Monday, April 21, 2014

gifts from the Father

I've always loved the idea of my husband surprising me one day with "pack your bags, we're going away, your mom's coming to watch the kids."
And that just happened to me!
The timing couldn't have been better.
I found out earlier than he wanted, in the most uncanny way-which is typical. Since, I can be hard to please particular about travel planning, I was blown away that he'd arranged it all!
view from Terrace Room The Roger Hotel
In the past, we enjoyed The Roger Hotel, so naturally, he booked it again. I had a conundrum because I'd been eyeing The Benjamin hotel (they have a pillow menu!). Also, I prefer to try out different hotels in a city with abundant options, like NYC.
I felt God urging me to just leave it. I have a reputation for returning gifts, which sends the message of "why try?" to my husband. And get a grip, don't I always wish he'd do something like this? Honestly, I was still tempted. But truly, it felt like my Father telling me "leave it."

First, I should tell you: we're wrestling with a big decision right now. For over a year now, we've analyzed every aspect, sought counsel, and spreadsheeted that sucker to death. Still, there are things we can't control and many what ifs bouncing around in our minds. The theme of our conversations leading up to this trip can be summed up with "Will God provide?"

The night before we left we got a call from our hotel. They had overbooked and wanted to set us up at..wait for it...The Benjamin hotel! What?! Of the thousands of hotels in NYC! Of all the other reservations, they chose ours. At first, it was annoying to Dan, until I filled him in on the back story.
the benjamin hotel
Part of the deal was heading over to the original hotel for the last night. Which ended up being a complimentary night at The Roger Hotel, in an upgraded terrace room with a view of the Empire State building! Guess what else? Because my husband had some business in the city, one night was all we were responsible to pay for and it was now free of charge!
the roger hotel
Blessing after blessing continued through our trip. I'll spare you the stories but I have to include this one: we won the Wicked lottery!
One night, we went down to the Gershwin Theater box office hoping we'd luck out & get discounted seats. No luck. But we discovered the lottery. Have you heard of this? Enter your name 2 1/2 hrs before show time (entries taken until 118min before show time, bring cash & ID) and 2 hours before show time they draw 13 names for the FRONT ROW SEATS, at $30 each!
 It was crowded & I couldn't believe when they called my name! My name (or #) is never called, anywhere. We had the most incredible experience, close enough to touch Elphie & Galinda (silent Gah). This musical is simply sensational! If you haven't seen it, do yourself the favor. I'd say best seats are 5 rows back from the stage, but it's set up so that any seat will be great. Try the lottery!

I felt like I was flying around the city (until my blisters reminded me I wasn't)! Our Heavenly Father was going before us, granting us favor, blessing us in ways only we could appreciate were from Him. We just kept looking at one another, no words necessary, acknowledging God's blessings. Furthermore, the message wasn't lost on us: He will provide for the unforeseen, for things beyond our control. God is with us.
"Every good gift bestowed, every perfect gift received comes to us from above, courtesy of the Father of lights. He is consistent. He won’t change His mind or play tricks in the shadows." James 1:17 (the VOICE)
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

I think I misunderstood following Jesus

Can I tell you something? I think I misunderstood being a Christian all these years.
I have believed in Jesus and come to love, trust, & obey Him-even as much as heading to Bible college to train for a life of sharing the Gospel.
Then the tragic event at Newtown occured in 2012. It rocked me. The God I know could have stopped that murderer from taking young, innocent lives at Sandy Hook elementary school. And He didn't. Can I still love and trust God?

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not naive to the tragedies in this fallen world that my good, just God has not prevented. My heart-strings have been pulled by horrific accounts of injustice: sex slavery, natural disasters, & 9/11. I know of martyrdom and persecution endured by Christians. I know believers that have prayed to be spared and instead, endured pain & loss. Christian friends have buried babies and I lost one myself.

But something about having a 1st grader, trusting God to protect him as he sits in his classroom and runs on the playground changed everything for me.
The Bible promises to protect and bless the lives of those that love Jesus and obey His commands. Right?
I read and re-read such promises. I couldn't find any reason not to believe them & further, believe they were for me.
But suffering and blessing seem mutually exclusive.
What was I believing then? Why was I following Jesus?
And this began a quest to get it right. Not only for myself but for those I'm sharing Jesus with, namely, my kids.
I understand that following Jesus doesn't preclude us from suffering and pain. 
The Bible chronicles real, harsh pain & suffering in the lives of God's people.  
I love Jesus for Jesus. 
I obey His commands because I love him. (more on this here)
I believe every good & perfect gift comes from the Father.
I believe He makes all things work together for the good of those who love him.
I believe he gives and he takes away.
I embrace trials, because the testing of my faith produces perseverance.
I will become more like Jesus in my suffering, if I choose to trust Him, & to conduct myself the with the virtues He prescribes.
If I lean in to Jesus in the trials of life, I will find peace that passes understanding.
When I meet hardships and experience pain, while believing and following Jesus, He is there even if I don't recognize Him.
He is the One I hope He will be. His nature never changes. Circumstances change.
"We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help." Heb 4:15-16 (MSG)
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Before Anna, there was Annie

