Monday, October 17, 2016

Why and How I Plan to Vote

This is the first year that all of our children can vote in the Presidential election. In all honesty, I couldn't be more disappointed for them. This should be an exciting rite of passage but alas, we have seen America at its worst this past nine months or so, wouldn't you agree? I said the other day that I don't know what I'm most disgusted by, the candidates or the media and the selective content they daily feed us. This feels like an all time low for our nation.

I remember my first voting experience. I was either 19 or 20 I guess and had watched both conventions satisfied I'd done my homework. My father took me to the polls. If you knew him, you remember Dad as a man of few words. 

We didn't talk on the way and I don't remember a conversation at all on election details leading up to voting day. We signed in and took our place in line, waiting for our turn in the booth. Right before I went in, I heard his voice close to the back of my head, "Vote Republican all the way across."

"Dad! You're not supposed to tell me how to vote!" I wasn't really mad. Just a little deflated. I wanted to be a grown up that day. I don't really remember how I planned to vote and if it was different from what he told me to do, but because I respected him, I obeyed. I recall feeling proud after I pulled the levers. I had done my civic duty. I exercised my rights and it felt good and right.

In fact, I've felt that way every election season since even when my guy didn't win. I seem to have become a poster child for making sure everyone I know is registered to vote. (Just ask my 20-something aged co-workers back at primary time.) Despite their flaws, I've always been able to align with a candidate and get behind him with enthusiasm.

Until this year. What to do? What to do?
I hate and hesitate to write this, but when I consider the world stage and what other countries are observing about us, for the first time I'm embarassed to be an American. Is this the best we've got?  
One of the best things about living here in the United States of America is our freedom of choice. We are each walking down a path and can choose which direction we want to head. We can and should throw our opinion in the ring. We do that with our vote.

The reason for that is the men and women who've gone before us. When election season is upon us, I always find myself thinking about generations past and the political climate of their day. 

Scott and I watched the movie Selma a few months ago and I was struck yet again with the price paid and won by men and women with passion and determination and how it wasn't just for their own benefit, but for mine and yours.

When I consider the state our country was in before women and African Americans shared the right to vote, I am still shocked. Doesn't seem like that could happen today in the land of the free and the brave. Of course, this is because we are standing on top of the acheivements of very brave Americans. 

They stood up, sacrificed comfort, risked their future, fought for, were beaten, and some died for the right to vote.

Masses of people stood up, sacrificed comfort, risked their future, fought for, were beaten and some died for the right to vote. 
Individuals stood up, sacrificed comfort, risked their future, fought for, were beaten, and some died for the right to vote.  

For my right to vote.

They did it for themselves and more importantly, in some cases they put their very lives at stake for their children. Their grandchildren. The generations to come.
They made hard choices and did so with outlandish courage and passion. And here we sit enjoying the bounty of what they suffered for. I wonder if it had been my choice, would I even have that kind of fight in me? Would I get off my comfy couch in my warm, well-decorated living room and walk miles and miles, show up at a polling station day after day, rejected and sent away, to be heard and seen?

Or would I resign myself to, "it is what it is" and let someone else care enough? I'm not altogether sure my generation has fought for anything that my children and grandchildren will benefit from. I certainly haven't. We live in peace. Our 'world' is relatively safe. We breathe free air.

However, it seems like much of what we take for granted is at stake here in the 2016 election. There is a real war going on in politics. The tension is so thick and volatile that some of us skirt past the discussion afraid to give our opinion lest we bump up against hostility and are rejected.

Some things I've heard recently:

"I'm not sure I want to vote." 
"There's no one I can get behind in good conscience."
"My vote won't make a difference."
"I won't tell anyone who I'm voting for. It's a private issue."
"I may not vote."

I get all that. I really do. I keep waiting for a do-over. I've hoped for a poll that clearly shows most Americans don't want either candidate, so let's scrap these two and get two more. Doesn't look like that's going to happen.

Every couple of weeks, I wring my hands and ask Scott, "What are we going to do?" That is the question and there is an answer.

