Monday, July 19, 2010

What Is Love?

So my friend, Amee, posed this question on Facebook the other day:

“so I was having a conversation earlier and I wondered what my FB friends/fam's opinion was...you know I'm obsessed w/ "Twlight" so after seeing "Eclipse" (for the 3rd time) today I started wondering...do you think love/passion like Bella/Edward's exists in the REAL world on only on paper/screen? This person I was talking to thinks it can't last for long b/c it will burn out...is that true? Curious...your thoughts?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about it and my answer. And well, my answer would be too long for a Facebook comment box! So without further ado, Amee, here is my answer: First, let me begin by saying that have not read the books or seen the movies. So, I cannot answer this question according to Bella and Edward. But, I’ve seen lots of movies and I feel like I have a pretty good idea what you are speaking of. I think the first question we have to ask is not can a love like that be sustained, but is that what love is?

I believe that love absolutely is passionate, consuming and full of desire just like we see in the movies. But is that all that love is? Is this a right view? I don’t think so. I think the problem is that those feelings are just a piece of love, but too many times they are all that we think of when we think of love. People break up relationships or divorce their spouse because they feel like the passion and flame are gone. And I think what has happened is they have cheated themselves of a true view of love. They’ve settled for less. They’ve settled for only a piece of love instead of the entire portion.

Love is passion. Love is desire. But if that is all there is, then it’s no different than lust. Love is so much more. Love rubs your back after a long day. Love holds your hair when you’re up sick all night. Love changes dirty diapers. Love puts up with mood swings. Love sleeps on an inclined bed so your pregnancy heartburn is not as bad. Love never makes you feel like less when you didn’t get everything done. Love helps you get in and out of the shower and on and off the toilet after a c-section. Love holds you when you cry over something that really isn’t worth your tears. Love holds you when you cry over things that do matter. Love cries with you. Love is there when you can’t face the diagnosis, or the loss, or the pain- love holds your hand. Love is the couple I saw at Chick-fil-a last week. The wife must have been in an accident of come kind- she was in a wheelchair, no longer able to feed herself. Her husband lovingly fed her and talked to her and stayed with her. Love doesn’t leave when things are hard. I know this is what love is. I know this because my husband shows me this love everyday. The passion and love we see in the movies pales in comparison to real love.

But I also know this is what love is because I know love. God is love. God did not create love. Nor does He just display love to us. God is love. It is the essence of who He is. To know God is to know love. And Jesus is the physical display of God’s love. Love washes His disciples feet. Love comforts mourning sisters. Love heals broken and sick bodies. Love reaches out to the lost, broken, sinful. Love carries a cross. Love bears our sin. Love bears our punishment. Love gives His life. Love passionately pursues His own. For God so loved the world…. This is love.

The problem is that we’ve believe a lie. A lie that love is just passion and desire. A lie that sell us so short of what God has for us. Can the passion and desire of love be sustained in the real world? Absolutely. But only if that passion and desire are just pieces of the entire love story. Only when we know Love. I know Him. He passionately pursued me and made me His own. Nothing would stop Him from His quest for me, not even death. And now He lavishes me everyday with His love- through His love letter, through my husband, through my children, through my friends. And He’ll never let me go- no matter how hard things get. I am His and He is mine- forever. Now that is a love story!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Josiah's First Haircut

Well, Josiah has a lot more hair than his brothers. And although he is just 10 months old, his hair was quite long over his ears and so we decided today would be the day to give him a little trim!

Here are the before shots:

And here is the during shot:

And here is the after:
It's a good shot of his bottom teeth, too! He's now got 4 teeth- two on top and two on the bottom! What do you think of his sweet little haircut? He's getting too big, isn't he?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Love to Save

