Plastic Grocery Bags

Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit speaks to me too quickly.  The Bible says that love “hopes all things” and “believes all things” and sometimes I think the Holy Spirit hopes and believes I’m quicker on the uptake than I really am.  Ideas I didn’t think occasionally fly through my mind and I’m forced to chase after them to really comprehend them.

The best way I can describe this is to say it’s like someone chasing an empty plastic grocery bag on a windy day.  The person runs and stomps, only for the wind to carry the bag a little further, at the last possible second.  These individuals always look foolish but hopeful they will prevail in the end and land on it. Sometimes the whisperings of the Holy Spirit require me to run them down, stomping wildly.

I assume it’s the Holy Spirit feeding me these thoughts only because when I do land on them, I’m most often surprised.  Sometimes not enjoyably.

By this time I assume you know I am going to Uganda, and that I wasn’t sitting around wishing I would get to go to Uganda, and in fact, the thought of going anywhere in Africa that didn’t include pyramids and Petra was distasteful to me.   But I am going because I heard God laughing at me and telling me that he is indeed sending me to Africa.

Six months ago I didn’t love Africa one bit, and I certainly didn’t want to go there.  But I know that God does love Africa.  I have known this truth ever since I was a youth praying over my own hard-heartedness toward that place that is clearly struggling, but which I knew God created. He made it clear to me at that time that he does, indeed, dearly love Africa and all of it’s inhabitants.  Since he made it clear to me, I have not doubted his love in this respect.

Unfortunately, this did not change me much.  I have prayed for Africa over the years when I have heard about a tragedy or thought about the struggles that some or many or most of the people there are faced with.  But my heart was not there, nor was I working to help the people there in any way.  Asia? Yes.  South America? Yes.  Africa? No.

But I knew that God isn’t satisfied with me just knowing he loves the people there.  He wants me to actually love all people.  To have a heart beating with compassion and open arms reaching to help all people around me.  The desire to know people.  To have very deep and personal relationships with all kinds of people. The desire to aid even if I don’t have access on a personal level.  He desires that I care what happens and do what I can to give hope and healing.  Not just for Americans or Asians or South Americans.  All people.  God wants me to love unconditionally like he does.

When it became clear to me that I was being sent – against my personal desires for comfort and enjoyment – to Uganda, I thought it was some sort of joke from God.  He has a great sense of humor, and I wasn’t so upset about being told to go that I couldn’t appreciate his humor in this instance.  I heard laughter and I assumed I was being laughed at in a, “What do you think will happen if we add Julia to the mix?”  ”That will be hilarious!” “She never saw this coming!” sort of way.

But one day I was getting myself ready for bed at the end of a normal, tiring day of chasing 4 small kids around.  I was brushing my teeth.  I was sleepy.  I was also thinking about Uganda, and the craziness of me actually planning to go there, and I had an empty plastic grocery bag thought.  It zipped through my foggy tired-mom brain way too fast for me to actually appreciate.

felt a light bulb go on, I knew the idea was fresh and new, and I knew it wasn’t me.  I literally thought, “Wait! What was that thought?!” And I chased it down.  What my mental foot eventually landed on was this:

“What if God isn’t laughing because He thinks this is a funny joke, but because He has such a huge blessing in store for you there?”

I couldn’t contain my surprise.  Or my shock.  As tears rolled I thought about my Daddy in heaven, loving me and thinking of ways to bless me that I would never have thought of.

God dearly loves Africa.  God dearly loves me.  God wants me to love Africa dearly.  God wants to bless me, so he is sending me to this place that he dearly loves.

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Uganda (part 2)

November last year I attended my first Days for Girls sewing event, as detailed in this post.  Before leaving that day I pulled myself together enough to talk to Shannon and her right hand lady Dee, to give them a few more details about my treadle sewing machine history.

In case you’re unaware, my mom – known on the Internet as Damascus Annie – is one of the world’s treadle sewing machine experts, and she had me treadling before I ever used an electric sewing machine.

As I spoke with Shannon and Dee I told them that I’m good at sewing on a treadle machine, but my mom is the one they should really be talking to about getting their hands on a sewing machine and how to use it.  She’s an expert. And she’s a teacher.  They were excited about this.

I went home ruminating on the whole crazy thing that had happened – God telling me to get involved, going there and finding out that they need treadle sewing machine users, and then hearing that I was being sent to Africa – and I wondered a little if I was just making the whole thing up.

At bed time I was able to tell Tim about it.  I started at the beginning and when I got to the part where I was hearing God say things, he laughed. I told him I think it’s wild that my skill set, which is rarely in demand (treadle sewing skills, folks!) is actually needed somewhere for something.  Truly needed. That has never happened before.

“So I’m not just crazy – you also think these circumstances and what I think the Holy Spirit was saying are clear indicators that I should maybe consider going to Uganda? ”  I was glad he had laughed instead of giving me the, “I think she’s crazy, but if I say anything she may become violent” look.  I’ve certainly gotten that look before.

“Yes, I think these are pretty clear signs.” He was still smiling.

“If I go, you’ll have to take care of all the kids.” He was smiling a lot less now. But he’s still amazingly supportive.

A week later, early in December, I saw my mom.

“Hi Mom, do you want to go to Africa with me?”

Mom laughed.  ”Yeah right. ” She thought I was joking.  I was half joking because I thought the chance of my mom going on a trip to a place that might not have electricity but likely has malaria is about 1%.  But I was half serious too. She picked up on it.

“Why?” She braced herself for the catch.

“Because they’re teaching women in Uganda how to make reusable feminine hygiene  products on treadle sewing machines, and they don’t know how to treadle.”

Mom’s swift mind was going. She was already thinking of all the pros and cons. I kept talking.  In 15 minutes she knew everything I knew. I used all my powers of persuasion and every story I’d read on the site to get her to see the immense benefit the kits are to the women and girls that receive them. I also pulled on the knowledge gleaned from reading “Toxic Charity” to convince her that it was the best way to help the economy of Uganda, so by the time I got done talking her answer had changed from “Yeah right” to a very reluctant, “Maybe.”  That alone was a Christmas miracle.

I missed the December DFG sewing event, but I made it to January’s.  I stayed late to talk to Shannon and Dee about the trip because I knew nothing about it at all. I didn’t even know if there was space open for more people to go, to be honest.  Shannon was super busy, so I cornered Dee.

“Uh, Dee?” I didn’t even know where to start.  How do you invite yourself to go on a trip across the world with someone you only met once before? ”So…you and Shannon had mentioned that you’re going to Uganda?”

Dee practically cut me off with her response. “Oh! You’re coming too!”  Her eyes were big and excited. Dee is nothing if not enthusiastic.  All of her body language managed to rejoice in the thought of me coming to Africa with them.

