2013 has been a crazy year already… crazy good. When looking at all that has happened in the past 2 months alone, my family and I are tempted to feel kind of overwhelmed. But yet, we pray for blessings, we pray for God to do big things… so why do we feel so taken off guard when God grants them? Somehow we just didn’t expect our prayers to be answered so speedily… a sad reflection on our expectancy of God, Who can go so far above all we ask or even think.
I am now officially entering the period of “mild insanity” regarding my recital. A lot of time is taken with facility rental, choreography, detail planning, etc. About a month out I’ll be in the official insanity period; getting pictures done, extra rehearsal times scheduled, and trying my hardest to polish up dances that inevitably run into kinks here and there. But I have to remind myself that every year I’m tempted to think that the dances won’t make it on stage as they should, and every year the performance happens and is glorifying to God.
I’ve had a lot of emotions to process and things to think through… with the recital and other things… but the resulting truth- whether I come to it right away or take some time to slog through my fears- is that God is in control and has the best in store for this weak daughter; yes, even for this sinful child. He is ever so faithful to listen and take my burdens upon His shoulders. They feel so big to me, and sadly tend to fill up my near-sighted vision, until I realize the obvious (silly Jennifer!) and am forced to lay them at His feet. In my weakness He is revealed as oh, so strong.
I am also learning, as I look back on how God has answered prayers so faithfully, that I need to ask of Him bigger things… and trust that He will fulfill them as I give up control that wasn’t even mine to begin with. He has never given me reason to doubt that He will give only good things; so why should I limit myself in prayer and faith? And, in my quest to come more boldly before the throne of grace, may my expectations, hopes and dreams be so aligned with His will that any disappointment would be replaced with ultimate joy in His perfect plan.
He is so good to me, undeserving daughter that I am. All praise to the King of Kings… and all praise for 2013, a year in which one thing is very certain; He will be glorified and His kingdom advanced!
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2nd Corinthians 12:9
I love traveling, ever so much! My first experience flying overseas may not have been the best ever, but a sleepless night in the terminal, flight delays, a most uncomfortable night in the plane and a missed flight in Amsterdam was not enough to kill my love for travel. Flying is awesome and so is the chance to explore new places and experience different cultures.
So my trip to Alabama last month for a very dear friend’s wedding made this girl pretty happy. Warm weather, hanging out with girlfriends, much-needed getaway time… oh, and flying. Some people, like my poor girlfriend, absolutely hate flying. But the impending snow storm on my return flight through Chicago didn’t concern me. “Adventure’s out there”, right?
I like to sit next to interesting people on flights. There are people who plunk down into that reeeeally small seat with only an inch of separation between you, plug into their music, and pretend you don’t exist. There are those businessman who fall asleep almost instantly, when I want to point out the window like a little girl and squeak “isn’t this exciting?”. And then there are the people who talk and talk and talk.
What’s so fun about talking to people on planes is that, most likely, you will never see them again and therefore have license to say whatever you want. Oh boy! A captive audience with no way of escape and a whole two hours of honest discussion. It’s quite the opportunity.
On my return flight I sat next to a quiet, tall redneck from Alabaaama who spent most of the flight studying his short novel and trying to come to terms with the fact that the seats did not give the two of us adequate room to keep our feet, elbows and luggage from encroaching on each others personal space. After an hour of us ignoring the other person’s existence, the captain announced that our landing in Chicago Midway would be delayed as we circled overhead, waiting for the icy runways to become safer. This gave everyone a chance to grumble sufficiently and acknowledge the person next to them as we all became united in the agony of spending more time than anticipated in our ever-shrinking, business-class seats.
Mr. Redneck seemed to find this delay and the increasing bursts of turbulence somewhat troubling, so I seized the chance to start a conversation and ask him about his novel. This led to sharing what we do and where we’re from, and somehow we got on the topic of him finding a Church community in his area. At 24 he wasn’t sure where he was heading in life, and with a mixed background I was pretty sure he had no idea what he really needed to “find” at Church.
Now, in the past I would have felt pretty intimidated or unsure of sharing the gospel. My fear is that people who consider themselves Christians and put up a confident front will be insulted when I try to share something they claim to already know. However, my time at the Crisis Pregnancy Center has taught me how to share in a real, relaxed way that doesn’t have to be dramatic or offensive, but instead honest and unpretentious. Not only do many girls who claim to have already heard the gospel message discover that they’re missing a very key aspect (total depravity), but often they will listen openly and admit that they’ve never really heard it “that way” before.
