Saturday, January 30, 2010

If It Were a Snake, It Would Have Bit Me

The other day, Allika and I were headed to the store together. As we were walking through the parking lot, we passed a lady with her arms full of groceries. Just as we met, she dropped one of her bags and cans of pop went rolling across the parking lot.

I'm sure you all are waiting for me to say that I used it as an opportunity to teach my daughter about helping others, and we happily bent down and began picking up the cans for the lady.

But I did not.

What went through my head was, "Oh, she must be so embarrassed. I will pretend like I didn't see and keep on walking. If I make a big deal about it, it might humiliate her further."

When we got to the door of the store, Allika looked up at me, very concerned and upset, and said, "Mom, why didn't we help that lady?"

I turned around and saw that several other people from other areas of the parking lot had surrounded her and were helping her pick everything up and load it in her car. I had been standing right next to her and hadn't lifted a finger.

At that moment, all my reasoning for the choice I had made to keep walking seemed so silly and stupid, and I just felt awful.

Not only had I set a bad example for my daughter, but I had missed an opportunity to make someone's day make a small difference in someone's life.

I am always thinking about how much I want to change the world and make a huge impact on humanity. I feel like my existence is for the purpose of making a difference. The problem is that I look for the big splashes that I can make. I am constantly looking for a program or organization I can help or oversee. That has yet to materialize, however.

Sometimes the time and effort it takes trying to promote the right ministry keeps me from noticing each individual person and considering how I can make their life a little easier.

I have heard that my life is like $1,000,000 dollars. Spending that money is the mark I will leave on humanity. There are three ways I can handle my potential impact: keep it all to myself and not spend much of it on anyone else; spend it all in one huge, life-changing display of self-sacrifice; or spend it slowly and quietly over the course of my life on each situation in which I recognize a need.

So many of us are looking for ways we can lay it all down at once and go out with a bang. In reality, there are only a few that will be called to spend their $1,000,000 dollars in that way. For the rest of us, we will be asked to spend a dollar here and ten dollars over there. Our impact will be the phone calls we make to a lonely widow, the visits we share with a sick senior citizen, the rides we give to someone without a vehicle, the babysitting we provide for a single mother, the physical touch we extend to a mentally handicapped person, the hospitality we bestow on a homeless family, the meal we make for a college student, the games we play with our children, or the pies we bake for our enemies.

Of course, those things aren't as flashy and recognizable. They may not win us any awards or get our names engraved on any plaques. But Jesus promised us something even greater.

"...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:3-4

"...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,..." Matthew 20:26

"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. The your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." Luke 6:35

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42

I am not belittling anyone's intentions to do something big like becoming a missionary, helping out in a third world country, running an orphanage, or founding a life-changing ministry. It's just that for me, I can wait and wait for those types of opportunities all my life and miss the very real needs right in front of my nose because they seem so small.

I was reminded of that the other day when I walked right by the lady who had dropped her groceries all over the parking lot.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Need to Do: Learn Patience

Yes, we are still trying to adopt. As we get closer to March, we get closer to a lot of our paperwork expiring and the need to have to redo and update most of it. It can get very frustrating since this will be the beginning of our third year of paperwork. (The first year was grossly mishandled by our case worker. We got a new and wonderful case worker last year, and now, we begin another year with her.) We will also have to go through twelve more hours of education.

A few months back, I was trying to locate a specific e-mail from our adoption agency. To my surprise, I found an e-mail that I had never seen or opened, which is really strange because I check every day for e-mails from the adoption agency. Really strange. It was about three weeks old. When I opened it, I felt my body just go weak because our case worker was asking us if we would be interested in submitting our home study for two sisters who were three and four years old.

"YES, YES, YES!!!" I wrote back. But it was too late.

I was so upset and disappointed about that. I actually had a little talk with God. I said, "You KNEW I wanted those girls!"

Van said God was not surprised by that e-mail. He had known about it all along.

The following Monday, I got another e-mail from our case worker. This time I opened it right away, and she was asking to submit our case study for a little girl named Karianna. Her nick-name is Kari.

I was so excited because somewhere in my mind, I thought this must be the reason why I didn't get the last e-mail in time. Kari must be the one we are meant to adopt.

Silly me.

A few weeks later we got another letter, telling us we had been selected as one of the final 15 families to be reviewed for the possibility of becoming Kari's family.

Excitement. Maybe this will be it!

Two months later and we have not been chosen.

Somehow knowing her name makes it harder. I kept thinking, "Kari." I would think of her name and picture her face. It kind of led to me imagining her as our daughter. You can't help it. When you are waiting and waiting for something, and you think it might finally become a reality, you start to let your mind imagine it happening, even though you try to tell yourself not to.

I guess that's why we try to stay pretty emotionally neutral. Sometimes you let your imagination get a little too carried away, though.

So, we're coming up on another year of more paperwork and more classes. We keep filling those forms out and signing up for those classes because we know that someday there will be a match. Our daughter is out there waiting, perhaps just as skeptically, for a mom and dad who think the world of her, a sister who will smother her and drive her insane, and a home that isn't perfect by any means but is full of grace and love.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Life in the Form of a List

Here are some of the things that have been going on in the last couple of weeks. I am not guaranteeing the intrigue of any of them. This is just our life on the surface.

1.)Three birthday parties and one baby shower in 2 weeks. One of them is Allika's, so I have to do a little planning and organizing for that. I'm not going to do a ton because I tried the whole "do-it-yourself" party last year, and it was quite the disaster. Instead, we are having it at the Nature Center and letting them do most of the entertaining.