I’m pretty sure I told her at this point that I didn’t know anything whatsoever about the trip except that it was planned for the fall of ’16, and I thought I stomped on her enthusiasm by saying I hadn’t decided for sure yet if I was going to go.  (This might not have been true, but I felt like I hadn’t fully committed yet.)  She got out her planner to tell me the dates, cost, general plan, etc.

Shannon walked up.  Dee turned to her and said, “Julia is coming to Uganda with us!”  She was very happy about this.  Maybe I hadn’t stomped on her enthusiasm as hard as I’d hoped.

Shannon says, totally straight faced, nodding, and as if it was completely obvious from the beginning, “Oh yeah, I knew she was in.”

I was incredulent,  ”Wait now, don’t get to decide this? I just found out when it is and stuff. I have not committed yet!” I  needn’t have said anything.  They ignored me anyway…

I eventually told them that I was in the process of convincing my mom to go too, but that they’d better pray about it a lot, because Mom isn’t the type to be all gung-ho for discomfort.  I described the Christmas miracle and told them that if there was ever an initiative that got all of my mom’s passions and interests engaged at once, this would be it.

That evening at home I called my mom. She put me on speaker phone so Dad could talk too. “So Mom, are you coming to Africa with me?”

Dad shouts out, “Yes!”  He’s as enthusiastic about adventures- even ones he’s not invited on- as Dee is.

Mom is less enthusiastic.  She’s talking slowly.  ”Well, I hadn’t really thought about it at all through Christmas, but this week I’ve thought about it a lot.”  She proceeded to ask a ton of questions, some that I had answers to, some that I didn’t.  The talk turned from the trip plans to how we’d actually go about teaching people how to sew stuff on treadle machines, which type we’d be using, and so on. She also, sometime in the middle of our conversation, started to say “we” about the sewing instructors.  These were clear signs of her intent but just to make sure, I asked her before hanging up -

“Mom, are you going to go with me?”

“Yeah, I don’t think I can say ‘no’ to this.”

I smiled. I am happy my mom is going to be with me on my adventure. It’s going to be crazy and scary and tiring and stretching, but the company is good. We’ve both become very excited about the prospect, and I really hope there are no trip cancelations in our future.

Now we just wait and prepare. Those two activities have been both stretching and rewarding, and they’re only going to become more difficult.  So far I’ve  submitted a lot of paperwork, “helped” with a garage sale (I use the term “helped” loosely because I had my 4 kids with me), worked at DFG events, attended a Ugandan dinner party, gotten sucked into IF:Gathering and IF:Table – my new loves, made some new friends, read a book to help prepare mentally, attended a few trip meetings with our team, and volunteered to help with some fundraising.  It certainly has not been the mellow year we were expecting.  :)  Oh well.  God is good, and if He wants me in Africa, that’s where I want to be.

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Uganda (Part 1)

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and a lot has happened.  Last spring we found out that my third pregnancy was twins.  That was a scary surprise, and we began to prepare ourselves for the worst.  We already had a one year old and a three year old and a roommate.  The roommate moved out, and we redecorated and re-purposed rooms to make space for the coming babies and for possible helpers.  My mom freaked out just a little (she had had twins at 30 weeks that were a crazy load of stress for about 10 years). I freaked out a little and went on to read every blog post I could find about how to prepare for and what to expect with multiples.  And we worked really hard all summer.  We decided to get everything in our lives as ready as we could, and we’d plan to spend the year after their birth just taking care of kids.

That was the plan anyway.  What has actually happened in the past 6 months has been tons of kids and.  And ministry.  And dinner get-togethers.  And church.  And building deeper relationships with friends. And painting and carpeting rooms.  And visiting family. And diving into the Word. And knowing Jesus more. And reading.  And attending conferences.  And…planning a trip to Uganda.

You see…our babies were/are good.  God was/is with us.  He had heard our scared prayers and caused our babies to be good little babies.  We had received the discipline he had for us after Naomi was born (you can read more about that here), and we’d changed so that we were ready to take on the larger responsibilities of 4 kids under the age of 4.  Everything that we thought about what it would be like to have twins has become an amazing picture of God’s goodness and mercy.  Our twins were not premature.  I did not need a C-section.  They were not in NICU.  The first year of twins has not been like hell, as some online said it would be.  It did not take 6 months to sleep train them, as I thought it would.  They almost never wake each other up by crying.  They do not even share a bedroom with us anymore.  It has not been as expected.

After the church plant we’d been heavily invested in for the past 6 years finally dissipated, we took a year off of conventional church and were just meeting weekly with some of our best friends for dinner and some sort of casual Bible study.  No one in our group being particularly driven to organize these weekly events, we eventually just started watching (online) the sermons from a large local church after dinner.  Then, when we resigned ourselves to the reality that with 2 babies we wouldn’t want to host weekly,  and our friends – also expecting again – wouldn’t either, the guys just mutually decided we’d all attend this large local church.

To be honest, I didn’t want to.  I love tiny church.  The kind where you can greet each person by name as they walk in the doors.  It’s like family.  I didn’t want to go to the large church and be just one face in a huge crowd, able to get lost, to have no accountability, no group of close friends to chat with each week.  But because I didn’t have a better plan, and because I really love my husband and will follow him where he goes, I went to Big Church.

It didn’t take long to adjust and start to love the sermons and music, and to pick out people that we knew.  We also got to know some of the childcare workers pretty well because our “big” kids always pitched huge crying fits when we had the audacity to leave them in their care.  It was great.

Six weeks after the twins were born was missions week at Big Church. After talking at length about God’s call on his life to pursue full-time mission work, Pastor Joe told us to go out in the lobby to look at the different tables that were set up with information about all the places Big Church was involved in the world.  The lobby was crammed with people that had filed out of the sanctuary and were just crowding around the different tables.  Tim gave me both of the babies in their car seats, after we agreed he should go get our “bigs” from the childcare room.

This happened when I was right in front of the table labeled “UGANDA” and “DAYS FOR GIRLS*”.  Not being interested in anything like that, I turned my back on it.  You see, just a couple of months earlier I’d told my sister-in-law (who LOVES Africa) that I was really glad that God made people like her that love Africa so much, because I didn’t want anything to do with Africa.  I’d always, since I was a young teen, had an aversion to the place, and I had no desire at all to go and get my hands dirty in the seemingly endless problems that exist there.  I turned my back on the table because my heart was turned away from the continent.

I looked through the crowd toward South America and East Asia, but remained rooted to the spot, even when I thought about wandering around the lobby a little. I felt a little as if the Holy Spirit was nudging me to turn around, but I refused on the grounds that it was Africa, and “We both know how I feel about Africa.”  Then, over the clamor of voices all around, I heard, clear as can be, “So what we really need is women who sew.”