So here I find myself sitting next to a young man who doesn’t know what he wants in life, all but clutching to his seat as we shake and bump our way down to the airport in dark, rainy Chicago, encouraging him to get in the Word and seek the Lord. (Who knew turbulence could help get the gospel message across?) Upon landing everyone cheers, he starts to breath again, we give each other a high five, and then exit the plane only to melt into the crowd as we go our separate ways and get on with life.
Fear of offending man is too small of an issue to hold me back from being real with those around me. Fear of God ought to be so forefront in my mind that I can seize an opportunity to plant seeds, regardless of how stupid I may feel or how intimidating the situation. At the Crisis Pregnancy Center I am slowing learning how to let the drama, emotions, or fear of outcome to be pushed to the back burner, and learn to share the truth in a real world with a very desperate need to be saved. This is the kind of attitude I want to have everywhere I go…
I am so thankful for a heavenly Father who does not leave me stagnant, but challenges me to be every growing and learning. Oh, and I’m thankful for plane rides, too.
In this past year I:
- Was a bridesmaid for the very first time
- Spoke to a few of our State Senators at a luncheon (why does public speaking seem to happen every year? Gah!)
- Was incredibly blessed by another God-honoring performance with my 50 students
- Took swing dance lessons with my brother
- Watched my very dear friend and “twin” fall in love!
- Cried tears of joy when said girlfriend called me oceans away to tell me that she was engaged…
- Found out that I was officially going to Burtigny, Switzerland for three months and was both nervous and excited at the same time
- Learned that relationships change, no one is perfect, and that I need learn to deal with it
- Moved away from my childhood home in the country
- Almost died of exhaustion when I moved away from my childhood home in the country
- Learned how to make caramel sauce. True story
- Spent the night in a terminal (it’s as bad as it sounds)
- Arrived in Switzerland and officially fell in love with it
- Took a tour of my first castle ever. Heaven!
- Discovered that YWAM life is pretty interesting… and that I’m a people-person
- Ate real fondue
- Turned 22. And discovered that I still look as young as ever
- Took a hike in the Swiss alps
- Discovered that Swiss chocolate is as good as everyone says it is… no; better!
- Stood in the very spot where John Calvin used to preach
- Had my English Country dance calling interpreted
- Heard “holy laughter” for the first time ever
- Shot several handguns, an assault rifle, and an 1860 Henry Rifle; all in one day
- Went to Paris!
- Saw the Eiffel Tower!
- Visited the Louvre!
- Made a lot of really awesome friends
- Found out that cows with bells roaming the gorgeous hills in Switzerland really *are* charming
- Went to Italy!
- Ate gelato in Italy!
- Bought some silk in Italy!
- Left Switzerland. And cried.
- Started taking adult ballet classes as a way to challenge (and humble) myself
- Led another campaign volunteer project, froze in the cold, and celebrated another victory!
- Learned, in new ways, more about God’s faithfulness and goodness to me as His child
What a year! I can’t wait to see what He has in store for 2013…
It’s so weird to think that 7 months ago we were moving out of my childhood home and into a new one. My memory of that chaotic time is rather a blur… and my adjustment period was different since I almost immediately left for Switzerland afterward.
But, among other “milestones”, this was our first morning to wake up to see our new home and 2 acres covered with a blanket of sparkling snow.
I really do miss our 5 quieter, more isolated, more wooded acres back in Oakland. But praise the Lord that his beauty is everywhere, and even with new places and adjustments, the sparkling white, the crisp air, the sun gliding across waves of snow will always be the same, yet new…
First winter in our new home.
It’s really all about perspective, isn’t it? God is so good and I’m very thankful for where He has taken our family in 2012.
I can’t believe I’ve already been home from Switzerland for over two months. It seems like every week holds a rather large project that sucks away my time. The past week has been especially busy, as it’s been my tradition to devote 36 hours of my life to leading a volunteer team for a local election. Well, okay, maybe a bit more time counting the emails and calls I made begging the general populace to help a noble cause. But I would hate to exaggerate.
Our candidate this year was Bill Kintner for State Legislature. As a member of the “Nebraska Home Educators PAC” board, I took on the role of volunteer coordinator as I’ve been alongside my sister since 2008. The mission? To help a home-school friendly candidate get into office. We were successful in our two previous projects-Senators Beau McCoy (2008) and Jim Smith (2010), and I was fairly confident we would be able to smash out another district for Bill Kintner.
