Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In 'Other' Words--Wanting to be Wanted

“I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He wants to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”
~A.W. Tozer~
I have long struggled with the tendency toward complacency and a lack of desire toward the things of God. I grew up with it; it surrounded me on all sides, and unfortunately it is a part of "who I am" even though I want SO badly to have it removed permanently! It's my "thorn in the flesh", because it really does represent the will of my flesh to just sit back and "be", when I know in my heart of hearts that God wants more of me. It has taken me far too many years to understand that true Christianity is not an internal religion, lived solely within the heart--it is like an earthquake--beginning out of the view of the world, but radiating outward, affecting everything in its path. TRUE Christianity is contagious!
Over the years one of the tidbits of wisdom I've heard over and over again is that in all trials there is a lesson. God isn't the one tempting us, but He allows it because He knows we can learn valuable things from little twinges of pain and through Him, good can come of the bad. The trial brings attention to a potential weak spot in our character that God wants to see us develop, much like a physical pain can bring us to a doctor to see about an underlying condition we would not have otherwise known about.
A couple of years ago God used what could have been merely a "family problem" for His glory in my life. He taught me a lesson I would have never had the opportunity to learn firsthand had I not been exposed to the worst emotional trauma of my life. God knows me even better than I know myself, and He knew that I'd analyze every angle of my trial. Hidden in that trial was something I never expected to find--a very clear picture of what God wanted from me. I spent many sleepless nights and many more tear-filled days contemplating the horror that had befallen my marriage because of sin, and I'd heard words I never imagined hearing from someone who pledged his life to me. No matter how "reassuring" it was to him to say the words "I'm here; I didn't leave", I knew that I wanted more from him. I deserved more, I expected more, I *KNEW* our relationship was worth more than that. I didn't want him to just "be" there, I wanted him to have a burning desire to be with me. I wanted to be 'wanted', for lack of a better description. I wanted the importance of our relationship to be paramount--to be the spark within him that fueled his willingness to do anything it took to put our marriage FIRST.
Hidden in that pain was a message for me, borne of years of complacency. Of *COURSE* that's what I wanted of my marriage. Wasn't I created in the image of the Author of marriage Himself? Wasn't marriage a picture of God's love for His church? Wasn't the church the Bride of Christ?
As I contemplated the pain I lived for all those months while the sin was stripped (far too slowly for my comfort, I might add) from my husband's life, I learned something that cut me to the core. God wants from us what we want from our mates--heartfelt desire, commitment, and a love that fills every pore of our hearts. All those years, I'd sat in worship services, Bible studies, Sunday School classes, and fellowship meals...yet my life showed something devastating to God. I was doing all those things and saying to God, "I'm here. I'm not leaving, isn't that enough?"
God wanted more. He wanted me to WANT to be there. He wanted my love for Him to radiate from my heart and affect everyone around me. He wanted our relationship to be the entire focus of my life. He taught me something huge--"being there" isn't enough. It doesn't even come close.
I did not enjoy the pain of what my husband's sin did to our marriage. But I can say very honestly that I am thankful for what lesson God taught me through that pain. I know I'll struggle with the tendency toward staying in my comfort zone from time to time, but I now understand WHY it's a problem to God; and I understand just how much it hurts Him. Forgive me, Father, for the lukewarmness I've lived in for so long. It's a detestable state, and it's my prayer that I am never lost in it again.
Deborah is hosting this week's In 'Other' Words; visit her blog Chocolate & Coffee to read her comments about her chosen quote and to view other participants' blogs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Too. Much. Stuff.

Look at this mess. No, seriously, look at it, it's a mess! I don't normally share our messes with the entire virtual world, but I'm making a point here. I went into the girls' bedroom the other day, took out the crib, and attempted to de-junk. I decided instead to remove just about everything from their room, and THIS was what was left when we limited "bedroom" stuff to a bed, dresser, and the Little Tykes kitchen and brought everything else out into the living room to be weeded through:

Oh, and check out the bedroom "after" while you're at it:

I imagine any parent of just one child knows that the stuff adds up. Kids accumulate "stuff" in alarming quantities, and only a teeny little portion of it actually sees regular use. Their clothes overtake laundry bins, closets, dressers, and any other occupy-able space. Imagine what it's like with FIVE of these little packrats!
This habit needs to change. I've purposely left the pile of toy carnage in my living room overnight just so I could wake up to it today and reflect on just how much STUFF we don't need. The girls haven't seen the need to forage through the pile. It's still there. A pile of untouched, unloved, and in-the-way STUFF. You should see MY bedroom. Oh, my. It's frightening how much Pete and I can't put away simply because we have no place to put all of it.
What is going on? Why do we spend so much time and effort and money on "stuff" that either doesn't get regular use or that we think we should have, only to put it in a pile and forget it exists? Is this good stewardship? I am ashamed to say how much of this mess is my fault; I've fought for years the habit of giving our children way too much of everything, just because it's what I had. Do kids really need two huge dishcrates full of stuffed animals when they truly only "love" just one or two? Do babies really need all the "gear" we are convinced they do?
Looking at floor plans for the housing area we could potentially move into in a few months, I'm struggling with keeping my head from tilting sideways at the screen. We may have a tiny little apartment now, but it looks as if an extra bedroom isn't going to solve the problem. Neither will having fewer people, to be honest. We just have too much stuff!
This is embarraassing.

Wordless Wednesday--Happy 37th Birthday, Pete!

Trying to "look" his age (nice try, ya big goofy kid):

To meet up with other Wordless Wednesday participants, go HERE. Leave a comment and I'll link you up below!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Fam--January 2008 edition

This is a practice-run for the scrapbook pages I'm hoping to get started on as soon as I can get these silly pictures printed. ONE of these days (how many times I have uttered that phrase is incomprehensible) I'm going to find a system that I can work with; right now I just can't justify the expense of a printer dedicated to photos. OY....see why I can't finish anything lately? I get something started and immediately jump off on a tangent. BACK ON TASK!

This is one of those years that is going to bring a ton of changes for our family. It's just the way life goes. But while things are still calm, I wanted to take a quick second to record what things are like in our family right now. I may forget tomorrow, because it will likely change quicker than I can blink. But today, this is how things are....

Pete, the backbone of our family, my knight in camouflage armor, has another birthday on Wednesday. He keeps talking about getting old, and he's trying ever so hard to *look* mature, but for those of us who know him best, he can't hide. We know just how childlike he still is behind that tough but geeky exterior. He's still on the waiting list for his PRK surgery, so he's wearing glasses till they call him down to Landstuhl to have his corneas lasered. YUCK! Of course, the focus of his days is work, work, and more work. He's got the reputation of an incurable workaholic, and he's the rock that every single person in his office goes to when they have to have something done. They *know* Pete is the man for the job. Unfortunately, that takes its toll on him, because he can't say no to anything. He works an average of 13 hours a day during the week, and gets at least four or five phone calls over the weekend from people who can't stand to wait till Monday morning to ask something of him. Personally, I am praying for a transfer to Redstone Arsenal just so he can get back into a less stressful job. Poor guy is wearing himself to the bone! Work, work, work......

I guess the next logical person to "introduce" would be me, right? Okay, okay. Here's me...actually, this picture is taken within seconds of the picture of Pete above. I'm helping him proofread a stack of NCO Evaluation Reports and correct grammar. Somewhere along the line I got the reputation of being a grammar snob....now how'd THAT happen? I'm not going to go into much detail about me, because let's face it, there's enough of my mental babbling going on all over this blog, right?

Our oldest, Jon, turns eighteen in March. I have NO idea how the boy aged so fast, because I certainly don't feel old enough to have an adult child! He's in a state of perpetual flux about his future, and he's really hoping we find something out about our next assignment SOON, because his plans really do revolve around where our family moves. He wants to work on the car he'll get for graduation this year--the 1979 Nova he and Pete picked out a few years ago, and since he's not really had the opportunity to work a part-time job and save up for leaving home while we've been over here (not to mention, he can't get a driver's license here) before he begins his Army career. He's hoping to use the Prepaid College Plan he's got to attend a community college and get his ASE certification in auto mechanics before he sets out to see the world dressed in camouflage. Pete and I are just praying ever more fervently for God to bring the right girl into Jon's life--we both know what a stress military life puts on a family, and Jon is going to have to be pretty careful when choosing a mate. Not only do we hope and pray for a strong, Christian woman of noble character, but we are really hoping God has put this young lady in a family that is training her well in managing a household--she will certainly need it in a military family!