I sighed and turned around.  Sometimes you know it’s God talking to you.  A woman named Shannon was telling a lady about how Days for Girls sews reusable fabric feminine hygiene products for girls who otherwise don’t have access to them.  These products can keep girls in school an extra week each month, reducing the drop-out rate. This in turn leads to a better educated population, improves the overall prosperity of a nation, and much much more.  These products are truly considered a godsend to the people receiving them.  Shannon had an email sign-up sheet so we could get info about the sewing events and what ways we could help, including providing supplies for the kits.

I signed up.  I resolved to go to the next sewing event taking place in 8 days, and I made a mental note to buy girl’s underwear for the kits next time I was at Walmart.

Before Tim and I had even left the church I already had objections.  Why were we making, in the US, things that women could make in their own countries with less expensive materials?  Were we hand delivering them? That seemed inefficient and wasteful.  Couldn’t it dignify women to make these and sell them in their own neighborhoods?  I had read Toxic Charity, so I knew what harms and what doesn’t.

All week as I was taking care of my kids, washing dishes, cooking dinner, folding laundry, and otherwise not using my brain for much, I was pondering Days for Girls and what they were doing.  I was praying about how I’d felt God’s nudge to get involved, but wondering if I really should.  Each time I prayed I heard 2 answers: “Just wait.” and “Go to the sewing event.”

So I waited, and I went.

The sewing event was crazy busy.  I saw that Shannon wasn’t going to have any free time, so I just took my sewing scissors and sat down at a table where a group of women were cutting on the line.  I figured even if I didn’t know anything about the construction of these things I could cut on the line.  The table I was at was rather quiet, and I am a chatty Cathy, so when we ran out of lines to cut on I went to a different table where the ladies were talking more and pinning.

At the pinning table a lady (whom I shall call Chatty Pinning Lady) was indeed chatty, and asked me a number of questions about myself including if I sew or not.  I do sew, and I told her so.  We eventually ran out of things to pin, so I had to go back to the cutting table.

Some time later I saw Shannon scanning the room very intently.  She walked past me, where I was sitting on a low cafe chair, and Chatty Pinning Lady marched over to me, pointed an accusing finger down at me and told Shannon in a strident voice, “SHE sews!”

I looked up guiltily, my eyes wide.  I had dreaded being asked to sew. Shannon turned and her eyes bored through me, as if her thoughts were having trouble collecting themselves.  She asked, “Do you?”

“Yes” I answered, cringing slightly.

Shannon continued to look down at me intently. I felt a bit like a school kid being scrutinized by a teacher.  ”Do you want to sew?”

“Not really” I reply. I’m shrinking in my little chair.

“Why not?” Shannon now looks confused.

I nervously look from face to face above me and start blabbing (It’s my default. Don’t judge.)  ”Because at home I use a really, really old sewing machine. You know, the kind with the pedal-” I am now treadling my feet in the air- ”and I don’t want to break your fancy electric machines,” I say.

Shannon is still staring. Chatty Pinning Lady is now looking confused.  She asks, “It has 2 foot pedals?”

“No” I say, and I continue the blabbing, saying something about one pedal with two feet.  My feet are still going strong. Someone behind us shouts out, “Treadle!”  And I nod affirmatively.

Shannon hasn’t blinked or broken eye contact all this time.  ”You treadle? Well that’s good, because when we go to Uganda to teach the women there how to sew these themselves we need to know how to treadle, and right now we don’t know how to do that.”

My forehead instantly breaks out in sweat (thank God I have bangs) and I start in with a very nervous and very high-pitched laugh.  I reply, “Well that’s good that you’re going to be teaching them how to make these themselves.  It’s better than having us make them forever.”

Or something like that.  I don’t quite remember, because what I was thinking was, “Oh God.  You’re going to send me to Africa, aren’t you?” and He laughed and said, “Yes. Yes I am.” And really, that was much more memorable than what was coming out of my mouth at the time…


*If you want to know more about Days for Girls and the positive impact of reusable feminine hygiene products, please visit to learn why I have chosen to get involved, and why you should too.

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Today I am writing in the first free time I’ve managed since the birth of my second daughter, Naomi.  She is almost 7 weeks old, but as anyone who has had a baby knows, life is crazy for a while.  It’s doubly crazy when you also have a 2-year-old.   Life has been difficult in many ways this winter, including in the areas of our finances, sickness, my crazy postpartum hormones, parenting alone since Tim had to work away from home, and lack of sleep.

I don’t know about you, but when I go through difficult times, I get really whiny at God.  I sort of assume that since he says he’s merciful, compassionate, and tender that he will give me what I want when I ask it as some sort of proof of his claims.  This winter I didn’t ask for stupid stuff, but I asked to not be sick any longer, and I asked that my toddler will sleep at night in spite of her teething, and my newborn in spite of her newborn-ness.  I asked that the nursing would go super smoothly and that I wouldn’t have to monitor everything I do quite so closely, and I prayed that Tim will stop coughing all night.  I prayed that someday we can get a raise – even a little one, and I prayed that I wouldn’t feel depressed or full of blind rage for no apparent reasons.

But God didn’t give me what I asked for.

And this made me really frustrated.  And my attitude became, “Well, since you aren’t listening, I will just get along on my own then.”   I know that God is listening, but somehow I felt like his back was turned to me for  a few weeks or a month or so.  It didn’t matter what I asked, he wasn’t going to give it to me.   It wasn’t that he wasn’t listening, it was like he didn’t want to be.

So I started to try to tune in to what God wanted me to do, say, and learn.  What he wanted me to think.  I prayed differently for a week or so, no longer asking for things, but asking him to revive our relationship.  He didn’t say a whole lot that week either.

Maybe I should tell you now that I have been reading 1 Peter.  By this I mean that in the past 3-4 weeks I have read 1 Peter 18 times.   A friend and I get together for accountability, and one of the things we hold each other to is reading 25-30 chapters of Scripture per week.  I thought we’d decided on 1 Peter, my friend thought we’d decided on James, then the holidays hit so we didn’t meet for 2 weeks, and now I am reading 1 Peter again for a couple weeks because my friend has only read it 5 times.   Anyway, 1 Peter, if you’ve never read it, has a LOT to say about suffering.  How good it is.  How we ought to be joyful through suffering, how it’s better to suffer for doing good than for doing bad, etc.  Maybe it’s just because I’m going through a season, but I felt like each time I read through 1 Peter, I found the words “suffering”, “difficulty”, and “trial” in even more verses than I had the last time I read it through.

But last Sunday at church our pastor Eric was delivering a message very badly when he stopped abruptly, prayed, and started telling us, with deep vulnerability, that he is a mess, and the reason he was giving the message (on embracing good change and embracing the difficulties associated with change) was because he doesn’t want all of us to avoid doing what God wants us to do the way that he has avoided it in the past. He didn’t want us to think he’s a hypocrite, but that he wants better for us. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.  Everyone was listening.  He followed his notes less closely after that, and I thought the Holy Spirit was speaking through him very clearly.

The message was good.  One of the best I’ve heard from him, and maybe ever heard.  Convicting and real and to the point.

