Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Home Life

Sometimes I have whole heaps of things to write about, but most often words just do not come.  I think it's because life is pretty routine.  I get up, spend a little quiet time on my own, then I wake up Shirley (except she's usually already awake).  The two of us eat breakfast, I do the dishes and clean the bedroom.  Then Shirley and I spend a little time together until she goes down for her nap.  I (sometimes) work out, take a shower, eat lunch, read a little, email a little, call anyone I need to...then I wake her up again (except she's usually already awake.)  I feed Shirley her lunch and let her run around while I clean something.  Pretty soon Kwacha is home (it's so nice that he gets home around 2).  He plays with Shirley while I start dinner.  We eat, sometimes go on a hike, sometimes read, sometimes go grocery shopping (since we have the one car).  Then we come home, feed Shirley her dinner, give her a bath, put her to bed and then spend time together talking or watching I Love Lucy.  It may get routine, but I generally love it.
When I feel some complaining in my heart coming on, mostly over dishes, I try to remind myself that I am married to a fantastic husband and I have a sweet little daughter.  That's why there are dishes in the sink.  Doing dishes is now a reminder of the blessings God has given me.  Blessings I don't deserve.
Still there are times I get anxious or impatient or worried about things, mostly future things, sometimes present things.  The worst part about being anxious is...being anxious.  And yet, God tells us we don't have to be!  I mean, isn't that amazing?  We can bring anything and everything to Him and He will take care of it.  I can't remember exactly how it goes but one of my favorite quotes from Elisabeth Elliot is something like, "Restlessness and impatience affect nothing but our joy and peace."  I love that.  It's just something I have been thinking about a lot lately.
This post is starting to feel random so I think I'll just end on some random things about life:

-I started attending Every Woman's Grace about a month ago.  It's been such a blessing.  I love the Bible studies we receive each week.  The questions are deep and applicable and they really help reveal sin that I need to repent of while reminding me of the character of God.  I love the fellowship with other moms and older, wise women.  I am so thankful that my friend, Michelle, is able to drive Shirley and me.  (And her daughter Lucy is about six months older than Shirley and super sweet.  The first week they held hands in the parking lot as we were walking to the car.  ::melt::)  If you are reading this and you aren't able to go, I would suggest printing the lessons off the Grace Church website.  Especially if you don't know what to study at the moment.

-Kwacha's sister, Jellita, is coming to visit a week from tomorrow!  She's never been to the US and she will be staying for two weeks.  We have all kinds of fun things planned but mostly I am excited to see Shirley interact with her Auntie.  She LOVED her when we visited Malawi.  I am also looking forward to extended time with her so I can get to know her better.  :)  Please pray for her flight!  It is a long way to travel solo!

-And if anyone is wondering about Shirley, she's her usual cheerful, spunky self.  She can make lots of animal noises now.  She also says, All done, Oh Boy! and Hi and Buh-bye.  She blows kisses and has started to say No! after I say no.  (We're working on that one.)  She's a little independent one but still very friendly and she fills our hearts with joy.

With daddy at the zoo.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review: Gone With the Wind

Many years ago my mom convinced me to watch the film version of Gone With the Wind.  I remembered two things about it; it was unfathomably long and I could not stand Scarlett O'Hara.  Well, about a month ago I was alone at my mom's house waiting for the laundry to finish so I could head home.  I meandered through my mom's books and saw Gone With the Wind.  I had actually started it once when I was in college but I didn't get too far.  This time I thought...why not?  I had time to kill and I probably wouldn't finish it anyway.  Surprisingly I couldn't put it down!
I took the book home with me but a bunch of pages were falling out.  I asked Kwacha if I could buy it  for my Kindle on Amazon since the price wasn't too shabby for a 1037 page book.  (I think it might be the longest book I have ever read, second to the Bible.)  Thankfully he said yes.

I think it was the way that Margaret Mitchell described the characters that initially drew me in.  Once I really got into it though, Scarlett O'Hara was bugging me just as much as I remembered, if not more!  And this continued on and on.  I don't think it's ever pleasant to see someone else's sins and realize that those same sins reside in your own heart, even if it may not come out in the same way.  Pride, vanity, way too much self-reliance and rudeness are just some of the words one might use to describe Scarlett's character.  

Rhett Butler wasn't much better.  And don't get me started on Ashley Wilkes, the weak-hearted weasel!  Ahem...anyway.  Melanie Wilkes was one of the few redeeming characters in the book.  She is the reason I kept on reading.  Well, partly.  As much as I couldn't stand Scarlett O'Hara, I sympathized with her many times, especially after the Civil War started and her parents died and she struggled to help her family survive hunger and thievery from the Yankees.  I kept reading in hopes that these trials would cause her to change, and they started to, but then she started gaining wealth and she married Rhett and her love for money turned her into a monster.  

