Friday, September 30, 2011

I'm Incredibly Cool...Except When I'm Not

Here's a little Friday Funny for you, in case you were starting to think I had myself put together.

As you've been hearing, I've had a bit of a chipmunk problem this summer. This past weekend I caught our 11th chipmunk. When I first saw him in the cage he was running back and forth, back and forth, running into the walls at times. I had to think back and make sure I didn't bait the trap with a Red Bull. Nope, just an apple core.

When I went to pick up the trap and put it in the car, he was clinging to corners in the most unbelievable positions, hanging on the bars of the cage with his hands for a moment, then bolting to the other side of the cage and peering out there. He was crazy - no, crazier than crazy. He was the craziest chipmunk yet. I named him "Craziest."

I drove with Craziest to a friend's house to help them with some home improvement projects, with plans to drop Craziest off in a nice woodsy spot on the way home. Craziest stayed safely in the car while we all tore out pipes, flooring, and even did some landscaping. Toward the end of the night I remembered my little friend in the car and got very excited to show him to my people friends. I said, "Oh! You have to see the latest chipmunk! He's crazy!" I couldn't wait to show them all of his antics, and be known as that crazy/weird/cool friend who keeps chipmunks in her car.

I flung open the car door, dug into the box where his cage was, and proudly held him up for all to see. I couldn't wait for him to run around and climb into the corners. Man, this was gonna be so cool! I watched as he stayed curled up on one end. Then I realized he wasn't really moving at all. His little beady eyes stared blankly to the sky. Craziest was dead!

Once I realized this traumatizing fact, it was no longer cool to be holding the cage. In fact, it was rather creepy. I did the only rational thing possible - I gave it to Zac saying, "Ew ew ew ew ew!" the whole time.

Talk about embarrassing. Dead chipmunks are not near as cool as live ones. Thankfully, I have some great friends and they actually offered to let me bury Craziest in their yard. I think they were a little crazy to offer that! But, seeing as it was the only good option at this point, I took them up on their offer and we buried him near the hydrangeas. Rest in peace, Craziest, rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The First Cold

I am sick. I caught my first cold of the season, and I'm not exactly sure where it came from.

Could it be from work? I heard some of my coworkers have been sick.

Could it be from church? I taught Sunday School last weekend and I know kids aren't great about washing their hands.

Could it be from school? I was a gym teacher substitute all last week and saw an average of 225 kids a day. That's a lot of germs.

I suppose it doesn't matter where it came from, all I know is that it's here with me now. As much as I want to be that heroine who's grace-filled and joyful even in sickness, I can be kind of a crybaby when I'm sick.

I feel slow, achy, dirty, and gross. When I breathe, I have to breathe through my mouth only and I sound a little like Darth Vader. When I eat, I have to take small bites, hold my breath, chew quickly, then gasp for a breath. Either that or chew (very unladylike) with my mouth open. My nose is like a faucet, and I am averaging one lotion kleenex box a day.

Now, you're probably wondering why I'm telling you this. The fact is, I'm wondering why I'm telling you this too. Overshare? Perhaps. But stick with me.

I feel gross. I feel ugly. I feel - Ugh.

In the midst of this, my husband came over to me and kissed me on the forehead. In the car yesterday he quietly placed his hand on top of mine. He wrote me a note when I stayed home from work and hid it for me so I'd find it later. The note talked about how sorry he was to know I was sick and how he hoped I felt better. In that note he also wrote how much he loved me.

My husband loves me. In my snotty, gross, sicky-self me, he loves me. He sees the piles of used kleenex by the couch, he hears me at night with my tossing and turning and coughing, and he loves me.

I can't help but think about God's love for me when I think about this situation. God sees our gross selves - not only the snotty noses, etc., but he sees the sin in our hearts. He knows our deceitful thoughts, our judgements, and our apathy. God knows all the gross stuff about us - the really gross stuff - and somehow he still loves us.

That's quite a humbling, powerful love.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another Perspective on Adoption

There's a blog I read from time to time called "It's Almost Naptime!!" by Missy Dollahon. She recently had a great post on adoption. She too is adopting from Ethiopia, and I love how she framed adoption in this post. It's certainly worth a read.

Please note that by posting a link to her blog that I am not suggesting I feel exactly the same way she does about each of the statements she makes. Rather, I see this as a beautiful piece which uses a powerful analogy for adoption.

Enjoy! I know I did. :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

24 Pounds of Tomatoes

I got a little crazy at the farmer's market last weekend. I saw the usual small containers of tomatoes for sale with 4-5 tomatoes in each...then there were the flats. I don't know how many tomatoes were in the flats, but my head was filled with all sorts of crazy ideas just looking at it...salsa, tomato soup, stewed tomatoes, dried tomatoes, creamy tomato basil soup, bruschetta...