At one point Eric told all of us that he has financial problems.  He spends his money unwisely, and sometimes he has trouble paying his bills.  He told us that he will do this and then cry out to God to rescue him from the difficulty, but God won’t, because sometimes Eric is better off learning from his mistakes and making the changes that need to be made.  I interpreted this to mean that sometimes it’s wiser for God to let us deal with stuff than for him to just deliver us from the situation.

Then Eric said that he’d gone to a quiet place as a sort of retreat, and while there, God had told him something.  What God told him made everything in the past month click in my brain like an epiphany.  God said, “I don’t owe you anything.  When I sent Jesus to the cross, my obligation ended.  Everything else I do for you is just bonus.”

So that day I was too busy after church to have time to process what I’d learned.  But the next day I took nap time and started journaling my thoughts to God.  Here is what came to me as I scribbled in my spiral-bound notebook.


I haven’t known exactly how to connect with You lately, but I feel like You’ve been trying to teach me some new lessons.

1) You don’t owe me anything. Just because I ask You for something doesn’t mean You have to give it to me. Nor, if You don’t make my life peachy and perfect, are you somehow neglecting Your end of some unspoken bargain.  I don’t deserve You, and I can’t boss You around.

2) Life is difficult. I need to get over it. Difficulties, problems, trials, etc. will all shape my character, but if I’m not careful I’ll let it shape me into a bitter nag.  Instead, I should be mindful of Your sovereignty, of heaven, and of Your instructions to be joyful because in the long run my faith will be stronger for having experienced those trials.

3) I need to stop whining.  Difficulties and trials are much less horrible if I am less self-centered and more cheerful. It’s a bit if a mind over matter deal, and if I just face the problem, it goes much better.

4) I need to adjust my expectations.  I can’t expect everyone to do and be how I imagine or hope or plan that they will be.  I think this will help me become less reactive and more relaxed.  Not that I want to let everything slide in life, but that when Kira acts 2 years old, I will not be surprised and angry.  I can discipline with a clear mind that is not clouded by anger.  Or when I don’t get enough sleep my attitude isn’t constantly, “I only got 3 hours of sleep, this day isn’t going to go well.”  Which makes my expectations for my own behavior very low.  I expect Kira to act like an adult, and Naomi to act like someone on a schedule, but I don’t act that way myself.

5) I need to keep a clear focus on You and act in a way worthy of  Your gift of salvation.  Even when things are difficult and stressful and hormonal, I need to be calm, thankful, and focused on Jesus’ example of willing suffering.  I need to not be a martyr (“Oh poor me!”) but realistic (“The world is a challenging place, and it doesn’t revolve around me”).  Lord, please help me change my thinking.

6) I need to stop being so selfish.  I can serve Tim more, boss him around less, and have less.  I can be thankful for what I have instead of wanting more.  I can stop being annoyed when people don’t consult me before doing things I’d prefer they didn’t do.  I can sleep less and be happy.  Eat less and be happy.  Clean more – or clean less – and be happy.  Selfishness kills happiness.

7) I need to stop trying to eliminate discomfort (pain, difficulty, trials, etc.) from my life.  I spend a lot of time and energy trying to eliminate discomfort, and it’s not getting me anywhere.  In fact, it’s making me a discomfort to be around.  When difficulty, pain, trials – even feeling inadequate – happens, I should embrace it joyfully and let it teach me greater humility, joy, thankfulness, and dependence on You.

Lord, thank You that I “missed” a “much-needed” nap to get this out of my head, figure out what You’ve been trying to teach me, and write it down.  So what if I’m sick, up at all hours of the night with my newborn, and life’s been a crazy ride lately?  I’m glad You love me and care enough to teach me.  Please keep allowing difficulty in my life so I can become someone You truly want to spend eternity with.  I love You.”

After writing that journal entry, I have felt much better, and have been dealing with the stresses of life much more cheerfully and calmly.  I have not been crazy angry or crying all afternoon.  I have been getting a little more sleep sometimes, and less at others, but have been handling it well.  I have been letting Tim sleep when Kira wakes up in the middle of the night if I hear her first.  I have been ok with not making as much money as I would like, and have even committed some of our money to helping a family I know that is going through much more than I have been lately.  Tim and I have been getting better slowly, and the nursing is going ok too.  Ok, the nursing must be going really well since Naomi grew 2 pounds since birth, is an inch longer, and has a 40 cm head.  :)  Even though life isn’t better in every way, I am better.  And honestly, I am wondering what sort of things God is going to teach me through the trials of my future.  Hopefully, I will act less like a toddler that God is putting in timeout than I have in the near past.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV

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  • Time is ever marching forward,
  • Stalwart soldier moving forth.
  • Slave to sun and moon and stars,
  • It cannot change or stay it’s course.
  • Stomping forth, it blazes on.
  • Sweeping over all as one.
  • It has to be impartial toward
  • Those caught up in it’s undertow.
  • Tangled up, I am within.
  • Called by One outside of Time.
  • He beckons me to step outside
  • The path of marching soldier-slave.
  • But can I move outside of Time?
  • Is it not a law on Earth?
  • “And yet,” He says, “All things can be”
  • “When on Me your life is aimed.”
  • I take His hand and ever slowly
  • Ease my very break-neck pace.
  • I notice how the world turns gently,
  • Rhythmic – moving by His grace.
  • No longer marching, stomping, sweeping, 
  • I am moving to His song.
  • Dancing through the days of life,
  • Preparing soul for life eternal.
  • I’ve time to hold the ones I love, 
  • To smell and feel and see and hear.
  • I’m hoping we will all be ready
  • For the days that last ten thousand years.
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I was on a mini vacation last weekend.  We went up to the Chequamegon national forest to a lovely cabin that my aunt and uncle own.  They generously let us stay, and our only regret was that the stay was so short.

I am an over packer, and I always think I will have more time than I actually end up having, so I packed some letters that I’d put off responding to.  One was from my sister Katie, who lives near and works at a Christian camp in Rhinelander.  She works with horses, is the toughest person I know, and loves to write poetry.  Lovely God-oriented poetry.  She sends me copies of her poems in the mail and I read them and give her feedback.  Sometimes I send her a poem or two of mine.

I did write back to her, but this time I didn’t send her any poems.  I haven’t written any poetry in a long while and I told her so.  I told her that I feel like I need to be in the right frame of mind to write poetry, and usually that frame of mind is very upset.  I told her that life has been going good, and when things come up I have been praying about them right away so that I don’t spend so much time stewing and getting so darn jacked up emotionally. It’s been freeing, and has made me a nicer person to be around, I think, but at the same time, it doesn’t cultivate that upset that is so essential to my creative process.

