The Sky Is Falling

ONE day Henny-Penny was picking up corn in the cornyard when--whack!--something hit her upon the head. 'Goodness gracious me!' said Henny-Penny; 'the sky's a-going to fall; I must go and tell the king.'

So she went along and she went along and she went along till she met Cocky-Locky. 'Where are you going, Henny-Penny?' says Cocky-Locky. 'Oh! I'm going to tell the king the sky's a-falling,' says Henny-Penny. 'May I come with you?' says Cocky-Locky. 'Certainly,' says Henny-Penny. So Henny-Penny and Cocky-Locky went to tell the king the sky was falling.

They went along, and they went along, and they went along, till they met Ducky-Daddles. 'Where are you going to, Henny-Penny and Cocky-Locky?' says Ducky-Daddles. 'Oh! we're going to tell the king the sky's a-falling,' said Henny-Penny and Cocky-Locky. 'May I come with you?' said Ducky-Daddles. 'Certainly,' said Henny-Penny and Cocky-Locky. So Henny-Penny, Cocky-Locky, and Ducky-Daddles went to tell the king the sky was a-falling.

I remember this story from my childhood, and it may seem right now that the sky IS falling. Without venturing into the technicalities of economics (which I took in high school and never really cared for), our nation is certainly seeing rough financial times, with very few people coming out completely unscathed.

While it certainly isn't positive (although it may be tempting) to take the role of the ostrich and give ourselves a sand shampoo, I also have to remind myself not to become Henny-Penny. Hiding and worrying are, pun intended, for the birds. Rather, I am trying to calm myself with the knowledge that our God is here, amidst the financial chaos, reminding us that He will handle our worries and fears if only we will trust in Him. I don't call it coincidence that much of our federal currency bears the motto "In God We Trust".

I don't want to be the one running to the king claiming the sky is falling. Rather I want to go running to my King. Running to Him and falling to my knees asking for his comfort and guidance.

It is a time to be especially frugal with the gifts He has bestowed on me, spending them wisely rather than foolishly. Being assured that God will provide for our needs, when we ourselves prayerfully take care of the gifts He has provided us.

I can't run from reality (I know this because I've tried!). But as Eugene Peterson says in The Message, we should "steep ourselves in God-Reality":

What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. (Luke 12:29-32)

Lord of us all, help us not to be worried and overwhelmed by the issues of the day. Remind us to step back and give thanks for what we have, for it is truly a treasure, no matter how small it may seem to human eyes. Help us to relax in You and immerse ourselves in the reality of You. Give us the strength to believe that You will care for us just as you care for the sparrows, the lillies, and yes, even the Henny-Pennys of the world. Our needs will be met, we will be cared for, and we will come to see that our worries were all for naught.

Enthusiastic in our calmness...


One Small Voice

"Even faraway islands will look to Me and take hope in My saving power."
Isaiah 51:5

Our church is a partner in New Life for Haiti, an organization founded in 2005 to help change lives in Marfranc, Haiti. Marfranc is in the Grande Anse River Valley on the southern peninsula of the country, south of the city of Jeremie.

More than 80% of Haitians live in abject poverty, with the annual income for a family of four averaging somewhere around the $300 USD mark. Three hundred dollars. Annually. Haiti is without question, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, perhaps in the world.

Many churches and other mission organizations do great good in areas of Haiti. What work teams from NLH have learned, however, is that Haitians are skeptical of "blancs", or "whites", which is what they call the typically lighter-skinned teams that come to help. While they are grateful for the help, very often it comes sporadically or one-time only. For any REAL change, that is, one that will last and be impactful, to occur, two things must be present: persistence and time. Or, to be more specific, persistence OVER time. Often, great persistence over a long period of time.

On Saturday, October 11th, New Life for Haiti will hold the 3rd Annual Chicagoland Gala. This is an amazing event, with a cocktail reception, served dinner, silent auction, raffle, and program. This gala, along with another in Mattoon, IL, serve as the primary fundraising events for the year. Monies raised at these events, along with a few other small events, make up the entire annual budget. If money for a projected activity (like refurbishing a school) isn't raised, then the project doesn't happen.

NLH is doing more than just making the physical surroundings of Marfranc better. When work teams go, they really get to know the people of Marfranc. They hold children. They play games. They teach Bible school and make crafts. They visit a local nursing home (an almost unheard-of institution in Haiti). They laugh with the men and help paint the women's fingernails. They drink strong Haitian coffee on the porch with the Pastor. For the length of the trip, they LIVE with the people. Interactions like this help to strengthen the bond between the "blancs" of NLH and the villagers of Marfranc. Community is built, and for one small village on the southern peninsula of Haiti, and a group of suburbanites from the USA, the chasm between is eliminated. We are all the same. We are all children of God.