Before I knew what was happening, I was giving the farmer some money and he was packing up my flat of tomatoes.

When I got home, I felt a little sheepish. I had a large garbage bag full of tomatoes and I somehow had to sneak them past my husband and get them into the kitchen. I'm not sure why I didn't want to let Zac see. Maybe I thought he'd disapprove on some level, or maybe he'd think I was crazy. I had my mind set on salsa, though, and I stop at nothing to get salsa.

I found a salsa recipe online and began to process the tomatoes. I had to put them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then immediately put them in ice water. This enabled me to take the skins off. Then I had to cut up the tomatoes. All 20-some pounds of them!

Needless to say, I was in the kitchen for quite awhile. So long, in fact, that I left my post at the stove twice for meals. Yes, I was in the kitchen for 8+ hours.

When all was said and done, I had 14 beautiful jars of salsa that I have in the freezer to use throughout the year. Take a look at my project!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sunrise Thoughts

I didn't mean to time it that way; I just got lucky. I stepped out of the house for my morning walk, turned to walk toward the east, and stopped. There before me was a sky of purple and pink... and that was only the beginning.

As I walked eastward I watched as the pinks became orange and then golden. Each puffy cloud bottom was another piece of canvas for the sunrise to paint on. I watched as it got more and more brilliant, each moment thinking it couldn't possibly get any better.

What a gift that sunrise was to me this morning. As I thought about it, I realized how much more beautiful a sunrise is when there are clouds. Without clouds, sunrises make a steady color transition from the horizon to the sky. With clouds, there are added flecks of pink, purple and gold across the sky, sometimes in the most unexpected and stunning combinations.

We need the clouds for a magnificent sunrise.

How true this is in life too. For me, the clouds are my rough spots in life. These are the times when things don't go how I want them to; the hardships, trials, and the question marks of life.

God paints most brilliantly on these tough times. He turns my deepest despair into places where I feel his comfort the most. He turns cloud bottoms into life lessons, growth, friendship, and faith.

It's the clouds that make life so much more interesting, and so much more beautiful.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Source of Creativity

I have a hunch.

It seems to me that when I draw close to God, I overflow with creativity. It has happened to me enough times now that I don't think it's coincidence.

For example, nearly every Sunday in church, ideas will pop into my mind how I can care for others or share with people about the love of God. Sometimes the ideas are not even directly related to faith topics. Sometimes they will be ideas for my business or ideas for the classroom. I have to write them down because I will never remember them all.

Also, when Zac plays drums in church I usually ride over to church with him and go to Caribou Coffee until it's time for the service to start. These are some of my favorite Bible times because I can have so much time to focus on scripture. During these times I again find myself inspired and energized by all of the creative ideas flooding my mind.

When I think about it, it's no surprise really that as I'm hanging out with God, pieces of who He is rub off on me. That's certainly the case with my friends and family! After even a few hours with some friends, I find myself using their mannerisms and phrases. As I spend time with God, I become more like Him too. And He is creative! After all, he created everything in the universe. That's pretty creative.

I am thankful that He shares his creativity with me. I love all of the ideas He sends my way, and I hope and pray that I honor Him when I act on those ideas.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Welcome Back

Sweater and scarf
Honking geese overhead
Two hands wrapped around a cup of tea

A peaceful heart and quiet spirit
Enjoying the sights and sounds
of the change of seasons

Thoughts swirling and twirling
Like leaves overhead
of all the fall baking that is yet to be had

Cozy soups and warm, fresh bread
Cinnamon apple sauce and homemade granola
Cider, hot chocolate, and Chai tea

Rummage through the closet to find the fall candles
With names like Pumpkin, Spiced Cider,
Cappuccino, Buttercream Frosting, and Apple Pie

Stock the stereo with Norah Jones,
sit back and breathe in the soft voice,
the piano, and melodies

Ahh, welcome back Autumn. It's good to see you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Great Is Thy Faithfulness Part 2

On Monday I shared the song "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." I'd like to write further on that hymn today.

I've recently begun a study on Ruth, and the theme of that devotional is Trusting in God's Provision. The line in the hymn, "All I have needed thy hand hath provided" speaks to me on this exact topic. Everything I have ever needed, God has provided for me. And, like a good parent, God doesn't give me everything I want; rather, He gives me everything I need.

You don't have to be a parent to know that it's wise to give your kids a sandwich for lunch instead of a gallon of ice cream. Even if the child wants the ice cream, you do what's in the child's best interest and give them the sandwich.

To a greater extent, throughout my whole life God has given me what I needed. He has not always given me what I've prayed for, nor has He answered my prayers in the ways I thought He would, but He has always given me everything I needed. He has been faithful in meeting my every need, and when it comes down to it, I would rather have that than a heavenly father who gives me everything I think I want.

