Something New

As we approach a new year I find myself in a contemplative mood.   A bit of a shocker for you I'm sure. Warning: this post contains Carla Style rambling....

I have the most delightfully awestruck feeling that this coming year is going to be a digging up the potatoes kind of year.  For some reason, I see God smiling and with a twinkle in His eye, He says to me "Watch for me.  I am coming with God sized deliverance".   This is what has been on my heart the last few weeks as we prepare to enter 2011.

I recently watched the movie "Faith Like Potatoes" in case you were wondering where my potato  analogy came from.   So often the work that God is doing goes on out of our sight.  We have seasons of planting. Seasons of waiting.  Seasons of trusting. Seasons of drought.    Then there is the harvest...the day we see with our own eyes what God has been doing all along beneath the surface.  We stand amazed at how beyond our own understanding, striving, complaining, figuring, and short sighted perspective....God had a plan.  His timing was perfect.  He has provided.   All I have left to do is praise Him.

For the last couple years , in certain areas of our life, we have walked through a hostile desert.  We have loved and we have lost.  We have seen miracles and we have seen devastation.   We haven't always understood.   I have grown weary and I have despaired.  This past year has once again brought the baseness of human nature up close and personal.   We have walked in faith trusting that God knows, God sees. God will bring  His light.  This was a year of persevering in obedience through the drought.  I can't help but anticipate and wonder how God will rain down his mercy and glory this coming year.  This may not be the year for a torrential down-pour of his healing, only another year of drought, but for some reason I feel the clouds are gathering and I'm longing for a deluge.  A front row view of  the pain also gives us a front row view of His redemption of it.  That is a pretty spectacular place to be...even if we are all ragged and worn when that time comes.  Sometimes that may not come until  we enter eternity.  I really suck at the waiting...especially where injustice is involved.

In other areas of our life we wait expectantly.  I am waiting with anticipation to see what God has for us around the next bend.  Beyond what I can see.   Where will we go?  Who will we love? What circumstances will God take us through to teach us what we need to understand?  I am wondering what this next year will bring and because there are so many loose ends, unknowns, and impossible situations....I know we will see God's miraculous provision.   That is exciting to me.   In my  immediate family there are two adoptions being processed.  Just two examples of active waiting.  Waiting on God's perfect timing and provision.

We are also praying about our desire to return to Mexico.  There are so many obstacles that we have given to the Lord.  Now we wait...and hope...and anticipate.    Maybe God has something entirely different for us.

Things do NOT always happen like I want them to, or  like I think they should.  That does not for a second mean that God is not working.

Sometimes I envision the end result, I see God's redemption in a situation.  I hear His calling.  I feel God's heart,  I see someone with His eyes....but I usually have no clue as to how or when HIS plan will come to pass.  Even when we can't see how, His promises remain.  
 I have very little concept of how my tiny role, my willingness to be used, emptied, even despised, will be a part of that plan.  I run into trouble when I try to take matters into my own hands and rush ahead of God.

 Moses was given the vision of freedom for his people.  He was given the passion and the burden.  He then rushed out to stand up to injustice and caused only more problems as a result.  The Hebrew people he tried to free despised him.  The Pharaoh wanted to kill him.  It is interesting though that God used even Moses' blunders to take him to where he needed to be.    It was't until Moses graduated from 40 years of humility training in the desert that God used Moses to bring his people out of their bondage.  The result was miraculous.  I'm sure everyone had lost hope by that point that God was going to intervene on behalf of his people.

God is going to redeem that which is most broken, enslaved, lost, and wounded.   God works through His people.
"Watch and see it will not be unredeemed".

God is bringing some good things into the lives of those who he has raised up out of the pit. The lowest, the weakest, the most despised...they will inherit the blessings of His kingdom that He delights to give.  His hand also brings justice and will humble the hard and the proud.  His hand will right wrongs, extend unfathomable grace, and reclaim what was lost.  

He will " rip the deadness out  and plant something new".
And so I wait in joyful anticipation for that new work.
"I will abide in the life giving blood of Christ.  I'm grafted in."