One of the things that surprised me most in reading the book was the Southern perspective on the Civil War.  I think most people grow up learning about the Civil War through the Northern perspective.  You can't help but siding with the Yankees.  Of course, I don't know how true to life the book is, but if it is, there were certainly some atrocities played out by the Union.  In many cases, obviously, slavery was a horrible thing.  But there were also a number of slaves that loved the families they served and even when they were given the opportunity for freedom, they remained with the families.  It seems that the Union put many former slaves in the legislature whether they were qualified or not.  And many of the Yankees did not care for the people at all and still didn't see them as equal, even though they fought for their freedom.  (A side note: I know extremely little about politics, I will admit, so take what I say here with a grain of salt.)  All that to say, I was fascinated at reading about the Civil War through a new lens.

As I said before, my favorite character is Melanie. She is so full of love for Scarlett that she never believes any evil of her (which believe me, there was plenty!). Her character truly lives out 1 Corinthians 13, that love believes all things and hopes all things. She portrays a gentle and quiet spirit  without fear. The horrible thing is that Scarlett hated her in return because she married the man she was "in love" with. However, Melanie's relentless love for Scarlett wins her over in the end. When Melanie dies at the end of the book, Scarlett realizes that she does indeed love her and that Melanie was truly one of the few people that loved Scarlett. She realizes how much she depended on her and she's devastated over her death. But it's Melanie's death that helps wake Scarlett up to the truth. She finally sees Ashley for who he really is and she realizes that she actually doesn't love him. She really  loves Rhett but by this time it's too late. Rhett had finally had enough and leaves. Throughout the book Scarlett deals with every trial she faces by saying, "I'll think about it tomorrow." So the book ends with her planning how to get Rhett back "tomorrow." Because after all, "Tomorrow is another day."

I don't think I'll read another book of this length for a looooong time, BUT, it did leave me with the truth that God alone satisfies. Scarlett found no satisfaction in money or people. Her love for money ruined her life just as 1 Timothy tells us it will. Her best friend died and her husband left her. We must always put our hope and trust in God alone.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

New Year

New Year's Resolutions.  I'm finally talking about them in February.  Have you been asked if you made any yet?  I think I've been asked two or three times and I had to admit that I hadn't made any.  It seems like people are either passionately for them or aggressively against them.  I wouldn't say that I fit either of the extremes but I would tend toward the latter.  I'm not against making new year's resolutions by any means.  It's good to sit back and evaluate where you are at and where you'd like to be.
It's been discussed before but the main reason I typically don't make them is because after January I tend to forget about them.  The hype ends in February and you get back into the normal, daily routine of life.  
I found some statistics about new year's resolutions on the ole internet.  
45% of American's usually make them.
8% of American's are successful in achieving them.  
But, "People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions."
(All of my info was found from www.statisticbrain.com).
Why do we make resolutions at all?
Hopefully, for a believer, the ultimate purpose is to grow in godliness and glorify God.
So, I finally came up with one.  Just one.  I think one single resolution will help me actually attain it and put things in focus.  And it's a resolution that will help make all other pursuits possible and bring about real change and that is to be faithful in prayer.
I read a really helpful devotional by Elizabeth Elliot this morning about prayer.  I'll copy some of it here:

"'If you, bad as you are, know how to give your children what is good for them, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him?' (Matt. 7:11, NEB).  Are you often tempted as I am to doubt the effectiveness of prayer?  But Jesus prayed.  He told us to pray.  We can be sure that the answer will come, and it will be good...Prayer is a weapon.  Paul speaks of the 'weapons we wield' in 2 Cor. 10:4-5.  They are 'not merely human, but divinely potent to demolish strongholds' (NEB)...The Destroyer himself, [urges] me to quit using the weapon he fears so intensely."  

From Keep A Quiet Heart

Prayer is effective.  God is faithful to answer.  He tells us to pray.  And Satan fears it.  
I finished out the last few months of 2014 spending much more time in the Word but by the time my hour or so was up every morning before I needed to get Shirley out of bed, I hadn't spend more than about a minute or two praying to God.  This morning I decided to get out my journal and write down things to pray for using the old A.C.T.S. method (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) and then I spend some time praying through those things. What a difference it makes spending time talking to our God!