It's been a while since I've blogged about my grocery savings. I've still been saving tons, just haven't had the time to blog about it. But tonight was a good night.... well savings wise anyway! First, Jack had a student ministry event at church so I had to take the boys with me. When we got to Kroger, all of the "truck" carts were gone.... uh oh! So I let Caleb and Noah walk. Actually, they held on and rode on the cart. They did pretty good, although we kept being in aisles with the same two men over and over... they didn't seem to find us as cute as the women did! Then when we checked out of Kroger the sky had opened up- it was pouring buckets! What to do? Thankfully a Kroger employee was about to go out in the rain (presumably to get carts??) and I asked her if she could watch the boys while I ran and got the van. I got soaked, but the boys stayed dry. And wouldn't you know it, as I loaded the last bag of groceries in the car, it stopped raining. Then we were on to CVS.... for some reason whenever we go to CVS Noah turns into the Tasmanian devil... seriously! It only seems to happen in CVS... he runs up and down the aisles and won't listen and I end up chasing him.... tonight was no different and he ended up crying and sitting in the cart.. oh well. Finally we went to Publix, my favorite store ever. The boys happily sat in their spaceship cart, eating their free cookies and a nice bag boy walked me out to the van and loaded my groceries for me. Man I love that store! Anyway, enough about my trip, you wanna know how much I saved, right?

Kroger:
Total Before Sales and Coupons: $78.76
Total Out of Pocket: $46.19
Total Savings: $32.57
Not too bad considering there were three lbs of chicken breasts, two lbs of ground beef, two gallons of milk and produce along with the regular groceries!

CVS:
Total Before Sales and Coupons: $28.43
Total Out of Pocket: $2.97!!
Total Savings: $25.46
And I earned $7.98 back to use next week!

Publix:
Total Before Sales and Coupons: $39.31
Total Out of Pocket: $15.86
Total Saved: $23.45

All together tonight my total before sales and coupons was $146.50. My total out of pocket was $65.02 and my total savings were $81.48 + $7.98 CVS bucks for next week!! Pretty awesome!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ethiopia Here We Come!

Well, I guess God has made His will clear. A generous friend, prompted by God of course, donated the remaining amount for our trip! I am going to Africa in September! I am so excited and just praying for God to move. I can't wait to join with the rest of the teachers on our team in planning the children's ministry aspect of our trip. God is already laying some things on my heart and I can't to see what He does!

Now we have to get our vaccinations. We'll go this week.... they'll cost about $300, so if you are still interested in helping us you can make a donation towards that. It won't be tax deductible because you will give the money to us directly for the shots and medication, but it will be a huge help. Just make out a check to me or Jack and mail it to our home address. We are moving forward and trusting God to continue to provide all of the money we'll need of for our vaccinations, medication and incidentals. He's already provided so much we know the rest will be there! If you already mailed a check made out to the church after the last blog entry, don't worry. There are still several of our team members who are in need of funds. Your donation will go towards helping someone go to Ethiopia with the Gospel.

Jack is preparing prayer cards for us to send out to friends and family to remind them to pray for us. It has specific things you can be praying for. If you are interested in receiving a prayer card, please let me know!

Thank you so much for your prayers and your support. We are beyond excited for this opportunity to share the love of Christ with the nations. He has called and so we will go. We will declare His glory to the people of Ethiopia for He is most worthy of all our praise!
Declare his glory among the nations,
       his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
       he is to be feared above all gods.

 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
       but the LORD made the heavens.

 Splendor and majesty are before him;
       strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
       ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
       bring an offering and come into his courts.

 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
       tremble before him, all the earth. 

Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns." Psalm 96:3-10

We love spaghetti!

Josiah has been eating table food like a champ! So far he's loved everything he's eaten. And he's loved making huge messes. He had pasta with red sauce the other night and got it everywhere and of course we took pics!

What a cute mess!!

Here's what happens when dinner is done!

And then I remembered that we had similar pics of the other two at about the same age. I guess we just like spaghetti around here!


July 4 Weekend

Once again this year the church chose to put the "floating holiday" at July 4th so that we had a nice long weekend. And again this year we went to Ellijay and the Coosawattee River Resort. Grammy and Pop-Pop rented a cabin and we provided the food (and the grandchildren!). We had a wonderful, relaxing weekend full of swimming in the pools, fishing, wading in the river, putt-putt golf, naps, playgrounds, hot tub.... it was great. We really needed it. The boys loved the pools- especially Caleb and Noah who swim like fish! Noah even got brave and jumped in and wanted Daddy to throw him and he went underwater! 