This may seem like a strange song to include in this post. It may seem like a strange song period. Maybe this is  a strange post in general.   There are likely songs that are more inspiring or applicable but for some reason I am drawn to this one today.   (don't forget to push pause on the music playlist at the bottom of my blog first).



A whole whack of Christmas photos

 This is a bunch of random pictures from the last couple days.
Aili and Roman had their first piano recital...which was cute and slightly embarrassing.
 Christmas was a beautiful family day.  We soaked it up.

Christmas Eve included games, food, and family at our home.

...and a ginger bread house.

 My grandpa.  My tall, strong, handsome grandpa is getting more frail and small each year.   Still a handsome old fella though.   So much history in those eyes.  
 Christmas Eve preparations.
 My grandma loving up her great grandkids.  She doesn't remember their names or how exactly they are descended from her but she knows they are hers and they need to be loved up by her. 
Grandma loves a baby even when she's not quite sure how she ended up looking so different than the other children. 
Christmas Eve entertainment.
It was fun to celebrate Miss Cece's first Christmas with her!

Christmas morning was a bit overwhelming for Silas.  He has no memory of "normal" Christmas at home.  He got into it though!  He was completely thrilled and content with the little army men, stickers, and new toothbrush from his stocking.  He thought that was it...
We surprised him with BUZZ! 
Christmas morning was so much fun!  We took our time and opened, oohed and aahhed over one gift at time.  The kids were so sweet and grateful for everything.   They spent most of Christmas day playing quietly with their new treasures.  
Roman and his daddy discussing his new model car.
I've always said the dark side is strong in this one.... (Aili found this for Silas at the second hand store for $1, best part no packaging!)
Our music lover can now play music in her bedroom.  You can't see it by the stoic expression on her face but she is thrilled.

After a quiet morning at home opening gifts we went to my parents for a fancy Christmas Dinner...
and more presents.  It was a fairly small gathering with just our family and my Grandparents in attendance but it was so nice.  
My mom made this beautiful sweater for Cece.  She makes sweaters for her grandkids and this struck me as such a significant gift of acceptance.   It means so much to  me that she put that many hours and that much love into a gift of for our girlie.   It will be about a year until she fits it so it's also a sign of faith, and hope.  Thank you mom and dad.

Roman and Grandma both met their snuggle match.  Someone who loves to snuggle as much as he does.  I spend many childhood hours snuggled up to this Grandma,  it's special that my own kids have the chance to do the same.  

It was a beautiful day.  The kids were terrific.  The food was amazing.  We spent the day with people that mean the most in the world to me.  Family.
I have so many family members spread all over that we didn't see today but will see later this week...or later next year.   I am so appreciative of my loving family, my heritage, my sense of belonging.  I feel very blessed and fortunate. 
  I have a close friend who grew up in foster care and doesn't have that kind of family.   My heart aches for her  during seasons like this.  She is an honorary part of this extended farmer clan though...if only she didn't live so far away she would have been here getting snuggled by Roman too.  
My family isn't made up of perfect people.  We don't always get it right.  We are all very different.  We sometimes even  irritate each other...but at the end of the day we have each other.  We love each other unconditionally and I know if I needed anyone of my family they'd have my back in a second.  No one is disposable.    That is family.   That is what I thank God for today.  

I came home filled up with the love of family.  That feeling also conflicted with the sadness of how badly other families can wound each other....and how many people are grieving loss of a loved one during this season.   Blood does not make people family, unselfish love does. 
It reminds me not to take any of it for granted....and to be open arms to those people, babies or adults, who don't know or are missing that kind of love.     


Merry Christmas 2010

From our very noisy house to yours,
wishing you  a Merry Christmas!  Feliz Navidad!  Joyeux Noel!

Drink some eggnog.  Eat some chocolate.  
Hug someone you love.  
Ponder something sacred.

My wish for each one of you is...

Truth that lights the darkness
Grace that restores the broken
Peace in the midst of the battle
Freedom from the prisons we create
Hope that gives strength to the weary
Joy that defies circumstances
Life everlasting.