It's actually been about a week since I started this post.  Things are still going well.  (I would hope so after only a week.)  Isn't it amazing that God wants to hear from us?  And that He actually listens to us and answers our prayer??  The God of the universe!  That in itself should convict us and lead us to prayer.  Do any of you readers out there have any little things that help you to be faithful in prayer?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, January 12, 2015

My One Year Old

Shirley is now one year old.  As of yesterday.  She's officially no longer considered a baby but a toddler!  What??!!  NO!!!!  Okay, I"m not really that sad, but it's definitely bittersweet.  I looked through a bunch of her pictures and videos yesterday along with the ones taken moments after she was born.  It made my heart hurt.  It just went by so fast.  She can never be a baby again and I now fully understand why every momma will tell you to treasure and savor each moment.  
How can I even begin to describe how much I love her?  I spent much of yesterday morning thanking God for her.  I read over Psalm 103.  It describes all that God has done for us.  He's forgiven us of ALL our sins, He's healed all of our diseases, He redeems us from the pit, He crowns us with lovingkindess and mercy.  All of that is WAY BEYOND what we deserve.  In fact, it's completely opposite of what we deserve.  And then He chooses to give us more blessings beyond all of that.  Blessings like my sweet little funny Shirley.  
She's now walking all over the place, like a little waddling penguin.  I have a bag of clothes of hers that I'm getting ready to donate (In fact, anyone have a little girl under a year that's in need of clothes?  Let me know!)  and she'll take one piece out at a time and walk around dragging it behind.  
She has started to make a surprised face all the time.  She forms her mouth into a large O and her eyes become wide as the moon.  
She blows kisses, and she finally started to give me little kisses!  She kinda just leans her mouth towards my face.  
She loves her little stuffed doggie and calls it "Dah-dee".  When I wake her up from nap time she has to grab him and bring him along.  
She loves everyone she meets and will reach out for complete strangers to hold her.  Emily let a random lady in Starbucks hold her the other day.  
I thought that being a new mom to a little baby would be so hard.  I thought I would be lonely at home.  I thought her cries would bug me.  I thought that I would get bored playing with simple toys and reading simple books to her.  I thought I would still love being a mom but I didn't realize how much!  I don't mind if she's my only company during the day.  Her cries make my heart break, even when she's crying out of sinful anger.  I could spend hours (maybe) playing with her and snuggling with her as we fight over who turns the pages of her books!  
When I woke her up yesterday morning the sudden brightness of the light caused her to look at me all squinty-eyed and she smiled a sweet little smile.  I picked her up and she snuggled her head on my shoulder for almost two minutes!  (A rare thing for this always-on-the-go girl.)  It was like a little gift to me on her birthday.  I realized her birthday is more like mine because I'm the one who got the greatest little gift the day she was born.  I'm almost in tears just thinking of it and God's goodness.  
Some wondered why Kwacha and I wanted to have a baby right away, but I don't care what anyone thinks about it.  We wouldn't have wanted it any other way.  Shirley has brought us even closer, figuring out how to care for a little newborn, noticing little bits of each of us in her face.  We get to thank God for her together and depend on Him even more for wisdom in how to raise her.  Most of all we pray that one day she might know Him, love Him and serve Him and experience that greatest joy of all, being with Him for eternity.  
Thanks for reading about Shirley this past year and sharing in our joy.  We are thankful for all of you too!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

11 Months

I can't believe there is only one month left until Shirley is one year old!  This month has been full of new things for Shirley:

She has started taking steps.  She usually only takes one or two, but one day she took six or seven!  I was home alone with her and pretty much went crazy.  It might have scared her because she hasn't done it since.  I'm not really complaining though.  I know it will come soon enough!

Shirley also learned how to climb stairs (and how to get back down).  Now we have to keep a strict eye on her at my mom's house.

She copies everything her mama and daddy does.  She evens copies my mom's dogs!

Speaking of dogs, she discovered Maggie and Tacy this month and she LOVES them.  She's not afraid of them at all.  She'll pet them and stick her finger in their mouths and laugh at them.  I took her over to the back door one day when the dogs were outside and Tacy jumped up on the glass right near Shirley's face but she didn't even blink.  (Her fearlessness may not be a good thing.)

Whenever I tell Shirley "no" or say "Shirley" in a serious tone she shakes her head back and forth.

She also started saying some words and she started pointing at things in books.  Shirley loves her rubber ducky at bath time and she often will say "duh, duh" while she's playing with it.  We checked out a book from the library last week called "Time for Bed, Fred!"  It's a book about a dog finding his bed.  At one point he splashes in a mud puddle and gets all dirty so he has to take a bath.  Well, there's a rubber ducky on that page and she surprised me one day by pointing to the duck and saying "duh"!  Now every time we read it she does the same thing!
At meal times when she's in her chair I tell her to raise her arms up so that I can snap on the tray and now she'll repeat me and say "up, up".  She also loves to say "hi" and she'll wave while she says it and sometimes she'll repeat the word, "baby".