Well, throughout the three days of campaigning I also found out that I’m kind of naive, in more ways than one (surprise?). District 2 is so spread out; small towns, rural areas, everything 30+ minutes apart. The reality of keeping a handle on volunteers so spread out was more difficult than I anticipated. Plus, this year our election week was windy and a bit cold, especially at 7pm in the dark. Also, because the district was so spread out and groups were more disconnected, the energy level and “fun” factor was a lot lower than what we’re used to. Basically, I think I was spoiled by the condensed neighborhoods and more populated areas in Omaha. I guess it was time for a challenge anyway.
The Kintner vs. Lambert race was very tight. However, our candidate worked very hard in the months leading up to Nov. 6th, meeting constituents and citizens throughout his very large district. But knowing that the race was so tight also made our smaller team work quite a bit harder; spending a long 12 hour Tuesday waving signs in the gusty wind. *Shiver*. I knew I was in trouble when I started talking to myself as I stood in Plattsmouth watching amused voters zoom by… I’d like to think that those smiles meant “wow, she’s really convinced this guy is worth it” instead of “wow, what a loser; standing out in the cold like that looking like Rudolph with her red nose”. Either way it doesn’t really matter, because…
We WON! Praise the Lord! Our third candidate to make it into office. Bill Kintner won with 50.74% and 220 votes. Whew. It’s not really fun to sweat over numbers like that, but it is a wonderful confirmation that every little bit of volunteer work (yes, even with numb toes and fingers) makes a difference. In the end, God is in control and we are so thankful that it was His will to give Bill Kintner the title of Senator.
Here are some things I learned while volunteering on the Kintner campaign:
- Lunch break is a life-saver.
- Honks, thumbs-up, and smiles from drivers are huge morale boosters.
- Small town communities are kind of stuffy, and definitely picky when it comes to the distance of sign-wavers from the polling station.
- Coffee makes it all better.
- McDonald’s is not my favorite place.
- Friends who go out and sign wave in the dark and cold because I asked them to are awesome.
- If you shiver, jump up and down to keep the circulation going, and figure out how to look miserable yet smiley at the same time, voters will be more sympathetic. Technically this wasn’t too hard to achieve…
- It’s important to take a few moments throughout the day to make things interesting for volunteers who are losing motivation. Like the time we climbed up some mysterious steps to find a lone cemetery at the top of the hill in Weeping Water. I’m telling you, this is pretty exciting stuff.
- While it’s important to be safe (and I haven’t been in an accident yet) campaigning is the one time I can get away with multiple U-turns and what I consider “crazy” driving. It’s something I look forward to…
- Boys who can make me laugh at 11pm when I’m exhausted and tired are great.
- Moms who can single-handedly take their 6 little girls out and drop literature in the cold are amazing. Superwomen. I want to be one someday…
Praise the Lord for His goodness. We’re glad to have been a part of the Kintner for Legislature campaign!
- A long, hot shower at the end of a cold day.
- Ovens that don’t pour out smoke… most of the time.
- Friends halfway around the globe.
- The fact that I can pray for friends halfway around the globe.
- My cozy purple bedroom.
- A job that I love.
- Refreshing conversations.
- Coffee on a cold day.
- Parents who are close enough to be friends.
- A car that runs.
- Fashion… and beauty and delighting in looking pretty.
- Dinner that gets on the table at 6pm.
- When the boys are doing dishes, side by side, without arguing.
- Comments from my readers (yes, you!).
- My Eiffel Tower painting brought back all the way from Paris, hanging over my bed.
- The fact that I can walk and run and dance and not be confined to a wheelchair.
- When Grandma is delighted over the simplest thing, like a hot bowl of her favorite soup.
- Caleb when he offers to help in the kitchen.
“… Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
I do believe it is part of my purpose in life to provide humor and amusement to my fellow man. Truly. Awkward situations, embarrassing mistakes, and yes, those stupid things I say. I may seem reserved to some people, but when I’m at home I tend to let all that charming loud charisma loose.
Whoops, did I just say charming?
So, awkward moments…
- Botching an entire recipe and wasting 4 cups of whipping cream while trying to recreate my uh-mazing caramel sauce. Long story short, it wouldn’t caramelize. I’m blaming it on our new stove, and while I try to regain my dignity I’ll hide the 2 quarts of watery un-caramelized creamy sweet liquid in the fridge. My one consolation? It tastes amazingly good in coffee.
- Trying to fend off that weird and way too friendly guy at Starbucks who asked for my number. In case you were wondering, I told him no (come on, I can be naive but I’m not that stupid).