I've not yet been privileged enough to have been a part of one of the work teams to Haiti, but I've "get it". I understand WHY we are there. I get it. God has called us to help the poorest of the poor, and Haitians, well, they are that. But they are rich in faith and joy. God has brought them "new life" and they do sing glory and praise to Him.

I've rambled a bit in this post, but I want to try and share with you. This is near and dear to my heart, and we're trying to "spread the word". To paraphrase Margaret Mead, a few small churches CAN change the world. If you have some time, and feel so called, please check out some of the links. If you feel God calling you to help, we'll take it! :) If you're in the Chicago area and would like a wonderful night out, we've got space for you and we'd love to have you as our guests. If you would pray for Haiti, and for the work that God is doing through NLH, we'd greatly appreciate it.

It's easy, with mission work, to feel like your one small voice isn't making much difference. My generation makes me a "street kid". Sesame Street, that is. Although this clip is a bit more my boys' generation, it says so much.

Every song the world sings, each was once unknown.
Somebody felt a song inside and wasn't afraid to sing alone.
If you feel the music and you sing it clear and true,
then the world can sing with you.
One small voice can teach the world a song.
Start with one small voice till another sings along.
And then you'll feel the music growing full and sure and strong.
One small voice can teach the world a song.
No tune is too simple. No voice can be wrong.
Music can come from any heart and anyone's voice can lead the song.
If you feel the music and if you believe the words, sing and you'll be heard.

Singing to Him...


Idiot and Idea...Part II

So I mentioned before that I had an idea. A really big, God-sized idea. I'm still hashing out details, and I'm sure my next stage of thinking will have some significant differences from my original thoughts.

Are you confused? Clearly I am.

I forced myself, however, to leave the first couple of sentences. And I do mean FORCED.

I have control issues, you see. God has really been working on me in this area, reminding me that He is in control, and I, despite my valiant efforts, am not.

I've often been encouraged to journal as a way of sorting out my thoughts and feelings. I've never really been very successful, though, because I tend to want everything "just so", with the perfect purple prose and gorgeous grammar. Something in me just cannot put a "draft" on paper, at least one that is so clearly "stream of consciousness".

I'm working hard on that. Hence the jumble that opened this post.

At any rate, part of my really big, God-sized idea is a book. As in me. Writing one.

I've had this dream of being a published writer for a long time. I love to write, and have been told it is one of my gifts. Unfortunately, I'm at a loss for topics. I don't see myself as a fiction writer, and yet I can't readily envision a non-fiction piece either.

Which is, of course, a dilemma, since every piece of writing falls pretty squarely into either fiction or non-fiction.

So I decided to go back to the beginning of writing and back to the old-school fall backs. Prompts. Ironically, for as much as I like to write, I never much cared for prompts when they were assigned. Writing about "what I did on my summer vacation" was not high on my priority list the first week back at school. Revisiting "a time when I was frightened" seemed pointless to me. Why in the world would I want to relive something that frightened me?

Fortunately, I'm not the only wannabe author in the world. I recently found a great blog that offers writing prompts. I'm going to have to commit myself to this exercise (sort of like my early morning workouts, but that's another story entirely) in order to see any results. I'll be using this blog as my forum, so I'll rely on all of you to be my audience. I'm apologizing in advance.

Meanwhile, I'll be praying that God helps clear the mud in my head and clarifies what He's working on with this "big idea".

Gracious and loving God, Author of all our stories, I'm trying so hard to really let You be in control. It's easier when I don't have crisis hanging over me, I know, but still I struggle.

I'm sure You're going somewhere with all of the change in me, and I do trust You. Please help me to trust You even more, as You continue to write my story.



I Feel Pretty!

And now I look pretty, thanks to Judi at Doodlebug Designs! Didn't she do a fabulous job with the new look of the blog? Check her out, as she's running a SALE. She can update your look, too! :)


New Clothes!

I don't claim to have any sense of fashion, but I do love clothes shopping. Unfortunately, our budget is a bit tight, so I have lately had to limit my shopping to the window/virtual variety.

I've always loved fall, due in part to the marvelous fall colors and styles. Who doesn't love a chunky knit sweater and fabulous blue jeans with a cute pair of boots? I especially love the fact that, at my church, we are pretty casual, and more concerned with people than with fashion. What this means to me is that I can really be comfortable when I worship. Not that I don't love getting dressed up, but I like to move around a bit when I sing or play, and some dressy clothes, well, just aren't made for that.