Like our children will recall belting out along with Elsa and copying Anna's charming antics, the soundtrack of my childhood is Annie. I could recite every line and sing every lyric and I did-much to the chagrin of family and friends. Watching Annie, I fell in love with NYC and musicals.
Because most of our wedding guests knew this about me, it was fun to walk out, after pronounced Mr. and Mrs., to "Together At Last". My dream of playing the little red-haired orphan as a child quickly morphed into playing Miss Hannigan as I've grown.
"Lucky me. Lucky me. Look at what I'm dripping with...little girls!"

By January, let's face it, the beloved Frozen songs started to haunt me-in my head, in the van,  randomly belted out from any one of my family members.
When I saw the stage-version of Annie at the library, I grabbed it, desperate to diversify our musical interests. I'm partial to the original with Aileen Quinn and Carol Burnett and Bernadette Peters, but my kids sat with mouths ajar through the whole movie!

And just like that, I happened serendipitously upon one of my greatest pleasures of parenthood yet.

On the other side of this counter,  I wow them with passionate renditions of "Tomorrow" while they're eating and take requests for "Maybe far away" at bedtime. Bonus victory: I hear them singing "Hard Knock Life" more often than "Do you wanna build a snowman" these days.
Oh and..
You can probably imagine a scene like this at your house: one night, after I'd been alone with the kids a few consecutive nights, I was preparing dinner and all three kids were sitting at the island, requesting and whining. I was reduced to short answers, "Yes.", "Wait." ,"Not now.", "Be patient." "No." "Later.", "Maybe." "I said yes.", "I said no." "Don't ask again." This went on for a bit. Eventually, silence.
My 2 year old spoke up, "We love you, Miss Hannigan."

I snapped this photo of Radio City while I was in NYC this week and my kids immediately recognized it as "where Annie went to the movies!".
My work here is done.
Anyway, give it a try, if you're ready to let go of "Let it go". By the way, Elsa, Elphaba, Adele Dazeem-whichever you way you know Idina Menzel best-happens to do a swell version of "Tomorrow" (you may remember I shared it here).

Have you heard about the new version coming out this Christmas 2014? My purist heart feels stretched enough, but I'm sure we'll be in line opening day.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Obeying just because

Until recently, we had "family chores": helping around the house because you were a part of the family and "personal chores": weekly tasks that were the responsibility of one person for which they were given money.
We've implemented a new reward system to replace the "chores equal allowance" formula we've never really loved. The main reason for the change was we began noticing the conscious decision not to do the chores or to whine while doing them when his wallet was stocked with birthday money-which it has been since February. Also, oddly, remarkably more willingness came from his younger sister, who has never taken part in allowance only thanks & praise for good spirits.
The goal is to convey that in our house, each member of our family plays a part because we're a team. The reward is belonging. The motive is love. The attitude, grateful and willing.

When my son had a wad of birthday cash, and with it, the freedom to buy candy from the racks in the aisle or purchase a new app at will-you know the basic needs of an 8 year-old-his investment in chores significantly lessened.  
Why do the work if I no longer need the reward? Why obey? What's in it for me?
As Christians, this is a tempting pattern for us to fall into also.
Until recently, my argument for following Jesus would have included "It's always worked for me! I've followed His way and He has been faithful to me!"
And there are many promises of blessings for those who obey and curses for those who do not, but what about the times when our faithfulness to Him doesn't equal answered prayers and desires fulfilled? Why remain committed when we aren't receiving the reward?  

I love what Tim Keller says, "Is God committed to your happiness? Absolutely. And yet if you come to Him to make you happy, you're coming to a false god. If you say, 'I'm interested in this Christianity, and maybe I'll come bite on it if I can see that it can help me reach my goals and make me happy'. You're not coming to a God, you're coming to a butler.
Either he exists or he doesn't and if you come to him it should be because he created you and he owns you and to not come would be an injustice."

Our new rewards system is largely based on attitude. There are rewards, but specifically not one-for-one because we want our kids to know that sometimes we work hard in life and we don't get directly rewarded. (hello, stay-at-home-moms!) 
We want to teach them to choose integrity and wholeheartedness regardless of reward. And judging by the tears last Friday and the agreeable attitude since, it's working. Right now, I'm guessing it's motivated by maximum # of dips into the prize box, but we're hoping one day it will be because they love God and are committed to honoring him. 

"Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name..Lord, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you.." Isaiah 26:8,12 Pin It
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