- Walking through Wal-Mart with the squeakiest cart in the whole entire store. How does that always happen?! Talk about humiliating. I know that guy in the coffee aisle was secretly laughing at me. So after rattling and clanking and squeaking through half the store my pride won out and I abandoned said cart and proceeded to load up my arms with items (I’m much too
lazytight on time to go back for another). Let’s just say I’ve come up with a great way limit purchases when shopping…
- Trying out that egg hair treatment that didn’t go as planned. So you know how people will post the weirdest home remedies on the internet (lately it’s been pinterest) and rave about how it transformed them, changed their lives, etc. etc.? So this egg mask is supposed to “make your hair shiny, gorgeous and healthy” all in one easy little treatment. Well, it made my hair shiny all right. I did manage to NOT cook the egg in my hair by keeping the water cool in the shower (not the most pleasant thing at this time of year), but the whole treatment left a rather disgusting look to my hair until I shampooed it reeeeally good. It is possible this home treatment can be redeemed and perfected to a point where it’s victims are happy with the result, but as you can tell I’m rather prone to getting odd results with new projects… at least the first time.
Don’t be afraid to try new things, people. If nothing else, you can become a source of amusement for the onlookers.
So I decided to *gulp* take a month off of facebook in order to exercise self-discipline, simplify my life a bit, and focus on that ever-lengthening do-list. It’s only been a week and I’m dying to share every highly interesting and very pertinent detail of my life with the masses (sense the sarcasm?). It’s been quite painful to restrain myself from telling my 490-something friends what I ate for dinner, what I saw when I was driving home, what I wore when I went shopping.
Are you concerned yet?
Okay but, sarcasm aside, facebook is also a way for me to keep in touch with friends I never get to see in person, so I do miss seeing baby photos, chatting with people hundreds of miles away, and hearing about new engagements and other highly interesting
gossip news from across the globe. But I also knew that I don’t have enough discipline to get on facebook and ONLY do the things that are necessary. Inevitably a lot of precious 15 minutes here and there are wasted with the not-so-necessary things.
So here I am confiding in you, dear reader. It’s been my year of “challenges”, some sought and some rather dumped upon me. Since I don’t really like being dumped upon, I’m slowly learning to seek the challenges and put myself in situations where I can be stretched. Phase one was going back to ballet class for myself after 5 years, which was awesome once I got over my pride and sore muscles. Phase two was the whole facebook “fast”. Phase three is yet to come, but until then I have enough on my plate.
Since I can’t share my 490-something facebook friends the mundane details of my life, I will do so here.
A week after I got back from Switzerland I jumped back into classes with my girls. While any job can bring along it’s challenges, I am so thankful that I can come home and do what I love. And, taking classes myself has helped to energize me in the classroom. Thank you to everyone who encouraged me in that!
Mac the dog is adorable as all get out, but he’s also waay to smart for his own good. His favorite things are: chasing the BALL!!, talking to neighbor dogs, barking at birds in the sky, and trying to figure out how to drive Jennifer crazy. I guess those pleading brown puppy eyes make it all worth it…
I love dancing. Any kind of dancing, really. And doing it to live music, in a huge gorgeous ballroom overlooking the city lights below, with awesome friends who make me laugh… totally worth the sore feet.
Emily left for Russia two weeks ago! Life has definitely picked up since she’s been gone. Let’s just say that shopping for a picky 93-year old Grandmother and 5 boys seems like a massive undertaking all of a sudden. Of course we miss her, but it’s only for two months and I know this forced cooking spree is good for yours truly, and the future husband who will have to eat her food someday…
The entertaining and delightful Mr. and Miss G accompanied us to Fort Atkinson in October during the living history weekend. It was a very cool but sunny day which gave more opportunity for the soldiers to be manly and chop wood, and the ladies to be more lady like and sit by the fire sewing and drinking tea.
I’m related to that cute guy above. Who knew that guys could look so good in caps and navy blue wool?
I decided to try a bit harder at making my outfits more interesting. I’m having a hard time breaking out of the “classic and predictable” stage but I’ll get there and one of these days you will be sufficiently shocked.
While I didn’t get a picture of my most recent dance calling experience, I have been doing more of it lately. (The above photo was taken at our monthly dance here in Omaha.) On Saturday night I found myself in Morton, Illinois at the front of a room filled with maybe 200 people, with probably 100 of them dancing at a time. I called for 2 1/2 hours and surprisingly enjoyed myself the whole time, and even jumped in for the Gay Gordon at the end. I was also paid much too generously which was incredible. If you had told me I would be traveling out of State and get paid to coordinate 200 dancers, I would have called you crazy. But I guess that was one phase of “pushing Jen out of her comfort zone”.