After much prayer, this is what I've determined.

1. I will vote. You'd better believe I'm going to vote. That's my right. That's my voice. It matters. Someone else bought that vote for me and I will not let his/her sacrifice be in vain. Ever.

2. I will only read articles from writers whom I trust lest I get sidetracked by the next shiny morsel of intolerable indiscretion and risk my emotions taking over rationality. Then I will weigh the consequences of my choice.

3. I will reluctantly take character and integrity out of the equation because neither candidate has a leg to stand on. This saddens me greatly as the elegant, important office of President of the United States has been dumbed down and degraded so grossly. But that is where we are.

4. I will consider what has been fought and won for me to enjoy, be grateful for and enjoy it, but not selfish and complacent enough to forget to look behind me to the coming generations. I will ask what am I willing to put myself out there to secure for them

5. I will look at the core issues represented. Knowing which ones I'm most aligned with, the stuff that matters in the long run, will determine my vote. It's no longer about who I'm voting for as what I'm voting for. The kind of America I want to leave for the next generation as much as it depends on me.

6. I will tell my children and anyone else who asks me how I'm voting and why. Yes it's tense out there. Yes, my stance may not be popular or even accepted. That's the point. As much as I want to learn from others with more experience and wisdom, I must be willing to share mine. We have to fight for what's important even if it costs something, which I doubt is a very high price in comparison to our forefathers. 
 7. I will never put my trust in a politician, a government, a nation or any person. Jesus Christ alone holds that position in my life. Elections have come and gone, in this country and others (who by the way suffer regularly under tyranny and corruption), and one truth remains. God is in control. Oh He will let us have our way and stray from His best plan for mankind if that's what we want. He does that because He understands and respects choices, so much so that He sent His own Son to fight and died for our ultimate freedom.

It's my turn to stand up, risk and sacrifice if necessary, demonstrating to my kids what is worth caring enough about and fighting for. For their sake, I can't afford to grow weary and lose heart.
I take comfort in and am encouraged by Daniel's prayer so many hundreds of years ago but completely relevant today:

Blessed be the name of God, forever and ever.
He knows all, does all:
He changes the seasons and guides history,
He raises up kings and also brings them down,
He provides both intelligence and discernment,
He opens up the depths, tells secrets,
sees in the dark - light spills out of Him!
God of all my ancestors, all thanks! all praise!*

These are dark days as you know, but we don't have to fear - the Light has come! 
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? 
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is as 
bright as the day, for the darkness is as light with You. Psalm 139:12

Jesus speaking: I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes
in me may not remain in darkness John 12:46

Believe, be grateful, leave a legacy. Vote.

*Daniel 2:20-22 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Addy Grace Comes to the Mountains and a Goal Finished

HI. My name is Adeline. But some call me Addy Grace. 

Last week, just as I was settling into a nice pattern of sleeping through the night and eating on a schedule, my Mommy and Daddy loaded our car with lots of bags and strapped me in my carseat. I like going for rides and usually sleep a lot but I was not prepared for how long it would be before they would get me out and let me stretch!
These are my parents.
 Lucky for them I am such a good baby and hardly every cry.

After two long days in the car, I woke up from one of my naps to see my Pop, who they tell me is exactly like my Daddy. He picked us up at the car rental place and drove us to my Mimi.

She was waiting for us at the door of where she works. I guess she was driving her co-workers crazy all afternoon, pacing and checking out the window until we arrived.

Little did I know that I was in for a quick weekend crammed with lots of family kissing me and constantly asking me for smiles.

Not to mention the incessant photos and videos being taken.

This is kind of a weird picture Mimi took. She told me it makes her happy to come home from work and see my Mommy and Daddy's shoes by the front door. No wonder I always hear Daddy say to her, "You're weird, man."
Here she is laughing at something my Daddy said. She hasn't stopped smiling since we got here. My Daddy kind of looks like her. Just picture him with dark hair.
Pop likes to hold me. Mimi says he 'hogs' me. I don't know what that means, but I do like him and all his snuggles.
Seems like wherever they put me down, someone is looking at me. Mimi says that's what it was like when Daddy was a baby. "We just sat around watching him for hours," she said.