The funny thing about God's provision, though, is how easily I forget His goodness. When I'm walking through tough times, it's hard for me to believe He's looking out for me. It's only when I look back and recognize His provision in my life time and time again that my heart finds peace in the present, and I have hope for the future knowing He's looking out for my every need.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Our adoption wait is difficult, but the level of difficulty depends on the month/week/day/hour.

Recently I was hit with a particularly difficult spell. Today as I prayed for our adoption, I prayed that I would wait well, that God would be taking good care of our child(ren), wherever he/she/they are, and that I would be patient.

About 15 minutes later, or maybe even half an hour later, I realized that I was singing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" in my head. I need to tell you that I did not make a conscious decision to start singing that hymn, it just somehow got in my head. It is one that is in my head often these last few months. At least once a week I realize that I'm singing it in my head.

In case it's been awhile since you've heard this one, I've posted the lyrics below.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Report Card - First Week of School

Name: Amber Harder
Substitute Teaching - Media Center - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Preparation: A
Each day Amber worked with 4-5 classes of students in the Media Center. She made sure to carefully explain the rules and directions, and always had her materials prepped ahead of time. She taught the same lesson 18 times and is quite the professional now.

Social Skills: A
Amber did her best to interact with fellow teachers at the school where she was subbing. She frequently offered to help those around her. She was a big hit with the secretaries, and was even asked for her number on the last day so she could be called back again.

Physical Education: N/A
Amber walked to and from school everyday, so she was excused from participating in P.E.

Friendship: A
Students easily warmed up to "Mrs. Harder," and she was frequently greeted - by name - in the hallway as students were passing. On the last day, she received a hug from a student as the student was leaving the building.

Amber was also told, "You are the nicest teacher ever." It is curious, however, that this compliment was in response to the question she posed to the class, "How can we show respect?" All parties involved are still trying to understand how the question and response correlate.

Cooking: C-
While there were not a lot of food options available to use in preparing lunches, Amber neither went to the store nor got very creative with the food at hand during the entire week.
Needs improvement.

Spiritual Disciplines: A+
Amber remembered to pray for each of her students every day. What a way to start out the year!

Relaxation: B
While the beginning of the week started off hectic and full, Amber did take time to visit with two close friends during the evening hours, and she even managed to sit and read a book in the hammock on Friday. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Swamped or Blessed?

Sometimes I feel so swamped! There is so much STUFF in my schedule and I don't know how I'm going to get it all done. The tasks clank around like empty tin cans on a wedding car and all I hear is noise noise noise!

I was pondering this as I dropped off another chipmunk last night. (This is chipmunk number 6, in case you were wondering. Call me Snow White with how I attract small woodland creatures.) I get myself all worked up about feeling swamped and I turn into a major crabbypants. Particularly overwhelming this week is my work schedule. I said yes to a substitute teaching job as a librarian this week, but I also needed to put in hours at my other job. This resulted in me having to work 3-4 hours after school each day to get it all in.

I felt like screaming,
"Where's is my free time? Where is my house cleaning time? Where is my rest?
I have way more opportunities for work than there are hours in a day! How can I get it all done?"

But wait a minute.
I have way more opportunities for work than there are hours in a day.
I have work.
I have more work than I need.
I have opportunities to put in as many hours as I want and make as much money for my family as I need.

Not everyone can say that.

I am blessed.

I started to think of other "problems" in my life, and see them for what they really are - blessings.

What are your hidden blessings today? What are you crabbing about that you should instead be praising about?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Last Week and Next Week

Today is my transition day. Our house is transitioning and I am transitioning too.

Last week was a full week; two families, each with two small children, visited us and stayed in our home. One family stayed from Wednesday through Friday, and the other came on Friday and left just this morning.

Our house is transitioning from their visit. The booster chairs are making their way back downstairs, the kids books and toys are moving out of the living room and back into the basement, and the cheerios are being scooped up off the floor and put into the trash can. The sounds in our house have transitioned from little running footsteps, giggles, and squeals to the quiet hum of the refrigerator, birds chirping outside, and the wind blowing the leaves of the trees. I liked their visit, and I will miss their presence in our home. We are transitioning from being a household of 4 adults and 2 kids to a household of 2 adults.

I am also transitioning mentally today as I gear up for the 2011-2012 school year. Tomorrow morning we'll be seeing those yellow buses on the road again as schools open their doors to the excited students. Families across the state will be breathing a sigh of relief that finally the teachers have to keep their children occupied again. :)

I have been blessed with a substitute teaching job for the whole first week of school. I will be filling in as a Media Specialist at the school our future children will attend. I can't wait to check out the school and meet some of the teachers. I feel honored that I will get to kick off the school year with the students there. What a blessing.

So, today I transition. I take stock of the last week and the summer before it, and I look ahead to tomorrow and the days and months to come. Amidst all the reflecting, I enjoy the quiet moments of today.