Kelsey will be sixteen in March, and she reminds us DAILY that we simply will ruin her life forevermore if we forget her sweet sixteen! Oh, the theatrics this child has brought into our lives! Thankfully she has matured by leaps and bounds over the last few months, and the Lord has made amazing changes in her life. There is a young lady emerging from this rough shell, but of course she is just like her dad, so she'll retain her childlike nature for a long time. She's struggling to find her place in this world, and Pete and I struggle daily with how to guide her toward godly and wholesome activities and a righteous life without smothering her. NOT an easy task, considering Kelsey's flair for the extreme and dramatic. It's as if we're trying to hold onto an over-filled helium balloon sometimes, though! And no, I'm not saying my daughter is an airhead, SHAME on you for thinking I'd say such a thing! LOL See how happy she is to have finally earned her emailing privileges back?

Morgan will be four years old in March, but like most little girls, she's already pushing thirteen. Very much like her older sister, Morgan is a little drama queen in training. She simply adores the spotlight and just as always, relishes the opportunity to perform whenever she can capture an audience. She's quite a storyteller, regaling us every night at dinner with a graphic recounting of her "story" that she has ever-so-recently found the right word for--her dream. The day is simply incomplete until we have heard about Morgan's dream! Just like her Daddy and her older sister, Morgan has an amazingly contagious smile, and combined with Daddy's ice-blue eyes and those renegade curls of hers, she's just simply irresistable! She'll start kindergarten this year at home, since she is just itching to start reading and "doing my schoolwork". She's also VERY excited about getting a new house and once again riding on an airplane. She LOVES airplanes! Good thing, considering we'll be on one for at least 11 hours this June!

Jamie, who will be three years old this Valentine's Day, is rapidly becoming what we can only describe as "scary smart". Every child has his or her own talents, but Jamie could very easily end up being our challenging child--challenging US, that is, to harness that little intellect and point her talents in the right direction. It takes a LOT to challenge her, and when she finds a challenge, she conquers it with a proficiency that astounds us. Yet she's still just a toddler, and her limitations due to her size are frustrating to her. She will most likely sit beside me and quietly pick up on everything Morgan learns this year in kindergarten just as she does with everything else we do. She's got the energy of a jet plane and the heart of a lion. Makes for an odd, and FUN combination! She's also got the most unique looks of the bunch! Straight hair? How did THAT happen?

Rounding out the family circus is our little comedian, Danica. Each of our kids has taken a turn at being nothing more than the family clown, and Dani is really loving the role. She is trying so hard to keep up with everything Morgan and Jamie do, but most of the time she ends up running to Mama for shelter when the trampling gets to be too much. I'm relishing it, because I know it won't last much longer. As soon as she can keep up, I'm history! Dani is the first of the kids, though, to really figure out that she can "play" one family member against another, and she does it with flair! She loves to tease Daddy with the promise of a hug or kiss, only to turn away at the very last second and run to whoever else is closer! She's not had much interest in talking yet, preferring to point and grunt, but we're not worried. With all the jabbering going on in our house, that little "delay" is a welcome thing!

Pete and I joke sometimes that our kids have been progressively more goofy; this new baby has little hope but to be born in a straight-jacket!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The downfall of customer service

Over the last several months, I have been witness to numerous examples of shoddy customer service in our PX'es overseas and especially in fast food restaurants, but WOW...I had no idea just how pathetic it could be until today.

Nevermind our "fast food" is overpriced. Nevermind it costs nearly $30 to get a quickie meal for seven people (including three who share a kids' meal). Nevermind we're already irritated that we have to have more than five dollars to get FOUR small sodas. That's all irrelevant now.

In our Army/Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) food court, we have a very limited selection. Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Popeye's, or Anthony's Pizza (not GREAT pizza, but it's better than some of the weird stuff we've found in German pizzerias). We chose to partake of what we *thought* would be a quick, somewhat less-expensive (certainly less expensive than BK) meal of two pizzas at Anthony's today. It should have been a very straightforward exchange, ordering, waiting, eating, and leaving. However, due to the gross incompetence of two AAFES employees (adults, not greenhorn teenyboppers, I might add), it took us a full TWO HOURS to eat.

