Friday, December 30, 2011

Thoughts on the New Year 2012

Perhaps I should title this "Thoughts on Ending 2011" but I'm choosing to look forward, since it's occupied a lot of my prayer time lately...

Well, ok - I'll give a quick recap of a few of the highlights...

Mark and I went to FL for a brief run away from the cold of winter in January - it was still cool on the Gulf, but it was fun to get away for a unplanned vacation. We loved the blue waters, white sand dunes, and the drive together.

We made several trips to Pittsburgh, PA to visit our daughter Melissa, her husband Ryan, and our last visit welcomed a little brother to the 3 grandgirls we have there! They've recently felt led to change the direction of their life, from youth ministry here to working with youth in El Salvador. (more on this later)

We had the joy, and the sadness of our daughter Jessica's first pregnancy this spring. Little baby Rodenbaugh went to heaven very early in life, and it is still heartbreaking to all of us. God, in His kindness, answered my prayer for Jessica to be pregnant again before the first child's due date, and she is now due to have a baby boy in May. We are SO excited!!

Our son Jason was protected from death in the tornado in Joplin, as God held him at a friend's home when he should have been driving right into the tornadoes path. He also provided a good job for Jason, and got him plugged in to a good community of believers in a brand new city for him down in Louisiana! It's such an answer to prayer to see him mature in his faith, as a man of God, and to live on his own. YAY for responsible living!

We took a few drives around our area to discover it and learn more about it. We still LOVE living in KY, and enjoy the diversity of the rivers, lakes, farmland, and hills.

With my volunteering at Crossroads Christian Church (Newburgh, IN) I have been able to assist Team Expansion in several ways and do some traveling: Cincinnati, OH for the North American Christian Convention, Atlanta, GA for the National Missionary Convention (now called the International Conference On Missions), and I also went on a Missionary Care trip to North Africa!

I've made lots of amazing friendships this past year, confirming more that God has us here for a reason. Mark leads our small group, I get to assist in the Women's Ministry, and we love being a part of God's community here. YAY!!

OH OK - the real reason for this post - the future!!

"I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future..."

Mark and I have been praying and planning on doing "The Daniel Fast" this next week. Most people start it on a Sunday - but because of Mark's work schedule - we'll start on Tuesday or Wednesday. This fast is not a total food fast, it is based on the way Daniel ate when he fasted, only fruits and vegetables, drinking only water, and no leavening (no bread!) in anything eaten that is ONLY whole grains. You can get the details of the fast at their web site:  http://daniel-fast.com/ and if you sign up in her email updates, you can get the guidelines emailed to you for free! We have invested (around $10) for the book and will follow along the devotionals that she provides, and there's a whole section on preparation (what we're reading now) as well as a bunch of recipes.

As a part of this fast, we are setting spiritual goals that we are seeking God's intervention with. We're still praying about the finalizing of these things, but a few of them are for our future in work/ministry, and my hives. I'd really love for God to provide a spiritual breakthrough on them - it's been around 5 years now and I'm getting pretty weary of dealing with them. UGH. I know that He will reveal something to me about the cause of them and I look forward to the answer He provides to heal me.

I'm also asking for deliverance from the food addictions that I have - sweets/sugar (none are allowed on the fast - not even natural sweeteners like honey!), and fats (only plant based oils are allowed, and no fried foods). I know that we both eat out of stress, and both "struggle with our weight" too, but this is not our motivation for fasting. Rather I'm praying that He will cleanse us of our bad habits, our unhealthy attitudes on eating, and give us the motivation and will-power to lean hard on Him and break them all. I know that this is just a 21 day focus for us, but that the effects can last our lives.

Before the month ends (and more likely in the early part of the month) our daughter Melissa and her family will be moving in with us! Our little 1300 square foot house will have a total of 4 adults and 4 kids living in it! They will be here with us for sometime between 2 and 6 months, preparing to transition into a ministry in El Salvador! I'm excited to get to have the time with them before they go, to spend time with our grandkids and to be able to strengthen their relationship and see them "do church" with us for a season before they move...of course I'm praying for God's will in their life too!

