Tuesday, December 18, 2012

guest posting at one of my favorite places - swing on by & visit!

Foto Flashback 1

I opened my daily devotional this morning to December 18th and stopped.  I don't know how it hadn't hit me until today just how close to Christmas we are?!?  And even more surprising is that we are a mere 14 days out from 2013! Where has this year gone? What was it like for you?  In some ways it feels like just yesterday that we were kicking off 2012 -- anxiously awaiting the fireworks, eating some bad nachos, wrapped in Bri's arms, chatting about what blessings and challenges 2012 was going to bring.  I don't remember what we said but I would guess we didn't get much right.  Some of the things I anticipated being the easiest turned out to be the hardest and the same is true for the reverse.

The feelings of nostalgia (did I use that word right?) drove me to relive the year through pictures for a solid hour and I thought I would share some of my favorite things that I forgot were my favorite. Today I bring you the New Zealand petting farm Brian forced me to go to.  As for me, I was begging to go cliff jumping, but Brian just loves feeding farm animals so I obliged.  I distinctly recall completing the customs form to return to the States on the plane and spent at least ten minutes trying to determine how to answer the question: Have you been in contact with livestock? Umm yep.  Fed em, pet em, hugged em.  Oops?

Monday, December 17, 2012

It is Never a Waste...

This weekend, I thought a lot about the tragic events of Friday.  I don't have children so the fact the children were 6 years old was impossible for me to comprehend at first.  And then I thought about a 6 year old -- excited about going to school to see his friends.  Excited to learn, take a lunchbox, and ride the bus.  A little 6 year old who probably enjoyed playing with the class pet.  And it hit me like a ton of bricks that these were the victims.

I heard something interesting that a psychologist said and I want to share it in case you have a job/life and didn't spend Friday camped in front of the TV.  When asked if the gunman was a "loner" he said that usually in situations like these, the gunman is not a loner.  In fact he is someone who wanted friends, wanted to belong, wanted to feel loved, but didn't get that.  He was a loner by default and not by choice.  He was for lack of a better word, an "outcast".  The thought of dying as a nobody seemed worse to him than being remembered as a monster.  I am not writing this in an attempt to garner sympathy for his crimes, but I think we can all relate to one time or another feeling like an outcast.  Maybe it was at summer camp, in a class, at a dance, on a sports team, at a party, etc.  But at one time or another, each person has felt the twinge of being the outsider and it is lonely.  It can make you want to crawl under a table and hide.  And then take that feeling, add in past insecurities, and perhaps being picked on/openly disliked and unwanted...and you feel despair.  That does NOT excuse behavior that is violent towards the innocent and I don't want this to come off that way.  But it provides a look at how important a community is, how important feeling loved is.  We can use this to remember to open our eyes and our heart to someone in need.  To remember that even if someone seems to NOT want any friends, they might be dying on the inside and need a friend more than you know.

I saw a lot of press about the police officer who bought a pair of shoes for a homeless man a few weeks ago.  And then I heard that a couple of days later the homeless man's shoes had disappeared.  People claimed it was "a waste" to buy those shoes for him.  They claimed he was ungrateful and didn't even keep up with them.  Brian and I have a good friend who happens to be homeless named Danny.  He is truly one of our closest friends and favorite people.  We talk to him every other day and get together whenever we are back in NC.  He lives in Charlotte and despite the numerous attempts and temporary successes to get him a job, housing, etc., he has chosen this path in one way or another and always ends up back in the shelter or on the streets.  We have given him coats, gloves, bookbags, and clothes, and they usually don't stay around too long.  Often this feels like a waste and at times it frustrates me to no end, but I remember this and carry it with me always:

It is never a waste to make someone feel loved.  

It is never a waste if for just a split second it reminds Danny that someone cares about him.  It is times like those that the Holy Spirit works in ways we don't understand and that God's presence lingers.

On Friday I wrote a little about understanding God in tragic times and I don't want to be redundant.  So you can stop here if you read the last post.  God doesn't make things like this happen.  He doesn't plan the tragedy.  I believe He knows about it.  I believe he lets it happen.  But he doesn't do this out of spite or hate.  He gives us freewill and allows us to make our own decisions.  He doesn't always intervene even though one would think if there was ever a time for a miracle, wouldn't this have been the time? Our actions have consequences and they affect others.  He sent his own beloved son to earth and allowed Him to die on the cross for our sins.  He could have intervened -- Jesus was perfect, undeserving of the punishment, innocent -- but He allowed it to happen.  He allowed Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice so that we would be forgiven for our sins and know eternal life with Him.

It is Christmas and we are called to be joyful in times of sorrow.  That is easier said than done and far easier for me than it will be for the parents who lost their children.  But we are called to give glory to God in all things.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Faith in Tragedy

I was in the middle of working on a blog post about peace and forgiveness when I heard about the tragic elementary school shooting.  
All I felt for 30 solid seconds was anger, rage, hate, and anything but forgiveness.  
Who could do that to children? How could there be so much evil in the world? 
And you can understand the question, "why would God let this happen?".

I feel outrage at our gun laws that mass shootings have become so common.  
I feel overwhelming sadness for the families who lost their child.  
I feel devastated for every person who was there today who will be haunted by this tragedy for years to come.  

I could go on and on about how I feel.  But instead I will focus on what I know...

I know that God's heart was broken today too.  
I know that God is angry, just like we are.  
I know that those were His children.
I know that He is holding them closely right now.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, 
who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

God is watching over the families and putting prayers in our hearts to lift them up.  
He is teaching us that even though anger feels so right, we are called to forgive.
We are called to have faith in the unseen.
God is good all the time even when we do not see or feel it.  
His timing is perfect
His plan is perfect.  
He loves us unconditionally.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our Night with the Cactus

I am going to introduce you to some types of cacti.
Just what you have always wanted, right? 
Merry early Christmas.  

My sweet brother and sister-in-law gave me tickets to the desert botanical garden luminaries for my birthday.  There were steel drums, carolers, Native American bands, hot apple cider with liquor, and cactuses decorated in lights.  I felt very Arizonian.  Brian and I have learned that Arizona doesn't really have it's own culture.  There is a mix of Native American and Hispanic influence, with a large dose of "snowbirds" aka northern senior citizens.  And they can be mean.

First, you need to understand a little bit about the cactus.
In case you weren't sure, a cactus is a plant that is a member of the cactus family.  

Some cacti are covered in glass.

This is the seaweed cactus.  

And the asparagus cactus.

Here we have the touchable cactus.

And lastly, the baby cactus.

There was musical entertainment...

and my favorite - the carolers :)

And then on our way home....Brian spotted some reindeer flying in the sky.  
So, we turned around and found the most decorated house in the world.

Every blade of grass was covered in lights.

There were even Christmas dinosaurs! 
Weird or festive? 
I say festive.

The train display in the window.

And now, the grand reveal of the house I am someday moving into.
Brian has been BEGGING to build me a house, and who am I to stop him if that's what he really wants to do? 

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is my dream house:

double front porches: check
wrap around porch: check
tower: check

It's perfect and you are all invited over!

Thanks, Greg & Holly, for a wonderful night out!!