Friday, December 25, 2009

A Good Ol' Fashioned Christmas Down On the Farm

For those of you who are fans of Garfield's Christmas special, you'll recognize that title from one of the hit songs of the show! For those of you keeping up with me on facebook or via phone, you'll recognize that title aptly describes my current Christmas!

About 3:20pm yesterday, we lost power. About 4:45 pm, Christmas Eve service was cancelled.
As Mom and I waited out the loss, we gathered up candles, found some flashlights and tried to keep busy. I read a little while there was still light. Mom and I spent some time praying. Then, I decided to start working on a baby blanket. With candles ablazing in the dining room, Mom and I set to work lining up fabric and batting. It was little dark for detail work, so we opened one of Matt's Christmas presents early. Mom bought Matt a clip-on LED lamp for a cap. I put on a Hog Slat cap, clipped on the light and set to work. It was very handy! While I worked, I kept thinking about Psalm 27:1, "The Lord is my light & my salvation, whom shall I fear?"

Dad also got to open a few presents early. He purchased (yes that's right - for himself) a Mr. Heater bunson-burner heater that was hooked up in the farrowing house to keep one of Matt's sows and her 4-day old litter warm. Dad also got himself a flashlight (which is more like a spotlight) with rechargeable batteries, so he could see in the darkness which was soon settling in.

Dad finally came in about 7:30. Supper soon began: Block & Bridle summer sausage, cheese, whole-wheat Club crackers, apples, oranges and 1.5 liters of wine. It was quite the meal! :) We read the stories of Jesus' birth from Matthew & Luke and reminsced about Christmas pasts. After Dad declared it could be days without power, I said, "No! Mom & I prayed." About ten minutes later, we had power! Praise the Lord!

...some time in the night, we lost it again. "The Lord gives & the Lord takes away; may the name of the Lord be praised!"

It was chilly this morning - but the house was only down to 60. We spent some time huddled under blankets. Dad did some chores, checked out the damage...and hooked up the generator! It was so nice to have hot coffee, eat a warm breakfast, take a warm shower - have heat flowing! Praise God for heat!

Mom & I have decided that we would not be very good pioneer women. Mom said this morning, "If I was a good pioneer woman, last night when we had electricity, I would have filled up all the water bottles, pitchers, buckets. My mom would have." If I was a good pioneer woman, I wouldn't be upset about the weather putting a dent in our holiday plans! :)

So, this Christmas, Mom, Dad and I are hunkered down at the farm...waiting for electricity and the snow plow. Matt & Jess are in Osceola at her parents - where there's little snow! Dan's in Ames where there's some ice & fog, but not much snow. It would be so wonderful to be together and celebrate, but that's just not wise or possible.

While family is important today, and the feast is delicious, and the presents delightful...none of those things are Christmas. We celebrate Christmas because of what God gave us - His Son. God sent His son into this world, so that we could be saved. Not just temporary salvation like from the weather or time of trial, but eternal salvation from sin & death. His coming brought us light and life - eternally in heaven & purposefully & joyfully on earth - no matter the circumstances.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Greatest Gift of All

Well, I write this post with a very humbled heart.

I just learned that one of my friends' child has been diagnosed with anacephaly. He is currently 20 weeks along. Anacephaly is a disease where the neural tube doesn't close at the base of brain stem (I think), which results in the brain and skull not fully developed. It is 100% fatal.

He is my friend's first baby - and he is a miracle. She isn't able to get pregnant and the fact that she got pregnant naturally was a miracle in itself. She and her husband have had a name ready for him for awhile: Benaiah. It means God has built this.

You know that verse in Psalm 139 about God knitting me together in my mother's womb? It's hard for me to imagine God knitting him and building him, imperfectly. Shouldn't a healthy baby equal perfection? Aren't God's works perfect?

As I just typed this, I remembered the way God described his works in Genesis. Not perfect, but good...and very good in the case of us (humans). Only He is perfect.

As I prayed for them, I prayed for a miracle - that little Benaiah would suddenly be healed. Because, I confessed to God, that's how I would see Him working this situation for good. However, God may choose to work a miracle in a completely different way - and it will still be good. Because His works are good - and He promises in Romans 8:28 that he will work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Sometimes, I feel like God is trying to shake my need for the ideal out of me. Why shouldn't he? I equate ideal = perfect...and I create standards of idealism that frankly, He has never imposed upon His people.

Today, I am humbled by the gift of life. It is quite frankly, the greatest gift that we have been given...and how do we spend it? God chose that WE should have life; He chose that WE should be able to breathe in and out, and do things, and know people - and love others & experience their love. How do we live this gift? Do we squander it? Do we numb ourselves from the feelings of life? Do we separate from the things that are hard and don't come naturally? Do we complain about the short-comings of those in our life because they aren't perfect and they're not like us?