I told her that instead of writing poetry, I had been writing a lot of prose.  Here in this blog, actually.  But then life got busy.  Writing takes time and thought and it requires clarity.  I have a husband and a 1 1/2 year-old and a pregnancy and a garden and a home that all demand time.  I meet weekly with a friend for accountability, and what should be about an hour is always at least 2 because we spend so much time just visiting.

I told my sister that while life is going good, and some things are going better than they ever have before, I don’t think that my relationship with God is a good as it has ever been.  I feel like I don’t give Him enough time, enough pursuit.  I have been having trouble praying and feeling eager to read the Bible (though I do anyway) and this also affects my desire to write.  I like to write when something that I am really passionate about is on my mind and needs to come out, but lately the things on my mind have been things that others are doing wrong, which I know the right behavior for, but which I think I am misunderstanding or misinterpreting.  Missing a part of, anyway.

Some of the things I feel excited to write about are things in the Bible that when I think about what to write, all I can think of is more Bible.  Logically, God doesn’t need me to say anything, because He said everything that needed to be said.  Any person could just spend time reading the Bible each day and get as excited about the things I am excited about without me saying anything.  And that would be better anyway.  I wouldn’t spend my life paraphrasing the perfect Word of God, and you wouldn’t get my watered down Reader’s Digest version.

I haven’t been writing a ton lately because I feel unsure.  That I’m only 26 and in a year or two I will re-read what I have written and cringe at my own immaturity.  That I will look and see how very closed-minded I was (currently am) and just be embarrassed that others have access to this rambling that I do.  I wonder if I will be matured and that I will see so much more clearly in future.  I feel now as if I see more clearly each day, and that I can only expect to dislike my writings, however valid or important they may seem at this time.

I also have been humbled this spring.  I sense God telling me to be quiet and learn to listen to Him for a while.  Then, when I am really good at that, maybe I should practice listening to others for a while.  Finally, when I am really good at listening, maybe I should learn to just be quiet.  Maybe I should ask God to help people instead of offering half-baked advice which I give hastily and with a lot of opinion.  Who am I to say what another should do?  Maybe God has a plan for you that I have no clue about whatsoever?  Maybe I should just pray for you.

So I haven’t been writing.  Because I am unsure.   I think I need to get a few things figured out for myself.  Maybe work on some character flaws that have been pointed out to me in the past few days and weeks.  Maybe I will prepare for this new little person to come into my life.  Maybe I will enjoy the summer and my husband and my toddler before winter and baby come and life becomes chaotic.  Maybe that is ok too.  Doesn’t Solomon say that there’s a time for everything?  I am relaxing a little for a time, and trying to practice what some Christians call “slowing”.

This afternoon I took a nap for no reason except that reading Ephesians made me sleepy.  When I awoke, I spent some time laying in bed and thinking about the book of Job.  I had wanted to write a blog post about Job shortly after reading it this spring, but it didn’t feel right.  So I didn’t write it.  I probably never will.  But I love the main idea of Job, and if you ever want to talk to me about it, I would love to.

I also prayed for a little while.  I got distracted, but when I asked God what is important to Him, the first thing that popped into my head was Kira.  That I should spend more time just enjoying her little, lovely, busy self because Jesus loves the little children.

So maybe that is what I will do more.  I will continue to talk to God, do the work that needs doing, and slow down when the important work is done.  I will not quit reading the Bible or meeting with my friend and I will not worry about my relationship with God being perfect or super exciting.  Just walk through life with Him, not always running or skipping or jumping.

Sometimes life is just life, and I think that God knows that.  I think that sometimes He likes the mundane more than we do.  His kid was a carpenter, for Pete’s sake. That’s a mundane job.  And Amos was a herdsman and “dresser of sycamore figs” but God took him out of that job and had him prophesy.   Amos’s story gives me hope that however small my circle of influence may be here in my own home, if I am still doing what God tells me to do, and if I am faithful in the small stuff  maybe He will choose to use me for something greater.  Maybe He wants to change the world through my writings, but maybe He has more important things to do with me, like training me to love people or spend time with the wonderful ones He’s put in my life.

For right now, I think that being a mom and a wife is pretty great.  Learning to hear God and do what He says without complaint are important.  About these things, I am not unsure.  About the rest, I may be relatively silent for a while.  At least until I am sure God wants me to say something.

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Cake and Insults

I made a cake for my friend Bryan’s birthday.  It was a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and chocolate shavings on top.  Thankfully he likes chocolate.  It was a pretty fancy cake, for me.  Here’s a picture of it.








But it wasn’t a like the cakes my friend Sarah makes.   Sarah makes AMAZING cakes.  She can look at a picture of anything and make a cake look like it.  She can make fondant into shapes and colors and patterns you wouldn’t believe.  She’s at least as good as the people on  that ‘Ace of Cakes’ show.  I can’t describe how completely complex and playful or beautiful and perfect she can make cakes, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  Below are just a few of the many she has made.

Farm cakeLily cake

Garden cake


Hello Kitty, if you couldn't tell.


For a 1st birthday

For a different 1st birthday ship cake

They are way better than my cake.

I was thinking about how if someone asks me to make them a cake for their birthday, they will probably get just what I made for Bryan.  Something in a 9×13 pan, with frosting (maybe) and it will taste good and be a good, average birthday cake.

But if anyone asks Sarah to make for them a birthday cake, they will get something as special as the ones above.  It would almost be an insult to her creative genius if we were to ask anything less of her.  And if she decided to undertake the time-consuming task of making a cake, she wouldn’t plan to do anything less than exquisite.  Because that’s how she is.  It’s part of her nature (or developed habits) to do the best she can.  And for her, the best is truly amazing.

So, I am wondering if we insult God sometimes by asking Him for less than He is capable of.  Do we ask for cake and assume we’re going to get my chocolate thing, instead of Sarah’s towering works of art?  If we ask for comfort when we should be asking for healing.  When we ask for help “to be a better person” (whatever that means) instead of asking God to remake us to look like Jesus.  If we assume that it’s because we’re the ones asking, that it’s unlikely that God wants to do something amazing and unique and beautiful in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones.

I am trying to figure out what life would be like if I were to start to expect God’s best from Him.  He says it’s more than I can ask or imagine.  He says He’s a physician- so I should assume He wants to heal.  He says He’s mighty to save- so I should assume He wants to save people, probably from some of the difficulties of this life, and certainly from eternity away from Him.  He says He’s Love- why wouldn’t I go to Him when I am lonely or afraid or insecure?  He says He created all- that includes me, so shouldn’t I ask Him what sort of person I am?  What sort of person He created me to be?  He says I can do all things through Him- so what am I trying to undertake?  Is it an insult to Him?  Less than His best?

I don’t want to insult Him or live like He is less than He is.  God is Good.  And we should expect His best from Him, even if He doesn’t meet our personal expectations- for whatever reason.   I understand that I can’t put God in a box and make Him do whatever I ask, but what if He is waiting for us to ask Him to do something amazing, and we just don’t believe He wants to, or is able to, or will if we’re the ones asking?  I hope that I can understand this tricky topic more, so help me out- what are your opinions or views on it?  What have you come across in the Bible, or in life that affirms or contradicts what I have written above?