It sort of happens to Pop too. Once he laid down and right away Aunt Ally and Daddy sat or stood right on him. Mimi says none of her kids could resist piling on their Daddy whenever he got on the floor.

Mommy gave me a bath in Mimi's sink. This was a real a crowd pleaser. These people are funny.
A highlight of the weekend for me was meeting my other Great Grandmother. She is very snuggly and likes my headbands. 
Some of Mommy's family came to see me too. Grammie, Grampie and Auntie Sierra. I smiled big when they talked to me. Seemed to make them very happy.
It was really cold in the mountains on the day we left. We went for a walk by the water. Everyone was oohing and aahing about the color of the leaves. I just took a nap in my stroller.

Mimi took advantage of having two of her kids home. Pop didn't like that she took pictures while he was at work. Later she said it sort of made her sad anyway because we were missing my Uncle Ben. I missed him too. He makes fun of the rest of the family and everyone cracks up at him.
Before I knew it, everyone was passing me back and forth, saying goodbye. There was a lot of hugging and kissing going on. They must really love me. Then Daddy put me in the car and we drove for a long time again.

I heard Mommy and Daddy talking in the front seat. They said Pop, Mimi, Uncle Ben and Aunt Ally are coming to my house for Thanksgiving. Guess I'd better come up with some new tricks by then.

Mimi wants to talk to you now.
Looks like my granddaughter has writing in her future, no? I think she really captured her weekend visit to our house. Grandparenting is the best.

If you've read my words for awhile, you know I love starting new things. New goals! New initiatives! New purpose! Has my name written all over it.

In contrast, today is a day of finishing a few goals. This is equally gratifying. 

Many times since January I've written and urged you to read through the entire Bible and why. A few weeks ago I highlighted some themes I've seen amazingly emerge this year.  

Would you believe the same ones showed up again in the last chapters of both Old and New Testaments this morning as I finished up? You heard me - both! Malachi and Revelation. Come on, it's ok to geek out with me about it.  Look and see....
Malachi 3:17 "...They shall be mine, says the Lord of Hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession..."

Revelation 21:3 "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God."

Take note my friends, these are future promises and verbs. And if God's eventual continual presence isn't enough to excite you, He threw in a few more gifts we can look forward to. 

Check out verse 4: "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, no crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

See all those 'wills' up there? He will do it! I'm not sure what you are going through, but I hope these truths refresh you. It's good to know that they WILL happen and according to God, it's a WHEN not an if. We need to hold onto this especially in light of how dark and discouraging our world is becoming. Before we know it, God will finish His initiatives, priorities and goals. These things will pass away and we will be surrounded by new. Amen.

It will be so worth it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Grown Up Table

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need."*, 

he read from his well worn Bible at the beginning of our dinner. This couple, friends for 22 years, are living Acts 2 and preparing to continue doing so in another country full time. Selling everything, moving lock, stock and barrel. Wrecked by God who has given them a heart for children who have no one to care for them or their future. 

They've raised their kids, launched them into their own adult worlds and are following God's call to missions. The second half.
Scott and I were pleased to be included in this core group assembled to commit to pray, send and help them get there any way we can.

During dinner, we caught up on each other's lives because we don't all walk in the same daily circles anymore. I looked around the table several times, staring at the familiar faces, thankful.

So many shared memories, most because of attending the same church for a number of years. Worshipping, studying the Bible, growing and giving our gifts in ministry. Camping, card playing, eating and laughing. Oh the laughing! Figuring out parenting together as we raised fourteen children between us, and simply knowing each other, just to name a few. 

Awe came over me and a deep sense of gratitude because all of my kids love every one of these people and know they could go to them anytime they have need and would be welcomed and cared for.

Community. Scott and I are so blessed.

Some of us are inlaws and grandparents now and we wondered how in the world we got there so quickly and now here we are, sitting at the grown-up table, breaking bread with our friends and praying.