2.)Taking Allika to a variety of fun, learning experiences. Some of the ones I can remember right now off the top of my head are the physics circus, story time at the library, and tomorrow night I will be taking her to the Children's Theatre to see Mr. McGee and the Biting Flea. A friend gave us tickets for our birthdays. Sounds like fun.

(One of the demonstrations at the Physics Circus. They did a lot of really great science experiments on a level that would help kids want to learn more.)

3.)Learning that the friend I told you about earlier who had lung cancer has another malignant tumor in her lung. It is inoperable since it is close to some major arteries. She will have to undergo chemo and radiation. These are the times in my life when I feel so helpless and inadequate. I want so badly to say and do the right things, but I don't know what they are.

4.)Getting really, really sick for about a week. I went to the doctor, and they said it was a virus. It really wiped me out for a while there. I kept running a fever off and on and couldn't swallow because it hurt so badly, even when I took an ibuprofen.

5.)Pretending to work on my homework for my classes which start February 1st. I'm excited to be learning the things I actually went to school to learn and not all the general stuff that isn't as fascinating to me.

6.)Having my thyroid medication increased for the third time since my thyroidectomy. It still isn't as high as it's supposed to be. I will have it tested again in 5 weeks. I would like to think my low thyroid levels might be to blame for the 10 pounds I've gained, but I'm sure it really has something to do with the holidays and my sick love of chocolate.

7.)Cheering on the Vikings as they get closer and closer to the Super Bowl. I'm really not a huge football person. In fact, I have always made fun of my husband for his allegiance to a team that couldn't care less whether or not he existed. This year, however, I kind of got caught up in the spirit. I'll go back to my ridiculing ways soon enough, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying the excitement while it lasts.

Skol Vikings!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


What am I accomplishing? Am I making any difference for anyone? Are we all supposed to make a big splash, but some of us just never achieve our potential? Or are some of us destined to never see huge results but required to remain faithful? How do you know you have done enough and it is time to move on? How do you know you're supposed to stay and measure success by how faithful you are rather than by how many results you see? Is the effect I have on others an indication of the legitimacy of my call? When people stop appreciating my efforts have I lost my ability to produce a positive, substantial difference? Do I do what I know is right to do, even if it is misunderstood as wrong?

Sometimes it is hard to take one step at a time, not knowing if I'm headed in the right direction. It's a little disconcerting to have to just trust that the one who is holding my hand in the dark is going to lead me to the place where it will all make sense.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
Galatians 6:9-10

A Hint of Life? By Amy Carmichael

We only see the scorching earth.
Lord of the seed, we cry,
Our sowing seemeth little worth
In ground so dry.

But if the eyes of angels see
Some hint of tender green,
Anoint our eyes that they may be
As angels', keen.

O mighty Quickener of the dead,
Dost Thou see life astir?
Dost Thou see harvest gold outspread,
As though it were?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The last couple of years, we have tried to give a lot of home-made gifts to help keep from blowing an even bigger hole in our pockets than we already do. (I cringe writing the last part of that sentence, knowing that my mother and father, and possibly a few others, will cluck their tongues after reading it.)

Anyway, this year we decided to do a family CD together as our Christmas present to everyone in our church, our family, and a few friends. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. Poor Vanny-poo got the brunt of the hard work. He had to play the piano for all the songs. The month of November was full of late nights where I would lay (lie?) in bed, listening to the clicking of the piano keys as he practiced his music with the earphones on. Bless his big, happy heart.

My job was to play the flute for one song and narrate for another. Allika got to sing "Away in a Manger" as a solo.

Oh! I guess I also had the hard job of folding card-stock into CD cases. I found the tutorial here.

We had gotten a free photo taken of our family at the Christian Community Fair, so that came in handy for the cover of the "album." It wasn't the most professional looking picture since we weren't expecting to have it taken, but it is a good representation of the essence of our family...pretty booger-head and down-to-earth.

And here is a sample of a couple songs. (Forgive me for making you have to endure more Christmas music after Christmas.)
Silent Night
Away In A Manger

The one difficult part of using this as our Christmas gift/card/photo, was that we had to severely limit to whom we could send it. It was very difficult to not be able to send it to everyone we wanted to.

Overall, though, we were very pleased with our home-made Christmas present this year.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I have returned. Now all ten of you can throw a party and celebrate that I'm back. (That's ten, including my family.)

Give me two weeks off and I will get very, very lazy. I loved my vacation from life, but now it is really difficult to get back into the swing of things.

So, let's see...what has happened?

My husband's parents were here for two weeks. They just left yesterday. We got to spend Christmas with them and my sister's family. We love games, presents, food, kids, sledding, and music, so that's just what we decided to do. Great times they were.

(Allika and her cousin, Tea, opening presents)

I graduated. There is so much emotion and excitement packed into those two words. I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. I kept telling myself to take in the moment because it would have been so easy to just let it all come and go so quickly. It was amazing, though. When I think of everything that has happened in the last two years, it is hard for me to believe that I've come this far. I still have so far to go, but I am celebrating each step along the way.

(Me with my daughter and nieces at my graduation)

We got to celebrate the ending of one year and the beginning of the next. I guess I'm getting old. There are two reasons why I suppose this:
1.) I don't get a thrill out of staying up until midnight to bring in the New Year anymore, and 2.) I get all gushy and sentimental about all the significance of what is taking place before my eyes.

So, I guess it's back to life again: blogging, home-schooling, working, college, ministry,...things that involve waking up before noon.

I think I'm ready for this. Bring on the living of life! Here's to a New Year!!