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Imagine we are in a hallway that has a dark end.  There in the dark is a door to a room.  We go to the end of that hallway, and I ask you to open the door, but you refuse.  The room is full of you.  I mean the parts of you that you don’t let anyone know about.  The parts that are seen in glimpses, and hastily covered or avoided.  You DO NOT want to go in the room.  And you most certainly will not allow ME to go in that room.  In fact, you are afraid that if you or I even open the door, that we’ll both be swept away by the deluge of disgusting emotions and thoughts and motivations held at bay by that door.  The door is off limits.

I am Jesus.  You are you.  I don’t want this door to go unopened, knowing that some day the locks will break, and you will be exposed for who and what you are.  And I care about you.  I want you to have a clean room that is full of good things, things that you would want to have exposed when the locks break.  And they will break.  We both know that eventually God will break down the door and sift through all the muck, and tell you who you are.   I don’t want Him to find what is there now.  I want to clean the room out.

So, after constant nagging, and some severe reality checks that cause you to realize that your room is revolting- more so than you had originally supposed- I convince you to open the door.  But you are afraid.  You are afraid (rightly so) that we’ll both be swept away.  That is, you will be swept away, but I will not.  I will stand firm, but you don’t trust me that much yet.  Though we’ve known one another for a long time, you have never let me get near this door before because you are afraid that when I clean it out nothing will be left of you.  You will be destroyed.  But now you realize that you need to be destroyed, or else this ugly room will destroy all the good rooms.  It’s already starting to smell, and you  know that this can’t go on any longer.  Pretty soon the walls that separate the good rooms from the bad room will rot out completely.

So you agree to open the door just a little.  A crack, then you hastily close it again.  It takes all your effort to keep the rest back.  In the second the door is open, a dirty sludge oozes onto the the floor, but it’s so dark in this end of the hall that we can’t see the sludge well.  I pull out a flashlight.  I hand it to you.  You switch it on, and shine the bright beam on the gross gelatin mass.  Your face says it all.  You look at me.

“What do you think?”

“I think it looks like bitterness.”  I poke it with my toe.

“What should we do with it?” you ask.

“I think we should get rid of it.”

“It is gross,” you say, “But I’m not sure How to get rid of it.”

“You need to let go of it.” I respond, gently.

You realize that as disgusting as it is, it’s familiar to you, and you don’t want to let it go.  It’s been your pet sin for decades.  Somehow, when you heard me talk about being righteous, you figured this one didn’t count, since you “weren’t ready to let go of that yet” or this dirt “isn’t really that bad” or you “never do that sort of thing” and all that BS.  You realize it’s the lies you’ve told yourself, and that you’ve listened to, that have enabled you to store up such a room of filth.

You whisper softly, ”I don’t want to let go of it.”  You realize for the first time that you really have become bitter.  That it is a part of your identity, and that in order for you to forsake bitterness, you will need to change.  Who you are at your core will need to change, and you will need my help.  And you are, when you admit it, completely terrified of my help.  You’re afraid of being destroyed, afraid that I will make you spineless and weak and a pushover.  Afraid that you will not like who I make you into.  But you are more afraid of this bitter identity.  You wait for me to say something.

I anticipated this.  ”You are not this.” I point at the bitterness contaminating the floor at our feet.  ”You are God’s child.  You are who He says you are.  But in order for you to live out the reality of who you are- who God has chosen you to be- you will need to let me take out this garbage and make you into someone like Me- God’s only actual Son.  I am loving, kind, patient, good, meek, joyful, peaceful, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.  If you let me, I will make you like me.”

“Okay,” you say, “But I don’t know how to let go of my old identity, or how to let go of bitterness.”

“I will help you.”  I want to get into the meat of the issue right away, but I need you to engage in this, so I ask you a question.  ”Why are you bitter?”

This question startles you.  ”Why? Don’t get me started!”  You have dammed up a river of words about how much you deserve to be bitter.  The dam breaks.  ”My parents never loved me, my friends don’t even know me, and life has dealt me nothing but trouble!  I am so frustrated about EVERYTHING!”  You go on an on, coming to an end of your grievances only at great length.  I am listening, but thinking as well.  When you have finally run out of words, I ask, “Why won’t you forgive?”

You are silent for a moment.  Your energy is a little drained from your long-winded rant. “I don’t want to.”  The simple answer to this long-avoided question is a surprise to you.  You’d never really thought it through.

“Why not?”

Another long pause.  ”Because forgiving means I lose.  And no one deserves my forgiveness.”

forgave you.”

You know what this means.  You and I are the only realists when it comes to me knowing what I have had to forgive you for.   We both know you don’t deserve it.  We also both know that it is perfectly reasonable for me to ask you to forgive.  You think, and wrestle with your thoughts and emotions.

“I will forgive.  I will let You remake me, but I need You to know that I am not looking forward to it.  It will be hard for me.  Some things will take time.”

I anticipated this also.  I smile.  ”Don’t you think I know that already?”  But I am glad.  I am glad that you want to become a glorious child of the King.  To have His attributes.  To be who He made you to be.

As happy as I am, I know that the goo on the floor is not going to take care of itself, so I press on.

“So this is in the garbage?  You will allow me to eradicate this bit, and each and every bit of bitterness each and every time I encounter it, as we clean this room?  Whenever I see it, I can say to you, ‘This is bitterness.  I am throwing it in the garbage’ and you will let me?”

You take a deep breath since you know there’s going to be some pain involved, and agree.  We clean up the floor.  It’s yucky work, but we do it.  When it’s in the trash, we both have a sense of  rightness with the situation.  You are still scared of the implications of today’s decisions, but ready to face your problems head-on.

You look at me and ask, “Well, should I open the door again?”  I nod.

This time the sludge that squeezes through the tiny crack in the door is anger.  And, surprisingly, we don’t need the flashlight to see it.  Imperceptibly the hall had gotten brighter on this end and we can now see, though not clearly, at least better than before.

“Anger?  I’ve never thought of myself as an angry person.  But now that I think about it, I  have been angry a lot lately…”  You are muttering.  I am examining.  I invite you to examine it with me.  I have you shine the flashlight on it so that we can get a really clear idea of what it’s comprised of.

“What do you think?”  I ask.

You tell me that you think it’s anger, alright.  A little impatient at your obvious answer, I ask the traditional question of the untiring 3-year-old.  ”Yes, but Why?”  I mean, ‘Why are you angry’ but you understand.

You tell me that you are angry (you think about this carefully, remembering all the things you have recently been angry about) because other people never clean up after themselves,  your husband always wants to spend too much money, and people say unkind and very hurtful things to you.  These, you realize, are the main things you get angry about on a daily or weekly basis.