I'm sure that Mark's been thinking of another winter get away - but I don't know what he has in mind this time around...he's always wanted to take a cruise...and it's been a LONG time since we've been to CA to see our friends and family there...so those are possibilities. I know that we're open to let God lead us on another mission trip - but think that it's Mark's turn, or we'll go together this time. I have NO idea where that might be...so God can surprise us there. :)

We're also continuing to pray about Mark asking for a position working overseas with the company that he works with. God has to work there to bring that to fruition, but we're aware that we might get to go somewhere that "missionaries" are not allowed, but Poultry Plant Engineers are.

We'll go wherever He wants us to, and trust Him to equip us in that journey!!

SO, those are some of my thoughts for this year. Discipline (I think) is my focus word. Whether it's writing, quilting, Bible study, or laundry and dishes, I desire to be more disciplined and intentional in my actions and reactions. I want to be a better encourager, and write notes to people I care about - handwrite if I can...email if I can't. I want to smile more, and complain less. I want to share God's love with more people who do not know Him as their Lord, Savior, Father, Friend. I want to hear them say "I believe that Jesus IS the Son of God..." and see the light of His love light up their face, for them to cry tears of the realization that He died for their sins...that He loves them THAT much...

Those are the things I hope for this year...

I invite you to (please) pray for me, for us, as we move forward in our walks with God. We know that the more we intend to do more with Jesus, the more Satan will fight back. We need prayer warriors around us to respond as God leads them to pray for us. By the time we post something, the battle may be over, but YOU can feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit and PRAY! YAY!! We appreciate those that pray for us in the same way I pray for others...if God brings you to my mind, I pray for you...whatever He leads...and if I don't know something in particular, I pray for peace, for strength, for you to feel Him at work in you, around you and through you....

Happy New Year friends...
My God Reigns...

marina

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Baby....

OK, this SHOULD be about THE baby in the manger...Jesus...but I realized that I didn't ever post about the arrival of my grandson - a week ago now!! So first things first...



Little Man O arrived early Saturday morning, and mom and son are doing well. He has some issues with his tongue (the skin that attaches underneath it is too close up front, so he might need to get it clipped) and it initially caused some issues with nursing, but with God's grace it's working better now.

He is absolutely adorable!! His two oldest sisters A and E fell in love with him immediately, and "baby girl Z" is adapting fine.



Now, I'm back home (after over 3 weeks there!!) and trying to settle in. My house is a mess, my bags not unpacked, and my son is already here (he beat me by 3 days!). I brought the 2 oldest grandgirls home and passed them along to the "other grandma" already. It felt wonderful to sleep in my own bed (instead of the air mattress, which was really much better than I anticipated - thank You Lord!!), and shower in my own shower. I have laundry piles all over the bedroom, and a mess in the kitchen. A lot to do.

This moment, my house is empty - unless you count Abbey the Wonderdog and our long lost cat (that Jason has rescued) Dominoes. The only sound is Pandora on my laptop...Christmas songs from the Caedmon's Call Christmas station.

I woke up with the feeling impressed on my heart that today I would make sure that everything is prepared for Christmas. More than the house cleaning, unpacking, laundry, lack of decorations and needing to make menus (and shop) for the next week, I want to make sure that my heart and mind are prepared for Christmas.

I think it popped into my mind when I read of a friend's engagement announcement and remembered that many people will spend much time preparing for a wedding, and little time preparing for the marriage.

I want to prepare for the marriage...Jesus to His bride, the church. For me, this celebration of Christmas is a part of that. It's not about the presents, it's about His Presence. Not about the gifts, but HIS Gift. Not about the things we get, but the one thing we can give others to make a difference in their eternity. Sharing Jesus with the world...I want my life to reflect that in every area.

I know that I have a LONG way to get it "right" - but I want to intentionally allow Him to change me. Yes, Lord, change me!

May we have opportunities to impact others' lives for Jesus, and take advantage of them, over the coming year....

Grace and peace...
marina

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My thoughts on Christmas and Santa...