I even love to shop for new clothes for my boys. Of course, being boys, they're not nearly as excited about new clothes as I am, but that's ok, because in the long run, I think finding appropriate clothes for boys is WAY easier than girls.

Soon, you'll see new clothes around here too! Apparently, the randomizer decided that "my number was up", so to speak, and I won Shane's blog design giveaway. Stay tuned to see which of Judi's fabulous pre-made designs I chose! :)

My favorite fall fashions, however, are created by the Master Designer Himself. I went to college at the quintessential college campus. Fall in southwest Ohio is so spectacular, and we were treated each year to stunning displays of color. While these aren't my photos, they show a place where I feel very at home. Take a look and enjoy.

Dearest Lord, the Designer of the World, help us to appreciate beauty in whatever form it appears. We are grateful that You allow us the privilege to see the changing of the seasons, and all that brings to this beautiful world You have created. Remind us that nothing happens by accident, and know that You, our Lord, cares for each of us in the same way that You care for each of your creations.

Enthusiastically enjoying Your world.


Gracious Praise

Dearest God, You are always faithful, even when I am not.

I am so grateful that, once you have our hearts, you never let go, even if I want to.

You whispered in my ears, "Never fear, for I am here", and I heard, through the crashing noise of my world, tumbling down.

I am blessed, beyond imaginings, with believers near and far, whom I call friends.

They who lifted up my cries and pleadings to You, the Friend of us all.

They who wrapped me in their loving arms and took me into their hearts.

I thank You for blessing me so richly, and sing enthusiastically...

How Great is MY God!


You Never Let Go

I've mentioned before that the last fifteen months have been challenging for me and our family. Just when we thought we might be seeing the light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel, we received some news that pushed that light back further.

I know that I've come a long way in my journey with Christ, because six months ago, that news would have put me into a downward, deeply despairing spiral. Now, while I am upset and disappointed by the news, it does not incapacitate me.

Yesterday at church, I shared the news with my pastor, who has been a calming balance to me through all of this. As my throat filled up and tears welled up in my eyes, he took my shoulders and said "And before this happened, God knew about it."

He, of course, is right. God knows. He always knows and never lets go of our hearts. It doesn't matter whether we're dealing with rains that never cease (well, eventually they do, but three days is a LONG time!), devastating hurricanes, marriage troubles, job loss, home foreclosure or our own daily challenges, He never lets go of us.

That one comforting phrase has become my touchstone. With so many others facing challenges greater and smaller than mine, I know that my God is there.

My two year old knows too. He loves to sing, and without warning, will often break into song. One of his favorites is this one, the chorus sung at the top of his lungs.

Oh no, dearest Lord, you NEVER let go.
No matter what is happening in our lives, calm or storm.
Regardless of my own lack of faith, or when my overwhelmed mind simply forgets.
Gentle reminders abound that I need not fear.
Rather, I can hold on and sing enthusiastically "Oh no, You never let go of me."


Sing a New Song

While I may not be able to quote scripture and verse like so many other Christians, I can likely sing a lot of scripture. So much of my scriptural education is inexorably linked to a particular hymn or song, that when I really worship, it just naturally comes in the form of song.

"Why should I feel discouraged, when the shadows come? Why should my heart be lonely, longing for Heaven and home?"

I, like so many others, struggle with clinical depression. We're not talking about having a bad day, just down in the dumps kind of feelings. I'm talking serious, long-term, want to stay in bed all day, stop the world I want to get off kind of feelings. Fortunately, I have wonderful friends and family, a great Christian therapist, and the right medications.

Recently, I found a new blog, Heart Reflections. A pastor's wife, Shane shares her heart openly, and her post about Journalling Through the Psalms really spoke to my own heart.

I love the Psalms. Perhaps it is because they were David's songs. He sang and played what was in his heart. Sometimes he was happy, and sometimes, he despaired. But always, he relied on the Lord.

"Yahweh, I know You are near.
Standing always at my side.
You guard me from the foe
and you lead me in ways everlasting."

I am coming to feel, more and more, the constant presence of God in my life. It is difficult to put into words, and maybe that's how it should be. So awe-inspiring, so peace-giving, that words fail. Or words without tune, anyway.

"The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be.
As long as life endures."

I know that He is there, through the peaks and valleys. He is with me when I worship and when I despair. When I celebrate and when I weep. I know, because I have felt His arms embrace me, through those of friends.

"I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."

And so, to the God who is with me forever, I sing in the only way I know how.



Never Forget

I posted this on my other blog today, but it speaks my heart.

As I was dropping Sweet Son #1 off at school this morning, we passed by the flagpole at half mast. I asked him if he knew why it was at half mast today.