When we got there, they weren't backed up. They'd just gotten past the midday rush, so it wasn't overly crowded. However, it really seemed to throw the cashier off when Pete ordered "combo #1, the two large pizzas". See, Anthony's Pizza has TWO #1 combos. One is two whole pizzas, the other is a two-slice, one-drink combo. She rang it up, then gave him the total, which was six dollars more than the price on their board. I mentioned to her that the price was off, she says "Well, you DID order two pizzas--the pepperoni was $13.99, the cheese was $11.99". Duh. I KNOW that, Einstein. I'm telling you, the board out here says your combo is $21.99 for two one-topping large pizzas. She gets upset at US and tells us we did NOT order a combo. I walked away, feeling the heat in my face surface and the hackles start to raise. Pete finally got it all straightened out, since all of the people who were now behind us in line HEARD him say "combo". We sit down to what is usually a ten-minute wait for our pizzas to be made, baked, and handed to us. Four other customers behind us order whole pizzas, and three of them had to spend five minutes at the register correcting this knucklehead who seemed to not be able to understand simple orders. In the next HOUR while we were waiting on our pizzas, she insulted two customers, completely ignored Pete twice when he was trying to inquire about our order, and were witness to what seemed like a near-meltdown after she had to correct the third wrong order. One lady actually left after 45 minutes of waiting on an order of cheese breadsticks. AMAZING.

An HOUR later, when we'd still not been called to get our pizzas, I got to wondering about the two pizza boxes sitting atop the pizza oven (in plain sight of the dining room); Pete gets up, goes to the counter and TWICE asked this cashier if the boxes on top of the oven were ours. She interrupted him each time as if he didn't exist, calling across the dining room to other customers (who were behind us in line when we ordered) to come get their pizzas. When he finally got her attention, she merely turned around, grabbed the pizzas, and handed them to him without a single word. He caught her attention once more and said "You know, we were sitting RIGHT HERE, you could have just let us know they were there." He then thanked her.

NOT ONCE did this pathetic excuse for a service worker EVER apologize for misunderstanding his order, or getting the price wrong, or the time we had to wait, or even forgetting to call us when our pizzas were ready.

I'm just in shock, mortified, and beyond disgusted. The pizzas weren't hot, and after all that time, I think our stomachs had churned enough that they just didn't taste good anymore.

Yes, we complained. As did FIVE other customers, three of whom saw the awful treatment we got. As we left, Jon heard the manager say "she's got to go". Have fun finding a job, Miss Manners! I hope you're always treated as "well" as you treat your customers!

Really, I'm not in a nasty mood. I find it laughable, in fact, that people think so poorly of their jobs that they don't do them to their fullest potential. Some people should NOT work in the service industry.

Friday, January 11, 2008

It was inevitable

It took having five children, but now we have one that writes on floors. And walls, and faces, and arms, legs, fingers, whatever she can find to doodle on. From here on out, Dani is going to become very familiar with the use of a Magic Eraser. I'm SUCH a mean mom.

Funny thing, though, the same morning that Dani discovered the joys of putting ink to linoleum, Morgan thought she'd give a ball point pen a go as lipstick. Looks like an ink race track around her lips! OH how I wish I had my camera!!!!!!

Yes, MY camera is still in Pete's desk--at work--full of the pictures I took the two hours I got to use it. No fair. I think I know what he's getting for his birthday next week! That was a VERY sneaky, underhanded way to make sure we needed more than one camera!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A flattering photo?

Hey, whaddaya know? This picture doesn't add any weight, doesn't show any wrinkles or saggy, baggy age marks, and there's no bad hair! I think I finally found my "good side"!

On the other hand, poor Pete. Those are some UGLY feet, sweetie!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Looking ahead at 2008

It is already January 4th. HOW did that happen? Who turned the calendar upside-down on me and threw us headlong into a new year when we weren't really finished with the old one yet? Did I miss Christmas? Sure felt like it.