Today, as I grieved over my sin and my own wretched self-serving heart, I felt incredibly humbled that God blessed my parents with a healthy baby girl 30 years ago...and I felt the need again for a Savior to save me from my sin so that I could live the life that He has imagined and planned for me. This Christmas, I want to be emptied of myself and filled with His Spirit so that I can love fully and deeply.

The Lord has given; the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised!

Monday, December 21, 2009


I think I use my blog as a source to rant about my the ridiculousness of my students.

Well, not today. Today I just want to brag a little bit about my students at South Tama.

First of all, my sophomores worked so well on the PLAN test! They followed directions; they were quiet; they worked efficiently - they were great! I was so proud. (Such a difference from the day before, let me tell you what.)

What I'm really beaming about today, though, are my 7th graders. This year, we are focusing on motivation and decision-making. Specifically, why do some people choose to go to and graduate from college, while others do not? We approach this as social scientists (you know, like psychologists and sociologists). First, we have a question. Then we brainstorm possible causes and develop a hypothesis. Now, we are in the research stage. They will be interviewing two people: one who went to college and one who did not. This month, we wrote interview questions. I did a little coaching and explained about the importance of asking open-ended questions. If they did ask a closed (yes or no) question, they needed to ask a follow- up. (After reading them, it appears I should have also talked about asking leading questions. If they were lawyers, I think a few of them might be objected!)

Here's a sampling:
Was going to college an option?
Has anyone else in your family gone to college?
Name some reasons you didn't go to college.
Did you want to go to college? At what point did you stop wanting to go/change your mind?
Who influenced your decisions?
What did your parents think of your decision?
How do you think your life would be different if you had gone to college?
Would you encourage your children and grandchildren to go to college? Explain.

Here's some of questions for those who went to college: (after a few of the more obvious - where did you go, what did you major in, what was your favorite part)

How did you benefit by going to college?
What motivated you to finish?
Why did you push yourself to graduate?
Where did you go for help?
Was it a difficult task? Did you ever want to give up? Explain.
What would your life look like if you hadn't finished?
Did you ever doubt yourself?

Seriously, I am PROUD of these kids! Days like this give me some hope & encouragement. They are getting it! They are smart kids! They do think college is more than parties! =)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Downfall of America

The downfall of America is not going to be caused by a lack of government-funded healthcare or bailing out industries x, y and z. The downfall of America is going to be caused by the laziness of our citizens - namely, our youth. I realize that I sound like a stodgy, old crumudgeon, but hear me out.

While searching for scholarships today, one of my students exclaimed in disgust, "WRITE A 500-WORD ESSAY? This says that you have to write a 500-word essay to get this scholarship!" My response, "Yes, that's pretty typical for a scholarship application."
"Yeah, but an ESSAY?! Are you kidding me?"

Nope. Not kidding. I know, how ridiculous that you might have to do a little bit of work to get free money. That is just the craziest thing I have ever heard!

Maybe the era of hand-outs & bail-outs is having an effect on our young people....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Morning Thoughts

1) Did you check out the sunrise this morning? Wow! I caught a glimpse as I walked to the bus. Gorgeous colors! Sometimes on a brisk winter morning, God paints the most beautiful skies.

2) I am very thankful for my genes. My Grandma Ellen is practical; her rule for fasion is that it be functional. So on days like today that are below freezing, she would wear multiple layers, a coat to her ankles, a hat that covers her entire head (yes, with ear flaps and all!), a scarf and mittens/gloves. In the vein of Grandma, I have multiple layers on, wool-blend socks & snow boots. My mother is fashionable; her rule for fashion is that it looks good. So, not only am I functional, I am fashionable. My hat goes with with my coat & my mittens, too. Grandpa Herman was frugal. So not only is it important that I am warm & look cute, I also don't want to spend too much. Warm coat is not only cute, but was also on ridiculous sale last year.

3) Girls on the bus: there is a sign that asks you to hold your bags on your laps for a reason. It is so other people can sit down on the bus. Please mind the sign next time.

4) Have you ever noticed that "Staff Appreciation Day" spells SAD? I bet Michael Scott would. That's why he would call it something cool like, "Guys Afternoon In."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Daughters of Eve

Maybe some of you wonder why I never blog. Well, because I really prefer to blog about my thoughts rather than my happenings.

Anyway, here's something that I've been thinking about: the effects of the fall. We really are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve and we can't help it.

Genesis 3:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, les you die.'" But the serpent said, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of hte day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree - and I ate." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me and I ate."

