Monday, July 30, 2007

My Water, His Cloud

I watched some DVDs that my parents loaned me called "Changing Hearts, Changing Lives" from the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. There were several good points, but one I like is the water bottle analogy. The teacher said that if a water bottle with it's lid off gets pushed or pulled or twisted water goes on the floor. The world says that there's water on the floor because the bottle got pushed, pulled and twisted. The Bible says that there's water on the floor because there was water in the bottle. Meaning, if you get pushed, pulled and twisted by stresses in life, what comes out of you is what was in you, not the fault of the stressors. I liked that because I find myself giving myself excuses for sinful behavior, "I was totally stressed out," "I'm hormonal," or "I didn't have enough sleep last night," etc. I think I don't even consider my curt answers, impatience and quick anger 'sin', it was just me having a bad day. Sometimes, I've gone as far as to give myself a quota of "bad moods" per month or week, like it's due me or something! It's my easy rationalization, it skips the excuse! I thought so often that "nobody's perfect" that the saying transformed in my mind from a fact to a rationale and excuse.

Since this little enlightenment, bringing awareness to more sinful reactions I'd ignored ("You woke up the baby?!" "I already told you, you weren't listening" responding with sarcasm or curtness, etc.) I became frustrated with how often I failed. In reading my little devotional from Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest," I was inspired how he backed up the Biblical Counseling DVD series I watched in viewing every stressful, painful, difficult moment as a moment for God to be with us that very moment and do a good work in us. He describes these moments as clouds. I tried describing his cloud analogy to my friend and it came out rather long-winded and well, cloudy. So, in his own words, I give you Mr. Oswald Chambers:
In the Bible clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. "The clouds are the dust of His feet" ( Nahum 1:3 ). They are a sign that God is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow, bereavement, and suffering are actually the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near us without clouds— He does not come in clear-shining brightness.

It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child— a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows. Until other people become shadows to us, clouds and darkness will be ours every once in a while. Is our relationship with God becoming more simple than it has ever been?

There is a connection between the strange providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.

". . . they were fearful as they entered the cloud" (Luke 9:34). Is there anyone except Jesus in your cloud? If so, it will only get darker until you get to the place where there is "no one anymore, but only Jesus . . ." (Mark 9:8 ; also see Mark 2-7 ).

That last bit is my favorite part. Do I see anyone but Jesus in my stressful moment? Sometimes I'll see Him along with the people or situation that's shaking my bottle up. Often, I don't see Jesus at all in those moments, but I'm starting to look for Him. To make Him the only One I see helps me realize how utterly in control of all things He is. Thank goodness for that!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More fun in West Virginia

Matt and Audrey and Chris and Kim are dear friends of ours and joined us for a weekend getaway in West Virginia. Here's a few memories of the weekend...
That's Audrey! Look how much air she got!

Our naked, squatting African boy

Out on the lake
Tee hee, I caught Matt snoozing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meme, schmeme

In response to my "adopted" daughter, Kim's, request I'm doing another meme today. Kim, by the way, had her baby boy, is living in Wisconsin with her in-laws (bless them!) and her hubby, Paul, is in the Gulf on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Visit her website to see pictures of little Tristan Stone! OK, here's the meme:

Four Jobs I've held:
  • Wendy's cashier (summer 1997)
  • Substitute teacher (one year was all I could handle)
  • Crisis Hotline worker - 3 yrs (assessed suicidal people for lethality by phone and in person)
  • Home-Based Counselor - 4 yrs (worked intensively (3x a week for 3 months) with families in their homes to work through issues that put their family at risk for "disintegration" (falling apart).)
Four movies I can watch over and over:
  • Pride and Prejudice (I'm hooked on finding new versions I haven't seen before)
  • Veggie Tales (the beginning of our nightly ritual before bed, it satiates our crying one year old, so I'll watch it until I'm blue in the face)
  • Italian Job (really liked both the original and the newer versions, thanks for the tip, Mom!)
  • End of the Spear, Joshua, Ben Hur, and other good Christian stories that bring Truth through the T.V. set for a change.
Four places I have lived:
  • Chattanooga, TN (5 years)
  • Columbia, MD (6 years)
  • Cambridgeshire, England (5 years)
  • Longview, TX (4 years)
Four T.V. shows I watch:
  • Good Morning America
  • So you Think you can Dance? (of course I do!)
  • Any History Channel show my hubby is watching at the moment
  • I'd watch Monk if I had the right channel. Since I don't I wait until my folks buy it on DVD and I borrow their copy and watch a whole season at a time!
Four places I've been on vacation (and their respective prizes):
  • The Amalfi Coast, Italy (best scenery)
  • Jerusalem, Israel (hands down, best history)
  • The Puget Sound, Washington (most relaxing place on Earth)
  • Mt. Storm, West Virginia (best place to share with family and friends)
Four Favorite Foods:
  • Freshly baked bread with butter
  • Milk and Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Cream
  • Chicken Tikka Masala (mild)
  • vanilla pudding, tapioca, milkshakes and homemade ice cream
Four Websites I visit (gonna introduce some new people to y'all):
  • Dana (from my sorority in college)
  • the pastor's family who married us (10 years ago!)
  • Our old neighbors
  • Fellow American Hairless Terrier owner (also cloth diaper, nursing and baby wearing friend)
Again, in keeping with tradition, I tag no one! Ha! Obligations stink! Which is why I've been putting off cleaning my new living room to take a picture of it to post. Sorry for the delay! Pictures coming soon of our weekend getaway in West Virginia. Our voice over internet phone company, SunRocket, went out of business, so if we're hard to reach for a few days, sorry about that. We have cell phones. Try those. E-mail or message me for the numbers. Check back soon!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Good times, good news

On Sunday, our old friends from our old college visited us, Ben and Becky Gambrell. They spent the last several years in Bolivia ministering to the youth in Santa Cruz. About six years ago, got to visit them there for a quick missions trip to work on airplanes. They have such amazing kids. They're very intelligent and they're bilingual! We took them to the park and had a great day catching up. I think it sounds so amazingly cool to be a missionary. I asked Becky about this and she said reality hits you after the first year. I used to think it would be awful to be dependent on others for support (to ask friends and family), but now I realize that one called to the mission field isn't dependent on others, but rather on God. Just as we all are, if we think about it. I guess it's silly of me not to see the luster of our own calling, our own mission field. Bolivia is just so much more exotic than New Philadelphia, but we have a nice park.

It's funny we have two couples we're friends with that are named Ben and Becky. Anyways, we're gearing up for another quick trip to West Virginia. We can't stay away! Just going for a few days this time with some close friends Ben grew up with and their wives.

Good news! We finally paid off our kitchen! We rebuilt our kitchen about three years ago with lots of help from Ben's brother, Andy. Tiled the floors, refinished the original woodwork, new cabinets, the redid the ceiling, painted the walls, new lighting fixtures, and a new stove! Did it all for about $6,000 and a lot of elbow grease. We had one year without any interest, so we paid as much as we could, then switched the balance over to a new credit card without any interest for another year, and did that again a year later! Finally, this year we got a tax return and paid the thing off! Now to really attack those school loans of ours! The wildest thing is that we've paid off more loans since we've been living on one income than we ever did when we made twice as much! Goes to show, money measured is money managed. Thank you, Jesus, for a little less debt!
These are the original cherry cabinets (from 1889) that we refinished. Remember painting that little nook with me, Grandma? What was it, five times to cover the burgundy?

Thursday, July 12, 2007


This is an excerpt from a book I admire and appreciate called, "What the Bible is all about," by Henrietta C. Mears. This entire book is dedicated to making the Bible easy to understand and draws a cultural and historical picture of each book in the Bible. My favorite part is the depiction of the prophet, Ezra:

Ezra, the Scribe
Of Ezra it is said he prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments (Ezra 7:10). His name means "help." He belongs to the great triumvirate of the Old Testament times (Moses, Samuel, Ezra). He wrote and worked to keep the record intact and to hold Israel, God's chosen people, to her divinely appointed mission. We are indebted to Ezra for the literary and ecclesiastical renaissance of that day. He did a work in forming the scripture canon for which he was appointed of God. Tradition makes him the president of a council of 120 men who formed the Old Testament canon.

