or offends you. Luke 6:27-38 is a good tutorial. For Corrie ten Boom, it meant hiding Jews in her house during World War II, at great danger to herself. For you, what will it mean today? Taking in strangers and visiting the imprisoned might be out of your comfort zone; I’ll confess it’s out of mine. But let’s not tell God what we will and won’t do. It’s not a question of “How little can I get away with?”, but rather, “How much can I do for God to demonstrate my love?” So, would you like some ice with that? 

Written for Pathways To Serenity, Vol. 1, Issue 7: "Kindness

Monday, December 9, 2013

Love Suffers Long...


     Rachel. Rachel. Rachel. Jacob could think of nothing else, no one else. Had any man been more in love than he? Rachel, the most beautiful woman on earth, his beloved, his soon-to-be bride. He had loved her from the beginning, from the first day he saw her at the well. She had been a young girl then, innocent and bright-eyed. Now, seven years later - seven years! - she was well past the common age to wed, but the years had only added to her beauty. To him she was the most womanly, the most desirable, the most perfect wife a man could ever want. There was no cost too great for such a treasure. No amount of gold or rubies could ever compare to her worth. Even - Jacob shuddered at the thought - even seven more years would be worth it. Everything leading up to this day: the lonely nights, the homesickness, the thankless years of sheep tending, the treachery of his Uncle Laban, the whole mix-up with poor Leah... all of that was worth it, for Rachel.

     Did you know that there is another Biblical character who suffered much to gain his bride... even more than Jacob? He too was far from home. He worked long hours, and went without food and sleep at times. It wasn’t a smooth road. He was mocked and ridiculed, misunderstood, slandered, and betrayed. Like a shepherd, he gently cared for creatures who were terribly needy, yet hardly thankful. Many opposed him with fierce hatred. By their hand he was beaten, whipped, stripped and humiliated, falsely accused, and crucified. Yes, this man was Jesus, and He endured all this for His bride, the Church. Seven years doesn’t seem long at all when you consider the thousands of years He has been waiting. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jer. 31:3b)  In the beginning, in the garden, Adam and Eve walked with God in sweet fellowship. We were created to love Him! But we were unfaithful. We rebelled. Do you think that broke God’s heart? His people, His beloved, forsaking Him? Yes, and He was angry, too. But He didn’t instantly destroy us when we sinned. He could have, but He didn’t. “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy.” (Num. 14:18a) 

     Longsuffering. Not a word used very often nowadays, but the meaning is simple. Suffering + long. Undergoing pain for an extended period of time. For a holy, perfectly pure God to allow sin to remain in the world, was longsuffering. Justice must be served, but with God, mercy always precedes judgement. “The Lord... is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) He offers forgiveness! He didn’t just delay our punishment, He took it upon Himself at the cross! “Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.” (2 Pet. 3:15a) Can anyone deny that God is love?

     1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” Because I love Him, I yearn for the day that He returns. Maybe that is today, maybe in seven years, maybe - I shudder at the thought - maybe not for another thousand years. We know neither the day nor the hour. Neither did the apostles. But what did they do? They loved Him, so they lived for Him. They underwent immense suffering because of it. However, they were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name”. (Acts 5:41b) Do we have that attitude? You are not likely to be facing prison or flogging, but we all have opportunities to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2) Living for Jesus means loving those around you; putting their interests above your own. That’s not easy. Forgiving someone again is not easy. Being kind to someone who has just mistreated you is not easy. Being bold enough to obey God’s leading is not easy. But it’s all worth it... for Jesus.

Written for Pathways To Serenity, Vol. 1, Issue 6: "Patience"