I love this little girl so much.  It's so cliche to say but it is so hard to imagine that there was a point in life where she didn't exist.  She brings her daddy and me so much joy with her sweetness and spunkiness.  I just love being her mama!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Sovereignty in the Details

During the wee hours of Sunday morning my Uncle Gary's gallbladder ruptured.  We weren't sure if there were other problems involved but it wound up only being his gallbladder.  He had surgery that night and is now in recovery and he is going to be okay.  We are all so grateful.
Another little something happened on Sunday and I hesitated in writing this at first, just because I know my own heart and how easy it is to seek attention for silly things.  But I am just so thankful to God in the way He kept my little family safe and when I think about it, it reminds me of His loving care and sovereignty.
On Sunday afternoon as we headed back home from church, Kwacha, Shirley and I got in a little accident.  We skidded a bit on some large puddles right before a giant wave hit our windshield and completely blocked our view of the road.  We crashed into yellow sand barrels, which protected us from hitting a concrete barrier, but which also sent us back into the lane.  Kwacha lost control of the car and we clipped, of all things, a tow truck!  We didn't have to wait around for CHP in the rain.  (Don't worry, we DID file a report with our insurance later that day.)  The tow truck owner was on his way back to his lot with an empty truck.  So he took us home and then took our car back to the lot with him.  Our car was definitely totaled but we all came out without a single injury, not even whiplash.
I mean, God is in the details, isn't He??  We could have crashed into anything after that wave hit our windshield, but we hit sand barrels put their for our safety.  We could have crashed into another car causing injury to others but we didn't.  Out of all cars we hit a tow truck!  His truck was fine and he was able to take us home immediately.  And on top of that, God protected my sweet husband and precious baby.
He could have not spared us and He would still be just as good and sovereign.  He could not have spared Uncle Gary and yet He would still be just as good and sovereign.  I thought of Philippians 2:7 where Paul talks about how God had mercy on Epaphroditus when He spared him from death.  He never has to spare us from death, but it is always by His mercy when He does.  I am so thankful that I serve such a loving, powerful God!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Companionship of the Lord Himself

I don't really have anything in particular to write about today, except some random thoughts perhaps. Shirley is wonderful to me but there are other things in life besides Shirley.
Speaking of Shirley though, I do love her so much.  And I absolutely love my husband.  I have a few friends that can bring themselves to tears just thinking about loved ones dying.  I was never one of those girls until I got married.  Okay, I know this post is starting to get morbid but stay with me.  I know that worrying about what could happen is never productive.  What is the point in worrying about something that may not happen (and usually won't)?  As the Bible says, "sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matt. 6:34)  But I do sometimes wonder to myself how I would handle a really difficult trial like that.  I know that God's grace is great.  When my dad died I experienced the comfort of God through His Word and sweet friends.  He does give a peace that is beyond understanding.  But as hard as it was to say goodbye to my dad for now, in my mind I think it would be even harder to have to say goodbye to Kwacha or Shirley.  Could I handle it?  I think it comes down to this: Do I love God more than anyone or anything else?
That is an important question to ask myself.  I may not have to worry about Kwacha or Shirley dying today, but how is my life right now a living testimony that I love God more than either of them?  I'm not writing an answer to that right now.  I have to search my heart.  But the cool thing is, if I love God more than them, I am also going to love them in just the way that I should!  That is an extremely comforting thought.
I shared the following with a couple of friends recently who experienced the extremely difficult trial of miscarriage.  I can't empathize with them, but I definitely sympathize.  
It's a quote from Stepping Heavenward.  One of my favorite books. It's at a point in the book where an older lady who had lost most of her family is talking to a younger girl whose fiancĂ© had just died.

Sometimes I find it a help, when dull and cramped in my devotions, to say to myself: Suppose Christ should now appear before you, and you could see Him as He appeared to His disciples on earth, what would you say to Him? This brings Him near, and I say what I would say if He were visibly present. I do the same when a new sorrow threatens me. I imagine my Redeemer as coming personally to say to me, 'For your sake I am a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; now for My sake give me this child, bear this burden, submit to this loss,' Can I refuse Him? Now, dear, He really has come to you in this way, and asked you to show your love to Him, your faith in Him, by giving Him the most precious of your treasures. If He were here at this moment, and offered to restore it to you, would you dare say, 'Yes, Lord, I know, far better than You do, what is good for him and good for me; I will have him return to me, whatever it may cost; in this world of uncertainties and disappointments I shall be sure of happiness in his society, and he will enjoy more here on earth with me than he could enjoy in the companionship of saints and angels and of The Lord Himself in Heaven,' Could you dare to say this?

I hope this may encourage you in whatever trial you may be facing.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18


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