God is with us.  Immanuel.  



Depraved Indifference

I came across this video after I wrote the last post about rethinking Christmas.  It is powerful and heart changing.  It left me speechless and weeping.  Amazing.   (don't forget to scroll down and hit pause on the music first)

Rethinking Christmas

 I've been thinking a lot the last little while ,as we celebrate the Christmas season,  how overall  it makes me more uncomfortable than it used to.   While kids rip open gift after gift to add to their elaborate toy rooms on Christmas day thousands of other kids will die that same day of starvation and neglect.   Countless others are living in quiet desperation.  Not exactly a cheerful "Christmasy" thought.    We as Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ but if he were here would he be sipping cider and buying more video game systems to add to his collection?  I suspect he would he be sitting on the street corner next to the drug addict, weeping by the grave of a forgotten child, or wrapping his arms around the woman dying of AIDS.  
I love Christmas! I love the decorations, lights, our snow and frosty white trees.  I love the baking, eating treats the getting  together with friends and family.  I love Christmas trees and pretty wrapped presents. 
Even though I love a beautiful sparkley Christmas as much as anyone... I think much of  this season reflects the shiny glossed over unhappiness, apathy,  emptiness, and busyness that define our overindulged society.  Maybe that sounds cynical.  Sentimental once a year displays of shallow generosity in the name of the "spirit of Christmas" have little to do with the Spirit of Christ.  It is a paradox that I find difficult to reconcile.  
I re-read an old post yesterday that I wrote while contemplating how some friends of ours live their lives completely opposite to what our society strives for.   If I desire my kids to grow up to radically love and live 
like Christ then I must raise them in a radically different way than our culture raises kids.  Not as seclusionists but as a family with vastly different priorities.  If I want my kids to swim upstream I have to teach them how to do it by getting wet myself.   
Here is a little snippet from that post:
In our culture we think that if our kids don't have the trendiest clothes,  top of the line electronics,  a fairy-tale-worry-free childhood, and a schedule designed to give them every social  advantage in life, we are sacrificing them.   In Canada, we love our kids with stuff.   That is the standard of 'good parenting'.   We aspire that they  become adults that are "successful" in the worlds eyes.  We want them to be "happy".   This is us taking care of our first ministry.  Right?
Maybe not.  Maybe it's doing the opposite.
       I think in reality, when we aren't willing to give up our inner circle "quality of life", our possessions, our security, our pride, whatever we cling to,  it is because those things have become our passion.  Our idols.  We  tuck God neatly into the pocket of our Sunday suit.  We thank God for blessing us, throw him our tithe,  host a church dinner party, and ignore the rest of his call on our lives...whatever that might be.   We don't want to give up those things and  it breaks our hearts even more to allow our kids to struggle, to sacrifice, or to go without. 
   I know it does for me...
even though without struggle, sacrifice and discomfort character traits like compassion, generosity, empathy, courage, respect and true gratitude cannot develop (not to mention creativity, ingenuity, and imagination).  Those are what I want most for my children.  Those are the traits I want in my children as adults...whether they are successful in the eyes of the world or not.  
            If our children don't see us loving, serving , giving, or stepping beyond our own comfort into a life of faith, we steal from them the chance to see what a  big God we serve.  In our attempts to give them every "advantage" we  hobble them spiritually and stunt their ability to develop strength of character.