Every year this comes up...and my stance stays the same. I was raised in a home that "did Santa"  - and didn't do Jesus at all - so as a new believer in Jesus (30 some years ago!!) this was something that had to be rectified....to "do Santa" or to NOT "do Santa" in my own family.

To me, it clearly became a thought of "truth" or "lies", and there is a very real story behind Santa Clause, but to me, it's not enough to lie about his presence on Christmas. So I chose then, and have chosen still, to not "do Santa".

Call me a kill joy, but really, with getting married, raising kids, seeing them grow and marry and have their own families - it's continued on. We've given them the freedom to make the choice with their own kids, and so far, they are not doing Santa either.

I'm closing with a post that I wrote in response to a post on (in)courage's blog for today...about Santa and Christmas. I encourage you to check it out, as it tells her story of changing from a "Santa" house to a "non-Santa" house.  Here are my thoughts....

"We never “did” Santa with our kids, and always focused on a Happy Birthday Jesus theme for the holidays, to the point of doing service projects that day as the kids grew up. Our reason – honesty. We never wanted the kids to remember the lie of Santa (or that it’s ok to lie about anything!) and that Jesus is ENOUGH reason to celebrate. Oddly enough, it was our unbelieving parents that protested “not getting to do Santa” with their grandkids. We dug our heels in deep.
We realize that others, even other Christians, choose to celebrate with Santa – and the “real” Saint Nicholas WAS a wonderful man of generosity….so we shared the real story of why he is included in the holiday.
Having grown, married kids now, we were curious what they would do with their own kids…so far they are choosing to do no Santa with their kids! They appreciate that we respect their freedom to create Christmas to be the way they want to make it for their kids, but also love the fact that we don’t over indulge them, keep it realistic on the financial meter, and can make memories together without all the consumerism.
It’s a day about a baby, savior of the world, born in a manger…the simplest of circumstances…we can celebrate in many ways to honor Him, to show appreciation to God for giving us a Savior, to make memories that generations to come can reflect on in truth and wonder of a REALLY amazing time…the manger, the savior, the stars, shepherds, angels…THESE are the things of Christmas….
(ps- check out the website for The Advent Conspiracy for ideas and reasons to do Christmas “differently” this year, and in the future. NOW is the time to lay the groundwork for your families future Christmas’ Celebrations…talk at the table and commit to changing things next year. Ask how much debt they racked up this Christmas – or ask in January when the bills are coming in! – and commit to doing a debt-free Christmas – with or without Santa!!)"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

awaiting the babe...

OK, it's nearly Christmas, and we are all focused on (or SHOULD be focused on) the baby in the manger....but tonight, we're focused on the baby that should arrive today (Saturday) that's around 10 days late...my new grandson. :)

Mom and dad are at the hospital, while I'm waiting at the house with sleeping sisters (I should be sleeping too...but am just too excited!). I know if I don't get some sleep I'll be a mean ol' grouch when sisters wake up  (in just a few hours!! YIPES!!)

Off to bed I go...with prayers on my lips for a continued safe delivery into the world  - for mom and baby...

good morning...good night...whatever it is!!

<3

Thursday, December 15, 2011

10 Days before...

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, I'd have my menu and shopping list made out, stuck to my refrigerator with a magnet, along with a list of all the Christmas cookies that had to be made (and another list of who would receive them!).

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, my husband Mark and I would be comparing notes, and figuring who would be here this year to join us at our Christmas table.

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, I'd have my calendar in plain view, with places to go and people to see, and maybe even reminders of when my favorite Christmas programs would be on tv.

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, I'd have already seen our church Christmas program, been moved to tears by memories of songs I'd not heard sung so powerfully; or moved to tears by the sheer memory of how dear these familiar songs are to me.

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, my home would be collecting dust on all the greenery, my Christmas lights wrapped in tulle in the windows would be glowing each night, and it would seem that these special decorations are always a part of my home decor.

But this year is different.