I wonder what’s next?
There are many things that I miss about Switzerland. But one thing I have special memories of are my walks with Chimene. We would take off in the afternoon and walk behind the base, up in the hills where we could look out at Mont Blanc in the distance, through the woods, admiring the sunflowers in the field. We would talk about French phrases and how there are sooo many exceptions to grammatical rules. I would ask Chimene why you would say something a certain way, and she would stop, think, and say “I don’t know!” and start laughing in her contagious cheerful way, which always made me laugh too. We would talk about guys, marriage (or lack thereof), hopes for the future, culture, theology…
One particularly gorgeous day in Switzerland as we walked, I remember talking about our desire to be married and how hard it can be to wait. Chimene is in her 30′s but is such a fun, energetic, youthful lady that I forget that she has been waiting on the Lord for a while. Even at 22 I can feel like it’s been for-ever since I began looking forward to the moment when my other half would sweep me off my feet and carry me off into the distance. And admittedly, I’ve probably been waiting since about 6 years old. *Blush*. But I digress.
So yes, the wait is hard. And the more time that passes, the harder it seems to get. And the harder it gets, the more tempting it is to “fudge” and bypass God’s command to wait for His best. A single lady is tempted to believe that she needs to settle for second best instead of waiting for the guy who will truly compliment her. A husband may look at his struggling marriage and tell God that He’s waited long enough for healing… and opt for the easy way out.
These all seem like legitimate struggles. They certainly do when you are the one experiencing them! From our own horizontal perspective with no end in sight, somehow we seem to think we have a right to downplay God’s commands and will for our lives by justifying divorce, ill-timed or matched relationships, etc. Abraham certainly thought he did. As an old man who had waited decades for a child, he thought that he had waited long enough to take matters into his own hands. While God’s providence is evident throughout all of life, that mistake didn’t make Abraham’s situation much easier.
But as we were walking and discussing all of this, I thought… who are we to look at this seemingly large mountain in our lives, and decide that we’ve “waited long enough”? And who can say how long “long enough” really is in the span of a lifetime? According to God we are like grass, alive one day and withered the next… a breath of wind that flutters by.
The almighty God, our father, is up in heaven looking down on us little ants, knowing all of eternity and what is waiting at the end for us. And we are like little children, whining that the present struggle is too much. For example, we all know that children should eat their veggies. In the long run, it will be for their good. But in their own sinful and childish minds, they can’t fathom why they should be forced to do something they dislike. They can’t see the end result and therefore would rather take the candy and bypass their parents seemingly harsh rules.
And are we any different? God our father sees the end result. It seems such a huge issue, such a long wait, such an inconvenient struggle at the time. But we are merely His children, sinful and childish as we consider only the mountain in front of us and how much we would like to go around it.
Well, at least I do.
The point I’ll take away from my little revelation, thought, light-bulb moment, etc. is that I am small and God is big. He’s telling me to eat my veggies ( metaphorically speaking) because He knows the end result and I don’t. Even if I have to wait decades for the right guy, it will be worth it because there’s a reason for the wait. I don’t need to understand what that reason is. I just need to trust my heavenly Father that He has the best in store for his daughter.
And that’s my deep thought for the week. Now, go eat your veggies!
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.”
Sunday was our last day in Paris. We started off by visiting the Jewish Museum, which Alexine absolutely had to see. In light of the fact I dragged her all over Chateau de Vincennes, I went along. Since I wasn’t particularly interested I sat outside in the beautiful, peaceful courtyard at the entrance and had a quiet time.
We stopped in a little shop with hats and lace dresses. The hats didn’t tempt me, but the lace dresses were hard to pass up, even as I reminded myself that it’s probably not worth $60 euros…
Alexine modeling a hat her mom would have loved!
Parisian fashion. Interesting…
I pulled Alexine into a little biscuit shop, where I picked out a tin and filled it with a variety of cookies to take home.
There was chocolate too, but I got that treasure back in Switzerland…
Our last stop was the lookout tower, where we got a 360 view of Paris. It was a good activity for the rainy afternoon… plus it was included in our Paris Pass!
Saying goodbye to our cute little apartment.
Now I can say that I spent a weekend in Paris!!