I don't know if this has always been intentional on our part.  We have gone, served, opened our home, given...but often felt guilty about it.  I have compared my kids to their brand name dressed peers. Wondered if my child's patched jeans will cause permanent psychological damage.  I have wondered if my child will suffer by living in a developing country and not being able to take ballet, gymnastics and soccer lessons for a  winter.  My children have given up their bedrooms at a moments notice, shared their toys, and shared their parents.    I have agonized over those things.  I have wondered if my children will grow up hating me for it. 
I think I am finally at the point in my life, and with enough parenting years under my belt, to see a glimpse of what God is doing in my kids hearts.  It is surprising, it is wonderful, it exactly what I have been trusting God for.   We are seeing fruit.   I have noticed this Christmas as we are home having a "normal" North American Christmas that my kids are unexpectedly acting anything but "normal".   I am witnessing subtle, unprovoked, uncohersed unselfishness during a season of rampant brattiness.  They have not once begged, obsessed about, whined for, demanded or expected anything particular for Christmas (and if you know my kids they lean toward obsessive personalities!).  This has shocked me.  Instead they have conspired, saved, made lists, and discussed among themselves what they are buying for each other and for others.  They have bought their second hand store treasures and carefully wrapped them.  I must admit Silas is completely obsessed with the containers of Christmas sweets in the deep freeze though.
Instead of circling pictures and combing through a Sears Wish Book...they have carefully looked through every charitable gift giving catalog we have received circling pictures of goats, and clean water wells.  They were thrilled to  shop for , fill and send away shoe boxes to kids who may have never received a gift in their lives.
They carefully chose gifts for their friends in Mexico.   They regularly talk about their favorite Christmas memories which include caroling in impoverished migrant field worker camps last year, giving away the toys in their own small toy bin.  I really didn't expect something  that most parents would shield their kids from  would win out over memories of past vacations and gifts.
 It is all the little, and big, things we do that teach our kids things that no well intentioned lecture will ever teach them.  It seems so insignificant at the time but God is building those moments into something he will use for his purpose.  
The world needs us to raise strong kids not safe kids.   One way of doing that is leading the way ourselves.  When we have a strong hope, a dangerous faith, and a significant purpose in life...our kids will see that.  It will be irresistible.  That's my theory.   Our example will have a greater impact than any legalistic rules, heavy handed hypocrisy, or self indulgent apathy coated in religion.  Actually the impact will be great either way.   Our kids will either learn to trust God or learn to despise him.  

I think doing ministry (loving, sacrificing, serving, reaching out) WITH our kids, as a family, is an incredible chance to give our kids every real advantage in life.  Once you lay those things down,  you'll realize the real blessing God gives us isn't in our possessions.  It's the indescribable joy His purpose in our life brings.  That's living a blessed life.  
I wonder as we celebrate this season of gluttony, self indulgence, entitlement, and wracking up credit card debt to give things to people that they don't need or appreciate.....
What  does our elite celebration  have to do with a shunned, teenage mother giving birth in a dark, cold cave?  Does it reflect the redemption of mankind in a beautiful, horrible, unexpected way?  
We (at least those of us who still remember that Christmas is about something more significant and sacred than a fat guy in a red suit) say we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  What does that mean to us?    December 25th is not Jesus technical birthday. It is a day set aside to celebrate the SIGNIFICANCE of his birth.   God's eternal plan for this world being set into motion on the night of his birth.  Hope, peace, joy, and redemption.    We have already been given a gift that all the brand name clothes, video game consoles, diamond jewelry and fruitcake can't ever compare too.   

That same young peasant woman who over 2000 years ago trusted , obeyed and gave birth to a baby also sung this:

"for the Mighty One has done great things for me-
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought  down rulers from their thrones 
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
bu has sent the rich away empty."

Let us celebrate that which is worth celebrating. 
"Praise to the Lord
the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people."

"because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from Heaven 
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace."

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests"


Easiest Christmas cookies ever

This is what we set out to create.   
It is one of our favorite easy Christmas recipes.  No baking, no rolling, no cookie cutters.
So easy even kids could make them (although it is admittedly much messier when they do)
  1. Crush candy canes using a heavy blunt object.  Kids will fight over who gets to do the smashing.
 2. Melt baking chocolate in the microwave then add 1/4 tsp mint extract.
 3. Dip Ritz crackers into the chocolate.
 4. Lay them on wax  or parchment paper.  Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
5. set aside to cool and harden.
6. clean off your fingers, the spoons and the bowl by thoroughly licking them.

 I didn't manage to take a picture of them nicely displayed on a platter but here they are freshly made.   Not quite as pretty as the picture in the recipe book, but they taste great and took only a few minutes to make.