After we finished our delicious Italian feast, we listened our friends' hearts. Their call. Their bravery to give up all that's familiar and predictable and step out without a net. Inspiring doesn't begin to describe. 

Each of us were stirred to respond. To pray. To give. To come help with the work when we can. And the thing that most gripped my heart: to be a place stateside where their kids can find shelter when the world crashes in and their parents are too far away. Yes! Yes! Yes! Pick me!

What greater joy than to be entrusted and invited to help dear friends accomplish their appointed mission.
Before it was over, they asked for our questions, encouragement and any advice we might have. I admired this humility and teachable spirit. A lesson for me. Every word spoken, they received and he described as rich. Indeed.

Like the apostles, together and having much in common, namely, this day our love and care for two of these lifelong friends who are ready to go, we all said yes. It is a great privilege to watch their passion unfold up close and personal. It's our turn to give to two who have always been consistently generous and abundant in giving to others.
Having known this couple for so long and living life with them for so many years, Scott and I stand behind them 100% without reservation. 

If you are looking for upright Christ-followers, committed to personal integrity and giving God glory by giving up all the comforts of the USA (which are numerous) to reach children and teenagers with the Gospel, to support with your money and/or prayers, this is your family. Send me a text or email and I'll put you in contact. More of God's work will be accomplished and you'll get to be a part of it too. 
*Acts 2:42-45

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

An Opportunity to Say Thank You

For our days off this week we left town for a quick overnight. Our new friend who I wrote about a few weeks ago is in a play in Lincoln, New Hampshire. She invited us to come and I didn't want to miss it. So Scott and I took a Sunday drive through New York and Vermont. We are surrounded by mountains, people.

Since the play didnt start until 2pm, sightseeing was on the agenda first thing. Cannon Mountain our destination.  See that tiny spot way up there in the sky? Yes indeedy, we went there. 4,100 feet. Have I ever mentioned I don't really like heights? Yeah, I don't. But I do want to see splendor, so up we went.

I'd like you to imagine we hiked all the way up, but I think we all know better than that. Why would we want to risk sweating or worse, injury when a perfectly awesome tram runs to the top every fifteen minutes?
Yes, I have mittens on (so glad they were still in the pockets from last winter). We woke up to frost on the car and it was 39 degrees at the top of the mountain.  I liked it.
 New Hampshire, you don't disappoint.
Scott learned from a fellow passenger that we could see New Hampshire, Maine, Canada, Vermont and New York from where we stood. And it was glorious.
I was quite taken with the sight of the tops of the trees. The tops of the trees that tower over us. I couldn't help but draw the parallel that from God's viewpoint, what is huge and scary to me is small and manageable to Him. Everything.
 And the little trees. So cute! We mused that all the trees should  have white lights on them.
We hiked around the rim for better views. The path was lined with evergreens.
 It unmistakeably smelled like Christmas. My heart was so happy.
 It was a beautiful day in so many ways. Our girl here is not just a terrific tour guide and finder of the best food for us, but she's a wonderful actress. I even cried a little when her character died. What a treat to spend more time with her while she's nearby.
Speaking of heights, this is the Quechee Gorge in Vermont. We stopped for a quick look on our way home. We were at street level here. Yikes!
That's a lot of height. I was a little queasy to tell the truth.
 Oh one other little thing happened. I almost forgot to mention it. At the theater, we were privileged to meet an amazing woman whose family we've admired from afar for years. No, it's not Betty White or Mrs. Claus. Yes, a few of my friends guessed this.
Mrs. Barbara Bush, once First Lady of the United States of America, was in the audience to watch her daughter-in-law perform. We had a heads up that she would be there but didn't think access would be so easy.

Oh how I hate to stalk, but well, there she was. So beautiful. I asked if we could talk to her. She said, "Of course" and motioned us closer.

It went like this:

"Your husband is the first President I voted for."
She smiled warmly and thanked me.