10 days before Christmas, I'm sleeping in the attic room on an air mattress at my daughter's house in Pittsburgh, PA. My husband is at home, and no decorations are up. We are 8 hours drive away from each other. We spent last week together, here in Pittsburgh, hoping that she would have given birth to their little boy nearer to her due date. But he hasn't arrived, and she isn't ready, so I'm still hanging out here to help with the other 3 kids (4 and under), and Christmas is sort of - well - on hold? I don't really know what Christmas is this year, or where it fits in. I know that our son and other daughter and her husband are due to come to our home for some time there, and Christmas dinner is supposed to be shared with them, but I don't even know!

Christmas goodies have been made here, by my daughter and her husband, to give to their friends here. We've walked around the mall a hundred times, let the kids ride on the little train near Santa's workshop there, and they went for a drive last night to ooooh and aaaaah over the Christmas lights around the city.

There is a chance she may be induced this weekend, a chance the baby will arrive sooner than that, but we don't know for sure...and I have no idea when it is that I'm supposed to leave to go home. I guess we need to talk about this.

So 10 days before Christmas, I'm in a mindset I've not ever been before, and am trying - DESPERATELY trying - to find Christmas in my heart - in the place that Christmas can be every day of the year....

Remembering the first year I was a Christian at Christmas, and just NOW remembering an essay I wrote years ago that captured it...

"When I first became a Christian, years ago in Seal Beach, CA, it was as if I saw the entire Christmas season through new eyes. My senses were keenly aware of the importance of this time...to think of a girl, pregnant for the first time, carrying the Messiah, and facing the ridicule of an unplanned pregnancy in the eyes of the public. To imagine the awesomeness of the shepherd's interaction with the angels, in the stillness of the night, all the "choirs of angels" and their fullness of joy as they pronounced the arrival of the King!

It all came to my emotional finality in the quietness of midnight on Christmas Eve. Although we had lived in the same neighborhood for several years, things happened that I had not ever noticed before. Was I oblivious to it out of my spiritual ignorance, or was it something that God created just for me? I believe it was a little of both, instrumented in His glory as a gift to me.

It was a late night, and for some reason I could not sleep. It was mild weather, normal for December in Southern California, so the bedroom windows were open, and the sound of the ocean's waves crashed rhythmically on the shore. Not noticing time or space, I rose out of bed and sat on the balcony, overlooking the stillness of the town, the greenway park empty, yet lit up by the street lights all down the road. Then, as if out of no where, the sound of carols being played by church bells rang throughout the town! From midnight on, song after song, I don't even know how long it lasted, the carols sang out, proclaiming the King's birth!

It was as if each melody drew out from my heart the lyrics, making them real to me for the very first time! I cried at the proclamation of Jesus' birth! Rejoice! Emmanuel!! He has come!!

Now I live in Southwest Missouri, and I'm far from the sound of the ocean's waves or the little church down the road that had the Christmas bells in their steeple. Sometimes I can see the wind blowing the fields of grass and it mimics the ocean's currents, or I can imagine the sound of the waves breaking on the shore on crisp, cold, winter nights, with no water in sight. Yet Christmas season is always a time of miracles as I remember back to my first "real" Christmas, and the special gift that God gave to me that night. "

I'm not living in MO any more, and Christmas looks different in KY, and even here in Pittsburgh, but the heart of Christmas is the same. The songs of rejoicing still ring true in my heart, even if the steps to prepare are very different.

And I'm sure that 10 days before Christmas will look very different too...but no matter where I am, or what I'm doing, I can stop. pause. and reflect at how wonderful this indescribable gift of Jesus needs to be unwrapped in my heart...

not just 10 days before Christmas, but actually, every day of the year...




PS - my afterthought: so...as I was blogging this morning...it occurs to me: I know many people around the world where they have to prepare for Christmas in many other "different" ways, and things don't look/feel/smell/taste the same to them...they don't get to be with the ones that they love to be around (even if they are with others that they do love)....and they have to create new ways to prepare their hearts for "the most wonderful time of the year" when there may not even be lights on trees or houses, or Christmas parties to attend, or can't even mention Jesus' birth...so my pity party ended abruptly...and although it may not feel like Christmas in my circumstances, I NEED to make it Christmas in my ♥ , and that's not about where I am geographically, but where I am spiritually - and I want to be in THAT place...so I'm praying for "all those other friends" and remembering their needs this morning...