To the woman the Lord God said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Okay, so, I've been really emotional lately - and at the heart of my irrationality was fear. Fear that God would hold out on me - that He won't provide for my future, that He doesn't have a plan for me, that it's not good. I've been doing a Bible study on Esther by Beth Moore and she writes that, while the devil can't have us (because we're God's), he can still try to rob us of any victory, freedom, hope, etc. For me, this seems to happen by preying on what I fear. I fear a few things: disappointing people and apparently, the future.

So, how does this all tie together? Well, for starters: Eve doubted God. The serpent got her to sin by implying that God was indeed holding out on her. That He wasn't telling the truth. That He didn't have her best in mind. Eve believed him because she doubted. What is doubt, but a lack of trust? When I worry about the future, I don't trust that God will provide. When I fear people's opinions, I'm not trusting the Holy Spirit to guide me and follow His plan - regardless what other's think.

I want assurance. I want a big plan all laid out with the step-by-step detail. Why? Because I don't want to trust. I don't want to walk by faith - I want to walk by sight. Trusting God is hard! Trusting people is hard! ...and, apparently, we women haven't been good at that since the beginning! Thank God for the Holy Spirit! Thank God that we can develop the spiritual muscle of faith and hope! (Maybe this is why Mary was chosen - because she believed God right away! Elizabeth even says of her, "Blessed is she who has believed God.)

Regarding the curse of the fall, God said that our desire shall be for our husband, and he shall rule over us. We're all familiar with "boy crazy," right? In my opinion, this desire for a husband and it ruling over us, is the root of "boy craziness." Without Christ (and honestly, even with Him), this desire can become consuming. We get all crazy, over-thinking, jealous, sensitive, etc. And, I don't think any of us are immune from these irrational behaviors. They're just part of our emotional DNA.

Oh, and don't even get me started about how this translates to our relationships! a) not trusting God can cause us to not trust our man. b) we can get needy...which apparently men don't appreciate it.

As much as men don't appreciate it, we don't either. I hate it when I don't make sense. AND I hate when I feel things that don't make sense; that aren't grounded in fact/reality. I've been feeling it a lot, recently. As a feeler, it's difficult to not trust feelings; but when feelings don't mesh with reality - then it just gets confusing.

When God came near to them in the garden, they hid. I realized that while I've been feeling emotional & irrational, I haven't just been honest with God or let Him search my heart. I just try to put on the brave face and act like I'm not crazy. =) But in the meantime, I still get hurt and hurt others, while acting in Eve-mode.

I realized this on Monday night. This past week in our Ester study, Beth asked us how often we put our hope in others and not Christ. Well, lately, I've totally been putting Dan into the God category and not the boyfriend category. I've been wanting him to be my all-in-all, to be the all-knowing, ever-providing, all-loving. I think all that I've done is wear him out. (Oh yeah, and did I mention that this when he already is stressed out? Wouldn't that be the best time to be irrational and emotional? Oh yes.) And I have been sinning.

Man! I am so human and so far from perfection. And in my Eve-ness, I haven't been trusting God to lead him. Ugh! The thing I have wanted most from others is that they trust me and the work that God is doing in my life - but, I can't even do that. Because I'm a daughter of Eve. The original meddler. The original doubter.

But, I am also a daughter of the Lord God! I have this great privilege of repenting of my sin! And when I repent, I am forgiven. And, He has given us this great resource, this great power - the Holy Spirit - living inside us, so that we don't have to live under the power of our Eve-ness. We can overcome our craziness...but it is especially helpful when the men in our lives give us an immense amount of grace and understanding. And, imperative in that is we also extend an immense amount of grace and understanding to them - because, after all, they are sons of Adam.

Friday, December 4, 2009

You know it's time...

to cut your nails when you have a conversation like this:

9th grade student: Miss, why do you have crack nails?

Me: [silent thoughts in italics; spoken thoughts in bold]
Wow! I knew they were starting to chip/crack - which has been a concern but has not yet prompted me to cut my nails; I can't believe he noticed that.
You know, I'm not really sure why.
I'm taking my calcium supplements, but maybe I should actually be drinking milk....

9th grader: No - Miss - you know what I mean? CRACK nails!

Me: Oh! Right! The drug crack! Riiight.

9th grader: Yeah. So, why do you have crack nails?

Me: Well, because that's what I do. [sometimes I can't help but be sarcastic when students ask me SUCH ridiculous - and disrespectful - questions.] You know, to get through the day after working with juvenile deliquents - like YOU - I load up on crack. This is what my life has come to.

I still haven't cut my nails. But I will be soon because they are crackED...not because of my drug problem.