"I read your memoir. It is still the biggest book I've ever read." (I shared one of my favorite stories from it here.)

BB: She confirmed the story and said, "You're a reader."
"Yes ma'am. I also read your son's book about your husband and absolutely loved it."

BB: "It's a love story, you know."

"I know! I was hooked from the first page. I believe there is no one alive today who is more qualified to be President than your husband. He's an amazing man."

BB: "He is still a wonderful man. He couldn't be here today. But he is the most kind and gracious person I know - and that's after 60 years of marriage!" I think she slapped her knee and laughed. (She told a cute story about President Bush here.)

"I'm sorry he wasn't re-elected. He should have been."

BB: "Oh, don't cry over spilt milk. It wasn't meant to be. We've had a very good life."
Mrs. Bush deflected compliments humbly.  What a refreshing response.

Eventually (because we may or may not have been monopolizing this dear lady), Scott and I thanked her for her family's service to our country and asked for a picture. She not only agreed, but her people got up from their seats for us and took our phones at her direction to take the shot.

What a gracious, beautiful soul. She was much tinier and frail than I expected, but absolutely stunning with her BIG white Texas hair. What a thrill for us.

Who could have magined meeting a First Lady in a small theater in New Hampshire? Later when I had time to reflect on the exhange, I wish I had also said:

"I know for a man to achieve such greatness, his wife has a lot to do with it. Thank you for all the sacrifices and contributions you also made."

"Thank you for being an excellent, honorable role model for women. You're one of the best. These days, someone like you is hard to find."

"Who are you going to vote for in November?"

Ah, I kid. I wouldn't have.

Just a PS for my kids who may be reading....THIS is another reason why you must READ books. All kinds! Especially biographies of greats. Remember, how I told you reading makes you an interesting conversationalist? See how it comes in handy when you least expect it?

Listen to your Mama.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Best Quest

Greetings! Life has slowed down considerably for us now that we are post-Labor Day and into Conference Season here at Camp. Guests are mostly only here on the weekends leaving us time to be home more. You know what that means? Projects. Yes. Here are a few things I've been working on. And when I say 'I', you might guess it requires two.

First, new lighting in the dining room. This here is a nod to the screen porch I miss from our last house. Isn't it so festive though? Warm and cozy.
Hanging the lights together was super fun too. And when I say 'together', I mean I held them while Scott climbed up and down a chair driving nails listening to his wife tell him when they were even and perfectly spaced and when they weren't. He loves my ideas.

Enter Pinterest idea. This was my Sunday afternoon project this week. I even managed to do most of this myself. Only needed help with the hanging.
I don't believe this will be the final landing place for these cute little Fall lampshades but it works for today.

Did you know that they make strands of lights that are brown, yellow and orange? For Fall? Well they do (get to ACMoore post haste!). You can't really tell from this picture, but trust me, they look amazing up there. You might notice I like lights. Especially festive lights. Just wait 'til you know what. Scott says we singlehandedly keep the electric companies in business in December. Oh how he exaggerates.
Earlier in the summer I saw one of these coffee mug racks and fell in love. I did not however, fall in love with the price. I thought, "Psh, I can make that for way cheaper!". Hence Scott's next project. Technically I did most of the work. I picked out the paint colors and stencils and painted the boards. He only needed to find the boards, cut the boards, space them out, nail them together, screw in the hooks, and hang it on the wall straight. Yup, mostly me.

If you're on my Christmas gift list and would like one of these, I'd be happy to whip up one for you. And when I say 'I', well, you know.

Lastly, I made my first order to Lindsay Letters. Brittany, my very creative and gifted artsy daughter-in-law pointed me in this direction a while ago. She may or may not have gone down a few rungs on Scott's favorite list for this. Mid-summer I happened upon a Christmas in July sale. Coincidence? I think not. Naturally, I had to pick up a few things. Are these the best or what? Don't worry Christmas purists, these won't go on the wall until after Thanksgiving. I promise. But I can't guarantee how long they will stay up. That bottom one, though.