In addition to Ezra's outstanding ministry of the Word, he probably wrote portions of I and II Chronicles, and Psalm 119 which is a wonderful poem on the Word of God. As we have said, he instituted the synagogue worship which is the parent of our own form of worship, and assisted by the Great Synagogue of which he was president, settled the canon of Old Testament Scripture. It was under Ezra that we see the great revival of Bible study.

Ezra was the Thomas Jefferson of his time, laying the constitutional foundations for the future. To him we are indebted for codifying Israel's laws and the formation of her scripture canon.

When Ezra returned to Jerusalem, he found things even worse than he expected. Although the people had not returned to idolatry, they had intermarried with the people of the land and had done everything that the heathen had taught them (Ezra 9:1-4). The princes and rulers were the worst offenders. Ezra rent his garments and literally pulled out his hair in grief! Read Ezra's touching prayer and confession (9:5-15).

Ezra's Prayer
As Ezra was praying and weeping before God, a great congregation assembled. What happened? (Read Ezra 10:1-44.) The people who had gathered about him through the longs hours of the day came to a consciousness of the greatness of their sin as they saw how it affected Ezra. Finally, one of their number spoke and acknowledged the sin. At once Ezra led them into a sacred covenant with God. Read what God says about confession of sin (I John 1:9):

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wild and Wonderful West Virginia

Greetings! We're back from a lovely week in West Virginia. We try and go to the family cabin out there whenever we can. We went three times last year after Z was born, but this was the first time it was warm enough for him to get in the water. West Virginia changed their state's slogan to "Open for Business", but we prefer their old slogan (see title above).

That's my Ben water skiing!

First dip in the lake!

Ben, his sisters Bekah, Debbie, cousin Megan and brother, Andy canoed across the lake to climb a mountain. We watched them with binoculars and talked on walkie talkies from the dock. The day before a bunch of canoers went across the lake to swing off a rope swing we hung a few years back.

Grampa doesn't let just anybody drive his boat! Look at the face Z is making!

Gramma H and my beautiful nieces, Jenna and Ally
On our boat ride we spotted a beaver house (shown below). The day before we went on a traditional deer ride where we crammed 14 people in the bed of a very, very, old pick-up truck and looked for deer. I think we spotted around 15 deer. Earlier that day two of our campers spotted a black bear on a walk!

OK, now this is a funny story. Stay with me! Since last Fall Gramma H has been finding these unidentified seeds (shown below) inside the cabin! If anyone knows what they are, we'd be most grateful! First she found them under some clean sheets on a bed in a neat little pile, then she found them under some pillows in the living room. We suspected a practical joke by the younger kids, but they kept turning up. The latest incident was two weeks ago. Get this, a pile of them (maybe a half cup) were found INSIDE a nearly empty roll of paper towels that was standing on it's end high up on a little shelf in the kitchen. We can barely reach this shelf, so we knew it couldn't be a little kid. There's no droppings anywhere in the house, so, it can't be a mouse or rat. There's been no destruction in the house to suggest a squirrel or chipmunk. We're just dumbfounded as to what these things are (they're not droppings, see the broken shell?), and what put them in the cabin! We cracked one open with pliers and there was green seedy stuff inside, no odor to speak of. Hopefully, someone out there can shed some light on the matter!
Anyways, while there, we also got a little target practice in with Ben's 9mm semi-automatic, went dirt biking, hiking (picked wild flowers), had campfires (and s'mores of course!), fireworks, did a bunch of reading and relaxed in the hammock. Truly a lovely place to be. Thank you Great Grandpa Stahl for building a family cabin for us to enjoy!