“Anything else?”  I want to make sure you are sure.

“No, I am impatient sometimes, but I consider that different.  More like selfishness than anger.”  I agree with you.

“Okay.  Let’s break this down.  Why are you angry about others’ messes?”

“Isn’t there an obvious answer?”  You are impatient with me, and you switch off the flashlight so that we don’t have to look at this fresher gloop on the floor any longer.  We both know what we saw.

“Why don’t you like to clean up after people?”  I am not going to let this go.

“Because they are adults!  I am not their mother!  They can clean up after themselves!  I shouldn’t have to!  It’s not fair!”

I look you in the eye, though you are avoiding my gaze.  ”Why don’t you like to serve others?”

You are resigned.  ”Because,” you say, grudgingly, but finally admitting the truth, “I don’t love others as much as I love laziness.”

I nod my head understandingly.  ”So, this little bit isn’t really anger, is it.  It’s laziness and lack of love.”

“Yeah.”  You are not happy with this discovery.  You are quickly realizing that I am not going to let you off the hook or let you pretend any that you are more perfect than you actually are.

I serve you.”  No more needs to be said about this, and I know you will be making efforts in the future to change your attitude about service.

“By the way,”  I add gently, “If you want to complain about fairness, you should do so with someone else.  No one understands unfairness as much as I do, so I don’t want to hear about it anymore, okay?  If I ask you to serve, love, forgive, or anything else, it’s fair for me to ask, and it’s fair for you to obey, okay?”

“Okay.”  You are otherwise silenced, head bowed.

“What about this?”  I point at the gloop, a part that is clearly anger against your husband.  ”Why are you angry every time your spouse wants to spend more money?  You have savings.”

“I know we have savings, but they are not big enough to cover our insurance deductible and to cover our expenses for the time were are in the hospital (and recovering afterward) if we were to get in a car accident or something!  We would not be able to pay off the hospital bills!”

You are crazy.  Voicing this frequent, and frequently smothered, fear causes you to realize it.  I raise my eyebrows at you.  Then, understanding kicking in, I sigh and ask you, “Don’t you trust me?  Don’t you trust that if I let that series of events actually take place, that I will take care of you?  I promise, if this happens, I will make sure you are taken care of.  I can’t promise that it will not be difficult, but I will promise to not abandon you.”

You are crying now.  You had worried about this a long time, and it feels good to voice this fear and hear my answer- a better answer than you’d expected.

“So that wasn’t an anger issue either, was it?  It was a fear, and lack of trust in Me issue.”

I let you collect yourself before moving on.   “What about this last bit?  The bit about people saying hurtful things to you?”  I am pointing to the gloop which has, again imperceptibly, become more brightly lit and, consequently, more visible.  ”Why are you letting someone’s words cloud your ability to love and forgive them?”

“They keep saying things to me that tear down my worth as a person.  That I am unlovable or a disgrace or something.”  I can see you are sad about this.  Hurt.  No longer angry, but unsure how else you are supposed to react to words of attack.  Not sure how to deal with the aftermath.

I set my hand on your shoulder, and your head is bowed.  You feel ashamed, and sure that what the unkind person said is true.   I put my head at your level.  ”Don’t you know that God, who decides who you are, has decided your life is worth the same as mine?”

Again, you cry softly as the realization hits you.   I am freeing you from being blown about by the approval or disapproval of others.  You are starting to become aware that your worth is great, and that God wants you for His own dear little one.  That I want you for my beloved.  You had heard this a million times in church, and read it in the Bible a million more, but somehow, it had never become real to you until today.  That what we said was actually true.

You realize that there are other areas of the room (and all the rooms which you thought were clean) that will be affected by this simple truth of identity and worth.  That the kids on the playground who told you that you are fat did not have the right to choose who you are.  That God made you His little daughter, He chose you to be moderate.  Self-controlled, not controlled by food.  You are beginning to realize that God’s love means that you don’t need to pressure your husband to satiate your unquenchable thirst for love.  You can love him and be loved by him without requiring him to meet the needs that only God can meet.

Even as you are thinking these things through, I bend down and clean up the mess on the floor.  I know you are ready to be completely done with anger.

Then I open the door to the room that was off limits.  All the way this time.  I enter it, and we start to clean in earnest.  It is dirty work.  I ask you questions constantly about why you were keeping each individual item in here, and you give me honest answers – most of which boil down to: I don’t love You, I love sin, I don’t love others, or some combination of those three.  Now that you are willing to face these realities of your character, we make fast progress.  You are pained, but you keep moving through the decaying clutter.  All the while I am coaching you in how to overcome these temptations and yucky thoughts in a practical way.  You are willingly working beside me, holding things up, and letting me get rid of things that we had already talked about.  Some things you don’t even ask me about.  You just chuck them.  Now that you recognize them for the junk they are, you don’t even need my prompting to remove them.

Once we’ve made a little progress you start to see the benefit of having me open up this ugly room.  You begin to see that there was no reason to fear what I would find.  That I was planning to forgive you for this mess all along, and that I was planning to make the room better.  You would not be spineless, or a pushover, or weak.  Just better in every way.  Free.  Free to be used for good purposes.  And now you finally know what I meant when I said I would free you from sin.  Today is what I meant- not when you die.  Today.

And you are confident in my true care of you.  There is nothing here I did not know about.  I was not, nor am I, surprised at what you keep in the rooms of your mind.  I knew all along that there was greed, pride, envy, lack of love for myself and for others. I knew you love food and other consumable things more than you love the restraint I made you for.  I knew you cared more about money and safety and your flawed self-chosen, or others-chosen identity   I knew that even your good actions were motivated by what others thought, or would think, and that you spent much time trying to improve others’ opinions of you.  I knew and I forgave you.

Later, this room will be filled with light.  It will no longer be fetid and gross, decaying, or oozing.  It will be whole and healthy.  Clean and renewed.  Full of love and peace.  You don’t know it yet, but this is how it will be.  Because you let me empty you, and let me fill you back up again.

I will continue to clean out this room as often as it needs it, and we both know it will need it often.  I hope our findings will never again come as a shock to you.  That you will know that there are “uglies” and you will just open up the door to me whenever I ask, about whatever I ask.  And I hope I will not need to convince you that the changes I am going to make are worth it.

I want God to see My goodness when He opens the door to this room.  If you let me do what I came here to do, He will find only good.

Mostly, I want you to know that when I destroy you, you will like how I remake you.

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I am hungry to be used by God.  I have a very large appetite for change in people that must be credited to God, and I really want to be a part of it.  The sooner, the better.  Recently I found that in order to be a part of it, I would need to amp up my prayer life.  I did.  I am.  And as a result, I have been experiencing some discomfort.  Sleep disturbed, schedule thrown off, and so forth.  And there have been some disappointments.  Things I prayed for in faith which were not granted me.