Swagbucks

If you aren't already using swagbucks, you need to! Swagbucks is a search engine that rewards you for searching. As you search you earn "swagbucks" which you can redeem in the "swagstore." I joined on March 24 and I have redeemed my swagbucks for $75 in Amazon.com gift cards! Not bad, $75 just for searching the web. We were able to get a friend a baby gift, our niece a birthday gift and some new headphones for Jack's iPod without spending a dime! I plan to keep earning and use this money for Christmas gifts this year. As money issues force us to tighten up our spending, things like swagbucks help is still afford to do nice things for our friends and family and for ourselves too. Here's how it works- Join swagbucks. Download their toolbar- it installs on your browser so that swagbucks is your default search engine. Then start searching- I search even for sites that I already know the website (like facebook or this blog). It is completely random when you get swagbucks- you just search and earn. And once you have earned enough you can "buy" giftcards and items in the swagstore. That's it. Rewarded for doing what you were already doing! Click the photo below if you are interested in joining. It has really been a blessing of provision for our family!

Search & Win

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ethiopia and Road Blocks


Many of you may know that this September, Jack and I have the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia together for a mission trip. It has long been a dream of mine to go to Africa. I clearly remember being in middle school and knowing that God was going to one day give me an opportunity to go to Africa. And then two and a half years ago, Jack was given the opportunity to head up a partnership between our church and our friend Matt and the mission organization Matt works for, Innovative Mission Opportunities, to travel to Ethiopia. In 2008, Jack traveled with Matt on a vision trip so that he would be able to lead groups from our church in the future. In 2009, Jack led a group from our church to Ethiopia. And now again this year, Jack will be leading a team from our church. And I am on that team. I am very excited about this opportunity. I am thrilled to be going to Africa. I am thrilled I get to go with my husband. And I am very thrilled that on this trip part of our ministry focus will be children's ministry. When all of this information came out, I was sure God was opening this door for me. It is Africa, with Jack and working with children- something I feel God has gifted me for and given me a passion for. And so we began fundraising for our trip. We needed to raise $3,450. This amount consisted of the entire cost of the trip for me, $2300, and half of the cost of the trip for Jack, $1150 (since he is leading the trip as a staff member of the church, the church was paying for half of his trip). We sent out support letters and we were blown away by the generosity of our friends. In very little time we have raised $2,875. Awesome!

And then we've hit some road blocks. The first road block was that due to budget constraints the church was no longer going to be funding half of Jack's trip. So now instead of $3450 we need $4600. And instead of having all of Jack's trip paid for and all but $575 of mine paid for, we now have all of Jack's trip paid for and only $575 towards my trip. But we both felt like God was still opening this door. We looked ahead and saw that Jack had the opportunity to be a Project Coordinator for World Changers this summer and he was going to be writing again for the North American Mission Board. The stipends he would receive for these two things would cover whatever amount we didn't raise. We're all good!

And then another road block.... and it is a big one. The budget constraints at the church are even worse now. So much so that cuts were made in the personnel area. Starting in July the church is no longer able to fully cover our health benefits- they will cover half and we must make up the difference. The church is no longer covering our dental insurance or Jack's cell phone. These cuts meant we need to find an extra $400 a month in our budget to continue our benefit coverage. But unfortunately that is not all. In the month of July and the month of August, Jack must take a total of 10 furlough days (5 each month). Furlough days are days that you are not working and not receiving pay. Jack gets paid twice a month so these furlough days mean that for half of a pay period he will not be paid- i.e. his July 31 paycheck and August 31 paychecks will each be cut in half- a total loss of an entire paycheck.