Now that you've waded through the fluff of this post, may I share something more significant? I think I've mentioned here before that I'm reading through the Bible again this year. It is the most gratifying spiritual discipline. It is possible to do. The first time I got the notion, not counting the self-imposed feelings of guilt when preachers would suggest it (and after failing several attempts), was when I read biographies of spiritual giants. Can you guess what they had in common? Most of them read the Bible in its entirety multiple times. Clearly this had shaped them, their growth and effectiveness. I was jealous. I want the same thing when I get to the end of my life. So the quest began. 

I can't underscore loudly enough that if I can do it, you can do it. Yes, it's hard (at first). Yes it takes time (we must make it). Yes, you will be tempted to quit (oh so often). Good news - I have come up with a foolproof success plan. Fasten your seat belt, this is really deep. Are you ready? Here it comes...

Get ahead. When you have extra time on a given day, read the next day. When you're in the book of Numbers and it's just lists of names, skim (while noticing important details/change in text) and read several days at a time. This way, when you miss a day (and you will miss many days in a year's time), you won't get behind and discouraged because you'll have a cushion in your backpocket. Trust me, it works!

Another suggestion, don't set a time frame. There's no reason to feel the pressure of reading the whole thing in one year. If it takes 13 months or 16 months, it's still mission accomplished. There is nothing like the feeling of completion, let me tell you. You gain the muscle to know you can do it again. And you'll want to.

Most importantly, read it with the intent to get to know God more intimately. If your goal is simply to endure, trudge through, read it because you're supposed to or check it off a list, you will find it tedious and unfulfilling especially when you get to difficult passages that seem to have no modern day value.

But, and this is a big but, if you read it because you want to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus as many a New Testament book implores, your eyes will be opened to amazing drama, real people you can relate to, and the passion of God's purposes in every aspect of life. 

This time around for me, I'm absolutely thrilled with emerging themes. Things I simply didn't notice in previous readings (This is another reason to make this a repetitive practice because the Spirit opens our eyes to different things at different times of our lives and they apply. Trust me, they apply.).

As I head toward the 2016 finish line, I'm plodding through Ezekiel. Oh Lord, this must be the longest book in the Bible. It is not, but it feels like it. However, the surprise and delight is this....the number of times I have underlined one phrase - "that they may know I am the Lord". Friends, seriously, this is a 48 chapter book and these 8 words have jumped off the page at least once but usually several times in almost every chapter. Don't skip by that too quickly. When we read this much repetition, there's a reason for it. God wants us to notice and pay attention.

Another repeated phrase in this portion, and consistently throughout the Old Testament, is the overriding heart of God's passion (theme #2) - "That they shall be my people and I will be their God. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes."
I can't overstate how many times this appears throughout the entire Bible. Just ask Scott, I marvel to him regularly. Makes me wonder, could it be that simple?

God just wants a people to call His own. He is for us. Our job is to believe and obey. That's it! True, we lose our way often, but He is constantly providing a way for us to find our way to Him (theme #3). He wants to show up and show off for us. He wants to reveal His mighty power on our behalf. He wants us to know He is holy and become like Him in our own holiness (theme #4 - see what I mean about the themes?). I will revisit this one another day because it's huge.

That's the gist. Suddenly it's so obvious. It's not complicated. It is repeated. Again and again. Book after book. He wants us to know Him. It's all there! Had I not made the effort to read this ancient document in its entirety (more than once), I wouldn't have had the thrill of discovering it on my own. I'm not talking deep study people, this is simply reading it everyday and paying attention, asking God to show what He wants to be seen.

One last thing. I mentioned above that the New Testament repeats the phrase "knowledge of God" in many contexts. Think about that for a second. How can we grow in the knowledge of God if we don't seek to learn about Him? And where else can we learn His characteristics and expectations than from the eyewitnesses God has recorded and preserved for us?

2 Peter is also loaded with repetition regarding this quest for knowledge. Check out this promise, but notice the catch:

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence." 1:3 

Oh please, I beg you, discover the wonder for yourself. It will change your life in the very best way.