"Because somebody important died?"

Yes, baby. Many, many somebodies.

Pie Jesu, dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Merciful Jesus, grant them everlasting rest.


Still Here

Just in case anyone out there was wondering (sometimes I wonder myself!), I am still here. I'm trying to hash through the words in my head and get them out on paper...


Fear Factor

I've mentioned it before. I'm a bit of a control freak. I'm working on it, but holy cats, is it hard!

I plan events for a living. Part of my job is to try and predict every eventuality that might possibly affect the success of said events. At work, my control freak nature is a great quality. In my personal life? Notsomuch.

Especially when it comes to things in my life over which I truly have no control. Over the past year, those things have come with unnerving regularity. I've come to the conclusion that God, with his sometimes sick sense of humor, just keeps putting them out there to remind me that, much to my chagrin, not only am I not in control of some things in my life, I'm really not in control. Of anything. At all. Ever.

Why exactly do I struggle so with letting the God of the Universe handle my fears? Don't I have faith in Him? Haven't I seen how He has been at work in my life? I've heard all of the cliches.

"Faith and fear cannot exist in the same place."

"Fear is just False Evidence Appearing Real."

And on and on they go. Unfortunately, I still fear that which I cannot control. And right now, I'm fearing a doozie. Without going into great detail, let's just say that it's a situation that is COMPLETELY out of my control, but yet affects me directly, and has been going on for almost 15 months.

And still, every day, God finds ways to remind me that HE and only HE is in control. Like today, when I "accidentally" clicked on CWO's Internet Cafe Devotions and found this.

I can't adequately summarize the devotion for you, but suffice it to say, it talks about choosing faith over fear. Tracy says this: "If we are going to choose faith over fear, then, as we put off fear, we must put ON faith. Romans tells us that ALL of us, every one has been “given a measure of faith.” All believers have been given faith by God. Romans also tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. When we meditate on God’s Word, it increases our faith! Finally, we need to continue to ask God to increase our faith and then to practice putting our trust in Him."

I never much liked practicing (and I was a music major!), and I'm pretty sure that it has something to do with my need for control. I want(ed) to be good at things immediately. Like right now. Like, "Hello, God? Things are simply not moving along quickly enough for me. Could you speed things up a bit?"

Oh. Right. In His time. He's in charge. I'm not.



So I continue to do (remembering Master Yoda's admonishment "Do or do not, there is no try.").

I continue to practice "putting on faith". And I remember the words in 1 John 4:4 (paraphrased), "He who is within me is greater than he who is in the world."

Dearest Lord Jesus, putting aside my fear is so difficult. Please help me to remember that You alone are in charge. That You alone are big enough to calm to storms that rage. That You are God, and I am not. Help me put off the fear and put on faith, to wear it like a mantle against the evils of the world. To wear it with the love that You gave.


You Like Me!

You really like me!

I have to say, I can't imagine an actress like Sally Field REALLY being afraid that anyone didn't like her! At any rate, fears aside for the moment, I have to enthusiastically thank the Academy (or at least my friend Heather) for bestowing the "I Heart Your Blog" award on li'l old me. I really heart her blog too, but I know part of this award is about spreading the bloggy joy around, so here are a few blogs that I "heart". Check them out!

Figs, Lavender and Cheese is not a specific kind of blog, but Cindy is a wonderful woman who enjoys life with her beautiful daughter Sophie and her husband Mr. Fig. She's also a foodie who is lucky enough to grow her own figs (imagine that!) and Meyer Lemons. I heart her blog, but I'm a bit jealous of her homegrown produce.

I Should Be Folding Laundry is the musings of Beth. She's a regular mom, like so many of us, trying to balance work with children, a hubby and a home. Ariel and Racecar are two of her adorable children, and James and Jake, the angel twins, round out the family. She opened her heart to the blogosphere by sharing her heart-wrenching story of her angel twins. I've never met her, but I'm sure she's one of the most REAL people you'd ever want to meet.

"Recounting the not-so-daily profundities" is another Heather, this one blogging at Oh My Stinkin Heck. She's a homeschooling, work-from-home mom. I've only recently discovered her site, and, OHMYSTINKINHECK, she is hilarious!

Just when I'm pretty sure that I can't handle the two God gave me, I read Octamom. She has, you guessed it, eight children. Oh yeah, and a fabulous husband!

Life In the Parsonage is an absolute must on my daily read list. Just your average Pastor's wife with three boys and a patient dog, living in Tiny Town. Reading Sarah's blog makes me wish I lived close to Tiny Town so we could enjoy a Starbucks together!

Well, those are five that get my thumbs up. Whose blogs do you heart?