All of these cuts really threw us for a loop. But God is so good and through it all I've really had a peace. I am resting in His provision and His sovereignty. I'm trying to "Think like Keith" and be faithful. God has already provided. We have taken our budget and cut just about everywhere and we've found the $400 we need to keep up our benefits. We've had to sacrifice some things like preschool for Noah and Caleb, but the money is there. And thanks to Jack's writing and the World Changers stipends we have the missing income coming in. We don't know what will happen after September. If things don't improve, there will be more cuts. Where and how exactly, we don't know. But we are living day by day in faith that God does know. I know that God is bigger than wallets and budgets. There is no recession in God's economy and I know that through it all He will provide for our needs. We may have to let go of a lot of wants, but we will not worry about our needs- our Father already knows them:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


But all of this of course means we no longer have Jack's stipend money for my trip to Ethiopia. We are so thankful that God has provided for Jack to lead this trip again. But if I am to go with him, it will have to be an act of God to bring in the money. I am praying and seeking Him in all of this. And truthfully I don't know what to make of it all. Is this God closing this door for me? Or am I to continue in faith that I am to go? I honestly don't know. When I think of not going my heart is heavy. But in all of this I most of all desire for His will to be done and for Him to be glorified above all else. Like Keith said, that's really all that matters. And if He will be most glorified by my staying, then I will stay. And if He will be most glorified by my going, then I will go. Right now we are continuing to prepare for me to go. I am getting the immunizations and attending the meetings and training. But I am also preparing my heart for the possibility that this is not my time.

Will you please pray for us? Here are some specific ways you can pray:
~ Pray for our family as we face the coming months financially. Pray we would be good stewards, that we would remain rested in His provision and not worry.
~Pray for our church.
~Pray for me as Jack's wife. Pray that I will be the helpmate and encourager that he needs.
~Pray that God's will would be clear with regards to my traveling to Ethiopia. Pray that the necessary funds would be provided if I am to go. Pray that my heart will be prepared to go or to stay.
~Pray that above all else, in all of this that God is glorified. Pray that He would be glorified as the mission team works in His name among the people of Ethiopia. Pray that people would be forever changed by His message of redemption. Pray that He would be glorified in our trust and faithfulness here at home.

Thank you so much, friends, for reading my heart and for praying for us. It means so much- more than anything- knowing that we are being lifted up to our Father who will supply all of our needs.

If you want to make a tax-deductible donation towards our trip here's how you can do that: Make a check out to Ewing Road Baptist Church. Write "Ethiopia Mission" in the memo. Do not put our names on the check or the IRS may not count it as a donation. Mail the check to us and Jack will ensure it gets credited correctly at the church. If you do not have our address, sent me a message and I will get it to you.

Potty Training, Summer Fun and a 10 month old

Well, we've spent this week potty training Noah and I hope I am not jinxing it, but it appears he's got it! Yesterday was Day 3 of our potty training journey and he didn't have any accidents and even wore underwear to McDonalds for lunch and to church last night! So far today he's stayed in big boy underwear all day and we ventured to Target and Walmart looking for new shoes for Caleb and Noah stayed dry all morning- no accidents! Woo-hoo!! We've still got a few things to work on- like pooping on the potty and staying dry during nap- but it appears he's got the basics! Good-bye diapers!

We've been quite busy with that this week so we didn't start our summer calendar of fun activities. I hope to start a few next week. Jack has Monday and Tuesday off for the 4th holiday. We just booked a cabin in Elijay in the Coosawattee River Resort where we went last year for this same holiday. We are super excited to relax!

And now I thought I'd share a few cute pics from June. Most of these are ones my mom took while Jack and I were in Savannah for World Changers. They are too cute not to share! We sure are having a fun summer!

These next few are from some fun with our friends and their slip n slide!

And on Sunday Josiah turned 10 months old! I know, I can't believe it either. He's crawling everywhere. Up until this week he'd been army crawling and regular crawling intermittently, but just this week we've noticed he's mostly just crawling now. And he's climbing the stairs! Yep. So far we've just had the gate over the stairs going down, but yesterday he climbed up one step and then proceeded to almost fall off. So it's time for the gate over the stairs going up. He's also eating almost all table food now, no more baby food. He's loving it! Check out these sweet pics of my big 10 month old and his big boy food!
Yep, that's his dinner all in his hair!

Well, that was our June in pictures. Hope you enjoyed it. Have a wonderful holiday weekend with your families!