The worst part, by far, is the lack of sleep.  I have been sleeping worse in the past month than at any other time in my whole life, with the exception of when my daughter was a newborn.  Kira would wake up many times a night (which is not like her), or we’d be sleeping away from home, and I have been waking up at 5 or earlier each day to get some prayer time in before Kira awakes, if I am lucky.

Unlike most people (or I assume most people) I cannot function on low sleep.   Well, I can function for a little while, but after a few days I turn into an angry-sobbing-zombie-witch woman who doesn’t know who she loves anymore, and who can’t do simple tasks like bake muffins.  My brain shuts down in the overload of crazy emotions pounding in from all sides.  My husband kindly bears the brunt of this, then he orders me (gently) to take a nap.   Sometimes I am so wound up that I can’t.

A couple of days ago I was trying to wrap my head around the idea that I am going to have to work part time again for a few months, and trying to wrap my heart around the idea that God would ignore my fervent prayers when He knows how much I love being a stay-home mom, and I was not doing well.   I was tired and emotional and very stressed just thinking about the changes that are most likely going to take place, and I was angry at God.

I don’t like being angry at God very much.  It is easy to “go there”, but once you’re “there” you inevitably realize that there is no way you can win this argument.  He is perfect, and if He deems it necessary that one must work again, then work one must.  He gets to call the shots, and He sees everything from a different angle, so He knows what is best for us in the long run.  Based on what the Bible says, and which personal experience reiterates, He loves us more than we could ever imagine, so logically, He has our best interest at heart.  He sometimes lets us go through difficulty to change us into better people.  So I am resigned to working.

But it took me a while, and I think the biggest disappointment was that I truly felt that He was going to pull through for me in a big way and that He somehow betrayed my trust, or that after all we’ve worked through in our relationship, He decided now would be a good time to stop listening to me.  It was silly, but I was tired and emotional.  I was asking myself questions like: “If following Jesus is so difficult, why don’t you quit?”  and my emotions were saying, “Really.  Just quit already.”

But I am stubborn.  I have been a Christian a long time- sometimes following as closely as I can, sometimes following from a distance that would cause most to wonder if I am really following at all- and one thing I know is this:  Life without God in it SUCKS!

So I was on my knees, praying angrily to the God who loves me and knows what is best for me, and the question arose:  ”Why don’t you just quit then?”  By this time I was really angry.  Frustrated at a deep level.  And I angrily told God, angry tears squeezing out of my angry eyes, “Because I love You!  That is all.  I CANNOT live without You.  I will keep praying and trying and failing.  I will be the worst daughter You ever got for Yourself, but I will keep being Yours because I am too crazy about You to move away.  I will not harden my heart, I will change.  I will be Yours because You love me, and I can’t get enough of You!  And I want You to use me, and that is Impossible if I push You away!”

Immediately I felt like that was what this is all about.  As if I had passed a little test.  ”Let’s see if Julia will be faithful to me… I will take away her free time.  I will not pay her to take away her free time.  I will take away time with her beloved little daughter.  I will let someone else spend that time with her.  I will put change in her life.  I will cause her to need to reschedule a couple days each week, and add to the load she feels is enough.  How will she do under pressure?  Is she ready to serve me however I say she should? No?  Wait, she’s ready.  Weeeeell, sort of.  Willingish.”  I didn’t pass with great marks, but I passed, okay?

I am going to keep pursuing Him, keep praying even if He chooses to not do as I request (or demand) and keep going through spiritually, emotionally, and at times physically draining times in order to know Him more.  I am trying to work on finding balance between praying with passion, and banking everything on God doing as I say.  I am trying to find balance in my schedule to pray uninterrupted without losing so much sleep that I turn into the angry-sobbing-zombie-witch, and I am trying to become more flexible.  This is difficult, but if if glorifies my God in the long run, I will attempt.  And I will pray that He helps me with all of these things that are difficult for me.  I believe He will, but I also believe that His methods may surprise me.  (Because, try as I might, I can’t really figure Him out!)

On a cheerfuller note, I am extremely excited to report that during this month of difficult prayer God has answered some.  Kira was sick and had horrible diaper rash that the prescriptions weren’t helping, and she is 100% better.   I have experienced more Joy while praying than at any other time in my life.  Connection to Him has not been my problem much lately.  So I am grateful.  Having gotten a relatively good night of sleep last night, I can think on these things with greater calmness than prior.  And I am grateful that the One who is big enough to make all the universe loves me enough to listen.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)

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Shark Hat

I undertook to make a shark hat for my nephew Ben for Christmas this year.  I had made an outrageous owl hat for Kira, and my sister let me know that Ben is “ok” with having animal hats.  This was, of course, said in a totally nonchalant way but actually meant “You should definitely make my kid a cool animal hat for Christmas!”

I had seen some pretty cool crocheted shark hats on and thought I could make one knitted.  And, of course I figured I could do it without a pattern.   That was a decision that was optimistic, but foolhardy.  About halfway through, my mom bought me a pattern for a stuffed shark from which I took the tail technique (I didn’t actually follow the pattern fully, just got the general idea for how to make the shape), and I “winged it” on the rest.  I spent rather a lot of time surfing the web for images of sharks and shark hats so that I could really capture the “essence-o-shark”, but it still turned out pretty cutesie.

You may be thinking, “I have got to make one of these!”  and even thinking, “I think I could replicate this…”  but please allow me to warn you that unless you are a very experienced knitter who really enjoys torture -I mean- designing patterns, then you should just swallow your pride and buy a nice little $6 pattern.  I am pretty sure there is not a single part of the entire hat that was completed the first time, and most parts were put in and then taken out about 3 times.

It was so completely frustrating that I didn’t write down instructions on how I made it because I was so sick of the thing when I finished that I refused to count all those rows and stitches.  I may also have given in to several fits of procrastination and not finished the hat until about 2 days before the Christmas party, eliminating the free time that would be needed in order to count all those stitches, but you must know that there were lots of frustrations, and it was very discouraging!  I know, there is no excuse for my laziness, but I was certainly glad to be done with it.

It probably would have gone a lot faster if I were not a perfectionist, and if my husband were not suddenly very interested in the preservation of true-to-life shark characteristics when knit into hat form.  I believe he was (and this is rare) my most severe critic, though, of course he’d say, with a slight shrug, “It’s okay, and you don’t need to change it if you don’t want to, but the tail is not proportioned very well…” knowing full well that I cannot let that sort of thing go uncorrected.

I was extremely glad it turned out as well as it did, and am also equally glad that I now know I hate making patterns for things that are expected to look like something other than a square when they are done.  Dish towels and potholders are one thing, shark shaped hats are something completely different!  I preserved a lovely picture of the finished nephew-eater though, and I hope my nephew enjoys being eaten for a few years.  If you want to know in detail how to make it, let me know, and I will endeavour to write it out for you.

The finished product!

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