Okay, so all the indicators of the new year were there. We had almost a full night of fireworks, loud music, noisemakers, and revelry of all sorts (some sorts we didn't wish to hear about) going on all around us, so it was a bit hard to avoid knowing that 2008 had arrived. But four days now have disappeared into eternity, and we have very little to show for it except a trash can full of tissues, empty bottles of Nyquil, Dimetapp, and Robitussin, and a full diaper pail. It never ceases to amaze me that when you're sick, time seems to speed up to accentuate everything you've not been a part of. I've done fairly well keeping the rough resolutions I made for myself so far this year. It's not all that hard to find time to devote to God--it's just a matter of doing it. My house is also substantially less cluttered than it has been in recent months--getting rid of a bunch of stuff really helped! Pete and I will go on our first date of the new year tomorrow--this was something I've wanted to do for several years; to devote one day each month (hey, we have to start somewhere) to a date, so we can have a real, dedicated day on a calendar to say is "ours". That Feingold Diet, though...well, considering that when you are trying to eliminate all artificial colors and flavors at a time when your family is surviving only on the medications that are keeping them breathing and not coughing up lungs, and those medications are chock FULL of artificial stuff, well, it's not so easy. Our elimination diet will wait until we can fully eliminate medications.

This year looks to be...um...REALLY busy. This month and February will be the calm before an inevitable storm. We are planning a trip to Garmisch in early March to do our "last blast of Germany", snowboarding in the Alps, seeing some of the sights we've been wanting to see, and basically taking some time to regroup before all you-know-what breaks loose. We'll probably get orders in March, and after that it's going to be one whirlwind after another. Ship the van and our household goods in April, appoinments of all sorts for transportation and finance and veterinary services in May, and then by June we'll be JUST exhausted enough following the closing of this unit (which Pete is coordinating...YIKES) to drag our hineys to the airport for that LOOOOOOONG flight home. Jon will graduate in June too, so that's yet another transition to deal with. We'll have less than two months to get to our new duty station and get settled before the new baby makes his/her appearance sometime in August, and of course by then, we'll be looking toward the holidays yet again.

I'm tired just thinking about it. My DayRunner is scared. I know full well that condensing a transatlantic move into one paragraph is a gross understatement. I KNOW what's involved. We've done this before. I know what's involved with my prenatal care, and readying not only myself but our family for the arrival of a new baby. I know that having one child graduate, one beginning kindergarten, and a third being introduced to the world all within two months' time is not only going to be a huge transition, but hugely stressful. I don't even want to think about what that 10-12-hour plane trip is going to be like on my seven-month-pregnant self. This year, Jon will finally get his operator's license and take on ownership of his first car. Kelsey will be getting her learner's permit. Morgan will learn to read. Jamie will transition out of diapers. Dani will start talking. Pete and I will see our 19th wedding anniversary. I'll turn 35.

But in perspective.....we are SO BLESSED! We may not have all the luxuries that we'd like, but we don't need anything that the Lord hasn't provided. I can't think of a single meal we've had to miss over the last year (or any of the years before that, for that matter) for a lack of provision. God truly is faithful. He has given us more than we could ever hope for, more than many people ever have. We have enjoyed amazing health, even if it was interrupted briefly with injuries or pregnancy-induced stresses. Through all of the hardships that our individual sins have brought about, we've been blessed with the ability and opportunity to learn from mistakes and make changes to become more of what the Lord would have us to be. Unlike those pitiful souls of Old Testament times, God did not strike us dead on the spot for our transgressions, and I count it an amazing blessing to be graced with the opportunity to be transformed; to have our minds and hearts renewed. To learn what "new life" really means.

Thank you, Lord, for the blessings of a new year, a new perspective, and blossoming opportunities!

I think now that I'm feeling at least somewhat better, I'll do some planning so all of this doesn't catch me offguard. As I was studying a bit last night, Psalm 90:12 just seemed to jump out at me. Trying to tell me something, Lord? I think that verse would be GREAT for our family to adopt as our "focus verse" of the year.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

It's time.

...to break down and go purchase a new digital camera. FOR ME. One I don't have to fight for. One that I don't have to go hunt down when I want to take a picture. One I don't have to beg to use.

New year, new camera. Yes, 'tis time. Everybody, get your coat, we're goin' to the Power Zone!

Boy, do I miss Best Buy!
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